Ginger or Mary Ann?


Ron's Blog

Article first published as Politically Correct Gingerbread on Blogcritics.

I had fun doing research for this article. My entire ten minutes was wasted, however, as I’m writing about the hot and spicy root plant called ginger, and not Ginger, the hot and spicy castaway from Gilligan’s Island.

Be that as it may, I did discover I’m somewhat in the minority. It seems Mary Ann consistently outpolls Ginger in which-one-do-you-prefer competitions. In support of Ginger, let me just refer you to this wonderful 1957 recording of Tina Louise singingIt’s Been a Long Time.

Chinese love ginger. I also think some of them may get a perverse pleasure out of tricking me into sucking on a mouthful of it. My first experience was on a bus during a school field trip to the China countryside. Somebody was passing around a bag of ginger candy and WOWEE! Chunks of ginger are not…

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Happy Thanksgiving – Don’t Forget the Pie Plant!


Grandma's Rhubarb Pie

Grandma’s Rhubarb Pie

Consider the humble pie-plant. That’s what rhubarb is sometimes called.  Like tomatoes, it belongs to a small group of identity-challenged fruits, I mean vegetables, I mean fruits. Apparently rhubarb got into some legal difficulties in New York back in 1947 and had to go to court to prove its fruitishness.

Rhubarb is a card-carrying member of the genus Rheum in the family Polygonaceae. Now doesn’t that make your mouth water? It’s leaves are toxic and it’s roots are perennial. It’s green-to-reddish stalks, however, are the stuff of childhood memories. At least the stuff of my childhood memories.

My grandpa on my mother’s side was an insurance salesman. But he spent all his free time in his beloved garden. Now when I say garden I mean backyard farm. He was a beekeeper and organic hippie without the beads and long hair. He was cool and didn’t even know it. Nor did I at the time. Rhubarb reminds me of him.

Apparently there is something called the Rhubarb Triangle in Jolly Olde England. If you have nothing better to do, look it up. No ships have been reported missing, however local residents apparently harvest rhubarb stalks by candlelight. Are they Rhubarbarians? Nobody knows for sure.

My sister-in-law compiled a family cookbook a few years ago. On page 47 is a recipe for Sour Cream Rhubarb Pie. The recipe actually came from an old newspaper clipping my mother found. Although it calls for a cup and a half of sugar, it’s not a big deal because the recipe was written back in the days when sugar was good for you.

Ingredients:

2 cups diced rhubarb (more or less)
1 cup sour cream
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
1 ½ cup sugar

Directions:

Put rhubarb in unbaked pie shell. Mix remaining ingredients and pour over rhubarb. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees and 40 additional minutes at 375 degrees. Pie will begin to set up as it finishes baking.

Sister-in-law Becky adds this note: This easy recipe makes a very rich dessert. I have often used other fruit such as blackberries, raspberries or peaches. It’s especially good when made with the first rhubarb from the garden in early Spring.

Spring is still a long way off, but don’t let that stop you. Rhubarb, with it’s cheerful shades of red and green is also a Christmas fruit. Or vegetable.

Bean Dip by Another Name


Hummus? Yummus!

China Bride Blog

Hummus? Yummus! Hummus? Yummus!

It’s usually not a good sign to walk into a restaurant during the noon hour and find it deserted, with nary a customer, waiter or hostess in sight. I would have turned tail and left, except I’d promised to meet my Chinese student and her new boyfriend for lunch.

She had specifically chosen this Turkish restaurant in the heart of Guangzhou (Canton) because it was rumored to have one of the most mouth-watering Mediterranean menus on the metropolitan map. Since I had my choice of tables and a few minutes to kill, I began a quest for the best seat in the house.

I knew I’d probably found the most comfortable booth when I accidentally disturbed two waitresses snoozing soundly on the red tuck and roll benches. Startled to see a customer, they jumped up, wiped the sleep from their eyes and offered me a menu.

“Where is…

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Hummus? Yummus!


hummus-2It’s usually not a good sign to walk into a restaurant during the noon hour and find it deserted, with nary a customer, waiter, or hostess in sight. I would have turned tail and left, except I’d promised to meet my Chinese student and her new boyfriend for lunch.

She had specifically chosen this Turkish restaurant in the heart of Guangzhou (Canton) because it was rumored to have one of the most mouthwatering Mediterranean menus on the metropolitan map. Since I had my choice of tables and a few minutes to kill, I began a quest for the best seat in the house.

I knew I’d probably found the most comfortable booth when I accidentally disturbed two waitresses snoozing soundly on the red tuck and roll benches. Startled to see a customer, they jumped up, wiped the sleep from their eyes and offered me a menu.

“Where is everyone?” I asked in my best Mandarin. The two sleepyheads just smiled and nodded. Apparently my best Mandarin needs some work. Just then, Monica and her boyfriend arrived. After chatting briefly with the two girls, she offered me a one-word explanation: “Ramadan.”

During the holy month of Ramadan, followers of Islam abstain from eating and drinking during daylight hours. Since the restaurant owner and most of the customers and staff are Muslim, business hours had pretty much shifted into the night. Nevertheless, we were warmly invited to sit and order.

After some deliberation and consultation with the now wide-awake waitresses, we ordered an assortment of appetizers, salads, kebabs and platters. Had we known, we could have saved some money and just ordered appetizers. Not that the food wasn’t delicious; it was fantastic.

It’s just that they, well, they had me at hummus. And flatbread. Hot, fresh-from-the-oven, round-as-a-tire flatbread and heavenly hummus. They kept bringing it and I kept tearing off huge hunks of bread, slathering it in the hummus and eating it. It’s hard to believe the lowly chickpea can elicit such sensory delight in a full-grown human male.

Another name for chickpea is garbanzo bean; however, hummus is no ordinary bean dip. According to Wikipedia, hummus is a transliteration of the Arabic word. It can also be spelled hamos, hommos, hommus, homos, houmous, hummos, hummous, or humus. (I’d be cautious ordering that last one—you don’t want a bowl of topsoil on your bill.)

In addition to cooked and mashed chickpeas, ingredients also include olive oil, lemon juice, salt, garlic, and tahini, which is a paste made from sesame seeds. There are a myriad hummus recipes on the Internet, some with tahini and some without, so I won’t give you my recipe. I don’t have one.

I do have a horrible pun though. If you’re ever in a Turkish restaurant in China and you want to order, but you don’t know the words…just hummus.

Free the Glutens!


Note: This article was begun nearly two months ago as I was en route to China. I will recount my exploits and attempt to explain my temporary absence from the Blogosphere in my next post.

Pop Quiz!

Glutens are:
A. an up-and-coming punk rock accordion band.
B. the oppressed citizens of Glutonia.
C. a protein composite in foods processed from wheat and other grains.
D. all of the above.
E. none of the above.

Easy, huh? Everybody knows Glutonia became an independent state following the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. Duh.

This week I’m in Portland. The one on the Left Coast. I am mooching off my offspring while I wait for my return flight to China. I feel I have a right to do this because (A.) I am their father and (B.) I am a Portlander by birth.

Portlanders are, uh, a quirky people. As my future son-in-law says, “Portlanders are like a bunch of kindergarteners whose mother allowed them to pick out their own wardrobes for the day.” You can take the Portlander out of Portland, but you can’t take the Portland out of the Portlander. I wear my Portlanderishness proudly wherever I wander.

On this particular trip I’ve managed to pick up two new food buzz phrases: agave syrup and gluten-free baking. I was already familiar with agave for different reasons. If you don’t know already, it’s a vital ingredient in the production of Tequila. Which is a vital ingredient in the production of many Country and Western ballads, both in the writing and the singing thereof.

Agave syrup, or nectar is sweeter than honey (I feel a song coming on) and a popular alternative to sugar or honey, especially in Vegan diets. It’s not as thick as honey and will dissolve easily in cold beverages such as iced tea.

The nutrition label on a popular brand of agave nectar indicates 60 calories in a serving size of 21 grams. It also indicates 5 per cent of the daily value of carbohydrates and 4 per cent of dietary fiber based on a 2000 calorie diet. Thank you, Mr. Science.

In the evolution of our civilization (such as it is) a key turning point was when some guy (or girl) realized plants come from seeds. Which meant that he or she could finally settle down and stop his or her wandering ways.

Development of agriculture led to the science of plant breeding and domestication and refinement of cereal grains. As with any advancement, there is a down side. Celiac disease is one example. Celiac disease is the result of an intolerance to gluten present in grains such as wheat and barley. It is estimated that as many as 1 out of every 22 people is a potential celiac sufferer.

Here are a couple of links to Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coeliac_disease

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gluten

Ginger or Mary Ann?


Article first published as Politically Correct Gingerbread on Blogcritics.

I had fun doing research for this article. My entire ten minutes was wasted, however, as I’m writing about the hot and spicy root plant called ginger, and not Ginger, the hot and spicy castaway from Gilligan’s Island.

Be that as it may, I did discover I’m somewhat in the minority. It seems Mary Ann consistently outpolls Ginger in which-one-do-you-prefer competitions. In support of Ginger, let me just refer you to this wonderful 1957 recording of Tina Louise singing It’s Been a Long Time.

Chinese love ginger. I also think some of them may get a perverse pleasure out of tricking me into sucking on a mouthful of it. My first experience was on a bus during a school field trip to the China countryside. Somebody was passing around a bag of ginger candy and WOWEE! Chunks of ginger are not really candy.Ginger Root

What ginger is good at is adding zing. It is extremely versatile and can be used with everything from fish and meat to soft drinks and cookies. However, like dynamite, a little ginger goes a long way.

A former Chinese girlfriend used to make an amazing cough and cold remedy by combining honey, ginger and hot water. I think she put in brown sugar, too. I should have had her write it down before she left me. If you are interested in the medical applications of this versatile tuber, there’s a ton of information on Wikipedia. Seriously, check it out.

Remember the family cookbook I mentioned in my rhubarb article? Well, I found my little sister Linda’s recipe for politically correct Gingerbread People. Run, run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me I’m the Gingerbread Person. Anyway, here it is.

Ingredients

1 ½ cup dark molasses
1 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup cold water
1/3 cup shortening
7 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

Mix molasses, brown sugar, water and shortening. Mix in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough ¼ inch thick on floured surface. Cut with floured gingerbread cutter or other shaped cookie cutters. Place about 2 inches apart on lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake until no indentation remains when touched, about 10 to 12 minutes. Cool. Decorate as desired. Store in a covered cookie tin or plastic container.

Sister Linda adds: Every Christmas, it’s a tradition for Jennifer, Sara and me to make these gingerbread cookies. We always leave one or two of the most special ones for Santa on Christmas Eve. He seems to enjoy them, along with the glass of beer that the neighbors leave for him at their house!

Shh… I think she’s talking about my brother-in-law, Ed.

Warmest wishes for the Holiday Season.