Thursday, November 30, 2023

November Kitchen Thoughts

Not a kitchen: beautiful skies over the Woodrow Wilson bridge to Washington, DC.
The highlight of our month of November was a week’s visit for the Thanksgiving holiday.

November in Michigan

In my kitchen in Michigan this month, there’s been much less activity than we enjoyed over Thanksgiving week in Evelyn and Tom's kitchen in Fairfax, Virginia. I’m sharing two kitchens with the bloggers who link up at Sherry’s “In My Kitchen” each month and with Deb’s Sunday Salon at Readerbuzz.

At home in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Watering my plants, 2 ice cubes each.

Three new fridge magnets from our visit to the National Gallery of Art:
Top: Leonardo's Ginevra (1478)
Lower left: Vermeer's A Lady Writing (1665)
Lower right: Vermeer's Woman Holding a Balance (1664)

Food at home: rather simple.

Huevos rancheros with black beans, egg, and yogurt on a tortilla with a bit of chopped cabbage and a lime wedge.

Len’s treat for breakfast.

Salad with peanut dressing.

Israeli Feta Cheese from Trader Joe’s. Thinking of Israel all the time.

In Evelyn and Tom’s Kitchen

Thanksgiving action photos in addition to the many from last week.

Beyond Thankfulness: Some thoughts for November

While celebrating Thanksgiving, I’ve been thinking about how fortunate we are, but also what responsibility our good fortune means to us. For example, consider this statement from the introduction to The Best American Food Writing 2023, editor Mark Bittman:

“Everyone with unlimited access to some kind of food—the majority of people in this country—takes it for granted. We live five minutes from a banana or a Slurpee or a cheeseburger and we consider that normal, even though everything it takes to bring us those things is part of a deeply flawed and destructive system.” (p. xv)

Along with feeling gratitude, we can also try to remember the social and environmental cost of what we are grateful for. A similar thought is in an article by Yvon Chouinard, founder and former owner of the outdoor goods supplier Patagonia. He offered some insight into the need to be responsible when acauiring the goods for which we feel thankful. 

“Since 1999, humans have far surpassed — by billions of metric tons — the amount of Earth’s resources that scientists estimate we can sustainably use. The culprit: our overconsumption of stuff, from shoddy tools to fast fashion that is trendy one day, trash the next.

“Obsession with the latest tech gadgets drives open pit mining for precious minerals. Demand for rubber continues to decimate rainforests. Turning these and other raw materials into final products releases one-fifth of all carbon emissions.

“The global inequality that benefits some and persists for the many, ensures that some of the poorest people and most vulnerable places bear the social and environmental costs of international trade. Research links demand for goods in Western Europe and the United States to the premature deaths of more than 100,000 people in China because of industrial air pollution.” (Source: "The High Stakes of Low Quality," New York Times, Nov. 23, 2023)

The climate crisis is a looming issue that should affect our consumer decisions. According to the Guardian: “The year 2023 will be remembered as a critical year in the escalating extinction, climate and nature emergencies – not least because it looks certain to be the hottest since records began.” 

Every day the news is full of examples of products we buy and use (or items that are integrated into products we use) that seem innocent, but threaten the environment, the workers, and the civil order of the countries where they are produced. Here’s one example from numerous possible impending disasters: the production of palm oil. An article in the Guardian titled “Deadly harvest: how demand for palm oil is fuelling corruption in Honduras” described how growing and harvesting oil palms creates jobs for desperate workers and high rewards for the rich by destroying the natural forests:

“Palm oil, especially from the oil palm’s fruit, has become an essential export business in Honduras, used in the food industry, in beauty products and as a biofuel. Its low production costs make it a cheap substitute for most oils, such as sunflower and olive, significantly lowering manufacturing costs in global markets.” 

Planting of oil palms by small agriculturalists in Honduras destroys stands of essential old-growth mangroves and other trees in areas that the government has set aside as protected national parks. A few rangers are assigned to police millions of acres of parkland, while opportunists are destroying the natural plant life to grow oil palms, and collusion between the rich entrepreneurs and the judicial establishment makes enforcement hopelessly dangerous.

How are Americans like me involved? According to the Guardian article, palm oil accounts for about 40% of global demand for vegetable oil as food, animal feed and fuel — so we are surely using it whether we are aware of it or not — I read the label of a favorite Trader Joe’s cookie, for example, and it contained palm oil! 

Globally, oil palm cultivation is endangering wildlife and forests in many other parts of the world, not merely in Honduras. Not to mention that it’s not very healthy to eat foods made with palm oil, which is used in especially large quantities in cheap, highly-processed foods. Honduras is one small example among many producers of the oil, and palm oil is only one of the many destructive products we unthinkingly buy and use.

I feel helpless.

Blog post and photos © 2023 mae sander


Iris Flavia said...

Your kitchen is beautiful and spacey. And you left me hungry, thankful and thinking...

DVArtist said...

I really love both of the kitchens. The food looks so good and I love the fridg magnets. Have a nice day today.

Lori said...

I watched a story The Tragic Costs of e.waste on CBS Sunday morning. The video is online. It is horrific to see where our old phones, computers, TV are ending up. I highly recommend watching it.

Jeanie said...

We all feel helpless. And we all do the best we can. At least try to. (And your home-food does not look simple -- just fabulous!

Tandy | Lavender and Lime ( said...

It seems amazing how many products use palm oil, and I feel the best we can do is stop buying them. I also give my orchids 2 ice cubes twice a week, as well as my ficus. I love the bookshelf in the kitchen - how nice to have all that space. Many Israeli products have been taken off the shelves here as Pro Palestinian groups have threatened violence towards staff and shoppers. An awful reflection of our society. Wishing you a magical December!

eileeninmd said...

Both kitchens are pretty, I do love white cabinets.
The magnets are a great addition to your collection.
I would love one of Len's treats for breakfast, yum!
Take care, have a great day and a happy weekend!

gluten Free A_Z Blog said...

How nice that you had a week in DC. The photo with the rainbow is beautiful and nice you were able to capture it, as rainbows tend to fade quickly. I enjoyed seeing your kitchen and where all the good food is made! The cardamom knots look very interesting and appealing, as does the Thai salad. Thanks for raising awareness regarding palm oil and its repercussions to the land. Most people have very little awareness of the effects of the food industry actions on our environment and our heath. We need to stop buying products that aren't good for us and may be destroying our eco systems. As much as I love Trader Joe, many of their products just are not that healthy. Got to really read the labels.

Unknown said...

Thank you for your thoughtful thoughts! We have been reflecting a lot recently on what is happening in the world and how it "works". It is indeed astounding that the world as we know it has been created by our mad desire for "things" and for this endless supply of things. I loved what you shared from your kitchen, simple hearty meals!

love from dreams of sourdough at

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

You, as you always do, have given us something to think about.

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

Love your kitchen and that pot rack at Evelyn's. I would give anything to eat as well as you. Your "simple" meals cost more than I spend on a week's groceries. And they look delicious.

Love the magnets and LOVE the photos of your Thanksgiving.

Harvee said...

Evelyn has a good idea. A library in the kitchen!

Joy said...

I relate to feeling helpless and ineffective. Which I alternate with "I've got to do something, anything, even if it feels too small." And, sometimes, I just let it all go so that I can enjoy things in the moment like these two beautiful kitchens.

Marg said...

There are so many things that we take for granted, and do so without taking notice of issues like the one that you mentioned. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Sherry's Pickings said...

what a hard year this has been and continues to be for so many. Wishing you all the best for the holiday season, and thanks for being such a huge part of IMK this year and every other year, my friend.

Aj @ Read All The Things! said...

In college, I took a class on food rhetoric and had to read The Omnivore's Dilemma. It changed my life because it was the first time I really thought about where my food comes from.

JoAnn said...

I loved taking a peek into the kitchens - both so homey and inviting. Your Thai Salad looks like one I make. I read that article in the Times.. and even though we try to make informed decisions, it's hard to know how much impact (if any) it has.

Anne@HeadFullofBooks said...

You have so much to be thankful for. Love the photos of the kitchen and kitchen workers.

Have a lovely month! Cheers! My Sunday Salon post

Anne@HeadFullofBooks said...

You have so much to be thankful for. Love the photos of the kitchens and the workers on a project together.

Have a lovely month! Cheers! My Sunday Salon post

shelleyrae @ book'd out said...

I’m glad you had a good Thanksgiving
There’s been a sustained campaign here in Australia to ban Palm Oil from Malaysia in particular on humanitarian grounds because they use forced labour, but the environmental concern is as pressing, Unfortunately Australia is a huge consumer of the oil and the government is reluctant to do anything. I do try to avoid it, or opt for the RSPO (Responsibly Sourced Palm Oil) certified alternative, I don’t know if that’s something you have there, but you could look for the equivalent.

Wishing you a great week

Jinjer-The Intrepid Angeleno said...

Mmm cardamom knots! Love the wooden bookshelf full of, I'm assuming, cookbooks.

Johanna GGG said...

Thanks for your thoughtful posts on food and climate change etc. Have been interested to read your kitchen thoughts in this post and some of your other recent posts. Not enjoyable to think about the implications of what we eat and how privileged we are. In Australia we are all feeling quite sorry for ourselves as prices of food go crazy and big supermarkets rake in the profits of our misery but in context we are doing ok.

And I think that some of your thoughts are reflected in how you eat - not so much meat amd a lot of homemade food. Len's baking is amazing - I would never call those cardamom knot rolls rather simple - they look like the product of a lot of work and would taste amazing. Your hievros rancheros look delicious as does you r Thai salad. And great to see you had a nice thanksgiving with others.

Happy Retiree's Kitchen said...

I think we constantly need to be reminding each other of our ethical and social responsibilities regarding the planet, there are so many issues to be aware of. Just not buying products with palm oil in them is a big start. Encouraging people to cook from scratch when possible is another positive. WE are in Cairns, Far North Queensland, and are at the tail end of a massive cyclone event, Cyclone Jasper, with a lot of the city and surrounding areas now seriously flooded. These events are a constant reminder to look after our environment and support climate change initiatives.