I meant to write post today about creating a fictional world--see I'm really trying to be a mystery novelist, and I had some deep thoughts I was going to share with Sisters in Crime people and others (who might find them not so deep). But I got distracted--first by thoughts of chili and then by a cookbook.
I talked with an editor today who is interested in having me turn the chili portion of my Texas foods book into a freestanding book, so I've got chili on my mind. Did you know for instance that Will Rogers loved the chili that Governor Ma Ferguson made? She always made it when he stopped by the Governor's Mansion. And of course there's Lady Bird's Pedernales Chili and the famous chili cookoff in Terlingua and the not-so-famous one in my living room. This manuscript will have recipes but won't be a cookbook. It's more of a chatty, informal approach to everything about chili, from the beans/no beans controversy to the history of Pendery's chili spice and Wolf Brand. I'm looking for chili stories and unusual recipes.I can do most of the usual ones--true Terlingua chili, my own Mild and Tentative Chili (from Cooking My Way Through Life with Kids and Books), gluten- and dairy-free chili, vegetarian, turkey, etc. But if you have a really different twist or a good story about eating or cooking chili, I'd love to hear it. Please send to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Marcia, does El Paso have a distinctive chili (that's a challenge)? I'm also interested in world-class chili restaurants in Texas--so far I've got the Texas Chili Parlor in Austin and the old Richelieu Cafe, now gone but once on Fort Worth's Main Street..
My brother and sister-in-law gave me a book called Ratio for Christmas--it's about the ratio of ingredients in various things like broth made from bones, doughs and batters, sauces, brining solutions, etc. The chapter that really drew my attention is on making sausage, which should be 3 parts meat : one part fat; the seasoning should be 60 parts meat/fat : 1 part salt. I love sausage (the German side of me occasionally overrides the predominant Scottish) and I'd love to make this. Used to have sausage stuffing equipment--maybe it was used twice. I don't know if I can stil find it, but I'll look. Thing is I need a co-conspirator for this--too big a project to take on alone. But I know some experimental cooks who might be interested (yes, Elizabeth, you're on my mind). There's a great recipe for brining a chicken in this book, along with directions for homemade mayonnaise. If you've ever had homemade, you'll wave goodbye to Kraft and even Hellman's. Various vinaigrettes intrigue me because I've got to get Jordan off that one blue cheese recipe! Jacob helped make the salad dressing the other night and his idea of one little shake of Worcestershire made me add more oil and vinegar to the dressing--I'm sure I didn't get the ratio right. Jordan said indignantly, "We don't even put that in dressing!" Anyway, this book is a treasure, and I'll prowl its pages often. Kudos to author Michael Ruhlman, and thanks to John and Cindy.
While we're on the subject of food, I confess I had one of what Christian thinks of as my odd meals tonight: pickled herring--it's been in the fridge since my Christmas party and it kept calling me; hummus--counteracts the acid of the herring; hearts of palm; and, oh, that leftover teaspoon of ham salad. Not a bad meal at all.
Don't forget to send me those chili stories.