Tuesday, August 26, 2008

*taptaptap* is this thing on?

I'm currently thinking about doing some revamps to the blog - maybe starting over, since I'd like to move into a different direction with it. It started as a blog to satisfy the assignment that came with my culinary school education. We were required to keep a diary of our experience so that we could reflect on what we learnt. I'm glad that we were made to do it, because so many days went by in a haze of heat and knives it would be hard for me to remember half of the fun and exciting times we had if not for the blog.

But, as I continue my classes, I'm beginning to find my passion in food lies more in a cultural/sociological frame of mind - I want to understand food, to find ways to answer some of the questions so many people have. I want to find ways to educate and explore healthier, informed options for eating. And the more I learn, the more I realize that the foreigness to fresh produce and 'natural' food is a uniquely American characteristic. Why is this? How is this? And how can we change this?

Because it is everyone's right to eat healthy, and as simple as it seems, Michael Pollan's tag line for In Defense of Food should be tattooed on the bodies of people the world over: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

It's so exciting to me to talk to my classmates about this - to find an answer for making slow food, healthy food, real food, accessible to real people. I call it the single mom test. As wonderful as it would be to have everyone participating in CSAs, buying locally and learning the true meaning of organic and seasonal, it's not realistic for everyone. As a single girl living with her patient and adventurous boyfriend, working through our CSA every week requires some creativity and foresight which may not be possible if not for my (1) obsession with food and (2) knowledge and experience with cooking. Could a single mom with two young kids to feed realistically do what I do? What if she had two jobs just to support her family and most of her money gets eaten up by bills, transportation and otherwise providing for her kids? She's a hero if they have a home-cooked meal more than once a week that includes vegetables. It's hard. And not enough people get it.

Living in San Francisco for three years I was spoilt for choice - every produce you could need was grown in the area. Sometimes specific items were more affordable than others, but given the very culture of the Bay Area, there was a variety of places were organic and local options were everywhere.

Back to the single mom with two kids working two jobs... what if she lived in Queens, NYC? The corner bodega doesn't have the best options for local and organic - the only way she would know where the food came from is from those little stickers on those apples from... ??

It's things like this that make me want to understand and know more about how to make food - real food - affordable and accessible to more people. How to change the diet of so many to rely less on having meat at every meal and how to get people to understand the importance of quality over quantity sometimes.

Obviously, it hard. It's harder than most people can appreciate. In fact, I'm going to eat a young coconut right now that's neither organic or local, but it's what I want.

See what I mean? It's hard.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Quick Puff Paste

I have a confession to make: I rarely cook proper meals anymore. By proper, I mean the meals that are planned days in advance. I've never been the kind of girl that puts a whole lot of effort into meals (strange to say, I know) - I'm scrappy in that I can whip up a great meal with an almost empty pantry and fridge, but give me a well-stocked kitchen and I'm a little lost for options.

That being said, there are some times when the mood strikes and I whip up something marvelous. For those times, I like having some items in my arsenal, namely: puff paste. As random as this seems, this has been my saving grace a few times. Last minute breakfast-y items, quick tarte tatins, quiche crust substitute and Chinese dim sum egg tart crusts.

Now, obviously, being the lazy and uninspired cook that I am I have no desire to make real puff at home. The cost of the butter alone would give me heartburn. Instead, I've taken on this awesome recipe below. While it might not be 100% there with decadence, it's close enough and it rises nicely - what more can you really ask for?

Nothing, frankly. Now, go eat a croissant.

Fake puff paste
**Adapted from JJ Paimblanc

16 oz all-purpose flour
8 oz butter, not quite at room temperature, but pliable
6 oz ice cold water
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp sugar

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Break in butter. Mix until the texture resembles small hazelnuts. Add all the water at once and mix rapidly with your fingers, until shaggy. Dump contents onto a floured work surface. Using a pastry cutter, fold the shaggy mess on top of itself, until comes together. Cover with plastic wrap and chill until needed, or freeze for up to 6 months.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Fourth of July Cuisine

It's a pretty universal truth that the fourth of July has some of the greatest childhood memories for American raised kids. Fireworks, hot summers, watermelon wedges, ice cream, barbecues... there's absolutely no downside when you're seven and have weeks until school starts again and endless possibilities because of your hot wheels (in my case, a pimp bike).

In my case, I was able to revisit my childhood glory this fourth of July in Boston with fireworks on the Charles, hanging out on the Esplanade and eating utterly inappropriate foodstuffs. Point in case:

Ohhhh yeah. I'm not even kidding when I say it was disgusting. The popsicle was a mix of cotton candy and fruit punch flavorings, which really popped when you considered that the eyes were little blueberry flavored gumballs.

Ah, to be a kid again and be able to think this was a culinary treat.