17 May 2011

Red Beans & Gas

Fall is nice -
Just like [red] beans & rice.
The leaves fall down,
All the way to the ground.
And that's why fall is nice.

a classic: AABBA

That may have been a second or third grade poem.  Let's hope second.  I've come a long way from whichever year that was - emotionally, spiritually, physically, and intellectually (whew).  Speaking of coming a long way, recalling that lovely bit of verse I wrote at seven or eight years of age made me want to see if the grammar school I attended had a web presence.  Sure enough: St. Benilde School is on line.  Back in the day, I don't even know that we knew what "on line" (or "online"?!) might have meant.

Gichi-ziibi  (or misi-ziibi) continues to grow, crest, surge, and overflow its levees, inundating towns, homes, and people in the Mississippi Delta and southeastern Louisiana.  Feeling nostalgic as I often do, especially in times of regional crisis, I decided to make red beans and rice this Monday.

Monday is traditionally red beans and rice day, as pretty much anyone in New Orleans can (hopefully) tell you.  In short, the story goes like this:

  1. Sunday your family eats a ham.
  2. Monday is laundry / wash day.  While you're slaving away doing the wash, beans simmer away without much fuss in a pot for a few hours, accompanied by hocks and other hunks of ham left over from the day before.
... a New Orleanian "set it and forget it" meal.

18 January 2011

Gruel & Unusual Punishment? I think not!

The veil of midwinter morning bleakness in the Pacific Northwest is lifted when honey and cardamom make an appearance at breakfast.

During a much desired and long-awaited trip out of town to my friend Joseph's cabin on Herron Island, amidst talk of travel, art, food, language, etymology, and many other topics that lie outside of the realm of hard sciences, we prepared breakfast.  I monitored a half-dozen rashers of Trader Joe's uncured, peppered turkey bacon (etymology: Proto Germanic *bakkon "back meat") in a cast iron skillet while Joseph created a masterpiece that, familiar to him, opened my mind and mouth to novel possibilities in alimentary exploration.

Joseph combined polenta, a small handfull of raw unsalted cashews and pistachios, a generous cluster of raisins, and equal parts of Trader Joe's Original Hemp Drink and water.  Stirring the mixture, he perhaps recited an incantation in Greek or Turkish or Persian or some other language spoken in the area surrounding Western civilization's cradle then placed each bowl in the microwave.  Within about five minutes, out came a hearty vessel of morning time comfort food.

Once the fakon (= faux bacon) was crisp, we sat down to a table where glasses of freshly squeezed orange juice and strong just brewed coffee awaited.  Joseph brought out a small vial of ground cardamom.  Adding a heavy pinch of the sweet, bitter, heavenly aromatic powder to his bowl, he suggested I try the same.  I happily swirled in a bit of cardamom, tasted, and thought, "this is like a deconstructed Middle Eastern confection...hmm, maybe I could drizzle in some honey."  Either because he read my mind, independently had the same thought, or knew from prior experience that this was a good idea, Joseph was already on his way back to the table with a big jar of honey (that he had meticulously re-liquified---in the sink, on the stove, in the microwave, on the space heater---the day before).

Honey proved to be the element necessary to bring about citrinitas in this alchemical parvum opus: substantial sweet sustenance from ground grains and seeds, nuts, fruit, water, and honey.  

Thanks, Joseph, for the retreat treat.