Sunday, November 6, 2011

Peppermint Bark

Peppermint Bark
By Bethany Davis

A square, molded piece,
Perfect in dimensions,
Perfect in form.

White perfect chocolate,
Red specks of candy,
Pretty contrast.

A taste of chocolate,
A nibble, a bite,
Joy realized.

Soft creamy chocolate,
Crunchy candy bits,
Perfect Contrast.

Nibble by Nibble,
Bit by bit,
So fine.

The flavour remaining,
White chocolate,
Laced with mint.

This Fake Banana

This Fake Banana
By Bethany Davis

Banana taffy,
Hard and smooth,
Like a banana cream pie,
But not as rich.

Banana milk,
So playful smooth,
Like liquid laughter,
Like dancing mirth.

The fruit's so different,
Not rich or smooth,
A different taste,
A different love.

This fake banana,
Makes me spin,
Dancing like a child,
So young, so free.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Imitation Strawberry

Imitation Strawberry
By Bethany Davis
there’s something
about the taste
the feel
the experience
of imitation strawberries
strawberry Laffy Taffy
strawberry milk
strawberry pokey
light pink
like the cream
left over
after eating fresh strawberries
drenched in cream
and covering with sugar
that off white
tasting slightly of strawberries
but not really
innocent yet naughty
like your first discovery
of your sexuality
alone in your room
on a lazy afternoon

Monday, June 20, 2011

Scallops and Garlic

Sometimes it's fun to cook something a little different.  Living in Wyoming, I don't eat much sea food.  There's just not that much here that's fresh enough to be good.  I seldom even try to make any at home.  Buy fresh sea food in the grocery store?  Sure.

When I lived in Oregon, we were two hours from the coast.  Eating sea food on the coast was amazing, but even grocery store sea food was fresh and delicious.  I love fresh cod.  But moving to Wyoming, that changed.  Cod is horrible here.  Fresh water fish, caught in the lakes and streams, that is good.  Grocery store fish, not so much.

But tonight, I ignored all that.  A friend online cooked scallops and garlic tonight and posted a link to the recipe.  It sounded really good, so I decided to take my chances.
Scallops and Garlic
Leaving work at 7:15 was a mistake.  I went to the grocery store. Safeway, but the fish part of the meat department was closed.  All the fish and sea food had already been put away and the lady running it had already gone home.  I figured I'd try Walmart, since their departments stay open longer, some even 24 hours. I bought the rest of what I would need and headed across town.

Walmart's deli and meat departments were both open, but I guess neither sells fish or sea food of any kind.  All they have is a cabinet of frozen fish and sea food.  Well, I really wanted to try the scallops, so I went with it and bought frozen scallops and headed home.

Frozen scallops under
cold water.
Waiting for the scallops to thaw wasn't an option, but luckily, the package had directions on how to fast thaw them.  You put them in a strainer and run cold water over them.  I had my doubts about cold water thawing anything, but I followed the directions.  I washed a load of dishes to clear out the sink and put the scallops under cold water.  The water seemed frozen to my hands.  Amazingly, by the time the water for the noodles was boiling, they were thawed.

It was then that I realized I had forgot to buy garlic.  Scallops and garlic without garlic?  Yeah, right.  That won't work.  I scrambled around the kitchen digging, and found three cloves that were good.  Relief!

Noodles in water.
Oil in pan.
Flour in bowl.
I put the noodles in pot with the boiling water (adding olive oil to the water as I always do, for taste and to limit sticking), put the olive oil in the pan, and put the flour in the bowl and I was ready to begin.  From the recipe, I would have guessed rolling the scallops in flour would have taken a minute at the most.  The author must know something I don't, because it took between five and ten.  Are you supposed to roll each individual scallop by itself?  I don't know, but that's what I did.

Floured scallops.
Scallops sizzling.
When they were ready, I added the scallops to the pan.  Mmmmm, that was a nice smell.  They sizzled nicely, and the flour seemed to vanish.  I set the timer for four minutes and started working on the garlic.  Two cloves didn't seem much, so I minced all three.  The scallops had been cooking for three minutes when I added them.  The smell got even better.  By the time I had the parsley in, it had been five minutes.  Was I supposed to remove it from the heat after three to four minutes, then add the parsley?  Was I supposed to add the parsley immediately after the garlic at two minutes?  Was I supposed to add it right before the time was up, then take it off the heat?  I don't know. Recipes always say things in ways I can't quite get.  Hence why I usually just wing it and don't use a recipe.  What I did was turn off the heat but leave it on the burner while I added the parsley.  Tearing it off took a bit.

Scallops ready to eat.
And with that it was ready to serve.

Let's see, the recipe said it would take about four minutes to prepare, actually cooking for three to four.

  • 10 minutes from the scallops to thaw and the water to boil.
  • 5 minutes to roll the scallops in flour.
  • 5 minutes to actually cook.
Yep, about four minutes.

And served.
It really did taste good, with only a few complaints.  One, not enough garlic.  I added some garlic powder to it at the table, which helped a little, but it needed more.  I think two bulbs instead of two cloves would be about right.  Two, too starchy.  I probably got too much flour on them, not knowing what I was doing, and I think I cooked the noodles a little long, which can make them more starchy.  The lemon juice was very good with it.  And I think five minutes was good for the scallops.  They seemed about right.  Maybe the recipe was written for low, close to sea level cooking (the website was Southern Food after all), rather than high, 7220 feet above sea level.

Over all, it was a success, despite not having fresh scallops and all the issues with me trying to follow a recipe.  It was worth the time and effort.


Monday, May 30, 2011

Resolving the Musical Progression

Early English woodcut
depicting a feast.
Image from Country verses City.
When I think of the perfect meal, I think of all the descriptions of eating at Valabar's in the Vlad Taltos books by Steven Brust, especially the detailed account in Dzur.  In that specific book, each chapter begins with an account of Vlad's meal at the restaurant.  The descriptions are truly beautiful and amazing.  Just reading it, by the time I finished, I felt very full, stuffed in fact, and very satisfied.  I've never read a better description of food or eating, or one that made my mouth water the way that description did.  The descriptions in the earlier books had whetted my appatite, but this one was a feast, both for my mind and my taste buds.  It was like being there, enjoying it with him.  And I loved how the details of the meal related to what happened in each chapter.

"Babette's Feast" Served up
by Derry McMahon.
Image from Seanchai Library blog.
I usually prefer meals that are just one course with no sides, things that are a meal in and of themselves.  This is the type thing I grew up on.  We had tacos.  We had spaghetti, maybe with garlic bread, maybe not.  We had lasagna.  We had enchiladas.  We had soup, by itself.  We had salad, by itself.  We had stuffed peppers.  The only time I remember having sides was for picnics or for Thanks Giving, and I never remember having multiple courses.

The Wedding Feast.
Image from Craig Finnestad blog.
There is an art to making one dish that's complete in itself.  There's a different art to choosing the right sides to go with a main course.  But the art of making a meal that works that's multiple courses is a whole different world.  What order do you serve them?  What drinks with each?  Anything between courses?  In a properly crafted multiple course meal, each piece accents the rest.  Each course either builds towards a climax, is the climax, or a gentle coming down, accenting the climax, the coda that resolves the musical progression of the feast.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

"Espresso is to Italy, what champagne is to France."

He was my cream, and I was his coffee -
And when you poured us together, it was something.
~Josephine Baker

Gourmet coffee beans.
Image from Scott's Coffee House.
There was a time in Europe where the word coffee had never been spoken.  Coffee came to Europe from the Islamic world in the 16th century.  The legend is that it originally came from Ethiopia, but it is known that it was first roasted in Arabia in the 15th century.  The word came with the bean.

It's hard to imagine a world without coffee now in the present.  There are coffee shops everywhere, and people make coffee in their own kitchens.  Coffee has become an integral part of our culture.

I used to think I hated coffee, back when I was a girl.  But my sister, who was as addicted to it as my dad, talked me into trying a sip of hers, "blonde and sweet".  With the cream and sugar in it, I liked it.  The problem wasn't a dislike of the taste of coffee, but with the taste being too strong.  I started drinking it that way.  Before long, I liked it black right away, though I've never drank coffee often.

Beatniks in Gaslight Coffee House,
NYC, 1959.  Image from
Old New York Tumblr blog.
Legend has it that the first coffee house was opened in about 962 in Constantinople.  Over time, they were found throughout the Middle East and Ottoman Empire.  Coffee houses came to Europe with coffee and soon were found across the continent.  They came to the United States with the Italian immigrants, but soon became popular outside these communities.  In the 1950s, they became a place where folk singers frequently sang, and became popular with beatniks.

In America, a definite culture has grown up around coffee houses.  They are a place where ideas are born and discussed (as was the case in Europe and the Middle East as well).  They are a place where folk and indie music is played live.  They are a place where poetry is spoken, and the main home of poetry slams.  They are casual, relaxing, and non-threatening, a neutral place to meet.  And not everyone drinks just coffee at coffee houses.  I usually have a steamer, which is basically steamed milk with flavoured syrup.  Sometimes I have Italian cream sodas.  A friend of mine always has hot tea.  I've even had a beer at Cold Creek, one of the local coffee shops.  Coffee shops often offer pastries, and sometimes even offer full meals.  They are more about the culture of coffee than the drinking of coffee now a days, though drinking coffee is no less popular.

First Starbucks coffee shop
in Seattle's Pike's Place Market.
Image from Spicer and Bank blog.
Traditionally, coffee houses have been a local affair, locally owned, locally ran.  There were no chains, at least nation wide chains.  Starbucks changed all that, bringing franchising to the coffee house "industry".  Other chains have followed in their footsteps, but Starbucks really changed things.

Starbucks started as a local coffee house in the 1970s in Seattle, Washington.  The name comes from the first mate in Melville's famous book, Moby Dick.  In the 1980s, a new director, inspired by the espresso bars in Milan, Italy, wanted to transform Starbucks to a different style of coffee house.  The owners rejected his ideas, so he started his own chain.  This new vision quickly took off and he ended up buying the original Starbucks chain and transforming it into his vision.  In the 1990's and most of the 2000s, Starbucks expanded across the country and over seas at a tremendous rate of one per work day.  Though growth has slowed down, Starbucks is very popular.

Starbucks does coffee its own way, though.  If you go to any coffee shop that does coffee the Italian way and order a Macchiato and are used to Starbucks, you will be very surprised with what you get.  And many coffee shops won't make a frappicino.  You could say Starbucks is kind of the McDonald's to your local burger joint.

Yesterday, I was talking to someone that works for the University of Wyoming.  They just expanded the Business College building and the original plan was to open a coffee shop in it.  The University wouldn't let them, though, because they thought it was too close to the one in Coe Library and they would put each other out of business.  I laughed and said they must never have been to Seattle, then.  The joke is that Starbucks put a Starbucks in the bathroom of another Starbucks.

Mocho coconut frappicino
from yesterday.
Later that day, we happened to go to Starbucks.  The Starbucks here aren't really coffee houses.  For that, you have to go to Cold Creek or the Grounds.  Hasting's has a coffee shop that's pretty close called the Hard Back Cafe.  There are a few drive up coffee shops in parking lots as well.  There are two Starbucks, one in Safeway and one in Albertson's.  The one in Safeway has a couple tables in the corner, but the one in Albertson's doesn't have any.  But we were just picking up frappicinos (which aren't served at any of the other shops, though the Hard Back has blended drinks that are similar), so we didn't need tables.

Normally I get a caramel frappicino, but they were advertising a new flavour, a mocha coconut frappicino, so I decided to try it.  It was very different, but very good.  I'd recommend it.


*Subject is a quote by Charles Maurice de Talleyrand.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Of moons, tides, and sushi

Image from A Charmed Life blog
Why Celeste?  A friend called me it the day I was starting this blog and it spoke to my soul.  In Spanish, it means Celestial, which is heavenly, the visible or invisible heavens, the stars.  I did some searching and found that it is a form of the name Selena, the Greek primordial goddess of the moon, before Artemis took over that role.  Selena is Luna to the Romans, who was replaced by Diana, Artemis' equivalent.  Luna's name is where we get lunar, of the moon.

But what does the moon have to do with food?  Many things.  I think anything can be related to food if you dig deep enough.  I'll focus on one.  The moon controls the tides.  And tides control when fisherman can go out to fish, and where the fish will be.  Fish has long been a large source of food for coastal areas, and those along rivers and lakes.  Many people in the world eat fish.  In fact, fish is the only meat traditionally allowed to be eaten on Friday (and originally Wednesday) was fish.  This was because meat was a luxury item for most people and was expensive, while anyone could raise vegetables or fish for fish.  The fasts on Wednesday and Friday abstained from most meat and ate vegetables and fish because you were controlling your body, not giving it luxury items.

It's the opposite here in Wyoming.  Beef is plentiful, being a ranching state, but sea food is expensive because it has to be shipped in from the coast.  There are local fish, but they aren't real big at this high elevation and with the small sizes of the lakes, rivers, and streams.  A creek in Western Oregon is wider and deeper than a river in most of Wyoming.  Also, the type of fish that are native aren't the type of fish served in most restaurants.

You have to be careful with sea food in Wyoming.  Because of how far it has to travel, sea food can be kind of nasty tasting at times.  Some restaurants are good, some very bad.  You just have to learn which is which.

Caterpillar roll 
One way I like sea food is as sushi.  It's expensive, so I don't have it often.  Most Americans think sushi means raw fish, but this isn't the case.  It is the rice, made a specific way, that makes it sushi.  There are many types of sushi, but without the rice it isn't sushi.  Raw fish by its self is sashimi, not sushi.  I've made sushi at home.  The rice, i do pretty good with, but when I make rolls and such, they aren't the works of art they are in restaurants.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Why do we eat: Health or Taste? A look at Subway

Why do we eat what we eat?  Do we choose our food based on nutrition?  Do we choose it based on taste?  Whether it's ascetically pleasing?  Because of what we were raised eating?  Because of memories they bring?  Because of emotions they bring?  Because of price?  Because of the image we want others to see?

We choose food for many reasons.  Usually, it's not just one of the above reasons.  Of course, in many societies on this planet, people don't have any choice in what they eat.  They eat what they have available.  The Western world is a place of abundance and choice.  Isn't it nice to be able to choose?

Subway lobby
With the publicity Subway created from Jared losing weight, Subway gained a lot in popularity, doubling their sales.  Losing weight and eating healthy is a fad right now, like living Green.  It's good to be healthy and eat healthy, but we shouldn't do it just because it is the "cool" thing to do.  Think for yourself and value yourself.  Don't eat healthy just because society tells you to.  Eat healthy because you care about yourself and want to treat yourself with respect.

And there's other reasons to eat that shows value for yourself.  Give yourself the pleasure of eating food that tastes good.  It can be healthy and taste good at the same time.  I eat Subway a lot, but not for health reasons.  I eat it because I enjoy the tastes that the right combination of ingredients brings.  The right combination of ingredients is art.  That's why Subway calls their employees Sandwich Artists.

When I was a teenager, my mother ran the school kitchen.  Once a week, the owner of the local Subway would come and set up in the school lunch room and make sandwiches for the students.  The spring of my junior year, I wanted a job and my mom talked to him and he hired me to work there.

School was still in session, so I worked evenings for those first few weeks.  Most nights, I worked with the guy who was closing most nights.  I had worked with his sister the year before, and I had had a bit of a crush on her.  I got a long well with him, and he seemed to like me.  He figured since I was working during part of his shift, he might as well teach me how to close.

After a week or so, the owner had to leave town for a while.  He left his daughter in charge.  She and the guy who closed didn't get a long at all.  Just after school ended for the year, they got in a fight and he tried to quit, but she beat him to it and fired him before he could.  She had to close that night.  She and the girl who normally opened were the only people who officially knew how to close.  The other girl was needed for opening, and the owner's daughter didn't have time, so she finished training me and I became the official closer.

A sandwich being made
For two summers, I closed six days a week.  Most days, I started at five and worked until sometime after midnight.  It took a lot of time, but I made plenty of money, had something to do, and really enjoyed it most of the time.

At one point, I hadn't had much sleep.  There was one night that was my weirdest night there.  I remember walking into the walk in fridge and getting some meat I needed to restock.  I left and closed the door, then remembered seeing a knife sitting on a shelf.  I still have that image firmly in my mind, and my visual memories are usually spot on like photographs.  I can see every detail.  I went back in to grab the knife, but there was a package of roast beef there, not a knife.  It was very odd.

At the end of the night, I opened the door to leave.  Usually the door didn't squeak, but that time it did.  Or at least that's what I think it was.  What I heard was my name coming from across the empty parking lot,  It was a large parking lot and the only thing in it was my small car.  There was definitely not anyone out there.  The "voice" sounded like the stereotypical old "hag" or "witch" from movies and things.  Like a fairytale wicked witch of the Wicked Witch of the West in Wizard of Oz.  That creeped me out.

During my time at Subway, I experimented with the sandwiches I ate.  I got a free foot long each shift.  I would eat a six inch shortly after I came in, before the dinner rush, and another one around ten each night.  I figured out six or seven sandwiches I liked, made very specific ways.  The tastes were a pieces of art.  I loved them.

I always hated it when people who had worked at Subway came in, because theirs were the hardest sandwiches to make because they had to be just so.  Remembering this, I didn't eat at Subway at all for several years, because I didn't want to do that to the people.  Later, I compromised what I wanted and let them make it the normal way, with me just dictating the ingredients.  I enjoy eating at Subway to this day.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Celeste's Larder is Open

"Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity." ~Voltaire
Corned beef, cabbage, potatoes,
and green beer from the Library
Sports Grille & Brewery, St. Patrick's
Day, 2011
Like Voltaire says, we all need food, from the baby needing breast milk to the oldest person in the world.  All races, all cultures, all religions.  Everyone needs to eat or they will die.  Food feeds our soul as much as our body.  Food is part of our life.  Food is our life.

But food isn't just a necessity, it can be a pleasure.  If food was just for nourishment, we would just have the instinct to eat, and no taste buds, or just taste buds designed to warn us away from poisons and spoiled food.  Our nose would just warn us of things to avoid or to go after something.  But both these senses don't just bring information, they bring pleasure.  The same is true for all our senses.  Our very body is designed to enjoy the world we're in.  And part of that world, part that our body and nervous system is specifically designed to enjoy, is food.

There are of course bad sides of this.  Like anything we enjoy, food can be taken to an extreme.  People use food to fill other voids in their lives.  People use food to hide from other things.  Food can be an addiction, or it can be a disorder.  Or both.  Eating disorders are rampant in the the United States, anorexia, bulimia, and binge-eating being the most common.  Food and eating can be abused.  Like anything.

So, there's good and there's bad with food and eating.  It's something to respect.

I love to write about my thoughts, especially in a blog setting, where I can share them with people, and hopefully hear the thoughts of others.  And I love food, both eating it and cooking it.  So I figured I'd start a blog about food.  And hence, Celeste's Larder is open.