Art of the Pie-Interview with author Kate McDermott

If you have been following my blog and Facebook page, you will know that I am a huge fan of pie.  Just love it. So when my library offered “Art of the Pie-A Practical Guide to Homemade Crusts, Fillings and Life” by Kate McDermott as the Big Library Read, I checked it out.  I was totally into a cookbook dedicated to pie.

Art of the Pie.png
photo courtesy of Andrew Scrivani

What I discovered was much more than a recipe book. It was Kate’s stories about her life and her philosophies. It is pie, with musings and insights. And with such beautiful photographs, by noted New York Times photographer, Andrew Scrivani.  I fell in love with this book.

So I emailed her, and asked her for an interview. And Kate being the generous soul that she is, agreed.

When I called her for the interview, I was struck immediately by her warm demeanor. She radiated kindness and friendship. I could tell right away how much she loves what she does, and how pie has been such an important part of her life. She is completely down to earth.

We started off by talking about her book being selected for the Big Library Read.  This is a global ebook club run through public libraries.  The books are selected by librarians, and “Art of the Pie” was the first ever cookbook to be selected.  Quite an honor.

We then reviewed Kate’s Three Rules, which are in the introduction of her book:

Rule# 1: Keep everything chilled, especially yourself- Keeping your ingredients chilled makes them easier to work with. And keeping yourself chilled makes your life easier.  She says “chilling out” means that you can only control what you have control of.  And that fretting and worrying about things beyond your control are simply non-productive. Instead, be kind, be generous and do meaningful work.

Rule# 2: Keep Your Boundaries- in pie making, this means watch your pie crust edges, so that they don’t burn. Finish your crust edges with a final crimp. In life, it means setting your boundaries for yourself and with others.  You cannot, and shouldn’t try  to be all things to all people. Kate said “Life is short, don’t take things so seriously. It is entirely ok to say no. You need to learn to stand your ground”.

Rule #3: Vent-  I love this one! In order for your pie to not to erupt, you cut some vents in the crust to allow steam to escape. If you don’t, the pie will find a weak point and just blow. And so can we.  There are times we need to off-load our feelings, and “vent” our frustrations. This keeps us from blowing up at the wrong thing or person. And if we don’t our bodies can react with illness and malaise.  So, vent away!

Pie making gives you the ability to practice these three rules.  Kate said “the rules are a constant work in progress. You have to practice on a regular basis, you have to own it”.

Our talk then turned to the meditative quality of simple tasks. A humbling task, like pie making, laundry or sweeping the floor, is grounding.  Simple tasks have a rhythm, which allows you to wander in your mind. It is both physical and mental. Kate noted that all of her meditative tasks involve her doing something with her hands.  It may be making pie, digging in the garden, or playing an instrument. Kate is also an accomplished musician. “I have lived an artist’s life” says Kate. “I am so fortunate”.

Kate teaches “Pie Camp”, where you get to spend a day or a weekend learning and making pies.  I asked her about people’s anxiety about making the perfect pie.  “Oh yes”, she says. “People  are all caught up with their pie being perfect. Or they want to recreate their Grandma’s pie. I tell them, how about we create your own pie?”

“There is nothing wrong with things being perfectly imperfect”.  Perfection is never achievable. Kate says that if something isn’t working, like a crust or combination of ingredients, then just walk away and start again. No harm, no foul, no judgement.  Just do it over.  “All is right and none is wrong”. Kate strives to instill this message to her Pie Campers.

Kate noted that people who come to her pie camps think that making pie is hard.”You have to be a lifetime learner. Know how to find out. Learn how to learn.”  She shows them it is not about the end result of the pie, but the process of making it that counts. It’s about using your senses. The feel of the pie dough when it is not too stiff, not too sticky. The taste of  just enough cinnamon for the apples. Maybe you need a bit more? The smell of the fruit as it bakes, yes, it smells like it’s done. Does the crust look brown enough? Time to come out of the oven.  It’s learning to trust your senses, to get the gut feeling of just knowing.  Pie can teach you that it IS about the journey, not the destination.

We then discovered we share a  pet peeve.

The Trophy Kitchen.

You know, that fancy, super expensive kitchen with the high-end appliances and the granite countertops with the imported hand-made tiles from some obscure mountain town in Italy.

The ones no one cooks in.  Except maybe for the caterer.

Kate does NOT have a trophy kitchen. In fact, Kate just recently splurged on a dishwasher.  “All you need in a kitchen is water, heat to cook with, cold to refrigerate or freeze and a flat space to work”.  The notion that you need  all of the state of the art appliances and gadgets is just that. A notion. The Trophy Kitchen is the symbol of the quantity vs. quality mentality. It sets up a lifestyle of impossible competition.  From “not enough” to “never enough”. Who needs it? No one, really.

In addition to being  a book about life lessons, Art of the Pie is also practical guide to pie baking. There are many tips and techniques, plus many recipes. There are all kinds of examples of crusts.  PS-pie crust is not the enemy.  It isn’t hard to make…

Kate’s book has been nominated for the prestigious 2017 James Beard Foundation Award in the media category. She has numerous other awards, and has been featured in Bon Appetit, Oprah Magazine and Food & Wine Magazine, plus many others. I asked her how it felt to be the Rock Star of Pie.  “Oh pinch me. I feel like Cinderella every day. ” When asked about what helped create her success she said “I never had a plan. I followed my gut.” She loves to teach, and she took that love and brought it to pie making.  But she doesn’t stand in the spotlight. “It is pie that is the star” she says humbly.

Kate’s goal is to turn this country back into people who know how to cook.  She wants them in the kitchen, using their senses. She wants children to learn to cook from their parents. The experience of the process, the discovery of a passion, is what Kate  wants to bring out in people.

The best example of Kate’s generosity is that she has NEVER sold a pie. Not once. Ever. Each and every pie she has made has been given away, freely and with love.

So, you would love to follow your passion, but how to get started?  Follow Kate’s guiding principles:

  1. Follow the voice in your gut. You know the one. Listen to it.
  2. You must be passionate. Be prepared to work harder and longer than you ever have before.
  3. Make sure that you give something away. If your plan isn’t quite coming together, give more away.  It will come back to you.
Kate McDermott
photo courtesy of Andrew Scrivani

So, go find your passion. Make some pie, some art, some music.

You can do it.  It’s as easy as pie.

 

To learn more about Kate, and to find information about Pie Camp and her workshops, go to her website at artofthepie.com.  You can find her on Facebook Twitter Pinterest and Instagram. You can purchase her book from her local Indie book store and she will sign your copy! Also available on Amazon.

Thank you, Kate for taking time to talk with me.  I am so inspired.  Now off to make pie!

 

 

Fueling The Cause-Protests & Food

dc protest

I attended the Women’s March in Washington DC on January 21, and it was an exhilarating experience.  There was an atmosphere of love, support, tolerance and a much justified dose of outrage.  My two friends and I drove down from the Philadelphia area. We waved to others on the road showing their signs from their cars and wearing their pink hats. The mood was uplifting; from the train ride in, though the march to the train ride back out.  I was so glad to be a part of this historic march.

This march has kickstarted many other marches on various days worldwide. With so much to protest about, I thought I would look into how food has played a part in the history of protests, and also touch on what to eat and drink when you are protesting.

The History of Protest and Food

Food and protests have gone hand in hand throughout history.  But why food?  Well, first of all, it was accessible.Tomatoes, eggs, easy to get and they make a great splat. NOTE: I don’t condone throwing ANYTHING.  No one should get injured in a protest.   While throwing food may be considered non-violent, I wouldn’t risk getting arrested for throwing an egg.

The first recorded protest with food was in 63 AD in present day Tunisia. Roman Emperor Vespasian was pelted with turnips by people who were angered by food shortages under his reign. That had to hurt…

turnip
ouch

Eggs historically were very popular at protests. In the Middle Ages people were put in stocks and pelted with eggs.  Abolitionist George Whittier was hit with eggs at an anti-slavery talk in 1834. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger was hit with an egg in 2003 on a campaign trip for governor of California.   In 2011 Afghan protesters threw eggs at the Iranian consulate to protest a fuel blockade that caused fuel prices to soar. But the biggest egg protest took place in 2013, when French farmers broke 100,000 eggs a day to protest the low price of eggs set by the European Union.

french egg protest
Sometimes you gotta break some eggs…

On to tomatoes. While typically seen as a response to a poor theatrical performance, tomatoes have been used in protests.  In fact, one tomato protest has turned into an annual festival. La Tomatina occurs in  Bunol, in the Valencia region of Spain on a Wednesday every August. The legend is that the townspeople were upset with their town council and threw tomatoes at them. That one event  became the present day festival.  The festival begins with a ham being placed on a greased pole, and participants climb the pole to retrieve the ham.  Once the ham has been obtained, the tomato throwing begins. A cannon sounds, and the tons of tomatoes are thrown. Its chaotic, and messy.  The throwing continues for two hours, then the cannon fires and the throwing stops.

Not sure what happens after that.  Many, many showers, I guess..

la tomatina
La Tomatina Festival

The cream pie in the face has had its place in protest history. Ok, most of the time, you see this in the Three Stooges or I Love Lucy… but both Ralph Nader and Rupert Murdoch have been “pied”. Anita Bryant got a pie in the face in 1977 during a press conference when  she was trying to justify the fact that she hated gay people.  Again, I don’t condone this, as it could cause injury, and you may get arrested for assault (but Anita had that one coming..)

Lack of food has had a significant place in protest history. The hunger strike has been used  in many circumstances as a form of protest. The first hunger strike is purported to have happened in ancient India.  Indian scriptures tell the tale of when King Rama’s brother fasted to urge the King to return from exile. Gandhi  was on a hunger strike for six days to protest the British government’s decision to place a strict separation between India’s lowest and highest social castes. Gandhi’s actions caused this decision to be reversed.

gandhi
Gandhi

In the United States, suffragettes went on hunger strikes in jail. This method usually got them released prior to completion of their sentence.  But Alice Paul, famous woman activist and organizer of the Woman Suffrage Procession (and a Jersey girl from Mount Laurel!), was force-fed in a London prison. This damaged her gastrointestinal system permanently.  Alice Paul returned to the USA, attended the University of Pennsylvania and continued her work in the Suffrage movement.  Read more about Alice Paul here: http://nationalwomansparty.org/learn/who-is-alice-paul/

Alice Paul
Thank you, Alice!

I found this really terrific blog called “Food and Resistance“.  It is a collection of food related protest signs from various protests.  Go check out the images. They are powerful and also humorous.

My favorite? “Muslims Invented Coffee”.

Staying Fueled While Protesting

So you are getting out and standing up for what you believe in. Good for you! Here are a few tips for staying fueled during your protest experience.

  • Cut back on the coffee. I know, this is a tough one.  But  comfort stations can be few and far between, and lines can be long.  And peeing on the White House lawn is illegal…also a good idea to BYOTP.  (Toilet Paper)
  • Fuel up in the morning.  I recommend more protein than carbs.  Eggs will keep you fuller longer than a bowl of cereal. Perhaps a little fruit as well, to get some sugars for energy.
  • Bring snacks. Granola bars, more fruit.  You can also bring a wrap. Refried beans and rice with cheese in a tortilla are easy to carry, and have a great mix of carbs and protein. Make a few, and wrap them in plastic.  Yes, you will have to eat them cold, but you can deal this one time.
  • Bring water, but watch your intake. You will need to stay hydrated, but drink just what you need. Again, the peeing issue. Warmer weather will cause you to need more liquids. Look at bringing some green tea with honey. This provides good energy and will soothe your throat from all of your yelling and cheering. Throat lozenges are also a good idea.
  • Bring some chewing gum. This helps keep you from getting dry mouth, and you won’t drink as much water.

If you are one of the organizers of a march, try to engage restaurants and food stores who may be sympathetic to your cause to provide some eats and drinks along the march route.  They may choose to donate or sell. If they donate, make sure you provide a  money jar for  donations to cover their costs.

When you are done with your march, patronize the local restaurants. You are supporting the local economy, and you will assuredly meet others who were in the march as well.  Share a table with some strangers.

These are challenging times.  But I am so optimistic.  People are becoming engaged, getting involved and running for office.

So get up, get out, make some noise.  Fuel your cause.

 

 

 

 

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

 

cheers

The hangout. The go-to place. We all have one. But why?  Why have one place that you go to repeatedly? What is the allure to going to the same location, having the same experience over and over? Where is the fun in that?

The answer is:

Familiarity breeds well, familiarity. In other words, sometimes you just need a place that you can count on. Your happy spot. Your own version of “Cheers”.

We have lived in our new location for 2 years now, and while we enjoy eating out at all different types of places, we didn’t have our hangout.  And we missed that.

Growing up, I had a few places that were my hangouts. The Tewksbury Inn in Oldwick NJ, used to be a great bar and restaurant. The Inn was old, and the bar was an enormous old-fashioned wooden bar. The bathrooms were labeled “Bucks” and “Does” and there were deer heads mounted on the wall wearing hats, Hawaiian leis and smoking cigarettes.  You could get a burger and a pitcher of beer inexpensively and listen to local blues or bluegrass musicians.  But, as time went on, it was sold. The deer heads came down, and matching wallpaper and curtains went up. And so did the prices…. you can check it out here, but it ain’t no hangout…. $33 entrees, sheesh.

There was also Bernie’s Hillside Lounge in Chester, NJ.  Bernie’s has been around for a long time, and used to host  some well-known jazz musicians, like Bix  Beiderbecke.  I used to go there to listen to the Blue Sparks From Hell, a local band that played R & B, swing and blues. Frontman C.J. Tucker, was both talented and entertaining.  Sadly, Tucker has passed away, and the band is no longer playing.  But check them out on YouTube. Listen to one of their best songs “Caledonia”.  Bernie’s is still growing strong, playing music.  Stop in.

The Stanhope House in Stanhope, NJ was a haven for great music.  It was the place where everyone went to dance and drink. Sawdust on the floor, and plenty of graffiti in the restrooms.  Stevie Ray Vaughn and Buddy Guy were some of the notables that played here. I danced the night away many time, reveling in blues and R & B. I have a term for places like this.  It was my “clean dirty bar”.  Tidy enough to just barely pass a health inspection, but gritty,  colorful and raw.  Loved it.  It had closed for a time, but since has reopened, and back to being a roadhouse.  I haven’t been back in years, but may take a trip to see  if it’s still dirty.

So back to why we like our hangouts. Sometimes we need to go somewhere that doesn’t change much. After a day or a week of challenges, we all need to have some continuity.  And a hangout offers that. My requirements for a place to be a hangout are:

Casual Atmosphere-nothing fancy. I want to be able to go right from the horse barn in my horsey clothes to the hangout. No cloth tablecloths. No coordinating curtains and wallpaper. Just tables and a bar. Fireplace is a plus.

Great food with entrees under $20-yes, it can be done.  A hangout offers well priced entrees cooked superbly, plus burgers, salads and soups.  And some specials. No overdone plating, no foam, no pyrotechnics. Just fine fresh food cooked well.

A large selection of beer, wine and spirits- an extensive and changing craft beer list is a must.  With so many craft beers, local wineries and distilleries opening, I want to see  an establishment support local products IF- and only IF- they are quality.  And hard cider.  Love hard cider.

Friendly staff- without a doubt, one of the most important features of a hangout. Personable wait staff who know the menu, and are pleasant and chatty go a long way with me.  And a bartender who will remember what I like to order.  Remember, I can go anywhere, so if you get to know me I will be back. No surly or pretentious attitudes at a hangout.  No way.

We finally discovered our hangout here in Bucks County, PA. Becker’s Corner is located right near the beautiful Lake Nockamixon in Quakertown PA.  It meets all of the above requirements, and we head there whenever we don’t feel like cooking,  and we just want some time together.  We have gone there with friends, and we now run into people we know. And they have hard cider on tap. Perfect. Give this place a try.  You won’t be disappointed. And hey, we may meet at the bar.

What is your hangout?  What makes a place a hangout for you?  Share your place, spread the word.  Everyone need a place to hang out.

 

The Family Fudge Tradition

 

I just got done making a batch of the fudge that I make for gifts every year. It’s easy, and really sinfully good. My son has adopted the tradition of making it at the holidays as well. So I thought I would give the gift of this recipe to you all, my dear readers and followers!  Give it a try, and follow the tradition and pass the recipe on to your family and friends.

fudge

Refrigerator Fudge

  • 2  1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup (6 oz.) evaporated milk
  • 12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup corn syrup, light or dark
  • 2 TBSP butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped nuts, raisins or coconut, optional

Combine sugar and evaporated milk in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat stirring CONSTANTLY until mixture boils. Turn heat to low or medium low, so that it is still bubbling, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring CONSTANTLY to prevent scorching.

Remove from heat-don’t just turn the burner off- take the pan off of the burner- and IMMEDIATELY add butter, vanilla, corn syrup and chocolate pieces and stir well until the chocolate is melted, smooth and shiny. Add optional ingredients if desired and stir in and pour into a buttered 8 inch pan.

The mixture sets up rapidly, so spread it quickly.  Chill for  two hours in the refrigerator or until firm. Cut into pieces.

Makes 2  1/2 pounds.

The best method is to measure all of the ingredients out before you start cooking, and have it ready to pour into once the milk and sugar have cooked. You have to move fast, so it is easier if everything is opened and measured, and all you need to do is pour it in and stir.

A couple of variations that I like:

Add 2 tsp of peppermint  flavoring in when you add all of the ingredients.  This gives it a nice peppermint flavor.  You can crush up candy canes and sprinkle on top when the fudge is slightly set, before you chill it.

Once the fudge is cooled and slightly set, sprinkle sea salt on top.  You don’t want to add the salt when the fudge is too hot, it will get absorbed into the fudge.  It is a lovely combo of salt and sweet.  Delicious.

Or experiment with other ingredients.  Let me know what you come up with!

 

Happy Holidays, all!

 

 

 

Less is More

 

xmas-stress

Ah yes. It is the Holidays. With a capital H. Full of traditions and family rituals. Parties, gifts, food.

And a whole lotta work.

I am not being a Grinch here, far from it. And I don’t want to write another one of those ” how to reduce your stress at the holidays” pieces. We all see plenty of those. But the holidays are time consuming and exhausting.  As much as I want to enjoy the holidays, I also feel  anxious about it.

Bottom line is, I just want to have a good time.  And the best way to do that is to take the Less is More Method.

Less gifts. Less food. Less fuss. Less activity. Less anxiety.

I’m going for the Quality over Quantity Holiday this year.  My husband and I told our children that we don’t want any gifts this year except for them to contribute to our purchase of a new gas stove and cook-top.  We currently have an electric one, and if you are a serious cook, you all know how much electric cook-tops stink. So instead of buying gifts for each other, and trying to surmise what each other wants, we decided to buy the new stove.  Period. And our kids can give us money towards the purchase. Done and done.

Our children want gift cards for Christmas. And I used to fight that, thinking that it wasn’t personal enough, that it was a cop-out, that I should know them well enough to find the perfect gift, so if I bought a gift card, I was a lazy failure.  Not this year. Gift cards purchased. Done.

I’m still going to buy small gifts for the Christmas stockings, but I am going to be buying from socially responsible companies like Bombas. This company started out with a mission to provide socks for homeless people. They have done their research by interviewing the homeless for what they need in a sock, and redesigned socks to make them comfortable and long lasting.With every purchase you make, they donate a pair to help the homeless.
They started with a mission to help people in need, and have already donated over one million pairs of socks. I can get behind that.

I will also be buying from Penzeys Spices. A friend turned me onto this company, and their quality is the best, bar none.  But another reason I support them is how their CEO, William Penzey, has spoken out against the rash of racism, misogyny and fear mongering that is our current political climate.  Sure he has taken some hits on social media, but go read his letter to CEOs of other companies on their Facebook page here. This is a company worth purchasing from.

And I will be supporting local stores. I have some favorites, but I want to get into some local stores that I haven’t been to before. Plus, when you actually shop locally, you meet people who live locally. Instead of  hanging out on my laptop with my credit card,  I will get out and interact. Try it. Even if you don’t make a purchase you will be in the world.

Don’t need or don’t want any more “stuff”? I know I don’t.  Do what we did. We told our children that from now on, for holidays and birthdays, we only want:

  • Good things to eat
  • Good things to drink
  • Time with them

I have favorite wines that are always an acceptable gift! Plus, Turkish dried apricots, caramel and dark chocolate with sea salt candies,  balsamic vinegar, coffee, and more. Consumables are the perfect gift for me, as I don’t want any more:

  • coffee cups
  • tee shirts
  • refrigerator magnets
  • gee gaws and doo dahs

Time together is the one gift that we all too often fail to give or receive. Take time to go do something with your friends and family. Go to a museum or to a play, or go hiking. Dine out at a really special restaurant. That combines the time together gift with the great food and drink gift!  Be unscheduled and just hang out. A day playing board games, or reading a book, sitting around in our pajamas is not time wasted, it is time well spent.  So put aside some time to do something. Or nothing. Together.

We are working on our holiday meal menu, and we both do love to plan and prepare the feast. Our Christmas Day breakfast tradition is lox and bagels. Not your typical Christmas breakfast, but we love it. (This was the subject of my very first blog post, which you can read here.) We will most likely do some sort of roast beef, with the usual vegetables and pies for dessert.  In the past, we have done the traditional Italian meal of the Seven Fishes Dinner on Christmas Eve.  This is a perfect meal for a large group.  We have done a shrimp cocktail appetizer, clams in white wine over pasta, calamari,  or a bouillabaisse.  Our favorite story  was when my husband tried a recipe from the fifties that was  a crab dip with Worcestershire sauce and mayonnaise. If it sounds awful…. it was. What a waste of crab. It was INEDIBLE. We both tried it, gagged and just started laughing.  It is still one of our favorites tale of recipes gone horribly wrong.

And I will make a date with a friend who came over last year to make Christmas cookies. We had a blast. It was a great time to catch up, and we had so much fun. There was royal icing everywhere, but who cares?

I am sure there will still be some stressful or anxious moments over the holidays, but I am planning on letting go of anything that causes stress or discord.

My new ritual is…less ritual.

So, to my readers, I wish you a holiday season of less AND more.  This has been a tumultuous year, with more upheavals and discord on the horizon.

I wish you less stress and more peace.

I wish you less fear and more community.

I wish you less helplessness, and more power.

And I wish everyone  hope.  Give it. Share it. Receive it.

Happy Holidays to All.

 

winter-tree

Thanksgiving 2016-We Are All In Need of Comfort

diversity

 

This is a Thanksgiving unlike any other I have known. I am still reeling from the results of the election, as I think many of you are. I was going to share some recipes, and some tips, but that feels trivial to me right now. It’s going to be challenging to be thankful with everything that is happening.

But we have to rise above. That is not to say we normalize the situation, ignore it or take no action.  I believe that now more than ever, we must stand up for kindness and empathy.

So here is my take on getting through this Thanksgiving.

We need to celebrate our differences.  We need to celebrate our heritage and our cultures. We need to share our stories, and we need to hear the stories from others.  Our diversity is what makes us strong.  So we cannot give in to those who say otherwise. Ever.

I see many people who are struggling and are afraid. This is not who we are as a nation. We don’t incite fear, we work to take it away.  Always.

So how to get through this holiday when the whole premise is to be thankful? Not easy.

First, I think we all need to give ourselves a break. Not to forget, but just to let ourselves find a spot that is less painful. We need to put our outrage and our anger on hold for one day.  And we need to surround ourselves with our family and friends that we love. Use this Thanksgiving meal as your safe place. Enjoy the community of your own traditions. Find comfort in your meal and in your loved ones.

You can also give back. Go to a church or homeless shelter and serve dinner to those in need. They need to know that they have not been forgotten.  You can also donate to causes to help feed the hungry.  One is feedingamerica.org, but there are many national and local organizations that could use your support. Or invite a person or people that you don’t know very well to your dinner. In the Jewish faith, at Passover, it is customary to have one stranger at the meal. Find someone who you would like to get to know, and invite them. Expand your community to beyond your familiar gathering of folks. Be open. Be welcoming.

Celebrate diversity at your meal. While it is comforting to always have the same  menu for the holiday, try adding a dish from another culture. I found this New York Times article called “The American Thanksgiving” which is about all of the different menus from families of all different cultures.  It is what this nation is all about. So try something new. Add some diversity to your menu.  You can find the link to the article here.  It is inspiring.

Be thankful for what you have. This feels like a tall order right now and I struggle with this concept myself. But in spite of all that is going on in this country, we are fortunate. And we do have the ability to make change. I see it happening in the people who are rallying to run for office in their town or county. I plan to attend the Million Women March in Washington DC on January 21. I see it with people wearing safety pins and offering safe haven to those who are afraid.

Be thankful for those that you love and who love you. My 94-year-old mother, Betty passed away on November 1. So I am going through that list of “firsts”. First Thanksgiving without her, next will be Christmas. Both my father and my only sister passed away over 10 years ago. With the passing of my Mom, I am now parent-less. It’s a weird feeling. But I have a loving family, and I am so thankful for all of them. I wrote a blog post about my Mom and her banana cake recipe.  You can read it here. She would like that.

And after this holiday is over, take your strength and your fortitude to do what is right. Get involved. Run for the school board, your town council or get involved with a cause that you are passionate about.

What we cannot do is nothing. What we cannot do is normalize this. It took Hitler over ten years to bring about the persecution of the Jews, Catholics, People of Color, LGBT, those with mental or physical disabilities, Freemasons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the list goes on.

History cannot repeat itself. And it will take all of us to protect the freedoms that are the core of this country. I am counting on all of you.

Let’s get to work.

Remember

Joy Harjo, 1951

Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people
are you.
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.
Remember.

 

 

We’ve Lost Our Way

burger maze
Burger Maze-Andrew Bernhardt

I started out to write a post about today’s myths around food and eating. Food has been symbolic in a very powerful way from the time that meals were shared, and I wanted to explore this in terms of the modern time. So I contacted my friend Leigh Melander, who has her PhD in Mythological Studies and Depth Psychology. I wanted her take on  what the modern day food mythology was.

I figured that we would talk about how the food myths had changed over time, and touch on food as a symbol for fertility, prosperity and longevity. But the discussion took a more pertinent and relevant turn.

First, lets review the history of our shared experiences around food.  Societies were tribal, and based in either agrarian or hunter/gatherer societies.  The consuming of food was tied directly to the cycles of the natural world. Food and water were essential to survival, and the act of consuming became a sacred experience. When you consume a plant or an animal, you are consuming energy. The process is transformative, as energy goes from the plant or animal to the human body. Ancient communities recognized and held sacred this act of consuming and “communion”. There was a focus on shared resources  as a means of survival, and this helped develop the society within a tribe.  If the tribe was well fed and healthy, the population grew, and the strength of the community expanded. Civilizations were able to prosper and grow in size and in power.

Meals continued to be a vital part of society. People would stop their work  and take time to eat together. Whether it was a meal shared in a field of farm laborers, or on a boat, or at home, people held the meal time as sacred. Communities still gathered to “break bread” and the shared experience of a community meal was still valued. It brought people together, and created a bond in the community. This reinforced the strength of the community as a whole. You can see this tradition continue today in the form of a fund-raising pancake breakfast for the local fire department, the church potluck supper, or the farm-to-table fundraiser for the local food cooperative. Eating together brings people together. It is the great equalizer.

So what happened? According to Michael Pollan, people are  watching more television shows about food, but cooking less than ever. Companies like Blue Apron are selling  meal kits delivered to your door (at a ridiculous price I might add) to capitalize  on this trend. While there is an interest in food,  the shared experience happens all too infrequently.

Here is where the discussion that Leigh and I were having got really interesting.

Basically, today’s society has lost the narrative of food and the meal as a sacred ritual.

Think about it. Parents are running their children from pillar to post, from soccer to music lessons. We work more that ever during the week. We have become a society that eats Cheetos in the car. We don’t eat together. We don’t prepare a meal together. We don’t stop.

We have become completely disconnected from the sacred experience.

Ok, so what’s the big deal? We are busy, we want our kids to go to Yale, blah blah blah.

Here is the problem. We now have a generation of young people who do not know how  vital it is to have  a shared meal experience.  If you need an example of this, take a look at the current wedding reception. Many receptions, instead of becoming a major part of the shared celebration, have taken on the look of a frat party.  There is very little recognition of the guests who attended, but there is always a photo booth. I personally saw a maid of honor who was too drunk to give the toast to the bride and groom.

There is a primal need for the narrative around community and food. I belive it is in our collective psyche and in our DNA. And this drive  is in all of us. The community meal narrative has been lost, but the desire and need for it hasn’t.  So what has it been replaced with?

Negative food rituals. Take a look at the diet industry.  Pills, programs, pre-made meals, none of which work in the long term. Obsessions with ingredients. There has been recent research that gluten intolerance is not as widespread as people think. It is been noted that these people may be suffering more from a vitamin deficiency rather than a reaction to gluten.  I am not discounting those with true celiac disease, but there has been no real concrete evidence to support the gluten-free issue.

The communities around food are now being built on a negative connotation. The shared experience is one of calorie counting, carbohydrate consumption, plant based, meat based,  free range,you name it.

And all of these trends have a negative connotation. It’s all about what you CANNOT eat, should not eat.

And this trend is riddled with guilt. How many times have you said to yourself, while enjoying an ice cream cone “I shouldn’t be eating this. I’m being bad”.  We have gone from a society that used to savor and celebrate meals to one  of punishment and guilt.

This is our shared experience today. And it’s not good. And we wonder why there is a problem with eating disorders and obesity.

So, how to fix it?

Easy. Start making meals together. Now.  No excuses.

“I don’t have time”.–Yes you do.   You do if you choose to make it a priority. Create a new habit of eating with your family or friends. Our family always had dinner together. Our one son made dinner a priority with his roommates at college. All six of them ate together one night a week, no exceptions. They created community around their meal. If busy college kids can make it a priority, then so can you.

” I don’t know how to cook”.–Nonsense. If you can read, you can cook. Just get going. Get “The Joy of Cooking” or any cookbook. It doesn’t have to be Duck a la Orange, just learn to make a meatloaf.

“I’m trying to lose weight”– yeah, well join the club.  It’s simple. If you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. A calorie is a calorie is a calorie. And don’t beat yourself up because you had a piece of pie over the weekend.  Obsessing increases cortisol, which WILL impede your weight loss. Lighten up your attitude towards food and you will literally  get lighter.

 

I hope that those who read this will go out there and make positive changes. We need our narrative back. And in these crazy, turbulent times, we need the strength of community, now more than ever.

“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

-Michael Pollan

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Special thanks to Leigh Melander for the amazing insights she brought to our conversation.You can find more about Leigh at  her website and on Facebook .