Apt. 11D Gift Guide 2019 – Food

I usually have the TV on in the background as Steve and the boys get out of the house in the morning. Lately, Dan Buettner, the National Geographic writer, has been talking up his new book, The Blue Zone Kitchen. When he comes on the TV, I usually stop putting away dishes and organizing my daily to-do list, and watch the segment.

Buettner has made an entire career around looking at the five areas of the world where people live the longest — Sardinia, California, Japan, Greece, and Costa Rica. His questions are always the same: What are those people doing right? What can we learn from them? The answers are clear. It’s lifestyle.

People in those areas have a life purpose that doesn’t end when they turn 65. They don’t immediately retire from a job, plop down in front of a tv, and remain there until heart disease and loneliness destroys them. The grandmas take care of grandchildren. The men keep fishing and providing for their families. They walk everywhere. They eat communally. All good stuff.

Now, he’s focusing on the foods that they eat. What are the commonalities? The answer is low meat consumption, lots of beans, vegetables, and fruit, low dairy. It’s interesting because so many of the fad diets put lots of those foods, like beans and squash, on the no-no list. Because we eat a pretty standard Mediterranean diet here, I am a fan of Buettner. In fact, this book is the only cookbook that I’m interested in right now.

We eat a lot of vegetables. At Sunday’s farmer’s market, Steve and I load up on at least four bags of vegetables. It’s fairly random. I grab whatever looks happy that day — leeks, cabbage, lettuce, corn, beets, radishes — and then figure out recipes later. The Sunday before Thanksgiving was the last day of the market until May, so I loaded up on squash, potatoes, carrots, and onions — items that would last in the bottom shelf of the pantry for a couple of months.

Because I work from home, I’m able to experiment with cooking. I probably spend more time in the kitchen than most people these days. If I was working in an office in the city, I might maintain our diet by planning ahead and cooking bigger batches of food every three days. But right now, I do this in my own disorganized fashion starting at 5:00 every day.

I do all this, not because it’s super healthy, but because it tastes good. I like the challenge of turning something humble and even ugly, like a turnip, into art. Because I was raised by the Italian side of the family, I associate food with love; it’s how I show my family how much I love them.

So, let’s talk equipment. What is in heavy rotation in my kitchen these days? What needs regular replacement?

The key to cooking vegetables properly is knowing how to clean them and cut them up. Everything else is simple – you roast them, sauté them, steam them, stir fry them, eat ’em raw. But you can’t get past square one without the prep work. Mostly that takes some practice, but good equipment is also important. So, you need the following items: three or four great cutting boards, an excellent set of knives, a colander, and a sharp peeler.

I like to pile up my cutting boards on the counter, because the wood is a nice accent in my white kitchen.

Another important, but often skipped step to cooking dinner is to transfer the food from the pots on the stove into serving bowls on the table. I know a lot of busy parents skip this step and just serve the food out of the pots on the stove, but that simple transfer of food from pot to bowl is essential. It keeps the food from over cooking. It makes everything look more appetizing. Somehow that two second step turns dinner time into an event.

I’m lucky enough to have a new kitchen with deep drawers where I pile up my various serving platters and bowls. I heavily rely on a set of really basic white bowls from Crate and Barrel, as well as some super colorful bowls from Le Souk. I just picked up an inexpensive set of three nesting bowls from IKEA that I’m using a lot.

We finally got an Instant Pot, but that’s Steve’s baby, so I can’t talk about it much.

Alright, this post is long enough. My running buddy is pinging me to meet up with her.

The Wisdom of Teeth

Ian at the Tate. Photo Credit: Jonah

On Monday, Ian sat in a reclining chair in the Oral Surgeon’s office and stared at a five foot x-ray of his teeth. Dr. Song, the jolliest oral surgeon in three counties, pointed to Ian’s wisdom teeth under the gum line, which in their infinite wisdom, were pointing sideways, instead of up and down like any self respecting tooth should do.

“Those teeth have to come out now. Like today. Like right now. Like I would do it this minute if I could,” said the jolly doctor.

So, when we got a call on Tuesday afternoon from the office saying that Dr. Song had a sudden opening in his schedule at 11:30 the next day, Steve and I went into emergency mode. We cleared work schedules. A teenage computer programming class at the community college came to abrupt end. We filled out massive amounts of insurance paperwork.

And then the worry kicked in. How was Ian going to handle sharp needles and pain? Was he going to sit in the chair and be appropriate? Or would the Flight or Fight instinct kick in? And then who knows what could happen. He processes fear and pain differently than other kids, so there was a huge random factor surrounding this operation.

That morning, I distracted myself with a trip to the supermarket for supplies – pudding, jello, a chicken to make some homemade broth. We sent Ian to his computer class for an hour. And then we drove the old Subaru to the doctor’s office.

Ian panicked for a moment when he got a look at the IV needle, but he stayed still, so the doctor got it in his arm. And then Ian’s lights went out. His eyes fluttered down.

Watching your kid go under anesthesia for a routine operation, like wisdom teeth or tonsils, is so unexpectingly upsetting. We haven’t had to do it often, thank God. Watching your kid slowly lose consciousness makes one think of death. It’s a blow to the stomach.

I said, “Oh, I’m going to cry.”

“Don’t do that! I’m a social crier. I’ll cry, too, and won’t be able to do the operation!” said Dr. Song. And the staff kicked us out of the room.

In about 30 minutes, they came to the waiting room and told us it was done. Steve and I dropped our books and ran in. Ian was dazed and stuffed with cotton.

The nurse started giving us directions for caring for him for the next few days. She must give this drill about ten times a day, so she droned through the rules.

“No straws. No toothbrushes. Put gauze on the cut for 24 hours. Don’t eat crunchy or chunky foods for a few days. Just smooth stuff like Jello and pancakes and scrambled eggs —

Ian piped in “and hot dogs and sauerkraut….”

“No you can’t do that!”

“… and sushi and sashimi… “

“Listen, I have to give the rest of the directions!”

“…and pizza and burgers…”

I couldn’t stop laughing. Steve gave me a dirty look, because the nurse was giving us some very important about medications and dosages, but I couldn’t stop listening to my boy. Then on the way home, he was asking trippy questions, like “Mom, why do you have three eyes?” “Are operations time machines? How come it’s 12:30 now?” “What’s that rubber thing in my mouth?” [It was his bottom lip.]

And we’re so very grateful that our boy not only made it through an operation smoothly and is free from sideways wisdom teeth, but that he’s making me laugh and beam with pride every day.