On this last episode, we look back on 23 years of joyous, difficult and always informative conversation.
The change of the seasons — crisper air, crunchy leaves and shorter days — can bring a refreshing shift to your palate. So, we want to know: What are your favorite fall foods?
This autumn, we’re discussing family food traditions with Suzanne Nuyen, creator of the Vietnamese food blog “Bun Bo Bae”
and Ruth Tam and Patrick Fort, the hosts of WAMU’s food and culture podcast Dish City.
Plus, heading into this pandemic holiday season may feel especially bittersweet. We talk about how spending time in the kitchen can bring you peace and joy, even when seasonal reunions remain out of reach.
Produced by Julie Depenbrock
KOJO NNAMDIYou're tuned in to The Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU 88.5, welcome. The change of seasons, crisper air, crunchy leaves and shorter days can bring a refreshing shift to your palate. So we want to know what are your favorite fall foods? And heading into this pandemic holiday season may feel a bit bitter sweet, so how might spending time in the kitchen bring you peace and joy even as reunions with family and friends remain just out of reach? We'd love to hear from you this hour. What foods and beverages do you turn to this time of year? Joining us now are Ruth Tam and Patrick Fort. They are the Co-hosts of Dish City, a food and culture podcast from WAMU. Hi, Ruth, how are you doing?
RUTH TAMHey, Kojo. Doing well. Thanks for having us.
NNAMDIGlad to have you on. Hey, Patrick, how is it going?
PATRICK FORTDoing great. Thanks for having us.
NNAMDIThank you for joining us. Patrick, let's start off with you and a point of contention. In a recent episode of Dish City, you talk about how you're viewing the shift to colder weather. So, Mr. Fort, why don't you begin to tell us your views on fall?
FORTYou know, this is so funny. Just like a few minutes ago somebody was asking me for fun facts about myself, and I was at a loss for words. But now I'm realizing that my hot take is that fall is the absolute best season. And that it's a hill I will die on. Everything about it is the best. I think the weather is the best. The food is the best. It's just awesome.
NNAMDIYeah, that's because you're from Pennsylvania, but, Ruth, what about you? What do the colder months mean to you this year?
TAMI think generally I'm on board with fall. Though, it definitely depends I think on where you live in the country that fall is the best season, but I think this year I'm struggling to kind of get on board the fall train. I associate the cold weather months with, you know, family get-togethers and holiday foods. And in terms of the family get-togethers like, you know, for me that's not going to be happening this year the way that, you know, they've been happening in previous years. So I personally had a much longer onramp into fall than Patrick did both in terms of, you know, tasty foods that I'm enjoying and in terms of just emotions.
NNAMDIRuth, what are some of your favorite fall food trends?
TAMWell, this year I definitely got on the pumpkin beer trend. It took me a while. It wasn't until I was able to kind of celebrate the mid-Autumn festival, which I'm sure we'll get to talk about later. But it wasn't until that point that I was able to be like, Okay, we're into fall. And then I fully started drinking pumpkin beers. I made pumpkin bread from one of your producer Julie Depenbrock's famous recipes. And even though I dropped the loaf on my oven door, it still turned out great.
NNAMDIPatrick, what food and drink trends have a tendency to pop up this time of year for you and why?
FORTWell, I think like Ruth said, pumpkin beer, pumpkin spice associated things obviously are really popular. But, you know, we got like our produce box delivered this morning and it was mostly squash. So we're going to have to try to be creative there, and all of your root vegetables, all of your hearty things that you can get all roasty toasty with.
NNAMDI800-433-8850. Are there certain recipes that bring you comfort during the pandemic? Tell us about what you're cooking at 800-433-8850. Ruth, what is it about fall? We've just been talking about pumpkin. What is it about fall that makes people crave these particular flavors, pumpkin, squash?
TAMI think that when you don't have the freshest foods available and you're starting to get into like the harvest produce or like that stuff that, you know, is more preserved during the cold weather months, you have to lean on spices to kind of, you know, enhance certain flavors, and so like we associate a lot of different spices, not just the pumpkin spice flavors. But I don't know, I associate like lots of -- I don't know curry is really nice and cozy for the fall. You want something that's going to make you feel warm, basically.
NNAMDIYou said, "Um-hum," Patrick. You know, I do curry all year long. You said spicy foods are foods for the fall the fall?
FORTYeah, all year.
NNAMDIWell, we've got to go there then, pumpkin spice. People love to hate it, yet it is pretty much everywhere. I saw pumpkin spice Cheerios in the supermarket. Why is this more of a thing than ever staring with your, Ruth, and then you, Patrick?
TAMI think it's just like -- it's just a marketable trend. I think it's interesting to see how some fall flavors are more popular in certain areas than others like, you know, I think pumpkin spice is popular in the retail sector, but, like, if you look at like the restaurant scene like Brussels sprouts and other harvest type vegetables, like they will show up more on menus as being like the thing that's in season. But just like in grocery stores and Starbucks and other like dessert and coffee shops, it just a marketable thing. Like even if you hate it, it's -- people still talk about it. And, you know, it's that thing like all attention is good attention like any press is good press. Like I think that's the line of thinking that people are riding off when they decide to put something pumpkin spice flavored on the menu.
NNAMDIWhat's up with that, Patrick? What's up with the pumpkin spice?
FORTWell, I think Ruth makes a really astute observation with kind of like the trendiness of it. You know, when this first kind of came out maybe a little more than a decade ago it was obviously a really big deal and it was really popular. And then we got to this point where it was like kind of cool to hate pumpkin spice. And then we kind of stopped talking about it for a little bit. And now I think we've kind of reached a point again where, you know, maybe it's obviously not like riding as high as it was on its first wave. But it's back in vogue maybe.
NNAMDIJoining us now is Suzanne Nuyen, a Journalist and the Creator of the Vietnamese food blog BunBoBae. Suzanne, thank you for joining us.
SUZANNE NUYENThank you. Thank you for having me.
NNAMDISuzanne, what's your biggest fall food tradition?
NUYENI am all about pumpkin spice as well. But as far as fall food traditions go that are pretty specific to my family and my Vietnamese heritage every year around this time my mom and I like to make mooncakes for the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is celebrated anytime usually between August and October.
NNAMDIWere you able to make mooncakes with your family this year?
NUYENI actually was. My mom and I usually make hundreds if not thousands of them to sell. And luckily this year, because I was working remotely and going to school remotely I was able to quarantine for a bit and go home and help her as usual.
NNAMDIHow many mooncakes did you make?
NUYENWe made between 250 and 300 mooncakes every weekend for five weeks.
NNAMDIThat's a lot of egg yolks. Why are these cooking traditions especially important to you?
NUYENThey're important to me, because my mom really wanted us to grow up and be close to our heritage. And cooking has always been a way for me to bond with my mom. I mean, I grew up sitting in the kitchen with her when I was too young to help her cook. I would just sit on the counter and watch her and then slowly I was given more and more duties from just measuring out the salt and pepper to, you know, fully being the person who cooks dinner now every time I come home.
NNAMDIAnd I should point out that your parents are from Vietnam, but you are a first generation American, right?
NUYENYes. My parents are immigrants and my dad was actually a refugee of the Vietnam War and my sister and I are the first to be born in the U.S.
NNAMDIBrian tweets, "This is all about meatloaf season. Every Sunday in fall and winter a different meatloaf, a perfect canvas for all kinds of flavors and proteins and spices." What do you know about that, Patrick Fort?
FORTWhat do I know about meatloaf? Well, I like it. I've never made it before, but it is a thing that I've been kind of putting on my agenda or -- I don't know. What do you call your list of things that you want to make? A recipe book I guess. But, yeah, meatloaf is great. And it is a great kind of filling and I guess like for me at least a comfort food.
NNAMDIRuth Tam, are you partial to meatloaf?
TAMI wasn't until very recently. Like in the past like year or so that I learned that meatloaf was like a very literal thing. I didn't grow up with meatloaf. And then when I realized that it's like ground beef and other things that you put in a pan and bake and then slice like a loaf of bread it blew my mind. And I've heard that it is great. And I should give it a try. But, yes, I think I'm going to have to like be introduced via someone's like foolproof recipe first.
NNAMDIGo to Margery in Potomac, Maryland. Margery, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MARGERYI called, because I have a suggestion and a request. Perhaps you can help. This season when we we're supposed to be distancing and Dr. Fauci has suggested even that his children are not coming home for the holiday that we do our distancing and at the same time the money we would of spent for preparing a lavish dinner for 10, 15 - 6, whatever the family number is, take that extra money whatever you can and donate it to your local churches, synagogues and even if, Kojo, you can help setup a way for people to send in money. That money can go to the food banks.
MARGERYThere are so many people in our community. I live in Potomac. There are families in this area alone both of whom have lost their jobs and they're afraid and embarrassed to say they need help. We have found out who some of them are and I don't know them personally, but they're being helped by the clergy and other members of the community. There are a lot of people who could use that extra money this time who are out of work. And wherever they live -- and feed them. And make that our holiday.
MARGERYAnd instead make our holiday for our husbands. My husband and I have been in since March locked in. And we Zoom on holidays with our children. Make your Thanksgiving a Zoom party. We've had birthday parties like that even during this summer. So that's my suggestion. And I'm hoping you can help make that happen.
NNAMDIMargery, thank you very much for your call. That is a very great sentiment to express. And I'm sure that a lot of people were pursuing that especially since as you pointed out they won't be able to spend time with friends and family. We're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll continue this conversation about fall food traditions. Annie tweets to us, Here is the best fall cocktail, Bourbon Maple Smash. I don't think we can have enough booze this year. So people are making other choices. What's yours? 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We're talking fall food traditions with Ruth Tam and Patrick Fort. They are the Co-hosts of Dish City, a food and culture podcast from WAMU. And Suzanne Nuyen who is a Journalist and the Creator of the Vietnamese food blog BunBoBae. Suzanne, your grandfather was apparently a very important figure in your life. Tell us more about him.
NUYENYeah, my grandfather and his wife, my grandmother, raised me when my mom and dad were working and going to school when I was very young. And so I grew up being really really close to them. And my grandpa also taught me a lot about Vietnam's history and my heritage, because it was really important to him that I keep that. And he didn't speak English. So it was really important to him that I could speak Vietnamese and be able to communicate with him.
NNAMDIAnd now you do speak Vietnamese, but where does you love of cooking come from?
NUYENThe love of cooking definitely comes from my mom. Like we were talking about earlier, it was one of the ways we bonded was always in the kitchen. And after I moved out and went to college and now I'm working in a different city than my family, making all of the dishes that my mom used to make for us for dinner definitely makes it feel like there's a part of her here with me.
NNAMDIWell, please, explain because I had to look it up, what is a mooncake and what is its significance?
NUYENSo mooncakes are a very intricate looking pastry that is shared among Vietnamese people and a lot of other Asian people during the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is celebrated on the eighth month of the lunar calendar. And it's celebrated a little differently across each country. But it's generally meant as a time of gathering and giving thanks and celebrating the fall harvest. And so the cakes are circles to represent the moon. And have these super intricate designs whether it is Chinese words or flowers or nature scenes. And they have a very sweet dense filling with salted egg yolk right in the middle. So if you cut it in half it looks like there's a full moon in the middle.
NNAMDIWow. Ruth Tam, how good are you at making mooncakes? How good are you at making mooncakes?
TAMI don't know. I've never tried myself, because it seems really difficult. But, you know, after seeing all the pictures of Suzanne and her mom making them on their various blogs and Instagram accounts -- and I've had friends who started making mooncakes this season too. It seems a little bit more possible. So maybe I'll try next year, but otherwise I just want to lean on the expertise of others in that regard.
NNAMDISuzanne, you've now included in Ruth Tam's realm of possibility. Well, Belle emails us, "Don't forget the visual component. Leaves are changing color and pumpkin foods and seasonings echo that rich beautiful orange." Is that something you've been aware of, Patrick Fort, the colors?
FORTI don't know if I necessarily made that association, but that's right. I think that's a good observation.
NNAMDIIt certainly is. Here now -- let's see if we can try Justin in Mount Pleasant again even as we're checking the phones. Justin, can you hear me now?
JUSTINKojo, long time listener, first time caller. I just wanted to say that apple spice is better than pumpkin spice.
NNAMDILoretta emails us that pumpkin spice recipe that her Italian dad taught her to make from his mother's cookbook, "What we like is adding the flavors of citrus and ginger, the bitters in the fall season. As my kids grew up I had to email them the recipe in the many places they lived. And now they make it too." Well, good for you, Loretta. If you're having trouble getting through to us on the phone, send us a tweet @kojoshow or email to email@example.com. Suzanne, how has making mooncakes made you feel closer to family during this pandemic?
NUYENWell, I wasn't even sure if I would be able to make them with my family this year, because of the pandemic. So I was really thankful that I was able to quarantine and, you know, come home safely especially, because a few months earlier in May my grandpa actually passed away from complications of COVID. And so that was the first time I had been able to come home and see my family in a long time. And the last time I had seen him alive was during another important holiday in Vietnamese culture, which the lunar New Year.
NUYENAnd I remember visiting him in his nursing home and feeding him all of the traditional dishes that we eat in the spring for that holiday. And I had never seen him eat so much before in his life. And I was scared that I was going to give him a stomach ache. And so being able to go home and make traditional foods that I know he would have loved to eat if he were still alive was really special for me. And I think I would have felt very homesick if I wasn't able to go home.
NNAMDIOur condolences on his passing. Ruth Tam, what are your fall food traditions?
TAMWell, like Suzanne I also celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival and that for me is like the true mark of fall starting. And so I will have typically like a big dinner with family, friends and just friends in the area since I typically don't go home for that particular holiday with Chinese food and mooncakes. And it's less of like a tradition tied to a particular holiday. But, yeah, I definitely cook a lot of soups and stews and chilies around this time of year. And also relish in the seasonal Halloween candy that only comes up during, you know, these short months that are always like fun and weird and not necessarily prioritizing how tasty they are, but are just kind of cute and spooky.
NNAMDIPatrick Fort, what about you? What foods do you usually turn to this time of year?
FORTWell, like you said, I grew up in Pennsylvania and I think a lot of the fall I associate with memories of like watching college football. So a lot of the foods actually that I associate with fall are kind of like cool weather sports foods. Something like a lot of like chili and then the thing that I used to just associate with like Western Pennsylvania, but realize that it's not just unique to there, but like buffalo chicken dip, which is delicious and really unhealthy, but sometimes I've used that as a meal.
NNAMDIBecause being from where you are a lot of these foods you enjoy were enjoyed watching football games all day long on Sundays during the fall, right?
NNAMDIYeah. That's what does. Are there particular foods that have brought you comfort during the pandemic?
FORTI think I found myself making a lot of soups and stews recently. But I think one thing that's actually been kind of nice is the way that I've cooked has been different. I think, you know, when we were working in an office, I think a lot of the cooking that I was doing was kind of functional or utilitarian in a way. Things that were like easily transportable and things that I could like leave in a fridge for a week and kind of eat throughout the week. But now I can kind of just choose things that I feel like making or things that feel particularly comforting on any given day for any particular reason. So I think I've been finding comfort in that freedom and flexibility.
NNAMDIWell, we got an email from Wintel in Virginia, who says oysters are his fall go to food. What are yours? Give us a call 800-433-8850. We think we've got the phones working well again. If not, send us a tweet @kojoshow or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. How are you planning out your holiday gatherings? Are you hoping for a socially distanced outdoor family meal? 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back. We're discussing fall food traditions with Suzanne Nuyen. She is a Journalist and the Creator of the Vietnamese food blog BunBoBae, and Ruth Tam and Patrick Fort are the hosts of Dish City, the food and culture podcast from WAMU.
NNAMDIWe're inviting your calls at 800-433-8850. You can send us a tweet @kojoshow. A listener tweets, "Sweet potato pie, all things cranberry, homemade chili and drinking port by the fireplace are my favorite fall full flavors and activities." Lynn emails us, "I'm suffering from COVID cooking boredom. Since March, I've been staying in and cooking for only two, my husband and me. I'm so bored of the same old meals, but I can't seem to get motivated to make something new. Unless it freezes well, we'll have to eat it three times in a week and that's boring too no matter how good it tastes." Ruth Tam, how long has it been since you've seen your family?
TAMIt's been over a year for some of my family members, but, yeah, I was last home for the end-of-the-year holidays in 2019.
NNAMDIAnd you don't plan on seeing them any time soon?
TAM(laugh) I haven't been able to figure out how to do it safely. I don't know if there's a way that I'll be able to kind of, you know, engineer it so that I can do it safely. But, you know, I did go up to see my partner's family for a day. And just that really short trip, you know, that was a really -- planning that out was a lot of work, you know, quarantining...
NNAMDI(overlapping) Before and after.
TAM...before and in advance, getting tests. Yeah, it's a big -- you know, the way that we decided to do it, it was quite, you know, an undertaking. And so, I don't go into the idea of planning to visiting my family who's a bit farther without some trepidation. So, it's just something that, if I do that, it's going to take a lot of thought. And so -- but, yeah, I think I'm leaning towards a more socially distant holiday season this year.
NNAMDIMy understanding is that Patrick has plans. Patrick, you're far from your family, as well. As we look ahead to the holiday season, do you see yourself gathering with them again?
FORTYeah, I mean, similarly to Ruth, my family is a flight away now. They live out West, and I took a really long time to think about it, but I kind of advised a plan similarly to Ruth. I would travel, and once I would arrive, I would kind of lock myself in a hotel or an Air B&B, location TBD, for a while, and then get a test and then hang out with them for a bit. Because it's been definitely more than a year since I've seen my family, so...
NNAMDIHas any member of your family been discouraging you from coming?
FORTNo. They actually seem pretty gung-ho about the idea. I think I'm the more cautious one.
NNAMDISuzanne, you, too, are a D.C. transplant. What are your plans about seeing your family this holiday season?
NUYENMy sister and I plan on coming home earlier in November in an attempt to avoid any possible crowds that will be traveling during the Thanksgiving season. And then we're going to stay for more than a month so that we can celebrate Christmas without having to travel back and forth.
NNAMDIWell, many people are staying put for Thanksgiving and celebrating in smaller ways. What will that mean for Thanksgiving food traditions? It's my understanding, I hear big turkeys aren't going to sell well this year. First you, Ruth Tam.
TAMWell, that makes sense, but if I stay here, I definitely plan on doing a big Thanksgiving dinner, though. You know, I still want to have all my traditional dishes and fixings, but it obviously won't be for, you know, double-digit attendees. And I love the idea from one of the callers earlier that we heard from in terms of donating the money that you would spend on a big meal to causes that we care about to make sure that folks have, you know, the food and the shelter that they need during this time. Though I think that that should be happening the rest of the year, too.
TAMBut, yeah, I think this year maybe it's like, you know, I can't lean on my mom to make the sweet potato casserole dish that she normally makes with the mini marshmallows on top. That's going to be something that I have to make. So, now, you know, when I go home, I'm in charge of the mashed potatoes and, you know, people are in charge of different things. And now when I have to make them myself, you know, I have to, like, take on the role of my dad and my mom and my siblings and kind of have to fill in for all the dishes that they would normally do. And so, it's about just trying to be honest with myself whether I want to take that on, or if I want to do it my own way. (laugh)
NNAMDISame question to you, Suzanne: Thanksgiving food traditions this year going to be a little different?
NUYENI don't think they're going to be too different for me, because we don't usually do a large family gathering. It's usually just the four of us. And, thankfully, we'll be able to celebrate together, just as a small family unit. Unlike Ruth, I usually do a lot of the Thanksgiving cooking, because we do traditional American or Western dishes like turkey and pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes. And my mom and I, our favorite tradition is more planning the menu every year than cooking the menu. So, we've already been talking about it on FaceTime, sending each other Pinterest pins and recipes and trying to decide what we want to make this year to make it extra special.
NNAMDIHow about you, Patrick?
FORTYeah, this is a thing that I actually realized that I started needing to think about just this week, because I saw some emails, some lists about restaurants that were having Thanksgiving food. I live with my partner, and there's two of us, so it seems kind of impractical to make a whole giant Thanksgiving feast. So, who knows? I don't know what we'll do. (laugh)
NNAMDIWell, Suzanne, you're the creator behind Bun Bo Bae Vietnamese food blog. What does Bun Bo Bae mean?
NUYENIt's a pun, bae meaning before all else, a slang word you might use for your partner or significant other. And then Bun Bo Hue is a spicy beef noodle soup dish. It literally means beef noodle soup from the Hue region of Vietnam, which is the region that my mom and my grandma are from. So, it's her specialty dish, and so far, it's been the only dish that I've tried to recreate in my D.C. kitchen that hasn't tasted exactly like the way my mom does. So, the only dish that I haven't perfected yet.
NNAMDIWell, tell us about a few of the other recipes that you've been making that have brought you the comfort of home, so to speak.
NUYENYeah, so, I started the blog as a way to mortalize the weeknight recipes that my family used to make. Because if you think about Vietnamese food, a lot of people might already know pho, which is a beef noodle soup, as well. And maybe if you're lucky, they'll know banh mi which is a sandwich. But both of those dishes are pretty hard to recreate in your home if you're not an experienced cook or you have a really small apartment.
NUYENAnd there's a lot of Vietnamese dishes you don't find in restaurants that I've eaten my whole life, because those are the easier dishes that my mom would make on her busy schedule, then we'd eat together at the family dinner table. So, when I moved away, I was trying to recreate these dishes. And I'd call my mom or text my mom for instructions. And, you know, I think Ruth might relate with this, but Asian parents don't measure anything. And so, her instructions are always, use a little bit of fish sauce, chop some vegetables, I don't know the amount, feel it out, in your heart.
NUYENAnd so, having these recipes up on my blog are a way for me and also my sister, who didn't really start cooking until she moved out, to be able to look back on all of the recipes we ate growing up.
NNAMDIWell, my mom must've been an Asian parent, too, because she never measured anything. Is that true for your family, too, Ruth?
TAMOh, absolutely. I have this problem all the time. I've just kind of given up on calling my dad for recipes. I just have to go home and particularly, like, ask him a ton of questions while he's cooking or, like, take a video. And then it's just like a combination of, like, comparing what he says with his sister, my aunt, and just kind of like cross-reference both of their separate notes. But, yeah, it's always a -- it's a perennial problem. There's never any exact measurements.
NNAMDISuzanne, how's the mooncake making business going, and what do you put that money toward?
NUYENThis year, it went really well. We sold out every single weekend that we offered our mooncakes. And I think it's partially because I started advertising them on all of my blog’s social media channels. My mom said it was the most fun she's ever had making mooncakes since we started, about seven years ago.
NUYENAnd when we first started, we put some of the money towards school fees. I was able to study abroad in Paris for a semester because of some of the money we made off of mooncakes. We put some of the money into savings, and then we always donate part of the money back to Vietnam, whether it's to an organization we choose, or usually it's back to the church that my mom grew up in.
NNAMDIWow. Ruth Tam, I miss your eggs terribly. Is there any particular recipe that has made you feel closer to family during this pandemic?
TAMOh, I guess for folks that don't know, Kojo's talking about tea eggs, cha dan that I make around the year, but typically give to Kojo towards the end of the year.
NNAMDIIt was a great bribe.
TAMYeah. It's eggs that are steeped in a mixture of black tea and soy sauce and star anise and cinnamon and a lot of similar spices, actually, to some pumpkin spice recipes. But, yeah, I definitely plan on making more tea eggs. They're definitely a comfort food for me. But in terms of comfort food that makes me feel close to family, I definitely want to make more traditional foods.
TAMI think I told you earlier in the pandemic that I made wonton noodle soup. And so, I found some frozen ones that I had put in the freezer months ago and had that, and that was exciting. But, yeah, I definitely want to make more dishes. I should take the time to perfect dishes that my dad makes that I've never been able to do. And I always only ever make them when I have friends over for traditional holidays. But I should try them now when nobody's coming around, so that if I mess up, (laugh) no one's there to judge me. So, I should try...
NNAMDI(overlapping) I miss those tea eggs.
TAMYeah, I should try making steamed fish and more stir fries and maybe some stuffed tofu and things that will remind me of my dad's cooking. But, you know, I can practice them in the privacy of my own kitchen.
NNAMDILet's see if you can talk with Nick on the eastern shore, in Maryland. Nick, can you hear me? You are on the air. Go ahead, please.
NICKI can hear you. Can you hear me?
NNAMDII certainly can, Nick.
NICKBy golly, we got a winner, Kojo. (laugh) I was going to mess with you and go, hello, hello. Well, we got some down here on the eastern shore I think you'd be interested in, crab and corn chowder, reminiscent of this time of year, oyster stew. And the dessert that really stands out to me is something I've only found on the eastern shore, and that is buttermilk pie.
NNAMDIWow. Oh, I love everything...
NICKButtermilk -- well, buttermilk pie's -- I don't know where -- I think it came from the eastern shore of Virginia, but it's pretty much a crème brulee in a pie. It is awesome. (laugh)
NNAMDILove everything else from the eastern shore. Nick, thank you very much for sharing that with us. Elana emails us: I am from the Caribbean, and I'm used to eating pumpkin year-round. I'm so joyful during the fall season, because I feel like it's more socially acceptable to eat pumpkin. Do your guests have any interesting or savory pumpkin recipes? Do you, Patrick?
FORTI don't think so. I don't think I've tried much experimenting with gourds of any variety other than kind of like soups and just kind of throwing them in the oven for a bit.
NNAMDIWell, Elana can't help you, at this point.
FORTSorry to disappoint you.
TAMI have a recipe.
NNAMDIOh, there you go. Here is Ruth.
TAMWell, I've never made it myself, but basically whenever I go to Afghan Grill on Calvert Street near my place, or any other Afghan restaurant, I typically get, I think it's called kaddo bowrani. I don't know how to pronounce it correctly or...
NNAMDIAh, well, there goes Ruth Tam. We're having a ball today.
NUYENI have a recipe, too.
NNAMDIThere you go. Here's Suzanne Nuyen.
NUYENSo, this is a Vietnamese recipe, very on brand for me, but it's a kabocha squash, which is a Japanese pumpkin and pork sparerib soup. And you can make it in your slow cooker. You take spareribs, and you season them with fish sauce, salt, pepper, garlic, shallot, and you just put them in your slow cooker and fill it up with water. And you cook it for a few hours until they're almost tender. And then you throw in some chopped kabocha squash. It's also labeled Japanese pumpkin. And then you cook that until the squash is all soft, and you've got a soup.
NNAMDIWow. Thank you for sharing that. Justin from Mount Pleasant emails -- we couldn't get Justin on the air, so he sent us an email. He said, thanks for taking my call. I couldn't hear you on my end until it was over, but a month ago, I visited Vermont with family, and we got apple donuts and pumpkin donuts, and apple won. Apple season is September, and we should be swimming in the fruit. You're absolutely right about that, Justin.
NNAMDIRuth and Patrick, I understand you have -- I'll start with you, Patrick -- a new episode of Dish City out today. Can you give us a preview?
FORTYeah. So, we've been thinking a lot of this kind of batch of episodes as the pandemic has continued, about how the pandemic has impacted our local restaurant scene. And we wanted to take a chance to kind of imagine what a restaurant might look like after the pandemic is over. So, we talked to, you know, some designers, some historians, some people who work in the restaurant industry to see what that might look like.
NNAMDIYeah, tell us about, what the heck are Little Dishies?
FORT(laugh) Little -- that is the (laugh) -- that's the name of the imaginary restaurant that is a -- now that I hear it back to myself, a very silly version of the name of the podcast that I turned into the name of an imaginary restaurant. If you listen it can refer to it a whole bunch of times. The initial joke was to -- out of a bunch of names I think we came up with, like, Fish City, and I can't even remember what all the other ones were.
NNAMDIWell, there's also -- having listened to this, there's also an issue of air filtration. Tell us about how that's going to affect the restaurants in the future?
FORTYeah, so, like, I talked to a restaurant designer, an architect, for this episode. One of the things that she told me is that restaurateurs right now have been trying to figure out ways to, like, improve airflow and kind of come up with new air filtration systems. Obviously, these are pretty significant changes to the structure of a building, but obviously, from what we know about the transmission of the coronavirus, being in an enclosed space where there's not a lot of airflow is not a good thing. So, people are trying to figure out ways to fix this or address that problem.
NNAMDIAnd it's my understanding that heat lamps are in short supply. So, what are restaurants going to do to keep especially outdoor diners warm in these colder months?
FORTYeah, obviously, outdoor dining has become kind of a lifeline, really, for a lot of restaurants in our area. But, as the weather is changing, the heater -- the outdoor, like, propane heater has become a bit of a hot commodity. So, a lot of restaurants that we've been talking to have been trying to search high and low, up and down for these heaters. And it's actually kind of like the next -- you know, at the beginning -- I can't even think of another product. It's like the product that's like super-pricey now, because everyone's trying to get them.
NNAMDIExactly right. Let's go to Mike in Alexandria, Virginia. Mike, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MIKEThanks, Kojo. So, I had COVID back in May, and I still have not regained my sense of smell and taste completely.
MIKEAnd I cook a lot at home, always have. I actually went to school for it. And so, I haven't tried anything new, because I'm afraid I'm not going to get it right or I'm not going to be able to taste it or anything. So, I can cook everything I could cook before, and I never measured anything, by muscle memory, no problem. I just don't know what any kind of new stuff is going to taste like. Even beer doesn't taste very good anymore. Like, it's totally wrecked all of this stuff. So, I'm listening to all of these great ideas, dishes and things that I'd love to try, but I really don't want to try them and not really experience it properly.
NNAMDIDo you have any idea whether -- after what you experienced in May, whether and when you're going to recover your sense of taste again?
MIKEI don't really know. Some of my friends that also got it, you know, a little before me or a little after me, have had their sense of taste come back, or at least to the extent that they can feel. I'm somebody -- because I think a lot about food, I noticed -- this was the only symptom that I had. I never had the coughing or the fever or anything. And I noticed it so incredibly early that, in fact, my wife and kids never got sick, and I was able to rush into quarantine before they got exposed, because I noticed that I couldn't smell anything. And it was pretty stark.
NNAMDIWow. And, as a result, you've lost your sense of taste. Hopefully you'll be able to get that back but, Mike, what does that mean in terms of how you prepare for what you plan on eating during these colder months?
MIKEWell, it means I can still fortunately taste kind of rich flavors and things like that, so that bodes well for the wintertime. Those kind of flavors make sense. But I've lost a lot of the bitter flavors, and, you know, that's pretty key to some of those dishes, going forward. I think, like, cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving, I don't know if it's going to taste right. I'm going to give it a go. We'll find out.
NNAMDIAny advice for Mike, Suzanne?
NUYENI think maybe he should try...
NNAMDI(overlapping) The richer flavors.
NUYEN...yeah, richer flavors. Or maybe, I don't know if he can still taste spicy flavors, like strong, bold flavors, and try to make bolder foods.
NNAMDIGood luck to you, Mike, during this coming cold weather. Donny tweets: Sweet potato pie is a great way to use this fall harvest. As an adult, I perfected my family's sweet potato pie recipe. Adding citrus hints, baking the potato and browning the butter have made me a legend to my nieces and nephews. My grandmother would be proud.
NNAMDIAnd Kelsey emails: Pecans are my fall favorite. As a child, I picked them out of my grandmother's front yard and cracked them at her kitchen table. I love them roasted in spice, candied and added to roasted squash or Brussels, or baked into a southern pecan pie. Yum. Here now is George in Waldorf, Maryland. George, your turn.
GEORGEHello. Thank you for the podcast. And I wanted to point out that, in the fall months, getting into October and November, is a great time to eat game. If you know any hunters or if you like to hunt yourself it's a great time to get some venison. Venison's a wonderfully tasty meat. There's a loin that's really fat free, but you can also use the shoulder and other pieces. There's also wild boar. I always associate that with the fall.
GEORGEAnd here in Southern Maryland for the holiday season, and especially for around Thanksgiving and Christmas, we have stuffed ham, which is a really interesting dish, because it's one of these dishes that represents syncretism between African Americans that were brought here, just part of the transatlantic slave trade. And so, it's got okra and cabbage and a bunch of stewed vegetables stuffed into the ham.
GEORGEAnd the ham is then boiled. So, I always associate stuffed ham with this time of season, as well. It's a really interesting regional dish.
NNAMDISounds delightful, George. Thank you for sharing. Before we go, Ruth Tam, what are restaurants doing to ensure diner safety for the colder weather months?
TAMI think diners -- or restaurants are just trying to gird themselves for their next pivot, their fourth or fifth pivot. A lot of people that we've talked to have had to figure out, okay, if you're not going to do outdoor dining, how can we switch our models to primarily delivery or takeout or, you know, bulk purchases or, you know, wholesale at stores. So, it's just a combination of all those things if eating outside is no longer going to be an option.
NNAMDIRuth Tam and Patrick Fort are the hosts of Dish City, a food and culture podcast from WAMU. Ruth, thank you for joining us. Patrick, thank you for joining us. And...
FORTGreat to be here.
NNAMDI...Suzanne Nuyen is a journalist and the creator of the Vietnamese foot blog Bon Bo Bae. Suzanne, thank you for joining us.
NUYENThank you for having me.
NNAMDIToday's show on fall foods was produced by Julie Depenbrock. Coming up Friday on The Politics Hour we sit down with Virginia Delegate Dave LaRock, a Republican, to talk about the recent special session and what's on the ballot in the Commonwealth.
NNAMDIThen we hear from D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson on the upcoming election, D.C. Public Schools' plans to return some students to in-person instruction and extending unemployment benefits for District residents. That all starts tomorrow, at noon. Until then, thank you for listening, and stay safe. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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