Saturday, December 19, 2009

Its Cold in Pennsylvania!


Normally I spend my Christmas holiday in Belize. Warm humid air, coconut trees, parrots waking me up in the morning, rain pounding on the tin roof at night, and black fruit cake and breadfruit on the Xmas dinner table are all traditions that I hold dear. This year, however, my father had to have a surgery that involved physical therapy which he could not obtain in my remote part of Belize, so my parents stayed on in Reading, PA over the Xmas holiday. For my brother and me, that meant canceling our plane tickets home and heading to Central Pennsylvania instead of Central America for our winter vacation.

I'm not a fan of winter. I like sunshine. Winter is often dreary and grey and it gets dark at a ridiculously early hour. I like humidity. In winter the air gets so dry I wake up in the middle of the night with my skin tightening over my body like a sausage link on a grill. I love warmth. Winter, my friends, is COLD. Therefore, I do not like winter, and I greet its arrival with disdain and its departure with a level of exuberant celebratory happiness usually reserved for weddings, New Year's parties and lottery winners. The one and only thing I like about winter in the temperate zone is that I have an excuse to wear my awesome leather biker jacket. But I would give that up immediately if the alternative was bikinis by the pool.

Now for all those real Christians and secular (or, as I like to call myself, pseudo) Christians out there, Winter means Christmas and Christmas means food. Holidays often function like a black hole for custom, pulling in and retaining traditional practices and activities long after their meaning or the original cultural context has disappeared. This explains the continuing popularity of songs about horse drawn sleighs when ford tundra SUVs with built in back seat DVD players are more likely to be the suburban transport of choice. It also explains the preponderance of "traditional" family recipes around this time of year. In Reading, PA, which is only a stone's throw from Lancaster County, heart of Pennsylvania Dutch (really German) culture, this means masses of cookies, pies and other sweets along with the very important sours: pepper cabbage, three bean salad, sauerkraut and other vinegary foods that offset and complement the German sweet tooth. While I am missing my black fruit cake, rum po po (a very strong rum based egg nog) and other Belizean holiday treats, I am looking forward to chowing down on some sauerkraut real soon. In fact, I was lucky enough to enjoy some homemade sauerkraut at my last Food, Art and Identity class just last week and it has just primed my taste buds for more.

Today I was supposed to go help a family friend make venison scrapple, and I was planning on posting all about this regional delicacy right here, with pictures and all, but the snow has kept us from driving up into the hills to his house. So instead I wanted to ask you all what food or beverage do you consider absolutely essential to the winter season? Is it hot chocolate piled high with whipped cream? Peppermint candy canes? Sugar cookies sprinkled red and green? Your Granddad's famous beef stew? Or your Auntie's best black fruit cake?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Its been three months.


Its been about three months since I last posted on this blog. And I was beginning to think that I would never get back to it. Because on August 16th Jose and I drove 10 and a half hours from DC to Bloomington, Indiana. We arrived tired, headachy, and starving. I promptly hopped on the local wireless and did a search for "best pizza in Bloomington". Thus I found Avers Pizza, a Chicago style place, and ordered our first meal, a Deluxe deep dish.

The next day after crashing on an air mattress in an otherwise empty bedroom we arose at 7 AM to greet the moving truck and spent all morning and days afterwards moving into my new, suburban apartment. After living in the beating heart of downtown Washington DC it was quite an adjustment, and continues to be so, to live in a culdesac where at night it is completely pitch black outside. A 10 minute walk takes one to the strip mall, a grocery store and movie theater and many other suburban amenities, but it just doesn't replace my DC neighborhood.

So then why, one may wonder, would I leave DC for Indiana if DC is so wonderful? Well, as I have mentioned previously, its all about the PhD. Specifically, the PhD in socio-cultural anthropology with a concentration in Food and an outside minor in Human Sexuality (at the famed Kinsey Institute). The past three months I have spent trying to construct a new life, in a new (college) town, a new routine, new friends and a new focus: my PhD. I've also returned to DC several times already to see my friends that I consider family, and to eat seafood without feeling guilty. (Its just hard for me to eat seafood when living in a state that is soo freakin' far from the sea!).

So for those that were wondering, that is where I have been. My first month here I barely cooked except for the occasional pasta. Even since then my cooking has taken a nose dive. Bowls of oatmeal, grits and cereal, pasta and canned sauce and quick one pot melanges of whatever veggies are at hand have been my mainstay during the past weeks, supplemented by eating out way too often for health or budget at cheap cafes in Bloomington.

But yesterday was my birthday and even though I am in the middle of my final papers (including a treatise on the role of terroir, sustainability and landscape in the debate over the meaning of Organic Agriculture), I have promised myself that I would start updating this blog again. It has been a source of great fun and fulfillment to me since I started it and I hate to see it fall by the wayside. So again, for those of you who have given up on me ever updating this little site again, I promise to be better in the future and try to put up at least a couple entries with photos and food every month. I will also probably share with you some of my work and discoveries about food and farming from my PhD projects. Thanks for waiting and I hope not to disappoint in the future!!

I thought I would share a picture of my food, art and identity class, where each Monday we discuss our readings, watch films and eat delicious food that we have brought to share: