on breaking bread happily alone together


My daughter has been happily and successfully traveling the world for the last year and a half working as a freelance writer and photographer. As it happened to work out, she’s now in Tuscany, nearby where I recently traveled…
cor·re·spond·ence
noun
  1. a close similarity, connection, or equivalence.
  2. communication by exchanging letters with someone.

We share our news updates and thoughts via email and text; our correspondence is also often in the form of photographs, no words needed to convey the sentiment. We talk on Skype fairly frequently as a morning coffee date here as she has gets ready for dinner there. Healthy, delicious, and beautiful food is something she enjoys as much as I do. I like hearing what food she’s finding and relishing as she travels through varies countries, and it makes me smile to think how recently, when I caught a snotty head cold on a plane, she offered “drink ginger root and lemon tea”. Yes!

These days she’s not looking up her favorite childhood recipes on my blog– she’s a capable and creative cook, and she’s also jamming on article deadlines. And while we are now busy in time zones 9 hours apart, simple correspondence prevails in our daily experience. This was her visual message to me earlier today. I want to call it “Breaking Bread Happily Alone Together” because of course she is there now alone, while I enjoyed a similar experience of lovely brushetta– albeit with Prosciutto– and posted that here just a week ago. Such lovely meals, and such lovely shared experience.

IMG_5131(Photo credit: Lois Parshley)

why would a vegetarian eat fish, chicken, or dare I say, pork?


I’ve now been a vegetarian for over half my life, and over those many years I’ve read, thought, and discussed a lot about food, health and healing, cooking and eating well. During those years I was diagnosed as having a low-thyroid condition; I tried to address that through natural means of diet modification, and while that was supportive, I finally relented and accepted my allopathic doctor’s prescription for Synthroid. Concurrently I accepted my Acupuncturist’s advice to eat organic kelp, scallops, salmon, and white fish, trying for once or twice weekly, and to take Selenium supplements daily to support my thyroid. Thus I overcame my aversion to eating flesh by selecting fish whenever I was eating out on business meals; I can honestly say that for about 15 years I’ve enjoyed eating salmon.

Meanwhile I’ve forever been interested in other cultures, people and places, and now I’m at a stage in my life where I have more discretionary time and money, so I’m able to travel some. For over two years I’ve also enjoyed a loving partnership with a man who wants to travel with me, a man who enjoys tasty healthy food, and good spirits– by that I mean both good and happy people, also good wine, beer and liquor. When we traveled together to Ireland and Scotland a year ago, knowing we’d be staying as house guests part of that time, I decided it would be wise to add chicken breast to my diet too, to help me have more options when eating with others abroad. I’d enjoyed salmon and chicken in my mother’s home, and I recalled the flavors happily. My mind was willing, my gut easily survived. Culinary bonus points scored with discovery of draft Guinness beer!

I’ve been thinking about these things as I prepared to go on a wonderful vacation– we’ve just returned from Paris, Florence, and rural Tuscany. Ah, you say, French food! Oui! Oui! How fun that KLM/Delta aired the movie “Julie and Julia” (a comedy by Nora Ephron staring Meryl Streep as Julia Childs) on our flight to Paris! That was perfect, as my partner is a huge movie fan, and I, of course, love to cook.

Indeed we enjoyed the food in Paris– especially wonderful savory crepes, and quiche. Ah but yes, Quiche Lorraine has bacon in it. Oh, the restaurant menus– artichokes were in season, abundant, beautiful, and so delicious! Ah, pea soup! And oh, my, not just beef ragout in those lovely red individual serving sized enameled cast iron casseroles, but duck and rabbit as speciality menu items… The local markets were stellar, well stocked with beautiful produce. The artichokes, haricot verts, and so many types of beautiful greens! The bread, the cheese, oui, oui! And of course, the wonderful wines.

The food scene in Italy felt entirely different. There too the wonderful cheeses, wine, bread, and the olives! Best of all gelato! And my partner introduced me to Sambuca. Yum! I found the restaurant menus there were much more accessible to me as a vegetarian, even though I almost never eat pasta (having long ago given up gluten noodles.) I had lovely choices of fish, all beautifully prepared in delicious butter. The question for me on this trip though was pork. Did I want to eat pig meat after more than thirty years?? Thinly sliced prosciutto, on bruschetta with marinated artichoke hearts, thinly sliced pecorino romano, and a drizzle of olive oil, so perfectly Italian. I decided yes, when in Florence do as the Florentines do, and I was delighted.

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Antipasti of thick sliced cold salsiccia, with a cold Bierra? Hmmm, that Salsiccia just looked to be a bit much for me to stomach; the bierra was delicious. For breakfast in before a full day out adventuring in rural Tuscany, my partner made his awesome over-hard eggs that I have come to enjoy (I was vegan for many years), with fried tomato and yes, a little salsiccia sausage link cooked perfectly. Yum! And no gastric distress. Moderation is the key.

Now home again, I went to our County Master Gardener’s “Incredible Edibles” organic vegetable and herb start sale event last weekend, and I’m making progress turning and weeding my raised beds after a horrendously wet Spring. I’m thinking about eating with the changing seasons, and as the name of my blog reminds me, as a Conscious Vegetarian. Thinking about that now, I acknowledge that means for me also cooking salmon or chicken breast on occasion.

Last night I was really hungry, and knew I needed a generous serving of protein. I enjoyed braising 3 oz of salmon with garlic, dill, and lemon, then making a lovely salmon salad with mixed greens, radicchio, topped with black olives, sheep feta, walnuts, thin slices of red onion, and orange slices, dressed with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Yes, it was a perfect meal for me, a conscious vegetarian.

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inspired carrot spread


While on vacation in Portugal with my daughter and our partners, torrential rain and gusty winds diverted us one day to the Chiado Museum Nacional de Arte Contemporanea where we truly enjoyed seeing the “Paradoxical Image” photography exhibit of Francisco Afonso Chaves’ (1857-1926). Some of the other disconcerting displays not so much– those led us to seek dry comfort and a good meal to revive our joie de vivre.

fullsizeoutput_16d7Thanks to Google we found Cafe Lisboa nearby. Oh my, what a find! The place itself is lovely, the food sublime starting with the freshly baked bread and carrot spread. I tried to isolate the complementary flavors in the luxuriously textured spread… then complimented the chef and asked the server, what were the ingredients please for the delicious carrot spread? Here now while the memory is fresh are my thoughts for my first attempt at recreating the simple yet inspired treat.

ingredients:

  • carrots
  • cream
  • vinegar – I’ll try rice vinegar, with perhaps just a few drops of Balsalmic
  • garlic – just a little
  • cumin
  • black pepper

instructions:

I’ll update this post as I play with this recipe…

thinking about succorance


Given that I love words, on any given day I find myself briefly referring to my dictionary app. Yesterday’s word of the day on Dictionary.Reference.com has long been one of my favorites. Today I’m thinking about how succorance is evidenced in my life… also how our food preparation choices can support or sabotage the dietary, health, and weight goals of our family, friends and colleagues when we share food with others.

succorance

 \ SUHK-er-uh ns \  noun;

1.the act of seeking out affectionate care and social support.

quotes:

  • Here, food in general, and the feeding of someone else in particular… are equated with love, succorance, with a bond between caring parties, with the largely selfless, human act,… and Chaplin uses food in motifs that point us toward what distinguishes a civilized society from a jungle.  Jay Boyer, “Cry Food: The Use of Food as a Comic Motif in the Films of Charlie Chaplin,” Beyond the Stars: Studies in American Film , 1993
  • Here Woolf returns to her metaphor of the outsider seeking warmth, shelter, succorance, yet courting danger.  Shirley Panken, Virginia Woolf and the “Lust of Creation,”  1987

Alertness


No morning coffee needed.

Jopa eats well yet lightly, only when she’s hungry. She partakes of a few good bones, yes, and exercises every day.  She lies down when she’s tired, and sleeps well, every night. A fine recipe for alertness.

Jopa greets her family and friends with enthusiasm, is ready to have a good time and to share loving. She applies herself wholly to whatever project she takes on. She’s eager to start every day, is fully present each moment, and alert for any opportunity.  A fine recipe for a happy life well lived.

Unexpected problems can become opportunities


I had planned to work from home today. When I logged in early this morning, I found an unexpected email from the IT help desk, informing me I’d picked up ‘malware’ and so needed to sign off the network and relinquish my laptop to a tech to scrub it clean. But I have work that needs to get done, people counting on me! No network access means I can’t get that work done now. Nothing to do but drive down to the office to meet the IT tech and hand over my laptop, the sooner the better for getting it returned to me. Damn.

But as I was leaving the house I saw the library books staged near the door, due today. And the Chaat house is right next to the library… I’ve been wanting their fabulous Channa Masala, Navratan Korma, Dal Tarka. And of course the best paan and chai ever. Yum. Lois and I had talked about going last week while she was home, but we never made it there.

I’m now back home after turning in my corporate laptop and library books.  I’m about to have my Chaat house lunch on the deck in the sun. After lunch I’ll make some calls, then read through two contracts. Somehow all my deliverables will get done.

It’s good to grab ahold of unexpected opportunities and a meal at the Bombay Chaat House.   http://bombaychaathouse.org