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!

Nil Zip Zilch Nada

Y’all, I just don’t have a meaningful, proper blog post in me tonight, what with the grading and the dissertation defense prep. But I did watch a few DVR’ed episodes of The Pioneer Woman’s (awful terrible horrible) show on Food Network with my friend Crystal this afternoon (it was research!) and “live” tweeted it. My hope is that I will be able to corral those thoughts into something substantive within the next few days.

A milkshake for lunch

Today I had a milkshake for lunch. Partly because I’d worked myself up into such a froth of anxiety about my imminent Big Day that I couldn’t conceive of eating solid food and partly because I had seen these folks the first night of Fun Fun Fun Fest and was intrigued.

Handshakes is a new trailer in east Austin. They just opened up about a month ago, but the owner tells me that they are having their grand opening on November 12 and hope to soon serve “upscale grilled cheese.” The milkshake pictured here is called the Good Morning, and it contains oatmeal, vanilla ice cream, milk, and cinnamon. I paid a bit extra to have strawberries mixed in (the whole thing cost $6.50; not sure what the price was before the mix-in).

Handshakes’ signature milkshake is the Panshake; it’s got a pancake in it! Weird! Their other flavors include Banana Pudding, Corn, and the Grave Digger (cookies & cream). It’s got me thinking about all the different weirdo milkshake combinations out there. Peanut butter & Jelly (with bread!)!! Bacon and eggs! Donuts! Bagels and lox!

The possibilities, they are endless.

A feminist food studies bibliography

So, I’m defending my dissertation this Wednesday. Let me say that again: I’m defending my dissertation this. coming. Wednesday.

Excuse me. I need to go have a lie-down.

I’m thinking of blogging my preparation process over the next few days as a means of articulating my talking points, but I’m not sure about that, given that much of what I’ll talk about might lack context. But what I will do here, today, is provide a bit of an annotated bibliography of feminist food studies texts. That will help me ensure that I know that this ground is covered. The folks over at the f-word put together a nice preliminary list a couple of years ago; I’ve added a number of other titles to the list as necessary. An asterisk next to the entry means that I haven’t read it (and will be visiting the library to pick it up for review this weekend!).

Adams, Carole J. The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Theory, 1999. — Pretty radical stuff. Adams argues that eating meat is ultimately to be complicit with patriarchy. I am not necessarily on board with this argument, but I do think there is value in Adams’ analysis of the linguistic/rhetorical slipperiness that happens when we talk about meat. for example, chicken becomes poultry (or its component parts: breasts, wings, thighs), cows become beef, pigs become pork. When we talk about meat in abstract terms like that, those terms become portable and applicable to other forms of flesh (“Are you a breast man or a thigh man?” asked Frank Perdue in one of his chicken commercials).

*Arndt, Deborah. Women Working the NAFTA Food Chain: Women, Food & Globalization, 1999.

Avakian Arlene Voski and Barbara Haber. From Betty Crocker to Feminist Food Studies: Critical Perspectives on Women and Food, 2005. — I really like this book, because it offers a historical account of feminist food studies (well, up to six years ago). It’s a collection of essays that chart the history of women’s cultural relationship to food beginning with “The Marketplace,” which contends with the specters of Betty Crocker and the Gerber baby in the woman’s role of feeding her family. After providing historical contexts, the collection moves on to “Representations” and “Resistances,” which contribute to Avakian and Haber’s argument that there is, indeed, a place in women’s studies and feminist scholarship for the study of food and women’s relationship to all things food-related. This collection hold the local in tension with the global, looking at everything from the use of food in ethnic representations to the depictions of fat women (who eat too much) in popular culture.

*Bentley, Amy. Eating for Victory: Food Rationing and the Politics of Domesticity, 1998.

Bower, Anne. Recipes For Reading: Community Cookbooks, Stories, Histories, 1997. Bower argues that the community cookbook enabled women, marginalized within their contemporary cultural contexts by the virtue of their gender, to build community while also participating in American public life. The essays collected here help to situate women, via these cookbooks, within their cultural, political, and moral landscapes, bringing their various values — from expressions of local culture to philanthropic concerns to civil rights legislation — as communities and as individuals into relief.

Counihan, Carole. The Anthropology of Food and Body: Gender, Meaning and Power, 1999. It’s been a long time since I read this one.

*Engelhardt, Elizabeth. A Mess of Greens: Southern Gender, Southern Food, 2011. This one just came out, and Elizabeth is on my dissertation committee. Luckily for me, there isn’t a copy to be had in the city of Austin. Awesome. (Actually, I haven’t checked with Barnes & Noble, but I am not hopeful.) I was fortunate enough to see her talk about the book at the Texas Book Festival, and I learned some interesting things. More on this later.

Haber, Barbara. From Hardtack to Home Fries: An Uncommon History of America’s Cooks and Meals, 2002. Haber is (was?) the curator of books at Harvard’s Schlesinger Library and studied the library’s historical cookbook collection in order to trace women’s participation in America’s economic, social, political, and cultural history. Spanning the Irish famine to the development of the Harvey House restaurants to the heyday of Gourmet magazine, Haber’s study makes the argument that not only can cookbooks reflect the zeitgeist of a culture, but also “reveal secrets about their owners” (209).

Inness, Sherrie. Kitchen Culture in America: Popular Representations of Food, Gender and Race, 2000. Demonstrates the ways that food (its procurement, preparation, consumption, etc) shapes the lives of women with respect to their race, class, and ethnicity, as well as their positionality as it regards the way that food is marketed and advertised.

——-. Dinner Roles: American Women and Kitchen Culture, 2001. Here, Inness argues that cookbooks, along with other media, “reveal the dreams of an era […] the media’s representation of cooking and women illuminates a great deal about mainstream American society and its assumptions about women’s societally desirable roles” (12). So, just as today’s fashion magazines enforce an unattainable standard of physical beauty thanks to the wonders of Photoshop, so did cookbooks in the first half of the twentieth century promote an idealized vision of appropriate gender roles for both men and women. Inness’ thesis is, essentially, that cookbooks functioned as conduct texts that perpetuated the notion of the kitchen as an inherently female space, from with which the white, middle-class woman would cook the foods that attracted a man and kept him happy.

*——-. Cooking Lessons: The Politics of Gender and Food, 2001.

——-. Secret Ingredients: Race, Gender, and Class at the Dinner Table, 2005. I own this, but for the life of me cannot recall what she’s doing in this one. I imagine it has something to do with race, gender, and class, though.

Mannur, Anita. Culinary Fictions: Food in South Asian Diasporic Culture, 2009. Mannur focuses on the recent trend of food narratives within the context of South Asian diasporic cultural production. She writes, “discursively, the terms by which ‘Indianness’ is imagined almost always mobilizes a culinary idiom; more often than not food is situated in narratives about racial and ethnic identity as an intractable measure of cultural authenticity” (3). One aspect of Mannur’s project is to uncover and disclose the complex contours beneath this flattening. She does so by interrogating the whys and hows of the deployment of the culinary metaphor, surveying the broad landscape that stretches from chick lit to experimental film to cookbooks.

*McFeely, Mary Drake. Can She Bake a Cherry Pie? American Women and the Kitchen in the Twentieth Century, 2001.

Neuhaus, Jessamyn. Manly Meals and Mom’s Home Cooking: Cookbooks and Gender in Modern America, 2003. Neuhaus demonstrates the rhetorical techniques used by cookbooks produced from the 1890s to the 1960s to encourage women to seek the domestic sphere out of a sense of duty to both her family and her country. For example, a woman as skilled turn-of-the-century household manager ensured her husband’s ability to perform in the workplace (16); a woman who effectively and patriotically planted a victory garden or cleverly stretched her rationed staples helped American troops do their jobs more effectively during World War II (25); and the homemaker who deployed her culinary savvy in purchasing pre-made food products was doing her duty as a good postwar middle-class consumer (30). Indeed, Neuhaus returns to the trope of a woman’s duty again and again, arguing the various ways in which cookbook instructions are couched in a rhetoric of duty shaped by historical and cultural contexts.

*Schenone, Laura. A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove: A History of Women Told Through Food, Recipes and Remembrances, 2004.

Shapiro, Laura. Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century, 1986, 2008. A historical survey of the domestic science experts of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and how their emphasis on scientific and hygienic cookery set the stage for the infiltration of homogenized corporate food into the American diet. The “modernizing” effects of the mavens of scientific cookery, who praised the hygienic virtues of canned vegetables and potato flakes unsullied by human hands, opened up a space into which industry could insert itself into American women’s kitchens. The result was a standardized and homogenized cultural palate and a vast market waiting to be plumbed.

——-. Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America, 2005. The follow-up study to Perfection Salad. In it, Shapiro examines the way that the American appetite was further shaped by the twin powers of industry, which had a surplus of food manufacturing technology in the wake of World War II, and advertising, which industry manipulated to create a need and demand for such foodstuffs as frozen TV dinners and cake mixes. Despite housewives’ initial rejection of these products, they were eventually accepted into American kitchens.

*Sharpless, Rebecca. Cooking in Other Women’s Kitchens: Domestic Workers in the South, 1865-1960, 2010. I am plotting a paper on The Help, and I reckon I should read this soon.

Williams-Forson, Psyche. Building Houses out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, and Power, 2006. This study is such a fascinating read. Williams-Forson uses chicken (both animal and food) as the primary line of inquiry to examine the ways that black women established and expressed their agency from slavery to the present. This is a truly interdisciplinary study, with Williams-Forson looking at recipes/cookbooks, literature, Chris Rock, and the controversial and heart-wrenching work of Kara Walker to demonstrate the cultural work done via representations of black women and chicken.

So, I made a pumpkin cheesecake

The other day, I made my first cheesecake in more than five years. I used to make them all the time, and by the time I met The Husband, I had mastered the Ruggles Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup cheesecake. Through trial and error, I had learned the best water bath techniques, the right amount of time to soften cream cheese before mixing it, and so on. I was a cheesecake MASTER. No cracks here, baby.

And then something happened. Maybe I lost interest. Maybe I joined Weight Watchers. Maybe I got married and had a kid and started my PhD and had another kid and only had time for cookie baking. I don’t know. All I know is that I fell out of practice and when I got a wild hair to make a pumpkin cheesecake the other day, I pounced on the opportunity.

Making a cheesecake after a long hiatus isn’t like riding a bike. I didn’t have the confidence I once had. While my batter was smooth, there was a clump of unincorporated cream cheese at the bottom of my mixing bowl (that’s one of my biggest complaint about the KitchenAid: the whisk attachment tends to push stuff to the bottom of the bowl rather than incorporating it all). I tried to manually mix it in, but was unsuccessful. The result is that the top part of the cheesecake is dotted with small globs of cream cheese, rather than a consistent custard. Annoying but not tragic.

This is a pretty tasty cheesecake. I used Paula Deen’s recipe, and adapted the crust by using cinnamon graham crackers and swapping out the ground cinnamon with ground ginger. I also baked the cheesecake for an hour and 20 minutes, and then left it in the oven with the door cracked open while the oven cooled down. (This is called “carryover cooking.”) While I didn’t set the cake itself in a water bath, I did put a pan with water in the oven (which was dumb; next time, I’ll do a legit water bath).

I would call this a mostly successful cheesecake, but next time (I’m pretty sure I’m going to make the Ruggles cake soon) I will make sure all the cream cheese gets incorporated. It’s pretty embarrassing to hand your friends a slice of unintentionally polka-dotted dessert.

Top Chef premiere!

Today’s blog post can be found here. Spoiler alert: It’s a recap of last night’s Top Chef: Texas premiere and watch party at Uchiko.

On eating local food

So, I sort of made a dumb deal with myself in which I would participate in NaBloPoMo to keep my writerly juices flowing (because the flood of freelance work and academic writing isn’t enough?!). Mostly I wanted to goose my blog writing because I have a bunch of ideas but haven’t taken the time to write any of them down here.

So, a day late (maybe I’ll extend this to Dec. 1 to compensate for missing yesterday), here we go. First order of business: I read this Opinionator blog by Mark Bittman yesterday and nodded to myself, all, “yep, totally. Agree 100%.” And then, this morning, he mentioned on Twitter that the conversation on the entry was being dominated by Big Food apologists and bratty Americans who didn’t want to give up their Chilean berries, so I decided to post this comment:

I buy local food as much as possible because I care about the environment, because I want to help support and foster local farms and farmers, because I want to know that my food has been handled safely and responsibly (and in the case of animals, grass-fed and raised and slaughtered humanely). I want to eat food that tastes like what it’s supposed to taste like and hasn’t been fiddled with in some laboratory somewhere along the way. I buy local food because I don’t want a penny of my money going to Monsanto. I buy local food because I don’t want to be part of the homogeneous Big Food/industrial agriculture system. I buy local food because the stakes of the Big Food companies are to make as much money as possible, while the stakes for local farmers involve their families, communities, and ecosystems. Want to occupy Wall Street? Buy local food.

Bittman is right to point out that the Farm Bill and its concomitant corn subsidies are among the roots of the problem with our food system today. Some may argue that people can’t afford to buy local food, which is true, but the corn subsidies have done so much damage to our food supply, our environment, and our health (and if you don’t think that Occupy Wall Street has anything to do with your $2 meal combo, you haven’t been paying attention) that we MUST take action. ConAgra actively lobbies to keep the corn subsidies in play because that’s what benefits its bottom line. Which is more important: taking care of our bodies, our ecosystems, and our communities by incorporating as much local food as we can into our diets, or perpetuating the stranglehold corporations have on every aspect of our lives while they make money off our increasingly fat asses?