I served sauerkraut the other night to the poetrysciencetalks gang. PST is a salon I've been cooking for for the last four years- a different talk every month and a meal before the talk that reflects the evenings theme. This month a biologist (Dr. Tyler Volk from NYU) was talking about death (and its essentialness.) I made shepherd's pie (biblical references to shepherd's aside, the medieval term for pie was "coffin," and in our culture we have a tradition of carrying a "covered dish" to funeral parties.) We also had an assortment of moldy bleu cheeses, and the sauerkraut; both examples of symbiosis, where one organism (penicillium or lactobacillus) thrives at an others' expense... plus, sauerkraut's a dish put by for winter (winter being a metaphoric, seasonal kind of death.) We finished the meal with Devil's Food cake!
I bring this up in part to share bits about what Deena and I do aside from Communal Table, (Deena's at a film festival in Spain right now, visiting markets in the Basque region between reels (lucky!!!) and I'm putting the finishing touches on some of the upcoming Umami: food and art festival programs www.umamifestival2010.com
But also.... like PST, Communal Table is ideas as well as supper. The thing I love about C.T. evenings is how busy and happy everyone seems... making, tasting, reflecting and sharing poems and stories. Pickles and Roots was an easy theme to play with: roots being our roots and traditions, and pickles rich with metaphor as in: in a pickle or being pickled.
Deena's blog post brought up shared Eastern European roots, a culture whose food traditions are rich with pickles... but we also share roots in the NY arts and food communities, and we've both raised families in the contemporary NYC art/food worlds, grazing globally. I wonder what our children, who've tasted so many different flavors, consider their culinary roots?
I think I love food because it's hands-on (mouth-on) story telling. I'm super excited about the next Communal Table salon- Fish Tales. Our guests include a fisherman, a fish monger and a 2nd (or is it 3rd?) generation purveyor of the ultimate Jewish delicacy: lox-n-bagels. Along with their expertise what each shares is a love of stories- about fish, food and family. We're wrestling with the politics of salmon, thinking about sea vegetables, and collecting stories about "the one that got away!" Save the date: March 20th- the vernal equinox... and for traditions sake we'll stand eggs on end- then boil 'em to serve with a sprinkle of fish roe...
1/2 c white and 1/3 c. brown sugar
1-1/2 c. white flour and 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1-1/2 t. baking soda and 1/2 t. baking powder
1 T. cocoa
2 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. each: ground cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, pepper, salt... etc. I play with what's on hand
1 c. butter
2 T. molasses
1 c. each: ginger nibs, dark chocolate chips (I buy "disks" of candied ginger and chop them)
sugar for rolling cookies in before baking
Combine dry ingredients. Add in wet ingredients. Stir in nibs and chips. Roll dough into balls and roll balls into sugar (sometimes I add spice to the sugar too... a bit of extra cardamom or allspice...) Space on a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake at 350.
Sometimes I slightly under-bake the cookies so they stay soft and chewy and use them to make ice cream sandwiches... Van Leeuwen makes a great ginger ice cream... but vanilla or chocolate is great too.