Thanksgiving 2016-We Are All In Need of Comfort

diversity

 

This is a Thanksgiving unlike any other I have known. I am still reeling from the results of the election, as I think many of you are. I was going to share some recipes, and some tips, but that feels trivial to me right now. It’s going to be challenging to be thankful with everything that is happening.

But we have to rise above. That is not to say we normalize the situation, ignore it or take no action.  I believe that now more than ever, we must stand up for kindness and empathy.

So here is my take on getting through this Thanksgiving.

We need to celebrate our differences.  We need to celebrate our heritage and our cultures. We need to share our stories, and we need to hear the stories from others.  Our diversity is what makes us strong.  So we cannot give in to those who say otherwise. Ever.

I see many people who are struggling and are afraid. This is not who we are as a nation. We don’t incite fear, we work to take it away.  Always.

So how to get through this holiday when the whole premise is to be thankful? Not easy.

First, I think we all need to give ourselves a break. Not to forget, but just to let ourselves find a spot that is less painful. We need to put our outrage and our anger on hold for one day.  And we need to surround ourselves with our family and friends that we love. Use this Thanksgiving meal as your safe place. Enjoy the community of your own traditions. Find comfort in your meal and in your loved ones.

You can also give back. Go to a church or homeless shelter and serve dinner to those in need. They need to know that they have not been forgotten.  You can also donate to causes to help feed the hungry.  One is feedingamerica.org, but there are many national and local organizations that could use your support. Or invite a person or people that you don’t know very well to your dinner. In the Jewish faith, at Passover, it is customary to have one stranger at the meal. Find someone who you would like to get to know, and invite them. Expand your community to beyond your familiar gathering of folks. Be open. Be welcoming.

Celebrate diversity at your meal. While it is comforting to always have the same  menu for the holiday, try adding a dish from another culture. I found this New York Times article called “The American Thanksgiving” which is about all of the different menus from families of all different cultures.  It is what this nation is all about. So try something new. Add some diversity to your menu.  You can find the link to the article here.  It is inspiring.

Be thankful for what you have. This feels like a tall order right now and I struggle with this concept myself. But in spite of all that is going on in this country, we are fortunate. And we do have the ability to make change. I see it happening in the people who are rallying to run for office in their town or county. I plan to attend the Million Women March in Washington DC on January 21. I see it with people wearing safety pins and offering safe haven to those who are afraid.

Be thankful for those that you love and who love you. My 94-year-old mother, Betty passed away on November 1. So I am going through that list of “firsts”. First Thanksgiving without her, next will be Christmas. Both my father and my only sister passed away over 10 years ago. With the passing of my Mom, I am now parent-less. It’s a weird feeling. But I have a loving family, and I am so thankful for all of them. I wrote a blog post about my Mom and her banana cake recipe.  You can read it here. She would like that.

And after this holiday is over, take your strength and your fortitude to do what is right. Get involved. Run for the school board, your town council or get involved with a cause that you are passionate about.

What we cannot do is nothing. What we cannot do is normalize this. It took Hitler over ten years to bring about the persecution of the Jews, Catholics, People of Color, LGBT, those with mental or physical disabilities, Freemasons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the list goes on.

History cannot repeat itself. And it will take all of us to protect the freedoms that are the core of this country. I am counting on all of you.

Let’s get to work.

Remember

Joy Harjo, 1951

Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people
are you.
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.
Remember.

 

 

Autumn is Apple Time-Easy Recipes

grnny-smith-apple

 

It’s autumn and that means all thing apple.  I was just at a pumpkin carving party and brought an apple crisp for dessert.  It was a huge hit, so I thought you all should have the recipe as well.  I got the recipe when I bought a piece of stoneware from the Pampered Chef, so credits to them. It is super easy and always a crowd pleaser.

I am not a fan of the one-use kitchen gadget, but I do make an exception for the apple peeler/corer/slicer.  It take no time at all to get your apples ready, and that is the hardest part of this recipe. So go ahead and invest in one.

apple-peeler
Use the curly peels as a garnish for Apple-tinis.

 

 

Quick Apple Crisp-courtesy of The Pampered Chef

  • 5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, sliced
  • 9 ounces of yellow cake mix , approx. half a box
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon good quality cinnamon
  • 1/4 of butter, melted
  • 1/4 chopped nuts are optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut the peeled and cored apple slices in half and place in a 9″x 9″ baking dish.
  3. Combine all of the remaining ingredients and mix until crumbly. Sprinkle the mixture over the apples.
  4. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until apples are tender. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Yield-10 servings.  This recipe also doubles easily, just use a 9″ x 13″ baking dish.

 

 

apple-cider-mimosa-2

I found this recipe in Country Living magazine and it is my go-to cocktail at any autumn party. Last Thanksgiving I made these as the welcome cocktail, serving it to my guests as they arrived.  Again, super easy and just delicious.

Apple Cider Mimosas

  • Prosecco or other bubbly of your choice
  • Fresh apple cider
  • good quality cinnamon
  • sugar
  • Champagne flutes
  1. Mix equal parts sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Wet the rim of the Champagne flute and rim the glass with the sugar and cinnamon mixture.
  2. Fill the glass with half Prosecco and half fresh cider.
  3. Garnish with an apple slice.
  4. Toast your friends and family!

 

If you have any recipes that you would like to share,  let me know.

Happy Autumn, all.

 

 

 

I am NOT eating that! My Halloween Tribute.

Since we are getting close to Halloween, I thought I would share my scary food stories. I am pretty adventurous in what I will try, and I am not a picky eater, far from it. But even I have my limits.

1. Liver

dutchcalfsliver2
No. Not Ever.

Nope. No way. And here is why. When I was about ten or eleven, my Mom took me to the Gladstone Market, which was  small town grocery and butcher shop. Mr. Cooper was the owner of the store and the butcher.  It was a great old store, with big wide wooden floor boards, and bins of local product.  Back then local was normal… He had  big wooden butcher block in the meat department.  It was worn and uneven from years and years of use.  My Mom ordered liver for dinner that night. It was one of my Dad’s favorite meals. Mr. Cooper went into the back to the meat locker and returned with the ENTIRE CALF’S LIVER. He laid it on the butcher block, and it took up the entire surface. It was BIG.Way bigger than I expected it to be. And to a ten-year old, rather gross. Gelatinous, shiny, kind of alien-looking. What it did not look like was something that was edible. I remember standing there wide-eyed while he cut off pieces for my Mom.  He wrapped it in paper, and my Mom brought it home and made my Dad liver and onions.  I could not get that image out of my mind, and to this day, whenever I see liver on a menu, that is the memory that comes back. And I am not eating something that its sole purpose is to filter out the junk in a body.

Trauma by liver….

 

2. Lima Beans

baby-fordhook-lima-bean
Wrinkly, ugly, and shaped like liver…

My husband loves lima beans. Me, not so much. Now I love black beans, red beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans. But no lima beans. For me, it is a texture issue.  They are wrinkly and mushy, with no real flavor. Come to think of it, they are kind of shaped like a liver…. hmmm. I can handle them in soup, and MAYBE in a mixed vegetable side dish, but not on their own. Again, I think this is a childhood  issue, as my Mom cooked vegetables to death. No steaming, just boiled them into oblivion. No amount of butter on them can make them palatable to me.

 

3. Pickled Beets and Pickled Eggs in Beet Juice

pickeld-beets
Looks like something from the movie “Alien”.

I used to never eat beets. But my husband roasted some, and now I love them, so they are  on my list of good eats.  Especially with some goat cheese. But no pickled beets. It is a combination of the pickling and again, a texture issue that makes them not appealing to me.  The same goes for those pickled eggs that you would see in a giant jar sitting on the bar at an old tavern.   And how long have they been sitting there?

No. Just no.

 

4. German Potato Salad

german-potato-salad
Sorry, I have too much baggage with you, German Potato Salad.

Regular potato salad, red skinned potato salad, potato and egg salad, yes. Love them. German potato salad, no.  I don’t care for the vinegar-y taste of German potato salad. To me, it tastes sour.  And I do love pickles and  foods with an acid base, but not this. Another reason why I don’t like it doesn’t have anything to do with German potato salad per se. A person was trying to get me to taste it. I said no, that I didn’t care for it. He kept insisting, that I try it.  No, thank you. When he put a spoon of it up to my face, that was it. He ended up wearing it…. So I think German potato salad in some  weird way became a symbol of me  asserting my preferences and not accepting being told what to like or try. No means no, whether it is potato salad or anything else.

 

5. Anything with Jell-O

beet-mold
Run! Run for your lives!

Every kid ate some sort of Jell-O as a dessert.And it was okay, not my favorite.  But we were subjected to that fabulous fifties food-the Jell-O Mold. My Mom had  the copper molds in rings, one that looked like a fish, and others. She would create those God-Awful molds as a side dish.  There was Tomato Aspic-plain gelatin made with V-8 juice and celery and onions. Served of course, on Iceberg lettuce. Bleagh!  Rings made with orange Jell-O and fruit salad. Not as bad, but no, not great.

But the worst was her Pickled Beet Gelatin Mold. (Note the tie-in to #3 on the list). She used a mold that looked like a cone. It was clear gelatin with chopped pickled beets. I was in Jell-O hell. I remember one time she made it, and it hadn’t set completely. When she turned it over onto the plate of Iceberg lettuce, it ever so slowly began to spread out.  Did you ever see the movie “The Blob”?  We had our own version of The Blob, right there in the kitchen.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. It was alive, ALIVE!!!! It was a purple, icky slimy mass that was going to kill me in my sleep. So, no Jell-O for me.  Too scary.

There are a few other  less than delectable items on the list:

Insects-I have seen Andrew Zimmern of the TV show “Bizarre Foods” eat many a bug. Nope. No. I don’t care how protein rich they are, until there is an apocalypse, I am not consuming insects.

Miracle Whip- I am a Hellman’s woman. Period. Miracle Whip is too sweet for me.

Tuna Noodle Casserole- canned tuna heated up is gross. Just sayin’.

Tuna Salad with Sweet Pickles–eewww.

So, what is on your list of non negotiable foods? And what is the story behind it?  Share your tales of fear and horror!

Happy Halloween!

 

This post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. This month is hosted by Annika at We Must Be Dreamers

our-growing-edge-badge

 

Jeannette vs Oxford Bryn Mawr

china

It is getting to be that time of year when  we all start thinking about getting together for the holidays.  Though still a ways off, the discussions of who is going to whose house are starting to occur. And this always brings me back to the holiday meals as a child.

It’s not pretty.

My mother, who I have written about before, was a child of the Great Depression.  Part of living in that time  made her value possessions to the extreme.  What she owned defined her worth, not who she was. Enter my nemesis, the GOOD CHINA.

Oxford Bryn Mawr, ten place settings. Dinner plate, salad plate, soup bowl, butter plate, cup and saucer. Plus various bowls and platters.  She loved it. She idolized it. It had its own china cupboard in the dining room. You couldn’t wash it in the dishwasher because of the silver banding on the edge. So precious, so special.

I hated it. Hard to believe that I had sibling rivalry with a set of china, but I did. Yup, I was jealous of an inanimate object. I actually fantasized about throwing each piece down the basement stairs and watching it shatter, all the while laughing a maniacal laugh. I even did a stand up comedy bit about my rivalry with the good china.

And the worst part of it was, she hardly ever used it. There  it was, all comfy and on display in the china cupboard in the dining room, which we never used either. My mother had the formal dining room and the formal living room, and both rooms NEVER got used. It was like living in a museum. All we needed were the brass poles and velvet ropes to block it off. We would cram ourselves into the kitchen on a small table for all of our meals instead of using the damned dining room.

Except at the holidays. Then, all of a sudden, we were supposed to be that Norman Rockwell family. Four times a year, we were the perfect family eating the perfect meal.

The stress was enormous. My mother would become obsessive about the family being together for the holidays. She would start two months ahead, badgering my sister and me as to when we would be there, what we had to make, etc. And no guests. We were not allowed to bring a friend or a date because “they weren’t family”.  I remember a time when my sister wanted to bring her friend Buddy to Christmas dinner.  Buddy was hilariously funny, and would have been a break from the usual tension that surrounded these meals. He was Jewish. My Mom responded with “no, it’s not his holiday”.  Yikes. (Turns out, I did my Ancestry DNA test, and I am 26% Eastern European Jewish on my Dad’s side. Had I known , I could have gotten out of that meal…)

The actual meal was full of  tension as we all tried to fulfill my Mom’s wish for the ideal holiday family.  We would all smile and nod, while secretly wishing for it to just be over. And its not like we weren’t an ideal family during the rest of the year. But at the holidays, the bar was set really, really high.

So the china became the symbol to me of what a family meal shouldn’t be. It held a place of honor all year, to be paraded out on those occasions that she deemed worthy. I vowed that in my own home, I would never have rooms that I wouldn’t use, or dishes that only come out for the pomp and circumstance. And I have held to that with my own family.

Over time, both my father and my sister passed away. I relocated my mother to be closer to me. And of course, we moved the china. Where it took up all kinds of space in her tiny kitchen. And she continued not to use it.

I asked her one time about why she didn’t use it, just to enjoy it. Here it was, taking up all of this space, and she never would take it out and have a meal on it.  She thought about it, and then said she was going to use it. Just her, even if it was a grilled cheese sandwich.  I was thrilled! Finally!

But she never did. There it sat. When it came time that she could no longer live on her own, we had to move her again. So I boxed up the china, and packed it into my garage. I labeled the boxes and stored it for her.  And my intention was to sell it.

But I couldn’t. Somehow, even though the china represented everything that I hated about a family meal, I couldn’t bring myself to sell it. It meant so much to her, whatever her reason, that I just could not  sell it. I refused to use it for my own family, that was too much for me. So it languished in boxes.

When we moved my mother into a nursing home, I decided it was time to sell the china. I tried selling it online, but no one wants dishware like that anymore. The tradition of the china, silver and crystal pattern being part of the marriage ritual is really just about gone. So, no buyers. I decided to take it to a local auction house. And it sold….for ten bucks. Wow. All of that importance over the years, and someone bought all ten place settings plus serving pieces for ten bucks.

So here is my takeaway from all of this. Whatever her reasons, this was important to my Mom. And although I didn’t understand it, I learned to respect it. She made it hard on us, and I still get anxious around the holidays. But at some point, you have to stop looking at your parents as only your parents. They are people, with their own history and baggage. They have their flaws and their challenges. And she did try her best, with what she had to work with, to be a good parent. Maybe her best wasn’t ideal, but it was her best.

So along with letting go of the china, I let go of my hatred for it.

And I am looking forward to the holiday meals, however they turn out. And all are welcome.

 

We’ve Lost Our Way

burger maze
Burger Maze-Andrew Bernhardt

I started out to write a post about today’s myths around food and eating. Food has been symbolic in a very powerful way from the time that meals were shared, and I wanted to explore this in terms of the modern time. So I contacted my friend Leigh Melander, who has her PhD in Mythological Studies and Depth Psychology. I wanted her take on  what the modern day food mythology was.

I figured that we would talk about how the food myths had changed over time, and touch on food as a symbol for fertility, prosperity and longevity. But the discussion took a more pertinent and relevant turn.

First, lets review the history of our shared experiences around food.  Societies were tribal, and based in either agrarian or hunter/gatherer societies.  The consuming of food was tied directly to the cycles of the natural world. Food and water were essential to survival, and the act of consuming became a sacred experience. When you consume a plant or an animal, you are consuming energy. The process is transformative, as energy goes from the plant or animal to the human body. Ancient communities recognized and held sacred this act of consuming and “communion”. There was a focus on shared resources  as a means of survival, and this helped develop the society within a tribe.  If the tribe was well fed and healthy, the population grew, and the strength of the community expanded. Civilizations were able to prosper and grow in size and in power.

Meals continued to be a vital part of society. People would stop their work  and take time to eat together. Whether it was a meal shared in a field of farm laborers, or on a boat, or at home, people held the meal time as sacred. Communities still gathered to “break bread” and the shared experience of a community meal was still valued. It brought people together, and created a bond in the community. This reinforced the strength of the community as a whole. You can see this tradition continue today in the form of a fund-raising pancake breakfast for the local fire department, the church potluck supper, or the farm-to-table fundraiser for the local food cooperative. Eating together brings people together. It is the great equalizer.

So what happened? According to Michael Pollan, people are  watching more television shows about food, but cooking less than ever. Companies like Blue Apron are selling  meal kits delivered to your door (at a ridiculous price I might add) to capitalize  on this trend. While there is an interest in food,  the shared experience happens all too infrequently.

Here is where the discussion that Leigh and I were having got really interesting.

Basically, today’s society has lost the narrative of food and the meal as a sacred ritual.

Think about it. Parents are running their children from pillar to post, from soccer to music lessons. We work more that ever during the week. We have become a society that eats Cheetos in the car. We don’t eat together. We don’t prepare a meal together. We don’t stop.

We have become completely disconnected from the sacred experience.

Ok, so what’s the big deal? We are busy, we want our kids to go to Yale, blah blah blah.

Here is the problem. We now have a generation of young people who do not know how  vital it is to have  a shared meal experience.  If you need an example of this, take a look at the current wedding reception. Many receptions, instead of becoming a major part of the shared celebration, have taken on the look of a frat party.  There is very little recognition of the guests who attended, but there is always a photo booth. I personally saw a maid of honor who was too drunk to give the toast to the bride and groom.

There is a primal need for the narrative around community and food. I belive it is in our collective psyche and in our DNA. And this drive  is in all of us. The community meal narrative has been lost, but the desire and need for it hasn’t.  So what has it been replaced with?

Negative food rituals. Take a look at the diet industry.  Pills, programs, pre-made meals, none of which work in the long term. Obsessions with ingredients. There has been recent research that gluten intolerance is not as widespread as people think. It is been noted that these people may be suffering more from a vitamin deficiency rather than a reaction to gluten.  I am not discounting those with true celiac disease, but there has been no real concrete evidence to support the gluten-free issue.

The communities around food are now being built on a negative connotation. The shared experience is one of calorie counting, carbohydrate consumption, plant based, meat based,  free range,you name it.

And all of these trends have a negative connotation. It’s all about what you CANNOT eat, should not eat.

And this trend is riddled with guilt. How many times have you said to yourself, while enjoying an ice cream cone “I shouldn’t be eating this. I’m being bad”.  We have gone from a society that used to savor and celebrate meals to one  of punishment and guilt.

This is our shared experience today. And it’s not good. And we wonder why there is a problem with eating disorders and obesity.

So, how to fix it?

Easy. Start making meals together. Now.  No excuses.

“I don’t have time”.–Yes you do.   You do if you choose to make it a priority. Create a new habit of eating with your family or friends. Our family always had dinner together. Our one son made dinner a priority with his roommates at college. All six of them ate together one night a week, no exceptions. They created community around their meal. If busy college kids can make it a priority, then so can you.

” I don’t know how to cook”.–Nonsense. If you can read, you can cook. Just get going. Get “The Joy of Cooking” or any cookbook. It doesn’t have to be Duck a la Orange, just learn to make a meatloaf.

“I’m trying to lose weight”– yeah, well join the club.  It’s simple. If you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. A calorie is a calorie is a calorie. And don’t beat yourself up because you had a piece of pie over the weekend.  Obsessing increases cortisol, which WILL impede your weight loss. Lighten up your attitude towards food and you will literally  get lighter.

 

I hope that those who read this will go out there and make positive changes. We need our narrative back. And in these crazy, turbulent times, we need the strength of community, now more than ever.

“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

-Michael Pollan

Leighsmilespilliancrop1 (1)

Special thanks to Leigh Melander for the amazing insights she brought to our conversation.You can find more about Leigh at  her website and on Facebook .

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Picnic-A Brief History & Musings

Tissot-The-Picnic
The Picnic-James Tissot

It is hot as blazes right now here in Pennsylvania, and we are spending most of our time in the air conditioning. I am not a fan of AC, but right now, it’s not an option. So, since  I am stuck inside for now, I got curious about the history of the picnic.

The origin of the word “picnic”according to Wikipedia is from the French “pique-nique” defined in 1692 as  bringing one’s own wine to a meal at a restaurant.  The first BYOB. It was also used to describe a meal where everyone brought a dish, now called the “potluck”. The verb “piquer” meaning to”to pick or peck”  and “nique” meaning “something of little importance”may be the origin for the word.

The picnic may also have had its roots in the meal served after hunting.  This was common in the Middle Ages, with some of the game being prepared as a feast after the hunt.  In fox hunting, the tradition of the hunt breakfast possibly has its roots in the Middle Ages after the hunt feast. This tradition continues, either as a potluck after the ride is done, or given at a hunt member’s home after the hunt.

François_lemoyne_-hunt breakfast
Hunt Breakfast-Francois Lemoyne

It wasn’t until the after French Revolution, when the royal parks became public parks, that the picnic as we know it came into being.  These open areas were now open to  everyone, and people began to pack meals and enjoy them in the outdoors. During the Victorian period, it was fashionable to have elaborate picnics served outside. This continued into the Edwardian era, as shown in several episodes of “Downton Abbey”.

In the USA, once the car became the primary source for transportation, many highways would have “picnic groves”. I still remember  going on car trips with my parents, and we would stop along the highway, pull the basket out of the car and find a table. These were usually in shady areas, sometime with a play ground for the kids to run themselves ragged until they had to get back into the car.

couples-picnic-50's

I have a two favorite memories of picnicking.

The first is going to concerts at the Garden State Arts Center (now the PNC Bank Arts Center) and we always bought lawn seats, aka the “cheap seats”. My friends and I would stop and get a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, with all of the fixings.  We would go early, get a good spot, and spread our blanket, ready to dive into our fast-food feast.

And it would start raining.  Pouring.  I swear, every time I bought lawn seats, I would get rained on. The chicken would always get wet. This happened so often, that I started referring to KFC as “sog fry”.  To this day, I will no longer buy lawn seats, because I KNOW I will get rained on. (Case in point, the last outdoor concert I was at, where I purchased tickets under the pavilion, it absolutely poured buckets. And I was NOT wet. Finally.)

My second memory is a treasured one. Where I grew up in New Jersey, the big event of the autumn season was the Far Hills Race Meeting. This was a day of steeplechase horse racing, and everyone that was anyone attended. My friends always came home from college that weekend to attend. My family had a parking space right at the finish line, and we always had a superb tailgate picnic.  Now when I say tailgate, I don’t mean your basic football tailgate. We are talking candelabra and centerpieces.Everyone wore something tweedy; the fashion was as important as the food. My Mom would spend several days preparing  different finger foods, plus invited guests to our space would also bring a dish. My Dad had a well stocked bar in the trunk of the car. It was one of my favorite days, filled with horses, friends and great food. I remember one time a woman who none of us knew walked up to our food table and just helped herself.  No one got upset, we just thought it was hilarious. Maybe she thought the food was part of the gate fee! There was always a friendly betting pool at each space, with most people picking their horse by the color of the jockey’s silks or by the horse’s name.

The photos above are taken in the mid 70’s. Check out those natty plaid jackets and pants! My parents, Bill and Betty are the couple on the right in the bottom right photo. My Dad especially loved this day.  Alas, we no longer have the space, and unfortunately, this event has become more of a college drunk fest than the classic event it used to be…

The picnic can be as simple as a  take-out meal with friends at a park to an elaborate catered affair. Many wedding receptions are now  rustic country-styled events with mason jar glasses and  picnic tables at a beautiful restored barn. Tailgate can be burgers and dogs at the parking lot of a football stadium or caviar and champagne at the classic car show.  It can be  a spontaneous lunch with co-workers or a gathering of church  or club members.

The one thing that any type of picnic shares is a meal with friends and family. It is a ritual that always brings people together.  A picnic is about food, sure, but it is really about people.  You can’t have a picnic without people.

So, get out that picnic basket, call your friends and family and go find a beautiful spot in nature. Enjoy good food and great company. Celebrate open spaces, feel the breeze from the sea, or listen to the birds providing the background music. Remember what grass feel like on bare feet. Get out the croquet set from the basement and have a tournament. Savor the smell of lighter fluid on charcoal. Toast those marshmallows until they are slightly burnt. Look for shapes in the clouds with your kids. Take some time to smell, hear, taste, see and feel everything around you. This is the true essence of the picnic.

Go and enjoy!

yogi bear
photo courtesy of Hanna Barbera & Warner Bros. Entertainment

 

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

I was having kind of a rough day yesterday. Let’s just say it was a day of roadblocks, contrary people and general frustration. My husband knew I was having a tough go, so he wanted to make me something special for dinner and asked me what would I enjoy.

And I couldn’t think of anything. Me. The writer of this blog, couldn’t come up with something I would like to eat.  I was really in a funk for that to happen.

So, my husband came up with a solution himself.  We had been watching a food travel show and it featured Charleston, South Carolina.  I have only been there one time, but I love the city. Culture, history, and great local cuisine.

One of the featured restaurants was Bowen’s Island Restaurant, on Bowen’s Island, just a short drive from Charleston.The place looks great, kind of the run down shack look that you know has really good eats.

As the show progressed, they featured a traditional Lowcountry dish called Frogmore Stew.

Well, my husband decided that this was what he was going to make for my” get of of the funk” meal.

So here is the low down on Frogmore Stew.  One-no frogs in it. Two-not really a stew.

Frogmore Stew is also known as Lowcountry boil or Beaufort Stew. Historians claim that it was invented by shrimpers who threw whatever they had together to make a meal.  It consists of freshly shucked corn, fresh shrimp, small red potatoes, sliced onions and beef sausage or kielbasa.  This is all simmered together in a crab boil mixture.

The results? Delicious! The seasonings from the crab boil plus the sausage all blend together in a spicy but not hot blend of flavors.  The potatoes become soft and creamy, and the skin of the potatoes absorb the boil and have a salty, pungent flavor.  The corn and the shrimp were tender and delightful. Pair this with a cold beer, and all your troubles will fade away.

I love a simple dish that was born of necessity. The shrimpers cooked with what they had on hand, and probably boiled it up right on the boat.  Shepherd’s Pie came about by the shepherds in Britain having to stay with the flocks to protect them,  and also created haggis, which is a mish mash of ground up organ meat,  and mixed with barley or oatmeal, and sewn into a sheep’s stomach and boiled. (Don’t turn your nose up, haggis is quite good.) The Syracuse NY area is famous for salt potatoes, which are small white potatoes boiled in a salt brine. The salt brine makes the skins  slightly dry and crunchy, while the inside of the potatoes is creamy and smooth.The workers on the salt flats in Syracuse would make salt potatoes for their mid day meal.  All simple fare, using what was on hand and not wasting anything.

Many recipes that are traditional to an area came from a group of hard working people  coming up with a meal to get through their day.   Local foods are the legacy of history, culture and community.  Enjoy in local cuisines, and while you are at it, find out the stories behind the food.

And be sure to tell the stories to others.

Special thanks to my husband, who took the time and care to make me a wonderful meal.  What a great guy. Love you!

frogmore stew

South Carolina Frogmore Stew-RR Adams

  • 3 quarts of water
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 1 medium onion, halved
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 pinch of kosher salt
  • 3 ounces of dry crab boil or Old Bay seasoning
  • 1- 1/2 lbs small red potatoes
  • 4 ears corn, husked and cleaned
  • 1 -1/2 lbs fresh large shrimp, unpeeled
  • 1 lb smoked beef sausage or kielbasa, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 dash of Tabasco sauce or to taste
  1. Bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Squeeze the juice from the lemon into the water and throw in the halves. Add the onion, garlic, salt and crab boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. Add the potatoes and sausage, and return to a boil. Simmer covered for 20 minutes. Break the ears of corn in half and add to the pot. Cover and cook for 10 more minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the shrimp and cover for 5 minutes-no longer! or your shrimp will be rubbery.
  3. Drain off the liquid and reserve.  You can use it for stock or marinade.
  4. Stir the melted butter and hot sauce together. Serve the butter with the plated stew for dipping or drizzling.

You can also add scallops and craw-fish to the mix.

Serve in bowls with a nice cold  crisp beer.

Enjoy!