Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Living a Foodie Kind of Life: Boston, Friday (3/22)

Following a very full day on Thursday, I woke up Friday with a rush of enthusiasm for the even fuller day ahead. The Eastern Sociological Society's first ever Mini Conference on Food Studies--a testament, in my opinion, to the growing recognition and acceptance of food studies as a viable and relevant field in academia--had finally arrived. Without going into too much detail here, this mini conference (organised by Barbara Katz Rothman and Alexandrea Ravenelle from City University of New York) was divided into four back-to-back sessions, each focusing on a different intersection with food. I was part of the first panel which addressed food as a tool for learning and teaching, specifically from the angles of ethnography (Richard Ocejo and Connor Fitzmaurice) and pedagogy (me and Helaine Harris). My paper focused on the food and culture programs and research I have led over the last year and a half or so at Denison, leading up to our Food and Culture Colloquium. Subsequent sessions focused on food as a tool for social control, as a tool for constructing ethnic identity, and as a tool for media representations. To have been fortunate to dream up and construct my own understanding of food identity, and to create a tangible mechanism for seeking to understand the connection between food and culture, continues to be an important highlight of my professional journey to date. To have been fortunate to engage with others who are going through similar processes has helped me in this orientation, to further recognise that we're all still learning through and with food. Now, after a full day of this (14 presentations within a span of 7 hours), and with a quick snack run to Au Bon Pain, I was ready to take it easy for the evening. For me, of course that more often than not involves cooking and the consumption of food.

And so, Jillian and I met up at the hotel lobby and headed back to her apartment where I met one of her roommates, Christina. Soon after, Christina started cooking a steak for her dinner and Jillian pulled out a Red Baron's frozen pizza. Jillian had earlier talked about cooking leeks as a potential side dish and upon seeing a bowl of onions, we set forth on caramelising both. Jillian took a whole leek and split it down the middle and then cut those into half moon-shaped pieces (leaving off about 1-2" of dark green, which is typically the toughest/most fibrous part of the leek) which she then gently mixed into a bowl of water to separate any dirt that may have been trapped among the leaves. Once those were rinsed, I got those browning with about a tablespoon of butter, a sprinkling of sugar and a touch of water in a fry pan, while Jillian chopped up a small onion, also into half moon slices. With those mixed into the pan, she also roughly chopped up a handful of garlic cloves, and put the pizza in the oven.

Seeing the amount of fond in Christina's fry pan from her steak, I transferred our veg into Christina's pan to soak up all of that great, meaty flavour. (The natural juices that had sweated from the leek and onion deglazed the pan.) I transferred all of this back into our original pan and left everything alone to continue browning and eventually caramelise. Once everything caramelised (about 15 minutes or so), we took the pizza out of the oven, put all of the ingredients onto it, topped this off with freshly grated parmesan, and got it back into the oven to finish baking.

As that was going, I reduced in the initial pan about 1/2 c balsamic, another sprinkling of sugar and a touch of red wine. By the time the sauce had reduced to a few tablespoons, the pizza was ready. Carefully, we took the pizza out of the oven and spooned the sauce.

All I really have to say is oh.my.yum. Okay, a bit more: Who knew frozen pizza could look like this? Crisped crust and gooey cheese that doesn't quite fall apart in large chunks, check. Sweet and tart from the reduction balanced by the meaty quality of the veg, check. Plain pizza transformed using ingredients that happened to already be in the kitchen, priceless. And delicious.

I'll note here that following an introduction to Ticket to Ride (haha, check out this video currently featured at the aforementioned link), Jillian, Christina and I got a head start on the planning of what we were hoping to be reminiscent of my cooking circa spring 2009. For the first set of photos from my Boston trip, click here.

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