- Eat less.
- Talk a walk outside (include hills, if possible).
- Grow your own food.
- Don’t eat apples from New Zealand in July (unless you live in New Zealand).
- Give up “fast food” for “slow food”.
- Eat with family or friends whenever possible. Talk a lot. Laugh. Linger.
- Don’t text while you eat.
- Drink a cup of green tea every day.
- Get to know the farmers at your farmers market.
- Eat more dark green and orange things.
- Yoga is good, but it’s not the answer.
- “Satisfied” is better than “full”.
- Avoid diet beverages. Have a glass of water.
- Mayonnaise will not kill you.
- Chew slowly and mindfully.
- Olive oil, olive oil, olive oil.
- Choose heirloom vegetables over genetically modified crops.
- If you must eat at Claim Jumper, Cheesecake Factory or Buca di Beppo, one entree will suffice for four people.
- Calories are not your enemy. Bad habits are.
- Carrots make a great snack.
- Quinoa is good, but it’s not the answer.
- Drink wine.
- Remember that meat comes not from a styrofoam container in the market, but from an animal that was alive not that long ago. Honor that animal. And choose carefully.
- Don’t diet. Change.
- Try a new recipe at least once a week.
- Eat what’s in season.
- Take another walk. Stop frequently to smell flowers and look at birds.
- Have many dinner parties.
- Don’t trust Monsanto or ConAgra.
- Read cookbooks just for fun.
- You don’t want alcohol and caffeine in the same drink.
- Bacon is allowed.
- If you’re not hungry, don’t eat.
- Don’t eat in front of the TV. Unless it’s football and you’re eating buffalo wings.
- Salt is not your enemy. Processed foods are.
- Get a sustainable seafood guide: http://www.montereybayaquarium.org
- Shop for food at least three times a week.
- Do not get your food at Costco once every two weeks.
- Learn to make your own jam. Or olives. Or sausages.
- Hug a chef.
- When you travel, eat what the locals eat.
- Anything — and everything! — in moderation.
- Dim sum will lift your spirits.
- The best things to put in your mouth come without shrink-wrapped plastic.
- Blueberries make a great snack.
- Use butter — not margarine, not Country Crock.
- Don’t sweat the love handles.
- You can’t love food too much. You can only eat too much.
- Be thankful every day for what you have. Remember, some people in the world have to eat bugs.
29 Nov 2010 3 Comments
24 Nov 2010 8 Comments
I was at a dinner party talking to my friend Jon, who was poking at a plate of quinoa.
“What is this?” he asked.
“Quinoa,” I said.
“Yoga food,” I said.
“Is it pasta?”
“It’s a grain,” I said.
He asked if our friend had grown it in her garden. I excused myself. Over by the stove, a gal was looking at the Venetian bean soup I had brought.
“Is there meat in it?” she asked.
“Yes, pancetta,” I replied. She looked puzzled. “It’s like Italian bacon.”
“Oh,” she breathed a sigh of relief. “I’m a vegetarian. But the exception is pork.”
My kind of vegetarian.
Although it seems a somewhat cut-and-dry concept, you meet many different kinds of vegetarians. I was doing a cooking workshop for my friend’s Girls Gourmet Group the other night. I should’ve researched their eating preferences first. I held up a dead chicken soon to be Moroccan chicken with preserved lemon and olives, and they all looked mortified. Turns out three of the five girls are vegetarians, and one is a “sometimes, mostly” vegetarian. (Which meant I had a window with the chicken for her…) But the three were not “strictly” vegetarian, as they had gobbled down a catch of fish last time I cooked with them.
“So you eat meat that swims but not that flies or walks?” I asked by way of clarification.
“Right,” they said.
I think some people are vegetarians for moral reasons, and others for dietary reasons. Some are vegetarians for proximity reasons (i.e. they’re partner is a vegetarian). I’ve always admired vegetarians. I love the idea that nothing was killed in the making of your meal. But I also love meat. More.
There are those people on the fringe who think that the plant cries a silent scream when you pull it from the earth. What do those people eat?
When we eat meat at our house, we (usually) eat very small quantities. A few ounces each of Kobe beef, a couple thin slices of pancetta in a pasta, etc. I think if the carnivore world at large took a more ethical approach to meat — eat less of it, know where your meat comes from and that the animal had a good life — the world would be a much better place on many levels.
I never could’ve married a vegetarian. Except, maybe, for that pork vegetarian.
21 Nov 2010 5 Comments
I often have to suffer the suspicious stares of my chickens when I grill.
For your information, our girls are pets and egg layers only. But I’m not sure they’re so sure.
18 Nov 2010 2 Comments
I was preparing a cooking workshop for a group of women later this week, and got thinking about exactly what it was I was trying to teach them, beyond the type of food they had requested…
A friend of mine recently gave me a cookbook, “Serious Barbecue” by Adam Perry Lang. After perusing various recipes, I turned to the introduction. Lang talked about learning to cook in culinary school and famous French kitchens, and then re-learning from Texas-born ranch hands on a ranch in New Mexico. “My new friends,” he said, “were as passionate as any of the professionals I’d met in French kitchens.” In reflecting on his journey and his reason for writing the cookbook, it was, as he said, to teach people “to be better cooks, not just recipe followers.”
This phrase stood out brilliantly to me. For it is exactly what I’m trying to do with this blog. And with my teaching of other people. I’m trying to do this myself with every meal I prepare — be a better, more mindful cook. When a friend invites us over for a roasted chicken she’s purchased from Costco, and I ask if I can keep the carcass when we’re done, it’s not because I’m weird (despite the startled look on her face); it’s because (as I will explain to her) this roasted chicken is filled with flavor and will make an insanely good stock. And then I leave the bones to her and explain to her how to do it. That is not a recipe, that is cooking.
Next time you’ve get a roasted chicken from Costco or Zankou or wherever — or roast one yourself — when you and your kids are done picking it over, throw the carcass in a big pot with enough water to cover, an onion, a bay leaf and a couple tablespoons of salt, an cook for about an hour. Then strain. You’ll see what I mean — this ain’t Campbells, and you made it with something you were going to throw out. (And you can freeze the stock in plastic baggies in the fridge to make soup whenever the spirit moves you.) This is respecting the animal that gave its life for your meal. This is cooking.
When I was in my 20s teaching English, I decided I didn’t like teaching very much. But now I find I love it. Maybe I just wasn’t teaching the right subject.
13 Nov 2010 4 Comments
One sparkling winter Sunday morning in Sonoma County, as mist rose from frozen fields through the bare leaves of apple trees, with my wife and kids, my mom and the Wine Guerrilla and miscellaneous sisters, we went to a favorite spot for breakfast. Willow Wood Market Café in the tiny one-horse town of Graton. If you’re ever hungry and meandering along the Gravenstein Highway north of Sebastopol some morning, I suggest you hang a left on Graton Road and do the same.
Your kids might screw their noses up at this breakfast, as mine did. That’s just fine… give them Eggos, and save this gem for the grown ups. Did I mention it’s the perfect brunch, particularly when served to friends with a good, spicy Bloody Mary? Cheers.
* * *
Sonoma Market Breakfast
Note: for my version, I like two eggs per and use pancetta instead of coppa
for each breakfast:
1/4 cup dried fine polenta
1/2 cup spinach
1 slice pancetta
5 or 6 heirloom cherry tomatoes
1 slice crusty bread
1 slice (or 1 tbsp crumbled) blue cheese such as cambozola or gorgonzola
extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper
Cook the polenta first: use 2x the water of the dried polenta you are cooking. Heat the water to a boil and add polenta, lowering heat to medium-low. Cook polenta, stirring every few minutes and adding water as it cooks away, for 20 minutes until thick. Cover and set aside.
While the polenta is cooking, roast the tomatoes. Make a little pan out of foil, add the tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Cook about 20 minutes at 350 degrees.
For the spinach, cut each slice of pancetta into a few pieces, and saute until rendered and crisp in a tbsp or so of olive oil. Add spinach and cook briefly until wilted. Toast your bread slices and top with a little blue cheese while still hot.
Lastly, cook your eggs. They served poached eggs at Willow Wood, I like to fry them in a pan with a single flip. To compose your Market Breakfast, place some polenta on a plate with the tomatoes and cooking oil drizzled over the polenta. Put the spinach and pancetta next to the polenta, and the eggs next to that. Put a slice of toast on each plate, sprinkle some good sea salt and pepper over the top, and serve.