Saturday, December 31, 2011

On The Verge of a New Year

GF Lemon & Rosemary Cookies (Blackbird Bakery)
2011 was pretty good to me.

The first episode of Spatula aired this year. Our transition into a  Gluten-Free house was a delightful challenge this year. I experienced Yosemite National Park for the first time. I wrote a lot of articles and did a lot of yoga. I've been lucky enough to share the year with some really awesome friends and family.  And, throughout the year, I've made some kick-ass food.

That makes me a pretty happy girl.

While walking Bleu Dog this afternoon, FD and I talked about our New Year's Resolutions. Of course, we discussed the little things that we want to accomplish in the new year and our life-long goals that we always revisit. And we shared the things we have overcome this year as well as those that we still need more time to resolve, or grow from, or experience--all those things we carry between every year. But, ultimately, I told FD, I'm not making any resolutions for New Year's; I'm going to resolve things as I go along this year. In other words, I'm going to go with the flow, be more open to seeing the present moment and thoughtfully reflecting and changing in that moment.
Lake Erie Walleye Fish Cheeks

If 2011 taught me anything, it was that change is possible all of time, and if we are open to seeing opportunities and taking chances, things can happen. Good things, bad things, different things, job things, personal things--things. It's these things that shape who we are. So why put all the pressure onto becoming someone I hope to be on one day of the year when I should be aware of myself everyday and resolving to be who I am in the moment and going from there?

That said, I have quite a bit great memories from 2011. From the special meals shared at Revolver with close friends or the most fantastic meal at Lolita with my in-law's to the unexpectedly perfect meals that just happened, from our Fish Fry in July to Fairy Dust, from my obsession with Nigel Slater to my new-found love for Chicken Pate with Basil and Cashews and from eating the most perfect burger to baking the most beautiful GF Christmas cookies, I have to say that no matter what every year I feel my palate gets stronger and my skill gets sharper.  My journey with food feels never-ending, and that is a beautiful realization today, the last day of 2011.

Since the semester has been over, I've either been in the kitchen--figuring out GF holiday baking--or spending time with family. Most people would think spending six-to-eight hours in the kitchen in one day is maddening, but more and more, for me, it's becoming a mediation. A place where I can challenge the mind and calm it at the same time. And because of the time I'm willing to commit to the kitchen, I found several awesome GF cookie recipes (all from Blackbird Bakery). And those those quick moments mean so much more too, such as sautéing Walleye fish cheeks quickly in butter, lemon, salt and pepper, as Michael Ruhlman recommended; these fast meals, in contrast to more time-consuming recipes, show me that every dish has its own possibilities, secrets, and sanity.

 I don't know what the new year will bring, but I hope there are even more aha! moments in my kitchen, many more great meals shared with dear friends and family, and a lot more moments of reflection and resolve.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I Ain't Playing Games!

The past two weeks I have been completely preoccupied. I graded over 125 student essays, read over 125 student reflections, and helped over 125 students prepare for the portfolio process and the end of the semester--all the while reading The Hunger Games trilogy.

Needless to say, I am exhausted.

But I am satisfied.

With the end of the semester. And with how the Hunger Games trilogy ends.

I could do a book review, give spoiler alerts, forecast how the movies will be different from the books, and try to convince you to read them, but that's a waste.

Really all I want to talk about is the food.

These YA books portray a strong female main character, have bomb-ass action scenes, and perfectly blend Harry Potter with Twilight, but what I love the most is when the food appears.

I don't think it's supposed to be the highlights of the book, seeing that most characters are starving, but I'm thoroughly intrigued that an author has taken on describing high-end food while (un)consciously taking on world hunger as an issue.

Of course, I'm torn. I want more descriptions of the lamb stew Katniss loves. I want to taste Peeta's family's bread. At the same time, I'm frustrated by how many families are starving while others are getting their fill and much, much more.

Everyone should have equal access to good food. Be in it a fictional trilogy or, more importantly, in reality.

Reading The Hunger Games was the first time I've seen food highlighted in a YA novel. It confirmed for me how food does form culture, set social classes apart, and gives us the nutrition we need. I knew all those things, obviously, but seeing them play out in a YA novel was truly compelling for me.

And as I was thinking about this blog post and researching, I came across several sites that developed recipes based on The Hunger Games. Fictional Food is pretty rad. But this recipe adapted from Mark Bittman for the lamb stew has me quite smitten.

But then I feel guilty. Not everyone can afford lamb.

Then there is the saving grace: The Hunger Games advocates hunting.

Alright, I'm on board.

My philosophy with meat is simple. If you can't respect the life of an animal, you shouldn't eat animals. I know that sounds like I'm vegan, which I could be, if not for the local farms that surround us. In other words, I want to be able to meet the animals I could be eating, I want to know that they are humanely raised, I want to cook and eat meat that has its bones in proper places because it reminds me of the sacrifice of a life for my life, and I want to "honor" the animal by appreciating how ALL of its parts provide edible, delicious food, clothing or shelter.

Besides buying from local farmers, such as Luginbill Family Farms or Omega Meats, the only other way to ensure completely honoring an animal is having the balls to be a hunter. Not a sport hunter, but a real hunter.

This is where Collins, author of The Hunger Games, got it right. Two of the main characters are hunters. And wildfowl hunters, in additional to small and big game hunters. That's pretty kick-ass awesome, in my opinion. What seems like a trivial action to get a potential "couple" engaged with one another, hunting takes on this beautiful theme--that hunting can provide for MANY people, that hunting isn't ethically wrong--it's a means to survival, and that hunting actually reconnects us with nature, others, and the self.

Any day in the week I'd take wild goose over a steak/hamburger at a restaurant where I have no idea how they procured it.

I respect animals. So much so, I'm toying with the notion of only eating meat when I know exactly where it came from. If I don't know, I eat vegetarian or, better yet, vegan.

The Hunger Games has made me feel like I've fragilely connected the worlds between left and right politics. And better yet, it made me committed to finding a stellar wildfowl recipe in honor of the premier of the movie on March 23, 2012.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Eggs: Two Ways!

 One of my side projects this semester has been filming and airing an online cooking show through Connotation Press. What I love most about this project is working with Sarah and figuring out what fun foods to cook. While we're still getting our bearings being in front of a camera, I'm definitely proud of the unique camera work, our approach in the kitchen, and the concept of one food, two ways. I have to admit, though, it's been strange living within this new medium after so much hanging out with written words.

Because each episode is accompanied by an essay from me and Sarah, I think it's solid attempt at experimenting with multi-modal food writing. Even though it may seem as though we collaborate on our essays, we don't. Probably because we share a "food-brain," Sarah and I just end up writing about the same things more often than not. I think it's pretty funny.

Our second episode all about eggs really showcases how versatile eggs are. In fact, it was hard to pick what egg recipe to do. Easily, we could have made mayo, a meringue, omelets, a custard, a quiche, a strata, etc. etc. etc. In the end, I chose a frittata because it is my favorite egg dish, and one I make quite often.

I hope you'll enjoy this episode of Spatula and our accompanying essays, and tune in to our newest episodes and essays that air on the 1st of every month. For December, we're celebrating kale, our shared favorite vegetable!