Archive for the ‘Eating Together’ Category

I Came to Picnic: Eggplant & Sun-Dried Tomato Spread

4th of July picnic (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

When the sun is shining and the weather balmy, I enjoy nothing more than packing a picnic basket and a blanket and heading into the great outdoors to eat. I love eating outside, and since the sun has been generous this summer, we’ve had dinner outside almost every day. There’s something special, however, about a picnic. A picnic requires planning, preparation, and packing. First, you must decide where to go and what to make. You have to decide whether you’ll be close enough to transport warm food or if your brie will melt before you get where you’re going. You have to figure out how many utensils and napkins you’ll need, since you can’t just run back to the house to grab them, or which container will work best to sneak red wine into the 4th of July Celebration in Washington DC.

Putting together a picnic basket is one of my favorite pastimes. Much of this is probably due to my love of cheese and cheese’s conduciveness to being transported in a basket. But there are a number of other delicious dishes that lend themselves to picnicking – some that aren’t specifically intended for such a meal.

A few weeks ago, Dickinson College (right around the corner from my house) hosted its annual Bluegrass on the Grass festival. My dad packed up our lawn chairs while I modified a dinner of salmon cakes with fennel slaw for transportation. I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m not very good at frying things (a great loss), so my salmon patties were less patties than hunks of salmon spiced with lemon, chives, and cayenne and threaded through with grated zucchini. All for the best, however, since this made them easy to stuff into buns then packed tightly in aluminum foil to retain heat. I packed the fennel slaw with grainy mustard, mayonnaise, and more lemon in a Tupperware and then threw some Ritz crackers, brie, and leftover chocolate-marshmallow no-bake bars in the basket for good measure. » Continue reading this post…

Define Seasoning (a post by Josh)

Southern spread (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I don’t know about you, but the most vivid memories I have of my grandparents revolve around the dinner table (dinner, supper, lunch, whatever you want to call it). Usually there would be a giant wooden table joined by eight or ten or twenty chairs, plates, and sets of silverware. I would show up and talk with my family for a bit, then we would extend our visit over the table, passing food dishes as we passed our life updates. There was never too little food, no matter what my grandparent’s economic situation may have been. Come to think about it, I never thought about it because there was always so much food. A turkey, mashed potatoes, beans, beets, green beans, onions, biscuits, corn, sweet potatoes, you try and name it, and I’m sure I’ve seen it on the table at some point.

The meal would progress, and we would slow our talking and our movements and the dishes would sit in the same place for extended periods of time. The sun would set and we would speak of dessert. People’s responses were usually “Oh how could I?” which could be either taken as “Oh how could I eat any more?” or Oh how could I not?”

My grandma usually tended towards the latter and would serve up a heaping piece of pumpkin pie or chocolate pie topped high with baked, homemade meringue. We would get up, stretch, feel the bulk of our plates in our stomachs and re-situate on the couches and continue talking. Really, our meals were part II of our visit.

Why do I talk about this? Well, I’ve been dining like that a lot recently, but in restaurants. There is this beautiful thing in the South, where people like holding on to traditions like boarding houses or eating in big groups or enjoying conversation over a meal. » Continue reading this post…

Shame. Boat-Loads of Shame. (a post by Josh)

We talk on this blog a lot about what and how we cook – be that a cake, egg-in-a-basket, or throwing something down on the grill. Usually, we tell you about the good times and about how amazing and mouth watering food can be.

But get this: I mess up. A lot, actually. The best way to learn, they say (that ever present “they”) is to mess up. But the thing is – you have to learn from that mistake. Cliché? Yup. More than anything, it’s a big cliché that has a lot of truth wrapped up in it.

Tonight, actually, I was trying to make an old favorite but with a new twist. I was trying to make my portabella mushrooms with a summer “flare,” if you will. Mushrooms in my book are really heavy and lend themselves to good, hearty winter dishes. Think: risotto with mushrooms, Thai curry, portabella mushrooms marinated in reduced balsamic vinegar.

So, with my being in the South, home of the Georgia Peach, I wanted to make something with that local ambrosia. I remembered a friend’s dish involving peaches, peach salsa. I wondered if that would go great, well, or even at all with the hearty, earthy flavor of the portabella mushroom. This is where I really started off wrong. That ever-present “they” says to mix opposites to achieve a delicious middle. Wonder what I mean? I would too after a sentence like that. What I mean is: mix salty and sweet. Spicy and mild. Sweet and sour. Earthy and sweet? Nope. Not a chance. At least not how I did it.

The whole night (from which I’m recovering through this post) was a mess. I first cut up some peaches, onions, tomatoes, garlic, mint, and lemon. I didn’t have a recipe, these were just things I thought might go well together. » Continue reading this post…

Holidays Are for Eating

Easter eggs (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Upside-down fennel cake (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

There’s this thing we do in my family which is our way of letting each other know that one of us is in the way of the other. The key to understanding this action is that there are absolutely no words involved. Say, for instance, that I’m standing at the silverware drawer, putting away the knives and forks, and my mother needs a skillet from the cabinet that’s directly behind me. Instead of saying, “Excuse me, could I grab a skillet from the cabinet directly behind you,” she maneuvers me out of the way with her hip, grabs the skillet around the still open silverware drawer, and leaves me wondering what happened as I find myself four feet away from the drawer with a lonely spoon dangling from my fingers.

This is normal.

Imagine that times five hundred. This is Easter.

Holidays at my house revolve around food, which means that holidays at my house happen in the kitchen. This Easter, my four other family members plus Elisabeth, a German TA from Gettysburg College, swept through the kitchen in a psychotic, gyrating mess attempting to make a cohesive dinner appear. I was in charge of the menu–molasses and rum rubbed ham, roasted potatoes with caper butter and breadcrumbs, green beans, caramelized pearl onions and grapes, cheddar biscuits, and the coup-de-grace, fennel and lemon glazed cake (which, of course, my younger brothers wouldn’t eat, citing the cake’s “cabbage” content).

Being in charge of Easter is an interesting change of pace for a former holiday peon. One year, you’re the kitchen multi-tool, you peel potatoes, trim green beans, and of course, put together deviled eggs which are always made and never eaten. The next, you’re telling someone else to wash and cut, boil water, and watch as your mother takes charge of the deviled eggs, while you now make sauces, crumble spices to just the right proportions, and prepare the ham. » Continue reading this post…

In Defense of Eating Together

Pizzas (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

It’s Spring Break season for colleges across the country, and gaggles of students are discarding books in favor of sunscreen, fleeing the ravages of grades and midterms for salt water and sand, leaving irresponsible drinking behind and adopting a more well-rounded schema of poor decision making.

So that was a gross generalization.

For the past three years, however, I have done the absolute opposite of that stereotypical tanning and headed north to a snow-wrapped, fireplace-boasting cabin in Deep Creek, Maryland. My friends and I spend our days reading, watching movies, lounging in the hot tub, and listening to the soothing voice of Rodney Yee guide us through Relaxation Yoga. We also do a lot of cooking.

This year, our menus have included jambalaya, huevos rancheros, chicken noodle soup, baked ziti, goose steaks, home made pizzas, and literally millions of chocolate chip cookies. Today, we’re working on an exceptionally complicated batch of bourbon-banana bread pudding.

Bourbon-Banana Pudding (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

My favorite part of cooking at the lake house (because it’s definitely not the two-burner kitchen or the randomly-equipped pantry) is the sense of camaraderie I feel jostling around whoever is washing the dishes or chopping carrots or stirring a simmering pot of ragout. Everybody makes his or her way to the stove at one point or another while dinner is being made–to talk, smell, taste, or make suggestions for the next night’s meal. The kitchen is an intimate space where even silence is shared.

There’s an aphorism that goes, “The family that eats together, stays together.” I would take that one step further to say, “and the people who cook together become family.” To make a meal with someone is to acknowledge a basic, shared need. And to expose our needs to others is to admit that we rely on them and trust that they will provide what we need. » Continue reading this post…

Oh Sweet (Second) Home (Savannah) (a post by Josh)

Savannah, Georgia (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

For the past few summers, I’ve worked as a backpacking leader, tramping around the Appalachian Trail with rising college freshmen for entertainment and for some cash. This is all fun and dandy – I really couldn’t think of a better way to spend a summer – but the breaks in between the sessions (24 hours a day for eight days) don’t come soon enough sometimes.

Don’t get me wrong here: I love hiking. I love being with new people. I love cooking in the woods. But I think what I miss the most is the ability to pick up, go some where beloved, and chow down on some good food. I want to say, I can cook a mean gourmet-backcountry-meal. I just love eating fresh crab from the Georgia coast more.

It’s about a four hour drive from here to there (Davidson to Savannah), but when you’ve got four other compatriots, a loud sound system, and promises of going crabbing, the four hours fly. Along the way we stopped at small gas stations equipped with large pink elephants, a lot of opportunities to buy fresh Georgia peaches, which we hastily took advantage of, and even more chances to get some firecrackers. We all focused on the food, not the explosives, though.

My friend’s house, the one we were driving toward, is located out on a surrounding island of Savannah. It’s not only on an island, but on the inter-costal waterway. What this means is: lots of chances to go out on a boat and search for crabs.

“Hey, if y’all want to get your bathing suits on, we’ll head out to the boat soon.”

“How many can the boat fit?”

“About three.”

“But there’s six of us.”

“It don’t matter, we’ll make it happen. That boat’s a strong one.”

My friend’s optimism never ceases to amaze me. » Continue reading this post…

Why We Eat. Why We Cook. Why We Write. (a post by Josh and Lyz)

One afternoon, two years ago, as Josh and I stood in my kitchen, munching on bagel chips and goat cheese, we came to the unsettling conclusion that our life plans were almost identical. We were both English majors, studying creative writing at Davidson College, both wanted to go to culinary school, and both wanted to enter careers that somehow combined the two.

“Weird.”

“Yeah.”

Since that discovery, we’ve been cooking together, sharing recipes, and arguing about the merits – or demerits – of everything we eat. And since that conversation, we’ve also come to realize that we share many of the same philosophies about eating, cooking, and writing – and how each of those elements influences, and also shapes, our lives.

My own love for food writing came from an unlikely source, the lavish and loving descriptions of feasts in the Redwall books, a children’s series created by Brian Jacques that chronicles the epic lives of a loyal band of mice, badgers, and otters as they battle an evil contingent of weasels and foxes. I read and reread mealtime scenes in Redwall, imagining the taste of Mossflower soup, the smell of fresh biscuits with butter and honey, hotcakes, and nut bread. Brain Jacques, my first food writer.

After Redwall, I started reading my mother’s cookbooks, her back issues of Saveur, even the recipe section in Southern Living. Although I grew up in a home that consistently had good food and freshly prepared meals, I first discovered my passion for food by reading about it. That progression, from reading to cooking, and now to writing, may be unconventional, but for me, reading, writing, and eating are invariably intertwined. I read to understand my culture, I write to understand myself, and I cook to understand how it all relates.

– Lyz

**********

For me, there wasn’t a Volta, a change in time, an epiphany when I decided “I must cook,” or “I must write.” To be honest, I’m still grappling with what those terms really mean. » Continue reading this post…

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