Mole and Memories by Margo Elfstrom
When I think of Mole, I think of a little Mexican restaurant I used to frequent in North Denver. The entire family worked in the restaurant, including Grandma, who was hell on wheels (I mean that in the affectionate, loving sense). As you might have guessed, she was the head cook and the matriarch and whatever she said was law. Her English was limited but she always welcomed me with a huge smile and bustled back to the kitchen to make chicken mole, which she served with rice and the best spiced beans I’ve ever eaten.
Her Mole sauce was amazing, it was dark, slightly bitter and yet sweet and spicy enough to dance on your tongue without that feeling of having your mouth melted. It was a symphony of tastes and the homey-ness of the restaurant contributed to the experience. As with many things, this is a memory relegated to the past. It’s been about 5 years since I’ve been there and I hope it’s still around and Grandma is still doing well and running the kitchen with an iron fist.
Cava Bien! by Margo Elfstrom
Croissants! Love to eat them, my waistline doesn’t agree. At some point I made the pledge that if I must eat fattening food, I needed to make it from scratch and so croissants fell off the list. It’s times like these when I ask myself, “where did these temptations come from?”. I can only imagine the conversation as someone tells the baker, “Put more butter in it.” The baker scratches his head and says, “I’ll just fold a block of butter right into it…shall I!!!” In my mind, the baker is using sarcasm but the 2nd party responds “GREAT IDEA…do it!”. Of course, that’s just my version.
There are a few stories about how the croissant became a French breakfast staple, the best being that it was developed by a baker in 1638 to commemorate the fact that the Turks were unable to tunnel into Budapest. It’s shaped in a crescent to symbolize Islam. Great story, no proof. The earliest recipe is from 1891 (apparently, it was a prototype) and what we know as the flaky delicious puff pastry that we know and love today wasn’t published until 1905. What I got from all of this is that there is no solid history of this French culinary staple and the other thing I learned was that I spend way too much time on the internet.
Down the Rabbit Hole by Margo Elfstrom
Alice remained looking thoughtfully at the mushroom for a minute, trying to make out which were the two sides of it; and as it was perfectly round, she found this a very difficult question. However, at last she stretched her arms round it as far as they would go, and broke off a bit of the edge with each hand. ~Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll~
Alice in Wonderland has always been one of my favorite books, even in adulthood. One of the my favorite parts is where Alice meets the caterpillar sitting on a mushroom, smoking a hookah. I’ve never needed a bug to convince me to eat mushrooms. They were a favorite of mine when I was a child and just like Alice in Wonderland, I’ve continued to love them as I’ve grown into adulthood. Mushrooms factor into a few of my favorite dishes, including risotto. There is nothing more delicious than a well made risotto and the earthiness of fungi seem to add just the right flair to this creamy dish.
Today was epiphany day! Not because of the Coq Au Vin, I’ve made it before and know that other than the time I spend getting the chicken drunk by marinating it in wine, it’s not really a tough dish. I woke up this morning feeling liberated. Some of those little niggling problems that have been giving me a headache lately, seem to have reasonable solutions with very little work on my part. Nothing major, just little frustrations like my home building project being put off for a month and a relationship that, while I might not need to walk away forever, I do need to take some baby steps in the opposite direction right now. I came to the conclusion that as far as the building project goes….I can have an additional month of peace. On the relationship front….I’m beginning to develop a clear picture of what’s truly important to me. A wise friend keeps telling me that it’s better to be alone than in a relationship that drains the life out of you and because of current circumstances, I’m being drained.
I feel as though I’ve had my own little French Revolution and no one was beheaded or shot with a musket. So perhaps, Coq Au Vin was an appropriate dish, cake would have been too obvious. I don’t really have many memories of Coq Au Vin, it wan’t a dish that my family ever made. The strange part of that is that we have ancestral ties to France and I’m sure that some of my relations were even struck down in the streets, while protesting. We do, however, make a mean Chicken Cacciatore, which makes no sense, because as far as I know, we’re not Italian (OK I can pass but that’s as close as it gets).