Food Friday: Summer Prep

Now that we are finally drying out from all the May and early June showers, it seems appropriate to turn our thoughts to summer and the last day of school. Faithful (or long-suffering) Food Friday readers will remember that once the heat of summer sets in, I do my best to skeedaddle out of the kitchen. I do not enjoy hovering around the stove when I could be lounging gracefully in the shade, clad in floaty white linen, reading important books, and drinking cool wine.

The reality of my humdrum existence, however, means that I still have to plan for night-time meals, because Mr. Friday must be fed. And so I must find foods that meet the basic summer criteria: one-dish meals which don’t heat up the kitchen. And despite my deeply-flawed and lazy-damn-git nature, I do enjoy sitting down at the end of the day, sharing a meal, and catching up. I will even open a can of tuna for that man.

I do rely on a heavy rotation of salads in the summer. Last night we had a chicken salad that is always in a summer staple. I’m not sure it serves any healthy purpose – it contains mayonnaise, bacon, and croutons fried in bacon. But it is deelish. I boiled the chicken while I was eating a lunch sandwich made from Monday night’s leftover tuna salad. (Mayonnaise is a valuable commodity in our house in the summer.)

Chris’s Chicken Club Salad
serves 4

1/2 pound bacon, crisp and crumbled (save the fat)
1 cup bread cubes
3 cups cooked chicken, cubed and chilled
2 large tomatoes, quartered (or a handful of cherry tomatoes, halved)
1 head Romaine, torn (not cut) into bite-size piece

Dressing:
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon Lawry’s Seasoning Salt
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon capers

Sauté the bread cubes in the bacon fat, tossing constantly to toast all the sides. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with garlic powder, Lawry’s Seasoning Salt, and dried basil. Put the chicken in a bowl, cover with dressing, add the capers and toss to coat each piece with dressing. Chill for half an hour. Arrange lettuce on individual plates and mound the chicken salad on the lettuce. Crumble the bacon on top, surround with tomato quarters and top each with the crunchy, wonderful croutons. Serve with a delectable Chardonnay. Yummm. Perfect for picnics.

Here is a variation on that salad which might actually be good for you:

Kosher salt and pepper
1 1/2 pounds cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1/4 cup low fat sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 radishes
2 stalks celery
1 small green apple
2 scallions

In a large bowl, whisk together the sour cream, mayonnaise and salt and pepper. Add the chicken and toss to coat.
Add the radishes, celery, apple and scallions and mix to combine.

It is a spicier salad, incorporating peppery radishes. Normally I eat radishes sitting out on the back porch in the summer, filching them one by one from a bowl filled with ice water, the spicy radish bite tempered by the icy coolth of the water. And maybe sometimes I’ll be fancy, and swipe a schmear of butter on a radish, using the fancy French butter for something other than warm bread.

This is a very continental approach to take with radishes, which appeals to my languorous inner life: wash and gently dry a handful of radishes. Serve the radishes with slightly softened high fat content butter and a bowl of fleur de sel sea salt. Maybe it is Saturday night, and you could add some crusty French bread and the casual insouciance of a glass or two of Prosecco. Yumsters.

If you feel the ridiculous compulsion to serve a hot meal, here is an interesting pasta, with radishes added at the end: https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/strozzapreti-carbonara-with-radishes

Radishes are high in Vitamin C, are low cal (about 1 calorie per radish, until you add the schmear of butter) and provide cheerful color and bite to an everyday salad. You will thank me come August, when your crowd is surly, and will not eat one more cool vegetable, and is screaming for meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Until then, we have the radishes, chicken salads, and the occasional glass of wine.

Here are some radish varieties to tickle your tongue on your way to the farmers’ market: Watermelon, White Icicle, Cherry Belle (what we usually see in the grocery store), Sparkler White Tip, French Breakfast, Easter egg, Black Spanish, White Beauty, Early Scarlet Gold, Daikon Long White, Fire and Ice and China Rose.

Here are some more radish recipes: https://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/ingredients/article/radish-guide

“Long stormy spring-time, wet contentious April, winter chilling the lap of very May; but at length the season of summer does come.”
-Thomas Carlyle

The Spy’s Monthly Sprout: Beth and Rich Trippe

Over the next several months, the Spy will be doing short interviews with residents that have using the Trappe-based Eat Sprout prepared meal company. In a joint effort with Eat Sprout owners Ryan and Emily Groll, we wanted to hear first hand why both individuals and families decided to order using this new food option.

We continue this month with Rich and Beth Trippe. Rich is president of the Avon-Dixon Insurance Agency, and Beth. who is a substitute teacher at Christ Church Day School.

Having met Ryan and Emily at Hearthstone Fitness a few years ago,  Beth and Rich sat down with them to discuss their new business venture and were “blown away” with what the young couple wanted to do to bring fresh local food to busy families in Talbot County. Very quickly, they were hooked.

The Spy spoke to Beth and Rich last month to talk about Sprout and the impact it has had on their physical fitness and general quality of life.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. Full disclosure, Sprout donates food to the Spy from time to time. For more information about Sprout please go here

Food Friday: Hulling Strawberries

I waste an enormous amount of each strawberry that I cut, and I bet you do, too. I lop off the end with sharp knife, flying headlong into imaginary conflict with my family line of maternal cooks. My mother would be ashamed at the food I toss out, and her mother would be amazed at all the food options we enjoy in the twenty-first century. Imagine her reaction to boneless chicken breasts, kept in the freezer, compared to the chickens kept in her back yard.

I am the product of Depression-era children. I try to waste not, recycle, and compost; fine efforts which our parents strove to impress upon us. I guess I am inherently lazy, as are most people. There is a glass strawberry jam jar soaking in the kitchen sink as I write this. I want to clean the jar thoroughly enough to go in the recycling bin. My mother would have bought a brand of jam that came in a jar suitable for recycling as a drinking glass. My grandmother would have put up that jam herself, and would be washing the jar to re-use it as she got ready for the June strawberry jam session. I suppose the least I can do is to prepare my strawberries a little more prudently.

Growing up we used a strawberry huller that my mother purchased cheaply with great delight from a mail order catalogue. It was a simple tool, made from a single piece of springy stainless steel, and it pinched out the top of the strawberry with a single pinch. Easy peasy. You can find it here: https://www.kitchenniche.ca/fox-run-strawberry-huller-p-216.html?currency=USD

But it is not the twenty-first century way to have a simple, easy product to do your bidding. You need a YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jj2F_VGVlMc And it still looks as if you need someone to talk you through your first quart or two of strawberries. It does not look very intuitive.

Or you can see many, more expensive hullers: https://moo.review/strawberry-huller/

Bon Appétit magazine has an entire feature about cleaning strawberries without any waste. Heavens to Betsy. https://www.bonappetit.com/story/how-to-cut-strawberries

And before they take your straws away, here is another way to hull strawberries from Food and Wine: https://www.foodandwine.com/blogs/2014/5/26/how-to-hull-strawberries-with-a-straw

There are six pages of hullers and parers and corers and pitters on Amazon. I think I need a strawberry slicer now. And definitely a $9.95 OXO Tot Grape Cutter. So many gadgets, so little drawer space! https://www.amazon.com/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=strawberry+huller&tag=googhydr-20&index=aps&hvadid=176967133654&hvpos=1t1&hvnetw=g&hvrand=8258634778484500795&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=e&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9010169&hvtargid=kwd-540020285&ref=pd_sl_as2koq1er_e

Amanda Hesser, our Food52 genius sage, was quoted in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago: “Once you go down the road of having a kale leaf stripper,” she said, “where do you draw the line?” Where indeed?

I think we will do fine with a sharp knife, and a whiff of nostalgia, remembering our mothers and grandmothers as we get ready for summer to whip around the corner. I will be a little more careful when preparing strawberries, because we just can’t enjoy summer without strawberry shortcake, or a Fourth of July strawberry, blueberry and whipped cream sheet cake, can we?

https://food52.com/blog/22360-slab-rhubarb-shortcake-for-a-crowd

http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/barefoot-contessas-flag-cake-217440 – substitute strawberries for the raspberries. It might give you an excuse to use that new strawberry slicer.

“One must ask children and birds how cherries and strawberries taste.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Food Friday: Memorial Day Cookouts

How will you be spending your Memorial Day weekend? Will you be marching in a parade? Or will you be surreptitiously trying to toss some Redcoats off the Sultana and into the Chester River? Will you be observing a more solemn occasion and take some flowers to decorate a family grave? Or will you be stuck in traffic attempting to flee the metropolis to get to a warm sandy beach, with ice cream stands and happy families frolicking in the water? There are so many possibilities for this upcoming weekend, especially now that you are allowed to wear white again.

I love ritual celebrations. I love small town parades. Once, back in our misspent youth, Mr. Friday and his chums had a martini stand at the annual Rowayton (Connecticut) Memorial Day Parade. (Another year they distributed Bloody Marys. They were quite the popular young gentlemen.) And back in those days, when one could still drink with impunity before noon, we sat in lawn chairs with martinis in hand, and cheered as the Scouts, the school marching bands, the firefighters, some antique cars, town officials and proud veterans paraded past us. And then we went to a Memorial Day cookout in a park, under the trees, on the river. It was a warm and sunny day, as most happy hazy memories tend to be remembered.

There are many ways to have a Memorial Day cookout. You can go fancy, or you can take the easy route. Guess which I suggest? There is no need to get fancy: apple pie, hot dogs and hamburgers are swell ceremonial American foods and are great for any Memorial Day picnic. I usually whip up a batch of potato salad, but a bag of Utz sour cream and onion potato chips is never out of place! Is it too hot to bake a pie? Just bring out some Bergers. You will be a hero. Or slice open a frosty cold and refreshing watermelon. Put beers and glass bottles of Coke in a bucket of ice, but don’t forget the cheap white wine. I would not suggest martinis at this advanced age, though…

One must be mindful of our visiting foodies. One pescatarian would prefer cool and delicate seasonal fruits, vegetables, and sticks and twigs, please. No meat. No chicken. Alas, we have outgrown skillful watermelon seed spitting, but this is a sophisticated alternative: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/10/magazine/watermelon-burgers-with-cheese.html?_r=0

Bon Appétit fruit salad: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/fruit-salad-fennel-watercress-smoked-salt

You want to simplify in the summer, here are some more handy dandy ideas from The New York Times cooking whizzes. If you are going to be cooking on your summer vacation you really need to reduce and minimize your time in the kitchen. There are waves to catch, birds to watch, hikes to undertake, vistas to appreciate, and a glider in a corner of the cool, dark, screened-in porch with a good book are all calling out to you! Get out and enjoy yourself. Vacation cooking: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/10/dining/a-minimalist-approach-to-cooking-on-vacation.html?_r=0

Next weekend we will still face the bourgeois dining dilemma – what to have for dinner, again? Let’s find some more delicious hamburgers to cook. Hamburgers never grow old. Cook Out Season from Bon Appétit: http://www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/cooking-tips/article/grilling-best-burgers

When it gets too buggy outside Sunday night, wander into the house and turn on the TV. There is nothing like a concert performed with pomp and circumstance and aplomb to make you feel proud. http://www.pbs.org/national-memorial-day-concert/home/

“I’m still passionately interested in what my fellow humans are up to. For me, a day spent monitoring the passing parade is a day well-spent.”
– Garry Trudeau

Spy Wine Notes: Piazza Transports Guests to Italy’s Piedmont Region

Easton’s Piazza Italian Market has been setting a high bar with wine tasting events. This past week ended with an exceptional occasion where the guests were introduced to wines from the Piedmont region of Italy produced by the Malabaila di Canale winery ( www.malabaila.com ). The family proudly claims to have a winery that has produced wine since 1362. Today, the Malabaila estate consists of 150 acres with 22 separate vineyards.

Joining Piazza proprietor Emily Chandler to tell the story was Lucrezia Carrega Malabaila who traveled to the United States from her home in Roero, Italy. She represents the 65th generation of the family involved in the wine making business. Her travels throughout the U.S. are designed to share the exquisite and unique wine from one of Italy’s best known regions for Barolo and Barbaresco. Along with the exceptional wine selections – with sparkling wines personally developed by Ms. Malabaila – came a full four-course dinner prepared by the fine chefs of Piazza.

It was an evening a few hundred years in the making, and the perfect introduction to a vineyard that has much to offer all who enjoy fine sparkling, white and red wines.

For more about Malabaila di Canale visit their site at ( www.malabalia.com ) or drop by Piazza Italian Market and sample a bottle.

Food Friday: Royal Celebrations; Fancy or Plain?

Early tomorrow morning I will haul myself out of bed, and will sit in my ever so inelegant, commoner jim-jams and watch the royal wedding of Prince Harry and American-born Meghan Markel on television. This promising spectacle is happening half a world away in England, but there are lots of American royal enthusiasts. Like me. I will be sporting a fashionable trifle of a hat – a perky, feathered fascinator, which will elevate the plebeian social status I have so far enjoyed as a solidly middle-class American suburbanite, who, despite the travails of our Revolutionary War mothers and fathers, I remain in thrall with England, and the British royal family. I like the royals. They are fancy, I am ordinary.

“God bless us, every one!” to quote Charles Dickens. And God save Queen Elizabeth. I imagine she will be ready for gin o’clock to roll around tomorrow, considering all the last minute antics of the extended Markel family. The queen is probably looking forward to having a big slice of the now-famous elderberry and lemon wedding cake, baked by another California woman, Claire Ptak. (https://gatherjournal.com/notebook/meet-claire-ptak-violet-cakes/) Before the big event, though, the royals might need a good traditional English fry up: a cholesterol-inducing mélange of eggs, bacon, fried bread, beans, mushrooms and sausages.

And how about you? Will you hold out for precious and delicious tea cakes in the afternoon, or will you prepare a scrummie breakfast to devour in the early hours, as the sun rises here, and the horse-drawn coaches trot through the ancient town of Windsor at noon?

The queen and Prince Philip enjoy a simple breakfast together, says BT Magazine: “The spread includes cereal, yoghurt and maple syrup, but Her Majesty likes to have toast with light marmalade, which she sometimes shares with the corgis.” So you can have a rather abstemious meal, like Her Majesty. (Of course, just to keep her wits about her, the queen is known to have a quick drink before lunch – gin and Dubonnet. Imagine how productive you would be in the afternoon if you adopted that regime!)

A more traditional meal is the full English breakfast. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/only-in-britain/the-15-most-british-foods-ever/full-english-breakfast/ This is a meal that will see you through an entire day of royal drama.

Or you can ratchet it up a bit, and enjoy the purely American snack of Cheetos, paired with Sancerre wine. Apparently it is the taste du jour. http://www.grubstreet.com/2018/05/cheetos-wine-pairing-sancerre.html And since you haven’t been invited to the wedding reception, or the after-party, you can drown your sorrows in the $60 bottle of Sancerre.

Of course, you should bake in advance. Undoubtedly the royal wedding cake has been ready for a couple of days, installed in a safe place of honor in the Great Kitchen at Windsor Castle. Feel free to start baking: https://www.hgtv.com/design/make-and-celebrate/entertaining/lemon-elderflower-cake We’ll trot by after the ceremony.

I think my family would prefer the simpler Chocolate Biscuit Cake enjoyed by Prince William as his bachelor cake: http://theroyalchef.com/the-royal-wedding-cake-recipe/ We are all chocolate fiends, and love refrigerator cakes. I wonder if the royals have ever eaten a Famous Wafer Cake – our summer go-to recipe. http://www.snackworks.com/recipe/famous-chocolate-refrigerator-roll-53331.aspx

Afternoon tea at Fortum and Mason is a ritual and rite in London. Social climbing folks not invited to the royal wedding might be hiding out in F&M’s delightful tearoom Saturday afternoon. I hope they have booked ahead. I love the tiny cakes and sandwiches and pâtisseries and all the sugar and jam and cream. I also love The Great British Bake Off. It is the most reassuring comfort food, prepared by the nicest people in the world. https://www.fortnumandmason.com/restaurants/afternoon-tea Watching it takes the sting out of staying home, instead of dancing away with the cool young royals. I’d probably be stuck with Camilla.

Here is a short history of royal wedding cakes from The New Yorker: https://www.newyorker.com/culture/annals-of-gastronomy/prince-harry-and-meghan-markles-wedding-cake-breaks-with-centuries-of-royal-tradition

Plain or fancy? Aristo or American? Sweet and creamy, or good and greasy? If you tune into the wedding tomorrow, what will you have for breakfast? Tea and toast? Full English? Tea and cakes? Cheetos and Sancerre? Dubbonet? Cold pizza?

Best wishes to the happy couple!

“Love and eggs are best when they are fresh.”
—Russian proverb

Food Friday: Mother’s Day (Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You!)

Mother’s Day can be such an emotional minefield. My mother never thought it was a big deal, and would protest if we squandered our allowances on store-bought cards. I recently unearthed an encyclopedic collection of our badly drawn Mother’s Day cards, Valentines and birthday cards that my mother had kept in a shoe box for all these years. So maybe it was a more important event to her than she led on. Keep that in mind, that sweet homemade gestures might be best. (Full disclosure: There is also the fact that my parents never ever threw away a single piece of paper. To paraphrase Russell Baker, our childhood New England house will soon sink because of all the National Geographics stored in the attic.)

If your drawing abilities are limited, you might try cooking breakfast for the mothers in your life. This is always a welcome start to the day. I remember fondly a few Mother’s Day mornings when I was not the first out of bed. I do not drink coffee, luckily for my crew, so the first hint for me of an impending breakfast in bed was the sound of ice clinking into a glass. Ah, a Diet Coke and some cereal. As their culinary skills improved, my children graduated to toast, English muffins, bagels, pancakes and eventually, French toast. And we all decided that breakfast in the kitchen was just as cheering as one in bed, as long as I didn’t have to prepare the meal. I still had to clean up, because one cannot ask for the stars when one has enjoyed bacon cooked by someone else.

This is my oft-hauled-out-of-my-recipe-Dropbox-file.

We always have day old French bread (in fact we have a collection of French bread in the freezer – we will never starve) and it always seems a sin and a shame to pitch it, so this is a delightful and economical way to be frugal consumers. And who doesn’t love the added kick of the rum on an eventful Sunday morning…

We don’t measure anymore – but if you are a newbie to Mother’s Day, the proportions are a helpful guide.

French Toast
1 cup of milk
A pinch of salt
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 generous dollop of rum
1 tablespoon brown sugar
8 1/2-inch slices of day old French bread
Powdered sugar (optional)

Serves: 4
Whisk milk, salt, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract, rum and sugar until smooth. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium heat. Soak bread slices in mixture until well-saturated. Cook the bread on each side for a couple of minutes, until golden brown. Serve with warmed maple syrup and a pinch powdered sugar. Fresh strawberries are always nice, too. Add some rashers of bacon, and you have prepared a veritable feast. Volunteer to wash the dishes, the gesture will be appreciated.

No Fuss Bacon
Preheat the oven to 425° F. Use a wire cooling rack in a half sheet cookie pan – one with edges. Place bacon slices on the rack. We like to use thick-cut bacon these days, otherwise we tend to incinerate the bacon, and even Luke the wonder dog turns his nose up at that. Plop the bacon sheet in the oven for about 15 minutes. Keep checking every 2 or 3 minutes after that, to ensure even cooking. There are no fat spatters on the range top if you cook the bacon this way. There is still a certain amount of denial about cleaning the cookie sheet, but you can sneak it back into the cooled oven for a little while, at any rate…

Skip the mimosas. We are going to plant some wildflowers today, and need to keep our heads about us. Another Diet Coke will suffice.

And be a sport and watch Little Women on PBS Sunday night.

“When mothers talk about the depression of the empty nest, they’re not mourning the passing of all those wet towels on the floor, or the music that numbs your teeth, or even the bottle of capless shampoo dribbling down the shower drain. They’re upset because they’ve gone from supervisor of a child’s life to a spectator. It’s like being the vice president of the United States.”
-Erma Bombeck

“I never leaf through a copy of National Geographic without realizing how lucky we are to live in a society where it is traditional to wear clothes.”
-Erma Bombeck

Wine Notes: Simpatico Welcomes Mauro Maugliani for Dinner at Scossa

Simpatico, Italy’s Finest welcomes Mauro Maugliani, Italian Wine Director & Brand Specialist for Kobrand Imports, for a special wine dinner at Scossa Restaurant and Lounge, on Thursday May 10th.

Growing up in Rome, Mauro shared the same passion for wine with his father, who was a collector of Italy’s best wines. Because of his enthusiasm and experience, Mauro was given the opportunity to fulfill one of his dreams by becoming a representative of his country’s finest wines.

Mauro started his career at the age of twenty as proprietor of a bar in Rome. He then emigrated to the United States to further increase his knowledge of the world of food and wine. Mauro soon managed some of the finest Italian restaurants in Chicago. The last two experiences that shaped him professionally include working as Manager and Wine Director in one of the major hotels in the world and also as a restaurant proprietor.

Currently, Mauro is responsible for the entire Italian Portfolio for Southeast United States as Italian Wine Brand Specialist with Kobrand Corporation. Now he works closely with the major Italian wine producers and directs wine seminars, staff training, wine tasting dinners He introduces the knowledge and passion of his wines to distributors, customers, and prospective buyers throughout his territory.

Mauro and Bobbi Parlett, Owner of Simpatico, Italy’s Finest, will be co-hosting the dinner at Scossa Restaurant & Lounge on May 10th at 7:00 pm featuring a selection of wines that represent the best of Italy, paired with a special menu prepared by Giancarlo Tondin of Scossa. Reservations can be made by calling Scossa at 410-822-2202 or for more information call Bobbi Parlett at 610-209-5409.

As We Gather
Concerto Reggiano Lambrusco Rosso Secco (Dry)
90 pts WE, 90 pts Wine & Spirits

First Course
Burrata with speck and Balsamico
Masi Rosa dei Masi
– A fresh and fruity Supervenetian rosé wine, but complex and elegant at the same time
WE 90 pts, Gold Medal, International Rose Drink Pink Wine Competition

Second Course
Ricotta & Parmesan Cheese Ravioli Guardi & Arugola
Masi Campfiorin Rossa Verona, Supervenetian
– one of our favorites, WE 90, Blend: 70% Corvina, 25% Rondinella and 5% Molinara

Third Course
Roast Roast Veal Short Ribs Tartufo & Mushrooms Sauce with Asparagus
Tenuta San Guido 2015
70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Sangiovese; JS 91-92, WE 91,

Dessert
Torta Nocciola
Michele Chiarlo Nivole, WE 90 pts
$80.00 per person (Plus Tax & gratuity)
***Special discounts for wines purchased at dinner, Cin Cin***

The Spy’s Monthly Sprout: Ken Mann

Over the next several months, the Spy will be doing short interviews with residents that have using the Trappe-based Eat Sprout prepared meal company. In a joint effort with Eat Sprout owners Ryan and Emily Groll, we wanted to hear first hand why both individuals and families decided to order using this new food option.

We continue this month with, Ken Mann, a managing director of Equity Partners in Easton. A cyclist and weight trainer, Ken was looking for a convenient way to include a sufficient amount of protein in his daily diet without having to result to the sometimes questionable value of commercial protein shakes. He found the answer with Sprout’s ever-changing menu choices.

After meeting Ryan while he was working as a personal trainer several years ago before Sprout started, Ken was well aware of the extraordinary knowledge that Ryan and Emily brought into their new business, and he signed up immediately.

The Spy spoke to Ken at his downtown Easton office last month to talk about Sprout and the impact it has had on his physical fitness.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. Full disclosure, Sprout donates food to the Spy from time to time. For more information about Sprout please go here

Food Friday: Cinco de Mayo!

How nice that Cinco de Mayo is on the weekend this year. It is going to be a balmy Saturday, when we can throw open the windows and admire all the new weeds growing in the vegetable garden. Still, weeds are better than hungry bunnies.

For your edification, Cinco de Mayo is an annual celebration of the victory of Mexico over France in 1862, at the Battle of Puebla. It is not their Independence Day. There is much food, for which we are truly happy. Here is a quick, informative video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJmlUljRWDw

Bon Appétit is quick to point out that there are many recipes for Mexican foods which are not tacos, but I am sure you can enjoy as many tacos as you wish. Because we are all about food, travel and celebrations. https://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/slideshow/21-recipes-for-mexican-foods-that-aren-t-tacos-to-celebrate-cinco-de-mayo

There will be no mariachi bands marching through our house on Cinco de Mayo, but there will be tacos, and maybe some good Mexican beer. And I have to confess that I came to the taco party late. When I was growing up our spices were limited to Christmas nutmeg, cinnamon for cinnamon toast, black pepper and baking powder. Garlic was an exotic commodity. Red pepper was on the tables at Italian restaurants. I doubt if my mother was acquainted with cumin. We never had Mexican food. My mother’s idea of adventurous ethnic cooking was preparing corned beef for St. Patrick’s Day. And so my indoctrination came from my peers, as do so many seminal youthful experiences

The first tacos I had were at my friend Sheila’s older sister’s place. Margo was sophisticated and so grown up. We adored her and the string of characters who wandered through her tiny beach house. She made tacos regularly, and we mooched often. I learned how to shred the cheese and the lettuce and chop the onions that went on top of the taco meat, which we browned in a frying pan and then covered with a packet of Old El Paso Taco Seasoning Mix and a cup of water. I thought it couldn’t get any better than that.

Sheila and I graduated to platters of nachos and tacos at the Viva Zapata restaurant. (I think we were actually more attracted to the cheap pitchers of sangria, which we drank, sitting outside in dappled shade under leafy trees, enjoying languid summer vacations.) And then we wandered into Mama Vicky’s Old Acapulco Restaurant, with its dodgy sanitation, and her exquisitely flaming jalapeños on the lard-infused refried beans. Ah, youth.

A more sophisticated approach might be following these ideas from World Food and Wine: https://world-food-and-wine.com/cinco-de-mayo-food

With winter barely behind us, let’s get ready for summer, with these ears of corn. https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/3-ingredient-grilled-mexican-street-corn-elote

The good folks at Food52, never at a loss for recipes and great ideas, has a page of fantastic drinks, salsas, and guacs: https://food52.com/collections/407031-cinco-de-mayo

We will carve up the season’s first watermelon so we can enjoy the sweet goodness of Merrill Stubbs’ Watermelon Paloma. Yumsters. https://food52.com/recipes/23479-watermelon-paloma

Enjoy yourself. May is truly here.

“It’s spring fever…. You don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!”
– Mark Twain