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Spring Food Traditions from around the world


gfron1
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As some of you know, I own an international grocery in the middle of nowhere, and I want to throw a Spring party for our customers in early April. What are some of the food traditions from across the US and around the world? I've heard of fall traditions, but surely there are Spring traditions as well.

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Wild greens. Chickweed has a delicately salty taste that goes well as part of salads. All you need to do is cut off the leafy tops, rinse them, pat them dry.

Another nice addition to the salad bowl is the "cheeses" of the mallow, and small, young mallow leaves. Around here, the saucer-like older leaves are stuffed with rice and/or meat, like grape leaves. They are soft and flexible and don't need to be brined like vine leaves. That is, it used to be a traditional dish. Since the War of Independence, when people were starving and ate wild greens to survive, many can't bear to eat them anymore for they are potent reminders of a very hard time. I dont have those associations, so once a year I stuff mallow leaves cook them in a lemony tomato sauce. Too much work to do more often.

If any of your herbs are flowering by the time you're ready to make your feast, all the flowers of culinary herbs taste good in salads, and add a touch of fantasy. Garlic/chive/onion flowers most of all, but basil, mint, thyme and sage flowers are good. To scent the drinking water, a slice of lemon and a few flowers of sweet geranium. I've also made cupcakes with young leaves of sweet geranium, placing one on the bottom of each cupcake mold and filling it with a lemon cake batter.

Nettles have a stronger, more seaweed-ish taste. Pick the young tops, wash and dry them. Chop and sautee them with onions/garlic, in olive oil or butter, and eat them plain or swirled into prepared rice or pasta. The trick to picking nettles is to use scissors, just flipping the stems over into a bag or basket. At home, put on gloves to handle them. They lose their sting when cooked, but a sting or two while preparing them is inevitable.

Dandelions: a dish of blanched, cooked dandelion greens is a traditional springtime dish. Pick them young, for older, tougher leaves are very bitter and need to be blanched twice or three times. Pluck out any stems, for they have a bitter, latex sap and are inedible. The whole crown, close to the root, can be well washed, dipped into beer batter, and fried. That used to be a favorite with my little one, when we lived in dandelion country (none around where I now live).

If you feel ambitious, a few gallons of dandelion beer is easy to make, doesn't take much time, and is surprisingly beery and good. Dandelion beer is made from the roots and leaves of the plant, unlike the wine, which demands a gallon of the blooms. If you're interested, I will post the dandy beer recipe.

These young wild greens, especially bitter ones, are relished in climates where people have gone through long months of cold, almost vegetable-less winter. Even here in Israel, where good veg is available year-round, I find myself longing for a dish of nettles, come springtime. Just pick from an area that is not a haunt of dogs and cats.

Miriam

Edited by Miriam Kresh (log)

Miriam Kresh

blog:[blog=www.israelikitchen.com][/blog]

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I was in Germany in May a couple of years ago and it was Spargelzeit! everywhere. Every single food-related place we visited or passed advertised fresh (usually white) asparagus. At restaurants it was always provided in the same combinations (at the moment I can only remember Spargelsuppe and Spargel mit Schinken), served with either hollandaise or browned butter crumbs. There appeared to be no variation according to the ethnicity of the restaurant either, it was always the same 6 or so dishes. What I can say is that we ate a fair bit of it (who could resist?) and it was almost uniformly delicious.

My father, who grew up in northern Germany, remembers that the traditional spring meal was always asparagus, new potatoes and a thick piece of schinken.

Snadra

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What about a cherry-blossom viewing party, like they have in Japan and Korea? A picnic under the cherry blossoms, drinking soju/shochu...in Korea everyone ate gimbap and other picnic foods- maybe in Japan they have bento? Where's Torakris when you need her?

Of course, you would need cherry blossoms....

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gron1,

The dandelion beer recipe is on RecipeGullet. I typed it all out and posted it last week, but neglected to let you know it's there. So read, and enjoy, and I hope you make the beer!

Miriam

Miriam Kresh

blog:[blog=www.israelikitchen.com][/blog]

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The Easter and Passover holidays are the source of so many spring-related dishes and different dishes also from around the world. There are quite a few threads on eGullet regarding international Easter desserts and baked goods and traditional Easter and Passover menus. Spring ingredients are often celebrated in the menus.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Other examples of a spring festival based on a seasonal, spring ingredient like the German 'Spargelzeit's'veneration of white asparagus are the Ramp festivals in Appalachia and up and down the East coast.

Fiddlehead fern fronds are also a very seasonal spring ingredient in New England and farther down the eastern seaboard.

The problem in terms of replicating the special spring ingredient-themed foods is that they are often delicate and aren't available far away from the places they are celebrated.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Baby lamb (close to impossible to get in the States, a number of us discovered)

Pale lettuces with tender leaves

Tiny strawberries (see first parenthetical comment). Strawberry shortcake made with biscuit dough and softly whipped cream.

And yes, on all references to asparagus and peas, though it's been a while since I've had a decent fresh English pea in a pod; I always buy frozen ones as a result.

When are morels gathered?

What about ramps--or is that summer?

For symbolic value: eggs as per reference to Easter and Passover.

I don't know what the Greco-Roman counterpart to pomegranates would be (i.e. Persephone's return to Hades, and the advent of winter).

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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To me, spring always means asparagus and crawfish.

The crawfish season actually begins in January, but they don't become decent sized or priced until spring.

Preach not to others what they should eat, but eat as becomes you and be silent. Epicetus

Amanda Newton

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Chervil soup!

Ow yay! Chervil soup! Followed by a plate of tender white asparagus topped with hard boiled eggs and new potatoes on the side. Drenched in melted butter. For desert one of my favourite Dutch puddings: hangop ('hangup'). This is made by draining buttermilk in a piece of cheesecloth, for about eight hours. You will end up with a very creamy yet light, fresh and slightly sour substance. Stir in some sugar, vanilla, a drop of cream, all to taste, or nothing at all. Classically served with strawberries. :wub:

If you don't have good buttermilk you could use yoghurt but the texture will be not as smooth and the flavour more acidic.

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Chervil soup!

Ow yay! Chervil soup! Followed by a plate of tender white asparagus topped with hard boiled eggs and new potatoes on the side. Drenched in melted butter. For desert one of my favourite Dutch puddings: hangop ('hangup'). This is made by draining buttermilk in a piece of cheesecloth, for about eight hours. You will end up with a very creamy yet light, fresh and slightly sour substance. Stir in some sugar, vanilla, a drop of cream, all to taste, or nothing at all. Classically served with strawberries. :wub:

If you don't have good buttermilk you could use yoghurt but the texture will be not as smooth and the flavour more acidic.

I am so often

astonished to find similarities between Dutch and Indian dishes -

two cuisines you'd never think together!

Your recipe just described Shrikhand (use yogurt instead of buttermilk

and cardamom instead of vanilla)!! :blink:

Add saffron if desired and it forms a delicate golden color,

which is rather spring-like.

For the main thread, the *cook* could get into the spring

party mood by glugging Thandai (sweet cold drink

of milk and crushed nuts) laced with Bhaang (cannabis slurry).

This is a traditional drink in the Indian spring festival of Holi....

http://www.thecolorsofindia.com/recipes/bh...ki-thandai.html

Milagai

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I am so often 

astonished to find similarities between Dutch and Indian dishes -

two cuisines you'd never think together!

There is nothing surprising about it. The Dutch starting trading with India and other Asian countries beginning in the 15th century.

Here is more about the Dutch East India Company.

Swisskaese: did you really think I of all people

would need to be informed

about the East India companies and trade routes? :hmmm:

The overt similarities between Dutch cooking and Indian

cooking are not that great, compared to Indian and many

other cuisines.....Or Dutch and other cuisines.....

Plus, as we discussed a long time ago on Chufi's Dutch

cooking thread, despite the spice trade, Dutch cooking

pulled back on its use of spices in most dishes (e.g.

the arguments in Schama's "Embarrassment of Riches" which

someone pointed out to me) except desserts.

"Main" Dutch dishes seem very far from "main" Indian

dishes, etc.

The surprising thing is the similarity of *specific* dishes

from the two cuisines (recently Chufi mentioned the

Dutch drink that older Dutch men

are familiar with that's amazingly

similar to Indian 'masala chai".

Now this Shrikhand-like dessert.

Hmf.

Milagai

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  • 2 months later...

I thought I would nudge this thread back up since my party is on Thursday. The last thing I'm working on is a lavender mousse for dessert. Anyone make this before - recipe? I'm also wanting to serve it on something and am leaning toward a lavender shortcake...other ideas?

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I thought I would nudge this thread back up since my party is on Thursday. The last thing I'm working on is a lavender mousse for dessert. Anyone make this before - recipe? I'm also wanting to serve it on something and am leaning toward a lavender shortcake...other ideas?

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The party was Thursday and here's what we did:

We started with Beef Carpaccio Crostini topped with fresh Horseradish Creme

beefcarpaccio.jpg

Then moved on to Oven-Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Truffle Oil and Chive Potatoe Puree

fingerling.jpg

Followed with Mini Tamales stuffed with Hatch Green Chile, Chicken and Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue Cheese

minitamale.jpg

And Lemon Stilton

lemonstilton.jpg

And my personal favorite, Mini Pancetta Cups filled with Asparagus Mousse, topped with Asparagus Tips and Balinese Long Pepper

pancettacup.jpg

For dessert, Lavender Mousse and Lavender Shortbread

lavendermousse.jpg

And finally, we cracked open the 25-year Balsamic with pear on a bamboo spork!

25yearbalsamic.jpg

ahhh...the joys of owning a specialty food store :biggrin:

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