Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving Dinner 2013

First thing in the morning:
aprons combine Hanukkah and Thanksgiving!
I never use mixes except for corn pudding!
Delia and Alice
Candles, turkey, latkes, brussels sprouts and around 10 other dishes...

Table decorations and butter
Alice, Illana, Miriam, Delia
Pie

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Zingerman's Bakehouse

Zingerman's Bakehouse is ready for the Thanksgiving rush tomorrow.
Our order of chocolate cherry bread had just come out of the oven when we arrived at 4:30.
We also had ordered cranberry-pecan bread and a coffee cake: our family Thanksgiving breakfast tradition.
We didn't buy any of these! But they are cute.
"... we bake cakes and nothing's the matter..." 
Check out.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thanksgiving Pictures from "Art and Appetite"

Doris Lee, "Thanksgiving" (1935)
"It may be hard to fathom today how Lee's colorfully cheerful depiction of food preparation was offensive... . The picture was popular with the public, as was Grant Wood's more famous American Gothic, purchased by the Art Institute in 1930. Both pictures represent historical themes using the imagery of ordinary people and farm life; both enshrined with irony and humor an American past fast disappearing. But by 1935 the depiction of Thanksgiving as a rustic social gathering seemed boorishly common." (Art and Appetite catalog p. 41)
I love the kitchen in this picture with all the activity of many women cooking, except for the one who has obviously just arrived and is taking off her hat. I love the little kids, the dog under the stove, and the cat under the table. The preparation for each traditional element of Thanksgiving dinner is wonderful: the turkey being basted, pie dough being rolled out, vegetables in a basket, pots simmering on top of the old black stove, dishes being taken from a high shelf where no doubt they spend most of the year.

Alice Neel, "Thanksgiving" (1965)
"... the bird collapses in the kitchen sink, looking as though it had just been thrown from the guillotine. Its legs splayed akimbo, its body bloody and pimply, it drains alongside Ajax, sponges, soap, and the breakfast dishes. Neel said of her picture that she painted it while the bird ... ws thawing in the sink and that it was her answer to Pop Art." (Art and Appetite, p. 51)
My own feeling is that this image of an absolutely typical kitchen from the 1960s is now as much nostalgic as the famous Norman Rockwell grandmother and grandfather with a turkey or the painting by Doris Lee above. Who hasn't seen the exact water faucet, Ajax can, and metal cabinet handles along with the white porcelain of mother's or grandmother's or aunt's kitchen sink?

Roy Lichtenstein, "Turkey" (1961)
"The bird as solo subject mirrors modern advertising's emphasis on appearances and the embedding of implied meaning within objects." (Art and Appetite, p. 49)
When I first saw pop art, I loved what it said to me about the role of advertising in creating the way we see our surroundings, especially in the way we see food and food packaging. Who can resist the word "iconic"?

I've mentioned the exhibition "Art and Appetite: American Painting, Culture, and Cuisine," currently showing at the Art Institute of Chicago, and the catalog of the exhibit with the same title. The first essay in the catalog is "Thanksgiving: The Great American Food Fest," written by Judith A. Barter, which I've quoted above.

The remainder of images are just as fascinating as the ones I've chosen here -- including many magazine illustrations from the 19th and 20th century. Through art and illustration, we see the history of the holiday. As I said a few weeks ago, I wish I could get to this exhibit, but I'm really happy to have the catalog.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Northwood by Sarah Josepha Hale

Northwood, Title Page, Second Edition (Wiki Media)
In the novel Northwood by Sarah Josepha Hale, published in 1827, I was amazed to find a description of Thanksgiving dinner that is so close to what we have today. The major difference is the variety of meat dishes beyond just the turkey. Hale is famous for her advocacy of making Thanksgiving a national holiday. Her later non-fiction writings included lots of advice for how the holiday should be celebrated: in other words, we owe her!

But here are her original words:
“But now to my dinner … A long table, formed by placing two of the ordinary size together, was set forth in the parlor, which being the best room, and ornamented with the best furniture, was seldom used, except on important occasions. The finishing of the parlor was in a much better manner than that of any other apartment in the house; the wood work was painted cream color, and the plaster walls ornamented with paper hangings of gay tints and curious devices. …
 “The furniture of the parlor consisted of a mahogany sideboard and table, a dozen handsome rush-bottomed chairs, a large mirror, the gilt frame covered with green gauze to prevent injury from dust and flies, and on the floor was a substantial, home manufactured carpet, woven in a curious manner and blended with all the colors of the rainbow …
 “The table, covered with a damask cloth, vieing in whiteness, and nearly equalling in texture, the finest imported, though spun, woven and bleached by Mrs. Romelee’s own hand, was now intended for the whole household, every child having a seat on this occasion, and the more the better, it being considered an honor for a man to sit down to his Thanksgiving supper surrounded by a large family. The provision is always sufficient for a multitude, every farmer in the country being, at this season of the year, plentifully supplied, and every one proud of displaying his abundance and prosperity.
 “The roasted turkey took precedence on this occasion, being placed at the head of the table; and well did it become its lordly station, sending forth the rich odour of its savoury stuffing, and finely covered with the frost of the basting. At the foot of the board a surloin of beef, flanked on either side by a leg of pork and joint of mutton, seemed placed as a bastion to defend innumerable bowls of gravy and plates of vegetables disposed in that quarter. A goose and pair of ducklings occupied side stations on the table, the middle being graced, as it always is on such occasions by that rich burgomaster of the provisions, called a chicken pie. This pie, which is wholly formed of the choicest parts of fowls, enriched and seasoned with a profusion of butter and pepper, and covered with an excellent puff paste, is, like the celebrated pumpkin pie, an indispensable part of a good and true Yankee Thanksgiving; the size of the pie usually denoting the gratitude of the party who prepares the feast. … Plates of pickles, preserves, and butter, and all the necessaries for increasing the seasoning of the viands to the demand of each palate, filled the interstices on the table, leaving hardly sufficient room for the plates of the company, a wine glass and two tumblers for each, with a slice of wheat bread lying on one of the inverted tumblers. A side table was literally loaded with the preparations for the second course, placed there to obviate the necessity of leaving the apartment during the repast. Mr. Romelee keeping no domestic, the family were to wait on themselves, or on each other. There was a huge plumb pudding, custards, and pies of every name and description ever known in Yankee land; yet the pumpkin pie occupied the most distinguished niche. There were also several kinds of rich cake, and a variety of sweet meats and fruits. On the sideboard was ranged a goodly number of decanters and bottles; the former filled with currant wine and the latter with excellent cider and ginger beer, a beverage Mrs. Romelee prided herself on preparing in perfection. There were no foreign wines or ardent spirits, Squire Romelee being a consistent moralist.” -- Google Book Edition p. 114-117


Friday, November 15, 2013

Happy Bundt Pan Day


Here's my empty Bundt cake pan, posing in the afternoon sunshine. Today is Bundt Pan Day, in honor of the 60-somethingth anniversary of the first Bundt pans being sold by the Nordic Ware company in Minneapolis. I'm not making a cake for Bundt Pan Day for a variety of reasons, but I took out my pan just for fun. You can see that the old-style nostick finish is somewhat scratched: not surprising, since I've had the pan since some time in the 1960s, possibly even before the famous Tunnel of Fudge winner of the Pillsbury bake-off in 1966. Anyway, my Aunt Bernadine gave it to me around that time, and I've used it -- just not today.

Here's a quote from the website of Nordic Ware about the founder, H. David Dalquist, who died in 2005:
"In 1950, the landmark pan was introduced, after the Minneapolis Chapter of the Hadassah Society asked Dave and Dotty to produce a kuglehof pan, similar to the one the society's president had received from her grandmother in Germany. Dave produced the pan from cast aluminum for the Hadassah Society and a few for the Nordic Ware trademark, which he sold to department stores using the name, bund pan. (The word bund means a gathering--thus a bund cake, with its characteristic fluting, was a cake suitable for a gathering or party.) Nordic Ware created the pan and filed for a trademark to protect its creation, renaming the pan the Bundt pan."
For its first 10 years or so, the bundt pan was mainly popular among American-Jewish women, who were recreating traditional cakes from their Eastern European and German-Jewish origins. According to Wikipedia (which has convincing footnotes for the claim) -- "Uses of the word 'bund' to describe cakes outside of Europe can be found in Jewish-American cookbooks from around the start of the 20th century. The alternative spelling 'bundt' also appears in a recipe as early as 1901." These references are to two famous Jewish cookbooks: Aunt Babette's Cookbook (1889) and The Settlement Cookbook (1901).

I thank Louise at Months of Edible Celebrations for pointing out Bundt Cake Day!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Happy Birthday, Adam

Espresso Cake with Hot Kahlua Syrup
Recipe from Carole Walter's Great Cakes
Adam lights his candles; background Carol the baker.
Once more, it's Adam's birthday. Last night we celebrated with a meal at an Indian restaurant and another fabulous cake baked by Carol. She's  made many cakes from the book Great Cakes. The combination of coffee flavor, chocolate frosting, Kahlua syrup to soak into the cake, and a hint of lemon from the candied peel decorating the top was remarkable.

Many happy returns, Adam!

Friday, November 08, 2013

"Yes, Chef"

In his memoir Yes, Chef, the celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson shows himself to be a man who loves food and who is dedicated to several ideals of ethnic awareness and racial equality. Though I knew that Samuelsson was a native of Ethiopia, adopted as a small child and raised in Sweden, author of a book of pan-African recipes, and later an immigrant and naturalized citizen of the US, I wasn’t expecting the high quality of writing and high level of global consciousness that I found in the book.

Always loving food and cooking, Samuelsson credits his Swedish grandmother Mormor with introducing him to food:
“At Mormor’s, the smell of food was omnipresent: The yeasty aroma of freshly baked bread or the tang of drying rose hips hit you as soon as you walked in. Something was always going on in her kitchen, and usually several things at once. My grandmother would start chopping vegetables for dinner while sterilizing jars for canning, while stirring a pot of chicken stock or grinding pork for a month’s worth of sausages. If I had to try to pinpoint my earliest food memory it would not be a single taste, but a smell – my grandmother’s house.” (kindle location 268)
“Every country has a cuisine,” Samuelsson says (kindle location 3317). He shares his fascination and respect for the deep flavors of Swedish food. He describes vividly his voyages long and short in search of unusual spices and cooking techniques in Europe, Asia, Africa, and among immigrant communities in New York. From a stage on a cruise ship to Southeast Asia to walks through New York and spending all his meagre earnings on meals at respected restaurants, he searched for good tastes.

His discovery of obscure flavors like the spice mix berbere native to his Amharic village in Ethiopia comes alive, while he also painfully explains the harsh poverty in which his natal family subsists. His efforts to be generous and helpful to his family (whom he found when he was over 30, after long efforts) depict his struggle to treat them with respect for their culture, while trying to give his much younger half-sisters a better chance through education. His emotional life is complex and maybe he’s not always perfect in his relationships with others, but I think he describes it in a way that makes one understand him.
Website of Samuelsson's restaurant Red Rooster.

Samuelsson began his education in a Swedish culinary school, but quickly sought apprenticeships in three-star establishments in Switzerland and Austria. The toughness of life in such kitchens is characterized by the automatic response of a subordinate when given an order: "Yes, Chef!" The apprenticeship of a chef in a modern kitchen is a frequent subject for chef memoirs; this one seems to me very vivid but less sensationalistic than some of the others.

Samuelsson was always conscious of his racial difference, not least because a worker in those kitchens is often referred to as a “negre” – not a nice word. He’s especially clear about racism in high-end American restaurants and how it affected him during his development as a chef, beginning just above apprentice level and quickly progressing to be a head chef, a partner in a high-profile venture that failed, and finally as the chef chosen to cook the Obama's first White House state dinner and eventually as owner of a successful Harlem restaurant The Red Rooster.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Coming soon...


I spent several hours at the Chicago Art Institute today, enjoying their vast collections of American art, Impressionism, African art, Asian sculpture and ceramics, and more. Sadly, an exhibit that I would love to see doesn't start until next week.

The saddest part: many paintings that represent culture and cuisine are not on view now -- for example, "Nighthawks" which I wrote about earlier this week. There is little chance for me to get back to Chicago before the show ends January 27, but maybe I'll at least be able to get a copy of the catalog -- no, it wasn't available in the gift shop yet!

But there was a candy pile by artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres
(who also did the green candy in Fort Worth).
You can eat the candy -- here's how it works!
(This caption has been updated to correct the name of the artist and give links.)

Friday, November 01, 2013

Tapas

Looking out the window of Mercat Restaurant towards Michigan Avenue in Chicago.
We arrived in Chicago at 3:45 PM, spent an hour in the Art Institute, and went on down the street to eat at Mercat.
We ate there one other time, in August 2010.
Boquarones (white anchovies) with pine nuts and herbs
Serrano ham and fig salad with spinach, almonds, sherry vinaigrette
Razor clams with piquillo pepper sofrito and grilled focaccia
The highly-decorated interior of the restaurant.