Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What in the world is going on?

Is the world spinning faster, thereby making us feel like we need to get more done? HEAVENS!!!

We HAVE been Whacky busy. Doing what, you may well ask? Well...Here are some updates.
Last Week...

Kitty up a Tree...who is that?
The other morning, when the dogs went out, they got as far as the tree before they started barking. What in the world is going on, I asked Farmer Jeff. He didn't out I went and then looked up. Well, hello Stranger! Who are you and where in the world did you come from? Once we got the dogs into the house we were able to coax the handsome stranger down far enough to read his tag and call his owners. Thank Heavens for that tag!!! We got a call back from the kind and very worried owner. Turns out that it was a brave kitty from across the very treacherous road that runs between our houses. The kids of his house came over and got him. What a lucky kitty! The kitty's name, you are asking? Pancho. Nice to meet you, Pancho. Now be careful!

The Pig Pit
Farmer Jeff is hard at work on his Central Texas-style Pig Pit. is not for raising is for cooking them for dinner. 'Nuf said. We are not vegetarians. We do eat meat and actually prefer our pork over most meats. Sorry, Papa, I will not eat cheese so I can eat my pork!

I love the lines of this structure. It reminds me of an ancient church. I know it is where Farmer Jeff will be spending many a Sunday praying for crispy pig.

The Chickens
The chickens are still enjoying their remodeled house. Here is a picture of Wild Girl, daughter of Elizabeth, a now deceased Ameraucana and sister of Jericho. She is not the size of a full grown Ameraucana and does not lay green eggs. She does have a rather squirrelly personality, hence her name.

The Tea Party
I was able to have a little tea party to celebrate my sobriety "birthday" and my sweet honey gave me the most beautiful floral arrangement from my favorite florist, Dragonfly Farm, here in Healdsburg. I love tea parties. We had kind of a Southern-style tea with Pimento Cheese Sandwiches, Smoked Catfish Pate on Crackers, Cucumber Sandwiches, Hearth-Baked Biscuits with Willowside Meats Ham and a Honey Mustard, then also butter and then housemade Zinfandel Grape Jelly that we make! For dessert I was given a magnificently decadent 4 layer chocolate fudge cake...swoon...Thankfully I had folks with whom I could share it!

The Benefit
Farmer Jeff was asked to be one of two "Master of Ceremonies" (emcee) at a fund raiser in his hometown (kind of) Modesto. It was the first time a fund raiser in that area had a cooking competition, Culinary Clash, as part of the event. Since Farmer Jeff has won two of this kind of contest (Derby Day several years ago and "Steel Chef" last year at the Sonoma Showcase) he was a perfect choice.

We left town a little early so we could hit his favorite hamburger stand, Scenic Drive in, for a "knock out burger". This is what an article in the Modesto Bee had to say about Scenic: Over the years, Scenic Drive-In has become one of the most popular spots for burgers in the area. Next to Scenic Cemetery and west of Coffee Road, the restaurant is known for its signature "Knockout" burger, which includes avocado, bacon, cheese and hot peppers.
I think it also has 2 hamburger patties. Sadly, it is currently closed for repairs.

He called his father in a panic from the parking lot, and we were redirected to "M.O.A.B.", which stands for Meal On A Bun. OH MY GOD...what a meal that was! I also had a chance to see that my honey's love of old farm stuff is really one of his cultural back ground. Here is a picture of both the burger and the walls of the place.

We made it to the event in time, didn't need to eat tums but did have a bubbly drink to counteract the lunch, and were treated to a fun evening! Farmer Jeff was a natural! It was fun to watch. He had a fun reunion with his first "Chef", Stan Dimon, under whom Jeff worked and trained for several years at Mallards. This was the chef that warned Jeff: you will be working weekends, holidays, birthdays and most of the time that your friends will be off having fun. Are you SURE you want to be a chef?
Well, that was well over 20 years ago and here we are!

Bye, Bye A Good Yarn!
After 5 years in business and the formation of many wonderful friendships and knitting projects, my favorite place to hang out (and buy yarn!) has closed. We didn't let the day go unnoticed. We threw a little party for our beloved friend, Laura Vink, and toasted her into retirement! We also had a last run at the yarn. Farmer Jeff has been teasing me that we will be the first in the nation to have a yarn cellar. I assured him that I am an amateur when it comes to collecting soft and pet-able yarn. I have friends that are on husband imposed "yarn diets". You know who I am talking about! Anyway, we will still get together and knit every Saturday morning, but it just won't be the same! Thanks, Laura. You have given us a great gift of friendship! Now come and knit with us!!!

Well...the tea party was Sunday, April 6th. In that week we also did 2 catering jobs and then ended the week on Sunday by planting 192 tomatoes. I am sure glad we both like challenges and like to accomplish things! Next...this week!

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Remembrances of the South

We came back from Louisiana and Mississippi with a lot of great foods, books and stories. How can you not when going to such a rich place? Rich in history, rich in cultures, rich in the value they place on the people that have created the history and culture.

On our way from Vicksburg, MS to Oxford, MS, in the pouring rain, we made a detour to Greenville, MS to eat tamales at Doe's Eats Place. We had NO idea what to expect, other than fabulous local-style tamales. Somewhere back in the 40's a Mexican man shared his tamales with the local folks, and a phenomenon was born. Some folks make them with corn husks, like Miz Elizabeth Scott, honored at SFA and recipient of the Ruth Fertel Keeper of the Flame Award. The folks at Doe's wrap their tamales in paper before steaming them. When you order them, they are sold by the half dozen or dozen. We got ours to go (they are only open for seating at night) and ate them in the car with the classic accompaniment of soda crackers. YUM. The rental car smelled like those tamales for the rest of the trip!

We landed at the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium in Oxford, Mississippi on Thursday and were treated to the experience of being in a live radio show audience. The Thacker Mountain Radio show broadcasts every Saturday night on Mississippi Public Broadcasting. This show really took advantage of the folks in town for the symposium. We heard several stories from the Kitchen Sisters.
We were also treated to stories, fables and ramblings from the likes of Roy Blount, Jr. If you aren't familiar with this delightful man, a real story teller, you MUST seek out a book or two. He is a real gem.

In between the radio show and the catfish dinner, Farmer Chef Jeff and I ran over to our favorite southern-style restaurant for a snack, Ajax Cafe. We were looking forward to a nice little dish of their smoked catfish pate, but alas, they have foolishly removed it from the menu!!! How can we be appeased??? Well...we could always get a side dish of their fabulous vegetables. we did! We almost got in a fight over which veg sides we would order and finally agreed upon: squash casserole, broccoli and rice casserole, butter beans and turnip greens. OH MY GOD...sublime!!!

The conference included such varied topics as Savage Barbecue, an oral history of the Plate, along with the State of the plate, with discussions on Fried Chicken, Greens, Cornbread and Coconut cake. Mind you, this is all presented in a very scholarly yet playful way. This discussion/presentation was followed by the State of the pour, including demonstrations on how to make and pour a proper Sazerac.

Later that night we all hopped on to the freezing double decker buses that haul us out to the amazing Taylor Grocery for Fried Catfish, hushpuppies, french fries and coleslaw...and all the tea you can drink! For those so inclined, there is a limitless supply of Jack Daniels, one of the many sponsors of the symposium.

The next day started rather early but it was so worth getting there on time. The invocation was presented by an amazing poet, Kevin Young. I can't begin to explain the power of his words. I told him that I would like to post one of his poems and but first I need to send him an email telling him which one I would like to post. Honestly, if you have even the slightest inclination, PLEASE find one or more of his books and treat yourself to a day filled with rapture. He is that good.

We listened to: One opinion on the State of American Food History, by Professor Sandy Oliver; Someone's in the Kitchen with Dinah: Gender and Food, by Professor Psyche Williams-Forson.
We also heard from Professor Bernard Herman - Thoughts on Class and Consumption; followed by Professor Charles Joyner and his talk on the Creolization of Southern Foodways.

Don't get the idea that this was a dry/boring day of just sitting. NONE of this was EVER boring! We had wonderful meals prepared by the likes of Eddie Hernandez and Mike Klank, who prepared Nuevo South Fiesta, the melding of Mexican and traditional Southern ingredients: The Tabasco Hot Links lunch with hot links from Elgin, Texas and then boudin from T-Boy Berzas, sides from Steven Barber; the Taylor Grocery catfish dinner, the Viking Range lunch prepared by Hugh Acheson, Edward Lee, and April McGregor; and then the all Pig dinner from Donald Link, Frank Stitt, Ed Mitchell, Steven Barber and Sean Brock.

We were treated (yes, yet another treat!) to a drum and fife ensemble. I will add the name once I find it...the young lady playing the flute/fife and leading the drumming procession is the granddaughter of the man that started this tradition in Mississippi. The sound of the drums and flute woke up my heart...I found myself on the edge of tears and many folks were swept up into the rhythm and were dancing with wild abandon. It was incredible.

Before the incredible Saturday night pork fest, we were at a book signing reception. Farmer Chef Jeff and I did some serious damage there (and at a couple of other stops along the way) but I just couldn't pass up having my books signed.

We were a little surprised, okay, VERY surprised that the featured speaker the next morning, the last day, was none other than Alice Waters. Alice is credited with bringing the concept of seasonal and locally grown to the US after traveling around France after college. She has had very good luck with hiring chefs, such as Jeremiah Tower, Paul Bertolli and David Lebovitz. She presented her plan of the Edible Schoolyard to the gathered clan of SFA and she came off a bit like Alice in Waterland. I believe in teaching kids how to grow vegetables, in teaching them how to eat properly to avoid a disaster of an obese population, but I kinda have to draw the line when Alice thinks is it is the sole responsibility of the schools to teach kids about food. What about the parents? What about other parts of the community, such as farmers markets, their churches, the community at large. Okay...enough of my soap box. Needless to say, it provided a lively discussion at brunch!

I will close with a picture of my button haul. I found these buttons tucked away in a bin in the antique store in Pontchatoula.

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