Thursday, May 21, 2009

Vacuum, Freeze, Cook

Yesterday, we discovered this little hand pump you use with special Ziploc freezer bags to create a vacuum seal. The little system was under $5, so entirely worth it in my book. It also seems that because you suck the air out through a little hole and zip and unzip like usual, the bags are also probably totally reusable unlike most vacuum sealing stuff. This meant that I had an opportunity to cook and freeze vast quantities of food. So I did. Yesterday, I made at least five pound of ravioli by hand, as in without a pasta maker. After five hours of rolling, I've determined I definitely need one. But, I now I have a ton of homemade pasta all frozen and ready to go for a quick meal. I used Martha Stewart's carrot pasta recipe and substituted as necessary. I ended up making spinach pasta and sweet potato pasta. I stuffed the spinach with feta cheese and more spinach; the sweet potato was stuffed with ricotta/mozzarella or sweet potato. It ended up being five bags with about 4-6 servings in each bag because The Breadwinner and I have little tummies so our serving sizes are pretty small.

Today, I made a bunch of single-serving pizzas with whole wheat pizza dough. They ranged from totally plain cheese pizza to spinach/ricotta/chicken/feta. This means that all together, this pile of food should provide about 30+ meals (or 15 if we're both eating). The ravioli just needs to be boiled, the pizza thrown in the toaster oven for about 20 minutes.

Part of my motivation was that I had an interview to work at a camp this summer, which means leaving the Breadwinner alone for seven weeks! It's just comforting to know that there's always something to eat no matter how busy she is.

My next mass freezing plan is burritos!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Bread and Butter

Yesterday, I began the day by making butter from the fresh cream we purchased at the co-op in Burlington on Saturday.

Step 1: Pour cream into a jar with plenty of space, preferably a jar that has been in the fridge to make it nice and cold. Fresh cream tends to separate so it blocks up at the top.

Full jar of cream, ready to head on to step 2: shake shake shake. And shake. And shake.

Eventually, you'll end up with what looks like whipped cream (shaken, not stirred). That means you're about halfway done and should do step 3: put in an agitator. I usually use a baby spoon, bottle cap, or marble.

You know you're almost done when the milk starts to separate from the butter. Keep shaking until you have separated as much as possible.

Eventually, you'll have clearly defined milk and butter.

Step 4: pour off the mik.

For my last step, I mix in some olive oil to keep the butter spreadable even from the fridge.

Onward to the bread. This is the starter I made the night before. It's not bubbling very much but I didn't have time to wait around for it to develop more. The recipe, obviously, comes from Martha (Multugrain Boule Recipe). Instead of King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour, I use KA's new white whole-wheat flour. And of course, I use KA for the regular whole-wheat too!

I cheat. I never mix my dough ingredients separate from my starter, but I've never had a problem. In addition to all the yummy stuff you're supposed to add (sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seed, and wheat germ) I also added wheat bran and poppy seeds. I also substitute whole wheat flour for rye, so's to not die from my allergy.

After it's all mixed up, it's ready to sit for a little while.

After much kneading, you get a nice supple dough.

I don't have a round enough bowl, so I always end up with a kind of flat bread because the final rise is restricted by the shape of the bowl. But here she is, ready to get X'ed and go in the oven.

I apparently could not resist eating it before taking a picture.

After the Breadwinner cleared off the table last night, I set about making French toast this morning and realized that the table (aside from the Lactaid and the Starbucks coffee) looks straight out of the '50's. What you can't tell is that one of the eggs is actually a soft green color. Omnomnom green eggs.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Make Mine Scrambled With Lots Of Butter!

Or The Scienciness of Cholesterol

Flashback 100 years, to Russia in 1908. M. A. Ignatovsky is totally screwing with nature in the name of medical research. His subjects: Fluffy Little Bunnies... with a taste for flesh!

Well, not exactly. Our buddy Ignatovsky decided to see what would happen if he fed animal protein to bunnies. The rabbits developed atherosclerosis, the hardening of arteries that is linked to heart disease. He concluded that if the bunnies got rock hard arteries from eating protein, then protein must be at fault. Five years later, a similar experiment was done to rival Igny's. A group of doctors decided that this time, our fluffy friends would gorge themselves on cholesterol. They found that the rabbits had fat and cholesterol deposits in their hardened arteries, thus cholesterol, not protein, must be to blame for their atherosclerosis.

The flaw in this experiment: Rabbits are herbivores!

In nature, rabbits would never consume any cholesterol because it comes exclusively from animal products and rabbits don't eat animal products. Their little vascular systems don't know what to do with all this added cholesterol because they are not meant to process it. They are essentially poisoned. The best part of this conclusion is that according to Dr. Uffe Ravnskov who wrote The Cholesterol Myth, "These deposits do not even remotely resemble those found in human atherosclerosis." Awesome. I totally buy it now, don't you? Rabbits eat a ton of cholesterol instead of alfalfa and get a cardiovascular problem in no way similar to human heart disease, thus cholesterol causes heart disease! Ya' see my infallible logic?

Okay, let's keep going and look at the human experiments on cholesterol. Feed a bunch of actual omnivores, who are meant to process cholesterol, foods high in cholesterol and see what happens. How 'bout eggs and milk? Sounds good. But to make sure that we get the results we want, let's dry them first and feed people powdered milk and eggs in which the cholesterol is known to become oxidized and be unhealthy. This was the logic behind the major studies that "proved" cholesterol causes atherosclerosis. Real food was not used, industrial "food" was. Who in their right minds would think that the damaged cholesterol in dried milk and eggs is the same as the whole cholesterol in real milk and eggs? Certainly not the author of The Heart Revolution, Dr. Kilmer McCully who says, "Pure cholesterol, containing no oxy-cholesterols, does not damage arteries in animals."

I could detail fifty more years of questionable science in which researchers pointedly eliminate populations that do not confirm, or in fact negate, their hypothesis that cholesterol causes heart disease. But it's not necessary. I'll just give you one fun anecdote about food scientists and their scienciness (scienciness is to medical experiments as thruthiness is to journalism). We are told, according to nutritional guidelines that we should eat no more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol a day. Why is that? In 1968, there was some serious scienciness going on. A bunch of food scientists argued what the maximum amount of cholesterol one should consume daily was; many were against setting a limit at all. In the end, it came down to the fact that the average person eats about 580 mg per liter of blood. So... what do they do with this fact? "Eh, let's just half that." To make it even, they called it 300 mg. This has nothing to do with any actual tests or experiments related to how much cholesterol your body can absorb, it is simply an arbitrary number. It's not even halving the total cholesterol intake of the average American. Remember, 580 mg was the amount per liter of blood. The average person has 5 liters of blood in their body. That means that the average amount of cholesterol consumed in 1968 was 2,900 mg. They were essentially using scienciness to tell people to cut their cholesterol intake by 1/10th based on the early twentieth-century scienciness that we saw earlier. Eggs, the poor devils, were pretty much out since one already contained nearly a day's dose of cholesterol all on its own.

Cholesterol, itself, is not the bad guy. In fact, cholesterol is in your body to help repair it. Cholesterol is found in the gunk that helps heal injured arteries. Nina Planck, author of Real Food (the book that got me started on all of this in the first place) makes a really great analogy. If you see lots of firefighters at a fire, do you assume that they caused it? If you see lots of cholesterol in a damaged artery, do you assume that it causes damaged arteries?

Again, I could keep going for a long time, but the important thing is that real food is good for you. Industrial food is bad. Real milk and eggs do not cause atherosclerosis, powdered food products do. The first heart attack in the US wasn't until 1912 . I promise you, people were eatin' a lot of cholesterol before 1912, it was just natural and none of it was oxidized. Toss your powdered milk and gulp a big glass of raw whole milk. After all, it does the body good.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Most Productive Day!

This morning I got up and ate breakfast while watching last night's Desperate Housewives. I finished off the show while working on a knitting project that I was afraid would fall to the bottom of my stash as yet another UFO. I checked for jobs and found some new potential summer employers (if they're hiring). I showered and went to tackle the kitchen. I did the usual: dishes, counters, stove top, fridge, and swept. Since Monday is Mopday, I bleached and mopped the floor. Next, I tackled the same in the bathroom and scrubbed the toilet. I picked up the living room and bedroom then vacuumed. I started the process of taking down the Christmas Tree (apparently we decided that since Jesus has risen, we can put away the tree). I printed out some recipes that I use all the time, cut them to card shape, and laminated them.
I'm taking a break to continue knitting then I'm taking the sewing machine to the shop, climbing, and coming home to make dinner.
Tomorrow is Tuesday, the day I usually soak the aluminum rings below the burners and lift up the stove top to clean inside. After that, I'll handwash the rags and finish taking down the Christmas tree. Hopefully, I'll pick up the sewing machine and start work on new pillows.

Again, I say, anyone who thinks being a homemaker isn't a full time job has never done it.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Real Food: Liverwurst

I've been reading this book about "Real Food" and how industrialized foods lead to poor health. The argument is simple: Americans who eat industrialized "health" food are found to be far less healthy than those who eat traditional foods--thus industrialized foods (soybean oil, white flour, all things "refined") are likely to blame and not traditional "unhealthy" foods (like butter, beef, and saturated fat in general).

My plan to becoming a healthier person actually involves eating way more meat. In Korea, I was going through a kilo of chicken by myself a week. This meant roughly three cuts of chicken breast a day. Also, for the first time in ages, I was consuming a lot of milk--not skim milk because they didn't have it, but real milk, often fortified with DHA. I felt good. I wasn't exhausted all of the time, I slept well, and I steadily lost weight despite consuming more fat than I used to. Most importantly, I was not eating a lot of refined sugar, flour, or oils. So I know that this works for me.

Today we are going grocery shopping and I plan on loading up on animal products and when they become available, a ton of local products too. Local means not only lower carbon-footprint but also higher immunity to local allergens and diseases. Om nom nom local. Today, we're going to buy our meat at the meat market instead of the supermarket. Local eggs from the co-op. If I could find local, grass-fed, raw milk, I'd be on top of that too.

What I look forward to most about today's shopping: liverwurst.

As kids, we ate a lot of liverwurst. At the time, it was just some sort of sandwich spread and I thought nothing of it. Due to my family's pretty epic New England meets Long Island accents there were a lot of words that had no meaning to me because I didn't actually understand them. I knew that grapes grew on the gray-barber not the grape arbor. We put libahwuhst on our sandwiches, didn't everybody? As I grew older, I read the label and discovered that we were eating some sort of liver paste. Unacceptable. When my dad joked with his friends that the first solid food he fed us was liverwurst I was mortified. I considered it one of the many ways in which my dad chose to torture us throughout childhood.

As it turns out, liver is traditionally a child's first solid food because it is rich in iron which is lacking in breast milk. Granted, liverwurst is not exactly organic calf's liver, but it's liver nonetheless. Cassady says in response to this news, "Our father, the accidental parent." (one of my favorite websites) has this to say about liverwurst's health properties:

The good: This food is a good source of Protein, Riboflavin and Iron, and a very good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin B12 and Selenium.

The bad: This food is high in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol.

A lot of what I have been reading praises the virtues of eating saturated fats--after all, these are the fats that we have been surviving off of for millenia not industrialized trans and polyunsaturated (processed omega-6, in particular) fats. So, is it just me or does the good completely outweigh the bad?

Additionally, on the glycemic load scale (0-250) liverwurst gets a 1. A 1! You want to stay generally under 100 a day and some foods are up near 250... liverwurst is a 1. It is considered a "complete protein" because it has a balance of amino acids. Om nom nom liverwurst! I am also a fan of its high levels of B-12 because some time in the near future I want to have strong, healthy babies. Most importantly, this is not a food that was brought to my attention as a "health food" or a miracle of real food, just an average food that I decided to look up the value of. It is simply a real food that I grew up on. Strip off the layers of Little Debbie, Fritos, and diet soda--what are some of the real foods that you grew up on that are surprisingly beneficial?

(Next up: wheat germ or coconut)

Friday, April 17, 2009


Tonight is Take Back the Night at Plattsburgh and I am ashamed, as a Smithie, to say that this is the first time I will have ever gone to a TBTN. The Breadwinner asked me a few days ago to make us shirts or stencil something for it. I've been thinking about editing the feminist uprising stencil that I've been putting on all sorts of subversive things (pink aprons and onezies). Maybe I could put knitting needles or a duster in the hand. And then I realized how many people would be offended, how many people I'd have to explain it to. I spend so much of my life explaining and justifying myself to other people because I fall between the cracks of every group of which I find myself a part.

A) Smithies: In reading an alum blog about cutting the Ada Comstock program, I noted an alum writing about having more impact than she would have if she had taken the wife/mother path that was generally open to her in the '60's. Right. I get it. Wife/mother should not be the only option for a woman. But am I wasting my Smith education by wanting to become a wife/mother? Am I not having a greater impact? I want to raise my children using all of the knowledge I gained at Smith. I want my daughters in a rainbow of colors not just pink; I want my sons to learn how to change a diaper on their own baby dolls. They will not watch a Disney movie without me by their side to pause and explain how it negatively portrays women. And because I will inevitably be raising my children with another woman, they will see women taking care of all aspects of life from setting the table to fixing the leaky faucet. They will not see any difference between men's work and women's work in our home. What better way is there to ensure that feminism is alive and well than raising children in a feminist household?

I guess I am using Smithie and feminist in the same way, so I might consider both in this category. Additionally, if being a wife/mother makes me happy, isn't that what life is all about? Why is my happiness so offensive to some women? The feeling I get when I finish knitting a stuffed animal for a baby cannot begin to compete with any satisfaction I would get in "the workforce." Yes, I am financially dependent upon someone else. But that person is also dependent upon me for many aspects of life like food and happiness. Why is it that people think having money to offer makes someone dominant in a relationship? If you care about someone and work with them at making a life, you will make it equal, no matter what the distribution of wealth. Wealth does not equal power.

B) Queers: While sixty years ago I would have been a model queer, I'm definitely less of one now. I am coming to terms with how I fit into queer society. I do not believe in two genders. I am offended for all the people close to my heart who can't whenever I need to check M or F. Nevertheless, I'm a pretty content femme. I myself don't tend to subvert gender norms but I am known to describe people as: "Oh, he's one of my closest friends! He was my exgirlfriend." I don't get tongue-tied when I say genderqueer pronouns. So why is it that when I talk about liking butches I am so full of shame? Plus, the whole aforementioned thing about wanting to be a wife/mother tends to rub a lot of the queermos in my life the wrong way.

C) Femmes: While I'm at odds with being queer because I consider myself a femme/housedyke, I don't quite fit in there either. I don't shave my legs. This is a big thing to a lot of people on both sides. Some people think it's gross and that it makes me look manly (bad femme). Some people are offended that if I could, I would do so and thus perpetuate the unrealistic standards of beauty that The Man sets for us (bad queer/feminist/Smithie). I would because I prefer not to be stared at, that simple. I don't like to stand out; I don't want to always have to explain myself. Sometimes, I even want to "pass" for straight just to feel comfortable and safe in a hostile world. Ideally, no one would stare at my hairy legs and this would not be an issue, but the bottom line is that I can't shave my legs because I have a skin condition and I get infected sores when I do anything to remove my leg hair. Additionally, I am in a relationship with a non-butch. If we're sticking to butch/femme of the 1940's persuasion, I fail at being a femme. This is all so funny to me because I remember how offended I was when I heard someone refer to her sexual orientation as being a "femme lesbian." I thought how ridiculous, how outdated, how offensive. But here I am, trying to fit in and frustrated that I can't be a total femme or a total fuck-it-all queer.

D) Atheists: I don't believe in God, gods, or any variation thereof. This makes me an atheist. This makes me part of one of the most hated groups in society. In my own life, I've had a much harder time being accepted into society as an atheist than I have as a homo. Religion is a choice and sexual orientation is not, it seems. I don't really understand this argument entirely since I certainly did not decide one day that I was never going to believe in God. The whole idea was just up there with the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus to me since I was a young child. So how can I be an atheist who regularly attends a gathering that is considered "organized religion"? Because friends meeting isn't about God or baby Jesus and it makes me feel good. It's about people and living a peaceful, healthy, positive life. That's it. But try explaining that to my die-hard atheist family members or friends who think that I'm somehow leaving them.

E) Friends: I have so much crap. I want to have less, I really do, but I get emotionally attached to so many things and I just end up owning so much more than I need. "Everything you own that you don't need is stealing" plays in my head every day. But I should be able to forgive myself for this because that's what life is all about, forgiving and seeing the good. I have trouble with that in the people closest to me (including myself) and total strangers. I have trouble remembering that the people at the gym who get me all enraged are people too.

This is where I write a paragraph summarizing how I just feel out of place in every aspect of life but now that I've written this whole rant, I feel like I can think of so many friends who fall between the cracks of every subculture they are a part of. No one fits in a box and the world is not made of simple dichotomies. M&F, Gay&Straight, Butch&Femme, Feminist&Mysoginist, Atheist&Jesus Freak, Red Sox&Yankees. It just ain't like that. So when you're thinking someone is a "bad feminist" think of all the ways you are a bad Red Sox fan before passing judgement.

Do These Shoes Make Me Look Canadian?

While I was couch-surfing at Smith, Miranda introduced me to the Smith climbing wall. A few years back, I had gone with KT and Nicole to the climbing wall at SUNY Cortland where I could not get up the wall and destroyed my arm muscles. For some reason, I still thought it was amazing. I decided that I would start going to the climbing wall at Smith. And then I decided I should eat some snacks instead. Two years later, I found myself addicted to the climbing wall. I think it's because I'm generally a lot more fit and spry than I used to be, so it's actually easier now. I love the Smith wall and the way that they have so many vertical paths, with a user-friendly Taco Bell rating system.

I remember reading a short story in English class sophomore year of high school just after my grandmother had died that was about the first experience of death. When you first experience death, when your grandma dies and you go to your first wake and funeral, you always remember it. It becomes your basis for judging death. It's what it should be like. And that's how I feel about the Smith climbing wall. It is my basis. I judge every other climbing wall in comparison to Smith. I don't care if the wall I'm at is three or four times as large, if it doesn't have a ton of rated vertical climbs, I'm so disappointed by it.

This is the Smith wall with my friend Kristina climbing and I believe a girl bouldering on the left. The red and white lines are the bouldering lines. Bouldering is climbing horizontally without being attached to the ropes. It is by no means my favorite way to climb.

When I went to visit Lauren in New Paltz, we went to the climbing gym in town. It was pretty huge, but still not Smith. They also gave surprisingly few instructions--especially on how to belay, which is why it's a good thing they had me as the belayer clipped into the floor.

Another thing that gets me is when I cannot tell the difference between a bouldering traverse and a vertical climb by the tape. When you climb the wall, you don't just use any holds, you try to climb only the holds in a particular path which is marked by colored tape. At Smith, at the bottom of a rope there is a guide to all of the paths--what color the tape is, what the name is, and what its rating is. I have not really experienced this anywhere else.

But now it's time that I get used to my new climbing wall at the Plattsburgh gym. Generally, I'm an optimist and a pretty cheerful person, but the Plattsburgh gym can beat that out of you. This is primarily a bouldering wall so there aren't too many vertical climbs and a lot of the time, it is difficult to sort them out from the bouldering routes. Also, it's populated by a lot of boys. Blegh. Getting into the climbing wall is no picnic either. When you go to the sign-in desk at the gym, you are bombarded with stimulation. The desk faces just the wrong way so that you cannot hear anything they are saying through the din of gym machines. Because they thought it was a good idea to put the pool on top of the gym, the gym is always a cool 85 degrees as well. The desk has up to seven people behind it, all of whom are folding towels except for the one person pointedly ignoring you. When I first got shoes for the wall, they asked me what size I needed. Knowing that climbing shoes almost always come/are labelled in European sizes I asked for a 37. "We only go up to fourteen" he replied.
"Well, uh, what kind of sizes are they? That's not the way climbing shoes are normally sized."
"It is here in the States, Ma'am."