Eat What’s In Your Pantry

Inspired by this recent post on the eGullet forums (and whomever pointed me to this, let me know in the comments section, because I can’t remember who you are!), I decided to take stock of my cupboard, fridge and freezer. The post calls for people to go without shopping for a week and instead live off the bulk of their presumably packed pantries:

Surely I’m not alone in having a freezer and pantry full of food, much of which will get thrown out as it expires over the course of the coming months and years. Indeed, I live in a small apartment. People with houses, basement freezers and walk-in pantries surely have far more of this stuff lying around than I do. Surely I’m not alone in having overbought at the supermarket last week. Surely I’m not alone when I get home from the supermarket and can barely fit the new food in the refrigerator because there’s so much of the old stuff. Surely I’m not alone in being able to skip a week of shopping and still eat well.

So let’s do it again, together. Let’s all skip a week of shopping. Let’s declare national eat the stuff in our freezers and pantries week.

Think about it from an economic standpoint. Times are tough right now. If you spend $100 a week on groceries, this experiment will put $100 back in your pocket quicker than you can say stimulus. If you’re home 50 weeks of the year and you perform this experiment once per quarter, you’ll reduce your grocery bill by 8%.

So this Sunday, I’m not going shopping. And whether you shop on the weekend or on another day, I’m asking you not to shop either. Instead, let’s eat all the stuff we already have around. And let’s talk about it, compare photos, help one another figure out what to do with that jar of giardiniera or that packet of pilaf.

I know plenty of people (Mom, I’m looking at you!) who could comfortably subsist on the contents of their pantries for a week, if not an entire month. In fact, my great-grandmother and great-grandfather — notorious horders who kept huge freezers full of food on their property in anticipation of the next stock market crash or an impending zombie apocalypse — would have stared this challenge in the face and laughed hysterically at it.

I, however, cannot. I’m not an all-at-once kind of shopper. I love Costco, but don’t buy in bulk. Instead, I go shopping nearly every day, buying whatever looks best for dinner that night and grabbing any staples that may have run out. That said, I’ve been…a bit busy lately. Without elaborating, allow me to simply run down a quick list of what is currently residing in my fridge, freezer and nearly-bare cupboard.

Continue reading Eat What’s In Your Pantry

Tell Me How You Really Feel

…about Tuesday Trivia. Not about me. Not unless I’ve got a stiff drink in my hand. And something which which to bludgeon you afterwards.

I really want to bring Tuesday Trivia back full-time. It’s my favorite thing to do on she eats. besides ramble incoherently. And you fine folks seem to like it a lot, too. But here’s my question: which version of Tuesday Trivia do you prefer? The straightforward question-and-answer trivia, with answers and a weiner (ahem, winner) revealed on the following Thursday? Or the touchy-feely communal trivia where we all talk about our interests and loves and hates and how our ex-boyfriend’s mom was the worst cook ever?

Your options lie below. Choose wisely, as it will determine how all Tuesday Trivias from here to kingdom come look for the rest of our lives! Or at least until I choose to do something else.

40 Days of Deprivation

I went through a phase in high school where I was Presbyterian.  Although it was more of a social activity — their youth group went to Schlitterbahn! — I still found myself being both confirmed (after a long series of confirmation classes which were at least informative if not particularly spiritual) and baptized in front of the entire congregation one Sunday.

After this, I participated in Lent each year.  And although I didn’t entirely understand why, I solemnly agreed to give up such terrific vices as chocolate or thinking evil thoughts against the trashy girls who left mean notes in my locker.  Of course, in college I was baptized once again — this time in an old-school Church of Christ — since my previous baptism wasn’t considered legitimate.  It seems that no one has seen fit to develop a Euro of Christian rites and rituals, which would be accepted as valid currency from denomination to denomination.

lentThese days, I’m more spiritual — if anything — than I was in high school yet don’t attend church any kind of regular basis.  And I’m not Presbyterian anymore (that second baptism apparently removed all traces of any earlier membership in the church), so I don’t take part in Lent anymore.  That said, I understand and appreciate that other people do.  I’m always fascinated with the intersection of religion and food (hence the recent Joel Osteen vs. bacon article), and Lent is an interesting time of year to ponder what few food-related mandates modern Christian churches still recognize.

If you think about it, modern-day Christians don’t have too many issues around food.  You eat what you want.  There are no dietary restrictions.  Few people fast, and most of those only do so during periods such as the 40 days of Lent.  Compare that to Jewish or Muslim or Hindu faiths, where strict dietary laws mean that what you put into your mouth is just as important as what you harbor in your heart, where feasts such as Eid al-Fitr serve as celebrations of faith and community, and where fasts such as Yom Kippur bring you closer to God through atonement and deprivation.

Lent is one of the few times that Christians look at food through a spiritual lens.  Catholics take the season a bit more seriously than their Protestant cousins, fully abstaining from eating meat on Fridays during the 40 days.  Most people, however, simply decide upon a food or beverage that they’ll give up during the season and go without alcohol or sweets for a little over a month.  These are popular items to give up, hence the popularity of the hedonistic revelry of Mardi Gras or Carneval immediately preceding Lent.

Lent is intended to remind Christians of the 40 days that Jesus Christ spent in the desert wilderness, resisting the temptations that Satan put before him, and to prepare them for the coming festival of Easter and celebration of Christ’s resurrection.  Giving up certain foods or vices or activities is a modern means of resisting temptation, all the while awaiting the glories that lay ahead — both in the form of spiritual glory and in the glory of finally being able to eat chocolate cake or drink a beer again.

Do you celebrate Lent?  If so, what are you giving up this year?  And for those of you that are giving up food or beverage, did you have a final indulgence in your chosen item last night?  Don’t lie…I know at least some of you did.  Spill it below.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of many things”

Having missed last week, Food Poetry Wednesday is back in full form today with a special treat.  Today’s poem is easily one of the most beloved food poems ever written, although most people don’t think of it as a food poem, per se.  But that’s what made Lewis Carroll such a talented writer and poet: his ability to write for the whimsical imaginations of children while still appealing to adults with his witty and evocative imagery.

Today’s poem is a perfect example of that, as his descriptions of the oysters both in their appearance and in their consumption by the Walrus and the Carpenter are incredibly well-written and could hold their own against any food writer’s prose then or now.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
from Through the Looking Glass

The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright–
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done–
“It’s very rude of him,” she said,
“To come and spoil the fun!”

The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead–
There were no birds to fly.

Continue reading “The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of many things”

The Nannerpuss

When I was a child, I was obssessed with It, the cheesetastic 1980s miniseries based on the Stephen King novel.  We had videotaped it (remember videotaping, kids?) when it originally ran on CBS — we even hit pause during the commercials! — and the VHS cassette soon became one of my fondest friends.

I would eagerly pop It into the VCR when I got home from school in the afternoons and early on Saturday mornings when most other children were watching G.I. Joe and The Smurfs.  I knew every line of dialogue and nursed an enormous crush on a young Jonathan Brandis before his Seaquest DSV days.  There was only one problem: the movie terrified me.  For every day I watched it, I would have horrific nightmares when I went to bed that evening.

My mother eventually solved the problem by breaking the VHS cassette and throwing it into the trash (thanks, Mom!).  But I fear that I’m now developing the same type of relationship with the new Denny’s commercial starring The Nannerpuss.

I can’t quit watching it, yet it’s obviously terrifying.

They should have just called that banana thing Pennywise and been done with it.

Tuesday Trivia: It Liiiiiives!

After an extended hiatus, Tuesday Trivia is back.  Because I’m on a tight schedule this week, we’re going to start things off all easy-like with the touchy-feely version of Tuesday Trivia favored by some of you.  That’s to say: open-ended questions, no right answers.  So dish, people…

  1. What was your favorite breakfast cereal as a child?  As an adult?
  2. What foods do you crave when you’re sick?  What foods can’t you stand when you’re sick?
  3. What is your favorite meal to have outdoors on a sunny day?  Indoors on a cold day?
  4. Which do you prefer to drink with your meal?  Beer, wine, soda, water or tea?  None of the above?  All of the above?
  5. Who is the best cook you know?  Not chef, cook.

Let’s hear it!  I’m eager for these answers, sweet potatoes!

Just Another Manic Linkday

Congratulations!  You made it through yet another soul-killing Monday with at least a few shreds of your dignity and sanity still intact.  You deserve some links.

First, my own links from the Houston Press:

  • Depart From Me!  I Never Knew You, Eaters of Bacon:  An article about Joel Osteen’s decision to preach his personal diet to his congregation at Lakewood Church, in which I am accused of being “condescending,” “ignorant,” “offensive,” disrespectful, hateful, controversial and perhaps anti-Semitic.  We all know that only the first six of those are true.  27 comments and counting!
  • Taking Stock of Galveston’s Restaurants:  Surveying the restaurant situation on the island five months after Hurricane Ike.  Bonus: pretty pictures!
  • Spring Is Here at MAX’s Wine Dive:  Serious food porn lies ahead.
  • Monica Pope Is Plum Crazy:  Free cooking classes, taught by the cuisine queen of Houston using fresh, local ingredients?  Sign me up.
  • Avery Cask-Conditioned Ale at the Petrol Station:  It gets oddly and worryingly poetic towards the end.  I feel like the IPA is going to take out a restraining order against me any day now.
  • Bawitda-Brew:  They’re making Kid Rock brand beer.  You can kill yourself out of a desperate lack of hope for future generations now.

And now links from around town:

Okay, don’t fill up on just links.  You’re going to spoil your dinner.  G’night, y’all!

Free-For-All Friday

We all know how good I am at keeping up with weekly routines like Tuesday Trivia, Food Poetry Wednesday and the long-lost Weekend in Food.  So let’s try adding something else into the mix that I’ll probably have a hard time keeping up (unless y’all really dig it): Free-For-All Friday!

Similar to “open comment” day on several other blogs with which you may be familiar, Free-For-All Friday will give you a topic and let you run with it in the comments section below.  I’ll try to make the topic something inane or moronic that I’ve run across on the Innerwebs, which — really? — shouldn’t be all that difficult.

So without any further ado, your first ever Free-For-All Friday topic:

Does anyone know if the food court in the tunnel between the McKinney and Milam areas is ever going to be opened or has it just been put off? How long has it been sitting there? Every time I pass by there I think it would be a gold mine with the right stores. If it was me I would put in a Taco Bell, Sonic, and a nice Chinese buffet.

— courtesy of this thread over at HAIF

Have fun, folks!

Inquiring Minds Want to Know

I’ve noticed a proliferation of women at my office lately who go into the ladies’ room after lunch to brush their teeth.  They have a little arsenal of dental hygiene products with them: toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash, tiny cup for rinsing, etc.  It’s really quite the production.  They cluster at the sinks like sparrows in a birdbath and do their brushing, flossing, gargling, as though it were just another chipper afternoon coffee break but with lots of spitting.

Perhaps it’s just me.  Maybe it’s the result of being an only child, or just rather private in general.  I don’t know.  But I prefer to keep my routine hygienic activities at home, behind a closed bathroom door, where they belong.  I don’t like pulling large chunks of partially-masticated food from between my teeth in front of other people, then displaying them like fresh kills and guffawing at their immense size.  I don’t like gargling in front of other people.  I don’t like spitting in front of them.  And I’d really rather they kept these activities to themselves, too.

Moreso, I’ve seen how often and how well these bathrooms are cleaned.  I’m not particularly interested in getting that well-acquainted with the sinks (I’m looking at you, ladies who lean over and drink directly from the faucets!).  I’ve had salmonella; I don’t wish to experience e. coli as well.

So here’s my question, dear readers: are you one of those folks who religiously brushes their teeth in the office bathroom after lunch?

And if you are, explain yourself.  The world (you know how incredibly self-centered I am, so by the “world” I obviously mean “me”) wants to know.

Random Meals I’ve Enjoyed

Nothing like a little food pr0n to perk you up for lunch today:

roasted-beets-with-horseradish

Roasted beets with walnuts and horseradish at Dolce Vita.  Summery, crisp, sweet and nutty but with a sharp bite from the horseradish: the perfect start to a meal (in addition to their amazing truffled egg toast, of course, which smells like rotting gym socks and tastes of heaven).

boiled-peanuts

Boiled peanuts with cucumbers at Classic Kitchen in Chinatown.  The breakfasts here are amazing, but you can expect to wait a while for your food (especially if you don’t speak Mandarin).  Snack on these little gems while you wait and you won’t mind.

dsc01568

An enormous cup of coffee and a flaky, buttery pain aux raisins at Costa Coffee in Alderley Edge, England.  I normally don’t go for pain aux raisins as it can be quite dry, but this was the richest breakfast pastry I’ve ever had.  The strong but silky coffee was equally wonderful.  A copy of the Manchester Evening News in one hand and this coffee in the other each morning: I might have never left if I didn’t have a job and home to return to across the sea.

pork-medallions

Panko-crusted pork medallions with blue cheese at Baybrook’s in Benijofar, Spain.  There’s nothing like a good piece of juicy Spanish pork on a warm night surrounded by family, wine and happy conversation.

in-phyllo-dough

Wild mushroom risotto inside phyllo dough, with roasted root vegetables and mashed potatoes (and, yes, more boiled potatoes on the side) at The Red Lion in Holmes Chapel, England.  This was the starchiest meal I can ever recall having in a restaurant.  But it was freezing cold outside, we had a lot of walking behind and ahead of us, and I was drawn to this dish like a pig to a trough.  Jesus, did it ever hit the spot.

patatas-bravas

Patatas a la bravas and crispy fried shrimp (among other tapas items) eaten at what seemed like the top of the world at a tiny Valencian restaurant in Guadalest, Spain.  This was the view out the window by our table: not too shabby, huh?  The patatas a la bravas were easily some of the best steak fries I’ve ever eaten, served with a spicy tomato sauce that I’d like to take with me everywhere in a little flask.  The fried shrimp were fresh and as light as air without a hint of grease.  Buen Provecho, indeed.

cfs

Chicken fried steak with fried eggs, skillet potatoes and refried beans at G&M Steakhouse in San Antonio: every Texan’s dream breakfast.  This old-school restaurant located directly across the street from the Alamo is home to the best breakfasts in San Antonio.  And despite the fact that it’s smack-dab in the middle of tourist central, this is almost exclusively a locals-only joint.

pasta-corleone

Pasta Corleone at Raia’s Italian Market on Washington Avenue.  Although it’s a relatively new restaurant, their pastas don’t disappoint.  This is my favorite of their dishes.  From my original review of Raia’s last year: “This dish was a simple combination of angelhair pasta, eggplant, black olives, capers and ricotta cheese in a marinara sauce. The soft, creamy ricotta blended together expertly with the hot marinara, producing something similar to a vodka sauce. The velvety sauce along with the slightly sour bite of olives and capers along with the savory chunks of eggplant meant that we all but inhaled this dish.”

bigos-and-kielbasa

Bigos and kielbasa with potatoes at Polonia.  Of all the wonderful Eastern European dishes on the menu at this hidden gem in Spring Branch, this is my favorite.  At once hearty yet refreshing, the tangy bigos is an ideal lunch that won’t weigh you down but will stick with you the rest of the day.

catfish-grits

One of my favorite breakfasts in town: catfish and grits at BB’s Cajun Cafe.  The cheese grits here are as good as I make at home and the lightly battered catfish is perfectly cooked.  The biscuits, too, are dreamy: buttery and flaky, just like my mother makes.  This dish is called The Southern Man, but their Morning Majic po-boy with scrambled eggs, sausage and spicy queso makes a damn fine breakfast, too.

caseys-oysters

Fresh Gulf oysters at Casey’s in Galveston last week.  It’s a bit hard to tell from the picture, but they were absolutely enormous — much larger than normal — and had almost none of the saltiness you expect from Gulf oysters.  They simply tasted rich and buttery with only a hint of the ocean underneath.

first-course

Amberjack (a.k.a. yellowtail) with leche de tigre, gelled tomato, rhubarb and red-veined sorrel at one of Randy Rucker’s tenacity dinners, hosted in his home last summer.  I haven’t been to Rainbow Lodge yet, where Randy is now the head chef, but I miss his inventive, always-delicious cooking terribly.  I feel a trip out to Ella coming on soon…

Enough food pr0n for today, folks.  Stop your drooling and get back to work!