Archive for December, 2011

Food

I used to say I was a foodie. But then somewhere along the way I read a definition like the one on Wiki and decided maybe I wasn’t really a foodie. For a while I said I was a food snob, because I only want to eat “good” food (my own definition, obviously – sometimes it means organic, local, whole, home cooked, gently treated). But I don’t like to think of myself as a snob (go figure) and so I decided not to use that term any more.

The thing is, I do love food. I like the look, feel and taste of fresh food and I even love preparing that food. I like to cut up veggies and I love the smell of olive oil and garlic in a hot pan. I like new flavors, combined by me or someone else. I like food that is beautifully presented (mostly by someone else, my own meals are rarely beautiful) and wonderfully seasoned. I like to talk about food, think about food and read about food.

So I guess it’s no surprise that I found this very cool online book club (The Kitchen Reader) – and I started requesting them from the library. Of course, I am on internship and so I don’t feel that actually have time to really participate in a book club, but I always find time to read.

Just Food - get it?

Which is how I came to be reading Just Food: Where Locavores Get it Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly by James E McWilliams. As you might guess from the title, this book is not an easy read for me. I have been trying to “eat local” for several years now, and I have really enjoyed it. But I totally can get some of his points – which is a little scary. Changing my mind is not an easy thing.

Which reminds me that I am also reading You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself by David McRaney. He has at least two chapters on how we delude ourselves into thinking that we are carefully considering all the information before we make up our minds when mostly what we are doing is ignoring ideas that oppose what we already believe and carefully collecting data that confirms our bias.

I am so!

Tonight, though, I found my mind bending just a tad. I haven’t slept well the last two nights (yes, one night I stayed up till 3:30 reading Micro by Michael Crichton and Richard Preston) and so tonight when my last client left my office, I had been pushing off yawns for an hour. I casually finished my notes and considered stopping at Walgreens on my way home for my prescriptions and maybe also to the library to pick up some books I have on hold. I had a funny feeling that I was forgetting something, but I could not remember why I hadn’t planned this all along. I even remember thinking about going home and picking up Bodhi and taking him with me to Walgreens this morning. Now why would I do that?

As I was gathering up my things I suddenly remembered that today was CSA day! Holy shit – I only just barely made it on time two weeks ago when I left just before 6 – how was I ever going to get there now?! It was already 6:19! I rushed to get my things together and raced out the door.

I made it, of course, in fact in better time then when I left right at 6, but it definitely changed my mood to feel that sudden surge of rush. I wanted to be sure to get to bed early tonight, but once I got home with my veggies, I realized that the first thing I needed to do was food management. I had to put away those fresh, beautiful, local, organic veggies. Which I love.

But dude, I did not feel like it at all. I was tired and hungry and didn’t feel all that well. And once I started the actual management, I realized that rather than just finding room in the fridge and swapping around the newest food with last weeks in my very nice food fresh containers, I also needed to start thinking about blanching and freezing the things that I wouldn’t be able to use or store before they started to go bad. I needed to think about which foods could be blanched and frozen and how much (or little) room I have in my freezer (yes, I hauled my favorite chest freezer all the way here from MN but I’ve been using it as a giant mouse-proof container lately and don’t have it plugged in. Of course, once I get all those onions out of it, most of what’s in there wouldn’t be hurt by being frozen…).

This made me think about wishing I had a real cellar – or some kind of place that I could just store the food without processing it. I have read about such methods and love the way they sound, but I have never actually had one. As I began blanching some leeks, cutting up broccoli, chopping onions and garlic and beating some eggs (for dinner I made bucatini carbonara with broccoli – no bacon), it occurred to me that I have no desire whatsoever to ever live on a farm, where food management would literally be my life.

I have no desire to cut up mountains of tomatoes or can 40 pints of salsa. I do not want to spend hours mucking about in the mud or weeding or even thinking about weeding. I am not interested in being at the mercy of the weather for my living or the food I put on my table. That is the honest truth. I thought about how deeply grateful I am for the farmers and families that provide the fresh food I eat. And also for the giant corporations that manage all that food that I tried not to eat for the last few years (with varying levels of success).

As I prepared my meal tonight, I thought about the things that really mattered to me at that moment about what I was about to eat. Yes, there were ethical considerations in my meal, but that wasn’t all there was. I was making a meal I used to eat with some regularity in Italy, and it was important to me that it taste the way I remember it tasting. I wanted the onions caramelized and the pasta al dente. I wanted the cheesy eggs to cling to the pasta and I wanted the pepper to bite back, just a little.

I don’t really remember searching out special food in Italia, organic or local (although much of it was). I wasn’t any kind of a snob there and I didn’t have to explain my interest in good food to anyone. I would spend an hour or more nearly every day in the park before lunchtime talking about last night’s dinner or today’s lunch with the gente from my block. Everyone had an idea about how to cook whatever food was was on the menu, usually gleaned from a grandmother, aunt or mother. People talked about how to pick the best tomato, which veggie stands had the best eggplant and which items at the bakery went best with your meal plan.

“Huh,” I thought, as I began eating my meal. “Maybe I’m not a foodie OR a food snob. Perhaps I’m just Italian.”

Viva l'italia!

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Where does the time go?

For the first time in three months, I find myself with some free time. If you’ve been following you know that I’ve had a bit of insanity in my living situation. Luckily that’s been worked out now, and for Thanksgiving my honey came to visit, so that was a wonderful, full weekend. I don’t know how other people arrange their time, but a free day in my life always starts with the running plan. I like to run on an empty stomach. It’s kind of like a sports superstition, but it’s mine and I tend to stick to it when possible. So first I decide if I’m running and if I am I try to head out right away. These runs tend to take a couple of hours because usually at some point I let Bodhi wander around a bit.

Bodhi by the bridge

Afterwards I figure out lunch. This weekend was all about spinach, so I had a nice omelette with a bunch of spinach inside, as well as some potatoes and parsnips. It was so nice out, I decided to wax my car. My honey very sweetly took it to a carwash while she was here so it was all ready for me. It was the first time in forever that I waxed a car – it made me think of the hours I used to spend washing and waxing my mom’s car. By the time I was done with all this Saturday, it was late afternoon. The rest is kind of a blur.

I spent some time cleaning and doing some dog training. I spent a couple of hours on the phone and I think some time on skype. I know I had dessert before remembering I hadn’t eaten dinner and I caught up on my Italian soap, Un Posto al Sole. Anyway, next thing I knew, it was late and I hadn’t even spent much time reading Micro like I planned. I have no idea where the time goes!

Today went much the same except I know that I spent at least an hour managing all the fresh spinach in my fridge. I made a lovely pesto – two batches. One without cheese to freeze and one with cheese to eat right away. I vacuumed again, too and did some more dog training. Oh, and I cleaned the sliding glass door.

Amazing what a little cleaning can do

I hung some pictures, too, but ran out of nails so I had to stop. I forgot how much I love my small photo by Rodney Lough – and that there was something on the glass on the inside. So I spent some time unframing, cleaning and reframing this photo.

Passing Through - Rodney Lough

I also spent a good bit of time organizing my glove compartment. It’s always full of stuff and I can never find what I want, so I decided it was time to empty it and start over. When talking to my mom on the phone I am often struck by how much alike we are – but this project made me think of my dad. I found myself taping up this Skip-bo box (I have never played the game and I’m not even sure why I have it) to use as a pen holder.

The glovebox project

At first I was thinking I needed to tape the bottom to be sure it didn’t open, but then I decided I needed to reinforce the sides. Finally I thought I needed to tape over the top edges so that they didn’t fray. At which point I thought of my dad. My father never used one nail where he could put two screws and the things he made were more than sturdy. I made a nice spinach salad for dinner and finally sat down in the big green chair around 6 pm. My plan was to watch a Marilyn Monroe movie (I just finished listening to a biography about her and it made me want to go back and watch her again) then try to get to sleep early, but I’m still sitting here at it’s going on 9. I spent some time on the phone and skype, but I honestly have no idea what else I’ve done this evening.

And now I’m wondering – did I make good use of my free time? And where did it all go? Does this happen to anyone else?

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