Mean Girl to the Rescue!

How'm I gonna save the world when the world ain't ready?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

In which I discuss food at length, again

I took a few days off, both from work and from blogging, and mostly vegged out over this food-tastic holiday. A bit of that time was spent cooking, although we ended up at my mother's for Thanksgiving, because a) I am physically unable to show up at anyone's house empty-handed and b) my mother asked me to make appetizers for the 15 or so people who were attending. This has long been my role in family gatherings. For many years, I made complicated hors d'ouevres that required deep-frying right before serving, or esoteric ingredients best culled from the local Asian grocery, or both. I learned the hard way that Martha Stewart has crappy recipes (although I am intrigued by her Everyday Food magazine - I hold out hope that she was imprisoned for much of its inception and early-to-mid existence). And didn't she steal a lot of her recipes, anyway? I dislike her, and yet I find her fascinating. Ugh. But I digress. In the end, I found that the best way to make people happy was to keep things simple, so now I make pigs in a blanket, and then something else simple and easily popped into an open maw. Sweet 'n' sour meatballs, say. This year I did Mexican pizzas. They were good, but I must remember that the oven is full of turkey on these occasions, and there is really no other way of cooking anything in my mother's house, save for a 15 year old microwave with an inner capacity of about .2 cubic feet.

I also made squash & granny smith apple soup, using Mark Bittman's recipe, although I tweaked it, as I often do with most any recipe (I used acorn squash instead of butternut, sue me). It was nice, although Booby proclaimed it merely "OK." Everyone else raved, and, most importantly, I liked it, so it's been added to my mental "easy recipes that turn out well" file.

Booby has been obsessed lately with ginkgo trees, which are all over the place here. The story goes that the Philadelphia and surrounding city planners got a good deal on a big order of trees, and planted them without doing their research first. For anyone not in the know, these trees let down berries that stink to high heaven, and a little interwebbing reveals that they contain butyric acid, which is also a component of vomit. Once the berries are crushed, the wonderful vomit smell rises to the fore (and often lingers on your soles after you've unwittingly trodden through a sidewalkful of berries). In any case, twice this weekend I have seen a little person (gender indeterminate, but I'd guess female) out on the median strip, collecting the berries into a basket. It would seem that they are edible! Well, not the disgusting smelling fruit (thank god), but the inside seed, which, when toasted, is evidently quite tasty. Raw, they are poisonous, though, so beware.

In researching the edibility of ginkgo berries, I came across Wildman's Foraging site, and it makes me want to take one of his tours. This has only been reinforced by reading of SJ's adventures picking wild chanterelles. I am not a mushroom person, but the thrill of discovering my own "organic" wild food has made me push that minor detail out of my mind. Ths whole thing also dovetails nicely with the idea of using my neighbor's sour green apples to make my own jelly - an idea that's been banging around in my brain since my sister kindly gave me a tutorial on home canning (she even bought me the basic supplies for my birthday!). More details as they develop ... but I am thinking this plan will have to keep until spring.

* Image courtesy of the New York Botanical Gardens site.


At 5:05 PM, Blogger Arabella said...

I never knew about the butyric acid, but that certainly explains the smell! Ginkgos are plentiful here, too. In my youth, kids at recess would call the berries "stinkbombs" and hurl them at at each other, along with the more pleasant-smelling but larger fruit of the osage orange tree. One can often find people gathering them at our local park, presumably to toast and eat the seeds.

At 10:44 PM, Anonymous db said...

Ginkos are cool trees. Do all yours bear fruit? Only the females do according to OSU.

They're plentiful around here and they don't seem to smell. Maybe they're so plentiful around Philly because the "deal" was that they were all of the stinky type.

They make herbal supplements from the berries right? Maybe that's why someone was collecting them. But before you break out your basket note that the supplement is another item to avoid.

At 12:53 AM, Blogger wordgirl said...

I, too, find it difficult to show up to someone's house without a food offering. Even when I'm invited, I usually ask if I can bring anything. When a guy asks, he's usually referring to booze or ice. I always feel I need to bake something.
We were asked to a party the other evening and I brought two chocolate cheesecakes!

At 9:41 AM, Blogger Mignon said...

WG, I am formally inviting you over.
Oh and sure, bring something if you really want.

At 9:12 PM, Blogger Mrs. Harridan said...

Db, thanks for the tip. The herbal supplement is meant to aid memory and stave off Alzheimer's. I don't take it ... yet.

Wordgirl, what a great guest you are! Have you noticed, though, how easily impressed folks are by home-baked goods? My in-laws do not bake much, not even box cakes, really, and I about knocked my sister-in-law down when I showed up with a cheesecake (it was super easy to make, I used a pre-made crust and all). People will think you worked like a slave on food, even when you tell them it took half an hour. It's great!


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