lifestyle

  • “Sum­mer of Love“

    The Sum­mer of Love was a social phe­nom­e­non that occurred dur­ing the sum­mer of 1967. As many as 100,000 peo­ple, con­verged in San Francisco’s Haight-​Ashbury dis­trict.

    Tie-​dyed cloth­ing, love beads, men with long hair and a mantra of “free love” char­ac­ter­ized the coun­ter­cul­ture hip­pie groups that flocked to the city. A swirl of art, pol­i­tics, music and rev­o­lu­tion was in the air in 1967.

    Among other notable shifts in tra­di­tions, this was the period in time that influ­enced our cul­ture in the food move­ment and pol­i­tics toward nat­ural, organic and veg­e­tar­ian diets in Amer­ica.

    The pol­i­tics of food remain cen­tral to those con­ver­sa­tions hap­pen­ing in Cal­i­for­nia regard­ing organic farm­ing, sus­tain­abil­ity, improv­ing child­hood nutri­tion and the obe­sity epi­demic.

    Present day activism rises from the national trend toward local, sus­tain­able and con­scious eat­ing. Con­sumers want to know what they’re eat­ing, where it comes from and how it is pro­duced.

    Lucky for us then that locally grown actu­ally means we’re able to enjoy mel­ons, stone fruits, sweet corn, beans, pep­pers, toma­toes and pota­toes that are actu­ally grown and har­vested close by.
  • #100 Days

    A new year brings a clean slate with high hopes, dreams and every great pos­si­bil­ity.

    Opti­mism abounds as we pack away orna­ments and reflect on the pass­ing hol­i­day sea­son.

    Res­o­lu­tions swirl around improved eat­ing habits, exer­cise and renewed pos­i­tive behav­iors.

    Key to com­mit­ment is mak­ing a rou­tine of the hatched plan. Cre­ative types might be famil­iar with the “One Hun­dred Day Chal­lenge”. This could breath life into most new year’s deci­sions look­ing to alter reg­u­lar daily reg­i­mens.

    Land on one small thing to do for the course of one hun­dred con­sec­u­tive days. For artists (and other “cre­atives”), it means choos­ing one exer­cise like writ­ing, sketch­ing, tak­ing pho­tos, draw­ing, etc. and then doing that task each day. Doc­u­ment­ing the daily task is part of the project.
  • Air Fare

    Vaca­tion­ers will take to the skies in record num­bers this sum­mer. Air travel can be very stress­ful with TSA check­points and man­ag­ing per­sonal affects.

    Feel­ing good at the end of a flight may depend on how well and what we eat and drink inside the air­port ter­mi­nal.

    Hydra­tion is essen­tial to hav­ing a good travel expe­ri­ence. Bring a portable water bot­tle to be filled once inside secu­rity clear­ance or pur­chase bot­tled water at ven­dor loca­tions. Drink up!

    Avoid bev­er­ages known to upset the tummy. Too much cof­fee, alco­hol or orange juice will bother most peo­ple. Order more sooth­ing drinks like club soda or herbal teas.

    Fruits like berries, pineap­ple, can­taloupe, cucum­bers and water­melon con­tain a high per­cent­age of water.
  • Appetite for New

    Cae­sar Salad is an ionic culi­nary favorite. There are plenty of riffs on this clas­sic fresh salad.

    Adding toma­toes, avo­ca­dos, hard-​boiled eggs and even grilled chicken or shrimp takes it to another whole-​meal prepa­ra­tion.

    Do you recall when you took your first bite of this reli­able and ele­gant salad? Per­haps it fixes a place in time rather than an age. Bet­ter yet, the per­son who may have made it for us. Think back.

    The few sim­ple, high qual­ity ingre­di­ents are com­bined into an exquis­itely per­fect salad. Romaine let­tuce, fresh gar­lic, fresh lemon juice, olive oil, parme­san cheese and rus­tic crou­tons seem too easy. They are a match made in heaven and prove to be sophis­ti­cated for any palette.

    Anchovy fil­lets are left up to debate. In or out, the salad stands on its own mer­its. No need to quib­ble. They can be served on the side for any­one who doesn’t like these tiny, briny fish. Sales were up eighty-​five per­cent on anchovies year over year.

    What’s life chang­ing is get­ting an impor­tant intro­duc­tion to any num­ber of ingre­di­ents, foods or prepa­ra­tions that stay with us for a life­time. Those new food expe­ri­ences serve us through­out our cook­ing reper­toire. We build on what we find to be the most tasty and enjoy­able foundation.
  • Bah Hum­bug

    Play­ing it safe for the upcom­ing hol­i­days– Hanukkah, Christ­mas, Kwanza, New Year’s and beyond– seems like the biggest killjoy for fes­tive social gath­er­ings.

    Pub­lic health mes­sages, man­dates and restric­tions have been great about advis­ing on what not to do.

    Newly issued county and state orders push the “stay at home” behav­ior mod­els for pre­vent­ing more COVID esca­la­tion.

    We hear of the no-no’s and high risk behav­iors to avoid. Once those are spelled out, we can mod­ify activ­ity. What about atten­tion paid to what we can do?

    This newest round of pub­lic lock­downs comes as COVID fatigue and resent­ment peaks. Humans are social crea­tures.

    These past months have been stress­ful and iso­lat­ing. Our col­lec­tive strong desire is to be with fam­ily, friends and loved ones for rit­ual and celebration.
  • Beyond Straws

    Cities across Amer­ica have been imple­ment­ing bans on plas­tic bags, plas­tic straws, poly­styrene and other mate­ri­als used for food and bev­er­ages.

    Retail and food­ser­vice estab­lish­ments have seen oper­at­ing costs rise along with alter­na­tive pack­ag­ing costs.

    Con­sumer expec­ta­tions are higher and grow­ing in the realm of single-​use, dis­pos­able items, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to take out foods. Lit­ter and waste are not the only two con­sid­er­a­tions.

    The gen­eral pub­lic is sen­si­tive to the envi­ron­men­tal and human health issues related to the overuse of plas­tics. Overuse of the seduc­tive one and done, throw-​aways is get­ting national atten­tion.

    In sev­eral cities, cus­tomers must request plas­tic straws for drinks. Some have begun to carry their own bam­boo or metal straws to juice joints. We are all, by now, accus­tomed to pro­vid­ing our own reusable tote bags for shop­ping at retail stores.
  • Birth­day Wishes

    It’s not that we hate cake. Most of us have enjoyed a deca­dent slice of choco­late, coconut or red vel­vet cel­e­bra­tory cake before.

    It tasted great as we toasted the bride and groom, grad­u­ate, retiree or anniver­sary couple.

    Birth­day cakes are a bit dif­fer­ent and very per­sonal. Young ones get tur­tles, trains and car­toon char­ac­ter cakes molded and dec­o­rated to their surprise.

    Teens fre­quently bake their own or one for their friend. They choose ice cream cakes, fun­fetti or Oreo cookie cake. Cup­cakes included for teens and sweet­ness is off the charts.

    Adults get the wide open cake range from car­rot with cream cheese frost­ing to molten choco­late lava and every­thing in-​between.

    Birth­day choices run the spec­trum with­out any guilt over bak­ery pur­chased cakes. Bundts and spe­cialty types go over the top on stun­ning designs. Where to place the can­dles might prob­lem­atic between the swirls, curls, rib­bons and fresh flower petals.

  • Blur­ring the Lines

    Amidst the chal­lenges of the pan­demic, we are rethink­ing not just the way we eat, but what we eat and when. Cer­tain foods are no longer rel­e­gated to spe­cific time slot assign­ments.

    Under daily pres­sure, hall­marks of the COVID food cloud are resource­ful­ness and flex­i­bil­ity. Tak­ing con­trol and let­ting go teeter-​totter back-​and-​forth. Par­ents, kids and sin­gles give per­mis­sion to eat a bowl of Chee­rios for din­ner.

    Strik­ing a bal­ance between health and well­ness over indul­gence, con­ve­nience and com­fort is ever present.

    Opti­mum health is always the long range goal. Short­term, we’re bom­barded by daily restric­tions, lim­i­ta­tions and now food fatigue. Wait­ing in line to shop or for menu pickup takes a toll. Meal prep, time and money erode the very thing that makes us whole. Stress-​free activ­i­ties are worth pur­suit.

    Wear the mask. Keep your dis­tance. Stay alert to some­one with a cough or too close con­tact. Anx­i­ety increases the desire to blur the lines. Throw­ing in the towel on meal plan­ning doesn’t mean a bowl of ice cream for break­fast.

    Mac­a­roni and cheese makes more sense as a cham­pi­oned morn­ing choice. This pop­u­lar com­fort food is not shy on calo­ries. Tak­ing lib­erty with stan­dard morn­ing fare means we have time to enjoy the heat of those calo­ries through­out the day.
  • Board Games

    Play­off games and the Super Bowl are one giant invi­ta­tion for Amer­i­cans to snack. New year’s res­o­lu­tions to “eat bet­ter” go out the win­dow once game time grabs our atten­tion.

    The req­ui­site chips, crack­ers, dips, salty nuts, meat and cheese plat­ters make graz­ing part of the tele­vi­sion watch­ing foot­ball ritual.

    Pots of chili, grilled sausages, and foot long sand­wiches have tra­di­tion­ally fed large crowds for game-​watching. This year, smaller house­hold gath­er­ings will pre­vail for com­mon sense activity.

    Fewer mouths to feed doesn’t elim­i­nate those highly crave-​able game day foods. A bag of Ruf­fles potato chips and French onion dip come to mind. Clas­sic, yes, but cer­tainly not on the 2021 snack res­o­lu­tion list.

    The thing about mind­ful eat­ing is plan­ning and prepa­ra­tion that goes in to it. A full day or after­noon of munch­ing is best served by a decent pre­lim­i­nary strat­egy. Set a good inten­tion to include guilt-​free munchies. They won’t kill the health­ier eat­ing goals already estab­lished. Real foods equal good eat­ing.

  • By Design

    Artists use ele­ments of design (line, shape, form, value, color, tex­ture and space) to make a con­nec­tion between a com­po­si­tion and a viewer.

    The depic­tion of food in art cuts across all cul­tures and all recorded his­tory. Ancient Greek and Roman ban­quet tables laid out feasts of food as inspi­ra­tion and stim­u­la­tion.

    We’re famil­iar with still life draw­ings, sketches and paint­ings that high­light fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles as the main sub­ject mat­ter.

    This recent long stretch of stay-​at-​home/​cook at home pan­demic behav­ior gives more per­mis­sion to play with our food. Is any­one else out there look­ing at sum­mer pro­duce from an artist’s per­spec­tive?

    Chefs and home cooks have always appre­ci­ated the sea­sonal value of what we eat when. Can­ning, pick­ling and pre­serv­ing are other food cen­tric activ­i­ties that cap­ture the best of summer’s showy spread.

    Food (agri­cul­ture food prod­ucts in par­tic­u­lar) in all it’s forms is a dom­i­nant artis­tic theme. From plant­ing to har­vest and prepa­ra­tion to eat­ing, food imagery is cen­tral to social engage­ment.

    COVID fatigue may be blur­ring the lines of California’s rich agri­cul­tural bounty. Farmer’s are given the tall task of feed­ing our great nation. That is not a new phe­nom­ena. The ever fluid impacts of the pan­demic now weigh heavy on grow­ers to adapt, per­form and deliver.
  • Cel­e­brate!

    Mother’s Day 2020 was a remark­able hol­i­day. Sons and daugh­ters had to pivot away from nor­mal ways to honor mom.

    Mod­i­fied behav­iors post COVID-​19 takes some get­ting used to. Not every­one is com­fort­able or eager to rub elbows with oth­ers.

    In many cases, elder or vul­ner­a­ble fam­ily mem­bers still require quar­an­tine pro­tec­tion. This makes it dif­fi­cult to gather around a table for cel­e­bra­tion.

    June is a mad month for birth­days, grad­u­a­tions, anniver­saries and wed­dings. Father’s Day is on Sun­day, the twenty first. Expect new ways to show our love and remem­brances.

    Large gath­er­ings have been vig­or­ously dis­cour­aged. Self-​distancing is the new norm for any type of social fes­tiv­ity. Smaller groups of eight or fewer will still have to mod­ify to com­ply with vigilance.
  • Cheer­ing Up

    The Spring Equinox, also called the Ver­nal Equinox, has long been cel­e­brated as a time of renewal and rebirth.

    March 20th marked the first day of spring in the north­ern hemi­sphere. In nor­mal times, this gives peo­ple a chance to gather and focus on the sea­sonal events that lift us up.

    Cul­tures cel­e­brate spring fes­ti­vals and hol­i­days – like Easter and Passover – around the equinox. Sport­ing events, con­certs and the like boost our social inter­ac­tions and spir­its.

    We are not liv­ing in nor­mal times. How­ever, there are some things we can do to ease our psy­che dur­ing this chal­leng­ing period as we fol­low the edict to dis­tance our­selves from oth­ers.

    As self-​quarantines and man­dated restric­tions are fol­lowed, there is cheer­ful work to be done. Take this time to pre­pare gar­dens, flower beds and planters.

    The ground soft­ens and the dirt becomes warmer. If it’s too early to plant, take this chance to pre­pare. Groom, weed, hoe and turn the soil.
  • Chill Fac­tor

    One great aspect of sum­mer din­ing is the obvi­ous, more relaxed approach to meals. “No fuss” and “effort­less” are hall­marks of any indeli­ble al fresco lunch or sup­per in July.

    Whether a crunchy radish or car­rot is plucked from our own gar­den, pur­chased from a sea­sonal farm­ers mar­ket or for­aged from the pro­duce aisle of a local gro­cer, they get sliced the same.

    In sum­mer, straight­for­ward ingre­di­ents and sim­ple serv­ings lead to plates that are an invi­ta­tion to relax and chill out.

    Noth­ing for­mal is required. Take note of com­pat­i­ble part­ners or oppo­site attrac­tions. Bright col­ors, var­ied tex­tures, a dip or spread here, a bowl of olives or Mar­cona almonds there and “voilà”.

    The point of eat­ing, after all, is to nour­ish, restore and replen­ish. What we eat mat­ters more than how it is served. The plate itself is only a visual invite. If it looks good, we want to dive in.
  • Cook the Books

    It’s not always easy to get inspired to cook. Even with a myr­iad of inter­net tuto­ri­als on grilling, sum­mer sautéing, and roast­ing, it’s some­times dif­fi­cult to muster any real cook­ing enthu­si­asm.

    More meals are now being pre­pared at home dur­ing our stay in and stay safe pro­to­cols. There is no time like the present to dust off the stacks and piles of gifted or pur­chased cook books col­lected over the years.

    Most have a trusted “go to” copy of Joy of Cook­ing or The Sil­ver Palate. Tat­tered, stained and gen­er­ally worn with pages lit­er­ally falling from the bind­ing, our most used ones are not in mint con­di­tion. How about the rest of the group? They are pris­tine, hardly cracked and wait­ing patiently for some kitchen love.

    Now is the time to intro­duce your­self to the quiet of kitchen ther­apy. Recon­nect to fam­ily roots. Chan­nel the grand­mother or aun­tie in those more dif­fi­cult recipes we’ve always wanted to tackle.

    Explore new places through the smells, plates and tastes of Africa, China, India, Mex­ico, Spain and Morocco. Go any­where in the world while con­fined to the com­forts of home.

    There is also the mat­ter of mas­ter­ing cer­tain cook­ing tech­niques. Rolling, pinch­ing, knead­ing and brais­ing sur­prise us with pie, dumplings, bread or spicy veg­etable entrees and sides.
  • Crowded House

    Sort­ing out the pantry leads to assess­ing which kitchen appli­ances are still rel­e­vant.

    A few of these “well worn” helpers could use some love and atten­tion. Per­haps give them a deep clean­ing, or replace a dull blade or bro­ken knob.

    Oth­ers are parked on a shelf in the way, way back of a cab­i­net or cup­board drawer. Neglected for some time, a dona­tion to a wor­thy recip­i­ent might be in order.

    How many cof­fee (spice) grinders does one house­hold really need? When is that expen­sive fresh juicer, and all the gear that goes with, going to see some action again? Be hon­est in eval­u­at­ing future use.

    The Sous Vide immer­sion gad­get sees action when that Christ­mas prime rib din­ner is on deck. It mostly remains idle through­out the year.

    Stor­ing a sous vide is less cum­ber­some than say a crock pot, elec­tric skil­let, meat grinder, food proces­sor, or cap­puc­cino maker.

    At least the Ital­ian cof­fee mak­ers have some char­ac­ter and per­son­al­ity. Bright color choices, post-​modern shapes and inter­est­ing styles allow for coun­ter­top place­ment. Other small wares don’t have this advan­tage. Off the shelf for use and replaced once pan­cakes are fin­ished.

    New “must have” elec­tri­cal gad­gets and small appli­ances become all the rage with every hol­i­day sea­son. Air pop­pers seem to be trend­ing for the 2020 wish list.

    Insta Pots held the top spot the last few years. At least they have mul­ti­ple use rec­om­men­da­tions that almost jus­tify their existence.
  • Curb Appeal

    Tech­nol­ogy has risen to the occa­sion when it comes to keep­ing us con­nected in these days of “social distancing”.

    Online shop­ping and pick-​up ser­vices have enjoyed a surge in demand at retail.

    Once we move past the COVID-​19 cri­sis, it will remain to be seen how this retail shop­ping seg­ment fares.

    Restau­rants of all lev­els of ser­vice (fast casual to high end, white linen) have been hard hit in keep­ing the doors open. Ones that can offer curb­side pickup or take out, are being cre­ative in adapt­ing menus.

    Feed­ing con­sumers is deemed an essen­tial ser­vice. Restau­rants have been there for our cel­e­bra­tions. Every mile­stone– birth­day, anniver­sary, retire­ment or pro­mo­tion feels spe­cial when enjoyed at a favorite din­ing place.

    To those who are the reg­u­lar week­night home cooks, din­ing out is a big reward. The break from the norm gives an indi­vid­ual a chance to relax and be “waited on”.

    Din­ing out typ­i­cally gives choices not usu­ally in the home meal plan rota­tion. Fewer choices is new norm. Picky eaters are with­out their favorite go to.

  • Dad Food

    Dads have that rep­u­ta­tion for being “super-​heroes”. That does not mean they have to eat like Super­man, right?

    Dads are just reg­u­lar peo­ple look­ing to stay fit and healthy for their fam­i­lies. They do like to eat, drink and be merry when the oppor­tu­nity strikes.

    Upcom­ing Father’s Day is a per­fect chance to share good food with the fathers in our lives. Like most hol­i­day cel­e­bra­tions, the ways we make merry are diverse and unique.

    Every­day dad food does not trans­late into “cheese, bacon and burg­ers”. Tra­di­tional fare from days long past was largely meat and pota­toes basics for Dads. Maybe for most con­ven­tional men, that would still be typ­i­cal.

    New dude foods, pre­pared by using the fresh­est ingre­di­ents, strike a cord with those favorite fam­ily tra­di­tions and deliver full of fla­vor on the plate.

    By exam­ple, Pops might like a nice ravi­oli with red sauce, skil­let chi­laquiles or mar­i­nated skirt steak on Father’s Day. Cook­ing at home can be a group effort. “No fuss” should be the mantra of the day, but if a lit­tle extra effort is made, we’re good!
  • Eat My Words

    Restau­rants are tun­ing up menus to reflect stream­lined offer­ings and their need to do more with less. Smart oper­a­tors are not hav­ing to com­pro­mise on qual­ity food that tastes great over bet­ter effi­cien­cies.

    Now, more than ever, we eat first with our eyes. This includes scan­ning menus online or using QR codes on smart­phones.

    Good com­mu­ni­ca­tion is key for every suc­cess­ful busi­ness. Menu writ­ing is a com­mu­ni­ca­tions art­form and tal­ent nec­es­sary for food­ser­vice providers. Chalk­boards, ink on paper or vir­tual links help sell what’s for break­fast, lunch and din­ner.

    Words mat­ter and how they are used on a menu can entice orders and impact rev­enue. The power of per­sua­sion when it comes to food descrip­tions makes or breaks ini­tial per­cep­tions.

    Set­ting appetite expec­ta­tions is only a word or phrase away. Loaded cau­li­flower casse­role tells the diner to expect a hot, cheesy, gooey and indul­gent dish.

    Descrip­tions regard­ing culi­nary prepa­ra­tions pique inter­est. Roasted, grilled, poached, fried, toasted, whipped or stuffed tell much about what will be deliv­ered on the plate.

    Sea­son­ings and fla­vors get prime text space. Smoky, savory, fiery, nutty, tart, pep­pery, cit­rusy, zesty, and but­tery get the mouth and brain work­ing together for the selec­tion. Food and mood are strongly teth­ered together. What food crav­ing needs to be con­quered today?
  • Eat, Drink, Rest.

    Cold and flu sea­son has arrived with some vengeance. It is shap­ing up to be an intense cou­ple of months.

    Hol­i­day travel and shop­ping crowds con­nected the dots on both coasts.

    Hard to know which is which? Usu­ally, colds are milder and include a runny or stuffy nose. A cough and sneez­ing go along with a cold.

    The flu is usu­ally more severe and typ­i­cally comes on sud­denly. The flu has a knack for wip­ing peo­ple out for a few days. Fever, body aches, and exhaus­tion com­monly accom­pany the flu.

    Pre­ven­tion is key. Hav­ing a flu shot will min­i­mize the affects of this year’s virus. Proper and fre­quent hand wash­ing will stave off con­t­a­m­i­nat­ing germs left on door knobs, phones, uten­sils and other surfaces.
  • Essen­tial Labor

    Labor Day 2020 comes in the midst of a global pan­demic and an era of essen­tial work­ers.

    Since early March, front-​line work­ers, across mul­ti­ple indus­tries, have faced unprece­dented con­di­tions to per­form our most cru­cial ser­vices.

    Typ­i­cally, Labor Day marks the offi­cial “end of sum­mer” fes­tiv­i­ties, vaca­tions and leisure pas­times. Kids go back to school and fam­i­lies set­tle in with more struc­tured rou­tines.

    Sport­ing events, con­certs and back­yard bar­be­cues are Amer­i­can high­lights from Labor Days past. Not this year. Card­board cutouts will suf­fice to enter­tain base­ball fans and online vir­tual con­certs intend to ser­e­nade lis­ten­ers.

    Back­yard grilling will be served to a restricted num­ber of peo­ple. No crowds or large par­ties allowed this year. Gath­er­ings will be lim­ited. Amaz­ingly, those respon­si­ble for feed­ing Amer­i­cans have shown remark­able resilience.

    Farm­ers in Cal­i­for­nia have bat­tled destruc­tive fires through­out major grow­ing regions this sea­son. Still, they con­tinue to har­vest, pack and ship.

    On the table, and with­out much inter­rup­tion, we con­tinue to eat our fresh pro­duce. Mel­ons, toma­toes, sweet corn, cook­ing veg­eta­bles and salad ingre­di­ents mag­i­cally find there way to the gro­cers and restaurants.