Photo love: Jason Peacock, Flickr
Apologies, but this isn’t a post about my dabbling in lesbianism (not, as Jerry Seinfeld famously said, that there’s anything wrong with that).
Nope, it’s the story of my conversion from downhill to Nordic skier, but there’s a little bit of lusty winter romance thrown in, for good measure.
You’ll find it in the new issue of Crested Butte Magazine (conveniently available in a glorious digital edition). Free your heel, and the rest will follow.
Posted in Food, Misc., Outdoor adventures, Travel, Western U.S. lifestyle | Tagged 10th Mountain Division Huts, alpine touring, AT skiing, Crested Butte, cross-country skiing, hut trips, misleading headlines, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, Winter sports, yurt dinners | Leave a Comment »
It’s okay, call me a hypocrite. Not three days ago, I published an anti-”foodie” manifesto on HuffPo, and today I’m pimping a guide I wrote on deluxe trail snacks for the Mountain Safety Research (MSR) blog.
We’re not talking your standard backpacker fare like GORP, sawdust-flavored energy bars, or freeze-dried dinners (aka “crap in a bag”), either. I’m genuinely encouraging folks to haul handcrafted salumi, aged sheep’s milk cheese, and small-batch bourbon into the backcountry.
In my defense, readers of aforementioned blog, The Summit Register, are fellow dirtbags. Just because we shit in the woods doesn’t mean we don’t also appreciate the finer things in life. And for that, I’m thankful. Happy holiday, everyone.
Posted in Cheese, Cheese for Dummies, Cooking, Drink, Food, International travel, Meaty treats, Misc., Outdoor adventures, Recipes, Seasonal eating, Travel, Western U.S. lifestyle | Tagged backcountry meal planning, backpacker meals, backpacking snacks, cheese, healthy snacks, high-energy snacks, hiking snacks, hut trips, ski snacks, trail snacks | Leave a Comment »
Photo love: redbubble.com
I confess I’m pimping out an updated article that originally ran on Gadling in 2011, but hey, folks, HuffPo doesn’t pay.
Of greater importance: there’s a slow but steady backlash against food elitism. Pass it on.
Posted in Cooking, Food, Humane livestock management, Misc., Seasonal eating, Sustainable agriculture | Tagged food bloggers, food blogs, food elitism, food security, food writers, foodie, foodies, gourmets, pretentious douchebags | Leave a Comment »
Does anyone remember that episode of “Friends” where Phoebe gets fired from a youth group job because her songs are too truthful? And then the kids come looking for her at Central Perk, because they love the lady who “tells the truth?”
No? I guess it’s just that this particular song resonated with me, being a ranch kid, and all.
“Oh, the cow in the meadow goes moo,
Oh, the cow in the meadow goes moo.
Then the farmer hits him on the head and grinds him up,
And that’s how we get hamburgers.”
Since supermarkets and butcher shops don’t have a Phoebe Buffay to help you demystify cryptic and sometimes misleading beef labels, I’ve done the work for you. Click away.
Photo love: Billy Currie
Posted in Cooking, Food, Fuzzy (and not so) critters, Humane livestock management, Meaty treats, Misc., Sustainable agriculture, The Sustainable Kitchen ® | Tagged beef, beef labels, cattle ranching, feedlot beef, grassfed beef, meat, meat labeling, meat labels, natural beef, organic beef, pink slime sucks, usda meat regulation | Leave a Comment »
This is a story about food and friendship, or rather, how the former often begets the latter. As for the title of this post, there’s a reason for it. No, it doesn’t involve anything lascivious. I promise I’ll be back to my usual content soon.
Some background is in order. I met my friend Jules (not her real name) on my final day in Sydney in 2007. As has become my habit before departing the amazing continent that is Australia, I’d made a pit-stop in Chinatown en route to the airport.
At the risk of sounded jaded, in the 12 years I’ve been covering Australia as a journalist, I’ve developed an obsessive ritual. Upon arrival and departure in Sydney, I beeline to Chinese Noodle Restaurant and order the #4 pork noodle combo. I spend a good deal. of time when I’m at home dreaming of #4, and scheming ways to get my fix. I’ve tried—and failed—to find a substitute. If only there were a methadone equivalent for #4.
As for why this particular dish is so special, it’s the noodles. Chef/owner Cin (just Cin…like Cher) is originally from Xinjiang Province in Northern China, where hand-pulled, dense, chewy wheat noodles are a regional delicacy. He makes them to order; a tiny window permits diners a view of the long, ropy strands being stretched in the kitchen. The boiled noodles are then covered in a savory, spicy. ground pork sauce, and accompanied by a quiver of julienned cucumber. It’s a magnificent dish; rustic and comforting, with a near-perfect combination of flavors, textures and aromatics. I could literally eat this every single day (and sometimes, when I’m in Sydney, I do).
I should also clarify that Chinese Noodle Restaurant, as its name might imply, is far from a temple of haute cuisine. It ranks a notch above “total dump” because the worn Formica tables are clean, and the ceiling is (or was; I haven’t been back since the 2010 remodel) festooned with garlands of plastic grapevines- evidence of the space’s former life as a tacky Italian joint. No matter. There’s always a line, and if you’re in a hurry, you’d better make damn sure you get there with time to spare.
So. Jules. If we were lesbians, I’d say it was a meet-cute worthy of a Hollywood movie. I was making a mad dash to CNR, which opens at 11 am, so I could get #4 to go for my 1:30 pm international flight. I arrived at precisely three minutes before the hour, out of breath. Like all junkies, I’m sure I had a deranged look in my eyes, and was sweating profusely.
Jules arrived concurrently. She had a similarly disheveled appearance, having sprinted to the restaurant. We looked at our respective watches, grimaced, and sat down on a concrete planter. I can’t recall who spoke first, but the conversation went something like this:
“Ugh. I was so afraid I’d get here and there’d be a line. I have a flight to catch.”
“Me too! I couldn’t take off without getting my fix.”
“I’m hopelessly addicted to this place. I have to eat here every time I leave town.”
“That’s so funny! I’m the same way. What do you order?”
At this point, I learned that Jules- a Sydneysider- is a frequent business traveler (not her real job, but an accurate description), and has a thing for CNR’s pork dumplings. To which I believe I responded, “THEY HAVE DUMPLINGS?”
I love dumplings. I could eat nothing but dumplings. But damned if I’ve ever glanced at the rest of CNR’s menu. I mean, why would you, when they have those noodles?
This is Jules’ stand-in
At this point, Jules and I had been chatting for about five minutes. Which was two minutes past opening time. We kept glancing at our watches, essentially behaving like a pair of Pavlovian dogs. At last, an Asian girl, doubtless used to seeing salivating round-eyes loitering outside the restaurant, flipped the “Closed” sign over, and called out, “You want to-go?”
Ten minutes later, Jules and I were on our way with our precious cargo. She had a bus to catch, while I had a shuttle. We prattled away until we reached her stop, and then we exchanged email addresses. “I’m so glad I met you!” one of us exclaimed, while the other cried, “I know! Me too!” We parted with a hug and promises to stay in touch.
Since then, Jules and I have been devoted, if often slack, pen-pals. We’ve supported one another through the various forms of bullshit life occasionally flings: serious illness, breakups, work problems, death of friends and relatives. We’ve also celebrated our accomplishments via email: a graduate degree, the publishing of a book; falling in love; moves, adopting backyard chickens in lieu of children. Through it all, Jules has always impressed me with her quick and vulgar wit, insatiable love of food and travel, compassion, and amazing ability to remain cheerful—or at least optimistic- in the direst of situations. She’s the most resilient person I know.
On my last visit to Australia in 2010, Jules and I met for the second time, but our friendship—with its attendant inside jokes and shared obsession with “our” restaurant- felt as comfortable as a tatty old Chuck Taylor. She and her man, R, accompanied me on a Darlinghurst bar-hopping assignment on one evening.
Another day, Jules and I walked the coastal trail that runs between Sydney’s beguiling eastern beaches. Afterward, we stopped for the world’s best cherry strudel (or, “scccchtruuuuudel” as Jules would say). The last night of my trip, Jules and R took me to their favorite sushi restaurant. They made me feel special, in a city that never fails to make me feel anything less than that.
View of Clovelly Beach on our “sccchtruuudel” stroll
It was with great shock and sadness that I received an email from Jules about 18 months ago. She’d tested positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation; both her mother and grandmother, as well as other maternal relatives, had died young from breast cancer. Now, it looked like Jules was going to face a similar fate unless she took prompt and drastic action.
In typical Jules fashion, that’s just what she did. No whinging, no pity party-by-email. She thoroughly researched her options and last winter underwent a Salpingo-Oophorectomy that kicked her into instant menopause.
As I write this, Jules is “in hospital” recovering from Thursday’s double mastectomy to remove her cancer-free breasts. Several days prior, she threw an “Ernbreast Hemingway: A Farewell to Boobs” party. That’s just the kind of person Jules is.
I emailed her the other day find out how the surgery went (without a hitch). From her starched-sheeted bed, Jules wrote, “I could go into the vomiting up all my food, the crushing feeling against my chest, the sheer, bloody discomfort, but I am alive, alive, alive! And I am loved, supported, and the first woman in my family in centuries who has actually had a choice. The value of that is immeasurable.”
Breast wishes for a speedy recovery, Jules; you’ve done National Breast Cancer Awareness Month proud. Love you lots.
Posted in Food, International travel, Meaty treats, Misc., Travel | Tagged BRCA, breast cancer, breast cancer awareness, chinatown, chinese noodle restaurant, double mastectomy, dumplings, hand-pulled noodles, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, ovarian cancer, sccchtruuudel, Sydney Chinese restaurants, syndey, syndey chinatown | Leave a Comment »
Anyone have one of those iconic travel T-shirts designed to inspire awe and envy?
- Ithaca is Gorges (New York)
- Go Climb a Rock (Yosemite)
- Wouldn’t you rather be riding a mule on Molokai? (Hawaii).
They captivated me as a kid, sparking my desire to explore the planet. And while still haven’t made it to Ithaca, I’m now proudly sporting a mule ride bumper sticker on my fridge.
Molokai’s venerable mule ride to the hauntingly beautiful Kalaupapa Peninsula is one of those things you need to do before you die. Read about my recent experience on the Kalaupapa Guided Mule Tour on American Cowboy online.
Have any groovy travel T memories? Share them here.
Posted in Fuzzy (and not so) critters, Misc., Outdoor adventures, Travel, Western U.S. lifestyle | Tagged Father Damien, Kalaupapa, Kalaupapa Guided Mule Tour, Kalaupapa National Park, Kalawao, Molokai, Molokai activities, Molokai mule ride, Molokai tourism, mule ride, mules | Leave a Comment »
Of course there are eco-friendly hotels- I just used that header to suck you in (Seriously, what’s with all the Bigfoot-centric reality shows of late? Did these people also get anal-probed by aliens?).
Finding a great property that walks the talk does require a bit of online homework. Check out my eco-hotel checklist on Gadling to make quick work of the task. Here’s to greener getaways.
Photo love: Mark Dragiewicz, Flickr
Posted in Food, International travel, Misc., Outdoor adventures, Sustainable agriculture, Travel, Western U.S. lifestyle | Tagged blatant marketing bullshit, carbon footprint, eco-friendly hotels, eco-friendly travel, eco-lodges, eco-tourism, environmentally friendly travel, green resorts, green travel, greenwashing, holistic retreats, wellness spas | Leave a Comment »
I’m clearly the Luddite I claim to be on my About page, because I just now discovered The Dirtbag Diaries. This interactive website features podcasts, vidcasts, short stories, and music that appeal to those of us who relish the dirtball lifestyle. Check it out, or better yet, contribute and support the cause.
I am indeed a food writer. Why do you ask? This is my ex, btw. I may be a dirtbag but I don’t have Man Hands.
Posted in Cooking, Food, International travel, Misc., Outdoor adventures, Travel, Western U.S. lifestyle | Tagged backpackers, backpacking, dirtbag lifestyle, dirtbags, outdoor recreation | Leave a Comment »
You don’t have to snack on Xanax. You can just snarf some bacon or salumi in the great outdoors, instead (Studies have shown that al fresco bacon consumption increases serotonin levels. No, really…). Follow my tips on how to safely pack your stash into the backcountry.
Photo love: Blackberry Farm
Posted in Cheese, Cheese for Dummies, Food, Humane livestock management, Meaty treats, Misc., Outdoor adventures, The Sustainable Kitchen ®, Travel, Travel wellness, Western U.S. lifestyle | Tagged backcountry food prep, backpacking, bacon, charcuterie, cheese plates, cured meat, food safety, salumi | Leave a Comment »
Because I took this photo in a remote hamlet, I assume it wasn’t intentional that “Pfisters Handworks” is located right above “Pooh’s Corner.” But I could be mistaken.
Posted in Fuzzy (and not so) critters, Meaty treats, Misc., Travel, Western U.S. lifestyle | Tagged anal sex, bad business decisions, chinglish, fisting, funny business names, winnie the pooh | Leave a Comment »
Traveling solo is officially cool now, or so my Klout score (whatever that means) tells me. You don’t need a reason: just get out there and see the world!
Bonus: I’m apparently no longer a narcissistic a-hole for taking selfies.
Trekking Condoriri (solo, not counting guide) in Bolivia.
Posted in International travel, Misc., Outdoor adventures, Travel, Travel wellness, Western U.S. lifestyle | Tagged Adventure travel, solo travel, solo women's travel, travel for singles, traveling alone, women's travel | Leave a Comment »
I’m just going to give it to you straight. The best way to incur a travel writer’s wrath is to use any of the following phrases when asking them about their occupation: “Dream job;” “Must be nice; “Always on vacation,” and “How’s it feel to not work for a living?”
This was taken an hour after a Good Samaritan thought I was homeless. Where they got that impression, I know not.
Get a group of travel writers together, and one of the main topics of conversation will be how fucking annoying it is to always be told we have a “dream job,” when the general public has no understanding of what it is we actually do, and how damned hard and stressful it really is.
I had a therapeutic commiseration session of this sort a week ago, with my colleague K, who lives on Maui. I was passing through while on assignment in Hawaii, and we stopped for a round of drinks at my former place of employment (yes, yes, I sound like a hypocrite, but I’ve lived on Maui…twice. I resided in a gutted house sans electricity, and waited tables; I returned there to work as a line cook for my culinary school internship). Not to get off-topic, but what I love most about returning to Lahaina is that even 22 years later, I can walk into that restaurant and know exactly who will be occupying what seat at the bar. In the middle of the day.
Back to the subject at hand: The toughest part about discussing our occupation with laypeople is that we sound like jaded, ungrateful assholes (admittedly, many travel journalists are, and I, too, would like to give these people a swift kick in the windpipe).
Believe me, we know how fortunate we are. What people need to understand is that we’re also mutants, and our insatiable need to wander outweighs things that Maslow long ago identified as the Hierarchy of Needs. We willingly live a poverty-level existence in order to see the world, happily wallow in sub-human conditions to do so, and through this freakish existence, find inspiration, emotional sustenance, and the motivation to continue earning under a dollar word in order to feed our habit.
We’re the craven junkies of writers, and yes, we have day jobs. Please note: I’m not referring to “travel writers” whose lifestyles are subsidized by a wealthy spouse, trust fund, or flat-our journo-whoring. I’m talking about pursuing actual travel journalism as a primary occupation. It’s our dream job as well; just don’t call it that. Here’s why:
Most of us live paycheck-to-paycheck. This is tough when you’ve always prided yourself on paying bills and rent in a timely manner, and maintaining a good credit rating–something I no longer possess, for reasons explained below. These values were drilled into my skull at an early age.
Camping on the beach after hiking the Kalalau Trail
Fiscal responsibility is complicated by the fact that when you’re freelance, you usually get paid when the magazine or website decides you get paid. Auto-payments for bills are for people with real jobs. So are direct deposits. When we’re on the road, we’re sweating the paychecks that are (hopefully) awaiting us in our mailboxes, while at the same time wondering how the hell we’re going to pay rent or, in more extreme situations, make it home.
Think I’m exaggerating? The following is a snippet from an email I sent to K yesterday, after arriving in LA post-red-eye. He’d wanted me to stay in Hawaii a few extra days, so I could participate in the Maui launch of the Polynesian canoe Hōkūle‘a. I was all over it, until disaster struck in Honolulu.
“…I so wanted to extend so I could do the canoe launch, but you’ll appreciate this: since I no longer have a credit card because I’m a deadbeat travel writer with monumental medical debt due to the crazy infectious disease I acquired in Ecuador while on assignment, I had to pay cash deposits on my rental cars, even though my host had prepaid.
So, I ran out of funds in Honolulu, and went two days without money for food. How’s that for irony? But the best part is that a bank employee at my credit union put $4.58 of his own money into my account yesterday so that I could withdraw $20 (i had $18 and some change left, and there was a $3 fee) and get a fucking bowl of ramen. Did I mention that during this time, it was my final night of a hosted stay at a five-star hotel in Waikiki, and that my last meal was an extravagant, 11-course dinner at _____ that I was invited to because I’m a friend of a friend of the chef?”
I was in a bit of a bind, because my mail was on hold, so I couldn’t ask my neighbor to deposit any accumulated paychecks for me. Being a holiday weekend, I was also guaranteed any cash infusions from my cheese consulting clients (aka “direct deposits”) or beleaguered family members wouldn’t be accessible immediately, Thus, I came up with a genius strategy that would actually net me a profit.
Making poi at the Waipa Foundation (irony alert: for distribution to those in need).
I decided, given Waikiki’s staggering homeless population, I would join the ranks for a couple of nights, until some cash came through. Why not? I’ve slept on beaches before. And meth addicts love me. Why, just two days ago, one of them proposed to me as I walked up Kapahulu Ave. Also, I’ve been mistaken for a homeless person twice in the last six weeks, most recently upon arrival in Hawaii. There’s something about a backpack and cut-offs that makes Good Samaritans see you as indigent.
As for meals, I would scrawl some witty spin on “Out-of-work travel writer; need money to get home” on a piece of stained cardboard. And hey, I have no problems foraging in the trash for meals–I’ve eaten some scary shit. I’ve knowingly consuming mouse turd-tainted food on more than one occasion, and there was that horrendous dog noodle soup in Hanoi. I’ve lived in my car in San Diego and peed in a Big Gulp cup at night. I’m tough. I’d just kicked the Kalalau Trail’s ass, goddammit!
Hanoi Dog Pho. Not for the timid. Or those with tastebuds.
I was ready to call up one of my editors to ensure he’d take the story. But then my brother called and ruined everything by insisting I pay my bag check fees and airport shuttle with his credit card.
Reluctantly, I agreed, because to be honest, I had a lot of deadlines, the homeless of Waikiki are a rough lot, and after three weeks without laundry, my clothes were already festering in my pack. Also, I actually don’t take real homelessness lightly, and while I was really planning to write a story based on interviews and investigative reporting, I was genuinely concerned about my safety (I’d already decided I’d explain my predicament to a hotel security guard, and hope I could crash in a lighted area nearby).
So, now I’m back on the Mainland, and my Hawaiian idyll seems a distant dream. I have clean clothes again, but I confess: more than a small part of me would prefer to be kicking it on the beach using my sarong for a bed, and seeing what kind of treats could be pulled from Waikiki’s bountiful trash cans. There are worse ways to earn a living.
Posted in Food, Misc., Outdoor adventures, Street food, Travel, Western U.S. lifestyle | Tagged bad credit, beingadirtbag, dream jobs, food writers, food writing, Hawaii, homelessness, Honolulu, how to become a food writer, how to become a travel writer, i want to be a travel writer, Kalalau Trail, Lahaina, Maui, travel writers, travel writing | 2 Comments »
While my brother, nephew, and I were having a blast hiking Kauai’s notoriously treacherous Kalalau Trail this past week, my 13-year-old niece apparently wasn’t.
We discovered this “petroglyph” as we departed our campsite on night one of three.
She ‘fessed up to writing it because we found it highly amusing. That did not amuse her. But props to you, E, because you hiked the entire thing. You, um, rock.
For the rest of you, I present this: and this:
and yeah, okay, this:
Feature story on the adventure coming soon; stay tuned for outlet. And buy your permits for summer of 2014 now; they go fast.
Posted in Food, Misc., Travel, Western U.S. lifestyle | Tagged child labor, Hawaii hikes, Kalalau Trail, Kauai, Kauai hiking, Na Pali Coast, Na Pali Trail | Leave a Comment »
Thanks to my Gadling colleague/strip club partner-in-crime Sean McLachlan, for asking me to contribute to the Travel Tips & Hacks blog.
Click on the link for my sage advice on how to stay healthy while eating dodgy street foods. Tip: You’ll never regret carrying Imodium in your daypack.
Peruvian salsa vendor, Laurel Miller
Posted in Cooking, Drink, Food, International travel, Meaty treats, Misc., Outdoor adventures, Seasonal eating, Street food, Travel, Travel wellness | Tagged backpacking, Budget travel, dysentery, foodborne illness, Giardia, Street food, Travel health, traveler's diarrhea, waterborne illness | Leave a Comment »
Actual headline on NBC News today: “Backyard chickens dumped at shelters when hipsters can’t cope, critics say.”
Photo love: matt, Flickr
While I’m bummed about the plethora of homeless hens (and roosters with owner-related gender, uh, identification issues), I have to say that the only thing I love more than this headline is a quote from the owner of Minneapolis’ Chicken Run Rescue:
“It’s the stupid foodies,” said Britton Clouse, 60, who admits she speaks frankly. “We’re just sick to death of it.”
Seriously, folks. Not to get all judgey, but please do your research before you put in that badass backyard coop, set of hives, or goat shed. Pets and food animals are like kids: a longterm commitment.
Posted in Food, Fuzzy (and not so) critters, Humane livestock management, Meaty treats, Misc., Sustainable agriculture, Western U.S. lifestyle | Tagged backyard chickens, backyard goats, chicken coops, foodies, hipsters, homeless chickens on crack, unwanted chickens, urban farming, urban farms | 1 Comment »
Are goats the new backyard chicken? Indeed they are. Find out why adding a couple of caprines to your urban farm provides more than just milk.
Photo love: Tc Morgan
Posted in Cheese, Cheese for Dummies, Food, Fuzzy (and not so) critters, Humane livestock management, Sustainable agriculture | Tagged backyard goats, cities that allow goats, goat cheese, goat milk, Goats, urban farming, urban farms | Leave a Comment »
If there’s any question as to where I get my anti-vegan proclivities from, bear in mind I grew up on a ranch, the daughter of a large animal veterinarian/former wrangler from the Southwest.
Why yes, I did help butcher this.
That said, big, honkin’ hunks of raw meat aren’t necessarily the best diet for your beloved dog or cat. My dad and I give you the lowdown on OrganicAuthority.com.
Posted in Food, Fuzzy (and not so) critters, Humane livestock management, Meaty treats, Misc., Sustainable agriculture | Tagged alternative pet diets, cat food, dog food, raw cat food, raw dog food, raw food, raw pet diets, raw pet food, starving your beloved pet, vegan pet food, vegetarian pet food | Leave a Comment »
Got a jones for a groovy, green, custom camper van? Tonke Campers are the most badass gypsy wagons on the road. Read all about them here.
Photo love: Tonke Campers
Posted in Misc., Travel, Western U.S. lifestyle | Tagged camper vans, campers, car camping, caravans, custom campers, custom motorhomes, custom RV's, Eco-travel, green camping, green vehicles, gypsy wagons, motorhomes, RV's, Tonke Campers | Leave a Comment »
Ever wondered what it’s like to visit a medicine man or woman? Now you know.
Walk this way…
Posted in Misc., Travel | Tagged Bolivia, coca leaves, creepy psychic shit, El Alto, fortune tellers, La Paz, medicine men, medicine women, weird, yatiri, yatiris | Leave a Comment »
Last night I attended “An Evening with Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert: Good vs. Evil” in Boulder. Best quote of the night (and there were many…so many) was from Tony, talking about Guy Fieri (one of my own favorite targets):
Photo love: delish.com
“He looks like Ed Hardy fucked a Juggalo.”
That sums it up nicely, I think.
Posted in Food, Misc. | Tagged Anthony Bourdain, anthony bourdain quotes, eric ripert, good vs. evil tour, guy fieri, tony bourdain, total douchebags | 3 Comments »
I’m going to preface this post with a disclaimer: I’ve spent the past decade exploring South America, and I keep coming back because I love it so much. I find the differences (and similarities) in countries and cultures endlessly fascinating, as well as the food, languages, geography, flora, fauna, and people. I’ve been in Bolivia for a week, and I’m smitten, if not a little culturally befuddled.
Mercado Campesino, Tupiza
Like most of my writing, this will likely offend, so please let it be known that I’m merely taking the piss. Don’t even get me started on what’s annoying about Norte Americanos (self included). Now, adelante:
- Why do adults of both genders pick their noses in public? Like, a lot?
- Why do men of all ages also urinate in public, i.e. sidewalk, mid-day, full frontal? Yet last night, I got into verbal battle (en español) with a Bolivian man who’d just relieved himself along with two friends, behind a mound of rocks on the side of the road (our overnight bus was taking a 10-minute break at a restaurant). After they zipped up, I ventured over, and this guy started yelling at me to go pee in the bathroom.
I explained that the toilet (a seatless, shit-splattered number in a cement cell, with a one-foot gap at the top of the door that approximated the height of the average Bolivian male—about 5’7″) was in use. In reality, my nervous bladder wouldn’t function in there, and believe me, I tried. He was having none of it. From what I gathered, the issue was that said pile of rubble was part of the “construction” of someone’s “home” and it was bad luck for my (female? gringa?) urine to taint it.
- Why are 99.9% of cholitas (indigenous women from the Andean highlands; I’m specifically referring to those in La Paz) the size of Mack trucks? Proof: The city’s weekly event called Cholita’s Fighting.
- How is the human cheek is capable stretching to hamster-like capacity, in order to accommodate a wad of coca leaves the size of a tennis ball?
- Why do cholitas hawk with greater frequency and volume than the Chinese? I blame the noxious traffic fumes, since many of them are street vendors.
- What do the cops actually do besides eat, socialize, and look cool in uniform?
Insta-camelid: Just add water! Who decided that burying a desiccated llama fetus beneath the cornerstone of your new house brings good luck?
- Why, as in the rest of Latin America, is honking one’s horn repeatedly, even when at a standstill, okay? Rather than just being totally fucking annoying.
- How does listeria not develop in “fresh” cheese that’s been kept unrefrigerated for three days?
- Why am I still alive from eating said cheese? Because I seriously had no choice in the matter, or I would have caused grave offense. And sometimes death is preferable.
Posted in Cheese, Food, Misc., Travel | Tagged Bolivia, Bolivian toilets, Bolivians, cholitas, cholitas fighting, cholitas wrestling, La Paz | 2 Comments »
Photo love: Flickr user Sarah Deer
Just order this and present to your server. Et voila! You are now officially a total asshat, just like “entrepreneur” Brad Newman. Real food and travel journalists thank you for continuing to make our livelihood more difficult.
Thanks to Eater for the story.
Posted in Cooking, Drink, Food, Misc., Travel | Tagged Brad Newman, business ethics, Eater, food writers, hotel reviews, no pay no play, restaurant reviewers, restaurant reviews, servercards, travel reviews | Leave a Comment »
Photo love: Flickr user K.Hurley
As a native Southern Californian, citrus is in my blood. As a kid, I’d go on calls with my dad, a large animal vet, and we’d drive past mile upon mile of citrus trees. Without fail, he’d always pull the truck over, and we’d help ourselves to some tangerines or oranges. What’s a little theft in exchange for replacing a Holstein’s prolapsed uterus?
I came up with this refreshing, aromatic compote for a cooking class. This time of year, California farmers markets are flooded with a staggering array of citrus varieties, from rosy-pink Cara-Cara oranges, to tart, briny little finger limes. Regardless of what kinds you use, this dessert is a snap, and sure to evoke sunny skies and fragrant groves, with nary a strip mall in sight.
CITRUS COMPOTE IN GINGER-STAR ANISE SYRUP
5 cups water
¾ cups sugar
1 cinnamon stick
4 slices peeled ginger, each about the size of a quarter, smashed
3 star anise pods
3 medium blood oranges, peel and pith removed and cut into 1/8” cross sections (be sure to remove any seeds)
1 Navel orange, skin and pith cut away (follow the contours of the fruit with a sharp paring knife), and separated into segments by freeing the sections from the membranes holding them in place with paring knife
2 medium pink grapefruit, such as Rio Star, peel and pith cut and away and segmented, as above
3 kumquats, cut into paper-thin slices
fresh mint leaves, julienned, for garnish
Combine water, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and star anise in medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 15 minutes, reducing heat if too high.
Strain liquid to remove ginger and spices, and add liquid back to saucepan. Bring back to boil, then reduce heat to medium and allow liquid to reduce, about 15 to 20 minutes, until a syrupy consistency that just barely coats the back of a spoon (it will still be fairly runny). Remove from heat, pour into a glass bowl, and chill for at least one hour.
To serve, add citrus to four martini glasses or compote bowls, and pour syrup over fruit. Garnish with mint.
© The Sustainable Kitchen ®, 2000.
Posted in Food, Recipes, Seasonal eating, Sustainable agriculture, The Sustainable Kitchen ® | Tagged Blood oranges, Cara Cara oranges, citrus, compotes, dessert recipes, desserts, grapefruit, kumpquats, oranges, scurvy prevention, tangerines, winter desserts, winter recipes | Leave a Comment »
All due respect to Snoop Pomeranian, or whatever the hell he’s calling himself these days, but gin and juice is no longer where it’s at. Gin and goat or blue cheese, yes. Or, if you’re feeling fancypants, sub gin for an herbal liqueur. Inspiration to be found right here.
Photo love: Flickr user pmarkham
Posted in Cheese, Cheese for Dummies, Drink, Food, Misc., Recipes, Seasonal eating | Tagged alternatives to Mad dog, blue cheese, cheese and cockatils, cheese and spirits, cheese pairings, cocktails, Denver restaurants, Euclid Hall, gin, goat cheese, herbal liqueurs, pairing cheese | 2 Comments »
A major haul in Colorado’s Lizard Head Wilderness. Those are not my hands…I may have eczema, but not man-hands.
Ever since I wrote a report on mushrooms in the fourth grade, I’ve been obsessed with fungi in all its glorious permutations. I spent many childhood hours tromping around after a rainfall, searching for elusive species. Yet, typical of my finicky palate at that age, I refused to even consider actually eating a mushroom. The horror.
Thankfully, things change, and some gluttons are made, not born. I now enjoy eating wild mushrooms as much as I love foraging for them.
Although this recipe long predates an epic chanterelle harvest I did in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, it’s still my favorite way to showcase these meaty, woodsy-tasting golden mushrooms. Hello, autumn.
WARM FINGERLING POTATO & CHANTERELLE SALAD
serves four as a starter
1 tablespoon + 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. fingerling potatoes, parboiled and drained, and cut into 1/2-inch slices
3/4 lb. chanterelle mushrooms, wiped clean and quartered if large, halved if smaller
1 medium shallot, minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Parmigiano-Reggiano, for garnish
Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat, then add 1 tablespoon unsalted butter and the olive oil. When butter is foamy, add chanterelles and cook until golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Important: the first few minutes of cooking, the mushrooms will release their liquid- you must keep cooking until the liquid has absorbed and mushrooms begin to brown.
Add remaining half tablespoon butter, and sauté shallots and thyme with chanterelles for 1 minute. Add potatoes to heat through, being careful not to break them up as you stir. Remove from heat.
Allow salad to cool in large bowl for several minutes, then add Champagne vinegar, more olive oil, if needed, and salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve warm.
©The Sustainable Kitchen 2001®
Posted in Cheese, Cooking, Food, Recipes, Seasonal eating, The Sustainable Kitchen ®, Western U.S. lifestyle | Tagged chanterelles, Dunton Hot Springs, fall recipes, fall salads, mushroom foraging, mushroom recipes, mushrooming, salads, wild mushroom recipes, wild mushrooms | 1 Comment »
There’s a fine line between genius and freak, and I think British uber-chef /Mr. Magoo clone Heston Blumenthal has crossed it. His restaurant, The Fat Duck, is known for menus that read as whimsical to some, pretentious and/or ridiculous to others (Ex: snail porridge, Mad Hatter’s Tea Party with Mock Turtle Soup, Pocket Watch and Toast Sandwich; a risotto made with something called umbles).
“I think I taste umami!”
Photo love: Flckr user betsyjean79
Regardless of what you think of Blumenthal’s food, his recent interview with the Guardian is sure to offend. Apparently, Blumethal likes to use tampons as palate cleansers, as their absorbency allows him to taste “richness, creaminess, and sweetness more intensely.”
I’m not sure what I find more disturbing: the path that led Blumenthal to make this astonishing discovery, or the image of him in his restaurant kitchen, sucking on a Tampax. Coming soon to a menu near you: “OB amuse-bouche.”
Posted in Food, Fuzzy (and not so) critters, Misc. | Tagged British chefs, celebrity chefs, Fucking lunatic chefs, Heston Blumenthal, palate cleaners, tampons, The Fat Duck | 5 Comments »
At a book signing the other night, I was asked why I love goats so much. The long answer is here, in my essay called “Goat Girl.”
The short version: This is the card my parents sent out when my brother was born. I think it explains quite a lot.
P.S. My mom still has that hat.
Posted in Cheese, Cheese for Dummies, Fuzzy (and not so) critters, Misc., The Sustainable Kitchen ®, Western U.S. lifestyle | Tagged being a nerd, cheese books, Cheese for Dummies, dairy goats, goat girl, Goats, nerdy school kids, raising goats | 2 Comments »
Do you pride yourself on being the first among your circle of foodie friends to eat at the hippest new eatery in town? Possess no less than 100 different opinions on “the right way” to prepare coffee? Hoard different varieties of sea salt?
“I’ll have the toddler tartare…”
Photo love: Flickr user WoogyChuck
Then you should know that, according to no less a culinary authority than Nancy Grace, homo sapiens is the next big thing to hit the restaurant radar.
Allegedly, David Viens, a “well-known” California chef and the owner of a “fine dining” establishment, murdered his wife (and hostess) and “slow-cooked” her for four days in a “human crockpot.”
Viens then discarded his wife’s remains in the restaurant’s grease pit. I wonder how he determined whether a braise was preferable over pit-roasting (the ancient Polynesians were, of course, masters at this).
A heartwarming tale of love, passion, and highly efficient cost-control.
Posted in Cooking, Food, Meaty treats, Misc. | Tagged bad Lifetime movie plots, California chef cooks wife, cannibalism, dining trends, foodies, long pig, murder, Nancy Grace | 4 Comments »
I’m in Boulder, Colorado, right now, having serendipitously landed a job thanks to a fortuitous encounter while doing a book signing. I now take back the many unkind things I said and thought during my 12 months of house arrest writing Cheese for Dummies. And yes, I will be moving back to Colorado in August, a dream a long time in the making.
Photo love: Flickr user scomedy
Meanwhile, I’m spending this week looking for a place to live. In between imposing upon friends, I’m spending a few nights at the Boulder International Hostel. It’s a janky-ass place in the student ghetto that I’ve unfortunately had to stay at a number of times over the years, due to it being the only remotely affordable accommodation in town.
I did evade the hostel the year I was teaching a weekend-long cooking class at the now-defunct Cooking School of the Rockies, however. The school refused to pay for my hotel room at the last minute, and since I was broke, I elected to sleep in my car for four nights. This is why I get testy when people ask about my “dream job.”
Every time I stay at the hostel, something incredibly fucked up happens. One year, it was the weepy, morbidly obese, nymphomaniacal crazy cat lady who told me all of her boyfriend problems…at 2am. Then there’s the inevitable drunken idiot frat boys who bro-out late into the night (the hostel is located on Greek Row).
One time, the hostel refused to let me book a room because I had a Colorado driver’s license (something that used to be verboten if you wished to be a guest). I was a California resident, but I’d discovered at the Colorado Springs Airport car rental counter that my license was expired. I was running late for a meeting that was three hours away, and I had to take a cab to the DMV, then go back and get the rental car. Several days later, in Boulder for work, I again ended up sleeping in my car. Arrgh.
This morning, however, took the prize. If you’re unfamiliar with Boulder, it’s essentially the Berkeley of the Southwest, only less militant, more beautiful, and with a higher collective resting metabolic rate. The first time I moved here, I had literally just pulled into town after a two-day drive, and stopped to pick up some groceries. I was standing in the pasta aisle, dazed, when I noticed a middle-aged woman next to me, dangling a crystal before the array of boxed goods. Apparently some people have trouble making decisions on their own.
Anyway. this morning I was in the bathroom–admittedly shaving my armpits in the sink–when I heard this curious noise, sort of like two people murmuring in the shower (which was running), or a mother and young child in a stall (except kids mercifully aren’t allowed). I had just seen a girl with cerebral palsy checking in down at registration, so I thought maybe it was she in the stall.
Be sure to align your Stayfree.
Photo love: Flickr user omnos
But no, that would be TOO normal for the BIH. Instead, out comes this girl of the yuppie hippie/I-just-got-back-from-a-yoga-retreat-on-an-ashram variety. I don’t know what she was doing in there (I didn’t hear any battery-operated devices) but she looked totally blissed out: eyes glazed, beatific smile. Drinking the Kool-Aid, if you will.
She crosses behind me over to the trash can, and I can see in the mirror that she’s holding something in her palms and quietly chanting over it. I then realize–to my utter horror, as I stand there, razor aloft, shaving cream congealing in my pits–that this psychopath is blessing her maxi pad before throwing it away.
I’ve already issued instructions to friends and family that I be euthanized immediately should I become one of them. You know, in case it’s catching.
Posted in Misc., Travel, Western U.S. lifestyle | Tagged boulder, boulder international hostel, boulder youth hostel, colorado, feminine protection, maxipads, youth hostels | 1 Comment »
I am so not a baker. I’m also of the school of thought that it’s either in your DNA or it isn’t, unlike cooking, which can be learned. Don’t believe me? A culinary arts degree, pastry internship at Chez Panisse, two years of employment at an Oakland bakery, and a brief stint filling in on pastry at The Providores & Tapa Room in London speak otherwise.
Raspberry Brown Butter Cake from “The Preservation Kitchen.”
Sure, I can make pretty decent quickbreads and cookies; I’ve even made a good cake or two. But when it comes to anything more complex that sifting and measuring, forget it. I can’t even ice a cake to save my life, despite the Nazi-like anal retentiveness of my European pastry instructor in culinary school.
At Chez Panisse, I managed to gain enough trust to be allowed to prep fruit and make truffles, but my tart-making privileges were quickly revoked. The last attempt I made at bread was nothing short of pathetic (I was also distraught after discovering that the 100-year-old sourdough starter I’d been given had exploded in my refrigerator…I’d killed history).
So I’m always in awe of people who can deftly crimp pie shells or turn out flaky croissants. When I first met my friend Kate Leahy, it was while working at aforementioned bakery. I was just a counterperson, which meant that I had to scale out cookie dough, make sandwiches, and fold tart boxes in my spare time (having failed at tasks that involved actual baking talent).
I would watch Kate–all five-foot-one of her–hucking around 10-quart mixing bowls for the standing Hobart mixer nearly as tall as she, or blithely crafting wedding cake roses out of fondant. She learned to bake “the old-fashioned way, through trial and error, but my parents were very kind, especially when I got carried away with the baking soda.”
On a totally random, but incredibly awesome side note, Kate lived in the Philippines as a young child, because of her dad’s job. She once told me about the time a sewer rat came up out of their home toilet, an incident that would leave me permanently constipated. In fact, that’s my worst nightmare, right after a cockroach nesting in my ear.
Apologies for interrupting a heartwarming food story with this image.
Photo love: Flickr user Rosebud23
After the bakery, Kate went on to culinary school, and has worked as a line cook at some of the nation’s most prestigious restaurants, including Radius (Boston), Terra (St. Helena), and A 16 (San Francisco). Then, not satisfied with conquering the savory side of things, she got an MS in Journalism at Northwestern.
After working as a food editor and freelancer for a number of years in Chicago, she co-wrote 2008′s IACP-winning A 16 Food + Wine cookbook (don’t let the other names on the cover tell you otherwise) and on April 3, her latest book, written with acclaimed Chicago chef Paul Virant (Vie), The Preservation Kitchen: The Craft of Making and Cooking with Pickles, Preserves, and Aigre-doux, was released.
Kate–I swear I’m not her publicist–also has another major cookbook coming out, SPQR: Modern Italian Food and Wine (SPQR is A 16′s sister restaurant), written in collaboration with co-owner Shelley Lindgren and executive chef Matthew Accarino; release date October 16.
Anyway. The point of all this is that Kate is awesome and talented and you should buy her book. What’s it about, you ask? I’ll let her describe it:
The premise behind the book is giving people a fresh way to think about preserves. We weren’t just concerned with providing recipes that challenge cooks to think beyond strawberry jam, but also giving readers ways to use the preserves in meals. When you can turn a pickle into a sauce or vinaigrette, it becomes much more than just a condiment. Paul summarizes his strategy like this: ‘I eat what I can and what I can’t, I can.’”
I asked Kate for a summery recipe and she generously provided me with a cake that even I can’t screw up. Now let’s see if she can solve my sewer rat issues.
To order Paul and Kate’s book, click here. For more about Kate, go to her website, A Modern Meal Maker.
RASPBERRY BROWN BUTTER CAKE
Recipe from The Preservation Kitchen: The Craft of Making and Cooking with Pickles, Preserves, and Aigre-doux, by Paul Virant with Kate Leahy (Random House, 2012).
What separates this cake from similar creations is the brown butter, which gives it an almost savory edge, and the vanilla bean, which is infused into the hot butter. While delicious with tart, fresh raspberries, you also can make this cake with frozen cranberries and lemon zest in the fall and winter. A spoonful of summer berry jam added to the batter also works as a stand-in for fresh fruit.
Makes 1 cake
6 ounces salted butter
1 vanilla bean
1 cup sugar
½ cup all-purpose flour
1½ cup raspberries
1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan or small rectangular pan.
2. Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat. Split the vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds with the tip of a spoon. Mix in the seeds and bean and continue to cook the butter until it browns. (It will turn amber in color and smell like toasting nuts.) Immediately take off the heat to prevent the butter from scorching. Remove the bean and reserve for another use. Cool the butter to room temperature.
3. In a medium bowl mix the sugar and flour together. Whisk in the eggs, and then drizzle in the butter. Scatter half of the raspberries in the bottom of the cake pan and pour the batter on top. Scatter the remaining raspberries on top. Bake for 35 minutesor until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the top no longer looks raw.
Posted in Cooking, Food, Misc., Recipes, Sustainable agriculture | Tagged A 16, canning, canning cookbooks, canning recipes, cookbooks, Kate Leahy, Paul Virant, pickles, preserves, SPQR, The Preservation Kitchen, Vie | Leave a Comment »
In honor of
National Grilling Memorial Day, I’ve decided to rerun this post on how to make the most kickass burgers you’ll ever taste. Really. Happy holiday weekend!
I have Depression-era parents. That’s why I grew up eating freezer-burned heels of bread, and why there are spices in my mother’s pantry older than I am. One useful culinary thing Mom did teach me, besides making braising liquid for pot roast with Lipton’s Onion Soup mix (totally trailer, but so good), is to stretch my pennies by mixing egg and breadcrumbs into ground meat when I make hamburgers. Not only does this make for a lighter, juicier burger, but they taste pretty kick-ass when you liven up the grind with minced shallots, garlic, and chopped fresh herbs.
So, now that summer is finally here (yes, I realize it’s September but I live in Seattle), I thought I’d celebrate by firing up my metaphorical barbecue (I also live in an apartment at the moment), and share with you my tips for making a better burger.
*Remove your ground meat of choice from the fridge half an hour before you plan to make your burgers. You’re going to be adding stuff to it, and it will bind better if the meat isn’t too cold. Allow about one-and-a-half pounds for four people, depending upon what else you plan to serve. It’s always better to prepare too much than too little, and leftover burgers are great crumbled into stir-fries, pasta sauce, or scrambled eggs.
*Open a beer (personally, I prefer cocktails or wine but raw meat flecks and smeary fingerprints on glasseware is just not sexy).
*Dump the meat into a large bowl. Add one egg and one or two largish handfuls of panko or breadcrumbs; make them yourself with leftover bread or score some discounted day-old stuff from a bakery or local dumpster. Storebought stuff works, too. Add another egg if the mixture seems too dry. The point of these two ingredients is two-fold. The egg adds moisture and acts as a binding agent, while the breadcrumbs increase your yield and ensure your burger won’t end up festering in your colon for the next several months.
*Be sure to wash your hands after handling the egg and raw meat, and keep them separate from any utensils or ingredients you plan to use on raw food. E. coli is also not sexy.
*Add to meat one large shallot, minced, and at least three cloves of garlic, also finely minced. I always add a dash or four of soy sauce or Worcestershire, for added flavor. Throw in a handful of chopped Italian parsley or chives. Ground lamb with mint is also wonderful.
*Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper and mix well using your hands until all the ingredients are fully incorporated. To determine if your seasoning is right on, fry up a pinch of the mixture. Form into one-and-a-quarter-inch-thick patties by scooping the meat into your hands and gently! patting them into shape. Resist the urge to fondle too much, as it will compact the meat, making for a dry, tough burger. If you make them slider-sized, you’ll be able to double fist, clutching burger in one hand and beer in the other. I may not like greasy glasses, but I’m a huge advocate of eating and drinking ambidextrously.
I always make a slight indentation in the center of each patty, because that’s what my mom did to prevent “shrinkage.” I have no idea if this is true or not, but it does make you look like a wise old kitchen sage. You can make the burgers up to a day ahead; if you’ve got a crowd, place a sheet of parchment paper or plastic wrap between layers to prevent them from glomming on to one another. Bring up to room temperature before grilling.
*Preheat your grill or flat-top. Have another drink while you’re waiting.
*When coals are ashy and white and you’ve got some flame going, lightly oil the grill using a damp rag dipped in cooking oil. If you’re using a pan, get it smoking hot and brown both sides of the meat for better flavor. Try to refrain from cooking past medium rare if you’ve thrown down cash for good meat.
*Toast your buns. Artisan or Wonder Bread, they’ll taste better and it will help prevent the condiments from making them soggy.
*One more drink. Eat. Enjoy. Make friends or significant other clean up.
Lamb makes great burgers, too!
Depending upon your budget and the state of your arteries, you can opt for lean ground beef (around the eight- to ten-percent fat range), or go big on something 20- to 25-percent fat. Hamburgers are not the place to skimp on fat–it’s a necessary component, whether you use ground chuck, sirloin, or round. I recommend grassfed- and -finished beef for health, humanity, and flavor reasons, but bear in mind it’s lower in fat and shouldn’t be cooked past medium-rare.
Chuck is the most popular and economical, and provides a good fat and flavor balance. When purchasing, look for a bright, pinky-red color, and if cellophane-wrapped, avoid anything gray, leaky, smelly, or otherwise bio-hazardous. Tempting as it may be to purchase the preformed, opaque-packaged, phallic “chubs,” refrain. Saving a few bucks isn’t worth eating gussied up pet food.
If you’re on a tight budget, however, even if you buy the $2.99/lb. ghetto
grind, it will be vastly improved by the addition of a truly great egg. Pasture-raised chickens snack on foraged bugs and decaying vegetation (Those of you with McNugget crumbs around your mouths shouldn’t look so horrified) and the results are exceptionally rich, orangey-yellow yolks packed full of all kinds of that healthy antioxidant crap. They’re a great, inexpensive protein source on their own, and so much better than pale, watery, flavorless commercial eggs that are god knows how old.
[Photo love: burger, Flickr user Adam Kuban]
Posted in Cheese, Cooking, Food, Humane livestock management, Meaty treats, Misc., Recipes, Seasonal eating, Sustainable agriculture, The Sustainable Kitchen ®, Western U.S. lifestyle | Tagged barbecuing; grills, bbq, beef, burgers, cheeseburgers, grassfed beef, grilling, hamburgers, meat, organic beef, sustainable meat | Leave a Comment »
People often ask what inspired me to become a food writer and cooking instructor. I think they expect to hear heartwarming recollections of a childhood spent beside my mother at the stove, and reminiscences of glorious holiday repasts, table groaning with the bounty from our garden. They anticipate my memories of milking goats, and tangy chevre on homemade bread for an after-school snack. They imagine my Russian grandmother frying latkes for breakfast (using eggs I’d collected from our flock of Rhode Island Reds).
And, to a certain degree, there is truth in these examples. Looking back, I’m quite certain my formative experiences with food are what shaped my career. But the reality is that, while I grew up on a small ranch, the daughter of a large animal veterinarian and a former barrel-racing-champion-turned-homemaker, my own culinary education had a few…inconsistencies.
I did watch my mom cook sometimes; she still has a way with instant mashed potatoes and cracks open a mean jar of Prego. Our neighbors had a garden, and at the age of ten, I established a roadside produce stand, yet Birds-Eye was still a staple at my own dinner table. The eggs I gathered each morning (when I wasn’t being held hostage in the henhouse by our sadistic asshole of a rooster) my mother whisked in a microwave-proof bowl, before being nuking them into rubbery oblivion. I was in college before I learned that scrambled eggs aren’t traditionally made in a microwave.
My paternal grandmother was the daughter of a Russian émigré. Grandma Miller possessed a heavy New York accent, and she was—my dad will agree—the worst cook this side of Minsk. The (real, not instant) potatoes in her latkes were an oxidized grey, the resulting pancakes flabby and greasy from improperly heated oil. Small wonder I was the pickiest eater on the planet, utterly exasperating my Depression-era parents who, let’s face it, were only trying to embrace the advent of convenience foods.
“What breed of dog am I, you ask?”
The one time my mom tried making yogurt and cheese from our goat’s milk (she was having an early 1970’s back-to-the-land moment), the results were not exactly edible. In retrospect, I don’t think she realized the milk required starter cultures. So we instead drank goat milk by the gallon, and in the process my family became huge caprine aficionados. We bred our Nubian doe, Go-Go, every year, and ended up keeping several of her doelings; the bucks we donated to Heifer Project International. For my part, I adored our goats. Even when I fed Go-Go an uninflated balloon, it was with the best of intentions (it was Easter, and I thought she’d appreciate its pretty pink color).
In sixth grade, I decided to follow in my older brother’s footsteps and raise goats for a 4-H project. I bounced out of bed each morning to milk Rose, a distant relative of the late Go-Go (who died of natural causes, not from ingesting peony-hued rubber). Despite my rural upbringing, our property was located in a peaceful canyon only a couple of miles from what is today a populous, yuppified bedroom community of Los Angeles. There were a few other families with children up the road, but I was the only one living on a ranch.
The rooms at Westlake Elementary School were packed with upper-middle-class, mostly white kids, and it turned out they didn’t share my goaty enthusiasm. It was Jason Racinelli, a criminal in the making if ever there was one, who dubbed me “Goat Girl.” It was the first week of school, and as part of our “What I Did for Summer Vacation” oral reports, I’d waxed poetic about Rose and the wonders of lactation. If memory serves, I even passed around Dixie cups of her milk for my classmates to taste.
I was waiting for my mom to pick me up from school in our elderly, wood-paneled station wagon, when Jason appeared by my side. He looked me up and down, a sneer on his handsome face. “Hey Goat Girl,” he drawled, leaning in close and taking a long, exaggerated sniff. “You smell like a goat. Why would anyone want a goat, anyway? Why do you even go to this school? Why don’t you go back to your stupid farm?”
Mercifully, my mom arrived at that moment, but before I could escape to the safety of the car and the slobbery kisses of our three dogs, Jason yelled, “’Bye, Goat Girl! Don’t forget to wear your overalls tomorrow!”
I think it’s pretty safe to say that someone, somewhere, eventually kicked Jason Racinelli’s ass to Kingdom Come or incarcerated him. Unfortunately, before that could happen, I essentially became known as Goat Girl for the remainder of the year, and developed several nervous tics that abated only after we sold Rose and I instead concentrated on raising rabbits (fuzzy, rodent-like creatures were apparently on the list of “cool” pets to own). I don’t recall exactly when I allowed my goat obsession to resurface, but suffice it to say, I’m now a contributing editor at culture: the word on cheese and live in Seattle, one of the few cities in the U.S. that allows residents to keep backyard dairy goats.
So, while my somewhat dichotomous culinary upbringing played a large role in my career of choice, I usually opt for a shorter, easier, wholly truthful answer. “I became a food writer because when I was eight years old and walking my brother’s goat at the county fair, a middle-aged man asked me, “What type of dog is that?” It was at that moment I realized: most people don’t have a fucking clue where their food comes from.”
Thanks, Mom and Dad. And yeah, you too, Jason Racinelli.
Posted in Cheese, Cooking, Food, Fuzzy (and not so) critters, Sustainable agriculture, The Sustainable Kitchen ® | Tagged 4-H, cheese, Cheese for Dummies, cheesemaking, cooking, cooking schools, farm tours, goat cheese, goat dairies, goat milk, Goats, Laurel Miller, rabbits, ranches, yogurt | Leave a Comment »
Ever had the urge to eat a sea creature that resembles a giant, uncircumcised penis?* No? You have no idea what you’re missing out on.
Read all about my day digging for geoduck clams on Seattle’s Olympic Peninsula right here!
*At a recent dinner with friends, my friend Laura, who was deep into a bottle of wine, said, “Hey, tell Maryann about, whaddaya call it? Digging for dicks! That’s a great story.”
[Photo love: Langdon Cook]
Got geodick…er, duck?
Posted in Cooking, Food, Fuzzy (and not so) critters, Meaty treats, Misc., Seasonal eating, Sustainable agriculture, The Sustainable Kitchen ®, Travel, Western U.S. lifestyle | Tagged clam digs, clamming, clams, Dosewallips State Park, foraged foods, foragers, foraging, geoduck, giant clam, mirugai, Olympic Peninsula, Puget Sounds, Seattle, shellfish licenses, Washington state | 1 Comment »
Whether your idea of hardcore is bagging volcanoes or wine tasting, Chile’s got it. Read all about it in my new BootsnAll feature, “Ski, Surf, Sip, Raft and Ride: Six Places to Explore the Diversity of Chile.”
Laguna Chaxa, Atacama
Posted in Drink, Food, Misc., Outdoor adventures, Seasonal eating, Travel | Tagged Adventure travel, Andes skiing, Atacama, Chile, Chilean wine, Chiloe, Futaleufu River, Patagonia, rafting, San Pedro de Atacama, skiing Chile, Valle Nevado, Valparaiso, Vina del Mar, whitewater, wine tasting | Leave a Comment »
Aah, spring. The first tender buds are unfurling on the trees; crocuses and daffodils push their bright heads up through the damp soil. The music of birdsong is audible once again.
Photo love: Flickr user Stellas mom
Despite all that, the weather is still utter shit here in Seattle, and frankly, I’m fucking over it. I’m hearing about spring break (college town, after all), and I’m still wearing my Uggs and pj’s in the house and huddling in a blanket to stay warm (Welcome to the world of self-employment; looking presentable unnecessary).
Needless to say, many farmers in these parts have had a tough winter, what with Snowmageddon and all, so aside from heaps of brassicas, there’s not much inspiration to be had at the farmer’s market.
But at least I can provide you with a recipe that speaks of spring. Not that smoked trout really reminds me of the vernal equinox, but whatevs. I came up with this salad for a cooking demo I did at the San Francisco Ferry Building Farmers Market, based upon what was available from the vendors at this time of year. Hence the smoked trout–not something I’d ordinarily gravitate toward–and watermelon radish. Turns out, it’s a lovely concoction, full of contrasting textures and flavors. Try it; you’ll see.
SMOKED TROUT, GRAPEFRUIT & WATERMELON RADISH SALAD
2 T. Champagne vinegar
salt, to taste
2 t. finely minced shallot
2 T. lemon juice
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil, or to taste
5 c. baby arugula or watercress
2 medium pink grapefruit or two medium blood oranges, segmented
one medium watermelon radish, sliced crosswise as thinly as possible
¼ lb. smoked trout (about one fillet), flaked into chunks
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For vinaigrette: Place the shallot, Champagne vinegar and a pinch salt together in a small bowl and let macerate for at least 10 minutes and up to one hour to mellow the flavor of the shallot. Add the remaining ingredients, whisking to combine. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
For the salad: When ready to serve, rewhisk the vinaigrette, and place the arugula, citrus segments, and radish in a large bowl. Toss with vinaigrette (note you may not need to use all of it; better to add too little than too much).
Arrange mound of arugula on each of four chilled salad plates, adding several citrus segments and slices of radish. Top with some of the smoked trout. Season with a twist of freshly ground black pepper.
© The Sustainable Kitchen®, 2004
Posted in Cooking, Food, Meaty treats, Misc., Recipes, Seasonal eating, Sustainable agriculture, The Sustainable Kitchen ®, Western U.S. lifestyle | Tagged farmers market recipes, farmers markets, radishes, salad recipes, salads, San Francisco Ferry Building, Seattle, smoked fish, smoked trout | Leave a Comment »
Those of us who grew up during the “Schoolhouse Rock” era have an undying love of these obnoxious, Saturday morning musical “educational” cartoons. Along the same lines was “Time for Timer,” a similarly irritating ABC network PSA series featuring a guy named Timer.
I have no idea what the hell Timer is supposed to be–he resembles, more than anything, a jaundiced scrotum with a pointy nose. But more importantly, he taught us young ‘un’s that a healthy afterschool snack is a “wagon wheel,” aka a piece of cheese sandwiched between crackers, in his memorable ditty, “Hanker for a Hunk o’ Cheese.”
Timer’s legend lives on, as I discovered last night while doing some (legtit…don’t ask) research. He makes a short-lived, albeit memorable appearance on “The Family Guy.” If you fail to find this utterly hilarious, I urge you to watch the original version, circa 1974ish.
[Photo love: Kurt's Shirts]
Posted in Cheese, Cheese for Dummies, Cooking, Food, Fuzzy (and not so) critters, Misc., Recipes | Tagged cartoons, cheese, cheese snacks, hanker for a hunka cheese, pop culture, schoolhouse rock, snacks, timer, wagon wheels | 1 Comment »
Here’s a groovy little video of butcher Tom Mylan breaking down a side of pork into various subprimal cuts, aka “slab bacon, ham, chops, tenderloin…” The clip is a promo for the iPad guide, The Better Bacon Book: Make, Cook, and Eat Your Way to Cured Pork Greatness (Open Air Publishing).
Photo love: Flickr user johnmuk
I haven’t seen said book because I’m a modern-day Luddite. But I do know that bacon makes everything better, and far be it from me to withhold such information from the masses.
If you’ve never seen a side of meat broken down, I also recommend checking out Mylan at work: he’s more methodical than what you’ll see at your average pig comp butchery showdown, so you can really get an idea of how half a swine becomes your dinner. Happy cracklin’s!
Posted in Cooking, Food, Fuzzy (and not so) critters, Humane livestock management, Meaty treats, Misc., Recipes, Seasonal eating, Sustainable agriculture, Western U.S. lifestyle | Tagged bacon, butcher shops, butchers, butchery, butchery books, cookbooks, ham, meat, meat books, pigs, pork | Leave a Comment »
Call me a freak, but I’ve always been a wee bit obsessed with the more grisly things in life. I think it’s my veterinarian-by-occupation dad’s fault, because most ten-year-olds don’t help perform necropsies on the family pet(s).
John Wayne Gacy had nothing on the Colonel
I briefly considered a career in forensic pathology, until I realized that a.) with my grades, I’d never get into medical school, and b.) the smell of formaldehyde makes me queasy.
Anyway, my doting boyfriend, who puts up with my more questionable habits, like collecting animal skulls (so pretty!) and watching prodigious amounts of “Forensic Files,” introduced me to “Last Meals.”
See there? I managed to turn a completely revolting subject like murder into a food article. Check out the site…it’s a fascinating little window into the dark, culinary heart of cold-blooded killers.
[Photo love: Flickr user tarotastic]
Posted in Food, Misc. | Tagged death, death row, dinner, forensic pathology, forensics, KFC, last meals, last suppers, serial killers | Leave a Comment »
My mom and I were reminiscing the other day when I mentioned Cocoa, a Shetland pony we briefly had when I was four.
“You remember Cocoa?” she asked.
“Sure. We sold her to the Olafssen’s.”
This was my best friend Ingrid’s family down the street. Her dad Leif was a jolly, strapping fellow and Swedish immigrant; they had about a million kids.
Mom: Yes, well, we gave her to them. She was permanently lame, so that’s why we had to get rid of her. And then, of course, Leif was going to eat her.”
Me (incredulous): Say what?
Mom: He was planning to feed her to the family. Dad didn’t know that when they took her. He just thought they wanted a pet.
Me: Mr. Olafssen was going to cook Cocoa?
Mom: Well, he asked Dad how long it would take to fatten her up enough to feed the family.
Me: Oh, come on. Leif was always kidding around. I’m sure he was joking.
Mom: Nooo…he grew up eating horse meat, and he had a lot of kids, so he was just being practical. Dad told him, “I think you’d better talk to your family about that idea, first.”
This, of course, led me to wonder what would have happened if Mr. Olafssen had actually carried out his unholy plan. I’d burst in their front door, as I did every afternoon. “Hey Ingrid! Let’s go visit Cocoa!”
“Um…..how ’bout a ’roast beef’ sandwich?”
The first time I realized that horses may be something other than beloved family pets/forms of transportation occurred when I was ten. My dad—equine vet, breeder of Quarter horses and mules—had taken a sabbatical and my mom, brother, and I were spending the summer in Europe, traveling around in a borrowed, pea-green VW camper van.
We had just arrived in Paris, and were wandering the Left Bank in search of a suitable place for dinner (meaning, an establishment that served french fries, because that’s one of the few foods I deemed acceptable at the time).
I was dawdling behind my family, taking in the strange Parisian sights, sounds, and smells. I heard a racket coming from a brightly-lit shop with a wide glass window and open doorway. And that’s when I saw it. I was looking straight into the back room of a boucherie chevaline, where a freshly-dispatched bay horse–hide, mane, tail, and all–dangled by its right hind leg from a hook on the ceiling. It was so big, its velvety nose nearly scraped the ground. A portly man in a white apron and rubber boots stood next to the carcass with a large knife, ready to do unspeakable things.
I stood, frozen, on the sidewalk; I probably resembled a midget version of “The Scream.” Then my parents yelled at me to hurry up, and I ran after them, too traumatized to mention what I’d seen. It didn’t help when, while they perused a menu minutes later, I alone noticed a gentleman emerging from yet another boucherie (was Paris nothing but dead animals?). The furry, comically large feet and hind legs of a hare protrouded from a paper bag in his hand (I also raised champion show rabbits–not for the table–at the time, so this added yet another session to my metaphorical therapist’s couch).
Photo love: Flickr user triplexpresso
Allow me to explain: I wasn’t in the least bit disturbed by the concept of eating horse, and I’d actually had rabbit before. What bothered me was seeing these creatures in such a raw, primal (aka dead) state. While a whole lamb carcass wouldn’t have caused me to bat an eye, there’s something very disturbing about seeing a 1,200 pound horse on a hook. Ditto the intact hare; as an American, even one who lived on a ranch, I had a hard time identifying with the purchase of something resembling road kill for dinner.
I’ve always been very matter-of-fact about meat; I think it comes not just from traveling as a child, but from assisting my dad with necropsies of his former patients from the age of about eight on. A good time was Dad and I, dissecting one of my rabbits, trying to figure out what mysterious circumstances had caused her to keel over and die in the night. Boast-worthy was overseeing the necropsy of Lynda “Wonder Woman” Carter’s pet pony (for some reason, my classmates didn’t think it as cool as I did).
No, my issues with meat have and always will lie with the treatment of said animal in life and handling before what should be a quick, merciful death. But that’s a whole other topic altogether.
What I really want to address is horse meat. Viande chevaline, basashi (think horse sashimi ), or lo’i ho’osi (Tongans apparently do have an appetite for meat other than SPAM); whatever you call it in your country of origin, the fact remains that much of the EU, Central Asia, Latin America, and Japan have the good sense to eat horse. It’s delicious, with a slightly sweet flavor and bright red color, lean and low in cholesterol. Why the hell can’t Americans get onboard with the other red meat?
Blame anthropomorphism and our fervent equestrian culture. Horse meat had a brief domestic moment in World War II, when beef prices rose and supply dwindled. By the eighties, however, it was no longer okay, even if purchased for “pet food,” and in 1998, California Proposition 6 outlawed horse meat and slaughter for human consumption.
When I was growing up, however, there was a well-known horse abbatoir in Chino, in Orange County. As with many countries that don’t consume horse meat, the U.S. still slaughtered them (the old and sick, as well as retired racehorses and wild horses and burros) for export to countries that do, although the meat was also used to feed zoo animals. In 2007, the last horse slaugtherhouse in the U.S., in DeKalb, Illinois, was shut down by court order, and that was that–but new legislation suggests that horse slaughter could soon become legal again Stateside.
But hold your horses (sorry). Is this a good thing? The result of these closures means that there’s no outlet–humane or otherwise–for horses that can no longer be used for work or pleasure. Few people can afford to keep horses as pets due to age, illness, or injury, and horse rescues are at capacity or struggling to find funding. It’s also necessary to thin wild horse and burro populations to keep them sustainable (as well as protect their habitat from overgrazing and erosion); starvation and predation are cruel deaths. Fortunately, these animals are protected species and legally can’t be sent to slaughter, so they’re put up for adoption. The downside? What happens to aging and unsound animals, now that rescues and sanctuaries are at capacity and struggling for funding?
I’m not disputing the lack of humanity previously displayed by auctions and transport companies taking horses to slaughter. Fortunately, the 1996 federal Farm Bill mandated more humane conditions. Unfortunately, it didn’t go into effect until 2001.
Humane treatment aside, the loss of horse abbatoirs is a divisive issue. I’m of the opinion that it’s unbeneficial and inhumane to not have an outlet for surplus horses. This, of course, assuming the transport and facility abide by regulations; I’m also not a fan of large abbatoirs, which I believe cause undue stress to the animal.
Isn’t it ultimately more kind to put an end to their suffering, and make good use of the meat? Proponents frequently make the comparison to the millions of dogs and cats that are euthanized daily in the U.S., because their owners were too irresponsible or lazy to spay or neuter. Where do these sad creatures end up? Cremated. What a waste, in all regards.
“Right,” I hear you saying. “As if you would eat dog or cat [assuming it hadn't been euthanized and was fit for human consumption]!”
Actually, I have eaten dog, and it’s really not a big deal…with the glaring exception of how those animals are raised and treated. But as a food and travel journalist, I also have a job to do, and at times, that means your personal ethics need to keep their big fucking mouth shut.
It never fails to amaze me when “food writers” refuse to eat what’s put in front of them simply because they find it personally distasteful. Allergies are one thing, but a refusal to at least taste is a. rude, and b. lacking in journalistic integrity. Have religious limitations? Then you probably shouldn’t be food writing for the general public.
The incident that led me to this opinion occurred on the final night of a very high-end press junket to Parma, Italy. One of the city’s finest restaurants had organized a special dinner for our group, to commemorate the anniversary of the Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano-Reggiano. The chef had prepared a set menu: ten courses of Parmigiano-enhanced regional foods, specifically chosen to impress and show us what Emilia-Romagna was all about.
The seventh course was fileto di giovani cavallo, a rosy filet of young horse. As our trip organizer translated what was being served, an uneasy silence fell over the table. “My Friend Flicka is on the menu?” asked an editor, her voice trembling. Within minutes, eleven of my twelve tablemates had requested beef as a substitute. I was mortified.
Believe it or not, Seabiscuit tasted pretty damn good.
Posted in Cooking, Food, Fuzzy (and not so) critters, Humane livestock management, Meaty treats, Misc., Sustainable agriculture, The Sustainable Kitchen ®, Travel, Western U.S. lifestyle | Tagged abbatoirs, dog meat, horse abbatoirs, horse adoption, horse meat, horse rescue, horse sanctuaries, horse slaughter, horse slaughterhouses, horses, humane animal slaughter, humane livestock management, mobile abbatoirs, mustang rescue, mustangs, slaughterhouses, wild burros, wild horses | Leave a Comment »
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