Last Saturday I went to a talk about preserving given by Eugenia Bone. She was trying to get people to overcome their fear of using pressure cookers. I am quite fearful of them because when I was little one of our pressure cookers blew up in the kitchen. My mom never used a pressure cooker again. My memory is that she complained that there were shards of glass everywhere and “fish on the ceiling,” but looking back as an adult that just doesn’t sound right to me. How much glass could there have been? And, unless she was preserving tuna, who cooks fish in a pressure cooker? Fish cooks so quickly on its own. So, I am sure that I have conflated two completely different kitchen disasters in my mind, but the fact remains that I have to get over my fear of using a pressure cooker.
Am just learning the ropes of how to post photos, etc. It’s called Kitchen Almanac, but you can access it at:
There’s a nice photo of the summer pudding that I made last year on the banner. Mmmmmm. Summer Pudding....
This week we had our third delivery from Cape Ann Fresh Catch. It was raining cats and dogs, which made the usually fun adventure of going to get the fish a whole lot less fun and a whole lot more of an adventure. (And to the guy who drove into the parking space that I was backing into and said that he felt entitled to do so because I “wasn’t backing into it fast enough” (!) all I can say is that I hope that you have some time to reflect upon whether that was really the best way to deal with that situation. Talk about Bad Car-ma!)
At our second delivery, I chose cod over flounder or whiting because I wanted to get my cod filleting technique down (which I feel that I have) so I was resolved to get whatever else was on offer when I went to pick up this delivery. Only this time, cod was the only choice. I got one that had rigor mortis (my other two had not been stiff) and I actually found it a lot more difficult to work with because it had gotten stiff in a position where its head was arched way back, i.e., there was a marked bend in the middle of the fish’s body. I reflected on the fact that whether or not my dinner has entered rigor mortis is something that I don’t think I have ever had to deal with before, or at least not in a this-is-happening-right-here-right-now kind of way.
I filleted the fish and made a dish that my cousin Candace had prepared the last time I had dinner at her house. It’s based on a recipe from Ina Garten’s book Back to Basics. All I could remember was that it involved creme fraiche, mustard - both grainy and Dijon - and capers. It is a funny feeling not to know what fish you’re getting until you get to the pick-up point as it makes it hard to plan and shop, so I always just end up shopping on the way home from the pick-up.
I had trouble filleting the fish due to the bend in its body, and I ended up with several small pieces instead of the big fillets I’ve gotten off the fish in the past. I laid them in a baking dish and mixed the sauce ingredients according to my own taste since I didn’t have a copy of the recipe handy. I put the fish in the oven and as it baked it filled the kitchen with a fantastic savory aroma.
The cod was delicious as always, and the sauce was incredibly flavorful and satisfying without being too rich, which was nice. I wished I had made rice to go with it to soak it up.
I am curious to see what fish we get next week, and if it’s cod again I might go back to the simple butter and lemon version just because it’s so good that it’s hard to improve upon, or perhaps I will make a tomato-based stew. I might try cutting it into steaks too, just to see what that’s like.
Tune in next week when I discover what fish is about to enter my life and how I will cook it... It’s sort of like living in a culinary knock-knock joke - who’s there? Cod! Cod who? Um... Cod in a Tomato-based Stew? I’ll let you know what happens...
The first week we got cod. The second week the seas were too rough for the boats to go out, so there were no deliveries - a good reminder that we are always at nature’s beck and call, and also that fishing is dangerous work.
This week we had a choice of yellow tail flounder, whiting, or cod. I wanted to try my hand at filleting the cod again, so I chose cod. I felt like I really had the filleting down, but this time I had more trouble extracting the pin bones. Maybe because it was a bigger fish?
Next time I will be more adventurous and get a different type of fish if there’s one on offer, but I’m glad that I now feel really comfortable filleting the cod. I wonder if I should add this to the “skills” section of my resume!
I attended the reading at the Harvard Book Store. Lisa read several excerpts and spoke about what it was like to interview the farmers profiled in the book and document their lives. Carolyn Mugar spoke about Farm Aid (which is based in neighboring Somerville) and the fact that many young people are interested in becoming farmers. There was a milk tasting afterwards.
The seas were too rough for the boats to go out. So, no fish. Mother Nature has spoken!
A friend and I are splitting a half share in the new Cape Ann Fresh Catch CSF (a CSA for fish). I will write more about it later this week, but in the meantime, here are some photos from our first delivery, which we picked up yesterday. We received a cod and it was delicious.
For the next three years, our banquets will trace the the Triangle Trade (slaves, molasses, and rum) and this year we are focussing on Colonial New England. When I was in college I used to have a summer job cooking at a colonial inn, wearing an itchy, heavy costume and doing open-hearth cooking. I taught “Colonial Living Day-camp” to twelve-year-olds. They all had to wear costumes and give tours of the inn. You should have heard the things they said! When they forgot the stuff we taught them that they would just make stuff up.
I am looking forward to the event itself (tomorrow) and I am also looking forward to it being over so I can stop preparing for it. I will post photos of the food if I can.
I thought my cousin Alison’s post on this topic was very thoughtful and I especially appreciated hearing the perspective of people who grew up overseas - Alison grew up in Nigeria and the cab driver she mentions is from Haiti. I thought that all of you might enjoy reading it as well. Her website is alisoncummins.com. I asked her permission to reproduce her post here and she gave it to me:
January 11th, 2009
I often have interesting conversations with taxi drivers, but it’s usually me who starts them.
Yesterday I gave my destination and we discussed the route. Then the driver cautiously asked me if I were Québécoise pure-laine? Well, I said, I’m anglophone but I’m born here.
Because, rushed on my driver, he had read a story in the newspaper that morning* and couldn’t stop thinking about two countries, on two continents, separated by history and religion but united in their misery. La Guinée, in Africa, and Haïti, where he was born.
He was satisfied with his life in Canada, he wanted me to know that. His children didn’t eat steak every day, but they could have meat every week. Canada is a good country, built by people who were not his parents, and he was grateful for the welcome he had been offered, the opportunity to make a life here. But he couldn’t stop looking back to his people in Haïti, feeling for their suffering.
Yes, I said, and feeling responsible but helpless and not knowing what to do. I told him I’d lived in Nigeria in the seventies when people were doing very well, that I knew a little about how people lived who didn’t have a lot of stuff, and even a little about what children looked like who didn’t have enough to eat. That I felt a bond with people in other countries and circumstances that I had no idea how to act on.
Yes, he said. One doesn’t need to have a lot of stuff to be able to care for a family. His father had been a cultivator and he had worked with him. They rotated crops with the seasons, rice and yams and vegetables. In between crops, his father fished. There was always something to do. His father had also been a judge. This was in the time of Papa Duvalier. He had disappeared one day. Both his father and his mother. The children had all found their way out of the country. It had been hard, but the children were now all over the world and managing fine. Even their cousins had left.
But now, he said, Haitian rice farmers can’t make a living any more. They can’t compete with the price of rice imported from the US, where agriculture is heavily subsidised. When rice can be bought so cheaply, people would rather buy it than grow it themselves, so they leave the farms and go to the city. But of course there is no work in the city. People struggle, women prostitute themselves.
Yes, I said, and you and I look on from our comfortable spots and don’t know what to do. I told him my father had recently returned from Bangladesh and was struggling trying to help a woman he had made friends with there. He was helping her, but it was hard. It’s hard for one person to help another person, for a country to help another country. And for one person, like him or me, to help a country - it’s very hard to know what to do.
The kind of work my parents do makes some difference directly. The kind of work I do does not. I can only donate to local and international aid organisations, but it doesn’t feel right, or like enough.
Yes, my taxi driver said, he gives to aid organisations too. To Centraide and Jeunesse au Soleil. But they’re all local.
Yes, I said, to support international aid means donating to different organisations. And then it can be hard to know if the help being offered is really useful; for instance, free american-grown rice is even worse for farmers than cheap american-grown rice. I contribute to one that gives agricultural animals. The people who receive them must commit to breeding the animals and sharing the offspring. It sounds like a good program, though I can’t be sure of its impact in practice.
My taxi driver got very excited at the thought of country people receiving such a useful and community-minded gift as breeding animals, but pointed out that it takes so much more. There has to be water, for instance. And transportation. And fertiliser. And there has to be a market.
You know, I said, we aren’t going to solve the world’s problems parked here in your taxi. But I will shake your hand and wish you a good and happy new year, and know that your frustrations are shared.
He shook my hand, and thanked me for telling him about people who work in international aid, who travel and care. He feels better now, knowing that he isn’t alone in his concern.
I feel better too, knowing that I’m not alone in my lack of direction.
Happy new year to all, and may we continue to shake hands with our neighbours and share our challenges!
Posted in Africa, New Year wishes, corporate life, economy, family, humility, taxi drivers, the other, travelling | 4 Comments »
Here is her recipe for Guava Bellinis and popcorn with fantastic spices, red onion, and lemon juice:
I can’t wait to make these. I guess I’ll wait for the Oscars to heighten the anticipation!
Going through some photos from last spring (08) I found some I took of the Santa Monica Farmers Market - a warming and cheering thought on a February day here in Massachusetts. The red plant in my friend’s hands is seaweed.
Most of the time with cooking and eating, the rules are clear.
A father’s legacy
The vegetarian-cooking pioneer
Barbecue, tamales, cocktails, and more
Good on everything