Eat Me. Drink Me.

Why We Eat. Why We Drink. Why We Write.

Month: June, 2009

Mountains in New Orleans (a post by Josh)

by lyzpfister

While re-reading some of the archived entries, I remembered that Lyz had written about beignets a while back. Her first post, in fact. If I may quote, “Almost every culture has the compulsion to throw a wad of dough into a hot pile of oil, fry it, cover or fill it with something delicious, and eat it.” I would subscribe to this statement; I mean with all the thoughts of physical health aside, doughnuts are delicious. Especially hot. You know every time you pass a Krispy Kreme Doughnut factory and that “Hot Doughnuts Now” sign is on, you think about stopping. You may not stop, but you think about it real quick-like. Who doesn’t?

Who doesn’t want to gorge on soft, warm, sugary bread that collapses upon fist bite. And if you coat it in a glaze or powdered sugar? You can’t stop yourself. If you are reading this and saying to yourself “No, of course not, I don’t like sweets all that much,” you’re lying to yourself. I know it, I just know it.

But this is much more than Krispy Kremes. This is ever more than the beignets that Lyz and her friends made in that dorm-room kitchen (sorry blog partner). What I’m talking about are the real beignets. The ones that Lyz talked about in her post too: “Beignets, however, evolved outside of France, most notably in New Orleans, where the pastry was brought to the area in the 18th Century, most likely by the Ursuline Nuns.”
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Define: Seasoning (a post by Josh)

by lyzpfister

I don’t know about you, but the most vivid memories I have of my grandparents revolve around the dinner table (dinner, supper, lunch, whatever you want to call it). Usually there would be a giant wooden table joined by eight or ten or twenty chairs, plates and sets of silverware. I would show up and talk with my family for a bit, then we would extend our visit over the table, passing food dishes as we passed our life updates. There was never too little food, no matter what my grandparent’s economic situation may have been. Come to think about it, I never thought about it because there was always so much food. A turkey, mashed potatoes, beans, beets, green beans, onions, biscuits, corn, sweet potatoes, you try and name it, and I’m sure I’ve seen it on the table at some point.

The meal would progress, and we would slow our talking and our movements and the dishes would sit in the same place for extended periods of time. The sun would set and we would speak of dessert. People’s responses were usually “Oh how could I?” which could be either taken as “Oh how could I eat any more?” or Oh how could I not?” My grandma usually tended towards the latter and would serve up a heaping piece of pumpkin pie or chocolate pie topped high with baked, homemade meringue. We would get up, stretch, feel the bulk of our plates in our stomachs and resituate to the couches and continue talking. Really, our meals were part II of our visit.
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What Do You Mean, Raw Drink? (a post by Lyz)

by lyzpfister

 

The first time I opened a bottle of Kombucha, I wondered who was dyeing Easter eggs. Then I took a sip of Kombucha and wondered why I was drinking vinegar. But, because I had paid around $4 for that bottle, I kept drinking, and by my last sip of Kombucha, I kind of liked it.

Kombucha is a super drink first made in Qin Dynasty China, where it was called the “Immortal Health Elixir”and thought to balance middle Qi (spleen and stomach).  According to the label on my bottle of Kombucha, it aids digestion, metabolism, immune system and liver function, appetite and weight control, body alkalinity, anti-aging, cell integrity, and healthy skin and hair.  Of course, none of that has been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.

Part of the reason I keep coming back to Kombucha must be for its health benefits, because no matter how many times I buy one, the first sip is always a shocker. When it first hits your tongue, it’s sweet and intensely fizzy, but almost instantly becomes sour as it slides past the sides of your mouth.

I recently learned that you can grow your own Kombucha – and I do mean “grow,” because Kombucha is tea fermented by a bacteria colony. Alive like yogurt. To grow your own Kombucha, you brew a weak-ish batch of black tea sweetened with sugar, cool it to room temperature, and then float the Kombucha colony in it. The Kombucha colony, by the way, is called a mushroom and looks like a disk of blubber. In about ten days, you have your Kombucha brew, which you can strain and refrigerate. Your Kombucha colony can be dropped in a new batch of tea and might even start growing baby Kombuchas, which you can give to your friends so they can start their own Kombucha colonies. Kombucha imperialism.

I may not be at the point in my relationship with Kombucha that I’m about to grow it in my basement, but I’ll endorse it, because if nothing else it’s interesting. And it’s probably good for you.

If you’re interested in how to make your own Kombucha, check out this rather entertaining YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDtvtP33v_Q


He’s on the Move (a post by Josh)

by lyzpfister

It’s been a minute since I’ve updated my travels, my eats, and frankly, my stomach’s adjustment to Southern Foods. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been living in the South for about three years now, but I don’t always choose to indulge in collards with fat back as my staple lunch item. But now – this summer – I’ve got to go big then go home and take a nap to “work off” that fried goodness. O! that fried goodness!

Well since I’ve last updated (on my travels, not my shameful meal), I’ve been to Sapelo Island, Charleston, a few surrounding areas (James Island, Mt. Pleasant), Beaufort, Athens, Atlanta, Watkinsville, and Birmingham. That’s where I sit right now, sipping a well roasted, full bodied black coffee – iced (to cut the 99 degree heat and 110 percent humidity).

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Shame. Boat-loads of Shame. (a post by Josh)

by lyzpfister

We talk on this blog a lot about what and how we cook – be that a cake, egg-in-a-basket, or throwing something down on the grill. Usually, we tell you about the good times and about how amazing and mouth watering food can be.

But get this: I mess up. A lot, actually. The best way to learn, they say (that ever present “they”) is to mess up. But the thing is – you have to learn from that mistake. Cliché? Yup. More than anything, it’s a big cliché that has a lot of truth wrapped up in it.

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Big Man at the Grill (a post by Lyz)

by lyzpfister

Let’s play a game. It’s a warm evening. The pre-dusk glow is thick, and a soft breeze carries the smell of freshly cut grass. Children shout, dogs bark, the night’s first firefly sparks faintly against a blue sky. Smoke, scented with sweet barbeque sauce and pork fat or seared fish and bell pepper drifts under your nose. Someone stands at the grill, deftly grasping a pair of tongs in one hand and a cold beer in the other. Who do you see?

Chances are, if you’ve ever felt the stirrings of the American Dream, you see Dad, out of his suit and tie, tossing Fido a nugget of meat from the grill and watching his two and a half children tumbling through the yard. Or maybe you see a bunch of bros, throwing back Miller High Life and slinging burgers on buns loaded with ketchup and onions.

Whatever you see, chances are good that it’s not me, a petite, fresh-out-of-college woman (gasp – no) pushing hair out of her face with olive-oil greasy fingers and flinging steaks on the grill with panache, all the while swigging from a bottle of Newcastle. If that’s not what you see now, I hope it is soon. Men have steered the grill for far too long, and I’m taking back the tongs.

My goal for this summer is to become a grill master. Lamb chops, eggplant, pizza crust, whole fish, you name it, I’m going to grill it. In facing the grill, a beast I just learned how to turn on a few days ago, I will also come up against one of my other culinary fears – meat. I’m not sure why cooking meat scares me. Vegetables and grains can be taste tested as they cook, so I know exactly when they’re done or whether they need just a little bit more pepper. Meat requires both nuance and blind faith. If you try that cooking chicken breast, and it’s not quite done, let’s leave it at this: salmonella is real.

Either way, I think it’s good life practice to face your fears and learn new skills. So here I am, grilling away. I began with a birthday meal of barbequed ribs, eggplant, sweet corn, and squash, and definitely the best birthday present of the day was learning that you can make your own barbeque sauce. That should show you how much I know about grilling. As I’ve gotten more serious about my pursuit, I’ve done pork chops marinated in yogurt and garam masala and served it with a mango-serrano chile chutney. Yesterday, I tried my hand at fish, which, at two minutes per side, doesn’t leave much room for error. The trout has so far been my greatest success – clean tasting, flaky flesh, flash marinated in a vinaigrette of butter, balsamic, capers, shallots, and rosemary.

What I love about grilling, besides the challenge, is the way it combines every sense of the kitchen with every sense of the outdoors. It’s the smell of smoke and green leaves, the sizzle of dripping fat and ruffling grass, the heat of fire and sunshine. Grilling is perfectly suited for the outdoors. Without the shelter of the kitchen, nature, fire and meat speaks to some Cro-Magnon ancestor, hungry from hunting dinner. Maybe that’s why men gravitate toward it.

Which brings me to the other reason I’m learning how to grill.

A while ago, a friend of mine made this comment: “Don’t let a woman at the grill – or the remote.” It was a joke, I think, but it got me into thinking about why grilling is gendered. Maybe there is something to that primal man and fire bit, but I’m inclined to think it’s the symptom of a much later era, when every fire built was a testimony to the suburban gentleman that no matter how soft his hands were, he was still a man.

I have progressive friends, who I’m sure don’t think it’s their job as men to grill the kebabs I put together, just as I’m sure I don’t let them grill because I think they should. However, I’ve been at more parties than I can count where the men cluster around the grill, and the women make potato salad in the kitchen.

So in preparation for that next party, I’m making better burgers, jucier strip steaks, and more tender ribs.

For myself, I’m cooking anything that tastes good.

Krista’s Barbeque Sauce

I got this recipe from my good friend Krista, who showed me how to make this on my birthday. Krista and I grew up together, and I seem to remember her being the pickiest eater I’d ever met. After trying this sauce, I decided that maybe a picky eater is a good indicator of deliciousness. Because I’m never buying barbeque sauce again.

1 cup ketchup
¼ cup yellow mustard
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon Ancho chili powder
½ tablespoon salt

Blend all ingredients together, then adjust amounts accordingly. Krista likes her sauce with a lot of mustard, I prefer a sweeter version and add more brown sugar. When I called her to make sure I had the proportions right, she said, “I go by squirts. So, like, four lines of mustard is probably what I’d start with.” Judging by this comment and also my last experience doing this, you could probably make the sauce totally to taste. This recipe is also a great base for other ingredients, including, but not limited to, Berebere spice, Worcestershire sauce, bourbon, Dijon mustard, and hot sauce.

Feeding Kittens (a post by Lyz)

by lyzpfister

This might seem off-topic, but the most cooking I’ve been doing recently is reconstituting tablespoon after tablespoon of KMR for two five week old kittens that I rescued from Tybee Island off the Georgia coast. Cooking for kittens is nothing glamorous. I’ve gotten good with a whisk and my mental math is certainly improving (if one cat weighs one pound and one cat weighs one pound two ounces and each cat gets four teaspoons per pound and four teaspoons equals one tablespoon and one teaspoon of powder – ). My hands smell faintly of babies and milk.

The first time I met the kittens, I was sitting in front of the TV, mesmerized by the slab of mayonnaise Paula Deen was putting into potato salad, when a wet, orange ball of cat, looking miserable, was plopped down on the couch next to me.  Who wouldn’t have picked the whole thing up in one hand and pressed it to her chest?

A neighbor had found the litter huddled under a wall. One kitten was dead, another missing and presumed dead, the mother totally uninterested. Only two kittens, the orange one and a white one, survived. We kept them in the closed-in porch and fed them cat’s milk, which turned out to be a bad idea, since kittens can digest nothing but their mother’s milk – or a formula replacement – during their first six weeks of life. I found that out after a few days of cat’s milk, as I’d become worried about their excessive and runny stool production. (That’s a nice way of saying shit was everywhere.)

I’ve come to enjoy watching the kittens eat. About half an hour before a meal, Celine and Ja’mie (don’t ask about their names, it’s a long story) begin to synchronize mew. Like the smallest bells in a handbell choir, they ping in alternating bursts until finally, they reach a simultaneous mew and having heard how loud they are together, mew as a unit until I give in to the pitiful sound. When they first started eating the Kitten Milk Replacer (KMR), I fed them in a saucer, and they’d fling their whole bodies into the dish. Their faces, chins, and paws would be covered with milk and they’d leave crusty milk paw prints across the bathroom floor.

These days, they control themselves a little more, hopefully because their bodies no longer tell them to frantically eat as much as they can in case the next meal doesn’t come. I also feed them out of small sushi dishes now, which limits how much of their body they can throw into their food. Still, with their first bite, they stick their entire face into the dish and surface for air with milk beards dangling from their chins.

I rescued the kittens when they were three weeks old, wobbly on their feet, eyes still bewildered and blue. Soon after I said I’d take them, they drove with me from Savannah to Davidson, Davidson to DC, and DC to Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Ja’mie wouldn’t drink out of a dish, so I sat at every fifth Cracker Barrel on the highway, trying to get her to unclench her teeth long enough to slip the rubber nipple of a bottle into her mouth. Ja’mie was already much smaller than her sister; I could have crushed her with one hand.

Watching the kittens eat and grow, I’m understanding the combination of necessity and pleasure that influences what we eat. When the kittens were hungry, they ate everything ravenously, whether it was the cat’s milk which led to severe indigestion or kitten’s milk eaten so quickly the gas would have to be rubbed out of their bellies. Necessity.

As they begin to trust that they’ll be fed regularly, they take more time eating, even preferring a bowl of more thickly mixed formula to a milkier one.  They eat half a portion, clean their paws, and leisurely finish the second half between bouts of play.  Pleasure.

Living a life with few financial responsibilities, I eat mainly for pleasure, but I’m entering a world where first I pay my rent and my utilities. And then I eat. I’ve learned from the kittens that being truly hungry is not something I want to be, so if nothing else, they’ve inspired me to look harder for a better job.

I’ve also learned not to take eating for pleasure for granted. While necessity is the driving force behind staying alive, pleasure is what makes staying alive worthwhile.

***

As a post script, I’m writing this at the Tea Lounge in Brooklyn, and eating the most delicious tomato and basil quiche. Quiches are often too eggy, but this one has plenty of smoothly blended cream and Gruyere to offset any harsh egg flavor. A flaky crust and the hint of basil and tomato curb the richness of cream and cheese. I was hungry, and this is delicious. Necessity and pleasure.

Here’s to You, Ms. Sallie Ann Robinson (a post by Josh)

by lyzpfister

By no means am I trying to beat a dead horse, but Savannah is a beautiful city that needs just a little more attention. So don’t stop if you’ve heard this before, its worth a second telling. I know I’ve spoken about how Savannah is my second home before, but this time around, I was able to appreciate Savannah in a whole new light. I think it was the fact that by the end of my week there, I could get around town without directions, go to a coffee shop that I grew attached to, or just mellow out in a square downtown.

But I was also doing research; let’s not forget that part of the summer deal. Lyz described some of the meals, talking about the flakey biscuits and the crunchy fried chicken, Sallie Ann Robinson’s food and life advice, and homemade breakfasts at a slower pace. I also took off some days, separate from the group, to check out some amazing places around Savannah.

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