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Monday, August 29, 2005

Pork in the transportation bill: it's not kosher. Pardon my joke. I've been reading my usual bike mailing list, where folks are commenting on the ridiculous transportation expenditures that just passed in the AWFUL federal transportation bill. Money is needed for so many projects, but instead of being spent where it is urgently needed, and instead of prioritizing projects based on national priorities like healthy cities, access for all, supporting working folks to help them get to jobs easier, etc., the money is going for countless pet projects which benefit only corrupt friends of politicians. News | A bridge to nowhere - NP (, 8/9/05) opens thusly:
Alaska's Gravina Island (population less than 50) will soon be connected to the megalopolis of Ketchikan (pop. 8,000) by a bridge nearly as long as the Golden Gate and higher than the Brooklyn Bridge. Alaska residents can thank Rep. Don Young, who just brought home $941 million worth of bacon.
My belated reading of this article is timely. Because, of course, it relates to a discussion I was having with S about food.

(You know everything is about food for me. Don't feign surprise.)

I had remarked that my green grocer four blocks from my home does not appear to carry locally grown products. While the farmer's market is full of local tomatoes in every possible color and shape - cherry tomatoes, ruffled purple heirlooms, bright yellow pear tomatoes - the corner market always has the same two varieties ("roma" and, nonspecific round "tomatoes"), which aren't quite red (they're sort of pink), are quite firm, and taste the same year round.

For variety, my green grocer offers "on the vine" tomatoes for three to four times the price of the others. They are grown hydroponically in British Columbia, Canada.

This makes no sense.

When nectarines appeared there earlier this year, they bore stickers announced that they were grown in Chile. This, even though early nectarines were available from just a few zip codes away.

S noted that his brother lives in potato-growing country in Idaho, which I know. What I didn't know is that the local stores where his brother buys food sell potatoes... from Wyoming.

In Idaho.


Part of what makes these obviously ridiculous scenarios possible is transportation subsidies. Obviously, it's naturally cheaper for my brother-in-law-equivalent to buy potatoes from his neighbors. YET, the roads and the companies that use them are so plied with our tax dollars to use those roads, that the shipping costs of driving potatoes to Idaho from another state reward them for doing so. And so, they do.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, Wow. So that's why the US economy is so dependent upon foreign oil! So we can drive potatoes around to where they're not needed! And that's basically true, and part of our larger problems.

And yes, if it isn't already obvious: the farmer's market tomatoes are at least twenty times better than the ones at my grocer's place. They are fresher, and taste more like tomatoes. So all of this gas is being wasted for inferior produce, which was picked too early because they knew it would have to spend some long period of time slowly decaying in a truck.

That's not legit.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Shopping while full is sometimes no better than shopping while hungry. Today, I took S out for a big crepe & potato (well, omelette and potato for him) lunch at Squat & Gobble. Then we went to Rainbow, the organic cooperatively run wonder store, to shop for groceries.

I lost my mind. $170. I really don't know how this happened, as full as I was.

The fact that Straus Family Dairy now makes ice cream has something to do with this. The fact that the asiago sourdough I bought was $4.50 a loaf (!!!!!) also does. The two bottles of wine I bought for myself were both under $10. Yet...


I'm glad we're both getting paid.


I'm drinking a lovely, Spanish white wine. It's the first wine I've bought in ages, a reward for working more and playing in the laBORaTORy less. The label says "Condado Real, 2003, Verdejo - Viura, vino de la tierra Castilla y Leon." It is white, light, fruity, fresh.

The descriptive sign at Rainbow made me laugh. It said, among other things, "Good with food."

As opposed to all of those wines that are BAD with food?

I mentioned to the local worker that I found this amusing. He laughed, looked at the wine, and said, "...but it IS good with food."

This is what happens when vegetarians running a co-op cater to vegetarians like me who won't be impressed by non-vegetarian recommendations. They should know I want, 'good with tomato sauces' or 'good with rich sauces' or 'marvelous with organic, fair trade chocolate.' Maybe I can propose some labels for them. 'Good for impressing people you're not especially fond of.' 'Good for evenings of excess.' 'Great with that tapas-themed menu you dreamed up last night.' 'Perfect with fried foods and light salads.' 'Naked picnic-ready.'...
posted by Arlene (Beth)7:23 PM

An item that can reduce a Veruca Salt concert goer to caffeine-induced hysteria in under 5 seconds: McSweeney's Internet Tendency: Ways One Could, in Theory, Fight the Seether (
posted by Arlene (Beth)7:01 PM

Fun and lovely art blog: Frog and Toad's Wild Ride ( Go look at the images. Random quote: "'Outside of a dog, a BOOK is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.'G. Marx."
posted by Arlene (Beth)6:44 PM

Friday, August 19, 2005

Oh my:
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:26 PM

I don't eat fish, but I am impressed by the subtle pro-fishing implications here. Off the Cape, the Cod Continue to Dwindle (, 8/16/05):
Cape Cod's population of its namesake fish dipped by 25 percent between 2001 and 2004, according to preliminary findings by federal scientists, indicating that the once-abundant cod has yet to rebound despite years of government protection.
Gosh darn it! See, those protections aren't helping! 'Might as well not do anything at all! Oh, wait...
A group of scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries Service and the New England Fishery Management Council reported Monday at a public workshop that fishermen continue to take too many adult cod and that not enough juvenile fish are surviving to replenish the population's ranks.
Of course, they have some pro-fishing person saying that it doesn't really MATTER how much they take, it couldn't POSSIBLY affect anything. Because when it comes to making money, there are NO cause and effect relationships worth discussing.
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:25 PM

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Mmmmmmmm. Oh, look at the size of those.. On Tuesday, one of the executive assistants in the office kept inducing ooohs and aaahs from fellow admins in an office behind me. The only word I kept hearing was 'strawberry!'

Strawberry is a nice word.

I was thrilled when she came to my desk, and asked me if I wanted a strawberry. She didn't mean an ordinary strawberry: she meant an enormous, picked-the-day-before and covered-in-white-chocolate strawberry. Her daughter now works at Shari's Berries - Chocolate Dipped Strawberries & Unforgettable Gifts. She's a proud mom. And we're her VERY happy colleagues.
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:16 AM

NOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Another sweet deal / Hershey devours premium chocolatier Joseph Schmidt (, 8/16/05).

Joseph Schmidt is my favorite local chocolate/truffle company. JS is the company that S and I each go to when we're secretly buying chocolate presents for each other. And now, HERSHEY, which does not maintain the same high standards when it comes to ingredients, has bought it.

And east bay local chocolate maker Scharffenberger.


This is about as painful as knowing that Kodak won't make black and white printing papers anymore. Which is to say: OOOUUUCCCHHH.
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:09 AM

I never thought Bud would turn up on the right side of an argument. But open-air genetically modified pharma crop tests are still wrong, and the owners of the beer company know it could hurt their own products. Can Gene-Altered Rice Rescue the Farm Belt? (, 8/16/05). (Note the silly, pro-technology-savior title.)
When the company was considering Missouri as a place to grow its rice, it talked to Anheuser-Busch, which uses Missouri rice in its beer. Mr. Deeter said Anheuser-Busch initially did not raise any opposition to the project. But when Ventria tried to plant rice in southern Missouri this spring, the beer maker threatened not to buy any rice grown in the state. The company feared a consumer backlash if people thought gene-altered rice could end up in their bottles of Bud.

For Missouri's farm economy, the risk of growing pharmaceutical rice is high. More than half of Missouri's rice is sent abroad, to the European Union and Caribbean countries that are especially sensitive about genetically modified products.

'We are still having to make statements to our customers that the rice we export is not genetically modified,' said Carl Brothers, the vice president for marketing at Riceland Foods, which markets more than half of Missouri's rice. 'We are concerned longer term that if Ventria and others get involved that will get harder to say.'
This is a good article - go read it all, even the bone-headed, pro-GMO parts.

Other scientific fields do their experiments isolated from the rest of us as a basic part of their scientific controls. Even those wretched animal testing labs aren't testing their chemicals on bunnies that are out mingling with other bunnies! The GMO crop people can do the same: the greenhouse is a very old technology that was mastered a very, very long time ago.

I'm all for science. I'm not for contaminating our cropland due to uncontrolled, overfunded curiosity.
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:08 AM

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

As if to out-do Monique: New Zealand 2004: Abel Tasman National Park (
Several trees had black trunks. If you looked closely at the black trunk, you could see white 'whiskers' growing out of it. These were scale insects. The scale insects burrowed their heads into the tree trunk. They drank sap. They left their tails poking out of the trunk--these were the 'whiskers.' They pooped sugary water. It tastes OK. Yes, I went out of my way to eat insect poop. Get over it. Anyhow, most of this sweet sticky insect poop is not eaten by tourists...
Monique is going to have a hard time on her current travels topping that one...

Larry writes quite a bit about what food could be had during his NZ trip, plus about wacky people drinking hot tea in hot weather. Ah, tradition.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:11 PM

Freaky and materialistic stuff that happens when you don't spend all your time thinking about food instead: Emotions: Keeping Up With the Joneses' Bank Account (, 8/16/05):
The hitch, researchers say in a new study, is that for many people, that happy feeling comes only from knowing that they have more money than their peers. ...

If happiness were just a matter of needing to make more money than one's peers, it might not be so complicated. But since incomes tend to rise regularly, the competition never ends for some people - and happiness can remain elusive, the researchers said.

'Our analysis indicates that Americans are on a hedonic treadmill for most of their working lives,' the authors write. 'We find - with and without controls for age, physical health, education and other correlates of happiness - that the higher the income of others in one's age group, the lower one's happiness.'
My suggestion: food. It's much more fun than worrying about what your neighbors are earning.
posted by Arlene (Beth)7:07 PM

Where women belong?? I think he's trying to be funny: Troubles Follow Bush:
Laura Bush couldn't persuade her husband to nominate a woman as Supreme Court justice. But when it was time to make her own hiring decision, the first lady picked a woman to run her kitchen.
Ha. Ha. Ha.
posted by Arlene (Beth)7:00 PM

I hope they got to eat the ice cream. What to do with time (and glue) on your hands: BBC NEWS | Europe | Viking lollystick longboat sails:
A replica Viking longboat made out of 15 million ice cream sticks has been launched in Amsterdam harbour.

posted by Arlene (Beth)1:13 PM

Monday, August 15, 2005

Pressuring my friends to write about food: So Monique is in China, and I've been griping at her for not reporting enough about unusual foods. Her friend who tried the 'strange tasting horse beans' has also been leaning on her. Our pressure has paid off. Not only did Monique invoke both of us by name, claiming that we both popped into her head with our demands, but she even tried something strange. Something nearly indescribable. Monique's travels :: China - Part 3:
I tried several flavors of this stuff. It was kind of like a jerky, but kind of not. Some was peppery, some was spicy, etc. It was formed in perfect squares of about one foot. I think it was meat and gel and spices all together.
Ta da!

Actually, that's not the part that is most alarming. What's better is that trying this meat-jelly-stuff invokes a detailed memory:
It reminded me of a tour of the Oscar Meyer plant in Chicago that I took when I was in high school. They actually have two plants: one for all the round shaped products and one for all the square shaped products because all the cooking and packaging must be done accordingly. The 'meat parts' are put in a huge bowl about 5 feet in diameter and 6 feet tall. They add water, preservatives and spices. They beat this together until it's in a liquid form. Then, they pour it into long tubes either square or round shaped to cook and take the form. Then, it's cooled, pushed out of the mold and sliced and packaged. This stuff certainly seemed like it had been processed much the same, actually even more so. So, there you have it. It might not be a pea popsicle or strange tasting horse beans, but I took one for the team.
I love how she put 'meat parts' in single quotes like that.
posted by Arlene (Beth)7:55 PM

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Farmer's Market Update: I don't know if it's my disposition or my food obsession, but people at the farmer's markets sure are FRIENDLY. Upbeat, pleasant, fun to interact with, and quick to laugh about little jokes.

I like people who like food.

In the market today: basil EVERYWHERE (the variety with the purple centers, now 50 cents a bunch); more cucumbers; tomatoes, now in most colors and sizes; a wider range of sweet peppers, including yellow, gold, and yellow-orange peppers; even more red and yellow onions; all three shapes of eggplant (long thin; small round; and large pear-shaped "globe"), all in purple; broccoli; long beans (green and purple); red-and-green speckled apples; black plums; more and larger peaches and nectarines; avocados (still too expensive at $1.25 each); melons (2 cantaloupe for a dollar!; honeydew; watermelon; various yellow melons); all the usual greens...

Today's haul: red and yellow tomatoes; yellow onions; lettuce (enormous!); red, orange, and yellow sweet bell peppers; purple-centered basil; yellow nectarines; black plums; cantaloupe; globe eggplant; and from the super-nice men at the Sukhi's Indian specialties booth, spinach parathas, pumpkin parathas, bharta spread, and mint chutney.


This week's menu: kidney bean chili (with tomatoes, green peppers, fresh onions...); Mediterranean lasagna (mostly jarred fillings); ratatouille; fresh basil & tomato sauce on pasta; some fresh salads, possibly including salads of yellow tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic, and whole milk mozzarella; some Indian curries...


From the look of the apples on display, our home apple tree is a Gravenstein!


I need to learn to make bharta (eggplant) spread that's as good as Sukhi's. If I can make so many other Indian dishes, I ought to be able to figure this one out. Or at least start with bhaigan bharta and modify it until I come close...
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:04 PM

Seeds of Change: CDC releases 'Third Report' on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals (
On July 21, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the most extensive report to date on the exposure of the population of the United States to chemicals in the environment....

After taking samples from thousands of subjects across a wide demographic range in 2001 and 2002, the researchers tested for 148 chemicals, 43 of them commonly used pesticides. While this represents less than 5% of the pesticides currently registered for use in the U.S., the study found that more than 90% of the U.S. population carries a mixture of pesticides in their bodies.
Understatement of the day: this cannot be good.
posted by Arlene (Beth)7:27 PM

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Another drawback to dairy: Factory Style Dairies in Southern California Emit Tremendous Amounts of Greenhouse Gases (, 8/2/05).
San Joaquin Valley, Cows Pass Cars as Polluters Air district says bovines on the region's booming dairy farms are the biggest single source of smog-forming gases.
The articles about this are fun to read, because the dairy farmers don't want to be regulated. So they say things like, 'gas can't be measured!' implying that, because you can't SEE it (even if you choke when you smell it), it's not there, and their farms become science-free zones where nothing done in a lab could possibly apply.

Yes, my young nieces who live in the central valley have dangerous, serious asthma.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Friday, August 12, 2005

Hotter than the latest fad diet: brainwashing: You Now Hate Chocolate Cake / Implant fake food memories, lose weight! Great for a willpower-free nation. Mmm, lethal! by Mark Morford (, 8/12/05) chronicles yet another approach to getting Americans to stop being so obese: having scientists lie to them about what they like.

Well, it works for politics, and it's ALL advertising is about for every other fake materialistic impulse, so why not food?

posted by Arlene (Beth)7:43 PM

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Temptation. Not that I need any more encouragement to consider finally given in and buying a REAL ice cream/soy cream/sorbet maker, but Ice Dreams, Crystallizing - New York Times (8/10/05) raises the question: sour cream ice cream? Yes, there's a recipe.

On the same topic, but going far too far: liquid nitrogen ice cream makers (also, 8/10/05).
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Priorities: Today I got up early, made myself an elaborate lunch (angel hair pasta in 3-cheese tomato sauce; a fresh batch of deviled tofu for a multi-grain tofu sandwich with cucumber slices; a cranberry oat bar; sports drink), got on my bike, and biked the 7.1 miles to work.

Then I realized I hadn't brought office shoes. I had remembered lunch; snacks; a change of clothes, towel, and toiletries for the shower; but no office shoes.

I really ought to make a list of non-food things I need to remember to bring to work and hang it near my door.


I gave a flagman a laugh this morning. On Bayshore Blvd, just inside Brisbane, there's a construction site. A man with a 'slow' sign and reflective jacket was waving at speeding motorists, encouraging them to slow down for the construction zone. (The vehicles, mostly SUVs, still drove like bats out of hell.) As I approached, he relaxed a bit, and turned the sign away.

Just the same, as soon as I was close I said, "I'll try to control my speed, sir!" He had quite a laugh.


Speaking of work, I have a few images of the area in which I work up here. Yes, they do look eerie. Yes, the ground is glowing white. No, it's not snow. It is merely the magic of the ordinarily unseen infrared part of the spectrum.

When SF enjoys some direct sun later in the year, I'll update this collection with a wider range of location shots. But for now, the only sun I see regularly is at work, and so that's what I've got.


On another note, the recipe for Cauliflower and Potato Curry (Cauliflower Gashi) from Great Curries of India is pretty darned good. Mild, the way I made it, with three enormous chipotle chilies instead of a hotter red variety. VERY creamy, partly from the coconut milk, partly from the onion puree (which is the mystery texture element of many Indian dishes I love). I don't usually like the really rich, creamy dishes, but this one is quite satisfying.

I just need to find the recipe for that spicy onion condiment, the one with diced onions, cayenne, and salt, to serve with it next time, so I can turn up the heat a bit.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:57 PM

Climate change means... no more salmon berries, among other things. BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Alaskan people tell of climate change is one of those 'duh' articles in which you learn that all of the nations who have been trying to pretend that climate change isn't happening (especially those contributing the most pollution to the atmosphere) have NOT been studying it in those regions where it is most extreme. Because... they don't want to know what havoc it is bringing, preferring to say that change is far, far, far in the future, like the sun going supernova...

I recall reading a little article about Canada being angry, because some of its chilly, fresh lakes could no longer support fish: the water is too warm for the eggs now. It was just a little story in an American paper, and you could almost hear the editors thinking, 'yes, but it doesn't matter, because OUR lakes are still fine!'

Greta Ehrlich's book This Cold Heaven was about how Greenlanders were suffering terribly because of unusually warm seas, which keep them from traveling by sled and hunting. The ice is what they wait for all year, and now it comes late, and is sketchy when it comes. (Ehrlich has another book out, just on this topic, which I haven't found yet...)

But yes, it's the loss of berries in this article that caught my attention. You know how I am.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:46 PM

Monday, August 08, 2005


Ginger lemonade margarita

I don't publish many alcoholic beverage recipes, but I've been trying to make a 'novel' margarita for a few weeks, and finally have made one that I really like.

-a glass with ice
-1.5 oz good tequila
-1.5 oz Triple Sec
-2 oz ginger lemonade (available at Trader Joe's).

Mix. Serve. Enjoy.
posted by Arlene (Beth)7:19 PM

Canary In a Coal Mine: The other day, over at a friend's new condo in Oakland, we talked about cookware, in the context of getting a household set up. We were discussing how my friend's parents folks wisely throw away their non-stick, Teflon-type cookware when it shows signs of wear, since they don't want to eat Teflon. I noted that I am heavily using some non-stick cookware that Steven & his mom had, but I never bought any on my own because of bad things I've heard.

I read in Sierra that Teflon off-gasses and kills pet birds when used at normal cooking temperatures, killed by the invisible poisons. If cooking with Teflon kills birds, it is unlikely to be doing me any favors. EWG Report || Canaries in the Kitchen || Teflon Toxicosis. (

And then there was that study that came out earlier this month, about how Teflon turns up in newborn babies. Which means it is in their mom's blood. Which means, it's probably in my blood. Oh, and the FDA now thinks it is a carcinogen.

EWG Report || BodyBurden 2 - The Pollution in Newborns:
In a study spearheaded by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in collaboration with Commonweal, researchers at two major laboratories found an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in umbilical cord blood from 10 babies born in August and September of 2004 in U.S. hospitals. Tests revealed a total of 287 chemicals in the group. The umbilical cord blood of these 10 children, collected by Red Cross after the cord was cut, harbored pesticides, consumer product ingredients, and wastes from burning coal, gasoline, and garbage.

This study represents the first reported cord blood tests for 261 of the targeted chemicals and the first reported detections in cord blood for 209 compounds. Among them are eight perfluorochemicals used as stain and oil repellents in fast food packaging, clothes and textiles - including the Teflon chemical PFOA, recently characterized as a likely human carcinogen by the EPA's Science Advisory Board - dozens of widely used brominated flame retardants and their toxic by-products; and numerous pesticides.

Of the 287 chemicals we detected in umbilical cord blood, we know that 180 cause cancer in humans or animals, 217 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animal tests.
For those of you setting up new households, you might consider stainless steel, cast iron, steel-coated-copper, and some of those other durable, old-fashioned pots. I foresee the retirement of our own non-stick pans in the near future.
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:00 AM

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Polaroid. I've recently seen some photographic work I've really liked, done with Polaroid films. Polaroid makes some medium- and large-format instant films, which make both a black and white print AND a traditional, developed negative, which requires a special clearing soak. I wanted to know more about that, and found a lot of fun work at Creative @ (, including a magazine (with one issue on line), and tips on some of the transfers and manipulations that are so lovely.

Yes, I hope this celebration of analog technology horrifies my digital-only friends. :-)
posted by Arlene (Beth)7:15 PM

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Yak VODKA?!?!? The Seeds of Change Field Report: Terra Madre, The diverse landscape of food and farmers (, 05/05) discusses a Slow Food ( event, and mentions, as casually as possible, Yak Vodka.

And I didn't think yaks liked alcohol. [joke]


Tempting recipe at Slow Food on the Menu of the Week: watermelon sorbet. (Why didn't I think of using lime juice?)

I used to make watermelon popsicles by pureeing watermelon and freezing it in reusable popsicle forms. Now, in my greater wisdom, I realize I should have been making cantaloupe popsicles. (Because I like cantaloupe a lot more.)
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Friday, August 05, 2005

Oh. Convenience food. Other people bring frozen convenience entrees to work. Hmmm. I suppose this means I could bring things I love, like those packaged Indian entrees... Then I wouldn't need to cook lunches for myself the night before.


I'll have to consider that.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Lunch: I mentioned that I have been an insatiable eater since I started biking to work on alternating days. It is still true. I biked less this past week, and yet still felt like I could eat a [tofu] horse every afternoon.

I'm getting better at packing healthy snacks, though, so I don't have to resort to packaged, salty, high-fat snacks. But my consumption is still ridiculous. To give you some idea, on one of the better days, I had a small bowl of cereal for breakfast, and then consumed the following at work: two nectarines, a serving of oregano/parsley pesto polenta with tomato sauce and Parmesan, a purchased cream cheese and veggie submarine sandwich, a pear, and a salad of heirloom tomatoes and cucumbers in a basil & olive oil dressing.

And then, I went home for dinner.

Friday I tried to force myself to eat more protein, to see if that's what my legs were making me crave. A serving of bgh-free cottage cheese in the morning, and a stir fry of tofu, bell peppers, and onions in chili sauce (without rice) satisfied me for a while, but left me craving carbs severely enough to buy crackers and chips near the end of the day.

This all-consuming diet doesn't appear to be making me any larger, but doesn't make me feel any healthier or more energetic and eager to bike, either. I still have some adjustments to make to the schedule and mileage, I think.

I'll report again when I get the balance right.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The True Food Network, an organization dedicated to safe, natural, unmolested foods, has joined The Center for Food Safety ( to better promote the shared goals of both organizations. The short version of their mission:
[The] Center for Food Safety works to protect human health and the environment by curbing the proliferation of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture.
They have an action page with some pretty scary stuff they're fighting on it. Check it out.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:23 PM

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


It really is summer!

I went to the Heart of the City farmer’s market on Sunday, and was enthralled by the selection. Sweet peppers, especially the long, wrinkled, crunchy ones that I’ve been so fond of for the past several years, were abundant.

Fresh onions; small volumes of white garlic (with much smaller heads and cloves than the purple fresh garlic available earlier); white corn; red, yellow, and green sweet bell peppers; Hungarian-wax-style pale green, short peppers; long, deep green, wrinkly peppers; short, hot, red chilies; yellow and green summer squash; purple and green eggplant; huge tables overflowing with perfectly round, red cherry tomatoes; yellow pear cherry tomatoes; red, ruffled brandywine tomatoes; deep red-green heirloom tomatoes that I couldn’t resist; small volumes of green beans; hubbard squashes (!); lemon grass; the last of the season's grapefruit; mixed greens; cucumbers everywhere; one stand with cauliflower; white and yellow peaches; dark plums; pluots (plum-apricots, which are a pale yellow-green with reddish spots – they always look like plums with a rash to me); pears; white and yellow nectarines; fresh herbs; mile long beans; bitter melon; and every sort of herb and tender lettuce that can be grown in this area…

We filled two large bags with yellow onions, both long and round sweet green peppers, heirloom and “early girl” tomatoes, green beans, cauliflower, white nectarines, white peaches, cucumbers, a HUGE bunch of lettuce-leaf basil, pears, round yellow and green zucchini, and two pounds of honey… All that, AND we got to stand in the sun for a while, since the fog had pulled back at the market, while remaining at home.

The sunshine made me squint, like it had been too long since I’d left my cave.

After a side trip to see the gorgeous, temporary temple set up in the new park on Octavia, we went home for a wonderful lunch of sliced, heirloom tomatoes drizzled with garlic, extra virgin olive oil, shredded fresh basil leaves, and slices of fresh, whole-milk mozzarella.

posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Monday, August 01, 2005


Tour de Fat

a row of classy bicycle tiresThe Tour de Fat is another one of those wonderful, free events in Golden Gate Park that make summer weekends so enjoyable. The event (, the sponsor) is an annual beer-sale fundraiser for my beloved San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (, along with the Bay Area Ridge Trails Council (, and is completely unlike the Tour de France it parodies.

Yes, there is a ride, just around the park, but it involves costumes and outrageously modified bicycles (my photos of toys). And, unlike the Tour de France, participants in the day long celebration are expected to consume a lot of Fat Tire Ale (the brewery with the fat-tired bike neon sign as their official, beer-window logo), play with fun toys, and kick back to enjoy live performances.

modified bicycle blissThe Tour de France riders don’t have time to play with fun toys. THERE’s a problem with le Tour right there! This event had an amazing array of toys for children of all ages to play with. TINY, TINY, TINY bicycles; frankenbikes with multiple stories of welded frames, wheels made entirely of sneakers, push broom/lawn mower functionality, backward pedal setups, round wheels with off-center hubs… FUN fun FUN toys. Ferris wheel for three riders, powered by riders pedalingMy ABSOLUTE FAVORTE toy had to be the cyclist-powered Ferris wheel. This is a three-rider wheel with a chain ring and pedals for each of us. WE are the motor. It’s possible to really get the Ferris wheel spinning, and with the seats swinging extensively, it’s a fun, wild ride. I squealed like a small child.

The live performances were excellent. The first band was Samantha (Stollenwerck), a perfect , casual, well-rehearsed summer band with pleasant music. The second act was a Peter Sweet, a man in a suit who walked a tightrope, juggled fire, and pretended to be clumsy.

The third act was amazing. They were the Yard Dogs Road Show (, a vaudeville, burlesque, carnival sort of group which had an impressive stage, fabulous costumes, wild make up, and a very entertaining show. Sword swallowing! Live music! Fan dancing! Accordians! Patent medicine sales! Magic tricks! 1970s rock poser parodies!

They were followed by a slightly surreal band called Devotchka, combining strings, Latin hits, and electronic sound effects… It’s really hard to describe. They did this amazing cover of a U2 song that defies description.


Food: there were a couple of food vendors there to fill the air with grill smells. I opted for potato and spinach knishes, which I enjoyed enough to have twice. A knish is somewhere between a turnover, a dumpling, and a potato pancake. This particular version was basically a mashed potato and flour dough mixed with sautéed spinach, salt, and pepper, fried on a huge griddle until firm. The outside cooked enough to firmly contain the softer insides. These were DELICIOUS – simple, hot, and good.

S bought me my first one, and later, when we decided to stay for another show, I went back for another. The dedicated knish griddle was FILLED with them, where they were being tended by a tall, young man with a spatula, but I was informed they wouldn’t be ready for ten minutes. I wandered off for about ten minutes, went back… and was told that it would be just a few minutes more.

I must have looked either sad or hungry, because when the next batch was done, the vendor sent another customer over to my seat to tell me that the food was ready, before serving him his knish! [I must be giving off very strange, food-related vibes. I think, in retrospect, this is part of why I am so easily recognized as a regular at local eateries.]

pretty old cruiser bikesThe audience was also worth hours of entertainment. People brought their own fabulous, tricked out bikes. There were some beautiful ‘low-rider’ like bikes with beautiful and abundant chrome spokes, lots of amazing cruisers, classic old bikes with their original 1950s paint jobs, wild colors, shiny chrome… The riders ranged from families dressed up as if they were going to a fancy dinner to families decked out for tattoo competitions (well, except for the children), lots of people wearing cowboy hats, lots of costumes, older people on a stroll through the park, and a diverse range of every flavor/ethnicity/style of person, all checking out the bikes on display and hanging out. I was collecting signatures for the petition to prevent the GGB District from charging pedestrians and bicyclists a toll to cross the Golden Gate Bridge, and found everyone extremely pleasant, as I do at nearly every bike event I attend.

It was a GREAT event.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:13 PM


”Oh no, dear, that’s an [unspeakable horror].”

At a barbecue recently, I had a chance to talk to an in-law-equivalent who sampled traditional Portuguese cuisine in his youth. At least, until he found out what those delicacies were made out of.

He had a good way of describing his experiences, which I’ll paraphrase here.
My mother had photographs of herself holding up these long, white things. I thought she was making pasta. So I remarked on this to my mother, and she said, ‘Oh no, dear, those are pig intestines. We’re washing them, so we can make linguica.’

My eyes went wide; my jaw dropped. After that, I couldn’t bear to eat linguica. [Linguica is a sausage.]

There was also a soup my relatives made. While enjoying a bowl, I remarked to my mother that the noodles were a bit chewy. My mother said, ‘Oh no, dear, those aren’t noodles. That’s tripe. It’s slices of stomach; that’s why it’s chewy.’

My eyes went wide. After that, I couldn’t stand to eat tripe soups.
He also observed that his eldest son is going through variations of this now, having made the connection between the animals that decorate so much children’s stuff, and the animals on the dinner table.


This reminds me of my mother’s relationship to chickens, and her trauma on the farm she was raised on when she made the connection between the chickens she was giving food to in the morning, and chicken on her plate. She eventually broke that connection, and eats chicken now. The same goes for a girlfriend who learned that chickens can make great pets, while caring for a friend’s affectionate chicken. She continued to eat chicken, but had to actively tell herself that ‘it’s not a chicken I know.’


Yes, vegetarians like me are thoroughly entertained by stories like this.

No, strangely enough, I don’t have my own realization story. I made those ‘animal -> plate’ connections when I was a child, in the most abstract way that City kids do, but kept eating heavily disguised and/or processed meats with the rest of my family for years afterward. Vegetarianism came to me in my teens, when foods made out of animals became physically, rather than just conceptually, repulsive. My body found ways to reject meat from then on, in increasing degrees of severity. This didn’t surprise my mother, who had long accused me of being a fussy eater when it came to meat, and who to this day remarks to my friends on the bold stand I took against bacon when I was about 6.

This does not necessarily mean that I'll take care of your chicken while you're on vacation, though. :-)
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:12 PM

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