beginnings

Things are really starting to pile up around here — sewing projects, that is.  That’s because I’ve got Beginner’s Disease.  Heard of it?  I have 8 different half-finished sewing projects in my sewing basket and that’s not counting the other 8-or-so I have swimming around in my brain, all with the silly “deadline” of Orlis’ birthday in a week and a half.  Ha!  Do you have this problem?  And did you see the photo of my car trunk loaded up with batting, stuffing, pillows, and foam?  That’s from my recent trip to Fabric Depot – it’s like CostCo for crazy women who want to sew everything, like me.  I loved it there.

The thing is, I just adore the beginning.  Those moments when you are cutting out the pattern or laying out the quilt top or choosing the fabrics and the scent of possibility just works it’s magic — moving my mind and my fingers quickly because I am so excited to see how this thing will look — those moments are priceless.  And addictive, as I can see.  I’ve got big plans.  A birthday teepee in the works, a toddler-sized artist’s smock (from Little Things to Sew) a couple of mini wall-hangings for my office/studio, some pillows for a reading nook in the works, some floor cushions for…I-don’t-know-where-yet, and a dress-up bucket from Growing Up Sew Liberated.  Oh yeah, and a baby quilt that just needs an hour of my attention to be complete.  You’d think I would just plop myself in front of a B movie and go to town with a needle and thread and check a few things off the ole’ list, wouldn’t you?  But why — when I could enter that Beginning Frenzy when the project is at its most exciting and I haven’t yet stitched anything that I have to rip out and redo yet?  I do love to pile things into the sewing basket.  That way, I’ve always got options.  And if any friends or family members who particularly love to hand-sew come over and want to get their zen on, I have a basket of goodies (and no pride about it) awaiting them.  And in the meanwhile, it’s Monday right?  I’ve got all week.

 

And by the way, here’s Peter Berley’s Asian Cucumber Salad that  I promised you:  (love that man)

2 (4-inch) pieces of dried wakame seaweed

2 lbs Asian or Kirby cucumbers, unpeeled, very thinly sliced.  (get yourself a mandolin if you don’t already have one — but BE CAREFUL when you use it)

1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks or shredded

1 tbs coarse sea salt

2 tbs rice vinegar

2 tbs lemon juice

1 tsp sugar

2 tsp toasted sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Soak the wakame in 2 cups of water and set aside until it is soft, about 15 minutes.  Place a colander inside a bowl.  Put the cucumber and carrot in the colander and toss with the salt.  Refrigerate for 15 minutes.  Combine the vinegar, lemon juice, and sugar in a small bowl, and whisk until the sugar dissolves.  Stir in the sesame oil and chile.  Squeeze out the excess moisture from the cucumbers and carrots and transfer them to a salad bowl.  Drain the wakame and trim off any tough rib portions.  Chop the wakame into bite-size pieces and add it to the salad along with the vinaigrette.  Toss well and serve immediately, or chill for 15 minutes beforehand.

Make it tonight — it’s so good.

 

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Food: The Love Factor

The Official Book of the Month, my friends, is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  It’s slaying me, as my friend Abby would say.  (If I read half as much as Abby, I’d have three honorary doctorates right now, but that’s another blogpost).   I’ll allow you two tries — that’s what it took for me.  The 1st time I picked it up, it seemed altogether too celebratory about a topic that is actually an international health, food, and farming crisis.  The fact that it doesn’t take the kind of tone we humans reserve for crises, had me a bit skeptical.  Where were all the scary statistics?  The fear-based arguments?  Where was the anger?  The blaming?  Don’t they want me to feel like an idiot for eating what I’ve been eating my whole life?  9 months ago, I put this book down after 15 pages…and then along came the intelligent voters of my book club, and alas, here I am reading and absolutely adoring it.  In what context is timing (and, perhaps, mandate) not everything?

steam

delayed gratification

So, request it at your library.  Grab a copy of it used.  Or, borrow mine when I’m done.  I think it’s even out in paperback now.  Just promise me you’ll read it this summer, because, let’s face it — summer is when the bounty is highest.

I’m not going to make this blogpost a book report, so go ahead and keep reading.  In fact, I’m not going to attempt to sum up the beautiful and most compelling argument this book makes about what to eat and when.  Barbara Kingsolver, even on a bad day, could persuade me to consume copious amounts of dog vomit, and convince me it was tasty, with her lovely turn of phrase.  You’re going to read the book this summer anyway — you already promised — so I don’t need to restate what’s already been said so well.

This is what I do need to say:  Food!  The Love Factor. All this talk about food — what’s in it? what’s not?  where’d it come from? who touched it? where did it spend its adolescence? how far did it travel before I bought it? how many precious fossil fuels were used? who’s selling it? who’s reaping the major reward here?  gets me, truly it does.  The who, what, when, where, and why of food production has dramatically altered the way I shop and eat.  If I could talk about food politics as beautifully as our gal, Babs Kingsolver, I’d get on my soapbox too.

Barbara is held in high esteem

Barbara is held in high esteem

And at the same time, there’s a central point I want to drive homeMake fresh and healthy food at home, from scratch, because that way you can put love in it. You read me right — love.  I’m talking about an ingredient that can’t be measured — whose impact can never be made statistical.  Love.  We need love in our food.  Why?  Because, we are what we eat, my friends.  Foodlove heals, fills, and nourishes in a way empty, processed, calories never can and never will. This is one of life’s tastiest mysteries.

is there love in there?

is there love in there?

What I’m really talking about is an old thing I’ll call “The Grandma Effect.”  Why does the food Grandma makes taste so good?  Why is it so healing?   Because there is actually love in it.  Cups and pints of it.  Now, I don’t mean to be cryptic or cute.  I realize I’m stating an obvious thing — and yet, we get away from it.  We — so many of us — fill our lives with Costco frozen appetizers and Krispy Kreme platters and call it a party.  In the meanwhile, we are starving for foodlove.

3 ingredients

3 ingredients

I want to break it down this way: There are two kinds of love found in food:
1. Active Love. Active Love is simply — just doing it.  It means I care enough about you to go to some effort.    This is the one Grandma may not even realize she’s doing because she doesn’t know it any other way.  This is the Love that implies we know and understand where our food comes from.  We respect it, and want to use it well — do it right.  This is the Love that means we make the time because someone is coming over to our home to share a meal.  We get our hands wet; dirty up some dishes; start at the beginning.  The Active Love involved in making something from scratch sends this message: “Your presence here is important to me.  I want to take care of you.  I made this with my own two hands.” Simple as that, whether you are making a 3-ingredient fruit salad or a 3-day, 3-layer cake.

making dough

active love

Barbara Kingsolver takes it many steps further, and with good reason.  I don’t want to put words in her mouth, but the love theme runs rampant in this book!  The farmers love their crops and their customers and the land enough to treat them all right.  The vegetables and animals love their lives.  The cooks and gardeners love the satisfaction that only comes from hard work and a sense of ownership.  And, of course, the eaters love the results.  Wholesome.  Homegrown.  Homemade.  Garden.  Farmer. Harvesting.  From Scratch.  Don’t those words alone make you want to roll out some dough?

The Love Quotient runs high in the Kingsolver kitchen because Barbara and her family take the concept of eating locally to a whole new (actually, very old) level.  They befriend their local farmers, harvest their own chickens, can, pickle, make cheese, and mostly grow their own.  They truly eat with the seasons — waiting all year for those 6 weeks when their asparagus plants sprout, and then eat asparagus like they’ll never eat it again…and they won’t, for about 46 weeks.

communal cooking

communal cooking

The philosophy is this: by the time it’s no longer “in season” you are sick of eating it anyway, and a year later, you can’t wait to bite into it again.  Delayed satisfaction.  Quality and Simplicity.  Hard Work. Well, wrap an American Flag around me — aren’t those the kind of values our country was founded on?  Why does this make the love quotient higher?  Because it brings the earth into the equation. It sings the praises of nature — the way it provides for us (with a little canning and hoarding through the winter thrown in) which, inevitably imbues our lives with a sense of abundance and perfect order.  Eating locally means taking care of everyone — that’s love.

intentional love

intentional love

2.  Intentional Love. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle doesn’t cover this kind of love, hence my need to write this blogpost.  Once you have started making something from scratch (Step 1) Intentional Love means actually putting love into the dish (Step 2).  Mindfully put it there, as you are stirring, chopping, or frying.  Love it.  Think about who will eat it.  Put your own unique healing powers into the soup or the souffle by simply taking a moment to want them there.  Infuse the food with your own intentions.  (This is the Grandma Effect, Part II, I assure you.)

"There's so much love in the room, I can hardly stand it!"

"There's so much love in the room, I can hardly stand it!"

Alas, my friends, the message here is simple.  It doesn’t matter what you are making — just make it from scratch.  Stay home.  Have people over.  Feed them.  Nourish them.  Go to a bit of trouble for them. Love them. Put your whole heart into it.  I promise, it will taste amazing.  Is there absolutely anything in the world we need more, as human beings, than to feed each other?

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