Tuesday, August 31, 2021

In My Kitchen and Other Kitchens, August

While we were out of town in the first half of August, our neighbors took good care of our potted herbs, which we have used in cooking in our kitchen since our return. I’m sharing my month’s kitchen stories with other bloggers at Sherry’s In My Kitchen blog event.

We started the month in Iceland on the National Geographic Explorer. We never really saw the ship kitchen, as they are being very protective against any possible contamination. However, I took a photo from outside the kitchen, through the door from which the wonderful food emerged.

Our trip to Iceland ended August 3, and after flying back to Dulles Airport from Reykjavik, we spent a few more days at Evelyn’s in Fairfax, VA. We of course cooked in her kitchen. Peaches were in season there, so we made this peach crumble — my job was peeling and slicing the peaches. I've written quite a bit about the food we ate while we were on the ship, so I’ll move on to our next trip: Maine. And home to Ann Arbor.

The memory of these trips remains on my refrigerator. I have new magnets from the two big trips:

Maine lighthouses and puffins, Icelandic puffins, and some of the Great Lakes.

We had no kitchen in Maine — but lots of lobster!

From Fairfax, we drove to Bar Harbor, Maine.
A lobster roll is the Maine icon.

Every lobster pound has its own way of boiling the lobsters — always at the last minute for peak flavor!

Our lobsters: fresh from being boiled (Alice's photo).

Fried clams: another great Maine classic.

Lobster added to a pear and walnut salad.

A very plain lobster salad.
Local oysters are yet one more Maine delicacy.

Lobster mac & cheese — wow, this is a great dish. The lobster is freshly boiled and picked.

Lobster quesadillas.

Lots of Maine breakfasts, too. Here: stuffed French Toast.
Background: Blueberry Pancakes.

Now: Home in My Own Kitchen

In my own kitchen: lots of vegetables being prepped. Here, starting a soup.

Gazpacho from fresh ripe local tomatoes and peppers.

Also from local tomatoes: shakshouka.

More farmers-market food: fresh basil for pesto.

Ratatouille vegetables — everything fresh and local (except the onion).
Ratatouille in the pot for final cooking. Each item is separately sautéed.

Fresh corn on the grill: another Farmers Market treat.

Grilled corn and ratatouille ready to eat.

Ingredients for peach crisp or crumble (same thing, see this post).

Peach crisp with vanilla ice cream. New this year: maple syrup in the topping.

A Michigan Peach. Summer’s best!

Blog post and photos © 2021 mae sander for mae food dot blogspot dot com.

Monday, August 30, 2021


What? I’m going to write about Kool-Aid? 

Recently, I saw an old friend that I’ve been out of touch with. She mentioned that she sometimes takes walks in my neighborhood, so I suggested that she should come by. 

“Just knock on your door?” she asked. Sure, I said, and a memory came to me. 

“Like people used to do,” I said. I thought about summer during my childhood. We would be sitting in the living room which was cooler than outdoors. It was hot in St. Louis where we lived: very hot. My mother would look out the window, and see a car parking in front of our house.

“The so-and-sos just got here,” she would say. “Go make a pitcher of Kool-Aid.” 

In the kitchen, I would get out our big pitcher, and put in one can of frozen lemonade, a package of Kool-Aid (usually red), and the recommended amount of sugar on the Kool-Aid instructions, along with water and ice cubes, also as recommended on the package instructions. Sometimes a squeeze of actual lemon juice went in as well. My mother always made sure there were cookies on hand, to serve with it. 

Yes, guests would just drop in. It doesn’t happen any more. Drinking Kool-Aid doesn’t happen any more either. It’s probably no worse health-wise than my favorite hot weather drink now: Diet Coke. Both are examples of very highly processed industrial products that are criticized for their poor nutritional value. I just don’t happen to like Kool-Aid any more.

I'm sharing this odd drink memory with Elizabeth's weekly blog party. This post © 2021 by mae sander for mae food dot blog spot dot com. 

NOTE: My Kool-Aid memories have nothing to do with the now-cliched expression "Drinking the Kool-Aid" -- my childhood experiences were many years earlier than the disaster that inspired that expression.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

A New Mural from the Ann Arbor Art Association Project

A beautiful mural!

Artist Jake Dwyer's mural on the Phoenix West Building in downtown Ann Arbor is still a work in progress:  a very promising one! I especially enjoyed seeing it because I worked in this building many years ago when it was very run-down and neglected (at least I think it was this building). Now it’s very lovely — especially appealing because I love birds!

Blog post and photos © 2021 mae sander.

And another mural in Ann Arbor, near the Farmers Market. Probably, I’ve seen this before.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Michael Pollan's Mind on Plants

Quite a few of Michael Pollan's books have been very appealing to me. 

I didn't enjoy his newest book as much as the earlier ones. This is Your Mind on Plants didn't grab my interest to the same extent, or feel as informative. The book's three chapters are centered mainly on Pollan's own experiences with three plant-derived substances: opium from poppies, caffein from coffee beans, and mescaline from various cactus plants. Yes, he offers historical background about coffee, legal background about the war on drugs (especially regarding poppy cultivation), insights about surviving the pandemic while writing, and cultural background about Native American ceremonies involving mescaline. He makes good points about about non-Natives' participation in such ceremonies, especially his own participation, and about issues of cultural appropriation. But he is at the center of everything. It's not a bad book: just OK!

Pollan's books that I like the most were mainly published at least a decade ago. I feel as if I learned much more from reading them. They included much more interesting research, for example, his studies of the life and times of Johnny Appleseed and his interviews with experts about baking bread and making fermented foods to name just a couple of themes. The books I most enjoyed:

  • The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World. 2001.
  • The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. 2006.
  • In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. 2008.
  • Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. 2013. (Also a Netflix series)
Blog post/review © 2021 mae sander.

Thursday, August 26, 2021


Nomadland by Jessica Bruder

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century is a very sad book. I feel very distressed about the disasters that have plagued many innocent, hard-working, honest, and intelligent people in our society, and about how little we collectively care about them.

In the introduction Bruder characterizes the life of her subjects:

"But for them—as for anyone—survival isn’t enough. So what began as a last-ditch effort has become a battle cry for something greater. Being human means yearning for more than subsistence. As much as food or shelter, we require hope. And there is hope on the road. It’s a by-product of forward momentum. A sense of opportunity, as wide as the country itself." (p. xiii). 

The author is very aware of the literature of road trips and life on the road in America.  I found books she mentioned to be very interesting (though I wondered about why no reference as far as I can tell to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance). Above all, Bruder cites Bob Wells, who has a blog, a youtube channel, and a self-published guide titled: How to Live In a Car, Van or RV: And Get Out of Debt, Travel, and Find True Freedom. Wells founded a group event called Rubber Tramp Rendezvous in Quartzsite, Arizona, and is a leader of the people whose lives feature in the book.. 

Several other books are mentioned in Nomadland including:

  • "One guy at a Rubber Tramp Rendezvous campfire was horrified to learn I hadn’t yet read Travels with Charley [by John Steinbeck]; the next day he arrived at the van to lend me a paperback. Other entries in the literary canon of this subculture included Blue Highways by William Least Heat- Moon, Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey, Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, Walden by Henry David Thoreau, and Wild by Cheryl Strayed." (p. 162).
  • "Positive thinking, after all, is an all-American coping mechanism, practically a national pastime. Author James Rorty noted this during the Great Depression, when he traveled America talking with people forced to seek work on the road. In his 1936 book, Where Life Is Better, he was dismayed that so many of his interview subjects seemed so unshakably cheerful." (p. 164). 
  • "Paul Bowles wrote a book called The Sheltering Sky. He described the difference between tourists and travelers.” (p. 204). 

The author's well-meaning study of individuals who cope with their loss of material security by living out of mostly decrepit vans, campers, and even cars is well-done. But I didn't particularly enjoy reading about their suffering. For one thing, the chapters are kind of repetitive, and there's too much detail about the main subjects. But mostly, the book is just too sad!

Nomadland, The Movie

After writing the above book review, I watched the movie version. What a contrast! No wonder it won three Academy Awards, was nominated for 3 others, and won other awards as well. No wonder it was so popular!

The movie Nomadland is deeply emotional, while the book is in some ways cold. The script added fantastic and vivid memories told by the characters who in the book are somewhat two-dimensional. The magnificent scenery of the American West creates fabulous backgrounds for the characters' lives and their sadness. And of course Frances McDormand creates a remarkable and memorable character in her portrayal of Fern, especially at the end when she recites the Shakespeare sonnet.

Like the book, the movie is extremely depressing, with it's pitch-perfect capture of the aging nomadic individuals who inhabit vans and campers and say they are not homeless, just houseless. Most of them have lost everything they had worked for and are still working at whatever jobs they can find, notably at temp jobs in an Amazon warehouse, at a national forest service campground, or picking and packing sugar beets. They are clearly trying to find a way to deal with a diminished life, but it's hard and sad.

There were a few references to how these individuals who moved around and had little money managed to eat. Each of them organized some type of kitchen: Fern had a few of the plates that her father had bought her when she was a teenager; others had less. They clearly liked to eat, and shared with one another. At one point, Fern makes a sandwich to give to a young obviously troubled man which creates a connection between them. The collective spirit of these individualistic van-dwellers shows up especially in the occasional pot luck spread, including stew to which each contributes an ingredient, mac and cheese, potato salad, and the like. The get-together in Quartzsite particularly fostered sharing. I loved the way they were helping themselves and telling each other: "Have all you want."  

Many of the characters in the movie are played by the actual people who were described in the book, rather than by actors. Notably was the role of Bob Wells, the leader of the van-dwellers, and Fern's friends Swankie and Dave. This makes it all the more fascinating. 

I'm late to reading and watching Nomadland, and I'm glad I finally have done so.

This blog post © 2021 mae sander.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

"Nine Nasty Words" by John McWhorter

Nine Nasty Words
 by John McWhorter is "a linguist’s journey through profanity, rather than an anthropologist’s, psychologist’s, or historian’s. So many think that we are translators, or grammar scolds, or experts on how to teach kids to read, or dialect coaches. We are none of those things. Rather, we take in what looks like a mess and try to make out the sense in it." (p. 7)

McWhorter has a wicked sense of humor which I love. He's quickly becoming one of my favorite language writers, but I find it challenging to explain just how great he is! I've read quite a few articles and blog posts that he authored, but this is the first of his books I've read. One thing that I really appreciate is the incredible range of his sources, including old movies and stage plays, blues recordings, and historic documents of great diversity, as well as scholarly studies of language and its history. He fascinatingly describes how each of his chosen words became so unspeakable -- and how a few of them are now accepted, while just one of them is utterly taboo.

I especially like McWhorter's choice of three favorite sentences, which he mentions as he discusses the various profane and taboo words in the English language:
  • "The funniest sentence I have ever known, by a solid but non-native-English speaker who informs us that 'Like English, Chinese is a language without gender, i.e., apart from the natural sex of the nouns such as man, woman, boy, waitress, cock, bitch, etc.'” (pp. 147-148). 
  • "Or a sentence I love almost as much as the one about English lacking gender except for words like waitress, cock, and bitch: A wasp just stung me on some drive-by type shit, nigga just stung me and bounced. (p. 197).
  • "I may have found my third favorite English sentence... in something D. H. Lawrence grumbled in 1925 in reference to a cow: 'To me she is fractious, tiresome and a faggot.'” (pp. 214-215). 
If you want more review detail, it's easy to find. But I suggest that you'd be better off reading the book rather than reviews!

This blog post © 2021 mae sander.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

White Bean Soup

Soup: a nice meal even in fairly hot end-of-summer weather. Monday’s soup was a white bean soup, for which I happened to have almost all of the ingredients. Although I went to the Farmers Market Saturday, we had eaten most of the produce I bought there. Those vegetables were just too good to resist. So I made soup from carrots, a potato, a can of white beans, celery seed, rosemary, a splash of wine, a squeeze of tomato paste from a tube, and some good stock (left from last week's onion soup). We had parmesan cheese to grate and a tomato and some fresh basil as a garnish. Tomorrow: another visit to a produce store.

Recipe here: https://theclevermeal.com/the-best-white-bean-soup/

Monday, August 23, 2021

An Intriguing Expression

"Long drink of water"

"Used to describe a tall person, and usually a female: 'Migod, but she's a long drink of water!'... a polite way to say that someone is very attractive" 

"A man or woman that is tall, gorgeous, and super delicious. Like on a hot day, a tall drink of water is absolutely appealing." 
"Early uses appear to be humorous and mildly derogatory in the sense of gangly or lanky. More recent American usage in the 21st century is often positive, suggesting that the person referred to is attractive." 

I've only heard someone called a “long drink of water” a few times, always admiringly. I find it very amusing. Yesterday, I was reminded of this expression, not by a tall human, but by a very long-legged dog:

I politely asked the owner if her dog would mind if I took its photo.

She said the dog would be honored.
Some sources say that “tall drink of water” or “long drink of water” are southern expressions. A couple of country music songs use this relatively obscure term. Anyway, today is hot out — so I appreciate the significance of a tall drink of water being very appealing, and I’m sharing this abstract connection of a dog and a beverage with Elizabeth’s blog event celebrating drinks.

Blog post and photos © 2021 mae sander.


Saturday, August 21, 2021

The Farmers Market, Ann Arbor

Another way to get back to normal: shop for produce at the Farmers Market.

A beautiful utility box at the market.

Using the produce: Roasted Peppers

Blog post © 2021 mae sander for maefood dot blogspot dot com.
If you see this elsewhere it’s been pirated.