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What's Cooking in Region 1 - September 2004
by Marghretta McBean

As summer is winding down, New York City is wound up. The Republicans are here. The good news is that there is practically no vehicular traffic in midtown and the streets are fairly empty. The bad news is that there is practically no vehicular traffic in midtown and the streets are fairly empty. The purported millions that the convention would bring to the Big Apple are just that, purported. So far the marches and demonstrations have been colourful, reminding me of my old college days.

There has been quite a bit going on in our region this summer, besides the elephants' visitation. Leo Kellogg, the historian of Mensa of Northeastern New York (MoNNY), organised the first Mensa event ever held in Plattsburgh, NY. This far north city near the Canadian border was the site of an international dinner: Mensans from Canada as well as other groups attended. Leo and all of the MoNNYers deserve two very big thumbs up for taking on what proved to be a highly successful project!

I traveled northeast, to Providence, Rhode Island, visiting Rhode Island Mensa. Tom Padwa, the president, organised a tri-group (Boston; Connecticut & Western Massachusetts) outing to the absolutely wonderful WaterFire celebration. It is impossible to really describe WaterFire : imagine huge braziers placed at regular intervals in the river, which are lit at sundown. In addition, beautiful music, mimes, fire eaters, mermaids, dancers, - you name it - perform on the river bank and adjoining streets. It is totally enchanting and mesmerising. Over two dozen Mensans (including a couple from Florida) enjoyed the festivities. Kudos to Tom and the gracious RIMers for hosting what hopefully will become an annual Mensan event! On a personal culinary note, Tom also makes great waffles-YUM!)

From September 16th to the 19th I will be in Portland Oregon attending an AMC (American Mensa Committee) meeting. As your representative to Mensa's national board, I will be voting on items that will affect you and your relationship to Mensa. The continuing question of how SIGs (Special Interest Groups) will be administered; requiring a Hospitality Chair to complete a food safety course prior holding a gathering or workshop; having two AMC meetings at the national office in Texas; these are just some of the items on the agenda.

It is really gratifying to meet members who actually try out my monthly recipes. If you missed any, you can find them (with pictures) on the Region 1 website: This month we visit the Balkan area.Ajvar is a staple in the Balkan area. From Macedonia to Bulgaria,this condiment appears at nearly every meal. There are many versions of ajvar, but all taste wonderful.

Ajvar with bread




  • 12 fresh red chile peppers* (hot or sweet)
  • 4 medium eggplants
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 Tbl. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbl. red wine [red wine vinegar may be substituted]
  • Salt/pepper to taste




    1. Roast the peppers and eggplant over charcoal or gas flame, or bake in a preheated oven at 475° F. until the skins are blistered and black.
    2. Place the roasted vegetables in a paper bag and let them steam in their own heat for 10 minutes.
    3. Peel off and discard the burnt skins along with the stems and seeds.
    4. Mash the pepper and eggplant pulp together to form a homogeneous mass, either smooth or slightly chunky, as desired.
    5. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large skillet and saute the onion until very soft. Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes longer.
    6. Remove from heat and stir in the pepper-eggplant pulp, mixing well.
    7. Slowly drizzle remaining oil into the mixture, stirring constantly to incorporate all the oil.
    8. Add lemon juice and wine; salt and pepper to taste.
    9. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with parsley. Serve as an appetiser spread on thick slices of country-style white bread.

    *Good peppers are essential to this dish. Most of the red bell peppers sold today have little taste. If you can find Pimiento, Poblano (they turn red when ripe), or for you heat-lovers, Fresno chiles, this dish will become addictive. The small Hungarian Pimientos are especially delicious.

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