Today is National Pretzel Day. I am always amazed at how many foods have their own holidays. Growing up my father loved pretzels, just about any kind, hard or soft, sticks, twisted, large or small. My favorite are the soft ones which are twisted and look like what in my mind is a pretzel. As a child, I would hold them up to my face and think they reminded me of a face. Two holes for the eyes and one for the mouth and the nose was the space where they came together.
As an adult, I was amazed when I learned that the crossing of the pieces was linked back to the ways people used to hold their arms when they were praying, crossed. Today we hold our hands together in prayer. However, in the 600’s people crossed their arms in prayer. The three holes were representative of the Holy Trinity (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Learning this gave me a new perspective on what is one of my favorite treats, the pretzel, especially the soft ones that I love to eat. Read More
This week I could have gone with a number of V foods (vanilla, vegetables, vegetable juice, vodka, veal, venison, etc.), but the word I kept coming back to is versatility: the state or quality of being versatile. The Merriam Webster online dictionary offers four definitions of versatile: [a] changing or fluctuating readily, [b] embracing a variety of subjects, fields, or skills, [c] capable of turning forward or backward or moving laterally and up and down and [d] having many uses or applications.
Versatility is such an important quality in life whether it is in working with ingredients or in one’s spiritual life. So often, we become familiar with one way of preparing something, like bacon, that we do not recognize the versatility of the ingredient and the numerous things, which can be done with it. When we begin to focus on the flavors of the ingredient, rather than the ingredient itself, we open our minds up to new possibilities. This is in part what chefs like Theresa Gilliam are getting at when they create cookbooks based on a single ingredient, such as her new cookbook Bacon 24/Seven. In an interview she did on her book, she said that one of the most unusual dishes she and her co-author created was Bacon Baklava. She said, “It's unusual enough that a lot of people might not have tried that flavor combination. It is actually a very traditional baklava recipe. You just add the bacon to the ground nuts mixture. The bacon balances to the honey syrup and the salty nuts which are the sweet and savory.” Read More
I came across this quote this morning by M F K Fisher, an American food writer, who wrote, “It is a curious fact that no man likes to call himself a glutton, and yet each of us has in him a trace of gluttony, potential or actual. I cannot believe that there exists a single coherent human being who will not confess, at least to himself, that once or twice he has stuffed himself to bursting point on anything from quail financiere to flapjacks, for no other reason than the beastlike satisfaction of his belly.” I had to smile when I read this quote because I know that for myself this is so true. While I have never stuffed myself to the bursting point on quail financiere, nor have I ever had it, I have stuffed myself to that point on lobster in clarified butter, shrimp cocktail, sushi, sashimi, scallops, and a few other items, which just seem to scream more when I am eating them.
So why is it that we have all had our gluttonous moments, but none of us likes to own them? Why it is that we each have those stories of eating our way to this space of beastlike satisfaction of our belly, but we do not feel free to openly talk about it or share those moments, or to even acknowledge the possibility of their existence? Perhaps one of the reasons is because gluttony has been described by many spiritual writers as one of the seven deadly sins. Most people do not like to acknowledge participating in these sins during their daily lives. Read More
The last week has been a challenging one, as Zoë’s taste buds have seemed to go on vacation one more time. It is hard to find the motivation to eat when you cannot taste what you are eating. It is also a challenge to cook for someone whose taste buds are temporarily on vacation. However, through it all I have learned an important lesson. Sometimes simple is best. It really hit home for me tonight as I was watching a rerun of Rachel vs. Guy Celebrity Cook-off where Taylor Dayne simple tomato basil sauce beat out Joey Fatone. The reason she won was the simplicity of her sauce. They could taste the tomato, the cheese, and the basil. Sometimes simple is better.
After trying a wide diversity of things this last week to tantalize Zoë’s taste buds, the one thing that tasted good for her was chicken salad. Read More
After about six years of eating a vegetarian diet, Zoë came home from running errands to tell me she had a cheeseburger. Well, it was not quite that simple. All the vegetarian protein options I could come up with tasted like nothing, not even cardboard. Being on chemo, she needed lots of protein. A cheeseburger tasted good, not great, but at least it had some taste. So now, I am blowing the dust off my recipes and my meat cooking skills.
She made this decision just in time for Thanksgiving. So once again, I made our annual turkey along with a vegetarian option to contribute to our open house potluck dinner where we always have far more food then one needs. Once again, I decided to brine the turkey. Read More
A fellow food blogger, Warren Caterson, whose sense of humor, I love wrote a piece called Excuse Me While I Chill Some Wine and Take a Few Moments to Tebow. In it he started by talking about Tim Tebow and how when he does well on the field, he drops down to one knee and prays. After talking about football for a moment, he brought it to a place I could relate to on a personal level. He said, “For me, culinary expertise is a gift just like any talent. The ability to taste, to tweak, to cook is all on loan.” I could not agree more. I know that everything I learn about food, every gift I have in the kitchen, every smell that comes alive, the aroma that fills the air, the way the foods change textures as I work with them. All of these things are a gift from the Infinite. Warren jokingly said, “So if my next meal pleases the palates of my guests? Perhaps you just might catch a glimpse of me "Tebowing" in the darkness of my pantry. Because being thankful for whatever talent I might have is something I will strive for.” Read More