Real Homemade

 

Imagine waking up after a long journey and seeing a sword of bright light piercing through white cotton curtains flowing gently from the wind.  As you sit up, stretching your tired muscles, you hear singing and laughter coming from outside.

Upon parting those curtains and letting the coolest of breezes kiss your face, you behold fog engulfed mountain peaks, dew covered green grass and the sun’s achingly beautiful attempt to shine through the trees.

There are men and woman dressed in colorful garb laughing, talking, singing and getting ready for a long day of work. Little Roma children chase goats and dogs around the tiny village nestled between two mountains and hidden deep within the woods. You smile and inhale deeply as total contentment rests your weary bones and replenish your spirit.

It’s at that moment you notice the most amazing aroma and walk from your room in search of the source.  On your way, you pass by another room filled with the tangled, tanned limbs of the Romanian men women and children who gave up their sleeping quarters to make you more comfortable.

You’re heart aches at their hospitality and you smile while venturing onward in search of the aromas source.  You walk outside and a large fire pit with iron rods stretched across the expanse of heat and on top of the iron rods are pots and pans. There is a small iron dome heated by the fire as well that served as their oven. This was their kitchen.

Two tiny woman, one old the other young, were busily kneading dough with their fists and taking the finished product from the oven.  You notice other food and hug your stomach as it growls.

The two woman notice you and smile cheerfully.  The young girls name is Anca and the older woman is Catina.  They speak broken English but manage to ask how I slept and if I was hungry.  I told them I’d slept perfectly and that I was indeed very hungry.

Anca offers you a piece of bread that you call Lady Fists. You know of Lady Fists. Your mother and law makes it every Christmas but refuses to give you the recipe.  You take a bite and sink into bliss. You must have this recipe.

Once finished, you look up at Anca and Catina’s smiling faces and ask.

“That was absolutely delicious, how did you make it?” The tenor changes slightly as Anca’s eyes widen and turn to look at her mother who stands perplexed.

“It is family secret,” Catina says in a deep throaty accent smiling gently.

“Oh, of course it is my apologies.  Is…is there any way I could maybe work for it?  You see I’m a traveler…”

“No,” says Catina her smile tightening.  Not wanting to anger her and be thrown out, you nod politely.

“I completely understand.  I just wanted to show the world what a talented cook you are.  But, I respect you decision, just know that if you change you’re mind, I’m willing to do whatever you ask…whatever you ask.” You emphasize and before leaving, thank them again for the food.

You smile as you walk back to your room knowing by the pondering look upon on their faces, that you’ve peaked their interest.

Roaming in Romania

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Bucharest

Since my bout in Egypt I have yet to update you on my journey. I hope you enjoyed the Shortbread story. It came to mind on the train ride to Romania. I’ve just left Bucharest for Bistrița, a city near the Carpathian Mountains.  When my mum left him, my father had a meltdown and a midlife crisis at the same time. I was 13 at the time.

Out of nowhere he up and left, forcing me to go to live with my two aunts who wanted nothing to do with me and sent me to boarding school. I received letters from my father the two years I was there telling me of his adventures in Romania of all places. It was in Bistrița, in an “obscure patch of woods” (his words not mine), that he met the gypsy, or Roma as they prefer to be called, that would soon become my mother and law.

When he returned, he had a beautiful Roma girl clinging to his hips and a baby girl nestled in his arms. I will tell more of this later I promise, but I must not get sidetracked. For now, know she was the one who ignited my taste buds and created my insatiable palate with her exotic, most delightful dishes.

To my extreme dismay she refuses to tell me how she makes anything. So, I figured if I can find her village I’d simply ask her people. Simple enough right? But I must leave you now, the bus I am on has gone as far as it can go and I must transfer to another bus.  I’ll get back to you soon! Enjoy the photos!

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Carpathian Mountains

Don’t Call Them Nuts!

Macadamia Testicle Shortbread

A few years ago, during a road trip across the States, I had the pleasure of staying with an older woman by the name of Henrietta Jolie.

The old clunker I’d bought to make my way across country stalled on me halfway through the middle of nowhere Oklahoma.  I waited for hours for another living soul to pass by but I had no such luck.

So, I ended up having to walk miles and miles in search of a gas station or at least something that resembled civilization! Nearly two hours later I saw in the distance, across a grassy plain and tucked between some trees, a small white cottage.

I nearly jumped out of my boots running towards the haven.  A young man tending the garden greeted me in the front of the house after getting over the shock of my appearance.

When I’d caught my breath, I relayed to him my ordeal.  A hearty laugh ensued followed by a reassuring pat. The young man (Lucas was his name), told me he knew a “thing or two” about fixing cars.

During our conversation, a plump old woman walked out of the house asking where the fresh eggs were. Lucas answered and quickly told the woman my situation.

Her meaty chin disappeared into her neck as she smiled and ushered me inside to “sit a spell and have a bite to eat,” while she called a tow truck. I wasn’t sure how long a “spell” was so I found myself constantly getting up, then sitting back down only moments later.

During one of these leg exercises, Mrs. Jolie ( as I later learned), came from the  kitchen carrying a plate with a sandwich on it and another plate filled with looked like square cookies.  My stomach churned and I feigned refusal, for politeness sake, but quickly accepted after her second offer.

The desert was actually shortbread. After the first bite, I begged to know the name and how to make it. She laughed a little and turned to look out the window behind me.

Her eyes glazed over as her memory swam backwards.  I knew that look…it was a look I was growing accustomed to.  It meant “I have a story.”

She told me that when her son, Lucas, was a little boy he had very strict school teacher who was “particular” about words.  Every morning Lucas would come home and tell her the new word he’d learned.

“It’s not called a lie mamma, Mrs. Ellis say’s to call it a fib.” “You shouldn’t say nasty mamma, it’s distasteful.”  So on and so forth this went for weeks.  Then one day, Lucas came home walking funny and complaining about his “testicles” hurting.

“Where in the world did you learn that word boy?” Mrs. Jolie had asked Lucas.  Lucas told her that during recess, one of the boys had kicked a ball and hit his “nuts.”

He went over to Mrs. Ellis crying saying his nuts hurt and Mrs. Ellis turned beet red and angrily told him never to say the word “nuts again.”

Mrs. Jolie gave her son some ice to help with the pain, and started cooking dinner forgetting the ordeal.  That night at the table, with whole family present and few friends from the neighborhood, Mrs. Jolie brought out her new shortbread recipe.

Filled with Macadamia nuts and topped with whipped cream, the shortbread looked delicious. When Lucas took his first bite he happily exclaimed, “I love Testicles!”

At this point in the story, Mrs. Jolie could no longer keep her composure and laughed loudly me along with her.  The proper name of this desert was Macadamia Nut Shortbread but the family called it Macadamia Testicle Shortbread.

For months poor Lucas substituted the word “testicle” for “nuts.” It’s strange how often we use that word.

She gave me the recipe shortly after the story and when the tow truck finally arrived with my car I found out the reason my car had stopped was because it ran out of gas…I’m a testicle…

 Ingredients

1 1/2 cups salted dry-roasted macadamia nuts

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 oz bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.

Place macadamia nuts in a 4-sided sheet pan and toast in the oven for about 8-10 minutes, or until golden. Remove from oven, but keep the oven on. Allow the nuts to cool slightly and then coarsely chop.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip together butter, sugars, vanilla, and salt until combined well. Stir in flour, nuts, and chocolate and gently stir with a rubber spatula until a soft dough forms.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a sheet of parchment paper. Gently pat the dough into a 12 by 8 inch rectangle. Score into 20 squares with tip of a knife. Bake until golden, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Cool on baking sheet 10 minutes, then carefully cut into squares with a sharp knife while the shortbread is still warm (cookies may crumble a little bit). Transfer to a rack to cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Strange, Unusual, Delicious: Cayman Island Turtle Patties

     Cayman Island Turtle Patties

 

I few years back, when I was a young, immature foodie just starting out, I had the amazing privilege of visiting the Cayman Islands.  It was a very unique experience and allowed me to venture outside my comfort zone to try things I normally wouldn’t.  As a matter of fact, I think the Cayman Islands actually made me the foodie I am today!

While in the Cayman Islands, I visited Boatswain’s Turtle Farm which is one of the largest attractions there and saw some pretty interesting things. The most interesting part was the Turtle Patti Vendor inside the souvenir shop.  The man was literally selling us patties made from turtle meat INSIDE the turtle farm.  I found this bizarre and quite disturbing until I was prompted to try one. Even if the man had been selling the patties ten miles down the road the fact that it was a TURTLE he had cooked was off setting.  But, I didn’t want to be rude so after hesitating and looking back and forth between the dead turtle I was being offered and the live ones happily swimming around outside, I took the man up on his offer and tried a piece.

To say it was the most delicious thing I’d tasted in a long while would be an understatement. Think of Jamaican patties but with the most delicious, moist, fresh meat inside. I was so shocked at how delicious it was that I quickly asked for two more and took a picture of them. My palate expanded exponentially that day and I now have my own turtle farm where I kill…just kidding.  You may think me horrendous but as any foodie knows, you can’t turn own a potentially delicious meal because it was alive only moments ago.  I challenge you to try something completely foreign and see what happens. Good day!

Shepherd Boys

(The Nile River)

I promised you that I would share with you my culinary discoveries and I am a man of my word. I just had the most splendid time in Egypt! It was quite random actually. My plan was to stay in Cairo, but I became lost and ended up in the countryside and ran into three shepherd boys.

After much excitement by my sudden appearance, they led me to their small shack in the distance where their hard yet beautiful mother prepared food for me and their father sat me down at the table. Overjoyed, I ate to my full. When I was done they gave me a Galabaya which is a long linen robe to replace my filthy traveling clothes.

We filled the night with much laughter as we tried to communicate and failed miserably. They spoke very broken English. I thought things could get no better but then I noticed the most delicious smell. I inquired and the mother smiled and disappeared into the kitchen. She returned a moment later with the most delectable looking treat I had ever seen. She told me the name but I dare not repeat. For now, I will call them Shepherd Boys.

I  asked her how she made it and I could have sworn time stopped by the way all the noise evaporated from the room. The look of utter shock was apparent on the faces of her children and her husband. I grew red from embarrassment but persisted telling her, that’d I’d work for it.

The mother smiled mischievously and nodded. I was to help her boys in the field with the sheep and other household chores and after every day was over, she would give me a part of the recipe until it was complete.

I ended up working for her and her family for over two weeks but had the most splendid time doing so, not to mention I got a killer tan from the inescapable sun and some much needed muscles. She handed me the completed recipe before I left to catch the bus and made me promise that I would never share the recipe with anyone else. I promised and bid them all farewell.

When I returned home, I immediately went to buy the ingredients to make the delicious treat.  So, without further ado I present to you

New Journey

So recently I’ve decided I want to share my food discoveries (sweets to be exact) from my many travels.  I’ve tasted Egyptian cakes, Turkish scones, fudge from Africa and a variety of other delectable treats and want the world to taste them as well.

But I don’t want to document them in some boring journal, I want something tangible and delicious! My plan is to actually make the deserts I discover and share them with the world!  I’ve made a list of all the sweets I’ve had the pleasure of tasting and after arduous persuasion (and a few fights with the locals which I’ll tell you about later) I’ve managed to get the recipes!

I’ve already hired a graphic designer to create my logo and have made a few purchases to prepare for my baking frenzy! I even found the most amazing contraption called Baby Cakes!  It turns cakes into lollipops! Take a look!

Isn’t it fantastic?!  But I digress.  I will keep you updated on this journey and can’t wait to show you all the logo once it’s completed! Wish me luck and good day fellow humans!