Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Dia de los Muertos

This holiday needs more food traditions for us Norto Americanos who have borrowed the holiday. My altar is up but I feel the need to serve a relevant meal, maybe invite friends over, like for all our other holidays. But I'm ignorant of what a good menu might be. Traditionally, you place food items on the home altar that were significant to the departed and I get that part. Hence, my miniature box of chocolate cherries for my Mother. But as far as I know about Mexican traditions, the food is whatever any family makes for themselves and relatives and/or carry with them to the cemetary for picnicing on the graves. I may need to start a personal tradition mixing cultures. Possibly pumpkin soup, unleavened flat bread, dessert with dark bitter chocolate cream pie. Oops, check this out and click on the really cool video about Traditions for alot more info about what Mexicans take to the altars and eat for DOTD:
Sugar skulls, actually a non-food item that is commonly found on DOTD alters, while made from nothing but sugar and frosting, aren't really meant to be edible. It's an interesting contrast though: the sweetest thing we know (sugar) molded to evoke the most bitter (death). I recently read that a person is never fully satisfied with a meal until all of the essential tastes have been registered by the taste buds: sweet, bitter, sour, salty, astringent. One might say the same about life, and many have, especially the Buddhists. But I think the indigenous traditions understand this also. Hence the many pagan observances that recognize that life is sweetest when juxtaposed with death. That's what draws me to this holiday. It forces us to look at the facts straight on and eat, drink and make merry over them.

Same site as above has a nice history of the celebration and does give a recipe for Pan de Muerto http://www.azcentral.com/ent/dead/food/ although I think I'm inspired to make a trip to a Mexican bakery before I try it out at home.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Seeking anniversary food Up North

Right up until 7 pm we didn't have a plan for an anniversary dinner. The food horizon here at the Tip of the Mitt is pretty flat. We adore the pizza at Vivio's (best ever) but as we do that about every other week, it's not a special occasion trip. I'm kinda over the fried fish thing, plus I've perfected doing it at home now and we've been getting some really good fresh trout, so not much incentive. Everyplace else is pretty much the same. We were stumped until Bob suddenly suggested going to The Pier in Harbor Springs, someplace we hadn't been since the first year we spent together up here, 11 years ago when he was still trying to impress me.

It scored A+ overall. Even the 30 mile trip over there didn't seem too bad, except for my stomach growling. Harbor Springs is gorgeous in small doses - very heavy on the upscale cute thing - and especially in the late evening light with all the big expensive boats snuggled up to the street side harbor. Big crowd at The Pier, but we put out name on the list and settled in for a 45 minute wait at the bar where we found bench seating and snagged a slightly pouty waitress (OK, she was a C-) for drinks. I had my recent summer regular which has become gin and tonic but because of the ambiance, naturally asked for Bombay. Bob drank Killians Red so as not to have to prolong the discussion of dark beer options with she-who-must-not-be-aggravated-if-you-want-a-drink-sometime-tonight.

The older GQ guy with the pink pants and the Ralph Lauren blue sweater and his Botoxed wife who sat next to us had this yummy gooey looking shrimp thing so I asked the she-who if we could pleeeeeeease have one too (8:30 and no food yet). It was "Shrimpcargot" served in an escargot dish (bought on sale from a more uppity restaurant?), served with a little escargot fork, and totally yummy. Then we had patience for looking around the room and reveled in how well we fit in with the white collar "locals" here and at the same time have no problem hanging out at the local blue collar bar back in Topinabee.

Finally gave up on a table and had dinner at the bar. My morel crusted whitefish with spaghetti squash and mashed potatoes was perfect (and I say that rarely) due to crunchy topping (morels, really??) and steaming hot and sweet white fish interior. And Bob's veal scallopine was done exactly right as well, lightly crusty and with red cabbage on the side. It was all so not Northern Michigan cuisine. In fact, the whole adventure almost met Dallas culinery levels......maybe exceded even if we are giving points for scenery.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Slow Food movement hits Topinabee

One of the most comforting things I've stumbled upon in the past few years of war and environmental hysteria is the Slow Food Movement. If only we can all remember to appreciate where our food comes from, why we need to protect farmers and grow some of our own, and for heaven's sake, care about what we put in our mouths, the world might just last another millineum.

I'm contributing by having the largest vegetable garden in Topinabee. Also I'm carrying on family tradition by gardening in the same spot Bob's Father used to famously garden in, across the road from our summer house, which used to be Bob's parent's house. The big news is that the garden got planted earlier than every this year and I'm filled with that premature optimism that everything will come up perfect. In fact, I see myself standing at the public dock, handing ears of organic sweet corn to passers by.

We're growing Burgundy green beans, yellow Swiss Chard (I quietly enjoy these anomalies), plus Italian mix of lettuce, sweet peas for Bob, Detroit red beets (standard variety, but appropriate...get it?...Detroit...), a couple hills of Patti Pan squash (really cute), a couple of zuchinni (am hostile towards, but trying to appreciate), and my pride and joy, four 20' rows of corn. Oh yea, also the tomotoes. Cousin Donna Gene is supposed to be bringing some heirloom plants her husband raised, but she's late so I've started with 9 various hybrids (feel guilty about that too). Rain all day today, so I'm looking for some good action next week. Already after 8 days, most are peeking through the sandy soil we have here. Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

About Finding Bread on TV

OK, first the admission that I watched Martha Stewart on TV in the middle of the day in the middle of the week. It was just while I was eating lunch in the den. Never mind the rest but know that I know that my friends mockingly call me Martha Stewart behind my back.

Anyway, the guest happened to be the baker of the famous Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City who was there to demonstrate his No-Knead Bread recipe which apparently everyone knew had been circulated widely on the Internet after publication in the New York Times. Intriguingly, Martha mentioned that she loved this recipe so much she took it with her on her recent cruise in the Greek Islands (!) and the on-board chef graciously made if for her shipmates…so they would not have to be without New York bread I guess…God forbid they would eat bread made in Greece?. Anyway, in the TV demo kitchen, Martha submissively made the bread along side of the baker and although she played with her dough much more than instructed and insisted on adding more salt that he directed – even when he warned against adding too much - it did look easy and I searched for and easily found the recipe online.

Besides having to have a large dutch oven pot, the only difficult thing about this recipe is that you have to plan about 20 hours ahead of time and work backwards so that you’re not putting the bread in the oven at 2 am or something. For me, starting in the evening for a noon-ish or early evening final product the next day is perfect. The first steps seem ridiculously simple, considering the sophistication of the final product. You mix dry flour, yeast and salt (so Biblical, so simple), add some water and put it away for 12-18 hours. This gooey mess doesn’t do much but rise a little and bubble. When you get back to it, it looks particularly unappetizingly grey and indeed, alive. After you play with it just a little (this is the part Martha wanted to over-do), give it a gentle dusting of corn meal, and then leave it alone for another 2 hours, it’s ready to go in the oven. So far, mine have taken less time that the recipe suggested, about 30 minutes with the lid on, then only 10-15 minutes with the lid off. Then voila, a gorgeous loaf of break that is probably $10 in a New York City bakery. Astoundingly easy.

I’m thinking that all the bakery owners in the world now hate this man for revealing the profit margins they are enjoying and revealing the simplicity of their ingredients and their art. Also for encouraging home cooks who had been intimidated out of the practice to start making bread again. I have.

Check this out: