My infatuation over the Galloping Gourmet ended abruptly once I discovered three-dimensional real-time boys.
Latino hunk, Manuel, swept me off my middle school, size five feet. It was on his tie-dyed bedding, surrounded by black velvet rock art and the required black lights, that I had my first…
The doctored masa with a choice of fillings steamed in cornhusk qualifies in my book as food cooked in leaves. What’s a husk if not a glorified leaf with static cling? I must have known I’d someday write this cookbook. You could say I used Manuel for my tamale education. But, he got even ten-fold using me for my social studies test answers. Our mutual opportunism ended after a mouthwatering two weeks.
I honed my taste for the exotic with Freshmen crush, Eric. His Behemian father gave me smuggling tips for getting betal leaves into the US. They are stimulants and anti flatulents (the latter, I joked, was the reason commercial importations are banned).
The mildly addictive cousin of cocaine is
commonly sold on the streets throughout Asia where people wrap betel nuts, lime
and spices in them.
|Pate in Cabbage Leaves|
A Hungarian defector helped me refine my stuffed cabbage galumpkies. At left is a later rendition, an entire cabbage stuffed with pate and served cold as an appetizer. Later a twine-thin African American broke every food stereotype by eating only endives (sans the filling I offer up in the cookbook).
anorexia made him much less appealing around meal times. Then there was the Jewish intellect. He liked kosher stuffed cabbages but not his
mother’s corn flakes-coated gefilte fish.
He confused me with one set of dishes for dairy and one for meat, a
yearly clearing of the yeast, and his inability to de-bone fish on the Sabbath.
Then came first generation Christophoros, AKA Greek God. I loved him as only a food-crazed high school girl can love. Everything about him tantalized my senses.
I could smell his house from a block away, like approaching the Greek Orthodox gate into heaven: garlic, onions and green peppers browning in extra-virgin olive oil, tomato and lemon juice simmering with bulgar, goat feta and something briny that turned out to be preserved grape leaves, which developed into an obsession that lasted beyond the six years we dated.
Chris’s mother, Helena Papos, was an olive-chubby Cypriot who stood only as tall as my shoulders. But she was a giant if measured by her pastichio and baklava.
She taught me what I needed to know to marry her son. The path to his eternal devotion, she assured me, led right to his stomach.
No one could more skillfully incorporate kasseri cheese into bread, fold spanikopita into perfect triangles, or better teach the fine art of filling and rolling vine leaves into dolmathes.
“Every girl should make dolmas,” Helena said with pinched Os and not-quite D’s.
She instructed, “Pull the clump of leaves from the jar. Rinse. Flatten one out on the counter, veins up. Now add filling like this.”
“No, no, not enough. You’ll starve my Christophoros to death with that pea-sized filling.”
I scooped more onto the leaf.
“Roll like this. Like a cigar.”
I was suppose to know how cigars were rolled?
“Side near you up. Two sides in.”
I copied her motions.
Over the next half hour, we rolled and wrapped and packed the Dolmas until we had enough to satiate all the circle dancing members of a typical Greek wedding reception. We’d sealed the stuffed leaves, we’d sealed our friendship.
Thanks to Helena, I was hooked on cooking in Leaves.
|Inky - AKA Karen Albright Lin|