Monday, March 31, 2008

Interview with Marlena Spieler-Author & Food Writer

I was very excited to have the opportunity to interview former Sacramento resident and internationally known food writer, cookbook author, and UK broadcaster Marlena Spieler.

Marlena is the author of over 50 cook books (including contributions) and has traveled the world in search of fabulous food. She writes 'Roving Feast' for the SF Chronicle every other Wednesday and contributes to The New York Times, Saveur, and Bon Appetite. [check out Sacramento Food Group for inclusive's under Chit Chat with the Professionals at the forums]

What is your fondest childhood food memory?

"I have so many wonderful childhood food memories!

Watermelon, still warm from the sun, grown in my grandparents’ back yard. Driving to a favorite restaurant in San Francisco for tamales when the weather got too hot in Sacramento on a summer’s day. My grandmother’s Matzah Brei breakfasts (complete with…wait for it…bacon!) See’s chocolates, of course, the best of which were snitched from the cut glass candy bowl.

I loved my mother’s angel food cake filled with ice cream, and I especially loved eating Chinese food with my grandfather. I remember sitting in a high chair, the slats of the Venetian blinds letting in just lines of hot Sacramento sunshine. Oh, and the peppermint ice cream…the local ice cream parlor (no longer there) used to give a free ice cream cone for every “A” a child got. I got straight A’s and felt so clever to be earning my own ice cream. It tasted best ever. Let’s put it this way, appetite was not a problem; I never needed to be urged to eat.

Probably too I should include Sacramento tomatoes because they are up there among the world’s best. In fact, my dad’s friend Fred Luzy (sp) grew some tomatoes and brought them to me because he knows I love beautifully grown veggies (especially Italian and he’s Italian). A month earlier, I had been in Campania, in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, eating tomatoes that were just popping with distinctive flavor. With that memory, I bit into Fred’s tomatoes and was gobsmacked. They tasted like Vesuvio tomatoes. I think that Fred said his brother brought the seeds to him. They were really beautiful tomatoes. My mother grew beautiful tomatoes effortlessly. I think it’s something to do with the combination of weather/soil/seeds and just a fee/talent for growing. When I cam back from Greece last summer, my backpack was filled with hug Zakynthos tomatoes that my friend Dionysius grew. I’m telling you, no one has ever been more gentle with their backpack than I. For a week afterwards, we had salad, Greek-style stuffed tomatoes, soup, and simple tomatoes baked in olive oil. And, you’re so lucky in Sacramento because the moment that the weather starts to turn warm, the whole tomato zeitgeist begins – all over again".

What is your favorite meal to prepare?

"I love to cook full stop; but left to my own devices, I have a few favorites: Vietnamese-inspired salad full of Thai basil, Rau Ram, shredded veggies, and crunchy nuts (I like the Trader Joe’s peanuts with Kaffir lime leaves and chilies in this dish, when available). I love making macaroni and cheese, huevos rancheros, home fries, crepes, and pear and almond tart.

I love doing the whole French bistro type meals, but then again, I adore doing a whole rustic Italian thing inspired by all of my visits to the different regions in Italy. Oh, if you leave me alone in a room with basil, it’s only a matter of time, and not too much of it, and there will be a jar of green, fragrant pesto sitting on the counter. I like making stuffed eggs, sandwiches, and Tzadziki too. I could go on and on".

Which of your cookbooks was the hardest to write and which one is your favorite?

"I’ll start with my favorite cookbook, which is my latest one: Yummy Potatoes. It think it’s a quirky little book jam-packed with potato dishes that are just so good.

Naturally Good was my first one, illustrated with line drawings. It began as a journal the “teenaged me” kept during many months when I lived in a Greek island village.

The hardest book to write? None. Though there have been difficult situations as to editorial and admin, that sort of thing – or the artistic vision of the editors/publishing house".

What is your fondest adult food memory?

"So, so many! L’Arpege in Paris is transformational. Dinner at Dolce Gabbana in Milano (just last year) with me surrounded by chefs—Italian chefs who were pleased to be feeding me and watching me eat! At one point, I licked the plate while doting chefs “Oooh’d” and “Aaahh’d.” What can I tell you, it was Italy! And, did I mention that the chefs in question were mostly cute, young guys?

Eating truffles in Piemonte!

Dinner at L’Esguard, a restaurant in which the chef is also a neurologist (Dr. Miguel Sanchez Romera). He was able to evoke a miasma of feelings in the eater! Oh, also a table in Barcelona piled with grilled artichokes at a time when I needed consoling. A week on the Greek island of Chios was also fantastic".

What would you order, if you knew it was your last meal, and who would you have prepare the meal?

"I think I don’t want to know, it might interfere with my appetite and enjoyment".

Where would you like to eat in Sacramento (someplace you have not tried yet)?

"I’ve heard that Ella’s has a dynamite dish of pasta with preserved Meyer lemon and a poached egg. That dish sounds like it was made for me! I have several other favorite places in Sacto that I go to a lot. Andy Nguyen’s Vegetarian Vietnamese food is just divine. I amused everyone at Andy Nguyen's when I went there everyday for about a week, each time with a different foodie in tow (the foodies were all blown away). I could eat there everyday and sometimes I do (ask the staff)! As a polar opposite, Nationwide Freezer Meats makes the best the-so-worth-every-bit burger around. Order it rare".

What are your three favorite San Francisco restaurants, your three favorite New York restaurants, and your three favorite restaurants anywhere else in the world?

"San Francisco: I love The Slanted Door. Just love it.

I’ve just discovered Jai Yun, in Chinatown, and liked it a lot. It’s pricier than traditional US Chinese restaurants and you need to ring in at least a day ahead of time and chef will cook just for you. I dream about his tangerine beef and stir fry of mushrooms and edamame.

And, Vic’s Chaat Corner in Berkeley rocks, totally"!

Elsewhere: "There is a fine dining restaurant in Athens whose name I forget; it’s so wonderful. The cook-owner is a woman from the island of Paros who named the place after her father. It’s exquisite food – Greek – and strongly flavored, yet put into the context of great finesse during the time the chef spent in Paris kitchens.

There is a restaurant in Beijing called something like Homestyle Roast Duck Restaurant. For about two weeks, we kept returning there. It’s simple food, but exquisitely done. The roast duck doesn’t get any better. I was also floored by a Peking duck appetizer at Royal Restaurant in Beijing. It was sort of a duck salad with mayo on top of a crisp crouton, topped with Peking duck skin.

I like Europe Restaurant in Naples, but also there are many other restaurants I love in the area. The tomatoes, lemons, olive oil, and pasta, pasta, pasta make me very happy.

A lot of Paris restaurants make me very happy as well. Even the little bistros of no great note – and especially at lunchtime when Paris offers its only bargain – lunch at a prix fixed.

I love barbecued foie gras in Tel Aviv and a nice grilled Merguez in the French southwest. Couscous and tagines – wherever I find spicy, savory fragrant ones".

New York: "New York is harder. I loved The Grammercy Tavern last time I was there and have heard that their vegetable tasting menu is the thing to have – it’s terrific. I haven’t been to Per Se or the French Laundry, but would like to one of these days. And, at the risk of sounding Plebian, I love the hamburgers at Shake Shack, Danny Meyer’s place in Madison Park.

Oh, and in New York, I often jettison fine dining because of my pursuit of bagels. They do take pride of place in my New York eating life, alongside kosher half sours and sauerkraut, Nicky’s Banh Mi – which is incredibly well-filled and tightly wrapped. As Banh Mi goes, Nicky’s is, as we say in the UK, the business".

What is the greatest honor you’ve ever received, with regard to your writing?

"Receiving letters from readers of my San Francisco Chronicle column and/or books. It’s an honor to read such lovely words (usually) and I am humbled by my reader’s who take the time, to be honest. I’m hugely pleased to have made such a connection when someone does write. I also love when people cook one of my recipes and tell me how it turned out. One woman said she courted her (now) husband with recipes from one of my books. Without a doubt, the readers are the very best perk of doing what I do. They have given me the greatest honor".

What are you working on next? Anything new on the horizon?

"Let’s see, I have a few proposals out there and some ideas I can’t talk about at the moment. I’d like to do more radio either in the UK or the US. There are about three radio programs that will go out this spring on The Food Guy and Marcy Show. The Food Guy & Marcy are the coolest ever. Guy Fieri is from Food Network and Marcy Smothers is owner of the Smothers Winery and the most ebullient, as well as thoughtful, radio host you can imagine. The show is broadcast in Sacramento, possibly on KFBK? I’m not sure. [Ed Note: the show airs on KZST 100.1 in Santa Rosa.]

I’m headed to Peru shortly for the UN International Year of the Potato and I’m very excited about the trip".

Is there anything you’d like to add?

"Cooking well and eating well, and feeding lovingly – wow – what a life of enrichment"!

[Ed Note but not the same editor: Lori did a fantastic job editing this interview for me. Marlena had sent it back to me, with her words in CAPS as to distinguish her voice from mine. Lori made it look so professional. Somehow, it won't translate to the food forums or this blog page. She had all of those lovely links, that don't show up now within the interview. I'll add the ones below, for now. Her website is linked up as well]

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Moroccan Lamb Stew

I decided to make Moroccan Lamb Stew from my leftover lamb. Dave and I had the best Moroccan stew at Putah Creek Cafe in Winters, CA. It was to die for.

I cut most of the meat off the bones then I simmered the leg bones in a pot with onion, bay leaf, and garlic to get the rest of the meat off. I then roasted the bones in a 425 degree oven for about 20 minutes..for a richer flavor..and put them back in the broth to make more of a lamb stock.

I cut up potatoes, rutabagas, carrots, more onions, and some celery into 1/2" chop and threw that in and simmered for about 15 minutes. I then added about a cup of chopped spinach and the rest of the lamb meat. I went outside and cut some fresh thyme and rosemary and added about 2 tsp. each.

I threw in about a tsp. of cumin, a few grinds of whole cinnamon, a few shakes of Kerala Curry Meat Masala [salt, red chili flakes, ginger, garlic, black pepper, onion,turmeric, and curry leaves] and more ground black pepper. I also had some jarred ginger/garlic and threw a little of that in. I taste lots during this process. I added one large can of Muir Glen Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes and ended with about 2 tbls. fresh squeezed lemon juice.
*note: a can of turmeric costs about $4.00 so instead I bought the pre-mixed meat masala and it had many of the ingredients I $1.96! I found it in the ethnic eats isle at The Nugget.

{somehow I ended up with the picture of the flowers and Bourdain book we got for our anniversary}

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Happy Anniversary

We've been together for 10 years...known each other for 11, been married for 4. I think we knew each other in another life as well. :)

Here's how we met:

I was living and working in Wyoming. I got my first computer and was trying to find an old friend of mine who'd moved to Austin. His name=exact same as my husbands! I emailed every man by that name asking if he was the David from Austin. "My" Dave wrote back saying he wasn't but wished he was..or something like that. We ended up emailing each other..asking things like 'what's in your fridge right now, what CD's are your favorite, what is your favorite food, movie, etc'. We began talking on the phone. As fate would have it, I ended up moving to Santa Rosa, Ca. We finally met and began to date. After a few years I moved to Sacto and we moved in together. We married 4 years ago in Reno...for insurance purposes. He is my best friend. The other Dave? He is somewhere in Texas I imagine.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Taylor's Turns Me On

I love, love, love Taylor's Market. Just look at that Scottish Salmon and those Wild "dry" Scallops. I used the pesto with the pasta..seared the scallops in butter/olive oil (salt and pepper)and then finished the dish with more fresh lemon juice. Dave bowed down to me after this one. For fresh, gourmet ingredients...go to Taylor's. Great butchers! [Fage is my all-time favorite yogurt-I am making gyros with my leftover lamb]

Also, Taylor's is going to expand a bit and have an events room. They'll do cooking demo's and wine tastings..nice.

Taylor's Market
2900 Freeport
Sacramento, CA.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Day, Cats and Lamb

You can see that my cat Stella doesn't care for lamb. She'd rather sit on the coffee machine and watch for hummingbirds. Next they run into the guest room and onto their "condo" to watch swallows! Stella in loft, Simon is the yellow cat and Stanley is the grey one on the main floor. They all send a kind shout out to Upsie and say, "keep enjoying that food your mom gives ya". (click on photos to enlarge)

I'll post the recipe for the lamb later. Oh, the little cat playing with the easter egg is Miss Priss, my in-laws kitty. That's where we went with dinner..just about 8 steps from our back door!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Those Were the Days My Friend

Oh boy oh boy oh boy.

I was rummaging through an old box that was Dave's from YEARS ago.. and came upon this long-lost treasure of 60's and 70's cookbooks and cooking magazines.

My favorite magazine find? 1973 Better Homes and Gardens 'Best Budget Recipes'. That was a year before my youngest son was born! Want to laugh and feel your arteries harden? Read on then, brave ones.

From the "Crafty Sandwiches" Section:

Hobo-Logna Bunwiches

Take a bamboo skewer and alternate the following; cubed unsliced bologna, cubed pineapple chunks, cubed green peppers. (picture looks like cubes are about 3/4")

Combine 1/2 cup catsup with some hot sauce in it, 2 tbl minced onions, 2 tbl cooking oil, 1 tbl lemon juice, and 1 tsp dry mustard. Mix it good. Broil the kabobs on the outdoor grill (yes, waste some coals on this recipe) and then brush with sauce turning frequently as you grill. Should only take 10 minutes, if that. Serve hot on hotdog buns and wow your family!

From "Beefed-up Barbecues Section:

Pizza Dogs

The following will be combined: one beaten egg, 3/4 cup soft bread crumbs, 1/4 cup milk, 1/2 pound bulk "pizza" sausage, 1/2 pound ground beef.

Then, get some of those frankfurters out and shape the meat mixture around those dogs, leaving the ends open (not kidding). An uncirmcusized pizza dog, as it were. Roll each between waxed paper to get them into a uniform thickness. Oh baby. Chill...the dogs. Later, grill over med. coals for 15 minutes turning frequently. Oh, brush with pizza sauce while you are doing this. Serve in those frankfurter buns and watch the fun begin.

From the "Seafarers's Supper" Section:

Okay..just titles here.

Fish Sticks Polynesian
Tuna Noodle Casserole
Fish and Chips
Tuna Cheese Puff
Salmon Tetrazzini

all the fish is canned except for the frozen fish sticks

From the "Penny-wise Pork" Section"

BBQ'd Pork Chops

1 can of tomato soup, 2 tbl brown sugar, 2 tbl vinegar, 2 tsp worcestershire sauce,
1 tsp instant minced onion, 1/2 tsp dry Italian salad dressing mix, 1/2 tsp dry mustard, 6 one-inch pork chops and 2 tbl "shortening".

Combine the first 7 things for the sauce. Brown chops on both sides in the hot grease. Pour off all excess fat..before it turns solid again. Pour the sauce over the chops and simmer about an hour..basting occasionally. That's a BBQ!

You only need to get the coals out for that processed meat!

Ya gotta laugh. There is a entire section on impressing others on a shoestring. Want a sampling?

Chicken Cacciatore
Sweet-Sour Chicken
Baked Chicken (except they use sliced dried beef on the bottom, then the chicken breasts, then the bacon).

Salmon Steaks (real ones)
Frozen scallops (using instant minced onion)

Hey, chopping onions took way too much time in the early 70's.

If anyone needs a casserole to take to a church potluck, I got em here.

Tomorrow, I make leg of lamb. Hopefully I'll be able to post some pics. I make a damned good leg'o'lamb. I came up with a fabulous dressing for my mediterranean salad and I'll share that as well. We used some on pasta tonight and.. Oh! Me love the Greek-style pasta.

**I'll be reciting Dales prose before dinner. Check it out..and the comments are way worth a read.

Passion of the Dale

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Who Knew?


So, my husband bought this fabulous computer over 5 weeks ago. I kept asking..when can I download pics onto my blog? When can I get my email on this fast computer? We have a fabulous webcam..when can we see our grandkids in Portland?

He kept saying, "it will take awhile for me to download the necessary files to make it all happen". I waited.

About two weeks ago, our old computer was dead.

Suddenly, I was able to communicate via email on our new computer. Dave gave me some strange reason that it suddenly worked. When I asked if we could now use our communicate with our grandkids, he was hesitant. "I might have to check with our tech guy on that".

Well, I keep hoping that I will be able to download pics...but I just tried, and no go. Grrrrrrrrr!

Friday, March 14, 2008


I am ashamed but I must admit that I do take magazines from the doctor's office. I have made amends by taking magazines (good ones) from my home to the doctor's office when I have to go.

What do I steal?

I take "parenting magazines"...or the like. Why? Well, I want to stay up on what is new with parents and kids..and I read the advertisements to see what mom's want to buy. I want my son and DIL to know that I am trying. I want to stay "in step" with my grandkids.

Guess what I found today in "Wonder Time?" The bebePOD plus! A soft and flexible 'pediatrician recommended' sit up chair for kids 3 mos to 18 mos. Hell, I know by now that no kid is gonna sit in this thing willingly after 9 or 10 mos. But it is great! It has an easy to attach adjustable tray--great for play time or snack time! The tray is in the shape of a sliced watermelon. OMG. While lots of women are salivating over Jimmy Chu shoes, I am so excited about the latest baby stuff. I never thought I could fall in love at my age...but I have. With my grandkids. It will happen to you one day. :)

Also, I haven't written any 'Dee stories' lately because I really did hurt my sister by revealing more than she wanted revealed. I feel stuck now..but I'll manage it and hope to write again. I don't want to hurt my family.

That's all for now.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Uni Looks Like Baby Poo

Well, it does. Same texture too. Loved the flavor..but for me, it's hard to get past the color and then the feel of it in my mouth. It's a's expensive...and it's also the gonads of the sea urchin. Who knew? I stepped on a sea urchin was the day after I got stung by a scorpion. Good times.

We had one fabulous sushi meetup at Akebono on Freeport Blvd in Sacramento. My non-raw-fish-eating husband even tried some sashimi!

Anyhoo...I wrote about it over at the food forums if you want to read more. I think the others will chime in too. It's under dining experiences. We always have such a great time...lots of laughs and great food. I will become a regular at Akebono.

For more and pictures too

Thursday, March 06, 2008

How to Order and Eat Sushi

[I found this great sushi post at Since our group is having a sushi meetup this Sunday, I thought the timing was perfect. I learned alot. Hey, I always put the ginger on my roll..who knew?]

"What is it about eating raw fish? The country is filled with sushi-aficionados who spout off terms like gari and anago, but you probably have no clue what that stuff is. All you can think about is that Simpsons episode where Homer almost dies from eating raw blowfish (which was, by the way, fugu). But if you don’t jump on the sushi trend soon, you’ll probably die from embarrassment as quickly as from fugu.

Calm down, calm down. Even though many consider “sushi” to be synonymous with “icky raw fish,” the danger level is low (fugu excepted) and its variations can please even the finickiest eater. Contrary to popular belief, sushi does not mean raw seafood; instead, it refers to the vinegared rice that can (but need not) be paired with raw seafood. So even vegetarians and those hell-bent on having their meals cooked can be satisfied by sushi. Some sushi contains only rice and veggies.

So prepare yourself to frolic in all that is sushi. But two words of warning: bring cash. One order of sushi ranges from $3-7 (and that’s at the cheapo places), and a meal usually consists of anything from three to five orders. You math majors out there know that this calculates to… well, more than McDonald’s. And it could become an addictive (and expensive) habit; restaurants typically have a number of repeat customers who will eat sushi two or more times a week. But don’t be deterred by the prices - sushi is a delicacy that warrants its cost. So, that said, here we go:

1. CHOOSE A TYPE OF SUSHIWe’re not going to bother delving into the history of sushi. Just know that it’s considered to be a Japanese dish. Instead, let’s jump right in and decide what to eat. Most sushi restaurants will give you two options: to eat at a bar or at a table. If you’re at the bar, check out the selections in the refrigerated display case. If you’re at a table, the waiter will bring an a la carte menu, a sushi checklist of sorts. This is where it can start to get complicated… there are many types of sushi. Fortunately, sushi can be categorized into two types: nigiri and maki.

Nigiri sushi

Ordered and served in pairs, nigiri sushi puts everything in full sight for you: any kind of fish on rice with a touch of wasabi (we’ll explain in step 3) between the two. Here are the fundamentals:

The raw fish on top of the rice is called sashimi and can be ordered without the rice on the bottom as an appetizer. This is NOT the kind of sushi wrapped in seaweed; nigiri sushi is just fish on rice.
For your first sushi experience, order the tuna (maguro) or the salmon (sake; not the rice wine) - these are the least “fishy” fish and also the most popular among Americans.
The salmon is deeply frozen and then slightly smoked or cured to kill any parasites, which can be present in freshwater seafood.
Other common sashimi are the oily mackerel (saba), which is salted and marinated before being served, and hamachi, another type of tuna with a distinctive bright yellow tone (yellowtail).
Sometimes you can replace the sashimi with fish eggs instead. Salmon eggs are the most common, wrapped in a bit of seaweed to hold them on top of the traditional rice base. More popular in Japan is the roe (little eggs) harvested from the inside of sea urchins (uni), which also doubles as the animal’s gonads. In the U.S., uni is expensive but still a delicacy.
Surprisingly, much of nigiri sushi is not even raw. Shrimp (ebi) and crab (kani) are both cooked before they are laid to rest on the rice bed. At some point, try eel (unagi), which is grilled and then marinated in a sweet sauce for several days. Finally, a test of the chef is the tamago, an omelet of stacked paper-thin egg slices strapped onto the rice with a band of seaweed.
To see some great pictures of nigiri sushi, go to Sushi 101.

Maki sushi

Also called roll sushi, maki sushi is probably the first image of sushi that pops into your mind. Maki combines toppings and rice wrapped in sheets of seaweed (nori) and served as six (or eight) slices. So when you see those cute little pieces of fish surrounded in rice and wrapped in seaweed, you’re looking at maki. Typically, maki sushi has less raw fish and allows for more creativity. Here are some typical rolls:

Tekka: tuna (the name refers to gambling parlors where patrons snacked on the roll)
Kappa: cucumber (the name refers to a mythological goblin fond of the vegetable)
California: famous combination of avocado, crab, and cucumber
Avocado: figure this one out on your own
Boston: scallion, crab, and salmon
New York: apple, avocado, and salmon
Philadelphia: smoked salmon, cream cheese, and cucumber
Texas: beef and cucumber
As you probably could have guessed, these are not the names that the ancient Japenese maki-makers chose for these dishes. But as we said, maki allows for tons of creativity. There’s one other “brand” of maki: temaki (or a “handroll”). Temaki is a large single cone-shaped roll (similar to an ice cream cone) and usually contains larger items, like pieces of vegetables and smoked salmon. To see some pictures of maki sushi, check out Sushi 101.

One last note about health: sushi can be easily classified as a health food, being low in fat and calories while high protein. Nori (the seaweed, remember?) is extremely high in vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, Niacin, and C. But no matter how healthy sushi can be, you still must remember that you’re eating raw fish. Sushi should NEVER smell bad, so use your common sense and take a sniff before downing it.


After you sit down at the bar/table/floor, the waiter will probably bring you an oshibori (hot towel for wiping your hands and face) before asking what you would like to drink. Your first impulse might be to go for a Coke or a Bud Lite, but you’ve come this far, so why not try to be authentic? We recommend one of these three options:

Sake (Japanese Rice Wine): Made from fermented rice, sake is served warm and is drunk before eating, not during or after. Some would say that the drink is obligatory, while others would say it is redundant because (like the sushi) it is made from rice. Drinking sake during the meal is certainly akin to ordering bread with a sandwich. But it’s tradition, so cope. Remember that the waiter will continue to fill an empty cup, so flip it over when you’re done. And yes, it is acceptable to have sake with sashimi (which doesn’t have rice).
Green Tea: Green tea is served throughout the meal. It removes aftertastes and freshens the mouth for the next serving. Don’t be miffed by the color; the flavor is actually quite mild.
Beer: Sapporo, Kirin, or Asahi, please. You’ll have to try them on your own.


So you’re sitting at the table, and the waiter gives you your order along with some green paste, some thinly-sliced pink stuff, and a bottle of dark mysterious liquid. What is all this stuff?

Soy Sauce: The bottle of dark mysterious liquid, soy sauce, is essential to eating sushi. However, the sushi should not be soaked in soy sauce. The rice will fall apart, and the soy is meant to complement, not overwhelm, the flavor of the sushi. With your sushi will be a small dish where you can pour the soy sauce and use it for dipping. Pour as much as you think you will need, keeping in mind you can always add more. It is poor form to fill the dish like a wading pool.
Wasabi (Japanese Horseradish): The green paste. Grown only in Japan, finely-grated wasabi is pungent and guaranteed to clear your sinuses. Because fresh wasabi is very expensive, cheaper powder and paste alternatives are often used. Many people mix some wasabi into their soy sauce, but this is only proper with sashimi and maki sushi. Even though wasabi is given for nigiri sushi, it is not supposed to be used. This really only holds true at the bar; feel free to use wasabi to suit your own tastes out of the chef’s view. The most important thing to know about wasabi is that it is VERY HOT and VERY SPICY. Only use a tiny, tiny dab.
Gari (Pickled Ginger Root): The thinly-sliced pink stuff. Used to freshen the mouth between bites of sushi, pickled ginger root comes in numerous small and incredibly thin slices. It is eaten with chopsticks (hashi) and essential for cleansing your palate between eating different types of sushi.
The standard protocol in America is to start a meal with miso soup, a clear broth with floating kelp and tofu. From there, your tastebuds will enjoy some assorted sashimi (the fish pieces without the rice). But first, place some wasabi in the soy dish. Be moderate; you are paying for the taste of the fish or topping, not the taste of the wasabi. Then it’s time to move on to the sushi. While there is no specific order for eating the various kinds of sushi, the maki should be eaten first, since the crispness of the seaweed does not last long after touching the damp rice. Before the nigiri sushi is eaten, the soy dish should be changed. Unlike maki sushi and sashimi (which require chopsticks), nigiri sushi should be eaten with the hands. Grip the sushi from the top, then flip it so that the rice is on top. Dip only the topping into the soy sauce, and always place the sushi in the mouth so that the topping meets the tongue first. Most of all, remember that you’re not eating hot dogs at the ballgame; sushi is far more expensive, and should be savored as a delicacy.

Lots of people like to eat of each other’s plates when experiencing death by sushi. When you pick something up from a friend’s dish, make sure to turn the chopsticks around and use the backend, not the end you ate from.

A note on chopsticks: even if you are uncoordinated, you should try to use them. A fork and knife will seldom be found at a sushi bar, and even if they are, using them is akin to saying that the meat is tough. Do you want to insult the chef? Go with your hands if you have to. Some restaurants may have you finish the meal with a bowl of miso soup, rather than serving it at the beginning of your dining experience.


Now things seem really out of order. Obviously you need a place to eat sushi before you can eat sushi. But if you’ve mastered everything above, this should be the easy part.

Sushi Bar/Restaurant: The sushi bar is the Japanese equivalent of the English pub, and the best way to experience the food is along with the atmosphere that traditionally accompanies it. Sushi is currently very trendy (we know because we just saw Pauly Shore in a sushi bar, and isn’t he the epitome of cool?), so it shouldn’t be too hard to find a local establishment. To find a restaurant in your neighborhood, use this search guide.Given the choice, we recommend that you sit on a stool at a sushi bar. From that vantage point, you can watch the sushi chef (itamae-san) prepare a selection chosen from the refrigerated display in front of him. Furthermore, from the bar, a newbie sushi addict can ask the chef for advice and recommendations. Even for experienced eaters, common practice is to ask the chef for recommendations. This demonstrates respect for the chef, and he will thusly give you the best pieces. At the bar, it is best to place many small orders continuously rather than one large order at the beginning. This will ensure continued interaction with the chef. And it is never bad to throw in a few Japanese phrases:

Konichiwa (koh NEECH ee wah)

Dozo (DOH zoh)

Domo (DOH moh)

Domo arigato (ah ri GAH toh)
“How are you?”


“Thank you.”

“Thank you very much.”

The only thing you should ever order from the chef is sushi and sashimi. For everything else (your beverage, the check, etc.), ask the waiter. And try to leave around a 20% tip, as it gets divided among everyone.

If you are eating at a table instead of a bar, you will generally order all your sushi at once. So we recommend that you order a combination plate rather than ordering individual sushi. That way, you’ll get an interesting sample of all kinds of sushi.

Supermarket: These days, sushi can be found at supermarkets and convenience stores. A portion of maki sushi serves as a good meal for many on their lunch breaks. If you’ve tried sushi and you like it, then go for it. But if it’s your first time, do not eat supermarket sushi - it’s not as fresh as restaurant sushi, so you might not like it as much.
At home: This could be a good option if you get hooked but aren’t willing to shell out the cash for a restaurant meal every evening. There are a few basic tools that you need to make sushi, mainly a bamboo mat (makisu) and an extremely sharp knife. Most importantly, you must obtain quality ingredients from Japanese grocers and trustworthy fish stores. Information on making your own sushi could fill an entire SYW, but for a start, check out Sushi 101.
Go to Japan: Eating sushi is already an expensive habit; throw in an 18-hour plane ride and you’re really a sushi aficionado. In Japan, eating blowfish (fugu) sashimi is the ultimate dining experience - and a culinary variation of Russian roulette. The fish contains a toxin 1250 times deadlier than cyanide, and if ingested, it will probably kill you. But fugu consumption is a status symbol, so many people try it just to say that they have. Fugu is one of the most expensive foods in Japan; you can pay up to $400 for one meal, which must by law be prepared by specially trained and licensed chefs.
So now you’re all set. Not only are can you begin enjoying a classic sushi meal, but you can make fun of the heathens that are still sushi-impaired. Please, wield your power with mercy.”

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Urgent Message From Mother

I discovered Jean Shinoda Bolen's website while researching women's rights of passage. I like her and the projects she is involved with. I intend to buy her book, Urgent Message from Mother: Gather the Women, Save the World. I am looking for worthwhile and meaningful projects of my own. I think the following would be a good one. Maybe one has already been organized in Sacramento. If not, I think I shall. Come back for more info later. Click on post title for link to her website.

Standing For Peace (Mother's Day, May 11, 2008)

Bring bells to ring at 1 p.m. to signify the beginning of the five minutes of silence and to ring again to signify the end of the period of silence.

“We are standing for the world’s children and grandchildren and for the seven generations beyond them.

We dream of a world where all of our children have safe drinking water, clean air to breathe, and enough food to eat.

A world where they have access to a basic education to develop their minds and healthcare to nurture their growing bodies.

A world where they have a warm, safe and loving place to call home.

A world where they don’t live in fear of violence—in their home, in their neighborhood, in their school or in their world.

This is the world of which we dream.

This is the cause for which we stand.”

ALSO:Croning Ceremony Celebrates the Wisdom of Age
(USA Today)

Clad in purple, surrounded by memorabilia, Linda Sanda stood in her Urbandale, Iowa, dining room and talked about turning 50.

About 40 close friends, co-workers and family members came to mark the occasion. But there were no mocking black balloons or teasing "You're Over the Hill'' banners.

This was a croning ceremony, designed to invoke spiritual reflection, dignity and wisdom.

An ancient rite of passage to honor older women, croning ceremonies had become nearly extinct. But they are making a comeback. And they're going mainstream.

With the oldest baby boomers turning 50 this year, many women are evaluating what it means to stand on the threshold of old age. For some women, croning ceremonies serve as an ideal way to make a statement about that passage.

"I see so many people fighting the aging process,'' says Sandra Bury, another Des Moines-area woman who went through the ritual. "I wanted to celebrate that to become old is a gift. I didn't want to be afraid of it.''

So, I am thinking hard about this croning ceremony. Hmmmmm. I like it.