Saturday, November 17, 2007

Other People's Food

The food blogosphere is a generous community, I've discovered.
You can hardly meet a fellow blogger without being given something to eat.
I've even observed competitive giving in social settings, but what's wrong with that? A little potlatch behavior is fine if it doesn't go too far.
Some of us use our food bounties as an excuse for getting together. A friend invited me and Cranky for lunch recently to help harvest her apple tree. I had a group of pals over to strip my pear tree in August, and we all turned it into a potluck, potlatch party with homemade (and gifted, by a guest) pear brandy.
Sometimes the food offerings are of a less gardeny variety. On at least two occasions, the Rev. Dr. Biggles has schlepped meat (and charcoaled wood) over to my house to dazzle me with fire and animal flesh.
I was recently the grateful recipient of wild mushrooms from the friend of a friend.
Some of my food gifts to bloggers have been simple, regional foragings of wild fennel pollen and seeds.
But the other day, one of my pals brought lunch. Oh, he didn't stay around to actually eat it. It was a tub of frozen soup. For later.
The Sourdough Monkey Wrangler says this recipe for minestrone has been handed down in his family for 150 years. He told me how to cook it (add a little water; some egg tagliarini would be nice) and he even included a cute little cube of Romano cheese to grate over the soup.
Oh, and he brought some apple/pear cider made, in part, with pears from my tree. Plus a sack of produce gleaned from his in-laws' property.
Well, what could we do in return?
I had already put aside a jar of pickled serrano chiles from my yard, commingled with jalapeños from Meathenge Labs. What a wimpy offering.
So we traipsed out into the yard and, with a knife, hacked off a vivid bunch of celery, two leeks, one eggplant, and tossed them into a bag, dirt and all.
On top of that went a huge handful of Smarties, the Canadian candies left over in a big metal bowl from Halloween. (Wrapped in cellophane! Come on!)
Best I could do.
Anyway. The soup? Wow. It tasted like Not My Cooking. Other People's Food.
Strange new flavors. Deep, texture-y, potent.
What a fun life we've stumbled into.


Kalyn said...

Isn't it fun getting tasty gifts from friends. I love the fennel pollen you gave me, and now that Ilva and you have both given me bay leaves, when I'm making soup I use one of each so as not to show favoritism! Don't you think that's a good policy?

dancingmorganmouse said...

I think gifts of food or cooking show you *really* like someone, it's so much more personal than anything else.

chilebrown said...

I remember a story from the past. "Stone Soup" The village was hesitant about the ingredients. They had a big stone, You of course brought the veggies from Wednesdays Market. Cranky killed a Turkey. Peta came in and spoiled everybody's fun.

tammy said...

Giving is such a West Coast thing. All we do on the East Coast is take, take, take.

By the way, thanks for complying with my ransom demands. You're always so generous with your comments!

Zoomie said...

Good foodie friends, good soup - what more could you ask for?

KathyF said...

Fennel pollen?! I've never heard of such a delicacy. I assume you pollinate your fennel with it, not eat it?

And here's a tip someone gave me, but I haven't tried it since I don't eat cheese: Try making minestrone with a rind of parmesan in the soup. It will make the soup creamy. You remove it, I think, before you eat it.

Stacie said...

oh, I am so wishing I could have lunch with the Monkey Wrangler and Ms. Crumb! When I read his blog, I feel like we probably walked past each other at Berkeley Bowl or somewhere in my past life as an east bay resident. Sounds like fun! I have been trying to find knitting bloggers in my neighborhood (yeah, middle of nowhere!) without much luck... but I always have you all on my 'puter!

Anita said...

This post made me feel all cozy. I love the gifts you give us (that last whack celery is going into my locavore turkey stuffing -- I've been hoarding it) and I love how much you appreciate the gifts we bring. xoxo

Anita said...

that should be "last whack OF celery"

the celery was not wack at all :D

Monkey Wrangler said...

Wow, huh? Thanks CC. Glad you liked the minestrone. I can live off the stuff, and for that matter, have. For like, days, maybe even a week at a time in the past.

For clarities sake (kathyf, you reading this?) there is romano cheese in the soup while it cooks, but rind free. Then you add more on top and the cabbage/bean/sheepy milkiness socks you in the mouth even more.

Glad you two enjoyed. I'd love to hear more about your thoughts, particularly about the cider(s) as so far I've run into a bottle that was bad. Just one, but I'd like to keep it that way. The rest have been good though. Good enough that it's gonna be hard to let some age to see if it gets better.

And that celery? BIGASSTHANKYOU. Like Anita I'm hoarding it. Which is easy to do because holy celeriac batman, that shit is strong, just like you said. It has been used so far for a potato leek soup and then the other day a nice red pasta sauce that I served to some BFM Farmers. And I still have half of it!

only about half the smarties ever made it home........

cookiecrumb said...

Kalyn: It is eye-opening. Mouth-opening! (Good policy indeed, on the bay leaves. You diplomat. Plus I love Ilva.)

Morgan: It's so... so... life-giving. Ohgod, I made myself weep. xx

Chilebrown: Har! I like your version of the story.

Tammy: Really? You hardened, greedy bastards! See if I ever offer you something. (I will, you know. West Coasties just can't help being hippies.)

Zoomie: The food is very nice, yes, but the friendship? Incomparable. Love to you.

KathyF: You can use fennel pollen as a dusting over cooked fish, or as a flavoring in a braise or stew. It tastes like mild fennel seeds, and is already in powder form.
(I try keeping cheese rinds, but Cranky's always cleaning the fridge and throwing them out.)

Stacie: Trust me, it's the Monkey Wrangler you want to have lunch with. Me, I'm just the comic relief. Glad to have you as a cyberfriend.

Anita: I didn't mention the standout infusions and liqueurs you brought me and Cranky. I did a whole post on that insane homemade sausage!! But yeah. Warm and cozy.
Of course you saved that "not wack" celery. It LASTS.

Mr. MW: Your celery should last a while. It's mean, nasty celery that doesn't want to go away.
On your soup: I'm now worried that my cooking is too bland for other people's palates. Yours was so seasoned, so "tangible." I tend to let the fresh, local ingredients do the heavy lifting in my food, but I was wowed by your use of flavors.
We'll get to the ciders in a minute. Ain't opened 'em yet.
You Smartie.

b'gina said...

When my kitchen gets put back together again, AND I either get my food blog back or start a new one, THEN, oh, then, I want to play, too. Exchanging food has got to be one of the most honest ways of showing friendship.

And I want to take the monkey wrangler's English muffin class, too!

Dagny said...

After reading your comment to Monkey Wrangler, I chuckled. Because I have often wondered if perhaps my cooking was a bit too spicy for your palate. Because that day I missed you in Pt. Reyes Station? I had thought of bringing you some butter chicken. (There's still some in the freezer. Along with other things like cioppino. Because I aim to feed the masses one day.) But then I worried about the spices and all.

And the soup? It sounds divine.

Sam said...

I think you might be getting more food gifts on Wednesday.


claudia said...

i loved this post. sharing food is a very primal thing. it feels right... i love doing it.

Kevin said...

"What a fun life we've stumbled into."

You have indeed. It's been interesting watching the turn your cooking has taken over the past couple of years. It's changed a lot in style and attitude.

cookiecrumb said...

B'gina: Yeah, you should have been mingling with this crowd all along. Good luck with the kitchen, and the blog!

Dagny: Cranky was wondering the same thing today when he made lunch (roasted peppers stuffed with beans and cheese), and completely left out any herbs. He forgot.

Sam: Well, I'm not going to get competitive about it, but you might too.

Claudia: You, being the recent recipient of an amazing food gift from a stranger, should know just how marvelous it feels.

Kevin: Uh-oh, scrutiny from a professional! Hee hee. (OK, now I'm paranoid.)

Anna Haight said...

Soup sounds heavenly, and it is simply marvelous to receive food gifts. And so much fun to give too! I have had a few 'holy cow, what am I going to do with this!" moments though.