Sunday, May 31, 2009

Good Eats Reading

I happened upon two food-related books in the last week "The Dinner Diaries" by Betsy Block and "A Homemade Life" by Molly Wizenberg of Orangette. They are very different in their focus, but both got me thinking about food and eating.

Block writes about overhauling her family's diet to be more sustainable and healthy and Wizenberg writes about her love of cooking and how food is steeped in memories and stories. The two books compliment each other, while as Block tires to cook with millet and eats an 18th century meal of pease porridge, Wizenberg goes through pounds of butter and cups of heavy buttermilk to get a cake batter just right. While Wizenberg's book has more passion for the pure enjoyment of eating, Block's book offers some good guidelines for eating locally (CSA's), sustainably (less meat and dairy), organic and in-season foods (whenever reasonably possible), fair-trade (especially coffee, tea, chocolate and sugar), choosing seafood that is not over-fished or full of heavy metals, and replacing refined white flour with whole grains (think spelt, quinoa, flaxseed, bulgar, millet, wild rice and barley).

Block's book is heavy with debate and conflict (Husband doesn't eat tomatoes! Raw fish eggs are not safe for children to eat! Son swaps healthy food for junk at school!) and she tends to flit from topic to topic and uses a road map that only she is aware of. Her kids are fussy eaters, and that I can relate to, so she is often frustrated when it comes to family mealtimes. Despite her sometimes over zealous approach to improving her family's health, she searches out good/safe/healthy alternatives that anyone can incorporate into their lifestyles one step at a time.

The Orangette blog writer offers her recipes in the spirit of simply sharing darn good food. She adores french food and writes endlessly about cake (!). Her recipes are intertwined with stories of growing up in Oklahoma, travels to Paris and living in Seattle. She rounds it out with soups, breads and salads along with stories about her family, friends and childhood. Her recipes include Fresh Ginger Cake with Caramelized Pears, Shaved Fennel Salad with Mushrooms and Parmesan, Butternut Squash Soup with Pear, Cider, and Vanilla Bean, and lots more. I enjoyed her argument of the merits of "white" chocolate, which sadly fell out of fashion after the 80's and the story of how she ordered a macaroon cake for her birthday one year that was as big as her head. The second half of the book was a bit "fluffy" and I don't mean the cake batter, though the recipes are just as good. But hey, I am not complaining - I just settled down with a whole grain, honey-sweetened, peanut butter cookie and some fair trade Mexico Kulaktic coffee slow brewed in a french press. Yum!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Eldest son

juj and mom
Originally uploaded by monpon.

It is a rainy, overcast morning and I had planned on getting out in the garden and planting a few seeds, seedlings and flowers and digging out a couple of old stumps from a pair of dying bushes. But, seeing as it grey and chilly and I am feeling a bit moody (could they possibly be related?), I'll wait till sunnier days. I have been thinking a lot about change lately: kids getting older and needing me less in familiar ways, marriage and the many stages it goes through, especially with young children, and as the semester ends and I reach my half-way point for a BFA, I wonder what lies beyond that.

As for my eldest, he is about to be a teenager in a few short months. And although he has always been strong willed and not afraid to question authority, he is moving into a place where he will be making more and more of his own decisions. It is tricky to find that balance between his decisions and our limits, his opinions and our values, his need to explore and experiment and our insistence on his safety.

Take the issue of technology for example; it is not uncommon for some middle school aged kids these days to have cell phones, video gaming systems, computers with Internet access, i pods, cable TV, email and texting. I feel like half the battle these days is limiting electronics, which is tough with a kid who at an early age played with snap circuits, who asked for batteries and wires for his birthdays and has interests in solar power and electricity. He has to-date taken apart two computers, modified his pc with more memory and ram than he will ever need, added a second disk drive and 11 speakers, downloaded free software onto his Nintendo DS so that he now has a browser and an operating system and can tap into free wi-fi in the neighborhood. There is no stopping this kid and like myself and my sisters and brother he has a bit of the obsessive in him.

I am proud that he has found something he is truly interested in and is self-motivated to learn more about, and for now we've settled on limited computer/electronic time and making sure he rounds out his days with sports, school work, reading, socializing and outdoor time.

But we can tell where his heart really is.

I do wish perhaps that the world wasn't so technologically driven and that this generation of kids wasn't growing up with an endless stream of digital information. This is when I wish for simpler times, a few acres of land with space for tree climbing and fort building, a creek to wade and fish in, a thicket to run through, to play and hide in. And he knows the value of this, I have to trust that. But he is venturing out on his own, full of opinions and ideas that are his not mine. Hold on tightly, I think, and let go slowly.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

sandy beach finds

sandy beach finds
Originally uploaded by monpon.

We had a lot of great finds at the beaches in Oregon and Washington - sand dollars - or their off-white skeletons, crab shells and bivalve clams with hinges intact. We brought them home carefully and Mai shared the crab shell with her fellow 3 and 4 year olds at school who looked at it through magnifying glasses. The clam shells turned out to be good music makers too, when Mai put in a few small stones and shook it like a shaker. Our Music Together class must have inspired her! The oceans, tide pools and estuaries have much different offerings than what we are used to in the great lakes region. Aside from the invasive Zebra Mussels and the occasional dead alewives, the beaches turn up smooth, rounded lake stones make from limestone, basalt, granite and slate with mineral bands of quartz, calcite and agate. I have many happy childhood memories of discovering what might be an agate or holding a perfectly round wave- rolled Lake Superior concretion in my hand.

Monday, May 18, 2009

End of the tunnel

The semester is finished and I can say a happy goodbye to the tunnel and flag books, bad critiques and late night bookbinding.  And Hello to little white strawberry blossoms, planting a salsa garden, starting my summer reading and recreation program.  That is after I catch up on my sleep that was interrupted multiple times between the hours of 10:30 and 2:30 p.m. by calls for drinks of water, distress about said water being too warm and yucky and complaints about ear pain.  All this while I was in the middle of a nice dream about walking through an underground city in search of my sister's college boyfriend, who I finally found after much google map searching.  We were sitting in his apartment with his blond son discussing who inherited some old furniture from the old apartment when I kept getting interrupted by moans, fusses and whines.  Nothing a nice little nap with Mai Mai can cure, though I doubt the dream reunions will be worthy of a sequel.    

I did think I may have to hang up my blogger password for a while there since there wasn't much in the way of actual blogging going on in the past couple of months. But for now I'll continue to post erratically and with as must gusto as I can muster! 

Saturday, May 16, 2009

When the living is easy

Originally uploaded by monpon.

Ahh, laundry hanging on the line near a blooming lilac tree. A bright red cardinal searching for worms in the thick green grass. Fresh cut tulips on the kitchen counter from an errant row of bulbs growing on the front lawn. Cilantro, chives and mint in the garden. Finally, we can wake to sunshine and warm air and spend more than a few hurried minutes out in the yard. We are brightening up the living room with a fresh coat of paint, sitting on the sidelines cheering for Juj's soccer team and making plans for summertime.

Monday, May 11, 2009

I won't soon get the sight and scent of the cherry blossoms out of my head.

We all recovered well from our travels and are back home after a lovely family trip. We drove along the coast from Seattle to Portland, stopping at Seaside for an afternoon splash at the beach and then drove to the Northwest Portland Hostel where we stayed two nights. It was truly beautiful in Portland, warm, sunny, green and blooming. Yes, we will have that too, soon! The kids got to run and romp and and roll in the parks and yards and we slowed down then tempo of our sightseeing. We did visit the rose gardens, drink some yummy Rogue beer and walk around near the hostel (Paper Source shop!). Most importantly, though, we got to hang out with cousin Ollie and her lovely parents!