Archives for the month of: November, 2015
20988134914_84ff29984e_c

 

@RiseandRender’s photo of their thumbprint cookies – a little flatter and crispier than mine but probably equally as delicious.  Check out their photos of making Ina Garten’s recipe.  World, expect cookie Xmas gifts.

 

This Thanksgiving was probably unlike yours – calm and quiet with almost zero hustle and bustle in the kitchen.  I spent the day making Thumbprint cookies with raspberry/cloudberry jam centers for men at The Sleeping Room (the local men’s shelter in Muncie, IN), before serving them dinner.  The menu: from-the-box stuffing, from-the-can green beans, 2 cans cranberry sauce, a dismantled homemade turkey, Sara Lee pumpkin pie, and cookies (my only genuine contribution).  When we arrived Betty, the mom in a mother-daughter 2-person team of shelter managers, was sorting through the day’s food donations from Feed My Sheep.  What seemed like a bounty to Betty left us confused.  Opening the bags we found the offal of pantry discards: 4 jello snack packs.  A can of black beans.  A package of expired cheesy rice.  A can of kidney beans.  A can of tuna.  A jar of toffee-flavored coffee sweetener.  How do you make breakfast and dinner for 10 men every day with these pantry remnants?  “We are so blessed,” said Betty.  Thankfully the holiday cheer drives a flood of donations, while the rest of the year the shelves dry up.

3fd086_6e54bebd211f4eadac123224a936e46f

 

A snapshot of The Sleeping Room – 10 beds in a studio apartment.  The small kitchen and dining room is just behind the camera on the other side of these beds, while the bathroom with shower is down a small hallway.  Upon entering you relinquish all pocket contents and bags in exchange for a clean set of pajamas to be worn after your shower and dinner.

 

The hour spent there was quick but meaningful.  We returned to spend the evening enjoying the warm weather by our backyard campfire deep in thought over the experiences of our country’s homeless.  What is it like to survive on the streets?  How does involuntary urban camping change your daily habits: when/where to go to the bathroom, what counts as entertainment or dead weight, and what types of behaviors (like sitting on a curb or carrying a book bag) while completely normal for many attract unwanted suspicion and attention?  How long can you survive being homeless?

Most of all, it made us think how completely insufficient this tiny studio apartment-turned shelter for 10 men was to quell the needs of the local homeless.  Elizabeth, a Chicago-area women who recently Airbnb-ed our spare room for a night, told us about her work advocating for Chicago’s homeless population of 140,000.  An estimated 14,000-15,000 men, women, and children each day sleep on the streets of Chicago, yet the city provides only 140 beds for the homeless.  With the high price of real estate in the city, and more and more middle- and upper-middle class professionals paying high rents to gentrify previously poor neighborhoods, there’s no economic incentive to convert Chicago property into shelters.

Homelessness should not be balanced on the backs of people like Betty and Elizabeth alone.  How is homeless everyone’s problem?  And how can the solution be the result of everyone’s work?  So grab a cookie and let’s discuss.

Thumbprint Cookies

 

This is a snapshot of Martha Stewart’s recipe for Thumbprint Cookies, (although I used salted butter and added salt to balance out the sweetness from the raspberry/cloudberry jam).  Eat no less than 3 per day.

 

Advertisements
walla walla

Skip to the bottom for 6 global food recipes from 1950s housewives in Walla Walla.

Meatballs.  I grew up eating small, thumb-sized beef meatballs microwaved from their frozen plastic bag and then dumped into a pot of 2 cans of 99 cent Hunts spaghetti sauce.  After swirling my fork around a lump of store-brand boxed noodles, I stabbed each juicy meat pocket before adding a final dollop of sauce for a perfect bite.  Because a whole bag of frozen meatballs was allotted for a family of five, I had a shot of getting 5-6 meatballs to start me off before grabbing a few more for seconds after the first round. If you were really lucky, there were some leftover store-brand hot dog buns on which we lather Country Crock margarine with our butter knives before sprinkling yellow-dyed garlic salt.  It was heaven.

It's like you're photographing my memories! Hot dog bun garlic bread, straight from my margarine covered fingers.

It’s like you’re photographing my memories! Hot dog bun garlic bread, straight from my margarine covered fingers.  Check out Near to Nothing’s recipe here.

Frozen meatballs!?  Spaghetti sauce from a can!?  Store-brand noodles from a box!?  No actual garlic!?  I hear your criticisms through space and time.  No, I did not cut open real garlic until college.  Although I didn’t really know it then (and didn’t really know what I was missing since my siblings and I mostly just befriended each other), it was the best my mom could do.  Teaching fourth graders from 7-4 PM or later, with three kids plus one adult male child for a husband who worked all day, it was all she could do to make sure we were fed quickly and cheaply so she could get some sleep.  And I don’t regret it.  This version of preserved, hydrogenated, frozen Italian American food has always been my most favorite meal.  Spaghetti and meatballs is the perfect combination of salty and sweet, carb, vegetable, and protein, main course and dessert.  It’s good cold or hot.  It’s quick and wholesome — comfort food fast.

Sam's Club meatballs! With a family of five, you gotta buy them in bulk. Check out this recipe for Swedish Meatballs from Laura's Latest here.

Sam’s Club meatballs! With a family of five, you gotta buy them in bulk. Check out this recipe for Swedish Meatballs from Laura’s Latest here.

Yet meatballs haven’t always been joyous spaghetti speckles of opulence.  At Global Food: Local Perspectives on October 22 at Purdue University, Dr. Simone Cinotto gave an interesting lecture about the myths and realities of Italian American food culture which can be reduced to the transformation of the lowly meatball. Presenting material from his book The Italian American Table, Simone argued that Italian food culture has been mis-remembered as always being rich and plentiful, but that it was instead a post-immigration shift for the majority of Italy’s working-class citizens.  Italians who ventured to the US did so out of economic necessity, often shaking out bread crumbs and clinging pots and pans to create a symphony of cooking for neighbors for meals that never existed.  Working-class Italian families in the US were able to finally afford rich meats, breads, and cheeses in ways they never could in Italy – ultimately producing a dense and diverse Italian American food culture in New York City and beyond.

20150107-italian-american-meatballs-vicky-wasik-29

Check out these gorgeous photos by Vicky Wasik who breaks down a recipe from Serious Eats for the juiciest, tastiest meatballs.

Although spaghetti and meatballs is considered a classic Italian dish (perhaps made most pop culturally famous with Lady and the Tramp), large baseball-sized meatballs of pork, veal, beef, and spices haven’t always been a sign of opulence.  Meatballs were a working-class tool for spreading meat out farther, stretching the cheapest cuts of ground mystery meat by mixing in nearly equal amounts of bread crumbs to make golf-ball sized polpettes.

Oh dear, have I eaten some Ikea meatballs in my lifetime.

Oh dear, have I eaten some Ikea meatballs in my lifetime.

According to John Surico at Serious Eats:

While more wealthy northern Italians tended to move out to central and western states, southern Italians made landfall in downtown Manhattan within proximity of Kleindeutschland, or Little Germany—an enclave of German transplants settled in the Lower East Side, who ran many butcher shops that sold beef and pork. In Italy, those meats were hard to come by in the south, and usually were accompanied by high prices, so a ready supply of more affordable red meat became a gold mine for the growing Italian population…The meatball-as-convenience-food concept grew steadily through the turn of the century, as more and more of New York and the country settled into a standardized eight-hour workday. With a greater percentage of the workforce—male and female—conforming to a 9 to 5 schedule, pre-made dishes like meatballs functioned as a kind of fast food, especially when loaded into a crusty hero loaf. Reliable, recognizable, and reasonably priced, they made for an easy meal with few strings attached. And along the way they solidified the American understanding of what “Italian food” meant.

So, in practice of Global Foods: Local Perspectives, in celebration of the World Series, and in remembrance of all my delicious microwaved food of my youth, here are TWO recipes for meatballs from Walla Walla, Washington in 1950, along with several other delicious globally-inspired fusion recipes from Cold War-era housewives.  Dig in and read Lisa Banu’s coverage of Global Food: Local Perspectives here!  More reflections to come.

World Recipes from pg 17, Walla Walla Union Bulletin October 1, 1950

World Recipes from pg 17, Walla Walla Union Bulletin October 1, 1950