Friday, February 17, 2012

February 17: Cafe au Lait Day, Indian Pudding Day & Cabbage Day

Three food celebrations today! Cafe au Lait, Indian Pudding, and Cabbage!  I really don't think all three would go well together in a meal, so I'm not quite sure how they all ended up on the same day.

Cafe au Lait Day

I don't like to drink coffee (but will if I'm craving caffeine and there's no tea) yet I worked in a coffee shop as an undergrad where I never had to make a cafe au lait.  I wasn't even sure what it was and I'm still not.  Apparently, what a cafe au lait is depends on where you go and who's talking.  There's not a whole lot out there on the internet about cafe au lait and Wikipedia ended up pretty much the only site that explained what it is in various countries.  I found it interesting that cafe au lait is served in bowls in some countries.Gumbo Pages has a story illustrating what New Orleans residents consider "real" cafe au lait and how to make it. WikiHow's instructions are a little easier - make coffee and mix with hot milk. The only thing that seemed consistent about cafe au lait is that it has to be made with hot milk.  Otherwise, you're just having coffee with milk.

Indian Pudding Day

Maybe it is a sign of times or a sign of my upbringing, but when I read "Indian Pudding Day," I thought I would be learning about a pudding based on cuisine from India.  Instead, the "Indian" in the name is referring to Native Americans.  I've never had Indian pudding but it is apparently very popular in the Northeast.  (This may explain why I've never heard of it- I haven't been in that region yet.)  Some articles say that Indian pudding originated in the Northeast, but according to this very enthusiastic Indian pudding fan at the Plimoth Plantation it wasn't.

For those like me who have never heard of Indian pudding, it's a type of hasty pudding - which in the US means it's cornbased and cooked in milk or water.  (Hasty pudding in the UK is apparently different and can refer to any sort of grain.)  Indian pudding is cornmeal cooked in a pudding using molasses.  I'll have to ask my Northeast friends about it because it sounds extremely sweet.  I'll have to try it when I go to Boston.

Cabbage Day

Growing up, cabbage was always pale green or the purple/red kind in superstores or Chinese cabbage (aka Napa cabbage, bok choi, sui choi, etc.).  Very compact, dense, round and full of squiggly insides- that was the typical cabbage.   Recently at the Farmer's Market, I've seen what cabbage actually looks like (I didn't realize there were so many leaves that were discarded from the supermarket cabbage!) and a variety that was new to me, pointy cabbage

When I can take a pretty picture of
sauerkraut, then I'll ptobably have
taken a photography class or two.
Cabbage has always been a favorite vegetable of mine.   I'm not a fan of coleslaw, but that's how a lot of Americans eat cabbage.  I never ate sauerkraut as a child because my dad doesn't like it, but I've found I love it.  Sauerkraut is great on sandwiches (use it in place of sour cream or creamy dressings for a healthier alternative) and on pizza.  I also will just scoop some out into a bowl and eat it as a snack.  If you tried sauerkraut and didn't like it, try another brand!  I've found that there are just some brands of sauerkraut that just taste bad.  And if you're ever in San Diego, CA, for the December Nights festival, definitely hit up the Romanian house in the International Houses for Romanian sauerkraut on top of a sausage.  Or you can always make your own sauerkraut, whether it's Romanian or South American.

I'll typically eat Chinese cabbage as kimchee with rice or on top of a bowl of noodles.  I've found that all types of cabbages will work great in a stir-fry.  My number one favorite way to eat cabbage?  Japanese pickled cabbage.  When I'm feeling particularly lazy and I want the cabbage right away, I'll use ichijikan zuke no moto.  Just a quick sprinkle of that, a little lemon juice, and shaking to mix it all up and you have a tasty cabbage side dish.

Not familiar with cabbage?  This CDC site has some great tips for picking fresh cabbage and what to do with it.

Cabbage is good for you.  If you didn't like it as a child, give it a try as an adult.  You may find it pretty tasty.  Just don't boil it - in my opinion, it ruins the cabbage and boiled cabbage is the reason most people don't like it.

National Fiber Focus Month

As a quick nod to National Fiber Focus Month, I thought I'd share this NPR article titled, "Is Adding Fiber to Food Really Good For Your Health?"  I especially love how the article ends - basically with a message to eat apples instead of processed foods.

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