Archive | May 31st, 2010

WalkerSpeak: Loss and Redemption at the Grocery Store

WalkerSpeak: Loss and Redemption at the Grocery Store

My husband wanted a steak for dinner Sunday night after listening to me raving about Steven Raichlen’s Caveman T-Bones. So, I went to the closest super-store grocery and the grumbling began.

Steaks there were, but trimmings were another story.

There were no poblano chiles. Not a one.

I could find no yellow onions and the white ones were so expensive my eyes popped out. I picked up some Green Giant bagged green onions to throw on the grill instead.

(While one might say I was shopping a little late on a holiday weekend to get the best picks in produce, the onion situation we can blame on the heavy spring rains in Texas and Mexico that devastated onion crops. California crops should be helping the market soon.)

There were no bags of hardwood lump charcoal, just briquettes, along with bags of the charcoal that you light with just a match. I don’t want to toss steaks directly onto briquettes, which are full of filler. And, you don’t need to pay more for match-light charcoal if you have a good charcoal chimney in which to get your coals started.

An aside here: Those metal canisters with handles on them are the most efficient way to light coals I know of, aside from an M2 flamethrower.

Long before you could buy these charcoal lighting canisters, my mother was making her own version. She would save the big Campbell’s tomato juice cans, take the ends off one and stand it up on the grill. Then, she’d drop in crushed newspaper and top it with coals. She’d stick a long match down in the can to light the newspaper and soon the tomato can was shooting out sparks and we’d end up with a batch of glowing coals.  She called it a “funicular.” I don’t know where she read how to do this, but that was fully 40 years ago.

I finished the shopping and headed for the cashier. I joined the shortest line, but didn’t do my usual reconnaissance. While the line was short, the only person in that line had an enormous cartful of stuff that she proceeded to divide into groups on the conveyor belt: food, toys, household goods. Then, she pulled out a half dozen or so cards of one sort or another to be presented and logged in by the cashier, one by one. All of this before she finally pulled out the charge card.

At one point I turned to the people who had now collected in line behind me to make a quiet apology. This being something along the lines of:  “I’m sorry. You shouldn’t have stood behind me in line because I will always be standing in the slowest moving line in any store.” I once said this to a woman in line behind me at an H-E-B and she stared at me wide-eyed for a moment before saying, “Oh … I thought it was me!”

But I didn’t say a word. The family behind me wasn’t restless or peevish or gnashing their teeth, as I was. They were having a very good time. The two young girls, I’d say about 7 and 8 years old, were talking to their dad, and he was listening carefully to each word they said and responding in a kind, conversational and interested manner. He did the same thing when his wife joined in.  They laughed a lot. This pretty much changed my mood.

There was one more thing.

As I drove out of the parking lot I decided to take from one bag the 3.6-ounce, single serving of Haagen-Dazs Dulce de Leche ice cream I’d picked up. I figured I could eat it on the way home by squeezing it directly into my mouth, sort of like we used to do with those push-up ice cream sticks when we were kids.  Then, I noticed that a wonderful person involved in packaging these baby ice cream cartons had seen to it that a little plastic spoon was included. In case you haven’t noticed, these are affixed to the inside of the lid.

Though I’d relinquished my good mood to the usual grocery store annoyances, it was nice to know that it didn’t take much to salvage it in the end.

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A Stone-Ground Cornmeal from Converse

A Stone-Ground Cornmeal from Converse

The folks behind Lamb’s Stone Ground Yellow Cornmeal don’t go in for fancy packaging. It’s sold in a plain white bag with a no-nonsense label that announces in small print what it is: “Always all natural, no preservatives added and gluten free. Same great product since 1968.”

Yet this local cornmeal, made in Converse, is perfect in your cornbread, in hush puppies, in a batter for seafood, in anything that calls for cornmeal. The texture is rustic yet fine, and the flavor is purely of corn.

Store it in the freezer and it will last up to a year.

But why stone-ground cornmeal rather than regular? Here’s an explanation from

“Dried kernels of field corn (different from the sweet corn we eat fresh) are ground into meal for baking. When metal grinders are used, as they are for commercial brands, most of the hull and germ is removed, and the meal emerges fine-grained but without much characteristic flavor. Stone-ground cornmeal (the corn is literally ground between two slowly moving stones) retains some of the hull and germ, so it’s coarser in texture and lends a more interesting flavor to baked goods. Still, the two types can be used interchangeably. Likewise, choosing yellow or white cornmeal (they’re ground from different varieties of corn) affects only the color of the finished product.”

You can find Lamb’s at H-E-B for about $2 for a 2-pound bag. Lamb’s is owned by Home Grown Design, which offers numerous recipes on its website, hgdfoods, including the following for a gluten-free cornbread:

Buttermilk Cornbread

1 cup Lamb’s Stone Ground Cornmeal
1 cup gluten-free flour (or you can use corn flour)
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cups canola or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/3 c sugar
1 cup milk
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Use a metal pan and spray with cooking spray.

Mix cornmeal, flour, salt, eggs, oil, baking powder, sugar, milk and buttermilk with a mixer in a large bowl for about 5 minutes to make sure every thing is blended. Then dump into the pan. Put in the oven for 30-35 minutes. Check it at 20 minutes to make sure it is not getting too brown on top. If it is, lower heat to 375 degrees. When it is done, it will be cake-like and spring back to the touch in the center of the bread.

Makes 8 servings.

Source: HGD Foods

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