Green Plum Cooking School – January 30th
NOTE: The recipes used in my Green Plum Cooking School classes can be found in my online cookbook, “Eat Where Your Food Lives,” available for purchase at http://www.ChefMonicaPope.com)
One Big Experiment—that’s what this is: me cooking my own recipes for this class, even though I know (or should know) how they turn out, it’s still an experiment. You have to always “engage your senses,” even with a recipe. Life is like that. If something isn’t working, try something else, add something — taste, taste, taste, think, think, think. Well, maybe I think too much, now that I think about it.
I’m kind of melancholy this morning. Bob the Knife Guy (one of our market vendors) called on Thursday to say he had had a stroke (not of luck) and has lost the use of his right arm. He said he didn’t think he was going to get it back. He was going to miss everyone at the market and wanted them to know he was going to get someone trained as fast as possible to take his place. Despite having a stroke on Thursday, Bob showed up at the market today! He kept his right arm in his sweat-suit pocket. After stopping at the market, he said was going to get some special pants that he could put on with his good left hand. He’s already figured out what work he can do with one arm. Damn, he’s practical! Bob the Knife Guy used to be a magician; he was on The Tonight Show seven times. Well, he’s working some magic right now. I wonder if we’ll always call him “Bob the Knife Guy.”
Another reason for my melancholy is that Lowell Farms, down in El Campo, sold their business to Gulf Coast Rice Company. They’re still growing their Jasmine and organic rice, but they’re selling directly to this new company. Every month, I would call in an order with Linda, and I would usually get the answering machine with her ending message of “Have a rice day!” and I’d smile and place my order. Now, I have to call this other company. I’m already bracing for the big business of it all. Over the years, what the local markets have taught me – and most of the vendors here – is a crash course in Business 101. But what it really teaches you is how important your personal relationships with your customers are to your business. Linda and Lowell Raun at Lowell Farms knew that. Now, it’s not just business as usual. This is getting personal, damn it!
Today, I am making rice pudding in honor of Lowell Farms. But I’m feeling sentimental, not because of the loss of my direct relationship with Linda, but because this recipe is actually a recipe from the Mexican cooks in my kitchen. This is how they make rice pudding in Mexico: a lot of milk and a little bit of rice, cooked with orange zest, cinnamon, vanilla bean and sugar. It’s chilly out today so it feels good to make this drinkable rice pudding. Daisy, Lisa’s almost seven-year-old daughter, is my assistant since my daughter, Lili, is sick in bed. Daisy gets going on something, like grating orange zest, and doesn’t stop. I jokingly ask her if she speaks English, but I realize I am speaking to her in monicaspeak…maybe she doesn’t understand monicaspeak. I shout, “Have a grate day!” I get a laugh from the crowd, but still no response from Daisy, who is now really grating on my nerves. I take the grater away from her.