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Good People Brewing Company

I can’t pinpoint when I first heard the phrase, “the good life” bandied around in marketing efforts.  I certainly and vividly recall the first time I heard Martha Stewart say, “It’s a good thing,” and I’m still uncertain about how I feel about that.  I remember the first time I was aware that the “good life” was a thing to be considered and discussed.  It was a college seminar on a book called “The Fragility of Goodness” that mentioned a concept called Eudaimonia – which is one of those 50 drachma words that folks like Aristotle favored, the kind that you and I have to explain as we translate.  It kind of means the good life, but it’s more about human flourishing.  At any rate, if you think about it too much, you may want a drink to facilitate your own flourishing.

Still the good life, this Eudaimonia, as I learned, is a many splendored thing.  To have it you have to have moderate control over some parts of the uncontrollable – say, shelter from the storm – and you also have to have people, good people.  My mamaw used speak of good people (which sounds like a collective noun, but usually refers to a single person), and I think she meant someone who you could trust, who had a good moral sense, and who didn’t beat the kids more than what was necessary to avoid spoilage.  You know, salt of the earth kind of people.

good_pplA good life, true human flourishing, that is, involves intimate interaction with these good people.  And since we know how challenging it can be to find good people and harder still (for some of us, at least) to be good people, we’re also pretty certain that the good life involves intimate interaction with good beer.  And when you find good people making good beer, well that’s one of modern life’s truly fantastic flourishes.  And it seems to us that that’s what craft beer ought to be about.

This month we’ll celebrate Good People who make good beer in Birmingham.  The Good People Brewing Company has been in business since 2008, producing a line of quality craft beer that reflects their drive to give folks at home the same kind of complex, mind-altering beer experiences that they, co-founders Michael Sellers and Jason Malone, had while traipsing around overseas after college.

Although growing, the brewery has maintained a fairly limited distribution area concentrating on their home state and parts of our own, which is pretty neighborly in a good people, love your neighbor kind of way.  The beers are beautifully canned with eye-catching labels that keep things light – after all, mamaw might remind us, Good People don’t take themselves too seriously.

The brewery produces 5 year round brews, 4 seasonals, and intermittent one-offs.

We’re very happy to have their first Saison/ Farmhouse Ale, Urban Farmer on tap.  It’s “…a unique blend of saison yeast strains, which lend flavor and aroma characteristics of grapefruit, pineapple, orange zest, earthiness and spiciness.”  And it’s a good way to usher in the last leg of 2016.

We’ll be featuring different beers at each location, so make a point to visit both Market Square and the Gallery to get a comprehensive view of this brewery!  We’ll offer selections for Good People’s very good line-up:

Pale Ale: The flagship brew balances the subtle caramel tones of 2-Row & 5 Specialty Malts with just the right amount of hops. Complex and versatile, it’s good anytime, anywhere for any occasion.

IPA: This unfiltered, dry-hopped IPA packs a copper-colored aromatic punch. Herbal and earthy hops take center stage, tempered by light caramel flavors. Crisp and refreshing, it’s a hop lover’s dream.

Brown Ale: Sweet without being cloying, our Brown Ale delivers a hint of nuttiness that plays nicely with a healthy dose of hops. The mildest offering in our lineup, this classic brew hits the spot every time.

Snake Handler: Dangerously drinkable, this Double IPA brew is a spirited celebration of all things hoppy. Aromas of pine, citrus, flowers, spice, pineapple, and grassiness complement a biscuit and caramel backbone. Hands down, our most requested beer.

Coffee Oatmeal Flavored Stout: Known to fans as C-O-S, our Coffee Oatmeal Stout delivers a big coffee taste followed by a wallop of Willamette hops. Complex and flavorful, amazingly sessionable. Good after a meal.

Bearded Lady: This light-bodied wheat ale marries a Weizen Glass hint of hops with a whisker of tartness for a subtle citrus flavor. Silky smooth and refreshing, it’s the perfect tonic for 5 o’clock shadows, seven days a week.

Good People is a pretty good beer choice for contemplating all the mysteries of the good life. I can’t be certain precisely how it will affect your human experience, but, at the very least, I suspect your conversation will flourish – and, ahem, that’s a good thing.

Ruth Allen – Featured Artist

The third time, they say, is a charm, and if that’s the case, then Ruth Allen should have a spectacular showing on the imagewalls of the Tomato Head.  Ruth’s work captured Mahasti’s eye during a visit to Big City Bread Cafe in Athens, GA.  Mahasti recalls that, “there was a really cute artist studio in the back.  It was closed, but we peeked in the window and saw some really cute whimsical clay pieces and some of the ones that really stood out turned out to be Ruth’s.  When we went into the Café, they had her art on their walls.  Her work is so colorful and pure it immediately caught my attention, so I spent most of my time at the bakery walking around looking at her work. “

Ruth brings a fascinating technique and vivid eye for color to her work; this particular exhibit will be no exception, and Ruth expects that we’ll see, “Birds, deer, a rabbit, some tulips, and something strange…”  all in a variety of sizes of acrylic and mixed media on canvas.

Although she’s painted a variety of subjects over her career, many of Ruth’s strongest images come from the animal kingdom.  “I have always loved animals, flowers and nature,” she says, “I am usually drawing and painting about my love of something. If it’s not love, another strong emotion. It’s a way of communicating…maybe something for which I have no words.” It’s almost ironic, then, that, at times, she seems to capture fauna in an illustrative way, almost as if they were mid-speech in some fascinating adventure.

image-1The shape, line and color of Ruth’s work create a distinctive form – in fact, many of the comments that she hears refer to the singularity of her painting.  But Ruth isn’t conscious of pursuing a particular style.  Instead, she says, “I take in a lot of visual images via Instagram and curated quite a collection of inspirations during the beta testing days of Pinterest. My influences are many. It still comes back to love. If I love someone else’s work, it can’t help but be reflected in mine, but I do try to be aware of that when it’s happening. So, I confess my loves for artists like Michael Banks and Lauren Marx, who are the most prevalent influences lately. Not that I am anywhere near their league!! Still, I have a great love for what they are doing.”

Ruth’s training came from a gifted teacher, but she says she “did not study art in college though, as much as I wanted to. I let some life events kind of derail that idea… I’m really just doing something I love and sharing it in whatever way I can.”

As her exhibit clearly demonstrates, the path of the artist doesn’t always follow an academic course, but Ruth is image-2adamant that, whatever you do, if you have a passion for art, you ,“Never, never give up. Never stop. When anyone, including your parents, tell you that you cannot make a living doing your art, just know that you can’t really live without doing it.”

You can see for yourself now through November 6th while Ruth Allen’s exhibit hangs in the Market Square restaurant.  The show will move to the Gallery location November 7th at remain there until December 5th.

Pumpkin Spice Day

Perhaps it’s best if you’re sitting.

The shock may be too much for you – but fear not, there is a warm and fuzzy place that we can help you find, one that will make it all better, so stay with us…

Perhaps it will come as no surprise to you that there is an actual Pumpkin Spice Day.  The autumnal flavor seems to have taken over our world in a way that Frank Herbert fans will understand.  (Nerd alert!) Like the mélange spice/drug of the planet Arrakis, also known as DUNE, Pumpkin Spice is everywhere now.  It has even reached Little Debbie, and I suspect that Collegedale (the home of the snack cake giant) is covered in a fine dust of suspicious, orange tint.

But what may strike you as odd, perhaps even somehow wrong and wickedly disturbing is that where there is Pumpkin Spice, there may not be actual Pumpkin.  I know, I know – it’s a terrible thought, and it’s one that leaves me reeling and wondering what will be left of the real and the natural order of things.  When the very air is full of spice, when it infuses our lattes, fills our cereal bowls, and even clings to our almonds without a trace of the Big Orange Squash that single-handedly created the spice’s fame, well, the Great Chain of Being has broken into more pieces than Humpty Dumpty.  And the world seems less right than before.

“But, but…” you sputter in shock, “Pumpkin Spice delights are often orange!  Surely, surely that’s from real pumpkin!”  Alas, that most delightful of all the colors, orange, is often simulated by the addition of annatto and paprika.

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Will the Real Pumpkin Please Stand?

It’s easy to understand, even if it hurts the head to ponder; in much of processed food, it’s flavor or the simulation thereof that matters most.  Actual ingredients be damned, as long as it tastes right, looks right or is at least close enough, then all is well.  You may know people who actually prefer the fakers – like that strange group of folks who prefer the taste of banana Popsicle to the taste of an actual banana.

Okay, so that’s unfair – pumpkin spice is a real enough mélange of nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, ginger and allspice, but on its own it’s really just spice.  It could be spice cake spice, molasses cookie spice – heck, it’s only a couple of ingredients away from being garam masala spice.  We need pumpkin to make it right.

We’re not trying to rain on anyone’s parade or throw shade on your seasonally affected flavor favor.  Far from it – we have a safe place for you at the restaurant, a place where Pumpkin Spice lives in harmony as it should with the Great Pumpkin who is real and present in every bite.  For this national day of observance, this Pumpkin Spice Day, we have Pumpkin Spice Morning Rolls that will warm up your nose and your heart for a full day of spiced remembrance.  We’ll also have Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes to sweeten all the memories that come with the smell and flavor of this sweet squash and spice blend – memories of home baked treats and family gatherings where paprika stays safely on the deviled eggs.

Happy Pumpkin Spice Day – come and see us.

National Food Service Worker’s Day

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Market Square Staff

Today is a good day to reflect on one of the finest parts of Tomato Head – past and present; from the very beginning of our journey all the way through today we’ve attracted a lot of interesting people – not just the folks eating at our tables but also the many fine people who work to put the goods on those tables.

Today is National Food Service Worker’s Day, which strikes us as both a day of celebration and gratitude.

It doesn’t matter what aspect of life, whether you’re putting together a sports team, casting a play, or assembling a band, finding the right group of humans who share your passion, your values, and your own brand of common sense can be a Herculean labor – and finding all of those qualities in a group of people that you actually like to be around is a stroke of luck. And yet for going on 26 years, Tomato Head has been inordinately fortunate in terms of having a team from the kitchen all the way to the front door that’s caring, considerate, hard-working and pretty groovy, too.

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Gallery Staff

So we want to say thanks!

If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant, you know that the job comes with more challenges than meet the eye, and that it takes a lot more effort than just slinging hash on a grill or dropping it off at table 15. From the kitchen and dish room to the bar and the patio, too, the work requires a keen set of eyes, mad skills in multi-tasking, diplomacy out the wazoo, and a really good pair of shoes.

Thanks in part to the great proliferation of cooking shows, there’s a little more appreciation for the demands of life in food service than perhaps once there was.  Still, it’s a tough job that comes with its fair share of difficult experiences. So today, perhaps you’ll consider joining us as we make a point of saying thanks a little more clearly and a little more often.

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Across the bar at Market Square

Of course, we’re not encouraging our guests to get up and hug the kitchen manager after every meal – I suspect we’d be looking for a new kitchen manager if that were the case. But, if you think of it, an extra thanks goes long way to helping anybody feel better about the day and what they do with it.

Watermelon Salsa

The passing of summer always makes me sad – not for the end of sultry days and blinding sun, of course, but for the end of market days and backyard harvests, of warm tomatoes and sweet corn.  Even so, I am made equally happy for the first sweet smell of autumn when I find it in the air of some cool September morn carting the promise of cooler days and warm cider.  But September is a teasing month, and those wafts of fall give way to still sultry, sunny afternoons that surprise me like a sudden slap.

It’s the contrast of these transitional days that make me think of Pablo Neruda.

If you don’t know Neruda’s poetry, it’s worth a trip to the library, particularly if you’re a food lover.  Neruda, a Chilean poet and the winner of the Nobel Prize in 1971, wrote a wide variety of verse including some fabulous odes to food.  My college roommate introduced me to the haunting Ode to Salt and, my favorite of all, the joyous Ode to Watermelon:

the throat
becomes thirsty,
the teeth,
the lips, the tongue:
we want to drink
waterfalls,
the dark blue night,
the South Pole,
and then
the coolest of all
the planets crosses
the sky,
the round, magnificent,
star-filled watermelon.

It’s the promise of autumnal breezes juxtaposed with the last cruel rays of sun that make me thirsty above all things and bring to mind my favorite line of the ode, “we want to drink/ waterfalls”.  And so I go in search of the melon, clinging to the sweet spot of the sunny season even as I grasp the joys of transition to the days of football fields and the first taste of fall flavors.

It’s an awfully romantic way to describe a food obsession, I grant you, but that’s just how I roll.

But that transition, particularly in terms of flavors isn’t always jarring – in fact, it’s harmonious in our kitchen.  That’s because when our thoughts run to tailgating we find that watermelon sneaks into many of our considerations of game-day nosh.  And one of the best ways to assuage all the feels that fill our hungry heart is to incorporate melon into dishes.  It keeps the flavor in our minds and mouths and makes for some pretty clever eating, too.

Ready to Eat

Consider the case of Watermelon Salsa.  At first, you’re thinking of the spice and heat and how odd that might seem with our beloved sweet fruit, or perhaps you know about the secret and sacred flavor connection between tomato and watermelon – if you do, you know that this salsa makes perfect sense.  The tomato at its finest is also a sweet treat, full of the same waterfalls that our friend Pablo imagined.  So it’s never hard for us to imagine a dish of salsa with watermelon in it – somedays, it’s hard to imagine salsa without it.

For any doubter’s out there, we’ll show you how it works right on your own TV – if you’ll tune in to WBIR’s Weekend Today, on Saturday morning, Mahasti will be making Watermelon Salsa just in time for when football time in Tennessee really heats up.

Try it, you’ll like it – even more so if you’re reading aloud a bit of poetry – like you do before college football games, right?  Or perhaps not – but you’ll be feeling it – maybe even just a bit like this….

Jewel box of water, phlegmatic
queen
of the fruitshops,
warehouse
of profundity, moon
on earth!
You are pure,
rubies fall apart
in your abundance,
and we
want
to bite into you,
to bury our
face
in you, and
our hair, and
the soul!

Thanks, Pablo – we feel you!

The ingredients

The ingredients coming together

Tomato Head’s Watermelon Salsa

8 cups watermelon, diced

1/3 cup cilantro, chopped

1/2 cup onion, diced

1 large  jalapeno, diced about 2 Tbls

1 tsp salt

2 Tbl fresh lime juice

Cut Watermelon in half, then cut into 1 inch segments.  Lay each segment on cutting board and carve out the flesh.  Cut the watermelon into ¼ inch cubes and place in a medium mixing bowl.  Add chopped cilantro, diced onion and jalapeno along with salt and lime juice.  Mix everything together with a large spoon until all the ingredients are distributed evenly.

Serve as a dip with Tortilla chips.  Also makes a great salsa for topping your favorite fish tacos or black bean nachos.

Cynthia Tipton – Artist

When you take a look at Cynthia Tipton’s artwork, you may find that it’s looking back at you.

Cynthia is, as she puts it, a jack of all trades, so it’s difficult to pin her down.  If you visit her studio, you might find her occupied teaching a figure drawing class, or even knitting, but what may catch your eye, and keep it, are the portraits that hang about the walls and sit on easels.  For the next month, though, many of these will hang at Tomato Head Market Square in Tipton’s exhibit, “Discord and Rhyme.”

Two of the most notable of these portraits feature the nearly iconic faces of Scott and Bernadette West.  Both are engaging works of art, vibrant and almost pulsing with the energy of the subjects.  In fact there’s so much life in them that one might think that they were looking back.

Cynthia likes to paint people, but, she says, she’s really interested in more than just a pretty face:  “I love painting people, always have.  Usually I have some understanding of the person that interests me enough to paint them…. I’m really trying to capture their essence, some part of their personality other than the stoic kind of portrait. “

That interest moves through the paint and across the gulf between canvass and viewer – whether it’s Bernadette West’s kind and colorful gaze or a young girl in the midst of some emotional fit – the paintings speak through eyes as well as through the tilt of the head, the subtle lines of lips and cheek.

Although it’s easy to classify her as a portrait artist, Tipton isn’t comfortable with that mantle, she says, “I’m a portrait artist, though I hate saying that – it doesn’t quite say what I do.  So, perhaps, Painter of People?”

But it’s not just the eyes and attitude of faces that seem to look back at you in her work.  A verdant landscape with its life and changing color also seems to peer back – perhaps it’s the sense of a breeze stirring in the leaves, or the movement of light over the greenery.

But the exhibit only touches a small portion of what Tipton does to fill her life with beauty.  As she said, “I’m a little bit of a jack of all trades.  I’m also in the Foothills Craft Guild for fiber art.  I’ll be teaching a class on that at the KMA in the fall.  I knit and felt – generally every year I set up at the Farmer’s market Holiday market and sell my knitted stuff.” She also buys and sells vintage jewelry and turns some of her art work into smaller pieces, decorative pieces that you can find in the gift shop at Broadway Studios and Gallery – just across the street from K-Brew.

“Discord & Rhyme” an exhibit of oil on canvas/board by Cynthia Tipton will be on view at the Market Square Tomato Head in downtown Knoxville from September 5th thru October 2nd.  Cynthia will then exhibit at the West Knoxville Gallery Tomato Head from October 3rd thru November 7th.

You’ll want to stop in see the work for yourself – or, perhaps, let yourself be seen by it.

Oskar Blues

At the end of the day or mug or keg, what really draws us to any frothy beverage is the quality of its flavor.  Of course, all things being equal, we always prefer beer that is handmade, that honors tradition and that is brewed close to home.  But, in addition to all that, there’s another thing that really tickles our fancy, and that’s beer that comes in cans.  This explains part of our love for September’s featured brewery, Oskar Blues.

Perhaps it’s the memory of greener days when that’s how we all thought of beer.  I suppose I’m dating myself, but once upon a time beer always seemed to come in metal cans with pull top tabs.

Those are long forgotten and reckless days – days when we were still immortal and rode Big Wheels unsupervised, accelerating furiously down the steep inclines of the Little Mountains behind the old home place, always just missing a stretch of ancient and rusty barbed wire fence that marked the end of our course. They were the kind of days that would send me into massive panic should my own young tribe attempt to repeat them today.

They were also days of long, unaccompanied hikes and explorations of forgotten sheds and barns were we would sometimes find a dusty, old skin magazine amid a pile of rusty beer cans.  I never drank beer when I was young and tender – I was, at least in the formative years, a slow learner in the ways of the world.  But we scoured those cans for treasure.  One of our gang, a cousin from up north who visited every summer, collected beer cans, and every time we found something that looked old, we also found value.  Who knew, maybe this can was worth some money or would occupy a place of honor in our cousin’s collection?

We were full of optimism then and never daunted by the fact that these old cans were too common and too poorly kept to mean much of anything.  But the thought really counted – we could see that at the beginning of summer when we offered our trove to our favorite summer co-conspirator.  The way we showed affection when we were boys is really sweet to remember.

So even when beer in cans had lost its place in the cool kid’s corner, we had an enduring passion- even if cans had become aluminum and only contained the kind of beer our friends described as, how do I put it, equine urine.

But that all changed when we met Oskar Blues.   This brewery began the modern “beer-in-a-can-craze.”  Cans, as they say, “keep beer fresher, longer by eliminating the damaging effects of light and ingressed oxygen while being infinitely recyclable and portable…taking them where your next soul saving adventure takes you.”

And the beer is good, craftsy too.  And Oskar Blues has an interesting business model, too.  You probably know that while the brewery originated in Longmont, Colorado, it has a satellite location in Brevard, North Carolina and has purchased other breweries in Michigan and Florida,as well as Austin, Texas.  Of course, that smacks a little of corporate acquisition, but in an interview with Market Watch, Dale Katechis, founder of the brewery, indicated that Oskar Blues basis for selecting these purchases had nothing to do with typical corporate, ahem, ethic: “…we all sat around and said: ‘Would we be able to travel there and spend our lives in this town?’ And the unanimous answer was ‘yes.’ That’s really how those decisions get made.”

He also said that “From a cultural standpoint, what I believe Oskar Blues is made up of is beer, bikes, food and music, in no particular order. Just things that I find fulfilling about this world. I think we’ve built a pretty interesting culture around here and I think people feel the same.”

Well, that’s enough to make us love these guys in theory.  But the fact is that the beer is good, so our buds are satisfied, and it comes in cans so we can sip our tasty adult beverage even as we wander through the memories – and barbed wire – of our reckless youth.  That’s sweet in a whole new way.

For September we’ll be featuring Oskar Blues on tap and in cans, including a limited amount of the Passion Fruit Pinner.  It’s a happy marriage but limited partnership of Pinner Throwback IPA and the cheery personality of Passion Fruit that you’ll want to get before we run out.

We’ll also have these brews (cheerfully described by the brewery):

Priscilla

“This AmeriCAN take on the Belgian Classic Wit, featuring orange peel and coriander spice emanated from the basement blues music legacy Dave McIntyre (Oskar Blusologist) built at the original Oskar Blues Grill & Brew in Lyons, CO. On draft for over a decade, Priscilla’s zesty citrus and light fresh baked bread aromas mix with spicy, fruity fermentation. Light bodied with a subtle savory spice accent and a dry, lightly tart finish you can nearly feel the flicker of the neon and sounds of the King. White Wit Wheat.”

Dale’s Pale

“…delivers a hoppy nose and assertive-but-balanced flavors of pale malts and citrusy floral hops from start to finish. America’s first-craft-canned mountain Pale is a hearty, critically acclaimed trailblazer that changed the way craft beer fiends perceive portable beer.”

Mama’s Little Yella Pils

“… an uncompromising, small-batch version of the beer that made Pilsen, Czech Republic, famous. Unlike mass market‚ “pilsners‚” diluted with corn and rice, Mama’s is built with 100% pale malt, German specialty malts, and Saaz hops. While it’s rich with Czeched-out flavor, its gentle hopping makes it a luxurious but low-dose (by Oskar Blues standards) refresher.”

And we may even have a few more, all while supplies last.  You better come on in and check…

Cheers!  We’ll see you soon.

National Bacon Lover’s Day

August 20th is a subtle food holiday.  Whereas most of the time we’re celebrating a particular thing we love to eat, this day honors those who do the eating.  And while we’re certainly all about lifting people up, it just doesn’t seem right to give bacon lovers, of all people, their own holiday.  After all, they revel in the joy of eating every time they sit down to their favorite treat – an official recognition smacks of indulgence or perhaps a little insider trading.  Bacon enthusiasts are very well placed – even, we’re told, among the illuminati.

Perhaps it’s too much to assume that there’s a secret society at work – after all, there is no arcane knowledge about the food.  It announces its presence boldly with rampant assaults on the olfactory bulb that travel to the brain like wild fire to enflame craving and ignite desire.   As far as I can tell, babies with candy are safe, but little ones with bacon are sure to be without it soon.

Of course, this part of the world is particularly subject to bacon love owing to our proximity to the center of the known bacon universe.  Our charming neighbor to the south, Madisonville, may seem like a quiet place, but it’s a hotbed of bacon agitation and the home of many, very smoky revels.  Benton’s Bacon is one of the most odiferous examples of this already odiferous edible, and it acts on the average person’s nose in much the same way that the sirens’ call ensnared sailors of ancient seas.

If you consider the subject carefully, bacon love is really more cult-like than anything as it lures even the strongest of hearts into its web of longing; there’s a good chance that Meatless Monday has been thwarted more by bacon than anything else.  Still, some of our favorite people are ensnared by this compelling food obsession – even folks we call family – so we tolerate this obsession and do our darnedest to love them the best we can.

Given the nature of this love that not only dares to speak its name but proclaims it loudly, one wonders if the purpose of the holiday isn’t so to acclaim the bacon lover but, instead, to call attention to their plight.

Regardless, as far as we can tell there’s no cure for this food affliction until the afflicted themselves have had enough.  And until that day, we do our best to treat them well and make sure that the bacon they get is at least of good quality, acquired legally, and not taken out of the mouths of babes.

As for Tomato Head, admittedly we’re enablers.  Really big enablers.  We serve Benton’s Bacon as an a la carte brunch option, a topping for salad and pizza, and as an essential part of the “OH!” in our Oh Boy sandwich.  All bacon has excellent crunch potential, but Benton’s takes that texture an extra step and becomes both crunchy and softly yielding in the same bite.

Allan Benton in the Smokehouse (image by smokeymountaineer)

And then there’s the fact that Mr. Benton delivers a smoking that permeates not just the bacon but the entire dish – sometimes the whole room – suffusing it with flavor and memories, too.  Just the smell of this bacon ignites bonfires of glory days long past, fireplaces filled with crackling flames and romance, and campfires redolent with comfort, bonding and adventure.  Even its appearance recalls the memory-laden, failing autumn light, a dusk horizon streaked with shades of umber, ochre and Sienna.  But edible.  Really edible.

While naturally, WE do not suffer from bacon obsession, we understand and sympathize with those who do.  Thus we raise rashers to those who love the bacon on this their special day.  And though it’s easy to malign the bacon-addled, today we encourage you to show love and tolerance and to embrace them even if their hands are greasy and their breath, smoky.

Fattoush

Unlike hummus, baklava or even falafel, fattoush is a word that hasn’t quite made it into the common food vocabulary.  Like the other foods mentioned, fattoush is an important dish in the cuisine of Levant – a broad and imprecise area that includes much of the eastern Mediterranean.  The word Levant doesn’t get used so much anymore in English – apparently the French still like it, though I didn’t actually ask them – and, according to an article on PRI.org, “It literally means “the rising,” referring to the land where the sun rises. If you’re in France, in the western Mediterranean, that would make sense as a way to describe the eastern Mediterranean.”

And all of that makes perfect sense if you’ve ever eaten fattoush; it’s a simple, summery feast of color, flavor and texture that brings a lot of the rising sun into each bite.

Fattoush is part of a larger group of dishes, like panzanella, that are basically bread salads, all born of frugal food sense and a no-waste kitchen economy.  These dishes stretch the dough, literally and figuratively, to make stale bread not only useful but delicious.  The secret starts in the toasting, of course, but what happens after is the real magic – the kind that comes from sunshine.Fattoush1JustinFee

Good fattoush is simple and combines crispy pita, olive oil, tomatoes, and cucumber.  There are other ways to dress up the salad, but those four essentials are what make or break the dish.  The key is freshness – not only of the produce but of the composition itself.  Sure the pita can be stale, but it must be freshly toasted – and the whole salad has to be tossed together just before serving so the bread doesn’t turn to mush.

When it’s made correctly, it’s a dish that you can eat like nachos – picking up pieces of pita piled high with summer veg and dripping with olive oil.  The combination of cool, crisp cucumbers, and tomatoes ripe from the vine slick with the sun-packed flavor of oil makes for a textural match made in food heaven when joined in a single bite with the crunch of toasted pita.

It’s a remarkable dish that’s straightforward, pantry friendly, and simple but all the more elegant because of that.  It’s a feast for the eyes too: the colors are bright and shiny with oil and reflect the best rays of the summer sun.

If your appetite is activated now, just wait until Saturday when you tune in to WBIR’s Weekend Today.   Mahasti is back on the air after a brief sabbatical, and she’ll show us all her secrets for one of her favorite warm weather meals.  We hope you’ll tune in, and shortly thereafter, chow down!

Tomato Head’s Fattoush

2 cups quartered cucumbers

2 cups quartered or diced tomatoes

1/3 cup chopped onion

¾ cups crumbled feta cheese

1 TBL chopped mint

1 TBL fresh lemon juice

3 TBL olive oil

1 TBL Balsamic Vinegar

1.25 tsp salt

1.5 – 2 cups Stacy’s Pita Crisps

Place cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, feta, mint, lemon juice, olive oil, balsamic

vinegar, and salt in a large bowl and toss well. When ready to serve, add pita

crisps, toss and serve.

Serves 2-4 people

© 2016 The Tomato Head Site by: Robin Easter Design