Sunday, January 17, 2016

soup for the soul; bouncing back

   I have a weird relationship with soup. I'd hate it- then love it. The thought of it made me sick one moment, and I was ladling the tomato bisque from the Irish tavern I worked at into a bowl the next. 
   Soup is about timing- you want it when you want comfort. 
   Physical symptoms for wanting soup for comfort include the following: sickness, chills, dampness and dehydration. My want for soup this weekend came from physiological symptoms. 

   I'd hope to make this blog a weekly owed to myself to be participating in something active and creative. I need to get my thoughts down in one way or another in order to grow and reflect, correct? I sadly have been missing my mark and haven't posted since Christmas. In the past month I've started a new job - which has challenged and pushed me, as well as brought on anxiety and terror. The kitchen isn't for the weak of heart - and I'm not saying I am strong, I'm saying I am constantly feel like I'm hanging on the edge in the most fantastic way possible. I am inspired to cook again. 
   Winter here in Seattle has been gloomy, wet, cold, reflective, humbling, and insulting. While there has been so many wonderful exchanges or times, I find that on a personal level I haven't been fully fulfilled. I suspect it's my own fault for losing motivation - or maybe taking vitamin D is more vital than I thought. Whatever the reason - a slump was reached and a new year, attitude, job, and outlook were prescribed. I still needed comfort though. Finally I reached some time off with no real plans and I set out on my quest for comfort. Welcome to Soup City, USA; population, me. 

snack/brain power

veggie stock; check.

spicy lentil & carrot soup; check. 

sweet butternut squash soup; check.

final: mixed them & served with a touch of sour cream,
 toasted asiago bread, fugi apple slices

Friday, December 25, 2015

family meal for all

   During the holidays we all have our own traditions. One common factor is our traditions in food... the family meal, and coincidentally enough this term also describes the meal shared by those in the service industry. No family meal is ever the same. In restaurants it may be a meal planned before service as you discuss the evenings menu and service notes, it may be cooked by the chef or the dishwasher, and in rare occasions the service staff. Sometimes it's gourmet, sometimes it's unrecognizable, but not matter what it is appreciated. Same goes for family meals at home. Sometimes the people around the table are related, other times your family is friends; sometimes you sit around the TV watching the big game and other times you set out the very best china. Maybe your mom spent the last few days getting it all ready, or you just popped pizza's in the oven and gorged on cookies. May it be in at a restaurant or at home- the family meal is important- it is a time to bond, reflect, and show thanks. 

   So I decided to ask some wonderful individuals a very important question: 
What does family meal mean to you?

Besides some very memorable and the literal meals with my family, the most impressionable family meal I had at a restaurant was at Rover's when I had my first restaurant stage. There was family meal at the beginning of our shift with some pretty exceptional food, and I'll never forget the communal feel of gathering around with a team. After I started working at a few restaurants this tradition seemed to died out (RIP) and it seems that every time I start a new gig the restaurant had just "changed their policy" about family meal.  
name: Sophia
home: WA

Family meal means, laughter, loudness 
and inappropriate dinner conversations. ❤️❤
name: Jordan
home: MI

To me family meal is about no stress, yet often times uncomfortably resourceful cooking.  Its a time when you get to bring your own culture, your own style and your own twist on the things you as a cook love to make the most.  Its all about feeding the people you see the most, nourishing them, and hopefully bonding a bit more with each meal!
name: Chris
home: NH, now WA

Family meals, holiday family meals in particular, to me are a special time because another year has gone by and I have a ton of people in my life I'm thankful for. It also represents tradition and it's comforting to go back home, have mom or grandma cook a great meal and play cards around the fire all night. There's always a bit of nostalgia around the holidays and the meal is always the center of that.
name: Melissa
home: MI

To me, when I think of family meal, I always think back to my days working in a 350 seat restaurant in Manhattan where we were actually scheduled an extra thirty minutes in the beginning of our shift to come in and enjoy staff meal together, as a family. There were usually thirteen servers on every shift, so we would all sit down together including a lot of the back of house and the few floor managers that were also on. There was a lot of laughter, as well as some venting and relieving of anxieties on each other. 
name: Jessica
home: NY, now WA

My memories of food for the holidays are raw beef sandwiches and pickled herring in wine sauce. It was tradition in our family, as well as an acquired taste. At Christmas Mimmi put out her wooden nut bowl w/ nut crackers filled with walnuts , hazelnuts and salted peanuts on her kitchen table- you knew it was Christmas when it appeared... it was tradition. 
name: Barb aka my Mom
home: WI, now MI


   Family meal has always been so important to me. Growing up working in restaurants and often having to work holidays, I have had many of my holiday meals with my restaurant family while at work. I also have been blessed enough to have a family at home who would always reschedule their meal around me. Family meal to me is being surrounded by the people I love and cherish - my friends, my co-workers, and my relatives.
   So during this holiday cherish your family meals, live out old traditions, create new ones, and most of all reflect on how thankful you are for the people around you. Also, be thankful for the meal itself. We must remember how lucky we are to be able to celebrate with gluttony as many people in the world are unable to have the same privileges of us. May we think of new traditions where we can share our wealth with those in need, because we are all human beings and in my eyes that makes us all family. 

Happy Holidays

Thursday, December 3, 2015

take the damn compliment [and cheers the criticism] success & failure

Today a quote...

     "To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

failure: my last blog post- it felt weird when I wrote it, and then Thanksgiving rolled around and I didn't even fucking participate. I would like to blame the tryptophan- but I must accept fault.

success: fame- not on TV or anything yet, but today I was oddly inspired in a coincidental way. In our weekly work schedule e-mail, my manager featured some of our employees other creative life endeavors. My stomach dropped when I saw my name, followed by the blog name, linked (like its blue, and you click it, and bam you'r there) to the blog itself. Then when I get home I go through shock again when I see my mom put the blog web address in our annual family Christmas letter. I had no clue my mom could work the internet let alone has possibly read my blog?! I know I should be more excited about the recognition, but when I type I do so with very few limitations- so it's human to be afraid of what others may think as I wear my thoughts and passions on my sleeve. But after all that settled, I found it to be just the motivation I needed. 

     So this is my thanksgiving day redemption post- I just want to thank the people in my life that inspire me. Who give me the positives to keep me going and the criticism to keep me humble. I believe I truly have the ability to achieve any dream I put my mind to, but only because of the wonderful individuals whom have made their way into my life. Friends, teachers, professors, managers, co-workers, customers, strangers, roommates, fellow pilgrims, family, brother, sister, dad, mom. Thank you all for all you do, all you sacrifice to make my dreams possible.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

hashtags with purpose

     Well, the winter holidays are approaching us, and we all cling to our favorite fall flavors. Eating becomes the best of all social events... food evokes those feelings of comfort and warmth. One big food holiday is Thanksgiving. A holiday first shared between Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians in 1621, made a national holiday in 1863 by President Lincoln, and now presently worshiped by the Food Network.
A group of pilgrims enjoy a meal they
 prepared on the Camino de Santiago together.
     As I've grown older, I begin to care less about the hype of the holiday, knowing the USA has a sad past linked to the indigenous people of America. I try to let it be a time were we remember all those people whom helped change the times, and create equality, but also reflect and recognize on the horrible things we as a nation have done as a reminder to move forward and learn from mistakes. 
     One thing I can not deny though, is food. I will never pass up a chance go share a meal with people, to try new recipes and perfect old ones. This holiday has me inspired to try a new type of segment that is more interactive, where you all share with me the dish you create on Thanksgiving day that means the most to you. One Photo, Many Flavors is this weeks title, and on Thanksgiving day when you are all putting in some serious hours in your own kitchens, snap a photo of whatever dish you are most proud of and tell me why! Maybe it's a new recipe that you can't believe you pulled off because boiling water is even a challenge for you, maybe you've been able to recreate something your Grandma used to make, used all farm ingredients for your green bean casserole or even just made a fucking beautiful turkey.
   So, snap a photo that you planned on uploading to Instagram anyway and use the hashtag #onephotomanyflavors and very briefly share what that dish means to you: grandma's recipe, farm ingredients; turkeymaster; etc. You can also e-mail, message, or text me your photo and answer to me, so you can be featured in my blog post touching on how food and cooking are beautiful uniting forces that must be valued.
     Thank you in advance for the participation, I hope I can inspire some really great recipes and top notch cooking!
     Until next time, Prost!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

let me bombard you a bit

     Another scramble for a topic.
     Long day at work finished, on the bus home, headphones in... mind running rampant: I'll just ask people about food and consistency. 

a flock of many opinions: hills of Spain
     I started to think about what consistency meant to me. That answer could be traced back to the reason the idea probably popped into my head: onions. I love them when used to my liking, but hate them raw. That crunch, the texture, the slight slim of a raw onion... I just can't do it. As my mind moved onward I thought about how the word consistency has always been pounded into my head while working in the food industry. That the food must be the same again and again, time after time. I toyed over the opinion that guests can not expect the same exact dish over and over again when different people cook it, under different stress levels, with varying ingredient quality and availability. Then again I am torn,  diners should hold their chefs to a higher standard.
     So what the hell, I reached out to a bunch of random people who have entered my life in different ways, and very vaguely asked them about consistency in food. I found that my sporadic thoughts were just the beginning. Here are all my very random answers to that question that gives you no real direction to follow- in my new segment:

2 Minutes, Same Question
Question: What does consistency in food mean to you and why or why not is it so important?

name: Aurora
deal: 15 years in the biz; dishwasher, prep cook, currently engineer; front of house on the side
     "I am an adventurous yet picky eater. When I think of consistency in food, I think of texture, feel, thickness. I also think about how one food can have many different consistencies. For example; an onion. I used to hate onions. (Two strikes to onions in one post, sorry bro). And it took me until I was almost twenty to realize that it wasn't the flavor of the onion that I disliked, it was the texture. Raw onions just rub me the wrong way. But crispy fried onions and soft caramelized onions, are heavenly. And mushrooms. I don't mind the taste, but I hate their rubbery, smooshy consistency. The consistency of a food is incredibly important! It has to be the perfect texture and thickness."

name: Rory
deal: hospitality major, aspiring chef

     "To me consistency is about doing the right thing every time, and that doesn't always mean doing what the recipe says. You have to listen to your chef, but you also have to understand that ingredients and other outside factors play a varying role day to day. It's our job to be adaptable, and I think that in our industry adaptability is almost synonymous with consistency. Even to remain the same you need to change from day to day."

name: Shayna
deal: health major; professional guest
     "I would say it's important but for different reasons. If I'm going in and ordering something again that means I liked it, and therefore would want the dish to be consistent with the other times I've ordered it...but at the same time a little inconsistency could be good too. Say I wasn't a big fan of a meal or a way it was prepared-- having it slightly different could sway me into really loving it."

name: Carolyn
deal: past server; health education major, human biology minor
     "Food is nourishment that needs to be consistent. What you put into your body has function. To thrive, to repair, to heal, to live. Generally speaking a meal is what your body has to work with. Trusting someone to provide you a meal; whether you are going out to eat, celebrating, sharing with friends and family, or perhaps just grabbing a quick bite; you are putting into yourself the energy it needs to get you through whatever battle your mind needs the physical side of you to fight. Food is a necessity, it sustains life. It is physical, emotional, mental, and social. Sharing meals means sharing your life."

name: Andrew

deal: professor; chef; entrepreneur 
     "Consistency in 'food conformity' to me, is not as important as consistency in 'food availability'. I truly believe that not all carrots, beets, or heads of lettuce will look the same all the time. I am always more concerned with the integrity of the product; was it grown sustainably, distributed with limited impact, and are we able to provide it in consistent quantities?"

name: Jordan
deal: hospitality major; server; guest; cookie fairy
     "Consistency in food is so important to me because it dictates how I feel on a daily basis. (Jordan has to be very aware to enjoy things in moderation in order to feel her best). It's the key to my emotional package. When I am cold and sad, I gravitate towards comfort food; when I am feeling excited and happy, I want to make a meal that not only makes me smile, but ensures my body feel good as well. It's essential to my health that I be consistent with my food because that's how I know I can lead a happy, long lifestyle. Food is the true celebration of life!"

name: Colin
deal: hospitality major; aspiring chef
     "I think it's super important when it comes to things like different stocks, knife cuts and such, but certain things are always open to interpretation. If there is something that can be improved upon even the slightest bit, they why wouldn't you change it. Consistency, to me, means continual improvements in all aspects of the work you do."

name: Sophia
deal: server; food writer
     "For many people, consistency in food means receiving the exact dish they expected, every single time they sit back down at their chosen restaurant. From the ingredients, presentation, and quality of food.
    Although I agree with this definition, given they meet parameters of sustainability and eliminating waste, I would say consistency for me means I receive a dish that is executed with thoughtfulness and up to par with the standards I have set for the restaurant.
     If I order a dish that has slightly different ingredients or doesn't looked the same, that is completely fine, and I would consider that the restaurant is still consistent-- only if everything on the plate is cooked perfectly just like my previous visit.
     I enjoy a story behind a dish. If something has to change, knowing why and how this change makes the dish just as good or more creativity gives me a chance to better understand the food I'm eating, the chefs who create it, and the restaurants ethos.
      Of course, consistency should be one of, if not the most important values to have. Striving for quality every time is what keeps a good reputation, customers continuing to walk in the doors, and positive reviews on yelp (because we know that's actually really important)."

wow dudes
   Not to downplay the people in my life, but I didn't expect the answers to so thorough. Answers that truly exhibited individuals care and passion for food. A few who responded gave me several answers, one told me they'd spent the day talking to their spouse about it in the car, and others just personally really contemplated what the question was asking them. Honestly, no one opinion is right or wrong, and no answer nails it on the head-- but there is something so exciting to me to think about these people taking a minute out of their day to truly think about food, and what it means to them. That's really all I'm truly going for with this blog...looks like I may have to try this segment again.  But in retrospect these different answers give you all the right perspectives. Food in general is intimate, it is deals with the feeling it gives you in your mouth, the senses it excites or triggers. Food is social and emotional, we cling to it in times of celebration, despair, and we also rely on it to helps us continuously feel well. Food is passion and creativity, from the person whom grows it to the one who prepares it. In order to have food with heart you must allow them to be adventurous while still holding them to high expectations in quality, execution, preparation, presentation, and passion.
     I hope the answers above give you some perspective from a direction you've never looked at food with, and I encourage you all to ponder the question yourselves. Also thank you to all those whom answered my extremely random off the cuff text- you are incredible human beings.
   cheers & good day 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Be our guest, be our guest...

     I can't express the beauty of the coffee shop sounds I heard in the background while listening to this recording over and over again. It was a late Sunday afternoon, in rainy Seattle, and the cafe was abuzz with activity regardless of your usually lazy Sunday assumptions. As our neighborhood becomes more active, I can't help but become more and more convinced that most people whom move to Seattle come here for the gloom and the rain.

     With the month of October a mere blur behind me, I've been longing to have the moments to do another blog-post. Not because I know I have fans that would be disappointed (you would need 'fans' for that), but because this blog is my moment of zen in life. I get to sit down with someone special or interesting to me and just talk for a little bit about whatever comes to mind. This week I had the honor of being able to grab a coffee with someone I've really looked up to, and who has also been that smile or kind word when I've needed it. After a long day, I wasn't even sure where to begin without taking a moment to catch up. After it all I felt somewhat rejuvenated, so thank you my friend.

Two Minutes or Two Questions (or more)...
name: Jaclyn Delorey
occupation: past dishwasher, record store associate, grocery store manager, paper delivery service, pop-up dinner chef (check out, current kitchen manager of a popular brunch and dinner spot

What's something that got you into the kitchen and sparked your interest in food?
I've always worked in food. My first job, aside from my paper route in the sixth grade, was working at the local restaurant in my town of Orange, Massachusetts, where I started dish-washing. I happen to get the job because my very close friend's aunt and uncle ran the place. I really liked it there. It was a breakfast place, and I often think it's really funny that I'm now working at a brunch spot full circle... 20 years later, I'm back. But a wider scope answer is that, food has always been a very important thing to my family, where we celebrate with food, and every event is circled around food. I've always found comfort in that and that's how I take care of people. 
Jaclyn in her element while working an event for HOST
     I was never much of a cook then, I was a baker. I baked at that restaurant, went away to college, studied social work; again that caretaker role. Then I promptly quit everything and worked at a record store for a few years. After that I moved to Philadelphia and needed a job, and considering that I could go to a grocery store (as a vegan) and have endless amounts of beautiful vegetables and access to things for special dietary needs...made me think: okay this is where I would work. 

*A few weeks ago Jaclyn had a local farmer named Georgie, whom supplies our restaurant with a lot of it's produce, come in and talk to the staff. I sadly missed that day, but it showed me how meaningful the farmer was to Jaclyn in our practices at work, which I found it very refreshing. 
Where has your passion for the source of your food come from?
   I can't believe how lucky we are. You weren't there for the Georgie talk were you? "Sadly, no." I replied. The biggest thing about meeting her especially, and having her come and talk to us...  all of her business is based on selling to restaurants. She could be certified organic, but she chooses to opt out of the expensive process... and she can because she has built this relationship with us and many other restaurants. She grows her food organically, we trust that it is, and she doesn't have to go... like, she's not able sell her food to certain grocery stores because she's not certified. But, because we share this relationship and know that she's a wonderful woman that we trust and love to support, hence she gives us her business. And it's such a special thing that we are able to get her food and use it to make our delicious meals. She wouldn't be able to survive as well because of the amount of money it costs to become certified. 

     I always intend to add some statistical or scientific facts to these posts so you walk away feeling like you learned something, and honestly it's because I feel the need to sound like I'm educated in order for this blog to be worth the readers time. Today, as I sat down with Jaclyn, I wasn't sure where to take the conversation, but that wasn't a problem. Jaclyn guided the interview without me having to think. I asked her the vaguest of questions and she just delivered inspiration, enough for me to leave you with her own words as the facts for myself to ponder. Why wouldn't restaurants take this opportunity to help out the farmer and spark a change in local economy, sustainability, and in the improving the quality of our food. When you look at the NRA's 2015 Top Menu Trends you'll see: farm estate branded items, hyper-local sourcing, locally grown produce, and locally grown meats and seafood all in the top 10 trends. Chef's are caring, and I feel customers are caring too. Jaclyn added about how the grocery store she had worked at had a program that helped local farmers become certified organic by assisting them with very low interest loans. All these things give me hope. 
     So today I just leave you with the interaction that helped make this interview even more positive for me, considering my background and deep passion for hospitality. 

Is there anything that means a lot to you?
   Taking care of people is just one of the most important things to me in my life. It's a hospitality piece but it's also... I love this person, and I going to feed them and take care of them. In the same level ya know, Dan wakes up in the morning and makes coffee for me every morning , and that's one way that we take care of each other, that feels really special. And, that little piece for me... it's really all I need. 

And that hospitality is what she does, and she does it well.  
Be inspired to get to know your local farmer and why it's important to support them.
Don't know where to start? Contact me with questions. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

the letter: expansion

  Well, I've been visiting home all weekend and in the whirlwind of it all, I was unable to put together an interview. I do however, have something to present and that is a letter I have put together and plan on sending to some bigger names and see what happens. Famous chefs, farmers, big names in food, and important government offices in hopes of learning more.
  So below is my letter, please read it to not only learn more about my goal, but give me feedback! Also, if think you or someone you know would make an interesting interview, please contact me!
  Cheers and thanks for reading!

the letter: 

  In my years of waiting tables and studying Hospitality Management at Northern Michigan University, I picked up the advice that once you’ve delivered a guest’s food, you should check back after “one bite or one minute” to ensure everything is prepared to their liking, and confirm they have all they need for a pleasurable dining experience. I can’t place where I got it from, and it’s very basic knowledge, but nonetheless it is a rule I live by, and pass on to others.
            Now let me officially introduce myself.  I am a small town girl from Michigan who currently works in Seattle at a brunch spot in a historic neighborhood serving an eccentric menu of simple worldly cuisines made with quality ingredients. I am not a journalist, nor do I have any experience in it. I have a blog with no followers, but a grand idea and big dreams for what it will become—so please hear me out.
   “2 Questions, or 2 Minutes Sparked from the rule of thumb I mentioned earlier, 2 Questions, or 2 Minutes is the theme of my weekly mini-interviews for the blog I created: renegade sheep ( I will ask different people working in any facet of the food industry; chefs, farmers, waiters, meat processors, professors, agriculturists, and so on; two questions. The first question will be something personal, something to help readers relate, to give my interviewees a personality. The second question will be something about an issue or topic—these can really vary, but the end goal is to show how important food and our industry is for our own future, the future of our planet, and future generations after us—and help inspire those who don’t spend the kind of time that those of us in the industry do immersed and exposed to it.           
   If you agree to 2 Minutes or 2 Questions, that is your only commitment—two minutes of your time or answering those two questions, whichever may be up first. I will definitely allow the conversation to go over in either category, but every week I hope to keep the post short and simple so as to keep the reader’s attention.  I am flexible with subject matter and questions asked, I just want to start a conversation in the theme addressed above.          
   I am very optimistic person; somehow I haven’t let the world take away my hope. I wish I could do more, but as a 24 year old from Michigan who grew up raising livestock for 4-H and waiting tables to support myself, this blog is my only hope to, at the very least, get people talking and to also learn more myself so that I can do more one day. I care deeply about food, and the more I learn the more excited I get to teach others.          
    So what do you say? Are you up for it? In this busy world, where time is money, can you spare two minutes of time to stop and reflect?           
   If you are, please get back to me and we can discuss details. I prefer the interviews to be in person or over the phone. E-mailing and texting is fine to coordinate, but I think in order to keep it reflective of the ‘conversation’ theme we must actually have a real life conversation.  The posts will be published every Sunday, so no need to get back to me right away.  Take the time to think about it and ponder the idea, but this is an exciting opportunity—don’t wait too long! I am reaching out to all facets, from well-known to unknown; strangers to friends, out-going to shy, all types are welcome and if you don’t think you have the time or can’t participate, I appreciate if you at least pass the word on to those around, above, and below you that you think may have interest.
Alexandria Palzewicz
            I don’t want to absorb any more of your day, but I must greatly thank you for taking the time to read my letter, and I hope in the future to be a vessel for your ideas—so I can keep the conversation going. That last statement seems ironic because when I’m serving guests, my very job as a waiter is to interrupt the conversation and remind you why you came to a restaurant in the first place: to order, eat, and enjoy the food that someone grew, harvested, delivered, cleaned, prepped and then prepared for you. 
            Thank you again and have a wonderful day,