Tales from the Fruit Cellar is unique because I always feature the people at the heart of the recipe and the relationships and heritages that are bound by what we perceive to be our individual food culture. I love to instigate a discourse about why we step into our kitchens in the first place and I hold myself responsible for acting as a virtual scribe to record the conversations. I'm eager to bring people back to a tradition-based food system, regardless of how the individual defines "tradition". I love to celebrate the fact that we all define tradition in myriad ways.
I generally power up my computer to write not because I’m so worked up about a recipe, but because I can’t wait to tell you about the people that have become inextricably linked with that recipe. Today, I’ve got a love story for you.
Eric and I met in 2008 on the island of St. John in the Caribbean. He was from Indianapolis, I from DC. We didn’t want anything to do with long distance. A few months later, we were heavy in the throes of a Long. Distance. Relationship. Sigh.
For those of you who would rather eat worms that get involved with someone who lives over 50 miles away, I’m here to tell you: long distance really isn’t all that terrible. When you’ve got a full and busy life, it’s actually quite nice to set aside chunks of time to spend 100% focused on one another. It’s exciting to fly back and forth and discover a new town you wouldn’t have found otherwise. Especially when that town has Goose the Market.
Eric and I fell in love over a sandwich. Seriously. You know how its way more enjoyable to eat a hot fudge sundae with someone who oohs and ahhs over it as loudly as you? Well foodies about the globe know what I mean when I say that falling in love with a person feels much more punch drunk when your time with that person is punctuated by fabulous food you’re equally smitten with. For us, that was the Batali sandwich. Oh my goodness…I can’t even write about it without feeling wispy nostalgia tear at my heart.
Goose the Market, in Indianapolis, is like a souk for the modern Midwest urban explorer. Filling a brightly colored store-front in a newly reclaimed part of the city, Goose opened in 2008 and knocked the pants right off the Indy food scene. Would you like to join a Bacon of the Month club? At Goose, you can. Need to find blue-ribbon local cheeses? They’ve got it. Hungry for gelato? Hit it up. But under no circumstances should you ever leave the market without a Batali.
The next thing you know it’s a once a month occurrence where I’m running to find my new love at the baggage claim at Reagan airport, giving him a quick kiss hello and saying “where’s my sandwich??” Tourists in DC would watch us, thinking that I must not eaten for days with the way I am ravenously tearing into a sandwich at baggage claim. Eric watches with a little frustration that I’m paying no attention to my freshly arrived boyfriend, but with a little pride too. “That’s my girl”, he thinks. “Can I have a bite?” he says. We share a greasy, spicy kiss and the Batali is gone in under 5 minutes.
Eric and I now live just two hours apart: he in school at VCU in Richmond, me still in DC. When he arrived in Richmond this past winter, I wrote a love letter to Goose, imploring them to share the secret of the Batali with me. Graciously, they shared their recipes and we attempted our first recreation of the Batali in Richmond. The issue is that while our recreation came out mostly alright, we used a jarred Giardiniera that seemed to have no spice or sass. I spent a few sleepless nights wondering what went wrong before deciding that the Giardiniera is what left our homemade Batali lacking. So we said "let's try again, but make the Giardiniera ourselves".
Like many of my recipes, this one is a classic, banal item that you probably buy in a jar at the grocery store. But the secret is that its unfailingly simple to make at home where you have more control over what you put in the jar. Use organics and quality vinegar or oil; I promise you’ll be glad you did. We used a lot of super extra hot peppers, again from Clagett Farm, and we tried both the oil method and the vinegar method to see which we preferred. The answer is: I like to mix a tablespoon out of the oil jar and a tablespoon out of the vinegar jar!
2 red or green bell peppers cut into strips
We haven't re-made the sandwiches yet, but I'm gearing up to make the onions and tomato preserves. Undoubtedly, the act of making a Batali will make me think fondly of my now-seasoned relationship and our first sparks of love. When you think back to your favorite recipe, who are the people that make it special for you?