We were invited to a St Patty's eve event in New York at the Irish Consulate featuring foods of Ireland, The Food Island, as their( food ) promotion board, Bord Bia, charmingly puts it. So determined were we to attend that we slogged there from up the Hudson on a bus through a blinding snowstorm, and then walked to the event, plunging into vast puddles of icy slush several inches deep---BTW, gal New Yorkers by the dozens were wearing gayly colorful tall rubber Wellies--I was in my slippery black leather boots--oy!
Once there, with a soft Irish whiskey in one hand and a taste of Irish smoked salmon in the other, I gazed over at a table of artisanal cheeses and realized I was violating every tenet of the Eat Locally camp. Big time. Now, I am not a card carrying member of that religion. But-- as the Bord Bia representative was urging us all to " buy and consume more high quality Irish products," I was tasting superlative extra sharp Irish cheddar and feeling serious guilt about considering tossing overboard my friends at Cabot Cheese in Vermont...
Of course, as you alert readers know, who am I kidding, I live nowhere near Vermont. I'm in New Mexico--I can count on excellent wine, great chiles, apples, goat cheese, and the typical summer provender locally, yes. I am not aware of anyone making cheddar cheese here. As you also know, I am a Trader Joe's fan--how unlocal can one get? ( Some baked goods are indeed local.)
So why was I having pangs in the midst of enjoying great Irish fare? Nuts! I gave it up and went for the hand dipped chocolates. Belgium should start worrying.
Oh-- and yes, we had no potatoes.
(Pictured is Ireland's Cashel Blue---http://www.formanandfield.com/cashel-blue-p-132.html)
Urban foodie gardeners take note: One of our favorite people, Joan Dye Gussow, is the keynoter at this year's 25th annual Making Brooklyn Bloom all day event at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden this coming Saturday, March 10. Her topic is : "Global Reflections on Eating From Home." Explore the day's offerings here.
I would definitely get my hands dirty at the workshop titled Brewing Compost Tea, as long as I could also partake of Best Heirloom Vegetables for Brooklyn. And also, Growing Organic Food in Containers , a technique I have decided to try this spring here in the high desert of New Mexico, as containing the water is such a daunting challenge.
(Pictured: At left, the BBG's Home Composting Exhibit. At right, the Herb Garden.)
There has been much hand-wringing and melodramatic reporting on our local tv stations here in Albuquerque, in response to the killing frost in California. No strawberries! ( It's a very chilly and mid-January, people.) No avocados! ( January?) Citrus! ( We certainly are expected to eat this in the winter, aren't we?--we still have Texas....a just a bit from Florida.)
Not that I do not sympathiize with growers poised to lose their labored-over crops, of course.
Yet here we sit, isolated in the middle of the high desert, highly dependent on CA for much of the produce we enjoy--in fact, a recent study indicated that New Mexico is indeed one of the more food shortage vulnerable states in the union.
And of course right now we should be eating chiles, root vegetables, cabbage and stored apples....along with game and cattle, if such is our taste.
I was planning to eat a simple, decent cappellini pasta from Italy with tomato sauce this evening. (None of the above suggested items.) But no strawberries, dammit!
The first time young Foodie tasted mussels ( drowned in marinara sauce,) was in New York's Little Italy during the San Gennaro Festival celebrated in September along Mulberry Street. The 11 day event is a lovely exercise in Italian-food gluttony, with cannoli sampling high on the list.
Around 300 AD, the eponymous saint from Napoli, whose crime was ministering to imprisoned Christians, survived being tossed in an oven, placed on the rack, and presented to wild beasts for their delectation in an arena. ( "What am I to you, " he wailed, "Just a cut of meat?!) He did not make it, however, through his beheading.
In any event, San Gennaro became revered and New York has been putting on his festival for 78 years. The folks on the other coast have been in the biz five years now. Los Angeles Italian-Americans, like the people in New York, created a foundation to host their festival and both efforts fund philanthropic undertakings for those in need. In LA you can play boccie with "Hollywood's most prominent Italian-American celebrities," and all the ricotta cheese you can eat comes from Precious, the company whose name is imbedded in the official festival title.
In a neat piece of synchronicity (?), in New York the statue of San Gennaro is paraded around Little Italy and then returned to its rightful place at the Most Precious Blood Church on Mulberry St.
Another One: Las Vegas http://www.sangennarofeast.net/
Other Italian Festivals: http://www.italylink.com/festivals.html
( Love the smoking Mt Vesuvius behind S.G. )
Today, children, we turn our attention to the magnificent leaping mullet, the mostly-vegetarian fish with a gizzard ( tastes like flying chicken?) and the focus both of a kiddie book, The Wise Mullet of Cook Bayou, and an October event in Florida's northwest panhandle with the enticing name Boggy Bayou Mullet Festival.
The book was written by journalist and native Floridian Timothy Weeks. It tells the strong simple story of three mullet in a Florida bayou who choose different life paths, with the "wise" one making out the best. Weeks says his book is based on a story by the Persian Sufi mystic Rumi, a philospher and poet who inspired the "whirling dervishes," those for whom dance was a pathway to the Divine. Many old hand Floridians say the mullet "leaps for joy," as often as it leaps to avoid danger, so the Rumi connection is fitting.
Weeks' children's book project became a family affair. His mother, Jeanne, did the illustrations. His sister, Kimberly Bryant did the editing, and his Dad, David inspired his early interest in mullet. Crazy as it may sound, this shiny, tidy book laid out with a combo of hand drawings and computer graphics, smells terrific, sort of a petroleum and printing press melange. The odor does not from the two recipes by Jeanne at the back for Golden Brown Mullet and Cheese Grits, staple foods of the denizens of Cook Bayou. ( Contact Weeks directly for the book-- educators can obtain a teaching packet as well. )
Once we saw the mighty leap of one of these fish in Florida, we decided perhaps we harbored a mullet-within, and became loathe to eat them. Before the infamous net ban of 1995, mullet was the least expensive fish in local Florida markets. Today it's harder to find, though the smoked mullet at South Pasadena's( St. Petersburg) Ted Peters Famous Smoked Fish is a favorite.
For more things mullet, visit the B.B. Mullet Festival in Niceville, named Boggy Bayou until the citizenry wanted a more Up Town name. You and 100,000 other visitors will eat 10 tons of mullet ( we know, mullet doesn't sound scarce) during three days, October 20, 21 and 22.
(For exhaustive info on fishing mullet in the UK, click here. Seems they will bite at flakes of white bread..)
As for the fabled "do," known as The Mullet, no mullet possibly could leap to the notion that its arrangement of fins (?) ( see the mullet pic up top) would spawn an entire culture. Wikipedia says the mullet --short everywhere, but long in the back, was sported by fishermen in the 19th c to keep the backs of their heads warm.