Comfort Foods

In a world of burgers and fries, there are a number of ways to be enlightened and uplifted by food. There’s fancy restaurants costing hundreds of dollars and requiring reservations months in advance. Sometimes simple is better though and I’ve been thinking the last few days about some of those foods. (This is probably due to the fact that very soon I will be leaving the wonder that is free gourmet food, cooked for me three times a day and be returning to the real world. In the real world, I don’t make 4 types of salad, two types of pizza, a meat, sauteed mushrooms, and two desserts. Perhaps I would if I was a professional chef, but that’s not very likely.)

So what do I want to eat when I’m feeling down/lonely/cold/tired/like-winter-will-never-end/hot/like-summer-will-never-end? Well, it depends a lot on the season. Here’s a snapshot.

Winter: My ultimate comfort dinner would be a plain fresh (warm) loaf of bread with a bowl of soup. The type of soup isn’t very important although broccoli cheddar or squash with pancetta and thyme would be fantastic but I’ve been thinking this week about broth based soups like a minestrone. These soups must be homemade. If it comes out of a can it doesn’t count, although I admit that I don’t make my own broth. I realized while thinking about the fact that this is one of my ultimate meals that I very very rarely make soup. In the past three years I can think of only two soups that I’ve made: the aforementioned squash and a Brazilian black bean stew. Soup isn’t generally something I think of as an option for 1 person, but 2 might be more reasonable.

Winter desserts: These range from the simple (boxed brownies) to the complex (cheesecake). There are two things I associate with winter dessert comfort things primarily though. The first is rhubarb. I’ve learned that in California rhubarb is a foreign plant. The grocery clerks have no idea what it is. In the mid-West people beg you to take some of theirs (the fruit equivalent to zucchini). The easiest preparation is just simmering the rhubarb with some sugar and serving the resulting sauce over vanilla yogurt or ice cream. The other winter dessert that comes to mind is rice pudding. This (if made properly) requires patience, for you start with uncooked rice and slowly cook it in the oven, constantly stirring. (Now I really want rice pudding.)

Summer: Comfort foods for summer are simple, in part because there’s no energy left to exert for cooking and people generally want to stay out of the kitchen. So food is simple. Two cobs of corn with butter and salt. That is my ideal meal. Add in a BLT and I’m completely sold. The tomatoes should be perfectly ripe and dripping down your hands, the cheap white bread, though toasted, melting as it succumbs to the juice of the tomato.

Summer desserts: Again, simplicity is everything. Strawberries that have been sitting out at the farmers market for 2 hours so that they’re warm and juicy. Raspberries with the perfect touch of sweetness. Peaches and nectarines, like tomatoes, dripping all over you and leaving strings in your teeth. Cherries that you eat and then spit the pits around the yard. Watermelon that brings refreshing cool on the hottest of summer days.

The interesting contrast between my summer and winter menus is that I spent my whole life eating the winter menus. We’ve always had the ingredients for soup and bread and rice pudding available. (Rhubarb we don’t grow in Kentucky and it seems silly to buy.) But the summer menus are things I used to dream about. Growing up in Alaska we didn’t have sweet corn or tomatoes, cherries, peaches or nectarines. It was always a treat coming down to Ontario and getting sweet corn, even if I did have to have it cut off the cob because of my braces.

This summer I’ve taken advantage of the wonderful farmer’s market that’s a short bike ride from my house (I’ll blog about it soon) and I’ve had meals of corn, watermelon, and berries. It’s been wonderful. Now, with fall in Minnesota coming, I’ll have to break out my cookbooks and reaquaint myself with the world of soups. It’s a long winter, but the idea of eating warm buttered bread and hot soup while watching the snow fall makes it seem a lot more like home and a lot less like neverending torment 🙂

Mish Mash post

This was going to be about comfort foods, but there are two other urgent subjects that I need to comment on first.

  1. There are ants in my house. They really need to go away NOW. Icky icky ants. Leave. 🙁
  2. I found a way home from work today (my last biking day) on the bike path. Unfortunately, unlike the bike paths I frequent in Minneapolis, this path is not lit, so it was pretty dark and I almost ran over the invisible pedestrians.
  3. ABBA. Wow. I saw Mamma Mia this weekend cause it felt like I needed to see a big screen cheesy musical. Cheese-tastic. Almost painfully cheesy, cause I don’t think it was supposed to be that cheesy. But then I was interested in the real ABBA. Luckily for me they have music videos on YouTube from the 70s and 80s. The 70s were an interesting time with interesting clothing. There is something about a dress printed with a cat the size of a human torso that just seems wrong to me. Example to the right ->
  4. I’m glad I did not live in the 70s.
  5. The Pineapple Incident is the best episode EVER of How I Met Your Mother.
  6. Comfort foods will have to wait til tomorrow.

Over and out.

Dear man in the red convertible

Dear Man in the Red Convertible Leaving Taco Bell at 8:20 Tonight

Perhaps it was my fault.
I wasn’t wearing a bright yellow reflective jumpsuit
Or perhaps it was because I stayed late at work to watch the convention
Or because I was planning another blog post as I rode home.

Or perhaps it was because I wasn’t wearing full body armor
and I didn’t stop when the light turned yellow as I was going down the hill at 20 miles per hour 5 minutes earlier.
Or maybe it was because I’m not an aggressive driver and I don’t have an airhorn on my bike, just a bell.
Or perhaps it was because I was going 10 miles per hour, not 5 as you think proper
Or because there was another bicyclist outside Taco Bell, locking his bike up.

Perhaps it was because I was in the bike lane,
and I wear a helmet,
I use turn signals,
and I come to a full stop at stop signs, despite it breaking my rhythm.
Or because there are so many bikers in this area that we are all invisible and would be better off driving cars.

Yes, perhaps it was my fault, man in a red convertible, that you almost ran me over tonight as you turned left leaving the Taco Bell drive through.
You obviously were busy, what with the driving, the eating, and the cell phone being used illegally without a handsfree set.
So busy, I guess, that you did not see me.
With my reflective arm band and gloves, my blinking white and red lights, my helmet.
I suppose the street lights didn’t help illuminate me either.
You didn’t see me.
That is, you didn’t see me until you heard me.

I clanged my bell, squealed my brakes (a feat at less than 10 mph on a bike) and flew to a stop 5 feet from your car.
Then you saw me.
And you stopped, briefly, to let me by.
Very kind, given that you were completely blocking my lane by now and had almost run me over.
So I let you by instead and you pulled to the shoulder on the other side of the road and kept talking.
The other bicyclist yelled at you for being on your phone.
And then I biked the rest of the way home, shaken, but not scarred.

Yes, perhaps it was my fault, man in the red convertible.
But on the other hand, I think
Just Maybe
It was your fault.

Random Photos

I haven’t been posting as much as I’d like to, but here are some new photos.

The above is from the Google Dance 2008. Taken on my mobile phone. I liked the blurry effect.

The above was taken in Oxford after my normal camera battery died. So I took this on the cell phone too.

Ben was out in CA last weekend, and inspired by my cousin, who’s a professional photographer, I thought I’d take blurry pictures of the Redwoods. It is not as easy as it looks 🙂

More blurry redwoods.

Last month, Mom and I volunteered for Doof-a-palooza, a big food festival for kids held at Google. This is one of my favorite Cafe’s, but all the furniture has been shrunken for the kids. They were making finger paintings with coffee.

To tide you over

I’ve been a bad blogger lately, especially since Firefox 3.0 and my blog are not acting friendly at the moment. Basically when I load my blog in FF, FF freezes which is really not my cup of tea. So instead of blogging I’ve been doing other things, like watching hulu and scramble and trying to get some research done.
I’m also wrapping up my internship. Amazingly, I only have six work days left and there’s a lot that has to get done in that period of time. I’ve had a fantastic summer out here in CA though and I can honestly say that I’ve really enjoyed my job. (Yes, I was slightly surprised by that.) But while I’ll miss my work here, as well as the farmer’s market and great weather, it will be good to head back home to year four of my Ph.D.
I’m in the middle of a painful photo migration. Trying to migrate 41 albums and hundreds of photos from webshots to flickr. I’ve contemplated moving them all to picasaweb, but for now I’ll stick with flickr. That comes up because today’s picture is from back in November 2004.
This picture is relevant to today because of the chairs like the one I am sitting on (far right). You see in September 2004, the Olympics were being held in Athens and for the first time I had both a tv and a group of people to watch with. We were also still enjoying the novelty of having a tv in our lounge. So Rachel and I decided that we would pretend to be Olympic athletes. What sport, you ask yourself? Well, for us it was fairly obvious.

Image from flickr user

Too boring. We wanted a sport with more complication. (No offense to runners.)

Image from flickr user BohPhoto

Obviously I am WAY too tall for this kind of thing. Plus I have no arm strength. At the time we were both 21 as well, putting us in the “ancient” zone for gymnasts.

Image from flickr user flying_tiger

Our dorm was somewhat lacking in equine mammals. Thus we had to pass on the equestrian events.

So I suppose it was obvious and inevitable that we would choose to be

Image from flickr user njhdiver

Yes. Who else but synchronized divers? To achieve the proper effect sans pool, we simply climbed up on the aforementioned chairs, facing either out to the middle of the room or towards the wall. From there we would spin, generally 180 or 360 as we jumped off the chairs and headed towards the floor. We did not, as you might be relieved to know, attempt pikes. That just seemed a little infeasible with only having two feet to execute the move in and all.

That’s the memory of the day with props to Rach for calling me from her new home in the great Northland.

Out of the ordinary

Nothing specific to write about tonight. I’m on the Thinkpad, since I left my MacBook power at work, so my screen is a bit too small to do a news post. I was thinking about writing about the wonders of fresh sweet corn, but I was much more inspired before dinner. My pictures from this weekend are uploading on flickr, so a post on those travels will follow.

So instead of that, I thought I’d write about hope and dancing. No, not this. Some of you will have seen this video, simply called Dancing 2008. If not, go check it out. I went to a talk today by Matt Harding (the dancing guy in the video) about that project and He talked about his different projects. Before I say anything more, go watch the video. I don’t know about you, but watching it, each and every time, I get happy goosebumps. I first saw the movie last month, when Peter Sagal posted about it in his blog. (He and his family are in the Chicago scene.) Hearing Matt talk about it just increased those goosebumps.

Perhaps it was something to do with just having dropped Ben off at the airport or the fact that I only have 9 work days left here before heading back to school, but watching the video also gives me a twinge of homesickness. I think part of it is that even if all the people in the video were strangers they all appear to be part of a larger community. While I sometimes feel like part of a large community here, it’s nothing compared to the communities I belong to at home. (Church, school, friends, etc)

However, at the end of the talk, the organizer stood up and asked if we could all get up and dance with Matt. So everyone left their laptops on their chairs and raced to the front. We figured out how to all fit in the frame and some folks in the back stood on chairs. Then we “danced” waving our arms and legs in the air and grinning like mad. No music, just a bunch of crazies having a great time letting loose and being part of something bigger.

So that’s what I’m thinking about. I bought three songs on iTunes tonight Praan (the song from the dancing video starring a 17 year old Minneapolis girl), Dance Outtakes Song (by the same composer), and Dragostea Din Tei (a Romanian techno song). I didn’t even think about getting my picture taking with Matt, so I’ll leave you with these shots from flickr member JamesEverett from the Vancouver dancing event.

Flickr member zordor posted this from the massive Madrid shoot:

Inside my head

Here are the things I’m thinking about/looking at today:

  • Being a food snob is one thing. Being an ice snob is something else entirely…
  • Peter Sagal had a piece on NPR today about email addiction. I understand completely where he’s coming from! Although I think my fantasy email is less Justice League of America and more that someone wants to offer me a immense fellowship to travel the world or wants to put me on NPR.
  • Ben’s flying in tomorrow and so we’re going to spend some time in San Francisco. Just in time, this piece on “farmer’s market fast food” appeared on Mark Bittman’s NYTimes blog, Bitten. I think that we’ll be making a stop at the Ferry Building market as well as a dim sum place. In addition, Bittman posted a recipe for Pasta with Corn, Zucchini, and Tomatoes. Personally, I like my corn best fresh, briefly boiled and eaten with either salt and butter or lime and chili. But if there’s an overabundance I’m ok with eating it other ways as well.
  • The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest has posted its winners. If you enjoy bad writing you will love this. (The people are purposely writing poorly, it’s not an accidental occurrence.) Here are my favorites: Bill swore the affair had ended, but Louise knew he was lying, after discovering Tupperware containers under the seat of his car, which were not the off-brand containers that she bought to save money, but authentic, burpable, lidded Tupperware; and she knew he would see that woman again, because unlike the flimsy, fake containers that should always be recycled responsibly, real Tupperware must be returned to its rightful owner. – Jeanne Villa (Novato, CA)
    Dorothy had reasons to be nervous: a young girl alone in a strange land, traveling with three weird, insecure males badly in need of psychiatric help; she tucked her feet under her skirt to keep the night’s chill (and lewd stares) away and made sure one more time that the gun was secured in her yet-to-develop bosom. – Domingo Pestano (Alto Prado, Caracas, Venezuela)
  • I get the headlines from The Independent (from the UK) every night. They often have highly amusing headlines that I send on to Simon. Today’s was “Cocaine use trebles in a decade.” I had never heard the word treble used as verb. Apparently it means triples. I had to look it up in the OED because Google’s define feature didn’t define it in it’s verb sense and you can’t tell exactly what they mean by the first paragraph
  • I generally miss out on tv shows. When I was little I didn’t watch tv much at all, and most of it was PBS. So since I’ve been enjoying NPH in How I Met Your Mother and Dr. Horrible I figured I should go back and watch Doogie Howser, M.D. Hulu had the first two seasons online and so I watched them. When I get into a show I watch all the episodes fairly quickly, so it was good when I finished seasons 1 & 2 and moved on with my life. Now, however, they have posted seasons 3 & 4…
  • Speaking of TV: I’ve been thinking a lot about the 2004 Olympics. This is primarily because I’m not watching the 2008 Olympics. It’s not that I’m protesting China, not at all, it’s a convenience thing. I don’t have a tv here and I have a 40+ hour a week job. In 2004, I had just finished my job in Letcher County and I was sitting at home in front of the TV working on my scrapbook while watching the Olympics. I even remember watching the opening ceremonies with a group of college friends that I didn’t usually hang out with. It’s strange to think how much my life has changed since then.

That’s it for today folks. I’ll probably not post this weekend, but should be back to normal next week. I’ve got 11 more days of my internship and then it’s back to grad school.

Update: I added a bonus picture for those of you who made it this whole way! Here’s a picture from back in 2004 during my terms in York. This was taken from my dorm room window during exam week in April.

Crepes and Fire

A few weeks ago I went to a cooking class with the subject “Sweet and Savory crepes.” Some of you may know or guess that I like crepes. Especially ones like this:

Photo by swperman on flickr

Some of you might even know that I have made crepes before. But I’m sure none of you will be surprised to learn that I jumped at a chance to take a crepe class, for free (with LOTS of samples.)

We started out the day with sweet crepes. We were shown how to make several different sauces and the crepes themselves. Then we moved on to savory crepes. Stuffed with chicken and cheese and drenched in sauce (“to prevent them from burning”) and then thrown under the salamander. We even made a cake with layered crepes and custard and, I believe, nutella. This was topped with a thin layer of white sugar and then we got to blow torch the top of it. This was very similar to a favorite dessert from when I was little, pancake pie. (Although that recipe didn’t involve a blow torch.) The recipe was from a book called Pancake Pie by Sven Nordqvist (translated from the original Swedish). The plot, as described on amazon is “Despite many difficulties, a farmer named Festus is determined to celebrate his cat’s birthday by baking a pancake pie.” The book includes a recipe. Basically one makes crepes and layers them between alternating layers of fresh strawberries and whipped cream. The result would look like this:

Photo by Sheila Steele on flickr

Back to the cooking class…We were wearing plastic gloves, flipping crepes with our hands, and having a good time. Little did I know the best part. We got to play with more fire. This is something that my brother was a specialist in back in the day. I wish I had a picture, but imagine something like this. Campfire, failed attempts to roast marshmallows because the flames were never allowed to die down to coals, completely intrigued six year old…

Photo by zen on flickr

The mixture that becomes the sauce for the crepes involves mixing brown sugar and butter and then some sort of alcohol. Grand marnier, peach schnapps, raspberry liquor. But if you use a gas stove and the right twist of the pan, after adding the alcohol you can flambé the sauce. Like this

Photo by cogito ergo imago on flickr

Everyone was pretty impressed with the flames I got on mine. It was just about the coolest thing in the kitchen. (Or, the hottest thing rather.)

From an email to my mom:

The crepe class was one of the coolest things ever because we got to flambé. Basically we threw booze in our sauce and then used the gas cook top to light it on fire. One of the highlights of my summer, most definitely. I don’t think I’ll be able to convince Ben that I should try it at home 😉

I am writing this now because tomorrow I’ll get to help the sous chef serve up crepes to the public. (er…semi-public?) I think the crepes are pre-made and so we’ll be making the sauces and serving. I went by last week (the first Wednesday after the class) to say that I wasn’t going to be able to make it, but that I would come this week. She said she had a stack of aprons waiting.

If you don’t hear from me it could because I went a little crazy with the flambéing. Or it could be because I have to go and socialize and network tomorrow night. Assuming things go well, I’d be up for showing off my skills in other locations as well. You just might want to have a fire extinguisher handy.

Photo by ziggiau on flickr

Multiple Blogs

UPDATE: Due to a delay in seeing a comment about how I should put all my blogs into one and the crazy out-of-control blog ambitions I have, I’m going to migrate everything to THIS blog. I’ll leave up the descriptions of the sorts of things I’ll be posting below, but I’ll remove the addresses.

Simon, friend and commenter, was surprised to hear I had two blogs. Actually I have more. I got a little blog crazy a few weeks ago and wanted to make a public blog. Then I realized I was going to be posting on multiple topics and thought it would be nice to write distinct blogs so that if you don’t care about my travels, but love my random emails with crazy NYTimes articles, you can just get those. So now I have a triumvirate of blogs and a fourth one in the making. Since this blog gets the most traffic I will introduce them here.

Wandering Around the World –
This is the blog you are reading now. I have about twenty posts waiting to be posted on this site (yes, I’m keeping a list so I don’t cheat my readers out of any crazy stories/antics). The theme behind this blog is: Katie’s travels. This will be a fairly picture heavy blog with limited access to the outer world (i.e. fewer links)

Katie’s Pick of Daily News Headlines
This was born out of my habit of emailing a wide swath of people everytime I laughed at a headline in Google Reader. These headlines will come primarily from the NYTimes, StarTribune, and Slashdot. Unlike Wandering the World, most of this blog will be links to random weird stuff. Sometimes (often?) I may not have even read the article in question, but the premise from the headline was bizzare enough to warrant a post.

Katie’s Food Blog
This will eventually get a better title. I’ve been thinking a lot about food this summer, so hopefully this will involve posts about food. So far I have about forty pictures on my phone of meals from this summer. I also have rave reviews of the farmers market. I don’t really know what will be on here, because I haven’t started posting yet, but I will post tonight.

The obvious, yet missing blogs are the choral geek blog and the HCI/Computer geek blog. When the need arises, I will add them or merge several existing blogs. I couldn’t get the blog name I wanted for the techy blog, so that will be figured out later on. I will stay dormant on the music front until choir starts up again in September.

If this is all too much for you, let me know. You also might want to try out a news aggregator (like Google Reader) that is like an inbox for all the blogs you read. It lets you know when there are new posts and brings them all together in the same location. If you do choose Google reader, let me know what you think of it via email.

I initially started out with the high high ambitions of posting daily. I’m thinking this is going to turn into a post per blog per week, with more or less as I am so inspired. So tonight’s post will be about food…

Because you, the reader, matter to me, I’ll be watching the comments. If you are sick and tired about hearing about topic X you can either quit reading my blog or let me know that you’d rather hear more about topic Y. If you disagree (there aren’t that many of you, so I’m not TOO worried), I will watch the flames be thrown around.

We interupt your normal program

Tonight I wrote on my neglected news blog over at instead of on this blog. I felt that I should post there, so I did that first and now it’s almost midnight and I’m not very inspired to write in here.

I’ve gone deep into my flickr archives to bring you today’s pictures. So as to not veer from the traveling path, the first picture is from Grenoble, France from a visit in spring 2004.

These next two photos were from my trip to Italy/Switzerland in June 2007. I met up with Rachel, a college friend, and we spent a few days on a goat farm in Switzerland. Since then the goat barn has burnt down 🙁 but we will always remember that wonderful part of our vacation. (To read more see my previous posts here, here, and here) The farm was in the small village of Origlio. (See map at the end of this post)

La cabra con le cabre (The goat with the goats) – This guy was not at all camera shy.

Rachel sunburned, yet calmly overlooking the peaceful lake