Somehow always before
getting down to work
getting down to work
a bout of housecleaning comes first.
A sweep-out of ash from round the hearth.
If I catch-up might I keep up?
I started this blog stoked, inspired after an online food writers blog writing class with Molly O'Neill from www.cooknscribble.com (totally recommend these classes, also joining this online community!) Meant to add monthly posts with religious fervor, then half dozen poetrysciencetalks came and went unremarked, and another half dozen other things. Next pst is next week, the 12th season opener with the theme of "no-thing." A chance I suppose to just be, so hmmm, what food represents that?
Got to teach Food is Art at Parsons School of Design, a survey class for art students encouraging them to view food as expressive culture. Took me a year to write the syllabus and another year to peddle it. An email query sent off with a prayer to an acquaintance who passed it on to someone else, like casting a line to the sea. Finally there was a nibble, then a churlish wait to see if I could pull in enough students. It was my dream job come true. I was terrified. Waiting for class to start that first day I calmed myself sipping steaming Miso then hauled a shopping cart of pot-n-pans and hot plates and vegetables across Union Sq. and into the classroom. Boom, there I stood, blathering introductions. The students learned and mostly I learned and we had good fun. Highlights included a DIY extravaganza (relating the artisanal "foodie" movement to various avant garde movements past.) We flipped pizza dough, made ginger syrup, gnocchi, sauerkraut, and pictorial sushi rolls. We had a 'food belief systems' PechaKucha (and contextualized these beliefs with their historical and cultural counterparts.) There was a series of guest lectures including Tatfoo Tan, Fabio Parasecoli, Victoria Yee Howe from Kreemart, and Mihir Desai from foodTEXT(at)foodTEXT.org, and each class culminated in a themed student cooked feast.
Myopically visioned as I am my iphone snaps were of the food rather then student's artwork, but there were among their projects some wry videos (one went viral http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCBa2H9J4r0 ) and an engaging series of photos of shockingly repulsive looking monochromatic platters of food.
During the semester break I took a trip to Michoacan, Mexico to see the winter home of the Monarch butterflies (a tour run by Jackie Detloff from Conocer in Milwaukee, WI www.conocer3.com/schedule.shtml)
Quite fantastic hiking a steep path through Oyamel fir. When sunshine bursts through the clouds millions of golden butterflies blot the sky creating a symphony of wind with their flapping wings. An awesome spectacle, but what really caught my eye were the markets, colors and smells in the small towns we visited.
A particular highlight was visiting La Pacanda, a small island in Lake Patzcuaro. For centuries the indigenous Purepecha were fishermen but the lake has become polluted and overrun with algae and they are struggling to adapt. One thing they've done to bring money to their island was to convert an abandoned Spanish garrison into a really comfortable ecolodge with a small restaurant and I had the opportunity to wake up at sunrise and "help" make the days tortillas.
The nixtamalized corn had already been ground at the town mill but we ground the masa finer with a heavy metate (mortar and pestle) then hand shaped the tortillas and cooked them on a wood fueled comal. Mine were thick and misshapen, the sticky dough near impossible to clap into shape. The cooks suffered my zealous enthusiasm with great equanimity!
Another pleasure: in the town of Zinapecuaro we were hosted by an extended family and I had the honor to be invited into the matriarch, Terre Caballero's cocina for a salsa making lesson.
Terre's Tomatillo Salsa* (yield: 2+ c.)
1/2 medium white onion
1 - 2 seeded jalepenos (how much heat do you want?)
hefty handful cilanto- stems and all
1 t. salt
juice from 1 - 2 limes
husk and core tomatillos. throw everything in a cuisenart or blender. done.
* this is a raw salsa- resulting in a stunning sharp green pungent delight. It doesn't last more than a few days in a jar in the fridge. You can use any leftovers to cook with. Sautéed chicken or fish are great with it, or use it up by stirring into some guacamole.