Posted in Essays, Favorites, Features, Food, Writing on 02/27/2013 11:37 am by Catherine
They arrived early on a Tuesday morning in a cardboard box. “1000 Red Worms,” read the label in large letters printed beneath the USPS tracking number. Return address: Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm. My mailman handed the package to me with no emotion, but I was excited. Inside were the catalysts for my latest experiment: vermicomposting. Or, to be less Latinate about it, composting with worms.
For Slate Magazine, I write about the 10,000 or so red wigglers currently residing in my kitchen.
Posted in Essays, Favorites, Features, Food, Writing on 09/02/2011 08:30 am by Catherine
In a piece for Slate, I wrote about the time when my husband and I ate a rabbit we found in the middle of the road. I was not anticipating that they would illustrate it.
It really was a good-looking rabbit. Shiny coat, sleek body, glassy eyes—only its mangled back leg hinted at its violent cause of death. My husband Peter and I had come across this rabbit on a trip to a bird sanctuary in Gridley, Calif. It was lying in the middle of a narrow country road, stretched stiffly across the pavement; Peter swerved slightly to avoid its body.
“That was a pretty rabbit,” he said, guiding the car back into the correct lane.
I agreed. We continued down the road in silence. Then, several hundred meters later, Peter spoke again.
“Should we go back and pick it up?”
He was suggesting that we take the rabbit home and eat it. Yes, I’m aware that this sounds crazy. And no, I’m not a back-to-the-land hippie: I grew up in Manhattan, where eating something off the street will likely result in an untimely death. But we were living in Oakland, Calif., dangerously close to Berkeley—the epicenter of the organic food movement, where the words local andsustainable are prized more than Michelin stars. This rabbit was wild, grass-fed, and presumably antibiotic- and artificial hormone-free. Except for the car that had hit it, no food miles had been accrued delivering it to us. So why not bring it home for dinner?
This is the best headline ever.
Posted in Diabetes, Essays, Favorites, Features, Food, Health, The Reluctant Diabetic, Writing on 08/30/2011 09:24 am by Catherine
Before I received the diagnosis that I had Type 1 diabetes, I saw food as food, and ate it as such — simply, casually, with no real thought attached.
The winter of my senior year of college, after a bad cold and a painful breakup, I began eating more — not to cope, but to feel full. I was hungry, always hungry. Hungry and thirsty and tired, piling my tray in the dining hall with pasta, cheese, dessert, getting up in the middle of the night to slurp water from my dorm’s bathroom faucet.
I gorged myself and yet my pants were looser, my arms thinner, my stomach flatter. One afternoon I threw it all up, convinced I had food poisoning. My stomach eventually settled but my mind did not. The world swirled. I couldn’t stand without stumbling. On February 17th, 2001, I entered the hospital, and since that day, food has never been the same.
Tara Parker-Pope at the New York Times recently published an essay of mine in the Well blog called “Thinking About Diabetes With Every Bite.” about my experience living with Type 1 diabetes. Not only was I thrilled to have such a personal piece placed in the Times, but I’ve been incredibly touched by the wonderful feedback I’ve gotten from other people with Type 1 (and Type 2). It’s inspired me to keep writing about diabetes — if you want to read more, check out my Reluctant Diabetic blog over at the diabetes website, A Sweet Life.
Posted in Essays, Favorites, Features, Food, Writing on 08/14/2011 03:03 pm by Catherine
Standing in the middle of the room at the Sweetwater Distillery in Petaluma, Calif., Bill Owens held a feedbag full of stale donuts high in the air. With a crowd gathered around him, he dumped its contents — chocolate glazed, jelly-filled, iced with sprinkles — into a tank filled with hot water and plunged an industrial mixer into the liquid, splattering warm, sticky bits onto anyone who stood too close. A dog wandered up and began licking the floor.
As part of my research for this article about moonshine for Salon, I got the chance to track down local distillers and sample their homemade spirits. (And no, drinking moonshine isn’t actually against the law.) My advice? Beware the slivovitz.
(The piece also got picked up by the New York Times’s Idea of the Day Blog.)
Posted in Essays, Favorites, Features, Food, Health, Writing on 07/07/2011 04:57 am by Catherine
Me, my ladies, and the mechanical milker.
If you spend two weeks in close proximity to goat udders, it’s inevitable that you’ll think differently about your own breasts.
Or at least that’s what happened to me. My husband and I had signed up to spend two weeks volunteering on a French farm where the farmer took one look at our soft hands and assigned us to what he considered his easiest job: milking the family’s 27 dairy goats. And so once in the morning, once in the evening, Peter and I wheeled out the milking canisters and pumping gear (this was not a hand-extraction affair), lined up the goats at a feeding trough, and worked our way through the herd.
The monotony of the task was strangely satisfying, and I found myself looking forward to my time with the ladies, as I called them, skittish and ornery, with soft ears and narrow,Avatar-like pupils. Much like women’s breasts, their udders came in all shapes and sizes. Some were huge and swollen, bumping into the goat’s back knees as she waddled up to the milking station. Others would barely have qualified for a training bra. Some goats had lopsided udders, including one young animal whose left teat was so tiny that we didn’t bother to milk it.
Usually, there’s a clear distinction in my mind between the pasteurized, cereal-friendly stuff I buy in the grocery store and the baby-nourishing liquid that may one day emanate from my chest. But as I worked my way up and down the goats’ ranks, massaging their udders to help the flow, the difference between the two became less obvious. I found myself suddenly very curious about milk.
For Slate, I write about Deborah Valenze’s new book, Milk: A Global and Local History, and how it has forever changed my view of goats.
Posted in Essays, Favorites, Features, Food, Photography, Travel on 05/26/2011 07:01 am by Catherine
As I took a bite, the flavor that greeted me revealed another important distinction between American and Mongolian cuisine. In America, even a dish as straightforward-sounding as “Fat-Wrapped Liver Chunks” would probably include a few unnamed, yet complementary ingredients like onions, or salt. But in Mongolia, the title says it all. Like everything we ate that night, my first bite had not been salted. It contained no herbs or spice. It was exactly what I knew it was: the liver of the sheep I’d just watched die.
For Slate Magazine, I write about what it really means to attend a traditional Mongolian feast — and why I’d prefer never to do so again.
Posted in Favorites, Features, Food, Travel, Writing on 01/30/2011 06:36 am by Catherine
When my husband Peter ordered the fried tarantulas at Romdeng, a restaurant in Phnom Penh that specializes in traditional Khmer food, he was hoping that he wouldn’t notice he was eating spider.
I know that sounds delusional, but lots of fried foods bear little resemblance to their original ingredients. Think of popcorn shrimp. Or a corn dog. There was a chance that the spiders would arrive so coated in batter that their true arachnid nature would be camouflaged, nothing but a stomach-turning afterthought.
“I bet they’ll be dipped in tempura,” said Peter, as we waited for them to arrive.
“Like a zucchini fritter,” I said supportively.
But neither of us was convinced.
Peter and I had many adventures during our seven months on the road. One of them: eating deep fried tarantulas in Phnom Penh. I wrote about the experience for National Geographic’s Intelligent Travel blog.
Posted in Favorites, Food, Health, Writing on 04/22/2010 07:44 pm by Catherine
I’ve got a small piece in Men’s Journal about the resurgence of small batch distillation. It’s called White Whiskey:
If the greater number and variety of local and regional spirits at your neighborhood liquor store have you tempted to call micro-distillation a cool new trend, you’d be half-right — it’s more of a comeback. Early Americans were masters at turning harvests into hard alcohol using corn, potatoes, grain, apples, grapes — almost anything they could get their hands on. Converting food to booze didn’t just preserve the value of perishable crops; it also created a rich repertoire of homemade liquors, from rye whiskey, vodka, and bourbon to applejack, peach brandy, and unaged fruit spirits known as eau-de-vie.
I also did a big package about the spine called “The Complete Guide To Your Back” — also for Men’s Journal — but I can’t find it online except for this mention. Suffice it to say that you usually don’t need surgery, and that if you’re really hurting, you can ease the pain by sampling some small batch spirits.
Posted in Favorites, Features, Food, Travel, Writing on 12/18/2009 01:59 pm by Catherine
Last weekend I had the pleasure not just of attending a workshop about chocolate, but of writing about it for the New York Times.
Wearing a short-sleeve shirt embroidered with his name, Mr. Recchiuti, whose shop is in the Ferry Building Marketplace, looked more like a mechanic than a fine chocolatier — albeit one with cocoa powder on his hands instead of grease.
He greeted each of his 19 students with a spoonful of liquid chocolate and a white plate holding eight samples arranged like numbers on a clock, with a small bowl with two roasted cocoa beans and a pinch of chocolate-covered barley — a “taste project” — at the center. The students would taste single-origin varieties of chocolate from around the world, and watch Mr. Recchiuti transform chocolate into confections that presumably could be replicated at home.
Posted in Essays, Favorites, Features, Food, Writing on 03/25/2009 08:38 am by Catherine
Ordinarily, I would never eat turnips. I managed to go 30 years without buying one. But now every winter I’m faced with a two-month supply, not to mention the kale, collards, and flat-leaf Italian parsley that sit in my refrigerator, slowly wilting, filling me with guilt every time I reach past them for the milk. After three years of practice, I’ve figured out simple ways to deal with most of these problem vegetables: I braise the turnips in butter and white wine; I sauté the kale and collards with olive oil and sea salt; I wait until the parsley shrivels and then throw it out. The abundance of roughage is overwhelming.
I subscribe to a CSA —a program, short for “community supported agriculture,” in which you pay in advance for a weekly box of fresh produce delivered from a local organic farm. For the most part, it’s great — until you reach your seventh straight week of radishes and start to lose the faith. I wrote for Slate about my attempts to get it back.