Topsy-Turvy

England joins Switzerland and Norway in leaving the E.U.  A new BBQ place opens in Cambridge–only in Boston would a BBQ restaurant have beneath its sign, “BBQ by —” and insert the chef’s name, as if the chef is a guarantee of goodness.  (I’ll be going there later this week and I bet it’s delicious: There’s a reason why pork, pizza, and burgers are everywhere…better profit margins, and loaded with fat and salt, which we associate with taste.)

Right, England.  Dunno, can’t see how an anti-immigration viewpoint is going to lead to schools that teach job-ready skills that are necessary in today’s economy, which has jobs requiring more technical and computer knowledge and experience.

The thing with BBQ is that the very best is extremely good–great balance of salt, acidity, sweetness, and texture.  There’s a reason why it’s often associated with “soul food,” and reasons why anyone with half a brain eats it no more than half a dozen times a year.  It’s unhealthy: Too much salt, too much animal fat, carcinogens from being cooked over wood or coal.  So how is that a business plan for a restaurant?

Hey, in Italy the deal is: Vegetables.  Pasta.  OK, some protein, but not so much, it’s unnecessary.

Sorry about England, too.

 

Get yours today at EBAY:

Real

 

The Current State of Dining

I’ve been reading the immensely enjoyable, “Appetite City,” by William Grimes, which is a culinary history of New York City.  Not only is the book teaching me about the history of eating and dining in the city, it has great archival photographs as well as a terrific way of examining geographical shifts which reflect wealth, status, and culture.

One of the more important points that Grimes makes, among many, is his finding that NYC in the 1850’s was a town where lunch was the big deal and dinner was basically saloons and so-called hash houses.  It wasn’t until a few Swiss immigrants arrived from the Ticino region of Switzerland, and introduced French cuisine, served in courses, Russian style, that evening restaurants began to prosper.

It got me thinking how Boston’s best eating out is lunch.  There’s never been a first-rate French chef in the city, nor one Japanese or Italian.  Lunch, on the other hand, is a great panoply of sandwiches, noodles, slices of pizza, and what-not.  In NYC, following the French there came the Italians and soon the city was filled with wonderful Italian restaurants that offered highly focused menus of regional food.  That food also reflected being in America with ingredients and service.

Grimes notes that prior to the French and Italian restaurants, it was a shame to see places that did not utilize some of the world’s best produce and seafood.

Boston has the East Coast’s finest seafood, access to great farms, and a population that is changing and growing.  It will be interesting to see if its restaurants meet what is certain to be a new demand.  Meanwhile, and until then, there’s this: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/cueandburger/

 

Magical Weekend!

The fun started early this morning with emigre poppy seed bagel with loin salmon and Nova.  Mid-day, we’re talking a “Sicilian” chicken sausage on a Martin’s potato roll slathered with mustard and sauerkraut.  What makes the sausage “Sicilian” is anyone’s guess.  Tonight?  Could be pasta.  Could be a turkey cheeseburger.  It’s hard to say.

The “Finding Nemo” sequel opens tonight and it’s no substitute for, “The Fits,” which isn’t showing anywhere in town.  That means…what?  Hip-hop at The Sinclair?  The end of “Emma?”  So hard to say.

Saturday and Sunday are work days–evaluations, paperwork, etc.

Dining in!

Hub of the Universe

Since I’ve been back in Boston, it’s home cooking 24/7, from simple pasta with a good Hazan-inspired tomato-butter sauce to soft shell crabs to turkey burgers to pan seared yellow fin.  Ironically, many years ago, I learned to cook at home, which helps with a budget as well as eating food that isn’t heavily salted, piled on a plate, and emphasizing fat.

Of course, this does mean having to go to supermarkets just about every day to pick up fruits and vegetables.  There’s a first rate fish store in East Cambridge.  I get all my poultry and beef shipped–there’s one halfway decent butcher shop in the city, but it’s not half as good as purveyors that deliver to your door from farms in Idaho and Pennsylvania, and it’s twice the price.

On a positive note, Tropical Foods in Dudley Square is a really wonderful, huge market featuring products from the Caribbean, and here you find vegetables as well as spices that can help you cook at home.

Strawberry Hills Forever

Rain for much of the day yesterday, thunder and lightning, and then it’s clear and a little time at the elliptical pool overlooking Kingston while two big, older Italian men wade in.

Red snapper and fried plantain, and now hot Blue Mountain coffee.

From the hills and villages across the valley: Cocks crowing, dogs howling, goats bleating.  Along the two lane road, trucks and cars.  School yard: Children shouting.

A long day ahead of transit to NYC, and along the way one hopes for good feelings inspired by a week at a spot quite unlike most other places I’ve been.

Chris Blackwell had the right idea when he bought the property ages ago, and so did Bob Marley when he came here to recuperate from being attacked by guns in his home.

Solitude, Magnitude, Interlude

A full day at Strawberry Hill without leaving, and that meant we were the only guests on the property to enjoy a simple breakfast on a verandah overlooking Kingston, followed by reading and staving off naps.  Maybe a couple of times to cool off in the water, we cooked BLT’s for lunch, fried chicken for dinner.

The view towards Kingston is a geological formation, evidently ancient and volcanic, a long, flat plain of thick tropical trees and plants along with tall pines.  Ancient volcanic peaks above the plain, in so many shades of green, now mountainous.

Another day quite like that is slated for today, and then tomorrow it’s the long return to the States.

The Walk in the Mountains

After a light breakfast of fruit and toast and muffins, along with remarkable and seemingly real Blue Mountain coffee, so tasty as to make other coffee weak in comparison, a few of us strolled along the two-lane road to Red Light.  The road is north-south, criss-crossing these mountains, coast to coast, and along the way are villages with a few inhabitants.

Red Light, in contrast to Irish Town, has a few hole-in-the-wall rooms that serve as pubs.  Also a few little rooms that sell very basic groceries.  Signs in the grocery shops: “NO CREDIT.”  Some kids in khaki uniforms home from school or en route.  Lots of men chatting.  Women in front of shops or behind them looking both shy and angry.

The afternoon was spent editing and reading.  The evening was a wonderful Jamaican curry chicken made by M and callaloo made by N.  Cold Red Stripe.

What is there to do?

Day four, deep in the Blue Mountains, a horn sounds, no goats bleating as the slaughter must take place on a Monday rather than a Tuesday, and early this morning clouds rolled in and wind blew hard, and it rained briefly.

Previously, the day was, let’s see, cover to cover reading of Jamaican classic comic novel, “The Lunatic,” by Anthony Winkler, a nap thrown in, club sandwiches we made in the cottage, and a start of, “Emma.”

That night: Dark rum and lime juice, pepper pot soup, oxtail and rice and beans.

 

 

Sunday in the Blue Mountains

Alongside a high stone wall buttressing the property, and then downhill through tall grasses, groves of bamboo, and a pine forest.  One tall pine had lower branches, unusually, and this meant perhaps that sufficient light enabled these to grow whereas many such trees have higher branches blocking out light causing lower branches to fall off.

It was that kind of day, noticing things like that.

Down further into Maryland, a village NW of here where a pastor droned in a miked monotone in one church, but two other churches had parishioners and choirs that harmonized beautifully.  then, too, reggae and dance hall blasting from cars and houses.  Four men standing beside a car talking and then the alarm went off and then it stopped.

On the way back to Irish Town: A tall, bare chested bearded man wielded a machete just off the road beside his home.  Abandoned cars weighted down with sacks of cement to keep them from rolling down slopes.

In the evening we fried up chicken, boiled calaloo with carrots, and fried fresh potatoes.

Hoping today for indolence.

Blue Mountains

On the long verandah overlooking several rounded, ancient peaks, and the baying and crowing from 5 A.M. now a four hour ago memory.  A small press of fine and strong local coffee, powerful breezes pounding fronds, and the memory of gecko chasing moths last night a twelve hour ago memory.

Strawberry Fields, the area, was given to Sir Hugh Walpole centuries ago by the King of England when that sort of thievery was law, and nowadays, after passing through successions of private owners, it is in the hands of Chris Blackwell.  In 1959, Mr. Blackwell founded Island Records and the rest is history: Bob Marley.

Presently, the idea is to read and write and cook and see the hours stretch and stretch.  Naps are in order.  The hummingbirds arrive and suck nectar, and then they are gone.