Monday, August 29, 2011

op ed

Bourdain: Always cracks me up. He’s a bitter old line cook who eats crazy food around the world. His latest hijinx, when asked, “who’s the worst food network chef,” involved a monologue debasing mogul Paula Deen, for her [terrible food and encouragement of US obesity], in short.

US Obesity: The debate of fault reminds me of the tragedy of Columbine and the blame placed on Marilyn Manson. If L&O SVU has taught me anything, it’s the fact that Deen never put the fried chicken in the hands of the obese. I side with the group that says that both Deen and Bourdain are entertainers. Her show, “Paula’s Home Cooking,” is not meant for everyday food, just as eating an 18 course French Laundry meal (also calorie heavy as well as pocketbook breaking) is not meant for everyday food. After working at Williams-Sonoma, one of the main things that I took away is: meat sells. cream sells. Vegetarian, Healthy, Fish accouterments get the nix before they even get tested. Maybe Deen can have an influence on the health of America, and I hope that she tries something to help Americans with food discipline. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? I’m in the mind, though, that it’s not just food we overindulge on (technology, cars, jets, salaries, bigger, faster, greed, sigh).
Bougie Foodies: Ugh. This is something that I actually do not miss, at all, from the Bay Area. It’s like living and working in a land of Monday morning quarterbacks. I think it is wonderful that anyone and everyone who can take time to make meals at home, experiment and share, does. I love seeing facebook photos of what people eat, have made, or blogs about kitchen disasters. But the ‘bougiefoodie’ is a pretty descriptive stereotype of self-made food critics with no culinary background and a subscription to some Michael Pollan newsletter, someone not in “Middle America.”
In the food service industry, most of my staffs have never eaten in a fine dining restaurant, including the one that we work in. In “Medium Raw,” Bourdain takes a butcher from a busy NYC restaurant to dine in the same restaurant, and ponders the class division: how can this man, who works with fish for 8 hours a day, never have the chance to try it? Cooking, albeit with so much fame, to make decent living out of it is tough, especially for people who want to spend time with loved ones. It’s also not all glamorous and sous vide. The USARMY doesn’t even peel their potatoes anymore. How this is outsourced is a different topic entirely, but I mention it just to note that “cooking” requires so many facets, and many of them are not exciting or intellectually challenging.
Living in Nicaragua, there is no competitive food industry, nor a competitive food knowledge non-industry (see: bougiefoodies). It is less complicated for me to balance my home eating, what I cook for clients and what I teach others to cook, all with with simple, organic & clean products and techniques. I am working in small ways, like teaching my staff to cook a great filet mignon, but also, how to give lots of vegetables (definition: produce with a bright color) to load our employee meals with healthy vitamins. Obesity is not a problem here, nor are snotty culinary-know-it-alls. 
2 great things about Paula Deen: #1: her family. She may cook with a ton of butter, but her kids and grandkids are always helping out, which is so heartwarming. Eating light and healthy is important, but the most important ingredient for a meal is love and sharing it, too (see, Carla from Top Chef). This goes for a shaved saffon geleĆ©, or just cooking for friends at a backyard BBQ. #2: Paula Deen’s retort for Bourdain’s comments was just amazing: “[Maybe] someone had just peed in his bowl of cereal that morning and he was mad.”

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Pie For Mikey

huh? Who is Mikey? click here.

Today's blog is inspired by the healing process of Jennie. Jennie is a woman I've never met. She writes a food blog. I've never read it. A friend posted something about her blog on facebook. As it turns out,  her husband, who loves peanut butter pie, recently passed away. There's a quasi-food-blog-movement last week to create this pie in memory of Jennie's late husband, and as a reminder to live in each moment, share your love with others, and enjoy some pie!

I've never made peanut butter pie until today. I've been sharing it with friends, my brother, and coworkers, too. Luckily, it is a natural pairing for Nicaraguan ingredients- I've added some fresh bananas and dark rum to my custard. The real peanut-y flavor comes from the crust, as the custard is a lighter pudding.

Enjoy this pie with loved ones, laughter, and hugs.

Nicaraguan Peanut Butter Pie

Peanut Cookie Crust
1 1/2 cup crushed cookies (I use Galletas Maria)
1 cup crushed peanuts
12 Tbs. butter, melted

Peanut Butter Custard
1 cup peanut butter (chunky)
1 tsp vanilla
1 can of homemade dulce de leche (can sub 1 cup of brown sugar)
1/2 cup sugar
pinch salt
1 Tbs. dark rum
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 eggs
2 cups milk
3 bananas, sliced

1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2.  For the crust, in a medium bowl, combine cookies, peanuts and butter. Press into a 10" round cake pan, creating a cohesive crust long the bottom and sides of the pan.
3. For the custard, combine together peanut butter, vanilla, dulce de leche, sugar, salt, dark rum, cinnamon and eggs. Once combined, stir in 2 cups of milk.
4. Lay bananas in a layer, pressing them into the crust. Pour the custard mixture over the bananas. A few will float to the top, that's fine.
5. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the pie firms and center barely jiggles.
6. Let cool at room temperature for 30 minutes and then move to the refrigerator for 2 hours, or overnight.
7. Serve with a large helping of whipped cream and a big hug.

for the CNN story, click here.
for the facebook group, click here

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

ah, THIS is why.

I get scared, frustrated and nervous living and working in Nicaragua.
  The external stresses are different than what I'd grown accustomed to, but the feelings in me they evoke are the same. All it takes is a few simple moments for me to remember why I do it. Why I do anything, really.

so proud of training team members with great attitudes  (Brenda does not always look so fierce)
a moment to myself with nature.

getting to say, "hey hermano" daily. this reason is the best of all.