Friday, August 13, 2010
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
First, "cheers." How did this catch on? We're not in a bar. Nor are we in Britain. I just sent you the sales sheet for the spring 2010 publishing season. Is that something to toast? I daresay nay.
Then there's "best." Not best wishes, not best regards. Just "best." This nearly always comes from someone with an MBA or on their way to acquiring one. I need not share further thoughts of mine on that sign-off then.
"Regards." What I like about this, as has recently been pointed out to me, is that in responding to someone who has repeatedly failed or blown off deadlines, your use of the clean, cold "regards" is tantamount to one big eff you. This is truth. Observe in your own irritated exchanges of the future.
All the rest work for me. I stole one from one of my fave folks on the planet, Askold Melnyczuk, who used to sign his letters to me with "all good wishes." I liked it so much, along with the energy it carried, that I just thieved it.
So if nothing else, this serves as notice. I plagiarize. We all do.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
You feel confident this will be a sympathetic review because you've enjoyed much of her fiction, even associate one of her short stories ('The Dormition of the Virgin'), "the diary of a nerdish English student on a mini-break pilgrimage to Florence," with an all-time high of personal contentment, the recollection still sweet of lolling around a Roman piazza as the sun set, reading her well-turned little tale as the crowd cleared out. You needed absolutely nothing more from life at that moment.
Given all that, a review would be just fine, a hoot. You sign on. You're pleased. That is, until you read the book. Inseparable is lacking and you are obliged to say so. This review, because it's critical, was hard to write. Still, I'm pleased to suggest that I may be the minority opinion. So don't just take my word for it. Read Kathryn Harrison on the matter as well. Even better, read for yourself and decide.
Friday, June 04, 2010
I've got a great bike. And the sole reason, as it has been for years, that I drive to work is so I can travel the six miles back home to walk my dog Stella at lunch without taking forty minutes by bike each way to do it. So. Does my budget stretch for a dog walker comfortably? Not without some changes. But I'm putting out the call anyway. I don't want to sit around lamenting the evil empire of BP while their fuel pump is snug in my tank.
Natural Resources Defense Council
[Photo credit: Kira Stackhouse]
Monday, May 24, 2010
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
I didn't write much about her because she was the opposite of Stella in just about every way--she was brave and quiet, subtle, graceful, moody. She meowed me awake every morning, didn't want much to do with folks outside her very small tribe, and patiently acclimated each time I relocated us, all told probably around ten times. I miss her desperately.
She'll likely be one of those active spirits. So send your wishes her way.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
For those unfamiliar, nosework is a kind of professional hunting for dogs. It takes advantage of a dog's excellent sense of smell and natural desire to hunt. For those who have dogs that like to stalk and hunt, this is a hell of a way to channel their energy. In this video, we've hidden treats in one of the object out on the floor and each dog is instructed to "find it." Have a look.
In the video above, you can actually see Stella catch the scent pretty early at 0:39, right before she passes by the little portable dog kennel for the first time. Then it becomes more obvious she's caught something as she starts to circle around, ruling out areas and closing in on the treats in the fruit basket.
Take note in this video of the orange cone turned on its side. That's where the treats are hidden this time. When Stella goes past it, you can see her lift her head and then drop her nose right to the ground at 0:24. She then follows the scent like it's a thread right to the cone. She's caught the scent and just followed it. Neat stuff, no?
Friday, March 19, 2010
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
1. The web remains, as we well know, a dangerous superhighway, pocked with noxious DIY potholes. A good many of the vegan recipe photos I have encountered thus far bear a striking resemblance to indistinct offal or, perhaps more accurately, cud. I pass.
2. I miss honey. Eat some for me. Honey, as it turns out, happens to be on everything crunchy and delicious. See labels. Truth.
3. Rip kale, drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper, go at 350 degrees for a flash of minutes till just crispy. Jesus, so good. Just like potato chips, I swear.
4. Vegans are magicians in the art of substitution. Not the silly "meats" so much as baking substitutions. Take eggs, for example. Depending on the recipe, you can use bananas, avocados, or applesauce in their place. Also all the synthetic soy and corn products, of course. I am, in fact, making Avocado Brownies tonight. Oh that's what I said.
Anyway, it's not all roses for the beginner. It can be discouraging. Going out to dinner is a joke when you do not know your way around. My most significant encounter was at my local Thai place. I asked if the masaman curry was vegan and she said, "Yes, masaman chicken (pronounced cheeken) and ... ?" (Pause) No, no. Not exactly right.
So most days I venture into establishments, I do feel like Felix Unger, alienated and underserved. But the upshot has been an intense increase in cook-at-home meals, not bad since I'm pretty good in the cocina. All told, it's a hard adjustment, so much to learn, but I feel good, cleaner, for the most part. It's a hard feeling to convey, much like the impact peppermint has right after you breath it in. That kind of thing. And I feel a lot less guilty for complicity in all sorts of things. That's worth a great deal. I've lost weight already. I'll have to watch that. I've been having especially lunatic dreams. Related? Perhaps. It's all becoming part of my routine and I'll just end up rambling about my dog and books and movies in no time at all.
In the meantime, I have to go soak some nuts for a raw pizza. I kid you not.
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
So I backed off that, but most of you probably suspect that coconut milk has such a strong flavor it would interfere with the tea taste and the other milks would just be too thin. And you're right. The recipe below comes close enough for a beginner, but it's not the same as Thai iced tea. I see, though, that there are soy non-dairy creamers out there, so there are likely rice versions too. I'll have to look around and revisit this one.
Ohh, and neat molecular gastronomy-ish stuff: I'm going to see about experimenting with Irish moss, carrageenan, and other thickening agents. I'm not so into cornstarch; I can taste it like I've stirred my drink with a tire iron. Not the taste I'm going for. Who knows, comrades. It's all an imperfect process. We'll see what we can unearth (other than mines and tire irons).
Meanwhile, here's one for the passage of time:
Thai Iced Tea, Sorta
2 tsps. Thai tea blend (China Black tea and red tea leaf, plus "natural flavor")
1 c. boiling water
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. rice milk
1 tbsp. coconut milk
Fill a glass with ice; using a ceramic one-cup coffee filter, run the hot water over the tea blend. Once that's brewed, add the sugar, stir, and add the milks.
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
2 tbsp. Dagoba Fair Trade Baking Cocoa
2 tbsp. light brown sugar
1 c. hazelnut milk
1 tsp. Magliano Organic Rose Syrup
Whisk cocoa, sugar, and milk over medium-low heat in small saucepan. Once cocoa is dissolved and milk is letting off steam, add syrup. Get a book, find a blanket, call the dog over, and delight in it all.
Hmm: This just in. I've been told that you can't actually raise any nut milks over the boiling point because they scald. I certainly didn't have any film on my cocoa and it tasted great. Okay, well whisker beware.
Monday, January 04, 2010
Cinnamon Raisin Tea
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
5 cinnamon sticks
5 cardamom pods
1/2 c. raisins
1 c. prunes
6 qt. water
2 tbsps. brown sugar (add at the end to taste)
Add first five ingredients to the water in a large soup pot. Boil for fifteen minutes and then simmer for at least two hours. Strain and sip. Mmm.
Sunday, January 03, 2010
For the uninitiated, cold-filtered coffee—to my knowledge—is indistinguishable from the standard, classic French press treatment of the coffee, only more coarsely ground and left in cold water for twelve-plus hours (rather than steeped for five minutes in hot water). I swear to you: this is a delightful discovery, even for the omnivorous coffee ho.
The brew is totally free of bitterness, not acidic at all, yet full of the robust flavor we fiends cannot do without. My sole warning for the coffee critic is that it lacks that roundness that comes from the oils released with hot-water steeping—it’s thinner. I was okay without that quality, but you may not be. And here’s the stunner: the way I made it, I didn’t actually want milk in it. Whoa.
One other note: I use a thirty-two-ounce French press from Bodum. Peet’s recommends two-thirds of a cup of grounds for that. I am disinclined to add hair to my chest, hence my reversion to one-quarter cup. But hey, do your worst King Kong if two-thirds speaks to you. I won’t judge.
1/4 c. coarsely ground Peet’s Fair Trade Blend coffee
32 oz. water
10 cardamom pods
1/2 vanilla bean
Smash the cardamom so that each pod is cracked open. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scoop out the bits. Put it all in the press pot—grounds, water, cardamom, vanilla bean, scooped bits. I pressed it halfway down before bed, sort of arbitrarily, then pressed the rest in the morning. Poured a cup (I had it up and cold), read paper, saved myself for veganism. God bless. That was a close one.
Saturday, January 02, 2010
That includes drinks. Being three years sober now, I have no less interest in beautiful drinks and pairing them than any other enthusiast. But my cocktails call for creativity. So this long-term thing may work out. The first drink I made was entirely my creation. It worked out well, I think. Good for tamarind freaks, an order to which I tithe with feeling.
Dum Dum 2.0
These drinks taste almost identical to the lollipops of yore. No joke.
15 whole tamarinds
1 gal., plus 1 c., water
1/2 c. agave syrup
15 sprigs fresh lemon thyme
Soak the tamarind in the gallon of water overnight. Bring the cup of water and the agave to boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat immediately and add thyme. Simmer on low for ten minutes. Remove thyme sprigs and cool completely.
Next morning, strain tamarind water with fine sieve or china cap, as well as the thyme agave syrup. I like a three to one ratio, water to syrup. Serve on the rocks and with a freak at the table, ifn ya like.
Friday, January 01, 2010
The majority of private emails I’ve received about my going vegan for 2010 have asked what in the world I—the sensualist omnivore who practically sleeps snuggled up to the Roquefort in the kitchen—am doing. I am improvising, that’s what. I have spent several inquisitive years badgering farmers and trying to monitor the quality of life for the animals I eat. I have, in my own assessment, for the most part failed, no matter how I have tried, so I’m venturing an experiment.
I am a solid amateur cook, a snob—a judgy, fussy, discerning, demanding girl who has long enjoyed access to a wide range of excellent product and deep gastronimical resources. I know what’s up. With a twelve-week course from Kitchen on Fire treading my soles, and more importantly, plenty of time with my boots on the ground at the range, I have just that mix of bravura and ignorance that makes a chef lusty, brave, and reckless. So if there were ever a time when I could give this a go without going full-tilt-boogie into culinary school enrollment, it's now. So I assure you: I have not changed. I still like meat, cheese, honey. I love the mouth-feel of cream in my coffee, the taste of chicken in my stock, the sight of a steak on the grill pan. But I am curious to see what a chef can do without all of that. Call it a conscious year-long Quickfire Challenge. (Longer, who knows, should my nutritional and culinary results prove out.)
These posts will be real when meals taste awful, but focused on pleasing and surprising. I will be going with all my heart for hits, not misses. No one should expect this to become the depot where we sing the song of tempeh soy-cheese scrambles. In fact, we take this truth to be self-evident: soy is the devil. It tastes bad, we can’t digest it, its producers are ravaging our primeval forests. But the soy devil will, alas, show up in these recipes here and there. I’ll just operate on the presumption that there's more to veganism than Tofu Pups and their attendant fleet of fake meat travesties, and that the better I get at this gig, the less I'll need to employ them.
I’ve got the here, I’ve got the now. So on we go, friends, launching our own minor variation on JFK’s theme from the ’60s. We do these things “not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others too.”
My favorite recipe of the weekend, for your fun, is this macaroni and cheese. It’s delicious. Honest to god, you can take the word of this cynical omnivore. Trust. I’d be the first to roll my eyes.