My Slanted Opinion and the Jade Night Market

There we were out in Portland, Oregon, on a eating and sightseeing jaunt, back in 2015, on the way to Spokane.  We made a special effort to visit a street market in an Asian neighborhood, and it was well worth it.

The Jade International Night Market is an annual event, held in the Jade District of east Portland, not far from our B&B at an urban farm (yes, how Portland can you get?)  There were many food vendors, community groups, friendly neighborhood people, and, headlining the entertainment lineup, a local group called the Slants.  You may have heard of them by now.

Taiko Drum Corps Entertains

Taiko Drum Corps Entertains

Two Asian Fiddlers Played Creditable Bluegrass

Two Asian Fiddlers Played Creditable Bluegrass

dim sumjpg5

Our Dinner Came From the Dim Sum Stand

But There Were Also East African Offerings

But There Were Also East African Offerings

Filipinos Cooking in a Giant Wok

Filipinos Cooking in a Giant Wok

And Even a Taste of Transylvania!

And Even a Taste of Transylvania!

Children's Games

Children’s Games

And Community Groups.  Vietnamese Immersion in the Public Schools - How Portland!

And Community Groups. Vietnamese Immersion in the Public Schools – How Portland!

The Slants’ case has made it all the way to the Supreme Court.  The question, of course, is whether the band’s name is too derogatory to be registered for copyright.  The ironic nature of choosing the name for an ethnically Asian rock band to “take back” a racial slur is apparently too subtle for the Copyright Office to appreciate, and I would be in wholehearted support of their efforts to justify it, were it not for Washington’s football team.  If the Slants win their case, we will have the Redskins to kick around for, I guess, ever.

The Slants Greeted Fans at Their Booth

The Slants Greeted Fans at Their Booth

And Sold Merch

And Sold Merch

Of course the Slants can call themselves whatever they want.  There have been way more offensive rock band names, both self-descriptive and not (NWA, anyone?), but the court case is about registering names as copyright, and permission to sell merch without smerch.   And, how many self-identified members of the ethnic group have to be offended; and how many of everybody else?

Here’s my (admittedly short-term, but! how! elegant!) solution for the Redskins: change the mascot to a potato.  Everybody’s happy – until, of course, the tuber-Americans get offended.  And as for the Slants, I wish them well, both in the court case and as musicians.  And, oh, yes, there’s a food connection (this IS a food article, right?): they gave me a snack, a special Slants edition of an excruciatingly healthy Left Coast product.

The Slants Are Crunchy

The Slants Are Crunchy

And So Good For You

And So Good For You

A portion of your payment goes towards their legal fees.  So, go buy some, and Good Luck, Slants!

 

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Review: Dutch Treats: Heirloom Recipes from Farmhouse Kitchens by William Woys Weaver

Here is a book by a food historian which goes far beyond a collection of recipes, resembling not so much a cookbook as an ethnography through food.  Many recipes are presented with variations of their ingredients and methods over time, or little capsule biographies of their contributors and histories of their sources, providing a fascinating picture of the history of the Pennsylvania Dutch as an evolution of culture in the New World.

Dr. Weaver Speaks About Folks and Food

Dr. Weaver Speaks About Folks and Food

And Institutions: The Famous German Village Restaurant

And Institutions: The Famous German Village Restaurant

The book (and Dr. Weaver in person, a few months ago at meeting of the Culinary Historians of Washington) explains how the settlers adapted their baking to American ingredients, while preserving legends and folkways from Europe.  Breads, cakes, cookies, pies, and puddings – and Datsch cakes, a kind of flatbread – each have a chapter.  Pretzel recipes and lore are scattered throughout the book in such profusion that they really merit a chapter – or book? – to themselves.

Then there are artifacts of the New World: “Whoopie Cake (Greischlikuche)” invented in Massachusetts in 1926 and now ubiquitous in Dutch Country bakeries; and surprising ingredients such as saffron (raised in Pennsylvania since the 1730’s) and mango schnitz.

The copious photographs of cooking implements and examples of the baked goods produced in them are an added attraction to this material girl.  And to a Philadelphia native, the bit of history explaining the origin of the name “Shoofly Pie” was precious.  Shoofly the Boxing Mule was locally famous in the 1880’s, and the gooey, molasses-laden confection that I grew up eating was named in his honor (also, schuflei means “little crumb” – with which the pie is topped).

And Cookies

And Cookies

And Shoofly!

And Shoofly!

And Pie

And Pie

Now, how about those recipes?  Only two or three are subject to the dread overleaf transgression.  Sometimes, measurements are mixed.  In the recipe I tried, the ingredients list has two separate lots of sugar, one measured in tablespoons and one in ounces. Fortunately, Metric conversions are given for all, so confusion is minimized; still, it seems like a simple thing to avoid.

A more serious problem: on that same recipe (Cinnamon Rolls or “Snails” Schnecke), a suggestion for a variation for the filling refers the baker to a recipe for the poppy seed filling of a cake which has no filling, poppy seed or otherwise.

The Cinnamon Roll bake was a foray into unfamiliar territory for me, as I don’t attempt yeast-raised breads very often.  I have to report that my results were not worth the time (two risings) or mess generated by the process.   But that was probably just me, being inept.

snails-uncookedjpg3

Snails Before Cooking

The Finished Product

The Finished Product

Part of the Mess (Neatened Up)

Part of the Mess (Neatened Up)

But please don’t be put off by my lack of success with one recipe!  This book is compelling reading for its historical depth and obvious scholarship, without being fusty about it.  The back matter alone is proof of academic virtue: a glossary of baking terms and tools, bibliography, ingredients source list, index, recipe list, and contributors list.  And a wonderful illustration of Shoofly, the Boxing Mule.

dutch-treats-cover

Dutch Treats: Heirloom Recipes from Farmhouse Kitchens by William Woys Weaver, St. Lynn’s Press, Pittsburgh, 2016.

 

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The Business of Yum: YUMpreneurship at the University

How’s this for synergy: the business school of the University of Maryland stages an event to showcase local food entrepreneurs, providing an opportunity for b-school students to plan and promote it for course credit, and rising businesses to show off what they’ve got?  And, BTW, to let the public frolic among delicious food samplings for a small price?  Sounds like a win-win-win.  And it was.

The YUMpreneurship Showcase at the Universities at Shady Grove filled a very large room with rows of tables laden with food and drink.  On registering, samplers were given a bingo card listing all the food participants.  In theory, only one sample per business per person was to be given, to ensure that the most popular food didn’t evaporate while other samples were neglected.   This principle was honored variously in the breach and in the observance.

But first, there were opening ceremonies.  Professor Oliver Schlake welcomed the hungry crowd and described the Entrepreneurship Fellows Program.  Then all the entrepreneurs present lined up to introduce themselves.  One of them, Sophia Maroon, we knew from the Bethesda Green Incubator, another admirable institution for budding entrepreneurs.

Professor Schlake and Appropriate Shirt

Professor Schlake and Appropriate Shirt

Entrepreneurs Line Up

Entrepreneurs Line Up

Dressed-Up Ms. Maroon

Dressed-Up Ms. Maroon

I have found that the more unusual offerings at these events are often more rewarding than the commoner ones.  Avoiding the long lines at the hot dog stand,  I made a beeline for the Korean bowls of Mashi Market (our friends from the Olney Farmers Market), and went on to try the wares at Jimmy’s Seafood and Java Cove. All delicious.

Before the Crush: On One Side of the Room

Before the Crush: On One Side of the Room

And the Other Side

And the Other Side

mashi-2jpg9

Mashi Market Table

Protein needs fulfilled, I went on to the sweets and drinks.  There were many cupcake outlets; that fad has yet to run its course!  A welcome trend of new local breweries and distilleries was represented by Dragon Distillery, of Frederick.  But alas, no samples; this was a dry event.

Dragon Distillery's Vodka and Soap

Dragon Distillery’s Vodka and Soap

One neat, and possibly unique, thing about Dragon: they make soap from their left-over flavorings.

The food products ranged from probiotics to decadent, sugary treats.  Gnarley Drinks produces a delicious, hibiscus-based tipple.  Hacienda Tres Angeles imports excellent coffee from their own estate in Puerto Rico.  Milk Cult was dishing up ice cream in exotic flavors of pistachio and Chinese five spice.  Patisserie Manuel had a bingo-card Nazi, so I was limited to only one sample of macaron among their several sweets (cruel!), but they did have a very photogenic cake on display.

Cake Just For Show

Cake Just For Show

The room filled up with ravenous (mostly) students.  It wasn’t long before the food started to be depleted.  Even so, we were sufficed.  We left the stacks of pizza boxes, provided just in case anyone was still hungry after sampling the wares of fifty exhibitors, to the younger generations.

Crowded Now!

Crowded Now!

The proceeds from the event were donated to the Manna Food Center, an organization dedicated to ending hunger in Montgomery County through food redistribution.  I hope the students and entrepreneurs profited as much as those who came to eat and drink!  I know I’ll look forward to next year’s event.

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Smithsonian Food History Weekend 2016: Bigger and Better, With Foodie Celebs – Part 2, Saturday: Food History Festival

“Deep-Dish Dialogs” was a fitting title to the Saturday program, with five intriguing personalities (and possibly a sixth, but I skipped the “Food on Film” talk to catch the rest of the festival).

Jane and Michael Stern, authors of the bestselling Roadfood and many other books, presented an illustrated history of their lives and travels.  I have been listening to them on The Splendid Table since forever, so it was a real treat to meet them and hear about how they began their odyssey “to review every restaurant in America – and we’re still working on it!”

Paula Johnson with Michael and Jane Stern

Paula Johnson with Michael and Jane Stern

After graduating with two “useless degrees,” they had to invent jobs for themselves.  They seem to have done it well.  Aside from their restaurant mission, they have amassed a collection of outsider art and ephemera.  They love to visit prison gift shops (who knew there even were such things?)

Their unique career was not without hazards. They have been thrown out of restaurants for taking notes and pictures of the food. Near the Menninger Clinic in Kansas, Jane excused Michael’s behavior by claiming that he was certifiably insane.  They believed her.

In some places, they assumed Jane was Amish because she was wearing New York black.  They won a live sheep once, in Navajo Country.  They kept us in stitches!  Even Paula almost lost her professional composure once or twice.

And one pic in their ephemera collection made me sit up in my seat.  They flashed a copy of the program book for the 20th World Science Fiction Convention (Chicago, 1962) on the screen.  Although I am too young to have attended that one, I know folks who did.

Worldcon Program Book, on Right

Worldcon Program Book, on Right

After their talk, they signed.  I took the opportunity to buy their joint autobiography, Two for the Road.  And I met Kelly Camille Paterson and Paul Spencer of the Velveteen Lounge Kitch-en, in wonderful matching outfits.

Sterns and Fans

Sterns and Fans

The Velveteens

The Velveteens

The next Dialog took place between two folks who had been talking to each other for a long time.  The Kitchen Sisters, Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva, produce Hidden Kitchens for NPR.  They played audio clips from their new series.  The variety of stories relating to food and culture ranged from “Weenie Royale,” a dish invented in the Japanese internment camps of World War II, to the George Foreman Grill.

The Kitchen Sisters: Davia and Nicki

The Kitchen Sisters: Davia and Nikki

And here’s their standout pic (for me and my fellow caffeine freaks): a rifle from the Civil War with a coffee grinder built into the stock.  It’s from the aptly named “War and Peace and Coffee” episode. Because:  “Nobody can soldier without coffee.”  Or function at all, sez I.

Coffee Grinder Rifle Stock

Coffee Grinder Rifle Stock

So I bugged out on “Food on Film” (which I later heard was very good) to see some of the other festival sights, and get some lunch.  In light of my underwhelming lunch the day before, I decided to explore other options, specifically, the line of food trucks on Constitution Avenue in front of the African-American History Museum.

Food Truck City

Food Truck City

And it was a party out there!  A lively crowd was having a good time, eating and hanging out on the sidewalk.  I surveyed the variety of trucks, and decided to have a sweet potato pie for lunch.  It was delicious, and very reasonably priced.

I went back to the NMAH to visit the Victory Garden, which was hosting activities similar to those at last year’s festival: flower pounding, seed saving, and wandering through the garden taking pictures.

Victory Garden from Above

Victory Garden from Above

Hop King Sans Hops

Hop King Sans Hops

Bean Teepee

Bean Teepee

The Hop King from last year was there, but the hops had already been dealt with.

Inside, I visited Julia’s kitchen just to say hello.  On the way, I noticed the Greensboro Lunch Counter attracting attention.

Hello, Julia's Kitchen!

Hello, Julia’s Kitchen!

Greensboro Lunch Counter

Greensboro Lunch Counter

But upstairs, near the activities in the Flag Hall, the gift shop was having a Star Trek moment.

Hello, Captain Kirk!

Hello, Captain Kirk!

Back downstairs I went, for the last Dialog of the day.  Jessica Carbone interviewed Julia Child’s great-nephew, Alex Prud’homme, about his new book, The French Chef in America.

Jessica and Alex

Jessica and Alex

 

It’s about what happened after Julia returned from France: testing recipes for Volume II of Mastering the Art, filming the first television series, being parodied by Dan Ackroyd on Saturday Night Live…  And the show that didn’t happen: Thirteen Recipes for Thirteen Colonies, for the bicentennial year of 1976, with James Beard.  I’d have loved to see that!

Next year’s Weekend is planned for October 26-28.  Can’t wait!

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Smithsonian Food History Weekend 2016: Bigger and Better, And With (a Little) Food – Part 1, Friday: Food History Roundtables

I’m happy to report that there is now some food at the Food Weekend.  Those dedicated enough to attend the Friday Roundtables got a nice bonus: a reception with beer, wine and munchies at the end of the day.  Some of the panelists from the day’s program were there.  That was nice.

The Sign By The Signup Table

The Sign By The Signup Table

This year’s event was even better than last year’s, because of the new series of talks on Saturday, even though I missed every last one of the chef demos (and these were heretofore my favorite part!), because they were scheduled concurrently.  I also felt compelled to at least skim the other parts of the Festival.

But let’s take the weekend in order – well, not quite, as I still haven’t cracked the Gala on Thursday night.  Never mind.  On Friday, the Roundtables, a series of panel discussions, focused on Politics on Your Plate, just in case we all weren’t already heartily sick of the whole topic even before the election.

The Politics of Food: Charles, Miller, Nestle, Belasco

The Politics of Food: Johnson (at Podium), Charles, Miller, Nestle, Belasco

The first panel included one of my sheros, Marion Nestle.  After brief opening remarks by Paula Johnson, food history curator at NMAH, the panel settled down to a discussion of The Politics of Food through American History, from “the Indians and Colonists thought each other’s food was disgusting” to food as a tool of dissent during the Viet Nam war protests and the Civil Rights movement.

Afterwards, there were book signings.

Marion Nestle Signing

Marion Nestle Signing

The Politics of Farm Labor: Loza, Medina, Castaneda, Fitzgerald

The Politics of Farm Labor: Loza, Medina, Castaneda, Fitzgerald

The participants of Panel 2, The Politics of Farm Labor, assured us that, although mechanization has changed farm labor, it has not made the remaining labor easier.  Nor are the jobs of sorters, packers, and others any better.  And then there is the question of the treatment of workers who generate the huge flow of produce over the border from Mexico.

When everyone was suitably radicalized, we adjourned for lunch in the Stars and Stripes Cafe.  Last year, there was a special menu coordinated with the Food Weekend; not so this time.  I had some overpriced, indifferent barbecue, accompanied by mac and “cheese” that had no discernible cheese taste.  The coleslaw was passable.

The Politics of Labeling: Strasser, Mayne, Halloran, Moss

The Politics of Labeling: Strasser, Mayne, Halloran, Moss

The program recommenced with The Politics of Labeling.   Experts in nutrition and public policy discussed what we see and don’t see on food labels, and why the front content can be so different from the nutrition label on the back (hint: the front label can be read as the food industry’s tracking of consumer concerns).

The Politics of Health: Veit, Harper, Wansink, Hoover

The Politics of Health: Veit, Harper, Wansink, Hoover

And lastly, The Politics of Health panel discussed food gardens in poor areas; access to healthy food as opposed to fast food (with all its hidden costs); and incorporating elements of precontact, traditional diets into modern indigenous people’s diets.  A spirited defense of the Standing Rock pipeline’s protest elicited spontaneous applause, as did a plea to bring back teaching Home Economics in schools.

Would it be Philistine of me to suggest that the best part of the day was the reception?  The finger food was interesting: tiny lady apples (some of the strawberries on the fruit plate were bigger), literally green cheese, grilled veggies, cured meats, and free-flowing wine and beer.

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Finger Food

And the schmoozing was good.  It was a very nice coda to the day.

Next entry: Saturday: Food History Festival

 

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Corn Maiden, Gummy Man, Swpeepish Chef: AVAM Encounters Food, and It Is Us

Rebecca Alban Hoffberger, Director of the American Visionary Art Museum, is energized: “This is our first major show with all our artists still alive,” she explained, and many of them were having a good time schmoozing with each other, there for the opening weekend.  They came from as far away as Cuba, and as close as Fells Point.

The AVAM is a mother lode of whimsy in the heart of Baltimore.  Its contents are the physical embodiment of the Ig Nobel Awards’ motto: to “first make people laugh, and then make them think.” The exhibit is organized into serious categories: Food and Climate, Food as a Weapon of War, Fat – and then each section is filled with surprise and delight.

At the media preview tour of Yummm! The History, Fantasy and Future of Food, I learned something right away – that the cutouts at the corners of signs for restaurants, that have always seemed like just a nice decorative element, derive from the ancient practice of leaving the corners of fields unharvested for the benefit of poor gleaners.

The Yummm Sign and Rebecca Alban Hoffberger

The Yummm Sign and Rebecca Alban Hoffberger

Lunchboxes and PostSecrets

Lunchboxes and Posted Post Secrets

Then along the hallway, vintage lunchboxes were mounted over a display of Post Secrets, leading up to one of the exhibit’s showstoppers.

Wendy and Her Wonderful Mandala

Wendy and Her Wonderful Mandala

More Wendy, Less Mandala

More Wendy, Less Mandala

Wendy Brackman’s Brackman’s Botanical Bonanza!  is a wall-filling, revolving mandala made from paper plates.  Wendy was there to explain how she developed her craft making paper-plate art for parties.  Like many visionary artists, she was unsure that what she does can be considered worthy of a museum, but Rebecca assured her that “at AVAM you are an artist!”  I don’t think anyone would disagree.

In discussing Judy Tallwing’s painting of the Corn Maiden, a goddess revered throughout the Southwest for giving the people a staple of their diet, Rebecca described how art can be at the forefront of environmental activism.  A previous painting of Judy’s helped stop a pipeline through pristine rain forest.  And, speaking of corn, Americans now have more corn in their hair, by chemical analysis, than Mexicans.  Corn and corn products are ubiquitous in our diet.

Judy Tallwing's Corn Maiden

Judy Tallwing’s Corn Maiden

Bobby Adams spoke about his small constructions focusing on the male body image.  He has had a long struggle with obesity, and relates that to American diet.  The museum is showing Sugarman, a film he made with Steve Parker, adapted from Bobby’s essay on the insidious role of added sugar.

Bobby Adams Explains His Art

Bobby Adams Explains His Art

The walls of the exhibit are decorated with food-related aphorisms.  I think this one is my favorite:

Miss Piggy's Wisdom

Miss Piggy’s Wisdom

There were several large-scale works.  The seven-foot-tall Swpeepish Chef, artist Christian Twamley explained, was made with four thousand Peeps for the Carroll County Arts Center’s Easter Peep Show.  Camilla the chicken approved.

Twamley, Camilla, Swpeepish Chef

Twamley, Camilla, Swpeepish Chef

Book-ending the large room, and creepily echoing the Chef, a life-size sculpture of Wayne Coyne, of the psychedelic rock band Flaming Lips, loomed menacingly from his Plexiglas bubble.  A bilious green, he was as scary as the chef was comforting, and made entirely of Gummy candy.

Co-Curator John Lewis and the Gummy Man

Co-Curator John Lewis and the Gummy Guy

It’s possible that Rebecca had some second thoughts about having the artists along on the tour when Jerry Beck gave us fifteen minutes of stand-up comedy/description of his work bringing art to inner-city kids through bread-related works.  By the time we reluctantly had to move on from the 2016 Community Bread Art Wall Project, we had heard many stories about his life, art and family.  My favorite was his Nana winning the Miami Jewish Museum’s Yeast of Eden contest with a six-foot chopped-liver alligator.

It's a Bready Question

It’s a Bready Question (Jerry’s in the Hat)

So many artworks!  And only one which admittedly made my gorge rise, if only just a little: a video of a man knitting meat.  Knitted Steak is just what it sounds like, for 34 seconds.  Is it because of a juxtaposition of unexpected elements?  Like Lady Gaga’s meat dress, it provokes discomfort by flauting convention.

Meat Knit

Meat Knit

We joined some of the artists and docents for lunch upstairs in the museum restaurant, Encantada.  I had an overwhelmingly large portabella on a bun (I had to use a knife and fork, it was too big and messy to pick up), with irresistible sweet potato fries.  Afterwards, they kindly opened the terrace so we could get a close-up look at the giant whirligig in the courtyard.

Sweet Potato Fries, Lower Left

Sweet Potato Fries, Lower Left

Patty and Joe Bello with Whirligig

Patty and Joe Bello with Whirligig

The exhibit is open until September 3, 2017.  There is a wonderful accompanying catalog produced by Matt Craft.  Go see it, and be provoked, amused, and sated.

 

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It’s Greek to Me (In a Good Way): A Taste of Greece and The Greeks Exhibit at the National Geographic Museum

The National Geographic Society is eclectic in its areas of expertise: photography, geography, exploration, science…they demonstrated their mastery of meteorology by having an outdoor event showcasing the Greek food of the Washington area on the least humid and most zephyric evening of July.  It was one of many events around the Nat Geo’s major attraction of the summer, the Greeks Exhibit.

A Line of Food Booths

A Line of Food Booths

View from the Stairs

View from the Stairs

Reflecting Rocks

Reflecting Rocks

More Reflecting

More Reflecting

The courtyard of the Museum was filled with booths dispensing food and drink, and people consuming same.  The street entrance was guarded by a huge wooden structure with a horse’s head and tail attached – just in case you had any question about what might be found inside!  The horse was unimaginatively named Troy, but this was not the fault of Nat Geo.  The structure was built to frame the subway stop exit near the Field Museum in Chicago.  It was shipped here along with the exhibit.

Troy, The 19-Foot Horse

Troy, the 19-Foot Horse

View Through the Other End

View Through the Other End

About two dozen booths were offering little bites of one or two courses.  As mezze is a big section of most Greek restaurant’s menus, this was right up in their wheelhouse.  I managed to taste the offerings of each booth, and then waddled into the museum to marvel at the exhibit.

And since any event these days is tragically unhip without a signature cocktail, Radiator was mixing up a libation called Persephone’s Return, which of course included pomegranate juice.

Mixing Drinks

Mixing Drinks

The Drinks Were Pretty, Too

The Drinks Were Pretty, Too

And there were two nymphs in service to Bacchus dispensing Blue Valley Vineyard wine.  They had matching circlets, very fetching.

Theresa and Shannon, the Nymphs

Theresa and Shannon, the Nymphs

Zaytinya, one of Jose Andres’ restaurants, offered dolmades and apricots with Greek yogurt.

Zaytinya Booth

Zaytinya Booth

At Mykonos, it was a family affair.

Mykonos Mom

Mykonos Mom

But the best dish, in my totally subjective opinion, was the octopus at Kellari Taverna.

Kellari's Octopus

Kellari’s Octopus

Octopus and Cookies at Kellari

Octopus, Cheese and Cookies at Kellari

The exhibit covers artifacts from the Neolithic to Alexander the Great – 5,000 years of history.  There were many food-related artifacts, both ceremonial and functional.  An amphora of the type that would be filled with olive oil and awarded to winners in the Panathenaic Games in Athens was placed next to an interactive part of the exhibit – one could practice scraping oneself with a replica strigil, as athletes did.

The Amphora is on the Left

The Amphora is on the Left

There was a wonderful silver drinking cup with the head of Silenus, foster father of Bacchus, inside.  Maybe related to those nymphs in the courtyard?

Surprise!

Surprise!

Exiting through the gift shop, I noticed a whole fixture full of food and cookbooks for sale.

Maybe Some Honey, or Olive Oil?

Maybe Some Honey, or Olive Oil?

The exhibit closes October 10.  Go see it!  Even without an appropriate feast beforehand, it is totally worth it.

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The Weekend of the Books: Two Festivals, Too Much

What genius decided that the National Book Festival would take place on the same weekend as the Baltimore Book Festival???  Friday’s heat and Saturday’s concrete floors darn near did me in, even as I limited my attendance in Baltimore to Friday (the first day of the three day festival).

But good news lurks on the horizon, for it was announced that next year’s NBF will be returning to the first weekend in September, where it belongs, whereas the BBF will remain on the fourth.  Hurrah!

Now that the rant is out of the way, I can report that both festivals were a real treat for anyone who never has enough bookcases (guilty).  I did, however, notice a reduction in food-focused books in Baltimore.  On Friday, the demos were sponsored by the Royal Sonesta Hotel and several Baltimore area breweries – with no mention of books at all!  On the other two days, the Food for Thought Stage held a mix of cookbook authors, nonbook-related events, and a panel on sustainable seafood followed by an oyster-shucking and tasting.  Oh, how it hurt to miss that!

But I can’t really complain about the demo by Chef Lloyd Titus, Executive Chef of the Royal Sonesta Harbor Court Hotel, and his sous.  Although he’s only recently arrived in Baltimore, he’s already bought into the mystique of Old Bay.  The samples of Maryland Bouillabaisse and Charm City Chocolate Smashed Potato Cake were generous and delicious.

Chef Lloyd Titus Cooks

Chef Lloyd Titus Cooks With Old Bay

Come and Get It!

Come and Get It!

Seafood Sample

Seafood Sample

Dessert Sample

Dessert Sample

The audience was encouraged to line up for the food.  Chef Lloyd had a good word for everyone.  May his restaurant tenure be as successful as his demo was auspicious!

The bulk of the afternoon was occupied by Chef Egg, who cooked many dishes, all using a different local beer as a featured ingredient.  A professional chef who has turned to culinary education through classes and video, Chef Egg maintained a high energy level through several hours of cooking and audience interaction.  Fun, and tasty.

Chef Egg and a Big Green (Avocado) Egg

Chef Egg and a Big Green (Avocado) Egg

Chili Beef with Beer

Chili Beef with Beer

It was a lovely afternoon of cooking, but I wish there were more attention paid to books at what was, after all, a Book Festival.

Down at the Washington Convention Center, there were big-name authors, lots of media, several football fields worth of exhibit hall, and many rooms full of authors speaking to enthusiastic fans.  I had neglected to request a ticket for Stephen King, but caught a few minutes of his talk on the video projected throughout the venue.  A nice touch!

But I did get in to see Sarah Vowell.  She isn’t particularly food-oriented (despite having written a book called Take the Cannoli), but I enjoyed her radio appearances on This American Life and keep meaning to read some of her history books.  I had no idea she was so popular that she could fill the smaller ballroom (the one right next door to Mr. King’s).

Big Hall with Sarah Vowell In It

Big Hall with Sarah Vowell In It

And Mary Roach, also somewhat peripheral to cooking but not to viscera, discussed her new book, Grunt.  She loves to talk about the most disgusting of subjects with great gusto.  She refers to possible topics for research as those which might be “Roached.”  I was hoping someone would ask about the relationship of her name to her passion for stomach-turning subjects, but no.

Mary Roach, Interviewed by Tim Smith

Mary Roach, Interviewed by Tim Smith

Over in the Food and Home Room, Adam Gopnick, whom I had known previously only by reputation, impressed me so mightily that I went down to the bookstore in the cavernous depths of the exhibit hall and bought his book.  He discoursed on preference for rare vs. well-done meat and its impact on marriages (and specifically, his).  “When you meet a person who prefers well-done steak, you assume it’s a joke.”  And his wife did so prefer.  They resolve the problem by switching, at home, from sauté to braise; in restaurants, his wife now orders “medium.”

Segueing from the personal to the general, he discussed food having great importance for the continuity of civilization; the ethical responsibility of whole-animal eating; the invention of the restaurant; and finally revealed that the secret of life is in the book.  I can’t hardly wait to read it! (The Table Comes First: Family, France and the Meaning of Food)

Adam Gopnick Discoursing

Adam Gopnick Discoursing

Deborah Holtz spoke charmingly about her book, Tacopedia.  But first, she offered a political statement: Donald Trump does not know what a taco is!  (Personally, I feel that a taco truck on every corner would be a distinct improvement of many corners.)  She then treated us to a lesson in the history and manufacture of tacos, with a side of salsa and guacamole.  She comes down firmly on the “no peas” side of the guac controversy.  Take that, New York Times!

She included a scary slide of insect tacos.  This doesn’t faze me; I have already indulged in entomophagy.  Probably Mary Roach has written about it.

Deborah Holtz, Taco Maven

Deborah Holtz, Taco Maven

Open Wide!

Open Wide!

I took a brief tour of the Pavilion of the States.  This is an area in the exhibit hall filled with booths, staffed by cheerful denizens of this great nation, determined to show festival goers that culture exists even in the most far-flung provinces.  They are usually showing off their local authors, libraries, and other literary trappings.

And so it was with New Mexico.  And to attract the kiddies? Alien-head deely boppers.  Remember them?

And What Is A lien?

And What Is A lien?

 

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Return to Armenia: The Soorp Khatch Armenian Church Food Festival

Last year in December, we dropped by the Soorp Khatch Armenian Dessert Festival.  There will be another of those later this year, but meanwhile, this very weekend they are hosting “A Taste of Armenia,” which includes food you can eat before the sweet indulgences of the pastry table, with some candy and canned goods thrown in for fun.

Magic Meringue Mushrooms

Magic Meringue Mushrooms

There is a choice of three special plates of kebobs with pilaf, salad and bread, but we found that the more interesting choices lurked among the a la carte offerings.  I assembled a lunch of four side dishes, and found them more than satisfying.  A bar with beer and Armenian wine on offer rounded out the festive offerings.

Helpfully Labeled Side Dish Display

Helpfully Labeled Side Dish Display

Beef Shish Kebob Plate

Beef Shish Kebob Plate

My Side Dish Choices

My Side Dish Choices

Cheese filo boreg, imam bayeldi (baked eggplant), lahmajun (spiced meat spread on flatbread), and sarma/yalanchi (stuffed grape leaves) were all delicious.  Armenian coffee with our dessert of kedayif (shredded filo [phyllo] stuffed with cheese and nuts) and a baton sale each (a specialty of the Lebanese Armenians) guaranteed that we would not be hungry again for quite awhile.

Dessert and Coffee

Dessert and Coffee

The scene in the hall for lunch was lively, but nothing compared to dinner service on the weekend – at least according to my informant, Irene, who brought our coffee (made to order).  We had come on the first day (Thursday) because this weekend is overflowing with other events.  Unfortunately, that meant we did not get to see the added attractions promised for the weekend, a merchant’s mall and arts and crafts among them.

Irene with Coffee

Irene with Coffee

The Scene in the Hall

The Scene in the Hall

But there were Attic Treasures in the main hall, and among them I found an old chef friend, Maro Nalabandian.  She has been away for a year, but is back in the area.  What a nice surprise!

Shakeh and Malo and Attic Treasures

Shakeh and Malo and Attic Treasures

The festival runs until 9 p.m. today (Thursday), from 12 to 9 p.m. Friday, and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday.  Go and eat!

 

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Playing Hooky Results in Celebrity Sighting

Last Sunday, I sneaked out of school and visited another farmers market.  I know, egregious, right?  That’s what it felt like!  But I had a good reason, and there was no chef demo to shepherd at the Olney Farmers and Artists Market (OFAM), so I didn’t feel so horribly guilty as I might have.

We ankled down to Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market to support some fellow Culinary Historians of Washington (CHoW) members, who presented a program similar to the two enjoyed by OFAM patrons earlier in the season. Beverly Firme, the mastermind behind “CHoW Goes to Market,” envisions it as outreach, to connect with possible new members, and spread insights into historical origins of our foodways.  And because, delicious.

And as none of us are bone-weary of politics yet this year, she decided that the theme would be Election Food.  Yes, this is, and more importantly, has been, a thing, and for quite a long time, in this great country of ours.  CHoW member Shirley Cherkasky’s collection of political fundraising cookbooks enabled Beverly to assemble recipes from different eras and political perspectives. (See the CHoW website, where they are posted along with much more information about the organization.)

There is, for instance, Election Night Fruit Cake from Ruth Finney, of the Scripps-Howard Newspaper Alliance, published in the National Press Club’s Second Helpings in 1962.  “…on election day before the polls close, I find there is a big vacuum.  The job of preparing and mixing the ingredients for this fussy cake is a good way to fill it.”  You know that’s historical, because so totally obsolete.

From The Gray Panthers Cookbook  (1984), comes Banana Sweet Potato Bread.  I remember the Gray Panthers, an advocacy organization that confronts ageism and other social justice issues, from when it was founded in 1970.  I didn’t think I would fit the membership profile then, but I do now!  Thanks to Wikipedia, I learned that the Gray Panthers are still going strong today.

Reaching a little further back in history, and attempting to be politically nonjudgmental, Citizens for McCarthy (published in 1948 so you know it’s not Eugene they mean) is the source for The Vote Getters Coffee Cake.  Balancing the demagoguery is a recipe from Eleanor Roosevelt in The Val-Kill Cookbook (1984) for Pear Bread.

Beverly, Laura Roler, and Mark Collins demonstrated mixing the Banana Sweet Potato Bread and Pear Bread while keeping the audience entertained with historic anecdotes, then passed out samples.

Mark, Beverly and Laura Demo at Dupont Circle

Mark, Beverly and Laura Demo at Dupont Circle

The Audience Gathers Around

The Audience Gathers Around

chow-members-mark-collins-beverly-firme-and-laura-roler-demonstrate-historic-recipes-at-dupont-circle-farmers-market

Delicious Little Bites

Then, as the demo was wrapping up, there was Chef Jose Andres, shopping for his family.  Guess what?  He has an interest in historic cookbooks, and even owns a copy of the second edition of Mary Randolph’s The Virginia House-Wife (1824).  We chatted happily for several minutes, then he graciously posed for a picture with all of us.

CHoW Members, Chef Jose, and Chef's Daughter Ines

CHoW Members, Chef Jose, and Chef’s Daughter Ines

All in all, a highly satisfactory day.  Dupont Circle, the biggest and busiest market in these parts, is certainly exciting to visit, but I prefer the more relaxed vibe of Olney.  If that sounds like what the rubes say about New York City, then so be it!

 

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