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It was because of the coffee that I knew we were close to New York. And it wasn’t about the type of coffee or the taste – because we’d stopped in yet another Panera off the highway exit ramp offering the same kind of coffee as the last Panera off the exit ramp.

It was how I got my coffee that told me I was near New York. New York City. I’m not talking about the state because there is no discernible difference when you cross state lines. It’s all about the City.

I gave my order to the Panera girl. Double espresso. I waited, expecting as usual to have to repeat the order at least once then to have to wait patiently as she picked out the right button on the cash register then to pay then to wait another three minutes or so while she moved to the espresso machine to carefully slowly tease out the coffee from the machine.

But it wasn’t like that. I ordered and she didn’t ask me to repeat myself. Instead she rang up the order and moved with lightning speed to the espresso machine. She was a little thing and as she moved she called out, “I’ve never made this before,” (try this scenario on anywhere else but New York City and you’ve got at least a ten minute wait for your coffee twiddling your thumbs and biting your tongue while the learning process is somehow carefully and painfully managed) and the manager, a little stocky Italian guy with arms like a hairy gorilla, appeared magically at her side. “It’s easy,” he said. “Just do this that and that,” he told her while pointing at things on the machine. She nodded, did what he said, and he turned to me. “You want it here or to go?,” he asked rapid-fire (it sounded like “youwanhereorgo” and my heart sang. I loved this guy. He spoke my language. “I’m going to take it to go,” (I’mgointotakego) all rapid fire patter between us, and I wanted to hug him from the sheer joy of the dance that got that coffee for me in just about half a minute rather than the three or four deadly, dull, boring minutes it takes ‘outside the city’.

It was because of the coffee I knew I was near New York. It felt great to get coffee in my language. Exultant, even.

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Lots of people have food fears lately. With good reason, too. Once in a while there are outbreaks of nasty things that do immediate damage within our food systems. Our fast foods and convenience foods are loaded with tricky ingredients that apparently make people unable to stop eating them while slowly their weight ballons and their health may be affected. Even organic foods are tricky – they might come from a factory farm and still be ‘organic’ but what the USDA calls organic and what other people call organic may be different. Local foods are fine as long as the grass-fed cows are not pastured with the free-range chickens (although it makes a pretty picture for sure). And if you don’t know why, then there is yet another thing to find out about and be scared of!

How to decide what food to trust. There are many opinions. So many ways to sort this out that even that can be frightening.

I’ve decided to take things into my own hands. For a long time I’ve known something about fear and trust. And what I know can be boiled down to a few words, which it could be you’ve heard before:

“I’ll trust him as far as I can throw him.”

Absolutely. There is meaning in that phrase. When someone says that to me, there is no question in my mind as to ‘what it means’. It is clear and decisive. And there is methodry involved, scientific methodry. Throwing.

I decided to test some new foods from the supermarket today, compared to some I already buy, to see how far I could trust them. Who knows. It might be the packaging full of chemicals. It might be chemicals in the growing process. It might be the way the corporation is run. It might be the caloric content. It might be the way the food has been treated. It might be gluten in excess or sugar there’s always sugar or worse some sugary thing made from corn. I need to find out what I can trust.

I walked to the playground nearby to conduct this test, so that the foods would all be calm and content, pleased to be in a joyful childlike environment. And I started throwing.

Each throw was the same. I used the same amount of strength and stood in the same exact place. And here are the results:

The little frozen challah breads came in as the clear winner in trustworthiness since they could be thrown the furthest. Next it seemed as if the asparagus and the honey bear honey were a tie, though the asparagus was right in the center unafraid of the test and the honey bear honey sidled off to the left a bit.

Lamb chops, banana leaves, and granola were somewhere in the middle. Trustworthy but apparently worth watching a bit, just in case they try something.

Last was the tofu. It did not go very far. Distressing, for tofu always presents itself as one of the foremost trustable foods. But then again, it often is like this. Underneath the bluster of loud ideology can be found some pretty big cracks if one chooses to look.

I hope this scientific method to determine if your food fears are justified helps you as much as it has helped me. Please send in your own results from any testing you may undertake.

It’s just one way of making the world a better place.

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!

The Winged Pig

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The sturdy letter ‘A’ starts the alphabet and so we must begin with sturdy things. For a piggy alphabet ‘angel’ will not do. Instead we must go straight to ‘animelles’. Animelles are a part of the piggy but not a part of the sow. But more on this later, perhaps. It has been a difficult task to write a piggy alphabet after the virtuouso performance by Suzy Oakes of whatamieating.com shown in the sixth comment on the previous post. But here goes:

A – animelles

B – brawn (follows along nicely after animelles)

C – caul fat which I love or crackling bread which I may love even more

D – devilled, which is a method of cooking pig’s feet

E – et tu, brute which is what you should say when you meet a pig

F – fidget pies

G – gelee

H – humorous, because pigs are

I – intestines

J – James. Jane Grigson writes that ‘This bland combination of pork, prunes, cream and the white wine of Vouvray embodies what Henry James described as ‘the good humoured and succulent Touraine’.”

K – kidneys

L – lights and lungs

M – mesentary

N – nose ring

O – O! O oO! O! is the common sound made by someone the first time they taste a whole roast pig.

P – Pen

Q – Quiet, which a pig is not

R – Rooting

S – St. Anthony, the patron saint of sausage-makers

T – Tourtiere

U – Urban Foragers which is what pigs were, in the streets of New York City back in ‘olden times’

V – Vauban, who at one time calculated that in twelve years ‘a sow could accumulate 6,434,838 descendants

W – Wienerbeuscherl

X -Xanthippe, who married Socrates who wrote “It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied

Y – yippeee! is the appropriate response when good barbecued ribs appear

Z – zabaglione is an excellent dessert to eat after roast pork.

Yes, the pig took wing. It was a stretch, but the alphabet is done.

Charles Monselet has a poem for us!

For all is good in thee;

Thy flesh, thy lard, thy muscles and thy tripe!

As galantine thou’rt loved, as blood pudding adored.

A saint has, of they feet, created the best type

Of trotters. And, from the Périgord,

The soil has blessed thee with so sweet a scent

It could have woo’d Xanthippe, all her anger spent

To join with Socrates, whom elsewise she abhorred

In worship of this lord

Of animals, dear hog: angelic meat, say we.

Pigs, Unblanketed

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What is a pig, as far as food goes? The alphabet pertaining to pig in Bruno’s Cantus Circaeus is more esoteric than practical, for most purposes. And rather unkind, too! My own philosophy of pigs is much like Grimod de la Reyniere’s.

Everything in a pig is good. What ingratitude has permitted his name to become a term of opprobruim?

Therefore, it is imperative to have an alphabet to remember him by. I’m not aware of any pig alphabets, so we’ll have to make one up! At least we’ve got a start, from the chart posted above.

B – Butt (and Bacon!)

C – Chop

F – Feet (also known as Trotters)

H – Ham (also Ham Steak)

J – Jowl

R – Roast

S – Sausage (also Spareribs)

Lots of letters to go. Can it be done?

Some inspiration, from a man named (of course) Charles Lamb:

He must be roasted . . . . There is no flavor comparable, I will contend to that of the crisp, tawny, well-watched, not over-roasted, crackling, as it is well called – the very teeth are invited to their share of the pleasure at this banquet in overcoming the coy, brittle resistance – with the adhesive oleginous – O call it not fat! but an indefinable sweetness growing up to it – the tender blossoming of fat – fat cropped in the bud – taken in the shoot – in the first innocence – the cream and quintessence of the child-pig’s yet pure food – the lean, no lean, but a kind of animal manna – or, rather, fat and lean (if it must be so) so blended and running into each other, that both together make but one ambrosian result or common substance.

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‘In a pig’s eye’ is an American colloquialism meaning ‘not a chance in hell’. I’ve never heard anyone actually use it, but it does pop into my mind once in a while.

Rote memorization of facts someone else thinks go together because they were told at one time to memorize them sometimes strikes me as worthy of the phrase. “Here’s what you need to memorize,” they may say to me, and I may say back to them, “Why?,” and they may say “Because it’s always been that way,” and I may think to myself in response “I’ll do it your way in a pig’s eye!”

But a long time ago when magic and memory were topics happily married in the same sentence, there was a book which helped people do magic or memorize things they wanted to memorize, or some combination of the two.

The book was written by a man named Giordano Bruno. His ideas didn’t fit the general thinking of the thinkers of the times, so naturally they killed him off and he is now defined as a ‘martyr of science’. The name of the book with the cute picture of the hairy pig posted above is ‘Cantus Circaeus’.

Cantus Circaeus (“Incantation of Circe”) is an early work by Bruno on the art of memory with strong magical elements. It is written in the form of a dialogue between the great sorceress Circe and her assistant or apprentice Moeris. It opens with Circe’s incantations to the planets which appear to be based on Agrippa, De Occult. Phil. II, lix. These incantations are described as “barbara & arcana”. These are accompanied by various magical operations including the use of an altar, fumigations, and notae. This is followed by an Art of Memory.

According to I.P. Couliano, “Giordano Bruno’s magic is based not only upon the Ficinian tradition but also on techniques relating to the art of memory. This art consisted of a manipulation of phantasms or inner images, whose purpose varied from the mere learning by heart of a text to mystical contemplation.” (‘Magic in Medieval and Renaissance Europe’ in Hidden Truths: Magic, Alchemy, and the Occult: 1987).

About right now I bet you’re thinking “What does this have to do with food?”, and “When can I get something to eat around here?”. Patience. And besides, if you are sitting here on the computer it’s likely you eat three hearty meals a day plus all the snacks you want, anyway. What’s the rush?

Today we don’t worry about Circe and magic too much. But we do think about pork a lot. So I’ve decided that knowing your pork and knowing it well (and being able to memorize what you know!) just may be important.

Above you see pig. Nice hairy pig. There is an alphabet surrounding the pig. For each letter there should be some piggy-thing which connects to eating the pig. Or cooking the pig. Or growing the pig.

Do you know what they are?

Haute Jello


Photo Micaela Rossoto

Haute jello is never out of place.
Haute jello does wonders for the face.
Haute jello is the friend to the figure
Haute jello makes a lovely picture.