30 March 2009

Acquacotta and Chive Cracker-Biscuits

chive cracker-biscuits

I made up a recipe! Chive Cracker Bisquits! They're great! Interesting! Unusual! A unique combination of rarely-paired textures-- okay, fine. I didn't make up a recipe. I was trying to make Mark Bittman's crackers. I have tried to make them twice now. On the video, he makes it look like it's as easy as folding a sheet of paper. It is not. At least it hasn't been for me. My first go 'round was not worth discussing. Tonight, round two, I made some improvements. But tonight I also figured out a crucial step that Bittman left out of the recipe - to make these crackers perfect, you must actually be Mark Bittman. And that, I cannot do.

Of course, the distinctive quality of my version of Mark Bittman's crackers is (more accurately) due to me using whole wheat flour. (Not just whole wheat flour, local whole wheat flour.) That made them thicker - more biscuity. But I rolled them out half as thin this time and I left them in twice as long. And to be perfectly honest, they are delicious and so satisfyingly local, regardless of any textural particularities. Not Mark Bittman-y, at all. But delicious.

Huns Garden chives from the expo

handy food processor

Emily's Chive Cracker-Biscuits (to see Mark's version click here)
1 cup whole wheat flour (local!)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese (optional)
4 Tbsp unsalted butter (local - Shatto!)
several spoonfuls chopped chives (local!)
1/4 cup milk (local - Shatto!)
salt, pepper, cheese for sprinkling

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly dust with flour. Put flour, salt, cheese and butter in bowl of a food processor. Pulse until flour and butter are combined. Add chives. Add about 1/4 cup milk and let machine run for a bit; continue to add liquid a teaspoon at a time, until mixture holds together but is not sticky.
Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until 1/2-inch thick or even thinner [more like 1/8-inch thick!], adding flour as needed. Transfer sheet of dough to prepared baking sheet (drape it over rolling pin to make it easier). Score lightly with a sharp knife, pizza cutter or a pastry wheel if you want to break crackers into squares or rectangles later on. Sprinkle with salt or other topping if you like.
Bake until lightly browned, about 10 minutes [or nearly 20 minutes for my cracker-biscuit version]. Cool on a rack; serve warm or at room temperature or store in a tin for a few days.

I didn't eat only crackers for dinner. Those were the accompaniment to a favorite soup of mine, Acquacotta. Simple to make, delicious, and additionally interesting because you serve it with a slice of bread in the bottom of the bowl. Brilliant. For tonight's bread, I thawed (yesterday, in the fridge) a small loaf of local bread that I bought at the Badseed winter market in January and froze right away. I'm amazed at how well it kept and thawed.

chives, cheese, and loaf

In addition to the bread, most other primary ingredients were local: frozen chard, frozen carrots, a red pepper that I crushed myself, canned tomatoes, and my little veggie broth and tomato juice ice cubes.

dried red pepper from Fair Share Farm

canned tomatoes

from the free Wild Oats magazine, Jan/Feb 2007
Acquacotta means "cooked water," but that doesn't begin to describe how delicious this soup is! It also freezes beautifully, so double the recipe if you like. Adding a Parmesan cheese rind to the soup while it's cooking is a clever Italian method for deepening flavors.

1 lb. Swiss chard or kale
4 Tbs. olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper, or more to taste
2 Tbs. tomato paste
1 cup tomato puree (or - in lieu of the paste and puree, use just over a cup of canned tomatoes and 4 cups of broth/water instead of 8)
2-inch Parmesan rind (optional)
6 1-inch-thick slices Italian bread
grated Parmesan cheese for garnish (optional)

1. Rinse chard in several changes of water until completely free of grit. Drain, stack leaves on cutting board, and finely chop. OR wait until the last minute to remove a hunk of frozen local greens from your freezer.
2. Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and celery, and cook, stirring often, about 10 minutes, or until softened. Stir in salt, crushed red pepper and tomato paste; cook 2 minutes.
3. Reduce heat to medium low; add 8 cups water, tomato puree, Parmesan rind and chopped greens. Cook, partially covered, 45 minutes, or until very thick, stirring occasionally; add more water if needed. Season with salt and pepper. Remove rind.
4. To serve, place slice of bread in bottom of each bowl. Fill with soup, sprinkle with cheese, drizzle with oil, and serve.



Found this at the 29olivestreet shop on Etsy. Even though I think I might already have a very similar E stashed somewhere in this apartment, I still found this one so inviting. Maybe it's the dinosaur.

28 March 2009

Eleventh Annual "Eat Local!" Expo

Eleventh Annual "Eat Local!" Expo at the Shawnee Civic Center

The threat of a bit of bad weather was no match for the Food Circle's kick-off to the season today. Looming forecasts for multiple inches of snow were increasingly ominous. But the expo was raring to go at 9:30 anyway and there were patrons and locavores galore from the get-go.




There was so much green and so much growing. So many farmers and families selling so many great goods. It was a happy bustling place. While perusing the products, I found it easy to think all spring and possibility while ignoring the precipitation that was dampening the out of doors. In between stints of doing my part at the CSA Coalition table, telling anyone who would listen about Community Supported Agriculture, I ran around from booth to booth, snapping pictures and buying things. Buying a lot of things. I had a stash of cash in my wallet which I figured would be more than enough to buy a bit of everything. By the end of the expo, I was left with 15 cents. That is, 15 cents and two heavy bags full of local, local, local.

jams and jellies

tiny tractor and bags of flour

sold out at the end of the day


The snow had hit pretty hard by the time I left at the end of the expo. So I gathered up my goods and trekked very gingerly out into the slushy parking lot, hoping not to slip with my bag of local treasure. I'm anxious at the thought of what hindrances this inclement weather may bring to the local farms. But what a relief that so many were still able to come out today.

And now I am ready for something delicious.

My Inventory:
- 5 pounds local, certified organic, whole white wheat flour - Acme Grain, Soaring Eagle Farms, Edgerton, KS
- flax bread - Bread of Life, Stewartsville, MO
- rosemary farmstead sheep's milk cheese - Green Dirt Farm, Weston, MO
- jam (triple berry, white peach, jalapeño, and strawberry & rhubarb) - Golden Ridge Farms, Osawatomie, KS
- Raw Pecans - Golden Ridge Farms, Osawatomie, KS
- green eggs from free-range Araucana hens - Karbaumer Farms, Platte City, MO
- chives, green onions, spinach, and mustard greens - Huns Garden, Kansas City, KS
- mixed salad greens - KC Center for Urban Agriculture, Kansas City, KS
- raw honey - Ambrose Bee Pharm, Kansas City, MO
- mustard with sorghum - Sandhill Farm, Rutledge, MO

***Want to see more pictures from the Expo? Click here to see the whole set on Flickr. ***

22 March 2009

The Guy Who Named My Blog

Happy Birthday to the ever clever Sergio, who intrigued me with the phrase "Everything Begins with an E" many birthdays ago and who was the one who had the great idea to use it in this venue.

21 March 2009

Dialog in the Dark

I experienced something akin to blindness on Saturday at Union Station's Dialog in the Dark. The exhibit was a tour led by a visually impaired guide who directed 10 sighted people through a series of pitch black environments where we learned - or at least tried - to experience the world without sight. Everything in the exhibit is in complete darkness; it is disconcerting to say the least. The design for the exhibit logo is insightful - a faint light shining from beneath a closed door. This is precisely what my eyes were fawning for in those first moments in the acclimation phase when they slowly dimmed the lights to nothing. It was nearly impossible to convince my eyes to stop expecting to see just a little bit of light somewhere.

Sheila was our guide and she was excellent - so secure and helpful as we all faltered. We moved awkwardly with our new best friends, the canes. Tapping (wrong) instead of sweeping (right). Reaching out for something - anything - what is that? Bumping into one another, calling out for our friends or partners. Is that you? I relied very heavily on the feel of Sergio's corduroy jacket to confirm that it was him near by. I can only imagine how silly we all must have looked.

Which brings up the theme of inevitably imagining how things looked. I believe that one goal of this exhibit is to encourage experience through other senses besides sight. And that did happen, without a doubt. But everything I experienced through the other four senses I translated into images that I had previously gathered by sight. So that in the farmers' market environment, Sergio directed me to a rose he had found, and when I smelled it and touched its petals, a slide show in my brain erupted: images of Mema's roses in full bloom, Mema in her garden, single bright pink blossoms alone, the trellis in Mema's yard, clusters of pink petals on a tablecloth, the thorns. I saw it all in rapid fire succession.

And a new slide show came into my head with each tactile stimulus - the plush toys (images of bright orange, bright yellow), the coffee beans (images of mugs, my canister of beans at home, my coffee pot), the head of garlic (images of my kitchen, my knife, my cutting board). Each item evoked so, so much. And in the city environment when we were crossing the street, passing behind (and bumping into) an old Volkswagon Beetle, I pictured the Beetle in my head and it was yellow. Pale yellow. Very pale. I asked Sergio what color the bug was and he had also seen it as yellow.

In the Dialog in the Dark Cafe environment - still in total darkness - we had the option to purchase a drink or a chocolate bar. We had come prepared with our single dollar bills. Someone accustomed to darkness - Andrea - stood behind the bar and took our orders. We paid and then made our way clumsily back to the booth where all ten of us gathered to chat. I asked everyone what color they thought the VW bug was but they did not respond. Sheila said she didn't know and hadn't thought to ask. Another person in our group asked Sheila if she'd always been visually impaired and she said that she'd been blind since birth. And that made me think - I wonder what yellow looks like in Sheila's mind?

When I was little, I used to love a story book called Knots on a Counting Rope about a little boy who is blind. One passage in particular used to haunt me then and has stuck with me until now - the passage where the little boy who is blind tries to understand what "blue" is. I worked my brain like crazy as a kid trying to imagine "blue" without seeing it. I came up empty handed then; I do now, too. Even if Sheila had known for a fact that the VW bug was yellow (or whatever color it really was), what did she think of when she thought of it? What do any visually impaired people think of when they think of things? I can't imagine what's on their internal screen, if there isn't a slide show like what's on mine.

In some respects, I did still experience the world keenly and differently through those other senses. Maybe the absence of visual stimulation is what cleared the way for all those slide shows. If I'd seen the rose with my eyes, would I have seen all those memories in my head? Would it have been emotional? Elsewhere in the exhibit we learned that the nerve pathways used by our olfactory receptors are directly connected to the part of the brain that processes emotion. Would the smell of that rose been so emotional if I'd seen it? If I'd seen it and it hadn't actually been pink?

I don't know. I could have asked Sheila a million of these questions. Did she know that her shawl was an animal print shawl? What does "animal print" look like to her? Or "look" like? Does she know what the color black is? Is black the color she "sees."

But she had already answered so many of our questions. I couldn't detain Sheila long enough for this manner of inquiry. She thanked us for coming and we thanked her for guiding; she turned away and swept her cane until it found the edge of the mat and then she followed the mat's straight edge out of the end of the exhibit and back around to the beginning.

18 March 2009

The Brick

The first time I went to The Brick it was for live music. It was late at night, I had already eaten dinner, and on the TVs above the bar they were showing a movie in which a number of clowns were committing murder. It never occurred to me that The Brick served food. That was several years ago and I have never been compelled to return and dine, despite rumors of good sweet potato fries and a biscuits & gravy bar. That is until the VB project took us there last night (serendipitously on their 2 for 1 burger night). The server informed us of their special for the evening and let us know that we could substitute a veggie patty on any of the burgers. It was as though she had read our minds - like she knew we were interested in veggie burgers. Or, if not that, she at least seemed to have an awareness of the existence of vegetarianism - and that's always a good thing to find in a restaurant.

It turns out that The Brick is not only aware of vegetarianism but serves vegetarian food, too. The menu includes an entire section (with 7 items!) labeled Veggie Options. You can also have a veggie patty on any of the specialty burgers from the other side of the menu. I tried to order "The Pubby" burger - which has been "served at this location since 1967" - but they were out of the requisite onion rings so I didn't. (It's just as well since the traditional Pubby of 1967 would have been very different from my version with the veggie patty replacement and the bacon omission.) Several appetizers and salads on the menu are also vegetarian and I would guess that if you went on a Thursday for Pizzas and Pitchers for $5, you could probably get a veggie friendly pizza.

They have a full roster of fun to go along with their menu - Karaoke on Monday, Taco Tuesdays, and Trivia on Fridays. Oh, and of course there's "KC's only Biscuits and Gravy Bar" served on Saturdays. Is it too much to hope for to find good vegetarian Biscuits and Gravy (outside of Eden Alley's awesome brunch, that is)? I don't know, but I'd be willing to go check out brunch at the Brick, if for no other reason than because I love the name - "Brickfast."

Oh, and did I mention the Fluffernutter or the Dream Twinkie? Yes, their menu offers a Fluffernutter which I would order in part because I think it would taste good, but also because ordering a Fluffernutter at a restaurant is not something you get to do everyday. As for the Dream Twinkie ("lightly-battered and deep-fried Twinkie drizzled with chocolate sauce") ... well ... let's just say that dream is not the word that pops into my head at that description. So, I'll opt out of that dessert. But I will say, it's nice to see a place that pays attention to breadth in their menu and has some fun, too.

Brick on Urbanspoon

14 March 2009

Grinders & Grinders West

Right before the VB project started, Sergio and I checked out an interesting little joint in the Crossroads district called Grinders West. The week before we had finally tried Grinders (right next door to Grinders West, to the east, as you might imagine) where they have a Veggie Philly sandwich. Grinders is the least likely place to find such a powerful vegetarian sandwich. It is a restaurant with a predominantly meat-based menu. But the Veggie Philly was packed full of veggies and was tasty, if a little messy. Based on that sandwich, I would guess they do a pretty good job with their two or three vegetarian pizzas, as well.

But I haven't been back to try them yet because the next time we went, we opted for Grinders West instead. Though they're owned by the same people, the decor, the menu, and the vibe are completely different than Grinders. Grinders West is more of a deli than a dive (and I use that term affectionately, as does the Food Network show that featured Grinders). West is lighter and brighter than Grinders, uses real plates and glasses instead of paper and plastic, features funky lights and art on the walls instead of beat up street signs and the like. (Although I should mention that Grinders isn't completely devoid of art and has a sculpture park out back.)

My favorite thing about West, though, is the tables - each one a unique three dimensional art installation under glass - they are all interesting pieces, some evocative, some whimsical. I have already picked out which table I want to sit at the next time I go - the one with sparkling vinyl white clouds in the shape of whipped cream dollops laying on a puffy bed of sparkling blue vinyl.

The first time I went to Grinders West, I had the Thai Ahi Tuna Salad and was very impressed indeed. The tuna was nicely seared and, along with the peanuts and bean sprouts, made the salad a substantial meal. For that dinner I sat at the table with origami cranes made of maps. Last night I had another great salad (all 4 of their vegetarian salads look delicious, or you can build your own) - this one with fried goat cheese - and a cup of vegetarian vegetable soup and sat at the table with the completely white pressed paper piece of art that made an attractive but unfamiliar shape.

I am interested in going back again and trying the few other vegetarian items that are on the menu at both places, like the "fired grilled wedge of romaine" in the Caeser Salad at Grinders West or the Hippie pizza - "No Patchouli" - at Grinders. And I'm definitely interested in having that hardy Veggie Philly again. I think they'd let me order it in the not so gritty setting of Grinders West. That would be the best of both worlds.

Grinders on Urbanspoon

13 March 2009

Improv: Tantrum

I laughed a lot for a good 90 minutes tonight. A lot more than in most other 90-minute segments of my days. The improv comedy troupe Tantrum (of which a fellow Hallmarker is a member) performed tonight, as they do every second Friday, at the Westport Coffeehouse. So we went. And we laughed.

I don't know where these people in this troupe get all of their hilarity. Well, I know where they get some of it: all their material is sparked by audience responses to questions on which these performers, using a knack for callbacks and clever references, build unscripted, elaborate strings of vaguely associated skits each of which starts with very little and quickly congeals into the funniest thing you've seen since like two minutes ago when they did that other thing that was so hilarious.

The best skit tonight was one in which the troupe conveyed a dream version of the events of one audience members' day, acting out everything from a ticking biological clock, a violently wounded parolee, an amputated arm, a desk job, and a boxer named Zoey. All from the real life events of one woman's day, hilariously re-enacted by all 7 members of Tantrum as a dream. And all so well improvised and so funny.

PS: In addition to the second Friday shows at Westport Coffeehouse, you can also catch Tantrum for free at the "Talking Out of Turn" three-part series at the Plaza Library. There's one this Wednesday, March 18 at 7 p.m. and one on April 15.

09 March 2009

Pizza at Blue Bird Bistro

I went to Blue Bird Bistro tonight to eat a veggie burger with Sergio. And I had decided that I would, indeed, order the veggie burger. Except, when I got there, today's specials menu listed a pizza that I simply could not resist. Whole wheat thin crust, roasted garlic, apples, blue cheese, and spinach. It was love at first read. How could I say no? The black bean burger will always be there. Today's pizza will not. So I ordered it. And it was pristine.

The truth is - as much as I do love bread, most pizza crusts seem to me to serve merely as vehicles for the toppings, not as unique entities on their own. Not so with Blue Bird's housemade whole wheat thin pizza crust which stood on its own two feet as a delightfully flavorful bread. Oh, and those apples. Who thinks to put apples on a pizza? Blue Bird does. But it wasn't just the apples. It was the entire ensemble comprised of such familiar and friendly ingredients - so simple and pure. All of them together - AND together on the divine crust - resulted in perfection on a plate.

Blue Bird will always hold a special place in my heart for its devoted attention to the finest of details and for the concerted effort it makes to provide as much locally sourced food (and wine!) as possible. Did I mention that they list on the door each week's locally delivered ingredients? So you can see before you even set foot inside just where your food came from. Which makes for a trustworthy dining experience that is also delicious.

Blue Bird Bistro on Urbanspoon

08 March 2009

Lentil Soup with Ribbons of Kale

I've been, uh, eating out a lot over the last 8 days. So today I decided to cook at home and make another one of my favorite soups with greens - Lentil Soup with Ribbons of Kale. I do not deny that the use of the word "ribbons" to describe the kale is a major reason I was attracted to this recipe. What a delightfully Nigella-esque name for a recipe among the otherwise less-illustrative titles in Fresh from the Vegetarian Crock Pot.

Considering the full flavor results of this soup, it's actually a surprisingly simple recipe. It doesn't even call for any herbs and I leave the celery out every time ... still it's always delicious. I think it's the crock pot. The slow cooked lentils are not like other lentils. Other lentils wish they could be as delicious as slow cooked lentils. But they are not. And of course for my ribbons I used my frozen local kale. Just dropped it in during the last half hour in the crock pot and thirty minutes later my delicious all day soup was done. I can't wait to eat it for lunch tomorrow.

From Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker

Collards, chard, or other dark greens may be substituted for the kale.
I prefer to cook the greens in advance and add them when the soup is
ready to eat, because cooking the raw greens right in the soup can
impart a bitter flavor.

Slow Cooker Size: 4 to 6 quart
Cook Time: 8 hours
Setting: Low
Serves: 6

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/4 cups dried brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
6 cups vegetable stock or water
1 Tablespoon tamari or other soy sauce
salt and pepper
4 or 5 large kale leaves, tough stems removed

my notes:
add a few drops of liquid smoke

you can toss in a pinch of curry powder if you want

1) Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion,
celery, carrot, and garlic, cover, and cook until softened, 8 to 10
2) Transfer the cooked vegetables to a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker, add
the lentils, stock, and tamari; cover, and cook on Low for 8 hours.
Season with salt and pepper.
3) Meanwhile, or beforehand, tightly roll the kale leaves up like a
cigar and cut them crosswise into this ribbons. Cook the kale in a pot
of boiling salted water until tender, about 5 minutes, and add to the
soup when ready to serve.

AN IMPORTANT FINAL TIP: Don't forget to plug in the crock pot.

Bach Aria Soloists: Notes and Letters

I will be forever grateful to the KC Public Library for introducing me to the remarkable Bach Aria Soloists. This ensemble performs the music of Bach, his contemporaries, his influences and those influenced by him, and it is unlike any other group I've ever heard. I am lucky to have caught three of their free Library Series performances over the last two years. (Most other concerts are the subscription-only Hausenkonzert series, which are held in intimate settings such as people's homes, the way this chamber music was intended to be performed.)

But the library hosts free concerts and the first one I attended was the one in 2007 with foremost Bach scholar Dr. Christopher Wolff, which drew record crowds. I was drawn by the unique opportunity of the lecture-concert combo that that event offered. When I left there I knew I was hooked. I am still hooked and easily entranced, as I was at last night's concert, called "Notes and Letters." One of the evening's special guests was Robert Brand, an actor who presented the letters and history of the composers and music of the evening's performance. He shared Henry Purcell's thoughts on music and poetry together ("like wit and beauty in the same person"); he read from the acerbic epistolary debate between composer Fritz Kreisler and a critic angry at Kreisler for passing off his music as someone else's; and he pointed out Bach's "unbuttoned" style in the secular pieces at the end. To have the background and insight on the composers makes for such a rich way to enjoy the music.

Another special guest was Beau Bledsoe, amazing guitarist whose work included not only stunning interpretations of the music, but arrangements of the pieces for guitar as well. And of course there is the harpsichord. The wonderful harpsichord played at this performance by Jane Solose. The serious, but calm harpsichord ... so beautiful. The entire ensemble is wonderful, but I would come back for the harpsichord alone. Where else can you hear such a rare instrument live? Where else, except with the Bach Aria Soloists.

07 March 2009

Local Burger

The VB project took us to Lawrence, KS today to eat at the locally and nationally acclaimed "Local Burger." (Bon Appetit named Local Burger as one of its 2008 Top Eco-Friendly Restaurants and Gourmet called Local Burger one of America's Best Farm-to-Table Restaurants.) I was so glad we finally made the trek to this unparalleled restaurant. Indeed, a place with the name "local" in it is very promising. And sure enough, the emphasis on the nearest environs was made evident all around: multiple maps of Kansas on the walls, a list of supplier farms WITH mileage so you know precisely how far your food traveled.

Almost all the burgers at Local Burger are (you guessed it!) local - beef, elk, turkey, etc. The veggie burger - the "World's Best Veggie Burger" (and I think it was) - features a housemade patty with organic quinoa and is distinctly delicious. (The quinoa unfortunately isn't local, but this is the midwest, not the Andes and I'm starting to think my hunt for relatively local quinoa is a wild goose chase. But quinoa is healthy - so I'll add it to the category of exceptions like orange juice.) But if you are a vegetarian and you do prefer something more local, you can get the Tofu Filet Burger with Central Soyfoods tofu from right there in Lawrence, KS. 2 miles away according to the list. The Tofu Filet is what I ordered and it was very good indeed - the tofu was crunchy on the outside with a nutritional yeast coating. And it worked surprisingly well as a burger.

I'm impressed with the level of care and consideration that has gone into the menu - it seems like they've left no dietary preference unturned. (They're clever, too - they even have an omnivore burger, 1/2 veggie patty and 1/2 meat patty. And one of their sides is "progressive potatoes" - a.k.a. french fries.) To meet so many needs successfully with one menu is an admirable feat. The entire restaurant has a fun, relaxed atmosphere and is definitely the kind of place I'd go to frequently ... if it weren't 42 minutes away. However, I read in last month's Tastebud that "2009 is the year for a Kansas City Local Burger!" Really? Could it be true? Could I get a Local Burger that is more local to me than Lawrence? I'm keeping my fingers crossed ...

Local Burger on Urbanspoon

04 March 2009

Jam Status Update

Last summer, I told a farmer at the market that I had been learning to can and I had lots of canned goods in the cabinet ready for the winter, but that I wasn't sure how long they would last. Farmer Dan replied, "Oh, we keep our canned goods for over a year and they're fine." Realizing he had misunderstood my I-don't-know-how-long-they'll-last concern, I said, "Oh, no. I mean, I don't know if I have enough canned goods to last me the winter. I'm afraid I will eat everything too soon."

We had a little laugh about that but I was right - I don't know how to gauge how much of whatever I need. Even before the new year arrived, we had already run out of Blueberry Spice Jam (of which I only had one half-pint jar to begin with). We are now half way through what Barbara Kingsolver calls "the hungry months" and won't be getting fruit at the markets any time soon. However, in my stock there is still tomato jam, which is good, and frozen peaches which are delicious, if a bit cold for winter. But otherwise, our preserved fruits have dwindled. I wish I had made a lot more jam and jam of many more varieties. I did try to save as many blueberries in the freezer as possible, in order to make a lot of jam ... it's just that I couldn't keep from eating so many of them fresh. It's so tempting to eat it all fresh, but some of it you've got to put away for later.

Note for this year: make more jam. A lot more jam.

03 March 2009

Sunday Lunch at Mema's

Last Sunday I had lunch at my grandmother's house - something I used to do every Sunday, and now only do on those rare treats when I go back to OKC to see my family. Last weekend, Mema had a hankerin' for pecan pralines, so late Saturday night, Mom gathered up all the praline fixin's and took them to Mema's when we picked her up for church early Sunday morning. After church, while lunch was being prepared and while I was trying to set the table (forgetting where Mema keeps the table cloth - mistakenly trying to use real plates, like when I was a kid, instead of using paper plates, which they've been using for years), Mom and Minli made the first batch of pralines. They stirred constantly and watched the thermometer rise to soft ball stage.

Mom spooned the pralines onto a buttered foil sheet; they were perfect, but there were too few. So the whole process began again - this time with light brown sugar instead of dark, and with Ling at the spoon instead of Minli. They stirred constantly and watched the thermometer rise to soft ball stage. Mom spooned those pralines out onto the same buttered foil sheet. They were perfect, too.

Mema loved these pralines so much - even more than she thought she would - and she sampled several of the both batches (light and dark) even before lunch.

We eventually sat down to lunch - with the paper plates of course. I think it was Minli, age 5, who fully explained the paper plate procedure to me, reminding me that "we onwy use weal pwates when it's somebody's buhthday and we use the special wed pwate." The last time I attended Sunday lunch at Mema's regularly was before Minli was even born. Everything has changed so much. Except for the things that have stayed the same.

After lunch we lingered at the table over dessert. "Judy's Pralines" - not yet on the market, but surely marketable - were so delicious that only the strongest among us could resist just one more ... just one more. Ling and Minli facilitated a poll to determine who liked the pralines with dark brown sugar and who liked the light. (We were about half and half; Mema preferred the light.) We divvied up the left-over pralines (into pairs, one each of dark and light) so everyone could take some home, in addition to parceling out any of the enchiladas that remained. As my friend Kim says - if you don't have left overs, you didn't have enough. But we had enough.

Indeed, we had plenty of all the things you could want.

Ling eats a potato chip.

Minli poses

Self portrait in mirror with father. Also Mema has a flat screen TV now.

Mom checks the candy thermometer; Jetta and the family tree watch.

Daisy waits.