Monday, June 30, 2008

My own kitchen: Ann Arbor

Glimpses of my kitchen feature in many earlier posts, but I wanted keep up with my friends and relatives who have cooperated (or soon will cooperate) with my current project of displaying all their kitchens.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Soulard Market, St.Louis

I haven't been to the Soulard Market, which is somewhere in downtown St.Louis, in many years. When we were kids, my father liked Soulard before it was a cool thing to go to markets. Some of us often went with him -- my mother usually didn't go along. The building was more indoors than the Ann Arbor Farmers' Market, with old-fashioned columns and open spaces between them. At one end was an indoor area with small shops that sold regular groceries like meat, candy, and canned goods.

My father liked to talk to the people who worked in the market, and he liked to buy big baskets of tomatoes or peaches or potatoes just like we still buy.

Sometimes he bargained with the sellers, which both he and they enjoyed. Sometimes he asked them about their lives and backgrounds. I think some were immigrants like himself, possibly not far from his age. I remember waiting patiently while he had these conversations.

From these photos, taken by Carol and Nat this week, I can see that many things are still the same -- though I don't recall seeing any goat for sale behind those vaguely familiar glass doors. The stalls in the first picture -- where you can see Ruby and Jay shopping -- look just like the ones I remember, with built-in sloping bins that allow display of fruit and vegetables, different from the market here where farmers have to bring their own tables.

Nat wrote: "the sign in front says it was established in 1779. It currently seems to be a quite practical place, with nice-looking standard produce at quite good prices, and not much exotic or touristy."

The most important feature of Soulard is that it's a market of small retailers, who buy produce at some wholesale market, or from farmers, and who run the shops daily or nearly so. This is a major contrast to the markets throughout Michigan and in Fairfax, which provide a weekly or twice-a-week stall to the actual producers of the goods, and are thus truly local markets. My father often bought imported things like bananas or oranges (like I see in the photo), as well as in-season Illinois peaches or potatoes from somewhere in the midwest.

The market in West Lafayette is (I think -- correct me Elaine) a sort of combination. Some farmers sell their local products, some middlemen go to farmers that are further away and bring in baskets of produce from them. I hope Elaine will send me some photos for another market story.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

New Grill

Summer. Time to get out the grill. Our old red grill could still hold a hot charcoal fire, but the wooden handles were disintegrating and the blades that closed the bottom vents were rusted out. This doesn't seem blameworthy after more than 20 years of use.

What could we do but get a new one? We opted for the identical grill with one new feature, a metal box for catching the ash when you clean out the kettle. Fortunately, the essential design is eternal: the only change is that the wood handles have been replaced with fiberglass. (You can see the two grills together in one of the photos, followed by a picture of the old red grill's last job: a whole chicken.)

Our first test was just a few hot dogs a couple of nights ago. Tonight we decided to go bigtime. We jointly researched and created a yogurt-spice marinade for a butterflied leg of lamb. Lenny even used his meat thermometer. It was fabulous!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Around the Farmers Market

I enjoyed my trip to the Farmers Market this morning. I bought the usual: lettuce, new potatoes, peas in the shell, golden yellow zucchini, small tomatoes, spring onions, local cheese, and strawberries -- and newly in season, cherries and raspberries. Then I stopped for a while to read and have a cappuccino at Cafe Verde. The barriste (or whatever you call a man who makes coffee) put a funny little face in my coffee cup.

I always used to get to the Farmers Market and suddenly discover that I had forgotten to bring a bag or basket to carry my purchases in. No more: now I keep two very compact nylon bags in my purse. I also use them at the grocery store or the library. I bought them at Heavenly Metal, a tiny shop full of fun things. There's also a small mirrored dressing table where the owner, Vicki Honeyman, cuts hair. I've been getting my hair cut there recently: today I was wrong about the time, and showed up half an hour late -- but Vicki was very nice and fit me in anyway.

The many-colored nylon bags must be popular. Each one comes in a convenient little pouch with the logo: BAGGU. When I checked out at Produce Station recently, there was a forgotten pouch behind the counter that exactly matched my bag! The cashier offered it to me, but I had not lost mine -- someone else had been using an identical one.

In the second BAGGU photo you can see a demonstration of me carrying my bag with my local spring onions sticking out of the top. If you want one, you should go look over this fun shop -- or go to the online store on the website.

Heavenly Metal is in the area between the market and Huron Street. All around there are really nice shops, such as Kaleidescope, where I am hopelessly tempted by the tiny collectible dolls. On the same street: the food coop, Cafe Verde, a tea store, and a cupcake shop (neither of which I have tried). So in the same trip, I bought local produce, drank coffee, dawdled, browsed collectibles, and got a haircut: a winning neighborhood!

I hope I'll soon have more kitchen photos from friends and relations, as well as maybe some photos from other farmers markets.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Olga's Kitchen, Austin, Texas

Greenfield Village Kitchens

A year ago, I posted a piece on Greenfield Village food and kitchens. Here is a repeat of the kitchens there, to go in my series of kitchens of homes and museums. Thanks to all my friends who are sharing their kitchens!
Quite a few of the reconstructed kitchens include original equipment and realistic food.

One kitchen included foods that were cooked "this week" -- turnovers, cookies, hand-made egg noodles, and corn biscuits. Two very nice women were there to share their stories of cooking and quilting, though the actual cooking seems to take place elsewhere.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Julia Child's Kitchen in the Smithsonian

In around 2002, when Julia Child's kitchen from her house in Cambridge was first installed in the Smithsonian, I spent over an hour admiring every detail and watching highlights from "The French Chef" on a loop in the exhibit. I love Julia Child's cookbooks, which I've been using from my earliest experiments in learning to cook. So I'm adding hers to my ongoing series of kitchens belonging to friends and relations -- and famous kitchens.

Tracy's Kitchen, Lancaster, PA

Erin's Kitchen in Prague

Sheila's Kitchen in London

Saturday, June 21, 2008

[Another] Elaine's Kitchen

Elaine's Kitchen and Its Hanging Pot Rack

The Fairfax Farmers Market

Just a few of Miriam and Alice's photos from this morning at the Farmers Market.

Evelyn's Kitchen

Miriam took this photo of their kitchen. Like Elaine and the White House, they have pots hanging over the island.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Famous Kitchens

If you are fond of kitchens, you should look over the wonderful photos of the White House kitchens at the White House website. Shown: the oldest photo on the site from 1901. The White House pantry also appears on the website.

I love touring either original or restored kitchens in historic houses from other eras. This website allows a virtual tour of the White House, which I've never visited in person.

Elaine wrote: " I took a look at the White House kitchens, and see pots hanging over a central island as I do as far back as 1903. It really is a convenient way to store them." I think that hanging pots have been traditional in restaurant and commercial kitchens forever -- having them in homes dates from more recently. Or maybe it went out and came back. In 1901, MANY people had cooks or maids working in their home kitchens like that in the White House, now it's rare, so tht may be an issue too.


This old kitchen stove clock and timer illustrates an L.A.Times article on a small, efficient, useful kitchen. Food writer Martha Rose Shulman and others give a number of reasons why useful kitchens don't have to follow the fad for no-holds-barred expensive appliances. Of course, Consumer Reports has repeatedly tested high-end appliances like Viking, and found that the less expensive counterparts from old-line manufacturers are often more reliable and serviceable. When remodeling and later upgrading my kitchen, I made decisions like this, though maybe I overdid the low-endness of my range.

My favorite quote:
"Whether people are actually cooking more remains unclear, but the primacy of the kitchen as a public shrine seems, for the moment, secure. 'I call them Lean Cuisine kitchens,' Haas says, referring to her suspicion that warming a frozen dinner might be the height of culinary expertise expended by some owners of $5,000 ranges -- not counting occasions when the equipment is turned over to caterers."