Odds and ends

January 22, 2017

Beeswrap. This may be a cool thing; I have not made up my mind.

Beeswrap. This may be a cool thing; I have not made up my mind.

There’s been some cooking going on, but it hasn’t been anything particularly unusual. But looking at my photos for the past week, there have been a few things here and there that haven’t made it into posts, so we’ll just corral them here.

First, the above. This stuff interests me. It is beeswax-impregnated cotton cloth, designed to serve as a substitute for plastic wrap in your kitchen when it comes to covering containers, etc. It’s from a place called Mighty Nest, to which one can procure a $10 a month subscription that nets you a kitchen or home-related goodie aimed at making your life and home more sustainable and cutting your landfill footprint.

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Aaaaaaaahhhhhh. Tamales!

January 20, 2017

History, tradition, soul food and damn good stuff, all in one dish.

History, tradition, soul food and damn good stuff, all in one dish.

Business took me to the old river town of Helena, Arkansas, today, where I spent a worthwhile day, not least because on the way home, we spied a Pasquale’s Tamales food truck.

And that was the name of dinner tonight.

Mississippi River Delta tamales are a long tradition, one whose beginnings are lost. They were part of the fabric of everyday life in the 1930s, when Robert Johnson put voice to the hard work and poverty of the sharecroppers, in what came to be called the blues. It’s thought they may have dated back to the Mexican War, when Southerners traveled south to fight at Vera Cruz and Chapultapec, or they may have originated as a way for slaves to take a midday meal to the field, to stop briefly and eat in between chopping or picking cotton.

Tamales were poor folks’ food. Cornmeal, lard and the scrappy cuts of pork were cheap.  For years, they were “soul food,” found mostly at African-American diners and church dinners.  For a time, there was a friend of a fellow employee who came by with tamales for sale once a week or so, fishing them out of a big water-bath canner in the trunk of her car. And they were a mainstay of black church fundraising dinners; I became known for frequenting the ones which turned out, in my estimation, the best tamales.

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Close, but no cigar

January 19, 2017

Kind of monochromatic dinner, it was.

Kind of monochromatic dinner, it was.

This should’ve been good.

And it wasn’t BAD. It just was a little…disappointing.

I have been craving Mexican food for a couple of weeks, which is not real common for me, because I’m not a huge Mexican fan. I mean, I like it, but (a) it doesn’t always like ME, and (b) it’s not something I want all that often. In any event, the craving caught up with me t’other night, and as picking up Mexican carryout would’ve involved major logistics issues, up to and including getting dressed, I chose to cook my own.

(NOTE: It is a hazard of working at home that unless there is something that specifically requires you to dress, you may wear your pajamas for three days at a time. It always secretly amuses me to be discussing multi-million-dollar business deals while wearing plaid flannel PJs and fuzzy socks. With a dog curled up beside me. But I digress.)

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A meat loaf kinda day

January 14, 2017

Because, well, meat loaf is good stuff.

So I cooked meat loaf for 60 or so for lunch at the soup kitchen, then came home and had some leftover meatloaf on a sandwich with good, melty Brie and lots of mayo for dinner.

No complaints with either. No pictures, either, but hey, live with it.

I was contemplating last week what my team would cook at the soup kitchen today, because I knew our turn was coming up and one of my chores as team captain is to order the groceries. I contemplated beef stew, but quite honestly, didn’t want to have to peel that many potatoes. We’d done chili and hot dogs last time, and I hate to do soup-style meals every time we volunteer. (Granted, that’s only once every 10 weeks, but still.)

So I thought, meat loaf. Meat loaf is cheap, a factor when you’re a charitable endeavor feeding 50 or so. So I placed my order for 15 pounds of ground beef and some corn and green beans for sides (I like mashed potatoes with meat loaf, but see above about not wanting to peel potatoes).

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Warmth in a bowl

January 12, 2017

Beans and cornbread. Simple, basic, good.

Beans and cornbread. Simple, basic, good.

What IS it about cold weather that makes you want to serve dinner in a bowl?

I speak, of course, advisedly about cold weather in Arkansas because, well, it was 75 today. But it was 13 on Sunday, and it’s going to be 37 tonight. If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.

In any event, when it gets cold, I want something warm and warming to eat. Soups. Stews. Braises. Things over noodles. Things over rice. Heat from seasoning, heat from temperature.

And I cooked several of my favorites when it was frigid last weekend, and will do so again when the temps head back down this weekend.

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A happy sort of lunch

January 11, 2017

Brie, bacon, tomato. Yum on a piece of toast.

Brie, bacon, tomato. Yum on a piece of toast.

Wherein we contemplate what we might put together for lunch, try something, and it’s sublime.

I was fiddling around in the kitchen with some this and some that, and it came time for lunch. And neither this nor that constituted what I wanted for lunch, so I set about looking for something else.

Something else wound up being a complete flyer on what I thought ought to be good. And it was.

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Kickin’ it old school

January 10, 2017

Old school sho' nuff dinner, right here.

Old school sho’ nuff dinner, right here.

Because sometimes, you just want a throwback dinner.

And when you’re feeling throwback, there ain’t much more throwback than meat loaf, mashed potatoes and green peas.

Which is exactly what we had. Because, throwback.

I made my standard meatloaf, which involves a pound of ground beef, a panade of some bread crumbs or cracker crumbs with milk, some onion powder, garlic powder, seasoned salt, and an egg. Patted it out in a pie plate; I like a thin meat loaf, with more area of crispy outside to tender inside, because I like it that way.  Coated it down with ketchup, and into the oven it went.

Mashed potatoes were, well, mashed potatoes. With a little butter, a little sour cream, a little half and half. Mashed with the whisk attachment to my new immersion blender, which I dearly love, because you can take the little attachments off and throw them in the dishwasher, and that’s just a fine thing.

And the peas were peas. Steam ’em in the bag; dump ’em in a bowl, add butter. Eat.

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