Cooking is full-body immersion: the rich contemplation of the beauty of food; the feel of it in my hands; the sound as it splutters or bubbles in the pan; the smell of it all.Nigella Lawson, Cook, eat, Repeat
I don’t know why I’m writing you except that I like to. I have much to do; I am way behind again because I spend too much time on Wed. night preparation and preparation for the missionary meeting last night.
Some startling and sad news came yesterday in the Seminary alumni news. At the conf. they received word that Jim McRoberts had suddenly taken ill and died. For the life of me I can’t remember his wife’s first name and I feel that I should use it when writing, so I hope you can remember it. I wish that we could take some time to drive up to see her in Kalamazoo, but I don’t suppose that is possible, or that it would accomplish much except to show our interest and to know more about circumstances.
Beautiful outside today – some snow on the ground and the sun is shining. A rather cold windy snow yesterday.
Valentines and all the mess are in full progress around here. Margaret diligently got hers already on Monday. Johnny took his this morning. Dorothy has all of hers to do yet. They each have to make an individual decorated box to put them in. I about fainted when I heard that, I was so busy with other things I didn’t see where, when or how I was going to get that worked in. Dorothy’s and David’s are not done yet. I’m hoping that they will show some initiative and do it themselves.
Hesper gave us some corn out of her deep freeze. It is positively delicious. I’m saving some for you – just like out of the garden. The youngsters got so excited when they sniffed the odor of fresh corn! Gave me inspiration to stay out here and to have a garden. I almost talked myself to moving into to town where I could avoid all that heavy work.
Now I must sign off and write letters to Millers and Kreimes to acknowledge money sent.
I love you sweetheart – guess that is about all the Valentine that you will get. Maybe I’ll cook up some caramels for you, but when trying to lose weight that probably isn’t a kindness. But I love you heaps and heaps and it is so good to be looking forward to having you home again.
Why I garden:
To make bruschetta.
Basil and Shakespeare: making pesto today.
They jostle each other, swinging hands in the air: choose me! choose me! Which salad will be crowned Salad of the Summer this year? They study winners of yore, searching for an edge to beat out the competition.
Pioneer Woman’s Asian Noodle Salad is the only entry in the storied history of Salad of the Summer to win two consecutive years. Cilantro must be the key. Black Bean and Corn was the inaugural winner. Color is vital. Spinach Salad sighs, recalling glory days. Broccoli Salad reminds her competitors that she won Miss Leftover seven years ago. Greek Salad pirouettes, posing, ignoring the sneers from the lettuce section. FourP Salad (pistachio, pear, pomegranate, and parmesan) receives a vigorous communal put-down: you’re a winter salad with pomegranates. Don’t even.
The judge is not unbiased. She determined, before the semi-finals even began that quinoa needed representation. Considered an ancient grain, it is high in protein. The runner-up was a Greek Quinoa with Kalamata olives (oh, yum) but the Persian flavors, especially cumin, in HJQS seduced the judge and jury.
Hannah Jane’s Quinoa Salad
2 cups uncooked quinoa
3 cups any combination of water / broth
1/4 teaspoon salt
Soak quinoa in water (not the water/broth above) 10-15 minutes; drain and rinse.
Mix quinoa, water/broth, and salt in pot; bring to boil, simmer 15 minutes.
Fluff and cool.
black beans (14 oz can–drained and rinsed, or 1 1/2 cups cooked beans)
tomatoes (3 Roma or /1 Beefsteak or / a small container of grape tomatoes)
bell pepper (1/2 large red or 6-9 mini peppers, what have you)
onion (4 green onions, sliced or / 1/2 red onion fine dice)
cilantro (a bunch, it’s a beautiful thing)
Add prepared veggies to cooled quinoa
The Dressing (doesn’t the dressing always make the salad?)
2 limes, juiced
olive oil, 1/4 – 1/3 cup, your preference
ground cumin, 1 teaspoon (<<<the magic ingredient)
black pepper, enough grinds to equal 1/2 teaspoon, or to taste
salt, enough grinds to equal 1 teaspoon, or to taste
Stir together, toss with salad.
It’s gluten-free, dairy-free, boring-free, bland-free, calorie-free. j/k on the last one.
Even better the next day.
One time my brother gave me ten years of old Cook’s Illustrated magazines. Reading through them was like reliving Dan’s culinary phases. Oh, yeah, remember when he was making sausage? There’s the artisan bread recipe! Here’s where he learned to make risotto! Adding nutmeg to stroganoff might not have been an original idea…
I used to think my brother was a genius. (Ha ha, bro!) Then I realized he was merely an amazing reader who followed fantastic recipes.
The first thing I did with the magazines was cut out the Flemish-ish art and frame it.
Because I admire Christopher Kimball’s voice, I recently read through ten years of essays to assay his writing. I immersed myself in them in one week. A very few were ‘meh;’ most had a phrase or thought I copied into my journal.
His overarching theme is one of my own soap boxes, the importance of families eating together, a concept he encapsulates in the word familiar. Here are ten quotes I gleaned.
- We lost traditions that had connected us, and in which food played an important role: the social vitality of a meal, for example, as an occasion for families to talk, argue, persuade, or even shout.
- On many days, there is more sense to be found in a good recipe for roast chicken than in all the news on the front page of the New York Times.
- Today, a whole generation has grown up as a take-out culture. The food is convenient, and some of it is even good, but it has none of the ring of the familiar; it can never be personal enough to become part of our past.
- Dinner slows the clock, allowing us a moment to catch our breath, to savor the stillness of the moment; the first taste of a family recipe connecting us instantly to each other, to our past and future.
- So many of us today avoid cooking because it is difficult and time-consuming, requiring skill and planning. But it is the blessing of common labor — transforming simple beginnings into rich harvests — that is the great joy of cooking and of any life well lived.
- I hate the idea that cooking should be a celebration or a party. Cooking is about putting food on the table night after night, and there isn’t anything glamorous about it.
- Over a lifetime, hands become invested with knowledge, if we allow it. The surgeon, the farmer, the gardener, the artist, and the mother all accrue a lifetime of skill in their hands.
- Cooks are architects, building a present that is worth remembering, investing time and energy in simple tasks that grow in importance as time passes.
- It’s a shame that at the beginning of this new century, the world is watching America and America is watching television.
- Cooking isn’t creative, and it isn’t easy. It’s serious, and it’s hard to do well, just as everything worth doing is damn hard.
After I read the last essay, I read a few articles about Christopher Kimball, the man. I was saddened by his divorce, and laughed out loud at this sentence by Alex Halberstadt: “His real difficulty as an evangelist, however, is the one afflicting most multimillionaires who expound publicly on the virtues of simple living.”
As it happens, Kimball has left Cook’s Illustrated to begin a new magazine called Milk Street. Clever name, I thought, wrongly guessing it was an idiom like in tall cotton. Turns out it’s the street where Kimball’s offices are located.
Last night I started a biography of Benjamin Franklin that a friend wants me to read. When I read that Benjamin was born in a house on Milk Street in Boston, I just laughed. Once again, my reading life has synchronicity, serendipity and sweetness.
It’s the little things, right?
One autumn a friend closed her café and gave me a restaurant-sized bag of Big Train Chai to thank me for my help. That winter I had a delicious, steaming, comforting cup of chai every night. Without changing any other eating habits, I gained eight pounds in two or three months. One little thing.
I’m done with diets.* It’s easy to believe I can take off twenty – thirty pounds if I focus hard on a plan—pick one, any one— and execute it. But I know that as soon as I go “off” the ‘plan’ that weight huffs and puffs, red-faced and straining, and catches up with me.
So I’m looking for little changes that over the long haul will add up to loss. This summer my daily drink is Mint Lime Water. I clip some mint and put that at the bottom of my 32 oz. cup. I squeeze a half a lime into it. (Or, pull a snack bag with the juice of one lime out of the freezer.) I add one package of Truvia. (I know, I know, it’s not healthy, but I’m going to finish my supply before I give it up.) Fill the cup with ice and then water. Suddenly, it’s easier to drink my water. And I’ve taken a leave of absence from caffeine.
Curt’s cousin encouraged me to try a sprig of rosemary in my water. I like it!
What is your little thing? I’d seriously like to glean some other ideas that friends/readers have found helpful.
Do you have a fun substitution or a new twist on something? Does anyone out there use a standing desk? My friend at work does squats while she blow-dries her hair. I’d love to do that, but I’m not willing to give up reading a book and I don’t think I could manage both!
I’ll wait for your comments. Thanks!
* Until the next new one seduces me.
I posted this picture of bone-broth cooling on Facebook and got too many questions to answer. My husband has been drinking bone broth daily for a few months and has subsequently cut his ibuprofen intake in half (he has been an ibuprofen junkie–for joint pain–for decades). This makes his doctor very happy. And his liver must be happier.
First is bone broth just a frou frou name for stock? I honestly don’t know, but the people instructing me call it bone broth, so I do too.
One other observation. Our attitude toward alternative therapies begins with the question Will it hurt to try this? If we conclude that the risk is either nonexistent or very low, we’re open to experimentation. Often, it seems, food (the absence of harmful, the addition of helpful) can be the cure for many of our miseries.
There are many recipes on the webs for stock/bone broth. You can make it on the stove top, in a crock pot, or (my preference) in a pressure cooker. I bought the Instant Pot that has seven functions in one appliance. It cost less than I would pay for one appointment with a physician, so that was a no-brainer. As a bonus, it cooks rice beautifully, makes stews in no time at all, can be used as a slow cooker, etc. etc. etc. I have ZERO buyer’s remorse about this purchase. (If you decide to buy and click on my link, you help support this blog, ahem. Thankyou, she whispers.)
If you want a book in your hand, I recommend Sally Fallon and Kaayla Daniel’s Nourishing Broth. Dr. Daniel also has many videos on YouTube.
Some practical tips. Whenever we shop at Costco we buy a rotisserie chicken. We save the bones (leg, thigh, wing, carcass). I throw them in the pot with chopped onion, celery and carrot, add a few bay leaves, some salt and pepper and a tiny glug of apple cider vinegar.
I set the cooker for 90 minutes. It takes ~ 1/2 hour to get the pressure up and at least 1/2 hour for the pressure to decrease. What I love about this pot is that it will keep the broth warm for up to 10 hours. So I can safely let it go overnight. I strain the broth and pour it into pint jars, mark the date, and stick them in the freezer. We warm up the broth before we drink it. I use it as a base for soups, sauces, and so on.
I’ve used ham, turkey and beef bones. Bones, unfortunately, are not what I would consider low cost. I would consider $0.50/lb. low cost. Yeah, well. So I try to buy bone-in meats. We recently helped our kids butcher home-grown chickens on their mini-farm. I clamored for the chicken feet. They made the best broth, evah!! I have a great photo of the chicken feet (guy, they look like hands), but when I posted it on Facebook, it sent a few friends into therapy.
That’s my story! I’d love to hear your responses.
Little did I know, last fall when I read Shauna Niequiest’s Bread and Wine , that soon I would employ one of her coping mechanisms for dealing with grief—reading cookbooks. Without a plot there isn’t story grip, but that works well when it is hard to focus. Shauna’s book is simply a memoir with a few recipes. Besides introducing me to Nigella, I found her thoughts on hospitality and on feasting/fasting helpful.
Nigella Kitchen is the first full-length cookbook that I read like a novel. Ah, Nigella! This was the best choice for me. She writes with sparkly and surprising words, tosses in literary allusions, and takes unalloyed pleasure in alliteration. (I was at the stove, pontificating and pottering, occasionally pushing and prodding what was in front of me with a pair of tongs…) Her words are cozy and comforting: those of us who warm our souls by the stove and the solace of stirring. The pictures are sumptuous. This is all the joy of butter pecan ice cream without the calories.
A friend gave me Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef , a gluten-light person (except when I’m not). Two things drew me to Shauna Ahern: her response to a celiac diagnosis—saying ‘yes’ to everything she could eat instead of mourning what she couldn’t— and her deep/high/broad respect for her chef husband. There’s almost too much dancing and kissing and gazing and shopping-is-foreplaying, but I’d rather that than the condescending tone Molly Wizenberg had towards her husband in Delancey. My cookbook shelf was crowded and I had expected to ‘read and release’ this. The recipes are highbrow, more Julia Child than Pioneer Woman. But I have to make a few, so I’m keeping this one. I love the way Danny and Shauna formatted the recipes.
When How to Cook Without a Book appeared on a bride’s wish list, I did the tightwad cha-cha-cha and read it entirely (after washing my hands) before I gave it to her. Then I repented and bought a copy for myself. Pam Anderson is earnest and straightforward. But this is a book to be read more for education than entertainment. Many good tips, including using won ton wrappers for ravioli.
There is a kind of woman who makes all sorts of people consider her their best friend. That’s Ree Drummond! The Pioneer Woman Cooks welcomes you to her ranch and kitchen and walks you through recipes step-by-step. Rich in photography, in conversational writing, and in wacky humor, this might be the best place to start if you want to read cookbooks like novels, too!
After I’ve consumed these cookbooks, I’ll write another post: 5 More Cookbooks to Read
Genetic strains have been induced to increase yield per acre. The average yield on a modern North American farm is more than tenfold greater than farms of a century ago. Such enormous strides in yield have required drastic changes in genetic code, including reducing the proud “amber waves of grain” of yesteryear to the rigid, eighteen-inch-tall high-production “dwarf” wheat of today. (Davis)
The problem with increasing the yield was that the head of the wheat plant got so heavy, that the stalk broke. I live in grain-growing country. I have seen, but had never noticed, how low the wheat plants are.
Our married life began in Humboldt County, California, a mecca for hippie homemade-granola types. We ground our wheat, fried soy burger patties, ate carob, drank kefir, sweetened with honey and seasoned with tamari. There were no cans in our cupboards. (Our food righteousness was suffocating.)
Whole wheat was our banner. We’ve since relinquished (and later revisited) some of our hippie food, but we never abandoned whole grains. I embraced baking our daily bread. I’ve taught a baker’s dozen how to make loaves of bread, persuaded several to buy a wheat grinder. After the decade of teenage boys, in which I shredded six bread machines, we bought a Bosch mixer that has proven itself a great dough maker.
But it goes far deeper. I am a Christian; I regard the Bible as a holy book. Phrases like Bread of Life, eat this bread, bread and wine, bread from heaven, consecrated bread have nourished my soul. Why would Jesus say, “I am the Bread of Life” if bread is bad for you? Bread is as daily as it gets.
Last summer we stayed a week in a house at Maine. I love scanning bookshelves, gauging compatibility with the owners. There it was, Wheat Belly. I picked it up and began reading. My interest rose like yeast and I bought a copy once I had returned home.
I decided to do an experiment. I stopped eating wheat for a few days. And I felt good. I stopped eating wheat for a few weeks. And I felt great. Very scientific experiment, don’t you know. So scientific that I reintroduced wheat into my diet. And I felt achy all over. People like me with their anecdotal twaddle drive scientists bonkers. But there it is.
My family medical history is grim. I have been dodging diabetes for a decade. I have a fasting blood glucose test drawn annually and I attend to my numbers. I keep (figuratively) running, and cancer keeps (literally) chasing me. If/when a doctor looks me in the eyes and says, “Carol, you have cancer” I can imagine being sad, but I cannot imagine being surprised.
One way that I try to keep diabetes and cancer behind me is by eating foods low on the glycemic index. It’s good to cut back on sweets, but it is helpful to know that flour is my sugar, that modern wheat quickly converts into high blood sugar. Whole wheat bread has a glycemic index of 72 (glucose = 100), higher than ice cream or Coke (Harvard Health Publications, HMS).
I could never reconcile a gluten-free diet with the biblical injunction to “Eat this bread.” I believe we were created to eat bread, but tinkering with wheat has made it unhealthy for people who are insulin resistant and leptin resistant. My husband can eat bread every day. I still grind wheat and still make bread for him.
I understand that I haven’t been diagnosed with a “food allergy.” I just know I feel better when I don’t eat gluten. And I control about 90% of what I am served. When I visit a friend and she serves me a sandwich, I eat it with gratitude. In my case, the laws of hospitality trump my preferences. And the laws of thanksgiving cover it all.
One argument remains for eating bread. It is delicious! Nothing excels the smells of bread. Oh, how I look forward to weekly communion and the yummy amazing bite of bread. I chew and remember and swallow.
If you are interested in pursuing this topic further, I recommend you read Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers (where the dementia/diabetes relationship is explored) and Wheat Belly. Read the arguments and find the flaws. Convince me I’m full of macaroni, would you?