PCS Blog

Who Loves Food? YOU Do!

Posted by Kinsley Suer | 04 January 2013

In honor of our upcoming production of I Love to Eat, we recently asked you to share your culinary obsessions with us. And share you did! Detailed descriptions of Oregon strawberries, lemongrass cabbage soup and fresh heirloom tomatoes. Stories of biscuits and gravy, Chanterelle mushrooms and rich baklava. We were inundated with heartfelt tales about cooking with grandmothers and anecdotes about searching for the freshest seafood in the Pacific Northwest. Even poetry! Although it would be simply impossible to choose a favorite response, below are a sample of those stories that made our mouths water and our stomachs grumble. 
Portlanders, it seems, really do love to eat. So we hope you'll join us for I Love to Eat, which runs January 8 - February 3.

"My food obsession is continuing to perfect the best Jewish sourdough rye bread West of the Mississippi (and probably east of it as well!).  I use a starter developed by my dad which is now probably more than 30 years old. Dad and I drove the starter from Tennessee (in a cooler, keeping it on ice) when he and my mom moved to Oregon in 1990.  He taught me how to make and bake these loaves (2 1/2 pounds each) as he was struggling with cancer.  My addition to the tradition is producing these loaves entirely with the sour starter (no yeast) and my husband claims that a slice is a meal!"
        - Regina Brody
"Being an actor and a food lover it should come as no surprise that my obsession is an audience.  I love to cook for people. I love to make fabulous meals for myself too, but those are just rehearsals really. This New Year's I manifested the highest ideal of my obsession.  The perfect roast for 20 people. A huge beast of a beast. I researched several cook books and blogs to cull the best techniques and thoughts on the matter.  I stood in line at Gartner's [Country Meat Market] for an hour as I fantasized about the meat and all the tricky things I was going to do with it.  (Gartner's is another obsession. Best cross section of Portland people watching ever - behind and in front of the counter. One of the most authentically diverse gatherings in Portland!) Then the laying out of equipment the night before, the sticky notes, the list making, the review of recipes, the creating of tomorrow’s schedule. New Year's Eve - so many sweet friends offered to help in the kitchen but due to my planning there was truly nothing for them to do but enjoy. I even got in plently hanging out time outside the kitchen! While hearing the music of two different tables of games in laughter, their syncopated rise and fall, I pulled the most gorgeous crusty roast out of the oven. A salty, meaty cloud of heat in my face, a bit of crust off the end, delicious. A private pause. A thanks. Then in goes the salmon, on go the potatoes, up goes the foil tent and I wait.  Laughter rises and falls. Bit by bit I bring side dishes out to welcome oohs and ahhs. And finally I cut into the meaty crust to find the tenderest pink center. Perfection. Before plating it I call in a professional chef friend as witness.  He will understand. And he does. And they do too. The silence falls upon the eaters like snow in winter. A cozy, a calm, a community at peace. To cook for others is a gift.  You weave your self into every molecule, you weave your wishes for them, your happiness for them and your gratefulness for them and your gratefulness for the food its self."
    - Adrienne Flagg

"I’ve been obsessed for years with fresh shelled peas that are so deliciously sweet that when you pop them in your mouth, they taste just like candy and you cannot stop eating them. When I lived in Anchorage, the summer downtown farmers
market had a farm vendor from the Matanuska Valley and market shoppers could buy fresh shelled peas in 10 lb. bags (or by the cup full).  Unfortunately, no one has been able to replicate this tasty and big bag size offering in the Lower 48, and alas, my small garden fresh shelled peas produce only enough for about two meal’s worth."
          - Lauren C.

"I’m obsessed with birthday cake.  I hate how you go to the bakery and can only choose one kind when what you really want is to have a few bites of every flavor. For my 40th I bought a dozen or so cakes and hired a server to slice perfect tiny slivers.  I invited friends and family to join me in living out my dream. Last year, a friend in Eugene wanted to buy me a cake, but I fretted because she doesn’t care about cake the way that I do.  I didn’t want to take a chance she might not buy a cake up to my standards.  I want cake with real butter and good-quality chocolate and jam.  No artificial ingredients or shortening or dough conditioners.  I was too obsessed with thinking about my birthday cake to give up control, even to a good friend who just wanted to do something nice for me. I spent a week researching bakeries in Portland, Salem and Eugene—agonizing over whether to buy cupcakes or a layer or sheet cake, or just make my own.  I finally found the cake of my dreams in Eugene and ordered it, only to get sick before the cake was picked up. My friend picked it up and took photos of the cake as my other friends enjoyed it, and tried to get a few slices brought back to me in Portland, but the icy roads kept that from happening, so you can guess what I’m obsessing about now, with my birthday just a few weeks away."
          - Leslie
"Wandering through the misty Oregon rain through the woods to find those sacred hollows where the lobster and chanterelle mushrooms thrive, coming upon them like a treasure in the darkened quiet, their pungent smells straight out of the fantastical rich glory of some Middle Earth dreamtime. Returning home to sautee them with some fresh wild salmon and then fresh duck eggs in the morning. Mmm mmmmmmm . . . yes!"
        - Chris Browne

"I come by my regional food obsession naturally, growing up in Oregon with a mom and grandma who were amazing cooks; they drew on our family background in Northern Europe as much as a persistent love for the teachings of James Beard and Julia Child. Nothing makes me as happy as researching old Swedish or German recipes for simple stuff and finding ways of bringing that food to share. I'm equally obsessed with other regions and traditional dishes - having spent a month re-making hummus to get it to be just like what I had when I visited Israel. (It's about the oil.) It's something of a family trait to work and work on a particular recipe until it's "just right." This means, of course, that the people around me might get a little overly familiar with certain things. I take that potential boredom as a challenge to make my cooking superb. It's more than a pursuit of the amazing dish, though. Because my grandma taught me how to taste while cooking and ways of thinking about the touch and scent of what was happening in the pot, the minutes and hours I spend cooking are like a bit of time travel to spend an afternoon with her."
  - HB
"I am a connoisseur of biscuits and gravy. My bar is high, because all the Willett
men - my grandfather, my dad and now my brother - make absolutely kickass
gravy AND all of them bake. It's hands down the greatest brunch food for this time
of year - unpretentious, salty, fatty, warming, delicious and perfect for Oregon weather. Homemade is the best. Christmas morning is ideal, or waking up to the smell of sausage grease when you stay over at your grandparents' house. But
when I don't have a relative to make it for me (gravy being a kitchen trick I have never mastered), I use it as a barometer for the quality of brunch at various
Portland eateries. It's deceptively simple, and yet you know that if someone does biscuits and gravy well that everything else is likely to be of equally high quality. 
The gravy must be piping hot. The chunks of sausage, or mushroom, or bacon,
must be substantial. Black pepper must be visible. The biscuits should be buttery
and flaky and not too sweet - put sausage gravy on something that tastes like a scone and you've lost my patronage. Don't just plonk two whole biscuits on a plate and dump gravy on top. Logistics are important. Split and grilled biscuits retain their structural integrity under the weight of gravy much better than whole ones, plus more of the biscuit surface area has a chance to soak up moisture. Details matter, people."
       -  Claire Willett
A Shakespearean sonnet, on the culinary delights I enjoy by knowing my farmer:

The season starts with greens, all full and fresh --
The crisp delights of foods like chard and kale.
Sauteed or raw, these greens my soul refresh,
Such greens would make a vibrant frog seem pale.
The height of summer brings a bounty new,
Beans bursting, and tomatoes plump and red.
My mouth begins to feel the urge to chew,
Surmising that it will with art be fed.
The final pleasures usher in the Fall --
The yellow onions and the hearty squash.
And apples, oh the apples, how they call!
I munch one up without even a wash.
For six months of the year these joys are mine 
With Dancing Roots, my CSA divine.
 - Ian
"Bacon. The candy bar of meats. Whether it comes squirting out of a tube, draped around a vegetable therefore making the healthy food almost palatable, or wrapped around another piece of meat. No meat product can possibly be more perfect. From the moment the bacon hits the hot pan and you hear it sputter. Filling your house with the sweet smells of salt, fat and love. This sweet scent also attaches to your clothes, strengthening the symbiotic love. Really who needs CK when you have the fine smells of bacon lingering on your clothes. People stop you and ask "bacon?" Yes... yes indeed. I then thoughtfully explain in detail the beautiful recipe I made with the meat of the gods. Conversation then leads to cooking new person bacon in the morning. Bacon makes the best wingman.

And really how many meats do you want to roll in brown sugar and turn into a hard candy? "Mmmm let me roll my NY steak in brown sugar and turn it into candy then break it up into tiny bits to flavor my ice cream." Said NO ONE ever. So three cheers to bacon. My first love."
        - Stacy Giltner

"It must be a Sunday in July. Acquire, however you can, an impeccably fresh Copper River sockeye. Make a vinaigrette. Olive oil, lemon juice (lots of lemon juice), red wine vinegar, bruised and chopped fresh (must be fresh) tarragon. Grind of pepper, pinch of good salt, sugar of some kind to taste. Meander to the garden in the morning. Pick a little arugula. Wash, pat dry, keep cool. It's early afternoon now, and the sun is warm. The raspberries are at their absolute peak. Pick 8 ounces or so, then lick your fingers. Cook the salmon. Grilling outdoors is a very good way. On a thick white plate, arrange the arugula and toss with the vinaigrette. Top it with a modest slab of salmon. Top the salmon with a layer of sun-warmed raspberries. Add a grind of pepper if you like. Have handy excellent bread, rip a piece (heel recommended) and add to plate. Pour a crisp, slightly chilled (only slightly) sauvignon blanc, perhaps from New Zealand. Have flowers on the table. Perhaps nasturtium blossoms sprinkled about. (Did I mention--you are outdoors, at a wooden table? You have a cotton napkin in your lap. It is four o'clock on a warm, not h0t, summer afternoon.) Raise your fork. Spear together one perfect raspberry and one bit of barely-done, melty/crusty salmon. Place in mouth, and then... "
           - Sherry Lamoreaux

"Fresh berries picked in the earliest rays of daylight,  from a field where the soil and foliage are still moist
with dew and the smells take me back to childhood."   
- Jennifer Tujo


"Oysters!! Ever since I was a small boy and my family booked a sailing vacation in the San Juan Islands I
have loved oysters. Of course part of the attraction was the adventure of finding the oysters in remote little bays and then learning how to shuck them. Every time I eat an oyster I'm taken back to those fun sailing
trips with the family and all the adventure and beauty of the islands."

- Ken Stevens



"My food obsession started as a child when I was living on a farm at the edge of the Adirondack Mountains in New York State. My mother was Hungarian and an excellent cook as well as someone who raised chickens, cows and sheep, and hunted, fished and even made maple syrup. I didn't even know that I had a food obsession until just about six years ago. After my two sons grew up and I was no longer a baseball and football coach and scout leader I began to fish, hunt, gather and cook again. I soon found out the home that we live in had a very inadequate kitchen, so inadequate that we redesigned the kitchen into a cook's dream. The expanding of the room by 4 ½ ft, adding a Wolf range, wine fridge, counters and bar created a great kitchen to work in and a excellent place to entertain while cooking. That is my obsession, making great meals from items that I have hunted, fished for, gathered or even purchased at the farmer's market for my friends. So as I retire this year I will make cheese, wine, and sausage, gather mushrooms, dig truffles, fill the freezer with fish and game, harvest from my garden and enjoy many years cooking for and entertaining my family very close friends. Yes, I am obsessed with food and would like to say: Thank you, Mom."
- John Lewis

"Chocolate is what I crave
Bitter or sweet
From Bonbon to Bouchon
Sticky and gooey, dense and chewy
Molded, melted, smothered or dripped
Bean, bar, or truffle that's dipped
Easily devoured, hard to save"
     - Heather

"My obsession is veganizing traditional Danish recipes. I'm second-generation Danish-American, so I still have a fondness for the food my grandmother makes, but I can't eat it anymore. So I've managed to create some recipes for pickled herring, meatballs, liver pate, smoked salmon spread, and some other dishes that are harder to translate into English, all vegan, and all delicious! My grandmother has tried some of the things I've made and she says they are okay, which is a huge compliment coming from an 85-year-old non-vegan woman who grew up in Copenhagen!"
         - Sarah
"Cheese. Not stinky cheese or runny cheese or gooey cheese. Real cheese. Cheddar, Colby, Gouda, Edam, Jack, Parmesan, Asiago, Provolone, Mozzarella...you get the picture. I eat cheese with just about every meal and snack on it frequently throughout the day. The bottom two drawers in the fridge are reserved for cheese. I get worried when my supply drops below 20 pounds. I buy Tillamook Medium Cheddar and let it run past its “best before” date until it is Tillamook Extra Sharp Cheddar. (That’s a tip
for you other misers; just don’t try it with other varieties.) I also love to cook and find
it difficult not to cheese-ify everything. The perfect sandwich? Grilled cheese. The
perfect casserole? Macaroni & cheese. Soup? Black Butte Cheddar baby! And here’s
the funny bit: I’m sort of allergic to the stuff, especially the well-aged ones. I turn red, break a sweat, get a little dizzy even. It probably has something to do with my
Penicillin allergy. Yah, you might call it an obsession."                      
    - Daniel Cowan


P.S. We've also picked our contest winner! All participants were entered into a random drawing, and our winner is...Ria Torricelli! Congratulations Ria, you've won the ultimate Portland Foodie package. The package includes Forktown's James Beard-themed tasting tour of NW Portland, a backstage tour of PCS, two tickets to the opening night performance of I Love to Eat, and entrance for two into the exclusive after party featuring five of Portland's James Beard Award-winning chefs! We'll be contacting you shortly to arrange your package.




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