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Help! I’m going to Jazz Fest for the first time ever in two days. This is my second trip to New Orleans and the only destination eating I did last time was beignets at Cafe DuMonde – this was pre-Katrina, a long time ago. Dan has never been. While the point of the trip is to go to Jazz Fest and in particular to see Simon and Garfunkel (I am so excited, I cannot tell you!!!), of course I can’t help but already be thinking about we will eat. A colleague who lived there for more than a decade said that we have to go to Mother’s. My dad says that the soft-shell crab Po Boys at Jazz Fest are not to be missed. I’m sort of leaning in that direction, but then there’s muffuletta…and million other things. What do you think? What should we do?

Photo by Ray Devlin

We’ll also be stopping on Mobile, AL on the way there, so if you know of anywhere fabulous in Mobile, let me know that too. Take the poll and/or answer in the comments – and, laissez les bon temps rouler!

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In trying to save money, our health, and the planet – no pressure, really! – Dan and I are trying to eat out less often and to eat more homemade meals made from whole foods.  I think of this as a direction I’m moving in, rather than a goal to be attained finally or wholly.  It can be really challenging to cook enough in your spare time to eat homemade when you’re home and when you’re not.  It’s a no-brainer that cooking large batches and freezing some is the way to go and I try to do that as often as I can.  For me, the ideal food-for-freezing is: inexpensive; relatively easy to make; nutritious (and can easily serve as a whole meal or a major component of a whole meal); reheats well; and, of course, delicious!  By far the thing I freeze most often are soups and stews and my number-one frozen dish is sort of in that category: Indian-inspired red lentil dal.

If you haven’t ever cooked gorgeous split red lentils, you’re missing out.  First of all, these are so beautiful that they are a pleasure just to have around.   I do not have a pantry and so have my beans, grains, flours, and other bulk dry goods stored in glass canisters on open shelving.  I love having these around just for the visual texture and color they add to my kitchen.  Luckily, they’re delicious too!  You can’t find them in just any old grocery store though – I’ve been to a Publix or Kroger more than once looking for them and left disappointed.  As long as you can find a store with a bulk foods section (like a local co-op or Whole Foods) or an Indian grocery store, you’re set.

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What’s your story?

I’m sure you often think about what your story is. How did you get to where you are now?  What lead you there?  Who influenced you?  Was it your career, personal life, interests or maybe hardships?

I have been trying to write my own food story in my head.  People ask me and I can’t seem generate a consistent answer.  What was the true starting point?  Where did I learn to love to cook?  Where would I like to end up?

Other than the very obvious influencer in my life, Mimi, I have tried to pinpoint my first memory of consciously pursuing food as an individual.  I can remember watching Julia Child as a youngin’ (I’m going to guess 9-ish) and writing down her recipes in my special “recipes” folder which contained recipes to make for my parents.  If I push the fast forward button, a decade later, I was accepted to culinary school, an endeavor that I ultimately tabled due to some unexpected family affairs. I then convinced myself that business school was the way to go.  This track ultimately steered me toward healthcare, which led me right back to business school here in Boulder.  And after almost finishing this chapter (of school) in my life, I find myself right back where I started – thinking of food.

And lucky for me, I live in a city that some would consider a Foodie Mecca!  Thought not in the same sense as New York City or San Francisco.  Now – don’t get me wrong we have some great places to eat here.  In fact, to digress, two of my favorites have been The Kitchen and Frasca;  a new favorite, where I enjoyed a lovely cooking class on Sunday is L’Atelier.  See pictures below.

Cheese plate at L'Atelier cooking class

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Hey y’all!

So, I think I have drafted this post three different times now.  With each draft, time just slipped away from me and what I’d written was no longer relevant.

For instance, the I began this post while I was writing a term paper for High Tech Marketing on the adoption of Electronic Medical Records…who can spell FUN!?!  The next time I started to write this post, it was the beginning of my fall “break” and time ended up getting away from me.  We call it a break at school because that makes everyone feel a little better about how hard we are working.  However, I will tell you that during my break I was on campus twice for school projects and at work for a couple of days as well.  Even with all of that going on I had so much fun this break – which is why time slipped away from me!

First, I found a local carniceria in Boulder where they sell pork hocks!!  This was a huge feat (no pun intended).  My mom and I have looked for pork hocks for some time to no avail.  In the South we use pork hocks for flavoring black-eyed-peas, field peas, and green beans.  Can you spell YUM?!?  After I met Mike I learned that he and his family regularly eat and make something similar to head cheese (which is something that we also eat in the south) called studenina.  The main difference is that his family uses pork hocks instead of pig head.   So, you can just imagine how happy we both were to have found a shop in Boulder – not the easiest town in which to find this type of food.  You better believe we made studenina.  I will share that recipe with you later when we have it perfected!  But in the meantime, here’s a picture:

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Hey y’all (no, I do not use this greeting on a regular basis, in fact I only use it when I am back home) ~

I would first like to say, as my sister can confirm for you, I am incapable of articulating myself quickly and efficiently.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Rach…what’s the point?” after a long drawn out attempt at explaining something.  I won’t name names, but it’s someone whose name starts with the letter J, and ends with a Y, and is good at faking her enthusiasm for football!  What can I say, I guess it’s a Southern thing.  And so, I hope you like to listen!  That’s the great thing about blogging: I get to tell a story, and it can meander in any direction.  And the great thing about this blog is that my stories can all be centered around something I love – food.

So, what do cantaloupes and Gone with the Wind have to do with one another?

Two weeks ago, my boyfriend and I decided ride a Harley through the mountains to enjoy the three-day weekend.  Colorado is a bit of a Mecca for bikers (which he likes to consider himself in training to be) and September is a great time to ride.  We began  our trip in Leadville, where we stayed at the flying-fishing cabin of the man I call my “Colorado Dad.”

Ham, my Colorado Dad, is from Atlanta and so out here in Colorado, where everyone seems to be a transplant from somewhere other than the South, I find him refreshiBelle Watlingng.  And he just has the neatest stories.  For instance, he tells a story about his great-grandfather that is quite close to his heart (because his dad only told it to him when he was dying).  Ham’s great grandfather (like his father) was a prominent attorney in Atlanta.  For those of you who don’t know, Gone with the Wind is an American classic that is set in and around Atlanta and tells the story of a young woman’s life during the Civil War (the time period during which Ham’s great-grandfather was a practicing attorney).  Ham tells me that most of the characters in Gone with the Wind are based on real people with fictional names for fear of libel, save one Belle Watling who shares the same name as the real person.  Because Belle was considered a bastard child, she had no rights to sue Margaret Mitchell (the author) who, in turn, did not feel the need to conceal Belle’s identity.  As Ham likes to say, Belle was in the business of “horizontal refreshments” and accordingly she posted a sign outside her business establishment that said one thing: $3.  This enraged the town and so the issue went to court.  Ham’s great-grandfather represented Belle and ultimately she won!  As a gesture of appreciation, Belle Watling gave Ham’s great grandfather a gold pocket-watch that was enscribed “To (I forgot his name!) from Belle Watling” and the date.  That watch has been passed from Ham’s great grandfather, to Ham’s father, and now to Ham who carries it around every day.  I mean, how cool is that!  I won’t begin to speculate about the relationship between Ham’s great grandfather and Belle…

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So here’s where the cantaloupes come in.  Between fly-fishing nad Harley-riding, Ham served us Rocky Ford cantaloupes for breakfast.  Apparently Rocky Ford cantaloupes are in season now, and considered highly desirable.  I can attest to this!  Ham served them just like his mom and dad served them: with fresh lime juice and fresh ground salt and pepper. Delicious.  I immediately bought three cantaloupes for us, and then three more, and we (and by we I really mean I) have not been able to stop eating them since.

This particular combo of cantaloupe with lime juice and s & p reminds me of a time when I was in Mexico on the beach and this local approached me with a mango, lime juice, and hot sauce all for a dollar!  What an interesting and simple combo. These are the types foods, and stories in my life that draw my attention; things that are simple with an interesting twist.  Thanks Ham for sharing your stories, and thanks for sharing your cantaloupes.

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Tail-gating

Being from the South, where football is a not-optional part of life, I had a hard time during the season, which seemed to last all year. I couldn’t care less and grew tired of the blank stares when I explained that I wasn’t rooting for one side or the other. After a while, I just picked a side and tried to fake it – luckily, football season brings with it a stream of parties, food, and libations, so most folks weren’t sober enough to notice my lack of enthusiasm or to care. I am getting to a point, which is this: if I had to choose a favorite part of the Southern football tradition, I would go with tail-gating. That’s the part where you hang out before the game in muddy aisles between the opened-up back ends of trucks loaded with beer and food, pumping out loud music, in anticipation of the event.

This post is a bit of a tail-gate – it’s a celebratory moment before the real thing begins. Thank you for joining me, and please pass the beer.

My sister and I have started this thing and we’re not sure exactly what it will be. We mainly just want to share our cooking attempts and successes with each other. A cell-phone photo of the amazing peach galette you just baked only goes so far. You see, reader, my sister and are two of the few in our family who’ve left the nest in North Florida. Atlanta is home for me now, and little sister Rachael is in Boulder. This will be a place we share recipes and daydreams with each other and anyone else who’s interested. These days, most of my daydreams involve food. Who knows where all of this will lead, but thank you for joining us and: Go ‘Noles!

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