List of Five #4

1. Favorite drink (This week): It’s winter, a season known for being dry and tough on the body. The usual reason it’s dry, actually, is that we turn on our heaters. Without heaters, the outdoor humidity of 60s to 90s (depending on whether it’s sunny vs snowing or raining) would be quite pleasant on the skin, the sinuses, the mucosal membranes. But what actually happens is, as our heater turns on and churns on, the humidity rapidly declines till it’s in the low 30s.

So, I’m at least as interested in drinks in winter as I am in our hot, dry summers.

This drink fell into my lap one night as I was preparing lunch boxes for the kids. I had read somewhere that water works at least as well as lemon juice does for preventing browning of apple slices. Lemon juice is a multi-step ingredient that, firstly, requires that you have lemons in the fridge. Water just comes out of the tap. So I opted for water this particular night.

Water from the tap into a working glass. A pink lady chopped into bite-size pieces plopped into the glass. Prep the rest of the lunch box as I let the apple pieces soak for a bit. About 5 or 10 minutes later, the chopped apple go into the boxes, and I’m left with a glass of apple-infused water. I’m a bit of a water vulture anyway, drinking any leftover water in any family member’s water bottle or glass, so I drank this water up as well.

And it was really quite delicious.

So I’m sold. Apple pieces in water – providing non-browning apples for lunch boxes (or your own enjoyment, or a breakfast bowl, after you finish sipping on the water), and tasty water to keep yourself hydrated.

2. Great use of leftovers: I’m a huge proponent of “zero waste.” When my kids come home with their lunch boxes, there’ll be leftovers. And from snacks I pack. And crusts sliced off sandwiches. At our house, it’s bits of fruit, nuts, coconut chips, raisins, cheese, said bread crusts, veggies, you name it.

I try to resist the urge to suck everything up like a vacuum cleaner into my mouth as I come across these little food bits.  The only thing I allow myself to do that with these days is water.

So now I’ve begun categorizing: fruits, nuts, seeds, dried fruits all go into a working bowl, along with some muesli and protein powder and maybe a few other superfood powders. Almond milk goes in, along with some cacao nibs or chia seeds, then the bowl dons a lid and into the fridge it goes, to be enjoyed as breakfast the next day.

Bread crusts and leftover sandwich bits get thrown into a container to be eaten as my mid-morning snack.

Cheese bits get thrown into a container, eventually to be shredded together and melted into grilled cheese sandwiches or tuna melts or quesadillas.

Veggies get thrown together to meet their next fate in a stir-fry, or soup, or even just thrown in with my lunch to be microwaved and consumed with whatever I’ve packed for lunch.

One of my favorite books on the subject of Zero Food Waste is An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace, by Tamar Adler. Another person I’d love to invite to dinner. Her book is full of earnest common sense. Such a lovely concept. I highly recommend it.

3. Book I’m reading: If I have one unwavering love in my life, it’s food. Not just because it’s just lovely on the tastebuds, but also because it’s the foundation of life. No food, no life. I also find that I am much more likely to be inspired to delve into other aspects related to the food I’m eating than, say, when I listen to music from an unfamiliar place. That’s just me.

My dream trip would be one that revolves around food, for example a “coffee trip”: learning about coffee plantations all over the coffee world and preparing green beans, participating in cuppings, touring cafes. Or going on a “dumpling trip”: dumplings from around the world, sampling dumplings from China, of course, along with those from the US South, perogies, empanadas, samosas, you get the picture. Not the most practical or economical way to travel.

So I’m slated to partake in a potluck of Israeli food. Of course, that immediately opens up a can of worms: What does “Israeli food” actually mean? Jewish? Middle Eastern? Street food vs home food vs formal food? My first thought was of Jewish delis and bakeries as I know them, which would be from my time in Upstate New York and the East Coast, basically. You know, pastrami sandwiches and liver and matzo balls and rugelach and babka and bagels. ALL of which I adore.

But the emphasis will be on REAL food from Israel. Which, of course, I know nothing about, never having been to Israel. Could you choose a more complex geographic place to cook from? Not quite melting pot, a place of conflict and cultures inter-connected and inter-mingled and yet at odds with each other.

So now I’m reading a book called Jerusalem by Simon Sebastian Montefiore, as well as a cookbook called Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. Pretty heavy stuff, the biography more so than the cookbook. I’ve always wanted to learn more about the history of the Middle East, and I’m reading with an emphasis on how “Israeli” food reflects its modern and ancient history. I’ll send you a report when I’m done. It may become a PhD thesis.

4. On culture: We’re so insulated in Bend. People move here for the skiing, the mountain biking, the sunny weather and friendly people. Certainly, they don’t move here for heavy intellectual pursuits, usually. I had my doubts about moving here given that it’s hardly a cultural, intellectual Mecca. Yet hardly anyone I’ve met meets the description of ski bum, mind turned to mush.

I haven’t quite figured out Bend. The fact that it’s growing and evolving at a staggering pace doesn’t help. But that’s also what’s so enticing about living here: I feel like there are few enough people that each person’s contribution makes a huge impact on the general persona of the city.

Grassroots is where it’s at. I’ll keep you posted.

5. What I learned from my dog: As I was walking my dog this morning, I noticed that she’s getting to know me pretty well. She reads body language and picks up verbal cues (and is learning some words/phrases that I’ve never pointedly taught her). She speeds to a jog when we feel like running, and proactively slows to a crawl when we reach black ice or the slippery sidewalk. I mentioned that I’ve been keeping a running journal of thoughts I’d like to record for my kids, for them to savor when they head out into the “real world.” This morning, as my dog slowed down for me and walked a considerate pace for her 2-legged, less-balanced human friend, I thought that if she were my child, I’d be recording this into her journal.

Then it struck me that she wouldn’t be able to read it. So the only way to express my love and appreciation for her was to demonstrate my love for her right there, right in the moment. And that in her short life of 12-odd years, she’d only be able to appreciate my love for her as I showed it “in the moment,” every moment I thought of it.

Which, of course, is how I should be showing my love and affection for anyone. So I’d like to imprint in my brain a reflex, an impulse even, when my heart swells with pride, or joy, or simple enjoyment of a moment, and express it in the moment with a smile, a whole-hearted laugh, a hug, or a few words of appreciation.

My mantra for the day: “In the moment.”

 

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