This Saturday, Missoula’s Jeannette Rankin Peace Center will throw its annual International Peace Party. Adding spice to the event is the fact that it’s the JRPC’s 15-year anniversary, so they are planning to rage even harder—in a peaceful way. The catered event includes food, booze, music, a silent auction, and a secret award to be presented to a yet-to-be-named peaceful luminary. There will also be a live auction, where bidders compete for international meals prepared by local chefs.
Some of those offering international meals are well-known chefs, such as Ray Risho from Perugia, and Charles Davidson of Steelhead Grill. Others haven’t spent as much time in the culinary limelight, and Chef Boy Ari wondered if these folks might be keepers of obscure yet important culinary knowledge. So I did a little sniffing around, armed with a carefully-crafted question specially designed to separate the victim from their innermost culinary secret-weapon.
Harriet Eichenholz will auction a “Greek Island Dinner.” Her qualifications include running a restaurant for five years on the Greek island of Kalymnos, off the coast of Turkey, where she served a variety of foods—including American (“they really dug brownie `a la mode”). In that neck of the woods, sea sponges soak up the waters, and each island has its own unique culinary characteristics, so Eichenholz was privy to a lot of local flavor, such as Klephtiko (whose linguistic root means “to steal”), developed by bandits who would steal a sheep and wrap it in a skin and bake it. She also learned the art behind tzatziki, calamari, and all of the fine Greek things that you have on a Greek island, including citrus squeezed on everything. “When fig season came, we would fill the Vespa with figs, and sit on the dining terrace and watch the sun set into the sea. The moon would rise. The night smelled like jasmine and orange blossoms. Then the discos would open, and we would go party.”
At the height of nostalgia, I fired my special question: “Harriet” I said, “if you were marooned on a desert island with just one Greek culinary trick in your chest, what would it be?”
In a heartbeat she replied “Always use the freshest things that you can. The beauty of Greek food is that it was in the garden that morning, and on the plate at dinner. Italians take the same ingredients and turn it into a sophisticated cuisine, but Greek food is very simple, closer to the earth.”
Charlotte Kasl is offering a Hungarian dinner for eight people, which includes a ‘musical soirée afterwards featuring ‘dueling pianos,’ with Jodi Marshall playing jazz and Steven Hesla playing Chopin (not at the same time). Although Kasl never ran a restaurant in Hungary, she had a Hungarian roommate in college. That roommate had a lot of Hungarian friends, and they did a lot of Hungarian cooking. Kasl recently befriended a Hungarian exchange student, Katalin Csillery, who will return from Hungary with authentic ingredients after Christmas Break. Born in Missoula, Kasl earned a Masters in piano, and then a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology, before writing a string of successful books, most notably “If the Buddha Dated.”
“Charlotte” I said, “if you were marooned on a desert island with just one culinary trick up your sleeve, what would it be?”
“Eat slowly in the company of lovely people” she said. “A day in the kitchen. Nice music. Coffee. Then all these nice people show up, and we settle in with some wine, dessert, and coffee and hear some great music.”
City Councilor John Engen will be the auctioneer, with commentary by Christine Littig of Red Bird fame. These two have a banter which is alleged to be quite intoxicating. For those of you who don’t know, Engen used to write a column for the (pardon the expression) Missoulian. His column, called “Walk on the Wide Side,” often dealt with the lighter side of being over 300 lbs.
Since yours-truly happened to be writing the, ahem, cover story of this week’s Independent at the time, on the topic of transportation, I took the opportunity to ask the Councilor what he thinks about building more roads to accommodate predicted increases in traffic. “It’s like loosening your belt to lose weight” he said. “I’ve tried that several times. It doesn’t work.”
Then I asked him my special question. “Mayonnaise” he said, “nature’s most perfect food. And a straw.”
I had to squint my eyes in the blinding light of such brilliance. Dizzy and quivering, all I knew was this: I’m a one-issue voter, and it’s always for the special creme.
So there you have it folks, the three international golden rules of cooking: good ingredients, take your time, and special creme—but not in that order! I couldn’t have said it better my...wait...actually, that is about what I usually recommend. So there you go...maybe I’m not a fraud after all. In fact, rumor has it that ours truly might be auctioning off a meal of his own...cuisine from the island of Aeolis! [See calendar for event details.]
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