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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Flight and foccacia

Family, teaching and food ground me.

I need grounding-lots of it.

If not for their reassuring downward pressure, my feet would surely pull upward until my toes skim the surface of the dirt, and I lose contact with a whispered gasp.

Some people are born with their feet rooted firmly in the soil; I have to work against the insistent  upward pull.  It has always been there.

My mother could not name us.  After all, she had borne three daughters; this regulated her into that in-between, that temporary...not quite part of the family and yet responsible to it.  Grandfather decided on Phoen, the celestial Phoenix of Chinese myth, that symbol of woman, those who are born only to be given away.  My name was his declaration and his judgement:  another girl.


When a Vietcong soldier moved into our house after the Communist North had marched into Saigon, my parents, two sisters and Grandfather left our home and climbed aboard a rusty cargo ship called the Tung-An, flying under the Panama flag.  In an instant, home and neighbourhood and knowing faded.  I strapped myself to my mother's arm on the boat and later in the refugee camp, sensing that she would inevitably be snatched away.


Food is one counter weight and one constant.  

I eat it, and I cook it, not to feed my belly, but to anchor.  Food is permanent.  It is home and family and safety.  

Thus, I find it impossible to waste or throw it out.  It can be saved, transformed into something beautiful...more beautiful.

After returning from a weekend camping trip, I found four forlorn gala apples, forgotten and wrinkling, at the bottom of the refrigerator.  Coincidentally, I had also lost track of the proofing time of a big bowl of gurgling sourdough; its yeasty life was draining away.  The loaf would not rise, golden and dome-like.    I cradled the bruised apples and the sagging dough, unable to let them go.  Here's what I came up with.

Apple Rosemary Foccacia

1 pound of bread dough, limp and weak
4 gala apples, after youth has abandoned them, cut into thin wedges
1 tablespoon of rosemary, from the garden
3 tablespoons of honey
2 tablespoons of flour
2 tablespoons of butter, melted
2 tablespoons of raspberry jam, slightly diluted with water

Spritz a baking dish with some olive oil.
Spread the dough with fingertips to cover most of the pan.
Spritz top of dough with more olive oil.
Toss the apples with the flour.
Arrange apple wedges in a pretty pattern on the dough.
Paint with raspberry jam, drizzle with honey, and sprinkle with chopped rosemary.
Bake in a preheated 420 F oven for about 15 minutes.
Brush with melted butter and return to oven for 5 more minutes or until lightly golden brown.


Monday, July 18, 2011

when the dust settles

The fireplace has come down, brick by brick, and revealed the optical illusion that has duped the inhabitants of this house for over 40 years. Yes, a volume of bricks can inexplicably triple when demolished, only to lie in scattered disarray, smirking and dusty, on one's back patio for over 14 months.

I must admit Plywood has a certain Bohemian and rustic charm but only for 6 months.  Anything beyond may amount to... giving up.

Complaints about the lack of counters or  a stove is ever so bourgoise when there is that roaring camp stove and 1980's electric wok to keep the kitchen sizzling.  

I am not bitter; in fact, I am rather sweet, in a sour type of way.

The renos that started last summer have crossed the line from temporary to our new reality.  We haven't had a single dinner party (beyond the very good friends  who are too soft-hearted to judge us for our reno squalor) in over a year, so food blogging has been swept, with the rusty nails, dry wall dust and wood splinters into the corner.  

A martyr is noble; a whiner is annoying.  We have not wasted way.  We have moved beyond canned goods and microwave dinners to cooking in, around, and despite the detritus.

So I'm sweeping off the old blog with a duster in one hand and a spatula in the other.  Steel-toed boots are the hottest new kitchen gadget.