Archive for the ‘General’ Category

food deserts

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

I was browsing around 5 Dollar Dinner (a worthwhile spot, btw, alternately inspiring and depressing) and found a link to this article about Walgreen’s efforts to bring fresh produce and other identifiable foods to neighborhoods in Chicago considered to be “food deserts.”

There’s a lot of debate about the causes and most effective cures for the obesity and poor nutrition that runs rampant in America at present. I think these are all worthy discussions to have, for certain, but I believe that setting all the other factors aside — single income folks with no time to cook, our taste for sugar, freedom of choice, all the hot button ideas — the first step for us is to at least make the choice available for consumers.

You want someone to buy a raw vegetable and take the risk and investment of time to cook it themselves? Then you damn well better put that raw vegetable within a mile of their home.

It is too easy to forget that food deserts are real, and many of the people living in them have no experience with anything else. For me, I grew up in the sticks, and though I didn’t know what hummus was until I went away to college, we grew our own vegetables in the summertime and the supermarkets near us had the basic meats and vegetables of mainstream America — and a few from the Polish and Puerto Rican immigrant communities. I went to college in an affluent part of Boston, and there we could buy just about anything. It wasn’t until I moved to Chicago that I encountered any real absence of basic food.

The first neighborhood where I camped out in an empty apartment owned by friends of friends had one brand-new Dominic’s supermarket, and I was terrified to discover that in its gleaming white expanses there was NO chicken of any kind and no vegetables that looked like anything you might even consider eating. The only thing that seemed edible in there was the Mexican foods, so I bought eggs and chorizo and tortillas and lived on chilaquiles for a month until I moved to a better neighborhood.

Then when I was considering buying a condo, everything in my price range was either in Humboldt Park or Garfield Park. Had I made the purchase, I am sure I would have chosen Humboldt Park, because there were restaurants and bodegas there on most blocks with actual food in them, while Garfield Park was a blank wasteland of boarded up storefronts, check cashers, liquor stores and fast food. Sure, I like J&J fried fish too, but you can’t really live on it. No supermarkets for several miles, and the public transit coverage was spotty to start with. There may have been some small groceries, but I didn’t run across them on my visits. Garfield Park has beautiful apartment stock and the park itself is fantastic, but to get food I would have needed a car and a whole lot of time.

For people who have neither, and who furthermore have very little time or cash to sink into meal prep, the first step we have to take is making it a little bit less monumental an undertaking in the first place. Kudos to Walgreen’s for at least trying, and I’d very much like to see some stats on how it’s working.

clove buds rendered in gold and diamonds

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Padma Lakshmi has a new line of jewelry, and all of it is pretty, but one item in particular stands out. She made a pair of earrings in the shape of clove buds, with square diamonds in the center. They’re pretty just as abstract organic shapes, but food nerds will almost certainly recognize them as cloves immediately, and that makes them so much more awesome. Why have plain diamond earrings when you can have FOOD-shaped diamond earrings?

at risk of this becoming a running blog

Monday, July 12th, 2010

I have now run 25 minutes straight 4 times in a row. That is mind-boggling.

Also, a fearsome necessity given the number of fully-loaded Chicago hot dogs and pieces of passionfruit layer cake I ate at our party this weekend. Heh heh.

lychees may be my madeleines

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

I just ate a fresh lychee from the branch I bought for tallasiandude at the local Indian market, and maybe it is the heat but it took me straight back to Hawai’i and made me want a shave ice. With lychee and liliko’i and li hing syrups. Sigh.

how to open a wine bottle with a shoe

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

actually quite insanely useful. video of a dude opening a bottle of wine with a shoe and a concrete wall

holy crap

Monday, June 28th, 2010

I ran for 20 minutes straight last night. And didn’t die.

ramping up spaghetti cooked in wine

Monday, May 17th, 2010

Oh, what a wretched pun. Last night we made spaghetti all’ubriaco, the delicious pasta cooked in red wine that we ate in Florence, tipped off by E&O, our intrepid eating pals. And our other pal brought over a huge baggie of ramps that she foraged with her mom, and it seemed only logical to chop some ramps and add them to the pasta. Logical, and in actual fact, truly delicious. The ramps added a sharpness and savoriness to the buttery, nutty, fruity weirdness of that pasta, and made it even better. The other nice thing is that a bowl of chopped ramps makes your whole house smell terrific if you leave it out on the table for a couple of hours while you finish off some sliced salumi and bread and cheese and wine. Better than air freshener!

didn’t die

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Today I did this:

ran 3 minutes
walked 90 seconds
ran 5 minutes
walked 2.5 minutes
ran 3 minutes
walked 90 seconds
ran 5 minutes

and didn’t die. Yay me!


Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

I have been struggling to actually exercise lately, aside from dragging my butt to the weekly swing dances. There never seems to be time to ride the bike to the store, and words are insufficient to express how much I hate getting up early to work out before breakfast. So tallasiandude has been trying to gently nudge me in various ways, and to his endless credit none of those ways have made me want to smack him (no small task when it comes to the topic of exercising). And one of those nudges appears to have managed the impossible, and I am now undertaking to learn to run.

For now it is “running” rather than actually running, but it does seem to be working. It is Couch to 5K, which is deliberately constructed for people who think they hate running and never exercise. I don’t hate it, and it’s quite pleasant to go outside now that it’s warming up a little, and I am not *completely* couchbound. And the online program and accompanying podcasts are I think what tipped the balance, by making it absolutely braindead-easy to follow the program.

The idea is that you start out by walking for the most part, with very short bursts of jogging in between. This allows you to “run” without getting knee strain or side stitches or generally hating each and every step. 60 seconds of jogging is over before you know it. But even this would never have worked for me if I had to constantly check or set my watch to tell me when the various timeperiods were over, or had to memorize the plan for the week — not gonna happen. This is where the Podrunner podcasts come in.

These are electronica/dance music mixes with the correct BPM for the walking and the running portions, stitched together with little beepy tones that signal you to switch from walking to running and vice versa. No thinking necessary! Just zone out, listen to the innocuous oontsa-oontsa music, look at the flowers, and whenever it beeps, do the thing you’re not already doing. There’s not even any annoying person-voice giving the instructions, just impersonal tones so you can do your thing without any cheerleading.

This means that all I have to do in the morning is get dressed, put on sunscreen, find my iPod, and leave the house. No additional preparation or thinking is required, which is essential for the pre-food pre-caffeine hours. And it seems to be working, inasmuch as I am still doing it in week 2 and my legs ache a lot less when I get home.

No one hates (hated?) running more than I do, so I figure it can help all the rest of the haters find their way too.

mood cure

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

How much of mood can be attributed plain and simple to vitamin deficiency? I just had a weird and sudden attack of the Oh My God Everything Is Pointless and Can’t I Just Go Watch TV blues.

Trying really hard not to eat my way out of it, I went and took a multivitamin and a fish oil capsule, and half an hour later I am feeling significantly better (though I still kind of want to curl up and watch a couple hours of Tony Bourdain). Last night I drank one of those energy/vitamin packets and had a similar rise in energy and willingness to deal with my fellow humans.

I always assume that because I eat a varied diet full of vegetables and proteins that I’m unlikely to be deficient in anything particular, but I am really starting to wonder now.

I never remember to take the damn vitamins though they are right out on the kitchen counter. Morning head is a problem for me. Maybe I should bring the bottles up and sit ’em on my desk near the computer, so when I get all mopey and unfocused I can immediately squash the problem with NUTRIENTS.