Our (markets are closed, can’t focus on money all the time) pastimes come into play from market close Friday until the “Return to Greed Mountain” Monday.
And, since Spring sprung this past week, our gustatory inquisition this weekend involves Heat and how it relates to Spice.
Heat & Spice: Observations
Personal Data: Seattle, where Ure (and his buddy the Major) grew up 68-years ago, was not an especially warm place. Seemed like most of the year, except for the three-week summer, rain was coming down, it was cold, and a person ate accordingly.
A fair amount of carbs and fats. Food (and even pastries, yum) right out of the oven. Pappy’s fresh Cuban Bread cooled only far enough to be quickly buttered, smeared with strawberry preserves and popped in the mouth where it was further cooled by a swallow of coolish, but not cold, milk.
The cooler the weather, the hotter the food (temp-wise). Cold day of 5-year-olds building forts in the woods was interrupted for a bowl of cream-of-mushroom and a hot fried cheese sandwich. Often on home-made bread which was cheap.
About once a week, there would be a big pot of meatball and vegetable soup. My buddy Gaye ate the same soup and memorialized it in an article: “Lose Weight and Feel Great with Cabbage Soup & a Healthy Diet.”
Gaye’s soup was (is) healthy. But, since she and survival hubby moved to Arizona, some of the “Northwest Accoutrements” have disappeared. The Ure (Jensen) soup was basically the same base. But, now take Gaye’s recipe and dump in a pound of Sam’s Choice precooked Angus meatballs.
Since they come frozen, toss ’em in an hour ahead of time.
The OTHER big addition to the soup (screw this weight-loss crap) is a 3 to 5 slice (one-inch thick, each) stack of “doctored” French (or Cuban) bread. The medical treatment? Varies on mood, but butter, a solid dusting with garlic powder (not salt!!!). And sometimes, a good shake of Parmesan cheese.
Don’t get me wrong: Her soup is great. Ours, though, has a little more “stick to the ribs” (and waistline) to it. If dinnertime “company” happens to be a cardiologist, hers is the better choice, no question.
The Great Parmesan Debate
Important sidebar here on what Pappy always referred to as “sprinkle cheese.”
I could see the economics of the American Dream up close and personal starting 72+ years ago. The first cheese in the house was Velveeta. A bit of real cheddar followed for a few Danish favorites. (Ham and scalloped potatoes, for instance.)
Then – must have been 1955-ish, or so, the first can of Kraft “sprinkle cheese” arrived. It had been a hit at the fire station, so it was welcomed into the home.
It went best: Sprinkled on the cardiologist-worrying soup, on heavily garlic-laced baked bread, and on anything with a tomato involved. Spaghetti, lasagna, and so forth. Pizza? Of course!
It wasn’t till I married Elaine that I was schooled (by she who reads Bon Apetit) that such lowly “sprinkle cheese” is not worthy persons such as “us.”
Since then, I have upgraded the Parmesan to include both fresh shredded along with fresh shaved varieties. Only two or three brands have passed muster.
Still, I secretly long for another can of “sprinkle cheese.” It’s a finer grind than uppity cheese. It’s the table cheese answer to Wondra for gravy-making, if that makes sense. Smaller grind means easier to melt into soups and a much more even distribution on cheesy garlic bread. Even good on pizza for the same reason. Not quite as salty as “uppity” either.
Back to the Heat
In addition to learning that my wife has “cheese snob tendencies” I also learned more about “hot weather people.”
Since her background was mostly Arizona, with some childhood time in Panama, hot weather and spicy food is very acceptable to her.
Recently, I made some rum-soaked, Jamaican-jerk glazed chicken – she loved.
But the BIG difference between us is serving temperatures.
To my way of thinking, a big steak should be serve (like fajitas, too) on those steel plates that sit in wood holders. Dull red pan. Sizzle and smoke goes a long ways with a firefighter’s son, see?
Elaine’s idea of a good steak is medium to very well-done. Cooled to a civilized temp. So if the meat comes off the grill, stands for 10-minutes, and then leisurely arrives within arm’s reach, it’s ideal.
Since Children of the North get calories from their mouths, a whole meal will be eaten in not more than 10-minutes. This may arise from the Depression – which was universally The Hungry Years.
“There’s five pork chops and six people coming to dinner…” was a real Ure-family Depression era saying. Grandma Bessie (and her neighbor Frosty) bot long gone, fed people for a block, or so around, out of their dueling gardens. Nothing – coffee grounds, bits of lettuce, banana peels – absolutely nothing went to waste. It was all composted with love.
And like all Depression garden, the soil, like the people who worked it, were enriched over time from the effort.
Elaine wasn’t raised in such a stable world. The Mormon uplands of Arizona were (and still are) filled with hardworking, farm-oriented people. But, because of the religion, the deep-seated fear of immediate hunger wasn’t baked into her personality.
Where a good steak and potato might be 10-15 minutes being wolfed-down, Elaine ponder, pontificates, and picks each bite with precision. Five minutes after a steak arrives, it may – or may not – have yet made it onto the fork. Our family would serve on conveyor belts if smaller ones were available.
Our first bottom line? Spicy and cool food eats slow. Gives the stomach time to adjust. Feels fuller. A break for the fire department to put out some Scoville’s is not unusual.
Northern comfort food is like the other way around: Bland enough for continuous stoking. resulting in conveyor-like forking. Warm enough so that if you’ve been outside all day, you warm from the middle out as the hot food goes down.
Like all married couples, we’ve adjusted over time. Elaine serves my food mostly hot. I serve hers cool, when it makes sense. I’m done in 15-minutes tops. I’ll check on Elaine in an hour, or two.
Looking Out Of the Box is our guest recipleaser this morning. Offering something which could (in this hot/cold discussion) go either way.
This is a favorite recipe for winter.. or for a great summer salad bowl .. the same recipe is used making corn chips or corn scoops…
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
- 1 cup maseca yellow corn flour- not corn meal
- 2/3 cup water
- 1/8 teaspoon salt.
Mix this and place it between waxed or parchment paper.. then roll out.
For chili or salad bowls…take cereal bowl and use it to cut the bowl out.. make sure your dough is about 1/8th inch.
Brush the metal or heat resistant glass bowl invert it onto your cookie sheet. Brush it with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.. now press the cut circle of rolled or pressed dough around the bowl. Bake about 10 minutes.. our oven its 8.
For chips? Pizza cutter: Lay them out on your cookie sheet bush and season flip and bake again…
Scoops use a small glass or medicine bottle then flip a mini muffin pan over brush with oil mold your scoops. Bake
- Olive oil
From what Ure gathers here, the “chili bowl” (which oughta be like a mega chip in size) then gets filled with Chili.
Sounds like a lot of fun!
One other chili note – long as we’re on topic:
Elaine has a cut, or so, of fine egg noodles left over the other night. I found it in the fridge next day (foraging for lunch). So half a can of Wolf’s Chili (with beans) and a handful of Mexican cheese blend. Nuke until all hot and gooey.
Hard to describe the flavor: Not like spaghetti, but not like chili…
In fact, there are whole books about this kind of comfort food. Start with $18-bucks worth of 6 Pack Cincinnati Chili Mix Packets if you don’t have everything in the leftover’s department. With instructions and ideas from Dann Wollert’s book The Authentic History of Cincinnati Chili.
Coming Up: Next weekend the lovely Nancy is back for a return engagement. A new kind of baked beans to try – and a dessert, as well!
Got a Special or Fave?
Always wanted to write for Bon Apetit or even Sunset or Southern Living? But, never got around too it fearing rejection letters?
Go ahead – start small! (Hard to be smaller than here…). Send in the story and directions. Not more than 100,000 words, no more than 500 pictures, but none you don’t own…and we’ll toss it in the VitaMix and see what…OMG!!! See that??? Our New sign?
You Can’t Eat Stock Tips.
Eat now, or forever hold your peas…