I remember a day at the cafeteria in college when we were served fried bologna for lunch. It was bad enough getting stuff like that in the high school cafeteria.
I rebelled. I made art, in the form of a big smiley face, from my fried bologna. When I held it up to show some friends, a slightly older, much wiser fellow art major, Aud Engum, who was from Norway, approached my table. Aud wasn’t shy, or demure, and she could be scary when provoked.
“What are you doing, Suzi?” she asked in her scary, tough Norwegian accent. “You must not play with your food!” I remember being embarrassed, but I retorted that it wasn’t food – it was bologna.
Aud and I ended up becoming friends, and she was the reason I first came to Boothbay Harbor, the summer after my sophomore year. She was managing a Marimekko shop on Townsend Avenue and we got an apartment together, over on Sunset Boulevard. She used to let me wear Marimekko outfits around the harbor as a way of advertising them. I was a skinny little thing.
Those really were the good old days.
Anyway. I like my food to look as good as it tastes.
Maybe it’s the artist in me, but the way my food looks on a plate, or in a bowl, is almost as important as the way it tastes.
I actually put some thought into the plate I use for a certain meal. Color, contrast, and design are of utmost importance. So is the flatware I use, the glass I sip my Manhattan from while cooking, and the glass I pour my wine into. Even the color of the wine enters into the equation. Rose belongs in an elegant pink glass.
I have amassed a vast array of dishes and glassware over my 28 🙂 years. I have enough matching sets to set a table with some semblance of order when I have people over for dinner, but matching dinnerware isn’t high on my list of priorities. I’ve been known to set a table without a single matching plate, or glass.
Where was I? Oh yeah: food.
I recently found myself at a loss for what to have for dinner that evening. That’s unusual for me, as I spend a lot of time thinking about upcoming meals.
That day I had slacked in the meal planning department, either as a result of lack of sleep the night before (ugh – that’s been happening a lot) or maybe from spending a large part of the day writing because a deadline was approaching. I know one thing: it wasn’t due to cleaning. I really need a housekeeper.
Anyway, I checked the fridge and found a delicata squash in the veggie drawer. I only recently discovered this sweet, tender, edible-skinned squash. I love that you don’t have to peel it like a butternut or acorn squash. Just cut it in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, dribble with olive oil and sprinkle with some salt, and roast it.
Or you can slice circles, scoop the seeds out of them, and roast the slices. I opted for the second choice.
I love veggies, and rice, and pasta, but I usually crave protein, meat or seafood, with a meal. The fridge was void of any of that stuff, so I checked the freezer. It was 5 p.m. so I didn’t have a lot of time to thaw something, and I was starting to feel a little desperate.
And there – buried beneath packages of ground beef, chicken, and some scallops that are being saved for when my sister arrives from Florida in a couple weeks, was half a package of meatballs. I don’t usually buy pre-made stuff like meatballs, as they’re so easy to make, but I remembered getting them one day when samples were being offered at Hannaford.
And I remembered they were wicked good: Aidells Italian balls.
I wasn’t terribly hungry that evening, so I forewent (a real word, according to my editor) a starch.
I pan-fried the balls – they were pre-cooked as well as pre-made – and roasted the circles of delicata with some olive oil, a light sprinkling of garlic powder, and a healthy sprinkling of pink Himalayan salt. (Have I mentioned I’m a salt freak, and I love Himalayan salt, mainly because it’s pink?)
While the delicata circles were roasting, I made a Manhattan, then perused my plate cabinet. First things first. I have some cool bright orange, and some pretty cerulean blue and white melamine (heavy plastic) ones. I also have some elegant white china ones, some beautiful turquoise ones, some Blue Willow Spode ones … ugh. I hate these life-altering decisions.
I thought about the colors of the food that would be placed on them: yellow and brown. Kinda gross, so decided the plate color wasn’t of utmost importance. I chose the orange ones, and the next night, when I had the leftovers, I used the cerulean blue and white.
When I put the balls and circles of roasted delicata on the plate, I had a brainstorm. The balls fit perfectly in the centers of the delicata circles. Aud would have hated it, but it made me wicked happy. Turned out it was a great combo taste-wise too.
And the beat goes on. See ya next week.
P.S. Pink Himalayan salt looks beautiful in a small crystal bowl, especially when there’s a pink glass of rose nearby.
(Suzi Thayer paints, feeds stray cats, eats good food, and drinks Manhattans. She’d love to hear from you with ideas and recipes for her column. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.)