3/27/17

Feminist, Uncle, Gadfly: A Conversation with Tim Mazurek

[This is the second in a series of conversations. The first one is here.]
If you’re familiar with Tim Mazurek and his site, Lottie + Doof, you likely read “You’re Boring,” a subversive think piece on why food media mostly sucks and how we can do better.

In Tim’s view, part of the problem is that professionals in mainstream food media are too similar-minded and too cozy with one another. In his words, they have “worked together, or might someday work together, so nobody can criticize anyone else. Everyone is too busy congratulating each other or promoting each other’s work (often while talking about how shitty the work is behind their back)… Don’t get me wrong, professional camaraderie and friendships are great. But they shouldn’t exclude formal criticism.”

I completely agree and have spent a fair amount of time calling out my least favorite food and lifestyle magazines for what I perceive to be a kind of trend-focused, overly precious, and largely soul-less approach to food and cooking. That being said, it’s probably a bit easier for me to do so as a food media outsider—I have very little to lose. I also don’t really have friends in the business. I don’t know people who work at Bon Appétit, Martha Stewart Living, etc. (Perhaps ironically, Tim himself is the closest I come to having a good friend in food media.)

What I think makes Tim a national treasure is that he does know these people and isn’t afraid to ask for more out of them. Plus, and probably most importantly, he’s not selling anything. He doesn’t pay the bills via his blog, food-writing, or a Lottie + Doof-branded line of pots and pans. Are there any other major names in food who can say the same? And this isn’t meant as a knock to the people who are selling things, myself included (Uhm, buy my book!). Rather, it’s a nod to the magical power and freedom of distance, the idea that when you’re too close to something, you can’t see it clearly—which brings to mind the words of the late, great Bill Cunningham: “If you don’t take money, they can’t tell you what to do.” (Not that there is a lot of money in food-writing.) (Buy my book?)

This brings me to my first question.

At one point, I know you were considering writing a cookbook. Are you still?

Tim Mazurek: Ugh. I don't know. I think I like the idea of having written a cookbook better than actually writing one. There are a few issues. First of all, I honestly do not know how to incorporate it into my life. I work full-time (am I the only 9-5 food blogger?) and I have friends and family I want to spend time with. We're also living in the golden age of television—a new season of Fleabag isn't going to watch itself. Time constraints aside, there are too many cookbooks being published and most of them are so very mediocre. I don't want to produce another boring forgettable cookbook. One of the beautiful things about blogging is that whatever I say goes, Lottie + Doof is this world that I have complete control over. Working with a publisher means that I am giving up control of my work and that would be a struggle for me. Plus writing pays shit, which isn't motivating. So, there are a lot of checks in the cons column, at least right now. All of that said, I am still considering a proposal and have a very rough draft that I look at occasionally. I have this idea that I like and some recipes I would like to share. I like the format of a book in that it is finite and an object that would exist in the world. And theoretically, I do like collaborating and would enjoy working on a project like this with the right people. But I don't know if the weirdo book I would want to produce has a place in contemporary cookbook publishing. And all of this presumes that anyone would want to publish me, which they probably wouldn't. I don't know. I'm conflicted. So promise to never ask me about it again, okay?

We started our food blogs at very similar times and about a year before Condé Nast decided to dump Gourmet (end of 2009). Were you a fan of Gourmet? Why or why not?

TM: I did like Gourmet! It was a different time, I was young and innocent and hadn't consumed much food media. Who knows what I would think of it today. But generally speaking, I liked stuff better back then because nobody thought it was cool. More importantly, it didn't think it was cool. It was earnest and nerdy in a way that doesn't seem possible anymore. So much media today seems like it was created by public relations software, it is all hashtags and cross-promotions and celebrity waffle trends. This was why blogs were cool back then, too. They weren't a thing. It was just a bunch of randos who wanted to write about food, it wasn't part of a business plan or brand strategy. I miss those days. I miss Google Reader.

I want to talk more about formal criticism, but also as it relates to informal criticism. I’m specifically thinking about Twitter and online comments. Have you experienced—like I assume most bloggers have—some hateful commenters on Lottie + Doof? Or Twitter? Also, it appears that you can’t comment on your blog anonymously—was that a conscious decision?

TM: I am both unable to keep my mouth shut and very sensitive, which is a terrible combination. And especially poorly suited to the internet. So I live in constant fear that someone will say something mean to me. They occasionally do, but mostly the people who read my blog have proven themselves to be real gems. I love my regulars so much. And I not only prohibit anonymous comments, I also approve all comments from first-timers before they are posted. Both were conscious decisions. I want the site to be a fun place for myself and anyone who drops by. I am more often attacked on Twitter, which I guess is expected....and sometimes I deserve it. Social media isn't the best place to discuss serious topics.

Via your blog, you introduced me to the poem, “I Woke Up” by Jameson Fitzpatrick. I love it so much. It’s such an entertaining and yet still powerful poem. Where did you first come across it? Do you have a favorite line or moment from it?

TM: I am so glad you like it! I came across it on The Poetry Foundation's website. The Poetry Foundation is one of my favorite Chicago cultural institutions. People should visit it when they are in town. And their website is an incredible resource for finding poets and poems. I really like everything about that poem, but especially: Who I thought was handsome was political—which makes me sad.

I am on an ancient Chinese poetry kick. (We’ve all been there, amiright?) Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao Te Ching has given me a lot of comfort in this post-fact world. Since the election, have you found yourself leaning on any particular book or storyline or piece of art?

TM: YES. More generally, I have found that art suddenly seems vital to me in a way that it never has before (and I have two degrees in art!). I am holding it so close—as an escape and as a reminder that humans can be magical little creatures capable of truly wonderful stuff. In December I read The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton and formed what some (my husband) would call an unhealthy attachment to it. You know when you get the right book at the right time? This was the epitome of that. It is such an escape and felt like the only safe space for me for a while. I never wanted it to end. It is this massive text that is a parody of Victorian novels and also a mystery and also about astrology and also about the New Zealand gold rush and maybe my favorite love story ever. It is bonkers. It is the only book I can remember reading that made me gasp out loud at the cleverness of the author. It is just so fucking cool, Amelia. Stop reading this and go read that.

I recently flipped through People magazine and was rather deflated by their description of Glennon Doyle Melton, who is someone I’ve come to know and appreciate solely through her Instagram feed. People tagged her as a: “Christian mom blogger.” Though I guess she is all of these things, the description feels wrong. If People magazine were reporting on you, what would your ideal three-word description be of yourself—knowing that, of course, the whole three-word limitation is the whole problem. Also, speaking of People, who is your celebrity crush? (Also, sorry?)

TM: "Feminist uncle blogger"? Or maybe "feminist uncle gadfly"? I actually like this exercise.

But what I like even more is talking about celebrity crushes. How have we never discussed this before? I don't know how to narrow this down. A perennial favorite is Michiel Huisman, which hopefully requires no explanation. I am deeply into Andrew Scott's performance of Moriarty in the BBC Sherlock series. His energy is so attractive. That one is perhaps connected to a larger theme in my life where many of my celebrity crushes are actors in British murder mysteries. I started a zine in like 2007 called: "Men of Marple" (as in, Agatha Christie's Miss Marple) that was basically me obsessing over the babes on the ITV series that was airing at the time. It was not a widely read zine.

Also, I have a crush on the entire cast of Riverdale on the CW. Literally the entire cast. That casting director deserves an Emmy.
In case the name doesn't ring a bell, that striped babe on the left is Michiel Huisman
Maybe it’s all this talk of nuclear bombs, but I keep thinking about dishes/recipes that I want to make before dying. It’s weirdly motivating. Some of them are quite simple, like this recipe for Green Chutney in Madhur Jaffrey’s latest cookbook. Do you have any bucket-list dishes like that?

TM: I don't think I can relate to wanting to cook in the face of impending death. I'd rather have someone else cook for me in that situation. But I hope to someday make mole and a proper croissant.

I recently read the rules to a 30-day detox touted by Goop. Here are the first seven of fifteen: “1. No alcohol. 2. No caffeine. 3. No dairy. 4. No eggs. 5. No beef, no pork. 6. No shellfish, no raw fish. 7. No gluten.” What are your thoughts on detoxing? Have you ever tried one?

TM: I hate it. The language around this sort of pseudo-science bullshit is intolerable to me. I am happy for you, as an individual, to do whatever stupid thing you want to do. I am not okay when you start telling other people about it and claiming there is science or truth behind it. Nutritional science is incredibly complicated stuff and not easily applicable to general audiences. "Healthy" to one person may not be "healthy" to another. And fuck anyone who calls dairy a toxin.

As for my own experience, once I didn't drink any Coca Cola for a month and that was pretty terrible. I wouldn't recommend it.

Do you think that in order to run for president, you should have to be able to make one really good meal from scratch? Or maybe be able to fry an egg with a runny yolk?

TM: Not at all. Do you? Why would this be important? I'd rather they be good at crying.

Amelia: Since you asked... Yes, I DO wish presidential candidates could cook. I'm pretty sure this notion is wrapped up in my perpetual naiveté about the world and people. Basically: I see cooking as a form of nurturing—both for the cook and the ones eating the meal. Just imagining either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in a kitchen, apron-clad, making a thoughtful meal, relaxes me. The image also reminds me of this line I came across (via Glennon Doyle Melton's Instagram) about peacemaking, which ends with: "[peacemaking] is about a revolution of love that is big enough to set both the oppressed and the oppressors free." I believe that Trump is oppressed by his compulsion to appear hyper-masculine as was Hillary by her need to appear masculine enough. I think they might both benefit by some time in the kitchen. I also believe that caring about making good food leads to caring about where good food comes from which typically leads to caring about mother earth. So yeah, maybe instead of a third debate, there should be a cook-off?

TM: I am less convinced that cooking is always a form of nurturing. I don't think what is happening in restaurants is necessarily nurturing, though sometimes it is. I watched my grandma cook her whole life, more often than not it seemed like a burden. I suspect cooking can be nurturing in the hands of nurturing people, and not in the hands of others. But I think we agree that we would love a nurturing president. Bring her on!

If you could cook for any politician/public servant, who would it be and what do you think you would make?

Is this a trap, Amelia? I refuse to admit to wanting to poison anyone.

I don't have much interest in cooking for a politician. I am skeptical of most of them, especially at the national level. Even the love for Obama that many of my friends seem to feel will always be a bit of a mystery to me. He didn't support marriage equality until it was politically safe for him to do so. I am not naive, I get how politics work, but I don't know how to love a president who spent years telling me he wasn't sure I deserved the same rights he benefited from. Sure, by comparison he was pretty good and I am grateful to have had him as a president. I like leaders who read books and can articulate ideas and appear empathetic. But I don't need to cook for them. They should cook for me.
I would cook this (green chutney grilled cheese) for you, Tim. 
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3/15/17

German Baking and Our Civic Breakdown: A Conversation with Luisa Weiss

Plus, a video of Teddy and me making her Rosinenzopf.
After the election, my friend Kara introduced me to the following words by the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu: "If there is to be peace in the world, there must be peace in the nations. If there is to be peace in the nations, there must be peace in the cities. If there is to be peace in the cities, there must be peace between neighbors. If there is to be peace between neighbors, there must be peace in the home. If there is to be peace in the home, there must be peace in the heart."

I’ve been holding tightly to this notion ever since. (I also read some more Lao-tzu.) When reading the news becomes too much, I’ve actually closed my browser and said aloud, “Peace in the home.”

Another idea I’ve been holding tightly is one I came across via an episode of On Being titled, “The Inner Life of Rebellion.” In it, activists Courtney Martin and Parker Palmer talk about the various, not necessarily straightforward ways we can rebel against injustices we see. We all have different gifts and can contribute differently. In another interview, one with the late poet and playwright, David Budbill, this idea was reaffirmed: “Not everybody should be out on the streets protesting. I have a Buddhist friend who lives near Charlottesville, Virginia. He says, ‘What I do for peace and justice is split wood.’ I respect that. To do no harm is a great service to humanity.”

Right now, for me, finding peace in my heart involves a lot of cooking. It has also made me think of homemaking differently. It’s made me think of it, to put it bluntly, as an act of rebellion.

That being said, in the wake of the women’s march, I felt invigorated. Like many people I know, I wanted to do something more. I thought of my gifts. I then thought of food and my mother—of how she and I couldn’t talk politics over Christmas but how we could talk about what we were going to eat for dinner. Lots of people talk about how divided we are as a nation, but I don’t think that’s true. At least, it’s not the whole truth.

In this new series of conversations with my fellow food writers and thinkers, I hope to highlight all of these above ideas, but mostly this idea that the truth isn’t so simple. The truth is filled with nuance.

In this first conversation, conducted over email, I’m talking with Luisa Weiss—a Berlin-born, American-Italian food writer. She is the creator of the blog, The Wednesday Chef as well as the author of My Berlin Kitchen, a food memoir, and Classic German Baking, a cookbook published in late 2016.

In My Berlin Kitchen, Weiss has a chapter titled “Eating for Heartbreak,” which immediately follows the chapter where after intense consideration and some truly meddling pigeons, she decides to break off her engagement. She writes: “…as black as your days may be—and black they are, that I’ll say—life does, amazingly, go on. As must you, one foot placed in front of the other; one tedious morning after another. And the thing is, you’ve got to eat. You can’t simply drop out of life.” She then goes on to describe a version of a Greek salad. It shouldn’t be so tantalizing and yet it is.

It’s this kind of practical magic that makes me love food. And I think that bewitches Weiss as well.

I recently heard the U.K.-born-and-based Zadie Smith talk about her latest book, the main character of which, like herself, is mixed race. She then discussed how her particular shade of skin allows people to see her how they want to—how people have begun conversations with her in Arabic, or Bengali, etc. Can you relate to this as a self-described Berlin-born, American-Italian?

Luisa Weiss: Oh, so much. On paper, I may be Caucasian, but in the flesh, I have very dark hair and eyes and the kind of skin color (olive) and features that have over the years led Arabs, Turks, Persians, Latinos, and Southeast Asians from various nations to ask me if I'm one of them. (Often in their own language and repeatedly, since they're so confident I'll be able to respond!) My mother thinks that there must be some Saracen blood in my DNA from my maternal (Italian) side and on my paternal side, the swarthiness comes from generations of Eastern European Jewry. The ethnic confusion is compounded by the fact that my parents gave me a first name that is relatively familiar in several cultures, including the German one, and an originally Hungarian last name that means "white" in German. So to Germans, I'm doubly, triply confusing—a dark-skinned polyglot with a German name who was born here and can speak the language almost perfectly, but not completely. Weird! On the inside, my identity used to be more confused than it is now. I'm a "third-culture kid" - a child born to people of a culture different than the one they live in—but I didn't discover this term until I was in my early thirties and just ending a significant romantic relationship in no small part because of our inability to bridge the geographical and cultural divide between us. I had always thought my inner turmoil about my identity and where I belonged was something I had to endure alone, but discovering the concept of being a TCK was very grounding. Today, I feel pretty solid about my mongrel (I say that lovingly) identity as an American in Europe, married to a German, living around the corner from my Italian mother, raising bi- and trilingual children.

That’s not even to mention your identities as a mother, wife, writer, cook, daughter, etc. It’s confusing sometimes, right?

LW: I think it's more confusing when you have to explain yourself to others who want a neat and simple answer, actually. These days, it feels pretty normal to be a working mother, a woman with interests outside of the home, and a multinational family. Or at least it feels more normal to me. Thank goodness!

Your latest book, Classic German Baking, is incredibly ambitious. You essentially tackle an entire culture. (I personally felt like I learned so much about the German day-to-day and also feel like I would love to do a cookie exchange with you next holiday season.) Was the idea always this big in scope? And/or how did you come up with the idea?

LW: The idea was even bigger originally—the subject of German baking is so vast that you could, in theory, pen a "Silver Spoon" style book just on this one subject. In fact, the idea of the book terrified me precisely because of its potential size. How on earth would I ever be able to tackle such an enormous project? Luckily, my publisher gave me the freedom to narrow the selection of recipes down to a manageable number that would still ably represent the variety and scope of German baking, but wouldn't tether me to the test kitchen and my desk for the next five years.

As for how I came up with the idea: Before I moved to Berlin and became a full-time writer, I was a cookbook editor in New York. It was there that I first realized the gap in the market where a German baking book belonged. I looked high and low for the right person to write the book, but always came up empty. Life moved on and I found myself in Berlin. Years later, the publisher of Ten Speed approached me to write the book because he too had seen this gap in the market—I'm sure there were other editors too who were on the hunt!—and thought that I'd be the right person to tackle it. Once I got over my initial fears (see above), I was thrilled to be given the task of explaining German Kaffee-Kuchen culture to American readers. What an honor!

As for a cookie exchange with you: Yes please!

Part of the reason I ask is because I like the idea of an ambitious baking project. It feels both feminine and masculine. (When I think of baking, I think of women and homemaking. But at the same time, the word ambitious is often used pejoratively when describing a woman.) Do you think of baking as historically women’s work? In your research of these traditional recipes, did you rely heavily on women’s knowledge or men’s or was it a mixed bag?

LW: Such an interesting question. When I think of home baking, I do indeed see it as more of a woman's thing. Because historically (and, uh, today, still, especially in Germany), women are still largely the ones at home, doing homemaking work, even if they're also out working and getting a paycheck. They're probably the ones getting the Sunday cakes made, they're the ones decorating the gingerbread houses with the kids, and the ones figure out what birthday cake to make when. (Because baking is such a big part of German culture, men are certainly not excluded from it. Many men I know bake at Christmastime and they all have pretty strong opinions on the subject of homemade cakes and cookies.) But professional bakers are largely still men. At all of the traditional, family-run bakeries that I know well in Berlin, the employees in the "Backstube" or "baking room" are men, including the "Meisterkonditoren." The women are the ones in the front, selling the goods. Going way, way back in time to when bakers were in guilds, they were all male—women simply didn't work. So the question of whether baking is historically more male or female is more complicated than you think! At least seen from the German perspective.

You have a beautiful newborn baby at home right now. In my experience, newborns have an amazing, fascinating, and sometimes frustrating way of telling your ambition to take a chill pill. What has your experience been like?

LW: Oooh, sister, YES. It's such an incredible push-pull. On one hand, I love the crazy fog of the newborn time. I love how reduced your life becomes. How concentrated on one little thing it gets. How the days are, in their nuttiness, still predictable (feed, sleep, change, feed, sleep, change, etc etc). How easy it is to tune out everything and just go inward and focus. And because he's our second and last child, I can appreciate and savor the moments so much better than I could the first time around.

On the other hand, precisely because I spend so many weeks in such a reduced state intellectually, when that urge to create rears its head again, it does so with a vengeance. But you can't suddenly plop your kid aside and go off to write for five hours—he'll probably wake up in 23 minutes! That's when the real challenge, as I see it, begins. Learning to juggle your thirst to work and have an identity outside of being a mother with an infant's myriad and constant needs. As I'm feverishly typing the answers to these questions, my baby has been napping on the sofa. Any minute now he's going to wake up and who knows when I'll find the time to be back at the computer again. So I type, type, type like a banshee in the hopes of finishing a thought coherently before the baby cycle starts anew.

Lots of the recipes in Classic German Baking call for a period of rest—whether it’s a few hours or a few months, like the dough for your Lebkuchen (Old-fashioned German Gingerbread). Do you think this idea applies to progress? To our 24-hour news cycle? Anything else?

LW: Yes! Most things (besides salad) benefit from at least an overnight rest, if not longer. Creative work, for sure. Lover's spats, definitely. In general, being able to take a step away from something to get fresh air and a new way of looking at it will benefit whatever you're dealing with. AS for our news cycle, it's complicated. I definitely think that a lot of the "breaking news" stories out there could have used an overnight rest and I generally think the 24-hours news cycle has contributed to our civic breakdown. On the other hand, as someone who has always been interested in the news and who follows it obsessively now (thanks to midnight feeds, the 24-ness of the news is particularly relevant), I'm also grateful for all those hardworking journalists out there who are toiling like crazy to bring us as much information as they can in this very strange new world.

I recently read the rules to a 30-day detox touted by Goop. Here are the first seven of fifteen: “1. No alcohol. 2. No caffeine. 3. No dairy. 4. No eggs. 5. No beef, no pork. 6. No shellfish, no raw fish. 7. No gluten.” What are your thoughts on detoxing? Is there a place for it in German culture like there seems to be in American culture?

LW: My thoughts on detoxing are, to paraphrase or quote Amy Poehler: "Good for her! Not for me." Everything in American culture eventually trickles down to German culture, so there are definitely detoxes in the ether here. On the whole, Europeans seem to have a slightly more balanced view on diet and nutrition than Americans. But the siren song of fitting into your bathing suit come summertime seems to be one that bewitches people across many cultures.

Do you think that in order to run for president, you should have to be able to make one really good meal from scratch? Or maybe be able to fry an egg with a runny yolk?

LW: Ooh, I don't know! I don't think that cooking well inherently makes you a good or moral person. I think a good politician probably doesn't have a lot of time to hone their cooking chops. They're too busy being good public servants, or they should be in any case? I'm old-school—I think politicians should be the ones running for president, not reality stars or even Oprah (God love her). So I guess my answer is no. I'd rather my presidential hopefuls be smart, well-educated and capable of thinking deep thoughts about economics and history and health care and global poverty and prison reform and police violence. If that means they can't even open a can of baked beans, well, so be it.

If you could cook for any politician/public servant, who would it be and what do you think you would make?

LW: I wish I could make dinner for Barack and Michelle Obama. My warm feelings for them have morphed into something far more desperate now—I adore them with a sort of trembly, feverish, terrified love, enhanced, no doubt, by the intense psychological misery that the current occupant of the White House is inflicting on us. I'd invite them to dinner at my mom's house in Italy and we'd have dinner on the patio outside, on the wood table that's water-damaged after years of being out there and under the big sun umbrella my mother put out there when we got married several years ago. There would be homemade tagliatelle with ragù, which is a specialty of the region, and grilled sausages and breadcrumb-stuffed tomatoes, and a big salad with greens from the garden and then baseball-sized peaches dripping juice all over the place and lots of wine and we'd eat and talk for hours until the sun went down and the fireflies came out and by the end, we'd be BFFs and they'd promise to come back every year.
Rosinenzopf (Sweet Raisin Bread) from Luisa Weiss's Classic German Baking

DOUGH
1 cup/240ml whole milk
4 cups, scooped and leveled/500g all-purpose flour
¼ cup/50g granulated sugar
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon/75g unsalted high-fat, European-style butter, at room temperature
1 egg, at room temperature
½ cup/75g raisins

TOPPING
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon whole milk
1 ½ tablespoons pearl sugar (optional)
2 tablespoons blanched sliced almonds (optional)

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

To make the dough: First warm the milk slightly. Place the flour, sugar, instant yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Add the milk, butter, and egg and stir to combine. As soon as you have a slightly cohesive dough, dump it out onto a lightly floured work surface and start to knead. Knead for 10 to 15 minutes (set a timer), or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Form into a ball. Place in the mixing bowl, cover with a clean dishcloth, and place in a warm, draft-free spot to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size. (For me, this took about an hour and a half.)

When the dough has doubled in size, gently tug it out of the bowl and onto a work surface. Knead the raisins gently into the dough, and then divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll out each piece to a 16-inch strand. Braid the strands together, tuck the ends under the loaf, and place on the prepared baking sheet. Poke any exposed raisins back into the dough or remove and tuck into the bottom of the loaf (this is to keep the raisins from burning in the oven). Cover with the dishcloth and let rise for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350F/180C. After 20 minutes, remove the dishcloth and check for any additional protruding raisins. Remove them or poke them farther into the dough.

To make the topping; Beat together the egg yolk and milk, and brush the egg wash evenly over the loaf. Sprinkle the loaf evenly with the pearl sugar, the sliced almonds, or both. Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. The loaf will turn a rich bronze. If your oven runs hot and you are worried about the loaf burning, you may cover it with a piece of foil after 25 minutes of baking.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let cool slightly on a rack. Transfer the loaf to the rack to cool further. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature, in thick slices. The bread is best the day it is made, but it will keep wrapped tightly in plastic wrap for another day at room temperature. (Matt and I have been eating it for a few days now.)
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2/21/17

I'm Pretty into My New Wok + Thai Herb Fried Rice

I barely read the news anymore. Not that I ever really did. If I'm being truly honest, I bet you I read 567 headlines (probably via Twitter) and maybe four or five long-form political articles in their entirety in the year leading up to the 2016 election. I still get a lot of news via Matt (and Instagram). I'm bringing this up because Matt just sent me this article, Why Facts Don't Change Our Minds, which I read in full and which, almost certainly because of confirmation bias, has led me to believe that: YES, I AM RIGHT NOT TO BE READING THE NEWS.

Another reason I feel justified in not reading the news is because I read a book about one of my favorite poets Rainer Maria Rilke and learned that when WWI broke out, he essentially had zero idea. He was just traveling around Europe, existentially struggling over his poetry and shirking all parental responsibilities. (And then he got drafted!)

Point being, I've been cooking so much and really enjoying it. I've also been writing and reading a ton. Instead of feeling resentful (a favorite pastime), I've been feeling lucky to be a woman, to be a part of this long-standing culture of taking care of the home. I read this poem last week and nearly cried.

Anyway, here's a video of me (and Teddy) seasoning and then using my new wok! The recipe is pretty time-consuming but a good one for getting rid of herbs and vegetables that are close to dying in your crisper.


Thai Herb Fried Rice with Pork adapted from Lucky Peach
Serves 4

4-5 cups of cooked long-grain rice (Leftover/cold rice works the best.)
8 oz. ground pork
1 large shallot, minced
half a head of cabbage, chopped
8 oz. mushrooms, thickly sliced
2-3 tbsp. fish sauce
2 tsp. sugar
4 tbsp. vegetable oil
4 large eggs, beaten
2 tbsp. garlic, chopped
2 tbsp. ginger, chopped
4 scallions, sliced, white and green parts separated
1 cup, chopped herbs like cilantro, mint, and/or basil
2 limes
Sriracha and salt, to serve

Break up the rice so that it’s not clumpy. Set aside.

Put the shallot and pork in a bowl. Put the cabbage and mushrooms in a bowl. And in another bowl goes the garlic, ginger, and white parts of the scallions.

Mix the fish sauce and sugar together and place in a separate bowl.

Heat about 2 tablespoons of the oil in a wok or a heavy, nonstick skillet. Pour in the eggs and cook. Fold the egg up and over itself, kind of like you’re cooking an omelet. Cook until just set but still glossy—should take about 30 seconds if your pan is hot enough. Remove the eggs to a plate and set aside.

Add 2 more tablespoons of oil to the pan, then a moment later, the garlic, ginger, and scallion whites. Fry for just a few seconds and then add the shallots and pork. Go ahead and also add the cabbage and mushrooms. Stir-fry all of this until the pork is cooked through, about 3-4 minutes.

Dump the rice into the pan and mix. You want to spread the rice out so each granule gets some time on the surface of the pan. Stir and fold once a minute for about 4 minutes. (A sturdy spatula really helps here.)

Pour the fish sauce mixture over the rice and toss to coat.

Keep cooking and tossing until the rice is evenly colored. Return the eggs to the pan, breaking them up as you go. Turn off the heat. Add the chopped herbs and scallion greens, and juice of one lime. Taste for seasoning. It will probably need a few nice pinches of salt.

Serve with additional lime. 

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2/3/17

Video: Onigiri

Matt and I were stressing about how to get ourselves plus Teddy and Isaac to the L.A. women’s march in downtown Los Angeles. Should we risk the metro crowds and potential wait times with two small children and all of their gear? What about the bus? In the end, we decided to drive. (#LosAngeles) Our hope was to park somewhere nearby and then to walk the rest of the way.

The closer we got to downtown, the more energy we felt. People in small groups with signs were walking on the sidewalks. The cars next to us weren’t manned by a single driver but filled to capacity with people.

As it happened, we lucked out and found a $9 parking spot at the music center. We got the kids, the stroller, all their accouterments, and our signs and made our way to the street. We saw more people, more signs. The energy grew. We headed toward City Hall. We walked one block east and then, just as we reached the corner, down First Street, we saw a mass of people. I can safely say that I’ve never seen anything like it.

My eyes filled with tears. It was ten in the morning and all these people were already there. It was such an amazing, uplifting afternoon. None of us are alone in this fight! And I’m so glad that mom.me allowed us to include the short bit of footage that I think captures some of the emotion.

One of the saddest things and the thing that’s possibly the hardest for me to deal with in this Trumpian era is the way facts have been so thoroughly and effortlessly dismissed and disregarded. Oftentimes these “facts” that are being casually brushed aside are people’s realities, people’s history.

That Saturday afternoon, I felt heard and understood—maybe not by many of the politicians who are in office right now, but by my fellow Angelenos. It was so beautiful.

These past three months, I’ve been driving around with my Hillary bumper sticker still on. I’d considered making a few more stickers to add to it. Something like, “I’m still with her!” followed by another one: “And her: [image of planet earth].” But the other day, I had a moment of clarity, coming to a succinct conclusion I think many of us have come to: Hillary was never going to be able to save us. Only we can save us.

I’ve got a few ideas for ways to resist. I’ll keep you updated with them as they become more solidified.

All the best and with so much love,
Amelia
Onigiri adapted from Lucky Peach
Makes 6

2 cups short-grain white rice
sea salt
One 5 oz. can of wild, pole-caught tuna
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
sesame seeds, furikake (Japanese rice seasoning) or nori cut into two-inch strips

Rinse your rice. (This is one of those tasks that as a beginner cook I skipped but that I never ignore now, as I know it leads to better, clearer-textured rice.) Put the rice in a bowl and cover with cold water. Swish it around a bit and then, using your fingers as a dam, pour out just the water and repeat two more times.

If you have a rice-cooker, cook your rice in that. If you don’t, follow the package directions. Try to time this so that when the rice is done cooking, you are ready to assemble the onigiri. You want your rice to be hot.

While the rice is cooking, mix the can of tuna with the mayonnaise. Taste it. If it needs salt, add salt.

To assemble the onigiri: Arrange the pot of cooked rice next to a bowl with salt, the bowl with the tuna filling, and a bowl with a bit of water. Grab a ramekin or teacup and plastic wrap.

Line the ramekin or teacup with a sheet of saran wrap. Sprinkle in a bit of water and then dump out any excess. Next sprinkle in a few pinches of salt.

Fluff the rice with a fork. If you want to season the rice with furikake or some sesame seeds, go ahead and add a few tablespoons now. If you are moving forward with plain rice, just be sure to season it at the end or right before eating it.

Scoop a large spoonful of the hot rice into the plastic-lined ramekin. Press it into the mold and then make a little well for the filling.

Place 1 tablespoon of the tuna mixture into the hollow, then scoop another spoonful of the rice on top. Press it down with the plastic wrap that’s hanging over the edge. Once you feel like it’s nice and compact, pull it out by lifting up on the plastic wrap. Continue molding it, trying to get it into a nice little 1-inch-thick triangle. Don’t worry if your first one is a bit wonky. They’ll get better as you go. Leave them wrapped in the plastic wrapper until you’ve formed all the onigiri. [If you want to wrap these in strips of nori, you’ll have to unwrap them from the plastic wrap in order to do so.] Enjoy at room temperature, either right away or put them in the fridge to enjoy the following day—if you can, bring them to room temp before eating
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1/10/17

Video: Teddy, Ages 2-3 & Isaac, Ages 0-1

Well, it's early January, which in my house equals birthday season. If you remember, Isaac was born just a handful of days before Teddy's birthday. Not only does this make for perfect-sized hand-me-downs, it's also worked quite nicely for Matt's annual video project.

If you're new to the blog, here are the prequel videos to this one:
Teddy, Ages 0-1
Teddy, Ages 1-2

This past year was a hard one for many people, including us. But this video is a great reminder that some good things happened too. It's easy (almost second-nature!) for me to dwell on the bad. Three cheers for Matt and people like him, who typically do the opposite.

Sending much love and a wee bit of positivity to you and yours,
Amelia
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