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August 28, 1999
a year ago

Food Creativity

There was rain in the morning, and the western sky threatened a great deal more rain. After we had gotten up and gotten dressed, the rain had stopped for a while, and the sun came out. So we went into Erie for the Hispanic Festival.

The Lions Club was serving breakfast from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.. They were serving green chile sauce with chorizo and potatoes, or chorizo, cheese, and potato burritos, or an enchilada casserole. All the breakfasts also came with rice or beans, coffee and orange juice, and plenty of local socializing with folks from around town who had come in for breakfast as well. One of the men at a table neighboring ours was the leader of the town council, recognized from the local TV channel. He was talking about water rights, the high-density development areas that were coming into town, and some of the local places for hiking gear and maps. The food was really good. The enchilada casserole was very savory and thick with sausage as well as the usual beef cooked in a red chile sauce.

The sun was still out when we walked down the Main Street of Erie. There were about two dozen stands set up on either side of the road. Everything from the children's library to a booth with temporary tattoos, from our bank giving away free water bottles to the local Hispanic club trying to sign up new members. It was fun to just wander down and look. One stand near the other food stands was from a local nursery. They also had local produce, watermelons, corn, and, to our surprise, they had green chiles by the bushel or half-bushel. Set up right next to the stand was the rolling metal cage of a gas-burning chile roaster. John's eyes lighted up on seeing the set up, but we finished wandering through all the booths before going back to the roaster. He didn't want to carry the hot chilies any further then he had to, and I didn't blame him.

We ordered half a bushel of chilies, and watch them get roasted right in front of us. The hot gases from the popping chilies were rich in the air, and soon, they filled our car completely.

We did a handful of small side trips on the way home. The first was wandering over to Lafayette to see if there was actually a peach festival. We had seen a sign that said that they were having an antique fair and peach festival, and while we saw dozens and dozens of people lining the streets in Lafayette we didn't see a single peach. The local peaches have been very good lately, so we wanted to get more; but we didn't see any in Lafayette. So, on the way home, we decided to stop at a small organic fruit stand that advertised on one of the main roads not far from our house. It turned out that they were in the middle of Erie. They were selling organic produce and dozens of different organic products from their garage. I picked up a little bit of chocolate mint and a few yellow onions, but they didn't have any more peaches. They did have local corn, but we had so much corn in the freezer it seemed silly to get any.

We also wandered north, after that. Just driving along roads that we hadn't driven along before to see what was there. We saw a fairly large house on five acres of ex-farmland with a gorgeous view of the Front Range that was for sale. It was a little more isolated than the house we have now, a little larger, and cost significantly more; but it looked like it was brand-new. Nice, but we'll likely not move out of this house for two years or so, now that work has panned out to be really nice.

We got the house before the rain clouds, and it was a good thing. The Levenger order I had made a few days ago had arrived in a large box that was sitting just inside our gate. Usually there's a large plastic bag around the large boxes, but this time it was just sitting there without any kind of protection at all. There was also a Cook's Catalog box in the Post Office box as well, but the box rang ominously of broken glass when I gently shook it. Sure enough two of the four ceramic ramekins were smashed beyond repair, and John noted that I probably needed to return the whole thing in order to get a new set. There what is, however, a 1-800 number on the order form, and the reassuring notice that they were open 24 hours a day seven days a week. So I called the number and told them that two of the four were broken and the service representative cheerfully ordered two more for me for no charge. Now that is good service.

The other things that arrived were all my blue things from Levenger. There was a blue leather Pocket Briefcase, which holds small note cards that they make. I have a box of 1000 of the grid cards, and, while a use them, it is much more handy to have a pack of them in one place that I can use anywhere. John said that I should get the one with a pen loop so that I could use my pens as well. I also got one of the blue plastic writing cases, which is just a little bit elevated, has a nice large handle, and comes with one of their notepads and a great big metal clip on the front. There's also the three small boxes within the handle of the box that are perfect for dice and writing instruments. I think it will be the perfect container for my gaming materials the next time I go anywhere to game.

The final True Blue item was their True Writer fountain pen in a gorgeous, marbled blue acrylic. The nib is made out of steel, so it is a fairly economical pen. The catalog had all kinds of pretty prose about the pen, but I wasn't going to be convinced until I wrote with the pen itself. It turns out that the prose is fairly accurate, the nib is flexible, the chrome trim is very neat, and the medium weight feels good to the hand. What the prose didn't capture was that it tends to write fairly wet, something that I appreciate, and the light falls through the translucent cap beautifully. All the different shades of blue glow. I'm really enjoying this pen, about as much as I enjoyed the medium-nib Cross pen I bought a few summers ago. A very utilitarian pen, solid, and a true pleasure to write with.

I spent two very frustrating hours trying to get to the 50th floor of the Chrysler building in Parasite Eve. I couldn't get past the cockroaches, which kept breeding when I was trying to kill them. I'm very tempted to go back and finished the rest of the regular game in order to get enough experience points to go up a few more levels. I really need the extra hit points. I had really tense shoulders and a huge headache after that, and I missed the first five minutes of Good Eats while I was dying.

While I was beating my head against the electronic wall, John was doing many marvelous things. He brushed Fezzik out, and got about a dog's worth of fur off of him. He then tackled the entire half-bushel of green chilies and got them all peeled, de-stemmed, and laid out on cookie sheets so that they wouldn't freeze in one big lump. He stuck all that into the freezer.

When I was done with the game, Alton Brown was making biscuits with his grandmother, Ma Mae, on the TV. I've really developed a taste for Good Eats, which is a funky blend of scientific explanations for why food behaves the way it does when it is cooked, humor, and really good eats. The various types of food he concentrates on are simple, almost American icons, and common to any region of the continental U.S.. Everything from biscuits and gravy to simple roast chickens and ice cream, he's very good about conveying the first principles behind how to do it well. In this episode, however, I really wish he had allowed his grandmother to do more of the talking and demonstrating. He really went overboard on the explanations, while Ma Mae calmly created some of the best looking biscuits I've ever seen. Watching her do it really made a difference, as the recipe up on the web site isn't actually accurate. The recipe makes something that is more like batter than dough, and it's very evident from watching Ma Mae what the consistency really should be like. Someday I want to make biscuits like hers.

After the TV program I was emotionally ready to cook. Taking advantage of John's industry, I laid out six of the peeled green chilies. I then made an egg wash, seasoned some flour, and cut up plenty of cheddar cheese. I stuffed each chile with cheese, then, keeping one hand dry and using the other hand for all the egg wash stuff, I floured each chile, dipped it in the egg wash, and then floured it again to give it a good breading. I heated a good amount of canola oil, and then fried the chile rellenos until they were golden brown. The oil was hot enough that the chiles absorbed nearly none of the oil. They came out hot, crisp, and cheesy on the inside. I also heated a can of low-fat lime and green chile re-fried beans and at the last moment decided that we really needed some kind of vegetable. I threw about five handfuls of the sweet corn from the freezer into a bowl and microwaved it on high for about two minutes. The corn came out sweet and crisp.

After dinner I was still in the mood to cook. We had about a gallon of leftover ice cream from various summer gatherings, and there were bananas on the counter that were getting ripe. So I took a banana, put about half a tablespoon of butter into a pan, and browned the banana in the butter. Once it was good and cooked translucent I added about a tablespoon brown sugar. I waited until that was caramelized, and then served it on ice cream. The contrast of temperatures was wonderful, in the crisp sugar coat of the banana was a good textural contrast to the ice cream.

Yes, it was a very good experimental day for cooking.

I spent most of the evening writing, by hand, in the journal. I think I've realized that while I haven't done much creative writing I am still being creative. The biggest outlet, lately, has been my cooking. It is not as widely shareable as my writing is, but it satisfies some everyday need. I'm really enjoying my creations and the process of the learning and experimentation that it takes to make something really fun and good.

Brought to you by Dragon System's Point & Speak.

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