September 24, 2011
There are several foods that I eat to excess. Most of them (thankfully?) are fruits. So you can imagine my boundless joy and delight to discover that there were two fruit trees in the backyard of my new apartment. Even better, they were thoroughly underutilized and the air was redolent with the smell of sweet rot. The prune plum tree was fairly well stocked, but the fig tree was out of control. If I so much as jostled the trunk, about a dozen gorgeous green parcels would plop onto the ground spilling out their ruby insides.
Quite honestly, I could have eaten them all there and then, but I knew from experience that winter was coming. So in the interest of self-preservation I made a bit of fig chutney. Based on the pictoral letdown that was chermoula, I will leave the image of fig chutney up to your imagination (or the power of Google image search).
The British adoption of chutney fascinates me. In a cuisine most famous for being bland, chutney stands out as a spicy oasis. Yes, I know that tea is also an Indian export that has assimilated within British culture, but chutney seems much more exotic. I decided that it would be only proper to have one of those East India Tea Company characters over to sample my most recent culinary foray. I would have my chutney with samosas, but he could have his with cheddar if so desired.
Here is my mysterious guest. Why mysterious? Well, Wikipedia informs me that this is a portrait of Major General George Campbell of Inverneill from 1790. However, this just is not possible since George Campbell died in 1882. One imagines that he did not have so fine a mustache at such a young age.
“Would you like some more chutney, Major General?” I asked. I dared not ask, “But who are you really?” Not such a nice thing to say to a guest, especially one born in the East Indies, bedecked with medals, and so clearly suffering from jaundice. I suspect that this is indeed George, and the oil painting is dated inappropriately. Perhaps someone with a better background in art history can let me know?
September 4, 2011
Bagels are to pretzels as beer is to bleach. Really. Because while you boil bagels in a lovely simmering pot of malted water, you carefully dip pretzels with gloved hands into a non-reactive bowl filled with a lye solution made of water and NaOH pellets ordered off the internet at a minimum weight of two pounds.
But oh, they are worth every harrowing moment of this process. Even when one discovers the rubber gloves have a hole in the finger, thus compromising ones ability to ever use his or her right hand again.
Some say pretzels were invented in 610 AD to represent a child’s arms in prayer and the three holes stood for the holy trinity. The term “pretzel” comes from the Latin “pretiola” meaning “little reward.”
However, there are others who believe that pretzels originated much later than that. We fast forward to 1861, when one man from Lititz, Pennsylvania began a pretzel empire. That man was Julius Sturgis.
At first, I was worried that his appearance came as a result of eating too many pretzels. It would not be difficult to eat too many pretzels in Lititz. However, Mr. Sturgis assured me that he always looked like this, and in fact the pretzel is modeled after his head.
Why, of course.
Mr. Sturgis gave me a few pointers on pretzel shaping, handling, and salt applying. I look forward to following his suggestions in the near future.
I must end this post by reassuring those of you concerned about passing on your negative traits to your offspring. Please observe the likeness of Tom Sturgis, grandson of Julius Sturgis. On the other hand, it might skip some generations.