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Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Food is everywhere: the May 31st issue of the Nation contains a discussion of Dieter Roth by Arthur Danto (, paid subscription required) which is so food related, I'm unsure of how I haven't heard of the late Mr. Roth. His works include book labels on sausages and a 1970 exhibit "which consisted of thirty-seven suitcases in assorted shapes, stuffed with various cheeses, and called Staple Cheese - a play on 'steeple chase' to which Roth added '(A Race)' in case someone missed the point."

I'm leaving out the part about what happened as the exhibit ripened.

He also worked extensively in chocolate. He cast busts of himself in chocolate, among other subjects. Better than a bunny, don't you think? If he weren't dead, I would love for Roth to prepare an Easter basket of his work. (But since he is dead, if he did prepare one now, I wouldn't want it. :)

There's a big Roth retrospective at New York's Museum of Modern Art (, in flash), and this article very much makes me wish to go.

(Random coincidence: Danto's article refers to Roth's work in Iceland, partly inspired by a new island that erupted while he was there. This same island is featured in the book on Grand Canyon geology I was reading, and was something that S and I both discussed and oohed and aahed over. And so it jumped out at me, though it would have been meaningless to me a week ago.)
posted by Arlene (Beth)12:10 PM

Great link:'s glossary, which describes Asian cooking ingredients, and describes how some ingredients are used.


I've been doing web searches on the uses of bitter melon, which is abundant at the farmer's market. I asked my friends whose parents are from China how they eat it, and got two answers:
> I don't really like them. I can eat them and make goofy faces, though.


We have them once in a while, but usually cooked with meats.... FYI, some of them can be very bitter - there is no way of knowing until you actually bite into it. I think my mom usually soaks them in salt water for a while after she cores them to try to get the bitterness out.
On line there are a variety of articles about medicinal uses of the plant, and suggestions to serve them raw or fried with tomatoes and onions, or with both of those in scrambled eggs. Which would be more promising if I liked eggs...


Interesting site: Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages contains discussions of 117 spices including translations of their names in multiple languages, history of how they came to be named, chemistry, plus photographs and origins of the plants that produce them. This is excellent, even though it reminds me that there are spices I don't have!! (Yet.)
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:32 AM

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Today I went to see "Geisha: Behind the Painted Smile" at the Asian Art Museum here in the City. The paintings, shamisen, kimonos, hair ornaments, and photographs were lovely. There was also a video screen with two videos playing: one showing a maiko (geisha in training) performing her final maiko dance for customers before being promoted to full geisha, and another interviewing a mature geisha. The mature geisha was very frank in describing how she came to be a traditional entertainer, and how her particular district of geisha are rather rowdy, especially when they drink. It inspired lots of giggles from the women in the audience, who liked the idea of rowdy mature women in ultra-femme costume.

The exhibit assumes you don't know much about geisha, and goes out of its way to note that westerners have never been attuned to the subtleties of dress which distinguish geisha from either ordinary women in formal dress or from legal prostitutes in Japan. Outside misinterpretations of these signals created a variety of misconceptions about what geisha do, and about Japanese women in general. The interpretive materials try not to beat you over the head in correcting misperceptions, but are persistent. It doesn't detract from the exhibit, but I found it amusing.


Viewing fine art made me thirsty. I dropped by Cafe Asia within the museum to have tea and a snack. (It was crowded until after 2 p.m.!) The menu teased me with tasty-sounding soups, but the staff quickly told me that they were based on chicken and fish stocks.

I had a yummy soba noodle salad with my 'Buddha Blue' pot of tea. There were also pastries, drinks, a tofu bento box, and a mixed veggie in sesame-ginger sauce dish available, though that last one sounded too much like things I make at home.

After eating, I was tempted by both the well illustrated book that went along with the Geisha exhibition, and the promotional/souvenir fan featuring the mouth and neck of a geisha, which you could use to pose for entertaining photos. It's pretty clever.

Instead, I came home to read cookbooks...
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:46 PM

Monday, June 28, 2004

Eating in the Library

I happen to love cafes. The entire idea of sitting down to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee in a place designated for exactly that purpose is wonderful. It makes much more sense than grabbing a beverage to go, rushing back to your desk, and dividing your attention among a dozen or more details, not deeply contemplating any one thing. Taking time to enjoy a caffeinated beverage in a relaxing setting is... civilized.

Today, after perusing a dozen photography books and selecting some cookbooks to try out at the San Francisco Main Public Library, I dropped by the Library Cafe for a latte. But once I saw the marinated artichoke sandwich on their extensive menu, I knew a latte would not be enough.

Focaccia, cheese, roasted red peppers, spinach leaves, and marinated artichoke hearts, heated in one of those clever sandwich presses. It was WONDERFUL.

The menu is broader than indicated here: there was a very wide selection of pastries, several brown rice burritos, and more than one soup of the day. There were sandwich specials, such as toasted avocado and cheese on a roll. There were plenty of healthful and tasty-sounding veggie options.

The cafe is located on the lowest level of the library, near the auditorium and a small gallery. This gallery is currently displaying "Street Festivals of San Francisco: photographs by Hiromi Oda & Kieran Ridge," images from the City's festive and diverse parades (Cherry Blossom, Pride, etc.).

There are plenty of tables (most set up for one chair, so you have room to spread your books out to review while you eat), including well lit booths in a sunny-colored area. The space has interesting geometry resulting from the rounded glass wall and and elaborate wheelchair ramp above: the wall provides daylight to the space below. It's a quiet little food oasis in a very busy building.

posted by Arlene (Beth)11:32 PM

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Farmer's market notes: tomatoes are getting better! Many on display were still slightly green. Many of the heirloom, ruffled types were splitting, as if they'd been overwatered, which ruined my plan to buy whole milk mozzarrella to eat with them, along with a little fresh basil, and some olive oil. (Mmmmm.)

Fewer booths are selling strawberries, but they're still $5 for half a flat. Blackberries are appearing but are expensive. Sweet, long, green chilies are abundant and cheap. Most of the plums were tart. Peaches and white nectarines are still quite sweet, but are firmer for unknown reasons. There was a wide range of sweetness from booth to booth.


I have no idea what people do with bitter melon. But it's a very neato-looking fruit.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:37 PM

Every time my Atkins-following father calls me, he claims that my mother weighs more than she should because she eats too much fruit.

All those of you omnivores out there who follow Weight Watchers, which unlike Atkins doesn't raise kidney healthy concerns and has been providing healthy and balanced dietary guidelines for years, may now laugh yourself silly at the very thought.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:33 PM

Hey Arlene, why does the rock in the little photo of the Colorado River not look as pretty as the layers near the top? Because it's really, really, really old. I read Introduction to Grand Canyon Geology today, and it explained that the lower levels were already there when the old, interior ocean starting layering up pretty sediments. So it looks different. In case you were wondering.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:29 PM

Friday, June 25, 2004

I take the kind of vacations that I need another vacation to recover from

I am at home on a cool, moist, San Francisco day, resting from a whirlwind trip devoted to Grand Canyon National Park, Antelope Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Zion National Park. We went to witness the wide open, unique landscapes that our public lands offer, and to take entirely too many photographs of rocks.

Our trip also took us through Mojave National Preserve, Kaibab National Forest, the lands of the Navajo Nation, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Dixie National Forest, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, Mono Lake Tufa State Reserve, Inyo National Forest, Yosemite National Park, and Stanislaus National Forest. The big surprise was Grand Staircase-Escalante, whose remarkable landscape inspired such instant passion for its preservation that I am willing to personally wrestle Dick Cheney to prevent it from being mined, even though I know he would excrete slime on me to gain some kind of unfair advantage.

Arizona and Utah's national parks are stunning, just as I thought they would be.

There is much more to see, especially in southern Utah, and we plan to make a return trip in the future to see additional, unique federal lands.


Food highlights: During my southwest adventures, I really had just two outstanding dining experiences. The problem was that we were on the tourist circuit, and so food service establishments were catering to the familiar tastes of Midwesterners and people traveling with children: bland, often fried, safe, American foods. yawn

The first outstanding meal was a dinner at the Canyon Star (associated with the Grand Hotel) in Tusayan, Arizona, just outside of Grand Canyon National Park. I had a dinner of wild mushroom enchiladas with several soft Mexican cheeses, wrapped in corn tortillas and served in a sweet red pepper sauce. The soft cheeses had herbs mixed into them, and had the texture of ricotta, so overall the dish was more like stuffed manicotti than my own enchiladas. It came with tender, roasted, baby squash.

The other meal was breakfast at Oscar's Café in Springdale, Utah, within sight of Zion. Oscar's makes PERFECT huevos rancheros. Flour tortillas covered with simmered black beans, cheese, another layer of tortillas, eggs however you like them (I went with scrambled), salsa fresca, and additional cheese are toasted under a broiler to make the cheese melt and give the tortillas a fresh, toasted flavor. The dish is then topped with sour cream. It was PERFECT.

I had a pleasant lunch of a tossed green salad, pasta with olives, a passion-fruit infused crème brulee, and a glass of pinot gris at the Grand Canyon's El Tovar dining room, but it wasn't quite as good as the two Mexican-inspired meals. But the view and service were very charming.


A few preview images from the ultra-touristy rolls I had developed in Page:

Kaibab Trail ridge in evening light the Colorado River at the bottom of the canyon
The historic Watchtower, designed by Mary Coulter Historic painting in the Watchtower

I wrote extensively during the trip, and will post some of those comments as photo captions once the remainder of my film is developed. Here are some highlights.

Kingman, Arizona: As in:
You'll see Amarillo,
Gallup, New Mexico,
Flagstaff, Arizona,
Don't Forget Winona,
Kingman, Barstow, San Bernardino.

Won't you...get hip to this timely tip,
When you make that California trip,
Get your kicks on Route 66.
-Lyrics to Bobby Troup's Route 66, from
(This song plagued me for several days prior to our trip.) Our hotel had a lovely sign, was very cheap, and smelled rather old. Two gorgeous dogs loped out of the motel office when I opened the door (I had not realized that they weren't allowed out), and when one came back limping, my beloved suggested that he may have been silently hit by a car while we were checking in, and might die from hidden internal injuries as a result of my having opened the office door too quickly. This made me feel awful.

This town inspired my partner, S, to ask that we skip breakfast so we could leave town faster.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona: Phil Greenspun insists that many visitors to the Grand Canyon are disappointed that it looks just like its photos. ( I can tell you that there is something wrong with those people. Sure it looks just like the photos, but it also looks thousands of times larger, which is why it is impressive. Its scale is difficult to grasp, even when you can only see a few miles of it.

On our second day, we hiked the steep descent of the Kaibab Trail, 4,800 feet down to the Colorado River. At the rim it had been a cool, pleasant morning. At the bottom, it was more than 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The return climb up 4,400 to the slightly lower rim on the Bright Angel trail was brutal, and filled with disgruntled, underprepared tourists who hadn't heeded all of the multilingual signs warning them not to attempt this hike in one day.

This was a 12 hour, 15 mile hike, requiring frequent rest stops and some slow going to wait until the shade would cool the ascent (after 4 p.m.). I had to take Aleve for several days afterward: even though I often go backpacking, my hip joints didn't enjoy 12 hours of such steep trails. (Have I mentioned that I'm old?) I had wanted to make a shorter sub-rim hike, but went the full distance for love. I think I will have to modify the way I express love as my age becomes more physically apparent.

Antelope Canyon, near Page, Arizona: This is one of those lovely, abstract-looking slot canyons you've seen photos of. Lower Antelope is lovely. Visit it with the Ekis' Antelope Canyon Tour company. They're very nice people, and because these guides are Navajo and the canyon is on Navajo land, they are unlikely to say something ridiculous about the canyons having been "recently" discovered.

Page, Arizona: After a day of driving through the Navajo Nation from GCNP and seeing that folks on the reservation are living in trailers without power or running water, you will be disturbed to find your hotel room filled with brochures showing smug, overfed Americans of European descent lounging in Jacuzzis on massive luxury houseboats while their smug, overfed children play on giant floating trampolines on Lake Powell.

(Lake Powell is named after an opponent of flooding the valley to create the lake. Go figure.)

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah: While I wasn't there at a very photographically pleasing time of day, I am hopeful that I'll have some photos which will make you long to visit this place.

Bryce Canyon, Utah: It's not really a canyon: it's a plateau. But it is really visually stunning. I spent much of my time marveling that Cambodian temples look just like parts of this park.

Zion N.P., Utah: If Yosemite Valley were red and about 1/3 of its current size, it would look surprisingly like this. Be sure to enter the visitor's center, which employs a very clever cooling system which everyone should be using in hot climates. Zion is lower than Bryce, and much hotter. Inexplicably, there are few postcards available of the valley itself. Nap during the hot hours of the day, and take photos early in the morning or after 4 p.m. to make your own. The hikes to the Narrows and to Emerald Pools (which don't have much water in them at this time of year) are quite manageable once it cools off.

Nevada: Eat before visiting this state. We cut across to 120 in California, and would have eaten in Rachel on the Extraterrestrial Highway if we realized we wouldn't see another restaurant until Tonopah, and only iffy ones then. Also, be sure to get gas in Rachel. There aren't warnings about how far it is between gas stations, but it is far, and some of the towns on the 2004 atlas we're using were abandoned and gasless.


All of the National Parks had fabulous bookstores run by their 'friends of' organizations, which were all worth visiting and buying educational materials at. Grand Canyon Association, Bryce Canyon Natural History Association, and Zion Natural History Association all beat the concessionaire gift shops hands down with their selections of books, postcards, posters, and other souvenirs.

One of the winning items for sale: gorgeous issues of Plateau Journal: Land and Peoples of the Colorado Plateau, a beautiful magazine published by the Museum of Northern Arizona. ( The fabulous photographs and descriptive, historical, and educational articles provide a profound sense of place, calling attention to all of the unique and wonderful things about the geologic region I spent the past week exploring. This magazine has won interpretive awards for good reason. It's so beautiful, I will likely subscribe, even though I don't live there!


There were things that didn't make sense about modern human interaction with the southwestern landscape. Mobile homes: cheap to buy, impossible to heat and cool. Houses clearly designed for other climates, and made of imported materials. Lawns sucking up precious water during a long drought. A severe lack of solar design, as if overhangs and shaded porches have yet to be invented. (The Visitor Center at Zion is ingenious on several levels in this respect: it's also one of the most pleasantly cool buildings in the area, and achieves this through a clever evaporative cooling model - not brute force, energy inefficient air conditioning.) Irrigation of huge fields of grass, hay, and alfalfa, whose value is likely worth less than that of the subsidized water being sprayed onto it at high-evaporative times of day.

None of these uses seemed adaptive: it appeared that people used to moister, eastern climates are just stubbornly keeping inappropriate old habits, rather than adjusting to actual conditions. It reminded me of stories of the British colonialists in southeast Asia, who asked that ice be manufactured and brought into their bedrooms at night so they would be cold enough to sleep under blankets. Because they WANTED to sleep under blankets, and refused to change their habits.


I'll gush a bit more when I post photos.

posted by Arlene (Beth)11:33 PM

Thursday, June 24, 2004

I've been busy in my week away from my blog. Just today, for example, I woke up and had breakfast with a view of Zion National Park from a cafe in Springdale, Utah; missed a chance for lunch along the Extraterrestrial Highway at Rachel, Nevada; and had dinner at an old fashioned hotel in Groveland, California.

I, Miss Hates Riding in Cars, have survived a four state, four national park, one national monument, cool site on Navaho land road trip.

And I am soooo tired.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:46 PM

Thursday, June 17, 2004

This is not what blogs are made for. But...

I save an awful lot of links to things on the web that I think are interesting. But some of them just don't fit into the context of whatever it is I'm writing about on a particular day, so I just don't get around to using them. And they just... build up. Like soap scum in one of those commercials where housewives appear to be getting high by using overpriced, toxic cleaning products.

So I'm throwing some of these links together here as a sort of grab bag. Think of it as a menu of 'eye candy and food for thought,' two of the themes of this blog. These are more or less in the order I compiled them, though under semi-thematic headings.


Radio expedition to Canada's Boreal forests. (


Guardian UK's British Blog Awards, 2003, with related articles. (


Crossing guards attacked by motorist for trying to help children cross street. (sfgate, 10/14/03)'s article on why we should have trains on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.


National Novel Writing Month. (

ENVIRONMENT use your computer to calculate climate modeling scenarios for scientists elsewhere in a distributed computing project.

Seeds of change article on permaculture's ability to solve problems in a refugee camp. (, 04/03). Refugee camps really mess up large areas of land which aren't used to bearing the burdends of large, active human camps. This article describes how the sustainable logic of permaculture reclaimed trampled land in a way that made it very beneficial for the local community., and organization that re-introduces sustainable agriculture techniques to Central America in areas where such knowledge has been lost and is desperately needed.

What happens when you take away wildlife habitat. (, 09/17/03)

"Wyoming glacier melts and unleashes mountain flood ". (, 11/10/03)

Tides. (

Climate risk 'to million species'. (, 01/07/04)


Study: We're eating ourselves to death. (, 03/09/04)

US approves 'Cheeseburger bill': Two-thirds of US adults are either overweight or obese, a new study says
The US House of Representatives has voted 276-139 for a bill that would prevent lawsuits against the food industry for making people fat.

Miss Big Lady of Burkina Faso (, 12/09/03)

Girls force fed in Mauritania: "Mauritania's 'wife-fattening' farm" (, 1/26/04)

This isn't precisely about food, because the Golden Arches doesn't sell any. Nevertheless, "Burger giant plans clothing range: US fast food giant McDonald's is to launch a range of children's clothing in North America and western Europe" has a photo in it (the second one) which suggests that children who eat at McD's have very special needs when it comes to the size of their clothes.

Cute food art.


"The pictures that reveal UK's hidden history" (, 07/30/03), an article on a Moving Here, 200 Years of Migration to England. "Moving Here is the biggest database of digitised photographs, maps, objects, documents and audio items from 30 local and national archives, museums and libraries which record migration experiences of the last 200 years." I was interested for the slave records, but they also have personal journals and scrapbooks from ordinary people, and a fascinating collection of other records.

Two Years Later: 2003 memorial retrospective from the Washington Post on the September 11th attacks.

Business week on the invisibile $87 billion for the Iraq war. (09/03)


BBC Monitor, in which the BBC translates the foreign language press.

People of Boodikote, India take the media into their own hands. (, 09/16/03)

Don Asmussen, Bad Reporter. Just because he's great.

Learn a European language with the BBC.


Eye for the Mayoral Guy, (, 12/03/03), a dress-up program where you can put last December's runoff candidates in a variety of outfits. In the same vein: test drive the George Bush Dress-Up Magnet set at

God Hates Shrimp.

A long tale involving a bank cashing a junk mail check for $95,000 and refusing to admit it did so in error. (, 09/17/03)

Maids in Asia expected to perform computer maintenance tasks: "Asian maids who do Windows say it's just housework". (, 11/19/03, originally from the Wall Street Journal)

Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wins the Foot in Mouth award from Britain's Plain English Campaign. (, 12/01/03)

"Racial prejudice makes you stupider, new research finds
Encounters with another race made whites perform worse on cognitive test"
. (, 11/17/03) I'd always through it was the other way around.

Annals of Improbable Research. Science made fun. (They provide links to stories like this.)

The exploding whale. That story about the whale washing up on the beach, and the local officials deciding to blow it up to be rid of it? Yes, it really happened. Yes, there is video.

Bob Harris' on Arnold Schwarzenegger's non-existent formative political experience that made him a Republican. (, 08/20/03) Which, if you read this, means he became a Republican for no reason at all. Go figure.

The misperceptions of Fox viewers (, 10/14/03). Act surprised.

International Federation of Competitive Eating.

A letter to Bush about Leviticus, which he uses to justify opposition to same-sex marriages. ( Yes, this is the compilation of Bible excerpts including one where Leviticus justifies enslaving neighboring people, perhaps even Canadians. See also In Defense of Biblical Marriage. (

Virtual bubble wrap. (

It isn't so much that there's anything odd about a device to keep drunks from driving. What's odd is what a lawyer opposed to the device said: "Florida lawyer Steve Casanova says the Interlock is set to block ignition at the merest trace of alcohol. "Rinsing your mouth out with a beer will be sufficient to trigger this device," he told the BBC's World Today radio programme." Um, so people in Florida rinse their mouths out with BEER??? Perhaps this is why they should not be driving?

Grenade closes US-Canada border. (, 02/17/04) "But bemused officials now say the incident was caused by a woman who got lost and happened to have a grenade." She is, of course, from Texas.

Dishonest Dubya Lying Action Figure.

Worst album covers of all time. It's the commentary that makes you cry.

OUTDOORS's Bay Trail feature, a visitors guide to the Ventana Wilderness.


S' own photographs.

R.I.P. 35 mm Camera, in which it is revealed that Kodak is getting out of the 35 mm camera and APS business. (, 01/15/04)

Devastating and award-winning World Press news photos. (

San Franciscans watch the great fire of 1906 approach. (

One of many lovely images of St. Petersburg at night. (More here). (

Chelsea Garden Show panoramas. (

I have quite a selection of favorites from's Day In Pictures:

Bush Bucks: the impact of education cuts on our nation's cashiers.

Week of the Bicycle in Paris.

Wildfire, Lake MacDonald, Glacier National Park.

The Sombrero Galaxy. Oooh. Aaah.

What the global arms trade does.

Melting glaciers in Patagonia.

NASA satellite photos of SoCal's wildfires. (10/27/03)

A heavy feeling in his stomach.

2003 paper scissors rock world championships.

Chili pepper moonshine stings!

Pretty South Dakota scene with horses.

Lovely light for biking in Minnesota.

Bush statue toppled in effigy, London.

2003 Year In Pictures Highlights.

What I would do in hot weather if I had enough ice cubes.

A project I wanted to do, aside from the fact that I have no special skill at photographing people, whereas others do: San Francisco Gay Wedding Photo Gallery.

Some straaaange sunset light.


"Judge denies Fox News attempt to block Franken book over title 'fair and balanced'" (sfgate, 08/22/03).
U.S. District Judge Denny Chin said Fox's claim was "wholly without merit, both factually and legally."

The network had argued the subtitle to Franken's book "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them" could trick some consumers into believing the book is associated with Fox. The book's subtitle is "A fair and balanced look at the Right." Fox trademarked "fair and balanced" in 1998.

Franken called the ruling a victory for the First Amendment and satirists everywhere -- "even bad satirists."

"In addition to thanking my own lawyers," Franken said, "I'd like to thank Fox's lawyers for filing one of the stupidest briefs I've ever seen in my life."
Gosh. That was so tiring, I may take a week off from blogging!

posted by Arlene (Beth)12:45 PM

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

A very stressful day and a decade of many surprises ended today. A new era begins tomorrow. (Which is potentially true every day, actually...)

My dreams have turned from tiresome scenes of packing boxes to thoughts about darkrooms and photographic printing.

I'm ready!
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:45 PM

S had his oral surgery today, and so we've moved from flat foods which can be chewed, to room-temperature soft foods which cannot be chewed, or be salty, or stinging with spice.

The ice cream (pineapple sorbet, fresh cantaloupe, and chocolate) is nice, and the mashed potatoes went down gradually, but... room tempture knocks out a favorable feature of most soups I make, which are also spicy.

Anyone have good recipes for pleasant pastes?
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:42 PM

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Flat Foods: Have I mentioned that S, my partner, has had trouble opening his jaw because of a problem with an infected wisdom tooth? He has. And he noted that it didn't hurt to chew, but it does hurt to open his jaw. And could I please make flatter foods for dinner.

I don't ordinarily think of food based on height. So I made a few errors: it turns out that my bruschetta is REALLY tall.

Things that worked:
-quesadillas: two flour tortillas with a thin (VERY thin) layer of refried beans plus a layer of pepper jack cheese in between, covered with a combination of mild tomatillo salsa mixed with garlicky cilantro chutney
-open faced sandwiches on thinly (oops) sliced bread, with either my own marinated/baked eggplant or roasted sweet peppers, topped with provolone cheese and broiled
-linguini with extra virgin olive oil, sliced kalamanta olives, crushed red pepper, and sliced garlic
-desserts of thinly sliced mangos, white nectarines, and slightly tall fresh pineapple chunks
-Tibetan noodle soup
-thin-crust pizza (pesto, feta, and veggies) from Mozzarella Di Bufala
-curried sweet potatoes over rice (a really tender, saucy curry) .

Things that I would have tried if his trip to the dentist hadn't yielded improvements: potato pancakes, spinach and mushroom crepes, cheese enchiladas (they're not as tall as my veggie 'ladas), and a red Thai curry of soft tofu and thinly sliced summer squash with rice.

S is having his top two wisdom teeth out Tuesday. His plan: we'll go to Mitchell's Ice Cream and fill the trunk!!
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:21 PM

Science 101: My father, an Atkins diet devotee, says that he doesn't believe in vegetarian or vegan lifestyles because (sit down) he knew one vegan once, and she had really high cholesterol (300). Which he said was likely due to heredity.

[long pause for sighing by healthy, 18-year veg with lower cholesterol than rest of immediate family, who has known father longer than he knew this vegan]

I DID NOT SAY: "I knew this guy once, he ate a lot of meat, and he had a heart attack, a triple bypass, and a few serious strokes. So I don't believe in eating meat. Oh, wait, Dad, that's you!" Nor did I point out the unfortunate high cholesterol average of the 3 omnivores in our nuclear family in the absence of cholestrol lowering drugs.

Instead, I talked about how years of scientific research, including announcements routinely made by federal health officials, note that ALL diets that restrict caloric intake can make you lose weight, but the secret to HEALTH is a balanced diet with a foundation of healthy carbs. And Atkins isn't balanced. And that the research on meat isn't so favorable, especially hormone and pesticide containing meat.

I was talking to myself, I realize now, even though my father was still on the line.

It would be much more fun to be a radical herbivore, so I could just 'go off' on rants at my father, instead of preaching moderation and federally-sanctioned food pyramids.


Of course, my father once told me that both smoking and second-hand smoke are not harmful to health, so I'm used to this unique take on health matters.

But it would still be less frustrating to be extreme, so I would never expect anyone to agree with me, as opposed to being a BORING diet moderate, and STILL not getting agreement.


A quote on Atkins from's page on the diet:
Volumetrics author Barbara Rolls, PhD, who holds the Guthrie Chair in Nutrition at Penn State University, offers this: "No one has shown, in any studies, that anything magical is going on with Atkins other than calorie restriction. The diet is very prescriptive, very restrictive, and limits half of the foods we normally eat," she says. "In the end it's not fat, it's not protein, it's not carbs, it's calories. You can lose weight on anything that helps you to eat less, but that doesn't mean it's good for you."

posted by Arlene (Beth)7:19 PM

I'm on the verge of my sabbatical, but I'm not really able to focus on it. I tried to plan out my big trip of the summer: the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Zion, and Bryce. But then my partner told me he had already scheduled work during the middle of the planned trip which couldn't be moved. Our basement slab began to crack and part of our yard collapsed into our neighbor's as they broke the basic rules of excavation (and common sense), undermining our foundation and putting our entire house at risk. My partner's jaw pain was discovered to be caused by an infected wisdom tooth that needs to come out IMMEDIATELY.

Delaying the trip was no good: two weeks of July will be occupied by his visiting relatives, and some of the southwestern parks will be at their hottests AND most crowded.

As these things gradually moved toward resolutions or at least mild improvement, I sighed with near relief that I might at least squeeze a short trip into this month, and that my summer might be workable despite these obstacles.

Guess what came in the mail today.

No, guess.

Yes. A jury summons.


posted by Arlene (Beth)7:12 PM

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

A large biotech conference was held here in SF this week.

The Eppler's Bakery nearest the conference was REALLY well protected

At new Montgomery and Mission, an intersection which just HAPPENS to have two bakeries on opposite corners, the SFPD had the street blocked as part of their control area around the biotech conference. They cordoned off a several square block area.

The police to protester ratio around the edges, where I was taking photos of old buildings, appeared to be about 50-to-1.

But those pastries were SAFE!!


There has been some coverage in the local papers about the conference, which the pro-business dailies consider to be great. Some token attention was paid to valid criticisms of the industry, but only in the vaguest terms, and always with a direct statement that SOME parts of the industry develop LIFE SAVING MEDICINES.

Not surprisingly, that's not what most of the folks there were protesting.

Unlike all the free market, consumer choice jargon you hear to justify most business propositions, consumer choice NEVER comes up when discussing biotech. It can't: in the realm of food, biotech companies are developing products which benefit agribusiness but not consumers: foods that kill butterflies and moths, foods that look more ripe than they really are, hard fruits that are easy to transport in trucks... Being tricked into buying an unripe, bright red, hard tomato isn't exactly what consumers are clamoring for. And so the industry has decided that we shouldn't be given a choice, and that their products should be HIDDEN in the food supply.

Which means there's something wrong with them. If they were providing a product we wanted to buy, we'd be seeking them out. Instead, we're wondering if our corn chips have been contaminated with animal-feed varieties of corn that the industry can't control.

There's a reason GMO foods are wildly UNpopular. It's time to label GMO foods and let them die a natural death in the 'marketplace of ideas.'

posted by Arlene (Beth)11:04 PM

I'm making a variety of small updates to, including a few look and feel adjustments. I'll finally update that backpacking page this summer. You can stop laughing at me over that now.

posted by Arlene (Beth)11:02 PM

Saturday, June 05, 2004

So, I just rented the DVD of Once Upon a Time in Mexico, the sequel to Desperado/El Mariachi.

And... It's a typical American action film. My eyes hurt from rolling them too much. Selma Hayek's character swinging Antonio Banderas' character around on a chain while hanging by her fingertips is just beyond my ability to suspend disbelief. I was entertained, but I was also moaning with annoyance. (Perhaps I should stick to beautiful foreign films about unhappy women in scenic locales?)

ANYWAY. The DVD comes with all sorts of little cut scenes and commentary. I watched Robert Rodriguez' "Ten Minute Film School," which shows how many of the stunts were pulled off, and the many advantages of digital video. It was educational.

BUT THEN there is "Ten Minute Cooking School." Which is a video of the director in a fabulous, high-ceiling(ed?) kitchen filming himself making a really fabulous sounding achiote spice paste to marinate meat for a dish that was a recurring theme of the film. He gives good instructions! He demonstrates cooking well! He gives tips on mastering dishes to make for your friends! And then he has a line I can't completely repeat, but basically equates the importance of cooking with that of other... um... essential life skills and/or profane verbs.

I've never seen anything like this -- and the element of surprise (being the last thing I'd expect to find on an action movie DVD) made it even better. All that and the marinade sounds WONDERFUL. It made my evening.

posted by Arlene (Beth)11:35 PM

Have I mentioned that there are just seven working days and three farewell lunch events standing between me and my summer vacation?

Have I made all sorts of silly, happy sounds over this?

If not, consider that occurring here and now.
posted by Arlene (Beth)3:08 AM

It's been an interesting week for food and food related discussion. The strangest part of the week was likely a conversation at the regularly scheduled volunteer night event at the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition offices. A volunteer I hadn't met before instigated an odd conversation: first, he argued for meat eating in a group which is often dominated completely by vegetarians, and complained bitterly that the food provided (free) to volunteers doesn't satisfy him because of the absence of meat.

I never understand people who complain about free meals.

His main reason for this approach is a personal metabolic issue: he needs to eat a lot, and can't keep up with his body's needs without very dense calorie foods. (Oh, and he doesn't like Asian foods, apparently.)

Oddly, this then morphed into a conversation about how WRONG the vegan lifestyle is, not just for him, but generally. Neither he nor another volunteer could determine how vegans get enough to eat, which was a reason to condemn it. Not that they wanted to know -- they had no nutritional information, and their rants were centered on how disagreeable they find the idea of the absence of animal protein, and imaginary bland food which all vegans must eat.

This led another volunteer to complain about cheeseless pizza, which I've only witnessed once or twice as an option from within an offering of half a dozen pizzas, again offered free, at this event. The idea that someone else didn't want to eat cheese was just too much!

Oh, the horror!

The same volunteer who appeared to initiate this conversation then promoted cars in a bizarre, "riding bikes is just impossible just about everywhere" discussion, in which it was revealed that he hadn't tried riding a bike the towns he described.

This at an event for an organization that has helped people move from one apartment to another with a collection of bicycle trailers, and which promotes the bicycle for everyday transportation, in a room full of people who use a bicycle for many of their short and long distance travel needs.

Well then.

I changed tasks and wound up only popping into the room every few minutes after this odd encounter. The subjects then switched to how unpleasant large animal slaughter is, and whether or not meat eaters should ever witness it; the dearth of condoms and lightweight baby carriages in Ireland in the 1970's; home schooling...

I need my usual volunteer group back!! People who know that there's spicy vegan food! People who have been or are vegans! People who aren't afraid of bicycles!
posted by Arlene (Beth)2:50 AM

It's not even 3 a.m. yet? Gee, maybe I shouldn't have had that 4th lemon drop (vodka drink) when out with the gals this evening. Or, perhaps I should have ordered more than a toasted cheese sandwich and fries to share my tummy at the time...
posted by Arlene (Beth)2:48 AM

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