Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Here and Not Here in my Kitchen in April

What's not in my kitchen? At the St. Louis Art Museum I did NOT buy the tempered glass cutting board/counter protector with Mona Lisa eating a hot dog (as shown in the advertisement above). I saw two cutting boards with Leonardo parodies; it was very hard to choose, but...

What is in my kitchen? I bought this Vitruvian Man-Grill Master cutting board -- which I find a much more satisfying parody of a Leonardo masterpiece. Could I have too many Mona Lisas? No, that can't possibly be why I skipped a Mona Lisa.

What's not in my kitchen? I have no bouquets of spring flowers. I love them. But I love them out in the fields, as in this photo at a garden we visited on our trip to Lafayette.

A beautiful display of flowers would be perfect for the space behind my kitchen sink, which now holds various practical, not decorative, items. In fact I designed this arrangement to accommodate a plant or a vase of flowers. But spring flowers make me sneeze.

What is in my kitchen? allergy medicine. Yes, it is definitely allergy season. I'm still thrilled to see the beauties of spring emerging after a very tedious, extra-long winter. But I can't have them inside.

What's not in my kitchen? There's no local produce being grown outdoors. It's just to early for any outdoor field crops to make it to market and then to my kitchen during this chilly April weather, though I've seen a few tiny bunches of gathered wild ramps for sale at very high prices.

What is in my kitchen? Some hoop house lettuce, root and all, from my favorite Argus Farms consignment farm shop. I also have some herbs from there, and carrots that farmers have stored in root cellars since the last growing season. I'm looking forward to better weather next month!

Hoop House Cilantro from Argus Farms. 
What else is in my kitchen?
As April has progressed, we've been able to enjoy grilling once or twice.
These marinated tuna steaks were a great success!
I consider the barbecue setup to be part of the kitchen outdoors.
Although spring vegetables aren't quite here, we did have a nice platter of
crudités, French style, including grated celeriac and carrots. Good with tuna!
And there's always pizza! This is a goat cheese pizza with artichoke hearts.
Len's crust, my filling.
Sharing my kitchen stories with many other bloggers at Sherry's blog

Author of this content is Mae's food blog: Maefood dot blogspot.com. 
Note copyright on photos.

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Monday, April 29, 2019

Netflix "Street Food"

In Osaka, Japan, Toyo is the cook in a food stall that sells a variety of popular foods.
He cooks tuna cheeks on a grill using a huge propane blowtorch. He dips his hand in a bucket
of ice water in order to handle the fish gently as they broil! And he tells his life story to the camera.
In Yogyakarta, Indonesia, Mbah Satinem has been preparing sweet snacks for her entire long life.
Though she can barely walk upright, she rides on the back of her daughter's motor scooter through
very busy streets to get to her food stall.
Released this week, Netflix new series "Street Food" is more or less a continuation of the earlier series titled "Chef's Table." I'm  hooked! I've watched the first four of this new series, and I'm looking forward to the next five episodes. The locations are not-very-touristy destinations in Asia. But the food shots are mouth-watering, the markets are vividly colorful, the cityscapes are dramatic, and the interviews are memorable.

Unlike the earlier series, which focused on world-renowned and nearly worshipped chefs at high-end restaurants, this new series features talented men and women who cook for the masses. Well, almost! There's one street food vendor who cooks omelets filled with crab: she has a Michelin star, and they didn't miss it!

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Great Art in Murals: Lafayette, Indiana

Hopper's Diner Moves to Lafayette.
This mural was painted on the side of a diner in downtown Lafayette by Andrea Townsend. Read about this painting in this article. I recently posted a photo of another mural based on Hopper's famous painting -- I photographed the other mural at the Common Grill Restaurant in Chelsea, MI. See https://maefood.blogspot.com/2019/04/murals-in-common-grill.html

The marquee in the Lafayette version of the diner mentions Guns-N-Roses.
Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin, singers with the band, originally come from Lafayette.
The original painting, "Nighthawks" by Edward Hopper, is in the Chicago Art Institute.
A somewhat confused version of Rembrandt's Night Watch?

A portion of the original Night Watch.
Mural caption: "Sunday Morning Wabash River (After Seurat).

Note that everyone is on a cell phone by the Wabash River.
Seurat's original reclining figure had no cell phone.
Original title: "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte"
"Marat" in an alley in Lafayette.

The original: "Marat Assassinated" by
Jacques Louis David from the Louvre.
Klimt's Woman in Gold, somewhat revised, with another little graffiti girl near her on the wall of yet another alley.
Klimt's original portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer,
the woman in gold.
AND... I didn't find any Mona Lisa murals in Lafayette, but I
found a wonderful collection of them, culled from the web in 2017.
See this website: streetart360.net -- including this example by Banksy.
LINK: https://streetart360.net/2017/09/13/mona-lisa-on-the-wall/
I love parodies of great works of art. If you've been reading my blogs for a while, you know that I collect Mona Lisa parodies, especially. Therefore, the murals I saw in Lafayette, Indiana, especially amused me -- the original paintings in museums in New York, Amsterdam, Paris, and Chicago are definitely masterpieces of their time, and the Lafayette artists have captured their spirit and verve. I took all the murals' photos while visiting Lafayette recently, and therefore I hold the copyright on these photos of public spaces, while respecting the rights of the painters of the murals. The images of the original paintings come from Wikipedia or Google Images.

Author of this content is Mae's food blog: Maefood dot blogspot.com. 
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Thursday, April 25, 2019

It's Spring

These hyacinths in the woods near the Huron River were buzzing with bees. Someone must have planted the flowers:
they are not native to North America.
Easter Sunday: a family were picnicking by the river.
A wildflower in our back yard.
In the woods near Lafayette, Indiana: a dog tooth violet or trout lily.
Identified by Elaine. I don't know the names of wild flowers.
Violets were everywhere in Lafayette. Ours are just beginning to come up.
The woodland garden has splendid daffodils.

No idea of what flower this is, but it was interesting.
Author of this content is Mae's food blog: Maefood dot blogspot.com. 
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Wednesday, April 24, 2019

"Ritz & Escoffier"

A ritzy affair... puttin' on the ritz... OK it's not the Ritz... the name "Ritz" means luxury: the most extreme and showy type of luxury. The words ritz and ritzy convey an attitude as well as a sense of high living. A very nice word for this Wordy Wednesday!

In the high-living era of the 1890s, César Ritz (1850–1918) created a new concept in luxurious hotel living, and his name became synonymous with this grand style -- inspiring the creation of this word. Ritz's partner, Auguste Escoffier (1846-1935) was responsible for the food at Ritz's most famous hotels: first the Savoy in London, owned by the impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte (1844 -1901); second the Ritz in Paris which he owned; and third, the Carleton Hotel in London. All three hotels provided new thrills for their extremely wealthy and often titled clientele, the high-living international upper classes of the last decade of the 19th century -- the famous or maybe notorious fin de siècle.

Ritz and Escoffier: The Hotelier, the Chef, and the Rise of the Leisure Class by Luke Barr relates the story of the partnership between these two famous and flamboyant historic figures. It describes the frenzied commitment of Ritz to creating new types of amenities in hotels. He designed every detail to create a new type of hotel atmosphere. Some of these innovations we today take for granted, such as elevators, electric lights, a bathroom for every hotel room, and an early form of cooling that involved blocks of ice with electric fans. However the level of personal service in Ritz's hotels would be a bit unusual today -- his novelty was to make it unnecessary for his wealthy clients to bring their own staff of servants!

In London, the Savoy hotel was especially unusual because aristocrats and common-status customers were equally welcome -- provided they could afford the astronomical prices. Previously, the aristocrats socialized at private clubs and in their homes, not in public spaces. At the Savoy, newly-wealthy common people, even including Jews and Americans, dined at tables in the same dining room. Though the Prince of Wales had private rooms in the early days, at the end of the era, even he ate in dining room at the Carleton Hotel. Before Ritz created the new atmosphere at the Savoy, hotel dining rooms did not even serve patrons other than guests in the hotel. Ritz invented a huge number of new luxury concepts.

Barr describes the culinary genius and imagination of Escoffier in bringing French cuisine to England. The chef was constantly inventing new dishes and incredible presentations to please famous people -- dishes that were light and delicious and crammed with very expensive ingredients. Escoffier's patrons included the singer Nellie Melba, for whom he named peach melba; the divine Sarah Bernhardt; the Prince of Wales, a lover of French food, especially that of Escoffier; the pretending French Royal Family that were exiled from France because they might try to get the throne back; American titans of industry like Vanderbilt; and many others.

Celebrities who loved the restaurant and appreciated the food obviously drew more and more customers to the hotel and especially to the restaurant. I especially liked the story of how Escoffier created a special preparation called “Cuisses de Nymphes a l’Aurore” (Nymphs' Thighs at Dawn) — a cold dish with a beautiful sauce, served on a block of ice — which he presented to the Prince of Wales. What was it?  Frog’s legs in a sauce flavored with paprika and tarragon. The Prince’s guests were shocked, but he laughed, ate it, and later ordered it again. It’s not clear if this totally overcame the English prejudice aganst frog legs, but it shows what Escoffier was capable of.

After a number of years, Escoffier, along with Ritz, was fired from his job at the Savoy because he had been taking large "commissions" from suppliers of food to the hotel restaurants that he managed, and had been engaged in other questionable financial deals. The two of them bounced back quickly, and Escoffier not only continued cooking in Ritz's new unimaginably high-end hotels, but also wrote a very classic treatise on French cuisine. Barr makes this story very fascinating!

The partnership of Ritz and Escoffier lasted until the coronation of the new king, Edward VII, in 1901. On the day of the Coronation (which was suddenly postponed due to the king's having an emergency appendectomy), Ritz suffered a blackout and a total breakdown, and he never recovered his health enough to continue to manage his famous hotels. Escoffier remained productive for another 20 years, until his retirement.

A few months ago I reviewed Escoffier's memoirs, including much more about his recipes: https://maefood.blogspot.com/2018/06/auguste-escoffier-memories-of-my-life.html

Author of this content is Mae's food blog: Maefood dot blogspot.com. 
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Monday, April 22, 2019

A Life of Milton Hershey

"In the early twenties, two professors at New York University surveyed more than a thousand people to discover the power of product names. In chocolate Hershey was first; other category leaders were Kellogg in cereal, Ford in cars, and Ivory in soap." (p. 177)
The slightly strange cover of D'Antonio's book.
Hershey: Milton S. Hershey's Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams is an excellent biography by Michael D'Antonio. Milton Hershey (1857–1945) was very much a man of his time, and D'Antonio's book contains much of the social history of his era as well as the story of Hershey's childhood, his minimal education, his first job as a young teenager working in an ice cream and candy store, his earlier failed efforts to found a candy company -- and then his spectacular success manufacturing chocolate bars.

An icon: the Hershey Bar
Every American alive today has almost certainly tasted the products of the Hershey chocolate company. We all have a mental image of the deep brown wrapper with the silver-grey word "HERSHEY'S" on it -- and this has been true for well over a century.

We all know the Hershey Kiss.
Hershey and a few employees developed the industrial technique for making chocolate bars, though a few manufacturers in Switzerland and England had also created similar candies. The smooth mouth feel of this candy, the milk-and-chocolate flavor, the slight crunch when you bite into it, and the way it melts on your tongue were all absolutely new to Hershey's early customers. They loved it (who doesn't). Using a variety of marketing techniques, the Hershey Corp. managed to distribute chocolate products throughout the country.

Hershey's insight into the potential for small wrapped chocolates allowed him to be the first in the American market, and the small price of a Hershey bar -- once just a nickel -- allowed his business to survive not only in boom times, but also in economic downturns and through the Great Depression.

The most surprising characteristic of Milton Hershey, I found, was his love of gambling -- roulette, betting on horses, and similar pastimes. He liked to go to casinos in Monte Carlo, in Cuba (where he also owned sugar mills and plantations to supply his candy-making), and to horse-racing tracks like Saratoga, N.Y. Author D'Antonio frequently states that Hershey, the competent executive who managed the chocolate factory, lived in a relatively modest home, and did not engage in conspicuous consumption when in Hershey, PA, became a different person when he traveled. Interestingly, Hershey did not gamble with his core business -- in 1929, he was not one of the many people who had gambled by buying stocks on margin. In fact, he seems to have helped out several Hershey Corporate executives who had gambled on the stock market before the bottom dropped out.

In comparison to other great businessmen of the Gilded Age, such as Carnegie and Rockefeller, Hershey stands out because he was fair and generous to his workforce. He donated his great wealth to a charity home for disadvantaged children in Hershey, Pennsylvania, the town he built alongside his enormous chocolate factory. It was basically the only idealistic, nearly utopian, town to be truly loved by workers and other inhabitants. The social and economic conditions in which he founded the factory and the town, and ran it as a sort of benevolent dictator for close to 50 years make very interesting reading in this very readable book, which dates from 2006.

Author of this content is Mae's food blog: Maefood dot blogspot.com. 
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Sunday, April 21, 2019

An Elephant Mural

In an alley in Lafayette, Indiana. Perfect for a rainy day.

Sharing this with Mural Monday at Colorful World: sami-colourfulworld.blogspot.com
Author of this content is Mae's food blog: Maefood dot blogspot.com. 
If you are reading it somewhere else, it's been stolen!
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Friday, April 19, 2019

Happy Passover!

We are having a very minimal Passover Seder this year. Here is a photo of our sweet and bitter herbs (lettuce salad and horseradish), our haroset (traditional with apples, honey, raisins, and almonds) and our very special Matzo. We hope all who celebrate have a wonderful holiday, and we hope that peace will soon bless all men and women.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Food in Paintings

On our recent visit to the St.Louis Art Museum, two paintings of food particularly impressed me. The first is "Banquet Scene with a Lute Player" by Nicolas Tournier (1590–1639). It depicts a variety of food on a dining table where several men and a woman are eating. One of the men is shown in the act of drinking from a wine glass. Documentation about the painting suggests that the woman is a courtesan, entertaining the men.

A closeup of the food in the Banquet Scene -- little roast birds with their heads and feet still on; bread, and something served
in slices -- maybe some sort of sausage? (Source of images: St. Louis Art Museum.)

Celery in a Still Life. (Source: St. Louis Art Museum)
The second painting that seemed to me to depict an unusual choice of food was "Still Life with Chianti Bottle and Celery" by Max Beckmann (1884–1950). I can't remember any still life that I've seen in the past including celery! 

Beckmann, one of the most admired of the early-twentieth-century German painters, has a special relationship to St.Louis and the Art Museum, which owns the largest collection of his works in existence. From 1948 until his death in 1950, Beckmann lived in St.Louis and taught at the art school of Washington University. A very rich art collector in St.Louis, Morton D. May (you know, the May Company Department Stores!), bought many of his paintings, including this one, which was painted in 1949.

Max Beckmann Self Portrait, 1950. (source)
Author of this content is Mae's food blog: Maefood dot blogspot.com. 
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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Quaker Oats Company Has Stopped Puffing!

"We’re sorry to inform you that Quaker Puffed Rice and Puffed Wheat cereals have been discontinued. ...
Given how proud we are of the history and legacy of these products, this was a very difficult decision for us to make. We know how disappointing this news must be to a loyal consumer, like you mom, and we appreciate how much it will be missed. We’ll be sure to share your feedback with the Marketing Team. We hope that, in time, your mom will find another one of our products to enjoy just as much." -- Statement on Facebook from the Quaker Oats Social Media writer.

At breakfast during our visit to my sister earlier this week, we were eating Arrowhead Mills Puffed Rice. We were wondering if the Quaker company stopped making puffed wheat and puffed rice -- we haven't seen it recently. Naturally, we turned to the great GOOGLE for answers.

Exhibit A: There's a link to a web page for Puffed Rice at quakeroats.com -- but it's a dead link:

Exhibit B: At amazon.com, there are pages for Quaker Puffed Rice and Puffed Wheat...

... but the ordering information for both pages is: "Currently Unavailable -- Want us to email you when this item becomes available?"

Exhibit C: On ebay.com, many vintage cereal boxes, advertisements, and so on are on offer. Many even have the old familiar "Shot From Guns" slogan. No actual cereal is available.

An empty cereal box offered at ebay.

Exhibit D: At the Walmart web page, "Out of stock" --

Finally more and more searching revealed an obscure Facebook interchange beginning in 2016, where Quaker's social media experts received more and more inquiries from frustrated consumers, and repeatedly answered that there were "Production Delays." 

Finally, just a few weeks ago, they admitted: "We’re sorry to inform you that Quaker Puffed Rice and Puffed Wheat cereals have been discontinued."

One of the FB writers had this response:
SHAME ON QUAKER for discontinuing a cereal that many people LOVE! You're just pandering to the newer generations and have no regard for those of us that have bought Puffed Rice for the last 50+ years and helped you build your business! I am very disappointed and the consequence of your actions is that I will no longer purchase ANY Quaker products! If you feel that way about your long term customers (and some newer ones), then you don't deserve my continued business!

Link to the interchange, at least until Quaker removes it:
https://www.facebook.com/Quaker/posts/where-can-i-find-your-quaker-puffed-rice-cereal-i-cant-find-it-in-grocery-stores/10153835699855775/ (https://www.facebook.com/Quaker/posts/where-can-i-find-your-quaker-puffed-rice-cereal-i-cant-find-it-in-grocery-stores/10153835699855775/)

UPDATE for the curious: Puffed Rice was invented by a scientist named Alexander Anderson (1862-1943). He introduced this novelty food as a snack at the St.Louis World's Fair in 1904. Soon afterwards, the Quaker company bought the rights and began to manufacture and sell puffed rice and then puffed wheat as breakfast cereals.