Category Archives: MidLaw Diet

The Splendid Table comes to Greensboro, not for the hummus

The Splendid Table” is readily recognized as a radio program/podcast/website/blog focused on food. To see “Greensboro” identified as a subject of a recent installment was a minor jolt.

My knee jerked: “Please, not another paean to North Carolina barbecue.”

Maybe, hummus?  MidLaw was the first to posit the theory that hummus originated in Greensboro.

As it turns out, The Splendid Table’s focus is neither barbecue nor hummus. It is “the Greensboro Four” who historically sat in for lunch at Woolworth’s in the 1960’s. In a brief interview, Joseph McNeil gives a dignified and generous account of the sit-ins (it’s impossible not to like the guy), reprising the now iconic, unidentified white lady who encouraged the students, and crediting the solidarity of the UNC-G (then, Women’s College) students who came out to support the Four. But he trashed the food.

The Splendid Table picked up the interview from New York’s Other People’s Food. The theme is “the universality of food to find common ground amid racial and cultural differences.”

MidLaw is able to attest: “universality” and not “quality” is the right theme for downtown food in Greensboro at the time. In the 1970’s, when MidLaw set up shop at Brooks Pierce in downtown Greensboro, Woolworth’s was one of a limited few venues for lunch downtown.

Joseph McNeil does not recount being served in 1960, but he does recall returning to Woolworth’s in the 1970’s after the lunch counter was integrated. He says the coffee was bad and the apple pie was bland (“it sucked,” he says).

There weren’t many choices for lunch in downtown Greensboro back then. The big department stores were departing for the shopping centers, taking with them their cafeterias and dining rooms. What was left were lunch rooms in office towers and a small handful of stand-alone restaurants. MidLaw recalls Mathews Grill, a meat-and-two-vegetables place whose proprietor was busy parleying restaurant proceeds into real estate; The Lotus, a mid-century Chinese restaurant that was far from home; Randy’s Sandwich Shop, which served the standard sandwiches of the day; the Southeastern Soda Shop; and a delicatessen whose name I can’t recall that famously served “Kosher Dogs” (hot dogs smothered in sauerkraut). And Woolworth’s. Mr. McNeil’s word captures everything except the kosher dogs: “bland.”

Woolworth’s led the way. The meats at Woolworth’s were such that the smartest order was a Vegetable Plate. The vegetables came largely from cans and frozen packets. Macaroni and cheese was prepared in large sheets and cut into squares with a knife to make a serving. Greens from a can. The squash casserole was redeemed, if at all, by cheese melted in the juices of the squash and onions. Salt was the key ingredient.

Except those who were members of the Greensboro City Club, lunch most often required flight to the shopping centers, where the great American culinary innovation of the day awaited: the all-you-can-eat salad bar.

So, Joseph McNeil’s commentary on mid-1970’s downtown Greensboro food is about right.

Today though is different. Today, there are a couple of places downtown who might actually earn a place on The Splendid Table.

Here again, McNeil gets it right. He says “we’re going to make progress sometimes in spite of ourselves.”

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Hummus Alert — Time Sensitive — Tomato-hummus perihelion at peak this weekend

This seasonal notice should, ideally, have been posted earlier. Regrettably, it was not.

Of course, the foundational post was here all along as loyal followers know. You might have protected yourself.

There is still time. This weekend marks the peak of the tomato-hummus perihelion. Act now. Here is what you do.

Although a preference for Edgecombe tomatoes has been identified in the past, those sourced at the Greensboro Farmers Market have been determined to be equivalent in quality and most dimensions of flavor. MidLaw acknowledges that vine-ripened tomatoes from other North Carolina sources may also meet immediate needs.

WARNING! This alert is subject to unpredictable forces in the tomato markets, including spikes in demand and supply imbalances.

Caveat emptor.

                                  

Cahiers de Hoummous: I am a moveable feast

I learned recently that there are more organisms — each one a separate little fellow — in the last two inches of my colon than all the human beings who have ever existed.

They work together, these fellows, for good. Shaping up digestion, toning up the immune system, and, apparently, limiting weight gain.

When things go wrong, you will regret it, but when they are treated right, the little fellows go about their business without complaint, promoting harmony, efficacy, and a sense of well-being.

Sauerkraut and yogurt are particularly popular with them, but they like most kinds of healthy organic foods. Vegetables mostly. They like diversity.

Not surprisingly, chickpeas are popular. So is hummus.

Knowing that they are down there – all 70 trillion* of them – going about their business and mine – bumping, jostling, collaborating, getting along – pleases me.

I am a moveable feast, a peaceable kingdom.

*  Figures are approximate and may vary by tens of trillions in either direction.

L’arachide edgecombais

They come from Edgecombe County. You can roast them yourself in 5 minutes. In the microwave. And they will extend your life.

All these years, we’ve been dancing around tobacco. (Edgecombe grows the best of that.) And trying to get excited about sweet potatoes. (Healthy, no doubt, and good, actually.)

But suppose Edgecombe also grows the best of something else – something that tastes great, fights cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, and also has a certain jaunty cachet? Suppose that, if you eat them, you will live longer?

There are new studies — from around the world — and they agree.  THE EDGECOMBE COUNTY PEANUT. It will make you live longer.

High-powered, legitimate studies. There are more than 20 of them. And they say that, if you eat peanuts you will live longer.

Now, there’s no specific finding that Edgecombe County peanuts in particular are healthier than peanuts from other places, but that just seems likely.

Higher nut intake is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality, and mortality from respiratory disease, diabetes, and infections.

Consumption of just 1 ounce of nuts (tree nuts or peanuts) a day correlates to a 29 percent decreased risk of heart disease and a 15 percent lower risk of cancer. Moreover, compared to people who ate little or no nuts, those eating an ounce a day had 22 percent lower all-cause mortality rates, with the biggest drops seen for deaths from infectious diseases, respiratory illnesses, and diabetes.

MidLaw counsels that you roast your own.

Get you some raw shelled peanuts. You can find them readily on the Internet. There appears to be no Edgecombe-specific peanut source in the market just now but ask for them anyway.

MidLaw has developed this method:

  • Wet your raw shelled peanuts and drain then salt them. (The water will bind the salt to the peanuts.)
  • Place salted nuts in a shallow, microwave-safe dish. MidLaw’s preference is to arrange the peanuts to a shallow depth (one or two, maybe three, peanuts deep).
  • Microwave on high for about three minutes. Then mix up the peanuts; stir them around.
  • Run the microwave for another two or three minutes.
  • Let the nuts sit (they are still cooking) and cool.
  • Test to see if they are crunchy enough. (You know what to do.) You may need to experiment with your particular microwave oven.
  • Be patient.
  • Do what you have to do to get the peanuts crunchy to your taste without parching or burning. Remember that they will continue to get crunchier for a while after the microwave turns off.

These are going to taste way better than any jar-packed or cellophane-wrapped peanuts you ever had.

As you eat your home-roasted, life-lengthening, Edgecombe peanuts, you may wish to reflect that peanuts are not actually nuts. No, technically peanuts are legumes. They are classified with nuts because of their shared nutritional (and physical) qualities. But peanuts are legumes (like chickpeas), and unlike nuts, they also contain resveratrol, a phytochemical that is found also in grapes and red wine.

In fact, if you eat an ounce of peanuts a day, you can probably give up wine altogether. That is not required, however – because you are not nuts.

 

Columbian Peanut Company, Tarboro

 

Cahiers de Hoummous: Lessons of public affairs for making your own hummus

Make and consume hummus (as usual).
Make contemporaneous memorandum.
Read Marcel Proust, À la Recherche du Temps Perdue.
Read Michel de Montaigne, Of Sadness.

Read Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

Revise memorandum.
Repeat if desired.

I do not know which to prefer, the hummus, or just after.

 

 

Cahiers de Hoummous: Hummus Day’s a-comin’

We are once more in the annual run down to International Hummus Day.

The approach of the day has brought forward more of the encyclopedic hummus social media posts (well, collections of hummus links really) that we have become accustomed to.

BuzzFeed:  Signs you’re in a relationship with hummus

Huffington Post: Health benefits of hummus

Following these links requires assiduity – real assiduity, the kind that drives the truly committed to peel the skins off chickpeas pea by pea.

In this cascade of points and authorities has come yet another nuance in hummus technique. Now comes the suggestion that, after soaking your dried chickpeas overnight, and, just before you commit them to the cauldron for their hour-long boil-and-simmer, you might sautè them with the baking soda for three or four minutes in olive oil.

Observing this mounting enthusiasm, growing volume of commentary, and advancing granularity of detail, MidLaw is called to counsel:

First, temper obsession with dignity. As it is, you will be smearing a mess of semi-fluid, oil-drenched bean paste onto a shred of pita bread, then seeking to get it into your mouth without dripping anything on anything. Bear in mind that you are an exemplar of the species that produced the Code of Hammurabi, the Magna Carta and the State Toast of North Carolina.

Second, never in the pursuit of hummus, exalt occult technique over the immediacy of the moment. What is the MidLaw Way if not to stop, breathe, then consume radically?  And always, to ROLL YOUR OWN.

 

Probiotic flake bomb discovered in Greensboro

augA compelling culinary idea.

MidLaw discovered it last week. Turns out to be a centuries-old tradition in eastern Europe.

Phyllo pastry filled with sauerkraut. Genius.

You can get it at the Greensboro Farmers Market, at Augustino Gusto European Bakery. They make it with locally sourced sauerkraut, which they fill into a flaky (phyllo) pastry crust. No doubt there is a name for it, but MidLaw has not yet discovered that. Augustino Gusto is Romanian.

MidLaw foresees a successful chain of phyllo-sauerkraut restaurants in the offing. For now though, you are requested not to tell anyone. Do not disrupt the market for this incomparable probiotic flake bomb.

Now that MidLaw has moved in, supplies may be limited. Please do not buy any without checking first with MidLaw.

Greensboro Farmers Curb Market

Red kidney beans break out

kidney-beans

As the International Year of Pulses draws slowly to its close, pause to marvel at the humble kidney bean.

Red kidney beans contain more antioxidants than glamorous blueberries or pomegranate juice.

Kidney beans.

Go, you crazy little red-headed, kidney-shaped whack jobs!

(Chickpeasnot far behind. What pulses!)

It’s the season for MidLaw’s somewhat famous MidWinter Supper

It’s time once more to republish the MidLaw MidWinter Supper.Supper

Last year the MidWinter Supper was supplemented with an enhanced fish feature, “Helen’s Famous Smoked Fish Dip” (the provenance is at the link). Some dip.

We’ll let this year’s embellishment be MidLaw’s recent inquiry into the skinning of chickpeas, which may, after all, be contra-indicated for the hummus américaine. You decide.

The Supper’s the thing. That hummus, that fish, that dip. And the beverage.

Cahiers de Hoummous: to skin a pea

skinsRemoving the skins from chickpeas when you make your hummus is something you just don’t hear enough about. And there are multiple schools of thought on the subject.

Maureen Abood, Yotam Ottolenghi, Sami Tamimi and others counsel soaking then cooking dried peas a long time with baking soda, straining them, adding cold water, and then rubbing the skins off with your fingers. (Same method can be adopted for canned chickpeas, where you microwave instead of simmering for a long time.)

Others suggest rubbing your peas with a towel. See the Steamy Kitchen, rub-them-with-a-paper-towel method.

But traditionalist Amy Riolo, the author of Nile Style, says that she skins her peas one by one. She says

To peel chickpeas, hold them in between your thumb and index finger over a bowl and squeeze. The chickpea will come through and you will be left with the skin in your hand. I like to peel them while I’m watching television or talking on the phone, and leave them ready in the refrigerator, so that later on I can make this dish.

She handles each chickpea, one at the time. Well, there you go. If you remove each skin from each pea, one by one, you will have some creamy hummus.

Perfectly acceptable hummus, however, can be fashioned from skin-on peas. Partially skinned peas are fine, too. (Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.) You might want to give your food processor a few more turns for skin-on peas than for the naked ones, then you’ll be good to go.

It’s your hummus, you choose.

A word about the television, though. We cannot condone watching television while you skin your peas. In some jurisdictions, watching cable TV news in particular while skinning chickpeas may be regarded as chickpea abuse.

[Broader MidLaw hummus wisdom was recapped at year end.]