Monday, March 2, 2015

Memories quickly fade.

The driving impulse of this blog is to have a place to record food events, with
pictures and recipes icing atop the layering of ideas.

darn it,
blogs won’t write themselves
and I suffer equal parts shyness and laziness
worrying there’s nothing much to share
or neglecting the stories till they dim.

Herewith then is a stab at catch-up before the memories fade. Quick blurbs on dinners past. 

PoetryScienceTalks is a monthly salon. A revolving group of 30-odd people who come together for an out-of-the-box presentation and discussion. Before the talk we share a meal. I’m the cook. I try to have the menu reflect the speaker’s presentation and hope the meal warms the guests to the topic. 

December's talk was called “Quantum and the Dream.” The presenter, a radio talk-show host dream-interpreter explored “the underlying connection between quantum theory, the nature of our dreams and the creative potential of the beta wave brain state.”

The piece of the talk I most remember is that our notion of the unconscious mind was brought to light with Victorian brilliance by Freud, Lewis Carroll, and Carl Jung among others…  At that time popular stories shifted from Arthurian-type warrior legends into a feminine Alice down the rabbit hole racing to tea exploration of sub-conscious desire.

I dreamed up a "Through the Looking Glass" meal of topsy-turvy scale. Whole roasted quail nestled between overgrown chicken legs. Whole roasted cauliflower representing brains. Humungous carrots hollowed into canoes and filled with baby carrots swimming in carrot puree*.  For dessert, clouds of Pavlova tinged pink with wild berries.

January’s talk was a mouthful: “Obesity and the Bolus of the Beyond: A Sociopolitical Reading of Metabolic Syndrome” where the speaker brought to fore a dizzying array of topics by way of getting to a discussion about genetics, bioengineering, capitalism and science. The presenter is a bioartist and in one of his art pieces he grew e coli in a petrie dish, then subjected the bacteria to relentless tracks of Englebert Humperdinck. Antibiotic production ensued--perhaps e coli's means of defense. Survival is a wonder, no?

Supper, though lacking in coherence, was a feast of syllogistic word-play—his words > my dish > your mouth:

Orificial Economies: popcorn served with chopsticks
Complex Contagion: kale salad (is anything more contagious than kale?)
Positive disorder engineering: a mélange of rice varietals
Human identity: Amphioxus or Tunicate?: homemade gravlax* served with Japanese pickles and black bread. (Vertebrate, invertebrate, I was thinking about our forebears. Somehow--raw fish, pickling microbes, and heavy earthy grains seemed primal and could at least edge towards expressing something evolutionary.) 

And for dessert... Inborn errors of metabolism as aesthetic: wine poached apples and pears with cornmeal honey crust.  (Aren’t we all amorphous lumps hidden beneath a blanket of dough?)

February: could have been called Alta Kockers (affectionate parlance!) talk Psychedelics. Four white male Jews shared 50+ years of consciousness bending shtick about LSD as poetry, art, sacrament and psychic healing. For these gentlemen tripping became a way of life. A commonality and a centerpiece in all their stories was an experience of ego-death and rebirth that colored everything that followed.
A painting by one of the speakers, Isaac Abrams
All Things Are One Thing 1966
What else to serve but Psychedelic-atessen?

Mushroom Barley Soup because mushrooms needed to be on the menu. Katz’s Pastrami with mustard on rye, sliced turkey on onion rolls with Russian dressing, ½ sours, kraut, pickled beets. Also homemade knishes for the mashugina vegetarians,

A thin oil and flour dough filled
strudel-like with potatoes and
caramelized onions.
The roll is twisted
sausage-like, cut and shaped
 into individual pieces.
The egg glazed knishes, bulbous
and nippled, reminded me of breasts. 

and then babka, a Madeline for Ashkenazim. One bite of the eggy yeasted dough striated with bittersweet chocolate darkness and syrupy glaze, and ancestors whose names never made it into the annuls of Ellis Island reached across time and pinched my shayna punim. Plus, the configuration of the rolled and cut dough fitted into the cake pan makes a pretty trippy pattern.

March's event comes next week--the speaker is a holistic nutritionist with an eye towards enhancing cognitive function. In our correspondence we've talked about fish (brain food) and the curative properties of turmeric, ginger, garlic, saffron... clearly some kind of Southeast Asian feast is in order.

Carrot Puree
1# carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
½ c. water
2 Yogi Ginger tea bags (if you want, tear open the bags and blend the tea with the carrots, or just steep the tea in the steaming water. Use the water when you puree the carrots.)
salt, pepper, butter and/or cream to taste.

Steam the carrots with the tea bags and a pinch of salt until very tender. Puree in a food processor or mash by hand adding a spoon of butter and/or cream--unless you want to keep it vegan, in which case a knob of coconut oil and/or coconut milk might be nice.

1 # super-fresh, boned and skinned salmon fillet
¼ c. each: sea salt, demerara sugar and finely minced fresh dill
1 T. each: black peppercorns, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, combined and lightly crushed
finely grated zest of 1 organic lemon

Lay salmon on a large sheet of plastic wrap. Combine remaining ingredients and pat half onto the top of the fillet. Flip fish over and pat on the remaining spices. Wrap fish tightly in plastic wrap. Put wrapped fish on a plate and weigh down with another plate and a pile of dried beans or a can of something. Put in the fridge. Each day for 3-4 days, flip the fish over. The fish will seep but no worries because the plate will catch the drips.

When ready to serve: discard plastic wrap. Using a sharp knife slice fish against the grain, on a diagonal, into super thin slices. Serve with mustard pickles or honey mustard sauce and black bread.


  1. Interesting topic, interesting menus and fascinating narration, as always. I have put knishes on my to-do list. By the way, physics and the nature of reality is a regular topic when we have guests at out house, so when finally you'll be one, you know what to expect ;)

  2. thanks Simona. Dinnertime conversation is such an important part of a meal--maybe why I spend time making menus to encourage conversation. I suppose that topic might make a compelling cookbook. I look forward to being a guest at your table one day! With the knishes--I was a little disappointed with the dough--a butter crust wouldn't be the answer--but the oil dough was a bit too leathery. I wonder if a bread dough--or an unleavened flatbread dough might not be tastier?