The Webster-Merriam Dictionary defines feast as “something that gives unusual or abundant enjoyment." Here we mean for it to encompass all facets of our daily experience, from eating, to working, to sitting on the porch. So with that, you are invited to join our cyber-table. We hope you enjoy the feast!

18 February 2010

Claudio Corallo Chocolate

This past weekend was Valentine’s Day, and as commercial as it sometimes feels, it is a valiant holiday in that it reminds us all to take time out of our lives to be romantic and indulge in the love around us. Another beautiful aspect about this holiday is its focus on chocolate. Chocolate is known for containing phenylethylaming (PEA), the same chemical that is produced in your body when you are in love. Thus, it is no coincidence that V-day and chocolate go hand in hand.

In celebration of the day I took a trip to a small Chocolate Boutique located in Berkeley’s gourmet ghetto called Alegio Chocolate where I was introduced to a special chocolate- said to be the best in the world. The chocolate is made by Claudio Corallo on the Plantacao De Terriero Velho in a small African Island Country called Sao Tome e Principe. It is unique for many reasons. For one, Claudio Corallo spent his adult life searching for the perfect cocoa bean to use in his chocolate. Even before he found the bean he dedicated himself to producing the highest quality chocolate. Then, when he eventually did find the bean he was looking for, he continued to refine his production techniques, meticulously attending to every detail in the process from growing the plants, to harvesting the beans, to melting and storing the chocolate. Through his experience Claudio Corallo has developed unique methods of processing cocoa beans so as to create the richest and most flavorful chocolate he can muster.

16 February 2010

Eggs, Part VI

I am now working in the culinary archives of U of M's Clements Library two days a week. My first project is to write a piece for the online resource guide summarizing and providing insight into the materials the library has that are relevant to food and gender. The idea is that a student or other interested party can come online and easily assess what the library has to offer through exploration of these items by broader topics instead of just hundreds and hundreds of book titles.
Yesterday I came across a silly little book called Lew Lehr's Cookbook for Men. The book has a bright green cover with a goofy cartoon chef guy on the front. It was written in 1949. The book jacket makes references to the adventurous spirit of the male, and how ladies' cookbooks are "too prim and exact for the real he-man."
Originally, I thought the book would be incredibly biased, drawing a bold line between bored and proper housewives, and making fun of them in turn. And while there existed some cartoon sketches worthy of my millennium-perspectived eye roll, I actually found the book to be quite refreshing! Lew acknowledged the great cooks before him (his mother and grandmother, primarily), and paid his respects to the women who left the kitchen during the war. I found the book to be a kind of invitation for men across America (he nods his head at expert male European Chefdom) to wander into the kitchen and try their hands at cooking.

The recipes are simply written, with no more than 8 or so ingredients and scarcely more than a paragraph of method. The author claims no expertise; this chef simply wants to make the most of what's around. Ingredients often include such things as liver, bacon, bacon fat, gravy, sausage, meat—things that a person minding their weight would likely scoff at, but for which I have nothing but a stomach-grumbling grin.

I stumbled upon this recipe, one of four listed in the "Egg" section of his book. I think it is probably meant to be made using leftover mashed potatoes, as he gave no instructions for how to prepare the potatoes themselves. I committed the recipe only to memory, and have written here it in the style that Lou writes. I hope you enjoy this manly procedure!

Eggs for Men
based on a recipe by Lew Lehr

Grease a flat baking dish. Intersperse large scoops of mashed potatoes across the baking dish and, using the back of a soup spoon, press down into the center of each scoop of potato to create a basin. Crumble bacon into the basins, and season with salt, pepper, a dot of butter and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. Finally, crack an egg into the center of each basin. Bake at 350º for 15-20 minutes, or until the eggs are set.

12 February 2010

Love Letter

And after all this time I have yet to properly introduce Jen. Not for lack of wanting. So many times I have sat down to write her description and fallen short. It’s just that, I’ve found it impossible to put her into words. Her personality is best understood through the feelings she inspires and projects. It’s also been difficult because every time I try to write about Jen it comes out sounding like I am in love with my best friend, which I am, in an ‘I want to blog with you for the rest of my life’ kind of way.

To help you understand why Jen is so special I’ll give you an example from one of our most recent trips to Zingerman's Roadhouse. We had just been seated and were mulling over the menu when our server came to the table to inquire if we’d like anything to drink. We were both uncertain at the moment. So, in the way that she does, Jen locked eyes with the waitress and explained, politely and genuinely, that we were not yet sure what we wanted. Our server had heard this a million times before, but something about the way Jen said it this time- the respect, compassion, and honesty she conveyed- motivated our server to make the decision for us. She surprised us minutes later with two complementary cups of steaming hot chocolate topped with Zingerman’s Bakehouse marshmallows and freshly whipped Calder Dairy cream.

09 February 2010


Last weekend was my first night out in the city. Some friends invited me to go see a band called Geographer at a bar downtown. Geographer is a group of three, very friendly dudes. While on stage, they smiled bashfully at the hollering mass of hipsters in front of them. They even joined the party and danced with the crowed once they were finished performing. They seemed young, like puppies, and they were incredibly talented.

Their music is classified as indie rock. It is a combination of string instruments, electronic wanderings, vocals, and drums. Listening to them is like driving down a country highway while it’s raining but the sun is out and at any moment a rainbow is going to appear in the sky. As you drive you pass by a sprawling wind-farm against the backdrop of bright green grassy fields where huge white turbines are slowly spinning in staggering yet graceful harmony. As you approach the farm you are mesmerized by the enormity and power of these beautiful electronic beasts and realize that they are actually going remarkably fast. Underneath them black and white spotted cows are grazing on the big open field. One of the cows looks up at you and follows your passing car with his bulbous black eyes as he chews slowly on a mouthful of grass. You are suddenly struck by the contrast and complexity of all the moving parts in the world.

Check out Geographer on their MySpace page.
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07 February 2010

Eggs, Part V

     In the fall of the year in Northern Michigan residents prepare for the winter. Apples and pears are plucked from their orchards and stored in a cool place for applesauce making and pie baking. Seafarers winterize their boats, and shopkeepers reduce their extended summer hours to a thrifty minimal few. The leaves on the trees change from green to red, orange, brown and gold as the farmers prepare for their harvest. Hunters abound clothed from head to toe in wooly warm camouflage with a flare of blaze orange across their chests or atop their heads.     
     If you drive through the Upper Peninsula this time of year, nary a few miles pass by before you see some little shack or roadside stand that boasts it sells the best pasties in the land. This hunters’ early morning breakfast and classic coal miners’ lunch has become the favorite warming dinner of a city dweller like me. I grew up with a father who hunted deer every fall and a mother who made pasties for him to take along. I can remember the buttery crumble of the crust as I took a big first bite, and the warm, hearty comfort of meat and potatoes as I ate my way into a gentle food coma.
     So, what does this have to do with eggs? One of the most simple ways to use an egg is in an egg wash. An egg wash is used to help bind things together, to seal the surface of something or to make things more delicious-looking. My mother’s recipe for these tasty single-serving meat-filled pastries requires egg only on the outside, lightly brushed on for sheen and color—pure looks, really. If you want your pies and pastries to look as appetizing as they’ll taste, then beat together 1 egg with 1 egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of water and brush it on.

To compare the look of an egg washed pasty and a non-washed pasty, check out the picture below (egg wash on the left).

Michigander Pasties, a recipe

05 February 2010

On Antioxidants

Do you ever wonder why freshly cut apples turn brown if you leave them sitting on the counter too long, or why spritsing lemon juice on avocado helps it stay green longer, or why some people, as they grow older, maintain a look of youth and vitality? These things are all related to a magical little molecule called the antioxidant.

I once had a professor describe antioxidant in terms of a playground full of kids holding toys, each kid representing a molecule in the body. Now imagine the happy kids enjoying their toys, when along comes a bully (oxygen) who steals the toy away from a kid leaving him crying and alone. The antioxidant is the friendly girl who sees what happened and gives up her own toy to make the crying child happy again. In this way, antioxidants are a precious and altruistic ally to the molecules of our bodies. They have the ability to protect us from the ever-present oxidants that we encounter from day to day.

04 February 2010

Eggs, Part IV

     Eggs are a complex little entity with a versatility unmatched by any other ingredient. Their yolks are used as emulsifying or thickening agents, as in mayonnaise and dressings, Hollandaise sauce and all kinds of desserts, from a traditional Italian zabaglione to a classic French crème brulee. Their whites are utilized especially for the fluffy, airiness they possess when beaten, as in meringue and Swiss buttercream frosting. When combined, its safe to say that the possibilities for egg usage are innumerable (or at least, not worth spending your life trying to count).
     Humans like to eat the eggs of other species. But most kinds of eggs aren't easily accessible from a regular grocery store or Farmer's Market and are seen as delicacies, like quail and duck eggs, caviar and roe. So we stick to the eggs from our beloved friend, the hen.

Figure 1A.
     A chicken egg is made up of many small parts. (see Figure 1A.) The outer shell is slightly porous, and made primarily of calcium carbonate (CaCO3), the main component in pearls and sea shells (evolution, anyone?). The eggshell also has an outer and inner protective lining, like a little eggy sleeping bag. Aww. Eggs come in many shapes and sizes—and even colors! The color varies depending on the breed of the animal, and can range from brown to pink, white, yellow, green, and blue! (see Figure 1B.)
     The white part of the egg is called the albumen, and there are technically a couple of layers of this even though it looks like one clear mass. The albumen is almost all protein (with some trace minerals) and is made up of about 90% water.
     The pretty yellowish-orange part of the egg is the yolk, aka. vitellus. The vitellus contains fat, cholesterol, vitamins and minerals, protein and lecithin (an emulsifier).

Figure 1B.
     Beyond these commonly known parts of the egg, there also exists the chalazae cords, clear-whitish strands connecting from the inner lining of the shell to the outer lining of the yolk and acting as elastic-like bands that keep the yolk centered comfortably within the egg. There are a few other thin linings and layers around the yolk, and also, of course, the nucleus where the little DNA message from the chicken is stored.
     I think the recipes that do eggs the most justice and really highlight their special diverse gifts are the recipes that use different parts of the egg throughout different parts of the recipe, like in soufflé, Eggs Benedict and Lemon Meringue Pie. Another favorite is the enamored Italian Timpano, a dish fit for kings, containing hard-boiled eggs, raw, beaten eggs, and eggs in its dough, all wrapped up like a drum. (see Figures 2A. and 2B.

Figure 2A.                                                                                                                                                                                              


Figure 2B.
A special thanks to The Joy of Cooking* and my good friend Monsieur Wikipedia for enlightening me about some of this eggy stuff. The anatomy of an egg diagram is based on a diagram featured in Wikipedia in the category of "Egg (Food)."
*Rombauer, Irma S., Becker, Marion Rombauer, and Becker, Ethan. The All New Joy of Cooking. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997.
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03 February 2010

Eggs, Part III

     This is my all-time favorite way to prepare eggs. I was introduced to this dish by Matt and Kelly when my husband and I went over to their house for brunch one morning. From the moment I took that first bite—and every bite thereafter—I was absolutely spellbound! I had never tasted anything so smooth and creamy, rich and fulfilling. 
     This preparation gives the eggs a soft, supple texture that, when combined with the cream, becomes the ultimate comfort food. These eggs are versatile: we love them on a cold winter morning, served with sausage and toast, in the spring served with fresh greens or asparagus, or as a quick late-night dinner alongside leftover black beans and rice. Enjoy!  

Eggs in Ramekins

For each ramekin:
1/2 teaspoon butter
2 tablespoons whipping cream
1 large egg
Fresh herbs
Lemon zest
Sea salt, pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Butter the ramekin, saving a bit for later.  Add 1 tablespoon of cream and crack the egg on top.  Pour the remaining tablespoon of cream over the egg and top with a dot of butter.  Garnish with a bit of lemon zest, fresh herbs and freshly ground black pepper.  Place the ramekin in a tray of water, approximately 3/4 inch deep. 

Place the pan in the middle of the oven and bake for 8 -12 minutes.  Keep an eye on the eggs—they’ll be done before they look done. They should set, but still tremble a little when you shake the pan.  Season with salt and serve.

*This recipe was adapted from Julia Child's Oeufs en Cocotte recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Knopf, 1961).
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02 February 2010

The Art of Affirmation

When I was in college my mom bought me a kitschy little pack of Gift of the Goddess Affirmation Cards for Christmas. The cards had phrases written on them such as, “I have the power to transform my life”. The idea being that if you repeat the phrases to yourself and affirm them in your mind, they will manifest in reality.

Now, there are those in life who love this type of thing and those who find it to be a hoax. I am learning that whether it is the goddess, the universe, or a neurological process to credit, affirmations are actually a practical strategy for achieving one’s goals. Sports psychologists have shown that athletes who envision their success are more likely to achieve it. This makes sense because once an outcome is in sight it is much easier to move toward. The idea of the affirmation can also be compared to the sketch an artist draws prior to painting on a canvas. As per the affirmation written above, if you envision yourself with the power to transform your life, you are more able to understand how to acquire power and use it to serve your needs.

01 February 2010

Eggs, Part II

     Let's begin from the beginning: where do eggs come from? From the grocery store, right? (haha.) To learn more about chickens and eggs, I interviewed my friend Matt. He and his wife, Kelly, live in Ann Arbor with their baby and a backyard full of hens. The bumper sticker on the back of their car reads: My pet makes me breakfast.
An Interview with Matt

Hi, Matt!


So, what was your motivation for getting chickens?

For fresh eggs and to have local food in my own backyard.

Are they easy to take care of?

Easier than cats.

Do you feel like they’re your pets?


Would you eat them?

No—but we would be okay if somebody else did. We’re of the theory that, if you want to eat it, don’t name it. We have a saying: You can eat chicken, but you can’t eat Mrs. Darcy or Henrietta. (Those are their chickens.)

How often do they lay eggs?