27 June 2008

Food for a Cause

The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.
~ Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

In my search for genetically unaltered, pure, organic, old fashioned food, I came across this great company that makes the most delicious store-bought cookies (oh, come on ~ you know mine are better just because you eat right out of the oven!) I have ever tasted while also feeding the creativity of American Folk Artists.
Owner Scott Blackwell started The Immaculate Baking Company in 1995 and in the years since has won many awards. Once you grab a few boxes and sample them, you will understand why. And you can be at peace knowing that they use fresh ingredients and that you are also helping support American folk artists. Helping artists and eating great food?! Perfect combo!
My personal favorite: Pumpkin Gingerlies. It may be the end of June and 89 degrees in the shade, but pumpkin is never out of season! ;-)
Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

26 June 2008

A Crust of Bread

If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.
~ Robert Browning

This Saturday, my housemate Meg will be hosting a charity cookout. Guests bring a dish and any money they would have spent on dinner at restaurant to go to a local charity. My contribution is going to be bread. I had decided on a basic loaf of French bread, but then I came across this article on Serious Eats, which led me to What Geeks Eat. The pictures of those golden crusts convinced me. Saturday morning will find me elbow deep in flour, trying my hand at baking Vanessa’s hamburger buns. I will let you know how they turn out!
Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

12 June 2008

Dulce Domum

He saw clearly how plain and simple -- how narrow, even -- it all was; but clearly, too, how much it all meant to him, and the special value of some such anchorage in one's existence. He did not at all want to abandon the new life and its splendid spaces, to turn his back on sun and air and all they offered him and creep home and stay there; the upper world was all too strong, it called to him still, even down there, and he knew he must return to the larger stage. But it was good to think he had this to come back to; this place which was all his own, these things which were so glad to see him again and could always be counted upon for the same simple welcome.
~ The Wind in the Willows
Mr. F recently began re-reading The Wind in the Willows. T.Q. mentioned that he thought Toad was an addict and I was intrigued. As I had not read it myself since I was a child, I picked it up as well to see what a jaded adult eye could reap from its pages.

The description above of Mole’s emotions towards both his old home and his new adventures by the River in Chapter Five touched a nerve somewhere deep inside me. Having moved to the “big city” of Washington, D.C. almost eight years ago, I have always thought of myself as a bit of a geographical schizophrenic, with my heart attached to the terra firma of the homestead and my body and social life firmly ensconced within the concrete halls of the nation’s capital.

Like Mole, I have grown quite a bit in my sojourn here and indeed the pull of the upper world (is) all too strong….the new life and its splendid spaces…and all they offer. I too can count (on) this place which was all his own….and could always be counted upon for the same simple welcome. There is a special bond between a soul that lives on the land, surrounded by the both the beauties and horrors of nature, and the very dirt one plays and plants in ~ my familial roots are anchored deep in the red Virginia clay of home.

But the luxury of being able to escape from the stride of the noisy city to the languorous pace and silence of the country cannot be counted on forever. One’s parents will not live forever and either one must step in to save the family home or let it go to strangers who may or may not keep the land that one’s family has worked so hard on. Couple this longing and familial responsibility with the necessity of cultivating one’s soul and artistic endeavors and the dilemma presented is of Solomon proportions.

Such a wrenching choice is not thrust upon Mole. He is free to live out his adventures on the River, expanding his borders and horizons. If he wants to return to his old home in the meadow, it will be there, patiently waiting; ready to welcome him with open arms. Mole is lucky too in that he has already made that dreaded yet necessary leap: he knew he must return to the larger stage. And he can do so without heartache because of his ability to return whenever he wishes, to the comforts of the familiar.
I must confess I envy Mole...just a tad.
Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

09 June 2008

A Bit of Earth

She wants a little bit of earth
She'll plant some seeds
The seeds will grow
The flowers bloom
Their beauty just the thing she needs
~ A Bit of Earth

It is something out of a B movie from the 1950s: attack of the killer tomatoes! Beefsteak and Roma tomatoes are the latest victims in the Salmonella Wars. Yet another reason to grow your own vegetables!

Which is exactly what we did. This year's tomato plants were purchased from an organic farm right here in Northern Virginia (yes they do exist here!) and are already producing beautiful, healthy fruit. For this Southern foodie, you cannot offer two more delectable dishes than fried green tomatoes or cheese & tomato sandwhiches. I love tomatoes and I love fried food: put those two together and you have a little piece of heaven! ;-) I must give a shout out to my yankee friend Di, however. She hails from Pennsylvania but I have yet to taste an equal to her fried green tomatoes. Scandalous! But I do not complain, especially when the notion strikes her to make them and share. Mmmm!

Cheese and Tomato Sandwhiches are one of the reasons I can look forward to summer, despite the wretched heat and humidity. Store bought 'maters (besides being a health hazard these days) just do not have the same flavor as these fresh-from-your-own-garden beauties. For me, it is not only the fresh taste but the memories that come with each bite.

As I have mentioned before, I grew up on a small, "gentleman's farm." My parents grew varying vegetables on three of their five and half acres and although I loathed weeding and grew to hate the sight of zucchini and eggplant, I loved squishing my toes in the soft earth and running through the sprinklers; picking sugar snap peas right off the vine and eating them pods and all. Digging up potatoes was like a treasure hunt and I certainly inherited my father's love of the spud. And though it sounds like a quaint Americana dream, I cherish the memory of sitting out under the ancient maples, snapping green beans with my mother, sisters and at on rare occasions, aunts and cousins. I am sure there were times I would have rather been reading the latest Bobbsey Twins or Nancy Drew story from the libary. But I loved to eat green beans too much and I also loved helping my mother prepare them for canning.

As for tomatoes, we grew several rows of those as well and canning those was a hot chore. I was not a big fan of the canned tomatoes ~ they could not stand up to their fresh picked counterparts. But raw tomatoes, paired with a few slices of cheese, on bread slathered with homemade mayonnaise ~ that was a summer treat not to be missed!

I am looking forward to continuing this delicious tradition once my salmonella-free 'maters ripen. They go great with a gallon of sweet tea! Y'all comin' over for supper? ;-)

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela