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Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Here we go again. Last night our administration did a 180 on Syria, the whole America First thing was a sham, a synonym for Wall Street First. As a famous general pointed out this morning, we are now fighting a “proxy war,” It’s happened before – a tactical missile strike – in 1986 when Reagan bombed Libya, and last night. It’s a classic “Let’s you and him fight” scenario. We are backing the royal family of Saudia Arabia in the region, as usual, and Russia and Iran are backing Syria’s Assad regime.

And this morning all the pundits are talking. On Twitter, a Brian Williams hashtag took off because it appeared as if the network couldn’t trust Rachel Maddow to report Breaking News. In this house, I was watching Huck try to escape a sinking car on Scandal. We had been under a tornado watch, so trees were still creaking and the wind was moaning. I’d been furiously cleaning and occasionally “cooking” for Passover, which begins Monday night.

Jews everywhere will be preparing a Seder and reenacting the Exodus at their dinner tables. I am a novice Seder-maker, a maker-of-haroses for many years, but never the principle player. There will be half the number of people at my Southern table, and I won’t be making certain fried delectables in chicken fat that nobody eats. Lucky for me Ada and Hudson will be here early, so I will be tutored in the art of making perfect matzoh balls for the chicken soup!

Just as we will detail all the plagues that finally convinced a Pharaoh to let our people go, to leave slavery behind and wander in the desert, let’s examine what led up to our tactical tomahawk missile strike last night.

There was a chemical attack on innocent people, and we saw the pictures in living color. Civilians have been dying and fleeing Syria for years now, but the immediacy of watching “beautiful babies” suffer must have been Mr T’s red line. And he is a knee-jerk reactor as we know from his Twittersphere.

This last week we discovered more connections linking Trump with Russia:

  1. Eric Prince (founder of Blackwater and brother of Betsy DeVos) met a Russian official in the Seychelles with a crown prince of the UAE;
  2. Jared Kushner met a Russian banker, Sergey Gorkov, in NY, and hey, he’s willing to talk about it;
  3. Carter Page (ex-policy advisor on energy to T’s campaign) met a Russian spy, Victor Podobnyy, in NY.  http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/05/politics/trump-associates-russians-meetings/

But let’s not forget that St Petersburg was recently the target of terrorism…and that Secretary of State Tillerson is cozy with Putin…and that we called Russia to let them know we were going to strike that air base. Is that something you would do to your enemy? I can’t help but think that behind the scenes, even though Putin must publicly decry our actions, something else is going on in this proxy war. I wonder if Mr T asked his “friend,” China’s Xi, down at the Florida palace what he would do now? #WWXD?

What we know is that instead of talking about trade with China, this airstrike has taken precedence. “One of the most urgent issues for the US is North Korea, which is trying to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the west coast of the US with a nuclear device. It fired a medium-range missile into the Sea of Japan on Wednesday, the latest in a series of launches.” http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39517569

I wonder what North Korea is thinking this morning. That is truly our existential crisis. I’m living in a whirlwind of Seder preparation and packing, sometimes it feels like I’m sinking inside that car Huck was trapped in, bleeding and hallucinating. I wanted to wake up this morning and think it was all just a nightmare…what US president would bomb a country without notice against international law? Like Asia and Kim Jong-un, we are dealing with an unpredictable leader who travels from the Hill to the links at his Mar a Lago resort, treating his presidency like a lark.

I can only hope for our sake that Tillerson and Putin are fighting a fair proxy war, and that chemical weapons will never see the light of day again. Ask yourself four questions, Mah Nishtanah – 1) How was last night different from 1986?  2) Why did we only warn Russia of the attack? 3) Why is a chemical attack worse than a bomb? 4) Is this just another ploy to distract us from the Russian Connection?

And will somebody tell the South that a Passover section in the grocery store should NOT contain anything with flour! I’m going to try and make kugel muffins, with matzoh meal or potatoes. Wish me luck!  wide-spinach-kugel-cupcakesjpg

 

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Don’t you just love it when scientists prove some theory you’ve held your whole life, contradicting years of previous recommendations? Bob’s reaction yesterday to the news about peanut allergies was mixed, but mostly he was annoyed. Here is the gist of yesterday’s news from pediatricians:

“The new guidelines say most babies can try a little peanut paste or powder — never whole peanuts — at home. High-risk infants are defined as those with severe eczema or an egg allergy. … “That’s a whole generation of children who never have to develop this allergy.”

The Love Bug still has to bring only a sunflower butter and jelly sandwich to her preschool. This news is too late for her little classmate who couldn’t eat one of her cupcakes on her birthday. I felt so sorry for that little girl, who knew Publix made their cupcakes in a factory with peanuts? I truly believe labeling is disabling. When we learned that the Bride has a severe allergy to cats, we just tried to screen which house was suitable for a playdate.

But this new study makes perfect sense. Introduce peanuts early, like mixing some powder into baby’s yogurt around four months of age, and your offspring will gradually build their immune system. It makes sense, if having a dog in your house (ostensibly bringing more dirt and germs inside) helps build a child’s immune system, why shouldn’t this work? When I kept getting poison ivy as a child, I eventually landed in a doctor’s office getting shots with guess what? Small doses of the poison ivy compound to build my own natural immunity!

Bob was naturally smug yesterday. He didn’t actually say, “I told you so,” but you could see it around his eyes. He is partial to free-range parenting. If it fell on the floor, the 5 second rule applies. The baby finds an old piece of quesadilla behind the Christmas tree while you’re dismantling it, sure go-ahead and take a bite! What’s a little dirt? Bob has felt this way his entire life, whereas I am a hand-washing maniac. The Bride’s style takes after her Dad, the Rocker leans more toward hand sanitizers. And strangely enough, my son is just fine with cats!

“Childhood peanut allergies in the U.S. have increased dramatically over the last decade: In 1997, 0.4 percent of children reported an allergy to peanuts, and by 2008 that number was 1.4 percent, or more than 3 million people.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/guidelines-babies-peanut-allergies_us_586eab12e4b099cdb0fc3947

While in Nashville, serving apple slices dipped into peanut butter, I downloaded a little learning App on my Ipad. PopBob was trying it out with the Baby Boy, who is now a hefty two year old who eats just about anything. I could hear Bob complaining about computer programmers who don’t think like a child; I also heard them laughing and bonding. After that, we went out on a walk to collect pine cones, and rocks and bottle caps. So go ahead people, kick off your shoes, get outside and play in the dirt this year. And don’t forget to pack a PB and J!

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If Mirriam Webster is on to something, they just let the world know. The Word of the Year for 2016 is “surreal,” or “having the disorienting, hallucinatory quality of a dream; unreal; fantastic;” and after the past few days and months I’d have to agree: a truck plows through a Christmas Market in Berlin, mimicking the Nice attack earlier this year; a Russian ambassador is assassinated in Turkey while being filmed by an AP journalist, just as citizen journalists have been documenting killings by police and streaming them in real time in this country; a Twitter-babbling, boisterous billionaire wins our election with a little help from Russia, just as many populist politicians all over Europe are disrupting the status quo.

The past year does seem like a nightmare, surreal, only we are not dreaming. Yesterday the deal was sealed with the Electoral College, and Melania (or Ivanka) will get to pick out the new White House china, not William Jefferson Clinton. Will it be American (I love my pattern from Lenox, which was once produced in NJ) or Slovenian? Just think, if Hillary had won, Bill could have just recycled the fine china Hillary picked the first time around! This would have saved taxpayers plenty!

I wonder what kind of food Mrs T will serve at state dinners? I heard a fascinating author discussion on NPR about the history of First Ladies and how they have sparked culinary trends in the past. Think of Jackie O introducing French food to the American palate. She and Julia Child shaped my young interest in all things French. I nearly burned down my first home trying to make coq au vin.

Just as Eleanor Roosevelt told her chef not to produce any meal costing more than the average American could afford during the Great Depression, Michelle Obama has been instrumental in getting our country moving and making sure her chef, Sam Kass from Chicago, planned his meals based on Real Food.

Kass changed the Obama’s diet—more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; less processed foods and desserts. As first lady, Michelle Obama passionately told her family’s culinary story, especially how it benefited the health of her girls. She and Kass turned to broader health initiatives beyond the first family’s table. They grew a vegetable garden on the South Lawn, launched the health and lifestyle initiative “Let’s Move,” tackled school lunch reform and redrew the United States Department of Agriculture’s food pyramid as a simplified icon called “My Plate.”http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/12/09/504693961/first-ladies-often-forge-food-trends-but-melanias-menu-is-a-mystery

If I were to apply the term surreal to Mrs T’s gastronomical philosophy, we might imagine a state dinner consisting of her favorite fruits. After all, this is what we know, she eats 7 fruits a day. So perhaps the first course would be a baked fig? Followed by a blueberry and raspberry terrine? Would she serve a third course, a potato or pasta dish? Maybe she would branch out and serve cauliflower rice in a lovely crystal bowl? For dessert, it would have to be apple pie…or maybe strudel? We already know Mr T doesn’t drink alcohol, but I’m sure they would have to serve the appropriate wine pairings to their guests of state. Right?

This week we are off to Nashville for some grandparenting fun. It will be the first year in a very long time when Bob will NOT be working on Christmas, however our daughter WILL be seeing any and all comers in her ER on Christmas Eve. She loves her urban hospital as they see lots of ages and real life and death problems – unlike a suburban hospital’s typical run-of-the-mill, free-floating anxiety problems. The staff really cares for their homeless population who tend to come in as the temperatures drop. I hope she doesn’t mind my little synopsis.

I’m looking forward to my enforced news sabbatical and will try to write between grating potatoes for the Bride and Groom’s Hannuka party and warming up the dreidel. Hope whatever holiday you are celebrating this year is filled with family love, cheer, real food and friends. And I hope your dreams are filled with nutcrackers and sugar plum fairies! Thought you might want to see my tiny, surreal tree!

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On this cold and rainy Tuesday, let’s talk about food shall we? Now I’m not a big sushi lover, not like Bob and the kids. Raw fish should be called bait imho, so I always order something cooked on the menu. But last week in LA, over a most deliciously fresh dinner of lobster rolls and salmon sashimi, the Rocker rolled out his new App; something for us old folks to help with choosing ethical, sustainable products, https://buycott.com  …oh and btw,

it also tells you what political party the company or the company president is donating to – HOLLER!!

I know, holler is so last year, but my point is you will find out if some product has GMOs or not, and you can also tell if something is related to Mr T as well! For instance, “Kitchen Aid is the named sponsor of the PGA Senior Golf Championship. Donald Trump spent many years lobbying for a major golf tournament and was awarded the 2017 Kitchen Aid PGA Senior Golf Championship. Trump is very proud of this. Kitchen Aid should not allow for Donald Trump’s dangerous bigoted bullying to be rewarded. Accordingly, they should push to move the tournament to another location (as many less prestigious golf events have already done).” https://www.buzzfeed.com/carolineodonovan/how-buycott-intends-to-put-bad-brands-on-blast?utm_term=.cuBKePYJJV#.twe5gWO44m

I never really wanted one of those huge Kitchen Aid mixers on my kitchen counter top anyway. And I’ve never owned a toaster oven for that matter, just a toaster. In fact, we just recently upgraded to a 4 slicer!

But just how conscientious are we when it comes to holiday consumption? Tis the season and I’m growing more in love with Amazon for its convenience every year, though I admit it was not an easy road to climb since I also strongly believe in small, local businesses. But I have always been a brand buyer, not the fancy Gucci wear my initials all over you “luxury brand buyer,” but I like what I like. Like my washing machine detergent is Tide.

Still, when I found out a Koch brothers’ company owned Northern toilet paper, I figured it’s time to put my money where my bum is, literally. I switched to a Proctor and Gamble company, even though I’d been traumatized for years by their weird Mr Whipple ad campaign. “1964 — The Mr. Whipple (aka “George the Grocer”) character was created to promote Charmin’s “squeezable softness.” Mr. Whipple appeared for more than 20 years in Charmin television, radio, and print advertising.”

But I digress. When I heard about that gun-toting maniac who believed some Mr T induced conspiracy theory about trafficking at a pizza parlor in DC, well it just made me want to crawl right back under the covers. After all, who in their right mind would dare to denounce pizza? That most glorious of all foods! That is, until I heard about Kellogg pulling their advertising dollars from Breitbart aka FAKE news. https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/nov/30/breitbart-news-kelloggs-advertising-boycott-alt-right

And I have a wee bit of a connection to this beloved cereal chain. My brother Mike, who was the President and GM of the Vikings at the time, and his family lived on the same spit of land in MN that bordered Lake Minnetonka with old Mrs Kellogg. In fact, the Flapper once told us a story of how Mrs K herself, who was older than my Mother at the time, came out in the middle of a snowstorm in her snowshoes to check on her! Yes, people in MN are that kind, that good, just like Garrison Keillor says they are!

Mrs Kellogg brought the Flapper some food since she knew the rest of the family was away on some trip. They sat down to tea. And knowing my Mother, I’m sure they had an interesting discussion. I wish I could ask them now what they think about all this boycotting stuff. They would most likely remind me that this act of civic disobedience has been around for ages and in fact started in our ancestral home, County Mayo, Ireland! I KNEW it!

The word boycott entered the English language during the Irish “Land War” and derives eponymously from Captain Charles Boycott, the land agent of an absentee landlord, Lord Erne, who lived in Lough Mask House, near Ballinrobe in County Mayo, Ireland, who was subject to social ostracism organized by the Irish Land League in 1880. As harvests had been poor that year, Lord Erne offered his tenants a ten percent reduction in their rents. In September of that year, protesting tenants demanded a twenty five percent reduction, which Lord Erne refused. Boycott then attempted to evict eleven tenants from the land.

Tonight we’ll be having leftovers. Good old fashioned comfort food with a side of ravioli. Tomorrow we will order a pizza, to go with our Rice Krispie treats. https://www.ricekrispies.com/en_US/recipes.html    img_5666

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My favorite living author, who also happens to own a bookstore in Nashville, asked her readers what the title of their autobiography might be; “What would be the title of your life story?” The graphic on Parnassus’ Instagram account was a cartoony book titled “Can I Get Extra Cheese On That, a Memoir.”

Now I have nothing against cheese, in fact a day without cheese is like a day without a squeeze! But since that title was taken, I thought for maybe a split second and wrote “Victory Gardens.” That title means so much to me, and I realize it probably makes you think of the push to grow our own food after WWII, if you are of a certain age. But if my foster parents hadn’t scooped me up in Scranton at ten months of age and planted me in Victory Gardens, I might have been heading for an orphanage.

In that tiny, four room cement house, in the “temporary” development built to support the war effort at Picatinny Arsenal, I was surrounded by enough unconditional love to grow  strong. You remember the ice cream truck, and the doll house Daddy Jim built from the ice cream sticks; my trips to town and free samples of everything, especially bologna at the butcher shop.

Yesterday I listened to NPR’s Fresh Air in the car and I was rooted to my seat. I couldn’t leave the car and face the oppressive 96 degree heat – plus the topic spoke to me. Two culinary historians were promoting their book about food during the Great Depression. The authors were talking about their grandparents, but we Boomers grew up with parents who lived through this period, so our childhood kitchen tables reflected that period of time perfectly. And don’t forget, I had two mothers.

In Victory Gardens, Nell would proudly tell anyone within earshot that she was really good at opening cans, then her face would light up like a Christmas tree at her own joke! I remember dinners that consisted of canned hash with a fried egg on top. A vegetable side would mean a sliced tomato. Frozen foods were a novelty, so in this Catholic house we ate frozen fish sticks on Fridays. One day a week we ate out at the diner. And for a very special occasion she might make her specialty, stuffed cabbage, a Slovakian miracle simmering in sauerkraut.

But the Flapper, in her old Queen Ann house in town, would cook! She simmered meatballs in sauce she made herself, and even though she was working ever day she managed to get a delicious hot meal on the table every night. She taught me how to shop for the freshest ingredients by season, and how to save a few pennies here and there. Of course I’ve told you about her Depression-era Mac n Cheese, the kind with bacon because they could not get real butter. One of both Moms’ favorite stories was how as a young child I could tell the difference between butter and margarine. Later I learned they had to put yellow food coloring in a Crisco-like substance in the 30s to approximate butter. And ps, I have never purchased margarine in my life!

So while listening to “Creamed Canned and Frozen” yesterday, one author spoke about  bologna and mashed potato dinners. I had to smile since bologna was a staple at my cement house too. With the Flapper we made delicious ham sandwiches on rye bread with real dill pickles we picked from a barrel.

But the funniest thing the authors Jane Ziegelman and Andy Coe said was their children would not eat the food they were preparing during the writing of this book, since it didn’t look like food to them! And thinking back, canned hash does look like something maybe the dog didn’t like…http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/08/15/489991111/creamed-canned-and-frozen-how-the-great-depression-changed-u-s-dietsta The Flapper, however, cooked creatively with spices, and spicy food believe it or not was deemed suspicious in the 30s.

Spicy foods were [considered] stimulants. They were classified as stimulants, so they were on that same continuum along with caffeine and alcohol all the way up to cocaine and heroin. And if you started with an olive, you might find yourself one day addicted to opiates. It put you on a very slippery slope — watch out for olives!

Today we are asked to learn where and how our fish were harvested, what the cows have been eating before we buy a steak, and how sustainable is the farm growing our produce. Would the Flapper pay more for organic milk, like I do? It’s a wonder panic doesn’t set in the moment we think about getting a meal on the table! I wonder how or IF the Love Bug will cook, maybe she’ll use a replicator a la Star Trek? I remember how she turned her nose up at the first chicken nugget I offered her, after all, it doesn’t look like chicken!

So even though I grew up in a bland house that referenced a garden without an actual garden, where a tinned tuna casserole made with soup was considered nutritious, I managed to become a fairly inventive home cook imho thanks to the Flapper. And the real victory was when the Bride asked for all my recipes when she was setting up her own kitchen after college.

While Lee and Al were visiting I made stuffed eggplant; a recipe I made up as I went along, sauteing garlic and mushrooms, mixing with the eggplant, and of course baking with cheese sprinkled on top! This was right before they went in the oven, Bon Appetit!  IMG_4981

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While looking at colleges for the Rocker, we stopped by my alma mater. After the proverbial backward-walking tour, I dragged him into the library. I remember being told that each graduate’s senior thesis would be stored there permanently, until the end of time, and my young self thought, “Hey, this writing thing is cool!”

Sitting with him, we poured through the old-school paper, and I could see he wasn’t all that impressed. After all, there were numbers and graphs and charts, and psycho-babble about what those statistics meant. I had spent the better part of a year testing a group of deaf children to find out how the development of language influenced cognition. His eyes remained focused on the middle-distance. Then I said,

“You know I did all of this by hand, right? We didn’t have computers.”

The Rocker grew up with personal computers. Not just at school, but at home Bob was a very early adapter. Granted they were bigger, and cumbersome, but we were like that family that got the first color TV on the street. Or maybe the first black and white. So it was no surprise to see how well the Rocker could integrate his God-given musical talent with technology. That pioneering spirit came straight from his genes, from a Dad who never stayed within any line he ever saw.

In fact, when people ask whatever would Bob do if he retires, I think to myself, he will always be hungry – he will never be afraid to be foolish.

“Stay hungry, stay foolish” was imprinted on the back cover of the last old school paper edition of the bible of innovators, The Whole Earth Catalog. This book turns 45 years old today – a mere blip in time – but it was like Google before personal computers, and its creative genius was Stewart Brand. The single most influential guy in Steve Jobs’ universe.

…it’s almost impossible, to flick through the pages of the Catalog and recapture its newness and radicalism and potentialities. Not least because the very idea of a book changing the world is just so old-fashioned. Books don’t change anything these days. If you want to start a revolution, you’d do it on Facebook. And so many of the ideas that first reached a mainstream audience in the Catalog – organic farming, solar power, recycling, wind power, desktop publishing, mountain bikes, midwife-assisted birth, female masturbation, computers, electronic synthesizers – are now simply part of our world, that the ones that didn’t go mainstream (communes being a prime example) rather stand out.   http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/may/05/stewart-brand-whole-earth-catalog?CMP=share_btn_tw

Maybe Bob will start the first commune/co-housing community for old Boomers and revolutionize the continuingcare/assistedliving/nursinghome industry? I can see it now, the Rolling Stones and Parlor Mob playing in the dining barn.

As for me, there will always be meals to prepare. We celebrated a friend’s graduation yesterday from UVA. An amazing wife and mom of three, Michelle is an exceptional NICU nurse who completed her doctoral thesis and will Walk the Lawn today. Congratulations Michelle, my former roller derby cohort, you are inspirational on so many levels for young women today.

And of course, since we are always hungry, I made lobster pot pies!  IMG_4435

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I don’t know about you, but when I heard Ted Cruz’ wife Heidi say that the first thing he did after they were married was to buy 100 cans of soup, I was shocked. I knew this had to be some clue, some secret scientific device that would help us dig deep into his brain. We already know Cruz is an absolutist, you’re either on the dark side or the light side of his universe. But 100 cans of soup? http://gawker.com/after-his-honeymoon-ted-cruz-immediately-bought-100-ca-1770893594

When Heidi questioned her newlywed about his motivations, he said, “I know you. You won’t be making things.”

Now soup is a comfort food. For me it’s homemade soup, but hey what kid would pass up some tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich? And if you grow up into a man who doesn’t know a pot from a pan, who likes to stand in front of the refrigerator and eat whatever catches his fancy, standing up while swigging milk from the carton, well you might just worry about your future meals. Particularly if you marry a woman who avoids the kitchen.

But the more troubling part of the story is that Heidi took all that soup back to the store – then she called her mom who told her to go right back and buy that soup and replace it in the pantry! So, it’s like a lesson on being submissive, being a good God-fearing Christian wife who is dominated by her husband. Yessiree ladies. Make sure he knows he’s the boss!

Then I found out that early in their career they lived separately, for 7 years in Texas. And that Heidi had moved there for his political career but didn’t really fit in. That she was found wandering around a highway with her head in her hands one night http://theweek.com/speedreads/602452/ted-cruz-wife-lived-apart-first-7-years-marriage

Now I have some sympathy for this woman. The woman that Trump’s campaign smeared. I know what it’s like to move to a place for your husband’s career and though I never wandered onto a freeway exit ramp, I did have my existential moments. Wondering why I was surrounded by women who could only talk about their nails. Feeling like a duck out of water.

What I wouldn’t give to have a sit-down with Heidi. I’d tell her that it’s not all about the Lord and her job at Goldman Sachs. I’d tell her that her husband has no chance at winning the Presidency. It’s about what this country stands for, the freedom to do things our way, to forge ahead and make our own choices. I’d tell her that food is love, and she should start listening to herself and nobody else. You might want to keep a can of Cream of Mushroom soup around in case you need to make a casserole. But definitely, learn how to bake a killer meatloaf. This is my turkey mushroom meatloaf, wrapped in bacon and it doesn’t get much better than this!IMG_3806

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