Food Memory: State Fair Togetherness

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It isn’t always better because it’s deep-fried, but the state fair in a Southern state is always going to try to deep-fry whatever you throw at them. I don’t actually enjoy these foods objectively (that day, we ate the fried nutella, which was just a warm version of a chocolate croissant in the end), not more than other foods or the foods themselves minus the puffy brown batter, but I feel like there is something unique to Southern families, a kind of anticipation. This anticipation has us buy lumps of indiscriminate dough and look at each other, forks poised. We think that someone will back out, will say “this is going to kill our arteries.” But this game of chicken ends and we try the food, and our mouths are full of richness so thorough that you should never eat it, but if you are going to eat it, you should definitely share it with someone else whose eyes are just as full of glee and rebellion as yours are.

23. D’s Kahlua Cake/Brownies

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D is a person who understands the need to improvise. He’s travelled to more countries than I can count, and when Husband says, “oh yeah, I talked to D today, he’s going to Mexico” I am never surprised. He’s climbed over craggy cliff-faces, biked around hairpin turns, and generally adventured his way halfway around the world. Which is why I had to laugh when I saw his cake recipe was a modification of a box recipe for Devil’s Food Cake. I have no doubt it was good, but because I had a rather old brownie mix in the cupboard, I used that instead.

I first met D when he came over for a game night about a month into my relationship with Husband. I’d heard a lot about him; he’d grown up with Husband, they’d been on so many adventures together, so I was pretty anxious to like him. He turned out to be a pretty avid board game player who was quite excellent, and a bit of a teaser. I could see how Husband and D had influenced each other’s personalities, and how at ease they were together. A lot of folks aren’t lucky enough to keep friends for a long time due to outside circumstances, but the ability to maintain good friends for years and years was one of the things that cemented my decision that Husband was a great guy.

As for my brownie-mix pursuits… let’s not even go there. Basically, I made brownies, added mint flavoring, cooked them barely to done (they taste like fudge), and put a chocolate chunk in the middle of each one while it was still warm. Was this truly in the spirit of the recipe? I don’t know – but telling the story of it would probably make D laugh.

(I promise I’ll have more recipe-oriented and food-oriented posts soon!)IMG_3894

Kahlua Cake

 

Devil’s Food Mix

1 cup sour cream

4 eggs

¾ cup oil

6 ounces chocolate chip

 

 

  • Mix two minutes
  • Flour the bundt pan
  • Bake at 350 degrees, 55-60 minutes.
  • Enjoy your marriage!

 

 

Food Memory: Vegetarian Soul Food

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Vegetarian food has always intrigued me, but I think of it as cool and light, watery and crunch. I didn’t think, when I thought vegetarian, of ooey-gooey macaroni and cheese, of rich falafel patties, or spicy peanut sauce all over my broccoli. In Georgia, though, even the vegetarian places can make a veggie plate look like a pile of soul food. I loved the vibe of this restaurant, where there were many mainstays on the menu but a ton of people just ordered off the chalkboard full of today’s “veggies” for the veggie plate – clearly, if mac and cheese is a vegetable, I’m going to be happy eating my soul food meat-free.

 

22. S’s Egg-in-a-basket

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S and I spent 3 cold, shivery days in Sweden together almost five years ago; I had been lonely and searching for purpose in Spain where I was teaching, and she had been adjusting to a return to school in a country where she didn’t speak the language. S’s life had, like mine, gone back to essentials: while I had been spending long afternoons in the kitchen cooking in northern Madrid, she’d been discovering what the cheapest and most nutritious methods for eating in Sweden would be – until she received a scholarship, she was eating food bought through exchanged US dollars, which resulted in high prices.

What she’d found, though, became one of my favorite breakfasts for the years to come. The ingredients were simple: a couple of pats of butter, two pieces of bread, two eggs, and the salt, pepper, or garlic that most suits you. Like a child’s breakfast, egg-in-a-basket provides a good melding of homey flavors but also is rather energetically rich: fats from the yolk and butter, whole grains if you buy whole wheat bread, and protein from the rest of the egg. It needs little butter, mostly there just to create a crusty rim around the eggs, because soft-cooked eggs create their own sauce, perfect to be mopped off the plate with the leftover “hole” of toast that gets thrown in the pan with the egg-in-a-baskets. It was inexpensive and simple and easy to eat, and sitting there in S’s wide-open single-room home, I felt peaceful about food, and the many other things that were uncertain in my life right then.

I have attempted this dish many times since, and have used it to thrill Husband when I serve it alongside a pile of bacon, but this weekend was the first time I’ve ever made it with bread I made myself. Instead of just salt, pepper, and garlic, I added the same italian-herb blend that I’d used in the bread itself, and to my great happiness, the whole thing turned out as perfectly browned as they can get (under or overdone are the main downsides of this breakfast).

With a glass of orange juice, and possible those delicious bits of bacon, this is perhaps my favorite way to start a weekend day.

S’s Egg in a Basket
1. Cut a hole in the middle of two pieces of whole-wheat bread, careful to not sever the outer rim.
2. melt butter in a frying pan and coat both sides of each piece of bread and each cut-out of bread.
3. When the pan is nice and hot, crack an egg into the center of each piece of bread, and let sizzle. When the bottom is opaque, loosen the eggs to make sure they don’t stick as they cook through; season with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste.
4. Flip eggs and season the second side, loosening the eggs after they cook.
5. Remove from heat before the egg yolks are completely cooked through; eat hot with other breakfast delicacies.🙂IMG_3871

Food Memory: The Best Salad Ever

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I have tried, extensively, to love salad – it’s good for you and it should just be naturally desired by our bodies, right? No dice for me. Salad is still something I shovel into my mouth to get to whetever else is coming, but occasionally, I find a salad that truly dazzles me. This salad had chicken and champagne vinagrette and ripe tomatoes and chunks of avocado and goat cheese – many things that made the salad less purely good for me, but in this compromise lay the desire that I wanted. If I want to be able to eat a hunk of garlic-and-herb cheese, it’s good that it comes paired with a bunch of mostly-low-flavor greens. This salad reminded me that I can add excitement to the everyday by pairing healthy and mundane things with the things that spark joy in me. I don’t have to love salads to love that.

21. E’s White Chicken Chili

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I was hosting a dinner on a weeknight, so this was already going to be hard to make work, so I was very grateful that E’s white chicken chili recipe was one of those magical crock-pot ones. I was a little skeptical, as usual, since all of the flavoring came from green chilis and cumin, but I trust E and hoped that it would work well.

As usual, my friends do not disappoint with their favorite recipes, so when I came home from work and knew I needed to whip up cornbread before my guests arrived, I was grateful to see that the pile of food I’d started with had turned into an actual chicken chili, chunky and delicious looking. The cheese had melted and coated everything, which gave the final product a slightly more substantial, non-brothy feel. The cumin and chilis had turned out to be the perfect level of spice for creating a nice warmth but not making the whole thing too intensely spicy.

We got a lot of compliments on the chili from our grateful friends who were happy to have food all ready when they arrived. Luckily the cornbread, which I’ll write about soon, turned out well too, which always helps.

E, who provided this recipe, is also an effortlessly hospitable person – letting me come into his house where he lives with my friend B and their corgi and always excited to show off his neighborhood. I was so glad they came to the wedding, and provided two recipes now (check out spaghetti squash surprise, which was also good!)

As usual with crock-pot recipes, I have very little suggestion to offer: we had sour cream and avocado chunks available with it, but mostly we just made it, served it, and ate it. Do that, especially on your busy days when lots of folks are coming over. https://www.rachelcruze.com/topics/everything-else/my-favorite-fall-recipe did a great job.

 

Food Memory: Irish Breakfasts with E and S

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Many of my best talks in graduate school didn’t happen in the classroom – they happened while eating the breakfasts at the Irish themed restaurant in town with E and S. Both of them were thoughtful women who wanted the best for ourselves and our classmates, but we all had our frustrations to vent, and there’s just something about buttery toast and fried potatoes that helps a person process the many ideas we confronted daily. We planned papers here; E told me her idea for what would be her first book here. I ate enormous pancakes with pecans and bacon in them, and I calmed down about my anxieties as a teacher here.