Category Archives: Roots

Family Therapy.

Last week marked the fifth anniversary of my father’s death. Part of me can’t believe it’s been five years; the other part of me can’t believe it’s only been five years: It feels like yesterday, and an eternity ago. When my phone rings on Friday afternoons, I still half-expect him to be on the other end of the line, wishing me a happy Friday — as he did every week, pretty much, from when I left for college until he went into the hospital that final time. When I hung pictures in my apartment a few days ago, I heard his voice telling me to measure twice and hammer once; when I found a note on the back of one of those prints, in his inimitable handwriting, with birthday greetings for a year with “a pure silver lining,” I cried as if I’d lost him all over again. The enormous, overwhelming unfairness of it still just floors me.

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I miss him, every day. Not as brutally as I did those first couple of years, and for that I’m grateful, but the ache is constant. I’m usually alone on his yahrzeit — previously, I’ve marked the occasion with too many martinis and/or Manhattans — but this year, my mother and I spent the weekend together at the beach. I hope it’ll be a new tradition.

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Summer Startup.

Like many New Yorkers of the non-born-and-raised variety, I have a love-hate relationship with this city. I love the conveniences, the variety and diversity, the fact that you can find pretty much anything you could ever possibly need (and many things you wouldn’t) at any given tiny, jam-packed bodega; I hate the expense, and the lack of both personal space and trees. In order to keep what little degree of sanity I have left, I need regular doses of green, preferably with as few people around as possible.


Enter the weekend camping trip.

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Of God and Salads.

My interest in food that originates from the ground (and not, let’s say, the teet or the slaughterhouse) is relatively new. I remember interviewing a coworker about her favorite types of food and typing, with disgust, that she loves Spring and Summer because of the wares from her garden. She was team veggie. I was team butter-rosemary-garlic-chicken-pork. Especially pork.

Two things changed. First, this damn locavore movement. I’d made some recent life decisions that propelled me from everything I’d known for three years. (I left a church.) Somehow I knew that my next step in life would involve community and food. I whimpered a few blocks over to my friend Susan (a master of both) who thrust that Pollan book into my hands. I’d be studying a new gospel.

Second, a prescription. Over the years, my experimentation with fresh produce brought me to an understanding with the Lord that heartburn and itchy lips were a sign from above that I should not veer from my butter-rosemary-garlic-chicken-pork diet. In an act of defiance, I stumbled from my faith in pork and tried modern science. And my doctor giveth me Prilosec. And I was happy. (And fatter; not only could I consume tomatoes without pain, but also white wine: an entire food group I’d been fasting from for years.)

And guess what? Now I like salads! (And butter-rosemary-garlic-chicken-pork. You can like both! There’s a gray area in life, a concept that I’ve paid many a shrink to help me discover.)

There’s also a pink area. And a gooey and awesome bright yellow area, once you break open that heavenly soft poached egg (that somehow went straight from one of God’s creatures and directly into the kitchen at Sage American Bistro). This, friends, is my favorite salad in Columbus. It combines animals and plants. There’s no dilemma here: just eat it in a way that doesn’t involve lifting the plate and dumping it directly into your mouth. Try to use utensils. Each bite magically contains hearty smoky bacon in thick but bite-size pieces, that aforementioned warm egg, soft hidden morsels of goat cheese, pickled onion, freshly cracked peper and a tangy dressing. It’s cool. It’s warm. All salads should be like this. And once Michael Pollan is President of Food, Chef Glover needs to be given some sort of cabinet position involving pork.

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On England.

I first visited London when I was 16. My British-literature teacher offered to take a dozen or so over-achieving students to the city over spring break. Intrigued by the idea of international travel and, let’s admit it, a chance to spend more time with the teacher (I had a bit of a crush – as did most of my cohorts on the trip) I started saving money made at the Half Off Card Shop to pay for my adventure.

In this most recent visit (at double the age), I’ve found memories of that initial foray into travel popping up. My food memories are vivid; pizza with corn on it (corn!); my first red-wine vinaigrette (I thought I’d get drunk); a heavenly baguette at an Upper Crust inside one train station or another; and, of course, a healthy obsession with the endless Cadbury selection of candies at Boots and WH Smith.

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A Bushel Half Full.

Earlier this spring, I made the decision not to purchase a vegetable CSA, and to take that money and invest it into a raised bed garden. I would grow my own produce. In the spring, when the first sedums start to push through the soil and the chives shoot up, it’s easy to make silly decisions. The yard becomes a tabula rasa and with each tiny seed pressed into the soil come visions of countless grilled vegetables, pestos, sauces and heavenly heartland salads.

This, friends, was the first major harvest. Beets, cabbage, green peppers, onions and shallots. It’s miraculous, really, that we got this much. The green beans and peas didn’t grow. The entire broccoli patch got devoured by our neighborhood groundhog. (Or groundhogs. Local lore and legend has it that a man up the street has trapped and driven away 16 of the rodents this summer, and that there may be a new “litter” on the way. I do not like writing the words “groundhog” and “litter” so closely together.) Aphids attacked the summer squash that was to be the centerpiece of our grilled platters of vegetables. And not a leaf of chard, kale or arugula was left pure by run-of-the-mill bugs. Finally, the squirrels and the hornworms make sure that we don’t get any tomatoes. But our beet crop seems to be thriving.

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Seoul for the Soul.

I had a layover in Seoul on my return home from Thailand last spring. Upon learning this, I asked my airline to expand my stay so that I could go into the city. And so it went. A little over an hour after landing at Incheon, I was in the heart of the city, thanks to a super-sleek bus ride on an adept freeway. The weather was perfect, like a cool fall day. In the spring Seoul is plagued with yellow dust from wind storms in Mongolia. My twelve hours were beautiful and clear and free from dust. Compared to the heat of Thailand and the Philippines, it was a welcome reprieve.

Sometimes, there’s nothing that inspires more joy than the prospect of wandering the streets, armed with nothing more than a book, the entire day ahead of me. It’s an understatement to say that I will always remember this day fondly.

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Friday Five: Candy.

Working in a grocery store means I know the exact moment morels, spring asparagus and rhubarb get processed in the produce department. It also means I know the exact moment when the Cadbury Eggs take their perch at the registers. Both, of course, are welcome signs of spring, but my nutritionist friends would balk at how often I buy the latter over the former. Without further adieu, I present my five favorite candies.

1. The Cadbury Egg

Eat them too quickly and the sugar causes this sort of choking and coughing effect. But savor the sweetness and these Britain-born oddities are delightful. Accept no substitutes, though. The chocolate, caramel and (especially the) orange ones are crap compared to the original.

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On an American Classic.

I grew up in multiple households. One championed the frozen offerings of the  Schwann Man; the other featured a mixture of prepackaged foods (such as Kraft Dinner and SpagettiO’s), augmented by handmade specialties such as potato skins and key lime cake. For the most part, I was eating (I think) what most American kids were eating: inexpensive, well-rounded meals put together with ease. One dish that showed up in both households came mostly unassembled, and turned out to be one of my favorites: the classic combination of grilled cheese and tomato soup.

I’ve done a similar post before. And—for those who remember—it wasn’t a winner with my audience. This time around, I went with a simple tomato soup recipe, altering it just a bit to allow for a creamy texture, and resurrected my middle school home economics grilled cheese sandwich recipe, which includes mayonnaise as one of the key ingredients to the sandwich. There are, of course, countless ways to create this meal, but, like most things, it’s all about the quality of the ingredients.
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Friday Five: Vegetables I Did Not Seriously Consider Until I Was an Adult.

As I start to grapple with the seasonal question (to CSA or not to CSA) a Friday Five comes to mind: five vegetables I did not seriously consider until I was an adult. Enjoy.

1. Beets.

Canned or pickled beets really give this root veggie a bad reputation for the under 12 demographic of produce consumers. Had I discovered the perfect combination of goat cheese and freshly roasted beets, I would have happily welcomed them into my repertoire a very long time ago.

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