Monthly Archives: June 2009

Behind the Scenes

If you’re like me and enjoy going behind the scenes to get the whole story, to see the process, to meet the families and dig into histories, to understand why things are done, or how, or what led up to a dish, a restaurant, a philosophy, then Michael Gebert might be someone you want to know. I love getting the back story, so I have been delighted by Gebert’s wonderful video series, Sky Full of Bacon.

The videocasts introduce us to people who are making their mark, and sometimes making a difference, in the world of food. There are episodes on urban gardening and urban foraging, on Texas barbecue and Chinese duck, on processors and growers and farmers markets. The videos give you a more in-depth and thoughtful look at their topics than you’ll find elsewhere—and in at least a few cases, might inspire you to take action, whether that action is starting a rooftop garden or just going out for dinner.

I do advise you read the little write-up before watching any given video, because while most involve conversations with chefs or organic farmers about how they work and why, some take you into stories not everyone will enjoy, such as following free-range pigs from farm to plate. Of course, I think it’s good to recognize that meat doesn’t actually come into this world already wrapped in plastic, but the process is not necessarily something everyone wants to watch.

The series generally focuses on the Chicago area, though Texas and Wisconsin have been featured, so only time will tell how far afield Gebert will take us as the series continues to develop.

So, if you like meeting people who grow, forage, sell, process, cure, or cook the food that delights you, then check out Sky Full of Bacon.

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Llapingachos

As I traveled around Ecuador, the food I saw most often, from Otavalo’s street markets (where I first tried one) to the restaurants of Quito, was the llapingacho (yop-in-GAH-cho), a potato and cheese cake with as many variations as there are people making them. It was common to see llapingachos on griddles next to fried eggs, a popular accompaniment, or offered with fried platanos or peanut sauce. I also had them as a side dish, along with highly-spiced roast pork and buttery, white hominy. But however they were prepared, they were always wonderful.

The Andes are where potatoes originated, so it is not surprising that Ecuador has them, but the variety and flavor were impressive—many types I’d never tried before. Of the varieties we have here, my choice for this recipe has always been new (red skinned) potatoes, because they have more protein and moisture, and hold together better. Yukon golds would probably be good, too. Russets or baking potatoes, which are dry and crumbly, wouldn’t work quite as well. However, farmers markets are now offering us more varieties than these grocery-store staples. You may want to experiment. Continue reading

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Filed under Culture, Food, History, Recipes, Travel