Monday, February 28, 2011

The Biggest Shame of a Foodie

Most foodies don’t like to admit to not eating certain foods just because they don’t like them.  Somehow they think that this lowers their credibility, and granted if your list is very long it will, but for the most part we can’t all like the same things.  If we all had the same taste experiences with every food I doubt that there would be nearly as many different types of food.  So, for that I am grateful. 

The color won me over
My mind has always been intrigued by this concept, that although two people may be eating the same dish and enjoying it, they are both having a completely different meal depending on how their taste buds work.  I believe it was in Mimi Sheraton’s memoir, Eating My Words: an appetite for life, where she discusses actually having her taste buds tested, and was relieved to find out that her taste receptors were average, exactly where you would want them to be as a food critic.   I have the feeling that if my taste buds were tested I would not land in the comfortable average area.  

The dish is mine the glass is Robs
Through the last few years I have made it my goal to go through every food that I thought I did not like, and make sure that I still did not like it.  For the most part this project has been successful, I now have no problem eating fish, and have discovered that I like Pacific Salmon much better than Atlantic.  I love cilantro, and my dislike of Hollandaise Sauce was the fault of a bad cook not a bad recipe.  I am still not a fan of red peppers, I feel they take over the dish, but now I don't avoid eating them as I once did. 

I have two things I still have not been able to cure myself of.  Growing up my parents did their best to get me to drink milk, and I did my very best to get out of it.  From knocking over my glass, to leaving a bit of broccoli floating in it making it undrinkable, I would do anything to avoid drinking that disgusting stuff.  My parents finally gave up and added orange juice with calcium to the nightly ritual.  I still have no interest in drinking milk straight and honestly don’t feel that I am missing out on anything.

Proof for my parents, I do
actually enjoy Salmon
Spicy foods are a whole other matter.  I know I am missing out some of the time, and it drives me nuts.  Believe me I have tried, and though I can take slight spiciness now, I have not been able to get myself very far with this one.  I have mostly accepted that this is just the makeup of my taste buds and there is not much I can do about it.  There are so many dishes, and sometimes entire cultures, that I am missing out on and if there is a way to train my tongue to like spicy foods I would really like to know about it. 

So there you have it, I have admitted my dislikes, and I still have the nerve to consider myself a food person.  You will have to forgive me if you never see a recipe or reference to glasses of milk and spicy foods on this blog, but you can trust me to always go into eating with an open mind, and to try everything I don’t like more than once. 

Will any of you admit to your food dislikes?  Are there foods that you thought you hated that you ended up loving?

Some books you might like:
Are you Really Going to Eat That? Reflections of a culinary thrill seaker by Robb Walsh
Fork it Over: the intrepid adventures of a professional eater by Alan Richman
Hugh Fearlessly Eats it All: dispatches from the gastronomic frontline by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
How We Eat: appetite, culture, and the psychology of food by Leon Rappoport

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

We're Famous!

Well a little.  Doug Gruse, (my very favorite) reporter from the The Post Star did an article on The Literary Foodie blog!  As you can imagine I am more than a little excited about this, and even though I knew full well that it was happening it still felt like a big surprise.  I think it was really well done and I hope you will all go check it out.  This has turned out to be a very good day indeed.

Blogger serves literary dish

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Art of Equipping a Kitchen

Rob and I decided not to rent a moving truck, or even get a roof rack when we moved, instead we crammed what we could inside of our Chevy Malibu and sold everything else.  We had some boxes of clothes and other light things mailed to us once we were settled, but for the most part we pared down to the bare essentials.  Being who I am about 50% of what was in the car came out of the kitchen:  the wine and martini glasses I did not trust to ship, the All Clad cookware that I loved too much to let out of my sight, the hefty cast iron Staub pot, my grandmothers china, and the list goes on.  We had gotten married less then a year before our move and our families and friends had generously updated our kitchen arsenal to items that may very well last the rest of our lives, so there was no way we were leaving any of it behind. 

Our moving sales were pretty incredible, the type I am always on the hunt for yet rarely find.  How we had fit all of that in our tiny apartment I have no idea, but it sure did help pay some of our moving costs.  For all of the kitchenware that we kept we also sold a lot, and for the most part I don’t miss any of it.  I think of certain items from time to time, why I got rid of the avocado slicer when I was moving to avocado territory I don’t know, it’s not like it would have taken up much room.  Other things I find myself looking for, digging through drawers having forgotten that I no longer own them.  The rest: the ice cream maker that  I never used, the bread maker that I used when I first got it and then forgot about, the mini Staub pots that I loved because they were adorable yet never once used, had to be left behind to support the (moving) cause, and I don’t find myself missing them.  Having to sell off a good chunk of my book collection was a whole other matter, and one that I am quite scarred by.

If you read my post "Foodie Thrift Store Find (of the Year?!)" you know that I am a thrifter, I love going to thrift stores, and garage sales finding the perfect things for very little money.  It is one of the reasons that I have such a fun kitchen arsenal.  If you are a thrifter you know that you see certain kitchen items everywhere you go: the bread machine and ice cream maker noted above, both found brand new at thrift stores and sold by me still brand new, are two of the most common.  When you start seeing them that much you know odds are you will probably never use them either, a lesson I am still learning. 

All foodies have a kitchen wish list, often changing depending on what kind of food faze they are going through.  I have started to notice that if I am patient I will almost always find the things on my list at thrift stores or garage sales.  Rob and I just got our first juicer which we are really excited about, found at our local thrift town (never used) for $10.00.  Last month I found a yogurt maker for $4.00 still shiny and new but missing one lid.  Being a soup lover I have had an immersion blender on my list for quite a while but it never seemed to make it to the top, that is until I found one at a thrift store for $2.00, the fact that it was hanging with the curling irons really worked in my favor.  I am still bitter about the $75.00 Kitchenaid mixer with all the attachments that I didn’t have the money to buy last fall, and I know it is one of those things that will stay with me for a very long time.  You don’t let a Kitchenaid mixer pass you by!

For many, kitchen items are a fad or a passing fancy, they buy them because they are popular or they have these big ideas of how they are going to change their diets, and then they sit around in a cabinet until someone thinks to donate them.  There I await, ready to use them but never willing or able to pay full price.  So I am grateful to all the magazines and cooking shows that convince non-cooks to purchase all the fancy cooking tools that they will never use, and I am even more grateful to those non-cooks who have the sense and courtesy to donate these items.  Now if someone would just donate a food-dehydrator (preferably this one) I would be all set!

If you are so inclined check out:

Alton Browns Gear for Your Kitchen by Alton Brown

Shop Indie Bookstores

In the Hands of a Chef: the professional chef's guide to essential kitchen tools by The Culinary Institute of America

Shop Indie Bookstores

Cook's Tools: the complete manual of kitchen implements and ow to use them by Susan Campbell

Warmans Kitschy Kitchen Collectibles Field Guide by Brian Alexander

Shop Indie Bookstores

Sunday, February 20, 2011

New Titles

one of the major reasons that I started this blog was that I really felt there should be a resource for people to go to find titles of food literature.  Having been a food lit reader for years I was always having to search all around the Internet and Amazon, and once I had read all the really popular titles I really had to dig to find new ones.  In the last few years the genre has taken off adding lots of new titles and yet there still was no place to go and find them.  So, I took on the project, knowing full well how never ending it would be. 

I happen to enjoy searching around looking for new books, and the fact that I work in a bookstore and the public library I am in a very advantageous position to hear about new titles.  The piles of sticky notes and random scraps of paper around my house attest to the fact that I am always finding new titles!  Today I finally sat down and added a bunch of new titles to the Fiction, Memoir, Mystery and the newly renamed history/politics list, and I added a whole new list of food movies!!  There are still plenty more titles, and I will continue adding them as well as searching for ones that I have not found yet.  I hope if you all come across titles that I don't have on my lists you will pass them on to me, I can always use the help.  Anyway, I hope you enjoy poking around and checking out the new titles, and if you are anything like me you will be stocking up your Netflix que with some new movies!

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Food of Love ( Happy Valentine's Day)

Food has this awesome ability to take romance to the next level, accompanying our emotions with flavors and mouth sensations that stay with us sometimes longer than the lover.  I have had the good fortune of sharing some incredible meals with my husband, and many of our favorite memories occurred over, with or while making food.  I have a list of foods that immediately come to mind when I think of romantic foods: Oysters, artichokes, lamb, most things eaten with your fingers, brie and bread (so often eaten while lying in the grass).  Some of these are cliché (oysters) others personal favorites (artichokes), making me curious what everyone else's  lists look like. 

What would you say is a romantic food?  Is this personal or one you think is common?

Some good books linking romance with food:

Aphrodite by Isabele Allende

Chocolat by Joanne Harris

The Food of Love by Anthony Cappello

Keeping the Feast: One couples story of love, food and healing in Italy
by Paula Buttini

The Gastronomy of Marriage by Michelle Maisto

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

The Feasting Season by Nancy Coons

Trail of Crumbs: hunger, love and the search for home by Kim Sunee

Anyway, no matter where you are or who you are with I hope you all have a wonderful day today and hopefully there is some great food involved!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Pick Your Damn Fruit or How I Love Winter in Sacramento

I can’t really explain to Californians what would happen to me come February in upstate New York, hell I could barely explain it to New Yorkers.  I told a coworker here that Glen’s Falls hit -30 Fahrenheit  recently and he just looked at me wide eyed, the thought of 10 degrees is unfathomable to him so anything in the negatives is a joke.  I want to be him so badly.

By this time of year I would normally stop caring, I wouldn’t go out much, and I would spend most of my time reading or watching movies, just waiting for a Spring that would be months away.  Underneath all of this uncaring would be a desperation to get away, I started looking at apartments in California about five years ago, the search always starting around January.  Sure, everyone would complain about the cold and all the snow, the cities inability to properly take care of snow removal, but I knew most people did not feel the way that I did.  Even Rob, though happy to be in California could have stayed through many more winters with no ill effects.  For me, I knew that life is too good to go so many months each year hiding from it.  For some winter could be a lot of fun taking advantage of all the activities you can only do that time of year, for me it was a torture that came each year and seemed to get longer and longer.   

So here I am, on a beautifully sunny day on February sixth, with my windows open singing along to Sublime as I slice fresh oranges, mandarins and tangerines that I picked up from the farmer's market.  I can take the rainy days, the clouds that come and go here because they are not non-stop and they don’t keep pushing me further and further down. 

With all of that said, I acknowledge that I am viewing everything here in Sacramento through the eyes of someone that might be wearing rosy glasses.   It is our first winter here, and it is an incredible experience for someone who has only known Northern East Coast winters.  But that is no excuse for the shear obliviousness that some Sacramentans show to their good fortune.  There are orange, mandarin, lemon, grapefruit and just about every other citrus tree you can imagine growing all over this city.  Most are in people's yards, some line the curbs downtown, and more populate the city parks.  And beneath most of these trees lays rotting fruit, ignored and underappreciated.  Sacramento, you have the ability to grow this fruit that the rest of the country uses as a life raft to get though winter, pick your damn fruit! 

I understand that many of you cannot keep up with the bounty of your trees, but there are plenty of us out here that would be happy to take some of the fruit off your hands.  There are great resources like Craigslist, freecycle and more recently neighborhoodfruit.  On all of these sites you can post your fruit and offer picked fruit or even allow others to come pick your fruit.  I know you are all used to having these trees around, I am sure you do not point out each citrus tree you see (as Rob and I still do giddy with the knowledge that we live in a place that this is even possible), but you should still know that you have got something good going here, and all of the bounty should be treasured.  So please Sacramento, for everyone that is suffering the foot upon foot of snow that is hammering a good chunk of the country this year, I repeat, pick your damn fruit!
Knowing that I was planning on making these candies, Rob has diligently carried his fruit peels home from work in a ziplock bag, eagerly anticipating a new treat.  He has been so good at this that I have more than double the amount that I actually need.  I plan on using some of them to make orange sugar, as well as orange extract.  Any other ideas, recommendations?

I mixed steps from a few different recipes and added a few touches of my own, feel free to mix and match as well.  I was inspired by the recipes from recipesexpert and simplyrecipes
Candied Citrus Peels

  • Scrub Oranges (or any citrus fruit, I used a mix of naval, mandarin, blood oranges and grapefruit)
  • Slice peels into thin strips, if you are worried about bitterness remove as much pith as possible
  • Soak peels for about 4-5 hours (or overnight) in a salt water bath (2 tablespoons of salt to each quart of water
  • Rinse thoroughly
  • Cover with water and bring to a boil
  • you can repeat this step a few times, I did it twice I saw others recommend more depending on the thickness of the peel
  • For each cup of peel add 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar
  • I added 1 clover honey stick for good measure, this is entirely optional
  • Simmer peels in sugar mixture till it reaches your desired flavor, taste every 30 minutes or so, it can be a few hours depending on the bitterness etc.
  • Roll peels in sugar coating evenly
  • Place strips side by side on a cookie sheet and put in a warm oven until dried.

Once dry they can also be dipped in semi-sweet chocolate if you want to take it to that level.
You also now have an awesome orange simple syrup.