I thought I’d write an update. April was all about the A-Z Challenge, and I’m not sure where May went so …Read More »
O is for Orange.
If you want to know some trivia about me, the only way I can stand to ingest an orange is as an orange, i.e. the fruit. I despise orange-flavoured anything, be it cake or chocolate or milk. I can’t even stand drinking fresh orange juice.
I do like the colour orange though.
And Oranges by John McPhee is the most wonderful book about oranges and other citrus fruit.
It’s full of the most fascinating information you didn’t know you wanted to know about oranges. I still have not got over the fact that …
Citrus does not come true from seed. What this means is: If you plant an orange seed, a grapefruit might come up. If you plant a seed of that grapefruit, you might get a bitter lemon. To get oranges, specifically, you have to graft the orange to the rootstock of some other citrus tree. Sweet Florida oranges are grown primarily from bitter orange and sour lemon root.
When I was growing up, my mother used to buy green-skinned oranges and I wonder why I don’t see them anymore. Have we stopped importing them? I believe the variety we used to get was from Thailand. I preferred them to the Mandarins we eat during the Chinese new year, or the thick-skinned Californian variety that Malaysians tend to eat quartered, tearing the flesh off the skin with our teeth. Malaysians call these thick-skinned oranges Sunkist because this was the company Malaysia used to import them from. It’s like people (of a certain age?) calling all hot tubs Jacuzzis and all toothpastes Colgate.
I haven’t come across any memorable descriptions of food in my recent reading so I thought I’d post the Ingalls family’s blackbird supper froom Little Town on the Prairie.
Pa’s corn crop is attacked by blackbirds, but Ma won’t be beaten:
[Ma] opened the oven door, and took out the tin milk pan. It was full of something covered thickly over with delicately browned biscuit crust. She set it before Pa and he looked at it amazed. ‘Chicken pie!’
‘Sing a song of sixpence–‘ said Ma.
Laura went on from there, and so did Carrie and Ma and even Grace.
‘A pocket full of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds,
Baked in a pie!
When the pie was opened
The birds began to sing.
Was not that a dainty dish
To set before the king?’
‘Well, I’ll be switched!’ said Pa. He cut into the pie’s crust with a big spoon, and turned over a big chunk of it onto a plate.. The underside was steamed and fluffy. Over it he poured spoonfuls of thin brown gravy, and beside it he laid half a blackbird, browned and so tender that the meat was slipping from the bones. He handed that first plate across the table to Ma.
The scent of that opened pie was making all their mouths water so that they had to swallow again and again while they waited for their portions, and under the table the kitty curved against their legs, her hungry purring running into anxious miaows.
‘The pan held twelve birds,’ said Ma. ‘Just two apiece, but one is all that Grace can possibly eat, so that leaves three for you, Charles.’
‘It takes you think up a chicken pie, a year before there’s chickens to make it with,’ Pa said. He ate a mouthful and said, ‘This beats a chicken pie all hollow.’
They all agreed that blackbird pie was even better than chicken pie. There were, besides, new potatoes and peas, and sliced cucumbers, and young boiled carrots that Ma had thinned from the rows, and creamy cottage cheese. And the day was not even Sunday. As long as the blackbirds lasted, and the garden was green, they could eat like this every day.
Makes me hungry for some
blackbird chicken pie!
For a change, something from a graphic novel.
Uncomfortably Happily is comic book artist Yeoh-Sik Hong’s memoir of the two years he and his wife spent living in the countryside.
With pristine forests and clear mountain streams at their doorstep, the pair spend a lot of time outdoors, including having picnics and campfire barbecues. Often they are broke and can’t afford to eat much more than vegetables or even plain rice, but sometimes they treat themselves …
These next six pages are near the end of the book and the couple’s pet cats and dog join in the fun. Even if it didn’t happen exactly this way, Hong’s depiction of the couple and their pets bonding over delicious food and drink feels spot on.
I’ve been watching the Netflix documentary series Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, based on the book of the same name and hosted by its author Samin Nosrat. It’s one of those inspiring cooking documentaries that makes you want to rush into the kitchen and start taking food seriously. Samin Nosrat is a delight — funny, warm, passionate. Her enthusiasm about food is infectious.
I am now also reading the book and here is an excerpt, about fat. I’m looking forward to applying what I’ve learnt from Nosrat about the ‘four elements of good cooking’ and trying some of the recipes too.
(The book is beautifully illustrated by Wendy MacNaughton.)
Used as a main ingredient , fat will significantly affect a dish. Often, it’s
both a source both of rich flavor and of a particular desired texture. For
example, fat ground into a burger will render as it cooks, basting the meat
from within and contributing to juciness. Butter inhibits the proteins in flour
from developing, yielding tender and flaky textures in a pastry. Olive oil
contributes both a light, grassy flavor and a rich texture to pesto. The amount
of cream and egg yolks in an ice cream determine just how smooth and
decadent it’ll be (hint: the more cream and eggs, the creamier the result).
The role fat plays as a cooking medium is perhaps its most impressive and
unique. Cooking fats can be heated to extreme temperatures, allowing the
surface temperature of foods cooked in them to climb to astonishing heights
as well. In the process, these foods become golden brown and develop the
crisp crusts that so please our palates. Any fat you heat to cook food can be
described as a medium, whether it’s the peanut oil in which you fry chicken,
the butter you use to sauté spring vegetables, or the olive oil in which you
Certain fats can also be used as seasoning to adjust flavor or enrich the
texture of a dish just before serving: a few drops of toasted sesame oil will
deepen the flavors in a bowl of rice, a dollop of sour cream will offer silky
richness to a cup of soup, a little mayonnaise spread on a BLT will increase
its succulence, and a smear of cultured butter on a piece of crusty bread will
add untold richness.