Dinner tonight was to be two recipes: Deb Perelman's Egg, Potato & Chorizo Tacos with Queso Fresco, and Madhur Jaffrey's Stir-Fried "Foreign Vegetable," i.e. Watercress. First task was to start the potatoes cooking while I prepped most of the other ingredients (a minor affair). Then the potatoes were fried with chorizo and onion while I washed up the day's dishes and set queso fresco, chopped raw onion and hot sauce on the table. In the last 5 minutes, I scrambled the eggs into the potato mixture, quickly stir-fried the watercress, and heated 8 corn tortillas, one by one, on a hot frying pan. Serve. Easy-peasy. The tacos were amazing, the watercress less so. It looked so wilted in the pan!-- but I found the stems were still tough while eating. There was way too much salt and sesame oil for the amount of watercress I ended up with, too. On the other hand, I ate two tacos, holding myself back from a third that I greatly desired, and then continued to think of them all evening in a rather obsessive fashion. For a simple meal, the tacos really seized my imagination. Make them, they are easy and worth it. As for the watercress, you might do just as well feeding it to your cat.
After ending the daily food diary, I found myself still taking photos of food, but having no text to accompany them.
Oh, wait, that's really it.
On a Tuesday evening, my husband and I went out to Capital Fringe to see my stepson's girlfriend perform in Over Her Dead Body, an 80-minute theater piece composed of bluegrass murder ballads, with full bluegrass band and five top-notch singers (including my stepson's girlfriend, who has a beautiful, deep, North Carolina voice-- and somewhat macabre sensibility-- perfectly suited for the material). I would have loved this even if a family member were not performing. I would have seen it again. (But it is sold out.) I hope they are able to take this show further than Capital Fringe, because it is wonderful. Review here. (Update: Over Her Dead Body won Best Overall show according to the audience awards, and is moving on to the Millenium Stage at the Kennedy Center! See video here.)
After the show (which, due to tight Fringe scheduling, was at 6:30 pm), husband and I were trudging back up Florida Ave., to the nearest Metro station which is over a mile away, and wishing we would encounter something for dinner. It was still light, the most amazing huge orange sun setting over the city street. Only a single restaurant offered itself, but its board outside proclaimed $2.75 tacos, so I convinced my husband it was a good idea. It was. The Far East Taco Grille. Far East? Tacos? Maybe just because it was on the east side of the city?
Nope. In some ways these are conventional tacos: you choose flour or corn tortilla, several types of salsa are available. But the fillings are things like Korean short rib, spicy pork, tofu. Topping styles include a kimchi version. Clearly this is a Korean-fusion joint, just like where I work, only so different. Better. Though the menu is more limited and it is just counter service. I order two tacos: flour tortilla, short rib, "#15 sauce," banh mi-style toppings. Short ribs cost $0.25 more each for tacos, so this meal cost $6 altogether, and it is perfect. So, so good. The short ribs are tender and delicious (better than those at our restaurant, maybe even better than the ones Scarlet made for me), the #15 sauce (whatever the hell that means) is a sweet and spicy Asian-influenced sauce, I suspect involving gochujang, and the banh mi toppings are pickly, spicy, sweet. Total flavor bomb. I think it would be overwhelming to eat more than two. My husband ordered more conservatively, as he always does: spicy pork in a rice bowl with their simplest topping option of lettuce, cheese, and lime crema. He said it was very good too. In total we paid $20 (including a tip, which would be optional here) for one of the best meals I've had in a while. I have no idea how they can make any money at all, charging $3 for tacos containing a substantial amount of expensive short rib, but GO THERE while it lasts.
Next day. I've finally had time to organize my recipes and do a more extensive shopping trip at the Whole Foods, so (after a long, busy day at work) I have three dishes planned to cook this evening. One is my second effort from Mridula Baljekar's Best-Ever Curry Cookbook, the Tandoori Chicken. This time I buy the appropriate amount of chicken, and actually look up the spices involved in tandoori masala. So I believe myself to have followed the directions fairly well. I did blend my own tandoori masala out of spices I already possessed, instead of buying a prefab paste, so it's possible I missed out on some ingredients that might have been present in the paste... sugar, perhaps? Because my chicken tasted nothing like what you get in an Indian restaurant. (Perhaps it is just more authentically North Indian, as it appears in that section of the book.)
Anyway, I managed to skin my whole chicken myself (with painful slowness, using kitchen scissors), a feat that used to be quite ordinary for home cooks, but of which I now feel inordinately proud. It marinated for two hours in yogurt mixed with the tandoori spices, then roasted at a high temperature (475 degrees) for about 30 minutes. Simple enough, except the chicken was not done after 30 minutes. It looked quite done on the outside, but close to the bone it was still soft and pink. Returned to the oven and eaten after 15 more minutes, the cook on the chicken was still only barely adequate. Another 10 minutes would have been better.
While the chicken was marinating, I made the Buttery Cayenne Pecans from the October 2015 issue of Bon Appetit. These were a simple matter of melting butter, stirring in Worcestershire sauce and spices, tossing with the pecans, and roasting. Kind of like the chicken, actually. But more successful. The one problem did not lie with the recipe: the pecans themselves were not very good. I bought them in a package from Whole Foods, and they had the bitter aftertaste and discomfiting mouthfeel of unripe fruit. The flavor was worse when raw, but they retained some of their bitterness even after roasting.
The third recipe was intended as the final Pie-of-the-Month for my husband, and was from this month's Bon Appetit via The Bitten Word. The Bitten Word guys had made this Blueberry and Corn Crisp, and concluded that it had potential, even though it seemed not to have enough corn in it, and the topping did not brown well. They discussed the desirability of trying it again with double the corn, and a blast of higher-temperature baking in hopes of achieving a true "crisp." So I made the recipe myself, incorporating these tweaks. Nope. Before baking, I had a full 1-inch (or deeper!) layer of corn-y crumbs on top of the blueberries. During baking, almost this entire layer sank into the bubbling berries, leaving only a little topping peeking out. Even that didn't brown much. So, to the extent that there was any perceptible crumb topping at all, it was mushy and dissolved in your mouth (and not in a good way). Definitely not "crisp." The corn kernels (whose quantity I had doubled) simply dropped out of the topping and mixed with the blueberries, creating a somewhat odd fruit filling instead of a cornbread-y crumb. Your experience will probably not differ, as other Bitten Word commenters seemed unhappy too. It was not inedible, but I can confidently fail to recommend this recipe.
All in all, it was a disappointing dinner. The pecans were all right.
FDA Warns Against Eating Cookie Dough, But Not Because of Eggs
This story is a bit old by now, but flour sits on our shelves for a long time. Apparently E. coli contamination of raw flour is potentially widespread. It had never occurred to me that this was even possible with dry goods.
Out Here, Up Here
Includes the best kitchen tip ever, from Nikki McClure via Orangette: soften butter by wedging it in cleavage.
There's a Price to Pay for Not Eating America's Ugly Seafood
Americans are only comfortable with certain types of familiar seafood, many of which are imported and/or overfished. Meanwhile, other local ocean food resources are wasted or sold overseas. What would buying local look like when it comes to seafood?
Discomfort Food: Using Dinners to Talk About Race, Violence and America
Chef Tunde Wey organizes dinner parties with diverse (but predominantly black) guest lists, to discuss race, social justice, and personal experience. “There was some sort of obscenity to the whole thing, this foodie movement,” he said. “You eat at one of these new restaurants with small plates, and the food tastes good, but it’s not saying anything. What it’s saying is just, ‘Look at me.’ It’s self-referential. That’s where the obscenity comes from: when you can say nothing, surrounded by so much to say.”
Unsponsored opinion: these Fig & Olive Crackers are like one of the best things I've ever eaten in my life. And I got them on sale at Whole Foods for $4.99! (Which seemed like a lot, until I saw that Amazon is selling them for $11.59.)
My kid is greatly amused at "men's" versions of everyday products, such as bath grenades or Bounce fabric softener for men, so when I saw Men's Pocky at the HMart, I had to buy some.
Breakfast: on a non-ordinary day, I have an ordinary breakfast. Water with lime, black coffee, smoothie made from almond milk, honey yogurt, hemp protein powder, avocado, strawberries, and lots of swiss chard, because the latter is starting to wilt badly and I am going away for three days.
Then we drive to Pennyworth Lock and start our hike. The bulk of our experience is detailed at that other link. I'd intended to write up a food diary of the hike as well-- even kept notes in my little red notebook, about what we ate and under what circumstances-- but when I got home I found those notes interested me very little. First of all, how much can you write about trail mix and crackers? Secondly, and more important, I was ready to end the daily food diary. It has been an interesting experiment and writing exercise, but is immensely time-consuming and requires an attention to minutiae that eventually becomes wearying. I also feel that the world now knows enough about exactly what I eat on a daily basis. (I would still like to know more about what OTHERS eat on a daily basis. But we'll save that for another post.)
I reserve the right to continue writing about things I eat... just not everything, not right now. Ironically, I have had less time lately to cook, due in part to all the incessant chronicling. Also, less time to walk, and less time to write my murder mystery. All things that are important. Perhaps as important as eating.
Nevertheless, stay tuned, I shall continue to afflict you with this and that.
An early, before-work breakfast: water with lime, coffee with half and half, smoothie made from vanilla almond coconut milk, honey yogurt, peanut butter, hemp protein powder, peach, strawberries, blueberries, frozen mango, and kale. This one is not sweet at all, whereas yesterday's was almost cloying. The main difference seems to be the banana. Maybe I should start going with half a banana?
At work, all I have is a cup of decaf coffee, black.
When I get home about 2:30, I have a wonderfully wholesome lunch. Leftover leek soup garnished with some creme fraiche, snipped tarragon and chives; a bowl of mixed raspberries, blueberries, and cherries; and some raw carrots and peppers. I feel so virtuous. I also have a cup of regular black coffee, and afterwards another cup of decaf with half and half.
Shopping (Co-op): can of coconut milk, organic 1% lactose-free milk, half & half, organic lemon juice, quart of plain yogurt, cat treats, unsweetened almond milk, raw goat cheddar, seitan, 2 cans of pinto beans, a cantaloupe, 2 packages small corn tortillas, dried currants, coffee, 4 ears corn, 6 individual Brown Cow yogurts (assorted flavors), strawberries, cilantro, 4 limes, bananas, 4 avocados. $91.
Dinner is slightly less virtuous, but still fruit-and-vegetable-centric, which is the way I like best to cook. I roast some mixed root vegetables (the rest of the CSA beets, two farmer's market potatoes, an onion, some farmer's market carrots) with fresh marjoram; also make an apple-and-fennel salad with a lemon-mustard dressing. My kid has long hated fennel, but recently expressed a desire to try it again. So I bought fennel at the farmer's market (as well as the Gold Rush apples). It turns out that, while they still do not love fennel, they no longer hate it. They eat some; in particular, they seem to find the bulb more edible than the fronds, which of course it is. So, a pretty good foray. As an "entree," I just melt some goat cheddar onto slices of whole wheat bread, also from the farmer's market.
I think I am mighty lucky to have a child who volunteers, of their own free will, to experiment with foods they dislike. Next thing you know, they'll be eating cucumber.
Breakfast: lemon water, black coffee, smoothie made from vanilla almond coconut milk, honey yogurt, hemp protein powder, canned coconut milk, banana, cantaloupe, and swiss chard. I totally forgot about my half-a-banana plan that I made yesterday. Afterwards, I had some decaf with half & half.
At noontime, after my kid and I take a test-run with our new backpacks, another cup of regular coffee with half and half, followed by lunch. Lunch is a bowl of mixed strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and cantaloupe; some raw carrot and pepper; and half a peanut butter-and-blueberry jam sandwich on whole wheat farmer's market bread. Actually, the blueberries, cherries, carrot and pepper are from the farmer's market too. I am eating like a queen.
After lunch, I do some housecleaning, and don't go out until late afternoon to make a quick trip to REI. I don't have the chance to have my usual mid-afternoon cup of decaf, and for that reason, or some other reason, I become ravenous while I am out. There isn't an opportunity for food and drink until about 6 pm, when I stop at a bakery near home to buy the decaf coffee. Of course, I feel I need some sort of snack, and end up buying a mushroom & cheese turnover. In retrospect, I can see how a series of poor decisions led to my basically buying dinner an hour before cooking a second dinner at home. The turnover isn't even very good, but I eat it because I paid for it.
Second dinner at home is vegan, because my kid's girlfriend is staying for supper. I've had tacos on the brain ever since we had the worst tacos ever in small-town Virginia. Tonight I put out some local corn tortillas that are not really very good (made in Virginia! Coincidence?), pinto beans, sauteed seitan (both this and the beans flavored with chili and lime), avocado, tomato, shredded cabbage, onion, cilantro, corn sliced off the cob, green salsa, and bottled hot sauce. Tacos are always fun, but they are more fun when your tortillas don't disintegrate into bits the minute you try and pick them up. I have two tacos with kid and girlfriend, and then another one with my husband when he finally arrives home from work at about 9:45 pm. Also a glass of sherry, which I do not quite finish.
At around 9:00, while waiting for my husband to get home, my kid and I drive through the rain to pick up our CSA box. We run up the sidewalk to the house where it is delivered, getting soaked with huge drops of rain, and thunder crashing around us. In the box: big green cabbage, 3 big white onions, 2 heads garlic, 4 cucumbers, 3 summer squash, carrots, leeks... and eggs! Exciting! Says farmer Mike about these eggs: "Eggs always start out mostly on the small side then increase in size as the hens gain experience."
A work day. Breakfast: water with lime, black coffee, smoothie made from almond milk, honey yogurt, peanut butter, hemp protein powder, banana, strawberries, cantaloupe, and swiss chard.
I didn't quite finish my coffee at home, so I have another cup of black coffee at work, followed by a cup of decaf with half and half. By the time I finish that, it is almost time to go home (I don't have a lot of time to stand around and drink!) At home, I have another cup of regular coffee with half and half, and lunch consisting of a leftover taco from last night, with all the fixings except beans, corn and cabbage (those are already gone); raw sliced cucumber and summer squash from the CSA; and a dish of mixed cantaloupe and cherries. Oh, and one little hard-boiled egg, but the CSA eggs are too fresh: I can't peel it without taking most of the white away with the shell.
After lunch, another cup of decaf with half and half.
About 4:30, I've recovered from work and go to Safeway to buy food for our hike, as well as supplies for my husband to use while we're gone. Shopping: Pirate Booty (requested by kid), Wheaties, 2 cans cat food, 3 bags beef jerky, hot cocoa packets, big jug white vinegar, marshmallows, jar of Hershey's chocolate spread, graham crackers, Ritz crackers, Brookside dark chocolate clusters, 2 shrimp-flavored Cup-O-Noodles, 2 rolls paper towels, toilet paper, lactose-free milk, frozen pizza, Amy's frozen lasagna, free-range eggs, 2 cigarette lighters, mini hand sanitizer, rosemary bakery bread, Applegate bacon, nova salmon, bananas, Bing cherries, green grapes, shelled pistachios, Caesar Snapeas, 3 kinds of trail mix, organic baby carrots, strawberries, banana chips, dried apricots, dried broad beans, wasabi chick peas, 2 bags dried banana snacks. $162.
Dinner is a quick affair, conducted in the midst of elaborately packing our gear for tomorrow. 2 little fried eggs each from the CSA farm, really good Applegate bacon, Safeway bakery rosemary sea salt toast with butter, a little mixed fruit (blueberries and apple from the farmer's market, plus strawberries).
I don't finish all my packing and prep-- plus quickly finishing this post-- until 11:30 at night, by which point I am hungry again, so I go to the kitchen and scarf down a leftover strip of bacon and half a glass of the fairly drinkable honey yogurt from the farmer's market. That'll hold me. However, even though it is already late, I have trouble sleeping. I really wanted a good night's sleep before our hike, but instead I probably get a little over five hours, not nearly enough for me. Midnight finds me in the kitchen again, yelling at my husband about waking me up by turning the light on and then drinking straight out of the milk carton, which I have forbidden him to do. My finest moments occur at times like these.
Breakfast: lemon water, coffee, smoothie made from cashew milk, coconut water, plain nonfat yogurt, canned coconut milk, hemp protein powder, strawberries, and banana. This was fairly light and I am hungry again fast. Another cup of decaf afterwards. A slow morning-- I am planning on going, by myself, to a couple of documentaries at the AFI DOCS film festival today.
At the first movie (Obit), I drink a cup of coffee. Usually the theater coffee is stale and muddy, but apparently it is better at 11:30 in the morning than it is at night. Then, in the 45 minutes or so between films, I walk one door down the street to Panera and grab some lunch: a roasted turkey and caramelized kale panini and an apple. I did not end up being excited about the panini. It was okay, but I would not get it again. Then back to the theater (the exact same theater, same row, even) to see Under the Sun. I buy a box of peanut M&Ms and eat them while I watch a travesty unfold onscreen. The official description from the American Film Institute reads: "Given permission by the authorities to film a Pyongyang family, Russian filmmaker Vitaly Mansky soon realized that his government minders were turning his documentary into a highly manipulated fiction. Mansky left the camera running between takes to capture them staging scenes. This controversial, award-winning film is a chilling glimpse behind North Korea's propaganda curtain." The film has really turned into a fascinating documentary about the making of propaganda, as well as the soul-deadening effects on the general populace of being forced to live a false public life, full of simulated emotion.
At home afterwards, another cup of decaf while I struggle to get some work done. This proves unsuccessful; for the second time today, my web editor crashes, and I lose my unsaved work.
Dinner is late, because my husband has to go to a meeting. When he gets home, we have one of those catch-all type dinners: CSA vegetables (beets, the "tronchuda," broccoli) served over rice with a fried egg on top, and a little fruit on the side (honeydew and raspberries). Sometimes you just have to eat food, in its mostly-unadorned state. Oh, and a glass of sherry.
Before bed, I have a little dish of Cascadian Farm oats-and-honey granola with milk. I have the munchies, I guess; craving something sweet or crunchy or both.
Breakfast: lemon water, coffee. My husband ate the remaining bananas in the night and I find there isn't much to put in this morning's smoothie. Smoothie ends up being made of coconut water, almond-coconut milk, whole milk, plain nonfat yogurt, peanut butter, hemp protein powder, and frozen mango. But it is more liquid-y than I'd like-- needs more fruit, and I need to buy some greens. I miss the greens; the depth of flavor is not the same without them. Afterwards I have another cup of decaf and start a new book.
At noontime, after yoga, another cup of regular coffee while I try again to settle down to work. Today I will be more diligent about saving my work constantly. This helps. After a while, I have a working lunch too: leftover leek soup from Wednesday night (I like it better cold!), leftover farm vegetables from last night, mixed peanuts and raisins. And another cup of decaf mid-afternoon.
Shopping (Co-op): organic whole milk, organic lactose-free 2% milk, Field Day organic bran cereal, tortilla chips, unsweetened vanilla almond coconut milk, organic blueberry jam, can cat food, coconut water, can of organic black beans, Tillamook 3-yr. extra sharp cheddar, 2 boxes of tampons, raspberries, strawberries, bananas, 2 avocados, lip balm, 3 local peaches, kale. $66.
I'm meeting my husband for a movie this evening, so we stop by Panera first and have Roasted Turkey and Avocado BLTs and chips. This is one of my favorite Panera sandwiches, and it's healthier than the Steak and White Cheddar Panini, my other favorite. Seriously. It's a great sandwich. Just thinking about it makes me want another one. This is not a sponsored post.
Afterwards, at the movies, I can't resist buying a package of Sour Patch Kids. Actually, I didn't really try to resist. I just bought it.
Breakfast, at 6:30, before a long Saturday shift: lemon water, coffee, smoothie made from almond coconut milk, hemp protein powder, avocado, strawberries, banana, frozen mango chunks, and kale. Much better now with the kale in it.
At work I have a cup of decaf coffee, a cup of regular, and way too many spoonfuls of milkshake (the best was cappuccino malt), as well as almost an entire small glass of strawberry-pineapple juice. Afterwards I bring home "lunch" (at 3:00 pm) for myself and my husband. I have a sandwich that is basically raw veggies and bacon (with plum sauce!) on wheat bread, a few fries, and a little bit of coleslaw; I purposely downsized the sandwich a bit from the "veggie club," skipping one of the pieces of bread and all of the cheese (and substituting real bacon for that gross vegetarian stuff).
I did all this downsizing so that I would not be too full to have something else to eat later. But in fact I am starving by about 5:30, start snacking while my husband is napping. A handful of raspberries, a little bowl of peanuts mixed with very dark chocolate chips. Eventually I get up, pour a glass of sherry, start fixing some dinner: nachos! Except with a twist. I cook some kohlrabi and kale first, and slice up radishes, green cabbage, onion and avocado. Then I spread the chips on a cookie sheet, layer on all those veggies, plus about 2/3 of a small can of black beans, and sprinkle extra-sharp cheddar over the whole thing, not too heavily. Wake up my husband and serve it with green salsa. They are delicious, but I made too much: enough for a big plate for each of us, and about one more serving left over. I put the leftover serving away in the refrigerator, but it continues to call to me all evening. I ask my husband if he wants to share it, but he does not. So, before bed, I warm it up again and eat it all by myself in the den while reading my book. These nachos are so, so good. But I am not happy with myself. Looking down at the rolls of my belly, I vow to start doing better. I have gained back all but one pound that I lost on our cleanse in April.
Sunday; we slow down our breakfast so that we can have lemon water and coffee first, not bother to make smoothies until a bit later. The smoothies are made of almond-coconut milk, coconut water, peanut butter, hemp protein powder, banana, peach, frozen mango, and kale. They taste incredibly sweet this morning, for no real reason that I can ascertain. The peach is certainly not all that good. I have another cup of decaf as we read together on the couch. I drink all the coffee black, in allegiance to my resolve of last night. Fewer calories in, please.
In the late morning, we go out for a quick brunch at Capital City Cheesecake, then to the farmer's market. At Capital City, I get my favorite "veggie bagel" (everything bagel, homemade veggie cream cheese, tomato, and onion), and a redeye coffee with some half and half. A bagel and cream cheese isn't exactly diet food, but I do refrain from ordering a side of chips or an additional pastry, which are things I might sometimes do.
At the farmer's market we buy potatoes, sweet potatoes, Gold Rush apples, carrots, blueberries, cherries, tomatoes, peppers, whole wheat bread, a quart of honey yogurt, swiss chard, fennel, and chives. Total $50.
Later in the afternoon, husband, kid and I all troop down into D.C. to see the documentary Chicken People at the E Street Cinema. Chicken People is a lot of fun. I do not buy candy. I do buy a decaf americano, and since they are out of half and half at the concession (!) I drink it black, again. I eat a few kernels here and there of my kid's popcorn, but it is way over-buttered and not really that tempting. Not bad at all for a movie outing.
I'm careful with portions at dinner. I do have my glass of sherry; also an egg scramble with a little sharp cheddar cheese, shredded carrot, kale, black beans, green pepper, and fresh marjoram; roasted "home fries" with onion; and one slice of whole wheat toast with butter and blueberry jam. This is satisfying and I don't need a second piece of toast, or too many potatoes. I do wish I'd left the marjoram out of the eggs, where the flavor is overwhelming, and perhaps put it in the potatoes instead.
Back to our usual sorts of breakfast. Lemon water, coffee, smoothie made from coconut water, vanilla yogurt, hemp protein powder, almond butter, frozen peaches, frozen strawberries, and iceberg lettuce. Not my favorite (too much iciness between the fruit and the lettuce), but my husband especially liked it. He is reporting feeling a post-smoothie queasiness that could be about blood sugar. I am responding by cutting back the sweetness in our morning smoothies-- no more lemonade and fruit juice bases for a while. My kid, on the other hand, will be disappointed. They were guzzling juice as fast as I could bring it into the house.
Later in the morning, we practiced setting up our new tent and using the new campstove.
Morning shopping (Co-op): organic lactose-free 2% milk, coconut water, peanut butter, 2 fresh mozzarella balls, organic cashew milk, organic flour tortillas, Cascadian Farms Ancient Grains cereal, pepperjack cheese, honeydew melon, organic portabello mushroom spaghetti sauce, 2 boneless pork chops, green salsa, can coconut milk, large can black beans, bananas, cilantro, 3 roma tomatoes, raspberries, strawberries. $64.
Just before lunchtime, I go to the mall to try on a few more backpacks and shop for clothes. While there, I take a lunch break at the Panera in the mall. Coffee is my number one priority, but I also want a sandwich. Somehow I am seduced by their limited-edition Lobster Roll, with a $17 price tag (at least I pay cash for it). Is it worth it? Well, if you are measuring purely in terms of quantity of lobster, it probably is. There is a TON of lobster, giant chunks, in my roll, and little filler in the form of mayo or lettuce. Lovers of lobster rolls may be satisfied. Do I derive twice the pleasure from it as I would from a normal sandwich, for instance the roast turkey and caramelized kale panini I was considering? Doubtful. I have an apple on the side. A $20 lunch, for myself only, at the mall. What kind of self-indulgence is this? But I read my hard-boiled Scottish crime novel and drink my coffee and am reasonably happy.
At home again after buying an excess of cardigans at H&M, it is time for some decaf and settling down to work with my laptop.
Dinnertime finds me trying to make a decent soft taco, in order to erase the memory of Saturday night's Mexican Fiasco. I chop up some boneless pork chops and marinate them briefly in hot sauce and spices, then brown the meat with some onions. Season (similarly) and heat some canned black beans. The kid does not eat pork. Other fixings: chopped tomatoes, shredded iceberg lettuce, grated pepperjack cheese, chopped cilantro, green salsa, bottled hot sauce. Some warm flour tortillas, build-your-own. This simple dinner, in its infinite variety, is always much appreciated by my family. On this particular occasion, I didn't go to a lot of effort; there are fancier versions. Even this basic and relatively boring version was so much better than what we had at that restaurant.
I will note again that one Google review calls Jalisco Mexican restaurant in New Market "the best darn food, probably, in this part of rural Virginia."
Oh, and I had a glass of red wine with dinner. Now that bottle is finally gone.
Same old, same old breakfast. Lemon water, coffee, smoothie. The smoothie is good, uncomplicated, like a Slimfast breakfast drink. Coconut water, cashew milk, vanilla yogurt, hemp protein powder, canned coconut milk, banana, strawberries. Maybe it doesn't sound uncomplicated. But it is. Also, the lack of greens make it an actual pale pink instead of army green or mud-brown. I don't get a chance to finish my coffee before I have to go out.
Back midmorning, I have some decaf, then some more regular, and then some more regular again around lunchtime. After which I have lunch. Lunch is leftover pasta from last Thursday night with a tiny bit of grated parmesan (kid has used most of it, left the rind in the fridge); also, a slice of stale whole wheat bakery toast with butter and lingonberry jam.
Midafternoon, I cannot handle any more coffee, so I have a cup of Pero with half and half, try to do some planning for our backpacking trip while listening to hail and thunder outside.
As dinnertime approaches, and especially after a late afternoon yoga class, I am really hungry-- have a few salted cashews, scarf down some honeydew melon while I am slicing it for dinner, drink a glass of white wine. Dinner itself is spaghetti again: sauce from the jar, but lots of fresh basil and sliced fresh mozzarella dress it up a little bit. Honeydew melon on the side, which I realize does not match at all. Just trying to feed my family; but there's been too much pasta lately. Our carb intake is through the roof.
In the evening, we walk over to the neighbor's to pick up our CSA box. It is a really good one this time! Giant leeks (see photo), tiny cabbages (see other photo), a few giant leaves of something I cannot identify (farmer says it is "tronchuda" or "Portuguese cabbage." Most vendors seem to refer to this as a variety of kale, but to me it looked somewhere between Swiss chard and collards), marjoram, broccoli, kohlrabi, beets, radishes, 4 gorgeous red onions, garlic. I miss the strawberries but they cannot last forever.
Work day, typical breakfast. Lemon water, coffee, smoothie made from cashew milk, plain nonfat yogurt, hemp protein powder, peanut butter, strawberries, and honeydew melon.
I have a cup of decaf coffee at work, but it takes me the entire shift to finish it; too busy. So, when I get home at 2:45, I have a lot of catching up to do. Coffee, a Q ginger soda, lunch consisting of leftover spaghetti from last night, 6 saltine crackers, about 3 cashews. Yep, we need to find something besides carbs to eat. While having lunch, I look up leek soup recipes online. Preferably ones that use up a TON of leeks. I choose this one.
Still in workplace recovery mode, I have another cup of decaf, black this time, because we are out of half and half and I haven't been to the store yet.
Shopping (Co-op): organic whole milk, golden raisins, decaf coffee, organic frozen mangos, creme fraiche, sponges, half & half, carton of almond coconut milk, 3 rolls toilet paper, organic spinach, bananas, raw peanuts, pull-apart challah rolls, white cage-free eggs, fresh tarragon, 2 lemons. $64.
For dinner, I have to do something about these outrageous leeks that came into our lives last night. The leek soup recipe I chose off the internet is pretty plain, really-- lots of leeks softened in butter, thickened with rice (instead of potato), a lot of raw spinach blended in at the end, with a garnish of creme fraiche and tarragon (no chives were available at my local store). I don't bother to strain the soup to eliminate all spinach bits. Neither do many of the commenters on the original recipe. We are sane people with lives.
Along with the soup, I make a slaw out of some of the other CSA vegetables: a tiny cabbage head, shredded, with grated radish and kohlrabi. The dressing is my standard slaw dressing: olive oil, apple cider vinegar, a little mayonnaise, honey, salt and pepper.
Neither of these swell items has much in the way of calories, so we also have some challah rolls with butter. And I have a glass of sherry. And another half a challah roll with butter just before bed.
The first day of our mini-break! We have an ordinary breakfast: lemon water, coffee, smoothie. After getting kid squared away and packing ourselves, more decaf coffee for the road. And off in the direction of Shenandoah National Park.
We arrive at lunchtime, too early to stop into our hotel room. So we scout out the small town of Luray, VA for someplace to eat, and end up at what is clearly the town's trendy hotspot: a combination coffeehouse/restaurant called "The Gathering Grounds." All small-town coffee-houses are required to make some kind of pun on the word "grounds." The clientele is an odd mix of student-types with laptops and elderly couples having a staid sandwich. Everyone is white, though, which is something that, after some years living just outside of DC, we now notice and remark upon. A sea of whiteness-- which I got used to after some years living in Montana-- now makes me feel uncomfortable, as though something potentially sinister were going on. We order coffee and chicken salad sandwiches; I have potato chips. The food is fine, the coffee terrible, even though it is most likely the best coffee in town.
We take a pleasant afternoon stroll along Luray's outstanding riverside walkways-- huge investments have been made here in green space and beautification, despite the tiny size of the town. There are more murals here in a small radius than practically anywhere else I have ever been. There are lots of ducks and other waterfowl-- a least bittern is there, and a black-crowned night heron, and a duck that I try and try to identify, but which does not seem to exist. Finally this helps (thanks, Cornell). Some kind of mallard-y hybrid, I reckon. And yet it looked like a totally plausible wild duck.
When 4:00 rolls around, we go check out our cabin, which I can whole-heartedly recommend. For $95/night, there is a medium-sized bedroom (decorated with artificial flowers and teddy bears by someone's great-grandma, but no matter), a large bathroom with skylight, a small hallway/closet area with full-sized coffee pot, refrigerator, and real mugs... and not one, but two porches!-- a sunny front porch looking out on the parking lot (the only place where the wifi works well), and a lovely shaded back porch facing a burbling stream and, on the other side of the stream, forest. We buy coffees (decaf for me) in the hotel restaurant, and spend some time resting, hanging out on the back porch, enjoying the set-up. I mentioned, when I reserved the cabin, that we were celebrating our 5th anniversary, and the staff have left us an assortment of tiny "gift shop"-type gifts, including a Virginia shot glass decorated all over with little hearts.
We are not ready for dinner until what turns out to be late for Luray-- on a Friday night, lots of places seem to close at 8:00, or even earlier. We end up at a place called "Mok-N-She's" (a pun, I guess?) whose crowded parking lot makes it look popular, and general festooning with American flags strikes us as potentially alarming. However, Mok-N-She's turns out to be friendly, tasty, and cheap. We both eat BBQ sandwiches, topped with coleslaw, and french fries, and enjoy the heck out of them. From here on out, every restaurant meal we eat in the Luray area costs precisely $19-and-change (plus tip) for two people. (Hip "Gathering Grounds" cost us a few dollars more.) There is an artificial flower on the table in an American-flag pattern, and an artificial Christmas tree behind me covered in American-flag ornaments. My husband keeps mentioning, hopefully, that Flag Day just passed, but these things look like permanent fixtures to me.
Home to bed, all full of middle-American fried food and charm.
We sleep in a little, drink hotel-coffeemaker coffee on our back porch in the dappled morning sunshine. It is lovely. It's around 10:30 before we mosey on over to the hotel restaurant for some breakfast. We're kind of overwhelmed by yesterday's consumption of heavy food, so we have breakfasts on the lighter side: for me, 2 eggs, toast (homemade!), a fruit cup, decaf coffee. Then we have the restaurant ladies pack up some bag lunches for the road, and head into Shenandoah NP.
Driving, beautiful overlooks and vistas, a brief stroll here and there, a cup of good coffee-- at last!-- from the Park concession at Skyland. We eat our lunches late, around 3:00, sitting on boulders near the Crescent Rock Overlook. Mine is a turkey sandwich-- made from real, thick-sliced roast turkey, with lettuce and tomato, but unfortunately NOT on homemade bread this time but some kind of supermarket white bread that gums up and sticks to my teeth. Little sandwich baggie of ripple chips. An orange that turns out to be secretly rotten. An apple-cinnamon Nutrigrain bar (my mom would be so pleased). When we ordered our lunches, which had been billed as "sandwich, chips, fruit and drink," the waitress said in a worried voice, "I'm not sure if we have any candy bars left." We quickly assured her that it was ok, we didn't need any candy bars! But apparently these Nutrigrain bars were offered as a substitute. I hadn't been planning on eating mine, but when my orange was bad I needed something as solace.
After lunch, a wander around Big Meadows, then back towards our cabin for a rest before dinner. We hang out on the porch, read, fall asleep. Concerned that everything will be closing again, I wake my husband a little after 7 to go forage for dinner. This time we drive to the next town, New Market, another 14 miles away, scout out all the nearby restaurants, and choose-- my husband chooses, I'll put the responsibility on him-- the Jalisco Mexican restaurant, which also has the advantage of being open until a sophisticated 10:30 on this Saturday night. As it turns out, my city-boy husband has never in his life been to a small-town Mexican restaurant and doesn't know the risks; but, in his defense, the place does appear to be run by genuine Hispanic people. There's a big free basket of standard fried tortilla chips, salsa that seems unusually mild, and the odd addition of a little dish of coleslaw to dip your chips into. Nothing unpleasant, even though the idea of coleslaw with chips is an unusual one. I add some habanero sauce to the slaw, and that improves the situation. My husband orders a burrito platter (one chicken and one beef burrito), and I order soft tacos with carne asada. The tacos are served (strangely, I think) with a choice of either lettuce and cheese or cilantro and onion. Why not all of the above? But I choose cilantro and onion, and my waitress nods approval, telling me "they're good that way" in a tone that suggests few people are so in-the-know. Then she proceeds to deliver tacos with lettuce and cheese instead, with an impassive expression that suggests there is no point in complaining. The "carne asada" seems entirely unseasoned, except for salt. There is no flavor whatsoever. I load them up with some more salsa (from the chips) and some habanero sauce (I don't typically use habanero sauce, but it wasn't very spicy either). These tacos are one of the blandest things I have ever eaten.
Meanwhile, my husband, who is really not very picky about food quality, seems stunned by his burritos. One is full of unseasoned shredded chicken and nothing else (except for the lettuce, cheese, sauce, and sour cream on the outside). The other is filled with some kind of oily ground beef. Much worse than my meal, but I feel his pain: I have eaten burritos like this before, in other small towns, in other times. To some extent, it is a matter of local taste rather than restaurant quality; for instance, the most recent Yelp review of this restaurant reads "My friend, Brad, and I stopped at this place on our way through to town. I had probably one of the best burritos in my life." Unless this review is intended as some kind of sick joke, I have to conclude that some people like this kind of aggressively bland cuisine. The check comes to $19.
I promise to make it up to my husband by taking him to the outdoor frozen custard place we saw on our way into New Market. There is a long line. The people in front of us have a couple of restless kids and are controlling them by grabbing arms and twisting. The vehicles in the parking lot are all massive. Everybody is ordering elaborate, often colorful menu items, many of which I cannot identify. Eventually we get our plain old custards-- a small vanilla cone for me, the plainest there is. Then we sit on a reeking bench outside a cigarette store that's closed for the night, and eat them. It is nice. But we are eager to go back to Luray. New Market just doesn't have the same friendly vibe.
Sunday morning; we're going home today. We have last coffees on our sylvan back porch. Late in the morning, one more stop at the Brookside hotel restaurant. We both have ham-and-egg scrambles (they also contain potatoes) with biscuits on the side. I have butter and honey on my biscuits. More coffee. Check: $19.
We are sad to leave the Brookside. While we are checking out, the owner asks us whether we have seen any bears wandering around behind the cabins. We haven't.
I have planned a long, meandering drive home, because I like that sort of thing. When we get back, my stepson will be coming for dinner in honor of Father's Day. So we stop at a farm stand, not far from Point of Rocks, MD, to pick up a few veggies. I buy sugar snap peas, a tomato, a red pepper, broccoli, and an entire large basil plant. We also buy a pie for dessert: apple walnut. Total cost $31.
Dinner is to be simple, given that we're coming home at 4:30, having a guest at 6:00. I roast a few vegetables for better flavor-- broccoli, red pepper, tomato-- then saute these with garlic, onion, sugar snap peas, and lots of fresh basil. At the same time cook spaghetti noodles. Combine all together with tons of shredded parmesan. Voila, balanced meal. Also a side salad of mixed lettuces, cilantro, and tomato, with a balsamic vinaigrette. Glass of white wine. Plus a Q ginger soda before dinner. Also, apple walnut pie, which is surprisingly good (you never know with "homemade" pies), and decaf coffee.
I had every intention of putting together an assemblage something like this one from Huffington Post, in which mostly male pundits complained about Hillary Clinton's voice quality last night during and after her acceptance of the nomination.
In fact, after watching the speech myself, I arose while saying to my husband, "I think she did pretty well! But just wait, people are going to be complaining about her facial expressions." You see, after the first few minutes (during which Clinton had smiled almost frantically, in a way that actually did bug me because of its manifest artificiality), Hillary settled back into her own speaking style, complete with occasional frowns and (at the climax of her speech) intense, flashing eyes. Now, don't get me wrong. I"m perfectly aware that, in a male speaker, an air of seriousness and an aura of intensity would be viewed as wholly appropriate, even charismatic. But how often have we heard from pundits that Hillary Clinton should smile more? I was afraid the same criticisms would instantly reappear.
(People all know that the smile originates with apes as a submissive signal, right? We smile, first and foremost, to demonstrate our non-aggression with each other. Friendliness. But we might want to pause before insisting that women, especially, must consistently telegraph their submissiveness. Any other waitresses out there been nudged by older male customers to "smile!" Does this happen to you much, male servers? How about you, white male presidents?)
So, I worried. And I assumed. And I figured today I would look around at responses to Clinton's speech, and easily gather more material nitpicking at her face, voice, clothing, and general demeanor than could possibly be assimilated into a short discussion of sexism in political commentary.
Of course, these sexist, superficial responses do exist. On the Politico page where Hillary's remarks are printed in full, the very first comment (by a woman, no less!) reads, "Why does the poor old hag keep having to clear her throat?"
Um, maybe she's giving a long speech in a large arena and could use a glass of water. Poor old hag.
Unsurprisingly, the conservative press does not leave us without plenty of examples of this crap. The National Review's article about her convention speech called her presentation "her usual hectoring." A commenter on this piece revisited the "hag" meme: "The more Hillary speaks the more her poll numbers drop. Nobody wants a Hag in chief."
Apparently, the press has by now been called out so often for these misogynist attitudes that the National Review felt the need to write a separate defense of why their attacks on Clinton's voice and personality are not sexist. Their next article, "Hillary's Critics Don't Hate Her Because She's a Woman," (subtitle: "They Hate Her Because She's Hillary") begins with the sentence, "Hillary Clinton has a heinous, grating, and dissonant voice." But, the author argues, the fact that he has at times enjoyed the speeches of other women (Michelle Obama; Laura Ingraham; Sarah Palin) makes it impossible for sexism to be present in his critique. Hillary, in his view, is simply uniquely "unappetizing." (Just think about that word choice for a bit. Let's imagine, reader, that you are a Democrat who abhorred George W. Bush. Would you describe him as "unappetizing?" Or would you perhaps choose some other term that did not suggest he was a dish to be consumed?)
So... because Michelle Obama has an amazing talent for smiling widely while she speaks (a fact that I noted on Monday night, and immediately realized that this alone might account for her much greater popularity as First Lady)... does this then mean that requiring successful women to smile while speaking is not sexist? If you enjoy the dulcet tones of some women's speech and find another's to be "hectoring" and "lecturing," indeed "grating" and "heinous" (yet rarely comment on the vocal quality of men's delivery), does this mean that your vocal requirements for women are not sexist?
Or perhaps it's not that you hate women; it's that you hate women who don't act according to your sense of proper womanliness. From the comments section: "Part of why we hate her is because she is not a woman, Her ruthlessness makes Dick Cheney seem like Richard Simmons." So much to unpack here. Why bring poor Richard Simmons into it? With apologies to him, obviously this means "Hillary Clinton is so masculine that she could emasculate a tough guy like Dick Cheney."
Or, one can just keep it simple: "Hillary is as ugly as the bottom of an outhouse pit." Sounds like Trump channeling to me.
Okay, but here's where things get better. Up until now I have been (mostly) citing the articles and comments section of a markedly right-wing publication. Honestly, what would you expect to find? So, my plan for the second half of this piece was to head on over to the liberal blogs, where (in my admittedly outdated experience) plenty of misogynistic Clinton-haters also hang out, and find them saying the Same. Damn. Things.
Only they weren't.
Daily Kos, where I practically lived for 4 years from 2004-2008 (I met my husband there!), can always be counted on to have a substantial and loud contingent who support Hillary, and an equally substantial and loud contingent who support the Other Guy (in 2008, that was Obama; in this case, Bernie). That is still true, I think. But here are some things that the former Bernie supporters were saying about Clinton's speech:
What an amazing week. The four days gave people time to celebrate Bernie and the platform (and Clinton herself) commits to significant progressive priorities that will benefit so many. And I thought her speech last night was her best ever. [...] I'm (still) a Sanders supporter and (also) all in for Hillary.
I thought the convention was an incredible success and I enjoyed watching every minute of it. I am still sad about Bernie’s loss but I plan to volunteer for Hillary, which I was planning to do before the convention. After the convention I know more about Hillary and I’m very proud and excited that we will elect the first woman president in November [...] The speeches were amazing[...] Hillary’s speech was the topper. I’m so proud of her and of this country.
...Hillary has not shoved the left out the door at all. Her speech outlined a very progressive agenda which included a good portion of Bernie’s message along with some ideas as to how to combat income inequality. Hillary heard their voices during the primary, she needs help putting their plans into action and not being shouted down. [...] Protest is important when your voice isn’t heard. Once someone starts to listen, you need to be willing to come to the table with plans.
I was a late comer to the Hilliary campaign, having been a Bernie supporter with the intention of supporting the Democratic nominee should he not prevail. [...] So, I came into the Convention backing Hilliary as the Democratic nominee, not as the first woman nominated by a major party nominee. Yet, as the Convention aired night after night, I found myself in awe of our Party; our diversity, our passion, our determination, our pride in, and love for, our current President & First Family and Vice President & Second Family, our current Presidential & Vice Presidential nominees & their families, and of America, our great country.[...] You guessed it, by the time Chelsea had finished her wonderfully warm and loving introduction of her mother, I was bawling like a baby. I am no longer an unwilling backer of Hilliary Clinton. Deal me in.
I am voting for Hillary, not the lesser of two evils, because my party showed me who she really is, warts and all.
In browsing through hundreds of comments there, I did not see one that referred to Hillary Clinton as a hag or a bitch, or even expressed "concern" about her voice or face or carriage. And I can tell you, THAT IS REAL PROGRESS.
Someone did refer to Megyn Kelly as "a tool," which, while an ad hominem attack, is at least not sexist.
Returning to a broader media scope: I browsed a great many mainstream press pieces about Clinton's acceptance speech. Apart from the National Review, almost all of them focused on the content of her speech. Maybe they were effectively shamed back in March, when even the likes of USA Today pointed out that male pundits were focusing disproportionately on her unfeminine delivery. But, whatever the reason, they have done much better today, and, America, that is something to be proud of.
Maybe this country really is ready for a female president.
The author is a waitress, home cook, and foodie who has trouble sticking to a subject. She currently resides and works in the Maryland suburbs of D.C..