*You know that phrase "curiosity killed the cat"? Well, I'm a pretty likely candidate for the cat. curiosity is a double-edged sword. I'm a very curious person—and though I'm sure my curiosity has in part driven my pursuit of knowledge, my interests, and my passions—it has also shaped a lot of my nasty habits, like eavesdropping and spending unnecessary money. The latter habit is applicable mainly to my food-related expenses. When I'm in the grocery store and I stumble across a new item, I have to fight my curiosity determinedly, put down the item, and back off immediately.
*Sometimes this tactic works, many times it does not. For these two specimens of citrus, it did not. It's citrus season right now—a fact i only realized when I went home to California for spring break and was re-familiarized with the idea of seasonal food—an idea not so salient in dining hall food (with the exception of the tons of poorly cooked squash served during the winter months). Here are two types of citrus that I tried for the first time: 1) Ugli fruit (top picture)—yes it's really called that, and 2) Sumo citrus.
*The ugli fruit is originally from Jamaica, and it tastes a lot better than it looks. It has a very refreshing, light taste—like a cross between an orange and a pink grapefruit, minus the bitterness. Very juicy. I liked it.
*The sumo citrus was developed in Japan and is now grown in California. This was also light and juicy—not as tangy as a categorical orange, but when a fruit costs as much as a sumo citrus, the only thing running through your mind (at least my mind) is—does this fruit taste good enough that it was worth shelling out the money I did for it? That thought kind of ruins any unbiased judgment of the taste. That's why free food tastes so good.
*Though I am not even remotely Irish, the Irish culture holds a special place in my heart. I spent two of my high school summers in Northern Ireland (as distinguished from the Republic of Ireland). I lived in small towns: the first summer, in a farm town called Fivemiletown, which is famous for their cheese and is called Fivemiletown because it is located approximately five miles from the nearest town; and the second summer, in a small town called Dromore, about half an hour outside of Belfast.
*Of all things in Northern Ireland, I remember the people the most—their thick, friendly accents, the way they joked and teased and made you feel at home, the crazy pranks they would pull—I remember that the most and I miss that. But I also remember the lush green landscape and the plushy grass and most of all, U remember the enchanted forests, which were like the forests of storybooks. I'm not sure whether it was the types of plants and trees that were growing or the way the sunlight shone through the branches and brambles, but those forests began to convince me that perhaps elfin creatures and leprechauns did exist. At least I could understand why Irish folklore was so full of magic and woodland life.
*I remember the food too. Irish food isn't known for being particularly refined or delicate, but I remember it being good. The first summer I was there, I was introduced to McVities digestives, jaffa cakes, timtams, and hobnobs, which we ate all day with black tea. We ate butter with everything, and I remember hating butter-tuna sandwiches, which were so strange to me. Portions were huge and filling, and we really did eat a lot of potatoes. The two things I remember most though about Irish cuisine were the Banoffee Pie and the Ulster Fry.
*Up until I went to Northern Ireland, I had never eaten any kind of pie with fruit in it. The only pie i enjoyed was pumpkin pie. Growing up, any kind of cooked fruit or fruit dessert grossed me out, so I wouldn't touch it—and to this very day, I still hesitate to eat either. But the banoffee pie —oh banoffee pie—it was an exception to the rule, and it tasted good. A McVities digestives crust —crushed, with butter—a thick layer of dulce de leche, bananas, whipped cream, and more McVities crumbled on top. perfect.
*Then you have the Ulster Fry: a monster of a breakfast, in which all components of the Fry are fried in bacon fat, rendered by the obscene amount of bacon that is fried first before the rest of the breakfast. Then you have the mushrooms and the ham and the potato bread and the eggs. then the baked beans and the soda bread and the tomatoes. It was worth the heart attack.
*Funny enough, I never did remember eating what we call "Irish soda bread" in America while i was in Northern Ireland. The version of soda bread that we ate in the morning was fried in the pan, so I guess it was more of a farl, or skillet scone. Still, in my mind, I'd like to think that "Irish soda bread" has its roots in Ireland and Northern Ireland, places with which I am connected, and in that way, when I eat soda bread, I can flicker through memories of the past. The best kind of food is memorable food, food tied strongly to emotions and people and moments.
*So this morning, upon waking up, I ran into the kitchen and made this Irish soda bread. mainly, I wanted to be able to eat freshly-baked bread for breakfast, which is a luxury I can enjoy only when I have the time (I'm on spring break) and when I'm at home (ditto). Whole wheat flour, oat bran, buttermilk, and baking soda were mixed together, then rolled into a ball, flattened, slashed, and baked. By 9 am I was happily eating two thick slices of this warm bread—I could barely wait 10 minutes to let it cool. Spread with goat cheese butter and a whole lot of honey, it was perfect and crumbly and warm. My favorite kind of freshly baked bread is the kind without much yeast or gluten (which makes for better toast), so this soda bread was just right. I had a cup of milk tea alongside.
*As i was about to put my plate into the sink and clean up, I had to cut myself another slice—and eat it with almond butter and bananas—which, like this version of soda bread, may not be so genuinely and natively Irish—but is so good and satisfying that it is worth it after all.
*My contributions to family dinner last night:
(1) Marinated kale salad with shredded carrots, sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds
(2) Misshapen chickpea fritters (with garam masala, onions, carrots, garlic)
*So much good food—especially the salmon tails, which we got for free at the farmers' market on Saturday morning. No one wants the tails—they're practically considered leftovers, or trash parts —but I like them (my mom fried them until they were super crispy) because that's where all the salmon fat is. And I like eating the skin too. I have strange taste in food.
*For awhile, I thought I was going through a serious "soul food" and "southern cooking" phase. My roommate gently reminded me that I am generally not a fan of hush puppies, grits, fried chicken, and gravy. At first, I insisted that despite not loving any of the foods on that list, I was still smitten with southern cooking. Slowly, I began to realize that it was not so much a love affair with southern cooking as it was a desperate craving for chili and cornbread—two foods that i do love and that I happen to associate with the south.
*Since this chili cook-off and this meal at the co-op, I have been dreaming about making chili and cornbread, mulling over the various kinds of cornbread (sweet vs. savory; cakey vs. coarse; northern vs. southern) and chilis I could make. Of course, coming home for spring break and finally having a kitchen to work in meant that I was going to put all this dreaming to rest and satisfy my craving.
*This sunday night dinner was the result. I knew I wanted a very hearty and simple southern cornbread (100% cornmeal)—not the sweet, cakey kind that is served in New England. The skillet cornbread i made ended up being a great chili-topper, but I'm not satisfied with the recipe, which means cornbread round 2 will be coming up soon. I think I will add some flour next time to make it either 50% or 75% cornmeal, instead of 100% cornmeal, and just a tablespoon more of honey.
*The chili was just right though. I rarely ever work from recipes, and this chili was no exception. I knew I wanted a smoky and spicy chipotle chili—a vegetarian chili with mainly beans and a very deep flavor. So this chili ended up being a mix of onions, bay leaves, red peppers, garlic, tomatoes, carrots, cumin, chipotle chili powder, cocoa powder, garam masala spice, molasses, pinto beans, kidney beans, and black beans. It was good, really good. Next time I make chili I may add some peanut or almond butter to add another dimension to the flavor profile, but overall I was very satisfied with this.
*I'm back home in California for spring break... a week of being a happy homebody.
*Unsurprisingly, I have been mainly cooking and eating, which is the most enjoyable way to relax.
*First morning back, I made gingerbread oatmeal pancakes. Eaten with lots of butter, almond butter, and Italian acacia honey.
*This morning, I made a tofu-onion-egg frittata. caramelized onions, of course. With brown mustard, paprika, and a dash of cayenne.
*The fruit in California is always better than I can possibly imagine. I belong in California.
*In preparation for a critique with German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans; a sweeping photographic survey of the past 2 years.
*Honored and humbled.
*Self-examining and frustrating.
eva - Thanks for sharing about your morning routine. I never wake up at the same time either!
*I have always tried to be a routine-kind of person. I would love to establish a methodical way of starting the day, but alas, after twenty years, that still has not happened. There are certain peculiar things that I do every morning after getting out of bed, like checking email and weather on my phone as I am peeing. Then I brush my teeth and wash my face, drink some water, and that is as consistent as it gets.
*One morning this week, I decided just to sit on my red yoga mat and eat a green apple with cinnamon (I probably consume way more cinnamon than necessary) before changing and heading down to breakfast in the dining hall.
*What is your morning routine?
I'm going to start doing replies again in my posts - does anyone know of how I could reply to comments via email?
joanne - Drowning in cookbooks sounds soooo good to me... what a wonderful addiction. I think it would be amazing to be a part of a cookbook exchange club - how cool would that be? (but yes i have a severe obsession with borrowing cookbooks from the public library as well) - and I love discovering vintage cookbooks, "granny"-type recipes (Marion Cunningham's Breakfast Book is my favorite).
marella - you might enjoy these links: http://www.theselby.com/1_15_11_Favorite2010/slides/4_2_09_karl_lagerfeld06407.jpg, http://hookedonhouses.net/2008/02/05/a-rainbow-of-books-organizing-by-color/
*I hoard books. I am getting better about buying fewer books, but when I am at school, I hoard library books.
*I especially like that they are bound in covers of various colors. I like stacking them on my window ledge, organized by colors.
*Somehow surrounding myself with books comforts me, so I do it often.