About Me

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Gastronomical Dad

I reject the belief that food is merely fuel for our bodies. In times of familial and emotional turmoil, the power of food becomes increasingly evident. Recently, my father got placed in intensive care, and it appears like he will be staying there for a few weeks. It goes without saying that the past few days have been trying.

My dad was the first gastronomic influence in my life. As far as I can remember, my dad has been happiest in the garden. My childhood summers were full of fresh greens, potatoes, rhubarb, tomatoes, etc. One of my favorite pictures of my brothers was taken when Petie was approximately three and Charlie five. They are standing by the garden at our Maine house, beaming, holding carrots they had just picked from my dad's garden.

I have understood the importance of good food from a young age, and I attribute that to my dad.

Thus, it is not shocking that watching my dad choke down hospital food was nothing short of depressing. I was sitting on his hospital bed when the nurse came in with dinner. My dad turned to me and informed me that this was the most exciting part of his day. He unveiled his food; white rice, boiled baby carrots, and some yellow matter that I had to assume was “the protein.” I asked him what it was, “I think it's and omelette,” he said and dug in. He cut off a piece of the omelette, chewed for a second, and said, “Nope, chicken.”

I left the hospital, sad and tired. When I got home, I didn't have any energy to cook, and in a weird way, I felt guilty eating good food when I knew my dad didn't have the same luxury. Instead, I picked up M.F.K. Fisher's Long Ago in France, in which Fisher describes her gastronomic adventure in Dijon, France. Over the course of her recollection, food becomes a central character. Actually, aside from Fisher and her husband, food is the only lasting character. Her relationship with food and the dining experience parallels my dad's attitude toward food. They both understand that food comforts, physically and emotionally; it can incite happiness and excitement, and it can bring people together.
Fisher describes one of her most memorable dining experiences. She writes:

One bitter February Sunday when I stood panting on a hill near Les Laumes-Alesia, the earth was hard as granite beneath me, and air drawn into my tired lungs felt like heavy fire before it thawed. I broke a twig clumsily between my mittened fingers...“Here!” a voice said, roughly. I looked with surprise at the old general, who stood, shaggy and immense, beside me...he held out a piece of chocolate, pale brown with cold...In my mouth the chocolate broke at first life gravel into many separate, disagreeable bits. I began to wonder if I could swallow them. Then they grew soft, and melted voluptuosly into a warm steam down my throat. The little doctor came bustling up, his proudly displayed alpenstock tucked under one short arm...“Never eat chocolate without bread, young lady! Very bad for the interior, very bad...” And in two minutes, my mouth was full of fresh bread, and melting chocolate, and as we sat gingerly, the three of us, on the frozen hill...peered shyly and silently at each other and smiled and chewed at one of the most satisfying things I have ever eaten.

I apologize for the lengthiness of that passage, but I do believe that it encompasses the power that food can have in its most simplistic form. The mere act of eating bread and chocolate is the catalyst for this memorable experience. It reawakens Fisher's frozen self and gives her a sense of livelihood that had disappeared in the cold. In addition, three near strangers find their lives temporarily intertwined by sharing food with each other.

I know my dad will be out of the hospital soon, and the only thing I can hope is that he, like Fisher, will have a meal that will rejuvenate his morale and repair the emotional damage these past few weeks have caused.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Food Writing, In All its Shapes and Sizes

America's interest in food seems to be at a high point right now. The various forms of food writing that is currently in circulation support this claim.

It is difficult to argue that diet books should be catalogued as forms of food writing, but it is undeniable that they have been the most popular and prevalent publications on food in the past thirty years. The Atkins diet was first introduced onto the dieting scene in 1972 with the publication of Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution. Weight Watchers has published a series of inspirational diet books in addition to books of recipes. More recent was the South Beach diet, which took America by storm.

The diet book form of “food writing” focuses on the physical impact of what foods one eats. In other words, what one should eat to be thin. These books lack art, emotion, and creativity.

In the same vein, another form of food writing has erupted in the past few years. Journalistic food writing. These writers are not asking what should I eat to be thin, instead they are asking what should I eat to be healthy. One of the more explosive books in this area of writing is The China Study written by Dr. T. Campbell published in 2005 in which Campbell advocates for a plant-based diet. The other more popular writers of journalistic writing are Eric Scholsser and Michael Pollan. These writers try to open readers eyes to the current state of our food system. Scholsser and Pollan investigate the inner workings of the dairy and meat industries; industries that have been conveniently hidden from America for the past hundred years. One could argue that Upton Sinclair was the inventor of journalistic food writing with the publication of The Jungle in 1906.

Blog writing is the everyman's approach to food. It is accessible, easy, and convenient. Some bloggers choose to simply write about literally everything that passes through their lips. Others post when they have tried out an interesting recipe they want to share with readers. These sorts of bloggers tend to divulge into more detail about the food they are preparing and the emotional process that goes along with it. Orangette is a good example.

Lastly, there is the tried and true novelistic food writers. These writers draw the readers' attention to the dining experience, interweaving personal stories of their lives with the culinary experiences that seem to shape them. I am currently reading M.F.K. Fisher's Long Ago in France in which she reminisces about her culinary amakening she experienced while living in France with her husband.

Novestic writing is arguably the most artful form of food writing, which could explain its growing popularity. An example of said popularity is the literary magazine, Alimentun. Alimentum is a collection of essays and pieces that nourishes one's literary appetite. I have yet to receive my copies of Alimentum in the mail, but there will be more on that later.

Over the next couple of months, I will dedicate posts to the various forms of food writing and the many ways in which they differ.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Greek Feast

My lovely day ended with a lovely dinner.

Over the past few weeks, I have seen Greek food popping up all over the blog world. Hummus is everywhere, and it always seems to be accompanied by tabouli and pita. It is not surprising that I have found myself craving it constantly.

Tonight, I caved. I set out to make my own healthy Greek feast.

It was exactly what I wanted. Falafel, hummus, tabouli, tzatziki, and pita. The falafel came out of a box (next time I want to make it from scratch), but it ended up being shockingly good. The brand is Fantastic World Food, and if you want falafel fast, this is what you want. I also broiled it for two minutes on each side instead of frying it. It tasted the same and saved many many calories. I made the hummus from scratch courtesy of Angela. It turned out great, but I added more lemon juice and paprika than what she called for.

For the tabouli, I pulled stuff from a bunch of different recipes but ended up with something like this...

1 c bulgur
1 c hot water
1/2 cucumber
1 tomato
4 green onions (mainly the white part)
1 c fresh parsley
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
1 T mint

The dressing:
1/3 c fresh lemon juice
1/4 c oil
salt and pepper to taste

For the directions, I followed this recipe.

It was so easy, and I thought it turned out really well.

Lastly, the tzatziki dip was Greek yogurt, the other half of the cucumber, 2 of the discarded stalks of green onion (finely chopped) from the tabouli, and the juice of half a lemon.

A lighter, yet equally satisfying, alternative.

Last but not least, we microwaved a little but of pita so it was soft and warm for dipping! I was very pleased with this meal!

A little while later, I had a little bit of Girl Scout Samoa ice cream...heavenly. And now, I am pooped and ready for bed. I feel a little silly that I can't stay up past 10:30, but I decided I am just going to go with it. There is no shame in getting a good night sleep!

Sunshiney day!

I have decided that running with friends is much more fun than running alone!

I knew I would be running with Jeff and Mariclare this morning, but I also wanted to get a longer run in. No offense to either of them, but I don't think they would have been excited had I tried to drag them on a 3.5 mile run.

So, I woke up extra early to crank out my longer run before we all headed over to the track. I ran 3.5 amazing miles! I was definitely panting by the end, but in a satisfied and happy kind of a way, not a "I want to kill myself" kind of a way.

When I got home, I stretched really quickly and hopped in the car, and we were off to fetch Mariclare.

When we got to the track, it was sunny and warm, a perfect morning for an easy run!

Mariclare was very receptive of the camera.

Jeff, not so much. He wouldn't look at me or take the hood off. Oh well, I still snuck some in!

We did a very easy mile and a half and enjoyed the weather. Afterwards, I was more than ready to go home and make breakfast.

1/2 c Kashi GoLean
1/2 c Peanut Butter Puffs
1/2 Peach Chobani
1 clementine
1/2 apple
1 tbsp chia seeds

I inhaled this breakfast. It was so good, and I was so hungry. I was a little apprehensive about the orange, but it ended up tasting great!

After breakfast, Jeff and I puttered around the house for a bit, but I got pretty antsy to get back outside so we packed a picnic and went over to a nearby dam to walk and picnic.

The walk was so pretty. The weather stayed perfect, and the walk was a great way to stretch out my legs after a morning full or running.

The trail.

Jeff and I happy to be on the trail.

Our picnic.

Our picnic's view.

Jeff and I happy to be picnicing.

Our picnic eats were easy and fast. I made us each a cashew butter and spiced apple butter sandwich on whole wheat bagels with grapefruit, apples, and hummus chips. I ended up being full after the bagel and 1/2 the grapefruit. So the apple and chips are for later.

Now, I am sitting on the couch enjoying one of these

and resting my legs.

I love spring break.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Calling all ideas!

My funk has lifted, and I have had a very nice and relaxing start to my day.

It all started with a leisurely run with Jeffrey. I had originally planned on going for a longer solo run, but when Jeff showed interest in coming with me, the distance got sliced in half. I didn't mind though; I was happy I had the company!

As soon I we got home, I got working on this...

I have had a serious craving for pancakes lately, but going out to breakfast always leaving me feeling gross. It's something to do with the quantity breakfast places they give you and the amount of grease that makes its way into everything. When I go out to breakfast, the rest of my day is usually sluggish.

So, I whipped up the cheap and healthy alternative.

We didn't have any maple syrup either, so I improvised with what was around. The following picture is not aesthetically pleasing but the contents were delicious.

I had two smallish pancakes topped with plain Greek yogurt, apple, pear, banana, and a drizzle of honey. I cut up way too much fruit, so I ate the remainder of the fruit on the side.

It was really good overall, but my only complaint is that the yogurt and fruit make the pancakes cold. Either way, it was tasty and really filling.

The rest of the morning was slow. Jeff left for work, and I puttered. Around 11 I had an apple with homemade cashew butter (yep, I made cashew butter, and I think it might be better than almond!!). And around 1 I was ready for lunch.

Our fridge is seriously lacking in food so my lunch was not ideal but it did the trick.

We had two corn tortillas in the freezer (turns out, I really don't like corn tortillas) which inspired me to make quesodillas. I smeared one tortilla with the last of the "refried" beans; I chopped up some red pepper and onion, and shredded a little cheese on top. I baked this at 350 for about 10 minutes and put a dollop of yogurt and salsa on the finished product.

It was okay. The top tortilla got really crunchy; I ended up taking it off and dipping it in the salsa like a chip. The rest was pretty good though.

Topics of Discussion: Solo Outdoor Activities
I promised to write about something a little more interesting today, so this is my stab at it. However, it is less of me telling you something and more of me asking you to tell me something.

Right now, it is 50 degrees in Connecticut, and the sun is out (sort of). For the past few months, I have been yearning for a day just like this. It started off great with an outdoor run, but now, I am sitting inside at a loss as to what I can do to get me outside.

The dilemma:
-I enjoy going for walks, but I like it a lot more with a companion (or at least a dog)
-I don't have a bike
-I already went for a run
-It's too cold to merely sit outside and read
-It's Friday so there aren't any farmer's markets, flea markets, etc.

I really want to go outside and do something, but I really don't know what I can do!

So, if you have any input on this matter, I would love to hear it.

I am probably going to go out for a walk by myself anyway, but more interesting activites are welcome!!

Thursday, March 4, 2010


The day started off strong. Around 3, that started to fade.

I got a call from Jeffrey in the afternoon, informing me that my car could not get about 55 mph on the highway. My funds cannot allow for a car repairs right now, so this news was a little disconcerting.

The remainder of the day wasn't bad, but it definitely wasn't good. I fell into a weird funk that I am sure everyone is familiar with. You're irritable and pissed off but you can't really explain why. It's that kind of funk. I am sure I will wake up feeling better; I just wanted to vent a little bit.

Prior to said funk, I did manage to have a very tasty lunch.

1/2 lentil burrito and a massaged kale salad. For the massaged kale, I merely drizzled olive oil, lemon juice, and salt over kale and massaged it all together. Then, I let it stand in the fridge for an hour. After that, I diced up a little tomato and red pepper, and I had a salad!

This is a definite repeat.

The lentil burrito was from the Co-op. I bought a whole one yesterday, but these guys are filling, and I could only make it through half. So, I had the remainder today.

I want to try to make these. They seem so simple, and I love them dearly. It seems to be just lentils, sweet potatoes, onions, and spices. It can't be too hard.


I was very snacky and very hungry at school today. I had the banana around 3, thinking it would hold me for a while. Unfortunately, I was hungry again by 4. I managed to hold off till 4:30 to eat my Suncake. The Suncakes are actually from the same company that makes the Heart Thrive cookies. I love their products because they are packed with protein and fiber from the oats and dried fruit.

This snack barely held me over until my late, and boring, dinner.

Sweet potato with tomato sauce and mozzerella.

Now, I am exhausted, still in a funk, and I want to go to sleep.

I promise there will be a more interesting post tomorrow. I am on spring break now (yay!!) and can devote much time to making this blog interesting...at least for the next week.

Lovely start to the day!

This morning is going swimmingly!

I woke up bright and early for my usual 3 mile run. When I first opened my eyes, I thought it was raining due to the amount of moisture that had gathered on the outside of my windows. I actually laid in bed and tried to pump myself up for a rainy run. I reminded myself that I had done it before, and I didn't mind it, and I would feel better once I had done it, etc. etc. etc. Once I thought I was sufficiently pumped, I got out of bed and realized it was not raining at all. It was actually a really nice morning.

Jeffrey recently got me the Rent soundtrack, which I was really excited about for it gives me something new to listen to while I run. It worked like a charm! Running to Rent is awesome!

As I was running, I kept catching myself daydreaming. Usually, I am in way too much pain to day dream and the only thing occupying my thoughts is said pain. This morning, however, I found myself thinking about my midterm, my breakfast, a car that drove by me with two golden retrievers hanging out the window, and many other silly and mindless things. I was comfortable enough running to day dream. Huge step in the right direction.

Another first: when I got to the turn that I usually use as my finish line, I realized that I still had a little left in me, so I decided to run a loop around a nearby baseball field before I went home. This only added .3 of a mile to my run, but still, the intention of lengthening my run was there!

Jeffrey said he will run with me tomorrow, so that will be a lovely change of pace.

When I got back from my run, I was very excited to throw the breakfast I had been day dreaming about together.

It is the exact same mixture as the past two days. Don't mess with success.

1/2 c Kashi GoLean
1/2 c Peanut Butter Puffs
1/2 pear
1/2 apple
1/2 Chobani

All mixed up...


It's shocking how far a little bit of yogurt can go.

I will switch up my breakfast tomorrow, but this combination is really really good. I highly suggest it.

Post midterm (which went better than expected), was this precious little snack...

This is a Heart Thrive cookie which is made out of only the good stuff. It was a very tasty, sweet treat to hold me until lunch!

Now, I am off to do some homework for my last two classes before Spring Break! I even heard it was supposed to be 50 this weekend. Spring is coming....