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September 20, 2010

Venn Diagram of kitchenMage ~ now with Badges!

Venn diagram of kitchenMage

Someone said to me recently, "I don't read, can't trust, sites without an 'About' page." (paraphrased and in quotes to annoy the editors) Once I got over sputtering to myself about having a very public real name, not to mention a link to my cookbook right there at the top of every page, I decided I'd use it as a nudge to actually write one.

Then I ran headlong into my inability to write about myself. Painfully. Repeatedly. Ouch!

At one point, I turned to my writer buds on twitter for consolation and discovered that logobiophobia (my new word for fear of writing about your own life) is as common as drinking. (There is a business there, but I am guessing few writers would want to do it.)

Failing to come up with words, well coherent ones anyway, I turned to avoidance doodling  illustrations as a way to simplify my explanation of what this site is about.

Good idea. Being a geek, I lean towards the scientific/mathematical representations so I not have a folder full of pie charts, graphs and this: my Venn diagram of kitchenMage.

I found the exercise of making a graphical presentation of the site - not to mention paring it down to three words - helped me sort out some of the noise in my brain about my current/future direction here. Starting with the new design which will be out by next week. The rest? Stay tuned. I'll let you know as I figure it out.

The one thing I know: there will be a real About page. Not because I agree that you can't trust sites without one, but because now I think I can write one that might even be worth reading.

Edited to add: The most common response to this post is a tweet saying, "You stole my Venn!" After a few such, @jeters and I decided that a badge was in order and here it is.

If it fits you, please feel free to snag a copy and post on your site. I'd appreciate if you linked the image back to this post so your readers can get the context. I'll add a list to this post of everyone who lets me now they have joined the Snarky Geeky Foodie cabal.

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What would a Venn diagram of your site look like? I would love for you to make one and you might find it interesting. If you do, please come back and share the link with me.

July 22, 2010

There is a reason I quit coding...

...and by reason, I mean a thousand - or 1024 - of them.

Reason #27: Because stupid little things like that huge date up there can take an hour to hunt down and even when you have changed every reference to the stupid style sheet it still doesn't work. The truly frustrating part is that I was nowhere near those bits, though maybe the kitten that was on my lap was. You think this innocent baby would do that?

This, of course, on the day I moved around A Year in Bread's DNS and confused the heck out of the sidebars (What do you mean there are images that no longer exist? I thought the Internet was forever!)

This is my kick in the butt to wrap up the redesign. Just as soon as I get this other thing finishes. This thing that is supposed to be real next Monday.

Curious about the other thing? Click on over to twitter and follow @notLikeNormal, which is short for Not Like Normal People, a line that was dropped on someoneElse and me by an oh-so precocious (and precious) nine year-old. Wise beyond her years, that one.

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" »

May 04, 2010

Dear Northern Star Natural Gas: Go FERC Yourselves!

For those of you who have not been following along, the bones of a backstory:

Northern Star Natural Gas was formed for the purpose of trying to build a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal in a fairly remote spot on the Oregon side of the lower Columbia River. The closest thing? Just a couple of miles away sits Puget Island and Wahkaikum county. My county. Which has little say because the project is in Oregon.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is in control of siting these little nightmares. This process has been going on for what seems like forever, but is actually only 5 years or so during which it's been a serious fight. How did it go? Let's just say that when a small town in Washington goes up against energy speculators and George Bush's energy agency makes the's been tough.

You came here for food, so why should you care about this bit of self-indulgence? Well, the LNG site is in a fragile estuary that is the nursery of the wee little salmon babies that eventually grow into that amazing Columbia River Spring Chinook that's hitting the market about now and we...well, read the letter.

Dear Northern Star Natural Gas,

I like to think that the residents of evenTinierTown and environs are open, welcoming, friendly people.

Seriously, have you met these folks? They wave when they drive by, they say "hi" to people they pass on the street -- one day an old guy sighed and thanked me because my long, loose hair reminded him of his youthful first love. How sweet is that? -- and I swear I can't get through a trip to the grocery store without hugging someone I haven't seen in a while.

You came to town right around the same time we did, so I sort of feel like we're newcomers together. I know you had a hard time fitting in; it's easy to make missteps in a small county like this. But it was also pretty darned easy for me to make friends and lord knows I am not the most diplomatic person you've met so it can't be all that hard, now can it? There are lots of good folks here, you just have to let them warm up to you.

Puget Island says NO to LNG! When you first showed up in town, we -- see? I am a 'we' even though we have been here similar lengths of time. Are you a 'we'? -- were willing to give you a fair hearing. Even the dread red-shirts would often tell you that if you just built off-shore, we just might be fine with that.

Did you listen? No way!

No, you showed up talking smack about eminent domain and bypassing state controls on other people's land. Refused to answer our questions under some guise of 'national security' without noting that, for us, this was local security. (I remember talking to a NS guy who explained that a leak would disperse on the river unless it met with a source of combustion. He assured me there were no such things for miles. I told him he was mistaken, I had friends a mile or so away. He changed the subject.) What the hell?

Those closed door meetings with politicians and people who pretended to be important. Not cool. Extremely not cool.

You totally blew off our little county because, even though we are closest to the estuary you want to industrialize, we aren't in Oregon. Even though the little charts of where the pool fire would go included our friend's houses. Houses you put numbers on and then refused to tell the residents what they meant because nothing could go wrong. (See also, Deepwater Horizon)

"Oh no," you said, "that part of the river belongs to Oregon!" You weren't going to listen to us no matter what.


We tried to tell you. Tried to talk to you. Tried to find middle ground. Hell, we said "offshore it!" We almost never say that! But you didn't listen, and you missed your chance.

Here's another things you missed about local folk. They love their river. That river does not divide Washington from Oregon, it unites us into one thing: the people of the river. Denizens of the lower Columbia.

The cute little ferry that runs across within range of your proposed LNG site, is a critical bit of what makes this area special. People traverse the river for work, family, entertainment, or simply to enjoy a beautiful day on the river. I think you missed that.

Then again, you missed many things.

We, on the other hand, don't miss much.

One of my new friends, a quiet, unassuming older guy who shares a wicked sense of humor with his charming wife, sent me mail recently asking why he couldn't get to your web site. I poked around and noticed that the site was pretty much gone, links to nowhere, nothing but a splashy splash page. I replied that it looked like you might be on your way out.

See? We pay attention.

I believe I even said, "Let the mocking begin." My friend, who is more polite than I, has refrained. Lucky for you. I have heard his mockage and would hate to be on the wrong side of his tongue.

Now today brings news. You're leaving town.

Wish I could say I was sorry to see you go but really I am just thrilled to see your carpetbagging, good old boy schmoozing, estuary-trashing, salmonid-killing, river-dredging, industrial polluting, environment destroying, whining to the government, pipeline-dragging, story-changing, sorry asses getting the, FERC off of our river.

But before you go, I have one more thing to say...

Continue reading "Dear Northern Star Natural Gas: Go FERC Yourselves!" »

September 03, 2009

Sheila Lukins, so long and thanks for all the inspiration!

From the archives, in memory of Sheila Lukins who died of brain cancer a few days ago. Lukins, co-author of Silver Palate cookbooks was one of the earlier influences on my cooking as an adult. Fortunately, I had a chance to thank her personally (in email) a couple of years ago.
cake book

As an unapologetically enthusiastic cook, I own a lot of cookbooks. A quick survey from where I sit reveals four bookshelves-one with easily 125 books-and six piles of books in varying states of precariousness. Books with recipes make up the bulk of these, but McGee, Nestle, Pollan, Schlosser, Parsons and others contribute a couple dozen reference books to the clutter in my office. It should be noted that I can only see the dining room and my office.

Out of sight, the guest room has a bookcase of food essayists, designed to be read in small bits: Reichl, Steingarten, Bourdain, the annual Best Food Writing series. Two more boxes, utterly untouched, sit where they were shoved under the entryway bench a few months ago "until we build more bookshelves," an event I expect to happen real soon now. Like next year.

Continue reading "Sheila Lukins, so long and thanks for all the inspiration!" »

August 01, 2008

Recapturing a food memory

Just last weekend, someone asked me what the first thing I remembered cooking was. I thought for a minute, and then I lied to them, saying, "Pound cakes. I took decorated pound cakes to my teachers every year and I baked them myself!"

In my defense, I truly did think that it was the correct answer when I said it - and I did bake pound cakes for my teachers - but a few days ago, something else came across my desk and made me reconsider what was first.

I was presented with the need to pay tribute to Mimi, my grandmother - the woman who, more than any, shaped the kitchenMage I am today - in a single photograph, and one with odd constraints at that. Remembering that recent conversation, I once again went rummaging through cookbooks and memories for the very first thing I remember making.

Needless to say, it wasn't pound cake.

Continue reading "Recapturing a food memory" »

June 02, 2008

note to self: just because it looks like chocolate...

I have been experimenting with variations on my favorite chocolate cake recipe, one of which calls for dissolving cocoa in boiling water before mixing it into the batter. It is supposed to intensify the flavor of the cocoa when used in cake batters that do not use milk, and it seems to work. What does not work, however, is my auto-pilot. Or maybe it works too well.

Today, I am making the exact same cake for the third time in three weeks. Yes, the cake that was homeless. This cake has a home already planned - although that's a story for another day - and it's a good home, so I am happy to go bake the cake.

What I am not so happy about is that autopilot. Just now, I wiped up a drip of the cocoa-water mixture with my finger. Then I did what any self-respecting cook does when they have a chocolate smeared finger: I licked it off.

Bleech! Oh my goddesses, is that ever disgusting! You would think I'd have noticed the first time, but no!

Apparently there is a fine line between 85% cacao solid nibbling chocolate and cocoa and I can't find it. Or having found it, I can't locate it again a few days later. Because the good part is that this isn't the first time I have done this. Nor is it even the second, for a small failure of memory I could excuse. No, my friends, this is the third time in as many bakings. Because I am nothing if not predictable.

Continue reading "note to self: just because it looks like chocolate..." »

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..." »

June 19, 2007

totally OT (but funny)

One of the other places I write is a place called where my column, the kitchenMage's Apprentice is published twice a month. Gather is carving itself a niche somewhere between social networking and blogging with a smidge of "rewards" style revenue sharing* thrown in. (you get points for stuff and points eventually equate to gift cards or cash)

It's an interesting mix of folks and the topics cover a lot of territory. I have been doing a bit of non-food writing there lately (I was silly enough to write an "Ask the feminist" open question piece. Oh my!) and it has been a lot of fun.

A couple of days ago, I wrote this rant about plastic surgery that has gone too far called "How Do you tell a friend..." and it's currently featured on the home page! (Okay, so I excite easily, but it's the first thing like this I've written for publication in a while and I'm happy.)

Should you decide that Gather looks like an interesting place and want to join, I'd be mighty grateful if you would click on this little link so I get a referral...hmmm, whatever it is we get for one of those. Join me at Gather.

I now return you to your regular food blogging, already in progress.

February 13, 2007

Help! My very first Burns Supper

Ever eager to explore new cultural traditions (except, in this case, for maybe the main course) I've happily accepted an invitation to my first ever Burns Supper this coming weekend. This is later than traditional for some reason, perhaps it took a while to type up the three page single-spaced invitation/instructions/tourist guide that we also got. Mandatory tartan, bring single-malt scotch, assigned speeches...all in all it looks like it should be quite the event.

Not being the least bit Scottish myself, I have done some research and feel like I have a handle on the public/common knowledge. I have my work cut out for me: must buy the tartan (and spin a tale about the clan connection...should be fun) and some single-malt scotch, and then prepare some Burns to read. What I would like is personal input from anyone here who has any experience with this thing, particularly:    

  • Suggestions of which Burns to read (there are two of us so we need two things, or something for a couple)    
  • Something to show we went to the effort to learn something, like a traditional greeting or toast.    
  • Good single malt scotches? I don't drink Scotch so I am clueless here. (Can I take Drambuie or is that too chi-chi?)    
  • Things to avoid doing/saying so as not to look like the neophyte I am.    
  • Good original Scottish yarns.

Thanks for any and all help you can offer. I'll post about the bash afterwards, at least what I can remember after the Scotch tasting.

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