I love the fact that its colder outside and the Christmas tree is up and sparkling. Even if I AM recovering from a cold. I have presents to wrap under the tree. And, I don’t know why but I haven’t been able to find the porcelain figurines to go in my Nativity set. Right now I just have an empty manger waiting for baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the three Wise Men. I know I’ll find ‘em.
After all, the Christmas tree is beautiful and I love my little Santa doll I got in Paris a few years ago that sings “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby. (I am NOT making this up.) But the nativity set and the story of Jesus being born in the manger in Bethlehem is really what the season is about, right?
In the midst of all the holiday events and the craziness, we eat a lot of regular meals, too. It makes sense to make them reasonably healthy because we’re eating so much rich, decadent foods. At the same time we want something hearty and stick-to-your ribs because baby it’s cold outside.
Actually, I’ve been thinking about how we perceive the foodie phenomenon. If you read the recent Newsweek article about the foodie thang you would get the impression a person who considers themselves a “foodie” spends a ton of money on hand-nurtured, organic produce that’s been massaged and cooed over from the day it sprouted out of the ground until the day it was picked and delivered to a farmer’s market.
You would also get the impression millions of poor people have no choice in this world except to eat fast, deep-fried, nutritionally empty foods.
Oh, I get what’s happening in the economy. The shrinking middle class. The haves and have-nots. I live in Nevada where we have the highest unemployment figures in the nation.
However foodwise, neither extreme is true for most of us. The truth is somewhere a little closer to the middle.
While there certainly are people who don’t embrace good food and who manage to subsist on a diet of energy shakes, scrambled egg whites, protein bars and tofu – most of us like food. Given a choice we like food that tastes good to us.
It’s cold this morning – and getting colder. The alarm went off at 6:15 am and Ernie said, “C’mon hon, let’s go walking.” It was so warm and cozy in bed. I believe in high thread count sheets, cozy comforters, squishy pillows and a fluffy down topper on our mattress. Who would want to get out of a bed like that? Maybe I’ll go for a walk this afternoon when the sun has warmed things up.
I pull my cozy blue fleece robe around me and pad gently to the kitchen to make tea. Ernie likes goat milk in his tea which I think is positively awful – but if it helps him have less congestion – so be it. For me tea is the best way to start the day. That and a nice brisk walk – which will have to wait till this afternoon.
So much to do between now and Thursday when company will come for Thanksgiving dinner at 4:00 pm. Thank goodness we had the carpet cleaned a week ago. Thank goodness I can wrangle Ernie into cleaning the bathrooms. The dinner menu for Turkey Day is posted on the frig door.
For me it’s not about things being dirty – it’s clutter. I look at all the tiny decisions about where to put something or throwing it away. I sigh and mutter, “Maybe later.” That’s how little file piles are created. Got one in every room. Sigh…
It’s 6:45 am and I want breakfast. Breakfast and tea. Warmth and comfort.
Pumpkin pancakes? I don’t want to open a can of pumpkin. Or stand over a pan and flip. I got a couple apples in the fruit bowl that have been there a week. I got a carton of milk down to little more than a cup. I got lots of eggs. Sugar and flour are on the counter. I also want ease. How ’bout a big German Pancake that bakes in the oven?
Eggplant Parmesan is one of those homey Italian dishes, like lasagna, that warms the cockles of your heart. The flavors are pure Italy with a rich tomato-y sauce, garlic, basil and cheeses like mozzarella and fontina. This is a far cry from the spaghetti and meatballs my Mom made back in the day. It’s richer and more flavorful but fast and easy to put together and serve.
There are times when I want the flavors of a dish like this – but don’t necessarily want to sacrifice the labor intensive time or the calories. A busy week night for example. I’ll make the real deal on the weekends when I have more time to go through all the proper steps.
I have a mysterious connection with the flavors of Italy. I’m not Italian. I’m like Julia Roberts in the movie “Eat Pray Love” when she said, “I want to have a relationship with my pizza.” That’s about the only thing I have in common with Ms. Roberts. *wink* Don’t have her gorgeous looks or her money. But I digress.
Sometimes you want something sweet and crunchy. But you don’t want to spend an hour measuring and mixing in the kitchen. Shortbread to the rescue. Basic shortbread is three ingredients: flour, sugar and butter. That’s it. What you add after that is up to you. (I used unbleached flour and organic cane sugar which results in a little darker color.)
Shortbread is wonderful with tea or coffee. It’s roots come from the United Kingdom where it’s popular in Great Britain and Scotland during afternoon tea or anytime.
Travel to exotic India and you can find a sweet treat known as “Burfi” that’s mysteriously similar to shortbread. How can it be shortbread traveled from England to India? The British ruled in India for 150 years until the mid 1940s. Good foods travel often to faraway places. By the same token Chicken Curry has migrated back to the UK and become the unofficial “national dish” in Great Britain.
French food purists and snobs may blanche when they read this recipe. I’ll be honest. This isn’t a classic version of the French national dish. But I don’t care. I want something that tastes good, is reasonably healthy and not uber-expensive to make.
I don’t ask much. You too?
After a glass of wine Friday evening and Saturday evening, I had a half a bottle of Merlot left over on Sunday afternoon. I was pretty sure I’d make Coq Au Vin Rouge unless someone came up with an idea so amazing I’d just abandon my plan and do something else with the leftover wine.
Y’know that heady blend of flavors like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and ginger. Or, you can find a blend of these spices in a little package in the spice rack at your grocery store called “pumpkin pie spice.”
Not only are these spices delicious – they’re good for you. In Indian cooking spices are used in pungent blends to maintain your health called ayurvedic. Basically it means your food is medicine.
Believe me, tuck into my husband’s rich, chestnut brown Chicken Curry with curry powder, garam masala, garlic, tumeric, chili powder and other spices and it’ll clean you out – in a good way. The more you can use spices in your cooking the better. They increase your bodies’ heat and metabolism. It’s far better for your body and your health than the bland flavors from my childhood.
So, enjoy the spice of life.
You don’t have to make a pumpkin pie or a fancy dish to enjoy the delicious, healthful benefits of fall spices.
Food can be merely sustenance or a real adventure. This is for those of us who enjoy the more interesting side of food and how it’s different from culture to culture – even from one small town to the next.
I want to discover the best apple pie and the best chai latte. I want to find the best pizza and the best recipe for chateaubriand. The purpose of this blog is to take you on a sensory voyage. It’s not about the biggest pig-out or the hottest mouth-scorching peppers. That’s about crazy extremes – not the real pleasure of food.
I also want to share how foods vary from one region to another. Take the simple turnover, for example. A pastry covering outside cradling something sweet or savory inside. We don’t think much about these flaky offerings at the bakery in our neighborhood supermarket. But consider in France they’re filled with apples. In northern Michigan they’re filled with cherries. In Georgia they’re filled with peaches. In Maine they’re filled with blueberries.
In the Latin world they’re savories filled with meat, including ham and olives and called Empanadas. In the Cornish region of Belgium they’re filled with ground beef, potatoes and rutabagas and called Pasties. In Poland they’re filled with potatoes, onions and cheese, they’re boiled and called perogies. In Russia they’re filled with salmon and spinach and called Coulibiac. In India they’re filled with potatoes, lentils and peppercorns and called Samosas. And, in Japan they’re filled with pork or chicken and called Pot Stickers.
So if you enjoy food, come with me on a culinary adventure around the world. And the cool thing about it – you can travel thousands of miles or create the adventure right in your own kitchen.
Enjoy and dig in!