Today for the first time, I am turning my blog over to a friend. She sent me this note this morning and it is well worth reading. Not only is it a good chuckle, but talk about “food” for thought as we prepare food for the holidays! Some of you know her…she has a small farm just east of Sacramento, California.
Here is my Thanksgiving story that you might think worthy of a column, at my expense.
For this Thanksgiving dinner, twelve of us gathered at the wonderfully restored adobe home of great friends here in Sacramento. The owners, Laurie and Jacek, are outstanding architects who have created a magical miracle out of some old adobe bricks. They have a son Stefan, who is Zane’s age, and we have been friends now since the boys were toddlers. Both young men came to the Thanksgiving dinner in fine form.
Laurie and Jacek are serious foodies to boot, so the bar is high, but the rewards are great.
My assignment for the dinner was pear chutney and Humboldt Fog cheese, and Crostini.
I begged to be let off the hook, because my Sonoma farm partner foodies make a wonderful cranberry fig chutney that would surely work.
But Laurie would have none of it, and so I was left to fulfill my assignment with honor but no dignity, as I was without the required culinary skills.
For two weeks, I had scoured specialty stores throughout my California centric travels, looking for a pear chutney that I could take out of the jar, and put into mason jars to give off the appearance of home made. But that strategy proved fruitless.
So I then tried the bait and switch approach with a simpler recipe, but Laurie was clear about her sense of order would be awry without the prescribed pear chutney and Humboldt Fog Cheese.
So by last Monday, panic was beginning to set in, and now no time for ordering anything on line, I was resigned to having to actually gather all of the ingredients. So, the great scavenger hunt was on! But then I was immediately stumped by the call for pear cognac. Yikes. So I spent another day in search of pear cognac. Finally resigned myself to having to go to Corti Brothers, a famous specialty grocery store in Sacramento, with everything, including pear cognac. The recipe called for 1/4 cup. The bottle was $50, French of course. Then on to get a quarter wheel of Humboldt Fog cheese at $34 and the cheese paper that was a requisite for such wonderful cheese, if there should be any left over (there was, but not much). I did not have cinnamon sticks in my cupboard, so went off to my neighbors to find that all of his cinnamon sticks were in cardboard boxes with no expiration dates, but had to have been at least 30 years old. So the new cinnamon sticks were in class jars, set to last about 30 years, along with the bay leaves which are not grown in my garden, but clearly I need to plant, given the prices. Next were the oranges and lemons. There were two choices for the oranges, naval, or canna (which turned out to be a cross between an orange and a grapefruit. The grocery clerk and I taste tested the lot to pick out the best, and the canna won hands down. Next I was on to the shallots and unfortunately my shallots are still in the ground, growing away, albeit slowly now that ‘winter’ has set it. Finally, the recipe called for butter, and so topped off the day with some special hand churned butter from France. All in hopes that great ingredients will can make up for the errors and omissions of the cook.
My exit toll out of Corti Brothers stood tall at $135.
Of course, the pears came from the local organic farmers market, and cost $5.00.
Such are the wayward ways of your friends from California who have much to be thankful for and much bounty to celebrate with, but with more reckless abandon then sense. What would the pilgrims say to $140 pear chutney?