purple

I made cornbread based on this recipe. But, as always, I made some changes.

a photo of cornbread

First off, I made it purple. I also doubled the recipe.

2 cup almond milk
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Mix these two together and set them aside
4 cups fine blue cornmeal
4 tbsp baking powder
2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup brown sugar
Mix these together!

So the recipe calls for apple sauce. We had no applesauce. We do, however, have many an apple.
1/4 cup canola oil
2 apples
Blend the apples, canola oil, and milk/vinegar mix together. Mix everything together, introduce to a pan, and bake at 420 for 20-30 minutes. If you’re me, eat with Earth Balance and then eat with earth balance and maple syrup. Someone else definitely at some with butter.

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pie

KK once called her husband “pie.” This was before they were married. She insisted it was a good thing because she really likes pie. At least, she said I didn’t call him purple. I don’t like purple at all.

That is entirely inconsequential to the rest of this story.

The Full Moon Feast is an idea brought to Somerville with from the wilds of Seattle. We pulled together not only a beautiful house, but a beautiful meal inspired by Mako’s Ethiopian Feast. In honor of the honey wine, there a honey sangria

For dessert, a few of us put together a blueberry pie.

A photograph of a blueberry pie

Not our pie. Our pie looked something like this. Photo courtesy of moonlightbulb on Flickr. CC-BY.

You see, it was what ET called Surprise Pie.

When you’re making Surprise Pie the key ingredient is surprise. As few people as possible ought to know what is going on; the people being surprised (our guests) really ought to not know what is going on. When those people are in the apartment and running around cleaning and decorating, it’s really hard to keep the surprise aspect intact. The existence of the pie is not a surprise–the contents are.

How to Make Surprise Pie, FblueMF 2012 Version (Vegan)

1) Make tapioca

Convince your friends to go pick up tapioca for you. I didn’t want minute tapioca. Regular tapioca has more whatever makes tapioca turn into gel. I made a lot more than I needed for the pie so there would be tapioca for all to enjoy!

  • Boil 4 cups water
  • Add 1 cup tapioca
  • Lower heat and stir stir stir (I had our former intern do this)
  • Add two cans coconut milk
  • Keep stiring
  • Add vanilla
  • Turn off heat once it’s cooked enough
  • Add honey to sweeten and taste.

2) Be convinced you don’t have time to make Surprise Pie. As you pull together coffee and check the cake for imperfections (of which there will be many), have ET pout once she hears there will be no Surprise Pie. Feel enough guilt that, even at the last minute, you will make this pie.

3) Get a pie crust. We used a pre-made graham cracker one because there was no time to make a regular one and there happened to be two in the pantry.

4) Send ID downstairs to get the frozen blueberries from the freezer. Distract the people who are going to be surprised. This is most effective by surrounding them with friends in a room you are not in.

5) Make blueberry pie filling.

  • Put a bag of frozen blueberries into a pot and turn the heat on medium. Depending on the size of the pie crust, you may need more.
  • Add brown sugar and lemon juice to taste.
  • Have ID stir this, taste it, and eventually decide the flavor is right.

6) Put the pie together. The blueberry mix will still be hot. Make a solid layer of tapioca in the pie crush. As full as you think you can get it while still having room for the blueberries. Crumble the second pie crust on top of the tapioca because you think it may possibly help the tapioca and blueberry stay separate. Using a slotted spoon to deal with all the liquid, scoop the blueberries out of the pot and add them to the pie.

7) Take surprise pie to the table and enjoy.

Turkey

This post is alternatively titled “Why There Will Be a Turkey At Thanksgiving.”

This is my first adult Thanksgiving. I spent a Thanksgiving without my family, and the day passed in a breathless whisper. It was barely there. This year won’t be like that. This will be Thanksgiving, with a capital T, and my family won’t be there to plan it. I won’t be a willing participant in what happens around me. I will plan.

Co-planning it, really, with R and two friends of his. R is supplying the tables, the chairs, the dining room, and some of the kitchen space–others have offered their kitchens. Two of his friends, and maybe a third, were delighted to get in on cooking.

It’s not -my- Thanksgiving, in that it’s at my house. I will likely be cooking a minority of the food. Still, I feel like this is my first Thanksgiving.

We’re going to have a turkey.

A photo of a turkey in an oven.

Photo courtesy of Edsel_L on Flickr. CC-BY-SA

And not just a hand turkey cut out of construction paper, though there will be those too.

I’ve been a vegetarian for more of my life than I have not been one (I’m twenty-four, for those of you keeping track)–and this includes the (combined) year I took off while I lived in Asia and prepared for living in Asia. People I’ve talked to have questioned my decision for deciding this, even though I’m not the only one planning the event. I suspect I could lower the iron cleaver and declare that no animals will have been harmed for the creating of this Thanksgiving, but I won’t.

There will be green bean casserole and mashed potatoes with whole milk and butter, pumpkin cheesecake and whipped cream, coffee and tea with half-and-half. There will be corn pudding with egg in it. There will be a turkey.

If I was having a day even dominated by vegetarians, I would push for the full vegan experience. However, as far as I know, I am the only person there who does not partake in animal products. (I’ll be honest, if I was going to my aunt’s for Thanksgiving, I’d be eating that green bean casserole even knowing it was loaded with dairy. I’d feel bad about it later, but I would eat it and enjoy it because Thanksgiving is about family.) Even though for several of the participants, it will be their first Thanksgiving, they are omnivorous and will happily eat turkey.

Freedom From Want, by Normal Rockwell, depicts a family at Thanksgiving dinner. The mother is serving a turkey, while the father stands, waiting to cut it. Around the table sit their friends, their children, and their children's children.

I am pretty sure my only right to use this is Fair Use. It is exempt from my CC-BY-SA license. Click on the image to see the Wikipedia argument for Fair Use.


The culture of Thanksgiving is about the shared experience of being connected. We make that more literal by sharing food. To remove someone from this–from the eating–is to remove them from your family and your culture. I want to share as much of where I come from–of my aunt’s green bean casserole (can you tell how much I love that stuff?) and my mom’s cheesecake recipe–with these people and bring them into my culture.

As someone who cannot remember the last time she ate turkey, it is still a part of my culture as it is part of being an American. The image of a Thanksgiving dinner includes a turkey, and even vegetarian meals try to simulate the experience. They understand the cultural necessity of that centerpiece of the table.

Or they just like the challenge. I know I often do.

A photograph of two "hand turkeys" cut out of construction paper.

Two vegan turkeys, photo courtesy of eyeliam on Flickr. CC-BY

There will be lots of vegan friendly food. I’ve been heartily inspired by Vegan YumYum’s Thanksgiving menu from 2008. But that’s not -Thanksgiving-. That’s tasty, that’s fall food, but Thanksgiving is my aunt’s white ceramic dishes holding vegetables. Napkin lined wicker baskets full of food. Candles and wine. A turkey. And leftovers. I haven’t told the British about those yet.

Caramel

For AL’s birthday last year, we made this cake from Everything2. I then made the same cake for my parents over Thanksgiving. It’s a simple, good cake.

I wanted to make it again, but pondered over the veganness of it. The cake part itself–butter, sugar, flour, egg–is easy to manage a vegan version of. It’s the caramel that got me.

Armed with little more than a failed experience of coconut cream and a slow cooker, I looked around the kitchen and amassed my weapons:

Coconut milk (one can)
Coconut cream (one can)
Sugar (some amount)
Arrowroot powder (some amount)

I mixed the first three. The sugar was “to taste.” It was as sweet as I wanted it to be. I let this cook for about an hour. Then I added some arrowroot powder and let it cook for about another hour. The arrowroot got clumpy. I hate the nails-on-a-chalkboard quality of arrowroot (and potato starch for that matter), so I dumped some in rather clumsily. It was ugly, so I poured the whole mixture into a blender and then, once it was smooth, back into the pot.

It got thick and, before I knew it, I had caramel. Gooey, sticky, delicious caramel.

The takeaway here is that cooking is awesome. Experimentation while cooking is even better.

The first time I tried to do this, I put coconut cream and sugar into a slow cooker for eight hours and came out with a slightly thicker than it went in too sweet syrup. I learned that this did not work. I knew a stove would be better, for added head, and that I needed a thickener of some sort. It might not have worked, I consider myself lucky that it did.

Some of my friends tell me I’m a good cook. Unbecomingly, I swell with pride. I put a lot of effort into trying to cook well, but I know I can be better. That effort is shown in the countless things that have failed–the fallen cakes that break apart as they come out of pans, the unmelted cheese (from back in the day), the poorly seasoned everything, the raw on the inside rice, the burnt black beans. The messes and smells that the microwave never quite recovers from. I feel people, cook. Do not bake, do not follow recipes exactly, but cook. Experiment. Understand it may not work. -Read- recipes and learn from them, but deviate so you can see how each ingredient affects the final product and what they do when combined. Use your hands to mix, so you know what it doesn’t just look like, but what it feels like. Smell everything. In the words of Miss Frizzle: take changes, make mistakes, get messy.

Cupcakes

“[Cupcakes] would be a big change in direction away from Open Source.”

A boy said this to me. Naturally, I told him that they could be open source cupcakes. I mean, after all, we made that Debian Cake. That’s like open source cupcakes. Yeah.
I spend a lot of time in my personal life talking about ‘free’ and ‘open source.’ We toss around words like ‘transparency’ and ‘commons’ as though we are jugglers and they are on fire. I spend very little time posting about it on the internet.

In the urban legend currently known as The Neiman-Marcus Cookie Recipe, someone buys a recipe for “two fifty,” thinking it will cost $2.50. They learn it is $250 and then, in anger, share the recipe with everyone they can.

Today, recipes are easily available and widely findable on the internet. Epicurious has a red velvet cupcake recipe from the Magnolia Bakery, which I’ve never heard of before, but they have a lovely looking pie on their home page. Conde Nast, owner of Epicurious, claims reserve to all rights and maintains that none of the content on Epicurious can be “reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached, or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Condé Nast Digital.” This particular recipe comes from “More From Magnolia: Recipes from the World Famous Bakery and Allysa Torey’s Home Kitchen,” the copyright to which is held by Allysa Torey. Ms. Torey reserves all rights, including those of reproduction in the whole or part in any form.”

But, you see, this is wrong. At least, that’s what my lawyer tells me.

There are two parts to a recipe, the ingredients and the explanation.

The recipe itself is a “mere listings of ingredients.” (U.S. Copyright Office – Recipes. Updated, November, 2010.) In the case of the Neiman-Marcus recipe, we have:

# 2 cups butter
# 4 cups flour
# 2 teaspoons baking soda
# 2 cups sugar
# 5 cups blended oatmeal
# 24 ounces chocolate chips
# 2 cups packed brown sugar
# 1 teaspoon salt
# 1 (8 ounce) Hershey Bars (grated)
# 4 large eggs
# 2 teaspoons baking powder
# 2 teaspoons vanilla
# 3 cups chopped nuts (your choice)

This list of ingredients is not copyright protected. What is copyright protected, however, is the story about how to make the cookies–the “substantial literary expression—a description, explanation, or illustration” that tells us what to do with this list of ingredients. (U.S. Copyright Office – Recipes. Updated November, 2010.)

In this case, we have:

Measure oatmeal and blend in a blender to a fine powder. Cream the butter and both sugars. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix together with flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder and soda. Add chocolate chips, grated Hershey Bar and nuts. Roll into 1 inch balls and place 2-inches apart on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes at 375° or until golden.

I’m leaving that unattributed, but I am assuming that someone wrote this, someone holds the copyright to it, and my posting it without permission may actually be illegal!

In short, the ingredient list, totally okay. The directions, they belong to someone.

We can take any recipe we want and post the ingredient list anywhere. If we want to post the fancy explanations, we need permission. And there are people that supply that. Open Source Food–a product of random googling–maintains a copyright of content on the site, but comments that recipes are available under a CC license “where indicated.” It’s up to user discretion.

Recipes I post here generally are released under a CC-BY-SA license, meaning that you can reproduce it however you want, as long as you say where you got it from and also share your reproduction in some similar manner. This isn’t to say that my recipes are so fabulous you should share them, merely that you can.

But they are pretty good.

Cooking communities come up in conversations about open source communities. In these communities, people share their “blue prints.” They tell you how they made something, how you can make something, and you can take these blue prints and modify them, change them, and use them. These activities inherently encourage modification, adaptation, remixing, and sharing. I take lots of recipes and make them vegan. People leave out salt, or replace coriander with cumin. They add garlic. People take these blue prints and turn them into their own. They share the changes they have made, in comments or in original postings.

Cooking communities, despite their lack of knowledge of copyright law, truly are participation driven groups that encourage collaboration, personalization, understanding your tools, manipulating them, and sharing them. They are totally all about free/libre/open-source.

(1) Free Cake courtesy of paulproteus, CC-BY-SA.

(2) Chocolate Chip Cookies courtesy of Vicci, CC-BY.