May 20, 2008

Scrapin’ Up the Bits… Lucy Style

I don’t know whether this is a good thing, but the Post-Gazette has discovered Lucy! The PG’s Marlene Parrish has anointed Lucy, and her delectable banh mi, as a “fresh find.”

Since I have declared Lucy’s banh mi as one of my favorite all-time foods, I am torn. Because this could mean, you know, that when I do get to the Strip to get a banh mi, there might be a long line! And there is nothing worse than waiting, in line, endless minutes ticking by, stomach gnashing, mouth dribbling, eyes open so wide they burn from lack of blinking, for that … first bite.

Too bad it’s on the other side of the state, because I’d love to attend the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture’s inaugural Grass-Fed, Grass-Finished Beef Challenge Cook-Off. The name needs a little work, though.

One of the worst things about not being independently wealthy and having to, like, ya’ know, work for a living, is not being able to spend tomorrow afternoon at Piper’s Pub on the South Side, watching the Champion’s League final between Chelsea and Manchester United (which defeated my Roma side in the semifinals!! Red Devils, indeed!), sipping on a mug or two of “real ale” from one of Piper’s many new firkins. Bloody shame, that is.

And while mushroom hunting is still in the works, I also have intentions of doing some additional foraging for exotic wild foods, about two feet off of my back patio. Because there, you see, resides a single growth of garlic mustard:

What is garlic mustard? An invasive weed, actually. While picking up flowers and veg plants for our garden at Harvest Valley Farms recently, Art King mentioned it to me, after it was mentioned to him by Bill Fuller of Big Burrito fame. This is one nasty weed, explains Iowa chef and Grist contributor Kurt Michael Friese:

It came to New World from Europe in the 1800s as a culinary and medicinal herb. With no natural predators here, it soon grew out of control. Extremely prolific, a single garlic mustard plant can spread into a patch of 20 to 120 feet in just a year. Garlic mustard will shade or crowd out native species of flowers and mushrooms and cause massive disruption in a habitat if left unchecked.

In Hickory Hill Park near where I live in Iowa, garlic mustard's invasion has reached such heights of success that local volunteers pull out nearly a ton of the stuff every year!

Based on the nibbles I’ve taken out on the patio, seems to me that it should have some natural predators: Humans!

I’m hoping to use it in place of arugula in some pasta or to make a pesto out of it, as chef Friese advises. But some smart local farmers would be wise to pick this stuff and package it as a new “gourmet European herb” for their markets. At a production cost of $0 (aside from picking it, I suppose), seems like a winner.

And to end things sort of where they began -- with street food -- one of my favorite songs (and my kids’ favorite songs, too) comes from the late-great Joe Strummer, from his post-Clash career with Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros.

The song, “Bhindi Bhagee,” is an homage to the glories of multi-culturalism, particularly its influence on food and music. In case you can’t understand it, the first verse – the stuff about food – is below the clip.

My daughter particularly likes the “toxic empanada.”

Well, I was walking down the High Road
And this guy stops me
He'd just got in from New Zealand
And he was looking for mushy peas
I said, no, we hadn't really got 'em round here
I said, but we do got

Balti, Bhindi, strictly Hindi
Dal, Halal and I'm walking down the road
We got rocksoul, okra, bombay duck-ra
Shrimp bean sprout, comes with it or without - with it or without
Bagels soft or simply harder
Exotic avocado or toxic empanada
We got akee, lassi, Somali waccy baccy
I'm sure back home you know what tikka's all about - what tikka's all about


Bill Fuller said...

Thanks for the mention on the wild garlic mustard. We should all eat it every spring until it is gone. It gets less succulent as the weather warms up.

Fillippelli the Cook said...

No problem. I think I missed the window of opportunity on our one weed! We got some great spinach from Harvest Valley that I ended up using in a pasta dish instead of the garlic mustard (our fridge was full and something had to go!), and now the leaves are turning brown and I'm hesitant to use it. That's unfortunate.