A Sobremesa Thanksgiving

Please don’t confuse this title with “A sober Thanksgiving,” because I assure you, none of us was sober throughout the process of prepping, cooking, or enjoying this years’ meal.

What? We’re all adults here…

Speaking of being an adult, something shifts when you transition from simply sitting back and enjoying the feast prepared by relatives much older than you to actively engaging in the process. This year, my husband and I took the reigns with his family’s gathering and executed 80% of the meal ourselves, including the turkey.

On top of assuming the responsibility of feeding 12 plus people, I am also confronted with the cognitive dissonance that hits me every Thanksgiving.  Yes, I have always cherished this holiday, I love the family connections, the *cough* sobremesa *cough*, but there’s a deep sadness that taints this holiday once you know the truth about the white man’s relationship with Natives, and let me just say it’s not all happy pilgrims, neighborly kindness, and pumpkin pie.

This American Life did a great story called “Little War on the Prairie,” where they report the story of a terrible battle in Minnesota:

“Mankato was the site of the largest mass execution in US history of Dakota warriors. 38 of them were hanged by the order of Abraham Lincoln, more than 150 years ago,  the day after Christmas, 1862.”

https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/479/transcript

I’m not trying to rain on your Macy’s Day Parade, but the reality of our existence in this country doesn’t produce the sanguin sentiment so many of us cherished as children.

And yet, despite being conscious individuals, there are still turkeys to roast, pies to bake, potatoes to mash, and relatives to cherish during this thoroughly manufactured holiday.

Michael and I had the privilege of visiting family in Knoxville, TN and I couldn’t think of a better setting to celebrate this Autumnal holiday, surrounded by Smokey Mountains and brilliant fall colors.

Since we were so instrumental in doing the cooking, I didn’t have time to grab the beautiful photos that usually accompany our posts… ie Carole wasn’t there to offer her photog skills and Michael was elbows deep in turkey juice.

Despite the lack of photos, I can assure you this was a Thanksgiving meal worth writing home about.  Michael brined the 23 lb turkey for 12 hours and then stuffed the skin with butter and drizzled olive oil and herbs over the top as it roasted. All the usual suspects were also on the table: mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, plus some stunning homemade quick pickles and jalapeño poppers.

The star of the whole occasion was the merging of extended family members, all of whom were new to me, coming together and sharing 3 days of stories and memories.  It was, in a word, perfect. A true Sobremesa Thanksgiving, indeed.

From us over here at Sobremesa Waco, we hope your holiday was filled with all the joy and good food you can eat.  Also, do your part to be a good citizen and help your fellow man on Giving Tuesday coming up on Nov. 28.  As privileged white people who built a nation on the mass murder of natives, it’s the least we can do.

I want to highlight an organization that’s doing incredible work across the world, and now, has started a branch in Waco, Texas:

 “Rlabs’ passion is solely to create systems and environments where the lives of many can be impacted, where individuals may find empowerment and transformation can occur through hope, technology, innovation, training and economic opportunities.”

You can donate and make a difference here: https://rlabswaco.org/donate/

Women We’re Currently Crushin’ On…

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Taylor and Sam

In case you didn’t notice, this blog is produced by two powerful, fierce women who love food, our families, having fun, and freakin’ lots of WINE! In honor of #WomenCrushWednesday we wanted to start a series that features the badass women in our lives that inspire us to be our best selves while practicing self-love through our failures (which happen daily).

We decided to kick this off with our dear friend, Taylor, who recently packed-up, put Waco in her rear view mirror, and relocated herself + her son, Sam, back to Nebraska. This was a sad day for me particularly, because Taylor embodies this vibrant feminine energy that spills out on everyone around her. When we first met, she opened her heart and shared her journey with me.  A story too incredible to fully share on this blog–one marked by sickness, miracles, healing, sorrow and love.  Taylor’s a fighter, and she pushes to find beauty in the midst of chaos.   I find her openness rare, and I will forever thank Taylor for her willingness to “go there” when so many others just will not.

Before Taylor left Waco, we made her dinner, got her a little tipsy on this killer cocktail, and asked her to answer some questions about life, food, and what it means to be a woman.  Here’s that interview mixed-in with photos from our dinner together.

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Carole used Balcones Baby Blue 100% blue corn whiskey to make her fall cocktail

A: We are primarily a food blog, so I’d love to hear your philosophies on food and how they have evolved over time, especially since becoming a mother.

T:  Hippocrates said, “let food be thy medicine.” As a nurse, and as someone who’s lived through chemo, I understand the need to take care of our bodies.  The condition I had when I was younger, that my dad was able to diagnose, is directly related to a high presence of pesticides found in our food sources.  This is why I try to exclusively eat organic, clean food.  It’s life and death for me, and I want Sam to always be putting good food in his body.

A: Speaking of Sam, how did your approach to food specifically change once you became a mother?

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Fire smoked apple and blood orange whiskey cocktail

T: Everything changes when you become a mom because you think about every single detail of your life and the corresponding implications of each and every choice.  When it comes to food, I initially wanted to lose the baby weight, so I became more food conscious, but then I discovered how much more energy I had and how much better I felt when I ate good, real food.

A: What food items could you never live without?

T: I live off of sweet potatoes and almond butter with shredded coconut. I eat that every day for breakfast and it’s just the best. Ultimately whatever you put in, you get out, so I’m just big into healthy food in general. But I seriously inhale food way too fast, I love it so much. I am also obsessed with Indian food.

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April and Taylor

A: Sobremesa is a philosophy that speaks to creating community by gathering around a table and eating great food together.  What do you love most about cooking with friends?

T: I would say the communal aspect of experiencing what you create together and the joy that comes from sharing that with loving, kind people.

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I was a single mom before re-marrying last year, and although my experience was vastly different than Taylor’s, there’s something deeply meaningful when you find a woman who embraces your story with a “me too.” There’s just something about having to start your life over, alone, with a child, that creates a resilience deep within your soul.  There’s this mama bear that comes alive when the universe and circumstances threaten everything we love and hold dear.  Still, after walking through that fire, we shine all the brighter, and Taylor’s brightness radiates from her deep within her beautiful soul.

On the food side of things, we made butter chicken with roasted butternut squash and naan for dipping. Michael has a killer recipe for butter chicken that involves layers upon layers of flavor. Comment on this blog if you want the recipe!

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You do you, girl!

 

From Capetown to Wacotown: A Braai Day Celebration

We’re always looking for inspiration, and part of our creative process with Sobremesa Waco begins with embracing other cultures and integrating new ideas into our WacoTown experience.  So when Carole came to me with her National Braai Day idea, I said “yes, please!” (right after I googled “what is a Braai”)

South Africa serves as a home to a diverse mix of citizens-a true melting pot of cultures, with 11 official languages, and a jaded history marked by both unimaginable racism and also incredible redemption.  South Africans believe diversity only enriches the human experience, and despite the blend of people groups, on September 24 every year, South Africans celebrate “National Heritage Day” or   South African Braai Day .  The National Braai Day website describes their annual celebration like this:

“Across race, language, region and religion, we all share one common heritage. It is called many things: Chisa Nyama, Braai and Ukosa to name few. Although the ingredients may differ, the one thing that never changes is that when we have something to celebrate we light fires, and prepare great feasts.”

Although we’re halfway across the world, I identify with this need to come together, celebrate our differences, and eat some great damn food. So that’s what we did!

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A giant white onion = the best way to clean a dirty grill

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Sirloin + Braai Grilled Cheese

For the meat, a flank steak or lamb shoulder would be the more traditional way to go.  I decided to reach for sirloins instead, which we will top with a tomatillo salsa verde. The grilled ciabatta, on the other had, sticks to tradition–Carole stuffed the entire loaf with cheese, salami, tomatoes, onions, and an amazing raspberry chutney. The result was simply stunning.

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Charred and delicious stuffed ciabatta

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Grilled sirloin topped with tomatillo salsa

Sausage also typically makes an appearance at a South African Braai, so we thew in some brats for good measure.

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Grilled brats fresh off the Bar-B

We aren’t total heathens, so Carole put together a beautiful spread of fresh vegetables drizzled with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

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Garden vegetables

And it wouldn’t be a celebration without something delicious to drink.  We picked a crisp, dry hard cider.

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Foggy Ridge Cider

While Carole ran around taking photos and playing hostess, I got to hang out with Miss Lucy Rose.

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This baby loves a good Braai

In true Sobremesa fashion, the best part of the whole evening happened after we were done stuffing our faces.  We sat together on the floor of the Fergusson’s living room, watched the trailer for a new Wes Anderson movie, and cracked up while watching YouTube compilations.

We had a great time, and the whole experience was ultra casual, laid-back, and totally easy to throw together.  So often the most beautiful experiences are birthed out of authentic simplicity.  So take a lesson from Capetown, and go create some community in your own backyard or a park near you.  You’ll thank us later 😛

 

Craft, pt. 1: Cultivating a Collection

And we’re back! Carole and I would like for you to take a journey around Waco with us, exploring the craft culture that makes Waco oh, so special.  We’ll show off some of the big name places you already know and love, but we’ll hopefully introduce you to some diamonds in the rough as well.

Our first stop–one of our absolute favorite places to haunt Wednesday-Saturday: The Waco Wine Shoppe.

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I first walked into David Mayfield’s Wine Shoppe on a gloomy day in December, just a month after he had opened his doors.

As my feet crossed the threshold, I was immediately struck by the tasting room’s artful design:  A cool, white marble bar perfectly balances the warm yellow glow radiating from the edison bulbs that hang strategically from the ceiling.  An enormous abstract painting hangs on a wall directly opposite David’s large, wooden shelves, lined with beautiful bottles of wine.  I thought to myself: “Surely, this place cannot exist in Waco, Texas.”

As I pulled up a stool and began my very first tasting, I had no idea that my palette and my overall relationship with wine would forever be changed.

IMG_6146David Mayfield wears many hats within the wine industry: he’s an importer and distributor in addition to owning a retail wine business.  What doesn’t come through in any of those titles is his dedication to sourcing unique wines from small producers who follow a specific, natural winemaking philosophy.

David’s carefully cultivated collection of natural, organic wine, in many cases, allows Wacoans to access wine unavailable anywhere else in the U.S.  I could go into excruciating detail about biodynamic wine and why it matters, but in keeping with our Sobremesa philosophy, I’m more interested in exploring how the Wine Shoppe’s existence has impacted the Waco community, creating a sacred space for unpretentious wine tasting, providing the opportunity for old friends, new friends, and perfect strangers to gather together around high-quality wine.

David’s events, which range from free (the Friday night apertivo) to more high-end dining experiences (ranging between $55-75/person) offer incredible opportunities for the novice and the expert to experience the complexity and beauty of these specially cultivated wines together. Once the wine begins to flow, the conversation does as well, opening the door to deeper human connection.

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When my husband and I invited our families to Waco to celebrate our marriage, we held a pre-party event at the Wine Shoppe, inviting the locals to mingle with the out-of-towners.  I hoped it would be a good time for all, but I was not prepared for the evening to transform into pure magic.  The atmosphere, combined with great food and conversation, extended an opportunity for a diverse mix of people and generations to connect, tell stories, and laugh.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried, with fewer tensions and more tolerance.”  We couldn’t agree more with this statement, as it sums up the true essence of sobremesa. This is why we tip our hats to David for creating this space for us to slow time, fill our cups, and live a fuller, more satisfying life.

Stay tuned for more thoughts on craft.  Who should we feature? Comment with your suggestions!

Not Just Another Food Blog

Hi! My name is April Leman, and thanks for stopping by this blog.   I also want you to meet my creative partner, Carole Fergusson. Since Carole and I launched this project, we’ve received some amazing feedback, but we also want to clarify our mission and better describe the direction we want our platform to take.

 

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Waco: Equal Parts Wasteland and Wonderland

Waco is a town full of transients–we attract amazing talent due in large part to Baylor University, but this town also serves as a launching point for entrepreneurs, artists, and craftspeople who wander their way deep into the heart of Texas–eyes gleaming with optimism. So those of us who’ve made Waco a permanent home get to meet these incredibly gifted folks as they pass through, and sometimes we even convince them to take off their coats and stay awhile.

These interesting people pop up so frequently, that with surprising regularity I’ll be sitting at the Wine Shoppe or another local haunt, and out of nowhere will find myself in the midst of a powerful, authentic conversation with an acquaintance about things that matter.  We talk about religion, race, equality, gender issues, politics, and all the other taboo things not typically brought up in polite conversation.

Motivated by Nostalgia 

How did we get here? Why do I feel so deprived of community that I am compelled to reach out to total strangers or mere acquaintances?  I’m not sure why, but the world feels different now than when I was a kid.  There is no such thing as riding bikes around the neighborhood all summer, meeting new kids and playmates along the way.  No more lying in the way back of Grandpa’s station wagon on the way to the lake–no car seats or even a seat belt, just giggles.  Today we live in fear like I’ve never known before, and this fear drives us to stay isolated.  We don’t reach out to one another and we don’t trust each other.

 

 

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Sobremesa as a Philosophy

So this is our “why” behind this blog.  We believe we’re not alone in our longing for deeper, more profound interactions with our fellow humans, and it seems we experience these feelings of connection organically when we’re surrounded by good food and wine. When Carole introduced me to the word “sobremesa,” the idea took shape in our minds.  If we can do a better job of bringing people together around a table, maybe this world could look a little brighter. Maybe we can all feel more hopeful.

Where we’re headed

Through this blog, we will elevate these incredibly gifted people who have, at least for a time, dedicated part of their life to this  wonderful wasteland of a town.  We want to help others connect with community and give our followers a glimpse of how that can happen in your own home, wherever you live.  We will occasionally showcase some of our favorite places outside of Waco, just for some good old-fashioned inspiration, but for the most part we will be cooking with and loving on the folks who identify with the adage, “Waco feels like home.”

Stay tuned. I think you’ll like where this is headed…

(Photo Credit: Laura Lee Blackburn)

Green with Tomato Envy

I’m friends with people who like to grow things.  Enter exhibit A: check out these big, green beauties grown by Carole Fergusson.

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Using a beautiful, locally grown ingredient as your source for inspiration plays a large role in our Sobremesa philosophy.  With the right TLC, you can transform something as humble as a green tomato into delicious magic.

Carole battered these babies in a panko/flour mixture, then fried them in the cast iron with some hot olive oil until golden brown.

Since we’re currently crushing on crostini served any way imaginable, Carole toasted some yummy french bread in the cast iron as well, threw in some prosciutto and let it crisp up (because fancy bacon, duh!), then stacked the tomatoes on top.

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Sprinkle with some Parmesan and a few ribbons of basil, and you’re done! Oh wait. There’s wine. I almost forgot the wine! (amateur mistake).

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The label on this bottle is hard to read, but this wine is SO FUN to say! It’s pronounced Her-lube-er-loo. Whenever I say it I usually add additional “lube-er-loos” for dramatic emphasis.  It’s juicy and fruity and it’s the perfect side-kick to these fried green goddesses.

 

When it gets hot, go Tapas!

We’re deep in the heart of Texas and someone’s already turned the summer heat up to 11, but we didn’t let this deter us from having some fun in the kitchen! I love collaborative cooking and a tapas themed meal provides a great way to go “potluck” without ending up knee-deep in casseroles no one likes and potato salad 5-ways.

No idea what I mean by tapas? Click here. We’re talking mostly small, sharable plates with a Spanish flair.

Most of these dishes are incredibly simple to prepare, can be made ahead all by you, or you can let your guests get creative and bring something to share.  With tapas there aren’t really any hard and fast rules, so cooking this way feels liberating. Olé!

We started our evening with some munchies–spanish paprika roasted almonds and pesto hummus, featuring basil grown in my mama’s organic garden.

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We paired this course with a beautiful rosé from Austria, imported by Waco’s very own David Mayfield Selections.

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Next up, we continued onto to this amazingly simple roasted beet and goat cheese crostini.  My advice: let the crostini be your canvas and top it with anything and everything. Click here for inspiration.

Attachment-1 (2).jpegTo keep things light, we put  together a salad of cantaloup, prosciutto, and mint.  This is magic in your mouth.  The sweetness in the melon perfectly balances the fatty saltiness of the dry cured ham and the ribbons of mint bring a freshness to balance out the bite.

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For our next course, we went with something simple to make that often intimidates people: ceviche.  We used mahi mahi, but any meaty white fish will do (or shrimp!).  Just marinate the raw fish in citrus for at least 4 hours and then add some lovely hot peppers cilantro and whatever else sounds fresh and good.  We served ours on an avocado tower.

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At about this time we cracked open a bottle of Bobal, which is a lesser-known Spanish grape, to accompany the next course.

IMG_9066 (1).JPGNow, for the show stopper.  If you want to impress the pants off of people without spending much money or working all that hard, marinate a flank steak overnight and then grill for about 1 minute on each side–just enough to give it a good sear and the middle will be a nice mid-rare. Then, throw a bunch of parsley, cilantro, a bit of garlic, lime juice and olive oil into a food processor and voilà! You have a beautiful chimchurri to decorate the top of your steak. And it tastes amazing.

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You can end your meal with dessert, or you can make a frozen wine cocktail and call it a day. We realized it was national rosé day (whatever that means) so we made frosé because if bon appétite can do it, so can we!

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