Foodie Tuesday: The Journey of a Thousand Meals begins with a Single Spoonful

It is my intention to have a far, far happier thousandth day than that poor Anne Boleyn apparently did, and since my thousandth post occurs on this, a Tuesday, I will enhance my happiness by thinking and writing about food. It’s such a reliable way to fill myself with good cheer, filling myself with good food, that—well, you all know by now that I can’t resist thinking and writing about it here at least once a week as well.

Am I insatiable? Perhaps. I am certainly mad for good food and drink. I’m kind of crazy for messing about with cookery trickery myself, and most certainly that feeds (both literally and metaphorically) my cravings. And you know that I’m happy to indulge at every turn in talking and/or writing about food and drink, making photos and artworks about them, and dreaming up ever more new ways to get ever more treats into my hands, my glass, my spoon and my stomach. That’s how I operate.

Naturally, the right thing to do in celebration of a thousand-day-versary would be to make some party treats. I have company coming over shortly, so I thought I really ought to make those dinner and lunch engagements into occasions for those goodies. Any excuse will do. The excuse of friends’ visits? Irresistible.

Dinner first, with a couple of friends on Monday. Starter: an appetizer of crackers topped with a nice Dutch gouda or brie, or spread with some homemade brandied beef pate and a little bit of fig jam. Roast beef, a nice chuck shoulder roast cooked simply sous vide with butter, salt and pepper, as the centerpiece. Mashed potatoes sauced with a bit of beurre rouge and pan juices. Tiny peas with mint butter. Sweet corn with crispy bacon. Some quick beet pickles. Chocolate mousse with apricot coulis spiked with homemade orange liqueur and topped with chopped dark chocolate bits for dessert.photoLunch on Thursday with another couple. Mint-apple-honeydew cooler to drink. Shrimp toasts as a starter: butter-fried slices of chewy French bread with spicy lime avocado spread and tiny sweet shrimp on top. Pasta with smoked salmon and langoustines in lemon cream for the entrée. Carrots and celery in cooked in white wine with snippets of dill. Ginger coleslaw with Bosc pears and toasted sliced almonds. Fresh strawberries and cardamom shortbread with salted caramel icing for the big finish.

I always hope that everyone lunching or dining with me will enjoy everything I’m feeding them, but I have to admit that it’s kind of a big deal that I like it all, too! How else will I get fat and sassy in my old age? I may be ahead of the curve on the Sassy part, but I’m still hoping to be somewhat moderate or at least slow about the fattening-up part. Not that you could tell by my eating meals like this whenever I can get my gnashers on ’em. But here we are and I haven’t ballooned out of existence quite yet, so no doubt I shall continue my food adoration for at the very least another thousand days. Or whatever…come back and ask me later; I’m heading to the kitchen. Recipes will undoubtedly follow….photo

A Little Texas Secret

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Have you heard?

When people say Everything in Texas is Bigger it’s true–up to a point. Texans in general are happy to point out the vast number of marvels, from natural resources to business and entertainment, culture and personalities, that are bigger than life in this part of the world. Is Texas full of tall grass and longhorn cattle and bluebonnets and armadillos, sizzling days and stormy nights, oil wells and roughnecks and rodeo riders? You bet.photoBut there are amazing and unexpected and even–gasp!–tiny details that also sparkle throughout the Lone Star State and help to make it far more varied and unpredictable than the image Texas has beyond its borders might lead anyone to believe. A spectacular water-lily park? Why, yes, that’s here. Masses of beautiful, delicate butterflies? Oh, yes, those too. I think it’s safe to say that not many people are likely to think of French food when Texas is mentioned, but not only does la cuisine Française exist in Texas, it’s even featured in an eatery in the also seemingly non-very-Texas named town of Humble. I mean it: Texas is full of surprises, and not all of them even Texas-big.photoSee, that’s the thing about stereotypes, archetypes, assumptions and expectations. Generalizing about any place or culture may give us a handy entré to allow us the chance of learning to know it better, but it skims the surface of reality far too much to be dependable as a gauge for the whole of the thing. On my first trip overseas I was immediately struck by the odd conversations I overheard between the locals here and there and the American travelers. It’s not uncommon for natives to ask visitors what things are like where they live; what I found out is that it’s also pretty common for said visitors to pontificate as though their limited experience of life were the standard for all and sundry where they come from–not just all the folk in their house but all in their town, county, state, region–heck, I heard fellow US citizens abroad telling foreign nationals with utter nonchalance what ‘America’ was like. Just as though every part of America were completely homogenous, every US denizen interchangeable.photoI’m perfectly happy to state that not only is that a ridiculous barrel of hogwash but I have seen evidence very much to the contrary in places all over this country. Not to mention in the great state of Texas, in our county, in our town. Yes, in our own household. Texans do like their BBQ and their tall tales, their football and pecan pie and yes, their guns. The real secret, if you must know, is that no place is precisely, and only, like its image. No matter how small or grand that image happens to be.

Here in My Safe Little Place

graphite drawingComfort and security, that’s what I want. And I think I’m hardly unusual in that urge. Aside from the rare adrenaline junkies whose craving for danger and life on the edge knows no bounds, most of us like to have at least one place in life, on earth or in mind where we can crawl in, curl up and feel like nothing and no one can assail us there.

While I adore travel and I treasure those people and experiences and grand-and-glorious places that it has brought to my acquaintance, there’s at least a small part of me that may always be leaning toward Home. I don’t think of myself as an adventurer by any means at all, but I’ve grown a bit more attracted to the happy mysteries of the unfamiliar or even the exotic as I’ve gotten older, and I can appreciate much better how much wealth and delight the new and unexpected can often bring into my purview. Now, what I must keep in mind instead of a constant combat against my natural urge to shun all movement outward from my safe, soft center is that my concept of that person-place-or-thing identifiable as Home has changed, and can change, and certainly will change, because that’s exactly the sort of surprising flexibility that an even minimally worldly human can experience, once the crying need for total security is breached satisfactorily.

So here goes: once more I shall leap outward in hope and expectant happiness, and all at the same time remain busily, constantly honing the cozy little hideaway that will shelter my spirit and, if need be, my self when the adventures get a little overwhelming. With a cheery wave, when I’m not too tightly coiled up with my security blanket there, I shall ever bid you all a fond goodbye, farewell, and goodnight–and see you in the morning.

Wish I were There

memento assemblageMuch as I adore where I am at any given moment, I’m not above reminiscing about and longing for other places I’ve enjoyed, or fantasizing about ones I’ve yet to try even in the midst of the current Happy Place. It’s not a matter of comparison, of course, just that persistent tickle at the back of the mind that everyone suffers who has ever been two places–opposite ends of the couch or of the world–that are both pleasing and desirable for their own reasons.memento assemblage

So I can sit in a ray of gilt sunshine, in a high-backed soft chair, sipping cool water and feeling quite contented–yet my brain keeps flitting around, from Praha to Portland, from Boston to Berlin, from San Juan Viejo to San Antonio. In my heart, I may be tucked up in a mews in Wexford or striding along the West Side to find a small concert venue after dark in New York. Perhaps inhaling the dazzling steam of glorious Indian food in a surprise find restaurant in Oslo, watching the koi slide through their semi-tropical pond under the snow-frosted glass pyramid of the conservatory in Edmonton or testing the tenderness of lovingly handmade pasta in a cozy family ristorante in Bolzano.memento

Wherever I may be, my thoughts will always drift. It’s not the least a sign of dissatisfaction or discontent, but rather that I’ve found delight and happiness in such a wide variety of places that they all compete for attention even (or perhaps especially) when I am full of well-being. There is so much beauty to be enjoyed in the world and there are so many great sensory experiences to be had that the soul grows restless for them.memento assemblage

Much as I like my reminiscences and the memories of all of those fantastic places I’ve journeyed, the astonishing and dear people who have welcomed me there and introduced me to each place’s peculiarities and pleasures, and the thought of all of the songs, foods, walks, sights and adventures that have enriched every one of those times, I am always hungry for more. The sweet sense of something marvelous that’s yet-to-come is as poignant and piquant as the promise of any other sort of romance, and my wishes always lean toward the more-ish, especially when the outing is made hand in hand with my dearest companion. Though the old-fashioned postcard tradition for travelers may have been to write to friends and loved ones saying ‘Wish you were here’, the truth is more often that I wish I were nearer to them, wherever they are.memento assemblage