Monday, October 27, 2008

Going Native

There's a strange thing going on in my kitchen. My eggs are from Kookoolan farms. My honey is native fireweed honey. The Deep Roots folks supplied me with black kale last week, collards this week, and then there is the bacon ends, ham hocks and sausage from Sweet Briar farms. I have my turkey on order for thanksgiving and awesome examples of fractals in nature from the cauliflower I picked up yesterday.

I know where all of this stuff came from.

And strangely enough, some of the market vendors are starting to recognize me. I chat about work while I buy coffee. And when I need good local grapes for a galette I end up with stunning interlochen from here. The woman who I buy them from was the same person who trusted me to know what to make with those fabulous fresh italian plums. It's like I'm living in an actual community, or something.

In the past, produce came from giant trucks. Or sometimes smaller vans, but still, the vans were not driven by someone who would say, "Sorry I couldn't get these too you yesterday but we were picking to catch up from the rain earlier this week." Instead they were driven by guys who would ask me if there was a way to tell if a cantelope was ripe from the outside. Or, in the best of times past, the produce would come from a market, yes, but one which brought things in from all over the world, nary a farmer in sight.

Here, it is all so close, so accessible, that it is carrying over to what we eat at home. Now if only I could figure out how to grow a cacao tree indoors.

They totally taste like Apple Jacks

Cinnamon macarons with pippin-cox apple butter.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Branding myself

So, what do I want to be when I grow up? Going to pastry school, I had to reevaluate what that meant for me. I came to a conclusive, absolute decision.

I am never going to know what I want to be when I grow up.

(My friends are laughing at me right now, because of how true to me this statement is.) I can make a list of things that I would like NOT to do, and some of them even relate to the food industry. The thing is lately, I'm starting to formulate an idea of what I would like to do. Or at least, aspects that I would like to incorporate into something that could become the thing that eventually is what I do.

Um, does that make sense?

It starts, of course, with the food. That is the easy part. A list is forming, recipes being played with, tested. In many ways, this is the fun part; I'm covered in terms of my living expenses, this is just time to fail, retry, succeed and just come up with wacky schemes without risk. Time to define and refine what I'm looking for.

It is a deeply personal thing, these products. They are, more than any words, a direct reflection of my heart. My spirit in sugared form. It's funny, I'm sure there are cooks out there, chefs even, who could come to this point and not see this as so deeply their own. Me, I don't know any other way to do it and have a chance for it working.

And maybe that is why this work can be so heartbreaking.

For now though, I'm still having my first crush.
(pandan ginger and lemon saffron lollipops)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

My, how things do change

My grandmother has been slowly dumping old cookbooks on me for a few years now. It's kind of a funny situation because I am very picky about having lots of cookbooks. My parents had a huge number of cookbooks, filled with lovely, fascinating recipes and they never cooked ANYTHING from most of them. I don't want that to happen to me, so I have one shelf of cookbooks. That's it. But so far, most of the ones from my grandmother have managed to claim a coveted spot on that shelf.

Yeah, like I'd throw away all of MFK Fisher, or that old James Beard.

So the one I received yesterday was 'Home at the Range with George Rector", copyright 1939. Rector did a few things with his life - restaurants, a hotel, some film roles as himself - and he writes as though the reader of the book would consider him a household name. He doesn't even have a wikipedia page, now. IMDB has him listed, though.

What fascinated me about the volume is the commentary about his restaurant and food in general. Japanese food was simply derivative of Chinese. Chinese food (as well as some Spanish dishes) was quite complicated, given the number of ingredients. Canned food was indistinguishable from fresh (He suggested a blindfold taste test, like the kind they use for cigarettes). Stock is something everyone would have around the house.

He even touched on seasonality. He lamented the availability of out-of-season items to everyone, because what could restaurants then use to surprise and delight their guests?


Stuff that is in season, maybe?