Writing

See you at the Boston Globe Travel Expo!

So excited to be heading to the Boston Globe Travel Expo. I'm looking forward to the culinary demos, meeting old friends and editors, and making new acquaintances. While many of my regular readers know about my focus on food, they may not be as familiar with the travel writing I've done. As much as I love food, it was travel that first inspired me. From my earliest days, I would lose myself in the Canary-bordered National Geographic Society magazines. How I loved learning about far-flung places around the globe. Secretly, I made lists of destinations: Xi'an and the armies of terra cotta warriors; the Mayan ruins; Machu Picchu.

The sterile environment of Air Force bases I grew up on left me hollow and bored. But, inside those magazines...I could be anywhere. Jungles, deserts, in a swirl of dust around Flamenco dancer's heels. Then, the oceans themselves were illuminated by Jacques Cousteau and Undersea World. I added scuba diving to my list of things to do once I became a grown up.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

I once dreamt of filling a passport before it expired but have not come close. Still, I have been so very lucky to sit with penguins in Antarctica, to ride a camel into the Sahara at sunset, to clamber around the ruins in Machu Picchu, Chichen Itza and Tulum. I've walked near active lava flow and tiptoed across a black sand beach. I've done dives with bestie Catherine in Mexico (she figures into half these travels) and dove down to a wreck off the coast of Curaçao. Raced around Florence in a thunderstorm to catch the perfect vantage for a sunset to match my butterscotch flats ruined in the rain. So worth it. Gasped at the color of the sea near Santorini. Slurped belons in Brussels and laughed with rediscovered relatives in a Tokyo tatami matted living room while a Japanese Elvis impersonator sang "Brue Suedo Shoes." Stumbled upon one of Paris' oldest oyster bars and celebrated Jesse's newfound love of les huitres. Ordered more food than our table would hold, more than once, in New Orleans.

Chichen_Itza

More than any passport could hold, my heart is full of these memories and yet hungry for more adventures. Allons-y!

Here are some links to pieces I've written about just a few of my trips.

Check out my full pressfolio set of clips here.

 

atomium_Brussels

Don't Let Food Allergies Ground You - me in the Boston Globe

Thrilled to share my food allergy/travel piece in this morning's Boston Globe. This has been in the works a while and my editor did a great job preserving the heart of the piece while trimming it enough to accommodate the section's need for space.

I wanted to share some of the info omitted due to space constraints.

In addition to those Energy Bites, TSA travel-friendly foods include:

rye crackers

Ivy Manning (another IACP friend) has an excellent book on the simple joy of homemade crackers. If you are allergic and traveling crackers are another great thing to make and bring, particularly if you crave crunchy things as I do.

And don't forget apple-quinoa cake. I love Yvette Van Boven's recipe.

Tomorrow's Bean

This video is going around asking you to imagine your life in jelly beans and how you will statistically speaking, spend them. It's an interesting graphic depiction of the fact that our days ARE numbered. On average (US stats) we have 28,835 days (that's 79 years y'all). [embed]http://youtu.be/BOksW_NabEk[/embed]

 

My Beans

Maybe we could reimagine this bean count in terms I can relate to:

- start with coffee beans - calculate the number of beans spent acquiring coffee beans - take away the number of beans spent worrying about whether said beans are fair trade, organic, shade grown, locally roasted - take away the time you spend grinding, french pressing and thermal carafe washing - take away the time you spend wondering "where did I put my coffee mug?" - take away the number of beans representing the time you walk to the kitchen to refill your coffee mug, leaving your coffee mug at your desk - take away the number of beans representing the time you walk to your local roasters to get both your fresh air fix and your coffee fix at the same time - add the number of beans representing the time  you didn't have to grind and press at home - add the time you spent writing an article about shade grown coffee and the deforestation of equatorial coffee plantations - take away a bean for the number of times you will lay awake thinking "I defintely cannot drink coffee after 8 pm anymore"

SO yeah, we each have a limited number of beans. The reality is we are not guaranteed even one more than the one enjoy today.

The video doesn't account for nontraditional ways of living, working, and counting.

FOR EXAMPLE: I don't commute - add beans. I do cook, write about food, and LOVE cooking for others - add beans. LOVE teaching others to cook. Enjoy reading about food. Planning to make new food.

My beans are not parsed in the same way as the jelly bean video. Yours may not be either. But if you find yourself at the end, thinking "Yikes" --  make one change today to re-order priorities tomorrow, should you get a tomorrow. Just one small change. Make a lunch date with a friend that's been too long out of your life. Put a reminder in your calendar to go to bed one hour early and bring a book you've been wanting to read. Find someone you want to sleep next to and make that happen.

Whatever it is that's missing, make one small step toward it.

We can get overwhelmed during this resolution-y time of year and wholesale life changes like running off to Italy to eat, pray, love can seem far beyond our reach. What IS in our reach today, is one small change. And one small change today can lead to another tomorrow.

coffee

What will you do with tomorrow's bean?

Foodservice East | Guest Column: Ten Points of Liability & Ten Best Practices

15 Million Americans have food allergies and we crave a great dining experience just as much as our non-allergic friends and families do. Restaurants that "get it" and offer us a relaxing and safe dining experience will be rewarded with repeat business. Restaurant staff in all positions - front of the house, back of the house, bar - each member of the staff need to know how to avoid making guests with food allergies sick, or worse. Where can allergens hide? What are the differences between intolerance and allergies? What is the difference between cross-contaminiation and cross-contact?

Foodservice East

Foodservice East, a business publication for the Northeast foodservice industry, began in 1926 as Hotel & Restaurant News in Boston. Susan Holaday the current editor and publisher invited me to write this guest column on the topic of food allergies.

Food Allergy Service Checklist

 

no room for error

I wrote this column as a risk assessment checklist. It includes ten ways to get it wrong and ten accompanying best practices. Click here to read the post: Foodservice East | News and information for the Northeast foodservice industry. Interested in a training  or consult for your restaurant? I've designed a one hour session that can be delivered in a normal staff training hour or pre-meal meeting. I also offer a menu consult, and risk assessment.

An Evening of Beer, History, and a Boatload of Oysters

  Well I'm on my way shortly here to a terrific event at Harpoon Brewery.

Imagine a giant Venn Diagram with Oysters, Beer, History, Culinary Geekdom all intersecting. THAT is where we'll be tonight!

 

CB

An Evening of Beer, History, and a Boatload of Oysters... Tickets, Boston - Eventbrite.

Fifteen Million Reasons - - Why I'm Speaking at the 1st Annual Food Allergy Conference

Doing my part - in June - speaking at the first annual Food Allergy Research & Education conference in Chicago. FARE_logo

 

Here's the conference schedule and my speaker page.

 

 

image

 

That's right, 15 million Americans are living with food allergies. That's 15 million reasons to get educated about keeping people with food allergies safe and included.

I'm looking forward to meeting some of the experts whose research I've been following since my diagnosis, hearing what's new and learning from others how my training, consulting and writing can help. With allergies on the rise, more of us are touched in one way or another:

  • grappling with our own food allergies,
  • learning to cook for family members with allergies or
  • understanding how to safely serve customers with food allergies.

 

Read my article in the Washington Post to learn what it's like to negotiate minefields when dining out -- imagine if one careless gesture by server or chef can result in illness or death for you or your loved one.

If you're a chef or restaurant owner or manager and want to learn how I can help you train staff --Email Me.

To receive your free Ten Points of Liability Checklist, complete this form.  [contact-form][contact-field label='Name' type='name' required='1'/][contact-field label='Email' type='email' required='1'/][contact-field label='I%26#039;m a:' type='select' required='1' options='Chef,Restaurant Staff,Restaurant Owner/Manager'/][contact-field label='I%26#039;m interested in:' type='select' required='1' options='Food Service Risk Assessment,Menu Review,Staff Training'/][contact-field label='Website' type='url'/][contact-field label='Comment' type='textarea' required='1'/][/contact-form]

Homemade Summer Solstice

With the summer solstice nearly upon us, it's time to get together and celebrate Homemade-style!

Come pick up your own copy of Yvette Van Boven's acclaimed book: Homemade Summer.

We'll have a glass of wine and catch up.

We'll plan our summer solstice blog party and we'll toast Tammy Donroe for the excellent inspiration!

Thanks to Les Zygomates for hosting and Kitchenwares for goodies!

WHEN: Monday June 17; 6-7 PM WHERE: Les Zygomates Wine Bar & Bistro; 129 South Street; Boston, MA 02111

RSVP to me here - just a few seats left.

Lemonade

Click on the image to see Yvette's Summer Menu and a yummy drink...

Starters, Quitters, and Finishers

I hope you've missed me or at least noticed I've been out of touch. There's been a lot going on. I've been working on the launch of a new business, editing a book  I'm hoping to  -- I will -- publish shortly, working with visiting chefs and speaking at Boston University. Oh, and there was the bombing of course.

Every Finish is a Start

Right at the Finish Line of the Boston Marathon, two homemade bombs exploded robbing some of their lives, others of their loved ones, and preventing many athletes from getting their chance to finish this race - a race that is one of the most celebrated of moments in sports. From our communal response it is clear that rather than an end of innocence, although it did get a little dented, this was a start of something bigger. This reminded all of us that Boston is a tough town and a compassionate one, for the most part. All around us resilience is in evidence. Even as I edit this piece Fenway Park is filling with chefs and guests cooking and eating all to benefit the One Fund.

We often use the term "Boom!" to signify something fantastic in social media; as in "Finished a post, invoiced one client and landed another before Noon. Boom!"  It used to signify something really good. When I begin to say the word now, there’s a catch in my throat. “Boom!” as a positive exclamation is going to have to wait. At least until we stop jumping from a loud bang when a delivery truck drops its ramp. We are all a little stricken around here, still.

We have, most of us, begun to live our "normal" lives again. Then something happens. We see a new news story, arrest of suspects' Dartmouth friends, someone leaves the hospital vowing to run again. We visit the memorial and see a plush toy bearing the message "Love Wins" and we cry.

Love Wins

We hear helicopters or sirens and we cringe.

So we are grateful for all of your concern, your well-wishes and hugs. The tears from friends in Newtown CT, the virtual hugs from friends in NYC, we appreciate them all.

Re-Start [ed]

As I've put one foot in front of the other, trying to move forward and past (do we really move past?) silly things happen, like when I dropped my iPhone on my foot. My fourth toe, left foot offered just enough cushion to save my fancy phone. Hobbling down Boylston Street the other day I almost stopped short when I realized I was complaining about this bruised toe nearly on the same spot where people lost lives and limbs. Windows are still being repaired and replaced. The lives and limbs are not so easily repaired, but people are valiantly carrying on. I give myself a private smack upside my head, and vow to stop complaining about the toe.

My balance of writing versus everything-else has skewed heavily toward everything-else. I've been paying more attention to friends, spending more time with loved ones. And just a now and then, I've been getting the itch to write. Writing and editing old stories comes easier. Writing something new, here, has been anything but. Everything that is in my normal scope seems trite.

Starter

Cooking has been something of a healing process. Through feeding friends and family I begin to break through the fog of the surreal and find relief from the sadness to reconnect with what is real and worth celebrating.

Do you crave carbs when you’re blue? I do. In this state of in-between, I reached into the back of the fridge for my sourdough starter. I tried to remember the last time I fed it. I nearly cried out loud when I lifted the lid and discovered where a nice bubbly starter had once lived, there now lay a deep crevassed hockey puck of sorts.

Almost Dead

Quitters

When I was a kid my folks were big on finishing things. "We are not raising a Quitter." This was the answer when I asked to quit ballet, when I asked to quit Japanese language lessons. "We are not raising a Quitter." While I was, in fact, allowed to quit things that were making me unhappy, I was sternly advised that these were special exceptions and that quitting was one of the worst things one could do in life.

Quitting is a cardinal sin. Quitting was just behind wasting food. I think murder was like fifth or sixth.

Seriously, our family’s seven deadly sins went something like this:

  1. Lying.
  2. Wasting food.
  3. Failing to refill the ice cube trays for Dad’s Scotch.
  4. Quitting.
  5. Being undisciplined.
  6. Getting less than straight A’s on a report card.
  7. Murder.

...

When I got better at reasoning with them, in smart ways, it became harder for them to argue. This can be a handy skill when you have get around one of these rules.

When I asked to quit Girl Scouts for example I began with simple protests, "We're not learning real camping skills. They take us to campsites where the tents are on platforms and have cots. There's a cook! And a kitchen!"

"We are not raising a Quitter."

I countered that I wanted to learn real scouting skills "like the BOY scouts are learning: how to read a map, pitch a tent, build a fire, etc."

Then I added the thing that I found the most ridiculous and insulting:

"Mom, I'm pretty sure if I'm lost in the woods somewhere, knowing how to make a macramé purse out of a margarine tub is not going to save me!"

Sarcasm wins in my family -- especially if coupled with truth. Even if you're eleven.

In the end I think these may represent the sum total of things I was allowed to quit: ballet (I stunk at it); Japanese (hated being different); scouts (silly waste of time). These may also have been the sum total of extracurricular activities I tried. Mostly, I kept my head down, got good grades and was relieved to find my younger sister excelled at everything she tried (ballet - she took to it like a fish to water; swimming - won ribbons her first race). This seemed to take the pressure off me finding something else to be good at.

Quitting when you don't want to

I used to run. Short races, not marathons. I started with 5Ks then moved on the 10Ks and while I was never good, I got tremendous satisfaction from getting better, each run, each race. I set goals like dropping my time, increasing my distances. I achieved them. My peak was a ten miler. I had hoped to one day run a half marathon. But I had to quit running. My knees simply cannot take it. I have saved the bibs from my races and somehow I just cannot part with them.

race bibs

I have one signed by Joan Benoit Samuelson! On several, I wrote my splits on the back. I really miss it. They didn't raise a Quitter.

Back to the Start(er)

You may imagine then, that when I saw this poor, neglected sourdough starter,  dried and shriveled in its crock, I was distraught. I was ashamed. But I was not going to give up on it. This was both food (see Seven Deadly Sins above, #2) and an opportunity to demonstrate my tenacity and resourcefulness; to show I am not a Quitter.

I now have a bubbly frothy revived starter. Soon I will bake some sourdough bread. I will share it with friends. I will remember those that are still suffering from the bombing and will make a promise to myself not to quit.

And maybe I’ll set a repeating alert in my fancy phone to feed that starter. After all, I wouldn't want it to think I’d quit on it.

 

Sourdough starter recovery

My first loaf from the resuscitated starter is in progress now. Stay tuned. And never, ever quit.

Ed note: Here's the Boston Strong Starter giving back.

Cranberry-Persimmon Sauce and Creating New Traditions

Two days after Thanksgiving, just a cup and a half left of my cranberry sauce. I started with three 12 oz bags of cranberries. That's a statement.  

Cranberry Persimmon Sauce

 

This cranberry sauce began years ago with some fairly common components: whole fresh cranberries, orange juice, sugar. This year I realized that the sauce is a good example of the evolution of traditions. Food, even traditional foods, evolve. Just as we do.

I used to have a friend that always called me last minute to fill in when he had an extra ticket to something. When I protested, he countered with the argument that he was the kind of friend I could call any time of day or night whatever the issue might be, he'd be there. The reality was that I had long since moved past needing that sort of rescue. What I wanted was the steady, reliable kind of friend. Not the swoop down in a crisis kind. My needs had changed (and really that was more his fantasy, not my my need anyway.) The point is that people change, lives change, and we evolve. Even when most of us stick to "traditions" at Thanksgiving; traditions themselves, evolve.

From 'Fugees Forward

For years I hosted the "Orphans, Refugees, and Procrastinators" Thanksgivings. For many of us in the post-college, pre-marriage years, we felt the need to develop our own Thanksgiving. Some wanted to avoid the family drama. Some were in relationships too new, or too rocky to build plans around. Some years it was me and a couple of single friends, others it was a raucus forty person we'll-clean-that-rug-tomorrow affair.

In recent years, I've cooked for 24, and I've cooked for 12. I think, like my cranberry sauce and that earlier friendship, my Thanksgiving has evolved. I'm feeling like my new tradition is going to be something like this: a few of us, and a few seats for new guests. We have some friends with little ones now, another with one on the way, and I've begun to think about a kiddie table, or at least, child-friendly games or traditions we can build.

We no longer feel like a rag-tag blend of orphans, but a chosen group of friends. People in this group relax and enjoy each other, they pitch in and wash dishes, we pass the babies around, we holler at the football games. I replay the stolen glimpses over in my mind. One of several people lying nearly prone, satisfied, rubbing bellies as I make coffee, slice pies. Another of two people who just met, sharing a conversation at one corner of the kitchen island. Another of the grandpa cutting food for the grandma, holding the little one on her lap.

I stopped putting out a can of  jellied cranberry sauce years ago now. Many guests have declared this their favorite cranberry sauce. People asked to take some home. I do believe a new tradition has taken root.

New Traditional Cranberry Persimmon Sauce

Note: there are two types of persimmons most widely available in the US, usually appearing in early to mid- November. The Hachiya are elongated, sort of acorn-shaped. Deep orange, they are bitter and highly astringent when not perfectly ripe. They are delicious when ripe, and they freeze well.

This recipe calls for the Fuyu persimmon which is flattish and paler in color, usually. They resemble a sort of orange tomato. Fuyu persimmons are crunchy and not astringent. They are wonderful in salads, pairing especially well with dark greens like spinach or arugula. They cook well, retaining their shape where Hachiyas would melt into nothing.

Look for persimmons in Chinese groceries. Here in Boston, Sun-Sun is the only one that sells Fuyus by the piece. At C-Mart you must by the whole flat of them.

This is very good to add to the make-ahead list, for a holiday. Easy to use up after.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 C chopped shallots
  • 2 TBSP butter or soy butter substitute
  • 3 bags of whole fresh cranberries (12 oz each)  (rinse, stem, pick over for any badly bruised ones)
  • Juice and zest of one or two organic oranges (only organic for zest)
  • 4 Fuyu persimmons (peeled, chopped)
  • 1 1/2 C sugar (I like raw for this)
  • 1 1/2 - 2 TBSP Dijon mustard
  • 1 C dry red wine
  • 3 whole star anise
  • 8 whole cloves
  • ~ 2 TBSP Orange liqueur (I prefer Combier but it's hard to find, Cointreau is good. Can be omitted altogether to keep alcohol-free.)
  • 2 TBSP pomegranate molasses (find in the International section of some large grocers or in Mediterranean or Halal markets)

Directions:

  1. Sweat shallots in ~ 2 TBSP butter or soy butter. Don’t brown, just soften.
  2. Add rinsed and stemmed cranberries, persimmons, sugar, mustard, wine. Simmer over medium heat until cranberries begin popping and breaking down. Stir to ensure even cooking and no sticking.
  3. Add spices, molasses, orange zest, orange liqueur, orange juice. Simmer a few minutes more, stirring over low heat to meld flavors.

Can be made and chilled for up to a week before Thanksgiving. Sauce may appear loose at first. Cranberries are very high in pectin (the thing that binds jellies and pies) so it will firm up as it sets. Can be thinned as needed with orange juice.

 

This goes really well with turkey, as well as chicken and pork. Not bad stirred into plain yogurt, either.

 

Edible idioms - What's your favorite?

Have you read The Food Section lately? I love it and just began receiving again their daily bite. Today's was a fun one for food geeks and word geeks both. I sorta live in the middle of that Venn Diagram. Foodie figures of speech: a world of edible idioms | Life and style | guardian.co.uk.

My favorite food idioms are:

  • Talk does not cook the rice.
  • If you're looking for a fish, don't climb a tree.

bowl of rice

And from Chile:

  • God gives bread to people with no teeth.

 

What are your favorite food idioms?