Fiddleheads, the other edible fern

It’s not real risotto, but still delicious.

Fiddleheads are local food that announces the arrival of spring. Sprouts of ostrich ferns picked in the wild, they are a culinary and mathematical delight–such taste and proportions the (Golden Mean). Fiddleheads are similar to their fern-cousin asparagus, but their the texture and delicacy are closer to spinach. They are always eaten cooked and best not overcooked since they lose their colour, texture, and taste. Continue reading “Fiddleheads, the other edible fern”

Taking a dip

At a New Year’s party in Berlin, I was happily playing sous-chef for Tiffany. As a token North American, I was told to make “some sort of dip” for a crudité platter. In fairly short order, I assembled something passable from convenience store cheese that resembled a plasticine version of Boursin, sour cream, and sundry seasonings. In the end, two dips were served, since Kristin brought mock crab dip (Note: this is different from mock-crab dip, though both are good).

That had me thinking about the whole premise of dip and who might have invented it. Some internet searching for “dip capital of the world” only led to sites with observations about chewing tobacco. Eventually, I stumbled across a site about queso cheese dip, but still I was unsated, hungry as I was for the origins of a completely unnecessary foodstuff. Continue reading “Taking a dip”

The treasures of old cookbooks

Books have always fascinated me, especially old ones since they tell so much about the previous readers. Dog eared pages, margin notes, bookmarks, and newspaper clippings tucked between pages are always great finds. Few things in life are better than finding century old pressed four-leaf clovers. But books are only so useful, since a person can’t reasonably eat them for breakfast.

Cookbooks are a compromise, and my favourites are splattered with bits of recipes, whipped up in a hurry, perhaps 60 years ago. This is important trace evidence that the recipe might be good.

Full of recipes that are truly hard to imagine eating.

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The ultimate savoury snack: the TifCo Memorial Sandwich

This is a recently-made Tiffany Conroy Memorial Sandwich. Because of availability, rosemary and sea salt bread was used instead of baguette.

The Tiffany Conroy Memorial Sandwich is, in my opinion, the best legacy of the time I spent working with Tiffany Conroy. We were sweat shop labour in an office next door to St. Lawrence Market in Toronto.

Continue reading “The ultimate savoury snack: the TifCo Memorial Sandwich”

Ten pounds of scallops

It seemed out of the blue when I got a call from a friend who works in a bar to inform me that the ten pounds of scallops I had ordered arrived. ‘Right,’ I thought, only vaguely remembering the agreement that I made with a local fisherman. Now, true to his word, he had returned to the scene of hazy evening with twenty pounds of scallops to be divided between me and my barkeep friend. And of course, he arrived around midnight. Did I mention that they were only $7 a pound?
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Excerpt from an emergency addition to an 1887 cookbook

This “card” was added to a cookbook that I own that was published in 1887 in Houlton, Maine. The title pages reads “Tried, Tested, Proved. The Home Cook Book, Recipes Proved and Contributed by the Congregationalist Ladies of Houlton and their Friends.”

As you can see, the card advises that some of the recipes contain [gasp] alcohol. That is well enough, but it is interesting to note that this book is not anonymous so the ladies who “unthinkingly have given recipes containing brandy, wine and cider: six in all,  but six too many of that kind,” are all named. Mrs. Theo. Cary and Mrs. A. H. Fogg certainly strayed in their fruitcake recipes, unlike, for example, Mrs. Bumpus whose recipe had no intoxicating spirits.

It’s a remarkable book to own since it is well sprinkled with ingredients and it’s possible to tell which recipes were used. Just in case you are curious, yes, the recipes with brandy were used and even contain marginal notations.

Seafood Chowder

Living on the east coast of Canada, there is an abundance of fresh, tasty seafood. Chowder, when made well, is a wonderful way to show off local flavour. First, a note about chowder: it is not vegan, vegetarian, lactose-free, gluten-free, or kosher. For those with “allergies” it could produce full-on anaphylaxis, making it the soup equivalent of a loaded gun. Don’t let any of this detract you: well-prepared chowder is a gentle yet well-meaning fuck you to gourmands in need of mettle.
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Preserved Lemon

One of the favourite presents I have received was a huge canister of preserved lemons, presented as a gift for hosting a dinner party. Thought of mainly as a staple of Moroccan and Middle Eastern cuisine, preserved lemons have remarkable versatility, striking good looks, and a sublime flavour. Lemons pickled in lemon juice provide a citrus-on-steroids taste and aroma. Continue reading “Preserved Lemon”