Tuesday, November 30, 2010

'Tis the Season--Cold and Flu Remedies

There are 180 different varieties of cold viruses - a horrible fact.  We were equally horrified to learn that the only place on earth where they do not exist is in the frozen wastes of Antarctica.  Despite our abhorrence of the coughs and general malaise that a cold bestows, we have no desire to relocate to such an inhospitable place--it is much too far from Reading Terminal Market to contemplate. Instead, we decided to delve into some weapons against the common cold.  And our featured food, ginger, keeps popping up.

Three different friends, all hailing from disparate parts of India, swear by the following tincture.  (Thanks to Pia, Farah and Anjali for substantiating its efficacy):

Ginger Turmeric Tea

 1 inch piece fresh Ginger  (approx 2 tsp grated)
2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp  turmeric
1 cup boiling water
Mix together and drink hot.

Lynette Chen, Reading Terminal Market's Tea Expert and Proprietor of Tea Leaf  recommends three herbal brews to bolster the immune system and battle the nasty bugs.

In her herbal tea range, she offers Organic Echinacea (the wonder drug extracted from coneflowers), Organic Ginger Root and an Immune Enhancing Blend.  Chen also dispenses a free leaflet providing instructions on how to make a "proper cup of tea" and other tea recipes for Chai and Thai Iced Tea.

After consuming a welcome cup of tea at Tea Leaf, we hot footed it over to The Herbiary, and chatted with Andrew Celwyn, Owner of this fascinating purveyor of medicinal herbs, teas and tinctures.  Coincidentally, November's herb of the month is Ginger.  Celwyn explained why the Indian brew is effective - he claims it is the turmeric, which is rumored to be a natural anti-inflammatory, rather than the ginger, that hits the spot. 

Ginger root, when boiled in a tea, is however marvelous at settling the stomach and also allegedly increases circulation.  According to the team at the Herbiary, it's Nature's pick me up - a wonderful tonic.

What do you reach for when a nasty cold takes hold of you..?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Dinner Tonight, Starring Ginger

After Thanksgiving dinner and the ensuing leftovers, we were thrilled to bid the turkey adieu and sample something ginger-rific.    Visit the Market to provision for this marvelous meal.

We are grateful to our friend Peter Angelides, a strict Reading Terminal Market for-all-things grocery shopper, who generously shared his famous flank steak preparation.

Ginger Soy Flank Steak

1.5 pound flank steak (from your favorite Reading Terminal Market butcher--Marica recommends Martin's)


2 Tbs of soy sauce
1 Tbs of white vinegar
2 Tbs fresh squeezed lemon juice  (visit your favorite produce merchant)
2 inch piece of fresh ginger root, grated
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 Tbs of honey (Bee Natural is a great source)

Mix all marinade ingredients.  Marinate meat overnight.  Broil meat 6 minutes on the first side, 5 minutes on the second.  Let it sit for 10 minutes before slicing against the grain. 

We also thank our friend Paula Fein for sending us her ginger cake recipe which was most welcome after too much pumpkin pie.  


Paula's Spicy Ginger Cake

4 oz fresh ginger root
1 cup mild molasses
1 cup vegetable oil (preferably grapeseed oil)
2 ½ cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
                                                       ½ teaspoon  black pepper
                                                       1 cup water
                                                       2 teaspoons baking soda
                                                       2 eggs at room temperature

1.     Position the oven rack in the center of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9 by 3-inch round cake pan or a 9 ½ inch springform pan with a circle of parchment paper.

2.     Peel the ginger and grate it very finely, preferably with a microplane grater. 

3.     Mix together the molasses, sugar, and oil.  In another bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper.

4.     Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan, stir in the baking soda, and then mix the hot water into the molasses mixture.  Stir in the fresh ginger.

5.     Gradually whisk the dry ingredients into the batter.  Add the eggs, and continue mixing until everything is thoroughly combined.  Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for about one hour, or until the top of the cake springs back lightly when pressed or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  If the top of the cake browns too quickly before the cake is done, drape a piece of foil over it and continue baking.

6.     Cool the cake for at least 30 minutes.  Run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan.  Remove the cake from the pan and peel off the parchment paper.

7.     Dust the top of the cake with confectioners sugar.  For a professional presentation, you can place a decorative cutout on the cake before you dust it with the sugar.  Use a piece of tape to pick up the paper cutout.

8.     Serve with a dollop of tart lemon curd, lightened a little with whipped cream and fresh berries.

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bottoms Up: Ginger Tipples

We've talked a fair bit about ginger--its value as an ingredient in a variety of dishes, its medicinal properties, and even its potential as a love potion--but how about as a beverage?    We explored the alcoholic forms of the root, from  ginger beer to ginger infused vodka and finally our newest discovery, Snap.  We uncovered a treasure trove of possibilities and chose a few that showcase a variety of cocktails. 

Ginger Beer
We tend to associate Ginger Beer with tropical locales--the Caribbean and parts of Africa--but believe it or not, it originated in Jolly Olde England in the mid-18th Century.  British soldiers, desiring a taste of home, brought bottles of Ginger Beer with them to their posts in  farflung colonies.  When the Brits left, the beverage stayed and became a local refreshment.   Brits tend to view Ginger beer in the same way they regard Marmite...they either love it or hate it (kind of like Coors Light or Scrapple to us Yanks).  One thing we can guarantee you, you're going to love the following cocktail cabinet collection of ginger-based libations...

Dark and Stormy

2 oz rum
3 oz ginger beer
lime wedge (optional)

Pour rum and beer into a highball glass filled with ice.  Garnish with lime if desired.  Variation: For a Moscow Mule,  substitute vodka for the rum.

When Life Gives You Lemons....

Use them to make this ginger-licious drink.    This comes from our friend Rodney VanNesse, cook extraordinaire and gifted mixologist.  (This serves one, but even if you are solo, make more; these things are gooood. )

2 oz Ginger-infused vodka (see recipe below)
2 oz fresh lemon juice
1 oz simple syrup
3 basil leaves

Muddle the basil in vodka and lemon juice.  Add ice and simple syrup.  Shake and strain into martini glass. 

For ginger-infused vodka:  Chop  4T fresh ginger.  Add to 2 cups of your favorite vodka (Grey Goose or Ketel One recommended)  Let soak several hours.  Strain and enjoy.

This next pair comes from our friends who make Snap, that lively and lovely ginger liqueur that combines the yumminess of a cookie with the warmth of a good cordial.

                                                                                    Oh, Snap
1 oz 
2 oz sparkling wine
lemon twist (optional)

Pour Snap into champagne flute.  Top with sparkling wine and garnish with lemon twist if desired.

Snap Happy
1 1/2 oz snap
1 1/2 oz bourbon
orange wedge (optional)

Shake Snap and bourbon with ice.  Strain into martini glass.    Garnish with orange if desired.

Good thing this research took place heading into a holiday weekend...Cheers! (Hiccup)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Marilyn Monroe's Secret Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipe

We've all heard the old adage "if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." And all we know Marilyn Monroe liked it hot--just check out her the steamy rendition of Happy Birthday.

But who would have thought that the glamorous film star actually did toil over a hot stove?

We are taking a brief break from ginger today to acknowledge Thanksgiving, this wondrous American observance of gustation and gratitude.  As we contemplated what to share on this momentous occasion, we came across the rather shocking news that American icon Marilyn Monroe (she keeps popping up, doesn't she?) was a real cook.  Thanks to friend Dana Hall for sending us the fascinating New York Times article on Marilyn's stuffing recipe--just in time for this week's feast.  Here's a link to the full article, which contains a more legible version of the recipe.
Marilyn's Handwritten Stuffing Recipe c. 1955
The ingredient list, which includes pine nuts, raisins and Parmesan cheese suggests a nod to then-husband Joe DiMaggio's Sicilian heritage.  The complexity of the process,  the sketchiness of the instructions, and the imprecise amounts written in her own hand suggest that Marilyn knew what she was doing and only needed rudimentary notes to execute the  recipe. 

Wonder what else she knew.....

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ginger Blondies Have More Fun

Inspired by Paula Fein's excellent advice to include various type of ginger into desserts, we gave it a whirl, worthy, dare we suggest, of Ginger Rogers herself.

Here's our foray into ginger as a sweet:

"More Fun" Ginger Blondies--Makes 16 squares

1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 eggs
1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
2 Tbsp SNAP liqueur (Ginger-flavored spirit--if not available substitute 1 tsp vanilla)

Heat oven to 350.  Grease a square 8 x 8 pan.  Mix all ingredients thoroughly.  Pour into pan and bake for 20 minutes, til just set in center.  Cool and cut into squares.  Enjoy. (Have more fun!)

We can't invoke the adage about blondes and fun without a nod to the ultimate fair-haired icon, Marilyn Monroe. Here she is in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes looking like she's having a grand old time.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Ginger: Insider Baking Tips from Paula Fein

Paula Fein, loyal Reading Terminal Shopper since 1992 (pictures don't lie) is our go-to-girl on all things ginger. She is a former apprentice pastry chef at Le Bec Fin,  a serious foodie, baker extraordinaire, and ginger aficionado.

"Ginger is one of my favorite ingredients.  I use it to spice up dessert.  It adds heat and an interesting depth to sweets, which after a while can become one-dimensional and a bit boring.   I generally include various types of ginger in one recipe:  crystallized, fresh, powdered and stem ginger in syrup."  I use ginger in many savory dishes, too.   Ginger, soy and garlic form the basis of my family's dinner several times a week.  Because it is a flavor combo that everyone enjoys and no one calls "gross" (or worse), the ginger/soy/garlic theme is a repeat performer in the Fein household.  (Watch  for future post featuring Fein's Friday Night Flank Steak.)

Paula suggests the following ginger-centric, quite impressive, seriously no-fuss dessert:  chop a few pieces of  Stem Ginger in syrup, sprinkle over vanilla ice cream, drizzle some syrup from jar, stick a wafer cookie in the side.  Delicious and deceptively simple. Paula confesses to swiping the oh-so-irresistible pieces of stem ginger straight from the jar when she needs an indulgent pick-me-up in the midst of a trying day.  Personally, I go for a spoonful of Nutella. 

What's your guilty secret food vice when no one is looking?

For a ginger-tastic selection of ginger in all its various guises, stop by speciality grocer, Jonathan Best, at the Reading Terminal today.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ginger Cookies for Kids of All Ages

Catherine's Cookies

Our friend Catherine's son Harry, a budding chef at the ripe old age of 5,  helped make these fine-looking cookies.  My own son, well into the terrible teens, consumed his fair share at the historic Eagles vs Colts game last week (not to rub it in, but what a game).  He gave them a huge thumbs up too.  Perhaps he should have shared a cluster of cookies with actor Vince Vaughn who high-fived same son that night at the game.  Life doesn't get any better...regardless of your age.

We've called this recipe "kid-friendly" for a couple of reasons.  For starters, it  results in a soft, rather than a "snappy" ginger cookie,  which can challenge youngsters who lack front teeth.   Secondly, it uses ginger powder rather sparingly -- which means no spicy aftertaste to burn tender palates.  And finally, the recipe is simple enough that tykes truly can help bake them.  

Catherine and Harry's Ginger Snaps:

3/4 cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 & 1/4 cups sifted all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Mix the first four ingredients using an electric mixer; then combine all the dry ingredients together, then pop this dry mixture into the electric mixer and combine everything.  Take spoonful size bits of the dough, roll them into little balls, and then roll them in sugar.  Cook for 9 to 11 minutes at 375 degrees.

Remember how much fun you had learning to cook?   La Cucina in Reading Terminal Market offers frequent and varied classes where you can rediscover that joy.  Give one (or five) a try!   Whether you pass your lessons on to your kids is up to you.  We recommend avoiding knife skills and techniques for the youngest chefs.

And lastly, here's a "snap" of Vince Vaughn from The Wedding Crashers, demonstrating his own brand of touch football.  Aren't we glad he doesn't play for the Eagles?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ginger -- In the Mood for Loooove...

Ginger Rodgers and Fred Astaire strut their stuff, accompanied by the late, great entertainer and pianist Liberace.  Ginger is definitely "In the Mood for Love."

You'd never guess to look at it that ginger (the root, not the dancer) has quite a past.  Dating back to ancient times, and spanning continents, this knobbly root has been reputed to increase lustful yearnings, stimulate libido, enhance erotic performance, and generate feelings of love, lust and attraction.   

Way back in 500BC, Confucius touted it.  Roman physician Pliny and Greek Doc Discorides (writing in the first century AD) determined that ginger had a positive effect on the male equipment.  Fast forward to 18th Century France.  Mme. DuBarry, favorite mistress of King Louis XV, was known to serve generous portions of ginger to her lovers.    The legend goes that this practice would drive her men to a state of complete and utter submission.  Her amorous power enabled Madame du Barry to rise into the French royal class--literally sleeping her way to the top, perhaps with the help of a spicy root. 

Men in the South Pacific Islands, Melanesians to be precise, use ginger to gain the attention and affection their objects of desire.    Portuguese slave traders fed ginger to their captives in the hope that they would reproduce and generate more profits.

But what of ginger today?  Well, I can personally attest to its efficacy on the other end of the love spectrum.  When the inevitable result occurs and morning sickness rears its ugly head, ginger is there for you again.  I sipped many a cup of ginger tea as I battled through first trimesters and it proved to be a relatively powerful weapon against nausea.  

Ginger tea for one (who is drinking for two)
1 cup boiling water
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp honey
Mix all, let steep for 2 minutes.  Strain if desired.

The multi-talented ginger root is even reputed to ease the pain of arthritis. 
What can't it do?

Guess it can't play piano like the larger than life Liberace


Saturday, November 13, 2010

One Way to Fight the Winter Blues.....

What are your go-to feel-good foods to chase away the blues?  Chocolate?  Sushi?  Merlot?

When we saw our friend Karen Banos's Facebook posting that read:   "Getting rid of the pre-winter, Eastern Standard Time blues with the smell of a pumpkin cheesecake in the oven" we knew she was a kindred soul.  

 Karen graciously shared the recipe and photo of her delectable creation.  You can imagine the FB commentary following her post--lots and lots of friends invited themselves to her home that evening, including one from San Francisco who said she was grabbing a fork and boarding a plane.  (We understand that she never arrived; doubtless she was detained by the TSA for carrying said utensil.)

Should you wish to emulate Karen's culinary anti-depressant, here's how:

 Pumpkin Cheesecake

1 c. graham cracker crumbs
3/4 c. + 1TBS sugar
6 TBS melted butter
16 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 16 oz. can of pumpkin
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 pt (2 c.) sour cream
1/4 c. sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 350
Melt the crumbs with 1 TBSP sugar and butter
Press into thebotom of a springform pan and bake for 8 minutes. Cool the crust
Beat cream cheese + 3/4 c. sugar until well blended
Beat in pumpkin, spices and salt
Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition
Pour into prepared crust
Bake at 350 for 50 minutes and remove...
While pie is baking, prepare topping (mix the topping ingredients)
When you remove the cheesecake after the 50 minutes, raise oven temperature to 400 and pour the topping over the cheesecake.
Bake the pie with the topping at 400 for 8 minutes
Cool overnight.....

Next day, eat, and feel waaay happier.

If any of our male readers are feeling neglected by this stage, we stumbled across this little known fact about Pumpkin seeds, also known as Pepitas: To put a zip in your zipper, consider the magical properties of pumpkin seeds; this wonderfood allegedly has anti-inflammatory properties and may contain cholesterol-reducing phytosterols.  (Thanks to whfoods.org for this information.).   If we're in danger of losing you because we're beginning to sound like a public health service broadcast...more to the point, pepitas are loaded with zinc -- the mineral that is credited with ensuring everything is in working order.  ("Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more...")
If pumpkin seeds aren't your thing, then why not stop by Pearl's Oyster Bar at Reading Terminal Market.  After all, oysters are the food source with the highest concentration of zinc, hence their reputation as an aprodisiac.

How on earth did we get from Pumpkin cheesecake to Oysters?  Via Monty Python of course; the following video is not for the faint of heart.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"You Shall Go to the Ball..."

A bevy of beauts at Reading Terminal Market

Cinderella's Fairy Godmother knew a thing or two about the transformational power of the humble pumpkin. 

"Salagadoola mechicka boola bibbidy-bobbody-boo...put them together and what have you got?

In Disney's case, the pumpkin morphs into a shiny carriage designed to transport this repressed princess-in-waiting to the Ball, where she will meet her future love.  In our case, pumpkin transforms an unexciting bowl of gruel (a fitting repast for poor Cinders) to a gourmet treat.  Thanks to Stacey Jo Mills Tie for sharing this deluxe concoction:

Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal
* 1/2 cup of oats
* 1 cup of water
*3 Tbsp pumpkin butter L. Haltman sells a gorgeous one; alternatively, use canned pumpkin)
* 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
* Pinch of salt
* Splash of vanilla extract (Jonathan Best  will provide.)
* Pumpkin pie spice, or your own personal blend of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves to taste.  (Spice Terminal can help you with these.)

Bring water and oats to the boil.  Simmer both for about 3-5 minutes, until cooked.  Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer for a further minute. Serve immediately. 

As someone who prefers sweet to savory oatmeal for breakfast, I customized this recipe, adding my own sprinkling of magic fairy dust a.k.a cinnamon sugar.   (NOTE:  you will need less sweetening "fairy dust" with pumpkin butter; more with plain canned pumpkin)

On the subject of Fairy Godmothers and True Love...did you know there are only 107 days until the Valentine to the Market Gala at Reading Terminal Market?  Tickets go on sale in December....you shall go to the Ball, Cinderella.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Why Are Pumpkins Better Than the Opposite Sex?

A. If you don't like the way your pumpkin looks, you can just carve another face.
B. From the start you know a pumpkin has an empty head.
C. Because pumpkins are tremendously versatile, (decorative, smooth, sweet or savory) and are good for you!

Of course, our answer is C.   And we'll prove to you how right we are.

                                       They're Decorative:

They're Sweet:


They're Smooth:

   They're Savory: 

And they're really good for you.   A serving of pumpkin contains 49 calories, 0 fat, 3 grams of fiber, a whopping 245% of your RDA of Vitamin A, 19% of your RDA of Vitamin C, and 8% of your Iron.  (Thank you Self Nutrition).

Pumpkins are still fully in season are are readily available in a variety of forms at Reading Terminal Market.  Hit the produce merchants for fresh pumpkins, the Pennsylvania Dutch vendors for pumpkin butters and other preserves, and the  bakeries for sweet treats.  So get going.  We'll see you there!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Good Morning, Pumpkin (and Fritters, just for us)


What do you call your loved one?  Have you noticed the enormous number of  food terms used to express affection?  What do you think, Pumpkin?  Actually don't call us that...Sweetie-pie...?  Think again.  Visit us on Facebook for this week's contest and post the worst pet name you've ever heard.  And this time, we're doing something a little different for the winner.  Rather than dish out a prize, we'll make a donation to Heifer International, a worldwide organization that helps families in developing countries raise their own food by providing livestock and seedlings.   -- and YOU get to choose what the money is spent on (see side bar poll to place your vote).  Get moving, chicks!

Circling back to the pumpkin theme, the real subject of this week's blog:

Chef Jon Jividen of 12th Street Cantina is at it again. Lest we think his culinary scope is limited to chilis, Jon invented a new pumpkin dish just for Philly Food Lovers! These versatile fritters are divine for brunch served with bacon or ham. Top them with sour cream, salsa verde, or even maple syrup. They also make a unique and delicious accompaniment with dinner; serve with braised short ribs, chicken or pork. Gracias, Jon.


4 cups grated fresh pumpkin
Use small pumpkin. Peel and seed pumpkin. Cut into large pieces and grate enough to make 4 cups.
If using hand grater, use largest grating grid, or use food processor with grater attachment.
Extra pumpkin flesh may be used for other purposes, or grate all and freeze surplus for future fritters.
Place the 4 cups grated pumpkin in bowl.

1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 fresh poblano pepper, stem and seeds removed and small diced
1 small Spanish onion, diced small
2 Tbs. butter
Lightly sauté the corn, poblano pepper and onion in the butter, just until onion become transparent.
Remove from heat and let cool.

1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
2 ½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
3 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
Combine the above dry ingredients and add to grated pumpkin.
Toss until pumpkin shreds are coated with dry ingredients. 

In separate bowl, whisk together:
1 cup milk
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
Add to the pumpkin/dry ingredient mixture along with the sautéed poblano-onion-corn mixture. .
Mix until all ingredients are blended.

For frying:
Add enough vegetable oil to large sauté pan to cover bottom (about 1/8 in. deep)
When oil becomes hot enough, drop batter by spoonfuls into sauté pan and cook over medium high heat.
Flip fritters over when first side has browned sufficiently. (If you have ever made pancakes, apply the same principal here)
Batter should spread somewhat when placed in pan. If not, press lightly with spatula to flatten.
Transfer fritters to platter and keep warm until service. Serve with dollop of sour cream if desired.
Makes about 12 to 14  3 inch fritters.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Great Pumpkin

We are indebted to our friend Dana Hall for her fabulous Pumpkin Recipe. She tells us that it was recommended by Ruth Reichl, Editor of the late, lamented Gourmet Magazine.

Dana's family is locally famous for their devotion to Halloween.  (This year's homage to Toy Story 3 is one of many stunning costume themes they have showcased over the years.)   It was no surprise, then, that a pumpkin dish  became an autumn signature of theirs.  And while this is a great novelty dish for a family, fondue is certainly a romantic repast a deux.  Scale this recipe back to a 2 lb pumpkin, halve the ingredients, and reduce the cooking time to 90 minutes.  Considering the amorous reputation of the pumpkin, well, we can't be responsible for what happens nine months from now.

Hall-oween Great Pumpkin

Creamy Gruyere Pumpkin Gratin (serves 4+)
1 Medium Pumpkin, 4-5  lbs
1 to 2 cups Coarsely Grated Gruyere cheese
1 to 2 cups Cubed Bread from a toasted baguette, plus additional for serving
1 1/2 cup Chicken Broth
1 1/2 cup Cream or half & half
1 tsp Nutmeg
salt and ppper to taste
Olive Oil
Preheat oven to 300 (make sure the rack is low enough so that the pumpkin fits in the oven, including the stem). Cut the top off the pumpkin, like you would to carve it – aim for a 3 inch hole. Scoop out the seeds and the pulp and season the inside with salt and pepper. Layer the cheese and bread inside. Whisk together the broth, cream, nutmeg and some more salt and pepper in a bowl, and pour over the cheese and bread, allowing it to absorb. Leave 1/2 – 3/4 inch at the top.
Replace the top of the pumpkin, and place in a greased baking dish. Brush the outside with olive oil, and bake 2 hours, or until the pumpkin flesh is tender enough to scoop. Serve from the pumpkin, along with extra toast, and spoon out chunks of pumpkin with the fondue.

While we know Halloween was last week, we always get a nostalgic kick out of the Peanuts cartoon starring this week's featured food:

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Passion for Pumpkins

We've found some odd facts and figures while researching our passion, food.  Take the seemingly unassuming pumpkin...why is it construed as an aphrodisiac? 

Many of the foodstuffs we have featured make the cut because they are visually suggestive, or are cloaked in folklore and legend.  The pumpkin is certainly surrounded in mythology.  It is associated with fertility (its globe-like shape is evocative of Mother Earth, the Harvest, and female fecundity), but we came across a fascinating pyscho-sexual interpretation to explain its draw...

We need to start with the myth of Oedipus.  You know the Prince who killed his father (accidentally; he didn't know it was his Dad at the time) and then ended up amorously pursuing his mother (ditto, allegedly, he didn't realize it was his mom. but the Gods punished him anyway...)  Sigmund Freud had a theory about family relationships based on this classical myth.  He claimed that in order to grow up into a healthy adult, the child must move through this period of his development, that is, of hating his father (if a boy) and mother (if a girl) and seeing them as a rival for the affection of the parent of the opposite sex.  If this seems long-winded, bear with us.  It's worth it.
Bearing Freud's theory in mind, cast your minds to Thanksgiving--family, parental relationships, probable dysfunction, the aroma of traditional foods.  Now consider the following results of a study by The Smell and Taste Research Center in Chicago:  The aroma of pumpkin pie caused a significant increase in male arousal, demonstrated by a 40% increase in blood flow to the nether regions.   Although we're confident that Freud never celebrated an American Thanksgiving, we're sure he'd have a field day with this data.

Another interesting stat we uncovered:  August is the month that sees the most US births.  Counting backward gestationally, guess where that lands you?  Right around Thanksgiving.  So come November 25, when the man in your life starts salivating at the aroma of fresh-baked pumpkin pie, remember Freud's theory about dysfunctional family relationships and the uptick in November conceptions.  Philly Food Lovers advise you to  proceed with caution.

The following hilarious video clip shows the patricide scene in Oedipus performed by vegetables.   We got such a kick out of it, we had to share.  (Oedipus is the potato--remember his horrific fate?  gouged eyes!)

The full-length play,  (8 minutes in length) can be viewed here.

Ciao Chilis

The results are in! A whopping 71% of us like things "red hot". 

And speaking of "red hot", we learned about a rather unique varietal of pepper called, aptly enough, the willy pepper.  We made this discovery while perusing Peppers, by the late, great Jean Andrews who was The authority on all things pepper.

Willy peppers are hot, both in taste and appearance. They measure 40,000 Scoville units, placing them on par with cayennes, and just below the blistering habaneros on the heat index. Depending on your crowd they are certainly a potential conversation piece. Access to willy peppers may be a challenge; you can order (and view) them here. We guess that some may enjoy chopping them up more than others.