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It Seems To Me...

January 11, 2013

On Recipes...

Cake recipe book
My family's traditional chocolate birthday cake.


with apologies to Kahlil Gibran

Your recipes are not your recipes.
They are the signs and sigils of Food's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
 
You may give them your tweaks but not your goals,
For they have their own goals.
You may house their results but not their ingredients,
For their ingredients dwell in the house of others,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to perfect them,
but seek not to make them your own.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with crediting.
 
You are the bows from which your recipes
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and she bends you with her might
that your recipes may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as she loves the cook that creates,
so she loves also the cook at every table.

November 23, 2011

A Thanksgiving Note to Parents

Thanksgiving preparation is in high gear across America this evening. Most of those people are also on twitter so my twitterstreams are full of people, many of whom are parents—mostly moms, but that's another rant—working to get the pies baked, clean house, cook some side dishes and do something with kale. (Seriously, every fourth tweet is "Sous-vided bacon-wrapped kale infused with baby, free-range...") I am getting hungry reading and knowing that there is turkey tomorrow isn't helping much at the moment.

But that's not why I am here. I want to talk to the parents...

I keep reading a variant of "Kids SUUUUCK! Can't get anything done. Crap! I'll wait until they go to bed."

What the hell, y'all?

You had children so they could participate in your family life, right? So let them.

When it comes to helping with party prep (and general household chores) I believe in No Child Left Behind, aka Being a Slavedriver. No wait, make that SLAVEDRIVER. It's a job title more parents should embrace from time to time. Your kids will thank you when they are all grown up and coping with the activities of daily living without undue vapors.

  • Tweens and older are treated like almostAdults when it comes to work.They are fairly independent, getting some directions to get started but no hovering like I might with a smaller child.
  • School-age kids are extremely helpful sous chefs. They can read recipes, gather and prep ingredients and do a lot of the actual cooking.Teach them to work with heat and blades safely and
  • Kids love to stir things. If all your stirrables are simmering away, give the toddler a bowl with a fistful of rice and dried beans and ask them to stir that.
  • Small kids can do a lot of stuff if you give them a nudge and a wee bit of direction. Get them to pick up toys and other clutter, collect dirty laundry, wash vegetables, shell beans, set the table, load/unload the dishwasher and a thousand other things.
  • Taster. This one is a double hit because your child is busy and happily eating (mostly) healthy treats. Do it right and you don't have to make them dinner tonight. Triple win!
  • If all else fails, give your monstrrr a stack of paper napkins and ask them to fold them in Thanksgiving shapes. Praise whatever they do.
  • Babies are tougher but I decided their job is to be adorable and provide toes to be nibbled. If you have a better job for them, please share it in comments.

How are the kids in your house helping? Give other parents a hand by sharing your secrets in comments.

Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

 

October 18, 2011

Feeding Hungry People and Other Charitable Acts

Give the gift of food

This is epic-length, well for this medium at least, but forgive me. I felt it was an important topic and I trust that if you hang out around here you have a long enough attention span to handle it. Besides, I got to make up terms and use bullet lists and my deeply geeky writer side is just dancing with joy. Thank you for your indulgence. ~beth

The holiday season is creeping up and for a lot of us that means we are going to be feeding people. Not just our family and friends at various gatherings – the "orphan" Thanksgiving is one of my favorites – but also by choosing some food-related charities when it comes to charitable donations and gift-giving.

One way to find deserving charities is asking friends who they support, so I did just that. I got some great recommendations, starting with, of course, food banks.

Food banks are the most fundamental and most direct way to feed hungry people. I am a huge fan of local food banks, having been involved as staff, volunteer and client. To find a food bank close to you, go to Feeding America's food bank locator. You can also make a donation while you're there. Alternatively, Share our Strength is dedicated to ending childhood hunger.

I live in the northwest so it's not surprising that a couple of local food banks got a shout-out:

  • The Auburn Food Bank, which has a big annual breakfast fundraiser coming up November 4 from 7-8:30 AM, call 253-804-5696 or drop them e-mail for more info. If you are in the area, I hear it's a great event for a good cause. 
  • The University District food bank in Seattle got a couple of votes, too. Check out this video that explains a bit more about them.

Continue reading "Feeding Hungry People and Other Charitable Acts" »

March 31, 2011

Thoughts on Making the Hunger Challenge a Bit More Challenging

The Hunger Challenge is an annual event put on by United Way of King County (WA) in which people volunteer to live on a limited food budget of about $7 a person/day for several days in order to gain empathy with people who are living on SNAP (food stamps). Some people wrote, made videos, etc. about their experiences.

As you might imagine, this was executed with varying degrees of success. Some people wrote excellent posts with recipes, resources, strategies and tips for eating on the cheap. Others shared just how difficult the entire thing was for them, some of them before the challenge even started. Yes, really. The response also swung widely with accolades being heaped upon a few bloggers for making it through a single day to, perhaps my favorite, "Poverty isn't a f*cking writing prompt." (Thank you, Miss Britt.)

I did my share of snarky tweeting about stunts and playing at poverty while the challenge was going on and while I do regret that a few friends thought I might be talking about them (I wasn't), I stand by it. I find it offensive to have people pretend to a life that you know is extremely difficult and come away after 72 hours (or less) saying "it's easy." Whatever the intent, it seems dismissive and diminishes the experiences of people who lived it to the benefit of those who write about one small, and highly mitigated, aspect of it on the Interwebs.

However, amd importantly, I also understand that this was not the intent of the individuals who participated in, and wrote about, the Hunger Challenge. Yes, many of the issues people had with the Hunger Challenge came down to what individual bloggers wrote, but I am not calling them out. (Look ma, no links!)

 Instead, in the spirit of fighting the real enemy, and recognizing that while United Way is considering changes they are plannng on doing this again next year, I offer suggestions for structural changes in the Hunger Challenge in order to make it just a wee bit more realistic.

Continue reading "Thoughts on Making the Hunger Challenge a Bit More Challenging" »

March 25, 2011

In Which Ina Garten Doesn't Make a Wish

There are other, more thoughtful posts floating around on my computer half-written but I am annoyed in a more than 140 character kind of way about today's twitter outrage. In a nutshell, Ina Garten declined to cook with a terminally ill child who requested it through Make a Wish foundation.

We will now pause for the two-minute hate.

Done? Good. Moving on...

Continue reading "In Which Ina Garten Doesn't Make a Wish" »

November 04, 2010

Cooks Source: Now For Something Completely Different

Update: Cooks Source issued a statement. It needed a little cleaning up, so I did: Cooks Source Statement: Slightly Corrected (10.9.10)

If you care about food, writing, law, scandal, chicanery, hypocrisy and/or Internet drama — which may define my readers, by the way — you have no doubt heard about Cooks Source, but just in case you are none of the above, welcome and a summation:

The tl;dr version of this post: My 2005 Ice Dragon entry, called "A Tale of Two Tarts" was apparently printed without my knowledge or permission in a magazine and I am apparently the victim of copyright infringement.
             from Illadore's House o Crack - Copyright Infringement and Me

There is, of course, more.

It is the kind of 'more' from which grand Internet dramas are made: Clueless editor, arrogant responses, google reveals the magazine seems to be built on lifted content, class action suits are suggested (after someone finds Martha Stewart, NPR, and Disney amongst the victims; it's corporate money they want to use for lawyers)...and the pile-on begins.

We are now at less than 20 hours and there are dozens of posts, a Facebook pileon, thousands of tweets, fake twitter and Facebook accounts, the Cooks Source site has been up and down and there's just a whole lot of poo being flung around by the flying monkeys. It's only going to get messier - there's apparently a Travel Source magazine which seems to also be full of infringing material (check for your stuff here).

Illadore's article has the full story, which has now been rehashed all over the Internet, it is well worth the read it if you are interested in what is going on.

I want to talk about what is not...

Continue reading "Cooks Source: Now For Something Completely Different" »

August 28, 2010

Recipes Are Like Children

Your recipes are not your recipes.
They are the sons and daughters of Food's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

                                           With apologies to Kahlil Gibran

Watching the International Food Blogger Conference online is bittersweet this year. I sold my ticket 24 hours before the conference started when it became obvious it just wasn't going to work out for me this year. Fortunately for those of us who wanted to go but couldn't, there are livestreams of conferences and blog posts are already starting to pop up. Better, there is the twitterstream (The hashtag is #ifbc if you want to follow along.)

One of the sentiments that was being tossed around on twitter today can be summed up as: "Adjusting a recipe doesn't make it yours"

Without going deeply into the legalities of recipe copyright, which are rather straightforward compared to the conversation around them, here's how it works. Ingredients lists are not protected but "substantial literary expression" in the descriptive text and steps is, as are collections of recipes such as cookbooks. This means that if you rewrite the steps, you can republish the recipe without giving credit to anyone. Technically.

Ethically, this gets really muddy. Someone once said "if you change three ingredients it is a new recipe." Somebody was making this up as she went along, and a whole lot of people heard and believed her. There is at least one prominent food blog claiming all recipes are originals that operates under this credo and last I looked, never credits inspiration or source. sigh

In my view, recipes are like children. I 'own' mine while they live at home in my cookbook or website, but once they mature and move out on their own...not so much.

If they get a chive mohawk or pierce their noses, well, that's their thing. I'd appreciate it if there was a shoutout to me - sort of like keeping the family name after marriage - but own them? Nah.

Take my recipes. Please. Use them. Tweak them to make them yours. Just give me a backlink, okay?

How about you: Do you write or adapt recipes? Where do your draw your lines?

June 07, 2010

Cook's Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knife Roll

As I said on twitter: Dudes, if a post says "I" at the start of almost any sentence, it's about ME owning my privilege. We are all Spartacook.

Meaning: this post is not about Shauna, who wrote the original tweet. That's why I didn't name her. There were others discussing the topic at the time, some of them saying similar things and others disagreeing. That particular tweet, however, is the one I saw and commented on, so it's linked(added 6.11.10)  

This post was going to be something else entirely – trust me, there is a great half-written rant – but I got hungry along the way. Hungry enough to want to cook, which I haven't really since I got out of the hospital last week, so I took a break to make a quick late night meal. One of my two chest freezers yielded some lovely Italian sausage made by a friend, which we paired with fresh eggs from a local farm and some fried potatoes with thyme from the herb garden. I scrambled the eggs with just a bit of Parmesan and some fresh chives. Then I came back to write a bit about the intersection of food and privilege and it somehow demanded to be a bit more personal.

This all started with a couple of people on twitter – twits, right? – who were essentially saying, "If I can cook, anyone can." Actually, to be exact, it started with a full-time stay-at-home professional writer and cookbook author who is married to a professional chef saying, "I cook three meals a day, plus bake every afternoon, with a toddler. if I can cook, other people can too."

I literally called bullshit on the very idea that one of us (professional food people who work from home) could say such a thing. Called it privilege. Because it is, uh, privilege. But that just led to me being seen as the bad guy and being unfollowed by some people who then dissed me for being hostile. Um, yeah, whatever…but the issue was left by the wayside in the dust from that kerfluffle. Not my plan at all.

Continue reading "Cook's Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knife Roll" »

October 22, 2007

Dear PETA, women are animals too...

Dear PETA,

What is it with the soft porny commercials and naked women? Are you truly so blinded by your desire to save furry critters with faces that you forget women are critters with faces too? Those women were even somewhat furry too, before you made them get all waxed and shaved so they could get nekkid for your tacky ad campaigns. (Apparently natural is good for sheep but not for girls.)

The women in your ads all too often appear to be the victims of some sort of strange fetishized sexualized violence. Naked, vulnerable, marked up like exotic animals, chained and caged. And yet, lovely. Thin, yet curvy. Beautiful, beaten and bound. Sometimes dead.

The gap between this and many a movie you can't see without mom and dad is skimpier than that piece of lettuce that you, PETA, think passes as clothes.

For a group that can work up a head of steam over a goldfish, you sure don't seem to get that women are people too. Seriously, the women of PETA (that sounds like a Playboy layout doesn't it?) are starved, shaved, waxed and laid out for someone's 'viewing pleasure' (surely not mine) like...what am I looking for...oh yeah, a piece of meat. Irony much?

Yeah, yeah, yeah. This is more of the same old PETA tripe. You have been exploiting naked women in what they say is an effort to stop the exploitation of animals for decades now. But someone sent me a link to this Alicia Silverstone video and asked me if I thought it would help animal rights.

Um, yeah, not so much.

Continue reading "Dear PETA, women are animals too..." »

February 19, 2007

TV, training wheels, teaching and trashing...

I think I figured out what's up with those two food tv shows that many of us don't understand. It's all a matter of framing. This is cooking for beginners. Just maybe not the beginners you are thinking of.

What do you think of when you think "beginning cook"? For me at least, I think of children (and adults too, but always children) who are not only unskilled in the kitchen but too young to do many basic things on their own. No sharp things. Limited use of appliances: microwave instead of range, toaster oven instead of standard oven, etc. There is often a focus on assembly of ingredients rather than actual cooking.

You can see this clearly in old cookbooks. I learned to cook as a young child, and while I didn't use many children's cookbooks, I did have a few. Having not done too much shopping for such books in the last decade, I'm not sure if they have changed all that much since then. (other than having TV personalities on the covers) While there have been some notable additions since I was a kid, I bet that the books that have been in print for decades (and many of the newer ones) still use their tried-and-true approach. Duh. Tried and true sells.

Continue reading "TV, training wheels, teaching and trashing..." »

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