You are currently browsing the daily archive for August 7, 2007.

This post at Chasing Ray made me pick up Jo Walton’s Farthing, and not only is it all the things Colleen said it is (I’m nearly done but not quite, so I’ll take her word on the ending, and I won’t repeat all the things she said about it) but it fits perfectly into the whole Food and Books theme (and please, keep the suggestions coming).  Most of the food scenes fit into the “food defines character” category – strong vs. weak tea (the main characters prefer it weak, but please make mine strong), a six course meal vs. nursery tea.  Of course, some of these meals end up being served up to the reader, as well, notably the pancake devouring scene.  Our narrator (alternating chapters with omniscient) has a hearty appetite and occasionally feels dumpy, but this doesn’t stop her from having a slice of fruitcake after the pancakes and caviar.  It makes me hungry.
This is not quite the same as girls being sent away to the country to eat good food and recover their health and vitality, the lack of which in contemporary fiction was pointed out by BabelBabe, but it is in the same general arena (boy was that a convoluted sentence).  Lucy seems to be one of the more healthy, balanced individuals in the story.  She tries to see beyond the strict class and race notions she was raised with.  She doubts the honor in “Peace with Honor” and tries to defy her nasty mother.  And she eats good, solid food.

But what, really, is the modern equivalent of Eight Cousins or Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, the girl brought back to health by real meals and activity?  We may not have the corsets and bustles that Louisa May Alcott let Uncle Alec rail against, and girls are no longer expected to sit around and simper and do needlework (nothing against needlework, K), but I’d like to do an Uncle Alec on most adolescent girls I see.  Feed them oatmeal and dress them sensibly and put a real bloom in their cheeks.  Where are today’s books where this happens?

August has been decreed Rice Month.  While the thought of rice doesn’t cause me to swoon in quite the way of pastry, I’m still a fan.  Plus, hey, it’s cheap.  This week’s recipe, Lentil and Rice Salad, cost me a total expenditure (as I had most items in my pantry, we’re not counting previous costs) of $1.29 for a bunch of parsley, of which I used a small fraction.  Let’s not talk about the cost of making pesto, shall we?

Yesterday was a bit of a food extravaganza, in more ways than just cooking and eating.  Let’s start with the cooking and eating part.

I have to confess that I’ve become an inveterate alterer of recipes.  I used to make fun of those commenters on recipes, and while I haven’t gone so far as to actually comment with my alterations, this blog is coming dangerously close.

As the recipe didn’t mention a particular kind of lentils, I decided this would be a good opportunity to try those cute red lentils I bought long ago and never used.  So, while the rice cooked, the lentils simmered until soft.  They got a bit mushy, those little red guys, and turned exactly the color of my wall.  But once drained, cooled, and tossed with the rice, the mushiness wasn’t a problem.

I couldn’t find scallions at the store, but I knew I had a leftover red onion that was languishing, so I chopped that up finely and used it instead.  I accidentally bought Italian rather than flat-leaf parsley, as I didn’t notice until I got home that the recipe specified.

I also seem to have mislaid the dill I thought I had, either that or it got lost in the wilted vegetables in the crisper.  Hey, that’s what the compost bin is for.  So I added a bit of dried (my dill has long since gone to flower, or seed, or whatever it is dill does).

While the rice and lentils were doing their cooking and cooling things, I made pesto.  This multitasking made the whole process feel much more complicated than it really was.  The recipe is fairly simple and adaptable and really only takes as long as it takes rice to cook and cool.  But my counters were covered in pots and heaps of things to take to the compost and piles of basil leaves and shreds of parmesan and the cutting board was festooned with parsley, onion, garlic, and lemon pips.

I took Di’s advice (it was her pesto recipe, after all) and am trying freezing the pesto in an ice cube tray.  I should take those out today and throw them in a freezer bag.  Perfect for individual thawing.

Then I threw the salad together and took the pie crust out of the fridge to soften a bit.  (Oh, did I mention I made pie, too?  I made the crust on Sunday, to save time Monday, and so it was quite refrigerated by the time I was ready.)  The final change I made with the salad was to leave out the cherry tomatoes.  Several reasons: 1) I completely forgot – I was going to grab a couple from the garden.  2) I didn’t really feel like eating cherry tomatoes – I’m not the hugest fan.  Which you wouldn’t know based on the number of cherry tomatoes plants in the garden.  3) There weren’t really enough ripe for a whole salad, and it feels unethical to buy tomatoes when I have SO MANY plants.

Speaking of, did I ever show you my first tomato?

I literally gasped with delight the day I found him.  He deigned to be eaten over the course of several delicious grilled cheese and fresh tomato sandwiches.

Now, finally, here’s the salad.

Then, it was on to the pie.  A comedy of errors in which I remembered why pie crusts strike fear into my heart.  None of the July Pastries that we did were two-crusters, so I thought I’d conquered pies.  First, the pie crust always seems to be a hair too small, no matter how much elbow grease I put into rolling (I must admit, I love the rolling part).  Then, I made the mistake of pre-baking the bottom crust so it would crisp up a bit and not sog under all the blueberries.  This was good in that it worked (no sog) but bad in that it made it difficult to do the whole tuck and pinch routine with the top crust.  So I just shoved the edges down as best as I could without burning my fingers.

Then, of course, it was nearly impossible to get foil to stay around the edges.  There were several tense minutes there.  But the end result was mighty tasty, so I suppose it was all worth it.  I used the Betty Crocker recipe, with butter in the crust instead of shortening, and with nutmeg added to the filling.  It’s calling my name.  Pie for breakfast sounds very Farmer Boy, doesn’t it?

August 2007

Flickr Photos