Martha+Tom

Sorry New York Times, grape salad is bullshit

photo of bowl of green grapes covered in sour cream with caramelized brown sugar and pecans

Grapes, sour cream and brown sugar — how can you go wrong?

Few things raise Minnesotans’ collective glee quite like when our frosty state earns mention in the New York Times — particularly when America’s paper of record gets Minnesota very, very wrong. Remember “Mort’s”?

And so we greeted with a good deal of mock outrage and secret merriment the Times’ strange assertion, in an article about the Thanksgiving dishes that best evoked each of the 50 states (plus D.C. and Puerto Rico!), that Minnesota was best represented by a concoction of green grapes, sour cream and sugar. (Never mind that they based this claim solely on the testimony of a woman identified by the distinctly un-Minnesotan title of “heiress.”)

Condemnation was swift as it was harsh. Minnesotans had never even heard of grape salad, let alone made it part of they holiday traditions. What were they thinking? How could they give our beloved wild rice to, ugh, Wisconsin?? Those smug New Yorkers really don’t have a clue.

But I, being an adoptive rather than native Minnesotan, like to think I keep a more open mind about these things. At least some MinnPost commenters claimed a history for the dish in the state, and, history aside, maybe it was just a good recipe. I had to try it. And wouldn’t it have been delicious if this year’s ironic grape salads became next year’s — and many years’ to come — beloved tradition?

Well, safe to say there’s no danger of that happening. I made grape salad this year, and let me tell you: it is not good. You know how some really simple recipes end up greater than the sum of their parts? Grape salad is less. The consensus at the table was we’d have been better off with a bowl of plain grapes and a separate bowl of sour cream.

It’s not helped by its appearance, either: the heat of the broiler melts the sour cream coating the grapes just enough to give the impression of — moldy grapes. Yum.

So no, New York Times, grape salad is not Minnesotan. But what’s worse, it’s not even very good.

photo of a thanksgiving plate

Grape salad is far and away the worst thing on this plate.

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Asparagus, again

Asparagus and steakWe got a little surprise at the  Midtown Farmers Market yesterday. Only the second week in May, but Peter and Carmen had a few small bundles of asparagus. We almost missed them — it pays to make a couple of passes through the market.

The first asparagus of the year is always a cause for celebration. And simple treatment: I sautéed these spears briefly in olive oil and sprinkled them with sea salt. Nothing else needed.

 

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Spring time, spring rolls

Safe to say stew season is behind us. Now it’s time for fresh.

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None of this stuff is really growing in Minnesota yet in spring — the grass isn’t even growing yet. Nevertheless, the craving for raw vegetables is there and international shipping provides.

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Martha pointed out that as far as assemble-at-the-table meals go, spring rolls beat tacos because you can eat so many more of them before you feel full.

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Have you ever been out walking in the snow?

Fresh snow flakes clustered in tree bark Fresh snow on my glove Fresh snow on a fire hydrant Fresh snow on barkSnowy Minneapolis bike commute

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Organizing in Small Bites

I’ve been backsliding in my walking habit for much of this winter, and part of me is blaming the cold. As I write, it is -14ºF (feels like, -40°F!), with a side of: “Dangerous wind chills. Limit outdoor exposure.” I suppose I should cut myself some slack here. While that may be true, it’s still easy to feel guilty for dropping the habit I’d worked to build. To combat that, I try to use the time in other ways. I might knit for 20 minutes, mend a pair of pants, or organize in a particular area for a set time. Today it was the latter.

Like walking for 20 minutes, organizing for 20 minutes is really manageable. Yesterday it was one cupboard in the kitchen. Today it was one drawer in our dresser*.

wrapping paper storage

By approaching organizing with a very small goal in mind (and a short time-frame too), I feel a sense of accomplishment after—well—not doing very much. In the process of tackling these two spots, I got rid of a few things and am now better able to answer the question, “What is in there?”

In the dresser I learned that what I thought was the wrapping paper drawer was actually holding very little wrapping paper along with a handful of large portfolio pieces and several prints that had been rotated out of being framed and on display. No wonder it was hard to open, hard to close, and difficult to find anything. Looking at some of the prints, I decided to pass them on, realizing they aren’t my style anymore. Likewise, most of the larger portfolio pieces are old enough that I would no longer consider them representative of my best work. Out they go! In the kitchen I found 3 reusable coffee mugs that haven’t been in service for months. I love the one I bought this fall and don’t need more than one, so I said goodbye to the extras. For me, organizing isn’t just rearranging or neatening, it needs to be conscious decision about each item: keep here, store elsewhere, give away or throw away.

The whole process wasn’t 100% complete after 20 minutes, to be clear. I’ve set aside the give away, throw away, and store elsewhere items to be dealt with tonight or sometime later this week. But, the drawer does close and open without a struggle and I can see what’s inside with a quick glance. Progress. Hey, you can even see the bottom toward the front. That’s pretty good for 20 minutes, I’d say.

*I should note that we do not use this dresser for clothing, but rather for storage of blankets, wrapping paper, table linens, etc. That seems abnormal to me (and therefore demands an explanation), but perhaps it’s not?

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