Thursday, March 31, 2016

In a Box in My Kitchen

One bookcase stands in my kitchen, holding the cookbooks that most often provide recipes that I actually cook. In the living room and dining room I keep my cookbooks and food history books that less often supply actual recipes. And up in the attic: books I don't like and don't use.

Also in the kitchen bookcase is my old, retro, file box with alphabet tabs for recipes and a random collection of cards and a few menus from restaurants where I've eaten.
Among the cards, I found this, from a restaurant where we held
a reunion with former Fulbright Fellows in 1996.
Our next reunion is now in the planning stages.

I admit that I've never kept very careful tasting notes when it comes to restaurant food, and there's really almost no information added by hand to the restaurant cards. I sometimes added a date when I was really being systematic; very rarely I noted what we ate.

A few more examples from the hundreds of items in my cherished file box:
Recipe cards for Spicy Mexican Cornbread and my absolute favorite Butterscotch Bars.
Although I've entered all the recipes into my computer files, I still use the cards occasionally.
Left: old notes for Daube de Cotignac, a recipe by my friend Michelle who had a house near the town in southern France.
Right: one of several information cards from our local supermarket in Paris explaining unusual fruits and vegetables.
A few of the many restaurant cards from our visits to France. Some of these establishments are still in business; many aren't.
A selection from the many cards from restaurants in California, Hawaii, and other Western states.
I also have cards from many other European countries, from Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, and other US states.
My newest card documents our take-out
pupusas and tamales in Fairfax Saturday.
And one new kitchen item: this magnet from the
Cherry Blossom Festival that I attended last weekend.
I've become an avid participant at the blogger event "In My Kitchen." This is my entry for the month, with thanks to Maureen for hosting the event on her blog.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Luncheon with Monet

Reconstructed version of the original
painting, which Monet cut into
pieces after his landlord took it
for rent and let it get mouldy.
Yesterday I explored a few Impressionist paintings of people who were eating, who had just finished a meal, or in one case, a maid cleaning up after a meal. The subject matter in these paintings was non-traditional, illustrating the break between the interests of the Impressionists and their predecessors, not just the new techniques they used. These paintings show fairly ordinary people, quotidian activity, candid poses. Today I'm following up with a few related paintings by Claude Monet.

Monet: Dejuner Sur L'Herbe (1865–1866)
Monet's painting of men and women eating lunch on the grass obviously makes reference to Manet's shocking Dejuner Sur L'Herbe (1862-1863). Monet depicted painters Gustave Courbet and Frédéric Bazille along with Camille Doncieux, his first wife.

Monet: The Luncheon (1868)
In the slightly later painting above, Monet depicted the luncheon food in great detail: bread, grapes, a platter of meat and vegetables. The ordinariness of the subject matter and the huge size of the painting resulted in yet another rejection, and the work was not shown until 1874. See this historic description from the Städel Museum which owns the painting.

Monet: The Luncheon (1873)
Monet: The Dinner (1869)
Monet: After Dinner (1869)

Monet: Still Life with Melon (1872)
Monet was also a master of still life paintings, including many with fruit such as the one I've chosen. For a further discussion of these paintings see "Monet's Luncheon Paintings." My description of Monet's kitchen at Giverny is here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Thinking about the Impressionists

Gustave Caillebotte: Portraits à la campagne (1876)
Pierre-Auguste Renoir: End of the Lunch (1879)
Edouard Manet: The Luncheon in the Studio (1868)
Camille Pissarro: The Little Country Maid (1882)
The Impressionists often painted images of ordinary people working, enjoying holidays or Sundays, or spending time outdoors. There are several very famous Impressionist paintings that depict meals such as Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe by Édouard Manet (1862-1863) or Luncheon of the Boating Party by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1882). Today I decided to look for a few less-well-known Impressionist paintings of dining tables and meals, and came up with these four.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Viewing Cherry Blossoms in DC

Large numbers of people, as expected, were walking all around the Tidal Basin.

Hundreds of other people in the crowd were also taking photos.
Ethnic and American food was widely available from many food trucks.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Dixie Bones BBQ, Woodbridge, VA

Lunch today: Dixie Bones BBQ in Woodbridge, Virginia. The owners are from Alabama, so that's the style they follow.

The four of us ordered as many different things as we could: a pork shoulder BBQ plate, ribs, a giant stuffed pork potato (with cheese etc.), a pulled chicken white meat sandwich, and several sides. After tasting all around, we generally think the ribs were best. The slaw, baked beans, corn bread, and mac-and-cheese were all good too. A classic BBQ sauce, a white BBQ sauce for chicken, a vinegar BBQ sauce, and a tomato-BBQ sauce added variety to our tasting. BBQ research goals accomplished!

Dixie Bones BBQ ribs: close up. 
Interesting collections of vintage objects like Chinese-Checker boards, old cameras, and patches from shooting contests
decorate the walls, windowsills, etc. 

After lunch we walked in the Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Area, where many ospreys were fishing. This one was perched in a tree eating his catch. At one point we saw an eagle chase an osprey that had caught a fish.

While walking we enjoyed the early-blooming white trees among the still-bare ordinary trees.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Julia Child's Gratin Dauphinois

Potatoes, cheese, garlic, etc. ready to assemble. Inset: the recipe page from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I.
(Click on the photo and then click again to enlarge the recipe.)
Gratin Dauphinois is one of our favorite dishes. It's made from layers of potatoes, Gruyère cheese, and butter, and lightly flavored with garlic (and when I make it, with a little chopped onion). You pour hot milk over all, and bake in a hot oven until the top is golden brown. The taste is quite different from American scalloped potatoes, though there's a family resemblance.

Alice assembling the dish.
Gratin Dauphinois, ready to serve.
Len and I first tasted this dish many years ago in Grenoble, in the Dauphiné region of France for which the dish is named. We spent a year there just after college, when Len had a Fulbright fellowship. I was delighted to show Alice how to make this family favorite.

This morning's birds: swallows on the pier at Burke Lake near Fairfax where we are visiting.
A duck on the lake.
Alice sitting on her favorite bench. The lake shore has eroded so that her feet dangled over the water.
Miriam didn't join us because she was at running practice again.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Spring at Accotink Lake Park

A bald eagle flew over us this morning as we were walking in Accotink Park near Fairfax. The tree buds are all just about ready to go! Magnolias, fruit trees, and especially weeping cherry trees are in magnificent blossom.
Len, Alice and I walked while Miriam was running on the trails. The historic marker tells that the
first railroad trestle on the site was built in 1851, and was of considerable importance during the Civil War.
Lunch at the nearby Swiss Bakery, a family favorite.

What I ate: "KÄSESCHNITTE -- melted Raclette cheese over seasonal vegetables atop Wurzelbrot lightly drizzled with white wine." Vegetable today was cauliflower. Delicious!


Saturday, March 19, 2016

Birding Cape May

In a garden near the lighthouse we saw very interesting dried plants.
Scoters off Cape May point.
Great Cormorants on the jetty from our very cold birding cruise on the Osprey.
Harlequin ducks and a scoter.
Cape May fishing boats, which fish mostly for scallops. In restaurants, we've had wonderful local oysters too.
Dedicated birders on the Osprey in a rainstorm (or was it sleet?)
What it really looked like.