Sunday, October 17, 2010

In the Cooking Tent: Texas Book Festival Part I

Amanda Hesser told me that I should venture to try old classics such as Shrub (a late 19th century drink), Tomato Figs, and Apple Snow. I listened wholeheartedly but then she recommended that we absolutely must make our own Dulce de Leche. Abrupt halt. Did it just get a slight warmer in this uninsulated tent full of easily excitable Central Texans, mostly Austinians no less? Did someone from New York City (please refer to Southerners' opinions about NYCity dwellers here) just imply that we might not know about Dulce de Leche, a common treat of Hispanic heritage from a country we not only share a border with but we also pride ourselves as the breakfast taco capital of the world! I jest of course, Mrs. Hesser can tell me to do anything related to the culinary world and I will not only believe her but brag about that fact that she told me in person (I can say I was there...a mere four rows back) and thus this blog post. Truth be told, I bet her version of Dulce de Leche would knock the calcetines off any local abuela.

Nevertheless, her bold comments intrigued me. She explained Food as something fashionable that has changed as often as our costume trends throughout the years, however staples remain such as all things chicken and dessert. Hesser felt that the entirety of her newest endeavor included these two main categories with a smattering of fish, meat and veggies; personally I feel that America has spoken. Allow me for a moment this little aside: preferred categories of consumables = chicken and dessert; it only follows that the two most popular categories should be combined to eliminate waste and encourage efficiency resulting in chicken + dessert = chicken and waffles. End aside.

Hesser prides her book, despite its lack chicken fried meats or authentic queso, on being a mix of crowd-sourcing and curation, an alliteration I can quite agree with. She spans the past 150 years to include the classic Craig Claiborne recipes, the historic jewels that came almost a century before him and the newest breed of culinary creativity. A literal tome of cooking knowledge, timelines and recipes comes packaged in such an attractive and infamous red that it made the boyfriend ask why they had changed the cover from the red and white checked pattern. He definitely won points for that one. However, Hesser won me over with promises of straightforward recipes, novel delights, and a sweet little online project called food52. She left us with one assignment for the day: dare to deep fry as there is a significant fear of frying these days that surly must be fixed. I think we Texans have that covered.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Jane Austen liked Good Apple Pies and Cold Beer.

Well, perhaps not beer as she was a lady after all. Throughout her letters and her novels she consistantly hints about perferring alcoholic beverages to most other things and finds complete happiness in being an older chaperone because it allows her to be" put on the Sofa near the Fire & can drink as much wine" as she pleased. As holder of the keys to the "Wine & Closet," its obvious Austen knew her fair share about food and the processes that went into making a meal.

Austen's favourite dish included chicken feet and miniature Roman soldiers heads.

This article details the food related metaphors found throughout Austen's text, and few from Dicken's, but it refrains from assuming or even leaping to the idea that Austen might have preferred human brains, unlike some other people.

And, while everyone likes to think that Jane sat around all day drinking tea and licking pastry crumbs off her dainty fingers, I would like to present a different view: Jane One-mead-drinking- pie-eating-extreme-donkey-cart-riding-hell-of-a-woman Austen.

Jane Austen's flag of choice

For future ramblings on this food fancy, tune in next time for part two of KC's senior honors thesis: What did Mutton mean in the 18th century.