Sunday, December 31, 2023

In My Oven and on the Stove in December

First, I wish everyone a very pleasant New Year’s Eve 
and a wonderful year in 2024.

Here are some photos of cooking in my kitchen this December, to be shared with Sherry’s In My Kitchen for the end of the year. Of note this month is the way I’ve been exploring so many books set in France: two mysteries set in Brittany, books about the Paris metro and the Seine River, and at last, Bruno’s Cookbook by Martin Walker. It’s been fun. I have no idea if this obsession will continue in the New Year.

Our kitchen photos show our lives up to December 27. On the 28th, we flew to Costa Rica where we are on a birding trip, but I scheduled this post to go live for the December 31 wrap up.

Inspired by Bruno’s Cookbook.

Also from Bruno's cookbook.

Assembling the chicken Marengo to take to a potluck. I adapted Julia Child’s recipe to work for a potluck.

A recipe from the New York Times.

Fried eggs for a sandwich.

Before serving, this tart is inverted on a plate, so that the onions are on top of the pastry.

A very refreshing salad: celery, green onion, capers, herbs, lemon zest & juice, olive oil.
Like many of the above preparations, this contains moderately-priced and easily available ingredients.

New in my kitchen in December

Oven-safe enameled pans -- the smaller one was used for the onion tart.

Fresh jars of spice blends to replace the ones in my pantry that have gone out-of-date.

Blog post © 2023 mae sander

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Best Bird


The Resplendent Quetzal is the bird we most wanted to see in Costa Rica, and we succeeded!
Photo © 2023 mae sander

Friday, December 29, 2023

A Day in San Jose, Costa Rica

Beautiful Birds in the Garden of our Hotel

A Mot-Mot. Notice his impressive tail feathers.

Mot-Mots wag their tails, possibly to warn one another of predators.

The sky at sunrise. We are in the tropics, so the sky is pink for only a minute or so.

Clay-Colored Thrush — the national bird of Costa Rica because its beautiful song begins the rainy season.

Hoffman’s Woodpecker — often seen in gardens here.

Rufous-Tailed Hummingbird.


Len’s photo of the Mottled Owl as we saw it roosting this morning.

Flowers and Butterflies


Dining at our hotel

Breakfast buffet in the dining room.

We ate several meals in the hotel, and all were very good. The basil in this salad was remarkable!

Tomorrow our tour will be taking us to a much more remote site to search for much more exotic birds. If I have the time, the energy, and the internet access to post from there, I will, but this may be my last post for a while.

Post and all photos © 2023 mae sander.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

We made it to Costa Rica!


Day 1 of a birding trip: our first bird is this mottled owl!
He lives in the garden of the hotel in San Jose where we are spending 2 nights.

Photo © 2023 mae sander

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Recent Reading

Dwight Garner, a book critic, has given us a rather strange book titled The Upstairs Delicatessen: on Eating, Reading, Reading about Eating & Eating while Reading. This account treats his two favorite pastimes: eating mindlessly and unceasingly without reflection, and reading about food. He endlessly quotes little phrases and sentences about food from famous writers, modern writers, fiction writers, narrative writers, old and new writers, trendy and unfashionable writers, song writers, pop culture writers, and more. Reading it is a bit of a blur. But the essence is: he loves to eat and he doesn't think about it much.

A quote from Dwight Garner:

"Salty, fatty, crispy, and spicy: the basic food groups, essential building blocks for happiness, more all-American than apple pie. Lunch is when I eat fast food, when I do. This is Americana, democracy in a paper wrapper. It makes sense that Evel Knievel’s first audiences were the diners outside at an A&W drive-in, when you ordered from a carhop instead of via a dented speaker. Maybe Jack and Diane, from the John Mellencamp song, were there, instead of sucking on chili dogs outside the Tastee Freez. “Tastee Freez in Fiction” will not be on a college syllabus anytime soon. Yet the characters in S. A. Cosby’s superb Southern crime novels are obsessive about Tastee Freez double chocolate milkshakes. Chuck Klosterman, in Fargo Rock City, is a student of cheap thrills. “Listening to Van Halen is like having the best sex of your life with three foxy nursing students you met at a Tastee Freez,” he wrote. On the other hand, listening to Eric Clapton is like “getting a sensual massage from a woman you’ve loved for the past ten years.” Eve Babitz saw things similarly. “The Byrds and the Beach Boys and the Mamas and the Papas,” she wrote, “all sounded as though they came out of a Frostie Freeze machine pipe organ.” (Dwight Garner, The Upstairs Delicatessen: On Eating, Reading, Reading About Eating, and Eating While Reading p. 82).  

In contrast, Michael Moss, in Hooked: Food, Free Will, and How the Food Giants Exploit our Addictions, writes in a journalistic, systematic way. He systematically explores the science and neuroscience of food memories, including rather detailed descriptions of how the brain processes desires, cravings, reactions, and memories of food, and how the combination of sugar and fat and salt (that's the combination referred to in the quote above) is an irresistible trigger for many brains. 

Hooked offers a very interesting and unexpected connection to Garner's much more disparate and vaguely disorganized thoughts. The same core questions appear in both books: what is food to a human mind? What is it like to eat mindlessly while doing other things, like reading. What is your brain doing and how are you driven to act like Garner when he spends the afternoon scarfing snacks while reading library books? What triggers our food obsessions or additions or just cravings?

The two books seem to be a random juxtaposition of two ways to see, by authors with very different methods of probing some of the same ideas. I happened to read them together for no particular reason.

A quote from Michael Moss: 

"When we eat with purpose and deliberation, giving some thought to the preparation and consumption of food, the hippocampus gets engaged. It helps keep the go brain from getting us in trouble. Slowing down and chewing our food leisurely allows the hippocampus to absorb the information from that eating experience and to learn. ...  By contrast, when we do things by rote, or by habit, as in eating a candy bar while staring at a computer, this mode of eating shows up in a part of the brain called the striatum, Latin for striped, because it has bands of white and gray matter... new research has connected it with our behavior in response to stimulus. In the striatum, we are reacting to inducements, like the sight or smell or memory of candy, without applying the kind of oversight that can put the brakes on a bad decision. When we file information away in the striatum, it creates what scientists have dubbed habit memory." (Michael Moss, Hooked: Food, Free Will, and How the Food Giants Exploit Our Addictions, p. 63). 

I guess you could get all philosophical about this, but I won't. 

Review  © 2023 mae sander

Monday, December 25, 2023

Christmas Dinners


This flamming plum pudding was the end of a beautiful Christmas dinner at Nat's house.

Nat, carving the roast

Len, Nat, Carol, Adam, and Kaywin at the table.

Family, Elsewhere

Miriam sent me this photo of Christmas Eve with Hayden's family.

Evelyn, Tom, and Alice had the traditional Bavarian Weisswurst on Christmas Eve.
Alice sent me a photo of her plate.

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Decorated for Christmas

At Christmas time, street art becomes something new as many families decorate their homes with lights, wreaths and other greens, and lawn decorations. 

Here's hoping that we'll all find many more beautiful murals in 2024.
Happy New Year everyone!

All these photos were taken within a 10 minute walk from my house.
My neighbors are very dedicated to Christmas decor, don’t you think?

I always enjoy good street art, especially murals and imaginative (but not destructive) graffiti, and I like to share my finds with other lovers of outdoor art work, which I've done this week with these Christmas houses decorated all around me. Each week Sami at the blog COLOURFUL WORLD offers us all a chance to see a wide and global variety of street art at MONDAY MURALS. Sami's blog event is cancelled for the last two weeks of the year, but I'm still sharing my street art — that is, Christmas houses —  this weekend, and sending a thank you to Sami and all the participants. 

Blog post and all photos © 2023 mae sander