Category Archives: Food

Intangible Treasures

I read with interest this weekend that French bakers want the baguette declared an intangible treasure by UNESCO. It seems the small bakeries in France are being driven out of business by large, commercial bakeries that mass produce a product the traditional bakers  dismissively call “bread sticks”.  They hope the designation will help protect the baguette and the art that goes into making them,  and draw attention to what is truly a national treasure.  They are in competition  with a wine festival and the zinc roofs of Paris. The French Minister of Culture will decide which she will recommend to UNESCO this year.

Intangible treasures are oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, traditional craft methods, and rituals.  https://ich.unesco.org/en/lists has a list of them.  They are absolutely fascinating.  I didn’t see a list from the US. I suppose many of our traditions and cultural practices were brought here by immigrants and aren’t exclusive to our country. I would have thought Jazz music would be on the list, but perhaps it isn’t considered fragile or endangered.

Check out the intangible treasures on the UNESCO list. What ones catch your eye?  What would you nominate for the US list?  How is your baguette technique?

 

a new year – hopefully

YA and I ordered take out from our favorite Chinese Restaurant over the weekend.  I set the table nicely with red plates, chopstick holders and even lucky red envelopes (with chocolate coins).  But our only guest this year was Nimue, who made herself at home on the table. 

This completes my year of no festivities.  Last year I was all ready for Pi Day when the world turned upside down.  I had all the ingredients for my pies, had a to-do list of what needed to be done in what order, including baking times and temperatures.  I even had little placecards done with the names of all the pies.  Then on Friday, the day before, I had to cancel; the pandemic had arrived at our door.

Since Pi Day, there have been several other occasions when, during “normal times” I would have entertained: my Girlfriend High Tea in May, our neighborhood Memorial Day gathering, a new neighbor welcome party in June, my birthday bash in August, Leaf Pile in October and, of course, the Great Gift Exchange at Solstice.  This list doesn’t include book club meetings or other breakfasts/lunches/dinners with individuals.  I would have always said that I entertain a lot but when everything is listed out like this, I realize that it’s an enormous part of my life.

So now that we’ve celebrated Chinese New Year on our own, we’ve come full circle.  Unfortunately there won’t be a gathering for Pi Day this year either, but I am hoping we can do a Pi and a Half Day in September.  Fingers crossed. 

What’s the most interesting party you’ve ever been to?

Hoarding Grapenuts

I am ashamed to admit it. This weekend I bought a box of Grapenuts when I didn’t need it.  I was hoarding.  It is all the fault of a recent news story that the Post company was having a hard time keeping up with demand for Grapenuts.  People are apparently snarfing them down at an increased rate due to staying home so much.  There is only one manufacturing plant for the cereal. It seems to require specialized manufacturing equipment on which the the Post company has a patent.  There have apparently been Grape nut shortages across the country,  and people are upset.

I don’t eat much cold cereal, but Grapenuts with milk and some golden raisins or currants are a big comfort food for me.  I shudder at the lurid colors of the cereals I ate as a child at the urging of commercials on Saturday  morning.

What were your favorite cereals as a child?  What would you hoard if you thought there might be a shortage?

Weird Food

Husband’s parents both grew up in eastern Ohio on the the border with Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  He grew up eating far different foods than I did.

Husband loves mush, especially cornmeal mush and grits. His mother served it to him for breakfast. He doesn’t object if Cream of Wheat, Cream of Rice, or  Maltomeal are on the menu, either.  I can sometimes eat polenta, but the others are a real challenge. I think it is a texture issue on my part.

Last weekend, Husband made Scrapple, a Pennsylvania favorite, and his ultimate treat, since it combines cornmeal mush with pork. He used Julia Child’s recipe ( Who would have imagined she had a Scrapple recipe??) It is sort of yellowish brown. You can see it in the header photo.  After it was baked and cooled,  he sprinkled slices of  it with cornmeal, fried them, and ate them with blueberry syrup. I just stay out of the kitchen when he gets it out. It is too weird for me.

What is the oddest food you have ever been served? What do you eat that others won’t eat? What food have you come to like that you never imagined you would?

Beans and Friendship

Husband and I like to grow shell-out beans in the garden.  These are beans that form in their pods and you can let dry and then shell and store,  unlike green beans that you eat whole when they are fresh.  We use them in soups and stews.   We have grown several varieties over the years, like Vermont Cranberry Beans and Good Mother Stallard.  We particularly like shelly beans, as they are sometimes called, because some of them are pole beans and they save space in the garden since they grow vertically.  One problem with the more popular varieties, though, is that their growing season is a little too long to reach maturity here before frost.

The Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Indians were agricultural tribes who lived (and still live) on the Missouri River in North Dakota. They liked to grow shell beans, too. Many of their bean varieties were collected by horticulturists in the early 20th Century and can still be bought from certain seed companies.  Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden published in 1917 by anthropologist Gilbert Wilson, is his account of a famous Hidatsa gardener’s advice and stories about gardening in the Northern  Great Plains.  She grew huge gardens of corn, squash, beans, and sunflowers on the rich bottomlands near the river.   All that rich land was flooded with the building of the Garrison Dam and the development of Lake Sakakawea, and the members of the three tribes were moved to family allotments on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. That land isn’t very fertile at all.

We grow Hidatsa Shield Figure Beans, which are fat, creamy white pole beans, and Hidatsa Red Beans, which  are smaller, red bush beans that get to be 3 feet tall and need a fence to grow against or else they  sprawl all over.  Both have shorter growing seasons.  I have never seen either of the seeds for sale locally or on the Reservation.  We got them from Seed Savers Exchange.  Our native friends from the reservation don’t seem to be very familiar with them.

I mentioned to our Arikara friend Bruce what beans we were growing, and he said he got some authentic Ree Beans (another word for Arikara)  from a woman Elder some time ago.  You can see them in the header photo.  He tried to plan them on his allotment, but the soil just wasn’t good enough.  He wondered if we would be willing to try them in our garden. I said we would be very happy to. They are brown bush beans that  seem to be very similar to Arikara Yellow Beans that I see in seed catalogs. I told him that we will have a bean feast next fall with him and his wife, and our Hidatsa friend, Leo.  I may have to refer to Buffalo Bird Woman for some recipe ideas.

Got any good bean recipes?  What are you looking forward to doing with friends once we can gather? How are your garden plans coming along?

Happy Chocolate Cake Day

Apparently today is Chocolate Cake Day.  Personally I wouldn’t have thought the chocolate cake celebration should be confined to just one day of the year, but I suppose January 27 is just a good an anchor as any other day.

While I love chocolate cake, I don’t really have a favorite chocolate cake recipe.  I like to try lots of things.  I’m particularly fond of Anna’s chocolate zucchini cake and I love bundt cakes with tunnels of fudge.  But since I don’t have a favorite, it was easy to try a new recipe a few months back.  I found it in More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin:

Happy Winter Fudge Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and butter a 9 1/2- by 3-inch springform pan fitted with a tube bottom.
  2. Melt 3 squares semisweet chocolate in a heavy saucepan over low heat
    and let the chocolate cool.
  3. In a bowl mix 2 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon cocoa powder,
    and 1 teaspoon each baking powder and baking soda.
  4. In another bowl with a mixer mix 2 eggs, 4 tablespoons softened butter,
    cut in little pieces, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 1/2 cups plain yogurt and
    then beat in the melted chocolate.
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and add 1 cup chocolate
    morsels, large or small.
  6. Turn the batter into the pan and bake the cake in the middle of the
    oven for 45 minutes. The cake will pull away slightly from the side of
    the pan. Let the cake cool for 30 minutes, remove the side of the pan,
    and invert the cake onto a plate, removing the bottom of the pan.

She suggests adding lots of icing flowers if you’re trying to entice children to eat an “un-iced” cake, but YA and I ate it sans decorations and it was quite rich, moist and fudgy (is that a word?)

Tell me your idea for a favorite chocolate to eat today?  Or do you prefer a different day to celebrate chocolate cake?

At Her Wit’s End

I was “that” mom – the one who threw the overdone birthday parties for her kid.  Themes, arts & crafts, fun food, take-home bags.  My theory was that I would only have a short window for this kind of silliness because as soon as Child hit 11 or 12, she wouldn’t stand for it any longer.  I was correct.

Fast forward all these years and I’m still having trouble letting it go.  YA hits 26 tomorrow and maybe it’s the pandemic and shelter-in-place talking, but I clearly want to celebrate more than she does.  After quite a bit of prompting I got her to “allow” Peanut Butter Rice Krispy Bars; I got sprinkles and a little decorating icing to pipe “Happy Birthday” on the bars once they’re done.  I also told her I would order take-out – she hasn’t decided what she would like.  I have a gift all wrapped up and I couldn’t help myself; I made a nice banner (photo above) to hang in the dining room archway along with two balloons (a big “2” and “6”).  I’m pretty sure this is all she’ll stand for but I’m looking forward to it.

Are you trying anybody’s patience these days?

Stymied

Today’s post comes to us from Ben.

I volunteered to stop at the Grocery store the other day. Typically, that’s either Target or HyVee. Usually HyVee because I like the Smile in Every Aisle. And we know a few of the kids who bag groceries.

I only had to pick up a few things; Cheese, sliced deli ham, lettuce, milk.

I picked up some Halo Oranges because they’re right at the front door you know. I like oranges, but they’re unpredictable; I might get 18 good oranges and then a bad one and that’s it; I’m off oranges. But the little Halo’s; they always seem to be good. I never liked mandarins, just Halo’s. Then it was pointed out to me that Halo’s ARE mandarins. I refused to believe it at first; I don’t LIKE mandarins; don’t make me eat them! Ah well, another life lesson learned. So, I got Halos, I got ham, I got cheese… and then I remember I need lettuce and I stood there by the meat department trying to picture where the lettuce is in the store. I’m thinking well, it must be refrigerated but I can’t quite picture it over with the pizzas. I look around where I just was with the baloney and I know I didn’t see it there… Hmmm… I just can’t picture it. I had to ask a kid stocking a shelf and as soon as he pointed, I knew where it was. Just over there by the oranges. He gave me detailed instructions on finding them.

Just a brain fart on my part; soon as he pointed, I knew where it was.

Over to the lettuce and Kelly had given me pretty simple instructions; I just needed HyVee or Dole Shredded lettuce. (Sometimes it’s more complicated than that). And I get over there and it’s a whole wall of lettuce. I had to call Kelly. Again. I can’t usually go to the grocery store without a call to clarify something.

Lettuce shouldn’t be so hard. But there’s kale and spinach and coleslaw and green leaf and red leaf and Romain and Swiss chard, salad greens, and organic and and and. Kelly talks me through it. “All the way over on the right are the apples. Next to them are the boxes of lettuce we usually buy. Then there’s the shredded…” Ah. There it is. Boy. It shouldn’t be so hard for me. I’ve always joked I can’t find it if you put it right under my nose like that. And if I think it should be “here” and you move it over six inches, I’ll never find it.

The next day at Target I couldn’t find the Bi-Flex pills for our aching joints. She asked if I was in aisle E14. Yes I was. She kept telling me the Target App said they had it. I told her I begged to differ. The app was right. It was down on the bottom shelf and stuck in the back of the rack. Darn apps think they’re always right.

Got a favorite phone, iPad, or computer app?  

Mules

Last summer (not this past summer), YA and I had dinner with friends at their apartment in Uptown; they served us Moscow Mules.  I enjoyed them quite a bit, in fact YA drove home! 

YA must have remembered that night as she gave me a set of copper cups for Solstice.  It’s a pretty set and includes a shot glass (which is good, since I didn’t have one) and little copper straws and even some coasters.  I made a stop at the liquor store the next morning for ginger beer and vodka.  Turns out I needed some vodka lessons.  I ended up choosing a local brand – chosen mostly because I liked the label – but the gal at the store said it was a good brand, and good value for the price!  Then I stopped at Kowalskis for limes. 

I haven’t actually made a Moscow Mule yet – I have one more day of my wine advent calendar.  The idea of wine and then vodka on the same day doesn’t seem like the best idea.  Although the more I think about it, 2020 has been a year that cries out for all kinds of alcoholic consumption!

Do you have a favorite cocktail?  Beverage?  Have you been indulging more this year?

Comfort Ye

Husband announced the other day that he considers Gjetost to be a comfort food. I have never considered it to be so, but he was really happy when he found some at the store earlier this month.  It is too sweet and chalky for my tastes.

This is a year that has screamed a need for comfort. It has been hard to find at times over the past ten months.  I think the worst day in memory was yesterday, as we anxiously waited to see if Daughter’s plane left Denver with her on it.  We hadn’t seen her for a year.  Her flight into Bismarck on Tuesday was cancelled, and she couldn’t get a flight home until Christmas Eve. She had an excellent  time with her grandmother. though, which was a comfort to both of them.

I was so worried all day yesterday.  I tried to distract myself with music. The King’s College Lessons and Carols service was a good start, but it was a really long day. I made some soup, cleaned the kitchen, played solitaire, did laundry, and wrapped some presents, all with a horrid sense of dread and apprehension.  Our cat must have sensed my distress, as she stayed unusually close by me all day.

The only thing that would provide comfort for me was to hear that she was boarding her plane, and then to give her a big hug (but not, she insisted, until she showered to get the Covid germs off her). She was texting us  in caps as she waited for the plane to take off.

What foods, books, music, people, places, activities, or  other things give you comfort these days?