In honor of Julia Child’s birthday, and because I am a slacker and our cable and internet were down today, I popped in the delightful little film Julie and Julia.  My favorite scenes almost exclusively involve the Julia and Paul side of the story, but watching this time, I felt a lot more connection to the Julie and Eric side than usual.
I am married to a very nice man.  He too works at an unsatisfying job where he is perpetually unappreciated, but it pays enough that I am not also forced to work at an unsatisfying job.  Trust me, he is better at it.  I have done the 8 to 5 cubicle thing, and I became a very hateful person.

So I have this great opportunity to be at home, to pursue my interests.  But it is so hard, and so very frustrating.  Life intrudes like an unwanted guest all the time.  Health issues leave me sick and drained.  School lessons need planned and taught.  We have 3 rehearsals a week.  Church obligations must be fulfilled.  The car needs an oil change, it is taking me 4 days to finish the laundry, I have to go to the market again, the garden is a disaster, and that stupid nasty hard water ring in the toilet just keeps coming back.
Sure, we all have these types of issues, and there are bigger ones too.  We’re not happy with where we live: we have outgrown our premature ideas, forged during the infancy of our marriage.  We ache for some land, to be out of noise and congestion.  We long to start somewhere fresh, where there is access to a larger atmosphere of the things we love and love to do.  I’m not simply bashing our current hometown, frustrating as it is, but I find it harder and harder, sometimes moment by moment, to gain any fresh perspective when turning down the same streets, seeing the same landmarks, living the same routine, and nothing really ever changes. 

Some folks are perfectly content with this sort of life, and that is perfectly ok.  I am not wired that way, and neither is my husband.  We are explorers at heart, both knowing that there is a great big, wide world out there waiting to be experienced, to show us new things, to wake us up and scare us a little, to make us cry and laugh.

So how do you?  I meant that question, in all its ambiguity.  When you don’t rightly know for what you are searching, you have to start with very generalized questions.  We know the things that excite us.  We know the things for which we yearn.  I love food in every way, shape and form.  I really do want to try this writing thing.  I love to sing and want to be so much better at it.  I am teaching my daughter how to learn and fostering her curiosity and talents.  I love my husband.  He is so intelligent, so gifted, and ever so tolerant.  No one else on this earth could possibly put up with me. 

And so I try.  Some days I succeed, many days I fail.  I fall flat on my face.  Everything is disappointing.  But I so want to do better, to go further, to accomplish…something.  So I cook, we eat, we travel, we sing, I write, I teach.  We just keep swimming, so to speak, having enough pragmatism to know that all of life is a huge process that really never stops.  I just hope at some point we can breathe, and that we can get really excited.  About something.


GardenGate 2012, Spring, Part I

Today is Monday, 07 May, 2012.  Started putting things in the ground yesterday and hoping and praying for a much better season than last years wet, blighted debacle.  So far:

Tomatoes: 8
Strawberries: 12?
Hot Chili Pepper: 1 in container
Various Herbs
Collards: 2
Various greens and lettuces

What's going in for you so far?


Not Much

My house smells like a giant vat of French fries, and I am eating ice cream for dinner.  Because I can.  Nah nah.  That is all.


Tags, Balls, Brews, and Stew: Happy St. Patrick's Day!

This St. Patrick’s Day was definitely a memorable one, and the memories have nothing to do with green beer, drunkenness, cabbage, or shamrocks. This past Saturday, the family got together to tag and/or band calves at Innisfree farm, where my older brother and sister-in-law raise pastured beef cattle, beautiful chickens for eating and eggs, and goats. 
If you have never slogged through shin-deep cow shit trying to wrangle wayward and completely uncooperative calves, my friends you have not lived.  I’m sure the scene was every bit as ridiculous as it sounds, and I am thankful no one bothered to record our pathetic efforts.  Trust me, you will never feel more inadequate as a biped with feet and toes than while chasing a hoofed hairy beast around the perimeter of a barnyard.  Humph.  Eventually, though, our shenanigans wore him down and he trotted into the barn with little intervention.  Whatever.  You are hamburger to me anyway.
By using our far superior (?) brain power, we were finally able to corral all the calves into two pens in the barn.  Outside, the mama cows hollered in protest, seriously pissed off with the new arrangements.  If there were ever a bovine spin-off of Springer (awesome Far-Side, if you ask me), I imagine the set would sound much like these cows, a bunch of baby mama drama, bitches hollerin’  and carryin’ on.  Hehehe. 
So now, let the fun begin!  You remember those choose-your-own-adventure books from grade school?  (Man, I loved those books.  I think I checked out every one from our library!)  Sweet, now follow me:
You have a pen full of calves.  If you choose a bull, turn to page 15.  If you have a heifer, turn to page 21.  If you do not yet know the sex of your calf, continue reading, then choose a page.
Lift the tail of the calf.  If you see balls, you have a male.  If there are no balls, you have a female.  If you do not know what balls look like, um, Google bull balls.  You’ve been warned.
Page 15:
If the bull calf is large, continue your adventure on this page.  If the bull is small, turn to page 30.
Release large bull calf out of pen and into “O.R.” pen, taking care to warn family members of incoming large beast.  Corral calf into stanchion, preferably head first (If not head first, you will have to get him turned around, a very entertaining task indeed!), dropping the Gate of No Return behind him.  Have someone strong and competitive (in this case my younger brother) thread two large heavy bars through the slats of the stanchion, progressively boxing in the calf so he cannot move (Think foosball!).  Make sure head brace is firmly locked around calf’s head.  Further immobilize calf with cargo straps.  Determine size of bull’s balls to determine size of banding castrator needed (I really think you should name them Denny, like the Eliminator or something else intimidating and scaring sounding!).  Attach band to castrator, have someone tall reach over and hold up tail (again my younger brother, but I did this part too), and um, band away, praying that the band doesn’t break and you’ve chosen the right size (They band instead of cutting to avoid infection).
Once banding is complete, move to front of animal, wait on your sister to produce properly labeled ear tag, and give him some jewelry, just like at Clare’ s .  Release him outside (where my husband and other S-I-L were waiting to guide him along) to his bellering mama, where he can complain and eat. 
Page 30:
Release small bull calf out of pen and into “O.R.” pen, taking care to warn family members of incoming small beast.  Corral calf into stanchion, preferably head first (If not head first, you will have to get him turned around, a very entertaining task indeed!), dropping the Gate of No Return behind him.  Have someone strong and competitive (in this case my younger brother) thread two large heavy bars through the slats of the stanchion, progressively boxing in the calf so he cannot move (Think foosball!).  The head brace will be too large to secure the head, so attach a horse lead around the calf and have another family member (myself or my S-I-L) pull and hold lead securely around the gate of the pen.  Further immobilize calf with cargo straps.  Determine size of bull’s balls to determine size of banding castrator needed (I really think you should name them Denny, like the Eliminator or something else intimidating and scaring sounding!).  Attach band to castrator, have someone tall reach over and hold up tail (again my younger brother, but I did this part too), and um, band away, praying that the band doesn’t break and you’ve chosen the right size (They band instead of cutting to avoid infection).
Once banding is complete, move to front of animal, wait on your sister and/or S-I-L  to produce properly labeled ear tag, and give him some jewelry, just like at Clare’ s .  Release him outside (where my husband and other S-I-L were waiting to guide him along) to his bellering mama, where he can complain and eat. 
*NOTE: Very young bulls are too young to band.  You will need to wait a few months and then repeat this whole happy process then.
Proceed to end of story.
Page 21:
Congratulations!  You have a girl!  No banding needed!  They will give you attitude though, so don’t think you got off scot-free. 
Release heifer out of pen and into “O.R.” pen, taking care to warn family members of incoming beast.  Corral calf into stanchion, preferably head first (If not head first, you will have to get her turned around, a very entertaining task indeed!), dropping the Gate of No Return behind her.  Have someone strong and competitive (in this case my younger brother) thread two large heavy bars through the slats of the stanchion, progressively boxing in the calf so she cannot move (Think foosball!).    If the calf is large, secure head in head brace, making sure it is securely locked.  If calf is small, secure head with a horse lead, pulled tight around the gate of the pen and held by another family member (myself or my S-I-L).  Wait ever so patiently on sister for properly labeled ear tag, and give her some new jewelry, just like Clare’s.
Release her outside (where my husband and other S-I-L were waiting to guide her along) to her bellering mama, where she can complain and eat. 
Proceed to end of story.
End of story:
Do this about 16 times, so you are good and tired, sweaty, and very dirty.  Keep yourself going with thoughts of juicy hamburgers and grilled steaks.  Have small family members (my daughter) keep you hydrated.
Huzzah!  You are done (for today)!  Spray off, drink a Guinness, and eat some stew.  Happy St. Patty’s Day!

A Sort of Irish Stew
Serves 6-8
• 2 lbs. stewing lamb, cut into roughly 1-inch pieces
• coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 2 large sprigs’ worth fresh rosemary
• extra virgin olive oil
• 1 cooking onion, peeled and roughly chopped
• 3 carrots, roughly chopped
• 2 lbs waxy fingerling potatoes, cut in half if large
• ½ c pearl barley
• 1 ½ c Guinness, or other Irish stout
• 4 c homemade or good quality beef or chicken stock
• 5 or 6 Irish bangers, cut into thirds
Preheat oven to 350°.  Thoroughly dry lamb pieces and season with salt and pepper.  Heat a heavy bottomed pot (I use my Dutch oven) over medium high heat, and swirl in olive oil, enough to cover bottom of pot.  When oil is hot, brown lamb pieces on 2 sides until they are very nicely browned (Don’t be impatient; let them get some really nice color.).  Work in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan.  Put lamb on a plate and set aside.
Turn heat down to medium, swirl in some more oil, and add onions and carrots.  Cook until softened.  Add lamb, potatoes, rosemary, barley, beer, and stock.  Bring to a boil.  Turn off heat and nestle sausage pieces into top of stew.  Cover and cook in oven until lamb is soft, about 1 hour.
*This stew tastes even better when made a day ahead!
Remove stew from oven and season to taste with coarse salt and pepper.  I served this with Irish brown bread, soda bread, and salted butter.  Wash it all down with your favorite Irish brew!  Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


Cleveland Part Deux, Hannah

 At the carnival I ate cotton candy, pork, beef tongue, fried chicken crepe, and a parfait.  I saw a game, masks, glowing glasses, prizes, a Japanese Manga cartoon, grilling meat outside, and noodle cats at the carnival.  I shot little balls of paper and played the game almost the whole time.  I also ate a lot.  While I played the game I won lots of prizes.  These are some of the prizes I won.  I won little plastic trucks, a boat, explosives, and a game.  My favorite parts were the noodles, the game, and the prizes.

Cleveland Part Deux, Jennifer

So for a variety of reasons, some legitimate and some just lame, I never got around to posting anything more about our food trip to Cleveland.  Here’s the thing about me and writing: we have a very hot/cold relationship.  Sometimes I get a little excited and can’t wait to pen something witty and informative.  Other times (in all honesty, most of the time), I really could care, or seem to care, less.  I always feel guilty about NOT doing it, but that state of mind rarely is enough to send me scurrying to the keyboard.

Anyway, the main event of our trip was the “Japanese Carnival” created by Fresh Street and hosted by Noodlecat.  Huh?  Yeah, I know.  To most, this sentence makes no sense, unless you are a big food nerd like me.  So, let me explain.

 Not so long ago, in a foodie town (Columbus) near me (thankfully), two young talented foodie-type people (Kenny Kim and Misako Ohba) started up a food cart named, um, Foodie Cart.  They made and sold Japanese crepes, and were very successful. 

“Ummm…Japanese crepes.  I don’t see the appeal of French-Japanese fusion.”  Be still, my friends.  There will be no talk of thin pancakes filled with sake-infused escargot.  These crepes are a thin, crispier, butter-less shell containing Japanese-inspired fillings riffed in endlessly creative ways (think kalbi short-rib and bulgogi cheese steak).

Eventually, warm weather turned cold (except for this year’s “faux-winter”, as I have just dubbed it), and our dynamic caped crepers closed down for the winter, but set their sights on the next spring.
And thus was born Fresh Street.  And Japanese balls.  Oh please people, get your minds out of the gutter.  Sheesh.  I am simply referring to takoyaki.  The traditional are octopus-filled dumplings, but they also offered different versions including Japanese sausage and okonomiyaki, containing shredded cabbage.  Mmmmm, balls.

Now this is the interesting part. You know, the part where I come in (hehehe).  Knowing the Good Husband and I were headed over to Columbus for a couple days, I cranked up the internets in search of new and exciting Columbus food adventures.  I headed over to alteatscolumbus.com, a great site for interesting eating info, and found: Section 8 Yakitorium!

So, our crepers, and now ballers (ahem), have not been content to rest on their culinary laurels.  They have struck a deal with the owners of Double Happiness (Should I be alarmed by the continual innuendo in this post?  Nah.), and are now serving crazed and inspired yakitori in a trippy Hunter S. Thompson-meets- Quentin Tarantino spot in the Brewery District (This experience deserves its own post, on which I am still working.). 

We show up, we eat and drink, we are curiously satisfied, and we become privy to some very interesting info via an overheard conversation right before heading out.  I excitedly inserted myself into a conversation with Kenny Kim once I heard him mention he was doing a “pop-up” event in Cleveland in a few weeks.  At the same time I had planned our first mother/daughter foodie trip to Cleveland.  Sweet!  What are the chances?

So, I’m sitting here talking food and things related with Mr. Kim, a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic young guy, the kind of conversation about food I absolutely love.  The- rush-of-excitement-incomplete-thought-I-don’t-have-to-spell-things-out-for-you-because-I-already-know-you-know-what-I’m-talking-about-because-you-are-as-insane-when-it-comes-to-food-as-I-am kind of conversation.  He tells me that they are doing a pop-up food event, host by the restaurant Noodlecat (Asian noodle joint recently opened by Greenhouse Tavern owner Chef Jonathon Sawyer) in Cleveland.  It will have a Japanese carnival theme, with all sorts of great foodstuffs.  Then he offered to sell me his food cart, on a payment plan if need be.  Sigh.  Someday perhaps, but not this day.

 Once back home in good ol’ Dayton, I purchased our tickets online, and a few weeks later, we were there!  
I must caveat my experience at the carnival at this time.  I was far from feeling well, but based on my excitement to try more Fresh Street foodstuffs and to introduce my daughter to the yumminess, and the fact that I had shelled out more than a few bucks to be a part of this adventure, we were going, no matter how loudly my stomach cursed me. 

So, we went.  The atmosphere seemed a little strange at first, but once we realized (kind of) what was going on around us, we just plunged in.  Strewn about were little toys and prizes, blinking oversized glasses, funny plastic masks.  A little game had been set up involving shooting down little origami balls (Really?  Again?) with a toy gun or bow and arrow.  You can guess where my daughter spent most of her time. 

As for the food, it was really quite tasty and as creative as expected.  Here is what we ate:

Crepes: bulgogi cheesesteak, chicken karaage (The cheese steak was the winner for me.)

Yakitori/Kushiyaki: pork cheek, pork belly, beef short rib, beef tongue, chicken wings (Um, yes, all were delicious.  The type of food I could eat every day.)

Ramen (Hannah’s favorite, she gobbled up most of it herself.  Mommy’s little piggy!)

Cotton Candy (Little pink tufts, perfect for a young girl.)

Japanese dessert “parfait” (The most interesting and unexpected offering of the night, a combination of I think, maybe, tea-infused? mochi balls, red bean paste, strawberries, gelee cubes, and whipped cream.  A carnival of textures and flavors, very apropos for the evening!)

Thunderkiss Pour-over coffee: Harrar (This coffee was quite excellent, despite the fact that I was now in the throes of major GI distress!)

All in all, an evening well spent among fellow food adventurers.  And I even got to meet Chef Sawyer’s mom.  Pretty cool.


Slogging Through the Mire

Life is always stressful.  Curveballs are constantly being thrown, the sand keeps shifting.  Walls go up, doors are slammed shut.  In general, I like to think I can keep one step ahead, I can maintain some semblance of perspective.  Lately, however, not so much.  There are times in all of our lives when the Force of Evil cracks his knuckles, and sets to work.  The boxing gloves go on, and he hits you with so many combination punches that your guts feel like jelly.  He’s a wily one, knowing just what spots, what feelings, are most vulnerable to attack, and that’s where he sets his focus.

I find myself at present with the tortuous gift of too much time on my hands.  I don’t mean to say that I am not busy, but I am one of “those people” who thrives on lots of activity, who loves having my hands in many pots while simultaneously dipping my toe into new waters.  I already think too much, and having extra time and fewer projects means my brain is smoking.  A lot has been stripped away lately, deeply emotional desires and wishes have yet to materialize, prayers are being answered in a language I cannot translate. 
I am slogging through the mire, my boots filling with muck, the fetid stench of rotting things assaulting and burning my eyes, nose, and throat.  So, how does one climb out?  Where is the firm land?  Frankly, I don’t think it exists, not temporally anyway.  All I really want to find is maybe two tall, straight, sturdy trees, between which I can string my humble hammock and rest awhile, before striking out, stronger for the rest, continuing on my life’s journey.

One factor has remained constant through this extended period of introspective philosophy: I still love food.  I love learning about it, reading about it, cooking it, eating it, discovering it.  Even through these difficult times, I still get excited about a new cookbook, a beautiful meal, a great food experience. 

Baby steps.  Baby steps.  The Road Less Taken would usually be my route, the more exciting path.  But at times like this sometimes you need to take the well-worn path of what you know, to reassure yourself of what makes you, you.  What I think can happen, and what I really hope will, is that while traveling along this path I will find a new offshoot.  I will stop to wipe my brow, and there beyond a set of branches I have passed a thousand times, I will spy a new trail.  The sun will filter down, bathing it in appealing light, that familiar giddy feeling will hit again, and hopefully I will be on my way.

In the meantime, I will keep reading, forcing myself to write, eating, and cooking.  Nothing too exciting has come out of this kitchen as of yet, but I am doing it, making things I know will not upset me at a time when I feel fragile.  A failure just might send me over the edge.

So what has been coming off the stove and out of the oven lately?  A virtual hodgepodge, really.  Sweet potato chowder, dried wild blueberry and bacon scones, ice cream (dark chocolate and vanilla), fish, shrimp, and chips, lentils, baked-bean style, buttermilk pancakes, fried rice, and eggs, lots and lots of eggs.  Tonight will be burgers with a fun Gloucester cheese studded with onion and chive, sweet potato biscuit and sausage breakfast sandwiches, and (hopefully, if I don’t lose steam) braised pork shanks.  I don’t know.  We’ll see.  I may lose all desire, start sinking again, and just pick up a pizza.  But I have to keep trying.  And praying.  And slogging.
Wild Blueberry and Bacon Scones
Makes 8
1 ¾ cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup light brown sugar
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
¾ cup old-fashioned oats
½ cup dried wild blueberries (or regular dried blueberries)
Zest of one lemon (preferably Meyer)
½ cup cooked chopped bacon (I use DLM thick-cut hickory-smoked)
¾ cup buttermilk
Egg Wash made of 1 egg and 1 tablespoon milk
Raw sugar for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 375° and place rack in center of oven.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside. 
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.  Add the butter to the flour mixture and using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs.   Add the oats, blueberries, zest, and bacon to the flour mixture and mix until everything is evenly distributed.  Add the buttermilk and stir until the dough just comes together.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead 4-5 times.  Pat into a 7-inch circle about 1 ½ inches thick.  Cut into 8 triangular pieces (like a pie) and transfer pieces to the sheet pan.  Brush tops of scones with egg wash and sprinkle tops with raw sugar.
Bake until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean, about 12-15 minutes.  Transfer to cooling rack.


Cleveland, Part 1, Jennifer

Thursday began our long-awaited inaugural food adventure to Cleveland, with an initial stop at one of my new favorite Mexican restaurants, Los Gauchos, in Columbus. Some of you may say, “Really? You drove over an hour for tacos?” To which I would reply, “Yes. And you should too.” Plus, Columbus is right on the way, so why not time a lunch stop involving serious Mexican deliciousness?

 Los Gauchos, a taqueria, got its start as a taco truck, which it still runs and I have every intention of patronizing when temperatures become friendlier. They put up a brick and mortar location on Godown Road fairly recently. This trip was only my second to their permanent location, but after that first experience, I was hooked. Those of you close to me know my inclination for anything wrapped in a tortilla and/or bearing Mexican flavors. I could seriously eat anything involving grilled meats, melty cheese, and fiery chiles every single day. No joke.

 So, on to the eats. For Hannah, a Gringa al Pastor and a Mandarin Jarritos. For me, a Torta al Pastor (we are both big pig fans) and a Mexican coke. Everything was muy delicioso, as expected. I, being the somewhat unwise one from time to time, decided to add a liberal amount of the house habaƱero salsa to half of my sandwich (at least my instincts took over and I only added it to half, a subconscious decision I was grateful for not 10 minutes later). The torta was so tasty, exactly as I had remembered it from ordering it the first time. Flavorful bits of pork, lettuce and tomato, creamy mayo, and the all-important bread. I am frustrated so many times by great sandwich potential that is completely ruined by crappy bread. No such problem in this case. As the chiles kicked in and my mouth and lips began to burn, I reflected on how far I had come as far as fiery foods are concerned. No more “wimpy” meat for me. I will take the burn, and the high I get from it.

Satisfied, with full bellies and the hint of fire lingering, we headed out to finish the drive to Cleveland, looking forward to the meals yet to come.

Cleveland, Part 1, Hannah

On Thursday, I went to Los Gauchos with Mommy and got a Gringa al Pastor. It had pork, cheese, flour tortilla, onion, cilantro, lime, and pineapple. I had a mandarin-flavored Jarritos to drink. While we were waiting for our food, Mommy took silly, hilarious pictures of us drinking our Mexican sodas. I thought Mommy was being funny.
I thought that my food was delicious. The pork and the pineapple that were in my food were yummy. I ate the whole Gringa al Pastor.

We finished eating, and went on with our exciting, fun trip to Cleveland!


Things that Make You Go "Moo"

I love dairy. Milk, ice cream, heavy cream, yoghurt, and especially, cheese. And frankly, I am tired of all the vilification cow’s milk and its products are receiving these days. Ok, let me clarify. The cow’s milk (and its resulting, yummy products) I am referring to and consuming is not the plastic jug you pick up from Speedway on the way home from work. That white product is a sad, indigestible mockery of what milk should be. I’m not referring to the paper cartons of frozen sugar and preservative-laden ice commonly accepted as ice cream in your grocer’s freezer. Nor am I talking about the iridescent, candy-filled, or the 90-calorie, dessert-mimicking substances laughingly called yoghurt lined up on dairy shelves. I will only address in passing that boxed gelatinous yellow rectangle that is meant to resemble cheese.
I am referring to REAL milk. The kind in a heavy glass bottle, the cream an impenetrable seal on the top that I have to shake the dickens out of just to pour. The kind that has that sweet essence of pasture grasses, there, just barely there, at the end of a satisfying draught. The milk that leaves me satisfied and satiated.

My family buys and drinks Hartzler’s Dairy milk almost exclusively (Unless the store is out, and then we “settle” for Snowville, a great product, but packed in a carton). And we buy it whole. Unadulterated, minimally processed, all its fat and nutrients intact.

“Oh, the horrors! All the saturated fat! You let your daughter drink that? All those calories! My thighs! My arteries! Egad, I can feel my cholesterol sky-rocketing!” To all this I have to say, “Please. Educate yourself. Show a little food-snobbery and demand for yourself and those around you a better, satisfying product.”

Let me tell you, briefly, why we buy the milk we buy (and the ice cream, yoghurt, and cheese…). I will also provide a few extremely enlightening and useful links to aid you in your decision.

1. We try very hard to support local businesses. Hartzler’s Dairy is located in Wooster, OH, about 3 hours from here. While 3 hours may seem a bit far, Hartzler’s is the nearest dairy offering a steady supply of what we are willing to buy and consume.

2. We like to use products in as close to their naturally-created state as possible. Whole, minimally-processed, artificial ingredient and preservative-free.

Why? In the case of milk, I offer you the following:

1. These dairy cows are pasture-grass fed. The milk they produce is dense in nutrients and essential fatty acids. We buy it full fat and non-homogenized. Many of the nutrients in milk are fat soluble, meaning if you take away the fat, your body is unable to absorb these nutrients. Homogenizing milk breaks down its fat globules, which prevents the proteins in milk from being digested properly. When these proteins do not pass through proper digestion, they enter the bloodstream and cause allergic reactions and intolerance. By leaving that fat whole (and pasteurizing it at lower temperatures), your body can break down and utilize the proteins properly. Destroying the fat globules can also lead to the hardening of arteries.

2. No artificial hormones or antibiotics are given to these cows. A few years ago, I was diagnosed with PCOS, a nasty, hormone-related disease that has caused me a host of health problems and infertility. Although no one has been able to pinpoint the cause of this devastating condition, I have growing suspicions that there is a direct correlation to the amount of artificial hormones and antibiotics I ingested earlier in life. As the mother of a beautiful and healthy young girl, I refuse to fill her body with substances I feel will have a long-lasting negative impact on her health.

3. Real, whole milk (and other natural ,wholesome, full-fat foods) leaves the body satiated and satisfied for longer periods of time than their low-fat counterparts. Ingesting the fat helps to stabilize metabolism as it releases insulin more slowly and digests slowly. Low-fat foods release lactose (sugar) more quickly, causing spikes in insulin (an especially concerning issue for those of us suffering from PCOS).

4. Drinking milk from pastures cows is better for the environment. Spend any time near a factory farm and its shit ponds, and you will know exactly what I mean. Good stewardship is everything, the reason why we make the food decisions we do as a family. The cruel conditions factory-farmed dairy cows (or any factory farm livestock) are subjected to are unconscionable and unacceptable. We have the power and responsibility as consumers to demand the best from our purveyors.

5. It tastes really, really good. There is simply no comparison in flavor between Hartzler Dairy milk and the sad, watery liquid sold as milk by “other purveyors”. We don’t sit around drinking huge glasses of milk everyday (Though I am tempted to with Hartzler’s chocolate milk. It’s just that delicious!). Everything in moderation is truly a phrase to live by. But if I am going to add a splash to my coffee, drink a cold glass with my cookies, or make a batch of homemade ice cream, whole, natural milk is my choice, really my only choice. If I had no access to such a beautiful product, I would go without.



A Whole New World

Sooooo...here we are...the first week of 2012, and I don't even know how or where to begin. I guess at the beginning. The past several months have been quite the whirlwind. So many changes have taken place, some good (I think, though it's still too early to tell), some really rough. I kinda feel like some one's pinning me to the wall and flinging Chinese Stars at me, with more than a few of them hitting the mark.

Well, as Sister Maria wisely said, "When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window." I am currently looking for said window, and preferably one that won't suddenly slam shut on my fingers. I also know that this window won't magically appear; I will have to find it.

For what, precisely, should I be looking? Where should I be looking? Will there be good tacos there? (I'm only partially kidding.)

Ok, so, game plan time. I have (sort of) hit on what could be (or not) an interesting starting point. We're gonna travel the world! Take in this sights and smells! Experience new cuisines! Well, probably nothing so extravagant (maybe someday, I hope), but we are hitting the road, nonetheless. My daughter and I are embarking on a series of food and culture adventures, with grand exploratory and gustatory goals. Then we'll write about it, and you'll read it, hopefully. Getting a child's perspective on a culinary experience should be entertaining, if nothing else.

First up: Cleveland, one of my favorite in-region cities. I'm in the planning stage right now, but will update when we've finalized our plan. "Cleveland?" "Really?" "It's rusty and the river's on fire!" Um, yes,and no. I hope to convince you otherwise. We are also looking at Indianapolis, Chicago, Charleston, Austin, Portland, Birmingham (yes, in AL), and NOLA. Don't know if we'll hit them all, but here's trying.

In between I'll be posting other food thoughts, ruminations, recipes, dishes, etc. Feel free to comment, but know that if you're mean to me, I'll shiv you. I totally will. Ha. Scared ya, didn't I? No really, critique away!