Friday, July 31, 2020

Italian Pinks, Sardinian Native Grapes, and Gamberi all'Aglio #ItalianFWT


Lauren of The Swirling Dervish is hosting the Italian Food Wine Travel bloggers for August. She's asked us to look at Rosato wines. You can read her invitation here - where she details some Italian pinks from the Northeast, Northwest, Central, and Southern.

If you are reading this early enough, feel free to join us for a live Twitter chat on Saturday, August 1st. Follow the hashtag #ItalianFWT and be sure to add that to any tweets you post so that we can see it, too. All of these posts will be live between Friday, July 31st and early morning on August 1st.


Italian Pinks

This has definitely been the summer of pink wine for me. And I love any excuse to try a bottle from Italy. Anywhere in Italy. So, I poured and paired Italian pinks: Mastroberardino Lacrimarosa Rosato 2018, from Campania, and Cantele Negroamaro Rosato 2018, from Apulia. Tasting notes and pairings coming soon on these. Stay tuned.


But first just a few thoughts about Rosato. Whether it's Rosé, Rosado (in Spain), Rosato (in Italy) - these terms all refer to pink wine. And they are all made in the same way. All pink wines are made from red grape varietals with the shade of pink determined by a number of factors, including how long the grapes are macerated in their skins and the coloring capabilities of the varietal. 

Though these wines are made all around the country, Italian pinks may not be specifically labeled Rosato. For example a typical pink wine from Lombardy or the Veneto might be labeled Chiaretto. 


The #ItalianFWT bloggers explored Chiaretto in July 2018 when I posted Chiaretto Poured with Local Catches


Earlier this year, in May 2020, the #WinePW bloggers focused on skin-fermented wines. For that event, I poured a Ramato which is a typical pink from Friuli Venezia Giulia. Read my post Fregola Sarda Con Gamberi + Attems Ramato Pinot Grigio 2017.


Finally another typical Rosato is the Cerasuolo of Abruzzo or Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo. Four years ago, in August 2016, the #ItalianFWT looked at Rosato also. I paired Pizza con Patate {Gluten-free} + Cantina Zaccagnini Cerasuolo d'Abruzzo Rosé.

Sardinian Native Grapes

Today, I'm sharing a bottle of Argiolas Serra Lori Rosato 2017 from Sardinia. I wrote about my birthday adventure to Sardinia in a post from May 2018: From Sardinia to the Land Down Under. That was from my twenty-fourth birthday and I'm pushing fifty. So, you can tell how long ago that trip was. But it was cemented in my memory as one of the most relaxing places I've ever been. And if  I can't be on an Italian island vacation - especially with us entering our twentieth week of being sheltered in place from the coronavirus pandemic - I can at least drink some wine from one of my favorite islands, right?!

One of the things I loved learning about Argiolas is that they focus on using native grape varietals.  Antonio Argiolas, who passed away in 2009 at the age of 102, had inherited fewer than ten acres of vines from his father in 1938. Now the estate has grown to over 600 acres with vines located  in the Trexenta hills just north of Cagliari, Sardinia's capital city. In the 1980s, Antonio's sons Franco and Giuseppe replanted the vineyards to focus exclusively on Sardinia's native grapes, primarily Nuragus, Monica, and Cannonau.


The name 'Isola dei Nuraghi' refers to the conical stone towers that dot the Sardinian coastline, standing stalwart in strategic locations around the island for defense. Constructed between 1900 BC and 730 BC, the Nuraghi are so representative of this period that it has come to be known as the Nuragic Age. However, few non-Italians are familiar with the term. In fact, I loved hiking around Torre di Longonsardo in Santa Teresa di Gallura and had no idea what that structure was called!

Serra Lori is a dry rosato blended from Cannonau, Monica, Carignano, and Bovale Sardo grown in the Guamaggiore and S'elegas vineyards. The grapes are macerated on their skins for three to four hours before being vinified completely in stainless steel tanks; the resulting color is a deep, vibrant salmon shade. So beautiful.

Gamberi all'Aglio

When I was deciding on a pairing, I was fixated on that seafood pink color. And I happened to have some shrimp from the market. Gamberi all'Aglio it was. It's quick, simple, and bursting with flavor. I mentioned it was simple, right? That's a must for summer dinner al fresco.

Ingredients serves 4 to 6

  • 1 to 1-1/2 pounds large shrimp, deveined but still with the peel on
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 8 to 10 large cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons wine (I used some of the Rosato)
  • freshly ground salt, as needed
  • freshly ground pepper, as needed

Procedure

Remove the dark intestinal vein from the shrimp, but leave the peel on as much as possible.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add in the garlic. Sauté gently until the garlic softens but is not browned, approximately 2 minutes. Stir in the shrimp and cook until just opaque, approximately 1 to 2 minutes per side. Pour in the wine and simmer to let the alcohol evaporate.

Stir the shrimp to coat completely with the sauce. Serve immediately. 


I served the shrimp over rice with various bruschette - one with traditional pesto and fresh mozzarella, one with a fresh tomato-basil salad, and one with an artichoke pesto and a dollop of mascarpone.

That's a wrap for our Rosato event. Next month Katarina of Grapevine Adventures is hosting and the #ItalianFWT will be looking at sustainability and climate change. Stay tuned for her invitation post. Soon. Cin cin!

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Chilcano De Pisco (Peruvian Brandy Cocktail)

Our family toast: Inca Kola, Chica Morada, and my Chilcano De Pisco

What to do when your husband isn't consuming eggs and you had planned on Pisco Sours for Peruvian independence day? Well, if you're me, you look for another mixed drink that uses pisco and doesn't use eggs! Eureka. I found mention of a chilcano de pisco, which is not to be confused with chilcano de pescado. The former is a cocktail made with Peruvian brandy; the latter is a Peruvian fish soup that sounds delicious, but is definitely not this.

Though I have had Pisco before, I did some reading and wanted to share some fun facts about this unique brandy that is produced in Peru and also in Chile.


Pisco must be made in one of five coastal regions of Peru, including Ica, Lima, Arequipa, Moquegua, and Tacna; it cannot be aged in wood at all; it can only be distilled once, and only in a copper pot; it has to be distilled from wine as opposed to the leftovers from wine production; and Pisco can only be made from eight specific grape varietals — Quebranta, Negra Criolla, Uvina, and Mollar, which are considered non-aromatic grapes, and the aromatic grapes — Moscatel, Torontel, Italia, and Albilla.

Most of the Pisco on the market is made from Quebranta. When Pisco is made from a single varietal, it's known as a Puro. This one that I found online — Caravedo Quebranta Pisco — is both made from Quebranta and a Puro. Before I mixed it into a cocktail, I poured it in a glass and tasted it neat.

On the nose, this pisco has an warm scent that seems both tropical and citrusy. Think coconut and orange mixed together. On the palate, I still get coconut, but there's a tinge of earthy vanilla and the warmth of clove and cinnamon.

And while I enjoyed it on its own, the chilcano de pisco was surprisingly tasty and so easy to make. It was a great drink on a warm summer's evening on the patio.


Ingredients makes one cocktail

  • 2 ounces Pisco (I used Caravedo Quebranta Pisco)
  • 1 to 2 organic lime wedges, depending on taste
  • ginger beer for topping off (I used Cock 'N Bull Ginger beer)
  • Also needed: ice, 8 ounce glass or tumbler


Procedure
Fill the 8 ounce glass halfway with ice. Pour the Pisco over the ice. Squeeze the juice from the lime wedge(s) into the glass and drop in the peel. Top off with ginger beer. Give a quick stir and enjoy. Salud!

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Faux-reos (Homemade Oreos), Women's Suffrage, and Happy Children #FoodieReads #GalleyMatch #Sponsored

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of author Laura Kumin and publisher Pegasus books.
I received a complimentary copy for the purpose of review, through The Book Club Cookbook's Galley Match program, 
but all opinions are honest and they are my own. No additional compensation for this post was provided;
this page may contain affiliate links.

All Stirred Up: Suffrage Cookbooks, Food, and the Battle for Women's Right to Vote by Laura Kumin* is set for release on August 4th. But my Lit Happens group was offered the opportunity to read advanced electronic copies early through the Galley Match with The Book Club Cookbook.

On the Page

I never pass up the chance to read a book that includes history and food. In this case, Laura Kumin offers us a delicious new book with a fresh look at the history of the women's suffrage movement. And the amount of knowledge Kumin has about the subject is evident. This was a fun one for this history-loving foodie!

When you read the words 'women's suffrage', what comes to mind? For me it was Susan B. Anthony, voluminous white bloomers, and black and white photos of women carrying picket signs at organized marches and protests. What I never knew was how the suffragists cooked together, fed people, and used the dining room table to forward their grassroots movement. A shared meal is a strong unifying force. Now that I did know!

Along with the well-researched history of women's suffrage, Kumin includes a trove of culinary delights; she offers recipes throughout - both an original plus a modern adaptation. 

All Stirred Up, page 108

Here's an example above. "Emergency Salad" came from Washington Women's Cook Book, published by the Washington Equal Association, and was simply two sentences. No ingredient list. No measurements. Just a description. It's clear to me that there was an assumption that people knew how to prep food and cook without every single step spelled out for them...and the way people ate vegetables was not al dente like we do now.

Kumin writes, "Cooking methods in these cookbooks reflect a bygone era as well. Steaming had not come into vogue to keep vegetables crisp, and suffrage cookbooks rely heavily on boiling as the means of preparing vegetables. Typically, the cooking times prescribed were way longer than those used in modern recipes. During the suffrage era, vegetables were cooked into what might be politely termed 'oblivion.' Cabbage boiled for two hours (in the Detroit stuffed cabbage recipe), and thinly sliced carrots and a head of celery boiled for two-and-a-half hours (for carrot soup in the Pittsburgh cookbook.) According to the Boston cookbook, cabbage and beets should be boiled for three hours (except for some reason in the summer beets were only boiled for one hour)" (pg. 217).


I chuckled as Kumin described the power of doughnuts in the cause. "Doughnuts became tools of persuasion too. In California’s 1911 suffrage campaign, one Southern California suffrage league created picnics where the group gave prizes for the best doughnuts, cookies, and biscuits. At first people mockingly called it a 'doughnut campaign,' but soon the moniker took on a more positive connotation, as the widely advertised picnics brought the curious and the hungry. As one account of the campaign reported, 'The doughnuts were so good that crowds ate them while they listened to oratory that was evidently convincing'" (pg. 120).

All Stirred Up, page 292

And, perhaps, some of my favorite 'recipes' were for things that weren't edible! Case in point: five ounces childhood fondant which "should be on hand in every household where children gladden the hearth" (pg. 292).


Kindness, sunshine, pure food, recreation, and rest. Those are essential for happy children! Especially as we are entering our twentieth week of being sheltered in place during the coronavirus pandemic, it's important to get those kids outside. That's the recipe for happy children. Well, it's at least one component to happy children.

On the Plate
With the plethora of recipes Kumin provided, there were many that I marked, including Sally Lunn bread (pg. 23), Asparagus Soup (pg. 92), and Orange Marmalade No. 2 (pg. 268). But for this post, I decided to share something that was inspired by the introductory timeline when Kumin details suffrage milestones, other happenings in the United States and the world, and food. I was intrigued to learn that Oreos are over one hundred years old. "Nabisco sells its first Oreo cookies" in 1912 (pg. XXV).

I actually had never had an Oreo until just few years. Yes, mine was a childhood mostly devoid of American treats. However my parents had no qualms about feeding those verboten foods to my kids! I remember my mom calling to tell me that it was embarrassing to take my boys to the park sometimes. When other kids were pausing for snacks, mine would ask, "What's a Twinkie, Nonna?" or "Have you ever had a Dorito, Nonna?" She said it was un-American. I told her that she had no one else to blame by herself. I never ate those foods; my kids certainly didn't need to eat them. She disagreed.

So, here we go. I prefer to make my own version of these iconic foods. I decided to make my own homemade Oreos, Faux-reos. 


Cookies
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) organic butter, softened
  • 1 cup organic granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Filling
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) organic butter, softened
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 to 3-1/2 cups organic powdered sugar

Procedure

Cream the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and beat until well incorporated. In the mean time, whisk together the flour, cocoa, and baking powder. Slowly add the dry mixture to the creamed mixture, beating on the lowest speed.  Continue to mix on the lowest setting until the dry ingredients are just incorporated. Press the dough into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

Between 2 pieces of parchment paper, roll the dough to approximately 1/4" thickness.  



Use a small glass to cut out cookies and transfer them to the prepared baking sheet. Chill in the freezer for 5 minutes. Then bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool completely.

Once the cookies are cooled, prepare the filling.  Combine the softened butter, heavy cream, and vanilla and beat until combined. Add the powdered sugar gradually, approximately 1/2 cup at a time, until the filling comes together.  It should be slightly stiffer than a cupcake frosting. Spread the filling on one side of a pair. Then press the remaining cookie to form a faux-reo.



Find The Book Club Cookbook 

Find Pegasus Books, the publisher
on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram

Find Laura Kumin, the author
on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram         

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.


I have also added this to #FoodieReads.
Click to see what everyone else read in July 2020: here.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Simple Summery Squash Muffins #MuffinMonday


Earlier in the year I saw a post from one of my favorite bloggers - Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm - and I realized that they've been having a muffin party for years without me. LOL. I emailed the host, Stacy of Food Lust People Love and got the scoop: "...last Monday of the month and no themes. We've been baking together since August 2015! Only one rule, you must use the muffin method (folding wet ingredients with dry - no creaming butter and sugar, etc.) to bake muffins."

I've been happily joining in for months now. This month, this is the muffin line-up...

Simple Summery Squash Muffins

I'll be honest: I almost skipped this month. Not because I didn't have a muffin to bake, but because my husband has been plant-based all month. That is a story for another day, but it has meant no eggs and no dairy since the beginning of the month. And I was a little sad and disheartened about baking in that state. I could have forged ahead and baked what I had planned, just telling him he couldn't have any; but that seemed mean. So I decided to adapt my zucchini bread to a plant-based recipe. It's not vegan because it includes honey. Thankfully, Jake hasn't given up eating honey or wearing wool and leather.


I was inspired by a zucchini that D brought to me. He's been my zucchini master for years. Bigger kid, smaller squash this year. But it was still delicious and perfect for this muffin creation. I love that this is also a one-bowl prep.

This recipe works just as well with summer squash of any shape. I made it again with yellow patty pan and eight ball squash. So, get creative!

Ingredients makes 12 muffins
  • 1/2 cup organic granulated sugar + 1 Tablespoon for sprinkling
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used a mild olive oil)
  • 1/4 cup honey (I used a local sage honey)
  • 2 Tablespoons applesauce 
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 heaping cups shredded zucchini
  • 1/2 cup dried dates, chopped
  • Also needed: muffin pan, paper liners (optional)

Procedure

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line muffin pan with paper liners, if using. If not using liners, grease your hollows.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients up to the zucchini. Once everything is moistened and well-combined, fold in shredded zucchini and date pieces.


Scoop 1/3 cup batter into each muffin liner. Sprinkle the tops with a little bit of sugar; I used one tablespoon total for all twelve of the muffins. Place in the oven and bake for 55 to 60 minutes; a toothpick inserted in the middle of a muffin should come out clean.

Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan before transferring to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.


That's a wrap for the July #MuffinMonday event. Join us next month...last Monday of August. I'll hopefully have wrapped my head around baking without eggs and dairy more solidly by then. But this effort was certainly a success.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Road Trip Food + Jake's Scrambled Eggs #FoodieReads


I just finished a book about the ultimate American road trip - Not Tonight, Josephine: A Road Trip Through Small-Town America by George Mahood.* Maybe it was my way of virtually traveling the country while we're entering out nineteenth week of being sheltered-in-place during this coronavirus pandemic. Pause on that for a moment. Nineteen weeks. Our annual summer camping trip was canceled - maybe postponed! - and schools are starting in a couple of weeks in a completely distance learning model. So, it doesn't appear we'll be getting out and about any time soon. Boo. Mahood's book was a wonderful antidote to the travel itch.

First things first. The photo above was taken by a friend when the guys did a crazy road trip years ago from the Monterey Peninsula up into Oregon to pick up a motorcycle. Boys!

On the Page
image from amazon.com

Before I picked up this book, I had never heard of George Mahood. Sorry, George. Now that I've read this, and shared snippets with my husband, I am definitely a fan. I'll be picking up several of his other books soon.

This is true account of the misadventures of George, Mark, and Josephine for the first part, and, then, George, Rachel, and Josephine for the second part. George, Mark, and Rachel are Brits traveling around the United States. Josephine is a tattered mini van that takes them from New York to California and back again...but not without some laugh outloud mishaps. Car trouble, police trouble, immigration trouble. Mahood makes it all funny.

Here are just a few passages I wanted to share...


"I had made a pact with myself before coming to America to try not to visit McDonald’s during my time in the USA. This wasn’t because of any anti-consumerist stance or anything. It was simply because McDonald’s has come to symbolise America and its cuisine. I regularly frequent McDonald’s back in the UK, and it seemed a shame to come to such a vast country and then eat the same food that I could eat back home" (pg. 21). On the aforementioned guys' trip, Jake and Brian did stop at McDonald's...but only to use the bathroom, they said. Ha.
          
"This was what it was all about. Guitars in the back, potato chips in the front, and carefree smiles on our faces. The radio was blaring out Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA (it wasn’t), and we hit the New Jersey Turnpike with a wealth of choices and opportunities ahead of us. It was almost too good to be true. And it was" (pg. 49).      

"After spending way more money on car repairs than we had planned to, we needed to budget for food a bit better. We had begun a diet of bologna sandwiches and bananas. Bologna sandwiches were cheap and easy. American bread, we discovered, lasts forever. It’s weird and spongy, with an almost cake-like texture. It tastes quite like cake too, but is apparently bread. Its seemingly unlimited shelf life makes it a backpacker’s best friend" (pg. 62).

"It was not until an hour and a half later that we discovered that Rawlins was 76 miles from Rock River. It was gems like this that fuelled my love of America. In the UK, there are very few things that anyone would consider driving 76 miles for. In rural America, 76 miles is an acceptable distance to travel for a good breakfast" (pg. 258). Years ago, when I was visiting a friend in Texas just after I graduated from high school, I remember being floored that she was waking me up at seven in the morning so that we could drive to lunch. Well, we were driving nearly 150 miles each way to have lunch and eat peaches. It was actually one of the more memorable days of my trip and I am forever grateful for that jaunt to Fredericksburg.

His commentary about the American holiday of Thanksgiving, red Solo cups, and (pre)judging the quality, or lack thereof, of a restaurant's fare by the number of antlers on the wall all had me chuckling aloud, too.

But, the passage from where the book's title comes, when George is pleading with the car to not break down: "'DAMMIT! NOT TONIGHT, JOSEPHINE!' I shouted, banging my fist on the steering wheel and giving the horn a loud blast that nobody would hear but me. 'Please, Josephine…' I said, more calmly this time, '…not tonight'" (pg. 195).

On the Plate

Mahood writes a lot about this road trip food. I was tickled to read about his stop in Mariposa on their way from Yosemite to Petaluma. "Later that evening we checked back into the same motel, where the man offered us an even cheaper nightly rate. We ate at the nearby Happy Burger Diner in Mariposa, which proudly claims to have the 'largest menu in the Sierra'" (pg. 164).



And I considered making those happy fries in honor of this book. Aren't they cute?!


The history of the hamburger, almost inspired a burger. "In 1885, Charlie Nagreen – now known as ‘Hamburger Charlie’ – was selling pork sandwiches at the Seymour Fair and unknowingly created the hamburger when he sold a meatball to a customer sandwiched between two slices of bread. Seymour has embraced its hamburger history; it has a dedicated Hamburger Museum and an annual celebration called Burger Fest" (pg. 303). That photo is also from Happy Burger in Mariposa!

But what inspired me into the kitchen was George and Mark's stint on a chicken ranch in Petaluma where they were housesitting for family during the winter holidays.

"There were at least 20 chickens on the ranch and they were all prolific layers. It was our responsibility to feed them each day, let them out each morning and lock them up each evening, making sure Fluffy was kept well away while they were out. Fluffy was my uncle’s huge pet/guard dog Rottweiler, named after the three-headed dog in Harry Potter. Not that this Fluffy had three heads of course. Despite being very well trained and the most docile of dogs, Fluffy still liked to play with the chickens if he ever got the chance… with his teeth. On the days we had overlapped with my aunt, uncle and three cousins, there had been enough eggs for us all to have them for breakfast each morning. Now there was only Mark and me, the only way for us to stay on top of the vast quantity of eggs was to eat them for three meals a day. They were good eggs, though, and as we had almost no money left, three free meals a day suited us perfectly. Mark was given the role of head egg chef as he was better at cooking scrambled eggs than me. I was his young apprentice" (pg. 174).
               
To be fancy for Christmas, George suggests poached eggs instead! But they end up with a more traditional feast that included two whole turkeys.

Jake's Scrambled Eggs

Their marathon of scrambled eggs inspired me to share this. It happened at about week eight of our shelter-in-place orders. One morning in May, Jake got up and announced, "I'll make the eggs this morning." What?!? So, after twenty two years together, I find out he doesn't like my scrambled eggs. Fine. "Watch and learn," he said.


Ingredients serves 2
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • also needed: whisk, enameled skillet


Procedure or Technique
Crack your eggs into medium mixing bowl. Add water and whisk or whip until the eggs and yolks are fully combined into a pale, yellow mixture. The more air you get into the eggs, the more light and tender they will be. Whisk in some salt and pepper.

Melt the butter in your pan until the butter is foamy, but not browning. Keep the heat low as it's key to making the eggs custard-like and soft!

Pour the beaten eggs into the pan and let them sit for 30 seconds or so. Use a spatula to move the eggs from one side of the pan to the other to spread the uncooked eggs over the pan surface.

Stop when the eggs seem mostly set. This should only take a minute or two. Any longer and they'll go from fluffy to rubbery in the blink of an eye! 


That's it. No real secret. Just a few techniques that make all the difference: whipped eggs, real butter, and low heat.

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more, but it helps support my culinary adventures in a small way. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.


Click to see what everyone else read in July 2020: here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Devolution + Oven-Dried Jerky #FoodieReads


Let's start with this - Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre by Max Brooks* isn't a book I would have chosen to read on my own in about a million years. But when Jake asked me to read it - because he really wanted to talk about it - I obliged. It's his 'bookless book group' pick and is significant in that it's the first book this has ever been chosen in the decade or so that all of these guys have been friends. We used to joke when they started to get together for man cave activities, that it was their version of a book group. But, as I said, they have never read a book together. Ever. Until now.

And, then, let's also say that this isn't a foodie book. However, there's a surprising amount of food in it. Plus it inspired me to make jerky in the oven. I'll get to that soon.

On the Page

When Jake asked me to read this, I had no idea what to expect. The only thing I knew was that it was suggested by a friend whose recommendation, years ago, had me reading about the zombie apocalypse - World War Z by the same author.


That adventure had me making Red Wine Gummy Brains. The zombie-inspired gummies were fun, but I didn't care for the book at all. Obviously I was reluctant to read Devolution. Then I saw my husband reading diligently every evening and that was intriguing in and of itself. So, when Jake asked me to read the book, so we could talk about it, I had to do it.

The book is a slow burn that snowballs to a frenetic crescendo that is the sasquatch massacre. That's not a spoiler, it's in the title! 

In any case, for the first third of the book, I didn't think I would care for it. I was disturbed by Brooks' literary device of infusing his novel with interview "transcripts." Think real journalists and imagined interviews. My eyes stuttered over names of radio journalists I hear on NPR all the time: Kai Ryssdal and Terry Gross. The use of their names in connection with a completely fictional event was deceptive and I had to keep reminding myself: Nope, this is fiction. Kai Ryssdal and Terry Gross never covered this tragedy because it didn't really happen!

Additionally, I didn't initially find any of the characters particularly likable. They were a group of techno-hippies living in a planned community called Greenloop in the rugged forests of Washington; they had no experience, or even interest, in wilderness survival. You can see where this is going, right? A natural disaster - Rainier's eruption - isolates Greenloop from the rescue efforts and draws another group out of the forest in search of food. That group was a troop of sasquatch. Sasquatch plus people in the forest...yeah, you definitely see where this is going now.

The story grew on me as it turned creepier and creepier, devolving into a horror story that serves as a cautionary tale and timely commentary on our dependence on technology and retreating self-sufficiency. Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre was well-written and thoroughly researched. I can respect that. 

In the end, I'm glad I read this. Now if Jake can hurry up and finish so we can talk about it! Then I plan to look up the sasquatch movies Brooks references in his novel. I've never really gotten into that genre, but my curiosity is piqued, and it appears that everyone has a bigfoot story.

"You’ve got the Almas in Russia, the Yowie in Australia, the Orang Pendek in Indonesia, and a bunch of Sisimite stories from Latin America. And that’s just today. The Judeo-Christian Bible has Esau, the primitive brother of Jacob. And the Epic of Gilgamesh, the first written story, has “Enkidu,” the wild man. Show me a culture anywhere on this planet, and chances are, they got something. Including this one, and by this one, I mean mainstream pop culture. Bigfoot’s as American as apple pie and guns in schools."

On the Plate

I mentioned earlier that there was a surprising amount of food in this book. Katie describes the dinner that the neighbors prepared to welcome her and Dan to Greenloop: "It was such an idyllic setting, and the food! Black buttery edamame salad, quinoa with grilled vegetables, and salmon right from the nearby rivers! We started with this amazing soup course: vegetable soba made by the Boothes. They live two houses to the left of us. Vegan foodies. They actually made the soup, not just mixed and cooked it. The soba noodles were from scratch. Raw ingredients delivered fresh that day."

Katie forages wild blackberries during her hikes and others turned the bounty into "...lavender berry lemonade pops. ...Summer, that’s what it tastes like."

Once they are cut-off from their drone-food deliveries, they take inventory of their supplies and food becomes currency. Katie trades Dan's handyman services for food. "Little things here and there. I kept my own list. I’m charging them in rolled oats (we’re out of cereal). While Dan bopped his merry way between tasks, I went meticulously through the Boothes’ pantry, cataloging everything they had, down to the last drop of Lucini Italia premium olive oil. A lot of calories in olive oil. I don’t think I’m overcharging them. Maybe a little."

While I typically read and write about food as a delight, Devolution has food as basic element of survival. When discussing food sources, "Dan brought up the time he’d tried a dish of fried crickets at this restaurant in Santa Monica. (I’d been there and politely declined to partake.)"


I've made Jake eat crickets at a restaurant in Carmel. Fresh Chapulines, they were called. Wait are crickets and grasshoppers the same thing?! Maybe not.


I have even had the kids in my cooking class at school make Cricket Chip Cookies.


And we made Cricket Pizza once, too. But what Devolution inspired me to make was jerky. The significance of the title is Scenario Four. "But my gut tells me it’s Scenario Four. 'We have to kill them all.' That’s what she wrote. That’s what she’s doing."

Katie devolved from a sophisticated albeit neurotic Angelean into sasquatch hunter and Greenloop avenger. At least that's one possibility.


"When I think about the time it took for her, the two of them, to dig that miniature cemetery, scraping out the frozen earth, collecting the bodies, covering them with rocks…and still having time for the 'other' corpses… We found a lot of meat in the Common House freezer. Newly cut steaks—well butchered, I might add—along with pots of stew. And in the cabinets, these endless Ziploc bags of jerky. They must have had the dehydrator going night and day. Some of the guys in my group, they…yeah, me too…we kinda kick ourselves for not sneaking just one of those little dried strips. I mean, c’mon, who doesn’t want to know what Sasquatch tastes like?"

This was inspired by a Korean bulgogi marinade. You can find one of my versions here. Admittedly, my jerky was made from cow meat, not sasquatch meat...

Jerky
  • 2 to 3 pounds thinly sliced sirloin (here's a secret: I get the butcher to slice it for me!)
  • Also needed: baking sheets with cooling racks nestled inside of them

Marinade
  • 6 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 Tablespoons organic dark brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons rice cooking wine (mirin)*
  • 1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 organic onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 1 organic pear, peeled and grated
  • 1 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

*Mirin is a sweet, tangy Japanese wine made from rice; mirin it is different than sake.  You can easily mirror mirin’s flavor profile by mixing 1/2 teaspoon of sugar in per 1 Tablespoon dry sherry, sweet marsala wine, dry white wine, or rice vinegar.

Procedure

Marinade
Whisk together all of the ingredients for the marinade. Place the meat in a container (I used a flat, lidded glass container) and pour the sauce over the top. Hopefully the meat is completely submerged. If not, you'll need to turn the meat every couple of hours. Cover and refrigerate overnight or for, at least, 6 hours.

Jerky
When you're ready to oven-dry the jerky, remove beef from the refrigerator. Let it come to room temperature for about 30 minutes. If your oven thermostat allows, preheat oven to 175 degrees Fahrenheit. Mine has a bottom temp of 200 degrees Fahrenheit, so I set it at that, then leave the door propped open during drying.

Brush oil on the oven tray or wire racks and line the inside of the pans with foil for easier clean-up

Remove the meat from the marinade and gently blot away any excess marinade with paper towels. Arrange the meat strips side-by-side across the trays or racks, leaving a little bit of space between strips.

Place the trays in the oven and cook until completely dry. The drying time varies greatly with the thickness and moistness of the meat...and also how chewy or dry you like it. At 200 degrees Fahrenheit with the door propped open on my oven, mine took just 2 hours. The time depends on the thickness and moistness of the meat and how chewy you want the jerky to be. 

It should be dry, darker in color, and break gently when bent. If it snaps when you bend it, it's overdone. And remember: the jerky will firm up as it cools. 

Blot any residual moisture from the jerky with paper towels and cool completely on the racks before storing. You can store the jerky in an airtight container. I have read that beef prepared this way will last 2 to 3 months. But mine never lasted more than a few days with my happy omnivores noshing on them whenever they walked by the kitchen!

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more, but it helps support my culinary adventures in a small way. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.


Click to see what everyone else read in July 2020: here.