Tuesday, May 1, 2012

April roundup

Wow, I did a really poor job about posting the April month-long food observances.  I'm going to blame it on all the end-of-semester projects and finals.  Okay, okay....  so those aren't really to blame.  I did celebrate some of the month long food celebrations, I just didn't post about them.  Let's take a look at what April celebrated.

National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month

Well, I kinda touched on this on National Grilled Cheese Day.  I think it would be interesting to see if someone could celebrate this food observance by eating a grilled cheese sandwich every day, using a different bread and different cheese every day.  I think the cheese part would be easy enough because you can buy cheese in small amounts and it lasts so long.  The bread part would be tricky - who has room for 30 loaves of bread in their house and can eat it all before the bread starts going bad?  I suppose if you had sandwiches for all three meals (they don't have to be grilled cheese sandwiches, either) and there was more than just the one person eating the sandwiches, it might be done.

Fresh Celery Month
Wait, what? March was National Celery Month and April is Fresh Celery Month? Some consolidation is needed here, folks.

Did you know that Michigan is considered the "birthplace of the nation's celery industry?" Or that there's a California Celery Research Advisory board which was formed to combat the celery-killing fungus known as fusarium? And wow... California produces 91% of the celery grown in the US.

Fresh Tomato Month
 This was another one of those observances that seemed out of place for me.  Maybe it's supposed to refer to the fact that most people are planting their tomato plants now fo they can have fresh tomatoes later?  Well, whatever the case, I did manage to find fresh tomatoes at the farmer's market.  And I mean, GOOD fresh tomatoes.  For too much of the year, you can get fresh tomatoes at the grocery store, but the tomatoes won't be good because they're not in season and they're not quite ripe yet.  So I celebrated by having tomatoes in bean salads, lettuce salads, plain, in omelets, and in....

National BLT Sandwich Month
...a BLT! Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato - such a great combination.  Bacon is one of the few red meats that remains a weakness.  Since it was National BLT Sandwich month, I decided to indulge by purchasing some Black Forest Bacon to cook for a BLT sandwich.  I had a bit of a dilemna as I had no bread that was suitable so instead I substituted matzo crackers.  It started out as an open-faced BLT sandwich using matzo, but as it started to fall apart on me and the matzo started breaking, I started stacking matzo pieces on top and had a true sandwich.  It was mighty, mighty tasty.

National Pecan Month

I touched on this a little on April 14, National Pecan Day.  Waitaminute...  I also said March 25 was National Pecan Day!  Turns out, April 14 is National Pecan Day while March 25 is just Pecan Day.  Whoops.

How do you pronounce "pecan?"  I've always gone with "PEE-can," but there are also many other correct pronounciations.  Wayword Radio (yes, I'm an NPR junkie and yes, I love that show) tackles the word in this podcast.
Fresh Florida Tomato Month

Well, this kind of goes along with the "Fresh Tomato Month" thoughts above.  I've been lucky enough to almost always have tomato plants and when I don't have tomato plants, local tomatoes (field or hothouse) are usually available in stores.  I don't recall ever eating Florida tomatoes.

Florida tomatoes have been cast in a negative light lately, thanks to the book, TomatolandNPR has an article about the book, if you're interested in getting the gist of the book. 

National Soft Pretzel Month

Mmm...soft pretzels. These are the one thing I always get at state and county fairs. At fairs, I usually just get the normal salted ones, but when shopping with my mom, we always stop to get the dressed up ones from the pretzel store. I always choose the jalapeno soft pretzels.

I had hoped to make soft pretzels at some point this month. Instead, I made Pretzel Bread, from the book More Bread Machine Magic. I didn't have coarse sea salt so I used Kosher salt instead. It was a pretty tasty bread and will be added to the "must make again" list. I think Pretzel Bread would be great at party served with a tasty dip.


National Food Month
I didn't touch on this one because I wasn't really sure how to touch on it.  "Food" is such a broad term - it's what we eat.  How am I supposed to talk about that?

Well, Gone-ta-Pott tackles National Food Month and brings together a bunch of definitions of food.  Tractor Parts Talks addresses National Food Month from the point of view of a farmer.  Chef Kathy Casey addresses the topic from a chef's view.
If you're interested in food as a general topic, I highly recommend Marion Nestle's book What to Eat.  (I haven't read her latest book about calories, so no comment on that yet.)

National Soy Foods Month
Soy foods is almost a requirement for me to live.  Ok, exaggeration, but tofu is pretty much a staple, especially since I use it in place of meat in some recipes and it's one of the main ingredients in what I consider a standard miso soup (tofu, daikon, mushrooms, and seaweed).  Soy sauce gets drizzled on most of my sauteed vegetables.  Soy milk means I can still eat cereals, and not just as a dry snack.  I'll also occasionally use soy noodles in place of regular pasta noodles.

Soy is one of most versatile foods out there and you'll find in it products you wouldn't think have soy.  This can be a problem for those with soy allergies, but soy is considered one of the top eight food allergens so food producers are required to label if the food contains soy.

Now, soy foods are still plagued by fears of soy being dangerous. And soy, like corn, is one of those foods you can easily get into a GM/non-GM or organic/conventional argument about. (I'm not touching that here - I think there's plenty of debate about that out there.)  I believe soy foods such as tofu and soy sauce are perfectly safe.  I can't speak on the soy products that are, well, products of science, but unless you're allergic, please don't think, "Oh noes, I need to avoid all soy product!"    I actually had a friend, a (usually) smart young man with a PhD, who believed that eating soy foods would cause him to develop man-breasts.  When he told me that, I stared at him for a good thirty seconds in disbelief before I busted out laughing.  Then, we proceeded to pull up paper after paper on PubMed so we could discuss soy foods.

Hey, when you're a bunch of nerds with access to thousands of peer-reviewed journals, that's what you do when you get into a disagreement.

Starting 1st Monday = National Bake Week

I'm not sure how this one got started.  I can't really find anything about this one beyond a few blog entries.  I suppose this is the week to bake something every day for a week, before the summer heat kicks in, because in some parts of the states, it'll be too hot to do anything other than sit in the shade with a cool drink.

So what would be the seven things I'd choose to bake?  Cookies, cakes, muffins, pastries, souffle, custard, and a pie.  Okay, I suppose I could bake 7 meals instead....  Potatoes, pizza, casserole, poultry, meatloaf, stuffed bell peppers, and lasagna.

Week  after Easter= National Egg Salad Week

I had multiple entries for National Egg Salad Week, but I finally figured out it was because it National Egg Salad Week is the week after Easter, which is a fluid holiday.   It falls during the week after Easter so you can use up all those dyed eggs leftover from egg hunts - which I think could lead to some very funky colored egg salad.  (And some serious cases of food poisoning if you're not careful.)

 What exactly goes into an egg salad?  I had to make egg salad sandwiches for class once and we used eggs (obviously), mayonnaise, celery, and some spices.  I thought it made for a rather plain egg salad - I like things with a kick.  My favorite egg salad is made with eggs, Miracle Whip, chopped dill pickles, celery, pimientos, and pepperocinis.  Yeah, I like my egg salad spicy.

3rd Week = Bubblegum Week

Ah, bubblegum, how I miss thee.  I had to give up gum years ago due to dental problems, but I have many fond memories of sweet bubblegum being almost required on the softball field.  It was either delicious soft BubbleYum with it's overly sweet flavors or sturdier Bazooka Joe Gum with the comic I'd try to save to build a collection.  Find the history of bubblegum here.

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