07 December 2012


This month I will be doing an experiment. I will record exactly what I spend on my food, how much is organic and exactly what I eat. I will also be keeping a workout log, but I don’t know if that will be relevant data; I don’t consume that much more food despite working out a lot, except when I swim, and I am not doing too much of that because I am currently training distance running for an upcoming 135-mile ultramarathon. When I write up my findings, I will decide how much of the raw data to publish so as to not loose readability.

I decided to start this on Wednesday, December 5, so it won’t cover a full month. Some food I already had in the house. Some food I stock. It will account for the fact that I am interpreting for four and half days next week, and three of them include a non-organic lunch. As I will not be in my home city, I will be seeing friends next week too, so probably spending more eating out and more foods that are rather unhealthy. It will include the frozen yogurt I bought today as well as the rather hearty lunches I’ve come to fix for myself of late. It will include the meals others buy for me too.

My hypothesis is that I actually only spend as much on my monthly food as the average Brazilian office worker who eats out every single lunch. Yes, preparation may take a bit longer (although I do batches of rice, beans, soup, etc. and freeze in individual-size portions), but I guarantee I eat a very varied and very healthy and rather eco-friendly diet, all things considered.

Feel free to take a guess at how much I spend each month on food in the comments section or on Facebook. The local winner gets a home-cooked meal on me. Winners from abroad get… something… lemme think on it.

Lastly, take a few moments to watch this very inspiring speech (click here) by a ninety-three year old guy who pumps iron and could probably put many half his age to shame. Obviously, healthy food factors into his talk.

23 November 2012


This weekend is all about extremes: extreme swimming, extreme running and the extreme eating habits of athletes before extremely long sporting events. I am writing on a bus, on my way down to Guarujá as part of the kayak support crew for 11 athletes who will be swimming 24 kilometers (15 miles)  non-stop to Bertioga. We just made a routine stop at a road-side restaurant. This is just part of what we picked up as both snack food for today and human fuel for the approximately eight-hour race tomorrow:

While swimming tomorrow, the athletes (like our awesome model pictured above, Letícia) will periodically wave their arms to signal to the kayakers to paddle over and give them food and drink. Presumably, we support crew have been trained well enough to be able to distinguish the come-here-please-and-feed-me wave from the I’ve-been-swimming-for-five-fucking-hours-straight-and-cannot-help-looking-like-a-dilapidated-Dutch-windmill wave. The kayaker will then proceed to feed his or her assigned swimmer whatever the swimmer wants. Those of you accustomed to observe people run distances no longer than half marathons (or maybe even marathons) might now be thinking that the athletes will request a gel, a protein bar or a Gatorade®. Oh, but how so, so, so wrong you are, dear reader. These swimmers have prepared nutritious kits filled with really healthy food like gummy worms, Mentos®, Coke®, M&Ms®, Pringles®, pretzels, ham and cheese sandwiches, Frosted Flakes® and artificially flavored strawberry sucking candies.

Normally, I would be inclined to pack a more balanced lunch for my expected eight-hour kayak adventure (which, I must point out, does not consist of a relaxing day calmly admiring the natural surroundings because I will be incessantly making sure my assigned ultra swimmer can actually feel her toes and has not let her mind wander to delirium so I do not have to dive in and pull her unconscious body onto my candy-laden kayak). But, while I would like to extol the virtues of always eating food that might actually ensure still having tooth enamel the day after tomorrow, I know that at this same time the following day I too will be partaking in this delayed Halloween-cum-Super-Bowl-Sunday smorgasbord. Why? Because on Sunday I will be running a 50-kilometer ultramarathon through the trails of a steep mountain range. My race-day food will include additional tasty treats like a whole baked potato, a generous portion of ziti and family-size bags of potato chips.

Why do people who represent the epitome of discipline (training up to three times a day, putting in five to six kilometers in the pool or mid-week half-marathon-distance runs, plus gym time, day in and day out) suddenly act like kids in a culinary Disneyland? In fact, none of us eats like this before shorter swim meets and sub-26-mile running distances (ok, Letícia is an exception and has a diagnosed acute addiction to sucking candies), but once we break the four-hour barrier and go for distances that will keep our bodies in motion for anywhere from six to fourteen hours, we seem to opt en masse to salivate over everything our mothers so stealthily kept on the topmost shelf of the cupboard when we were growing up.

The answer occurred to me as I was chatting with one of the swimmers who has done this particular race before (once having finished and once having felt the need to quit mid-race): there is a wholly unique psychological process involved in the over-four-hour race, and this special mindset is most visibly manifest not so much in technique (which changes little beyond generally sloppy arm or leg movements over time) but in facial expression and alimentary habits.

Ultra athletes are not quite racing for time; well, some may be, but most of us are usually just in it to finish, to finish intact and to improve our own personal records. What we are doing when we ultra race is testing the extent to which our complex thinking mind can master our instinctual body. This is why we may sing a favorite song in a mental loop for 45 minutes straight. Or why we may whistle when we come up for air. Or why we guiltlessly ingest whatever food we associate with unfiltered, child-like joy. Because only the mental conviction that you feel like a million bucks (or that you soon will feel like a million bucks) or that you are just freaking awesome is what will take your body past the four-hour barrier and through the hours and hours and hours that are clearly beyond your natural physical limits. And nothing gives you that necessary instant sensation of kid-like bliss like a shot of sugar or the delectable crunch of greasy potato chips enjoyed the way your mom spent your childhood warning you against.

To all my ultra-athlete friends, I’m raising up a whole tub of ice cream and jumbo bag of potato chips in your honor this weekend! Let's eat!

16 November 2012


I am writing in the absence of food, 16 hours. And it’s hot. And I’m stuck in a medical lab with air conditioning blowing oh-so-unsexily on my left ear and neck. So I’m cranky and unable to nurse this headache and forced to watch daytime television (which, because mine is the God of irony, is about a contest for the best hotdog in Brazil), and my throat is so parched that when I dare open my mouth to curse out whoever so much as glances at me to talk with anyone, I sound like a frog has been sewn into my vocal chords. All of this is making me crave food. Any food. Really. Okra. Grapes. Myocardial-infaction-inducing São Paulo hotdog, anyone? Bazooka® bubble gum. Cheeze Whiz®. Bacon. Whatever. Unlike a pregnant woman, my craving is not limited to just one odd item. I’m indiscriminate. “Feed me, Seymore.”

And because today is Friday (which I have now dubbed Foodie Friday), I am committed to feeding my blog even while I deprive myself of alimentation until these medical exams are over. Even while I wonder if today the guy I called to fix the gas leak will miraculously show up after his third day promising me he would so I can use my stove and cook something decent for myself. Even while I calculate whether there is still time to hit the organic grocery store before it closes. The wondering is probably pointless. This is Brazil, true proof of the theorem that time is relative. I’ll stop; the universe seems to be pointing to a gourmet evening of beer and hotdogs. I succumb. Acceptance is virtue.

If you did not click on the link of the not-for-the-faint-of-heart SP hotdog in paragraph one, or even if you did, I need to explain further. A São Paulo hotdog expedition is not your normal NYC hotdog-stand experience, not by a long shot. No, the SP hotdog mega stand (usually equipped with chairs, tables, a tarp in case it rains, music pumping out of someone’s car) makes me gape at how the regulars at these stands do not all weigh 300 pounds. Morgan Spurlock should have spent a month eating this stuff because it almost makes McDonald’s look healthy. One popular variation is where you pay just under four US dollars and are handed a bun and wrapper. You then walk around the cart and add however many frankfurters (yes, three is perfectly normal) and whatever fixings you want. Sounds simple, but only until you see these fixings: mashed potatoes, raisins, shredded chicken, potato sticks, onions, pickles, cream cheese, peas, shredded cheese, corn, cheddar cheese, lettuce, mayonnaise, tomato sauce, cilantro, chives, raw garlic, roasted garlic, etc. If I forgo the sausage (duh) and just stuff the bun with fixings, this athletic blogger will have covered her normal calorie intake for breakfast, lunch and dinner (which, again, I accept since I am currently starving myself in the name of medicine).

{Side note: I have now broken my fast with Doritos®, ice cream and a coffee. Justification: the exam results claim I am perfectly fine, so if today I am going to give the finger to organic, healthy food, I might as well do it with no class whatsoever.}

Besides ruminating (pun intended) on my possible evening foray deep in the SP culinary netherworlds, I spent much of the day keenly aware that my medically-imposed fast was so much harder than my self-imposed religious fast a few months back. A few months ago, I spent the day feasting on spirituality, consuming a sense of belonging, awe, thankfulness and necessary humility. I felt peaceful. I felt cleansed. Today, I just felt deprived. And bitchy. It felt as appropriate to break today’s fast with food that mirrored my screw-it attitude as it did to break my Yom Kippur fast with a slow dinner at a beautiful restaurant, calmly sipping wine and enjoying every moment of my evening with someone I love and who had fasted with me in solidarity.

Yep, I am what I eat...

Now that I have spent the day being whiny and a glutton of Doritos® and ice cream and coffee, am feeling satiated (though a bit heavy) and am returning to my normal self, I am quite thrilled to know the person I love and who stood by my side for my spiritual fast is headed over to my apartment. I think if I shower, stop to thank the universe for my health and look upon my love, that animalistic desire for the four-dollar SP heart attack will likely abate. Acceptance is a virtue.

02 March 2012


I love my kitchen, even if we have grown a bit estranged since I have been living in the house alone. I am a bit less willing. She is a bit less inviting. But despite our more muted relationship of late, I still defend her tooth and nail (yes, it is a she: a cozinha (PT), la cocina (SP), la cucina (IT)). With my kitchen so well placed in my heart, it was to my chagrin to hear someone very dear to me recently tell me she does not feel comfortable in my kitchen. In fact, her discomfort is such that she would rather avoid cooking and eating in my kitchen all together. Oh, the pain!

I have been ruminating on this for a few days now.

I have been reminiscing about how I have almost always had a convivial relationship with my kitchen. Even in times where I have been less than eager to cook and eat at home, I have always loved the kitchen. And the same is true for pretty much everyone I have ever lived with. My housemates and I always formed small bonds with our communal kitchen. Yet it dawned on me that those who do not form part of my daily space are likely less inclined to feel the natural intimacy that comes with the myriad quotidian moments shared with the beloved kitchen. Convivial relationships are only formed by frequent interaction.

So, understanding the cause, but not resigning myself to the effect, I decided to have a serious heart-to-heart with my dear kitchen (it involved my eating ice cream sublimely at the table in the half-light of the afternoon). And this was the result: we have a common goal, she and I, to make the kitchen more inviting to everyone who wishes the experience. And here is a personal, step-by-step guide on how to I made it happen (documented in real time):

1) Move the worm compost to the basement.

There is nothing hygienically compromising about keeping well-fed, vegetarian worms in my kitchen. They will never leave their home unless I neglect to offer them fresh produce and woodchips. They will never emit noxious odors as long as I refrain from dumping most animal-based food in the bin. They will never produce any gaseous byproduct, and their liquid byproduct is captured periodically in a jar and mixed with water to spray on the houseplants as natural pest control. Nevertheless, I have long abandoned the proverbial (read: small) city apartment. I actually occupy a spacious two-bedroom house with a basement, a small back patio and a sizable, gated front patio. So there is no longer any logical reason to flaunt my squirming pets to my squeamish guests. Plus, my friends know I am a walking idiosyncrasy even without meeting my strange house pets.

2) Get rid of the smoothie stain on the ceiling.

A byproduct of the explosion caused by a smoothie I carelessly let ferment in a hard plastic bottle in front of the kitchen window in the 34C-degree heat of this city, the stain on my ceiling is long past its quirkiness expiration date. Cleaning my food performance art requires acrobatics, creative cleaning techniques and frequent pauses so I do not grow lightheaded with my head pulled back, forced to stare hard at the murky spots on my white ceiling, wondering how it is possible that I ever liked the childhood game of trying to balance an object on my forehead while spinning stupidly around. I consider calling on the neighbor’s kids to see if they will enjoy the game of going dizzy while cleaning the ceiling, but I do not have a ladder. Or accident insurance. Or any way to cover indemnity for child labor. I do this slowly and take coffee breaks.

3) Limit the pots and pans and box up the overflow.

These are all a legacy of the last few tenants. Considering that I rarely entertain more than six people at a time, knowing that my stove has only four burners and resigning myself to the fact that my oven has but a single rack, my holding on to triple my capacity to cook and store is just a waste of space and of necessary visual calm. I separate the essential, box the rest and then set the boxes aside for the rightful owners to come reclaim their leftovers. I also remove the pots and pans from beneath the kitchen sink, leaving this area free for …  see point 5.

4) Detach the ugly microwave support from the wall.

The support’s recent utility as a makeshift base for the elastic I use to imitate a rowing machine and put in my gym sets between translations still does not hide the object’s utter gaudiness. I could go out and buy a microwave, but I hate microwaves. I always have. In briefly entertaining the purchase of a microwave and in just as briefly deciding absolutely against such an idea, I experience one of the moments of satisfaction that comes from living alone – the steps I take to accommodate others need not come at the cost of a certain degree of hard-earned solipsism. Of course, removing this eyesore requires taking my wrench from the scary closet in the basement (where lizards and cockroaches like to hang out). But in the name of my project to revamp the kitchen and create a small haven for friends (the biped ones), I face the basement closet, quickly find the wrench and trudge upstairs. And then… I incarnate Rosie the Riveter. I sweat. I grunt. I manage to detach the bolts. I. Take. Back. The. Wall.

5) Integrate the pantry. Hide the garbage bins. Move the stove. Clear the counter.

I remove the gross doors to the pantry and leave it open. I put the pots and pans I am keeping neatly on the top shelf, plates and silverware beautifully on the second shelf, and certain foodstuff in inviting glass jars on the third shelf. I also place recycle bins beneath the lowest concrete shelf, and the garbage bin beneath the sink. That just makes plain sense. It is now easier to sweep the floor, the dog can no longer paw out papers and shred them for entertainment (especially just before guests come for dinner), and the visual clutter is considerably decreased yet again. I then move the stove to the other side of the sink, leaving a sense of more openness in the kitchen, and clear off most of the counter, save for the drying rack, now neatly tucked into a corner.

6) Plant plants.

This is my last step – a living herb garden. Herbal and decorative plants are now everywhere in my kitchen. Rosemary, basil, some-out-of-control mint, rue, sweet onion, Echinacea and even a small pomegranate shrub that is producing little baby pomegranates. Life is green. The aromas are wonderful. I am smiling a lot.

Come visit! Come eat!

31 August 2011


(Written August 10, 2009, somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean)

There is a word in Portuguese whose translation into English I cannot recall as I write with pen and papers while sitting on the plane: fartura. It means something like “plenty,” and the corresponding image is the overflowing table of cured and tempered meats, succulent fruits from distant lands, delicacies that require days to prepare, fine table linens and unending entertainment at a grand banquet held by some corpulent king centuries past. Like the ripe spread of a long-past royal feast, I spent 35 days indulging in nearly every gastronomic delight that came before me, including some exceptional platters that certainly did not fall under the category of aesthetically or sensorially pleasing but that were consumed because they tempted my insatiable culinary curiosity. I had established but one rule before embarking: listen closely when my stomach says “enough.” With an roughly 80% success rate at honoring my one (albeit self-imposed) rule, I netted four extra pounds and the surreal experience of tasting my way through six different countries and 12 distinct cities.

I tried everything from the extremely authentic (sea bass and local appetizers on the Bosporus followed by nearly hallucinogenic hookah) to the iconic (waffles in Brussels) to the culturally juxtaposed (Yeminite food in Israel and Indian food in Belgium) to the localized version of high fructose, neon colored, corn syrupy, processed beverage (orange Yedigün cola in Turkey) to the nostalgic (ice cream with my old college dormmate) and the whimsically delicious (surprising fish stew chosen from a menu of utterly unintelligible gobbledygook in Antwerp). And, of course, most everything visible that was eaten was fully documented in photographs, with a short caption explanation for those who wished to accompany my gastronomical adventures from afar.

It was sumptuous, delicious, mouthwatering, visually explosive, sweet, sour, salty, tart, spicy and mild. Thirty-five days of sticky, buttery, liquidy, fluffy and thick weighing in my stomach or merely satiating my taste buds and alimentary needs. The surrounding of each and every morsel I put in my mouth was just as significant as the food itself. Preparation began with the atmosphere and did not end even after I paid the bill or bartered in whatever common language I could muster. So, I ate. And tasted. And picked, licked, slurped, bit, sipped, chewed and savored my way through my journey. In short, eating my way through my journey was absolute, delicious bliss.

My quotidian restrictions (to the social extent possible) of understanding the origins of my food and being as respectful as possible of my body, the environment, the economy and future generations was sidelined during these travels for the personal, egotistical goal of sensing and experiencing. Restricting myself to grass-fed, free-range and farm-raised animal products would have left me a vegetarian in the lands of lamb, mussels, sea bream and sausages. The normal rules I impose upon myself in my own kitchen would have left me completely deprived of many of the beautiful conversations I had with friends, acquaintances and locals in every country I visited. I’m sure it could be done. Vegetarians and vegans and diabetics and celiac patients travel contentedly with their diets and likely do not feel any more culturally slighted for such restrictions. But not I. For me, it most certainly would have been a weight holding me back from my objective of unabashed gastronomic indulgence.

Which then became overindulgence. Platitude. Akin to a hangover. After 35 days, it was sensory overload. Hence, “fartura.”

From my unabashed experience, the single greatest need in the face of a full-blown hangover the day after mixing too many drinks and probably too many verbalized thoughts better left unspoken is a tepid shower, fresh clothes and water drunk slowly to flush out the system. That and the sharp insight before forcing yourself out of bed, out of the filthy, sweaty clothes you probably slept in, that you will not repeat this experience for some time yet (not foreswearing an appreciation of alcohol, just promising yourself you best indulge in drinking only to the point where your taste buds and your good senses still respond coherently).

I write now as they serve dinner on the plane. I eat because my stomach is commanding me to respect its needs. But I long for glasses of water to flush out my system and a cool shower to bid to my corporal need to wash the excess from the skin and the pores. For those who are fans of Herman Hesse, this is the point where the ever soul-searching Siddhartha decides to take leave of Kamala and the drinking, gambling and general raucousness that comes to make his feel so bloated.

Will I continue to seek out sumptuous dishes? Drink cocktails? Ingest illicit substances while partying far beyond the limits of my body? Stop for grilled cheese at a greasy spoon at 4:00 a.m.? Try new dishes with less-than-sustainable beef? Break my kitchen rules in the friends’ kitchens and in restaurants? Of course. But for now, once every 35 days and not every day for 35 days is a far more sensible recipe. If I truly miss the sensory experiences, there are memories and documented reminders aplenty.


19 August 2011


Jews traditionally read one chapter (parasha) of the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) per week and discuss the meanings, lessons and ideas of the chapter up to and during the corresponding Sabbath. This week, the reading is the chapter of Eikev (parashat Eikev), which corresponds to Deuteronomy 7:12 - 11:25, and it relates that divine blessings for abundance and sustenance will follow if the Jews follow God's rules. I was forwarded an e-mail discussing this chapter and was very impressed by the author's analysis of how we spiritually relate to hunger and satisfaction. So, with Emma Kippley-Ogman's permission, I am reproducing her beautiful reading of Eikev here (I added one link and a few brackets for those less versed in religious Jewish vocabulary).

Parashat Eikev by Emma Kippley-Ogman

Parashat Eikev addresses a most basic human action: feeling hunger, eating food, and experiencing satisfaction. But according to midrash, every time it says in Torah that we eat and are satisfied, there is also a warning. To eat until we are satisfied, a nourishing and necessary act that allows us to live, is somehow also dangerous. 

The warning from this parasha goes like this: “When you have eaten your fill, and have built fine houses to live in, and your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold have increased, and everything you own has prospered, beware lest your heart grow haughty and you forget Adonai your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery… and you say in your heart, ‘my own power and the might of my own hand have wrought me all this success.’”

The danger of being satisfied is the danger of forgetting. While we wandered through the wilderness, with manna falling from the sky daily, it was totally clear to us that our nourishment was not solely the work of our hands. When we have just enough to live on for today, we can feel the edge of hunger just beyond, and we might remember that Divine grace gives us what we have. But when we feel like we have enough – enough to eat this meal that there are leftovers for later, a place to live that can withstand the weather, resources that produce income, wealth that we can save for future investments or even the next generation – when our enough grows so that its edge is well beyond our reach, then we are in danger of believing that what we have comes from our own success. As we are about to enter the land of Israel, Moshe sees that our lives will shift radically towards stability, power and wealth. He warns us against the danger of perceiving only our own power in our satisfaction. 

We live at a moment in history and in a society where we are again liable to forget. Most of us eat and are satisfied several times a day. Most of us live in houses or apartments where our needs are met and we even have a lot of what we want, well beyond what we need. And yet we live in a time of tremendous economic uncertainty. Some of us have lost our jobs and have struggled for a long time to find work in a terrible economy. Some of our mortgages are underwater. Some of our debts have far outpaced our assets and it is hard to imagine how we might ever be solvent again. Many of us watch the stock market swinging and wonder what will happen to the money we’re trying to invest in our futures. 

And as a nation we struggle to dig out simultaneously from precipitous economic times and from years of amassed debt that we fear might overwhelm us. But the short- and long-term solutions posed from all parties to these great struggles seem to tear apart the fabric of the society we have built. The proposed federal budget cuts will, among other things, undo progress in education, eliminate significant funding for scientific research, likely require raising the eligibility age for social security and paring back on public sector workers – the teachers, public safety officers, DMV workers, nurses and so many others who allow our society to function will be out of work and we will be missing their labor.

All this will be lost to preserve lower tax rates and with them higher profits for corporations and individuals. To preserve the notion that what we earn is really our own, that the work of our hands really brings us our wealth and our success. This is the fallacy of the fundamental attribution error, the pattern in human thinking that gives undue weight to personality over environment. As we cut our human and physical infrastructure, we forget that the profits of individuals and corporations rest on that very infrastructure. Economic success has a context – the infrastructure of our society. A well-educated work force, well-maintained roads, railways, ports and airfields, communication networks for internet, phone and post – without these infrastructures in place, no business could turn a profit. 

As Jews, we have an obligation to approach our economic situation with the kind of thinking inspired by this week’s parasha, with a sense of humility and gratitude knowing that each of us is here because of others’ concern for us, because others provided for us. Just like Honi and the carob tree that he planted knowing he would not see it to maturity, we know that we have streets and bridges because previous generations laid them for us, a good education because previous generations wrote policies that affirmed its importance, support in retirement because previous generations made that a priority. Let us ask if we are ensuring that we are leaving a similar inheritance for our future.

With the women’s rosh hodesh [new moon, head of the month] group from my shul [synagogue], I recently spent an afternoon preparing and serving a meal at Rosie’s Place, a Boston shelter and soup kitchen for homeless and vulnerable women. An L-shaped counter separates the kitchen and food preparation area from the dining room. Standing on the kitchen side of the counter, I was blown away by just how close those of us on the kitchen side are to being guests eating in that dining room. One health emergency and addiction to painkillers, a lost job, a change in mental status, a change in social security policy, savings lost to the fluctuating stock market. I wondered, if I were to become a guest, how I might learn to carry myself with the dignity of so many of those homeless women.

To seek policies that protect the vulnerable and thereby shift the dynamics of our entire society towards greater stability requires us to reflect on our own vulnerability. The danger in eating and being satisfied is indeed that we might forget. Rabbeinu Bahya invites us to reflect on the verse from our parasha like this: “While you still experience the bounty of goodness, look back at a terrible day that you had sometime in the past. Then you will notice the advantage you have today over that past time and will thank the Holy Blessed One for it.” Through internal empathy, cultivating a stronger sense of our own moments of weakness and of strength, of vulnerability and of power, we might gain a greater sense of empathy for our neighbors.

If eating and being satisfied puts us in danger of arrogance, our parasha also offers a tool for shifting our consciousness: “When you eat and are satisfied, give blessing to Adonai your God for the good land that God has given you.” To transform eating and being satisfied from a moment of forgetting to one of most powerfully acknowledging the source of all, we simply bring a sense of gratitude and blessing to our meal. All of us, those who are struggling and those whose ventures are taking off, are tremendously blessed, as we benefit from circumstances beyond our control. To the extent that we are successful, it is not just our own doing, but a gift we receive from generations past, our fellow human beings, and ultimately the Divine. May we continue to find nourishment and satisfaction in our food, in our work, and in our communities. And may our satisfaction lead us to be a source of blessing for all.

24 April 2011


(Originally written Thursday, April 20 at 3:00 in the morning)

It has been a long time since I have invited anyone over for dinner. The year has been rough, the kitchen at my temporary homes - uninviting, and my creativity - stymied. I have sought to find my inner strength in other places first. No guests at my table means it has been a while since I have had wonderful conversation over wonderful food. Or since I have had much conversation over food. There is always an occasional (and often tasty) exception, but the norm is either quiet, un-garnished and on my own or somewhat decent conversation over lackluster food while out with friends. These past few days have seen a greater deviation; conversations of worry and hurt inside myself that have left me quite unable to stomach most of my food. It started with what I thought was nausea induced by sugar, but my body has actually rejected most everything, and I am very keenly aware that this is because my emotions have gone to battle with my stomach. I have been able to manage, but my strength is down and heart a bit heavy.

Tuesday night I spent a night at my childhood friend’s house. In the morning, my friend fed me fresh, organic fruits and berries, creamy yogurt and a perfect egg after my short run through the nearby nature preserve. The conversation was about the food itself. Then about organics and feeding her family and how preciously right her marriage felt to her and hearing the word ‘mommy’ first uttered by her sons – the departure point being essential sustenance. Or maybe it was not all that, but that is what I registered. After several weeks of feeling an acute disconnect between food and self, it was soothing to take in breakfast and her words in the blissful manner I did. When I write ‘register,’ I mean it in the most holistic sense possible: a recording on the mind, body and heart. After days of barely holding down any type of food (and sometimes not even this), I finally (and soothingly) absorbed a small meal the way my mind, body and heart were meant to. The sensation, however, was short-lived. As soon as I grew preoccupied near the time I was to head to the airport, my body went awry once again. I am unable to keep food in me while I feel so far from my center and self.

As I sit on the plane now, I am thinking about the Boston Marathon (which I went to Monday to cheer on the runners) and about the elite runner who soiled herself to make a qualifying finishing time. It shocked me, but it ultimately made me want to understand more about why this public display of utter humiliation occasionally happens to elite marathoners. The short of it: her body just hit its limit and forced her to expel a build-up of toxicity so she could continue on her path. I cannot stop thinking about how gut reaction is literally the rawest register of our inner truth.

It is strange to write this post about food and conversation that are un-sustaining, about the rather taboo subject of eliminating food, and about how – depending on the moment – my body is rejecting or recoiling or very quiet in the face of what I once loved. Yet, I intrinsically understand my gut is doing the same thing as an elite marathoner, just in a more protracted (and far less embarrassing) manner. My body is going through a very drawn out process of expunging what has somehow entered me as toxic feelings, toxic conversation and toxic food. It is a very strange post indeed, but probably more reverent to the critical role of ingestion than any other post thus far and certainly deferential to the miraculous intelligence of the body.

07 March 2011


Yeah to the Aztecs. Of course, I encourage moderate amounts of 80%+ chocolate. Read more here.

22 December 2009


From the New York Times: “…this British celebrity chef has made it his mission in recent years to break people’s dependence on fast food, believing that if they can learn to cook just a handful of dishes, they’ll get hooked on eating healthfully. The joy of a home-cooked meal, rudimentary as it sounds, has been at the core of his career from the start, and as he has matured, it has turned into a platform.” Read more here.

30 November 2009


It’s poetically calm on my normally cacophonous street – the earliest hours of Monday morning still morphing out of late Sunday. I take time before a shower, after a day of work that took me far more time that I should have liked, to sip deliberately on a cold beer and watch the last stragglers pay their bar bills and the roaming street dogs give up on getting some lucky leftovers of street-vendor hotdog buns. An occasional nondescript car passes and a few garbled conversations at the street level three stories below are barely audible. The precious quiet and cool breeze is ripe for reflection. I drink my beer slowly out of a teacup.

I didn’t cook today. I actually barely ate today. Quiet and alone in my apartment, nothing seemed to really call out to me so I didn’t insist. I ignored lunch. For dinner, I let the Chinaman with his corner stir-fry stand whip up a vegetarian lo mein for me and I ate my dish without conversation, watching the nearby bar owner pull down and lock the metal gate then nod assuredly at the Chinaman. When the barman had walked out of sight, I suddenly noticed how the salty soy had stretched my tongue, and I ate quickly so I could get back to my apartment and drink water.

Recently I received a scathing letter from an angry friend who had lost the courage to talk to me, or indeed anyone else, in person. It came just days before I received an e-mail from another dear friend: “I am sorry, amiga, money is too tight to visit for New Years. Please take care and I will try to see you in March.” Her letter came on the same day I was told by my family that my offer to cook at a future family gathering would be more of consternation than could possibly be a source of a pleasure. And this affirmation came one day after my finishing a long, enveloping book – the end of an enrapturing adventure and the marked entrance into that limbo before availing myself of my next literary journey. And, appropriately, this literary adventure limbo coincided with my choosing to postpone plans to meet someone for a late lunch today, opting hungrily for a day of revered silence. The moment is indeed ripe for reflection.

My dog looked imploringly at me as I gulped down the water, her nose tapping just at my knee as I stood by the sink. So when I reached for the beer, I also brought my hand to the still soft fur under her chin and motioned for her to follow me. All too joyously, she kept at my heels.

She’s out here on the porch too now, watching the occasional nothings proudly through the crosshatched metal, as if entrusted with some unspoken lofty mission. I try in vain to accompany her gaze, but my eyes only succeed in taking in the blurring street stage, with the dim lights a cue that evening has exited. This is the quietest now that it will ever be here.

A visitor who stayed in my apartment with his guitar and the spirit of heavenly song once gave me a drawing of the view from this porch. He wrote mostly of the gods embracing this porch and then embracing him and embracing me. I pat the dog’s neck and bring the teacup up to my lips.

The beer is cold and bitter and makes me shiver, just a bit.

25 November 2009


Locally grown flowers and a meatless menu... not too bad, Obamas!


Living outside the US sometimes means I am out of touch with fascinating cultural elements, like how Fruit Loops are now considered a smart choice. I publicly thank my foodie friend Josefine (who regularly appears in these posts) for pointing this Frankenstein marketing scheme out.

07 October 2009


If your grandmother wouldn't have eaten it, neither should you.


There is a new coffee shop in my neighborhood, one that promotes the use of ingredients that are either well adapted or native to Brazil. On a recent jaunt with friends who have all left Sao Paulo for farther reaches of the country or planet, I sipped on a pitanga (aka Surinam cherry) and banana concoction at this new favorite spot and enjoyed a last afternoon together before each of us headed her separate way. As we descended the old rail ties that had been transformed into the coffee shop’s stairs and made our way to the register, we noticed a fantastic almost instant change of light outside the windows. Typical of the tropics, even in this crazy city whose ostentatious concrete monstrosity at times seems flippant to all possible references to nature, the winds picked up out of nowhere and the skies opened in Biblical pomp. The rains poured down in style, and two of us decided it must have been a sign to keep cover amidst the intoxicating coffee aroma and to extend our chatter.

We were hovering by the bar on the ground level of the converted house, deciding where to sit, when my friend noticed a small note chalked on the events board cum menu: “drink a coffee paid ahead; or pay ahead for a coffee. Total: IIII.” The barista explained we could drink a coffee for which another customer had already paid or we could pay for a coffee for someone else; there were four coffees already on the house. My friend, Laura, and I looked at each other, then at the unrelenting rain, then at the barista, then back at each other. She shrugged. I didn’t bat an eye: “I’ll take one.” As the barista erased one tick mark, Laura decided to take up the offer as well. Total remaining: II.

The barista prepared our coffees (espressos, as is typical in Brazil). Just before she set the small cups and saucers on the bar, she handed us each a note card. Apparently, every paid-ahead coffee necessarily come with a note from the coffee donor, and the note can be anonymous or not; in fact, bar the rule requiring its existence, there are no rules at all constricting the note: it can be silly, serious, in any language, in hieroglyphics, a crayon doodle, a long-winded essay, or even a long-winded essay written in crayon.

It seemed a beautiful idea, but my friend and I were both skeptical. Brazil. Our amateur, data-less analysis was that Brazilians are very helpful, gracious and hospitable, but if they can get something for free without working, they certainly will. Both Laura and I wondered out loud how this particular coffee shop had thus managed to build up an espresso surplus of four (about to be two) given what we had always observed. We waited for the coffee before opening our respective notes, chatting about each having “one foot behind”, the Brazilian term for healthy disbelief. The barista prepared our coffees in silence and smiled sublimely.

Just as the steaming coffee was placed before me, I opened the note card:

"I'll go on as I am
And I'll go on as I can
Throwing myself to the world
Traversing every last corner
There's a bit that I'll leave and a bit I'll receive
Through the natural law of encounters."

I didn’t drink the coffee right away. Actually, I just blushed. I reddened like an adolescent in love from how perfectly, cosmically directed this little note had been, in content and in context. Truth be told, I am a terrible correspondent. But, I am an excellent match-maker (both the prosaic and romantic kind), and the “natural law of encounters” is how I go about much of my life, weaving people and ideas together when something just fits (cooking encounters that lead to lifestyle changes that lead to awarded creativity, sending stories of dealing with death to a friend I only later find out had recently needed exactly a story to accept a devastating loss, bringing future lovers together over daring red hues on a large wall canvas, matching up friends in places as far away as Malawi). And how much more fitting to receive and read this poem in a place where I was in harmony with essence of my surroundings, my being an ingredient also well-adapted to Brazil.

Another friend recently asked for true stories about coincidences and I told her the coincidence story that always makes me happiest to think upon is actually one of exquisite cosmic encounters that span three countries and include a cowboy, a muddy rainstorm, a war, a broken motorcycle, capoeira, two cases of wine, some homemade bread with handpicked basil and unpasteurized milk, a death, an extramarital love affair, a crowded beach, two ghosts and a wedding. I will never blog this story or write it up; any curious reader of mine may perhaps hear it by sitting with me over a very, very, very long meal where the phrase “the natural law of encounters” will take some new shape through the story’s very retelling and reliving.

But, if I never retell that particular set of coincidences, it doesn’t really matter; the stories from some other cosmic coincidences will always waft into my life of their own accord and be retold and relived and reloved in their due time. When I “[throw] myself to the world,” that is - when I go about living, that “natural law of encounters” is simply intuited, defined, if at all, in sentiment and subtlety, and demarcated by things not usually attributed with any memorable power of definition – things like a small cup of common Brazilian espresso.

Of course, the coffee that engendered this retelling was the most amazing coffee I had yet had. I drank it traveling at mental light speed to whomever had left me the note and to all of my favorite stories of cosmic encounters, to moments earlier when I had voiced my skepticism that paying ahead a coffee could not take hold in Brazil and then full speed back to the present with my humble understanding that a no-rule coffee note inevitably conveys whatever is truly in the heart of the person who pays forward a coffee. I drank my coffee traveling to the time I first met my friend with whom I was enjoying this coffee and its anonymous note – my neighbor when I first arrived in Brazil who showed up at my door with a small carrot cake and ended up staying for dinner and a long chat and subsequent dinners and coffees and chats week after week after week.

Now at the end of her brief return to the city, Laura was smiling majestically, sipping her coffee, feeling blessed. And I was drinking my coffee, loving her smile, and thinking how desirous I was to pay ahead 500 coffees so 500 people could feel their hearts as filled as mine.

11 September 2009


I honor holistic medicine. When I am faced with non-sequitur rebuttals to that statement (e.g. “I believe in real, tested, Western scientific medicine and not your weird remedies; Melissa, your teas and herbs are hocus pocus), I find my self going back to basic definitions and clear argument. For those who assume the word holistic comes from a primer for witches (apologies to my Wiccan friends) and who get all bent out of shape on conjured assumptions of holistic medicine, my argument goes something like this: a) the word holistic comes from the Greek holos and means “whole”, not “strange concoction” (by the way, I think of Greece as rather West of the Orient); b) the aim of holistic medicine, specifically long-term health and constant prevention, is healthier, brings more joy and probably costs less than short-term treatment of any (or many) acute symptom(s); and c) to the extent possible, holistic-medicine practitioners find the source of any symptomatic problem and correct it, remembering the symptom may be physically far form the source.
That’s it.

I am not innately against Western medicine. Western medicine theoretically works on the same premises of time-tested non-Western medicine: test chemical compound (whether pill or plant or pill derived from plant), see if it works, use/prescribe. Also, a Western pill quite possibly may share the same chemical compound an herbalist in China might prescribe to an ailing patient there, which holds true for many medications taken in the Western world. So, if Western medicine helps correct the source of a health problem, how could I be against it?

However, I do take issue with Western medical thought for producers’ financial incentive to treat the symptom over the source and generally to ignore the patient, and for patients’ blind faith in this short-sighted, expensive, sloppy-band-aid approach. I also believe the source of our physically painful symptoms frequently lies in the mind and the heart, and few people are willing to take on the arduous work of admitting this and then remedying the most mercurial of our human composition.

Like a growing number of conscious Westerners (undefined term here for the politically correct reading this blog) and like much of the non-Western world until McDonald's bullied its way in, I try to use the food of my life as my holistic medicine. I am usually successful in translating food (and its enchanting power to bring friends together) into a very delicious form of healthy sustenance and bodily care. I am warmed by the thought of my kitchen and table have medicinal powers beyond my understanding. And I humbly try to express this sensation in this blog.

Now Obama is talking about health care (yeah), but not about food production (boo). This approach anything but holistic.  In fact, one of my preferred food writers, Michael Pollan, has just written a very good article explaining how our overlooking diet and food in the health care debate is tantamount to shooting ourselves in the foot before a race. Of course, some are thrilled by our invalid foot and even supply the guns so we don’t walk properly – just think of all the money to be made on surgical procedures, sutures, hospital visits, etc. to mend it! With all the commotion over symptomatic improvements in health care, delicious systemic, source-oriented, food-based solutions wait quietly at the finish line.

A fellow blogger/foodie recently brought to my attention a very true phrase from a Renato Sardo (a Brazilian slow foodie!): “food is the thing you do most.” Indeed, food is the truest source of our health or our infirmity. So, I hope the heated discussion about US health care ills also bring a few more into the collective that is already thinking and acting about less expensive, holistic, home-front solutions to improve our interaction with what sustains us.

07 September 2009


A while ago, I was Chef For A Night at Otto Bistrot in São Paulo. In a newspaper article published today about the few restaurants in São Paulo that allow others to work the kitchen, the chef at Otto gave credit to some of her more memorable 'lay chefs', including this writer.

A link to the article in Portuguese: "Chefs só por um dia"

A loose translation of the three paragraphs dedicated to Otto:

At Otto Bistrot, in the Consolação neighborhood, the kitchen helm was handed over to a client by chance. “A friend wanted to prepare a dinner for friends at home and didn’t have enough space. So he made dinner here,” says Chef Bia Goll. At Otto, the structure is similar to that at Bardo Batata, with the difference being that the client-chefs at Otto are not studying culinary arts. “We always offer kitchen help, although there was once a person who merely wanted to impress his friends and didn’t do anything,” Bia admits.

The chef explains that she was pleasantly surprised by the performance of two ‘lay persons’, Melissa Mann and Mariel Rosauro Zasso. The former prepared ostrich medallions that were so good they became part of the restaurant’s menu. And Muriel was so swift on the stove she ended up working as a intern in Otto’s kitchen for three months. “People aren’t used to ostrich meat, so I decided to do something innovative,” says Melissa. The amateur chef naturally had help from the kitchen. “I though it was fantastic to have kitchen help; I was able to delegate the dull tasks like chopping onions and washing dishes,” she explains.

For Mariel, it was her lasagna with Indian spices that lead to her invitation to be an intern. “I graduated with a degree in psychology, but I love culinary arts. I worked there for the pure pleasure of it,” says Mariel.

10 August 2009


My kitchen is radical – the definition of ‘radical’ being ‘extreme’ without any relation to slang from late eighties. It has no dishwasher – but that’s pretty common outside the US; it has no microwave – the oven/stove does the job on the rare occasion I need to reheat; it’s devoid of a toaster – again, the oven will do; it does have a professional mixer – from the days I was trying to open a café, but that still isn’t very enticing for bread making where getting dirty hands is part of the art; and it has no refrigerator.

No refrigerator.
No refrigerator?
No refrigerator!?!?

I had this wonderful, small refrigerator, circa early 1970s, that had been hand painted (read: unsteadily) a gorgeous orange. It began making funny gurgles, and I was moving apartments. So, I offloaded the refrigerator and decided to experiment. As I am foodie and love to cook, I have turned my gastronomic modus operadi into a truly radical experiment (and not just turned my kitchen into a radical room of the apartment).

Week five of the experiment has been great. Here are the basic tenets of my fridge-free kitchen:

1) Food shop on a near daily basis. This is easy since I work from home, live near four conventional super markets (three minutes, five minutes, six minutes and 15 minutes from my apartment); live near a feira/fair/fresh produce market (15 minutes from apartment); can order local-area organics, far better than the sad joke of USDA organic approval, once a week (Tuesday delivery in my neighborhood); can reach the very small semi-organic, mostly-local market in four minutes; and reside in a neighborhood filled with awesome restaurants when I just can’t handle it anymore.

2) Many foods last just fine outside the fridge. This has been a beautiful lesson. All hard cheeses last outside the fridge. Packed ricotta also lasts outside the fridge (or I can just make my own with milk and a lime in about 4 minutes). Milk is fine outside the fridge for three days in the winter, obviously less so in the summer. Most fruits and vegetables are fine for a number of days, even in the summer. Greens and leafy things do not last long, but if I set them in jars with shallow water and in a mostly shady part of the kitchen, I create pretty, über-modern, floral-like arrangements that withstand about two days without wilting. This is not the case for iceberg lettuce, which lasts for an ungodly number of days outside the fridge – and is pretty nutritionally useless compared to the dozens of other green leaves I could consume.

3) An urban garden certainly helps. This idea is pretty obvious. It’s great for the penny-wise, an easy way to resolve the wilting-greens problem, and ensures superior taste. I have yet to get this up and running, but will certainly post about it when I do. I’m going with a modified square-foot garden approach: http://www.squarefootgardening.com/

4) Change my diet slightly. The original reason for making dietary changes had to do with what was feasible in my radical kitchen. The benefit has been to my overall health. One of my biggest changes was nearly cutting out cow’s milk from my diet (and not for any lactose intolerance). In addition to plenty of research on the dubious benefits of cow’s milk to grown humans, the despicable treatment of most commercially produced cow’s milk, and the insane antibiotic resistance created by society’s high milk consumption, I’ve found that it’s just plain easy to do almost without. For general consumption, I occasionally buy a rice drink that lasts about four days outside the fridge. I keep some powdered soy in stock for those few kitchen concoctions where I might normally use milk. Sometimes when I have a number of guests, I buy some goat’s milk, which must be consumed the day it’s purchased, and I turn the leftover goat’s milk into ricotta. I still purchase butter whenever I have guests and use the leftover in bread. And I still buy cheese whenever I buy wine (or when someone shows up at the apartment with wine). I’m working on home prepared yoghurt and cultured milk, which has to be monitored daily – again, from goat’s milk.

5) Change my attitude greatly. These changes are not entirely necessary. I could purchase small amounts of milk and butter and yoghurt, but I’d rather not use my fridge-less kitchen as an excuse to create more waste and continue to consume lots of what is not really necessary. I could probably live off an almost-all-carbohydrate diet and only have to buy stuff once a week, but I don’t feel that daily (and sometimes twice daily) trips to the store are anything short of a way of connecting with myself and my body as well as a great way of taking a necessary break from professional activities. I could definitely make foods last longer if I had a fridge or freezer, but I really wonder what benefit a carrot is after a week in my fridge. I could stop making ricotta, trash the idea of daily watching over my yogurt, and give up on sourdough starter (now on its 3rd failed attempt), but this really requires all of 25 minutes per day (and tastes so delicious). And, finally, I’d be able to put ice cubes into a glass of scotch, if I only had a freezer, but the lack thereof gives me reason to head out to the local bar scene (which went smoke-free just this week! Cheers to the state of São Paulo) to enjoy a change of scenery with friends who support (or just pretend to support) my radical kitchen.

There was a time when having a refrigerator was as radical as my otherwise consumer self’s opting not to have one. And after five weeks, there are certainly days I do not think of adjectives like radical or experimental, but of terms like deranged, certifiable or ‘approach with caution.’ However, on the whole, the simple, fresh food, thre frequent walks outside, and the improved relationship with food and with those who share my table make it all worth it.

Kitchen and apartment open to everyone. Stop by my new place anytime.

26 January 2009


I was reminded today to reinforce one of my many (and among my most treasured) dreams by reminding you (my lovely, resource-rich reader) of the big picture: sustainable bed and breakfast where I cook for marvelous travelers, weave stories by the outdoor fire pit, read and walk and write, play guitar and sing with spirited and spiritual guests who stay for weeks on end, dance with the beauty of the surroundings and help tend to the square-foot gardens.

Why is this on my food blog? Sustenance. My dreams are my food. All help is blessed help. Thank you, friends, family, everyone, for helping me realize my dreams.

What are my other dreams? Ah, hold steady... I’ll remind you one kernel at a time.

27 October 2008


The last time I publically mused on food without a comic bent, I celebrated the life and death of a chicken and described my attempts to eat in balance with my surroundings. At the time, I was living off my savings (which had amassed to an amount that allowed me to live comfortably in Latin America), I had no business plan other than to take on an occasional translation and to spend my days writing or experiencing life, and I had a single mission to invite the greatest number of friends to my apartment regularly to eat whatever I happened to invent. In short, I constructed this writing venue, ‘Taking Tea In the Scullery,’ during the glory days of my relationship with food.

Lately, I am far from such, and everything I do reflects this fall.

Here is my present diet: Breakfast – toasted white bread roll (often 2) and butter; a cup of coffee with milk; sometimes a few cookies or a banana; sometimes orange juice. Lunch – white bread roll and melted yellow, processed cheese and a little fried doughball with chicken bits (coxinha, for those who live in Brazil) or white rice, red beans, grilled chicken and a bit of tomato; sometimes a little bit of chocolate afterwards. Snack – more coffee with milk; sometimes yet another piece of bread and butter or bread and cheese. Dinner – stewed, steamed or cooked vegetables or a vegetable soup; a simple salad comprised of two lugubrious vegetables; sometimes pasta and sometimes pizza (more bread and cheese); sometimes beer, usually when the neighbors pick up the tab (which they sometimes do in tandem with yet more pizza).

I have tried the following justifications for this diet that runs so contrary to what I enjoy, to what I spiritually and emotionally crave, to what I preach, to what I initially intended with this blog, and (here is the real kicker) to what I am trying so desperately to build into my new business (www.fabricario.com). Naturally (no pun intended), I do not for one minute believe my own sad plea for anti-gastronomic exoneration. Nevertheless, here is my dubious attempt:

1) I am very busy. I have no time to invest in cooking and little time to organize going to the weekly food fair or overwhelming grocery store.
2) My budget is pathetic. I would rather keep the food costs to a minimum and stick to what is easy to obtain.
3) My weight has been relatively the same for the last six years, so I am not concerned. I will worry later.
4) My diet in college was roughly the same. I got over it, so I know this is just a phase.
5) Organics Shmorganics. They are for people with money to piss away (or for producers who have recognized a capitalist goldmine).
6) I am unhappy, depressed and too emotionally weak to give a darn about something so futile as fancy cooking.

All of these explanations are very dubious and rather easy for me to refute on a point-by-point basis, but I will not do so just now. The truest way to refute everything I just wrote in one swoop is to admit the following: this diet, this whole darn eating plan (or lack thereof), this attitude, and certainly the apologia – they all just plain stink (this, short of describing how my stomach reacts to melted, processed cheese day in and day out). My truthful admittance: my whole body and soul are crying out in pain.

For the majority of my readers who are not organic-oriented or happy foodies (shout out to Josefine and my fellow kitchen bloggers!), you may be wondering why the melodrama. You may be thinking I am making it out worse than it is; you may be of the opinion that limp, little veggies just at night are better than what most people consume; you may be convinced that tomatoes at lunch really do constitute a whole salad; you may be thinking that I am whimpering over something that is such a non-issue or, conceding that this diet actually could be a concern for me, that I am whimpering over something that is so simple to change (if I really want to).
Therefore, I offer an anecdote to persuade you of the honesty in my affirmation that my body and soul are crying from my horrid diet. Credit my parents. My mom is not a cook by nature. This is not to say she is not a good cook (actually, she cooks quite well), just to say that her nature is not inclined towards the kitchen. Once my sister and I moved out of the house, she effectively moved out of the kitchen. Recently, my dad and she decided to bring back breakfast in the house. I don’t know what made them do this. I imagine it grew costly to eat out, or the same daily breakfast offerings seemed so dull, or running into the same people every morning became tedious, or it was one relatively easy action to take to be more zealous in dealing with my mom’s diabetes, or perhaps there was some yearning to bring things back to the home. Whatever the reason, the decision was made. Last I spoke with my parents, they seemed incredibly pleased with this new lifestyle change… something so simple that seemed to fill them with a sense of breakfast pride. My mom made a point of telling me about the change, which, in addition to demonstrating her reaching out and speaking my foodie language, was so expressive as to indicate a real effect on my parents’ souls; paraphrasing and interpreting permitted, I creatively allowed myself to hear the following: “our food ritual is making us feel good, so good in fact we feel the need to share it.” To boot, the topic of conversation immediately following the breakfast news made my jaw drop: my parents started a weekly yoga class. (This is jaw-dropping news because I had the impression that my parents breezed through the sixties and hippie seventies with only a brief pause to see the musical Hair and to plan the quickest route to Canada to avoid the draft), and also because the idea of my parents doing ‘downward dog for the sun salutation’ makes me smile). While I would love to attribute happy soul-fulfilling breakfasts as the sole decision to try yoga, I will not do so (I am sure I would lose a bit of credibility by attempting such). However, there is much to analyze in the fact that the conversation went directly from an improved breakfast ritual to a new attempt to honor the body (and soul). End of anecdote. So, when I attempt to evidence that my body and soul are truly crying from my diet, I point directly to my parents’ expression of newfound happiness from their new breakfast ritual. And as my parents are hardly as obsessed with all things epicurean that I am, I would venture to say, giving them due credit for their food-body-soul sensitivities, that I am even more visibly affected by food-related actions than they.

So, why, if I know I hate it, if I know it hurts me, if I know it weighs me and my soul down, am I subjecting myself to this white-bread-and-processed-cheese-and-coffee diet? Because I presently eat the way I eat for the same reason most people do things they know are no good: humdrum; habit; depression; frustration; sadness; anger; a sense of darkness in the middle of a sunny day; throwing up one’s hands and crying. I spelled it out in my six apologies above: I have buried myself below a rut of self-pitying justifications for my self-mutilating (or stomach-mutilating) actions.

And I am having a hell of a time breaking the cycle. Or I was… until today. Today, amidst everything on my list of things to do, I just stopped. I stopped and began to write. This is not to say I am having a Dorothy moment, where I wake up from my scary dream and the Wicked Grilled Cheese Witch miraculously stops tormenting me. This is to say that I am using writing to document my crawling out this dark, unhappy food place (which, clearly, is a dark, unhappy everything place). I have two blogs in English: this resuscitated food blog and ‘The Nude Maja’ (www.maiandros.wordpress.com), which documents my book from beginning to end. They both serve a similar purpose – writing as a tool to harmonize with my surroundings. I may very well take on all my sad justifications of my unhappy diet over the next few posts, analyzing why or how I fall back on these tricks of my mind. I may not. I just thought most of you who recognize that a) I have been absent for a very, very long time and that b) my state of ingestion is a faithful reflection of the state of my heart, would be relieved to know that I am now outwardly expressing both my food and my feelings in the way I do best – with words.

As I finish writing (in my kitchen, which is the only place I can pick up a very weak wireless signal from some unsuspecting neighbor), I am determined to take a small break before posting this article and to use it as the launch pad for my new-and-improved version of ‘Taking Tea in the Scullery.’ First, some puttering around the kitchen to challenge my Wicked Grilled Cheese Witch. Then, a triumphant posting.