I have not posted in some categories lately, so I am using my procrastination habit to catch up a bit -- on feminism and food, on queer/lgbt topics, on politics and food (aka sublimation nation).
Feminism and Food: A big topic. When wandering the web, too much of this seems to be about eating disorders. What about upbeat, wonderful, non-depressing topics linking feminism and food. Remember, feminism is not just about what is wrong with the world. It is also about how we are going to make it right. So, I came across a few sites to visit. The first is feminist.com which, among other things, has updates from the Women's Media Center. I loved the one entitled why Obama needs a Frances Perkins by his side. Who knew people actually knew who Frances Perkins' was. Do you? No? You should. Click here. Yes, feminist.com has pieces on eating disorders. They're important. But they are not the only link between feminism and food.
But really. LGBT/QUEER and Food? That makes no sense at all. Let me remind you that David Mehnert has written on what queer food is. And, there is even a thing called "Queer Food for Love." Who knew? Click here and you will. Or here, where the very blog called Queer Food For Love, from, in the land of literal location, not surprisingly, San Francisco, is located in the virtual geography of the blogosphere.
Politics and food -- well that's something a little more expected. Indeed, sometimes it seems like all food is these days is politics -- the power of the marketplace, the decisions of governments, the actions of nation-states (and the impact of their consolidation in, for example, the European Union). I ate raw goat milk cheese yesterday I got from a lovely cheese shop near the Rochester Public Market. (The Market, by the way, moved its virtual location. Who knew?) Anyway, for 7 priorities for food politics in the age of Obama (how fast he became an entire age), click here. For a newish blog by political policy wonks in DC, try here. And expect close to no politics, policy or wonky-ness.
Got any net-based procrastination advice? Sites to explore? Share 'em in the comments section!
No, I have not been traveling. (Well, I have, but not to these places!) I am not all that great a traveler. I want to be, but I am not. So, my travels are often armchair -- and in this case via a truly wonderful book that connected these cities (both historical and present-ish) through their roles in the spice trade. Of course, this means that the book considers religions (in the main Christianity and Islam, but also Judaism and a bit of the various religions of India), imperialism (and thus warfare and, in the case, for example, of some of the islands of Indonesia, quite intentional genocidal actions), and capitalism. Their intertwining is part of the fascination of the book, as these cities succeeded one another as crucial to the European spice trade. The author's tone is spot on: he is, by turn, humorous, self-deprecating, and truly smart. He weaves between minutiae and sweeping narrative with aplomb and makes ever so clever (and helpful) analogies between past and present as well. Plus, he turns a phrase now and then that in its startling clarity changes how one sees; if we can take the word fundamentalist (for example) with its Christian baggage and use it to depict a whole array of religions why not use the word jihad across religions and cultures to depict. . . well. . . .Here the author does not just suggest doing so -- indeed, he does not even comment on his choice -- he just does it.
The book is The Taste of Conquest, subtitled The Rise and Fall of the Three Great Cities of Spice. (Yep, that's the book pictured here.) The author is Michael Krondl who (according to the author bio in the book) is a chef and general food writer. His website is called "Spice History" and can be found here. On the site, you can read excerpts, find recipes (for example, for Moroccan sweet potato latkes. . . mmmmm), and peruse his bio beyond the limited version in the book -- here he is also described as a culinary historian and artist. (For his art, click here.) Krondl, by the way, also has a way out of date blog here.
Part of what I liked about this book is that it resists a history which says "and they (people in the medieval period and the age of discovery and. . . ) used a lot of spice because they had to disguise the bad taste of spoiled food, isn't it obvious, it is all pre-refrigeration etc." Ok, I believed that until I read this book. Not so much now. Instead, I believe they ate spice -- and not such a huge amount given their serving portions -- because it tasted good, it was fashionable, it showed social class, it was healthy (according to the theories of the time), it was religiously acceptable (or proscribed), and for various other not so shocking reasons. Names I recognize from those long ago junior high school history classes -- like Vasco de Gama -- became new again (and not so nice). Here are a few particular gems that I take away with me from the book. First: comparative religion classes are always good for cross-cultural business enterprises; without them, the uninformed de Gama insulted various potentates in Indiapeople that Krondl, perhaps anachronistically, labels Hindus) and thus damaged trade relations (see p. 132). Second: religion is not merely a cover for other motives in the history of imperialism (though obviously its relations with greed are legend). As Krondl puts it: "has not the early twenty-first century made it catastrophically clear how many people (and not just the desperate, either) are ready to leap over the brink in the name of their religion?" (p. 147) Third: where there is pork, there are often efforts going on to "out" non-pork eaters hiding from persecution by (gasp) pork-eating Christians (see. p. 152 where "caldo verde com torah" is explained as caldo verde with a pork sausage floating in it, and those who did not eat. . . well. . . ) Fourth: gender always matters. Thus, on page 176, Krondl notes that cultural gender norms (aka machismo) are associated with coping with the heat of hot peppers in places like Mexico-- and in Portugal, with the heat of piripiri. (the machismo commentis in a footnote; Krondl's footnotes are swell.) Fifth: race always matters and reappears in startling ways. If you think this is not the case, investigate the role of Zwarte Pieten in Dutch holiday events. (See p. 189 -- and see also the explanation for those lovely spice-y holiday cookies as well. Alas, it is all about slavery, genocide, and. . . imperialism.). Fifth: there is a name -- Jan Pieterszoon Coen, which stands for capitalism intertwined with genocide in Holland -- and the devastation of parts of Indonesia. (By the way, the wikipedia article linked to his name here says his policies were never deemed unreasonable; Krondl would beg to differ.) Anyway, I had no idea; nor did I know that Indonesia only became "free" in 1950. Wow. My ignorance. (See pages 222 ff.) And sixth, yes, finally, McCormick spices are a global conglomerate -- and in more of our food than we think. Yes, pepper is still enormously expensive if we think of what we pay by the pound. Yes, it is still (or again) a multinational enterprise. While we may think of oil and religion and the Middle East, we might also want to give some thought to spices, religion, and the world. McCormick's US center is in Baltimore. Is that the next crucial city?
Last but not least, I learned a new word: entrepot. Worth looking up. Trust me. We all need new words. (Want to know what this means? Try here.) Need a new word every day? Click here -- and then bookmark it.
(Thanks to www.whartonnetimpact.orgfor the link.)
So, there is a place on the internet that consolidates best Eating, Dining, Food Blogs and puts up information by actual (geographic) location. The general link is here and is worth knowing about. Yep, it is called "where the locals eat" and has lots of relevant locales in case you travel. But, equally importantly, one of the local links is for Rochester (NY) and here is where to find it in the blogosphere. They already have a link to Cooking with Ideas; how great is that? They have links to two others of the local variety: The Rochester NY Pizza Blog and Eat Out Rochester. The latter has already appeared on the list of links on the side bar for a while, but the pizza blog is a newbie for us here at Cooking with Ideas.
If you forget the name of the blog or the whole darn thing, there's a new link to the Rochester NY version of Where the Locals Eat on the side bar now . . .
I have meant to go to the Gate House Cafe for years. I know the chef/owner -- have for years -- and yet never ate there. I wanted to. I really did. I intended to. And yet, it was only on Mother's Day this year that I finally made it there. And not because it was Mother's Day and I wanted to see that woman wearing a tiara clearly awarded to her by her 20ish daugher sitting in the booth over a bit though it did make me smile -- because I was procrastinating.
The Gate House Cafe menu features burgers and wood fired pizza as well as some salads. I had a burger -- paid an extra $5 for Kobe beef -- which featured cajun seasoning, "caramelized" onions, and blue cheese. (I put the caramelized in quotation marks because basically they were grilled onions -- not caramelized really). I had a lovely War of 1812 Sackets Harbor ale with it that complemented the burger very very well. (Here's the site for their 1812 ales; I had the amber.) The burger was dandy; truly tasting of beef and the blue cheese was tart and delightful. (I do wish they'd had the patience to really caramelize the onions into that dark melting thing onions that have been caramelized for hours do.) Like all the other menu items, the burger had a name which pointed to something local -- in this case the Hoffman. With the additional $5 for the Kobe beef, the burger was $14.50. It came with a hefty side of fries.
The cafe's ambience is quite nice; the room is open and yet you can be heard (the acoustics are actually unusually good). And looking out the window is pretty much fun --between the people wandering by and the artsy stuff in the little square. (I confess, I do not quite get the giant sculpture head, but hey. . . . no one said I was artsy.) There's something about the Village Gate area which is right on the edge of funky. As for service, ours was both friendly and efficient. And on Sunday's there's loads of parking.
For a few other reviews, try here or here or here. Not sure what kobe beef is? Try looking here.
Where is the Gate House Cafe?
274 North Goodman Street in the Village Gate Rochester, NY 14607
Over the years, we have had friends who eat gluten free or gluten free plus soy free plus. . . dairy free and sugar free and. . . We learn new terms like celiac disease (see here). And we love our friends -- so we try to cook without killing them or making them feel ill. Cakes with oat flour and a whole range of desserts that move well beyond -- hey, you have a bowl of fruit and we'll have. . . chocolate cake or some other decadent delight. So, when my favorite free-in-the-mail place, Andrews McMeel Publishing sent along Robert Landolphi's Gluten Free Every Day Cookbook I was pleased. It has macaroni and cheese, coffee cake, chocolate chip banana bread, and all sorts of things. Ingredients include: sorghum flour, xanthan gum, rice flour, tapioca flour, and prepared products like brown rice noodles. It could be more useful these days, since our principle gluten free pal is also sugar free, because there is a lot of sugar in the recipes included here. But hey, it's a start for some desserts. And there are other things included. Maybe we can substitute honey!
My main questions though, on reading this were two: (a) what is sorghum flour and (b) what is xanthan gum?
Sorghum flour is also called jowar flour or milo flour and I had no idea what it is other than a grain, even with extensive googling. Why? An industry that seems to be capitalizing on the rise of gluten free diets. (See here.) Eventually I put sorghum and wikipedia in and voila! Here's an article on the grass that is a cross over from what has typically been an animal fodder, used in the production of booze, and in sorghum molasses. Aha. A gluten free flour -- alongside rice flour, tapioca flour. . . .
Xanthan gum, it turns out, is weird. And not so weird.
"Despite its rather alien-sounding name, xanthangum is as natural as any other fermented corn sugar polysaccharide you can name. Corn syrup, anyone?" It is the principle volume enhancer used by gluten free types when baking, is a kind of longish sugar, and its name is derived from some ugly sounding bacteria. It is sort of like cornstarch and if you, like I, start reading the ingredients in things you eat, you are likely to consume a lot of it. (Yep, it's in dairy products and all sorts of lovely things. Ice cream. . .for example.) Typically derived from corn, it is yet another way the monocultural of corn sneaks in when you are not looking. (Anyway, see http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-xanthan-gum.htm )
So, a gluten free but not a sugar free cookbook. Complete with some directions on how to cook in this fashion, which is not always as easy as one to one substitutions. The book is not something I am likely to use much but. . . . Chef Robert Landolphi's wife has celiac disease and he's sharing his response. . . a gluten free cookbook. And, on the mailing from the publisher I even learned more -- that there is such a thing as gluten free beer. Who knew?
No, I do not mean the fort in Puerto Rico. I mean the new restaurant in Geneva, NY. Hidden away off Exchange Street, El Morro is the buzz these days. I have heard a whole range of feedback -- but not eaten there yet. I hear, for example, that the plantains are great.
I have been eating out a lot these days -- at Morgans, at the Red Dove, at the cafe at Fox Run. All good meals. But nothing surprising. At Morgans, I had a blue cheese and bacon burger (which was quite tasty) for lunch one day and a pasta with pesto and chicken one evening (quite adequate, but the pesto could have been a bit more so). At the Red Dove, I have been eating a sort of baked feta thing with pepperocinis. No wonder I have a headache the next day, with that much salt. But mmmm. And at Fox Run, I had a broccoli salad and a portabello and bacon soup. I even sat outside which was delightful with the lake view. I had something lovely to drink at each place -- a newcastle brown, a cosmopolitan made with tart cherry juice from Red Jacket Orchards, a ginger ale.
All the meals were adequate and sometimes they were even good. The drinks too. The service and the company as well. But I have not eaten anything surprising. I have not had a surprising drink, either. Perhaps El Morro? Have you eaten there yet? Tell us what you've heard.
So, a few sites to look out for, added as well to the lists on the sidebars!
First: http://myfingerlakes.blogspot.com/ is subtitled "culinary excitement to enjoy in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. . . " and has a link to Cooking with Ideas!
Second: one I found courtesy of myfingerlakes, "Great Finger Lake Finds" -- here -- which is focused on bird watching right now, but seems to include a touch of everything -- horse racing, rafting, kite flying and food. Lovely pictures.
Third: totally unrelated, check out this blog which combines food and humor, from a standup comic. A Susan Boyle pizza? (No idea who Susan Boyle is? You must be the last person on the planet in that state. Google her! And then worry about the state of our world -- not because of her, but because of the state of the world.) For a less humorous site filled with food riddles, try here. I don't know why. Just join the world of internet procrastinators.
Author of a variety of cookbooks (Apples for Jam, Venezia, Twelve: A Tuscan Cookbook, for example), Tessa Kiros has, in Falling Cloudberries entered the genre of memoir via recipes. (well, I do not know if this is where she enters the genre, not having seen her prior books!) Collected here are recipes and memories, subtitled quite aptly "a world of family recipes." This "Gourmet Book Club Selection" (which came free in the mail because publishers increasingly see blogs like this as free advertising, but I am still grateful) is, like many of their selections, beautiful. Even the end papers are beautiful. While I am not a big fan of books which feature the author's family photographs (trust me, mine are wonderful -- you don't care), the food photography is amazing -- and her family background does provide a rationale for this cookbook with its eclectic array of recipes.
The book's very first page says "My mother's name is Sirpa Tuula Kertuu Peiponen. My father's name is George." when I first read it, I thought: I have no idea what ethnicity this book will feature. The cloudberries, I admit, I thought were associated with Scandinavia --having once been brought a bottle of cloudberry liqueur (which was, I have to say, not my favorite) and thus assuming all things cloudberry originated somewhere in that vicinity. Somehow I missed the "world" in the book's subtitle. This matters because Kiros is indeed writing about her family -- a Cypriot grandmother, who drew on South African and Scottish recipes, a Finnish (aha) grandfather and grandmother who brings to mind gravlax and mustard, a Cypriot grandfather who brings to mind souvlaki, a peripatetic life involving South Africa, Italy, and a housekeeper from Peru. The recipes are divided geographically. All this makes for a sort of collage-y cookbook/memoir, with pretty darn incredible pictures by Manos Chatzikonstantis (alas, his/her site is under construction), styling by Michael Touros, and art direction by Lisa Greenberg. As I said, I am not entirely sure why people think that their own family photographs are entrancing for others (I like sorting through them sometimes in antique stores and imagining stories to go along with them and I also like those cards which feature old fifties-ish photographs with new oddball captions, but really -- I am not sure I think they should grace the pages of every memoir and cookbook). despite this, Kiros' family tree had led to an interesting array of recipes.
The first part of the cookbook is devoted to Finnish recipes. Most expected _- herring and gravlax and stroganoff. Less expected, cranberry sorbet. (If you want to explore Finnish cooking more generally, try this site.) This section of Falling Cloudberries (actually the part featuring that subtitle)is followed by the section on Greece. The opening page says "oregano, oranges, olive groves." One of the pictures in this section -- a close up (or sort of narrowly focused piece) of a snow white building -- is remarkable in its evocativeness. The recipes -- dolmades, tzatziki, taramasalata, for example -- evoke Greek restaurants that meant celebration when I was in graduate school -- and are followed by less familiar (to me) recipes focusing on octopus and calamari, as well as a whole fish in salt and (returning to the more familiar) a leg of lamb with lemon and potatoes that I so hope meets expectations. And, there is a baklava with nuts and dried apricots (and a variety of other dessert-y treats) that make me think I might try my hand, once again, at dessert. There is even a recipe for halva; I am not a fan, really, but I know someone who is, and for whom it provokes a remarkable nostalgia.
From Greece, we go to Cyprus (with its complex historical entanglements with Turkey and Greece), in a section of the book subtitled "cinnamon, roses." (For a site on Cyprus's food and drink, click here or perhaps even here.) And then to South Africa, subtitled "monkey's wedding." (For one site on South African food, click here.) I know some South Africans, who make curries, for example, and I drink a South African wine once in a while, but it's here where there is the biggest surprise for someone from upstate New York in Falling Cloudberries: a recipe for chicekn wings with blue cheese dressing (page 229). Of course there is much more;no curries but lots of cakes What next? Italy, subtitled "washing lines, wishing wells." Somewhat more familiar for me. And the ending section: a suitcase full of recipes. Lovely title. A bit of Thai, a salmon ceviche, a chicken curry, Desserts -- ice creams, for example, abound.
Of all these places, Finland is, as I noted, the one subtitled "falling cloudberries." And while that title clearly has a literal significance for the author -- and a nostalgic one embedded in family and food -- for me it simply is a metaphor with no referent, filled (oddly) with light. And yet, it is the perfect accompaniment to the book's final statement:
There are some things that don't change much. I find the smell of a dish, or the way a certain spice is crushed, or just a quick look at hte way something has been put on a plate, can pull me back to another place and time. I love those memories that seem so far away; yet you can hold them and carry them with you, even forget them, and then, with a single taste or hint of a smell, be chaperoned back to a beautiful moment. (p. 387)
For an interview with Tessa Kiros (complete with swell pictures of birds), click here. For another one, in the Guardian, click here. Her own site, alas is "under construction" but if you want to drop by, here it is. And if you want to know even more, including a bit about her photographer, stylist, etcetera, click here for an interview around the time of hte publication of her book Venezia. Or even here for a review of Falling Cloudberries (and a few recipes shared by the author).