Saturday, March 27, 2010

Food for Thought

Here If You Need Me ***** Kate Braestrup is not just another housefrau, and her book, Here If You Need Me, is definitely not just another run of the mill memoir. The story begins when her husband, Drew, a 34 year old Maine State Trooper, is killed in an automobile accident while on patrol. Left a widow, with four young children, Kate is led to pursue her husband's dream of becoming a minister.

After she completes her studies, Kate seeks employment as a counsler with the State Police, which was Drew's goal, but there are no positions available, and she is ultimately employed by the Maine Game Warden Service.

Drawing on her skills, (she was already an accomplished writer), Ms. Braestrup chronicals her husband's death, her experiences as Chaplain to the Warden Service, and the trials of being a single parent. She does this with a very deft hand. She also explores the spirituality of death as it relates to her family and job situations, and the healing power of love. I truly admired the candor she displays in the telling of her amazing journey through difficult situations. Her honesty is at once refreshing and awe inspiring. How she manages to pack this all into a relatively short book is downright amazing.

Food vignettes in this book center around comfort food. Right after news of Drew's death reaches the community, a neighbor brings brownies to the family's doorstep. It's just the first of many such deliveries that will be made in the weeks and months following the accident.

The Warden Service also runs on food. The Wardens fish, trap hunt and then prepare their catch. They even do all of the cooking and serving at their annual dinner.
Kate's on call 24/7, and sometimes is on extended duty during search and rescue missions. She mentions endless cups of coffee and sandwiches eaten in the cabs of the Warden's trucks, and the stews and soups dipensed by the Salvation Army canteens set up on site.
Family meals get a nod too, and are woven into the tale of balancing a life where multitasking is the norm.

The book ends with the description of a search for an Alzheimer patient who has wandered into the woods. Volunteers who are too old to search the woods gather at the firehouse and cook for the professionals and volunteers combing the area.

I really admire Kate Braestrup and I'm totally taken by this book, but I feel obliged to issue a warning. If you're the least little bit squeamish about the mechanics of death, you may want to read this memoir with a bit of caution. It's not gorey, just candid and real...very, very real.
This post is being linked to Food For Thought. For more reviews, please pop over to the website by clicking the button at the top of the page.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Foodie Friday-Thai Style Rice Noodles with Chicken

I just love cooking in the wok. There's only one pan to wash, and once the prep work is done the meal goes together in a flash. This Thai style noodle recipe is one of our favorites. It's hearty and satisfying in the cooler months, yet seems light and refreshing on a warm summer day. It's truly a dish for all seasons.

Here's the cast of characters:

7 ounces rice stick noodles - 1 Tbsp. canola or safflower oil - 2 cloves of garlic, minced - 3/4 inch piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped - 4 scallions, chopped - 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of sambal oleck (or one small red chili, seeded and finely minced) - 10 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast, finely chopped - 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced - 1 large carrot, finely shredded - 5 cups shredded Chinese or regular cabbage - 4 Tbsp. fresh lime juice - 2 Tbsp. fish sauce - 1 Tbsp. soy sauce - For garnish, any of the following: pickled ginger, cilantro, fresh mint

1) Place rice sticks in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Soak for 15 minutes or according to package directions. Drain well.

2) Heat oil in wok and stir-fry garlic, ginger, scallions and chili for about one minute. Add chicken and stir fry for an additional 2-3 minutes just until it begins to brown.

3) Stir in the celery and carrot and stir-fry for another 2 minutes to soften. Add Chinese cabbage, then stir in the lime juice mixed with the fish sauce and soy. (Note: If using regular cabbage, you may want to cover and steam for a few minutes now. It takes a bit more cooking than the Chinese leaves. I also double the amount of liquid to accomodate the extra cook time.)

4) Add the drained noodles and toss to heat through.

Sprinkle with the garnishes. We use fresh mint from the garden in the summer and cilantro the rest of the year.

Here's a picture of the wok full of good eatin! It's also very tasty as a cold leftover next day.

For more recipes and a tour of what everyone has been cooking this week, please head over to Designs by Gollum. Michael Lee is our hostess for Foodie Friday, and she's got the tour bus, (Mr. Linky), up, running and ready to take you on a trip to some pretty wonderful food blogs.