Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Reading,Writing,Eating with MFK Fisher.

Print Friendly and PDF I have spent an extraordinary couple of weeks. I feel as if I had both gone back in time,and met a new friend. I have just finished one of the best books I have ever read. It is an anthology of the American food writer MFK Fisher called:

"The Art of Eating"(
50th Anniversary edition.)

In Her Own Words:

"People ask me: Why do you write about food,and eating and drinking? Why don't you write about the struggle for power and security,and about love,the way others do?"
"When I write about hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth, and the love of it...and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied." MFK Fisher.

The Historical Perspective:

This book is a compilation of her books and essays starting in 1939,and continuing to well after WWII. The early writing deals with issues that I have never had to face in my lifetime,such as food rationing and shortages of electricity and heat. Some of the chapters deal with things such as how to cook in a bomb shelter, a chapter that she referred to as being as obsolete as a chapter on treating 'javelin wounds'after revisiting it a decade after it was written. More than one chapter discusses what options you have when you can't find enough food to eat. Her sense of humour masks the irony of being a 'food writer' during this period. One of my favorite essays is entitled:

"How to be Cheerful Though Starving."

"Of course it takes a certain amount of naive wit to cope gracefully with the problem of having the wolf camp with apparent permanency on your doorstep. That can be a wearing thing,and even the pretense of ignoring his presence has a kind of dangerous monotony about it." MFK Fisher.

Introduction to Food Writing:

I can't tell you how much this woman's writing resonated with me. The way she described meals and experiences involving food made me feel as if It was actually MY memory and that we had somehow experienced everything together. I loved the stories about her childhood spent in California learning to love food and learning to cook. I loved the stories about her frequent trips to Europe with her first husband,then her great love,and how much her life changed after his death. I simply could not put this book down. It was a full seven hundred and thirty three pages long...and for the first time in my life, once I read the last page,I found myself a pen and paper and started writing down passages that I not only wanted to read again...but I wanted to read aloud! Another surprising thing for me was that one sentence was not enough. Her writing flowed with such beauty and rhythm I found myself writing out her complete thought, sometimes 6 or 7 sentences,as the only way to thoroughly fix the picture in my mind.

May I Share?:

I am going to write my next few blog posts as an homage to Fisher's gorgeous food writing. I haven't stopped cooking or eating...but I need to share her words with you. I hope you enjoy,and I would love it if you were to leave a comment.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Happy Hour:"Redefined" at Barolo-Seattle Wa.

Print Friendly and PDF As a Canadian,I am mostly' unfamiliar with the concept of Happy Hour. I know that the concept relies on the idea of 'special' drinks and sometimes greasy bar snacks being 1/2 price. Everything I thought I knew about Happy Hour went out the window...when my husband and I had the good fortune to wander into Barolo Ristorante.

Tired and Hungry.

My husband and I had left home at 5 something in the morning to supposedly get the jump on the border lineup, and ended up sitting there for over an hour. By the time we arrived in Seattle, we were starved. We ate a huge breakfast and threw ourselves right into shopping. By the time our stomachs started rumbling and we got checked into our hotel, we were desperate for a place to sit down and have a nice late lunch. The concierge at our hotel recommended we check out the Happy Hour at Barolo Ristorante.

A Very Happy Place.

It was a little after 4 in the afternoon,and the snug,stylish bar at Barolo was almost full. The restaurant is a real beauty, and the bar area is cozy in a friendly European way. The place smelled great, like garlic and olive oil, and that made me feel even hungrier. We asked the server what the happy hour was all about.She handed us a menu, and told us that all the food items listed on the left hand side of the menu, plus a few bottles of wine were 1/2 price, and if we wanted a glass of wine it would be $3.50!

The Main Event.

Everyone around us looked like they were having a great time. Even at this early hour,there were 3 or 4 servers and a bartender all buzzing around. It certainly didn't feel like 4pm. The menu also didn't look like a Happy Hour creation. In fact it was the restaurant's regular menu. The portions were also regular size. At first glance, there wasn't anything I wouldn't have ordered! After much deliberation we decided on:

Grilled calamari with olive oil,chili and lemon.
a mixed antipasto platter with eggplant,salami,olives,roasted red pepper and cheese.
Rigatoni with meat sauce.
A bottle of crisp white Pinot Grigio,plus an extra 2 glasses
Our total was $51.15 including tax.

We went back again the next night, and tried some of the other simple and delicious selections...Spaghetti with calamari, a truly delicious cheese plate, and a huge platter of some of the most melt in your mouth prosciutto I have ever had.


The 2 meals(this was not plates of Happy Hour snacks)I had at Barolo Ristorante were 2 of the best I have ever eaten anywhere. I must have told 50 people about them when I returned home. I believe that the value I received enhanced the experience...but certainly did not overshadow the beauty of the room, the quality of the service, or the taste of the food and wine. We live in a world where usually,when something is too good to be true,it is. Not this place.

Barolo Ristorante is my new happy place...at any hour.

Barolo Ristorante
1940 Westlake Ave.
Seattle,WA 98101
Happy Hour is Daily: 3 to 6:30 and 10 pm to close

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A 'Chic' Pea Salad

Print Friendly and PDF Summer has FINALLY come to the rainy West Coast! To some people, summer means BBQ,to me it means fresh,crisp vegetables,not turning on the oven,and lunch on the patio...any patio.

Garbanzo beans/Chickpeas

I am a huge fan of these delicious beans. I like them in hot dishes,and in cold salads. I have never boiled them from dry I prefer the convenience of a can. I have tried a few different varieties, and according to my particular palate,they are all identical. A veritable blank slate! I created this salad when a lovely bunch of ripe,juicy tomatoes on the vine arrived in my weekly fresh produce box, courtesy of SPUD.

Chickpea and Tomato Salad

1 19 oz can of chick peas, drained and rinsed.
1 large ripe tomato, cut into cubes
1 stalk of celery, finely sliced
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon fresh parsley,finely chopped
dash of ground cumin/paprika

Mix all ingredients together and let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. Taste again, and re-season if necessary. You may need to add more salt, or vinegar, depending on the flavour/acidity of the tomato. You can also buy chick peas with no salt added, and may need more cumin or vinegar to balance out the flavours.
Once the salad tastes good to you, either serve immediately, or refrigerate. Be sure to bring salad to room temperature before serving, and always taste,and adjust...perhaps adding more fresh parsley.

The P-Man and I ate our salad with a couple of cold leftover chicken drumsticks,and a nice glass of chilled Sauvignon Blanc. It was wonderful...and even better the next day for lunch on a bed of freshly picked mixed greens.

Let the 'dog days' begin