Archive for November, 2008

some Thanksgiving reading

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

Here’s a lovely piece on the disappearance of wild foods from our Thanksgiving table.

And another which advances the idea that the French settlers in the New World ate better than the Puritans. No news here. We’re still suffering from the bland palates, general abstemiousness and cold unfriendly demeanor of the Puritans.

Food is art!

A Portrait of a New York Rooftop Beekeeper

Friday, November 21st, 2008

Rooftops in NYC should be an inspiration for all communities. People use them as beaches, movie houses, aviaries, garden locations and more. Here’s a portrait of one of its better known beekeepers:

Amuse bouche

Saturday, November 15th, 2008

Food seems to play a large role in Guiness Book of World Records attempts. Germans keep up the drinking even on the front lines. Johnny Rotten is flogging butter!!

help build a herd

Saturday, November 8th, 2008

I’ve always wanted my own herd of cows too. But Matt Webb has figured out a way to do it, and benefit the world at the same time.

chocolate covered bacon

Friday, November 7th, 2008

Need we say more?

100 pounds of Beef

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

This is what 100# of grass fed, Maine raised all natural beef looks like. Back in late August we were offered a share in an animal by our friends Karl and Margaret and eagerly accepted. I have been having increasing trouble buying and eating commercially raised meat of any sort. Just can’t bring myself to do it. Rather not eat meat in a meal than have something that came from god only knows where. So this was a great opportunity for us to buy ethically raised, natural meat, support one of our local small farmers, Caldwell Farms, and stock the freezer for the Winter. It was an interesting process to go through: speaking with DeeDee Caldwell about logistics of delivery and with Arnold the Butcher (not to be confused with Joe the Plumber) about how we wanted our animal broken down. It was a way of voting with our food as Michael Pollan would say. I felt good just going through the process. There is some karmic beauty to receiving this delivery two days after Barak Obama was elected President. We are doing our small part and somehow the universe is rewarding us.

The breakdown of our share included such tasty morsels as : flank steaks; Porterhouse; top sirloin; rib eyes; a number of roasts (bottom round, rump, top round, chuck); short ribs; stew meat; liver; stock bones and about 30# of ground. This is all in the chest freezer keeping company with the 1/4 of a pig that we bought from our friends Karen and Dave. It is a good feeling to have a freezer stocked. I wish I had done more canning this Summer. We only got the freezer last month so I did not get to freeze any fruit or veggies. Next year…

Don is working on hanging the show for our next event, a reception for Maria Alexandra Vettese and Stephanie Congdon Barnes to celebrate the East coast launch of their book A Year of Mornings, 3191 Miles Apart. If you’re around come down to the store tomorrow evening, Friday 11/7, between 5-8 to say hello to Maria and Stephanie and have them sign a copy of the book. Should be fun!

Victorious Apple Cake

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

I have to start this post by saying I am so relieved that America has elected Barak Obama as our next president. I am taking this as an indication that there is still some sanity present in this country. Hopefully we can all move forward and start fixing the horrifying mess made by George W. Bush. We here at Rabelais think the man should be arrested and punished for the things he did to this nation.

But on to more pertinent matters. We shared the election night festivities with our good friends Stewart and Lela at their farm. Many delicious foods were consumed but there is one in particular that I need to share with you:

This is the Apple and Olive Oil Cake with Maple Icing from Ottolenghi, The cookbook. Holy crap, Batman, this is insanely good! I used three different local apples: a Macoun, a Spencer and a Jonagold. No butter, olive oil instead, a couple of eggs, including two beaten whites for levity, golden raisins(my preference) and a little cinnamon. Baked slowly at a low temp in a springform pan, you then slice and fill with the most wonderful cream cheese/maple syrup/brown sugar/butter icing. This one is going in to the repertoire for future re-use. A truly marvelous thing to do with apples. This Ottolenghi book is a British import, so many of our favorites these days come from the Brits. Not sure what is in the water over there but they have taken the local/seasonal concept to it’s nth degree and damn if their food isn’t GOOD.

Nigel Slater and Michael Pollan

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

I do not want anyone to think I am obsessed with Michael Pollan, even though it does seem he is all I blog about lately. I can get in a groove and get stuck there for a while. I will move out of the Pollan groove presently. And I will make you scroll all the way down to the end of the post for the Pollan content, but I am not above invoking him to draw readership….

Nigel Slater, on the other hand, is a writer you should know about if you do not already. Rabelais had been open for a good three or four months with a copy of The Kitchen Diaries on our shelves before we made an acquaintance with Nigel Slater. If you have come in to the store anytime since then and asked us about some of our favorite books you will have heard the above mentioned title more than a few times. Slater is a Brit who has a column in The Observer and a stack of truly magnificent cookbooks to his name. He calls himself a cook, not a chef, and that is who he writes for. I suppose you could call his metier comfort food, in fact others (Nigella Lawson and Tamasin Day-Lewis) have. Jamie Oliver calls him a genius. His comfort food is not the American iteration of meatloaf and macaroni and cheese but rather Don’s favorite roast chicken with cheese mashed potatoes and garlic gravy. Or my favorite sweet and sticky chicken wings. When describing Nigel Slaters food I use words like authentic and organic (but with a lower case ‘o’). His approach to food is simple, straightforward and approachable without being dumb or using convenience food short cuts. His latest US publication is a perfect example. Real Fast Food is luckily billed below his name, as I have profound reservations about any food book with the words Fast and Food adjacent to one another. However you must see past the title of this book which was originally published in the UK in 1995. Then you will find the beauty in it’s approach to feeding yourself and your loved ones. There is a good reason why there are over one million copies of this book in print, and why it was finally published here in the States.

In fact one might say there are 350 reasons.
The subtitle reads 350 recipes ready-to-eat in 30 minutes, but we are not talking tear-open-pouch-pour-into-bowl-place-in-microwave-press-start recipes here. No, here we find Lamb Chops with Flageolet beans and Cilantro-Parsley sauce made with canned beans and shoulder or blade lamb chops. Here we find Whole Wheat pasta with Sausages, Mustard and Caramelized Onions, Chicken with Orange and Black Olives, Mushrooms on Toast and Brussels Sprouts with Bacon. These are all recipes I can make when we get home from a long day talking about and selling books about food, and hold my head up high. I love cookbooks, but must confess that I rarely follow any recipes all the way through. I use written recipes more as suggestions. When I read Nigel Slater I feel in my element. If one needs a precise directional recipe you will find them here, but if you are looking for the outline with guidance you will be in heaven. Especially because there are so many suggestions. Slater is chock full of inspiration, his voice is so enamored of his subject you can hardly help running to the kitchen to whip something up. Nigel Slater and Michael Pollan have totally liberated the way I cook in the past year. I never buy any food my Grandmother wouldn’t recognize and I get my inspiration for ways to prepare it from Slater.

Which brings me to Michael Pollan. He was in Maine last week to speak at Bates College. We drove up to Lewiston early and were comfortably seated to watch the hordes crush in to the College Chapel. Some poor souls actually got turned away. This was a view before they had to clear the aisles.

Pollan is an engaging speaker, if you have a chance to go hear him I encourage you to do so. This night was no exception. I will not go on about what he said, other than to say that he touched on all those issues that I think are so very important to all of us right now. But what I will share with you here is an opportunity I had to combine two of my great interests: food politics and knitting. Below is an image I took of Michael Pollan holding a sock I was still knitting that night. He was truly graceful about my bizarre request but after I jabbered on a bit seemed to see my crooked logic about knitters being comparable to local foodies in their desire to work with their hands and have direct contact with their materials. It seems obvious to me, but then I like to think all my obsessions interrelate. So without further adieu, herewith Michael Pollan with sock.

I thank this gracious and remarkable individual for his forbearance.