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Sunday, January 29, 2006


Unlike Mom Used to Make, Part V: Andra

Andra ( is a wonderful foodie, who has always had a great new recipe handy, or recommendations for a great place to buy groceries in Paris. She is now living in Caen, France, in a region known for pears, cheese, and a long list of other tasty wonders. She's keeping a blog at her website that ALWAYS has tempting recipes posted. I was thrilled to get her response to my food survey about traditional family dinners. She's such a natural food writer that she even provides instructions as she goes! Here's her reply:
Ok, 'comfort food', as it were. There's a couple, yes.

Macaroni & Cheese, which I made for some Franco-American (hahaha) friends the other night. Layers of cooked elbow mac, shredded cheddar, salt/pepper/butter. Pour milk over top till it can just be seen through the mac. Bake about 30-40 mins at 350. Still my favorite of anything, anywhere.

Grilled cheese sandwiches with Campbell's Tomato Soup. Cheese must be cheddar...Velveeta & American "cheeses" do not exist in our home. She had a reversible grill/waffle iron (it still works, from her wedding in 1956) and buttered the outside of the bread and grilled.

Broccoli and cauliflower (not mixed, but both of them) overcooked (we had a much-used pressure cooker!) and covered in cheese sauce (again, cheddar).

Do you see a thread here?

And also Chicken Divan (attributed to Tricia Nixon Cox, but who knows?), broccoli, chicken, sauce of mayo/cream of chicken or celery undiluted/yellow curry, cheddar...bake 40 mins 350.

There's a list of stuff I loathed, too...chopped olive sandwiches, spaghetti, scrambled eggs. The latter two I adore now (mine not hers) but while I eat more olives than I probably should, they're never the filling in a sandwich! Oh, and know, in the 60s it was 'good for you once a week', cooked to the state of shoe sole leather to be sure...

My mother didn't particularly enjoy cooking, but she did do it well because she's meticulous...following recipes, etc. She was good enough I wanted to cook like her, and was inspired to love Julia Child as a child, growing up soaking in every French Chef on Channel 9...I still have those and "More/Company" on my shelf here and use them!
For more info on the things she's eating now, which are evolving based on the regional specialties available in Caen, read her blog (with recipes!).
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:14 PM


Unlike Mom Used to Make, Part IV: Rosemary

This is one of the responses I received to my food survey that was an especial delight to read, because it's from another seriously dedicated foodie. Rosemary is one of the few people I know who has expressed the concept of eggs being 'in season,' a concession to the fact that chickens don't actually lay eggs in huge volumes year round when left to their own devices. I'm a zealous seasonal eater myself, and you can tell that she really pays attention to her food by the way she describes food based on when it's at its best.
As for me... my childhood foods run the gamut a bit. My mother was born & raised in SE Asia and my father was born & raised in Poland, both in Jewish households. They immigrated to Israel (where they met & had me) before settling down in the US, where 1980's suburban Michigan was their first home before bouncing around to the East Coast. Cuisine as I knew it as a kid was some bizarre mix of Eastern European/Ashkenazi dishes, middle eastern food, Malay/Indonesian dishes twisted beyond recognition by strange substitutions of ingredients, and midwestern recipes from the local paper. My mom also tends a little toward natural-food-nut in her ways, so we ate out/out-of-boxes exceedingly rarely. (This caused no end of embarrassment to me: I'd get lumpy, brown, homemade fruit leather in my lunches when the other kids got Fruit RollUps; my birthday "pizza parties" would be a source of ridicule for weeks thanks to my mother's creations failing to meet my friends' greasy Pizza-Hut expectations.)

Weekend meals were invariably lighter than weekday:

Main Courses, weeknight dinner
- Chicken, oven roasted in paprika. This was most often the "main" course, accompanied by a steamed or raw veg & one of the "side" dishes listed below. My mother (like me) dislikes land-meat, but believed that we needed it, so this was the, uh, standard dose. It was AWFUL.
- Chicken with apricots, a sort of Moroccan thing over rice. This was the only way I'd tolerate chicken -- we had horrible fights over the paprika stuff.
- Schnitzl, with a lot of dill. [Also spelled schnitzel, this is thinly sliced veal with his breaded and fried in butter.]
- Meatloaf. She put a TON of curry powder in it, which didn't really help. Mom & I both used to douse it in Indian pickles (sent from Singapore by my grandfather).
- Diaryland casserole: a (disgusting) melange of meat & cheese & noodles. Hello, Michigan.
- Liver. Yes, with onions. Oy. My mother recognized how unhealthy this habit was, so it was gradually phased out of the repertoire.
- Spaghetti with meatballs -- this was my favorite because it was rarely made & thus Exciting! Ethnic! Exotic!

Main courses, weekends:
- Kugel. My mother's was a sweet one -- noodles & cheese & raisins -- that we'd have for lunch on Saturday. Usually with avocado, which (continues to be) my mom's weekly splurge. [Kugel is a sort of casserole. I've only had savory kugels, and I'm fond of the potato version, though it's a little heavy for me.]
- Auntie Berta's salad. Finely chopped tomatoes & cukes & bell peppers in sour cream & cottage cheese (or, later, yoghurt & cottage cheese).
- Hummus! (Or just tehina on lazy days). Always with tomatoes & cukes & olives. My parents <3 hummus.
- Borscht. (Meatless; has beets, lemonjuice, carrots, hard boiled egg, and sour cream.)
- Sorrel soup. (Also meatless, has sour cream.)
- Kasha varnishkes - buckwheat & noodles, sometimes spiked with kielbasa & onion, sometimes eaten with sour cream.

"Side" dishes... note that many of these could stand on their own:
- Mee goreng, which is spicy, dry (pan fried) noodle dish. And, although it's a meal unto itself (has tofu), my mother always served it as a side dish. If she couldn't find mee (common in the earlier years), she'd use spaghetti. Sometimes she still does.
- Spicy rice (has tofu, tomatoes, turmeric-cinnamon-chilies-cloves, & onions).
- Bok choy w. tofu.
- Tahu goreng, gado gado, rojak -- all of which are Indonesian salad like things with a peanut sauce (tahu goreng literally means "fried tofu"). Early on, this would be a mix of peanut butter & Frank's RedHot sauce, because chilies were pretty hard to find. They all contained tofu -- I ate a lot of tofu as a kid (I hate to think how expensive it must have been there & then), and loved it.
- Pierogi. Always cheese & potato filled. Mmmmmmmm, pierogi. [This was something that I had a few times. My mother adored these, and purchased them frozen, but only very rarely. She ate them with sour cream; I ate mine with a little sour cream... and a lot of Louisiana hot sauce. Go figure.]
- Lentil rice. This is the standard middle eastern dish that involves lots of well-caramelized onions (the onions cook as long as the lentils & rice do) and is HEAVEN ON A PLATE.

To the degree that any of the nonmeat ones are made by me today, I make them rarely (though, for a time, I was basically living on the spicy rice & lentil rice recipes). Hummus is the one notable exception, and in summer when I'm feeling nostalgic I'll sometimes make Auntie Berta's salad (which sounds awful, but is incredibly refreshing).

Often, our meals are dictated by the availability of produce; in particular, our winter foods are dominated by squash and dried mushrooms. Living in a fishing village with two Spaniards got me hooked on seafood, a habit I haven't shaken, so that figures in as well. The "standard repertoire" goes something like this--

- Pasta & veg: whatever's available. The veg is generally roasted lightly in a dry pan, then added to saute'd garlic & spices (oregano- basil or bay-thyme, dried chilies, sometime cheese or anchovy paste) & lots of olive oil.
- Feta & mustard greens (in pasta or on bread) when mustard's in.
- Vegs, whatever's available, roasted in olive oil, salt, & garlic. Our favorite is green beans in spring. Usually eaten w. fresh bread or potatoes, or standing around the stove pulling melted raclette off the pan.
- Pesto, when basil is in season. We make gallons of the stuff & freeze it for winter. It ends up on pasta w. dried toms.
- Pizza. WAY better than moms. Usually topped with eggplant, olive oil, lots of garlic & dried chilies, and a little cheese; sometimes topped w. fresh toms/spinach & mozz. fresca.
- Calzones, which have in them tofu-ricotta, tomato paste + spices, and spinach.
- Hummus. Tomatoes are a crucial accompaniment, so this is seasonal.
- Baba ganoush, when eggplant's in.
- Fresh salsa only when tomatoes are in. Eaten in a 1:1 mix w. black beans, with a spoon.
- Cold pasta w. chickpeas & parsley & fresh toms, when toms are in.
- Quiche, only when eggs are in season. Fillings are leeks-stilton; mushroom-gruyere; roasted peppers-feta. Likewise, frittata (zucchini- parmesan).
- Saag paneer, with tofu instead of paneer. I only make this when spinach is in, although I realize frozen would do just fine.
- Polenta, with a sauce made of fresh tomatoes & basil.
- edamame! which P would painstakingly pull off the stalks. Ah, Urbana.

- Lentils. In the rice/onion recipe, above, or -- more often -- cooked in canned tomatoes w. garlic & rosemary & chilies. Lazy food :) Also, my most common winter food, because it allows me my tomato fix (in summer I average a dozen a week).
- Enchiladas. Your sauce.
- "Arlene's Soup". [I am honored to be mentioned here. :-) This is the Tibetan "Tupka" noodle soup from the Kopan Cookbook.]
- Risotto, either mushroom or shrimp.
- Lasagna, mushroom or squash-nut.
- Squash soup.
- Cheese soup (bad, I know, but I make it with horseradish and beer and lots of garlic & cayenne, and boy is it good).
- Pasta with marscapone & pistachios (Paul's mum's recipe).

- Soba, with tofu & veg (peas in spring, dried shiitake other times) in either a miso or hon dashi soup.
- Tofu & broccoli in (scratch) black bean sauce, when broccoli's in. Also, just tofu in a sorta Szechuan sauce (winterfood).
- Fish. We eat it rarely b/c I'm a freshness snob, but poor. My favorite way is covered w. olive oil & a little rosemary (or fresh chillies) and tiled with paper thin slices of lemon (or lime), and broiled; or poached in vermouth w. leeks.
- From a package: Malaysian foods I can't make, sent to me from Singapore; Tamale Molly tamales, which we eat with my friend E's salsa verde recipe; and veg burgers, for lazy cookouts.
Isn't that fun to read?
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:00 PM


Unlike Mom Used to Make, Part III: Larry

Larry ( works at Google, which not only sends a biodiesel [revised from natural-gas], WiFi enabled bus to SF to pick him up near a transit hub and haul him down to their Mountain View campus, but they ALSO had a chef running their cafeteria who famously cooked for an eternally-touring, tye-dye band of some reputation. Larry reports that the food is great. Larry has stopped cooking, and doesn't mind spending more time at work as a result.

Here's Larry's report on traditional family dinners:
Beef stew
Barbecued chicken
+ Hamburgers
+ Pasta w/ tomato/meat sauce
Pot roast
+ Stir fry [beef|chicken] with veggies
Stuffed peppers
Tacos, open-faced: chili + cheese on tortillas
Toast pizza: tomato sauce, salami + cheese broiled on toast

There was usually a salad; there was usually a vegetable, that vegetable was often scarlet runner beans.

I'm cheating on the "mark things you make for yourself now" by marking things I was making for myself a year ago. Nowadays, I don't cook much.
If there's a list of great reasons to give up making food for yourself, access to a stellar cafeteria is near the top.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:53 PM


Unlike Mom Used to Make, Part II : Reggie

Here is another great contribution from a friend who replied to my question about what he recalls about his childhood family dinners, and whether he eats any of those foods now.
1. A lot of chicken adobo [Wikipedia describes Adobo as "a common dish in the Philippines, [] typically made from pork or chicken, slow-cooked in soy sauce, vinegar, crushed garlic, bay leaf, and black peppercorns."]
2. A lot of rice porridge.
3. Of course, rice was a staple but I did not eat much rice.
4. Because Mom had six boys in the house, we really had a lot of Swanson and Banquet TV dinners. [These are brands of frozen, prepared dinners which usually involved a meat in gravy with a side dish of a vegetable, sometimes with mashed potatoes in addition.]
5. A lot of turkey pot pie.
6. Broccoli because younger brother, Raul, called them Baby Trees
7. Carrots and Peas because young brother, Raul, more than once stuck a pea up his nose.
8. Fried Chicken.
9. Oscar Meyer Bologne sandwiches
10. I wish I were an Oscar Meyer Hot Dog. Advertising sure does play a big role on what a kid eats. But we did not like buns of any sort.
11. When I grew up in Daly City, the... McDonald's was a journey because it was all the way at Pacifica. Then the McD's opened in DC off Juniperro Serra, but those people always and still do get your order wrong. So McDonald's was not that often. We did not go to the fast food restaurants that much because they weren't as abundant as they are now. That was a
good thing back then.
12. Cantaloupe and grapes.
13. A lot of lumpia and pancit. [Lumpia is a deep fried spring roll which is a specialty of the Philippines. Pancit is a noodle, but refers also to a noodle dish with many toppings. ] Dad died at 50 when I was 14 years old. A couple months before Dad died, she was trying to get everyone to eat more vegetables. After Dad died, Mom has in shock, for about two years. During that time we had to fend for ourselves.
So therefore...
14. Breakfast during my teenage years was nothing.
15. Lunch during that time was Yoplait. [Yoplait is a brand of yogurt.]

>> The second thing I want to know is which of those
>> things you make for
>> yourself now, in adulthood, as your own cook.

Through the help of nutrition classes I have tried to eat the rights things. As an adult living on my own I ate the following:
1. Dorm food. Arlene, you can fill in the menu of what Cal Poly provided. There was an option to be healthy...or not. [This was conventional American cafeteria food, often with many canned ingredients.]
2. Last years at Cal Poly were lean years. [Post-cafeteria plan.]
2a. A lot of carrots and peas.
2b. A lot of the cheapest white bread.
2c. A lot of (the cheapest) meat and potatoes.
2d. Chicken and rice.
2e. Pizza was a luxury.
3. Having a job from college meant [I could] eat. I was in college mode when I got hired by Applied Materials. Within two weeks of being hired I was traveling on business and the meals were on the companies expense - from the cheapest meat and potatoes (10 lbs for $1) to Austin's finest steakhouses.
4. Now it is a lot more healthy eating.
4a. A lot more steamed fish which is supposed to be a brain food.
4b. A lot more vegetables. I get a large bowl from the salad bar from work - cherry tomatoes, peas and corn
fill in the gaps between the tomatoes, tofu cube, kidney and garbanzo beans fill in the gaps between the
tofu, cauliflower, [and] green and red and yellow bell peppers.
5. Veggie corn dogs from Trader Joe's.
6. Smoothies from Jamba Juice.
7. I've never smoked. I don't drink anything alcoholic. I have a Coca-Cola about 2-3 times a week.
Tea about once a month but almost all the time I see Arlene because she makes such very good tea. I can
honestly say that I can count with one hand the number of times I have had coffee in the last 5 years.

posted by Arlene (Beth)9:44 PM

red church door with metal decorations

Lomo update

I've added a few more images from my Lomo SuperSampler to my gallery at The new galleries are called "Near Palomarin," "Neon," and "Yerba Buena Gardens."
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:37 PM

Friday, January 27, 2006

I am currently entertaining an out of town guest, but should be posting updates again by Sunday or Monday.
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:17 AM

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Bicycle joy!: A fun film from Frank: Russian Hill Roulette (
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:58 PM

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Gay and reproductive rights are intertwined. On today, the 33rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I've attended a commemorative event that discussed why the decision is important for everyone's human rights. The article is posted at Candlelight Roe Vigil, Dolores Park, SF : SF Bay Area Indymedia ( (At the moment, it's also on the Womyn splash page, and comes up first in the Google News results for searches about the event. Whee!)
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:21 PM

I'm not posting all the time. I'm working on some new pages for this site on some non-food topics, and so I haven't been posting here too much. (I am instead be feverishly typing away in other programs, amazing myself with my own verbosity). While I'm taking my usual pleasure in food (especially the fabulous pears that are available right now), an unpredictable work schedule has made my homemade dinner plans more complicated than they've been in a while. There's something about dragging in after 9 that makes it difficult to make four course meals. Who knew?

Meals this past week have included: a four course Indian meal of stewed mustard greens, potatoes fried in spices, red lentil dal, and basmati rice (on the MLK holiday, of course); spaghetti squash baked with tofu-ricotta (tofu pureed with olive oil, garlic, basil, oregano, and crushed red chili) and tomato sauce; squash and bell pepper enchiladas; and cabbage stir fried with ginger, garlic, sweet chili sauce, sesame oil, and soy sauce, served over buckwheat soba. Tonight we'll likely have potato, kale, and chili soup.


As an added and bonus distraction from this food blog, I've been completely absorbed in Judy Seigel's World Journal of Post Factory Photography, a 9 issue set of periodicals put out by a knowledgeable and opinionated New Yorker-photography instructor on the topic of alternative photographic processes. (Many of the processes that are "alternative" now were mainstream and state of the art; their materials were once mass-produced in factories, but that time is long past.) The periodical format is a clever way to share wisdom in manageable doses, and works well for material that includes interviews, chemistry recipes, and book reviews. It's an enjoyable, educational, and quirky collection, and I'm very happy I ordered it. (Instructions for acquiring a set are available on this page of

While I do not wish to try tintype (or daguerreotype) at home, there's a pair of fun PF articles on a contemporary tintypist living in 19th century style and using 19th century methods for his art. The artist lives on a farm in New York State, avoiding such distractions as electricity, phones, and plumbing while teaching and producing tintypes in an old-fashioned, horse-drawn, portable wagon-lab for gallery sale. His work is impressive, and he seems like he really enjoys what he does.

[I've heard of some modern processes which mimic tintype, but are neither as toxic to make nor as lovely to view.]

Hopefully I'll have new pages up for your enjoyment shortly.
posted by Arlene (Beth)12:21 PM

Ink jet cartridge accumulation for wicked company. I've been accumulating used inkjet cartridges for my Epson printer, and have been discouraged that I can't find anyone to recycle them. There's a reason I want to: According to Reink Imaging to Recycle Ink Jet Cartridges as a Supplemental Environmental Project (
In 2001, over 250 million ink jet cartridges ended up in North American landfills. By 2003, this number is expected to increase to 400 million cartridges -- greater than the U.S. population. Over 90% of these cartridges are produced by four major ink jet printer manufacturers, Hewlett Packard (HP), Lexmark, Canon and Epson. Presently, less than 10 percent of these cartridges are recycled.
That's rather miserable. Of course, HP now has a very sophisticated recycling program - and when you buy one of their carts, they include a mailer IN THE PACKAGE to get it back to their recycling center. But HP hates Mac, so I have an Epson. Epson carts are usually excluded from the lists of "acceptable" recycling carts. Why?

I was able to find one place that recycles cartridges for institutions, and they take Epson, but for a shady reason. The Truth About Free Inkjet Cartridge Recycling (Google cache from used to tell me what the "recycling" consists of:
Epson, in cooperation with Funding Factory, recently launched a free recycling program for its customers. Schools and businesses can get points for collecting and remitting empty cartridges to Epson.

However, the cartridges are not remanufactured or refilled. They are incinerated. To be fair, mention must be made that the incineration is at an environmentally friendly waste-to-energy plant; however, it's easy to see that Epson is the big winner in this recycling effort. Their recycling plan takes cartridges out of the hands of remanufacturing plants that can offer less expensive remanufactured compatible cartridges to the consumer.
That's just sad, as is the high amount of petroleum required to produce a new cartridge.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:49 AM

A fun link from Larry: jwz - scanner-based digital camera.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:04 AM

Friday, January 20, 2006

Shade. I know what the solstice is; I know that we've just passed through the longest nights of the year, and that each day the sun will shine longer. But I'm still amazed at the length of the shadows in downtown San Francisco, where I've been spending my weekdays working in an office tower. I know I shouldn't be surprised that 40 story buildings cast long shadows - what surprises me is how FAST they move this time of year. I'll step out to get a bowl of soup, disappointed that I can't take a photo of something that's in the shade, and when I next look up it's in full sun.

This means I should be spending my time in sidewalk cafes, sipping soy lattés and scoping out ideal lighting for my subjects. But alas and alack, I have to work for others quite a bit this month, and am indoors for most daylight hours.


I'm carrying my four-eyed camera with me everywhere, and though I'm discouraged that I can only take pictures in full sun (which, for reasons discussed above, is not abundant), I'm still having a great time.


It's funny that I resisted the four-eyed camera all of this time, but after much agony did indulge one similarly frivolous desire: for a fisheye lens. I'd been tempted to get one to use with my "serious" Nikon F for a long time, but last year gave in and purchased one that I could use on my digital camera. I've taken just half a dozen images with it, since my plans required completely circular images, and it's not quite possible to get those. However, I but feel ready to try some of my project ideas with it despite this. (The nearly round images just look SO TINY on the lomohomes gallery pages, that it seems I'd have to find some other way to display the results.)
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:04 PM

New travel photos from a favorite photographer. Troy Litten's M O R O C C O 2 0 0 4 / 0 5 is full of fun, vivid images from Troy's travels in that country. I especially like this image, not just because it has a bike in it, but because it has so much going on. You can't help but get the impression that Troy is a bit more observant that most folks who travel. I'm looking forward to his posts from his current adventures!
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:02 PM

Perhaps Amazon could provide some entertainment after all: while looking for a book associated with my favorite plastic cameras, I came upon this: A guide by Paulo Leite at So You'd Like to... Spend money on stupid things that take you nowhere! Part2. This is an amusing, anti-consumerist guide on a consumerist site. While I don't agree with Mr. Leite's views on the plastic cameras, his list is still entertaining.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Saturday, January 14, 2006


Unlike Mom Used to Make, Part I

I was having a casual conversation with Steven recently, when I asked him what foods he ate growing up that I might make for him. I was interested because I might be able to make an old favorite for him, because I wanted to know if his family ate a wide variety of foods (most people don't), and I was curious about what he'd eaten as a kid. When I had moved into his rented house in San Bruno, I noticed that we had NOTHING in the pantry in common aside from a few spices and rahmen noodles. So I suspected his family's eating habits had differed quite a bit from mine.

It turns out that he stopped eating just about all of the foods his mother made for family dinners as a child before I met him. Food selections for a family with six kids on welfare was quite a challenge, and his mom made a lot of dishes to stretch out food supplies as far as possible, many of which were midwestern-style casseroles. Steven isn't a midwestern-style casserole-making kind of guy, and so his eating has changed. Moving in with an ethnic-food-loving vegetarian food fiend has meant a new range of foods are now a regular part of his diet, which he'd never had before.

This survey is limited to family-wide dinner meals.

What Steven's family ate for dinner in childhood (homemade)

-bean and beef burritos, fried
-beef stew
-beef stroganoff
-breakfast-as-dinner meals, usually including pancakes, bacon, eggs, and/or eggs scrambled with cheese
-broccoli casserole (contains cream of chicken soup)
-canned “Chun King” brand dishes (meat plus canned veggies)
-chicken fried steak
-chicken noodle soup
-chili, beef
-corned beef and cabbage soup
-enchilada casserole (a scrambled version of beef enchiladas)
-fish sticks
-grilled cheese sandwiches
-Hamburger Helper casseroles
-hot dogs
-macaroni and cheese, with or without hot dogs
-pigs in a blanket (hot dogs wrapped in biscuit dough and baked)
-pizza, with ground beef topping
-pork chops with cream of chicken soup as a sauce
-Rice A Roni, meat flavored
-”rice with orange gravy,” a casserole of rice, ground beef, and tomato sauce
-spaghetti with meat and tomato sauce
-tacos, with ground beef and packaged taco seasoning
-tamale pie (a meat and cornbread casserole).

The ONLY thing on this list that was always vegetarian is the only thing I’ve made for him: grilled cheese sandwiches. Mine are on sourdough and have roasted red peppers and mustard in them, but still.

For those of you who assume that my long list of foods that I eat is based on what I had growing up, think again.

What Arlene's family ate for dinner in childhood (homemade)

-beef enchiladas (beef, cheddar, onions, flour tortillas, tomato sauce)
-beef lasagna
-beef stew
-beef stroganoff with cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup
-cheese manicotti (ricotta in tube pasta with tomato sauce and mozzarella) *
-chicken curry over rice
-chicken spring rolls
-chicken with Chinese (Chun King) vegetables over rice
-corned beef hash with potatoes
-fish sticks
-fried salmon patties (discontinued after mom’s allergic reaction to fish)
-hot dogs with fries
-kielbasa (a Polish sausage) with potatoes or steamed cabbage
-macaroni and cheese (homemade with cheddar) *
-meatballs with rice
-pizza, various toppings (sometimes vegetarian!) *
-potato salad (sometimes as an entree in hot weather, otherwise as a side dish for a meat entree) *
-sloppy joes (minced ground beef and gravy served on a toasted hamburger bun)
-spaghetti with meatballs
-roasted turkey.

I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but I think these were the frequent entrees. As a teen who developed a profound aversion to meat, I didn’t have many options. (The vegetarian entrees are marked with a *). There were side dishes I could eat, like canned corn, canned green beans, mashed or baked potatoes, salads, marinated bean salads, cole slaw, and bread with butter. My mom would sometimes make a separate batch of spaghetti sauce for me, so I could avoid the meatballs. But you can also see how it would be tough to get a balanced diet just on the side dishes the rest of the time.

I was lucky that my mom had already taught me how to bake by my early teens: it helped me begin cooking for myself in my mid-teens, so that I could make enough foods to have a balanced, vegetarian diet.

I do still make the two vegetarian items on this list, but only rarely. I usually make a spinach or Mediterranean lasagna instead of manicotti, and I dislike the mayo in potato salad (and Steven dislikes Nayo, the mayo substitute I use).

So, despite the entire idea of family tradition, I do not (and can not) eat most of the dinners that my mom made for me while I was growing up.


I intend to ask a bunch of my friends what they ate at dinner growing up, and compare that with what they make for themselves now. I’ll post their comments as they come in.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:56 AM

A creepy look at the future of bird flu. Conveyer belt of death ( This is a bird-killing machine which "can kill 4,000 birds in an hour. "

Creepy. The fact that this has rubber chickens on it for practice doesn't make it's actual purpose less creepy. Especially since the way the birds are actually killed isn't revealed.
posted by Arlene (Beth)11:54 AM

Sunday, January 08, 2006

I had no idea. Food "Farmacy": The Case for Carrots (
...carrots originated in Afghanistan and were historically white or purple....

posted by Arlene (Beth)8:35 PM

I should not be the least bit surprised that you can now buy iPods from vending machines. But it still makes me regret that I didn't have more money to have bought Apple stock back in the day. 9 Things Your New iPod Can't Do / Yes, it does everything. But can it stop the crying? Measure Dick Cheney's vileness? Read minds? by Mark Morford (, 1/6/06).
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:32 PM

History moves very, very slowly toward obvious things. World Opinion Roundup -- Jefferson Morley's Review of Opinions and Commentary on News Around the World - (, 12/20/05) features this food for thought:
Evo Morales, newly elected president of Bolivia, is getting a warm, but wary welcome from Latin America's online media.

A long-time champion of Bolivia's coca formers, Morales is [the] first indigenous person elected as chief of state in the Western Hemisphere. 'We have been waiting 500 years for this day,' writes Morelis Gonzalo in Bolpress, an independent leftist news site in La Paz.
What? We're getting the FIRST indigenous person elected as chief of state in the Western Hemisphere?!?!? NOW?!? How the hell did it take this long?!?!
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:28 PM

Mmmmm. Onions. I love onions. They're probably the vegetable I eat most, by the pound - just because they're in nearly everything I make. Here's a nice article singing the nutritional praises of onions, and explaining their quirks for growing them: Growing Onions: The Long and Short of It (
posted by Arlene (Beth)8:24 PM

Thursday, January 05, 2006

I have yet another web presence! I have my own Lomohome! You can now look at my first few plastic camera images at

I'll develop more images (literally, as in film developing) in the coming weeks. It looks like I'll need another place to post the vertical ones, which the site doesn't like (the vertical images mess up their cool grids).

I am so excited, even though this is another site to maintain!
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:52 PM

Bird flu news: BBC NEWS | World | Europe | Turkey diagnoses human bird flu (, 1/5/06):
The boy. . . died on Sunday in the city of Van in eastern Turkey.

He and his brothers and sisters lived and worked on a poultry farm in the town of Dogubayezit, close to the border with Iran.
Health Minister Recep Akdag said the family ate infected birds, which they kept in their home.
Note that the health minister is choosing to emphasize that the family ate infected birds, when I'd assume that it was the part about keeping them in their home that would have been the problem. Odd and interesting.

There are more outbreaks being reported around the world at various times. But the threat to any one person's life is still from driving, or heart disease, or other things which aren't as fun to write about in the papers.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:50 PM

Reasons to hope:: States Adopt California's Greenhouse Gas Limits (, 1/2/06):
On Friday, Massachusetts joined Oregon, Connecticut and five other states in adopting California's tough greenhouse gas rules, which limit the amount of carbon dioxide and other gases that can be emitted from vehicle tailpipes.
Perhaps all Americans aren't really in a headlong rush to destroy ourselves after all.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:47 PM

Random gem from all of those year in review features: At the White House, Prizes for 14 Champs (, 11/09/05) notes that "Muhammed Ali made the "crazy" gesture at Bush... to the discomfort and confusion of the President."
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:46 PM

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

four panoramic images of downtown building reflecting the sunOf all the times for the Lomographic Society International website to be down for server upgrades, why tonight? Why tonight, when I have my very own SuperSampler images to upload to my (currently empty) Lomo homepage?

Steven bought me a SuperSampler (which makes four panoramic images) for my birthday. I've wanted one for a while. Yes, I have professional cameras, and I've been craving a plastic camera that doesn't even have a viewfinder (unless you count the little plastic square that attaches loosely to the outside, which I don't). Why? To play with! When I'm carrying a four-eyed camera without a viewfinder, it's really impossible to take myself too seriously. It's easy to play when I'm not taking myself seriously. I won't be judged by this! This is just playtime! So I take risks, take photos with my arms outstretched, just generally waving it in the direction of my plastic-camera-"vision" of what might happen.

It's fun.

When the Lomo servers are back up, I'll post my first few images. Yes, I have found yet another way to have a web presence! Yes, it's silly! Yes, I'm glad.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:18 PM


Ah, January.

The Sierras as full of snow; the garden is lush from the heavy wet-season rains; and the farmer's market stalls are still full of temptations.

At this time of year, the local farms give us a variety of apples, at least three types of pears (including the golden pears sometimes called "Asian," and sometimes called "Apple-pears," both of which are silly names because the pears speak no Asian languages and look and taste nothing like apples), tender lettuces, chard, kale, a wide range of greens I can't name, fresh herbs, winter squashes (including festive, orange and cream-colored delicata), nuts, cheeses, breads, and dried summer fruit.

My own garden is providing an abundance of chard and parsley right now, in addition to my favorite perennial herbs. The thyme, marjoram, oregano (2 kinds), rosemary, and parsley are taking over, and I'll need to clear some space in the lettuce bed to plant some actual lettuce. I have no cilantro coming up, the sad byproduct of something in the garden deciding that cilantro is delicious very early last spring. I have hundreds of seedpods from 2003's crop, and hope that I can plant enough to share with whatever critter took 2004's seedlings, plus enjoy an abundance of it myself.


The Seeds of Change catalog has arrived, and is full of temptations. They are inexpensive temptations, at just two dollars and change apiece for a lovely envelope full of small, perky seeds. I want to resist - the garden seems so full right now, and is better 'settled in' to the patterns Steven has planted by the moment - but it seems like there is always room for another plant, or two, or a dozen.

It's a tribute to S.o.C. that nearly every flower we've planted has been so successful, that it has reseeded itself and become an effortless, ongoing part of our garden. Only one of the plants was TOO successful: arugula, part of the "mesclun mix," took over the lettuce bed, and was such a prolific seeder that we wound up with arugula growing in the garden path, the cracks in our patio, potted plants, and the other herb beds!


Somewhere in my paper collection is most of an envelope of lettuce seeds that I ordered last year, and misplaced after pulling out just two of the packets. I'm going to dedicate some of my nonexistent spare time to searching for those seeds this week, before I place an order.

Likely items in this year's order: scallions, yellow pear cherry tomatoes (so sweet! able to grow even in the Richmond District of SF!), lettuce leaf basil (which needs to be grown in cloches (plastic bottle greenhouses) in my garden, for reasons I cannot explain), sage, long beans (the purple ones are so pretty, and so FRESH tasting!), and perhaps more love-in-a-mist nigella (which Steven aggressive eradicated to put in annuals, which means the space is clear again).


There are many things we'd love to grow, but our local microclimate won't allow it.

Our long garden (25 feet wide, and about 50 feet long!!) runs east-west, with a tall fence on the uphill side which casts long shadows during the winter months, and trees at the east end in our yard and yards both north and south of us. Much of the year, at least half of the garden is quite shady. Our home is also located in an east-west valley, which serves as a conduit for summer fog. We often sit on the very edge of the fog line, with fog obscuring the houses across the street, but sun shining gently into the garden through only the lightest curtain of mist.

Despite the fog and shade, my plant-loving partner has up to TWO HUNDRED different plants growing in the yard in summer, including my contributions. [I actually created a table in 2003, which I should update and post, listing the Latin and common names of all of the plants we had at that time.]


We can grow so many things, it's easier to make a short list of things that give us trouble. Squash is on the list, which is a shocker. It turns out that the fog is heavy enough to make squash leaves grow mold and die off. Dahlias also have trouble, though we notice that dahlias on the street, where the air moves a bit more, seem to do better than those in our garden (though they grow fungus just the same in most years). Basil is too desirable for something in my yard, and won't even sprout unless it's in a cloche. (Steven objects to too many plastic bottles sheltering herbs in the garden, which look silly, but I LOVE the taste of fresh basil! Perhaps I can come up with a better design for a basil shelter that might amuse him?) It's too cold for chili peppers or eggplant, and too damp for tomatoes, though all three of these plants will grow in our little, phone booth-sized greenhouse, made of "French-door"-style windows from a salvage yard.


I am tempted to keep a gardening journal. I've been tempted since I first moved in with Steven, back when he lived in San Bruno and was busy carving a complex flower garden from a windy, lawn-filled yard. His garden was a constant source of inspiration for me, and I aggressively recorded the garden moving through the seasons with my camera.

There are gardeners who track the blooming of all of the plants in their yards each year, who know exactly which day the irises open, when the lemon trees blossom, and when their first cucumber will be ripe. I'd like to be one of those people. Each year, however, I've thought better of keeping a detailed journal. Not because I don't think I should, but because Steven promotes an ambitious new plan for the garden, and actually DIGS UP and moves mature plants, so that they're always adjusting to something new, and never completely "settled in." Now that I know that this process of active garden rearrangement will never end, I think I can feel confident trying to keep a general record despite this situation.

I'm not going to be too fancy - I'm not going to set up my own weather station, no matter how tempting that may be to my inner geek - but I'll get started and see what happens. [Oooh, a weather station! Why didn't I think of that before!] If I'm clever, I'll keep records on paper, and post highlights on a special page here. Or, if I'm scary, I'll make ANOTHER BLOG...
posted by Arlene (Beth)7:37 AM


Habañero sauce enchiladas with pumpkin, cheese, and black beans

In my cupboard, I have a collection of pretty, red-purple, dried habañero chili peppers. I already know they make a HOT chili powder - too hot to make ordinary chili with, actually, because you can't taste the other ingredients. But I kept wondering: could they make a red sauce for enchiladas? The answer is: yes. But a very, very, very hot one. If you want to taste the other ingredients, you need to barely use any chilies at all.

WARNING: this sauce is tasty, - sweet with onions, smoky with chipotle, and fiery with habañero - but has a strange, delayed reaction with the particular chilies I used. For the first three seconds or so, the sauce just seems pleasant. After that, your mouth catches fire. It's a pleasant fire, but it is still alarming if you don't expect the delayed heat. Use with caution. Have soy milk, a creamy salad with dressing, a mild side dish, or something else nearby to help tame the heat. DO NOT RUB YOUR EYES AFTER HANDLING CHILIES: they often leave an oil that is hard to wash off/out.

-1 cup of black beans, boiled until tender with a bay leaf, a teaspoon of lemon thyme, and half a teaspoon of oregano
-1 - 2 cups of the winter squash of your choice, baked until tender and diced
-1.5 cups of pepper jack cheese, grated
-10 flour tortillas
-3 cups of water
-6 or more cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
-2 cups of sweet yellow onion, coarsely chopped
-4 or 5 dried habañero chilies, stems removed, seeds removed from some if you like, chopped
-1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce (about a tablespoon), chopped.

Prepare the beans, squash, and cheese. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Boil the water, and add the garlic, onion, and chilies. Simmer for about 20 minutes, then puree until smooth.

Put about a cup of the sauce into an enchilada pan (casserole pan). In each tortilla, put about two tablespoons each of beans, cheese, and pumpkin; roll the tortilla up, and place it in the pan with the end of the roll down (so it will hold itself closed). When the pan is full, pour the rest of the sauce over the enchiladas, cover the pan with foil, and bake for 40 minutes.
posted by Arlene (Beth)7:34 AM

GREAT new book about food! Paul and Rosemary brought me a copy of Hungry Planet: What the World Eats, by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio. It's a BRILLIANT book, with photographs of families in different parts of the world, displaying themselves and a week's worth of food in or near their homes.

It is mind blowing, the things you see in that week's worth of food.

Having developed an interest in Greenland from Greta Ehrlich's This Cold Heaven, I zipped over to that page... and marveled at the foods imported at great expense from far, far, far away. It raises a lot of questions about sustainability: what does your frozen, far north community have to trade to get canned fruit? What resources do you need to pillage locally to afford imported goods? It raises so many issues: social, economic, health, and environmental, it can make your head spin.

Everything really is about food.
posted by Arlene (Beth)7:33 AM

Oh my. There is a website called It is local to SF. It has a newsletter. Its newsletter is called... "Intestinal Apocalypse Monthly."

I don't actually agree with the site's ratings (it slights my favorite local taqueria in favor of one that's not as good), but it's still entertaining.
posted by Arlene (Beth)7:33 AM

Ken has finally posted his photo from the National Novel Writing Month Thank Gawd It's Over party at w w w . m O n K e Y m I n D . c o m / p h. I'm near the front, on the right, making a VERY ODD facial expression.
posted by Arlene (Beth)7:31 AM

Monday, January 02, 2006


Happy New Year!

Steven's been nursing a bad head cold, and I've been doing my best to fight it off (and barely winning), so we've had some very subdued celebrations over the long weekend. I have gotten part of my ritual NY cleaning done, so I'm pleased enough with myself that I might put the rest off to Chinese New Year (which also involves ritual cleaning).

2005 is gone, and it's time to make plans for 2006. All of our annual habits are beginning to populate the calendar: orchid shows, magnolia photos, garden shows, Chinese New Year parade, camellia and rhododendron photos, more and more fruit at the farmer's market, the Cherry Blossom Festival, coastal hiking, local strawberries, waiting for the snow to melt for Sierra backpacking, summer fruit... I'm looking forward to it all.

I never make resolutions, but I'll continue moving toward veganism in my habits. It suits me, and it's darned healthy to boot!

Best wishes to all of you for 2006!
posted by Arlene (Beth)7:15 PM

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