Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, and Liquid Sunshine

Happy Bastille Day! A good day to drink good wine, eat good food, and celebrate freedom in all its forms. What is Bastille Day? It is a national holiday in France commemorating the storming of the prison known as the Bastille on July 14, 1789. The French citizens were fed up their government, their king, and their queen; Marie Antoinette had haughtily told her citizens who could not afford to buy flour for making bread to eat cake instead. Say Whaaat??!! Off with her head!!!!!! (Next time you make a cake, be thankful you have eggs–and flour. People died for those luxuries.)

The French citizens decided to take matters into their own hands, and quite literally, too. Women and men, about 1,000 strong, assaulted the Bastille. And so began the French Revolution. Vive la France!

I am not French, not even a little bit. C’est triste. But I am American, and the French did help us win the American Revolution (which, apart from the lavish lifestyle of King Louis XVI and Marie Antionette, was a reason why their finances were in such dire straits by 1789…je suis désolé). Remember Yorktown, VA. The French and the Americans are kindred spirits, as remembered by our Lady Liberty, who has stood in New York Harbor since 1886. I know my own ancestors peered at that statue as they disembarked on Ellis Island from Italy and Ireland, over a century ago. They hoped against hope that this country would be their salvation. I am a third generation citizen on my father’s mother’s side. I’d say they did pretty well for themselves.

The French and the Americans are kindred spirits, as remembered by our Lady Liberty, who has stood in New York Harbor since 1886, and was placed there by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi. I know that my own ancestors peered at that statue as they disembarked on Ellis Island from Italy and possibly Irelandé, over a century ago. They hoped against hope that this country would be their salvation. I am a third generation citizen on my father’s mother’s side. I’d say they did pretty well for themselves, all alternatives considered.

So raise a toast to our French compatriots! Santé! Merci un million!

So how do you toast the French? With wine of course! Wine is a generally accepted beverage in France, non? Wine is a tremendous gift to us from the crafters of vines and vintages. The ancient Italian stargazer, physicist, and astronomer, Galileo Galilei, once said, “Wine is sunlight held together by water”. Wow. How incredibly poetic. And so true.

Good wines are like good music. Good wine will make you go WOW! This is amazing! And What Victor Hugo once said about music can also be attributed to wine, “Music expresses that which cannot be said, and on which it is impossible to be silent”. In Latin, in vino veritas. Wine does not lie. It only speaks truth. And if you drink enough of it, you will speak truth, too!

I am going to say something risky, and take this with a grain of salt, because I am only just learning about tasting wines. Forget all those posh (British word) wine tasters who can smell bouquets of this and that, and floral notes and vanilla (oak is always a dead giveaway for me), and all the rest. Your sense of taste is mostly olfactory and memory–what something reminds you of when you smell it. If a wine’s flavor reminds you of a food you’ve eaten or a berry you’ve tasted, or the smell of rubber (strange, but some wines do smell like rubber, apparently), then that is your memory working to figure out what in your past to which you can relate this flavor.

So if a wine’s flavor reminds you of a certain memory or food flavor, don’t discount it because a sommelier says that flavor profile doesn’t exist. Your palate is your palate; your memories are your memories, and only your palate can taste and smell what you have experienced.

At present, I am drinking a Portuguese wine (pardonne-moi, mes amies), by Seaside Cellars.

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If you like white wines that are light and crispy (this means a higher acid content), this is an excellent wine for you.

This wine does remind me of being by the ocean, whether the label is playing subliminally to my subconscious or not. It reminds me of what you would picture as a tropical vacation–white sandy beaches, crystal blue Mediterranean or Caribbean waters, palm trees swaying to the playing of a xylophone and bongos. The wine has a lot of citrus flavor to it–I would say more lemon and lime flavors. It kind of makes me want to grab some salt, tequila, and limes. Margaritas, anyone?

As I said earlier, I am still learning how to taste wine like a pro. But, here is one tool that is helping me fulfill that dream: 20170714_222731

Laugh all you want, it actually helps. Also, going around sniffing items helps too. Here is one tip–albeit a weird one–that I got from watching the documentary Somm (https://www.amazon.com/Somm-Brian-McClintic/dp/B01M27DQH2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1500086352&sr=8-1&keywords=somm): Go around smelling and tasting EVERYTHING! Even the weird things. If you want to know what a wet rock tastes like, embrace your inner three-year-old and lick a wet rock! Like I said, weird–but oddly helpful.

That is all I have for you today. I hope you are all enjoying your summer! A bientôt! Until next time!

 

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Between the Orange and the Green

Hi, guys! Hope you all are enjoying your Fourth of July plans, whatever they may be. I’m working tomorrow (waaaaaahhhh!!!), but some of us must keep the store open, am I right?

I am off today, however, and I took the opportunity to make a big pot of Colcannon! What is colcannon, you ask? Colcannon is a happy, magical combination of two foods that have become stereotypically Irish–potatoes and cabbage. I love potatoes in general. Is there nothing more comforting than mashed potatoes? That is my go-to comfort food.

It’s healthy, too! It does have butter and milk (and bacon, if so desired) in it, but let’s not get carried away here. Potatoes are excellent sources of vitamin C, potassium (more so than bananas), and iron. Cabbage is jam-packed with antioxidants and fiber. What’s not to love?

Colcannon is so terrifically simple! I became inspired after reading Mimi Sheraton’s 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die, and even more so after taking a trip to Ireland last October. It’s such a beautiful country, and the people are lovely! I’m dying to go back!

There must be a wee drop of green in me genes! I am 30% Irish, and 48% British (no one is perfect). My Irish Catholic grandmother married my White Anglo-Saxon Protestant grandfather. My grandmother’s father was not too happy about it at first, but he warmed up to the prospect–or just realized he couldn’t do much about it. So you see, I’m caught between the orange and the green (but the green wins out more often).

I know I probably should be celebrating with burgers and fries and beer–I am drinking Yeungling–but what is more American than celebrating your roots? And today, Ireland be the theme.

A fun fact: potatoes are NOT native to Ireland! They originated in Peru and were introduced to Ireland and England by none other than Sir Walter Raleigh, a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I, founder of the Lost Colony of North Carolina. Literally, it’s lost. No one knows what happened to the colonists after Sir Walter Raleigh returned to England for supplies. There is a multitude of theories out there–disease, hurricane, ransacked by the indigenous neighbors–but no real proof has been found as to what really happened to them.

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Here is what it is:

6 Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed

2 Quarts Chicken stock, or bouillon

1 Head green cabbage, sliced thinly

1/2 Package bacon

2 Tablespoons butter, unsalted

2-3 Tablespoons milk

Garlic powder, to taste

Onion powder, to taste

Black pepper, to taste

  1. Boil the potatoes in chicken stock or water with bouillon for 8 to 10 minutes, or until soft. Pour out the boiling liquid.
  2.  Add butter, milk, garlic and onion powders, and pepper to the potatoes. Mash the mixture with a masher or whip with an electric mixer. Set aside.
  3. Place a heavy-bottomed pot on medium-high heat. Cook the bacon until crispy. Set the bacon aside, and reserve most of the fat from cooking, keeping it in the same pot you cooked in. If you prefer not having bacon, use olive or vegetable oil.
  4.  Place cabbage in the same pot as the bacon fat. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the cabbage is limp but still crunchy.
  5. Take the cabbage off of the heat. Add the mashed potatoes to the cabbage. Mix thoroughly. Serve hot.

Note: The bacon fat adds salt to the dish. If you use oil instead, add salt to taste.

What I made today looks nowhere near what it would have looked like if this were the mid-1800s in a tiny stone cottage in County Cork. Hardly any of the poorer people of Ireland could afford to grow cabbage during that time, let alone having butter or milk, or for heaven’s sake, bacon. It was potatoes and potatoes alone that these people lived on. You’d be lucky if you had salt, which was also a sought-after commodity in those days.

When the potato blight hit in 1845, these people lost their only source of food–at least the only source of food that they were allowed to have. Any other vegetables or animals were used as payment to the landlords. They were too poor to afford such luxuries as pork or chicken.

What makes the Potato Famine so devastating was that there was plenty of food for rations–all packed up on ships bound for Liverpool, England. And nary a one in England blinked an eye at the widespread starvation occurring across the narrow channel from them (a good reason to kick them out–eventually–mostly). Which is also why people decided to abandon their homes and head across the Atlantic–to a land of opportunity, a land of hope. By the time it was over, Ireland’s population had fallen to nearly half of what it had been in 1845.

 

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Mass Grave for all those that starved to death during the Potato Famine of 1845-1849

Food is another medium through which one can honor the past, and celebrate the present. Like many immigrants past and present, the Irish immigrants sought refuge and freedom from the hardships and devastation of what used to be home. It’s easy to take our way of life for granted if we don’t take the time to reflect on what got us here in the first place.

So on that sentimental note, I am going to go watch a movie–Independence Day is calling my name! Enjoy, everyone, and stay safe! Until next time!