In Dulci Jubilo

Sorry, couldn’t resist. I do have a nasty sweet tooth, though, so it’s not entirely untrue. I was recently privileged to eat a slice of pizza grano at Caffé Roma in Little Italy in New York City, after a hiatus of at least two decades. Pizza grano was every bit as wonderful as I remembered it. (It’s a sort of wheat custard pie, flavored with orange flower water and bits of citrus peel.)

My Life as a Food Maniac

I have been eating food for more than 65 years now. That’s rather a long time. I like food a bunch, but I’ve discovered that it doesn’t necessarily like me; I have several annoying food allergies. I’m working on those, currently with a certain amount of sauerkraut and a helpful attitude (except for the sweet-tooth alluded to above), and it seems to be going moderately well. I’m free of symptoms some of the time now, though I still have to avoid many of the things I really like. (If you think that’s not such a big deal, try eliminating all bread from your diet for a few days. No sandwiches, no bread and butter, no pizza, no burger buns if you’re a burger-type person... Now imagine that it’s not just bread, it’s anything containing flour, ...and imagine that it’s for the rest of your life. Not fun. Then try eliminating all yeast. You’d be amazed at some of the things that contain either yeast or yeast extract.)

...But enough of that. That’s for the allergy page. Here, I’d rather enjoy myself.

A Few Things I’ve Cooked, Over the Years

Your Local Bazilian Discovers Attieke...

I recently (I’m adding this section late in January, 2000) stopped in at Iroko, an African market in Beltsville, Maryland, just where route 1 meets route 212. I am only modestly familiar with the huge spectrum of African food, and almost every time I walk into an African market of any size I find something I’ve never heard of before. Iroko was no exception.

In places like Ghana and Nigeria, one method of preparing starch staples is to take the locally available starchy roots and pound them into submission. The result is called fufu. (I’m glossing this; please forgive me.) I usually make fufu by a slightly debased method: I buy gari (pronounced just about like the name "Garry" in standard US English), and stir it into boiling water or broth. There are two tricks to this: knowing when to stop pouring the gari into the water (as soon as you notice any real tendency toward thickening); and being immensely strong, because you have to stir it extremely thoroughly. Making fufu is rather like creaming the butter and sugar together for Toll House cookies, except that you don’t get to hold the bowl in a comfy position. (In either case you work the material at hand until both of your arms fall off.) But let us return to the issue at hand.

What I encountered in the freezer at Iroko was a modest and anonymous-looking blond blob of frozen stuff with a label that proclaimed it to be Attieke, and no list of ingredients whatsoever. I inquired of the woman behind the counter; she and one of the customers gave me cogent instructions. I listened to how they said the name, and it seemed like a cross between "atty-kay" and "atchy-keh", perhaps a bit closer to the latter. Accent on the first syllable, and let the "a" have a bit of "ah" to it.

Should you encounter attieke, here is what you do with it if you want to be at least vaguely traditional:

Hotness may be applied in any form you like; I like Waha Wera hot sauce, but you probably have your own favorite. (Waha Wera has transcendantly excellent flavor, but it is slightly sweet because it is based on kiwi fruit. It is made by Kaitaia Fire, and is variously available.) You may, perhaps, want to hot up your attieke by means of Bahamian Bird peppers. If you are able to find Bahamian Bird peppers, I WANT SEEDS!!!

I should also insert a word of caution here. The woman who was telling me to acquire the sardines (as a substitute for the broiled fresh fish that is the real trad item) told me with emphatic gestures that this stuff fills you up a lot. (She puffed up her cheeks until I had to start giggling, as did the woman behind the counter.) It’s Class A Comfort Food, with all that implies, and is suitable neither for diabetics nor the faint of heart. Y’all been warned. (I had two helpings, and was obliged to roll myself upstairs to my little garret here. I’d do it again in a heartbeat, though. It was entirely yummy.)

Thinking about this method a few days later I decided to try Japanese broiled mackerel in place of the sardines next time; but then Sandy Stone, with whom I am corresponding on this issue, counterproposed Japanese broiled eel, delicately poised atop in an echo of Unajyu (am I remembering the name correctly?) or the relevant Korean eel dish, the name of which I don’t know. Gotta be great! I’m also thinking about the possible joys of using Marmite instead of Maggi. (Yes, they actually pointed me at a bottle of Maggi on the shelf, not what I’d have expected to find as a trad West African ingredient, but hey; I allowed as to how we had that sorta thing already, which is true in several dimensions though not that specific brand. Bragg Liquid Aminos would work, in fact, or soy sauce, or almost any good savory. ...Or dripping, as I’ve already pointed out.)

Oh, yes, I forgot to tell you what attieke is. Well, it looks and smells like partially hydrated gari mushed into a lump. It has, thus, a texture that is reminiscent of a cross between couscous and polenta: slightly grainy, as is couscous, but rather soft, and a bit fluffy in a fairly heavy way. The aroma is decidedly sour, and it’s clear to me that attieke is made of dried cassava root.

What? You don’t find this particularly enchanting? Oh, well; that’s what makes the world go ’round. I’ll just, uhh, have your portion, ...if that’s okay? Thanks!

...and Finds a Happy Source for Ice Cream

Just inside the DC Beltway, on Georgia Avenue (route 97), there is a little place called York Castle Tropical Ice Cream. The ice cream is fairly delicately flavored, and will not belt you in the head with a Swiss Alp (pace Thomas Pynchon); but it is good, and it comes in a nice variety of flavors, including banana, soursop, lychee, mango, coffee, and Guinness. Yes, Guinness. Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.

Modest Rantings

In the December, 1995 issue of Natural History Magazine, in the letter column, I find a wretched little piece of calumny. It seems that Roger Welsch, in his "Science Lite" column a month or two before that, misquoted a nasty little ditty about dried apple pie (that particular column was about pies). The correspondent quotes the entire poem, and I am moved to respond to it because I have some strong feelings on the subject.

First of all, if I recall correctly the poem complained about the quality of the apples, and not about the pie itself. This is easily taken care of: buy only the best organic unsulfured dried apples, and quit worrying about it.

Of course, that isn’t the whole story. I must further contend that both Welsch and the person who wrote the letter have a lot of nerve, knocking something without giving it a proper trial. Here’s a recipe; now you may judge the relative merits of dried apple pie for yourself.

Many people think that applejack is distilled. If it were, it’d be Calvados. No, it’s jacked. The canny Vermont farmer, having made cider out of some of his pressing, waits for a ripping cold winter night (we are talking minus thirty or better here), and leaves a barrel of the stuff outside. I don’t know for a fact whether it takes only one night. Could be that two is better; may also depend on the size of the barrel. The result, one way or the other, is that a fair percentage of the water freezes, leaving a concentrated (jacked) beverage floating on the top, which the farmer then decants. I presume that it’s pretty raw at that stage, and can stand being aged in a charred maple (not too many oaks in Vermont!) cask for a while.

Cider and applejack keep well, which is one reason for making them--fresh-pressed applejuice lasts only a few days, even in the cold. If you don’t want to make alcohol there is one other pleasant way to deal with an excess of juice, and that’s to make boiled cider from it.


My research pages

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Last modified: Sun Oct 16 23:57:42 EDT 2016