Sunday, January 24, 2010

Concrete or Corn

To say that people talk funny where I come from would be an understatement.

We recently made the annual trek home for the holidays and should have taken along a translator to help the kids understand what Grandpa was saying.

Grandpa lives in the country, surrounded by corn, and he has a very country way of expressing himself.

Here are but a few things that confused my citified children:
When we first woke up Grandpa hollered, Y'up? Which meant "are you awake yet?"

Then Grandpa went outside and told someone to turn on the spigot. Neither of my kids knew what a spigot was, and Grandpa mumbled something about damn city folks beneath his breath.

Grandpa pretty much says whatever is on his mind. Pretty much meaning 'often or a little.' Also used in other variations such as pretty far, pretty close, and pretty well - a term that comes up pretty much in every single sentence.

A derivative of pretty much would be pert near, meaning 'pretty close or almost. My daughter asked Grandpa, are we done yet? and Grandpa responded, Purtnear. She literally had no idea what Grandpa was saying and had to come to me for translation.

Some words were easier to decipher than others. Such as up-air meaning "up there" and the commonly used fixin' meaning 'preparing to' as in "fixin' to go to the store." Grandpa is always fixin' to do something.

Also, there's the ever popular all-be, shoot far, and reckon.

And one cannot forget plumb, because by the time we left, Grandpa was plumb tuckered out.

Sometimes we even had to translate actual items found in Grandpa's kitchen such as butter and pepper. My daughter was staring into the fridge searching for butter when Grandpa hollered, "It's in that big brown tub right in front of your face." My daughter, accustomed to the real stuff in sticks, had never seen Country Crock before and was unaware, ironically, that this was the country equivalent of actual butter.

My son, wanting to pepper his eggs, searched high and low for a pepper mill, until finally Grandpa explained to him that pepper doesn't come in mills, it's in those little red and white tin cans.

Sugar is a staple in the country.
We had biscuits with honey, sugar beets, sweet pickles, brown sugar ham, sweet tater casserole with marshmallows on top, sweet corn, sweet tea, and gooey desserts. After one meal, my nieces and nephews were bouncing off the walls on a sugar high that lasted until midnight. My poor kids, unaccustomed to such large quantities of sugar, were hanging in the best they could: delirious, incoherent, heads bobbing, eyes rolling back into their heads, it was a diabetic coma the likes they had never seen.

After supper we took a walk down by the crick, which meant creek or small stream in Grandpa's neck of the woods.

After a long weekend of eating, playing, and eating some more, Grandpa's arthritis was 'spurrin' up, so we decided to leave and get an early start since the next morning it was fixin' to snow. Grandpa said, Y'all come again. Y'all being singular for 'you all.' All y'all, plural. And All y'all's, plural possessive. I won't even get into Yers and Yuins.

It was pert near dark by the time we arrived home. The city emanated a soft glow as we purred along the Interstate and slipped back into the familiar rhythm of urban life. I called Grandpa to thank him for the good time and invited him to our home in the big city soon. But something tells me he won't come. Grandpa is a Country Mouse. It's hard for him to acclimate.

If Grandpa does decide to visit, I will make him my version of a country meal: grilled Berkshire pork chops; fresh corn sauteed with zuchinni, onion, garlic and red peppers; roasted garlic mashed potatoes served with a big glass of unsweetened iced tea. It puts a whole new meaning to the phrase, "Hey Grandpa, what's for supper?"

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sesame Orange Granola

The brutally cold weather, compounded with the fact that there was absolutely nothing to watch on TV, compelled me to make a long overdue trip to my local library last week where I discovered a treasure trove of cookbooks just waiting to be read.

This is fantastic if you are anything like me and already own a bunch of cookbooks and don't need to buy more. It is a great way of taking a sneak peak at some of the new and interesting cookbooks out there, plus check out some of the old classics as well. I hope the cookbook authors don't mind.

I found such an interesting assortment of cookbooks and checked so many out, that I could barely lug them all home.

It was so exciting, I could hardly contain myself.

That evening I snuggled up with a cup of hot tea and read two of them straight through like novels. I do that sometimes, read cookbooks straight through like regular books.

Then I became so inspired that I got up from the sofa and whipped up Art Smith's Sesame Orange Granola.

This is the perfect snack to sustain my kids while they traipse across a bitter cold college campus. Oddly enough, I had most of the ingredients on hand.

I found the recipe in The 150 Best American Recipes: Indispensable Dishes from Legendary Chefs and Undiscovered Cooks, and it had such a tantalizing assortment of tasty looking dishes, that I may eventually have to buy it.

The granola was a slightly salty, slightly sweet combination of shredded coconut, maple syrup, orange zest, old-fashioned rolled oats, sliced almonds, cashews, sesame seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg, dried cranberries and honey.

Time for me to go now, I've got more cookbooks to peruse.

Anyone else out there love the library as much as I do?
Sesame Orange Granola
Adapted from Back to the Table by Art Smith

1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
Grated zest of 1 large orange
4 cups old-fashioned (rolled) oats
1 cup (4 ounces) sliced almonds
1 cup (4 ounces) coarsely chopped unsalted cashews
1/3 cup honey
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/3 cup sesame seeds
1 cup chopped dried fruit , such as cranberries, dates, apples, or apricots, or a combination.

Directions: Position racks in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat to 375°F.
Spread the coconut on a baking sheet. Bake on the center rack, stirring often, until lightly toasted, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
Bring the oil, maple syrup, and orange zest to a boil over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Place the oats, almonds, cashews, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sesame seeds in bowl with coconut.
Add the syrup mixture and mix (or toss with 2 large spoons) until well coated.
Spread in 1/2-inch layers on 2 large baking sheets.
Bake, stirring often, switching the positions of the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking, until the granola is golden brown, about 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven - and sprinkle with a tiny bit of sea salt if you like - then cool. Pour into bowl with coconut and dried fruit and mix together. (The granola can be stored at room temperature in airtight containers for up to 1 month.)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Floydian Zin

Yes, that's a new banner up there. I had the winter blah's and decided to spruce things up a bit.

Isn't cabbage the most cheerful vegetable? I happen to love cabbage, both to look at and to eat. Makes me think of Beatrix Potter and the poem A Cabbage Patch by Robert William Service. Both British authors. As Frasier once said, No one's a bigger anglophile than I.

I do love all things British. Many of my favorite novels, TV shows, movies, and even a few favorite TV chefs come from England. Anyone familiar with Keith Floyd or Rick Stein? And who doesn't love Nigella and Jamie? And I would be remiss to leave out Marco Pierre White whose uber-cool image graced my daughter's laptop wallpaper throughout college.

My kids and I used to get a kick out of Keith Floyd who did a show on food and wine. He always seemed a bit tipsy and filled his wine glass clear to the brim. Sometimes, when I pour my wine glass too full, my son says, Now that's a Floydian glass!

We hadn't seen Floyd on TV in a while, so, out of curiosity, I googled him, only to find that poor Floyd had passed away only a few days before. The NY Times headline read: Keith Floyd, Jaunty British TV Chef, Dies at 65. Jaunty! Don't you just love that? Only a Britisher could be described as jaunty.

Previously, I mentioned the poet Robert William Service, who also wrote The Cremation of Sam McGee. A highly appropriate poem right now, given our recent arctic weather. Sam Mcgee hated being cold and had a very unusual way of getting warm. If you haven't read it, I suggest you do, it's quite funny and clever.

Quite funny and clever? Now I think I'm beginning to sound British. Best to lay off the Gavin and Stacey for a while.

I am looking forward to the new year and hope to have a contest soon with some type of prize giveaway. So stay tuned. I would like to increase my visitors, and hope to write and cook more as the new year goes on.

Think I'll pour myself a Floydian glass of Zin and look up some cabbage recipes.