Category Archives: food

Surviving Motherhood: things to get excited about, right now

A friend’s dad, visiting from the UK, told me he thought that women made better stay-at-home parents.  This was within the context of my friend, his son, taking 6 weeks off in-between jobs, and going on and on about how great he would be at stay-at-home-dad-ness.  His father didn’t agree.

“It’s just natural [for women to stay home to take care of kids],” he kept saying.  “It’s biological.  It comes naturally to you.”  (By “you”, he apparently meant “all women, everywhere.”)

Really?  Because I don’t know that it comes naturally to me, let alone to most women I know.  Sure, we can give birth, and breastfeed, and all those hormones can make us superhuman, especially when it comes to getting up in the middle of the night.  But being a full-time parent is hard, people!  It’s not the running-about-after, cooking-for, cleaning-up-after a toddler that does me in; it’s the mental exhaustion of doing all these things, all day long, every day, without the built-in adult stimulation that full-time, paid employment brings to the table. Continue reading Surviving Motherhood: things to get excited about, right now

100% Local: Summer Tomato & Corn Soup

I made this fabulous soup last night with stuff from the garden and our local farm. Perfect for Indian Summer, and it was great to partake in the local produce of the season, especially after gorging on so much cheese and patisseries in France.

Props to Kaela at localkitchenblog.com!  What a beautiful site.  I’ll be visiting again soon…

tomato-corn-soupFrom a wonderful trip to San Francisco & wine country for the happiest of reasons, my friend Melissa’s 50th birthday, to an unexpected and bittersweet trip to Boston for the saddest of reasons, August has sped by in a whirlwind of trains, planes and automobiles, good times with old friends and new, many laughs and not a few tears.

I’m well behind on the season’s preserving, but in between trips I did manage to whip up this fabulous light, summery soup, saving a big pile of CSA vegetables from the compost pile and freezing just a bit of summer’s abundance for the winter ahead. I highly recommend you do the same. If you need me, you can find me outside in the sunshine, savoring the last few days of August in New York. Happy Sunday, all.

tomato-corn-soupSummer Tomato & Corn Soup

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 small (or 4 large) ears corn…

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Growing Dinner

So, we’re trying to economize.  Before I quit my job, we looked at our finances and figured that most of my salary would be going to Charlotte’s daycare bills anyway, so was it worth it?  More importantly, I didn’t love my job, and I loved hanging out with my kid right from the start.  So we took the plunge.  Fast forward 7 months and all my organic produce and compulsive book-buying is showing up on our bank accounts.  So, for now the books will come from the library, and I’ve sworn to grow my own kale.

I’ve always loved the idea of growing my own food.  My mother has cultivated an impressive expanse of garden over the years, surrounding my childhood home, but we never really had the sunny conditions necessary to grow vegetables.  I was raised on hearty and healthy foodstuff, but there were a lot of frozen peas, steamed broccoli and baked potatoes in my childhood.  I didn’t know what a leek was until I met my husband.  To be fair, this is generational: mother now serves fennel, jicama, and kale like they’re going out of style.  Go, Mom!

G. had a different experience.  He grew up on a dairy farm in the north of France, and rarely bought food at the grocery store.  Although his parents’ generation is now retired, his father still keeps an impressive garden that easily feeds the extended family, as well as many of the neighbors.  In return for bumper crops of lettuce, broccoli, tomatoes, and the like, he gets fresh meat, milk, eggs, and fruit from friends, family, and neighboring farms.  A chest freezer keeps much of the meat (except game that goes into jars as pates), and the veggies and fruit from summer harvests are cooked and canned and stored for the winter.

Full disclosure: I really prefer fresh or frozen fruit and veg.  This is not to say that I don’t appreciate the locavore lifestyle followed by my in-laws: they are saintly beyond all measure, by our suburban American standards.  However, given the chance, I’ll take my organic “French” beans from Whole Foods over the brownish-colored, limp things that have been in a Mason jar in your basement for 6 months, thank you very much.

photoDespite being a spoiled little American in this regard, I still want to grow my own food, at least as much as is realistic during our truncated New England growing season.  If I can figure out a preservation technique that makes me still want to eat it come winter, well, so much the better, but thus far I’m a fair-weather locavore.

After we moved to our own little house, we dug up part of the backyard and installed some raised beds, following the advice of Ed Smith of The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible fame.  For the past three years we’ve grown a whole lot of herbs, lettuce, kale, chard, spinach, arugula, potatoes, peas, beans, carrots, beets, leeks, cucumbers, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes.  We’ve had less luck with regular tomatoes, peppers, chilis, eggplant, winter squash, and gords, but I’m still hopeful.  I get our seeds from local sources or (if I’m feeling fancy) from www.seedsavers.org.

As I don’t have as much time this year to dedicate to the garden (taking care of Charlie eats up more hours than you would imagine), I’m concentrating on the essentials: basically anything I’ve had good luck with in the past, and that we need to be organic (the Environmental Working Group publishes a yearly “Shopper’s guide to pesticides in produce”).  I’ll continue to supplement our diet with farmers’ market fair and the occasional trip to the store, but I’m making an effort not to spend any more $$ on Whole Foods kale until next winter, cabbage moths allowing.

Here’s an interesting article from Forbes about the gardening-money-saving connection.

what to eat? or, how to make a child

Growing a baby inside your body makes you think a lot more about what else you’re putting in there–talk about some motivation for deliberate eating!  One of my best friends, when she learned I was pregnant, asked if I now imagine everything I eat as making a piece of the new little person.  As in: I just ate some bread, which is becoming a baby-foot.  That’s not exactly the way I’ve been thinking about it, but we’re getting there.

One of the strange things about pregnancy is that you’re both given leave to eat whatever you want (ice cream in the middle of the night? why not!), and told how bad everything is for you (peanuts will give your unborn child allergies!).  In reality, both of these perspectives seem somewhat ludicrous, from the perspective of the pregnant person.  If I wasn’t supposed to sit around eating bonbons all day before, why on earth would it be alright now?  And some preliminary research into food allergies (see this fascinating piece published last year) will show you we really know nothing about them, or their relation to what we consume in vitro.

Journalist and science writer Annie Murphy Paul decodes some of these mysteries in her (really very good) book Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives.  Following the journey of her own second pregnancy, Paul brings the latest science and the most scintillating history to light in language and style so approachable, it made even this squeamish prego feel comfortable and well-informed.

Paul doesn’t concentrate on what to eat, or what diets are best for the little growing alien in your belly, so I’ve decided I need to explore elsewhere.  I was a mostly-vegetarian pre-pregnancy, but all the pressure to up my iron and protein for the little gizmo got to me in the first five months or so.  Now I’m rethinking that buffalo meat in last night’s pasta.  Should I revert to my veggie ways? go vegan? become a raw foodist?  I’m really at a loss.

This area obviously requires more research, and ideally some scientific data to back up any conclusions I may reach.  I’ll see what I can find.