Archive for the ‘Everything Else’

How to Meditate with a Ouija Board

April 24, 2017
By Holly Jennings

 

A few weeks ago, I sat quietly in a candlelit room, my fingers resting lightly on the planchette that came with my Ouija board, poised to interview my grandmother for my story on boiled custard.

 

Following the instructions on the back of the box to “concentrate very hard on the matter at hand,” I repeated my questions, slowly, like a mantra:

 

“Grandma, why didn’t you make boiled custard? Is it because you actually didn’t like it? Or because you hated having to help your mother make it when you were young, and swore off making it ever again”?

 

As minds tend to do when pressed to focus, mine started to wander from the questions to random thoughts of my grandmother. Snippets of conversation, snapshots of her preparing foods, and other memories percolated up.

 

When I discovered I was no longer repeating my string of questions, I returned to them. The process repeated until I could focus more and more on the questions without departing quite as quickly from them. My mind soon felt cleansed of the day’s debris.

 

Though I never did hear from Grandma, I spent time with her all the same. And I learned something unexpected, something I would guess Hasbro didn’t intend—that the Ouija board is an excellent device for meditating and remembering ancestors. Is Hasbro missing a marketing opportunity here?


Smothered Cabbage

May 06, 2016
By Holly Jennings

Overwintered cabbage, refusing to be contained it its square-foot home

Overwintered cabbage, refusing to be contained in its square-foot home

Last weekend, when looking for a recipe to smother an unruly head of overwintered cabbage into delectable submission, I came across these can-do words in Mary Randolph’s book The Virginia Housewife Or, Methodical Cook:

 

It will much ameliorate the flavor of strong old cabbages, to boil them in two waters, i.e., when they are half done, to take them out, and put them into another sauce pan of boiling water.

 

Boy have I got one of those, I thought to myself.

 

The specimen I had in mind to test Randolph’s method was eight months old, and had been growing in my garden plot since last summer when I direct sowed some Early Flat Dutch cabbage seeds, hoping for a late fall harvest. I misjudged timing and gave the poor dears too late of a start to reach their cabbage potential before the first frost came—even though in Richmond, Virginia, that can be as late as late October. When it was time to prep the plot for winter, they were just one-tenth of their cabbage selves, but I didn’t have the heart to (more…)


Get Cracking with Thai Food

April 16, 2012
By Holly Jennings

THAI FOOD
By David Thompson
Ten Speed Press
688 pp

David Thompson, author of  Thai Food, doesn’t cut any corners, and he doesn’t expect you to, either. The result? Some of the best Thai food you have had—better than what can be had at most restaurants—prepared right in your own kitchen.

There is a downside, however; the same rigorous recipes that create lively, nuanced food have the potential to leave a trail of disgruntled home cooks in their wake. One DCCC member so disliked the book that she returned it! Those of us who soldiered on all enjoyed the foods we prepared, finding them unlike, and more vibrant than, the more familar and probably overly Westernized version of Thai food we’ve had access to in the States.

There is no question that if you are new to Thai cooking, or even if you’ve done some Thai cooking at home using other cookbooks, you will be challenged when first cooking from this book, which is a truly amazingly, in-depth look at Thai food and Thai culture (the first recipe doesn’t appear until page 191!).

There are multiple reasons why Thai Food is not a walk in the park: ingredients can be difficult to find—particularly if you live in a small town or rural setting, or any place without an Asian population of some size—and there are very few suggested substitutions; for such a complex, text-heavy cookbook, the index could be much better, more complete, and provide more than one way to look up an ingredient or dish; in some cases, the instructions in the recipes proper could be clearer or more (more…)


What Are the Chances?

January 14, 2012
By Holly Jennings

Last evening, less than an hour after posting a story about Joloff Rice, I wound my way slowly home on the 3-mile stretch of dirt road, snow covered and windblown, that connects us to asphalt.

Parked directly in front of our garage was a (more…)


The Best Chocolate Pudding

November 07, 2011
By Holly Jennings

The mission at Cook’s Illustrated is “to develop the absolute best recipes for all of your favorite foods.” Who can’t recall creamy chocolate pudding as a favorite food, if from a distant childhood past? The problem with those childhood versions, however, is that they lack the amount of dark chocolate oomph needed to appeal to our more sophisticated, adult palates.

After sourcing recipes spanning four decades, (more…)


Frothed Mexican Drinking Chocolate

November 01, 2011
By Holly Jennings

On the Day of the Dead, or any day, I like Mexican drinking chocolate served chilled and “on tap,” with a head. Thus began frothing sessions with a molinillo, a whisk, and, (more…)


Thinking Outside of the Cookbook

September 28, 2011
By Holly Jennings

This month and next DCCC is doing something a little different. Instead of cooking from a single book, we are doing a comparison of three food magazines: Cook’s Illustrated, Saveur, and Eating Well. (In the magazine business a magazine is called a “book,” so maybe this club pick isn’t that far off . . .)

 

When DCCC club member Jennifer Megyesi, author, farmer, and local chicken expert, came up with this idea I immediately thought it was fun, and novel. I don’t think I would have thought of it myself—yet another great reason to be part of a club: To allow someone else’s interests to become yours, even if for just a couple of months.

 
Jenn says she’s subscribed to a number of food magazines over the years, but hasn’t consistently cooked from them or done a conscious comparison of them to figure out which is best, from a practical point of view. For example, how do the magazines rate according to  availability and seasonality of ingredients used in recipes, ease of preparation, and, most importantly, the  final result—meaning, was it tasty or not?
 
Jenn’s suggestion opens up other ideas for the club: We could do a food blog comparison, or compare a blogger’s cookbook with their blog. I suppose there are endless possibilities, with the love of cookbooks grounding it all.  

What Do You Think of Global Grilling?

September 15, 2011
By Holly Jennings

If you have read and/or cooked from Global Grilling, I’d love to hear what you think of the book.

Below are questions for individual pondering or group discussion, and for anyone or any club that’s been cooking and reading the Dowdy Corners Cookbook Club’s most recent pick, Global Grilling: Sizzling Recipes from Around the World by Jay Solomon.

Certain questions pertain to all books—like “Which recipes do you like best?”, “Will you likely cook from this book again?”, “Did you enjoy the author’s writing style and voice?”, and so on. But I’ve found that each cookbook generates its own set of questions, based on the content of the book and the author’s bent. It would be easier to just copy and paste the recurring questions each time we discuss a new DCCC pick, and leave it at that, but that wouldn’t do justice to the wide variety of approaches that exist—even to the same subject. (Yes, indeed, there are different ways to boil an egg.)

  • This book has much less text, and generally less personal text, than Dairy Hollow House Soup & Bread, the club’s previous pick, and yet each chapter has an opener and each recipe an introduction. Though the recipe intros usually focuses on the cultural origin of the recipes, (more…)

Music to Listen to While Making or Eating Greek Food

February 02, 2011
By Holly Jennings

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"Take Five" might be a good accompaniment for this Roasted Chicken and Potatoes with Lemon and Herbs from THE FOOD AND WINE OF GREECE

If the soundtrack to My Big Fat Greek Wedding isn’t your thing, there are other options. The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s hit “Take Five,” the third cut on the 1959 album Time Out, uses syncopated 5/4 time of traditional Greek folk dances.* Time Out, the first jazz album to use non-4/4 meter, was nearly rejected by Columbia Records for its nonconventional use of unusual meters. They would have regretted that decision: “Take Five” became the first jazz single to sell one million copies. Brubeck must have slowed the tempo way down in his relaxed, laid-back, and über cool “Time Out”; I can’t imagine myself or Greeks dancing to it. But that makes it perfect dining music.

*I owe this tidbit of meter knowledge to an audio course called “Elements of Jazz: From Cakewalks to Fusion,” given by Professor Bill Messenger and published by The Great Courses company.



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