Thursday, September 13, 2007

I Like to Cook

I Like to Cook. I have to keep repeating this sometimes. See, lately it's hard for me to suddenly be in some traditional gender roles I did not intend for myself. Glenn is a more involved parent than many men I know, but still I'm at home more and he's at work more. He brings home the bacon, and I fry it up in a pan.

I'm hungry. I'm always hungry, but while nursing I'm extra hungry. Glenn works until 6ish and I do not want to wait for him to putter around looking at what food I've bought (while I shopped because I'm the one who had the ability to make the time to do the shopping) in order to make something that he'll be done with two hours later. It's too dangerous; I might eat the baby. So I do almost all of our cooking. (Glenn *is* a good cook, I should point out.)

I'm not comfortable with this weird stereotypical situation, and we may do something about it. However, at the moment it is convenient. And if I wouldn't fight it, it would be fine. See, I really enjoy cooking. I like inventing things, I like trying new recipes and foods, I like creating. I read Bon Appetit front to back, I make comments on Epicurious. I have an organic farm share and I often buy carefully chosen local meat. I make travel plans around food and restaurants I want to try and markets I want to visit. So, I should be content with cooking. Oh well. I suppose I wouldn't be me if I wasn't always at odds with myself.

Anyway, one of the yummiest salads I made this summer had lettuce, ricotta salata, plums, and fresh figs in it. I put some Trader Joe's dressing I rather like on it instead of making my own. It is Champagne Pear Gorgonzola (my TJs sells it in the produce section).

Tonight I had a fairly plain salad as the mix of greens from the farm this week deserved attention on their own. Also tonight I made some really cute little chicken pot pies from a recipe in Bon Appetit. They were a decadent decision for someone watching her slowly thinning waistline. They'd be amazing served after coming in from snow shoveling or in a cabin after cross-country skiing. They involved cream fraiche and bacon. What's not to love?

And of course I had some extra puff pastry I just had to use to be resourceful, right? Mmm, jam turnovers...

Ahhh. I like to cook, but I love to eat.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Food Cubes

I've been told numerous times that I will never actually make Lyra's baby food. It's too hard, too time consuming, and just a laughable idea when faced with the reality of a kid.

Maybe I'm missing something, because I made a bunch of baby food yesterday and it was unbelievably easy. I have an organic farm share, and this time of year the veggies tend to pile up at our house where two people are eating through a family-sized share. So I steamed some veggies for a few minutes, put them in the food processor, then spooned them into ice cube trays and froze them (She won't be eating real food for a couple of months). This took very little time and required the culinary skill of boiling water.

I ate some of each flavor and would have been happy to consume large quantities of all of it. It was really delicious. And it was pretty: bright cubes of fresh colors that look nothing like the gray "green" veggies I consumed as a child. No sugar, no pesticides, no problem.

(Wish I'd taken this picture in better light so you could see just how bright they are: Summer Squash, Green Beans, Carrots.)

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Friday, July 06, 2007

Happy Birthday, Mom

Lyra likes to dance.

A serious enough wind is ripping through my neighborhood at the moment and enough sirens are whizzing by that it inspired instant storm preparation instincts in me. I had the sudden urge to hoard food, fill containers with water, and locate all the flashlights and matches. It was oddly strong, this instinct, and it took me a few minutes to realize that I'd just watched a show about the incredible flood of the Connecticut River in 1936, and I was in disaster mode. Instead, I calmly closed the windows and shutters and collected the garbage can from the sidewalk while Lyra slept peacefully on a pillow on the living room floor.

Lyra slept for seven hours last night. Because she is, of course, the best baby Ever. I attended another New Parents' Coffee today at the local toy store. I met some nice people at this one. Sadly, the couple that seemed like people I might know said that they were moving to the west coast after I started talking with them awhile.

The new parent groups I have attended so far have been impressively well-educated groups of people. Last week I was having lunch with a bunch of women in Boston listening to anecdotes about how they have no idea what they are doing and were fretting over the tiniest details of parenting and I suddenly realized every one of us there had at least two college degrees. The woman talking about launching her kid out of the car seat in a supermarket was a director level industrial designer, the woman who couldn't stop nervously talking was an attorney. The young woman who worried about her baby's loud farts was an architect, and so on.

Today there were references to post doc work and medical residencies peppering the discussions of sleep and neck strength. I don't know if it's the area I live in or if there is a particular demographic to who attends such things. Anyway, I will keep trying to get out and meet people. If only they would serve caffeinated coffee!

The most interesting baby name I heard today was Zabelle, which was her great grandmother's name. Her dad calls her Zed. Last week I met a baby named Ripley, which I also liked -- and she'll be too young to have Ripley's Believe-it-or-Not or Aliens (the movie) jokes.

Speaking of too young, today was my late mother's birthday. I don't really feel like she *is* her ashes particularly, but they do symbolize her to me on some level and somehow it seems wrong of me to have not figured out what to do with them yet. It's been a few years now, and I feel bad about it when I think of it. I am struck occasionally by incredibly powerful sad moments when I wish she could meet Lyra and wish that Lyra got to meet all of her grandparents. Sometimes I wish I was younger with Lyra. After all, I knew my great grandmother on my mom's side until I was 13.

A friend visiting from Colorado stopped by today and Lyra smiled and gurgled at him even though she'd then used up her 7 hours of sleep by being awake for 7 hours. Because she is, of course, the Best Baby Ever.

This week's milestones are Lyra appreciating sleeping at night, the swing she previously hated, and all the funny sounds her mouth can make. She'll also be attending her second wedding in two months tomorrow. Oh, and her parents have begun cooking more again, which feels great. We made steak frites for the 4th after a weather-shortened picnic by the ocean, lots of great salads (it's farm share time again!) and last night we had a successful experiment with salmon fillets encrusted with crushed wasabi beans.

The wind has passed and I'm suddenly exhausted. Maybe I'll try that reading thing I seem to remember doing once upon a time. What are those things called? Books?

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

"Tastes like chicken...



Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Tex in the City

We were in Dallas for a wedding this weekend. When we got off the plane it was lunchtime, so we decided to brave the Lone Star State's best at the Texas State Fair.

What to eat? There were oozing yellow industrial nachos, but then there were fried corny dogs, fried oreos, fried snickers, fried COKE (really coke flavored batter in coke syrup), fried marshmallows, fried pralines, fried peanut butter & jelly & banana sandwiches, fried green tomatoes, fried okra, and fried cheese-stuffed, tortilla-rolled sausages.

As always, the saddest part about fried food comes after it's all gone. You know, in the space before the waves of nausea and regret.

There was a mammoth car show, tons of agricultural events with prize-winning pigs and sheep and goats and horses, a short history of locally made Dr. Pepper, a large midway, and much more. We didn't dare any rides after eating but we did decide to venture into a freak show booth that promised us two-headed turtles and snakes and were not disappointed!

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Friday, July 14, 2006

Pick a Peck of Pickles

In case you were wondering. . . half a bushel of cucumbers makes around THIRTY pints of pickles. Hopefully. If we did it right. Whew. That was hard on a tiny kitchen.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Recipe Request: In a Pickle

Help, does anyone have a good pickle recipe??


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Cabin Fever

My CSA has begun. Oh happy day! I love fresh produce like some people love candy. And the jeweler I work with on Wednesdays has also joined up, so it's extra fun. Tonight I made: sole dipped in some egg/milk/lemon and breaded with panko and dill and fried up in a pan; some spinach sautéed in olive oil, green garlic and crushed hazelnuts; and some mashed white turnips and potatoes with parsley. This took surprisingly little time. I grew the parsley, and the farm provided the turnips, green garlic, and spinach. And it's strawberry season, yum.

We are adding to our impossible amounts of rain here in New England. I'm watching the weather reports for the weekend as I've convinced some of my hiking pals to join me on Mts. Lafayette and Lincoln. I even kept the faith and reserved a camp site.

My friend Ted says it's too much work to find his tent in all the flood management piles in his basement, but his is a Really big tent…. I bet he actually sold it as condos. I'm disappointed. I was hoping to pitch my tent in his foyer if it was raining.

I was out in my kayak again helping out at a skills session last night and a friend reminded me to be extra weather sensitive due to the lack of bail out spots on my intended ridge route this weekend. But hey, if the rain, rain, rain, and more rain predictions hold for the mountains, well then I'll be out in the western part of Massachusetts where it looks to be drier…picking lots and lots of strawberries instead.

Tons of campgrounds these days have online reservations and charge big fees for canceling or changing them. While the White Mountains are popular and I can see why it might seem like a good business idea to do this at popular campgrounds there, it just makes people camp off trail rather than at the campground. Then you can decide on the fly if you're staying. (And so many people do not seem to subscribe to the Leave No Trace concept that this is not necessarily the best result.)

Sometimes when I get cabin fever it has a somewhat literal result. I suddenly make a ton of campground and cabin reservations. I think I have three pending at the moment, including this weekend, so I think I've shown some restraint considering this monsoon season we've had. (By the do own my cabins book, right? You can get it from or in a regular bookstore. I'm happy to give you advice or answer questions if you get it.)

I've got a site reserved up by Katahdin Ironworks in Maine that I'm looking forward to (and has no cancellation fee, thank you KI). It's pretty mellow there; they charge you fees to enter the property at the gate when you arrive, but they'll hold spots for you. I'm hoping to camp there and hike around by Gulf Hagas in late summer, when it will be warm enough to play in the waterfalls.

I've got a cabin on cross country ski trails reserved for the winter already too, though I might trade it for a yurt. So, no matter what, I've clearly got to get some more strawberries to freeze so I can make strawberry pancakes on the woodstove! (I'll say the same thing come blueberry season, raspberry season, apple picking. . . you'll get used to it and just start inviting yourself over for meals, don't worry.)


Monday, June 05, 2006

Eat Well, Be Smart, and Play

It's been a busy bunch of days. I was able to catch Ana Sortun doing a reading (with SNACKS!) at the Harvard Bookstore on Friday evening. She stressed that idea of food making you feel good, of knowing what you're eating and buying organic, and debunked the idea that babies like bland food. Her 8-month old won't have any of it. She wants spice.

I have been experimenting with Aleppo chilies after reading bits of her book. I don't eat a lot of hot spicy food, since I'm more genetically built to hole up by a peat fired stove, down a lot of vodka, and snarf some pickled fish. However, Aleppo chilies are like a not quite as hot version of your standard red pepper flakes. And it's a sort of smokier taste. Really nice. I bought mine down the street at Christina's spice market, and did not try the flavor of the day next door at Christina's homemade ice cream for once: White asparagus. I like bean shakes. I like avocado ice cream. But white asparagus. That just wasn't what I was looking for.

Oh and by the way, I went to see An Inconvenient Truth. I don't know if anyone has told you, but this movie is about you. You should probably go see it really soon!

Saturday found me unexpectedly social. A friend I met up at Haystack was in town from Philly doing an airbrush face-painting gig at a bar mitzvah at the Four Seasons. One friend from the North shore brought some friends from art school down from the North Shore as well.

It was a good "girls day." What does that mean? I don't know. There was no secret handshake. We all got to know eachother over Taiwanese food and discussions of sex toy parties (the Tupperware type) and then went shopping. Maybe women are more candid together. One of my friends did after all say, "I didn't know you were that old!" to me and we laughed. My fortune said "Expect something big." (I think it meant my ass. I'm not going back there.)

It was curl-up-and-read rainy weather on Sunday, so of course I spent the day in my kayak. I was doing BCU 3* training. That's British Canoe Union – a canoe being a kayak in the King's English. At least I didn't have sunscreen in my eyes. And at least I was in protected waters. Two people I know who are some of the more experienced paddlers in the Northeast ended up helicopter rescued that day.

Kayaking is a counter-intuitive sport in many ways, and there are a lot of times you have to decide whether you want to do the thing that makes sense for your body or the thing that makes sense for the boat. Luckily for me I grew up screwing around in boats, so some otherwise counter-intuitive things seem natural to me.

I think that some of the best exercises coaches give in kayak training are things we might have done if left to our own devices as kids. You learn a lot about the physics of your boat in the water when as a kid you purposefully dumped it over and tried to paddle it to shore with half a paddle, for instance. If you have kids, make sure they Play if you want them to be smarties. And I don't mean Nintendo (they don't have a kayaking game do they?)


Thursday, June 01, 2006

Under My Nose

My reading is a little behind lately. I am still working through Vikram Seth's book, Two Lives. It's a study built on research, correspondence, and interviews that attempts to depict his great uncle and aunt's lives. It's an incredibly captivating story – his grandfather's brother Shanti came from India, studied in Germany, and moved to England before WWII started. His dear friend Henny who was engaged to a German, also escaped to England and Shanti and she are later married. Henny's whole world in Germany was exterminated, and Shanti continues his life as a dentist even after losing an arm in the war.

The details of the war are in the context of this story and somehow so much more accessible to my attention span and me than any account of WWII I've encountered before. The description of Henny's sister Lola's last hours of life in Auschwitz were especially straightforward and horrifying. I think I read once that the Holocaust Museum in California has visitors follow the life of an individual through their experience. It seems like a really powerful way to understand history.

My book purchase this week was Ana Sortun's new cookbook, Spice. Ana is the chef at Oleana, a restaurant that is down the street from my house. She is a master of combining spices, rather than fats to control flavor in food, particularly Middle Eastern food. In the introduction she talks about how chefs rarely consider how people will feel After eating their food. She wants us to be in the mood to go dancing. Who doesn't want to be in the mood to dance?

I've only read a bit of it, but the anecdotes throughout the book of her trips to Turkey are fascinating. And like the way I understand history, I understand this book by following her journey to the spices involved. She is reading at the Harvard Book Store Friday night and at Porter Square books next week I think.

I was in Harvard Square last night and was tempted to go buy X-Men comics, having just seen the X-Men movies this weekend. It's way beyond where my reading stopped, so I can't say if they're following the story lines, but I can say it was really enjoyable. I've always felt at home with the mutants though. What is it about the effects in that series of movies that is so satisfying?

Instead I checked out the new home of the Globe Travel Bookstore, one of my favorite stores that had disappeared from its spot over by Club Passim in the last year. It's reappeared in a brand new building that's gone up. And they still have a couple of copies of my book. (I'd say "yay!" but it probably just means they only ever had these two copies and THEY'RE STILL THERE.)

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Oh Yes?

Okay I understand that "Artificial Mystery Flavor" on my Dum Dum lollipop is funny. But what about this? Read those ingredients.

Some of you watch out for carbs. Me, I watch out for crabs.


Monday, May 29, 2006

It's a Mystery, Dum Dum

If ironic truth is a new trend in food packaging, things are gonna get gross.


(Okay, Maybe I Had Four Kinds of Chocolate)

I accomplished many things this holiday weekend:

  1. I learned to skip rocks, a skill that eluded me in childhood.
  2. I climbed a small mountain instead of a big one as the first of the season and thought it was cool that there were toddlers up there too.
  3. For the first time I did not come in last while playing mini golf.
  4. I did not punch the officer who gave me a $200 speeding ticket on my birthday.
  5. I got up early and paddled in the harbor and was home by noon like someone who lives next to the ocean, instead of making a big production out of getting somewhere north to kayak.
  6. I recognized even more of the landmarks on the shore due to having explored so much on Saturday.
  7. I was given an unexpected birthday cake at a bbq tonight and did not spit on it while blowing out the candles.
  8. I only ate three kinds of chocolate when there were five available at the party.
  9. I never got sunburned despite being outside most of the last three days.
  10. I opened someone's beer with my belt.


Thursday, May 25, 2006

I Can See Clearly Now

Today I had an appointment with the eye doctor. So of course I brought my camera.

I asked her at least four questions per instrument or test. I made jokes. I complimented her. I let her rediscover the weirdo formation my right optical nerve has.

But she wouldn't let me take a picture of my eye through anything. She said slyly: "There are special cameras for that. But I don't have one." I was bad. I asked her about whether she had to study a lot about the brain in school and got her to say "Yeah, but I don't really use it day to day, you know?"

I giggled to myself while I sat in a chair waiting for the drops to dilate my eyes. Another eye-drop tripping guy sat down next to me. I looked at his Fluevog shoes and asked him if they were Trippen shoes just to entertain myself. "Oh. my. god. Do you know where you can get Trippen here?!" he practically yelled, turning to lock dilated irises with me.

When I left the office, I stopped at each store in the complex on my way out and asked if I could have a token for the restroom. Then I walked home a couple of miles instead of taking the subway so that I wouldn't run home and make Restroom Token earrings out of them before I could actually see clearly again.

On the way home I did a couple of errands. I tried not to make eye contact with anyone in any store I stopped in so they wouldn't think I was tripping. This is hard for me. I felt like I would with a blind spot, like I was missing important information. Like if only I at least had a picture of my eyeball to refer to . . ..

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Monday, May 22, 2006

I Heart Bubble Tea

"You are what you eat" -- let's chew some gummi bubbles!!


You Are What You Eat

I have this dilemma whenever I'm about to go grocery shopping: I have too many choices of where to shop. There is a more than one giant Shaws near me (standard fare, takes coupons), several sizes of Whole Foods (seems healthy, great looking produce and fish), a Trader Joe's (good prices, not too many additives in prepared foods), a food coop (good organic foods and nice meat), Market Basket (very affordable, not necessarily as healthy and a combat shopping experience) and Johnny's FoodMaster (depressing molding carpets and horrible produce). With a wee bit more driving I have other giant chains, as well as Asian and Russian markets.

But anytime I actually really think about it, I go to the food coop.

There is so much to be careful of when shopping for food. What the animals were fed or treated with, what pesticides could be contaminating so much of what I consume, and then there is whom I feel like giving my money to. I mean I could go to the health food section of any of these stores and buy Hains or Poland Springs or Kashi or Boca Burgers or Cascadian Farms products. Sounds like organic foods and spring water. But these are giant corporations owned by much larger corporations and I'm actually buying products from the same giants like Heinz and Nestle and Kellogg and others and giving my money up the chain to places I just don't want to, like Phillip Morris.

The pesticide thing frightens me a lot. It's in our food, our food's food, the run off that other food lives in, and more. Some pesticide technology stems from Nazi inventions. Roundup, one of the most common pesticides, is known to cause cancer. And that's kind of a mellow one compared to others it seems.

And then there is the problem that after at least a decade-long struggle to make the term "organic" mean something, a bunch of Republican leaders in Congress wrecked it again last fall with a bit tacked on to the end of this year's Agricultural Appropriations Bill. This is all about big business again and has become meaningless for people actually trying to eat well. Big business supports big business. Just under half of all organic food is sold in regular big supermarkets, so all the giants sell organic food now and all the giant supermarkets support the giant brands, Even Whole Foods supported this bill.

What I eat, where/what house I choose to live in, and the car I drive are much huger considerations for the planet than whether I remember to recycle the magazine I just read.
And it's so hard to change culture. On top of people's general lack of education on why what they are doing to the environment affects everyone, themselves, and the lifespan of our species, everyone is so overwhelmed by information. It's easy to market things to you that you'll buy. It's easier for you to relate to the spin put on the product than to spend time thinking and doing research. And the overwhelmed population tries very hard to think about just today and just this moment in order to cope, when we actually have to have a little foresight so as not to trash the place in our self-absorption.

So glenn and I decided last year to try a little harder with our food consumption. So we try to shop at the food coop, which is a local place with high standards about what it carries. And we joined a CSA. That's community-supported agriculture. It means for 20 weeks of the year (the harvesting season here) we pick up a share of produce once a week. Because while I have a lot to learn about Everything still, it seems clear to me that buying locally grown food is probably better already than buying organic food that was shipped here from 3,000 miles away or more. And we found a Massachusetts farm that grows organic food and distributes it from the parking lot of our food coop. (And they donate their leftover food!)

While it's a lot of work, managing all the washing and preparing of 7-10 pounds of vegetables a week, we don't have to think about what or where to buy it, and we ended up eating far more healthily. We end up eating the right amount of vegetables and we have so much food in the house that we do less of our other bad habit (for food/money/health), which is eating out too often. It also inspires us to have people over to eat more often, since we have so much food around! What we need to do a better job of this year is preserving and canning and freezing food for the off-season. We're in New England, and not much grows in the cold months besides some parsnips I think. We're also growing a little food, testing out our garden-maintenance ability and using raised beds as a little research has shown our back yard was once an auto repair garage.

You can find out how to buy fresh, healthy, local food from a store, farmer's market or CSA near you here: Or wait a few weeks until I'm knee deep in locally grown greens and come over for some salad!


Saturday, May 20, 2006

Roast Pork, HK Eatery

Hi, Petunia here. I was going off in style in this nice wooden box, and you left me sitting around on a table with my tail in the air and a bill attached? Then you ask the patrons if they mind sharing a table with me? I know I said I'd give you the skin off my back, but this is just rude.