Thursday, December 11, 2008

what i'd like to get fat on

My grandmother got fat on Stella D'oro cookies. Pictures reveal that in her youth she was svelte and curvy, with a thick mane of black curls and fire engine red lips. Stilettos, too.

By the time we met, in 1974, she was more grandmotherly, a tough shell with a warmth and devotion bubbling beneath. She was suffering quietly from a broken heart--the death of my grandfather 10 years earlier--listening to classical music on the radio and dunking Stella D'oros in Taster's Choice coffee.

I respect this--the choice to hunker down with sweets and pack it on; after all, at age 70 have we not earned it?  But I will not be getting fat on Stella D'oros.  At a staff meeting the other day, my bosses plied us with various croissants from my local fave Almondine bakery.  As I nibbled on a chocolate almond one, I thought: this is what I'd like to get fat on.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Heritage Bird

For a few years now, as part of my job, I have been preaching to others about eater-based conservation and the joys of keeping biodiversity alive by eating heirloom varieties, and heritage breeds. Conventional turkeys are not bred for flavor, don'tcha know; they're bred for big boobs and fast maturation, and ability to freeze well; and blah blah blah and yup sure, I hear ya.

Finally this year I myself cooked not just a free range bird but a heritage one--an American Bronze from Frank Reese's Good Shepherd Ranch in Kansas. Which for me is a bit like a football fan saying he ordered a football and it came from Brett Favre's backyard where Brett Favre himself stitched the pigskin together with his own two (giant) hands.

I proudly served the beautiful 9 pound bird at the Thanksgiving feast called by one enthusiastic guest "the most delicious, least emotionally complicated Thanksgiving I've ever had!" And I found that I was suddenly my own target audience; this bird was weird. There was no light fluffy, watery breast. It didn't taste like any turkey I have ever eaten before, and of course that was unnerving.

But by bite three I was won over by this flavorful, tenacious, lean meat, and finally understanding this idea of "real turkey flavor," that heritage bird proponents talk about. My initial dislike helped me understand how deeply ingrained our food preferences are--we like what we know, and what we know is a Butterball. If I am to be any kind of spokesperson at all for the importance of re-shaping our palates, I must begin with myself, no?