Tag Archives: FOOD

The Proper Way To Eat

5 Aug

I was reading back on some responses on my ‘Food Flicks’ page and I came across a very perceptive (and funny) remark by my very clever writer/artist-friend, Agnes. The conversation had focused on various favorite food scenes, to which she remarked about the sniffing of one’s food when first coming in contact with the plate and how this was such a natural thing to do.

Of course, it got this foodie thinking about our relationship to food and how different it is for everyone. Take Hubby and violin girl–natural food sniffers, through and through. Something I don’t understand. For me, the odors naturally wafting from the plate suffices my senses. I don’t need to hover my nares milimeters above food that will soon come into contact with my mouth.

In Kaukab’s household, we ate much with our fingers, scooping up all kinds of Arabic food with the Middle Eastern utensil that is pita bread. Fingers have been the utensil of choice around the world since man’s creation.

But, in American culture, which took its cues from British and other Western-European decorum, the proper way to eat has evolved into something altogether prescriptive. For example, pizza. You would think that this meal-in-a-slice marvel would be the great cultural equalizer. But, when surveyed, Americans seem fairly split on the matter of how to properly eat a pizza. Fork, or hands? And if it’s deep-dish, then what?

Same goes for spaghetti. “Proper” Americans seem to go for the fork and spoon technique and one which Hubby employs–much to the chagrin of Kaukab’s daughter. Just ask him. Nevermind that pasta can be easily managed with fork, alone, if utilized in small, circular movements and of a patient, food-loving mind. Eating spaghetti shouldn’t require false intentions for the sake of ill-perceived “high” culture.

And, let’s not forget the on-going  conundrum of how to eat a steak. Who here is a fork-exchanger? At Kaukab’s table, forks remained in their “proper” left hands, the fork’s back facing outward, with knives in their right (the lefty siblings were left to their own devices), enabling a more efficient path to the eater’s mouth. This seems to be a more customary method outside of the U.S., but one this daughter of immigrants has personally noticed MIA at the tables of the cultural high-minded, even though visiting heads-of-state have been observed on C-SPAN engaging in such methods. And, what could be more high-minded than C-SPAN?

Which brings me back to my original question. Does it take an obscure cable news show to teach we Americans how best to be proper about our eating habits?

Like C-SPAN, does anyone really care?





Happy Campers

11 Aug

The past weekend was spent camping with Hubby,  my childhood friend, Lilly, and her hubby, Sean, near Lake Erie. All but Hubby had grown up within walking distance to the Lake. But, our camping weekend took us further west along the Great lake to a small town I hadn’t been to since I was an adolescent, where we’d spend summer weekends at a neighbor- family’s lakeside cottage.

Lake Erie was our ocean–with seagulls, lighthouses, and a horizon which reached out to an unsuspecting Canada coastline.

But back to camping. More importantly…camp food.

Now, I figured that camping meant generic camp food–all cooked in iron-cast skillets atop a campfire. We would feast on hotdogs and beans. Eggs and potatoes. Maybe some grilled corn-on-the-cob, if we were feeling extravagant. But I was pleasantly surprised when Lilly hit me up with several phone calls (I don’t subscribe to facebook–please don’t hate) relating her menu ideas. “Camping has a menu?” I thought.  Apparently, camping in Century 21 requires of its campers the desire to Martha Stewart the entire experience:  from dressing a picnic table with a nostalgic checkered tablecloth, laden with sweet-smelling candles and a napkin and cutlery caddie to creating a full-out bistro-style eatery, boistered by all the farm-and garden-fresh produce  we’ve come to expect.

So, instead of  skillet eggs and potatoes for breakfast, we had this:

Lilly's Breakfast Platter

This picture captures the essence of Kaukab’s influence on Lilly. Look at her hands. They’re telling you, “Look what I make for you. Come, eat!”
Even when you think she’s not around; she’s around.


16 Aug

Our trip to Cleveland last week:

Tuesday 9:30 a.m. 

Left on time. Even, with Laura. Picked up Laura’s beau. Again, right on time.

Fast food brunch. Bleh.

2:45 p.m.  Arrived at Kaukab’s.  Feasted on Middle Eastern spread, aka Mezza.

Green beans, tabouli, hummous, kibbe, spinach pies (triangular-shaped, spinach-filled baked goods), baked chicken, pita bread. Lots of Kaukab-isms to mull over.

5:30 p.m.  A 5-house walk to Lilly’s to gather her for a Paramore concert downtown riverfront and drop off hubby and Marshall, who will stay behind with Lilly’s hubby. Later, Lilly’s hubby will take Marshall for “driving” lessons–Marshall’s 14 yrs. old and believes he knows how to drive, simply because he has perfected simulated steering from his back seat throughout his childhood, and often with a variety of non-real steering wheels.

6:15 p.m. Hubby eventually locates the correct detoured drop-off for said concert, and we are happy.  I am happy, in particular, because I get to spend a concert with someone who is of like age and not of usual situation whereby I’m one of only a handful who aren’t of the skinny jeans demographic. We plunk ourselves just outside the large tent area and enjoy our lemonade freezes, while the kids make their way to the “mosh pit” to find some of their other mosh friends.

9:00 p.m. Paramore hit the stage hard…and loud. By this time, we’ve made our way just to the right of the mosh pit and fairly close to the stage. Found ourselves next to a woman–also not of skinny jeans demographic–who was not too happy with us, nor anyone else who dared to come within 3 ft. of her. Funny, I thought she would have known that it’s just about impossible to clear anyone of that space requirement, particularly when you choose to stand near a mosh pit at a Paramore concert. I’d never been to a Paramore concert, but I pretty much figured that I’d not be able to set up my rocker and have all the room to rock out to my heart’s content.

11:00 p.m.  Concert over and we are famished. My lower back hurts from standing…and jumping. Don’t worry, my kids didn’t see me. A pleasant walk up to street level and into the Terminal to catch the train back to Lakewood.

11:45 p.m.  Back to Lilly’s for food. Marshall, et. al. save precisely three pieces of pizza…so my other son had those. I made a quick walk back to Kaukab’s to gather more of the leftover Mezza and back to Lilly’s for a late night snack. Also, Lilly provided us with a scrumptious raspberry chipotle salsa and another of  green olives, made by a guy in Cleveland. All with blue corn chips. Excellent. He doesn’t have a website, as of yet. Not even a label on his jars! I’ll let you know what I can find out. Because, seriously, so good. I usually don’t bother with jarred salsas.

Next morning, left for home. Without Melt. Paramore and the rest of the bands ate there the night before. She spoke about her love for Melt. We had planned on eating there for an early lunch Wednesday, before heading home, especially, since Jacob (Laura’s) hadn’t been before. Alas, no time to be melted.

You don’t want to guess where we ate lunch on the road, do you?


Time’s Up

31 Jul

Just as I have an aversion to pot holders, so too goes the little, annoying device known to many as the kitchen timer. I don’t like ’em. And, here’s why: They rob one’s natural ability to trust the passage of time. They force one to turn away from using one’s senses, of smell, touch, and sight to know when it’s time to check on the half-baked cookies; the third-of-the-way sauce reduction; or the spring-back of a pound cake, its corners pulled slightly away from the pan.

Worse still, is the nawing feeling at the back of my mind that time is ticking away–tick-tock, tick-tock, tic, tic, tic….I feel compelled to stay close-by, afraid to leave the kitchen, so as not to miss the inevitable tingy noise, alerting me–no, urging me–to spring toward the oven, mit in hand, to find a perfectly golden-brown, springy cake smile back at me, knowing that I owe this beautifully baked creation to the time machine.

Well, I’m taking a stand. No more timers. Have you ever seen a timer in a Hell’s Kitchen episode?  No, you have not. And, do you know why Chef Ramsey won’t allow it? Because timers don’t know how to cook. They only know how to count time. Do you want to be a cook, or do you want to be a clock?  

This stand I’ve taken has been a good one. Except today, when I decided to do a Google search for kitschy kitchen timers. I had no idea the world in which kitchen timers live. There are digital ones. Wind ups and temperature-sensitive ones for cooking the perfect egg.  As I perused the sites, I found some really nifty ones. Some were sleek and artsy, some vintage-inspired, yet others were a bit designer-challenged.

I soon found myself  locked in an emotional tug-of-war with these simple time machines and began to think that I might like to have a few. Just for their curious asthetic. A collection of odd, little timers sitting on one of my kitchen ledges might be a good compromise. I won’t have to wind them up. Just let them sit there, all silly and quiet.

my favorite--a magnetic timer

a simple wind-up

Williams-Sonoma sleek timer

lux perfect egg--color-changing timer

You can find the websites on my blogroll, for those of you not yet ready to join the “no timers” coalition. Remember, there’s no time like the present.

Even the Drum Stool

18 Jul

I realize I have posted twice–in the same day–but felt could not wait. Earlier, I had posted about about my son’s drum lessons and his instructor’s use of food labels to teach rhythm (refer to post  Jun. 30 ‘Food in the Strangest Places’ ).

Well, today, one of my daughter’s bandmates (check them out in the blogroll section), Jared–a drummer–had checked out my son’s electric drum set.  I had asked him about what kind of drum stools to look at, since my son’s toosh had inquired about one, given its dislike for hard, unforgiving counter stools.

Jared, 'Pork Pie' drummer

Jared, ever the teaser, mentioned emphatically, “Pork Pie!”  I kid you not. I thought I had heard incorrectly, so I re-directed the question. Again, “Pork Pie!”

What is it with the drumming industry and its penchant for food labels?


26 Jun

My Market. I love you!

Had a very successful (with the exception of no honey–won’t be in season until mid-July) morning at the local farmer’s market.

I found all kinds of great produce.  Check it out:

Loads of Beans!

Lovely tomatoes

Eggplant and peppers for roasting

Perfect for Fried Green Tomatoes!

Truckload of Locally-Grown Corn

My Local Farmer! He stands by his produce.

Once home, I laid out my bounty. Sure is pretty.

My Beautiful Bounty

Then I got roasting. Check out my eggplant and roasting how-to’s in the Menu section.


24 Jun

There seems to be two camps in the cooking world: potholders or no potholders. I am in the second.  Tradition, notwithstanding, I find them cumbersome and, frankly, dangerous. My husband, on the otherhand, believes that they will, somehow, protect him from every conceivable hot surface within a 10-mile radius, and without them, will surely send him to the nearest metropolitan burn unit. Besides, it’s what his mother taught him. (Too hot to touch, you realize. Although, am tempted.)

Author's hand, safely applying tea towel to hot pan.

I choose to use tea towels.  The same ones I have hanging nearby for drying my hands, dishes, and anything else which needs drying. Within reason. Just like the master chefs you see on foodie networks around the globe, I, too, fold them in such a way as to fit over any pot opening, or stiffly (and safely) grab onto an awkwardly designed handle, or even pulling out a super-hot oven rack in the middle of basting a lovely meat. If you fold it correctly, you won’t need to worry about flames attacking your dutiful towel, or burned fingers, which somehow manage to occur while using potholders, no matter how large or thick they appear.

One caveat: Do not, ever, use a slip (while still on your body) to grab hold of a whistling tea kettle early in the morning, while Kaukab is asleep. The gas flames don’t care that you are an innocent 10-year-old child, who has watched her mother, several times, use her own daysmock to do the same. Only, her’s never caught on fire. With no one in sight. All this child wanted was a nice cup of tea. Luckily, the washbasin, used by Kaukab to pre-wash dirty laundry and being only feet away from the evil stove, (Can’t explain now why the stove and washbasin share the same cooking space; there’s an innocent child on fire!) said child tore off scorched slip and ran to her bedroom to change for school. The tea would have to wait.  Moral of the story: Potholders are dangerous.

Recipes From My Mother’s Table (with some daughterly tweaking)

20 Jun

So, what of the recipes?  Well, for starters, Kaukab never learned to use them. She comes from a long list of women from the ‘old country,’ which means…there’s no safe, neat list of items–like measurements. No pantry list. No words of encouragement, like “Don’t worry, I’m sure your family will still love you, even if the hummus tastes nothing, nor looks, like the one that we’ve made for generations, harking back to the Phonecians.”

With that in mind, I give you the first of many.  I wanted to make this first one especially special, so I decided to start with the ubiquitous chickpea spread, universally known (and spelled) as “hummous,” “hummus,” or “humous.”  Personally, I go with the middle one. I’ll do us all a favor and not comment on the various pronounciations.

So, the main question I get from my non-Lebanese, hummus-making friends, is: “Why doesn’t mine taste like yours?”  Except for Kaukab.  If you flip the third and sixth words in that lovely question, you’ll have a good idea the relationship for which the perennial ‘mother-daughter’ one refers.

Here’s the secret to “authentic” (i.e., Kaukab’s hummus) hummus-making.  Reserved cooked chickpea water. Now, you may ask, “Where am I gonna find chickpea water?!”

The secret to a flavorful hummus is to cook the canned chickpeas (for the more adventurous cooks with plenty of hand-time, who start with the dried ones, you’ll already have the cooked “pea” water).  This will achieve two important things. One, it will provide you with the sacred pea water, and; two, it will soften the pea skins enough for you to remove them so that your hummus will be nice and smooth. Let’s get started!

For a party of up to 15

3 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 lemon

garlic, 3-4 lg. cloves (peeled, of course)

3-4 T. tahini (Mediterranean equivalent of American peanut butter)

1C. reserved, cooled pea water

salt to taste (I prefer sea salt, although Kaukab used regular, old Morton’s)

Olive oil (Xtra Virgin, preferrably)

In medium pot, put in chickpeas and cover with cold water. Cook chickpeas on med. to medium high, lid partially tilted. Cook to boil, then turn down to medium and cook another 15 minutes.  Remove from stove and pour 1C of liquid into measuring cup and let cool. Drain the cooked peas. Rinse with cold water, until cooled. Pick off any thin, clear pea skins and discard.

Into food processor, put chickpeas, 2-3 garlic cloves, 1/4 tsp. salt, 2-3 T. tahini, 1/4 C. reserved, cooled pea water and pulse until fairly mashed. Pause, and scrape down. Add rest of garlic, 1/8 to 1/4 tsp. more salt, tahini, 1/4C. cooled pea water, 1/2 lemon, and pulse enough to make smooth, loose paste. Add more lemon, tahini, garlic to correct taste. You should taste the tahini in it. Use more pea water, if needs loosened. Kaukab’s hummus isn’t thick, like peanut butter. Pour finished hummus onto platter, or in bowl, and add finely-chopped parsley, a sprinkling of paprika, and a few whole chickpeas–barely inserted. Drizzle with olive oil. Serve with pita bread, cut into small triangles.

 A word about adding spices, like cumin. I tend to avoid any discussion about this with Kaukab, since her usual response goes something like this: “We don’t do this. Only Americans do this. We don’t do it!” Personally, I like cumin. But, not in my hummus. In black bean or mango salsas? For sure.

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