Friday, August 10, 2018

Food Books: History & Memoirs

I have been making an effort to read more lately and, oops! it seems I gravitate towards food-related books *shrug emoji*. And in that realm of food-related books, I seem to be on a streak of food history books. I can't get enough of them! There is SO MUCH TO LEARN YOU GUYS. Here are some I've read recently (fyi the images are affiliate links, let's see how this turns out...).

While reading this book, I amazed co-workers and friends pretty much on the daily with fun facts about salt. "Did you know Roman Soldiers were paid with salt and that's where the term 'soldiers' comes from and also the term 'salary?!?'" I'm sure they loved this daily info and were not annoyed at all, especially my regular interjection of "SALT IS SO IMPORTANT YOU GUYS." But it is! So important! To life (we need it to live) and to history and to flavor. This book is a fun and super-interesting read. You will never take salt with a grain of salt again.

I mean. Who doesn't want to be immersed in the world of butter? Oh, you want to be immersed in actual butter? Samesies... but this book is the next best thing. What a fascinating ingredient with, as the title says, a rich history. The author travels all over the world to learn about the simple, yet beloved and essential ingredient. From utilitarian preserved butter from before refrigeration, that required so much salt that cooks had to rinse it well before using, to modern artisan butters with a dazzling array of variations. The book has given me aspirations to seek out and try more butters. Also included are "essential" recipes that butter plays a starring role in. And you have got to love the appendix with the word "butter" listed in over 50 languages. Dreamy!

I kind of read cookbook as if they were books, anyway, so this book seemed like a natural. It is filled with compelling and charming historical tidbits, though mostly about British foods. I would have loved to see more Eastern representation, but I suppose that would take several volumes and way more than 100 recipes. Not every chapter was riveting, but they are all short, so it's overall an easy and fun little read. 

In college I did a research paper on the history of eating utensils. This book is more than that, it's a history of food culture and appliances and the evolution of the kitchen, as well as utensils. Another book that is heavily Western, but more in-depth than "100 recipes." This book did make me want to hit the nearest antique mall and look for various old-fangled cooking implements like egg beaters and spit-jacks. What's just as interesting as where and how so many of our familiar kitchens came to be, is how long innovation can take. Some of that is fear... gas stoves and microwaves and refrigerators all sparked safety concerns... but also the fact that some things just work so well that no one is clamoring to try and make them better. For instance, pots, whisks, mortars and pestles... those all do the jobs better than anything modern inventors have come up with so far. And, they just feel good to use, you know? This book made me feel nostalgic, enlightened, inspired and curious. 

Part memoir, part cookbook, part history book, part interview book, Victuals (pronounced "viddles"... so that's how you spell it!) is illuminative and charming. The author, Ronni Lundi, talks about her childhood in Kentucky, reminiscing about her family and ancestors. She also spends time with current chefs and producers in parts of Appalachia, simultaneously finding out about their roots and motivations, and getting delightful recipes. She talks a lot about foraged ingredients, too... ramps and wild greens. Makes one want to rent a cabin near Asheville and roam the mountainside for dinner. 

This is a classic cookbook that I regret not knowing about sooner. It is broken up by season, because that's the way people used to cook. Crazy, huh? If you do nothing else, read up on Edna Lewis. What an inspiriting person! Written in 1976, The Taste of Country Cooking somehow manages to be ahead of it's time, while remembering how things used to be. Maybe that's just me, a Midwestern suburban girl raised on hamburger helper and taco kits, scratch cooking reserved for company or special occasions. I was transported to another time and place, but it also feels very now, and very very accessible. Between Victuals and this book, which I read back to back, I am left with aspirations of living a more simplified, seasonal, cozy life. With more caramel pies.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Our Brunch-Themed Wedding

I'm a wife now, and itching to get back to blogging. Yep, I got married March 31st and am so happy to dive into this next stage of my life. I could not have asked for a better life partner...Joel truly is the bacon to my eggs.

For us, a brunch-themed wedding was the obvious way to go. Our first date started with brunch, and he proposed at brunch. The wedding turned out magical... delectable food, bangin' music, so many hugs and laughs. Everyone warns that your big day will be a blur... but, while it did go by very fast, and there were so many people I wish I could've talked to more, I remember and cherish so many moments. Here are some photos by the brilliant Virginia Harold:

How cute are we? So in love! I made his boutonniere as well as all of the groomsmen's out of red and yellow flowers (Bloody Mary colors were our wedding colors) and fresh herbs. 
Couldn't resist gettin' punny with our invitations...

For our engagement photo shoot, by our talented friend and one of my bridesmaids, Amanda Ketzer, we re-enacted our first date... in bacon and egg costumes.
My bridesmaids wore the closest color to Bloody Mary red I could find on eShakti (great site where you can customize your dress to size and preference...and all dresses come with POCKETS). I was tempted to make them wear fascinators shaped like olives... too much, right? Man, my friends are gorgeous. LOOK AT THEM. I made the bouquets with red and yellow flowers (the yellow ones were tulips that didn't quite open in time) and fresh herbs and butcher twine. They smelled so good!
When I was planning, I joked that my bouquet should be an actual Bloody Mary. The more I thought about of it, the less of a joke it became... Bloody Marys have so much pretty things you can put in/on them! It would be perfect as a bouquet. I put together all the garnishes the night before, complete with a gold straw, in a simple little tall glass, and had it filled with Bloody Mary (virgin for the ceremony) before I walked down the aisle.

The tables were decorated with a burlap "yolk", my milk glass collection filled with Bloody Mary colored flowers (from the dollar store) and our Sunday paper-themed programs. The back of the programs were Sunday comics we grew up with, all marriage-themed! The tables were each named after a Sunday comic, instead of numbers.

It made for good brunch-time reading.

While all of the round guest tables were "eggs", the bridal party table was a long strip of lacy "bacon."
Food was obviously a very important part of the wedding for us. We had talented chef friends put together a brunch buffet, with lots of options for guests to build their ideal brunch. We had an egg station with a guy cooking eggs to order, several breakfast meat options, including longanisa, a Filipino sweet sausage. Carb-wise, there were waffles, homemade biscuits, homemade croissants, garlic fried rice and assorted breads. There was sausage gravy, and chili, for those St. Louis natives who wanted to make slingers. We had some vegan options, too! A tofu scramble, a Brussels sprout hash and breakfast potatoes. Everyone was happy and full. Joel and I only had 1 plate of food each, which I'm told is normal for the bride and groom. We actually ate at waffle house after we checked in to our hotel. Romance :)
Our friend (and match-maker), photographer Corey Woodruff, set up a lighting tent at the end of the buffet for people to take food photos. If you know Joel and I at all, you know that we love our food 'grams. 

We made these sweet-ass chalices. Our buds at Cocktails Are Go bar tended, serving signature Bloody Marys, Mimosas and spiked coffee. We also had 2nd Shift Brewery's famous Katy beer, mixed with calamansi, a Filipino citrus fruit. For our "crowd-pleaser" keg we had Blue Moon, chosen because there happened to be a blue moon that night.
We had a cereal bar for the end of the night.  I never actually saw the bar before it got destroyed, but here is my nephew at the remnants of it. It had 6 kinds of cereal, 3 kinds of milk and several sweet toppings, like marshmallows, gummy bears, chocolate chips and fruits.

A baker friend of ours made this dreamy cinnamon roll cake. We made the toppers ourselves out of Sculpy and wire. The guests enjoyed a sheet cake flavored with cinnamon, cinnamon swirl and cream cheese icing. 
Cheers to my HUSBAND and to all of the beautiful people who helped make our day so special. We love you!