The Webster-Merriam Dictionary defines feast as “something that gives unusual or abundant enjoyment." Here we mean for it to encompass all facets of our daily experience, from eating, to working, to sitting on the porch. So with that, you are invited to join our cyber-table. We hope you enjoy the feast!

16 March 2010

Welcome to Feast!

Guess what? We've successfully revamped Feast!

Now you can search our blog using categories like "green leafy vegetables," and "farmers and producers," and concepts like, "the act of eating."

We also own our own domain!

You are invited to the NEW Feast site:, and can expect us to post regularly on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Thanks for your support! See you there!

07 March 2010

Coming soon...more Feast!

Hi everyone,

Feast is currently undergoing some changes...for the better, we hope! Thank you for your readership and support.

Julia and I met this weekend to discuss things like our web address, our mission statement and other details. We'll update you on all of our decisions so that you know exactly where to find us and when you can expect new and exciting posts.

Thanks for reading! We'll be in touch.

J & J

18 February 2010

Claudio Corallo Chocolate

This past weekend was Valentine’s Day, and as commercial as it sometimes feels, it is a valiant holiday in that it reminds us all to take time out of our lives to be romantic and indulge in the love around us. Another beautiful aspect about this holiday is its focus on chocolate. Chocolate is known for containing phenylethylaming (PEA), the same chemical that is produced in your body when you are in love. Thus, it is no coincidence that V-day and chocolate go hand in hand.

In celebration of the day I took a trip to a small Chocolate Boutique located in Berkeley’s gourmet ghetto called Alegio Chocolate where I was introduced to a special chocolate- said to be the best in the world. The chocolate is made by Claudio Corallo on the Plantacao De Terriero Velho in a small African Island Country called Sao Tome e Principe. It is unique for many reasons. For one, Claudio Corallo spent his adult life searching for the perfect cocoa bean to use in his chocolate. Even before he found the bean he dedicated himself to producing the highest quality chocolate. Then, when he eventually did find the bean he was looking for, he continued to refine his production techniques, meticulously attending to every detail in the process from growing the plants, to harvesting the beans, to melting and storing the chocolate. Through his experience Claudio Corallo has developed unique methods of processing cocoa beans so as to create the richest and most flavorful chocolate he can muster.

16 February 2010

Eggs, Part VI

I am now working in the culinary archives of U of M's Clements Library two days a week. My first project is to write a piece for the online resource guide summarizing and providing insight into the materials the library has that are relevant to food and gender. The idea is that a student or other interested party can come online and easily assess what the library has to offer through exploration of these items by broader topics instead of just hundreds and hundreds of book titles.
Yesterday I came across a silly little book called Lew Lehr's Cookbook for Men. The book has a bright green cover with a goofy cartoon chef guy on the front. It was written in 1949. The book jacket makes references to the adventurous spirit of the male, and how ladies' cookbooks are "too prim and exact for the real he-man."
Originally, I thought the book would be incredibly biased, drawing a bold line between bored and proper housewives, and making fun of them in turn. And while there existed some cartoon sketches worthy of my millennium-perspectived eye roll, I actually found the book to be quite refreshing! Lew acknowledged the great cooks before him (his mother and grandmother, primarily), and paid his respects to the women who left the kitchen during the war. I found the book to be a kind of invitation for men across America (he nods his head at expert male European Chefdom) to wander into the kitchen and try their hands at cooking.

The recipes are simply written, with no more than 8 or so ingredients and scarcely more than a paragraph of method. The author claims no expertise; this chef simply wants to make the most of what's around. Ingredients often include such things as liver, bacon, bacon fat, gravy, sausage, meat—things that a person minding their weight would likely scoff at, but for which I have nothing but a stomach-grumbling grin.

I stumbled upon this recipe, one of four listed in the "Egg" section of his book. I think it is probably meant to be made using leftover mashed potatoes, as he gave no instructions for how to prepare the potatoes themselves. I committed the recipe only to memory, and have written here it in the style that Lou writes. I hope you enjoy this manly procedure!

Eggs for Men
based on a recipe by Lew Lehr

Grease a flat baking dish. Intersperse large scoops of mashed potatoes across the baking dish and, using the back of a soup spoon, press down into the center of each scoop of potato to create a basin. Crumble bacon into the basins, and season with salt, pepper, a dot of butter and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. Finally, crack an egg into the center of each basin. Bake at 350º for 15-20 minutes, or until the eggs are set.

12 February 2010

Love Letter

And after all this time I have yet to properly introduce Jen. Not for lack of wanting. So many times I have sat down to write her description and fallen short. It’s just that, I’ve found it impossible to put her into words. Her personality is best understood through the feelings she inspires and projects. It’s also been difficult because every time I try to write about Jen it comes out sounding like I am in love with my best friend, which I am, in an ‘I want to blog with you for the rest of my life’ kind of way.

To help you understand why Jen is so special I’ll give you an example from one of our most recent trips to Zingerman's Roadhouse. We had just been seated and were mulling over the menu when our server came to the table to inquire if we’d like anything to drink. We were both uncertain at the moment. So, in the way that she does, Jen locked eyes with the waitress and explained, politely and genuinely, that we were not yet sure what we wanted. Our server had heard this a million times before, but something about the way Jen said it this time- the respect, compassion, and honesty she conveyed- motivated our server to make the decision for us. She surprised us minutes later with two complementary cups of steaming hot chocolate topped with Zingerman’s Bakehouse marshmallows and freshly whipped Calder Dairy cream.

09 February 2010


Last weekend was my first night out in the city. Some friends invited me to go see a band called Geographer at a bar downtown. Geographer is a group of three, very friendly dudes. While on stage, they smiled bashfully at the hollering mass of hipsters in front of them. They even joined the party and danced with the crowed once they were finished performing. They seemed young, like puppies, and they were incredibly talented.

Their music is classified as indie rock. It is a combination of string instruments, electronic wanderings, vocals, and drums. Listening to them is like driving down a country highway while it’s raining but the sun is out and at any moment a rainbow is going to appear in the sky. As you drive you pass by a sprawling wind-farm against the backdrop of bright green grassy fields where huge white turbines are slowly spinning in staggering yet graceful harmony. As you approach the farm you are mesmerized by the enormity and power of these beautiful electronic beasts and realize that they are actually going remarkably fast. Underneath them black and white spotted cows are grazing on the big open field. One of the cows looks up at you and follows your passing car with his bulbous black eyes as he chews slowly on a mouthful of grass. You are suddenly struck by the contrast and complexity of all the moving parts in the world.

Check out Geographer on their MySpace page.
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07 February 2010

Eggs, Part V

     In the fall of the year in Northern Michigan residents prepare for the winter. Apples and pears are plucked from their orchards and stored in a cool place for applesauce making and pie baking. Seafarers winterize their boats, and shopkeepers reduce their extended summer hours to a thrifty minimal few. The leaves on the trees change from green to red, orange, brown and gold as the farmers prepare for their harvest. Hunters abound clothed from head to toe in wooly warm camouflage with a flare of blaze orange across their chests or atop their heads.     
     If you drive through the Upper Peninsula this time of year, nary a few miles pass by before you see some little shack or roadside stand that boasts it sells the best pasties in the land. This hunters’ early morning breakfast and classic coal miners’ lunch has become the favorite warming dinner of a city dweller like me. I grew up with a father who hunted deer every fall and a mother who made pasties for him to take along. I can remember the buttery crumble of the crust as I took a big first bite, and the warm, hearty comfort of meat and potatoes as I ate my way into a gentle food coma.
     So, what does this have to do with eggs? One of the most simple ways to use an egg is in an egg wash. An egg wash is used to help bind things together, to seal the surface of something or to make things more delicious-looking. My mother’s recipe for these tasty single-serving meat-filled pastries requires egg only on the outside, lightly brushed on for sheen and color—pure looks, really. If you want your pies and pastries to look as appetizing as they’ll taste, then beat together 1 egg with 1 egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of water and brush it on.

To compare the look of an egg washed pasty and a non-washed pasty, check out the picture below (egg wash on the left).

Michigander Pasties, a recipe

05 February 2010

On Antioxidants

Do you ever wonder why freshly cut apples turn brown if you leave them sitting on the counter too long, or why spritsing lemon juice on avocado helps it stay green longer, or why some people, as they grow older, maintain a look of youth and vitality? These things are all related to a magical little molecule called the antioxidant.

I once had a professor describe antioxidant in terms of a playground full of kids holding toys, each kid representing a molecule in the body. Now imagine the happy kids enjoying their toys, when along comes a bully (oxygen) who steals the toy away from a kid leaving him crying and alone. The antioxidant is the friendly girl who sees what happened and gives up her own toy to make the crying child happy again. In this way, antioxidants are a precious and altruistic ally to the molecules of our bodies. They have the ability to protect us from the ever-present oxidants that we encounter from day to day.

04 February 2010

Eggs, Part IV

     Eggs are a complex little entity with a versatility unmatched by any other ingredient. Their yolks are used as emulsifying or thickening agents, as in mayonnaise and dressings, Hollandaise sauce and all kinds of desserts, from a traditional Italian zabaglione to a classic French crème brulee. Their whites are utilized especially for the fluffy, airiness they possess when beaten, as in meringue and Swiss buttercream frosting. When combined, its safe to say that the possibilities for egg usage are innumerable (or at least, not worth spending your life trying to count).
     Humans like to eat the eggs of other species. But most kinds of eggs aren't easily accessible from a regular grocery store or Farmer's Market and are seen as delicacies, like quail and duck eggs, caviar and roe. So we stick to the eggs from our beloved friend, the hen.

Figure 1A.
     A chicken egg is made up of many small parts. (see Figure 1A.) The outer shell is slightly porous, and made primarily of calcium carbonate (CaCO3), the main component in pearls and sea shells (evolution, anyone?). The eggshell also has an outer and inner protective lining, like a little eggy sleeping bag. Aww. Eggs come in many shapes and sizes—and even colors! The color varies depending on the breed of the animal, and can range from brown to pink, white, yellow, green, and blue! (see Figure 1B.)
     The white part of the egg is called the albumen, and there are technically a couple of layers of this even though it looks like one clear mass. The albumen is almost all protein (with some trace minerals) and is made up of about 90% water.
     The pretty yellowish-orange part of the egg is the yolk, aka. vitellus. The vitellus contains fat, cholesterol, vitamins and minerals, protein and lecithin (an emulsifier).

Figure 1B.
     Beyond these commonly known parts of the egg, there also exists the chalazae cords, clear-whitish strands connecting from the inner lining of the shell to the outer lining of the yolk and acting as elastic-like bands that keep the yolk centered comfortably within the egg. There are a few other thin linings and layers around the yolk, and also, of course, the nucleus where the little DNA message from the chicken is stored.
     I think the recipes that do eggs the most justice and really highlight their special diverse gifts are the recipes that use different parts of the egg throughout different parts of the recipe, like in soufflé, Eggs Benedict and Lemon Meringue Pie. Another favorite is the enamored Italian Timpano, a dish fit for kings, containing hard-boiled eggs, raw, beaten eggs, and eggs in its dough, all wrapped up like a drum. (see Figures 2A. and 2B.

Figure 2A.                                                                                                                                                                                              


Figure 2B.
A special thanks to The Joy of Cooking* and my good friend Monsieur Wikipedia for enlightening me about some of this eggy stuff. The anatomy of an egg diagram is based on a diagram featured in Wikipedia in the category of "Egg (Food)."
*Rombauer, Irma S., Becker, Marion Rombauer, and Becker, Ethan. The All New Joy of Cooking. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997.
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03 February 2010

Eggs, Part III

     This is my all-time favorite way to prepare eggs. I was introduced to this dish by Matt and Kelly when my husband and I went over to their house for brunch one morning. From the moment I took that first bite—and every bite thereafter—I was absolutely spellbound! I had never tasted anything so smooth and creamy, rich and fulfilling. 
     This preparation gives the eggs a soft, supple texture that, when combined with the cream, becomes the ultimate comfort food. These eggs are versatile: we love them on a cold winter morning, served with sausage and toast, in the spring served with fresh greens or asparagus, or as a quick late-night dinner alongside leftover black beans and rice. Enjoy!  

Eggs in Ramekins

For each ramekin:
1/2 teaspoon butter
2 tablespoons whipping cream
1 large egg
Fresh herbs
Lemon zest
Sea salt, pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Butter the ramekin, saving a bit for later.  Add 1 tablespoon of cream and crack the egg on top.  Pour the remaining tablespoon of cream over the egg and top with a dot of butter.  Garnish with a bit of lemon zest, fresh herbs and freshly ground black pepper.  Place the ramekin in a tray of water, approximately 3/4 inch deep. 

Place the pan in the middle of the oven and bake for 8 -12 minutes.  Keep an eye on the eggs—they’ll be done before they look done. They should set, but still tremble a little when you shake the pan.  Season with salt and serve.

*This recipe was adapted from Julia Child's Oeufs en Cocotte recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Knopf, 1961).
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02 February 2010

The Art of Affirmation

When I was in college my mom bought me a kitschy little pack of Gift of the Goddess Affirmation Cards for Christmas. The cards had phrases written on them such as, “I have the power to transform my life”. The idea being that if you repeat the phrases to yourself and affirm them in your mind, they will manifest in reality.

Now, there are those in life who love this type of thing and those who find it to be a hoax. I am learning that whether it is the goddess, the universe, or a neurological process to credit, affirmations are actually a practical strategy for achieving one’s goals. Sports psychologists have shown that athletes who envision their success are more likely to achieve it. This makes sense because once an outcome is in sight it is much easier to move toward. The idea of the affirmation can also be compared to the sketch an artist draws prior to painting on a canvas. As per the affirmation written above, if you envision yourself with the power to transform your life, you are more able to understand how to acquire power and use it to serve your needs.

01 February 2010

Eggs, Part II

     Let's begin from the beginning: where do eggs come from? From the grocery store, right? (haha.) To learn more about chickens and eggs, I interviewed my friend Matt. He and his wife, Kelly, live in Ann Arbor with their baby and a backyard full of hens. The bumper sticker on the back of their car reads: My pet makes me breakfast.
An Interview with Matt

Hi, Matt!


So, what was your motivation for getting chickens?

For fresh eggs and to have local food in my own backyard.

Are they easy to take care of?

Easier than cats.

Do you feel like they’re your pets?


Would you eat them?

No—but we would be okay if somebody else did. We’re of the theory that, if you want to eat it, don’t name it. We have a saying: You can eat chicken, but you can’t eat Mrs. Darcy or Henrietta. (Those are their chickens.)

How often do they lay eggs?

31 January 2010

Eggs, Part I

     Michigan winters can be bleak. I heard once that Michigan actually has less sunny days than Seattle (which, it is widely known, has a reputation for its drizzling grayness). I wasn’t surprised. When it gets cold here, it becomes gray, and things slow down. People bunker down. The view out of my window makes a pretty snapshot: stillness, in black and white. It is during these times that we come together to feast.
     There aren’t too many fresh, local finds available here this time of year. The food in our grocery stores gets shipped in from places like Guatemala, Ecuador, Florida and California; the Farmer’s Market invites its bravest of souls, bundled in hats and scarves and downy coats, to peruse its arts, crafts and root vegetables. The most we can hope for is a warm, crusty loaf of bread from a local bakery, slathered in butter and served with a chunk of local cheese on the side. But then, there’s the egg.
     I am a Michigander, thankful for fresh eggs. At a time when the options seem minimal, an egg transforms our possibilities to multiple! Eggs are fun and useful: they can be used in innumerable ways and add nutrition and flavor to anything. Cookies, cakes and pies, Eggs en Cocotte, Huevos Rancheros, Bi Bim Bop! And an egg can stand alone: scrambled, fried, baked, poached, boiled! Thus begins an ode to eggs, a seven-part piece about anything egg.

for Matt and Kelly
Happy Hen, a poem
From forth the backened yard of city folk
Bobbles a happy hen! who,
Despite the raging cumulus above
Was lying gladly under a lamp’s heat,
Nestled in a loving home
Built from a neighbor’s plaything.

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28 January 2010


The first time I ventured to the west coast was in 2003 when I was an undergraduate. I found myself with an afternoon free to explore the town of Berkeley. I took public transportation to the downtown exit and, not knowing anything about the city, resolved to walk in the most beautiful direction. So, I pursued a mesmerizing landscape of green rolling hills, unknowingly, walking in the direction of what the locals call, the gourmet ghetto. After awhile hunger overcame me and my eyes turned to food. Simultaneously, I found myself at a cross section, to the left of which was a narrow hilly street with an inviting little food place. Everything about the place seemed special. It was a tiny white nook with a welcoming blue awning that hung over a large store front window. The closer I got, the more inviting it became. The wooden framed windows were wide open so that you could look into the kitchen and greet the cook if you like. A striking young girl stood the cash register just inside the door and cozy wooden benches were occupied by patrons just outside the door. Upon entering and reviewing the menu I discovered that the place was a classical French cooking lunch, dinner, and catering shop. People could eat at the counter over the stove, at the table outside, or pick up items on the go. The menu was small but packed with delicious sandwiches and, curiously, a whole section dedicated to various potato plates. On that warm sunny day, I chose a tuna melt and ate it on the bench outside, next to the window, with the cook bustling next to me, the blue awning over head, and the green rolling hill in view. I was in communion with the world and thrilled at the lucky happenstance I had gotten myself into.

27 January 2010


     I’ve been reading about coincidences, how a person will say something or make a decision to do something and then slowly begin to experience these coincidences, a series of related and relevant events that happen one after another that tie back into their original conversation or decision. Ever had that happen?  
     At the start of this calendar year I began to give some real thought into what direction I want to take my life. I could stay in the same field or try something completely new. I started writing about it a lot and as I was going about my business, I began to receive signs from the universe. I suppose all sorts of signs exist, and maybe I was just looking for what I wanted to see, but it felt like more than that—a friend told me out of the blue that they thought it was great I was following my own path; the woman on my yoga video said to let go of all things that don’t serve my truth; my massage therapist said to take the time to figure things out, not to rush into anything; it might sound silly, but none of these conversations were prompted by me and they all happened, one by one, within days of each other.

26 January 2010

Road Feast

While Ricky and I were gearing up for our trip across the country we encountered many a weary friend who warned us of the barren food-scape along I-80. So in preparation we researched all the cities we would likely stop in and developed a list of potential restaurants to visit. One site was particularly helpful,, which provides a list of vegetarian restaurant options for locations around the world. Upon our departure, we had pages of dining options.

Our trip turned out to be the exact opposite of what we had been warned about. We didn't have a bad meal the entire way. We were privy to local brews, vibrant ethnic cuisine, local traditional, homemade dishes, and friendly, well-informed service at every stop- our first being Lincoln, Nebraska, a college town with a respectable city center. It had a small-town feel yet there were large buildings and young people scattered about. We dined at a Thai restaurant called the Blue Orchid where the food and ambiance were sophisticated and delicious. We ordered an exotic cocktail made with a hot red pepper infused vodka, grapefruit juice and lemon grass. Each sip evolved from an ice cold, citrus fresh, thirst-quenching spirit into a spicy, fire-breathing swell of the mouth with a picante finish. It was the kind of drink that snuck up to you from behind and made your tonsils do back flips. What’s more, the somewhat intimidating drink became more delicious and inviting when drank in combination with our spicy entrees. Though we went through many glasses of ice-cold water during the meal, we were enlightened and pleased by the experience. We then stopped at Lazlo’s Brewery and Grill where we were greeted by a friendly bartender who encouraged us to taste all the local beers and gave us a thorough explanation of each.

24 January 2010

My Career!

     In the past five years I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will probably never follow a traditional career path. If I imagine my work life as, literally, a path or a trail, I picture myself walking into the woods, clearing branches along the way. There’s a light up ahead but I can’t see just how to get there; I only know I am headed in the right direction when I can see that light, beaming from afar like the North Star. (When I say “right” direction, I mean right for me, in accordance with my truth, my goals.) I have a feeling I’ll never get to the light—and I guess that’s sort of the point, right?—but that it will always be there to set my compass towards.
     I do find her enviable, the person who can say “this is what I want to be” and can look ahead at a neatly mowed stretch of path in front of her. Certainly, life will still surprise this person in ways she’d have never expected, but at least she knows she needs to do this, this and this to get where she wants to be. I’ve struggled in the past few years with trying to figure out what I want to do for work. I realize now that this was difficult for me to resolve because there is not just one thing that I want to do!
     I’m a romantic, to my core. And that part of me, which has most often proved itself more influential than my desire for security or acceptance, finds this groping along enticing and a thrill! I have groped and forged and everything in between and have found myself at this point: ready to piece together the collage of my career. And so, a 360° look at food…

22 January 2010

Grown In Michigan

This is my brother Jon. He loves to eat. He once stuffed an entire hamburger in his mouth and finished it without skipping a beat. When he did that we were up at our uncle’s cottage on Burt Lake (near the tip of the mitten, ay!). Jon’s favorite food is Pizza, although now after having lived in China for two years and settled down in the Bay Area, his food preferences have likely evolved. In this picture he doesn’t know anyone is watching. He probably doesn’t much notice or mind that he is wearing red overalls with copper buttons, knee sox and red buckled shoes. He has no idea that the whipped cream he is dipping his delectable strawberry into matches his clean white t-shirt. He also doesn’t realize that the juicy Michigan fruit he is about to consume will give him the energy and nutrition to build him into the vibrant person he is today.

Jon is an engineer and does transportation technology research. He traveled down the California coast in a fuel cell powered car and did his dissertation on electric bikes in China. He is also an eccentric, even though he wasn’t trying to be in this picture. He always makes the funniest faces in pictures, like here his chubby cheeks and curious stance reveal how consumed and lost he is in his world of delicious whipped cream strawberries.

20 January 2010

My Love

     This morning I awoke craving cheese. I wasn’t thinking of any cheese in particular but just the thought of preserved milk, of solid dairy excited me. My body wanted to feel the full satisfaction of protein, the complexity of flavors from animal and pasture. I do have a unique perspective on this, having worked at a place whose self-prescribed requisites for choosing food to sell include “full-flavored” and “traditionally-made;” I wasn’t about to bust into my neighbor’s refrigerator just to nosh on some orange processed stuff (which, I have to say, is tasty in its own right). It was 4:30 in the morning and my favorite place to buy cheese doesn’t open until 7:00 (although I do have an “in;” I probably could have gotten a taste around 6:30 if I had wanted it badly enough). I began to daydream –and probably doze off a little—about my love of cheese. I had a little brainstorm in my mind…

17 January 2010

A Glorious Departure

Here is how I left it: We had a pizza party. I prep'ed pizza toppings. Colin brought sweets, plates and pizza stones. Ricky manned the bar. People greeted me in the kitchen as I was throwing pots and pans around and rolling dough. Neighbors were neighborly. Jenny had a camera and she knew how to use it. Keely created a trail of laughs behind her. Bill tactfully added flavor to food. Amp tossed salad. MarMar brought me supplies for the city- hand sanitizer and a hot pink boa. Maren brought a friend who was also a boy, who may or may not be her boyfriend. Dana danced and screamed. Ultimate frisbee girls ate. Janet threw peanuts and heckled people as they left. Men drank scotch in the kitchen. Rofo and Bemu caught flying tangerines in their mouths. Spanky danced congolese in the dinning area. I slid to the floor exhausted, holding a long list of places to eat in San Fransisco. We woke up early, we ate breakfast with Jenny & Bill. We ate breakfast again with Mom & Dad. We stuffed the car and said good bye. We are in Lincoln, Nebraska drinking local beer and staying in a sketchy motel. Thank you everyone. You have filled my life with splendor.

To Anyone Seeking Friendship in San Francisco

Midwest girl headed your way: loyal, joyful, dynamic                                      
Health nut, obsessed with yoga, likes to eat with her fingers

Lives the expression, "Anything worth doing is worth doing well,"
the proverb, "Love is patient and kind," and the Thoreauvian ideal:
"to live deeply and suck out all the marrow of life."

Her friendship to you promises challenge and depth;
she'll provide scope and inspiration. You'll feel thankful
to have met such a person, and your life will forever be brighter
because she was there.

14 January 2010

hao chi zui (mouths that love eating)

    Have you ever had really bad chinese food? The kind of greasy goodness whose meaty treasures are nestled so snugly in sweet and sour sauce that you're not really even sure what's in it? (The menu says chicken, but then, everything tastes like chicken...) It is this particular kind of chinese food that turned me off to the stuff in the first place. But apparently there is chinese food, and then there is Chinese food. Last night, for the first time, I ate the latter.
    It all began with a book: Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper, A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China. I've been reading it with some friends and its author, Fuchsia Dunlop, has inspired a lot of conversation among us about how we cook and how we eat. This particular group of friends is largely food-centric: we eat for pleasure, we cook for creativity; when we're not cooking, we're eating (or talking about food, writing about food, photographing it, admiring fresh produce at the Farmer's Market, making a grocery list) and visa versa . We enjoy both of these things—the cooking and the eating—alone and together. But we've been challenged to consider how food is not only a delightful pastime, but that for some, [it is a refuge, a solace, a safe pleasure in which you could lose yourself without fear; it provides freedom.]* It's serious. Seriously delicious, but serious. As much as we joke about the pleasure we derive from bacon and foie gras, chocolate truffles and freshly picked asparagus, this book has served as a subtle but pressing reminder to me to be thankful for the splendor of each and every bite. 
    The memoir has also encouraged us to expand any food boundaries we might previously have had—my own boundaries opening wider to include a whole realm of unexplored, intoxicating Asian goodies. Firstly, The Dumpling:

13 January 2010

On the Act of Eating

Have you ever watched someone eat and contemplated what was happening? It is incredibly entertaining. I encourage you to try it. You can observe anyone: small kids, your friends, people at the bar. My all time favorite people to watch are teenage boys- especially when they are eating together- especially when they are hungry. It is fascinating. Their chomps per minute ratio is unusually high- although sometimes it is slow simply because the amount of food forced into their mouths is so excessively large that it takes extra time and energy to close down on it. Regardless of who you watch, it's also spectacular to see how much food disappears in a single bite. It's more than you might think. Plates that were once piled high with food become emptier and emptier with every passing moment.

Of course, eating is all too commonplace; we live with it every day, we see people do it all the time. Internally we understand eating in terms of how hungry or full we are and we simply go until our body tells us to stop. But think about it objectively, as if you were an alien who had no concept of the sensations or purpose behind eating. If you watch from the outside, where our body's signals don't exist, where there is no brain chemistry saying 'mmmm', or 'more', or 'no more', it becomes a different experience. Initially the experience is the same; the sight of food is exciting. But then, as you watch the food go into someone’s mouth, disappears, and become part of the unchanged human being, never to be seen the way it once was -ever- again, it takes on a different hue. It almost seems like magic.

11 January 2010

Detroit Roots

I love Michigan, and I love Ann Arbor, but I would not be here, the way I am today, were it not for the city of Detroit. As far back as I know, my family has been a product of the city. My grandmother was a Foxette (a dancer at the Fox Theater) during the roaring twenties. My mother got her teaching degree at Marygrove College, my dad worked for the auto industry throughout the majority of his adult life, and for the past two years I have been working with community organizations in Detroit to improve its residents' health through better access to food and physical activity.

Visiting the city inspires a complex array of thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. Seeing the old train station in southwest Detroit, for example, is both majestic and tragic. It is monumental not only in its scale but also in its representation of the city's grand history and demise. Spend a day touring Detroit with someone who knows it and you will fall in love with its beauty and blight.

The challenges are there, but the more you listen the more you hear about the opportunities. The magazine, Edible WOW, just ran an article about Avalon Bakery’s community driven approach to running a business. My roommate just told me about a Burlesque show she went to in the city this weekend, “It was a great time. The dancers weren’t, you know, god’s gift to man or anything, but they were cute and the performance was artful. I had a blast!” The New York Times just wrote a piece about the wave of entrepreneurship running through the city: Burton Theater, a new independent film theater housed inside an abandoned school house; a Creperie called Good Girls Go to Paris; a hair salon called, Curl Up and Dye. These new businesses combined with the awe inspiring Architecture, the Diego Rivera mural at the art museum, the River Walk, and The Hot Club of Detroit’s gypsy jazz concerts- I could write about all that the city has to offer for hours. I could elaborate for paragraphs about why the BBQ, beer, and bar tenders at Slow’s BBQ make me want to do more than just lick my fingers after a meal. Yet still, I’ve barely even brushed the surface.

10 January 2010

On Autonomy and Leftovers

    When my friend Jess lived in Ann Arbor, he’d host these “Potcooks” at his apartment. Unlike a potluck, where people bring a dish to pass, a gathering of friends would come over with whatever ingredients they had on hand and everyone would create a meal together. The idea was that no one would have to spend any money, and it’d be an easy way to clean out the fridge at the end of the week. Potcooks were a hit, and have lived on since his departure from the city.
    Another friend, Aubrey, had the innovative idea of hosting a huge dinner party to raise the funds for her trip to Italy one year. She wanted to travel around the Italian countryside and learn about food. She invited everyone she knew to her parents’ home and, with help from some friends, cooked a fabulous, multi-course Italian meal, charging everyone a flat fee and accepting donations, as well. Through this one venture she raised enough money to make her dream trip come true.
   When Patrick worked at Zingerman’s with me he was a newly wed with a small child and a small budget. He and his family had a huddle once a week during which they tracked and discussed their finances. He told me once, when times were tight, that they’d decided to keep Arborio rice around as a staple for their meals; he said they ate risotto at least a few times each week and that it was amazing because it was so delicious and so cheap. I was inspired by his happy resolve in keeping with his budget.
   Each of these friends used the resources they had as creatively as possible in order to live as fully and richly as possible. They found freedom within constraints, and inspired those around them to live autonomously, too.
   Patrick taught me that not only are budgets useful, but they actually can be pretty fun, too. Bill and I enjoy budgeting for our groceries because it forces us to cook creatively. Take tonight for example: it’s the end of the week, we’re out of grocery money and out of whole leftover meals…

07 January 2010

Salubrius Citrus

There is something about winter that just screams citrus fruit to me. I have memories dating back to my brother’s middle school band fundraiser when he would sell our family big boxes of grapefruits and oranges in December, or my aunt and uncle sending up boxes of grapefruit in February from Florida where they ‘wintered’ between the months of January and March. I remember when I studied abroad in Italy, my first night there- homesick in January- my host family served tangerines for dessert. The father could tell I was out of sorts, so while we were sitting at the table, talking, he peeled his tangerine very carefully, creating one consecutive piece of rind and leaving the center rind attached to the bottom of the peel. Then he fashioned the peel back into a sphere with the central rind standing up in the middle. He poured some olive oil down the ceter rind (which formed a puddle at the bottom) and lit it on fire so as to turn the once tangerine into a glowing citrus flavored candle. And then of course, there were winter mornings before school when my mom had to leave for work before I woke up, but unfailingly left a half cut open grapefruit with honey on top and a piece of toast for breakfast on the counter for me.

One Flag

    I have wanderlust. I can't help it: every six months or so I get the insatiable urge to travel, to break my routine and explore someplace new. Since I was a young girl (and an expat, at the time), I've become comfortable with this newness--grappling with a foreign language, finding my footing on unfamiliar terrain, cautiously biting into some strange, untried food--and have even sought after it. Some aspects of my life just don't feel normal without a hint of discomfort or unfamiliarity.
     Everyone travels differently. Some people enjoy following a guide and learning about a place's history; some prefer to lay on a beach for a week. I like to really live in a place for however long I'm there. Oh sure, I'll see some sights while I'm at it, but to me, the best part of being in a different place for a few days is finding out where the locals shop, buying their groceries and cooking their food. If a kitchen isn't accessible, I'm perfectly happy eating while sitting on a stoop somewhere along the edge of a street (a chunk of crusty bread and 100 grams of piave cheese will do), or finding my way to that spot where all of the locals meet, where you can really taste the essence of what that town is all about. I don't feel too much pressure to do anything in particular when I travel; I'd be happy to spend an afternoon reading a book in a patisserie, for example (of course it always comes back to the food).
    With all my fanciful notions and trip plans and explorations, however, my favorite part of leaving is always coming home. My own kitchen. My own pillow. My own space. I like sitting in a quaint town in Austria eating Apfelstrudel mit Schlag; but I love flying into a drizzling, grey-skied Detroit, walking through its bland airport with other pale passengers, waiting silently for my suitcase to come around the luggage belt. And so, an ode to home...

04 January 2010

A Toast

   Julia is a fireball with steely blue eyes and big pretty lips. When she speaks, she uses her body as a prop like in a play. Her stories are full of physical animation, moving hands and raised eyebrows—you can't help but stare in wonderment, even if what she is telling you is completely ordinary. But she rarely says anything ordinary: she was introduced to this type of music when she was living in a tent on a farm in Hawaii, or her Italian boyfriend’s Grandma insisted that she take some Parmigiano home with her so she arrived in the States with an eighth of a wheel of cheese in her backpack. The only reason I believed her stories at first was because there was always someone sitting next to her nodding, saying that it was true. After awhile I became that person.
     The first time I met Julia, I was annoyed with her. I had just begun working at the Deli and one of our balsamic vinegar producers came to visit us. Signore T. spoke no English and his assistant spoke little more than that. There were forty people sitting in the outside tent waiting to hear all about his fabulous product and no one to convey the message he had brought. In a spur the moment remembrance—I had written ‘Italian’ as one of my two college majors on my application—my manager came to find me and asked if I would translate. I became extremely anxious, suddenly. I hated speaking in front of crowds, had loathed it since Middle School when we had to stand up and give presentations in front of the class. But they were clearly in a bind and I was their only hope, so I put on a brave face and followed her to the tent. When we walked in, a tallish blonde—a natural blonde at that—had command of the microphone and everyone’s attention was on her. “He’s saying that the production of balsamic vinegar is an important tradition in Italy,” she told the crowd confidently, “and that up until recently, people didn’t make it as an item to sell. It stayed in the family.” I was relieved in a way but also disheartened that I wasn’t the one everyone was counting on anymore. She went on and conveyed information and gestured with her hands and the crowd was really into it…until there came a moment when she couldn’t translate something. “He’s saying that the tradition of making balsamic is still kept within the family," I snuck in. "When his son was born, he and his wife filled a barrel with vinegar and it’s been aging ever since. As it ages, it evaporates and thickens, so they’ve transferred it into smaller and smaller barrels. When their son gets married, they will give it to him; he and his wife will have a small barrel of twenty- to thirty-year old balsamic vinegar as a wedding present.” The crowd had stars in their eyes and so did Signore T. I knew this was an important story for him to tell. I glanced at Julia and offered her a shy smile. I hadn’t wanted to step on her toes—she had been doing so well translating thus far. She grinned at me. At that exact moment, I had the distinct feeling that we'd be lifelong friends.
     As my comrade prepares for her departure for California, I've been reminiscing about old times, and naturally most of my memories are intertwined with recollections of meals we shared together, ghosts of sensory stimuli past. Here is a recipe, vivid in my mind, and oh so Julia. Let's call it...

Julia Salad
Note: For this particular salad, it is absolutely a pre-requisite that you use your hands, not kitchen gizmos, throughout every part of this process, just as Julia would. It will taste better.

Whatever you have on hand
(examples: cherry tomatoes, avocados, dried cherries or raisins; pine nuts, walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts; chunks of cucumber, carrots, celery, etc.)
Olive Oil

To Make:

Toast the nuts in a small pan over medium heat; when you smell them, it's usually a good sign that they're done. Take them off the heat. Wash and dry your lettuce. Rip it into easy-to-eat pieces. Begin adding your ingredients, one at a time, and toss. (For example: tomatoes, toss; carrots, toss; raisins, toss.) Toss in the nuts when cool.

In a small container with a lid, pour in some good quality olive oil and less vinegar (anything you want-- white wine vinegar, balsamic, sherry vinegar), cover and shake vigorously. *Pour over your salad and toss, just before serving.

*At this point, you can use a kitchen gizmo, like tongs.  ;)

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02 January 2010

A Brief Aperitif!

A few years ago Jen and I met while working at Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan. We found our passion for food, books, and life in general were so much in line that we not only wanted to explore our community’s unique flavor together, we wanted to turn it into a radio show that could be shared with anyone and everyone who would listen. We came up with the idea of creating a live broadcast that would highlight what we thought of as Ann Arbor’s unique terroir. Unfortunately, our proudly named show, Radio Free Bacon, turned into something much different than intended and we eventually moved on. Nonetheless, our enthusiasm and friendship grew stronger through the years as each of us embarked on other exciting adventures. I traveled to Brazil and then began a master’s program in Public Health. Jenny got married and continued to cultivate her passion for writing and food.

Now here we are at the start of 2010 still in love with the world of food, and both determined to keep our thriving friendship alive. As I move across the country to San Francisco and Jen continues to shape her life in the Ann Arbor area, we are re-igniting the Radio Free Bacon flame—only this time with a slightly different twist. Instead of focusing on one community’s local terroir, we are expanding our reach to, well, just about any place, and while the focus is still on highlighting the fun, interesting, complex, and unique characteristics of our communities, it is also how we will communicate about the rich and vibrant experiences of our everyday, ordinary lives. Here you will find anything from short vignettes about music we’ve encountered to pictures and descriptions of our favorite meals. Our hope is simply to breathe life into fleeting moments and inspire others to live richly.

The Webster-Merriam Dictionary defines feast as, “an elaborate and usually abundant meal often accompanied by a ceremony or entertainment,” and also, “something that gives unusual or abundant enjoyment." Here we mean for it to encompass all facets of our daily experience, from eating, to working, to sitting on the porch. So with that, you are invited to join our cyber-table. We hope you enjoy the feast!
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