Norman Van Aken en A Word On Food: Tostadas <p></p> Sat, 22 Feb 2014 13:00:00 +0000 Norman Van Aken 28167 at A Word On Food: Tostadas A Word On Food: Cinnamon <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The way my mother taught me to make cinnamon toast was to start with raisin bread and toast it to perfection.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">She might have timed it by how long it took her to jump into her waitress work uniform before slathering it with rich and creamy Wisconsin sweet butter. Then she&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">sprinkled a combination of sugar and cinnamon out of our plastic, yellow &nbsp;‘baseball player’ figurine bottle that was covered with wax paper tucked under a&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">red metal lid tha t doubled as&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">the faux baseball boy’s ‘cap’.&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">She usually </span><em style="line-height: 1.5;">slathered</em><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> enough butter on the toast so that the cinnamon and sugar mix slide&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">over the top of it like grains of sand dancing in the ebb of an ocean wave.</span></p><p> Sat, 01 Feb 2014 13:00:00 +0000 Norman Van Aken 27137 at A Word On Food: Cinnamon A Word On Food: Oxtails <p></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The majority of times I have enjoyed oxtails has been in the classic Cuban dish named, “Rabo </span><em style="line-height: 1.5;">Encendido.</em><span style="line-height: 1.5;">” The translation is literally “Lit Tail.”</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">This is supposedly&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">due to the spice level in the dish, but unless I make it myself or have it in the home of another chile-loving person, the spice is mild, while the flavor is great. I love the tomato-ey rich stew that I have eaten since venturing into places like “El Siboney” in Key West years ago. I had it there again recently.&nbsp;</span></p><p> Sat, 25 Jan 2014 13:00:00 +0000 Norman Van Aken 26908 at A Word On Food: Oxtails A Word On Food: Blood <p></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">I walked into our restaurant kitchen and I inhaled an aroma I’d known before&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">I knew it’s name</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">. It was blood</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">. It spiraled me back in time to a grocery store where my mother shopped when I was young. She carried me in there before the age of three and slung me from hip to hip while she selected our food and put it in the cart. By the time I was five, I knew the owners names, Mr. and Mrs. Petersen.</span></p><p>Though small, the store was pretty amazing for the time. They had a full butcher case that Mr. Petersen personally manned. He had a box of sawdust that he used to toss like chicken feed onto the wooden floors to sop up the blood that fell off his knives. A vibrant produce section lined one whole wall of the store. It relied on the area’s farms and orchards. Though the fish choices were few, they were&nbsp;fresh Great Lakes&nbsp;fish. There was even a baked goods cabinet by the check out area. Mrs. Petersen added in her own home-baked Greek specialties that lent a sense of exotica&nbsp;to the rural store in our town.</p><p> Sat, 18 Jan 2014 13:00:00 +0000 Norman Van Aken 26504 at A Word On Food: Blood A Word On Food: Turkey <p>The first&nbsp;time we rolled down Highway 1 in the Florida Keys was 1971. Sometimes you would not see an oncoming car for 10 to 15 minutes. The darkness on those narrow bridges we crossed was nearly overwhelming.</p><p>But above us the constellations came through. The starlight was an explosion of skyward imagery that guided us forth. Now&nbsp;we drive across these islands on the same&nbsp;highway and struggle to find a gap where you hope&nbsp;to find the darkness once again and&nbsp;the attendant miracle of the stars. Returning here, I am reminded of the words of ancient Heraclitus, “<em>No man ever steps in the same river twice&nbsp;</em><em>for it</em><em>’</em><em>s not&nbsp;the same&nbsp;river&nbsp;</em><em>and he</em><em>’</em><em>s not&nbsp;the same man.</em>”</p><p> Sat, 11 Jan 2014 13:00:00 +0000 Daniel Hicks 26303 at A Word On Food: Turkey A Word On Food: Mojos <p>Many North Americans would look at the word "mojo" in its printed form and pronounce it “mo-joe." In Spanish of course, it's pronounced "mo-ho"&nbsp;because the letter “j” is pronounced as an "h," as in jalapeño.</p><p>The word mojo comes from the word “mojar,” which means, "to wetten”&nbsp;so the usage of mojo&nbsp;can actually be pretty broad in that there are many ways to ‘wetten’ food. Years ago, I took a rather radical departure from the traditions of mojo&nbsp;and made tropical fruit mojos! If mojo meant a thing that would get something wet, I wanted to demonstrate that food that I’d added spices to, especially fish, would be happy swimming in a puree of mango and another dimensional ingredient or so.</p><p> Sat, 04 Jan 2014 13:00:00 +0000 Norman Van Aken 25425 at A Word On Food: Mojos A Word On Food: Chilau <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">A play of light mesmerized me as I lay in bed, savoring the last moments of an unmoored &nbsp;consciousness. I allowed my mind to wander as I simply enjoyed the light show and worked on understanding where it was coming from and how it was working.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The process of cooking is nearly identical for me. The analyst in me came to realize that the fluttering sequences of light and shadow dancing on the unadorned wall placed me in the room that once was my son’s. The light of the early morning sun punctuated by the rhythm of the ceiling fan sought to keep me lulled and sleeping longer.</span></p><p> Sat, 28 Dec 2013 13:00:00 +0000 Norman Van Aken 25387 at A Word On Food: Chilau A Word On Food: Roast Beef <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">The very words themselves call up ancient things. I imagine it on the menu that day in the year 1215 when King John was forced to sign the </span><em style="line-height: 1.5;">Magna Carta</em><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> at </span>Runnymede<span style="line-height: 1.5;"> or something Shakespeare’s own mother would have served.</span></p><p>When I fantasize about the words being read in a perfect movie, I hear a voice like Sir Alec Guinness intoning them.</p><p>“Roast Beef.”</p><p> Sat, 21 Dec 2013 13:00:00 +0000 Norman Van Aken 25305 at A Word On Food: Roast Beef A Word On Food: Taco Lingo <p>I learn words in many ways, but the best may be in <em>eating</em>. The words on the menus and in the cookbooks I have from around the world have helped me conquer at least ‘parts’ of foreign languages.</p><p>I have a good knowledge of French, Italian and even some Japanese, if you allow that food is the central most important aspect of understanding a people’s tongue. My vocabulary was broadened by at least seven new words in Little Havana just the other day at a place blandly&nbsp;named, “Viva Mexico.”</p><p> Sat, 14 Dec 2013 13:00:00 +0000 Norman Van Aken 25027 at A Word On Food: Taco Lingo A Word On Food: Sandwiches <p></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">I was near a small sandwich stand in an open-air market.</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">It was like many you would see almost anywhere in the world.&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">A radio was playing a vaguely familiar tune.&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Soft drink cans and cigarette packs lined the windows inside the stand where a lady was stuffing soft buns with meats.&nbsp;</span><span style="line-height: 1.5;">There was a paper napkin dispenser advertising </span><em style="line-height: 1.5;">“</em><em style="line-height: 1.5;">Coca-Cola.</em><em style="line-height: 1.5;">”</em></p><p>This sandwich stand happened to be in Florence, Italy.</p><p> Sat, 07 Dec 2013 13:00:00 +0000 Norman Van Aken 24693 at A Word On Food: Sandwiches A Word on Food: Menudo <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Long before any Hispanic boy bands tormented or tantalized the radio air waves, the soup/stew&nbsp;Menudo&nbsp;was a siren song sung to me for the first time back in my younger days in a little </span><em>grocería</em><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> named ‘La Bodega’ in Diamond Lake, Illinois.&nbsp;</span></p><p>Maybe it was the alleged attributes of Menudo being able to cure a hangover that first led me to its pleasures. It must've been something strong to convince me Menudo is <em>not</em> made with things I normally consumed in my boyhood.</p><p>No hangover is required at all anymore for me to long for some of that homemade, restorative soup. And I had a hunch I’d find some of that in Homestead where one can find the best concentration of Mexican food to be found in either the counties of Miami-Dade or&nbsp;Monroe.</p><p> Tue, 03 Dec 2013 18:04:16 +0000 Norman Van Aken 24540 at A Word on Food: Menudo A Word On Food: Chicken Fricassee <p></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">A dramatic rainstorm was rolling through the lower Florida Keys as we tried to decide what to make for breakfast the day after our granddaughter Audrey’s first birthday.</span></p><p>My daughter-in-law Lourdes wisely poured some freshly squeezed orange juice and put some of her homemade banana bread in the toaster to stave off the equally volatile storms of unquenched thirsts or insatiable appetites propelled and honestly worsened by our practice of morning café con leches.</p><p> Sat, 23 Nov 2013 13:00:00 +0000 Norman Van Aken 24089 at A Word On Food: Chicken Fricassee A Word On Food: Garlic Sunshine <p>What do you do with a word like aïoli the first time you see it in print?&nbsp; If you don’t grow up versed in languages containing umlauts, It’s confusing for sure. Maybe I resisted learning much more until I started cooking and I discovered how good a word with an umlaut could taste! The first time I made an aïoli I was in Key West, not sunny Provence from whence she likely shone first. But the sun connected us through the gypsy medium of garlic!</p><p> Sat, 16 Nov 2013 13:00:00 +0000 Norman Van Aken 23762 at A Word On Food: Garlic Sunshine A Word On Food: Barbecue Hula <p></p><p></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">I graduated from high school in a small Midwestern town at 17. My older sister, Jane, had moved to Honolulu to go to a junior college out there. How she managed this relocation to the faraway islands, considering our socioeconomic circumstances and our conception of what our arc of life could be, was beyond me.</span></p> Tue, 12 Nov 2013 12:31:52 +0000 Norman Van Aken 23436 at A Word On Food: Barbecue Hula (S)wine Snobs <p></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">When the woman at the butcher counter asked Jimmy the Cutter, “do you have a nice butt?” Jimmy didn’t hesitate and said, “My wife kind of digs it.”</span></p><p>The lady pushed her walker aside to get a better look at the pork in Jimmy’s case, pretending not to hear him. Her faded alligator purse fell open to reveal a half empty carton of Lucky Strikes and a copy of Reader’s Digest. He looked at me and rolled his eyes toward the crease of his paper deli hat.</p><p> Sat, 02 Nov 2013 12:00:00 +0000 Norman Van Aken 23065 at (S)wine Snobs