Pork rinds are crisp, crunchy chips of pork skin that have been fried in lard. Sound unhealthy? HG (like George H.W. Bush) loves them, but eats them in moderation. There is a growing trend of dieters hoping to lose weight on high protein, low carb diets and they are eating pork rinds in abundance. That’s because pork rinds have no carbohydrates (but lots of cholesterol, sodium and fat!). Doctors are beginning to issue warnings as pork rind sales have soared over the past few years. The porky tidbits are called “chicharrones” or “cuchifritos” in Spanish. They are an omnipresent accompaniment to many Cuban, Puerto Rican, Brazilian and Mexican dishes. HG’s favorite meal, when activist BSK is not cooking but busy saving the blessed New Mexico environment: HG gets a package of Bueno pork green chile stew out of the freezer. Adds an eight ounce take out container of green chile menudo from nearby El Parasol Restaurant. When piping hot, HG tops a big bowl with chopped onion, slices of avocado and squeezes of lemon juice. Eats this with chicharrones made by local women and sold at Pojoaque Super Market. Drinks shots of 100% Agave Tequila chased with icy Samuel Adams Ale. Jolly solitary feast.
Found a thin dime in a coat pocket. Insignificant coin. That wasn’t the case when HG was a Bronx nine-year-old. Two dimes bought art, adventure, nourishment and appreciation of the female form and female artistic talent. HG would earn the two dimes by carrying the heavy shopping bags of women shopping at the Kingsbridge Road markets. (“Carry your bag, Lady?). Few buildings had elevators and sturdy little HG would have to trudge up many steps to earn a nickel or (rare) dime tip. When HG had the necessary two dimes it was off to Manhattan. Destination: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Preparing for the trip, HG spent a dime on nourishment. A chunk of garlic salami (“A Nickel a Shtickel”) and two sour dill pickles (the tasty treats were wrapped in waxed paper and placed in a brown paper bag.) They were obtained at Tower Delicatessen. HG spent a nickel on the subway fare at the Kingsbridge Road/Jerome Avenue station. HG read abandoned copies of newspapers on the ride to 81st Street and Lexington Avenue. (yes, nine-year-olds traveled alone on subways in 1938). Quick walk to the Met. Admission was free for children (SJ notes that the Met is still donation-only meaning you have to pay something, even a penny, but the “suggested admission” is for tourists and suckers!) . First stop was The Armor Room. A stirring sight was fully armored knights on horses. Plenty of lances, axes, bludgeons, swords, daggers, spears to spark a young fellow’s imagination. There were two favorite paintings at the Met. One was “The Lady and the Parrot” by Gustave Courbet. Then and now, HG finds this the most beautiful (and sexiest) nude of a woman ever painted, The other was “The Horse Fair” by a female painter, Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899), the most famous female painter of the 19th Century. “The Horse Fair” is monumental, eight feet by 16 feet, Little HG would stand transfixed before this painting, which throbbed with the energy and beauty of rearing and tossing horses. Bonheur was an “animalier”, a painter of animals. (later in life, HG was happy to discover her “Plowing at Nivernais,” a serene but forceful depiction of oxen at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris). HG consumed the pickle and salami lunch with many glasses of free water, in the beautiful dining room of the Met. HG’s final nickel was spent on the subway ride home. Bedtime sleep was filled with beautiful and stirring images.
“VERILY I SAY UNTO YOU, IN AS MUCH AS YE HAVE DONE IT UNTO ONE OF THE LEAST OF MY BRETHREN, YE HAVE DONE IT UNTO ME.” Well, the “least” of our brethren– the old, the poor, school children–are being bludgeoned by Der Trumperer’s militarist budget and a health care plan that gives big tax breaks to the rich and deprives 24,000,000 Americans of health insurance. Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said “after school programs don’t show results.” So, no more funding. He proposed cuts in the programs that provide nutrition to the aged. And that includes the “Meals on Wheels” program which, incidentally, keeps my aged, infirm mother in law and her husband alive. All of this seems to contradict Christian values as espoused by the dizzying variety of Christian institutions (plus the numerous sects). Isn’t it time for all Christians to protest? Or, has Jesus Christ been re-characterized as a left wing Jewish agitator? Mulvaney demands that programs “show results.” Well, American Christianity can’t prove beneficial results: Sin continues to flourish with no end in sight. Like Der Trumperer’s wire tapping claims, no tangible evidence has been provided that heaven and hell exist. Given Mulvaney’s reasoning, shouldn’t government support of religion (in the form of massive tax breaks) be removed?
Sour cream was omnipresent on the family table when HG was growing up in The Bronx. HG’s late Mom called it “smetana” (the Russian name). Though not observant of Jewish dietary restrictions, Mom confined sour cream to “dairy” (non-meat) dishes. Sour cream accompanied blintzes. Mom sneered at jam. Considered it an aberration of “galitzianers” (Galicans), Jews fixated on sweets. Kasha varnishkes (buckwheat groats and Italian “farfalle”) was topped with smetana as was cold beet borscht and “schav” (sorrel soup). Typical summer lunch was a bowl of sliced bananas (or seasonal strawberries, blueberries, blackberries) with ample smetana. There was a vegetable variant: chopped onions or scallions, cucumbers and radishes. Smetana covered bowls of cottage cheese or pot cheese (lots of kosher salt and black pepper). Mom always bought sour cream, cheese and butter at Daitch Dairy. Considered their products superior. HG/BSK continued that tradition when they lived on W. 79th in Manhattan and there was a Daitch Dairy on the southwest corner of Broadway (the cream cheese was epic and a ‘shmear” on a warm bialy turned morning coffee into a happy ritual). Sour cream plays a big role in fiery New Mexico cuisine. A scoop brings cool to a palate singed by chiles. HG/BSK like to top Goya black beans with chopped onion and sour cream. Mixed with Greek yogurt, sour cream accompanies a variety of BSK’s lamb, middle eastern and Indian dishes. HG is looking forward to Final Four and NBA playoffs. HG’s TV dinner will be small boiled potatoes covered with sour cream. Much salt and pepper, of course. Dill pickles. Icy vodka. Beer chasers. Smetana heaven.
Yes, if you love down home, authentic Japanese cooking this is the culinary event of the year. Vicki Freeman and Marc Meyer are doing five pop up restaurants at 33 Great Jones Street right next door to their celebrated Vic’s Restaurant. Vicki thinks her sister-in-law Maiko Sakamoto aka Exquisite Maiko is the best Japanese chef in New York and HG agrees. There is no other chef HG/BSK would rather dine with. Maiko’s stand–Oni Sauce– is one of the stars at Brooklyn Smorgasburg and Vicki has been pleading with her to do a tasting menu of all the wonders she’s tasted at Maiko’s Brooklyn home. Maiko relented and now you’ve got your chance. Maiko and Oni Sauce will be doing a 12-course tasting menu on March 23. There are two sittings: 6:30 PM and 9:00 PM. Limited seating, so act fast. Expect among many other delights: Sake steamed clams. Fluke carpaccio. Mackerel tataki. Pork belly and daikon radish stew. Reserve at Eat@onisauce.com . Cost is $75 per person. Much cheaper than air fare to Tokyo or Osaka (plus hotels, etc.). You’ll leave the Oni Sauce experience with a happy, enlightened appreciation of what Japanese cuisine is all about.
Surprisingly, HG has never had good choucroute in Paris. For the uninitiated, choucroute is an Alsatian dish of simmered sauerkraut topped with a variety of piggy parts: Pork knuckle, smoked pork chops (kassler ripchen); frankfurters, bratwurst, thick cut bacon, sausage, etc. At Brasserie Boulingrin in Rheims, HG was occupied by butter drenched sole meuniere while a waiter walked by with a sumptuous, huge platter of choucroute. HG will certainly order it when (hopefully) HG/BSK get back to Rheims. Choucroute at two Paris stalwarts. Chez Jenny and Brasserie Balzar, lacks zest. Last night was chilly in New Mexico so dinner was hearty. BSK answered the dining challenge by constructing an estimable choucroute. BSK simmered the sauerkraut in a base of olive oil, sliced apples and white wine. Killer kraut. Cut up a Smithfield Farms Polish Kielbasa and let it heat with the kraut. Topped it with boiled all beef frankfurters. Accompanied the dish with small boiled potatoes. Three kinds of mustard on the table: Super hot Keen’s, Maille Dijon, Maille Whole Grain. Kosher dill pickles. Bass Ale. Let the winds blow. All is merriment in the HG/BSK household.
The neo-Nazi regime of Der Trumperer and his guru, Steve Bannon, has given energy to the Alt-Right aka Nazis, America Firsters, nativists and violent haters. An Indian man was killed and another wounded by a crazed bigot recently. Waves of anti-Jewish bomb threats are a daily occurrence. And, a few days ago, a Sikh man was shot by an assailant who told him to go back to his own country. As you may have gathered from a recent post (“Langar”), HG is very fond of HG’s Sikh neighbors who live in an ashram a few miles from HG/BSK’s New Mexico home. Sikhs, for centuries, have combined their spirituality, peacefulness and striving for righteousness with a ferocious fighting spirit. In North America, Africa and England Sikhs have been prominent in providing security services. When HG/BSK resided in Vancouver, B.C., Sikhs guarded all of the fast growing city’s numerous building sites. Sikhs are totally non-agressive and do not provoke physical combat. They operate under three rules. One: Take up arms and resort to physical violence only as a last resort. “When all other means have failed, it is just to resort to the sword” Guru Gobind Singh. Two: Never strike first. Three: Use only proportionate force. Bigots take heed. Sikhs will fight back. Ferociously and effectively.
Whole Foods always has fish specials on Friday. HG takes advantage. Last week HG bought a thick piece of swordfish for Friday dinner and a pound of good looking Pacific sole for Saturday. Total for finny treats was $21. Not bad. HG had the fish clerk cut the swordfish in four thin horizontal slices. HG dusted the slices with flour and sautéed them quickly in olive oil with plenty of lemon juice. When done, gilded them with capers and melted butter (and more lemon juice).BSK stir fried some asparagus and boiled tiny potatoes. Wonderful meal. Saturday the sole was prepared a la Exquisite Maiko, HG/BSK’s talented chef/daughter-in-law. The sole was steamed over baby bok choy in a mix of white wine (BSK sometimes uses sake), sesame oil, soy sauce and garlic. This was served with Vietnamese rice noodles flavored with sesame oil and Vietnamese fish sauce. Sriracha on the side. El Yummy.
Fregola Sarda is a Sardinian pasta that is similar to Israeli couscous but with a nutty flavor that has overtones of kasha (buckwheat groats). Fregola Sarda is produced by using semolina flour to make tiny balls and then toasting them. It’s delicious in a variety of breakfast dishes (served with a lump of butter and grated cheese plus a dollop of sour cream) or for dinner. A Sardinian favorite is a hearty soup of fish stock, tomatoes, Fregola Sarda and clams. HG/BSK will prepare this on Prince Edward Island this summer (anticipate digging up the clams in the waters of St. Mary’s Bay). No clams last night. Just Fregola Sarda with onions, mushrooms and a sofrito of olive oil, garlic and chopped flat leaf parsley. A cup of steaming chicken bouillon to moisten. Grated parmesan and fiery red pepper flakes on the table. Sardinian comfort food deluxe. Never find Fregola Sarda on the menus of Italian restaurants in USA. Strictly a home dish. You can find the good stuff at Whole Foods (sometimes) or through Amazon, of course. Give it a try.
HG/BSK and pal/neighbor Karen K. had Sunday lunch at the Sikh ashram in nearby Espanola Valley (a 10-minue drive from HG/BSK’s Jacona home). The lunch is an Indian Sikh tradition called Langar, a meal that is offered free to ashram members as well as outsiders. Sikhs believe it is a blessing to serve good food to everyone–needy or not. HG/BSK and Karen K. were invited to the Langar by Siri-Gian, a resident of the ashram and a very effective member of the activist group (which BSK and Karen K. are part of) that is battling to prevent environmentally destructive electric towers from being built in the the Pojoaque and Espanola Valleys. Sikhs are vegetarians and the Langar consisted of two delicious curries (vegetable and a grain and vegetable mix) plus salad, fruit drink and a dessert of chocolate truffles. Beautiful, serene atmosphere with most of the Sikhs (wearing traditional turbans and robes) dining while seated on floor mats. HG sat on a bench and was joined by Kulwant, a handsome, articulate Sikh woman. Graciously, Kulwant responded to HG’s many questions about the Sikh religion. She was very enlightening. If HG was not a Jew and a confirmed atheist (no, that isn’t contradictory) HG would think about living in a Sikh ashram. Vegetarianism, however, might be a major impediment for gourmand HG.