Book spine poetry: the food edition

Kid One was quite amused to see me standing in the kitchen this morning, staring intently at books piled on the counters while “Appalachian Spring” played on the iPod dock. He thought it would make a great scene from a movie – I’m hoping he was imagining a romantic comedy of some sort, although knowing him, more likely it was the prelude to a zombie invasion. I was actually not auditioning for my son, though, I was trying my hand at book spine poetry, a concept introduced to me recently by Susan Bearman via Brain Pickings in honor of National Poetry Month. All you have to do is arrange a pile of books so that the titles say something poetic, profound, or perhaps preposterous. It would be a great party game if you had lots of books and a few nerdy friends. This morning I decided to handicap myself by choosing only food fiction or food fact books. There’s a collection spilling around the kitchen; I thought it would be easy. But turns out a shelf of titles starting with “The” and ending in “Cookbook” is a bit limiting, and try as I might I couldn’t figure out how to put “The Widow Cliquot” together with “A Goose In Toulouse” and “The Nasty Bits” without cheating. Here’s the first one I came up with: What Einstein Told His Cook: The Sweet Life in Paris Tastes of Paradise. Banana, Fruits & Vegetables, Nuts, Secret Ingredients, Spam. Are You Hungry Tonight? And then this more haiku-inspired poem: Pacific Feast From My Mexican Kitchen, Fish, Without a Doubt. Then I played around...

Well, what does she expect?

Grrr. I passed two women walking their dogs this morning. They looked to be a 40ish woman woman with her 70ish mother having a loud, gossipy catch-up conversation. As they passed me, this is what I heard: “So how’s Mary doing?” “Well, she’s 40 now.” (laughter) “She says she’s feeling too much like a just chauffeur these days. All she does anymore is drive her kids around.” “Well, what does she expect with three of them?” “Right, I know. And her daughter is going to auditions now, which she thinks just makes it worse.” “That’s what ‘no’ is for. Someone should tell her that.” I couldn’t hear anymore after that. I didn’t need to – their laughs were unsympathetic, their tones of voice self-important. I was horrified, and indignant. So Mary is ostensibly a friend struggling with the idea of aging and with the realities of mothering her children. I assume she stays at home with the kids. At the very least, she could expect some empathy from a woman she chose to confide in – right? And why the self-importance? These were woman with the luxury of walking their dogs at the beach on a weekday morning. Talking about Mary’s plight would have been a perfect moment to look out at the water and reflect on how lucky they are, this mother and daughter, to have this moment together. My first thought, watching them walk away, was that they missed the point. Even though you might have expectations of your life as a parent will be, those are just the broad brush strokes. You can never know what to expect from...

From French Chef to Fat Chef in fifty years

Fifty years ago Julia Child celebrated butter and cream, teaching us how to craft soufflés and beef Wellington on The French Chef. When her show was originally on the air, the average weight of an adult woman then was 140 pounds. In 1997 the International Federation of Competitive Eating was founded, and a few years later Man v. Food showed us how you can make a living by traveling and allowing yourself to be filmed stuffing as much food into your body in one sitting literally as humanly possible. Now the Food Network takes Fat Chefs and teaches them how to not eat quite so much and how to work off the calories. Today the average weight of an adult woman today is 164 pounds. There is, I think, connection here. Frank Bruni has been writing some thoughtful essays recently about how we are most likely genetically programmed toward weight gain, pointing out that the way in which we’ve become experts at processing food crops has led to the creation of a tremendous array of irresistibly salty, sweet, tasty, calorie-dense, and cheap things to grab and munch on at will. (Read the piece – he’s got some excellent points – then read the comments, which are also quite insightful.) This is Michael Pollan’s big point in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, showing how we take the million of acres of corn we grow and not just feeding it to the animals we eat, but reformulating it into almost a dozen more components of processed foods: For modified or unmodified starch, for crystalling fructose and ascorbic acid, for lecithin and dextrose, lactic acid and lysine, for maltose and...
Voluptuous vegetable sandwich

Voluptuous vegetable sandwich

We had an Easter Sunday picnic basket from the Post Ranch Inn’s Sierra Mar restaurant that turned a casual lunch into haute cuisine . . . a vegetable sandwich made positively voluptuous – studded with thickly sliced grilled eggplant, beefy tomato, and mild roasted red peppers, all dripping with richly flavored olive oil, sandwiched between slabs of densely olive-studded bread, and slathered with creamy parsley-laced Jersey ricotta. Mmmm. All the more awesome – accompanied by chips, a crunchy melange of thinly sliced and quickly fried roots: turnips, parsnips, golden beets, yams. Yum.   Their chicken curry was a close runner-up, shredded chicken mixed with Greek yogurt and curry spices, layered on another toothy homemade bread, this one laced with pecan chunks and raisins and probably made with spelt, and a few fresh spinach leaves. The spicy apply chutney was meant to be slathered on the bread for a fully tricked out taste sensation.   Other treats in our lunch baskets: packets of dried mixed fruit, figs, cherries, apricots, and golden raisins; salty mixed nuts, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts, and pecans; and a crumbly oat and raisin-laced house made granola bar. I brought those goodies home for Kid Two to enjoy in his lunch this...
Bacon for dessert!

Bacon for dessert!

I took a small, happy gang – the boys, their visiting cousin, Mija, and her little sister – to Marini’s for ice cream last Friday night before the GLOW fire art festival started.   Marini’s is a great candy store – they’ve been making saltwater taffy on the Boardwalk for almost a hundred years. The shop is lined with lights and mirrors, all color and candy and energy. Stuffed animals and jellybean dispensers, Pez dispensers and crunchy pale necklaces, homemade fudge and saltwater taffy. Caramel apples. Even espresso and creamy cappuccino if you prefer your kick from caffeine. It’s one of those places where you smile just walking in the door.   Even a candy shop needs a secret to long-term success. Marini’s doesn’t just have great old-fashioned salt water taffy – I’m certain they’ve been in business since 1915 because they evolve to meet currents tastes and trends. Witness their newest creation: (drum roll on the desk, please . . . ) the Bacon Sensation Sundae. Can you even imagine such a thing? Featuring Vegan’s Nightmare Ice Cream – chocolate covered bacon strips mixed with maple ice cream – and topped with bacon, bacon, and more bacon. Mmm . . . bacon.     If you ever have one, be sure to and let me know how it tastes. (And while you’re in Santa Cruz, look me up, I’ll meet you to document it!) I appreciate the idea but it sounds as good to me as bacon lip gloss or bacon frosting. We got all sugared up on chocolate cub ice cream and mochas and then went to watch people play...

A poem about lettuce

Out there in the world, iceberg lettuce has a bad rep: it’s pedestrian, boring, bland, boring, old-fashioned, with no nutritional value. But a big crunchy head of iceberg lettuce? There’s nothing wrong with that in my book. Those pale green, crunchy leaves of water, the perfect foil for a dab of dijon mustard and bit of cheddar cheese, the crispy part of a good burger. Plus, it’s a green vegetable. It’s got vitamins and all that. Man cannot live by iceberg lettuce alone, but it does add a crispy touch to other things. When I see a head of iceberg, I get inspired to make a taco salad, or my favorite Cobb, or Pasta House salads. Other people get inspired to make posters: KING PELICAN ICEBERG LETTUCE VINTAGE CRATE LABEL by dgpaulart Browse other Vintage Posters Cartoons: Plays: Even bikinis:   Iceberg lettuce inspired poet Joanie Mackowski to write this poem. Vegetable leviathans – I’ll never imagine my salad in the same way. Enjoy, in honor of National Poetry Month: Iceberg Lettuce by Joanie Mackowski What vegetable leviathan extends beneath the dinner table, an unseen, monstrous green that pulls the chair out from under our faith in appearances: see a mere tuft of leaf on the plate like a wing, but if it flies away, it undoubtedly will disturb the continental drift asleep under the salad plate, the hidden world we forget as we reach for the smaller fork— (and now, mouth full, don’t speak: politely chew your leaf of firmament that’s torn and tossed up in vinegar here as we’ll be tossed before its vast root maybe someday or any moment). Poetry (1999). Thank...
April Fools for foodies: Gwyneth Paltrow and the spaghetti tree

April Fools for foodies: Gwyneth Paltrow and the spaghetti tree

Watch this for a laugh, it’s the best April Fool’s joke I think I’ve ever seen: on April 1, 1957, the BBC aired a three-minute long spoof documentary about that year’s bumper spaghetti tree harvest: embedded by Embedded VideoYouTube DirektDoes spaghetti grow on trees?   Hard to imagine now, but in 1957 spaghetti was considered to be a delicacy in Great Britain. This segment was voiced by respected English broadcaster Richard Dimbleby, which lent an extra air of authority – afterward hundreds of people called into the station to ask where they could purchase their own spaghetti plant. They were evidently advised to stick a piece of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best. For a modern-day twist on April Fool’s Day pranks for “foodies,” read Gwyneth Paltrow’s “Quick Recipe for Busy Moms: Quail Egg Pasta with Black Truffles.” I do hope she wrote this herself – it make me like her now.   For more giggles, here is 2011’s Huffington Post round-up of April Fools pranks for...