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Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Arlene's Fraidycat Smoky Enchilada Sauce

I got really excited when I realized that I have a bag of dried habanero chilies in my cupboard. I eagerly toasted and crumbled one into the sauce I was making, only to panic (after a sneezing fit) when I realized how HOT the results were likely to be. To minimize the heat, I wound up adding several cups of tomatoes, which reduced the ambient heat level to an almost mild, smoky level. My partner, who doesn't like to feel chili-related pain while or after eating, LOVES the smoky flavor and undertone of heat.

-3.5 cups of water, brought to a boil
-7 cloves of garlic, minced
-1 small onion, minced
-1/4 cup of dried, crumbled chilies of various varieties (toast them in the oven to bring out their flavor and make them easier to crumble.) Mix to include about a dozen chipotles (or about half of the volume) for smoky flavors, and one habanero, seeds removed if you're wimpy (I was wimpy)
-3 cups of ultra-ripe tomatoes, diced.

Boil these ingredients for about 15 minutes, and puree. Use liberally over enchiladas. This makes enough for two plus pans of enchiladas made with absorbent flour tortillas. Feel free to use up to 1 cup less water for a thicker sauce (the tomatoes are VERY wet), or to cook longer so that it reduces slightly through evaporation.
posted by Arlene (Beth)12:50 PM

A little humor on a tough subject: The Onion | Report: Scientists Still Seeking Cure For Obesity. Sample:
"It would be wonderful if we could find some way to prevent individuals from getting this horrible condition in the first place, perhaps with something akin to a vaccine or a flu shot," Kim said. "We've pursued every avenue - pills, topical creams, nutritional shakes, even holistic cures like vitamin regimens and massage - but nothing has worked."
I appreciate this humor, both because it almost directly parodies the absence of understanding exhibited by a teen in Super Size Me, and because both my and my partner's families have suffered from morbid obesity and its attendant adverse health impacts, with varying vast levels of denial as to the magic process that occurred over years to land them in their enlarged state.


I think this parody was inspired by recent news: US weighs in: Obesity now a disease ( Obesity had been specifically excluded from a list of diseases covered by its insurance program, and by reclassifying it as a disease, treatment to cure and prevent it is now covered by insurance.

Other industrialized nations have long offered nutrition and diet coverage to maintain public health and keep health costs low. The U.S. and its businesses have been paying the costs for not believing in prevention:
Thompson's department figures that direct economic losses from obesity, due to the illnesses that it brings on, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, total some 120 billion dollars annually, and are growing.

According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in March, obesity and overweight caused by poor eating habits and lack of exercise could become the leading cause of death in the United States by next year.
That's serious money for a serious problem! Hopefully more can be done in the way of nutrition education and prevention. As SSMe pointed out, the advertising budgets of fast food and junk food companies have always vastly outweighed the budgets of health agencies and fruit boards, so health programs have a serious disadvantage. But this insurance decision is a small step in the right direction.


I remember when I used to read the newsgroup alt.fat-free. I think that's where I read a fat free diet proponent complaining about a relative who was on a special, medically ordered, low-fat diet. She arrived to find her relative eating a fatty pork chop. She said, "what about your diet?!?" And her relative said, "I've already had my diet today. This is lunch."

It may be apocryphal, but it rings true...
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:23 AM

An Egg a Day May Be Too Much for Some Women (, 07/27/04): "Researchers in Japan found that women who consumed one or more eggs a day were more likely to die during the 14-year study than women who ate one or two eggs a week."

There are a lot of caveats in this study, because Japanese diets are so much lower in cholesterol generally, and so the eggs made a disproportionate increase in cholesterol intake. But here is something I hadn't realized: " experts still recommend limiting egg yolks, as one yolk contains about two-thirds of a healthy adult's suggested allotment of cholesterol." Yipes!


Eggs aren't a significant part of my diet. For the past 11 years or so I haven't bought them, and don't cook with them. (In recipes that 'require' eggs I use a powdered, vegan, tapioca-based "egg replacer", which gives better results than eggs in dishes like cornbread, but requires more moist ingredients (like applesauce) for cookies.)

I do eat eggs while traveling, as part of large American-style breakfasts (usually veggie omelettes or scrambled eggs with a side of fried potatoes and a lot of Tabasco, to hide the taste of the eggs). This year I had increased my egg consumption at work during mileage-heavy biking weeks, having up to three single egg breakfast burritos (potato, one egg, salsa, cheese, in a flour tortilla) per week up through about May of this year.

But eating eggs makes my skin smell funny, so I've preferred soy as a protein source. And it looks like I should stick to soy!
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:11 AM

Friday, July 23, 2004

My relationship with food has been strained since the food poisoning incident, which is why I haven't been writing. I'm fine now, really. Just... wary.


Last night I had a light dinner at Cafe Que Tal on Guerrero at 22nd. It's just down the street from some Victorians I've been hoping to photograph in 5 o'clock light, but the fog beat me there yesterday. So I walked over to the cafe and had a Mexican mocha (mocha made with Mexican chocolate), which I hadn't realized would be made with whole milk (my stomach was resentful) but which tasted wonderful, and a delicious vegan veggie puree soup, satisfying and cozy, full of potatoes, carrots, and spices., and served with fresh, soft bread and butter. Mmmm. Cozy food for a foggy evening.


I did a search to see if the Que Tal has a web page, and came across Elaine Sosa's "Javawalk" report on the 1997 Radio Valencia vs. firetruck incident. Her investigation takes her to the 19th and Folsom firehouse, where she reports on the crew's sophisticated coffee choices. :-)

(More at the Javawalk homepage.)


A book I wish I wrote: Cafes of San Francisco, a lovely book with photos and comments on 340+ local cafes.

I appreciate this level of fanaticism. I could really throw myself into that kind of research! I'm just going to continue my own little tour de cafes.


My friends are also passionate about food. One friend is looking for an apartment near Rainbow Grocery, and another brought over his test photos of different inks and papers, and among the samples were photos of sushi dinners, a traditional photographic subject in my peer group.

Which reminds me... 28 orders of sushi plus garlic fries BEFOREA group of my pals came over Saturday night for one of our irregular sushi events. 28 orders of sushi for 6 people. We have a system down: Larry has our favorite place's sushi menu on his website (the restaurant doesn't have it up), we submit our orders to the two designated sushi couriers, others bring a DVD player and movies, and we all gather at my place to eat and watch foreign films all evening.

It's great. I have GREAT friends!

On this unusual occasion, we didn't quite finish our orders. I blame the tastiness of the garlic fries (an incidental contribution) for distracting us, and the lack of sorting between vegetarian and non-vegetarian sushi orders. (It's icky to have wet fish touching your veggie futomaki or horenso maki!) We have actually been praised while dining in for completely consuming our massive orders at Yokoso Nippon (No Name Sushi) itself, ordering until the waitress refuses to bring more, since it won't fit on the table...
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:25 AM

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Bringing healthy produce to poor neighborhoods / Food activists, small farmers lead project (, 7/16/04): "Once, at a produce stand in Bayview, Jones offered samples of farm-fresh nectarines to children who had never tasted the fruit before...." Last year there was an interview with several teenage girls who live in Bayview. They took a reporter to their local corner stores, and bemoaned the lack of any fresh food that would be worth paying money for. To get fresh fruits and veggies, residents had to leave their neighborhood completely. The girls wanted to change that.

I'm not sure if this article is the response to their efforts, but it's a great start! Local stores that devote at least 10% of their space to fresh produce get marketing help and energy efficient applicances. People who had given up on spending an hour one-way by bus to get fresh produce and had resorted to junk food now have options for healthy eating near their homes.

The article talks about other innovative approaches to connect farmers with people living in underserved urban communities. This is SO GREAT!

posted by Arlene (Beth)10:15 AM

Even politics often involves food: observe this remark within Governor's gibes stall budget: 'Girlie men' remark infuriates lawmakers, delays compromise, infuriates lawmakers (, 07/20/04):
'You can't go kick somebody in the groin and then say let's ... join hands and sing 'Kumbaya,' ' Burton said. 'It doesn't work that way in life, it doesn't work that way in politics and it doesn't really work that way in the Capitol.'

To illustrate his point, Burton brought to his press conference his espresso machine with a 'closed until further notice' sign on it. Burton, who often brought steamed milk for the governor to meetings, said the governor would have to go without the frothy beverage.
You've been a baaaad governator! No steamed milk for you!
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:06 AM

Friday, July 16, 2004

The World's food report (audio file,, 07/15/04) is VERY entertaining. It is another "why aren't the French obese like Americans" feature. It's pretty comic, in the way these reports usually are, with added drama from the reporter:
American researchers from Pennsylvania University recently spent many months trying to figure out why it was that the French were so much slimmer than Americans. After intensive study, they came to a remarkable conclusion: it was because the French eat less.
I love these reports. I love them because they always demonstrate the same thing! That maintaining a reasonable weight and good health is the result of a healthy lifestyle and consistently reasonable eating habits. Not fad diets, not genes, not overconsumption of some "magic" food: good, lifelong habits.

Another great quote from the segment: "If you have no pleasure in what you eat, you break all the rules of eating."

posted by Arlene (Beth)1:24 PM

Mmmmm. Chai. This Zawadi African Tea in "safari spiced black chai" is sooooo good. With a little honey and a touch of soy milk to top it off, it is smooth and tasty. Mmmmmm.

posted by Arlene (Beth)1:19 PM

Thursday, July 15, 2004

I'm still too woozy to think about food in a meaningful way. I'm eating solid foods, but the process isn't a smooth one.

More when I'm feeling better.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:57 AM

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Nearly as fun as the stomach flu! I am home with food poisoning.

It is completely wretched. I had planned to write today about a backlog of great food topics, but it's painful to contemplate that while all I've been able to digest since 'the incident' is three tiny nectarines and two dozen water crackers.

I should mention that it's easy to food poison an herbivore like me: a little bit of meat will do the trick, and I don't even have to notice.


The human body is very efficient: it only manufactures enzymes and other things it needs. If you nursed from your mother and then stopped drinking milk for years, your body would stop making so much lactase to help you digest milk. The next time you had milk, it might not agree with you.

I haven't eaten animals for more than 18 years. Well, not intentionally. And so my reaction to their flesh, even if I don't know it is present, is my body in a panic, defending me from an alien substance invading my digestive system. I can't digest it, so it can't go all the way through my system, or does with limited success. I get very ill, and the illness lasts for several days, with varying degrees of severity depending on how much I inadvertently consumed.


I recall a Thai place some coworkers liked years back, and my conversation with the waiter:

[soup of the day arrives]
Me: What kind of soup is this?
Waiter: Vegetable soup.
Me: And what kind of broth does it have?
Waiter: Coconut milk.

I believed him. That was a mistake. I was running to the bathroom and digestively challenged for three days without knowing why.

The next time my coworkers forced me to go there, I had the same conversation with a waitress, but asked one more question:

Me: What kind of stock is it made with?
Waitress: Chicken.

That was it. That was the cause of my misery: vague answers! Now I always ask very specifically about the stock. "Stock" is a magic word.


My most dramatic adverse reaction to hidden animals was in Nepal, at the end of a two week trek in the Solu and Khombu valleys. The trip food had been good, though there wasn't enough of it: I had lost weight because I was so active and the serving sizes were modest. And the food had all been vegetarian, because we were accompanied by a Buddhist monk. I was very pleased with myself for not having gotten ill during the hike: about 1/3 of our group had, and they had been miserable - some had to be left behind at the beginning and near our exit point, rather than completing the final 2 day stretch. (I was largely crediting my daring experiment in lassi consumption early in the trip with my luck at not having digestive trouble. I figured that being gently colonized by the local yogurt animals might save me some trouble with tougher beasts. It appeared to work!)

On the last night before an old Soviet military helicopter was to haul us and a load of freight back to Katmandu, we had a party. At the party, an unusual, creamy soup was served. It tasted vaguely of celery and other mysterious things, and I was relieved that it didn't appear to be made of yak milk, which wasn't my favorite thing. It had already been served to the monk, and so I was sucking it down rapidly.

Someone asked: "Delicious soup! What is it?" The answer: "Cream of chicken."

I spluttered. My roommate laughed. Later, she kindly patted my head as it hovered over the toilet bowl for most of the night, unable to sleep because I was making such wretched wretching noises. I kept thinking that I was so lucky to have a toilet bowl: we rented a room with a private bath rather than camping in an empty lot as planned, because I was so ill.

This is how I came to travel to Thailand without being able to eat solid food. Luckily, that eventually passed. But I felt rather cheated.


Last night, I was steaming some frozen pot stickers of a brand I'd had before. The label said "vegetarian" specifically, and I checked that again when I started eating them: they had an odd texture that I couldn't place. But the ingredient list mentioned TVP, a nasty substance often used to give veggie dishes a nasty, canned-meat-chili texture, so I didn't think much of it. I did notice that they were not as tasty as last time.

I woke up with a bloated stomach and sharp pains at 2 a.m. By 2:30 I was in the bathroom, watching potstickers being evacuated from my body in a scene that was nearly reminiscent of the film 'Aliens.'

My dear partner had more of the offending dish than I had, but merely suffered some mild indegestion. So it wasn't just a spoiled food issue.

So today, it sucks to be me.
posted by Arlene (Beth)2:51 PM

Monday, July 12, 2004

I've just updated my list of favorite San Francisco restaurants. I haven't added a south of market section, nor a cafe or bar section. I'm considering those.

Though I've been told I can't really be trusted to pick bars, because I only pick those that have both a full bar AND serve food that I'm willing to eat (fussy me).

I have my priorities.
posted by Arlene (Beth)2:46 PM

Pie Any Means Necessary: the Biotic Baking Brigade Cookbook isn't so much a cookbook as a tribute to the art of creative protest, a collection of really painful puns, and an exploration of the European tradition of jester-like pranks. It is a compilation of essays edited by Agent Apple, a charming and pun-filled man who told stories at the City Lights book discussion. (His suggestion that it may be worthwhile to compile video of dramatically failed attempts at pieings is a great one.)

The most charming part of the book: the interview with Noël Godin, author of "Cream and Punishment" and a famous entartist in France and Belgium. This charming gentleman uses cream pies to denounce carefully selected, self-absorbed targets who have no sense of irony, and thus overreact dramatically to their creamings.

Also good is an interview with one of the Cherry Pie 3, the group that pied Mayor Willie Brown and went to jail. (I hadn't realized that the SF jail now offers vegan food! THAT alone is a brilliant outcome!) The essay author notes that the incident may not have resulted in jail had the pietistas not used a berry pie whose filling was misinterpreted as blood by bystanders. She received a broken collarbone in addition to the jail time.

The book is inspiring: S immediately began developing a list of people who "need to be pied" after reading the Godin interview. However, as the Cherry Pie 3 incident makes clear, pieing in the U.S., especially in the current paranoid national state, makes such expression risky. In Europe, the attitude about being pelted with food has traditionally been different, as this quote from Conservative British politician Brendan Murphy suggests:
What sort of role model is Prescott [who had been egged and hit the egger] for young people? Throwing eggs is almost a time-honored tradition in this country. It might hurt and sting your face a bit, but it doesn't harm you. If politicians can't put up with things like that, they shouldn't be in the job.
Here in the U.S., where image is everything and ego is guarded more carefully than one's physical body, such attacks are considered to be actual assaults, rather than mere commentary. The book warns that you must consider your own safety, the perception of others (use cream pie, people recognize that promptly and comprehend what is happening faster), and that you the risk of being accused of membership in... Al-Pieda! [*hysteria*]

There are just a few vegan pie recipes at the end of the book, which I intend to try.

This is a fun book!


Irrationally, I have a profound need to develop a vegan, mandarin orange-cream pie that tastes a bit like a creamsicle. I'll research this soon.
posted by Arlene (Beth)12:48 PM

I've now tried out two recipes from the previously discussed Cucina di Calabria. Both are completely foolproof.

"Salsa all Norma con Pomodori e Melanzane" is a chunky tomato and eggplant sauce dedicated to the opening of the opera Norma in 1831. It has just 7 ingredients (including salt), and is quite wonderful with whole wheat fusilli.

"Pancotto" is something of a surprise: a fresh tomato soup with diced stale bread, which puffs up into dumpling-like balls when simmered. Fresh herbs provide a bright taste to this filling soup, which has just 10 ingredients. S LOVED this, and so I will have to make this one again.

There are a few ricotta-sauce recipes which I'll try out when I'm in a more dairy-oriented mood. There are some promising cookie recipes, but I've given up on making cookies because S eats them all immediately. (Which isn't a bad thing, but he doesn't help make them, and so it seems like a futile exercise if I actually WANT cookies for myself.)
posted by Arlene (Beth)12:37 PM

Who is excited to be the 4th highest grossing documentary to date? ( It's the fast "food" flick Super Size Me. A young, healthy, male filmmaker embarks on a one month, all-McDonald's diet under the supervision of several doctors and a nutritionist. The results are appalling.

The film includes a visit to a school cafeteria where junk food is promoted and the administrators lie to themselves about what the kids are eating, and a variety of other field trips and asides which provide a wide-angle (sorry) view of the obesity epidemic in America.

One of the saddest moments in the film is an interview with a large teenage girl, who completely failed to comprehend the sandwich chain "diet" promotional lecture she attended: rather than comprehending that its mascot lost weight through calorie restriction (the purchased sandwiches contained fewer calories than he was ordinarily eating), she believed that the only way to lose weight was to eat this particular brand of sandwiches, which she couldn't financially afford to do. Her mother was with her, and didn't correct her. There were many other discouraging topics presented, but this COMPLETE lack of comprehension as to how basic weight management works pained me tremendously. Partly, because I know that such a lack of clue is widespread.

(Yes, my own mother once went on this diet. Yes, she got tired of eating the sandwiches.)

Go see it!
posted by Arlene (Beth)12:26 PM

I suppose I MUST blog today, seeing as how I've been dreaming about blogging at night...
posted by Arlene (Beth)12:25 PM

Sunday, July 11, 2004

I do not have these problems. (
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:19 PM

Friday, July 09, 2004

BUMMER: I went to the San Francisco Zoo and Animal Prison with some out-of-town kids this week. I'd heard that conditions had improved conditions for some of the animals, but recent articles on the deaths of two of the elephants left me with a sense of dread.

On the bright side: the cafeteria serves Gordon Biersch garlic fries. And some of the animals now have some room to roam, more plants, and generally nice enclosures. Their enclosures may qualify as "zoo" quality.

On the dark side: the old, lousy parts of the zoo that I still recall vividly from my childhood are still in use.

Rhino enclosurepolar bear enclosureelephant with 1/3 of enclosure visible

This is the first time I've heard adults talk about how unhappy some of the animals look aloud, between themselves. Yes, this was in the old section of the zoo, coincidentally.

It's pretty clear that zoos are unhealthy place for wide-ranging, large animals.
Polar bears are champion swimmers. They have been known to swim more than 60 miles without a rest.

Polar bears have distinct territories; a polar bear's home range can be enormous, far greater than that of any other bear. A single polar bear may rove across an area twice as big as the country of Iceland. Young polar bears may travel more than 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) to set up a home range apart from their mother's.
Look at that enclosure and read that again.
According to elephant consultant Alan Roocroft, who has worked with captive elephants for more than 30 years: "Long periods of inactivity can and will be detrimental to the health and longevity of an elephant. To an animal that is programmed to move 18 out of 24 hours, inactivity has a high price. ... "

Wild elephant experts concur. Daphne Sheldrick, a veterinarian and 1992 winner of the United Nations Environment Program Global 500 who has worked with elephants for 50 years in Africa, notes: "No captive situation, however attractive it may appear to a human, can possibly be adequate for the needs of an elephant in terms of space." She writes that one 10-year-old bull walked 84 miles in 14 hours, turned around and walked another 100 miles in search of a friend, and that elephants can traverse an area of 8,000 square miles in a matter of days.

At the San Francisco Zoo, the elephants live their entire lives in a space of less than half an acre.
Wild Animals in Zoos or Sanctuaries? Elephant's death should not be in vain by Elliot M. Katz , 04/01/04.
After two elephant deaths at the zoo, and some heated denials that the zoo environment could was in any way contribute to the ill health of its captives, a light bulb lit up:
On June 2, 2004, San Francisco Zoo Director Manuel Mollinedo announced his ground-breaking decision to retire Tinkerbelle and Lulu, the zoo's surviving ailing elephants, to sanctuaries rather than to other zoos, as recommended by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA).
So the elephants will be able to move to large, open spaces at no cost to the zoo. But the other big animals will have to wait.

One of the parents with our group became terribly depressed while in front of the elephant enclosure. And he hadn't even read those books about elephants recognizing each other after 30 years apart and lavishing affection on old friends and human trainers. I was glad to be able to advise him that they'd be in a better place (not the euphemistic better place, but an actual better place) soon.
posted by Arlene (Beth)3:26 PM

What's the rush, it's only a nasty, fatal disease: Yahoo! News - FDA Delays Mad Cow Feed Rules, Asks for More Input. ( Forcing cows to eat the contaminated flesh of other animals causes mad cow disease, but the FDA is reluctant to stop this highly unnatural practice because it saves factory farms money. So they keep dragging out the decision, hoping the public will forget this year's earlier scares AND the lax practices that have prevented a thorough monitoring plan from being put in place.

Omnivores: be afraid. Be very afraid.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:42 AM

Even dumber than 'Freedom Fries:' Yahoo! News - Republicans dip freedom fries in "W Ketchup", not Heinz. ( The thinking goes like this: Democratic Presidential nominee Kerry is married to a Heinz heiress; the Heinz family owns about 4% of the Heinz company which produces Heinz ketchup; therefore, true right-wingers must purchase "W" brand ketchup or they will indirectly be supporting Kerry.

The Republicans behind this also are proud that the ketchup and bottle is made in the USA, which they insist is important, even while signing trade deals that ensure that just about every other product we might use is made abroad. I'm so glad that they're trying to ensure that the US is capable of ONLY producing ketchup, and I'm sure they're all looking forward to having their children work in a ketchup factory once they graduate from college.

I was hoping for W ketchup slogans. "W ketchup: a brand name Bush can spell" would work. "A vegetable just like Reagan said" could also work.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:37 AM

All I need to make progress on my current photo essay project is a few hours of direct morning light, from about 7:30 to 10:30, in the sunny, western side of the City.

But no. SF Gate: Live Views: Live cameras with shots of the San Francisco Bay Area: Transamerica Building Cam shows a few bold streaks of sunlight on bay beside the Bay Bridge. But otherwise, gray, gray, gray. Just as it has been for the last two weeks.

I went to Noe Valley yesterday morning, hoping for a break in the cloud cover, walking to a cafe down one street, and realizing that the sun shining on me for a moment didn't extend to the adjacent blocks. I'm trying to be patient. But some of the buildings I'm eager to capture are east-facing, and are ONLY lit well during a tiny window of time when the weather is clear...
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:34 AM

Monday, July 05, 2004

Tuesday night event: City Lights Books is hosting a book signing event at 7 p.m., Tuesday (7/6) night for the new book Pie Any Means Necessary: The Biotic Baking Brigade Cookbook. My favorite, pie-throwing dissenters have a cookbook! I am SO there!
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:22 AM

Cookbook Department: I recently went to the San Francisco Public Library to scope out interesting cookbooks. The first one I took home is Cucina di Calabria: Treasured Recipes and Family Traditions from Southern Italy by Mary Amabile Palmer. This 1997 book caught my attention because it's full of essays, and because I love little jars of hot sauces imported from Calabria that I am sometimes lucky enough to find.

The book contains 300 pages of cultural information and recipes from the oft invaded, oft neglected boot heel and instep of Italy. The history of the region is described in depth. The foods introduced by invaders are celebrated. The political and economic oppression that resulted in the mass depopulation of the region for the greener grasses of the New World is put in context, along with the social stresses that splitting up families created.

Palmer is quite a cheerleader for her ancestor's land: she writes that the Italians taught Mozart opera, had the first fully developed cuisine in Europe, taught the French how to cook, invented the noodle, and were the only Europeans savvy enough to figure out what to do with the tomatoes that Columbus brought back from the new world!!!

Though the author believes that southern Italian cuisine is neglected and unfamiliar in the U.S., the bruschetta, caprese salads, bread, and pasta sauces she provides all appear similar to dishes offered here in S.F., so perhaps the neglect of her region's culinary ideas has ended.

Wine is rarely used in these recipes, and the author's home state of Massachusetts limits the availability of tomatoes enough that most recipes assume your only option is good canned tomatoes. Cheeses and eggs frequently appear. She provides a list of pasta shapes, and information on the key ingredients most used in Calabria.

Vegetarians take note: Palmer notes that the 'poverty cuisine' of the region uses meat sparingly, in the manner promoted by nutritionists as the ideal 'Mediterranean diet.' She notes that meat is almost never a meal's centerpiece, based on the multi-course design of southern Italian meals, and that much is available for vegetarians. But any herbivore would be reduced to hysteria while reading quotes like this: "Artichokes and pancetta, similar to our bacon, complement each other, producing a delicious, near-meatless pasta topping."

[Long pause for rolling on the floor.]

Any herbivore realizes that the omnivore perspective isn't always sharp when it comes to vegetarian items. Meat may not be a centerpiece, but is often used for flavor, which means many of the dishes aren't vegetarian without modification or the exclusion of the 'optional' ingredients. Palmer writes as a dedicated omnivore, and so will provide a vegetable recipe and note that it's even BETTER with sausage.

So this isn't the panacea that Recipes from an Italian Kitchen Garden is to vegetarians. But it is enjoyable to read, since the author's enthusiasm (and travel recommendations!) tempt you to visit Calabria's sandy beaches and eat crusty bread with fresh cheese, homemade wine, and fresh local delicacies.

It makes me want to reread Barbara Grizzuti Harrison's Italian Days, a lovely travelogue of a food-loving woman's visits to her ancestor's homeland.

posted by Arlene (Beth)10:34 AM

Last minute BBQ item: We were invited to a housewarming BBQ to take place yesterday by one of S' friends. Figuring that S would take care of anything that needed to be done, I didn't concern myself much over it one way or another.

About an hour before the barbecue, when I woke up from an antihistimine-induced nap to have a shower, S mentioned that we should bring a small housewarming gift and something to grill. By which time, most of the grocers in my neighborhood were closed for the holiday. My farmer's market produce was long gone, consumed in a frenzy of cooking. S had no suggestions as to what to do.

I had S haul me down to Ocean (I broke my right ring toe earlier in the day, so running down the hill for food wasn't possible), find the one grocer that was open, and scope out their limited selections. They only had 2 small eggplant, and lacked the ingredients I needed for its special marinade; the peppers were gorgeous, but I wasn't sure I'd have time to prep them... *panic*

I went with corn on the cob. I bought a dozen ears, husked them, halved them crosswise (so they'd be short and manageable) covered them in just boiled water for 10 minutes (while I showered), drained them, tossed them in olive oil with a few tablespoons of pesto sauce mixed in (an idea from the Vegetarian Grill), packed them into a bowl, grabbed a bottle of bordeaux as a hostess gift, and off we went.

The corn was a very popular item: the pesto sauce made them smell great, yet was mild enough not to give anyone a garlic aura; they were already fully cooked (so undergrilling caused no harm); and they went well with everything. The omnivores in the group kept adding them to the grill whenever there were open spots, likely for color composition.

So fresh corn on the cob saved the day. Add this to my list of easy foods to bring to parties.

posted by Arlene (Beth)10:16 AM

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Love Your Chicken: Ira Glass meets a poultry activist's pets (audio file) on Wait Wait! Don't Tell Me!. Listen all the way through his entertaining tale, until at least they start asking him questions. (His show, This American Life, is fabulous.)
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:45 PM

Friday, July 02, 2004

Adjusting to Owning My Time. Thursday was a long day. I did chores; ran errands; went to see exhibits; and wondered why all those people in the metro, on the streets, in the trains are not at work.

Have I been tricked into believing in an irrelevant work week all these years?

I've been back in town a week, and am unable to go backpacking due to the looming threat of jury duty. So I am playing tourist in my beloved hometown while waiting for improved morning lighting conditions, so I can work on my photographic essay projects.


SFMOMA's show "Larry Sultan: The Valley" is a photography exhibit of huge, glossy, color prints of ordinary homes in the San Fernando Valley used as sets for pornographic films. The ordinariness of the locales is clearly the topic, though there's enough nudity to have attracted the largest collection of teenagers I've yet seen at an SFMOMA show. (Best quote from a surprised teen gal: "THIS is ART?!?!")

I marveled at the gaudy flower prints on couches and odd knickknacks cluttering rooms while legs, sweaty bodies, and small groups huddled to watch commercialized sex happening behind the wet bar or on the cold, metal patio furniture.

Porn sets are cluttered: lots of Styrofoam cups and bags of personal belongings clutter the floor behind the bored, tattoo lighting crews. [Here's more information that my girlfriends won't believe I acquired through a trip to the museum. Ooops.]


The offerings in the museum store were as intriguing as some of the exhibits, since I have a deep interest in publishing photographs (especially as postcard books, stationery fetishist that I am) and cookbooks. My favorite local publisher, Chronicle Books had some gorgeous, black & white, trifold-bound postcard books out of city scenes, though none like the scenes I'm currently making, which was pleasing. There is also an intriguing book on/by Sophie Calle, "Did You See Me?" which is partly a catalogue of her work, partly a diary, and partly just really cool.


A trip to Photographer's Supply, a snack at Extreme Pizza, a trip to the inconveniently located Oscar's Photo Lab (yes, to pick up southwest travel photos), and then I sought out another photography exhibit at SF Camerawork.

I had difficulty locating the gallery: its own door was painted over and had no doorknob, and the nearest working door was for the New Langton Arts gallery. I went in: they share a space, bookstore, and reception desk with Camerawork. Camerawork is between major exhibits. NLA is showing "Busted: New Works by Felipe Dulzaides & Robin Rhode." The show includes sequential photographs indicating gradual movement; a video of a man painting with shaving cream (?), which rapidly erased itself from a wall; and an engaging video of a throng of people frolicking in an artificial wave pool above a large, corporate logo painted on the pool's bottom.


This was a good way to spend time away from the wretched construction noise from my next door neighbors' house, on a day when photographic lighting just plain wasn't very good. (Even when I went out at night to photography City Hall in it's bright, lit-up glory, the fog made the sky glow in a way that didn't flatter my images by depriving me of truly dark portions of the images.)

I've shot more than 30 roll film equivalents in the last two weeks, but have so much more to do...
posted by Arlene (Beth)3:22 PM

General apology: I'm not using a font that puts the little accent mark into the word 'saute,' and to make up for this lack, I often add another e. I'm very sorry.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:09 AM

Pinto Bean Chili

-2 cups of dried pinto beans, rinsed, examined to be sure there are no rocks hiding among them, and soaked in fresh water for about 4 hours, so they start to swell up.
-5+ cups of water
-1 large onion, diced
-4 or more cloves of garlic, sliced or minced
-3 cups of fresh, sweet chilies from the farmer's market, deseeded and diced
-2 small stalks of celery, diced
-1/2 teaspoon of cumin
-1 teaspoon of majoram
-3 tablespoons of freshly ground chili powders from your favorite varieties of dried chilies, just toasted (so they'll crumble easily) and smelling tasty (perhaps including chipotle, cayenne, Thai (red) dragon, serrano, Bulgarian carrot...)
-3 or more fresh tomatoes, diced.

Rinse the beans, look them over one more time to be sure there are no pebbles, and set them in a large pot with the water to boil. You can give this a head start of an hour or two.

In a deep pan, saute the other ingredients except the tomatoes for about 20 minutes over medium-high heat, adding the chili powder about halfway through. Remove this from heat, add the pan's contents to the pot. Add the tomatoes, cover, and simmer for about 1.5 hours. Start testing the beans for tenderness. Add water if you think it looks too dry. Depending on the beans you use, and how dry they are, this could take much longer or be done by this point: use your own judgment and preference for the tenderness of the beans.

Options: if you have any leftover cooked rice, or bulghur, or even elbow noodles without dressing, you can toss those in here.

Warning: if making your own chili powder in your spice grinder, use restraint when sniffing the results. Every time I do this, I wind up giggling, taking a big whiff, running into the next room, and having a sneezing/laughing fit. I can't resist. Roasted, freshly ground chilies just smell GREAT.

This is especially pleasant with rice (making the world-popular 'rice and beans' combination) or fresh, homemade cornbread (scroll down within text for blue cornbread recipe).

posted by Arlene (Beth)10:55 AM

Linguine with pesto sauce, green beans, and fresh tomatoes

This is so easy, I'm not sure if it even qualifies as a recipe. Yes, I do make this stuff up, though I once had a pasta/potato/green bean/pesto dish at a restaurant that inspired this variation. This serves 2 to 4 people, depending on what else you're serving.

-half a pound of linguini (dry)
-1 to 2 cups of fresh green beans, stringy end bits removed, broken into bite-sized lengths
-a pesto sauce of about 1 cup fresh basil leaves, 1 cup fresh flat parsley leaves, three cloves of garlic, and 1/3+ cup of extra virgin olive oil, pureed until smooth **
-a fresh tomato or two, diced.

Boil the linguini according to the package directions. For the last 4 minutes or so of cooking, add the green beans to the water. When the pasta is done, drain it in a strainer or colander, and toss it in its pot or a bowl with about half of the pesto sauce and the chopped tomato. Serve with freshly ground pepper.

** Pesto note: the proportions provided makes more than you'll need for this dish, but enough to make your blender operate efficiently. Refrigerate the rest in a sealed, tallish container with limited surface area - the exposed areas turn brown. (You can cover it with a bit of lemon juice to keep it looking fresh.) Use the 'leftover' pesto as a dressing on fresh tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese as lunch with a glass of white wine for lunch the next day. Or mix into fresh bread dough before baking. Or use it in a provolone cheese sandwich instead of icky mayo. Or as pizza sauce for a small pizza (like the kind you make with a flour tortilla or pita, pesto sauce, mozzarella or fontina, and sliced black olives in your broiler). Or mix a tablespoon or so into a vinaigrette dressing. Really, you won't regret making a little extra.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:38 AM

Sabbatical Miso Soup for One

-two cups of water, boiling
-two leaves of red chard, lower stems removed, chopped into 2" squares
-one small clove of garlic, minced OR a tablespoon of onion, minced
-1/2 cup of tofu, cubed
-4" white part of green onion, minced
-3 tablespoons of white, organic miso paste.

Combine the first four ingredients in a pot, and boil for about five minutes, or until the included stems of the chard seem tender. Remove from heat; stir in remaining two ingredients, being sure to dissolve the miso paste thoroughly; enjoy.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:32 AM

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