High class road kill by Dean Saxton

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Today we’ll hear from my grandfather Dean Saxton II who, together with my grandmother, has been working on creating a written language for the Tohono O’odham for over sixty years. Living out on the reservation on a very tight budget with a growing family made them into creative eaters if nothing else. Here we hear one of many food stories showing their ingenuity.

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First, you need something to cook. Let me illustrate.

We were living in a little village on the Indian reservation down along the Mexican border. A couple of ladies visited us from Gospel Recordings. When we were done recording native speakers in the O’odham Indian language, they knew we were out of meat, so they asked, “Where do you get your meat?”

We had a little trip planned, so we said, “We’ll pick it up on the way.”

Sure enough, we hit a big jackrabbit, and stopped to pick up our next days’ meals.

On our way back from the outing, we hit the jackpot, an even bigger bunny, meat for another day. “You did it, Dean, now we can stay for another day of recording.”

But as I dressed the meat out, their curiosity was aroused. “How do you make this unsavory looking wild meat into something we can even stand to look at?”

Lucille to the rescue! “We’re going to hasenpfeffer it!”

“Oh no! You’re going to hasen-what-ever it! We never even heard of that.”

“Hasenpfeffer. It says right here, ‘A stew of marinated rabbit meat garnished with sour cream,’ But nobody out here would garnish it with anything but red chilies. It gives the meat that southwest savor.”

So that’s how we provided meat for ourselves and learned what to do with road-kill rabbit you pick up along the way.

My French Heaven

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“Please do not use instant rice for risotto. I know we’re all busy, but thirty minutes of your time is not the end of the world. Great dishes often take time.  (Just shave the half hour off your gym time — I know I shave everything off my workout time, even the time I need to go to the pastry shop. Priorities people!)”

— Stephan from http://myfrenchheaven.com/

–A Tribute to Nana Anna

Cheese

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It’s amazing how little you realize the importance of cheese in your life until you are forced to live without it.

I’ve never actually been forced to live without cheese. That would be terrible!

We weren’t forced to live without it when my sister and I lived in Thailand for a year- we could have gone to the western restaurants and the overpriced super market to get it- but we were living in Thailand! It’s a culture rich in delicious tastes and flavors with so many different things we had never tried before. Very few of which happened to be dairy products but so many of which were incredible! It seemed silly to opt for pizza when you could try something completely new instead. Still, sometimes pizza won. Sometimes cheese just has to win.

There was an abundance of cheese when we visited New Zealand! My favorite was having someone call me in for morning tea of actual tea with crackers stacked with cheese and fresh tomatoes. That’s always a good day in my book! My friend there truly wanted to know why American cheddar cheese was always so bright orange. I’m still unable to answer that question, it’s certainly not it’s natural color but I haven’t found that it affects it’s delicious taste.

My family knew the importance of cheese and that’s probably where my love of it comes from. Our cheese drawer in the fridge was always full and there was variety. Bright orange cheddar shared space with mozzarella, feta and goats cheeses. My mom was real big on blue cheese and growing up I ordered it on a regular basis when at restaurants believing that I must also like it, until I realized I really didn’t enjoy it. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I found I could really get into that mystery that is blue cheese.

Cheese has a special place in my heart and when I hear people (like my friend Morgan- god bless her) say things like “I just don’t care for cheese” I get confused about what they really mean. There are so many cheeses in the world! No I didn’t always like blue cheese but that didn’t mean I disregarded brie or camembert, I still enjoyed monterey and cream cheeses, there are just so many options to enjoy.

It’s true though that a lot of our opinions of food come from what we were exposed to or enjoyed growing up. If something wasn’t made a big deal of or you didn’t take a special liking to a food as a child there really is nothing to pull you back to it again and again. Nothing to inspire you to dream about it or long for it when deprived of it for too long.

Not that I dream about cheese. That would be weird. Maybe… I don’t know. Do you dream about cheese? Maybe we have something in common.

Food Gifts

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I believe it was my eleventh birthday that my younger brother gave me, as a birthday present, an avocado. He was seven at the time so that was about what he could afford. But he also knew me well — to this day avocados are one of my favorite food items and I enjoy eating them plain.

Gifts of food come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, packages and reasons. Pinterest has really intimidated me when it comes to ideas for food gifts (if you’ve read much of this blog you may realize that Pinterest intimidates me in a lot of areas). There are so many perfected ideas of Mason jar trifles, ribbon bound packages, and personalized cookies. I’m not going to lie though: Despite an excess of creative food gifts, that avocado — unwrapped, poorly presented, and given from a seven year old — was one of my favorite birthday gifts. I ate that thing all by myself, with a spoon, and it was delicious!

Birthday drinks, popcorn tins, and bottles of wine have all been store-bought food gifts that I have appreciated and made me feel loved. But there is something about a homemade fruitcake, a jar of fresh lemon curd, or a plate of warm cookies that makes you feel special. You know that person took time and energy, that they paused their day to craft something for you. I know they thought of you when they tasted something delicious, and that is just the sort of way I want people to think of me. Recently a friend returned borrowed Tupperware, only first she filled it with garlicky pasta and grilled chicken dish. I am blessed with friends who love me and know me well!

We, as humans, often think of how we will be remembered or what we will leave behind. My grandfather’s mother’s coffee cake was passed down from her mother and from her mother. I doubt any of those ladies thought they would be remembered for an afternoon cake, but it’s the first thing my grandfather thought of when I asked him about his own thoughts on food. It seems funny that we would be remembered for our culinary contributions to the world, but maybe it’s not our recipes that create a legacy so much as the fact that in feeding people we express our love to them. Sometimes that expression is a daily dinner put on by a mother or a father, sometimes that is the coffee cake brought to bible study, or the box of cookies delivered at Christmas.

What was the last food gift you gave? What will the next food gift you give be?

It’s not everyone’s dream to be remembered for food, but being remembered for how well you love is an idea I can get behind.