My good friend and art educator extraordinaire, Sue Uhlig, was well prepared and armed with notes when we spoke last week of her food memories. The few times I had the chance to cook for her, I avoided onions and peppers in deference to her aversion. Listening to her food stories certainly deepened my appreciation for the way she eats and enjoys the world of tastes and textures beyond a simple negation of onions and peppers. For her, hearty, dense, textured and layered flavors seem to be themes reaching back to her love of rye bread as a child to her now love of Moroccan Ratatouille.
Sue describes a “lazy day pancake” an expression of her Mom’s Austrian roots as one of her most cherished comfort foods. She shared this online recipe and her own recipe:
“How I make it is to first melt butter in a pan on medium heat. (Maybe 2 tablespoons.) Then mix about a cup of milk and 4 or so eggs together. Add a cup or so of flour, a pinch of salt, and about a 1/4 cup or so of sugar. Taste batter to see if it’s sweet enough, add more if needed. Then pour into pan on stove. Stir periodically for a few minutes. Turn down heat to low and cover for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Batter should be set when finished.”
It sounds like a sweet, soft, stove top egg bread. I’ll have to try it. Continuing on the theme of comfort foods, she spoke of her Dad’s Sunday dinners: Pizza bread (long baguette with tomato sauce and melted cheese) while watching Ripley’s Believe it or not at 6:00 pm and Rotisserie Chicken with Skillet fried potatoes. Her favorite cake when she was 13 was an Italian layered custard cake with strawberries. One of my current favorites! She remembers being surprised that her guests did not appreciate it as much as she did. These comforting soft, crispy and layered tastes have now evolved with her travels. However, what seems to stay consistent with her, are simple yet hearty flavors and textures. Her now favorite Moroccan Ratatouille shows both a departure from her childhood dislike of vegetables and a return to slow roasted hearty flavors. The dish based on the book: The Flavors of Morocco by Ghillie Basan, exemplifies her preference for layered, sweet, savory, roasted flavors. True to an artist, she savors each ingredient and delights in the visual process involving the tagine and the sense of a theatrical reveal (like the magic of Ripley’s believe it or not). The textures melt down into a gooey, sweet, savory, hearty, aromatic dish, a testament to how travel has broadened her ability to find comfort in new far away flavors.
Dear hungryphil Sue,
Thank you for sharing your stories and reminding us that we can find tastes of home in surprisingly unfamiliar places, that food has the ability, like art, to transport us outside ourselves only to make us realize that we never moved. Magic.
All images courtesy of Sue Uhlig.
Dear Fellow Food Philosophers,
I am collecting food philosophies through three guiding and loose questions:
- Consumption: What are your memories of food?
- Production: What are your guiding principles for making food?
- Demonstration: What would show your philosophy of food?
Please contact me, if you (or anyone you know…..anyone who is involved in making food…not just chefs) would like to share your philosophy with me. Happy to meet with you in person or over Skype. Thank you!