a g a st r o n o m i c a l a n d p s y c h o g e o g r a p h i c a l journey through harrisonburg virginia
â€œFood is our common ground, a universal experienceâ€? James Beard
This book all started with a simple task: make a set of rules, an algorithm, that will guide me and determine my course of travel during walks throughout Harrisonburg. My algorithm was based on the number of pieces of gum I would see on the ground in a certain number of steps taken. The number of pieces (whether an odd or even number or a number ending in 0) determined if I turned left, right, or went straight at an intersection and after a number of times, I would stop at a point in my walk. I would pick up an object to keep and, in return, leave a small pouch with a seed planted inside to create a moveable garden. It was a psychogeographical study, one that forced me to travel in an undetermined way, free of subjectivity, and increased my awareness of my seemingly familiar landscape. That is the concept of dĂŠrive, or drift. Its purpose is to encounter a new and authentic geographic experience, to essentially flow though the surroundings as if made of wind. After ending my walks I had a plethora of items and photographs as well as memories of the sights seen during my miles of trekking. They were representations of the town where I have lived for four years showing both the aspects of which I had already known about and those which presented themselves to me for the first time. From that point on, I constructed this five-course dinner, inspired entirely by my dĂŠrive, and then created each dish as a work of sculpture and documented it in photographic form.
There were many things that I wanted to represent in my meal from what I saw in my walks. I first took a look at the most obvious source of inspiration, the items I picked up as well as aspects of the food culture in Harrisonburg and Virginia. I saw many broken beer bottles, so I used beer in the braised chicken recipe, a paper Burger King crown, hence the crown of asparagus, pine cones (pine nuts), a strange metal object with a round well in the middle (the potato nest), and many flowers. The fact that Harrisonburg plays a significant part in the poultry business brought eggs and chicken into my meal. The Virginia food culture inspired the use of the Virginia ham and several fresh spring and summer vegetables. I then began to extract deeper meaning from my walks. One thing that stood out to me was that the Latino population in Harrisonburg is very prominent. I had never really recognized it before. As I explored the less traveled nooks of town I found many interesting Hispanic shops and restaurants and large communities of Latin American people living in certain neighborhoods. One particular restaurant I remember was El Sol on Elizabeth Street (see back cover). Though insignificant and discreet on the outside, I found out on a later day that a vibrant culture exists inside. They serve very authentic Mexican food, from simple tacos and quesadillas to the more bizarre tripe stew, and also make their own corn tortillas every day. I even used those for my tostada recipe and they were better than anything I could get at a grocery store. I saw such a prominent culture in Harrisonburg and wondered just how many people, especially amongst the student population, took note of its existence. So, to bring light to this culture, this Harrisonburg meal combines elements of traditional Latin American cuisine while incorporating ingredients that are typical to Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. The dishes are innovative but cost effective and use ingredients that are affordable and typically available in the homes of Hispanic families such as plantains, tortillas, potatoes, black beans, rice, avocados, tomatoes. Because this project started partly with a purpose of creating a moveable garden by leaving seed pouches throughout town during our walks, I wanted my meal to represent gardens and the natural world as well. Most of the dishes and the way they are arranged sculpturally on the plate are inspired by natural scenes I saw in Harrisonburg like birdâ€™s nests and various versions of flower gardens. This garden theme serves as a symbol for growth and revitalization for the community, not only in terms of its sustainability, but also in terms of its awareness and acceptance of the diversity within that.
I also found many objects on my walks that had spiral patterns like the pinecone, the feather, a piece of swirling string, and certain plants. In my research I discovered that the spiral is a symbol for awareness, a journey, and coming together. Therefore I used ingredients that come from plants with a spiral patterns (pine nuts, pineapple, sunflower seeds) and created the look of a spiral in a few of the dishes as well to further bring about a meaning of this book as a representation of a journey and a means to inspire others to take a journey or dĂŠrive as well. Finally, I wanted to show the process of my construction of my food sculptures in this book. A plate of food looks nice in a photograph but there is an entire creative process before that photo is taken that can be challenging, exciting, and full of discovery. It is every bit as important as the finished product. Similarly, during the walks through Harrisonburg, the actual process of walking, discovering, picking up my objects, leaving my seed pouch, taking photographs, counting the pieces of gum on the ground, were just as significant as the pile of evidence and pictures I had at the end. I hope this book serves many purposes. I hope it makes people aware of the cultural diversity in Harrisonburg while also allowing them to discover its inherent Shenandoah Valley culture. I hope it gets people to cook, to make dishes for others, and to try new things. Cooking can be a dĂŠrive itself when it is inspired not by a recipe but by feeling and emotion. So feel free to stray from these recipes and cater them to your own likes and preferences. And mostly I hope this book inspires others to look around more and to stray from their familiar paths and into new territory. You just may be surprised (and inspired) by what you find.
“There are only four great arts: music, painting, sculpture, and ornamental pastry— architecture being perhaps the least banal derivative of the latter.” Julia Child, My Life in France
MENU Roasted asparagus crown with a soft boiled egg in a shredded potato nest with a tomato aioli "Flower Garden" salad with plantain and ham pinwheels, sunflower brittle and honey lime dressing Oven roasted tomato tulips stuffed with tuna salad with a spring onion stem, avocado puree and toasted pine nuts
Intro: text Beer braised chicken tostadas with black bean filling and pineapple red pepper salsa Churros with chocolate chili sauce, apple strawberry sauce and horchata
Roasted asparagus crown with a soft boiled egg in a shredded potato nest with a tomato aioli Ingredients 10 stalks asparagus 1 tsp olive oil 2 large eggs 1 russet potato 1/2 Tbs olive oil ¼ cup fire roasted tomatoes from a can, drained ¼ cup mayonnaise ½ tsp minced garlic ½ tsp mustard salt and pepper to taste serves 2
for the asparagus Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and dry the asparagus and trim the thicker woody ends. Lay the asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzle with the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat the asparagus evenly with the oil and then arrange them in a single layer on the pan. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes. for the eggs Bring a pot with about 2 inches of water to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat slightly and place the egg in the water. Simmer for 6 minutes. After 6 minutes remove the egg from the pot and place in a bowl of very cold water for a few minutes. Remove from the water and carefully use a knife to remove the top part of the egg to expose the yolk. for the potato nest Place the unpeeled potato in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain and refrigerate the potato for an hour to cool. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and lightly grease a 12-cup muffin pan. Peel the potato and coarsely grate. Toss the grated potato with some salt and pepper. Place half of the grated potato into the muffin pan and press into the bottom and up the sides, creating a well in the center. Bake until golden, about 25-30 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and remove from tin. for the tomato aioli Combine the tomatoes, mayonnaise, garlic, mustard, and salt and pepper in a small food processor and blend until smooth. to arrange Find a tall thin glass and arrange half of the asparagus spears in the glass, letting them bend backwards to form the shape of a crown. Take one of the potato nests and place the egg in the center standing upright. Serve with the aioli for dipping.
“"Flower Garden"” salad with plantain and ham pinwheels, sunflower brittle, and honey-lime dressing Ingredients 1 very ripe plantain 2 thin slices of Virginia ham cut into 4 long strips 2 thin slices of Swiss or Manchego cheese cut into 4 long strips 1 Tbs. olive oil ¼ cup raw sunflower seeds ½ Tbs honey 1 tsp. canola oil pinch of salt 2 Tbs. fresh lime juice 2 Tbs olive oil 1 Tbs honey pinch of cayenne pepper salt and pepper to taste chopped cilantro (optional) serves 2
for the pinwheels Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Peel the plantain and slice into 1/8 inch slices with a mandolin or sharp knife. Lay out the plantain slices. Place a piece of the ham the same length and width as the plantain slice overtop along with a piece of cheese also the same length and width. Starting from the bottom, roll up the plantain into a tight spiral and secure with a toothpick. Place on a lightly oiled or parchment lined baking sheet. Continue with the rest of the plantain slices (the amount of cheese and ham you use will depend on how many slices of plantain you have) placing them all on the sheet. It will make about 8. Brush them all lightly with the oil and bake until golden brown (15-20 minutes) for the sunflower seeds Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a small bowl combine the honey and the oil and mix together. Add the sunflower seeds and the salt and stir to combine. Pour onto a parchment lined baking sheet and spread flat (you can place them alongside the pinwheels) and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. for the dressing Place all of the ingredients in a bowl. Use a fork to whisk together. Alternately you could add all of the ingredients into an old jar with a lid and shake to combine. Add any additional seasoning to taste. to arrange Place a few handfuls of mixed greens on a plate. Nestle 4 of the plantain flowers amongst the greens. Scatter the honeyed seeds over the salad. Drizzle with the dressing.
“Dining partners, regardless of gender, social standing, or the years they’ve lived, should be chosen for their ability to eat - and drink! - with the right mixture of abandon and restraint. They should enjoy food, and look upon its preparation and its degustation as one of the human arts.” M.F.K. Fisher, Serve It Forth
Oven roasted tomato tulips stuffed with tuna salad with a spring onion stem, avocado puree and toasted pine nuts Ingredients 3 roma tomatoes 2 tsp olive oil salt and pepper 6 spring onions, two inches trimmed from the top and bottom 4 ounces white chunk albacore tuna packed in water and drained 1 Tbs Mexican crema or sour cream zest and juice of half a lemon ½ Tbs chopped chives pinch of cayenne salt and pepper to taste ½ avocado 1 Tbs lemon juice 1 Tbs olive oil 1-2 spoonfuls sour cream or Mexican crema salt and pepper to taste a small handful of pine nuts serves 2
for the roasted tomatoes and spring onions Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Slice the tomatoes and remove the seeds with a small spoon or your fingers. Drizzle the olive oil over the tomatoes and the spring onions and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Place tomatoes on a parchment lined baking sheet, making sure the tomatoes are hollow side up. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes until slightly browned and shriveled but not burnt. Add the spring onions to the baking pan for the last 15 minutes of cooking. Allow to cool slightly before using. for the tuna salad Combine the tuna, crema or sour cream, lemon juice and zest, chives, cayenne, and salt and pepper in a small bowl and stir to combine. for the avocado puree Combine the avocado, lemon, olive oil, sour cream or crema, salt and pepper in a small food processor and puree until smooth. If you do not have a food processor, mash with a fork until very smooth and creamy. Taste and season if necessary. for the pine nuts Place a small handful of pine nuts in a dry skillet. Place over a medium-low heat to toast. Shake the pan frequently to ensure even browning. Once golden all over, remove the pine nuts from the heat and transfer to a small plate to cool. Once cool, coarsely chop. to arrange Spoon three mounds of the tuna salad on each plate. Place one tomato half over each pile of tuna salad, cut side down, to create the look of a flower petal. Place the spring onions so they are extending down from the end of each tuna and tomato “flower” like a stem. Spoon some of the avocado puree onto each plate and garnish with the pine nuts.
Beer braised chicken tostadas with black bean filling and pineapple red pepper salsa Ingredients 1 Tbs vegetable oil 1.5 pounds chicken thighs or drumsticks, skin and fat removed 1 clove garlic, minced ½ onion, diced ¼ tsp dried oregano ½ jalapeno, finely diced 1/2 cup diced fire roasted tomatoes, drained a 1/2-inch cinnamon stick 1 tsp chili powder 6 oz. Mexican beer ½ cup water 1 Tbs vegetable oil 1 clove garlic ½ 15-oz can black beans 8 corn tortillas salt vegetable oil 1 cup diced pineapple ½ cup diced red bell pepper 2 tsp finely chopped cilantro juice of half a lime salt, to taste serves 4
for the beer braised chicken Heat ½ tablespoon of the olive oil over medium high heat in a large deep pot or dutch oven. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and cook, turning often, until browned all over, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Add the remaining ½ tablespoon of oil to the pan along with the garlic, diced onion, oregano, and jalapeño and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the onion is softened, about 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes, chile powder, and cinnamon stick and cook, stirring, for another minute. Return the chicken to the pot, add the beer and water, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer, turning chicken once, for thirty minutes. Uncover, remove the cinnamon stick, and continue to simmer for 30 more minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and let cool. Continue to cook the sauce over high heat until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 10 minutes. Shred the chicken with two forks and return to the pot with the sauce. Stir and season to taste with salt and pepper. for the black bean mash In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, stir, and cook for a minute. Add the black beans and stir. Using the back of a large spoon, mash the beans into a coarse puree. Add ½ Tbs. water and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and transfer to a bowl to cool slightly. for the tortillas Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a small biscuit cutter or the lid of a small jar, cut out 4 circles from each tortilla making 32 total. Place the tortilla rounds on a parchment lined baking sheet and lightly coat each side of each with vegetable oil. Sprinkle with a little salt. Bake for around 15 minutes, turning once, until golden and very crispy. for the pineapple salsa Combine the pineapple, red pepper, cilantro, lime, and salt on a bowl, stir, and serve at room temperature. to arrange Take one of the tostada rounds and spoon a large dollop of the black beans into the center. Top with another tostada round and press down slightly until the beans just reach the edges. Prepare four of these for each person. Set the tostadas on a plate and spoon the beer braised chicken mixture on top. Top with the pineapple salsa.
Churros with chocolate chili sauce, apple strawberry sauce and horchata Ingredients 1 cup water 2 Tbs sugar ¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter 1 cup flour 2 eggs 1 tsp vanilla extract 6 cups vegetable oil ¼ cup sugar, for dusting ½ cup heavy cream 1 Tbs corn syrup 2 oz dark chocolate, chopped a pinch of cinnamon and cayenne
½ cup diced strawberries ½ cup diced apple 1½ Tbs sugar ½ tsp vanilla extract squeeze of lemon juice ¾ cup long grain rice 1 quart whole milk 1 tsp cinnamon ¼ cup brown sugar serves 4
for the churros Bring the water, sugar, and butter to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce the heat and add the flour and mix quickly and firmly with a spatula until ball is formed. Take of the heat to cool slightly and mix in the eggs one at a time. Mix in the vanilla. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan until 350 degrees. Place the dough into a pastry bag with a star tip. Squeeze the dough into the hot oil in sections of about 4 inches. You could also just scoop some with a spoon and use another spoon to scrape it off into the oil. Finally you could pipe the dough onto a parchment lined sheet pan and freeze to fry at another time. Fry the churros for 4 minutes (6 or 7 if frozen) until they puff up and float and are deep golden brown on the outside. Take the churros out of the oil with heatsafe tongs, transfer to a plate lined with a paper-towels to drain slightly, and then transfer to the sugar and roll the churros in it until well coated. Serve immediately with the sauces on the side.
for the chocolate chili sauce Place the chocolate in a large bowl. Bring the cream and corn syrup to a boil in a saucepan. Pour the cream over the chocolate and wait 1 minute. Use a spoon to stir the mixture until smooth. Add the spices to taste. for apple strawberry sauce Put the strawberries, apples, and sugar in a small saucepan and cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes. The sugar will caramelize some and the fruit will become soft and break down. Put in a food processor with the vanilla and lemon juice and process until very smooth. for the horchata Cook the rice according to the package instructions. Place it in a strainer and run cold water over it to cool it down. Place in a blender with the milk, cinnamon, and sugar. Process until very smooth. Serve chilled. to arrange Eat the churros hot with either the chocolate chili or apple strawberry sauce. Serve with the cool horchata.
“It’s so beautifully arranged on the plate - you know someone’s fingers have been all over it.” Julia Child
This book was created by Katie George for Art 280 Sculpture at James Madison University in Spring 2012. All photographs taken by and all recipes developed and tested by Katie George.