Soul Food

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Fall and winter remind me of my Grandmother’s cooking; the food I grew up on. Soul food.

I grew up in a Portuguese-Canadian household and the kitchen — like many homes — was the axis on which our household turned.

These seasons brought all sorts of fare to our table: wild game like turkey, rabbit, pheasant and moose; off cuts like pig tails and ears, cows tripe; salt cod in many forms; collard green and potato soup (called Caldo Verde, in Portuguese); fried pumpkin cake (pictured above).

Making something delicious when you have nothing is a common theme across all of the worlds great cuisines. Indeed, many great dishes come from peasant roots.

I believe human beings are hard-wired to have an emotional connection to food. The world over, food is a celebration of mankind overcoming adversity. Even in the first world, where many of us are fortunate enough to be far removed from the struggle to find enough to eat, we have in us the DNA of our ancestors who scratched and clawed their way to their next meal.

What I remember most about the earliest meals of my life is that they were made by people who loved me, there was hard work and long hours in the kitchen to make them and, of course, that they were delicious. During my apprenticeship at Eigensinn Farm, I rediscovered the correlation between effort and taste of a dish. Food just tastes better when it’s grown and prepared made by the hands of someone who cares.

If you’re like me, you’ll be spending much of your free time over the holiday season at the grocery store, market, in the field hunting and foraging and, of course, in the kitchen. Remember, all those hours of effort mean something to the quality of your dishes. More importantly, they mean something to the people who eat them.

 

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How Craft Beer Has Changed My Palette

Like many Portuguese families growing up, my family encouraged wine with dinner. My Grandfather still drinks his homemade red wine with every meal. And as I’ve described in post’s past, we ate a lot of wonderful and delicious things. By all rights, I should have grown up a wine lover.

Alas, I am not. But that is changing, and I think I owe it all to craft beer.

In earnest, I didn’t start enjoying craft beer until about six or seven years ago. Since then, my palette has grown tremendously; I prefer barrel aged stouts and experimental sours to more traditional brews. In fact, having now tried thousands of different kinds of beer, one of my favorites remains Nickel Brook’s Winey Bastard, an Imperial stout aged in Pinot Noir barrels.

Late last year I started sampling with red wine out of curiosity and, much to my surprise, I’m really enjoying it! Red wine presents the same depths and complexities that I’ve come to expect in my favorite styles of beer. Fruity, chocolaty, toasted, acidic, boozy, bouquet, leathery, herbaceous, complex, smoky, spicy — these are all hallmark descriptors for some of the best beers in the world, and they belong right at home in a sommerlier’s vocabulary, too.

Wine drinkers, I’m putting you on notice: craft beer is a gateway to your world, and it should be vice-versa.