Archive - Food RSS Feed

Tips For an Easier and Tastier Thanksgiving

I’m going to come right out and say it: planning and cooking a traditional Thanksgiving feast is not easy. It’s a challenge, to say the least. Few people have the sort of kitchens that can store and cook all the food required in one go, let alone sufficient helping hands. There are things in that traditional menu that very, very few of us cook at any point in the rest of the year. After all, when else do most people roast a turkey or make a pie? Yes, I do make pie pretty regularly, but that turkey? Not so much. That’s a big honking bird to cook for two people, which is how many eat here in one go maximum most of the year. Heck, my mother had a husband, three hungry kids, and usually at least one friend of someone in the family at that dinner table most nights, and turkey was still a once a year thing.

So let’s talk about a few ways you can make your life easier if you choose to take on making a more or less standard, traditional Thanksgiving meal for you and yours. After all, you want the energy to enjoy what you have wrought when you sit down to eat. Landing face first in the mashed potatoes from exhaustion and frustration does not make for a fun holiday for anyone.

So what can you do to make sure you’re in good shape to celebrate? What can you do to make unfamiliar dishes taste like you’re a pro at cooking them?

(more…)

Take Care of Your Emotional Health on Thanksgiving

It’s a fact. Not all families are created equal. Some of us are lucky enough to have families that welcome and embrace us during the holidays… and others of us spend this time of year being emotionally beaten up by our nearest and dearest.

Over the years, I’ve read harrowing tales on this site from awesome Big Girls who are expected to cook the Thanksgiving feast and then berated for every bite they dare to eat. I’ve read of others who spend the holidays in a constant round of being given diet tips by all their relatives, their spouses, and their closest friends. I’ve read about the folks who wheedle invitations to dinner and then complain about the cooking, the choice of menu, and the decor. I’ve read about families grimly sitting down to a traditional meal that took days and huge amounts of money to create, but that nobody actually enjoys eating. And I’ve read about families who take this holiday dedicated to gratitude and turn it into a chance to object vociferously to the size, body art, hair color, clothing choices, sexuality, relationships, child-rearing plans and/or skills, careers, and literary taste of everyone else at the table.

If this in any way describes your Thanksgiving guest list (or the Thanksgiving you’ve been invited to partake in), it’s time to rethink your holiday plans.

(more…)

How To Compose a Thanksgiving Menu

This is a pretty traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey, cranberries, pie, gravy, seasonal vegetable medley… it’s a meal that many people look forward to every year.

It’s also one that many people dread every year. In this case, I’m not talking about the company, because that will be another article. As per usual, I’ll spend the weekends leading up to Thanksgiving (here in USAnia, anyway) talking about different aspects of Thanksgiving, very much including the emotional ones. But today, I’m just talking menu planning.

You see, no matter how traditional or un you plan to be, the meal needs planning in advance. So let’s break it down and figure out how to figure out what to serve your nearest and dearest for the holiday.

(more…)

How It Should Be Done

(Illustration of sukkah viaHWPS, where you can learn a tidge more about Sukkot, if you so desire)

Well.

Mr. Twistie and I have been the social butterflies of late. Parties, concerts, more parties.

Yes, we went to another party yesterday.

You see, the lead guitarist in Mr. Twistie’s band held a party yesterday in honor of Sukkot and his own birthday. Yep, same day. Kind of cool.

There was vegetarian barbeque (Lead Guitarist and his lady are longtime vegetarians) and a bit of a potluck filled out with some family favorites and store bought party treats. They’d set up a sukkah in their backyard where most of us sat… and the musicians headed into the garage for a jam session. Did you know Hotel California sounds kind of awesome on a clarinet? I didn’t until yesterday.

But the coolest thing of all about this party? I hung out for hours with people of every size, age, race, creed, and dietary persuasion and do you know what I heard? Not. One. Word. of body shame or food policing.

People did say they really liked a particular dish here and there. There was a lot of praise for the couple’s fourteen year old son who baked his dad’s birthday cake from scratch… and rightly so. It was a delicious cake. There were a couple people who turned down a slice of said delicious cake saying they’d had high blood sugar readings that day. There were people, myself among them, who passed on the meat substitute burgers and hotdogs. But there was no pushing to find out why, nor was there anyone who made a fuss about having to go meat free for one, single meal. I did hear the hostess point out a dish that one guest might wish to avoid because of an allergy.

And that was that. People took what they wanted and left what they didn’t without comment from anyone. Most people looked well satisfied with their meals, and there was certainly plenty to go around.

This is how it should be done. The people throwing the party offer up enough to go around, according to their abilities and their beliefs. Where appropriate and welcome, others share what they have to share. Those who attend eat what they prefer and leave the rest behind without complaint. Those who find something particularly delicious say so. People don’t spend the entire party complaining about their own or anyone else’s bodies. Health issues (allergies, chronic ailments that affect diet) are recognized, but neither trumpeted to the skies nor belittled. Everyone is allowed to make their own choices for their own bodies, and nobody makes a big deal out of it.

Instead of making a big bad thing out of food, there were people making conversation about other topics, people making music… even one lovely lady making a fabulous crocheted purse. She and I had a delightful conversation about our various crafty pursuits as she worked.

I just thought in light of my recent posts about constant harping in otherwise festive situations, you should all get a chance to hear about the case where the ideal happened.

You Asked For It: Twistie’s Baking Library

(Actual illustration of Twistie at actual size… only two hundred and fifty years ago and much smaller)

In response to my harrumph of last week on the response my week’s worth of baking delicious things for the annual block party, several of you (and you know who you are) begged for the recipes.

Darlings, I love you all like Plummy loves her granny pants, but I’m not typing out that many recipes. I made four fabulous treats, three of which required a minimum of two recipes to assemble. In fact, two of them took three each. That’s a lot of typing of other people’s copyrighted materials.

Instead, I’m going to reveal the sources of all the recipes, tell you where to get copies, and leave it to your own ingenuity and budgets to get them or not. I will further recommend that any of you who enjoy baking more than once in a very, very, very blue moon pick up at least one of these three volumes. Every one is brimful of clear recipes for delicious treats for all occasions.

(more…)

What’s In It?

One day, Steve Ettlinger was sitting at a picnic bench with his two children absently reading the ingredient label from his ice cream bar when his daughter asked him “… what’s pol-y-sor-bate six-tee?”

Ettlinger realized in that moment that while he’d been reading content labels for processed foods for years, he didn’t actually know what a lot of the ingredients were or where they came from. He decided to find out.

Thus the book Twinkie, Deconstrcuted was born.

Ettlinger decided to start his journey with a single, ubiquitous processed food that most of us have eaten at some point in our lives, the Twinkie and similar snack cakes, and find out what goes into a typical one, where it comes from, and how it’s processed into popular golden snacks.

The result is a fascinating tour of American foodways blessedly free from moralizing, shaming, cheerleading, or bluster. Ettlinger has opinions and quirky thoughts, but leaves the individual reader to decide what to do with the information he’s passing on. Along the way he shows us the sometimes surprising connections between such varied items as: snack cakes, health foods, industrial solvents, and glues.

There are challenges aplenty to assumptions on all sides of arguments about how food is produced, and what the potential dangers of highly processed foods may or may not be. For instance, as of 2007 when this book was published, nobody could point to the potential health effects – if any – of high fructose corn syrup. Why? Because while it has been added to everything from fruit juice and sodas to snack crackers and Twinkies, no long-term study has been done on it. This means we don’t have any proof one way or another to whether it has anything to do with the much ballyhooed ‘obesity epidemic’ or rising rates of diabetes, both of which can be more than adequately explained by a variety of other reasons… nor do we have any proof that it has nothing to do with any specific health risk. That means that food purists can always point to it as a potential threat, and corn growers and food manufacturers can equally validly point out that it hasn’t been proven to cause anything at all.

On the other hand, it’s interesting to note that vegan meat substitutes might well not exist without the humble Twinkie.

With a refreshingly breezy tone and the even more refreshing assumption that readers are more than capable of choosing how to use facts presented in their lives to their own ends, it’s also a tremendously fun read.

One thing is for sure: if you read this book, you will understand more about the complex ways simple foods are produced and brought to market in America.

And if your six year old ever wants to know what polysorbate sixty is, you will have an answer.

Fun Concept, False Advertising, Good Read All the Same

So. Fannie’s Last Supper by Chris Kimball. Let’s talk about this book, shall we?

The concept was deeply cool. When Kimball moved into a house built in Boston in 1859, he learned that it was right down the street from where America’s most famous home economist and cookbook author, Fannie Merritt Farmer lived. This inspired him to decide to create an historically accurate kitchen and – using Farmer’s recipes and the techniques of the day – cook and serve an historically accurate American Victorian dinner party, circa 1896, the year the Fannie Farmer Cookbook was first published.

The result is a highly readable (albeit occasionally painfully graphic) documentation of his attempts to do just that.

(more…)

Page 1 of 1912345»10...Last »