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Picnic!

Is there ever a time when a cloth should not be spread out on the grass, after carefully kicking away the small stones and bits of leaves and tiny branches, hoping that for once, for only once – the laying-about will be as comfortable as seemingly promised, the food will not spill sideways or be attacked by bold wild flying insects, the wine will not spill on the shirt-front?

I don’t think so. It should always be time for a picnic, and I’ve been invited to one!

Louise at Months of Edible Celebrations is having a picnic, and the table has started to be laid. Are you curious to see what everyone is bringing? I am! And luckily I’ve got a list. Here’s what we’ll be eating:

Apple Pie with Dutch Crumb Topping from Miranda

Buttermilk Spice Cake from Mary

Chocolate Cherry Pie from Janet

Dilly Potato Salad from Gloria

Election Day Cake from Erica

Fruit Cocktail Meringue Pie from Erica

Gluten-Free Upside-Down Cake from Dia

Hangar Steak with Chimichurri Sauce from Stacey

Ice Cream in a Bag from Marjie

My gosh, what a lot of food! Incredible! Louise asked me to bring something I often seem to talk about.

Jello. Haute Jello.

It was kind of her to ask me to bring this, for it really is only an idea. No recipe. Just a silly poem and a picture. But my goodness, what a lot of recipes from this picnic! It’s best if I just bring some hot air, don’t you think?

The food looks great, everyone. See you at the picnic!

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‘Big Fish Eat Little Fish’ 1557 – Pieter van der Heyden after Pieter Breughel the Elder is, of course, a piece of art that tells a story – a proverbial story. And how vividly it does so!

Here is no paper-tray and cellophane-wrapped water-injected boneless white chicken breast for the distanced senses of the diner. This is life full-tilt – the sea thrashes, the men struggle with knives huge and dangerous, small and pointed. The fish flail and scramble, the boats toss. I can smell it. The sea, the innards of fish, the pungent dank liverish smell. The scales fly in the air to land on an exposed cheek, the fingers are numb and cold, slippery with fish.

It reminded me, actually, aside from these musings of life – of stuffed squid. The big fish shape sort of looked like a squid, and naturally all those little spouting fishes were the filling – which had to include anchovy as a matter of course.

Here’s a recipe for stuffed squid (calamari ripiene). It looks almost exactly like the one I  make, except I chop up the anchovies rather than use paste . . . and only three squid to stuff? No. I think they must be larger than the ones I can find. Plus the stuffing/filling needs a generous handful of chopped Italian parsley added to it.

It’s very good.

Lent is coming up. I wonder if it is as common as it used to be to dine upon fish rather than meat.

Certainly the process seems no gentler,  after gazing at the image above.

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Image Source: foto_decadent/Tim Walker/UK Vogue December 2008/Tales of the Unexpected/The Marvellous Mischievious Magical World of Roald Dahl

It’s not like Boris and I don’t have our challenges. Most of you think the life of a girl detective is an easy one. But my job gets tougher and tougher each day.

The last time I’d had a really good mystery to solve was back in May when I solved The Case of the Missing Snack.

There’s not much call for those with my specialised degree –  the C.K.L.E. (Certified Kitchen Lounge-About Eater) is a path one follows because one must. The gathering together of dross is not a part of the thinking process at all.

We’ve been spending a lot of time lately burning bangers and mashing mashers as a matter of fact. But always, always! in the finest fashions, you should know. Stiff upper lip and all.

But Boris has become moody. Around the holidays he longs for the cooking of his childhood. Or what he thinks was the cooking of his childhood, anyway. He actually grew up in Flushing, Queens – which you get to by taking a pot-holed highway to after going over some midtown bridge in Manhattan – but he believes he grew up eating Russian food.

And he hungers for it in an awful way.

So, for the New Year’s, I am making a picnic! A Georgian picnic.

We are having a pickled cabbage rose set just so in the center of the quilt we’ll recline upon. Then we will dive into chicken with walnuts. Because no picnic is complete without a bit of cooking done en plein air we’ll start a little woodfire off to the side to prepare some skewered eggs along with some grilled cheese.  Maybe a bit of steamed purslane would be nice as a salad (as it seems to be growing among a rockpile nearby it would not be dear at all, either!) For dessert we’ll just stay traditional and have the New Year’s Day treat of Gozinake. (When you are Georgian, there is no such thing as too many walnuts.)

It looks to be a fine day, though a bit chilly.

Cheers to all of you on the first day of the new year. And do give me a call if you need a good mystery solved.

I’m always hungry.

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Darra Goldstein’s The Georgian Feast is a must-read, for anyone interested in the foods of Georgia.

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The last day of the year is a time for cautionary tales. Most everyone has their own to muse on, but if you find yourself shorted in this area you can always turn to The Tale of Samuel Whiskers and the Roly-Poly Pudding to give yourself a good fright.

Here is where the action begins in earnest. Tom Kitten has gone off on an adventure and in the process has been captured by hungry (aren’t they always) rats. The dough is gathered, the rolling pin pushed over to begin the task of making a fine Kitten Roly-Poly for dinner.

Poor Tom Kitten.

There are other sorts of roly-poly puddings to be made if you like the idea but without the kitten.

The Great British Kitchen has recipes made with jam, syrup, lemon, and mincemeat. And if all this is just too dainty for your taste, here you will find a good recipe for rasher pudding, also known as bacon roly-poly.

Any of these taste fine with champagne, ale, or tea.

Happy New Year!

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I love QQ food. I love Q food too.

Q is not a question. Q is a texture. Or as expressed much more succinctly and beautifully by Zoe Tribur in the Spring 2006 issue of Gastronomica

QQ is a unique oral sensation that
cannot be mistaken for any other. When you put something
in your mouth—cold or warm, salty or sweet, dry or wet,
it doesn’t matter—if the substance first pushes back as you
seize it with your teeth, then firms up for just a moment
before yielding magnanimously to part, with surprising ease
and goodwill, from the cleaving corners of your mandibles—
that is Q.

Many people do not like Q food. It is somewhat alien to the palate of the eater exposed solely to the foodways of the middle-class United States.

That’s okay. More for me. 🙂

I’ve found a recipe for a Q food served at the Winter Solstice way over on the other side of the world. Tang Yuen. It looks delicious. Yay, tang yuen!

It is a few days past the Winter Solstice, but better late than never. Perhaps this will be the start of a new tradition – our own post-Christmas Tang Yuen party!

Note: The article in Gastronomica on Q is downloadable as a PDF file. It is titled ‘Taste’ by Zoe Tribur and is definitely worth reading, for any gastro of any astral sphere.

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I got pretty excited about gopher after hearing ‘Gopher Mambo’ by Yma Sumac:

What could I cook to go along with the gopher theme?

Here’s an idea, from Foods Our Forebears Ate:

Gopher stewed or fried is the most delicious thing, and I loved the pound cake mom used to make with sea turtle eggs and chicken fat. Now many of the wild foods can no longer be used as they are endangered. (And they say chicken fat endangers us!)

Now for some recipes! Let’s start with that Fricasseed Squirrel – make that Fox Squirrel. First if he was not trapped, check him over to make sure all the shot is out of him! You would hate to chomp down on a bit of metal while eating! Oops! Skin him first! Remove his innards and cut him into 6 pieces by splitting him through the backbone and then cutting the halves into 3 more pieces, each. OOPS! It’s been so long since I did this, I forgot if he has those little scent glands — better check! Then, dredge him in flour, seasoned to taste and fry him in some of the leftover bacon grease from breakfast (or from the crock you have been saving it in from past meals). Fry him up good and brown and remove him from the pan. Make a gravy of well-browned seasoned flour and water (some use milk, but for this, I don’t). Put Mr. squirrel back in the pan and simmer in the gravy till he’s tender as can be. Best served over grits with some collard greens & cornbread or mashed potatoes, garden peas & biscuits, or . . . Gopher tastes really good that way, too, but you can get a hefty fine nowadays for that one. Maybe you should just take my word for it.

I guess I have to take her word for it. No gopher for dinner tonight. 😦

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I haven’t trounced the ballontine yet. It continues its sneaky advance.

There are a few recipes for ballontines online. Not a lot. The ballontine has lost to the galantine in recent years, badly.

Here’s part of a recipe for a galantine I found online – it does make mention of a ballontine some number of paragraphs into the recipe: (Note – this recipe is from a cookbook published in the year 1889 titled ‘Choice Cookery’ by Catherine Owen. Please try to stay awake – the directions are not only lengthy but also loquacious!)

Galantines are so useful and handsome a dish in a large family, or one where many visitors are received, that it is well worth while to learn the art of boning birds in order to achieve them. Nor, if the amateur cook is satisfied with the unambitious mode of boning hereafter to be described, need the achievement be very difficult.

Experts bone a bird whole without breaking the skin, but to accomplish it much practice is required; and even where it is desirable to preserve the shape of the bird, as when it is to be braised, or roasted and glazed for serving cold, it can be managed with care if boned the easier way. However, if nice white milk-fed veal can be obtained, a very excellent galantine may be made from it, and to my mind to be preferred to fowl, because, because as a matter of fact, when boned there is such a thin sheet of meat that it but serves as a covering for the force-meat (very often sausage-meat), and although it makes a savory and handsome dish, it really is only glorified sausage-meat, much easier to produce in some other way. This is, of course, not the case with turkey; but a boned turkey is so large a dish that a private family might find it too much except for special occasions. On the other hand, galantines of game, although the birds may be still smaller, are so full of flavor that it overwhelms that of the dressing. The following process of boning, however, applies to all birds. To accomplish the work with ease and success, a French boning-knife is desirable, but in the absence of one a sharp-pointed case-knife may do.

That’s just the beginning of the directions. I had a startled moment of recognition when first reading this, then realized that the author sounded very much like my friend Katerina la Vermintz (who actually has a habit of sounding exactly like me if I don’t edit everything I write really rigorously!)

The cookbook, which is online here, starts everyone off on the right foot by instructing the readers as follows:

Choice cookery is not intended for households that have to study economy, except where economy is a relative term; where, perhaps, the housekeeper could easily spend a dollar for the materials of a luxury, but could not spare the four or five dollars a caterer would charge.

Many families enjoy giving little dinners, or otherwise exercising hospitality, but are debarred from doing so by the fact that anything beyond the ordinary daily fare has to be ordered in, or an expensive extra cook engaged. And although we may regret that hospitality should ever be dependent on fine cooking, we have to take things as they are. It is not every hostess who loves simplicity that dares to practise it.

Well, dearie me! I daresay I could spare four or five dollars for a caterer. Where is the phone number? Please advise.

Right now I must take my leave. Something to do. I think it might be something along the lines of making dinner!

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The Fast Food Feminist posted a collection of links to sugar plum recipes last year around this time – along with some philosophic musings.

Here is the post:

Sugar: Many Ways of Sweetness


Photo Flickr-Phil Gyford


Are there different ways to be “sweet”? Women are defined in general presumption to be like the rhyme “sugar and spice and everything nice” (whether we wish to be or not)(personally I have no problem with the sugar or spice part but that word “nice” does tend to grate on my nerves)(nice nice nice blech)(reminds me of how guys sometimes look at a girl and say “Smile!” to her. Pah. Smile yourself, my friend.)


Does sugar have more than one flavor or bite?

I decided to look to sugarplums for wisdom.

Sugarplums are thought of as a Christmas sweet – though many people have never seen or tasted one. What are they?

Fast Food Feminist put on her detective hat to find out.
Food Reference.com tells us that sugarplums were originally sugar coated coriander, rather like the sugar coated seeds which many know from the end of a meal at an Indian restaurant. In olden times these were called “comfits”. Comforting things.

tells us that Queen Isabella and Benjamin Franklin loved sugarplums. I’m not sure whether that fact will make me run out to chow down on some, though the examples shown are well-rounded and solidly bourgeois and even look as if one alone might make a delicious meal.
has a different take on the sugarplum, saying they may have been actual plums preserved in sugar. I wish sugar could preserve me, too, but so far there is no proof that this could occur.

website has an excellent recipe for sugarplums made in the Victorian fashion (always so jolly, you know) that includes crystallized ginger, which I personally adore. It’s pretty fast to make, too.

Those who prefer the intellectual gourmandism of Saveur Magazine
will likely swear by the recipe provided in their forums.

There is a blogger named Sugarplum
who this year did not make sugarplums at all but who instead provided sweetness in life through cranberry-pistachio bark, a recipe I too know and love, as much for its fastness as for its foodie-ness and imagined femininity though of course one does have to imagine a bit to guess at that.
knows sugarplums as wild plums to be gathered from the fertile earth, then to be carefully laid out, sugared and dried. A simple feast, an earthy thing of honor.

The women who write in the Traditional Witches Forum
speak of the same ingredients and technique for sugarplums as Saveur does. Which brings to mind the question: Does a rose by any other name smell as sweet?

Playing on the sweetness and light of sugarplums,
gives us a recipe for Sugarplum Tofu with Udon. Another way of sweetness, this one with a corporate relations link at the top of the page.

Sugarplums are many things, of differing varieties.

Therefore sugar apparently is as you like it, if we follow the wisdom of sugarplums.

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There have been a few changes since last year: Whole Foods changed the title of their recipe to not include the word ‘sugarplum’ but rather just ‘plum’. I wonder why. Was the word ‘sugarplum’ just a bit too perky for Whole Paycheck Foods? Oh well. Likely we’ll never know.

And the link to the sugarplum recipe from Diary of a Kentucky Cook is now here.

Sugarplums always start their rounds this time of year – the visions of them created by the well-known poem, dancing round in our heads – is so warming, so old fashioned, so slow food. But sugarplums are fast food.

They are so easily made in the home kitchen today. Most recipes are just chop stir shape for the most part.

It’s funny to think of sugarplums being fast food.

Now if I had to grow the ingredients that went into them, or if I had to dry or shell things, or chop down sugarcane or even peel and distill the stuff to make sugar, then to my mind sugarplums would be slow food.

Actually I’m sort of glad that sugarplums are fast food. I don’t have a whole lot of time around the holidays and no wish to wear an apron (or chefs coat for that matter) for two or three weeks straight.

So I will dream of fast food tonight.

Sugarplums. They dance in my head, and rather quickly too!

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Menu-planning at Christmas-time should always begin with dessert.

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His body is perfectly spherical,
He weareth a runcible hat.

If you do not plan dessert first, armies of meringue snowpeople will come to sit on your table.

If you do plan dessert first, during your every waking moment you will be accompanied by two perfect little Santas who will bring you luck and joy.

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They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon.

It’s difficult to decide which dessert to have. Unless, that is, one chooses them all and decides to spend every waking hour leading up to the day flying around the kitchen whisking butter and sugar and eggs into the glorious ephemeral bite.

Buche de Noel is traditional. I like to make mine out of chocolate cake, then fill it with a quick blend of vanilla whipped cream and crystallized ginger. Then on with the fancy dress.

But here is another gorgeous one with an elegant, most stunning robe . . .

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It’s tempting to order ready-made a devilishly red cake from the glorious and musical Laduree website. Naturally their buche has macarons stuck on it. Ah, if only I had spare macarons hanging around. That would make life easy!

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Calico Pie,
The little Birds fly
Down to the calico tree,
Their wings were blue,
And they sang “Tilly-loo!”
Till away they flew –
And they never came back to me!

It’s been eons since I’ve made a croquembouche. But what could be more perfect for Christmas, with its tree-like ways! Wrapped round with spun sugar like an angelic barrier crunch crunch then the tearing apart of all it, the creamy centered puffs disappearing but for the moments of memory which cunningly sidled up into them then gathered like glittering rings in a jewelry box to sparkle into the futures of the ones who opened their mouths to crunch, melt, devour.

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Calico Jam,
The little Fish swam,
Over the syllabub sea.

Yet my heart still returns to linzertortes – of calico jams mit syllabub schlag

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Who, or why, or which, or what,
Is the Akond of Swat?

That’s the question at Christmas-time, isn’t it. Who is the Akond of Swat.
Everyone must make up their own mind about that, to find an answer that fits them best.

But remember, whatever you do . . . plan dessert first. Then you can be sure

When awful darkness and silence reign

Over the great Gromboolian plain,
Through the long, long wintry nights

that

Ploffskin, Pluffskin, Pelican jee!
We think no birds as happy as we!
Plumpskin, Ploshkin, Pelican jill!
We think so then, and we thought so still.

And please don’t forget your runcible spoon! Things just aren’t the same without it.

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All quoted poetry from Edward Lear (who probably liked mince and quince pies.)

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It startled me to see The Fireside Cook Book peering out from the bookstore shelf. The biggest surprise was how very new the book looked. The editions I’ve seen have been battered and worn, food-speckled, and with the non-shiny essence of the year 1949 – the date when The Fireside Cook Book was published for the very first time.

The new edition is red and green and yellow-brown and bright, and the illustrations – tossed in as if by a mad generous cook into a huge happy salad – are a look into another age of cookbooks.

Playful line drawings seem to be on almost every page, each one broadly drawn and colorful: An enigmatically smiling woman holds a garden spade as she bends over the earth almost-bursting out of her clothes while planting cauliflower in a garden as a little bird sits nearby watching her closely . . . a black-coated coachman throws delicately curled reins around the neck of a lime-avocado-green horse resembling a Lippanzauer as it pulls along a Cinderella-story coach labelled (writ large and bold and even saucily) SAUCES, and there upon the top of the coach sit the sauces in their jugs and bottles, merrily bumping along.

It all sounds just too precious. But it’s not. The book’s content crunches any initial questioning thoughts of ‘just too precious’ into a puff-ball which disappears with a slight ‘pouff!’ noise somewhere never to be seen again in the 1217 recipes on the 306 pages.

In this book are recipes, menu planning ideas, information on food purchasing, notes on seasonal cooking, the food of other lands and more. The recipes are written by someone who knows them too well to make a great fuss over them, someone who knows that any recipe ultimately answers to the cook, not the other way around – where cooks answer to the recipes which have somehow transformed themselves into pettily demanding divas. And yet the recipes in this book are far from unsophisticated.

This is not a specialist cookbook, though specialized ingredients and methods can be found in any given section. Beard’s mention of chayote, in 1949, is an interesting example of how very unassumably forward-looking he was.

Mark Bittman writes the foreword, and at the end of it comments:

“The man was born to teach cooking”.

I’m glad he wrote this, for the book jacket bio draws a strong picture of the other aspects of Beard: the well-qualified expert; the world-traveller; and the man who was quite intensely industry-connected.

My vision of Jim Beard (drawn from stories told to me by those who knew and worked with him during his later years in Manhattan) is in alignment with Bittman’s comment. I imagine him as consummate teacher first, bon vivant second, and writer through it all.

‘American Cookery’ is still my favorite book by Beard, but The Fireside Cook Book – this bright new edition – is coming right up close behind it as a very near second for my affections in the world of his writings.

Bread of a day, wine of a year, a friend of thirty years. I’ve always loved that saying. Maybe I’ll tag on to the end of it ‘a book of sixty years’.

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2580230409_d23fb4f0dcThe day is over. The feast demolished. The dishes done, I hope.

Now what?

Now it’s time to make an Olive-Mint Quick Bread.

Oh please don’t tell me you don’t want to cook. What? Tired you say? Not hungry you say? Don’t want to look another dirty dish in the face till you have to, you say?

Blasphemy. Buck up there and let’s get cooking.

Olive-Mint Quick Bread

Ingredients

1 1/2  C firmly packed pitted drained and chopped Kalamata olives

2 1/2 C AP flour

2 Tbs. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

2 Tbs. sugar

1/2 C chopped fresh mint leaves

1/2 C grated or finely minced onion

2 lg.eggs

1/3 C olive oil

2/3 C milk

Action Plan

1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Put flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and mint together in a bowl and stir to mix. Make sure olives are fairly well dry then stir in.

3. In a separate bowl whisk together onion, eggs, oil and milk.

4. Stir egg mix into flour mix just till blended. Do not overmix.

5. Pour into greased standard-size loaf pan.

6. Bake in center of oven for between an hour and an hour and fifteen minutes (depending on the accuracy of your oven) till a toothpick or skewer comes out clean when you poke the center of the loaf all the way through.

7. Gently remove from loaf pan and let cool on rack.

Notes: The fresh mint can be replaced with approximately 3 Tbs. dry mint if you can not obtain it fresh. Dry mint is available at stores which sell spices in bulk (i.e. the local ‘health food store’ if you live outside a large city) or alternately the pure ‘mint tea’ found on the grocers shelf can be used.

Please don’t try to substitute a dull canned olive for the Kalamata though or you’ll end up with a very dull loaf.

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There you go. Good with turkey. Good with cippoline agrodolce. Good with roast peppers. Good with all three together. Good with cheese.

And the antithesis of a sweet muffin, to boot.

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Some foods or recipes have hints of luck about them. There are many different varieties of luck, of course.

Beans and Taters is a dish steeped in luck.

Though it’s known all over the South,  you won’t find a recipe for it in most of the usual cookbooks where “native Southern recipes” abide. And though the phrase “beans and taters” is one immediately recognizable and known to most Southerners (particularly those with rural roots) you won’t find it listed in slang dictionaries or in regular dictionaries or in the larger (Oxford on food, Cambridge on food, Southern Culture) encyclopedia sets. There is a newly released (this year) Encyclopedia of Southern Culture  which has an entire volume on food and food culture. I’m hoping to see if it is listed there!

You hear about beans and taters through luck if you’ve not grown up knowing it. My luck happened when a neighbor in an area of the rural South telephoned one day asking for a ride into town. Her car (pronounce that as that ve-hi-cle please, and with no self-consciousness either) had broken down. Luck had run out for her, in that moment.

During the ride into town, her young son was talking about food. He wanted some special thing for supper, that night. His Mom’s response . . . “Way things are going we just might be eating beans and taters for some time!”

But “beans and taters” was said with a musical lilt when she said it. And there was no sadness in her voice. Apparently beans and taters (yes, very musical the phrase is) is a dish born of bad luck but one that has good luck inside it. It is filled with pleasure, gladness, and gratitude. It is loved.

Luck also touches beans and taters in their very inception – the lithe green beans or sturdy other sorts of beans are ready to pluck from  their vines in the garden at the same time those tiny new potatoes are ready to start digging up. Just look at any farmer’s market right now if you don’t have a garden, and see them sitting there on the same table – the two are silent partners.

Luck being what it is, beans and taters is not just one unchangable recipe. There are many recipes, and they rise from an oral tradition. Two of these recipes stand out as the most common examples: A green bean and bacon stew topped with little shiny new potatoes steamed on top . . . and a pinto and saltback or bacon stew sided by fried potatoes. These make the meal – there’s not any need for too much else but cornbread –  unless of course there is more bounty to have . . . if the luck is running strong the beans and taters can move quietly from the center of the table to settle in as a side dish to serve with one of those huge picnic spreads of fried chicken, chow chow, sliced tomatoes, the endless variety of things from the fields and garden that crow and  holler from the rural end-of-summer table.

But they say one chooses their own luck, and I still feel lucky to have heard the words “beans and taters”, and to have tasted them made by my own hands after the fact, in my own home kitchen.

The only print resource I’ve found with a recipe for beans and taters is in a book by Loretta Lynn titled “You’re Cookin’ It Country”. Her recipe is made with pork jowl, sugar, salt and pepper, fresh green beans and new potatoes – and when she writes of beans and taters the luck emerges again in the form of grace. The hunger of poverty, the pride of finding something to hold on to when nothing seemed to be there, and the joy of taste and comfort those lucky beans and taters hold within them are the heart of her tale.

I’m thinking of that saying: “If it weren’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all”. This guy’s got it wrong. He’s just got to find himself some beans and taters.

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If you have a garden, the cucumbers may be trying to take over, gripping everything they can in viney puckers, dropping a little cucumber here and a larger one there – just like so many pods in a science fiction movie trying to take over the world.

If you don’t have a garden it’s a pity. I don’t right now. But then again there’s the Farmer’s Market where cucumbers will be piled in boxes awaiting their fate.

What to do with them. Gazpacho. Salads – simple, complex, Oriental, Germanic. Raita to side a curry or tzaziki to dollop into pita with  grilled faux gyros of ground lamb and beef tossed together with herbs and spices.

Then there’s pickles.

I know of a pickle that many people have never tasted, never heard of. It’s an odd sort of pickle. A rough and ready sort of pickle without the least bit of pretension to finesse. It’s called a Maine (Sour) Mustard Pickle.

The only place I’ve ever had these pickles (aside from when I make them) was in Maine – made by my grandmother who was not a cook by any means and by my aunt who is a good home cook, the first good home cook I ever knew. The taste reminds me of my family, and of the history of my family. The taste is not all sweet, but very real.

It’s best to make these pickles in a real pickle jar – but if you don’t have one they can be made in what you do have.

The big expense will be dry mustard. Surprisingly it isn’t cheap in the usual grocery stores. It can be found in bulk at the ‘health food store’ sometimes at more affordable prices, though.

If you like pickles and if you like mustard, these are worth a try. They will start off gentle and become more sour as time progresses – denser, more puckery.

Here’s a recipe:

Old Fashioned Sour Mustard Pickles

Cucumbers
2 quarts of apple cider vinegar
½ cup salt
½ cup sugar
½ cup ground dry mustard
Some garlic cloves, peeled (optional)

Wash and dry the whole cucumbers and garlic and pack them into jars or a crock, the bigger the vessel the better.
Mix together other ingredients and pour over cucumbers. Close jars or crock and store in a cool place.
The pickles will be quite sour within a week.

(From Snell Family Farm)

P.S. “Kirby” style cucumbers are best for this recipe somehow but the larger cucumbers cut in chunks will do though they will pickle faster and taste even stronger. 🙂

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MoiraMoira’s Catty Corner

Eck eck eck. You’ll have to forgive these little noises that come deep from my throat so lovingly as I report on this topic, dolls. We’re talking squirrel here, and that makes me purr.

We’ll also talk about some of my other fav things – celebrity chefs – but before that let’s do our part to be cultured, as that is what cats do. Here’s something Emily Dickinson wrote:

Experiment to me

Is every one I meet

If it contain a Kernel? The Figure of a Nut

Presents upon a Tree

Equally plausibly,

But Meat within, is requisite

To squirrels, and to Me.

Emily has a way of understanding things, a way quite cattish! Prrrrrp.

Did celebrity chefs invent dining upon squirrels in one of their wild fits of adorable creativity that make us gasp and purr? Unfortunately, no.

The word itself, so lovely, sounding like my rough tongue rolling along its fur, comes from the Greeks. The Ancient ones. They gave it the name “skiouros” which means shadow-tail, for they believed the squirrels’ tail was made to wrap around the little guys, keeping them protected from the sun.

The Ancient Greeks may have been a little nutty but at least they were also poetic.

Eck eck eck. Back to the eating, please. A short history of this delightful taste-treat includes Brunswick Stew, native to Brunswick County Virginia, where the usual native American succotash was expanded to include little bites of squirrel meat, along with tomatoes. For some strange reason, Brunswick Stew never really took off to become popular anywhere except where there was not much else to eat.

That’s okay. More for me. Meow.

Jumping forward to current times, squirrel is becoming popular in some places. London is the epi-center of all things squirrel lately, based on my research:

In 2002, nutkin becomes a fine-dining item. A story dated March 10 of that year in The Independent reports that

Squirrel is on the menu at St John, a restaurant near London’s Smithfield market, and it’s delicious – like tender wild rabbit, braised with bacon and dried porcini mushrooms, musky flavours to echo its woodland habitat. But some might prefer to steer clear – because it borders on taboo.

Taboos were being fought in 2006 as this story (23 of March in BBC News) has it:

TV chef Jamie Oliver should encourage schoolchildren to eat grey squirrels in an effort to save the endangered red species, a Conservative peer says.Lord Inglewood said greys had to be culled to ensure reds – native to the UK – did not die out.

“I must confess that I have never actually eaten a grey squirrel… but I am prepared to give it a go,” he said.

“Unless something radical and imaginative is done Squirrel Nutkin and his friends are going to be toast.”

Eck eck eck! Eck! Lord Inglewood you have my full attention!

This year the passion for squirrel is growing. The May 11 edition of The Independent says that tree-huggers love the idea of squirrel. And why not?!

And then, dear ones, we get to those celebrity chefs!

A glut of back-to-the-wild TV programmes featuring celebrity chefs such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has also tickled the public’s palate, but squirrel is still unlikely to be found in the family fridge. The Observer’s restaurant critic, Jay Rayner, said he had never tasted squirrel, but if he did have it for dinner ‘it would have to be a big, fat country squirrel and not one of the mangy urban ones you see in cities’.

The very same day, metro.co.uk gets down with the rodent even more!

Keith Viner, former chef of Michelin-starred Pennypots in Cornwall, said: ‘Southern-fried squirrel is good. And tandoori style works.

‘It is especially tasty fricasséed with Cornish cream and walnuts. But the one everyone seems to like is the Cornish squirrel pasty.’

I would love a Cornish squirrel pasty. Buttery, flaky, squirrely goodness! And no bones to choke on!

That’s the report from Catty Corner, dolls. I must continue with my yoga. If you have any ideas or recipes for squirrel you’d like to share with me, please purr please do! Eck eck.

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