Monday, October 27, 2008

Contemporary Art Institute in Detroit

We receive emails from CAID, the Contemporary Art Institute in Detroit. They do a lot of work within and for the city of Detroit. The ideas that they produce are inspiring and inventive, crossing the boundaries of social issues in Detroit and using fine art to better its surrounding civilization. Here is one such email that we received this week that is a curatorial statement from a past show called Shelter. This copied in its entirety from the email sent by CAID.

How can you expect a man who's warm to understand a man who's cold?
-Alexandr Solzhenitsyn

One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich

In the early pages of Solzhenitsyn's signature work we get a palpably bone chilling description of the gap between those who experience and expect comfort and those who do not. The problem is simply and starkly stated. The gap is one of understanding. The out side temperature is 17 degrees, Ivan's is 99 - not enough to get him a work release for the day -- a decision made by the man sitting comfortably behind a typewriter who thinks Ivan is a slacker.

First comes understanding then comes solutions.

No, that's not right.

First comes experience then comes understanding then comes compassion then comes the attempt to find solutions.

The poor you always have with you.

Until we understand.

We are the poor.

I wish there was a requirement that anyone aspiring to become an elected political official would have to spend at least four years living below the poverty level (college would not count)

I wish those aspiring to the Priesthood or the Ministry or the position of Rabbi or Mullah would actually have to spend at least two years raising sheep. (Mohammed said that no one could be a prophet if they were not first a shepherd.) If they spent all night delivering lambs in the minus10 degree temperatures of February they would understand what it's like to have cold so deeply rooted in their bones that they couldn't get warm enough to fall asleep. (Preferably, this requirement would take place in Michigan)

And for every lamb lost they would experience grief and guilt beyond their imagining without the sound of rifles or bombs.

(Ok, this should be a requirement for politicians as well.)

I wish those in need would have shovels. There is no tool that gives a person such a sense of power.

A garden is power (even if a house is cardboard) and potatoes are easy to cook.

But what do I know?

I am (when all is said and done) a stonecutter, a shepherd, the father of seven children, the maker of hundreds of dollars a year, the builder of my own house, a man sitting uncomfortably cold behind his computer, writing.


Seeking potatoes.

In the course of putting this exhibition together, I had the amazing realization that "shelter" is a noun and a verb - the measure of our humanity and culture.

Hugh Timlin, Shelter Exhibition Juror
September, 2006

Saturday, October 25, 2008

It's all about the jam this summer

The biggest food hurdle I wanted to launch myself across this summer was the making of jam. And it was a bit intimidating. But with Josh's help, and some assistance from his aunt and parents, we did well enough to enter three different jams into the Downtown Home and Garden's jam competition. There were sixty some entries, and with great dismay I have to admit that none of our jams placed. The winner of the competition was a spicy little rendition called The Deer Ate Everything but the Hot Peppers Jam. Admittedly, it was delicious. The recipe will be below. The three that we entered were 1) Zen Michigan Peach Cardamom, 2)Homegrown Sour Cherry with Leopold's Blackberry Liqueur, and 3) Empress Plum with Indonesian Vanilla Bean. Besides these jams we also made an apricot chutney, a plum jam from the remaining pulp of our plum wine, and a three berry with cherry and rose water jam.

I've never thought of myself as a jam eater. I love some buttered toast, drippy in almost erotic flavors, feeling like you're engaging in a secret something you wouldn't dare share. Jam, however, has found a place on our shelves with its sweet and sour flavors, the full and good ingredients competing for their ideal place on our plate. The sour cherry jam is probably my favorite, partially because it seems to find itself spread in its bumpy way across the grid of my waffles or falling in streaks down the sides of scooped vanilla ice cream. But I look forward to attempting a spice filled coffeecake sandwiching the peach cardamom jam, and the empress plum swept onto a pumpkin cheesecake.

There's a balance with jam in terms of cooking time and the gelling of the fruit. You don't want to have jam that tastes overcooked and too sweet, but you also don't want your jam to be too runny. Some fruit contains enough naturally occurring pectin that adding more is not necessary. Our plum jam gelled beautifully and spreads in a perfect purple pool of flavor. The cherry might have benefited from bought commercial pectin, but also was really interesting in its flavor complexity.

I suppose in most parts of the world these recipes come a little late, but perhaps there are some hot peppers still lingering in corners of refrigerator drawers. Here are a couple of recipes.

The Deer Ate Everything But the Hot Peppers Jelly
8 Sweet green peppers
4 jalapeno peppers
1 1/2 cup vinegar
1 1/2 cup cider
1/2 tsp salt
5 c. sugar
1 pkg powdered pectin
green food coloring

Wash peppers, remove stems and seeds. Cut into 1/2 inch squares. Puree half of the peppers and 1/2 cup of vinegar in food processor. Puree remaining peppers and vinegar. Pour all into a large bowl and add cider. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Measure 4 cups into a sauce pot. Stir salt and pectin into juice. Bring to a rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Add sugar and return to a rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute. Remove from heat and add a few drops of green food coloring.

Pour into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Adjust caps. Process for 5 minutes in hot water bath.

Suggestions include: Wear gloves while handling jalapeno peppers, make one batch at a time (don't double), and it's delicious poured over a brick of cream cheese!

Homegrown Sour Cherry with Leopold's Blackberry Liqueur & Zen Michigan Peach Cardamom Jams

I adapted these recipes from this blog's recipes, the cherry jam substituting a local distillery's blackberry liqueur for the kirsch and cherries grown at home. That local distillery has since moved to Denver and is called Leopold Brothers. Here's the description of the blackberry liqueur. Their products are phenomenal.

Josh's mom, dad, and aunt were in town for the beginning of this jam making shenanigan and were the laborers that picked and pitted the cherries. I'm sure it was just what they anticipated doing after a 22 hour drive!

The peaches were all bought at Ann Arbor's Farmer's Market when Michigan peaches were in season. Remarkably, Michigan has some of the most amazing fruits in the entire world. I've become enamored with Farmer's Markets. Shop at them as long as they are open, braving the chill and toting your eggs and squash while all the while admiring the frigid farmers manning their stands.

The pricey and delicious Empress Plum with Indonesian Vanilla Beans Jam was adapted from this site:

And finally, the Apricot Chutney from the book Preserving Summer's Bounty:
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup coarsely chopped onions
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 TB chopped raisins
1 TB crushed, minced, peeled ginger
5 c, fresh apricots, pitted and quartered

In a large enamel or stainless steel pot, combine the honey, vinegar, onions, allspice, raisins, and ginger. Simmer for 10 minutes. Add the apricots and simmer for 30 minutes or until thick, stirring occasionally.

To can: Pour into hot, scalded half-pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Seal and process for 10 minutes in a boiling-water bath.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Cut the herbs to dry
Make wheat bread with the local mixed grain bought from Market
Make apple butter
Dehydrate apples
Make an apple pie
Roast pumpkin seeds
Plan Halloween costume since I'm closing managing at the pub
Cut back the raspberries, sour cherry bushes, peonies and hostas
Pull the rest of the carrots
Save the basil seeds
Make granola
Make yogurt- DONE!
Make sauerkraut
Organize a clothing exchange
Post about jam!!- DONE!
Plan a grub party
Finish reading Botany of Desire- DONE!
Finish reading A Field Guide to Getting Lost
Dry clean my nappy winter coat and gold pants from Kathmandu
Go to Kathmandu.... hmmm.... maybe not feasible this week tho....
Organize closet and throw a personal search party for my favorite missing long underwear shirt
Get a bicycle helmet
Turn the compost
Finish my hundred things to do before I die list.

I know, I know...pathetic list for anyone who has children. But I still have a lot I want to do before winter hits even heavier!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

He does it again...

Michael Pollan somehow speaks my thoughts so eloquently as to America's food system and the network of political issues it impacts. Check it out here in the New York Times magazine, and be prepared to either skim or spend some time with it!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Comfort Food for Tough Days

Lots of contrite worries these days, it seems. I'm in the process of making job changes. Our days are filled with unsettling financial news. And October 13th, I quiver just typing the date. But Alice Waters brings it home again with her recipe for Tortilla Soup, the scent of warmth wrapping my worries in it's aromatic blanket. I didn't think I was hungry last night after ferocious grazing all day, but once I smelled the chicken cooking down and the onions and garlic traipsing throughout the house, I couldn't help but anticipate my very own bowl of Tortilla Soup.

At market on Saturday we picked up radishes, kohlrabi, an anaheim pepper, garlic and onions. I think we might need to go back, bundle all these ingredients together, and freeze them so we can make this soup any day that comfort is craved.

Simmer 1 1/2 quarts of chicken broth. Then add 1 chicken breast half, preferably with skin and bones. Continue to barely simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, transfer the breast to a plate, and let cool. Remove and discard the skin and bones and shred the meat.

Using an 8-inch heavy-bottomed skillet, heat on med-high 1/2 cup peanut or vegetable oil. Then add 4 corn tortillas, cut into 1/2 inch strips. Fry in small batches until golden brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels and season with salt.

In a large heavy pot, heat: 2 TB olive oil, add 1 Anaheim pepper, seeded and thinly sliced, 1/2 medium yellow onion thinly sliced, 2 garlic cloves thinly sliced, salt. Cook until soft about 5 minutes. Pour in the hot broth, then add: 2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced, or 3 small canned whole tomatoes dice and with juice.
Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.

Add the shredded chicken meat and heat through, but do not boil. Taste for salt and adjust as needed. Serve the soup with the crispy tortilla strips and bowls of these possible garnishes:
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
6 lime wedges
4 ounces crumbled queso fresco or grated monterey jack
1/2 cup peeled and shredded jicama (we substituted local kohl rabi peeled and cut into matchsticks)
1 cubed avocado (our avocado never made it to the table- it was one of the things I grazed on throughout the day).

We have plenty for lunch today, too.
We also made a Hopi Blue Cornbread to accompany the soup. The corn meal, which is truly a dynamic stormy sky blue color, came from Jennings Bros. Stone Ground Grains in Nashville, Michigan.

Here's the recipe:
1 1/2 cups Hopi Blue Cornmeal
1 TB baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup white flour
Combine these four ingredients in a large bowl. Then mix the following in a medium bowl:
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 TB olive oil
1/4 cup chopped jalapeno pepper
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped green peppers
1/2 cup whole kernel corn
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
Mix these wet ingredients into large bowl of dry ingredients until moistened. Pour into pan and bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Girl Effect