My mother is the type of fearless eater who loves the gelatinous texture of pigs' feet and eats tripe without batting an eye. She always orders the weird thing on the menu, whether it's kidney pie or squab on a spit. And yet there are a few things she won't eat. They are a small but mysterious group: watermelon, meatloaf, Brussels sprouts and chestnuts. Watermelon is a visceral thing with her. One whiff of that treacly sweet pink flesh and she gags as though she's just caught you brushing your teeth (oh yeah, spit makes her gag too. Weird, huh?). As for meatloaf, it was one thing we never ate in our house growing up, along with other normal American foods like steak and pot roast. Far too normal for us. Anyway, I think she recently told me about a veal and pork meatloaf she made and actually liked, so maybe that has to come off the list. But as I write this, it's two days before Thanksgiving and we're still fighting about the last two on the list. I want to make Brussels sprouts with bacon and chestnuts (I think I saw it in Food and Wine) but she refuses. Oh, I'll win alright. And I'm including this week's story on chestnuts just to spite her.
All the News That's Fit to Eat
Oh yeah, it's gingerbread time. This weekend at Coronado Center, the Make-A-Wish Foundation will be displaying and selling dozens of gingerbread houses for the 17th straight year. Some of the modest abodes are made by kindergartners. (Imagine a tub of royal icing and bag of gumdrops in the hands of a 5-year-old. If these houses don't look like they've been hit by a category-four hurricane, then you can tell grownups helped.) Others are made by Four H-ers, artsy teenagers, professional pastry chefs and graduates of baking classes at the Specialty Shop. Gingerbread artists compete in several categories and prizes are awarded by a panel of experts including Yours Truly. I've judged this thing for four years or so now, and I've seen gingerbread houses made to look like the church in Ranchos de Taos, Noah's Ark, Barbie's Dream House, a mobile home (compete with Donette tires on the roof!), the Luna Mansion and Rapunzel's castle tower. They are truly amazing. And, contrary to what I wrote a few weeks ago, judging this event is actually fun for three reasons. First, these kids are total geniuses. Last year, one of them used strips of Fruit Stripe gum to make little skateboards and built a full-on skate park in the back yard of his gingerbread house. Secondly, I don't have to taste any of this stuff. I merely award points for creative use of Fruit Stripe and deduct points for use of inedible items like plastic Santa figurines. Make that Santa out of royal icing, you little cheaters! Which brings me to my last point, how the nice and understanding folks at Make-A-Wish don't give a crap how I come up with my winners. It's art for chrissakes. Art and math only intersect at the moment you decide to buy a gingerbread model of San Felipe de Neri church. Yes, all of the houses at Coronado this weekend will be for sale. The houses usually bring in about $3,000 for Make-A-Wish; it costs anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 for them to grant a wish to a child with a life-threatening illness. Check it out this Friday through Sunday, during mall hours.
Know Your Ingredients
A Chestnut Comeback
The future looks bright for these once blight-stricken trees
A century after the discovery of a devastating blight, a fabled fruit, yes, fruit, is on the road to recovery.
Chewing the Fat
Filmmaker George Motz discusses his film Hamburger America
Santa Fe's Bobcat Bite was one of eight restaurants profiled
What inspired you to make a movie about hamburgers?
I love hamburgers! You know, people always say you should work on projects that you love. ... My inspiration came from Eric Schlosser's book Fast Food Nation. I was afraid he'd turn everyone off to hamburgers, and that would be a great injustice.
Santa Fe's Bobcat Bite was one of the stops on your cross-country quest. How did you find out the place and how did their burger measure up?