fat girls and barn lights, what a lovely way to spend a weekend!

It’s that time again! Ryan and I will be interviewing the team from Eugene’s new bar/café, The Barn Light, and the marvelous Hanne Blank, self-proclaimed “proud fat girl,” exercise enthusiast, and author of The Unapologetic Fat Girl’s Guide to Exercise and Other Incendiary Acts. Join us Sunday at noon on KLCC or livestreaming on the web.

The team from The Barn Light — Dustin, Thomas, and Eric — are here to show downtown Eugene how it’s done.  The bar, located on Willamette across from Kesey Plaza, was designed with a particular attention to detail and quirkiness unusual in Eugene, and the menu for both cocktails and food features bold creations and interpretations of classics that actually taste good (also unusual in Eugene).  I’ll let them tell you more about it.

A79744B13BC94732873E169C918C9681Hanne Blank came to my attention many years ago because she has a strong voice and I’d always look forward to reading her daring, passionate recipes on a now defunct food listserv.  A historian and feminist activist, she has written books on big aspects of sexual history like virginity and heterosexuality, and relationship guides and erotica on big aspects of well, people.  You can see all of her books here.

As an unapologetic fat girl myself, I like her approach to exercise in the book we’ll be discussing on the show.  I’m not a big fan of self-help books, but I gave it a whirl because it was from this delightful writer who loves food and advocates health at every size, and I could really not care less if my ass looks fat in those jeans, and because I’ve been grumpily doing P/T since my car accident in June to rehab my knee.  Quite frankly, I could use an attitude adjustment, and perhaps you can too in this month of resolutions.

Hanne encourages readers to focus less on losing pounds, inches, or sizes, and instead invites us — yes, you; yes, ME! — to spend 100 days with her reaching the goal of a improving particular “body practice,” as she calls them.  In short, focus on one low-commitment act to increase your body’s motion every other day for 100 days.  That’s it.  No starvation, no shaming, just improving one area for a limited time as an experiment. Then you reevaluate and perhaps move on to another goal.

Ok, so what’s mine?  Well, as I said, my knee still hurts quite a bit.  The accident basically destroyed the top of my tibial plateau, and affected the nerves, tendons, and tissues in the immediate area, but also has created problems with numbness in my calf and foot, completely changed my balance and posture, exacerbating hip pain and lower back problems from an earlier injury.  I’m no longer limping except on stairs, which is good news, but I’d like to be limp-free. My goal is to tackle uneven surfaces up and down inclines (walking, biking, trail hiking, climbing stairs) for an hour or so every other day, to improve the strength in my quads and increase flexibility in my knees, ankles, and feet, all currently stiff and owie.  Easy, no?  We’ll see.

Learn more on Food for Thought on KLCC Sunday at noon (PST) on 89.7FM in Eugene, or its sister stations in Oregon, or live on the web.

let there be light

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Stircrazy and freezing, I escaped to the beach for the day last weekend.  It’s been really cold for Eugene, and before you get all indignant about how much colder it is where you live, understand it’s a damp, grey, depressing cold that seeps into your bones like some kind of necrotizing zombie cold.  You can’t shake it, and it tries to eat your brain.

So I fled.IMG_4138IMG_4154

And there was light.  And it was good.

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And there were also crabs right off the boat at Luna Sea restaurant in Yachats.  Also good.  I ate a crab dinner and brought some extras home to share.  Last night, we had crab with linguini, red chard, and garlic, with lovely little smoked cayenne chips from Crossroads Farm sprinkled on top.  Tonight it’s Oregon crab soup.

marcel duchamp, a barrel, and dutch pickles on npr

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I am reminded of Marcel Duchamp: a readymade.  You know the story of the most famous one, right?  To make a point about art and modern culture in 1917, he acquired an ordinary porcelain urinal, placed it business end up, signed it R. Mutt, and declared it art.  Art not just for the eyes; instead, it was meant to question the very notion of seeing art, to stimulate the senses with a much wider range of stimuli — even repugnance and a reminder of unpleasant, necessary truths.

How is a herring barrel in a history museum similar?  This one, the preserver preserved at Amsterdam’s Jewish Historical Museum, is quite handsome, actually: sturdy, rotund, golden brown, made antiseptic in its lit vitrine, but grimed and bumped and nicked as it traveled around the globe.  Who knows: did it go from the Baltic seaboard to the New World, filled with the salted herring that nourished the sailors and enriched the burghers? Did a slave from Ghana scratch a doodle into the side during a moment’s rest, or was it kicked by an angry Chinese tradesman upon a sour deal with an unscrupulous VOC rep? Or did it get rolled around the streets of the Albert Cuyp market by Jewish vendors eking out a living in fishy carts circling the city?

And how did this ordinary, workaday object become extraordinary?  Survival alone? (Hey, who could knock THAT.) Or did the herring work some artistic magic?  Did the salt slowly, batch after batch, mellow out the rough-hewn lumber planed and strapped into barrel shape?  Did the artiste (or machine?) who penned the flourishing ‘H’ of ‘Haring Ton’ feel pride in that specimen?  Did he (it) squint with a critical assessment, cough to clear some inky dust out of his (its) throat?  When we ask these types of questions, we don’t just see it as a barrel, or even just as a historical artifact.  We appreciate it for its singularity, beauty even.  And then we think gosh, it must

herring with pickle and onion
Herring with pickle and onion at the Vlaardingse Haringhandel stand, Albert Cuyp Market, Amsterdam

…smell.  I’ve got good news and bad news today.  The good news is that my piece for NPR’s The Salt appeared this morning on a topic very much related to this herring barrel: Dutch pickles and trade.  See it here!

The bad news is that something weird happened with my images, and the resolution is too poor to accompany the article.  I’ll figure out what went wrong, but in the meanwhile, I wanted to share some of the wonderful pickles I captured in Amsterdam at fourth generation pickler Fred Ooms’ de Leeuw Pickles and renowned Dutch-Surinamese caterer Mavis Hofwijk’s Surinaams Buffet Catering.  I’m so thrilled to have met Fred and his wife Monique, and their charming son, and Mavis and her charming daughter Candice, all thanks to artist and scholar Karin Vaneker.

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Amsterdam onions at de Leeuw Pickles, Amsterdam
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The beautiful colors that inspired Vincent van Gogh at de Leeuw Pickles
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Mavis Hofwijk macerates a genoise cake at Surinaams Buffet Catering
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Mavis’ mixed pickles
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Mavis’ marvelous brew (all the vegetables spend time in this spa to become pickles)
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Special spiced grape pickles for the holidays at de Leeuw Pickles
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Rollmops at de Leeuw Pickles — herring wrapped around a pickle? No complaints here

on the calendar for today: fun with fermentation

Excited about the Fun with Fermentation festival today, 11-4 pm at the WOW Hall!  I’ll be presenting on fermentation basics at 1:45.  Check out all the details, including the great line-up of speakers and vendors here.

Since Farmer John Karlik will be teaching sauerkraut earlier in the day, I’ll focus on other vegetable ferments, including mixed vegetables like kim chi and chow chow, and fermented sauces like hot pepper sauce and salsa.  All my recipes are included in my pickling index.  I don’t have a recipe for fermented salsa (I wasn’t happy with the ones on the internet and amended them, but only have notes right now) but will before tomato season comes ’round again!  For reference, consider this recipe from a fellow PNW blogger and trusted source, Northwest Edible.

See you soon!

parsley pips

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Beachscape still life, unknown Dutch contemporary artist

The garden lies in waste, ravaged by the recent cold weather and the slugs that reign supreme over Western Oregon for most of the year.  No, I shouldn’t say ‘waste’ — even without serious intent, mustard greens and various alliums and artichokes are up and running, and wonderfully peppery wild arugula that reseeds each year, and a few lettuce and escarole heads here and there, and enough flowering borage to make a winter bouquet.

And ‘waste’ is wrong for the promise of spring, too.  It’s hard to feel hopeful right now.  But I know that under the hay and reddened leaves the strawberries will blossom, and the currants and gooseberries, now sticks, will emerge and fruit again. I know this patch by the shed will become a rhubarb, and that bare spot of ground is an 8-foot-tall lovage plant, and that over there is a much healthier asparagus patch than it was last winter, and this bucket of dirt is horseradish about to break free.  It’s the luxury of being rooted.

But just as there’s a place for patience, life also entitles us to say enough is enough, and we’re tired of waiting around for the wind to change.  On those days, we scavenge. I am reminded of M. F. K. Fisher’s recluse artist friend Sue, who hosts dinners on the windy coast of California on no budget at all, augmenting stolen flora and fauna with weird plants she finds in the hostile, rocky cliffs. (Although how hostile could it be if other people manage gardens and chickens. Eh. Details.) Sure, we call this ‘wildcrafting’ now and have made it a thoroughly acceptable bourgeois diversion, but ‘scavenging’ is better.  It means making something of refuse, castaways, leftovers, junk.  It’s creating value where none exists, if you’re the capitalist type, and it’s making art of one’s surroundings, if you’re the creative type, and it’s experiencing the world with your nose, the tip of your tongue, and your throat, if you are fundamentally, irrevocably, unflinchingly a cook.

Today it is the pale green tops of the overgrown parsley in the herb bed.  I usually let these go all winter, for unlike dill and quite horrifically like fennel vulgare, the fronds burst into seed and then drop them everywhere, making little parsleys that are great when thinned to enliven spring salads and greens and new potatoes. But we’re about a month from that moment and I need a burst of spring, so off with their heads!  I crush the tender new growth and the green seeds (pips, the British call seeds, a much better word because it captures the jaunty spirit of those little newborn chaps)…the parsley pips I smash down with my fingers and throw them in the pot of purple barley, which I’ll use tonight to stuff more cabbage.  For stuffed cabbage is the best reminder that life is infinitely variable, and there’s comfort in quarters unknown this morning to you.  Comfort in quarters you’ll know, I promise, by supper.

No, one can’t get tired of scavenging; it’s a mandate, really.  Carpe diem isn’t for lovers and it isn’t wasted on the young; it’s the last hope left.

 

DIY skill training in eugene and beyond

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Resolved to improve your DIY skills this year?  Winter is the time!  Take advantage of rainy days in Eugene to attend one of many classes and workshops on gardening, keeping various helpful critters, or food preservation.

The Fun with Fermentation festival at the WOW Hall on January 12, 11:00-4:00, is now in its fourth year.  I’ll be holding a workshop on fermentation basics — making kim chi and sampling salsa and other goodies.  And that’s just the beginning! There will be plenty of fun, learnin’, and fermented food tasting for all.

The OSU Oregon Master Beekeepers program starts in Eugene on January 16, 2013. See their website for details about the apprentice program and class schedules.

The Lane County Extension Master Gardeners are beginning their annual certification training.  It starts Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 1685 W 13th (at Chambers) in Eugene. Here’s a taste of the schedule:

  • 8:30-11:30 a.m. is Tree ID with Steve Bowers;
  • 12:45-3:45 p.m. is Tree Fruits with Ross Penhallegon [in his last few months before retirement — congratulations, Ross!];
  • 3:45-4:15 p.m. is an informational meeting about the Pruning Specialist Program.

All MGs are welcome to sit in on classes, of course, but the public is welcome, too – $25 per class.

Another event:  Tuesday, January 15, 2013, 7 p.m. for the Master Gardener Seminar: Backyard Homesteading with Bill Bezuk. Note new location: EWEB North Building, 500 E 4th Avenue, Eugene. Free, bring a friend.

Lane/Douglas Counties Extension Master Food Preserver full certification class series will begin in April.  We’re taking applications now until March.  And don’t forget that Master Food Preserver winter workshops in Eugene are in full swing:

MFP Winter Saturday Special Classes:

Registration is now open for three 2013 Winter Saturday Specials workshops. Take one, two or all three of the classes. Cost per class is $25 if taken individually or take all three for $60. Print off the registration form and mail check made out to OSU Extension Service to 783 Grant Street, Eugene, OR 97402. Workshops are held at the Community of Christ Church, 1485 Gilham Road, Eugene from 10 a.m. -2 p.m.

  • January 12, 2013 – Soups & Stews: Learn to make Lamb Basque, Moroccan Chicken, and Irsh beef stews. Soups made will be Cambodian Sweet and Sour, Cuban Moros & Christianos, and Mexican Gazpacho. All served on rice. Credit card payment $25.
  • February 9, 2013 – Get a great introduction to the many varieties of beans and how to cook them even for dessert. Credit card payment $25.
  • March 9, 2013 – Discover many new whole grains and grain-like foods. Learn basic cooking techniques and ways to use grains in your meal-planning for health, economy and taste. Credit card payment $25.

MFP Spring Saturday Special Classes:

Registration is also open for three 2013 Spring Saturday Specials workshops. Take one, two or all three of the classes: Cheese Making, Fermentation, and Intro to Canning.

  • April 6, 2013 – Cheese Making: Learn the basics in this hands-on class. Make soft cheeses to taste and take home. Credit card payment $50.
  • May 18, 2013 – Fermentation: Learn tips on fermenting dairy, bread, pickles and other fermented delights. Hands-on class. Limited to 12 students. Credit card payment $50.
  • June 8, 2013 – Intro to Canning: Learn about equipment, tips for success, and what is safe to do at home and what is not. Credit card payment $20.

baby, it’s hot chocolate inside

IMG_3458IMG_3490 IMG_3476Definitely a day to cozy up to your couch and drink some hot chocolate.  I wish I were back in Amsterdam, where I had the good fortune to meet Kees Raat, master chocolatier and proprietor of the award-winning Metropolitan Deli, a sweets shop dedicated to stretching the chocolate imagination as far as it can go.  His hot chocolate, a thick, dark cup that blows away the competition in the land of hot chocolate, is exquisite — almost savory and velvet-textured, caressing your tongue and throat as you take tiny sips.

IMG_3460There he is, serving me up my cup of hot cocoa and another customer a waffle at the same time!  What service!

Unlike Willy Wonka and his slave labor, Raat sources cocoa beans from Cuba directly, seeking sustainable practices and the best quality.  He then grinds and cooks down the fermented cocoa beans to make his own chocolate.  I’d never seen chocolate making from bean to bar, and it was kind of thrilling, so simple yet so difficult.

IMG_3452IMG_3453 IMG_3465  IMG_3473IMG_3486IMG_3478 The shop sells everything from chocolate letters to cayenne-spicy langues de chat to ice cream (trompe la langue Campari blood orange, stroopwaffel or “nuts and glory”) to cocoa beer to cocoa lotion to poffertje pancakes, cakes, waffles, and waffle cones.  And it’s all packed into a tiny, narrow space just off Dam Square that’s filled with delighted customers.  He also holds workshops and gives talks on all the troublesome and delightful nuances of the chocolate trade.

But if you’re on your own austerity programme for the new year, might I suggest another treat served up for free at the shop?  I’d never publicly endorse this kind of celebration, and I prefer my own nose to remain snowy white, but there’s always the low-cal version of hot chocolate:

IMG_3471Stay warm, Eugeniuses, however you can!