all-light-cannot-see-anthony-doerr

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle – Two-Minute Book Review

Title: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle – A Year of Food Life

animal vegetable miracle barbara kingsolver
READ ME

Author: Barbara Kingsolver, with Stephen L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver

Other works: (by Barbara) The Poisonwood Bible, Prodigal Summer, Small Wonder, The Lacuna, The Bean Trees, etc.

Recommended by: Book Club! I also find that Kingsolver’s work recommends more of itself to be read.

Genre: Non-fiction/Cooking/Poetry (because honestly, everything she writes is full of poetic gorgeousness)

Main Characters: Her family – she, her husband, and two daughters – and the FOOD.

Opinions: I adored this book, as I expected to. I had read a bunch of her fiction, as well as non-fiction essays; Animal, Vegetable, Miracle has the added practical advice, recipes, and lots of horticulture that make it useful and educational, as well as just beautiful. I don’t remember all the opinions from the Book Club meeting, but it gets 4/5 on Goodreads.

A quotation I liked: “Human manners are wildly inconsistent; plenty of people have said so. But this one takes the cake: the manner in which we’re allowed to steal from future generations, while commanding them not to do that to us, and rolling our eyes at anyone who is tediously PC enough to point that out. The conspicious consumption of limited resources has yet to be accepted widely as a spirtual error, or even bad manners.”

What sticks with me: This book is not preachy, but it says a lot about sustainability and the realities of our food culture, especially in North America. It makes me think all the more often about where my food has come from, and whether I want to support the way it’s grown or exported. I also really really want to have dinner with the author.

Recommended to: Farmers, Gardeners, Foodies, Environmentalists, Poets, and people who don’t cook but want to start.

To sum up: Inspiring. Sometimes depressing, but mostly uplifting. Barbara’s writing is always full of compassion for humanity, and this book makes you feel like a friend in her warm kitchen.

***


 

Related Posts:

all-light-cannot-see-anthony-doerr

100 Happy Days – Day 36: Smiles

“See my new smile??” they ask. (And this picture reveals a love for three oranges! Well, clementines. AB was making an orange snowperson with them.)

croissant smiles

***


 

[ad name=”Med Rec”]

***

Related Posts:

all-light-cannot-see-anthony-doerr

100 Happy Days – Day 25: Black Lentils

I’ll be honest. This day was a hectic, somewhat crappy day. One of those days when my kids are simultaneously screaming before 8:30 a.m.; also, one of those days when I asked myself, “Why did I become a teacher again?” Sigh.

BUT.

There was this bag of mysterious legumes I’d accidentally bought months ago, thinking they were black beans. This was the morning I’d finally Googled “black matpe” and realized they’re just lentils.

1307018305770

Which was important because A) lentils are my FRIENDS, and B) curried black lentil soup (usually called Tarka Dal) is one of my top three things to order at an Indian restaurant.

So I easily found this slow-cooker recipe for Black Lentils, and put them on to cook during the workday.

Sean got home before I did that day and actually texted me: “What smells like delicious in here?!” He was the one who cooked up some basmati rice for us.

When I came home, I had the same lovely feeling of walking into a warm house that smells like delicious – and dinner’s basically ready to go. And here’s what my not-so-mysterious lentils looked like: THE REAL DEAL. They cooked up creamy and flavourful with minimal effort.

IMG_7463

As it happens, I didn’t have chiles, cilantro, or mustard oil, and I used canned coconut milk/cream instead of whipping cream, but… IT WAS SOOOO YUMMY. And so easy. Not to mention vegan and gluten-free.

Happy.

***


 

[ad name=”Med Rec”]

***

Related Posts:

all-light-cannot-see-anthony-doerr

Please Don’t Wish Me “Happy Turkey Day”

turkey
Turkey appears courtesy of my son.

Don’t worry: this is not an angry rant or even a grumpy one. A little persnickety, perhaps. It might not even qualify as a rant.

I would just like to ask that you wish me Happy Thanksgiving this year, instead of Happy Turkey Day.

I know y’all are excited about your turkey. Some of you look forward to your roasted bird all year long, and it’s your very favourite thing. That’s great! The more you relish the foods you love, the more they are worth eating.

But Thanksgiving does not deserve to be renamed “Turkey Day.”

{OMG. Is it me, or is the word “turkey” starting to look totally bizarre?}

It’s not just that I’m a vegetarian and haven’t eaten turkey since I was thirteen. I mean, sure, that does factor in; folks write about Turkey Day on their Facebook walls and I’m all, Don’t suppose you’d like to wish ME a Happy Lentil Pie Day? Because trust me, Lentil Pie is a very happy-making food. (By the way, if you are one of those FB “Turkey Day” rhapsodizers, no hard feelings. I still love you.)

It’s not that I wish we could talk more about Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower, or Puritans and Native peoples eating together (they probably ate at least as much venison as turkey anyway).

Mostly, I wish to be wished a Happy Thanksgiving because of the thanks-giving part.

IMG_4990
Appreciating simple gifts.

Let’s be honest: most of our mainstream holidays reek of commercialism at this point. Valentine’s Day is about chocolate, Easter is about chocolate, Victoria Day is about fireworks and drinking, Christmas is about shopping, Boxing Day is about shopping, and, in the U.S., Thanksgiving is about shopping too. Well, that and football.

I’m not saying we must all devoutly return to the religious and/or patriarchal and/or monarchist roots of each holiday. But, at the risk of sounding sanctimonious, could we just keep this one holiday, at least in Canada, for thankfulness?

IMG_5030
Autumn colours are good for the brain.

Yes, it’s undeniable that Thanksgiving is revolves around a certain amount of consumption. But ideally, it’s the simpler side of consumption – and one time when we all consume with reverence. When we think of words like harvest and plenty and gratitude, and really feel their meanings deep in our souls.

These days, most of us don’t do things like get our hands in the soil, or pray for rain, or reap the literal fruits of our labour. Despite this – or perhaps because of this – we need to keep in mind that being nourished is a profound blessing. It’s important to think of what it took for that food to be on our table.

beets
Seriously magnificent food.

I look forward to Thanksgiving because of those beautiful moments where gratitude is almost tangible. Walking in chilly autumn sun. Catching a glimpse of bright trees against sky that renders me speechless. Coming inside and having my glasses fog up in the sudden coziness. Smelling delicious things cooking (even the ones I’m not going to eat). Looking past candle flames at a feast of colourful foods, and a circle of people I love.

It’s good for our souls to not just notice, but cherish, our good fortune. Especially the simple gifts.

Thanksgiving is the point.

***


 

Related Posts:

all-light-cannot-see-anthony-doerr

Remembering What We’re Built To Do

sunshine through the trees
Image from http://www.ForestWander.com

When I was 18, a boy at Camp wrote a poem for me. Although I didn’t requite his crush, I still consider his poem one of the most romantic things I’ve ever received, because of its candour. The second line was “She’s just like sunshine through the trees,” and to this day I still feel kinda thrilled about that. Sunshine through the trees is one of my favourite things in the whole world.

A while back, I heard on CBC about a study showing that spending time in green space improves our mental health. Apparently, being in the presence of leafy trees actually makes us happier.

I think most of us can vouch for this. At the end of a long, white winter, I’m sure I am not alone in feeling an almost physical thirst for those luscious green leaves. It’s nice to get this confirmation: we are built to feel that way.

Family Camp at NeeKauNis last month was full of reminders of the things we are built to do and enjoy.

Here we are, in the age of modern medicine, where Westerners rarely worry about diseases that used to kill us in great numbers – smallpox and tuberculosis, for example – and we’ve handily encouraged a phalanx of new maladies all by ourselves.

We eat packaged food so far removed from its sources that we don’t even recognize the ingredients; then we wonder why we have troubles with our various organs and our energy levels.

We’ve surrounded ourselves with harmful chemicals in our food, clothes, grass, household products, and everything plastic; then we are devastated when opportunistic cancers have a field day.

We spend hours a day sitting, hunched over some screen or other, often sacrificing sleep for addictive overstimulation; then we realize – too late, sometimes – that our heart or lungs or joints or brains don’t work properly anymore.

We live in our container-homes, put in our earbuds so no live people can distract us, and avoid eye contact with the humans who serve us coffee or check out our groceries; then we shake our heads at the rise of prescription anti-depressant use.

I’m not speaking in self-righteousness. I do most of these things too. I’m not condemning modern medicine either, or technology in general. I really appreciate the benefits of ultra-portable computers, affordable antibiotics, high-speed transportation, laparoscopic surgery, and the wondrous capacity of the internet. I like Cheetos and Toaster Strudel, I watch TV on Netflix, I love Facebook, and as I’ve mentioned, I am very grateful for the existence of prescription anti-depressants.

But when I’m in a restaurant and see a family of four at the next table, not speaking, each absorbed in a separate hand-held device, my husband and I look at each other and quietly vow: That will never be us.

And at Family Camp, I remember that when those contemporary facets of life drop away for a few days, it does good to every layer of our selves.

It helps that there are children of all ages there. They’re all over the things that humans are meant to do. Just watching and listening to them is therapy.

built for 3

Children run and jump and climb and slide. They laugh their heads off, and cry hard when they need to. They sing and dance with joy. They build and knock down. They splash and spin. They scrunch their fingers and toes in the sand. They get dirty with real dirt. They want stories, hugs, their own little space, and their own accomplishments.

I want those things, too.

When I think about what really, actually makes me feel good, it’s mostly simple things. The things I’m built to do. The same things humans have been doing for centuries – or longer.

Dancing until I am out of breath.

Cooking for someone I love.

Making art.

Getting lost in a great book.

built for 2

Sitting in dappled shade. (Sunshine through the trees.)

Hugging.

Plunging into cool water on a hot day.

built for 4

Sipping a hot drink on a cold day.

Listening to music I love – or better yet, making some.

Hearing breezes, birds, crickets, rivers, waves.

Writing.

Looking closely at something beautiful.

built for 6

Reading to my kids.

Going to bed when I’m really tired.

built for 5

Walking in fresh air.

Laughing.

Eating something truly delicious.

built for 1

Sharing thoughts and feelings with a friend.

Doing a job well.

Having an adventure.

I know, they read like clichés, worthy of a curlicued garden tile. But there are reasons the inspirational-message market is so successful. Mostly, it’s because

1) It really IS good for us to dance as if nobody’s watching, sing like nobody’s listening, etc., because we’re built to.

And

2) We busy humans are remarkably good at forgetting the value of those seemingly easy things.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the thousand little jobs you have to do on a daily basis. I could easily spend all of every day doing small, necessary, basically mindless tasks. Which is not satisfying at all.

For me, I know, I need to think of those good-for-my-soul things as medicine. Taking my medicine is my responsibility, something I must do for my health. And in order to take it, I have to notice it. I have to be truly mindful and present.

That way, any time I can grab a bit of dappled shade or kid snuggles or good conversation, they will heal what ails me.

What precious things are you built to do?

***


 

Related Posts:

all-light-cannot-see-anthony-doerr

I am a square. (And such a fortunate one.)

This past Sunday, as you know, was Mother’s Day, and also my thirty-sixth birthday. It was pretty much as lovely as I could have wished for.

You also could say it started on Saturday, when I got to (1) take an impromptu nap on the reclining couch upon arrival at my parents’ house, while members of my family took my children outside to play, and (2) travel to Toronto, footloose and fancy(/kid)-free, get treated to dinner with my brother and sisters and Uncle D, and get treated to see Auntie Beth perform in a choir concert with Singing OUT.

Baby AB gave me my first Mother’s Day gift on Sunday by sleeping in until EIGHT a.m. before asking for mama-snacks. First time! WOOT!!

My children also gave me a new snazzy purple lunch bag as a gift (not at all orchestrated by my Hubbibi, who was offended by my old lunch bag which was slightly on the dingy side).

The rest of my birthday included:

  • both of my immediate families, in full, plus one of my cousins and two of my aunts;
  • the best weather we’ve had so far this year;
  • lots of Facebook-friend love, and a call from my mom-in-law;
  • brunch – is there anything better than brunch?? – and on the DECK, no less;
IMG_6091
Finally!! Outdoor eating!
IMG_6097
Cranberry-lemon coffee cake by Emi, fruit and yogurt, chips (instead of home fries) and Reese’s Pieces (since I don’t eat bacon, of course). CUZ IT’S MY BIRTHDAY. And I’m pretty sure the food groups are covered.
  • a nap in the hammock;
  • treats all day long;
IMG_6098
Smartfood and homemade strawberry spritzer by Beth. Brought to me like I was a princess or something. 🙂
  • getting to fix one of my costumes with hardly any interruption;
  • stories and playing and hugs and kisses with my living kids;

IMG_6089

  • quiet time to reflect on and remember the one I can’t hug;
  • a family walk along the trail to the boardwalk (during which we thrillingly saw dogs, birds, frogs, bugs, snakes, AND a surprise geocache!)
image(1)
A mama, two uncles, a wee hiker, and an auntie (photo by Luc).
image
We like peering into the fascinating world of the marsh (photo by Luc).
  • attractive gifts with which to adorn myself;
  • a free massage from D (who is studying to be a naturopathic doctor and managed to give me more neck mobility than I’ve had in weeks);
  • barbecued Portobello-Swiss burgers with tomato and avocado, followed by peanut butter cup ice cream;
  • coming home to a very clean house, thanks to my Hubbibi.

It did not include:

  • dishwashing (by me);
  • meal preparation (by me);
  • housework of any kind (by me);
  • or a single diaper change (by me).

IT WAS AWESOME. I couldn’t ask for any more. Thank you, sweet family.

***


 

Related Posts:

all-light-cannot-see-anthony-doerr

Toddler Tracks: Baby AB and the Snackalicious Journey

Dear Baby AB,

Here’s another chapter of the Chronicles of You at One Year and a Half. This one’s about food!

You and food have a great relationship. I’m really glad I read Child of Mine by Ellyn Satter (thank you, Leslie) and Baby-Led Weaning by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett (thank you, Megan) before you started solid food, because you are quite a flexible and enthusiastic eater of all kinds of great things. I sure hope you stay that way!

You have enjoyed lasagne and chili and vegetable stirfry and spinach omelette. You showed a liking for curried vegetables and lentils before you were even one year old. Most recently, you delighted in some quiche with red peppers and kale, and some potato leek soup.

It is such a relief to have a kid who eats a variety of foods. (No offense to your brother, especially because I partly blame myself for his pickiness, but his rigidity regarding food is exhausting.)

There are a few things you won’t eat so far – cauliflower and avocado come to mind – but you’ll try almost anything.

Of course, you have your favourite things – things that you get vocal about. Pancakes and pizza are two examples. You see a pizza box and you go all “Pizza! PIZZA! PIZZA!!!” Like a kid from a commercial.

Also, you munch on seaweed snacks like they’re going out of style, and your preferred cooked veggie is broccoli (which you originally called “boppily”).

IMG_5642
Broccoli roccs!

And you love chocolate. I don’t even know if we’d given your brother any chocolate by this age, but you first tried it many months ago, and fell directly in love. You only have it in very small amounts, but you’d eat lots if I let you. You always demand, in your most authoritative voice, “More chockit.”

chockit
Mmm. Chockit cookie.

And I’m going to have to watch out, because you’ve already been known to help yourself to foods that are within your reach. What a go-getter.

IMG_5277
If someone accidentally leaves the crackers in the living room, said crackers will be claimed.
IMG_5670
And if not, Baby AB takes matters into her own hands. Bonus: cupboard-sitting!

Mostly, it’s just fun watching you deal with food. Rice vermicelli is particularly funny.

And just lately, you really want to do it yourself. You’re surprisingly good with peas and a spoon. Yogurt and a spoon makes a big ol’ mess, but it’s hard to say no to your gusto (and I’m sure yogurt’s soothing on the skin). And I suppose your hair has probably benefited from the various greasy things you rub in there on a regular basis.

My most cherished hope, when I watch you relishing a meal, is that you will always have such a wonderful and healthy relationship with food. That you will always feel free to love eating, and enjoy all different kinds of cuisine. That you will be unafraid to own your appetite – and that, consequently, your appetite will never own you.

And just so you know… the most delicious thing in any room, at any moment, is your adorable self. *SMOOCH*

***


 

Related Posts: