Wednesday, August 31, 2011

S/he Is Not An "It"

Today my kiddos and I went to the weekly farmers' market.  I looove going.  I love all the people: the mamas with babies in slings, the college kids in dreadlocks, the earnest environmentalists, all of them.  I love all the rainbows on t-shirts, the hemp reusable grocery bags, and the "Save Tibet" pins.  Makes me happy.  While I am more mainstream-looking, these are my people. 

There's one booth that is run by an interesting-appearing person.  This person has breasts and also sports a beard tied in a little ponytail.  S/he wears man-type clothing, but his/her voice is very female.  I am happy to see him/her doing so well and being happy and not being ogled or obviously "noticed."  It's got to be a challenge here in mid-Michigan for her/him to feel so comfortable ... I'm guessing. 

We bought our free-range awesome eggs there, and discussed with him/her why these eggs taste and look so different from grocery store eggs (they really, really do), and the kids listened patiently. my 7 year old son raised his hand once to ask a question about the colors of the eggs (blue, green, speckled, brown).  Not a word about the gender issues.

However, on the way back to the car, lugging our armloads of leeks, tomatoes, watermelon, peaches (to DIE for), onions, garlic, and honey, my daughter (10 yr. old) said, "Was it my imagination, or was that a woman with a beard?"

Well, time for another one of Those Discussions.  So, as we loaded our veggies and fruit into the trunk, I briefly explained that some people are born feeling strongly that they are actually the opposite gender than their body parts show, and that there are chemicals and medicines and even medical procedures to help their bodies more directly reflect the gender they are in their hearts. 

They both thought on this, and then went, "Huh.  You can DO that? Wow."

And that was it. 

I didn't quite want to let it go, so I pointed out how proud I was that neither asked these questions in front of this person, but rather asked me afterwards.  I said that while they would certainly NOT mean any harm, that he or she would have likely experienced lots of teasing and bullying because of this situation, and that we must remember to be kind and sensitive to not step on delicate feelings.  And I mentioned that it's important to remember that a person who is transgendered (yes, I explained the term) is just a regular person, who is finding their identity in this way.  And that we all have to find our identities in various ways, but that they usually not so visible or public. 

They both did another, "Huh.  Yeah!  Why would somebody tease somebody who is just trying to figure out who they are?"  Of course, I know they will run up against many people who they might tease and be obnoxious to, but I'm hoping that it's something they will catch themselves doing, and stop. 

You never do know what discussions you're going to have over a bag of leeks and tomatoes, do you?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Here I sit, comfortably, in my living room.  My best friend in the entire world is in pain right now.  Her knees are killing her.  She's been forced to go off the very meds that would help.  Why, you ask? Because she is getting the aforementioned knees replaced in a week from tomorrow.

She has Rheumatoid Arthritis, and has had it for nearly 30 years.  She didn't deserve it.  Not at all.  She was gorgeous, young, funny, sweet, and snarky. She is all of these still, just older. (just a bit)

This is my sister.  She and I have been best friends for -- well, forever.  I don't know if she knows that she is my best friend. She's the person I call when I'm happy, and the person I call when I am sad.  She's the person I ask for advice when I am arguing with a friend, and the one I think of when I am so mad I could throw things.  She's a calming influence, a stimulating conversationalist, and a loving big sister. 

But really?  She's my bestest friend in the entire world.  [Note: My mom is also my bestest momfriend, but she's my mom, and that's a whole other category.]

I'm dying of anxiety because she is going to get surgery.  Again.  My best friend is gonna hurt.  More.  Again.  God.  I don't hurt anywhere, in any significant way.  How is this the least bit fair?  I just hope like hell the doctors do a spectacular job, and maybe give her a complimentary boob job while they are in there.  (Her boobs are perfect, but honestly, shouldn't you get some kind of frequent-flier miles for surgeries?)

If you're a praying/meditating/juju-sending kind of person, please send some towards the Southwest USA on Wednesday of next week.  And maybe juju for a pro-bono boob job or something.

Monday, August 29, 2011


This is one of those times when I am having such horrifying allergies (eyes, nose, throat), yet am too tired to claw my face off.  I think I'll just stick my face in the window fan instead. 

Re-Framing Food

I've been trying to put this into words for a while now, and I am still struggling.  Perhaps you can help me?

In my year-long (or so) journey of changing my approach to food and nutrition, I am often brought to my nutritional knees by food provided by others: by restaurants, picnics, potlucks, buffets and such. 

Here's an example.  Chinese food delivery.  In my efforts to 'healthify' my order, I removed Crab Rangoon from my usual order and added Garlic Broccoli.  Our other usuals include Spring Rolls (veggies in an egg roll), beef lo mein (aka beef with noodles), and sesame chicken with a side of rice.Also steamed (not fried) pork dumplings.

Oh, my.!  In order, you have: Oversauced (broccoli), FRIED, fatty with noodles made w/white flour, SWEET and oversauced, WHITE rice (not brown), and more white flour and meat.

A few days after that, I did some homemade Chinese food because I still was craving it.
Brown rice stirfry with masses of vegetables in minimal oil (sesame and canola)
Steamed broccoli with a soysauce/garlic/ginger sauce
Chicken and almonds with some 5-Spice mixture and soy sauce

See?  Whole grains, lots of veggies, not a ton of oil, healthy protein, nuts.

But go to ANY typical Asian restaurant here in this town, and it's so universally bad for you that you stop SEEING it as bad for you.
If you went to a hamburger joint and the buffet was all candy and ice cream and mozzarella sticks, you'd at least notice the lack of salad. But at an Asian place?  We just are blind.

And at your typical "brass and ferns" Appleby's-type restaurant, it's 98% ridiculously bad.  NO whole grains.  Even the 'wholewheat buns" they serve with the veggie burgers (loaded with sodium and fat, with a slice of cheese usually) are made WITH whole wheat, but with a whole bunch of other crap.

There are zillions of fast food restaurants that have acted like sandpaper to our sensitivities.  If a thousand McDonald's restaurants jump off a cliff, well then, it's ok to do, right?  It gets to the point where you think that the only way to travel is by cliff-jumping.  Turn AROUND, people.

ASIDE: Ever go shopping for a wedding dress?  You start (before walking in to the first shop) by thinking -- in normal-person brain -- that $250 is a lot for one dress.  My clothes are typically not worth more than that if you add them all together.  But then, you look around and see the 4- to 5-digit pricetags.  ! ! !
You begin to think that ONLY $1,000 for a dress is totally reasonable, if not cheap.  You go to another bridal store, and your bottom line is now in the low thousands.  Now, the $2,500 dresses are in your ballpark.  You might try some on.
The woman who once thought of a $40 pair of shoes as a stretch is suddenly trying on a dress that costs more than her car, and is finding it ok.

It's like that with food, I think.  If practically everything you can buy -- everything that is offered to you by professionals (who, theoretically are very knowledgeable about food) is refined, fatty, meaty, and veggie-free, you start setting your own standards there.  It's as crazy as wedding dress shopping, but it happens so much more frequently.

QUICK:  think back to your last restaurant meal -- one that you didn't special-order (asking for things on the side, grilled not fried, etc.).  Would it come close to the "half the 9-inch plate with fruits and veggies, 1/4 with wholegrains, 1/4 with healthy protein"?

And professionals are SELLING this.  And we BUY it.

And we are morons.  Nutritional lemmings.
And it may kill us.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Welcome To Kate's Bread-Making Cocktail Hour!

 I was in the mood to make bread.  Actually, I was also in the mood to make ricotta cheese, but that's another post.

Breadmaking is not all that hard, really.  You need to remember a couple of things.  

FIRST: Don't forget the frickin' salt.  Really.  Make a large sign and put it on the oven if necessary.  Bread without salt is grody.

SECOND:  You shouldn't kill the yeast.  I've never killed yeast, but I guess I've been lucky.  So, just do the stuff in order and you'll be fine.  And no boiling water.  But boiling water would take effort, and I'm not planning on going there, so you're fine there too.

THIRD:  You'll need some liquid, some sugary stuff (sugar, honey, etc.) and some flour.  I'd suggest water, honey, and wheat flour.  (FYI: wheat flour is just the regular stuff -- not self-rising, etc.)

LAST: You'll need an oven.  And maybe something to bake the bread on (like a pan).

People have been making bread for zillions of years without complex measuring, equipment, or even a high IQ.  It's not that hard, people.  

Here's my yeast.  I keep it in the fridge.

I dump some into the mixer.  (I don't know -- a couple of teaspoons?)  See?  I pointed to it so you could see it.  There's a bump in the bottom of the bowl.
 This is a clear coffeecup.  I used warm-towards-hot water.  I always just stick my hand in the water, and when it feels like the temperature I use for a shower, that's what I use.
 BLOOP.  Into the bowl.  Highly technical.
 This is honey from our farmer's market.  But the "bear" honey will work too.  I use honey because it makes the bread nice and soft and squishy and moist.  You can use plain sugar too.  I use one loooong bloop from the bottle.
 I like to whir it around a bit with a chopstick.  Don't know why I always use a chopstick, but I do. Sue me.
 Here's what I used for flour/grain.  I had a half bag of wholewheat, and I'm always trying to sneak it when the family's not looking.
 This is a souvenir sports coffee mug.  I filled it nearly up with whole wheat flour.
 And this is white flour.  One cup.  (Coffee cup, that is)
 SEE?  It's in the bowl!  Proof that I remembered to put it in.

 Now, I don't know why I used this corn meal, but I like a bit of a crunch in my bread.  And it was at eye-level in the cabinet.
 I used one generous handful.
 LOOK~ I remembered the salt!!
 One partial palm full.  This is NOT mounded up.
 And LOOK.  You can see the dough hook moving! Whirrwhirrwhirr.
 Notice that the liquid (water, honey) is getting mixed in.

Hm.  Not looking moist enough.

A little more water in the cup.  Nice and warm.

HEY! It looks like dough now.

Ahh, crap.  Too wet now.

See how it's sticking?

This is the lid from the flour canister (you can see the others in the 
 background). I'm adding more flour.



Now's a good time to wash the counter.  The dough is resting in the bowl.

Empty the dishwasher.

Cocktail hour!

Like my martini shaker?

Nectar of ... Kate

It was kind of bare.  I tossed in 2 blackberries and a couple of grapes on  a skewer. Now it's full of ANTIOXIDANTS.        It's healthy.



OK.  Back to business.  Gotta spray the pan.

What an awesome shot.  You can see it spraying!

"Forming" the loaf means you make it into a shape other than a blob.

Kind of folding the edges over, towards the middle.

Pinching it like you do a cute kid's cheeks.

My favorite part.  The Dangle.  Hold the end of the dough and flap it back and forth.

It is oddly embarrassing to do this.


See how I propped it up on the pan?  The burner under it was still warm from cheesemaking, and I didn't want to burn the bread.  But it still was emanating enough heat to help the rise.

Multitasking.  Let's make a pitcher of iced tea!!

Mmmm.  More multitasking.

Check. It. OUT!  (on my family's inherited handmade bread board)

It's even done in the middle!  (BTW: Baked for 1/2 hour at 450F, until it registered about 200F on a thermometer)

The next day, I sliced it thinly, layered it with 3 cut-up pears, and poured over it a mixture of:  4 eggs, about 1/2 cup plain yogurt, cinnamon, and 2-3 TB of sugar.  Baked at 450F for 1/2 hour.
Pear tart!