Monday, November 30, 2009

Music Monday: "Baby Are You Down, Down, Down?"

My friend Pat, one of my writing mentors and all around great friends sent me this video clip recently.

I loved the "Where the Hell is Matt" project, and if you haven't seen it, you can find it here.

This is a similar project, but focused on bringing awareness of breast cancer. It was also part of an effort to get Medline to donate a huge amount of money to St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland, OR. They had to get 1,000,000 hits for this on youtube, and the current tally is 1,599,499, so they made their goal and then some.

The folks in this video are Medical Center employees, and as you can see, they were joyous in their participation.

To all our sisters fighting this disease and to all of their loved ones (and a special shout-out to my friend, Linda, who is going through a bone marrow transplant on Friday to fight myelofibrosis):

Happy Music Monday. For more participants, go visit Soccer Mom in Denial.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Could we be slow-slow and not need fatafat?

Check out this fascinating op-ed piece on slow food and a return to our founding principles:

"Back to the Land"

Thanks to Anno, who pointed it out to me.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Hey, Good Lookin', What you Got Cookin'?

Happy Thanksgiving to all who are celebrating today.

I'm up making cranberry sauce and steaming summer squash (no, this won't be a locavore feast, although I am serving a local turkey and local potatoes, and probably other things that I'm too tired to think of at the moment), and I started to think about my menu and wondered what my friends are cooking up today?

So, first off, despite my love of cooking and my love of all things locavore, for us Thanksgiving is first and foremost a family holiday, and the menu has been constructed of various family members' favorites over the years. So, yes, it's pedestrian, and somewhat commercial, even, but it's our very, very traditional feast.

We're having a very small crowd this year - just me, Dave, Con, my mother and my father-in-law. We're also having an early dinner (probably 1:30 or so), and then we're planning to see THE BLIND SIDE, which is one of the few movies out there which we'd all be happy seeing (my father-in-law basically only likes to see inspirational movies).

So here are our family favorites:

Turkey - I am trying something new this year - I liked the title of this recipe: World's Simplest Thanksgiving Turkey.

Mashed potatoes - with skins partially on. These are from Tantre and I'll make them with sweet butter and some half and half and salt. That's it. Con likes me to try to imitate the Roadhouse mashed potatoes, which are his favorites. He's the mashed potato king in our brood, so he gets dibs on the type. If it were me and Dave, it would be garlic mashed all the way.

Squash pudding. I've talked about this here, before. This is NOT a sweet squash - it's a summer squash pudding that's decadent and savory. My mother started making this in the 60's and it ain't Thanksgiving without the Squash Pudding (this is a bow to me and to Mom and to Dave).

Cranberry Maple Sauce - this is a recipe from the Silver Palate New Basics cookbook. Bowing here to Dave, who likes the maple, and Mom, who likes the orange zest. It's fabulous and simple - 1 bag of cranberries, rinsed, 1 cup of maple syrup, 1 cup of raspberry juice (but we don't drink juice so I used a bottle of pomegranate cherry juice instead) and the zest off one orange. Boil, bring down to medium, cook for 10 minutes, cool. Add a cup of toasted walnut pieces, if you choose to. We probably won't - I'll take a poll. I'd prefer the walnuts, but I bet, I'll be outvoted.

Katherine's Gravy - this is my sister's recipe that's a bastardization of a Craig Claiborne N. Y. Times vegetarian gravy. I still have the recipe card she gave me, and I commune with her a little every time I take it out. We all love this recipe, although we do a non-vegetarian version (I use chicken stock).

Stuffing. Okay... confession time. It. has. to. be. Pepperidge Farm Herb Stuffing. A la the package recipe. With my homemade chicken broth. Then baked out of the turkey. So, um, yeah. But that's the way it rolls on the Shikes side of the family. Dave prefers cornbread stuffing, but he gets outvoted here. ;-)

If there were more people, I'd do Tyler Florence's upscale green bean casserole recipe, but we just don't have enough people, and the food we have are the main faves.

Dessert: Another confession here: Costco Pumpkin Pie. It's better than any of the versions I've made over the years. Sigh. At least according to Con, and he's also the Pumpkin Pie king. Mom just wants pumpkin pie. My father-in-law and Dave love Pumpkin Pie, too. If there were more people, I'd also make my mother-in-law's Sour Cream Apple Pie, but there just aren't. Me - I like Mince Pie, but I'm totally outvoted here.

And finally, you have a choice of Calder vanilla ice cream on that pie or whipped cream.

So, what are you all cooking up today? What are special family faves?

Happy Thanksgiving and happy eating!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Tony Bourdain, Alice Waters and that whole Local Food Thing...

I had a great time Saturday night.

I got to hear one of my heroes, Anthony Bourdain. Now, those of you who know me personally, and even those who know me primarily through this blog, might be shocked to hear me call Bourdain a hero. As he said himself, partway through the evening, "I'm no role model".

Well, not in the traditional sense, no.

If you're offended by language, he's not your man. If the fact that he's made some really poor choices over his lifetime, um, yeah, not a good role model.

The thing I love about Anthony Bourdain, though, is that he always, always, always leaves me thinking. And he's honest. Even brutally so, even maybe over the top for effect sometimes, but the honesty is refreshing in today's world, and maybe especially in the kingdom of upper echelon foodies. He also admits when he's screwed up. I admire that.

Apparently, he's been having an ongoing conversation with Alice Waters in his head.

One of the reasons he's been seen as a bad boy in the food world is that he's picked on Alice and many others who are "doing good". Now, on the other hand, he's also clear that he doesn't have problems with everything about Waters or just about anyone else (except maybe Sandra Lee).

What seems to disturb Bourdain is the "all or nothing" attitude that can exist in the local food movement. He had a conversation with Alice in his head that I've actually had myself: "Easy for you to say everything can be local - you live in Berkeley!"

Bourdain took it one step further and asked her, in his head, "And what are the folks on the Upper Peninsula supposed to eat in the winter?" and answered it, humorously, with Alice responding that there are "lovely rutabagas, turnips, carrots," to which Bourdain responds, "So they should eat like Russian peasants?"

Well, I've lived in Soviet Russia in winter, and yes, that's pretty much what the grocery stores carried. And yes, everyone put up their own vegetables in the summer, and jams and all those things our grandparents did, and it worked, to a great extent, but then there's the person I talked to Saturday morning.

He works in Ann Arbor and commutes to his family farm in Manchester. He's not in the business of farming; he's in the business of feeding his family through this farm. He was very excited to grow many, many tomato plants this year. He had visions of eating his put-up tomatoes throughout the winter.

As anyone in our area can guess, however, that didn't happen.

This was the summer of the tomato blight.

He harvested a whopping 22 tomatoes, all of which his family devoured.

We got on this subject because we were talking about two meals we'd prepared that week with almost all local ingredients, but we'd both ended up using a can of San Marzano tomatoes when it came down to it, because no, we didn't have our own.

Bourdain also talks about the fact that when he was actually at Chez Panisse, one of the co-chefs was in rapture over some beautiful vegetables from a special farm and wanted Bourdain to return the enthusiasm. Bourdain sort of did a double-take, as these vegetables were from a farm in the San Diego area, six hours by truck. As he put it, "How sustainable is that?"

Another of my "local" experiences this week was taking part in a highly-enjoyable and oh-so-delicious cook-off and potluck by Slow Food Huron Valley. Yesterday afternoon about 50 people actually came inside on a gorgeous day to share pasta with toasted pumpkin seeds and butternut squash puree, Three Sisters stew, pumpkin-buttermilk ice cream, John Savanna's famous Lithuanian Rye (which you haven't tried, you REALLY should), fabulous borscht, etc., etc.

I had decided that I'd enter what are usually my (well, if I do say so myself) pretty darned good Apple Maple Corn Muffins, but I was going to go ALL local - no vanilla, no cinnamon, no salt (my exception was a little bit of baking soda, because they call for buttermilk and I needed that for the leavening). Well, those omissions, plus some not very good local maple syrup, which shall remain nameless, turned my usual delightful bites of Sunday morning goodness into dull, chewy "good-for-you" lumps of ... well, let's just say I didn't enter them.

So Bourdain's point? Food is to be enjoyed. The local movement is good, humane animal care is good, organics are good - why? Because things taste better. Because, yes, it's good for the earth. It's good for local economies. It's good for your body. But really? Things TASTE better.

So here's my question for you - are you all or nothing on this? Do you care about local foods/agriculture/sustainable practices? And if so, how do you incorporate these practices in your life?

I know for myself, I'm not as consistent as I'd like to be, and that will be the subject of another post, as this one is already way too long.

Part 2 will concern the art of being a guest and risk-taking: another subject near and dear to my heart.

Also, just cause it's Music Monday, here's a little music for your Monday (see Soccer Mom in Denial to see who else is playing): Arrested Development's "Children Play with Earth" (press on the Lala button at the top of the page).

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Slow Food Huron Valley's Local Harvest Cook-Off

Cook up a soup/stew, main dish, or dessert with local ingredients and you could be a ribbon winner at Slow Food Huron Valley's Local Harvest Cook-Off on Sunday, November 8th from 3 - 5 p.m. at the Chelsea Fairgrounds Community Building.

This family event is a wonderful opportunity to share your cooking prowess and support for all things local, as well as enjoy what will assuredly be a delicious potluck.

Old Pine Farm and Tantre Farm have helped to organize this potluck, contest and recipe swap, and in addition to the food and judging, there will be music, prizes and great, family fun. Alber Orchards is also a sponsor for this event. Chef Alex Young of Zingerman's Roadhouse, Corbett Day, Lenawee County Culinary Arts Dept head/chef, and Natalie Marble, owner of Ann Arbor Cooks cooking school (and fellow contributor) will be the Cook-Off judges, and prizes will include jams and local produce, among other goodies.

You could go home a blue ribbon winner by putting together a dish with as many local ingredients as possible in the following categories:

- Soup/stew
- Meat main dish
- Vegetarian main dish
- Vegetable side dish/salad
- Dessert/bread

Please bring: your dish to pass, your place settings, and 30 copies of your recipe to swap. Slow Food Huron Valley is also making this an opportunity to benefit Food Gatherers - so please consider bringing also nutritious non-perishable food or a check for Food Gatherers (which will be eligible for a Michigan Tax Credit).

Deadline for entry in the cook-off judging: 3:15pm.
Chelsea Fairgrounds location: 20501 Old US 12 (at Old Manchester Rd.)

All photos by Jennifer Shikes Haines.

NOTE: The Slow Food Huron Valley website is having some technical difficulties and, as a result, this event is not listed currently (nor are future events). The information in this article is accurate and comes from the organizing committee. If you have further questions about the event, please contact