April marks the start of our fifth year at the reins of the madly careening ride that is Plate Fodder. I feel like my somewhat inebriated Uncle Posey heading to town hitched to his blind mule…
“I may have connected the wagon correctly”,
“He may or may not know the way to town even if I pass out”,
“I might not even care if we get lost”.
Like my colorful uncle – it’s never about the destination – it’s the journey that’s the gas.
and… it has been.
You know, I have fellow writer friends that say “I’m taking a break…I can’t seem to find my voice…or my angle… or point of view for my site”. And, I get that. It’s tough to stay within the lines of a prescribed notion of what we want our online persona to be. Maybe that’s why I have three unfinished novels still sitting in boxes and scribbled on moldy index cards (yes, it’s been that long) – I can’t stay focused on a story line. But some time ago I knew that with Plate Fodder I wanted to tell a story and give you something good to eat that kind of related to the story. And, good or bad, I’ve stuck with that premise. I’ve rambled about my childhood and career, aunts and uncles, grannies and social ingrates. And, whether you kind readers have relished the past years… or not, I’ve had a blast. If there is one certainty in this world it’s that I’ll always give you a story… and a recipe …okay, that’s two certainties… but whatever.
About that story….
I love the zoo. Atlanta has a particularly nice one. Even before they started recreating the park over with the new habitat-based enclosures, I loved it. I could prowl around all the terribly uncomfortable cages, reptile and big cat houses, and be thoroughly enthralled by the neurotic bears and anti-social elephants. However by 1984, Zoo Atlanta had become one of the worst zoos on the planet – and they began the arduous, monumental task of re imagining the park, removing the cramped, sterile enclosures and creating vibrant, natural habitats for all the animals. If you haven’t been lately, it’s time you did.
Anyway – Sometime in the mid 90’s they had just opened the Small Primate enclosure with a screened-in viewing platform where you could get “up close and personal” with the residents. Since I had a visitor in town I thought it would be a nice excursion for us. It was glorious. Marmosets and Capuchins and Tamarins cavorted throughout the make-believe canopy, and French Gibbons lazed on the branches front and center grooming, and napping… and scratching. – – – As we were watching, a group of beehive-y, t shirt, coolot- wearing, women came into the viewing platform, and we let the new arrivals move to the front so they could have their “up close and personal” experience. About that time it became apparent (to us at least) that the French Gibbons weren’t just scratching, and the “scratching” had picked up in pace and determination. Within minutes, one of the front and center Gibbons let out a loud “whoop!” as well as the accompanying … um.. stuff. Once the shock had worn off everyone in the enclosure, the most beehive-y of the group looked disapprovingly at the descriptive nameplates and said…
“Free-nch Gibbons….. huh – filthy monkeys, I bet they’re from Paris“
I get the giggles every time I remember that day.
So, speaking of Paris, nothing says Spring, French, and better than “scratching” than Petit Pois a la Francaise – or Braised Fresh Peas with Lettuce. I adore the hint of earthiness from the early peas, the sweetness from the lettuce, and that broth – just made for sopping with a crusty piece of rustic bread
Petit Pois a la Francaise
2 Cups Fresh Early Peas (Frozen will do in a pinch)
2 Cups Shredded Iceberg Lettuce (It has to be iceberg or butter lettuce.
I personally like using iceberg because I find it sweeter than butter
and tends to hold on to it’s form better after braising)
1/2 Cup Diced Sweet Onion (Vidalia or Texas Sweet)
1 1/2 Cups Chicken Stock
1 Tablespoon Butter
Cracked Black Pepper – about 4 to 5 turns on the grinder
Salt – This is going to depend on your own taste.
I like the sweetness to come through, so I only utilize the saltiness of the chicken stock.
But, taste and adjust for your own preferences
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until just translucent. Add the peas, lettuce and pepper – and saute until the lettuce shreds are just wilted – then add the stock. Bring just to a boil and reduce to simmer. With the back of a spatula or large fork, break about 1/3 of the peas once they have softened a bit. Cover and simmer on low for 20 minutes. This should make 2 to 3 one cup servings or 4 to 6 half cup servings. We’ve served ours up with the first of our Cherry Radishes out of the garden.