Summer Time is Picnic Time

I have a friend who’s quite an amazing woman – she blogs about food – and food history, in posts chock-filled with fun and facts. And not only that! Each summer Louise has a picnic. A huge picnic! We each have to choose a letter from the alphabet then bring some food matching the letter. My letter this year, is V. V for Valentine? Oh! No, that’s in February. V, for our picnic! ~ for the foods I’ll carry to our picnic tables and the blankets tossed on the flat ground near the imaginary lake, will be Vegetable Things of Spring Salad . . . Veal Shank with Risotto . . . and Viennese Chocolate-Cherry Torte. I hope you’ll enjoy them.

Olive oil, bacon fat (oh yes), prosciutto, Spring onions and dandelion greens rough-cut . . . all tossed over medium high heat in a skillet with the sugar snap peas then salted and peppered and doused with apple cider vinegar, to keep it real. This is my Vegetable Things of Spring Salad.

I’ll put up the recipe for the veal shank at the end of the post!

Here is the Viennese torte recipe. It’s a bit messy – I’ve had it around since forever ~

If you’re visiting me for the first time here, you’ll notice that most of my posts don’t have food photos or recipes. That’s because I do that sort of thing on the facebook page linked to this blog. If you’re still hungry after the picnic, the door is always open to visit there!

Now here are my co-conspirators in this picnic thing. It looks like we’re going to really party . . . uh . . . hearty????!!! Um hmm.

A- Almond Joy Pie

B- Baked Beans

C-Chocolate Picnic Cake

D-Dutch Funnel Cake

E-Easy Blender Chicken Pie

F-Five Bean Salad

G-Granola Bars

H-Herb and Cheese Pasta Salad

I-Incredibly Fruity Raspberry Cakes

J-Jeweled Picnic Bars


L-Long Island Lemonade Cocktail

M-Mushroom Tart

N-Nut Roast

O-Olive Nut Bread

P-Pomegranate Mousse Cake (absolutely worth the wait, as I’m sure yours is:)


R-Raspberry Chocolate Macarons

S-Spicy Glazed Shrimp and Veggie Kabobs

T-Turkey and Pear wraps w/ Curried Aioli!!

Well, I’m off to the picnic . . . must visit everyone to see their stuff close-up and personal! And thanks once again, Louise – it’s always a pleasure to visit with both you as you, and you as Picnic Mistress at Dainty Delights from Diverse Directions @ Months of Edible Celebrations.


Oops! Almost forgot – here is the always-worthy Elizabeth David’s recipe for Veal Shanks . . .

P.S. Last minute additions! They look lovely.

P-Pomegranate Mousse Cake (Chef Dennis) @ More Than a Mouthful

U-“Unoriginal Whole Foods Salad Bar” (Mae) @ Mae’s Food Blog (Mae “threw” this post together just this morning, sweet heart that she is.)


Sometimes Nothing Will Do But Food. And Information. And Pictures.

Here’s the compilation of food posts this week from the facebook page linked to this blog ~

More on bottle houses

How to make a bottle wall (It starts with just one sip . . .)

Here’s a video of a rather pretty bottle house. It is prettier with the sound turned down, or at least I think so¬† – the mermaid-like girl does not have a mermaid-like voice, sadly

In order to inspire the hopeful bottle-house-builder on their way, there is Robert Louis Stevenson’s notes on what is inside the bottle

Wine is bottled poetry. – Robert Louis Stevenson

And I found a way to use some wine, in order to empty those needed bottles.

The man is directing me to the parsley which is needed for the recipe

Lemon zest will also be used

along with the wine used to deglaze the pan for osso bucci with always-delightful gremolata and risotto.

Moving on to backyard urban chickens, there is a fact divulged by the author of Charlotte’s Web

‘I don’t know which is more discouraging, literature or chickens.’ (in a Letter to James Thurber from E.B. White)

E.B. White wrote more on chickens . . . real chickens . . . here is a link to ‘One Man’s Meat’ at Culinate, if you’d like to read more.

For my own chicken, I made a yogurt-based marinade

The weather did not allow outdoor grilling, but the oven broiler was kind and did the job well

The kebob ended its short life on top of a butter-griddled sesame-seed tossed pita with green sauce and cucumbers. It was happy, so was I! ~

Now the melons. Ben Franklin of all people had something to say about melons

‘Men and melons are hard to know.’ – Benjamin Franklin

In order to learn the melon, we can go to historic sources

Hot or cold, dangerous or helpful – foods used to be specifically noted as such.
‘Indus or Palestinian Melons (Melones Indi Idest Palestini)
Nature: Cold and humid in the second degree. Optimum: Those that are
sweet and watery. Usefulness: Good in illnesses. Dangers: Bad for the
digestion. Neutralization of the Dangers: …With barley-sugar.’ The Tacuinum of Rouen

If you want to learn more than melons, here is the text of the Tacuinum Sanitatis online. Rather glorious!

Then, of course, there are potatoes and allotments!

‘The Dig for Victory! campaign was
instigated in Britain as soon as World War II started. The government
realised that the population would go hungry if the war was to last
longer than a few months. The result was that formal gardens, lawns and
even sports pitches were transformed into allotments, large and
…small, and everybody on the home front was encouraged to become a
vegetable gardener.’

This was the past of allotments – the full story can be read here at BBC –
Dig For Victory
and for current information and news and everything you could want to know on allotments, here is the Allotment Growing site.

Eva suggested the idea of pogacsa as a use for potatoes – and what a beautiful one!

At the end of it all, we are left with the worthy thought

Pray for peace and grace and spiritual food, For wisdom and guidance, for all these are good, But don’t forget the potatoes. – John Tyler Petee, Prayer and Potatoes


And Now, We Move Into the Kitchen . . .

It’s time to cook. Most particularly it’s time to cook (and then eat the things we cook) (and then talk on for as long as we want about the things we’ve cooked and eaten) from the incitements created by these postcards set down here before us, on this dinner table.

There’s no room on this table to cook unless we do it with a tiny brazier or something silly like that, so we’ve got to move into the kitchen.

If you’d like to know the recipes, devour the tastes, sniff ever-so-delicately at the divine aromas – you can do these things at Postcards From The Dinner Table (In The Kitchen) on facebook.

The cooking starts tonight. Cutey Pie makes her debut as a food rather than as a chick who just chatters on and on.

Join us, if you’d like!

The Professional Kitchen: It’s Really Not About Your Pretty Face

It’s always fascinating to see how many people hunger for the experience of ‘having their own restaurant’. Their imaginations are filled with pretty visions of merrily cooking up a storm in a little place to call their own, where the things they cook will be delivered to the tables of admiring diners who naturally, will ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’ over everything and anything placed before them cooked by their hands!

Not to say that this isn’t possible. But to get to the point where that vision can become a reality, there are many things which must be in place first in the professional kitchen . . . these things really aren’t ‘fun’ – they have nothing at all to do with the delights of hands-on cooking. And these things, if ignored or deprecated, can get the ‘I want to have a restaurant and cook’ dreamer into an enormous mess – and messes, in any business (and have no doubt, dear reader – feeding people for money is definitely a business, and one of the more challenging ones . . . for a number of reasons!) will equal loss of income, loss of reputation (if one has managed to build one) and even loss of the business itself – an occurrence commonplace enough, in this field of enterprise.

In the charming postcard above (which to me, exudes yet again that sense of weltschmerz which sometimes hovers over ephemera) the chef has apparently poisoned a number of people. Bad scene. Seriously bad scene.

The question is, how does the chef in the professional kitchen go about managing to not poison people? It apparently does happen more often than one might guess. Take a google at the statistics if you are curious.

So here we are, in the professional kitchen. What to do.

1. The kitchen must be designed (or retrofitted if an older kitchen) to fit all health code regulations. These regulations can be detailed, seemingly nonsensical, and very very expensive to meet. It is best to have a professional kitchen designer create a plan – the jargon and the fine print in the criteria are so easily overlooked (or misunderstood) by anyone who is not a professional, experienced, kitchen designer – that ultimately the specifications may be misconstrued. And having a construction crew come out to re-do and replace things because of even the slightest mis-reading of code is an act of being hit with a big financial brick right in the head.

2. Make sure each member of your staff understands their job, and that they are willing and able to perform them. Telling them verbally what to do, is not enough. Unless you believe, and know, and can be sure, that the human condition is perfect and that everyone always does things right, hears things right, and does things exactly as you want them to. The basic things required are good clearly-written job descriptions with all tasks within each job detailed and signed off on by both manager and employee; an inventory paperwork system which will be used on an ongoing basis to prevent theft, control costs, and clarify menu development; and a production schedule to define who does what, with what, when and how, in the kitchen which will show where every little bit of food travels in its path to the diner’s slavering mouth.

3. Sanitation policies and procedures, which also require paperwork. This is time and temperature stuff, and it is important, and it requires documentation and also being sure that the documentation is not being fudged by the employee in charge of it. It may be okay in the home kitchen to let accepted sanitation rules ‘go’ for yourself or for your own family or friends. It absolutely is not okay to allow any accepted sanitation rule go by the wayside if you are serving paying guests. Not unless you are willing to risk your business and your reputation for it.

There are more things that need doing, in order to even just maintain consistency – before one can begin to start to think of hitting a level of ‘excellence’. And each one seems to have an underpinning of paperwork, of documentation, of constant followup, of detailed use of the eyes and the brain in ways that have absolutely nothing to do with the so-loved task of actual cooking.

So, it’s not really about the pretty face of the chef, in the professional kitchen. Rather the opposite, as a matter of fact. It’s down and dirty brainwork.

Children in Chef’s Clothing 1915-2010

It sometimes feels as if this generation (at least here in the United States) invented the idea of food, in many ways. Or perhaps ‘re-invented’ might be the better word. There is a sense of unearthing the primal purity of all that is good and fine, of discarding the cheap and common-place, of a moral high ground which exists only in the idea of food-as-excellence, for all of us who are in the know.

I don’t believe it.

But I know many people who do.

Children learning to cook is one area it appears is being ‘re-discovered’. And we not only try to teach our children how to cook (some of us), some of us like to buy them little chef costumes as encouragement. The hats, the jackets, the pristine white! All combine to make a uniform which supposedly demands respect for knowing a trade.

It’s interesting for me, to look at this postcard from 1915 and to sense the underlying feeling of these children, who are obviously learning how to cook, who have also been dressed up in chef whites. There is a different sense held in the picture from 1915 than is held in photos of children costumed similarly, today. Today, the children are proud! Of their chef whites, of the fact that they are learning to cook ‘as a little chef’, of the fact that this is all so much fun!

In 1915, the attitude, described by the postcard, is: “I’m making good.” “I’m working,” is the attitude. It may not be fun, but I will do it and ‘make good’ of myself. The little faces are serious, not coy and delighted.

I’ve tried to translate the back of the card, but can not decipher it well enough to get a translation. Google Translate says it is Albanian. I don’t think so – first because it doesn’t look exactly like Albanian to me, and second because it wouldn’t translate – though I may have mis-spelled the words due to not being able to discern all the letters correctly. If anyone out there reads this and can translate, please do let us know what it says!