Friday, April 30, 2010

Thoreau and a Track Meet

Hello.  Tonight's blog is on the minimal side -- we had a hectic evening.  As soon as I got out of work I headed to my son's elementary school track meet and rendezvoused with my family to watch Gabe run the 50m hurdles and do the long-jump.  When we got home from the meet, Angel put dinner into the oven (she'd prepped it today) and we went to Gable and Evie's spring concert at the school gym.  By the time the concert was over -- and it was a cute quasi-musical, with a 4th grader portraying Tom Sawyer declaring:  "Wife on the wiver, dat's the wife fo' me" -- it was 8:00 before we got home, and 8:30 before dinner.  By that time all of the kids were hungry, overstimulated and at a volume somewhere between a jet engine and a fire alarm.  So, there aren't any pictures of dinner or anything.

When dinner hit the table -- stuffed cabbage rolls and cauliflower soup -- the kids were in rare form and driving Angel to distraction.  Due to the logistics of cooking, we started with the main course and finished with the soup course, just so as to feed the kids a half-hour sooner.  The cabbage rolls were good -- darn good -- but definitely from an Americanized recipe.  They were covered with thick, heavy Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup rather than the more traditional diced tomatoes that would've been lighter and lent a different flavor.  Everyone except Allison gave the cabbage rolls the thumbs-up -- she was in a mood to hate anything that wasn't chocolate milk, I think.

The cauliflower soup was interesting.  Based on chicken stock, the soup had cauliflower, dill weed, flour for thickening and a couple of egg yolks stirred in like Chinese eggdrop soup.  I can't say that it was bad, necessarily, because it wasn't, exactly.  It wasn't really good, either, though.  By the end of my bowl, I had pinned down the stray flavor that I tasted to a cross between pencil shavings and the smell of spent gunpowder -- not overpowering, but there.  The kids didn't care for the soup at all.

Near the end of dinner, with the kids still picking on each other, Angel decided to read the label on the bottle of local Riesling we were having with dinner, and came up with an unexpected insight:
  • "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came go die, discover that I had not lived." -- Thoreau
This stopped the kids cold.  "What does that mean?" asked one of them. (I forget who....their faces blend together in my mind after a long day like today) Angel started explaining it, but stopped and said, "this is about living versus just existing.  This is why we are doing this experiment at all."

I realized that Angel (and Thoreau) were right.  We've been falling into the trap of simply existing lately: get up, get ready, go to work (or school, depending), come home, eat, clean, (do homework, in my case) fight the kids until they buckle and make them go to bed.  This project stands to breathe fresh air into our household, and open us up to new experiences at the table -- this project is living in at least a small regard.



Recipes:

Cauliflower Soup, (Zupa kalafiorowa)
7 cups beef or chicken broth
1 small (1lb) cauliflower, divided into small flowerets
1 1/2 Tbs instant flour
1 cup milk
2 egg yolks
1 Tbs dill leaves

Bring the broth to boil.  Add cauliflower, simmer for 25 minutes.  Add the flour mixed with 1/2 cup milk.  Bring to boil.  Remove from heat.  Add egg yolks mixed with the rest of milk.  Add dill.  Serves 10.


Cabbage Rolls (Golabki)
1 onion, chopped
1 Tbs fat
1 cup cooked rice
1/4 lb ground beef
1/4 lb ground pork
Salt and pepper
1 head cabbage (about 3lbs)
2 beef bouillon cubes
1 cup hot water
1 can , cream of tomato soup, undiluted.

Fry the onions in the fat until golden.  Mix the onions with the rice and the meat (do not use precooked meat), season with salt and pepper.
Place the whole head of cabbage in a large kettle with boiling water.  Cover and cook for 5 minutes.  Remove the cabbage from the kettle.  Separate the soft leaves from the surface.  Return the rest of the cabbage to the kettle and cook for another 5 minutes.  Repeat until all of the leaves are separated easily.  Cut out the hard part of the stem from each leaf.
Place a spoonful of the stuffing on each cabbage leaf.  Wrap the stuffing in each leaf.  Place the rolled stuffed cabbage rolls one next to the other in a baking dish.  Dissolve the beef bouillon cubes in hot water, pour the bouillon over the cabbage rolls.
Bake uncovered cabbage rolls in a hot 450-degree oven for 1 hour.  Pour the undiluted cream of tomato soup (we used cream of mushroom) over the cabbage rolls.  Cover the baking dish.  Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
Bake for another hour.
Cabbage rolls are best reheated.
Mushroom sauce may be used for a change instead of cream of tomato soup.  Serves 10
-- Both recipes from "The Art of Polish Cooking."  by Alina Zeranska

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Nick Cooks

Today, breakfast explored the concept that "they eat cereal in Poland, too."  I'm not sure Cocoa Pebbles is the cereal they eat, but it's the one the kids ate.  Today was Angel's workday, and that meant that today was my turn to cook Polish dinner.  Tonight's menu was easy, though:  Kielbasa and Sauerkraut, and Sorrel Soup with Sour Cream.  It's a good thing, too -- almost as soon as I picked up the kids from daycare and got home they achieved critical mass and it was a nonstop festival of "I bumped my foot," "Ellie hit me," "I hafta to go potty," "OW, Evie you crappin' crap!" "WAAaaaaAAAAH!'  I was ready for some Polish vodka while cooking dinner.

I'll have to say it again -- since a bunch of my heritage is Polish, this week is bringing up some memories.  I'd totally forgotten, but we used to have Polish sausage and sauerkraut semi-regularly when I was growing up.  What's weird is that things which seem so familiar are suddenly completely different when you have to cook them.  We had no recipe for our entree, and Angel thought I'd just dump the two ingredients in a pot and cook 'em.  I thought I'd better look for a recipe, just to make sure I didn't pass over some critical yet overlooked ingredient or something.  I Googled "Recipe: Kielbasa and Sauerkraut" and used a recipe that didn't add apples or something weird to the mix.

So, as is now becoming usual, we started with the soup and it was an overall winner, though Evie didn't like it (or anything) tonight.  The nearest description I can give is that it's like a cream of spinach soup, served over quartered boiled eggs and toast strips.  It's getting kind of monotonous describing everything as "delicate" and "subtle," and I'm getting the impression that that's way food of in Poland -- delicate tasting, but expands to the size of a dirigible after eating.  Good soup, though.  The greens meshed brilliantly with the chicken stock, and the only seasonings I used were salt, and...um... is butter a seasoning?

DSC00243

I was approaching the entree' with some trepidation.  Not for myself, but for Angel.  Angel generally won't stay in the room if someone opens a jar of pickles and/or sauerkraut and I was worried that having a whole pot of the stuff on the table would drive her to distraction.  Completely surprising me, Angel said that cooking the sauerkraut makes it much, MUCH better, and that she actually liked the sauerkraut.  Again, everybody except Evie liked it, which surprised me because she usually snorks down as much sauerkraut as she can, and when I was preparing dinner she begged for some like a cocker spaniel.  But, she pronounced that she much preferred her sauerkraut uncooked.  I feel like this recipe was a bit less traditional than the other recipes we're trying -- Koegel's dogs and a jar of kraut?  It just doesn't seem right, but, sausage and kraut or cabbage seems like a staple dish, if the sheer number of recipes means anything.



Recipes:

Kielbasa and Sauerkraut:
2each 13 oz. packages of Koegel's Polish sausage
One 1lb jar of sauerkraut (with caraway seeds, if possible)

Cut the sausage into disks.  Drain the sauerkraut, rinse and press out water.  Mix sausage and kraut together in a casserole dish, and bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes covered, then another 45 minutes without a lid on.



 Sorrel Soup With Sour Cream (Zupa Szczawiowa)

1lb. sorrel leaves, cleaned, washed and dried (1pkg. frozen spinach may be substituted, with additions of few drops of lemon juice.)
1tbs. butter
6 cups Light soup stock.
2/3 cup sour cream
6 cups light soup stock
1tbs flour
1tbs flour
Salt and pepper to taste
4-6 hard-cooked eggs (optional)

Chop sorrel raw; add salt to taste, and saute in butter until done -- about 20 minutes.  Combine with strained soup stock.  Beat flour into the sour cream and combine with soup; stir thoroughly and let simmer 5 to 10minutes.  Serve with quartered hard-cooked or deviled eggs on strips of toast.  Serves 6 to 7. (May be served with croutons alone.)
-- From "Polish Cookery," Marja Ochorowicz-Monatowa

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Redemption Tuesday, We'll Call It

Holy wow.  After the highly questionable soup we had last night, tonight's dinner was not only better, but possibly one of the best dinners I've ever had.  Ever.  Sweet redemption, thy name be "Tuesday Night Dinner."

But before we had dinner, there was breakfast.  Angel hauled herself out of bed much earlier than she would have liked and made Polish style potato pancakes for breakfast.  Apparently, these are nothing like the potato pancakes or latke that one would be used to, with the potatoes being almost like refried mashed taters -- no, Polish style indicates the ingredients are shredded.  The recipe calls for 8 potatoes, grated, but we substituted frozen Ore-Ida hash browns.  The end result was much like really good hash-browns with onions in them, but maybe that's because Angel fed me the crispier patties. ('cuz I like crunchy hashbrowns!)  The thicker, softer patties let the other ingredients shine through.  We had a squabble with Gable, who didn't want to eat the onions in them, but otherwise I thought they were good.

I'm thinking that lunches and snacks are going to be the weakest link of our project.  The Polish may eat breakfasts at home and work, then dinner early, but the American workplace doesn't really bother itself with that sort of thing -- lunch is at noon.  I brought leftover pirogi for lunch, but ate them with non-traditional Diet Coke and an orange.  Worse yet, when free Chicken Caesar wraps showed up in the breakroom, I inhaled one, which is WAY off from the intention to eat like a Pole.  We won't even mention what Angel did for lunch. *cough*McDonalds*cough*  We found, too, that there's not much snacking in Poland; people eat leftover dinner for snacks.  Snacking might not be an issue this week, as the diet is heavy and filling, but when we're eating in a country whose diet is defined more by shortages and privation, the desire to snack may become dark-side-of-the-Force strong.

Tonight's dinner was Clear Berry Soup, Cucumber Salad and Stuffed Chicken, Polish Style.  When I got home from work, the chickens had just gone into the oven and Angel was chopping cucumbers for the salad.

Chopping Cucumbers

Our first course of dinner was the soup course: Clear Berry Soup.  It's basically blueberries or huckleberries boiled in water, then sieved to remove the bulk of the berries.  Sugar for taste and flour for thickening are added.  In our case, we don't own a food sieve, so Angel mashed the berries with a potato masher and left them in the pot.  We all thought the soup was tasty (Gable needed extra sugar in his before he'd lend it his endorsement) but not at all what we would think of as soup.  It wasn't overly sweet, and was not at all syrupy -- it really did have a blueberry broth.  Again, the twins licked it off the table.  Then again, we had them at "blueberry."

Tuesday Dinner, Plated

After the soup course, we served the chicken, stuffing and salad.  Starting with the salad, Angel and I liked it, and Gable liked it at first but not after eating more.  The flavor was really quite interesting.  The cucumbers, sour cream, dill and white wine vinegar combined wonderfully yet stayed separate -- more like we tasted each of them at the same time, than like tasting a mixture.

Cucumber Salad

But the chicken.  Oh, the chicken.  Angel has cast her vote for it being Best. Chicken. Ever.  It's a simple recipe.  The chickens are sprinkled with just salt, and the dressing is seasoned with salt, pepper and dill.  No sage.  No roasted garlic rub, no spices at all, really.  Angel said that the dressing was not like StoveTop or traditional Thanksgiving stuffing.  It used breadcrumbs (like you'd roll fish in to fry) and mixed into a sort of slurry that was packed into the birds.  The chicken roasted uncovered and needed basting -- very important to never cover, so it roasts instead of steams.

Kurczeta Po Polsku

And the flavor...the texture... Juicy, delicious, delicate.  I could taste a hint of the dill in the stuffing that had perfused through the meat.  The drumstick bones pulled right out of the drumsticks.  And just as with last night's pirogi, there were no strong spices or sauces hiding the flavor of the ingredients.  Angel usually detests slabs of whitemeat chicken, but had seconds.  Evelyn had seven, yes seven helpings of chicken.


Recipes:

 Potato Pancakes (Placki kartoflane)
8 large potatoes, peeled, cut up and grated (in a blender)
1 large onion, cut up and grated (in a blender)
1 egg
3Tbs flour
Salt
1/3 cup bacon drippings
(note, we used Ore-Ida frozen hashbrowns and the onion was diced, not blended)

Combine the potatoes with the onions, egg, and flour.  Season with salt.  Heat the bacon fat in a large skillet.  Drop batter by spoonfuls into fat.  Flatten with a fork.  Fry 3 pancakes at one time on high heat on both sides till golden.  Serve with mushrooms and salad (we didn't!)  Serves 6
--The art of Polish Cooking, Alina Zeranska, page 241

 Clear Berry Soup (Zupa Jagodowa Czysta)
1 quart blueberries (huckleberries or blackberries may be substituted
1 1/2 quarts water
sugar to taste
1tbs potato flour

Clean berries and bring to boil.  When fruit is soft -- about 10 or 15 minutes -- press through a sieve and then return to liquid.  Add sugar to taste and the potato flour dissolved in cold water.  Stir thoroughly.  Serve hot or iced.  Serves 6.
-- Polish Cookery, Marja Ochorowicz-Monotowa, page 20

Cucumber Salad
Prep time: 30min.  Serves: 6
1 large cucumber
1/2 cup sour cream
2tsps white wine vinegar
1tsp sugar
1Tbs chopped fresh dill
salt and pepper

Wash the cucumber well.  Trim off the thin ends of the cucumber.  Using a cannelle knife or the prongs of a fork, score the skin of the cucumber in long strips.  Cut the cucumber into thin slices and place in a colander.  Sprinkle with salt and leave for 30min.  Place the colander in a bowl to collect the cucumber liquid.  Rinse the cucumber well and pat dry.  Mix the remaining ingredients together in a large bowl and toss with the cucumber slices.  Arrange the cucumber in a serving dish and serve chilled.  Other chopped herbs may be used instead of, or in addition to, the dill.
--Polish Cooking, Traditional Recipes for the Contermporary Cook, Judith Ferguson

 Chicken Polish Style (Kurczeta po polsku)
2 small chickens, fryers or broilers
Salt
2 chicken livers
1 cup bread crumbs (not stuffing mix)
2 eggs
4 tablespoons butter, melted
Pepper
1tsp dill leaves
1/3 cup milk

Sprinkle the chickens with salt.  Chop the livers finely. (our chickens came with no giblet bag.  WTF?) Combine with bread crumbs.  Add the eggs, 3 tablespoons melted butter, salt, pepper, dill and as much milk as needed for a loose, sour-creamlike consistency.  Stuff the birds, and roast in a hot 400-degreeF oven for 2 hours, basting with the rest of the butter.  Cut into halves or quarters.  Serve with young potatoes, cucumbers, or lettuce in sour cream.  Serves 4
--The Art of Polish Cooking, Alina Zeranska, page 164-5

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Poland: Day One, Monday

(As I sit here it's actually 1:02a.m. on Tuesday, and I've been trying to get photos to upload for the last hour and a half.  I have words for Flickr, and for Al Gore for inventing the darn internet, anyway.)

So we weathered our first day on the Polish diet.  It started out just fine.  Angel made eggs over easy and rye toast, which is apparently a traditional Polish breakfast and not at all just eggs and toast.  Gable and Evie thought it was okay, and little Elouise ate two eggs -- she must've found a hollow leg or something.  I thought it was worlds better than my usual breakfast of, well, nothing.

Cutting the Dough Putting in the Filling


Closing the Pierogi The First Pierogi

When I came home from work this evening, I found Angel hard at work in the kitchen making dinner while being orbited by our girls and a contingent from our neighbor's house.  Angel was working on homemade pirogi; she'd made the pasta dough for the shells -- actually more like dumpling dough, she was quick to say -- from scratch and was rolling it out on the counter, then cutting out circles with a coffee cup, putting a dollop of our homemade Farmer's cheese in the center, then folding and crimping the finished pirogi.  The beer soup was already on the stove, simmering, as was the blueberry compote.

Yes, I said beer soup.  It is essentially beer that's been simmered for a while, and had a bunch of sour cream mixed into it, then it's served over Farmer's Cheese.

Beer Soup and Elmo

We all tried it at the same time, and while the exact reactions were different, I can use mine to illustrate the whole family.  My taste buds felt truly Polish -- like it was 1939 and they were being lined up against a wall and shot.  It was wretchedly bad.  I do wonder if Angel got the wrong kind of beer, though.  The traditional Polish beer is a lightweight, mostly flavorless pilsner-style lager -- Budweiser would be the mass-produced American example.  Angel chose a summer wheat beer, flavored with coriander...so the overbearing flavors of wheat and coriander dominated our palates.  One of the twins tried to dig it out of her tongue.  After dinner, I poured the soup down the drain and I think I heard the pipes faintly screaming.  Even the sink didn't want the stuff.

Pouring It Out Rejected by the Drain

Next we had the homemade pirogi, and thankfully, they were awesome.  The Farmer's cheese was soft and creamy, the shell was chewy and thick, and the overall flavor was very subdued and delicate.  As a direct opposite to the soup, the pirogi were delicious.

Homemade Pierogi

At first I found myself wishing I had some kind of a sauce to pour over them, but as I ate I realized that if these were drenched in a heavy alfredo sauce or a bold marinara -- American-style -- all I'd taste would be the sauce and I would totally miss out on the flavors of the fresh, homemade ingredients.  Angel and I talked a bit about this at dinner, and if I'm not mistaken, that's kind of a big point of European cuisine:  appreciate high-quality, subtle ingredients and don't drench it in sauce to kill the flavor.  Later we found out that they do expand in your stomach like lead balloons.  Everybody liked them, though we were groaning.

Polish Dinner Leftover Pierogi


Finally we had the blueberry compote.  It's a very simple dessert, essentially frozen blueberries simmered in sugar-water.  Gable didn't care for the underlying tartness, but everyone else loved it.  Both twins resorted to licking up the berry juice from the table.  Five and a half thumbs-up.

Blueberry Compote

Recipes:

Pierogi
Dough:
1 egg
3 cups flour
salt
1/2 cup water

1 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 tablespoons bread crumbs

Filling:
1 pound ground farmer cheese
1 egg yolk
Salt

1 1/2 Tbs butter, melted.

Mix the egg with the flour, add a dash of salt and as much water as needed to knead a smooth loose dough.  Roll out as thinly as you can.  Cut out into 2 1/2 - 3-inch squares.  Put a little of the stuffing on each square.  Fold to form a triangle, pinch the edges together.  Cook in a large kettle with boiling salted water on high heat for 5 minutes.  Remove with a colander spoon to a warmed serving platter.  Add the bread crumbs to the butter and fry for a few minutes on low heat.  Pour over the pierogi.  Serves six. -- From The Art of Polish Cooking, Alina Zeranska

Beer Soup (Zupa Piwna)
3 pints beer
1 pint sour cream
2 tsp flour
1/2 lb farmer cheese or pot cheese
sugar to taste (optional)

Heat the beer, tightly covered.  Blend flour into sour cream and stir into beer.  Let bubble up once and pour over farmer cheese cut into small pieces or over lumps of pot cheese.  Sweeten to taste.  Serve at once.  Serves 6 to 8. -- From The Art of Polish Cooking, Alina Zeranska

Blueberry Compote Recipe at the Food Network website.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Cheese Stands Alone

Our first Polish creation has been created:  Farmer's Cheese.  It's a mild, white, spreadable cheese sort of like a cross between ricotta and cream cheese.  Rather than buy it at the store, Angel decided to make it.  She used a recipe from Allrecipes.com and modified it a bit.  She took two passes at the recipe.  The first batch scorched.

Scorched Cheese

So, Angel gave it another shot.  She says,


"I added 1/4 cup lemon juice the first time plus an additional 1/4 cup lemon juice the second time. I don't know if I needed the added lemon juice the second time - but I have like 1 1/2 pounds of the farmer's cheese. It is pretty bland - but it is supposed to be for what I am using it for. I know a lot of people add garlic/herbs to it to make it more of a spreading cheese - that would be really good. Tastes like ricotta to me - and it is so easy to make. I don't think I am ever going to buy ricotta cheese again!"

Happy to say, the 2nd batch was the winner!  We now have cheese to put in pierogi and so on.  Angel plans to make another batch tonight.


Curds'n Whey

Here's the cheese in-progress.  If you look at the top edge of the stuff in the pot, you can see the curds separated from the whey and floating on top.

Farmer's Cheese

These are the curds of Farmer's Cheese, strained off the whey, draining in the cheesecloth.

Whey

And here is the whey left over.  I'm sure there are uses for it, but we didn't think of any.

Farmer's Cheese!

And the finished product: spreadable, spoonable cheese.

Polish Shopping Trip

We sit poised on the brink of this project -- tomorrow, Monday, is our first day of Polish cooking.  I admit, we slacked off on researching Polish culture beyond just what they eat.  To explain (make excuses, really) I can say it's been a hectic week.  Angel had a lot of work lined up and was out on the road a lot.  I had my final exam in Managerial Finance and end-of-semester assignments in my marketing class, and I spent much of my week studying for that.

Angel spent quite a bit of time coming up with seven days of menus, and working up a shopping list from that.  (Rather than list the full week's menu now, I'll try to post daily over the next week.)  Angel spent almost four hours out shopping in Traverse City, MI for our week of Polish cooking and spent $350, to which we'll need to add another $40 for the pork knuckles we need for a recipe later in the week.  Angel shopped at two stores.  First was the local Oryana Natural Foods market.  What a bust.  While they pride themselves in carrying a wide array of organic and natural foods, all Angel could find there was rennet, for cheese-making.  Everything else we found at our local Meijer super-mega-grocery-everything-mart.

Angel says that we have more vegetables than we've ever had in the house.  We have two refrigerators -- when we got the huge side-by-side for the kitchen, we didn't get rid of the smaller fridge that it replaced.  We put it out in the garage and we've been using it to hold mostly beverages.  Right now, both of them are full.  Angel says she got five heads of cabbage, three jars of sauerkraut, five cartons of blueberries, four cucumbers, 10lbs of potatoes and a bag each of parsnips, turnips, carrots, celery and apples.  And a head of cauliflower.  And six dozen eggs.  Six.  Dozen.  Eggs.  That's 72 eggs -- more than we get for Easter -- that we're going to eat in a week.

Angel had some observations.  First, she learned that "pimento berries" are actually whole allspice, a Jamaican ingredient.  She said that the twins had fun picking out turnips and parsnips and tossing 'em into bags, and that we purchased no beef -- all the meat was either chicken or pork.  We usually live off of beef and chicken, so this is a change for us.  I had hoped that my son would've taken some pictures and shot some video clips of the shopping experience, but not this week.  Hopefully we'll get some of his insight in future weeks.

New spices:  Whole peppercorns, whole allspice, white-wine vinegar.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pig Knuckles and a Menu


Angel called me at work today to tell me about her search for organ meats in the Traverse City, Michigan area, specifically brains and pork knuckles.  Her first try was Paradise Meats, a local butcher shop where we're regular customers, and they said they could order it, no problem...but we'd have to buy a full 10lb. box.  Of brains.  Next, she tried a larger meat processor, Ebel's, that has a decent reputation in the area.  They told her that they could get most organ meats if ordered a week in advance, but that brains in particular had very stringent USDA guidelines and would take longer.

At this point, I asked my wife why she was asking about brains -- I mean, we want to eat traditional foods, but it's not like Poland is an island nation known for consuming every last morsel of edible food from a carcass.  She reassured me that she only picked brains as an extreme example of organ meats.  (Later conversations with a Polish friend of hers confirmed that brains are a traditional Polish food...but not a common food, and her friend has never, in fact, eaten brains.  Thank God.)

In all, my wife spent a couple of hours on the phone with a total of seven different meat and or specialty stores.  In the end, we do need pig knuckles for a soup, and it turns out there are two different kinds available:  the actual bone, and just the meat.  I'm not sure which one we need.

It turns out that in order to really eat like Polish people, we're going to need a yogurt-like cheese called Quark that is eaten by almost everyone, especially at breakfast time.  It's funny, the way this project already touches parts of my life -- when I was seven, my family lived in Germany for a summer, and I remember eating Quark; squishing it into my Super Sugar Crisp cereal. ("Hey, Sugar Bear!!"  Remember those ads, before sugar became the enemy, and that cereal became Super Golden Crisp?  Wow, sorry for the tangent.) Good stuff, but as common as it is in almost all of Europe, it's apparently non-existent in the U.S. and we'll have to make our own from buttermilk.

Interesting tidbit -- they don't eat lunch in Poland, or is it dinner?.  They have two breakfasts, one at home, and then one at work a couple of hours later.  They then eat an early dinner, around 2 pm.  They generally don't snack, and they don't drink alcohol during the week -- weekends only.

And...after my wife beat her head into the books for eight hours, we have a seven-day menu of breakfasts and dinners, ready to unleash on ourselves.

For this country, my wife used the following books for recipes and info on the culture:
And of course, Hungry Planet, by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio

Friday, April 16, 2010

Country #1: Poland

It's on.  The countries have been printed out, snipped out, folded and put into the official Christmas candy tin.  I looked through our basement for the official Eating Like The World tin, but came up empty handed.  Admittedly I didn't look for very long.

Moving on...with much fanfare (which sounded to my ears like squabbling children) we had our oldest daughter reach into the tin and pull out our first destination.  It was.... drum-roll please...

Poland.

I'll admit, I was hoping for something more exotic.  An Indonesia.  A Sumatra. (I'm not sure Sumatra's on the list, even)  Something to shock-and-awe my palate and make the kids check out and run screaming for pizza rolls at the neighbor's house.  Maybe Poland isn't such a bad start, with their pierogies and kielbasa.

There's a tie-in for me, as well:  Most of my family came from Poland around the turn of the century.  My great-grandfather and great-grandmother on my mother's side both emigrated from Poland separately and met in the United States.  My grandfather was born here in 1914, first generation American for the Zimmerman family...likewise with my grandmother, also a first-generation American.  I've grown up with the occasional stuffed cabbage or sausage & sauerkraut dinner, but I'm interested to find out what else the typical Polish family eats in a week.  Stay tuned!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

We Have A List

We have, after much haggling, sweating, arm-wrestling, yelling back and forth, throwing furniture and one real filibuster, come up with our list of countries for this project.  Actually, we didn't do any of that, it was very amicable.  And the list in no particular order is:

  • China
  • India
  • Russia
  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Greece
  • Chile
  • Brazil
  • Panama
  • England
  • Mexico
  • Australia
  • Egypt
  • South Africa
  • Chad
  • Iraq
  • Korea
  • Japan
  • Thailand
  • Polynesia
  • Cuba
  • Spain
  • Poland
  • Sweden
  • Indonesia
  • Jamaica
  • Morocco
  • Israel
  • Malaysia
We will print these out on slips of paper and put them into some sort of vessel.  We will thence draw out a country every other week, study their culture and (mostly) diet for a week, prepare a week's worth of menus, and then eat like an ordinary person in that country for a week.

And when I say "like an ordinary person," our goal is NOT to have the Americanized version of a country's diet -- When we draw China, we are not looking at Sesame Chicken, Sweet & Sour Pork and Egg Drop Soup.  Likewise, Italy will not be all lasagna and Olive Garden.  We know that the American idea of most countries' food is what they eat for major holidays or momentous occasions, if they even eat it at all.  Can you find a taco in Mexico City?

Today is Thursday.  We start our odyssey on Saturday.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mr. Menzel's Reply

I actually received a prompt (same-day, even!) response from Peter Menzel, the author of "Hungry Planet". As follows:

"Nick: Cool, it's a great idea. good luck. Send me a link....Stay tuned for the next book out in the fall that we are just finishing as we type....

ps: when you blog, please credit the Hungry Planet book and authors if you link to Time.com.


the first use of that by Time went viral and they had no metadata and a poor credit so many people did not know about the book. we self finance our projects and need people to buy the book...."

 So, that's cool.  At least I think so.