(I took the header picture of a Common Loon resting on a pond in Utah on its way north in June of 2015. It was in transition from winter to summer plumage.)

Translate - I dare you. Then make a comment on the funny errors the translator made.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Fictional foods: experiments with apricots

I've spent a lot of time building my world, and part of the process of making it as rich and realistic as I can is thinking about what people eat there.  Over the years I've done quite a bit of experiments in the kitchen as I've concocted and invented recipes that I imagine might be on the tables of various lands and peoples.  Something that I'd like to do some day for LTUE would be to help organize a potluck meal with participants bringing dishes from stories they liked - or wrote, or are writing.  M.K. Hutchins, whom I met at the 2014 meeting, had that idea, and I need to talk to her about it again.

You should read her blog: she puts recipes up there, for fictional foods as well as for authentic Aztec chocolate.  And you should read her stories.

So it's apricot season here in Utah, and a nice neighbor let us go and pick from her tree.  This was last week, and the fruits were only just starting to ripen - everywhere I drive I see trees loaded with fruit and it makes me sad.  There's more than I can ever pick or use, and apparently more than most people want to pick or use - one more lamentable loss of pioneer values.  I'll make a quick plug here, to any readers in the Wasatch Front area, for the Glean Utah and Glean Provo Facebook groups.  They need a lot more attention, as do the fruit trees around here.

So, in my tiny attempt to do my part, and enlisting the help of a zealous seven-year-old, I ended up with a lot of apricots that are not quite ripe.  I ate as many as I could, and I still had all these others sitting here, and outside there are still more and more ripening.  I thought about what I could do with these, and I decided that with the ripest ones I would make freezer jam.

And with the unripe ones, I got this crazy idea: what would happen if I packed them with salt and let them sit?  My Japanese cousins had introduced me to umeboshi years before, and I remembered that those aren't really plums but a certain variety of apricot.  Would plain old apricots work?  I did a search and found exactly what I was looking for: yes!

I thought to myself: this is Japanese, but the ingredients - apricots and salt - are plentiful in Utah, and of course also in the environment where much of my work in progress takes place (one of the states there owes its wealth to the salt trade).  So why wouldn't the people in my world preserve some of their apricots in this way?  How they might use these pickled fruits in their cuisine?

So I got started: washed the fruits and picked out the unblemished ones,

packed them in bags with salt (and a bit of vinegar)

I used sea salt for the one on the left, and Himalayan pink salt on the right.  I didn't have enough Real Salt (from Redmond, UT) left to use on this.

and put the bags in a dark cupboard where they'll sit for the next month.

Meanwhile, I also found out that Mexico has a similar food tradition: saladitos and chamoy.  After all, why not?  If you have certain ingredients available, people are going to figure out different ways to combine them.  It just goes to show that while we might identify certain foods or ingredients with a certain culture or place, the world is wide and varied, and the human imagination even more so.

Happy Pioneer Day!

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