Update

So, hi. Been a while. My bad.

2013 was just a weird year, and I’m fine that it is over. Among other things, my job situation changed – again – because apparently it is against some cosmic order that I be in the same career situation for longer than 9 months. What’s the deal with that, life.

And I started graduate school and am a little less than halfway through my Masters of Liberal Arts in Gastronomy at BU.

Oh yeah, that.

I had a lot of very deep fears about grad school. That I would hate it. That I would remember how soul-crushing academia can be. That I would start wondering why I ever thought I was interested in food. Basically I was terrified that I was making a huge mistake.

I wasn’t.

Grad school is kind of awesome. Don’t get me wrong, between working full-time and taking 2 classes at once I have no life. I go to work, go to class or go home and read/write for class, and sleep happens somewhere in between. I’m the only one of my undergrad friend group working while going to school and living at home, which feels very isolating sometimes and can suck.

But from the first day of class, I felt like I was finally home.

I’ve found my people. All of a sudden, I’m not the only one who doesn’t mind debating the pros and cons of industrial agriculture or discussing the cultural implications of white vs. wheat bread for three hours at a time. I leave class at 9 o’clock at night with more energy than I started the day with, buzzing from that deep intellectual engagement we introverts love oh so much.

Frankly, grad school has been a relief. It’s an outlet for all my ideas and general [loveable] geekiness about food, an outlet I never realized I needed quite so badly.

Of course, it’s also terrifying in a completely different way. Visions of PhD and other Masters programs dance in my head, and I’ve been opened up to so many other fields that intersect with food that I’m basically back to square one with the whole career question. Although, let’s be honest, I’m not sure I ever made it to square two.

But…between the crush of work and school, my right brain is screaming for attention. Little by little the writer’s voice in my head (all writers are schizo, dontchaknow) has gotten louder, reminding me that I need an outlet for my creativity too. I also just miss writing to write. Academic writing is nice in its own way, and I’ve enjoyed getting back in to it (even with the stress that inevitably comes with it), but it’s not the same and I’ve started to feel like I’m losing my “voice.” (Blame my inner former musician…the less you practice, the more quickly you lose the muscle memory!)

So sorry if I’m rambling. But I thought it was high-time for an update, and a tentative recommitment to getting back to updating, at least more often than once a year! For my own sanity, if nothing else.

This semester is racing to an end, and the final papers and projects starting to loom – but I have some fun pictures from my trips to South Africa and Prague last year to share, and maybe a post or two about the nerdy goodness that is being in a food studies grad program.

And can everyone just do me a favor and do an anti-snow dance for Massachusetts? Because I’m pretty sure we’re all over this winter nonsense. Thanks.

What do you MEAN more snow?

What do you MEAN more snow?

Advertisements

Update

Alright, here’s the deal.

Since I last updated, a few things have happened. I would say I’m gonna keep this short and sweet, but we all know that’s not happening, so why pretend.

1. I turned 23. Not super exciting, actually was freakishly similar to turning 22 (spent the weekend alone with the dog, made my own cake, generally basked in the glow of quiet and frosting and wine).

bdaycake12

2. I have 2 part-time jobs at 2 non-profits. I think I mentioned that, so really I’m just saying…I still have them. They’re both kind of fake full-time jobs in that I pack about 40 hours worth of work into 20, which translates into a Saturday that is 90% sleep. And while they are both really great jobs, it gets a little difficult after a while to not feel like a part-time human being. I’ve also decided I consider my job too much a part of my identity. Not really sure how to fix that yet.

3. I applied to grad school for food studies.

4. I got into grad school.

5. I officially enrolled at Boston University and will begin my MLA in Gastronomy (Food Policy concentration) program this fall. I’ll be a part-time student, because I’m trying this new thing where I don’t get myself into 7 different jobs at one time. It’s a whole new world.

Preach.

Aside: Grad school applications were not hard and it was one of the most anticlimactic things ever. I got an email on a Friday afternoon on the train home telling me I got in, I said “oh good, so I can start planning my fall now,” signed some papers and that was it. I think this means I’m an adult. Or something like it.

6. I went back to Florence with my brother for Christmas. We ate all the gelato. I had a few panic attacks. Not necessarily in that order.

me & the bro in san gimfirenze IMG_0457

7. The Boston Marathon happened. And then the Friday lockdown happened. So that was deep-down-in-your-soul terrifying. But it also showed how wonderful, strong and generally badass the city of Boston is, and that was pretty great wicked awesome.

8. I just went to NYC for work and remembered why I so, so, so dislike it. But I ate amazing things like morel vinaigrette and roasted radishes and porgy (the fish), so that made up for it. Also spent most of it talking about the amazing organization I work for, so it was mostly a plus.

fresh mozz at EatalyIMG_0600

9. I’m going to South Africa in a week to visit one of my best friends who is there for Peace Corps. Because I don’t pay rent and I’m 23 and I can! Also so that I can start planting seeds about how awesome Boston is and all the reasons she should move there post-PC. True story.

Is this post a little disjointed? Probably. My brain doesn’t have much capacity left to fit in anything else. Thus the blogging hiatus. I’d like to say that’s going to change, but it’s not. I’m not shutting the blog down or anything, but I’m not going to be updating with any kind of frequency or regularity. Just FYI.

Here. Have some gratuitous pictures of Florence.

Let’s Go To The Movies – But Ditch the Popcorn

Have you heard about Amazon Instant Video?

You can rent movies for like 3 bucks and watch it on your computer. It is one of the coolest and most useful things for a college student without a Blockbuster membership ever.

Seriously, I watched 2 movies in 4 days. Don’t look at me like that, one was for a class.

Image link

The Secret of the Grain is a French film (love me some subtitles!) about a Moroccan family who lives in southern France. I designed my own honors course – because I can – on the role of food in the lives of Mediterranean women in the 20th century. I’ve been focusing on a fantastic text that focuses on food in Florence (of course), but the professor who is advising this project recommended I watch this. Amazon Instant Video to the rescue!!!! I loved this movie. Mostly because it brought food into the spotlight, but the way in which the director did it was very well done. If you can handle subtitles (and a little nudity – it is French, after all), I recommend it.

But the real exciting discovery on Amazon was…

Image link

I’ve wanted to see Food, Inc. since it came out in 2008, but I generally fail at renting movies and just hadn’t gotten to it. (No, really – I even keep a running “movies-to-see” list on my computer. It only ever gets longer.) And then Amazon decided to fix it for me, for which I am very grateful.

Food, Inc. is a documentary exposing the crooked, creepy inside of the American corporate food system. It had quite an effect on viewers – one woman quit going to grocery stores for a year, and I’ve hear several people go vegan because of it. It features interviews with people from all over the food industry spectrum – although it was sure to note that representatives of the big companies that were not being shown in a particularly, er, flattering light declined to be interviewed for the film. Shocker.

I will say that, because of my inherent nerdiness and the Food & Culture class I took last spring in Florence, I knew a lot of the info that the movie put forward. And the parts that I didn’t know did not shock me because of my prior knowledge. (You should have seen me when we read articles about the food industry last spring though – I was angry. And NOT hungry.)

I do think that this is an important movie to watch as an American, a consumer, and a human being who is semi-aware of “rights” and “wrongs.” The corporate food industry is – for lack of a better word – disgusting. The corruption and greed overwhelms any remotely redeeming factor they might be able to boast.

I don’t think the film is nearly as gruesome as it could have been, which is good and bad; but I think that makes it more viewable to more people, and that is what’s important here. There were some things that I felt should have been included with more detail (like what exactly is so bad about GMOs and the corruption behind “organic”), but I also applaud what they manage to cover in an hour and a half of film.

For me, the film was inspiring, validating – but frustrating. I hate how tightly money is wrapped around this issue, but I suppose that is the way of the world. The dollar is your ballot and your loudest protester. But I won’t lie, when I am at the grocery store and I am forced to choose between the generic brand eggs for $1.50 and the organic, cage-free dozen for $3, it’s not an easy decision. And more than once, I’ve let the cheap side win.

Food Inc. has strengthened my resolve – and my conscience – and if money is how I have to assert my beliefs, then so be it. It may mean that I buy less, but all the more room for “real food” which can actually be quite cheap.

I’ll end what could very easily turn into a too-long ramble about my food philosophy with a list. I love lists, don’t you?

1. Watch Food, Inc. The knowledge it imparts is worth sticking through the not-so-savory parts. I promise.

2. Buy local first, organic second if & when you can. Vote with your dollar.

3. Our food industry is eff-ed up something bad. No time like the present to start trying to fix it.

Oh, and Eat Real Food. More on that tomorrow. For now, just go with me 😉

My roommate and I hopped online after the movie and found some pretty sweet resources. The Cornucopia Institute is an organization that aims for “economic justice for the family-scale farming community” – basically, they advocate local-organic-whole food. Sounds good to me!

The best thing about their research is that they have created “scorecards” that rate various brands of eggs, dairy, and soy products based on 22 criteria. The focus is on ethicallyproduced products. I’ve already marked down what eggs to look for next time I need them!

Egg Scorecard

Dairy Scorecard

Soy Scorecard

Have fun and eat ethically 🙂

A Different Kind of Challenge

What? Another challenge?? But it’s not Wednesday!
I know. I am referring to the Real Food Challenge, a conference being held just 20 minutes away from me in Stoughton, MA! It’s the Northeast Summer Leadership Training for for college students. I’m going to learn all about corporate food policy, food justice, and all that good stuff – and hopefully make some changes on my own lovely campus. My head exploded with excitement when my new friend Nicole told me about this when we met in Austin – I have been whining nonstop for the past 3 years about the food on my campus and how frustrated I am with it. I really don’t feel like it is supportive for anyone with food allergies or preferences like vegetarian/vegans, and even just trying to promote healthy eating overall. More often than not, the salad bar is only half full – but the dessert table is loaded. They veg options for protein are often seriously lacking as well, and I have often felt like screaming “iceberg lettuce is NOT a protein!!!!” And the local/seasonal food issue is no different. We have canteloupe & honeydew melon year round – don’t try to tell me we picked those up from the farm down the road in mid-January. My problem was, I honestly have no idea where to begin trying to make changes, and that is where this training comes in. I’m crazyyyy excited to learn more about food policy and how I can help make changes for the better. And Lulu the camera is comin’ with, of course. 
[Just as a disclaimer, I love my school dearly and wouldn’t ever have gone anywhere else. This problem is common to many, if not most, schools around the country – hence this conference exists!]
Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever written a post so fast – but like I said, mere minutes! Can’t wait to tell yall all about it 🙂
~Namaste~

Monday with Verdi

I did NOT want to go to class this morning. Well, that’s not true. I’m always excited for my Food & Culture class. What I was not excited for was the 9:30 AM to 2:30 PM straight. I think Rome left me more exhausted than I thought.

I did, however, have another pretty strong motivation to get out of bed, in the form of OVERNITE OATS!

Soak one part oats in one part liquid of choice (water, milk, or a little of both) overnight in the fridge.

Top as desired (in this case, strawberry yogurt & kiwi).

Mix & devour!
 Folgers Oats = the BEST part of waking up!
Our Food & Culture class was on race & ethnic stereotypes supported by different types of food. For example, fried chicken is often associated with African Americans, as are potatoes with the Irish.We also talked about how socioeconomic status affects food choices and health issues, and how food has been used throughout history as a marker of power. It’s really fascinating; in times where food is scarce and famine is not, it is more en vogue to be heavier/overweight, because it shows that you are privileged to eat as much as you please. Nowadays, with food in more or less abundance, it is stylish to be thin because it shows self-control and reason. Variety is another big deal; in the Renaissance, the use of different spices showed high status because the spices had to be imported from the East. White truffles are currently a huge deal in China right now and convey major high status – they are called “white gold.” For being something frequently given so little thought towards, food is certainly a potent symbol. I could talk about this all day long! But I’ll give your ears a break and your eyes a feast:

 I have been looking for this sandwich place called Casa del Vino for a while, as my study abroad program recommended it as some of the best sandwiches in town. Now, in Italy, that’s a pretty major statement  – and I decided I was the foodie to verify this outlandish claim. It’s only a street over from my music class, and I wanted to get some lunch before my second class, so I made it my mission to scope this Casa out today. Clearly, I did. It’s not obviously a sandwich shop, because they make it to order (always a good sign), and the menu only has about 5 choices (another good sign – trust me). I couldn’t really read the menu (the handwriting, not the Italian), but I saw one that was something in aglio con pecorino fresco – in garlic with fresh pecorino – and, well, my choice was made.
Holy Panino, Batman – this was the BEST sandwich I think I’ve ever had. I’m really thinking hard back to all the sandwiches I’ve consumed over my 2 decades of living, and I’m struggling to find something that beats this out. The first word that I couldn’t read was acciuga – anchovies!

It was SUPER salty but also a little sweet and very familiar-tasting, so anchovies was my guess. My culinary skills must be improving, because I was RIGHT! The salty fish + crunchy bread + fresh cheese + garlic and herbs was just wonderful. And gone in about 8 minutes.
I was a bit disappointed in myself, though – when I went to order the sandwich, because I couldn’t read that first word I had communication issues with the cute little old lady behind the counter who didn’t speak English (yet another good sign about this store!). Normally I would have gotten really excited that I could practice, but I could not for the life of me remember how to say ‘last’ (ultimo, if you’re wondering) and another woman in the shop helped me out. Actually, she could read the acciuga, which is how I figured out how to spell it and look it up, so it was a good thing…but I still felt like the stupid American student. Blah.
I was, however, redeemed during my music class. We visited the Teatro della Pergola, one of many theatres here in Firenze built in 1652. The librarian was our tour guide, but didn’t speak English well enough to give the tour so she talked and then our teacher translated. After listening to her for a little while, I started to understand her well, and by the end got almost every word and at least the gist of what she said before the translation. I was SO excited. I still need to work on my speaking, but it’s quite heartening to know that my comprehension is getting better!
The teatro was really cool, for many reasons – this being a BIG one:

You think I’m crazy, right? She’s flipping out over a stupid old stool. But that is NOT just any [very] old stool. Oh no. That is the stool upon which, during the premiere of his opera MacBeth, sat…
VERDI!
As in, Aida Verdi. I actually stepped on the exact ground that Giuseppe Verdi stepped on.
Whoa.
This was pretty cool too:

This was a device used to raise the stage to create a large ballroom used for masquerades. The women’s dresses were so large (all that crinolin!), they needed more room to dance and socialize and whatnot. It is not used anymore – the 1966 Arno flood took a major toll on the theatre and they had to install iron support beams (you can see it in that picture – that orange arch to the right).
Stimlating conversation, amazing sandwiches, and getting one degree closer to some of the greatest composers of all time – Monday is starting to look up!
I made a semi-impulse purchase at the grocery store and got some polenta, because I’m dying to try new things and new recipes.
I ended up added a tad too much water and it was more like cornmeal soup, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I cooked it with an egg and then salt, garlic, parsley, and tomatoes and put it over some arugula. It was screaming for cheese, but I used all mine up before leaving for Rome. To be improved upon. I’m welcome to suggestions!
I’m trying something a little crazy for b-fast tomorrow morning – get ready!
~Namaste~