Return to index page

March 16, 2005

Camel Milk Chocolates

As a true chocolate lover, I'm not immediately against this, but I'm not for it right away either. I guess I have to get my brain around the fact that the Al Ain Dairy's Camel Milk Chocolate don't taste any more like camel than the Zauner chocolate I favor tastes like cows. Plus these babies were made in cooperation with the Austrians who know their way around a confection or a piece of candy. I'm willing to suspend disbelief until I've tasted the product in question.

It sounds good in text:

“I have combined camel milk from Al Ain and honey from Yemen, and we end up with a healthy, tasty and delicious chocolate,” commented Georg Hochleitner, who is a recognised and reputed chocolate maker in Austria.

...but I don't know if we'll get the chance to try it out here in the US any time soon. Anyone planning on going to the UAE? Could you ship back a package for the nonfamousi?

March 14, 2005

Peeps, not just for Easter anymore

Personally, I think the little marshmallow blobs are disgusting but apparently they are more useful than just Easter basket filler:

Arts & Crafts
Psychological Exploration

I mean, who knew? I always traded them for Jordan Almonds.

March 10, 2005

Peanut Butter for Grownups

I rent my place out every winter while I travel. One of the funny little fringe bennies of doing that are the surprises I find in my house when I get home. Last year I came home to a new toaster, a stunning array of pancake mixes, and an excellent Tefal skillet on which to cook the aforementioned pancakes.

This year I found a first rate citrus squeezer, a freezer full of chicken breasts and caviar (no kidding!) and the most delicious thing I've had on toast ever: Cashew Butter from Urban Pantry. It's awesome. It's made with a little bit of hot chili oil so it has the tiniest bite. Get some here.

Tip: You have to take it out of the fridge well before you use it, it sets up to a rather odd consistency that's nigh unspreadable.

Also, in case you're wondering where I get these miraculous short term renters: Craig's List, of course.

February 27, 2005

February 26, 2005

Chocolate - need I say more?

Tonight, I had my first Chantico. I was skeptical. How could 6 fluid ounces be enough? I mean this is chocolate we are talking about... 6 fluid ounces is nothing, right?

Well, I am here to tell you that 6 fluid ounces is perfect. OK, 390 calories (190 from fat) is a lot. But let me tell you, it is worth every single one!

February 24, 2005

Stabbed in the Kitchen

Since I love themes, and last week I brought to light the topic of my cleaning outfits, I thought that I would start a theme. Today: COOKING. Do you ever get frustrated in the kitchen? Does your Caesar turn fishy? Does that Crème Brulee burn instead of turning a golden brown? And God knows I hate it when the Tofurky turns to rubber!

Well, instead of kicking the dog, or pushing your mother down a flight of stairs, I have found the perfect answer to the end of Kitchen Frustration!

February 16, 2005

Every country has it's horrifying prepackaged goods, I suppose

While I will give David and Terry the benefit of the doubt about all the flavored chips in England (though not lamb and mint. I'm sorry. I've never tasted lamb with mint jelly, but that just seems so wrong. And I love lamb.) Sara's comment about the unfairness of comparing the scary end of the local grocery to the show window of an Italian baking cathedral got me to remembering that even in Italia, there were some none-too-appetizing looking foodstuffs lurking on shelves here and there.

Case in point, electric-colored pastas.


There were a few other things in the shops in Italy that gave me pause as well. Like wine in Ssips boxes--you know those juice box things with the straws we had as kids? And tuna salad topped pizza. Or deviled ham panini. (Who EVER thought that would be a good idea?)

But Diet Coke was better there. As was pretty much everything else. Like cheese.


And sunset.

January 10, 2005

OK, maybe eating this will actually make you feel better

So, since the BBC's list of 50 things you must eat before you die doesn't seem to be sitting too well with the nonfamosi (and, of course, should we be terribly surprised that a bunch of foodies wouldn't be suitably impressed with a British list of delectables), I'm going to go ahead and create my own list. And, Elaine, welcome, and I whole-heartedly agree with you that homegrown tomatoes, warm from the garden are absolutely the sort of thing that everyone should live long enough to eat.

I hope my list resonates with you all a bit more (and maybe surprises you a little?), but really, in compiling this list, I'm realizing how silly an exercise this is. What is a life-changing (or even life-enriching) food experience is too subjective. However, as the nonfamous culinary fascista, I'll list 50 foods that I wouldn't have wanted to miss.

Ok, now, for my list:
1. Homegrown tomatoes, still warm from the garden
2. Fresh eggs, from a farmer who cares about his chickens
3. Prosciutto with figs and arugula
4. Grilled sardine
5. Stuffed artichoke
6. Carolina-style pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw
7. Paella
8. Strong, smelly, soft gorgonzola cheese with slices of braeburn apple
9. Neapolitan-style pizza
10. White tuna sashimi
11. Boiled blue-claw crabs
12. Copper River king salmon, in season and grilled to medium-rare
13. Kumomoto oysters on the half shell
14. Kansas City style BBQ ribs
15. Tamales
16. Chicken in mole pablano
17. Still-warm chocolate chip cookies
18. Kimchee
19. Swiss chard
20. Fresh, handmade mozzarella with good ripe tomatoes and fresh basil
21. Homemade blueberry preserves
22. Buttermilk biscuit with honey
23. Liverwurst
24. Borscht
25. Real Parmagianno-Reggiano
26. Unpasteurized, warm, runny camembert
27. Fresh fava beans
28. Hummous
29. Chicken pot pie
30. Unpasteurized milk with the cream floating on top
31. Roast leg of lamb
32. Peanut butter and jelly sandwich
33. Brussel sprouts with bacon
34. Fried okra
35. Fresh pecorino cheese
36. Pomegranate
37. Gnocchi
38. Fried squash blossoms
39. Pickled herring
40. Boiled potatoes with butter and parsley
41. Pho
42. Dosas
43. Pesto
44. Bacalao
45. Cherrystone clams, freshly dug from the bay, on the halfshell with lemon
46. A sesame seed bagel with cream cheese and belly lox
47. A reuben
48. Sunday gravy
49. Jay's cider-brined turkey
50. A ham and cheese omelette made by my father

January 07, 2005

eat'll make you feel better

The BBC posted a list of 50 things you must eat before you die. I've had all but 5, and possibly 6, depending on what the hell barramundi is. I kind of find that dispiriting.

September 10, 2004

I love eggplant


Also, I'm not over the romance with my new camera.

August 25, 2004

Related to Nothing

I got a new camera. Plus, the tomatoes are getting ripe. I just wanted to share.

May 05, 2004

All You Need Is Phenylethylamine

I'm not sure that I'd want 10,000 Mars bars, and I love chocolate. Maybe they can be used to make a bomb? In any case, one woman cleaned out a Woolworths in London, paying with 50-pound notes. Was her motivation chemical?

London has Woolworths?

April 23, 2004

First we take Manhattan

Darlings, I feel good. Really good. I feel that my age is approaching. That is, I feel like we as a culture are moving positively into an era that not only accepts hedonism as a valid lifestyle, but embraces it. I've been feeling we were starting to move in that direction for some time, away from the puritanism of "healthy living" movements, and back toward taking pleasure in life. Grilled, boneless skinless chicken breast--move over! It's the age of the duck cooked and preserved in its own glorious fat!

In some ways, though I resisted it out of some weird need to adhere to common sense, the whole Atkins thing was helping to move us in that direction. But now, dieters, we have a new hero. One who understands that life is not only about living to be 100 and disease free, but about having a hell of a time getting there. His name is Robert Cameron, a 93 year old bon vivant who has been publishing his book The Drinking Man's Diet since 1964.

In this fine contribution to the pantheon on diet and fitness books, Cameron tells us that cutting carbs is definitely the way to go, but reminds us that distilled spirits contain almost none. Says he: "the things you like best don't have to be counted at all: steak and whisky, chicken and gin, ham, caviar, pâté de foie gras, rum and roast pheasant, veal cutlets and vodka, frogs legs and lobster claws--they all count as zero."

I now understand why Atkins didn't make it. It wasn't that his low-carb, hi fat diet was so bad for him. He was just parched.

I've always been a fan of the bon vivants of literature--Auntie Mame (a woman can be a BV, right?) and Eliot Templeton, for example. But now, I've a real life hero to model my habits around.

It is a good day indeed.

April 22, 2004

a man after my own heart

Quite possibly, very literally as well.

March 24, 2004

Coke pulls Dasani from Europe

Coke has pulled its Dasani purified-water product from the shelves in the UK, and delayed its launch in France and Germany. The withdrawal was prompted by a quality issue at the recommendation of the UK's food watchdog, but there's a larger issue at stake here, in my opinion.

The launch of Dasani into the UK in the first place didn't go well. Consumers soon realized that unlike the more-familiar Evian and domestic brands of bottled water, Dasani is purified London tap water. I'm not suprised the Brits didn't take to it like ducks to water. Bottled water in the UK has always had a "luxury" aspect to it (at least, it did, when I was there), and consumers could only really turn their noses up at the prospect of mere tap water in a bottle. In continental Europe bottled water is much more of a commodity, but again, between the choice of mineral/spring water and purified tap water, I can guess what your typical French consumer would rather be seen drinking.

I'd be surprised if they didn't postpone the European launch indefinitely.

March 23, 2004

Wow... is an amazing food blog... I'm tired of all the politics of late. Maybe we can write up SDS Chocolate edition?

March 01, 2004

Let Us Eat Cake


There's a whole lot of controversy over who, exactly, said "Let them eat cake" though when confronted with the pastry case at the Demel, Vienna's famous bakery, it's not surprising that Marie Antoinette gets all the credit. After all, she was an Austrian princess.

We've just come to the end of a two week cake eating binge. We estimate that we consumed nearly 30 different varieties of cake, with not one repetition. In case you think we're total gluttons, we didn't eat 30 individual slices per - we had four people and ate our cake family style. It was four slices per sitting. It's still a hell of a lot of cake, but how can you limit yourself?

Note to Vienna bound honeymooners: Do not miss the Demel.

February 12, 2004

Speaking of the impending apocalypse

California and New York, the only two states in the country that produce foie gras in quantity are both considering legislation that would ban production of that succulent treat because of the misery it visits upon those poor ducks and geese. Yeah, I know. Birds are cute. But, uhm, foie gras is not something I want to add to the list of things, along with real camembert and other unpasteurized cheese) I can no longer eat as an American (at least until I get my passport renewed).

Sigh. The way things are going, with large ConAgra-like companies and crapass chains like WalMart taking over so much of the retail food distribution in this country, I'm beginning to worry that, politics aside, I may have to move to another country just to get a decent meal before too long.

January 29, 2004

Adrià's Doritos

OK, Paulette, I know you love those crazy Catalan chefs, so read the whole article before uh, foaming at the mouth... but I have to say that Sara Dickerman's article on Slate on the new El Bulli cookbook made me think. It mixes effusive praise with dark foreboding about what Ferran Adrià's innovative cooking might yield in the hands of lesser chefs--and more importantly, where his foams and gelees intersect with the worst innovations of the processed food industry. Dickerman makes a great point at the end of the article:

By feeding the hunger for novel, bigger-than-life flavors, he's encouraging a kind of Technicolor food spectrum far beyond nature's scope. No cooking is "natural," but as trend-setting chefs and the food industry keep widening the gap between raw ingredients and finished food, the consumer's ability and desire to create tempting, nourishing food at home continues to atrophy.

January 22, 2004

Frankfurter Spectacular

If you ever wondered how your parents kept their weight down when the dexadrine prescription ran out, check out this collection of Weight Watchers recipes and you won't wonder ever again. Aside from the liberal use of mackerel and toast, it is the desire to "jelly" everything in sight that I find most disturbing. No need to count calories as these won't be staying down long.

January 19, 2004


A very small cute eatery has opened on 12th, the second to open on 12th recently. Crave is a darling little eatery with a small menu of really good food. For some reason by the name I thought it would be comfort food with the likes of meatloaf and mash potatoes, but I was fooled. Crave can be found in the Capitol Hill Arts Center, 1621 12th Avenue, across the street from the Police refill and parking lot. The atmosphere is minimal and don’t let the non-lit sign out front fool you into thinking it’s closed…they’re thinking, “if it is good, they will come!” It’s Good! We started the dinner with a watercress salad, with grapefruit and glazed almonds…(is there any polite way of eating whole watercress?)... in light vinaigrette. I followed with hand rolled gnocchi, which was tossed with sweet potatoes and cream sauce. Can I tell you how much I love this gnocchi!!! Mike had curried lamb with roasted sweet potatoes and sautéed escarole…amazing. The kicker of the whole thing is that they have only been opened for 10 days, if the food is this good to start, I can’t wait for them to get going!
The wine list is small, but nice, as is the menu. The desserts looked great, but we were too tired to try one….it was Sunday night after all. Go to Crave, it’s nice to support new food in Seattle

January 08, 2004

I want one! I want one!

Ok, so we almost managed the pig roast at the home of my boys in Ballard for my birthday last year, and I was thinking of suggesting something a little simpler (and Greeker) this year--Hey, Pete, can we roast a whole lamb in your backyard for my birthday this year?

And now it appears there is a device we can purchase that will simplify and shorten the process. A Cuban Chinese box. The New York Times article describing this remarkable achievement in culinary technology explains the origins of the name, though I have to think there is some correlation between the name of this item and the fact that for some reason, Cuban restaurants in the New York area are always Cuban-Chinese hybrids. Whatever. Now we can slow roast whole animals on a regular basis! Who wants to go in on one with me?

December 19, 2003

Turducken made easy (well...)

Umm, Paulette... Our good friends at amazingly cool "The Black Table" have a step by step guide to making turducken, and it's damn funny. Wanna try it after the holidays?

November 06, 2003

Unnaturally natural

My father raises, and eats, pigs, chickens, and sheep. I love to cook, and one of my favorite, and most popular, dishes, are meatballs (which necessarily include not only obscene amounts of ground beef and ground pork, but also good Italian pork sausage and pork ribs to cook in the all-day sauce) and roasted duck. I recently took a class on making sausage, and intend to make more. I'd like to learn to make prosciutto. I'm also dating a butcher.

I say all this by way of making the point that in my world, vegans are an alien and suspicious species. (I also remember a moment a few months back when a coworker came into my office to explain that he had finally figured out the problem with another coworker, who seemed all-too-often unencumbered by either reason or reality--"She's a vegan!" he proclaimed, and it all suddenly made so much sense.) Vegetarians I have enough of an issue with. Not eating bacon or lamb (or for that matter even a good juicy steak every so often) just seems like an anemic existence on so many levels. But vegans? Well, I'm sorry, but there is just something really, truly, seriously wrong with not eating cheese! I mean first of all, what fun are staple dishes like pizza and cheesesteaks without some good, goopy dairy? No ravioli? No alfredo sauce? And no eggs benedict? Yeah, it's just all very, very wrong. In fact I used think of vegans as some of the most wrong-headed and scary people out there. Fanatics, really. And not in a good way. Not like Yankee fans or Springsteen fans are fanatical. Just weird and scary.

But it turns out that there are people scarier even than vegans. Raw foodists. Who are like vegan extremists. People who are not only vegans, but won't even cook any of the boring food they eat. And who apparently also find onions, garlic, and spices to be too racy to include in normal meals. Yeah, so not only do raw foodists object to eating anything from an animal, and not only do they object to rendering things tasty and pleasing in texture, or warming and comforting, but for some reason they also have a prejudice against aromatic vegetables. Cuz that makes sense, right?

Slate has been running this week the diary of a recently converted raw foodist, a woman who's postings, I notice, sound not unlike what I would expect diary entries from Jim Jones' commune to have sounded like. And as she describes her meals (for example, something called energy soup which she describes as "a room-temperature concoction made of sunflower greens, which are the tiny first shoots of a sunflower plant, and rejuvelac, a fermented wheat drink that tastes a lot like bad lemonade." Hey, can I get some?), I just wonder whether they have vegan deprogrammers like they do for people who join these religious-based death cults?

Uhm...Ick. I mean, really? I'm not even sure where to begin, except that what I find most interesting is that for people who each spend at least four hours a day directly involved in the process of producing the food they will eat, who by all accounts eat throughout the day and obsess about food, they seem to have forgotten that cooking and eating are about more than meeting basic nutritional requirements. Nourishing and nutritional are not the same thing, but are equally important. There is no love involved in the preparation of the bland, tepid, and nutrient-rich meals these people put so much effort into. If anything, what one gets is a fairly strong sense of fear, as if this extreme diet is about desperately trying to gain control over the effects the world has on our bodies, about not accepting that life is a journey with a definite end and that taking the scenic route is as much about enjoying the process of getting there as it is about trying not to reach the destination too soon.

If I sound harsh, I am. I come from a long line of people who believe very strongly that food and love are very deeply entwined (and I've written about it ad nauseum on this site), and I'm saddened by people who run from that kind of pleasure out of some morbid fear that enjoyment will kill them too soon. Maybe, though my Italian ancestors seem somewhat to be proof that a species can survive while eating and drinking with gusto.

And besides, am I really supposed to take seriously anyone who makes statements such as "You have a very spiritual colon."

Uhm, I kind of think not. Anyway, Sunday dinner this week is tagliatelle bolognese, which will include ground beef, pork, and veal, all cooked for a very, very long time.

October 01, 2003

It came out of nowhere

One day, I'm happily ensconced in Capitol Hill, thinking to myself, that this is the life. I've finally come to peace with the idea of settling myself on the West Coast and not trying to be a New Yorker again. I've finally made my way to a neighborhood where I feel completely at ease. I've finally got a place I love and could see staying in for years to come.

And then, one day over the summer, on a perfectly innocent trip back from North Bend, a thought entered my head, and it scared the bejeezus out of me. "Hmm...maybe some day I would want a farm." Now the scary thing is that although those were the words in my head, the image of it was absolutely crystal clear and specific--a small sheep and goat dairy farm where I would make artisanal cheeses.


Yeah, I know. I make food. This is what I do. It's what I love. And, well, I've got some fairly complex theories about the spiritual power of cheese that ranks up there with my belief that pork is going to need to be a central ingredient in any recipe for achieving world peace. But I'm also a city girl. I mean, I always thought of Ballard as the country. So this was all just a passing thought, right?

But I felt it, even more strongly, driving back from Eastern Washington back during Labor Day weekend. And was even more scared.

Nowadays I find myself really giving thought to how likely any of this could be. When would be an optimal time to consider starting up a side operation of that nature, and would it be somewhere between my Microsoft job and the Cascade range, or back east, because, well, if I'm not going to live in the city, then I might as well return more to my roots and see my family a bit more.

Not that I'm thinking any of this will happen any time soon. I'm too young still to live outside of the city proper. On the other hand, I've started thinking of living in the city as something that I might not always want to do. Lord, what the hell is happening to me. Are the rest of you recently-turned-30 nonstrangers going through similar crises, beginning to believe that certain things that you had thought were a part of you were only a part you as young person? Help!

Anyway, I intend to post something later today about Amanda Hesser's scathing, and amazing, critique of this Semi-Homade series of cookbooks, but I got stuck reading this article about a sheep farm and artisinal cheesemaking operation in Connecticut and thinking about how I might write to the folks who run it and try to chat them up about the whole thing.

And then I got scared again.

July 15, 2003

I sense a culinary war coming on

Whatever insult you might hurl at an Italian, you best be prepared to defend yourself if you question his culinary originality. I've known of family fueds lasting for decades over a grandmother claiming that a cousin stole her recipe for Sunday gravy and claimed it as her own.

Tony Blair better watch out, lest Berlusconi decide to defend his country's kitchenary honour against this most outrageous claim.

July 01, 2003


If you still give thought to whether you should brave airline food or bring your own, you can check out the airline food ratings from those who have flown before you. I have to say, Tajikistan Airlines doesn't look like a bad option, even if the caviar is only served in Business Class. Jay might want to take note that Qantas airlines seems to serve chocolate cake for breakfast (?) and decide to pack his own.

The site is actually kind of interesting, as is reading the comments. Of those I managed to look at Xiaman Airlines, with it's lunch described as "undefinable, maybe egg boiled in soy-sauce" may be tied with Vietnam Airlines' business class snack of "unidentified slice of Processed meat and slice of fish" for the scariest meal. On the other hand, I note that the airlines from the Middle East and north Africa seem to get fairly decent ratings.

I still think one could make a mint providing good box lunches and selling them in the airport terminals.

June 20, 2003

I couldn't have said it better myself

Although perhaps it's a little dismaying to learn that Joseph Conrad, author of one of my favorite novels, had some crackpot ideas, including that Native Americans engaged in various acts of raiding and headhunting because their wives were in desperate need of some home ec classes, this beautiful essay by Julian Barnes is exactly the sort of thing I was trying to get at with my food as medicine post the other day.

An example:

Philip Larkin believed "Poetry is an affair of sanity", as opposed to what he called (after a phrase from Evelyn Waugh) the "very mad, very holy" school. Cooking too is an affair of sanity - even literally so. Stella Bowen once knew a poet in Montparnasse who had suffered a nervous breakdown and been incarcerated in a clinic. After his release, he lived in a room overlooking the street, opposite a boulangerie. The poet dated his recovery from the moment when, gazing out of his window, he saw a woman going in to buy bread. He felt, he told Bowen, "unutterably envious of the interest she was taking in the choosing of a loaf".

That's what it's about. You choose a loaf. You are reckless with the butter. You reduce the kitchen to chaos. You try not to waste scraps. You feed your friends and family. You sit around a table engaged in the irreducible social act of sharing food with others. For all the cavils and caveats, Conrad was right. It is a moral act. It is an affair of sanity. Let him have the last word. "The intimate influence of conscientious cookery," he wrote, "promotes the serenity of mind, the graciousness of thought, and that indulgent view of our neighbour's failings which is the only genuine form of optimism. Those are its titles to our reverence."

Sigh. To write with such eloquence would make me very happy indeed.

June 11, 2003

Lunch with Bud

Hsiao-Ching Chou, the PI's food writer, got to live out my fantasy Mao run through Pike Place Market wtih Calvin Trillin. Sometimes life is just so unfair...

When the ice box is also the medicine cabinet

Julie Powell, authoress of the Julie/Julia Project, my favorite blog that I don't write for, has been having a rough time of it lately. Well, as long as I've been reading the blog she's had one rough time or another--not infrequently descending into bouts of self-pity that leave her screaming obscenities or banging her head against a wall. And, like all great writer/cooks, she takes to the sauce a bit when things get particularly rough, or at least when friends come over for dinner. But she's been sick the last week or so, and cooking less lately, and philosophizing more in her daily entries.

A thought from a recent post really hit me, though.

"So last night, eating fried dumplings and Szechuan beef that I can’t taste or easily swallow because of my cold, which is probably a good thing, I got to thinking about food and depression. Here’s my thought, born of some circuitous sad-sack thought patterns: I think that in order to really care about food, you have to have experienced depression, or at least great difficulties. This is not to say that everyone who’s depressed is a gourmet, of course. But most of the people I know who really, sincerely happy most of the time are also profoundly uninterested in food. Food for them is just fuel to get them through the next day at the beach. Whereas people who’ve experienced great pain, either self-inflicted or not, sometimes come to the preparation and eating of great food as both a comfort and an affirmation of life, sometimes much needed and hard to find.

Or then again, maybe everybody’s fucking miserable, and some of them also like to eat."

Ok, so I'm sure this is no new or profound thought, but it got me started on thinking about how true this is of the great food writers at least, if not of all people who like to eat. Food, at least for a food writer, is the inspiration for art, but without some connection to life, well, you're just writing a glorified cookbook or another memoir. It's the key difference that makes Ruth Reichl's Tender at the Bone or MFK Fisher's Gastronimical Me so moving, and Frances Mayes' Under the Tuscan Sun merely a fun read about fulfilling a fantasy about moving to Europe and buying an old farm.

Now I'm not saying that Mayes' book isn't good. I enjoyed it. It made me want to live in Tuscany for a while, and certainly to cook in Tuscany, but it also gave me the impression that it was written by a priveleged intellectual living out a dream and just sort of stating the obvious--that it's fun to do that. There are recipes throughout the book, and she pays a fair amount of attention to appreciating the local, seasonal produce available to her, but it's all in this detached cerebral way that's fine for making the point about how there are plenty of cool things about getting to live in a villa in an ancient Italian town.

Fisher, on the other hand, is a woman who did know great pain. She left a bland marriage in order to be with the great love of her life who almost immediately began falling apart--literally--from Buerger's disease. Though they had several happy years together, living deeply throughout Europe and the US, for much of it he was in an agony that eventually caused him to commit suicide. Fisher wrote one of the most beautiful and moving tributes to the comforting power of food about an event several months after this episode. She'd traveled to Mexico to visit her brother. Since her love's death she'd been unable to feel anything, and her description of the bland little packets of food that everyone else on the plane was happily munching and which she couldn't bring herself to touch highlights how without that love that she'd risked everything for, she wasn't sure she could find anything to suck out of life anymore.

Upon arriving in Mexico, she stops at a hotel for a night and decides to try to eat something in the restaurant, where they bring her tourist food, Americanized and bland, and she can't bring herself to touch that either for the same reasons she couldn't stomach the meal on the plane. Her waiter, realizing that she is so deeply sad and in need of comfort as much as nutrition, brings her a bowl of the beans and tortillas that the kitchen staff are eating. For the first time in months, Fisher tastes and enjoys.

You have to be just a little bit awed by the weight of that moment. The simplest food, the everyday staple of poor people in a poor country, had the power to bring a woman back to life.

Food as medicine is really something of a complex idea. For one thing, it is just that in the literal sense. We all need the vitamins and nutrients in the food we eat for our bodies' natural functioning to continue. And various foods that we eat do have medicinal values--ginger, for example, is good at alleviating nausea (as is the nectar in canned peaches, something I've never understood by swear by). There are even studies demonstrating the scientific reasons why a bowl of chicken soup is helpful in fighting off colds.

But te point where food becomes medicine in the figurative sense is where mom's homemade chicken soup has the greater impact in making you feel better than a microwaved can of Campbells.

It makes sense how food, and homecooking in particular, can be therapeutic to a cook. It's a creative outlet, involves a process you can throw yourself into with as much energy as you need to, and it has an immediate, tangible result to the labor, which is satisfying in a way that many other pursuits people use to lift their spirits--running, for example--can't offer.

For the eater, though, the therapeutic value of food, and even more so, the importance it has in one's ability to be happy, is something entirely different, more readily compared to activities that are based in emotion. So it's no surpise that food is used so often in literature and art as a metatphor for things that strike us deeply--love, sex, motherhood, and nostalgia, to name a few. Food stimulates pleasure on the physical level, on an emotional level, and when made with the specific eater in mind, it can stimulate on something like a flattering level.

So the question, getting back to the statement that prompted this ramble in the first place, is why certain people can be moved by tastes and others are not. Fisher things it has some amount to do with the age and experience of the person. I disagree with Fisher mostly. I've known well-traveled adults who could take or leave nearly any item on their dish, and I've known children to go into near rapture over a bowl of garlicky mushrooms. If I'm interpreting Julie's statement above correctly, she would say it has something to do with the person's ability to let their emotions rule them, that in order to allow yourself to be transported with joy, you also have to allow yourself to suffer. And by suffering, I don't mean that you need to have the most traumatic experiences, but that you allow yourself to be affected deeply by your experiences, even the negative ones. And what is more exhilarating than being lifted from the bottom of dispair to some unexpected height of pleasure?

Bad news about those Baker's Cookies

Those cookies Paulette likes are a little heftier than they claim to be. I've always wondered how accurate food labels were, especially among smaller brands. But I say if you like, just toss the last bite and call it even.

June 06, 2003

What if the Marquis de Sade met the man?

I kind of hesitate to post this link because somehow it feels like I might be exposing a little too much about my particular kinks, since by now most people I know are aware of my prediliction for painfully hot foods, but this book, Mr. Chilehead: Adventures in the Taste of Pain does look like a fascinating read.

May 19, 2003

When Atkins attack

I love Slate's shopathon/critique articles, and today's Meaty Issues - Are the new low- and no-carb breads, beers, and sweets any good? is no exception. It confirms my belief that I will not be going on the Atkins diet again any time soon.

I do, however, like the way writer Kelly Alexander ends the article: "As for me, if I wanted to Atkins-ize myself permanently (highly unlikely), I would simply eat pork-chop-wrapped duck breasts for every meal." Hear, hear.

April 23, 2003

Finally! A source for potted possum sauce!

Actually, if there had been a "spit, don't swallow" category, it would be a lot more appropriate to some of the exhibits in the Potted Meat Museum than "yum" but I work within the constraints I am given. At least it's not nearly as frightening as Pete's hats of meat last week.

Now admittedly, there is a place for potted meat (and saying "potted meat" gives me a weird little pleasure--perhaps something akin to how Perry feels about "toast points"). I mean, we would have no tuna sandwiches without potted meat, and, hmmm...ok, well, maybe that's the only one I can think of that doesn't really spook me. Because, yeah, I'm kinda spooked by beef and iron wine and pork brains with milk gravy. Actually, I'm more than a little spooked by those. Spooked we'll leave to the realm of canned steak and kidney pie, which seems something iffy enough in its fresh form that it really oughtn't to be consumed from a can. I'd say the same goes for turtle soup.

And I'm assuming (or is hoping a more appropriate word here) that the armadillo meat--sundried and road tenderized--is a joke, which is why it's listed under "exotic and other." Now there's a category for you! Jay, can we add that one to nonfamous, for newsbits that just don't work in any of the other established genres?

April 08, 2003

Oh my, what a large bouquet you have

In honor of the upcoming inauguration of Swallow Don't Spit's monthly or bimonthly (Have we decided this one? Maybe it should be scheduled to coincide with phases of the moon or meetings of the Federal Reserve Board), I thought we could all use a little primer in describing i vini that will be the focal point of these events.

March 25, 2003

nonedible nonfood

Not since the heady days of my mother's infamous creation "hot dog soup" have I been so frightened by the appearance of something purporting to be dinner. Well, there was also Doctor Zabdiel Boylston's Honeycomb Pudding, which had too long a name not involving food products that I should have been suspicious well before making it, but I was young, my dad was the head chef that day, and all I know is that the name was only descriptive if either the good doctor or a honeycomb generally resemble the title creature from the Blob. And can move by it's own willpower. Yeah, it really did that. Right off the cutting board and across the counter. I still get nightmares about it.

But I digress, which I do a lot, because, well, probably because I've got a serious and undiagnosed attention deficit disorder. Or because I've killed enough brain cells with alcohol, stress, and other such nonhealthy nonsmartening pursuits, that I'm incapable of staying on point for more than the first four or five words of a given sentence. See?

So where was I? Oh yes, I was being disturbed by food. Which is hard. I'm the kind of gal who actually seeks out such generally frightening dishes as sweetbreads, tripe, salt cod, and pickled fish. Hell, I ate a wide array of unidentifiable floral and faunal squiggly items in Japan without flinching. I ate fish face, eyeballs and all. So, you know, I'm hard to freak out when it comes to food. Unless, of course, the food in question is hot dog soup which is just sick and wrong, or something called Fluffy Mackeral Pudding which is even sicker and wronger. Yeah, the name is scary ok, but not half so scary as the image of "onion sauce" which really looks more like A Fish Named Carrie if you ask me.

What the hell? That's what you're thinking, isn't it? Well, I mean, unless you've already seen this site and know what the deal is. But basically, some guy posted all these recipe cards that Weight Watchers put out back in the '70s with amusing commentary, which couldn't have been that hard to come up with because, well, the cards are pretty fucking disturbing on their own. I mean, do you really need someone to tell you that anything called inspiration soup would be anything but to the tastebuds, or that rosy perfection salad must have been created by someone who understood the meaning of the word irony much better than Alanis Morissette?

Now, I'm a fan of Weight Watchers. I recommend them like crazy because, well, you know, they kind of saved me and all, got me back on the straight and narrow, or at least, thinner, and I never really thought of them as some weirdass "Here drink this...uhm...Kool-aid" kind of an organization that pulls you in and exerts weird mind control over you, but these cards are kind of making me wonder if Jim Jones didn't go on to take over their culinary design division after making such a mess in Guyana.

March 24, 2003

Wine me, dine me, put me on the Web!

Nothing like a trip to the Continent to wake up one's inner wine snob (which, truth be told, wasn't sleeping too heavily)... Some web searching today led me to a great site onWA, Seattle Wine Dinners, Tastings, Classes And Education. What I was-- and still am-- really looking for is a decent wine club, but this works. The weekend of my birthday there is a fabulous Washington Wine Event at the Stadium Ex, but $85 a person sounds kind of high. Still, a great list of participating wineries and restaurants, and it sounds like something The Judy would love.

January 16, 2003

Next it will have to be the Paulette\Paul (Prudhomme) project I suppose

Thanks to my dear friends at Chowhound I've recently discovered a new favorite blog (sorry, Jay, but this one is too up my alley). The Julie/Julia Project is the daily adventures of a woman who is trying to work her way through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cookery and have a life at the same time. I felt a particular kinship with her while reading of her unfortunately textured orange mousse; her liquid mess seemed like the perfect complement to the solid mass of cornmeal and buttermilk that took two extra cooks and all of the remaining milk and eggs in the house to turn into cornbread last Sunday.

I'm starting to imagine Julie as looking like a cross between Lucille Ball in her I Love Lucy days and Janeane Garafolo. Don't ask me why. I'm a strangely visual person.

A passage that had me laughing out loud from today's posting:

"The only annoyance was the rice – I’d cooked it and cooked it, but it just remained kinda hard in the middle. Maybe I bought crappy rice – I did get it from one of the delis at Queensborough Plaza, it had probably been sitting there for a decade or so. Or do drug dealers and strip club dancers make a lot of rice?

"Eric keeps pushing for a rice maker, but I say no. Rice makers are for the Japanese and pansies."

Oh can I identify with that sentiment! It's exactly the same wrong-headed type of idea that keeps me resisting the entreaties of one friend to accept her extra pressure cooker. She insists that lentil soup can be made in 15 minutes. But I love the lingering smell of soup simmering for hours on the stove, as well as the drama of how it will turn out in the end, since, as we all know, I never remember how I cooked anything the last time and sort of wind up reinventing the wheel everytime I step up to the chopping board. Ok, so it's usually a three hour drama from start to finish with bean soups, but, hey, The Godfather clocked in about that long and it was, er, stirring from beginning to end.

The more I read, the more I'm getting to like our dear Miss Julie, especially when she ponders whether there is anything more heavenly that one can do to a vegetable than wrap it in pork products and smother it in cream. We may be soul sisters. (One of these days, I'll expound here on my theory about how we really should explore the possibility of trying to settle some of the touchier global conflicts currently a-brewing with a big old pig roast.)

I bet Julie would love Calvin too. Now we could have some serious fun, the three of us, making a huge mess of the kitchen, looking for new things to wrap in pork and/or deep fry, and maybe watching some great food movies like Big Night or Tortilla Soup.

Without new episodes of the Sopranos until sometime in God knows when, I'm glad I've at least got this enthralling serial to keep me going for a while.

November 27, 2002

The High Maintenance Bird

There has been an interesting confluence of themes in my life lately, especially in regards to my heritage turkey, the history of cocktails, and that rather unnerving southern species of bird known as the turducken, which Jay discoursed on so eloquently here a few days ago.

This morning I awoke to a story on NPR about the farm that raised my Thanksgiving centerpiece, Wish Farms in Prairie City, OR. Then they did a piece about a particular kind of heritage martini, as it were, using Plymouth Gin, which was of course thematically linked to the book I'm reading, Straight Up or On the Rocks: The Story of the American Cocktail, which had this nice little excerpt on the page that I started with this morning:

Turkey Cocktail: To one large turkey add one gallon of vermouth and a demijohn of Angosturo bitters. Shake.
The Notebooks of F. Scott Fitzgerald

which seemed really funny on a bus at 8 am this morning after a hard night of primary research on historically important cocktails. But not half so amusing as the read I had upon opening the information packet that accompanied my heritage turkey. First of all, the fact that a turkey should require documentation beyond that which is specified by the Department of Agriculture, is in itself quite amusing. But that it should come with instructions for care and cooking that rival in anal retentiveness the pages of Cook's Illustrated or the above and below mentioned turducken is really quite a hoot.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm thrilled to be participating in the Slow Food movement, and to do my part to help keep a family farm in operation. Being the daughter of a gentleman farmer, I do value the small time agricultural operation and all, but so far as I know, the most instruction my father would provide to a would-be cook about to tackle one of his birds would be along the lines of "well, it's dead, which I know because I did the backbreaking work of putting the thing out it's misery. And you should probably cook it before you eat it."

So the main information sheet is titled "A few words on your Thanksgiving turkey" and assures me that, in fact, Sunday, November 24, 2002 was the correct date of death for my little hen, an 11.5 pound specimen of poultry pulchritude. It reminds me (which is probably not a bad thing to do) that the nasties are in the cavity of the bird and should be removed prior to cooking and then used "in preparing a flavorful stock and/or stuffing." It also advises me to rinse the bugger inside and out, and just in case I hadn't thought of it, suggests that "the spray attachment on your kitchen sink is an ideal tool for this job."

It also reminds me that my American Bronze bird is superior to those that millions of Americans are thawing right now after picking up at their local grocery stores (well, I should hope so, considering that I just paid $40 for an 11 pound turkey!), and as such requires no brining or marinating since they are but "techniques introduced to cope with the blandness of the Standard White supermarket turkey" (which comes as something of a relief, as I was a bit concerned that my first experience not using a pre-brined kosher turkey might result in me making a salty mess of this rare bird). It also gently suggests that extreme methods of cooking, such as smoking and frying, would overwhelm the subtle flavor of my new poultry prize, and implies that I would be insulting the little critter to treat it in such a shocking manner. My bird will also likely take as much as an hour less to cook than its supermarket cousins, owing to its gentle nature. No, this is a delicate creature, and should be treated with the utmost roasting respect, which according to the Slow Food people does have its many variations, and might well entail "high-temp, low-tem or a combination, breast-up, breast-down or a combination, stuffed/unstuffed, basted/unbasted" oven treatment. And here I thought turkey roasting was uncreative!

So this information sheet goes on to advise me that I should remove the bird from the oven the moment the internal temperature reaches 165 so as to avoid drying it out. It also offers the helpful hint that should I be concerned about undercooking the stuffing, I could wrap it cheesecloth, microwave it first and then fill up the bird with it already hot. I wonder, does Heloise know about that one?

And here I thought I was just buying a turkey, not a whole new philosophy on the treatment of poultry products. I hope the organic potatoes I plan to purchase at the Pike Place Market today won't inform me that they would feel slighted to be mashed with some garden-variety garlic and milk. At least I can assure them that I will be using some very good Irish butter in the mix.

November 26, 2002

hey there pilgrim

Perry is astounded (and almost offended, I think) by Paulette's and my participation in the "Slow Food" movement, but he's going to be eating a "Slow Turkey" with us on Thursday. Apparently a fair number of New Yorkers will be doing the same: Turkeys Similar to What Pilgrims Ate

I'm a little freaked out by the Times' angle though: I have a hard enough time with my "extinction day" festivities without highlighting my cultural connections to the Pilgrims. I'll just take my heirloom turkey with an extra helping of white guilt.

November 25, 2002

Super Soy

So, I'm paraphrasing from someone on Chowhound to explain this little movie for
Kikkoman Soy Sauce, but it would appear that Super Kikkoman defeats his enemies by pouring soy sauce over them. He apparently can wield more than just a condiment, however, as he shamed the cat in the video into hanging himself by pointing out that he should already know enough to use soy sauce, and not Worcestershire sauce, on his omelette. The girl in Super Kikkoman's bed is apparently named after a Worcestershire sauce maker in Japan, which kind of speaks for itself.

November 24, 2002

Turducken: it's what's for dinner?

Had nonfamous nonstranger Paulette and I not already contracted months ago to buy a (this is for real) "organic free-range heirloom turkey" from a small "Slow Food" farmer in Oregon, we'd be making a turducken for Thanksgiving. Though it sounds as if it could be German for "moving so as to avoid flying poo," turducken is a Southern delicacy sweeping the nation.

This NYT article hails it as a "free-form poutlry terrine." What this means in practice is stuffing a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey (with stuffing in between) and cooking for 12 hours.

Calvin Trillin, easily my favorite food writer, has written persuasively about the glories of the turducken. But Paulette's Dad-- a farmer-- has the last word. When she suggested he raise turducken, he replied earnestly, "Oh no. Last time I tried to stuff a chicken up a duck's ass it didn't work too well."

However unpleasant that image is, I maintain it's still better than Tofurkey and other fake flesh. But then again, I'm not a vegetarian.