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…

Brenda’s Carrot Cake (a post by Josh): Carrot Cake

Friends often know each other by many names. Sometimes relevant, sometimes obscure. Just yesterday I got a letter from an elementary school friend, who currently lives in the 7th in Paris, addressed to me as “carrot cake.”

I think I first made this tempting dessert when I was 16 – after an eight hour day of bussing tables. During that shift, my boss had revealed the dessert of the week – carrot cake. It was good, but a typical semi-dry, walnut laden, not so sweet cake trying to border “good for you” and decadence. At that point in my career, I had established a semi-serious competition with the dessert chef. With this new revealing, I had another opportunity to top the chef.

At home that night, I searched through online and hard cover cook books to find a recipe. Epicurious again prevailed – a carrot cake with Maple cream cheese frosting. Giddy and ambitious at midnight, I started prepping the ingredients as if I was going to be able to finish that night. Carrots shredded in a bowl topped with brown sugar, cream cheese sitting out to acclimate to room temperature, flour sitting in a fluffy pile, I was well on my way when my post-work high faded. I left everything out that night, which turned out to be my best use of procrastination.

The next morning, I found the carrots had juiced themselves, leaving me with two cups of carrots, shredded, and ½ cup of sweetened carrot juice. I proceeded through the recipe, adding ginger, cardamom and nutmeg to my liking and prematurely iced the warm cake – allowing the cream cheese icing to sink into the crust.

Obviously I didn’t want to send my “rough draft” straight into the main event, so I packed up my cake and headed off to my elementary school friend’s house to have a proper taste testing. » Continue reading this post…

In Defense of Eating Alone: Chorizo, Poblano & Sweet Potato Fajitas with Lime-Marinated Red Onions

Fajitas with Yam (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I remember, once, seeing the heroine of some movie or TV show standing in front of her sink, shoveling a limp chicken breast into her mouth represented as the penultimate form of loneliness. That image, wedged into my consciousness, still influences the way I think about the social aspect of eating–that eating alone in public is taboo and eating alone in private is unfulfilled. It makes me bring a book and seek loud, busy establishments where I can hide when I do dine with myself.

And yet, I have eaten many wonderful meals alone.

The best of these was a lunch one summer when I had just turned fifteen. My family was living for a few months in Bremen, Germany, and I had been tentatively released into a big city on my own for the first time. I wandered past the market place with its intricately decorated buildings, through the old city Schnoor, where the smallest road was just an inch broader than the length from one shoulder to another, and into the Viertel, the “new” part of town. I had never been there – my family hadn’t had a chance to wander that far – but as it was noon and I was hungry, I looked for a place to eat. An unobtrusive, corner storefront with a roasting slab of meat rotating in the window beckoned me across the street, and I unknowingly ordered what is still the best döner kebab I’ve ever had.

For three euros, it was a massive affair. A fresh slab of pita stuffed full of lamb, red cabbage, cucumber, tomatoes, onions, crumbling cheese, and threaded through with cool, garlicky tzatziki sauce. I ate it on a rickety metal chair outside the shop and watched people walk by. I didn’t care that my hands were covered in drippings or that if I set that sandwich down I’d never be able to pick it up again – every bite tasted like growing up. » Continue reading this post…

Provincial Mornings (a post by Josh): Overnight French Toast

I found my new recipe for french toast. I found it after a long night, some mindless egg beating and an emotional conversation, but I think this time, the ends justify my means. Around 11 at night, I got a phone call:

“Hey. Um, when are you – going home?”

“When do you need me there?”

“Don’t rush. No. I’m fine.”

Around 11:10pm, I was home.

Around 1:30am, I was in bed.

What transpired from pm to am included a few venting tears, a bunch of hugs, and my resolution to do what I could to be there for her. What I leaned on was food, obviously. I mean, whenever I get down, I need there to be quick food so I don’t have to think about my next meal. That’s not exactly true, I’m quite the opposite, but I imagine others feel like that. At least, that’s how my friend felt.

She went to bed around 12:20am, and I found myself searching hard copy cook books and Epicurious for breakfasts that soothe my soul with hearty warmth. Pancakes stuffed with honeyed ricotta, waffles loaded with cherries and cardamom, omelets from the southwest – these were all recipes I tried to adapt for my friend.

But let’s be honest, it was the new morning slash late night and I had work the next day. That’s not to say that the culinary effort for my friend wasn’t worth it, but more than five hours of sleep seemed a worthy reason for taking the gourmet factor down a notch. So I fell back on my provincial friend – french toast. I remembered two things first – stale bread works best and dipping eggs are best with milk.

“French Toast” turns up about two hundred and one times on Epicurious, but I seemed to find my perfect recipe on the first page. » Continue reading this post…

Monday Wonder

Moroccan sardines (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Mondays aren’t notoriously good days. But this Monday, everything seems to be going right – I worked out this morning, had a deliciously crisp, cold apple for breakfast, and am still awake without having had my usual cappuccino.

But the best part of my day so far, has been lunch. I’ve recently discovered that the best way to have hot, fresh (well, kind of) French bread without gobbling an entire loaf in the hours before it goes stale, is to buy unbaked loaves, tear them into serving sizes, wrap them individually in aluminum foil, and freeze them.

I heated one of those bread packets in the oven until it was brown and crispy, smeared it with butter, and then topped it with Moroccan sardines in chili oil.

It was exactly what I wanted without knowing that I’d wanted it.

The softness of the sardines, their saltiness, that quick, subtle hit of chili and the richness of melted butter on crisped bread – sigh. It was delicious.

  » Continue reading this post…

913 Words Concerning Things You Should Know About Wine

Bread salad with wine (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

So you know that you swirl it in the glass with your pinkie finger pompously thrust out from your hand. And you know that you’ve got to take a long, slow whiff before sipping just the smallest bit and swishing it over your tongue. And you know that all this must be done with an impeccably smooth frown. But what exactly is it that you’re looking for when you taste a good wine? What do things like “vintage” or “tannins” mean – and how does that affect what you taste?

I’d like to explore what makes one wine different from another and what distinguishes a good wine from a bad one. Below, you’ll find some basic principles and vocabulary words which will be useful when further discussing wine.

What is wine?

Wine is fermented grape juice. In the process of fermentation, the sugar in the juice of crushed grapes is converted to alcohol, producing wine.

Ok. That was easy. Next question.

What is good wine?

Good wine is the result of different factors including soil, grapes (many wines are a mix of different varieties of grape), climate, and vineyard care. Not all wine grows better with age. Unlike a vintage store, where the older the ugly sequined dress the more expensive, vintage in the wine world simply denotes when the grapes were picked and the wine made.

How do I tell whether it’s good wine?

The process for determining the quality of a wine is as simple as look, smell, taste.

When you look at a wine, look for color and clarity. Hold the wine up to a white surface and check its color. Red wines can run the gamut from brick, ruby, purplish, or brownish, while white can be pale yellow, almost clear, or deep amber. Now check the wine’s opacity. » Continue reading this post…

And What a Joy It Is: Picadillo

Let me paint a picture for you: I’m standing in a cramped kitchen with a dripping, raw chicken cradled in one hand and a giant knife in the other. I am about to cut up said chicken, when I realize that I actually have no clue what cutting up a chicken entails. “Somebody grab The Joy of Cooking,” I yell, growing frantic with the weight of the chicken in my hand. (Chickens, although small, are deceptively heavy, and I did start lifting weights after this incident).

The Joy of Cooking, my kitchen bible, is procured, and with reassurance, the voice of Irma Rombauer tells me, “With a little practice and a sharp knife, you can easily cut a whole chicken, duck, turkey, or goose into serving pieces.” Thanks, Irma.

First published in 1931 as a coping mechanism for dealing with her husband’s suicide, The Joy of Cooking was Irma Rombauer’s first foray into helping cooks everywhere keep their households happy. Joy was a departure from other era cookbooks written mostly by cooking schools or dieticians. “Talking about ridiculous cookbooks,” said M. F. K. Fisher about her generation’s offerings, “One, lavishly larded with instructive photographs, illustrates the correct way to serve dinner rolls, each tied with satin ribbon and a red, red rose!”

Instead of such impractical or hard to follow instructions, Rombauer offered recipes suited for day to day life and included basic instructions for commonly used cooking techniques. After hitting on the action method–working the ingredients list into the directions–she republished the book in 1936 with Bobbs-Merrill and began a family-run cookbook empire.

Joy has undergone a number of reprints since then–not all of them lauded. It has tried to move with changing attitudes toward food, substituting unrationed substances for costlier commodities during WWII, adapting to post-war appliances like freezers in the home, and expanding to include international recipes when it appeared that there was a demand for them. » Continue reading this post…

Brunch: A fashionable Event (a post by Josh)

My housemates and I have decided to start up a less-than-innovative tradition within our group of friends: Brunch. Sunday Brunch, to be more exact. Sunday Brunch Potluck style to be precise. We figure that food is the best reason to come together, our house the best location, and Sunday the best time to prepare for the upcoming week.

As I said, this tradition is nothing new. In fact, we are rapidly approaching the 115th anniversary of the first publicized use of “Brunch.” Back in 1895, an Englishman, Guy Beringer, pleaded to the general readership of Hunter’s Weekly to delay breakfast and combine it with the mid-day meal. Unbeknownst to us, there were reasons other than as an excuse for gathering during the first push to popularize this meal. Beringer’s main arguing point for creating a conjoined meal rested largely on the goings on the night before; he wanted to drink more, until later, and not feel bad about it. In fact, Beringer also became revolutionary by suggesting that alcoholic drinks be taken with Brunch, which spawned (not until later) the birth of the Bloody Mary and mimosa.

“Brunch: A Plea” caught on throughout universities, allowing students to enjoy their Saturdays just that much more. The more general British public began to participate due not to increasing alcohol consumption, but because of the virtues that Beringer suggested came of Brunch, including compelling conversation, good temperament, a cheerful disposition, and an enticing and social environment. Who would have thought a combination of two meals into one would result in virtuosity, let alone psychological treatment. Beringer also insisted that Brunch was a source of satisfaction: “Brunch makes you satisfied with yourself.”

The dynamic duo of a meal stayed mostly in Britain, however, until the 1930s, When American Movie stars started to indulge in Brunch out of necessity. » Continue reading this post…