Sunday, April 30, 2006

Crazy Travel Habits - FB2B, part 15

I think we all have them - those quirky things that we do each time we travel. Mine, not surprisingly, have to do with food and eating. It's part of the way that I like to learn about local culture and customs when I'm in a new place.

I love checking out local markets, foodshops and kitchenware stores. I always seem to discover new things as well as old favorites along the way. Anything can trigger the need to indulge this habit - a sound, a smell, a sight, a site. Once it hits, there's no turning back.

I just returned, literally late last night, from a week in Christchurch, New Zealand. I haven't done the work to figure it out on a globe yet, but I think I really went about half-way around the world. Why do that to get away from the office, emails, phone calls, everything? Well, there's only one reason aside from work that I would take one taxi, one airport shuttle, and three planes to get anywhere - Family.

Friday, April 21, 2006

No Strike! – FB2B, part 14

Yesterday, at midnight plus one minute, the union representing doormen and porters didn’t go on strike as we were all put on alert, prepared for them to do. What does that mean? Well, this is the union that helps maintain and run the apartment buildings in Manhattan on regular basis. Well, what does that mean, exactly?
It means that the people who control access to the buildings, facilitate deliveries, and assist those who might need help on a daily basis are still at their posts. What would have happened if they had gone on strike? Aside from biting the hand that feeds them with holiday bonuses and tips, it would have meant quite a few things.
First of all, no food deliveries. Yes, that means, the end of one of the best inventions ever – ordering bagels to be delivered so that I can hang out in my pjs and do things around the apartment. This was the sincere shame of my youngest sibling, who has her own reputation for being a slug.
She thought I’d hit a new low in laziness after she saw me do this on one of her visits. Of course I didn’t tell her that I got the idea from a friend who used to order her own “hangover egg and cheese on a roll” from her local deli as necessary. I like to see it as helping along the local economy – and I make sure to give a nice tip.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Peeps, Please – FB2B, part 13

Spring seems to have finally sprung here in New York. Every year, it somehow feels, as the last snows fall and the temperatures continue to linger near the freezing range, that it takes longer, and longer to come. One of the delights of the season, aside from the great new produce at the local markets, is the arrival of tulips on Park Avenue in time for the holidays.

This year, perhaps I was more observant, but I was struck by how vibrant the colors seemed to be. Even the anti-truck-crashing barricades in front of every building, usually bleak and grey, are now a virtual multi-hued floral symphony. One could even say that they are attractive.
In fact, this array seemed to remind me of other harbingers of the season. What do I mean? Why Peeps®, of course. Along with the other Easter basket candy mentioned in my post of last week, Peeps® were another not-favored treat that would sometimes be found on that Sunday morning. I’ve never understood why they are so popular, but maybe I just don’t get it. There are loads of websites dedicated to Peeps® and their “charms.”
So, I did some secondary Peep® research. What are Peeps®, those of you outside the U.S. ask? (I’m assuming that if you’ve lived here at all, you will know what these are.) Well, I refer you to the definition and photo provided by Wikipedia. If you click on the word Peeps® highlighted above, you will connect to the official website. The thing about Peeps® is that people fall pretty much into two camps: abhor them, or adore them. There’s not really an in-between.
By way of research for you, faithful readers, I went searching for them to demonstrate their tonal similarity to the tulips that had also recently sprung up in town. After canvassing at least 6 drug stores, in various neighborhoods in Manhattan, I came up empty. The only Peeps® I could find were a small package of orange-crème flavored, egg-shaped ones – hardly the traditional kind for which I was looking.
Where are the Peeps®? Was there some great run on them? Was there hoarding going on in the city? These questions even caused a stir on Gothamist. I turned to my mother, who kindly sent an article from The Washington Post of last year, which described how to make them. The article even mentions “Jousting Peeps®.” They are so amazingly versatile. [I will confess that I have never been a participant in this type of Peep® destruction.]
Still rather befuddled by the lack of these marshmallow treats in the city, I decided to make my peace with the Peep®-less day and headed towards the Easter Parade near St. Patrick’s Cathedral. While dodging the busy meandering crowds and others snapping pictures of those in their holiday finery.
Gorgeous Dahlin'
The Easter Bunny and Friends (the Village comes Uptown)
Imagine my surprise then, when I discovered these brave souls! So, here’s where they’ve been this whole time!

Easter Hat with toy Peeps®
Easter Hat with REAL Peeps®

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Easter Brunch - FB2B, part 12

Next Sunday is the Easter holiday for the Christian calendar. Traditionally it’s a season of new clothes and shoes, big hats, tulips along Park Avenue in New York, and baskets filled with candy. In our family, as to be expected, there are also a few other memories of the season.

While visiting family in the Midwest a couple of months ago, I’m not quite sure how the topic got started, but my sisters and I talked about the subject of Easter Sundays gone by and the presents from the Easter Bunny. Again, this link between food and holidays is very strong, as we discussed those malted milk ball eggs (cleverly disguised as gumballs), green plastic Easter grass stuck to the bottom of the jelly beans, and why we never seem to get the candy we really like (Pez® = good; marshmallow anything = bad).

This year’s Easter Brunch Menu can be a good start to putting all the awful candy memories to rest. As with the other recipes I’ve posted, part of this can be prepared in advance (even the night before), to save time the day of the event.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Kitchen Witch Tips – FB2B, part 11

For those who read to the bottom of my recipe posts, you’ll have noticed that I’ve been adding a “Kitchen Witch Tips” section to them. I thought I’d take a little breather from recipes and stories and explain what this (hopefully) practical addition to my blog is supposed to mean.

Wikipedia® defines the Kitchen Witch as:

A kitchen witch is a practitioner of magic who uses the tools at hand to work his or her spells and create their rituals. For example, using a kitchen carving knife for an athame, a cast iron pot for a cauldron, etc. Common kitchen herbs frequently have magical uses as well.

This is the definition that is a more mystical one. I can’t deny that good cooking does have some type of “power” over one’s senses, as depicted in many a film, such as Babette’s Feast and Big Night. Haven’t you ever left a great film just craving what you saw displayed on screen? Don’t certain smells “conjure up” memories from deep within ourselves?

However, the second paragraph of the description of the term is more what I had in mind when I created the concept for my blog:

Some kitchens have a kitchen witch doll, which is said to prevent burnt pots, keep meals hot and flavorful, and to weave the family together. The kitchen witch doll is often placed over the stove, near the kitchen entrance, or sometimes over a seating area in the kitchen.

Obviously, for those who have read my blog from the beginning, we didn’t have one of these in our home kitchen, otherwise I might not have burned the chocolate I was trying to melt [see “Some of My Cooking Experiences – FB2B, part 3”]. Some kitchen supply stores used to sell stuffed dolls in the shape of witches with broomsticks. I remember being with my mother and asking her about them. She explained to me the legend along the lines of the second description.

Kitchen Witch Tips” in this blog are designed to be little tidbits or helpers to make your food more flavorful or the process of getting everything to the table a bit smoother. I hope you enjoy them and find them a welcome addition to your culinary knowledge. Feel free to write in with any additional suggestions that might be useful as well.

Buon appetito!
All Images and Text copyright by The Experimental Gourmand 2005-2011. All rights reserved.