KHA_0913_2My friend Anna (of Lunch Box London fame) has worked in a lot of professional kitchens and has shared many time and effort-saving tricks with me since I have known her. Cooking with her is a pleasure — she cooks intuitively and creatively, has great taste and zero fear. Anna is also really efficient. If she can do something in two steps, no way she is going to take five. Or a burner on the stove. Or dirty an extra pan.

I am a complete convert to Anna’s low-effort method of prepping kale and other hardy greens:  Read More →

Community Plates

image from communityplates.org

For the second time in two weeks, we are all home for a snow day. Still new to such a snowy climate, any hassle is totally outweighed by the excitement of cancelled school. sledding and snowmen. Mother Nature might is asking us to slow down a bit; who am I to complain? After all, we are cozy at home together with plenty of food in the pantry and firewood for the fireplace.

But I also know that I am lucky. We all have neighbors (whether we see them or not) who are not warm, who do not have a full pantry, and who are alone. I want to spend my few minutes on the Internet today introducing you to Community Plates, one of the groups trying to help address these needs.

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Have you seen the multi-colored cakes all over the internet?  They are generally enrobed in white buttercream so that the first slice is a surprise.  I made my first technicolor rainbow cake for the kids second birthday, when they were way to young too appreciate the awesomeness of this:

Making these cakes is deceptively simple.  Basic reliable cake recipe (box mix, even) and good quality food coloring (like Wilton’s gels).  Think about the colors and patterns you are looking for.  For a psychedelic rainbow cake, divide the batter into small batches, color separately and then add each color into the very center of the tin on top of the color before.  The batter will push the colored layers out and do all of the work for you.  The same method will produce a great vanilla/chocolate zebra pattern.  Or football team colors.

This Fourth of July cake is even easier…red white blue cake-1

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The Sixes have graduated from Kindergarten and are chillin’ until they start the 1st grade. Some pool time and sports camp. A healthy amount of boredom to balance out the overscheduled academic year. Getting grubby and washing off with the garden hose.  These are the joys of summer.

June also kicks off with birthdays.  First the Queen (actually 21 April but celebrated in June with the Trooping of the Colour and an awesome flyover).  Then the Sixes.  Remember last year’s back-to-back homemade parties for each kid? That will probably go down as a once-in-a-lifetime feat of strength. This year we took the saner path of throwing the first party at home and the second off-premises. Read More →

EandA-1This blog started as a bit of a lark.  I was at a professional cross-roads with lots of options and nothing to lose.  The only unacceptable choice was doing nothing.  To live is to keep moving, right?  So I jumped in the deep end and committed to a year of professional culinary school.  I am also living an ocean away from my family and I am pretty terrible at staying in touch. My mom and sister convinced me to create this space so that they could follow my adventures.  As for the name, the game Rock Paper Scissors captured how I felt at the time about committing to culinary school and hitting the pause button on my legal career.  But I live in London.  You know, two nations separated by a common language, and all that.  So of course Rock Paper Scissors had to be Paper Scissors Stone.

So what happened?  Culinary school was invigorating, challenging, fun, fulfilling and generally awesome.  It opened doors to ideas, passions and opportunities that wouldn’t have been there before.  I can say the same thing for blogging.  It turns out that I actually like writing.

So here I am, in a different and unexpected place.  Read More →

Lunch crowd at River Cafe

Lunch crowd at River Cafe

Cross-posted at West London Mum.

Take Me to the River

Do you ever wonder how things work behind the scenes at fine restaurants? I was lucky to get the chance to interview Sian Wyn Owen, head chef at the River Cafe, while shadowing her through an entire lunch shift. Here is a peek at the inner workings of one of west London’s best restaurants and some Q&A with a very cool working mum. Read More →


I am a city girl.  Raised in Washington, D.C. A bit Northern, a bit Southern.  But definitely a city girl.  My mother was my first cooking teacher.  She knows nearly everything there is to know.  Seriously.  She grew up in New Orleans, and this culinary perspective permeated our home meals and has dramatically influenced my taste in food.  Mom is also a city girl, but was very close to her many many relatives who live in the rural (read: swampy) areas beyond Orleans Parish.  My mom is adventurous.  She is old-fashioned and cutting-edge, classical and alterntive, traditional and iconoclastic.  She is one of the most interesting people I know.  She also enjoys my reports of exotic, innovative, historic, divine or awful food discoveries more than anyone.  She is also my resource of first resort for cooking questions.

What follows is a recent email exchange with mom.  I really love the hell out of her.

*     *     *     *     *

From: ME

To: MOM

This morning at the farmers market they had live prawns!  Live wiggly little shrimp!  They were so freaky.  I saw them selling the last ones.  Next week I will get there EARLY!

*     *     *     *     *

From: MOM

To: ME

“Prawns”  Bless your little “British” Heart.  When we used to catch shrimp, we would eat them as is.  Raw.  Cajun sashimi?  Amazing taste of the sea.  Try one if you manage to catch some at the market next week.

*     *     *     *     *

From: ME

To: MOM

Did you just pop them in your mouth?  YIKES!

*     *     *     *     *

From: MOM

To: ME

We used to peel the raw shrimp if they were big. Sometimes we caught tiny ones and just decapitated them before popping them into our mouths.  Tiny, tiny river shrimp were so sweet and the shells were so soft as to be almost non-existent.

Fifty or sixty years ago, shrimp were so plentiful in Lake Pontchartrain that we would catch them with throw nets from the seawall on Lakeshore Drive only a mile or two from your grandparents house.  We’d go out with their friends Josie and Adolph in the evening, set lanterns on the seawall to attract the shrimp, and catch buckets of them. Mama would pack a picnic supper and we’d have a grand time. The breeze off the Lake kept the Mosquitos from eating us alive – and of course they were still spraying with DDT.

*     *     *     *     *

Last Saturday, my in-laws were in town.  My mother-in-law and I got up early and got to the Notting Hill Farmers Market at 8:30.  None of the stalls are allowed to do any business until 9am but we were already the 4th people in the queue at the Christchurch Fish stall.  By the time the market manager rang the bell, there were another 15 people behind us.  There weren’t many prawns that day, and my heart broke a little as each person ahead of me took some home.  But they lasted just long enough, and we bought the last half kilo.  Unsure of my mother’s “cooking” instructions, I asked the fisherman how to prepare them. “I put them in a pan with a little oil and just fry them up.”  As simple as that.

When lunchtime rolled around, we pulled the shrimp (and cockles and mussels) out of the fridge for a visit.  In case you have never seen a live shrimp (I hadn’t), here is news: they jump.  They can jump out of a colander.  They can jump out of the sink.  But don’t worry.  If your dog is anything like mine, you won’t have to chase them around the kitchen.  She’ll just gobble them up.  And really enjoy it.  Yes, my house is a circus.

Trusting the fishmonger over my mother this time, the shrimp went in a skillet of hot butter (and a lid, just in case they were still jumpy) until they were red and firm.  I finished them with salt and smoked paprika.  We all gathered round the table and ate them with baguette (for sopping up the butter) and loads of napkins.  London meets New Orleans for a beautiful family lunch.

My mom is coming to London for Christmas.  I really hope Christchurch has prawns that weekend.  They were good, but not quite the same without her.

A bonus photo of the stowaways that were tangled up in the mussel beards.  They were live, but too small to eat.

 

Last spring we visited New Barns Farm. Our tent came with our own hen. Here she is exploring the perimeter.

I was surprised last week when one of the teachers made a sarcastic comment about American cuisine and used chicken and bananas as an example.  I whispered to the person next to me “what is she talking about?”  “Maryland Chicken,” he answered, his tone indicating that this should have been obvious.  I grew up in DC, a couple miles from the Maryland border.  Maryland is knows for crab cakes, not bananas and poultry.

During a lecture on wine pairings, another teacher was discussing the difficulty of pairing wine with certain foods.   There it was again: her example was strange American foods like Maryland Chicken.  I asked someone else this time, thinking maybe I had just not understood the first time.  Again, “chicken and bananas” was the explanation I got.

I turned to Google and was surprised that the top hits were in fact about this absurd dish being linked to my neighbor state.  Had I been living under a rock?  But then I got suspicious.  The top hits were all UK websites: BBC, Jamie Oliver and British fast-food chain named Maryland Chicken.  I realized that Google was telling me what it thought I wanted to hear — but Google thinks I am British!  To get around the filter bubble, I called my sister in DC and asked her to run the same Google search.  She got none of these sites.  If she searched for chicken and bananas, she got curry recipes as opposed to the “American” recipes I was getting in the UK.  An informal (and statistically meaningless) survey of my facebook friends from Maryland confirmed what I suspected: none of them had ever heard of this dish.

A 2001 Washington City Paper article on the Maryland chicken industry gave some context.  To the extent that there is something known as Maryland Chicken in Maryland, it seems to be really good buttermilk fried chicken made with local birds.  Usually accompanied by gravy.  No mention of bananas.  There was also a rather successful fried chicken chain called Maryland Fried Chicken.  It was at its peak in the 60s and 70s — in Florida.  They specialized in “broasted” chicken, which is awesome and, as you might have guessed, does not involve bananas.

I only found two relevant mentions of bananas with fried chicken.  Wikipedia says that “The dish known in the UK as Chicken Maryland, popular in the 1960s, consisted of fried chicken (often in breadcrumbs) served with sweetcorn fritters and fried bananas.”  An About.com article on French food mentions that Chicken à la Maryland (a classic buttermilk fried chicken) was popular in the early 1900s served with bananas, a major import into Baltimore Harbor.  Assuming this is accurate, it does seem that over time the Americans were happy to leave the bananas where they belonged — off the chicken.  Only in the UK is anyone still making “American”-style chicken with bananas.  It probably says more about UK cuisine than American.  If you are dying to revive this back home, you’ll probably have to try Jamie Oliver.

I guess this mysterious food misnomer shouldn’t be a total surprise.  I think it’s pretty common that foods get attributed to certain locations by historical accident.  My husband, a native of St. Louis, swears that no one in St. Louis knows what St. Louis style ribs are, even though restaurants across America serve them proudly.  As my cousin aptly pointed out, Americans love their French Fries, but they likely came from Belgium.

Fun fact that I can’t leave behind:  Chicken a la Maryland was served for lunch the day before the Titanic sank.  No confirmation on whether this version included bananas, but I would note that the Titanic was a British, not an American vessel.

In addition to learning about food and becoming a better cook, I am trying very hard to help my kids become adventurous eaters.  That has actually been a goal of mine for as long as they’ve been eating solid foods.  And yes, I did make homemade baby food  … it’s just cooked vegetables and a hand blender, I mean, come on … but I digress.  In our family, everyone has to try some of everything on their plate at each meal, and if you want dessert you have to eat most of your meal.  So, one might think that developing adventurous eating habit is mainly about making exotic, yet appealing food.  (See the previous post about cockles…)  That’s only part of the story.  As my husband proved this evening, adventurous eating some times requires plain old adventure.  In an attempt to get “The Fours” to eat their dinner tonight (beef stew with mashed potatoes and barley, brought home from today’s practical session), he pulled out the Lego C-3PO as our supper inspector.  C-3PO popped up every few minutes to check their progress.  “I see you have eaten 32% of your dinner.  The chances of you getting dessert are 756 to 1.”   I’m not sure my 4 year-olds got the math, but it definitely got big laughs, and empty plates.  Well done, Dad.