Thursday, September 2, 2010

Mark's Serre: a tale of the Belizean Love Affair with Coconut


The Coconut. Round, brown, full of tasty white meat. Stacked up like cannon balls in your grocery store. In Belize coconut oil and coconut milk are ubiquitous ingredients in both Belizean Kriol/Creole and Garifuna cuisine. All Belizeans enjoy coconut flavoured rice and beans, or stew beans and rice, often accompanied by the rich umami of pigtail. But coconut oil and milk pop up in other places too: a wide range of breads, soups and stews demand their presence, and the oil is used to fry everything from plantain chips to fish.

Coconut milk based stews include crab soup, conch soup and serre, a delicious fish stew. All these hearty  concoctions are the coconut equivalent of a cream-filled chowder, and just as rich, tasty and filling. I was lucky enough to eat all three during my time in Placencia, but Serre is probably the easiest to replicate anywhere a well stocked supermarket can be found. This is my friend Mark's recipe. A fellow foodie and Placencia native, his love of the sea and good cooking led to some memorable meals, ranging from freshly caught lobster salad and conch ceviche to braised barracuda steaks with sour cream. This was one of my favorites.


Mark’s Serre

Fish: about 2 pounds of mackerel, barracuda, culibri, any firm fleshed fish, steaked or cut into other bowl sized pieces.

Coco yam about 1 lb (or dasheen or taro root, found in most well stocked produce sections, in the "exotics" section. Ask your grocer, or substitute potatoes if you absolutely have to. See a picture here: coco yam)

Cassava root about 1 lb (again, most well stocked produce sections in a grocery store will have this around. See a picture here: Cassava root)

Onion (about two medium, finely diced)

Bell pepper (about two medium, finely diced)

1 can (2 cups if fresh) coconut milk

Water

Garlic (plenty, finely minced)

Cumin

Black pepper (fresh ground, to taste).

Cilantro

Salt

Preparation:

1. Peel cassava and coco yams (collectively known as ground-food in Belize because they come from the ground), cut into big chunks. The brown skin of the cassava will come off along with a white thin layer of underlying flesh. Finally chop onion, bell pepper. Crush black pepper, salt. Cook all vegetables and ground-food in a pot with coconut milk, plenty of minced garlic, pepper, a little cumin, salt and enough water to completely cover the ground-food. Cook until ground-food is tender. Add minced cilantro to taste .

People often include breadfruit, ripe plantain or green plantain fu-fu (cooked mashed green plantain dumplings) in this stage of the serre.

2. Once fish is cut into steaks or pieces, fry until browned in a little coconut oil.

3. Place fish in pot, on top of the stew of tender ground-food and vegetables, simmer til fish is done. This won't take long, test with a fork if need be.

4. Serve with pepper/onion sauce.


Pepper or Onion sauce

This is an essential accompaniment to the Serre. The acidity of the lime and vinegar and the heat of the habanero cut the richness of the coconut milk and create a perfect balance of flavor. Whether you call it pepper or onion sauce depends on the ratio of onion to habanero-go with what works best for your tastebuds and heat preference.

Habanero peppers

Onion

Cilantro

Lime juice

Vinegar

Preparation: Mince an onion and add to taste a quantity of finely minced habanero pepper. Remove the seeds and white internal membrane if you want to tone down the heat even more. Add minced cilantro, lime juice, vinegar and salt to taste. Some people like more vinegar, some like more lime juice. Experiment and see which you prefer. Let the whole concoction sit in a glass container. You can leave it covered on the counter for several weeks and it will stay perfectly fresh as the onion and pepper pickle themselves in the lime juice and vinegar.

Serve with Serre and other heavy stews, with refried beans at breakfast, on top of guacamole or anytime you need some hot pepper flavour.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Yes, I meant to post this in June but....Tropical Storms and Jam.


This is a mango. Ripe, juicy, ready to be eaten over the sink so the dripping nectar doesn't mess up your kitchen counter. This particular piece of fruit was harvested the third week of June, on my family farm in Toledo, Belize. As you probably have noticed, its late August now. You may also have noticed that since I arrived in Belize for the summer, I haven't been very good about posting updates. It turns out that uploading photos on slow Internet is a frustrating exercise, one that was far less appealing than doing fieldwork or going for a swim in the Caribbean. So after my first heroic post, I decided to focus on my research and update everyone once I returned to the land of 4G networks and high-speed everything. But I had already written this article back in June. So keep that in mind as you read it. Everything below was typed in the last days of early summer.

So Belize just got hit by Tropical Storm Alex, which was the hurricane season equivalent of getting slapped out of nowhere. From a tropical wave to a storm in less than 24 hours, it was the first storm of the season. Luckily, apart from a few downed trees and electrical lines and mostly mild flooding, it was just really bad whether for about 36 hours. The contrast is ridiculous. Yesterday the winds were howling and gusting to almost 40Mph in Placencia, which is a quite a bit south of Belize City, which bore the brunt of the storm. Rain poured down and lashed the sides of the houses and drenched every inch of every person who ventured outside, regardless of how much gortex they had on. I came home from my fieldwork expedition outside with the beginnings of hypothermia and bright blue nails.

Today, it was warm, almost hot, with a light breeze and brilliant blue, partially clouded skies. Except for the occasional flooded yard, the inch of water on my kitchen and bathroom floors, and a couple sunken boats, you couldn't tell a storm had ever passed through.

But this blog entry is about something even more exciting than Tropical Storm Alex. This post is about my trip to my family farm in Toledo District, Belize. South of Placencia, in a bight on the coast, accessible only by boat, was my childhood home and the only place on earth where I can point to hundreds of trees and say "I planted those". There's nothing like the feeling of being surrounded by the fruits of ones own labor, waving their leaves at you in greeting in an afternoon breeze. I couldn't wait to get there.

Two days after I arrived in the country I got up super early to catch a water taxi, otherwise known as a large skiff with seats to cram 20 or so passengers eager to get from Placencia to Mango Creek. In Mango Creek (close to all the mango plantations) I walked up the road, had a leisurely breakfast and awaited the bus south. By 11 AM I was in Punta Gorda, the district capital for Toledo District, and the only official town. My parents met me and after a quick snack we jumped in our skiff and headed home. On a nice day, this is what the ride looks like:


Luckily for me it WAS a nice day and we had a good ride home. I spent about four days on the farm. In Mid-June the place was full of fruit: bananas, papayas, hundreds of mangoes dripping off the loaded trees and the American-football shaped Mamey Fruit, deeply sweet and mahogany hued, and one of my favorite fruits. Also bearing were Suriname cherries, red, ribbed with juicy flesh perfect for jam.


I made both mango and Suriname cherry jam, did a day of underwater archaeological fieldwork with a team from another university, hung out with my folks and enjoyed the beauty of the place. It was good to be home on the farm before the bulk of my research began. And the jam made good gifts for people that I had already started befriending. Even better, the only ingredient I had to pay for was sugar. All the fruit were free for the picking. I felt like a beachcomber a la my hero Euell Gibbons. It was  refreshing experience that sent me back to Placencia in a good mood and ready to tackle my field work. Have you had any "free" food experiences? Maybe foraging wild plants? Or discovering a neglected apple trees on a street corner?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Belize, Beach and of course FOOD.

So I'm in Belize for my aforementioned 2 months of predissertation research. I arrived this past Tuesday. In two days I have already amassed over 16 pages of typed notes from what we anthropologists like to call participant observation (otherwise known as wandering around, watching people, hanging out, helping out and chatting folks up). Since my area of focus is food my participant observation has involved a lot of eating and a lot of grocery shopping. I just wanted to share a couple delicacies with you.

Like mangoes! I have eaten two since I got here, one the size of my two fists, and one only a little bigger than a golf ball and sweet as sin. I love the wide range of mangoes available in the tropics. Ladyslipper, "hairy mango", Tommy Atkins, Julie mango, and those are only a very few of the many different shapes, sizes and flavours. Mangoes grow very well in the sandy, generally crappy soils found in this part of Belize, and especially on the penninsula that Placencia is on, which is basically just a strip of sand. The one pictured above is only about 2 inches long and fantastically sweet and flavourful.

What, ask you, are those other things? Those, my friend, are what we call "tableta" or "cuttabrute" a must for all coconut lovers, its made out of local brown sugar and grated coconut cooked together with coconut water and either pressed into a pan and cut into squares or shaped into bite size balls like these. I obtained both the cuttabrute and the mini-mango from this lady:


This is Ms.B. (for the sake of privacy I dont reveal her full name). She is a born and bred resident of Placencia and an excellent cook who has one of the best kitchens in the world. Check it out under the coconut tree, a mere 10 feet from the Caribbean.


You get to catch the sea breeze while you cook over the open bbq grill. She had rice (made with coconut oil) and jerk chicken (not a traditional Belizean dish, but thanks to tourism, one that you see around Placencia). I bought a plate and hung out with her for a while. It wasnt my only meal of the day. I started out with fresh corn tortillas from the tortilla factory down the street from my house, my big mango that a friend gave me,


local honey, hot tea and some cheese. And after my meal with Ms. B, I walked down the main road to Tutti Frutti, an Italian run Gelateria featuring tropical flavours like mango, coconut, banana, lime, soursop and the classic rum and raisin, with local rum. After my banana and rum and raisin I was ready for a nap. Thank goodness for siesta time! Tomorrow, I head to my family farm in Toledo District. Its only two boat rides and a bus away, and we are planning to catch some land crabs and have a crab boil while Im there. I'll be taking pictures, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Rye Bread, Sushi and Tattoos: My weekend in Washington DC

I just got back Sunday from an impromptu four day trip to my former home of Washington DC. I hadn't been in town since Cherry Blossom Time. By early June it had already become Sweaty Hot Outside and Freezing Inside Time in the nation's capital. But I didn't care because I was busy eating. Eating, cooking, drinking tequila and dancing. It was a good weekend. The only thing I didn't do much of was sleep, but that, as they say, can wait until I'm dead.


These ruffians are some of my culinary companions. The man on the left was my constant co-host of what we dubbed "Culinary Madness" during my years in DC. Lets call him "The Punk Chef". He would like that. In the middle, one of our many faithful taste-testers. To the right, a professional chef at the Greenbriar hotel in West Virginia, in town to wreak culinary havoc with The Punk Chef and I. We three shacked up in The Punk Chef's home, a rambling, art, junk and cat filled mansion in Georgetown which he takes care of for its wealthy and eccentric owner. The servents' quarters, on the first floor, boast a large and comfortable kitchen, which, apart from our quarters, was the only space free of the cloying scent of cat piss. It was the perfect spot to prepare the first meal of the weekend, which had been planned by my host before my arrival. A Russian Meal was the theme and the local Russian market had been raided to provide us with goodies ranging from smoked mackerel to a mustard of such pungency that it put wasabi to shame.

 

The mackerel was dismembered, the dumplings, sauerkraut, potatoes, rye bread, and other smoked fish was prepared and the hearty meal was enjoyed by all. The only thing missing: ice cold vodka. But that we remedied later that night. Post-prandial shenanigans ensued:


The next day we were all tired, hungover or both so supper was simple: left over rye, a nice baguette, triple cream cheese, a huge salad of organic pea shoots, lettuce, cranberries, rosemary, pecans and fresh goat cheese and a seared pork tenderloin, courtesy of our Greenbriar Chef.


We invited some friends and chowed down in our big comfy kitchen.


While in DC I made sure to eat at Nandos Peri Peri, the fabulous South African chicken chain that, so far, has only invaded Washington DC. If its raging success is anything to go by, it should soon be driving Popeye's out of business across the nation. You just can't compete with sangria, spicy grilled chicken, delicious butternut squash and couscous olive salad. You just can't. I don't have any good pictures to share, but just take my word for it and eat there. I also lunched on tapas at Jaleo, the original flagship restaurant for the Spanish DC restaurant mogul Jose Andres, and I have a photo to prove it. The gazpacho was perfect on a sultry DC afternoon:

The next day was sushi day: sushi from Sushi Uni, my favorite neighborhood sushi spot in Dupont Circle.  It was also tacos de lengua day: tacos from the only real Mexican taco stand in the tri-state area, located conveniently outside the Maryland DMV. It was also Pride Parade Day and World Cup England vs. USA Game Day, but that's another story entirely!

 
Next stop: Belize and Placencia's Lobster Fest. I arrive tonight and I am already anticipating the taste of Belizean stewed chicken and coconut oil laced rice and beans.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Few Changes Here, A Couple Updates There...

If you are one of those patient folks who have actually followed my blog over its bumpy progress these past 12 months, you will probably notice some recent changes. A new header picture, featuring one of my favorite peppers (yes, its habanero), some adjustments to my side-bars and last but not least, a new blog name, Rice and Beans, a Belizean in the USA. Since I am no longer in Washington DC at the moment, and cannot predict with 100% certainty my next destination after Indiana, I figured a more general title would do the blog justice. For the same reason I got rid of my DC Blog-Roll by combining it with my general blog roll and deleting those blogs that have not been updated in the last year.

Another great addition has been a search option, also located on the side-bar right by my recipe index. So now you can search for a recipe or ingredient or topic and the search results will appear at the top of the page above the latest blog entry.

I hope that these changes will make the blog easier to navigate and more enjoyable to read. Let me know if you have any comments or suggestions!

And the gorgeous picture? Monticello Gardens, which I had the good fortune to visit when I still lived in DC several years ago. What beautiful places have you visited lately?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Watercress Salad with Mango and Lime


So this salad was an experiment, the result of a big bunch of watercress and an invitation to a foodie BBQ being hosted by one of my fellow Anthropology of food cohort at Indiana University. I wanted to make something with the watercress and I ended up with a salad that combined it with mango, walnuts and dried cranberries, pecorino Romano cheese, mint and an olive oil and lime dressing. Despite my trepidation at the mix of ingredients, it was full of flavour and disappeared quickly at the BBQ. I fully intend to make it (or something like it) again. Who knew that mango and watercress could be such tasty bedfellows? Again the tropics and the temperate zone unite in something delicious.

Watercress Salad with Mango and Lime


1 large bunch watercress

Several handfuls of baby lettuce leaves, or one heart of a butterhead lettuce

3-4 sprigs of mint

About 1/3 cup dried cranberries or to taste

Half a large mango, cut into thin strips

Pecorino Romano cheese

About 1/3 cup toasted walnuts or pecans

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

a couple grinds of fresh black pepper

Juice of one lime (may substitute the juice of one small lemon)

Procedure:

1. Rinse the lettuce and watercress and toss out the big stems and any discolored leaves. Thinly slice the mango and cut into matchsticks.

2. Pat greens dry with paper towels and place in a large bowl with mango, thinly sliced mint leaves and toasted nuts.

3. In a jar combine the cranberries, olive oil, sugar, salt, pepper and lime juice. Shake until emulsified and pour over the salad greens. Toss.

4. Top the salad with thinly shaved pecorino Romano to taste and serve.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bloomington Farmers Market and Chickpea Andouille Soup with Greens


This week has not been the kind of weather I expect as spring heads full blast towards summer. After days of sunshine and temperatures in the 80s, of sun-dresses and iced tea on the patio at Soma Coffee Shop and Juice Bar in downtown Bloomington, I was surprised by a sudden 30 degree drop and the arrival of thunderstorms, cold rain and even cooler air. Yesterday was day two of the cold weather and I had a lot of free time on my hands.

The month of May, now that my classes are over, has been slower than I thought it would be. Getting approval from the Institutional Review Board to do my research was a fast process, and my grants were disbursed without any hitches. So Tuesday found me at home, avoiding the gym and the reading I had planned to do in preparation for the field, with nothing else that I really needed to do. I decided to make bread, and set about stirring together the sponge for my Mom's all purpose recipe.

I went to the Bloomington Farmers Market this past Saturday and found it full to bursting of greens. Collards, five kinds of kale, Swiss chard, lettuces of all sorts, fresh picked spinach, watercress, dandelions and arugula. I loaded up on some Swiss chard, kale, watercress and bok choi. I already have plenty of lettuce on my balcony!



It was a cold day, with a brisk wind keeping customers and farmers alike shivering. But signs of spring were everywhere:



So this Tuesday I began thinking about what I would cook to go with the bread:




I had a bunch of left over chickpeas from the last batch I had cooked which I had planned to make into hummus, but the weather called for a different preparation. Normally I would have made my standard chickpea and pasta soup, but I didn't need pasta on top of the bread I was already making, and I had a lot of greens to get rid of. A walk to Bloomingfoods (a local food cooperative store) led me to procure a pack of humanely raised pork andouille sausage and some fair trade organic red wine from South Africa. A delicious idea was wafting through my mind: a deep rich broth filled with the flavour of andouille, soft savory greens, hearty chickpeas and tomato.

So I set to work and ended up with a bowl of the perfect hearty soup for a cool spring day. Along with the freshly made whole grain bread and a glass of wine. This is a simple recipe that begs for quality ingredients and is open to experimentation. I think it would be great with cannelini beans instead of chickpeas, and that an equally tasty version could be made with chorizo instead of andouille sausage. And omitting the sausage and replacing chicken bouillon with vegetable results in an equally good vegetarian soup.




Chickpea Andouille Soup with Greens

3 cups cooked chickpeas (may use canned, if washed and drained)
4 ounces pork andouille sausage, thinly sliced (or omit or substitute another sausage of your choice)
1 large bunch kale, collards or Swiss chard (about 6 cups with any tough stems removed and thinly sliced)
1 28 ounce can chopped tomatoes
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
2 teaspoons chicken bouillon
Water (3-6 cups as needed)
About 1/2 cup of your favorite red wine
Freshly ground black pepper
Oregano and basil, dried
Red pepper flakes (1 teaspoon or to taste)

Preparation:

1.Wash your greens of choice thoroughly. Cut out any tough stems off and chiffonade: stack the leaves up several at a time, roll them into a tube, then thinly slice with a sharp knife. They will come out in thin strips.
2. Thinly slice the sausage. Heat the oil on medium heat in a large pot, then add the sausage and cook for several minutes. Add the greens and stir, cooking until wilted. Add red pepper flakes, garlic, black pepper, oregano and basil to your taste. I like a good teaspoon of red pepper flakes and half a teaspoon of oregano, with just a touch of black pepper and basil.
3. Stir and cook for another minute or two, then add the tomatoes and chickpeas, chicken bouillon and enough water to make plenty of broth for dunking your bread. Add the red wine and let simmer for at least half an hour, preferably longer, to let the flavours meld.
4. Serve with slivers of Parmesan on top, and a hearty baguette or multigrain bread, something with a crust to soak up all the delicious broth.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Container Gardening, Anthropology of Food, and Upcoming Adventures in Belize


Look at my tomato plants! Aren't they just divine? Don't they look happy? With their fuzzy leaves that smell like a ripe tomato leaping towards the Indiana sun? The frustrated farmer in me is ecstatic. While I did alright with my plastic lined wine crates in the window-sill back in DC, I have to admit, an ample balcony has been the agricultural equivalent of upgrading from a New York City studio to a Hollywood mansion.


Feast your eyes on cilantro, flat leaf parsley, lemon basil and baby lettuce-leaf basil that I keep willing to grow faster as I drool in anticipation of vats of pesto, radishes that are getting fat in their little pots, 2 different kinds of tomatoes (San Marzanos for sauce, Giant Goliaths for eating fresh off the vine), Italian heirloom grilling peppers, nasturtiums, butterhead lettuce. For aesthetic appeal, dahlias and two kinds of calla lilies. And this is just the first year. Next summer I want cucumbers. I want more kinds of peppers. I want oregano, thyme, mint, rosemary. I want it all!


Did I mention there's room for my new weber grill and post run exercises on my yoga mat as well? With a balcony this big, I could grow pretty much everything but corn and pumpkins. And who knows, with a big enough container...

I have PLANS for this balcony. Aside from gardening, I'm thinking a kiddie pool would be perfect for lounging in while reading on hot summer days. And perhaps I'll reach over and pick a ripe tomato, without even having to get out of the water!

But these fantasies will have to wait until next summer. Because, as the title of this post indicates, I am anticipating Upcoming Adventures in Belize. Thanks to several small grant-making institutions on campus, I am the proud recipient of enough money to go do some pre-dissertation fieldwork in my home country. So instead of lounging in a kiddie pool in Indiana, taking summer classes and picking tomatoes, I'll be living in a small beach town in southern Belize, talking to people about their experiences and attitudes towards food and its role in the construction, maintenance and refutation of sex and gender roles.

That's right, I'm researching three of my absolute favorite topics. And I'm nervous as hell about it. You try marching up to someone and asking them what they think about food-for-sex metaphors (for those not familiar with the concept: when a banana isn't just a banana, that's a food-for-sex metaphor) and the gendered nature of power struggles over appropriate sex and gender roles as they are played out through food. It can't be done. Food and sex are two of our most intimate and fundamental drives/acts/desires and most of us do not respond kindly to strangers inquiring about them. Plus, check out this sign that I ran across last time I was there:


Apparently I have an uphill job ahead of me. So instead of marching, I shall be sidling (in a friendly manner) up to folks on the street, at the local eateries and corner stores, and hoping to find people who are interested in talking to me about their life experiences with food. With any luck, I'll be able to learn about gender roles in the different aspects of food procurement, preparation and consumption. People like to tell stories and it shouldn't be hard to find out if little Linda learned to cook from her mom while Jose was never taught, or if there is any particular food that is associated with men or women (see my earlier post on gendered food).

I expect to be working hard. Yep. Its gonna be a tough life living here for two months:


Did I fail to mention that Placencia puts on a three day long annual Lobsterfest the last weekend in June? Complete with dance competitions, grilled spiny lobster fresh from the Caribbean, and a full on Belizean Beach Bashment? (otherwise known as a party on the beach). I shall be forced to attend, I'm afraid, as a three day beach party celebrating a local food is the perfect spot to investigate food, sex and gender in action. What's a researcher to do!

What are your summer plans and what kind of great foods are you looking forward to eating? Me, I can't wait for fish panades, garnaches, rice and beans, fry fish with Marie Sharps hot sauce and a nice cold glass of lime juice on a hot Belizean day.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Fun times with winter salads



The stereotypical American restaurant salad usually involves lettuce (iceberg in chunks for the especially unlucky) and tomatoes in combination with a few other possible veggies like little strips of carrot or purple cabbage, strewn confetti like, and topped with too big croutons or (the horror) shredded american cheese.

Luckily for me I usually eat my salads at home and I like to avoid stereotype. I also like to avoid tomatoes in the dead of winter: they can't possibly be from anywhere near Bloomington Indiana in these frigid times (no greenhouse farmers in this neck of the woods) and they arent near as good, usually, as the fabulous local tomatoes I had last August.

In the winter-time there are a lot of other options for salad experimentation: some of the best U.S. grown citrus is in the grocery stores, winter squashes are waiting to be cooked, diced and added to the salad bowl, and a variety of greens, beyond the lowly lettuce, may be around.

The salad pictured above was the first of two recent creations. This one involved chickpeas, red onion, locally grown spinach from the winter farmers market, feta cheese, carrots and a tahini-garlic dressing. In retrospect I decided that the grapefruit and garlic DID NOT match, but I think the salad would be a real winner if the garlic was omitted and the tahini lemon dressing retained.

The second salad that I threw together was a real winner AND did, I am afraid, involve both tomatoes (at least they were US grown) and avocado (also US grown, yay California!). I'm afraid local foods were totally out on this one, but it was very tasty. Chickpeas (yes, again, I had just cooked a big pot of them, so sue me!), avocado, feta cheese, red onion, tomato and lettuce with a squeeze of lemon ( I didnt have a lime in the house), salt, a touch of hot sauce and some fresh cilantro made for a great post-workout lunch.

So the next time you go the salad route, think about trying something new. Maybe some grapefruit. Maybe some chickpeas. Or try out my other awesome citrus winter salad, guaranteed to stave off any common cold: Butterhead Lettuce and Orange Salad. Live it up! Iceberg lettuce will only take you so far...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Experimenting with Cookies

So today I had to help my brother lug his baggage through the snow and down a slushy road (the sidewalks weren't shoveled) to the bus stop near my house. Driving downtown so he could catch a shuttle to Indianapolis airport was out of the question as the snowy slope of the drive easily defeated our toyota corolla, obviously made for sunnier climes. We got the bush right on time and made it to campus an hour before his shuttle, so sipped chai lattes and caught up some more before his departure.

However, I wasn't feeling so hot already and by the time I trudged through more snow, caught a bus home and then slushed my way into the icy wind back to my apartment I was feeling distinctly under the weather. It was warm in my apartment, WARM and COZY and INVITING and all those words that northerners invented just to make themselves feel better about the fact that they are stuck in frigid temperatures for months out of the year while us tropical folks enjoy 12 months of tan lines.

This particular transplant to the north was ready to collapse into bed, but I had work to do. So I did a little writing on my paper, and then pleasantly distracted myself by cooking. The perfect thing to do when its 10 degrees and blowing snow outside. Plus it helps heat up the apartment without having to raise the thermostat, and produces food! A win, win, win situation. So I made beer bread, courtesy of Susan of the great blog Farmgirl Fare. Then I made a great chickpea pasta soup that I'll blog about later, to go with the bread, of course. And since the oven WAS already on, I decided to do some experimentation with cookies.

I dont usually bake sweets mainly because me and my partner in crime both have serious sweet tooths and would eat way too much sugar if I started churning out cakes and pies every week. So it had literally been months since my last sugary baking project. But I had been thinking about my morning oatmeal and how I could turn it into a cookie. I love my oats cooked with dried cranberries, candied ginger, sunflower seeds, dates and bananas. Sometimes it'll be walnuts or coconut instead of sunflower seeds. Some days I wont have bananas. Some days I run out of candied ginger. But the overall flavour combo is terrific and I wanted an oatmeal COOKIE that could capture that awesomeness in a less wholesome and more desserty kind of way.

My final cookie incorporated candied ginger, dried cranberries, dates and toasted chopped macademia nuts. I also added sea salt for a savory crunch. They need a little tweaking before I post the recipe here, but they were definitely very good and I'm trying to keep from eating them all tonight. I hope to post the final recipe soon. In the meantime, its back to schoolwork for me.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Food, Sex and Gender....A new semester at Indiana University



So its a new semester for me at Indiana University (as of a month ago:P) and I'm excited to say that my first class of the week, my Monday afternoon delight, is a course taught by my advisor Rick Wilk on food, sex and gender. This lovely triumverate of topics brings a whole new meaning to the term "food porn" and elicites thought about the extremely gendered nature of food and food advertising. For example, to judge by today's advertisements, only women consume yogurt or soymilk in any form. These foods are almost exclusively marketed to women: svelte, healthy and happy looking women with perfect digestive tracts thanks to the wonders of the products they are consuming.

Some other highly gendered foods: chocolate, salads, steak, hamburgers, desserts and sweets, quiche ("real men don't eat quiche"). What gender is my photo up top? I would love to hear peoples' views on how marketing and social interaction genders certain foods. What foods are gender neutral? Any comments? Insights?

Our class is doing a panel at an international food studies conference in May. The title? "Sometimes a Banana is Just a Banana". And sometimes it isn't. What do you think?