buying local, consumerism, Family, Marvelous meals

Thanksgiving and Buy Nothing Day

Pecan and pumpkin pies, by Lisa

I hope that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family and friends like we did. We have four great Southern cooks in my family – Willye Kate, my mother, Lisa, my sister, me, and Brooke, my niece. Here are a few photos from our dinner. Note the cornbread dressing (only my mother’s is acceptable) and the many casseroles, butterbeans, and deviled eggs. This is how we roll in North Carolina.

Here are my two grand-nephews. Jake is the one modeling the gas mask. He has a great talent for antique and thrift store picking.

Zeke was lost for two years once. His human mama finally gave up and went to the shelter to adopt another cat. She saw a cat that looked just like him. The animal shelter worker told her that he was not adoptable because he was mean and he was about to be euthanized. The cat was Zeke. I’d love to know what his story was. Believe me, this is NOT a mean cat.

Today is Buy Nothing Day, a day that I used to celebrate here with much fanfare. Now I am more in favor of supporting small local businesses and supporting your local economy. But there is a lot to be said in favor of rejecting the travesty that the winter holiday season has become. Driven by sales, some people actually claim that they ARE spending family time by camping with the kids in front of Walmart or other big box stores on Thanksgiving in order to be first through the doors at midnight. This craziness is a family ritual that they want to pass on to their children.

People, let’s please not go further down this road.

The positive thing is that the Buy Local movement has spread and the Black Friday nonsense has gotten so nuts that I hear more and more that people are rejecting the pressure to buy buy buy for the holidays and returning Thanksgiving and Christmas to their original meanings. Of course you won’t hear this much in the news. There might be a token reference to the simplicity movement or the local movement. I hear this from friends and family and it makes me feel better.

Remember how the news media did their best to convince you that the presidential election was still too close to call when quite a few polls and trustworthy, impartial analysts indicated otherwise? It is in their best interest to keep the frenzy of consumerism whipped up in the same way.

The longer I live, the more I would like to get rid of most of my stuff and just spend my money on the essentials and experiences. Really, how much do we need? I live better than probably 95% of the world and I am probably considered to be lower middle class in the United States. If you’re thinking about giving me a present, please donate the value of my gift to a charity who will truly spend it to help the needy. I will be much happier if you do!

Asheville, Marvelous meals, North Carolina

Asheville is for foodies

Another thing that I love about Asheville is that it is a Slow Food city. Its restaurants, for the most part, take supporting the local farmers and food artisans seriously. I ate at a variety of places in Asheville, including a bowl of Cheerios at the Days Inn, where Juanita loudly groused, “You don’t like how I do my job? Hey, I’m 80 years old. I’m outta here!” and the poor girl from the front desk kept saying, “Nobody’s upset with you, Juanita.”

So that was a real world experience that I enjoyed. And I was reminded that I really do love Cheerios.

On Saturday, I lunched at the White Duck Taco Shop in the River Arts District. I wish that I had taken a photo of my duck taco and watermelon side, but I was too busy scarfing that bad boy down. I recommend it, and there was a long line at the counter, so obviously it is popular for good reason.

On Saturday night we picked Cúrate, a Spanish tapas restaurant near Pack Square on Biltmore Avenue. It was a delicious, beautiful, and unusual experience for us. We sat at the bar and watched the chefs bustle through their orders. Next time I will definitely try their ham, which is their specialty. And cheese. I love manchego cheese.

pimientos de padron

“peppers from smoking j’s farm served with bonito flakes “unos pican y unos no” translation “some are spicy and some are not,” will you take the challenge?”

Sandy liked these better than I did although I did like them, and they were right about the surprise factor in hotness. It’s just that I was diggin’ the eggplant:

berenjenas la taberna

“fried eggplant drizzled in wild mountain apiaries honey, garnished with rosemary”

I never considered putting honey and rosemary on fried eggplant. Mmmmm.

The big hit was the

pincho moruno

“lamb skewers marinated in moorish spices”

When we were outside trying to decide on a restaurant, a woman walking out recommended this dish with gusto. It made up our mind and she was right. Even those pickles were good and I am not a pickle person. Although I do occasionally get pickled.

vieiras con pimiento del piquilla maestro julian

“seared scallops with roasted red pepper sauce”

Wow. Yes, these were delectable. They also cost $6 per scallop. A seafood vendor recently told me the government controls the price of scallops. I don’t know whether that is true, but this price makes me think that maybe he was correct.

The next day, we had brunch at Solace, also in downtown Asheville. I don’t know, is 2 p.m. still considered brunch, or is it lupper/linner? Sandy had a pastrami sandwish, and I had antelope and polenta and most refreshingly, mimosas.

It was a fun, partly rainy day of shopping. We went to the Folk Art Center (future post) and I bought cotton flake mill end cones and other supplies at Earth Guild. We hit the Himalayan Import store where I picked up a patchwork bag and a game store where Sandy loaded up on his passion and, of course, a used book store and Malaprops, Asheville’s awesome independent bookstore. We ate dinner with my niece at Eddie Spaghetti’s, a little Italian place on the outskirts of Asheville.

Gosh, I love Asheville. I really, really, really do.

An Artful Journey, California, Marvelous meals

The first day of my next half-century!

Here I am at Great Bear Coffee in the lovely little town of Los Gatos, California, celebrating my 50th birthday all by my magnificent self! It has pretty much been raining since I got here, but I came armed with a good raincoat and an iffy umbrella that tends to blow out in the gusts. I forsook a purse for a small backpack to tote around my laptop and camera and the few other necessities for the day.

I flew through unusually warm weather over the United States, but Illinois was still covered in snow. Although the flight from Chicago to Denver was packed, I got lucky on the other two flights and had two and three seats to myself, allowing me to catch a little sleep. I looked out the window a lot this time, something I don’t usually do because of a tendency for motion sickness. The terrain fascinated me. I didn’t take photos of the farmland much, although I loved the patterns of squares and circles and textures. However, the farmland in central California was disturbing. It appeared so humanly constructed. There were hardly any trees and each stream seemed to be carved by human hand into the landscape. I may try to photograph it on the way back.

The Garden Inn in Los Gatos is very nice and I would definitely recommend it on the basis of my one night here. Reasonably priced and in walking distance of many shops and restaurants. Here’s the courtyard, and an idea of the weather I’m dealing with.

There are palm trees here – I didn’t expect that, because I thought I was farther north. I hear that there will be redwoods where I am going tonight in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I’d love to take a hike along the creek trail here but it looks really muddy.

Yesterday I stopped in a shop that had a lot of beautiful imports from Africa and Asia. I wanted a piecework blouse that looked beautiful on me but the shopkeeper only took cash or checks, and I didn’t bring much cash and no checks. I didn’t think that there were places left that weren’t set up for credit and debit cards! I did buy a nice light mudcloth scarf. Her prices were so low on those that I felt a little guilty. She took the cash and said that she would pay the sales tax so I guess that she’ll report it stolen! Oh well, that’s her business, I guess. We all have our little ways to rebel. If I can find an ATM I might have to go back for that blouse.

Then last night, I was so tired that I almost skipped dinner, but made myself go out to a little Italian place across the street named “i gatti.” So clever a name for an Italian restaurant in Los Gatos! I hoped that they might have a t-shirt for sale but they were much too nice a place for that – they were a locavore place. I sat at the bar and had organic roasted beets with a crispy Manchego cheese wafer, microgreens, and candied nuts. Best salad I’ve ever eaten. I was too beat to eat a heavy meal. Since that was so good I figured that they would do a good job with tiramisu. I’m spoiled with tiramisu because we learned to make it at Spannocchia in Italy and there has never been a tiramisu since that has come close to being so delicious. This one came pretty close. The bartender was friendly so I didn’t feel weird or lonely. Then I went to bed at 8:30, woke up at 4:30, but managed to go back to sleep until 6:30, so I hope to be on a Pacific time zone schedule today.

I have to go back to the hotel and check out at 11:00, but I’m leaving my luggage there since my ride is picking me up there at 3 p.m. Until then I’ll be roaming around in the rain and stopping to hang out in coffee shops. I find it funny that I have not found a book store, used or otherwise, yet. I usually make a beeline for those. My quest today will be to find a fibers shop and the Trader Joe’s.

Hopefully I will be able to blog the art retreat if I am able to get a connection. If not, you can assume that I am having too much fun to mess with the computer.

Charleston, Marvelous meals, South Carolina

A few words and photos about our Charleston trip

Lush greenness. I snagged some palmetto fronds that had been cut and left on the sidewalk, which I later cooked and blended into beautiful handmade paper.

Considering the photos I’ve seen of this area after the Civil War bombardment of the city, I’m amazed that there are any 18th century tombstones intact. I love old graveyards.

This aviary on a balcony in the South Carolina Aquarium was a home for turtles and injured or rehabilitating birds. They have an albino alligator inside the aquarium. I also got to pet a small alligator about two feet long, but didn’t get a photo because of all the children who ran up to us.

Of course we took a ferry out to Fort Sumter. My husband should have been a historian. He also toured the Yorktown while I sat in the park under a tree and gratefully read a book in the sea breeze. Fort Sumter was a very interesting place for lines and textures as well as history.

We stayed in the Vendue Inn in the French Quarter. I highly recommend it. We stayed in the least expensive room, and it was wonderful. You can’t get a room in the historic district for less than about $130 a night, and this one was $165 for Sunday and Monday nights. We had to stay in the Red Roof Inn in Mount Pleasant on Saturday night, and it was fine. But the Vendue was in walking distance of everything great about Charleston. We parked the car and didn’t need it again until we left. The waterfront park and pier was at the end of the street. After all the walking we did, the whirlpool bath was a blessing at the end of the day. I felt pampered and slept like a log.

I didn’t get to go into nearly as many galleries and antique stores as I would have liked. It will be a good excuse to go back. Especially during the next Charleston Friends of the Library sale. We got some amazing deals – filled two large tote bags with books for $30. One book I picked up is a weaving classic that sells for $35. I also have to go back because we never took a carriage ride.

Hank’s was highly recommended to us. Ummm, yeah. Maybe the best seafood meal I’ve ever had: Seafood a la Wando. The Vendue has a superb restaurant named the Library, but it was closed the two nights that we were there. Breakfast was wonderful though.

coffee pot posts, Marvelous meals

Sunday sweep with a seafood recipe

Breaking in the new camera

Yesterday went fairly well; although I couldn’t find the energy to make paper, I got a lot of other things done.

The fabulous Zha K and I did a massive Greensboro Curb Farmer’s M arket trip. The seafood guy was there with sea scallops and large shrimp that he brought up from Harker’s Island. We bought a pound each and split them. When I cleaned the shrimp I found that they still had the heads on and so I ended up with very little shrimp, and that was disappointing. The scallops were wonderful though. Here’s what I did with them:

Marinate 1 pound of cleaned and dressed shrimp and scallops for at least an hour ( I marinated them for about 3 hours):

1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c lime juice
About 3 large minced cloves of garlic

Preheat oven to 450. Put the seafood in an oiled baking pan. Pour over marinade. Add fresh shredded parsley and basil, crumbled feta cheese, shredded parmigiano cheese and fresh ground pepper to taste. Bake for 5-7 minutes, until shrimp is pink. (You’ll notice that the marinade partially “cooks” the seafood.)

I usually serve this over pasta, but I didn’t last night. I use this basic marinade for all seafood, usually adding some hot pepper flakes and varying the herbs according to what I have in the garden. If I have fresh dill, that’s a plus.

We also had fresh corn on the cob and field peas and butterbeans. I bought 12 ears of corn, that same bicolor corn that was so good earlier this summer. I shucked it and cooked a few ears but I need to blanch the rest and cut it off the cob and freeze it today, along with the butterbeans and field peas that I just finished shelling.

Other farmers’ market buys: hamburger, milk, eggplants, red and yellow peppers, sweet onions, eggs, potatoes.

The buzz at the market is that the ownership and management is changing from Greensboro Parks and Recreation to the Department of Agriculture. No one yet knows what the implications of this change will be. There sure has been a lot of hoo-ha between the vendors who want to resell and the farmers who want a level playing field for selling their own produce. I’m on the farmers’ side, myself. If I want to buy from a reseller, I can go to any number of grocery stores in this area and find almost anything I want.

We hung out in the gazebo for a little while, where I am writing this right now, and then completed our shopping at Deep Roots Market. I heated up some fresh tomato sauce over cheese grits from yesterday for lunch, and man, was that good. But then I wore myself out and napped through the afternoon. Susanne was kind enough to come pick up my corn shucks and abaca and she will have the pulp beaten and ready for me to make paper over there today.

My lettuce and mustard seeds are beginning to germinate. That is going to be a very pretty bed if the rabbits and squirrels will leave it halfway alone.

By the way, I’ve been able to go longer and longer without pain medication and I feel pretty doggone good today. I even ate cereal on both sides of my mouth. I slept the whole night through last night.

Italy, Marvelous meals

Osteria Pepò

Friday, 13 ottobre 2006

We limped back to the Hotel San Giovanni, where we found that several of our compadres had arrived. Judy had been there since Monday, navigating and exploring on her own. Deb and Randy, Sandy B, Shirley, Teresa, and Rosemary arrived while we were statue-gazing. Six of us decided to strike out for a restaurant called Mario’s that Charlie and Rick Steves had recommended as a good, cheap place to eat, but it was closed. An older American couple walked by us and recommended the place next to it, where they were headed, so we followed. From the left, clockwise, Laurie, Sandy B, Judy, our waiter, Deb, and Randy. This was our first real Italian meal at the Osteria Pepò, via di Rosino.

We were treated well and with patience, since none of us were used to the Italian customs of eating out. Sandy B was a vegetarian, not an easy choice in Italy, and of the six of us she had the most European experience, in Germany. We decided to called my Sandy “Sandino” – a nickname he has had as long as I’ve known him so it was especially appropriate for this trip.

First the waiter brought us a bottle of Prosecco on the house, and I ordered a bottle of Chianti Classico Machiavelli, simply because I thought the name was funny, but they were out and the waiter brought a bottle of Chianti Classico Le Lame for the same price. Very good. I could have gone for another bottle but this was not a partying crowd – plus they were as exhausted as we were the first day.

We didn’t order all the courses. Deb and I had crema di zucca con crostini e formaggio (a creamy pumpkin soup). Randy had a spicy beef dish, Sandy had spaghetti alle vongole veraci (spaghetti with clams), and I had filetto di maiale profumato al tartufo, pork with a truffle-scented sauce. I had decided not to restrict my food choices on this trip, but I did want to try to eat seasonably if possible. I knew that truffles and porcini mushrooms were in season. The sauce was actually made with an essence of truffles so I’m still not sure what truffles taste like. The pork was incredibly tender and the sauce was delicious and creamy. I bought a small bottle of truffle oil to bring back home with me later in the hopes that I might recreate this with some local pork this winter.

Sandy and I still had room for dolce, since we had had a very light day of meals. We had the tortine al cioccolato and another custard-like dish, the name of which I forgot to write down. They were both great.

Sandy and I agreed as we gazed at the fresco above our bed that night that this was a great crowd to hang out with in Italy. I knew Deb and Teresa from other classes, but for the most part Sandy didn’t know anyone. I was looking forward to the morning, when we would explore the Mercato Centrale, a famous Italian food market, with Deb and Randy.

To be continued…