I love eating international foods, because when I eat and especially when I cook from other cultures, I feel I'm engaging with them in an intimate way. What people eat tells you so much about their everyday lives: their social status, their climate, what foods are available in their area, how they spend their time—and it tells you how, over time, those factors shaped their understanding of food, their approach to a meal. Food, for me, is one way to understand other people's lives.
I feel the same way about my own culture's regional cuisine. In Passionate Vegetarian, Crescent Dragonwagon describes a summer dinner of the Southern United States: a pan of cornbread and a variety of vegetable dishes to accompany. I can see this meal. China dishes are laid out on a big dining room table, each filled with a different vegetable, all of them surrounding a big pan of cornbread. I love the idea of mothers and grandmothers gathering produce from their backyard gardens, and then preparing it in the afternoon, sometimes simply, sometimes elaborately, always different from the night before. It's a small, perfect example of what people have done in every culture, in every time: gathering what is available, and then turning it into a delectable meal.
Since I have the first real summer produce of the year, I decide to make that type of dinner tonight. The sugar snap peas are easy: I decide on a preparation I had in Week 2, Sugar Snap Peas with Cumin and Thyme. I look and look for a something to do with the summer squash, but most of the recipes I find call for a ripe tomato. I finally decide to open a can of diced tomatoes and to find ways to use the rest of the can in the next few days. I decide to try something new: Greek-Style Summer Squash from Passionate Vegetarian, and of course, some dilled pickled carrots.
I adapt one of the corn bread recipes from that same book (I'll post it when I finally get it perfected), but you could use any corn bread recipe you already love. I'll tell you the secret to really, really good cornbread: bake it in a cast iron pan in which you have melted, say, 2 Tablespoons of butter.
Dinner is very pretty on the plate, and tastes just as good as it looks. The squash is nice, sort of a chunky puree, with a nice garlicky flavor. I think you could use this as a chunky pasta sauce (especially if you didn't cook the liquid all the way down at the end) or serve it over polenta.... This seems like a nice, adaptable preparation.
And the cornbread—delectable, with a nice crust that tastes of butter. So good.
Jesse ate his piece of lunch cake at mid-afternoon and just isn't very hungry tonight. He has some cornbread (of course) and the peas, but he leaves most of the squash. I pack his leftovers and a big piece of cornbread into his lunchbox for tomorrow. The rest of the cornbread goes into the refrigerator. I'll use it for more meals in a few days.
Thursday's total includes a can of tomatoes (2.33) and a new head of garlic ($0.80)
Thursday total: $7.80. Remaining weekly allowance: $36.70.
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