Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

You Are Welcome! Happy New Year!

Oh readers, I am certain you are well organized, menu planned ahead, shopping trip(s) taken care of already. I know you have baked, chopped, prepped in all sorts of ways to assure your gathering, or intimate dinner, or snuggle in to watch favorite movies, or whatever forms your New Year's Eve/Day celebrations will take, are all ready to roll food and beverage wise. You have done your homework, you know your customs, and you have everything on hand you need to make sure you have a lucky and prosperous and well fed start to your New Year.

However, there is one not so secret weapon in any prepared host or hostess arsenal that you may have missed and I am going to share it with you here and now. This is such a great concoction that even if it does not bring luck or prosperity all by itself, having it on hand may mean you really don't care so much about either.

What could be that good? The World's Best Mustard Sauce, that's what. The absolutely Makes Everything Taste Better Mustard Sauce.

I originally uncovered this Makes Everything Taste Better Mustard Sauce as part of a pork tenderloin recipe offered so long ago, well prior to internet wanderings, that I did not save the source when I typed it up to put into my notebook.

Sidebar: Yes I have a notebook, The Notebook really, and it is filled with typed out, page protector sheathed wondrousness. It never crashes or requires any sort of connection and I can often judge, by the stains or spots that appeared pre-sheating, how much we loved a particular preparation, just in case it has been that long I might have otherwise forgotten.

You see I type something out, print it, I fix it, we eat it, and if we like it I typically fix it again with tweaks that I note in pencil on the page. Once I have arrived at what we consider close enough to perfection, I type the recipe up again, tweaks included, and then slip it into a page protector which then is shoved into The Notebook (with category dividers I mostly completely ignore).

Occasionally, something is so good as is, it gets fixed several times before I bother to locate a sheet protector for it. Those lovelies finally get their plastic home but only after they have earned all sorts of splatter and splash marks indicating they were well appreciated.

Back to your soon to be beloved recipe:


1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon dry mustard powder (I use Coleman's - who can resist that sunny yellow can?)
2 tablespoons chopped chives or very finely chopped green onion tops

Combine all ingredients well. Cover and chill at least two hours, preferably overnight.

And there you have it. Simplicity that, dare I say it, approaches perfection. The resulting sauce is an ideal side for a platter of sliced meats and cheeses. It goes well with any roasted or grilled meat, it rides happily atop any number of prepared vegetables, it is good on a sandwich and even better dolloped on a slice of quiche.

I have said, (over and over and over again, yes, yes, it is a favorite expression my family has heard WAY too many times) that this stuff is so good I'd be happy to eat my shoes, so long as they were well coated in this most delicious of mustard sauces.

And now I share it with you: the proud, the few, the readers of this blog.

You will very likely love-love-love this sauce and find all sorts of ways to work it into your meals from now on. Your lives, if not your waistlines, will be better for knowing of it.

So yes readers mine. Happy New Year! And, you are welcome!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Grateful for Gratin

In what was to prove a significant rookie error decades ago, I agreed to schedule the Hub's and my wedding ceremony in late December, over what was then his Christmas break from med school. I was a bit giddy with it all actually, so perhaps I could be forgiven for not understanding at the time that having our anniversary fall between our two mother's birthdays, not to mention just prior to Christmas followed shortly by the Hub's early January birthday would create an ongoing celebrational identity crisis.

Adding to the fun, perhaps I have not mentioned here how tricky Hub is to shop for gift wise? Planting a third gift opportunity proximal to both Christmas and his birthday was just plain dumb on my part. The ongoing gift idea distribution angst I experienced in the years that followed? I have nobody to thank there but myself.

And eventually the coup de grace was revealed. We got married during a commonly observed school break. This means, lo these years (and years!) later, when it came time to celebrate our anniversary as empty nesters, our nest was temporarily full again. Come late December, all absent students return home for the holidays. D'oh!

That last bit I mention just for effect. It really is not a downside. I love having my kids around, wedding anniversary or not. And yes, LawSchoolGirl is currently back in town. Which I am tickled three shades of pink over. So it turns out the Hub and I were observing our 35th (yes, yes, I got married when I was negative 12 years old) wedding anniversary this past weekend and as these things happen, the Hub was on call for a busy emergency room.

With no way to guarantee an uninterrupted meal time, we'd planned to celebrate our big day with a a nice quiet steak dinner at home. Including all available family members. In this case, since ChefSon was working, that meant LSG would be joining in on the fun.

LSG stated she felt a bit like she was horning in (although I promise you boys and girls, once you get to anniversary number 35, if you've been trying even a teensy bit you've already covered the Wow! bases pretty thoroughly). To alleviate that she proposed she would take over the major cooking duties. And in typical LSG style, as her gift to us, she upgraded the extremely simple menu I'd originally planned.

The first to fall was grilled steak. LSG had pan cooked steak at ChefSon's since she'd been home this year and was determined to share the technique. I had previously voiced my all too typical resistance to trying something new when something familiar was already appreciated. However, since LSG would now be doing the cooking she had the chance to gracefully overcome my objections.

It was decided: to top our dinner menu, pan cooked steak with a beurre rouge jus (and yeah I may be taking liberties with the French but come on....it is our anniversary dinner!).

Next to go were the horseradish mashed potatoes. LSG likes horseradish and she likes mashed potatoes, but she was feeling ambitious. A bit of an internet search produced a recipe for a horseradish gratin that got rave reviews on Epicurious. A quick check to see we had requisite ingredients on hand and et voila! Horseradish Gratin it would be.

I went out to harvest thyme for the steak and potato dishes, and while I was out there in the garden beds anyway, secured arugula and baby lettuce to add to organic romaine from the store for our dinner salad.

I'd already purchased a tiramisu cake (Hub's favorite hands down) and a nice Prosecco for toasting. I decided I'd make a Prosecco vinaigrette for the salad and before you could say Bob's Your Uncle! our Very Special Anniversary Dinner Menu courtesy of Preternaturally Talented Guest Chef LSG, was complete.

The gratin turned out to be pretty simple to put together.

We halved the recipe, figured out our substitutions, gathered our ingredients, and away we went. We assembled our mise en place.I showed LSG how I tie bouquet garniWe carefully sliced the potatoesLSG cooked them in cream until just tenderOnce the garni was removed (we put our garlic in the garni proper since in the comments section for the recipe site people stated they'd run into trouble removing the garlic which was the same color as the cream in the pot) and the potato cream mixture was placed into a buttered shallow baking dish, LSG sprinkled on the grated cheeseShe baked it for 30 minutes and then checked for color. It was gorgeous!Addendum: Here is the recipe as we prepared it, just to be friendly...
Potato Gratin with Horeseradish and Parmesan [printable version]
adapted from Shaw McClain's Yukon Gold Potato Gratin Recipe for Epicurious 10/06
1/2 bunch fresh thyme
1/2 tbsp fresh black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with back of knife

1 1/2 pounds potatoes peeled and cut crosswise into 1/8 inch slices
1/2 tablespoon sea salt
2 cups heavy cream

1/8 cup prepared horseradish
1 cup Parmesan cheese, coarsely grated

Place a rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Generously butter a 1 1/2 gratin dish (we used a deep dish pie plate).

Make a bouquet garni with first four ingredients.

In heavy 3 saucepan combine potatoes, bouquet garni, salt and cream. Set over moderate heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered until potatoes can just be pierced with a fork (begin to check at 10 minutes).

Take off heat. Remove bouquet garni and discard. Stir in horseradish.

Spread potato mixture in buttered dish and sprinkle with cheese. Bake until top is golden brown and potatoes are tender, 30-40 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

I chose not to share photos of the finished plates in toto, but I rush to assure you the gratin recipe was amazing and lived up to several reviews where folks stated though they were full from their meal, it was hard to resist standing around polishing off the remainders. This dish tastes that good. The pan cooked steaks were done just to medium rare, and the herbed buttery red wine pan reduction sauce elevated every morsel to perfection on the plate.

Last to appear was the tiramisu cake decorated with fresh cut flowers, one for every decade (old! I am so old!) we've been married.

A hint from an old married lady who has decorated many a cake with flowers through the years:If you want a cake decorated with fresh flowers to be a uniformly pleasing experience, be sure to use pieces of masking tape or thoroughly coat the cut end of the flowers with melted wax. If you use wax, let it sit until it cools and you can see you've achieved a good seal. This assures the stem does not stealthily share anything indigestible with your cake surface that will eventually find its way into the mouths of your dinner guests.See? Pretty enough to eat and safe to boot so your guests will live to properly thank you for your thoughtfulness.

All in all a meal to remember, with not one but two new recipes to relish repeating. Let it never be said that having talented grown children around to help their parents celebrate anniversaries is anything but a gift all its own. I am so grateful for my son and my daughter, both of whom are the shiniest reflections of 35 years of marriage I could ever imagine.

Folks, this will likely be the last blast from these quarters until after the holiday hooraw has settled. I do have plans for all sorts of familiar treats to have on hand for our Christmas day gift sharing feasting.... Crock pot chili with corn bread the night before, a routine developed years ago to accommodate last minute shoppers and other schedule crunches. Day of, Cava Mimosas, Egg Nog, sausage kolaches, banana bread, sausage cheese balls, spiced glazed nuts, Monte Cristo bake, and tortilla soup. That should be gracious plenty to keep body and soul together while our sensibilities are busy being delighted by Santa's efforts on our behalf this year.

It will be lovely. Fun and funny and amazing because it is all of us, together, doing what we do best. Eating and drinking while enjoying each other's company. I hope for nothing less for all of you, a wonderful celebration in whatever way you do it best. Happy Holidays to each and every one. See you next year!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Now, it is Christmas

The lights for the outside of our house went up the Sunday after Thanksgiving, a schedule we observe year in and year out, weather permitting.The paperwhite bulbs, started weeks ago in jars and little pots, have begun unfurling their delicate blooms.

The tree is up, the stockings are hung.Television schedules have been disrupted for "specials" and a few series have already aired the holiday version of their shows.

But truth be told, the something that really makes it Christmas for this family in this house, didn't happen until last night.

It is not shopping or decking the halls, it is not carols or special lights, not church services, wreaths, candles or any decorations at all that send the Now It Is Christmas signal to my brain.

Whether or not it would be considered sad beyond measure or merely expected, it is food that does that work, and for me, one holiday dish in particular.

How do I know it is Christmas? With the arrival of...Chex Mix!

I have, as long as I can remember, always preferred the salty crunchy treats over the sweet or chewy ones. Put out a bowl of mixed nuts or a plate of cheese and crackers alongside a plate of fudge and I'll be happy to let you have all the candy if you'll spot me all the rest.

I remember discovering what was to become my very favorite savory holiday treat at a neighbor's house, when I was about five or six years old. This was the home of my best friend, her Mom being my Mom's best neighborhood friend, their house being the scene of many a sleepover and shared meal where I had most of my first "otherness" food experiences.

This gathering was to be of the "bring a holiday treat to share" variety of open house and I had eagerly helped my Mom make several loaves of banana bread to take as our contribution. My Mom was not one to keep baked treats around our house, she usually didn't bake anything she wasn't going to give away, so the idea I'd actually get to eat some of what we'd baked was honestly the center of my excitement about going to the party.It was the potential of multiple slices of banana bread that had me obediently slipping into a dress my Mom felt required the support of a particularly scratchy stiff petticoat, an undergarment whose itchiness was the bane of my dressed up existence in those days.

It was that promise of banana bread in combination with a sociably distracted Mom, pleasantly diverted from her usual focus on staying between me and my goal of putting myself into a sugar coma, that had me on my very best behavior. I was helpful, polite, thoughtful, doing anything and everything I could to assure I would be allowed to accompany her to this neighborhood holiday extravaganza.

We'd finished baking the bread before lunch and after the loaves had cooled, filling the house with their enticing aroma, and I had finished a lunch I had no interest in, Mom carefully sliced the bread in preparation for fanning it out artistically on a platter, and let me have one end piece to eat.

Finishing the arranging, she wiped her hands on her apron and placed a warning hand on my shoulder. Looking me in the eye she gave me the lowdown on how the rules regarding my behavior at this party would go.

We would go to the party, she would put the platter of bread on the table set with food for the guests, and after that I was not to touch the bread until our hostess had taken the plastic wrap off. I was not to hover around the table and I was not to ask when we could have the bread.

Then, she said, I could take only one slice at a time. After I took that slice, a small one, I was to move away from the table and visit with somebody at the gathering while I ate it, and could only then walk! not rush! back to the table to take one more slice. The bread was to share with our friends and neighbors, she emphasized. There would be lots of treats on the table, and we were not taking the banana bread over to eat it all ourselves.

It was finally time. I watched my Mom place the plate with all those wondrous slices of banana bread goodness on the well stocked table. I grinned as my best friend's Mom took the plastic wrap off imediately, and told us to help ourselves to anything.

Then I realized there were too many grown-ups between me and my goal. Foiled, temporarily, I spooned a small handful of some sort of mixed cereals onto my plate and began to nibble. Clouds parted, angel choirs sang. More intrigued by the savory crunchy mixture with every bite, I asked my best friend if she knew what this most delicious treat was called?"Texas Trash" she told me, a favorite of her Mom's and the treat they had made the day before in large batches to anchor the table now covered with cookies and candies and breads of all kinds.

I went back for helping after helping, the banana bread quickly and completely forgotten as I ate pile after pile of salty crunchy wondrousness.

I eventually discovered the so-called Texas Trash was not a regional secret treasure but was really a variation of the nationally introduced Chex Mix. No matter the scale however, it was then and there, standing anchored close by a large bowl of toasted cereal pieces, that a food obsession bordering on addiction was born.

My friend's Mom made her mix with Spanish peanuts and Cheerios, a variation from the original recipe offering pleasing round shapes to contrast with all those squares. I somehow imprinted on that variant and the round brown Os became a look that came to represent how "my" Chex Mix must be. Over the years there have been multitudes of recipe tweaks offered by the cereal company themselves, not to mention the alterations that other families made to appease the taste buds of their nearest and dearest.

Chex Mix became available in bags, ready made, a cheesy version was introduced, but it matters not. We have tinkered with the recipe over the years, but finally landed upon OUR version (more Worcestershire sauce! no pretzels!) that serves as home base for all our Holiday Sanctioned Chex Mix focused holiday gnoshing.

And that simple fact remains: once the Chex Mix appears on the kitchen counter, the holiday eating game is officially ON. More so than cookies or candies or cheese balls or egg nog, it is the making, and eating, of mass quantities of Chex Mix that marks Christmas for me.

Here is the Base Recipe AustinAgrodolce way to make the merriest of mixes:
3 cups Corn Chex® cereal
3 cups Rice Chex® cereal
3 cups Wheat Chex® cereal
1 cup peanuts (light salt if I can find them)
1 cup Cheezits®
1 cup Cheerios®
6 tablespoons butter or margarine
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

I do it up old school, using an aluminum roasting pan I buy just for this purpose and just for each year, baking the mix in a conventional oven for an hour at 250 degrees, stirring every 15 minutes, because I remain convinced the time in the oven coats and toasts the pieces better than the more contemporary microwave version.Now it is your turn to share in the comments section - what is your "official" holiday food? What substance, by its very appearance, lights up the holiday palates around your neck of the woods? And if it is Chex Mix, do you have your own variation on the recipe that makes it special for you and yours?Cheezits® instead of Goldfish® crackers? All pecans instead of mixed nuts or peanuts alone? Rye chips? A special herb mix? Share it here and know you are potentially helping create a new holiday tradition for somebody, one crunchy munchy bite at a time.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Oooof, followed by The Pig, Again

I am finding myself gone all topsy-turvy in reacting to the looming presence of Thanksgiving tomorrow.

While I am deeply grateful for the chance to sit and eat a home cooked meal with all of my immediate family this year, I find I am also chafing at the wretched excess I found over the past weeks as I wandered the the food blog interweb.

The hype around this one meal has outdone the H1N1 virus in terms of reaching fever pitch. I am reacting to it as I would any holiday incarnation of a toddler caught mid-tantrum. I long for nothing more than the chance to gently lead my holiday back out of the public eye, calm it way the hell down, and reduce the histrionics until it is manageable and enjoyable again, for both our sakes.

That out of control sense is (cough!) probably coming from inside out, so rearranging my own attitude will be just what the doctor ordered.

With that in mind, I am heading into the kitchen with renewed determination to be more wabi-sabi as I put together the reasonably simple sides and desserts my family designated as "required".

The main course, the dressing and an appetizer will be the focus of attention for tomorrow's cooks, whoever ends up holding the spoon. My goal is to seek the opposite of perfection this go-round. I want to celebrate any and all imperfections and let them be Just Right.

So for the moment, while I head off to wrestle with my perfectionism demons, let me leave you with something of an Anti-Turkey post and rather share with you another recent foray into the realm of Porky Wonderfulness.

Without further ado? Ladies and Gentlemen, the Pig, Again....

Cochinita Pibil is a family favorite I was determined to reproduce at home.

The result of a citric braise with an achiote centric marinade, cochinita pibil is typically served with pickled onions and rice, often eaten simply folded into a heated tortilla. This simplified technique, using a shoulder roast of whatever size you wish, can yield enough for a small family (with great leftovers) or a small crowd. Your call.

Chef Son had assured me he could guide me through the easy technique, and once I located a source for Achiote that came with a recipe for the marinade right on the packet, he reviewed it and pronounced it as very close to the one he'd used in a restaurant setting. I gathered my ingredients and laid out a three day game plan.

Madrecita Achiote Marinade
4 tablespoons achiote (one small package)
2 cups orange juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground pepper
pinch ground cumin
pinch ground coriander
pinch oregano
(I added a pinch of cinnamon)
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt to taste

Marinate seafood, pork or chicken from 3 hours to overnight
. (printable version here).
"Pibil" reportedly refers to a stone lined pit and "cochinita" is an entire baby pig, so calling this dish cochinita pibil is taking liberties, clearly. I suppose to be more accurate, we'd have to dub it Puerco a la Pibil or something like that, but a need for accuracy was off the table as long as we ended up with a delicious dinner in its place.

The Strategy:

Day one was to make the marinade according to the Madrecita packaging and let it sit overnight for the flavors to speed date, fall in love, and hastily marry.

Day two I cut a Niman 2-3 pound half pork bone in shoulder roast into four smaller chunks and placed it into the marinade for an overnight steeping.

The third day, I made a half recipe of the pickled onions, refrigerated them, then put the meat and the marinade into a dutch oven for a long slow cook at 325 degrees.

As advised by ChefSon, I put a bit of water into the pan to make sure the liquid level came 3/4 quarters of the way up the meat.After several hours in a low oven the meat was fork tender as required - all ready to go. I siphoned off as much of the fat as I could out of the pan, shredded the pork and spooned the defatted pan liquid on top. It can hold in a warm oven at that point until needed.
Pickled Onions, or Cebollas Curtidas

(Rick Bayless)
 Makes 7 cups
4 large (about 1 1/2 pounds) red onions, peeled and cut in half
2 cups fresh lime juice

Thinly slice the onions (this can be done using a food processor fitted with a thin slicing blade). Scoop the onions into a heat-proof, non-reactive bowl. Pour boiling water over them, wait 10 seconds, then pour the onions into a large strainer. Return the drained onions to the bowl, pour on the lime juice and stir in the 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Cover and place in the refrigerator until serving time. Before serving, taste and season with additional salt if you think necessary. (printable version here).

I didn't make a habañero salsa as is often featured as companion piece for this first go round as nobody at the table was much of a pepper head. I do have habañero peppers finally set on our plant out back, so when they ripen I will make another batch of the puerco pibil and add salsa as a table condiment. Alternately you could set out a bit of Sriracha or jar salsa for anybody that wanted to lively up their tacos.
The results were delicious and not at all tricky, though it did require juicing a small mountain of limes and oranges as part of the prep. If you have any recipes calling for piles of citrus peel, dig them out for sure. You will have peels in abundance after making the marinade for the meat and onions.

Also, Annato is quite a tenacious dye, especially when combined with rendered pork fat, so you will want to take a bit of care not to paint yourself or your counter with any of the pan juices. That tendency put this dish into the sartorial "No Whites!" category for me already populated by barbeque, Rotel dip, and anything with potentially drippy staining propensities. You may have better luck than I have historically experienced eating messy sauces without staining light colored clothing. I know my limits and while this dish doesn't need bibs, it does require attention. You've been warned....

The final moist and smoky slightly sweet pork was its own reward for the requisite sticky time with the juicer. I'm not sure Johnny Depp's Agent Sands character from Once Upon A Time in Mexico would have shot me over the results, but you never can tell. I sat facing the front door, just in case.
Once you hit the point of Turkey/Pumpkin Palate Fatigue, get yourself a pork shoulder roast and try some Cochinita Pibil as delightful antidote, won't you? ¡Adios, amigos! And, Happy (relaxed) Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

When life gives you lemons...

A year or so ago after watching in amazement how productive the potted tree was at the house where I picked up my CSA baskets, I stalked a local nursery relentlessly until I managed to pick up two Meyer Lemon trees all my own.

I potted them both up and gave one to ChefSon to anchor the culinary patio garden he was cultivating at that time, keeping the other for our own back yard sustainability experiment in liberally mixing edibles with lookables.

Fast forward several months and ChefSon moved into a slightly smaller non-ground floored condo space vacated by his sister as she headed off to graduate school. I re-inherited Meyer Lemon the Second, and have the two trees flanking a mosaic bed out back.

Now nearly a year later and we have the first "all our own" crop of lemons to crow about.

After meditating over the possibilities of "what to do with all those lemons" I finally decided to forgo limoncello as we are just not that into liqueurs.

I skipped over marmalade because we haven't eaten all the loquat strawberry jam from last Spring's efforts and aside from aggressively gifting people with more jars of jam (not that anybody has complained, mind you) I don't want to end up with cabinets filled with jams and preserves.

Lemonade would be a decadent misuse of the Meyers I believe and while I have plans to use some of them, juiced, for a couple of Thanksgiving recipes, I decided the rest ought to be preserved in a salt mixture, where they will hold for several months.

Here from David Lebovitz' amazing website is the basic process, although I am calling in ChefSon later today to add any tweaks of his own, and he will rightfully share the bounty, seeing as one of the trees was originally given to him.
Moroccan Preserved Lemons

Scrub the lemons with a vegetable brush and dry them off.

Cut off the little rounded bit at the stem end if there's a hard little piece of the stem attached. From the other end of the lemon, make a large cut by slicing lengthwise downward, stopping about 1-inch (3 cm) from the bottom, then making another downward slice, so you've incised the lemon with an X shape.

Pack coarse salt into the lemon where you made the incisions. Don't be skimpy with the salt: use about 1 tablespoon per lemon.

Put the salt-filled lemons in a clean, large glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. Add a few coriander seeds, a bay leaf, a dried chili, and a cinnamon stick if you want. (Or a combination of any of them.)

Press the lemons very firmly in the jar to get the juices flowing. Cover and let stand overnight.

The next day do the same, pressing the lemons down, encouraging them to release more juice as they start to soften. Repeat for a 2-3 days until the lemons are completely covered with liquid. If your lemons aren't too juicy, add more freshly-squeezed lemon juice until their submerged, as I generally have to do.

After one month, when the preserved lemons are soft, they're ready to use. Store the lemons in the refrigerator, where they'll keep for at least 6 months. Rinse before using to remove excess salt.

To use: Remove lemons from the liquid and rinse. Split in half and scrape out the pulp. Slice the lemon peels into thin strips or cut into small dices. You may wish to press the pulp through a sieve to obtain the flavorful juice, which can be used for flavoring as well, then discard the innards.

Figuring out how to best employ this seasonal excess reminded me of various reactions I experienced as I helped LawSchoolGirl make a drive from Michigan to Texas recently.

I purposefully did not take my camera, partly due to space restrictions in the packed car that was to serve as my return transport to Austin, and partly as intentional discipline.

I wanted to soak up the sights on this trip using my eyes and not my camera. I wanted to experience what could come from simply seeing, rather than my typical framing, cropping, and review of the shots captured instead of relying upon my own powers of remembrance and observation.

Sightseeing out a car window, rather than flying so far above the fray, is its own reward. As we moved at car's pace from the North, where frosts and freezes were routine repeaters in the local weather forecasts, all the Fall color was on the ground, already carefully raked off of sidewalks and driveways. As we made our way South to where leaves were still clinging, it was fascinating to me to use my roadside vantage point to observe patterns of harvest I miss from my suburban setting.

In Michigan I noted one particularly large orchard along the highway we took while heading towards Indiana. Acres and acres of empty trees merely hinting at the bounty they had so recently released. Were these apple trees? Pears? Whatever they were, they were meticulously groomed and obviously well cared for.

Apples are a fruit I've begun to really enjoy again after years of avoidance. Alar scares have been overcome by the wider availability of organics plus several newly introduced varieties that pack all sorts of flavor, texture and nuance back into what had become all about packaging with no real content. Honeycrisps are a current family favorite. I've seen them described as "cider still in the skin". I think I like their crunch almost as much as the taste.

We moved past miles and miles of emptied corn fields in Illinois, some of them with stalks recently plowed under while others were just beginning that process. As we moved further South we caught up with the harvest, finally driving alongside fields where ears were being stripped of their kernels which were then being blown into trailered hoppers.

After crossing the line into Arkansas, the dominant roadside view abruptly changed from corn to cotton. Most of the white puffs were off the plants already and packed into huge 18 wheeler sized loaves lined along field edges, covered with colorful tarps and tagged with coding. Here and there in the small spaces between fields were drifts of cotton bolls looking like so many tiny snow drifts in the November sun shine.

Also predominant in Arkansas, especially in the early morning portion of our drive, were large red tailed hawks, seated on fence posts, all facing the rising sun. I eventually lost count of how many I saw that morning, but it was clear they had at least a temporary affinity for the newly harvested cotton fields. I suppose all sorts of small prey were exposed by the stripping of the fields, and perhaps the hawks were following the harvest opportunistically? I noticed once the roadside cotton and a few grain fields I couldn't readily identify were replaced by stands of old growth pine and understory sumac, there were no longer hawk sentinels along the highway.

The last two observations I'll share were somewhat related. All along the way we passed and were passed by vehicles loaded down with what appeared to be an entire family and all their belongings. I ventured a guess many of them are migrant harvesters, moving South, following the crops being taken from the fields. Some of them may have been heading home to share holidays with family and friends, but I feel certain most of them were hoping to find more work in the still sun warmed fields and orchards of the Rio Grande valley.

Watching these families with their belongings precariously piled atop various vehicles and trailers I was starkly reminded of how much I blindly accept in the process of bringing food from the field to my table. Driving past mile after mile of field planted fencerow to fencerow in relentless monoculture format was a stark reminder of how deeply invested our economy is in large scale agribusiness.

Even if governmental policies were to more actively support/demand determined divestment from monoculture agribusiness, it will take years of careful crop substitution and repurposing of the vast majority of our fields and farms to move from one style of food production to another. Do we have the national will for such a task?

Do we really have any other good choices?

One final note. After getting back home and making some pumpkin sausage soup in anticipation of a rainy cold front supposedly on the way I had just over a cup of pumpkin purée left over.

Relying on a faint memory I turned to the search engine of the ever reliable Simply Recipes to unearth this gem of a recipe: Pumpkin Ginger Nut Muffins. (And sure, I am partly telling you this because I am so impressed with myself for recalling a recipe I read and thought looked good over a month ago... In TexasDeb memory terms a month is like seven years!)As promised they were a snap to put together, did not require a stand mixer or any special equipment, and filled the house with the most wonderfully evocative autumnal aroma while baking. After the olfactory buildup I was hopeful the taste would stand up to the sensory promise already made and oh.... Me oh my. It so did just that.

These muffins are not overly sweet and would be perfect to have on hand as breakfast or late night snacks for any and all kitchen help you might manage to corral in the next week or so. And if you don't find yourself with a cup of left over pumpkin purée, these are well worth opening a can. Make a double batch and just try not to eat half of them before your guests arrive.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

unsubscribe me!

One thing has led to another and I have two discoveries to share.

The first discovery involves a form of bandwidthism, a schism of sorts that has evolved in the blogging world between those with dial-up woes, and the rest of the interweb world.

As is all too typical of the "haves", I was going merrily along my way, posting photos, BIG photos, at times between nearly every paragraph of a post, convinced that the visuals were every bit as important as the text.

And they were, they most certainly are. I was correct about that, but not at all in the way I originally envisioned.

After reading a post on a recently discovered website, I was quite chastened by the author delineating that, if she had not visited certain web sites recently, it was chiefly due to her frustration with the agonizingly slow process of waiting for large photos to load, especially when accompanied by little in the way of explanatory or engaging text to keep her occupied while the images arrived.

There are all sorts of NSFW (not suitable for work) warnings to be seen on posts, but I don't recall regularly seeing anything warning dial-up users of an image-weighted post.

I had not only been ignoring the problem I had been oblivious to it. It struck me. How very broadband of me to assume that everybody would be content to wait, textless, while my three photos of a front porch berry arrangement crawled across the wires.

I am not certain what a proper response to this new awareness might look like, but I do know I will try to be more aware of how and when I use images in future posts. There will be times and there are certainly formats that are all about the imagery, but here especially, I like to think it is the text that is the work horse.

On to my second epiphany for this week.

At some point in the remote past, I had been opening my email program only to experience a dearth of arrivals. I was not bright enough to be properly grateful for that I suppose, and along the way I signed up for all sorts of "newsletters" and "alerts" and automated daily post type services. This meant that, whether or not I had anything in the way of real communiques from friends or relatives, I had what at the time was a comfortably stuffed looking in box.

Gradually however, I found myself scanning the "from" column to find the "real" mail scattered sparsely in between the automated stuff. The posts from people I really did wish to read, the actual emails from friends directly and only written to me, along with the few daily updates I still enjoyed perusing, rather than those I was feeling obligated to at least skim.

I now find myself in a situation where I will be away from all that is "online" for a span of days. Not wishing to return to hundreds of unread missives, I determined the need to unsubscribe my email account from everything of a daily delivery nature.

While I knew it would be relatively easy to do so, what I did not anticipate was the rush of lightness and a very distinct feeling of liberation that arrived along with a batch of "you have been unsubscribed" confirmatory emails. The relinquishing of these various daily shared obligations has triggered a sense of deep relief, not loss.

How did I get to a point where I was allowing myself to feel obligated to read almost everything that arrived electronically? I certainly do not feel I must open, much less read the various snail mail assortment I find in each day's postal delivery. I pursue what attracts my interest and ignore (recycle) the rest.

I'm not altogether clear how this intentional self immersion took on such unintentional emotional weight, but I am delighted to have raised my head back above those waters for now. Once I am back at the keyboard regularly again if I find it too time consuming to hunt down certain resources on a daily basis, I will resubscribe.

In the meantime, I am looking forward to an abrupt weaning away from a pattern of hours spent in front of this glowing screen. A change of pace, even when not altogether intentional, is always instructive if not thoroughly enjoyable. Whatever I miss much, I will enjoy that much more upon my eventual return. Whatever I forget about will be fine without me and vice versa.

It is a gorgeous day. I intend to get out into it, for once leaving my camera and my constantly post composing mindset behind.

While I am away, fare thee well, my friends. I will be back before too long and I hope you will return as well. In the meantime, feel free to weigh in with your own reactions to what you find in your email inbox in the comments section below. Here are a few queries to get the comment juices flowing....

Aside from the patently junky, are you getting only what you really want in your email inbox?

Do you feel obligated to stay subscribed, and past that, to regularly read everything you try out for a time?

Have you developed a sense of loyalty to certain sites? If so, does that serve only as boon to the time you spend at your computer or does obligation lurk just beneath the surface?

Let's hear it - what is your reaction when you open your email inbox?

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Gesundheit! I want to celebrate two teensy recent successes with you.

Success Numero Uno:I did not cave in and buy any chocolate candies for Halloween this year. Not even after the day itself when everything was marked down to half price. Sorry for handing out what many would consider the cheap stuff, neighborhood children!

That meant when (no "if" in this equation) the Hub and I did hit the Halloween leftovers (AND the bag we essentially scarfed down all ourselves in the two week run-up to Halloween) it was artificial flavored and colored sugary stuff sure enough, but it was Fat Free artificial flavored and colored sugary stuff. (cue crowd "oooooooooooh" noise followed by wild burst of applause).

Thank you, thank you, no really, thanks a lot, you can stop applauding now, really, (holds hand up), seriously, thanks very much....

Sucess Numero Dos:I finally got my act together and actually prepared the recipe for Marc's Cashew Chicken I'd salivated over on Simply Recipes recently after having the printout prominently displayed on my counter for four full days. It got to where I couldn't look at the piece of paper. It just sat there, mocking me, representing as it did one more thing I wanted to do but hadn't. Until I did yesterday, that is.

That success was twofold: I did what I set out to do AND the chicken was every bit as delicious on the plate as it read to be on Elise's blog.

The Hub had only one complaint about this: he felt the serving I gave him for dinner last night was too small. This was followed up by a mild fritz of sorts upon his discovering that yes, although we did have leftovers, I had in fact already stashed said leftovers in the refrigerator.

A recent practice I have employed, after two reasonable servings are on our plates for dinner, of putting whatever is left into a container that goes directly into the refrigerator, has proven to be a fairly successful gambit for preventing an all too common after dinner debacle which runs a bit like this.

One or the other of us will arise from where we have eaten, stack and then stroll virtuously (we are cleaning up yes? yay us!) into the kitchen with our dirty plates, ostensibly to place them in the dishwasher.

At this point however, the Hub might cave and dish up a second, hopefully slightly smaller version of dinner from the still warm leftovers in the pots and pans. Which is at least an open admission "I am going to eat more".

More perniciously, if I am the one taking the dishes into the kitchen, I sometimes end up standing flatfooted at the kitchen counter, "cleaning up" by scraping out and eating the remnants of some portion of our dinner directly from the pot or pan, often using the serving spoon itself.

Worst case scenario for me? The above happening while the water is running full blast for no good reason into the sink as I am power spooning that extra serving of mashed potatoes into my mouth.

Waste not want not!

Or put another way, Ask not for whom the elastic waist pants toll, they toll for thee!

So yes, putting any leftovers immediately into the refrigerator at least means if either of us is going to ignore that we have just eaten what is considered a normal portion of whatever is for dinner and get ourselves more food, we at least have to go to enough extra trouble to do so that it will hopefully make us stop and think long enough to realize: this is eating that is not about being hungry.

Back to Marc's Cashew Chicken.
Photo from Simply Recipes website
I have only one quibble with this recipe and that is with regards to the suggested addition of minced fresh ginger to the marinade.

The flavor was fantastic but the high heat for all the stir frying meant the ginger bits in the marinade over browned. Next time, I will either put the ginger into the marinade and then strain it out and discard it before cooking, or I will put the minced ginger in towards the end with the chopped onions instead.

I think my final answer will probably be B: add the ginger in with the onions. Once those bitty bits are in the marinade enough of them will stick to the chicken pieces that even after straining there will be over browned remnants in the end product. Which said over browned remnants, I hasten to add, did not keep us from snarfing down every delicious bite last night. No, no, not at all.

This cashew chicken had deep layers of flavor, was easy to make, fast to cook up, and especially simple after I did most of the prep hours ahead. Getting all the chopping and cashew boiling done at the same time I placed the chicken pieces into the marinade meant dinner was ready rapidamente.

Check the full recipe out here and see what you think.

How did you do at Halloween? Lots of trick or treaters in your place or no? Apparently some neighborhoods were swamped with kids from all over the area while others, like ours, had just enough of a crowd show up to mostly drain the candy cauldron.
I am the ghost of Halloween past.....
Granted, I was doling out the treats by the hands full to each child, but I figure that was the best way to make up for the whole "no chocolate here!" scenario.

Next up Holiday wise is Thanksgiving, and while I am not especially grateful for the recipe frenzy this season typically triggers "48 new ways to prepare cranberries!" I am happy that this year, as it turns out, all our merry band of four will be gathering for a shared meal after all.

With the Hub and both my babies at the table, food will be running a very slow second in the race for my attentive gratitude. Give me a chance to hang out with my family, and I am already one satisfied gal. Add to that the prospect of a (small! really!) piece of leftover pumpkin pie for breakfast the next morning, and it doesn't get much better.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

One at a time please

Happy Halloween!Raise your hand if you would like to spend a teensy bit more time focusing on the holiday at hand before rushing headlong into Thanksgiving and past that immediately on to Christmas. Hold your hands up high now, no need to be shy, we are all friends here....

I recently heard a complaint that the stores were already filling with Christmas decorations and we haven't even started Advent yet.

Now, Advent, for those of you not familiar with a Church Calendar, is a run up of days spent waiting for the "advent" of Christ into the world, born as a baby in our imaginations each year on the arbitrarily selected date of December 24th. It lasts four weeks, so counting is begun 4 Sundays before Christmas Eve whenever that falls, and as a church season, Advent has a liturgy all its own, has colors and rites and hymns and even a bit of home decor.

You've seen those sets of candles available around Halloween - the three purple and one pink sets? Those are for Advent wreaths, with the purple and pink representing the Roman Catholic variation of the theme and Lutherans (my denomination) more typically using blue candles.

I go either way, depending on the year. A candle is lit each Sunday of the Advent season, along with special prayers and layered in symbolism week to week. All these observances meant to focus attention on getting ready, being prepared, on the idea that the waiting, the sense of not here yet but on its way, is something not to rush in, or out of.

So, as somebody who has always liked the poignant expectant nature of Advent, the appearance of the many Thanksgiving themed food articles and magazines when we have not yet cleared the Halloween hoop, is something I find mildly distressing.

Because today is Halloween doggone it, and even though I will not dress up or go house to house for candy, I realized I have developed a dinnertime strategy for the interrupted nature of the evening meal for this holiday that includes the preparation of one or two traditional (for us) dishes.The requirements for a reasonable Halloween dinner evolved. As we moved past the requirement to actually accompany our own children as they trick or treated, we yet needed something that can be prepared ahead of time, something that would forgive the leaving off of eating and coming back, something that wouldn't cool off unpleasantly quickly or be spoiled if left to itself for a bit as we answered the door for a relatively steady stream of candy seeking costumed neighborhood children.

And so it came to be that we rotate back and forth year to year between Tortilla Soup or Chicken Chile Stew. This year is a Chicken Chile Stew year as it turns out, and mine is merrily bubbling away stovetop as I write.

This recipe is one of the few I feel is truly "mine". I put this stew together originally to use up leftover turkey after Thanksgiving one year. It turned out so well that after I reprised it several more times past that with the more easily secured boneless skinless chicken breasts, the whole turkey idea of origin simply faded away,

Here is the current incarnation in a pared down version for two. This stew can be made more souplike with the addition of more stock, and can be served as readily with rice or noodles in place of the potatoes. It is made special with the flavors of green chiles and crema added in, and is great with any sort of toasty warm bread product. We've enjoyed this with naan, flour tortillas, Challah, biscuits and sourdough rolls (though not all at the same time).Chicken Chile Stew
Serves 2 generously

1 whole large chicken breast (skinless boneless) cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 small onion chopped
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 teaspoon dried cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
2-3 carrots cut in 1/2 inch pieces (about 1 cup)
2 small cans Hatch chopped green chiles
2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cup peeled chopped potato
2 cups water
salt, pepper to taste
1 tablespoon oil
1/4 to 1/3 cup Crema [or sour cream]

Place oil in stock pot over medium high heat and brown chicken pieces on all sides. Lower heat to medium, add onion, celery, cumin and sage. Cook, stirring occasionally until onions are translucent (about 5 minutes).

Add carrots and green chiles, Stir well, deglazing pan, and add chicken stock. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.

Add potatoes and water, season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook over low heat until potatoes and carrots are tender and chicken pieces are fork tender.

The stew may hold at this point over low heat until ready to serve or may refrigerated at this point if made ahead.

When ready to serve, stir 1/4 to 1/3 cup of sour cream or crema into stew and ladle into bowls.

Notes: If you like your stews thicker, you may dredge your chicken pieces in flour prior to browning in oil or thicken with a cornstarch slurry prior to stirring in crema.For the best flavor of course, use your own home made chicken stock. If you don't have homemade stock, you might want to use thigh meat and/or chicken pieces with skin attached to get more of that chicken flavor in your dish. Otherwise the chile flavor will dominate which is ok if you are a green chile fan I suppose but not the point.As I mentioned before, this is delicious with any sort of bread alongside. I did try it with cornbread once, and the corn taste goes well with the green chiles no worries, but I like this much more with any sort of less crumbly bread product that will hold together and support my efforts to sponge every last drop of liquid out of my bowl at the end.

Final aside: I am not practiced at writing cooking instructions. If you have any questions about this please use the comments section and I'll do my best to clarify.

So there you have it. Just for a day like today, or more importantly, a night like tonight, a simple stew to provide dinner for two. If I'm fortunate this year and all the candy gets handed over to the younger set appearing in varying sized groups at the front door, I won't even miss having no sugary leftovers for dessert.

Happy Halloween, Y'all!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

This Post Just Wrote Itself....

Nah not really.

I read that in blog posts and think maybe it is true for them, but for me? There are stretches of days when I start to post but keep interrupting myself with visions of a T-shirt I saw that stated "nobody cares about your blog!". Or I'll recall a book by a big deal blog writing coach entitled "nobody cares what you ate for lunch".

I begin to think to myself is that what this is? Another "this is what I had for lunch post?".

Annnnd I slowly step away from the keyboard. Again.

I haven't been sitting around on my hands though. Far from it. I've got lots going on.

Some of my projects are well considered and clearly represent improvements. I consider others of my projects though and begin muttering to myself "OK Deb, is this charming....or just nuts? Eccentricity at play here or is it finally time to reserve that padded room?".Case in point:the other day after making stock I fished out and bleached these poultry vertebrae because as the retired manager for a neurosurgical practice, they spoke to me. (NO not out loud...artistic license for Pete's sake calm down).These aren't totally creepy are they? I mean, used in the right way as an element in combination with other items these small structurally intriguing bones could represent a fascinating glimpse into motion and how it is supported by our bodies. Right? (Right? Anybody???)

Honestly I see other people widely recognized as creative types out there with their whimsical garden elements {photo below from the wonderful Cheryl Goveia's garden and blog Conscious Gardening}and I'm inspired and think to myself "I can do that!".And, some of the time, I totally can.But I ask you, why is it that when I see a photo of something on anybody else's blog it looks totally legit and when I view something I feel is similar in my own spaces in real time I keep wondering if my neighbors occasionally wish me harm?

By now you are perhaps yawning politely behind your hand and wondering "when does this get to be about food because if I wanted to read about what you are doing in your crazy yard I'd be reading posts on your other blog, lady".

I do realize this blog by its own description is supposed to be food oriented and one cursory glance at my shape would assure even a casual observer "yes sirree that lady is sure enough eating!". But the cross blogging just seems to be happening lately. And, along with slightly cooler temperatures I've been either sticking to simple comfort foods such as meat loaf, or coming up with what turns out to be delicious dishes that I don't get a photo of because I'm just playing and not entirely sure how they'll turn out.Let's be real. You don't want to know how I make meat loaf now, do ya. You already have your own way to make meat loaf and I'm guessing yours is awesome for you like mine is amazing for me.

It all boils down to a certain lack of "here you go-ness!" lately. I can't say why but I am most definitely not taking things quite so much for granted. Can't say for sure what has my worldview jostled ever so slightly, maybe it is only the aftereffect of a summer's worth of desiccation. I'm definitely in the realm of the near miss/hunker down in the bunker tribe at the moment however.

Not rendered inactive, far from it. Just not quite so likely to "ta-DA" what I've been up to. That ever happen to you? Some sort of invisible to the naked eye cloak of hesitance ever settle in on you? Did it seem to be just what you expected or take you by surprise? Did you "do" anything about it or ride that pony to see where it would take you? I'm just curious....

In the meantime I'm keeping a critical eye out for just the right spot to stage my chicken bones. When I find it, you'll be among the first to know. You can thank me later.....

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Condiment Wars

Humorist Robert Benchley's Law of Distinction states there are two kinds of people in this world. Those who believe there are two kinds of people in the world, and those who don't.

I confess. I am a "two kinds of people" world splitter from way back.

This categorizing began for me as a very little girl when I first noticed that my original assumption, the one where the rest of the world was a carbon copy of my own family with the only variation being the different stage setting of their individual homes, was faulty.Without any blood relatives living close enough to visit regularly, my first tip-off to the amazing variety of "otherness" out there was discovered at the dinner tables of friends and neighbors.

Especially as I began to spend the night over at friend's houses, meal time became revelation time. What other families ate and how they fixed what they served offered me a fascinating glimpse into a realm of food possibilities I thought existed only in magazines.

What is boringly obvious to the adult was to my child self an earth shattering observation. Other Moms shopped in different grocery stores. Bought different brand names. Prepared different dishes or perhaps most shocking to me initially; prepared the same dishes we had at home but in a different way.

I still remember grinning as a second grader, sitting at her kitchen table with my friend Meredith for the first time, swinging my legs happily as I ravenously devoured what tasted just like my own Mom's deviled eggs. Only these eggs were mashed and chopped up, served between pieces of bread! They called it egg salad sandwich. I called it genius.

I could not wait to get home and share this startlingly innovative idea with my own Mom who was frustratingly unenthusiastic in response to my suggestion that the rest of our family be let in on this Egg Salad Sandwich secret I'd discovered.

Undeterred, I began angling for meal invitations to suss out the subtle and at times not so subtle variations on food themes as expressed at the tables of young girls in my acquaintance.

I'd try to assure our presence in the kitchen while lunch or dinner was being prepared. While a few especially bountifully stocked pantries shimmered with the prospect of choices galore, most homes had expressions of preferences clearly outlined by what was offered us by the Mom in charge as our meal or snack time options.

There were houses offering Coca-Cola, and others where only Pepsi products were found. There were those who favored sweet pickles and those who were all dill all the way. Potato or corn chips? Bunny bread or whole wheat? Ready made bottled juices or pitchers made from concentrate?

I began to see eating with my friends as a way to vicariously sample how other people lived.Nowhere did the dividing line become more clearly expressed than with condiments. There was never, in my experience, a home where any choice was offered between mayonnaise or Miracle Whip dressing. If you wanted white stuff on your sandwich you got whatever they had which I later realized was (probably) going to be whatever the Mom of the house (or whoever did the grocery shopping) personally preferred.

I grew up unquestioningly eating what my Mother liked best, Kraft Mayonnaise. The Hub grew up eating what his Mother liked best, Kraft Miracle Whip. They look the same. They are made by the same company. Is there a difference?

Well, yes. For starters Miracle Whip is sweeter to the taste, but has fewer calories. This is partly due to a lower oil content, which prohibits Kraft from calling it "mayonnaise".

According to Real Simple's blurb on the topic, Miracle Whip, introduced in 1933 at the Chicago World's Fair, was premiered by Kraft as a Depression Era lower priced alternative to mayonnaise.

That makes the choice even more compelling as a matter of taste preference. My ever frugal Mom recycled the syrup from cans of fruit into the pitchers of reconstituted fruit juice she served us rather than dump that liquid she has paid "good cash money for" down the sink.

She didn't buy any brand that was more expensive if there was an acceptable alternative taste wise. But she consistently paid more for mayonnaise and never, EVER bought Miracle Whip. She just didn't like the taste.

When the Hub and I established our own home together, after an aborted attempt to eat mustard alone, it rapidly became clear neither one of us would easily or happily abandon our childhood ideal of what was the correct white spread to slather on a sandwich.

Thus, a truly hybrid pantry home was formed between us, one where both Miracle Whip AND Mayonnaise would be ever present. It was too difficult to choose so we chose not to choose.

Clearly I am not the only one who has noted this tendency to stick with whatever a person grew up eating. The recent ad campaign by the folks at Miracle Whip is (rather ingeniously I'll admit) playing with challenging that treasured 18-34 year old cohort to rebel against the majority (presumably as represented by their parents) who typically use mayonnaise products as the go-to sandwich spread.I'm not the only one to find the idea of Rebel with a Jar amusing. No less trenchant a social critic than Stephen Colbert had this to say recently on the subject:

Your turn to throw a knife in the jar. When it comes to your own sandwich making, are you a mayonnaise or a Miracle Whip person? If you are all mayo all the time, do you have brand loyalty? Are you one of the die-hard Hellman's/Best fans or do you buy what is available or what is less expensive? I mindlessly bought Kraft for years because that was what my Mom liked until I did a taste test of my own and discovered I liked Hellman's better.

Do you make your own mayonnaise fresh as needed and eschew the big jar of white altogether? We're all friends here - weigh in with your comments and let's clear this up.

What goes best between two pieces of bread?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

RIP Gourmet (Sorry, I'm so so so sorry.....)

There seem to be as many types of responses as there are stages of grief surfacing over the recently announced death of Gourmet magazine.

I will admit, the end of Gourmet Magazine does seem to spell the end of some sort of era. There are those like Paige Orlof,genuinely eulogizing, seeking out family members for solace and respectfully reflecting how much the magazine has meant to her over the span of years, speculatively sharing how much she among so many others will miss her monthly copy.

Orlof's response along with others like hers, seems to reasonably fall within various stages of depression moving towards acceptance. As advised, one ought not try to hustle anybody through from one stage to the next, allowing time and grieving to do their own work.

There are others unfortunately stuck in some sort of earlier denial/anger stage, insisting on finger pointing as potentially typified by these dueling op ed pieces (delightfully or annoyingly, depending on your stance, playing out further in the comments sections for each) about whether food blogs and their authors are to be blamed for the failure of what many considered the flagship of high end food publications.Christopher Kimball in his NYT piece, Gourmet to All That, seems to feel food bloggers exemplify What is Wrong with American Food Writing Today. Kimball writes "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds us that in a click-or-die advertising marketplace, one ruled by a million instant pundits, where an anonymous Twitter comment might be seen to pack more resonance and useful content than an article that reflects a lifetime of experience, experts are not created from the top down but from the bottom up."

In reply, Adam Roberts, aka the Amateur Gourmet posted A Response to C. Kimball wherein he proposes that "while the medium may continue to change, cream still rises to the top".I am no expert and I am most definitely not a dairy product. But because my Momma raised me to always be polite, especially about the dead, as one of some supposed thirty three thousand food bloggers on the internet*, I want to be near the front of the line to offer my personally-public apology to Ruth Reichland her readership, for taking Gourmet off the newstands.Ms. Reichl, Mr. Kimball, Interweb, and American Public in the form of my dozen (on a great day) readers: I am very very sorry my food blog killed your beloved Gourmet Magazine.

I did not mean for that to happen and I really, truly am sorry my blog posts are the reason this acclaimed magazine will no longer appear in mailboxes or on neighborhood newsstands.

If I had any idea my food blog would crash Gourmet magazine I would have never selfishly persisted in posting. I would most certainly take Eater's offer of twenty five dollars to shut my blog down forever, potentially even using that money to buy a subscription all my own to Gourmet which would clearly still be flourishing except for me and my incredibly influential two (to twelve!) regular readers.

I plead ignorance as my only defense.

After watching all the predictions come true as one by one MTV eliminated radio stations; VCRs eliminated movie theaters; online music sales eliminated record companies; and most recently Kindle eliminated all the publishing houses, I simply should have known the internet generally, and my food blog specifically, would be responsible for taking down the Gourmet empire.

I turned a blind eye to the facts, interweb, and I selfishly insisted on irregularly putting posts out where people could choose to read them if they wanted to. I was wrong, I was not acting in the best interests of Condé Nast, and now there are people who have lost their jobs because of me and my blog.

Taking this model out to its logical conclusion, I wish to preemptively apologize to the people working long and hard at the presumably similarly doomed Traveller magazine. Apparently your necks will be next on the line.I have willfully shared my vacation photos with friends and family all these years which will obviously be responsible, sooner if not later, for bringing about the demise of Traveller magazine.

I am sorry, I am ashamed, and I can only hope you will forgive me. I really had no idea.....

*I cannot say if the statement there are some thirty-three thousand food bloggers is correct. I just know I read it somewhere - probably on a food blog....