Sunday, September 21, 2008

Not Food Related, but Important Nonetheless

Ok, so I know this is a FOOD blog, but I read an email today that I feel should be broadcast from the rooftops in every city of this country right now, before we do something eternally stupid.

A little political comparison between Obama and Palin/McCain (let's face it, her name might as well be first on the ticket)...

We're a little confused. Let's see if we have this straight.....

* If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you're "exotic,

* If you grow up in Alaska eating moose burgers, it's a quintessential
American story.

* If your name is Barack you're a radical, unpatriotic Muslim.
* If you name your kids Willow, Trig and Track, you're a maverick.

* If you graduate from Harvard law School you are unstable.
* If you attend 5 different small colleges before graduating, you're
well grounded.

* If you spend 3 years as a brilliant community organizer, become the
first black President of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter
registration drive that registers 150,000 new voters, spend 12 years as
a Constitutional Law professor, spend 8 years as a State Senator
representing a district with over 750,000 people, become chairman of the
state Senate's Health and Human Services committee, spend 4 years in the
United States Senate representing a state of 13 million people while
sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and
Public Works and Veteran's Affairs committees, you don't have any real
leadership experience.

* If your total resume is: local weather girl, 4 years on the city
council and 6 years as the mayor of a town with less than 7,000 people,
20 months as the governor of a state with only 650,000 people, then
you're qualified to become the country's second highest ranking executive.

* If you have been married to the same woman for 19 years while raising
2 beautiful daughters, all within Protestant churches, you're not a real

* If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, and left your
disfigured wife and married the heiress the next month, you're a
Christian. (That'd be McCain, a real creep, reminiscent of Newt Gingrich
serving divorce papers to his wife while she was in the hospital with

* If you teach responsible, age appropriate sex education, including the
proper use of birth control, you are eroding the fiber of society.

* If, while governor, you staunchly advocate abstinence only, with no
other option in sex education in your state's school system while your
unwed teen daughter ends up pregnant, you¹re very responsible.

* If your wife is a Harvard graduate lawyer who gave up a position in a
prestigious law firm to work for the betterment of her inner city
community, then gave that up to raise a family, your family's values
don't represent America¹s.

* If you're husband is nicknamed "First Dude", with at least one DWI
conviction and no college education, who didn't register to vote until
age 25 and once was a member of a group that advocated the secession of
Alaska from the USA, your family is extremely admirable.

OK, much clearer now.

PLEASE choose wisely this November.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

HFLF Conference, Another Trip to the BRC, Slow Food IU

My, it has been a busy couple of weeks.

Way back on September 6th, I attended the Healthy Food, Local Farms conference in Louisville, Kentucky, sponsored by the local Sierra Club and Slow Food chapters there. The theme was "Politics of Food," which is right up my alley, of course, and I really enjoyed the conference. Most of the talk was about how to promote sustainability and Slow ideals within the Louisville area, but I think a lot of the ideas are transferable to any locale. Guest speakers included Daniel Imhoff, author of Food Fight, about the Farm Bill, and Judy Wicks, owner of the White Dog Cafe in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I found Judy Wicks to be particularly inspirational. During her talk, she said this fabulous quote which I would love to turn into my life's work: "I use good food to lure innocent customers into social action." If you don't know about the White Dog Cafe, I highly suggest you check out their website and see what they are all about.

The lunch served to us at the conference was absolutely delicious. It was all from local producers and included such wonderful dishes as cheesy grits, chicken salad, artisan bread, honey cake, local ginger ale, and some incredible sausage gumbo featuring chorizo from my dear friends at Fiedler Family Farms.

On the way home, Mom and I stopped for dinner at the Blue River Cafe. I had to have some more of that coleslaw! Of course they didn't disappoint, and my coleslaw was just as wonderful as I remembered. My pork tenderloin was excellent as well. I was surprised at it's thickness... it more closely resembled a pork chop than the pounded thin, mostly breading tenderloins one usually finds in Indiana. It was really delicious, though. Very juicy and tender, and the homeade breading was crispy and in perfect proportion to the meat. Yum!

Slow Food IU held its first meeting on September 9th, and I was pleasantly surprised to see people that weren't my friends or roomates attend. It was a small turnout, but I look forward to our first potluck tomorrow, and to growing the group a bit more once people know what we're about.

That's all from me for now, folks. As Paula Deen says, "Best dishes from my kitchen to yours!"

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Southern Indiana Eating (Near and Far)

First, allow me to apologize for the poor quality of these pics (anyone want to buy me a new phone with a better camera?) Great, now that that's out of the way, allow me to talk about how much I enjoyed eating the food in these pics.

I took a weekend trip to Southern Indiana this weekend with my father, and on our way home on Sunday I suggested we stop for lunch at the Blue River Cafe. You could literally blink and miss Main St. in Milltown, Indiana, but if you do manage to find and follow it as it winds through the tiny town, you will certainly be rewarded.

I first read about the Blue River Cafe in Home Grown Indiana, the book I mentioned in my last post. Since it is a bit of a drive from Bloomington, I hadn't really ever thought about dining there until I was looking through a tourism guide on Southern Indiana that happened to mention the cafe as a great place to eat. Dad and I were in nearby New Albany, so we decided to make the jaunt over to Milltown for lunch. We arrived just as they were opening for the day and were seated and presented with not one, not two, but three menus of food and a "spirits" menu. As it was eleven on a Sunday morning and, in my opinion, a little early for alcohol, we concentrated on trying to decide if we wanted brunch, dinner, or a sandwich (hence, the three menus). I chose the "Avocado Burger," and got the basket, which came with steak fries and coleslaw. Now, as a general rule, I HATE coleslaw. Maybe it's all the time I spent making Steak N Shake's particularly disgusting version of the side dish, I don't know, but I hate it. So when the waitress brought the heaping scoop of slaw nestled on a bed of lettuce to our table, I immediately pushed it over to Dad (who will eat anything) and crinkled my nose like a seven-year-old presented with a plate full of broccoli. Seeing this, the waitress asked if I liked coleslaw. When I replied with an emphatic "NO" she told me that she hated it too... with the exception of the coleslaw she served at the restaurant. She insisted I try it, but I was majorly skeptical, so I took the tiniest of forkfuls, slowly brought it to my lips, and promptly fell in love. This was like no coleslaw I have ever tasted. The dressing was sweet and light, and the cabbage was fresh and crunchy. I couldn't believe my taste buds! And that was only the beginning. The avocado on my burger was perfectly ripe, and an amazingly unexpected taste with the cheddar cheese and ground beef. The fries were very obviously (in a good way) hand cut from a whole potato and expertly fried so that they had a great crunch on the outside but were nice and potato-y on the inside. The whole meal was just excellent, but the coleslaw was really the star. I wish I had some right now.

The other delicious meal pictured is the "Duck Confit" salad I had at Finch's Brasserie this afternoon, here in Bloomington. As many of you know, Finch's used to be Trulli Flatbread, which I was a big fan of, but I hadn't been in since the big change over to Finch's. The salad I had was a French lentil salad, frisee, crispy pommes, and mustard vinaigrette, as described by the menu. I describe it as tasty, although impossible to eat gracefully, thanks to the frisee. The lentil salad was stellar, with lentils, red onion, carrots, and celery, and what's not to love about crispy potatoes? The real tongue-tempter though, was the duck. It was tender and practically melted in my mouth. Duck is not a meat that I always enjoy, because it is so oily, but this duck was perfectly and simply prepared, and a pleasure to eat.

I was also fortunate enough to be dining near a friend who ordered the watermelon sorbet for dessert. He was kind enough to share a scoop with me, and my, am I glad he did. I am not a big watermelon eater, I never have been, but I'm furious at myself for not eating this sorbet all summer. It was full of watermelon flavor, but it was a very delicate watermelon flavor, and it was absolutely delicious.

I want to say more about my lunch at Finch's at some point, but alas, the classroom calls. Perhaps I will add more to this later. Until then, eat well!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Good Eats, New Reads, SFIU, etc.

As Summer draws to a close I actually find myself pretty happy about it. For once I am really looking forward to Fall classes and all that the semester brings. I'll be taking an Anthro class centered on foodways, as well as a Caribbean Lit class in which the professor has graciously allowed me to write my papers about food themes in the books we read. I will also hopefully be working more hours at Jiffy Treet (the locally owned ice cream store that employs me), which is great because I really love working there.

Slow Food IU is *finally* an official organization at Indiana University, however we still have to charter with Slow Food USA. Plans are in the works to do that during the second week of classes. I'm thrilled that we are getting this off the ground after almost a year of planning and more than a little ball-dropping on the part of many people (myself included).

Yesterday I picked up Home Grown Indiana, the latest from my all-time favorite professor and author of the blog at My Plate or Yours, Christine Barbour. She wrote this guide to good eating in Indiana along with Scott Hutcheson, blogger at The Hungry Hoosier. The book is subtitled "A Food Lover's Guide to Good Eating in the Hoosier State," and profiles local farmers, restaurants, CSAs, and Co-ops in every region of Indiana. I've not started it yet, but I look forward to using it as a resource as I have recently made the decision to eat only at locally-owned and small or independent places for a while. I'm also going to try to do as much of my shopping as possible at non-corporate businesses. This should be an interesting experience as I am also taking an Anthro class this semester called "Corporations in Culture, Culture in Corporations." I'm not sure yet if the professor will take the class in a pro-corporation or anti-corporation direction, but nonetheless it should provide plenty of food for thought.

Recently I had the opportunity to dine at Boi Na Braza, a Churrascaria, or Brazilian steak house, in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am not sure if it is a chain or not (it only has two locations, one in Dallas and one in Cincy), but it was one of the higher-end restaurants I have ever gotten to experience, so the restaurant critic in me absolutely loved it. I'll spare you my full review and just note that while the atmosphere was very classy and fun for a pizza-eating college student to experience, I have eaten much better from some local restaurants here in Bloomington.

On September 6th I will be attending the "Healthy Food, Local Farms" conference in Louisville Kentucky. I think it is mostly for local farmers and producers in Kentucky, but the theme is "Politics of Food," which I have a great deal of interest in, and there will be some notable speakers, including Daniel Imhoff and Wendell Berry. A farmer friend suggested I attend, and since I am trying to soak up as much food culture as possible these days, it sounded like a good idea. My mom is going to attend the conference as well, which I am really excited about because she is starting to get into some Slow Food stuff and I am hoping she can maybe help spread the Slow word around her part of Indiana, where there isn't much knowledge of the movement or its ideals.

I guess that's about all I have to say for this installment of my adventures in food. I think I am going to make bagels this afternoon (which is quite a labor-intensive undertaking), so I need to head to Bloomingfoods and pick up my ingredients.

Best wishes of good food and fellowship to you all until the next adventure.

Monday, August 4, 2008

A Farmer's Market Breakfast

Besides its fabulous kitchen, my new house has the perk of being just three blocks from the Bloomington Farmer's Market. So lately I have been loving getting up early (well, early for me anyway) on Saturdays and walking down there for a chat with some of my farmer friends, some fresh produce and other comestibles, and an hour or two out in the sunshine before it gets too hot, as Indiana is wont to do in mid to late summer.

This week my sister was visiting, so I decided to pick up fixings for a big farmer's market breakfast. I bought some eggs from Rhodes Family Farm, some fabulous Kentucky smoked bacon from my friend Rebekah Fiedler at Fiedler Family Farms, some fresh mozzarella cheese from Trader's Point Creamery, some beautiful garlic from a farm stand I sadly cannot remember the name of, and some zucchini from a small Amish farm stand. Then I stopped by Bloomingfoods just down the street and picked up some parsley and walnuts.

Zucchini has been my obsession of late-- I just cannot seem to get enough of it! So I decided to incorporate it into breakfast by making zucchini-walnut bread, a long time favorite of mine. I got that in the oven, then fried up the bacon (which smelled unbelieveable and drew several wayward roommates to the kitchen), poured off the grease, then cooked the eggs in the same pan (I know, I can feel my arteries clogging, too, but it tastes so good!), threw in some garlic, fresh mozzarella, and parsley, and plated it all up for a delicious Saturday morning breakfast. It was wonderful, and I'd like to make it a Saturday morning tradition... we'll see!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Guess Who?

Yay, it's me, I'm back!

My deepest and sincerest apologies for completely disappearing for the last 8 months. I needed to figure out my life and what I wanted to do with it. That was painful at times, fun at others, but all in all it turned out well, I think. Anyway, a lot has gone on in my food life lately so I guess I ought to play catch-up (or ketchup, heehee) for a moment.

Slow Food IU:

Still trying to get off the ground. There is plenty of interest and we have convinced SFUSA to pretty much let us do it our way, but now IU is giving us the run-around. The website for the Student Activities Office is in the midst of a remodeling, I guess, so several of the links are inactive or selectively active, and in this new age of technological savvy of course we are only able to register our group online. So I have been playing email tag with a representative of their office who sometimes emails me back and sometimes doesn't. Needless to say I am quite frustrated by this situation. But I will continue to bombard them with emails and hope they get their act together by the time Fall semester starts in a month.

New House:

While I was very excited about having a real kitchen when I first moved into my apartment, I soon realized that it is very difficult to cook anything elaborate in a kitchen the size of a modest closet. I had no counter space, very few outlets, a temperamental oven, and so little cabinet space that I had to keep my pots and pans in an additional cabinet I purchased and placed in my dining room. Add to that a hefty course load, a crazy work schedule, a crazier sleep schedule, and very, very little money, and you can probably understand why I ate a lot of macaroni and cheese and peanut butter and jelly, when I cooked at all. I've gotten very familiar with the Bloomington food delivery scene in the last 8 months. But I'm happy to say I've moved into a house with a great kitchen, plenty of space, and roommates who share a love of good food. My only regret is that I have had to go from cooking with gas to cooking with electric, but I am sure I will adjust. Good food has a place in my life again!

(The photo at the top of the post is of my new kitchen. There is also a wall of counter space and some gorgeous built in cabinets that are not visible in the pic.)

Terre Madre 2008:

I am very excited to share that in October I will be attending Terre Madre 2008 in Torino, Italy. Terre Madre is a Slow Food-sponsored international gathering of food communities to "work towards increasing small-scale, traditional, and sustainable food production." I cannot express my excitement for this venture. I've never been to Europe, so getting to go (for free, no less!) and be completely immersed in Slow culture is a dream come true for me. Terre Madre is running concurrently with Salone del Gusto, a taste festival and food marketplace for food producers from all over Italy and the world. Olive oil and Prosecco and prosciutto, oh my!

My Major:

It was in the midst of Chemistry-C 117 that I discovered that dietetics was not the major for me. C 117 is the third or fourth math/science class required for a dietetics major that I have seriously struggled with. I've managed to pass these classes, but I am steadily lowering my GPA with the C-range grades I have been getting in them, putting some of my scholarships in danger, and for what? The only reason I chose dietetics in the first place was because IU didn't have a major called "reading and writing about food." I looked at the degree requirements for dietetics and realized I would be taking several more math/science classes before all was said and done, and that to me it wasn't worth it for a major that was a poor substitute for what I really wanted to begin with. So I made up my own major. With the help of a professor of mine who is somewhat familiar with my food writing, I have designed my own major, tentatively called "Culture of Food in Writing." I want to explore and participate in food writing of all genres: fiction, expository, journalism, etc. I am also going to double major in anthropology, to get a broader sense of culture, especially food culture, in general, and to set myself up for a possible grad degree in food anthropology. And, by luck or chance, it looks like I will have the credits to minor in comparative lit. Woohoo!

Everything Else:

Since my last update in November I have attended some fun food events. This Winter I attended the Art of Chocolate sponsored by Options for Better Living in Bloomington. Normally I would not have been able to attend this somewhat ritzy event at the IU Art Mueseum, but thanks to the generosity of a fellow Slow Food member I, along with my partner in foodie crime, Sarah, was able to attend. We had a wonderful time, stuffed ourselves with chocolate and wine, and enjoyed the live chocolate artwork.

In early summer there were a couple of fun Slow events. The Bloomington convivium (now called Indiana Uplands?) held it's semi-annual potluck and a good time was had by all, as always seems to be the case when interesting people are gathered around good, Slow food. And at the end of June I worked as a server at the Slow Food Chef's dinner, which is paying for my plane fare to Italy this Fall. That too was an enjoyable experience, though sadly I didn't get to try much of the food.

I am happy to note that I finally got sick of the fast food machine and quit my job at Steak N Shake after three grueling years. One can only sling steakburgers and put up with drunks and self-important a-holes for so long, you know? Currently I am scooping ice cream at Jiffy Treet, which is at least a locally-owned business, and contemplating getting my liquor license and trying to get in at a Slow restaurant once Fall classes begin and businesses around here start hiring again. I will also hopefully (fingers crossed) be getting a food column in the Indiana Daily Student, IU's newspaper, this Fall. That too would be a dream come true for me, so I hope it works out.

Goodness, what a long post. Thanks for sticking with me for an 8-month update of my food life. I sincerely hope to begin updating regularly now. For real this time, haha.

Peace, love, and good food, my friends.