23 September, 2011

Eat Real Festival

Image courtesy of eatrealfest.com.
Starting today, the Eat Real Festival commences in downtown Oakland at Jack London Square for the next three days and yours truly will be (wo)maning a station at one of two alcoholic beverage shacks (either the Beer Shed or the Wine Barn) on Sunday from 11am-3:30pm. The festival also has a Facebook page here. I will also be adding another entry post-festival with birds-eye views from behind the scenes and images to wet your appetite. Too bad though, because by that point the festival will be over and you will not be able enjoy what I ate/drank. Now will you come out and enjoy the festivities? See you all soon!

19 September, 2011

Happy Monday Breakfast!

I have been jogging more lately, so by the time my dog and I get home after exercising, I am ravenous and need a filling, but nutritious breakfast to get back my energy. This morning's selection of choices resulted in big pieces of freshly cut, hearty whole wheat bread topped with generous helpings of two kinds cheeses: triple cream brie, and goat. I made the brie the savory "entree" slice by adding smoked salmon, tångkorn (bought at IKEA and translated from Swedish as "seaweed grain" or "seaweed bead" with the "å" pronounced like a long "o" similar to that vowel in "tore" in English), and dried dill weed. The super buttery cheese mixed with all that salt and texture was delicious, and combined with fresh, cherry tomatoes that my landlords gave me from their yard yesterday, it was an unbelievable coupling! I have completely fallen in love with this little pot of seaweed beads that resemble caviar with a comparable look and seawater taste, but are not fish. I also love the fishy pink herring roe that IKEA sells as an alternative to the seaweed beads! The other piece of bread with the goat cheese was my "dessert" as it had yellow quince jam (which tastes a little like a pear/apple hybrid) layered on top and organic Bartlett pears as an accompaniment. 

Good morning to me!

18 September, 2011

Oktoberfest Zinzinnati 2011

Video courtesy of oktoberfestzinzinnati.com.

This weekend is the annual Oktoberfest Zinzinnati celebration in Cincinnati, Ohio, my hometown. In all honesty though, I hardly ever went to this festival when I still lived there because it was usually infested with weekend-warrior businessmen whose highlight of the year was to pour gallons of German beer down their throats and do the giant chicken dance on Fountain Square (oh how the city's founders would be gagging and crying if they saw how their beloved, historic city centre was being defiled by such an event), or with frat boys who were accustomed to being drunk in the middle of the day but needed some new excuse to pee in public, wear ridiculous chicken hats, and have a legitimate reason (outside of Greek Week) to sport lederhosen. I still think that such an enormous gathering - it is the second largest Octoberfest in the world behind only Munich, Germany - is an important cultural gathering for Germans living in the US, who apparently travel from all over the country to get to this festival, or German-Americans. Since I grew up in this kind of food culture, it is also why I am sad that out here on the West Coast I have to search out the fabulous sausages called "mets" or mettwursts to put on the grill. People just have never heard of them in this part of the world. 

Mettwurst = metts   Pronunciation:  MET-wurst OR MET-vursht  Notes:   At least two kinds of sausages answer to the name mettwurst.  People in Cincinnati use the name to describe a kielbasa-like sausage that's made with beef and pork, seasoned with pepper and coriander, and smoked.  They like to grill it and serve it on a bun.  Elsewhere, mettwurst is soft like liverwurst and ready to eat.  It's usually spread on crackers and bread.  Substitutes:  kielbasa (for Cincinnati's mettwurst) OR bratwurst (for Cincinnati's mettwurst) OR teewurst (for spreadable mettwurst). Definition and image above courtesy of foodsubs.com.

Image courtesy of rivertownbrewingcompany.com.
It's true that us Cincinnatians like our sausages, especially on buns with mustard and sauerkraut, and I particularly like the kielbasa (with sauerkraut and potatoes) that my Slovakian grandmother and Hungarian grandfather raised us on, being from countries that neighbor Germany. We also like our beer in the Queen City! Although Midwesterners like their generic Budweiser and Miller in unspeakable quantities, Cincinnati's German background insists that respect be given to higher-quality artisanal brewers too. Larger (reputable) ones like Becks, Hoegaarden, and Christian Moerlein will be present as well as some of my German faves Spaten and Warsteiner, and smaller-batch Cincy locals Rivertown Brewery and Great Lakes Brewing out of Cleveland, Ohio.

A cool way of seeing the Oktoberfest is through a fantastic new photographic, interactive panorama technology named "gigapixel" that I have been lucky enough to work with in some of my school projects. Thanks to a company called GigaPan that utilizes this new way of seeing the world up close, though the photos are shot from far away, we can all see an different kind of perspective of this year's Oktoberfest Zinzinnati celebration. You cannot actually see the festival itself because the skyscrapers are in the way, but the view gives you an idea of the surroundings. Just follow this link and tap on the screen to zoom in/out and drag to the left/right.


15 September, 2011

The Sandwich As American Socio-Cultural Food Indicator AND (Anti)Feminist Implicator?

I have been reading this neat column in one of my favorite food mags poortaste since the column began a few months ago. It is titled "Eating Culture" and penned by Sarah Goldschmidt. It strikes my fancy by attentioning its focus on and linking two of my favorite subjects: culture and food! The latest edition of this opinion piece is on how our immediate environment shapes how and why we eat what we do. You know, the old Nurture over Nature argument that has had anthropologists arguing for decades now. 

Image courtesy of poortastemag.com.

 Goldschmidt also brings up how food is connected to ideas of gender roles and how certain notions of femininity have great power to influence what many women choose to eat based on what is considered "ladylike" in her culture. Goldschmidt postulates that in the United States, salad is often used as the scapegoat for womens' insecurities about their places in society. I agree. I would also add to that category anything labeled "low fat," or meat that is lacking any obvious blood and therefore connection to being killed or having been an animal at all (i.e., a medium-rare, T-bone steak). Come on...if a man does not find it sexy that I have a little blood on my lip after savoring a perfectly cooked (translation: red in the center), free-range Angus hamburger, I am already disappointed and uninterested in him! 

Me eating a Blue Moon beer-battered, pork sausage, corndog with homemade ketchup.
I think a good way to bring equality to the sexes is to go back to the basics of what should bring every human joy: good food shared openly with loved ones, female and male. But in order to fully embrace that concept, we have to be able to eat our food in an atmosphere of acceptance that does not attribute gender concepts to our edible sustenance. Sure, I know that that is tricky. There are particular food items that absolutely elicit metaphors like oysters as being "feminine" (think real hard if you don't see the resemblance, and I bet you will get it), or a whole cornucopia of phallic vegetables (cucumbers, carrots, bananas, and for the real optimists, eggplants) labeled as "masculine." Endless myths, taboos and other cultural constructs have evolved over time that do their best to distinguish the genders from each other through food and eating practices. But all of that does not mean that a woman should feel ashamed to eat healthy, hearty foods in front of a man for fear that she will be looked at as disgraceful or "unladylike." I am not talking about over-sized portions or junk food here either, just sensible quantities of lovingly-prepared food that do not try to pass off a few waify vegetables, watered-down milk, fake butter, artificial sugar, and pasty chicken breasts as a meal in order to avoid seeming too "manly". Let's go ladies...we are the only ones who can truly change these stereotypical associations. Do not be embarrassed to take pleasure in eating some slow-grilled pork ribs, roasted sweet potatoes, homemade cornbread (with real butter), and farmers-market green beans with minced bacon pieces, especially if it is in front of a gentleman friend!