Brain Cloud, Saturday, 23 February 08: Waiting for the Rain, Coughing Up a Storm, Condé Nast Traveler on American Food

Ah, the rain, the rain, the rain. Weather reports say to expect it at any moment (in fact, it was supposed to have arrived already, while we slept). All day yesterday, TV weathermen directed viewers’ attention to an ominous green glob, moving inexorably toward the coast of California. Self, an extremely light sleeper, expected to be awakened in the middle of the night with the first drops.

But, no! Sometimes the heavens are merciful! Self was awakened, not by rain, but by sound of Gracie whimpering piteously to be fed, at 7 a.m. Which meant that self probably had approximately five hours sleep (in spite of staying up late listening to hubby converse with his mother on his new toy, webcam) — HALLELUJAH!

Self still coughing up a storm, however, which is extremely detrimental to her equanimity, not to mention her vanity (nose is as red as Rudolph’s) Still, self is determined to head to Costco at some point, to pick up a box of Duraflame logs (for if there’s no power tonight, at least she will have a fire)

In the meantime, self multi-tasking by watching “Dog Whisperer” and reading an extremely interesting article by Alan Richman in November 2007 Condé Nast Traveler, an article entitled “The Great American Food Odyssey.” Here is how it begins:

Before we were able to pay attention to food, Americans had to perfect democracy, settle the West, free the slaves, crush the Nazis, and fight the commies. Meanwhile, we ate whatever was at hand. We stewed squirrels. We turned turtles into soup. Food was secondary. Oh, we had raw materials aplenty: fields of waving grain, herds of juicy protein, oceans of non-farmed fish. We just didn’t know what to do with it all.

Our first uniquely American restaurants appeared in the fifties and sixties. We called them Polynesian, even though none of us knew where Polynesia was or what Polynesians ate. We concocted Sesame Chicken Aku-Aku and Shrimp Bongo-Bongo. It was our first date food. In the seventies, food started to change, courtesy of a place called California — home to Alice Waters and Wolfgang Puck, fresh vegetables and wood-grilled meats.

Once we discovered how much fun it was to eat, there was no stopping us. We freed chickens from their pens — and ate them! We let pasta get cold — on purpose! We shunned preservatives that prevented spoilage — and called it health food!

Soon we had a culinary tradition all our own. We named it New American cuisine (although to be honest, there never was an Old American cuisine).

Mr. Richman then proceeds to list all the dishes that make up this new, elevated American cuisine, such dishes as Chez Panisse’s famous Baked Sonoma Goat Cheese with Garden Lettuces (When was the last time self dropped by Chez Panisse? Probably over a decade ago); Barbecue Pork Sandwich from North Carolina (Self would love to try); Beef Cheek Ravioli (admittedly, sounds rather eeeeuuw) courtesy of Mario Batali’s Babbo; Blackened Redfish courtesy of K-Paul Prudhomme; Breast of Pork courtesy of Daniel Boulud; and Baltimore crab cakes.

And here is a list of desserts that Richman classifies as typically American:

Apple Brown Betty — “a triumph of colonial American cooking”
Devil’s Food Cake — “Chocolate. Need we say more?”
Hot Fudge Sundae — “Perfection in a tulip-shaped glass”
Pecan Pie — Hubby’s favorite, but self never could get into the “Karo syrup, nuts, and way too much whipped cream” thing
Strawberry Shortcake — “The beauty queen of desserts”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

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