Sunday, August 17, 2008


Was never much of a fan of eggplants either, didn't have them growing up and when I did later they were either served up in eggplant parmesan (when chicken parm was so much more satisfying) or served up as part of a summer vegetable mix, dripping with what was a half a step up from bath water.

A few years ago I decided I was going to give to try preparing them myself. I followed Alton Brown's advice (I followed a transcript from his eggplant show) to draw as much water out of them as possible and then to treat them like a steak I salted the bejesus out of them, squeezed out the water and ended up with these limp dishrags of pale vegetable. I like the taste of Worcestershire sauce but not so much that it could compensate for the bland eggplant. And referring to these things as steak was generous, tuna steak and portabello steaks, those I can see. My eggplant dislike had been reconfirmed.

A couple weeks ago I decided they would make a good letter E. I could complain about them, refer to them as vapid waterlogged sponges, it was going to be good. So I bought the three in the picture, the big one at the Grand Army Farmers Market and the two little shavers at the Park Slope Food Coop and was going to make something. It would further prove how bland and watery these things are. Their time arrived. When I went to prepare them the big one was growing some white fuzzies out of a dent I hadn't noticed before. The big one had had the radish so I tossed it out and turned my attention to the two little ones. I decided to cut them into slices and sautee them up with garlic and duck fat. I usually cook with olive oil but decided I'd pull out all the stops. I cooked the eggplant and garlic for 30 minutes and then poured them (soft soft eggplant and brown crunchy garlic, just shy of burnt and just shy of bitter) over arugula and sprinkled on some goat cheese. The eggplant had soaked up lots of duck fat deliciousness and the garlic gave it crunch, the arugula's pepperiness and the goat cheese joined in. Mmmm. Maybe I could have fried up discs of cardboard and they would have tasted as good. Doesn't matter - eggplant is pretty good and it won't be five years before I cook it next time.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Dos Equis

I always used to think Dos Equis meant two horses. The two exes on the label along with the complete absence of horses should have tipped me off but they didn't. In hindsight I thought of those exes the way you see three exes on a bottle of granny's moonshine on "The Beverly Hillbillies" - it meant hooch, somewhat old hooch with a storied past. It was the first Mexican beer I ever tried and the exes gave it history and made me feel it might have a higher alcohol content. In college we would make Brador runs - trips over the border to get the 6.2% Molson Bradors. After college I moved to Boston and took Spanish classes through an extension class. It was there that I discovered Dos Equis were Two Exes. Humbling and mind opening.

I've had a few similar moments.

As kids we didn't have much control over what we'd watch on TV. I remember "The Lawrence Welk Show," "Hee Haw," "The Flip Wilson Show," The Carol Burnett Show" and "The Beachcombers" over on CBC - some were more painful than others and some kept using a word as they'd go to a break or come back from one. The word I heard was brochtoyubied. I never saw it spelled out so that spelling is mine. A few years later I found it was four words - "brought to you by."

Home in East Charleston, whenever we would take meat out of the freezer, it wasn't to thaw it but was rather to unthaw it. You would unthaw food but there would not be a spring unthaw - that was a spring thaw. Again years passed before I ever figured out that I was thawing instead of unthawing. I took the name of the blog from this unthawing of food. I like the idea of learning through food or remembering through food.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


I don't know where to start. Corncob pipes, popcorn, corn flakes with hot milk and sugar in France, corn on the cob (delicious Jersey corn two weeks ago), high fructose corn syrup or the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. So I'm going to go further back.

I used to live next to a cornfield. This one was used to feed the cows, the cows that lived at the farm on the other side of the cornfield. It was the same farm my Mom grew up on.

When we moved to Charleston, VT we lived with Grammie at that farm. It was a farm without animals when we were there. I was six. I realized later that a farm without animals is a sad thing. My grandpa, who used to stuff grass down the backs of us kids' shirts, had recently passed so there was just Grammie there . We lived there a couple years until the house was built on the other side of the field. Grammie then sold the farm and bought a small house across the road from us.

One of my fondest memories of that time, besides how soft Grammie's cheek was when I kissed her good night, was my brother and I riding our red tricycles in the white-washed empty barn. We weren't used to riding on anything smoother than a dirt driveway so a smooth cement floor in a barn was a nice change. Not only did we have a fast surface but there were also the slopes from up where the stanchions were down to the middle of the barn along the gutters. We couldn't drive into the milk house because there was a step but otherwise we'd zip all around that barn. My trike was faster than his - probably because mine was tricked out with stickers from Wonder Bread - Peanuts characters.

A few years later, after we'd graduated to two wheels, we'd ride our bikes in the cornfield that now belonged to the guy who had bought the farm (purchased is probably a better way to put it - I think he's still with us). There was a path along the corn we'd follow and then we'd dive off and ride along the rows as far as we could go, our handlebars barely fitting amongst the rows, leaves slapping us, tassels waving, a cloud of pollen in our wake.

I'll get up there again at the end of this month.

Saturday, August 2, 2008


I'm not a big fan. Mom would pickle up a bunch of beets. We kids had to eat them. In my distant memory I can hear her saying "President Nixon says you have to eat everything on your plate." No option of saying "No Mom, thanks, no beets for me tonight." If that had been an option I would have avoided many a slab of beef liver and hogshead cheese.
I would have a pickled beet sitting on my white plate, its dark red juice advancing on the boiled potatoes I had just mashed, pats of butter melting into the fork tracks. I don't think anyone else in the family except Mom liked them but she kept on making them. I was always wondering why not use those Ball canning jars for more dill pickles? Or pickled eggs. Mom likes beets. She was in charge of the garden, did the cooking, controlled what went on the table so we got beets. She'd boil them, too. That would mellow out their colors a bit but there was still this earthy beet smell about them. Can you saute' them, make into beet tempura? Is there any way to make them taste good besides masking their beetiness in a soup?

I bought some beets today at the Grand Army Farmers Market. I believe that your sense of taste changes as you grow older so make a point of going back and trying things I didn't like in the past. Eggplant, zucchini, Chardonnay, your turns are coming.