Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Summer Garden..Winners And Losers

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The summer garden these past two years has been one of boom and bust.  Very cold winters, and very hot summers just about sums it up.

I don't pretend to be a master gardener and some of you know that when I moved to this house I had to seek the help of my readers to identify most of the plants.  But I have learned, the hard way.  Lots of reading and trial an error and lots of dollars spent experimenting with different plants have gone into this garden.  I had no experience with perennials and, what little I knew, came from weekend gardening up north in Connecticut.   Most of what grows well there, including my favorite lilacs and peonies, does not do well in the South.

Ten years in Florida were spent mastering the art of container gardening on the balcony of my ocean front apartment in Key Biscayne.  There the killer was the wind.  With a growing season of twelve months, everything you planted grew like a weed.  Orchids lasted forever and then re bloomed six months later.   I had retired and this was the kind of gardening I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

And then I moved to Georgia....and here I learned that, just like investing in the stock market, it pays to diversify.

Between my daughter and me, we have just about tried every traditional perennial that grows in the South including azaleas, Confederate jasmine, gardenias, hydrangeas, crepe myrtles and camellias.  . The only one I haven't been able to stick in the ground, for lack of space, is a magnolia.  We have one growing in the woods next to the fence, but it won't bloom.  It gets no sun and little light and I'm afraid to go near it for fear of stepping on a snake.

Surprisingly, some of these traditional  perennials are the ones that have gotten hit the hardest .   The azaleas and the jasmine bloomed but not as long or vibrantly as usual.  No such luck with the gardenias or the hydrangea macrophylla. They got hit with a frost just as they were starting to bud and that clinched their fate.  No blooms, except for this one.





No blooms either for the Moonlight Hydrangea by the garden gate.  That was a killer for me, I so look forward to those flowers.  The camellias bloomed later than usual, almost right into Spring. Nothing fazes the crepe myrtle.  It does it's thing year in and year out in spite of the weather.  It needs a good pruning this winter before it overtakes the front of the house.





What saved the summer were the hydrangea paniculata which blooms on new growth.




The one above  is the limelight hydrangea .  There are four in front of mother's window out back.




I have a few of the hydrangea paniculata tardiva along the fence but they are not showing any blooms.





My daughter planted caladium bulbs in a pot to add some color interest out back.  They have done well in spite of the heat.  They are a definite comeback next year.





The hostas have also done well.  Their only enemy is the little Sous Chef who likes to play hide and seek with Lily our lab.

The winners this summer are the ferns.  Now I know why they are a symbol of Southern hospitality. Nothing else thrives like them in this humidity!


Boston fern by the garden gate.  Moonlight hydrangea on the bottom right had no blooms this year.






The Man fern almost died after the surprise frost in early Spring.



That's what you call a come back!



Boston ferns hanging from the crepe myrtle add some interest to the front garden



I've never had a fern that looked this good!


Kitties and ferns by the front door.  How is that for Southern charm!



The fox tail fern is a new addition and definitely a keeper



It will over winter in Madame Mere's apartment







I just came in from watering the front garden.  It's like the land that time forgot out there.  Every year I promise myself that I will not buy as many plants.  Every year I violate this promise and curse throughout the months of July and August when I have to go out and water.

The kitchen is closed for awhile.  The last thing on my mind is food...   I can't wait 'til Fall.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Summer Garden

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I know everyone is talking about how high the temperatures have risen in their part of the world so I won't bore you with details about what is going on in my neck of the woods....but it IS HOT and HUMID, more so this year than others, or so it seems.  This, after the cold winter we had, is not good for any garden, least of all one in the South.

I hibernate in the summer, just like we did in January and February when I lived up North.  It's not the heat, as much as the humidity.  At least in Florida we had the beach.  Here the only water in sight is the lake and frankly, I don't like lakes.  I'm just as finicky about what I can't see underwater as I am about what may lurk under clear water.  I don't do pools either, except for a few, and I'm too old to run through the hose in the backyard, although I welcome the respite when I'm caught in the yard by the sprinklers.

I stepped outside for a few minutes yesterday to clean up the vines that strangle the gardenias and now threaten what's left of the rose bushes.  Madame Mere likes to have cut flowers in her apartment, even though she can perfectly see them from the big window in her living room. I spent hours planting stuff for her to enjoy the view but, for her, it's not the same.


MM's living room and bedroom windows front and left.  Mortitia's Garden is on the right 

Clematis, roses, hydrangeas, gardenias, gladioli, peonies and a splash of angelonia all bloom in sequence throughout the spring and summer; but she likes them inside, in a vase,  so I cut a few just to make her happy.  The grass in the backyard is fescue and it hates the heat; so in spite of the small fortune I pay TrueGreen, it wimps out until it cools down.

The gardenias have come back to a point.  I think they know they will be replaced unless they put on a good show in early Spring.  There's no point replacing them now if we get another winter like we had last year.  Gardenias and the mop head hydrangeas (hydrangea macrophylla)  are the most susceptible to freezing weather and frost.  Neither bloomed this year.


The rose bushes on the lower right in front of MM's window hibernate in the heat and come back in September, or so we hope. 


Here are the dahlias coming up in Mortitia's Garden, so named six years ago after a failed experiment with wild flowers.  Some of you may remember....























Coneflowers  were planted and are thriving around the dahlias.






Mortitia's Garden is my daughter's garden and we are forbidden from cutting any flowers without written permission; but I bought the dahlias, so I'm exempt to a point.  Now that she's away and it's too hot to go outside,  MM and I are enjoying them inside.















This small dahlia has been growing in a pot on our deck.  It has bloomed since June!


And this little coneflower is having a bad hair day having to wear The Cone of Shame for the next few days!


I'll show you the rest of the garden next.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

My "Secret" Recipe for Peach And Almond Crumble

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The local fruit this year continues to amaze me.  The cantaloupes have been out of this world and, so plentiful, they are selling two for $3 at the local market.  The peaches are the first I taste this year and they are also outstanding; although I have to admit these were from South Carolina and not Georgia. They were sweet and so juicy I had to eat them over the sink.





I was caught empty handed this weekend when I went to make a crumble and there was no oatmeal in the pantry.  Although I don't like the taste of oatmeal on crisps or crumbles, I do like the consistency it gives the topping, so a substitute had to be found.  Enter some sliced almonds AND a packet of Quaker Instant Maple And Brown Sugar Oatmeal  that I keep around for emergencies when my stomach is too sick to handle anything else. 

I have to confess I gave this a lot of thought.  Six luscious ripe peaches were not something you risk on a whim.  When all was said and done, this crumble was outstanding.  So much so, I will make it again exactly as I made it this time.  It will be my secret recipe for peach crumble. Seriously, in order to make it a secret recipe there has to be something unusual in it.  Like a pear in the pumpkin soup, right?  Well here it is a packet of instant oatmeal, but make sure it is the one I used.  I think it was the hint of maple sugar that gave it that "Je ne sais quoi:" taste.  Whatever it was, it was gobbled up in no time...need I say more?





I had planned to share half the recipe with my sick neighbor but when I opened the fridge the next morning, this is what was left.  My daughter and some friends came back after a party late that night and the crumble was history.

..and the moral of the story.  Don't hesitate to experiment in the kitchen.  It might turn out to be your next "secret" recipe."

Do you have a secret recipe? I would love to hear about it!






Peach And Almond Crumble

Serves 8

Ingredients:

5 to 6 peaches (Georgia or South Carolina)
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
3/4 cups plus 2 to 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour,
pinch of salt
1/2 cup quick-cooking oatmeal*
1 stick unsalted butter, diced
3/4 cup sliced almonds

1 cup whipping cream
2 tsps sugar

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the inside of a square baking pan.

Immerse the peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds, then place them in cold water. Peel the peaches and slice them into thick wedges and place them into a large bowl together with the juice.  Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons of flour. Toss well. Allow the mixture to sit for at least 5 minutes. If there is a lot of liquid, add 1 more tablespoon of flour. Pour the peaches into the baking dish and gently smooth the top.

Combine 3/4 cup flour, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup crushed almonds, the oatmeal, salt and the diced butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix at low speed until the butter is pea size and the mixture is crumbly.

Sprinkle evenly on top of the peaches.

Cook at 350 for 1/2 hour.  Take out, sprinkle the rest of the almonds and continue cooking for another 1/2 hour.    Let it rest for 1/2 hour.

Note:

I highly recommend that you skip the ice cream and serve with freshly made whipped cream.  (Add 2 tsps of sugar)

This can be made ahead and reheated at  350 for about 20 minutes.  Cover with foil if the almonds begin to darken

This recipe can be doubled and cooked in a 9x13 Pyrex.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Poulet Roti Madame Mere...Broiled Chicken Thighs With Champagne And Tarragon

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This recipe was not intended for a post, but after Madame Mere declared it the best meal she's had since she arrived, I just had to share it with you.  I am still shocked that after all the meals I have prepared for her, this would be the one to elicit the most praise from her lips.

It all started with a cup of leftover Champagne.  You know how I hate to throw stuff away.  I had shared a bottle with my daughter in law on the occasion of my granddaughter's first birthday on Sunday and was salivating a risotto the next day; but the thought of another rich meal so soon after that was not terribly appealing.  Every recipe I looked into for this iconic dish had cream in it and that was not too enticing,  I wanted something simple.  I was still putting things away from the party the night before and frankly my stomach could not take another heavy meal.   So I decided to go on my own and try something new.  The result was an unexpected hit, especially with MM.  The best part, though, was that it was simple and quick and I had all the ingredients on hand.  Talk about a home run...

There are two ways you can approach this recipe.  You can wait until you have leftover Champagne OR, you can plan ahead.  If you can't wait, and it is an elegant and quick main course for entertaining during the week, buy a bottle of good French Champagne like Veuve Cliquot, open it an hour or two before your guests arrive, save what you need for the marinade and put the bottle back in the fridge. You can recork the bottle with a Champagne cork or, better yet, let it sit unopened. Champagne stays bubbly for quite awhile.  Serve it for cocktails or with this meal. That, my friends, would be over the top!

Whilst I highly recommend you use chicken thighs in this recipe, you can also use breasts and legs or a combination of all three. Adjust the recipe accordingly, but don't use skinless and boneless parts.  The skin helps keep the moisture in and you can always remove it after it is served on your plate.

I did not have fresh shallots, but I always keep a jar of dried ones in the pantry for emergencies like this.  The one thing that must be fresh, though, is the tarragon. Don't chop it up until right before you add it to the chicken.  That is when it releases it's aroma.

If you are wondering why I would use onion and garlic powder instead of the fresh ingredients, it was for aesthetic purposes only.  I wanted to end up with a browned chicken with sauce, no onions or garlic around it.

As I was planning a simple meal of broiled chicken, I prepared mashed potatoes and green beans.  If you want to dress it up, you can always place the chicken on top of wild rice and serve a simple vegetable like green beans or sauteed spinach,  If you must serve a salad, serve it afterwards, a la francaise.  You don't want the vinegar in the dressing to compete with the sauce.

Bon appetit!


Poulet Roti Madame Mere

Ingredients
Serves 3 or 4

4 chicken thighs
1/2 cup of Champagne (leftover will do)
1 orange (the juice of) or 1/4 cup orange juice
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh tarragon
1/2 cup fresh or dried shallots
olive oil
Sea Salt
Pepper

3 TB butter

Directions:

1.  Get a bottle of Champagne and enjoy it with a friend. It doesn't have to be Veuve Cliquot, my one and only.  This recipe was tested with 2 day old Costco Champagne! I highly recommend it over any other cheap Champagne in the market ($20), and you know I know my wines.

2.  Don't be tempted to drink the whole thing.  Control yourself and save at least 1/2 cup.

3.  Marinade 4 chicken thighs in 1/2 cup of Champagne, the juice of one orange or1/4 cup of orange juice, 1 tsp. each garlic and onion powder (sprinkle over the chicken) 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh tarragon leaves, 1/2 cup chopped fresh or dried shallots and olive oil.  Cover and let sit for at least 1 hour.

4.  Take the chicken out of the marinade, carefully pat dry and slip some of the tarragon leaves from the marinade under the chicken skin.




5.  Place chicken in a long Pirex, add sea salt and pepper on top and place 1/2 TB butter on top of each thigh.  the other 1 TB of butter is halved and placed in the middle.  Set the oven to broil.

6.  Broil in the upper part (not the top) of the oven for 15 minutes.

7.  Remove chicken from the oven and add back the marinade




8.  Reduce oven temperature to 375  and continue cooking for 30 minutes or until done. Baste a couple of times.

This was accompanied with mashed potatoes and french cut green beans for a simple week night meal.


If you are en regime, you can omit the butter.


Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Quick And Easy Summer Meals...Fettuccine With Mushrooms And Asparagus

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I have fallen in love with asparagus this Spring.  Don't get me wrong. I have always adored them; but this year it's like falling in love all over again.  You know that feeling...the little smirk on your face, the twinkle in your eyes.  It must be a metabolic thing, just like the time I fell in love with tomatoes when I was pregnant with my first child. All I wanted were those big juicy tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil and basil; and big glasses of tomato juice in mid morning with saltine crackers.

Even though I haven't posted an asparagus recipe this year (there are tons of them from the past) we have been having them at least twice a week.  We love them cold with olive oil and vinegar, sometimes with chopped eggs on top, and with Hollandaise Sauce once in awhile.  I think I am finally coming to the end of this love affair and I am now looking forward to the summer bounty.

Morels are in season now but I haven't found them at the local markets.  If you find them where you live, you must buy some; but don't fall in love with them, they are quite pricey and will break your heart (as well as your pocketbook).   Only entertain the idea for a fling or a one night stand.

Baby Bellas, on the other hand, are easy to find and  less pricey.  They are available at my local Costco but they come in a big box, So you have them with steak one night and use the rest for something like this.  They keep well in the produce compartment of the fridge.

*The main thing about this recipe is that it is cooked in the classic Italian fashion by adding the al dente pasta to the pan with the sauce and letting it finish cooking there. Instead of swelling with more salted water in the final minutes, it will absorb as mush flavor as possible from the essence of the sauteed mushrooms and the rest of the sauce.

You will enjoy this pasta.  It is substantial and filling enough to serve on its own with a glass of chilled French rose.  If you must serve dessert, make it a light one!
   



Fettuccine With Mushrooms And Asparagus

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red onion cut into small dice
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, wiped clean with a damp cloth and thinly sliced (or Baby Bellas)
1/2 cup homemade vegetable (or chicken) stock or store-bought, low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
1/2-1 pound thin or pencil asparagus, thinly sliced on the bias, tip end left about 1 1/2 inches long
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 pound dried fettuccine or pappardelle
2 tablespoons shredded basil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Procedure:

1. Bring 6 quarts water to a boil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over high heat, then add 2 tablespoons salt.

2. While waiting for the water to boil, heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and pepper flakes and sauté quickly to keep the ingredients from scorching. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until the mushrooms darken slightly in color and are softened but still holding their shape, about 5 minutes. Add the broth and asparagus and cook, stirring gently, for 2 minutes. Stir in the cream, immediately reduce the heat to keep it from scorching, and cook for several minutes.




3. Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in a sauté pan over low heat, shaking the pan, just until they are warm and fragrant, about 2 minutes.

4. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente, 7 to 9 minutes from the time the water returns to a boil (10 minutes if you are using pappardelle).

5. Add the basil, butter, pine nuts, and cheese to the pan with the mushrooms and toss well.

6. Reserve a cup or so of the pasta's cooking liquid, then drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the mushrooms, asparagus, and sauce. If the sauce seems too dry, stir in a few tablespoons of the reserved pasta water. Toss, taste, and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, and more pepper flakes if necessary.

7. Present the pasta in a bowl and serve family style from the center of the table, or divide among individual plates.



A little Parmigiano on top is not a bad idea!



Adapted from Nightly Specials: 125 Recipes for Spontaneous, Creative Cooking at Home
All photos Lindaraxa

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sweet And Spicy Mango Chutney

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Like a lot of you who have been exposed to mango chutney in this country or in the UK, I grew up on Major Grey's.  I don't know if it is the best chutney in the world but it is definitely my benchmark and what I pull out of the fridge to accompany Indian food and sometimes grilled meats.  I know, sacrilege.  I should probably be shot by the chutney police but some habits are hard to break.



 I have made chutney before and, in mid summer, my Georgia Peach Chutney is a staple in this house. I have also had the real stuff in my travels, sometimes so hot I couldn't breathe;  but I had never tackled mango chutney at home until yesterday.  A few months ago, my friend Chronica Domus asked me for a recipe, specifically for mango chutney.  I never forget a request, but I was waiting for mango season to make a batch for the house and close friends   I don't know if you have noticed that the mangoes this year are outstanding.  It must have also been a bumper crop, for I got 10 for $10.  How could I pass that.




Madame Mere and I adore mango marmalade with cream cheese and crackers, something we both grew up with in Cuba.  If you really want to savor a mango, though, you must have one on the beach, knee deep in water, with the waves breaking on your legs, a mango in one hand and a mango fork or a knife in the other. I will never forget the time one of my childhood friends showed up with a set of sterling mango forks and a bag of mangoes to enjoy on the beach in Key Biscayne.

If you are very lucky, you will have inherited a sterling set of mango forks from your great grandmother. The last time I remember seeing one before that memorable day at the beach was at my grandmother's house in Havana.  I wonder who is using them now and what they are using them for!

After making a batch of marmalade for MM, I remembered CD's request and went back for more mangoes.   I wanted to make a homemade version of my adored Major Grey's.  I also did not want one of those cloudy chutneys where you don't know what is what.  I wanted to see the pieces of mango and I wanted them crystal clear.  It had to be sweet, but not too sweet and hot but not oppressive.  I could have stopped with the mustard seeds, and you can too, but I also wanted some spice.  Luckily, when it comes to Asian spices, I have a good supply, so the only thing I had to buy was the caramelized ginger.  I like the texture it gives my peach chutney.  In the end, I think I ended up with what, in my mind, is a homemade version of Major Grey's, keeping in mind that commercial versions of chutney are never going to come close to one made at home.

Now, if you are wondering what the mango fork has to do with making mango chutney, it was the thought of that memorable day on the beach, sharing a mango with two childhood friends.  Priceless!




Mango Chutney

Chutney is a family of condiments associated with South Asian cuisine made from a highly variable mixture of spices, vegetables, or fruit.  There is a wide variety of recipes and preparation methods depending on geography.  Chutney can also range from wet to dry, and from sweet or hot. 

 The original chutney of India was usually a relish made from fresh fruits and spices. During the colonial era the British took it home and the recipe evolved, until the commercially made mango chutney ("Major Grey's chutney") became the British standard chutney. Commercially made cooked chutneys are still popular in Great Britain, and are usually made of fruit (usually mangoes, apples or pears), onions and raisins simmered with vinegar, brown sugar and spices for about two hours. Chutneys are served with almost every meal in India, especially as relishes with curries, but also as sauces for hot dishes (especially meats). They can be fresh or cooked, and are made from a wide variety of ingredients, ranging in flavor from sweet or sour, spicy or mild, or any combination; they can be thin or chunky and can be made with fruits or vegetables or both. Mangoes, apples, pears, tamarind, onions, lemon, tomato, raisins, coconut, vinegar, sugar, honey, citrus peel, garlic, ginger, mint, turmeric, cinnamon, cilantro, and hot chilies are some of the ingredients used. Cooked mango or papaya chutneys are common in the Caribbean and have become increasingly popular in the United States. Food.com 







Lindaraxa' Sweet And Spicy Mango Chutney*
Yield 3 pints and 1 cup

Ingredients:

5-6 mangoes (5 cups) peeled and diced

2 cups of white granulated sugar

1 cup white vinegar

1 onion chopped

1 red pepper diced

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup crystalized ginger finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, mashed and minced

1 tsp. whole mustard seeds

1 tsp coriander seeds

3 kaffir lime leaves

1/4 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp  whole cloves

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cardamon

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes


Directions:

Combine the sugar and the vinegar in a large pot, bring to a boil, reduce to medium high  and stir until fully dissolved.

Add the mangoes, onion, red peppers, raisins, ginger and garlic and mix around in the pot. Let them simmer in the syrup while you mix the spices.

Combine the rest of the ingredients (the spices) in a bowl or other container and add to the pot.

Simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until syrupy and slightly thickened.




Remove the kaffir leaves and spoon into clean jars leaving 1/2 inch head space.  Close jars and process in water bath 15-20  minutes.


*If you want your chutney less "crystal clear", substitute brown sugar for the white sugar.

 If you want it "mushier" cook longer.  Otherwise, I would not mess with the spices, it's perfect. 



Try Georgia Peach Chutney With Caramelized Ginger

Grilled Chicken Tikka With Fresh Mango Chutney

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Mystery Object Revealed

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I was surprised at the fact that I stumped two of my faithful readers, the ones I was positive would come up with the name of the mystery utensil in the last post.  It was no surprise to see one of my Cuban friends, and former bridge partner, get it right.  I am sure there was a beautiful sterling set in his family, very similar to the one in the photo above.  What I would love to know is how Donna got it right, Please tell us, for they are very rare these days and not many people have ever used one, least of all, seen one.

I am sure that by now you have scrolled down (and cheated) and found out that the mystery object is.....A MANGO FORK!




The reason my friend Val and I are familiar with them is our Cuban heritage.  Mango forks, of the style pictured above, were made and used in Cuba as early as 1900.  If you were wealthy, you probably owned a sterling or Mexican silver set for use at the table when fresh mangoes were served for dessert.

Although I found out that a US plate manufacturer made them as early as 1924 (Washington Post article, June 26, 1924) I don't think many people in this country used them.   In the early 1900's mangoes were considered by some to be "unsafe" and were rarely imported.  When they were, the fruit was of poor quality. (The Literary Digest August 22, 1903).

It seems mango forks were a Victorian dining implement that was created for a delicacy that only the wealthy could afford at the time, or were thought to appreciate. Victorians were known for their one-upmanship at the dining table. The wealthier they were, the more exotic the food being served. The more silver they had for the exotic foods, the more light was reflected in the room.- Cooking Down Under

I couldn't find much else written about the mango fork or where they were first invented.  But I did come across the copy of a British patent in 1884 in a silver forum. Notice the fork is very similar to the utilitarian form used in Cuba and Victorian England





Antique mango forks, are very hard to come by these days, mainly because when they do show up for sale, they are usually classified as something else,  Maura Graber  has been hunting them for years and found many old ones in Amsterdam described as a cake fork or prikker.  She wrote a self published book, Let Them Eat Cake: …the Strange Saga of the Mango Fork & The Unique Dining Habits of the DutchIt makes sense to find mango forks in Holland, given the Dutch history in the East and West Indies.



Maura Graber's collection of Dutch mango forks via Cooking Down Under


While  mango forks were also made in Germany, Spain, France, Russia, Austria, Mexico, Cuba and the US, they tended to be fairly utilitarian looking. The Dutch forks, however, were highly decorative. Some feature windmills or have very ornate handles. Some include detailed embossed picture above the tines.



Maura Graber Collection via Cooking Down Under  

Notice the mango forks in the middle of the picture.  They are French, made by Cristofle.

As you can see, the ones I bought on E Bay are the more utilitarian looking forks, similar to the French seen on the photo above.  They were described as Victorian  and silver plate.  They came from a dealer in Texas, which probably means they were owned by someone in Mexico, where they have always been popular.  As a matter of fact, most of the old ones that come to market as sterling are usually Mexican silver (top photo).  Mine are signed BOKER, a German manufacturer and they are old, but definitely not silver.  They were probably plated but the silver is long gone.


Photo on E Bay of the Boker forks I purchased






A little shine but not much else.





The Mango Fork.

From The Washington Post of June 26, 1924, via The Old Foodie


THE MANGO FORK

In “Fruit Recipes” published nearly twenty years ago, one of the things said about the mango is this: “The fruit is truly exceedingly juicy ….but where the mango grows in the greatest luxuriance and it is properly understood and used one may procure the regular mango fork, a three pronged affair of which the middle prong is long and projected, so that the fruit will not slip.”

This was the kind of fork on which the first mango I had in Havana, Cuba, some weeks ago, was served, at a place where they ate and drank fruit, and forthwith I went hunting for some of those forks. The first I found were made by one of the leading makers of plate in the United States, but I kept up my quest to get the Cuban make and succeeded.

The Spanish buccaneers probably ate mangoes. In a 100-year old book on the West Indies, written by a woman, which I read some years ago to learn about the foods there, it speaks of the great variety of fruits and says of the mango: “It is certainly the most abundant. This fruit hangs in such thick clusters that the fruit of one tree is immense. There are many varieties, but the small ones are the best.” A small, delicate yellow one is mentioned, a coarse green one, etc.

Outside the tropics the mango is now mostly eaten by epicures, and two budded varieties, mulgobaa and Haden, are spoken of as the aristocrats of the family. “To the connoisseur these two varieties combine all the delicious flavors and aromas of the peach, apple, pear, cantaloupe, and pineapple, and, in addition, a delightfully spicy flavor all their own.


Mango fork from Rubylane.com origin unknown


HOW TO USE A MANGO FORK:

Insert fork into stem end.





With knife, slit skin from top to bottom, then peel skin like a banana.





Slice the fruit from the skin. or eat it like a popsicle  The latter is definitely not done at the dinner table!!





I must say that although I came up pretty much empty handed,  this is one of the most interesting subjects I have ever researched and it brought fond memories of my grandmother and her mango forks.  If I remember well, she used to salt the mango before eating it, something I found extremely odd.

There isn't much on the Internet about mango forks, but I have ordered a couple of books that hopefully will enlighten me further on the subject.  If you have any knowledge about their history, please share it with us.

Even though I wasn't expecting much from my purchase via E Bay, I did get the pleasure of watching Madame Mere use her mango fork with dexterity after lunch.  A real pro! Nothing stumps this lady. By the way, I only paid $25 for the forks and consider it money well spent, silver plate or not.

Stay tuned for the recipe that sent me in search of the mango fork.




Images 1 and 3 EBAY
2, 4 and 5 Lindaraxa
6, 7, 8 mangofoirk.com

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