Friday, April 1, 2016

an age old trade

Copyright PAWS 2016 (paws.org)
   There is a song by The Head and the Heart called Down in the Valley. The first line is, "I wish I was a slave to an age old trade, like riding around on rail cars and working long days." Sadly jobs that involve craft are fewer and fewer lately. I am not saying that any jobs are lesser- but there is something about doing and making with your hands that gives us a sense of accomplishment and pride.
Copyright PAWS 2016 (paws.org)

   Humans have been primitively cooking for remarkable amount of time- some archaeologists have found burned plant and animals remains that show homo erectus had control of flames dating back over a million years ago- according to an article put out by the History Channel. I guess you could say cooking is an age old trade. I know for a fact that Chefs and Line Cooks work very long days,and I often wonder how some of my co-workers do it and have been in the business for so long. Heavy lifting, hot conditions, long days- all to provide you with a delicious meal.

   Cooking at home is also no small feat, and since the industrialization of food we have been doing it less and less. Now we have endless options of take out choices and miles of frozen food options we can stick in our microwave.
Copyright PAWS 2016 (paws.org)

   So this is my dedication to those whom cook. From my cooking industry co-workers who seem super-human in what that do, to people like my roommate whom I am watching develop a new found love of food. As she eats healthier she is cooking more- she now even says she loves being in the kitchen. Her favorite part is that now she knows what's in all of her food- what a simple virtue that we too often overlook.


Copyright PAWS 2016 (paws.org)
   I also recently had the pleasure of teaching a Vegan Cooking Class for Paws here in Seattle. I remember as I prepared for the class- I thought about interesting talking points relating to animals and food. As I taught the class I realized most of them there were just there to learn how to cook. I forget how foreign the process has become to some people. So also I dedicate this to my wonderful class and the people in the world whom are striving to learn. I encourage anyone who is comfortable in a kitchen to get others to join them. Host interactive dinner parties, have a friend over and show them how you make your favorite dish, or just get in the kitchen and just start experimenting. Cooking comes with practice- you only learn from mistakes. When I was a kid and my parents weren't home from work yet- I would pull random items out of the cupboard hoping to create something delicious- often only creating a mess I needed to clean up quick before Mom walked through the door. 15 years later I've gone from hiding my kitchen curiously from my mom to being privileged enough to have her attend my cooking class.

Copyright PAWS 2016 (paws.org)
Copyright PAWS 2016 (paws.org)


I'd like to thank PAWS for the opportunity and all the wonderful people who helped make it possible!

I encourage you to get your hands dirty and spend a few hours in your kitchen- good food takes love and time- and I promise the more you do it the more empowered you will come. Immerse yourself in a trade as old as they come and take back your kitchen. 



I leave you with one of the many wonderful quotes Samin Nosrat gives us from the Water Episode of Michael Pollan's Cooked Series on Netflix. 


"It's about getting to that place in your own mind 
where this becomes pleasure instead of drudgery." 


Copyright PAWS 2016 (paws.org)

 Thank you to Katherine for the amazing photos- 


Friday, February 26, 2016

how do you know if someone hates vegans? don't worry, they'll tell you

vegan: defined as a person who does not eat or use animal products


When a food order comes into the kitchen that has a modification giving suspect to a customer whom may participate in a vegetarian or vegan diet- I guarantee you that at least one of the servers or cooks will have some sort of general negative opinion. Now of course I realize that not every restaurant, but I find it alarming how often this rogue dislike happens to complete strangers.

No, this isn't only a restaurant thing- that's just where I mainly witness it. I'm sure you can see it going out to eat, school cafeterias, work-spaces, at the dinner table- people are choosing to refrain from eating animal products or other combinations of meats- and those people get judged.

To keep it straight, it's not the judgement I'm concerned about, its the reasoning. The reasoning also relies on two sources as well. The vegan and the accused judge.

Why is it that someone chooses it to be vegan? To often do I hear that others say vegans just want to "save baby animals." A truly admirable cause, and although not a negative side of being vegan, is not the always core behind it all. Vegans choose to live animal-free because of various health, cultural, and environmental reasons. I can't sit here and explain how vital the food put in our bodies is to our health, how different cultural values that have been around for thousands of years, or what industrial farming is doing to our planet. You'll have to watch Food, Inc or Cowspiracy to gain some of that knowledge.

Which brings me to ask what is reasoning of the Judge? Do you have investment in the pork industry? Do you love burgers more than life itself. Enjoy the mistreatment of livestock? Do you think destroying our environment slowly is entertaining. Did a vegetable just really fuck you up as a kid? I don't mean to sound so crude- but I don' think any argument justifying why someone needs to eat meat could sound much more than absurd to me. I hope we are all aware how can agree on the numerous ways there are to get protein aside from eggs and meat. And although some may argue flavor and taste- I find that idea selfish and stubborn.

What makes you think that vegans can't make delicious food from animal free products just because you can't? What makes you think someone can't enjoy the taste of grilled tofu marinated in soy, or butternut squash soup? My opinion may be considered bias, but lately, as I cook  more and more- I grow to enjoy the complex flavors of produce and plants over predictable flavor of well cooked meat.

I also love meat. I grew up raising market animals, and have personally consumed beef, pork, lamb, rabbit, and chicken that I or a neighbor has raised; and also the occasional wild deer, turkey, squirrel, moose, elk and bear shot by my father. Me and meat go way back and I can promise you I will never quit meat.


my roots:  roasted carrots, potatoes, broccoli and
farm raised grass fed beef from a friend
 that has been marinated in soy,
garlic and olive oil and cooked med rare

fried tofu and veggie, green lentil curry
with coconut milk, chili flake and cilantro

*note: yes, that's greek yogurt-
easily interchanged for vegan yogurt (calm down)

I can also promise is that I will be aware of my meat consumption. I know I need to drastically limit my meat consumption in order to sustain a planet in which the human race can continue to survive. *Side Note: If you don't care about the future of our earth- fuck you. There is no reason to read my blog. I could scold you right now, but I'm sure you've already been told and are not listening because you are possibly a close-minded asshole.* When I do eat meat I try to choose local, small farm, humanely raised animals because it has a low effect on our world and because it has better flavor.

I don't understand why those who eat meat are not more thankful to vegans and vegetarians. The less meat others eat means you are able to continue to indulge in your favorite foods. Also, meat that is produced in smaller quantities may possibly not only be safer but that shit would probably taste better too!

This rant has probably gone on too long, but in closing I hope you can the irony of the terrible vegan joke I've heard all too often.

"How do you know if someone hates vegans? They'll tell you!"

So fucking funny.
One: I'm sure they told you because they have a different diet that you are being completely unaware of and two: You just also obnoxiously hinted to me you are not a vegan- ironic.

I hate to seem so sensitive to a subject, and to be so blunt, but I find it extremely pressing for us to take responsibility in our lives of food. So if you enjoy meat, please keep on keeping on, but be aware of it's environmental affects and how much you are consuming. The more you are aware, the more you begin to care. And when you run into someone with a different diet lifestyle- don't judge so quickly because they may be doing good- and they may believe that a lettuce and Oreo diet is the key to a happy lifestyle. None-the-less, keep your mind open and learn more about the shit you put in your mouth- and what how it's production effects this world.

If you have and questions on how to get more involved or learn more about your food- please feel free to contact me.



*****Vegan Cooking Class*****
I will be teaching a small vegan cooking class March 10th at 6:00pm at the Roosevelt Whole Foods in North Seattle! The program has been put on by the local PAWS and will focus on animal friendly diets! E-mail me with questions. 

Endure a few terrible jokes, learn some facts, and gain the skills to whip up some killer vegan dishes. 




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. 

research
 
prep
stock
snack/brain power
                    
squash
carrots
prepared
reward


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