This afternoon I had to run an errand in the area around Grand Central Terminal. How convenient, I thought, now, I can find an excuse to check out Share Our Strength‘s Great American Bake Sale taking place today to benefit the Food Bank for New York. I checked out on their Facebook page just before watching the evening news, and the GCT folks announced 50 minutes ago that the bake sale, which was supposed to go on until 7:00 p.m. tonight, was all sold out and had shut down. I managed to get over there around 1:30 p.m. and at least two places had already been wiped out with several other vendors not far behind. What a great result for a fundraiser for such a worthy cause. Hopefully, our sweet tooths (teeth?) will assist many families to put food on the table, especially during these tough times.
Ah, what to do on a gorgeous, sunny, crisp early spring Saturday in New York City? Head to the East Village to a food-related fundraiser, of course. Yesterday at Jimmy’s No. 43, Jimmy Carbone hosted a Brisket Cook-off, the proceeds of which went to support the New Amsterdam Market. Several local chefs came together along with some other special guests to show what they could do with this cut of meat.
What I really enjoy about exploring the local food scene in New York (or really anywhere) is that I get to meet people who are passionate and dedicated to the craft of creating fine products and discover our common interests. This happened when I sat down over coffee to talk to Laurie Freeman Pauker the creator and founder of Lush Candy. The first time I had the chance to try her beautiful-looking and delicious English Toffee was at the Food52 Piglet Party last December. From that initial buttery-sweet, crunchy bite, I knew that this was something special. I’ve since found out that I’m only one among many of her fans.
I’ve started making my own toffee for the holiday season ever since I dusted off a recipe that I found in my mother’s card file so I can appreciate what goes into making this product. It’s not only about the love of eating sweets, but also about the craft of working with all the finicky ingredients that go into making every piece. Boiling hot sugar and melted butter has to be timed to the exact moment when it needs to come off of the heat. The molten liquid has to be poured out quickly enough to have it mold and set into the forms, or cut to size, before it hardens and is impossible to re-shape. After waiting patiently for that to cool, the perfectly-shaped morsels are coated in chocolate and (possibly) rolled in chopped nuts to create each delicate confection.
As we chatted about our respective candy-making exploits, I became more and more appreciative of what goes into these creations. Laurie grew up baking and started out making her toffees from home, using her family as her test kitchen (where they got to eat her imperfect batches). We talked about the learning curve for getting the toffees to the point of being able to bring them to market. There was figuring how to read the stages of the candy itself as it heats up and gets to the level of becoming toffee as well as adjusting for variations in heat and ingredient quality. Then, there was also learning about how to temper chocolate and the process for dipping the candies to achieve just the right layer of covering. As she said, and I completely relate, “Being compulsive [about these things] helps.”
This dedication led her to take courses to understand better how all these culinary and chemical aspects come together to create something wonderful to eat. She also took part in the FastTrac entrepreneurship program to understand more about the business aspects of bringing her product to market, which is where our backgrounds overlap. If you go to her website, you’ll find out where you can buy several of the varieties that she offers. Her packaging and design have clear and simple lines which belies all the work that goes into each of these decadent treats yet makes them perfect thing to offer to guests with their after-dinner coffee. I’m going to try to track down the white chocolate and pistachio variety, as I didn’t get to try that one at the party, but I can’t promise that I’ll share any of them with you.
There will be an upcoming giveaway featuring this product. Please check back on this website in a few weeks for details.
This weekend I spent time with a significant portion of my family to celebrate a batch of birthdays. Not surprisingly, we talked about food many times over. We discussed what to do about feeding the little kids among us and how to handle the different meals we’d all be eating together. Given that it is also Lent, some of us had other dietary restrictions to consider as well in the menu planning. Along the lines of that latter topic and fasting for religious reasons, we segued into talking about The Food Cranks.
Just what are these, you ask? Well, as someone who is notorious for having them, I should warn you that they aren’t very pleasant. My sister who is an EMT defined it as not just about being hungry. It’s more like getting to the point of needing to eat where your blood sugar has started on the swift decline towards crashing and you become very irritable and, well, really, really cranky. You reach the stage where you’ll snap at everything and everyone for no rational reason until you can get some food and raise your blood sugar back up to normal operating levels. For me, this also happens if I have to wander around from place to place to find something to eat, if what I really want isn’t available and I really need to have a meal at that very moment.
Since we were dealing with a lot of little ones this past weekend, feeding them before the Cranks set in and Meltdown became imminent was very important so our meals revolved around their little tummies. As my other sister pointed out, however, I am also one of the folks’ whose natural constitution needed to be factored into that equation. This came back to me when I was traveling last month. With my internal time clock out of sync, I had to be very careful to make sure that I was heading towards food when the first sign of being hungry appeared. This didn’t always work out so well, but I managed not to have too many problems. It had been a while since I’d really had to consider the Cranks and their impact on my personality.
One of my sisters used to phrase it like this when we traveled together or were on a family roadtrip. The minute I made the tiniest comment about kind of getting a bit peckish or saying, “I could kind of go for something to eat in a little bit,” she’d holler out, “We need to find something right now for lunch/dinner/snack!” She never wanted to tempt the Cranks out of hiding. All of my siblings seemed to agree with her on this. (Nothing like having four of your five siblings agree, “Yeah, you do get really, really cranky when you need to eat something.”) I didn’t realize that they had such a reputation.
I’ve tried to be better over the years about making sure I listen to my body to know the signs and that I carry snacks with me. Unfortunately, sometimes I just forget, and with the amount of running around I do during my day going from meeting to meeting, there are times when I just don’t realize how long it has been since I last had a meal until it is almost too late to short-circuit the process. Other times, there’s just nothing that I want to eat or nothing suitable to eat at the time I need to put some proper nourishment into my body. A street-cart pretzel doesn’t really cut it. So, I do apologize in advance if you end up meeting the Food Cranks on my behalf. They don’t really mean to be so irritable; they just can’t help it. They’re kind of hungry right now.
Off in the side room were the folks from Fatty ‘Cue whobrought with them a hearty, rich lamb rib dressed with a lemon-garlicemulsion. The outside fat wascrispy and the meaty interior was so delicious I saw folks licking theirfingers and eating clean down to the bone. This is complete proof that well-done dishes need only thesimplest of adornment.