Forgetfulness: Blue Cheese-Scallion Biscuits

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

-My mind is slipping with age. I forgot just how good these are.-

Somehow, between trying to find new writing jobs that’ll validate that whole school business and taking on a few big projects (that must remain mum), this blog turned five years old.

Is that old for a blog? It feels like it. I wonder if blog years are like dog years, or worse, gay years? (The latter in which 1 normal year is 10 gay years, and then, at age 50, you are required to retire yourself socially forever. These are simply The Pink Rules that we, as a community, have established.) Either way it feels like more. It makes me feel old. I suppose a sure sign of age is the age of your blog, in respect.

Regardless, I just plumb forgot. It happens.

I’m pretty forgetful when it comes to deeply personal information. I forget birthdays all the time. Not just other people’s but my own. It isn’t unlike me to receive a call somewhere in June and hear my mother’s voice, chipper as if she were hawking air freshener’s on TV, wishing me a happy birthday and for me to answer, “What? Is that today?” She assures me of the year, day, hour, and minute I was born and how I was a willful and distempered thirteen hours of labor. Oh, she remembers. Let there be no question. She says now that I’ve been a good son and that my previous obstinacy is forgiven, though sometimes I still wonder.

-I will never, however, forget motherly guilt. (Love you, mom!)-

I also forget how old I am. Constantly. I actually had to fix my driver’s license once because I put the wrong year on some update paperwork. By four years. To this day the DMV still thinks I’m 32 which is quite off (come June 2nd I’m 28, according to the calendar and calculator). BF has to correct me, often, about my age which I misquote with Letheian accuracy both high and low.

It’s not just dates either. I forget all kinds of personal information, e.g., My older brother’s middle name, my license plate number, where I put the key to my lock box, the kennel I picked up Eat Beast at, BF’s middle name, both of my bothers' middle names, it’s all not there.

Lord, I’m too young for Alzheimer’s.

What bothers me is that those memories and facts should be there. I can still trill off the woodwind solo I learned in marching band during my freshmen year of high school. I recall most of the questions on my driver’s test. I can recite whole scenes from Beowulf and my locker combination from the nearby gym I used to be a member of six years ago. Want my mother’s flank steak recipe? It’s up there rattling around my noggin’, pushing out whatever my anniversary date with BF is. For some reason these inconsequential things take hold. They aren’t particularly relevant and memorable things either; just stuff. Antiques in a dusty attic that I never dust off but never throw away. They remain in dark corners staring at me and me back at them with overwhelming indifference that will never lead to action of any kind.

So, yes, I missed my blogiversary. I don’t have an excuse.

I’m sorry, my blog.

-My bad.-

I made you some simple biscuits to apologize. Yes, you and I both like cake. We love it, in fact. Hell, we'd pimp slap the president if it meant a piece of finely-crumbed, ganache enribboned piece of cake.

But, blog, trust me, birthday biscuits are just as cool. Hell, sometimes, even preferred. There’s no drama or history in these biscuits. They're just damn good biscuits. Heck, these are great biscuits. They're biscuits filled with large blocks of butter and a heart-killing pour of buttermilk. The butter melts and steams when it cooks, resulting in a texture that's almost phyllo-flaky as we both know great homemade biscuits should be.

A few roughly hewed scallions add some bitter-sour-sweetness to cut through all that rather joyfully daunting amount of butter. Did I mention the blue cheese? There's blue cheese. Enough blue cheese to make you shiver with glee.

I might even call these biscuits, Amazing Biscuits.

Actually, blog, I'll do just that.

Blog, these biscuits are Amazing. I think you will enjoy them immensely. I think your readers will as well.

There. Happy Birthday, Vanilla Garlic. Sorry that I forgot. I’ll try better next year. Enjoy your biscuits.

Blue Cheese-Scallion Biscuits
Makes about 16 small biscuits. The baking powder is optional. Without it the biscuits are cheesier, but with it they are fluffier.

2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
a few grinds of black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder (optional)
7 tablespoons butter
2 scallions, finely chopped
2 ounces blue cheese
3/4 cup buttermilk
Red, Kosher, Maldon, or Black salt for topping (optional, but suggested.)

1. Preheat the oven to 425F. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, mustard, salt, sugar, pepper, and baking powder if using. Set aside.

2. Dice the butter and toss with the flour mixture until finely coated. Add the scallions and blue cheese and toss until finely coated. Add the buttermilk and mix with your hands until it just comes together. (You will get messy. Just accept it.) Do not over-knead.

3. Form into an 8x8 square on a lightly floured service. Cut into squares and top with a bit of high-quality salt. Bake for 12-16 minutes or until golden.

Personal Religion: Cherry-Rhubarb Jam

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

-Prayer in a jar.-

My brother and I were raised to be good Presbyterians. We went to church every Sunday where my brother and I would draw on the back of the pamphlet for that day's sermon and generally cause a fuss for 60 minutes as our parents attempted to shush us into quiet obedience. Eventually, frustrated at the lack of any sort of child-related religious education (read:babysitting), my parents picked us up and moved us to a nearby Luthern church that had a well-dispositioned Sunday school and preteen and teen programs. From then on we were raised to be good Lutherans.

Lutheranism is the Diet Coke of Catholicism: Same great flavor. None of the guilt. What I mean is that we used the same general catechism, the book of rules on how to be a good Christian. Young kids have to memorize it, take classes, and learn to be good people in the eyes of Jesus.

In Lutheranism there are no Saints to pray to, which I liked because from the outside it seemed there were too many of them. I never understood why Mary got respect but Joseph didn't, so for a long time I assumed the Catholic church was sexist against men. (Silly me.) Actually, the Vatican is still a mystery to me in many respects. As a child I interpreted it as a miserly old man with too much money telling people to be miserable for this would make God happy. (Ever since Martin Luther decided to graffiti a church door, Lutherans have always been against suffering and self-inflicted angst.)

Lutherans are generally a very laid back lot. Where as Catholicism might encourage you to say five Hail Mary's on Easter Sunday, we're more likely to drink five Bloody Mary's on any given Sunday. This is probably what influenced the waned sense of piety and religion that I possess today.

Much of this attitude was influenced by my pastor at the time of my youth, Pastor Kim. Our Senior Pastor, Pastor Tim, a disgruntled man in his forties who had the disposition of a codger in his eighties, was a miserable guy. For a Lutheran he was very fire and brimstone, and seemed to have a deep rooted hatred for Buddhists who he insisted were "Dead inside for praying to a stone statue of a man," which made many of the parishioners cock their heads in question as he said this in front of a three story tall, polished wooden cross. Considering all this, you might be able to see why it was odd that of all people he hired to be his Assistant Pastor, he hired Pastor Kim.

-Pastor Tim: Taking the fun out of religion since Westboro Baptist Church and the National Organization for Marriage.-

Kim was blond, sweeter than a Sundae, and sickeningly perky. She was that girl you knew in high school who was prom queen, track star, and got a perfect SAT score. Part of you wanted to hate her, but she was so damn nice to you and everyone else that you couldn't help but give her the utmost admiration.

I recall when I was talking to her one day when I was still struggling with the whole sexuality issue. I was worried that what I might be doing (i.e., liking boys) was sinful. I poured out my heart while trying to hold back the tears, wondering why a God who made me like this wouldn't like me the way I am.

She looked at me thoughtfully, then got up and walked over to the TV that she kept in her office and turned it on. She then bent over and opened the cabinet of the television stand to reveal a Nintendo 64 gaming system.

"You're stressing too much about this. You're fine," she said as she began to unravel the cords from around the controllers and set the system up.

"Really?" I sniffed.

She turned and sighed, "Yes. Look, do you want to do good in the world?"


"Do you feel like you've actually done anything wrong?"

"Um, no?"

"Okay, then just try to be a good person. If you do do something bad then ask for forgiveness from God in a spirit of contrition and you'll get it. After that you go do more good in the world. That's the way to live a holy life. That'll make you happy. That'll make God happy. That'll make others happy. Who you take home to meet mom doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things."

"Uhhh, okay."

"Now, let's play some GoldenEye 007." Then for the next hour she proceeded to whoop my ass at video games, trash talking me the entire time. (E.g., "Maybe you should pray to Jesus not to suck so much!")

-She cheated, too. She would just camp out in a corner with the sniper rifle and - BOOM! - headshot. Every. Damn. Time.-

This sort of attitude reflected that of the entire youth congregation, which I was an active part of all until I left my hometown for college. Indeed, on my last day there when I told all my friends in the Youth Group, people I had known now for over 10 years that I was gay, the general response was, "No duh." A few actually had someone they wanted to set me up with. One person did actually water balloon me in the face, but then again she was water ballooning everyone that summer day.

These days, I'm bad Lutheran. I don't pray that much. I go to the occasional Church service, but my belief is that standing in a church makes you a Christian as much as standing in a garage makes you a car. To me, faith is a personal thing and best practiced alone in your own way.

For me, I guess, cooking is now my Sunday morning routine. The methodical process requires thought, practice, and action. It's the combination and transformation of things. Cooking becomes appreciation of life and what it has to offer.

My kitchen is my church. Here, I feel close to God, my family, and my friends. I attend regularly. The wine is way better than the stuff Pastor Tim used to serve and I generally prefer cookies to communion wafers.

-Also, I sing songs from Glee. Not musty old songs that are sung by a congregation with all the joy of horsewhipping.-

Even more so, the kitchen defines what faith is. In the kitchen there is only so much you can control. At times, you simply have to have faith that your oven won't run too hot or that the fruit you picked up won't be too bitter. Jam requires skill, yes, but it requires faith and knowledge of your ingredients. Coax your jam all you want, but any seasoned jammer will tell you the same thing: the fruit will do as it sees fit. You simply have to accept the outcome and make the best of it.

I've learned some of the best life lessons in a kitchen. In fact, I feel that I've learned them better in the kitchen that in the pews listening to someone preach from the book of Psalms. I learned patience waiting for a cake to rise. Humility when it didn't. Respect in the presence of great teachers. Affability in the presence of eager novices. Thankfulness for bounty, and temperance when gifted with it.

Jam teaches you a lot of these lessons that we learn hovering above a pot with a wooden spoon in hand. And, so, I think God, in a way, is in the food we cook.

God tastes delicious in this jam, by the way. The cherries and rhubarb create a brooding, sweet and sour jam that just rings loud in your mouth and that echoes through you. I encourage you not to skimp on the vanilla as it lends the jam a creamy flavor.

It may not make the most sense or be the most expected way to practice one's faith, but it works for me. Personal religion is just that: personal. We all have to find the way it works best for us. In the end, I feel if you're trying your best to be a good person then you're doing all right in The Universe's eyes. Making food and feeding people is just one of many ways to go about that.

It is certainly the most flavorful.

Cherry-Rhubarb Jam
Makes 5 8-ounce jars

2 1/2 lbs cherries, pitted
1 1/2 cups chopped rhubarb
1 lb.sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon butter
1/2 vanilla bean, seeded and scraped

1. Place all the ingredients in a stainless steel or copper pot, or an enamel-lined dutch oven (not an aluminum pot). Let macerate for about 10 minutes. Place a small plate in the freezer as this will be used for testing later.

2. Turn heat to medium-high. The mixture will bubble and froth vigorously. Skim the foam off the top and discard (or save it and put it on cheese or yogurt; super tasty). The boil will subside to larger bubbles, but still bubble vigorously. Be sure to begin gently stirring the jam frequently to prevent it from sticking and burning to the bottom.

3. After about 20 minutes begin testing the jam by placing a small amount on the cold plate. Allow 30 seconds to pass and then run your finger through it to see what the cooled consistency will be. Boil for a few minutes longer if desired for a thicker jam.

4. Ladle into hot, sterilized canning jars and seal leaving 1/4 inch of head space. Wipe the rims of the jars clean before applying the lids. Screw on the rings to finger-tight. Work quickly. Process in a water bath to ensure a good seal. If you want you can skip the water bath and just screw the lids on tight where the heating-cooling process will create a vacuum seal, but the water bath is a surefire method for a secure seal.

*To sterilize the jars, rinse out clean mason jars, dry them, and place them, without lids, upright in a 200°F oven for 10 minutes. To sterilize the lids put them in a shallow bowl and pour boiling water over them.

Hangover: Blackberry Mascarpone Turnovers (Plus Giveaway Winner!)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

-Not sure if I should be ashamed of this post or not...-

The light blazing in between the slats of the window shades forced its way into the room with an unrelenting fury. To look at it was a mistake, my confused desire to confirm that all this daylight meant that it was indeed morning. The sun, in all its radiant indifference, slammed its rays through my eyes and into the back of my skull with shuddering force, like a gladiator swinging a halberd into the torso of his charging opponent.

“NYAAAAGH!!!” I cried and flipped back around to bury my head into the darkness of my pillow. “Why did you open the blinds?!”

“Because it’s ten o’clock and you told me to last night, ‘No matter what,’ so you could get your work done,” said BF who crawled back into bed before slipping into dreamy unconsciousness.

“Damn you and your punctuality. Damn me, too. Ugh,” I sighed. I peeked out from the covers to let a sliver of morning in and attempted to adjust my eyes. After a few minutes, now fully emerged from the darkness of my pillow-topped fortress, I pulled on whatever clothes were nearest to my hand (i.e. what I was wearing last night and had stripped into a pile on the floor, and that the cat had decided to make a bed out of). I wrapped myself up in a blanket and crawled out to the kitchen.

" I have to admit. I was surprised how well I held myself last night," I smirked to myself.

-Seriously, I was.-

The previous night had been the post-thesis celebration. A rather impromptu gathering fueled by food and booze of every sort. It was a grand ‘ol affair that went late into the night with raucous conversation and brazen drinking of the kind that I hadn’t partaken in since I was 22. A bevy of cocktails made with a pitcher of freshly squeezed vanilla bean lemonade and a bottle of Absolut vodka started the night off with a sunny disposition. Eventually the group moved through a few bottles of red wine before diving into a dauntingly large bottle of champagne (my one true weakness). By the time we cracked open the tequila it was a sleigh ride out of sobriety and into the realm of near total shitfacedness.

“Still, I did not overtly swear, fall down, or fondle a single person last night. Plus, I remember everything that happened! I’m quite proud and more than just a bit than surprised with myself.”

"Mmmff," muffled back BF in sleepy agreement.

It’s true. I was. I can be a bit of a handful when I drink. My tipsy-akimbo position is one where one arm holds a drink while wrapped around the shoulders of a friend so I can stay standing, while the other arm takes to task touching any pretty lookin’ fellow who happens by me. Generally, I become the person you try to avoid and who you're embarrassed to have attended with. I'm quite the mess, really.

Somehow, still, by the grace of God, Vishnu, and a Euro-mix heritage that blessed me with a mighty liver I made it through the night without that happening. I think of it as a sign of maturation.

-Glad that whole becoming mature thing is out of the way.-

The hangover itself wasn’t so bad, either. I could move and I didn't wake up in the bathtub with a bucket nearby so already things were looking up. After my body adjusted to morning I was able to adequately go about my business except that I was accompanied by a dull headache. The sounds of the day would be chased by the constant hum reverberating in the front of my skull, a sound like the last trailing tone of a church bell’s bark.

I had set the alarm and the BF to wake me up because last night I had every intention of getting dressed and driving down the Farmer’s Market. As it stood now? Hells no. Whatever plans I had on cooking something elaborate and the story I had started penning to go with it were chucked aside. What for, though, was something I wasn’t quite sure of yet.

Once in the kitchen I plopped down on the linoleum floor and opened the refridgerator door. I zoned out as I tanned in the fluorescent light hoping something would club me in the face with inspiration. I pulled the blanket tighter against me as the cold air curled out and snaked around me. Grabbing my pounding head I wondered if Asprin studded scones would either be seen awesome or problematic. I imagine such a post would lead to a bunch of people unsubscribing to my blog feed followed by a whole new audience hitting the subscribe button.

-Next Week: Cocaine and Cough Syrup Parfaits!-

Suddenly, the sound of a small explosion burst from the fridge. It was, in fact, simply a stick of butter falling off a piece of tupperware onto the floor of the fridge. My addled brain had moved from buring my retinas with light to liquifying my brain with sound. "How lovely," I thought to myself.

The cause of the butter crash had been my cat, Eat Beast. He had already snuck well into the back of the fridge in an attempt to get at a poorly wrapped piece of ham and that his tail had knocked the butter over. As I yanked him out - much to his verbal protest - the Aspirin scones suddenly seemed far more reasonable. Maybe with a dusting of ground Lithium and powdered sugar for garnish?

Pulling out the cat revealed that previously hidden behind his girth sat a box of puff pastry. Near it, a container of blackberries and half of a container of mascarpone cheese.

Turnovers it would be. They sounded like appropriate hangover food.

Having never been one for fast food my usual hangover cure has always been vegetarian Szechuan food. This is put together in the most haphazard way I can think of as cooking and wanting to die at the same time rarely ever go hand in hand and usually results in pretty piss-poor food. I simply smash up some garlic, ginger, and chili peppers and throw them into a wok with shimmering-hot oil. After a quick stir in goes whatever vegetables I can find and chop up without harming myself. (Handling a knife while hungover is never the smartest thing, but I figure if professional chefs in the 80's can do it while coming down from cocaine I can do it while recovering from tequila shots). A few minutes and a splash of soy sauce later I have my meal.

Doing this post-mowed is pretty miserable work. I power through it each time knowing that in the end my stomach will feel better, my head will clear up (at least, somewhat so), and I’ll be able to go back to sleep and feel rejuvenated.

Having no vegetables in the house meant no Szechuan food. That meant turnovers.

-Most problems usually mean turnovers.-

The whole thing came together rather quickly. The filling ingredients were stirred together in a bowl. The puff pastry quickly rolled and cut. The only tedious part was the egg washing and folding. Tedious-ish. Time was pretty fuzzy during all this so I'm not sure if it took five or fifty minutes.

Either way, they got in the oven. I was even able to take pictures, so props to me there. They also tasted pretty darn good. So, you know, more props.

They taste even better when your head isn’t an arena for knife fighting monkeys. Buttery, flakey puff pastry is a welcome sight any morning, and, I can confirm this now, a great hangover cure. Fill it with blackberries and cheese? Well, the jammy and creamy mess bubbling inside them is just dandy.

However, these turnovers are of a simple flavor and not a revelation. Rather, they have a flavor you appreciate when you’re in the proper mood for it. When you are, the turnovers tastes nearly life affirming. When you're reeling from tequila shots they're practically the perfect food; even better than a coffee and a Big Mac. Even, possibly, better than Szechuan food.

After that I went back to bed and crashed for a bit; perfectly content and full of puff pastry. I would sleep the rest of the hangover off happily.


To pick the winner I flipped a coin to choose whether the winner would be chosen from comments on the blog or comments on the Facebook thread. Blog won the coin toss. From that I entered everyone into a random number generator.

The winner is redstrands! Redstrands, please be sure to e-mail me with your contact info so I can send the books your way. Thanks everyone who entered!

Blackberry Mascarpone Turnovers
Makes 24 turnovers

2 7-ounce prepared puff pastry sheets
6 ounces blackberries, chopped
1/4 cup Mascarpone cheese
zest of 1 lemon or orange
1 tablespoon honey
1 egg, beaten

1. Combine blackberries, Mascarpone, zest, and honey in a bowl.

2. Preheat oven to 400°F. Working with one puff pastry sheet at a time roll out the pastry to a size of 9-inches by 12-inches. Cut into 12 3x3-inch squares. Use your finger to paint a the edges of each square with beaten egg (this will help the pastry seal). Place a teaspoon of the blackberry mixture in the center of the squares. Fold over the squares into a triangle shape (for smaller ones, just fold into rectangles, they aren't as pretty but they are easier to fold). Stretch the dough if you need to to close the turnovers. Use the tines of a fork to crimp the edges. Place the turnovers on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Chill for 5 minutes in the refrigerator before baking, or chill while you prepare the second puff pastry sheet.

3. Whisk a teaspoon of water into the beaten egg. Using a pastry brush paint the turnovers with the egg to give them a shiny glaze. Bake the turnovers for 15-20 minutes or until golden and puffy. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

-And now for a long nap.-

Finally: Buckwheat Blueberry Waffles + Giveaway

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

-Celebratory waffles are the best kind of waffles.-

"I've read your draft. Nice job with your expanded analysis and examples--it helps to clarify your argument. I will leave it in a bag hanging over my office door, so you can pick it up at any time this evening before they lock the building at around 9pm. I am ready to sign off on your thesis! E-mail me very soon to set up an appointment to sign. Yay. Well done."

And there it was. I was done. Four years of work. Twenty classes. Thousands of pages of reading. Hundreds of pages written. Stress, break downs, hysteria. New friends for life. Many mentors who guided me. At the end, a thesis that took three years to write, came out 164-pages long, and 2-inches thick. With this e-mail all the hard work was done.

My thesis has been approved.

I have officially completed graduate school with a degree in English Composition. I can now teach college classes. I am now Garrett McCord, M.A.

Took long enough.

After reading the e-mail I actually spent the first ten minutes crying on my couch with BF congratulating me and holding me as I completely broke down in some of the most exhilarating joy I have ever felt. It was like I had been shot in the chest, but rather than feeling pain I simply exploded with a near existential, completely tear-bearing happiness.

-Bullets. Made of happy. Or something.-

The next day I spent ill. My system had spent the last few weeks addicted to stress. It coursed through my veins pumping adrenaline and fear through my organs and shot a constant flow of electricity searing through my brain. Once my body let it all go it began the process of violently readjusting; heartburn, vertigo, and nausea ensued and left me reeling as if I had just walked off a ship from rough seas. I forced it off with a round of sauce slathered barbecue and far too many beers with friends, followed by a good night's sleep. With that my body finally began to relax and readjust to life post-academia.

My brain and hands however, have not. Independent of the rest of me they still twitch for fervent bouts of stressful activity. I suddenly have 20+ hours of time that I used to spend every week on my thesis all freed up. I'm not sure what to do with myself. I feel like a parolee being released after twenty years, unsure of the world or my place in it anymore.

What does a creature of habit do when the habit is forcibly broken? What do you do when a massive part of your life no longer is? What's left is a void of time and space in your life. In your mind it's a psychic vacuum waiting to be filled.

I called friends. I read a book for fun, though I found myself compelled to highlight and annotate passages here and there. (Old habits and all...) I even spent an afternoon doing sitting on the patio doing absolutely nothing but enjoying myself.

Honestly, I'm not sure how much longer I can stand it.

Stillness, is for other people. Addiction to activity is both a vice and a blessing. It can tucker you out, weather your body, and strain the mind, but it can also produce amazing results. Relaxation is just too crazy-stupid boring.

So, I cooked. My go-to activity whenever I feel out of place.

I whipped up a yeasted buckwheat waffle batter and let it burble and grow overnight in the darkness of the oven. The next day, now doubled in size, the flavors of the flours has intensified and the room smelled yeasty and warm like recently threshed grain. We stirred in a few blueberries for bit of pizzazz in color and flavor.

BF broke out his family's old wafflemaker, an ancient device older than us both and that bears the grizzled appearance to prove it. We scooped cupfuls of the batter in between crusty jaws of the wafflemaker's maw and closed the press to the sound of the creature's steamy hiss.

-I'm not sure how, but it may predate the discovery of electricity and the English language.-

Minutes later and no longer steaming - the classic sign that your waffle is done - the waffles emerged light and crispy. The flavor? Earthy, like birch wood and dry grass. The blueberries, slightly smashed, had released their juices that were cooked into a winey, jammy sauce within each waffle. This fruity filling made the bread of the waffles all the sweeter in comparison.

Smearing them with a bit of strawberry jam I ate in gratitude. Lounging on the couch, my feet propped up on the coffee table, I sighed. It was a bit bittersweet. A huge chapter of life now closed.

"What on earth am I going to do now?" I asked aloud.

-"Examining the Exclusionary Rhetoric of the Slow Food Movement's Recipes and Literature"-

My bound copy of the thesis is sitting on my bookshelf jammed between the various texts I used in my research. Looking back I can say there were a few fun times to all this. There was some diligent eating I got to do in the name of research. A bit of travel. Some interviews with truly engaging and knowledgeable people. Plus, not all of the books I used in my research were dull and academic (though, God, some were so dry they left you parched). A few were thought-provoking and challenged my beliefs about food and culture, and the ways we define ourselves by these things. Written with humorous, sage, and assuring voices these are texts that will be valued tools in writing to come.

(NOTE: THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED) I believe in sharing knowledge, so I'm offering up some of my favorite pieces of research as a giveaway. These aren't boring pieces, either. These are books any food lover can read and appreciate. I'm offering a bundle of the following books to one lucky reader:

Oxford Companion to Food: This book made waves a few years ago when it won a James Beard award. Author Alan Davidson wrote about 80 percent of the 2,600-plus entries, with other authors and subject specialists contributing the rest. The entries, which range from Jewish Dietary Laws to Umeboshi, are deftly written to be clear, engaging, and even a bit witty. Excessive cross-referencing aside (it's easy to start on Offal and end up somewhere on Kangaroo twenty minutes later) the Oxford Companion to Food is one of those books that can answer most food questions reliably and succinctly in a way that the Internet sometimes still can't. You may not read it cover to cover, but you will find yourself referencing it again and again.

Slow Food Nation: Why Our Food Should Be Good, Clean, and Fair: Written by Carlo Petrini, the founder of Slow Food, this book one of the three central texts analyzed in my thesis. The copy I'm sending is one that doesn't have my scribbles and highlights on every single page. Yes, it can be a bit overzealous, long on rhetoric, short on data, and a bit winded; but, then again, I think the same of Pollan's books, too. This book is like Pollan's most pure thoughts crystallized in a more concise manner and with more enthusiasm. It's certainly inspriational, idealistic, carefully crafted, and salient to today's modern food crisises. As much as I knock it in my thesis, I believe everyone should read this book.

Everyone Eats: Understanding Food and Culture: It's hard to express how much I truly love this book. Anthropologist E.N. Anderson presents an anthropological study of food that is both fascinating and informative. While it is an educational text, I imagine most casual readers will still keep this on the nightstand as casual, though highly addictive, reading. Anderson demonstrates how the simple act of eating is anything but simple and explains how food becomes a focus in religion, culture, and identity, and how food functions as a defining agent in a complex society. Every time I pick it up, I seem to spend my next few meals wondering about the meanings behind my the food in front of me. A must read for any avid food literature enthusiast.

-Apologies, but no waffles are included for the winner as waffles are not books.-

To enter the contest, just leave a comment on this post by the end of May 15th. The comment can be about waffles, research, whatever you want. Please, no anonymous comments. You must leave a name or I will be unable to announce you as the winner. You can also get another entry by going to the Vanilla Garlic fan page on Facebook. Just like the fan page and then comment on the Giveaway Thread for another chance to enter. Super easy!

The winner will be announced on my next post, which will go up on May 17th. The winner will then need to e-mail me their address so I know where to ship the swag. Unfortunately, now that I have student loans, I can't afford to send these anywhere outside the United States.

Lastly, I want to say that should you want to read the thesis I am happy to email it to anyone interested. It's boring and academic, so it may not be your thing. If you fancy yourself a foodie, amateur sociologist, Slow Food member, or just someone with a thing for Marxist critiques on cheesecake recipes then it might be right up your alley. Just shoot me an email and I'll send a PDF of the thesis right along. (Leaving a comment does not actually provide me an email address. You will need to actually email me.) If you are a student and you want to read it for your own research I am thrilled to help, but please remember to cite it properly.

Yeasted Blueberry Buckwheat Waffles
Makes about 16-20 waffles
Adapted from Epicurious

2 1/4 teaspoons or 1 package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups lukewarm milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup buckwheat flour
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons canola oil or butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup blueberries

In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast into 1/4 cup warm water and stir in the sugar. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. Place the warm milk and salt in a large bowl, and then add the yeast mixture and whisk in the flours. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in your stove overnight.

The next morning, add the sugar, oil, eggs, soda, and blueberries. Cook according to your waffle iron's instructions. When the steam stops it's a good indication that your waffles are done.

Suddenly Adulthood: Rhubarb Crisp with Rosemary

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

-Rhubarb is never sudden.-

I recently had the terrifying realization that at some point in the past ten years I had become an adult.

Life hadn't sent someone to my home with a bouquet of flower and a handshake congratulating me into the secret world of adulthood. There was no card. No special announcement. We have sweet sixteens and quinceanera to celebrate our teens. First birthday parties are a must for any child, though they don't remember it and most of that cake will end up everywhere except the child's mouth. When women are close to term we have bridal showers where the knocked up is floated on a lily pad and worshiped by her friends before the ritual ooh'ing of the gifts takes place.

Yet, we have no pinpoint for being an adult. It just, apparently, happens.

What's scary is the disillusionment you have about adulthood when you're young and tottering about. As a kid I held the view that my parents just knew everything there was to know about the world via a handbook for adults. They knew what was right and what was wrong. They had lived life and their advice was golden and appreciated. When you had problems your parents are the ones you ran to who instinctively knew what the solution was whether it was how to solve your math homework, what clouds were made of, how to spell the letter "B," or whether Jesus or George Washington founded America (my concepts of time and letters were rather loose at the age of two). Your parents knew how to raise a kid and do it well because adults just DO.

-Bill Watterson, what can't you teach us?-

Horror of horrors when one day you realize they were just making it up as they went along. Seriously! Your parents probably almost killed you a dozen times over because they were just guessing! No book, no class, no anything. They had sex one night and you were a result that they had to instruct through life.

In California you have to take a class, pass a written exam, have 100 logged practice hours, possess a proper state identification, and pass a driving test to get a driver's license but you can go start having a kid right now. When it gets here you are officially responsible for the healthy mental, emotional, and physical development of a helpless human being. There is no preparation for it. It's just your inherent right, and God help you if you screw it up.

Think about it. How messed up is that?

-Pretty damn messed up, actually.-

Adulthood doesn't slam into you like a freight train, either. Rather, adulthood is an assassin, slowly, stealthily stabbing you with the utmost precision over and over. A shiv to the wallet and you now have electric bills and a Netflix account. Needles in the eyes and - BAM! - you need glasses. Soon you're bleeding out in the street gripping onto your library card and wondering how the hell you have a mortgage when it seems that only a few days ago you were listening to music with friends during your last day of summer vacation.

Congrats, you are, apparently, somehow, an adult. You realize there is no book or great secret to it all. You're just bumbling along only now you have a gym membership because you don't have the metabolism of a five year old whose every prerogative involves running around somewhere chasing an imaginary hamster. You get a punch card for your oil changes because the tenth one is free and that is an incentive worth pursuing because that thirty dollars could go towards paying off student loans or buying a nice bottle of wine for dinner. You have responsibilities and no real idea half of the time of how to really go about them.

- Only one punch away from the oil change. Yes!-

So the only thing you can do is make the best of it.

However, adulthood comes with perks. Rated-R movies! Paychecks! Bourbon is a nifty bonus. Even better, you get to do whatever the hell you want in the kitchen.

I never got to have rhubarb growing up. My parents didn't like it, so they never bought it. It was only as an adult I finally picked up those jaunty red stalks and discovered their flavor. My first bite of it was raw. It was as tart as rejection and it nearly made me weep. The farmer who gave it to me laughed and took pity as I attempted to swallow the sour, flossy fibers in my heroic attempt at propriety. He charmingly assured me that it was best to usually cook it in order to mollify the slapping flavor. However, he produced a jar of honey and dipped a small, baby stalk of it into the honey and encouraged me to taste. "This," he assured, "is the exception."

I took a bite and it was floral and candy sweet, the sour was beaten back, mellowed by the humble acidity of the dark wild honey. Since then I can't help but play with rhubarb whenever I see it. I'm an enamored school girl who blushes back at rhubarb. I purchase it every chance I get and always give it my full attention.

My right as an adult, I guess.

-Also the right to swear, drink, and make bad decisions for the fun of it.-

This crumble is simple. Rhubarb is the star here. A few strawberries are cast as extras to help make it shine. Just enough sugar tempers its almost rudely sour assault. Rosemary and lemon - a stellar combination when it comes to rhubarb - give it a support and depth and make those an almost certainly adult dessert.

I suppose you could give some to kids if you want. But I wouldn't. Something for them to look forward to when they suddenly realize they're adults, too.

On a complete tangent, I want to bring a little personal something to note. My Blood & Chocolate Pudding post was nominated for Best Culinary Essay in Saveur's 2011 Best Food Blog Awards. I'm truly thankful for everyone who nominated me. You can vote here. However, I ask one thing when and if you do vote: I am honored to be grouped with an amazing bunch of writers, and so I encourage you to read every essay and then vote for your favorite. Give your vote to the best essay!

Rhubarb Crumble with Rosemary & Lemon

For the Crumble Topping
3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup oats
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
1/4 teaspoon salt

Place all the ingredients in a bowl and cut with a pastry cutter or two forks, or use your hands to pinch the butter with the other ingredients. Cut or pinch until the butter is all the size of small peas. Chill.

For the Filling
2 1/2 cups rhubarb, chopped
1/3 cup strawberries, chopped
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar

1. Combine all the ingredients together in a bowl and let sit for 30 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly butter a medium-sized baking dish and pour in the the rhubarb mixture. Level it out with a spoon. Spoon on top the crumble mixture and spread out evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until top has browned a bit and the juices bubbles up the sides. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Serve.

Vanilla Garlic All rights reserved © Blog Milk Powered by Blogger