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BC Food & Culture Writing

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April 2017

BREAKFAST BURRITO

First of all, I want to preface this post by saying that cooking is not my forte. Like, I’m not terrible at it- I have reasonable command over the toaster, and the microwave is even easier, but the oven has given me some serious problems in the past, problems that include, but aren’t limited to, innumerable fire alarms, charred skin, and broiled cookies. So, needless to say, I don’t use the oven anymore, which makes cooking kind of hard, especially given my already limited culinary capabilities. The stove, on the other hand, I can control pretty easily, almost easier than the microwave. I mean, all you have to do is flip on the switch and BAM- fire! But it’s not the type of fire that sets off the fire alarm. It’s a more somber type of fire; a fire that burns sweet and low and perfect like a campfire at dusk in the middle of summer and the sun is setting so the horizon is orange but gets light blue towards the top and there’s that smell in the air that smells like a campfire but might actually just be the oxidized air particles disintegrating into the atmosphere like those sparks that are imploding in miniscule bursts of heat that instantly cool and contribute to the darkening cool that spreads with the night as it finally falls over the world like a blanket on a bed that’s a little too close to the open window but it’s okay since cold sheets feel great at first, especially in the summer. Stove fires are kind of like that, but even better since the knobs can make the fire expand like blooming flowers, and what’s fire if not a really, really pretty flower?…

I can make breakfast burritos on the stove, but that’s about it. And of course, I can make the stuff that goes into the burrito, like the eggs and bacon and sausage. I can cook the eggs, easy, even though it is pretty hard sometimes to resist breaking the yolk and making the eggs scrambled. I usually don’t do that since I like breaking the yolk from the egg once it is already formed, because who doesn’t like egg yolk? It’s so silky and bright- it’s the best part. Besides, scrambled eggs are so boring. They look like the intestines of a radioactive rodent who survived primarily on cheese, which wouldn’t be that unusual, I just really don’t like the thought of eating rodents! But then I think- isn’t foie gras duck liver? As far as gross body parts go, it doesn’t get much worse than duck liver, especially since most ducks don’t seem to adhere to the strict, purely organic diet that I expect my meat-based foods to maintain. God, ducks are stubborn creatures. Narrow-minded, too. Just like cows. And that’s why I never feed them, even when the sign tells me not to.

So, I melt the butter on the pan instead of using PAM because PAM is so industrial it adds a strange metallic taste to the food that causes me to not totally trust it. Butter is fine, though, and after that’s melted I add the egg and the bacon all at once because it’s more efficient that way, and while that stuff is cooking, I take out the tortillas and avocado and tomatoes and I cut up the avocado and tomatoes and place them off to the side and by the time that that is finished, the eggs and bacon are usually more or less cooked, so I take them off the pan and place them on the plate and then I place the tortilla on the pan and let it cook until both sides are crispy with butter and bacon juice, which sounds gross but actually isn’t so long as there isn’t THAT much bacon juice left on the pan beforehand, and once that is done, I add all the ingredients to the tortilla and roll it up and BAM-

Breakfast burrito

James Masterson

Give Cooking a Try

After Winter break my mom sent me back to school with some red sauce from my favorite Italian restaurant to keep in my freezer. In efforts to ration this sacred sauce I said to myself that I will only use it when I’m making something worthy of it. It is not suitable for late night spaghetti. Now that the school year is making its way to a close I still have 3 frozen containers of this sauce. Realizing that it will go to waste if I do not actually cook something other than the three meals I’ve been rotating between all semester. So, I set out to get the ingredients for eggplant rollitini, something I have never made before. But, being that I am about the enter the real world in a month, I figured I should try to expand my repertoire of things I can cook. That afternoon was one of those rare afternoons with not much to do, so it was nice to actually take the time to enjoy cooking rather than just doing it because I have to.I made a whole tray of eggplant, most of it is frozen in my freezer, I’ll be having it for the next few weeks. The hardest part was slicing the awkwardly shape eggplant vertically in precisely 1/4 in pieces. I managed to cut 16 usable slices, probably about half of what the recipe called for. My favorite part was making the cheese mixture that baked eggplant would blanket. A little ricotta, parmesan, mozzarella, garlic, and spinach. Even if I screwed up royally, there was no way it would taste that bad, it has all that awesome stuff in it, plus the special sauce.
After some little bumps along the way, I was very pleased with my final product and proud that I cooked an actual meal. There are things I would want to next time, but I guess you become a good cook through trial and error. My mom said you know how to cook when you figure out how to clean as you go, and I can do that…so I have hope for myself.  I think next on the menu will be some chicken parm.

The Salon at Per Se

I love French food; I could eat a pate of foie gras with baguette every day for the rest of my life. There is something different about French food, it is calm and beautiful. French food reminds me of family.

French food in the US = Thomas Keller. I’ve had meals at Bouchon in Yountville and Los Angeles, both very great meals, but they haven’t prepared me for my quick dinner at the Salon at Per Se. On Monday afternoon right before my flight back to New York, my dad treated me to some quick bites at the Salon. It was amazing.

We didn’t have time for the whole prix fixe dinner, so we only had two dishes. It started with a salmon cornet with a sesame tuile and red onion crème fraiche, it was good but it inevitably reminded me of airplane food. Smoked salmon reminds me of airplane food.

Next, I had the salad of marinated sweet carrots. It was extraordinary. The carrot was soft and crunchy. There was this amazing mousse of a curry and crème fraiche that paired so well with the carrots. I’ve never had such an amazing vegetable dish in my life. Dad had the foie gras with strawberries. It was also extraordinary. The duck liver paired so well with the strawberry, it was the most amazing combination, I didn’t know if I was tasting the foie gras or the strawberry because the flavors blended so well. What was so mind blowing about Per Se was that there were so many different layers to the flavor. It was like that scene in the movie Ratatouille when Remy has the cheese with the grapes and he closes his eyes and the different colored lights are dancing.

For our main I had the halibut with green olives in a buerre blanc. Unbelievable. It was the right amount of creamy and salty and was just perfect. My dad had the lamb with mushrooms and peas. Also very delicious.

Looking back at this experience I now realize that food can become a work of art. But it isn’t just any delicious meal that becomes a work of art. It is about the ingredients, how its cooked, how it is presented, and the experience of eating.

Easter with Bobby Flay

Bobby Flay is one of my food celebrity crushes, and so when my family decided to spend our Easter vacation in New York City and made a reservation at Flay’s newest restaurant, Gato, I was more than ecstatic. Gato offers Spanish-accented Mediterranean fare in a trendy space in Greenwich Village. The dining area has ceilings with exposed brick, vintage-style tiled floors, and a bar that wraps around the entire restaurant. My favorite part about the location, though, was the glass wall that allowed you to stare right into the kitchen where the gastronomical masterpieces are born. Of course, the first thing I looked for when I peered through the glass was Bobby Flay himself (No, he wasn’t there) 😦

Our meal started with bread dipped in the smoothest olive oil I have ever tasted. We shared appetizers that left the entire table licking the plates. The meatballs rivaled those of my grandmother. The burrata essentially melted in my mouth. The pizza was dressed with a pesto so fresh it was as if the basil leaves were plucked from the garden only moments before.

By the time we finished devouring the appetizers, I was not even hungry anymore. However, that did not stop me from enjoying my vegetable paella. As soon as the pan was placed in front of me, my stomach miraculously became a little less full. The waiter scrambled the sunny-side-up egg with the rest of the ingredients right before my eyes. The beautiful, rainbow-colored dish tasted as good as it looked with a perfect flavor combination that only Bobby Flay could create.

This meal was definitely a highlight of my break. Thank you, Bobby Flay, for making Easter a little more tasty! -Maria Battagliapaella

Thoughts on Food Politics

Last weeks reading was very interesting. The only other encounters I had with food politics is from watching the documentary “Super Size Me”, learning about bugs being the alternatives to meat, and Impossible Food’s Impossible Burger.

I used to think the problem was just in healthy eating. There are so many different food choices like going vegan, paleo, and raw. Last weeks readings opened my eyes up to the problem that starts even before we choose what to eat. I was overwhelmed at the level of complexity with food politics. With the issues ranging from limited government supervision over the food industry all the way to just us consumers being misinformed. Not only was the problem just with the unsanitary conditions our meat comes from, but also with the mistreatment of our tomato cultivators.

The essay about the burger really hit home for me. I didn’t know life threatening diseases came from the home. I would think that these pathogens only exist in dirty food stalls, but realising that the problem can come from what is in our own fridge really frightened me.

-Suzy Kim

 

Watching Grandpa Eat

This past weekend I was joking around with my family about how watching my grandpa eat should really be a ticketed event, it is very entertaining. My grandpa is a big man, 6’5” maybe 250 lb. He is by no means obese, but he had a nice belly as recognition for all the food he has enjoyed over the years. Whenever we go out to eat with him, we always recap his performance in the car on the way home. Every meal he taps the salt and pepper shakers over his food long enough for you to wonder when he will stop seasoning it. Growing up, in efforts to get us to eat my parents would always say that there was a “clean plate contest,” at the end of every meal. Grandpa never let us win.

 

However, there is one particular performance that sticks out among the rest- the fourth of July buffet of 2014, it is still talked about to this day. First off, Grandpa comes back to the table with two mountainous plates full of pasta salads, shrimp, and other July 4thdelicacies. Thinking that these plates were for our whole table my dad went to take something off his plate and got the death glare. The rest of us watch in amazement- he doesn’t notice. The main event of that evening however was the lobster that he polished off. My youngest brother was hitting my arm like he was watching a close basketball game and would not stop talking about it all night, “He sucked out every single spec of meat!! Thats wild!” He did not waste one part of the lobster, he even sucked any left over butter off his fingers like a young kid would lick off the orange Cheetoh dust that gets stuck tips on your fingers tips.

My dad concerned/ irritated by his aging father had a look of disgust on his face as if he would not be doing the same thing in in twenty years. I’ve seen the hidden, empty sleeves of Oreos hidden under his bed whenever he goes on a ‘cleanse’. Grandpa got up asking completely seriously, “Do you want some ice cream Kristen?” He can always count on me for dessert. Needless to say, the fourth of July fireworks came in second place to grandpa’s show. I enjoy sharing a meal with my grandpa just as much as he enjoys eating it.

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— Kristen

Check out my new Friend!!

Hello!

 I started working with an adult English language learner once a week a few weeks back. Eder is from Brazil and is a professionally trained pastry chef who now works on a food truck that serves Middle Eastern food in Boston. Yesterday we had a wonderful conversation about the discrimination that happens within the food industry in American against other cultures, food as art and beyond. He loves to tell me about recipes and his culture which has become a really great experience!
The main reason I am writing is because he said one line that I thought was very applicable to many of the conversations we have within class. He believes food is art as long as its made with love. He told me he “doesn’t cook if (he is) upset because it changes the energy of the food.” He was very adamant about the necessity of love in the realm of cooking. Eder thinks that passion and care for a meal sparks positive energy in the receiver, not just the chef who made it. His dream is to one day have his own cookbook and wedding cake decorating company.
He will be at the food truck festival in Boston in the next few weeks. He is very eager to use his English and seems to do best when he’s talking about food! So if anyone wanted to go meet him or try his foods they should!
Here’s his truck info!  http://www.sheherazadfood.com

Home is where the tacos are

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of going back home to see my family. Between an early arrival back to campus for Spring Semester and going on Appa for spring break, I was missing home a bit more than usual so it worked out to be the perfect time to go. When I arrived in the DFW airport Friday morning, I was met by my mother and a chicken biscuit and Arnold Palmer from none other than Chick-Fil-A. (Unrelated side note: I will fight anyone who says chicken isn’t meant for breakfast. You clearly haven’t allowed your life to be changed by this golden meal.) As we drove home, we talked about school and how happy I was to not see snow for the first time in months. When we arrived home, I walked into an unfamiliar place. The space that used to be the kitchen was now covered in dust and a team of around seven men were working to install new cabinets. I was shook. All I wanted was to grab a glass of water and an apple from the fridge and sit at the bar and chat with my parents. But alas, this was not an option. As unfortunate as it was to not have the ability for a home cooked meal, there was a positive to this: I now didn’t have to ask if we could eat at all of my favorite restaurants because there was no other choice.

Friday night after a showing of Beauty and the Beast in our local theater (10/10 would recommend if you have not seen it yet), my family drove around the corner to a local taco shop, Velvet Tacos. I know, the name does not paint the prettiest picture of food. This was actually the reason I didn’t eat here for a good two years after it opened. But once I realized why this is the name, I was sold. Velvet = red velvet cake which coincidentally goes great with a taco. Throughout high school, Velvet Taco’s employees began to recognize who I was because of a game I like to play here called Taco Roulette. The rules are pretty simple: 1) walk through the door and to the register, 2) tell the guy behind the counter – usually named Cameron or Jake or Austin – how many tacos you would like today, 3) tell them they have to pick which tacos fill that count, 4) pay, 5) wait for your tacos to arrive. For someone as indecisive as I am, this method has never let me down. I have come to discover a few favorites along the way but ultimately have been able to enjoy variations of tacos I likely would not have tried had I been ordering on my own. On this particular night, I was greeted with a brisket taco and a seasonal chicken taco with beets and of course a slice of homemade red velvet sheet cake.IMG_7299 Just writing this makes my stomach and heart hurt as I don’t have this delicious food in front of me. As my family ate our tacos and chatted about the incredible costumes in the movie, I couldn’t help but think how happy I was to be home.

The next morning I woke up after sleeping a full 12 hours – I’m as shocked about this as you are – and determined that if I wanted any normal food schedule for the day then I should probably skip breakfast. As lunchtime came around, I knew I had to go to Torchy’s Tacos. This is hands down my favorite go to taco shop in town. Many of my friends and I will meet here to catch up over breaks and it is one of those places that you can never go and not see at least one other person you know. Unlike Velvet Taco, at Torchy’s I have one order that I rarely deviate from. “Hey, I’ll take one chicken fajita, one democrat, and an order of chips, queso, and guacamole.” After about 10 minutes this is what arrives:

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This my friends it what heaven looks like. Let’s start with the guacamole. I am very particular about guac here in New England. I hate to break it to you but Pelon makes mediocre guacamole. Down south, the avocado is just a canvas for what can be combined. Onion, tomato, jalapeño, quest fresco, and seasoning all goes into this delicious dip that because it is made with vegetables, it has to be healthy.

Queso is a different story. Of all the foods I miss from home while here in New England, this probably is number 1. Queso is basically warm melted cheese and for whatever reason no one in Boston seems to know how to make that. But Torchy’s is different. In addition to the molten cheese, Torchy’s adds a scoop of their guacamole, queso fresco, cilantro, and diablo hot sauce making a food fit for a king. It is never not perfect. I am working on the logistics of how to ship it to Boston and I will let you know if I ever figure this out.

The tacos at torchy’s are a space of expression. Breakfast tacos with eggs and bacon, chicken and waffles tacos, fried chicken tacos, various of fish tacos, and of course in the heart of meat country a wide selection of beef tacos. Torchy’s has it all. The democrat which is my favorite (the name doesn’t hurt) is made with beef barbacoa, avocado, and fresh lime. Unlike many Mexican restaurants back home,  I don’t feel gross after eating here. Everything is not coated in cheese or refried beans and ingredients are fresh each and every day.

Even without my own kitchen and mother’s cooking, I was able to have these reminders of home and enjoy many of my favorite foods. In two weeks when I go home for Easter break, our kitchen will be complete but I can guarantee I will get my taco fix too.

— Emily

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