Pickled grapes add a nice addition to "the usual suspects!"
A shopping trip! Not just everyday stuff, but an event! Out with friends! Off on the browse! Shoes! A new outfit to welcome spring!
It is interesting to observe that when we visit clothing stores, we have no trouble identifying styles and colours that are reminiscent if this friend or that. There is no doubt in any of our minds. This is a Betty dress. That is so Lois! Sue would love this! We easily recognize the distinctive styles of our friends, and perhaps ourselves.
But when did that happen? Where did it come from?
Of course, it is a combination of factors of ethnicity, background, personality… Our mothers. But somewhere along the line, our personal style formed up. Don’t say, “Oh, not me. I’m eclectic”. Nice try. Eclectic is a style.
As we grow up, we are attracted to some things more than others. And before long, you begin to hear, “That’s so you!”. And this definitely applies to our cooking styles.
As young cooks, we take our cues from our mothers, but before long, we begin to stray. Chili is a good indicator. My siblings and I have clung each and all of our lives to Mom’s chili recipe. In recent years, we compared notes only to find that each of our recipes bore little resemblance to the others. One swore by green peppers and celery. Another included smoked paprika and jalapeños. Yet another, mine, included mushrooms, olives, and a ball of fresh mozzarella buried in the steaming bowl. (And, if you haven’t tried that buried ball of bocconcini, allow me to assure you that you will never dip your spoon into a bowl of chili again without it or at least without yearning for it!) Suffice it to say that over the years, from the same beginnings, and without even realizing it, we had each developed our own style.
And so it was with Mom’s wonderful potato salad. One was sure that celery was essential, while the others eschewed the very idea. Onions were debated. Hard boiled eggs. We were so sure. My insistence that capers came into play and plenty of hot mustard powder, met with derision.
Mom’s pie crust went down the same bumpy path. Cinnamon buns…. How could this have happened? We finally had to accept that we had developed different, and quite distinctive cooking styles. All the many influences, large and small, combined, over time, to move us away from our shared roots no matter how we each believed that we had clung to them.
We all have a collection of herbs and spices, many of which remain untouched, while others are popped into many or most of the dishes we prepare. I have a friend who tucks peanut butter and Craisins into just about everything she prepares. Another friend tosses curry powder about with abandon. Hot pepper flakes are so ubiquitous in my food that there is a handy bowl of the stuff right on my counter. Alongside anything basil and lemon. …. Garlic… I know my style.
We all have our comfort zone, in both what we wear and what we cook. But every now and then, staring into our closets and our cooking pots, there is just a touch of ennui. A sigh escapes. In clothing, we might need to add a zippy scarf or something sparkly. Not a complete style overhaul, but just a little kick to put a spring back in our step.
The culinary equivalent of jewellery in the kitchen is usually found in the condiments, the pickles. Dinner is lovely, but a bit of sparkle might be what’s needed to keep it from being entirely predictable.
PICKLED RED GRAPES
These pickled grapes are good with cheese, paté or scattered on top of a green salad. With thanks to Marisa McClellan of seriouseats.com
1 pound firm red grapes
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 cup granulated white sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 vanilla bean - ok or a teaspoon of vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/8 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1. Wash grapes and remove from stem.
2. Slice stem end off of the grapes and set aside.
3. In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, water and sugar. Place over high heat and bring to a boil.
4. Place spices into the bottom of a quart jar.
5. Funnel trimmed grapes into the jar on top of the spices.
6. Pour hot vinegar into jar over grapes.
7. Let grapes sit until cool. Place a lid on the jar and refrigerate.
8. Let pickled grapes rest in the fridge for at least 24 hours before serving.
Your style is your style, and once it’s set, like jello, it’s set. But that doesn’t mean you can’t add a bit of flash and dazzle every now and then, just to keep ‘em guessing! Who knows? With a little nudge in the right direction, pickling might just become "so you!".