Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Stock-Market-Crash Comfort

The easiest way for me to say this: we're in trouble. After Congress, led by the House Republicans, voted down the $700B bailout proposal, the stock market plummeted yesterday, losing more points in one day than ever in history - almost 10%. Granted, the stock market isn’t the economy, but it sure as hell isn’t completely disconnected to it.

I left work yesterday channeling Wall Street – in a slump. I’ve been a bit bored lately, coupled with my father’s health problems, and my complete lack of inspiration for writing my thesis, I felt like the only thing that would cheer me up in the least (outside of a surprise visit from my boyfriend, Cliff, a.k.a. the man who makes my world go ‘round), was some serious comfort food.

I forced myself into the car after I got home and fed the cats, feeling the drain of getting an hour and a half of sleep before and 8-hour workday after an 8-hour drive and looking forward to a 12-hour sleep to come. After cruising through the aisles at Publix (yay Publix!) in a half-asleep daze, I ended up with a carton of organic milk, some (full-fat) Colby Jack cheese, a couple of cans of Ro-Tel (more about this later), and a rotisserie chicken.

A note about the chicken: It was the last one under the heat lamps and about five other people were on their way to snatch it.

I won.

I was not about to wait another ten minutes for more chickens to come out of the rotisserie. That’s ten minutes I could have been asleep.

Upon arriving at home, I put some water on the stove an boiled some whole-wheat rotini pasta and started scalding some milk…

A half hour later, I sat in front of half of my lemon-pepper chicken and a mound of steaming, creamy macaroni and cheese. Comfort food is white. That’s just the way it is. I felt bad that I hadn’t steamed some green beans or made a salad, but after listening to Marketplace and the exceedingly dismal economic conditions and projections, I got over it.

Macaroni and cheese from scratch is probably the only thing I’ll actually take 30 minutes to make after getting an hour and a half of sleep the night before. Just letting you know.

Stock-Market Slump Mac and Cheese

8 oz pasta of your choice
2 T unsalted butter
2 T all-purpose flour
1 ½ c milk (fat content of your choice)
8 oz shredded Colby-Jack cheese/Sharp Cheddar
½ t salt
½ t white pepper
Dash Tabasco

1. Boil pasta until al dente, drain, keep warm in a pot.
2. Melt butter in a small pan.
3. When melted whisk in flour and cook 1 minute to a paste. Remove from heat.
4. When milk comes to a boil, add flour/butter roux and bring back to a boil.
5. Cook milk until thick, stirring constantly with wooden spoon or whisk.
6. Add cheese and stir until completely melted.
7. Add salt, pepper, and Tabasco.
8. Pour cheese sauce over drained pasta and stir to coat completely.

Enjoy with other white foods: chicken, mashed potatoes, etc, and large glass of Cabernet Sauvignon or (for extra comfort) extra-light, extra-sweet coffee. Be comforted.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Blast from the Past

I can't help it. I love blogging, and I can't stay away from it.

I recently (5 seconds ago) found this deep, deep in my My Documents folder, tucked away where no one would find it for years. 7 years, to be exact. It's an assignment from my Humanities class in high school (Go Wildcats!) that my friend Jennifer and I wrote to show the world how funny and smartassy we were when we were 17. I thought you might enjoy it. I love the last sentence. And for those of you who didn't know Jenn or I when we were 17, that's a picture of us from our Senior Prom. We had matching bangs. I love that girl.

Holly K.
Jennifer B.
Humanities 1
September 8, 2001

How to Really Cook Greek Like a Pro….Wrestler

Rice Pilaf with Mushrooms (Pilafi me Manitaria)
Makes 6 servings

1 medium sized onion, large enough to make a grown man cry
¼ cup butter
2 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons chopped bad-smelling Italian-style flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, or if you’re ghetto, dried thyme.
1 cup long grain white rice that doesn’t get soft, no matter how much water you put in it
1 ½ cups of chicken broth with the gross fat floating at the top
½ cup (or as much as you feel is necessary) dry white wine, or cooking sherry
1 pound mushrooms
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Using a heavy metal saucepan, sauté the onion in two tablespoons of the butter. If this doesn’t make you cry, you are a heartless bitch. Add the garlic, parsley, thyme, rice and mushrooms and sauté 1 minute. After you do this, realize that you were not supposed to put in the mushrooms, and cry some more. Add the water and sherry/wine, until someone cries out in despair “HOW MUCH ARE YOU PUTTING IN THERE, HOLLY!?” Then, laugh, and add more rice. Meanwhile, wash and stem some more mushrooms. Melt the butter and add the lemon juice and mushrooms. Sauté quickly, 2-3 minutes, just until hot. Add to the cooked (but still crunchy) rice, and fluff like a cloud, and sprinkle with cheese. Then act surprised when it tastes good, and swear on the fact that it does because of how much alcohol is in it.

Greek Cheese Pie (which is actually just a quiche…)

The Dough
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons oil
½ spoon oregano
“dash” of salt

Mix ingredients, which look like they’ll never come together, but finally do, and knead for about 2-3 minutes, adding flour to it until it doesn’t stick to the hands. Complain continually, until this step is complete, and then separate unto 3 equal parts.
The filling:
A couple of chopped green shallots, or if you feel it is appropriate, you may use green onions.
1/3 cup of finely chopped parsley
2 cups wonderfully salty feta cheese, crumbled
½ cup freshly grated Romano cheese
½ cup whole milk, or, better still, half and half. If you don’t know how many pints are in a cup, get the big one.
3 eggs
salt, pepper, thyme

Beat the eggs senseless. Place them aside, and chop and mix all other ingredients, running around like crazy because everything is happening too quickly and you didn’t chop everything BEFORE you put it in the pan. Heat until the cheese begins to melt. Add salt and too much pepper, balancing it by adding too much thyme and yelling “BAM!” at the top of your voice. Allow to cool at room temperature; then mix in the eggs.

Some assembly required:

Look for a rolling pin, and settle for a glass, out of frustration, when you can’t find one. Roll out the 3 dough balls, complaining routinely about how much time it takes. Make each on a bit bigger than your baking pan(s). The amount of dough will give you the right thickness…so we hope.

Place the first layer on the greased pan, with ends hanging over the pan rim – add the first layer of the filling. Follow on with the second dough layer, add the rest of the filling, okay? Finish off with the last dough layer; fold the dough layers together. “Pluck” a few holes, making sure you go through the second layer of dough, too. Bake for 45 minutes, or until you’re done resting. If a burning smell follows your resting, and you opening your eyes to the smell of smoke. Call 911, and never cook again.

Monday, September 15, 2008

We interrupt this holding pattern to...remember David Foster Wallace

I can’t help but be saddened and disturbed by David Foster Wallace’s suicide this past weekend. Wallace hanged himself on Friday at his home in California, found dead by his wife, at the age of 46. He was one of the greatest writers of contemporary fiction to date. One of his novels, Infinite Jest, a sprawling work over over 1,000 pages (which I haven’t read, but which is on the never-ending to-read list) was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Greatest Novels of All-Time. His postmodern style kept readers interested, and he wrote about ironic themes, mostly about our culture and its addiction to pleasure and materialism in the search for happiness.

In an interview with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air broadcast, Wallace explained that the reason for his themes stemmed from his realization that though he and his friends had life much easier and were much better taken care of than the previous generation, they were still very sad. He wanted to know why. I only hope he found out.

It makes me wonder, all of this, why so many writers are unhappy and why so many take their own lives. What do they want to accomplish? Is it that they can’t bear the cruelty or the irony of the reality that has tortured them since their creative inception? Is it that they just can’t wait for the posthumous immortalization that awaits any great thinker or artist? What has the stereotype of the tortured artist done for (or to) these tortured artists?

I am happy; I am an artist. Can those two things be put together, separated only by a frivolous semi-colon? But for me, it is true. I am happy. But, then again, I write about food. I wonder if that is what separates the writers of fiction from the writers of non-fiction, and food in particular. Food makes me so happy. Here’s my reasoning for not succumbing to the fate that so many writers before me have suffered: I’m not sure if I can eat in the afterlife, so I want to live as long as possible so I can continue to eat and to be happy.

I also have an insanely amazing boyfriend, who I could go on about forever (but that’s another blogpost), but David Foster Wallace had a wife. They were happy together, from what I have read, so maybe that’s not a qualifier.

I’m going to share with you some of my deepest pleasures – some of the foods that make me so happy to be alive. And make me grateful for the ability I have to realize how happy I am, and how much I love life.

1. Falafel
2. Eating way more than one fortune cookie and passing the fortunes around the table to the person we feel needs it most at the time.
3. Nutella out of the jar (instant gratification meets instant happiness)
4. Any seafood stew (Bouillabaisse, Cioppino, Parihuela, etc.) coupled with crusty garlic-rubbed bread slices.
5. Cote de Gascogne wines, Colombard and Ugni-Blanc varietal blends – crisp and fruit-heavy, perfect for everyday, all the time

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Holding Pattern

Hello everyone! For the time being, I’m suspending On Food and Eating from new postings. I know you’re all devastated, but it’s for a good reason. Before December ends, I need to have a book written. Yes, my friends, my Master’s thesis. It’s in the developing stages right now, but I need to get some words on paper, which means focusing my attention on my thesis and its attempt to make sense out of my obsession with ethnic and fusion food. Never fear, though, I will be writing, and prolifically, about the restaurants and foodways I encounter in the next three and a half months. They’ll just all appear at the end of the semester.

In all honesty, I probably won’t be able to resist a mini-post or two about some cool thing I ran into at the grocery store, on a menu, etc, but no full-fledged posts. Check back periodically if you’re all that interested.

That being said, enjoy your Fall months, and I’ll be back after the holidays! Until then, eat up!