My friend Deborah is one of those people, but because she loves both food and beautiful things, she makes up for it. She is a brilliant shopper with an astonishingly great eye. She has perhaps the best shopping karma I’ve ever seen and she can find exactly the right thing wherever she is.
At the Tiangus (San Miguel’s enormous flea/farmers market open only on Tuesdays) she pops her head in a booth and pops it out with a couple of beautiful (only slightly used) cashmere sweaters.
She invited us to a potluck dinner last night at the elegant home she and her wonderful husband are renting here in town. She had found a handful of ordinary cotton black and white bandannas (bandannas!) at the Artisan’s Market that she tossed expertly and meticulously on the table to make a stunning setting. Fit for a fashion food stylist.
On the stove in the kitchen when we arrived for dinner was a complex, layered chicken soup, at once piquant, zesty, and rich with vegetables and chicken flavor.
And what a kitchen! Deborah had beautiful sharp knives, cooking vessels and utensils, tons of spices, beautiful serving pieces and – la pieza de resistencia – a wood-fired pizza oven! Coming from our meager rented house with a barely functional kitchen, Mr. FB and I both felt our jaws drop with utter kitchen-envy.
She mixed up a guacamole in front of us with Serrano chilies, tomatoes, cilantro and limón. And then worried aloud whether the FoodBeest thought she was making her guacamole the right way.
Now we all know, Fellow FoodBeest, that there is always some anxiety when you are serving food to friends.
How is this? Will they like it? Does it taste good? Is this right?
But for sure one of the downsides of your friends knowing that you are “The FoodBeest,” is that they think you know something about food that they don’t. Or that you are judging them. As if the FoodBeest had a better palate and intrinsically knew whether they were doing it “right.”
So let me state this categorically for now and all time, the FoodBeest is an arbitrary designation. This FoodBeest doesn’t know anything you don’t know. She certainly has her opinions, but let’s face it, she isn’t any more judgmental than you are. Indeed, her opinions are no better than yours. The FoodBeest is just really passionate about the possibility of food and life and is compelled to write about it.
You love cilantro and she doesn’t? Ok with the FoodBeest.
She loves artichokes you don’t? No problem.
You think the restaurant up the street is fabulous and the FoodBeest hates it? Enjoy it.
We are all FoodBeests. And if we weren’t, this blog wouldn’t exist and you, Fellow FoodBeest, wouldn’t be reading it, either in agreement or disagreement. But we digress.
So what was the FoodBeest’s contribution to dinner, you ask?
We had promised to bring a loaf of bread, something for dessert, and a bottle of wine. The wine was the easy part. We had a light pinot grigio that fit the bill and our plan was to simply buy a loaf of bread and something sweet.
But it was Sunday afternoon in Mexico and after walking and walking and walking we couldn’t find any shop, let alone a panaderia, that was open. Time for plan B. Mr. FB’s banana bread is a staple and we had more than our share of overripe bananas.
We stopped into Petit Four, our favorite coffee and pastry shop, in the hopes that they would have a loaf of bread, but no luck. Paco, the owner was there and he graciously sold us a little yeast. We were going to bake bread – yeast and banana (well, Mr. FB was anyway).
When we got to our house, the FoodBeest found a recipe for baking no-knead bread at high altitude.
- Flour? Check, but the flour is pastry flour: finer than bread flour. Don’t know how that will pan out (pun intended).
- Yeast? Check.
- Water? Check.
- Sugar? Check.
- Salt? Check.
- Loaf pans? Not so much.
- Time? Really not so much.
Plus the FoodBeest had cleverly misread the recipe and we had enough time only for the dough to rise for an hour one time and the recipe requires two one-hour rising. Oh-oh. This may not be good.
Then, of course, our inadequate kitchen contained no loaf pans. The closest we had was a roasting pan. This was going to be a wide, not-so-high loaf of bread that didn’t rise enough. No matter. Weird or not; good or not, we went for it.
Mr. FB mixed up the bread dough. Probably because of the attitude altitude, it rose and bubbled like the cauldron Macbeth’s witches tended. And then we poured it into the roasting pan in the pre-heated oven and held our breaths.
Meanwhile Mr. FB blended the banana bread batter with broken up chocolates from the local chocolate candy shop and thew in some snack pecans we had on hand. Nothing to bake it in. Hmm. Brainstorm. We grabbed a couple of small cosuelas (little round casserole dishes) in the cabinet, poured in the batter, and tossed them in the oven with the yeast bread.
It began to smell pretty good in there.
When we took the yeast bread out, it had a great crust, but we had no idea what to expect. The banana bread looked a little mushy and went back in for a little more time in the oven. We wrapped everything in a couple of pink and blue cloth napkins, put them in a basket and hopped a taxi to Deborah’s house.
We cut the bread. The aroma was heady. Astonishingly the bread was light, but chewy. It was a winner. Perfect with our hostess’ soup.
The FoodBeest anticipates that you, Dear FoodBeest Reader, will have your own point-of-view about food; about dinner parties, about food and about Mexico. Please post what you think, what you see for yourself, your reactions, your questions, your concerns, your “what-ifs,” or anything else you have to say in the comment section below.