Tag Archives: cooking

Buying seasonal at Eastern Market: Eat your (root) vegetables!

Historic Eastern Market

Last weekend I returned to Eastern Market for the first time in almost two years. Since my previous trips were during the spring and summer growing seasons, I have to admit my surprise (and delight) at the hustle and bustle I discovered there, even in the depths of Michigan’s dreary winter months. After digging around on Eastern Market’s website today, I discovered a few cool facts about my favorite Saturday morning destination in Detroit: Eastern Market was established in 1891 (thus celebrating 120 years of operation this year!) and in 1977, it was designated a historic area by the State of Michigan Historical Commission.

In the excitement of my return to Eastern Market, I was overtaken by the huge selection of variety and failed to ensure all of the produce I purchased was in fact locally grown (oops!). I know that my onions, sweet potatoes, and carrots came from Michigan farms, but I have a sneaking suspicion that my gigantic rutabaga was an out-of-stater. Despite this possible oversight, I stayed clear of any stand offering a bounty of tropical fruits, as these were obvious imports from lands far, far away.

Despite its questionable origin, my most prized possession upon leaving Eastern Market that morning was my mysterious rutabaga, for I had never before tasted this root vegetable, let alone prepare one. My interest in cooking and eating rutabaga stems from The Real Time Farms Blog post offering cooking ideas for this veggie. Curiosity got the best of me and I tried two of the three suggested recipes-mashed and roasted. A few days later, with half a rutabaga still hanging out in the fridge, I decided to get creative and make some fries. I thinly sliced the remaining rutabaga, along with a sweet potato, mixed them up, and divided them into two groups. I coated each group with olive oil, then tossed the first group in a mixture of salt, pepper, and curry powder. The second group got a coating of pre-mixed bread crumbs. For lack of a deep fryer (and a desire for a healthier fry) I baked the fries in the oven at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until they were crispy and cooked through.

Here’s a shot of my rutabaga and sweet potato fries:

Baked sweet potato and rutabaga fries (curry fries on left, bread crumb coated fries on right)

The results? In general, the sweet potato fries tasted better and had a nicer texture than the rutabaga fries, which weren’t soft enough on the inside for my liking. I thoroughly enjoyed the curry fries but didn’t care much for the bread crumb ones. I also experimented with sour cream and barbecue as dipping sauces, which definitely added some flavor. I think slicing the rutabagas a little thinner next time and baking them slightly longer than the sweet potato fries would yield better results. The curry sweet potato fries are a definite win and I’ll be making them again soon.


Freezing and (f)unemployed

I’ve been back in the States for over a month now and many of the initial shocks and surprises of this “Western” environment have dissipated; I am getting much better at walking on the right side of aisles in stores and guiding right whenever I’m entering or exiting buildings, which allows for much better mobility than I was experiencing in Los Angeles. I took my time getting back to Wisconsin, spending several days in Los Angeles, Denver and Chicago with good friends. Much of my re-entry process those first few weeks was getting through the long,  drawn-out battle with jet-lag (the return to the U.S. was WAY worse than what I remembered about my arrival to Thailand last year), the re-introduction of foods, and the climate. I’ve long since set my internal clock back to Central Standard Time but those first few days of waking up wide-eyed at 3:00am were not fun. As for the foods, I’m satisfying my Thai cravings with lots of rice and vegetable stir-fries, though these dishes are just not the same as found in Isaan. The climate, however, is something I will need much more time to accept. I’ve never been a fan of winters in the Midwest but as a native, my frustrations with the sub-zero temperatures and arctic wind chills usually don’t set in until mid-February, when winter feels as if it may very well just never end. This season, however, temperatures that would have me exercising in a long-sleeve t-shirt and shorts a year ago are sending me to the depths of my closet for the warmest wool jacket and knitted accessories. And it hasn’t even hit freezing yet. This will quite possibly be the longest winter of my life.

Every day it’s different. One day I really miss my favorite Thai dish and the next I’m so grateful for toasters, huge refrigerators and sandwiches. I’ve stopped turning the serving bowl into the community bowl and dipping my spoon into it at the dinner table (much to my mom’s relief) but I also really miss eating outside, in hot weather. I really miss working so hard to express one idea or opinion in Thai and actually be understood. I miss biking down the street and hearing neighbors inquire “Where are you going?” or “Have you eaten yet?” Yesterday I walked to our local library and not one person asked me anything, or even said hello. I’m pretty sure one woman with a stroller even crossed the street when she saw me and I’m not sure why. Well, I did have one lengthy conversation with an individual but ironically he’s not even a U.S. citizen; he’s from Zimbabwe. There is a definite lack of community here. And the silence is deafening. So I also miss the crickets.

That said, it is still good to be back. It was time to be back. However I am so very restless during this transitional period; I don’t yet have a job so there are certain things I should do to get one, like seek job postings and write those ever-so-stimulating cover letters. And then there’s this other part of me that wants to do all of these things I enjoy doing to fill up this time I’d like to refer to as funemployment. So I’m crocheting scarves, reorganizing my photographs and cooking new lentil soup recipes, during which a little part of my more responsible, pre-Thailand self, is tapping her foot and saying “This is all grand, but you really need to get a job.” Okay, as if I didn’t know that already, self. But maybe a little part of me doesn’t want to at all. I still have dreams about teaching in Thailand. I wake up remembering a few of my students’ faces and then go about my day. When I first came back to the States I would try and recall some of my students’ names in my head, as if me remembering them would cement my experience and ensure that it was in fact something concrete and not just a dream. But this is not a dream, it’s reality…and it’s time to get a job.


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