Story Time: Wilderness Adventures

My family and I used to go hiking a lot. We lived in Phoenix and would go out into the desert, my mom, grandparents and us kids would get an early start, riding in the back of the truck out to the mountains. My grandfather taught me to identify different rocks and avoid rattlesnakes — important life skills.

IMG_0820.JPGLiving in Somerville, I don’t often get a chance to run off into nature, even though there are a number of possible places. A lot of them are harder to get to by train, or I’m lazy, I don’t know.

One of my best friends has also been itching to get out of the city, and so we took off into the woods. We drove up to Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary to go check out glacial formations and rockeries. We spent a lot of time discussing marshes as symbols and squashy places, climbed around on great old boulders and saw a lot of ducks.

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Spotlight: Gracie’s Ice Cream

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So I was really sad when this coffee shop/grocery store/cafe place called Sherman Cafe closed in Union Square recently. They had really good mint tea and the people were friendly. I wanted to live in that place. I was glad then to hear that one of the people who had owned Sherman Cafe was opening Gracie’s Ice Cream in a nearby store front.

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I’ve been staring in the window of their store front almost every day as I pass it to get the the bus stop to go to work. Picture it: little nose pressed against the glass, tiny cloud of steam clouding the window, obscuring the renovations inside readying the space for delicious ice cream dreams. Okay, so maybe it was more like me creeping on their storefront, really excited for the moment I could by ice cream, empanadas and doughnuts on the same neighborhood block. They recently wrote on their twitter that they would be opening soon. So excited.

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I had a rough day on Saturday and was sad and off. Amber and I went to eat sushi and get ice cream. Although we were not able to enter the storefront for some unspecified reason, we were able to hand money through the open door, and have ice cream cones brought to us, like some dark dealings in shady alleys. It was great. The ice cream itself was okay, the cold brew coffee flavor and Oreo flavors were a little too subtle for my plebeian taste buds, but look at that face! That is the face of a kid ready for some goddamn ice cream.

Looking forward to getting to go inside like a real customer person when the store front opens. For now, I’ll just have to keep creeping through their windows.

Ingredient Interview: Sweet White Miso

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I’ve been eating miso based things for a while now. Whenever I get sick, which is every single winter because I have the immune system of a sickly little raccoon baby, I eat miso soup with little tiny tofu bits and seaweed goodness.

I’ve always had it in restaurants though, needing to bundle up and toddle over to a local place and ordering a little bowl of the stuff. I’ve never bought miso paste and just making things on my own like a champion. That changes this week. While shopping this week, Amber bought me a medium sized tub of sweet white miso. More on miso under the break.

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Word of the Week: Aperitif

Booze menus might as well be written in Martian. I’m starting to learn the things that I like, but I don’t really drink enough to have developed a deep understanding of different alcohol types, tastes or words.

The first libation related Word of the Week is (boozy drumroll, please): Aperitif!

An aperitif, according to Webster is, “an alcoholic drink taken before a meal as an appetizer.”

That sounds fine and all, but I like Jim Nelson’s description more. He writes, “An aperitif (the word comes from the Latin aperire, “to open”) is a light, most often dry, most often modestly alcoholic beverage meant to spark the appetite without overwhelming the senses.” Nelson goes on to list some of his favorite aperitifs, whose recipes are often secretly guarded, such as Campari and Lillet.

Aperitifs are often not as sweet as other drinks, the idea being to wake the senses and ready oneself for dinner. Though I am a notorious hummingbird when it comes to drinks, I would love to jump on this particular bandwagon and try to broaden my horizons. To that end, I would love to make it to one of the places highlighted in The Boston Commons list of great places for an aperitif. Check them out here. The only one from this list I’ve been to so far is Posto, and I was more interested in their chili infused oil than their drink selection that night.

For one more article extolling the joys of the aperitif, check out this 2003 article from Anthony Giglio, writer at Boston Magazine here.

“Aperitif.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/aperitif

Nelson, Jim. “Spirits: The Art of the Aperitif.” Food & Wine. Time Inc., May 2002. Web. 11 Nov. 2014. <http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/spirits-the-art-of-the-aperitif&gt;.

Book Review: Richard Wrangham on the origins of cooking and humanity itself

This week’s reading was a flash back to the evolutionary science class I took in college for a science credit. I enjoyed this class, but like this book, it didn’t spur my unyielding interest.

“Their bodies responded by biologically adapting to cooked food, shaped by natural selection to take maximum advantage of the new diet. There were changes in anatomy, physiology, ecology, life history, psychology, and society” (Wrangham, 14).

“We are not like other animals. In most circumstances, we need cooked food” (Wrangham, 36).

Science is cool. I honestly, sincerely enjoy watching science documentaries and hearing about new technologies or theories. I think I actually wrote a paper responding to a study around early humans and cooking way back in the day. I think that’s why this felt a little restated.

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Food News: Viral Video of McDonalds as organic hors d’oeuvres

Or, an example of foods having shifting meanings based on context, social expectations and values.

Because I am truly into NPR’s food news stories, I watched this viral video and really appreciated their story. A short synopsis of what happens in the video: two Dutch men sneak into a high end food expo with McDonalds desserts and chicken nuggets reconstituted as organic alternatives to the chain’s food, and fool a bunch of people. The people included in the video talk about the perceived purity, relative superiority and freshness of the food compared to fast food. The joke being, then, that foodies are being pretentious and are in fact gullible and “fake” in some way.

I think that there’s something more interesting going on in this video than simply lampooning food people and those involved in organic food. There’s something here about how different values get connected into this web of meaning, and how the meanings around food shift based on the people or groups involved, their social setting and the cultural expectations of how, when, where and by whom different foods are eaten. Organic food becomes pure and takes on connotations of innocence and goodness and sets itself in opposition to bad, tainted or sinful food. People who appreciate and buy organic food are then taking on those connotations themselves. They are being organic, pure and good.

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