Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Lobster Experience

I’m diving in Belize with my dad for a week, and I’ve just had one of the top lobster experiences in my life. It was an EXPERINCE, not just a meal.

The dive shop we are diving with, Chuck and Robbie’s, is small and locally owned. So local, in fact, it is located on the beach right in front of Robbie’s father-in-law’s house.

As it turns out, Robbie’s father-in-law (we never did catch his name), a short, happy, always chuckling and smiling man, is a fisherman. The other day, around 9 in the morning, he came up to the shop with a bucket full of large lobster tail. He had caught them that morning, by hand. Yes, by hand, meaning he went out there with fins and weights and dove down for each one of them. He sold us some on the spot, straight out of the bucket—dinner.

That night, we took them to our room (which had a kitchen) and made a feast. Rice with black beans, steamed peas from a local veggie stand and of course, broiled lobster tail. DELICIOSO. Washed down with the local beer, Beliken.

This simple meal was by far the best lobster experience I’ve had in my recent memory, and never have I enjoyed it so close to the source. Not only did we buy it directly from the man who caught it, on the morning it was caught, but just the day before we had dove and seen these lobster in their native home! Talk about fresh. Just another confirmation that the fresher, more local and native the food, the better.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Just Where Have I Been?

Just want to let friends and family know that I, Auntie Fi, aka Fe Bongolan, have not fallen off the flat end of the earth. I've been busy writing elsewhere. I was asked to join the crew at Eric Francis' Planetwaves to help out with writing while we're in the midst of a very busy campaign season.

A little background for those of you who know me from my food writing only: I am also a political blogger. In 2003-04 I was a blogger and blog moderator for the Kerry-Edwards campaign. In the past, I've posted at Democracy Cell Project. Most times now, you will find me posting at Daily Kos. If you click on the links I've provided, you can pretty much navigate yourself over (to Planetwaves and Daily Kos especially), and find me.

When Eric asked me two weeks ago to help out, I never thought we would be dealing with a Wall Street crisis, the ongoing sagas of Princess Sarah Palin, or debate politics, but since all of these topics are OTHER passions of mine, its been a hell of a ride. And there's more to come.

Don't worry, there will be more Pantry Zero recipes (otherwise Ruthie will have my head), Little Fi will hopefully give us some travelogue from Costa Rica (where she'll be studying biology for the next quarter), and I may just need to come here and decompress after the onslaught also known as national politics. I'll also be writing here about comfort foods, international hospitality, and the first International Body Music Festival, sponsored by Crosspulse, the non-profit arts organization for body musician Keith Terry, recent Guggenheim Fellow, my favoritist music teacher in the whole entire world, and gang leader of the family's most favorite a capella group "Slammin'".

Its going to be an amazing fall and winter!!!

Monday, September 1, 2008

My Hero

I was first introduced to Anthony Bourdain when I pondered a possible future as a chef with former roommate, pal and web-genius Mark Petrakis (aka: Spoonman for those of you in the 80's and 90's performance art scene). When I mentioned to Mark, who was also a former cook in a restaurant and who taught me about the frugal magic and majesty of caramelized onions---that I was contemplating a life as a chef, he recommended I read Anthony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential".

Being a little afraid of encountering what would amount to a devastation of my master chef fantasies, I stayed away from Anthony Bourdain for five years, until 2004, after catching a bit of "A Cook's Tour" on the Food Network, I realized what I was missing.

Here's this big tall gorgeous guy, serious chef and rabid food writer. His humor had a familiar ring--kind of what my dad, also a cook, would have been if he was raised in Jersey--earthy and irreverent. Catching those brief minutes late at night (Food Network was terrified of Bourdain's outrageousness), I was howling with laughter watching the nation's recipe channel.

A total snarked up foodie. How did this guy make it to national television? But make it, he did, and "No Reservations" is a ritual rush home from work to catch Tony's premiere episode on Monday nights. Thank God, rush hour traffic is light on Mondays in the Bay Area.

Anthony Bourdain has his heart in the right place. He appreciates, respect and emanates a wry enjoyment of all cultures. After being one for most his life, he's got respect for the working man, and certainly reverence for foods and recipes with humble beginnings. He comes to us from a beautifully poignant place, a man in his prime, from a hard-working life in the grueling position of chef. As a cook's daughter, I know what that life was like. That experience makes him cocky and wise, as well as very very grounded. I envy his ability to chronicle his travels with writing skills that are blazingly sharp and loving at the same time.

So today, on Labor Day, I am watching another "No Reservations" marathon in preparation to say adieu to yet another stellar season of first-run episodes. Tony reminds me that loving food is loving life and all its moments. Even if you have to heave up chunks after a bit too much of life. But only he can talk about that, and we who love Tony around the world, appreciate his sacrifice.