Vegan was necessary after foie gras.
I got into the holiday spirit last weekend and whipped up a batch of the most amazing gingerbread ever. Seriously. You haven’t had gingerbread until you’ve had this gingerbread. (Spoiler alert: the secret ingredient is a cuppa Guinness. Duh.) If you gotta have it: HERE’S THE RECIPE
But that didn’t satisfy the need to create, so I also stormed the kitchen to stir up some organic sea salt scrub made with coconut oil, salt, and a generous helping of peppermint essential oil. After stirring up a batch, I scooped generous dollops into jelly jars, topped them with festive tissue and raffia, and voila! I had flagrant, healthy, soul-satisfying, gifts to give to friends and colleagues. The beauty of these charming little hand-crafted gifts is a fait accompli. A short list of benefits includes:
MAKE YOUR OWN DELICIOUS SCRUB:
Bring the coconut oil to room temperature for ease of handling. Mix in sea salt and stir to evenly distribute. Add essential oil and stir, but don’t overmix. Scoop mixture into containers for sharing. If you double up the recipe, you’ll have a ready supply of festive hostess gifts at the ready for those last-minute invites.
USE: Treat knees, elbows, heels with combination exfolliating/moisturing scrub and sail through the winter months with smoother, happier surfaces. Don’t wait; raid the kitchen cupboards and whip up your own magic winter skin treat!
KITCHENS OF THE GREAT MIDWEST
What a delicious read in J. Ryan Stradal’s debut novel: Kitchens of the Great Midwest. His treatment of the subject of haute (and low) cuisine is both respectful and poetic, as is his attention to the detail of place. The Midwest has never appeared so endearing, nor possibly as strange.
The star of the story, Eva Thorvald, is born in the late 1980s to Lars Thorvald and Cynthia Hargreaves, the two most unlikely candidates for happy marriage that ever was. But when Cynthia gets knocked up, marry they do, and vigorous ten pound baby Eva follows.
“Cynthia was still twenty-five, and bounced back to her skinny frame with color in her cheeks and bigger boobs, while Lars just grew balder and fatter and slower. He had learned, before she was pregnant, that he had to hold her hand or touch her in some way while they walked places together, so that other men knew they were a couple. Now she was the mother of his daughter, he was even more wary, snarling at passing dudes with confident Tom Selleck mustaches and cool Bon Jovi hair.”
Lars is a foodie through and through, and Cynthia has a knack for food and wine pairings beyond reason. But gravely oppressed by motherhood from the start, Cynthia ditches husband and child as soon as reasonably possible, running off to California to learn the wine trade.
Lars devotes his life to his darling daughter, whose taste buds he teases with the finest ingredients her pediatrician will permit. He reads Beard on Bread to her. He takes her on excursions through Farmer’s Markets, searching for priceless potatoes and redolent rhubarb.
Lucky for her, Eva is born with a “once in a generation palate.” But is this because of her natural father? It’s hard to say. Not long after Cynthia goes MIA, Lars dies suddenly, leaving baby Eva to be raised by her Uncle Jarl and Aunt Fiona, who while loving her completely, don’t know a mung bean from mozzarella.
Part of the pleasure of this novel derives from Stradal’s juicy narrative. From the start, we know that Eva is a survivor and that she is destined for great things. We love how she loves her adopted parents, how she embraces strays of all kinds, and how even as a kid, she demonstrates great depths of compassion.
“[Jarl] suddenly looked sad and bewildered, like an elephant that had been fired from the circus and was wandering down the side of the highway with nowhere to go. The thought occurred to Eva that if her dad confronted those boys face-to-face, they would make fun of her weak, fat, kindhearted father as brutally as they made fun of her, and she needed to protect her dad from that; his ego was already so fragile.”
It’s not giving anything away to reveal that Eva becomes a celebrated, if mysterious and deeply private, chef. Her love for good food is not for show or for fame; it is real as rice and sweet as whipped marshmallow. In the end, her love of food is about what all great food is about: celebration and gratitude and sharing your bounty with those you love.
Fiction is a beautiful way to stick a finger in the eye of complacency, don’t you think? In a debut novel that is both funny and disturbing, Stephan Eirik Clark jumps feet first into a pool of what might be satire, taking a lingering look at how, as consumers of unnatural “food,” we might unintentionally be the makers of our own undoing. Is it possible? Is industrial food safe? Or is it just funny?
Dear Water Bottle, We’ve had a beautiful romance, but I’m breaking up with you. It’s simple, really: I’ve learned that you’re a slow poison, and that just doesn’t work for me. In my quest to compost and recycle more I have been studying the various plastics in my life, which until now, I’ve considered a convenience. Well, an evil convenience, but still. Oh Plastic, you have made my life easier, but the fact remains that when the landfills are overloaded and when the Pacific Island of Trash manages finally to put us in a collective gasping choke-hold, I will have no one to blame but myself.
Here are five everyday plastics and why I need to rethink them:
#1 : The most commonly used plastic and can be found in microwavable food trays, water and juice bottles. This plastic absorbs bacteria and should not be reused.
#2: A stiff plastic used in toys, plastic lumber, picnic tables, detergent, household cleaner and shampoo bottles. This plastic is nearly neutral and can be recycled to make detergent bottles, floor tiles, pens.
#3: PVC is a soft, flexible plastic used to make teething rings, toys, cooking oil bottles clear food packaging, mouthwash bottles. Sometimes called “the poison plastic,” it contains phalates that interfere with hormonal development.
#6: Polystyrene is used to make disposable cups and plates, egg cartons, take-out containers. This material leaches styrene, a carcinogen, into food (especially when microwaved) and should be avoided.
#7: Polycarbonates are used to make baby bottles, sippy cups, three and five gallon water jugs. Contains bisphenol (BPA), which migrate especially if heated, and has been linked to heart disease. BPA, is a xenoestrogen, a known ednocrine disruptor.
So you see Water Bottle, it’s over. You and your extended family are simply toxic and I’m done with you. Now that I know, I will recycle your ilk whenever possible and avoid the worst of you when I can.
Fancy me. I’m making progress in my personal green revolution. Not only am I growing lettuce, basil, cilantro, and tomatoes, but I just planted purple carrots. I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself Ida Skivenes, but well, you know. I’m doing what I can to green up my world.
I’ve been wanting to compost, but living solo, I just don’t generate enough green waste to reach practical critical mass. Even considering my habit of buying more produce than I can possibly eat in a week and throwing out an obscene amount of food, it’s still not enough to justify investing in a personal 100 gallon composting unit. Like my (brief) foray into READ MORE HERE
I’m on vacation and and have been exposed to more television than one would think possible but then there is the time factor (lots of it) and the the guilty pleasure factor (also lots of it). During the usual course of work and life it hardly makes sense to squander precious time sitting in front of the hypnotic eye. But here I am on vacation, and find myself triggered into watching one of the dozens of food based productions so readily available on TV. Back in the protozoan era of television programming, of say, the Galloping Gourmet or The French Chef, with Julia Child, the subject was cooking. Or good food. Or discovering what the French did with food that made it so freaking amazing (spoiler alert: it’s the sauce, cherie). Now, however, it seems that it is a competition about which nasty character can win the prize for the least disgusting dish whichincidentallylookstheprettiest. A show in particular caught my eye because it was all about pork. Pork belly, pork shoulder, pork haunch, bacon. Pig, pig, pig! It made me wonder: what is it about our love affaire with all that is porcine?
So okay, full disclosure, I’m a theoretical vegetarian. This means I mostly don’t eat meat which, by the way, isn’t easy. And I don’t ever want to be that person…you know, the one who will force the entire office to redesign the annual picnic to accommodate their very special diet restrictions because goddess forbid they should just shut the hell up and eat macaroni salad and be grateful to be included. But I digress. Back to the issue of pork. Honestly, I prefer fish but will indulge in duck or lamb if it’s locally sourced and not the product of a factory farm.
DO YOU KNOW HOW YOUR OINKER MET ITS FATE?
I am pro-food. You’ll have to trust me on this. However, and increasingly, I am also pro-sustainability. Which factory farming is not. Just one hog produces 17.5 pounds of poo and pee per day. A theoretical farm of 1,000 theoretical hogs will produce 6 million theoretical pounds of waste per year. Most factory farms have more like 35,000 hogs…and honey, that’s a lot of poop to process. Factory farms keep pig waste in “lagoons” which sounds lovely, unless you live downwind or factor in oceans of antibiotics or gazillions of gallons of growth hormones swimming around in there. Or course, this chemical stew leaks and leeches into the local soil and eventually into the ground water, creating a bio-hazzard so so toxic on so many levels my heart spasms just to ponder it.
As animals go, pigs are clean, social, curious, and work collaboratively to solve problems, which makes them more intellectually advanced than many producers of reality television and some members of congress. I’m not suggesting that we give up our BLT or prosciutto-wrapped melon, I’m just saying that the price we collectively pay for our food should factor in what it takes to bring it to market.
Bon appetit, baby!