Labu Apetīti, Julia Caroline Child

I use my mom’s copy of the first edition, clearly a much used and battered cookbook (there are even pages in it that are singed from when Mom placed them too close to the burners)

Julia Child was born on August 15, 1912 in Pasadena, California. She was an American cooking teacher, author, and television personality. She stood 6’2″ (1.88 m) tall and is famous for the ground-breaking cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Childs hosted cooking shows I remember my mom avidly following. The National Museum of Natural History has a room dedicated to her original kitchen. When I visited, I joined  a group of other people: all of us watched videos of her cooking show.  In her honor I am reprinting a post I wrote after visiting the restaurants of Estonia and Latvia. – Jadi

Uwe and I made our first trip to two of the Baltic states. We spent a couple days each exploring Riga, Latvia and Tallinn, Estonia. Along with sparking a brand-new curiosity in the Hanseatic League [1], these cities introduced me to the northern European food scene.

Oh. My. God. We ate incredible meals every night. What made those meals so special is an insistence on local products and a reverence for tradition, but with a modern spin. The chefs did delicious things with grains like kasha, and groats and millet, and barley. For years I have firmly insisted that German bread is the best on the planet, closely followed by breads baked fresh in India [2]. Now there’s a new guy on the (bread) block: the pumpernickel and dark breads of the Baltics.

A starter with local smoked salmon

We ordered dishes with elk, deer, fresh and smoked fish.

A different restaurant’s smoked salmon with trout cavier, accompanied by rolled slices of cucumber
… and a third restaurant’s smoked salmon appetizer. Art on a plate
Traditional beet borscht soup, updated with yellow lentils and pieces of elk meat that melted in my mouth

We enjoyed the local cheeses and beers. For the first time in my life I ate (and loved!) kippered herrings. Everything was decorated with edible flowers and herbs, and served up with intense purees of once-uninteresting and now fascinating root vegetables. Everything was presented as a work of art. This is food to die for….

First course of wild mushrooms sauteéd and served in spinach blini purses

Without further ado, here are some of the plates from our feasts. Every night we forgot to photograph at least one course. We were too busy enjoying our food!

Lamb marinated in juniper berries served with yellow beetroot cream, cranberries and barley
Fresh fish with beet root puree and kale (out of all the meals we ate, the kale was the one item that was not perfect)
Venison stew with roasted onion halves
Beef with sweet pepper-eggplant-onion millet squares, oyster mushrooms, water cress and johnny-jump-ups

A shout out to the amazing restaurants Von Krahi Aed and Rataskaevu 16 in Tallinn, as well as Peter Gailis and Melna Bite in Riga. Labu apetīti and jätku leiba! [3]

Hibiscus poached pear, pumpkin seeds in apple syrup, and raspberry sorbet

In memory of Julia Child, August 15, 1912 – August 13, 2004

NOTES: [1] The Hanseatic League controlled all shipping and commerce across the Baltic Sea and northern Europe to Russia. Riga and Tallinn (then known as Reval) were member cities. [2] Go to my earlier post My Mother-in-Law’s Cookies for more on bread. [3] As always, I receive no favors for mentioning these establishments. © Jadi Campbell 2017. Previously published as The Art of Food. All photos © Uwe Hartmann 2017. To see more of Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies, Runner-Up for the 2021 Top Shelf Award, 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network, and awarded a 2021 Wishing Shelf Red Ribbon. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was  semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts and Finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories).

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Why Food Banks Matter – Part Two

I’m reprinting my earlier posts on food banks as a response to the current world crisis brought on by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This is Part Two.  – Jadi

Wall Mural FFLC
“Justice of Eating Produce Stand”

The first thing I noticed is that the food bank takes up an entire warehouse. Outside the front doors a lovely mural depicts people harvesting a garden for an old-fashioned produce stand. The next wall has a quote from Pablo Neruda.

The reception area has tall walls with high windows, metal filing cases and the ubiquitous, moveable office divider walls. Boxes in the gigantic pantries are stacked impossibly tall, 10-15 palettes high. Signs direct donors to head to Dock 1; at another dock, vans load food to be delivered to distribution centers.

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These boxes store all sorts of food goods, not bananas!

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Beverlee moved to Eugene from the Oregon coast where she was one of the humans  instrumental in releasing an orca back to the ocean (you know that story as “Free Willie”). She’s always loved community development work.

She says, “In the non-profit world you wear so many hats. You can be responsible for so many things. If I like coming to work, I certainly want my employees to enjoy coming to work… it’s a whole lot easier to manage an organization where folks are happy. It’s great to keep my finger on the pulse.”

Of the staff of 58, thirty-six employees are full time, and six of those are involved in fund raising and marketing. Many of the workers have been with the non-profit for 18-20 years. All are passionately committed to FFLC’s goals.

A typical employee “is a guy who had a really good job, great bennies, and a good salary. But it wasn’t meaningful work. So at a certain age he decided that he needed to change gears and do something more meaningful.

“It’s a paradox sometimes,” Bev says. “We have people working here who need our services. A liveable minimum wage is $15/hour. But all of our full time employees get health care and retirement benefits.”

Entry-level employees usually are young people (frequently part-time), working their way into careers. Other positions are filled by a highly educated group who usually hold graduate degrees and have an interest in non-profit management. Many are Peace Corps veterans or people with experience as volunteers. The 16 men who work in the warehouse are a range of ages, all of them interested in physical labor.

FFLC runs 13 food programs, each with a unique way of distributing food to the hungry. Most of the food bank’s 140 partner organizations are staffed by volunteers.

Bev wanted to know first-hand what it’s like to budget for food on a limited income. “The first thing that happens when people are strapped,” she said, “is they decide not to eat. They want to pay the bills and keep the roof over their heads.” Persons on food stamps provided by the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP, feed themselves on what comes to $31.50 a week, or $1.50 a meal. Bev had to think ahead and prepare food all the time to make it work. She realized that “[a] person who has limited access to food by necessity spends a lot of energy trying to figure out how to meet that hunger.”

Former President Donald Trump attempted to cancel SNAP benefits for millions of Americans. [1]

Food For Lane County is Eugene’s most popular non-profit, and she hears stories every day about people who have been touched by their services. Bev volunteers at FFLC’s programs and especially loves FFLC’s restaurant. The Dining Room serves nightly free meals with a piano playing in the room, artwork on the walls, and newspapers to read. The homeless and the hungry are fed with dignity. Bev describes being there as “a Buddhist moment”.

I asked her for any last thoughts. She notes that America has no national discussion about hunger and poverty. People cared when the recession first hit, but events have moved on in terms of dialog or visibility. And in the meantime the problems of hunger and the hungry in the USA have worsened.

Before the afternoon ended I knew I was going to blog about Beverlee and Food For Lane County.

Beverlee Hughes, Executive Director, Food For Lane County
Beverlee Potter, former Executive Director, Food For Lane County

 ***

FFLC’s vision: To eliminate hunger in Lane County. Their mission: “To alleviate hunger by creating access to food. We accomplish this by soliciting, collecting, rescuing, growing, preparing and packaging food for distribution through a network of social services agencies and programs and through public awareness, education and community advocacy.”

facebook.com/foodforlanecounty. twitter.com/FoodForLC. youtube.com/food4lanecounty. email: info@foodforlanecounty.org

NOTES: *Food insecurity—the condition assessed in the food security survey and represented in USDA food security reports—is a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food. [1] As reported in December 2019, the Trump administration had ‘sought to tighten requirements for food stamps without congressional approval after Congress blocked a Trump-backed effort to pass new restrictions through the Farm Bill last year.’ (Reuters www.reuters.com) I’ve updated the link on food security: USDA Report on Food Security

Watch “A Place at the Table” with Jeff Bridges, about hunger in America. A Place at the Table

The facts in these two posts speak for themselves. The bald reality of hunger in  America is outrageous enough, and Putin’s war in Ukraine means that countries around the world face starvation.

Pablo Neruda Quote FFLC

Copyright © 2013 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as A Visit to the Food Bank, Part Two. Beverlee Potter has since retired. The amazing work of Food For Lane County continues. To learn more: https://foodforlanecounty.org/

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network and with a Red Ribbon by the 2021 Wishing Shelf Book Awards of England. In addition, The Trail Back Out was an American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts, as well as a Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book Awards.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books. My main character in Tsunami Cowboys goes to the food bank.

 

Why Food Banks Matter – Part One

In light of the current food crisis brought on by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it seems like a good time to reprint my posts about food banks. I wrote this two-part post back in 2013. Since then, need brought on by food insufficiency has only grown more dire. May these posts give my readers food for thought.

– Jadi

Pablo Neruda Quote FFLC

I visited the Food for Lane County food bank while doing research for my second book Tsunami Cowboys. One character visits a food bank. It’s a brief scene, a couple pages. Easy enough. Nonetheless, the scene matters.

I spent hours trolling the Web for information. The back of my brain always insists, Get it right, Jadi. Then I remembered I actually know several people who work at non-profits… and I’d never visited a food bank. So, in the interests of research (and a wonderful excuse to see what a friend does all day) I made an appointment to interview Beverlee Potter (at that time Beverlee Hughes), Executive Director of Food For Lane County [FFLC] in Eugene, Oregon.

I thought I knew about the reality of hunger. Uwe and I travel to out-of-the-way places, and God knows we’ve seen poverty and malnutrition in countries and regions all around the globe. But the visit to FFLC brings it back home.

  • Fact: 20% of the U.S. population lives in poverty
  • Fact: 46 million Americans are on food stamps
  • Fact: The number of people needing services has tripled in a decade
  • Fact: 1 in every 5 people in Oregon is eligible for food assistance
  • Fact: Oregon State has highest rate of childhood hunger in the country (29.0%)
  • Fact: 30% of children in Oregon are food insecure *
  • Fact: 39% of Lane County residents are eligible for emergency food assistance
  • Fact: In some Lane County schools, 95% of all children are eligible for free or reduced cost lunches

What do you do with these facts? If you’re Beverlee, you get to work. She and her staff of 58 achieve an astonishing range of goals:

  • Emergency & Mobile food pantries (distributing just under 8 million lbs. of food/year)
  • Emergency Meal sites & shelters
  • 3 Child Nutrition Programs
  • Food Rescue Express & Fresh Alliance (distributing 1 million lbs. of food/year)
  • 2 gardens & a 6-acre farm that grow food & build self-esteem. FFLC hires at-risk kids and through internships teaches them teamwork, punctuality, customer services, etc. Daily lunches at the gardens teach people what freshly harvested produce tastes like.
  • Extra Helping, food for low-income housing sites
  • Rural deliveries
  • Delivery of once-a-month food boxes for low-income seniors
  • A farm stand outside PTA meetings where parents can pick up food as they leave
  • The Dining Room, the food bank’s sit-down restaurant in downtown Eugene, offering free 4-5 course meals. They serve up to 300 meals a night.
  • Shopping Matters, classes to teach people on limited budgets how to shop for food
  • Cooking Matters, free cooking & nutrition classes

 ***

Beverlee Potter has since retired. The amazing work of Food For Lane County continues. For more information: https://foodforlanecounty.org/

 

I’ll post Part 2  tomorrow.

NOTES: *Food insecurity—the condition assessed in the food security survey and represented in USDA food security reports—is a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food. Copyright © 2013 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as A Visit to the Food Bank, Part One. Keep in mind that the statistics on hunger cited here are from 2013.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network and with a Red Ribbon by the 2021 Wishing Shelf Book Awards of England. In addition, The Trail Back Out was an American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts, as well as a Finalist for Greece’s 2021 Eyelands Book Awards.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books. My main character in Tsunami Cowboys goes to the food bank.

 

Street Food + One Last Lesson

Many years ago I briefly taught a group of ten-to-eleven-year-old German kids everyday English. We met one hour a week for basic vocabulary. We did puzzles and played games.

When the classes stopped, I invited all of them over for a meal at our apartment and together we prepared soft and hard shell tacos. It’s a build it as you go meal, and it’s messy. The dish involves lots of items to add or leave out. Perfect for kids, right?

The eight kids were enthusiastic about the messiness and leery of the optional chilies and salsa. One of the boys took a bite of a soft shell taco and made a face. But – he tried it.

After the meal I made a small speech: I praised them for trying the food. You don’t have to like it, and you don’t have to eat it if you don’t want to, I said. But if you stay willing to try new things, you will have full and interesting lives. I am really proud of all of you.

Those kids were silent; I could tell they were truly listening to what I was saying. Somehow, in the uncanny way of children, they knew I was trying to tell them something important. In their honor I am reprinting the post I wrote after visiting the food streets in Xi’an’s Muslim quarter. – Jadi

In Xi’an’s historic Muslim quarter, vendors were baking, frying, steaming and cooking all sorts of delicious treats. These ranged from food that was deep fried in woks to marinated meats on skewers.

Care for a kebab?

I couldn’t resist the piles of beautifully plaited and stamped breads,

as well as the stacks of sesame and bean paste desserts…

Wherever we travel, we always try local foods. We drew the line at river rat, hundred-year-old eggs, or chicken beaks. But in China we ate very well indeed.

NOTES: Xi’an was ’s the first city in China to be introduced to the religion of Islam and the religion has been allowed here since 651. About 50,000 Hui Muslims reside in Xi’an. ©Jadi Campbell 2018. Previously published as Tastes of Xi’an. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network, and American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts, and named a Finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories).

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

 

Paul Klee + Blue Tunisia

Artist Paul Klee was born on December 18, 1879 in Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland. He was a part of the Bauhaus movement and wrote about color theory. Klee traveled to Tunis in April of 1914 for twelve days. The colors and light of North Africa strongly influenced his paintings and those of his companions August Macke and Louis Moilliet. In his honor I am reprinting the post I wrote after we visited Tunisia. – Jadi

We flew down to Tunisia for a week in September that year. I’d planned to write about Hammamet’s lovely laid back tourist vibe, the gorgeous beaches and how much fun it was viewing the Mediterranean from the Africa coast for the first time.

I didn’t want to obsess on the fact that a few weeks later terrorists shot tourists in a museum down the road from the souk we visited. I definitely don’t want to think about the beach where tourists from around the world were murdered in cold blood that summer. It’s less than 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the hotel we stayed in.

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Those cowardly acts have nothing to do with what Uwe and I experienced. I took notes as I sat on our sweet balcony, and here is what I wrote:

“The tourists are international. Every body size and shape, every age is represented. We see groups of Italians, French, Egyptians, Algerians, Germans and Brits. Women in black leggings, head scarves, and long sleeved tunics sit by the pool. Two men (young Arab males) hold hands and spring into the pool at a running jump. Kids run and play everywhere I look. Old folks in wheel chairs are pushed by family members.

The French and Italian tourists live up to their reputations with their rule of remaining poolside until 6 p.m. Then they go to change for dinner at 7:00.

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View from our balcony. Taken early evening, when guests had headed to their rooms to change their clothes and think about dinner

Lots of Middle East tourists are traditionally dressed in modest clothing. [1] They swim in the ocean fully dressed! But there are also single Arab women in bikinis, or young couples on holiday.”

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I sat and revised Tsunami Cowboys under one of these umbrellas…

“Paragliders are pulled by boats, a yacht and sailboat or two glide by, an endless panorama of ocean spreads from left to right. Without talking about it we head past the pool to go down to the lounge chairs under sun umbrellas on the beach. Uwe reads and I edit the manuscript for my second book Tsunami Cowboys. I’m beyond happy: I’m in an exotic locale with fun stuff to notice all around me and I’m doing good writing work. Each afternoon around 4 I stop and swim in the ocean.”

Our hotel was about twenty minutes from the center of Hammamet. Sometimes we strolled into town for dinner; some nights we had a drink at the hotel and picked one of the restaurants there. We did a couple of tours, to Tunis, Sidi Bou Saïd

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Sidi Bou Saïd is justifiably famous for its vivid blue architecture

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Sidi Bou Saïd is popular with artists too

and the ancient city of Carthage. [2]

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I bargained for sandals at Tunis’ souk [3],

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and harissa and couscous spices at an outdoor market.

Touristy? Sure. But here are more of my notes from that week: “Everyone smiles and says hello in the hotel. We’re all here to relax and co-mingle. I have the lovely experience of being welcomed as an American – and when was the last time that’s happened lately – the locals intrigued to learn where I’m from, and even more intrigued to hear that I live in Europe.

I think that’s partly because not many Americans make it to the area, or maybe our hotel books more Europeans and Arabs. Certainly on our charter flight from Germany I’m the only Ami on board! Tunisians are delighted when I assure them that yes, I am enjoying my first visit to their country.”

We learn that Tunisia’s population of 8 million swelled by an additional 2 million people displaced by wars. Tunisia is a struggling democracy in an unstable part of the world. The Tunisians on the coast are hospitable, curious, worldly. And I want to go back.

I want Tunisia without terrorism.

In memory of Paul Klee, 18 December 1879 – 29 June 1940

NOTES: [1] A sign by the pool read “Clothes clog the drains! Bathing suits only, please!” [2] Carthage made the fatal mistake of challenging Rome. The Romans burned it to the ground, killed all the men and sold the women and children into slavery. Then, to make sure everyone got the message that it was a really bad idea to go against Rome, they sowed the area with salt so that nothing would ever grow again…. [3] The shopkeeper held a lighter to the bottom to prove that they were made of camel and not plastic.  ©2016 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as Tunisia Without Terrorism. Photos © 2015 Uwe Hartmann. More of Uwe’s images from our trips to North Africa and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

https://jadicampbell.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/d32_3302_dxo10.jpg?resize=600%2C398&w=840

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out. Books make great gifts!

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network. In addition, The Trail Back Out was an American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts, and is now a Finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories).

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Mark Kurlansky + NaCl

Author and journalist Mark Kurlansky was born December 7, 1948 in Hartford, Connecticut. He has written about oysters, cod, salt, salmon, milk and paper – among other topics. His writing is engaging and informative. I have copies of Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World (an international bestseller translated into more than 15 languages) and Salt: A World History. His book Nonviolence: Twenty-five Lessons From the History of a Dangerous Idea was awarded the 2007 Dayton Literary Peace Prize. In his honor I am reprinting the post I wrote after we visited a saltworks in Laos. – Jadi

When we talk about salt, we talk most often of sodium chloride. This is NaCl, consisting of the elements sodium and chlorine.

There is a charming tradition in Germany of bringing a loaf of bread and salt to friends when they move into a new home. The saying is that if you have those two items in your house you’ll always survive. Bread and salt are still ceremoniously served to guests in parts of northern and eastern Europe.

Mark Kurlansky writes, “Loyalty and friendship are sealed with salt because its essence does not change. In both Islam and Judaism, salt seals a bargain because it is immutable… In Christianity, salt is associated not only with longevity and permanence but, by extension, with truth and wisdom. The Catholic Church dispenses not only holy water but holy salt, Sal Sapientia, the salt of wisdom.” [1]

Seeing the hard way salt is won from pits changed forever the way I think about this simple condiment.

We were staying for only a few days in Vientiane, the capitol of Laos, and spent a day with a guide and a driver to see a bit of the area. One of the spots we toured was a traditional salt harvesting town. A little settlement lives at and from the pits – and has burned down numerous times. Each time, they rebuild right next to the pits.

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Salty waters are brought up from deep underground

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and then boiled in open metal pans. Their burning fires glowed and sent off intense heat. The briny steam that rose felt like being in some strange circle of Dante’s Purgatory.

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Once the water has boiled away the salt is gathered in baskets, weighed, and stored in a barn.

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Workers then bag and tag the salt, preparing it for market.

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Salt is a serious business. The salt from this mine is sent to the north where people still suffer endemic goiters.

I thought of the pits of hell, of work so demanding and hot that it left scars. Just being tied to a spot like this must bake you and make you hard. Or so I thought. Instead, I met workers doing their jobs in neatly ironed clothing. The women all had on jewelry. A group of little children trailed us everywhere, laughing and mugging as children do.

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Since that day salt has tasted both sweeter and bitterer, or herber as the Germans say. And in that small word I hear the echo of the coming season, Herbst, Autumn. The summer is burning away and fall is coming. May your harvest tables everywhere include bread and salt.

NOTES: [1] Mark Kurlansky, Salt: A World History (Vintage Books, 2002), p. 7. ©2014 & 2021 Jadi Campbell. Previously published as The Salt Pits.  More of Uwe’s pictures from Laos and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

My books are Broken In: A Novel in Stories, Tsunami Cowboys, Grounded, and The Trail Back Out. Books make great gifts!

Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was honored as 2021 IAN Book of the Year Award Short Story Collection Finalist for the Independent Author Network. In addition, The Trail Back Out was an American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Award Finalist: Fiction Anthologies. The title story The Trail Back Out was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. Broken In: A Novel in Stories was a semifinalist for the international 2020 Hawk Mountain Short Story Collection Award from Hidden River Arts, and is currently a Finalist for Greece’s international 2021 Eyelands Book of the Year Award (Short Stories).

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

 

The Foods of Fall

If I had to pick a single season for produce (like, if you tied me down and told me I couldn’t eat another meal until I chose) I’d pick autumn. I’ve always liked the abundance of autumn, and the generosity. The neighbors suddenly show up at the door with armfuls of squash. “Want some of these? We’ve got more than we can use.” My mother-in-law grew zucchini. She gave me some that were the size of Little League bats.

Life in a small village in Germany makes harvesting more present somehow. I get my veggies from a family run green house a couple blocks away. They don’t have the space or money to do anything other than seasonal vegetables, and I’ve learned to appreciate what’s suddenly ready to be harvested.

I jones big time for fresh Swiss chard a lot of the year here. My parents grew it in their garden and I totally took it for granted. Seeing it here was like winning the culinary lottery. At the end of every summer I go in the store hoping I’ll spot a big white bucket filled with freshly picked rainbow chard. Not just normal wonderful green chard, but rainbow!!

“I’d like your Mangold,” I request when it’s my turn to be served.

“A bunch of it?” she asks.

“No…. I’d like your Mangold. All of it.” I make sure my tone of voice lets her know that I’m not joking. Screw the other customers, let them find their own source for rainbow chard!

In the fall she has big, juicy, imperfect tomatoes. I had an awkward morning once as I attempted to translate the term heirloom tomatoes into German.

Orange pumpkins are available in the fall, but I lived here for years and never saw a Hubbard squash. Or an acorn squash. Or spaghetti squash. You get the idea. I don’t when or why the region finally got hip to winter Kürbisse, but I used to go into the exquisite (and super-duper expensive) Stuttgarter Markthalle if I wanted to cook with them.

At the moment, Pfifferlinge – trumpet mushrooms – are being picked. They’ve got a short season, so I buy them by the bagful. We eat them in risotto, or sautéed with diced bacon for pasta, or in a cream sauce for chicken.

In the spring, white asparagus is a national delicacy. For about two months, restaurants have entire menus based on dishes with Spargel. Germans and French people go insane for this vegetable. The spears are thicker than regular asparagus (the green variety barely elicits a yawn here) and a pain in the ass to peel without breaking. A few years ago Uwe and I were shopping in a big grocery store, and in the frozen foods aisle I spotted big bags of already peeled, frozen Spargel.

“Hey! Wanna get this? We can eat Spargel all year round!”

Incredulous disbelief and revulsion chased each other across his face. Once he was sure what he’d heard, revulsion won. My husband looked at me as if I’d just suggested that we have sex with a puppy.

“No, I don’t want to buy frozen Spargel! Why would you possibly want to eat that??”

I set down the bag of frozen asparagus and carefully backed away. We go out to eat fresh Spargel each year, in the spring….

But, autumn. It’s time to go grocery shopping again. The first crop of apples have arrived!

NOTES: Text and photo © Jadi Campbell 2019.  To see Uwe’s pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Dinner with Guillermo

I’ve written before about travel karma. [1] You know, that sense of crushing inevitability when the tour bus arrives late because of the traffic, and it’s crowded, and the guy in the seat behind you won’t stop whining, and you’re about to turn around and open your mouth and give him something to really complain about. Travel karma is a bitch.

It can also be awesome. Uwe and I spent a too-short week on Gran Canaria, and we ate twice with Guillermo Ramirez. But let me back up.

Eating is a major aspect of traveling with my spousal unit. If you see us poring over the guide books, we’re probably checking out the historic, cultural, and Nature highlights of wherever we are.

Okay, kitsch sneaks into the mix sometimes too

I can guarantee you we’ve already scoped out all the good places to eat! Gran Canaria was no exception, and Uwe found a highly praised locale kitty-corner to our hotel. Hungry, on Thursday we headed over to Restaurante de Cuchara and entered a small family restaurant, probably 12 tables max. The owners greeted guests like old friends (most of them were) and only the owners’ handsome son Guillermo spoke English. He took it upon himself to serve us each course – which he was also cooking – and explained each dish with pride. The meal was great. I’ve retained a little of my high school and college Spanish (moving to Germany and having to learn Deutsch highjacked most of the foreign language area of my brain). But I could read the flier on our table that said Restaurante de Cuchara was serving a special six-course menu on Saturday.

Even before we finished dinner, we’d made a reservation for the coming Saturday. We got the last free table.

On Saturday night Guillermo again brought each course to our table and told us how he’d prepared them. Our meals cost a grand 30€ apiece.

Here are some of the dishes we ate those nights: A fermented, champagne-style gazpacho. Rabbit in a roll that you ate with your hands. Melt-in-your-mouth croquettes of suckling lamb. Grilled Canarian cheese with tomato jam. Quail stew with chickpeas. Cod fish Bras style. Canarian pork cheeks stew. Duck breasts. Pickled cucumber on edamame purée.

I was dying to ask him a question. When he came with our desserts I said, “We’ve been wondering if we might ask you, where did you train as a chef?” He smiled. “NOMA, in Copenhagen. I worked for a while in Bangkok, too.” NOMA! We knew NOMA has been repeatedly rated the best restaurant in the world. [2]

Guillermo was back on Gran Canaria for a few months, helping out in his parents’ restaurant. This particular dining experience was a way to show off what he could do with local ingredients and creativity. I told him that I blog and would be writing about him. I added, with absolute certainty, that I think he’ll be famous someday. His cooking is that good.

No, I didn’t receive a discount for saying I’d write a rave review. And yeah, travel karma. Sometimes you hit it just right.

NOTES: [1] I wrote about travel karma in a post I unimaginatively titled Travel Karma [2] NOMA was rated the Best Restaurant in the World in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014.

I have no idea if Señor Guillermo Ramirez is still in the kitchen, but here’s the contact info for this tasty restaurant. Restaurante de Cuchara, C/. Alfredo L.  Jones, 37; Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Tel: 928 26 55 09. Their website: Restaurante de Cuchara

6 October 2018 update… Note to anyone lucky enough to be heading to Gran Canaria: Guillermo informed me that he’s opened a new restaurant named Picaro. Here is the link: Restaurante Picaro If you are in Las Palmas, go!

Text © Jadi Campbell 2018. Photos © Uwe Hartmann 2018. Uwe’s photos of our trips and his photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

Tastes of Xi’an, China

While I’m posting about China and Xi’an, I want to mention the yummy traditional foods. I’ll keep this post brief, and allow Uwe’s photos from our visit to do the talking. Besides, my mouth keeps watering just looking at them.

In Xi’an’s historic Muslim quarter, vendors were baking, frying, steaming and cooking all sorts of delicious treats. These ranged from food that was deep fried in woks to marinated meats on skewers.

Care for a kebab?

I couldn’t resist the piles of beautifully plaited and stamped breads,

as well as the stacks of sesame and bean paste desserts…

NOTES: Xi’an was the first city in China to be introduced to the religion of Islam and the religion has been allowed here since 651. About 50,000 Hui Muslims reside in Xi’an. ©Jadi Campbell 2018. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

The Cult of Bà Chúa Xứ

NOTE: Today marks the beginning of the 5 day festival of the Vietnamese goddess Bà Chúa Xứ. In her honor I am reprinting my original post about her cult. —Jadi

To see the Mekong Delta on our own by boat proved complicated and required more time than we had. We signed on instead for a tour. We were lucky: only a young couple from Holland had signed up as well.

Travel by boat we did! We took long boats, short boats, boats powered by motors or by human arms. We visited floating markets and stumbled into a tourism promotion festival going on in Chau Doc.

For me the highlight was the festival for Bà Chúa Xứ, the Lady of the Realm on the border to Cambodia. The shrine to Bà Chúa Xứ houses the most important cult in southern Vietnam.

Temple entrance

We had the really good luck to visit Bà Chúa Xứ’s temple during the holiest period of the year. Her three-day festival starts at the beginning of the rainy season on the twenty-third day of the fourth lunar month.

The Lady of the Realm protects female entepreneurs (important in a country like Vietnam where women play a major role in small family businesses). Bà Chúa Xứ’s cult has a fascinating belief in both fecundity and the capacity of the goddess to multiply all that she touches — including money.

If you invoke Bà Chúa Xứ’s help, you must make a pilgrimage to thank your benefactress for her assistance. (She is remorseless to those who betray her favor!) Traditionally men need to spend 9 years making an annual pilgrimage, and 7 years are required of women.

In the courtyard before her temple, spirit money is burned in huge vats.

Spirit $2

Spirit $1

I wanted to make an offering inside the temple and decided to brave the crowds.

DS1_0517

I joined the slow moving throngs and we inched our way forward. All around me pilgrims carried tall flowers,

Pig 6

and men bore platters with decorated sacrifices of whole pigs on their shoulders.

Pig 5

Pig 4

Pig 3

Pig 2

Pig 1

People bought baskets filled with offerings of fruit,

Temple Offering

and still others carried lit sticks of incense, held high.

Entering the temple

The crowds were so thick that I was concerned someone would set my hair on fire!

Incense 1

Once I was inside the temple I managed to make my way up to Bà Chúa Xứ’s altar. Each day in progressive rituals her image is washed and cleaned. On this day, old women were changing her robes. I was unable to get close enough though, and made my offering later out in the (relatively) less-crowded courtyard.

The goddess originally resided on the top of Sam Mountain; her image is popularly thought to have grown from the stones of the landscape.

from the summit of Sam Mountain
from the summit of Sam Mountain, with the temple crowds just below

She wished to be worshipped and caused the locals to move her statue down to Vĩnh Tế village, where her temple still stands today.

I was surprised and moved to realize that her image had mass and strength rather than simple beauty. Some reports state that her statue is a female Shiva (Khmer). Other sources equate her with the queen Thien Y A Na (Cham), the goddess Tin Hau (Chinese), and the Lady Buddha (India). Bà Chúa Xứ is also named The Black Lady, and I see a likeness to Christianity’s Black Madonna.

Bà Chúa Xứ is a powerful deity protecting and bestowing prosperity on her people in the Mekong Delta. In such a fertile area it makes sense to believe in a benevolent, generous goddess.

U&J Temple Entrance

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. More pictures from our trips to Vietnam and of Uwe’s photography may be viewed at viewpics.de.

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.