Thursday, January 31, 2008

Science-Of Food and Others

So I am reading Michael Pollan's new book "In The Defense Of Food" (thank-you Santa for a Border's card!) and it is good. He is way more eloquent, and a better writer, in explaining the idea of the closer we eat to nature, the better off we are. I am only halfway through it, but he has yet to disappoint me (and if his name sounds familiar, it is because he wrote "the Omnivore's Dilemma",which I have also blogged about).
One thing that struck me immediately about these food theories is the parellel between food and Science, and Science and everything else. Science, and so called progress, has not always been our friend. I am not against Science, and this just isn't a disclaimer. Everytime I turn the heat on to my house, or flush the toilet, I am pretty happy. And when I travel, we never mention covered wagons. But I defintely think that we have let Science have to much control. In the 1920's, 30's 40's, 50's and even as late as the 60's, Science was the answer to all that ailed. Raising non-perfect kids? Science has a book. Grass not as green as the neighbors? Science has a spray. Feeling blue? Science can recommend medicine, therapy, and/or a certain vitamin. House dirty? Science has a cleaner/germ buster. Truly, until the "hippies" came along, there wasn't a loud crowd (although there have always been dissenters) that was willing to buck the system.
What do we have now? A civilization that not only is losing the ability to think for itself, it's almost scared too. When I had Asa, a friend gave me a book based on Touchpoints-were to touch kids to calm them down. Where I come from we called that a hug. Everytime her kids do something wrong, she has a book to expalin what her reaction should be. A perfect parent courtesy of Science. A person I come into contact with in regards to my job (but I refuse to say how to protect privacy rules) is so convinced the Medical Community can find an answer to her numerous aches and pains, she refuses to contemplate that she is over-weight, and based on the limited conversations we have, leading a very in-active lifestyle-both of which could be causing some of her issues. (and we know this thanks to Science!)
So where does this leave us? Well, for starters, the old ways weren't all bad, even if they weren't perfect. I am eternally grateful, and so happy, that not a single medicine I can think of calls for cow dung or human urine as an ingredient-and once upon a not to distant future, both were used. Yuck. But some of the stuff we used to use was pretty good. Science, hip hip hooray, has shown that honey has immunity properties, and oil of rosemary when added to hot water and left to steep, cam help with respiratory issues. Sitting outside for dinner at Cousin Monika's house I noticed the lack of bee's-she had a row of marigold's planted. Bee's hate marigold's, but only Science knows why. And I have blogged extensively on how I have thrown out the books to raise Asa. If he needs to see a therapist, well, Science can be his friend, but I hate to say that a book taught me how to hug my kid.
So food and Science has had some pretty interesting results and truly, if anyone is interested in the field, check out this book. The author also has a limited interview in Sunset magazine this month, and the whole interview is on the website for the magazine if anyone is interested.

Monday, January 28, 2008

My Food Journey

Even though this is a part of the cooking class, in a way, I decided to put it under seperate cover (doesn't that sound fancy!) That way if people just want to know about the cooking class, they aren't stuck in blogging hell with a super long story.

But my reality is that the cooking class is a small step in a longer journey.
When I was pregnant with my son, Asa, I couldn't have any dairy. It made me sick. The biggies, like cheese, milk, ice cream...basically direct products.. made me vomit. Sorry, there is no nicer word. If it was an additive, like in cakes, sauces, and breads, I would get severe heartburn. What this experience taught me was two-fold: food allergies suck and label reading is boring. But did I learn a lot reading labels. Most foods contain wheat, milk, and soy-three of the biggest food allergens around. I learned a lot of sympathy for people with allergies, sensitivities, and diseases (Celiac's Disease) because it makes eating extremely difficult.
My next step came in the form of a very active, little boy. A can of soup for dinner sounded great for me, but after kid came, I became something of a purist. Did I really want to feed Asa something that hadn't seen the light of day in...days? months? Was all the pre-packaged, pre-made, expensive food the best I could do? I didn't think so.
So here we are months later and I have done some research and investigation, not so much to upset the existing system, or to jump on some bandwagon and spout the latest gibberish. All I have wanted to do is eat cheaper, and healthier, and ironcially they are sometimes linked.
My theory was, the further from the natural source, the worse it was for you. In short, water is better for you than pop, pop is better for you than methanphetamines. Extreme, but it proves my point. If fruits, vegies, and meat came first, and are the building blocks of most foods, then they are the source I am talking about. It doesn't mean we have forsaken all that is bad in our house. The chocolate bars, with chemicals I can't pronounce, will go with me to the grave. Burger King is still on my list of places to eat. But what it does mean is I am searching for more recipes involving vegies (which are cheap), and fewer that use rice-a-roni as my starting block. Our meats are raised locally and hormone free-not cheap. I can now find healthy food in the grocery store, and actually use it at home.
So have I achieved my orginal goals? Are my meals cheaper? No. Do I feel better? Physically-no. But emotionally I feel a whole lot better. When I drove home from Pennsylvania, I saw feed lots of thousands cattle, and none of the cattle looked happy. I get great satisfaction nowing I am not perpetuating that system, to much (rmember my comments about Burger King). When I eat a carrot, I get happy knowing I am eating the nutrients as they were intended, and not added to water to make it "vitamin water" because the crap I could be eating couldn't sustain a fly.
It is also amazing to me what this journey has done towards my attitude about food. Truly, eating was a chore. At times it still is. But as I learn more recipes, get better cooking gear (which made a huge difference), and discover what other cultures think about food, I have realized that eating, at one time, was a social event. It was how people came together after a long day. Meals could take hours, and they were suppose to take hours so we could re-connect. And if food is good, you want to hang around hours and savor it. That slop from a can of chili does not inspire me to hang around for hours, and the beef stew from a can doesn't make me want to sit at all. but who can resist a pot of something that has been simmering on the stove all day? It makes a difference.
So through all my learning and self evaluation, what I learned most is that the minute someone offers to take me to a good resturaunt, I am there. But there will always be a time when I have to cook at home and when I do have to cook at home, the better I make it, the more I want to eat it. When I eat things that are good for me, I get a sense of pride, and I think that is something everyone needs a healthy dose of.

My Cooking Class

So many people have asked about my cooking calss that I thought I would blog about to save some time (and yes, be lazy).
Keep in mind that this was a vegetarinism class, which I took because I figured I can add beef or chicken to things if I want and it never hurts to learn new things.
Also, this was a local, community college class and not an expensive class taught at a specific culinary school. The immdediate difference, other than location, is about $150, with my class being the cheaper alternative.
So what I didn't like:
Obviously the guy was a vegitarian and I expected that but his soap box got old. He was quick to point out the rumors that soy is bad for you are wrong since the Asian Culture has been eating for thousands of years and they have the longest, average life span. He failed to add that they also eat beef. He also mentioned that the Creator has all these plants that are so good for us and nutritous that we don't need animal products. Um, it was under my impression that the Creator also gaves us cows-or did I miss the alien memo? Anyway, since I paid for this class knowing full well it was all vegie, I thought it rude to challenge the teacher. And he was a nice guy who was willing to answer all my questions. But he just re-inforced my opinion that all food industries are one-sided. The soy people say beef is bad the and the beef people say soy is bad when the reality is, both are nutritious, and have a place at mealtimes.

What I Liked:
I learned a lot!! Not only about vegie products but what some terms mean, how to freeze real lemon juice, plus how to cook a few tasty soups (I would add ham though to the split pea soup). I tried everything, which was hard for me, but I felt it not only polite but a part of the class I paid for and a part of the experience. And even if I opt not to cook things with tofu, I least have a basic understanding of the nutritutional value and it is option if I ever change my mind (same can be said for tempeh). These classes are typically offered every term and I hope to take another one in the future.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Viva Las Vegas

Asa and I just flew home from Vegas, and boy are my arms tired. Ha ha ha. I couldn't resist that old joke.
We had a great time in Vegas. The weather was warm, compared to home. 55 degrees and sunny skies. We may have been wearing coats, but the gloves and hats never really came out. We arrived Saturday, left Wednesday, and in the short time we were there we:
*stayed the night on the Strip and did a gondola ride at The Venetian...
*went to The Preserve-a work in progress that will include a museum but for us meant a great playgound (complete with "mammoth bones" to climb on) and some nature walks...
* went to Red Rock Canyon...
*went to Hoover Dam...
*went to the chocolate factory for Ethel M's and saw their cactus garden...
*saw the Leanordo da Vinci Exhibit in Henderson-these were replica's of some of da Vinci's ideas and paintings-very inspiring...
*saw Frankie Avalon and Bobby Rydell in concert-when Frankie Avalon sang his song from "Grease" (Beauty School Dropout), I got a little verklempt...
*had a great time with family.
We were pretty spoiled with meals-our personal cook, Chef Uncle Hal fed us mouth watering meals, and I recommend to everyone to encourage relatives to live in key locations. When we got off the plane, the car was waiting and there was no fooling with maps and wrong turns. Our guides knew exactly where to go. Auntie Tutu and Uncle Hal used to live in Hawaii and it was the same way there. It is a nice bonus you don't think about till you are tyring to park your rental car and hoping that what you are looking for is in a three block radius since you aren't sure where you are in a strange town.
But above all, the nicest thing that happened is the plane didn't crash! Have I mentioned I HATE to fly? A little, metal tube hurtling through the skies doens't sound natural!


I am incredibly slow to catch on to modern technology, so I was honored to be "tagged" by Erin for "Meme".

The meme rules:Link to the person that tagged you.Post the rules on your blog.Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself.Tag at least three people at the end of your post and link to their blogs.Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.Let the fun begin!

My Quirks/habits/non-important things:
1. I have a sock system. I only wear white socks. Anklets go with long pants-non anklets go with capri's and I refuse to wear anything that goes to my knee.
2. The name "chicken fried steak" irks me. If there is no beef in it, why does the title include steak? Don't tell me "steak" is a preparation method-it means cow.
3. My biggest nemesis is my hair. We truly have a rancorous relationship and I feel like it does things simply to piss me off.
4. I still bite my nails sometimes, even though I know better.
5. I don't always admit it out loud, but I think my husband and I have very complimentary personalities. "Complete me" is stupid, but it is pretty accurate.
6. If I have to do something that makes me nervous, I wear navy blue.

Of the people who's blogs I read, I don't know who wants to be "tagged". But leave a message in the COMMENTS section if you want to play too. It's kind of fun to sit and think about what it is, that you think, people don't already know about you. Although I am pretty vocal about the socks thing, I just think it is to quirky to leave out.

Friday, January 18, 2008

My Soap Box

I sent this letter to the editor-no idea if it will be published but it is about as concise as I will ever be.

Why is it, when illegal immigration comes up, it is only the Hispanic community that calls racism. I don’t hear the Asian, African or European communities of today expressing the same sentiment. Maybe it is because they, like so many of our ancestors, can’t just walk across the border to get here. On both sides of my family, my relatives sold everything to take a ship halfway around the world. Once they got here, they had to passed a medical exam and prove they had a place to live. My husband’s family had the same story only the added bonus of living in a refuge camp for two years prior. Nobody is denying that this country was been built by immigrants. No one is saying we won’t take new immigrants. We just want everyone to play by the same rules-the law.


Asa and I are going to visit relatives in Las Vegas (hey, I didn't force them to move there). Unfortunately, daddy has to stay home. I hope everyone enjoys the three-day weekend if they get one. And don't hate me because I get to go somewhere where the temperatures are in the 60's!!! We have an artic blast right now-our high was 37, for about 10 seconds in the middle of the day!!! 60 sounds like a heat wave!!!

Parenting 101

I have to admit, Nick and I are pretty un-original when it comes to parenting. As far as we are concerned, not only is Asa the birghtest thing since Albert Einstein, but he is cuter than ANY other kid out there. Yeah, every parent says the samething. But one thing I have learned as a parent, is that you learn from your kids. So, here is what Asa has taught me so far, although as he grows, so will I.

1) It's okay to cry if you don't get what you want for any meal.
Life is short, and he has a point-I may not cry openly, but I think it is okay to dream about steak if I made macaroni and cheese for dinner. (And I sneak the candy when he isn't looking!)

2) Who cares if you crap your pants.
Okay, I care if I crap my pants but I did learn that it isn't the end of the world-just clean it up and get going.

3) Say hi to strangers.
Asa says hi to everyone. I may not say hi to all I meet, but he reminded me that being friendly has its own rewards.

4)Puppy Dog and Blankie are the best friends ever.
Okay, my friends may not be stuffed or imaginary (except for the hot, buff guy that wants to whisk me to Europe) , but I realized that the friends that count, are the ones that are there for you no matter what. They are almost like a marriage of sorts, and like Puppy Dog and Blankie, I can count on them.

5)People matter more than things.
My son has a basket of toys to rival any toy store. What does he like best? Puppy Dog, Blankie, and time spent with him. A little egocentric but isn't it what we all truly want? Some of my best memories are of the people I met, not the things I have gotten.

6)People who drove you nuts before you had kids, are just as annoying after you have kids.
I heard stories-Motherhood makes you more patient. Motherhood makes you kinder. Apparently Motherhood makes you some kind of saint. It skipped me-the people who I didn't like before, I like less now. I have less time, and energy, to deal with their bullshit.

7)Spinning in circles is fun.
Well, it is fun for some people, if not me.

8)Human Developement is an amazing thing.
Watching Asa grow from this lump, to a walking thing, to a toddler who can hold and grasp and sing has been an amazing journey. And it isn't even close to being over!!!!

9)Smiles, laughter, and happiness are contagious.
Asa will watch some stupid puppet show and laugh at the puppet's antics. I think that puppet belongs on a skewer over a B-B-Q, yet I laugh because my little boy just laughed. Maybe if we all laughed and smiled more the world would be different.

10)Some of the kid toys I thought were stupid, are stupid.
People get stuff and tell me kids just love this-the experts say so. Yet when I hand it to Asa, after a few tosses at the wall, he never plays with it again. It says to me, my gut was right. A second lesson-kids are smarter than we think they are. A third lesson-"experts" don't know everything. A question I think of- who the hell do "experts" use as their test subjects?

11)Just when people want to tell me how much the world has changed, I am reminded of how much it has stayed the same thing.
I'll bet 200 hundred years ago there was a mother out there who felt the same way I do about cooking, diapers, and about the state of politics. I'll bet 100 hundred years ago, a mother worried when her child got sick, loved baby giggles, and hoped the weather would hold for an afternoon outing. And 50 years ago, I am sure there was a mother who hoped her child grew up to find a career he liked, a partner to share life, and people to whom to call friends. Statistically, children are safer, healthier, and happier than ever before. So why are we so worried we are doing it wrong?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Beating a Dead Horse

This was sent to me as part of a larger message via the internet:

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Forget this and attaining Enlightenment will be the least of your problems.

Not only did I laugh out loud but it kind of goes along with my New Year's resolution.

Another quick news item: we had an honest to goodness tornado across the river in Washington, about 20 minutes from my house. Oaky-I got a little freaked out. The last tornado in this area was in 1972-when I say we don't know how to deal with these things, we honestly do not know how to deal with these things. The Alert comes across the tv and the first thing they say after the tornado warning is to go get in your basement. I racked my brains-I do not know a single person with a basement!!! If you have no basement, stay in the lowest part of your house. Well, that was no problem-that's where the tv is. Luckily no one was hurt and the path of destruction was less than 12 miles long with only 2 miles getting the worst part. I have seen much worse figures reagrding the Mid-West. Still, it is just the latest item in the weird weather we have had here this winter. Last month we had a Thundersnow. It was one of the loudest clap of thunder's I have ever heard and then it snowed like a blizzard for about 30 minutes and melted. Apparently these are so rare they couldn't say the last time our area saw one and if a Thunder snow is to happen at all, it usually hits the Great Lakes area where they are considered rare even there. Apparently this year, we are special.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Nerd with a Capital "N"

I keep a journal of the books I have read. Nothing fancy-the title, author, copyright, and three lines max for a short description. This also allows me to track how many books I have read per year. I was really fretting that last part. I have not read near the amount of books I wanted too. Oh, I had excuses. A little kid running around, some of the books were really long, and some were pretty scenitific so you just don't blow through them in a day. But some of the books were really easy, so I could have made a better effort. I just kept going back and forth. Then I read an article in the local newspaper-the average person reads two books per year! Alter that statistic to include just the people who actually read as a hobby and the number increases to 7 books per year. Yikes! So suddenly the 47 books I read for 2007 doesn't sound so bad and I feel like a complete nerd! Who else feels guilty about this shit?!?!?! Did I mention that I am going to put things in perspective this year?

Friday, January 04, 2008

New Year's Resolution Part 2

Okay, I am not really making a Resolution in this blog, but it is a carry over of self-discovery. To repeat myself, when you do true soul searching, you learn a few things about yourself. Another thing I learned about myself is that either through lack of money, or lack of intiative, there are things about myself I can't change and that is okay. What is, is.
I am about 5'5 in heighth.
My favorite color is blue.
I refuse to wear colored socks in public.
None of this is bad, or even really matters, it just is me.
But the big one is my thought patterns. I struggled in high school, like just about everyone else I have ever talked to. Not smart, not stupid, not a troublemaker, not an over-achiever, I drifted through school like a jellyfish on an ocean current. Reputed as an airhead, and then reputed as a fake airhead, I left high school with fear in my step (ahhh-change!) and relief at leaving behind people I didn't like.
17 years later, gulp, I have discoverd that I am like an environmental lightbulb. Ironic since my mom's maiden name is Greene-environmentalism/green-get it? When you turn on an environmental lightbulb, they are dim. Much dimmer than a regular light bulb. But if you give it time, it becomes very bright and just as good as the regular, wasteful bulb. That is me. I am on, and something is going on inside, but give me a few minutes to digest and catch up and all will be good. I wish I had known this sooner-I may not have changed my actions but I wouldn't have gotten as frustrated with them either.
So if you are talking to me and I like blank, just give the lightbulb a chance to get going. Unless it is early morning and then there is no hope. I am not a morning person-if it is before 10:00a, talk to me later. And don't use the fact my eyelids are open. It isn't a good indicator.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

New Years Resolution Part 1

I don't usually make New Year's Resolutions. What's the point in vowing to do something you know you won't stick with. And as someone once told me-why wait till January? If you want to accomplish something, start right away. But this year is different.
I vow to put things in perspective.
Last Spring, a friend, who shall remain nameless because I hope she has forgotten all about it, turned to me and said "can you at least pretend to look interested in what I am saying". Ouch. That stung. Not because she said it-I never want my friends to feel they can't talk to me. It stung because I had become THAT PERSON. Who wants an insensitive clod around? Who wants an unfeeling, uncaring Scrooge as a friend? Who says to themselves "let's invite the killjoy for shits and giggles". After a few more conversations, I promised my friend I would do some soul searching and for the last 6 months I have. Soul searching can be brutal-if we do it right, we have to look into the deepest, darkest, most cob-webby places of our selves and be honest about what's right and what's wrong. If your soul searching takes 5 minutes and involves the mall, how much did you really learn?
So 6 months later I realized it wasn't that I didn't care but that I have been stressed. Stressed beyond belief. Stressed like I have never been stressed before, and I just missed all the signs because I am not angry, I am not working to hard, and I am not depressed. But I am now a mother and things changed that I didn't exepct. The dirty diapers-not a big deal. The soundtrack of screaming-I was forwarned. Insipid cartoons that deal with potty training and being nice-well prepared. However, cleaning the floor after every meal has lost it's appeal. Reading the same lousy Sesame Street story every night for a month is harder than I thought. My new hobby of laundry was never fun. Worried that God will take away the mot precious gift he has ever given me-priceless. It all adds up to a slow, eroding of the nerves.
So I promise that I care, I promise that I hear what's being said, and I promise that I also hear what is being said.
I am not going to cry over the problems of the world. Even Mother Theresa accepted she couldn't change the world, just her corner of it. I can do that too.
I can't change people. I need to accept that.
I am not going to put off the things I really want to do. I take my first cooking class the end of this month.
I will eat better. Better food means better energy.
I will carve out at least a few minutes to read daily. Reading means sitting, sitting means relaxing.
I will laugh more.
I will put things in perspective.