Truth and Beauty

May 5, 2013 § 3 Comments

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”-Anais Nin

I’m writing to recall the atypical heat and sun of early May in San Francisco. To remember the bright flowers that reached for the rays, and the early blueberries forming.

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To see the arugula and red lettuce that self-seeded from last year and have pushed their way through the dirt again.

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To see skinny asparagus forests populate our vegetable bed when no one is around to cut and eat the young spears.

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While I miss California, having to be away for a month or more at a time has allowed me to find something new in the garden each time I return. Two and a half years ago, I wrote about artichokes. With our garden renovation and our move to NYC, I didn’t have time to plant artichokes until this past winter. But five months later, the plants have produced a fountain of silvery foliage. On this last trip west, a deep purple artichoke was emerging. And I realized in that moment of finding what “truth and beauty” means — that true beauty, the kind that delights, is often unexpectedly discovered.

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The Dream Continued

April 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

Nearly two years ago, we happened upon Freeman’s winery. We listened to a dream that became real life, enthralled while drinking pretty pinot noir in a dim, humid wine cave carved out of a eucalyptus-crowned hill in the heat of August.

Today, we’re back. At an open house with a crowd of friends and Freeman wine lovers, lying in the grass listening to crickets while drinking more pretty pinot, simply…enjoying ourselves. Loving the warmth, the sun, the wine and life.

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And it all makes me realize: there are dreams that we may one day make true. But in the meantime, there is living the dream of this moment — being with people you love, enraptured by the present.

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Life Lessons From Food Blogger Camp 2011

January 14, 2011 § 56 Comments

Guacamole makings

I’ve been reflecting a lot on the Food Blogger Camp I attended at the lovely Grand Velas Riviera Maya in Mexico last week. I’ve been connecting with the new friends I made and remembering the generously candid stories everyone told. And then I realized that the biggest lessons I learned from Food Blogger Camp (aside from the fact that I still really like tequila) weren’t about blogging.

Well, of course, they all apply to blogging. And, I do have pages and pages of notes on the technical and strategic aspects of blogging and food photography. But, to be honest with you, the three biggest things I took away from Food Blogger Camp apply just as well to any other vocation or avocation.

Beautiful Mayan light

LESSON 1: KNOW, AT YOUR CORE, WHO YOU ARE.

I was intrigued by how many people had come seeking direction for their blogs (myself included). And I was equally struck by those who had figured it out; they exuded a sense of conviction about the path they’d chosen. They know that they’re meeting a need that they, uniquely, can fill. For instance, some know they want to be useful or entertaining to their readers; some know they want to delight viewers with their food images; still others know they want to publish cookbooks and were using their blogs as platforms.

In other words, these folks are operating with a sense of purpose derived from knowing, at their core, who they are and what they stand for.

“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength, mastering yourself is true power.” — Lao Tzu

Diane of White on Rice Couple teaching

LESSON 2: DO WHAT BRINGS YOU JOY.

My grandpa always told me to do what I loved and the rest would follow. Sometimes, that sounds easier said than done. But it seemed true at Food Blogger Camp. A number of people had found joy in writing about or photographing food and, as a result, had truly changed their lives. They halted the stress of working in kitchens or in tech to build blogs that became their businesses; they discovered new passions and worked (and are working) their butts off to build those passions into careers; they overcame seemingly insurmountable health problems through better food and are fired up to teach others how to do the same.

“You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal; instead pursue the things you love doing. Then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.” – Maya Angelou

Elise Bauer & David Lebovitz. And me, drinking tequila*

LESSON 3: BE A GOOD CITIZEN.

I was humbled by how openly my fellow bloggers taught, shared and inspired; in short, they modeled what it is to be good citizens and build community. Diane Cu of White On Rice Couple patiently taught me, shot by shot, how to adjust my shutter speed and aperture to capture this image just the way I wanted it…

The cherry shot

…and then came up to me at lunch afterward to offer more help. Her partner, Todd Porter, geeked out with me about citrus trees and growing our own food. Carrie Vitt of Deliciously Organic schooled me on how to replace white flour and sugar with more wholesome alternatives without making it feel like a lesson (being on the beach didn’t hurt!). Robin Cherry, Elana Horwich, Diana Johnson and Susan Salzman encouraged me to combine my passions for sustainable food and education, and Nancy Singleton Hachisu — after inspiring me with her life stories — is helping me do just that. Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes somehow read me in an instant, offering this motivation:

“The only limit to what you can do is your own creativity.”

David Lebovitz shooting Elise Bauer

Thank you to Kerrygold Butter for sponsoring, and to the session leaders (Matt ArmendarizElise Bauer, Diane Cu, Jaden Hair, David LebovitzAdam Pearson and Todd Porter) and the other participants for a life-changing experience!

Salsas!

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*Thanks to Carrie Vitt of Deliciously Organic for this photo. I’m glad somebody snapped me with one of my favorite drinks in hand!

Here’s a round-up of other participants’ posts:

Session leaders’ posts / blogs:

Food Blogger Camp photos:

Organizer and P.R. contact:

 

How To Create Standout Moments in 2011

January 5, 2011 § 13 Comments

A standout moment in Lanai

In December, 60 Minutes did a piece on the six people identified so far who have autobiographical memories. These are people who can recall every single moment of their lives, eventful or mundane: the day they had to switch from a beloved to a new school at the age of 13, including reliving the emotions experienced that day; what they did the day they broke up with a girlfriend 15 years ago; what the weather was like on May 3, 1975; or the score of the Redskins-Steelers game on November 10, 1991.

The piece discussed whether this endless memory was a gift or a curse. But in the end, one of the six said:

“…Sure, there are times when it’s difficult. But I feel like it makes me live my life with so much more intention and so much more joy. Because I know that I’m gonna remember whatever happens today, it’s like, all right, what can I do to make today significant? What can I do that is gonna make today stand out?”

Now is a popular time for folks to make New Year’s resolutions, to set personal and professional goals for the coming year or to update their bucket lists. In the last few days of 2010, I reflected on what I’d wanted to do that year, noted what I actually did and updated my bucket list.

But after reading this 60 Minutes piece, I realized something. Life isn’t just about grinding through goals or a list of activities. And you never know what life is going to throw at you.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t continue to set goals or update your bucket list; I certainly have specific things I want to learn and do in 2011 (which I’ve shared below).

But what I am saying is that setting the goals and updating the lists don’t mean anything if you’re not living the life you want every day. And I’ve come to believe over the past year that “every day” is a crucial part of that sentence. It’s not that we all have to accomplish something prize-worthy on a daily basis. Rather, it’s realizing that what we have is this life, and making it count means making every day count, even if — or maybe, especially if — it’s because of one, small moment.

So instead of making New Year’s resolutions, setting specific goals for myself or seeing my list as the only things I need to do to feel satisfied about 2011, here’s what I’m committing to:

I commit to experiencing appreciating a standout moment, every day.

It hit me when writing the statement that “experiencing” wasn’t enough. The point of this commitment is to:

  • Be attuned to what makes me happy and passionate so I can create those moments
  • Be present enough to see and feel those moments each day
  • Then take them in and be grateful for what they’ve added to my life

These moments could be anything, and they could be good or bad: noticing the beauty of the sun illuminating leaves in the garden; getting the plum jam completely wrong — but then just right; learning something for the first time and allowing the delight and frustration that come along with that.

Of course, as I mentioned above, there are specific things I want to learn and do in 2011. I’m guessing these will provide lots of standout moments for me this year! To keep myself accountable and give you a preview of some of the things you’ll likely read about on this blog, here’s the list. Most are related to homegrown, homemade food, but I’m sharing the others too:

HOMEGROWN / HOMEMADE FOOD STUFF

  • See how much produce I can grow vs. have to buy
  • Learn to butcher a hog
  • Learn to make various Japanese and American pickles to carry on old recipes
  • Learn my grandma’s Indonesian recipes before it’s too late
  • Make my own bacon
  • Make egg nog from scratch
  • Get better at canning
  • Get better at jam-making
  • Become proficient at making homemade cheese
  • Build a small repertoire of holiday sweets that keep various traditions alive
  • Visit two to three organic farms/vineyards/orchards to learn what it takes to run them
  • Practice shooting guns (because one day, I’d like to hunt my own food, at least once)
  • Grow more dahlias to have around the garden and house (okay, this isn’t food, but it’s nice to have the colorful inspiration while one cooks!)

Summer dahlias

TRAVEL

  • See wildlife in the snow in Yellowstone
  • Eat my way through and take another cooking class in Italy
  • Taste locally-made wine or spirits where they’re crafted in a place I’ve never been (e.g., Oregon wine country; bourbon in Kentucky)

CREATIVE & PHYSICAL

  • Improve my photography
  • Be able to easily play at least two fun songs on the piano, anywhere, anytime
  • Rock climb (inside on a climbing wall) at least once, to see if I can manage my fear of heights

What can you do to create standout moments for yourself this year?

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Click here for the 60 Minutes story on autobiographical memory; it’s quite a piece.

Thanks to David Romanelli for sharing the 60 Minutes piece and helping to inspire this post. You can find out more about David’s yoga and chocolate classes here.

Eating Tradition: Our Japanese (American) New Year’s

January 3, 2011 § 9 Comments

Osechi ryori

In Japan, New Year’s is what Christmas is to many in the U.S. and vice versa. People in Japan party on Christmas. But New Year’s in Japan is a national holiday; many businesses and agencies are closed for days at the start of the year. On New Year’s Eve, Buddhist temples literally ring in the new year, sounding bells 108 times to get rid of the 108 human sins; families then eat soba noodles, symbolizing crossing into the new year and a long life ahead. Historically, women would clean house the week prior (symbolizing a fresh start) and cook a number of dishes, collectively called osechi ryori, in the days leading up to New Year’s (as it was taboo to cook on the first three days of the year).

Traditionally, the foods were cooked in sugar or vinegar or dried so that they could keep without refrigeration. While most families today don’t invest the intensive time to cook osechi, opting instead to buy beautifully-arranged food boxes from department stores or even the local 7-Eleven, the dishes and their flavors have marched forward into modern day.

Although we don’t go to Buddhist temple or clean and cook for days, the Japanese American side of my family eats together every New Year’s Day at my grandparents’. As many of us with immigrant histories do, we combine Japanese and American food traditions to create our own that we’ve maintained for years.

We eat about half of the myriad foods you’d find on the New Year’s table in Japan. We always start lunch with ozoni, a fish-based, clear broth decorated with seaweed, thinly-sliced shiitake, scallions and white fish cakes. In the soup goes the all-important mochi (sticky rice cake), which is toasted in the oven first.

Ozoni with mochi

Then we follow with a variety of small dishes: kamaboko, a fish cake sliced into half-circles; the shape and colors are reminiscent of Japan’s rising sun and are meant to symbolize festivity and celebration…

Kamaboko slices

…and kuromame, black soybeans stewed in sugar and soy sauce, symbolizing the ability to work in good health (mame, the Japanese word for “bean”, also means “working like a bee”). It’s traditional to simmer kuromame in an iron pot or add rusty nails to blacken the color of the beans. Not sure how I feel about that nail method. So perhaps I should feel glad that my grandma simply buys a can of prepared kuromame, which are mixed with konbu seaweed and kuri, sweet chestnuts, both also traditional New Year’s foods. Konbu is associated with the word yorokobu, meaning “joy”, and kuri’s golden color symbolizes prosperity.

Kuromame with konbu and kuri

To this menu, we’ve added foods that aren’t traditional for New Year’s but are ones we like to eat. There’s sashimi with wasabi and grated daikon radish, always perched daintily on my grandma’s elegantly-curved dishes and anointed with a splash of soy sauce from the glass bottle she’s had for decades.

Sashimi serving

There are also (clockwise from 2 o’clock): inari sushi (rice jacketed in fried tofu); steamed green beans with ponzu sauce; seaweed salad; steamed rice with tsukemono, or Japanese pickles; a sweet egg omelet (on New Year’s, traditionally made with fish paste, but ours are plain egg); and in the center, oden, a Japanese stew of vegetables and konnyaku, a firm jelly made from a plant called devil’s tongue.

Lunch plate

In the afternoon, we catch up on each other’s lives. Often, we play games, which is a Japanese New Year’s tradition, though the games themselves — pool, Catch Phrase — are not. It’s not unusual that someone nods off for a quick nap digesting that big lunch. And that’s a good thing, because come six o’clock, it’s time to eat again!

Dinner is decidedly more American, though it still retains a Japanese flair. We’ll eat whatever’s left from lunch, mixing seaweed salad and kamaboko with baked ham, my aunt’s decadent au gratin potatoes, and cake and ice cream for dessert. The next morning, we get to eat leftover mochi, toasted in the toaster oven or microwave, dipped in soy sauce and sugar — one of my favorite treats.

Sleepy from the good food, the stories we’ve told and heard and the laughs we’ve shared, we all go to our respective homes, happy to have eaten another year’s traditions together. Happy New Year to you too!

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If you’d like to see a full list and stunning photographs of homemade, traditional osechi ryori, check out the post at the No Recipes blog here.

Brief Holiday Hiatus and Happy New Year

December 30, 2010 § Leave a comment

Christmas table

Well, I thought I’d be able to post during the holidays. Before we flew out east and then to the midwest, I even had a few blog drafts queued up, ready to round out and spiffy up with photographs and share with you all. But, I’m finding that amidst…

…navigating eight airports in two and a half weeks to visit family and friends and attend Food Blogger Camp in Mexico (more on that here; I’ll definitely share my experience in January)

…sharpening my shooting skills (more on that soon)

…enjoying countless delicious homemade and local treats, from a full turkey dinner on Christmas…

Table set for Christmas dinner

…to heaps of holiday sweets, to an authentic Maryland crab cake to, coming up soon, a traditional Japanese meal with my family in Chicago on New Year’s

Pineapple tarts, my in-laws' Christmas tradition

…and spending lots of great time with loved ones, finding time to sit down at the computer long enough to draft blog posts is a bit tricky.

So, Together In Food will be on a brief hiatus until next week, at which point I’ll be back online to share my homegrown and homemade food (and Food Blogger Camp) adventures with you. In the meantime, thanks again for following my blog and tweets here, and all the best wishes for a renewing, fun and happy New Year!

Thank You and Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2010 § 8 Comments

I wanted to say THANK YOU to all of you who’ve been loyally following my blog! I love that there’s a group of folks out there — some I’ve known for years, others I’ve recently met, and still others I know only through the online worlds of the blogosphere and Twitterverse — reading about my husband’s and my efforts to build a homegrown, homemade and happy life.

THANK YOU again for:

  • Reading
  • Sharing your thoughtful, touching, informative and funny comments
  • Promoting my blog to others you think would like or benefit from it

Wishing you a wonderful holiday season, filled with connections with loved ones, relaxation and rejuvenation, and of course, lots of good, homemade food!

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