Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Kona Coffee from Greenwell Farms

During all our visits to Kona, today was our first tour of a big coffee farm:
Greenwell Farms near Kona. The farm has a large number of coffee trees,
 facilities for processing and roasting the coffee, and a visitor center.
(We did once tour a small one, Kona Lisa Coffee).
Close-up of ripening red coffee "cherries" which contain the
so-called coffee bean, which isn't really a bean.
Coffee trees.
A hopper full of the "cherries" which will be hulled, sorted by size and quality, dried, fermented, and finally, roasted. 
Our guide telling us about how coffee is processed. Lenny, Evelyn,
Miriam, and Alice are all listening.
Besides the rows of coffee trees, Greenwell Farms grows avocados, papayas, bananas, and guavas. 
Jungle fowl (aka chickens) are all around the coffee trees.

Alice and Miriam Cook Dinner

In the kitchen of the condo in Kona, Alice made
her creation of tomatoes stuffed with avocado.
And Miriam made green salad.
Dinner: stuffed tomatoes, green salad, bread, and
fruit salad. All the produce is grown in Hawaii:
tomatoes, avocado, lettuce, papaya, watermelon, and pineapple.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Coffee Shack, Captain Cook, Hawaii

This morning at The Coffee Shack in Captain Cook Hawaii:
Geckos are everywhere, coming in the windows.
And outside the windows -- one of the world's most beautiful views!
We arrived in Hawaii last night. Snorkeled this morning. Then brunch. 
A gecko enjoying the view. Miriam's photo.
Miriam and Tom.
Several of us ordered Eggs Benedict with fresh local ahi tuna under the eggs, and oven fries. Fabulous!
And cups of 100% Kona coffee. Don't accept blends, only drink 100% Kona.
Coffee Shack pies are famous: we had one piece of
key lime pie.
Location of the Coffee Shack on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Salade Niçoise

A French classic: Salade Niçoise. Often on the menu in neighborhood restaurants in Paris.

For a potluck that I'm about to go to, I made a vegetarian version; that is, I omitted the tuna and anchovies that are part of the original. I follow Julia Child and use French potato salad with olive oil (pommes à l'huile), black olives, tomatoes, green beans, and hard-boiled eggs. I improvised a tiny bit and added a few lettuce leaves and some fresh dill and spring onions.

As with every French dish, the quality of ingredients makes the dish. I've written about it before: one of my favorites! I thought this post would fit in with the blogging theme of Paris in July.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Simca and Julia Child

Louisette Bertholle, Julia Child and Simone Beck
in Julia Child's Paris kitchen in the early days of working together
-- from My Life in France p. 116 via this source.
Julia Child's memoir My Life in France (written with Alex Prud'homme and published 2006) documents many things, including her lifelong friendship with Simone Beck, nicknamed Simca. Their relationship included working side by side as coauthors on Mastering the Art of French Cooking, working on subsequent cookbooks together, sharing family vacations, and more.

Simca was also the author of two cookbooks on her own: Simca's Cuisine, published 1972, and New Menus from Simca's Cuisine, published 1978. The first volume was reissued in 2013 and is still in print, but I believe there was only one edition of the second volume.

From their first meeting in 1951 in Paris, at a party for French and Americans involved with the Marshall plan, Julia and Simca were obviously compatible. They immediately talked about "food, food preparation, food people, wine, and restaurants," and agreed to meet again. Julia soon invited her to lunch:
"We talked about food, of course. She was a tall, dashing, vigorous française of about forty-two, with shoulder-length blond hair parted on the side, pale milky skin, high cheekbones, dark-rimmed glasses, and firmly held convictions. ... She studied at the Cordon Bleu under the famed chef and author Henri-Paul Pellaprat, whom she also hired for private cooking lessons. She had extensive knowledge of the cuisine of her native Normandy... renowned for its rich butter and cream, beef, and apples." (p. 114-115)
Simca, it turned out, was writing a cookbook with Louisette Bertholle. In My Life in France Julia documents how she became their coauthor and co-teacher at their cooking school in Paris. The narrative includes Simca and Julia's emerging quarrels and frustrations over Simca's cooking philosophy -- always affected by Simca's "firmly held convictions" which sometimes meant stubbornness. I found this all fascinating reading along with all Julia's memories of life in Paris in the 1950s.

By the time Julia Child wrote the memoir, Simca was no longer alive, so there's an amazing degree of frankness about their disagreements. Julia also described Simca's disappointment and probably jealousy of Julia's great popularity as a TV personality and food celebrity: successes that Simca did not share. While Julia did not attempt to claim undeserved credit, she indisputably became the only one of the three original authors to be prominent in the American national consciousness.

My Life in France also includes much about the continuing close friendship of Simca and Simca's husband with Julia and Paul Child. It describes a sterling example of trust, when Julia and Paul agreed to build a house on land in Normandy belonging to Simca's family, promising with a handshake to return the entire parcel when the time was right. Indeed, the land and house were returned without incident, after years of the two couples' vacationing together in the French countryside.

Long ago, I bought the two cookbooks that Simca published on her own -- works which never received the adulation and popularity that she had enjoyed as Julia Child's coauthor. I've tried various recipes from them over the years. I particularly like the recipe for Tartlettes à la dijonnaise, which I've always made as a single 8" tart. The result is a bit like the Parisian boulangerie item called pizza, which only slightly resembles American or Italian pizza. I don't know if the bakeries still have them, but these French pizzas were little tartlets filled with a delicious tomato filling and almost always topped with one anchovy and one black olive -- a delicious Paris memory from many visits!

One very interesting flavor trick for Simca's tartlets: you brush the inside of the pastry with mustard and sprinkle them with Swiss or Dutch cheese, 1/2 cup in all for the bottom and top of the tart. Pre-bake them at 375º. And after that, fill them with tomato filling, sprinkle them with more cheese, herbs, and olive oil; and bake them briefly again, also at 375º. Of course I'd be tempted to garnish them with just one olive and maybe one anchovy, for old time's sake.

Here's the filling recipe from Simca's Cuisine p. 234:

    Simca's Tomato Tartlet Filling

  • 3 pounds fresh ripe tomatoes, or 2 cups purée de tomate provençale, or 2 two-pound cans of whole Italian plum tomatoes, drained, refreshed with herbs
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, to make 1/4 cup, chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon each dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, savory
  • Salt
  • Black pepper,  freshly ground
If the tomatoes are fresh, skin seed, and juice them. Chop them roughly.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet, add the chopped onions, and cook them, stirring from time to time, until they are soft but not colored. Add the tomatoes, the minced garlic, half of the herbs, and salt and pepper.  If the tomatoes are fresh, simmer them for 5 to 10 minutes to cook them, but do not allow them to become a pulp; the pieces should retain their shape.

Fill the partially baked tart shells with the tomato mixture. Sprinkle with drops of olive oil and the remaining herbs, and spread with the grated cheese. Finish baking the tartlets in the oven for about 15 minutes -- just long enough to heat the pastry and the tomatoes and melt the cheese, which should form a glazed crust hiding the tomatoes.

Unmold and serve.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Culinary Historians' Dinner

Arepas con Pollo Adobado from Columbia or Venezuela
Earlier this evening, we attended the summer dinner of the Culinary Historians of Ann Arbor (CHAA), held at the Ladies' Literary Club of Ypsilanti clubhouse that was built in the 1840s. While this was our first time attending this event, most of the other people present have been participating in CHAA dinners for years or even decades. Tonight's theme was "Under the Southern Cross: Foods from Countries on the Equator or Below."

Contributions ranged widely around the lower half of the globe: African peanut soup, South American chicken and beef dishes, a dish from Borneo, Indonesian salad with peanut sauce, and several selections from Australia and New Zealand. I didn't keep careful notes about all the foods, but I enjoyed every one that I tasted, especially those flavored with the spices from the spice islands and other southern places. A really delicious selection!

Aussie vegemite sandwiches cut in the shapes of kangaroos and koala bears.
Explaining vegemite: "We hope nobody has tasted it before. Because if
you have, we'll be taking these all home."
Each contributor presented a brief summary of his or her dish and its history.
Chilean Pastel de Choclo: "a very fancy shepherd's pie."
Topped with a special type of young sweetcorn called choclo. Flavored with basil and layers of beef and chicken.
Behind that: Passover Haroset from Surinam made from a variety of cooked dried fruit and spices.
Explaining the arepas.
Pavlova: a meringue cake topped with lemon curd or cream and strawberries -- my contribution.
This dish was invented in New Zealand in the 1920s, claimed by Australia, and is now very popular in the US and many other places.
It's often made with whipped cream, but we had very hot weather today so I used lemon curd, which holds up better.
Anzac biscuits, supposedly invented during World War I to survive several weeks on a ship
supplying the Australia-New Zealand Army Corps, or ANZAC, who were fighting in Europe.
Explaining carrots with honey and cheese from Chile.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Fighting Hunger

Maybe you live in Ypsilanti, Michigan, and your family needs help. SOS Community Services is a social-service organization that offers housing services, help with utilities, food assistance, and various social services. Earlier this week, I visited one of the two SOS centers in Ypsi, which is around 20 minutes drive from my home in adjacent Ann Arbor. My goal was to learn more about SOS, which has been developing social services to meet the changing needs of the community for 45 years.

I was particularly interested to find out more about their food pantry, which offers families in the community choices of bread, produce, meat, and a variety of canned and packaged goods, all at no charge. Six times per year, a family member makes an appointment to visit the pantry and select from a variety of foods to supplement groceries that they buy, perhaps using government assistance like SNAP. Every week, produce is available to all clients on a walk-in basis. Most of the food comes from Food Gatherers in Ann Arbor, says Marti Lachapell, coordinator of the food bank.

The SOS Community Services Food Pantry -- staples, personal care products, produce, recipes.
At left: Marti Lachapell.
Some SOS families have homes with kitchens. Foods from the pantry that are helpful to them are bags of rice or dried beans, boxed mac & cheese, waffle mix, frozen beef or pork, fresh vegetables like potatoes and carrots, fresh fruit, bread and sometimes desserts, large bottles of juice, and many pantry staples. The quantity of food each family receives depends on family size. Certain items, like baby food and large containers of juice, may be limited, due to high demand, but every family goes home with a useful selection of needed groceries.

Produce, bread, canned goods, juice, peanut butter... to be chosen by the users.
The bakery goods shelves are nearly empty in the photo because my
visit was the afternoon after the pantry's morning open hours.
Homeless families or those living in an unstable situation are also among the SOS clients. For them, helpful items are foods like peanut butter, saltine crackers, or single-servings of apple sauce: portable foods that don't need refrigeration. Some families are "surfing" -- that is, they live temporarily with a series of friends or relatives. The food they receive here from often helps them to be more welcome as guests.

"SOS never charges for food," explained Chelsea Brown, SOS development director. "All of our food is free to consumers so that they can stretch their limited budgets."

This week, as pictured above, the pantry received a lot of radishes among the produce available, so Marti researched some recipes to help people figure out how to cook them, not just to eat them raw. Labels "GO" or "SLOW" appear on some shelves to suggest what's good to eat in any quantities, like produce, and what might be less healthy choices, like sweets or waffles from the available waffle mix. In the pantry there's also a bulletin board offering recipes for healthy snacks.

Rhonda Weathers, SOS executive director, and Chelsea Brown, joined Marti in showing me around the center and answering my questions. They described how SOS responds to changing needs and situations. For example, opening up the pantry shelves to allow families to meet their own needs is a new process. It replaced the old way that SOS distributed food until last year, which was to provide each family with a bag of pre-selected foods.

Also recently, Marti explained, they've expanded the choices of fresh fruit and vegetables in the pantry. Some produce is local; some comes from national distribution centers. Most of the items in the pantry are able to be restocked when needed; the category where demand usually exceeds supply is personal care items, which for the most part are not part of the Food Gatherers offerings.
Rice, mac & cheese boxes, more canned goods.
Food insecurity exists in every county in America. Around 14% of American families experience hunger. Here in Washtenaw County, Michigan, where I live, a number of organizations including SOS attempt to help people in need to overcome many of their problems, including housing, jobs, and stability for children. SOS works in partnership with other organizations, both local and national.

SOS, using HUD funding, provides temporary housing for homeless families, and attempts to place them in permanent homes and better jobs. They run a summer enrichment program for 40 kids called Sunny Days, which also includes a lunch program. Other sponsored activities for kids are a Girl Scout troop, tutoring programs, and after-school activities during the school year.

Maybe your family needs help, I said when I started this post. But maybe you are much more fortunate, and could help SOS Community Services with a donation or could volunteer in one of their volunteer programs. I hope more fortunate people will think about this.

Note: For more information see the SOS website. For nation-wide hunger statistics see this Feeding America Fact Sheet.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Champagne for Culinary Book Club

The region of Champagne, France, has the misfortune to lie just between Paris and the French-German border. In 1870, 1914, and 1939 the hillside vineyards, historic wineries, and underground aging and storage cellars were ravaged by wars between the two countries. The total destruction of whole towns and villages and the suffering that occurred, especially in the near-by trenches of World War I, are nearly unimaginable. Don and Petie Kladstrup did an excellent job with this painful history in their book Champagne: How the World's Most Glamorous Wine Triumphed Over War and Hard Times, published 2005.

Champagne contains a detailed history of both myths and facts about Champagne and its origins -- especially the mythologizing that's occurred about the early cellar-master Dom Pérignon. The authors begin with the invention and production of its famous bubbly wine, continue with details about the people who produced, promoted, and drank the wine (and made up things about the origins); and wrap up by detailing how the region suffered through the battles and occupations of the 19th and 20th centuries. Of course there's a bit about the Belle Epoch and how champagne became a drink of high-living Paris. I found the book fascinating, a wonderful successor to the Kladstrup's earlier book, Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure, published 2001.

Rather than describe more of the book, I would like to share a bit of background about the Culinary History Book Club for which I'm reading it. This group is one of four that meet monthly at Motte & Bailey Used and Rare Books in downtown Ann Arbor: Culinary History is the third Wednesday. I've belonged since the beginning in the summer of 2009. Motte & Bailey owner Gene Alloway and his wife Jacki, the hosts/discussion leaders for each month's selection, are always well-prepared, and the discussions are really energetic and informative.

The participants at each month's meeting vary somewhat, depending on who's busy and sometimes including new people who are interested in discussing a particular selection. My travel schedule often interferes with going to meetings, but I otherwise am a pretty regular attendee!

Some of the Culinary Book Club reading selections, 2009-2015.
On a totally informal basis, we discuss future books to read and select a few for the coming months when the current list runs out. We've read scholarly works, memoirs, biographies of some interesting characters like Smirnoff the vodka guy and Fred Harvey the tourism guy; books about nutrition politics, books about a single food like chocolate, salt, sugar, or tea; and many other types of books. Some of the most-enjoyed selections we've read included Creamy & Crunchy: An Informal History of Peanut Butter, the All-American Food by Jon Krampner, Hungry Town: A Culinary History of New Orleans by Tom Fitzmorris, Fizz: How Soda Shook Up the World by Tristan Donovan, White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf by Aaron Bobrow-Strain, Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell, The Belly of Paris by Zola, Sweetness and Power by Sidney Mintz, The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer 8 Lee, both books by the Kladstrups, and dozens of others. In six years we must have read 72 books, but no one has kept a definitive list. My shelves are full, though!

For more information:
  • My food blog posts about books we've read, including this one: here.
  • Web page for Motte & Bailey reading groups (the lists are not kept up-to-date): here.
  • Ann Arbor Observer Calendar with listing for current month's book selection on third Wednesday: here.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

27, Rue de Fleurus

Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas's former home in Paris at 27 rue du Fleurus, as I saw it on my 2013 visit.
It is not a museum, but is marked by the following plaque:
"Gertrude STEIN
Lived here with her brother Leo STEIN
then with Alice B. TOKLAS
she received many artist and writers
from 1903 to 1938."
Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, as the plaque says, entertained generations of artists and writers here. Their open-houses were most famously attended by Hemingway, Picasso, and numerous others. A high-ceilinged reception room, or atelier, displayed their incredible collection of art work by the modern masters: Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso. 

In her book Paris, France, written in 1938 as the era of incredible creativity there was about to end, Stein states that Paris was "the place that suited those of us that were to create the twentieth century art and literature." (p. 12)

Man Ray's portrait of Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein in the
atelier at 27, rue de Fleurus, 1922. (Smithsonian, National Portrait Gallery)
The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, authored by Stein, describes their hospitality: Gertrude Stein talked to the men and Alice B. Toklas talked to the wives. Alice was responsible for food, including the hiring and supervising of their cooks. Gertrude wrote innovative novels and stories, gave advice to young men aspiring to be writers, and took charge of the intellectual content of their lives and friendships. They had a very traditional relationship except for one detail, which I celebrate in view of current events!

Google map location of the Stein-Toklas apartment.
Sadly, when Gertrude Stein died in 1946, her family took possession of her money and paintings, and Alice B. Toklas was left with nothing to live on. (Another reason to celebrate recent evolution of legal views on marriage!) 

My dog-eared copies of the Alice B. Toklas books.
To support herself, Alice wrote The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book, published 1954. She offers classic French recipes from their Paris home and their country homes, recipes from their friends, their cooks, and their travels, and memoirs of her experiences in the kitchen and of their varied dining experiences. I find her recipes fascinating because of their difficulty and the frequent demand for rare and expensive ingredients: oysters, truffles, lobster, game ... 

The chapter "Murder in the Kitchen" is memorable for Alice's horrified descriptions. She had to kill a carp: "a heavy sharp knife" left it "dead, killed, assassinated, murdered in the first, second and third degree." She received a gift of six white pigeons with a note that it was a modest offering, "But as Alice is clever she will make something delicious of them." And so, "Six white pigeons to be smothered, to be plucked, to be cleaned and all this to be accomplished before Gertrude Stein returned for she didn't like to see work being done." Each so-called murder is followed by a rather tame recipe, "Carp stuffed with chestnuts," "Braised pigeons on croutons." (p. 40-43)

Need I mention "Haschich Fudge (which anyone could whip up on a rainy day)" -- surely the most famous recipe in the book? "Euphoria and brilliant storms of laughter; ecstatic reveries and extensions of one's personality on several simultaneous planes are to be complacently expected." One more twenty-first century legal evolution to celebrate. (p. 273)

I'm sending a link to this post to the blog "Thyme for Tea" where many bloggers are jointly celebrating "Paris in July." 

Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas's writings and lives are full of remarkable accomplishments and fascinating insights. Though their contribution to the French in World War I was recognized for its value, there is a questionable side to how they survived World War II, but that's a subject for a much more ambitious post than this.

For a wonderful collection of photos of Alice and Gertrude, see THIS.

Friday, July 10, 2015

A famine seen by its victims

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is a bestseller about a remarkable boy in Malawi. I'm sure I wasn't the only reader who had to look on a map to learn where in Africa was this small country. And now, having read the book, I feel as if the exact location isn't the important thing: William Kamkwamba shows us how humans anywhere can apply their intellectual curiosity and determination to build things to improve life, can overcome challenges that seem insurmountable.

Author Kamkwamba was around 14 years old when his dream of education was interrupted by a famine that impoverished his family: they could barely get food to eat, and definitely not pay his school fees. In an effort to keep up with the lessons he was missing, he began to read books from a small local library in the farming village where he lived. A science text described how to make a windmill -- and he determined that he would build one to bring electricity to his family.

Their needs were simple; when they didn't have money for kerosene lamp fuel or batteries for their radios, they spent idle evenings in the dark. Wind-powered electricity would allow them to light a small electric bulb, listen to the radio, or help neighbors by charging their cell phones.

Without any money, his creativity and grasp of how things work enabled him to patiently invent solutions to the challenges of needing blades for the windmill (made from old PVC pipe, flattened by heat); a dynamo and other moving parts from an old bicycle; washers made from beer caps; a structure made from blue gum tree poles; and many parts scavenged from old cars in a dump. The details and small successes along the way make fascinating reading. This book is crafted marvelously in the way it describes each step in his inventive creation.

The triumph of building a windmill is the most memorable part of the narrative, but I was also totally fascinated by the description of how his family ate in normal times, and of the day by day description of the famine. Everyday food for the people of his village was corn porridge with relishes such as greens, other vegetables, occasional meat, or sometimes insects like sweet ants or crunchy grasshoppers. They raised a few chickens and guinea fowl; their cash crop was tobacco. Kamkwamba and his friends sometimes snared small birds and ate them in their kids' clubhouse. He shared his food with his dog.

One year, no rain came. Crops dried up and it became obvious that the stores of food people kept would run out. Corruption in a new government regime meant that the reserves that previous administrations had kept for such emergencies had been sold to profit the rulers, and the types of aid that had been available were no longer there. Occasional food distributions were corrupt, inadequate, and led to near-riots. The long and detailed description of the months without food is horrifying and enlightening. I've never read anything so personal about a famine.

Slowly, food consumption declined until the family were eating only one meal per day, just a few bites of corn porridge, rarely any other food. Prices in the marketplace became sky high. His mother began to make corn into small cakes, sell them in the marketplace, and buy more corn each day -- enough to feed the family a small meal and sell more the next day.

Christmas was a cruel day. The family chickens that had been a hope for one day's better rations had become sick and died. Churches cancelled all festivities. Memories of soft brown bread, margarine, sugar, and tea for breakfast and chicken for dinner on earlier Christmases made this Christmas "like a punishment." (p. 115)

"As if overnight, people's bodies began changing into  horrible shapes. They were now scattered across the land by the thousands scavenging the soil like animals. Far from home and away from their families, they began to die." (p. 134)

Those who were fleeing from one place to another begged the Kamkwamba family for food, but they too were starving. Many families were selling all their possessions for just a few days' worth of corn.

The author and his friends tried to snare birds but had no grain to bait the traps. An outbreak of cholera and cases of malaria contributed to the misery. His friends became emaciated. "We were all losing weight. The bones began to show in my chest, and the rope I'd used as a belt no longer sufficed. ... My mouth was always dry. My arms became thin like blue gum poles and ached all the time.... No magic could save us now. Starving was a cruel kind of science." (p. 150-151)

After months of famine, the family mustered the strength to plant the next year's crops. When the first small ears of corn became just big enough to eat, they gathered them and finally had enough to eat. "I chewed slowly and with great satisfaction .... Each time I swallowed was like returning something that was lost, some missing part of my being. ... to have a stomach filled with hot food was one of the greatest pleasures in life." (p.157)

Monday, July 06, 2015

Paris Looks Outward

-- Paris Tourist office photo
In 2006, a new Paris museum called the Musée du Quai Branly opened. It displays indigenous art and artifacts from Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas. This ambitious museum absorbed many of the anthropological collections from earlier museums. I've visited some of the pre-cursors, but haven't been to this museum, which represents new perhaps post-modern views about how to display objects from exotic cultures. I'm not sure I'd be totally happy with its approach, but I'm fascinated to read on its website how the curators have rearranged and rethought the methods of the older museums, and developed a garden to complement the collections. I hope to eventually visit it.

On several long stays in Paris and on many shorter trips, I've become aware of how much Paris looks outward at a wider world. I think this museum participates in this trend. I believe that the Parisians, or at least a percentage of them, have always been exceptionally aware of far-away places. Many French people, perhaps starting at the Crusades, went on long voyages and brought back travelers' tales or objects from dramatically different cultures. French explorers returned from foreign places and introduced new ideas, new foods, and new products.

Famous Kosher falafel restaurant in Paris (from Wikipedia).
This is my favorite falafel anywhere!
Although the French have a reputation for being somewhat self-satisfied with their own culture, Paris has always demonstrated a consciousness of faraway cultural ideas. Even in food, the French have adapted quite a few cuisines into theirs. French chefs adopted culinary ideas from Italy in the Renaissance (though not necessarily because of Catherine de Medici!)

More recently, restaurants in Paris have featured foods from Vietnam and North Africa; Jewish food from Eastern Europe and Israel; German foods like sauerkraut, which they claim as Alsatian; and certain Spanish style food that they view as Basque -- lots of ethnic variety in spite of the stereotypes!

During much of the 20th century, Paris was the home of a number of international organizations, some affiliated with the UN such as UNESCO. Paris was chosen as the site of Institut du Monde Arabe, a museum and library founded in 1980 by 18 Arab countries. The organization Doctors without Borders originated in Paris in 1971. I'm not sure how much Paris dominates international affairs today as it did in the past, but this wider consciousness is part of the Paris character for sure.

Paris museums have reflected the repeated contact with the exotic and the foreign, sometimes as a result of French colonial adventures or conquests, sometimes the work of explorers and pioneering anthropologists. Represented in the new museum at Quai Branly are collections from a former colonial museum at Porte de Vincennes (Palais de la Porte Dorée), which had various names as attitudes towards colonialism evolved. The Musée de l'Homme at the Palais de Chaillot originally used items collected on various explorations and expeditions to illustrate French contact with tribal peoples on virtually every continent -- these collections too have gone to Quai Branly.

Assyrian art at the Louvre (from our 2013 trip).
In Paris today, the Louvre still offers rooms full of loot from Napoleon's invasion of Egypt and objects brought back from many other adventures, including a very recent and huge display of art from the Islamic world.

The Musée Guimet offers Cambodian and other architectural and sculptural objects from Southeast Asia, Chinese vases, Japanese masks, and much more. It's much smaller and less famous than the other Parisian museums, but it would be a standout anywhere else.

Cambodian art from the Guimet (2013).
As I dream of future visits to Paris, I think about visiting or revisiting all these wonderful collections, which in many cases were my own visual introduction to the wide wide world, another insight from the wonderful city of Paris.

This week begins a blogging challenge called Paris in July, with the special suggestion to feature the character of Paris. Many of the participants in this blogging event have been writing about museums and art in Paris. Both native and expatriate artists in Paris definitely contributed to the special character of the city, especially in the early 20th century. I think the numerous Parisian museums presenting art and culture from many nationalities and ethnic groups have had a great significance in forming this character.

Just one example: a gallery show of African masks evidently inspired Picasso to repaint the faces of two of the women in "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" (1907). This painting played a major role in revolutionizing modern art!
Picasso's Demoiselles d'Avignon now at MOMA, New York.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Wrap up: Food in Norway

Outdoor dining on the ship -- cold!
Throughout the trip to Norway we enjoyed wonderful food at restaurants, breakfast buffets in hotels, and breakfasts, lunches, dinners, teas, barbecues and other meals both outdoors and indoors on the National Geographic Explorer. We ate lots of fish dishes, open-faced sandwiches, dairy products, bacon-and-egg breakfasts, exotic game like reindeer and seal meat, and other dishes that met our expectations for Norwegian cuisine. But when I asked one of the Norwegian guides to name their national dish he said "pizza"!

German sausage with Norwegian beer: another cold day for eating outside on the deck.
Reindeer stew: among the many types of game
we tasted on the ship and elsewhere.
Every meal on the Explorer was delicious, and the extra barbecues at 4 in the afternoon, such as the reindeer stew or German sausage, were an amusing extra meal. I was surprised when the chef told me that they had no set menu, but figured out what to cook day-by-day, depending on what their suppliers had provided for that particular voyage and what he and his line cooks thought of making. The staff and crew, he said, ate the same food as the passengers, except for the Filipino deck hands and maids, who had their own cook to prepare their own ethnic foods.

Waffles with sweet brown cheese --
a Norwegian snack at the kennels we visited in Longyearbyen.
Midsummer appetizer on shipboard, including smoked fish with dill,
half a small potato, cumin cheese etc. Served with two flavors of
Aquavit and wine chasers.
As one would expect in a country with all those fjords and islands and fishing villages, fresh fish, cured fish, and shellfish like shrimp dominate buffets and menus. Norwegian fish soup, which we had a couple of times, has a light cream broth, dill flavor, and generous chunks of salmon and white-fleshed fish and sometimes shellfish. Open sandwiches are piled with tiny shrimp and mayonnaise.

We helped ourselves to heaps of large shrimp and spiny lobsters at a lunch buffet in a hotel in Longyearbyen. Salted and dried cod created delicious main courses on many dinner menus, as did a large number of fresh fish. Breakfast buffets consistently offered several types of smoked salmon, other types of smoked and salted fish, and several varieties of herring, as well as the usual sliced meats, cheeses, and lovely whole-grain breads. I was always disappointed that I was unable to eat everything.

Fish soup in a courtyard restaurant in Oslo.
Potatoes garnish almost every dinner plate. Hash browns or roasted potatoes appear on the hot breakfast buffet along with the many types of egg dishes. Boiled potatoes and other root vegetables are almost always served with fish. I tasted several types of cold potatoes or potato salads with mayonnaise and often with dill. French fries seemed less common, but that's probably because we were eating in high-end places.

"A typical Norwegian dinner apparently hadn’t changed much in the past thousand years: a hunk of fish, plated beside a boiled potato, both served with only butter. ... the great Norsk storyteller Odd Børretzen invites the Lord to come down from heaven and 'have a potato' with him." So said a recent article in the New Yorker -- with shocking inaccuracy or maybe just with New-Yorker style humor. Actually the new-world potato arrived in Norway in the mid-18th century, not in the dim mists of imaginary history: but when you eat there it does feel as if potatoes have been on the menu for 1000 years! (At any rate, I checked out the intriguing Odd Børretzen, who died in 2012; doesn't seem to have any of his works translated into English.)

I didn't systematically take photos everywhere we ate, especially on the ship where I was usually either tired out from hiking and watching for wildlife or rushed to get ready for the next adventure. Here are a few more examples of what we ate as we traveled:

Braised veal with vegetables, served atop boiled potatoes.
Midsummer dinner on the Explorer.
Oslo has many Asian restaurants. Our one experience
was eating delicious Thai food at a restaurant called Plah.
Stockfish, a type of dried cod, in Anno restaurant in Alesund. 
Beautifully plated dessert on shipboard: cake, ice cream, fruit, etc.
On the Explorer, the daily lunch buffets had a beautiful selection of cakes, creamy desserts like mousse, a variety of fruits, and one day fabulous individual pavlovas with lemon curd. Dinner, with table service, offered a choice of a composed dessert like the one above, a cheese course, or ice cream. Or "all of the above." In restaurants we usually ate too much to order dessert.

Cake at a pastry shop in Oslo.
Our adventure on the island of Runde included not only watching birds but also cooking our own meals.

Kitchen in the apartment in Runde.
When we arrived at the Runde Nature Center where we had reserved an apartment, we asked about the meals that were mentioned on their website. Oops: it turned out that meal service started two days later; we were in advance of the season. To get groceries, we had to drive to another island, crossing over three bridges via some very sketchy directions to a supermarket "in a building that used to be a fish-processing plant." Luckily we found the recommended supermarket, which was in a tiny town called Fosnavåg. Cooking in the apartment kitchen, we had bread and jam and orange juice for breakfast, a ready-made meatball dinner, a variety of sandwiches, potato chips, and fruit.

Bread with a logo in our Runde kitchen.
We even invited some acquaintances (a Dutch couple who took a boat tour of the island with us) to have a cup of coffee and some cookies in our temporary kitchen. They were happy to be inside our warm apartment for a while, as they were living in their camper as they toured Norway.

Len talking to our Dutch friends as we waited on the tour boat.
This wraps up my blogging about our two weeks in Norway on land and at sea, unless I think of another subject to write about. Links to documentation about our wonderful trip:
  • For Len's wildlife photos on Flickr, CLICK HERE.
  • For all my posts about our Norway trip on my travel blog, including posts about reindeer, the tundra, and a map, CLICK HERE.
  • For all food blog posts about Norway, including this one, CLICK HERE.
  • For the Lindblad Expeditions daily trip reports, CLICK HERE. (You will see the first post and can continue to go through them.)