Sunday, 25 March 2012

A Truly Epic Post: 25 Foods Just in Time for Post #150!

Plates galore!
Shortly following the success of our fall "Migrations"-themed event à la a domestic focus on farm to table cuisine, planning for an international focus went underway. Resulting in a celebration of 25 countries (or in some cases, inspirations or regions), 25 different foods made it onto a truly eclectic and highly ambitious menu. And operating within the framework of food fusion and in search for authenticity, I cannot be anything but enthusiastically grateful for the commitment of the Sodexo staff and Denison's Dining Services, as well as all of our sponsors, students and multi-cultural student group advisors who helped make Denison's first international food and culture festival the success that it was. I admit there were a few of the misfires, but would like to emphasise before continuing with this post just how monumental of a task I laid before the staff. Certainly we could have gone with fewer dishes (which arguably, though not guaranteed, could have turned out better), but the desire to celebrate many and test the limits resulted in humble lessons learned and the motivation to better everything that was accomplished. For this, my 150th blog post, I invite you to continue to read on for my takes on each dish that I tried, as well as the cultural connections behind each one.

Monday, 19 March 2012

St. Patrick's Day Weekend, Part II: Lig Dúinn Ithe!

Well, it's official: with spring break now come and gone, the second semester has truly begun. It's been a whirlwind week so far (and it's only Monday). Earlier today, I presented about 60 pages of Proust to the French gastronomy class (I sincerely need to be speaking French much more regularly than I do..in my head), and brought in asparagus, olive oil and French finishing sea salts, to accompany my section of Combray. In the end, I made it through and in retrospect really enjoyed the experience of presenting in French, covering most of the points I had planned to discuss and encouraging a sense of class participation. In addition to that part of my afternoon, the other big food-related item I'd like to share is the fact that the posters for this Sunday's international food and culture festival (Denison's first, as far as I'm aware) were printed and are ready to be distributed throughout campus tomorrow; sincerely, how in the world have we already arrived to this week?! Before I completely lose sight of this past weekend amidst everything planned for this week, I do want to share my Sunday foodie experience in part 2 of my St. Patrick's Day weekend pair of posts. Interestingly, perhaps by unconscious design, yesterday proved to be a day much more focused on food. So... "Lig dúinn ithe!"

Sunday, 18 March 2012

St. Patrick's Day Weekend, Part I: Sláinte!

"Traditional" Irish Soda Bread, recipe in the second half of this post
At the tail-end of my short spring break in Michigan, I went to one of my favourite grocery locations: Holiday Market in  Royal Oak, not too far from the highway. Of all the diverse variety packed into the seemingly small space, it's the cheese selection that I am most impressed by and in which I am certain to find my favourite cheese (comté). And so, I purchased a bit of comté, as well as raclette; in addition, I also picked up Irish Tipperary cheddar (the fromagière's favourite among the Irish cheeses available). [As a side note/reminder, I've before used a similar cheese, Dubliner.] With Irish cheese (then) soon to be en route back to campus, I was even more excited to cook an Irish-themed meal. And what better day to do so than St. Patrick's Day? Eventually, I went with the idea of claiming a foodie experience and celebrating St. Patrick's Day throughout the entire weekend (though, really, it could be celebrated any day of the week). For this first part of the weekend, I decided on focusing more on the drinking theme of St. Patrick's Day, in which case my Gaelic phrase for the day was aptly "Sláinte!"

Friday, 16 March 2012

Spring Break 2012: Michigan Food Fare

It's been just over a week since I took a brief break from life in Granville and headed "home" home to Metro Detroit. And when I'm home, there will undoubtedly be many an occasion  for foodie experiences; for this year's spring "break," this journey was no exception. From testing unfamiliar techniques to trying the stylings of new restaurants, the three entries to this post fit quite nicely into the global cornucopia of food.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Food and Culture Programme #5: Franco-Italian Comfort

I'm currently a bit past halfway of my extended weekend (the students will begin their spring break tomorrow) and since my arrival to metro Detroit on Friday, I've been enjoying the comforts of southeast Michigan comfort food. And with more foodie experiences going unwritten as my camera cord sits in my apartment, the need to catch up on this past week's experiences has become more and more evident. From the inspiration taken from southeast Asian cuisine during my last food and culture residence hall programme at the start of the week, I returned to more of my comfort zone on Thursday with a menu of Franco-Italian flare.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Finally... Focaccia! (and Other Food Fare)

A few weeks ago, I had planned on baking bacon and cheddar biscuits, and parmesan focaccia. And though Top Chef: Texas ended last week (yay, Paul!), it was definitely time to get back into my own kitchen and reconvene my pseudo-regular weekly Wednesday night cooking ritual. I unfortunately didn't have any usable bacon and so the universe more or less made the decision for me to go with the focaccia. My recipe and process, which I crossed between Elise's ,Tyler Florence's and Terri McCarrell's respective recipes, also made the perfect sandwich (read: minute snack vehicle) for turkey and melted Italian cheeses.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Food and Culture Programme #4: Southeast Asian Inspiration, but First a Proustian Experience

Having since taken a break from Drouard, we've recently moved to aspects of food and religion and last week finished André Gide's La porte étroite. Beginning with the tail-end of our class last Wednesday and into yesterday's session, we began our discussion on Marcel Proust's Combray, the first part of volume one (Du côté de chez Swann) of the even larger saga, À la recherche du temps perdu. I make particular note of this part of this French course I'm auditing, as we embarked on a brief "Proustian experience". Written in such a way that evokes the deep connections to food and memory, one of the closing scenes of the very first section of Combray is of the narrator's description of eating a madeleine, and the emotions and clarity such an experience evokes for him. To aid us in our own madeleine experience, Christine offered us linden tea (thé de tilleul) and two types of madeleines: the original madeleines de Commercy (Julia Child's version here) and madeleines au citron (Chef Joshua Alan's version here). Following our discussion, which included the immense symbolism in such an innocent-looking pastries, I switched gears from the French and headed around the world to Southeast Asia for my fourth food and culture residence hall programme.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Community Culture Kitchen: Middle Eastern Cultural Cuisine

Evening greetings from Granville! It's been another hectic week and I just couldn't bring myself to cook in the kitchen. Well, that all changed on Saturday when I led the third Community Culture Kitchen event at the Open House, partnering with the relatively newly formed MECO, the Middle Eastern Cultural Organization. A truly multi-cultural region, the Middle East sits at the intersection of Europe, Africa and Asia; influenced by at least seven maritime communities, it should not be a surprise that this region saw by both land and sea the migration of ingredients, recipes and (with those) cultures, eventually yielding a diversity of takes on dishes that have been deemed as belonging to the heritage of the Middle East. Going into the program, I had planned an ambitious six-course tasting menu, but due to time restraints (or rather lack thereof; somehow I legitimately forgot how long it actually takes to properly build Middle Eastern flavours) I settled for five and, as you'll see should you choose to read on, ended with four and a half.