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Friday, September 28, 2007

 

Low at the Great American Music Hall.

Steven has loved the band Low (chairkickers.com) for many years, and we've been lucky enough to see them play live in SF many times. On Wednesday, they played at the Great American Music Hall (gamh.com) in support of their new album. I had some doubts about their new album, which contains a bunch of electronic sounds that I found distracting. But all of their concerts have been amazingly good, and the shows are interesting to watch just because the fans are so... reverent. Low plays really quiet, slow music, which is intense (emotive) rock, and the fans become so completely silent during shows to hear every little beat of a brush on the drums... The audience becomes quieter than most folks in church, except for thunderous cheering at the ends of the songs. It's something to experience, a novel bonus to the great music.

We went to see them on their second night in town, and decided to have dinner at the show. The GAMH has a full kitchen, and a sample menu is posted on line. The nearest restaurant that we really love is the fabulous pan-Asian (mostly Vietnamese-style) vegan restaurant Golden Era (goldeneravegetarian.com), but we were in a time crunch, and so decided to eat at the hall. They have "dinner tickets" available, where you receive priority seating at tables they set aside for you, though in this instance those tables were mixed in with others on the main floor, and so it clearly wasn't worth paying a premium for: the tables were reserved if you showed up late, however.

We sat at a good table and ordered. Steven ordered the veggie quesadilla, which was large and came with salsa, guacamole, and (I think) sour cream. I was feeling vegan, so I ordered the crispy tofu over curry noodle dish (which was on the day's special menu, but not on the web). It was a bowl of tender rice noodles and steamed or simmered veggies in a very mild coconut milk curry, topped with fresh herbs. It was tasty (despite being mild enough for my most spice-sensitive friends) and had a good texture. I didn't realize until I was nearly finished that there was no crispy tofu anywhere in the dish: the kitchen had forgotten it. Which is a shame, because it was a $16 "large plate," and the lack of tofu made that price seem even less appropriate.

Our meal was satisfying, and the wait staff were just attentive enough, but it seemed pricey for what it was. It was of respectable quality, and I was happy to find a vegan option on the menu. I would consider eating there again, but I would think of the prices as a premium for good seats more than for the food itself.

Low sounded GREAT, the audience loved them, and they played two encores.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

 

Indian Summer in San Francisco.

I love this time of year: the closest thing that San Francisco gets to conventional "summer." The days are sunny and warm; the nights are warm and clear. The heat makes the City's lights seem to twinkle even more than usual.

Oh, how I love San Francisco.

Monday night, after a full day of working in Eville (still pronounced like "evil"), I decided to bike around the northern shore of the City. I hopped off BART at Embarcadero Station and headed for the Ferry Building. (Within two or three minutes, I encountered more cyclists in that one block walk than I had in all of Eville and Oakland on my way out.) I rolled onto the Embarcadero, our shoreline road, and cycled north and west, along the edge of town with small packs of other bicyclists.

The air smelled clean; the sky was still bright; and everything about the City seemed relentlessly gorgeous.

Past the many odd-numbered historic pier buildings,
past the waterfront restaurants,
past the historic ships at the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park (nps.gov/safr), bobbing historically,
past the Dolphin Club's swimmers at Aquatic Park (brave souls!),
      looking at the sun's last rays of the day shining along the edges of the Bay
over the steep hill of Fort Mason
      that forces so many tourists to walk their rental bikes up the grooved slope,
past the Marina and alongside the Marina Green,
into the Presidio to Fort Point...
      where I watched the moon reflecting on the Bay, and the last rays of the sun shining on the East Bay hills before the sun set
      (and where I sat, eating a peanut butter Clif Bar, which was just the right thing to have)...
up, up, up the hill
out the Arguello gate, down into the Richmond District and onto Lake Street,
      lined with large trees
left on 8th Avenue (past the wonderful Village Market and my favorite Thai restaurant, Thai Time)
all the way into Golden Gate Park
past the tennis courts, Children's Playground, bocce courts
and out into the inner Sunset
    turning here and there to avoid traffic
    my little blinky lights blinking for all they are worth
up 7th Avenue, around Forest Hill
past West Portal
    with all of its restaurant smells
through St. Francis Wood (which always seems unpeopled)
and into the Ingleside where I live on my big, steep hill.

Which, after a 15+ mile ride (and 22+ miles for the day), I elected to walk up as my "cool down," since that last half block didn't seem all that appealing. :-)

There were bicyclists like me everywhere, cruising along the shore, rolling along the dark Presidio roads with their LED headlights glowing, gliding along through the streets of the Richmond... It was too beautiful to stay indoors, too beautiful to sit in a noisy car, too beautiful not to get out and FEEL it.

This is what I have been missing, and it is mine again.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM


Sunday, September 23, 2007

 
Bicycle Film Festival 2007 poster

7th Annual Bicycle Film Festival

You know I love bicycling, nearly as much as I love food, so it's not to surprising that I love Brendt Babur's Bicycle Film Festival. A bunch of fanatical amateur film makers crank out movies about their bike love, and that love is great to behold. Brendt has done a remarkable job of making the festival international - it now goes to 16 cities around the world - though American culture and views (including views of other cultures) dominates. His speech last year was especially moving - I love the idea that the worldwide bicycle movement(s) are really having a positive impact, and that we'll look back on these days and be happy to have taken part in something that has influenced the way so many people live and think about living.

Bicycle Film Festival 2007 (bicyclefilmfestival.com) came to San Francisco this week, and it was the happy scene it usually is - and the first autumn rain on Saturday morning didn't last long enough to ruin the small street festival associated with the event. Bicycles were valet parked all the way down the block on 16th between Mission and Capp streets, and there were throngs of people wearing messenger bags and carrying helmets everywhere you looked.

The film festival is changing over time, or perhaps my view of it is changing. There is an established bicycle culture here with many, many subcultures, and since we're the target audience and accept bike culture as fact, the films included for us are less general ('this is what biking is about') and more compartmentalized ('this is what this particular zip code is doing'). The festival is now full of films just about one particular racing subculture, or just about mountain biking, or just about one neighborhood... This is surely a natural evolution, but perhaps I still hunger for wide cultural images of what 'the movement' is like.

This year I watched two of the seven programs.

Program 5 consisted of 4 films.

Back to Back was a concise and cute short about a guy who designs bikes in his retirement, and has come up with a highly efficient, back-to-back tandem that his wife rides with him. (She's a trusting woman to handle riding backward!)

Revolutions Per Minute shows foldies being manufactured by Brompton in their facility in England.

Eat! Sleep? Bikes! was my favorite selection within this set: it's the story of a 4-person team relay riding the Furnace Creek 508 - a 508 mile, brutal endurance ride through Death Valley, featuring extreme temperatures and thousands of feet of climbing. This all-vegan team rode the entire event on fixed gear bikes!!! They deserve admiration, wonder, and perhaps some psychological counseling, but they did it - and came in ahead of dozens of teams who rode multi-geared bikes, all while raising money for Bonobos, who are 'the most vegan of primates.' Which is super-cool.

We Just Work Here is a long, artsy film showing the employees of Santa Cruz Bicycles drinking cheap beer and tearing down trails. There are color sequences, there are many black and white sequences with very deep, rich blacks, there are lots of... men. Juli Furtado works there, and they had a little clip of her, but it was a warm-up for the boy-heavy program 7, and a reminder that boys outnumber gals in the biking world in significant numbers. This film was lovingly made, but I understood the woman in the row behind me saying it was about 20 minutes too long.

After dinner at Ramblas (reviewed below) and a stop at a fine, locally owned bookstore, we watched Program 7, which is the messenger program. I haven't gone to the messenger program in the past, and I was expecting... something different. Something more serious, I think. The kids in the theater near me weren't messengers, but were young, drunk, high, and got really excited that they could read text on the screen out loud, which they did at every opportunity. The fanciest films in the series were about boys who travel internationally and bike recklessly - driving against highly busy traffic on one-way streets in New York, for example, between multiple lanes (i.e. some are between lanes 2 and 3, others between 3 and 4). That isn't my bike culture, and I was put off by it's maleness, whiteness, and by a racer (male but not white, wheee) admitting to having 30 or 40 bikes of his own - it seemed just another American-materialistic-boy fad, which was disappointing. But it is there, and I learned some things about it.

There were 14 entries and a live rap performance, so it was a big program. I think the highlights for me were:

Ski Boys, the film that set the tone for the program, featuring boys jumping off barns into sacks of leaves and old mattresses, or putting on winged costumes from which to try to fly while jumping their bike off a ramp into a pond. The audience went completely wild, demonstrating that the film was aligned perfectly with the audience.

On the Board: Freecall Messengers in San Francisco, which I liked mostly because I've seen those messengers around, and they kept biking past places I know very well.

Track Kaiju, about the "World Champion Fixie King" showing up to race in an alleycat in snowy, icy NYC. I caught a fleeting glimpse of female cyclists at the beginning of the alleycat! This film made me wonder if biking on a fixie would be a more sensible choice in snow and ice than a multi-gear bike, at least with respect to braking. To the extent breaking is possible when the road is wet and frozen.

Lucas Brunelle Worldwide Broadcast. This was the film that made me choose the messenger program; it turns out that it's also the film that made me flinch openly the most, being as sensitive as I am to the idea of falling in my current post-streetcar track-wreck-ulna-reconstruction world view. Racing in traffic; skitching in traffic; riding the wrong way in traffic; crashing; nearly being hit by cars; crashing hard on streetcar tracks... Ouch, ouch, ouch, [flinch] ouch. (Lucas Brunelle's other videos (digave.com/videos/) supply similar footage, plus mellower films of exploring the Big Dig before it opened to cars and biking on the frozen Charles River.) It was well filmed, but I suffered over it quite a bit.

This program made me think of my long-time cyclist friend (who is white and male) who disapproves of fixie-riders in general for their recklessness: that recklessness was the THEME of the program.

One of the scenes that sticks with me is of cyclists entering an intersection on an intersecting course with a turning car: the car slammed on its breaks just in time, and all the snow that had rested on its roof and hood hit the ground near where a cyclist had passed. That inspired hysterical joy in the stoned boy in front of me, but it only made me sigh with relief that no one got killed.

I would still love to ride a fixie in a velodrome, just to feel what that is like, and I still like the remarkable elegance and simplicity of fixies (also known as track bikes), but I'll stick to my own bike love, which is completely non-competitive and is about having a slow, easy-going relationship with the City I love.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)2:42 PM

 
Dumb Arguments Against Vegetarianism. I'm currently reading The Omnivore's Dilemma by Pollan, which is a great book aside from his complete inability to understand vegetarianism on any substantive level. I think it's a cultural thing - he admits right from the start that he is just doing this temporarily as an experiment, and immediately becomes self-conscious because he only knows omnivores, and doesn't wish to inconvenience them with this dietary need that he is looking for excuses not to stick with...

Although his generally thoughtful book is nowhere near as frivolous on the subject, it reminded me of the poorly reasoned anti-veg article I read earlier this year in my favorite news magazine, and of how I never got around to posting some of its defects, or the defects of many foolish arguments against eating a healthy, plant-based diet. Without picking apart that article point by point (which would bore me), I posted my all-time favorite list of Dumb Arguments Against Vegetarianism on a new webpage. There are plenty of other arguments, but they don't make me roll my eyes the way these do, so they're not my 'favorites.'

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posted by Arlene (Beth)1:51 PM

 

Ramblas

It's been quite a week of eating out for me! Which is not so good for my budget, but I had fun just the same. Saturday, in between films, we went to Ramblas Tapas (ramblastapas.com) at 557 Valencia Street here in SF. Ramblas serves small plates of fresh dishes prepared in a Spanish style. (I remember telling someone that 'i went to a tapas place,' and they wanted to know why people weren't wearing shirts (i.e., they were topless). Most people don't ask me things like that now.)

I enjoyed the meal very much.

We had an heirloom tomato salad, which was a series of small slices of a delicious red tomato, served with some kind of cress and a fresh bean puree in a light dressing. We had wax beans tossed in garlic and spices, which had a wonderful, fresh texture and a great garlicky flavor. We had roasted eggplant slices with a mixed sweet chutney, and a "Spanish tortilla" which is more like a fancy potato gratin, with thin layers of tender potatoes held together with egg, baked and served at room temperature. The bread and dipping sauce (redolent of red pepper and garlic, which I'm saying just so I can use the word 'redolent') were delicious (the bread was VERY fresh).

We were seated quickly and the service was good. The dishes came out just quickly enough so we could clear room on the table for another plate, but not all at once, which worked well. The prices were quite reasonable, and the food was fresh.

I hope to eat there again. I think the food is prepared a bit better than at nearby Picaro - it's less fried and more fresh-tasting, with more crisp, green options. In general, the list of veggie options is much longer at Ramblas.

I failed to order the sangria, however, and I'll need to do that for a complete comparison - I'm quite fond of Picaro's sangria, but I was tempted by Ramblas' exotic peach vodka drink special, and so failed to perform a sangria comparison. So I will return to Ramblas to research that item.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)1:35 PM

 

Millennium

In honor of the 8th anniversary of our first date, from which we've been together continually, we went to dinner at the very fancy Millennium Restaurant at 580 Geary here in San Francisco. Millennium is a remarkable, upscale vegan restaurant with an emphasis on freshness and complex preparations - they serve foods that took remarkable effort to prepare, are tasty and pretty to look at, and that are worth going out for.

We had some challenge in getting seated Friday evening, despite our reservation through the fabulous OpenTable on-line reservation service (opentable.com): we stared at an open table for two while waiting more than 20 minutes at some cocktail tables near the entrance (where I waited to order a cocktail in vain). The restaurant was very busy. When we were eventually seated, the empty table for two that we'd been staring at remained open for 10 more minutes, and then another couple that had also waited was seated there. Why the table had to remain open for half an hour (or more - it was open when we arrived) was a great mystery to us.

Steven immediately remarked on how wonderful it was to look through an entire menu, and see that each and every thing on it was something that he could eat. (Ahhhh.) He did seek my assurance that it was vegan, since the menu only mentioned its vegetarian nature once, and since there were descriptive words like oyster (mushroom) and "corn-lobster mushroom" (which first made me wonder what a corn-lobster was, since I think I've only had 'lobster mushrooms' under some other name).

We had heirloom tomatoes with nut "cheese" and basil, plus a deep fried ball of risotto on roasted vegetables as appetizers. The risotto was especially good, and was a clever way to serve something so filling in a small serving and a novel way. Steven had the gnocchi entree, and I had a tamale-like bowl of corn topped with delicious beans and mushrooms, with guacamole and salsa. For dessert, he had a creamy chocolate mousse cake with a lovely chocolate sail, while I had a light nectarine sorbet. I also had a couple of pomegranate margaritas (although I'm not certain that pomegranates lend themselves to mixing with tequila as much as other fruit do, through no fault of anyone - I had two, after all, for science), while he had a juice blend.

Everything was delicious; everything was elegantly prepared, attractively presented, and satisfying to eat. I barely managed to squeeze in dessert.

I think the restaurant is a great place to go on special occasions when you're looking to eat something complex. It is pricey (our meal was over $100), and the wait annoyed Steven, but it seems very worthwhile as a special occasion destination, especially if you have foodies in tow. Take your adventurous friends!

I had eaten at Millennium a few times in the long-ago past, both in the old location near Civic Center and in the new one, and believe that they restaurant is continually improving and becoming better at serving a wider range of dishes. At the old location, I had been alarmed to find some sort of mock-sausage in nearly every dish - having never liked meat sausages, the dominance of vegan mock versions made of seitan was unappealing. Due partly to my anti-sausage bias and partly due to the prevalence of seitan on the menu at that time, the dishes I had at that visit were not even half as good as the dishes I had this time around! I really do think the restaurant has become more confident in itself, and more sophisticated in its handling of fresh ingredients.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)12:52 PM


Friday, September 21, 2007

 
Talk like a pirate! I failed to note that September 19th was National Talk Like a Pirate Day (talklikeapirate.com). It is also the 8th anniversary of my first date with Steven. (Awwww. Or perhaps, Arrrrr!)

My friend M finds this overlap of events completely appropriate.

My favorite tool for the 19th is this Pirate Glossary (at io.com), which is funny in that "glossary" isn't a very pirate-y kind of word.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)11:00 PM


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

 
interior photo of SF Ferry Building, 2004

Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market.

I may never have written about one of the many farmer's markets we have in San Francisco: the one at our Ferry Building, at the foot of Market Street. It's a grand market, and features a stunning number of vendors.

Our Ferry Building, which has been a massive transportation hub when the bay was server primarily by ferry boats, had lost its importance over the years. It still served ferries, but only a on a few routes; much of the inside had been subdivided into small, unpleasant spaces, and was used for offices. But a few years ago, the building was extensively renovated, opening up the large skylights, and making the building a very pleasant public space once again. Inside is the Ferry Building Marketplace (ferrybuildingmarketplace.com), which is an expensive gourmet food mall, with a range of restaurants, bakeries, gelato shops, delicatessens, wine shops, and other specialty food shops. It's a fabulous place to people-watch! Outside, on Saturdays and Thursdays (check their website for the schedule) is the farmer's market, which unlike most other farmer's markets in SF, emphasizes locally grown ORGANIC foods.

And what organic foods! The displays are mouthwatering... There is all of that amazing California produce, of course, but also cheese, breads, pastries, sauces, herbs (bundles of dried lavender were scenting the air on Saturday), animal products of various sources, olive oils... It's remarkable.

The market has very high quality goods, and you will pay accordingly! One of the funnier things in comparing this market to the one on Alemany is the presentation. At the Ferry Building, everything is in a woven basket; when the bounty is excessive, it is arranged in remarkably tidy boxes, in single layers, cushioned on those fruit-pads you see in stores (the egg crates of fruit). The farmers are constantly ARRANGING the food for presentation purposes, often putting the last few potatoes or bundles of kale into smaller baskets they happen to have handy, so the produce isn't dwarfed by its (stylish) container. At Alemany, produce is presented in vast volumes in cardboard boxes, and when a box runs low, another box is usually dumped into the first while you watch. There are exceptions in each market, of course, but what is amusing is that both systems work well.

I don't usually visit the Ferry Plaza market because it is in the extreme northeast corner of the City, while I live close to the southern border of town. Other markets are much closer to me. However, I really wanted to escape the fog bank enveloping my neighborhood, and enjoyed my field trip into the sunshine.

I bought:
-nectarines (enormous, mildly sweet, firm, with great color and good texture)
-"American" eggplant (globe)
-green onions (we've exhausted our supply in the garden again)
-basil
-parsley
-heirloom tomatoes, three different types (a small, red, very ruffled kind; a yellow/red striped; and a red-green ovoid kind)
-rainbow chard (from the wonderful SF Zen Center's Green Gulch Farm)
-a bag of sweet peppers, in four colors
-a bag of hot peppers, in three colors
-Dapple Dandy pluots
-artisan bread with green olives
-a couple of enormous avocados.

There was much more I could have bought, but I have been so tired after work that I didn't want to risk buying fresh produce that I wouldn't be able to use promptly.

I may have bought just enough stone fruit that Steven may actually have a chance to eat some!!

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM


Saturday, September 15, 2007

 

Unlike Mom Used to Make, Part IX: My Maternal Grandparents

After the very extensive reporting that my mother provided in her entry about what she ate in childhood (see Unlike Mom Used to Make, Part VI: My Mom), I became very interested in what HER parents ate while they were growing up. Itís likely that my Grandmaís meals were similar - after all, my mother grew up on HER grandmotherís farm, where Grandma was raised, and so the odds are good.

So, I asked Grandma directly, several times, to have her tell me about what she ate. I provided a printout of my motherís report, plus output from Wikipeda about Polish Cuisine, so she could use that to compare and contrast.

My grandmother, who is also my most frequent correspondent, provided this report:
I will get to giving you a food list - the one your mom gave you is kinda like what we ate - [it does] say something about being a child of the depression - but that did not mean farm folks. It was a busy life - the food was great! I never made a casserole! Yes - once I had scalloped potatoes explode in the oven. Was a sorry mess! Havenít made one since.

[Promise of additional food writing on vacation.]

Walt [my grandfather] shops, and he will get stuff that he does not usually get if I make a list. He likes a roast chicken, turkey or half cow. Only kidding! That is his style - [he] does not mind the same all week.

When your mom was small and before Carol became a Mrs. [ ], we did buy stuff like Ragu. Polish people are not much for pasta - egg noodles, yes, but not the good stuff Italians eat. My mom just jazzed up tomato paste for us. All kinds of potatoes - especially potato pancakes. Jewish people make their pancakes with egg and onions. Jewish dishes are like many of our Polish type because there were very many Polish Jews! (In Poland.)
Iíve been waiting for the promised additional food list since March, but it hasnít come yet, so I think Iíll instead supplement this with a report from my mother.

[Iím not being very consistent, but I will try only capitalizing Mom, Grandma, and Grandpa, and leaving the other words as they are.]

*

My mother was in Florida last week visiting my grandparents and helping care for my grandfather, who has been in and out of the hospital recently with a wide range of systemic health problems. He has lung cancer, an enlarged prostate (8 times normal size), blood pressure problems, heart trouble... Grandpa is 89 years old, and is in great discomfort. Mom, a retired registered nurse, was especially good to have present during a tough time like this because my grandparents arenít especially interested in modern medicine for prevention or ongoing care - just for emergencies. So, if Grandpa has a crisis, he will go in and have doctors work on him, but he is a non-compliant patient as soon as he leaves the hospital, and goes back to doing whatever he likes - he wonít take medicine according to a schedule, or change his habits, or go to follow-up appointments unless he wants something from them. Since he has been in extreme pain and so has been willing to deal with doctors, though not necessarily to listen to them, my mother went to assist in translating helpful medical-ese into something her folks can hear.

My mother also helped out with cooking and shopping, and so she had a food report.

The first thing Mom told me is that, for a variety of reasons, my grandfather has primarily been on a ďpastry and coffeeĒ diet for the past year. Iím not quite clear on why he started, but just about all heís been eating regularly is pie, various pastries (including apple turnovers), and coffee. Seriously. When youíre 89, you can do as you please, and thatís what heís been doing. However, his intestines are not amused.

Momís summary of what grandpa is willing to eat is as follows:

-pie, pastry, and coffee (obviously)
-3 minute eggs. Grandpa would rant and refuse to eat if the eggs appeared to have been cooked a moment more or less. My mother timed them at exactly 3 minutes, but that didnít stop the refusals, which makes me suspect that Grandpa just enjoys being fussy (and being waited on).
-square-cut canned peaches. Not halves. Not any other fruit or fruit cocktail.
-one particular brand of yogurt with fruit on the bottom. No others, and not any of the pre-mixed yogurts.
-mashed white potatoes. He had a fit because Mom mashed red potatoes for him: she left some of the skin on, which tipped him off, and she had to argue that the inside of the red potatoes is the same color as the inside of the white potatoes, and so there is really not enough difference for him to refuse them completely.

My mother also learned that Grandpa is the only member of the household to do grocery shopping - not just generally, but exclusively. (Grandma: ďI donít shop.Ē)

The foods that Grandpa buys for Grandma are generally as follows:
-tuna fish
-hot dogs
-potatoes

and for himself:
-eggs
-bacon
-cottage cheese
-Gatorade
-coffee
-diced canned peaches.

When Mom arrived, the refrigerator contained mayonnaise, mustard, and pickles, which begged the question: what do these condiments go with? Mayo and Gatorade? Bacon and pickles? What?

Yes, all you nutritionists are flinching right now. I know. Itís not good. Mom said that her folks were very concerned about the cost of food, and I know that Grandma has specifically complained about the cost of fresh greens and different times of year, but veggies tend to be cheaper than bacon and eggs, so thatís not the full story. Grandpa has a long history of being frugal in strange extremes, and so this is likely more a function of that habit than of any actual economic necessity.

I recall visiting my grandparents in 1982 or so, and all they had in the house were hot dogs (in huge, 16+ packs), potatoes, margarine, and tangerine juice Grandma had made from their trees out back. So this shouldnít really surprise me. And, my grandparents are Polish, and so youíd expect that their diets would involve Polish sausages, potatoes, cabbage, and dark breads with butter, but this isnít quite that, either.

My mother tried to diversity their diets a bit while she was shopping and cooking for them. She bought:
-eggplant, which Grandma likes to fry or to pickle (!)
-frozen broccoli
-cucumbers, sour cream, and vinegar, to make a little side salad
-Kielbasa, the famous Polish sausage
-bananas
-grapes
-prunes
-peaches
-chicken for sandwiches (and an unspecified bread)
-prepared Cuban sandwiches with lettuce and tomato. I donít know what a Cuban sandwich is, though I suspect itís like a torta.
-tapioca pudding
-frozen yogurt with fruit

and she bought the ingredients for and prepared beef stroganoff (ground beef, mushrooms, cream of mushroom soup, sour cream, onions, garlic, and elbow noodles) and Texas hash (salty, canned corn beef fried in butter with cooked potatoes).

*

I got some other reports from my Mom. You probably recall that I inventoried her cupboards and revealed her to be the survivalist that she was unconsciously becoming. She was thinking along those lines, and so she observed a few things. She also made some general remarks about what's going on there.

Her mother has more than 200 drinking glasses.

Grandpa will only uses the dishes that are left on the counter, so they eat from the same few dishes over and over.

My Grandma had 21 year old baby food in her cupboard. (When my mother pulled it out, my Grandmother named the grandchild it was for: he is now 23.)

Grandpa is on anti-coagulants, which induce what is basically hemophilia - he could easily bleed to death from any minor injury while on this medication. Despite this, my youngest aunt believed it appropriate for Grandpa to work a tractor and handle sharp objects in the yard. Also, there are a variety of foods which are temporarily off-limits to my grandfather, because of the drug. He has to avoid vitamin K in particular, and his list of prohibited foods includes green vegetables, cranberry juice, and aspirin.

On a nearly related note, one of my nephews, from whom my grandparents periodically take advice, was quoted as saying "vitamins kill." No, actually, vitamins are compounds required for our bodies to function. In this particular instance, Grandpa needs to avoid a few vitamins, but this isn't the context this advice came from, and you could see how advice like that could lead to the sort of diet my grandparents currently have.

My grandparents won't throw out extremely outdated medicine, on the grounds that it cost good money.

My grandfather has been raising and racing pigeons as a hobby since he was 12 years old.

Wildlife in the area include: giant turtles, big horned steers (well, not very wild), sand hill cranes, and egrets.

The town of Land O' Lakes, which is vaguely where my grandparents live for postal purposes, was a historically black town, and the cemetery dates to the 1700s. Evidence of voodoo rituals in recent times keeps many visitors away from the cemetery. Especially at odd hours. Though not all visitors, apparently.

*

So, that's my Mom's report on what my grandparents actually eat, current to this month.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:22 AM


Thursday, September 13, 2007

 
Putting the photo in photocopiers. I went to architecture school before the advent of home desktop scanners, small office fax machines, or even consumer digital cameras. (That sounds strange, doesn't it? It's like being born before the invention of the car. I have known many people who were born before cars were invented, and even my own parents grew up before cars were common, - my maternal grandmother scandalized her neighborhood by driving, which wasn't considered appropriate for women at the time, for half-baked reasons now forgotten - but this is increasingly difficult for people born after the CD player was invented to imagine.) I prepared all of my drawings by hand, using pencils or technical pens filled with ink. I used both modern and antique substrates, from plain papers, to 100% cotton vellums, to polyester mylars, but everything I made came from my hands, using simple hand tools. I was especially good using ink on mylar: I was told many times, as a high compliment, that my work looked like it had been generated by a computer. (At the time, that would have meant that a pen plotter would have output it. The pen plotter is one of the geeky-coolest output devices ever. Remind me to gush about its elegance and beauty some time.)

I took a Computer Aided Drafting class in college, but the software was cumbersome and rather silly at the time, and seemed rather limited, even in the areas where it should have been strong, such as for drafting complex curves.

The same held true when I worked in an architecture firm in the 1980s: we did most things by hand. Certain very large drawings went to our CADD department for input and output, but the CADD department was just two people, and they were kind of like... typists if you think back to when typing was considered a technical specialty, but far more modern. (I had friends who dropped out of architecture school to instead get a certificate as CAD techs, which meant they'd do the input and output, and be paid well for their technical expertise.) At the architecture firm, I used fancy commercial products like Zipatone, which were sticky sheets of patterned or toned film that you could use to 'color in' areas of drawings - comic books used those quite a bit, you'd recognize the dot patterns if you saw them. I also used products like Letraset transfers (letraset.com), rub-on fonts that you could use to label drawings. We also used label makers that printed our text out on clear, adhesive film, which was a huge advance, because it guaranteed appropriate spacing between characters for the few fonts that were available. I remember spending days before a presentation, just preparing labels ("north elevation, south elevation, grade, north") to add to presentation drawings to give them that professional look...

Yes, I was "Old School." (Old now, in school then.)

One of my constant frustrations before the fax machine and/or digital imagery came into wide use was the phone conversations I'd have with colleagues about architecture projects. They'd be some oddball shape on a site, or a three dimensional obstacle, or a detail, and we'd have these completely futile conversations over the phone where we would describe complex, three-dimensional visual information verbally, and try to explain how to or how NOT to draw it in two dimensions. Now, this wouldn't be a problem: we'd scan a sketch and e-mail it, or photograph it with a phone camera and send it, or fax it, or we'd be working on it digitally anyway and just do a screen shot of the part and send it over...but that wasn't an option then.

I used photocopy machines (xerography machines) quite a bit then. If you had an image of a detail, you could very precisely enlarge or shrink it to the size you needed. Everything we did we put a measuring scale on, so we could confirm the precision of the enlargement (or measurable anolomalies, which existed in some machines, and which we could adjust for later)... And we could copy photographs, though in general the drawings we were doing were of views that could not be achieved through a camera, but they were still useful for certain reference information, and we usually included reference information in our photographs. (Always useful: friends who are exactly x feet tall.)

Despite the advance of so many other image-reproducing technologies in the meantime, the photocopy machines I used then were much, much, much better than those available now. You could reproduce photographs in the "photograph" mode with remarkably smooth tonal precision. The scaling tools were accurate. The images output were stunningly clean. Keep in mind that I was using tools made for the graphics industry - we're talking about machines that likely cost fifty grand and were made by companies like Kodak. My favorite copy machine was at the architecture firm. It was about size of a compact car, but only half as wide. It could do everything machines do now - two sided copies, stapling, collating, folding - but the feeder technology was different: it pulled the sheets in with a noisy vacuum, and if you wanted to make 50 copies of your 100 page document, it would suck the bundle through 50 times - it had no digital memory to store the data, and was making a direct electro-photographic image each time. And those images were really, really good.

Imagine my dismay when I recently decided to make some xerography negatives to use for a contact printing process on a photocopier, and realized that it couldn't handle duplicating a black and white, continuous tone photograph - and that it doesn't even HAVE a photo mode.

Duh. Of course it doesn't: photocopiers now are primarily used to make thousands of copies of memos that no one will ever read, in plain black and white type. There's no reason to provide a photo mode. Or to have modern copiers handle delicate tonal images of any kind - even company logos are usually designed to reproduce well under the worst conditions.

I didn't think that I'd find myself missing copier technology from the 1980s in 2007, but there it is. Yes, I have a professional inkjet printer which I routinely use to make "digital negatives" for contact printing, but it can't make negatives as dense as toner-carbon is, which I need for this special project. No, laser printers don't seem to make fine enough negatives: they have a sort of moiré pattern in the midtones which is undesirable and which is visible in the print.

I'm sure you're thinking this is a really arcane need, and it is - I'm contact printing photographs in the sun, for goodness sakes - but in the early days of xerography, artists had high hopes for the new medium as an artistic one. It is a sort of photographic process, one that uses an electrostatic charge rather than wet chemistry to form an image, and the SPEED with which it can form that image is truly remarkable. Artists prepared presentations to show off the ability of the new medium. You probably haven't seen photocopies in your local museum, though: I think the ease, cheapness and ubiquity of the photocopy warned artists (outside of the punk rock world) away from using it as a tool for fine art: it calls into doubt the entire idea of a "unique" piece of art, the way photography has (and photography's status as "art" is still questioned constantly because of it). And if you sell one really great piece, there's nothing to stop your purchaser from making more!

So I miss the vast Kodak copier of my college years, though I'm happy I'm not trying to store it, power it, maintain it, or run it in my garage. :-)

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

 
I see their point. I know I'm a paper fetishist, but just the same, I see the point of this writer: FOUND Magazine | Paper Can't Win (foundmagazine.com).

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:56 PM


Saturday, September 08, 2007

 

Self-portrait on Saturday with tea.

my garden, September 8thIt's a cool, gray Saturday morning, and I'm at home waiting for my tea to steep. I'm out of genmaicha (you may cry for me now), and so I'm drinking one of two new teas I picked up from the The Republic of Tea's line: Cranberry Blood Orange Fair Trade Certified Tea, "Fine black tea with cranberries and natural blood orange flavor." It's black tea with cranberries and orange peel in it, basically, and it's pleasantly fruity, but still clearly a black tea.

I also have their Pomegranate Green Tea ("Superfruit Tea"), which is a combination of green tea, hibiscus (which I love in just about anything), currants, rosehips, blackberry leaves, and both pomegranate "flavoring" and juice. That one tastes more like a juice than a tea, but has no calories naturally.

[Insert: a comic book representation of the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, in which the matcha ordinarily used has been replaced with either of these two, fruity teas. Scenario one: all goes well until the tea is served, at which point the honorable guest asks the honarable hostess what kind of sh*t she is trying to pull, and if she thinks this is a funny joke. The honorable guest slams her cup down on the tatami without remarking on its fine craftsmanship, and gracefully storms out. Scenario two: the tea is spilled on Ranma, who turns into a boy; Akane kicks his butt. Scenario three: the honorable guests say that the tea is a nice change, express surprise over the absence of calories, and then the Republic of Tea mascot walks into the frame with a big smile on his pot head and bows to the tea ceremony participants to end the commercial.]

Tea is my favorite drink, along with "herb teas" which don't contain the particular camellia that is tea (by definition), so they are really herbal infusions. Tea is inexpensive, usually calorie-free, often caffeinated (insert hyperactive smiley-face here), and really, really tasty. My mother let me drink tea sometimes when I was a kid: the tea I remember most was "Constant Comment" (a tea for those of us who simply cannot shut up), though I also liked "Bengal Spice" [growling sound].

Right now, the following teas are on my tea shelf:

-the Green Tea that Cannot Be Named, mostly because I can't read kanji to save my life, and the characters aren't listed on Wikipedia's fabulous green tea page, probably because I'm trying to translate the locality or the company name rather than the type of tea
-Jasmine Tea, made by the unfortunately named "China National Native Produce and Animal By-Products I/E Corp., Fujian Tea Branch."
-Dean & Deluca's Gumpowder Imperial Green Tea, which I haven't yet opened to try. All three of the teas so far on the list were a gift from my friend Helen, who received more tea in gifts recently than she could safely consume, and so elected to share with very very lucky me
-the two fruity Republic of Tea teas listed above
-Choice Organic Pepperment "herb tea," whose sole ingredient is organic peppermint leaf.

This is the smallest strategic tea stockpile I have had in the house for some time, and may induce a tea-buying panic the next time I am in Peet's. (Mmmm. Peet's.)

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posted by Arlene (Beth)2:00 PM

 
It feels like a fall day, because it is one, locally at least. The garden has that look that comes at this time of year, when the plants are going to seed, having spent their lovely flowers some time ago, each making their plans to completely take over the garden. (My money is on the borage, which has quite a head start on full garden domination, plus allies in the form of all those happy bees.)

I am relaxing with my tea, thinking up all sorts of categories of new web pages to write (an index of my record collection, with commentary; the revival of my Nepal travelogue from 1997; the revival of some of my content from my pre-teahousehome.com website which was hosted on netcom (which I cannot find on archive.org now!); a list of all the movies I've rented this year from my DVD-by-mail subscription service; photos of all my friends naked (actually photos of the faces of all of my friends pasted onto either of two nearly-naked bodies, depending on gender and how much caffeine I have had during editing); etc.), trying to decide whether or not to write a really smutty novel for NaNoWriMo, and trying not to think of all the work-related nightmares I've had over the last 10 days. Only some of them have been set at work; a couple of them were nightmares in that they were condensed, slightly intensified versions of actual events which I had not enjoyed at the time, in a way that filled me with dread. Others just covered themes of struggle which were reminiscent of work.

This morning's dream was about trying to save three delicate fish (two orange, one calico) whose water had been abruptly taken from them, and who were suffocating. I hadn't put them in their situation, but I was completely and solely responsible for saving them, and did not have the resources to do so. I scooped them up from the floor and tried to put them into various containers, which would not hold water, or could not hold enough water to cover them. I got assistance from friends, who rushed in with water that was too hot for them, and which contained chloramine which burns gills. The fish began to wither visibly while struggling, and their pain was almost audible... Finally, I improvised a container from a Plexiglas box, which only covered them with adequate water at a certain angle, and I managed to get a pitcher of cool, safe (chloramine-free) water which finally covered them, and I nearly cried with relief... but it was still not a permanent solution.

Yes, I know. I know. I do.

*

My neighbor's plum tree is losing its leaves, as are many other trees around the neighborhood. We don't have those glorious, gold-red forests that they have back east as the whether turns cold, because fall isn't the time of year when it turns cold: this is our summer. It has been stunningly warm at least half the days this week, perfect days for hiding out in the shade with a book, or going for a walk after sunset. These are the sorts of nights that I long to bike around the City, covered with blinky lights, but my biking isn't confident enough to ride smoothly over uncertain pavement the way I used to.

I am uncertain how to mark the seasonal change (which officially occurs on September 23, 2007, on the fall equinox) with food. Though I suspect it will involve the butternut squash I bought last week.

If any of you have a good, vegan, stuffed squash-blossom recipe, share it with me before it is too late to get those at the Heart of the City farmer's market!

I'm going to go outside and try to persuade our apple tree to give me some more apples.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)1:55 PM


Thursday, September 06, 2007

 
Conformity, culture and food. Part of the reason I always informally interrogate people about what they ate for dinner as kids is that I'm interested in the influences that lead people to choose the foods they do. Americans on the whole are having a lot of health problems (like that amazing 50% cardiovascular disease rate) based on the foods they choose, and I've been very interested in how much people think about what they choose eat, and what attachments they have to specific foods. I'm also interested in culture-specific foods, since many of the foods I love now are not from my own ethnic background.

Something I am figuring out is that there is an idea of what "normal" is that our fiercely conformist culture relies on when making these decisions. I have always known people who were pressured in their youth to take up some habit (smoking, drinking really cheap crappy beer) because their peers did it, and it was the "normal" thing to do. I have always known that advertising has a huge influence, and that otherwise reasonable people I know will go out and buy something that looks stupid on them because an ad-filled clothing magazine says that it is the "normal" and fashionable thing to wear.

But I don't think I've really understood how wanting to be normal affects how people make food choices.

*

When my father had a massive heart attack and required a triple bypass, I was certain that he would take his doctor's horror at his description of his pre-bypass diet as a sign that something wasn't right. He was given some instruction on the subject, which he wasn't especially interested in. I bought my dad a bunch of books by Dean Ornish on how you can restore your heart's health through dietary changes. However, I should have known from reading the old alt.food.fat-free newsgroups that my father wasn't going to be interested. He didn't want to eat for heart health - he wanted to eat the diet he considered to be normal, to show that he had recovered. Changing his diet would make him feel more like a patient, or someone who was recovering from a life threatening condition - and even if that were true, that wasn't "normal." (Unfortunately, having heart attacks in one's 40s is "normal" on my father's side of the family.)

My father, who is prone to going on a fad diet every year or so, even went on the horrifically high cholesterol Atkins diet a few years ago! He eventually decided that it was unbalanced. (Duh.) But even when he went on it, he thought that was a "normal" thing to do, health consequences be damned.

I have friends who go on fad diets routinely, but I've never really thought of those seriously. Fad diets don't work in the long-term. All diets that reduce your caloric intake enough can make you lose weight, but if they aren't healthy enough to use on an ongoing basis, the weight loss will fail when people return to their old habits. I've always thought of fad diets as forms of temporary insanity on the part of my friends, rather than culturally-influenced food decisions. But they are out there, and there are new ones coming out all the time!

*

I may have mentioned that a friend of mine said he doesn't eat any rice other than white rice (of which there are many types, of course), because he is Chinese, and that's what Chinese people eat. Even though that's not exclusively true - not here in SF, where there are Chinese people in every type of restaurant, eating things that are only "normal" in parts of the world quite remote from eastern China where he was born - he remains certain about the bounds of "normal" rice eating practice.

*

I also may have mentioned that I told a girlfriend at work about how one of my sisters-in-law was going to make me and Steven a lovely veggie primavera pasta dinner, and my girlfriend said, "Oh, is that in again?"

(Can you imagine? Deciding on whether or not to eat home-cooked food on whether or not it is "in?")

*

Watching my father choose his meals post-bypass, it's plain he was being influenced by his own idea of normal diets, and by trends and fads that were popular (and conventional, and "normal" for the time). Since I've never really cared what people around me were eating - since my own tastes are spicier, hotter, and more veg-oriented than most of my relatives and peer group - I haven't really thought about the desire to be "normal" in dining choices. But it's there as an influence. I might start asking about that in my food interviews.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

 

How to cook fresh edamame

It occurs to me that I might forget, since I get fresh edamame so rarely, and so I should note it here.

It's easy: rinse off the pods to get rid of any dirt, and toss them into boiling water for five minutes. You can serve them warm, or rinse them in cold water for a while to cool them off. Eat by picking up the pods and squeezing the soybeans into your mouth.

Trader Joe's supermarkets sell edamame frozen in both pods and pre-shelled. You get more for your money with the shelled, but then you have to figure out how to eat them without touching them. :-) I'm just saying that eating them out of their furry, firm, fresh-smelling green pods is pleasant, and so you miss out if someone shells them for you.

These are great for breakfast. With green tea. Genmaicha, specifically. (But what isn't good with genmaicha?)

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM


Monday, September 03, 2007

 

Fanaticism!

tintype (ferrotype) of pincushion protea by A.E. GravesIn my private journals, nearly all I write about is photography. My compulsion to write about food is taken care of here. I usually use personal journals to vent stray trivia about work, my physical imperfections, my relationships, and my dreams for the future, but photography has somehow bumped most of that off the pages. If anyone were interested in my personal life and got a hold of my diary over the past few years, there are long periods of time when they'd be able to learn very little about me and my daily habits, aside from what I've been trying out in my near-darkroom.

[Yet, I'm singing the Smith's song 'I'm so sorry' or at least a piece of it:"You had to sneak in to my room just to read my diary, it was just to see just to see, all the things you knew I'd written about you, oh so many illustrations..."]

I have many passions in life, but certainly the one that is most boring to read about, and yet which I write about relentlessly, is photography.

Oh, how I love photography.

Recently I've been working in three processes more than others: POP (printing out paper) printing, which involves a silver chloride (rather than silver bromide) specialty paper; vandyke brown printing, as revealed with several new prints in my recently updated gallery at alternativephotography.com, and wet plate collodion on polished aluminum (ferrotype or tintype). The photo accompanying this entry is an example of one of my tintypes, which is an approximately 4" x 5" metal plate with a delicate positive silver image on the dark polished side. The plates are extraordinarily labor intensive to produce - I make coat the plates by hand with a two-part emulsion, and then expose and process it while still wet - but there's something about having this enormous, grainless positive appear in the fixer that is just amazing.

I've been renting studio time, a large format camera, and chemical access at the extremely fabulous Rayko Photo Center (raykophoto.com) to do this, and it is completely addictive. (I hope to write more about that soon.)

My friend Jay happened to be at Rayko while I was renting studio time, and he watched me prepare, expose, and develop a plate. He quickly concluded that I was nuts, but he could tell that I was enjoying myself, which means that Jay is perceptive.

The happy news for me is that the session was relentlessly productive: I made 11 plates, and each one came out better than any of the plates I'd taken in the workshop weeks ago. There were two big differences: one was that I had completely reliable equipment, and so I didn't lose half my output to film holder problems, as I did during the workshop. The second is that organizer of the wet plate program there came up with an ingenious and well-tested rental lighting setup, which made all of my images come out as I'd hoped. I still have a lot of practicing to do, but I'm thrilled with the experiments so far.

I thought I had figured out the best way to make a POP print, but it turns out that modern photocopiers are much lamer than those I used in the past back in architecture school, and none of my tests this weekend with color copier negatives (which could achieve the midtones that the lame monochrome copiers could not) have lived up to my initial experiments. I'll have to try again, and get ready for another sunny weekend day to sunprint my images by hand.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)9:27 PM


Sunday, September 02, 2007

 
Food as an industry. Now that I work at a company that is in the quick service restaurant business, I have even more ways to read about food from the food service industry's perspective. I sympathize more with companies that are humiliated by health violations or have recalls for their products. I am also much more aware of the global nature of large food service companies.

I am someone who eats locally. Living in California, with its abundant supply of fabulous markets and farmer's markets, where just one county away in two directions just about anything I would want to eat can be grown, this is a relatively easy proposition. I will even choose locally grown produce over organic produce from far away, since that is better for the communal good: the pollution that transporting organic frozen dessert from some distant state doesn't seem as advantageous to my neighbors as the benefit I'll get from eating pesticide-free dessert. (I know what I get out of it, but I can't see what they'd get.) There are certainly specialty foods I buy from abroad, but most of what I eat and drink is grown in California.

The food service industry isn't interested in such issues, and so all sorts of processed foods are sourced abroad. This poses some interesting challenges.

China food safety woes show U.S. vulnerability: It's not what you eat but where it comes from (marketwatch.com, 8/29/07) has a slightly misleading subtitle (what you eat is ALWAYS important), but some interesting facts about food imports. The U.S. was importing 15% of "total food consumption" in 2005, and that number is going up. Considering our country's agrarian history, that's odd. It shouldn't be a surprise though: growing food can be labor intensive, and while that is a benefit for any country trying to keep people employed, it means that the rush to cut labor costs by industry leads naturally to outsourcing food-making, too.

While there is some degree of panic right now, in the wake of food imports that have killed thousands of domestic pets, the U.S. has its share of domestically produced food safety crises also. Interesting item from the article:
Unsafe food takes a significant toll on the public. Each year, nearly 76 million Americans contract food-borne diseases, about 325,000 require hospitalization and about 5,000 die, according to a Government Accountability Office report released in February.
To accompany that, Marketwatch also has a Food contamination timeline (undated) featuring famous health crises precipitated by industrially packaged, processed, and distributed foods. Most of the crises listed were created by domestically produced foods.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 AM


Saturday, September 01, 2007

 
Valencia dining. I love the food at Dosa South Indian Cuisine (dosasf.com), but perhaps I like even more that it is so novel to the neighborhood that it has lines out the door nearly every night it is open. That distracts people from taking up table space that I want at Herivore (herbivorerestaurant.com) just a few doors down.

This means other people are standing in the street, while I'm sitting down with a soju ginger cocktail and a steaming plate of lemongrass noodles: rice linguine piled high with grilled sweet peppers, zucchini, oyster mushrooms, and other veggies, tofu, and a heavenly lemongrass-ginger sauce. It is absolutely heavenly. I've never had a bad thing on the Herbivore menu, but as fabulous as many of the other dishes are (lasagna!), 'lemongrass noodles' is the dish I remember when I'm walking down Valencia, heading there.

*

As an added bonus, Herbivore (and Dosa) are just a few blocks away from Dog Eared Books (dogearedbooks.com) and my favorite Mission District bookstore, Modern Times Bookstore (mtbs.com).

This most recent trip to Modern Times, I found two items I couldn't resist (and then fled the store before caving in to others). The first is Theme Magazine (thememagazine.com), which is a magazine of "global Asian culture." This primarily means it's a magazine about Asian designers, illustrators, and authors living in the northern hemisphere in hip cities. I bought it because it had a section on journals and sketchbooks, topics of great fetishism for me. It isn't that I didn't know that professional illustrators keep lovely personal sketchbooks, but I wanted details, and the magazine delivered - which was pleasant to see. The magazine was attractive throughout, and I was only teased by my partner briefly for buying an Asian culture magazine, what with my past "honorary Asian" status and all. (Thanks, Andy. :-)) Westernized Asian culture is quite familiar to me, and has probably been the dominant cultural influence out of many, many cultural influences I had while growing up.

As I was reading it, I had to wonder: what would a magazine devoted to MY global culture look like? Would it be a magazine devoted to bi-racial and/or multi-racial women, or multi-racial people in general? And, would our art (and our diaries and sketchbooks) look any different from anyone else's? Theme was full of photos of Asians, but I don't know that hypothetical publications I produced would be exclusive ethnically - heck, I don't know that many of my kind! I look at my work and my cousin's work, and I don't think anyone would guess what we are right away - even the photos of bears (the big hairy men, not the bruins) at various SF events would only hint a bit about my cousin, but not tell anyone about our ethnicity.

I think we're culturally more big-city (and thus naturally more multi-cultural) in our subjects than many people. I'm going to have to give that some more thought, and perhaps conspire with my cousin to see what he thinks.

*

Also from Modern Times, Raw by Roxanne Klein and Charlie Trotter (tenspeed.com), a gorgeous food preparation book with coffee table book styling. I bought it primarily for the gorgeous food pictures, but also because of the fact that it is full of vegan recipes, and that means they are all available to me.

Years ago, I stopped buying cookbooks containing meat recipes, since it didn't make sense to buy a book for a mere chapter or two of things I could use. My ongoing slide toward veganism makes even some vegetarian cookbooks less useful to me. (I had actually gone to Modern Times specifically to buy an encyclopedic cookbook on a wide range of cuisines, which I had long resisted because I didn't think I'd use most of the recipes. A few intriguing recipes in it had won me over, but Steven randomly opened the book to a chapter on eggs, and pointed out the uselessness of that entire section... How many years has it been since I bought an egg? There are eggs in dishes I eat outside of home, especially at crepe places or dessert cafes, but I don't cook with eggs at all.)

I have a girlfriend who goes for various periods of time eating almost exclusively fresh, uncooked foods, which it has an obvious appeal here in a place where we can get some really GREAT fresh produce. There are some obvious health advantages to eating fresh, unprocessed foods, and the book appears to be full of clever recipes for non-salad dishes that I would never have come up with on my own. So I'll give these dishes a try, and will report on how they turn out.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM


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