Tuesday, January 29, 2008

eat your heart out, hidden valley

Because I have a food website (www.tastebuzz.us) and I am *supposed* to be doing a food blog over there (one of these days!), I really don't want this site to focus on food. But I can't resist sharing some of the interesting mental shifts I've experienced since I began eating only the most healthful (local, organic, seasonal) foods I can sink my teeth into:

1. I really loathe the thought of fast food. I mean, at a visceral level not just an intellectual one. I almost gag now thinking about a Big Mac (I know I might as well be a fascist...).

2. I nostalgically dream about past meals enjoyed, especially delicious ones consumed in restaurants. Their memory conjures ridiculously tantalizing, highly satisfying memories. It's as if my head and tummy are saying, "thanks for the delicious, good food you made me, even though I wasn't thinking about where it came from or how healthy it was."
Examples: Bucky's blackened fish tacos...Pizzuto's authentic red sauce, Seeds organic, grass-fed beef cheeseburger loaded with goodies and served with homemade fries, D'Aquila's--well-- any dish.

3. I have begun to re formulate/find recipes for some of the classic American commercial fare that I formerly enjoyed but have come to dislike greatly.
Examples: ranch dressing, frosting, sugar cookies, mac and cheese.

Here's a recipe I found and then tweaked for homemade ranch dressing (can you say, "No more gloppy, oozy white stuff?").

Back on the Ranch Dressing
2 cloves garlic (use 1 if kids will be consuming)
1/2 t kosher salt
1 cup homemade or prepared mayo
1/3 cup buttermilk (if you don't have it use milk and vinegar to taste)
2 T minced flat-leaf parsley leaves*
2 T minced fresh chives
1 scallion, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 t smoked paprika
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Mash the garlic and salt to a paste with the side of a chef's knife. In a medium bowl, whisk together the garlic, mayo buttermilk, parsley, chives, scallion, vinegar, paprika and pepper to taste. If the sauce is too thick, thin with with a couple T more of buttermilk. Use immediately or store in fridge.

Makes 1 1/3 cups

*if you don't have exact measurements of parsley, chives and scallions or even garlic use what you have on hand. I have substituted basil and savory for the herbs and shallots for the garlic.

Trust me, your chef salad is going to thank you!

Monday, January 28, 2008

yeah, a snow day!

Today's post was going to be a compare/contrast excerpt on two books I recently read about Italy. Don't worry, Italy-philes, I'll get to it later. Today something much more important occupied my time: snow. Yes, it was a snow day! Around here, where it can be drizzly and overcast but not snowy that often, snow days mean either drive around and curse a lot or: play! Since cursing is a habit I am really trying to curb, I chose to play.

Anyway, everyone who has ever had a snow day knows they're all about stolen, fun moments. You are supposed to be working/at school/doing serious stuff. Instead the menu changes to peanut butter toast with hot chocolate. No one cares that your clothes gloves don't exactly match your coat and your boots are hand-me-downs. Or that your nose is running. The world is a clean, pure, insular wonderland waiting to be discovered and enjoyed. It's hard not to feel cozy, even if your fingers get a little cold and your pant legs wet.

I wonder if the joy of a snow day is anything like the joy of heaven. One day you wake up and all around you is perfect, as it should be. You are excited to get out of bed. Neighbors are no longer just normal people (or even enemies), but the best playmates you could want. Business as usual is anything but usual. Or business. Time is special or altogether forgotten. Today is a great day and you want it to last forever.

I hope heaven is like a snow day, minus the runny nose (even though no one cares).

Sunday, January 27, 2008

of time, grief, and joy

I never meant not to write here for a whole year. It just happened. The reasons are manifold, but really can be distilled into one: grief. Last February 18, in the late hours of a dark winter night, my father died. Our family had just enjoyed a great celebration of my mom's birthday and my parents' wedding anniversary, some of us had gone dancing, and then we all went to bed. And as soon as I knew it, my mom was shaking me to get up, get up, get up. He's not breathing. But it was too late, my dad was gone as was the celebratory glow of good food, good wine and great conversation we'd experienced just hours before.

After almost a year of feeling like someone hit me in the face, of wanting to go to the mall and scream at strangers, of wanting not to get out of bed (or not get into bed in the first place), I've re-entered the land of the living. I just called a friend--a good friend--after several months of avoiding her calls. I got a second, much needed, job. I am making plans for the future. I'm doing life now, not just wading through it.

People say death changes you--profoundly, indelibly. I hope so. I don't want to be the same person I was before. I want to be stronger, wiser, kinder, happier, closer to God. I don't want to be one who delights in pain and loss--like a sadist or masochist--but I'm not operating under avoidance rules anymore, or at least not as much.

The way I see it, it's only a matter of time until sadness and loss, with their friend, grief, come knocking. So instead of waiting for our own sadness and loss to break down the door, why not prepare--think, discuss, pray--together? In my experience, the only way to get to the joy in the morning is to make it through the long, dark night. And the best way to make it through the night is to wait with friends.

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