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Category Archives: food

>Late To The Table

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>I don’t know how I let this challenge almost slip by me. I’m definitely in, tying on a napkin and going for the Bon Vivant level (4-6 books). This is the prompting that I need to finally read Becka’s copy of Chocolat, which I borrowed last fall. It’s also a great excuse to go shopping for some of those food memoirs I’ve been coveting. In addition, maybe this will compel me to stop circling copies of Good Morning, Kimchi! and take the plunge. The upcoming Readathon just got a little tastier. Is this ironic or just merely funny?… it’s the middle of the night, and I’m awake and wandering around in Blogland because of indigestion.


>Naked Without Salad (and Stonecrop)


I’m reading 3 books right now and I’m not terribly thrilled with any of them, so I’ll turn my attentions elsewhere — meaning to food.

My eating habits are really bad. How bad? About 8:30 in the evenings, I develop a nasty taste and a feeling that life is a little sad and ineffably difficult. I begin to wonder why I became an EFL teacher, and wonder just how it is a lesson plan is constructed. Then I look at my TBR and wonder if I’ll ever complete another book ever again. I begin to puzzle about how people manage whole novels — even short ones, like Newbery winners.

Then it hits me: Oh yeah! Sweet roll and coffee for breakfast, coffee for coffee break, coffee for lunch and another coffee for that 3-4 pm slump. Dinner? Forgotten. Upon remembering, I start out with a first course of a whole can of Pringles and a Coke and go from there to anything else readily available for consumption for the rest of the evening, pretty much in the same way the Big Bad Wolf went to each of the Three Little Pigs’ houses.

In 2011, I decided that I would not leave myself to my own boneheaded devices. So far, so good. I haven’t bought a can of Pringles or even eaten one in over a month. I banished Coke from the house but I’m allowed to drink it off the premises. Water and teas are my only beverages on hand at home. I’m also taking a new look at salad. The really green stuff. Life beyond Iceberg.

I went grocery shopping yesterday, making sure that I hadn’t eaten yet so that the nutritious stuff would look yummy beyond compare. At E-Mart, the food section is on the first level of the store. Luckily, right off the “down” escalator is the produce section. In another bit of related luck, for the past year or so, the store brand has started putting the name of the food on the package in English in small letters below the Hangul.

I studied the packaged and (allegedly) pre-washed greens:

Chard. Very green. I’ve heard it’s healthy, but the name always makes me laugh. It’s like an alternative nickname if Richard doesn’t like being called Rich or Ricky. I passed for safety’s sake. What if I started laughing while I was eating?

Leaf lettuce. Very dark green, almost greenish black. Ew. The stems were kind of woody. Ew again. But the 2011 Pringle-shunning side of myself pitched it into the cart. There’s vitamins in them there leaves and stems.

Chicory. Paler green, but still green enough and it was sort of pretty. All curly and feathery-looking. Cute name. I couldn’t remember anything about it except that in Gone With The Wind, people used chicory root for coffee when they couldn’t get the real stuff. Because it was pretty *and* made me think of GWTW, I grabbed a bag.

Endive. It looked fine. Very healthy and approachable, but the name annoyed me. I didn’t know if it was pronounced “N-Dive” or “on-deev”. How could I brag about my sudden good habits if I couldn’t pronounce what I was putting in my mouth? I didn’t buy it; but I had good intentions of consulting which pronounces the word as many times as you’d like. (I made a mental note to look and listen up “chard” while at that site.) After I’d scratched my linguistic itch, I’d pick endive up next time.

Stonecrop. This was really cute, like a plump and friendly little weed. I’d seen it somewhere before. Of course. At the Korean vegetarian restaurant down the road. I almost didn’t recognize it because when I had it at the restaurant, it was smothered in red pepper paste. There was something familiar about it, I remembered thinking. I remembered liking the texture coupled with the spicy sauce. I liked the name. All good. I added it to the cart.

So much for the greens. I added some little pinkish-red radishes to my pile. They’re very hard to find and terribly expensive. I don’t even want to tell you what I spent on a total of five little radishes, but I will — approximately $1.30 (USD). I didn’t care; I’d been missing radishes like hell. They started me thinking about Gone With The Wind again, (Scarlett gets sick after she eats a radish on an empty stomach) but I shook it off and went for a couple of carrots and cucumbers, a bag of cherry tomatoes and some button mushrooms to round out my salad.

Back at the apartment, I grabbed my biggest bowl and started washing, slicing, chopping and cutting. I’d almost forgotten how it was fun, in a sort of Zen way, to mess around with preparing food. I doused my salad with a few squirts of Wishbone Italian salad dressing, which assured me brightly on its back label that not only would it make my salad taste delicious, it would actually assist in helping me absorb more of the nutrients in the salad. Whatever. It had me at taste. I tossed the ingredients around for a couple of minutes then shoved the bowl in the refrigerator and pulled it out again 2 hours later for dinner.

Result: Nice. Maybe there was something to healthy eating after all. The only thing I didn’t really care for was the greenish-black leaf lettuce. Bitter stuff. If I were one of those people who have that extra taste bud that makes ordinary vegetables taste soapy, this would have been intolerable. What I think I’ll do with the remainder of the leaves is drown them in red pepper paste and sprinkle the mixture with some toasted sesame seeds.

I was enchanted with the interesting texture the stonecrop gave to the salad. At first bite, it seemed like it would be bitter, but then it turned some kind of gustatory corner and came across as slightly sour and peppery, not at all unpleasant. I tried a sprig of it entirely devoid of salad dressing to verify this.

What other ways were there of preparing it? Googling, I found out that stonecrop is also known as sedum, and that it’s usually used as ground cover. So that’s where else I’d seen it! Recipes? I didn’t find any, and I even visited those vegan VEGAN sites. The ones where the participants might beat the crap out of you if they saw you even glancing at an egg or a sliver of cheese.
One of the many gardening sites said that gardeners didn’t particularly have to worry about animals or children eating the attractive ground cover — it wasn’t poisonous and it didn’t taste too great, either. Finally, Sturtevant’s Notes on Edible Plants (1919) — courtesy of the Oregon State Food Resource page — tersely allowed that “sedum” is a plant of Europe and North Asia (hey!) and “the leaves serve as a salad”. (hey again!)

Naturally, I feel very smarty and pleased with myself and very cutting-edge. I have brief fantasies about M.F.K. Fisher and Julia Child asking/begging me to share my ideas with them and hazy, pleasant daydreams about the Food Network. Even though I know I’m in no way a vegetable vanguard, I’m going to have so much fun doing different things to stonecrop. Stay tuned.

>Readathon: Snack Coach

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> I don’t know about you, but I can’t go into a Readathon lightly. I have to think about what to read and what to wear and sometimes, I even get a haircut for the occasion. Somehow it seems that when I’m freshly shorn, the words sink into my brain so much easier because my scalp feels so light and cool.

I also try to think about what to eat. During the Readathon last October, I neglected this important aspect of the game and suffered the consequences as a result. I was low-energy, often cranky and fell asleep early on, losing consciousness for four hours. In Hour 19, I had a similar episode that lasted about 20 minutes.

Fortunately, I posted my snacks each hour and Sandra, my wonderful BOOKLEAVES friend analyzed my food lists and pronounced them “sub-par convenience store pap.” She suggested that next time I treat myself to “something more gastronomically stimulating.” I didn’t have to think twice. I asked her to be my snack coach and she kindly agreed. Here’s her advice:

Sandra: OK, light on the carbs, heavy on the proteins, especially when you’re already feeling sleepy. Fruits are carbs, but they’re also refreshing and make you feel rejuvenated, so fruits are OK in moderation, mostly to cleanse your palate and make you feel good.

Apples with peanut butter (your idea) is good. The protein will counteract the nap-inducing carbs. Another good fruit to eat is Asian pear because you need something sort of exotic to rub it in the faces of all your readers who aren’t expats. Asian pear is so beautiful and juicy and palate-cleansing and refreshing.

For luxury with a shot of protein, I would really recommend some cheese or at least that brie-in-a-can. I know it’s crap but it’s all we’ve got here. Or instead of that, but in the same price range, some E-Mart sushi. Either the sushi or the cheese would be a big splurge–either one would be close to 10,000 won. You need some pampering.

For more protein, I’m thinking tuna. Do you like it? Some hate it, I like it. Koreans have interesting canned tuna–have you ever tried the kind in hot sauce? There’s one in barbecue sauce too. You can eat it plain or you can mix it in with some cooked rice, so simple to prepare you won’t even lose your place on the page.

Do not neglect the important food group called chocolate. I know I said no carbs, but I was exaggerating. A little chocolate might be just what you need at 3 in the morning. Go with a Crunky Bar or Atlas (Korean Snickers doppelganger). Speaking of Snickers, if you can get a little packet of nuts, that’s another good protein-laden snack. Sunflower seeds are good too, but can be hard to eat while reading.

Drink plenty of water, just like the running marathoners. Have on hand some juice. I would not overdo it with the coffee but I think you’re going to want some. If you’re going to do outings, going to a coffee shop might be a nice pick-you-up or go to a nearby smoothie place or something. I think going out to eat something or drink something will give you some variety and fresh air and motivation. If you feel like falling asleep at 3 in the afternoon, maybe you should take your book out to a cafe.

Marathoners also load up on carbs before they run–you could do that too! A big huge plate of pasta before the marathon starts, but not during. It will make you too sleepy.Do you ever buy the meat-on-a-stick in the E-Mart deli? I know, a lot of it is processed meat, but it’s very tasty. It tastes good cold or microwaved.

Hard boiled eggs! Cook them ahead of time and have them waiting in the fridge. With lots of salt and pepper they are so delicious. I have a fool proof cooking method so if you want tips, just ask.

Yogurt! Crudites. You need some vegetables, and I’d recommend before the marathon starts, cut up some raw veggies and have them on standby. Cucumbers, red peppers, carrots. If you also have some lettuce leaves washed and ready, you could use them to wrap up gobs of the tuna, if you’re going to eat it. You’re going to have your frozen pizza on hand too, right?

Use the food to reward and motivate yourself, use it to wake yourself up (when you get sleepy stick with protein). Try not to overdo the coffee or it might bother your stomach and make you feel crazy. In the wee hours you’ll be happy to have some nice food as a reward.

Susan: Great ideas! I love tuna. I had 2 kinds of tuna things this week — cucumber sandwiches with tuna salad filling and tuna patties. I also buy hot spicy tuna regularly.

I’m stocked up on frozen pizza. I bought 3…they’re called Pizza Italiano and the package says they’re made in Italy.

Ooooh, I love Brie! (and this is the perfect time to indulge and not feel guilty) Asian pears make me feel like an international woman of mystery. The E-Mart sushi is nice.

I’ve never tried meat on a stick.

I’ll make a last-minute run for vegetables on Friday after work. Luckily, I have some Ranch for dip.

Hardboiled eggs — and I could check some Raymond Chandler out from the library!

Thanks so much for your much-needed help and your brilliant advice, Sandra — I owe you one. This should be my most successful Readathon.

>Readathon: Hour 19

>Pages read: 20
Blogs visited: 0
Snacks: finished off the aforementioned glass of Coke with lots of chipped ice

I read a few pages of Julie and Julia. That book is just all over the place. She can write and she can do funny, but there’s too much of everything about her life. She needed an editor with wit and style to pare down her prose.

Close call — I put the book over my face for a moment to think about how Maxwell Perkins might edit it. Suddenly, I heard this horrible sound like a 120-year-old woman with respiratory distress. It was me, snoring. It seemed like a good time to get up and visit the computer.

>Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year Of Food Life – Barbara Kingsolver

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A few years ago, Barbara Kingsolver and her family decided to leave Arizona, where Kingsolver had been based for about 25 years, and move to her husband’s farm in southern Appalachia. They also determined at that time that they would eat locally — either grow/raise their own produce/livestock or buy it from neighboring farmers right in their own county. This decision came from their growing concern that a staggering amount of oil goes into bringing food to consumers –all the way from the tractors in the farms to the trucks and airplanes that get the food to the grocery stores.

When you read Barbara Kingsolver, you’re in for a good scolding; she tends to be a little preachy. In this case, I’m using good in the conventional sense as well as a synonym for “thorough”. About 99% of what she says is nothing but truth and sensible to boot. Plus, she put her money where her mouth is by embarking on a year-long journey of living off the land. Her account of this time makes for captivating reading — good solid reportage combined with memoir.

Kingsolver’s co-authors are also rich with insights. Her husband, Steven L. Hopp, an environmental studies professor provides succinct and informative sidebars pertaining to Kingsolver’s narrative in each chapter. Kingsolver’s college-age daughter, Camille, who plans to study nutrition in graduate school, gives her take on the experiment (very positive and encouraging) and includes dozens of recipes, many of which she created in her family’s kitchen. They all scan deliciously as well as healthfully.

Kingsolver’s younger daughter Lily, an elementary-schooler, was “too young to sign a book contract”, but her contribution to the year of food life was significant. She raised chickens organically, helping to provide her family with extra sustenance via poultry and eggs (“about 50 dozen”, notes Kingsolver) as well as generating some income for herself by selling eggs to the neighbors. Those are also Lily’s hands on the cover of the book, holding those gorgeous Christmas lima beans, an heirloom variety.

In the middle of their food year, Barbara and Steven visit Italy for about a month. Kingsolver’s account of the trip focuses on restaurants and farms throughout the country. Not surprisingly, eating locally is a way of life there rather than something that one must consciously decide to do. Readers should find the Italians’ passion for food — growing, gathering, preparing and eating — wonderfully compelling reading.

The family also decides to raise turkeys, so Kingsolver has a hilarious chapter about turkey sex and the subsequent results. She can come off as a little holier-than-thou, but she’s equally adept at telling a good story on herself, which is an admirable quality. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle also includes an excellent bibliography and a long list of resources regarding eating locally and the “Slow Food” movement.

I often find myself missing certain western foods like crazy, but AVM brought me up short. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve helped to contribute to the huge cost of food transportation and the squandering of vital resources. In AVM, a large part of Kingsolver’s ire is focuses on, of all things, the importing of bananas. To her credit, I’ve only eaten one banana since reading her book and I didn’t enjoy it!

Although I finished this book in January, AVM still has me thinking about the parallels between Korean and Italian food. Koreans take great pride in their distinctive cuisine and many, if not all cities and/or provinces are famed for a particular food which is celebrated with its own festival when it’s in season.

In addition, much of Korean food preparation is labor-intensive and there is especial care taken with the look and presentation that would seem like Martha Stewart-like fussiness to most Americans, but it shows a deep connection and appreciation for where the food came from and the traditions that accompany it.

I haven’t done a complete 180 since reading AVM (there are still those stubborn dark longings for Quizno’s) but my eyes have been somewhat opened and now when I eat Korean food, I’m curious. I long to have a conversation about the origins of my meal. If the Koreans and I could communicate fluently, I’m almost positive that they’d be happy and proud to inform and educate me. My sincere appreciate for their cuisine may be the very thing that springboards me into getting serious about learning Korean.

>Well-Seasoned Reader Challenge Completed!

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Today I finished Let’s Eat Korean Food by Betsy O’Brien and also finished The Well-Seasoned Reader Challenge. This is so unlike me. My Tough & Cool Inner Bookworm looked up bewilderedly and said, “Bybee?” “Tuffi,” I replied, just as taken aback as she was.

Still on the culinary high that M.F.K. Fisher induced with her little slice of perfection, Consider The Oyster, I was pleased to see oyster dishes (kul in Korean) mentioned twice in Let’s Eat Korean Food:
“Raw oysters with kimchi are the filling for salted cabbage leaves in kul possam (fresh oysters in cabbage roll) which is like a quick kimchi sandwich.”
Orikul Chot (Salted and spiced oysters): Oysters are salted for three days then seasoned with red pepper powder, sugar, garlic and ginger.They are stored in a jar in a cool place until required.”

I can’t help but wonder which of those two recipes M.F.K. Fisher would have liked better.

Let’s Eat Korean Food starts out with a historical look at Korean cuisine, some helpful information about dining in a Korean restaurant, an explanation of the more popular seasonings that go into Korean food, then a comprehensive overview of some of the most popular dishes here. Each chapter has a “Connoisseur’s Choice” section, and I was pleased to see some of my favorites described in mouth-watering detail. The book ends with a look at what is usually served on big feast days. Let’s Eat Korean Food is illustrated with excellent pen-and-ink drawings that help you recognize a certain dish at first glance. O’Brien is no M.F.K. Fisher, but her descriptions are clear and precise. A tasty read, highly recommended!

>The Well-Seasoned Reader Challenge

> I really tried not to join any challenges for 2009, but Book Nut made this sound so irresistible. Just my cup of tea. Easy, too. Piece of cake, so to speak. I don’t think I can fail at this one:

Rule 1# The challenge runs from January 1 – March 31. (No cheating or starting before!)
Rule 2# You must read 3 books. After that, it’s up to you how much you want to read.
Rule 3# The books must: Have a food name in the title OR be about cooking/eating OR have a place name in the title OR be about a specific culture OR be by an author whose ethnicity is other than your own.
Rule 4# The books must be middle-grade and on up, but can be either fiction or nonfiction.

This challenge not only screamed my name, it knocked me down and began chewing on my forearm. Now that I’ve succumbed, it’s like dominoes; I’ll be tumbling for those other challenges dancing in front of my eyes. Sigh. Stay tuned.