raw and the cooked: taiwanese food in all its glory tomorrow!

1465852_733332440022216_2186114124468236670_oI hope you consider at least one of many fine films in this year’s Cinema Pacific Film Festival, now occurring at the Bijou and other places around town.  I’m particularly interested in Monika Treut’s The Raw and the Cooked: A Culinary Journey through Taiwan, which “artfully documents the pervasive passion for cuisine throughout Taiwan, and delves into the social issues surrounding food production. We witness, for example, the efforts of Taiwan’s young environmental movement to resist the rapid pace of urbanization. Your mind will be provoked, but the film’s radiantly beautiful visuals and jaw-droppingly delectable dishes will ravish your other senses.”

Even better?  The Taiwan Eugene Association will provide tasty Taiwanese treats.  For more info, click click click.

I researched, visited, and wrote about Taiwanese food a few years back. Under fortuitous circumstances, I found myself suddenly in Taipei, surrounded by seafood, stinky tofu, and paparazzi.  It was an engaging and educational trip, one of the strangest and most memorable in my life.  I’m looking forward to learning more about this singular place.  Maybe I’ll see you there.

 

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600 years of recipes – rare books exhibit opens tuesday!

invitation gingerAll my readers are warmly invited to the opening of “Recipe: The Kitchen and Laboratory in the West, 1400-2000,” an exhibition of rare books and ephemera in the collections of the UO Special Collections and University Archives in Knight Library on the U of O campus.

The opening will take place on April 22 from 4:00-5:30 p.m. downstairs in the Browsing Room of Knight Library.  We’ll take tours up to Special Collections at 4:00 and 4:30.  There will be short presentations by Vera’s students in the Honors College, who helped craft the labels for the early part of the exhibit, a presentation by Rebecca Childers’ letterpress students, who made us an accompanying letterpress booklet inspired by botanical illustrations with botanical ink, and me, discussing the curating of the exhibit.  This event is free and open to the public.

The images below are a teaser: one shows the nutritional wheel for bread, bread, bread, and bread, and the other is a hand-colored illustration of wood sorrel, a plant still being served on wildcrafting menus– you might find it in town right now!

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The exhibit covers 600 years of documenting the practice of experimentation — ranging from extraordinary illustrated works cataloging botanical materials for medicines to photographed cakes tracking the effect of baking soda for home economists.  Prof. Vera Keller (Honors College) and I have been working on this for most of the year, and we’ve found some really amazing stuff buried in the archives. You will see a stove invented by Benjamin Franklin and stoves used in queer communes in Southern Oregon, not to mention incredibly rare volumes featuring some of the most beautiful plant images I’ve ever seen; soursop seeds; a jerboa; vegan punk johnnycakes; the infamous blue blazer cocktail; a nude lady; and the bakery that put Eugene on the map with its sanitation practices!

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We’re honored to have the sponsorship of Party Downtown, who will help us celebrate this history with recipes inspired by some of the cookbooks, and Brew Dr. Kombucha, serving Just Ginger kombucha, a brew that already has a strong relationship to the SCUA with proceeds going to the Ken Kesey collection.

Can’t make it to the opening?  The exhibit will be open to the public and free of charge during SCUA’s opening hours through June.

Images are mine, taken from two works in the exhibit: Nicholas Culpeper, Culpeper’s Complete Herbal (London: J. Haddon, 1815), RB 580.1 C899, and Raymond Hertwig, “Bleached White Flour Wholesome,” Vitality Demands Energy: 109 Smart New Ways to Serve Bread (n.p.: General Mills Corp., 1934), Bernice Redington Papers, AX92.3.

 

 

sourdough starter experiments with bonus pancake recipe

IMG_7064IMG_7067This is the book of the generations of sourdough starter. Well, blog post, anyway.

As described earlier, our Bread 101 class is making sourdough as a lab project. If you’re interested in participating or following along, we are making baker Chad Robertson’s rather complex and detailed starter recipe from his book Tartine Book No. 3.  My fellow instructors Elly and Karen are blogging their experiences, too, so check out Elly’s detailed daily blog entries and recipes at We’re Out of Eggs, I’ll Use Asparagus and Karen’s blog musings on fermentation and local cooking at Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market.

The upper right image is my initial starter made with 50/50 Open Oak Farm ‘Maris Widgeon’ wheat and King Arthur unbleached white flour.  Maris Widgeon is a bread flour that is grown in the Willamette Valley by the Open Oak/Adaptive Seeds family, but was developed 50 years ago for roof thatching in Europe.

The starter is almost unhappily tart with lactobacilli, the same beasties that create the sour in sauerkraut and yogurt.  With the almost constant fermentation I do, my kitchen is full of them.  The image on the upper left is the result of feeding a piece of the initial starter with more flour and water and letting it sit for another day to beget starter 2.0.  24 hours later, nearly godlike, I took a piece of starter 2.0 and fed it with more flour and water to beget starter 3.0.  The bottom image is starter 3.0, forming nice bubbles and smelling much more yeasty and pleasant rather than lactic.

All of us on the teaching team had the same reticence about the waste that goes into creating this sourdough starter.  The general idea is to ferment a couple cups of a flour-water paste, then pour off a small amount (75 grams, if you must know) then feed that little piece (250 grams of water and flour, if you must know) for 24 hours, then start again, repeating for several days.  Some of us reduced the initial inputs.  Others (like me!) made sourdough pancakes with the leftover fermented batter.  And they weren’t bad!

Be sure to check out Elly’s recipe and process for sourdough pancakes, which differs from mine.  For more on the fermentation process, see Karen’s entry on her starter.

EDITED TO ADD:  After a week or so of feeding, the starter has calmed down and is smelling more yeasty now, nice and gently sour, more bready than sauerkrauty.  Collateral damage, though, perhaps:  did the yeasts affect my latest batch of crème fraîche, souring next to the sourdough?  It failed to set up and grew mold on top almost immediately.  It’s always a wild ride with fermentation!

Sourdough Pancakes

Serves 4 with bacon.

  • 2 cups fresh sourdough starter
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons milk AND/OR 3 tablespoons cornmeal or flour
  • 1 tablespoon butter or coconut oil

Combine starter, egg, syrup, oil, and baking soda.  Use some milk to thin the batter to a pancake batter consistency OR add some cornmeal or flour if the batter seems too thin. You will need to use your judgment and your own pancake tastes – some like them thicker and fluffier than others. I ended up using both milk and cornmeal to find a perfect balance between batches.

Let the batter sit on the counter for 10-15 minutes to allow baking soda to do its magic.  Heat nonstick skillet or griddle to medium heat.  Add butter or coconut oil, coating pan as it melts, then pour 3-4-inch diameter rounds of batter for each pancake.

Prepare in batches, cooking pancakes until the surface is well bubbled and mostly dry on top, then flip over and cook for a few minutes more. You are looking for golden brown surfaces on both sides. The pan is too hot if it burns unevenly, and too cool if the pancake just soaks up the butter and doesn’t brown.

Serve with maple syrup. You may freeze leftover cooked pancakes on a cookie sheet, IQF (individually-quick-frozen) style, then pop them off the sheet and store in freezer bags for a quick breakfast.

 

bread 101

IMG_7058IMG_6695Am I souring on traditional discipline-focused college curricula?  No, but this spring I *am* teaching a tremendously fun course through COLT on literature, food and society (as discussed here), and I’m also part of an innovative team-taught course that partners the Natural Sciences with the Humanities, all in the name of a loaf of bread.

Yes, University of Oregon HC441: “Bread 101” investigates the science and culture of bread!

We’re all souring together as we create experiments with sourdough starters and bake bread based on historic recipes.  These “lab” activities will be contextualized in lectures and readings on topics like genetics, energetics, microbiology, history, ethics, and cultural studies.  We’ll be hosting University of Washington wheat geneticist and anti-GMO activist, Dr. Steve Jones, as a visiting speaker; visiting Camas Country Mill and Noisette bakery for a sourdough taste-off; learning about Willamette Valley wheat production with local food activist Dan Armstrong; and studying primary sources on bread baking and propaganda in an upcoming exhibit on historic cookbooks, “Recipe: The Kitchen and Laboratory: 1400-2000,” opening April 22 in Knight Library Special Collections. (I’m co-curating this with HC Prof. and Historian of Science Vera Keller — more info soon.)

IMG_7013 IMG_6023IMG_6897The course is unusual not only because it’s deeply local and geared to increase burgeoning interest in a Food Studies program at UO, but also because of its innovative curriculum that uses Humanities-based lines of inquiry and writing assignments to augment science literacy. Many Food Studies classes are taught from a Social Science or Nutrition perspective by a single instructor, so we felt the course could model new approaches for systemic collaboration across the Sci/Hum divide and offer value to this emerging discipline.

The course is being taught by Judith Eisen (Biology, Institute of Neuroscience, and Director of the Science Literacy Program), Elly Vandegrift (Biology and Associate Director of the SLP), Karen Guillemin (Biology and Director of the Microbial Ecology and Theory of Animals Center for Systems Biology), Miriam Deutsch (Physics and Oregon Center for Optics), and yours truly, Jennifer Burns Bright (Comparative Literature and English).

Course Description
HC441H: Bread 101
Bright, Eisen, Deutsch, Guillemin, Vandegrift

Bread is a complex medium, looking nothing like the original seed of grain from which it originates. Yet when we mix a few simple ingredients we are able to induce a transformation that results in an edible, highly nourishing, staple food product crucial for sustenance in many cultures. In “Bread 101”, students will explore with a team of faculty from the sciences and humanities the energy requirements, biomedical and biochemical aspects, and local and sociopolitical context of bread production. Students will read and discuss a variety of primary and secondary literature related to wheat production, the microbiological, chemical, and physical processes that transform wheat into bread, the energy cost of this transformation, and cultural implications of bread production. There will be several field trips and guest speakers. Course work will include active discussions, short essays, problem sets, and a presentation.

Module 1 Introduction to Growth, Domestication, Energetics
Module 2 Local Politics of Wheat and Bread
Module 3 Biomedical and Biochemical Implications
Module 4 Social and Cultural History of Wheat and Bread
Module 5 Global Energy Production Related to Wheat and Bread

Photos: My sourdough starter in progress, local grain display at Camas Country Mill, white board exercises on energetics and photosynthesis (with guest Nick Routledge), and a 1937 advertisement for Fleischmann’s yeast cakes (eat two a day for optimal health!).

niblets: new orleans in eugene

1974088_461375073993386_344307710_oOur only official link in Eugene to New Orleans is now Voodoo Donuts, which, of course, is no link at all.  But wait!  I’ve got two very intreeeeging possibilities for y’all.

First, Belly is having a cajun buffet special dinner on Sunday, April 6, to celebrate the noble Aries and raise some money for the new Washington Jefferson Skate Park, who will receive 30% of the proceeds.  You’re an Aries?  You’ll get a door price!  Some of the dishes promised: crabmeat ravigote in Belgian endive, shrimp remoulade on jalapeno cheddar rolls, hushpuppies with honey butter, oysters Bienville, Natchitoches hand pies with meat or veggie, potato salad with egg and hot pepper vinegar, roast beef Po’ Boys, prawn and andouille gumbo, chicken picante, red beans and rice with smoked ham hock, corn maque choux, spring green salad, and sweet potato pies for dessert.

photo-27Like what you ate?  Well then, second, the weird, wonderful artist Myrtle von Damitz has formed the Pearls of Cascadia-Antilles Culture Club, which is the beginning of a project to help land rights and sustainability interests in Haiti.  Formerly a New Orleans resident and lately of Cottage Grove, Myrtle is developing a collection of starts with Log House Plants that reflect the cultural heritage of New Orleans, with its deep and intimate collection to Haiti.  She’s looking for about a dozen test growers for a variety of vegetables, including mirlitons, beans, and peanuts, in garden or greenhouse.  Interested?  Check out the site and list of plants.

She adds:  “if anybody knows who else to talk to about sustainable agriculture/plant and food and land rights in Haiti, please let me know.”  Those are some of the plants she’s cultivated above (pictures stolen from their owners for promotional purposes).

We’ve got a huge number of events coming up in the next month or two or three.  Join Facebook and friend me there for updates about many more local events than I can post here on the blog.