Monday, September 27, 2010

on (f)unemployment and the microwave

Hello old friend,

Well, time marches on. I finished up my year of do-gooder 9 to 5 law work. I ran a half marathon (in May) and signed up for another one (Philly, in November, which I did last year too). I re-upped my lease and celebrated my birthday.

Life is good, but life is also a bit disorderly at the moment while I'm in the midst of a nearly-2-month period between jobs. I get up every day and lounge, watch tv, nap, occasionally make it to the gym, meet friends for happy hours -- all the things you might expect from such a lady of leisure, naturally! I've been eating out a lot but I've been cooking lots too. I got Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian for my birthday and I've been reading it and cooking from it compulsively for the past 3 weeks.

But oh! That isn't even what this post is about. Hopefully tomorrow I'll have something to say about Bittman's tomato paella recipe, which I have been dying to try for ages and even bought a special skillet for. But today I made a different new-to-me rice recipe, curried butternut squash risotto in the microwave (!!) from this month's Vegetarian Times magazine.

So, my parents bought me a microwave for my birthday last year. They were, I think, appalled or confused that I had been living without one for most of the previous 5 years. (Similarly, over the past few years, they have bought me a gigantic toaster oven and an HD television, which apparently were missing from my life.) I was resistant. But just like the toaster and the TV, I eventually took the microwave out of the box and plugged it in. I use it reasonably often lately for egg puffs a la the Fitnessista, and also as an oven timer since the sound it makes is marginally less obnoxious than the timer attached to my oven.

This month's VT had a set of recipes that utilized prepared soups to boost flavor or save effort. I glanced at this one and thought butternut squash soup sounded brilliant as an ingredient in a risotto. (Having once attempted this risotto from Simply Recipes and ended up with chunks of raw squash in my fully cooked risotto, I suppose I know what I'm talking about.) I didn't even realize it was a microwave recipe until after I'd bought the squash soup. But I was intrigued. Maybe this giant egg-zapping machine can be used for other purposes. Tonight, I tried it, and followed the recipe very precisely since I don't know anything about microwaving.

It was delightful! Creamy, currylicious, sweet, warming and filling. And vegan to boot, so no angry stomach or icky throat afterwards. I'll add a link to the recipe if it goes online, but googling "microwave risotto" made clear to me that everyone on the internet is making risotto in the microwave. So, friends, if you're still out there, go out and try it!

Oh btw -- I spent half the afternoon making vegetable stock from scratch, in order to then make this quickie microwave risotto. Funemployment leads to some weird choices.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

And another thing

I signed up for the Bourbon Chase!
Friends, strangers, comment-spammers -- this has been the light of my life lately, this exciting thing to look forward to. Except for how I haven't managed to actually put together a team yet. Sometimes this kind of worries me, but mostly I am pretty sure it'll all come together. And someone will pay me back for all the $$$ I've shelled out so far to secure us a spot.

Anyway, the Bourbon Chase is a 200-mile overnight relay through Bourbon County Kentucky, from the Jim Beam Distillery to Lexington. 12 people, 36 relay legs, 36 hours. Hoo-ah! It's going to be extremely smelly, and probably I will never be able to walk again afterwards. I can't freaking wait!

ALSO I am most probably going to attempt the full marathon at Philly this year. It was such an awesome course, and if I'm already running 18-20 miles at the BC a month earlier, what's another 6-8, right? Eh. So probably April 1 when Philly registration opens I'm going to take the plunge so that I can't have second thoughts about it. So, if you are still reading this and you were wondering what my race plans are for this year, here's the tentative schedule so far (which looks pretty much the same as the list of races I ran last year, give or take one or two):

May 30 -- Boston's Run to Remember Half Marathon
June 27 -- New Charles River Run 7.5 miler
Oct 11 -- Tufts 10k for Women
Oct 22-23 -- Bourbon Chase
Nov 21 -- Philadelphia Marathon

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hey strangers

Oh lordy. I keep starting to write posts here and then abandoning them. Here is why: I have not yet come up with a way to use my computer in front of the TV at home. Faced with the choice of vegging out for 2-3 hours on the couch in front of the TV or sitting in an uncomfortable chair in the room occupied by Daisy the Bunny to use the computer (after 8 hours in front of my work computer) I have been going for option 1. I am lazy, but at least I'm not an internet addict, right?

Well, anyway. I have been watching copious amounts of TV, and that's what I wanted to talk about.

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. Oh jeezus.
OK I love West Virginia. And I used to really adore Jamie Oliver before he got incredibly over-exposed. And before I went vegetarian, I guess, since there's really not a whole lot I would eat from the one cookbook of his that I have. But my apprehensions about this show were pretty much entirely validated when I finally got around to watching it on the DVR this morning.

Really, incredibly wealthy British man? Have you not given any thought to the culture clash that is inherent in your imperial health food world take-over plan? You are really surprised, and upset to the point of tears, that the "lunch ladies" in WV are not down with switching from USDA-approved convenience food to spending all day peeling potatoes at your command? And you're shocked that newspapers and talk radio aren't getting behind you?

I went back and forth between thinking he was faking his surprise at their reaction, and kind of buying that it was real. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle -- I think this guy has probably not spent a lot of time in the US aside from in liberal coastal cities or maybe on sustainable meat ranches. And I haven't seen the shows about his UK project where he managed to convince the national government that he was right about school lunches. But if he'd done ANY research at all (by which I mean, thinking on a very, very basic level about what kids get taught in school about nutrition, what the guidelines are for school lunches, and most importantly WHO is setting those guidelines) he would realize that he is going about this project in absolutely the wrong way. Why would you think you could just convince KIDS to eat brown rice instead of pizza, and why would that be your step 1 to trying to get a hostile, food-addicted, foreign city on your side about eating healthier?! Sheesh!

I'm going to have to say "to be continued" on this one because I don't really have time to try and parse the rest of my thoughts on it, but I'm going to stick with the show. In the giant industry of reality TV, they're pretty good at manufacturing happy endings and I'll be very interested to see if Jamie O is able to reform the school lunch program in Huntington, WV. But I will also be interested to see if he takes his fight to the real source of the problem -- industry capture at the USDA and the huge, evil agribusiness companies who pay the lobbyists who decide what children learn about nutrition and what they are fed.

This is pretty much my #1 issue that makes me angry, but over the last few years I've stopped talking much about it. Largely because I think it can make me sound like a wacko, but also because people want to eat what [lobbyists and companies that manufacture addictive food additives tell them] they want to eat. They don't want to talk about factory farms or corn syrup or whatever. It is daunting, and exhausting to think of, I know. I do my best to use my dollars to express my politics about food, and I will continue to do that (and probably go further with it in terms of avoiding pesticides and stuff) when I have kids but I'm just one person and I don't really want to be a crusader. Sigh.

But as a last point, I think of it kind of like this: sometimes we are harsh critics of our own friends or family, but when an outsider comes in and wants to bad-mouth the people who are close to us, we'll defend them to no end. As a country, Americans obviously know that we have poor nutrition and issues with obsesity-related disease, etc. How many people watch shows like The Biggest Loser, Ruby, Dance Your Ass Off, etc.! We know! But when a Brit comes in and starts tellin' the rubes in WV how to "eat good," it rubs even me, a coastal elite with strong feelings about food politics, the wrong way. Come on, Jamie Oliver, really.