Tender morsels

I work on a 24-hour-a-day clock (unfortunately) but the world around me seems to be going double-time today. Thus, I only have time for some happy linkage:
  • Check out Diablo Cody's "In Praise of Judy Blume" article in EW. As if we didn't already know how awesome she is (Diablo and Judy...)! Thanks to my Child_lit listserv for the link.
  • Deborah Wiles has a lovely account of Coleen Salley's funeral in New Orleans. What a fitting celebration for such a good-hearted, spunky woman! The world needs more people like Coleen. Thanks to Educating Alice for the info.
  • Dear god, Gwyneth Paltrow apparently is starting her own lifestyle website? To "nourish the inner aspect"? And she claims that her life is good because she is "not passive about it"? This comes second-hand from Thursday Night Smackdown - the website isn't up yet - but I'm already feeling all cringey about it. And I love Gwyneth. But this could be going too far. Especially with everything going on economically, socially, and politically. So not the time for self-promotion and flaunted privilege. If she starts a magazine, I'm losing ALL respect. (Here's more info from US Magazine. I felt betrayed reading this because I do love her. But ugh.)
  • Alison at Shelf Talker has a spectacular rant about Urban Outfitters and their blatant sexism (my words, not Alison's) in the literary t-shirt department. Come on, UO! Get a friggin CLUE!
  • Last but not least, the real-life And Tango Makes Three penguins have broken up. Apparently Silo has left Roy for a female penguin...and Roy sits in a corner alone, staring at the wall. The best part is the end quote by one of the authors of the book: "We wrote the book to help parents teach children about same-sex parent families. It's no more an argument in favor of human gay relationships than it is a call for children to swallow their fish whole or sleep on rocks." Hee-hee! If only it were that easy, no?

Eat, drink, and celebrate banned books week!

UPDATE: Oh, you're all going to wish I had got my information right when you see this, but I did not. Gwyneth Paltrow's site is actually up and running. I present you with GOOP. Indeed...


My Last 12 Hours in NYC

Adam over at Amateur Gourmet started this: what would you do in your last 12 hours of whatever city you’re living in?  In his case, he posted about his last 12 hours in NYC if he had to leave it and never come back.  Clotilde posted about her last 12 hours in Paris.  While the very idea of leaving NYC and never coming back fills me with sadness, I still think this is a fun way to appreciate the place you live.  So here are my last 12 hours in NYC:

9:00 a.m. Coffee and a lemon poppy seed muffin at Guy & Gallard, the one on Lexington and 34th.  It’s certainly not the best place in the city by any means, but it has enormous sentimental value for me – Adam and I went there on our very first trip to NYC and believed it to be quintessentially New York.  Now I understand that isn’t necessarily the case…but still…

10:00 a.m.  Because in my version I have an endless capacity to eat and enjoy, I would head over to Chelsea Market and grab an Americano at Ninth Street…now that is real coffee.  Then I’ll take my coffee into 202 for breakfast (where the wait staff always makes you pour it into one of their coffee cups so you’re not advertising someone else’s coffee in their restaurant).  I’ll order their French toast with bacon and syrup…some of the best I’ve had.  I’ll spend some time after breakfast browsing the ridiculously beautiful, expensive clothes.  Before I leave that neighborhood, I’ll stock up on some cupcakes at Billy’s Bakery to have with my lunch.

11:30 a.m.  After walking all the way down to the NYU area, I’ll be prepared to try on some clothes.  My last 12 hours would not be complete (for me, anyway) without a stop to Purdy Girl, one of my favorite clothing boutiques in the city.  While in that neighborhood, I’ll collect the fixings for a picnic lunch: a stop at Murray’s Cheese and Amy’s Bread.  Some olive oil at O & Co.  I’ll bypass Magnolia (you would be wise to do so as well) since I stocked up on Billy’s earlier (the only cupcakes worth having).  I don’t have a favorite wine shop in that part of the city so I’ll just pop into any old place and get a pinot noir (of course!) to have with lunch.

1:00 p.m.  Picnic in Central Park, one of my favorite things to do ever, in any city.  I like to position myself near a walking path so I can people-watch while I nibble and sip.  And lots of the musicians set up near the paths – last time I picnicked in the Park, there was a young woman playing the violin beautifully while we dined.  There really isn’t anything more perfect in the world, I think.

3:00 p.m.  Strolling through the park until dinner.  Bethesda Fountain, the Mall, Sheep’s Meadow.  I’d walk and enjoy all my favorite places.

4:00 p.m. Before dinner I’d head to Ginger Man, my favorite place in the city to have a beer (or two).  I’d have the Franziskaner Hefe, like I always do, along with their stellar soft pretzel accompanied with spicy honey mustard. 

5:00 p.m. Four hours left!  This is a tough one: do I pick a restaurant I’ve been dying to go to but have never been?  Or a tried-and-true?  I think I’d have to go to either Union Square Café or Gramercy Tavern – I’ve never been to either, and I don’t know if I could feel complete leaving the city without at least eating at one of them.  So I think I’d pick Union Square Café because Ina Garten says in one of her cookbooks that it’s her favorite restaurant in the city…and we all know she has impeccable taste.

8:00 p.m. Post-dinner drinks at The Campbell Apartment.  Naturally, I’d walk through Grand Central to get there, one of the most beautiful buildings in the city.  I’d have their Prohibition Punch – it’s wicked….and so delicious.

9:00 p.m. I’d leave the city via the ferry so that I could get one last look at one of, if not the, most famous skylines in the world.  And oh, how I would cry!

Eat, drink, and love where you live

Note: I picked up the picture from Google images (www.nyctrip.com, according to Google)


I favor The Individualist or The Loyalist

Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg have outdone themselves in their recent Washington Post column: "Picks with Personality".  The idea, of course, is that wines can be understood better if we attribute personalities with each of them. 

This isn't really a new idea...at the risk of revealing that I have the geekiest taste in movies, I remember that scene in French Kiss where Meg Ryan describes a
wine as being "bold with a hint of sophistication but lacking in pretension."  Then she sheepishly tells the always-delicious Kevin Kline that she was actually just describing herself.  Kevin Kline's character then tells her that she's not wrong, that wine is like people and it takes from its surroundings, absorbs it, and grows in complexity.

So the whole wine-as-people thing is clearly already in my head.  But Dornenburg and Page infused it with such fun in this article, not to mention that they have wine recommendations to go with it.  My favorite is #3: The Achiever.  Not surprisingly, it's chardonnay.  "Still to sparkling, dry to sweet, steely to oak"...it will "do anything to entertain and hold your attention."  This is an interesting comparison to me because, while I love this about chardonnay, it is also what I find really frustrating about it.  You think you can trust it...then you choose the wrong one...and it bites you (and your meal) in the rear.  I feel like chardonnay is The Charlatan: it can't always be trusted.

This struck me today because, last night, the Husband and I had chicken satay for dinner after the Kiddo went to bed.  Alongside I served jasmine rice with ginger, garlic, and cilantro.  So I used my handy-dandy What to Drink with What You Eat and discovered I needed an oaky chardonnay STAT to accompany the dinner.  The Husband, being a good sport, immediately ran out to get me some...and brought back a Clos Du Bois Chardonnay, otherwise known as The Oakiest Wine EVER.  And it went perfect.  The Achiever rocked last night's dinner.

Eat, drink, and figure out which personality type best fits Viognier...

REVIEW: My One Hundred Adventures by Polly Horvath

You know how sometimes you read a book at a certain time in your life and it just…clicks? It’s the exact book you needed to read (you were meant to read) at that exact moment? That was My One Hundred Adventures by Polly Horvath for me.

This is the story of Jane Fielding, a 12-year-old girl who lives with her single mother and her siblings in a house on the beach. Through the course of a summer, she goes through that change. You know the one. Where she slowly begins to create a life outside of her family. Where she realizes that the adults in her life are fallible. Where at the same time she is realizing her parent has secrets, she is gathering secrets of her own. It’s the classic coming-of-age story.

I appreciated the way in which Horvath shapes this story. She portrays that age as confusing, saddening, and heartbreaking…yet there’s magic, light, and beauty found in the midst of the sadness. As the reader, you’re both intimately involved with Jane’s adventures…yet it also seems as if you’re floating above her watching it all happen, slightly detached. How can you be both? I don’t know, but somehow Horvath does it.

This book reminded me of Richard Peck’s A Long Way from Chicago and A Year Down Yonder: Adventures is written in vignettes with kooky unforgettable characters. This differs, though, in that there is a pensiveness to it, a certain naïveté and depth to the characters that I just didn’t get from Peck’s books. It’s all so bittersweet – you know the growing up must happen. Even Jane knows that the process of growing up has brought her so many adventures, and that is a wondrous thing. But there’s still sorrow about that with a side dish of worrying. There’s a bit of the adult perspective here, perhaps: as an adult reading this, I know where Jane is going in the growing-up process, and I’m reading this feeling nostalgic and sad for my own lost youth, feeling heartache for Jane because she is forever changed. A child reading this book will, no doubt, have an entirely different perspective. This is one of the most personal books I’ve read in a long time.

There are such beautifully crafted passages in this book; it’s difficult to choose just one to share with you or to extract it from the rest of the text. Nevertheless, I give you this gem:

So for now the house is still ours. But there is no joy. The house
is no longer a sanctuary. It may not always be a member of our
family. It may be taken from us as no family member can be, so what is it,
then? Only a house. I cannot afford to love it anymore.

That is one of the more melancholy passages but illustrates beautifully Jane’s lesson that part of growing up is making choices about what you will love and what you cannot. That sometimes you must close your heart to one thing so that you can give more to others. It’s incredibly poignant and totally believable that a 12-year-old has learned this lesson.

I felt a tight grip on my heart as I read that last page, and I was incredibly sad to have it end. Which is always the sign of a Good Read. And if I didn’t have a gargantuan stack of books waiting for me, I would immediately turn right back to the start of this one and read it all over again.

A must-read.

Other reviews:
Educating Alice
Welcome to my Tweendom
And read School Library Journal's review via Amazon. It's spot-on.

DISCLAIMER: I am compelled to add that I'm disappointed with my own review. I use variations of "sad" way too much, giving you the wrong impression about this book. It's uplifting and hopeful, I swear! Connie Tyrrell Burns put it perfectly in her SLJ review: Horvath is a "word alchemist."

He could have been an awesome White Rabbit too

Not surprisingly, Johnny Depp has been tapped to play the Mad Hatter in Tim Burton's production of Alice in Wonderland. I couldn't find any other info about the rest of the cast but I'll keep you posted.

Tim Burton and Johnny Depp doing Alice? Does anyone else have visions of Tom Petty's "Don't Come Around Here No More" video? Yeah, me too.


Not so OT: Books for Barack

Novelist Ayelet Waldman has started the organization Books for Barack to raise money for Barack Obama's Presidential campaign (Note: the website actually refers to it as "Books 4 Barack" but I just can't bring myself to use that damn "4"). The idea is that you donate $250 to the campaign and you get a mystery bag of 10 books in a canvas tote with the Books for Barack logo on the bag - though it's been so popular that Waldman has now said she isn't sending out any more bags...and she has raised $40,000 so far! I'm unclear whether all 10 of the books are signed, but the website seems to indicate that they are. Naturally, she is still encouraging people to donate, even if she can't send out any more mystery bags.

Check out the food, children's, and YA authors who have contributed signed books:

Mario Batali
Judy Blume
Jamie Lee Curtis
Elizabeth Gilbert (I totally considered Eat, Pray, Love a foodie book!)
Dan Gutman
Barbara Kingsolver
Ursula LeGuin
Steve Martin
Megan McDonald
Tamora Pierce
Cynthia Rylant
Lemony Snicket
Sara Varon
Judith Viorst
Alice Waters

...to name a few.

Eat, drink, and support grassroots campaigns!

"DWTS": Not as off-topic as you'd think

Any of you watch "Dancing with the Stars"? Anyone? It's okay, you can admit you watch it here - this is a safe space.

Well, I am CRUSHING on Rocco Dispirito*! I only knew him in name before; I had never opened any of his cookbooks, and I think he's on TV...but I don't know which show. But now I know who he is. He's an awful dancer, but he is just so damn sweet and charming...and apparently he can cook!

So I'm going downstairs during my lunch break today to check out one or two of his cookbooks and see what he's about. If I like the cookbooks, I might buy one at my local bookstore.

Which I suppose is why he agreed to be on the show in the first place.

Eat, drink, and crush on celebrity chefs...

* Okay, so I just realized I'm an idiot. A simple Google search has revealed two ESSENTIAL things about Rocco Dispirito: 1.) He grew up in Jamaica, Queens...uh, that's where I'm located right at this very minute as I blog, and 2.) he's the chef and owner of Gramercy Tavern. Kind of important info I missed. Which is why I blog much more about the cooking I do...versus the restaurant scene. I really don't do the restaurant scene - I'm just not cool enough. I should, though, if there are other Rocco Dispiritos involved...

She wha-?!

L.M. Montgomery actually committed suicide. Which I suppose makes sense - out of great joy also comes great sadness, yes? I know I probably won't use the phrase "depths of despair" so flippantly in the future as I have in the past... I could thank Bookshelves of Doom for the info...but doesn't it seem weird to thank someone for passing along news like this?

Speaking of Bookshelves of Doom, I have been reading Great Read III: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens religiously. I suppose one good thing about freeing up some of my time lately is that I can participate in the next Great Read*. Come on, Leila, pick something AWESOME!

* See?! Do you see how I do that?! I drop a couple things to simplify my life...and then I'm already planning the next activity to fill that time slot! ACK!


Different dream for a different time

It is with a conflicted and disappointed heart that I decided this past weekend to not apply for spring admission to NYU’s Food Studies program. Additionally, I’ll be dropping the Agriculture class that I am currently taking as a non-matriculated student. And I'm trying with all my heart to convince myself I haven't failed.

It is perhaps understating it when I say that I have overextended myself lately, overwhelmed and excited by all the opportunities NYC has presented to me in the two years I’ve lived here. Working full-time, being a wife and mother, blogging, reviewing for School Library Journal (which I’m also taking a sojourn from), publishers’ events, foodie lectures, French classes… And now a class with 100+ pages of academic text to read each week, not including the numerous writing projects that entails… It’s too much and I'm having to give up so many things that are imporant to me. Something has to give.

The good news is that the blog is staying. When I was going down the list of things I could cut, I said, “What about the blo –?” to the Husband. I didn’t get out the whole word “blog” before Adam cut me off and reminded me how much I love it here. This must stay. It’s a good constant.

Ultimately, what the awesome Husband pointed out was that our best moments have been when we have been doing nothing: cooking chili all day on a Sunday, picnicking in Central Park, apple picking in the fall, examining an ant on the sidewalk with Kiddo. Though I suppose you can hardly call these things “nothing.” Fall is my favorite season and I would hate to miss it because I’m writing a paper on 19th century agriculture in America. I’m choosing fall, family, friends, and food. Agriculture and waste in the urban environment will have to wait.

Eat, drink, and get busy living.


Pondering food and life

Lucy' s post inspired some introspection in me as well. I can't help but feel that we're all on the verge...of something. I feel that everything is shifting, nothing is what it could be next week, and I just feel uneasy and unsettled.

It reminds me of what I told my parents at one point during the last election: it doesn't matter who the president is, my day-to-day life doesn't change much. Have the last eight years changed me and changed the world around me? Of course. But the core of me? My family, my friends, the coziest circle of Adam and Kiddo? No, that remains. And it will remain whatever happens because, above all else, everything is personal.

Which brings me to food. I have two friends, in particular, that don't care about food. Truly. They just want to fill the hole. And I've puzzled and puzzled over that. Ultimately, though, I'm reminded of MFK Fisher's quote about how we're all hungry. We all need food, love, and security. Perhaps my friends aren't hungry for food...they're currently hungry for something else. Love? Peace within themselves? And perhaps that's why it took me until the year I turned 30 to pay attention to what I eat, to derive enormous pleasure from food, to be excited in every way everyday by what I'm eating: I had satisfied a lot of hungers before I came to this one. Now, the question "What's for dinner?" gets me through the day.

...like most other humans, I am hungry. But there is more than that. It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it...and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied...and it is all one.

Eat, drink, and indulge in autumnal introspections

Announcement: Sarah Miller's new book!

Sarah Miller has announced her new book!  It's called OTMA: Daughters of the Tsar!  The sad news?  2011.  For god's sake, I'll be almost 40 years old by then.  

If you're not excited about this or don't know what I'm talking about, it's because you haven't read Miss Spitfire.  So go do that now.  Go.  Buh-bye.

When you're finished and all in love with it too, then we can talk.

(Note: Here was my review of Miss Spitfire)


BlogHer Conference in D.C.

I'm thinking about going to the BlogHer Reach Out '08 Tour in D.C. on Monday, October 13th. Anyone else who reads this blog thinking of going (or already planning on going)?

Thanks to Rachel (Food Maven) for the info - she's going to be speaking!


French Women Part Deux

"World's Healthiest Diet?"

It was only a matter of time.  Look for French Women Don't Get Fat II: Neither Do Mediterranean Women coming soon to a bookstore near you.

Likewise, the NYT Dining section today has an article, "Instead of Eating to Diet, They're Eating to Enjoy."  Quoting Alice Waters, Rachael Ray, et. al, the article basically touches on the principles of French Women...: eating for pleasure, eating respectfully, eating mindfully.  The article was okay, but I felt like it was a weight loss article in disguise.  What interested me was a quote by Arlene Sparks, a professor at Hunter College: "But [eating less processed food] would mean people going back to cooking, and what we've lost is people's ability and knowledge of how to cook."  I want to read an article on that, on the intimidation people feel being in the kitchen at all, on the fact we've lost all our roots.  I'm often puzzled when I read cookbooks and articles where someone references a recipe "passed down from" their grandmother or mother.  Because I certainly don't have that.  And I would venture that a lot of people in America don't.  So where do we learn how to cook?

Eat, drink, and thank goodness that Food Network has brought cooking into American homes.

Lutz Budget Update

I have a Fresh Direct order coming tonight: $34 worth.  There's two loaves of their parbaked bread (seriously, this is a working parent's DREAM), some Ronnybrook milk, some Red Jacket Orchards apple juice, Apple & Eve juice boxes for the kiddo's lunch, seltzer water, and some Method cleaning products.

Argh!  Guys!  This brings my total for this week to $151.00 (so far)!

Not Good.  Not Good at All.

Eat, drink, and substitute water for the Kiddo's juice boxes.


OT: My friend is fighting cancer with Merlot!

This isn't too much off-topic, as my friend Daphne informed me that she just drank her third glass of Merlot and she was snacking on a pear and gorgonzola salad.  So my girl knows how to eat and drink, certainly.

But Daphne is also battling breast cancer.  At 35 years old.  With a 7-year-old daughter.  I'm telling you now, though, that you won't find a woman with a better attitude.  She has taken this challenge, run with it, and kicked its ass.  Masectomy?  No worries - Daphne is hopped up on getting a new and improved set of breastages.  She has handled this with grace, wit, and fire.  Daphne has shown me - and so many others - how to smile in the face of crappy circumstances, how to rise above adversity and come out stronger on the other side, and how laughter can cure so many doubts and fears.  She's also shown me that this can happen to me, at 33 years old, or my mother, or my sisters...  

Daphne is participating in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Phoenix, Arizona.  Better still, she's walking with her daughter.  Wanna hear more?  The date of the race is the one-year anniversary of Daphne's breast cancer diagnosis.  If you're in Phoenix, I certainly hope you're taking part in the walk/race.  If not, then the next best thing would be to sponsor someone.  Go to the website, and click on "Sponsor Participant".  Type in "Daphne Gill-Barber" and/or her daughter's name, "Jenna Barber."  Donate whatever amount you're able to - anything helps!

Daphne, you're beautiful!  Thank you for agreeing to let me post this and making me laugh so much...when it should be the other way around!

Eat, drink, and kick cancer's ass!

The $300 Challenge

So I mentioned earlier that we're on a budget.  Big Time.  I shared that we normallly spend (about) $500-600 a month on food, including beer and wine.  That's an estimate...we've never had a budget in 11 years of marriage.

So I've taken a challenge to get our food down to $300 a month.  Beer and wine isn't included in that, as Adam and I agree that we were treating both as nearly disposable.  Now Adam and I buy beer and wine out of our "personal" account.

So here' s the weekend food shopping total:

Union Square market: $46
Natural Foods: $62
Cheeses of the World (some of the nicest purveyors in the city): $26

Minus $17 for the Dogfish Head beer we bought at Natural Foods...  Bringing our weekend shopping to $117 total.  According to my calculations, this should get us EIGHT meals.  EIGHT!  Here's how it'll play out:

Last night: Shrimp with corn and tomato salad, bread with olive oil and balsamic

Monday: Nachos (I had a can of black beans and a bag of tortilla chips begging to be used...)

Tuesday: Soft-boiled eggs with Artichoke Bread Fingers (courtesy of Chocolate & Zucchini)

Wednesday: Grilled Cheese (Kiddo loves grilled cheese made with smoked mozzarella) with Thick-Sliced Onions (the onion recipe is courtesy of Mario Batali)

Thursday: North American salad (I don't have to buy a single ingredient for this - it's made from food I already have on hand.  Thanks to Nigella Lawson's Feast!)

Friday: Naan paninis - I "discovered" some incredibly fresh naan at Whole Foods.  They tasted great used as a pizza crust, but I thought I'd try them as panini bread in place of the thicker, breadier foccacia.  I'm using some salad greens, leftover prosciutto from tonight's meal, and some Taleggio I bought at Cheeses of the World.

Saturday: Pasta (Adam found some fresh at the Union Square Market) with roasted garlic and scallions - this is something I've totally made up.  Never made it before.  We'll see how it goes...

So, I don't know...I still think that's going to get me over $300.  And other than Kiddo's lunch food and cereal in the morning, we don't spend anything on breakfast or lunch on the weekdays...Adam gets free breakfast and lunch at Google (don't even get me started...) and I have a bagel for breakfast (which I buy from my personal account) and I always eat leftovers for lunch.

Eat, drink, and figure out where else to cut without sacrificing quality...


It's a bird! It's a plane! It's your librarian!

Yesterday, on my MySpace, I got very emotional about the anniversary of 9/11. I don't know - it just hit me harder this year. I'm guessing it's one of those Life Place issues.

ANYWAY, today I'm not introspective and contemplative. I'm back to being all mad. So check out this great article at Mother Jones about the 4 Connecticut librarians who stood up to the FBI agents (or, as someone in the Comments section called them, the Goon Squad). You know the ones. The article, dramatically, is called "America's Most Dangerous Librarians." Word up. Even the photo is renegade:

It's a skilled photographer who can make this group actually look like they could kick your ass.

Support your library and your librarians - a librarian may protect your civil liberties and your freedom to read, learn, and explore.

Awesome photo by Antonin Kratochvil/VII

Yep. She went there.

My 7-year-old daughter was reading a book two nights ago. As part of her homework, she has to read 20 minutes a night. Which is a challenge for the energetic Kiddo.

Kiddo: [cry of exasperation] I hate reading! It's BORING!

I took a beat where I tried not to feel like a failure as a mother and a librarian.

Me: The only reason you think it's boring is because you haven't found the right book yet. That's why you have to keep reading. So you can find that one special, completely awesome book that is anything but boring.

Good recovery! But how did she take it?

Kiddo: [shrugs] Maybe.

And she kept reading her book. Or at least continued staring blankly at the pages.

Frequently, when I tell people I'm a librarian, I hear, "Your daughter must be such a great reader." I hereby vow that the next person who says that to me is going to get a flick on their forehead.

OT: Sense and Sensibility by Laura Lutz

From my daily Shelf Awareness

This was quoted from Lori Andrews…an adult author…which doesn’t really have a place on this blog…but I just couldn’t resist. Here are her comments on the “book you’ve bought for the cover”:

In the Shakespeare aisle, I saw a book with a graphically beautiful cover. In large type it said, "Kenneth Branagh," and under that, Hamlet. In small type below the title, it said, "by William Shakespeare." I couldn't help but marvel at the audacity of Branagh giving himself top billing for the screenplay of Hamlet. I'm looking forward to publishing Lori Andrews's Crime and Punishment. ("Yeah, Fyodor and I were just tossing back vodkas one night and I came up with this great idea for a book about a destitute student and a miserly pawnbroker and, like, the book practically wrote itself.")

I don't know if this was the cover Andrews was talking about (it certainly isn't graphically beautiful); nevertheless, this makes me laugh. Can you imagine seeing "Chris Columbus" and then Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone...followed in small writing "by J.K. Rowling."


I could survive for YEARS by hunting & gathering in Central Park

I don't think squirrel melt made it on to the Omnivore's Hundred.

Thanks to the irregular Kiki Strike for the link.

Budgets, Ina Garten, Pig Slaughtering, and Young Adult Books! Oh, my!

A couple of food things to share:

- More Than Burnt Toast has become the 100th member of Barefoot Bloggers, a blogging community dedicated to the recipes of Ina Garten. I luuuurve Ina Garten – her recipes are my go-to, my fail-safe, my always-awesome. She has never failed me. So I’m considering joining the BB group. Hell, I’ll look for any excuse to make her Pumpkin Banana Mousse Tart (Yes. I do bake. Sometimes. Especially, or only, when there is pumpkin involved.). Stay tuned.

- Slow Food NYC is hosting an event called “Slow Food Nose to Tail Eating: Pig Butchering Demonstration and Tasting.” Naturally, I must go. It’s on Sunday, November 16th from 2:00-5:00 p.m. at the Institute of Culinary Education. Tickets are $40 for Slow Food Members, $60 for non-members. The event benefits Slow Food Harvest Time education programs in schools in East Harlem and Williamsburg.

- It’s monetary crunch time in the Lutz household. I have no problem confessing here that we’ve accrued some debt. And it’s time to break it on down. Adam suggested that we cut down on our food “budget” (there really isn’t one…). On our current plan, we only have $300 a month for food. Which isn’t doable, seeing as we normally spend in the $500-$600 range (including beer and wine). Adam said that we could pull money from other places to put into the food. But I loves me a challenge. I said, “No. Let’s try to make this $300 happen.” I thought about all the food I throw away every month. I thought about people who live on a hell of a lot less than this (poor me, right? Only spending $500 a month…). I considered the superfluous glass(es) of wine I drink each night. I thought about how we eat an entire ball of buffalo mozzarella in a meal when we could easily halve that amount and just amp up the salad. There’s lots of ways to make this happen. Again, stay tuned, as a foodie who has never had a food budget in her adult life tries to cut down dramatically while still enjoying the finer things…

- Lastly, I mentioned earlier that I was reading my way through some young adult foodie fiction books… So I read A La Carte, and I just finished High Dive by Tammar Stein. High Dive was an enjoyable read, but I wouldn’t call it a foodie book. A college freshman, Arden, travels alone to Europe to sell the family vacation home. Her mom is serving as a nurse in Iraq, and her father has recently died. This is actually more of a book about children of military families; I have a friend who grew up as a “military brat” and many of the experiences she has shared with me are similar to Arden’s: difficulty making long-term friends, rootlessness, being alone in foreign countries, growing up on base. Other than some cursory descriptions of meals in cafés, there really isn’t much about food. I would, however, recommend this to older teens longing to travel or who grew up in military families. Next on my list is Dear Julia by Amy Bronwen Zemser…

Eat, drink, and hope the new food budget helps with the pants zippering…

Being sick can be a good thing! Really! I'm serious!

So I've been a sick dog the past couple of days. There are few things I hate more in this life than being sick. I feel helpless, I can't get all the things done I want to, and I have to depend on other people to do things for me. Grrrr...

However, two wonderful things happened to me during my illness. First, I still had to go to my Food Studies class since I couldn't very well miss the first lecture! I had to get my NYU ID card beforehand (I'm official now!) and ended up in the Union Square area. Passing by Heartland Brewery, I saw a beacon, if you will, of the change in seasons: a banner advertising their Smiling Pumpkin Ale. I immediately went inside. I ordered an ale...and resisted ordering a second since I was going to class, after all. I have been savoring this first seasonal pint of Smiling Pumpkin Ale for three years now, and I was going to do it again this year...running nose be damned!

The second wonderful thing? I stayed home from work again yesterday, but I still had to take Kiddo to the bus stop. Rather than go upstairs and crawl back into bed, I had to walk to the newsstand to get the New York Times (Wednesday is Dining Section Day - read the flour article!). I glimpsed the Starbucks across the street and wondered... Could they? Would they? So I took a peek inside...and sure enough, Pumpkin Spice Latte up on the board!!! But that wasn't even the coolest part! The barista was as geeked up about it as I was!!! That doesn't happen very often, particularly in NYC. But he and I got into a real conversation about how much we love that Pumpkin Spice Latte has become the heralding of a new season. The nutmeg, the cinnamon, the whipped cream... Heck, even having a hot drink is a celebration!* I scuffled back home, cradling my latte and enjoying the quiet city streets, taking pleasure in something so small. Sometimes paying $5 for a small coffee seems like a bargain for the joy you get in return...**

It's these moments that I savor and even make me forget that I'm sick. Besides, if I hadn't been sick, I wouldn't have stayed home from work. In which case, I wouldn't have been able to go to class early on Tuesday and had time for the pumpkin ale. In which case, I wouldn't have had time to walk the streets and savor my pumpkin latte. Sometimes being sick is a sign that you need to slow down, take care of yourself, rest, and take stock of some things. I can't look at being sick as a bad thing for me right now - it allowed me to watch the nearly-overnight change in the seasons in New York City.

Eat, drink, and welcome autumn!

* For god's sake, please don't ever try the Pumpkin Spice Frappuccino. It's disgusting. And just wrong. Or at the very least, if you do like it, don't tell me about it. I don't want to know.

** It must be said that I'm not going to start having $5 coffee drinks every day. I can't afford it. And it cease to be a special treat anymore. I'll probably only have 2-3 more the rest of the year.


It's Football Time: Let's Get It On

Here it is: I love football. I joined three fantasy leagues this year, two of which I have been a part of for 7 years. So today, First Football Sunday, is a big deal in our house.

The Husband and I were laughing this morning about how our “football food” has changed over the years. Five years ago, it was “Mark’s Dip,” named after the friend who introduced it to us: an entire block of Velveeta, an 8 oz. block of cream cheese, and a can of chili. Toss into Crockpot and cover until melty and saucy. Open bag of pretzels and bag of tortilla chips. Binge. While I don’t foresee myself making this concoction again in the future, I have to admit that it was some mighty fine eats.

A couple years ago, it was an adapted version of Rachael Ray's nachos: assorted organic tortilla chips, homemade cheese sauce, sautéed beef, black beans, sour cream, salsa, onions, and a ridiculous amount of cilantro. Depending on my mood, I would cut corners from Rachael’s recipe – store-bought cheese sauce and/or store-bought salsa. There was still bingeing involved…but it felt more healthful, you know?

This year…well, we feel like we definitely upped the ante. The dips? Tomato jam from Mark Bittman (also diviiiiiine on grilled skirt steak), Clotilde’s artichoke-goat cheese spread*, and Cooking Light’s roasted red pepper and cannellini bean dip. The dippables? Stacy’s Pita Chips, raw peppers, carrots, and baguette slices. Adam indulged with his Raison d’Extra Dogfish brew, and I sipped the rest of the Viognier I had with dinner last night. At 2 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon. While the Kiddo was at the park with a friend.

Good times, good times. It’s my favorite time of year: Football! Game on!

Eat, drink, and love American traditions!

* I couldn't find the recipe on Chocolate & Zucchini (I got the recipe from her cookbook).  Can anyone confirm if I can type the recipe here...or is that violating copyright?  Especially since I didn't "adapt" it - I make it exactly as Clotilde says.

Note on the photo: yep, I remembered to snap it post-munching.  Ah, well.  You can't be on top of that sort of thing all the time.


REVIEW: Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass by Natalie MacLean

I read French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano almost four years ago, and it changed my life. And I’m not just saying that – it really did. 20 pounds lighter and a couple years later, I read Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Again, it opened my eyes to a whole new way of experiencing and thinking about food. I argue that if I had read them in reverse order, Omnivore’s Dilemma would have meant very little to me; I would not have experienced the same level of connection, and there certainly would not have been the lightning-bolt moment of clarity and epiphany that I felt reading these two books the way I did.

Well, this is what happened when I read Red, White, and Drunk All Over by Natalie MacLean*. Natalie MacLean is my Mireille Guiliano of wine. Unfortunately, I read this after I read The Battle for Wine and Love or How I Saved the World from Parkerization (my review, which I just re-read and didn't realize I made a Michael Pollan comparison there as well) by Alice Feiring. Alice Feiring is the Michael Pollan of wine (though not on quite the same scholarly level as Pollan). I read these books in the complete wrong order. Now that I have finished Red, White, and Drunk All Over (I love typing that title), I should go back and read Battle for Wine and Love again. But I don’t know if I can undo my mistake…

I’m going to make a bold statement: Red, White, and Drunk All Over is a universally accessible book about wine. Anyone can read it and they’ll understand what the heck MacLean is talking about. You’ll walk away with a better of understanding of wine merchants, of the Champagne region, of wine writers and critics, of how to host a wine tasting party. Will you walk away with a better understanding of wine itself? Perhaps not. If anything, this book is the precursor to bigger, bolder books about wine because this one opens you up to everything you don’t know. It whets your appetite, if you will, so that you want to take it further. You want to read more and learn more. In other words, it’s the perfect introductory book.

MacLean has an incredibly accessible writing style: she is Everywoman. She writes in a way that makes you say, “I want to go winetasting with this woman! She’d be a blast!” She doesn’t come off as a wine snob in any way, and she’s the only wine writer I’ve come across that has basically said, “Yeah, I like to drink, to actually swallow wine, and feel that warmth from a second (or third) glass.”** Thank god someone finally said it! Additionally, I appreciated that while MacLean is teaching you something, she is also rolling her eyes at the pretensions and established hoo-haw of the wine world. For instance, she attends a demonstration by Georg Reidel, of the Reidel Glass company. While she is in the midst of arguing that the wine glass you use really does matter, she is also poking good-natured fun at Reidel for referring to the wine glass as his “precision tool” and describing “the velocity of the wine entering the mouth.” Again, though, while you’re sniggering and giggling with MacLean (and ogling Reidel’s handsome good looks), you’re also learning about what it is that makes wine glasses important.

I don’t want to make you think you won’t learn about wine itself while reading this – don’t worry, you will. I highlighted the heck out of my copy. I liked this passage: “The color tells us how old the wine is. Young whites are usually green at the edges and become a deeper yellow or gold with time; reds are usually purple or ruby in youth and turn to garnet or brick in age.” That’s knowledge you can use tonight at dinner: pour yourself that glass of cabernet franc and take a look at the color. MacLean also says it’s not beneficial to hold your glass up to the light (guilty!); better to hold it up against a white tablecloth or white piece of paper to gauge the color correctly. See, this is all useful, practical information you can use now. However, as I mentioned before, this book does make you long for more info, which is in no way a fault of the book; in fact, I consider this a compliment. For instance, “deeper yellow or gold with time”…well, my glass of chardonnay already exhibits those colors (whereas my sauvignon blanc is the palest gold). But my chardonnay is only a 2005 bottle. So what’s up? This is where you’ll really want to delve into further reading and research, which any good introductory book on a subject will make you want to do.

On a side note, MacLean folds in some amusing supplementary information. For instance, she says that “corks flying out of champagne bottles have been clocked at fifty miles an hour.” Additionally, she has a lovely bit about the history and lost art of the toast. She shares that in ancient Greece, “toasts usually involved kissing up to the gods first. You looked up to the sky, then spilled some wine on the ground as an offering.” I love that, especially since we do a toast every single night at our dinner table. We’re a secular family so say no prayers, but we do a toast. Sometimes we toast “To the end of the week!” or sometimes we’ll have a pork roast and toast “To the pig!” as a way of honoring the animal that lost its life so that we could receive nourishment. Anyway, I’m digressing… I really enjoyed this information that, while not providing deeper knowledge of wine, served to increase our appreciation of the ceremonies behind drinking it.

Red, White, and Drunk All Over: A Wine-Soaked Journey from Grape to Glass is recommended highly for the novice wine drinker. A thoroughly enjoyable, amusing read!

* Check out her website - it's professional and informative

** My words, not MacLean’s.


Friday afternoon linkage

Obviously, there’s been a dearth of blog posts from me lately – apologies, etc., etc. Luckily, there are lots of people out there with brilliant things to say so I’ll provide you all with some happy linkage:

- Trust Roger Sutton to put this whole Palin-as-Banner-of-Books issue into perspective. Palin inquiring about some “objectionable” books is ranked about 20th on the long list of many, many issues I have with her politics… Did she actually censor or ban anything? No. Thank goodness for librarians. Want to know something that really scares me about Palin? Go to Maureen Johnson’s blog NOW and read this post. That’s right, I said, “NOW”. I order you electronically to do so.

- Educating Alice’s post about the importance and value in daydreaming really struck a chord with me. I was a daydreaming child, and now I have a daydreaming daughter of my own. Her teachers and her father and I have all been guilty of telling her to “focus” and “pay attention” over and over again. I pledge to be more cognizant of this in the future.

- I’m on a kick to read all the recent YA fiction featuring food. I finished A La Carte by Tanita Davis, of which I was not a fan. Clearly, Davis is not a food writer – good food writing makes you want to jump in the page and experience the food for yourself. Good food writing allows you to smell, taste, and feel. Davis’ food writing was bland and overly demonstrative, very heavy on the adjectives. I have just started High Dive by Tammar Stein and, thus far, I’m enjoying it very much – I love the European locations and the writing style. I’ve also got Dear Julia by Amy Bronwen Zemser waiting in the wings. Yesterday, at my children’s book selection committee, we reviewed a picture book, The Snow Show by Carolyn Fisher. It’s narrated by “Chef Kelvin” who explains, in a cooking show format, how snow is created. There’s even a “BAM!” moment. We all agreed that the format was “crazy” and “silly” and we thought the illustrations paired very well with the subject matter and style. We’ll be buying it at QL.

- Again, children’s literature and food intersect. I know I’m ridiculously late chiming in on this, but Jamie Oliver’s wife is writing a children’s book, The Adventures of Dotty and Bluebell. You’ve got to read the article from the Daily Mail for a bit of a giggle: I don’t think I’ve read such a fawning interview in all my life. Jamie Oliver is “a national treasure” and the Olivers’ living room is “filled with an astonishing array of tasteful toys.” And that’s not even the most flowery example – the whole thing is just sickeningly sweet. And as far as her darling daughters not smoking or doing drugs or not having sex “until you are…well, old enough”? Refer to the Maureen Johnson link above. And don’t get me started on the Breck Girl photos. Ultimately, I resent celebrities (or spouses of celebrities) that try to convince us that they’re “normal” and just like the rest of us. Uh, no. You’re not. Shut up.

The really crap part of this matter? Of course I’m going to buy this for the library. Just like I bought Laura Bush’s book…and Madonna’s books…and Sarah Ferguson’s books…

Thanks to Chair, Fireplace, Tea Cozy for the info (and the spectacular rant) who got it from Big A little a.


First Night of Class!

My first Food Studies class was last night, and it was every bit as brilliant as I was hoping for. The professor is wicked smaht but incredibly approachable, the people in the class are friendly, and the topics we discussed in our abbreviated first class already thrilled me to my fingertips.

While the professor promised that "I don't want to kill you", she did tell us it was her job to make our brains feel like they're going to explode. She also said it was her job to make us better writers. I'm all for exploding brains in order to be a better writer.

Eat, drink, and flex those cerebral muscles!


KidLit Karaoke Night: you missed out, I did not

I need to send huge thanks to Fuse #8 for the excellent KidLit Karaoke Night this past Saturday. The Library Hotel (scene of the KidLit Drink Night last month) was classy and swanky, which is always a delight because I feel like I’m playing the role of academic sophisticate in places like that. Indeed, we talked about children’s books quite a bit that night.

The Karaoke KidLit Night, though? Well, that was just a crazy, laughter-filled, musical extravaganza. In fact, I’d put it in my ongoing list of Top 10 New York City Nights: nuns singing “Faith”, Betsy rocking “Shut Up and Drive” by Rihanna, and a guy with an "I Love Zack Morris"* shirt leading a sing-a-long to Meatloaf’s “I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That).” To top off the perfect night, I somehow managed to catch an F train going express back to Queens…at 2:00 a.m. People, you don’t understand how rare and beautiful thing that is.

If you weren’t there, you’re square.

Eat, drink, and be glad you dragged your arse out to Brooklyn.

* Awwww yeah, baby! Check this guy's t-shirt!