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I can’t remember the first time I made green tomato pickles, or why.  It might have been 10-15 years ago, but I make them in some form or another almost every autumn.  I usually make green tomato mincemeat (my great-grandmother’s recipe) every fall, too.

They can be sweet or not, and they are simple & good, either way.  This year I made them a little sweet.

Use 2 or 3 medium green tomatoes and slice them into medium wedges.  In a cooking pan combine 2-1/2 cups of water, a cup of white vinegar and 2 tbsp of salt. Boil altogether with a tbsp of pickling spice, 1/4 cup of sugar and some skinned & sliced fresh ginger, not quite as big as your thumb.  Or probably more accurately, my thumb.

Now place the green tomatoes, 1/2  a thinly sliced, small purple onion and the pickling liquid in a non-reactive container (that means non-aluminum).  Use stainless steel, pyrex/glass or ceramic.  Allow it all to come to room temperature & then refrigerate, submerged under a small plate & covered with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate & forget about it for a few days, and then you will have a tart-sweet traditional pickle that will make all your meals special.  This pickle will remain sound & good for 2 weeks in your refrigerator without heat-canning.  Good luck, if you and yours can make it last for that long.


And now for a real country food favorite- but  I make it in the city too.  You’ve heard of Fried Green Tomatoes-  “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe,” a novel by Fannie Flagg, appeared 1987.  It was so popular it was made into a movie simply called Fried Green Tomatoes, starring Jessica Tandy.  You can read the novel (which I haven’t) or see the movie (which I recommend highly); but make this dish from classic American cookery regardless.  There’s nothing easier, so don’t be intimidated if you’ve never tried to make it before.  I was in my 40’s the first time I made it, because no one in my family had made it when we were growing up.  It doesn’t matter if you call them to-MAY-toes or to-MAH-toes.  Let’s call the whole thing on.

Get you some cornmeal and a little cajun spice, if you have it.  You could season a generous 1/2 cup of blue, yellow or white cornmeal with 1 tsp of cajun seasoning, Old Bay or just a little salt and pepper to taste.  It would be hard to mess up the dredge- spread it out on a plate or a pie pan, and then beat your egg in a separate bowl, maybe with a splash of tabasco.  Heat 1/4 to 1/2 cup of vegetable oil in a heavy 9″ skillet over medium-high heat until it is shimmering-hot, and season it with a spoonful of bacon fat if that sounds good to you.  (Or just make it all bacon drippings if that sounds even better to you, or if you want to make this very regionally authentic.)

Cut up one (or more) gorgeous, firm green tomato into about 1/2″ slices – dip in the egg and then dredge in the seasoned cornmeal.  Carefully allow the dipped and dredged tomato slices to repose in the hot fat & turn over only after they have become irresistibly brown- this is probably no longer than a minute or 2.  Repeat for as many slices of green tomato as you have.  Don’t deep fry these.

These require no other kind of condiment- fried green tomatoes are like bananas- they are a perfect food.

If you click on any of these photos, they will appear larger.

You want to say Chocolate in Nahuatl (Aztec)?  This is SO cool:

Xocolatl was always reserved for the royal court before the arrival of the Spanish.

Hueytlatoani Matecuhzoma, Rey de los Mexicas de 1502 a 1520- aka Montezuma, if you have read ‘Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook’- served this food of the gods in golden goblets.  It was definitely not your gamma’s can of Hersey’s Chocolate Syrup (remember those?).  “Cacao beans had been roasted, ground, then mixed with corn meal, vanilla, peppers, spices, and herbs.” This is actually more or less correct- yay for Betty Crocker.  And Betty also correctly notes that cacao beans served as currency in the primarily cashless economy of the Aztec empire.

I visited Teotihuacan a little over a year ago and was able to climb the Temple of the Sun with a friend from Fiji and a Maori woman visiting from New Zealand.  Those Aztecs knew what time it was and they made some pretty big clocks and calendars to keep everything on schedule.  They drank their chocolate out of solid gold goblets, which were probably melted down and are now probably adorning the alter of the cathedral in Barcelona or something.

Around the time of the Quincentennial (1992), Peruvian people on the other side of the Equator made a collective statement and demanded of Spain the approximately One Trillion dollars worth of silver alone that was stolen from a mountain in their ancestral domains.  Before Columbus arrived and so rudely interrupted everyone’s civilizations they had been engaging in marvelous, sophisticated agricultural development in the middle of the Amazonian region, terraforming the earth with terra preta.   Of course at the time all of Europe was primarily a gold-based economy, and the Far East was strictly silver, and had been for about 200-300 years already since the Dutch Bourse was founded.  Looking back a century or two before that, the Champagne Fairs had previously confirmed that China and India preferred to trade in silver rather than gold as the precious metal underpinning the economies of their numerous kingdoms and empires.

In this continent, the Aztecs could eat their currency if need be- and that’s an interesting contrast to King Midas, who was not able to eat the food he turned to gold with a touch of his hand.  Not very nutritious, plus it sits a bit heavy on the stomach.  But it was in part gold the reason Cortés showed up in the 1500’s and was introduced to chocolate and maize:  silver showed up on the radar of the Spanish court soon thereafter, and then the ravaging of South America began as well.

Chocolate is one of many foods that we Native American people have developed over the past 10,000 years or so, and which now constitute three-fifths of all crops in cultivation across the globe.  If you sit down to a conventional Thanksgiving dinner, you know what I mean:  Potatoes, corn or cornbread stuffing, cranberries, turkey, pumpkin pie, beans.  Yup that’s all Indigenous – these form part of our collective Native intangible assets, our cultural and intellectual histories.

Until “1492, Europeans had never tasted avocados, beans (lima, kidney, pea, shell, string and others), cacao (for chocolate), cassava, chicle (for chewing gum), chilies, corn, hickory nuts, jicama, maple syrup, manioc, papayas, peanuts, pecans, peppers, persimmons, pineapples, potatoes, pumpkins, squashes, sunflower seeds, sweet potatoes, tapioca, tomatoes or vanilla. Nor had they worn clothes woven from long-fiber cotton. In all, Native Americans have contributed more than 300 food crops to the world.

“Native Americans in the central Mexican state of Puebla began collecting and domesticating wild plants about 7,000 to 9,000 years ago. By about 6,000 to 7,000 years ago about 10 percent of their food came from cultivated products; by about 5,400 years ago the amount ratcheted up to some 30 percent. Archaeological evidence indicates that by 5000 B.C., Native Americans began farming using indigenous agricultural practices as well as those learned from Mexican and Central American cultures.”  This is a pretty decent summary of the history and impact of Native foods on modern and post-modern human history.

Wikipedia has a more comprehensive examination of Native foods; and an excellent reference book I recommend is “Chilies to Chocolate:  Food the Americas Gave the World”, edited by Nelson Foster & Linda S. Cordell, University of Arizona Press, 1992.  Since that book appeared, another important book has since come to print, although its focus is not specifically on food.

“1491:  New Revelations of the Americas Before Columus” by Charles C. Mann, confirms all of this and additionally presents important new evidence of previously unknown agricultural practice in ancient South America.  “Having secured their food supply, Mesoamerican societies turned to intellectual pursuits.  In a millennium or less, a comparatively short time, they invented their own writing, astonomy, and mathermatics, including the zero.” — from “1491” (c) 2005 Knopt Press. – please see chapter 6 in Section II.

So back to Chocolate.  You want to show some love to your loved-one for Saint Valentine’s Day, and of course chocolate is the one of the holy trinity of Valentine’s Day traditions.  Chocolate, flowers and Valentine’s day cards.  It’s a little more elaborate than A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread–and Thou Beside me singing in the Wilderness,” (Omar Khayyam -1048-1131- a Persian poet, mathematician and astronomer).  I don’t know, this could be a serious toss-up, depending on the wine and the Thou (wink).  Valentine was a Christian martyr and I’m still not completely clear on how Roman religious persecution and violence eventually got conflated with Cupid (who is a primordial god, son of Venus and Mercury- who knew?).

If you crave even more obscure origins of Valentine, go all the way back to Lupercalia, a fertility festival in the pre-Roman world:  “ Lupercalia was a very ancient, possibly pre-Roman pastoral festival, observed on February 15 to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility. Lupercalia subsumed Februa, a possibly earlier-origin spring cleansing ritual held on the same date, which gives the month of February its name.”  God I love Wikipedia.

So, eat some Godiva chocolates (you know, the lady who rides around naked on a horse), make a batch of fudge, paint your lover’s body with a little melted ganache- and connect the dots between ancient pre-America and ancient pre-Europe.   And thank whichever gods are responsible for giving chocolate to the whole world.

(image courtesy of

finished guac and salsa

finished guac and salsa

salsa fixings

salsa fixings

When I entered the whole foods restaurant business I had been prepared

by my family, & my own exploration of foods.  Salsa was a joy to learn,

- with the summer farmers market you can find everything you

need for a very traditional salsa.  You can use it as a springboard

for many other variations.I like color (you eat first with your eyes),

so it's nice to use red onions (or scallion), multicolor tomatoes-

and I love a little heat, but you can keep the Scoville factor down

by removing the inner membrane/seed of a jalapeno (or serrano 

pepper, for that matter). Chilies can vary widely in heat; a jalapeno

grows according to its individual characteristics as well as growing

conditions.  Chili (like coconut and chocolate) is a natural mood

elevator, and is abundant in the Vital Amino (Vitamin) C.  I like

to use a few ingredients that you don't always encounter in US versions

of salsa fresca - namely hickory salt (just a 1/2 tsp in a small batch of

maybe a pint; also a little ground chili powder (any variety- to get an

idea of what's out there, go to 'Seed Search, Native foods' on the web-

you'll also be saving Indigenous seed varieties. I  visited their storefront

in Tucson AZ many times and it's an amazing place.

One other ingredient I really like to use is fresh or dried Epazote,

a piquant Native plant frequently found in Central American Indigenous

cookery, with an intriguing chocolate undertone. When I make

guacamole I usually make salsa fresca first, and then 

combine a little bit with smashed up avocado, along with a little

extra cracked black pepper and maybe a little salt.