Wednesday, July 31, 2019

What's In My Kitchen, Indoors and Outdoors, in July?

Outdoor cooking and dining: so great in summer...
In my outdoor kitchen in July: a new Weber Grill, which I've already written about in an earlier post.
Here, we tried making a special Yakitori setup by using two foil-covered bricks to support the skewered chicken.

When it's not too hot, we like to eat outdoors, including breakfast.

More Progress with Bread Baking

In our kitchen: new loaf pans for Len's bread baking.
Made in the new loaf pans: cinnamon-raisin bread, which Len made because it's
one of my favorites.
Len also baked a really good rye bread, here shown with a plowman's lunch.
Another day: good with pastrami!
Pancakes made from leftover starter, using recipe on King Arthur website. (link)

A Few New Food and Cooking Things...

In my kitchen in July: many thoughts of French food, but very little actual French cooking. For a blog event called "Paris in July" I read several books that covered various food topics. But I never got around to much French cooking except a couple contributions to a Bastille Day potluck, which I documented then.

I did rediscover a French grilling book that I haven't used in a long time, and we hope to try some French grilling recipes next month. (Unfortunately the book includes a lot of recipes that use exotic ingredients. Grilled quail, anyone?)

Cuisine from A to Z: Grilling and Barbecues.
More ordinary: I reused pickle juice to make pickled
carrot sticks. Good in slaw! Would work if I made
a Banh Mi sandwich, too.
We have a shiny new cooking pot.
A new condiment from Trader Joe: middle eastern Zhoug.
Update: people asked what it's for. I used it in a few salads, and it's popular in Israel
for sandwiches and on falafel. See this post on Ottolenghi.
This post is to be shared with "In My Kitchen This Month," a blog event hosted by Sherry at Participating bloggers from all over the world describe what they are doing in their kitchens. Some of us are in the middle of summer, creating food for hot days, even record-breaking hot days. Others, like our host Sherry, are in the midst of Australian winter, and feeling the need for porridge and other warming dishes. What a wonderful world!

All photos copyright © 2019 by Mae Sander. This post is published at maefood dot blogspot dot com, and if you are reading it elsewhere, it's been stolen.

Monday, July 29, 2019


Pot-Au-Feu: Convivial, Familial: Histoires d'un Mythe.
Editor: Julia Csergo. Published 1999.
What's the key to all French cooking, the most iconic dish in France? A French person is likely to answer that it is pot-au-feu. Every French region, every French city, and almost every French person has a view about how to make this dish, which an American would identify as somewhere between a soup and a stew (but it's much more than that). I've just read many essays from the book Pot-Au-Feu, which contains a collection of scholarly articles about this dish. It's entirely fascinating, and I learned many obscure things about the history of the dish, its reputation, old sayings and kids' rhymes that refer to pot-au-feu, how people view the "authenticity" of the dish, and the glories of the many variations of the dish throughout the French nation.

The name pot-au-feu calls up a mythical version of the French household, say many of the authors in the book. The myth connects all French kitchens -- from those in the homes of peasants to those of aristocrats. It reminds many people that King Henri IV (d. 1610) said he hoped to reign in a land where every peasant could afford a poule-au-pot -- that is a chicken in every pot, in a dish that's a type of pot-au-feu.

The center of the iconic French home is the kitchen and in the center of the kitchen is a large fireplace. On the hearth, always the symbolic center, a large cooking pot hangs above the open fire. In the pot is water (which becomes the broth), meat (maybe not very much, maybe quite a bit), spice or flavoring characteristic of the region, and vegetables, especially onions, carrots, turnips, leeks, maybe parsnips, and possibly some beans, peas, or whatever is in season. A French person would know that pot-au-feu is cooked long and slowly, and then served up in courses. From the pot comes broth. The boiled meat and the vegetables are served separately -- always with bread, of course. In some areas, you might find horseradish sauce or another condiment.

The word pot-au-feu might also call up a mythical version of a neighborhood restaurant that makes this iconic dish. A modern version might be prepared even in a small apartment kitchen. A family's summer home in the countryside might even have an old farmhouse kitchen where one could make a more traditional version. I've eaten pot-au-feu at least twice: once at a friend's home and once in a restaurant near an apartment we were renting, and I've eaten some of the regional versions too. However, my experience of it is limited. 

Some regions have special versions of pot-au-feu: several articles in the book contain a great deal of detail about these preparations. The most famous is bouillabaisse, the fish stew that's the specialty of Marseilles and of fishing villages along the Mediterranean coast; a rather long chapter offers incredible detail about this dish. There's a chapter on the kig ha farz, the classic dish of the Finistére region of Brittany. The potée (soup) of Lorraine, the garbure (vegetable soup) of the south-west, and the bréjaude of the Limousin are also described in detail, along with the attitudes and feelings of the people of these regions.

Doing justice to this very complex and richly written book in a short review is a challenge! One thing I do know: American tourists may think that French food is represented by madeleines, macarons, crusty French baguettes, or the elaborate preparations of expensive restaurants -- but for the French, the mythic essence of French cuisine is pot-au-feu. 

The blog event "Paris in July" ends this week, so this will be one of my last posts to share with the numerous bloggers who have been writing about their views of Paris all month. (link) I'm posting this on my blog: maefood dot blogspot dot com. If you read this at another blog, it's a stolen version.
All text copyright © 2019 by Mae E. Sander.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Murals of Lancaster PA

These photos show several murals of many in Lancaster, PA, where my brother and sister-in-law live. I thank them for creating these photo for my blog, maefood dot blogspot dot com -- if you are reading this post at some other blog, it's a pirate version.

Sharing with other bloggers at Mural Monday hosted by

Saturday, July 27, 2019

At Four-Mile Lake

On summer evenings an hour or so before sunset, over 100 sandhill cranes gather on the shore of Four Mile Lake,
which is a bit east of Chelsea. This year a very rare whooping crane has joined the flock. Less than 600
whooping cranes still survive -- but that's excellent, because at one point there were only 15 of them. (source)

Whoopers are very large birds! We have seen a few in Texas and Florida,
where most of the survivors spend the winter. At most one or two come to Michigan.  
We watched as more and more sandhill cranes landed for the night.
Sometimes they call to each other with an almost barking cry.
While enjoying the sight and sounds of the cranes, we also watched bees and
other birds and enjoyed the late evening sunset.
The trees at the lakeshore are home to a flock of cedar waxwings.

Photos published at maefood dot blogspot dot com. All content copyright © 2019 by Mae & Len Sander. If you read this post at another blog, it's a pirated version.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Around our Town

In our Neighborhood: Burns Park, Ann Arbor

A Pot Farm!

In our neighborhood: a pot farm has just been planted on a formerly vacant side yard. I wondered what they were planning when they rototilled the lawn.


In the neighborhood are many monarch butterflies. A nearby neighbor is especially encouraging them with milkweed plants,
and she has some cocoons that she's helping to grow.
This monarch was in our yard. It didn't even demand milkweed. I understand that many
national parks are encouraging the growth of milkweed to help out the endangered monarchs.
Butterflies are so popular that one artist at last week's art fair had made
a whole collage of life-sized 3-D butterfly sculptures.

Nearby: In Chelsea, MI

Chelsea, MI is around 20 miles away from our house. We go there for a variety of reasons, especially to eat at
a very nice restaurant called The Common Grill. Chelsea has some very nice murals: I've never posted this one before.

Depicted on the girl's dress are some Chelsea landmarks, including the grain elevators
of the Jiffy Mix plant which dominates the Chelsea "skyline."

This blog post copyright © 2019 by Mae E. Sander for maefood dot blogspot dot com.

 If you are reading this at a different blog, it's been pirated.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Making Pulled Pork: An Exercise in Outdoor Cooking

In this photo: building a fire in the new grill at 7 AM this morning.
In preparation for Len's latest cooking experiment, we bought a new Weber Grill yesterday. The old one was in bad shape, and was also too small for some of the new recipes Len wants to try. After we bought it, Len assembled it, and built a big fire to clean in it off the manufacturing residue. Then he got up this morning to spend the day trying it out.

He's following the pulled pork recipe and instructions in the book Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling. There are several more recipes that appeal to us, and we'll probably try them soon.

In preparation for cooking the pork roast all day: a small charcoal fire is ready.
The grill preheats for around 30 minutes.
The meat, which has been dry-brined overnight, is rubbed with a spice rub.
On the fire: meat and a pan of water. The fire is in a special basket only on one side of the grill. The meat is on the cool side.

More briquettes must be added around once an hour.
At 5:30, after close to 10 hours of slow cooking, the pork is ready to be pulled.
Dinner! Pulled pork with home made bbq sauce, potato salad, slaw with vinegar dressing.
Ready to eat!

The Lifetime of Our Old Blue Weber Grill.

Closeup of the new grill. Color: crimson. Showing the two temperature
probes, one indicating the interior temperature of the meat, one to show
the temperature of the inside of the kettle.
June, 2008: A new blue grill and an old red grill. 
The old blue grill, which we replaced yesterday, lasted 11 seasons, but the vent blades were bent and the lid was out-of-true. So we now have a bigger crimson grill, and the old blue grill is in retirement in the garage. We do not remember what we did with the old red grill a decade ago, but it was in very bad shape, particularly because the wooden handles had rotted, so we must have discarded it.

All content and all photos are copyright © by Mae & Len Sander for publication at maefood dot If you are reading this at another blog, it's been stolen.

"The Essence of Style"

Innovations! Author Joan deJean discusses the origins of a surprising variety of innovations in her book The Essence of Style: How the French Invented High Fashion, Fine Food, Chic Cafés, Style, Sophistication, and Glamour (published in 2005). To my amazement, this book convinced me that much popular culture was indeed invented because of the influence and power of King Louis XIV of France.

For the rich people, especially the nobility, there were revolutions among other things in cooking styles (with the publication of La Varenne's cookbook), in shopping and collecting things like antiques, and in personal grooming.

Specifically, the personal grooming revolution had two sources. The first was the development of glass-making technology for making mirrors more than a few inches square. This enabled fancy people to look in a mirror while doing their hair and makeup, and even to see a full-length reflection.

The second part of this major change was emergence of constant new fashions in hair styles made by trendy hairdressers. Everyone wanted to be coiffed by the one or two most famous coiffeurs who worked for the trend setters at court. Meanwhile, following fashions in designer clothing became a new thing as well. Nothing like this had been happening in earlier eras.

Both King Louis' court at Versailles and the atmosphere of the city of Paris created the conditions for these new forms of consumption available to the richest, noblest, most beautiful, and most creative of the population, all described with great flair. I didn't think the book could live up to its hype -- but it did. It's charmingly written and full of remarkable facts about stuff that's often neglected. Normally I wouldn't like a lot of modern slang and comparisons to modern rock stars and clothing designers, but this author pulls it off.

Let's look at a few of the surprises:

  • Who ever thinks about the invention of the umbrella, especially of the folding umbrella? It's all here: deJean has a whole chapter about how it was invented and popularized in the age of Louis XIV. 
  • Diamonds? King Louis loved them so much he wore them in profusion: 1500 carats at a time, especially diamond buttons. He started the trend that's still going for adoring diamonds. (Before Louis, it was pearls all the way.) 
  • Perfume? The French were ahead for a while but then scents began to give Louis a headache, so perfumes weren't so popular in France and Cologne, Germany, became the iconic spot for it: cologne. 
  • Fashion magazines and publications? Innovated in Paris at this time too.
  • Street lights? Louis decided that the darkness wasn't good for Paris, so he ordered the right people to figure out how to light the streets, and Paris became the City of Light. No kidding! 

The elegant use of light was also enhanced as mirrors could be made larger and larger. They could now be architectural features, initiated in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. Still more light was seen in the sparkling diamonds on everyone's high-piled hair and elegant clothing, on men's garters and shoe buckles, and just about everywhere else that one could wear a diamond. DeJean enables you to imagine all this extreme luxury and never demands that you think about the poor people, though you can see the looming social problem with starvation in the background of all the waste, and you know what's going to happen in a century or so. But it's a fun read.

From Chapter 6, "The World's First High-Priced Lattes," Fig. 6-1, p 141.
"Entretiens sur les cafés" frontispiece of the book by Louis de Mailly, 1702.
I especially enjoyed the chapter on the introduction of coffee to Parisians and the quickly following invention of the café during Louis' reign.  Coffee houses had already developed as men's establishments in London and elsewhere in Europe, but the Paris coffee houses catered to both men and women, as illustrated above. Coffee was served in dainty cups, accompanied by pastry or sorbet.  And it cost a lot. Who can resist mentioning Starbucks?

I'm sharing this book with the participants in "Paris in July," which is wrapping up this week at the blog Thyme for Tea ( It's been a great month so far, with a wide variety of blog posts showing bloggers' original photos of Paris, a number of books on Paris and French subjects, and a few recipes and food posts, many with common themes or coincidental relationships. My post last weekend about the Detroit Institute of Arts' exhibit of luxury items from 18th century Paris is interestingly related to Joan deJean's Essence of Style, which I had begun reading before our visit there. (link)

Text in this post is copyright © 2019 by Mae at maefood dot If you are reading this at another blog, it's been stolen.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

African Wood Carvings

A Baya wood sculpture of a wise man, from the Bambara people of Mali. Our Art Fair purchase last week.

We bought our new sculpture from Ibrahim, a dealer in African art.
Over the years, we have bought a number of masks from him.
He is not part of the "official" art fair, but just a sidewalk vendor.
Our sculpture as Ibrahim displayed it. Sitting in the gutter? OK.
Our wise man is more respected on the mantle above our fireplace.
In 2009, I took this photo at Ibrahim's art fair sale. The sculpture is very similar
to the one I bought this year, but obviously not the same one. The hands on
the two statues are mirror images, for one thing. And the eyes are different.
African mask of Elvis. Mid-20th century.
I wanted to include this very interesting mask from the Chewa people of Malawi which we saw on Saturday in the Detroit Institute of Arts. Elvis's image was a tool to warn young people about undesirable Western values that Elvis and others represented to their culture. "Members of the Nyau, a secret society among the Chewa, wore this mask with an iconic image of the King of Rock and Roll during ceremonies and rituals." (Information from museum label.)

For more posts on African masks in my collection and ones that I've seen in museums, you can go to this link at my travel blog: or to the African Masks link at the bottom of this post.

All photos copyright 2019 by Mae & Len Sander. This blog post was created by Mae for maefood dot blogspot dot com. If you read it elsewhere, it's been stolen.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Paris at the Detroit Institute of Arts

"Political Woman," 1883-85. By James Tissot. On loan from Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
At the Detroit Institute of Arts on Saturday, we saw a number of works that depict Paris or were characteristic of life in Paris in the 18th and 19th centuries. I took photos of some of these to share with the blog event "Paris in July" (link).

First, we visited an exhibit titled "Humble and Human: Impressionist Era Treasures from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and the Detroit Institute of Arts." The DIA has a great collection of Impressionist paintings, and the visiting works made a welcome addition.

James Tissot's "L'Ambitieuse" or "Political Woman," shown above, was one of a series expressing "biting observations of Parisian society in the late 1800s." The woman is elaborately dressed in a pink gown -- overdressed compared to the other women in the painting. Her companion is a much older man, and other men are staring. The image "presents a complex visual narrative" in which she's trying to improve her social position. (Information from the label in the exhibit.)

I've mentioned the many connections between the author Zola, whose books I've been reading, and the painters of his time: there are many links between this picture and the social nuances and class-consciousness that Zola describes in books such as Nana and Au Bonheur des Dames.

Study for "Le Pont de l'Europe" 1876. By Gustave Caillebotte. On loan from Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
Caillebotte made several oil sketches and preliminary studies for this painting of a bridge over a huge rail yard in Paris.
Caillebotte's study for "Le Pont de l'Europe" -- detail.
"Le Pont de l'Europe" 1876. By Gustave Caillebotte. Geneva. (From Wikipedia.)
Caillebotte showed this finished version a the Impressionist exhibition of 1877.
The second iconically Parisian painting in the exhibit was Caillebotte's study for the bridge over the rail yards at the Paris Gare Saint-Lazare, which remains an important train station in Paris today. It's been a favorite subject of art and photography: Caillebotte's contemporaries Manet and Monet; 20th century photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, and various others created images of the station. Critics point out that Caillebotte was employing techniques that originated in photography, then an emerging art form, and that his interest in industrial imagery was a novelty at the time.

"Made in Paris"

The decorative arts section of the DIA includes a large collection of objects made for the upper class Parisians, including the nobility and the monarchs, mainly during the 18th century before the French Revolution. The workshops, the craftsmen, and the luxury shops were all part of the Paris atmosphere: alongside the grinding poverty and desperation of most of the residents.

Titled "Made in Paris," this exhibition includes furniture, portraits, fine china, and many items that would have been used at lavish banquets, in lavish drawing rooms, and on display shelves in the showy palaces and mansions of the time. "In the 1700s, if you had a taste for luxury and price was no issue, there was no place like Paris," says the placard in the photo below. "It was the richest city in the richest country in all of Europe, and the undisputed center for luxury goods."

Silver Tureen with Lid and Stand, 1729-30. By Thomas Germain,
Paris's premier silversmith in the early 1700s.
Luxury porcelain from France, 18th century.
Cup and Saucer, about 1785. Sèvres Manufactory.
An Alderman of Paris, 1703. By Nicholas de Largillierre.

All photos copyright 2019 by Mae & Len Sander (except as noted). This blog post was created by Mae for maefood dot blogspot dot com. If you read it elsewhere, it's been stolen.