Austin to Boston Food Blogger Swap


Back in December, I had the enormous privilege to participate in the Austin to Boston (ATXBOS) Food Swap. I was matched with Jo at Hungry Crafter, which was a brilliant match, given our shared interests in food, cooking, and crafting.

After a few hastily exchanged emails (we were matched right before my defense) and following each other on Pinterest for a number of weeks, I felt ready to curate a package for Jo that spoke to both our overlapping tastes (hello, salted caramel!) and represented Austin’s local food culture.

In the package that went to Boston, I included the latest issue of Edible Austin, a copy of the Austin Chronicle (the one with my review of Bacon in it), a Bearded Brothers energy bar, some homemade matzoh crack, a small jar of salted caramel pear butter, some peanut brittle popcorn from Cornucopia, small pouches of vanilla bean sugar and Native Texan bbq rub from Savory Spice Shop, a bottle of Goodflow honey, some peppermint marshmallows from Coco Paloma (a last-minute addition that ended up making me miss the December 15 deadline, which was not a huge deal), a salted caramel brownie from Mary Louise Butter, and a couple of dishcloths I knitted. I am pretty proud of this goodie box!

I mailed the box out on December 16 (or 17, can’t recall) and held my breath. Jo was running late on her box, too. As it turns out, our packages probably crossed in the mail, as hers arrived here on Monday the 19th (the day before we were leaving for Phoenix for a week!), the same day that mine arrived in Boston! We really are truly kindred — and tardy — spirits.

Here are goods of Boston provenance that arrived that day: a bag of Effie’s oatcakes, of which I gobbled down two before reading the nutritional information; marshmallow Fluff (BK and LK had their first-ever Fluffernutters yesterday as a result); a bag of Fastachi nut mix; a bottle of maple syrup; some local dried cranberries, which are so delicious that I am rationing them for Very Special Salads and the occasional small fistful for snacking; a couple of pellets of Taza chocolate; and a couple of snack bags Jo made after observing my craft-related pins on Pinterest. She also included a lovely card with an image done by a local artist and tons of recipes and articles about the included products.

I am so pleased with this swap and to have made a new “penpal”! In fact, I may be presenting a paper (on food in The Hunger Games) at a conference in Boston in April and I hope to meet Jo in person (as well as get my hands on more of those cranberries!). Thanks to the organizers for making such a fun exchange happen!

Prosciutto and Salted Caramel Pear Pizza


Yes, it has been more than a week. I pretty much blew it on the NaBloPlopPlopFizzFizz, didn’t I? Well, there was this little matter of a dissertation defense, and then I had, like, 8,000 papers to grade, and freelance projects to do, and life and stuff. Yes, excuses, excuses, but whatever. Life is good, even though I lasted all of like, six days, on this “blog every day in November” thing.

So, yeah. I defended. And I passed. And now I look to the future. There is one job I plan to apply for, but that pretty much means I’ve got to burn the midnight oil on job materials between now and the postmark date of November 30. Plus freelance work. Plus teaching. But that’s okay! Because soon the semester will be over! And I won’t have any more deadlines! Until I do!

Despite the fact that I’ve been ridiculously busy, I have still found time to hang out with my friends. In addition to the super-fun post-defense party at Contigo (omg, the tempura green beans and the pigs in blanket OM NOM NOM), a few days later I had my dear and lovely friends Crystal and Molly over to watch a few episodes of Why Quilts Matter and gossip and eat lunch. I decided to make a pizza that is an amalgam of a pizza I really like at Mandola’s and a recipe we saw on she-who-shall-not-be-named’s train wreck of a tv show.

First, I made the dough. I used 3 cups AP white flour, and 1 cup whole wheat flour. It helps to have active yeast that is actually alive. The last batch I had was dead, dead, dead.

After it rose, I pulled off half of the ball, drizzled some olive oil on a cookie sheet, then plopped the dough on the sheet and spread it out with my fingers. Then I spread the pear butter on the dough. Instead of fig spread, I used confituras salted caramel pear butter, as I thought the sweetness would contrast nicely with the salty, nutty bite of the fontina, as well as with the prosciutto.

Next time I might add a bit more fontina.

I baked the pizza for about 10 minutes at 500 degrees. I probably would have baked it a bit longer for a crispier crust.

Then I topped it generously with slices of prosciutto and a few handfuls of baby arugula and shaved parmigiano reggiano. Delish!

Shoofly, don’t bother me


One of the obsessions that has emerged from my dissertation research is women’s personal recipe collections. Now, there are already books written about women’s cookbooks as material artifacts, so I don’t think I’ll ever write one myself.

That said, I think they’re a fantastic way to piece together a profile of a woman. And sometimes I wonder what sort of footprint I’ll leave behind, in terms of how I represent myself through my cooking preferences. What will the archaeologists and anthropologists of my life find? What will my collection of internet bookmarks (mostly for muffins/cupcakes/brownies/cookies, if we’re being honest) say about me, or the recipes printed off the Internet and stashed away with my ever-growing collection of Everyday Food and Eating Well magazine back issues? That I have a sweet tooth that often works at cross purposes to my good intentions? That I am a very disorganized curator of my life in the kitchen? That I maybe, perhaps a little bit, have a bit of a hoarding problem when it comes to cookbooks and other recipe collections? Sure I’ve got a few annotations here and there, but not consistently. And the fact that half of my family has a very limited palate and bursts into tears at the mere scent of something new (I’m not kidding) means that I don’t really wander too far beyond the borders of the familiar, because that causes a lot of DRAMA and wasted food.

All of this circumspection was triggered by a blog I learned about on the ASFS listserve a couple of months ago: The Shoofly Project. The blogger there, Katie, is writing a book on Mennonite foodways and in the process is delving into her grandmother’s recipe box. (I love that she discovered seven different recipes for lemon pie! And that of the 90 or so recipes, 70 of them were for desserts! Keturah, c’est moi.) I love everything about this blog. I encourage everyone to go check it out.

Which brings me to a conundrum. You see, I bought this first edition (second printing) Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook off ebay a few years back and haven’t really known what to do with it. It is stuffed full of recipes clipped from newspapers, typed up from what appears to have been a local cooking show in Chicago in the early 1960s, and pulled off of baking pans.

The owner’s name, Eileen Marales, is written in a straightforward cursive (remember cursive?) hand inside the front cover. “Eileen Marales.” with a period at the end. The uppercase E is a bit ornate, but the rest of the script is tight and efficient. I imagine that Eileen was maybe a secretary or a schoolteacher. Some sort of profession requiring tidy organization, as reflected in the way she tucked her clipped recipes into the appropriate sections of the cookbook.

I don’t really know what to do with this cookbook. It is not in wonderful condition, so I can’t really sell it (nor do I want to). I don’t know if I should donate it to a library or try to find the Marales family in Chicago and send it to them. Or maybe I’ll just keep it and make a project of cataloging and analyzing what I find amid these yellowed pages. What would you do with this old treasure?

Slow Food Quiz Bowl!!


image snagged from the Slow Food Austin website

Well, it’s official. On Sunday, August 14, I will be representing — along with Jodi, Megan, and Kathryn — the Austin Food Blogger Alliance at Slow Food Austin’s annual fundraiser. What is it, you ask? Why, a Quiz Bowl, of course!

I am a fan of the Slow Food movement because it is committed to preserving local food traditions and emphasizing the virtues and pleasures of conviviality and commensality. (Look for a related blog post soon!) There are so many practitioners of Slow Food in Austin — Bryce Gilmore, the folks at Dai Due, the Kocureks, to name just a few — heck, if you go to the farmers market to stock up on your week’s groceries, harvest veggies from your backyard for dinner, make it a point to go to a restaurant that sources its ingredients locally, or simply take the time to cook the family meal from scratch, making sure that everyone is fully present (rather than bolting down food with eyes glued to the TV), you’re a practitioner of Slow Food.

It is my opinion that now, more than ever (ugh, such a cliche! But apt.), we need to work hard to preserve our local food traditions and place a bold underscore under the importance of eating together. What better way to stand up to the Monsantoization of our food supply and the McDonaldsization of our food culture than to eat unsullied, lovingly prepared food in the presence of our loved ones?

If you’re interested in attending the Quiz Bowl, you can buy tickets on the Slow Food Austin site. There will also be a raffle of cool stuff, as well as a live auction of cuts of meat broken down right before your eyes.

If you’re interested in contributing to our team entry fee of $150, which will ultimately go to the charity of our choosing (because we are going to ROCK THIS OUT!!!!), you can donate here.

Please do come out and support this very worthy cause. At the very least, it’s a good excuse to drink cocktails on a Sunday afternoon.