Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fairy Mary's Food Fantasies

I haven't written a post with a meandering list in ages and ages.  But for some reason, it struck my fancy that the time had come to do so ... to make a list of goals to encourage acting upon my word of the year - reach - and keep seeking ways to expand my proverbial horizons.

And so today, in no particular order, I offer a list of various food-related hopes and dreams, experiences I would like to have someday (although some of them will require not just renewal of my passport, but also a 'script to medicate myself into submission to overcome my phobia of flying!):

1. Memphis in May: The World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest is also known as "The Super Bowl of Swine."  To even place in this event is a coup; to win it brings not only prize money but - really, even more importantly - tremendous respect.  I can't see myself competing against people for whom this is truly a life's passion; I don't even own a grill, though I plan to remedy that personal deficit this summer.  Instead, I want to just eat my way through it and experience the joy of - and devotion to - a culinary art form: meeting the contestants, sampling entries and voting for People's Choice Award, touring the grilling stations, and relishing the celebration.

2. Although I've lived in Michigan since 1978, I have never stood in one of the very long lines at a Polish bakery in Hamtramck on Pączki Day (the day before Ash Wednesday).  I want to schmooze with my fellow devotees as we huddle in the cold before being rewarded with freshly-fried pączki [POONCH-key] once reaching the front of the line. Here's a video that shows the camaraderie and anticipation as happy, hungry folks wait for what is so much more than just a glorified jelly doughnut. I need to do this next year!

3. I want to eat my way through Italy, learning about the idiosyncracies and trademarks of the regional cuisines.  The Italians take these things very seriously - there are even laws enforcing production standards and places of origin in order for certain foods to be labelled by particular names.  (For example, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese can only officially be called such if it is produced in the provinces of Parma or Reggio-Emilia or their immediate surroundings.) There is no such thing, in Italy, as "Italian food."  Items are localized to regions and even to cities, with pride at the heart of it all.

4. I would love to win a James Beard Award, considered the Oscars of the food world - sheesh, even a nomination would thrill me!  I don't see it happening - I'm not a chef, I'm not a sommelier, I haven't published a cookbook.  Sure, there's a category for "Best Food Blog;" but I do this part-time and don't have the resources to create anything substantial or impressive enough to garner Beard-worthy attention.  There is a category for "Best Personal Essay," as well as the M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award; but these aren't meant to cover flaky chicks who blather about $5 Frugal Floozie Friday deals or cling peaches in heavy syrup. Maybe I'll finagle and schmooze my way into these venues some day!  A girl can dream ... :)

5. Morocco has long sung its Siren song to me, and I would love to shop in the souks (open air markets), taking in all the colors, fragrances, sounds, tastes ... it would be an entire sensory experience.  Moroccan cuisine is one of my favorites - tagines, spices, fruits, salads, pastries, mint tea (I have my own set of the special tea glasses) ... all of it calls to me.  There is so much more than just the couscous that many people know of!  I need to cook some Moroccan food ... it's been too long ....

6. How extraordinary would it be to have dinner at Alinea in Chicago, to be amazed by the transformation of ingredients that culinary magician (and James Beard Award winner) Grant Achatz and his staff performs???  Just click on this link and gasp at the sheer beauty of the gorgeous photos - these dishes are artworks, not merely sustenance.  Achatz is one of the leaders in the poorly named Molecular Gastronomy movement, which involves scientific and technological techniques that go far beyond just "cooking" foods.  Instead, they are altered and become both unfamiliar and yet, once touching the tongue, recognizable as each item's unique essence shines through.  I'm not quite certain that I would even know how to approach some of the plates!  But a meal at this exceptional restaurant would be, truly, a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I would so love to indulge in.

7. It would be a tremendous challenge to be the cook for the winter-over staff at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Research Station.  From February through October, it is desperately cold (on average, -100F); travel to-and-from the continent is virtually impossible, so once you're there you're committed to the extreme 24-hour darkness.  Summer is the more crowded season, with numerous projects and greater staffing needs, but some work continues through the winter.  A unique community forms among those who think it is reasonable to live cooped up in the facility for 6 months dependent upon each other, despite these being independent-minded folks who would otherwise think it was ludicrous to abandon loved ones and life as they used to know it for this adventure!  Supplies are very carefully and cautiously purchased and shipped to the Pole, and what you've got is what you work with; thus, as kitchen staff, you'd try to provide nutrition and variety while simultaneously not being able to run to the market to buy ingredients to satisfy cravings or replenish the pantry when it's running low.  My "Chopped" Challenge was nothin' compared to this!

8. And finally, I would adore an opportunity to go on a food-fanatics' road trip with my best-est blogging buddies, so we can all finally get together and celebrate food, fun, and our fabulous selves!  Touring the country, eating our way through large cities and small towns, cementing life-long friendships as we learned about each other's favorite family recipes and legendary hometown restaurants ... how amazing would that be???

If I really were a fairy godmother - my Purim costume for this year - I would wave my beribboned pink wand and make all these wishes come true!  Unfortunately, I have no powers.  And in the picture above you can't even see the glitter that sparkled in my hair; and my gold-bedazzled wings were blowing around in the breeze ... oy.  Many people told me I'm the only one they know who could pull off wearing wings and a tiara, that this outfit was very "me."  I'm happily taking that as a compliment!  A girl's gotta have a sense of humor and whimsy ... :)

I don't normally post on weekends, but this girl who's one-quarter Irish is, indeed, aware that Saturday is St. Paddy's Day.  (I'll be happily and excitedly judging the Brisket Bake-off at Temple Beth Emeth that evening; but I'll wear green, and they're also serving that Irish staple - potatoes!) So, a few days early, here are some Irish-themed recipes for your upcoming festivities:

Irish Soda Bread

Banbury Cakes

Chocolate Guinness Cake

For today's recipe - Cipollini in Agrododolce alla Romana (Roman-Style Sweet-and-Sour Onions) for the Ides of March - go to the Food and Grocery page of ....


Mary Sullivan Frasier said...

Well, Mary... I'm thinking you must have reached into my beleagured brain for some of those wishes of yours. (Not the South Pole thingy, though. BRRR!)

I would personally give you a Beard award, if I could. You are a woman of so very many culinary (and other varied) talents.

All in all, if I could... I would grant every one of them. And I looovve your tiara and your wings. Who in the world wants a fairy without a sense of humor? Not me.

Have a lovely time judging the brisket bake-off at Temple! (who wouldn't love that job!?)& Happy St. Pat's too!


Cranberry Morning said...

LOVE that photo, Mary. :-) And the way you talk about eating your way through a city makes me envision a little pac man, devouring all the culinary delights in one location before munching on to another. I'm with you on the Morocco trip, but count me out on the South Pole adventure. No food or cooking experience could lure me there. Will Jenn be at the Memphis cookout with her grill?

Andrea the Kitchen Witch said...

#8 is the best wish of all!!! Ok 1-7 are pretty rockin' as well :) I love the photo of you, you're so pretty Mary!! I adore the fairy outfit, totally Mary :)

May all your wishes come true!

Neil Gallagher said...

Hey there...

I was doing some research for this years MIM contest and came across your post. Lucky you!

We can help you with #1.

If you get down to the contest, stop by my team's booth, I'll make sure you leave the booth with a belly full of sweet succulent smoked swine, plus all the fixin's of course.

As you may or may not know all the team booths at the WCBCC are private parties. Health Dept regulations prevent us teams from selling or giving bbq to spectators...only to the team members and guests invited into our booths. With over 100,000 people attending, drop me a line if you plan on coming, I will add you to our door list, yes we have a list ;-)

Neil Gallagher
Too Sauced To Pork Championship BBQ Team

WlZ said...

To Fairy Mary from Wendy the good lil' witch -- MAY ALL YOUR WISHES COME TRUE!

Cindy @ Once Upon a Loaf said...

I love that picture of you! And now you have my mind spinning...and what rubbish in the James Beard section! You so totally can be nominated AND win. :)

Candace said...

I love the photo of you, Mary. This was a wonderful post. I really enjoyed reading about your dreams. David and I have been to Memphis alot and have always wanted to attend Memphis in May. It would be absolutely amazing. Just like that road trip we've been dreaming about for awhile now. Someday. That just needs to happen!

Robin said...

I don't think it was ever reasonable or ever even looked achievable to anyone from the outside....pretty much everyone who reached high for a dream was doing everyone said couldn't be done. It is why they appear so amazing to the rest of us. They did what appeared to be impossible. Using limited resources they made what should have been impossible possible. You can't factor out the human spirit. It is what makes people extraordinary. So, don't count yourself. You have an amazing spirit.

Chris said...

Ha too ironic.

I am cooking MIM for the first time this year. I'll be cooking the "anything but" category with Robyn and Eddie Medlin for.....Neil's team! How funny is it that he found your site?

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