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Posts Tagged ‘recipes’

Sweet, sour, salty, bitter… I’m sure you’re wondering what the roadmap of my typical workday mood decline has to do with food.

Incidentally, these are also the names of the flavors most familiar to Western palates. But as is the case in so many instances, Eastern civilizations have had knowledge of something slightly more sophisticated for centuries and the rest of us are now playing catch up. In this case, the topic is a fifth flavor and its name is umami.

Hola, umami

Hola, umami

Thanks to their cultural fondness for foods like seaweed and soy, Chinese and Japanese diners have, at least subjectively, known about this fifth flavor for countless generations. Even Brillat-Savarin hit upon it when he referred to “osmazome”, the “essence of meat” that he required for many soups and stews. And some time around 2007, this “new” flavor finally began to eke its way into North American vocabularies.

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Poised on steady legs
First your poet begs
Several eggs.
Froth them to a mousse,
And then introduce
Lemon juice.
Shimmering like silk,
Aromatic milk
Of almonds will
come next, and next prepare
Pastry light as air
To coat with care
Each pretty pastry mould.
Which sweetly will enfold
The liquid gold.
Smile, a father, fond
Wave your fiery wand,
Bake till blond.
Melting mouths and hearts,
Mmmmmm, saliva starts –
Almond tarts.

Edmond Rostand (1868-1918) Cyrano de Bergerac, Act II (translated by Anthony Burgess)

The legend of Cyrano de Bergerac is familiar: man with disfiguringly large nose falls for a lady, persuades a dashing but daft gentleman to act as his mouthpiece to woo the lady, feeds gentleman lines of poetry from the bushes, lady falls for handsome man thinking he is the poet, comedy then tragedy ensues.

"Maybe you'd like some wine with your nose? Cheese."

"Maybe you'd like some wine with your nose? Cheese."

Edmond Rostand wrote Cyrano de Bergerac in 1897, roughly based on the life of the actual Cyrano de Bergerac who lived in France from 1619 – 1655. Fittingly perhaps, the image of Bergerac that Rostand presents to the world through his verse (the entire play is written in rhyming couplets) is a rather deceptive version of who the actual man was. So who exactly was the man behind the man behind the character of the man behind the other guy?

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Barack Obama, our nation’s 44th president, turns 48 today. Happy Birthday, Barack!

Mr. President, I haven’t known you for that long, but I am SO glad we ‘met’. You’ve quickly became one of my favorite people ever and I look forward to the year ahead and all of our wonderful adventu-… What? I’m sorry, you what?? You don’t like CAKE? I… oh.

Not a problem... Anyone know when Abe Vigoda's birthday is?

Not a problem... Anyone know when Abe Vigoda's birthday is?

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If you haven’t added yet added crêpes to your repertoire, carpe diem already. Crêpes have been around for hundreds of years. Originating in the Brittany region of France, the word crêpe derives from the Latin “crispus” meaning crisp. These days, crêpes are considered a national food in France and their popularity has spread via worldwide crêperies.
Full of nothing but possibility

Full of nothing but possibility

Mostly eaten indiscriminitely throughout the year, especially by teenagers and others in need of immediate snackage, crêpes have a special role to play on Candlemas in France. While we Americans are in the throes of the traditional Groundhog Day bacchanalia (or is that just me?), the French flip crêpes with the hope of earning fortune and happiness. Crêpe pan in the left hand, gold coin in the right, a successfully flipped Candlemas crêpe promises wealth in the coming year.

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By Zeus!

“Open your mouth and shut your eyes and see what Zeus will send you.” – Aristophanes

Another weekend of thunderstorms is rolling in over the Eastern seaboard right now and the air is suddenly the ominous khaki green color of impending lightning. As a native West Coaster, I haven’t yet gotten over the thrill of a truly frightening New England summer storm. I love lightning with the feral passion that only a person who has never been struck by lightning can possess.

"But that's another story, nevermind, anyway..."

"But that's another story, nevermind, anyway..."

When I think of lightning strikes, it conjures images of electrocution and woodland blazes and animals with their fur standing comically on end. I hadn’t really thought of it so much as a life giving force before. But scientists think it may have played a crucial role in helping life spring forth from our planet. Let’s see if I can make any sense of this.

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In the spirit of honesty and the boozy congeniality which I always like to promote, booze or no, I’ll admit that my sister’s engagement was liberating. I finally had an excuse to buy all previously verboten bridal magazines and do all the research and contemplation of a topic that I could only consider with feigned aloofness before. I had a license to swoon, and to swoon over pastry specifically. No problem.

Sigh...

Sigh...

I was shocked (in a sedate way) to learn that the first recipe ever written expressly for wedding pastry was not for a cake, but for a pie. An extraordinary British Pye, to be exact.

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Polish Wisdom

Polish jokes were big for a few months in grade school. Take any ‘dumb blonde’ joke, substitute ‘Pole’ for ‘blonde’ and there’s your joke. Har. Why a playground of children in California would adopt this fad remains a mystery as I can’t recall even one Polish youth amongst our peers. 

Since then, some of my favorite people have been Poles and they have – unsurprisingly – proven playground wit wrong. I would like to take this opportunity to offer a blanket apology for potentially offending an entire nation of people before I had any basis for judgment (or secondary sex characteristics, for that matter), and before I’d ever read this:

Fish, to taste right, must swim three times – in water, in butter and in wine. —–Polish proverb

See now, these people are not dumb by a long shot.

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