Recently I've been writing an assignment which is basically to review a cookbook.  After going through many, many choices which are still scattered around my bedroom I decided on The Whole Beast by Fergus Henderson.  I love this book, and I love the way of eating that it promotes.  Eating the entire animal, especially all the funny bits and offal. 

I will post the cookbook review here, after its been edited by my instructor.  But my thought is, and I would love to get some of your opinions, that I will try and replicate what has already been done by the famous Julie and Julia blog and cook everything in the book.   The techniques in the book range from advanced to fairly simple, and I think the true challenge is going to be getting my hands on all of the special bits of animal that are needed to make these recipes.  I will document my adventure here, and post pictures of my creations, for better or worse.

I would love to hear any and all of your thoughts about this project, so please feel free.

 
 

Easter brunch was a fresh ham, although Bunny (my Uncle) was very close to making both a leg of lamb and a cured ham.  And my Mum had to be physically restrained when she saw whole suckling pigs at her pig farmer's stall at the St. Lawrence Market.  Easter brunch was lovely, saw two of my siblings, two nephews and a niece.  I made my youngest nephew cry, I was assured he was just tired.

My Canadian friends made sure that we were all tender Easter morning by hosting a birthday party (Becky!) the evening before.  Complete with my dear friend Adam, aka DJ Opkode, spinning a great set in drag.  We were all very quiet while Mum was pouring us our Bloody Caesar's Sunday morning.

I've been back in Boston since Monday afternoon, when I met with my thesis adviser who thinks I'm making good progress with my research.  Right now I am working on historic newspaper coverage of the oyster wars, as well as looking at the laws that were created surrounding the oyster industry in late 1800's.  Judging by the newspapers and some other texts I've read, oyster farmers (or oystermen) were considered a fairly rough group of people.  This was a reputation that held true for both legal oyster farmers and illegal oyster dredgers.  The media actually dubed the illegal oyster dredgers "oyster pirates" making them menacing but also romanticizing oysters and oyster culture.

Oysters as a food are sexy and a little dangerous.  There is very little intent in the life of an oyster, therefore humanity has projected these traits onto this bivalve.  Oysters are not like the apple (Christianity's favorite vaginal place holder) brightly coloured with a sweet taste and pleasing curves.  Oysters are more menacing, even sinister.  They are hard and nubbly gray, vaguely rock-like.  In order to eat them you must pry them open with a dull knife.  After opening them you must possess the character to place this half alive creature into your mouth, chew and swallow it.  The reward?  Mild salty, briny flavour. A little sweetness.  And  undeniable ocean wateriness.  The conquest associated with prying open an oyster shell with the hard exterior and quivering slimy interior have undeniable associations.  But unlike the apple, which seems initially more appealing, the more challenging oyster yields a greater  overall satisfaction. 

Why is it then that oyster farmers are associated with danger, romance and a certain machismo, while apple farmers enjoy no such reputation?  Is it as simple a matter of water versus land?  Crab fishermen get big TV deals while tomato farmers get mentioned in news only when an outbreak of salmonella brings them to the forefront. 

There is nothing sexy about salmonella.

 
 

It's almost Easter, and I'll be going back up to Canada to spend it with my Mum, Uncle and Grannie.  Not to mention my wonderful Canadian friends.  Speaking to a friend here  in MA last night the topic of what we were going to eat came up.  I answered that I wasn't sure but either ham or lamb.

I was struck by how different those two meats are.  Considering Easter seems intrinsically linked to Passover  it's funny that one of the traditional meats consumed during this holiday is not kosher.  It's almost as if there is an intent behind eating ham, "it's our holiday, and you can't participate", defining the Easter feast by isolating it from
Passover by making the traditional meal very NOT kosher.   Conversely the eating of lamb at either Easter or Passover is linked directly to the Old Testament, killing the lamb and spreading it's blood over your door so that the first born son is spared.   Seems that the more correct meal would be lamb.  But I'm still haunted by where the ham came from.   My first thought was that it's a British tradition, why I feel that way I'm not sure.  The Brits do like their lamb as well.

There are many food scholars that look specifically at religious eating habits, and how they've evolved.  It would be interesting to see what they say about the Easter Ham, is it a way to separate the Christians from the Jews?  Or is it just that ham is delicious and any excuse to break out a lovely moist ham is a good one.

 
 

Thinking about the banh mi.  It's interesting to think about the history that landed this sandwich in Allston MA.  France colonized Vietnam in the mid-nineteenth century, and that colonization lead to my sandwich.  During the French colonization the Vietnamese embraced (or maybe more accurately were forced to adapt to) parts of French cuisine. Most deliciously baguette's which they now make with a combination of rice flour and wheat, and pate's.  The banh mi is a direct result of the French colonial occupation of Vietnam, not to mention the complicated path this sandwich took the US.

The paths that foods take (immigration, colonization etc) to get to their current whereabouts say things not only about their origins, but also about their authenticity.  Is a banh mi sandwich eaten in Massachusetts less authentic then a banh mi eaten in Hanoi?

Another example, my Grannie makes an apple pie with nutmeg and teaches the recipe to my Mum.  Mum who favors cinnamon replaces the nutmeg and then teaches the pie to me.  I prefer a lard crust to a butter crust so I change the piecrust.  Is this still my Grannies pie?

 

Banh Mi

04/02/2009

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In true form my first post is about lunch.  Since I'm working mornings during the week I often day dream about lunch.  Yesterday I discovered the banh mi at Pho Viet at the Super 88 Food Court in Allson.  For 3.25$ it was a great find for my budget.

Also, I discovered that for a food court it's remarkably hard to get a meal for under 6$.