Time to eat!

The other day, I got to pondering the words we use for meals.  I was on my way to my favorite wine bar where I intended to have an early supper/late lunch and the fact that American’s don’t have a word for that meal got my brain spinning around the ways we talk about dining.

Breakfast, break fast, is just the first food of the day.   A light breakfast is light in weight and doesn’t usually last very long.  Toast, maybe an egg.  Granola.  Hot cereal like oatmeal that you can eat standing up.  A big breakfast has a load of protein and is meant to stick with you.  Frequently there are vegetables, too.  Potatoes in the form of hash browns. Sliced tomatoes in the summer. Onions, peppers and mushrooms in the omelette.  Fruit on egg bread, waffles and pancakes.  A big breakfast isn’t a meal that you grab as you run out the door.

Brunch is a word that means garnish and, frequently, alcohol in your fruit juice.  Brunch is languorous.  It also means I’m not doing anything that takes effort before noon.

Lunch is the middle of the day meal.  Big lunch means you will wish for a nap, later.  Lunch happens anywhere from 11 AM to 3 PM.

Supper is the evening meal.  Dinner is the biggest meal that is not breakfast.  So, lunch or supper could be dinner.   Sunday dinner is almost always lunch.  But, a work day dinner is usually supper.

So, the question that came to my mind was “what is the afternoon equivalent of brunch?”  Turns out, it’s afternoon tea.  My Canadian friends tell me that tea is served around 3:30 or 4:00, there is tea to drink and something light to eat.    We chuckled over a young acquaintance who had fussed at her sister to “eat your tea.”  But, I think I want to adopt that usage.  It’s a handy definition. And while a cream tea is one that includes jam and clotted cream in the snacks, I think a wine tea may become my occasional earlier-than-supper afternoon meal.

And, according to my English friend, high tea is a heavy meal served as workers come in from their labors ready for serious eats.  I expect it comes from afternoon tea that waited a little too long and needed to be more filling since you were ravenous by the time you finally got have food.

Another word I am going to adopt is “fika.” It is a Swedish word and it means to have coffee and a bite and a chat with friends.  It is a thing I love and now have a word for.  It is not time specific.  It is activity specific and it an activity I enjoy immensely.


Addendum:

I learned another meal word from my Spanish friend.   “In Spain, there is an actual meal between lunch (which for them is always the largest meal of the day), and dinner, which is a lunch-sized portion late in the day, like 8 or 9 pm. I was always offered this meal, each day, even in the hospital! “Merienda”. It corresponds to the “tea” idea, but without mentioning tea. Coffee or tea might be offered, or beer or wine, and deli slices, bread, cookies, fruit. Oh, it happened around 5 pm. Very confusing.”

Advertisements

Portrait of a marriage

P1030292

This is gorgeous, rich, lovely mousse. It is made from avocados and organic cocoa. You know. Healthy stuff. 🙂

One of us skims from the top, slivers, slices, layer by layer. And the plastic protector is stretched across the top without risking the loss of any of the tasty, tasty treat.

The other one eats in from the edge and covers the part that is being saved for tomorrow (because it is very rich and luscious) with plastic wrap that is tucked in, blanket-like, around the little mound of delight.

This is us.

Artichokes

When I was 14 or 15, a frequent habit in my family was to go to church on Sunday and then have our big meal, usually in the dining room instead or the breakfast nook off the kitchen. It wasn’t always a huge feast that my mother had spent hours over, just the biggest meal that was getting fixed that day. It could very well be chicken salad and pimento cheese with choices of bread or crackers and some chips.

But, one Sunday when we came home, she got stirring around in the kitchen and shooed me out when I came to help. I didn’t argue. I didn’t get let off that hook very often.

After a while she called us into the dining room, where there was nothing on the table except napkins, some silverware and glasses of tea. She was clearly pleased without herself as she told us to sit down and whisked into the kitchen.

She came back with salad plates holding steamed artichokes. And she brought little dishes of melted lemon butter.

We were baffled. She sat down and showed us how to gently pull the leaves off and scrape the tasty bits off with our teeth. My sisters and I had a blast dipping in the butter. My parents seemed to think it was fun to enjoy their artichokes and to watch us having a big time. Eventually, we got down to the choke. She showed us how to scrape off the fuzzy part and cut the heart into bite sized pieces to eat the best of the artichoke.

When we had all finished, she whisked the plates and artichoke debris off the table and banged around in the kitchen for a couple of minutes. Then she brought in bowls of Campbell’s soup and a plate of peanut butter and honey or jelly sandwiches (which was a fairly usual lunch for us).

I looked at my soup and said,”I’m not complaining about the meal. Soup and sandwiches is great. But, it’s kind of anticlimactic after the artichokes.”

She almost looked sheepish and said, “I rarely see fresh artichokes at the grocery and when I do they usually only have 2 or 3. The other day they had 5! One for each of us. So, I got ’em. And if you ever find yourselves faced with one, you’ll know what to do with it.”

So, that’s my mother.

Baked Potato Day

Saturday, we had Baked Potato Day at work. Usually, we have our breaks and meals whenever we can fit it in to whatever we have to get done. But, sometimes, we eat together. LabCorp feeds us 2 or 3 times a year for some festive occasion, like a Winter Holiday between Thanksgiving and Xmas. There will be something around the 4th of July. They do a meal during National Medical Laboratory Week. And last year, Amy was pregnant so we did a little baby shower. And we, sometimes do birthdays if we think of it.

It always makes us cheerful on the days we have food together. The days when Nick picks up our LC meal from a local restaurant are nice. But, the times when we all make food to share are the best.

Last weekend was Amy’s birthday and next weekend is Zack’s birthday. So, we celebrated both of them on the Saturday in between. I don’t remember who thought of baked potatoes. I might have been me. It might have been Nick. Night shift has done something like this in the past, so it wasn’t original.

Nick went by Wendy’s on his way into work around 5:30 PM. I made chili. Amy brought steamed broccoli and crumbled bacon (not in the same bowl). Michelle made an Italian Love Cake. Marla is brought 6 kinds of cheese. Zack brought Salsa.

Victor was very puzzled by the whole thing. He has only lived in the US for 5 and a half years and baked potatoes just haven’t been on his list of foods. He said the only way he has ever had a white potato is slices with boiled eggs on a sandwich with a sauce. What his wife finally decided on was an appetizer of shredded vegetables (eggplant, red bell pepper, potato, and tomato) that was a delicious topping to a potato. (Victor is a lovely man, but Zena does all the cooking.)

I posted on FaceBook when we started planning this a month ago and then, again, on Ello, asking “If you are having a baked potato, and you don’t have butter or sour cream to put on it, but you do have your favorite (other) potato topping available, what goes on the potato?” I was told

1. cheddar cheese, (with chives)

2. chopped garlic,

3. salsa,

4. olive oil, raw garlic, and a little Parmesan,

5. Ranch dressing,

6. malt vinegar,

7. ketchup,

8. yogurt,

9. salsa, cheese, broccoli

10. DARK brown sugar “It’ll melt into molassesy goo & get down into all the nooks & crannies you made fluffing it up.”

11. guacamole

12. cottage cheese

13. mustard

14. A-1 sauce

15. Marinara/tomato sauce, cheese of any kind, gravy…. Now that I think about it- anything that I would also put over pasta.

16. ghee, salsa and black beans, cheese, cottage cheese

17. honey mustard

18. soy sauce

19. Sesame butter and hot sauce

20. roasted garlic mashed in and chipotle infused olive oil…a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

21. Shredded cheese is #1 but I have tried ranch, blue cheese, and garlic as well. And of course BACON! I think that for our little get together we should sauté some garlic to mash in there.

22. Cheese, bacon, sautéed mushrooms… Or, you know, gravy.

23. Pesto

24. Sauteed mushrooms and onions

I want to get a bag of potatoes and start working my way down the list.

Today is my birthday.

I started celebrating yesterday and intend to continue through tomorrow. 😀

Yesterday, Carolyn and I had Spa Day (she had a facial while I had a 30 minute massage followed by a manicure and we finished with pedicures together), then mid-afternoon wine and cheese. We came home, dolled up and went out for dinner to Piedmont, a wonderful farm-to-table restaurant in Durham.

We started with d’Arenberg Winery “The Hermit Crab” 2014 Viognier/Marsanne from MacLauren Vale for Chuck, Reynolds Family Farm 2012 Chardonnay from Napa Valley for me and a Coon Rock Farm Spritzer for Carolyn made with grapefruit mint (I never knew there was such a thing), vodka, lemon, grapefruit and soda. It was delicious and refreshing.

Appetizers were Coon Rock Farm’s mixed greens salad, wild green onions, Loaf Bakery rye bread, chioggia beets and a sprinkle of Anson Mills’ benne seeds, a kind of hummus made of caramelized summer squash, chickpeas and smoked paprika with lavash crackers, and Coon Rock Farm’s heirloom tomatoes with basil sorbet, olive oil, pickled and fried okra and chia seed crackers.

The tomatoes were perfectly ripe and the basil sorbet was amazing. Concentrated basil like I have never encountered before. The paprika on the hummus was heavy enough to be a flavor rather than a garnish and it was wonderful. The chiogga beets were sliced very thing, so that they added a hint of flavor, but didn’t overpower the rest of the salad.

Chuck and Carolyn both had the vegetarian dish for their entrees. It was preparations of local eggplant prepared 4 different ways, heirloom tomatoes, housemade ricotta, sungold tomatoes, shaved radish and pea tendrils. I had crispy Carolina mackerel with warm gazpacho, leeks, cucumber, shiso and pepper.

I love how we share forks around the table.

Because we couldn't decide on just one

Birthday cake!

(middle) NC peaches, pecan caramel, blueberry sorbet, white chocolate brittle, vanilla sponge cake

(bottom) chocolate chip fritters, cherry gastrique, kheer ice cream, pistachios

(top) green tomato tart, shortbread, lemon basil, green tomato marmalade, basil-buttermilk ice cream

We were shocked to find that the tomato tart was the most interesting,  Tomatoes just don’t seem to led themselves to a dessert.  But, BOY! were we surprised. The basil ice cream was subtle and smooth and perfect. The white blob on the chocolate chip fritters on the bottom was kheer ice cream with a strong cardamom flavor. The blueberry sorbet had a stronger blueberry flavor than simple blueberries. It was a hell of a finish.

Today, I’m finishing a batch of sweet pickles, going to the gym and going to a wine tasting followed by sushi for dinner with my loving spouse.

Tomorrow, we will celebrate with dinner at Mez, a “contemporary Mexican” restaurant, on the way to a Punch Brothers concert at the art museum in Raleigh.

After a restful Friday, I go back to work on Saturday.  My co-workers are plottin’ and schemin’ something.  But, I don’t know all the details, yet.  I know there is a Triple Chocolate cake from Ketchie Creek Bakery involved.

Jeannie doesn’t call it the Festival of Kitty because I celebrate in half measures. 😉

Wine and cheese

This post is for the amusement of avincie and annmeeker.

My loving husband got me a wine club membership. It is at the Cork And Cow Wine Bar at the mall near my job. We found the place by accident when we had time to kill before a movie and went in for a wine tasting.

Their tastings are offered on Tuesdays and Wednesdays every week and cost $5. YOu are given 2 crackers, a bite of cheese and tastes of 4 wine that are generous enough to be the equivalent of a glass of wine.

The club membership is $99 for the first 3 months and $40/month thereafter. It provides you with your name engraved on a Riedel red wine glass that stays there for your use when you come to taste, one free tasting every week and 2 bottles of wine chosen from the wines tasted on the first week of each month. If/when you cancel your membership, you take the glass home with you. the club wine prices range between $20 and $40 each month.

This is a fun thing for wine drinkers and I rarely go in for a tasting without spending “extra” money on tapas. And sometimes another glass or bottle of wine. Everybody wins.

Now, the Cow part of the menu. They have nice cheeses. I can easily find 3 to put together one of their cheese plates. And the bite they give you with a tasting can stretch to a nibble with each sample of wine. It changes each week, with the wines, so that can be its own adventure.

And, of course, I lost the little list of what was served the first week of this month. That was the week that the cheese was manchego.  This is a sheeps’ milk cheese.  And I usually like it.  But, I found it to be an interesting combination with the wines.  Because I hate goat cheese with the heat of a thousand suns. OK. Maybe not quite that bad. But, goats’ milk and its cheeses have a musty flavor that I find very unpleasant.  Most people I know don’t taste it whatever that particular molecule is.  I can’t avoid it.  It cannot be hidden or covered up.  My sister has tried.  And 2 of the 4 wines turned the usually pleasant sheep cheese into goat cheese on my tongue

I found that to be a fascinating example of wine and food working together.   Or not working.

I am repeatedly intrigued by how our physical perceptions differ and change.  That one was pretty dramatic.

Ruining a steak

I saw this graphic on FaceBook this morning and it made me think of my grandmother:

10502028_1086557851372588_6531066187403953545_n

Kate grew up in the country. Her father was a farmer with a third grade education. They didn’t always have a lot of ready cash, but they were never, ever hungry. It was kind of a shame that she didn’t like “vegetavles,” because they were abundant. She was a bread-and-meat kind of girl. And, when she was old, she enjoyed going out for dinner to a steak house.

I took her to a Western Sizzlin’ or whatever equivalent was in Morganton, NC, one time, and freaked out the guy taking our order when she asked for a filet mignon cooked well done. He said “It will be a charcoal briquet if we do that.” She insisted that was always how she had her meat cooked. He found his manager to deal with her because he was at a complete loss for what to do. The manager said, “We can butterfly it and cook it that way, but a filet is too think to make it well done and still be edible.” I said that would be fine.

When it came to the table, she was delighted. It was the best steak she had ever had.

Sometime after that, I took her out for dinner, again, and, again, she ordered a filet cooked to death. The server got this appalled expression and started to say something. I stopped him, smiling, and said, “Just have the kitchen butterfly it and cook it that way. She will be delighted with it.” He kind of shook his head and wrote down the rest of our order.

And she was delighted. I was, too. It made me happy to have the ability to make her happy and de-stress the people who were helping me do that.

Matters of taste

When my son was 3 or 4 years old, he couldn’t understand why I didn’t like the same foods he did.  He would say “You liked it when YOU were my age!” frustrated that sharing wasn’t working.  But, he was appalled by some of the things I put in my mouth, too.

One day, I found an article about taste buds.  It said that in the variety and fluctuations that are our bodies, we get a whole new set about every 5 years.  And that what tastes lovely to us now may get a completely different reading in 5 years.  I told Christopher about that and we figured that I am 6 taste bud cycles ahead of him.  That made sharing tastes, and not agreeing about them, more palatable, so to speak.

Several years later, I learned that a dear friend has a recessive  genetic trait that causes cilantro to taste like soap to her.  My husband adores cilantro.  He adds extra to his salsa, tacos, salads.  Clearly, he doesn’t have the recessive gene.  I taste the soap if there is a lot of cilantro.  I suspect that I am heterozygous.

Another instance of taste bud variations involves cardamom.  Chuck keeps me supplied with granola.  Since he makes it, it is exactly how I like it.  He was making it for himself, too, when we weren’t living together.  He likes cardamom and added it to his batch.  I was visiting and tried it.  I was completely overwhelmed by the cardamom.  The next time he made it, he decreased it significantly so that I could taste it, but not be overwhelmed.  The problem with that was, he couldn’t even tell it was there.

The upshot of all this taste variation awareness is that our response to “That’s too sweet” or “Ew. You have all of that.” is to laugh at how different bodies are.

Tomato sandwiches

My husband is from West Virginia and he says he never heard of anyone eating plain tomato sandwiches until he moved South.

I find that astonishing.

I come from a place where people argue about the correct condiment for a tomato sandwich. Duke’s mayonnaise or Hellmann’s? Or are you a complete heathen and use Miracle Whip? Is pepper too much of an addition?

For those not from around here, Miracle Whip is “salad dressing,” which is mayonnaise with added sugar. Southern cooks are infamous for adding a pinch of sugar to just about everything and this is a commercial variation on that theme. I loved it when I was a child but lost my taste for it 20 or 30 years ago.

Some friends and I had a conversation about tomato sandwiches, recently. I was amused to hear the voices from the Midwest and Northeast talking about tomato sandwiches with bacon, smoked turkey, cheese or other plants like mushrooms, avocados or onions.

No.

Just, no.

That is not a tomato sandwich. That is a turkey sandwich with tomato. Or a BLT. Or a vegetable sandwich. Or a cheese and tomato sandwich. All delicious and delightful. But, NOT a tomato sandwich.

I acknowledge that to purists, the occasional sprouts and celery salt I enjoy are pushing the envelope. So is mayo made with basil infused olive oil. While they are very tasty, they are treading the razor’s edge where a tomato sandwich becomes Something Else.

If you are from some other part of the world, pick (from a garden, not a grocery bin) a tomato that slices like this:

DSC03089

A small one that requires several slices to cover the bread is fine, but this is a perfect sandwich tomato, minus the center cut I just ate.

Your bread may be toasted or not, mayo on one or both sides, salt and pepper are optional. You will need to stand over the sink to eat it because the tomato juice will drip from a truly ripe fruit.

THAT is the flavor of a Southern summer.