Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Wooden Spoon.

There is something comforting to me about large wooden spoons. Admittedly, I was never paddled with one as a child, or I'm sure their comfort would be lessened greatly. However, I do remember a wide wooden paddle, handed down from my great-grandparent's and their Minnesota dairy farm. It was less of a spoon than a butter paddle, but I was always intrigued with its character -- cuts, stains, and oils from hands I never knew, told me stories of work, and love, and patience born. Perhaps it had swatted at my grandmother and her brothers? This wooden spoon, bringing pain and bearing tears, before stroking forgiveness into a battered mix.


But I didn't own one. All of my wooden spoons were abandoned when I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease...the fibers possibly harboring remnants of rogue grains, they were given away to those they could not harm...and, along with the contamination possibility, when I divorced and moved into single life again, I took only the bare essentials with me. For many months I slept on a lawn chair a friend picked up for me (free, off the side of the road, craigslist style), and ate with the only utensil I owned: my camping spork. I loved this simplicity.

However, now, I want a wooden spoon. Most women surely think about shoes and clothes and a designer bag or two. I have been lusting over a spoon.

So, I went to the store that has everything (really, they do!): McGuckin Hardware. I methodically examined each possibility, and they had many. I handled each one, pretending to stir, standing alone stroking the air, as imagined tastes whetted ideas.

This is another beauty of wooden spoons --- imperfection. They reflect hard work, and the truth that sometimes, things just don't turn out, no matter how hard you beat and churn and sweat.

Finally, I found my spoon. I like how it feels in my hand, I like the possibility of splinters, and I like the stories mine will someday tell...

And, it is made in France...

Which, reminded me of the fresh tarragon I had, waiting...tonight would be its night.

I rummaged, and pushed and shoved ideas and ingredients. I opened up my Encyclopedia of Healing Foods to Tarragon. I must know with what I was working. Tarragon, I am told, is of the genus Artemisia belonging to the daisy family. It is of Mongolian heritage, and Pliny the Elder advised carrying a branch to protect against snakes and dragons. I should be safe from such beasts tonight, I'd think! Also, I read that in the Middle Ages, tarragon was thought to cure tired feet and sprigs were placed in shoes before long journeys. Shall I try this on my next hike I wonder?

Rubbing a few soft leaves between fingers poised as an oracle, scents of spicy sweet licorice rose to greet my curious nose. Oh, this would be delicious. I have recently been introduced to Gastera, and this muse has tonight, advised wisely, even to a stomach ill with the day and with its lot...


~ Musing Tastes ~

Kasha
Romaine lettuce
Sautéed zucchini
Fresh tarragon leaves
Olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly cracked mixed peppercorns

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pleasurable Discoveries.

In her book, The Pleasure of Cooking for One, Judith Jones says, "The secret of making cooking for one fun and creative is not to think of a meal as self-contained but to understand that home cooking is an ongoing process, one dish leading to another." I am learning this art, that is, the evolution of one meal flooding into another, taking one ingredient from a past meal and slowly stewing it in the crock-pot of my mind, until new flavors emerge, ready to be imbued.

Particularly in cooking for one, there is no other to urge, "Oh, just eat the last few scoops up." There is no animal to indulge in licking clean my conscience as they do the plate. I must eat, or save it, or let it go to waste. Usually, I save it, and then forget about that poor half a can of beans, or half a squash, before it rots behind newly gathered foodstuffs. This is my weakness, again with the Food ADD. I am carried away by a Blushed Beet at the market, when I have parsnips persevering at home.

Buying in bulk quickly outgrows little cupboards, and cooking in bulk tires the palate. Thus, I am learning how to strategically use my vegetables. Each play, each cut, each steam and salad...what will be used? And, in what order? What flavor's steps will fit with another's dances?

I suppose the most appropriate analogy and perfected ideal of Victual Reuse, is the school cafeteria. I was blessed in never having had this experience, day after day. However, I did go to summer camp. Coming from a home where my mom made everything from scratch: she ground her own wheat berries and baked her own bread, we made concord grape preserves from our own vines, we gathered eggs hot and freshly formed from the chicken, and slaughtered our own chickens and goats...food was made before my eyes and I saw my food sources before they came to be in a pan, pot or jar in the kitchen. Mass feeding troughs of pre-made (and quickly cooling) mushy foods, were thankfully foreign to me. I was an alien, wandering in this land of convenience food.

Except for at summer camp: one whole week of repeated ingredients. I remember becoming skeptical on about the third day, after hamburgers, then meatloaf, and then spaghetti with meatballs. This was too suspicious to be a coincidence, yes? I realized I was in the panhandle of Nebraska, and there were many cattle ranches and feedlots in the vicinity. But still. Did a cattle rancher posses the coveted sole protein provider agreement worked out with the camp? These children...working up large appetites riding horses, climbing ropes, shooting bows, and rowing boats, shall only eat Beef! After all, it's Nebraska, and it's what's for dinner.

These camp cooks, probably local cattle farmers' wives, were masters of rephrased meals. Slight variations on a theme...variations on a theme of beef.

Tonight, I had leftover Azuki beans in the fridge. And so it goes, the process of cooking for one...

Daikon Radishes, these strange white roots are familiar sights to my post-San Francisco-Asian-market eyes. However, I never bought one. I never knew what to do with this "radish" that is fifteen times larger than the spicy little red garden globe variety.

Japanese beans? Japanese radish! It is "cleansing" and "enhances digestion" -- this latter quality, one for which I am always seeking. Plus, upon discovery that this root's scientific name was longipinnatus, how could I possibly live any longer without feasting upon such aptly named delight?! Now the dilemma of Cooking for One: daikon radishes are gargantuan.

I discovered the benefits of being nice to the produce man. There were no daikons at the market. Oh no! My dinner plans were foiled! But, the chivalrous produce man agreed to go through the dungeonous depths of the back warehouse. He was sure there were some kept treasured there. He was right. And, he noticed my overwhelmed expression upon seeing him carrying a white root out through the dungeon doors, much larger than my arm. My "Oh!!! Thank you so much!" was accompanied with a "Dear God, what am I going to do with this all?" expression. He took pity. Mercifully, he offered, "Would you like me to cut you off a small piece?" Eagerly, resoundingly, and gratefully, I said "Yes!"

I have still half of the daikon; half of the small piece, portioned off just for me. What will be its comestible fate?

And so it goes, the process of cooking for one...


~ Salad Longipinnatus ~

Daikon radish
Cold rice
Azuki beans
Romaine lettuce
Rice vinegar
Sea salt
Freshly cracked pepper

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Picnicking.

I felt a twinge of guilt all day over the buckwheat I ignored last night, as my heart was carried away by cold rice. Tonight, it was cold buckwheat which wooed my thoughts, directing my hands.

I have been needing to do something with Carrot Tops. On Sunday, at Whole Foods, visiting guests and I were playing urban hunter-gatherers, and we bought carrots with tops. At the check-out, the girl asked if we'd like the tops composted. hmm... "No," I said. We had paid for those tops, and gosh darn it, I was going to use them.

After this last minute decision at check-out, where so many last minute regrettable decisions are made, after all; as eyes are lured in to read greasy news, headlining alien babies, three footed felines and the first documented Yeti/Human romance. I felt obligated to use these green fronds to some good end. Today was the day, destiny declared! I stumbled upon the website for the World Carrot Museum. I have always been partial to carrots; their sweet smell, taste, crunch, shape and their ability to turn my skin orange, communicating to me in warning of when I have been enjoying them just a wee bit too much. They are polite vegetables, often reserved, but always intelligent and perceptive. And, always male. Despite their slender physique, and green lacy top, they are definitely male. This, another strange reflection upon my relationship with food: I see personality in everything. Quite a strange leap for my rather orthodox brain, this animistic tendency.

This Carrot Museum, contains recipes for all manner of things carrot. Carrot Top Tea? This must be tried soon. But tonight called for salad; for, I was going picnicking...

Spring causes itchiness. Falling short of complete hibernation, winter draws us in; into ourselves, and into our homes. Beds draw us into layered sheets of chocolate brown earlier in the evenings, as circadian rhythms change with the light. And now, as light lengthens, stretching its reach out to the antipodes of the Cimmerian, we too find ourselves drawing out of winter's shell.

And, this creeping sensation of change, reminds us that all does indeed go round. By these dances in the heavenly realms, we measure our years, our growth and our pain. We have gone out, around, and are back again.

Back again, to evening light and laughter shared.

~ Carrot Top Salad ~

Buckwheat groats
Romaine lettuce
Carrots
Carrot tops
Parsley
Dill
Olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly cracked pepper

Monday, April 26, 2010

Provenance.

I have a strange fixation, bordering psychological complex, about the provenance of my food. Not necessarily the specific grower, farm, or more recent origins; rather, its original homeland. When first diagnosed with Celiac, I dug around in research papers and read about the evolution of digestion, and Celiac Disease's prevalence in Northern European countries, whose inhabitants were more recently introduced to wheat. Resultantly, their digestive systems have had a shorter time to adapt these proteins into their diets, than, say, African nations. This grabbed hold of my mind; a fixated point. How interesting. How logical.

A nation's foods and dietary staples, evolve with and often for, complimentary results. Books and articles have been written by many more learned than I, about the development of nations' diets, the reason certain spices and seasonings are used (often originating for life-saving purposes, their reasons chemically unbeknown at the time, but their results proven), the migration of food across cultural barriers, and benefit's integrity lost in some of these melting pots. Now, this is not to say that I am some freakish promoter of homogeneous food selection. However, certain foods were made to go together; they meet with a sigh in the belly, like friends from the old country, meeting after years absence...their flavours mingling with the gentle reunion of Place and heritance remembered.

Or, does this acknowledgement of originating place, purpose, and resultant end, acceding that meaning is tied tightly to individual factor; one removed, and the meaning ebbs, flowing into something altered...is this tied to my library and archival training? Ingrained in my mind is the belief that influences, even the smallest, have an effect on the larger whole and on the final end, even outlasting The Thing, and continuing on after the place of provenance and originator/collector has passed...

This fixation, nay, admitted psychological complex, about country specific dining, underlies all my meals. To cross borders in my tummy, a feat armies and great kings and warriors could oft times not breach, seems wrong.

Tonight was going to be "Eastern European." Buckwheat, "kasha," being a Russian grain, was going to be paired with the cold weather green, curly kale. This seemed right.

Notice past-tense.

Another oddity of mine, is that I have food ADD, if such a thing exists. My moods are married to the weather, and flux with its fickletry. This is why I cannot shop in advance. I can sit and plan my weeks meals, but seldom to I feel like eating what I planned.

Today started with a gleaming spring layer of snow; the daffodils drooped weary heads and the tulips closed their eyes tightly. It was chilly. Something warm should be had. But, as kasha boiled upon a burner and steam rose up for kale, I got distracted by cold rice. Leftover cold rice. The sky had cleared and the morning's white dust had disappeared, swept away by the sun, its presence now only in higher places. In the refrigerator door, there rice sat, in a short tubby little jar: "Eat Me." And, I felt inclined to accept its unsolicited offer.

But rice and kale? Those seem doomed for an unhappy relationship. Bickering would ensue, of this I was sure; their cultural differences would make for an unfortunate union of souls. (Only further enabling of this obsessive matchmaker pastime, I picked up at the library tonight, The Flavor Bible, and a quick flipping of pages promises fruitful fuel for my mind's duties, posed readily as emissary between flavors; food's Yente.)

Quick, quick! Vegetable matter's provenance was sought...Rice, lettuce, radishes, and azuki beans. Ural influences wandered farther east, to a higher mountain range's influence; East Asia and the Himalayas. Azuki beans are even honored with their own Pepsi flavor in Japan.

This, was a perfect union. A pairing of flavors and rooted destiny.


~ A Salad of Compatibility ~

Cold rice
Romaine lettuce
Radishes
Azuki beans
Olive oil
Sea salt
Pepper

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Italians.

I began thinking about Italians and their food at 9:00 this morning. A friend's Facebook status was about men; about finding one. If one were to travel all over the world man-hunting, where should one go? This got me thinking about The Italians.


I would go to Italy.

Now, of course, I must preface this by stating that all of the Italian men I have known have been rather swarthy, womanizing individuals (one of whom I dated). That being said, to just look at and listen to them, is amusement perfected; the heart though, should remain entirely detached.

With Lorenzo Micheli, began my admiration of the Italian Male. He, an amazing classical guitarist (listen to his Tansman), for whom I was playing in a masterclass. An Iowan tom-boy is not easily impressed; especially, with men. But first thing, he winked at me. How's that for helping with concentration? Italian men wink at everyone, as now I know, but that day, the Sugarplum Fairies of Tchaikovsky which I was supposed to be musically depicting, were unusually coquettish. Silly girls.

I adore serendipity. I am amazed by it. My mind, sprung from a friend's musings of a "man-tour", naturally lead to Italians, then to a guitarist, and finally linked that guitarist with Denver. Yes, I now have a date on my calendar saved to attend a concert by this Winking Italian and his duo partner on October 15.

All these thoughts of Italians though, led me to food. Which, is a rather sore subject with me presently. Italian food...is there any nationality which makes Celiacs wince with fright and run in terror more than This Tri-Colored Boot? Pasta, pizza, garlic bread, and then more pasta. However, most Italian food has been bastardized. Much like Chinese and other ethnic food, homogenization and palatability by new tongues have taken precedence over authenticity. That to say, most Italians do not consider DiGiorno's Rising Crusts or Olive Garden's endless pasta bowls to be what their grandma would make.

I discovered that the Italians actually eat a lot of rice: Arborio Rice. Italian food I can eat it! I had some arborio at home, and my mind started working...Italian style.

When my marriage was falling apart, I spent countless hours at the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver. We lived only a few blocks away, and I would walk there on the days I wasn't working, and would lose myself in cookbooks and foodie magazines. It didn't matter to me that I couldn't make or eat over half the recipes they contained. I just liked looking. I liked pretending. In that world, I could eat and I had someone who wanted to eat with me.

Pretty shortly after engrossing myself in this Foodie World, I decided that I was going to cook and try to enjoy food, even if it was alone.

I started reading Gluten-Free Girl. She said yes to discovering food she could eat. I would too. I would say yes. I bought walnut and truffle oils, I tried new vegetables, I began obsessing over Le Creseaut, and I found beauty in slowly popping individual pomegranate seeds into my mouth -- one, by one, by one, by one...

I began sniffing each apple in the produce section before choosing it as one of my own. The kale section made me grin: Lacinato? Green Curly? Red Curly? Would I like to try a persimmon? Yes...

A produce man once saw me smiling at the wall of leafy greens and said "you are really serious about your vegetables, aren't you?" I felt that as a compliment.

I discovered that there is immense joy to be found in eating alone. But, one must be mindful of the food as a partner, as the drama of preparation and the marriage of flavors play and unfold; as the rice sits, lid closed, patiently waiting for the steamer to finish its task and catch-up....such are relationships.

I developed odd little habits for making myself feel "special." Looking back, that is much what this was about, these Foodie endeavors. I even picked flowers for myself. Then, I would settle myself down and slowly eat, usually reading in repast with flavors that were mine and which I enjoyed.

Cooking for One. It is much different the the similar adage of "eating for two."

In my bookstore sanctuary, I discovered Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant by Jenni Ferrarri-Adler. Other people cooked for themselves, and only themselves, too! Even never making any of the recipes, I was now accompanied Alone in my Kitchen.

And so this afternoon, as I paced the aisles of the market, gathering my ingredients for my designer Italian dinner for One, I smiled as I meticulously picked out mushrooms, placing them carefully in a paper bag, and then fresh rosemary and thyme, followed by long green stalks of spring. This was going to be special.

Tonight, I was Alone with Asparagus.


- Mushroom Risotto -
Arborio rice
Mushrooms
Olive oil
Sea salt
Rosemary
Thyme

Steamed asparagus


"The truth is that at the end of a well-savored meal, both soul and body enjoy especial well-being."
- Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin



Monday, April 19, 2010

"There is a pleasure...

...in the pathless woods." ~ Lord Byron

And there is pleasure indeed to finding my path home again, after a day spent bushwhacking through the thickets of my mind, to these words. A package from home, consisting of Fat and Love individually wrapped, waiting...

I realize that I am the unique woman who is actually trying to gain weight, and that most women's mothers do not send them Please Gain Weight boxes; but, is it not always a Mama's place to fatten her young? From before birth, we live off our mother's fat, in which is stored the energy to conceive and to grow. Instinctively then, even once we leave this viscera of nutrients, her womb yet yearns to envelop her young with good things...sustenance for their Journey, for their Pathless Woods.

My day's journey began with a jolting realization, perhaps more aptly, a remembering; for, I have always known it. I stood at the bus-stop, my naked toes wiggling cold in flip-flops prepared for the afternoon to come, not morning mountain air, as my bus-stop friend pulled up. This man has impeccable timing. He parks, the bus comes, he runs like hell to get on. That is the pattern of morning events. Beating the bus by a few minutes this morning, he looked at me "You look worn, are you ok?" He genuinely seemed concerned. I wasn't feeling really all that bad. No worse than normal. No more tired. I was my "normal" self --- my face and stomach itchily dry.

But a juxtaposition hit me...only a few days ago, I met up with a friend with Celiac, who I hadn't seen in a few years, to pick up a video he recommended; and, upon seeing me he said, "You look well! Healthy, even...your eyes have Light." The difference here being that this man knows Inside. He has experienced the drain of invisible wars, their rage very real, that are unseen to other's eyes. He knows, and he was impressed with the life I do have.

My body is older than 25 years. Celiac disease is traditionally known as a wasting disease...and some days, I do feel wasted.

But, from my bus-friend's vantage, I should be brimming with life and joy in the single and irresponsible life he imposes upon my frame, as morning after morning he relays his frustrations with wife, kids and house. These, his "chronic problems," seen through cultural avenues we most all will and at some point do experience. He can't see though, the lingering shadow of a ring on my finger or the holes gluten has eaten out inside.

And yet, I thought, what are his unseen thorns? We all have them...

Now, to Food.

"I'm in," was all I got in response. It was my sister's texted reply to my afternoon question: "Sardines?"

They have been a goal of mine for many months now. I was working my way up. First, eating meat again -- light fish, then tuna, salmon, and last week herring. Eventually, I'd get to Sardines.

A little tin of Crown Prince Sardines has been taunting me, as if Alice's own Wonderland had written "Eat Me" on the packaging, and I worried that they would do Something Strange. I just couldn't bring myself to pull the tab and burst the seal. Not yet. Not until tonight.

I remembered Sardines. These were not used as punishment in mathematical tutoring, but are cognitively classified forever as Man Food. I can't recall ever seeing a woman eat sardines. They, along with pickled herring, limburger cheese, and braunschweiger, were foods eaten by Grandpas. And, they only appeared when Grandma's gave permission on "special occasions"; namely, Christmas and New Years. Their slimy little bodies (heads and tails intact), would be placed along with a slice of putrid cheese, and pressed into a sandwich...slowly eaten and savored...before an array of grandchildren covering their eyes and plugging their noses. I never knew if the Grandpas really enjoyed the food, or just grossing out the grandchildren. I suspect both.

But, after reading two articles recently; one, asserting sardines as one of the 11 best foods I am supposedly not eating; and the other as the #1 food I should eat, my sister and I made a pact: we would conquer this food together. And, so came her reply, "I'm in."

I took a breath and pulled the tab, waiting for my olfactory passages to revolt and revert to a childish "ewwwww"! I peeked into the Shadows of the Tin, expecting to be greeted by beady eyes in scaled heads.

But, I wasn't.

Three fillets rested contentedly in olive oil; and now, in my belly...


- "Eat Me" Salad -

Sardines
Romaine lettuce
Cilantro
Cucumbers
Capers
Meyer lemon juice
Olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly cracked mixed peppercorns

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Morning Constitution.

I possess a treasured heirloom, passed down from my mother: a ritual...

Home visiting, I think it was during a Christmas Holiday one year, I was entrusted this bit of wisdom. In the early morning hours as the winter sun was just beginning to peak over the plains, I found my mom standing at the kitchen counter, squeezing a lemon into a mug of warm water. Looking up, a shy grin crept over her face and she said, "Sometimes, I even scrape the pulp in too," as she abraded lemon marrow into the steaming brew; then, added honey's ambrosial incantation.

Through this daily practice, I have evolved into a bit of a honey connoisseur. Simply "honey" does not exist. No. There is clover, wildflower, orange blossom, alfalfa...all with their own nuances and stories of where they have come from. One local apiarist told me that he places his hives near Open Spaces, and that I have probably encountered his Tribe while out hiking. I like thinking about this friendship with the creators of my morning sweetness.

And then came Meyer lemons.

I discovered them shortly after being diagnosed with Celiac Disease; this citrus, a Sweet Surprise while reading Gluten-Free Girl's post on Meyer Lemon Sorbet. I never made the sorbet, but I vigilantly hunted Meyer Lemons, scouting and waiting for Their Season. It arrived, and I fell in love. They are sweeter, their skin thinner, smoother, and their pulp darker than their more popular cousin. The Meyer's season is savored.

Before anything else, the day in stirred to life with water, lemon and honey as the morning mulls the day's fate and wakes digestion to rise.

I continue this tradition, this wisdom passed down generations.

To calm my irritated morning stomach, this panacea is offered, and is received gladly welcomed. I soothe and stimulate hopes for digestion. Each day's hopes, dawning and setting the same.....

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Tadpole tails.

Spring is for sprouts. Felicitous, yes?


Perennial promises break through dry faultlines of winter's crust; leaf buds green, nests are built, bulbs burgeon reminders, and creativity is warmed.

I like sprouts. They, like tadpoles, grow their tails day-by-day, strengthened by water and light. The birth of a hard seed into something fresh and living, that, is truly Spring.

I have sprouted mung beans and buckwheat before, transforming my kitchen counters into a spread of upside down mason jars and cheesecloth, evocative of a gradeschool science fair environment complete with Curious Things Growing. Sprouts are easy; no cooking involved! And, along with their pleasing crunch, they are filled with vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.


Protein is supposed to be my new mealtime mantra; quinoa the prayer's answer.

One-quarter cup dry has 3g of fiber and 6g of protein. Quinoa has always intrigued me: it is not truly a grain, but rather a pseudograin, a seed, and is most closely related to beets, spinach, swiss chard, and rhubarb. It is a tough thing. Hardy. Defensive. Independent. Nature has provided it a protective coat of saponins, rendering the seed inedible if not first properly cleansed of this chemical. Ancient Harvest quinoa is washed and ready, but other brands may not be and should be repeatedly rinsed until the saponins' soapy lather rinses clear.



Sprouting Quinoa


1. put quinoa and enough water to cover it in a large glass jar
2. drain and rinse
3. cover the top of the jar with cheesecloth or a sprouting jar lid (wire mesh)
4. turn upside down and set in a mixing bowl
5. rinse and drain thoroughly twice a day
6. sprouts should be ready in 1-2 days, depending upon how long you like the tails!

If I dare posit such a thing, and I now shall take that chance, quinoa sprouts are even tastier than their cooked counterpart. My sister, not a lover of this food, tasted some fresh sprouts as I spooned them into a storage jar, and from her mouth this sentiment was spawned.

Today, what to do with those sprouts though?

I have always thought my dream job (other than my current career librarianship, of course!) would be to work in a produce market -- to be among vegetables and fruits, absorbed with their textures and energized by their smells...each apple possessing its own individual scent, uniquely created pheremones, luring near the Insecta pollenators necessary for germination carried from its mate.

I delight in cutting things up. As a youth, I had a rather odd hobby of vegetable sculpting. I believe this began as a keen interest in developing excuses not to do the dishes. Oh yes, my mother would think vegetable sculpting a Very Noble use of my time, I was sure. Procrastination is never very reasoned. I recall one evening (after a notably large meal with many dishes perhaps?) being quite intent on otherwise occupying myself than with the mountains of dishes that were my after dinner fate. Scraps of dinner's makings littered the counters, and opportunely, creativity struck. I whittled bits of radishes, carrots, celery and potatoes into a very elaborate boat; an effective use of time. Mom was impressed, and I still had to wash the dishes.

This childlike revelry yet inhabits my soul. In an early morning kitchen, lit through sleepy grey skies acting as harbingers of afternoon rain, I took knife in hand. Restraining their motion, I didn't make boats. I made lunch.



- Sprouted Spring Salad -

Sprouted quinoa
Celery
Cilantro
Meyer lemon juice


Friday, April 16, 2010

Currying.

Comfort food. What do you picture? What do you crave?

Oxford English Dictionary defines comfort food as, "food that comforts or affords solace; hence, any food (freq. with a high sugar or carbohydrate content) that is associated with childhood or with home cooking." Foods associated with childhood. Foods that one can return to, not because of their craved taste but rather the texture of memories experienced again in their weave. That, is the hardest part of This New Eating Life...being unable to partake in memories, traditions, rituals, humanity's communion...being unable to return to the past for comfort; its flavors now fermented to piquant bitters.

I used to bake. In college, during finals in mid-December, stressed and homesick, my roommates and I would stay up into the wee-hours of the morning baking apple pies, with cinnamon and flaky buttered crust wafting the length of the flat, carrying us to the comforts of home. Opening a package isn't comforting. It isn't what Mom would do. Moms bake, create, and contextualize contentment.

Many study sessions were also life lessons in the study of making biscuits. From scratch. Comfort = hot biscuits with butter and honey. Stress was successfully staved for a time, while brains recovered their wits; although, usually this latter bit was quite beyond the point of hopeful retrieval. This baking frontier was all new territory for my tomboy soul. When looking for a roommate off of my new college's listing of New Students, the first question that my mom asked the prospective match's father was, "Can she cook?" Reminiscent of some odd arranged marriage of friendship, this mattered. I had, in my senior year of high school, given my parents enough reason to worry about my future domestic capabilities. Burnt food coming out of the oven in my hands was no rare occurrence, and I managed to quite literally blow up our stove after letting a pot of soup boil over and upon returning to the kitchen, finding an eruption more fitting of Independence Day than a country kitchen.

We ate off canned goods heated on our Benjamin Franklin Stove until we had money enough to buy ourselves back into the 20th century. I received no punishment for ruining the family stove; but, isn't it strange how oft times the absence of castigation results in severe self-inflicted penance? I felt guilty. The incriminating evidence was there. The judges were merciful

Do you see why my mother was worried?

But, this Perfect Match was a prize winning 4-H cook. She was everything I was not. And, she turned into my best friend. Ironically, now years later, we have both journeyed to the discovery that we cannot eat gluten. A kindred soul with kindred inner digestive workings.

Tonight I wanted comfort food. Truthfully, I just craved that qualifier.....Comfort. I desired warmth and assurance. So, I curried. I curried comfort.

I had no idea what Thai Food was, until I moved to San Francisco; and then, The Taste was on a first date at Lanna Thai, where Pad Thai and Thai Tea were ordered, thus introducing me to two new worlds simultaneously. The new world of Tastes lasting longer than the love...

I imagined these restaurants in San Francisco. I tried to remember the smells. What flavors mix with what?! I began throwing things into a pot and it worked: they comforted.


-Comforted Curry -

Coconut milk
Coconut oil
Chives
Lemongrass
Freshly grated ginger
Thai red curry paste
Napa cabbage
Lime

Brown jasmine rice