Sunday, March 7, 2010

Life with a "Foodie"

Being married to a self-proclaimed "foodie" is a beautiful thing.  I hardly know where to begin.

Eating Out
It's a given that we overfeed ourselves in America.  If I were up to full blogging speed, I'd attach one or two links to that statement as proof.  But I flash-blog these days, so you're on your own.  You know it's true though.  As did the authors of The 9-Inch Diet, (which I pretty much read cover-to-cover standing in Barnes & Noble one evening).

Anyway, the beauty of life married to a carnivorous foodie, is that we can split almost anything when we're eating out.  I can't think of anything that one of us loves that the other doesn't as well--with the possible exception of blue cheese, for which I've yet to develop any sort of real enthusiasm.  So, knowing that most restaurants tend to overdo portions, we split a lot of main courses.  Result: we enjoy more food in the long run.  We start with two appetizers instead of one, and almost always have room for dessert.

But eating out isn't what inspired tonight's post.

Eating In
We both love to cook.  And on occasion, we even collaborate.  Take tonight for instance.  Take the turnips.  Yes, turnips.  At least two months ago, my better half introduced me to a vegetable that I'd never actually seen on the table.  Sure, I used to pluck one fresh from the field now and then, out quail hunting with Dad and my Uncle Floyd or Cousin Roy, and bite into it raw like an apple, but I don't recall turnips ever making an appearance on the dining room table when I was growing up--growing up smack dab in the middle of fields of turnips, I might add.

I would reach the half-century mark before first seeing them at the dinner table.  Oddly enough, the turnips in question would come from my father's garden.

Whole Foods
I should take a moment here to note how lucky we are to live close enough to my Mom and Dad to see them once a month or so, and to carry back to Richmond, on a regular basis, the fruits of their labor.  In the summer it was tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, potatoes, and some of the sweetest watermelon I've ever eaten.  With the advent of fall, it became pecans and turnips.  Back in late December or early January, I brought home a larger bag of turnips than I thought we could possibly eat, in part because not having grown up eating them, I couldn't imagine exactly how we would eat them.  But Laura does a better job of using everything in the pantry or fridge than anyone I've ever known, myself included--and that's saying something.

She had no more idea what to do with turnips than I, but that didn't stop her from preparing an absolutely delicious dish of them the first week we had them.  I think she baked them.  I say, I think, because by the time tonight rolled around, she could no longer remember.  We just both remembered that we really liked them.

So tonight, two months later, after a really great day of getting things done around the house and in the study--a day that began with an almost three-mile walk with Sydni and finished with a hour at the park with the kids--we tackled dinner.  I say we, but really, I was just the sous-chef.  She'd been thawing chicken most of the day and was busy prepping it for the oven when, digging through the vegetable drawer for a lime I needed for the margaritas I was about to concoct, I came upon the second half of that bag of turnips.  Sure they were two months old, but turnips are one of those foods you can store in the ground itself through the winter months if need be.  These had been in our fridge since their arrival from Mom and Dad's garden, and the elapsed time from ground to veggie drawer, as if it mattered, was probably less than six hours.

From Red Clay to Tawny Port and Cream
"Shall I slice up the turnips for dinner?" I asked.  "Sure."  So I sliced while she tried to remember how she'd made that dish we loved so much, now more than two months into the past.  Drawing a blank, she'd settled on sauteing them.  One Google search later, I confirmed that she was on the right track, and so she started them with a little butter, a little olive oil, some salt and a lid, and set them to simmer.

Now I'm more than a little bit sensitive about anything I'm cooking, and figuring that she is too, I didn't want to mess with what she had going, but as everything neared readiness (there was a pan of green beans simmering in just a little water and a lot of vinegar to round out the colors of the meal) I couldn't resist a little experimentation with a small portion of the turnips.  So I spooned a few of the now tender slices into a smaller omelet pan and added a splash of Tawny Port and another of half-and-half and a little more salt and waited to see what would result.  (I'd have used Madeira if I'd had it, but this was the first time I'd missed it since our arrival here, and the Port seemed a near enough substitute.)  After it had simmered enough to reduce the cream and port to a mere hint of something clinging to the turnip slices, I took the chef de cuisine a bite to sample.  From that bite came blissful blessing to dress the rest of the turnips in the same fashion.

The result will be a staple around here, and the next time we're offered a whole armload of turnips from the overflow of Mom and Dad's garden, instead of taking just half because of not wanting to waste food we're not sure how to prepare, you can bet we'll find room for all the turnips they can spare.

Life with a foodie
The baked chicken was mouth-watering and the green beans, well, let's just say that thanks to me, they had enough vinegar in them to keep the mosquitoes at bay well into July, but I liked them.  All in all, that mirror over the dining room table makes more sense every day. ;-)

So much for flash blogging. ;-)