When the call came out for Foodbuzz's 24x24 in July, they announced a special theme for the month, with a special cause:
Since food is so close to our hearts, we wanted to reach out to our passionate community of Featured Publishers to get involved! We're challenging you to come up with your best "Gulf Inspired" cuisine. Keeping with the past 24x24's, Foodbuzz will still pick 24 bloggers to re-create a meal for family and friends, the only twist is that your stipend of $250 will automatically be donated to the Greater New Orleans Foundation, who will donate 100% of the proceeds to the fisherman and their families affected by the spill.
I knew I wanted to participate in this special event because due to our current circumstances I cannot donate financially to help in the Gulf. (We are hopeful that hubby will be finishing his thesis soon and able to get full time employment...) I also knew that I could make a meal that was inspired by the Gulf. I do not know that much about the Gulf of Mexico, having never been there. I do however read a few birding blogs so I naturally have been learning about how the spill has affected and is affecting the fowls. I decided to base my dinner idea on some of the birds that are affected by the oil spill. To start, I had to find birds that live in the Gulf - so to do a little research, I opened our Smithsonian Birds of North America book and flipped through it. I wrote down birds that lived along the Gulf coast. Then I went online to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's site All About Birds to do further research. I found birds that ate from the basic food groups and wrote them down. I then read in The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior about the bird families that I had selected. It was really fun to do research that I did not have to write a school paper about the results. I would rather write to you all about what I researched then turning in a paper to be graded! After the research I had a menu. I submitted my proposal and was accepted. I prepared for the meal and we had a delicious dinner yesterday, July 24.
First, the table setting:
I used a blue and white checkered tablecloth - I liked the tones of blue as it was a water color.
This table arrangement was made with cattails that I was able to get fresh from the edge of a marsh - there was no bird habitat harmed by me taking these as they were growing on the edge of a road. There were also some other types of grasses (weeds) added to it as well as some dried out cattail plants (from an irrigation area that is no longer used.) I was going to add some sunflowers, but as I added them to the arrangement I noticed some bugs crawling on them so I submerged each flower in water and TONS of bugs came out - there was no end to them so I nixed the sunflowers as I did not want to worry about getting bugs in the food! Since we live in a small rural area the local florist shop would have had to order them in so that was also out!
The final table decor was the place-mats. I made these from a calendar we had a few years ago - 365 songbirds. These birds are not the birds that I'm focusing on for the dinner - just had to let you all know that so I don't confuse you.
Each place-mat has a larger picture in the center. The bird in the center here is a Golden Crowned Kinglet. It is a small bird - getting only 4 inches long.
This is a yellow warbler. We saw this bird when we went birdwatching in May.
I can't remember what type of bird this one is... I just know I've never see it in real life - but I want to!
Now on to the meal. I had planned on inviting another couple around our age but I had forgotten that July 24th in Utah is a holiday (Pioneer Day.) Everybody was busy, so instead it was just hubby, me, my parents and our son (he uses his own tray.) Each dish is inspired by at least one bird. Just to clarify - we did not eat the same exact food that these birds eat, but the food was based on the types of food they eat.
We started out with our appetizer - Crab dip with homemade crackers. This dish was inspired by The Magnificent Frigatebird.
More about the bird:
Honestly this bird is crazy looking - the throat of the male is inflatable and bright red (think of a bullfrog with a red throat.)
Everyone enjoyed this crab dip. Good thing we have lots more - this was the amount I served at dinner. We're not huge eaters in my family.
Next the main event: Salmon on a bed of wild and brown rice and an accompanying side salad. The salad was served in a 'bird's nest.' I am a very indecisive person so I could not make up my mind on which birds to showcase so I have a few of them for this course: Reddish Egret, Roseate Spoonbill, Royal Tern, Purple Gallinule and the Fulvous Whistling-Duck.
First the birds that eat fish:
Now for the birds that inspired the Rice:
I made a bird nest salad since it is not just the animals that are hurt but their habitats as well.
It was a simple salad served in the nest (and no we did not eat the nests - which were made with ramen noodles coated in egg yolks and fried.)
For our drink we had a Cantaloupe Cooler. This drink is made from cantaloupe seeds blended and strained. I really like how light and refreshing it is. The bird that inspired this drink is the Seaside Sparrow.
I love this drink so much, I'm going to share the recipe with you!
Remove all seeds, segments and juice from the center of a cantaloupe. Place in blender with 1/4 cup sugar and 2 cups cold water. Blend for 1 minute. Strain blended mixture - be sure to use a fine mesh strainer or you'll get some seed pieces in your drink. Rinse out the blender (to remove all seed pieces.) Add 1 cup cold water and half of the cantaloupe - cut up. Blend for one minute. Add to the strained seed juice. Mix well. Chill until ready to serve. Print Friendly Recipe.
Now on to dessert. The best part of any meal ;).
We had a fruit salsa - inspired by the Boat-tailed Grackle.
Of course when having salsa it is necessary to have chips with them. We had Coconut Tuiles as chips. It was delicious. Those cookies are absolutely addicting! The cups holding the salsa were made out of the Tuile cookie dough as well.
The fruit salsa was a simple mixture of peaches, nectarines, strawberries and blueberries with a mint garnish.
I'll be sharing the Coconut Tuiles recipe in the next week or so with step by step photos of how to make it.
While we enjoyed the meal, it is sad to think that the real reason we were eating these delicious foods is because of the tragedy that is happening in the Gulf. I only focused on one population (birds) that are affected by the spill... There are many more populations (fish, turtles, people, etc) that are being affected as well. I am grateful to Foodbuzz for their dedication to helping the Gulf and am glad that I was able to help in this small way.