Friday, August 21, 2009

Be where you are

One of my favorite concepts (and practices) is that of eating place-based foods. Place-based foods are those that have a deep connection to the land where they grow. That connection is a physical one, as well as a historic one, and it is reflected in the taste, look, feel, and culture of the food.

Last weekend I spent my birthday--a milestone one, they say--on the North Fork of Long Island, and I focused my activities and my eating on place-based traditions.

I went wine-tasting and swirled in my mouth the product of the relatively new grape growing traditions of the East End. On the island only certain varieties grow well, and as a result, the menus are populated by Chardonnays and Merlots, with some Gruners and Rieslings mixed in. You don't go to Long Island to drink Pinot Grigio; be where you are. Drink where you are.

I ate corn. Lots of it. The North Fork's sweet summer corn is outstanding, and extra good when grilled in its husks by your big brother (hypothetically speaking, of course). I ate homemade lobster rolls, made with local lobster--Una's recipe, via Ethan, and outstandingly simple and good. Also, local wild striped bass, more than once, and tomatoes, tomatoes tomatoes (blight be damned). There were no local peaches, because it turns out all those peaches at Union Square all come from Jersey. So, I guess you don't go to Long Island to eat peaches; be where you are. Eat where you are.

And the birthday thing: I think I am meant to be scared by this birthday, by the fact that I haven't figured out my whole life yet, by the fact that I am getting older and nobody lives forever. But instead I walked on the beach, and I rode bikes with my friends, experiencing what it must feel like to be a kid in the suburbs, learning to feel comfortable on a bike, thrilling at the freedom of exploring the neighborhood, tooling around with your buddies, baking in the hot sun.

My birthday mantra: maintain a place-based tradition. Be where you are.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Julie & Julia

6 years ago, after reading an article about it in the NY Times, I checked out a blog called "The Julie/Julia Project."  It was my first time reading a food blog, and I was sucked in from the start.

At the time, I myself was sitting in a cubicle, half in my body, half outside of it--working on theatre projects, writing plays at my computer.  Also, I was reading blogs, many of them, and after beginning with Julie Powell's, most of them were about food.

Tonight I watched the movie version of Julie Powell's food epiphany, how Julia Child--and writing about it--pulled her out from under the metaphorical waves as she (metaphorically) drowned.  It gave me the opportunity to think about the time that's passed since I read her blog, and since I started mine.  

I was on the heels of a break up with a boy, and on the verge of a break up with my life as I knew it.  Since then a lot has changed: I am grateful for what I have figured out since then, and a bit baffled by the things I still haven't. 

For Julie and for Julia both, the journey was one in which they discovered the joy they find in food--and me, too, I suppose.  Why do I cook? At the end of an exhausting Avant Garde Restaurant run, 330 meals later, that joy is the only reason that has any legs. 

In the meantime, my blog hasn't landed me a book deal, but it did help me find my food voice, and maybe helped build the bridge for me from where I was, to where I was headed.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

52 Small Bites

The brilliant Amy has a new blog called "52 Bites; a site to help change the way you eat." She, along with everyone else I know, recently moved down South and has been exploring how to eat fresh and local on a budget, in a place that isn't totally obsessed with fresh and local like her old home (Seattle) was.

It's a nuts and bolts guide and breaks down menu planing in a way I find really helpful. I myself go to the farmers market, grab random things that look tasty, then scramble about to turn them into meals. I shop at the supermarket haphazardly and overwhelmed and then do crazy blog-fueled experiments like "Eating down my larder."

Amy is here to help.

As she describes the new venture: "Weekly advice on changing the way you eat over the course of a year. Healthier, cleaner, kinder, better - and without breaking the bank."

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Doing things a little bit weird

This summer I learned to ride a bike.  Most regular folks learn to do this in childhood and then spend their days as a youngster, tween, teen etc. tooling around the neighborhood on their hoopties, getting into trouble and feeling the freedom that comes with having their own set of wheels.

What was I waiting for?  It turns out that not only is it easy but it's crazy fun.  I remember I finally tried a mango when I was 21 years old and I couldn't stop kicking myself for waiting so long.  All those years of missed mango eating! Sheesh!

Here I am again, whooping it up on the bike and kicking myself at the same time. 34.5 missed years of bike riding! I might be the stupidest person I know. Or, I guess I just do things a little bit weird.

A BLT is a classic, but because I guess I like to do things a little weird, tonight I made something I'll call:

BLT in a bowl
  • Several varieties (different colors, shapes, sizes) of summer tomatoes
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Bacon
  • Summer corn
  • oil
  • baslamic vinegar
  • salt
  • pepper
Cut up tomatoes and dress with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper
Cook the corn and scrape the kernels from the cob
Rinse and then chiffonade the basil leaves
Fry up thick cut bacon (or, like me, random bacon chunks left over from sliced bacon, sold by Flying Pigs Farm) and slice it up
Toss everything together
Eat with a spoon