Thursday, September 11, 2014


Looks like I missed a fun discussion last night!   Happily Katie took notes:

For our September meeting we read Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach. Ah yes, just another meeting of prim ladies enjoying a potluck while discussing super colons, fecal transplants, and fart capturing bloomers.

Actually, we decided to feast and then talk – but with such ample discussion material it was difficult. We were ultimately unable to control ourselves, broke our own rule, and talked about the book while we ate. It turns out there is tons of information inspired by and in Gulp that is perfectly acceptable dinner conversation. Like how sad we all are to hear The Erotic Bakery in Wallingford is closing after 28 years, and the cleaning/healing powers of saliva.

Overall, everyone enjoyed the book. A couple people thought she sometimes got a little too deep into the science of particular topics, while a couple others loved the detailed explanations.  Many of us are excited to read the author’s other books, and we all want to attend a dinner party with her. We’d like to know more about her, what her degree is in and how she came to write the types of books she does. We all appreciated her writing style, and how she told the story in a way that was easy to read.

We were charmed by the description of the dog smelling his way through The Napa Valley with its head out the car window.  It was a surprise to learn the behavior is about smells, not just the joy of wind in your face. It makes me want to bump the documentary Why Dogs Smile and Chimpanzees Cry up in my Netflix queue, to see what else I’ve misinterpreted.

There was a fairly lengthy discussion on prison food, and the prison system in general. I am extra happy to report that Bobbie’s “Nutraloaf” was not a literal interpretation of the dish, but actually delicious meatloaf balls in hash brown nests.  Julie just finished Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman and reported the food described within was indeed grim. (Which doesn’t explain the Orange is the New Black cookbook that turned up in my Amazon search.) We moved on from the food to the general hopelessness of the US prison system and each have different ideas about how to break the cycle of poverty and imprisonment.

It was a surprised to learn how early in life you learn your life-long eating habits. It was fun to reminisce as a group about our childhoods, and the way our mothers and families taught us about food.  It is interesting to note how different our stories and histories are, yet we have come together as a group and forged friendships over our shared zeal for food and reading.
Which brings me to the food. Once again, we had a marvelous feast.

Julie brought chicken skewers, fresh off the grill, with a tasty peanut sauce. And wine!

Heather brought her European sweet & sour pork with decadent mashed potatoes. And yes, those were frankfurters in the bottom of the potato dish.
Bobbie brought a notably delicious interpretation of Neutraloaf – meatloaf balls in hash brown nests.
Mad brought Paul’s famous for a reason potato salad, and Almond Roca. The Almond Roca was a great stand-in for the chocolate covered bananas. You all know why, I don’t have to say it.
Katie brought Franny’s citrus salad with pistachios castelvetrano olives and chilies on a bed of arugula.


Julie’s Asian Peanut Sauce:
Combine equal parts (like ½ a cup each) in a pan and heat. Delicious with grilled chicken!
soy sauce
peanut butter
brown sugar
optionally add crushed red pepper or sriracha to taste.

Heather’s European Sweet & Sour Pork:
1lb 12oz can sauerkraut
1 c chopped onion
1lb 12oz can diced tomatoes
¾ c packed brown sugar
3lbs country style pork spareribs
Layer in a casserole dish as listed, do not stir, cover and bake at 325 for 2hrs 15 minutes. Remove cover and bake for 45 additional minutes.

Franny’s citrus salad with pistachios castelvetrano olives and chilies is from the book Franny’s Simple Seasonal Italian by Andrew Feinberg, Francine Stephens, and Melissa Clark

Additional reading suggestions:
All of Mary Roach’s books – Stiff, Bonk, Packing for Mars, Spook
The Incident at Hawk’s Hill by Allan W. Eckert
Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
Orange is the New Black Presents: The Cookbook by Jenji Kohan
Lucky Peach Magazine issue 11 “All You Can Eat” Westville Indiana Prison foodarticle

Awesome notes Katie!  You might have a new job ;)

Next month we will be discussing The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin. I expect lots of apple and apricot dishes!

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