Sunday, June 23, 2019

"Among Friends" by M.F.K.Fisher

Among Friends, published 1970
"Everything was roomy, and the attic seemed to stretch far under the eaves.... There was a smell that I can bring to my mind's eye in a flash, and it is that attic: dust, and the decay of paper and silk and wood; the perfume of exotic vanished bodies once rubbed with rare oils, doused with drops from French bottles, powdered and rouged for roistering." -- M.F.K. Fisher, Among Friends, p. 175. 
"Outside the low brown building, with its ample kitchen and its big waxed hall, was a row of the most beautiful geraniums I ever saw in my life. ... Anne and I stood close to them, and smelled the subtle sting of the bruised flesh, a perfume which comes out as it does from the same fleeting touch on a tomato plant or a chrysanthemum." -- p. 137-38. 
"Gracie was our maverick... She was strong and mean. She smelled bitter, a perfume which my mother identified for my infatuated nose as garlic, never used or mentioned in our own cuisine." -- p. 201 
"We had another secret friend in the early days with Aunt Gwen: her dog, a dignified but mischievous character always called Pat Nettleship and not just Pat, liked Anne and me very much. He had a fine peppery smell." -- p. 253
M.F.K. Fisher, born in 1908, is best known for her earlier food writing -- her very vivid food writing. As the above quotations illustrate, she also had an amazing talent for describing aromas! Among Friends, Fisher's memoir of her early life, was mainly published episodically in the New Yorker. In it she describes her childhood in Whittier, California, where her father was the publisher of the local newspaper. At first, the writing in this book seemed a little dated to me, but I quickly began to enjoy the rhythm of the text; the observations of people and their relationships; the distinct memories of her point of view as both a child and later an adult; and the amazing descriptions of food, experiences, people, California scenery and much more.

She includes lots of very pointed remarks about the social stratification of Whittier, where the majority of inhabitants were Quakers who never really accepted her non-Quaker family. One critical remark that I quite liked was about a community cookbook from the Whittier Women's Club, and printed at her father's newspaper shop:
"I have a copy of its cookbook, compiled by the ladies in 1928-29, but almost identical with the one Father's back room turned out in Michigan in 1905. The recipes are just as ineptly phrased, and one senses that many of the most prized ones have deliberately cheated on the Secret Ingredient that had made them locally famous." -- p. 145.
A long and very beautiful memory of Aunt Gwen, a woman that she and her sister Anne were very fond of, was one of my favorite chapters. Aunt Gwen was definitely an influence in developing Fisher's taste in food. For example, "I can't remember any other vegetables than tomatoes and cucumbers at Aunt Gwen's ..., except onions and beets," Fisher writes. "At home we occasionally ate sliced beets in the little vegetable dishes, but they tasted like nothing, not even red, which of course has several definite flavors." This passage goes on to describe Aunt Gwen's way of preparing beets, of making breaded and fried onions, and of creating a wonderful picnic treat of fried egg sandwiches. But I'm most intrigued by the idea of something tasting red! You can tell what she means, but who would ever think of it? -- p. 84.

Fisher's parents, her rapidly increasing family of sisters and a brother, her grandmother, and many other close friends, distant neighbors, and school mates are really the center of the book, but it's also full of very enjoyable descriptions of the meals they ate, the homes they lived in, and the way that people lived in California 100 years ago. It's definitely worth reading!

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Bread Baking News

Bread!



One more bread-baking book: Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes. Len continues to try many new techniques and recipes from this and his previously purchased bread books. Earlier this week, he made a deli rye that I liked, but that did not satisfy his increasingly high standards!



And another bread book, this one an old classic that was on the shelves of my favorite used bookstore, Motte and Bailey:


All photos copyright © 2019 by Mae & Len Sander, for use by maefood dot blogspot dot com.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Salade Lyonnaise

Salade Lyonnaise, also called Salad Frisée aux Lardons. For complete instructions, see this recipe from
Bon Appetit magazine:https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/frisee-lardon-salad
The recipe explains in detail how to poach the egg to top the lettuce and cooked bacon.
Frisée lettuce: locally grown from Argus farm market.
Bacon sautéed with onions. Wine vinegar is added to the pan and reduced
to make a vinaigrette dressing for the salad. I used locally produced bacon.

Just before serving, you pour the warm vinaigrette mixture over the lettuce to wilt it slightly.

A poached egg garnishes each bowl of salad. This dish is often served in Lyonnaise restaurants
called Bouchons, as well as in Parisian bistros.
All photos copyright © 2019 by Mae & Len Sander, for use by maefood dot blogspot dot com.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Salmon in Yogurt Sauce


The other day I bought some wild-caught Copper River salmon at Costco -- that means I bought a lot of it! I wanted to make it in advance so that it would be completely ready for dinner during my sister and brother-in-law's visit. I hadn't made my old favorite recipe for cold fish (or chicken) in yogurt sauce in a while, so I looked it up, and I'm including it below. As always, photos and text are created and copyright © by this blog: maefood dot blogspot dot com, and if you see my posts and photos at another blog, they've been stolen.

Fish or Chicken in Yogurt Sauce

This recipe can be made with salmon filets, chicken breasts, or whole trout. For 4 servings, you need about 1.5 to 2 lbs. of salmon filets, OR around 2 whole skinless boneless chicken breasts (breast meat from 2 chickens) sliced into 4 or more filets each, OR 2 or 3 whole trout (depending on size). Plus 1 recipe of sauce.

Broil the fish or meat. For trout, skin, bone, and filet each trout after broiling, making two filets for each fish. For salmon, cut the fish into serving-size portions after broiling.

While the fish or chicken is broiling, mix the following sauce:
    1 cup plain yogurt
    2 tablespoons Hellman's regular or light mayonnaise
    1 clove garlic, crushed so there are no big chunks
    Mixture of herbs -- chives, basil, dill, parsley, oregano, cilantro as you like
    OR mixture of turmeric and curry powder 
    1 Tbs. crushed green peppercorns (optional)
    Few drops Tabasco sauce or juice of up to 1 lemon to taste
    Salt to taste

Arrange the warm chicken or fish portions neatly on a platter, and spoon the yogurt sauce over each one. Chill in refrigerator. Sauce will firm up. Garnish with fresh parsley, chopped green onion, or red pepper slices and (for fish, especially) lemon slices. Serve cold with salad (I served it with French potato salad and lettuce leaves).

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

The Falafel Google Doodle!


Yes, Yes, Yes. Falafel is definitely something to celebrate. Today's Google Doodle links to many recipes for falafel -- it doesn't even say that today is national Falafel day or anything like that.

"Faithful Place" by Tana French

"Breakfast was the full whammy: eggs, rashers, sausages, black pudding, fried bread, fried tomatoes. This was clearly some kind of statement, but I couldn’t work out whether it was See, we’re doing just grand without you, or I’m still slaving my fingers to the bone for you even though you don’t deserve it, or possibly We’ll be even when this lot gives you a heart attack. " -- Faithful Place, (p. 45). 
Undercover agent Francis Makey,  narrator of Faithful Place, is served this typical Irish breakfast on his first visit in 22 years to the extremely dysfunctional home of his parents and siblings. Obviously, he feels enormous pressure from them, and struggles not to be overwhelmed by the guilt they would like him to feel. His adult life includes a divorce, a fraught custody arrangement, and his success as a member of the police force ... but he can't completely turn his back on his origins.

Faithful Place, Tana French's 2010 detective novel, clearly offers much more than the obsessed search for a murderer.  It's the story of Makey's early life in the impoverished neighborhood in Dublin (a neighborhood called Faithful Place), of his hatred of his father, and of his efforts to get more and more information about who he is. Because the murder victims are both very close to Mackey, he's not officially involved in the police work, and in fact is constantly told to back off and let his colleagues do their job. He can't let it go: understanding what happened consume him until the quite dramatic ending where all is revealed.

Like many writers of fast-paced and suspenseful detective stories, Tana French often punctuates the flow of time with meals: especially breakfast. Indicating a new morning is always a way to make the reader feel the daily rhythm of the unfolding mystery -- as well as a way to create local atmosphere. Here's the narrator's version of breakfast the next morning:
"The streets were shining wet and empty, bells ringing for early Mass and nobody much paying attention. I found a depressing café full of depressed Eastern Europeans and got myself a nutritious breakfast: soggy muffins, a handful of aspirin and a bucket of coffee." (p. 147).
I enjoyed Faithful Place enormously, and admired the way it combined a self-portrait of the narrator with a well-crafted murder mystery. It's full of humor and word play, as well as zingers about the social condition of the narrator and the people around him. I enjoyed it especially because it reminded me of a couple of visits I've paid to Ireland; I really appreciated the list from the family's guilt-inducing breakfast: "eggs, rashers, sausages, black pudding, fried bread, fried tomatoes." This was the exact menu in a Dublin bed & breakfast where I once stayed! And just as I was writing the review, my friend Sheila in England sent me the following parody of the classic breakfast:

Coincidently, here is Sheila's photo of "A Fool English Breakfast" which was in fact a dessert in a restaurant.
She explained: "The mushrooms were meringue, the bacon dried watermelon with a fat rim of some sort of jelly,
the black pudding was blueberry rice pudding and the egg made up of mango sorbet and panna cotta."

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Mystery Mural: Mona Lisa


The photo above, dated September, 2015, is a mystery to me. I noticed it by chance in one of my files of iPhone photos. I think one of my considerate friends or relatives, who help me with my collection of Mona Lisa parodies, must have sent it to me. Whoever you are -- if you let me know, I'll add a thank you here!

Diligent google searching yielded this: the scene is from Umberto's Clam House in Manhattan's Little Italy. It's a famous tourist spot for seafood now, but also notorious because in 1972, it was the scene of a high-profile mob killing. Umberto's website includes another view of the Mona Lisa mural.

I decided to share this amusing photo with Sami's Colorful World, where many bloggers share images of murals from around the world each Sunday. To see the collected murals check this website:

Like every post at my blog, maefood dot blogspot dot com, I wrote this post, and if you see it at some other blog, you are seeing a pirate version that's stolen from me!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

New from Martin Walker: Another Bruno Chief of Police Book


The latest in the long detective series about Bruno, the chief of police in an absolutely ideal little village named St. Denis in the south of France, was published last week. If you haven't read any of this series, you have some fun in store. The new book is good -- but if they are all new to you I would suggest starting at the beginning and continuing until you tire of them. (The Penguin website lists all 14 of the Bruno books they have published.)

The Body in the Castle Well includes most of the themes that I have enjoyed in the earlier books. The delightful local foods of the village, politics and police business, the suspense of the investigation of a suspicious death, many vivid characters, and the weight of 20th century history all play a major role in creating a readable detective story. Every book offers tons of local color, including Bruno's daily pastimes of horseback riding and rough-housing with his dog Balzac -- and especially his cooking. But there's always a new plot, new twists in the relationships of Bruno and his friends, and new foods to savor. I'm always ready for Walker to spin the latest tale!

FOOD! As always, the new book offers mouth-watering restaurant descriptions and a few market visits, but not as many as in other books. Bruno cooks for his friends, for visitors to the village, and in this book makes dinner for the children of one of his friends. Details of how he cooks each course of a meal, as well as the wines he serves with each course, are a highlight of the book. You could almost follow the steps and make the food yourself, if you could get the remarkable local ingredients. I read them all with relish, most of all the preparation of his very elegant dinner with a lamb navarin which required several days of preparation and many vegetables fresh-picked from his garden.

I really loved the description of Bruno's cooking for two small children for whom he agreed to baby sit for an evening when their mother, one of his many friends in the village, can't find anyone else. The dish he makes them is spaghetti -- and his approach to this task was quite different from other food prep scenes in this and the many previous books:
“But first, which of you is going to teach me how to cook?” he asked.  
“You cook all the time,” they cried.  
“But this is magic spaghetti, and I don’t know magic. Balzac hasn’t taught me yet, but he says you two know how to cook it. Should we go in the kitchen and find out? Then we can have dinner and read a story before bath time.” 
“I only know the simple stuff,” said Bruno, washing his hands before peeling and chopping two onions and then cutting three tomatoes into rough chunks. “You two have to find the saucepan and the frying pan.”  
The children began to forage in cupboards.
“Now I need salt and pepper,” he said, and Daniel climbed onto a stool and pointed to where they stood on the table. Bruno found duck fat in the fridge and began frying the onions and put a kettle on to boil. 
“Where does Maman keep the spaghetti?” Dora pointed to a cupboard. 
“That’s where she keeps the ordinary spaghetti, but we don’t know where the magic one is.” 
“Balzac will tell us,” said Bruno, tossing the meat into the softening onions, adding salt and pepper and stirring the pot. “He only eats the magic spaghetti. Now you need to break up the spaghetti sticks so the bits are each as long as your finger, otherwise Balzac won’t eat them. Now can you set the table, a plate for each of us, a fork and spoon, and a plate for Balzac. If you want apple juice, you need to set a glass by each plate.” 
The water was boiling, so he poured the contents of the kettle into the saucepan, added salt and then the strands of spaghetti, now broken into child-sized pieces. He added the chunks of tomato to the mixture of meat and onions and began stirring, then he brought two stools close to the oven and stood a child on each stool so they could watch. 
“Ladies first,” he said, picking up Dora and giving her a wooden spoon and holding her so she could stir the meat. Then he picked up Daniel, gave him another wooden spoon and let him stir the spaghetti. 
“Now we say together after me the magic spell.” He began to chant, making up the rhyme as he spoke: 
"Les pâtes nous remuons.
Afin que nous mangions.
La sauce deviendra magique
Sinon c’est très tragique." [
“We stir the pasta so that we can eat and the sauce becomes magic. If not, it’s very tragic.”] -- (p. 223). 

SUSPENSE! Which of the suspects pushed the murder victim, a charming young American, down the castle well? Or was it a tragic accident? Bruno has to interview a lot of people, understand their complicated motives, and figure it out. He has to deal with his superiors in the French police system, and convince or ensnare them to do what he needs them to. As always, there are special challenges: here especially because the dead woman was an American and her family were very highly connected, so he has to deal with their interference. In the end, the solution to the mystery was so complicated that I had to work hard to follow what had happened -- a tiny bit disappointing on this level. But I enjoyed it.

POLITICS! Walker makes use of every possible area of political conniving and power struggles -- within the police force, on a national French level, on a local level among the villagers (rivalries, ideologies, race relations, etc.), in union elections of local high school teachers, due to residual resentments leftover from people's school days, and more -- in this book, even American politics. I always find that the political challenges to Bruno's investigation are very amusing and interesting.

HISTORY! In this case, the historic background of the novel's key characters includes World War II, the Algerian war and its aftermath, the French colonial war in Vietnam (which as you probably know was prior to the American Vietnam War), the lasting importance of De Gaulle, modern political ideologies and how they relate to past events, and international relations especially with Americans.  In this book, art history and the provenance of paintings also had an important role. As always, Walker informs the reader painlessly what all this history might mean to the residents of the small town where Bruno works. And makes it rather intriguing.

BRUNO AND THE TOWNIES! The only thing that's less prominent in this book is that Bruno, who is of course central to every one of the books, has only a bit of interaction with the local farmers, aristocrats (except those directly involved in the mystery), and townspeople than in other books. This time we don't see him coaching sports, helping the needy, buying fresh produce and game or trading with the producers for things he makes himself, or helping out with kids' activities. He does belong to an association for judging and promoting the local foie gras, but the description doesn't have as much passion as that of the local events in other books. Another village event he is involved in, a concert, doesn't play as big a role as similar events in earlier books.

I avidly read each new Bruno mystery for the suspense, for the vivid characters, and for the idealized view of this rural French village that's really Walker's greatest invention. It's the village everyone hopes to find on a trip to France, which preserves all the wonderful old time rural happiness and virtually none of the downside, and introduces only good things from modern life: like cell phones! The perfect honesty, personality, resourcefulness, and ideals of Bruno, of course, are always central. It's a pity there has to be at least one murder victim in each book, but that's the price you have to pay for such a fun read.
This post is written and published by maefood dot blogspot dot com.

If you see this posted at another blog, it's been stolen.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Wild Blackberries in Shenandoah

"Blackberries are all over the mountain," said the bartender who brought us this delicious piece of blackberry ice cream pie.
As we hiked in the park, we didn't see any blackberries, as they won't be ripe for months.
The ice cream had a really fresh flavor, even though it must have been made from frozen or otherwise preserved fruit.
I tried to find out what blackberry plants look like in early June, but I'm
still not sure. Was this bunny nibbling on blackberry leaves?
These deer were eating rotten wood from a fallen tree (or maybe grubs)?
But were there blackberries all around them?
Are these blackberry bushes that we saw near the trail?
Are some of the plants around the waterfall blackberries?

Or here? All the guides to foraging along the Appalachian Trail mention blackberries!
Whichever plant produced the blackberries, they were delicious. On our second night in the Skyland Resort, we again ate
dinner in the Taproom, and ordered the blackberry cobbler, with the same blackberry ice cream on top.
Skyland was founded in 1888, long before the National Park took over the area. I wonder how old the recipes are.

All photos Copyright © 2019 by Mae & Len Sander.
Published by maefood dot blogspot.com.
If you see this posted at another blog, it's been stolen.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Fallingwater

On a tour of Fallingwater -- Frank Lloyd Wright's amazing masterpiece -- the first look we had at this amazing home was
a view of the cantilevered living room over the stream. At right you can see an ongoing restoration of some of the
concrete structure of the building. I suspect that Fallingwater is not only one of the most remarkable single-family homes
ever built, but that it also probably the highest maintenance of any home ever!
Wright designed Fallingwater for the Kaufman family in the 1930s. It was a weekend retreat for Edgar Kaufmann, Sr. and his wife and son. Kaufmann owned and ran a large department store in Pittsburgh. He purchased the property as a retreat for his family and the employees of the store. His son, Edgar Kaufmann, Jr,  was a student of architecture. He studied with Frank Lloyd Wright, and arranged for Wright to design the home beside the waterfall on the property. With his usual incredible originality, Wright placed the home over the waterfall rather than beside it.

Fallingwater is located 50 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. We toured it on our way home from Shenandoah National Park.

The sitting area that's in the cantilevered room in my first photo. Edgar Kaufmann, Jr. donated the house, its furnishings,
and the impressive art collections it housed, to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in 1963. Thus it is maintained
as a museum with a visitor center and numerous daily tours. 
One of the innovative features: the natural boulders at the site were incorporated into the structure.
This 8th-century Indian statue of the Hindu goddess Parvati is incorporated into the natural rock. Water seeps into the
wall when it rains, and runs over the rocks and into a carefully contrived crack in the floor.
The Fallingwater kitchen, used by the cook who traveled with them for weekends at the house. The formica topped counters
were an innovation: the material had not yet been released, but Wright knew people who made it available to him early.
Two maids and a chauffeur completed the Kaufmann's staff on visits to the house. (Source)



The story of Fallingwater, the Kaufmann family, and the accomplishments of Frank Lloyd Wright is very complicated. Many articles and books on Wright evaluate his major contributions to architecture and design. I've only presented my brief impressions from the tour of Fallingwater, which I found to be an incredible and wonderful experience.

All photos Copyright © 2019 by Mae & Len Sander.
Blog post created and owned by Mae's Food Blog: maefood dot blogspot dot com.
If you see this post at some other blog, it's been stolen.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Dark Hollow Falls, Shenandoah National Park


Dark Hollow Falls poster in the gift shop







Friday, June 07, 2019

Shenandoah!

Beautiful Shenandoah National Park! We've now left Fairfax and are here for the weekend.

An Indigo Bunting. 
Mountain Laurel blooming on the Appalachian Trail.

Our very brief walk on the Appalachian Trail.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Mama Chang, Fairfax, VA

Scallion Bubble Bread, about to be delivered to our table at Mama Chang
Restaurant in Fairfax, VA. We could see the kitchen from our table, which
I find a bit unusual in a Chinese restaurant!
Mama Chang was named best new restaurant in the Washington Post's
Spring 2019 Dining Guide. (LINK TO ARTICLE)
We had a very enjoyable experience eating here.
Beef stew with potatoes. 
Noodles fried with vegetables. 
Sweet-sour lotus root. This was really delicious and completely new to me.
We also had pork belly with lotus root, which has a very
different flavor profile and is also good.
Very spicy deep-fried flounder with cumin. I found this a little too spicy.
The bones (which were mentioned on the menu) made it a little hard to eat.
Every table seemed to have a totally different selection of dishes,
including many types of steamed buns, which we didn't try.
All photos Copyright © 2019 by Mae & Len Sander.
Blog post created and owned by Mae's Food Blog: maefood dot blogspot dot com.
If you see this post at some other blog, it's been stolen.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Miriam's Graduation





This post by Mae at maefood.blogspot.com
All photos copyright Mae E. Sander.