Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Edible Art: Photos from the Fort Worth Modern Art Mueum

The candy installation and other images from the Fort Worth Modern Art Museum and its wonderful architecture.

Howard with a fanciful sculpture

Edible Art

We drove from Tulsa to Ft.Worth today, meaning that we have left the old Route 66 and continued in a slightly different direction. We arrived for lunch, and then Myrtle and Howard took us to the wonderful Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. We enjoyed some works by Jackson Pollack and a few of the other artists we saw at the St.Louis museum over the weekend.

I especially liked an "installation" -- a sort of stream of objects arranged on the floor of a large room. This installation was very much like many I've seen, with one difference: the ones I've seen before are rocks (like in St.Louis, Mississippi river rocks) or construction materials. The one here in Ft.Worth is made of candy -- cellophane-wrapped pieces of greenish mint. AND you can help yourself to one of them, the guards told us. I enjoyed sucking on my little bit of art; the installation is around 20 feet long, so I guess the museum-goers never consume the whole thing.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The St.Louis Zoo

Yesterday we went to the St.Louis Zoo. Some animals are spending the winter indoors, or are not on display, but many of them were outdoors enjoying the warm sunny weather. The smells inside the penguin house and the antelope house were pungent, but not as dramatic as in the summer. The lack of leaves on the trees made the Big Bird House seem a bit bare as well.

This giraffe was the only one that I noticed to be eating, so I picked him or (more likely) her to illustrate my day. I think the adults in the giraffe cage were the mothers of the two baby giraffes were also in the cage -- one is in the second photo.

Baby giraffes always seem so awkward in the way their legs fold underneath them. I suspect though that they are actually more flexible than their elders.

Later on today we plan to drive from St.Louis to Oklahoma, breaking our trip to Fort Worth into two days.

I'll post more photos of travel when I have time -- I hope to update Maetravels soon.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Carrying Groceries

Here are my two new new grocery bags. Sheila sent them to me from London! In the photo, taken this morning, they are being packed up by the bagger at Schnuck's market here in a suburb of St.Louis.

At the moment we are cooking dinner using the food that was being packed in the bags earlier.

These are definitely traveling grocery bags: I began using them in Ann Arbor, and they're coming with us to San Diego if all goes as planned!

Lorenzo's on "The Hill"

St.Louis has several "hills." Lorenzo's is in the old Italian neighborhood now known as "The Hill." You can see from the photos that this restaurant serves a very updated and pretty trendy version of the old-style pasta and Italian desserts. Still, Jay had cannoli (which are more traditional than the depicted chocolate and individual berry dessert). I had a scoop of straticelli ice cream after my salad and liver with pearl onions and balsamic reduction. In the food pictures: a closeup of bruschetta, chicken on pasta, and Jon's 21st century Italian dessert.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Dinner at the Abstract Dinner Table

"Action/Abstraction: Pollock, deKooning & American Art" at the St. Louis Art Museum in Forest Park was a really enjoyable exhibit.
The views of the critics seemed to be a primary driver of the choice and organization of materials on display. I picked out this quote from Harry Truman. I'm very amused that he chose this food metaphor to characterize the abstractions of his time.

Truman's quote was included among an excellent collection of popular articles in magazines such as Life and Vogue, as well as art magazines. The artworks in the show were wonderful, including a couple of Pollock's Drip paintings, and many works by later artists such as Frankenthaler, Jasper Johns, and many others.

Since this is a food blog, I selected a work titled "The Dinner Table," to illustrate this post. I also liked a painting called "The Ice Box," which was said to be a comment on consumerism.

Finally, I'm including a picture of Saint Louis of France, the iconic statue that dominates Art Hill -- but this view is from inside, as the day was terribly rainy, and we didn't go out in front. So you can see the reflections in the museum window overlaid on the statue.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Vietnamese Restaurant

Unfortunately we ate rather late, so the restaurant was out of duck and out of dessert. What we did get was good. In fact, the soft-shell crab was so good I didn't take a photo until we had eaten it. Well, here are the few remaining vegetables and condiments on the turntable:

The wallpaper in the restaurant seemed very Vietnamese to me:

Before we left, Ruby lit the candles.

We've made it to RubyDell

Here we are in St.Louis. Our Middle Earth perilous journey from West Lafayette went through low-visibility Indiana and Illinois farmlands, which we sometimes couldn't even see through the low-lying fogs and mists. Nevertheless, we made good time and arrived in the early afternoon, following instructions from the lady inside of the Garmin Nuvi. Her route was exactly the same as the one Elaine and Larry recommended.

As we always say, we hit the ground eating -- Ruby had a marvelous lunch all ready for us and waiting although it was a rather late lunchtime. (We had not stopped for food, just snacked a little in the car while driving.)

And we are about to go out to dinner or something like that. We did take a walk in the very warm though rainy afternoon. At last it's unseasonable but warm instead of unseasonably cold.

Yes, L

Remember when some people had a little lapel pin with an "L" and a line through it: "NOel" -- well, we had a "Yes-L" dinner yesterday. There wasn't any reason, but we happened to realize that we were having lamb and latkes, and so we added lemon layer cake and wine as follows.

Larry and Lenny with the Lindenman's wine

Elaine making Latkes

Roasting the Leg of Lamb

Lemon Layer Cake

We're hoping to head for St.Louis when the weather clears. Here's the icy river between Lafayette and West Lafayette yesterday:

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Elaine makes wonderful blintzes, and we really enjoyed them for dinner.

Her recipe includes a substitution for the pot cheese that is traditional and that our mother used: a mixture of cream cheese and cottage cheese. The taste is right!

I admit that I have never made blintzes though I've always intended to do so.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

One step towards San Diego

Greetings from West Lafayette. We left yesterday morning as the weather report wasn't too good for Tuesday (and indeed, a weather advisory for Ann Arbor starts at 10 this morning). We had a few snow flurries in Michigan, and despite sunny skies there was ice on I-69 going towards Ft.Wayne,IN, but we made good time. The temperature bounced around between 7 and 13 F. rising to a heated 16 degrees as we finally approached Elaine and Larry's house.

Elaine had cookies waiting for us in the kitchen, and a great dinner with See's candy as a finale.

Lenny says it's just like the Hobbit travels in Middle Earth: we go through a perilous journey and then find temporary shelter where it's warm and everyone is good to us. We are calling these places ElaneAndLarian and RubyDell. (If you aren't a fan that would be Lothlarian and Rivendell in Middle Earth). We haven't figured out what Fort Worth TX will be in Middle Earth terms.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The First Night of Hanukkah

We celebrated with our friends Elaine, Bob, Mario, Megan, and a few others. Delicious latkes, brisket, and everything that goes with them.

Tomorrow if the weather doesn't change again, we will begin our long trek to San Diego. Monday's weather report -- "Mostly Cloudy" -- looked better than Tuesday's -- "Snow: 70% chance of precipitation." When we came home this evening, our thermometer said -4. Going ever more to the south approaching California looks very inviting.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte Cooks

What is life like in the kitchen in the Australian outback?
Cooking on an Australian station does not induce placidity of mind. In the first place it is a seven-day-a-week job; in the second it very often happens that one or more of the men are late to meals having been delayed by sheep-work in a paddock; and in the third place the hours are long, and the cement or wooden floor of a kitchen is particularly hard on a cook's feet.
On account of those drawbacks cooks are scarce, good cooks are priceless, and all cooks are martinets. A cook's uncertain temper is, therefore, regarded with the indulgence given to lumbago, or gout, the sufferer receiving all consideration and sympathy. (p. 59)
So begins Chapter 14, "The Passing of a Cook," in The Sands of Windee by Arthur W. Upfield (originally published 1931). The cook on the particular station in the book, called Alf the Nark, was ready to leave his position on a remote sheep station in the wilds of Australia; the date is 1924. At the last meal he cooks:
After beating his triangle calling the men to dinner, Alf the Nark began to cut up two roast legs of mutton. Usually the first man entered the kitchen-dining-room precisely ten seconds after the triangle was struck, but this day the men were in bed and asleep, and it was fully ten minutes before the first of them arrived...
"Soup?" snarled Alf.
"Please," came the sleepy answer.
"Soup?" snarled Alf to the next man, and so on... Then "Ive 'ad enough of this. If yous think I'm going to be on deck orl the blasted day and 'ang about 'ere arf the night waiting for yous to grease yer 'air, you're mistaken. There's yer tucker. Eat it or chuck it art. I'm finished." (p. 60)
And so Alf leaves for the nearest tiny town "visions of whiskey-bottles drawing him on." Bony, or Police Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte is already on the scene. He's presented himself as a horse trainer and laborer, but Bony is actually a man of many talents -- and in fact has a university education. His reason for being at this station is to investigate the mysterious disappearance and presumed murder of a man who had recently visited the owner of the sheep station. He's hiding his position as an inspector, but he is open about his education and talents.

Bony quickly volunteers to take over the cook's job:
At six o'clock he was up cooking the men's breakfast; and the men, who thought they would have had to cook their own meals, were highly gratified. (p. 62)
Bony uses his new position to advantage; as the author describes his work, we learn a lot about the outback:
The vacancy in the men's kitchen ... presented to Bony a sure avenue of winning his way to the hearts, via the stomachs of Moongalliti and his tribe. ... Had he been a full-blooded aboriginal they would never have accepted him as one of themselves.... As a half-caste, and a strange half-caste, he would at all times be regarded with suspicion; but as a station cook, with somewhat of their racial blood in him, he could successfully bribe them and win a measure of friendship with food, for food and the getting of food occupies far more of the native mind than any other subject. (p. 63)
Bony bakes bread, serves morning lunch, midday lunch, afternoon lunch, and dinner. When asked to explain why he wants to be in the bush. He says:
"I wanted to go ahunting as my mother's father had hunted, and I wanted to eat flesh, raw flesh, and feast on tree grubs, and then lie down in the shade and go to sleep, fed full and feeling the wind play over my naked skin." (p. 65)
In the course of the book, the author at least briefly describes many meals, from genteel teas and marriage celebrations to native feasts. The clanging of the kitchen triangle, calling the workers to their meals, punctuates the passing time for the workers and owners. The portrayal of Bony and his dual identity uses food in what I find a most interesting way. Of course the plot is really the key, as Bony discovers the full story of the mysterious disappearance.

The overt and indirect attitudes of characters in the book toward the aboriginal natives -- and clearly, also, the author's attitude -- are really condescending and even demeaning. However, the details are of great interest, as they refer to a time now lost, when the native people were still free to live as they pleased, and hadn't been forcibly settled on reservations in the unfortunate and unhealthy conditions that followed. I hesitate to judge the attitudes that the author held so long ago in the terms that are now familiar and politically correct. The use of food to portray this lost civilization, even disrespectfully by modern standards, is very interesting.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Food Ads

Mona Lisa often lends her image to food ads -- in these two, she helped out with contests for trips to Italy. I've often mentioned my amusement at Mona Lisa's appearances as a food advertiser. I don't think I've posted these before.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Jury Duty Food

I just read this book:

It doesn't have much of a food theme anywhere, but I found it very entertaining. (It has a mathematics theme!)

And Catherine has now posted all my guest posts about food and mystery stories at Postcard Mysteries. She classified them all under her classification
Jury Duty Food.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Elizabeth David's Kitchen

Florence Fabricant, food writer for the New York Times, today wrote: "Good for the Goose: An English Christmas" about the book Elizabeth David’s Christmas. The article reviews many of the recipes and types of food covered in the book, which was edited from David's notes after her death.

Says Fabricant: "She is most in her element digging into history, as in an exceedingly detailed exploration of plum puddings, including flaming versions and brandy sauces to accompany them. Another section examines frumenty, a kind of grain porridge said to date from Roman times."

I was delighted with the photo of Elizabeth David in her kitchen in 1957. It connected to the biography of her that I read recently, Writing at the Kitchen Table: The Authorized Biography of Elizabeth David by Artemis Cooper. See: Elizabeth David.

And of course I'm pleased to have another kitchen photo for my little series here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Happy Hanukkah!

It's a few days early for latkes, but here they are. Unfortunately, some of our guests didn't make it through the snow, so I'm offering them this picture as a sort of consolation. Sorry, guys!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ro•Tel Influence?

Remember this? -- I live in a Ro*Tel State

It was about Ro•Tel, the regional brand of tomatoes and peppers. The organic tomato canner Muir Glen seems to be getting into this market. I had a good result using the depicted can in a recipe of chili. I also used up the bottom of a bottle of chipotle bbq sauce and some chili powder, cumin, and oregano, so I can't be certain of where the spice flavors originated. But the contents of the can seemed very satisfactory.

Medieval Food in Margaret Frazer's Mysteries

Joliffe -- a playwright, entertainer, and detective unawares -- is the hero of a number of mysteries by Margaret Frazer. Set in the 15th century, the stories are meant to introduce many of the cultural and material conditions of a traveling troop of players in that era. When I've checked out the accuracy, it's usually ok (with occasional boo-boos).

In A Play of Dux Moraud, Joliffe finds himself observing the activities of a number of very shady characters, including a priest, Father Morice. After one conversation, Father Morice heads towards the manor where a very suspicious noble family resides; meanwhile Joliffe heads back to the alehouse where he finds
"the alewife setting bowls of vegetable pottage on the table for the three village men. Aware he and Piers and Gil [fellow players] were going to miss their dinner at the hall, Joliffe asked for some for them, too. -- 'If there's enough?' -- 'There is,' she said. 'The turnips in the upper field did not so badly as everything else this year, and with all the rain the grass has the cows giving plenty of milk for the while.' -- 'Not but what we're getting tired of your milk-and-turnip pottage,' one of the old men muttered between spoonfuls.' -- 'You'd get more tired of being hungry,' the woman said...."(p. 148-149)
Turnips frequently appear in the food bowls or on the coarse bread trenchers of Joliffe and the other players. Frazer, in fact uses them as a kind of indicator of the major challenge of these players: getting enough to eat as they wander around rural England in search of an audience. This turnip-cooking alewife adds basil and a touch of sage (p. 151); others have less skill.
In contrast, when the players are lucky, a lord or master invites them to eat at the manor table. Not, of course at the high table, and not with the kitchen help, but at a table for somewhat higher servants. For example, at one feast Joliffe
"could not see what was carried up the hall to the Penteneys, but what came his way among the lower servants was rabbit in a spiced sauce, a salad of greens, leeks, and garlic, and a date-laden cheesecake, all of it cooked well, nothing scanted or burned or underdone, and all of it in generous portions. Joliffe said something to the household man on his right about how the eating looked to be good here, and the man readily agreed. 'Aye. There's no stinting in this house. They're a good master and mistress, are the Penteneys." (A Play of Isaac, p. 44)
The players' wagon, horse, props, clothing, and the challenges of being on the road are constantly described, with food as one of the indications of their daily struggles and pleasures. Food gauges the character of hosts and the attitude of people of all standings in the complex medieval social hierarchy. A gift of a meat pie, a shared portion of spice cake, a cup of cider or ale, all inform the reader of the conditions for Joliffe's clever and brilliant questioning. And in every book, there's a murder of some sort for him to question about and solve, aiding the authorities in solving many a crime and bringing the guilty to justice.

So many mystery writers -- so many ways to make food do a variety of jobs. I'm still guest blogging about food in other mystery writers' work, over at Postcard Mysteries.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dinner at Jim and Ellen's

Last night we had a very enjoyable dinner with friends. To start, our hostess Ellen served some crackers and spreads from Trader Joe's party specials in the living room. Jim had several bottles of wine from their cellar, including one from 1991 that I really loved. We were happy to see Ellen, Jim, Susie, and David.

Then we moved to the dining room for Susie's Caesar Salad.
Susie's mother gave her the salad recipe, which she had long before obtained from someone who had learned from the original Caesar. The result is different from the standard restaurant offering because every part of it is marvelously fresh and perfect: romaine lettuce, home-made croutons, secret dressing made in a mayonnaise jar. Susie is of the EBA school (everything but anchovies).
Above is my casserole of Carbonnades a la Flamande, which we had for the main course. I followed Julia Child's recipe religiously. We served it with parsley-garnished noodles, as recommended. I didn't get Jim's French bread into the photos, but he also uses The Julia Child Recipe.
Jim also baked a great apple pie:
Following Julia Child's Recipe
You can see that my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking is full of splashes and stains from years of making this recipe. I've been thinking of the incredible number of recipes that I have made repeatedly from this book. It's probably the biggest influence of any book on my cooking.

I prepared everything as the recipe describes, cutting up the meat, slicing the onions... Then browned the beef, arranged the first layer in the casserole, and slowly browned the onions. I cooked it in the oven for the time recommended.