Sunday, August 26, 2012

"Good Things to Eat - As Suggested by Rufus (Rufus Estes -former slave)" & "Clambakes & Fish Fries" - Corn Fritters and Oyster Pan Roast

Date I made these recipes:  August 19, 2012

Good Things to Eat as Suggested by Rufus by Rufus Estes – Published by Rufus in 1911; edited by D. J. Frienz
Facsimile of this book Published by Howling at the Moon Press
ISBN: 9-9654333-1-5
Recipe:  Corn Fritters – p. 61-62

Clambakes & Fish Fries by Susan Herrmann Loomis
Published by:  Workman Publishing, New York
© 1994
Recipe:  Oyster Pan Roast – p. 133-134

People, I am not a procrastinator by nature but I have been putting off posting this blog forever, probably, in part, because the meal wasn’t my best effort.  Although I rarely have clunkers, this definitely landed in that category and that makes me sad.  Food should be pleasing, no?

Initially, I planned to celebrate the end of the Olympics by preparing this meal.  But if you are like me, I was too exhausted to cook anything to celebrate the end of the world’s greatest sporting event.  And besides, the closing ceremony started early in the evening and who wanted to be in the kitchen (never mind that I have a TV there) during the closing ceremonies? (That said, NBC – please don’t announce the The Kinks and The Who are “coming up” if you don’t plan to show them.  Did we really need to see the pilot to Animal Planet/Animal Practice/Animal Whatever?)

Now, I am not normally glued to my set 24-7 during the Olympics, but this time was different.  Certain events have always grabbed my attention like swimming and track and yet there I was all fist to my mouth watching the equestrian Individual Jumping competition with the horses (and riders, natch) clearing (or not) all those bars and water hazards and whatnot.  And although I can often take or leave gymnastics (I know – heresy) I often find myself watching through my fingers as the gals do the balance beam.  I’m sorry, there’s just nothing on this planet that will make me do back flips on a 4” piece of wood - nothing.

At any rate and any who, one of the bright stars of the Olympics was of course Gabriel (Gabby) Douglas, the first African-American to win gold in the All-Around (Gymnastics) Competition.  I wish I had that gal’s enthusiasm and bubbly personality.  She was just a joy to watch, and I think we can all agree, not half bad in her events, right?!

So as I was watching her tumble and flip and twirl her way to a gold medal (and let’s not forget the team gold, either), I started pondering what cookbooks I could use to celebrate her breakthrough stardom.  And then it hit me – years ago, I acquired a cookbook written by a man who was born a slave but went on to have a career as a Pullman (train) chef and thought that would be perfect – a breakthrough star doing an unheard of “professional” job  in the early 1900’s.

Rufus Estes was born a slave in Tennessee in 1857 and was given his name by his slave master, D.J. Ester.  D.J. owned Rufus’ mother’s family:  does that not give you chills?  After the Civil War ended, he did odd jobs around his grandmother’s house before finally getting a job in a Nashville restaurant at age 16.  In 1883, he started working for Pullman and remained there until 1897; during that time he waited on everyone from African explorers to two Presidents of the United States - Grover Cleveland and William Henry Harrison.  Eventually, he became a chef for one of U.S. Steel’s subsidiary companies in Chicago and shortly thereafter wrote this cookbook.  He also penned the biography found in the front of the book. In 1999, a facsimile of his original book was published and the cookbook literary world took note – a cookbook penned by a former slave?  In 1911?  What?!

Not only did he write this cookbook but in terms of recipes it’s pretty comprehensive.  There’s a recipe in this book for homemade English Muffins and yet another for candied violets.  Well color me impressed because I am!

I decided to make his recipe for corn fritters as it was fairly easy and it is sweet corn time right now so I had a hankering.  But corn fritters alone didn’t seem like much of a meal and so I decided to make a seafood dish in homage to Gabby Douglas’ home town of Virginia Beach, Virginia thus the pan-roast oysters.  I’ve been to Virginia Beach many times in the past and had some delicious oysters there and so thought “Why not?”  Now hard could that be, anyway?  Answer:  harder than you think!

Clambakes & Fish Fries, my source for the pan-roast oysters, includes fish and seafood recipes from all over and since both Rufus and Gabby traveled all over in pursuit of their dreams, I thought a recipe from this book would be good.  Plus, truth be told, I’m not sure I have a Virginia seafood cookbook – yet.

Okay, so corn fritters and pan-roast oysters it was and so a week after the Olympics (now that I had time), I set about to get ‘er done.  Well.  I don’t know what I was expecting with the fitters but they came out like pancakes and let me tell you, flipping a pancake loaded with corn kernels is challenging.  The recipe said to let them cook for 4-5 minutes on each side but had I done that, we would be having charred corn—and this is not necessarily a good thing.

But the worst disaster was the oyster pan-roast.  This recipe said to fry for 1-2 minutes on each side and this was just wrong on so many levels.  I went longer than that but still ended up with kind of a mushy, warm oyster that was neither raw nor roasted.  But if I went too long, I worried that I would end up with erasers (trust me, this happens) and didn’t fancy eating erasers for dinner. 

So, what we ended up with was a corn pancake that needed way more salt and pepper than the recipe required and some mushy, warm oysters without much flavor to recommend them.  Can I just tell you that this is why keeping microwave popcorn on hand is a good idea?

Despite the culinary “failure,” I would attempt both dishes again but this time with variations:  maybe a pinch of cayenne pepper added to the fritters? How about maple syrup on top since they resemble pancakes? Or maybe a bit of white wine or vermouth added to the oysters?  The sky is the limit.

I do not regret though, having made recipes from these books, especially Rufus’ because it gave me a chance to re-read his crowning achievement and put it in perspective next to his modern-day “breakthrough” equivalent – Gabby Douglas’ gold medal.  While I am happy and proud of Gabby’s accomplishments, doesn’t it seem a little unreal that it took until 2012 for this to happen?  And yet- world events from the Civil War to the Olympics reminds us every time that life is a constant cycle of triumph over tragedy.  For Rufus, it was breaking out of his slave beginnings to carve out a life as a chef and to publish a cookbook.  For Gabby, it was leaving home and family behind in Virginia to train in West Des Moines, Iowa and then prevail over all the other gymnastic Olympic hopefuls to win a spot on a team.  I tell you what, just to make the Olympic team is an accomplishment in and of itself and something this aspiring couch potato does not take lightly!!

As a final thought, I was thinking that in some ways the failure of these recipes mirrors the efforts that fell short by most 2012 Olympic athletes including Gabby in some of her individual events. As my father always said “Many are called, few are chosen,” and so despite making the Olympic team, most athletes walked away without a medal. Watching the “agony of defeat” (thank you ABC’s Wild World of Sports!) is heartbreaking and yet it’s something that most of us experience – painfully – in our own lives every day. The moral of that life story is classic: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”  I can assure you that I will live to cook another day!

So here’s to our breakthrough stars and their breakthrough moments. 

Corn Fritters – serving size not listed (I made half a recipe)
4 ears corn
¼ pound (sifted) flour
Two eggs
½ pint cold milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Butter for the pan

Prepare four ears of fresh corn by removing the outer husks and silks; boil and then drain well.  Cut the grains from the cobs and place in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, add one-fourth pound of sifted flour, two eggs and a half pint of cold milk.  Stir vigorously, but do not beat, with a wooden spoon for five minutes, when it will be sufficiently firm; butter a frying-pan, place it on a fire, and with a ladle holding one gill put the mixture on the pan in twelve parts, being careful that they do not touch each other, and fry till [until] of a good golden brown color, cooking four or five minutes on each side.  Dress them on a folded napkin and serve.

Ann’s Note:  a “gill” is one-half cup.

Oyster Pan Roast – 8 appetizer servings (4 main-course servings) – I made half the recipe
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ pounds (about 48) freshly shucked oysters
*I bought my oysters at Coastal Seafood in St. Paul

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Stir in the garlic, and cook until the butter foams and the garlic begins to turn slightly translucent, 1 to 2 minutes.  Then add the oysters and cook, stirring constantly or shaking the pan, until they are plump and beginning to curl at the edges, 1 to 2 minutes.  (Ann’s Note:  1-2 minutes does not seem like sufficient time.  After 4 to 5 minutes, I still had quite the gloppy mess on my hands.)

Turn the oysters out into a warmed serving bowl or individual bowls, and serve with plenty of crusty bread. 

*PS--I purchased this book, Clambakes & Fish Fries at Arc's Value Village in Richfield, MN for mere pennies on the dollar.  


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

"Three Generations of Chilean Cuisine" & "The Spirit of Puerto Rican Rum" - Avocado Soup & Tangerine Loin of Pork

Date I made these recipes:  August 5, 2012

Three Generations of Chilean Cuisine by Mirtha Umana-Murray
Published by Lowell House
ISBN:  1-56565-817-5
Recipe:  Avocado Soup (Crema Quillotana) – p. 69

The Spirit of Puerto Rican Rum – Recipes and Recollections by Blanche Gelabert; Photography by William Gelabert
Published by:  Discovery Press, San Juan, Puerto Rico
ISBN: 0-9633216-1-7PBK
Recipe:  Tangerine Loin of Pork – p. 105

But first, a rant:  a couple weeks back, I reported a hog-stealing incident in nearby Wisconsin to some women lawyer friends of mine, the “G’s.”  One of the G’s, Jen (nicknamed “Jenja”) replied “If I thought I could get away with it, I’d steal the swine as well.  Have you seen the price of bacon lately?”  I confessed that I had not and then shortly thereafter, had to buy some bacon for a recipe and was surprised that a pack of bacon cost around $7.50.

But nothing prepared me for the astonishing price of $11.99 a pound for pork tenderloin.  Granted, this was a Whole Foods price but still – what??!!  So while I am not a betting person, I am willing to put some serious money down that most of you will NOT be making the entire recipe for Tangerine Loin of Pork because it calls for 5-6 pounds.  Ca-ching!  Ca-ching!

When I informed the G’s of latest thoughts on pork futures (something I will now be watching very carefully), I accidentally typed that I bought a pork “loan” instead of pork “loin,” and then promptly dissolved into fits of laughter.  Because even two pounds of pork, my compromise “bill,” cost a fortune and I almost needed a personal loan at the checkout counter.  “Yes, that’s right, a loan to buy pork.  Yes, a pork loan. Okay, then, we’ll call it a loin loan.  Duh….”

Okay, back on track.  I intended to make these recipes in late June but we were experiencing scorching temperatures at the time and my husband imposed a “No Oven” rule and so that was that (at least for the pork recipe).  Plus I had the Tour de France and the Olympics to write about.  But now the weather has cooled off to a balmy 85 and so it was time.

I’ve mentioned in other blog posts that I watch ABC’s The Chew, a talk show/food show/craft show that airs at noon locally.  I typically tape the show and then watch it later in the evening, although these days with the Olympics on, I am thrown off my usual schedule.  The other day, I was about ten taped programs behind and had to dedicate some serious non-cooking time to get caught up.  Anyway…

The Chew always has a topic of the day and back on June 22nd, the topic was three-generational meals. Each of the hosts talked about their favorite generational meals they had as kids and then some of the audience members showed off their own.  And then their special food “correspondent,” Evette Rios and her mother cooked one of their Puerto Rican favorites.

Well, besides being mouthwatering, this show triggered my memory banks as I knew, somewhere in this vast collection, I had a cookbook about generational meals (and really, who doesn’t?) and there it was – Three Generations of Chilean Cuisine.  Ta da!  Of course, finding it in my stacks and stacks of books proved to be challenging as apparently, I moved it from where it had always been to another stack that was more hidden than the other spot.  But find it I did and so the hunt for recipes began.

Now I will disclose to you that while I studied Latin American history in college (as part of my Spanish minor requirements and yes, it was all in Spanish, not English – books and all), we didn’t even come close to touching on the culinary history of Latin America and so revisiting this cookbook, purchased early on in my collecting career, proved to be enlightening.  I mean call me una estupida Americana but I was floored when I saw duck with oranges and goose with spicy mushrooms and cranberry sauce included in the offerings.  It just never occurred to me that Chileans would eat this stuff, perhaps because I hate those two fowls with a passion and wouldn’t eat them on a bet.  Besides, my Latin American history classes focused on the Spanish influence in Latin America (huh, go figure) and I’ve never thought of Spaniards eating a lot of duck or goose, either.  So clearly, some refresher classes are needed (along with a slap upside my own head).

On the other hand, I was not at all surprised to see a recipe for Chilean Bass but that is only because after this cookbook was published (1997), Chilean Bass became an off-the-chart popular item in as many restaurants as could get their hands on it.  This run on bass caused the fish to be overused and overfished and it now borders on being endangered.  Just goes to show that sometimes, it does not pay to be popular

So I was doing my usual hem and haw on what to make and then I went back to the beginning and when I got to soups (sopa) (in Latin America, apparently “crema” is the word we are looking for) and saw this recipe for Avocado Soup, I was in love.  And then when I made it, I was well, besotted?  Is besotted the right word?  I think so.  I was besotted. 

The thing about this recipe is that it is ridiculously easy:  onion, flour, chicken broth and pureed avocado and that’s it.  Four ingredients, five if you count the olive oil used to sautee the onions, six if you include lemon juice to keep the avocado green and there you go.  I could not quit eating it and finally had to force myself to stop already!  And now I’m damned mad that I only made a half a batch as I didn’t want to get too full with the pork.  Estupido!

The cookbook’s author said that she’s eaten this soup at the Pehun Inn in the wild Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia.  And again I have to wonder “was I taking a siesta in history class” because my first thought regarding Patagonia was “snow,” not “avocados.”  But silly me, while that region does include the famous Andes mountains, it is also as topographically varied as any other section of the world—oceans, mountains, valleys –you name it, they have it.  So yes, avocados!

Turning our attention to Puerto Rico, another country we barely touched on in Latin American history class (but at least I’ve been there), we have the pork loin with tangerines…and rum.  Oh yum, that rum!!  I thought this would be a good match with my avocado soup and I was right.  Both dishes were so tasty that it was a run for the roses with my husband to see who finished first.  He won, but only by a half a piece of pork loin.  By the way, when I asked him why he didn’t sample the soup, he said “Oh was I supposed to put that in a separate bowl?”  Apparently, he thought the soup was a type of gravy for the rice.  Well, in the end, they all end up in the same place, right, so it was a cute moment with no harm, no foul (or is that “fowl?”).

While this recipe calls for Puerto Rican rum – and why wouldn’t it? – I have a sizeable stash of Jamaican rum on hand and so used that instead.  I was matron of honor for a good friend at her wedding in Jamaica and let’s just say Andy and I took advantage of duty-free shopping before getting on the plane.  In the end, booze is booze and so I’m not going to start a riot by preferring one over the other but I will say that rum makes this dish.  It’s just enough so that you taste it along with the other ingredients (garlic, tangerine peel, ginger and cloves) but not overpowering.  Nobody likes a drunk, sloppy (but well-fed) cook, do they?

Now like most cooks, I wanted to time everything just right so that I could serve everything at once.  I started my rice cooker going with a side of rice for the pork put the timer on for the pork (30 minutes per pound and I had just over two pounds) and prepared the items for the soup, the soup to be the final thing I made.  Well, sister, I mistimed the pork and it was done way earlier than it should have been and so I scrambled to start the soup while my husband put together the paste that should have been on the pork 40 minutes before finishing.  I told him that at $11.99 a pound, we would eat that pork even if it was rendered to charcoal but in the end, it came out perfectly.  To steady our nerves, we had a sampling of rum while we were on our final steps and this helped a lot.

And so with the Olympic games on the TV, and with bowls (or in Andy’s case, bowl) of soup and pork and rice, we were in for one mighty fine evening.  If I have any regrets, it is that the husband of the same friend whose wedding I was in is not fond of pork.  Bummer, that.  But I’m thinking that maybe this could be adapted to chicken and so I might play around with that because Sheesh was this an excellent “Three-Generational” meal, or what!

Avocado Soup (Crema Quillotana) – serves 6
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
4 cups chicken broth (the author includes a recipe for Chicken Stock – Consome de Ave – on page 64)
2 large avocados
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Salt, to taste
1 pinch fresh cilantro, chopped, for garnish

Sauté the onion in oil, add the flour, and stir to cook the flour.  Add the chicken broth.  In a glass or ceramic container, peel and puree the avocados and immediately add the lemon juice to avoid oxidation and browning. (Ann’s note:  I used my Cuisinart for this and it worked just fine.) At the last minute add the avocado puree to the soup and stir well; do not boil. (Boiling causes the avocados to turn dark and lose their taste.)  Add salt to taste and serve hot, garnished with cilantro.

Tangerine Loin of Pork - 8-10 servings
(Ann’s Note:  unless you want to go to the poorhouse on this one, exercise restraint at the grocery store!  And by the way, you might be tempted to use one of those pre-wrapped and ridiculously salty preserved pork tenderloins that cost far less than fresh—but don’t!)
1 4-5 lb loin of pork (Ann’s note:  I used two)
3 cloves garlic
½ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons grated tangerine peel
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons fresh ginger root, grated
1/3 cup amber rum

Sprinkle loin with salt and pepper.  Roast in oven at 350 until 40 minutes before done.  (Allow 30 minutes per lb. or until internal temperature is 175F.)  Mash garlic with sugar, tangerine peel, ground cloves and ginger.  Add rum to paste.  Rub all over loin, return to oven and continue roasting until done. 

Ann’s Note:  This paste forms the most wonderful sugar crust on the planet. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

"1980 Olympic Games in Moscow - Cookbook and Schedule of Events" - Stir-Fried Chicken

Date I made this recipe:  July 29, 2012 (for the Olympics)

1980 Olympic Games in Moscow – Cookbook and Schedule of Events – Favorite Recipes of Prospective U.S. Participants
Published by:  Wm. C. Brown Company Publishers
© 1979
Recipe:  (Cheeseman’s) Stir-Fried Chicken – p. 62

*Note:  This is one of my longer blog posts but just like the Olympics, it will (likely) only come around every four years so hang in there!

Right then.  So the 2012 Olympics got underway in London on Friday, July 27, with a right smashing Opening Ceremony that included a hilarious James Bond spoof featuring none other than HM, The Queen of England.  That’s right, the Queen of England.  Like most viewers, I must have played that scene back 3 times utterly stunned that it was the Queen, the real Queen and nothing but the Queen.  Who knew that HM had such a sense of humor?  Oh, and Daniel Craig (as James Bond) wasn’t too bad, either. (By the way, in an uncanny coincidence, my community band played music from the James Bond movies as well as John William’s Olympic Spirit this summer.)

So OBVIOUSLY with the Olympics at hand, I needed to find myself an Olympic cookbook, right?  Quite.  Well find it I did in of all places, the charming café/bookstore in my hometown in Michigan – Falling Rock Café – last April and yes, I’ve been holding on to it ever since.  I am nothing if not prepared for the global events!

For those of you who were around in 1980, you might recall that this cookbook is a bit of a head-fake as the Olympic team did not participate in the 1980 Olympics that year.  U.S. tension against the former Soviet Union was already on red-alert when Russia invaded Afghanistan and in response, President Carter decided to cancel our appearance at the games.  (Naturally, the Soviet Union followed suit and canceled its appearance at the 1984 games in Los Angeles and so tit for tat and phooey on all that!)  Let me just say that to this day, I believe this was the wrong decision. Aspiring Olympic athletes devote their whole lives and their bank accounts to make the team and punishing them on behalf of a nation is just wrong – on both sides.

Harrumph.  Any who…so here we are at the 2012 Olympics already and some of the 1980 athletes are now providing commentary on various events, like former swimmer Rowdy Gaines and gymnast Bart Conner.  And since I was a high school swimmer I was all set to make one of Rowdy’s recipes but changed it up at the last minute.  And here’s why:  about the same time that I pulled this cookbook off my shelf as a “must use,” the U.S. observed the 40th anniversary of Title IX, allowing for equality for women in sports. And again, I can only shake my head and marvel how time flies.  And so I decided that this blog would be better served by a recipe from a female athlete and with that, let’s go “off-road” for a bit to talk about Title IX.

Title IX, enacted in 1972 (I was in 8th grade) is a portion of the Education Amendment that established, in part, No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.  This applied to about every level of education including, thank goodness, sports.

And to my absolute amazement, my tiny junior high/high school, jumped on the bandwagon and started women’s sports.  I mean, we are talking about class sizes of just over 100 people per class; by contrast, my husband’s high school class was over 600. We probably barely qualified for Class C sports designation but there we were, in it to win it.  So bravo, William G. Mather High School, bravo!  (And yes, I know that the law said we must comply, but there’s “compliance” and then there’s “compliance!).

Well, this prompted me to go back to my yearbooks to track our women’s sports progress.  In 1972, there weren’t any women’s teams but in 1973 (freshman year), a Girls’ Tennis Team started.  A friend of mine joined the team that year and I joined a year later.  By 1974, we added the Girls’ Swim Team although unfortunately, I was sick the day the photo was taken and so you’d never know I was on it.

So a mere year after Title IX, we had ourselves two bona-fide girls’ teams.  By 1975, we added basketball and by 1976, we had a track team.  Not too shabby!  (For the record though, there is no word that sends me flying faster than someone calling me a “girl.” But that’s another story for another day.).

Now, before you pull out your pom-poms, let me just stress to you that equal opportunity to participate in sports did not equal an equal opportunity to get funding or support.  Oh no – in fact, quite the opposite.

The first year I was on the tennis team, we carpooled to our meets.  Yes, carpooled.  We didn’t have uniforms, we didn’t have managers, we barely had a locker room and you should have seen our city tennis courts – two of them, both with blacktop surfaces and set down by Lake Superior so flyaway tennis balls soon became swim-away tennis balls.  Our second team coach (the first coach was a woman), was also the boys’ wrestling coach and never, ever ceased to compare us weakling “girlz” to his he-man boys team.  He let us borrow his team’s warm-up jackets for meets but otherwise we were on our own.  The coach who followed him was a nice guy but I don’t know: is it a good thing to advise high school athletes that if you’re going to drink, drink Scotch?!!  Mind you, I was all for that but it did crack me up. 

As to the swim team, hahahahaha….well, we tried.  The good news was that our school had one of the very first school pools in the Upper Peninsula.  The bad news was that our school’s pool was not regulation and there were always weird drain problems that caused the pool water to turn various shades of green.  And I am not exaggerating at all.  In fact, when I think about swimming in that pool back then for gym class and swim team and lifesaving classes, I about turn green myself.

So anyway, for every one lap we did at a meet in a regulation pool, we had to do double or triple the laps in our pool.  We could not do a flip turn in our pool because the shallow end was truly shallow but we were allowed at meets to do kind of a half turn above water.  (So dorky and embarrassing but there it is!).  Although we got team swimsuits, for some inexplicable reason, we chose green and gold suits (Go Pack Go) even though our school colors were orange and black.  We did not get to use the wrestler’s warm-up jackets and so had a collection of various and sundry sweat shirts at our disposal.

We did not lift weights or do anything that modern athletes do to build strength and endurance and didn’t care.  In fact, and I say this with fondness, our attitude was pretty much cavalier then entire time we were swimming because we always knew we were outnumbered:  all the other schools had bigger pools, bigger staffs, and bigger athletes.  So we swam for fun and in some ways that made the experience all the more enjoyable.

As to funding, well, my first response is “What funding?” All the boys’ sports (football, basketball, etc.) got $10 a day for food; we got $5.  All the boys were properly attired, we were not.  All the boys went to meets by bus – the big kid’s kind – while we were eventually allowed to use a smaller half-bus to go to meets.  There was no booster club, no parental support (seeing as how our meets were during the day so parents could not attend) and very little interest.  I will however, give props to most of the male athletes in our school as they ended up embracing us in their own way and found many of our antics and experiences hilarious.  In fact, and it’s a long story, but my swim team nicknamed me “French Fries” and when the guys found out about that, they called me that as well.  I was never as popular in high school as I was that year.

And so, back we go to the budget-busting Olympics and my, my how times have changed.  While today’s athletes have their own financial struggles, I think they are nothing compared to what we went through.  Olympic teams nowadays have sponsors and endorsements and even, in many cases, professional athletes.  Can you imagine telling any female swimmer today that she gets $5 bucks for food?  No. 

And so I must confess that the times that I’ve heard women whining about being treated as second-class citizens compared to the men’s team, my blood boils.  In fact, I still recall the whining done by several high school girls’ hockey teams a few years back when they weren’t allowed to use the Xcel Energy Center where our professional hockey team plays for their games like the boys’ teams were.  WHAT?!!!  This is where my age is showing:  “In my day young lady, girls weren’t even allowed to play hockey.  We had to drive to our meets in the SNOW and then walk five miles to the arena….” (Actually true story:  my swim team was on its way to a regional meet in a nearby town that required us to drive along Lake Superior in blizzard conditions.  The famous “lake effect” was such that everything was just a sea of white including the white semi that was jackknifed across the highway.  Our bus driver swerved to avoid hitting it at the last second and we ended up in the ditch and had to wait for a bus tow-truck.  So much for that swim meet.  You want to talk about hardship, I’ll talk about hardship!)

So all this brings me back to why I decided to make a recipe from this book for this blog submitted by a female athlete instead of a male athlete, not only to kill two stones (the Olympics and Title IX) at the same time but also to talk about a subject that is near and dear to me.  And so today’s recipe is all about Gwen W. Cheeseman, a 1980 Olympic field hockey player, and her recipe for (Cheeseman’s) Stir-Fried Chicken.  And to really tie it to this year’s London events, the former Kate Middleton, now the Duchess of Cambridge was a field hockey player back in the day AND the last Olympics were held in Beijing, China and so it’s all good.  Women then, women now – hooray! (I am also happy to report that Gwen made the 1984 Olympic team and her field hockey crew won the bronze that year.  Well done!)

Despite my rants about the early years, I was quite “chuffed,” as the Brits would say to be a part of those high school teams and am glued to the set this year as I am every Olympics (save for the 1980 Olympics), reliving my almost-glory days!  I swam the backstroke for my team (first one in the water at every meet) both in the individual event and the 400 Individual Medley Relay (back, breast, butterfly, freestyle) and also swam the 400 Freestyle Relay, my absolute favorite event and sometimes anchored it.  They were fun times and the thrill of that competition never goes away even though the younger generation is now having all the fun in the pool.  And seeing all these young ladies on the podium?  Well…pass the Kleenex.
(Cheeseman’s) Stir-Fried Chicken – serves 4
2 large, whole broiler-fryer chicken breasts, skinned, halved, boned and sliced diagnolly into ¼-inch thick strips
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1 medium green pepper, cut into think strips
¼ teaspoon ginger
1 pound fresh bean sprouts
1 5-ounce can water chestnuts, drained and sliced
½ pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/3 cup raw cashews, halved
1 chicken bouillon cube, or 1 teaspoon instant chicken bouillon
½ cup water
2 teaspoons cornstarch
¼ cup soy sauce
3 cups hot cooked rice

In a wok over high heat, heat peanut oil.  Stir-fry celery, pepper, onion and ginger in oil until tender-crisp, about three minutes.  With slotted spoon, slide vegetables up onto side of wok to keep warm.  To remaining oil, add chicken and stir-fry until meat turns white, about three to five minutes.  Slide vegetables back down and add bean sprouts, water, chestnuts, mushrooms, cashews, bouillon and water.  Blend cornstarch with soy sauce; gradually stir into wok and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is heated through and thickened.  Serve over hot rice.  Serves 4.

Ann’s Note:  for some inexplicable reason, my grocery store was out of bean sprouts and so I used canned.  Do not do this at home!  I might as well have opened a can of La Choy Chop Suey, the taste was that bland.  Live and learn, people, live and learn.