Tuesday, September 15, 2009

more about dad than meat.

Yesterday's post got me thinking about all of the interesting things my dad did while I was growing up. At the time, I had difficulty understanding the way that he interacted and communicated with me. When I would get involved with whatever "making stuff" project of the moment, I would proudly show him what I was working on and usually get a raised eyebrow and "uh huh" sound. I didn't understand at the time that he instead showed his support by his actions rather than his words, which has probably shaped my expectations in my current relationships!

Many of the running jokes in our family revolve around my dad's (and later, my dad and I's) culinary adventures. When he worked for Hart Plaza in Detroit, he would bring home rescued crates of leftover ethnic festival foods that us lower-middle-class Midwestern folk would never have been exposed to otherwise in the early 80s... Along with that came Eastern Market trips, leading to the infamous vat of green, lumpy brussels sprout soup, which was mildly traumatizing for 4-year old me! And to this day, I get a little queasy at the thought of yellow curry powder because of curried eggs I remember mysteriously eating behind the door of our front porch. As unsure as I was of those meals as a kid, I am forever grateful for his ingenuity.

One morning after I had a friend sleep over, he decided to make us breakfast. We had a new food processor and he thought he'd make us hash browns, but due to some unexpected oxidation, they turned the strangest shade of purpley-grey. I thought they tasted fine, but my picky, Taco Bell-preferring friend flipped out and he took us to a smokey Coney Island instead.

Another Eastern Market expedition resulted in a five pound box of quickly wilting basil. Two days (and two blenders) later, we had dozens of jars of pesto and a house that reeked of yummy garlic. During school that year, I faced much ridicule for my green pizzas, but my Dorito and bologna sandwich-eating lunch buddies didn't know what they were missing.

Around that time, I visited my grandparents with my my aunt, uncle, and cousins and Dad had a request... He handed me a large tin to carry with me; it was to be my contribution to the group. I passed it along to my (very vocal) aunt who eagerly cracked it open, as my family usually brought giant bags of pistachios or Mom's gingersnaps to family gatherings. Much to her (and my) surprise, he had sent me with the stinkiest hunk of cheese she'd ever smelled! The lid went back on, the tin tucked away on top of the refrigerator, and back home it came with me a few days later.

When I was a little older, I took up more of an interest in his kitchen experiments. Together, we came up with amazing concoctions... Some of which are just simple and tasty, like our special orzo salad (which can be made with rice! so I can still eat it!), lavash roll-ups (these always included lots of meat and cheese samplings at the deli counter), the genius combination of salami and peanut butter, and the ultimate classic-- corn dog bread.

Cheers to my cool, supportive dad. Thanks for the phone call from New Orleans last week to tell me about alligator gumbo and the carnivorous joys of all-you-can-eat buffets. I'll visit again soon. We'll have pork chops and martinis.

Monday, September 14, 2009

zingerman's + bacon, or, another reason to miss michigan in the fall.

Came across this post on Serious Eats this morning and was immediately nostalgic. When I was growing up, my dad worked in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His job involved lots of driving, so he happened upon all sorts of amazing spots before they were discovered by most... Antique stores, ethnic restaurants, music shops. And whatever creative tangent I found myself on, he would scavenge up supplies for me. He constructed photography darkrooms, bargained for vintage guitars, rebuildt garbage-picked lamps.. I can't imagine the possibilities had I began my meat pursuits while still living near him in Michigan!

That said, Zingerman's was, of course, a staple (splurge!) restaurant of my childhood. I remember their giant cookies, tasting aged balsamic with plastic straws, and splitting chicken salad sandwiches on dried fruit bread with my mom. They have since become quite an empire and have released several foodie books, including Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating and Zingerman's Guide to Giving Great Service. Their newest release really grabbed my attention.

Zingerman's Guide to Better Bacon

I don't have any bacon-specific memories of Zingerman's, but I think some will have to be made during my next visit to the homeland.