The Farmer in the Show: James T. Farmer III at the Washington Winter Show

I live in Maryland, and it’s usually easy to forget that it’s a border state.  You can’t get more liberal than Montgomery County; you wouldn’t catch anybody smoking inside a building, for instance.

But then I was sitting at this year’s luncheon at the Washington Winter Show (the Washington Antiques Show), listening to James T. Farmer III, garden and interior designer, writer of design books and cookbooks and true son of the South, and was struck with a funny but telling detail.

“All porch ceilings in the South are painted blue,”  he said.  My porch ceiling in Maryland is painted blue.  What other color would it be?

What else do we have in common?  Fried chicken in a cast iron skillet; ‘mater sandwiches (documented at the Olney Farmers Market, I swear); Southern efficiency (it’s even the name of a new restaurant in DC).

But Mr. Farmer had more stories about Southern traits and foodways.  “When two Southerners meet, we compare what we have in our deep-freezes.”  Ripe peaches, for instance.  And, as for another Southern food icon, “If Queen Elizabeth came to visit us, she would get pimento cheese whether she wanted it or not!” Okay, maybe not so much in common, after all.

He filled an hour with stories and one-liners, talking winsomely and without notes.  He discovered early in his life that he had a knack for design and cooking.  His parents encouraged him.  In college, he found himself cooking for half the stadium after games.  Ever since, he has made a career of food and design.

James Farmer Being Entertaining

James Farmer Being Entertaining

Here are more culinary tips: make a Georgia Caprese salad, substituting peaches for the tomatoes.  And, “Do you know what brown sugar and rosemary can do to bacon?”  I can only imagine, but my mouth is watering.

The luncheon food skewed Southern, too, as it had for the Lee brothers event.  A plate of shrimp and grits, with salad and cornmeal Madeline, was followed by coconut cake and a chocolate sandwich cookie.  The simple syrup for the iced tea was back, and there were mimosas in place of bloody Marys.  Alas, no customized Tabasco this year!  But the room was just as full of charmingly set tables, and socially active women.

View From Above

View From Above

Good Ol' Southern Shrimp and Grits

Good Ol’ Southern Shrimp and Grits

And Coconut Cake

And Coconut Cake

 

Mr. Farmer was preceded by the choir from the Bishop John T. Walker School for Boys, one of the charities benefiting from the Show, and followed by a tour of the antiques dealers by me.

Boys Choir

Boys Choir

Again, most of the dealers’ wares were above my price point, but I really enjoyed seeing the display.  Mark and Marjorie Allen’s booth, which had captured my attention the last time I was at the Show with their display of nineteenth-century food choppers, had another attraction this year – puzzle mugs (aka puzzle jugs).

More Choppers

More Choppers

Mark Allen Holding the Mug

Mark Allen Holding the Mug

The Other Mug, with Other Delft

The Other Mug, with Other Delft

These mugs were, for centuries, facilitators of what must have been thousands of bar bets.  The perforations make it impossible to drink without spilling  your ale unless you know the trick.  They typically have a verse painted on, which sounds like it could be sung in a drunken cadence:

Here Gentlemen Come try yr Skill
lle Leay a wager if you will
That You dont Drink this Liqr all
Withoutt  you Spill or Lett Some Fall

(Spelling and punctuation as painted on the mug.)

They are still being made today, as curiosities, but these ones are 18th-century Liverpool delft.  They can be yours for several thousand dollars each.  Sigh.

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The Bazaar Report 2015

Here it is again – the annual bazaar roundup – our report on the best eating at area ethnic churches during the holiday season.

This year, we have discovered four new ones, so this article is all new from last year’s – although we did revisit a few.  The Finnish Bazaar at the River Road Unitarian Church, and the Christian Academy‘s bazaar were both as good as last year.

We added one Nordic to the role: the Julemarked, or Norwegian Christmas Fair, at Emanuel Lutheran Church in Bethesda.  It was held on Friday as well as Saturday – great scheduling for a bazaar junkie!

One large room was lined with tables selling Norwegian packaged food, gifts, and decorations.  The laid-back vibe was a refreshing change from the large Nordics with big crowds.  Although the choice of Smorbrod was limited to three, two of them were our favorites, shrimp and salmon.  A small selection of sweets was complemented by a separate bake table, and waffles made to order.

Norwegian Kafe

Norwegian Kafe

Our Smorbrod Lunch, and Solo

Our Smorbrod Lunch, and Solo

And then there was Solo, a bottled drink which, if you grew up in Norway, I guess you are glad to see.  Being curious, we snagged the last bottle on sale.  It was room temperature with no ice available (which none of the Norwegians enjoying it seemed to mind.)   I think next year, we will leave it to the natives.

Shopping and Solo

Shopping and Solo

The St. Luke Serbian Orthodox Church held a yard sale, barbecue and traditional food event – three of my favorite things rolled into one.  The huge cooker trailing a plume of fragrant smoke lured us into the church activity building, where we encountered a dilemma.

Serbian Sign and Chicken Grill

Serbian Sign and Chicken Grill

Should we go totally with the Serbian food, or try the chicken barbecue  as well?  The cheerful servers explained that the cevapcici, chopped and seasoned meat cylinders, were so popular they sold out at the Serbian Festival (held the first Saturday in October, an event I will certainly try to attend next year).

Friendly Serbian Helpers and Food: Ana, Maja, Nikola

Friendly Serbian Helpers and Food: Ana, Maja, Nikola

We resolved the issue by ordering one plate of each.  The chicken was as good as the sight of that cooker had led us to expect, and the cevapcici were just as savory, and more exotic.

On December 5th, we scored a main course at one bazaar, and dessert at another.  The International French Bazaar at the Wesley Theological Seminary was another laid-back scene, with the food area tucked away behind a room filled with opportunities to resolve your holiday gift list.

French Bazaar

French Bazaar

Live Music!

Live Music!

It presented another quandary for food selection: two facing tables, one filled with the components of traditional choucroute and boeuf bourguignon, the other with a bounty of exotic African cuisine choices.

Choucroute: With Tea Towels!

Choucroute: With Tea Towels!

French African Buffet

French African Buffet

We resolved it, guess how?  That’s right, one plate of each.

L: African, R:Choucroute

L: African, R: Choucroute

Even though we couldn’t identify all the components of the African plate, it was more interesting than the choucroute; and, not surprisingly, some bits were better than others.  Next year, we know what we’re ordering!

There was a table of light fare, if you didn’t feel like a big meal – quiche, pate, and salad.  Also, a sweets table, but we had other plans for dessert.

Just down the road, the Soorp Khatch Church was hosting their Armenian Dessert Festival.  Another big room, more tables spread with delicious things to eat, this time all sweet.  Five kinds of kedayif (shredded dough stuffed with ricotta, pistachios, and other goodies), baklava, raised-dough pastries, and Armenian coffee were on offer.

A View of the Desserts

A View of the Desserts

And More Desserts

And More Desserts

Coffee and Dancing Santa

Coffee and Dancing Santa

Our only regret was being rather full from our visit to France.  No worries, they boxed some up for us to take home.

Our Plates

Our Plates

That’s the holiday bazaar roundup for this year.  Happy New Year, everyone!  Enjoy eating in 2016!

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The Frosting Awakens: The Empire’s Sweet Tooth

Because, why not?  Harris Teeter’s bakery department gets in on the Star Wars madness.  Everything you need for your post-viewing party.

Cookies and Cupcakes and Stormtrooper, Oh, My!

Cookies and Cupcakes and Storm Trooper, Oh, My!

R2D2, Too

R2D2, Too

The sign says, “These are the baked goods you’re looking for.”

P.S. They’re life-size inflatables. I don’t know if they’re for sale.

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Get Your Ginger Up!

Bobbi Staat stopped by to show me the trophies that will be awarded for the Sandy Spring Museum’s Gingerbread Celebration.  They’re a treat!

One looks like jolly James Beard; the other is set to blast off into the Great Gingerbread House in the Sky.

Ginger Trophies

Ginger Trophies

The contestants will be on display as part of the Museum’s Family Holiday Party this Sunday.  Full details about the contest can be found here.

Bobbi assured me that there is still time to enter the contest, if you feel an urge to bake, or just decorate – note that there is a prize for decorating a kit.  Ready, set, wield that royal icing!

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Jerusalem of Gold: Zahav, The Restaurant, Event and Cookbook

Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook, Zahav, A World of Israeli Cooking, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015

 

Michael Solomonov is the chef and part owner of the Israeli restaurant Zahav in Philadelphia.  He is also the author of its eponymous cookbook, which might more properly be called an autobiography with recipes and beautiful photography (of food and himself).

It’s intensely personal.  Every section, every recipe, is preceded by an explanation of the relationship of the food to his life, the original inspiration, and  how he adapted the dish to his taste.

At a book tour event at Adas Israel recently, Joan Nathan and Chef Michael engaged in conversation.  They spoke about the trip they took to Israel together, and Chef Michael’s life and philosophy of cuisine.  There were a few hundred fans, eavesdropping.

250 Of Their Closest Friends

250 Of Their Closest Friends

Chef Michael and Joan Nathan, Up Close

Chef Michael and Joan Nathan, Up Close

Chef's Tats: Pomegranates

Chef’s Tats: Pomegranates

Pics with Fans

Pics with Fans

Signing Books (With a Gold Sharpie)

Signing Books (With a Gold Sharpie)

Here are some secrets he revealed: if your chickpeas (the basis, along with tehina, of Zahav’s killer hummus) are old, they will take a long time to cook.  Use small ones.  And that tehina? He orders from a company in Israel, made from sesame seeds grown in Ethiopia.  “Tehina is the Israeli mothersauce.”  The hummus-tehina chapter is the longest in the book.

He was born in Israel, and spent the early part of his life in Pittsburgh; then discovered cooking when he went to Israel to live with his father.  How did he end up in Philadelphia?  “It was sort of on the way to New York” – which sounds like faint praise to this Philly native!

He now owns several places there, from the fine-dining Zahav to a chicken and waffles joint.  Influences, which are reflected in the book, range from his Bulgarian grandmother (flaky bourekas pastries) to his building contractor’s Yemeni-Israeli mother’s use of spices.  It’s a tour of the flavors of the Middle East, with an emphasis on fresh food, char, and exotic spice.

Zahav the cookbook weighs in at over four pounds.  As mentioned, it’s full of beautiful pictures.  The recipes are clear and easy to follow, and each is contained within the same two-facing-page spread, so none requires flipping pages when cooking.  I cooked several recipes, and found them all worthwhile.

I chose Pickled Persimmons because it seemed to represent a rather more exotic dish than the average American cook would usually encounter.  Also, I was congratulating myself that I had all the spices it called for in my pantry: dried limes, peppercorns, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, poppy seeds, cinnamon, garlic, cardamom pods, cloves.  The pickles came out pungent and spicy, and would make a great foil for cheese or meat, but they were a little too sweet for my taste.  I would leave out the sugar when making them again.

Spices For Pickled Persimmons

Spices For Pickled Persimmons

Brussels Sprouts with Feta calls for charring the sprouts on a grill before baking for an hour with olive oil and vinegar.  I mistakenly made these expecting to add a little green to Thanksgiving dinner.  Wrong!  They were very, very cooked – but, surprisingly, tasted very, very good.  My family left no leftovers.

Brussels Sprouts With Feta

Brussels Sprouts With Feta

Then I tried Chef Michael’s spin on Shakshouka, a dish I have cooked many times but without the spice mix in Zhahav. One adds grated dried lime (again! and, after excavating the bag from my pantry, I was only too glad to use it twice), sweet paprika, cumin, and coriander to the tomato puree.  It was so good that I intend this recipe to become a standard part of my repertoire.

Shake That Shakshuka!

Shake That Shakshuka!

I had met Michael Solomonov once before, when I was a volunteer at the Sunday Night Supper in 2012.  He came down from Philadelphia to cook in a home kitchen in Bethesda.  By chance, I was assigned to be a server at his dinner, and got to taste the amazing food he and Adam Sobel of Bourbon Steak prepared for our lucky guests.  Now, I can cook some of those dishes for myself.

Who am I kidding?  I’ll plan a field trip to Philly to taste them again!

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New, Return, Rebirth: Innovation on Your Plate at the Smithsonian Food History Weekend October 22-24, 2015

There was more to the Smithsonian Food History Weekend than I was privy to.  Too bad, but the Gala at which the first Julia Child Award was (fittingly) bestowed upon Jacques Pepin was beyond my price point.  There was plenty more that was more accessible (i.e., free!).

On the Friday, a full day of Food History Roundtables covered the landscape of food production: culture, farming, business, and preparation each had a session.  Discussion among thoughtful and diverse panelists, book signings, and schmoozing made it a satisfying day.

There was a special lunch arranged at the Stars and Stripes Cafe which I elected to forgo in favor of the farmers market across the street in the Reagan Building courtyard.  In hindsight, I should have resisted its siren call, because it was more of an outdoor food court than a farmers market.  Live and learn!

L to R: Paula Johnson, Andrew Smith, Krysta Harden, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

L to R: Paula Johnson, Andrew Smith, Krysta Harden, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

Session 1 discussed today’s food culture.  Issues included the Web, farm machine automation, “modernist cuisine” (nee molecular gastronomy), food waste, and the carbon footprint involved in food transportation.  Tuna can be caught off Boston, shipped to Tokyo, and sold back to a restaurant in Boston.  Is this sustainable?

L to R: Peter Liebhold, Nikiko Masumoto, Malik Yakini, David Mas Masumoto, Zach Hunnicutt, Kathleen Merrigan

L to R: Peter Liebhold, Nikiko Masumoto, Malik Yakini, David Mas Masumoto, Zach Hunnicutt, Kathleen Merrigan

Farmers dominated Session 2.  Farming issues and practices such as drip irrigation, remote control of equipment, and defining small fruit size as a cosmetic defect; the price of land and machinery; and lack of entry points for young farmers were discussed.

L to R: Kathy Franz, Seth Goldman's Tea, Seth Goldman, Dorothy Neagle, Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez

L to R: Kathy Franz, Seth Goldman’s Tea, Seth Goldman, Dorothy Neagle, Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez

Pop quiz! Can you identify the “TeEO” of Honest Tea?  Hint: he’s the one with the bottle that isn’t water next to him.  Session 3 was all about innovation in food-related businesses.  Aspects included breaking into the business, social responsibility, and disruptive trends such as direct delivery thru Web ordering.  I remember “direct” milk delivery – everything old is new again!  Thus the theme of New, Return, Rebirth emerged, especially strong in this and…

L to R: Rayna Green, Jessica Harris, Darra Goldstein, Mariano Ramos, Judith Dern

L to R: Rayna Green, Jessica Harris, Darra Goldstein, Mariano Ramos, Judith Dern

Session 4, when we learned that Allrecipes can follow trends so closely that they know when it snows in the Southwest, because the searches for snow ice cream peak!  But Jessica Harris pointed out that the European tradition of relying on written recipes leaves us in danger of losing the human touch in teaching cooking.  African cooks rely on oral tradition, and riffing on recipes like jazz musicians.  She injected a needed bit of global perspective into the day.

Back to NMAH I went on Saturday, to the Food History Festival.  There was way more going on than one person could cover.  Cooking demos, book signings, tours, movies, activities for kids and grown-ups, artifacts on display – everything except the actual object of the day: gratifying one’s sense of taste.  If you thought you were going to get some of what the chefs were cooking, the films were showing, the end result of the processes the artifacts were used for, the books were about… you were sorely mistaken.

No, wait, you could buy it in the cafeteria!  And, in fact, to make up for yesterday’s miscalculation, I headed there for lunch.  Instead of a special set menu, there were some dishes incorporated into the cafeteria choices “inspired by” the demo chefs.  I indulged in a nice piece of Ancho Coffee Roasted Sirloin with onions from the BBQ station.  The steak was big enough to split between two of us.

Indulgent Lunch

Indulgent Lunch

NMAH has a brand-new demonstration kitchen across the lobby from the big FOOD exhibit.  It’s nice – there are built-in video screens so the audience can see everything the chefs cook.

Waiting for the "Barn Doors" to Open

Waiting for the “Barn Doors” to Open

Pati Jinich showed us how she makes salsas and guacamole.  You can add things to guacamole if you want, but she likes it very simple, and she makes it in her molcajete.

Pati and Her Molcajete

Pati and Her Molcajete

 

She gave a shout-out to her parents, in the audience,

Pati's Folks (Center)

Pati’s Folks (Center)

and mentioned that she didn’t like the shortening “guac,” because it sounds like something rude in Spanish.

The other demo chef I caught was Naftali Duran, who made two kinds of tacos.

Chef Naftali Duran

Chef Naftali Duran

As Close As You Can Come To Tasting

As Close As You Can Come To Tasting

In between, I showed up at the FOOD exhibit for a tour conducted by curator Paula Johnson.  I could only stay for the beginning because I had to meet my daughter for lunch, but I was delighted to renew my acquaintance with Julia’s kitchen.

Through the Pegboard Wall

Through the Pegboard Wall

 

And I noticed a detail I had missed on my other visits: a magnet with a Kliban cat affixed to the wall.  These cat illustrations were popular back in the 1970’s, on posters, mugs, and sure enough, magnets.  I was delighted to know that Julia shared my affection for this one, especially because it’s a little edgy.

Julia's Cat Magnet, At Right

Julia’s Cat Magnet, At Right

 

It’s faded, but I know what that cat with the guitar is singing:

Love to eat them mousies,
Mousies what I love to eat.
Bite they little heads off…
Nibble on they tiny feet.

I know because I have a mug with the same motif.

After lunch, I went out to the Victory Garden.  On the way, I passed a station where a Smithsonian staffer was engaging with patrons who might have been born after some of those “artifacts” had gone the way of the dinosaurs.  I remember those ice trays!

 

Artifacts From the Last Century

Artifacts From the Last Century

There was a lot going on outside.  The garden itself was a little tattered, as the season was winding down.

Victory Garden

Victory Garden

The hop harvest was in, and the public was invited to help pick the hops off the stalks.

Hop Harvest

Hop Harvest

King of the Hops

King of the Hops

The flower pounding activity was popular.  In this craft, flower impressions are made in squares of muslin by application of brute force.  It’s fun, and can be quite artistic.

Artistic and Theraputic

Artistic and Therapeutic

All Her Aggrevation Is Gone

All Her Aggravation Is Gone

The garden contains a wide variety of plants that have been used for food and other purposes.  I found a few Baltimore fish pepper plants hiding under an edible hibiscus.  I didn’t know the pepper plant leaves were variegated.  What an attractive little plant!

 

Pretty Little Pepper Plant

Pretty Little Pepper Plant

There are already plans, and  a date reserved, for next year’s Food Weekend: October 27-29, 2016.  It’s on my calendar!

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Food As Art; Art As Food: The Women Chefs Exhibit at Strathmore

Artists in the Kitchen is the subtitle of this eclectic display of portraiture, and the concept is as audacious as the execution. The representations of woman chefs by woman artists range from realistic to wildly conceptual.  One, an installation just outside the main entrance to the Mansion exhibit space, resembles a set of crab traps spiked into the lawn.  Others are more traditional, though none are staid.

It’s a fascinating idea, and Susan Callahan of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (and erstwhile demo chef at the Olney Farmers and Artists Market) conceived it as the interface between cuisine and visual art.  Working with Strathmore’s curator, Harriet Lesser, she invited local artists to pair with chefs, creating tangible objects as analogs to the art created by those whose works are, by nature, as short-lived as a mayfly.

The opening was very well-attended, not only by art lovers, but by the artists and their subjects.  Carla Hall was there, posing obligingly in front of her portrait.  The “Carla Hall Paper Doll” set featured actual changes of clothing, but only the artist was allowed to play with it.  Meanie!

Opening Remarks by Harriet Lesser

Opening Remarks by Harriet Lesser

Carla Poses

Carla Poses in Front of Carla by Danni Dawson

As tasty lagniappe for the exhibit, a series of chef demonstrations was held in the Mansion.  There were nine weekly sessions, and I managed to attend five.

Fittingly, Chef Susan Callahan’s demo kicked off the series.  She brought along some of her students to learn (as she deftly deboned a chicken thigh for Summer Skillet Hash), and help serve the samples.  Words of wisdom: “If you don’t like it, don’t make it again.”

Susan Callahan in Her Jacket

Susan Callahan in Her Jacket

Chef Susan's Portrait by Judy Brown, a Botanical Illustrator

Chef Susan’s Portrait by Judy Brown, a Botanical Illustrator

Cooking isn’t her only talent.  She showed off some of her fiber art, as well as modeling her hand-dyed chef jacket.

Susan Delbert, also familiar from her stints at OFAM, had procured snakehead fish for her demo (and saved a few for her scheduled appearance at the Market on November 1).  The National Press Club’s restaurant, the Fourth Estate, is open to the public, but you won’t find snakehead on the menu there – although it has invaded most of Maryland’s rivers, it’s impossible to find commercially.

Chef Susan Delbert Stabs the Snakehead

Chef Susan Delbert Stabs the Snakehead

Her Portrait is Conceptual

Her Portrait is Conceptual, by Catherine Kleeman

Too bad, because it’s delicious, especially as Chef Susan prepared it!

Nora Poullion needs no introduction.  The long-time DC restaurateur has a very traditional-looking portrait hanging in the show – until, on closer inspection, the elaborate frame is part of the painting.  A comment on her longevity, perhaps?

Chef Nora Dishes

Chef Nora Dishes

Chef Nora's Very Formal Portrait, by Kaltoum Maroufi

Chef Nora’s Portrait, by Kaltoum Maroufi

She prepared kale salad. The audience groaned; isn’t kale over?  Until they tasted – she made it delicious, new again.  And the dish about presidents at Restaurant Nora was priceless.  “Every President came! Well, the Reagans didn’t come that much.”

Elise Wendland cooks at another venerable institution, the Comus Inn in Dickerson.  I remember when you went to the Comus for the views, and expected nothing much from the food, but that was then.  A local product (L’Academy de Cuisine in Gaithersburg), Chef Elise uses local products to make dishes such as the exemplary pumpkin risotto from her recipe card.

Chef Elise (L) and Her Sous

Chef Elise (L) and Her Sous

Chef Elise and Sugarloaf, by Carol Moore

Which, by the way, I forgot to mention!  Every portrait in the exhibit has a card with it. There’s a bio on one side and a recipe on the other.  I, of course, obsessively collected them all.

And the last chef demo was the most hyper-local, in terms of distance from my house to the chef’s restaurant.  Full On is a few miles down the road from me, and Michelle Hauser is a local girl.  She made pasta with mushrooms, marsala, chardonnay and cream, and assured us that her hair has never been green.  Conceptual art, and definitely not staid.

Chef Susan Callahan, in Another Wonderful Chef's Jacket, and Chef Michelle

Chef Susan Callahan, in Another Wonderful Chef’s Jacket, and Chef Michelle

Chef Michelle's Green Hair, by Charlene Nield

Chef Michelle’s Green Hair, by Charlene Nield

The exhibit closes November 8, so hurry over to Strathmore Mansion and see it!  It’s a visual treat, and there are still plenty of recipe cards.

 

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Too Much Pumpkin: Trader Joe’s Goes Over The Top

Let me just make it clear from the start that I love shopping at Trader Joe’s.  Even when they pull the old cancel-your-favorite-product act (which has happened more than once), I still keep going back.  But this season’s pumpkin invasion is Just Too Much.

Walk in the Rockville store and you are greeted with pumpkin decorations everywhere.  On every aisle end, hanging from the ceiling, at the checkout stands, totally orange.  And at every turn, pumpkin products.

Pumpkin Biscotti

Pumpkin Biscotti

Hot and Cold Running Pumpkin Cereal

Hot and Cold Running Pumpkin Cereal

Pumpkin Spice Coffee - And Did I Forget To Mention The Pumpkin Panettone?

Pumpkin Spice Coffee – And Did I Forget To Mention The Pumpkin Panettone?

Pumpkin cereal – hot and cold.  Pumpkin-spice tea. Pumpkin muffins.  Pumpkin-seed brittle.  Chocolate pumpkins.  Caramel pumpkins.  Raw pumpkin seeds!  Pumpkin Ice cream.  Pumpkin tortilla chips.  And the most egregious? It’s a tie between pumpkin-spiced coffee and pumpkin-spiced pumpkin seeds.

Mix and Butter (I'm Tired Of Typing The P-Word)

Mix and Butter (I’m Tired Of Typing The P-Word)

New Products - Yes, Lots of P's

New Products – Yes, Lots of P’s

 

TJ’s helpfully provided a list of seasonal products in the latest Fearless Flyer.  By my count, there are forty-nine (49) pumpkin-related products on it, not including those with other types of squash.  I may have missed some in my pictures.

Tortilla Chips!!!

Tortilla Chips!!!

Also, real pumpkins – both large and small.  Thank heavens!  They haven’t totally lost touch with the reason for the season.  Plain canned pumpkin, also good.

Picking One Out

Picking One Out

Cute Little Minis

Cute Little Minis

Good Ol' Pure Plain Canned

Good Ol’ Pure Plain Canned

Of course, TJ’s aren’t alone there in the vat of pumpkin pulp this Fall.  I blame Starbuck’s pumpkin-spice latte for starting the whole sorry mess; it even has its own acronym.  I could have sworn I heard a story about a pumpkin shortage on NPR, but you couldn’t prove it by cruising around any given grocery or convenience store in the last month or so.

I haven’t had my personal favorite pumpkin product in years.  Horn and Hardart’s restaurants in Philadelphia and New York used to have a wonderful pumpkin pie on the menu, and it remains the standard by which I judge all others.  Google is my friend, however, and a search for the recipe has turned up several purportedly authentic versions, all slightly different.  I think a little experimental baking is in my future.  Of course, I can always fall back on TJ’s pumpkin pie – right there in the cooler, between the pumpkin cheesecake and the pumpkin macarons.

Backup Pie

Backup Pie

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Book Review: Ad Astra – The 50th Anniversary SFWA Cookbook edited by Cat Rambo and Fran Wilde

vutlu’meH QaQ jajvam!

Which is, of course, Klingon for “Today is a Good Day to Cook!” and seems fitting for this collection of party food recipes from a group of folks who are known for their love of good times as well as sitting alone in front of screens, writing.

Despite many fanciful titles (Doom Cookies, Alien Scones, etc.), the recipes are real-life and (mostly) tasty-sounding contributions for party food and drinks.  The focus on host-made or potluck dishes keeps the collection from flying off into the wild black yonder.  There is something for every taste here: sweet, savory, indulgent and health-conscious.  Although, given that these are science fiction and fantasy authors, they tend toward the “What the heck! It’s a party!”  end of the spectrum.

As the contributors are authors rather than chefs, the recipes tend to be of the sort that include the contents of cans and frozen packets; so much so that one is astonished at the first line of Marianne Porter and Michael Swanwick’s instructions, “Bone a chicken.”  This recipe’s head note mentions that it was submitted to and published in Gourmet Magazine (though not under the title “Metaphysically Areferential Chicken”)!

Some of the pleasure of browsing this book consists of finding glimpses into the lives of favorite authors.  Spider Robinson’s four-page description of exactly how he makes an omelette reveals a scary-size attention to detail; Brenda Clough’s “Cheating on Croquembouche” is an engineer’s construction manual in miniature.  I’d like to have watched as she essayed it. I have added it to my bucket list of things to make at least once.

Many recipes reflect the lifestyles of impecunious authors; pasta, chicken and ground beef tend to dominate for crowd-feeding dishes, although Joe and Gay Haldeman’s “Boozy Beef” calls for filet mignon and bourbon.  The best-seller list is a good place to be!

To the credit of the editors, they have corralled the inevitable metaphorical “recipes” which infest many collective cookbooks onto the last few pages, in a section of “SFWA Specialties.”  Even so, only two are frankly infeasible for our planet – and who but a goblin would want to eat an elf, anyway?

ad astra cover

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Can’t Wait for the Baltimore Book Festival!

This weekend, the Baltimore Book Festival will surround the Inner Harbor with book- and reading-related activities.  The food options have been expanded (I hear rumors of lobster rolls), and all vendors will be local and sustainably sourced.  Even the demos will be sourced from the Baltimore Farmers Market.

The “Foodie Hot Spots” (their phrase, not mine!) will be spread out across the festival, and in addition to the demo stage, there will be programs at nearby venues, such as the McCormick store at the Inner Harbor and the Constellation.

Geppi’s Entertainment Museum is a sponsor.  Expect superheroes to challenge local celebrities like Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.  She triumphed over Rubber Chicken-Man to pose with Seton Rossini, the (local) author of Sweet Envy, a book full of creative dessert ideas.  Watch for my review of it soon.

The Mayor As Superhero

The Mayor As Superhero

Mayor Rawlings-Blake and Author Rossini

Mayor Rawlings-Blake and Author Rossini

Meanwhile, I’ll be enjoying both the cooking and science fiction programs.  Oh, and one of my favorite mystery writers, Laura Lippman – she’ll be there too.

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