Category Archives: Food

Bring on the Fried Veggies!

We are halfway through March. Although we are still buried in snow, there has been a softening in the air, and as Clif noted, last night the temperature didn’t get below freezing. As far as we can recall, the nights have not been this warm since late fall. So spring is coming, even though we have yet to see her pretty face.

In keeping with planning lots of events for this challenging month, Clif and I headed to The Red Barn for an anniversary celebration—forty-two years! We ordered their crisp, perfectly fried vegetables along with fries and, of course, a whoopie pie for dessert.

More than a little stuffed, on to Waterville we went, to the Colby College Museum of Art. There was a print exhibit, and this wonderful Japanese print caught my eye.  It’s by Utagawa Hiroshige (1797–1858) , and how I love this style. My photo doesn’t begin to do justice to this lovely print.

We also saw a strangely compelling short film called Flooded McDonald’s, where, as the title suggests, a “life-size replica of the interior of a McDonald’s” is gradually flooded.  Built in a pool by the artist collective SUPERFLEX,  this McDonald’s was created with such exquisite detail that it looked like the real thing. Clif and I sat and watched as the waters rose slowly in the deserted restaurant. French fries and burgers floated among paper, cups, trays, and straws. Ronald McDonald fell like an old Soviet statue of Lenin, and it bobbed around for a bit before finally sinking to the bottom. Sounds strange, I know, but this video brought forth all kinds of emotions about our consumer culture, trash, and rising waters due to climate change.

Click here if you would like to see the trailer for Flooded McDonald’s.

We are so lucky to have an art museum of this caliber within driving distance of where we live in rural central Maine.

On a more practical level, here is Snow-Gauge Clif to make his weekly appearance until the snow is gone.

In the front yard, I took a long shot so that readers could behold the glory of our driveway.

The backyard looks a little better.  For now.

As you can see, spring is still a month or so away.

March Excitement: Sandwiches, Cake, and Tequila

A few posts ago, I wrote about how miserable it is in Maine in March. I will not belabor the point. I also mentioned that to survive the March doldrums, it is necessary to plan little outings and events to lift the spirits.

Last Saturday turned out to be a banner day for dealing with the March fidgets. My friend Claire and her sister Gail invited me to go  out to lunch with them. We went to Whitefield—a lovely rural community about twenty-five miles from Winthrop—to the Sheepscot General, a farm, store, and cafe in a converted dairy barn. In short, my kind of place.

A friendly snowman greeted us at the entrance.

The store is chockablock full of groceries and handcrafted items. Here is a view from the cafe.

Then there is the food. So very, very tasty. I ordered a tempeh Ruben.  (Clif and I have finally made the jump to vegetarianism. I’ll write more about this in another post. ) This Ruben had marinated tempeh, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and a thousand island dressing. On rye bread, of course.

Readers, that sandwich was utterly delicious. Tangy, sweet, and chewy.  I could have one right now and have been daydreaming about it on and off since Saturday. The day is soon coming when Clif and I will be constructing our own. I will definitely keep you posted.

A sandwich that good deserved a sweet ending, and Claire obliged by buying a piece of cake to generously share with Gail and me.

For this homebody who rarely goes farther than ten miles from her house, this outing would have been more than enough. However, there was another delight to come.

My friend Dawna had called me midweek. She said, “I want to have a tequila tasting party, and I immediately thought of you.”

I laughed a little nervously, not exactly sure if this was the reputation I wanted to have.

Dawna quickly added, “I know how much you like my margaritas.”

I surely do. They are the best in the area. Period.

Dawna continued, “For Christmas, we were given some really good tequila.  I want to make three pitchers—one with the expensive tequila and the other two with less expensive liquor.”

“Count me in,” I replied.

So when I got home from my Whitefield road trip, over Clif and I went to Dawna’s  house.

Here were the three different tequilas she used.

And here are pitchers of margaritas mixed with the three different tequilas.

We sipped small amounts of each one, not once but twice, and there really was a big difference in the way the different mixes tasted. Now, some qualification is necessary. If Dawna had given me a glass of any one of them, I would have been a happy woman. However, in comparison, for me the clear winner was the pitcher in the middle. The drink was smooth, not cloying, just the right amount of sweet. The one on the far right was also good, but a little too tart for my liking. The one on the the left was my least favorite. It had an almost artificial taste, even though there was nothing artificial in it. (Dawna makes her own lime juice base.)

Here is a line-up of what went in each pitcher.

I was chuffed to discover that my preference was for the most expensive liquors. There truly is a marked difference.

So there. Onward, ho, and take that March!

 

 

 

Crazy Mainers and Ice Cream

Not far from where we live is a fabulous ice cream stand called Fielder’s Choice. They make their own ice cream, utterly delicious and reasonably priced. Even by American standards, the servings are huge.

Right after Christmas, Fielder’s Choice closed for a few months, but with spring supposedly on the horizon, they are back. In what has become an annual ritual, Clif and I, along with our friends Claire and Mary Jane, went to Fielder’s Choice for opening day.

Here is Clif, posing by the listings of ice cream. No, he is not a double-fisted ice cream eater. Instead, he is holding my peanut-butter ice cream cone. My absolute favorite.

Note the down jacket Clif is wearing, and the next picture will illustrate why my cone was in no danger of melting. Here, standing by a snow bank on a cold March day, are three lovely Mainers with their ice creams. We northerners sure know how to have fun.

To complete the frosty theme of this post, here is snow-gauge Clif in the front yard.

And in the backyard.

I hate to be pessimistic, but it seems to me that even though Fielder’s Choice has reopened, spring is not right around the corner. Not by a long shot.

From Scones to Ancestors

Yesterday, I made scones, and they weren’t quite the success that I had hoped they would be. As the pictures below indicate, they grew in width rather than height—I can sure identify with that!—and they ended up looking like cookies. I used Alton Brown’s recipe.

Even so, they were surprisingly good—sweet, but not too sweet; tender, even though they were flat; and nicely crisp on top. Not complete failures. Just not what I wanted.

So, to my blogging friends who are familiar with scones: Do you have any idea where I went wrong? I did not overhandle them, but did I cut them too big? Should they have been taller and more narrow? Hard to troubleshoot from afar, I know, but please do feel free to offer suggestions.

On a happier note…I learned some interesting family-tree news from my cousin Carol. Her father and my father were brothers, and on that side of the family, our 7x great-grandfather was a German Jew named Hanss Semele. He was born in 1590 and came to France sometime in the 1600s.

As far as I knew, my family on all sides was French right back to the caveman days, but Carol’s genetic testing proved that this is not so. You never know, do you? (Phew, am I ever glad we didn’t find a plantation slave owner on the family tree. Unlikely, given our French Canadian ancestry, but, as a friend pointed out, this has happened to some people.)

Both Carol and I were tickled by the discovery of Hanss, and in Outside Time, the current YA fantasy book I’m working on, there will be a character named Hanss, in honor of our 7x great-grandfather. When I mentioned this to Carol, she replied, “Isn’t it funny how how close you feel to them once you know they existed?”

So true! Of course, we don’t know what kind of person Hanss was, but in my story, he’ll be a good guy.

Why I Cook and Bake

Recently, on Netflix, Clif and I have been watching a delightful show called I’ll Have What Phil’s Having. Recommended to us by our daughter Shannon, I’ll Have What Phil’s Having is a food and travel show hosted by the enthusiastic Phil Rosenthal, a writer and producer who is perhaps best known for Everybody Loves Raymond. Phil goes to, among other places, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Barcelona, and Paris.

Phil has a passion for food that might even exceed mine, and his expressive face registers pure joy every time he tastes something that is utterly delicious. As Phil is going to wonderful restaurants, small and large, his success rate is very high.  (Although there is one memorable scene with eggs that have been marinating in something less than delectable for way too long.) Warm, kind, generous, and funny, Phil is exactly the kind of food host I want.

Traveling vicariously with Phil, I have actually picked up a few tips for my own cooking, but it was when he went to Paris that my thoughts about food and cooking fell into place. Naturally, in the Paris episode, Phil talked about baguettes, about how bread is so important to the culture that the government actually regulates the flour and the price. The feeling is that all people, regardless of how much money they earn, deserve good bread in specific and good food in general. It is their birthright.

How different this is from the attitude in the United States, where people who live on a tight budget must scrabble to eat well by clipping coupons, shopping sales, compiling a price book, and running to various grocery stores, few of which are nearby and usually involve having a car, another big expense. Especially in Maine, to eat well on a tight budget could almost be considered a part-time job, which is why so many harried folks rely on processed food. When you are working two or three jobs, finding the energy to cook is no easy thing.

And yet, if you live on a shoestring budget, cooking and baking are essential to eating well and eating healthy. What a conundrum!

Although Clif and I live on a shoestring budget, we are very lucky to work from home, where we have the time and flexibility to cook much of our food from scratch.

Last Saturday, I made an apple pie and cinnamon pie knots.

In the afternoon, friends came over, and as we sat around the dining room table, we ate pie and cinnamon knots and other goodies while we discussed books, movies, and politics. A finest kind of afternoon.

This afternoon, I will be making bread. Where I live, there are no good bakeries nearby, and even the not-so-good bread is expensive, costing about $5 a loaf. Therefore, I bake my own bread.

 

I am not sure what kind of seismic cultural shift it would take for Americans to change their thinking about who deserves good, affordable food.  Maybe the gap is too wide and can never be bridged.

But I live in hope.

 

 

 

A Cardinal, Icicles, and Pancakes

February is winding down, and we still have a lot of snow in our yard. Not at all unusual for central Maine. As we are probably at peak snow—at least we hope we are—snow-gauge Clif will soon be making weekly appearances so that we can have a pictorial record of how long it takes for our yard to be snow-free. Stay tuned for the big excitement in the hinterlands!

At dusk, the cardinals usually come to our feeders for a bite to eat before it gets dark. In my bathroom blind, I snapped a picture of Mr. Cardinal. Unfortunately the light was too low to get a real sharp picture of him, but I know how much readers who don’t have cardinals enjoy seeing shots of them. And this photo gives a sense of the dark evergreens in the forest on the edge of our backyard. This is a northern photo, that’s for sure. And somehow, to me, that flash of red looks so brave against the snowy trees.

Icicles are still hanging from the branches of the shrubs in our front yard. Lovely to see them glitter in the afternoon sun.

On another blog I read, there was a mention of American pancakes and how small and thick they tended to be.  While we do have mini pancakes, better known as silver-dollar pancakes, most pancakes served in American restaurants are large and thin. No surprise as America is the land of the big, especially when it comes to food. Not sure where the rumor of little pancakes came from, but never mind. Big, small, thick, or thin, they are all good.

I am lucky enough to have a husband who makes some of the best pancakes in central Maine. Maybe even the best. After so much thinking about pancakes, I requested them for our supper last weekend. While Clif made pancakes, I fried up some veggie sausages. Pretty darned good, and yes, Clif’s pancakes are thick but not small and utterly delicious.

 

 

 

 

A Sunny Gift on a Cold Day

Normally, I don’t post two pieces on my blog in the same day, but I just received a box of these beauties from my blogging friend, Betsy, all the way from sunny California. So today I am making an exception.

Holy cats, this gift of oranges and lemons made my day! Many, many thanks, Betsy, for  your wonderful generosity. Oh, how beautiful they are.

And to think they grew in Betsy’s own backyard. While I love living in Maine, I have to admit that I would be thrilled beyond description to actually be able to pick oranges in my backyard.

Again, Betsy, thanks so much!