The Raw and the Cooked: Book Review

 


The Raw and the Cooked author and prolific writer Jim Harrison hails from Northern Michigan, and in this collection of essays, describes his philosophies about food and life, which he believes are one and the same. He describes the culinary adventures of his life, from his cabin in the woods to the tables of exclusive restaurants across the country and in Europe. He portrays how his boyhood in the Upper Peninsula shaped his taste for the wild foods of his youth, and laments the modern loss of reverence for food (which he considers one of life’s greatest, if not sacred, pleasures) along with the industrialization of the food industry which is replacing the tradition of hunting with inhumane factory farming of animals that taste like styrofoam on the plate.

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“…as Northern Michigan as Cherry Pie.”

“…as Northern Michigan as Cherry Pie.”

One of the sweetest features of northern Michigan’s cuisine is its cherries, and by extension, pies and crumbles. As local journalist Nancy Krcek Allen writes, “Apple pie has been hailed as the all-American dessert, but cherries prevail in these parts.”

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Porter Mac and Cheese

Porter Mac and Cheese

I found this recipe on the Michigan Beer Blog, and it looked irresistible. I happen to adore Founder’s Porter and mac and cheese, and had never thought to use both in a recipe.

Unfortunately, when I went to the liquor store, they were out of Founder’s.

Fortunately, they had a great porter from Maine called King Titus. I know that kind of kills the whole point, since Founder’s is from Michigan, but I had my heart set on this dish and decided to go with it.

It was good. Real good. But as you can probably tell from the prep photo, it was also really heavy. How many kinds of cheese did it call for?

Five. Five different cheeses. And lots of butter.

I would recommend this recipe, but perhaps as a side dish for something a little lighter—say chicken, or a salad.

 

Yooper Pasties

Recipe for a Cornish/Yooper Pasty

Yooper pasties seemed like a mandatory recipe for the U.P.

Pasties, pronounced like pass-tee, originally made their way to Michigan from Cornwall, England. Yooper, for clarification, is what people from the Upper Peninsula called themselves.

A friend of mine from Lower Michigan said that what she missed most about Michigan cuisine were the hot dogs—they’re “just not the same” as the ones here in New England—almost more like sausages, with thicker casings. Her second mention of distinctive foods, though, were the pasties.

Pasties, from these parts in particular, were long prepared by housewives so miners could take a full meal with them to work. The meat and potato ones are the staple variety, but some also included a cherry pie filling at one end so that when the miner was finished having his lunch, he could seamlessly transition to dessert.

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Blue Moon Ice Cream

blue moon ice cream

 

Blue Moon, a flavor of ice cream found in the U.P. and surrounding areas, tastes like Fruitloops, according to some. This sounded like fun. I’d never heard of this flavor before, and I like trying new things. It isn’t in grocery stores in New England. I don’t have an ice cream maker, either, but I decided to ad-lib something together that would allow me to approximate its flavor.

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Dark Chocolate Cherry Cookies

chocolate cherry cookies from MichiganOur first recipe from Upper Michigan is for dark chocolate cherry cookies. The prospect of desserts inspire me to cook more than anything, so I began my vicarious journey through the U.P. with this recipe.

It was simple enough to follow, except the author left out the measurements for how much brown sugar to add and when to add the eggs. I improvised with a cup of brown sugar, added chopped pecans, and added the eggs to the melted butter and sugar mixture before adding in the dry ingredients. Dried dark sweet cherries at our local Trader Joe’s replaced tart ones, as they were the only variety on the shelf.

While whisking together the ingredients, the dough became unusually creamy, much like how Cold Stone ice cream looks when it’s being mixed on the counter. After you add in the chocolate, it’s even better.

Note: the cookies were very crumbly when freshly baked—let them sit a few minutes and the flavor will become even better, and the cookie will still retain its soft texture (but hold together).

Beautiful.

 

 

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Sourdough Pancakes

sourdough

These sourdough pancakes were a delight, and were my first recipe from the sourdough starter batch I had made. Sourdough is such an important aspect of Alaskan cuisine, as it provided some of the only nourishment that settlers could get in the long, cold, and dark winters. Sourdough was so precious that settlers would keep it in a jar held close to their chest under their many layers of clothing to shield it from the vicious cold and keep it alive — you can even read about that in Michener’s Alaska: A Novel.

(This page contains affiliated links to Amazon.com.) 

As you can see, these pancakes are very thin, but airy. Large bubbles formed and popped in the batter while they were frying, resulting in a unique design on the pancakes, but a thin, “just-right” texture that wasn’t too crispy but wasn’t too thick. The pancakes are almost crêpe-like, with a hint of sourdough taste—yet another great recipe for you from What Real Alaskans Eat: Not Your Ordinary Cookbook!

An added benefit is that because it is fermented, sourdough can actually be healthier than many other pancakes because of the probiotics created during the fermentation process. Although I chose to make my own sourdough, if you want to get started making sourdough recipes right away, you may decide to purchase ready-made Alaskan Sourdough Starter.

If you enjoy breakfast foods as much as I do, and are looking for a little variety in your flapjacks or a healthier alternative to traditional pancakes, then this recipe is a good choice.

 

 

 

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

This was my first time trying rhubarb! I’m so grateful that this project has opened my eyes (and taste buds) to delicious new and unanticipated flavors. This recipe is from the niche cookbook, What Real Alaskans Eat: Not Your Ordinary Cookbook (an affiliated link), which has been super helpful for me in finding authentic Alaskan recipes. According to the cookbook, rhubarb is a common backyard garden crop in Alaska during summer months along with zucchini. So many Alaskan recipes feature this pink and iridescent tart treat.

I like many desserts, but this one is particularly flavorful and I highly recommend it, especially if you’re a fan of berry crumbles with a slightly sweet and sour flavor.

Enjoy!

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Zucchini Bread

Zucchini Bread

Zucchini seems to be a thing in Alaska. According to the author of the cookbook I purchased for this stop on my vicarious food adventures, What Real Alaskans Eat: Not Your Ordinary Cookbook (aff), zucchini is  crop that grows easily in Alaska during summer months, as rhubarb is, and is often produced in gardens at such quantity that people have to really stretch their imaginations when it comes to using all the zucchini grown.

I’m a fan of the only zucchini bread I’d tried before baking this bread, which was the extremely moist, cake-like coffee-shop zucchini bread at one of my favorite local coffee shops, the Thinking Cup in Boston, so I eagerly dived into this recipe when I saw that I, too, could make this delicious creation during my time in Alaska. I was also delighted at the prospect of sneaking more vegetables into my diet.

This bread was less of a sweet cake than the version I adore at Thinking Cup (I wonder how much worse for you it is, if at all?), and definitely heartier. Good on its own with some butter—I didn’t feel that jam would pair well with it, nor did this bread seem like it would pair well as a sandwich bread. It’s a hearty solo act.

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An Update…

Still reading Michener’s Alaska, Everyone.

It’s pretty funny: I downloaded the ebook, having no clue as to Michener’s reputation (not that this would have changed my decision to read Alaska). After opening the ebook and reading a few pages, I decided to see how many pages there would be, and was shocked. See, that’s one of the pitfalls of ebooks—you can’t tell their length immediately.

I’m actually really enjoying the book, and I think I made the right choice to base the length of time in a place based on however long it takes me to get through a book about that place. My goal for this project wasn’t just to learn to cook foods from around the world and enjoy them, but also to really learn about the random places I landed in, and I can think of no better way to do that than to read about each one.

The downside, of course, is that if I choose to read an epic novel like this one, I’ll be in one place for some time, and things will slow down on the blog. I still like reading about each place though, so I’ll keep tweaking it until I find a middle-ground solution that works. Any suggestions?

Speaking of suggestions, I’m also searching for an interesting book about Upper Michigan (or just Michigan), my next vicarious location. Non-fiction, memoir, biography, and historical fiction are genres I enjoy that also allow me to learn about the place. Any recommendations?

Be well….

About

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Join me as I generate random coordinates on the planet and attempt to learn to cook those regions' cuisines.

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Live at home like a traveler.
—Henry David Thoreau

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