Sunday, December 02, 2007

What Do I know?: The Artichoke & Meanderings about Food

What Do I know?: The Artichoke

With 11 hungry people to feed, my house spends a sizable chunk of money on food each month. Even spending $1,000, that is still less than $4 per day per person. What Do I Know has lovingly reminded me of my own delights with food, when I am not just feeding to help people grow but am preparing food for the sheer enjoyment of eating it.

A ritual that I was introduced to years ago by another mother of a large family is eating artichokes. She has eleven kids and 13 in her family. She bought enough for ALL of us to have one and this was no small amount of money. She said that with our meals of hamburger and chili cooked a hundred different ways, our children couldn't claim culinary seclusion if we had artichokes once a year. So we do. It used to be on New Years, but this year Tiger is going to be with a friend. We prepare fish on Christmas Eve (yeah, I'm not a strict fasting person) and this will go well-- a light but decadent feast!

I also cook desert for dinner at least twice in the summer. I love making hors d'oveurs with salami and celery sticks with cheese-- and then just having strawberry shortcake for dinner. It's unconventional and the kids LOVE it.

Being Orthodox Christian, we make a lot of food that is Greek. I love preparing and eating dolmades. I had them at my first wedding and they are now a family ritual. Stuffed grape leaves with a yogurt sauce is the closest I will get to Heaven in this lifetime. I always eat them wondering how hungry people must have been to have tried eating grape leaves then later having a little extra and saying, "Hey-- this would taste great in the grape leaves. Let's try them together."

When my dad was dying there was a humongous prickly pear plant outside his house. I was bored and had to not hover as my brother warned me, so not having a recipe, called the cooperative extension (US Department of Agriculture) and was assured of their non-toxic existence and I picked them with my mother's kitchen tongs (and risked impaling myself as I picked them) and I set to work slicing them open (I wore gloves) and scooping the seeds out into a pan. I added a little water, boiled them and then poured out the mess into a colander and added sugar and pectin and made a great syrup. My dad loved it and my family was like, "Are you sure it's OK to eat these?" My dad would die within 48 hours and he said, "You wanna stick around and see what happens? I just had some!" (I laughed so hard I almost died myself! That's another topic-- embracing the unspeakable by laughing at it!) We still have several jars. I can't bear to eat the last of it.

I picked a few leaves-- I whacked off the spines and sliced them open and made a type of relish for omelets. My mom was asking me, "Why do you have to be so weird?" I said I was taking two weeks off for the first time ever and in a totally new state and I was going to get as much adventure as I could! She is weird about me driving and would prefer that I sit on a cushion-- I was climbing the walls at her place. From the kitchen, I was allowing even my father to have culinary adventures with plants he'd ignored for 12 years!

I've just joined a new club at the college that gets into Japanese culture. They are expanding my food interests even further. We have a social event coming up and I was asked to bring something that I can't pronounce and was given a recipe. I've got no idea what I am doing but I can hardly wait to make it for my new friends and to learn to prepare sushi.

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