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Thursday, March 31, 2005

I still find this amazing: a 125 year old network of messengers who deliver home cooked meals from the Mumbai suburbs to downtown offices, and then return the dishes at the end of the day: The Dabbawalla's Tale ,Video and Audio from (

Yes, there are a few things that are weird about it. One would be the way all the food recipients, are, how shall we say it... male. And unwilling to carry their own lunches, which are ready early in the morning. 'Stuff like that. But otherwise, fascinating.

If my spouse were preparing delicious, multi-course meals for me while I was at work, and then sending them over, I would be giddy. (My partner doesn't know how to cook many dishes, but this is a fantasy, okay?)
posted by Arlene (Beth)6:35 PM

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Oh, how I love this: Sorry Everybody ( a website and a book containing apologies from Americans who are really, really sorry that Bush was elected president of the United States.
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:36 PM

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Random image from A pretty sandpainting.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:08 PM

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Just in case you felt safe from 'mad cow' because it's a taboo subject: read Mad Cows and Americans: Lax testing standards for North American cattle could be masking a wider contagion -- In These Times (, 01/18/05 issue). You'll learn some fun things about how much LOWER American standards are compared to everyone else's, and how when cows HAVE tested positive, the follow up testing has all been done secretly. It doesn't give one faith.

Here's an excerpt to persaude you to read the article:
It was private mad cow testing that eventually revealed the presence of the disease in Germany. So it is not surprising that when the Kansas-based Creekstone Farms Premium Beef company reached an agreement with Japan to sell beef that the company had tested to the Japanese, the USDA, invoking a 1913 law, warned that mad cow testing by private U.S. firms is illegal.
Yes, it is ILLEGAL according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to test your own darned cattle for a disease that kills people.

Oh, that's another little revelation: people are still dying of the human version of mad cow, and... no one really wants to talk about how.

Go read this.


[Pardon the random postings: I've been saving entries as drafts, and then not logging back in to upload them to my site. Please also pardon any spelling problems: Blogger doesn't support spell checking for my browser.]
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:25 PM

Saag. I'm close to developing a 'saag tofu' that tastes like restaurant saags, but it isn't quite right. For one thing, I seem to be using too little fenugreek, and when I add more late it doesn't seem to help. (Mine isn't very fresh either, because so few recipes call for it, and I bought a whole lot a long time ago. Hmmm.) Also, I fail to achieve that sort of saucy quality restaurant saags have, which I attribute to vast amounts of ghee (clarified butter). I'd prefer for my saags to be vegan, but don't think there's a way to replicate that texture with vegetable oils, and I'd prefer not to go the sour cream route that some palak paneer-type recipes suggest.

If anyone has suggestions on achieving a ghee-like texture, let me know.

(I'm not posting the recipe yet, because it isn't quite *there.* It's really good, but it's not enough like the restaurant version...)
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:16 PM

It was overcast, but there were shadows for nearly three hours this morning, so... I spent two and a half hours printing cyanotypes. It was, as always, something I can imagine doing nearly every morning, weather permitting. It is always fun and always educational.

S teases me for being such a scientist: today my printing began with a series of greyscales and tonescales of black, red, green, and blue inkjet tones on vellum, to see which densities appear best on my cyanotypes. Black wins hands down; red is only good when it's dark; green is sketchy; blue is invisible. (I had read that rendering some negatives in red-orange improves their printing contrast, but the examples shown weren't very high contrast, so I've been skeptical. Though I'd still like to try laying my variable contrast filters over some of these negatives to see if such an overlay would have any impact. Those filters are designed to interfere with the blue-green part of the spectrum, so I doubt it will have much effect, but it's an excuse for more experiments!) I also printed the same negatives multiple times on two different papers which were treated at the same time with the same chemicals, to compare both the color and contrast of the results. Which differ wildly! (Contrast really resides in the paper.) I have notes indicating the paper type and time exposure on the back of most of them, which also amuses S. I failed to double-coat a set of papers for a comparison of those, but can do that another time. I also made photograms with some relatively insensitive paper (ruined with a bad batch of chemicals, and then recoated with a better mix). It's not sensitive enough to print images from digital negatives, but it works well with solid objects for photograms.

THAT was FUN. I don't look at foods the same way, now that I know some of them make lovely shadows...

I have a lot of material now, though I'm not proud of much of it. I'd like to display some of it, especially the photograms, in a way that's easy to update. I'm considering setting up... YET ANOTHER BLOG. But this would be a 'photo blog,' with an image for every entry, and text playing a subordinate role. (Even if there is LOTS of text _in addition_ to the photos.)

I'm denying myself this project for now: I have a very long list of tasks to complete, and manage to overfill my days as it is. Today, rather than scanning and posting my prints, I cleaned house. But my house is just going to get dirty again, whereas a blog would be a more lasting, durable creation. (You see how my mind works.)
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:57 PM

Friday, March 25, 2005

I always enjoyed Tillamook's jack and colby cheeses when I was younger, but once I was out on my own I stopped buying it because it wasn't certified BGH free. But now: Tillamook Votes to ban rBGH in its cheese - despite pressure from Monsanto. (
posted by Arlene (Beth)5:36 PM

I love reading these, although there is some scary news in this one: Seeds of Change 100% Organic Seeds - Newsletter 45. This is a fabulous seed company, and their catalog always makes me yearn for more time in the garden, no matter how much time I've already spent!
posted by Arlene (Beth)5:23 PM

The SF Chronicle is miserable for news (all the steroid scandals and central valley wife killers dominate the front pages, whereas actual world-type news rarely appears), but has some great writers hiding in the middle sections of the paper. You just have to dig. But someone else dug for me, and sent me a link to Four Bike Heroes by Larry Gallagher, a delightful profile of four local bicycle commuters.

I like articles like this, because they demonstrate that people don't HAVE TO be fanatics or Lance Armstrong to ride their bikes to work.


I still remember sitting at a celebration event with a client and several colleagues. During dinner, nearly everyone at the table bemoaned some aspect of their car commute, from the traffic, to parking, to the wear and tear on their nerves and cars. But one of my colleagues kept exchanging glances with me, and not just because we were the most 'junior' of the people present. Finally, he could contain himself no more. "Arlene and I keep looking at each other because we both arranged to live in the same city where we work, I ride a motorcycle, and she rides a bike."

A brief and awkward silence followed. Because all of the successful persons present were pretending that they were FORCED to drive their luxury cars to work. And my colleague pointed out that there were other options.


I know many wise and successful people who opt to bike and/or use public transit. I even was able to witness a senior partner (high ranking attorney) mock one of his peers who foolishly bemoaned sitting in traffic and then suggest that anyone with common sense rides BART (the regional electric train service). BART is very popular with the office set, which is a good thing.


Both public transit and conditions for bicycling locally could be improved DRAMATICALLY if it became a priority, and be more appealing and reliable for more users. As our region becomes more densely populated, improvements for non-polluting, non-combustion, people moving MUST be developed to a sophisticated level. Building up local infrastructure to support the use and storage of private cars is like trying to ensure that everyone has public space to house their own personal elephant - it is space inefficient, a misuse of public resources, smelly, and silly. People managed to function well for thousands of years of human history without cars thanks to decent planning. We can do it again, and get much more use out of what limited space we have for realy public, community uses.
posted by Arlene (Beth)4:57 PM

Endorphins are NICE! I'm learning not to plan many activities after biking. Yesterday, once I was reasonably convinced that it would not rain, I went on a 2.5 hour, 27.75 mile bike ride around San Francisco. It was a loop I've taken before, but I hadn't previously had a "cycling computer," and so now I know the actual distance. But once I was done and had a pleasant lunch, I felt so cozy and endorphin filled, and didn't really focus on anything for the rest of the day.


It was a lovely ride. The passing clouds were enormous and dramatic. The air was fresh and clean-smelling. I felt great, and had no difficulties until I got hungry at mile 25.

I'm one of those cyclists who "bonks" VERY easily: a slight drop in my blood sugar can reduce me to quivering jelly during any physical activity (and/or induce severe headaches when I'm resting). That was when I realized that I'd packed no snacks, and had just 75 cents on me. Luckily, 75 cents bought me a large, 160 calorie peppermint patty, and with rest and water that was enough to power my legs for the last 3 miles.

I'll pack food next time, though.

This was a training ride for my upcoming 100k event, and while it was less than half of the overall distance I'll be riding a week from Saturday, it was easy enough to give me confidence. If I'd eaten lunch during the ride, I could have easily continued. That was a pleasant surprise: recent 12 - 15 mile rides had been tough, and my legs had felt like they were 'busy' for a few days afterward. So I should be able to prepare for the 100k with just 2 or 3 more long rides. Yaaay!
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:33 AM

What would the goddess Eastre eat? The pagan feast of Easter is approaching. All sorts of symbols of spring are in play, eggs and bunnies and spring flowers, all of which have been tied into the Christian festival which has overlaid it, which is named after the pagan goddess Eastre.

Which is really amusing to me. I can assure you that this wasn't generally discussed in Catholic school, though I had a few modern instructors who acknowledged that it made sense for early Christians to make their celebrations simultaneous with pre-existing events when people were already celebrating, to blur the line. The line for Easter is rather blurry! Blurry and pastel-colored.

I don't think of Easter as a big food holiday, like Christmas (the winter solstice), American Thanksgiving, or Halloween. But my family does traditionally get together to feast. The feast is usually centered around a lasagna, most likely because my Polish mother grew up in an Italian neighborhood, and because my family collectively has never enjoyed ham. (My ultra-carnivorous sister may be an exception, but frankly I think she prefers goat.)

Easter IS a big food holiday for others, though, and this article describes some of the menus: BBC Food - Easter around the world. ( I didn't know there IS such a think as 'honey vodka,' but now I'm curious about it. I'm NOT curious about the Norwegian menu, for obvious reasons once you look at it, though I do like the overtly pagan 'good witch' activities associated with their celebration.

S still has a head cold, so we won't be joining my family to celebrate. He has been pleased that I bought some peanut butter and chocolate eggs, but we consumed them quickly, and so may need some other symbolic dessert before the day arrives. I'm on an Indian food kick, and am unsure if I can break out of it by Sunday. We'll see.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:31 AM

Oooh: pretty landscapes! BBC NEWS | In pictures: The Coast Exposed (
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:50 AM

Thursday, March 24, 2005

A comment from S, while eating a sandwich made with my variation of vegan egg salad, from the fullbleed recipe blog:
So, when tofu is in the refrigerated case near the eggs, does it sing: 'Anything you can do, I can do better! I can do anything better than you!'
It turns out that S also thinks egg salad is kind of gross, but that TOFU salad, prepared similarly, is GOOD.

Like me, he doesn't take well to eggs in salads generally. I also don't take well to cheese in salads, but he's a bit more flexible on this point.

(In case you were wondering, the tofu salad recipe is wonderful as provided, and it's a very versatile. This batch is made with parsley, minced green onions, whole mustard seeds, and the usual recipe less the celery. But there are countless possible variations...)
posted by Arlene (Beth)3:40 PM

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Mmmm. Food. S is still ill, and I'm starting to get a cough, which is a drag. But at least we've been eating well. We bought a delicious loaf of nine grain sourdough, and flew through it in a matter of days because I realized that my simple roasted bell pepper spread is heavenly in toasted cheese sandwiches.

I'm not really a toasted cheese sandwich kind of gal most of the time. But with nine grain sourdough, the fabulous and garlic filled spread, and an imported fontina... It was just PERFECT.


There was the simple, easy hot and sour soup I posted a recipe for, which was 'just cake,' and could be made with just about anything.

Another recent experiment was a spinach and cilantro chutney lasagna. We buy cilantro chutney from Sukhi's to eat with parathas, and I was wondering if I could incorporate it into other dishes. So I made a spinach lasagna, and instead of using my usual combination of basil and oregano, I used a quarter cup of this lovely cilantro sauce. S loves the sauce, but couldn't quite place the flavor when he was eating the lasagna - it blends with the spinach and ricotta smoothly, and became just another flavor (albeit a bright one, like a mint would). It was good, but no big deal. So now I know it's a good option.

I still haven't made an authentic, many-layered, sauce-filling-only lasagna yet. That will wait until summer, when there are more lovely options for a chunky sauce.


It's not that there are NO options right now, it's just that they're not local. There are all sorts of imported items, the same items that are there nearly all year. (My grocer has a distributor that fills an inventory list, regardless of what time of year it is.) There have been plums in the local green grocer's shop for a month or so, but they are flown in from Chile. I really can't justify all the waste involved in transporting plums that far to eat them out of season, especially when there are so many lovely local products available. It just doesn't make sense for me (and Chileans) to pay higher taxes so our governments can provide vast transportation subsidies to make their plums, grapes, and other produce competitive thousands of miles away.

That's part of why I love the farmer's market: everything is grown here, it's all been picked within a day or so, and my money is going directly to food growers who will support the local economy.


It was raining this morning, and thunderstorms are predicted, so I'm not sure if today's farmer's market at Civic Center is actually happening. Or if the threatened thunderstorms will really manifest.

I'm really wondering about the thunderstorms, since they sometimes come with sideways rain. I'm going to be riding in the 29th Annual Cinderella Classic (, but I haven't gotten much mileage in lately. I'd hoped to do four big training rides leading up to the Classic, but the weather has been sabotaging me.

It's not that rain hurts me: it's that I wear glasses and want a clear view, AND that cars seem to have visibility problems during rainy weather that make them less likely to drive appropriately. So I'm wary.

I'm patiently waiting for a break in the weather, even though there are just 9 days or so left for me to train for a ride which, including my biking to and from the train station on either end, will result in nearly 70 miles of biking. And I haven't biked 70 miles in a day since... last year's Cinderella Classic. (The year before, I did more than one 100k ride: the Cinderella in a bit of rain, and the Primavera Classic in rain and HAIL. Oh, the insanity...)

Here's hoping for a long, steady break in the rain.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:36 AM

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


Hot and Sour Soup - recipe

S has a head cold, as he often does this time of year, and so I'm working through my soup list and realized I'd forgotten how to make this. But a quick comparison of web recipes showed that it's really just about adding vinegar to the same sort of soups I already make. So:

-4 to 6 cups of water, set to boil in a soup pot
-a package (1/2 a pound or more) of tofu, diced
-two cups of chard leaves, with the stems shredded and the leaves chopped
-a shredded carrot (mouth-sized matchsticks are good)
-one clove of garlic, minced
-two scallions, chopped finely
-a tablespoon of soy sauce
-a tablespoon of your favorite vinegar
-a teaspoon or more of sesame oil
-a teaspoon or more of red chili sauce (Vietnamese or Chinese style chili garlic sauce is perfect)
-a teaspoon of your choice of sugars.

Boil all the veggies aside from the scallions, for about 10 minutes, then stir in the other flavoring ingredients. Serve with the hot sauce and soy sauce on the table, so diners can modify the soup to their liking.


You can use shredded Asian mushrooms if you've got them (Shiitake work very well in many kinds of soup), and other kinds of cabbage-like veggies, of course.

This soup was spicy enough to make S feel warm all over and help him breathe freely. But I added more hot sauce to my bowl. Of course. And it is GOOD.

I love living in a state with a big enough immigrant population that many popular foreign sauces are made here authentically. There's a great range of Chinese and Vietnamese sauces in local stores that are made just a few hours away. It's a great thing.


When I still lived with my parents, I used to make a hot and sour egg drop soup for my sister when she had colds (or just demanded it.) It was also pretty simple, made with a powdered broth/onion/thickener/dried mushroom mix that came in envelopes. I was very good at making very delicate egg threads throughout the soup, even though that was the part _I_ liked least.

That was the soup I was thinking about this morning when trying to choose a decongesting soup for S. Now I'll have to think of some others...
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:04 AM

Monday, March 21, 2005

Mmmmm. Chocolate. My scanner isn't hooked up, so I keep failing to post a sample of the results of my cyanotype toning experiments. Until now.

chocolate brown image of Shell Building surrounded by highrises
posted by Arlene (Beth)7:26 PM

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Well, at least the genetic engineering companies feel safe in Iraq: With all the unrest in Iraq, you'd think that the U.S. would stay focused on what it claims it is there to do, which is currently maintaining order.

This would be more compelling if there was some evidence that it was what the U.S. was doing. But it looks like occupation authority's attention has been elsewhere: Plowing for Profits: U.S. agribusiness eyes Iraq's fledgling markets -- In These Times (, 03/28/05 issue) describes some strange things, including one of the legal orders Bremer left behind.
Order 81 paves the way for genetically modified crops (GMOs), stating: "Farmers shall be prohibited from reusing seeds of protected varieties." The order... etches into Iraqi law WTO-style patent protections for genetically engineered crops -- assuring U.S. GMO-producing firms a legally protected niche in the country's future.
Yes, while the Iraqi people were looking for safe drinking water, Bremer was concerned with corporate patent rights for products which haven't even been forced on the Iraqi people yet.

It's just amazing.
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:58 PM

And I thought I had a negative outlook: I hadn't realized that the nation's militarists are even more concerned about the impacts of global warming than I am. Defeated From the Start -- In These Times (, 03/28/2005 issue) reports:
Rising temperatures, however, are only part of the problem, a fact underscored by a secret Pentagon report on global warming leaked to the London Observer in February 2004. The report warned that temperature increases could cause a substantial rise in natural disasters such as floods, droughts and famines. These, in turn, could engender riots, massive displacement, and warfare as countries vied for rapidly dwindling food and energy resources. "Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life," the report concluded. "Once again, warfare would define human life."

Speaking of global warming's adverse effects, I've got my eye out for the new book by the author of This Cold Heaven on how the dramatic warming in the far north (occurring at twice the speed of elsewhere on earth) is adversely impacting communities in Greenland and elsewhere, where entire lifestyles - food, clothing materials, hunting, (survival!), and socializing - are all determined by traditional, disappearing climate conditions.

It's so unfair that traditional communities who have NOTHING to do with the rampant industrial pollution that is changing the climate are some of the first to pay the price. (Among humans, at least: Canadian fish are no longer extant in certain lakes in Canada because the water is too warm for their eggs to grow...) I know that life is unfair, but this bites especially. There is no escape from the greed of other nations, no matter how remote your own community is. If we didn't figure this out for places like Bikini Atoll, we should understand it fully now.
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:19 PM

Friday, March 18, 2005

I slacked off and didn't help my favorite non-profit organization move, but luckily lots of other people showed up for the people- and bicycle-powered move: SFBC Office Move (
posted by Arlene (Beth)12:17 PM

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Hee hee hee... - Photos: Toy Fair: Nogin Sox (
posted by Arlene (Beth)4:41 PM

Did I ever get around to posting this? Monsanto fined $1.5m for bribery (, 01/07/05). Monsanto was caught bribing an Indonesian official to exempt it from environmental impact studies for a GMO crop. But there have been other incidents:
Monsanto also has admitted to paying bribes to a number of other high-ranking officials between 1997 and 2002.
Greenpeace has an article about the incidents called Monsanto Pays Up (, 01/11/05), noting that Monsanto has managed to gain crop monopolies in several countries on crops which require annual patent fees from farmers, and that monopoly control of entire nation's crops in the hands of one company isn't a good thing.

We wouldn't want our food security in the hands of foreign corporations. Why should anyone else?
posted by Arlene (Beth)3:16 PM

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Hey! Environmental Defense has a special program about my favorite place in the world, the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park! The valley was dammed and flooded to provide San Francisco with water due to some wacky political tricks - NO ONE should get to dam up part of a National Park for urban uses! - but has been obsolete because of dams downstream which can store more water.

Yet it's still there.

Check out this action item: Take Action: Ask for an Open Mind on Hetch Hetchy Restoration (
posted by Arlene (Beth)3:43 PM


Kashmir Masala Vegetables - recipe

I'm generally a from-scratch cook, and I have a lot of Indian spices for making a variety of tasty, spicy vegetarian dishes. But I've also periodically bought spice pastes to try them out. This recipe uses Patak's 'Kashmiri Masala (hot and spicy garlic paste),' which I bought a while ago but forgot was in the cabinet. Patak's has since repackaged and retitled products like this, but it's probably still the "Masala" paste they sell in 8 ounce (227 g) glass jars.

It is WONDERFUL. It tastes surprisingly similar to some of the sambars I've made, but with different (slightly sweet, slightly sour) overtones. And it's fast and easy.

-a small amount of canola oil, for frying
-a large white or yellow onion, diced
-a red bell pepper, seeded and diced
-4 medium zucchini, diced
-2 to 4 small tomatoes, finely diced
-a cup or so of tofu, cubed (ha! You thought I was going to say diced!)
-a cup of hot water
-three tablespoons or so of Patak's Kasmiri Masala paste.

Heat the oil in a large, deep, lidded pan, and sauté the veggies, adding another every minute or so in the order listed, for a total of about 7 minutes. Dissolve the paste in the hot water, add this mixture to the sauté, and stir well. Cover, and simmer until everything is tender, 7-10 more minutes.

Serve over Basmati rice.


Of course you can use other veggies: this is just a combination that's fast-cooking and works well together.


I've tried several of Patak's other products over the years - the vindaloo sauce is delightful - but more recently have been making the dishes from scratch to better understand what goes into them, and what the flavors are individually. It's a fun thing to learn!
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:16 AM

Snopes confirms a frightening rumor: Urban Legends Reference Pages: Food (Luther Burger) (
The 'Luther Burger,' a bacon cheeseburger served on a Krispy Kreme doughnut bun, is a real food named after R&B singer Luther Vandross.
The rest of the article is pretty funny, with even grosser dishes, and an editorial about how 'back in the good old days, we could eat anything we wanted without comment from others.' Which isn't entirely true.

According to great books like Marion Nestle's Food Politics, nutrition advice has always involved moderation and eating your vegetables. In the old old old days, people in this country were not getting "enough" to eat, and so were encouraged to consume more enthusiastically if they were lucky enough to have the chance. But none of us recall those days first hand, so this is a bit nostalgic.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:12 AM

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

And the answer is... Google. I'm beginning to see a pattern in some of my e-mail exchanges with friends. Here are completely fabricated, imaginary, unrealistic examples displaying the real pattern:

Me: Hey, where do you want to eat dinner?
Friend2: I'm not sure, but here are search results from Google for "dinner."

Me: Hey, mailing list friends, my kitchen is on fire. Where did you put my fire extinguisher the last time you came over?
Friend1: I'm not sure, but here are search results from Google for "fire extinguisher."

Me: Hey, I'm going to buy a Lobstermobile and Lobsterina superheroine costume on the web. Should I buy one locally instead? I heard that several of you just opened a costume shop, specialize in crustaceans, and might know something unusual and highly specific about claw operation that could help me decide.
Friends3-18: I'm not sure, but here are search results from Google for "costume."

The real examples are pretty close to this. Well, okay, they're not, but you get the idea.

I currently have two theories. One is that my friends are SUPERHELPFUL, and can't bear not to offer an answer, even if it is not an answer to the question I asked. The other is that my friends don't really believe I have been a professional researcher for the past 12 years, think I can't formulate a simple search engine query, and suspect I've never heard of Google.

I like the first one better, for obvious reasons. It puts all of us in a better light. So I'll stick to that one for now.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:56 PM

Monday, March 14, 2005

Food decisions I made when I was six. There was an odd scene several years ago, when my parents and some friends of mine were together. One of my pals, a dedicated carnivore, turned to my mother and remarked that it's odd that I'm a vegetarian, considering the rest of my family isn't. My mother replied, 'Oh, [she] decided she didn't like meat when she was VERY little.'

My mother failed to mention that even though I decided I didn't like meat when I was very little, I was nevertheless forced to eat family meals that included meat until I was 16, when I was able to cook for myself and resist my family's constant pressure. If my mother had realized that my childhood pleas were 'legitimate' at the time, she might have relented and let me have a less meaty diet. But my mother is of eastern European ancestry, and was convinced that people who don't eat sausages with their potatoes die of ill health, so there was no way she'd let me have a meatless childhood. (People from European cow-raising countries are convinced you MUST eat cow; people from goat-raising countries are convinced you MUST eat goat stew and goat cheese; people who raise sheep swear you MUST wear wool and eat lamb; and all their descendents take this as ancient folk wisdom. TO THIS DAY. It usually takes the form of some discredited protein theory from the 1970s, which pretends that everyone in Asia who fails to eat cow and drink milk does not exist.)

I did successfully take stands on a few foods when I was little. Bacon was one of my biggest successes. My parents had a poster listing carcinogens, and bacon was on the list. This was likely because of the way many people nearly blacken it, and blackening in cooking has been demonstrated to be very unhealthy. I could read; they explained what the poster meant. And then they tried to serve me bacon.

What were they thinking?

I tasted it once or twice at my father's insistence, but would not eat it again. This was a source of great hilarity well into my 20s for my family. They ALL ate bacon, and my father would always make a show on weekend mornings of announcing that he was making bacon especially for me. They would all laugh. Ha ha ha. They would ask me if I was SURE I didn't want bacon. They would wave it around. I never changed my mind. They couldn't believe it.

Next up: pork sausage, the kind that people fry for breakfast, either the little hot-dog shaped ones or the round flat ones. I thought they were vile. I was allowed NOT to eat these, like the bacon, because this meant there was more for my father and sister.

Eggs, especially scrambled. I was less successful here. We worked out a compromise, where everyone else would have 2 or 3, and I would only be obligated to eat one. I could use as much Louisiana hot sauce or Tabasco on that scrambled egg as I wanted, which worked out well for me. My egg consumption pleased them, and I actually like deviled eggs if they were made with Grey Poupon (which hid their flavor), so I continued to eat eggs regularly under spicy disguises (though fewer than my family served and ate), through my 20s. When I moved out, their appearance on my plate decreased continually. I haven't bought any in years, though I do eat restaurant foods containing eggs, especially when I travel.

When I visit my parents NOW and they prepare a traditional breakfast of fried potatoes with onions, scrambled eggs, bacon, and sausage, they still give me potatoes and one egg!

Butter. My parents buttered EVERYTHING. You'd reach for toast, and they would intervene to butter it. They'd put butter on rice, on green beans, on potatoes, on steamed cabbage... It was excessive. And I didn't like butter. Again, I negotiated a compromise: I would eat a small amount of butter on mashed potatoes ONLY, and would try to intervene to get dinner rolls and other forms of bread before my father relentlessly buttered each of them heavily. They accepted this. They thought it was funny that I disliked butter, since my sister would eat it directly off the stick without putting it on anything, if no one was watching. Yes, she would.

There were a few other things. Meatballs were one. When my mother made spaghetti with meatballs, I was initially required to eat them all, but over time my meatball serving got smaller and smaller, until my mother would set aside some tomato sauce for me prior to adding the meatballs. This was a big relief. Lamb chops I managed to avoid completely, partly because my father thought they made the house stink, and discouraged my mother from buying them even for herself. My mother made something called "salmon patties," which were shallow fried and crunchy, but she eventually revealed that they were crunchy because they had bones in them, and I wasn't the only one who expressed horror. (My mother then had an allergic reaction to fish, and so fish largely stopped appearing in the house outside of fish sticks for my sister.) Stew meat was sort of the same - my father disapproved - and my mother's accusations that I was too fussy an eater since I didn't like gristle attached to red meat chunks was an inspiration for my eventually hard stance against all meat.

I had also made a stand on canned spinach, which was the only kind of spinach my father liked, and so the only kind I ever saw. I STILL REMEMBER being forced to sit in my parents' old kitchen (in the 1970s prior to a big remodel) until after sunset, forbidden to leave the table until I ate a large plate of cold, soggy, limp spinach. I was a stubborn child. Some small compromise was reached (10 bites and I could go to bed?), and then my mother largely stopped serving it. (I didn't eat fresh spinach until I moved out, and I LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT.) I think the same went for peas, which were delightful fresh (I was allowed to eat fresh ones now and then), but vile canned. Whole milk didn't appeal to me by the time I reached my teens, and my mother was concerned that I'd break all my bones if I didn't drink it, so I was forced to have a quota there.

After years of attempting to disguise the meat I was required to eat under steak sauces, soy sauces, tomato sauces, mustards, and salsas, I took my big stand against red meat when I was 16. My parents, citing generations of dead, cow-loving Europeans and pointedly ignoring health data on the perils of diets high in red meat, insisted that I would perish. I cooked for myself, under frequent protests and interference. I was obligated to eat fowl at first, and then just on major holidays. But I learned to cook good vegetarian food, good enough to tempt them.

Now, decades later, I'm a vegetarian. I don't buy butter. I don't buy eggs. I don't buy animal milk (though I do eat cheese). I go on 100 k bike rides and 80 mile backpacking trips for fun. And my parents and sister, who are sedentary and have elevated cholesterol, and who can't keep up with me on recreational walks, are STILL unsure that I'm making a wise health choice. Even after my father's triple bypass and required blood pressure medications.

I'm healthy, happy, and LOVE having control over what I eat. It's just funny to me that I started to figure out what was best for me when I was about six, and took a long time to get to a point when I could have it.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:30 AM

Healthy chickens eat kimchi!! Korean dish 'may cure bird flu' (, 03/14/05). A small study found that kimchi, a wonderful pickled cabbage/chili/garlic dish of Korean origin, seems to cure avian flu in infected chickens. They're not sure why, so the study isn't considered conclusive. But people who already like kimchi are excited, and kimchi consumption in the region is on the rise.

From the researchers:
'We found that the chickens recovered from bird flu, Newcastle disease and bronchitis. The birds' death rate fell, they were livelier and their stools became normal,' said Professor Kang Sa-ouk.
That's one of those quotes that makes you glad you didn't get an advanced degree in biology. (Conversation killer. ''What do you do for a living?' 'I'm a scientist, I examine bird stool(s)...')
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:27 AM

Sunday, March 13, 2005

I've been on the computer too long today (again). But I got a lot done. Several of my web pages have been updated, and now I have a new page, galleries, which is going to be devoted to web galleries/albums of my sabbatical travels. I'll be adding the galleries gradually, mostly to keep from wearing myself out (and to stay focused on preparing images for my agency, which has about 1% of the images I'd like to send).
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:15 PM

Saturday, March 12, 2005



The weather was lovely yesterday for those of us working with sun prints and cool water, but much harder for people who actually had to move around. By late afternoon, the house was hot, and the walk down to the store for fresh bread and sorbet wilted me a bit.

I wilt easily. I'm a native San Franciscan, and always joke that temperatures above 78 degrees Fahrenheit make me whine. I joke this, but it is completely true. By evening, a friend who was able to work up the energy to type complained about the heat.

Yesterday was the hottest March day in San Francisco history, reaching 87 degrees Fahrenheit, breaking a 91 year old record. ( Other recent bay area records were set, breaking last year's records.

The warming trend is bad. Some parts of the Tuolumne basin lost a lot of snow during the warm spell, and since the state relies on snowmelt entirely for its water supply, long-term warm trends aren't good.

But today it is cool, foggy, and fresh-smelling. It will be a good day for all of us natives.


Warm spells throw off my cooking: I don't make as many cold dishes as people in warmer places. I'll have to lay out plans for potato salads, marinated pasta and/or vegetable salads, and other cool dishes.

There's that side dish of cauliflower, green beans, carrots, and peppers that is marinated and served cold that I haven't made in a long time. That is always good. I looked for it in the store, but they didn't have it. I'm sure I have a recipe for that somewhere, though it's simple: the veggies are steamed and plunged into a hot vinaigrette. It's part of a traditional Italian antipasta platter, which is always perfect for warm weather. (Fantasies of living in the Italian countryside with a big, cool kitchen ensue...)


Last night's dinner: fresh rosemary bread, homemade roasted red pepper spread, homemade olive tapenade, mozzarella cheese, and champagne. (Because it was cold and I had no other white wines. Really. That's my excuse.) Dessert was a sweet cherry sorbet. PERFECT hot weater food all around.


I need to go soak my parched orchids...
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:43 AM

Friday, March 11, 2005


Life should be like this daily

It is summer today in San Francisco.

Not what I think of as summer (which involves fresh, cooling, wonderful fog), but what most people think of for summer: sunshine, warmth, and breezes. This is so exotic that I am actually wearing shorts(!), which will surprise those of you who have known me a long time.

After printing photographs for four hours, I gave myself a lunch break in the hammock. It is a perfect hammock day. I watched the hummingbirds cruising the plum trees in hopes of blossoms; watched a blue-headed bird (Stellar Jay?) scoping out a leafless tree two yards up, and watched gulls fly inland. My house is on a hill whose ridge runs east to west, and so gulls often fly over when it's breezy, catching the updrafts. Both the jays with the black tipped wings, and the jays with the dark fore edge to their wings passed over in groups. The local crows went over once, about 8 of them, which surprised me because I'd never seen them together. I don't imagine they were going far.


The white butterflies are back. They're my sign of spring, and I'm always thrilled to see them. They came back last week, when S spotted them while gardening. They flitted through the garden again today, a pair of them, looking slightly pale yellow.


I have been lax in my study of the garden. S keeps moving plants around, and so I never perceive the garden as 'settled in' enough to monitor the blooming schedule of the plants. They're on a very different schedule from San Bruno, where many of these plants lived before we moved back to my natural habitat. My big red cymbidium is thrilled to be here, and went from one bloom spike to five. The lilies, casa blanca and tiger, used to bloom weeks apart, pink first, but here in the City they bloom simultaneously. We get calla lilies months earlier, and African daisies a bit later, perhaps. We're only about 20 minutes north and slightly west by car from their prior home, but it makes a big difference.

I'm having a few gardening challenges this year. Something ate most of my cilantro sproutlings, so I have just two tiny plants, not really enough for my culinary demands. I weeded the lettuce bed (which had been taken over by arugula from my mesclun mix, which grows faster than the other greens) and now a neighbor's cat likes to sit there, ON the tiny lettuce seedlings.

In my nonexistent spare time, I may convert my "beauty" page, a neglected site about teahouses and orchids, over to a dedicated naturalist's page about the more than 200 different kinds of plants growing in my urban oasis.


It's casual dinner weather. In this sort of weather, in the cool shade of the house, I daydream about living in different countries in Europe for a few months at a time. France, Italy, Germany, and side trips to other countries. It seems like the perfect weather for sitting at a sidewalk cafe, sipping chilled white wine, and eating fresh cheeses, olives, a soft baguette, and small salads of marinated spring vegetables. Sketching in a little book, perhaps with a tiny palette of watercolor pans and a small brush, coloring in the highlights. Planning walks around town. Getting a tan, ever so slowly, despite wearing SPF 45 sunscreen while photographing all of the charming buildings and squares nearby.



Yes, I will need to pursue outside employment again soon. My photographic projects are going well, but are all long term. (It will be a long time before they lead to something financially sustainable, which will be possible through the 'foundational' work I'm doing right now.) And so I'll be daydreaming all the more intensely of backpacking, sidewalk cafes, trips around the U.S., and more time in the Sierras... because the luxury of time to think about such things is becoming one I can't afford to enjoy as lavishly as I recently have.


I should head to the local market now and pick up a loaf of bread, roasted red pepper spread ingredients, and whatever else calls out to me as dinner.
posted by Arlene (Beth)2:00 PM

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Update to Cyanotype toning post: On Toning: A moldy orange was party responsible for my lungs hurting during the toning process. It was in a bin under the sink where I was toning. S detected it immediately, and opening the compost bin caused my lungs great unhappiness. So it's not JUST the toning fumes. Just the same, work in a well ventilated area.

Also, one of the purples you can get by jumping between solutions A and B is quite nice, though still a little blotchy. The red-chocolate tones on the other prints are lovely. My best results seem to come from long soaks in solution A (5 minutes) followed by short soaks (1 minute) in B, with long rinses in between. The colors change during the long soaks/rinses, so keep an eye on it.

On my failed cyanotypes, part II: It appears that I incorrectly mixed the ferricyanide. I don't know how: the whole point of buying the gram scale, graduated bottles, and distilled water was to make my mixture better and more accurately than before. The math was easy (10 g to every 100 ml). I don't know how I erred, but I must have erred. I mixed up fresh emulsion this evening, and it worked fine. So I need to pour out the "fresh" bottle I mixed a few days ago and start again. And spend yet ANOTHER night preparing paper, and PERHAPS hoping that this time it will all work as it should always work. If I have time, I also want to double-coat some of it, to get extra-dark prints.

All this, plus computer work, plus dealing with a new insurance adjuster, and I have NO idea at all what to make for dinner. None. Zip. It's sad!
posted by Arlene (Beth)5:16 PM

Cyanotype Toning! It dawned sunny and clear, with fog hovering over the bay. A perfect day for... you know what. Sun printing!

I was up late last night prepare cyanotype paper, this time really fancy stuff, to print with today. I got a new jar of Ferric Ammonium Citrate to replace the BAD (?) new jar, and it behaved as it should. I painted about $30 worth of paper with it, and set it out to dry. I gathered it carefully this morning, made three test prints...

And it doesn't work. At all. This easy, simple process just plain no longer works.

Something is STILL wrong. Either I got another bad jar of FAC; the ferricyanide went bad while stored in a cool, dark place; I hallucinated the correct preparation of the ferricyanide [Note from later: strangely, this was it]; my distilled water is tainted; or my gram scale is lying, lying, lying to me. I'll need to try to make another batch of the ferricyanide, another batch of the FAC, prepare a few sample sheets of paper, and test them this evening to see if anything is different. I am really, completely mystified.


To comfort myself, I decided to tone some cyanotype prints that I'd made previously. I LOVE the wonderful shades of Prussian Blue the cyanotype process creates, but would like to be able to make images in other colors. Toning the cyanotypes is the easiest way, rather than taking up other processes that just do one color each.

So I used the red-brown toning recipe here (, and it works BEAUTIFULLY. Do be warned that the chemicals give off subtle, painful fumes, and that despite having the doors and windows all open, my lungs hurt after a short time using these chemicals.

I like this recipe better than the Suzy Q. Varin toning recipes I posted links to earlier, partly because it calls for a more reasonable amount of sodium citrate. (Also, I was vexed that her recipe mixed metric weights and American volumes.) I had to dilute the sodium citrate to control the bleaching/reddening phase as it was! The results are a lovely, chocoloate to raisin color.

The same chemicals (in different concentrations) are called for in Varin's black toner recipe, and they work well with the strengths called for with the red-brown toner. In fact, you can get purple, raisin, brown, sepia, and black with this combination of chemicals in different sequences. Though the red-browns are most appealing to me: the purples are a bit uneven.

DO wet your paper thoroughly before toning. DO NOT make your cyanotype prints you plan to tone so painfully dark that you lose detail: you won't get that back, despite the bleaching steps. DO be careful not to let your print soak in the sodium citrate too long: it doesn't just affect the color, but also washes away some details. Also, be sure your tray is deep enough to really cover the print: a shallow spot ruined my second effort.

So this is great fun. As soon as my lungs stop hurting, I'll clean up and get back down to 'the lab.'
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:54 AM

POMELO! I forgot to mention that nearly every stand at the Farmer's Market on Saturday had pomelo, those giant citrus fruits that are a pale, pale green. The flesh is a bit pink. We tasted one, but it wasn't quite as tasty as grapefruit, and so decided to skip them for now.


We consumed an entire, 5 pound sack of oranges in 2.5 days. They're good. A little less tangy than the ones we tried at other stands, but still good.

We're not buying oranges in sacks anymore: the second, 5 lb sack was party crushed in the middle, and so the fruit had leaked, bruised, and grown mold. We lost about 1/4 of the sack, since the oranges are so large. So we'll be more selective in the future.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:48 AM

Monday, March 07, 2005

Photography photography photography, blah blah blah. I've been considering starting up a separate blog to devote solely to ramblings about my photography projects.

I've been trying to avoid that. I don't need another thing to maintain on-line (I'm having PLENTY of fun with my web pages as it is), and fear I would sound like a photography obsessed lunatic, something which is true but which I often succeed in hiding from people in casual conversation. For example, you'd know I was off if I explained how I added a dilute hydrogen peroxide solution to my bad ferric ammonium citrate, prepared my emulsion and cyanotype paper to test it with, and DID get blue prints, though they are very soft-edged and develop strangely (they are highly detailed and largely orange until developed, and then the detail fades...). It seems like there's a better place than this blog for that kind of rambling.

But when I read the member journals at the Analog Photography User's Group (, I see how far this can go. And I become afraid. :-)

I'm trying to convince myself that I'll get more done if I don't have another blog. I'm almost persuaded...
posted by Arlene (Beth)12:51 PM

Sunday, March 06, 2005

It's a GORGEOUS day. A perfect day to print cyanotypes.

Last night I prepared everything. I mixed up new batches of chemicals and stored them in new bottles. (I was a bit annoyed: the ferric ammonium citrate bottle wasn't completely full, even though it was sealed. I weighed it, and it didn't actually contain 100 g, as it should have.) I used my new digital gram scale to make smaller batches, so I can have fresh solutions more often. The chemistry wasn't as clear as I remembered it when I mixed the two solutions together, but it was the right color when I applied it to paper. And oh, did I apply it to paper. I cut up a sheet of beautiful $11/sheet paper, what is supposed to be the best available for printing cyanotype and several other alternative processes, and painted the segments with my fresh chemistry. I then cut up another stellar paper, and did the same.

Today, I abandoned my warm partner in our warm bed to prepare digital negatives. I edited about 20 images, and then my printer went down. (My driver suddenly insists my printer is busy. Even when I turn my printer off!) S printed all of my negatives for me on his, fully functioning printer. I gathered my materials, set up my work space, and printed.

None of the new paper made a legible image. NONE of it.

At first, I thought it's just because I'm using a more absorbent paper. That is one of the big differences between conventional and alternative printing: our images soak into the paper, and so behave differently (and often don't need to be "fixed"). Contrast and density become functions of paper, rather than just of chemistry. So I extended my exposure times slightly. Then I doubled them. Then I tripled them.

I started to think this paper, reputed to be the best for everything, sucked. But it seemed impossible to get such poor reactions, when cheaper paper had been so responsive. When I started making photograms using opaque objects, and THOSE didn't come out, I knew something was terribly, terribly wrong with my materials.

But what?

Being pseudo-scientific, I hadn't ONLY prepared new papers. I also prepared three sheets of my traditional favorite, a lightweight watercolor paper which has given me great contrast, with the same batch of chemicals at the same time. And so I printed a sheet of it with the same negative.

And it didn't come out.

Remember how I said I got shorted on my new, sealed bottle of ferric ammonium citrate? Perhaps that was a sign. It's bad. Alt-Photo-Process Archives (1996): Bad am fe cit? ( describes my problem. Mike Ware, one of the lords of alt processes, explains how in his response.

So all the paper I prepared last night is ruined; a negative which absorbed moisture from the bad paper (which was apparently still moist inside), is ruined; and the rest of my jar of 'fe am cit' may or may not be salvageable if I'm willing to play with it and peroxide for a while.

posted by Arlene (Beth)12:53 PM

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Sunshine! Today is a day of general contentment. I actually... relaxed. I haven't been very relaxed lately: the excitement of getting an agency to represent my stock images, the pressure to prepare my catalog, the impending property tax payment deadline, and my nearly panicked attempts to complete some of my projects before ending my sabbatical, combined with increased caffeine consumption, have made me remain in perpetual motion lately, until I nearly fall unconscious.

I'm a workaholic freak no matter what the circumstances.

But today, I relaxed. I slept in. We went to the farmer's market. I took a nap. I lounged in the hammock (to the delight of mosquitos) and chatted with S. I went for a photography walk in the south of market area, and photographed the specific building I wished to photograph.

I should practice being this relaxed. So I could be good at it.


The Alemany farmer's market was bustling, but not every booth is filled this early in the season. There were lovely, tender lettuces; a wide selection of winter greens; giant, leafy daikon radishes in bunches; Fuji apples; citrus fruit in nearly every stall; spinach; broccoli; cauliflower; cabbages; kiwis; potatoes; onions; avocados; nuts; something that looked like sugar cane; and the usual, lovely range of prepared foods which empty my wallet so quickly.

I had some degree of restraint today. I came home with:
- lovely red potatoes for a potato salad
- a huge bag of small kiwi fruit
- 10 pounds of oranges
- broccoli
- granny smith apples (found at just one stall: everyone else must have been talked into growing Fuji, designed for the Japanese export market, a few years ago because now they're everywhere)
- the tallest bundle of chard ever
- spinach and pumpkin parathas, plus a cilantro chutney, all from Suhki's Indian delicacy booth
- a multi-grain bread with poppy seeds and pine nuts (among others) in it
- a leafy green cabbage, the kind that look good in photos because their leaves spread a bit
- yellow onions, and
- a huge (2.5 lb) jar of "blue curls" honey. ("Blue curls" is the flower the bees were working with to make this.)

We also each had a tamale from All Star Tamales while we were there. I had the "vegetable," which was the only one on the list identified as vegan. It was quite tasty, despite having veggies I don't associate with tamales in it, like cauliflower and broccoli. The veggies had all been sliced very thinly and were quite tender, so it all worked well. The fresh salsas available at the stand were also very tasty. [S had an animal tamale, and just thought it was okay.]

The 'so SF' scene of the day: a young woman in a sari trying to persuade a boy to taste a tamale.

S insists that his 'so SF' scene of the day involves a heterosexual couple, both of whom had beards, walk past. (I didn't see this: I was looking at food.)
posted by Arlene (Beth)6:14 PM

Friday, March 04, 2005

My current favorite web radio station: Limbik Frequencies :: Radio Elektro[u]nique.
posted by Arlene (Beth)6:00 PM

Thursday, March 03, 2005

It's one of those cloudy days. One of those cloudy days when I can't make sun prints. All weather falls into a few categories now, 'good for photography,' 'good for sun printing,' 'bad for image making,' etc.

It's fine, though. I'm editing film to send to my agency, and am getting increasingly fussy as time goes on, which is good. Is an image really worth the time of me editing every little dimple and brown spot off a flower petal so it's perfect? I'm realizing the answer is often no, which is a good thing.


Between photos, I'm exchanging e-mail with a friend who tends to put down film media in favor of digital. I'm all about expanding my options, not limiting them, so I see no point in dissing film. (Is dissing a word yet?) Lots of work I LOVE was done with film. I could hope to be as good as some of the photographers I admire, in any media, but especially in the media they used. I want my toolbox to keep getting bigger, not smaller. I've added digital, I'm adding alt processes, and I'm not taking film out.


S had been playing lots of old Depeche Mode tunes for me in recent evenings, and they won't stop replaying in my mind. To drown them out, I tried to turn on the local, commercial classical music station. After one song, they went on an ad marathon, including an ad (intended to be funny) in which a woman in labor postpones giving birth in favor of having her drapes cleaned.

Having had my intelligence insulted so promptly, I sought other options. KCSM, the Bay Area's Jazz Station, is always excellent, but they were playing a lot of great music which seemed more appropriate to rainy weather. (I am highly influenced by the mood set by jazz, and have very specific interpretations of jazz sounds. I found rain-themed jazz to be disorienting since it wasn't raining. Yes, I am a freak. But you knew that already.)

So I switched over to web radio. Web radio is something I should explore quite a bit more. A search for 'downtempo electronica' took me promptly to UMFM Web Radio | downtempo internet radio stations | Universal Metropolis, where I'm currently listening to a station called Digitally Imported - Chillout. Which I'm enjoying. It's interesting, rarely vocal (words can be distracting), and when something fun comes on I respond to it immediately. So that's my recommendation of 'music to edit film by' today.
posted by Arlene (Beth)12:38 PM

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

What über-geeks do when they retire well: Grounded: Millionaire John Gilmore stays close to home while making a point about privacy. (, 02/27/05)

This article is sort of about Gilmore, but far more about how the U.S. has become a country of secret laws, secret lists, and agencies incapable of logical, sensible uses of information.

You've read stories about misguided security efforts. When authorities are too lazy to follow up on leads, and wind up delaying class trips because a student has a name vaguely like Benjamin Ladeen, and then fail to improve the list as a result of their errors... An African-American grandmother who can't fly without a security search and huge delays because her name is vaguely similar to the name of some MAN they're looking for, but authorities are too silly to specify a description of who they're after... Senator Kennedy being delayed because HIS name came up on a list. It's a combination of boneheaded mismanagement and an abuse of power.

Anyway, read this article about privacy, freedom of movement, and other rights we're supposed to have. It's a good read.
posted by Arlene (Beth)3:48 PM

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The sun came out for a while! Both today and yesterday there was a bit of sun in the morning, before clouds came and ruined the good light. :-) I got some cyanotype printing done both days, to wildly different results. Yesterday's prints were quite workable: today's indicate that one of my chemicals is spoiling, and I need to mix a fresh batch.

I'll be so much happier when I can get consistent results. Admittedly, I'm engaging in rather unfocused experimentation to test the limits of all sorts of images, especially those with delicate midtones, to see how my 'fake negatives' can be manipulated to render those cleanly. So it will be a long while before I settle down into predictability. But a little more consistency from my mix/paper combinations would be nice.


Today I went to see the John Szarkowski: Photographs exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. I hadn't realized it was "Free Tuesday," and that the museum would be swamped with school kids, waving sheets of paper for their museum treasure hunt-style assignments. But I went early, when it was still relatively quiet, and enjoyed the exhibit.

Szarkowski was the curator of the NY MOMA photography department for decades, and was enormously influential. His books for the shows he arranged during his tenure are clearly written, and full of great explanations. So it was interesting to see his own photographs, since he is so full of ideas about other people's work.

My friend noticed that there was a great tranquility that ran through all of his images. They are all rather restful scenes of the midwest or upstate New York. They are all black and white, and all have excellent tonal qualities. I told my friend that they are technically sophisticated, but often look effortless. His images of farms and lakes in Minnesota make me think that I could REALLY like that state, and that Szarkowski really likes all of the landscapes he photographs.

The only odd thing about the exhibit was how understated it was. There was just one small introductory text on the wall, small enough that I thought I was at the wrong end of the exhibit and went around the other side to check. The work is allowed to speak for itself, in a somewhat unusual way. I speculated wildly about why. I personally would be terrified to curate an exhibit of one of photography's most famous curators, but perhaps Szarkowski wanted it that way. Or failed to cooperate. :-) It's so hard to know.


In local food adventures, I need to remember to thank my friend J for pointing out Courtney's Produce to me. It's located on Castro at 14th Street, a short walk from the San Francisco Photo Center (the public darkroom), and J had advised me promptly that it is THE place nearby to go for fresh sandwiches and snacks.

It's a little shop, with gorgeous produce on display outside and in. Gorgeous enough that you'd expect some food stylist is picking the fruit for its looks. Inside is a large display case full of freshly made sandwiches, including a vegetarian sandwich with baked organic tofu, avocado, thin slices of bell peppers, mustard, and heaps of other fresh, crunchy things, all on soft, fresh, multigrain bread. They're just under three bucks, and quite tasty.

Good good good. I also tried some locally made veggie chips, deep fried green beans, eggplant slices, carrot slices, etc. And they're really good. So I'll definitely make sure my route to the darkroom invovles stopping by Courtney's regularly. Printing photographs is hard, hunger inspiring work!


My pal Larry recently offered me a bunch of black and white photography supplies given to him by a friend, and I eagerly took him up on the offer. The visit to pick them up was an excuse to go to Tasty Curry on 9th Avenue between Irving and Judah, in the Inner Sunset. It was pleasantly warming food on a cold evening.

We ordered two of our usual Indian restaurant staples, the (choose-your-spelling) baigan bharta, saag paneer, and something none of us had tried before, anda aloo. Anda aloo is a potato dish with scrambled egg and spices. None of us really like eggs (except maybe S), but it was very tasty - the egg wasn't really able to assert its flavor over the other, tastier ingredients.

We also had garlic and regular naan, an order of rice, and complimentary chai. I think the eggplant (bharta) was the best, and spiciest of the dishes. (We hadn't asked for anything to be made with any special spice level, just to see what their 'normal' is like.) We all ate until we were full, had complimentary chai, and our total tab came to just over $20. I thought it was fast, satisfying, and affordable.

Larry prefers the nearest Naan & Curry, a location I haven't tried. In my current role as 'starving artist,' I am currently not in a position to check it out just for science. But sooner or later...
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:25 PM

There is [another] good BBC article on school lunches in various nations: BBC NEWS | UK | Education | School dinners around the world (, 03/01/05). This includes a compilation of comments, and the comments are the good part. It's a shame more of the world isn't represented. I'm quite curious!


I was discussing food that children eat with a friend yesterday. We were discussing the inherent nastiness of the product sold in boxes which purports to be "macaroni and cheese," but appears to be a substandard macaroni with orange colored powder. Neither of us could stand this pseudo-food, which is notoriously cheap.

This icky product is popular with parents of young children, and I've heard parents I know insist that their children will eat little else, and that ALL children everywhere are hopelessly fussy and must be fed inexpensive, processed products like this. Products that are tasteless, mild, and nearly nutritionless.

I hate this conversation. So when this has come up, I usually ask something like, "so, fussy kids in Bangladesh eat nothing but this boxed product? Or Guatemala? Or China?" And the parents look vexed, because obviously kids in rural areas of most other nations aren't demanding this crap. They're eating whatever is available, and often available foods are spicy, unprocessed, and nutrition-containing. This usually ends that whole line of reasoning, and lets me off the hook to discuss the weather, or comment on how good the coffee is. Which is always a relief.

It's clear that in many households, kids are the decision makers, and parents just obey their children's wishes. Not all. But many. With no real nutrition education at any level in the U.S., and many adults with very poor diets who are in no position to set an example for their kids, it's a sad situation.

[S and I both ate what we were given. This sucked for me as I got older, since I was naturally inclined toward vegetarianism and the rest of my family is a meatloaf-and-mashed-potatoes (with lots of butter) sort. But my mother's cooking was healthy and balanced overall, my parents set reasonable examples, and I was able to stand up - and cook - for myself as I got older.]

I live in a city where I've actually heard kids whining to their parents, insisting that their parents buy them sushi. [The last time this happened, it was a blond girl making the demand.] So I think kids are pretty darned versatile, and do NOT naturally love bland, nutritionless, processed foods. Certainly not beyond the natural human attraction to fat and salt that everyone has. So I found this article interesting.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:09 PM

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