March 9, 2013 § Leave a comment
Today I took a “me” day. I slept in, didn’t set an alarm for once. I bought a pair of red jeans off the sale rack, which I spectacularly managed to squeeze into seeing as they were two sizes smaller than I generally buy. I also bought a lovable tribal print sweater — it pays to be “hipster” in Princeton because no one else is, so everything that would be flying off racks in San Francisco is $20 off here. I had a cranberry orange scone (my favorite) and latte at Small World Coffee and people-watched instead of hiding behind my laptop, writing my thesis. I walked down to the Whole Earth Center and stocked up on local Fuji apples, kale salad with almonds, tofu, and sesame seeds, and organic peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. I wore sweatpants and no makeup, and realized people don’t really look at you any differently. Simply walking around a bit was uplifting — after the snowfall two nights ago, spring appears to have finally arrived; the sun was out, the snow melting, and I could have done without the jacket.
When I got home, I started looking up the top organic and biochemistry grad schools (not for me obviously!) and started mapping out a summer road trip down the West Coast. I tried to tack on the Grand Canyon to the end of the trip (figuring I should give it another shot after my adolescent disinterest consisting of about a five minute look into the canyon before I’d had enough) which added an extra eight hours of driving. For some reason, I find thinking about travel incredibly calming; it’s like a realization that walls were made for falling down. Even more, thinking about driving along the ocean brings me to my happy place, where things are hippie, spontaneous, wandering, and bohemian without effort, because you know, even being boho these days seems to require quite a bit of planning. The images here are ones I took in Big Sur, California on a family trip. I can’t wait to go back. These brown butter rhubarb bars are from The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook, and are chewy like a macaroon without the coconut, crackly on the top with a brownie without the chocolate, and stuffed with stringy, sweetened rhubarb, which is finally back in season. Never having been a huge rhubarb fan myself, I always did enjoy eating the raw stalks, dipped luxuriously in white sugar, from my grandparents’ backyard. I handwrote the recipe for these bars on little cards for a couple of people, but alas the actual book is in my room in San Francisco so no recipe today.
That all said, there are parts of the very concrete future to be very excited about. I’ll be calling Boston home next year, and am incredibly delighted to share my new adventures surrounding food justice in the coming months.
August 27, 2012 § Leave a comment
The majority of my childhood summer memories were made in the swimming pool or on the campsite. Camping was the form family vacation took, more often than not, and one of the few activities that could be counted on to regularly bring us all together. It generally involved flying up to Victoria, British Columbia, a brief stopover at my grandparents’ house, and then us all piling in the mini-van to drive north on the island. I remember the small opening in the bushes, where we stumbled down into the cold, clear lake on Saltspring Island. The sandy stretch by the Strathcona Park Lodge where I roasted — and ate — marshmallow after marshmallow, back when the concept on healthy eating scarcely even crossed my mind, if at all. That one ill-fated weeklong trip, when it poured every day. My cousin’s dogs that accompanied us everywhere, and the journals that I filled every day with sketches of animals I had seen at the nearby wildlife center.
Despite this, the hardest affront to my camping nostalgia came out of a box — a box of Honey Maid graham crackers to be specific. They were dry, dusty, nothing like the graham crackers I remember, from even just a year ago. Honey Maid, what happened? Awhile back, I made a batch of homemade graham crackers, that were a bit more butter cookie than I would have liked. We took the batch camping last summer and while the graham crackers were a solid base for s’mores, we found that they were better enjoyed as a breakfast biscuit the next morning, with coffee out of a plastic mug. I hadn’t thought about making graham crackers since. But now, I’d say it’s back to square one. Calling all graham cracker recipes.
August 16, 2012 § 2 Comments
Stuck in bumper to bumper traffic for two hours on 101 — making the total drive home about five hours — it was easy to forget that we were coming back from an overnight stay at The Apple Farm, a lazy night and day spent eating, exploring the various ice cream and baked goods options, and sampling a variety of apples, straight from the trees surrounding our little blue doored cottage. A sugar-crusted blueberry scone and honeyed sticky bun from the Downtown Healdsburg Bakery. A scoop of fresh mint chip ice cream, and an assortment of cookies — peanut butter and ginger molasses, our favorites!— from Paysanne in Boonville. Later on, a couple more scoops of homemade ice cream in large waffle cones, in the cold, breezy, seaside town of Fort Bragg.
At the farm, I somehow managed to score the comfy bed in the cottage, snuggled under five quilts and duvets, a heavy shield against the chilly air coming in through the many open windows. Outside, rows of apple trees stretched into the distant dry, yellow hills, most of the fruit still green, firm, and tart to the taste, as the season for most apple varieties begins in September. Still, there were several kinds for sale at the farm stand — the royalties originally from Minnesota, the pink ladies, tinged pink on the inside as well as out — which was self-service on an honor basis. Lines of apple cider vinegar and syrup, jams in apricot, plum strawberry and blackberry, fig and apple chutneys, and cold apple juice in the fridge, next to a small haul of beets and kale.
Breakfast was served in the main building, a very simple affair of crusty toast, with holes where the melted butter seeped through onto the plate below. Little bowls of apricot and strawberry jam (strawberry jam tart recipe to come — they just came out of the oven and are simply adorable!). Raw milk from the farm cows for coffee and black tea. Thick yogurt, topped with raspberries, and, for me, a swirl of strawberry jam and raw cane sugar crystals.
Down the road, kids played in the stream under the bridge, and I turned off into the state park for a quiet run in the shade of the towering trees. The smell of burning wood for campfires creeping in in the evening and then, again, in the early morning. Damp cold air, with just a spit of rain, that melted into the heat of an inland summer.
July 15, 2012 § 2 Comments
I’m sitting on the balcony of my hotel room in Paris, eight floors above the street, below, just steps away from the Saint Michel fountain, where crowds of tourists are still applauding two men performing some sort of bizarre sequence of body movements, which, in my opinion, hardly qualify as art or as acrobatic contortions. Horns are blaring, and I’m sure in some parts of the city — perhaps even a couple blocks away — parties are well under way for Bastille Day. I walked around about a four-block radius of my hotel and then retreated to my sanctuary of a hotel room.
Lately, I’ve been longing to be home, or at least somewhere I can call home for a couple of weeks, dreaming about having a kitchen again and starting each morning with a bowl of oatmeal with maple syrup and a cup of fresh coffee. Craving strange and random things that I certainly never thought would be at the top of my list — non-fat milk, whole grains, avocado, and curry. Homey, healthy, and flavors with a kick. Believe it or not, one cannot eat croissants forever, though I have certainly put it to the test.
Thankfully, it will be exactly one day until I have a kitchen again — though it still could not be farther from home —, as I have a growing list of desserts, and surprisingly savory dinner items, to make. In honor of this occasion, I thought I’d share something I made in the days leading up to this trip (read, almost two months ago). Fresh California strawberries sit atop a thick layer of vanilla pastry cream. The crust is crunchy, and just slightly overbaked to the point that it’s crystallized and caramelizing. Before filling the tart, I dipped a knife and a couple of spoons in a jar of hazelnut jam that my mom picked up at a local bakery, and spread the crust with nutty goodness. This tart disappeared in a flash, I think because it became of a favorite breakfast item of my dad’s.
May 22, 2012 § Leave a comment
The fluffy tops of the white clouds outside my window are gently dusted in pale, yellow light. Soon, the light will fade and the sky will transform into a dusty blue, underneath a strip of hazy orange — the sunset — and dots of human lights will begin to emerge underneath us. Crammed into an airplane seat, next to a guy who continuously asks to have his plastic cup — with straw — refilled and flinches every time I move, I’m suffering from a raging sunburn, pouring through summer magazines packed with riffs on tacos with mango-avocado salsa, and struggling to hold back to tears watching Channing Tatum recover his marriage with a girl who’s permanently lost her memory. The Newark airport was swimming with activity and aggressively impatient people today, likely due to the 100-person long lines at every point of the check-in-security-boarding process. Luckily I have a Priority Access card to flash around the minute a line forms, and have made great use of UPS’ shipping abilities for all my extra clothes (please don’t inquire after the number of boxes). Then, once we were finally boarded, we sat for two hours because our pilot was missing in action.
We spent my last day at Princeton on the Jersey Shore, at Pleasant Point. We didn’t make much use of the roller coasters, but we played an aggressive game of beach soccer and got rough-hosed by the chilly waves, which suck you under the surface for a couple of terrifying, brain-freezing seconds. As the day got windy, we sat in the sand playing cards and eating a pizza the size of a large beach ball. Fleeing the wind, we piled back into the cars and joined Jersey traffic on the way home.
The next day, I woke up on the other coast, to my brother getting ready for school, to the birds chirping in the backyard, to the sun shining through the skylights in the kitchen. Breakfast was scrambled eggs, with fresh tomatoes and guacamole on a tortilla, true California breakfast. With a side of milky black tea and my mom’s snickerdoodle cookies.