April Foodie Pen Pal

Let’s just place this right here:

The Lean Green Bean

Looks nice, doesn’t it?

This is a little program i found online in which you are paired with another food blogger, and you send them a small package of interesting local food. Minos and i decided to give it a go in the month of April.

We received a package from Tara at Fresh Food For My Family, and we posted a blog entry there about what we received.

We sent to Andrea, who doesn’t have a blog (yet), so we are posting her thoughts on what we sent. Take it away, Andrea:

I’m not a Southerner by birth, nor do I live there now, but I once made my home in Baton Rouge for six years, long enough to learn to love many wonderful, sometimes paradoxical, elements of Southern living and cooking. The contrast of elegance against homeliness is deep-rooted there—think weathered barns behind antebellum houses, or New Orleans shotguns, skinnied up next to each other on an old tree-lined street, painted up like Mardi Gras. Once while in grad school, when I entertained probably more than I have before or since, I was so pleased with myself and the huge tray of polenta crostini—rich with fresh parmesan cheese—that I laid out for my guests. Later on, from across the room, my foodie self was mortified when she heard someone call out, “Hey, who made the cheese grits?!” Horrors! My elegant hors d’oeuvres had been relegated to Plain Southern Cooking.

It took not just living, but leaving there to show me how much I actually do appreciate my adopted home. I may never again live south of the Mason-Dixon—I’m currently near Pittsburgh, PA—but I don’t think I’ll ever be free of the culture that food represents. I miss fried things and smoked things and rémoulade. I miss catfish and gumbo. I barely learned to cook a mirliton when I had them close to home, but I don’t see them up here at all; I miss them, too, whatever they are.

So I was more than delighted when I opened my April Foodie Penpal box of goodies, sent by PostLibyan and Minos. This was my second month as a Foodie Penpal, and it’s a whole lot of fun. My package, though, surpassed my expectations. They had decided, without knowing much about me at all, to send me homegrown, homemade things that speak of the South, specifically of Georgia. They sent me not just food, but family, the two of which can be hard to separate, especially in the South.

Guest1_list

From my handwritten packing list to the recipe for Green Tomato Pickles—a family recipe accompanied by an old photo of Minos’ great-grandmother—this box was personal, purposeful. And I’ll be enjoying it for weeks to come.

The Green Tomato Pickles are out of this world. “Pickle” can mean a lot of things, and I opened the jar with a little trepidation. But the sweet taste and perfect texture made me very glad that I already had the recipe—I won’t have to beg for it.

They also sent a jar of Daikon-Apple Pickles, which I won’t have to beg for, either, since I see the recipe listed a few posts down on this blog page. Make them! I had never thought about radish pickles, but these are nice, and the briney sourness mixed with sweet apple makes me happy.

Theoretically, I am probably able to can things like pickles, since I learned in 10th-grade cooking class all the rules about sterilization, but I have never canned, jarred, or otherwise stored anything that I’ve cooked. My life happens too quickly; things not eaten within a week get thrown out. So having a stockpile of preserved food that people actually made and put time and thought into—that’s a lovely thing. Along with the pickles, I also received a jar of mulberry preserves from berries “harvested wild in Decatur, GA.” In the two weeks since my package arrived, I have managed to eat about half the jar. Mostly on toast.

The box of foodie goodness was rounded out by a bag of fresh pecans and three Vidalia onions. If I get motivated, I might use the onions to make some new pickles, but they’ll probably end up in pasta or a chickpea stew that I haven’t made in awhile. These remind me of roadside freshmarkets that dot the roads in Louisiana. It’s barely spring here in PA, and so I’m biding my time, waiting for when I can start shopping local food again and buying fresh. I think that one thing I miss most about Southern living is the long, long growing season that’s hard to understand until you move north.

Oh, and my penpals sent me one more thing: a bag of speckled grits. When I make them, I’ll be sure to add some cheese.

Guest1_stuff

[Andrea Adolph is a native Californian who credits twelve years in the restaurant industry with her longtime obsession with food. Check out bite to eat place: an anthology of contemporary food poetry and poetic prose (Redwood Coast Press, 1995) and Food and Femininity in Twentieth-Century British Women’s Fiction (Ashgate, 2009) for two very different ways that she’s showcased food in literature.]

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So there you go. Glad to know she liked the pickles.

One comment i would like to add. There is the cliche that it is better to give than to receive. In this case, it was true for both of us. Not to say that Minos and i did not appreciate the stuff we got from Tara, but rather that we really enjoyed thinking about what to put in our package to send out. Minos even dragged a five-year old with rapidly dwindling Nintendo DS battery to three different locations to find those Vidalias… We really enjoyed putting that package together.

So the whole thing was fun.

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