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July 03, 2014

Happy Burn Meat and Blow things Up Day, America!

If it's the Fourth of July, it must be time for my traditional celebratory photo.

This year, I am a particularly proud mom because our daughter graduated from college and is starting law school. She's going to be a human rights lawyer and help us hang onto those freedoms that we like to say make our country special. That's definitely worth celebrating. (In other things worth celebrating, her dad now has to make good on a promise involving blue hair. His hair. Heh.)


Marshmallow, meet the first amendment. First amendment, meet a marshmallow (homemade raspberry marshmallows with a layer of bittersweet chocolate in the middle, to be precise).

That thing in the background, btw, is my old military insignia, from when I swore to protect and defend the Constitution (of which the 1st amendment is perhaps my favorite part) from all enemies foreign and domestic. Nobody said a thing about protecting flags from flames and graham crackers.

Have a happy and safe holiday, everyone!

July 11, 2013

kitchenMage Sandwich ~ A Memorial of Sorts

Kevin Weeks, Farmgirl Susan, and I got to be friends back in the early days of food blogs; back before spokesmodel was rebranded as "brand ambassador" and everything was sponsored.

Man, I miss those days...

The three of us created A Year in Bread, which was perhaps the first site of its kind. It was to have a finite lifespan, be tightly focused on baking bread, and would (we all hoped) build a community of bread-bakers. Little did we know what we were tapping into at the time. That first year, in particular, was a blast for all three of us.

I miss those days, too.

If you had asked any of us what our favorite part of A Year in Bread was, we'd have agreed it was the community. Secretly, I adored the conference calls just about as much. Kevin knew how to use "Hey girl..." when Ryan Gosling was but a pup. It made my day when I'd pick up the phone to hear his voice on the other end. Add Susan to the mix and it was non-stop hysterics. It was common for an hour or more to pass before one of us said, "Business! Didn't we have a list of things to discuss?" We got there eventually but the trip was the fun part.

Damn, I miss those calls.

Kevin died last year. He knew it was coming, we spoke about it occasionally over the years and he left behind a few bits of raw writing when death drew closer. Broken, Dealing, Mortality: 1.

Of all the things I miss tonight, I miss him most.

This post was lifted from's cache of Seriously Good, the site that Kevin Weeks ran for many years. With any luck his ghost will pay me a visit to discuss copyright. I have a bottle of the good stuff waiting, Kev, bring it...

Continue reading "kitchenMage Sandwich ~ A Memorial of Sorts" »

May 07, 2012

Reflections and Shades Upon an Anniversary...

Seven years ago, kitchenMage was born into a rather small and snuggly online food'verse. Quirky sites like Belly-Timber (now sadly in eternal hiatus) could tell the tale of the Mighty Cheese Warriors (cached) to a crowd that was sufficiently inside to get the joke and Food Blog S'cool meant we didn't need no stinkin' conventions.

In 2005, agents and publishers had not yet begun to demand that their writers start a weblog. This is fortunate for me since I might have ended up writing about nothing but esoteric technical topics, government compliance, training and other things that, as one reader said, "makes your brain hurt." I still do that work but I have also written a cookbook and having food as an additional focus has been sanity-saving.

Anniversaries are time for reflection and renewal and this one is true to form. kitchenMage is undergoing a serious makeover behind the scenes; one that has been near-eternal, largely because a few months ago I decided that I needed to rework the structure and content as opposed to simply the look and feel.

For a variety of reasons, the last few years has left me reading a lot more than writing and it's been interesting. The food'verse has been utterly transformed since way back in 2005 and not always for the better. While there are a lot of really great web sites, they are increasingly hard to find amongst the self-promotional noise and assemblages of food-like substances.

Just today a twitter conversation led me to discover that "pie inside cake" gets 13.5k hits on The Google. Fortunately, fewer than 500 are images. On the other hand, most involve frozen pies and cakes from a box. The more ridiculous the combination, the more likely it is to garner attention and page views. I have found myself sighing a lot as I read.

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April 01, 2012

Cupcake Epiphany!

768px-Chocolate_Cupcakes_with_Raspberry_Buttercream_detail Photo courtesy Whitney in Chicago via Wiki.

As anyone who hangs out here knows, I have long had an antipathy for cupcakes. To my mind, cupcakes have represented what is most problematic with the world: Overpriced, tasteless, twee, empty calories mindlessly consumed instead of more usefull options. Not to mention that the sprouting of cupcake stores on every corner has not helped the US obesity crisis...well, except to help it grow.

Recent data sorting on my computer has turned up the draft of my The Manifesto
of a Cupcake Abolitionist. Last thing I did before shutting down my computer last night was move a copy of the Manifesto to my "Writing NOW" folder so I could find it.

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November 02, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: A Moment of #!*@ing Silence


My oven has decided that now, with money impossibly tight and the holiday cooking season closing fast, is a good time to die. The picture above is not it. That picture is what I am taunting my increasingly erratic beast range with. "Work or I'll replace you with this sexy thing!" does not seem to be working.

I have, however, developed a new technique for roasted chicken that involves heating the oven up to 350, letting the temperature fall to 190-270, reheating the oven to 350 and repeating. (All temperatures are +/-75 degrees. Seriously.) It takes about three...or maybe it was four hours and the chicken was remarkably moist yet cooked through. How that happened I have no idea.

Guess that's where the magic comes is.

I am biting back everything I want to say about the range in honor of Wordless Wednesday (and be glad it's not Swearing Saturday because holy #!*@balls, Batman would I ever be going for it) and simply quietly dream of something like that pretty thing up there .

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.

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September 15, 2011

The Hunger Challenge: On Being on Food Stamps For Real

Some folks are participating in the Hunger Challenge and feeding their families on a 'food stamp budget' of about 4 dollars a person a day. This event, being put on by the San Francisco Food Bank is designed to raise awareness of hunger and the overwhelming need to help Americans obtain enough food.

I have mixed feeling about the whole affair.

Awareness is good, but the type of awareness can leave a bit to be desired. People want to try the budget to identify more with the people who have no choice, but the context is so dissimilar as to make it an almost laughable comparison.

It's complicated.

I wrote some thoughts on making the Hunger Challenge a bit more challenging when it was being done in the Seattle area a while back. Those thoughts stand but I have a few more. (Amazing, huh?)

Once upon a time I was a poor single mother and I got food stamps. Not those SNAPpy little credit card things you get now, but colorful play money scrip they used back in the dark ages. It was like shopping with Monopoly money.

Continue reading "The Hunger Challenge: On Being on Food Stamps For Real" »

September 05, 2011

A Labor Day Thank You To "The Help"

kitchen: the long shot

Dear someoneElse, theKid, and various friends...but mostly someoneElse,

As we celebrate Labor Day weekend in the US—mainly by spending three days doing as little labor as possible—I'd like to pause a moment and salute all of your labor on behalf of this site, my cookbook and the rest of my food writing endeavors.

You, and people like you, are the unsung heroes of the food writing world: Our partners, children, roommates, family, friends and random people we happen to con into doing a little cleaning up...since we did all the cooking.

Barely acknowledged, and then usually in some way that reflects well on the writer, you toil unseen and unremarked while the cook reaps all the praise.

"Unseen" was going to be a joke. I was going to post a photo with a blurry figure working through a sink full of dishes in the background. I searched my 45,000 photo library and came up blank. Then I asked friends. Nothing. So, yeah, unseen. Unnoted. Definitely unthanked.

Unsung, and if you were, it would be definitely a Blues song.

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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 09, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Tweaking My English Muffins

english muffins

I started with this recipe: English muffins and crumpets: an (almost) shared recipe and while it's closer to what I want, it's still not quite there.

Speaking of things that are not there...can we talk about me for a nanosecond? I have been ill lately, which is why I have been not here. (All I really want to say is that if anyone ever says to you, "quick choose a modifier for 'nausea and vomiting'..." you should NOT choose "intractable"...) This seems to be an ongoing thing (oh joy) so I have to figure out what the hell the food writer who doesn't eat much writes about (since we know I am not writing about myself). I am accepting input on this...

One of the very few things I can eat on my not so good days is English Muffins, hence the recipe tweaking. The next batch will be get a little more water and be cooked in rings. Photos soon. I hope.

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