Culinary Justice + Pozole de Camarón #FoodieReads
Updated: Mar 5
I already shared a post about Eric Peterson's novel The Dining Car. This is my offering after reading the sequel, Sunshine Chief.
On the Page
This novel picks up a couple years after the first. Jack Marshall - still the narrator - is no longer Horace Button's bartender; he's more like a personal assistant and is married to Button's personal chef, Wanda. All three are involved in raising Button's orphaned thirteen-year-old niece, Jane.
They travel, as Button always does, in his vintage private railroad cars to southern Arizona. Button is scheduled to co-host the Best Chef Tucson Jail-and-Bail Weekend Gala with his old friend, socialite Bunny Lorillard. They have also brought along Jane's friend Florabelle as both girls have recently been suspended from school.
The cooking competition takes a macabre turn and they are all scrambling to solve the crime.
Florabelle is an interesting outsider as she has so little experience with the food that they all eat.
"'What’s this weird jelly thing on top?' she asked. 'Are we supposed to eat it?' 'That’s a poached egg,' Jane said. 'It looks like seal poop.' Jane began to laugh but caught herself when she saw me glaring. Florabelle shredded the Canadian bacon with her hands, she licked butter from her fingers, she chewed with her mouth open. Horace Button, the incomparable raconteur, was struck dumb by her lack of manners" (pg. 15).
"'Wanda has a surprise. She made you a special dessert.' 'What did she make?' Jane asked. 'Bananas Foster.' Jane let out a whoop. “My favorite!” She turned and grabbed Florabelle by the arm. “Have you ever had it?” 'Bananas what?' Florabelle asked. 'Bananas Foster.' Jane turned to me. 'Can we have it up in the vista dome while we start our homework?'" (pg. 36).
At one point, the characters broach the subject of 'culinary justice'. "'Ever heard the term culinary justice?' 'Never.' 'It’s the concept that you have to have been born in it to profit off your heritage. Only Mexicans can cook Mexican, only Thais can cook Thai, and so on. Only African Americans can do chicken and waffles. Guy like me, I put moo shu pork and Mandarin pancakes on my menu, and I’m guilty of appropriating Chinese culture.' 'Oh, for God’s sake'" (pg. 127).
This certainly isn't the first time I have heard of culinary justice. It goes along the lines of cultural appreciation versus cultural appropriation and authentic versus traditional. But I do not believe that you can only make the food of your ancestors. I mean, how boring would that be?!? I make a few Filipino dishes - Ginataang Seafood, lumpia, turon, chicken adobo, and arroz caldo - but I cook from all over the globe.
What about you? What do you think about the concept of culinary justice?
In My Bowl
Again, because of Button's voracious appetite, there is a lot of food in the book. I was inspired by this passage: "I put my phone away when our waiter surprised us with shots of a smoky mezcal. He also brought several ripe avocados, which he proceeded to mash, garnish, and whip into a generous bowl of guacamole. Staff members from the kitchen, wearing black chef’s coats and pill-box hats, delivered samples of the restaurant’s signature starters: bowls of pozole verde and a sizzling cast-iron skillet of queso fundido with chorizo" (pg. 129). So, despite not being Mexican, I decided to share my version of Pozole de Camarón.
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 teaspoons Mexican seasoning blend
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 /2 cup each diced onions, diced carrots, diced celery, diced zucchini, and diced squash
2 cups cooked white hominy
4 cups chicken stock (or veggie, if preferred)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 Tablespoon salsa
GARNISHES You can top the pozole with whatever you like, but here are some suggestions and what we usually use...
chopped green onion
crumble Cotija cheese
Place cleaned shrimp in a mixing bowl. Add in the seasoning and 1 teaspoon olive oil. Massage the seasoning into the shrimp and let stand while you prepare the rest of the dish.
In a large soup pot, heat remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil. Add in the onions, carrots, and celery. Cook until the onions are softened and turning translucent approximately 3 to 5 minutes.
Add in the zucchini, squash, and hominy. Stir to incorporate into the other veggies. Stir in the salsa, then pour in the stock and the lime juice.
Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook until the carrots are fork-tender. Gently lower the shrimp into the soup and cook until just opaque, approximately 3 minutes. Don’t overcook as they will get rubbery.
To serve, ladle soup into serving bowls. Then garnish with whatever goodies you like. Serve hot.