Saturday, May 23, 2015

Kitchen Intuition: Travel food

Street festival food in Budapest, Hungary. (Photo: Alice O'Dea)

I’ve been traveling this past week, so instead of spending time in my kitchen, I’ve been thinking about the strategies for eating well when staying in hotels while also finding inspiration to take home with me. This has not been a road trip (I’ll likely be writing about that later this summer when I do some driving up and down the East Coast), but rather a visit to a couple of unfamiliar countries (Hungary and the Czech Republic), so my mind has been especially focused on foreign cookery. Here are some guidelines I’ve been following.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Kitchen Intuition: Shrubs

Just as the hot weather started to roll into Chattanooga recently, a recipe for a lemon balm shrub appeared on Tant Hill Farm’s blog. This was a timely reminder of a great, adaptable and refreshing drink that can keep one quenched and cool all summer long. Most commonly referred to as a shrub, this beverage also sometimes goes by the namedrinking vinegar and is similar to the switchel.

The shrub is a fruit syrup, which is acid-based (the acid is most often vinegar, but sometimes fruit juice); usually sweetened (with sugar, honey or molasses); sometimes alcoholic (mixed with brandy, rum, champagne, sherry or vermouth); and often served mixed with water, soda or seltzer. They’ve been traced back to as early as the 15th century, but in America fell out of favor after Prohibition. They have enjoyed a huge resurgence in recent years (Michael Dietsch gives some credit for this to Tait Farm Foods, who started making shrubs in 1987, which were later discovered by Wall Street Journal columnist Eric Felten).

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Kitchen Intuition: Chicken soup

I’ve been sick with a cold this week, complete with a stuffy nose, scratchy throat and general feeling of affliction. And it is at just such an occasion that I’m grateful for soup, because it really does make a body feel better (especially if I’m the body that’s mixing up the magic potion).

Chicken soup has been conferred with medicinal properties probably for almost as long as humans have been making it. Recent research shows that the curative powers of chicken soup go beyond mythology; chicken soup can indeed ease symptoms of the upper respiratory ailments. Further, I think the benefits of the soup are heightened by the act of preparing it. Slicing and chopping onions, normally an experience that is irritating to the eyes, can help break up congestion. And standing over a steaming pot of broth as it simmers is warming, comforting and decongesting.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Kitchen Intuition: Bean salad

After making a case for eating more beans last week, I’ve now got a suggestion for where to start, if you haven’t already: with a bean salad. There are so many possibilities when it comes to beans, but here is a quick, cheap, familiar dish that has the flexibility to fit what you have on hand. It also works well in the warmer weather that is headed our way, as it can be served cold or at room temperature.

You can use canned beans for convenience or cook them yourself for savings, which also gives you extra control over the texture of your beans. Cook longer for creamier beans or simmer just to al dente for firmer beans. You often want the beans to have a bit of firmness in a bean salad so they can hold up to stirring.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Kitchen Intuition: A cheap, easy weight loss secret

This is such a good secret that I even forgot about it for a while and needed a reminder. And when it came recently, the prompt was timely, for here we are, poised between the good intentions at the root of our New Year’s resolutions and Lenten sacrifices—and the realities we face as we pull our summer togs out for the season.

I haven’t had to spend much time worrying about my weight in the years since I fundamentally changed the way I eat. There was a year when I gradually cut out overly processed foods and shifted more toward mostly plant-based and home-cooked foods in an effort to improve my health. It wasn’t long before I started losing weight, and to my surprise, I was easily losing a pound a week, without feeling at all deprived. I even enjoyed wine with dinner most evenings, along with a bit of dark chocolate for dessert. Eventually, I settled in a place where my health metrics were good and I felt comfortable in my body.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Kitchen Intuition: Takeaways from the Scenic City Supper Club

If you've read Sean Phipps’ great play-by-play of the Scenic City Supper Club’s inaugural event and are hungry for more, I don't blame you. The evening was a triumph for the organizers, and it seemed to go off without a hitch. The setting was beautiful, and the chefs were all quite relaxed and mingled with guests throughout the evening. It was a great opportunity for attendees to chat not only with fellow epicures, but also with the talent that would bring the fare to the table. Here are some takeaways from the occasion.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Nigerian School Girls One Year Later

We can’t talk about gender equality, class equality and STEM education for women if we aren’t willing to support it in the Third World. We can’t fret about the educational opportunities for our own daughters if we aren’t willing to pay attention to when they are denied abroad. We can’t watch TED Talks and read news stories about heroic young women like Malala and ignore 234 young women just like her who are being threatened with rape, physical abuse, sex slavery and death because they sought an education.
One year ago I wrote a heart-felt piece, quoted above, responding to the news that over 200 Nigerian school girls had been kidnapped. At the time I was appalled that this had even occurred. I was angry that I’d heard about it through Twitter activtists and not the mainstream media. I had no idea that a year later next to nothing would have been done to rescue the students from Boko Haram, and these girls would still be missing. I had no idea that a year later Malala Yousafzai herself would be reminding the world that this tragedy happened, and that it’s still ongoing. It’s present tense, not pushed into the past and punctuated with a period put in place by the 24 hour news cycle.