Friday, December 6, 2013
"Hablas español?" the sweet-faced Puerto Rican gentleman asked me in Hope Depot. Evelyn and I were out getting a Christmas tree. "Sí," I responded. Thinking I was also Puerto Rican, he initiated a conversation to coo over Evelyn and use his native language. I was eager to practice my second language. We chatted about where he worked (the kitchen at Mercy hospital), how I wanted Evelyn to be exposed to Spanish, and how his grandchildren, sadly, don't speak the mother tongue.
I majored in Spanish in college, spent a semester in Costa Rica, then a year in Nicaragua. I had an internship advocating for immigrants, where I used Spanish. Why, then, many years later, do I shy away from speaking it? I feel I have lost so much of it, but it is all still there, ready to tumble out if I make the effort.
I have a few friends who also know quite a bit of Spanish, and one who knows it as a first language. We've said for years, "We should get together and speak Spanish!" So finally, I took the plunge. "Come over for s'mores and Spanish!" I told my friends. They came. We spoke. It was awesome.
Matt built the fire. Candice made lovely almond muffins. Andrea and her friend Marcela brought stuff for s'mores, and I made tea and cocoa. We sat around, talking about anything and everything, in our beloved español. Every so often there would be a pause and a request for how-do-you-say- such and such. But over all the conversation flowed so nicely, and the range of basic beginner to absolutely fluent worked well.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
I know it's not actually perfect. No place is. It has been, however, featured in Gourmet magazine (when they were still around) and Bon Apetit and it has plenty of other accolades. Woodberry Kitchen has excellent food, a beautiful atmosphere, and impeccable service. The waitstaff have an easy, carefree manner. The men wear plaid shirts and the women wear skirts and aprons, usually with a calico print. They are extremely knowledgeable about the menu and know where the food comes from. They look you straight in the eye every time, smile sincerely, and make you feel like you are their only table. Your water is filled frequently. The waitstaff does not hover but does not hide either. No detail is forgotten: mini jars for condiments, little cream jars, cloth napkins that are actually absorbent, a dainty spoon to stir your latte. In addition to the incredible food, it is the whole experience of dining at Woodberry Kitchen that makes such a fun date. Granted, you pay for this experience. But for us to go once or twice a year it is worth every penny.
Friday, November 8, 2013
Do you know that I never had a taste of real maple syrup until I was in college? It's true. I went almost twenty years pouring the fake stuff over my just-add-water pancakes (yeah, my food renaissance didn't happen until a few years later).
I went to school in western New York, in one of the most beautiful areas you can imagine come autumn, or spring, or summer (winter depends on your cold weather preferences). A friend who grew up in that area took me to a pancake house that was a very rustic, podunk, men in red plaid flannel kind of place. With stacks of buttery pancakes and real maple syrup. That I didn't like. Can you believe it? The first time I tried real maple syrup, I thought it was too thin. Now I realize that I prefer Grade B, which is a little thicker, as opposed to Grade A, which tends to be runnier. The thought of going back to the gooey fake syrup turns my stomach.
This past summer we went to Vermont and had a wonderful time. Justin and I had a chance to go on a long bike ride in the beautiful green hills (on which he got three flat tires -- but that is a story for another time). The bike ride took much longer than expected (thanks to the flats), and we were kind of ready to just get back, but we passed a hand painted sign advertising "Maple Syrup Here." Of course we had to stop. The man sold it out of his garage, with a few shelves of syrup and maple sugar candies in a small refrigerator. We bought both. We broke out the syrup a few weeks ago, at the first hint of fall, and poured it over waffles with ginger-y peaches.
Monday, October 28, 2013
Last week, my daughter turned one. Just a year ago, she was a little six and a half pound slip of a newborn. She couldn't roll over, lift her head, say anything. Just cry and poop. Now? It's just incredible. She toddles! She says "kisses"! She climbs up shelves! She goes belly first down slides! She puts the lid on my water bottle! (I know recently I did a post on the overuse of exclamation points, but I think I'm justified in my usage here, being a first-time mom and all.)
We have a lavender theme with Evelyn. Her room is purple. She has a lavender sachet "sleep pillow" that is like a comfort object when she sleeps. I usually choose purple over bubble gum pink when it comes to clothes for her. So I thought, "Lavender in a dessert. How lovely." And did you know? Infants can eat honey when they turn one. Honey cake. Of course. Lavender honey cake.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Last weekend I went running in the rain. Running in the rain, you say? Believe it or not, it can be the best time to run. The temperature was low 60's, a nice steady drizzle. Of course, initially I just wanted to get into my jim-jams and curl up with a good book, but once I got out there, it was amazing. The air in my lungs was humidified, my legs felt strong, and I easily fell into a good steady rhythm. The best part was that other hardcore runners passed by and gave me a nod of approval. A look of solidarity. As if to say, "We are the real runners. We don't just come out on the crisp fall days, but the rainy days, the snowy days, the freezing days." The passersby in their raincoats and umbrellas looked at us as if we were crazy, but that's alright. At the end of my run, I really felt like I accomplished something. I did it.
Even though my run was not rainy, I had a similar sense of peacefulness about me. I am glad the air has finally turned cooler in Baltimore. I've been able to run without breaking into a dripping sweat. And I do love to wear cardigans and boots.
What has been cooking in your kitchen lately? Here is what I've been enjoying, plus a recipe for squash at the end.
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Is there such a thing as virtuous food? Let me muse a bit. This morning I had oatmeal with raisins and walnuts and just a touch of brown sugar. It was delicious. I felt good eating it, it tasted good, and I felt good afterward. For lunch I heated leftover black beans, roasted butternut squash, and I made a tomato sandwich to accompany it. I was excited about it because it tasted good, filled me up, and felt good afterward. I even felt, dare I say, virtuous.
On the other hand, yesterday I had a little square of chewy date walnut cookie before noon. I ate it quickly, irreverently, and a little guiltily (it was not a dessert day). Later on, I discovered some highly processed chocolate toffee caramels in the bowels of my kitchen. I had a couple. Then a couple more. Oh, just a few more, why not. I did not feel happy eating them. They tasted good, but not wonderful. My gut did not feel happy later either.
Are sweets evil, and beans and legumes holy? Are homemade sweets less evil than processed sweets? How does the spectrum of "good" food vs. "bad" food line up with "virtuous" and "evil"?
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
This is the first question strangers often ask me. This is the first question I often ask strangers. It's how we peg people, how we wrap our minds around them. Is it wrong? I don't think so. Is it sensitive? Maybe. Is it cultural? Definitely. In some cultures, the first question to ask is, "Who are your parents?" Perhaps this gives them an idea of what type of family they come from. In a tribe in Mexico, to ask where someone is from, the question is literally: "Where is your placenta buried?" Kind of weird, but hey. Here, we peg people by what their profession is.
Over the past year when I have met new people, the first thing I usually tell them is that I run a small business selling granola at farmers markets. Then I tell them that my ultimate goal is to open a bakery cafe and employ people transitioning out of homelessness. Then I tell them I have an infant daughter and she takes up the rest of my time. It was never, "I'm a mom, and I run a small business." It was always, "Oh yeah, and I have a little one."