Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hangry Glucosavore

I learned a new word that I shall add to my idiolect (feel free to add that one right there to yours): hangry. It is a combination of hungry and angry - something that I often am. When my blood sugar drops, I will take someone's head off. That might be one of the reasons I think so much about food and need to have meals planned and feel it is really strange when others do not plan meals. But won't you be hangry later if you don't make a game plan now? 

Josh's good friend Jason also gets hangry. His wife Julie said she used to carry around granola bars so that when Jason started barking, she could shove one in his mouth to curb the hanger. Awesome.

Remember my canning woes? Well, the green tomato pickles are awesome. It kind of messes with your mind to bite into a tomato that is green and that tastes like a pickle, which is automatically a cucumber pickle in my mind. 

I found out that fried green tomatoes are meant to be dredged in cornflour and fried in bacon grease! Hm, I do have another round of green tomatoes that need to come off the vine, given that the 60 degree weather has begun. And I do have some bacon. And I did bust out my cast iron skillet last night. Would that be what they call a "perfect storm"? I hate that phrase; but I detest "literally" even more. Have you noticed the pandemic overuse of this word? Ug. 

Next, I am trying to purge all the sugar from the house so that I don't eat anymore. Naturally, I have to make some dessert in the mean time. I made Mexican chocolate souffles. I noticed that the first ingredient in Ibarra chocolate is actually sugar and not chocolate. Interesting. These were really good. And I have come to realize that souffles are ridiculously easy. I also made ricotta souffles, but didn't take a photo. It takes me four minutes to hand-whip egg whites ... silly how easy souffles are. 

This sugar thing. So I read an article called "Is Sugar Toxic?" Scary title and scary topic. The author, in all his research, concluded that sugar is linked to all manner of metabolic diseases AND cancers. He didn't even mention the whole teeth rotting out of your head thing. 

Then I go on thinking that life is meant to be enjoyed and surely I do not consume gross levels of sugar because we eat lots of veggies and little to no processed foods in my house.

Then I think about how much longer living cultures (some Italians, Okinawans) really eat of sugar, and I wonder if I should compare myself to their intake or if I should go cold turkey to be safe. 

In short, I go back and forth in my sugar eating (glucosavorous) philosophy. It's a First World problem, isn't it? Probably just an American one, actually, because our food culture is so ... stunted? Inane? F'ed up?

Friday, September 23, 2011


Preserving, canning, making your own sausage, keeping chickens - all these atavistic lifestyle choices are back en force.  There is even a guy in this town who will come to your house, install a beehive, and then tend it for you. You get honey out of the deal. 

I like the idea of urban quasi-homesteading, truly creating all these things for yourself and your family. Why not? 

I'll tell you why not! Because I suck at it. Well, I have only tried the canning part and I am sufficiently bad as to stop trying. Last year I made blueberry and peach preserves - separately, not together in a jar - and they were both good, and the preserving process went fine. This year I canned four different things: raspberries, strawberries, pickled green tomatoes, and spiced peaches. Each one leaked juices into the canning water; each has too much liquid in the jars because I didn't smash the contents down enough. Bother. 
Canning, heck, even making your own sausage, is about preserving the harvest, right? I realized, after spending a bunch on flats of berries and pounds of peaches, that I do not have a harvest to preserve. Meaning, since I pay for someone else's harvest, all I am doing is exercising some notion of what I am supposed to do in this post-Martha Stewart, post-women's lib world of homemaking I currently inhabit. 

I did harvest our very own green tomatoes for the pickles. That feels satisfying. I would have harvested blueberries from our bushes, but since I did pretty much zilch in the yard this year, I couldn't be bothered to put nets over the bushes, so the cursed robins ate all the berries. 

I did learn what "freestone" means in stone fruit. It should be obvious, I suppose. Now I know what a total jerk the peach guy at Ballard Farmers Market was when he sold me nine peaches that were not freestone when I specifically told him that I was using them for a cobbler. I smashed up several peaches trying to get the flesh off the pit before I relented and took my knife to them. I learned from that mistake and got a freestone variety for my canning. I have high hopes for my spiced peaches this winter on my oatmeal. 

I was also going to ruin some marionberry preserves this year but didn't get the chance because the ladies in this neighborhood lined up 30 minutes before the berry stand opened. Apparently, the first few people in line bought up all the flats so no one else could have any. The lady running the stand said that they got 10 flats in a day and limited people to two. Can you imagine being sixth in line and watching everyone before you buy two so that you get nothing? And what happened to just buying a couple of pints to eat? Sheesh. I would have settled for a couple pints for a pie or in my yogurt!

I always seemed to pick the hottest day of the week to can too. Bah. Next year I'm sticking to cleaning. Oh, I bet I would be good at sauerkraut because you stick it in a jar and leave it to rot. That I can do.   

Monday, September 5, 2011

Muffin Roll Call

I was talking with a girlfriend about how Sam gets "special meals." I have mentioned this practice to you before, I am sure. Said gf was over as carrot muffins baked away. I said that I had a lot of carrots and thought I would make muffins in an attempt to get Sam to eat an actual serving portion of a vegetable. I then got to wondering about how many muffins and rolls and pancakes and patties I have baked veggies into in the hopes that Sam would eat them.
carrot muffin

Let's see ...
Sweet potato muffins and pancakes
Broccoli-cheese rolls
Carrot cake and muffins
Zucchini bread
Harvest cake (carrot, parsnip, zucchini)
lumpia with veggies
ravioli with veggies
veggie burgers
veggie pancakes
zucchini fritters

These morsels usually work for one or maybe two servings and then Sam's taste buds rebel or something.

harvest cake

I keep working and reworking my Child Meal Philosophy. As I see it, there are three basic thoughts:

1. The child eats what we eat. I like this one. How else are we supposed to transmit culture and dining etiquette, not to mention make sure we don't have a finicky Napoleon at the table who thinks the world revolves around his taste buds.

2. The child has a small portion of what we eat plus something we know the child will eat. This option seems a sensible middle road. Perhaps expecting a three-year-old to eat Thai beef salad is too much, but if he tastes a little beef and then has some inoffensive macaroni and cheese, surely this will create a child who is not afraid to try to new things and one who appreciates his mother's wonderful cooking. Surely.

3. The child has his own meal. This is the norm around here. It was also the norm, as I have mentioned before, when I was growing up. My mother and father would have their liver and onions with a side of steamed broccoli and mayonnaise, while we children had tater tots, carrot sticks, and chicken nuggets. There are so many problems with this, I don't even know where to begin. Mostly, I don't like it for two reasons. First, it means I spend extra time in the kitchen making something that Sam might reject. I have cried over a meal that I made just for him when he sent back to the kitchen with upturned nose. So my sensitiveness means I always err on the side of caution and make only dishes I know he won't turn down, which includes all of four things. Second, remember that Napoleon comment above? Yeah. I know my mother would say that we three kids turned out fine. I mean, look! I even have a food blog AND I eat anchovies and at one point had an entire 1/4 steer in my freezer.

But it's the philosophy.

See, I think in terms of right and wrong for just about everything. Oh, there are many ways to skin a cat, yes, but there is one best way, and that way is the right way.

broccoli-cheese rolls

There is another barrier to #1, and that is that dinner just isn't always ready at 6pm when Sam is ready to eat. So what then? I thought that I could reserve a small portion of the previous night's meal so that Sam and I can sit down to the same thing at the same time. But that hasn't consistently worked out. Also, I get worried that he'll starve. I mean, I know he won't really starve. He'll probably just go to bed hungry for a while. We already connect dessert to amount of new thing he tries and he already announces, "I don't want yogurt pretzels," to show us that he understands the connection and that he really doesn't have to try anything new because there will be more, better food tomorrow, thanks.

I could go old school and put the same dish of food in front of him day after day until he eats it. What's that? The same bowl of goulash, you say? Why, yes, it is!

I really just need to commit to having dinner done by 6pm and Sam eats it, period. That probably means making dinner around 3pm. Jacques Pepin said his daughter always ate what they ate. Lots of people do that. Why do I do that crazy American thing of making him his own meal? What came first, Sam's finickiness or me making him finicky by treating his meal as special? I probably brought this upon myself. Ug.

Thursday, September 1, 2011


I have been thinking about authenticity recently. In a No Reservations episode I caught on the tele the other night, Tony went to Naples in search of the real McCoy, i.e. Neapolitan pizza. He ate at one of the two restaurants claiming to have made the first pizza and ordered the margherita, which is a purist pizza. Perhaps the purist. By outlining the virtues of this pizza, he also underscored the sins of many an American pizza pie: thick crust, tons of toppings, bland sauce, rubbery cheese. The real pizza should only have mozzarella di buffalo - fresh - for goodness sake.
Then Tony came back to New York and talked to two restaurants owners/chefs about their Neopolitan (Italian?) restaurant. They discussed authenticity and how that translates in the US. I was a Yelper once, and there is a lot of talk out there about whether this Thai place or that Sichuan place is authentic - and everyone disagrees. The point made by these two guys talking to Tony was that authentic Italian cuisine is local. Part of its very nature is that you serve what is in the region; you see the cuisine change from north to south, from mountain to sea. Okay, so for the US, we extrapolate that if you have Italian dishes and they are authentic, then they are actually inspired by Italy and sourced locally. As opposed to flying in the real ingredients from Sicily, say, and saying that you are an authentic Sicilian restaurant.

I'm just spitballing here. I think that I am a "spirit of the law" type of gal when it comes to this idea.
That you adapt to your locality makes you authentic. Perhaps everything in this country should be hyphenated. Italian-American.
Good Food did a celebration last year that was apparently Mexican-Italian. Blending is very American ... I'm thinking Spam sushi.

So we either cannot ever use the word authentic, or we can agree that it is fungible, in a sense. Perhaps you are a strict constructionist who thinks that authenticity is found in the method and the ingredients. You would therefore fly your ingredients in from whichever far-off lands were required. If you are a spirit-of-the-law adherent as I am, however, you go local and get inspired by those far-off locales.

Josh and I just ate at a local joint, Staple and Fancy, that calls itself Italian-inspired. Hm. I think there are others like me.

The above are all recent dishes chez moi: pizza margherita, pizza di zucca, spaghetti with roasted tomatoes and arugula and ricotta, tomato-mozzarella-basil (with tomatoes and basil from my yard!).