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by Kat Fatland
For food lovers like myself, Penang is a heaven on Earth, a prandial theme park. It took me approximately three meals after my arrival here to acknowledge, quietly and to myself at first, that this little island off the coast of Malaysia probably offers the greatest food in Southeast Asia. Ten meals later, and a little more vocally, I announced that Penang’s food topped my personal list of worldly culinary delights. And hundreds of plates in, I can only use superlatives to describe my affection. Now, like almost every Penangite I know, I, too, feel the surge of anger rise in my throat when somebody tries to tell me that the char kuey teow (noodles fried in chili paste with bean sprouts, egg and prawns) stall they frequent is better than mine. And I have come to fully understand the area’s ubiquitous greeting of “Sudah makan?” (“Have you eaten?”)
Here in Penang, the best of the street-food hawkers are looked upon as royalty—brilliant alchemists who have found the perfect blend of flavors to satisfy our appetites’ most mysterious desires. From the plates of rich noodles to the heady slices of roast duck heaped atop savory rice, culinary diversity abounds on every street corner. And though the street fare is truly fast food—hawkers deftly flip chapatis (toasted discs of unleavened bread) like spinning plates, rapidly fry spice pastes in woks and snugly wrap rice and curry into a bright green banana leaf with intense precision—eating here is a revered event, a celebration of a monumental coming together that’s deeply felt, and a keen insight into Penang’s vibrant past.
by Jo Ann Santangelo and Kate Payne
Because I write books and features about food, most people assume I’m solely responsible for all things food and drink that come from our kitchen. But the truth is, even though I can cook the daily meals, and am pretty good at it, that doesn’t mean I like to do it. Luckily, my wife and I are very different. When Jo Ann and I were dating and living together for the first time in our small Brooklyn apartment, she opened my eyes to the cyclical nature of the kitchen—transforming my bachelorette kitchen habits into the lifestyle of a cooking person—something I’d always hoped to be but never quite mastered. She’s the type of person for whom cooking is relaxing and enjoyable, and this relationship to food and cooking set the stage for our current roles. She’s the one who makes sure we eat, and I’m the special projects coordinator—the keeper of the breads, jams, pickles, kimchis, ice creams, bitters, liqueurs, etc. (and the one responsible for the supplemental pizzazz). Our essential tools reflect these general roles. —Kate Payne
by Amy Crowell
If ever the title “elder” were to be bestowed upon a wild berry, the elderberry truly deserves the honor. Hippocrates referred to this prolific plant as his “entire medicine chest;” Shakespeare hints it might be a good shelter under which to sit and watch the fairies revel on a midsummer night; and Elton John had different ideas in his 1972 song, “Elderberry Wine”: “…feeling fine on elderberry wine, those were the days we’d lay in the haze—forget depressive times.”
References to elderberry are ubiquitous in heirloom cookbooks, ancient medicinal texts and folklore. Of course, one could argue that the ample elderberry-lore might exist because the bushes themselves are everywhere and grow like weeds in wet soils in many parts of the world. Or maybe the medicinal benefits realized long ago (and at the attention of modern science) gave this berry its magical place in our stories. Either way, the elderberry is still easy to find and bountiful in its nourishing gifts to those who are brave enough to stalk it. It also doesn’t hurt that the berries are high in vitamin C, phosphorous, potassium and antioxidants—a cocktail of good things to cure what ails us.
The Beverage Issue
Tell Us What You Eat and Why!
Enter a photo in our Edible Escape photo contest for a chance to win a great escape package! Grand prize is a 5-day New Mexico adventure sponsored by Los Poblanos Historic Inn & Organic Farm. Runners up prizes include an escape to Marfa and the Pearl Brewery in San Antonio.
Where else would a farmer’s daughter get married but right under the ceremony tree at
Springdale Farm? Jessie and Jordan tied the knot just steps from Jessie’s family home on the beloved urban farm just east of downtown Austin. It’s one of the best DIY farm weddings we’ve seen.
Photography: Dennis Burnett and Whitney Runyon | Venue: Springdale Farm | Tablescapes: florals, eggs and home canned vegetables from Springdale Farm // arranged by Darrelle Foore | Table Coverings: Great Grandma’s crocheted doilies | Cake: made by bride’s grandparents, Herb and Shelvie Foore | Catering: Cotè Catering | Ceremony music: written by groom and performed by Margaret Gavin, Sean Casey, Andrew McKay and Brittany Ganz-McKay | Reception Music: DJ Dey-One | Tables and Benches: handmade by the Foore family
The mountain scenery of the northern Italian Alps was superlative, but the hiking was strenuous. Then came more walking through ancient alleyways and world-class museums as we explored the great cities of Italy. With all the walking during the trip, I developed pain in my right leg and foot, and after returning to Austin, I was eager to overcome this injury and return to my active life as a massage therapist and personal trainer.
I began to research ways to overcome the pain and inflammation in my tissues, and my search led me to essential oils. A couple of days after I started applying the oils topically, I was able to stop taking the ibuprofen I had been taking for weeks. This is how I discovered the power of aromatherapy.
Often, the simplest foods, such as rice and beans, are the ones that daunt us—many people end up buying them either precooked or canned, respectively. To be fair, preparing rice can be tricky, but beans are a snap, as long as you think ahead. And I’m here to let you in on the secrets to perfectly cooked beans, no matter their form or purpose.
The first thing is making sure the dried beans are clean of stones or debris. Then, if you want a simple and traditional plate of whole beans (perhaps my favorite), the key is to soak the beans ahead of time with plenty of water. I usually soak mine for eight hours, which is great because you can set it up right before going to bed and by the time you wake up, they’ll be ready to cook. After the soak, simply drain the beans, place them in a pot (preferably a clay one), add water, onion and garlic and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook for about an hour and 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and discard the onion and garlic. Add salt, to taste, and enjoy this comforting classic, which in Mexico we call frijoles de la olla (pot-cooked beans). These beans are whole, but some will break and others will dissolve completely, giving the dish a thick consistency.
In 1838, the land that would soon be officially recognized as Central Texas was ripe, fertile and largely untouched, and the first Swedish immigrant to arrive and make his way in the pioneering country—20-year-old Svante Magnus Swenson—did so just 10 days before the Battle of the Alamo. Swenson opened one of the first general stores on Congress Avenue in Austin, the capital of the newly founded Republic of Texas, but the entrepreneurial Swede didn’t stop there. He also established a small farm east of town that he called “Govalle” (Swedish for “good grazing land”). And he continued to grow his interest in the area by acquiring land in Travis and Williamson counties, as well as in North Texas. In addition, with the help of his uncle, Svante Palm, Swenson became instrumental in bringing thousands of other Swedes to Texas in what became known as the “Swedish Pipeline.”
Hank Shaw is a self-professed omnivore who says he’s solved his own Pollan-esian dilemma. As a wild-foods advocate, he forages, gardens, fishes and hunts—prepares and eats it all—and then writes about it. Fans of his cookbooks, podcast and blog look to him for inspiration and guidance in learning about food accessed well outside the corporate food system. This off-the-food-grid former political reporter and restaurant cook is living proof that growing and catching your dinner and cooking up something delicious with it is both doable and rewarding. In the midst of touring for his latest book, “Buck, Buck, Moose”—a compendium of recipes and techniques for cooking all things antlered—we caught up with Shaw to talk about what to do with our meat, foot arches and what makes us all hunters at heart.
The smell of onion, garlic and spices fills my noisy and chaotic school cafeteria during lunchtime. Today in my lunch, I have basmati rice and a lentil soup with vegetables called dhal. Whenever I bring Indian food to school, my friends are always fascinated. They constantly pepper me with questions such as: “What is that?” “Is it good?” “Can I try it?” or “Is it spicy?”
My family is from tropical south India, where there’s an abundance of root vegetables and very colorful, juicy fruits. At home, we eat a lot of whole grains, rice, dairy products, vegetables and especially dhal. Both of my parents, although engineers, are great cooks, each in their own way. A typical dinner might include curried dhal with collard greens, baby potatoes and basmati rice or fire-roasted eggplant cooked to perfection with a bell-pepper-tomato-onion sauce in a blend of cumin and coriander spices and a side of baby okra curry with roti (flatbread). They are always experimenting with recipes that incorporate Indian spices into international dishes. Being at the crossroads of culture right now in the U.S. feels very familiar to people like me, as India herself has been at the crossroads of culture ever since the Silk Route.
From day-to-day life, to celebrations and festivals, to just maintaining health, there’s always a large portion of time devoted to food and eating in my culture. When we visit our family and friends in India, we are always welcomed with hot chai and a variety of homemade snacks, which is heartwarming and proves that even everyday food can be soul food. And one of the most prominent festivals we celebrate is called Diwali (the festival of lights). During this time, people host immense parties, shoot fireworks, perform poojas (ceremonies that include guests of honor) and prepare lots and lots of food. And even on “normal” days (or especially when I’m sick), foods prepared with ingredients such as turmeric and ginger help create well-being and promote healing. (This method of natural healing where diet plays a major role in health is part of ayurvedic medicine, where ingredients such as herbs and tree bark are used to prevent and even cure diseases.)
Some of my friends feel that eating a vegetarian diet is only to stay healthy and maintain weight, but it probably means I’m missing out on some key flavors and foods. Even though I don’t eat meat, I believe that I still get all the different flavors and textures, and I never feel left out. When we go grocery shopping, for example, the entire cart is filled with different types of produce—including several greens—and it’s very colorful! My friends and I have very different cultures and we all eat differently, but their cultures surround me and I get to experience them through their food and our friendships. And they get to experience some of my culture through my food, too.
When I am old enough to cook and go to college and beyond, I hope to be able to continue my family’s food traditions, which not only bring satisfaction for the stomach but also for the soul, by providing nourishment, warmth and a sense of belonging.
By Shreya Ramanathan
Shreya Ramanathan is 13 years old and lives in Austin with her mom, dad and 10-year-old brother, Vedanth. When she grows up she aspires to be a doctor who has holistic knowledge to heal ailments. Among many other things, she loves food, especially potato-cheese tacos and her mom’s special jack fruit curry.
Joshua Thomas shows off the fancy bowl his wife, Allison, won as valedictorian of her class at the Culinary Institute of America, where they met as students. “She eats breakfast out of it every morning,” he says, deadpan. “Oatmeal.” Allison laughs in a way that hints she’s heard this joke before. Or maybe it’s just the glasses of coconauts making everyone a little loopy. Joshua proclaims this classic Tiki drink as the “summer cocktail of choice” at their home. The couple keeps a running batch in the fridge—scooping out cups of the slush from a 1-liter Weck jar, then adding a sprinkling of nutmeg for guests.
“Did you find copper or did copper find you?” I ask Jonathan Beall, founder of the Mexico-based artisan copper cooperative, Sertodo Copper. “Let’s say we stumbled into each other,” he replies. “I was spending time in Mexico living on the severance package I’d received after the bubble burst at a dot-com, and trying to figure out what to do next.”
When it rains in Central Texas, it pours…and then it stops raining, sometimes for months. But rainwater collection systems help gardeners capture those downpours for use during dry seasons. Plus, rainwater’s slight acidity and lack of treatment chemicals help plants thrive. Systems that harvest rainwater for gardening range from 50-gallon DIY projects to several-thousand-gallon tanks installed by professionals. The rule of thumb: the more capacity, the better.
These small, tasty crustaceans, sometimes called mudbugs, look like miniature lobsters. They are often boiled with a hefty pour of Cajun spices. If your Southern host dumps a pile of them in front of you, don’t fret. Shelling them is easier than you’d think.
Kevin Russell might just be one of the best frontmen in America today. We’re a little light on frontmen these days, too (2016 took Prince and David Bowie; 2017 took Chuck Berry and Tom Petty). I hear David Lee Roth gave up his paramedic job a few years back to beef with Eddie on the road, but I missed it. I do, however, cross paths with the inestimable Russell—known musically as Shinyribs—on occasion, and he always brings down the house. You get the feeling that bras are being unhooked as minds are being unhinged. Musically and artistically, that’s a really nice place to be.
While at Texas Tech in the late 1970s, Neal Newsom (Texas High Plains cotton farmer Doyle C. “Hoss” Newsom’s son) had the fortune to encounter chemistry professor Dr. Roy Mitchell. At that time, Dr. Mitchell’s combined personal and academic interest in wine was advancing the Texas wine and grape-growing industry, then in its infancy. Dr. Mitchell had a profound influence on young Neal and, ultimately, on the Newsom family legacy. “I’ve always been interested in alternative crops to cotton,” says Neal. “I’ve examined soybeans and several varieties of grasses, but Dr. Mitchell really gave me the bug to grow wine grapes.”
In the late 1500s, Spanish explorers arrived in the area around what is known today as El Paso, Texas, along the Mexican-American border. With them, they brought livestock, such as cows and goats, which that part of the world had never seen. Dairy was not known to the Native Americans, as their diet was made up of indigenous ingredients such as corn, squash and chiles. From that point, however, as the old world connected with the new, it was perhaps inevitable that one day cheese would be paired with chiles and a culinary alliance would be born.
When Tara Miko Grayless started Happy Hemp to sell roasted and raw hempseed snacks, being asked, “Are you a drug dealer?” wasn’t the worst question she had to deal with. As her company grew and she got picked up by Whole Foods Market, she felt overwhelmed and a little clueless when it came to distributors, insurance, permitting, FDA regulations and on and on. “The major decisions that affect the failure and success of a business…you can’t Google them,” Grayless says. “You have to have a network.”
We’re always trying new local products. Take a look at what our staff is enjoying this month.
Binge-watching shows on Netflix normally yields only tired eyes and a stomach full of popcorn. But for Bananarchy’sLaura Anderson, an evening of too much television led to a unique business idea. “At some point in the middle of the night while watching Arrested Development, I thought it would be a great idea to open a frozen-banana stand in Austin—like the one on the show,” Anderson says. “It was just a joke between my friends and I at first, but I was really excited about it. All I could think about for the next few months was opening a stand.”