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Where horses are Food, not friends

19 Aug

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Let me get this right out in the open.  Kazakhstan is not a place for vegetarians or animal rights activists.  The population was halved by Stalin using starvation and gulags.  Kazakhstan values its children.  They are a main priority.  Animals are primarily for food.  In Kazakhstan people eat horses, cattle, sheep, goats, fish, chickens.  Though I never saw any pigs or pork I was told it, too, is available.  On the vast steppe one sees herds of hundreds of cattle, or horses, or sheep and goats grazing without fences in the care of one to three herders.

Horse meat is readily available in the bazaars.  Along with horse sausage.

IMG_0591Horse has yellow fat, which similar to venison, is around the outside of muscles rather than in the muscle tissue itself (like beef).  It is a lean meat.  The horse meat we ate was either boiled, steamed, or in some kind of sausage.

IMG_0340Behold Beshbarmak, literally “five fingers”.  Historically (and even currently) eaten with the hands, hence the name.  The horse is boiled in salted water, removed and large thin rounds of home made noodles are added to the salty broth to cook.  Meanwhile, thinly sliced onions are cooked in horse fat.  When the noodles are done, they are placed on a platter, then the horse, then the onions scattered over the top.  It is delicious.  Sometimes potatoes were cooked before the noodles and added.

IMG_1639Another bishbarmak, with horse sausage.   And yes, most people eat at least some of the fat.

IMG_1664My plate at a party.  Yum!

IMG_1797The other main way we ate horse was in manti, steamed dumplings filled with chopped horse, potato and, onion.

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Isabelle and I had fun learning to package the manti correctly.

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Manti were very popular.  Eaten hot right out of the steamer, maybe with a little hot pepper sprinkled on.

And here is another boiled horse dish which has thin noodles (they were called strudel) that are layered and boiled after the horse meat and potatoes.

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Here is a link to an old NYTimes article on Kazakh horse use.

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Chocolate Chips and the Guzheng

23 Dec

Chocolate chips are about as “native’ a United States food item one can get that are not readily available or used  in much of the rest of the world.

Back in the 70’s I was an exchange student to the Australian Outback–near Walgett, NSW.  When I wanted to make something typically American for my host family I thought of chocolate chip cookies.  They had never heard of such an item.  My mother sent some, a big undertaking, and expensive, in those days.

To the best of my recollection, I saw none for sale and ate no foods in Panama, Mexico or Bolivia in the 70’s, 80’s or 90’s containing chocolate chips.

There were lots of chocolate bars in Mongolia, but no chips.

Ditto in Israel.

Back in the 90’s my friend Soon, from Korea, wanted to make Rice Crispy bars.  To her _they_ were the quintessential American food.

_________

The daughter of one of my friends from China plays the Guzheng.  I finally saw a photo of one yesterday and listened to a musician performing on one here today.

The Guzheng similar to a harp.  And a piano.

Cookies and Arrangements

23 Dec

Yesterday M and X came and we made two kinds of cookies and Christmas arrangements.

X brought a Sichuan dish of mung bean noodles with garlic, cilantro and herbs that we ate at room temperature.  We also had leftover venison chili on rice.  I made chai, which X and M had not had before.  That was a surprise to me.  We went over the various spices I used: cardamon, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, star anise.  Cardamon and nutmeg were not familiar to them.

We made chocolate chip cookies from the recipe on the yellow bag: a typical All-American cookie.  Chinese homes, they explained, do not have ovens and they had been at a loss to use the ones found in their apartments here.  X’s daughter and husband in particular wished her to learn how to use the oven to make cookies!  Chocolate chip cookies!  We made and decorated chocolate spritz Christmas tree cookies.

All that butter.  Another thing not used in Chinese cooking.

Then we went out and collected assorted greens, berries, and plant material for the arrangements.

M’s very lovely artistic result:

 

What I made for X:

That morning the Paperwhite narcissus Ellie gave me had come into full enough bloom that i cut them and added them to the arrangement already on our table.

We had such a lovely time.

MSG and emotional volatility

10 Oct

For some time I have suspected that the emotions of our daughter may be influenced by MSG.

She really likes ramen noodles.  The taste of them, rather.  Those little flavor packets containing MSG high up on the ingredient list.

Myself, I get migraines if too much MSG is ingested.  Since I cook most of our food from scratch, that leaves only snack-type stuff.  Which we do not routinely have in the home.

The girl didn’t think MSG had any impact.  So Saturday lunch we ran a little test.  She had ramen.  I added a half cup of homemade salsa, and a bit of onion and carrot.  She complained that they did not taste like they should.  It seems she uses half the water the recipe calls for.  Hmm.

In nine hours time she was saying things she should not have.  Then bedtime.

The next morning (Sunday) the extreme emotional volatility continued until about 6.00 PM.  It was a day of hell.

My few minutes of research on Pubmed this morning indicates 1)L-glutamate is the primary excitatory neurotransmitter in the mammalian central nervous system (CNS).  This paper indicates that if the glutamate removal system is impaired, your retina (ergo your eyesight) will suffer.  Not to mention the neurotransmitter will just keep those neurons firing.

2) MSG is used to induce metabolic syndrome (obesity and its attendant characteristics) in lab animals.

3) Exposure to glutamate in young lab animals can induce seizures (think epilepsy).  Makes sense: an exitatory neurotransmittor set loose in a young, still  forming brain…

4)MSG is used as the agonist (stimulator) of choice where measurements of specific brain activity in research mice where measurements are needed.

 

Today, it must be noted, she was sweet as pie.  And she seems more amenable, at this time, about watching the contents of what she eats.

 

Sunday Breakfast Tale

2 Oct

Daren called this morning.  It rained off and on all night and into the morning.  Again.  But he was determined to go out turkey hunting so when he got up he glassed the alfalfa field across the road and saw a small flock of jakes grazing in the rain.

He got dressed and looked out the window just as he left to go downstairs.  The birds had crossed the road and were heading for the house.

He ran downstairs and got the gun ready, but before he got out the door, there they were, coming around the corner of the basement.  He fought with a door he does not usually use, eventually getting it open in time to shoot the last jak.

The turkeys had walked right in front of him, across the lawn, up the bank, and were entering the woods behind and beside the house.

We had buttermilk pancakes for breakfast.  I recommend them.   Honey cinnamon butter and hot maple syrup go well with them.  Nuke butter until soft but not melted, add honey and cinnamon until it tasted nice.  Put the syrup in a microwave-safe container before nuking.  Much easier than heating over the stove.

That is steam rising from them.  Hot off the griddle.

Buttermilk Pancakes

from my old Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, with changes, of course.  Pancake recipes make a batter that is too darn stiff and thick.  Adding more liquid results in nicer pancakes that cook better.  See above.

3/4 cup  each whole wheat and white flours

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 T. sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 beaten egg

1 cup buttermilk

2 T. oil

extra water or milk–1/3+ cup

Mix dry ingredients together.  I use a whisk.  Add the wet ingredients and mix until blended.  Add extra moisture until the batter is moderately thick but will run.  Bake on a hot griddle.  Makes enough for three or four.  Doubles easily.

 

It is now almost 9PM.  It is raining.  Again.  It rained this afternoon, also.

40 Livers and a Flying Squirrel

23 Aug

And 40 hearts.  We helped slaughter 40 Cornish Rocks today and our friends did not want the hearts or livers.  I did.

So after cleaning and freezing most, I had fresh chicken livers fried in butter with sweet pickles.  Yum.

Last night S and her son T came to supper.  Rocky liked her very much and stayed in the sleeve of her shirt for an hour or so.

And he liked T, too.

Rocky goes home tonight, I think.

12.5 hours and 333 miles

20 Aug

Those are the bald measurements of the day Isabelle and I spent going up to Uncle Harold’s memorial service.  In the process we stopped at the farm twice, stopped to take Aunt Janice with us and then deposit her back home, and went for a quick shop at Sephora at a large mall on the way home.  Oh, and ice cream cones for supper along the lake.

Uncle Harold was a large man who did a lot of things large.  He loved to fish and hunt.  He loved to eat.  He grew vast crops of fruit and vegetables.  He grew pigs to which he fed the rejected ice cream from the plant where he worked.  He grew mammoth sized turkeys.  Who ever heard of cooking a 42 pound turkey? Harold is the tall one in the center.

Harold is on the far right.  He helped people in the same manner in which he did all other things:  largely, joyously, generously.

Harold in the middle.  Jay on the left, Daren at right, and our first dog, Boomer licking his chops  over the large buck.

His last month was, as his daughter aptly put, “brutal”.  For him, for his wife, for those who loved him and watched him suffer.  He died on the day and at the time he usually met his best friend each week for breakfast and then a fishing outing.  This week it was his Savior.

Since we left in a rush early this morning I forwent making breakfast.  But here was yesterday’s: Uncle Harold would approve if meat had also been involved.

Before.  Yes.  It is orange.

Ready to eat.  The orange tomato was slightly sweeter than a regular red.

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