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Sunday, December 30, 2012

So, I was on the CBC

Folks, I know it's been awhile. I'm sorry. I've had a helluva year, and I've also started writing for BC Living, so I've been neglecting y'all and devoting my energy to them like the publicity whore I am. Sorry.

Speaking of publicity, I wrote an article for the Vancouver Observer awhile back called "5 reasons to hate quinoa" and got a lot of backlash. Someone at the CBC read it and thought it was funny and asked me to appear on Radio One. At first when they contacted me I thought it was a practical joke, but it turned out to be true, and I was on On The Coast on Dec 28. It was a blast. Here's the interview if you are interested. Please note this was entirely improvisation, I was shaking like a leaf and sweating like a pig:

http://www.cbc.ca/onthecoast/2012/12/28/should-2013-be-the-year-of-quinoa-1/

Also if you wanna see some of my work on BC Living, here is my latest story:

http://www.bcliving.ca/food/szechuan-chongqing-teams-with-vancouver-aquarium-ocean-wise

I have written a long and rambling post that will shortly be up outlining in not-too-painful detail about why this year was so shitty, but also all the great things that are coming as well. 2013 will be rad. Trust me.

Talk soon,

J

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

What to eat when you're fat

I don't typically use this space to complain about my life specifically, just life in general ;). But because I feel that food is so connected to life and our daily experience of eating and living is intriguing to me, I feel the need to discuss something here that is on my mind almost constantly. 

I don't post pictures of myself on this blog for two reasons: 1) I want the experience of reading it to feel like you are cooking the food/present at my stove, and 2) I'm about a size 14 and I don't want people to leave hurtful comments about my size. People do that when you post pics of yourself on the internet. Thick skin required. My writing has been criticized many times on various publications I've written for in the past, one that sticks out is a comment from a person who claimed they would rather read a book by Sarah Palin than anything I wrote. That one stung, but hey. To each there own. I rationalized it by saying to myself that although writing is one of the most important things to me, it's not all of me, and not everything I do is going to please everyone. I'm trying to get that attitude about my appearance as well.

I have gained and lost over 300lbs in my lifetime. I'm 33. Not only is this extremely unhealthy, it's extremely frustrating. It's caused periods of isolation and paranoia that have made me feel very lonely and bitter. I grew up with a father who was obsessed with my appearance, and who made it very clear to me that my first duty as a woman (before I was, you know, a person) was to look good. Everything else was secondary. He applauded me when I was the right weight, wore the clothes he selected for me, and wore my hair and makeup the way he liked. When I did these things, I was rewarded with money and praise. When I did not adhere to his specifications, I was punished via neglect and shame. Once, when I didn't want to wear my hair in the style he preferred to Christmas dinner (a double braid wound around my head in traditional Ukrainian style) he threatened to return all my Christmas presents. I have lots of stories like that, and I'm sure other people do too. Men as well as women to be sure, but let's be honest, women are far more likely to be judged for their appearance than men. 

This kind of thinking wormed its way into my brain until it was hard to get it out. I assumed my friends who were awkward and unattractive in high school would go on to do nothing with their lives, because I had come to believe that attractiveness = success. It didn't matter that these were kind people or people much smarter than me, because they would never be accepted into a club of which I was a member. All doors would be open to me, forever.

Then I got fat.

Through depression and anxiety disorder, I gained a lot of weight really quickly, and found myself to be the embodiment of horror to my family. My father most of all, but also his father (my grandfather) and some of my shallower friends. My father begged and begged me to lose weight, claiming that everything in my life would come up roses if I could just get a grip on it. I was 16, and it was a turning point, the first time in which I felt I was a living, breathing, embarrassment to the human race. I felt so much shame that I lost the weight. Well, partly from the shame. My father also promised to pay me $500 if I did.

I stayed thin for quite a few years after that. Then I got fat again. Then thin. Then fat again. A little thinner, then fatter than ever. That is where I am now. At 33, I am 5'7 and 3/4" and 205lbs. The heaviest I have ever been.

I'm not happy with the way I look, but if I'm really honest with myself, I never have been. No matter what, I will find something to be unhappy about. I'm much more accepting of others' physicality than I am of my own. I don't know why.

As a culture, we are fat phobic. We hate fat and hate fat people and live in constant fear that we are going to be fat, and if we're fat already, that we will never lose weight. Some people argue that the phobia is a good motivator, if you feel bad about yourself, you will do something about it. I find it to be the opposite. When I feel bad, I have to work against that deficit to feel good about myself, and rarely does it motivate me to improve my weight. It motivates me to hide under the covers, fearing that I will never measure up. When I nurture a healthier attitude towards my body, praise it for what it can do, and appreciate it for what it is, I find myself motivated. Acceptance and self-love are the key, but those are often the most difficult things to achieve when you feel you don't deserve them. And that's what fat hatred does: it sends the message that your physical body has made you unloveable and unacceptable. Instead of just being labelled as unattractive, which it often times is, it's become much more than that. Fat is equated with worthlessness.

I want to change myself and my body. I want to feel better, more in control. Most of all I don't want to hate my body, the only body I will ever have. Because only then will the disapproval I feel from others matter less. And if you really want something, as we learned in kindergarten, you have to give it away. So:

I love you, fat people. I love you for your insatiable appetites and hatred of exercise and self-loathing, if you have it. I totally get it. I love it for your shitty food choices and breve lattes and potato chips eaten in the middle of the night. I accept you as you are. You are not worthless. You are a person with a heart and a soul and things to give the world. You are loved, you are loved, you are loved.

I have started an exercise regime with a good friend who is a personal trainer. I have started a "mood and food" journal to pinpoint choices that will work for me, and those that won't. I have decided to give a shit about myself enough that I will accept my body as it is, because I want it to look better, and for me this is the only way. I have decided to love and respect myself, my WHOLE self, as it comes. I have decided to love my weaknesses in order to change what I can and accept what I can't. I have decided that I am loved.

(PS what to eat is something you like that makes your body feel good, whatever that might look like to you. Me? I'm having almonds and a green tea)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Look at my scallops, look

I encourage you all to get your hands on some fresh seafood ASAP, before the season is officially over. I recently had a craving for scallops, and had a vision in my head of the big, juicy jumbo ones that you get from Granville Island. So I took myself down there and discovered that about 4 of those fat beauties will set you back $20 before tax. Ouch.

Of course, a whole world of affordable seafood opens itself up to you if you are willing to consider frozen. Now, of course we know fresh tastes better. But unless you are a fisherman yourself it's going to be hard to maintain that kind of diet. So you may want to do what I do, which is treat fresh as an absolute treat and have frozen the rest of the time. And well frozen (on the boat as caught, never previously thawed then frozen again) fish and seafood can be delicious. So I settled for a considerable smaller scallop and about 80 of his brothers and sisters from Qualicum Bay in a frozen, vacuum-sealed bag.

Here's something I learned from the writings of a five star chef from South Carolina: nuts bring out the flavour of many seafoods like prawns, scallops and oysters. I was pretty skeptical but thought I would try his almond vinaigrette to dress my butter-grilled Bay beauties in our last seafood days:

Seared Scallops with Almond Vinaigrette

1/4 cup roasted, unsalted almonds
5 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp champagne vinegar
1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
8 large sea scallops or 1/2 bag of small ones
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 sprigs thyme
2 tbsp fresh peaches, mashed in a mortar and pestle, or peach preserves
fresh microgreens

Finely chop almonds into small pieces but not into a powder. Mix almonds and 4 tbsps oil in a medium bowl. Whisk in 1 tbsp vinegar and chives, season with salt, pepper and more vinegar if desired. Set vinaigrette aside.

Heat the leftover oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Season scallops with salt and pepper. Add to skillet. Cook about 2-3 minutes. Turn scallops, add butter and thyme. Cook, frequently tilting skillet and spooning butter over, until scallops are just cooked through, 2-3 minutes longer.

For plating, place peach preserves or mixture (I added pomegranate seeds) in the centre of the plate, and surround with grilled scallops. Drizzle vinaigrette over top of scallops, top with microgreens. Serve immediately.


There is an extraordinary flavour that is added by creamy almonds to the tender, delicate scallops, but the full experience is not just about the flavour, it's also about the texture. The crunch made tart by the vinegar sets off the well-seasoned scallops. Easy to prepare and cheap, I recommend you cook these for yourself and enjoy with a glass of chilled white wine to say a proper goodbye to summer.

(recipe with my variations from Bon Appetit)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Great or Gross? Skinny Girl Margarita

I generally avoid tequila for one very simple reason: the first time I drank it I woke up under a very heavy and expensive-looking oriental rug in a mansion in Shaunessy, the owners of which I did not know. I figured that was a sign.

Good tequila is delicious, but be careful; it's got hallucinogenic properties, and a few shots will get you drunker than you expect. Give yourself a side-eye while you're consuming and you should be okay. I've been hearing good things about this Skinny Girl line, particularly about the margarita. So I bought it. Made with decent-quality agave tequila pre-mixed, it's got a good price point at $15.99 if you consider you only need to add ice. Cheers:


Skinny Girl line has been marketed as low-cal alternatives for classic, high-cal drinks that we all enjoy getting hammered on. Brilliant idea. Drinking makes you fat and that is a tragic fact, so good for this company for trying to let us eat our cake (or shot) and have it too.

+ GREAT for the taste. Not too sweet and reminiscent of real margaritas I've had in Mexico. You can taste good quality tequila and citrus. Smooth.

+ GREAT for the presence of an ingredient list, even though ingredient lists on alcohol are not required by law. + ANOTHER GREAT for an impressive ingredient list:


Nothing nasty here. Good job. I think much of the lack of calories is due to the agave being used as a sweetener rather than sugar. And it works beautifully.

+ GREAT for clever marketing. They sell a "ladylike" image to consumers, and I see why it's attractive. The notion of a ladylike drinker has become more mainstream along with the popularity of shows like Mad Men. Who doesn't want to feel like a lady? (I only want to feel like one sometimes, myself. I would rather feel badass the majority of the time. Badass doesn't have a gender). They also sell quality ingredients as part of their alluring copy, and I like that. We need more quality ingredients and products that incorporate them to be a part of our regular consumption. Just sayin'.

+ GROSS for the dumb logo. I get that it fits with the rest of the strategy, but how tired are you of seeing the line-drawing-with-a-ponytail depicting a trendy woman? It reminds me too much of this:



Sure, Barbie has her usefulness, but she was launched in 1959. Surely by now we can come up with another way of graphically representing women?

ANALYSIS: GREAT. This is a great drink, bring it to a party or save it for Friday night in the tub. Or drink the whole thing really fast like I just did. Haters gonna hate. Potatoes gonna potate. AAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Monday, August 27, 2012

OK Corn and other basic things I have screwed up

I was watching "Beloved" the other day, remember that one? I loved that movie, although it was a box office flop. It's based on the brilliant book by Toni Morrison. I recommend it highly. Anyway, in one part of the movie Oprah offers to "fry a little corn" for the character played by Danny Glover. And I thought "mmmmm, corn", instead of focusing on the subtlety of the performances and all that other stuff that intelligent people do.

As a child, my parents always insisted that I was smart. They would tell me so all the time. They would point out stupid things I would do and say "is that something a smart little girl should do?" No. Pretty sure not.

But here's something I don't have the heart to tell either of my parents: I'm dumb. Oh sure, I have a fairly decent vocabulary and I have a degree and all that shit, but I'm the worst kind of dumb: I'm the kind of dumb broad that thinks she's a smart broad. To wit: OK Corn.

If you are from BC, and you have spent any time driving through our broad province, you will have undoubtedly see many home-made, spray-painted signs that advertise "OK CORN" for sale on the side of the road. I've seen these signs all my life. And it took me until I was 22 years old to figure out that the "OK" stood for Okanagan, which boasts some of the most beautiful and delicious produce in the world. No. I thought it meant exactly what it said: Ok corn. And every single time for roughly 18 years I would mumble to myself "why would someone stop for Ok corn? Where is the excellent corn? The delicious corn?". I would shake my head.

The day it hit me I was driving with my boyfriend back to Vancouver from a vacation in Kelowna. And as befits someone that stupid, I hung my head in shame for about an hour.

That's not all that screws me up. You know this sign?




Me too. And I thought it was a giant N, with a curlicue on the front of it. For years. This is particularly shameful as both my dad and grandfather worked for the Canadian National Railroad.

Also?


I thought this was either a) a piece of abstract art, or b) a W. It never occurred to me that this was a B until I was EASILY in my 30s. I still read this as the "ay". The "b" has just never really entered into it for me.

So you see, I am dumb. I'm pretty much okay with it. I'm comfortable now with the fact that my initial interpretation of signage is EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE of How Things Work.

Anyway, corn:

Fried corn

4 cobs of corn, peeled and kernels cut off
extra virgin olive oil, to taste
juice from 1/2 lemon
1 tsp chile powder
1 pinch smoked paprika
lime and microgreens for garnish

Grill corn kernels in oil over medium heat until just tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add lemon juice and chile, stir together and transfer to bowl. Top with microgreens, paprika and a squeeze of lime. Serve hot.


Fortunately being able to taste good food doesn't require brain cells.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Chick-Fil-Gay

We don't have Chick-Fil-A in Canada, but I understand it's pretty popular in the US. Recently its president Dan Cathy announced that he supports traditional marriage, and as such does not support same-sex marriage. This comes on the heels of two other gay rights issues in the media recently: the Oreo cookie controversy, wherein a posted photo of a rainbow-hued cookie supporting gay pride was derided by thousands of anti-gay comments on Facebook; and JC Penney having to defend it's right to choose a gay spokesperson, Ellen Degeneres in the face of a vicious anti-gay backlash.

There is nothing to really argue about when it comes to the existence of homosexuality: it is as old as recorded time. It is part of nature and part of several species. It has been continuously proven again and again by scientists that it is nature, not nurture, that makes a person homosexual. I for one can't believe we are still talking about this. It's not something you can say is right or wrong, it simply is, just like heterosexuality.

When my grandparents were my age, there was also a hot-button marriage issue that polarized the US: Interracial marriage. Those who opposed interracial marriage cited the same reasons for their opposition that present-day gay marriage opponents cite: It is forbidden in the bible, and it will ruin the sanctity of marriage. Interracial marriage became legal all over the United States in 1967, which is a shamefully short amount of time ago.

Before that, it was bible-sanctioned slavery. Marginalization of women. Mistreatment of different ethnic groups. The list goes on.

The Bible has been used in defense of amazingly bigoted and self-serving behavior. You can find anything to oppose if you pick and choose literal passages from the Bible. Regardless of your stance on Christianity, the Holy Bible must be considered from the perspective of the time and culture in which it was written.  As Louis Theroux points out, anti-homosexuality isn't even one of the Ten Commandments. If you're going to be anti-gay, you need to also be anti-shrimp, anti-linen-cotton blends, and give all your money to the poor. Picking and choosing? It doesn't work, let alone make any sense.

But let's remove the religious aspect of this particular brand of bigotry for a moment: We have something called free will. We generally should be self-aware enough by the time we are 25 to realize that we have a choice where/what/who we choose to worship. Is there not something wrong with an interpretation of a religious document that makes people hate other people for what they do in the privacy of their own home? For the way they are born? Are we not evolved enough to be able to walk away from and reject hatred, no matter how it appears?

I for one believe that anything that promotes hatred is foul to the core. I believe that Jesus would be offended at what is being done in his name. I believe that ALL loving relationships are sanctioned by God.

I wonder when our entitlement became so severe that we actually thing we can walk out our front door and never see or hear anything that challenges us, makes us uncomfortable, or bothers us. We could simply walk the other way. Especially in a large city, where we are on top of each other and are forced whether we like it or not to watch and deal with other people. The solution to the problem is to mind our own business. Who I fuck and who fucks me is none of your business. And who fucks you, or how many 11-ways you have? None of my business. Not now, not ever.

So if you want to be involved in preventing something that hurts no one, celebrates diversity and occurs in nature all over, that kills LGBT teens and adults just because the idea of it makes you uncomfortable, then we will observe your choice by being a gorgeous, flagrant example of who we are, who we love, and who we support. Ladies and Gentlemen, I present, the Super-Gay-Chick-Fil-A-Style-Homemade-Southern-Chicken-Sandwich:

2 cups buttermilk
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 whole chicken, or 6 chicken breasts
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
5 cups vegetable oil for frying
Cold dill pickles, sliced
Portuguese buns

Combine buttermilk, mustard, salt and pepper in a bowl and drop in the chicken pieces, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-8 hours.

Combine flour, baking powder, garlic and onion powder and remove chicken from the fridge. Coat chicken in flour mixture, then the buttermilk mixture, then the flour again until a thick coating forms. Heat vegetable oil to medium-high and drop pieces in 2 at a time, fry until deep golden brown on both sides, turning a few times. Slice open a fresh bun and place a little mayo, sliced dill pickles, and hot chicken. Consume immediately.


WARNING: Consumption of this sandwich might make you love gay people. And fatty food.

Love thy neighbour, bitches

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Great or Gross? Skinny Cow Vanilla Cookie Sandwich

People have been RAVING about this Skinny Cow stuff to me, and since it's trendy, I thought I would check it out.

Available in the frozen desserts section of most grocery stores, Skinny Cow products promise tasty ice cream treats with a fraction of the calories. Their tagline is "Sweet surrender, no regrets". The ones I tried said they were 97% fat free and 130 calories each. Which is pretty good, I think.

1-1 tie PRO AND CON: Checking the nutritional information, it looks like they're telling the truth on the front of the box, there is only 1.5g of fat but quite a few carbs and quite a bit of sodium. So there's a bit of good with the bad, see for yourself:


+1 PRO for a pretty decent ingredient list. Yes, there's some diglycerides, but ultimately this is not any more offensive than a typical dessert ingredient list.

-1 CON for confusing marketing:


I get it, the product uses skim milk so it's a skinny cow hence the brand. I'm wondering if it's absolutely necessary for the cow to be seductively draped over the logo like it's on bovine Chatroulette? Is this cow an extension of me? Is that why it's wearing red lipstick, like I do almost every day? So many questions.

+ PRO for cute copy and a wide range of products on their website. See for yourself: http://www.skinnycow.com/

+++ PRO for the fact that Skinny Cow is sponsoring the 25th anniversary of Dirty Dancing, a movie I have seen no less than 144 times. Nobody puts that oddly anthropomorphized cow in the corner.

+ PRO for taste. The cookie tastes EXACTLY like its regular, high-fat counterparts. You can taste that it is a lower fat ice cream, but it doesn't take away from the taste, just a bit on texture (not as rich). The cookie holds together well and is crumbly and soft as it should be. Delicious overall. If I was blindfolded I'm not convinced I could identify this product as low-fat. And that's a good thing.

RESULT: GREAT! Totally worth checking out this summer while its still hot. Buy some!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Great or Gross?: Bud Light Lime Mojito

Welcome to a new series I'm starting, called Great or Gross? As a marketing person in my professional life, I'm interested in how food is marketed and sold. We have access to cuisine from all over the world, and as new trends emerge in our consumption, so do new products marketed to meet those emerging needs and wants. It's continually evolving, non-stop sales engine. At best, it's interesting to watch and an opportunity to be exposed to new things we never would have found on our own. At worst, it's exposure to GMOs, nasty ingredient lists and underhanded manipulation. How will we know which is which? That's what I'm hoping to find out here. Which lead me to the liquor store to purchase my first product to undergo this analysis: Bud Light Lime Mojito.

Each entry will be assigned a certain number of pros and cons for taste, level of marketing ridiculousness, audacity of claims and offensive/impressive ingredient list. Okay? Okay.

I bought these because they sounded okay and maybe kinda refreshing. Also, I bought them because while most people have fairly developed tastes by the time they're in their 30s, I do not. I am a human goat, I will eat a tin can if it's on the table long enough and I have the palate refinement of a toddler with burned taste buds. I'm no food snob and can almost find the good in any product. I had heard that these things were terrible so I wanted to see if even I thought they were bad.

I poured some BLLM into a glass with a sliced key lime. Bottom's up:


Here's my analysis:

+ 1 PRO for the first sip actually being refreshing. But this could have had more to do with the fact that it's 34 today and I walked from Main street to the West End in the heat. At noon. However, it was not particularly cold, but still refreshing. The lime and mint seemed to be hinted at rather than an integral part of the beer. As someone who likes beer with lemon and beer with tomato/clamato juice, I thought it was good.

+ 1 CON for the second sip being revolting. A LOT more mint the second time around. I like the flavour of lime and think most others do as adding citrus to beer is common, but mint and beer? I couldn't really taste the lime (and I even added my own) because the mint is overpowering. Hoppy mint? Weird.

+ 1 PRO for the alcohol content making it a true light beer: 4%

+ 1 CON for realizing via this stuff there is an ongoing issue I was not aware of: There is no nutitional information or ingredients list required for alcohol. Here is an interesting article on the subject from a stateside perspective. Further investigation to follow.

+ 1 CON for its commercial:



Creative in a someone-put-peanut-butter-in-my-chocolate-someone-put-chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter kind of way. That is to say: Not really. And beer commercials need to get a little more creative. The obligatory girl in a bikini? Yawn.

+ 1 CON points for its tagline: "ARE YOU IN?". In what? In trouble? Incensed? Yes. I am. Because I exchanged money for this product.

+ 1 CON ultimately this product reminded me of a menthol cigarette. I'm a former smoker, and most smokers present and former agree the only time you bust out the menthols is when you're sick. Otherwise, tobacco and mint just don't really mix. Same principle applies here.

+ 1 PRO for creativity. This is an interesting idea and although I don't think it could really be marketable long-term in a pre-bottled format, I think some kind of combo on this level (WAAAAAAAY less mint) might work.

Final Analysis:  MOSTLY CONS. Skip these. Unless you're going to a housewarming of someone you don't like. Then bring 'em

Saturday, July 7, 2012

yo, is this insane?

Before we get into the insane shit, let's make a pizza first so you can have something to snack on while viewing the insane shit:

I've been really into using yeast lately, because it's scientific and tricky and takes time and time is pretty much the only thing I'm rich in these days.

Tenacious C and I went to Zoloft market on a particularly nice day to get some prosciutto, boccocini, arugula, and some long overdue sun (just so you know, this June was the worst June on Vancouver record for rain, and that's saying a lot). I brought it home and made the pizza dough, courtesy of these nice people

Prosciutto, Arugula and Bocconcini Pizza

Dough:

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
2 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons white sugar

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine 2 cups bread flour, olive oil, salt, white sugar and the yeast mixture; stir well to combine. Beat well until a stiff dough has formed. Cover and rise until doubled in volume, about 30 minutes.

Toppings:


1 can diced tomatoes
3-5 thin slices of prosciutto

6 leaves arugula
1/2 lemon
5 slices bocconcini
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

Empty the can of diced tomatoes with their juice into a saucepan and heat on medium-high until reduced slightly, about 20-30 mins. Remove from heat and use as your base tomato sauce. Remove dough from bowl and spread into the shape of whatever pan you are going to use to cook your pizza. Spread top with tomato sauce to taste. Layer on prosciutto, bocconcini. Lightly toss arugula with lemon juice and the salt and pepper and add to top. Sprinkle all lightly with olive oil and put in oven preheated to 500. Bake for 15-20 mins or until golden brown.


Now for the insane shit. You all know two things about me: 1) I have no job and therefore lots of time on my hands 2) my fascination with adult male virgins (they exist!). More specifically, I'm interested in the kind of social maladjustment that allows someone to get to the point they are an involuntary adult virgin at an advanced age (over 30). Most specifically, I'm interested in the self-justification (usually denial) these folks adopt in order to deal with their situations. And it has allowed me to make some adjustments in my own thinking. But that's not interesting at all. What is interesting is that some men, who have been denied access to women for myriad reasons, have reasoned it out in their minds that the problem is not specific to them. No. It's specific to half the human population: IE all women. All women are the problem, not them. Wrap your mind around that.

I discovered this while reading an article after my own interaction with a male virgin (I talked about it here) that there is a little something called the Men's Rights Movement. Interesting title, so I looked into it and there is a small group of men that believe that men are the most hard-done-by creatures on the planet and would like this to change. The problem holding them back? Feminism. The world is apparently run by feminists and feminism belittles men and doesn't allow them to be men or something weird like that. That sounds bizarre enough, but that's not even the worst part of it. These men claim to hate feminism, but when you get a few paragraphs in, you realize they just hate women. All women. And the only way (they believe) we can get civilization to advance is by controlling female behavior. All of it. From how we dress to what we do for a living to who we fuck. Everything. There is an overwhelming feeling among the MRM that women are not needed in the workforce at all, so we just need to get back to the kitchen, the world will be better for it. Huh? Basically the big resentment ball, from what I can deduce, works like this:

Women won't sleep with me = that can't possibly be my fault = women are stupid = we should control what they do and who they are attracted to so I don't have to feel bad = that is the ultimate answer = MRM. 



Gross. 


Grab another slice o' pizza and read some of this shit if you don't believe me:


http://omegavirginrevolt.wordpress.com/ 


http://www.avoiceformen.com/ 


David Futrelle is the author of Man Boobz, a site that makes fun of all this misogyny. He's a great writer, so I recommend him as an antidote to all this weirdness:


http://manboobz.com/


Yes, this is insane. Every part of it. Oh and dudes? Generally well-adjusted women don't like dudes that hate them for having rights and shit. Just sayin'.

Monday, June 25, 2012

the outtakes

A lot of times on Crass Cuisine I make a meal and discover after the fact that I have nothing interesting to say about it. So I eat it, take a picture of it, and forget about it. After working on this blog for 2 years now I have accumulated a lot of photos of dishes that were never featured, along with some photos of food at grocery stores and farmers markets that struck me as beautiful or interesting. So I thought I would do a post featuring those. Hope you enjoy:


berries at the portland, or farmers market

raw artichoke

 grilled skirt steak with pan-seared fresh chiles and shallots

apple pie

lamb stew

 pomegranate prawn curry with fresh cilantro

roasted red pepper and anchovy salad

rosemary and garlic rubbed roast

 lemon icebox pie with vanilla wafers

 lemon meringue pie

 wild mushroom risotto with lamb stock

 eggplant curry

 vegan chocolate cupcake with pink himalayan sea salt

 Julia Child's french onion soup

 pork chop sandwich

 asparagus, cherry tomato and chicken penne with fresh basil

 peach, apricot and fresh ginger pie

 roma tomato and fresh basil salad

 lavender, honey and blackberry teacup pie
 rainbow chard stems
southern buttermilk biscuits

Friday, June 22, 2012

Party in your Mouth! (Everyone's invited)

I've been thinking about breakfast lately. It's the most important meal of the day, sure, but we rarely treat it that way. Since I've got time on my hands these days, I've been enjoying taking my time with this oft-rushed meal. I'm trying to make it a one-two punch by making it delicious and packed with nutrients. And I think I might have hit on something:

Pan-fried kale with eggs:
1/2 bunch kale
extra virgin olive oil
2 eggs (or 1, depending on your appetite)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Add a little oil and a little water to the bottom of a deep saucepan. Wash and tear kale into bite-sized chunks, heat saucepan to medium-high, add kale and stir frequently. Allow to cook for about 15 minutes, lightly browning each side of the kale and wilting it completely. When almost finished, push kale to one side of the saucepan and add eggs, cooking until desired doneness. Pile kale on a plate, place egg(s) on top, season with salt and pepper to taste. Add a shot of hot sauce if desired.


This seems a little granola, but it's really delicious. Kale has such a potent, green flavour and when pan-fried, it takes on a great crunch.  But do cook it well. When I undercook it, well, I suffer. To put it plainly, from extreme gas pain. Kale is in the gabbage family, although many don't realize it. And it should be treated as such. If you don't want to kill your loved ones via methane gas poisoning, heed this advice. 

I've been enjoying myself in the kitchen even more lately because the crazy hoarder who lived in the apartment facing mine finally moved out. For the last several years, crazy hoarder has done her crazy hoarderiest to make sure I can't see into her kitchen (which was absolutely revolting) by putting up various scraps of wrapping paper and gift bags while spying on me in between the cracks of her self-made-slash-self-imposed-mural-prison. I did my level best to ignore her, but she would come over every so often to ask me to open a jar, or let her friends into the building (for some reason she only periodically had a phone). She drove me nuts and her staring at me was starting to make me paranoid. But no more! I feel a weight off my shoulders.

Amazing what dealing with nutters will do to you. My advice when dealing with them is to energize yourself with a good breakfast first, then do your best not to let them rattle ya. As I've been repeating to myself lately, you have to be like a cork in water, you can't let difficulties get you down :)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mussels, unemployment style

When I was at the unemployment office the other day, trying to find out what other options I had and figure out what I might not be doing right, I struck up a conversation with a fisherman. Specifically, a very out of work fisherman looking for any little day-labor job that might be available. He had a pretty hefty chip on his shoulder, and that's coming from someone who these days wears a permanent scowl and is mad basically all of the time, even in my sleep. Seriously, I wake up with this weird little rage-furrow that's been etched all night into my face and not even Stella's strange antics can get it to budge. Although she has been chasing the screen saver lately and that's pretty funny. I don't believe she's really all cat, I think she's part cat, part alien. But I digress.

After my new fisherman friend exhausted his complaints about his last boss and how this country is going straight to hell, etc. we got to talking about shellfish. I made my usual groan-y puns like "hey, your boss sure sounds shellfish" (Got crickets on that one, btw) and he mentioned that for him there is nothing better than a steaming hot plate of mussels. And I got to thinking hmmm, I agree with that statement. And if a fisherman who knows his shit can make that statement, who am I to argue?

Of course, fresh mussels is strictly the purview of those who have jobs, or at least, families with extra cash or families that have a door on the bathroom, so that route is not in the cards for me just now. Fortunately for me I live close to a great little market run by a nice family that has everything you can think of including an impressive collection of previously frozen shellfish. I picked up 12 gorgeous, over-sized mussels from New Zealand on the half shell for $4. Packed the day before and springy to the touch. Perfect.

After returning some empties (hangs head in shame) I came home with my catch (see what I did there? That one's for you Kevin. You'll get back on the sea) and ran them in their package under cold water just to make sure they were completely thawed. I chopped fresh garlic (2 cloves) and shallots (2 small, thanks shallot!) and some fresh parsley that was in the fridge (keep your fresh herbs in a glass full of water, they last longer. Same for green onions) and a couple Roma tomatoes (the cheapest kind of tomato, you know) and a cup of chicken stock, and steamed the whole mess with the mussels face down until I was satisfied:


I mixed angelhair into the pan and chowed down like it was the last thing I had to do on this earth (there were a lot of parenthesis in that paragraph):


It was absolutely delicious. A little white wine on the side and a sunbeam from the window were my accompaniments. Ah, summer!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Fiddlin' Around

Have you ever had a fiddlehead?


If you haven't and have no idea what I'm talking about, a short explanation below from Wikipedia:

Fiddleheads or Fiddlehead greens are the furled fronds of a young fern, harvested for use as a vegetable. Left on the plant, each fiddlehead would unroll into a new frond. As fiddleheads are harvested early in the season before the frond has opened and reached its full height, they are cut fairly close to the ground.
Fiddleheads have antioxidant activity, are a source of Omega 3 and Omega 6, and are high in iron and fibre.

They become quite popular in BC around this time and are sold in higher-end grocery stores. I personally used to see them shooting up on hiking trails all over the place but have never actually eaten one. So I decided to pick some up at my local Urban Fare and test myself by making a gourmet salad for me and Tenacious C (this is what I'm calling Chris these days).

Gourmet Fiddlehead Salad with Pickled Red Onions and Maple Toasted Pecans (Food Network)

Pickled Red Onions

4
cups sliced red onions
1/3 cup sugar

1/3 honey

1
cup dry white wine
1/4
cup lemon juice
1
teaspoon salt


Maple Toasted Pecans
2
cups pecan halves
3
tablespoons pure maple syrup
1
teaspoon ground black pepper


Fiddlehead Salad
3
tablespoons lemon juice
1
tablespoon finely minced shallot
1/2
teaspoon Dijon mustard
grapeseed or canola oil
salt and pepper

2
tablespoons tepid water
1
tablespoon chopped chives
3
cups fresh or frozen fiddleheads
1
cup pickled red onion
maple toasted pecans



Pickled Red Onions

  1. Simmer all ingredients, uncovered, over medium heat until onions are tender and liquid has evaporated.
  2. Pickled red onions will keep for up to 6 weeks, refrigerated


Maple Toasted Pecans

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Toss pecans with maple syrup and black pepper to coat. Spread pecans on prepared tray and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, without stirring, until toasted. Once cooled the maple syrup will caramelize onto pecans.
  2. Store pecans in an airtight container for up to a month.


Fiddlehead Salad

  1. For vinaigrette, whisk lemon juice, shallot and Dijon to blend. Gradually whisk in grapeseed or canola oil until incorporated, then whisk in water. Season to taste and stir in chives.
  2. For fiddleheads, trim off stem end and wash thoroughly, rubbing gently between your fingers. Drain well. Bring a pot of water to a boil and salt generously. Blanch fiddleheads until tender, about 5 minutes (tasting is the best way to judge). Drain fiddleheads and shock in ice water to halt cooking. Drain and chill until ready to serve.
  3. To assemble salad, arrange radicchio on a platter. Toss fiddleheads with vinaigrette and arrange on platter. Spoon pickled red onions over and top with maple toasted pecans. Serve immediately.


This was light and delicious and perfect for a warm spring night. Tenacious C and I had ours with garlic toast (homemade, natch).

You know what else is in season? Stellaheads:


I love it when my cat imitates my food. It's like she knows.

We haven't seen much of the Royal Bitch on Crass Cuisine lately, mostly because her life is completely boring. Much like mine these days. But don't worry. Times they are a changin'. Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Missing New Orleans

Sweets were very rare in our house when I was growing up. So as a child, if I happened to get something sweet; wine gums or marshmallows or toffees, I would park it between my cheek and gum and occasionally revisit it, wedging it out and sucking it, then returning it to its spot. This not only made the sweet last longer, but allowed me to rediscover it 20 times over. To this day I still use this system, although strictly speaking there is no moratorium on how much I can have, since I live alone. I mean, who's gonna know? (The answer to this, I have discovered, is everyone, once they see your big butt). But anyway.

I feel this way about the idea of visiting New Orleans. I'm drawn to it for reasons that aren't entirely clear to me, but I think it has something to do with the intersection of food, music and culture that's even a bigger melting pot than Vancouver. There is music and food there you cannot find anywhere else in the world. Very very special. And heat! They have heat. They have rain but it's not always shitty and bone-chilling damp like it is here. The history is huge. The parties are huger. It knows what it is. I love Vancouver but I get so mired down in it's endless rules and rain that my fantasies about New Orleans are growing bigger by the minute.

So I use my thoughts and plans of NOLA much like I use sweets; I park it in the corner of my mind and take it out 20 times a day. But today, I wanted to park it in my mouth too. So I made Louisiana seafood gumbo, just to satiate myself until more definite plans can be made for my visit there. One day I will just bite down hard on this dream and crack it in half against my molar. But until then, gumbo (from the Food Network with my variations):

Louisiana Seafood Gumbo

(All ingredients)

Olive oil, for sauteing
1 1/2 medium-sized onions, coarsely chopped
1 cup celery, cut crosswise into 1/3 and coarsely chopped
8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 orange bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, coarsely chopped
Roux, recipe follows
6 Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
Stock, recipe follows
1-1/2lb shrimp, raw, deveined and peeled (save peels and tails)
2 or 3 crabs, cleaned, and chopped into chunks or 1 package pollock
Lemon slices
Chopped green onions

First, make the stock:

Stock:
8 cups water
The original recipe calls for shrimp heads. However if you have bought frozen with heads removed, you can use the tails and bodies
1 stalk celery
1/2 lemon
1 bay leaf
3 basil leaves
Creole seasoning (see Jessica's Awesomesauce)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper


 
Boil all ingredients together for 1 hour, then strain out materials:
 

Set aside, then make the roux:

Roux:
1/2 cup flour
Olive oil

Combine the ingredients in a separate pan. Brown on a medium high heat until it turns light brown.

Coat a large heavy-bottomed saucepan with oil and cook the onions until translucent. Add the celery, garlic, bell peppers, and okra. Add the roux and mix thoroughly to pick up all the excess oil in the pot.
Next add the tomatoes and bring the mixture to a boil. When mixed, strain the stock and add it to the pot, mixing thoroughly to prevent lumps. Cover with lid, bring to the boil and cook for 20 minutes. Clean the shrimp and saute in a separate pan to get rid of any excess moisture. When they have turned pink add the shrimp and crab or pollock to the gumbo. Cook for 10 minutes. Lastly, add lemon slices and chopped green onions

Oh, delicious. Notice how the roux makes this stew a little creamier than a soup, but less thick than a stew. That's Southern magic right there.

Enjoy with warm crusty bread on the side or over rice. This takes awhile but it so, so worth it. And before I exit, here's a little ode to NOLA from the man himself, Louis Armstrong. Funny to miss a place you've never been, eh?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Vij's Hat Trick

Back when dirt was new I received a recipe in the mail from my mom for Vij's fenugreek cream lamb popsicles (I had given her Vij's first cookbook for Christmas that year, and for my birthday the following January she had taken me to Vij's for this dish). At the time, I remember looking at it and thinking there would be absolutely no way I would ever make these, it was wayyyyy too much trouble. How things change. And also, since I've been focusing on economy, I figured out a way to make an additional two dishes out of the products of this one, so we have the first hat trick on Crass Cuisine.

If you are from Vancouver, you are no doubt familiar with Vikram Vij and Meeru Dhalwala and their amazing restaurants, Vij's and Rangoli. If you aren't, they are the leaders of modern Indian cuisine on the West Coast, and have many, many faithful guests at their restaurants, readers of their cookbooks and purchasers of their locally-roasted herbs. I myself enjoy all three.

So, Vij's lamb popsicles. I love lamb so any opportunity to make it makes me happy. I decided to make this dish for the C-bomb for one of our traditional Friday night dinner, movie and wine dates. What's better than that?

Vij's Lamb Popsicles in Fenugreek Curry
(adjust quantities up and down depending on how many you are feeding)

For the popsicles:
2-3 French cut racks of lamb, bone cleaned down to the chop, cut into "popsicles" but cutting between each joint
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup grainy yellow mustard
3/4 teaspoon salt

For the curry cream:

2 tbsp crushed garlic
3 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp turmeric
1 litre whipping cream
1 tbsp dried Greek fenugreek leaves (Vij's sells this at Rangoli)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 lemon juice
1/4 tsp paprika

Mix white wine, mustard and salt together in a large bowl, then add the popsicles. Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours before cooking.


In a separate bowl, mix together the whipping cream, salt, paprika, cayenne, fenugreek flakes and lemon juice.


In a medium-sized heavy pot, saute the garlic in the canola oil. Once the garlic is golden in colour, add the turmeric, stir and heat for one minute. Add the whipping cream mixture, stir and heat on low to mediu, heat for a few minutes. Grill the popsicles just before you are ready to serve your meal. Pour the cream curry over the grilled popsicles, or use it as a dipping sauce.

I served mine by grilling potato wedges, placing the popsicles on top and pouring the curry cream over top:


This meal is so decadent you will want to eat slowly, savouring every ridiculous flavour. There was lots of curry cream left over, so the next day I browned some chicken breasts and finished cooking them in the mixture:


I served over rice and with some fresh chopped cilantro (2nd goal in our hat trick):


And? I saved the bones of our lamb rack, washed them, and the next day made lamb stock:

Homemade Lamb Stock

Bones of leftover lamb dish, 1-2 rack bones or equivalent
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 scrubbed carrots, cut into quarters
1 parsnip or 2 celery ribs, scrubbed and cut into quarters
2 small onions, peeled and quartered
3 fresh rosemary sprigs
1 Roma tomato, quartered
4 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered

Place all ingredients in a large pot and cover all with water by about 2 inches.


Allow to sit for 1 hour (this draws out the calcium). On the lowest setting on your stove, simmer the combo for 12-24 hours. Remove from heat and strain out vegetables and bones, allow to come to room temperature, then refrigerate or freeze.



I used mine to make wild mushroom risotto, and it was wonderfully tangy and flavourful. The apple cider vinegar makes this dish by bringing out the flavours. I got this recipe from this sweet lady at the Nourishing Gourmet, and it is delicious. Her blog is found here. So you see, each of these dishes had a domino effect on the other, which I completely love about cooking.

Thanks Vij and Meeru!