Suggestion For a Gustatory Historian

February 12th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

There has never been an in-depth culinary history of the American Presidency. HG thinks this would be a worthy task for a historian. It might provide a variety of cultural insights and make good reading. A food obsessive like HG would like to know what was served at state dinners and what Presidential families ate in the White House dining room. Did Calvin Coolidge spoon up New England clam chowder? Did Herbert Hoover and Richard Nixon (both California guys) predate Alice Waters with Golden State cuisine? What did George Washington chomp on with his wooden teeth? It turns out that Thomas Jefferson was a pasta fiend (importing both dried varieties and a pasta machine) who served Marcaroni with Parmesan cheese to his guests, but did this Italian bent extend to wines? No, it was French all the way (influenced by his residence in Paris). He was a regular importer of excellent vintages.Sure, LBJ and Bush Senior and Junior stressed their love for Texas barbecue but was this just politicking? We know that FDR and Eleanor served lousy food. We know Nixon liked cottage cheese with a splash of ketchup. We know Bill Clinton liked down home, good old boy food when he was on the road but what did he, Hillary and Chelsea nosh on in Washington? Was JFK and Jackie’s cuisine really that good or was it just fancy French? Michelle, with her emphasis on health, seems to have undermined the opportunity for Obama food pioneering. HG was hoping for some Chicago style soul food in the White House but this has been overwhelmed by kale and broccoli.

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Shirley Temple (R.I.P.): HG’s First Love

February 11th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Yes, little HG loved Shirley Temple (who just died). HG was not alone. In those dreary days of the Great Depression, everyone loved that spunky, adorable, talented little girl. Gloom disappeared when she appeared. Every morning little HG had his milk (or cocoa) in a cobalt blue Shirley Temple pitcher/cup. They are still available on e-bay for about $45. Hazel Atlas Glass Company and U.S. Glass company manufactured millions of them. They were a giveaway with a box of Wheaties or Bisquick. (The following may annoy HG’s Gifted Daughter Lesley R., a beautiful woman with a great heart and a great arsenal of talents and skills). The closest approximation HG/BSK ever found to Shirley Temple was daughter Lesley in her early years.. The endearing little lady with a head of tousled curls was precocious and talented. A true lookalike. And, very spunky.

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Recommended Books

February 10th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Does HG do anything but eat, drink, think about food, write about food, reminisce about food and plan future travel/dining adventures? Yes. HG swims an hour a day. HG strolls in the meadows surrounding his New Mexico home; HG builds a nightly blaze in the fireplace, visits BSK in her art/pottery studio, listens to chamber music (namely Mozart, Bach and Beethoven). And, HG reads. Obligatory periodicals: New Yorker, New York, Economist, New York Review of Books, Vanity Fair, World of Interiors, Saveur, Bon Appetit, Santa Fe New Mexican, New York Times (online). And, non-fiction books. For some obscure reason, HG shuns fiction. Two recently read books HG recommends: Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan and Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century by Tony Judt. A critic summed up “Zealot” accurately: “Aslan rips Jesus out of all the contexts we thought he belonged in and holds him forth as someone entirely new. This is Jesus as a passionate Jew, a violent revolutionary, a fanatical ideologue, an odd and scary and extraordinarily interesting man.” Judt’s book Is a searching analysis of many things: Marxism, evil, history, foreign policy, Israel, the role of intellectuals. Judt (he died a few years ago, tragically too early, of Lou Gehrig’s disease) was a historian and thinker of great insight and uncompromising moral rigor. His landmark book, Postwar, an account of Europe’s recovery from the horrors and wreckage of World War Two, is obligatory reading if you wish to understand the troubled world we live in.

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Listen To LauHound!

February 8th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

One of HG’s favorite food blogs is LauHound.com. LauHound writes about food and restaurants (primarily Asian) in New York, California, Singapore, Hong Kong and other regions. His prose is detailed, straight faced and totally devoid of humor or irony. Lau concentrates on the food (without overwhelming you with his personality) and illustrates the blog with mouth watering photos. Lau is not prolific (unlike HG). You can expect a new LauHound post once a month (or at longer intervals). HG’s only complaint about Lauhound is that there is a lot of reporting on Chinese bakeries. HG is not a fan of Chinese cakes and pastries. In HG’s opinion, this is a culinary art best left to the French, Danes and Viennese. Log in to LauHound’s new post on a New York Thai restaurant called Somtum Der. It will make you hustle down to Avenue A. (New York has changed. Yesteryear, Avenue A was a venue for drugs and violence…not savory dining).

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At Last: A Great Marinara

February 6th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Supermarket shelves have many jars of Italian Marinara Sauce. And, you’ll find Marinara on the menus of many second rate Italian red sauce restaurants. The result of all this has been to give Marinara a bad reputation among discerning gourmands (like HG). The New York Times recognized this phenomenon and recently published (with accompanying video) a recipe for true Marinara. The worthy sauce has been rescued. Follow the recipe and you will have a sauce that is sprightly, pure and a sure way to chase away the winter blues. Best of all, it takes less than 30 minutes to prepare and cook. BSK prepared the sauce last night (she added an extra dried hot pepper and a pinch of fragrant Mexican oregano). Served it with De Cecco fettucine (HG cooked the pasta properly al dente). A shower of freshly grated Parmesan. A bottle of Montepulciano d’Abruzze. Finished the meal with a lightly dressed mache salad and manchego cheese. Happy time indeed.

Into The Dustbin, Losers!

February 4th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Leon Trotsky, the fiery Russian revolutionary (murdered with an ice pick by Stalin’s henchman), said about his defeated political opponents: “Go where you belong from now on: into the dustbin of history.” Americans are equally unforgiving about losers. Witness that very silly, super hyped, mega commercialized, goofy event known as the Super Bowl. Peyton Manning was idolized as the ultimate quarterback, deserving of monuments and immortality, following his surgical dissection of the New England Patriots. Today, after being overwhelmed by the Seattle Seahawks, Peyton and the other Denver Broncos, are losers, locked in “the dustbin of history.” Yes, America treats losers badly. Statesmen once touted as the hope of the nation, become pathetic losers after being defeated in a presidential election. Aged HG, armed with the wisdom of advanced years, is dispassionate. HG knows nobody wins all the time and losing is just another aspect of life, a wondrous thing from which no one emerges alive.

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Indian At Home

February 3rd, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

HG/BSK like to keep their meals simple. Occasionally time is of the essence as well. With that in mind, the duo have devised a very quick Indian dinner. The basis is Seeds of Change curry sauce. Yes, it is a very pretentious name but the ingredients in the jar are pure and savory without the deadly, stale canned taste of many heat-and-eat Indian sauces. So. HG/BSK grill some lightly oiled chicken breasts on a ridged, cast iron pan until they’re just about done. Cut into smaller pieces, the chicken is simmered in the Seeds of Change sauce for about 10 minutes. BSK coats cauliflower florets with garlic infused olive oil, dusts them with cumin and roasts them in a preheated oven. Accompaniments are rice, naan and papadums. HG is a lover of Indian condiments so there are jars of mango chutney, sweet and hot lime pickles plus a bottle of indispensable sriracha to heat things up. Ice cold beer is the appropriate beverage.

When HG/BSK wish to spend more time to preparing an indian feast they automatically think of Vij’s. When HG/BSK had a home in glorious Vancouver, they often had dinner at Vij’s — possibly the best Indian restaurant in the world — and lunched at Vij’s casual eatery, Rangoli. Vij’s is owned and run by Vikram Vij (he’s in front) and his wife, Meeru Dhalwala (she’s in the kitchen). No reservations policy at Vij’s. Opens at 5:30 PM and there’s a line in front. Woosh..and every seat is taken. Get there later than opening and face a one hour (or more) wait at the friendly bar and be fueled by free appetizers. The food? Innovative. Creative. Spectacular. Service is warm and professional. The wine list is exemplary (Vij qualified as a sommelier in Europe). Prices are moderate. Fortunately, Vij and Meeru have written some cookbooks so their dishes can be reproduced at HG/BSK’s New Mexico home. Vij’s: Elegant & Inspired Indian Cuisine is a favorite. So, last night BSK turned to Page 92, “Vij Family’s Chicken Curry.” This is a curry unlike anything served at conventional Indian restaurnts. Layer upon layer of flavors. Not searing hot but tangy. Went beautifully with rice, big bowl of garlicky raita and the aforementioned array of chutneys and Indian pickles. Drank Spanish garnacha (Vij recommends tempranillo). Wonderful meal. Later this week HG/BSK will do some vegetable dishes (eggplant, cauliflower, etc.) from the book. Get a copy and enter the rewarding culinary world of Vij’s.

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Superbowl Menu

February 1st, 2014 § 2 comments § permalink

HG will watch the Super Bowl with discerning BSK. The lady knows football having grown up in Ohio where football is a religion. BSK’s first boyfriend (HG is still jealous) was a high school All-American. Given that Super Bowl Sunday is (next to Thanksgiving) the biggest food consumption day in the United States, HG has given the day’s menu some thought. HG’s guide is SJ. Yes, when it comes to barbecue, pork roasts, gumbo and many other hearty culinary items, SJ is the ultimate authority, proof of Brooklyn’s leadership in robust dining. So, following SJ’s lead, HG will be off to the Pojoaque Super Market for a pork butt rimmed with a goodly amount of fat (the fat will baste the roast as it cooks). With a sharp knife, HG will make many small incisions in the butt and fill them with slivers of garlic. Then a rubdown with chile powder, adobo, cumin, smoked paprika, salt, pepper. (HG will add his own touch–a bit of soy sauce mixed with brown sugar). Let that sit in the fridge for the night wrapped in plastic. Then, come Sunday, HG will take the pork butt out, place in a cassarole dish, cover with tin foil and pop it into a 300 degree oven for a bit over four hours (which will hopefully conclude with the end of the game) Sounds good, right? Accompanying the roast will be warm tortillas, canellini beans, chopped raw onions, avocado slices, pico de gallo and an array of salsas (hot and sweet). Giving the meal a gala touch will be BSK’s green chile sauce (thoughtfully preserved in the freezer) plus BSK’s version of Calabacitas (a melange of fried zucchini, peppers, onions and corn). Dessert: Salted Caramel Gelato. During the three hour (or more) game, commercials, half-time extravaganza, learned analysis, HG will be sustained with a bowl of red chile menudo from El Parasol in Pojoaque. Menudo (for the uninitiated) is Mexican tripe stew. The way it is prepared at Jose and Alicia Atencio’s delightful, casual restaurant, it tops tripes a la mode de Caen or any other French or Italian tripe stew. While watching the TV, HG will drink (a modest amount) of tequila with Samuel Adams Ale chasers. BSK will nibble olives, Marcona almonds and Manchego cheese with her white wine. And, who will we root for?. The Broncos. But, because of HG/BSK’s love of the Pacific Northwest, there will be no mourning if Seattle wins. The overall winner, of course, will be HG and BSK’s happy, Southwestern-fed bellies.

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