Starting from scratch

I know I’ve often said there are no wrong answers, but that does not mean there are no rules; that is to say, sometimes there is only one right answer, and that is: from scratch.

It is fall; Thanksgiving is approaching. You have so many choices in this world, so remember—a constraint is a beautiful thing. Here is your constraint: do it from scratch

How do I make an apple pie?

From scratch.

How do I make a pumpkin bisque?

From scratch.

How do I put gratitude in my life?

Start from scratch. 

Sometimes the simplest answer is the most satisfying. 

Two funny beliefs regarding lettuce

One part of the world believes that lettuce is a thing you eat raw, in a salad, to satisfy a hankering for crunch, to be refreshed. 

Another part of the world believes that lettuce is a thing you eat steamed or boiled, in broth, wilted. 

The people in the first hemisphere generally agree that the idea of steamed lettuce or boiled lettuce is, well, weird

The people in the second hemisphere generally agree that the idea of eating raw lettuce is, well, unheard of. (The risk of e. coli all but vanishes when you boil it, for instance. Too soon?)

There are no wrong answers. You can eat a salad. And you can make lettuce soup. The possibilities are endless. You are in charge. 

How to cook pine nuts to perfection

Arguably one of the tastiest little fuckers that mother nature ever invented, pine nuts are absolutely tantalizing when toasted to a medium golden brown and added to literally anything. And they ain’t cheap, so don’t burn them trying this. 

For the next 4 minutes, your entire life is about toasting pine nuts. It requires all of you. Place the pine nuts in a cast iron or all-clad pan. place on medium heat. Move the pan around constantly. Do not set it down; they will burn almost immediately. Do this for 4 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to stir them around while also moving the pan in circles over the flame. Aim to get all of them evenly toasty and brown. Remove from heat and toss in a bit of sea salt. After they’ve cooled, sprinkle a bit of paprika. Add as a garnish to soups, on bean dips, or in salads. 

Two thirds up the Eiffel Tower

Paris, 1999.

I am climbing the Eiffel Tower with my friends. We are 18, and this may be our first trip on our own. Safe to say that besides them, I know no one else for miles.

We climb up the metal grating of one of the enormous legs of the tower until we get to where they join and we continue climbing as the platforms get smaller and smaller.

From a distance away I hear my name called. Again, louder this time. Then louder still.

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It’s never as good the second time

The perfect treat. In my case it was a perfect cheese danish. The kind it took 32 years to find. The kind where you don’t know where the dough ends or where cheese begins. 

It’s warm, and squishy. You don’t know where it’s been your whole life, but it wasn’t here, like it is, right now. 

So fucking good you’ll be thinking about it all day. 

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Nettles for Allergy Season

This time of year can be rough on the senses. Itchy eyes, runny nose, dry mouth, but you’re pretty sure you’re not sick… There are a few ways to get through this. Sure, pharmaceutical options like zyrtec and claritin have their merits, blocking histamines that cause these annoying symptoms. I’ve found a better approach using plant medicine. In particular, for seasonal allergies and hay fever, a strong infusion of nettles and some raw, local honey does the trick. 

Infuse your nettles in a glass pot with hot water and let them steep for a long time. Minimum 10 minutes, but better if you can leave them for a few hours. Add raw, local honey and drink the brew as often as needed. Why raw and local honey? Most allergies are triggered by airborne irritants of various origins, but many of these irritants come from nearby flora. Flower and tree pollen, mold spores, etc. Raw honey is more effective in supporting immune function because it has bioactive compounds that have not been killed by heat. Local honey is more effective in fighting irritants because bees produce honey with those elements in their diet. I don’t understand the magic of the bee kingdom but I can say very confidently that something about the process of an allergen going through the gut of a honey bee makes it an antidote to that allergen in humans. It’s magic, pretty much.

Ask for what you want

Sometimes it’s good to ask for what you want. Like when my friend subtly hinted that he wanted a surprise party when he said, “I want a surprise party, damn it!”

And sometimes it’s really not that difficult to give someone what they ask for. Throwing a spontaneous party is easy if you have the right approach. Pick a date, pick a time, decide who to invite, decide on a menu and a theme if you need one, and on the day of… do what you always do: make people happy.

Whether it’s a dinner, brunch, or holiday celebration, inviting some folks to be present and participate in a unique meal is an act of love. Not every party needs to be extravagant. Not every dinner needs to be a seven course meal with table linens. Sometimes, you can make people quite happy with making a big ole pot of chili or serving up coffee and biscuits.

But what every meal and every gathering deserves? Love and intention. You get to set the mood. You are the director. You get to ask for support. And sometimes, it is you who gets to ask for what you want.

How to cook beans better

Beans are amazing. Also known as legumes or pulses, beans are super nutritious, packed with vegan protein and fiber, delicious, and cheap. But there are a few things everyone who cooks beans should know before they start.

1. Soak dry beans in water the night before. (Some of you are probably like, “um, obvies!” but I’m gonna go through all the basics for the sake of any newbies reading this). Discard the soaking water (you can feed your plants with it or cook rice with it, just don’t cook beans in their soaking water – it is full of an enzyme that prevents them from softening). There is a short soak method for dry beans; it involves bringing beans in water to a boil and then removing from the heat and soaking for two hours. I find soaking beans in cool water overnight (minimum of 8 hours but I go 24 or even 48 hours) is a better and more effective method. If you live in a very warm climate, you might want to soak your beans in the fridge, to prevent spontaneous fermentation.

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