Archive for the ‘Social Commentary’ Category

The Spoon Stands Alone

The beautiful spoon (Eat Me. Drink Me.)A fork is just a spoon with holes. How primitive, a set of little spears, to prod, poke, pierce, and rent. Where is the elegance of the spoon’s soft curve, the spoon’s caress of a pumpkin soup, its languid dive into pudding, the easy crunch with which it drops onto the caramel hat of a crème brulé. A fork is crude, a tine nothing more than a galvanized toothpick. Give me the heft of a spoon’s curved bowl cradled in the hand’s palm, the sensuous glide of the tongue beneath its cambered base, the upper lip’s sweep into the lightly sloping dip. How lovely, a piled stack of peas, pearls of tapioca suspended in pale pudding, a melting marble of ice cream lifted easily to the mouth in the safety of the spoon’s arms. A steak, you say? What good is a spoon for a steak? None; but for that I have my fingers. What is a fork, after all, but a bourgeois approximation of a hand? As if the hand were too delicate to grasp a breaded pork chop or a broccoli floret, as if the teeth weren’t meant to bite through veal or a tender medallion of filet mignon.

There is that crassness in a fork, a pretension that one shouldn’t feel the food one eats, a pizza must be prod and cut before it can be chewed, a tomato surgically sliced. A fork is redundant as is a knife, but a spoon – a spoon extends the hand as if the palm were mirrored past the fingers. How painstaking it would be to lap milk from a bowl of cereal or eat yogurt one finger’s sweep at a time. A fork and knife are just reductions of what we already have; the spoon completes the hand. » Continue reading this post...

Tailgating at 9 AM (a post by Josh)

At the Davidson Farmer's Market (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

From my limited understanding about tailgating, what you do at a tailgate is stand around the back of a truck, grill, drink, and stand in a parking lot. How American. That’s not what I ended up doing at 9 am yesterday, but I did tailgate. What? Stop confusing me.

What Davidson has stated to do in the winter months, when the crops are few and far between, is have its weekly Farmer’s Market become a bi-weekly tailgate Farmer’s Market. What that means is every other Saturday, farmers will bring their produce, baked goods, jams, ostrich meat, and flowers to the back parking lot of the local coffee shop, Summit.

Vendor selling lettuce (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
The market board (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Fresh bread (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Yesterday was a Saturday that the market was happening, and how thankful was I. It was the first beautiful day in North Carolina since the November heat wave – a comfortable 60 degrees, blue skies, and crisp.

Lettuces (Eat Me. Drink Me.) Homemade dips (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Although there were a bunch of appetizing vegetables, I only had my eyes set on Brussels sprouts.

Um, why?

Well, it turns out that yesterday was not only a good day because of the Farmer’s market, and beautiful day, but also because there was to be a potluck that night. With potlucks, I always try to bring that food that everyone thinks they hate – see: cabbage, mushrooms, etc – and make them try my version. For me, it’s the ultimate test: can I make someone like something that they used to hate? So this time, I tried Brussels sprouts.

Beautiful brussels (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Once I got home with the two packages of sprouts, I realized that I actually didn’t know how to exactly cook these miniature cabbage-like things. Looking in a few cook books, I figured that boiling them, then sautéing them would be a legitimate option.

So after washing and halving them, I boiled them for about four minutes. » Continue reading this post...

If Your Grocer Doesn’t Sell Pork Neck Bones, You’re Probably Not Poor Enough: Poor Richard’s Pork Neck Bones

Pork neck bones (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

This was the opening line to an email my uncle sent a few years ago after his move to West Virginia, the second poorest state in the country after Mississippi. At the time, I laughed. I’d never seen pork neck bones in any grocery store I’d ever been to. I didn’t even know you could eat pork neck bones.

Then I moved to New York. And not only am I poor, but everyone around me is poor too (unemployed artists and musicians to the left, the projects to the right). So on my first visit to Bravo, my local grocery store, I was intrigued to find that the bizarre cuts of meat outweighed the “normal” selection. Pig tails and feet, turkey necks, chicken gizzards, pork belly, goat meat, beef honeycomb tripe, cow feet, oxtails, beef liver, and pork neck. Remembering that long forgotten email and being of a curious bent, I decided to make pork neck my first foray into adventurous cooking.

I wish I could tell you it was a more bizarre experience than it was. But pork neck is, well, decidedly normal after you’ve cooked it for two hours. The meat is incredibly tender and rich after having soaked in notes of brown sugar, cayenne, and salty broth. I made a regular Southern meal out of it with fried okra and cornmeal griddle cakes, and with pork neck stew spooned on a hot griddle cake—I felt much wealthier than I was.

Okra, pre-frying (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

All this has gotten me thinking about food stigmas, what it means to eat “poor,” and how food often undergoes the same sort of gentrification a neighborhood might. Take grits, for example. Grits are unpretentious. They are plentiful, inexpensive, and staple-worthy. Yet you can go to a five-star restaurant and order grits for $40 or $50. Those better be some damn good grits. » Continue reading this post...

Eating in German: Schwabian Potato Salad

Opa on the Eichland (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I grew up speaking in German, and I grew up eating anything but. Schnitzel, sauerkraut, bratwurst? Never. If it was puddled in butter, wrapped in gravy, or leaking grease, my mother did not make it. I remember her once exclaiming about German food, “It’s all so heavy! They even cook the peas in cream!” So I grew up eating couscous and bulgur, slow-cooked stews, stir-fry, and salmon. But not a single Spätzle graced our table.

This was all ok with me. My father is from Germany, so my rare cravings for Würstchen and Läberkäs were satisfied on our trips to the country every two years or so. And while my brothers seemed never to get enough schnitzel (seriously, never enough), I was maxed out on potatoes by day three.

Still, some of my strongest (and fondest) childhood memories center around German food. My grandfather owns a piece of property on the Schwäbische Alb, a low mountain range in the South of Germany comparable to the weathered Appalachians. Every available Pfister would gather, and we’d have a bonfire and roast as many types of wurst as Aldi and Lidl had on sale.

There would be loaves of fresh, crusty bread, potato salad done in the German style with vinegar, oil, salt, Kräutersalz, and onion, Fleishsalat (strips of bologna mixed with mayonnaise, gouda, eggs, and pickle), cucumber salad, and beer – lots of beer. For the kids, there was süsser Sprudel and gelber Sprudel, both sweetened types of seltzer water.

Eichland Eating (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The grown ups would sit around the fire and gossip, while we cousins ran around the woods building houses out of bark, moss, and small stones for elves or catching crickets in the sunny neighboring field. Bocce ball was popular with everyone, and for some inexplicable reason, the kids fought over the right to mow the lawn with a rickety, unmotorized push-mower with scissoring blades. » Continue reading this post...

A Family History: Bagna Cauda

Davis Family Cook Book (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The other day, as I was looking through my mom’s collection of cookbooks, searching for some recipes to deal with our cash crop of zucchinis, I stumbled upon a blue binder clasping thick, yellowed pages and stuffed with wrinkled clippings. I quickly leafed through the clippings and turned to the first page. “Fern Eunice (6/22/1905 – 7/25/1977) m. Joseph Welle” ran across the top in my grandmother’s all-caps handwriting and below that a list of names, Marguerite, Sharon, Barbara Jo, Kenneth, Scott, Douglass. It seemed to be a family tree of sorts, though its logic was obtuse and the family members obscure. As I flipped the page, I realized what I held; it was the Davis Family Cook Book, inscribed by my grandmother, “With family love and tradition to my daughter Lauri, Mother 1979.”

The Davis Family Cook Book says a lot about my family—and about 1979. For instance, here’s the order of the table of contents. Appetizers, Beverages, Candy, Desserts and Breads, Meats and Main Dishes, Salads, Relishes and Preserves, Soups, and Vegetables. Clearly, there’s a sweet tooth running through my family tree. Not to mention that there are thirty pages of desserts, yet only ten sorry pages devoted to main dishes.

I love the titles of these recipes, like the opening one for “Truly Different Cheese Ball.” What, I wonder, makes one cheese ball different from another, and what makes this one truly different? “Sure Thing Roll Out Cookies” is quaint, and you know “Everybody’s Favorite Cheese Spread” must be good.

The salad section makes me nostalgic for a church potluck in the Midwest, where my grandmother’s family comes from. There are layered salads, a few recipes for coleslaw, some fruit salads, and of course, Jello salad. In fact, there are eleven recipes for some sort of Jello salad, though my favorite horror is this recipe for “Pineapple Salad,” which calls for pineapple tidbits, miniature marshmallows, and Velveeta cheese. » Continue reading this post...

New Zealand Memories

Egg, tomato and toast (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Recently, for lunch, I made myself a meal that I hadn’t had since the winter of 2007, when I went WWOOFing through New Zealand. WWOOF, which stands for Willing Workers on Organic Farms, is an ingenious program which allows volunteers to work on farms in exchange for food and lodging. I had just finished my semester studying abroad in Melbourne, Australia and since New Zealand was so close, decided to drag two of my newfound friends, Emma and Dan, with me to see the country. Since we were broke, we hit on WWOOFing as a brilliant travel method.Our first farm was a fledgling vineyard outside of Nelson. Alex and Gareth had started the vineyard only a few years before and were raising a young crop of grapes along with fruits and vegetables. Their house, a simple, elegant building entirely made from wood, overlooked the sloping vineyard that ran into soft green hills, dark forests, and in the distance, snow-capped peaks.

Our work in the vineyard was relatively simple, but crucial, especially as the vineyard itself was only five years old, and many of the vines were in their formative growing years. Each row of vines consisted of equidistant wooden poles strung with three horizontal wires on each side. Approximately five stalks were planted between the poles and attached with string to the lowest of the wires. This wire was fixed and provided support for the growing vines. Hypothetically, as the vines grew, they would stay within the two additional wires, growing up of their own accord.Realistically, vines are wayward things that like growing any direction except up, and preferably grow down. Our job was to pick vines up from the ground and make sure each stalk was contained within the wires. One of us would unhook the wire from its post, stretch it out, pull it towards the ground and sweep it up to catch all the straggling vines. » 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...

Big Man at the Grill: Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Grilled trout (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Let’s play a game. It’s a warm evening. The pre-dusk glow is thick, and a soft breeze carries the smell of freshly cut grass. Children shout, dogs bark, the night’s first firefly sparks faintly against a blue sky. Smoke, scented with sweet barbeque sauce and pork fat or seared fish and bell pepper drifts under your nose. Someone stands at the grill, deftly grasping a pair of tongs in one hand and a cold beer in the other. Who do you see?

Chances are, if you’ve ever felt the stirrings of the American Dream, you see Dad, out of his suit and tie, tossing Fido a nugget of meat from the grill and watching his two and a half children tumbling through the yard. Or maybe you see a bunch of bros, throwing back Miller High Life and slinging burgers on buns loaded with ketchup and onions.

Whatever you see, chances are good that it’s not me, a petite, fresh-out-of-college woman (gasp – no) pushing hair out of her face with olive-oil greasy fingers and flinging steaks on the grill with panache, all the while swigging from a bottle of Newcastle. If that’s not what you see now, I hope it is soon. Men have steered the grill for far too long, and I’m taking back the tongs.

My goal for this summer is to become a grill master. Lamb chops, eggplant, pizza crust, whole fish, you name it, I’m going to grill it. In facing the grill, a beast I just learned how to turn on a few days ago, I will also come up against one of my other culinary fears – meat. I’m not sure why cooking meat scares me. Vegetables and grains can be taste tested as they cook, so I know exactly when they’re done or whether they need just a little bit more pepper. » Continue reading this post...