Saturday, March 25, 2006

Supper Club does Southern. and how! Once again, the Supper Club got together 'round some good vittles!

For more description of the event, and the full, luscious wine list visit the March 26, 2006 posting at my friend Tom's site, Spirit & Spice.

The final menu:

Black-eyed pea salad

Birmingham beet salad with spiced pecans, pears, and Fourme d'Ambert

Southern once dipped fried chicken

Pulled pork

Chicken-fried steak biscuits

Mess o’greens and pot likker

Cornbread and cracklins with butter n’ honey

Blue Cheese Mashed Potatoes

Corn Pudding


Yam souffle

Pecan Pie

White raspberry/lemon filled cake

We have enormous fun developing our menus and savoring the food together. Here is a pre-meal shot of Paul, Leslie & Isadora engaged in conversation.

Back in the kitchen, Stephanie churns the butter while James considers the best timing for putting the finishing touch on his succotash.

Friday, March 24, 2006

It was suggested that I post some of my e-mail musings on Southern cuisine in coming up with my final offerings to the Supper Club for its Southern themed gathering on March 25th. They are below... Enjoy!

February 4th: I've been thinking... spent several hours trying to locate POSSUM meat... to the best I can determine, it's illegal to sell it :-( ... I found some really wild other kinds of meat for future reference though! My mother was from Kentucky -- and she said that my great-grandmother (she was a child in the civil war era) used to make it occasionally, and it drove her Dad out of the house for a week! Guess it smells funny.

I'm trying to think of things that are practical as well because some of the recipes handed down from my mom are best prepared and served immediately for best flavor and I don't want to add to the kitchen hecticness.

I've also been referring to a book "What's Cooking in Kentucky" which is a spiral bound book which has real old fashioned country cooks recipes which can have some interesting instructions and side notes. (A distant relative of mine self-published it). I decided to pass on Kentucky Burgoo, which takes all day cooking and stirring outdoors, and serves 50. Not to mention it also takes steak, pork, chicken, squirrel & jowl bacon on the meat side...

I've been recently toying with something like Buttermilk Pie, Peanut Soup, something with Okra or Poke Greens, or Hominy (big or little).

So still in a state of research....

Can't wait!

PS. My mother also used to tell me stories of, and sometimes serve, some very unusual meat dishes which were popular when she was growing up... mostly organ meats. Scrambled brains & eggs for breakfast... sweetbreads... and she used to send me to school with Head Cheese Sandwiches. Although she didn't make it from scratch, I found this recipe for Head Cheese quite interesting.

Head Cheese

After thoroughly cleaning a hog's or a pig's head, split it in two with a sharp knife; take out the eyes, take out the brain, cut off the ears, and pour scalding water over them and the head and scrape them clean. Cut off any part of the nose which is discolored so as not to be scraped clean; then rinse all in cold water and put into a large kettle with hot (not boiling) water to cover it, and set the kettle (having covered it) overthe fire; let it boil gently, taking off the scum as it rises; when boiled so that the bones leave the meat readily, take it from the water with a skimmer into a large wooden bowl or tray; take from it every particle of bone, chop the meat small and season to taste with salt and pepper, and if liked, a little chopped sage or thyme.

Spread a cloth in a colander or sieve, set it in a deep dish and put the meat in, then fold the cloth loosely over it, lay a weight on which may press equally the whole surface ( a sufficiently large plate will serve); let the weight be more or less heavy, according as you may wish the cheese to be fat or lean; a heavy weight by pressing out the fat will of course leave the cheese lean. When cold take the weight off, take it from the colander or sieve, scrape off whatever fat may be found on the outside of the cloth, and keep the cheese in the cloth in a cool place, to be eaten sliced thin, with or without mustard and vinegar or catsup.

After the water is cold from which the head was boiled, take off the fat from it and whatever may have drained from the sieve or colander and cloth, put it together in some clean water, give it one boil, then strain it through a cloth and set it to become cold, then take off the cake of fat. It is fit for any use.

Well, don't think I'll be making the head cheese, but it is fun researching the old. Thought about making corncob wine, but it seems a bit techinical and you have to age it for more than 6 mos. I remembered my mother's 'hoe cakes' (yes, originally cooked on a hoe), creecy greens, cracklin bread, black-eyed peas (and various other unusual legumes), and chess pie. Still lookin'.

February 9th: Well fellow foodies, after reading the necessary actions to prepare good possum, I've given up! But it was fun to see it to the end. I was thinking of contacting my rather wild cousin in Kentucky to hunt one down for me and ship it on dry ice. However, as the following information states, it is especially important to keep it live for a few weeks and feed it a special diet before having 'him' for dinner. The thought of transporting a live possum via Fed Ex (if they even do it) and caring for it at my condo for a few weeks -- well I just couldn't picture it!

Enjoy this recipe from 1917 -- authentic! - Anna
PS I wonder what type of wine would have paired well ;-)


The Preparation of Poultry and Game: Pick carefully, draw and singe every manner of poultry and feathered game, wash clean, quickly, in cold water, never hot, drain, then wipe as dry as possible with a soft, thick, damp cloth--it takes up moisture cleaner than a dry one. Keep very cold and away from smells until ready to cook. Tilt roasting fowls, so they may drain, if liquid gathers. Before stuffing rub over the whole inside lightly with soft butter or bacon fat, pepper it scantly, and rub on a very little salt. Grease and season the outside after stuffing is done,--never before it. If game is shot-torn, soak for ten minutes in weak salt water after plucking, rinse in cold salt water, wipe dry and drain.

Furred game, as rabbits, squirrels, possums, ought to be drawn before it is cold, if you would have the finest flavor. This is especially necessary with possums--which should be bought alive, and fattened for several weeks in a clean cage, feeding them on bread, milk, apples, potatoes, cabbage leaves, and grass. This makes them tender and much more delicate in flavor. Kill by dislocating the neck with a quick, upward jerk, then cut the throat and hang to bleed. Roll after dampening fur well in very hot embers--then scrape the same as a pig, draw, and hang to cool. Divide the skin of rabbits and squirrels around the middle, and pull off each half, the same as a kid glove. Thus no hairs stick on the clean flesh. Draw very quickly, wipe lightly with a damp cloth, and hang where it is cool and airy for at least an hour.

Possum Roasted: Chill thoroughly after scraping and drawing. Save all the inside fat, let it soak in weak salt water until cooking time, then rinse it well, and partly try it out in the pan before putting in the possum. Unless he is huge, leave him whole, skewering him flat, and laying him skin side up in the pan. Set in a hot oven and cook until crisply tender, taking care there is no scorching. Roast a dozen good sized sweet potatoes--in ashes if possible, if not, bake them covered in a deep pan. Peel when done, and lay while hot around the possum, turning them over and over in the abundant gravy. He should have been lightly salted when hung up, and fully seasoned, with salt, pepper, and a trifle of mustard, when put down to cook. Dish him in a big platter, lay the potatoes, which should be partly browned, around him, add a little boiling water to the pan, shake well around, and pour the gravy over everything. Hot corn bread, strong black coffee, or else sharp cider, and very hot sharp pickles are the things to serve with him.

Dishes & Beverages of the old South
By: Martha McCulloch-Williams
Published 1917

Monday, March 13, 2006

BLUE SUN: reports that for the second time this year, a blue sun has appeared over Egypt. "A powerful khamaseen dust storm swept through Alexandria on March 7th," reports astronomer Aymen Ibrahem of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. "The sun shining through the dust turned blue."

The Egyptian sun on March 7th. Photo credit: Aymen Ibrahem.

Blue suns occur when the air fills with particles just a little larger than the wavelength of light. This makes the air behave like a filter, scattering red while allowing blue to pass. For maximum blue, the particles should all be very close to the same size--about a millionth of a meter across. Khamaseen storms are notorious for such fine dust. The spring dusty season is just beginning in Egypt. Sky watchers there should be alert for more blue suns--and blue moons, too.

Official Ramen Homepage. Happened on a Ramen Blog, rather cute and funny!

Monday, March 06, 2006

On to Okazaki. Monday, I took the Shinkansen to Mikawa-anjo and was picked up by Shinji & Fujiko and wisked off to their home. The timing of leaving Hiroshima was impeccable since it started pouring down rain. The colorful umbrellas seemed like spring blossoms moving gently down the sidewalk.

I arrived at the Hiroshima train station rather early, and enjoyed walking around nearby and appreciating the artfulness of Japanese packaging and arranging of goods for display at the stores.

While I was waiting, a young woman smiled and started talking to me in English and we soon swiched to Japanese. She was a 'detail' person for Bayer, and was on her way for a business trip! What a coincidence. I guessed her job! I mused that it might be fun to buy a two week pass and sit for a time at each shinkansen station and see what the world brought me, and write up an article or expand on the sections for a book. Who knows???

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Reunion Party. My good friend and colleague Mr. Akimura kindly arranged to have a reunion party of some of my former supervisors taking place in Hiroshima. Mr. Irie, Mr. Kawaguchi & Mr. Akimura attended (I visited with Mr. Sato in Osaka). Mr. McHale was in New York on business, and had to send his regrets.

We enjoyed a slow meal in a traditional restaurant and reminised about old times, and caught up on current activities. The weather was cold - it snowed the day I arrived, but held its clear skies.

I really enjoyed seeing everyone and having relaxed conversation.

Friday, March 03, 2006

From "Popeye" in Hiroshima. What a cute name for an Internet Cafe. So back in the seat in the non-smoking section. Yesterday afternoon I had a long and wonderful meeting with Haruko Moritaki, and caught up on her dedicated activities to shed light on the harm being done with DU weapons. Totally amazing woman. We enjoyed a late lunch of Okonomiyaki, the signature dish of Hiroshima at Hanayashiki, then went to Shukkei-en, a lovely garden which had plum blossoms starting to bloom, despite the unusually cold weather. Some of the trees looked like weeping willows with the trailing branches weeping riotous complex pink blossoms.

Some photos of our Okonomiyaki Lunch:

Anna & Haruko Moritaki, lower left - Okonomiyaki lunch, upper right
Some Shukkei-en views (plum blossoms were in season):

After finishing our visit, I rested a bit and walked to Hachobori again and enjoyed a simple katsu-curry dinner at a restaurant in the same spot for 50 years. The owners engaged me in a conversation, and by coincidence, the wife of the husband/wife team has a cousin living in San Rafael!

I later met an old friend, "Jon" Koike in the lobby of my hotel.. 30 years since we were students together at Hiro-Dai Fuzoku koko. It was fantastic to catch up on each others lives since we last had the chance to sit and talk about three years ago. Silly me brought my camera, then became so engaged in our conversation that I forgot to take a photo. Zannen desu.

This morning, by sheer coincidence the cute young girl who served me breakfast at the hotel is currently a student at the same high school I attended 30 years ago.

I sat on the wooden deck of the hotel after breakfast soaking in the early morning sun and romantic scenery, blossoms and trail by one of Hiroshima's famous rivers. Seemed the morning for dog walking along the trail, and the cleaning lady, sweeping an already immaculate deck, was so cheerful and smiley I would dare anyone who saw her not to have an uplift to their morning.

I freshened up again upstairs and then headed out with a book to stop and have some coffee at a friendly coffeeshop, one of the delights of Japan. I did enjoy a cup of mocha (not like what we have), but then I was surrounded by smokers suddenly, and decided it was time to leave!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

From Hiroshima. I arrived in Osaka last night, and had the most wondeful dinner with Mr. Tetsumi Sato, and two of his associates, Tatsumi and Koji at "Loin", a teppan-yaki restaurant in the Shin-Hankyu Hotel. The chef was a master, we all had beef with vegetables, including matsutake mushroom, paired with some wonderful Chilian wine. We reminised about old times, and good friendships, and in particular remembered Dr. Barrett Scoville, a colleage we miss who passed on in a plane crash (he used to commute regularly from Connecticut to DC in his small plane).

I woke up early this morning, and took an early Shinkansen (bullet train) to Hiroshima, checking my bags at the hotel and finding a lovely Internet Cafe from which I'm writing this. I saved my Shinkansen ticket for Toran, and even took a photo of the train I rode for him. Love making my young friends happy. I'll have to post photos in retrospect when I'm back in the U.S.