This picture was taken in the most vibrant weekend of October; two close friends had come to visit and we went to a park where people had used trees and vines to create an elaborate shelter that you could climb around inside. The weather was warm enough to not worry about a coat, but cool enough to not sweat in a sweater. There was no rain – you can see the blue sky peeking out behind all those leaves.
I need photographs like these on days when March, when mud has been the norm for months now and the variety is only in how much mud and how frozen the mud is on a given day. I need to remember how delightful the world can be when there are no thunderstorm warnings and my hair isn’t ruined in the wet. Lately, in days when rapidly shifting weather seems to leave me with a sickness every two weeks, I’m having to reach back to memories about positive things for gratitude.
Gratitude is one of the things that slows down my frantic mind – gratitude makes me able to take the time to make a home-cooked meal when panic would have me order take-out and eat it all in gulps. Gratitude is hard to muster on days when my boots are covered in mud, but I’m doing it, one step at a time.
What are your favorite meals during muddy March?
Memory: a work lunch where, with my two co-workers, we order dessert. I very, very rarely order dessert at a restaurant, and no wonder; there’s enough calories in a dessert to be a whole meal, and I’ve already eaten a bowl of lobster bisque and half my sandwich and I really don’t NEED any more food.
Shared dessert is the perfect solution. The truth is that cannoli, a wonderful combination of crunchy wafer cookie and thick, ricotta-rich sweet cream with chocolate chips in it, is just too much for any one person. I am sure there are circumstances when cannoli, this particular pile of it, would be perfect to be relished alone, but it would have made me ill that day. 1/3 of it, however, was totally perfect.
That’s the thing about good, rich, sweet things in life: I’m so much worse at appreciating them when I’m alone. Instead, I need to look into another pair of eyes and share that bright feeling of “are you tasting this?” as we both dig in to something that has absolutely no vegetables in it. I can eat vegetables, fruits, and whole grains alone, feeling like I’m nourishing myself and thus the life I’m leading in community, but with dessert… mmm it’s just better to get 3 forks and dig in together.
Husband and I have changed small things about our eating habits over the years, but the big one has been adding in a little fish where we were eating pretty much no fish. I’ve become a big fan of salmon in particular; while it is especially good with a delicious butter and garlic sauce, it’s also a really rich, fatty fish on its own. You can eat your salmon with a pile of greens and still feel like you had a rich and filling meal, usually without feeling stuffed.
We made a really tasty pistachio salmon during Whole30, but this one was a grilled salmon from a restaurant, and thinking about it today makes me want the weather to improve so that I can get outside and grill a fillet. One recipe I really want to try as well is this one; will write again when I actually get around to trying it! I love maple as a flavor, and I’m excited to explore it on main dishes rather than just pancakes: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/maple-glazed-salmon-0
In a month of health problems, grief, and overwhelming amounts of work, Husband and I took a weekend in a nearby city to cut the stress and try to recover a bit. I wasn’t feeling my best, but that is nothing that a plate of lemon ricotta pancakes couldn’t help. This memory is perfect for me – the most delightful crispy edge on the pancakes, the tart berry sauce they gave me, and of course the morsel of that amazing hash brown that I stole from Husband’s plate. Sometimes, especially on crazy Mondays, I like having pictures of past meals that have helped me to relax. This feeling of treasuring a sweet memory, a good moment in a good day, is so great for propelling me forward through the many tasks that lie ahead this week.
Because of a family funeral, I’ve been on the road for days now. One unexpected surprise, among many, was the visit to the Bob Evans Farm, which is in Ohio and is the original Bob Evans restaurant! We had a delicious meal after a long drive on a very overwhelming week, and I will remember for a long time how nice it was to sit down and be greeted and served here. The weather has been almost heartbreakingly pretty lately and I barely know what to do with February 70s, but I’m trying to take everything one moment at a time.
My boss is one of the people who initially inspired me to try Whole30. She takes it seriously in a way that I sometimes find intimidating; basically, she thinks that as participants in Whole30, we owe it to ourselves to stick with the program. She’s never going to shame someone for not sticking with Whole30; it’s more like she wants people to treat themselves to the real experience. She gave me my first RX bar, a clean-food energy bar that many Whole30-ers and Paleo folks swear by.
One thing that I realized, though, is that there are certain foods that Whole30 participants should be able to have, but current popular methods of production simply don’t make. A good example would be sausage or ham; both of these foods don’t need to have added sugar in order to be delectable, but pretty much all commercially available kinds do. So the other day, my boss walked into my office and gave me a single piece of ham in a plastic baggie. It looked pretty ordinary, and I looked at her with amusement, ready to hear a hilarious story.
It wasn’t hilarious though – she told me how she’d found uncured, no sugar added ham at a local market from a nearby farm. She was so excited to find ham that was still in a reasonable price range that supported local farmers, that she wanted to share that excitement with me. Instead of being amused, I was really excited.
I think that the presence of so many “celebration” foods at our fingertips may have had an unfortunate side effect; as Americans, we have a hard time seeing almost any food as rare or special. When you choose to make a lifestyle choice, like eating less added sugars or trying to buy more locally produced products, you create a kind of scarcity. This scarcity does lead to more expense most of the time, and often a little confusion or frustration at social gatherings where folks don’t share your passion, but it also leads to moments like this: someone found the hard-to-find item you were looking for, and shared it with you. I’ve seen this look when I made gluten-free cornbread instead of regular cornbread for a dinner with a friend who cannot have gluten without feeling wretched; it’s an opportunity to be there for someone. I still appreciate people who are flexible on their food intake, because it does make hostessing less stressful, but the opportunity to give someone exactly what will nourish them? That’s a pretty special gift.
I’m well aware that running is hard on my body – it seems to constantly leave me with some form of ache or pain. I decided that a good thing to try might be eating more toward the anti-inflammatory end of the spectrum. According to Harvard Health, some of these foods include:
- olive oil
- leafy green vegetables
- fatty fishes
The more inflammatory foods, according to the same site, include:
- refined carbs (white flour)
- fried foods like french fries
- red meat
I have no idea if trying to eat more in the first category will help with my training soreness, but I like a lot of those foods anyway, so I’m going to try it – do any of you have experience eating to avoid inflammation?
In the wake of the Presidential election, I’m even more thoughtful about community building and neighborliness than before. It’s easy to assume the country is close and united when we have two moderate candidates in the running, but throughout this election cycle, I’ve been stunned by the differences in mindsets among the candidates, and by the closeness of the races: the country is divided.
I know that there are some disagreements that getting to know each other cannot solve. I know that being political is not a good way to run a food blog or host a dinner party or any of the things I claim. But I do think that talking to each other, knowing people whose experiences are different from our own, seems to be one of the only chances for getting out of this mess. Half of America is a stranger to the other half; they need to have each other over for dinner.
For this reason, part of my upcoming thoughts on the blog are going to shift toward discussing modern hospitality and how people talk to strangers around them. I want to keep talking about food, because I think we are all so united when it comes to food and wanting to belong. However, I think that the ability to be isolated and self-reliant but miserable is higher than it ever has been in the United States, and I want to be a part of figuring out where we need to come together. So many books talk about how we are desperate to connect to each other, that disconnection causes so much pain and ruin. I would submit there has to be a place where people are brought together who disagree with each other, who can eat together and maybe let down some of their most emotionally-held beliefs for a little while.
This blog has always been about forming community with my friends and family; I just think that this election cycle shows that I need to move beyond that, to strangers and political opponents and people I don’t understand. We all have to live together, after all.
I love breakfast food – I mean, pancakes? Waffles? Bacon? All the fanciest and tastiest of breakfast foods are wonderful to me. When it comes to everyday, average breakfasts, though, I’m pretty weak: I’ll enjoy a bagel and cream cheese, or a big glass of fruit smoothie, but I have a hard time working up an appetite at 6AM and whatever I do manage doesn’t hold me till lunch.
When I learned on the Gastropod podcast that breakfast food is somewhat a modern invention, I felt pretty liberated; if in the past, most people just ate whatever they had lying around as leftovers for breakfast, I would do the same! Today I had leftover quinoa salad, filled with tomatoes and spinach and walnuts and feta, for breakfast, and it was wonderful: hit the spot and also was so full of protein that I didn’t get hungry!
It’s time to take breakfast to be another meal; one where, yes, we sometimes eat french toast because it is so delicious, but where most of the time we eat healthy veggies and proteins we need to get through our day, just like other meals! It is very comforting to realize that I’m not crazy for feeling a sugar-crash many mornings when I start off with a sweet-tooth breakfast. This is fine for a lazy Saturday morning, when I might actually enjoy a blissed-out morning reading and feeling calm, but at work, I want all systems go, and that means protein and nutrients aplenty. Quinoa, to the rescue!
We have talked and talked about how we’re going to make our garden bigger this year; even with all the missteps last year, we still yielded a lot of pounds of food and this year promises to be just as exciting. Yesterday was an unseasonably warm day, making it perfect for digging out some old grasses and bushes along our back fence line and preparing the ground for a new raised bed garden box.
We first had to root out as many of the persistent roots and grasses that we could find, and then we laid out large amounts of garden fabric and staked it down. The hope is that, even with this crazy warm weather we’re having, going ahead with this process will help keep the weeds down when we put the boxes in on top. It’s going to be long, perhaps 12 feet, and about 2 feet deep, so there’s going to be a ton of space for plants. It’s the most full-sun box we have, so it’s going to get our squash plants, our tomatoes and peppers, as well as newcomer cucumbers.
I sometimes see metaphors for life in the gardening process, and one of the biggest ones is this idea of preparing the ground – our minds cannot change on a dime, and when we want better habits or stronger muscles or anything new, we have to start getting ourselves ready ahead of time. It’s not just the training for the race, but the recognition of what foods make us feel crummy when we run and which ones make us feel energized. Preparing the ground isn’t always possible; I’d say last year we pretty much leaped before we looked, but when life gives you the opportunity to really get ready for a new change, it’s wise not to bury your head and pretend the change isn’t coming. Things go so much better with prepared soil.