Sunday, January 27, 2008


Rethinking the Meat Guzzler, NYTimes 1/27/08

This is just such a good article, I can't say anything more about it.

Another issue, aside from the using-land-inefficiently-to-grow-corn/soy-for-livestock (and not for people) issue, is the one where land is now being used to harvest oils for biofuel, once again, displacing people's needs and forcing the price of cooking oil into the unaffordable for many.
Here, and especially here.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Immigrants and Jordanian Food

Two interesting articles in the NYTimes, 1/13/08:
A Passage to India, on immigrants and food culture.
All the Foods of the Mideast at its Stable Center, about restaurants in Amman, Jordan.

In other news, I've been baking my own bread lately, exuberantly. Last time it was three loaves of whole wheat sweetened with maple syrup (thanks to Joy of Cooking), tonight I'm going to do the same except with flax and sunflower seeds. It's so wonderful that little things like this make me happy.

Thursday, January 3, 2008


Finally back from vacation and so much to write about, which always leaves me wanting to write nothing and wait for something new to happen. But I think it's necessary that I write about Wigilia, which is so totally awesome and won't come around until next Christmas Eve. I can hardly be called a Catholic, but I'm fascinated by Catholic culture, especially in its Mexican and Polish forms. I ascribe to the latter, particularly, since half of my family are Polish Catholics. My mother was born in Poland but raised in the United States, and has kept up with some of the major traditions. Wigilia (pronounced Vigilia) is our best holiday as far as I'm concerned, more important than Christmas day for Poles, who believe that what you do on Wigilia will predict the rest of your year. Here are some cool things I found out about Wigilia from Polish Customs, Traditions and Folklore, by Mary Knab:
Fir tree branches were placed over the door of houses and barns to dispel evil and sickness, or even placed in the cow poop to dispel wolves.
Everyone in the family would race to cut off the tip of the Christmas tree (a fir) and this tip would be hung pointing down over the dinner table.
The first person to enter the house on Wigilia was considered as an auger of things to come. If a man walked in first, the cows would have bulls and if a woman, heifers. "Subsequently, women were much in favor and sometimes great lengths were undertaken to assure the arrival of a woman." Keen.

We always eat oplatek (pronounced opwatek) before the meal, which we break into pieces and give to family members with a wish for the new year.

The menu is pretty much the same all over Poland, with some variation, and it's always the same for us, give or take a plate of gravlax. In our household it was always pierogi (stuffed with potatoes and sauerkraut), the most incredible mushroom soup, sides of fish (usually smoked mackerel and herring in sauce), followed up by compote. In Poland this would be an eight course dinner, for us it's typically three.

This year my mom came up to Pennsylvania to have Wigilia with Dan and his family, which was really lovely. We made pierogi together, me kneading and rolling the dough until my hands were red and barely motile, my mom saying "it's not thin enough! keep rolling!" (the trick is to roll it out, cut them into squares, then roll the damn squares until they're paper thin), then heated up all the comestibles she'd brought up.

Like I said, I may not be the best Catholic (understatement!), or the best Pole (my grandmother asks me every time I visit her when I'm going to learn Polish...), but Wigilia will always be a fixture for me.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Chinese Fish

"Environmental problems plaguing seafood would appear to be a bad omen for the industry. But with fish stocks in the oceans steadily declining and global demand for seafood soaring, farmed seafood, or aquaculture, is the future. And no country does more of it than China, which produced about 115 billion pounds of seafood last year."

In China, Farming Fish in Toxic Waters, NYTimes, December 15th 2007

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Red Lentils and Homemade Seitan

I've been gone for a bit - last week there was an Anthropology
conference in DC that I attended, and now it's finals - but seeing as my dad sent me a new camera as an early Xmas present, I have to post on last night's dinner. Red lentils, Indian style, over sticky rice with some homemade seitan, straight of Isa's Vegan With a Vengeance (and also on the Post Punk Kitchen website). The seitan was surprisingly easy, and considering that it was my first time, came out perfectly. The lentils were a breeze - cumin seeds cooked in hot earthbalance followed by half a red onion, minced hot pepper, clove of minced garlic, lentils, then add water, bring to a boil, add salt to taste plus any of the following: garam masala, more cumin, allspice, ginger, and a squeeze of lime. So good. So easy.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


After working a double with nary a good tip and suffering from a cat-allergy-induced cold for the past few days, including and perhaps at its apex during Thanksgiving dinner, I have been less than interested in doing anything other than lay in bed and wheeze. However, this has not been possible. Yesterday was spent getting out of town and touring historic Donaldsonville. Historic Donaldsonville! Home to America's first African-American mayor, Pierre Landry, and to America's first caesarean-section (performed on a slave, no mention of whether she survived or not...). Walking past an old grocers called "Shaheen's" I noticed a plaque written in both Arabic and English. My heart skipped a beat! Lebanese immigrants. Also, Donaldsonville had a considerable Jewish immigrant population, the synagogue now an Ace Hardware (does Hebrew still hum in the woodwork? Do the mice still squeak shalom?). Lunch at a so-called "African-Creole-Cajun" restaurant-gallery which turned out to be mostly 'Classy Cajun,' vegetarianism being something freakish, or so I was led to assume, and the gallery bit being a showcase for quaint glass crosses and paintings of dogs in gardens. We toured Laura Plantation afterwards, an old Creole place facing the Mississippi, lovely, gardens heavy with oranges, tangerines, satsumas and persimmons. They were selling all the citrus in the gift shop; I asked about the persimmons and the woman behind the counter had no idea what I was talking about. She said "help yourself" and so I did. I love the persimmons sweet permissiveness.

Thanksgiving was the day before, and quite fine. We had a few friends over, no big deal, but invented a new tradition in which we stuff random objects into a ceramic unicorn bust with the hopes of removing them in the year to come. I invented the 'screwhound' for breakfast (though unlikely to have been the first to do so), vodka with grapefruit and orange juice. We played Star Wars monopoly (Dan besting both me and Beau) before cooking, once again missing the opening day at the track for the fifth, or is it sixth, year. On the menu:
Star anise and satsuma-cooked cornish hens, or something like that.
Mushroom stuffing
Apple and onion stuffing brought by Steph
Red onion, cranberry, and tangerine salad, also by Steph
and the best thing she brought, lemon nut cookies (ridiculous)
(and my additions) Mashed potatoes a la Joy of Cooking
Roasted fennel with olives and garlic
Brussel sprout hash with caramelized shallots
Pumpkin and Marscapone Pie
and caramel cake with coconut milk instead of dairy.

As for the eats today: 1 sandwich and a persimmon for breakfast, Reginelli's breadsticks with artichoke hearts and green olives, and penne marinara and fake sausage, and a persimmon, for dinner.