Thu 2 Aug 2012
If you’re lucky, you have a few people in your life that are just plain good. They’re unselfish, ethical and generally quite happy and their goodness inspires you to be better. If anyone were to say a bad word about them, you’d be ready to fight tooth and nail to defend their honour.
Bill and Sharon Gunter – known in foodie circles by their blog, Gunternation – are two such people. I first met them on an Irish Foodies outing I organised to the Brown Hound Bakery and Eastern Seaboard, and we immediately hit it off. They’re expats too, and we bonded on everything from adjusting to a new culture (they’ve been here a few years longer than me, so they were full of great advice) to our favourite foods from back home.
Though we’re all Americans, we hail from different regions; the Gunters are from the South and mid-west and I’m from Southern California. So when we talk about the American foods we grew up with, we talk about very different dishes. Sharon loves her Frito Pie and Bill, who went to college in New Orleans, is nuts about po’ boys and gumbo. Me, I’m all about the sushi and Cali burritos. I love hearing them talk about the foods they grew up with, because it’s so different from what I ate as a kid. From pimento cheese to chicken spaghetti, I now have a whole new list of down-home American dishes I want to try.
And while the Gunters are all American, they’ve absolutely embraced Ireland – and I love that. They’re always trying new restaurants around Dublin or foraging for herbs out in the woods or recommending some great new ingredient they discovered at the local market. If it’s sunny outside, the Gunters are out having a pint at the neighourhood beer garden and enjoying a sidewalk fish ‘n chips. They don’t sit around wishing Ireland was more like America, they take in all they can of Irish food and culture and appreciate every bit. Bill recently took on the position as head of Slow Food Dublin and both are very active in promoting locally-produced Irish products.
But Bill and Sharon are more than just foodie friends. I recently went through a very stressful night at the emergency room of everyone’s favourite public hospital, Beaumont, and had it not been for the Gunters I would have been there on my own. Mountaineering Man was away in Boston, and about a day after he left I started experiencing horrible stomach spasms that wouldn’t let up.
Bill left work early to take me to an urgent care facility and then to Beaumont. As I knew I’d be in the waiting room for hours, I insisted he leave. He finally did go home, but came back a couple of hours later with Sharon and copies of Saveur and The New Yorker in tow. They sat with me for another two-and-a-half hours, distracting me from my pain with their funny and amusing stories. Though they both had work the next morning, they stayed with me until after midnight, and they checked on me the next day after I’d come home.
Needless to say, MM was mortified that I had to go through this without him, and is eternally grateful to Bill and Sharon for watching out for me. Though MM can be quite cynical at times, of the Gunters he said, “They really walk the walk,” and it’s so true. In a country where religion is so often associated with hypocrisy and entitlement, the Gunters are church-going, choir-singing folk who practice what they preach (though I should add they are never preachy toward me or anyone else).
If anyone were to ask me to describe Bill and Sharon Gunter, I’d simply say, “They’re just good people.”
SpeltQuick Veggie Pie
Bisquick is a product that all Americans are familiar with: it’s a dry, pre-mixed flour mixture used for making light, fluffy pancakes, scones and other cakes as well as savoury pies like the Bisquick Vegetable Pie. But since it’s hard to get Bisquick here in Ireland, I recently made my own version of the Vegetable Pie using spelt flour and a bit of baking powder, and it turned out great. I think it’s a dish that the Gunters would like as I’m pretty sure they’d be familiar with the original version.
1/2 head of cauliflower
1 large corgette
1 large white onion
1 yellow bell pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
1 tin of sweetcorn (large or small, doesn’t really matter!)
1 1/2 cup of low-fat milk
4 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/3 cup of spelt flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Salt and Pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 200C.
In a food processor, pulse the cauliflower until the texture is like rice – small bits. I just find it much easier to do in the processor vs. cutting by hand but it’s up to you. Cut the corgette, onion, carrot and yellow bell pepper into small pieces as well, though it doesn’t have to be as small as the cauliflower. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat, and cook all the vegetables until tender – about 10-12 minutes.
Put the cooked vegetables into a large bowl. Add in the feta cheese and sweetcorn and combine. In a separate medium bowl, combine the eggs, milk and parmesan cheese and basil and whisk until combined. Add in the spelt flour, baking powder and some salt and pepper.
Now to assemble: Place all the cooked veggies into a large casserole dish and then pour the spelt flour/milk/egg mixture over it. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Enjoy!