cakes, prose, woes -- the photos, food & thoughts of a french-speaking seattle-native in brazil

In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it. -AB
In the end, you're just happy you were there—with your eyes open—and lived to see it.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Eat and Run (Literally) - The Seattle Marathon

this tank runs unleaded on yogurt and oats

Warm. Wet. And gray. The perfect conditions for the perfect Seattle race. My first Seattle race, I only ran the half race of 13.1 miles (21.1 kilometers), but felt no less honored to be among the 1200 other racers snaking through the Emerald City. For most the race began on 5th and Harrison, though for some of us who clearly misdiagnosed the traffic buildup on I-5 south, the race began by jumping out of a car on the 167 exit ramp. Anything to add a bit of extra dramatics non? As long as you get to the start when the horn is blown, all is bueno.

Once at the start line, the promenade hit straight all the way down 5th avenue, dipping up and down along the shops and early morning spectators for the 7:30 start. Quest Field and Safeco appear in the mist on the right as we trodded over the I-90 Express lanes toward the Mt. Baker tunnel. Lake Washington to the right, through the trees and over the river to grandmother's house we go. The mist is thick and warm, a layer of condensation or a layer of perspiration? None could be the wiser. Water stations are not necessary--all the water needed is inhaled alongside my oxygen. Finally there appears Lake Union, now we are herded over I-5 returning humbly downtown. Two miles to go until the cowbell-ringing lined path ushering us into memorial stadium. A little sun too, why how nice of the heavens for that. Now get me a bag of bloody ice before my decrepit knee decides to completely stop working.

There were no Thanksgiving recipes from the Salty Cod? Sorry my dear friends--my hand partook not one note in the thanksgiving feast(s). But perhaps a pumpkin yogurt for sunday morning road race fuel can makeup for my shortcomings. Mix two parts yogurt with one part pumpkin goo and spices. Not much of a recipe. But simple in running is always the best. The Seattle half was my first race after the French (ok fine just myself) destroyed my knee last December. Perhaps a few more halfs and then he'll be ready for the whole. But I know that you who are my fellow runners understand.

Athletes don't eat dairy before a competition you say. But i do. No carb-overload pasta stuff-athon the night before a big race for me. No, for the wheat free runner that game changes. To what carbohydrate you ask? To rice. Rice the night before, yogurt and oats the hour before. Does it work? Why yes yes it does. Every morning at 5:30 yogurt and oats lead the way for workouts. Today-well races are special. Throw in a power bar, and perhaps in honor of the thanksgiving weekend, a special yogurt is at hand. Pumpkin pie yogurt with a roasted pumkin seeds. Now don't those make the GU glucose gels look appetizing...mmm. But no I jest--those syrupy translucents are thigh savers at mile 10.

One is the loneliest number, they say. Runners are solo jocks, out there alone, in pain alone, in victory alone. And I used to agree. But running is not done alone. The myriad voices in the ear (maybe that's just the ipod. dunno.) the hundreds alongside whose hearts pound rhythmically too, the family at the finish line, the friend who gets you there and extinguishes your anxiety, your friends who will read this (so you better have a story for them), and the irreplaceable weight of the people who fill your thoughts as the bouncing hours and minutes tick by in rhythm as each foot falls, one in front of the other. The runner has that person(s) upon whom is dumped all the woes and fears of ankles and knees, shoes and burns, sore muscles, seeming pointless goals reported daily. Mile counts. Hour counts. Today was this, tomorrow we do that. Does anyone other than the runner care--no. But they will never tell you so. And for that they are irreplaceable. Running is impossible without these members. And so one is not always the loneliest number, one can oftentimes be awfully crowded.

Get up and run! Next race we do side by side.

à bientôt

Friday, November 21, 2008

And do you, Mr. Orange Take Miss Lentil to be your Lawfully Wedded Wife...

the pound-caking objection of mistress anisette

It is starting to get cold. Not chilly, not brrrr, not wow maybe i should put on a jacket because my nose is sniffling, but cold. I won't lie, I do not fancy this cold unless chairlifts and powdered moguls are involved. Morning is dawning at seven. November gives the Spokane sky a picturesque glow--it is bright, but not sunny. A sad bright, if oxymoron may be called upon. It looks cold, if cold is a look. A beautiful coldness. The sun sits hovering behind wispy clouds stretched far too thinly over the Tiffany blue backdrop, the look is quite promising, though the skeleton trees and frost stiffened grass cry silent intimations through the window pane of no! do not let him fool you, your day has dawned sub-zero! How unfortunate that tricky sun gloating above us in all his mockery--you may see me but you can not feel me. To leave one building means only a race to get into another. That is the winter game. Well we will play our own winter game mr. sun, with smarties of your likeness. Orange in America is a winter fruit. It grows in the real sun of the south. The rays are bottled in its sun-tanned rind; thus sun made orange in his own image. The savior is then sent northward to we the vitamin D deprived. Why, little glowing citric orb of heat; you are my sunshine. So on y va.

So what of this lentil and orange business? That is a good question. No one really knows why they are together, but there they are all the same, in a cake. Lady Lentil is quite the jewel; small and bubbly, a protein, a staple, versatile and malleable. Could you ever imagine her in a cake? Orange did not, but what could there possibly be to lose. Orange lentil cake, what a perfect idea; healthy and yet sweet, is that not the divine marriage of flavors. But perhaps flavor divinity is in the eye of the beholder, for while the butter whipped and the flour sifted, a little seed spilled onto the counter, shouting in her controversy to be taken along. Orange and anise, they were made for each other. A striking slap of bitter licorice, yet there is some power of sweetness dissolving her bite. Anise, a tricky little spice. You either love her or you hate her, there is nothing in between. Orange and Lentil stared at one another, unknowing of what to do. But Miss Anisette could not be shaken, and tipped head first into the batter. But what could be done? To pick out a million specs is impossible, there's no getting rid of her now. Lentil and orange, though they sound mysteriously unique are not enough on their own. Lentil as flour is too void of flavor and personality to compliment citric orange. Thus we must remember that it is not the surprise ingredient that stands out, but rather what you do to it (who saw that ostrich egg on top chef last week?) Orange lentil cake--no. Orange anise lentil cake--now we're talking.

Now that you have been wrung through a poorly written and seemingly unnecessary pastry soap opera of personified foodstuffs, perhaps there is some splaining to do. Lentil cake! Yes lentil cake, but why? Why--because I am me. And my fridge is empty and I am starving. I see a bag of lentils. There are bean cakes, so why not a lentil cake? A cake without gluten, a cake I could eat. So in Salty Cod fashion, we crossed our eyes, hailed mary, poured a glass of wine, and played baking god. And what do ya know, my Frankenstein, he lives!

Orange Anise Lentil Cakes:

Ingredients: 1 cup pureed lentils ~ 1 cup gluten free flour mix like bob's (or if you could give a damn about gluten, just use a cup of regular old flour, any flour actually) ~ 3 eggs ~ 1.5 cups powdered sugar ~ 0.5 cups butter (1 stick) ~ 1 tsp baking powder ~ 0.5 tsp salt ~ 1 packet vanilla suagar (or extract) ~ 0.5 tsp almond extract ~ 1 tsp anise seeds ~ zest of whole orange

method: 1) combine butter and sugar, add eggs, extracts, zest, and anise 2) in another bowl combine flour, bs, and salt 3) combine wet mixture and flour, add lentil puree 4) divide into sprayed muffin tins or a loaf pan 5) bake at 350 F until done.

You are correct, orange and anise do sound of classic biscotti, but now they are lentil pound cake. deal with it. You wish to know if the cake tastes of vegetable? If you are yet doubting, which i do not blame you for, I will here gloat that none of the cake's consumers were told of the ingredients, none, and yet eyes fluttered back in pastry ecstasy of palatable bliss! And well, because I am so full of myself, I will say these cakes were quite successful. Sorry Lentil, Orange is nothing without Anise. So on a cold sunny day--we found our sunshine.

à bientôt

Friday, November 14, 2008

Québec Fudge...Revisited

the magic of a microwaved mess up

What do we do when we fall off the horse? We get back on it. But what do we do if the horse starts doing the cock-a-doodle dance of mockery as you sit in the dirt rubbing your sore ass? Well, we could remind the horse that in Iceland minced horse meat pies are common occurrences at the family dinner table. Or, look that sorry lump of undercooked caramel straight in the eye and proclaim the battle ad interim. hehe. Who am I kidding, there's no sappy drama here, only dumb luck and a microwave baby. on y va.

But wouldn't it be great if i could draw out a tale of perseverance mixed with with a message of overcoming the obstacles to laugh senor surrender straight out of town. Create a salty sweet Odysseus out of molasses and sugar. Would you agree that there is nothing in life that cannot be manipulated into allegory for one's need. The notion of resilience; knocked down but still coming back for more. That milk toast of a philosopher Pascal would put it l'homme n'est qu'un roseau, le plus faible de la nature--but a reed unbreakable none the less, Winston held us on repeat, never never never give up, and who first said if at first you don't succeed... Humans love the underdog; the struggle, the failure followed by redemption. There are six Rocky films aren't there? If we mess up we try again, the product a lesson learned from our mistakes. To err is human. So perhaps to come back then is to laugh at humanity for having found the loophole.

When the sun comes out we think it a sign. The wind dries the puddles and pavement so you can finally wear your new shoes. One small pin prick lights the satin sheet of star-less night sky that seemed to have smothered you with unfortunate bruising details only the night before. A whisper, a nod, a note at your heart from afar, perhaps these small seemingly inconsequential happenings are all that it takes really in cliche to turn that frown upside down. Just one small right among what appears unbearably to be so many wrongs to make us feel right again. A weakness? Maybe, but it is better to pretend the rocking horse a Pegasus than to wallow in a horse-less reality.

Did that happen here with this bloody fudge? Was I in a bad mood turned happy by stumbling upon a cure? No, but look it gave me premise for a story now didn't it. About three weeks ago i attempted the creation of Québec fudge, or Sucre à la crème (recipe here) to sit atop an autumnal cheesecake, while i posted it, it was a, well a failure. The fudge did not work out; instead of a crumbly sandy color fudge i was left with a dark gooey caramel. And in my dramatic hot head fashion, after securing squares of the made "caramel" for the cheesecakes, i piled the grinning lump of maple caramel into a box and shoved it in the back of the freezer, mumbling to myself in haughty blackness myriad curses upon all things French Canadian. Out of mind out of sight eh? We don't like to be reminded of our mistakes. Though as my anger ebbed, the lump emerged from the freezer before my trip to Seattle with my clownish smile of ooh perhaps R and G (brother and sister) could use this to make caramel apples! So I'm a failed candy maker, move on. Or so I thought...

G and i heated a little cup of the caramel to drizzle over pink rice crispy treats we made together (i only like pink marshmallows) and as the caramel set into zig zag formations across the sticky rice squares, it began to opaque; huh, that looks like fudge. That looks like fudge! Throw the whole box of caramel in the microwave. One minute later--pour into a greased pan. The next morning: set, opaque, crumbly fudge. Oh yeah. I meant to do that the entire time.

The principle: fudge needs to be cooked to a certain temperature, that is why a candy thermometer is necessary. But if you f* it up, it can be redeemed through a little dumb luck and a trip through the microwave. We triumphed through our peril and overcame the beast of failure through steadfast perseverance! No not really, but it's a nice thought. It is not easy to fix a sticky mess, but it is possible. Allegorize and personify your fudge, because if at first you don't succeed...

à bientôt

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Sydney's off to Seattle--with Winey Tear-Stained Cookies

pomegranate Merlot Langues de Chat--the Jefferson peace coins for the trip to my parents

So I have a cat. Well rather, my housemates and I have a cat. And her name is Sydney. But what my housemates and I manged to accomplish, as budding first-time home renters, was the purchase of the monster prior to asking for the landlords approval. Now, after two months, we casually get around to asking. And the verdict: well of course it is no, else there would be no story here for me to yarn before your eyes. So the cat must go. But go where? Ironically it is not even my cat, i'm not a cat person --but my three housemates were denied and refused harborage by their families or significant others, and therefore the burden, like many others i have dumped, falls to my poor parents. She will get along fine there though, for their home is a halfway house for hooligans, drunks, rehab patients, mentally handicapped dogs, my brother, boxes of crap i don't want to throw out yet don't want to keep (love you guys), oh yeah and on occasion--me.

So the pestilent cat must be taken to Seattle. Hooray! A few days away from Spokane! It has been over three months since my last visit, and when the mountain passes are free of snow the distance between Spokane and Seattle dwindle to under five hours by car. So, this weekend--we are away. But right before we go--we bake some cookies of course. When Captains Merriweather Lewis and William Clark "discovered" the western United States they took with them Jefferson peace coins of the nation to offer the native tribes they stumbled upon as mementos of thanks and tidings of we come in peace. At the Salty Cod, short of printing Thomas Jefferson's face on a shortbread biscuit, we try to follow suit.

But then what of these strange cookies? Well, a recipe reminiscent of a cat (duh) to offer to family accompanied by repetitive arigato head motions. Langues de chat--cat tongues are long dry french butter sugar cookies, but softened to a crybaby version with wine and Persephone tears (pomegranate jewels). Am I crying for losing the cat? Sadly no. The cat is much better off without me. With other animals to play with and an outdoor forest to explore. Perhaps it's just one of those days (weeks) where the bags of bricks fall one just after the other. And maybe the wine...sitting next to my computer (glass-less, bad sign?) is perfect to make a white cookie pink like a cat's tongue, and fate perhaps then arranged the pomegranate in the bowl, tear shaped seeds, jewels from which mythology has given us to correlate to sadness and having fallen in a web. We all feel sorry for ourselves from time to time, but once reality is checked, and perhaps a few days to get...away; and the sun somehow finds its way back into the sky, even if it is still only behind the clouds. Reality is remembering that despite the presence of storm clouds--the sun did in fact rise. Reality doesn't always have to be seeing to beleiving, in fact I prefer it to not be.

Langues de chat: (traditional from Chocolate & Zucchini)
ingredients: .5 cup flour ~ .25 cup sugar ~ 2 egg whites ~ 1 tsp vanilla ~ .25 cup butter
method: mix. refrigerate one hour. using a pastry bag make strips, and bake 400 for 7 minutes.

with wine and pomegranates: add extra sugar, extra flour, 4 tbsps wine, and a quarter cup pomegranates.

Sydney, lonestar Spokey--now a sister to three dogs and two wizened felines. She will be just fine. She has taken kindly to the room that used to be my little sisters, which before hers was mine, and now is a computer office/ guest room with boxes stacked against walls, a telescope here, a guitar case there--physical displacement is given more credit than it deserves. You feel at home where you want to feel at home.

Wine and pomegranates. Well i'll take inspiration from any source, the good and the lonely. But remember that the only things to do with leftover pomegranate tears is to drown them in a bowl of steamy porridge. And next time--we'll use a damn glass.

Perks of a short trip home? Rainy soccer games--both brother and sister. But even better--what can i take from the pantry...tante pufflette si tu es la j'aime beaucoup tes confitures! i am making off with two jellys...shhhh!!

a bientot