Sunday, February 28, 2010

It's almost March

I'm having breakfast (a glass of raw milk and a chocolate croissant) at 1:30pm. It's Sunday. There are black beans simmering on the stove. I have a fresh baguette and eggs on the counter. It's quiet. It's nice.

My life has been consumed the last several weeks with trying to plan a wedding. I feel so cliché writing that, but there's no way around it. Wedding planning is stressful and life-consuming, at least for a little while. In order to coordinate 60 of your closest friends and family all arriving in the same place on the same day (most of them flying in, nonetheless) and have a great celebration there waiting, it takes a lot of work and planning. Planning. They say I'm turning into my mom ;)
It is true--I am seeing the light! There are benefits to planning ahead and being prepared and not just 'winging it' as I may have once liked to do. So I'm planning.

We've decided on a date--August 7, and a place--Kirkland. Despite the fact that most of our friends and family are spread around the country and the world, it seems like most can make it--I'm thankful for that. We're getting catering and lodging into place, and I've started to organize invitations, decorations, rentals, etc. The more I can do now, the better, because I'll be starting back at school again in March, and when school starts, school dominates--no way around that. So I'm checking things off the list now, and planning ahead for what can wait til this summer. That's all the practical work. Then there's the personal side--thinking about what this really means-for both myself and for us as a couple--and thinking about what this means for our families and friends. I liked it when we didn't think about anyone else's thoughts or opinions about our lives, our plans, our wedding, our future. It was simpler. But. I am getting used to people now weighing in--I won't yet say I like it, but maybe I'll grow to. And even if I don't want the opinions, I appreciate the love and concern--and the people from which it comes.

Despite the all-consuming-ness of the wedding, we are actually thinking about our lives beyond it. I should-finally-be done with school by December. I'm writing my thesis right now--on State Policies Toward Religion in France. It sounds really intense, but basically it's 50 pages about how the French government deals with religious minorities--mostly Muslims, and why. I love this stuff. I love political philosophy, religion, sociology. I love understanding how and why people conceive of citizenship and their belonging (or not) in a community. It's fascinating. It excites me so much it actually makes me a bit sad at the thought of leaving school--imagine that!! So, graduation-December. check. After that, Micael and I have talked about moving to France for a year. He's wanted to move back there for awhile to be closer to his dad's family, and when I get past both my romantic notions about living in France, and my fears about living in France, more than anything I want him to be able to be close to family and figure out what 'France' really means to him. So, most likely without jobs and without plans we will move there next January, and see what happens. Don't expect any Julia Childishness on my part, however. I'm already embarrassed about the references to Julie/Julia movie and the blogging and whatnot. I don't think I'm a chef or an aspiring chef, I just like to know about food, where it comes from and how it's good for us. Probably I'll talk a lot about cheese. And sausage.

For now, my next food projects...hmm. Well, the other night we made lamb burgers with blue cheese on sourdough, and served them with delicata squash--amazing. Also really easy. Grilled the burgers, added blue cheese, raw shallots and dijon mustard onto sourdough bread. The squash we cut in half, placed cut side down in a baking dish for 30 mins at 300 degrees, then took it out, scooped out the seeds, put in a bit of butter and ate with a spoon.

This week I'll be making fish tacos and rice and beans. Will write about that soon...

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

the stock pot

Yes! We finally have one! A stock pot, that is.

Thank you 'Santa' for a 16 quart stock pot you left beneath the tree this year. I considered an 8, then a 10 quart, but ultimately decided (after my attempt to make turkey stock after thanksgiving and had to split it up into two separate pots) that we should just go for the Big Guy. So 16 quarts. It's huge.

Santa also left instructions on how to season the pot, so today, many weeks after Christmas, it was finally done. We coated the entire thing with peanut oil--actually not we, Micael--and put it in the oven for an hour. This is supposed to fill in the nooks and crannies so that food doesn't stick as easily to the surface of the pot and keep it from rusting.

Next task: beef stock. I have had, lemme see...7 or 8? pounds of beef bones in our freezer for the last several months. All different kinds--knuckle bones for gelatin, rib bones for meat and flavor, and other kinds that I forget the purpose of now because it's been so long since I bought them. But you get the point--lots of different kinds of bones because they add different nutrients and tastes. I'll be making this stock tomorrow or the next day. Then can have it on hand for soups, cooking grains or just drinking as a broth.

So excited about this pot!

South and back again

Haha! We are back from Mexico and beyond. We did eat fruits I did not know the name of (although we did see plenty of Washington apples), tortillas, local cheese, mole and tacos al pastor. Mmm. Tacos al pastor. Spiced pork slow-cooked on a rotisserie and then served in little yellow corn tortillas with onions, cilantro and pineapple, add green salsa. That was probably my favorite meal of the trip. Especially with a Negra modelo beer.

Overall the food was pretty good. We ate plenty of fresh fruit, tomatoes, onions, and avocado. Lots of fresh, local cheese, beans, tortillas, coconut. My only (unanswered) questions, were: what kind of oil are they cooking in, and where is this meat coming from? The grocery stores were stocked with canola and soy oil, and the taquerias (taco shops) used this oil for frying, so I'm assuming that we probably consumed our fill of those oils. As far as the meat goes, I have no idea. I read before we left that Mexico has adopted many of the US policies on animal production, including feedlots. Oaxaca state is *supposed* to rely on its local food supply more than most areas in Mexico because it has small farmers rather than large agribusiness. But after asking many people where the cows were raised and what they were fed, I gave up on a clear answer. It seemed that the cows were raised somewhere up north, and fed, more or less, cow food. The first time that I asked the dairy stall in the market what their cows were fed, I was met with such a strange look I almost gave up right there. As if there might be different things that cows eat, or that it might matter...huh.

Another oddity to me was the nonexistence of coconut oil as a cooking oil. The coconuts were so abundant on the Pacific coast that you could buy one, freshly picked and cut in half with a straw for about a dollar. It would make so much sense to make use of all these coconuts for their oil, given how healthy it is for the body, inside and out. But there was none to be found. We had brought coconut oil with us from the States and took teaspoons regularly to keep our immune systems strong while we were traveling. But that was the only coconut oil I saw.

All in all, very good food. I loved the use of chiles for spice--the dozen chiles (maybe I exaggerate...) in the black mole sauce, the different salsas at each taqueria. So good. But some of the more complex elements of cooking--like braising, stocks, and whole grains--were absent. I was especially aware of this as I was reading Julia Child's memoir while we were traveling. I believe that that woman can make anyone excited about cooking technique--bring on the sauces...!!

Last but not least, Micael and I got engaged while away (and yes--I was completely surprised!) :) So, although we have known we were already committed to each other for better or worse and for everything in between, it is now official, and officiality brings with it all sorts of new experiences, emotions and family relationships--all joyfully welcome. I can't say how much I look forward to a life with him. And with our stocks, pots, sautés and gazpachos. Our first day home from Mexico we got up early (this was an incredible feat), went to the Ballard farmer's market, and bought fresh, raw cheese, a damn good french baguette, farm eggs and raw milk. We came home, ate, and although I don't remember, I imagine we got back into bed and stayed the rest of the day that way. So, here's to the man I love...and a lifetime of bumping into each other in the kitchen.