Before anything else, it is a day to remember and honor all those who are, or have served our country in faraway places, assuring the freedom for kooks like me to publish things about food and cooking. I was declared exempt for military service because at the time of the Viet Nam war draft because I was working in the defense industry. My father was not, he even lied about his age to get in the Army, went through training in the Field Artillery, and was ultimately shipped to France where he was wounded in the grusome battle of Chateaux Thierry, and eventually was sent home for a long recovery. He never did regain full usage of his right arm. He never talked about his experiences and I never quizzed him about it. In retrospect, I think it was a dark period of his life which he didn't want to revisit. Archivist MFO organized all his papers and letters from his training and while he was convalescing and we gave them to his home town historical society in Holland, Michigan. Thank you dad and Vets who are still here and those that live in memories…
Seems kind of anticlimactical to talk about food and such, but it’s what I do.
Hey Matthew you are quoted in the bible in verse 7:1 as reminding us: “Judge not lest ye be judged”
Well, while that may be a good life precept in general, it doesn’t apply well in the Food Judges department. This year we had an exceptionally qualified panel of judges evaluating the nine finalist dishes. I want to talk more about one of them, but a brief bio on each follows.
Gwyn Novak: Back for her second year as a National Oyster Cook-Off judge, Gwyn Novak is the chef and founder of No Thyme to Cook, Southern Maryland’s premier cooking studio teaching students of all ages the love of food.
Sandra Martin: Another returning judge She is editor of the Bay Weekly publication and considered an expert on Southern Maryland cuisine. Though born in the center of the country, St. Louis, Missouri, Sandra Olivetti Martin grew up eating native Chesapeake Bay oysters.
Amy Langrehr, Her first time as a judge this year is the force behind Baltimore's enormously popular Charm City Cook, a Baltimore dining and cooking Instagram and blog.
Jason Yaskoir, another new addition to the judging team is Editor-in-Chief of "DCFüd" and a food writer and editor. He is originally from the most culturally diverse county in the U.S. (Queens County, NYC), where he grew up eating a variety of cuisines and learned how to cook at his Mom's side as a kid.
John Shields, another returning judge, is a Chef, author, and television personality is the owner of the
celebrated Gertrude’s Restaurant at the Baltimore Museum of Art. John is often called “The Culinary Ambassador of the Chesapeake Bay,” and he has written three popular cookbooks on the cuisine of the region.
After the competition, John set up a booth to sell his cookbooks, this the latest, the 25th anniversary edition.
I bought a copy (can't have too many cookbooks!)
With all due respects to John, I expected just another compendium of crab cake and oyster stew recipes, until I cracked the cover. What an amazing collection of not only recipes with provenance, and many historical pictures of the Chesapeake Bay region. For instance: “Gertie’s Crab Cakes” recipe starts out by telling us that “Gertie Cleary hailed from Baltimore’s Greenmount Avenue and her cooking was legendary throughout St. Ann’s Parish and northeast Baltimore“. He may be a bit biased, since Gertie was his grandmother. Or Polish Marinated Herring: ”When Polish John’s not operating his crane at the Dundalk Marine terminal, you’re likely to find him at his East Baltimore home eating or preparing this delicious snack from this homeland”. He talks about his hometown of Baltimore, or “Charm City”.. the hairdo capital of the world, screen paintings (heard of those?) crab houses, and beehive coifs”
I found myself just leafing through the book not only for the recipes but the knowledge that accompanied them. In emails to John, I learned he spend over a year in the region gathering the (authentic) recipes and the stories that went with them.
But what bowled me over was when I turned the page to 175 and found this:
“in the old days, a trip to Southern Maryland would not be complete without a visit and meal with William Taylor”,
and then recounts his legendary dinners. I was fortunate enough to be invited to a few of the “Dinner Designer’s” meals in his home that could have been an annex to the Smithsonian, full of playbills, and even costumes from the silent film era. Anybody who knew Bill Taylor earns my respect. John is not just some hack cookbook author.
Quick culinary note and a small rant for the Christmas Season:
Alert readers may remember that occasionally MFO and I get food “From a Bag” if we’re out and about. Well, we stopped for such a lunch the other day at a McDonalds, and I am so tired of quarter pounders with cheese or a cheese burger meal, that I decided to get a crispy buttermilk chicken sandwich. It was without a doubt the worst excuse for food I’ve had in a long time. Under the gooey coating was a hunk of chicken(?) that was nearly inedible consisting of loosely held together little packets of gristle with strings that got in your teeth. I finally gave up. Awful and disgusting.
‘Tis the season. Every year at this time the so called “luxury” cars trot out the same old ads’. Lexus is one of the primary sources of such extravagances. Showing the perfect American family, Mom, Dad, sis and buddy, in their flannel PJ’s and probably fido with his red bandanna out in front of their spacious home in the equally spacious patio in front of the multi car garage with a Lexus and a big red bow on top with the kids bouncing up and down with glee. And the snobby heavily (British) accented haughty announcing lady telling us to make it a “Decembahhh to remembahhhh – at yo Lexusss delahhhh”.. and here I thought the auto was made in Japan
And finally (thank goodness you say) while most/some auto makers boast about fuel economy and their environmental efforts, apparently the Dodge company doesn’t buy into that crap. Commercials of Santa driving out of his bag in a Challenger? With screaming, smoking tires shouting “and to all, get OUTTA MY WAY”, or another with the obligatory chartreuse (good ol’ boy) Charger(?) racing around city streets, weaving in and out, boasting about the amount of horsepower they have (which probably produces massive amounts of hydrocarbons). Only in America!
Okay, I’m done.
If you have a friend (or yourself!) who enjoys cooking and learning about regional food, I would highly recommend considering John Shield’s “Chesapeake Bay Cooking”
And if you see or think of a Veteran, say “Thanks for your Service to our Country”