Tuesday, May 31, 2011
I broke out the rocket pop molds, one of my most-used kitchen items during the summer months. Regular old store-bought popsicles are just sugar, water and food coloring: no flavor, no nutritional value, no point. Homemade are easy, fast and really worth the minimal effort. Starting with a very ripe banana is always a good idea, since it will usually give you enough sugar to ensure both sweet flavor and appropriate texture. I added some pineapple and a little pineapple juice, plus a couple spoonsful of coconut milk, whirred it all up until smooth, and then froze for four hours. Working prep time was five minutes. As you can see, these no-sugar-added treats were a hit with big and small alike. Score one for laziness.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Monday, May 16, 2011
This book is a highly entertaining read, but I admit to wondering how accurate some of the material was. Harris chose not to include a professorial flurry of footnotes, which certainly keeps the book accessible, but also prevents it from carrying a certain authority. Popular history requires walking a very fine line - Harris generally does a good job, but might err a bit on the side of popularity. Ultimately, it doesn't matter, as the quantity of fabulous primary material she draws on tells its own story with clarity, and her lively prose will draw in any reader.
Thursday, May 12, 2011
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
I like this because it encapsulates the romantic aura that developed around the idea of New England - even if the company using the name was based in Chicago. The region came to stand for honesty, traditionalism, Grandma, thriftiness and efficiency (that Yankee ingenuity!). That image remains in some ways - would the Vermont Teddy Bear Company have the same cachet if it were called the New Jersey Teddy Bear Company? I think not. But at the same time, New England is also thought of as the land of wild-eyed liberals, traffic jams, and bad clothing. Of course, both perceptions might be true....
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
This is a somewhat morbid little piece of culinary ephemera I picked up at the Boston Book and Paper Expo this weekend. Those tubes the babies are sucking were known as infant-killers, and for good reason:
According to Valerie Fildes (1998), ‘it seems likely that the eradication of the long-tube feeding bottle was a major factor in the… fall in infant mortality'. Before 1900 a glass bottle with a long rubber tube attached was popular. The convenience of the tube was that the child could be left to suck unsupervised. The problem was that these tubes, and also the bottles, were difficult to clean. Accumulations of dirt and congealed residues were inevitable and it is no surprise that infections and deaths were much higher for babies fed with this method than with the newer, boat-shaped bottle, which had a rubber teat and was much easier to keep clean. Medical Officer of Health data indicate that tube bottles were used in about 78 per cent of cases of artificial feeding in 1904, where a child had died, falling to nil by 1925.
P.J. Atkins, "Mother’s milk and infant death in Britain, circa 1900-1940." Anthropology of Food, September 2, 2003.
Friday, May 06, 2011
As a frail grey-haired gentleman slowly eases his way out of the booth, the waitress rushing past with a pot of coffee gently lays her hand on his shoulder, “Don’t hurry, dear,” she says. “Take all the time you need.” A toddler fusses at another table, and she offer the parents a bag of oyster crackers to keep him distracted. She fills a half-empty mug and delivers a hot plate of eggs and toast. Another morning at the Rox.
Located on a stretch of Centre Street in West Roxbury, where insurance agents and nail salons give way to bookstores, bakeries, and funky thrift shops, Rox Diner (formerly Auntie B’s) represents a curious blend of 1950s small-town and 2011 hipster locavorism. The waitresses, wearing t-shirts that read “I Was Born a Scrambling Man” or “Bread Zeppelin,” serve a clientele of families grabbing breakfast after Mass at Holy Name, aging bachelors socializing at the counter, and middle-aged ladies from the neighborhood fortifying themselves with gossip and a side of eggs Benedict. The regulars may not be aware that those eggs come from free-range hens in New Hampshire, that the beef is hormone-free and certified humane, that the bread is made at the esteemed Fornax Bakery. But the food tastes great, and so they return often.
All the morning standards are here, cooked with care: over-easies appropriately runny, bacon nicely crisped, orange juice freshly squeezed. More extravagant offerings include thick brioche French toast oozing with bananas and melted Nutella ($9.95) , blackberry, pecan and mascarpone pancakes ($9.95), and omelet with pear, goat cheese and avocado ($9.95).
The pancakes are especially well-executed, with the lightly crisped exterior that marks an exceptional flapjack. Specialty versions come with real maple syrup, but you have to request the good stuff with a basic stack ($4.95, plus a surcharge of $1.50 for the syrup). Unfortunately, Belgian waffles ($4.95) are not up to the same standard, too soft and floppy to merit the indulgence. Stuffed French toasts (stuffed $9.95, plain $7.50) are gloriously decadent, but the plain thick-cut brioche toast could stand a longer soak in the egg mixture. The center remains bready, rather than custard-like.
There are good options for the health-conscious, including the Juliana (named for a waitress’ daughter), a generous bowl of rich plain yogurt topped with ripe fresh fruit, granola, and a drizzle of honey, served with two eggs and toasted peasant bread ($9.95), and the health-nut French toast, made with multigrain bread nearly invisible under a deluge of pecans, blueberries, and bananas ($9.95).
Although the restaurant offers lunch, breakfast is draw here. On Thursdays it reopens for burger night, a favorite event with kids. The ground beef is certified humane and hormone-free, a full-flavored patty to be topped with standard options or some unusual ones, like smoked paprika mayo (basic burger, $6.25). Almost-too-thick-for-a-straw milkshakes and crisp onions rings can’t be beat.
The next time you’re in the mood for an all-American plate of eggs and bacon or a burger with the works, skip the chrome and neon flash of the mall diner chains and experience the real McCoy. Your maiden visit won’t be your last - and don’t be surprised if the waitresses say hello when you return. They’re like that.