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good stuff

good stuff

various breads- I bake a lot of bread at home, and have for 35 years.  I have a hand-cranked grain/flour mill that I’ve owned since summer of 1986- I bought it at an old-fashion hardware store, complete with old guys in bib overalls and a potbelly stove around which everyone gathered.   I use it to this day to convert whole grains into whole grain flour (not every time I bake though).  You haven’t had bread till you had a loaf of whole wheat that was whole seeds only a little while before.  It’s sweet and nutty in a way that cannot easily be put into words

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My friend Citty (pronounced Kitty) came for a visit and brought an amazing Mackerel and Leek Pie- in Dutch leeks are called Prei (pronounced Pree) and I pronounce it delicious

Well, then there are fish cakes too in various cuisines.  You could have a whole meal with (fish) pies and (fish) cakes for the main course, but then what are you supposed to do for dessert?  I have been discovering how to make the photos in the gallery clickable, with all the annotations to the photos.  You can click on any of them so far, and some have additional information; you can do a close up by clicking on a pic, and if you click yet again- you can *really* zoom in and see the proverbial fly’s eyelash.

Dinner and a movie?

Try:

‘Eat Drink Man Woman’- you want to see what Chinese classic cuisine and the Imperial Table looks like?

‘Babette’s Feast’ – not only a great movie, but surely one of the greatest pieces of international cinema where cuisine is the star

‘Like Water for Chocolate’ (Como Agua para Chocolate) – takes place during the Mexican revolution and is framed in convincing and passionate Magical Realism.

‘Big Night’ – famous lines…’Sometimes spaghetti likes to be alone,’  and ‘ risotto is rice, so it is a starch and it doesn’t go, really, with pasta Mr. SHALHOUB: (As Primo) How can she want – the lady, She’scriminal. I want to talk to her.”

Babette’s Feast is probably my favorite.  However, Water for Chocolate has the additional and salacious spectacle of people on horseback riding like Lady Godiva, as kitchens and villas burst in flagrante delicto.  In other words, the dressing is not even served on the side.  Then there’s also Willy Wonka; and Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, with that Holy Grail of smelly cheeses, Stinking Bishop.  Yes, that’s actually what it’s called, and whoever named it was genius.

A beautiful painting from Mexico

A beautiful painting from Mexico

I made two of the wooden kitchen shelves from reclaimed wood many years ago – they are pretty heavy, considering that they don’t look particularly heavy.

The original watermelon painting I found in Mexico last year (08)- I asked the artist to sign and date the back of it for me- I think it is a TRULY fabulous painting.  It looks like something right out of the 20s- Juan Gris, or some of those cubist types.

I always used to buy seeds from the co-op, so of course it was in little plastic bulk-sales bags, and I’d get them mixed up.  The caraway and the cumin; the anise and the fennel.  None of them had anything indicating what they were- usually just a PLU number- mostly because I thought I could positively identify one from the other (some of them look like each other).  So now I know exactly what everything is, although I had to kind of evolve from ape to man on that one.  The Herbes de Provence I use, and the Spanish smoked paprika is pretty amazing.  You should find some and experiment…..very carefully, but experiment.

Black tea, jasmine extract, Oblaten (for making certain cookies), tomato paste in a tube.  Very important to have at all times

Three shelves of completely tattered and worn out cookbooks.  Some of them do not survive, but I usually find another copy to replace them when I’m lucky.  I write dates and pencil in changes to recipes – I’ve done that for a decade or two I think.  I’m going to put a list together of some of my favorite cookbooks.  I have a lot of standard titles for various categories- i.e. a lot of people would instantly recognize the cookbook or author.  Then there are titles that food freaks know about- Mrs. Beaton, The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook, books MFK Fisher, Colonial Williamsburg Cookery (a facsimile edition from the 1600s I think), The Boston Cooking School Cookbook, Old Salem Cookery.

I have at least a dozen cookbooks by/for/about Indigenous Foods, and a number of textbooks about them.  The Hopi Cookbook, Aztec Cooking (it’s the only Aztec cookbook I’ve ever seen), A Cherokee cookbook, Northwest Tribal Recipes.  A lot of the cooking information is authentic- and then you also have adapted western ingredients in some as well (wheat flour, leavening, dairy products, etc).  Some of the traditional foods prepared with newer ingredients can be fine- but you also want to know what the real thing is like.  Our tribal communities everywhere were incredibly healthy only a few generations ago because our diets were  rich with wild, good foods, and quite a lot of cultivated ones as well.

I keep a NO WAR pin on my spice rack so I can see it every day all the time.  Behind it in this photo is a poster about traditional Cherokee Foods, in Cherokee language, using the Cherokee Syllabary (sp).  Quite cool.

I’ve made a few pieces in my kitchen workspace that I always keep in use or close by.  I’ve never had a microwave in my life (I got a really shocked look from one of my friends  recently when he was looking around my kitchen to find the food zapper- I’ll be 50 next year), but I do like kitchen tools- from corn shellers to china caps, and Turk’s Caps to big slabs of marble.  I do use a food processor and a big fancy mixing machine that could possibly winch a Cooper Car out of distress if it was hooked up properly.

I have no idea how to align the photographs at this point with the things I’m writing, so this would make a very good rainy day project.

This is a whole bunch of fresh veg from the Minneapolis Farmers Market this morning- my good friend Catherine and I got there just after 7A (because I was LATE), and that’s just enough time before the pavilions get stuffed with people. We both saw people we knew and you could actually stand and talk for a minute.

A few of my friends said make a food blog, so I am making a food blog because I like writing about food, cooking food, feeding people, being fed by people, reading world food history. I used to be part of an organic, vegetarian, collectively owned restaurant (years ago), and I worked with my sister (a very good cook) and mom (a very good cook) and we put together- well, we’re still putting together- the beginnings of a family cookbook, with table of contents, pictures of family, scans of original handwritten recipes in pencil or ink- on very delicate yellowing paper. Recipes that start out at the top: “Chopped Pickle (Good)” , or “Pound Cake (Mrs. Hal Dixon”).  Those kind of recipes- and you can see the similarities in the handwriting of four generations of women. Which is kind of amazing all by itself.

Grandma Dickey’s Green Tomato Mincemeat, Buttermilk Pie, Mom Giesler’s Sauerkraut and Dumplings, Dark Fruit Cake, Pecan Nut Cups (‘mix dough by hand while watching TV’, so I do). Vi Peterson’s Peach Pie, Applesauce Cookies, Moravian Love Feast Buns, Moravian Sugar Cake, Beef Stew, Pork Fried Rice. I added one more Moravian recipe to the family’s recipe file, and we started making Moravian Christmas Cakes at least 30 years ago, and you will find only a handful of people anywhere who would make them by hand. (Why? because a batch of the dough, about the size of a small cabbage can make 100 dozen cookies. I’ve kept track several years in a row, so I know my estimate is fairly accurate.) Those cookies are something unique- spicy crisp, thin as a leaf, melts on the tongue and it always surprises people who have never seen them, heard of them nor tasted them before.

We lived in farm country for many years, in the US and in Canada- that’s where you will find some people who know how to cook. We got to pick wild food (milk weed pods, cat-tail shoots, crayfish, wild strawberries -tiny and potent- various kind of field greens. We did subsistence gathering (I’m sure my sister and brother probably didn’t appreciate those expeditions at all- I don’t know, though). I think we all liked picking strawberries, even though it was extremely labor intensive for a 7 y.o, an 11 y.o. and a 16 y.o.- quiet and delicious work, except for when the trains blew through the middle of of the village a few times a day. We also used to pick huge quantities of Saskatoon berries during the years we lived in Alberta- kind of like a blueberry, but a distinct fruit all by itself.

In my 20s a good friend (in Northfield Minnesota), Gary, was an early proponent and activist for community gardens. And we grew up with gardens, and all our friends out in the rural areas… you better believe they had gardens. And orchards, and maple sugaring. Not for sale- it was just the stuff their families grew or made and used (or gave away) for the whole year.  About 15 years ago, I designed an Indigenous heritage foods conservation program, which is still operating here in the Twin Cities, and it’s young Native people who are working with Elders on growing the gardens.  Their website can be accessed through:  http://dreamofwildhealth.org/     Heritage seeds stocks insure bio-diversity, revitalize cultures and conserve the intangible assets of Native people.

When I grew up  in Alaska I also ate Bush food. I’m Yupik, Eskimo (yes you can say Eskimo, because we’re not Inuit speakers). And I have two families of amazing people, one biological, one adoptive, one brown, one white.  I spoke Yupik until I was about age 4, they tell me – I mean, I grew up bi-lingual.  That’s probably more accurate. The village where I was born is called Mamerterilluq, which means ‘The place where food is cached’ or sometimes, ‘Smokehouse’. I know I ate lots of salmon and moose (note: not salmon mousse), fresh tundra berries folded into akutaq, often referred to as Eskimo Ice Cream, about which more later. I’ve also had walrus and seal since spending time back in Alaska. Frozen dried whitefish with seal oil- it’s very good with Pilot Bread (a kind of dry, big cracker) and Tundra Tea- the better known name is Labrador Tea. Here in Minnesota the Ojibwe people call it Swamp Tea, and it’s just as good as at home, although the leaves seem to be smaller than Alaska’s.

It may take me a while to get the hang of this site, but I think a blog is a good way of sharing with other people who are interested in food. Now I just have to figure out how to get the pictures to stick where they’re supposed to stick.  In the meantime, they’re parked in big stacks here on the front page until I give them their own entries.  I hope you like the blog.

all images and content (c) 2012 Richard LaFortune