Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Memory of a Meal

I was 19 and living in White Plains, NY the summer of 2003 when the North East and parts of the Midwest United States had the most stunning blackout of my lifetime.  I was driving on the highway when the blackout first started, and kept spinning my radio dial trying to understand why it wasn’t working.  Everywhere I went people were outside, and the energy in the air was crackling.  As I would later learn living in Northern New York with snowstorms and the like, we humans congregate when something large scale is out of our hands. 

By the second day many areas had power back, but much of New York City was still without.  I don’t remember what the reason was but I had a friend coming to visit that day from Massachusetts and as had been planned ahead of time she would be coming into Port Authority by bus. 

Looking back now, it was completely stupid for us to drive into a Manhattan with little power, but at the time it seemed like no big deal.  Not only not a big deal but it seemed like it would be fun, and it was.  At that point the crazy grid-lock that the blackout had originally caused had died down, and no one with any sense was driving around.  So for the first time we were able to quickly make our way from White Plains to Manhattan.  Once in Manhattan we found that where there would normally be some of the worst drivers in the country, instead you found incredibly aware and conscientious drivers.  It was something that I would never again see driving around that city. 

Once we picked up my friend Peggy we decided to hang out in the Village and absorb the celebratory mood that the blackout had brought on.  Many businesses were still closed but we found a brick oven pizza place churning out pizzas to a crowed mashed out their front door and tumbling along the sidewalk.  We waited longer than we ever normally would have for what turned out to be the best slice of pizza I have ever had.  We ate our slices sitting on the curb in Greenwich Village as the power was restored to the area.  We cheered along with the residents as we watched the lights turn on and the sounds that are a constant in New York began once again to fill the air around us.

Having grown up outside of Manhattan but close enough to easily hop on the train and go in for the day, I have a romantic relationship with the city that will stay with me always.  I could easily bombard you with too many stories of the way this city helped shape me growing up, specifically in my teens.  That day, immersed in the energy of the city without power, and seeing that gorgeous skyline blacked out for the first time, is by far one of my favorite memories.  Living on the West Coast now, I have accepted that I can only have truly good pizza when I get to visit back home.  None will ever taste like that day though.

Were you living in the area during this blackout?  Got any stories to share?

Monday, February 27, 2012

An Affair With Magazines

I am a bit of a magazine junkie, though I hate the term as it insinuates something negative.  A magazine lover?  Whichever, I believe it started with Seventeen magazine, at a much earlier age then seventeen and grew from there.  Surprisingly, though I love them, I am only subscribed to one food magazine.   I tend to wait for the magazine to offer a special subscription price before I hop on board, and now I am at the point that if I add on another I will never read them all.  There are of course months that I skip an issue or two, but for the most part I always get around to reading each one.

Sacramento is lucky enough to have two local magazines

I love opening the mailbox to find a new one, I love the short and to the point articles, I love the pictures, I love it all.  They are happy little vacations from the many books that I seem to always have wrapping up my attention.  Those are some of the reasons that I get subscriptions, the other is that I really, really want journalists and writers to have jobs, and I want to keep these magazines in existence.  Each year it gets harder and harder for print media to stay in business, and along with them the shops and individuals that make them available to us.  Everyone in the food community remembers when the closure of Gourmet magazine was announced, and closer to home for us in Sacramento the awesome and unique midtown magazine shop Newsbeat that closed down just a few months ago.

There is something to be said for a really well written article, and just as importantly a perfectly shot photo.  Though I love books, magazines hold a special place in my reading time, that sexy half hour vacation where everything is pretty and interesting and so perfectly propped, placed and posed.  Can’t help but love them.

Currently my magazine subscriptions include:

Food & Wine  (got a great holiday offer and so far so good, man love those pictures!)
Ms. Magazine ( A Christmas present from my husband, the feminist that he is. I have wanted this one for years and never subscribed)
Marie Claire (Gotta get my beauty tips somewhere J
Sacramento Magazine
Sac town  (seriously I live in a town that has two magazines!  I think it is shameful to live here and not support these two great local magazines)
Bottom Line Personal ( A Christmas present from my dad, and I love the random things I learn with each issue)
Lucky Peach ( though I don’t have a subscription yet, I am loving this brand new food mag, and I think, it is a new essential for any lover of food writing)

So, what are your favorites?  Do you subscribe to the print edition, buy it off the stands, read it online, or subscribe to the  digital edition?

Another yearly favorite of mine:

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Libraries and Oranges


So, I have been away from the blog for sometime, it’s true.  But, they gave me a library.  Seriously, a whole library, that is all mine.  I get to make all the decisions and plan all the programs, I even get to make the displays and pick out the stories for story time.

I have been a little distracted to say the least.  More than distracted, I have been in love.  If I were to have written down all of the things I wanted in a job, I probably would not have thought of half of the things that I love about this job.  I am running an entire elementary school library, and I am the only one in there, thus making most decisions on my own, and also figuring it all out as I go.  Sadly, due to budget restraints, it is only a part time position, which you would not know by everything I have been able to pull off.  One book, One School anyone?

This job is by far more perfect for me than I could have hoped for, and though there is the very real threat of budget problems that make this job a bit insecure, I am so, so happy that I have it.  This should not mean that I let the other things I love fall to the wayside, like The Literary Foodie, but that is what I have done .  I have the tendency to put all of my energy, creativity, and thought into whatever major project I have going and not leaving much left over.

But then the orange trees started producing fruit.  And producing.  And producing.  You may remember from my little rant last year, Pick Your Damn Fruit, Or How I Love Winter in Sacramento,  how strongly I feel about the fact that I live in a place that oranges grow.  This year I had the good idea of putting a request on freecycle to pick peoples citrus fruit that they are not eating.  I got a pretty awesome response and so, every few days Rob and I have gone to different homes in Sacramento to pick from different trees. We have ended up with yellow grapefruits, lemons, and bags and bags of oranges.

As you have figured out, when I have a large quantity of something I see it as a project, and these oranges were no different.  Now that I am not (as) afraid of canning, that is what we decided to do.  The results?

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4 4oz & 2 16oz jars of Orange Beet Chutney from this recipe
3 4oz & 1 16oz jars of Morning Cheer Marmalade from The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
2 16oz jars of Honey-Orange Slices from The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
Two trays of Candied Orange Slices from this recipe

(with hopes of doing an orange and lemon curd in the next few days)

So, not that I needed any, but February is yet again giving me more reasons that I love living in California.  I can’t make any promises, but I hope to start learning some time management so that I can actually do all of the things that I love to do.  We will see. 

But, seriously, MY OWN LIBRARY!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Happy 1st Blog Birthday: A Year in Review

A year ago today I finally figured out a way to alleviate some of the pressure from being unemployed as well as found a way to talk about books and food as much as and whenever I wanted to.  Thus The Literary Foodie was born.  Though I am not exactly what anyone would call consistent I absolutely love this blog.  I love that it has me learning/trying/tasting/seeing new things.  I also love that it has helped me meet new people, in person and virtually, as well as kept my family over in New York more involved in the things that I am doing here is California.

Moving away from everyone you love, and everything you know is incredibly hard.  This blog was one of the things that made it not only easier but a pleasure.  I hope you have all enjoyed it as much as I have, and I hope you will all stick with me for many more to come.  For kicks and giggles you should go check out my very first post, And So I Begin, and see just how hopeful and earnest it is, I think it’s pretty cute.

Happy 1st Birthday The Literary Foodie!!

And here are some interesting factoids about the blog:

The most popular post so far is my Valentines Day Post, The Food of Love, talking about romantic food and recommending some romantic reads.

After that was my post, A New Family Member, and Emptying the Fridge, about getting my dog and getting ready to move.  I am pretty sure that one was popular because everyone was hoping I was pregnant.

By far the most popular pages have been Food Fiction and Food Memoirs with Fiction coming in first.

The country with the most Literary Foodie readers is (obviously) the USA followed in order by Russia, Canada, The United Kingdom, Poland, India and Australia.  Can't deny that I have been pretty darned excited each time a new country gets added to the list.  

The Google searches bringing people to my page have been the interesting, and sometimes pretty funny.  The most common has been people searching for Isabella Allende books, which I completely understand because she is incredible.  There has also been: equipping a kitchen, literary restaurant in NYC, and how to rediscover passion for writing.  I am pretty sure none of these folks were looking for me when they did their search, but find me they did.  I would like to think they were pleasantly surprised.

So far my favorite post to write was, Pick Your damn Fruit or How I love Winter in Sacramento.  Followed in second place by one of my very first posts, As I Stare Into the Fridge.

So, again thank you all for joining me I hope you have been enjoying as much as I have.  Know that I love all of your feedback, and welcome any questions.  Here's to another year!

What have been some of your favorites over the past year?  Is there anything you would like to see?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My Fear of Canning: Spiced Lemon Fig Jam

This is one of those things that I don’t tend to talk about, because once it is out there, there is no taking it back, and honestly I would rather not find out that I am actually alone in this.  Here it goes anyway, I have found my 20’s to be rife with insecurities.  Most people seem to reminisce and romanticize their 20’s so much that at points I have felt like I must be doing it all wrong, thus the insecurities.  Though I am finding my way more, and refining my once vibrant confidence I still find those moments when uncertainty seems to be trailing my every move.  I am in awe of the confidence that I vibrated with in my teens, some of it certainly an act, but so much so that I believed it myself.  Back then I didn’t doubt anything.  I honestly can’t wait until I stop feeling so nervous about each new undertaking.

A very over-ripe Fig

Most of it has had to do with the idea of being an adult and realizing that I have no idea what that entails.  As I mentioned recently for the first few years out of college I worked in a bookstore, which I absolutely loved.  With that, though, came disapproval from my parents and (so I thought) judgment from others.  Why was I working in retail with my degree, why wasn’t I making more money?  With the best of intentions, these types of questions tended to cement the fact that I felt like I was doing it all wrong.  At the time and still sometimes now it always felt like everyone else had it down and it was just me stumbling around. 

I know better than all of this of course.  I look back at each new thing that I was scared to try, certain that I was going to do it wrong, and many of those same things are second nature to me now.  More often than not it turns out that I am very good at many new things, and I know how to ask the right questions so that I learn how to do whatever it is correctly.  For some reason I still go into the unknown with some serious insecurity.  I will say that after making the move from New York to California my confidence has risen considerably.  I mean really I did that and survived/succeeded what else can really knock me down?  Besides canning that is.

I have wanted to start canning for years, sometime around the time my husband started working on farms and bringing me home excess amounts of whatever was in season.  But each season and each year has found me too nervous/unsure/insecure to actually try to can anything.  I blame it on the fact that I think about things too much, and then to make is worse I research.  When you research canning you find out that if you don’t do it right you make people sick.  Bad sick.  Making people sick is not something that I am interested in, especially people outside of my household.  My husband will probably forgive me, but what about the people that I give these canned goodies to?  It was all just too much for me to handle, and since I didn’t have anyone to actually teach me to can I never tried. 

Last year I made a refrigerator fig jam that was pretty incredible, and I got very anxious that I did not know how to can it so that I would have it all year.  So, this year when fig season came around I vowed to learn how to can so that I would have the jam all year.  I read a lot, I googled a lot, and in the end I feel pretty foolish that I did not try this a long time ago.  I did have trouble with the fact that most of the fig jams out there were pretty strait forward with minimal ingredients but I found a few to give me an idea that last years recipe was right on, I just had to actually can it.  So I went out and got a big pot with a tray in the bottom, some Ball jars, and a jar lifter.  In the end we jarred three different batches of jam, one batch of marinated roasted peppers, pickled carrots, and pickled grapes.  Hopefully we will be making some regular pickles pretty soon too.  Now that I actually bit the bullet and learned how to can I seem to want to “put up” everything.  So, at the age of 27 I have gotten over one more hang up and learned to can.

 How old were you when you started canning?

What kind of cooking fears do you have?

This was one of the many books that I referenced to figure out what I was doing:

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And this site helped answer a lot of my question.

Spiced Lemon Fig Jam
Though the recipe is my own I followed the process here

24 medium figs chopped
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ packet pectin*
½ cup water
Zest of 2 lemons
1.5 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons honey
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Prepare your jars and lids for canning.

In a medium pot bring lemon juice, pectin, water and figs to a rolling boil.

Add remaining ingredients, stirring occasionally bring pot back to a boil & allow to boil for 1 minute.

Turn off heat and skim foam from top of jam, allow jam to sit for five minutes.

Take jars from hot water and line up on counter, using a funnel fill each jar, leaving a ¼ inch at the top.

Remove air bubbles from jars.

Put on and tighten lids, and process jars in boiling water for 5-10 minutes

*I used a minimal amount of pectin because I felt like I had to use it, this is not a runny jam so next time I don’t think I am going to use any at all.  It’s all up to you and what you prefer.

I also think that more spice could be added to this with nice results, let me know any combos you try out.

Of course now that I have figured it out some other great Sacramento food bloggers have been putting out some fig jam recipes, you can check them out here and here.