Farm Food

In June I was in Olathe, Colorado, at Windrift Farms, eating my head off and playing with the nephews. Heaven. My folks produce some terrific food and sell locally with the exception of the whole pig, cut and wrapped, that my brother and I got for the holidays and took back to Texas.
Olathe’s a long drive up from Austin, even if you’re making the drive with someone with a very karaoke-friendly iPod, a shared fondness for Cheetos, and a sense of humor that is still funny on the thousandth mile. Luckily, the drive is worth it for more than just the excellent company. Here’s what awaits you at the end:
Grilled half chickens that my mom raised. They’ve been brined and given a good rub with a standard paprika/chile powder/cayenne mix, and taste like real food. (So often when we bite into chicken we taste nothing but the sqeak of our teeth.)
Asparagus fresh from the garden, roasted in a cast iron skillet on the stovetop so that it’s a bit charred on some spots and still snappy in the middle.
An herb salad with lettuce, dill, mint, basil, sage, parsley, cilantro, chives, and maybe marjoram. The herbs were given a rough chop and tossed with the lettuce. Dressing was the balsamic one in the butter post, made with a little extra sugar.
Rhubarb and strawberry crumble.
So I’ll admit that the strawberries weren’t raised on the farm, and neither was the balsamic vinegar or flour for the crumble or the coffee we ate it with or lots of other things.

That said, here is the list of locally-produced, fresh goodies that you could eat if you show up to the farm in early August:
the world’s best sweet corn
natural, no-antibiotic, no-hormone, confinement-free, happy pigs made into delicious chops and roasts and homemade smoked sausages and bacon.
homegrown tomatoes, including some cherry, some pear, some big ones for slicing, some romas for salsa, some italian plums for sauces, and some special ones for sun-drying.
All kinds of beans, squash, brocolli, cauliflower, zuchinni, cucumbers, peppers, peas, horseradish, onions, garlic, kohlrabi, savoy cabbage, and other things Mom and Dad can identify,
trout, smoked
wine from the local winery
milk and good cheese from the local dairy

Wherever you are, it’s worth the trip.

The Send-Off

Mom makes the good point that a restaurant with a very regular clientele does itself a disservice by feeding its patrons complete crap day in, day out, and that the proprietors might do well to think about serving food that will less likely shorten the lives of those that eat it. The White Kitchen in Olathe, CO, serves classic American diner food: greasy eggs with margarined white toast and High Fructose Corn Syrup-flavored jelly, burgers complete with fries and a soda, blue plate specials like patty melts and chicken fried steak. They serve a side ‘salad’ that is iceburg lettuce, onions and croutons. Mom, being Mom, imagines aloud what an improvement to the health and longevity of the White Kitchen’s dedicated patrons a few carrots a day would make, and then muses that the cook would be disappointed by seeing all of the carrots come back to the kitchen uneaten.
I’m thinking about health and love and stuff this week, and especially now, as I’m on the plane from Germany to home to help celebrate the life and mourn the death of a favorite cousin and travelling-and-eating companion. I got up at 4:00 to finish packing and head to the airport. The world’s greatest flatmate got up, assessed my packing situation in a glance and got out a bigger suitcase, and went off to make us an espresso. He also packed the following sandwich, which I ate at the airport while thinking about the poor sops eating chicken fried steak every day at the White Kitchen:
• Good dark brown German bread. The kind that is dense but not dry, with little seeds in it. I love this because it really tastes like food (fuel for your body, as the German would say,) and because the pieces are relatively small and thin but somehow don’t crumble;
• Thick slices of fairly ripe Camembert. This is delicious stuff, was room temperature on the sandwich, and pairs surprisingly well with:
• A lot, and I mean a lot, of the German version of Marmite. It’s called Krauten-something because it has herbs in it (not green flecks, just enough to be a little different.) It’s strong and funky like Marmite, but runnier, and it gets really sweet when it oozes all over the Camembert and bread.
This sandwich tasted like joy. It was sweet and salty and creamy and toasty, it was wrapped carefully enough to withstand airport security, it was a recipe that Tobias’ beloved grandmother taught him. It made me feel good: cared for, nurtured, treated well, as though my health and wellness were important to the sandwich maker.
I can’t really expect the White Kitchen to break out the Marmite, or start right in serving kale at lunch, but Mom’s right – a couple of carrots a day might make a world of difference.

Hamburg, Things I Love About

The apartment has the kind of high ceilings and plaster molding and all-around dignity that it makes me feel smarter than I really am, and waaay better read. More well-read? See what I mean? Whatever.
The apartment is on the fifth floor, and doesn’t have an elevator*, which makes me feel virtuous and healthy. Except when some poor schmuck has to deliver the dryer. Ah, well, tradeoffs.
The first floor of the apartment is divided into two retail spaces. One is a cool restaurant/bar that has good quiche, coffee and cakes, the other is a fruit and vegetable store that has amazingly tasty strawberries right now, and stocks fresh herbs and house-made cheese spreads. Lest you get the wrong idea about the neighborhood, let me assure you that you can buy lottery tickets, titty mags, generic cigarettes, and I’m pretty sure heroin at the ‘fruit and vegetable’ store as well.
We live on the corner, and you can go left down the street for half a block to get to the cheese shop, or right down the block to get to the good hostel that has Bio-Wurst. On your way, you’ll pass a ton of little cafes, restaurants, arthouses, and boutiques. Retail space is pretty tight here, so most places have some specialty. My favorite is the soup shop (delicious) across the street from the meusli shop.
There’s a park where people don’t look too far askance when you go for a jog, and public transportation is immediately available.
A great restaurant, NIL, which gives cooking classes, is a 10-minute walk away, so that’s awesome.
My favorite thing is that there is a very active street scene here, with buskers playing accordions and buskers singing Bob Marley songs (not the same buskers,) and tables on the sidewalks. It is world cup season (hurrah!,) and I counted, I’m not kidding, 52 TVs when I walked around the block this afternoon. TVs in the window of the fish store, the hipster shoe store, even the bank! Germany is playing tonight, and folks are ready! I can’t wait to get out into the mix of Germans watching German fussbol, knowing that I’m only five flights from an available restroom.

*although I’m sure it will by the time that you come visit. Definitely.

The Water Cock

Well, I’m off to buy a faucet so I guess I really live here now! Although I do hope that an inability to communicate about said faucet doesn’t get me kicked out of the country: says that faucet=wasserhahn=water cock, and I didn’t take it any further than that. I’ll report back.

Hahahaha, yeah, so… no. That didn’t work at all. I was offered directions to the hardware store from the knife-store man, offered various pipe fittings from the harware store, got a droll look from the stylists at the fancy wallpaper store, and a received a referral to the ice cream shop from the nice people at the housewares store (they wanted to help solve SOME problem, and they settled on my lack-of-ice-cream problem.) Ah, well, fuck it. Guess I’m going back to IKEA.

Oh, did I mention that I am going to start a Girl Scout troupe in Hamburg so that I can get my Lived-Through-A-Trip-To-IKEA-Mere-Hours-After-Disembarking-From-A-15-Hour-Flight badge? The German cracked me up on this one, not only because he seriously overestimates my capacity to keep up with him but because the look on his face is priceless when he says, in the car on the way home after having acquired a full kitchen*, “Oh, my father would be so angry if he knew that I took you to IKEA on the first day without letting you rest.” Have I mentioned how much I love The German, Sr.? He’s right every time, but there’s something delicious about doing small stupid things to test his maxims. It always makes me feel like a giggling kid: laughing at myself because the adults were right, again.
(I think we miiiiiight be having a bit of a mid-life issue here if we think that slightly overdoing it while choosing housewares is the thing that makes us feel youthful. Christ.)

*in case you’re not intimately familiar with the soul-sucker that is the IKEA department store, the problem is not the harsh overhead lighting, or the deliberate maze, it’s the volume of choices you have to make. You decide what color, what varnish, what height, what style, how many, what price range, clear or translucent, lit or not, shelves or drawers, etc. etc. The deciding is the hardest part, but the killer is that the deciding is also the first part. You look at all of the options, make all the decisions, then write up your order, look up where all the bits are stocked, find them, load them onto a cart, pay for them, arrange transport and installation, and go right back to the beginning if you change your mind at any step. The system works very, very well, and things are stocked where they should be; overall IKEA does a tremendous job of showing you that IKEA is better organized than you are. The Germans love it. LOVE IT.

Everything But The…

You know how some turns of phrase are incredibly melodramatic? Every time I hear the phrase ‘I can’t live without X’, where X=’you’ or ‘chocolate’ or ‘seeing Avatar in 3-D again’ or some other inanity, I think that someone needs to pay better attention to little things like gravity, oxygen, and sleep.
Moving into the Hamburg flat makes me appreciate the continuum between things that we really cannot literally live without (i.e. shelter from the elements,) and things that make our lives so incredibly easy/blissful/delicious that life without them seems like death. With that in mind, let’s play today’s game:
I Just Can’t Live Without Chew(ing)
Guess the order in which the following kitchen items were made ready and available for household use. Author’s flat-mate’s order at bottom:
• Espresso machine
• Commercial-grade juicer
• Fridge
• Dining table and chairs
• Towel racks
• Water boiler for tea
• German version of Marmite, super-size container of Nutella
• 5 kinds of hot sauce
• Kitchen sink

Answer: What’s currently unpacked and in daily use? Everything but the kitchen sink! It, along with the counters, cabinets, oven hood and oven, will be delivered and installed on Friday. By then, I should have learned enough German to call the plumber to come fix the drainage problem in the bathroom. I think there’s something about the coffee grounds I’ve been pouring into the bathtub that interfere with drainage…
p.s. if you answered espresso machine/demitasse spoons/coffee grinder to win/place/show in the kitchen race, congratulations, you’ve won the trifecta! Payout = Ein espresso. Drop by anytime for coffee!

pps. As I type this, I can hear the Portugal fans cheering on the street below. I love the World Cup more than I love ovens.

Your Sushi is Douchey

There used to be some hysterical ads in the Austin Chronicle, a liberal weekly with a government and music bent, for a ritzy sushi place. The ads would show a picture of some blond ditz with a yellow sweater tied around his shoulders smiling into the sails of his boat, and the tagline would read “when I’m not sailing my forty-foot yacht, I’m dining at Kenichi.” I think that literally every person that saw the ad probably thought that it was an overtly sarcastic commentary on the difference between Austin and Houston, and that Kenichi was a clever Japanese wordplay on physical space not being the definition of difference. Or something. When they googled Kenichi, they found that in fact it was a restaurant in downtown Austin. Horrified, they would wonder who the fuck went there, and then would turn their attention to the myriad snarky possibilities inherent in the “when I’m not X-ing, I’m Y-ing at Z” construction.
Which brings us to today’s game:
When I’m not playing today’s game, I’m laughing at Kenichi.
to play, read the following. If they’re not funny, it’s because you don’t live in Austin – enjoy your relative lack of humidity!

The first one comes from a slightly later Austin Chronicle ad. It contained a picture of a black cat, and said “When I’m not licking pussy, I’m drinking coffee at Momo’s.” Not ever so very tasteful, true, but funny, funny and big props to the Chronicle’s editorial staff for running it in the same issue as the Kenichi ad.

When I’m not reading Far Side comics, I’m trying to remember what the definition of irony is. Here’s a start:
-hipsters couldn’t wear those skinny acid jeans if they actually had hips.
-Alanis Morissette’s song lyics weren’t actually ironic, so the song…was ironic?
-when I’m not eating perfectly ripe tomatoes with the freshest of lettuces on good German bread in Hamburg, I’m missing the massive supermarkets in the U.S. WTF?

When I’m not buying $40 worth of crack, I’m giving $40 worth of head in a public restroom.

…etc. please make up your own. It’s fun!