Archive for the ‘Relationships’ category

Some random gastronomical musings

March 6, 2011
  • The Flour Bakery + Cafe’s cookbook rocks. I’ve never actually made anything from the book (nor do I own it), but I’ve sampled two desserts from it. One was a chocolate cupcake with white butter frosting, and the other was a lemon square. A friend of ours brought over some of the lemon squares the other night, and I can’t stop thinking about how good they are.

The remaining lemon squares

  • Wegmans rocks. You’ve all heard of this amazing grocery store right? Each year, the Rochester, NY-based supermarket makes Fortune magazine’s list of best places to work. Not to mention the store has an excellent selection of produce, baked goods, meat, and much more. Well this past week, when I was in Syracuse for some wedding planning, my mom made veal and spaghetti with Wegmans’ vodka sauce.

The sauce is unbelievably tasty. Its ingredients include diced tomatoes, tomato puree, diced onions, cream, olive oil, vodka, Romano cheese, roasted garlic, and basil. She mixed the sauce with cooked mushrooms, put the mixture atop spaghetti, and served it with Wegmans-brand veal.

My mom bought some of the Wegmans-brand veal for me to bring back to Boston.

I love how the veal is nice and skinny. My mom basically dipped the veal pieces into an egg and flour mixture; then covered them with breadcrumbs. She cooked the veal in some olive oil for a couple of minutes, put mozzarella on top of the veal pieces, and microwaved them for a minute. So the cheese was nice and melted atop the crispy veal. Oh my gosh I was in heaven eating this meal. It was of restaurant quality (a good restaurant, that is)!

I stopped by the local wine store, looking for a decent boxed wine. As I was reading the back of this one, a lady giving out samples of another wine told me a couple of customers had just recommended this one. So I went with it. It was pretty reasonably priced ($15 for 1.5 liters, which is two bottles-worth), and it is organic/contains no sulfites. I’m no oenophile; I just like a smooth, decent-tasting wine. Well, this one fits the bill. I mean, it’s a little spicier than the wines I’m used to, but by no means is that a negative thing. I would surely purchase this brand of wine again.

Small-town bars

March 5, 2011


When I was living in a country town in upstate New York, there were many of those bars where everyone knows your name. You walk into the establishment, and nearly everyone looks straight up and says “Hey Christine!” (or whatever your name may be).

You walk around, saying “hi” to everyone; hoping you’ll avoid that one guy who gives you a hard time each time you come in (you know, he tries to hug you when you don’t want a hug or asks why you don’t want to go hunting with him). You buy a drink for an incredibly cheap price (or someone buys it for you), and then shoot the breeze with the regulars.

In my upstate New York town, there were a couple of these establishments I’d frequent more than others. I remember going to the first one; being marked by the frequency with which country music was played. Single men in their 40s and 50s would be listening to a sad country tune about an unrequited love while practically crying into their Bud or Michelob lights.

I made the mistake of playing a techno song on the jukebox one evening. “What the H#@& is this?!?!?” several Carhartt-clad men shouted in unison. I looked up, realizing the error of my ways. This was NOT the place to get my techno music fix. We let the song play, however, as several regulars lined up to play their next sappy country ballad.

One night at this bar I had some especially great conversations. I don’t remember what was said exactly, but I do remember one boat salesman saying he had to play me a couple of his favorite songs. This first one will always remind me of my time in this insular yet charmingly simple country town.

I remember that whenever the chorus played, this guy would close his eyes, groove his head to the beat, and belt out the words. He’d passionately utter:

I wake up and tear drops
They fall down like rain
I put on that old song we danced to and then
I head off to my job
Guess not much has changed

Punch the clock
Head for home
Check the phone, just in case
Go to bed
Dream of you
That’s what I’m doing these days

The other song was a little gentler/more meaningful in my opinion. I’m unable to post the YouTube video to this page, so I’ll just link to it. I remember thinking it was nice that this rustic outdoorsman enjoyed such a sweet song (it’s about a love between a father and son).

At the other bar, you’d run into all sort of important people in town: police officers, lawyers, town board members, etc. Initially they knew you (well me and some of my friends at least) as the journalists who interviewed them from time to time. But then, after seeing them there a few times, you were more like a friend. Eventually you barely talked about what you did for a career. Instead, you’d join them in cheering for the Green Bay Packers, playing some darts, or discussing the upcoming dairy parade.

Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/dougtone/3841713630

What we can learn from the French

February 25, 2011

What we can learn from the French

It’s been seven years since I last lived in France, but I picked up on a lot while I was there. Plus, I’ve visited France a few times since 2004. I know you can’t clump everyone together and say they’re all one particular way. But you can point out things you noticed about many of the people you encountered.

  • The French know how to eat healthily.

This has been written about a lot (e.g. French Women Don’t Get Fat) so I’ll stick to what I observed personally. I noticed that French people (in general):

  • Don’t snack between meals (and when they snack they just have a cookie or a few pieces of chocolate)
  • Eat big lunches and relatively small dinners (That way, they have something to look forward to during the work day AND don’t go to bed on a full stomach.)
  • Have small breakfasts with coffee (Because they have big lunches, they don’t need a huge breakfast. And, coffee helps suppress your hunger).
  • Drink water with their meals (much healthier than soda, of course)
  • Eat lots of vegetables
  • Eat a wide variety of foods (For example, they don’t just eat chicken and beef. They eat chicken, beef, ham, pork, duck, rabbit, horse, fish, bull, boar, guinea fowl, oysters, mussels, shrimp, sea urchins, etc.).
  • Finish most meals with a dairy item (yogurt or cheese) and a piece of fruit
  • Take their time eating

I think all of these habits are good for you.

  • The French exercise less than we do.

But, because they eat healthily they don’t really need to exercise. I mean, their daily activities (walking, doing chores, etc.) are enough for them to get their daily dose of movement. Maybe we should follow their lead given this recent Wall Street Journal article.

  • The French take time to cook.

Obviously, this point relates to the first point I made. But I will expand on it a little here. Most of the French people I encountered just go out to eat for special occasions. The rest of the time they make their own meals. This allows them to control what goes into their bodies, save money, and go out to nicer places when they do go out. They also have a fair amount of dinner parties; those provide a great opportunity to see their friends and share their favorite recipes.

  • The French are polite.

OK, maybe this is a real stretch. And maybe their politeness often masks their true feelings. But frequently I observed French people saying (or doing) the right thing at the right time. Say your brother-in-law just died, for example. The next time they saw you they’d start off the interaction with a “Oh, I’m so sorry about your brother.” Or when they are invited to a dinner party they bring along a gift. While these might seem like obvious things to do, I’ve noticed this type of behavior isn’t always practiced here (and yes, I’m guilty of not being polite as well).

  • The French are experts in their fields.

In France, it’s really hard to get into a particular field when your degree is in something else. So, you’re forced to find a job in your area of expertise. While this certainly limits you choices, it helps ensure you’re good at your profession (or at least better at it than your average bear). Here, you might just get a sales job because you’re deemed friendly. But you don’t necessarily know the ins and outs of how to be an effective salesperson.

  • The French are into equality.

I’ll always remember this one particular experience I had while teaching English in France. I was in a fifth-grade classroom, quizzing the children on their knowledge of animal vocabulary. One of the students– Yoan (pronounced “Yo-on”)– was answering practically every question correctly. Each time I interrogated the pupils, his arm would shoot up in the air. Sometimes no one else would raise their hand, so I had to pick him. He’d get the answer right, and I’d congratulate him.

Well the class’s main teacher (a French woman) was not a fan of Yoan’s behavior. Whereas I viewed his ability and willingness to answer the questions as a positive thing, she viewed it as a horrible thing. She started screaming at him, saying it was not his place to answer so many questions. The others deserved a chance, she said, adding that he couldn’t participate any more. While most Americans would consider her reaction unfair or harsh (I think), it actually worked. Once he stopped raising his hand, the other students began participating in the exercise.

  • The French are fashionable.

They don’t necessarily have many clothes, but they know how to pick out items that fit them right. Sometimes this means spending more money on individual garments, but overall they might even spend less than your average American.

In a future post, I will write about what the French can learn from Americans.

Photo credit: www.flickr.com/photos/kalleboo/2036413105

My fiance knows me well

February 15, 2011

This is what he got me for Valentine’s Day:

Peanut M&Ms

Russell Stover chocolates

A 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon made by Midnight Cellars in Paso Robles, California (We've already finished it off!)

I got him “Atlantic” by Simon Winchester, which I’ve already blogged about.

Some thoughts on how the Internet has shaped my life

February 15, 2011

It’s so weird to think that the Internet didn’t exist (at least on a mass scale) when my friends and I were born. With the onset of this technology, we’ve truly witnessed a revolution in how people get information and communicate. Facebook posts, Twitter updates, and Google searches have become second nature for many people. Today I was thinking about the excitement with which I first greeted the Internet. I remember in ninth grade my parents bought America Online for my sister and I to use.

America Online guy

I had heard about this novel World Wide Web idea, and even had some friends who used the Prodigy online service provider (including my sixth-grade crush who used it to communicate with another girl in our class…I was so jealous of this chica!). I installed the AOL CD-ROM, created my username (I can’t remember the first one but know that at one point it was “Amalthea66.” Amalthea after the “Last Unicorn” character, and 66 because my favorite number was 6.), filled out my profile, and started visiting chat rooms. To me, chat rooms were the coolest thing about the Internet.

I remember visiting some rooms that were game-based (e.g. users played anagrams together), others specifically for teenagers, and others promoting “general conversation.” Each time, I had a blast. I would ask people where they lived, what they did for fun, and whether they had siblings. Not only did I think it was awesome you could converse with multiple people simultaneously, and meet people from all over the country, but I also liked how the Internet made everyone equal. It didn’t matter what you looked like, what you had done in the past, or whether you were shy in real life. You started each conversation with a blank slate. (more…)

Being engaged is kinda fun

January 23, 2011

You get lots of stuff:

White wine

Chocolates (as you can see, these didn't last very long)

Flowers

A wedding box

Stuff for the wedding box

Wedding books

Wedding post-it notes, a wedding datebook, and a wedding journal

Pearl earrings and a pearl necklace

A heart-framed picture

A book with art from Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz

My mom bought me the book because of my fiance’s connection to the artists.

Being engaged is also fun because you get to do photo shoots. Here are some pictures from ours:

It’s also cool because lots of people ask if they can help. Like my aunt offered to make Greek pastries for the reception, a friend is doing my wedding website, and my sister is keeping an eye out for bridesmaid and wedding dresses.

AND, my aunts,  cousin, and mom took my fiance and I out for an engagement lunch. We went to The Retreat in Liverpool, NY and had delicious meals (I had the quiche and salad special and he had the stuffed chicken breast and broccoli).

Lots of wedding-related things were accomplished this past week. For instance, we booked the ceremony and reception sites, wrote up an engagement announcement, and picked out photos we want to include on the wedding website. Also, we edited our guest list. The next steps are doing the save the dates and sending those out, writing up the story of how we met (also for the wedding website), and narrowing down bridesmaid dresses.

Engaged

January 9, 2011

The ring

On Thursday I got engaged. That’s right guys– I’m now officially off the market. Break out the tissues if you’d like. The proposal was low-key but sweet. As we were walking to our favorite pub, he spun me around and handed me the ring. Turns out earlier that day he had driven down to Connecticut to pick it up from his grandma. It belonged to her, but she wanted us to have it. She wanted to ensure it stayed in the family.

The amazing thing is that the ring first belonged to my boyfriend’s grandpa’s grandma. That means it’s from 1880 or so. Can you believe it? And it’s in such good condition! A neat back-story is that my boyfriend’s grandpa’s grandma was married to the brother of the famous photographer Alfred Stieglitz. And Alfred Stieglitz was married to the famous painter Georgia O’Keeffe.

So my boyfriend’s grandpa’s grandma may have worn my ring in the presence of Georgia O’Keeffe. Who knows– maybe the two women met frequently or maybe O’Keeffe even touched the ring once! Maybe I will never know the answer to these questions but it’s still fun surmising.