After a whirlwind 8 years of living, learning and exploring in New York City, Prague, Paris, Moldova and India and countless travels around the world; I'm back home in Georgia figuring out what to do next.
Sweet Potato and Black Bean burgers. A gluten free and vegan alternative to the burger. They were quite good although I used WAY too much ginger. Will have to make it again. My sister just made her second one. Success!
Filing this under Things We’re Desperately Looking Forward To.
Adam Roberts argues that atheists have something to teach the followers of Jesus:
God is happy with his other creations living their lives without activelybelieving in him (which is to say: we can assume that the whale’s leaping up and splashing into the ocean, or the raven’s flight, or the burrowing of termites is, from God’s perspective, worship; and that the whale, raven and termite embody this worship without the least self-consciousness). On those terms, it’s hard to see what He gets from human belief in Him — from human reduction of Him to human proportions, human appropriation of Him to human projects and battles, human second-guessing and misrepresentation.
He goes on:
What should believers do if they discover that their belief is getting in the way of their proper connection to God? Would they be prepared to sacrifice their faith for their faith? For the true believer, God is always a mysterious supplement, present in life but never completely known, always in essence just beyond the ability of the mind to grasp. But for a true atheist, this is even more profoundly true: the atheist embraces the mysterious Otherness of God much more wholeheartedly than the believer does. To the point, indeed, of Othering God from existence itself.
The joys of being unemployed. Beer and gin rummy on a beautiful Thursday afternoon.
p.s. that’s a Gluten Free 3R Raspberry Ale. Not bad. A little on the fruity side and not enough on the hoppy side but it’ll do.
Those sweet eyes.
Published: December 3, 2012
I WAS gluten-free before it was cool to be. In 2000, a doctor told me I was allergic to wheat, barley and rye, and said that avoiding gluten was the only way to end my stomach pains and chronic lethargy. So I had to give up tagliatelle, Belgian-style ale, granola and — I feared — cooking for friends.
Back then, I had been the rare 20-something New Yorker who loved to bake for roommates and give dinner parties for 12 people crowded around a long table. I didn’t want to stop entertaining. So I started defanging potential critics by announcing a dish was gluten-free, thereby lowering expectations. For dessert, I’d say cheerily, I used rice flour for the peanut-butter brownies (code for: sorry, they are a bit gritty.) Sometimes I settled for second-rate: zucchini fritters that tasted of the chickpeas in the gluten-free blend that I substituted for wheat flour.
That was then. These days, gluten-free entertaining doesn’t have to be a drag, as long as you’re willing to spend some time in the kitchen. Armed with superior ingredients like Schär bread crumbs and finely ground flours, it’s easier to pull off a feast that won’t disappoint the wheat-eaters at your table. And inspiration for gluten-free gluttons like me isn’t hard to find anymore, thanks to all the inventive cookbooks and instructive blogs with gorgeous recipes tempting enough to draw a crowd.
To prove that gluten-free was no longer synonymous with subpar, I set a challenge for myself: I would present a dinner party and not disclose the secret until the end. Goodbye, crutch.
The no-more-excuses crowd is growing. The rallying cry for the blog Autumn Makes and Does is, “No substitutions or good-enoughs here, just damn fine food that happens to be gluten-free.” Carol Kicinski, founder of Simply Gluten Free Magazine, which had its debut this month, said her bar was no longer set at whether it was good enough for gluten-free. “It’s just ‘Is it good?’ ” she said. In the past, Mrs. Kicinski, who has been gluten-free for 20 years, admitted to making pies and dinner rolls with wheat because she didn’t want to risk seeing disappointment at her dinners. “Whenever I had guests, I would feel insecure,” she said.
So could I pull off a feast so good, my guests wouldn’t be able to tell it was gluten-free?
I spent the summer inviting unsuspecting guinea pigs to see which dishes furrowed their brows and which succeeded as culinary Trojan horses. I hunted down cookbooks from chefs who were cheerfully (not militantly) gluten-free, like Aran Goyoaga, whose hearty, inventive fare is so marvelously presented and festive that few would guess it’s free of the elastic protein that helps make bread springy.
In fact, Ms. Goyoaga didn’t even want to put “gluten-free” on the cover of her cookbook,“Small Plates & Sweet Treats,” published last month. But her editor convinced her that the time was right. “A lot of people are looking for a cooking style that happens to be gluten-free that can be beautiful,” Ms. Goyoaga said. “You don’t have to feel deprived.”
Certainly there’s a big audience. People who have celiac disease have to avoid gluten, a protein in wheat, rye and barley that can damage their small intestines. But going gluten-free has become faddish, too, winning over athletes, celebrities and fashionistas, some of whom think it’s healthier or a way to lose weight.
For my party, I wanted an entree that guests wouldn’t expect could be wheatless. No shock in roasted chicken with balsamic glaze, after all. I had settled on Ms. Goyoaga’s ricotta gnocchi with an improbably bright watercress pesto, until I made her quinoa spaghetti with garlicky squid and niçoise olives. During one of my test-runs leading up to the big night, my friend Kate, as she tucked into this intricate dish sprinkled with toasted bread crumbs, swore in appreciation. Her boyfriend Nick said simply, “mmmmm.”
As for the guest list, I invited a couple, Alex and Amy, fund-raisers who have spent time in Italy, making them a discerning audience for pasta. My husband and sister were both in the know. But Victoria, a furniture designer, wasn’t aware that the evening would be gluten-free; neither were a couple I hadn’t seen in months: Mike, a teacher, and Dune, a reporter.
For appetizers, I served a surprise (a savory shortbread) and then a must-have morsel (mushrooms stuffed with spicy sausage and cheese).
Mike and Dune arrived first. After she was served a whiskey sour, Dune bit into a shortbread with a fig center and exclaimed, “What is this stuff?”
The jig was up, I figured. Deep breath. “Oh it’s blue cheese,” I said. I didn’t add that cheese from Point Reyes Farmstead is gluten-free. Instead of using wheat flour, I had substituted a cup of Gluten Free Mama’s almond blend, which I buy online (8 pounds, $30.58). I had long assumed that wheat flour was king. But some dishes are better with alternatives. I used almond flour, for example, for my crab cakes, which didn’t weigh down the lump meat.
I hoped the biggest surprise would be the quinoa spaghetti. Though I made everything else from scratch, the pasta came from a box. There is plenty of gluten-free spaghetti on the market whose texture is up to snuff. I went with Andean Dream, which is slightly earthy but delicious al dente.
I thought the entree passed with flying colors. Victoria liked the spicy kick. Dune wanted more toasted bread crumbs, Alex wanted less. But then Alex announced: “Something’s different here. What is that?”
I played dumb. “It’s spaghetti,” I said nonchalantly, and we moved on. The truth had to wait until after the cheesecake with hazelnut crust, drizzled with caramel. I had done a test run, eating a slice just as it cooled (light, airy) and then after a night of refrigeration (rich and moist) to see which way wowed. The recipe called for Cup4Cup, a gluten-free blend that was developed at the French Laundry in 2010 and now is sold online and at Williams-Sonoma (3 pounds, $19.95).
The blend was created by Lena Kwak, the president of Cup4Cup, who wanted a flour mix with a neutral taste that could pass for wheat, so she didn’t use bean flours. Instead, Ms. Kwak wanted people to be able to eat the same gluten-free dish and, as the slogan goes, “never know it.” “Food is such a social thing, breaking bread, sharing off a plate,” she said. It’s lonely if “your options none of your family members want to share.”
I decided to serve cheesecake I had made the morning of the party, because the lightness offset the hefty nutty crust. Also, my sister, usually a woman of restraint, once ate a quarter of the just-cooled version.
Thumbs up all around for the dessert: praise for the crust (“so good”) and for the surprisingly airy cake (“you expect it to be dense”).
Fortified with blueberry liqueur, I braced myself for criticism as I took guests aside to disclose that the meal had been gluten-free.
First, Alex and Amy. “The only tell was the pasta,” he said solemnly, then he added with borderline glee. “There was something different!” Sigh.
Amy said the pasta stuck out because “it was trying too hard.” The first course “didn’t have that doughiness that befalls all crab cakes,” she said. “They were moist on the inside, and crispy on the outside.”
Dune, Mike and Victoria were more surprised. Victoria liked the blue-cheese savories, but suggested making each cookie smaller — not because it crumbles, but because it overpowers the fig’s sweetness. Dune said everything delighted, but the pasta’s “consistency was off.” Read: mushy. Victoria, who sometimes eats gluten-free for long stretches, offered a defense on my behalf: “It’s not really subpar quality. This pasta just has a different consistency.”
Part of me lamented that I had not made the pasta, using the recipe from “Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef” by Shauna James Ahern and Daniel Ahern. Next time, I might serve RP’s fresh gluten-free linguine, which is available online and at some Whole Foods stores.
But Mike made me want to run a victory lap. “You made a complex pasta that had like seven ingredients,” he said. “If it was a simple pasta dish with only salt, I might have been able to tell, but I had no idea.”
Since the dinner, I’ve been savoring his parting words: “I couldn’t tell it was gluten-free.
Change is a motherfucker when you run from it. And right now, the conservative movement in America is fleeing from dramatic change that is certain and immutable. A man of color is president for the second time, and this happened despite a struggling economic climate and a national spirit of general discontent. He has been returned to office over the specific objections of the mass of white men. He has instead been re-elected by women, by people of color, by homosexuals, by people of varying religions or no religion whatsoever. Behold the New Jerusalem. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a white man, of course. There’s nothing wrong with being anything. That’s the point.
This election marks a moment in which the racial and social hierarchy of America is upended forever. No longer will it mean more politically to be a white male than to be anything else. Evolve, or don’t. Swallow your resentments, or don’t. But the votes are going to be counted, more of them with each election. Arizona will soon be in play. And in a few cycles, even Texas. And those wishing to hold national office in these United States will find it increasingly useless to argue for normal, to attempt to play one minority against the next, to turn pluralities against the feared “other” of gays, or blacks, or immigrants, or, incredibly in this election cycle, our very wives and lovers and daughters, fellow citizens who demand to control their own bodies.
“Hon A B Lincoln…
My father has just home from the fair and brought home your picture and Mr. Hamlin’s. I am a little girl only 11 years old, but want you should be President of the United States very much so I hope you wont think me very bold to write to such a great man as you are. Have you any little girls about as large as I am if so give them my love and tell her to write to me if you cannot answer this letter. I have got 4 brothers and part of them will vote for you any way and if you let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President. My father is going to vote for you and if I was a man I would vote for you to but I will try to get every one to vote for you that I can I think that rail fence around your picture makes it look very pretty I have got a little baby sister she is nine weeks old and is just as cunning as can be. When you direct your letter direct to Grace Bedell Westfield Chautauqua County New York.
I must not write any more answer this letter right off Good bye
Lincoln responded a few days later:
“Miss Grace Bedell
My dear little Miss
Your very agreeable letter of the 15th is received — I regret the necessity of saying I have no daughters — I have three sons — one seventeen, one nine, and one seven years of age — They, with their mother, constitute my whole family — As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affectation if I were to begin it now?
Your very sincere well wisher,
While he made no promises about the beard to Bedell, he stopped shaving and allowed the beard to grow not long after their exchange and was elected as the 16th president of the United States a few weeks later. On his inaugural train ride from Illinois to Washington, D.C., the president-elect stopped in Bedell’s hometown of Westfield, N.Y., and asked to meet her.
This line goes against all modern logic regarding political grooming: “All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President.” But you know what? If a presidential candidate grew a beard, I would vote for him.
“All the ladies like whiskers” is prime t-shirt material.
Reminiscing about my days (I’ve only been back for a week now) at the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Meenakshi Ashram in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India.
This was taken on one of our silent walks up the neighboring hill.
Just another night at an Indian ashram.
Watermelon juice in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India. Exquisite.
In honor of Paris, being young and poor and the love of writing:
“There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other. We always returned to it no matter who we were or how it was changed or with what difficulties, or ease, it could be reached. Paris was always worth it and you received return for whatever you brought to it. But this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy.”
Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast