Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cocktails for Classic Movie Buffs

It is, once again, ridiculously hot, so I am going to talk about historical cocktails.  Why? Because I'm long overdue for a history blog -- and what better subject for a history blog than old Hollywood's complete disregard for prohibition?  Also, I've long wanted to post pictures and videos of Buster Keaton and Anna Mae Wong to this blog, and now I finally have an excuse to do it.  That, and even thinking about an Orange Blossom just cools me down.

Orange Blossom

The traditional recipe for Orange Blossoms uses superfine sugar or simple syrup.  I have always found that adding extra sugar to orange juice makes it nauseatingly sweet, so I've left it out.

Virginia Rappe and Maude Delmont famously swilled these during Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle's infamous San Francisco party -- the same party that resulted in the death of Rappe and a resulting rape trial for Arbuckle which instantly became one of the first major media circuses of the twentieth century.

1 tumble filled with orange juice
2 jigs of gin
1 wedge of line (squeeze into orange juice and then use as garnish)

If not consumed by scam artists who go on to die at your party, a nice time will be had by all.

Sloe Gin Fizz 

Some versions of this recipe use egg white, however Eric had salmonella once and now I share his anti-egg paranoia.  Once again, I have eschewed Simple Syrup, and I prefer lime juice to lemon.

1 Tom Collins glass or moderately sized tumbler, into which you should pour
1 jig sloe gin
1 jig gin
fill glass with soda water
add lemon or lime to taste

Variations of this drink were much loved by non-movie star Huey Long, but it's also a drink much beloved in "women's pictures" of the 1940's.

I don't have a drink for Buster Keaton, apparently he liked to drink beer.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Storyboarding and Pizza Tasting: Pino's Pizza, Brighton, and Presto Pizza, also Brighton

Thursday, July 22, 2010:

Eric:  How about using your affection for True Crime as a jumping off point for one of your blogs?

Me:  The only vegetarian criminals who come to mind are the Manson Family and Hitler, and those two subjects are really played out.  A blog about Victorian poisonings would also be unappetizing.  I don't like True Crime because I like glorifying criminals through food blogging.  I like it because I'm fascinated by detectives and lawyers.  Is Vincent Bugliosi a vegetarian?

                        Thanks to

Eric:  What about reviewing those pizza places in Cleveland Circle?

Me:  That's probably a better idea.

Pino's Pizza, Cleveland Circle, Brighton  

Eric and I walked out of the rainy Boston day, and into the relative calm and quiet of Pino's Pizza in Brighton. Although the outside of the restaurant boasted a gloriously tacky and obviously unrestored 1950's beach-boardwalk style sign, the inside of the restaurant was bright, clean and surprisingly contemporary.  We decided to order the 2-slice, 1 drink cheese pizza special.  We grabbed our slices and drink and headed to a booth.

The crust was possibly the crispiest crust I have ever tasted.  (Possibly because, as is standard procedure in most restaurants selling single pizza slices, the slices were taken from a pre-made pie and reheated to order.)  The cheese and sauce were both fresh tasting, but a little on the bland side.  It tasted better than the average Papa Gino's slice, but no flavors particularly stood out.  I took a quick bite, and added Parmesan cheese and pepper to my slice, as is my habit.  The slices were generous, and the pizza folded well, which made for easy eating.  I was also pleased to note the comparative bounty (for an unyuppified Boston-area sub shop) of vegetarian sub and pasta options on the menu. We left feeling relatively full and satisfied.

Presto Pizza, Cleveland Circle, Brighton 

The exterior of Presto Pizza is unremarkable, but the inside of the restaurant, with its gigantic tree, Tiffany lamps, and 1982 World Cup soccer posters, is a little reminiscent of the Regal Beagle.  Once again, we ordered the six dollar double-slice-and-one-drink special, and once again we retired to a booth table with various condiments.  I was impressed by the Parmesan cheese on offer, it was hard to get out of the container, but that was because it was fresh grated.  It had a wonderfully creamy, nutty taste that added to the general garlicy-olive oily*, just-a-hint-of-basilish flavor of the pizza. The slices were so big, they wouldn't fit on their paper plates and ended up touching the table in a way that bothered me a little bit.

Eric and I agreed: if Presto was busy, going to Pino's wouldn't spoil the night.  However, Presto had the better slice by far.

*Presto Pizza is noticably more greasy than its competitor.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

What to Do When Food Tastes Like a Ceramic Fridge Magnet

I have recently come down with a particualry bad sinus cold, the result of which has been a several day long inability to taste anything.  My high school biology teacher said that losing one's sense of taste during a cold was an old wives' tale, but nothing's tasted right since some time on Saturday.

This is inconvenient if one has a food blog to write.

It's true that sick vegetarians cannot rely on chicken soup, however there are many ways one can tempt oneself to eat while sick. Here's a list of some:

Hot Sauce
"Burning" may not be a flavor, but a dash of hot sauce in some home made broth or on top of some fresh vegetables will certainty clear your sinuses.

A hot mug of tea is good all year around, however in the summer I like to follow my boyfriend's aunt's lead and get a 2 quart plastic pitcher, and throw three to five tea bags in it.  Fill it with water, stick it in the fridge, wait overnight, and you have efficient, no boil iced tea.

Oranges, Lemons, and Limes
Once rare and prized in New England for their ability to keep away disease today's sick vegetarian can use them to flavor just about anything.  I like to toss a can of mandarin slices in with my raspberries and blueberries, and drizzle it with lime.

What to eat when you can't stand the thought of eating anything that requires actual prep time or tastes like much of anything.
Short oatmeal recipe:
1 cup instant oats
2 cups hot water
cinnamon or jam to taste
Pour the hot water on the oats and stir until the oats absorb the water.  Mix in the cinnamon or jam.  Add milk if you want just that much food.  Try to eat.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Two British Summer Sandwiches

Okay, so those who know me in life know that I talk about the fact that I have an MSc in Archaeology from the University of Edinburgh.  (I'm both brilliant and modest that way.)  However, I didn't spend all my time in the UK drinking myself silly and learning about the built environment of workingclass England.  I also spent a lot of time in the kitchen of my Edinburgh student rooming house, drinking myself silly and learning about the European approach to food.

I already knew about the Asian approach to food.  During my undergraduate years at UMass Lowell my roommate Truc and I set up an illegal hot plate in our dorm room and she taught me to cook Vietnamese food.  However, that is a story for another time.  Suffice to say that I was already familiar with the idea that, to every other culture in the world, most of the time, cooking and eating have a wonderfully slow-paced sense of ritual about them.  I've never really seen it done much in my part of the US, but when I've been in other countries people gather in kitchens, not only for special occasions but for every meal, to cut up fresh ingredients cook and talk and bond.  Some of the best times I ever had were in the kitchen of my rooming house in Edinburgh, talking about culture and politics, and, for some reason, Poland.

However, being a poor student, a busy student and a lazy American cook, I mostly stuck to making sandwiches based on what I saw the other students eating and what I saw on telly.

Here, finally, are two of my favorite British sandwiches:

Pub Pickle and Cheese

2 slices toasted white bread (I had a hard time finding wheat bread in Edinburgh, strangely enough)
2 slices cheddar or Red Leicester cheese
Branston's Pub Pickle to taste (do NOT use American-style pickle, pub pickle is a totally different animal, you can get it in the specialty aisle of just about any big chain grocery store)

Assemble sandwich.  Consume while hurriedly studying Man Makes Himself for your Archaeolgical Theory paper.

Cucumber Sandwich 

1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
2 slices white bread

Assemble sandwich.  Consume while leisurely reading Hello! magazine.  (Paper? What paper?)

A Fussy Meat-Lover Embraces Vegetarianism

The below was written by guest blogger Eric Cheung

Yesterday, July 7th, was the six month anniversary of my last meal with meat in it.  I ate a heaping take out container of teriyaki chicken in the food court of The Corner Mall in Downtown Crossing, Boston.  I intended to fill up because I was going straight from work, upstairs at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, to a theatre gig in South Boston, as a sound tech for Actors Shakespeare Project's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.  And just like that I said goodbye to meat.

One of the most common assumptions about my decision is that it was somehow Mary Beth's decision, or at least that there was some undue cajoling on her part to coerce me away from my rightful place atop the food chain.  No, this decision was mine alone.  I say this as someone who likes the taste of meat, yet does not miss it.

Though I've been cold turkey since January 7th, it hardly feels like such an immediate transition.  I've never been one to buy meat in grocery stores very often, so most of my meat-eating centered around going out to eat or just grabbing a quick bit of take out--my last meaty meal seems all the more appropriate.  I would usually have a favorite hot dog (which must show some signs of charring, and stuck in a New England-style bun, which has been toasted and buttered), I'd have a favorite cheeseburger (medium-well and should not taste like a big corporate chain), and many other kinds of meats.  But my family has a history of high-cholesterol, I have a heart condition, and I really do believe that animals in most commercial facilities are treated in an absolutely abhorrent manner.  It was time to put my vegetables where my mouth was.

So let me first tackle the first of these points, which leads to the next question I get about my new-found vegetarianism: You're doing this for your health?  Won't you be deficient in protein, iron, Vitamin B-12, et cetera?

Protein is certainly not a problem for me.  Since at least early last  year, I've been big fan of some of the meat analogues available, primarily Morningstar's fake chicken and sausages (when you think about it, a sausage is primarily texture and spices; you're not tasting meat per se, so it's not much of a leap to start with meat-free sausages).  In addition to that, I've recently tried their beef analogue, and it's virtually indistinguishable from real hamburgers.  These products are fascinating to me because they remind me of how much more mainstream vegetarianism has become in the past several years, and because if we can manufacture food this realistic, then perhaps the Star Trek food replicators are not far behind.

But aside from trying to hold onto my meaty tastes, I've found that I like eating lots of beans, tofu or bean curd, and nuts.  I also enjoy spinach and drink milk and orange juice.

As for the second point, the welfare of the animals, I must concede some points here.  The precise type of vegetarianism to which I currently subscribe is pescatarian ovo-lacto vegetarianism, I do eat eggs, fish, and dairy.  Before January 7th, I did not eat fish, but I've found that when dining in some restaurants that aren't vegetarian friendly the compromise has become an etiquettal necessity (Ironically, vegetarianism has helped me broaden my palette, as I've always been quite fussy).

Dining out has changed only slightly.  I now find my favorite restaurant type to be Indian.  I describe it to the skeptical as "beef stew without the beef."  Though I've eaten Indian food for years, this phrase to me evokes the hearty and filling nature of the food.  There are a lot of potatoes, basmati rice, spinach, and delicious gravies and sauces.  I've also eaten more Thai and Chinese food, even an attempt at seeing what meat-free delights awaited me at China Pearl's Sunday dim sum!

The plan is to stick with this for the foreseeable future.  I see no reason to stop.  In this time, perhaps I'll try to challenge my taste buds, and maybe eventually discard fish, eggs, and dairy and go vegan (assuming I can find appropriate substitutes).  Whatever anyone can do to reduce or eliminate meat intake will do wonders for their cholesterol and their conscience.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fake Meat, and A Baked Burrito Recipe

Happy Fourth of July! 
Later today, Eric and I are heading to my aunt's and uncles for a barbecue.  Barbecue presents many challenges for vegetarians, as there is always the danger that you will find nothing to eat except salad.  My way of politely combating that is to bring a vegetarian dish, or even just a package of frozen veggie burgers if you're really well acquainted with the hosts, to the barbecue.

Here's a possible vegetarian barbecue dish using fake meat.  Now, I don't want to advertise, so take the products I used as recommendations only.  

3 diced tomatoes
1 package of frozen spinach
1 small onion
2tsps of olive oil
1 package of chopped fake sausage (I prefer Morningstar Farms breakfast sausage or Field Roast Mexican Chipotle)
2 lavash wraps
Fry the spinach, onion, and chopped sausage in a skillet until brown.  Wrap in the lavash wraps.  Put the lavash wraps in a pie pan.  Cover with tomato and cheese.  Bake 10 minutes.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


I'm working on a post about fake meat.

There's a big divide, I'm often told, in the vegetarian community: to eat fake meat and thus play into the meat eating one entree and two sides culture, or to not eat fake meat and spend the rest of your life eating casseroles and soups but also not playing into the idea that meat eating, especially the American way of meat eating, is the norm.

Sometimes I really crave fake meat.

I'm also tired of the one entree and two sides culture.  Most cultures eat soups and casseroles. The US is one of the few that MUST eat meat in at least two meals.

It's a hard call.

Something more erudite should be out by the weekend.