Archives for posts with tag: Slow Food

For those of us with a habit that pre-dates internet bookmarking: tearing an article from a magazine and stashing it either somewhere random or somewhere sensible — in this case, for me, the latter — my copy of Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food.

So I was easily able to find “The Ones that Got Away: A Field Guide to Rare and Extinct Varieties of Jewish Fish” when, a few weeks ago, I read a poem that recalled the writer’s immigrant Jewish grandfather and  “the fish that we called “yum yum fish”/ (What WAS it?) /A mystery lost to time.”

There’s a sad nostalgia for me, thinking of the times in my life, mostly as a child around the deaths of my mother’s thousand relatives, when the food centrepiece would be a platter piled with fish, colours of salmon-orange-pink, skin-silver-bronze, white and bone-grey with bagels, slabs of cream cheese, wedges of wet tomatoes and thinly sliced onions.  These were fatty, smokey, pickle-y delicious flavours, salty, strong, and specific to a time that to me feels past.  I can’t imagine my own children enjoying this food, and I can’t imagine a social occasion at which I’d find myself now in which it would be offered– that lot of folk has died.

Remembering the generations of people who ate this way, and the knowledge and experience they held, across cultures, is one of the ways that the Slow Food Ark of Taste enters the discourse about lost and struggling traditions, in an effort to celebrate legacies of culinary diversity, and renew them.  I’m also really pleased to see Slow Food entering the important discourse about food and climate change.

Roger Mummert wrote something truly fascinating with “The Ones that Got Away,” way back in 1993; he tied together much that is fun and foodie yet also so much about loss (of people, of foodways, of fish), beneath a humorous interview with the proprietor of a famous New York City fish delicatessen. Together they paint a beguiling and informative picture of old world food traditions within contemporary global markets and ecological overfishing. Read the rest of this entry »

 

A friend just posted this marvellous how-to video on Facebook.  Such a pleasure to watch and listen: the ancient, fiery oven, the kneading, the young people, the old people, the singing, even if your Spanish is as bad or worse than mine.  What really thrilled me though was learning the word for “sourdough” in Spanish.  Levadura Madre.  Yeast Mother / Mother of Yeast.  Or perhaps a better translation would be Leavening Mother, referring more to quality of help to raising the dough. But the madre is madre whatever the case, and I like the way our teacher in the film refers to it as “Masa Madre” –fermented flour Mother– and sometimes just “Mother” by itself being the colloquial. Maybe in English we only remember this concept of generation and regeneration in terms of Kombucha, and vinegar. Can you think of anything else?  Or any comparable phrases in English that refer to bread?

 

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Ah, the marrow.  Kind of seemed like a monstrosity of a vegetable to me when I first encountered it.  So huge, so flavourless, so… perverse? lazy? wasteful? to grow your courgettes so big that they became unappealing. And yes, you can stuff them (as I’ve done) and yes you can make jams and chutneys (as I’ve done) and yes you can grate the flesh into sauces and stews (as I’ve often done) and yes, you can even lacto-ferment them (as I’ve often done and am about to blog on).  But marrows have nonetheless remained “other” to me.

At the same time, I’ve been moved by how some friends genuinely LOVE marrows, and by the way you can hold a huge one like a baby, rocking it in your arms, and by the way people who grow them in their gardens and allotments always go around asking you if you would like one?  And of course you say, “Yes please!”

Apple is for size comparison only.

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This time I was thrilled to have happened upon an old recipe recorded in the 70s on Bardsey Island for a Marrow Tart in my treasured copy of S Minwel Tibbot’s 1976 Welsh Fare: A Selection of Traditional Recipes.  To my mind this is the most beautiful record of “traditional” food of Wales, because as a historian and ethnographer, Tibbot’s work reflects respect and affection for the women sharing their old recipes in their old kitchens.  She worked for the National Museum of Wales’ Welsh Folk Museum, who published the book.

Like the Plum Tart in the Wales Gas Board pamphlet, this is a recipe that illustrates a kind of culinary simplicity in the sense that its guided by austerity (basic staples, seasonal eating) which is the beauty in much traditional Welsh food.  It’s so different from the world enabled by supermarkets in which everything is available year round, without any references to a seasonal calendar.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dear Slow Food friends, 

One of us has been killed in Gaza.

His name, Emad Asfour.

Here’s what Slow Food founder, Carlo Petrini wrote.

As for me:

One power it would seem is to use my social media and blogging to express a strong conviction that the methods and outcome of Israeli military might in Gaza, and Palestine, is definitively wrong.  And encourage others to do the same.

I didn’t know Emad Asfour, but when someone dies– killed by a bomb– and that someone shares things with you, you grieve.

I have tried to think through what’s happening in Gaza this past month through the lens of a cookbook called The Gaza Kitchen, and the work of Zaytoun, a Fair-Trade local-produce company working to ensure UK markets for Palestinian produce.

Through all the death, destruction, carnage, uprooting– I’m also thinking a little about the small gardens people plant, the rabbits, the bakeries, the aquaculture ponds, the trees they nurture– lots of these projects are likely destroyed too.  Aspects of daily life, daily eating, daily growing, daily hope.   Underneath rubble.

Here’s the Lebanese food writer Barbara Massaad.  She has collected recipes to make a book called Soup for Syria, proceeds from which, if all goes well, will support a community kitchen for Syrian women refugees. I gave a small amount. If you can, please do too, or just spread the word.

http://www.zoomaal.com/projects/soupforsyria?ref=3546500

And this is an informative and evocative piece on eating in exile.

A Painting, A Market, An Enticement

I’ve been a collage maker for most of my life,  have boxes and boxes of assorted materials, things I’ve collected, torn from magazines, etc. I have no idea where this is from, but I ripped it out long ago and kept it. And I love it.

I love the scene, the seafood, the eggs, the vegetables (are those cardoons in the front right?), the olives, the people, the bare light bulbs, and especially the loaded moment of the encounter that is just about to happen between the man in the yellow shirt and the woman with the bags and the nice bum.

In its day, I’d guess this would have been thought of as a market, not a farmers market or a specialist market or even, probably, an alternative to a supermarket.  It just WAS.   WHERE people bought their food.  Something to re-envision.

Wish I were there.

Where do we think it takes place? Italy? Spain? Portugal?

And wouldn’t it be wild if a reader were to know more about this picture– who painted it, where I might have seen it originally, etc.

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A mere few hours later:  I am truly blown away.  My friend Vohn, who blogs here, has identified the painter as  Renato Guttoso and this scene as located in the famous Vucciria market of Palermo in Sicily.  Further point of interest:  a google search on the image of this particular painting lead me to another WordPress blog called OrganizedMagnificenceGlory that pictures the same scene realised in a slightly different style. The mystery continues.

PS 22 Jan 2015– if y0u happen up0n this page, make sure t read this update.

Here is a little armchair travel for someone who has committed herself to reduce her involvement with the very Greenhouse-Gas intensive aviation industry. This means, though I LOVE going places and seeing things and meeting people and having adventures and eating delicious food, I don’t really venture far away it as much as I would in a different world-historical scenario.

But: I can stumble upon wishes on the internet, and this, quite strongly, is one.

Read about this amazing Pre-Hispanic soup and the people who make it.

If you are on Facebook, read about an exciting documentary The Path of Stone Soup that examines the history and ritual of this very beautiful and delicious sounding soup.

Wow! What a fabulous spokesperson for small-scale growing as sustainable, important, and ready to feed the world!  And standing up to lies!

The protest was on behalf of the Land Workers’ Alliance.  If you follow that link and go to “Campaigns” you get some ideas of the ways that Big Ag dominates the legal and regulatory scene to the detriment of small players.

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Forgive the terrible photo– I won’t get a second chance until next year! But the taste? “Lush. Rich. Gorgeous. Velvety. Chocolatey. Very tasty indeed.”

OK, that’s my husband saying that, but you would say it too!

Over a year ago I began to contemplate making a tart with goose blood for Christmas.  I had read a reference to this as a food traditional to the particular region of what used to be called Montgomeryshire (now Powys) in Wales where I live. But already by that mid-December it was too late, replied our wonderful butcher to my enquiry, because the farm that had reared the geese had already finished the slaughter for Christmas orders and therefore wouldn’t have collected the blood.

(A strong reason, by the way, to support small butcher’s shops– because they are the ones who maintain real relationships with suppliers, where special requests can happen, even if in this case I was too late.  And if you eat meat, it’s so obvious that using as much of an animal as possible is the traditional as well as environmental approach which honours the act of sacrifice the animal unwillingly made.

Watch this wonderful film of a the making of this tart, I would suppose filmed by S Minwel Tibbott as I reckon the scene at the end is the same as that in the still photograph.  I love the way the woman in this clip wraps the Golden Syrup around her wooden spoon.  I love her cooking implements.  I love her apron.  I love the end-result.  How could I not have been on a mission?

I asked around among my friends who grew up in this area, and no one had any recollection of eating this fabled food.  One friend, the very lovely Dawn, daughter of farmers and beloved person in this town, remembered that her “Mum and Dad used to go to a nearby farm to help feather the poultry” and could recall the lady there shrilly shouting to her husband “Catch the goose’s blood , Fred!” in order to make the tarts later.   I wish I had a recording to share here Dawn’s hilarious imitation of that lady, which she enacted in the school yard as we waited for the kids one afternoon–  it’s the kind of sentence we maybe don’t hear much in this day and age.

I have friends Bea, Chris and Kate who are working very hard at a smallholding called Longhill to create a  farming enterprise with chickens, pigs, delicious market-garden vegetables and much more.  Bea mentioned to me that she was planning to raise a few geese and would be happy to support my interest in experimenting with the blood for next year.  And next year came, and Bea remembered her offer, and I found myself with 310ml of blood from 2 geese, which she had collected — “caught” — herself in a gallant and proficient moment of self-sufficiency (read, she’s learned how to do the slaughter herself, and strives to reduce the suffering).

Here is the goose blood as it was left on my doorstep (where it was covered, of course.)

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With trepidation, I found the link that had set me on this path a year before.

“In mid-Wales, it was the custom to make goose blood tart when the farmers were killing a large number of geese at Christmastime. Oral evidence testifies that this cake was an essential part of the Christmas fare in the Trefeglwys district and similarly in the districts of Staylittle, Llanbryn Mair and Llangurig in Montgomeryshire. To date, however, there is no evidence to show that it was prepared in any other county in Wales.”

Serendipitously, Longhill is high in the Trefeglwys hills, and was bought from a family with a long history on that site of sheep, cattle, pigs during the war, and of course– geese for Christmas, which apparently many farmers in this area raised.  At the Longhill site, I coincidentally learned, they raised geese to dress and sell in markets in the south of Wales.  I learned from the former owner of that site that this practice stopped when one farmer, his uncle, whose diabetes was effecting his eyesight, blindly trod on a baby goose and killed it; this upset him so much he stopped raising geese at all.

So my Goose Blood Tart was destined to be part of a  renewed lineage of Goose Blood Tarts– I felt sure.

“The blood of about three geese,” read the instructions,  “would be put in a greased basin and boiled in a saucepan half full of water. Then the blood would be allowed to cool and set solid before it was rubbed between the fingers to make fine crumbs. Mixed with currants, flour, suet, salt , spice and golden syrup, it would be baked between two layers of crust on a plate in the oven.”

Here is my version of a “greased basin …in a saucepan half full of water,” an improvised bain-marie.  The blood was strikingly black and was grossing me out a little at this stage.

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The blood thickened a little over the soft heat, but never coagulated or crumbled or clotted– Bea had added a little vinegar to preserve the blood until she could get to me, which was the right thing to do,  because blood is meant to go off really quickly, but perhaps it was that small element that changed the chemistry– which was fine in the end.  With no guide to quantities, feeling like a chemist or mad scientist, I added a few (maybe 3) tablespoons  each of flour and Golden Syrup, trepidatiously tasting and stirring, and of butter, as the only substitute for suet I could think of, raisins not currants which I didn’t have, a spoon of cinnamon and a good shake of “Mixed Spice”– and stirred, and watched condense, and slowly felt a surge of confidence that something right was happening.

Regarding having no idea what quantities to use of all the other ingredients besides blood:  In a moment of confusion and mild panic I sought help from an internet forum run by the amazing, generous and very experimental food historian Ken Albala, who guided me to study the Sanguinaccio in Italy, a confection made from pig’s blood in the past and nowadays with a mixture of chocolate. (Thanks everyone in that group for your help and interest!)  This lead me to the amazing blog of Mister Meatball and his Sanguinaccio Dolce, and everything in my mind then clicked into place…

My concoction there on the stove was visually very similar to brownie batter and felt chocolately indeed.

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Knowing I wouldn’t be making the tart for several days, I froze it, following Ken’s advice.

Later I looked into Ada Boni’s classic 1950 Talisman Italian Cookbook.  Her Sanguinaccio Neapolitan Style calls for a mere two squares of cooking chocolate– it’s interesting to trace the increasing use of chocolate through time in this dish.

It wasn’t until after New Years, actually, that I was able to arrange a time to invite the good peeps of Longhill to our home to eat the tart, which I tried to make to look as simple as possible.

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By the time it was baked, the night had fallen and all the pictures I took with flash were gruesome (see above).  Never mind. We had a really lovely evening with laughter and candlelight, a kind of celebration of planning something for over a year, enjoying its fruition, the family who raised the geese, the woman who caught the blood, and the woman who was curious enough to try a recipe on a museum website.  How would you describe it?  Inside lovely pastry, a custardy, spicy, smoothe and very chocolately confection.  Were there an end to chocolate, it might even serve as a kind of post-apocalyptic substitute– albeit without the bitter, which one doesn’t quite aprreciate always with chocolate– or that opiate, in love feeling.   But they were on to something really good, those upland farm people of yore: their Christmas Goose Blood Tart is truly– and not in any bizarre or challenging way– truly delicious.  We agreed this could become a tradition.

And just to say:  The Wikipedia “Blood as Food” entry is pretty compelling, if I’ve stirred any interest in you.

While I’m thinking about the food ways of Wales, and what changes and what stays the same, I’m reminded of this breathtaking scene in the beautiful film Sleep Furiously, a 2009 meditation and loving witness to rural life.

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