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eG Foodblog: Fat Guy (2010) - Goin' Mobile


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I'm so pleased to see the Grand Hotel in your AL travelogue! My husband and I were married there in 2007. The food was excellent, much better than I had expected wedding food to be, and the chef quite generous in giving us a tour of his garden.

My husband's parents and grandparents live in the Lakewood neighborhood, directly adjacent to the hotel. Whenever we visit, we wind up at the bar for mint juleps at sunset. If you saw the statue of Bucky, the old bartender, that was sculpted by my MiL.

We will be returning to the Grand Hotel next weekend for my husband's grandfather's 100th birthday party.

Thank you so much for addressing the issue of the current state of Gulf seafood. As a former Gulf resident and frequent visitor with family down there, I can tell you that folks there took the oil spill pretty hard. It was demoralizing for a region already all too familiar with disasters. So I am very glad to hear that the reputation of the seafood seems to be making a comeback. My MIL does hold that the oysters are still questionable, due to their stationary status and filter-feeding, but she and the other kin have been enjoying the crabs, shrimp and fish that are always so delicious there. I'm glad you were able to find some of those wonderful Royal Reds. Sometimes we order those by airmail from Joe Patti's Seafood in Pensacola.

I'm looking forward to checking it out for myself next week. Thanks again!

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There's a huge variation in nut quality, though. For example, here in New York City everywhere you turn there's a guy selling honey-roasted peanuts, cashews and almonds for $2 a bag. Usually low-quality nuts cooked in rancid oil, these are just not the same thing as the place in Mobile is selling. There's at least one place downtown in the nut-roasting business, Bazzini. I'm not sure if they roast on premises or off, but they have good nuts. And you still see Planter's places on East Coast boardwalks. But what I had in Mobile was a cut above. A choice of sub-categories of peanuts, absolutely amazing quality, not just roasting but also they were deep frying and otherwise making raw products into delicious crunchy snacks.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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James Beard's American Cookery, one of the all-time great cookbooks (originally published in 1972), is being reissued by Little, Brown with a foreword by Tom Colicchio. Today the publisher hosted a media lunch at the James Beard House. Several good things came of attending this event:

1. I got to hang with Tom Colicchio for a few minutes.

2. I sat next to Cathy Erway of the Not Eating Out in New York blog and I think I convinced her to be a guest speaker in my food-blogging class next month.

3. I met the marketing manager, Amanda Tobier, and it turned out we went to high school together. So we got to reminisce a lot, no doubt to the annoyance of everyone else at the table.

4. I got a free copy of the book, which is gorgeous, and then I got another one.

5. I ate the best meal I've ever had at the James Beard House. You can't beat some of those old-school recipes. The lunch made me proud to be an American.

We started with a half-hour hors d'oeuvres hour.

Tom Colicchio, flanked by blonde hair:

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Photo: Steven Shaw

The cooks hard at work preparing some of Beard's recipes:

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Photo: Steven Shaw

The publicist for the book was good enough to send me the recipes for all the things we had at the lunch. I'll include those inline here. So, for hors d'oeuvres we had "Dainty Sandwiches."

Dainty Sandwiches

At the other end of the spectrum from the heroes and po’ boys are the little sandwiches sometimes called “reception sandwiches,” so popular from the turn of the century up to the end of the First World War, lingering to some degree until the present time. The idea was to combine color, charm, and daintiness, and I must confess that some of the rolled sandwiches, notably those made with asparagus or watercress, are utterly delicious.

Rolled sandwiches are the favorites. To make them requires unsliced soft bread with crusts removed, cut in slices lengthwise. They may be made from 1 ½ to 2 ½ inches wide. Spread the slices with a filling, and roll. Wrap in wax paper or secure with toothpicks (in the Edwardian era they were tied with dainty silk ribbons). Then chill in the refrigerator to firm the roll for slicing. One secret for keeping the rolled sandwich intact is to use softened butter (not melted), which will penetrate the bread and harden nicely during refrigeration. Below are a few suggestions for fillings:

1. Thin slices of smoked salmon sprinkled with lemon. The pink of the salmon contrasts nicely with the bread.

...

3 Cooked asparagus tips with mayonnaise, rolled into the sandwiches with tips protruding.

...

We then had a superb leek-and-potato soup. Not vichyssoise. This was what you'd add cream to in order to get vichyssoise.

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Photo: Steven Shaw

An Old Leek and Potato Soup

5 or 6 leeks

3 Tablespoons butter

3 cups diced potatoes

1 quart chicken broth

2 tablespoons salt or to taste

¼ teaspoon cayenne

½ teaspoon nutmeg

2 Tablespoons butter

2 Tablespoons flour

Although there are many different recipes for potato soup, the one most appreciated is a potato and leek soup. In a different guise it is the basis for the cold soup which Louis Diat made famous under the name Vichyssoise, served first at the Ritz Carlton in New York when Diat was chef. Its popularity has grown immeasurably since then.

Wash the leeks, split them lengthwise, and cut into thin slices after removing all sand. Sauté in 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet for 4 minutes. Add the potatoes and the broth, and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes. Reduce heat, and simmer till potatoes are tender. Season to taste with salt, cayenne, and nutmeg. Strain out the vegetables and put through a food mill or ricer. Return to the broth. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over low heat and stir in the flour. Add 1 ½ cups of the broth and blend well till the mixture thickens. Return to the kettle, and stir till soup comes to a boil. Serve in hot soup plates with a dash of cayenne or nutmeg.

Next, breaded chicken breasts, glazed carrots and sauteed zucchini.

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Photo: Steven Shaw

Breaded Chicken Breasts

6 chicken breasts (3 whole chicken breasts boned and cut in half)

Flour

2 eggs, beaten well with 4 tablespoons cream

Fresh breadcrumbs

6 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons cooking oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Tabasco

Lemon slices

Among the simplest forms of chicken cookery, these breaded breasts are versatile enough to work for many different occasions. They may be served hot with just lemon or with a sauce; or they can be served cold with a mayonnaise; or they can be prepared as an elegant dish for a company dinner.

Place each boned breast between two sheets of wax paper. Pound with a meat pounder or the flat side of a cleaver till the fillet (for that is really what it is) is flat and about 3/8 inch thick. Dredge each fillet in flour, then dip in the beaten egg and cream, and press thoroughly into the crumbs. Place on individual pieces of wax paper and stack in the refrigerator to set the coating. Heat the oil and butter –more may be necessary—in a heavy skillet. When bubbly and hot, place the fillets in the pan, two or three at a time, and brown quickly on both sides. If the fat is hot and the heat steady and medium high, the pieces should take about 2 minutes each side. Season well with salt, pepper, and Tabasco. Transfer to a hot platter and garnish with lemon. Serve at once with tiny buttered new potatoes and a puree of broccoli.

Glazed Carrots

12 carrots, left whole, cooked according to basic recipe*

6 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon honey

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

½ teaspoon salt

Cook the carrots and drain well. Combine with the butter and honey in a skillet or saucepan. Heat and roll them in the mixture to acquire an even glaze. Cook over medium heat, watching very carefully to prevent scorching, till the carrots are delicately glazed. You may add more honey to the pan if you like. It becomes an oversweet dish if you do, but that satisfies many palates.

*To steam-cook. Heat a very small amount of salted water in a heavy saucepan with a tight-fitting cover. Drop in the carrots, cover, and steam gently until tender. Shredded carrots will cook in 3-4 minutes; cut pieces in 10 to 12 minutes; and whole carrots in 15 to 18 minutes.

Sautéed Zucchini with Herbs and Garlic

6 to 8 small zucchini cut in quarters lengthwise

Olive oil

2 finely chopped garlic cloves

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon, or to taste, chopped fresh basil (or another herb)

½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Cut the zucchini in thin strips. Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet and add the zucchini strips. Sauté lightly, turning them once or twice, for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, and basil. Cover the pan and simmer about 10 minutes, till the zucchini are just tender to the bite. Add the pepper. Serve in a heated dish with chopped parsley for a garnish.

Finally, apple pie with enough cinnamon to matter.

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Photo: Steven Shaw

Apple Pie

5 cups peeled, cored, and thinly sliced apples

½ to ¾ cup sugar

½ to 1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter

Lemon juice (optional)

Pastry for two-crust 9-inch pie*

So common has apple pie always been in this country-although it did not originate here—that many old American cookbooks did not bother to give a recipe. It was taken for granted that every housewife had her own favorite.

Whether to prepare the crust of the apples first is a matter of choice. If you are a quick pastry maker, then you’ll probably want to start with the apples. Combine them with the sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Turn into a 9-inch pie pan lined with pastry. Dot the apples with butter and moisten the edge of the trimmed bottom crust. Put on the top pastry, trim, and crimp the edge. Bake in a 450-degree oven 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake from 20 to 35 minutes longer. The length of time will depend upon the type of apples used. Summer apples, such as Transparents or Gravensteins, which should be used slightly green or underripe, will cook very quickly. It is best to leave a slit in the center of the pie crust so that the apples can be tested with a fork without disturbing the crust. If using very ripe apples or sweet apples, sprinkle with a tablespoon or two of lemon juice before adding the top crust. Serve apple pie warm or cold, plain or with aged Cheddar cheese, a cheese sauce, or ice cream, which makes it ”a la mode.”

*Pastry for two-crust 9-inch pie:

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup shortening or 1/3 cup butter and ½ cup vegetable shortening

¼ cup cold water, approximately

Sift the flour with the salt or stir together with a fork or pastry blender. Add the butter and shortening and cut it through the four with a fork, pastry blender, wire potato masher, or two table knives; or rub between the fingers until the moisture is in pieces about the size of a pea. Add water a few drops at a time and toss the mixture with a fork to combine the water evenly. The dough should not be wet, but just moistened enough to hold together in a ball. The type of flour and the temperature of the mixture will make a difference in the amount of water used. Chill the dough in the refrigerator 15 to 30 minutes if it seems too soft.

Take out slightly more than half of the dough for the undercrust or, if you want a thinner top crust, take nearly two-thirds for the undercrust. Roll it out, fit into the pie pan, and trim the edge. Roll out the upper crust. Fill the lower crust, moisten the edge, place the top crust on, cut steam vents, and trim and crimp the edges. Bake according to directions for the particular pie being made.

Here's the menu and the book. They did a really nice job on the book. It has no glossy photos -- just text and a few bits of rust-colored artwork -- but it is as beautiful as any book can be.

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Photo: Steven Shaw

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Photo: Steven Shaw

Also, if you're curious, there's a terrific Q&A with Beard's editor that the Little, Brown people sent me. I'm going to reprint it, with permission of course, in my next post.

Finally, I have to add that I think American Cookery is a fantastic book but is actually the second best book by James Beard (of the ones I've seen; not every one but a whole lot of them). In my opinion the best James Beard book ever is James Beard's Theory & Practice of Good Cooking (1977). It's a book that was truly ahead of its time, approaching cookery from the perspective of techniques that can be applied across ingredients. Many of today's technique-oriented cookbooks are descendants of Theory & Practice. I tried to convince Tom Colicchio that his Think Like a Chef is one such book, but I think he thought I was nuts. In any event, I started the campaign today to get Little, Brown to do that one next. Fight with me. Michael Sand is the name of the editor in charge. Write him letters, call him, send him faxes, picket his home -- we can break him.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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John Ferrone was James Beard’s longtime friend and editor. He worked closely with Beard on a memoir, five cookbooks, and over a hundred newspaper and magazine articles. Here, Ferrone talks about what it was like to collaborate with James Beard on his magnum opus, James Beard’s American Cookery.

(Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown.)

Q. You worked closely with Beard on several cookbooks, including American Cookery. Did you have a chance to test many of the recipes for this book while it was in development? Are there any you still make now?

A. During the years I worked with James Beard on cookbooks and articles I frequently kitchen-tested recipes. Each new Beard cookbook enlarged my culinary repertoire. American Cookery was a major contributor. Beard on Bread turned me into a confirmed baker. Menus for Entertaining made me a better party giver. I tested either because I was intrigued by a recipe I was editing or because Beard was away from his kitchen and asked for help, as he did here: “John, I wish you would try [my] recipe for Brownies...and use a few more nuts and use half walnuts and half filberts and see how it goes.”

I cook quite simply these days and draw on the bounty of American Cookery less than I used to, but I can think of one dish that lingers on. It’s Piquant Crab Salad (p. 59), an elevated version of cole slaw, which I have used as a stimulating first course for rich holiday meals.

Q. What was your working relationship like? Did he teach you a thing or two about your job? Vice versa?

A. I began working with Beard on a regular basis in the 1960s, succeeding his Portland friend Isabel Callvert as a freelance editor (not as ghostwriter, as some people believed). In the earlier years he banged out manuscripts on his portable typewriter, not bothering to correct typos or polish his prose. What he presented for editing had the essential information and authority, and plenty of Beard, but needed refining and organization. The trick was to tidy him up while letting his distinctive voice come through. Beard wasn’t the least bit vain about his writing and accepted editing without a protest. A rare author, indeed. When he became more affluent and could afford a full-time secretary, he taped his material, and I was given an impeccably transcribed first draft to work with. This might include instructions on the point he was trying to make: “Try to get some of my feeling into the piece....It should start with ‘I grew up in the Iron Age [of cookery].’”

Part of American Cookery was composed at Julia Child’s house in the South of France. Beard had rented the place for an extended stay. I was there for a two-week working vacation. I would get Beard’s manuscript straight from the typewriter. I can still see him sitting there each morning in a kimono, poking away on his portable.

Beard taught me everything I know about cooking, American and otherwise. I’m not

sure I taught him anything about the use of the English language. There wasn’t much feedback for my efforts, but occasionally he would toss me a compliment: “The manuscript arrived yesterday,” he once wrote me from Provence, “and it seems in much better shape than I thought it could be. I am more than pleased with what you have done and I have done.”

Q. Among many classic dishes that remain popular today, American Cookery features a few odd and antiquated foods—like preparations for calf’s brains and “Blushing Bunny” (not a meat dish). Is there anything in the book that has since gone out of fashion that you think ought to be revived? Anything you think Beard would have fought to keep in vogue?

A. Beard’s documentary approach to American food allowed him to include dishes such as Asparagus in Ambush and Tipsy Parson that would hardly be found at his own table. He stopped short of treating readers to Flapper Salad (half a peach or pear garnished with shredded carrot and other bits to make a flapper’s face) or Candlestick Salad (half a banana upright on a slice of pineapple, dribbled with mayonnaise). Apart from a few “grotesqueries,” as Beard called them, the recipes in American Cookery are meant to be taken seriously, although many have gone out of fashion, victims of the ban on excess butter and cream or upstaged by ethnic newcomers. But wouldn’t it be heartwarming to see that old party favorite Beef Stroganoff again, maybe with a new twist? Or a grand presentation of a Crown Roast of Pork or Lamb, with an inventive filling for the hollow of the crown? What would Beard have wanted to resurrect? Well, he liked all parts of the pig. He might have sent up a cheer for that rarity, pig’s feet, or put in a good word for an unloved root vegetable, the parsnip, for which he provides a lavish recipe in American Cookery that calls for dollops of Madeira and heavy cream. I’ve served it many a time as an accompaniment to roast lamb.

Q. What did Beard tend to eat for breakfast?

A. Although Beard championed the Great American Breakfast in his writing, his own morning diet was slim—tea and toast. That was all. Naturally the quality of the bread for toast was important. At home in New York, he settled for an Italian or French bread from Balducci’s or the former Jefferson Market. In St-Rémy-de-Provence he tracked down a loaf to his liking, which he described thus to his food colleague Helen Evans Brown: “It is rough and slightly off-white and has a wonderful crust—not the refined bread that everyone seems crazy for these days, which only lasts about an hour.” That became the bread for my toast, too, during a visit with Beard in St-Rémy.

Q. At nearly 900 pages, American Cookery is comprehensive. It’s hard to imagine, but was there more that Beard wanted to include in the book?

A. American Cookery was written in no particular order, as Beard continued his investigation of early cookbooks and the compilations of Ladies Aid societies. It just grew, chapter by chapter, and was not assembled into a cohesive book until the end. Each time Beard believed we had reached that point, he or I would think of a missing chapter, and we’d start up all over again. This went on for nearly four years, by which time we were both exhausted and couldn’t squeeze out another word. When it came time to put the mass of material in some order, Beard decided to follow more or less the sequence of a meal, starting with cocktail food. If later he had been asked to fill in any gaps in what one reviewer called his “magisterial epic cookbook,” he might have chosen to enlarge the pasta section, which for Americans in the early seventies was still in the spaghetti and macaroni stage.

Q. If there is one recipe or anecdote that you think sums up Beard’s genius, and the mission of this book, which would it be?

A. It’s not possible to sum up Beard’s contribution to America’s eating habits with a single achievement. His influence was felt in so many ways. He not only wrote cookbooks and countless food pieces, including a syndicated column, but he conducted cooking classes on both coasts, did food demonstrations throughout the country, appeared on television, developed new products for companies like Green Giant and French’s mustard (for which he has been repeatedly criticized), advised restaurateurs, held seminars on wines, and encouraged up-and-coming chefs. I can’t think of another culinary figure who could begin to match that record. He deserves credit, too, for his skill as a host. His dinner parties and cocktail buffets were legendary and set an example for entertaining in a hearty but elegant style. The cast of characters at these events was made up of food people and old friends. I can remember one such holiday celebration when Beard was eighty and had lost a good deal of weight. A guest handed him a Christmas gift, and as he stood up to accept it, his trousers fell to his ankles. After a second of shock, Beard roared with laughter, and so did all his guests. He was a showman to the end.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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(We're working out some technical issues with those photos; please stand by.)

Folks, this eG Foodblog is starting to wind down. If there's anything you want to discuss, you should go ahead and post tonight and I'll address your comments as best I can. It will probably be shut down in the morning.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Your blog has indeed been fascinating Steven--from the pleasure of making your son lunch to the issues facing the gulf seafood industry and ending with a lunch representing classic dishes that would make Beard smile. I have a number of books by Beard and I refer to them regularly. I never tire of his musings on food and cooking. Thank you.

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It's been a great blog. Thank you so much for doing it and thank you so much for bringing it back!

My thoughts exactly.

I enjoyed being reminded of James Beard's profound effect. That's a biopic I would like to see.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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I was thinking the same thing about a Beard biopic, and it was something being discussed around the room today -- albeit probably not by people in a position to do anything about it. I'm not exactly sure where the dramatic tension would come from, but given the success of Julie & Julia coupled with the re-release of Mastering it would have been fitting to re-release Beard's big book with a film about him.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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New York Times on New York City's last remaining nut roaster, and why:

"There are plenty of places to buy nuts in Manhattan, from Whole Foods to CVS to the occasional subway platform. But if you want them fresh, perhaps even still warm, from the roaster, SP’s Nuts and Candy may well be your only option."

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/04/nyregion/04nuts.html?_r=1

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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So, let us recap what we did together this past week:

- Saw Ferran Adria and Colman Andrews speak at the International Culinary Center

- Baked with Sarabeth Levine and PJ at Sarabeth's Bakery in the Chelsea Market

- Took a field trip to Mobile, Alabama, to check out the Gulf seafood scene

- Had lunch at the James Beard House and touched Tom Colicchio's arm

- Packed school lunches

- Poached eggs

- Blended smoothies

- Cooked vegetarian chili

Thanks for reading along. I'm going to leave you with photos of PJ's school lunch and my breakfast smoothie for today.

I also wanted to mention, if you think you might want to volunteer to do an eG Foodblog, please contact our eG Foodblog czar, Pam R.

Here are those photos:

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Photo: Ellen R. Shapiro

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Photo: Ellen R. Shapiro

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Photo: Ellen R. Shapiro

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Thanks to Steven/Fat Guy for kicking off the new season of eG Foodblogs. We'll be having a short break before the next one begins, but keep watching this forum for some more great eG Foodbloggers. And as Steven said earlier, if you'd like to participate please get in touch!

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      After a leisurely 11h drive we arrived at a small fishing town somewhat north of Barcelona around 3.00am. We unloaded the car and my wife an the little one went straight to bed. 
       

       


      I found an expired beer in the elsewise pretty empty fridge and enjoyed the cool breeze on the terrace. Holidays, here we come …
       

    • By liuzhou
      Last week, Liuzhou government invited a number of diplomats from Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar/Burma, Poland, and Germany to visit the city and prefecture. They also invited me along. We spent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday introducing the diplomats to the culture of the local ethnic groups and especially to their food culture.
       
      First off, we headed two hours north into the mountains of Rongshui Miao Autonomous County. The Miao people (苗族 miáo zú), who include the the Hmong, live in the mid-levels of mountains and are predominantly subsistence farmers. Our first port of call was the county town, also Rongshui (融水 róng shuǐ, literal meaning: Melt Water) where we were to have lunch. But before lunch we had to go meet some people and see their local crafts. These are people I know well from my frequent work trips to the area, but for the diplomats, it was all new.
       
      So, I had to wait for lunch, and I see no reason why you shouldn't either. Here are some of the people I live and work with.


       
      This lovely young woman is wearing the traditional costume of an unmarried girl. Many young women, including her, wear this every day, but most only on festive occasions.
       
      Her hat is made from silver (and is very heavy). Here is a closer look.
       

       
      Married women dispense with those gladrags and go for this look:
       

       
      As you can see she is weaving bamboo into a lantern cover.
       
      The men tend to go for this look, although I'm not sure that the Bluetooth earpiece for his cellphone is strictly traditional.
       

       
      The children don't get spared either
       

       
      This little girl is posing with the Malaysian Consul-General.
       
      After meeting these people we went on to visit a 芦笙 (lú shēng) workshop. The lusheng is a reed wind instrument and an important element in the Miao, Dong and Yao peoples' cultures.
       

       

       
      Then at last we headed to the restaurant, but as is their custom, in homes and restaurants, guests are barred from entering until they go through the ritual of the welcoming cup of home-brewed rice wine.
       


      The consular staff from Myanmar/Burma and Malaysia "unlock" the door.
       
      Then you have the ritual hand washing part.
       

       
      Having attended to your personal hygiene, but before  entering the dining room, there is one more ritual to go through. You arrive here and sit around this fire and wok full of some mysterious liquid on the boil.
       

       
      On a nearby table is this
       

       
      Puffed rice, soy beans, peanuts and scallion. These are ladled into bowls.
       

       
      with a little salt, and then drowned in the "tea" brewing in the wok.
       
      This is  油茶 (yóu chá) or Oil Tea. The tea is made from Tea Seed Oil which is made from the seeds of the camellia bush. This dish is used as a welcoming offering to guests in homes and restaurants. Proper etiquette suggests that three cups is a minimum, but they will keep refilling your cup until you stop drinking. First time I had it I really didn't like it, but I persevered and now look forward to it.
       

      L-R: Director of the Foreign Affairs Dept of Liuzhou government, consuls-general of Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos.
       
      Having partaken of the oil tea, finally we are allowed to enter the dining room, where two tables have been laid out for our use.
       

       
      Let the eating, finally, begin.
       
      In no particular order:
       

      Steamed corn, taro and sweet potato
       

      Bamboo Shoots
       

      Duck
       

      Banana leaf stuffed with sticky rice and mixed vegetables and steamed.
       

      Egg pancake with unidentified greenery
       

      Stir fried pork and beans
       

      Stir fried Chinese banana (Ensete lasiocarpum)
       

      Pig Ears
       

       
      This may not look like much, but was the star of the trip. Rice paddy fish, deep fried in camellia tree seed oil with wild mountain herbs. We ate this at every meal, cooked with slight variations, but never tired of it.
       

      Stir fried Greens
       
      Our meal was accompanied by the wait staff singing to us and serving home-made rice wine (sweetish and made from the local sticky rice).
       
       
       
       
      Everything we ate was grown or reared within half a kilometre of the restaurant and was all free-range, organic. And utterly delicious.
       
      Roll on dinner time.
       
      On the trip I was designated the unofficial official photographer and ended up taking 1227 photographs. I just got back last night and was busy today, so I will try to post the rest of the first day (and dinner) as soon as I can.
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