Archive for February, 2008

10
Feb
08

Back to the Farm?

While playing around with the search term “postmodern food” (related to some writing I’m doing on Southern cooking for gen-x and beyond) I ran across a title by Bill McKibben called Deep Economy – The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future.    Rev. Mike loaned it to me because he had already read it, of course.

McKibben’s book challenges the notion that “more” is always “better.”  In fact, more in some instances is better (poverty+an ability to provide for your family=better), but there is a point at which more actually makes things worse (amount of space needed to house family of 3 comfortably+10,000 square feet≠better).  What does this have to do with Good Home?  Well, on this blog I play around a lot with the notion of “good enough.” Do we need the finest and newest of everything to make us happy?  No, nor could we afford it.

But why pay retail when a trip to a local auction yields recycled and often more interesting pieces that didn’t require a semi full of non-renewable resources (oil) to get here from say North Carolina, not to mention the trips that other large trucks (more oil) made to ship supplies there.  Only to have furniture (plastic covered – more oil) sitting in acres of air-conditioned and over lit (more non-renewable fossil fuels) warehouses.

I know, where do you start and where do you stop?  I don’t really know, but that’s the question I’m starting to ask.  And local food is starting to look smarter and smarter to me for some of the same reasons.  And what if the world’s goal is to raise it’s level of consumption to that of the U.S.?  God forbid.  Given our already depleting sources of fossil fuels, imagine if all of India and China decided they needed as many cars per family as we think we do?   And why shouldn’t they?  Their economies are strengthening.   

I’m really starting to wonder if my grandparents and their self-sustaining farm, not to mention their continued support of local economies, didn’t have a better handle on energy consumption than we do.   Oh, who am I kidding?  They totally did.   

But is having a farm what John and I need to do?  I really don’t enjoy sweating that much and I have a developing asthma issue.  What would  other alternatives  be?  Could I just cook for our homestead?  What about food cooperatives?  Maybe we get our food from them.  More plentiful small urban gardens?  My church is starting some interesting work with a project called “Eden in Indianapolis” working with area gardeners and local restaurants.  I’m kind of interested to see how it will turn out.   

Open to suggestions.    

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06
Feb
08

Just a Few Birthday Pics

Didn’t really have my camera handy for most of my birthday weekend, but thought these two photos were fun.

Birthday Bunch

Katie, Rob and Taylor (taking the photo) and Julie (in back) before we popped over to Talbott Street to catch the Ladies of Legends! Awesome show, as always. Why is John not in this pic?

Tiny Birthday Cake

Julie drove down from Cleveland to help us celebrate and joined me for a Spa Day on Saturday. She loaned me a sparkly tiara to wear (only around the house, I promise) AND she brought a cake that Lori sent with her for my b-day! Isn’t it incredible? It was a pre-show snack as well breakfast and brunch the next day.

04
Feb
08

Good Service for Good Home

Had our friends Ron and Kevin over for dinner last Saturday night. I was making Country Captain and needed some good chicken parts. So I trotted on down to Marsh Marketplace (used be O’Malia’s) where I typically buy all of my meat.

I chose my parts and asked the guy waiting on me to chop the breast halves in half again so that they would be the same size as the other pieces.

He looked at me with a very confused look on his face and said, “But they are already in halves.”I said, “Yes, I know, but I need those pieces cut in two again so that they will be finished cooking at the same time as the other pieces.”

He looked back to another meat counter employee who was packaging pork chops and said, “He wants these breast pieces cut in two,” which caused the guy to emit a most annoying sigh.

I asked, “Is there a problem? You guys are butchers, right? The other guys who work here do this for me all of the time.” Silence.

As guy one took the pieces (we’re talking two pieces that I needed cut) back to guy two, guy two picked up a wispy thin fish deboning knife and started to cut on the pieces. What do these people normally use to cut meat? Sonic waves?

I finally said, “Okay, just wrap the pieces up. I’ll cut them myself with my CLEAVER when I get home.” They wrapped them up and I walked away in disbelief.

As I shopped I happened to catch sight of the store manager who was thankfully working on the floor. I clued him in on what had just happened, and he assured me that he would take care of it and that what I had asked for was exactly the kind of thing the meat department should be doing. Not a bad response, but a BETTER response would have been:

“I’ll let the guys know that this is not an atypical request. In fact, if you have time, let’s walk back to the meat counter and I’ll have someone cut those breasts in half for you before you leave.”

No such luck. But as the title of this post suggests, Good Home found good service this weekend, too.

Now you’re going to hear me do something I hardly ever do: praise a store in Carmel. In Clay Terrace! A Starbucks!! I wish I had something else to put here so I could use three exclamation points!!! That works.

So, here you go. Dave and I were up at Clay Terrace boring ourselves silly by going through home stores with nothing much interesting to see except these glass balls at 3 Chairs

Happy Fun Balls at 3 Chairs

and these ceramic pig heads from Z Gallerie that I think cross a line into slaughterhouse creepy, but that David kind of dug. Ironic that I would be the one less impressed with them, given that I’m one of bacon’s biggest fans.

For your home?  Really?

Actually 3 Chairs had more interesting stuff than my current crumudgeonly mood will allow me to share (some other post), and the staff was super friendly and knowledgeable to boot. Plus, they didn’t run us out when we accidently stayed past closing time. Oops! Sorry, 3 Chairs.

Nice as they were, I was nonetheless stupefied to the point of needing caffeine so I requested that we stop in at Starbucks, which was close by (I secretly like Starbucks. There, I said it.)

We walked in and for some reason I decided to order french pressed coffee made with the decaf of the day. Danny, the 17 year old (according to his co-worker) who was waiting on us was enthusiastically supportive when I told him that we wanted pressed coffee.

He said, “But if you order a French Press, you can choose from any bean we have. Do you want me to help you choose the perfect bean for you?”

The perfect bean, for me?! Not being one to sneeze at perfection, I gave him a hearty, “You bet!”

So he came from behind the counter, which always impresses me, took us over to the beans and asked us what we liked (smooth, bold okay, remember the decaf) or did not like (not so into citrusy) in a coffee, and finally pointed us to the Komodo Dragon blend, which was really good.

As he was brewing he told us why French pressed coffee is so good (no paper filter to stop the oils from brewing with the coffee) and answered my questions about the best presses, about the different coffees, etc.

This man knows his stuff. So if you find yourself at Clay Terrace, stop in at the Starbucks and ask for Danny. Tell him Troy at Good Home sent you. Keep my name to yourself at the Marsh meat counter though, not that you every have to worry about getting cut by someone there. But I hear their sonic wave slicers are deadly!

01
Feb
08

My Green Heaven

P1020990

I love greens. They are fine sauteed in olive oil with a little garlic and served over warm cannellini beans, but they speak most eloquently to me when they are stewed in pork stock.

In the interest of preserving present friendships and laying the groundwork for new ones, I will assume that the thought of me using pork as a seasoning does not makes you glow with a feeling of superiority.

Buying greens, preparing them, and cooking them makes me almost as happy as eating them. You can buy decent ones prepackaged in stores now, but fondling a gigantic pile of bright and tender leaves is an awesome way to ward of the vampirish gray of Indiana’s winter, so why not buy fresh? I found this outstanding mix of collards, turnip greens, and lacinato kale at Sunflower Market (closing soon, by the way). Aren’t they beautiful?

P1020994

Six pounds will make plenty for sharing.

Washing (got to get the grit off) and then trimming the yellowed areas, stems and the thicker ribs from the middle of leaves takes awhile, so I prefer to prepare greens for cooking a day in advance. Wait any longer and they start to lose their punch. I wrap the clean leaves loosely in paper towels and put them in plastic bags in the refrigerator where they keep just fine.

While I’m groping the greens, I put a pound of slab bacon, unsliced if you can find it (Goose the Market has the prettiest I’ve ever seen) in two quarts of water to boil. Score the hunk-o-meat deeply before putting it in. Let the bacon boil for about 45 minutes. If it’s good bacon, the smoky awesome smell will kick even more winter booty!

Don’t you worry about all that fat going into your greens. Once you cook the flavor out of the bacon, discard it or give some of it to a favorite animal in your life (See, now your even making the pets happy!). Store the stock in a cold place over night. The fat will congeal and you can just skim most of it off before putting even one beautiful leaf in the pot. Since I like mine to have a bit of a sheen, I leave in a little of the fat.

When you’re ready to cook the greens, get the skinny pork broth good and hot, a low boil is fine. Cut the collard greens into one inch wide strips. Lay them in the hot water and put the lid on so they can start cooking down. I put the collards (the bigger leaves in the picture above) in before the other greens because they are typically less tender and take a little longer to cook.

While the collards are cooking down, tear the other more tender leaves into similar sized shapes by hand, stirring the cooking collards occasionally. Then put the other greens in and put the lid back on. Once all of the leaves are all coated and turned in the stock, lower the heat to a simmer. Cook the greens slowly, covered, for 30 more minutes or a little longer if they started out tough. Stir them every once in awhile. Sprinkle a couple teaspoons of sugar in there some where along the way.

I like my greens to taste like greens, but season them with salt if needed (probably won’t be) or other herbs and spices. Adding a dash of tangy heat is traditional in the south. When I have it, I sprinkle some pepper flavored cider vinegar on them. Tabasco will do in a pinch.

Serve those babies warm with just about anything. Greens get along with all kinds of food. I would be just as happy to eat them with Kung Pao Pork as I was when we had them with our fried chicken last week. They can easily be a main course, too, if you have good cornbread, biscuits or the crusty bread John has been making lately.