Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A Decade in My Kitchen

Today marks the end of the month, the end of the year, and the end of the 20-teens. Throughout this decade, I've been writing blog posts about what's in my kitchen and on many other topics. Besides the kitchen, I've written about food I've eaten at home and elsewhere, about travel to many places, and about books I have read, especially about food in books.

For the last few years, I've been wrapping up each month with a shared post for the blog party "In My Kitchen," currently hosted at Sherry's blog (http://sherryspickings.blogspot.com/ ). For a little change of focus, this In My Kitchen Post includes one kitchen photo from each of the last 10 years, with a link to the original post. I've tried to pick photos that vary as much as possible.

Wishing everyone who participates and reads my blog a very happy New Year, and a great time in the twenties. The roaring twenties? Maybe, who knows?

2010: For the first time in many years, I found green peppercorns and made several favorites like greenpeppercorn steak (link).
2011: A favorite fall item: farmers' market tomatoes. (link)
In this photo they are ready to be roasted with herbs and frozen for winter.

2012: Quiche for pi day. (link)
2013: My old coffee press on a new dish mat. Both have now been replaced.
2014: My Breville toaster oven, just purchased, next to my very old one.
The new oven has proved to be truly useful for many tasks. (link)
2015: Peach sauce in the fridge: another fall market favorite. Nearby: a locally grown cantaloupe. (link)
2016: A goose for Christmas. Len was the chief cook and also did the carving.
2017: Our new toaster for eating breakfast in the kitchen.
2018: Our new kitchen torch. For a while,
we zapped everything from marshmallows
to oatmeal. We need to get it out again! (link)
2019: The ridged surface of a banneton impresses a pattern on loaves of bread
as they rise. One of a number of items for Len's very successful bread baking.
Another great item: the thermometer next to the banneton. (link)

What's in my kitchen now?

Actually, there's not that much new stuff here, as we've been traveling and hosting visitors quite a bit in December. Thus we've been staying with more familiar food and tools. I recently purchased an Asian noodle book which I hope will inspire me to do some interesting cooking in the New Year.

Finally, for Christmas, I received a s'mores maker for microwave use, which is really amusing and fun, making very gooey classic s'mores.

S'mores: You fill a little reservoir with water and assemble the graham crackers,
Hershey bar sections, and marshmallows under two little hands.
In the microwave oven, the chocolate and marshmallows melt.
I'm not sure why there's a water reservoir, but I suspect it absorbs some of the
microwave energy to avoid overwhelming the chocolate and marshmallows.
Note: All photos copyright © 2010-2019 mae sander for maefood dot blogspot dot com.
If you read this elsewhere, it's been pirated!

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Another Istanbul Novel by Elif Shafak

"Istanbul was an illusion. A magician’s trick gone wrong. Istanbul was a dream that existed solely in the minds of hashish eaters. In truth, there was no Istanbul. There were multiple Istanbuls – struggling, competing, clashing, each perceiving that, in the end, only one could survive." 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World (Kindle Locations 3100-3103). 
Aromas and flavors are the essence of memory. In this unusual novel, each segment of the narrator's reveries begins with a smell or taste memory. One strange thing among the many strange things in the novel, is that the narrator, named Leila, has just died, and her brain has only this brief time remaining of its lifetime of consciousness. The reader learns this at the very beginning:
"No, she would insist on the present tense – even though she now realized with a sinking feeling that her heart had just stopped beating, and her breathing had abruptly ceased, and whichever way she looked at her situation there was no denying that she was dead." (Kindle Locations 71-73). 
Elif Shafak's novels, which I have enjoyed, always use aromas, flavors, and food descriptions in an original way, and this is no exception. Rather than summarize more about the plot and the very colorful characters who populate the book, I'll just quote a few of the food and aroma descriptions:
"Two minutes after her heart had stopped beating, Leila’s mind recalled two contrasting tastes: lemon and sugar." (Kindle Locations 487-488).

"Three minutes had passed since Leila’s heart had stopped, and now she remembered cardamom coffee – strong, intense, dark. A taste forever associated in her mind with the street of brothels in Istanbul. ... The area around the port was always so crowded that pedestrians had to move sideways like crabs. Young women in miniskirts walked arm in arm; drivers catcalled out of car windows; apprentices from coffeehouses scurried back and forth, carrying tea trays loaded with small glasses; tourists bent under the weight of their backpacks gazed around as if newly awake; shoe-shine boys rattled their brushes against their brass boxes, decorated with photos of actresses – modest ones on the front, nudes on the back. Vendors peeled salted cucumbers, squeezed fresh pickle juice, roasted chickpeas and yelled over one another while motorists blasted their horns for no reason at all. Smells of tobacco, sweat, perfume, fried food and an occasional reefer – albeit illegal – mingled with the briny sea air." (Kindle Locations 724-726). 
"Five minutes after her heart had stopped beating, Leila recalled her brother’s birth. A memory that carried with it the taste and smell of spiced goat stew – cumin, fennel seeds, cloves, onions, tomatoes, tail fat and goat’s meat." (Kindle Locations 1192-1193).

"In the ninth minute, Leila’s memory simultaneously slowed down and spun out of control as fragments of her past whirled inside her head in an ecstatic dance, like passing bees. She now remembered D/ Ali, and the thought of him brought along the taste of chocolate bonbons with surprise fillings inside – caramel, cherry paste, hazelnut praline." (Kindle Locations 2079-2081). 

"As time ticked away, Leila’s mind happily recollected the taste of her favourite street food: deep-fried mussels – flour, egg yolks, bicarbonate of soda, pepper, salt, and mussels fresh from the Black Sea." (Kindle Locations 2302-2304) 
"He wanted to know other things about her – what did breakfasts taste like when she was a child in Van, what were the aromas that she remembered most vividly from winters long gone, and if she were to give every city a scent, what would be the scent of Istanbul? If ‘freedom’ were a type of food, he wondered, how did she think she would experience it on the tongue? And how about ‘fatherland’? D/ Ali seemed to perceive the world through flavours and scents, even the abstract things in life, such as love and happiness. Over time it became a game they played together, a currency of their own: they took memories and moments, and converted them into tastes and smells." (Kindle Locations 2228-2233).

"The last thing Leila remembered was the taste of home-made strawberry cake. ... On what was to be her last birthday, her friends had settled on a rich menu: lamb stew with aubergine puree, börek with spinach and feta cheese, kidney beans with spicy pastrami, stuffed green peppers and a little jar of fresh caviar. The cake was a surprise, supposedly, but Leila had overheard them discussing it; the walls in the flat were thinner than the slices of pastrami, and, after decades of heavy smoking and even heavier drinking, Nalan rasped when she whispered, her voice husky like sandpaper scraping on metal. Strawberry cream with fluffy, fairy-tale-pink icing." (Kindle Locations 2815-2835). 
In my opinion, Shafak is one of the most skillful novelists weaving the senses of smell and taste into works of fiction. I very much recommend her books to anyone who loves this type writing.

This blog post is copyright © 2019 by mae sander for maefood dot blogspot dot com.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Dining with Friends at Home and in Exotic Places

Throughout the year, we've enjoyed many meals with friends and family both at home and on our travels. Here's a selection of a few memorable occasions, looking back on the year.
San José, Costa Rica, Marriott Hotel Peruvian Restaurant with Abby, our
fellow traveler to Costa Rica. December, 2019.
Chili and cornbread for dinner the night before Thanksgiving, 2019. With Tom, Evelyn, Aparna, Delia, Joel, Len, Miriam, and Alice.
Reunion with friends we met in France immediately after we all graduated from college. October, 2019.

Our birding tour at Perko's diner in Sonora, California, one of many diners where we ate. September, 2019.

Dinner in the backyard with family. August, 2019.
Adam, Jason, Kaywin, Nat, Carol, and Ruby.
Ann Arbor Culinary Historians summer potluck. July, 2019.
Dining on the deck of the National Geographic Orion during our cruise in French Polynesia. May, 2019.

Lunch from a food truck in Washington, D.C. April, 2019.
South Carolina with Arny, Tracy, Elaine, and Larry. January, 2019.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Good Food for Christmas and Chanukah

Chanukah dinner at Adam's house. Photo by Katrina.
All photos © 2019 mae sander and friends.
Alice's cheese and salad lunch.
Coffee cake, a gift from Elaine.
Rice batons at Slurping Turtle -- dinner after seeing the
new Star Wars movie.
Julia Child's boeuf bourguignon.
Christmas dinner: cheese fondue and broth fondue.

Photos by Alice, Miriam, Katrina, and Mae for maefood dot blogspot dot com.
© 2019 by maefood dot blogspot dot com -- if you read this elsewhere, it has been stolen.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Saturday, December 21, 2019



Len's photos of Costa Rican birds and wildlife are now available on his Flickr page!

Link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/len2000/

Friday, December 20, 2019

Kitchen Gardens in Costa Rica

We visited two herb and vegetable gardens as we toured Costa Rica.
At the hotel where we stayed in San Jose, a gardener named Chuse
grew herbs for the two restaurants. Birds like this mott-mott loved
these gardens,, and we loved watching them perch there.
Raised beds for herbs and vegetables.
The garden had tables in the middle for outdoor activities and dining.
While we were there, it was not in use.

As part of our cruise, we took a bus tour to a national park, with lunch at a resort hotel
in the mountains.. First we visited the much more extensive greenhouses and raised beds
of herbs and vegetables, where three gardeners work to supply the hotel.
Some of the herbs grown at this hotel.
Inside the greenhouse.

These “farm to table” gardens seem to me to show a general attitude of deep interest in the environment and sustainable agriculture, that we also experienced in our tour of the coffee cooperative. The growing methods are very responsible, in keeping with the national attitude. The salads we ate were delicious; I didn’t hesitate to eat lettuce, and it was highly reassuring that all the drinking water is safe. 

All photos copyright © 2019 by mae sander for maefood dot blogspot dot com.
                                                                 If you read this elsewhere, it’s been pirated.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Costa Rica Critters

Birdwatching was our main focus throughout our trip to Costa Rica, but we also saw many mammals, reptiles, insects, and a few fish. I've already posted pictures of monkeys. Sloths weren't nearly as frequent on this trip as on our trips to Panama and the upper Amazon (we only saw one). I won't bore you with photos of the deer that are pretty common here.

A few of the most unusual critters we saw this trip:
A crocodile on a log, which we saw while taking a river boat tour.
A porcupine hiding in a tree, spotted on a different river boat tour. I think this was an unusual sighting.

A species of crab-eating raccoons live on the beach. They have learned to look
for discards from human picnics, so they showed no fear of us. 
The coati is a member of the raccoon family.
This one was picking up scraps at the side of the road,
also evidently tamed by the presence of many humans.
An emerald basilisk, one of several types of basilisk lizard found in Costa Rica.
A little green snake. Poisonous? Yes.
On this leaf: a tiny poisonous toad. Don't touch!
We constantly noticed the fluttering motion of butterflies, mostly the
famous blue morpho. But I particularly liked this very white one,
about which I know nothing at all. 
A blue morpho just as it emerged from its cocoon.
The jungle is full of big spiders!
Another big spider.
This seemed like a pretty strange caterpiller. 
The forest was full of interesting plants and trees, as well as creatures.
We and our fellow-hikers were intrigued by this cluster of fungus.

All photos copyright © 2019 mae sander for maefood dot blogspot dot com.