Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Tue 7 Oct 03 10:08
mmmm... "possibly good." Sounds like that's a high compliment from your mom, Frako.
How do you say "Eating Is My Spiritual Path" in French????? (maya) Tue 7 Oct 03 11:04
Hey kids. Greetings from Paris!! I brought your cookbook with me, Eric, and my friend Linda and I are compiling our ingredients little by little. It's like a scavenger hunt. I found ginger! I found the beef roast!! I found the soy sauce!! Monoprix is not the ideal place to get what we need. But you know me. I will not be undone. And I will report on one of Eric's recipies from the heart of Paris.
Berliner (captward) Tue 7 Oct 03 11:29
Lemme know if you find shiso.
It matters who your daddy is. (debbie) Tue 7 Oct 03 11:31
I love scavenger hunts. Sometimes I wonder if I can really understand what breakaway is like for some Japanese people. When I think of food I think interesting combinations are fun and good. yes, pb and jelly often go together, but when I saw a pb and cheese sandwich on a menu I thought, that sounds interesting. Are there american equivalents to the breakaway idea?
Berliner (captward) Tue 7 Oct 03 11:34
I dunno, it seems to me that *all* American food that isn't a direct copy of another cuisine -- ie, the "Italian" food on the East Coast which is more properly Italian-American -- is breakaway. Eric?
Eric Gower (gower) Tue 7 Oct 03 11:51
Maya, I'm totally flattered, but look for cool new French ingredients/substitutions! And bring back a pile of whatever you find! Frako's mom, I must say, is supremely typical of a Japanese reaction (and it says a lot, given that she's been away from Japan for 40 years!)--"hmm, it *might* be good, in theory, but it's awfully weird!" Frako's sister-in-law, on the other hand . . . . it's amazing that eat-a-mommy has a "lose weight" image....
Eric Gower (gower) Tue 7 Oct 03 11:53
Ed, I'm game for ALL culinary experiments--bring it on, baby!
virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Tue 7 Oct 03 11:56
(And a reminder to those reading along: non-members can comment or ask questions by sending a note to email@example.com .)
Eric Gower (gower) Tue 7 Oct 03 12:05
>Are there american equivalents to the breakaway idea? What a great question. I think the answer is probably not, but that the IDEA of breaking away from something (and not just in the kitchen) is an attitude that seems quintessentially American. So most Americans still put ketchup and onions et cetera on their hamburgers, but I think they would genuinely enjoy the Indian-style burgers I've been making: mix in mango chutney into the meat, along with plenty of star of anise, cumin, and coriander, fry with shallots and ginger, and top with tamarind sauce. There wouldn't be a total freakout reaction, as there would in Japan; I think lots of Americans would look slightly askance at it, taste it, like it, wolf it down, and maybe even then incorporate it into their rotation. Open-minded Japanese might do that too, but it's that initial wall that's much higher and sturdily built. It's kind of an interesting question: I wonder which country on earth is most open to culinary inventiveness?
It matters who your daddy is. (debbie) Tue 7 Oct 03 12:30
in thinking about it Americans can be set on some things - like turkey for thanksgiving, and not roasting whole turkeys the rest of the year. I remember how _shocked_ I was that you can't get whole fresh cranberries year round. My mom said, oh yeah, I always freeze a few bags.
Berliner (captward) Tue 7 Oct 03 12:32
I'd pretty much agree with that. There are plenty of American recipes that incorporate ingredients from other cultures and have gotten absorbed into their local mainstream. For instance, tamales. I've often wondered what the tamales Robert Johnson sang about were, the kind that were peddled from street-carts all through the South. Then there's "tamale pie," another Southern recipe that no Mexican would ever recognize. In the Carolinas, there's a dish called Country Captain, which is a chicken curry, basically, and they do something with rice they call perloo. It's obviously pilau. But Carolinians have long ago lost the connection. And if there's a single self-conscious "breakaway" moment in American culinary history, it's got to be Alice Waters et. al. inventing "California cuisine." <debbie> slipped in there.
Eric Gower (gower) Tue 7 Oct 03 12:39
Yeah, the turkey thing is weird. You'd think we'd cook it all time, given how cheap, easy, and tasty it is. It's always pretty much the same way too, just stuffed with a heavy-ish bread-based stuffing, and roasted. I can actually remember dreading eating turkey at thanksgiving, because it was so dry it would inevitably get stuck in the throat, and I'd have to panic-drink! For turkey fans looking for something new, there's a good recipe in the book that stuffs the bird with ruby grapefruits, and puts plenty of fennel and red onion in the bottom of hte roasting pan, ergo creating a delicious fennelly gravy to be worked into the cut-up meat, then the whole thing is doused with juices of the baked grapefruit.
Eric Gower (gower) Tue 7 Oct 03 12:48
>There are plenty of American recipes >that incorporate ingredients from other >cultures and have gotten absorbed >into their local mainstream. Yeah, Texmex being right there at the top. New England and southwest cooking, too. But I think I disagree about Alice Waters representing the ultimate Breakaway though . . . I think what she did was introduce something very French, that is, the local farmers' market as best source for dinner. The Chez Panisse menu is (or was, until recently, I think) written entirely in French, which I always thought was weird, given the casualness and freewheelingness of Berkeley. Great food made from great ingredients, done simply--that was her great contribution to American cuisine, I think. We really needed it.
Ari Davidow (ari) Tue 7 Oct 03 12:50
I'm looking forward to trying that turkey recipe at Thanksgiving. In a three-person household, not too many times a year we cook a turkey. Too damn bad, because I do love turkey.;
Berliner (captward) Tue 7 Oct 03 12:58
The saltines-with-salsa, mega-gringo end of Tex-Mex is definitely a breakaway cuisine, although I don't much like the way it broke (although I'll admit a real failing for Velveeta-origin chile con queso). And I'm going to have to give the Alice Waters question some more thought. I was actually thinking of the revolution she inspired, which has resulted in something maybe better called New American Cuisine, which follows from it and does its own investigation into local ingredients and folkways -- when it's done right, of course. I'll post the "hamburger curry" recipe tomorrow; it's dinner time here in central Prussia (nothing very exciting, sorry, pasta with tuna sauce), and I'll post it in the morning.
speedstickwolfers (chrys) Tue 7 Oct 03 13:27
In the meantime, Eric, I'd like to know how you got interested in cooking?
Cynthia Bar (cynthiabarnes) Tue 7 Oct 03 19:58
Cubs wookie (cynthiabarnes) Tue 7 Oct 03 19:58
Hi Eric, Love the web site and am looking forward to the book. Japanese cooking isn't one I've dabbled in, mostly because of the relative unavailability of ingredients in my Midwestern college town. (Waving to Ed.) For a brief moment I mis-read and thought that Maya's feast would coincide with my SF trip. Sigh. Perhaps I can at least find a good Japanese grocery while I'm there.
Berliner (captward) Wed 8 Oct 03 01:59
If you can't find a good Japanese grocery in San Francisco, you ain't hardly trying. I love the one in Japantown, and always cruise the aisles when I'm there just to dig on the packaging. However, now that I've been to Japan and seen something of the breadth of its foods, I can't wait to go back and look again with more informed eyes. Meanwhile, I promised my hamburger curry recipe here, an old standard tune for our culinary jazzman to blow some riffs on. 1/2 lb. ground beef 1 medium onion, minced 2 Tablespoons minced fresh ginger 4-6 cloves garlic, minced 6-10 dried red chiles (chile hontaka, chile japones), crushed 1/4 tsp. saffron (essential) 1/4 cup water 2 Tablespoons soy sauce 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil Heat the oil, sautee the onion and ginger for a few minutes, then add the garlic and stir-fry for one minute. Add the beef, chiles, and saffron, and break up the beef as it sautees. When the beef has changed color, add the water and soy sauce. Lower heat, cook until liquids are pretty much evaporated. I find this dish is the reason brown rice was created. I never use the stuff for anything else, but boy does it go well with this. As for variations, I'm not such a great improvisor, as I said. I've used different soy sauces with this -- ketjap manis is a very nice variation -- and then after I moved here, I got this huge crop of cilantro one year, and had the brilliant idea to stir some in at the last minute, which was a brilliant thought. There are some variations that make no sense to me: a friend I sent this to early in her cooking career announced that she'd put tomato in it. I can't see that, not with the saffron. Anyway, I trust <gower> to be more Charlie Parker than Kenny G on this one. Take four, and if we like it, go ahead and blow eight.
Eric Gower (gower) Wed 8 Oct 03 15:30
Chrys, I got interested in cooking through being a fairly hardcore lover of food. I guess the cooking started in college; my rapturous appetite combined with my student penury meant buying 25-lb. bags of rice/beans/potatoes/pasta/anything maximally carb and cooking them, and breaking up the monotony by attempting new things. The Ed Brown/zen center books were a big force during this period for me (and before college, actually; I also sometimes helped out in the kitchen at the Mt. Baldy Zen Center, about an hour east of LA, when I lived near there in the early 80s). When I was a kid I was exposed to some interesting food. My father was a pretty zealous hunter, and hed routinely come home with pheasant, duck, wild turkey, plenty of rabbits, small game birds, and way too much venison, the occasional whole elk or caribou from a Canadian hunting/boozing trip, plus a dedicated freezerful of his fishing exploits: rainbow and brown trout, walleye, pike, bluefish, several kinds of bass, and massive quantities of cod, frozen, from our family (deep-sea fishing) vacations in Maine. Plenty of wonderful booty, to be sure, but this was the 70s, and no one ever thought to take it up a level, as Emeril would bellow. No sense of balancing savory, sweet, piquant, no fresh herbs, no wine, no vinegars, no citrus, no brightening at all. Just a totally disgusting plucked bird (the cleaning would be done at the kitchen table, gore and guts everywhere, the very essence of whats wrong with a gamy stench) which was I think just tossed in a Dutch oven and baked, and then baked some more, until taking a bit of it would risk the shut down of all respiratory functions. But there was plenty of mashed potatoes, some vegetable right from the can, boiled mercilessly, and some decent bread from the local Italian bakery that was often my favorite part of the meal. The fish were always yummy though, I dont think Ive ever met a fish I didnt like, and I wolfed down vast quantities of all of them (I was the sole family member, sans father, that pushed for fish for dinner; everyone else hated it). And then in Kyoto, which I was then calling my home after moving there after I graduated from Berkeley, the cooking opened up, in that I was exposed to so much stuff I hadnt seen, tasted, or used before. Plenty of gaijin in Japan, if they cook at home at all, tend to go for the familiar, to some standards theyre comfortable with (plenty of pasta, salads, rice dishes, chicken, etc.), with perhaps a little dabbling into Japanese ingredientsthough it must be said that its an entirely rational response for gaijin NOT to cook Japanese food at home, since superior versions of it could be had conveniently and cheaply enough. I was intrigued by it all though, and liked buying unfamiliar things and playing with them. I guess it just kept going. It sort of naturally led to my interest in using commonly found Japanese ingredients with commonly found other ingredients. A lot of the combos seemed to hit nice notes with the people who tried them. Karen and I tended to live in out-of-the-way places, so when guests visited us, those visits would normally revolve around lunches and dinners that just kept going. One of my favorite ways of eating/serving is to make dishes in a slow procession, consuming them as they just finish, rather than putting everything on the table at once, buffet style, though occasionally that can be fun too. Nothing rushed about it, its the only event going on. It permits slow and healthy digestion, allows for much more wine to be consumed, and seems to stimulate conversations toward topics that actually matter to people. The whole thing is really about one massive state of relaxation/waking up to how pleasant we can make things. And no matter how else you look at it, great food presented at regular intervals makes people almost deliriously happy. I dont see cooking as a kind of waste, or lets say suboptimal use, of ones time. I try to remember why Im doing it, why I like it, and to be mindful of each little task that comes up as I decide to prepare something. Sometimes I tell myself that there is nothing more interesting going on in the world than what Im doing at that moment (however delusionish that thought might be!), and since Im there doing it anyway, I might as well do it and nothing else, including worrying about whether Im missing out on something else.
Eric Gower (gower) Wed 8 Oct 03 15:41
Maruwa in Japantown is really a kind of convenience store, as that term is used in Japan (recall that 7-11 is a Japanese company, and that the Japanese have taken convenience store culture several notches up in presence and intensity). It always me depressed to be in there; it seems so stuck in the 70s, somehow, with its polished-over grimyness, horribly bright florescent lighting, and just general creepiness. Yes, I am spoiled by shopping at real Japanese markets for so long, but I can't help but think someone could do better ,much better. I haven't been to Ranch 99 yet--I hear it's pretty great -- and am looking forward to it.
Dennis Wilen (the-voidmstr) Wed 8 Oct 03 15:41
<captward>: add a shot of sherry to your "curry" and you'll have a traditional chinese stir fry flavah.
Eric Gower (gower) Wed 8 Oct 03 15:49
Dude that dish with brown rice sounds pretty heavenly as it is. The only thing I would be tempted to do with it is probably to add some piquancy, either through some great rice (or other) vinegar, or through some citrus, and I might be tempted to throw some fresh herb or another into the mix. Chopping up some fresh mint about three-quarters of the way through might be interesting, and might add a kind of middle-eastern note or two. Thai basil, perhaps. Then I would break out some steely dry nonoaked white wine. But if I happened to have some red open, I'd probably cook the dish with a ton of thyme and oregano or marjoram in the beginning stages, maybe add a freshly sliced tomato to it. And maybe a small hit of sweet basil at the end. I would heavily salt and pepper both versions, and may omit the water or replace it with carrot juice or stock.
Eric Gower (gower) Wed 8 Oct 03 17:39
Carrot juice, stock, or BOOZE.
mother of my eyelid (frako) Thu 9 Oct 03 06:53
Maruwa and other supermarkets in the U.S. ARE pretty depressing because they don't have the very latest stuff. Plus they don't have the sound effects--the incessant boombox recordings of what's on special in the supermarkets, and (better) the shouting and touting of fishmongers and greengrocers in the more hands-on markets. Traditional homemakers still go shopping for that dinner's ingredients from around 3pm that day--I work at home and still have that habit here in California. At around 5pm in Japan the markets go wild with shoppers looking for the last-minute items whose prices go down as the markets start closing for the day. If you like pandemonium, go to the markets at that hour in Japan.
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