But this isn't a sappy love affair with my family since I don't have a love affair with anyone else blog (written tongue-in-cheek). This is about the food I encounter and the things I experience between feedings:
Wheatsville Co-Op has been in this blog a time or two before for its stellar peanut stew. Their turkey club is also killer because bacon makes the world go round. For this lunch, I also imbibed in Maine Root's Pink Drink which is spectacular. I feel like a fairy princess when I drink it due to it's bright pink color and sophisticated at the same time because it's made with prickly pear cactus juice and sweetened with agave. It's almost as good as a prickly pear margarita, which I was unable to get to this trip. Maine Root soda company was originally started in Portland, Maine but then moved to Austin; the exact opposite of me! If you haven't tried their Ginger Brew, it has an amazingly strong ginger kick and tastes great solo or in a Dark and Stormy. All Maine Root sodas are fair trade certified and organically sweetened (read: no high fructose corn syrup).
My dad and I took three bike rides while I was down South. They were about the only three nice days we had available as the rest of the time, it seemed to be either raining or far too cold to go out. I've noticed something about Texas cold versus Maine cold. In the winter in Texas, it can be 45 degrees and cloudy and I'm freezing my butt off. But today in Portland, it'50 and sunny and I'm in a short sleeve shirt and my new favorite Carhartt pants. If you can explain this anomaly you're smarter than I am.
On our rides, we encountered numerous black vultures, including a couple who were taking advantage of sought-after roadkill. I am often considered a "true animal lover" because of my affection for these "ugly" birds. Think about it though, vultures are invaluable to their ecosystems purely because of their garbage-man qualities. These enormous (heavy for a bird), gregarious (social) birds can smell a dead animal a mile away (most other birds can't smell at all), have stomach acids stronger than others in order to digest their less than fresh lunch and can vomit at a moment's notice in order to distract a predator. That and the ability to urinate on their feet to keep cool in summer and their bald head for diving deep into an entree without getting too juicy are just a few more examples of how incredible these birds are. Are they beautiful and well-behaved by traditional standards? No but they have a magic all their own and I always light up when I see one.
Another incredible sight in rural Texas was an American Kestrel, seen two days in a row at the same site. These small falcons look like a painting of beautiful bird perfection. They have the ability to hover in one spot without moving their head in order to spot prey and love insects and small rodents. I first time I saw the Kestrel, it took me about five seconds to fully identify him. He was sitting on a telephone wire, flicking his tail up and down. That movement, combined with his coloring lead me to the Kestrel identification. I was so excited that I stopped in the middle of a (non-busy and deserted) road. On a hill. Once I closed my mouth (from the jaw-dropping awe I experienced), I finished climbing the rise and we made our way back to Austin for lunch at Torchy's Tacos.
When I'm home, we make food at home as much as possible because it's nice family-bonding time but I also try to hit some of my favorite spots out. One night, I decided I really missed the ramen at Pai Men Miyake. Without much idea of how, I threw together a soup that didn't suck. The base was homemade broth stock and soy sauce, wheat (should have used rice) noodles, vegetables (kale, onions, carrots and bell peppers) and topped with local smoked pork, a medium-boiled egg, shaved ginger and a slice of sea weed. I wanted a lighter dinner in order to have a dessert I became obsessed with on my flight down. I don't remember where the idea came from but it involved bananas, brown sugar, a torch and good, vanilla ice cream. See "recipe" below.
The whole reason I came down was to help cook and then eat turkey and its various accompaniments. We had two Thanksgivings this year which suited me just fine. The first was at my sister's house with turkey, garlic mashed potatoes, gravy, simple biscuits, green beans with almonds, cranberry sauce and so much more. Mom and I were in charge of the garlic potatoes. I peeled and sliced two whole heads (could have used one more...) of garlic to sauté in olive oil over medium heat. This was then added to cooked organic Russet potatoes, butter, milk, salt and pepper. They were a hit! The two turkeys were cooked simply with butter and fresh rosemary springs under its skin, more rosemary and butter plus garlic cloves and love. Our second Thanksgiving involved this turkey, green beans and homemade cranberry sauce but we substituted mashed potatoes for scalloped potatoes. These are incredibly delicious and easy to make as well. Boil potatoes to almost done-ness and then cut into half inch or so slices. While the potatoes are boiling, create a roux of butter, flour and then milk. Then add cheese. So much cheese. We chose Munster and cheddar. Salt and pepper and add more and more cheese until you love the sauce. Finally mix cut up potatoes with the sauce and bake in the oven until the top is crusty and brown. Hint: you can never have too much sauce. White up excess with biscuits/rolls/tongue. Mmmmmmm.
It was a great vacation from Portland life and I returned to the same gray, rainy weather. The sun finally broke through yesterday and today is out in full force. I've been inside far too long so I'll leave you with this piece from a favorite poet of mine:
the only person we have to talk to
every single day
no matter the time
or where we are at geographically
will you reply with kindness
when the days become difficult?
will you share in the joy
as you accomplish your dreams?
always be aware
of how you speak to yourself
every word is heard loudly
even if they are said
in the silence of your mind
-Tyler Kent White
Banana-topped ice cream dessert:
Slice bananas and place on a metal baking sheet
Liberally sprinkle with brown sugar
Torch with a crème brûlée torch (maybe you could use the broiler if you don't have one???) until sugar is melted and shiny but not burnt
Spoon over quality vanilla ice cream (we used Haggen Dazs)
Enjoy the delicious but delicate flavor and texture of the brown sugar with flavorful bananas over smooth and creamy ice cream. Go for a second helping.