Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ol' Jenny from the block

Nest Heads by John Allen
I'm posting this for my friend Jenny, who is struggling with the possibility she may be becoming the crotchety old lady of her neighborhood.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Happy Pączki Day!

Pączki, pronounced Poonch-key, (plural for pączek) are fruit-filled, fried dough, glazed with a sugar coating. They look similar to a jelly doughnut. The traditional, and my personal favorite, is filed with a prune jelly; however, one may find a wide variety of fillings such as apple, custard, red raspberry, black raspberry, blueberry, and lemon. These Pączki are from Stimmel's Market here in BG, but Pączki are also available at the Lagrange Street (Lagrinka) Community Center, and at many supermarkets throughout the area. But, bakery fresh is always best.

Pączki are a Traditional Polish food typically prepared and consumed on Fat Tuesday. When Polish immigrants came to Northwest Ohio to work in the industrial factories, they brought this edible tradition with them. Typically prepared in the days leading up to Fat Tuesday, the purpose of this sweet is to clear the pantry of butter, lard, eggs, and any fruit that would spoil or go rancid during the forty days of fasting. Even though yours truly is neither Polish nor Catholic, I still appreciate and enjoy this edible Polish tradition. An added bonus, I can buy the leftovers at a discount on Ash Wednesday--the beginning of lent.



Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dodging academe

What is it about the task of writing that inspires me to cook? For example, a few years back I had to take the mother of all exams, where, over the space of four days I had to demonstrate academic mastery of the principal areas of my Ph.D. course work. Seems simple enough, right? The exam was formatted into three parts: from part one, choose two questions from a list of five and develop a response to each; from part two, choose one question from a list of five; part three was the same. Michelle and the girls accommodated me by flying to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico while I stayed back in beautiful and scenic BG submitting to my round of academic hazing. Since the family was gone, I had the house to myself and the only breaks were to meet with a friend for a daily meal and BS session. In between writing forty pages in four days, I found this time to be ideal for preparing my long-simmered ragu. I make it completely from scratch and in my 12 quart stock pot, so there's plenty to freeze and take out for a "quick" meal. It's such a "common" food in our house, I don't have any recipes or photos to share. If you're wondering, since I'm still here at BGSU, now an instructor in Sociology, and working on my dissertation, I guess it's obvious I passed the exam.

I don't really know why I choose to take on additional tasks while burdened under the weight of academics; however, I'm doing it again. Only this time, I'm doing something completely different from anything I've done before. It's important to know that I need to have the dissertation written and to my committee within six weeks. In order to meet my self-imposed deadline, I've been putting in long days at my office where I have ample opportunities to gaze out on the bustle of undergraduates in constant motion, but when I was there all day Saturday and Sunday this past week, I looked out my window, and this is what I observed. Moseley Hall directly across from me:
University Hall in the center of the frame (home of the Eva Marie Saint Theater) and Hanna Hall (home of the Gish Film Theater) to the extreme right:And, it appeared as if I were the only human on campus--I quit counting the squirrels darting, dodging, scurrying across the quad. But, no other human life--I truly am pathetic.
My new deviation started with a discussion on the ASFS list about cheese, and I've always wanted to try my hand at making cheese, so, in between e-mail on cheese, and reading blogs about cheese, I decided to source some supplies for making ricotta. I researched a number of suppliers that seemed to fit my paradigm of ethical consumption where I tend to order from small, independent suppliers and I really liked the way the folks at the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company presented their business and described their products, and I decided to spend my money with them. Well, today I decided to work from home, and two good things happened: first, I work on a contract where I get paid monthly--I got paid today; second, my faithful letter carrier brought me this (I really like the big BLUE smiley--this company rocks):
Inside, Non-GMO Organic Veggie Rennet, two ricotta baskets that accurately mimic the traditional straw baskets used in Calabria and Sicila, and the crack that keeps me high for weeks on end, a catalog of cheese making supplies--GOOD GOD, I want to make more cheese and I've not made ANY yet!Stay tuned.


Friday, February 6, 2009

Not quite buried alive…yet

I have legitimate reasons for not faithfully maintaining my blog for the past while. Yesterday, I handed four chapters of my dissertation Food That Matters to my advisor for some light reading while in Ireland. Now, I have to pound out another chapter in the next ten days she'll be gone, oops, nine days. On a related note, I've had friends badgering me to start a Facebook account for years and recently that has stepped up; however, I have successfully resisted and as of now I don't even remotely see it on my horizon.

My camera's been giving me "the look" lately and I'm starting to think it suspects something, or someone, or another camera may be coming between us. I guess I need to shoot some flower pics with it, or take it out to dinner and satisfy it with some food pics, or simply spend some quality time with it again. This blog looks oddly unadorned without visuals, so I'm going to post a picture of some American chestnuts I found at Zingerman's Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
If you've never had roasted chestnuts, they are very easy to prepare. The best way to roast chestnuts is over an open flame, but since 2008-2009 has been a bitter cold winter in Ohio, my gas oven roasts like a charm. Preheat your oven to 350. While your oven is warming, score an X with a sharp knife on the flat side of the chestnut and place on a baking tray. When the oven is warm, insert the tray of chestnuts. They should take approximately 30 minutes or so until the semi-soft shell peels back. Let stand until cool enough to handle, yet warm enough to enjoy.

They have a subtle sweetness and a somewhat grainy mouth feel to them, but if you down them with a warm's like heaven, only with chestnuts.