Memphis is an odd city. It’s a rough and rambling river town, always ready for a bar fight. Despite being in the middle of the Delta and the home of Elvis, Memphis is neither a little bit country nor a little bit rock ‘n roll. We’re not a little bit anything, in fact. Pick any hot topic – race, class, poverty, education, health – and you’ll find in Memphis the full spectrum of extremes.
The clash between these extremes makes us look like our own Jerry Springer show, in constant need of an intervention. And since we wear our real selves out in the open, it would be easy to take one quick look at us and quickly conclude that we are divided, conquered, and capable of agreeing on nothing.
Unless you parachute directly into Memphis’s one and only Whole Foods Market. If you live here and have shopped at Whole Foods, either pre- or post its recent expansion makeover, then you already know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, then I’ll try to explain:
At any time of day, any day of the week, the group of people shopping at Whole Foods Memphis looks like one of those made-up diversity posters, the “We Are the World” ones that don’t reflect any actual workplace, apartment community or neighborhood. There they are, the entire crew: urban, suburban, Indian, Jamaican, Hindu, Jew, Seventh Day Adventist, white, black and brown. And while there are plenty of German-engineered sports cars and SUVs in the parking lot, there are also a few Dodge Darts and many cars that fall in between.
It is, in my many years here, the only place like it in the entire city (although my children’s elementary school comes pretty close).
No church, community center, store, or public park brings together this same Whole Foods crowd, this little melting pot full of people from across the spectrum that is Memphis. As the shoppers dressed in Uggs and Lululemon mingle with the ones in Rasta hats, everyone seems to roll along just fine, combing through 73 varieties of organic kale and waiting in line for pizza.
Who knew an overpriced grocery offering everything from raw alfalfa seeds to Cowgirl Creamery triple cream Mt. Tam would be our one patch of common ground, here in the capital of the real world?
Food, week of January 27, 2014
I have an out of town project this week, so I’m trying to keep things simple for my folks. And yes, I was at Whole Foods to stock up on 365 brand frozen pizza and Ian’s chicken nuggets. I’m planning meals, but I’m also a realist.
I cooked a bunch of chicken breasts in the slow cooker, shredded the meat, divided it into three containers and put it in the freezer ready to thaw and quickly assemble the Tortilla Torta, the chicken hash and the tacos. I’ll stock the refrigerator with vegetables and fruits and hope for the best.
This easy dish is basically a Mexican-style lasagne that uses corn tortillas instead of pasta and green salsa instead of Italian red gravy. Can be served with a simple green salad, cut raw vegetables or fresh fruit.
Potato Chive Pancakes | Chicken Hash | Romaine Salad
I make chicken hash differently from any recipe I could find online, and I serve it over either waffles or potato pancakes. If I’m using leftover roast chicken, I make a brown gravy from the pan drippings (do NOT skim the fat – it’s what makes the sauce), thin with broth if needed, and stir in shredded chicken. My mother would sometimes add pimiento peppers for color, but I think they make the hash bitter. Add sauteed onions or fresh bell pepper instead, if you’re looking to add color and texture. If I’m using boiled or poached chicken, I’ll saute some onions in a mix of butter and coconut oil, whisk in flour, cook until it’s light brown, then add hot broth until the gravy is the right consistency. Stir in the shredded chicken and season to taste. My children prefer waffles (I use the Joy of Cooking recipe), but Bernard likes hash browns. This recipe for potato chive pancakes from Martha Stewart Everyday Food is a compromise between the two. It’s tricky to get the pancake to stay all in one piece, but it tastes just fine even if it falls into pieces.
I season shredded chicken (or cooked ground beef) with a mix of onion power, cumin, chili powder, oregano, salt and crushed fresh garlic. I add a bit of chicken stock at the same time as the spices then let it cook until the liquid evaporates. I serve with shredded lettuce, sour cream, cheese, cilantro, red onion, lime and salsa.
Chopped Salad | Grilled Cheese
A chopped salad is easy to prepare several days ahead, or to prepare on the weekend and eat throughout the week. We like carrots, bell peppers (red/yellow/green), cucumber (peeled and seeded), and red onion. My current favorite grilled cheese uses thin slices of bread from a whole grain boule, sharp white cheddar cheese, grainy mustard and Duke’s mayonnaise.
The new recipe we’ll be trying this week is Mark Bittman’s Salmon Burger. I will have to make this while no one is looking, because I’m pretty sure the sight of pulverized raw salmon in the blender will make the entire dinner a no-go for my family. I’ll serve with Alexia oven fries and quick pickles (thickly slice 4-5 small cucumbers and place in a glass bowl or other container along with 1-2 garlic cloves (sliced or whole), some peppercorns and some fresh dill; in a small sauce pan heat 1 c. vinegar, 1/4 c. sugar and 1 tsp. kosher salt until it boils. Pour the hot liquid over the cucumbers, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.)