Thursday, October 16, 2008
Rambling a.m. Post
The chicken (rooster to be precise) is not to be evocative of how you should be investing in this market, but rather to tell you about a dish that I made last evening: Aji de Galiina (Hot-Pepper Chicken).
I've mentioned in this space before my great love of cooking. And I have a particular fondness for finding old cookbooks, and I do go through them page by page, cover to cover. One such find was the Great Cooks Cookbook (1974). It has luminaries such as James Beard and Jacquis Pepin among others, each master devoted to editing a chapter.
Last night's selection came from "Poultry and Game" by Felipe Rojas-Lombardi. He died in 1991 at the age of 46. He was an assistant to James Beard, and obviously at a tender age when he contributed this chapter to the book in 1974. He was a native of Lima, Peru.
The dish is a simple dish that consists of boiled chicken. Skin and flesh is separated from the bone. Roasted green chiles, onions, bay leaf, chili powder, garlic and basil combined in a fragrant saute to which the chicken--shredded flesh and chopped skin--is added. It is served over potatoes.
I did not roast chiles. I picked red and green chiles from the garden and sliced them very thinly. I then sauteed them over very low heat in some olive oil. They were very robust--deep in flavor and quite piquiant! My family enjoyed the dish very much as did I.
What struck me about the dish was both its economy, simplicity and flavor. Food and religion are not so much different. If one looks at the historical basis and the cultural manisfestations, the underlying themes are very similar. In food, a small portion of protein combined with a sustaining starch is a mainstay. Protein is a very expensive food stuff. Most Americans consume too much protein.
We talk so much about conserving our planet's precious resources, reducing protein consumption ought to be the cornerstone of that effort. It would reduce greenhouse gasses (cows produce mucho methane!), provide a more humane environment for livestock (cattle, pigs, and chickens), by allowing them to live in their normal social structure prior to their being humanely killed (as opposed to being force fed and put in overcrowded, stressful situations), reduce toxix animal waste run off, as well as being kinder to our own bodies.
So when I made this uncomplicated dish, I was reminded of the simple, self-sustainable life that many families/communities shared--along with the animals that nourished them. They lived off of the land--requiring toil and sweat; they took care of their animals who provided them with life-sustaining protein in the form of eggs, milk and meat; and they were economical and practical in their consumption of all things. They had to be.
Many will be returning to economy and practicality--and hopefully our sense of community and helping others will also be incited.