Black-eyed peas and lollipops

I went out to the Pike Place Market for lunch, as I often do. Yesterday I had a bunch of baby carrots, some roasted cashews and a Granny Smith apple. Today I had African food. The beans and rice was lip-smacking good, spicy yet sweet. The yellow peppers were the perfect addition, and the accompanying salad had slivers of pineapple. Best of all, it was an inexpensive yet healthy treat. There was no side order of guilt to go with my lunch.

On the walk back to work I stopped in a Mexican grocery, and got myself a tiny little treat, a watermelon-flavored sweet heavily seasoned with spicy chili. I walked past the Greek place, and near to the French bakery I dare not enter. Seattle is an international marketplace, and the foods of many nations are on the menu. Many cities can make the same boast, as indeed can many towns. I love that about America. I could eat French crepes for breakfast, have Thai for lunch, and Moroccan for dinner. If I was still hungry later, I might snack on sushi with a hot serving of sake.

I love fusion recipes, too, foods that combine disparate cuisines into new creations. I’ve enjoyed Asian-style burritos, teriyaki tofu wrapped up into a flour tortilla. I’ve had excellent Hawaiian sushi, full of hot pepper pineapple and cream cheese, and last week I had a killer Greek pizza loaded with feta cheese and kalamata olives. My parents fed us everything as kids, and so I learned to love most foods.

I actively seek out new flavors, new combinations. I buy things just to explore the world with my taste buds. Tamarind paste was sour but savory, pineapple soda was far too sweet and the lichee nuts should have been left in their can. How would I know if I didn’t try? A package of exotic gum can transport me to Chile, and my local brioche and café au chocolat brings me right back to my time in Montreal. All this talk of food is making me hungry again. Bon appétit, mes amis! 

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

50. Is there a cuisine you haven’t tried that is available locally? Give it a try today. If you’ve tried everything available, go to the local library and find a cookbook that has something new to you, and try making it at home. What did you learn about your likes and dislikes? Where do the flavors bring you?

Advertisements

With thanks to Henry Ford

I went to see a Molière comedy the other night and it was a grand farce, an updated silliness with lots of bawdy bits and weird singing. The theater was unremarkable, except for the stage, a mechanical marvel with three concentric rings. These rings moved independently of one another, spinning walls as they turned.  I remember the first time I saw a moving walkway on stage—it amazes me the technology they can do for plays. I am fascinated with mechanics in general, gears that spin, levers that flip. I love cartoon depictions of Rube Goldberg devices, and I would watch Mr. Rogers during college breaks just to see the factory tours. It gave me a whole new perspective on the fig Newton. It’s not that I want to fix things. I just like to watch them work. 

This voyeurism extends to domino runs, huge structures with innovative bridges and stairs. Sometimes I watch them on YouTube, enjoying the complexity of something done just for amusement. I’ve toured breweries, bakeries, and most memorably, a chocolatier. If you’re ever in Seattle I would most highly recommend the Theo Chocolate Factory tour in Fremont. Theo is one of the few artisanal shops in the country to make chocolate from scratch—starting all the way back at the cocoa beans. It’s organic, too. Yum! 

I love to know what’s inside things, and I’ve disassembled all my dead computers just to know. It’s only fun for me if I don’t have to put it back together. This curious streak does not extend to living beings, as I’m squeamish. I hated high school dissection, and I’ve always questioned the need. “After all,” I told a friend, “I’ve never needed to know where a frog’s colon is.” He replied, “You have to do it so that you know it’s not just frog-plasm in there.” Point well taken, but diagrams would have been sufficient.  I’ll stick to the man-made stuff, the moving sculpture of everyday life. Soon it will be time to go back to Krispy Kreme and watch the robots make the doughnuts—ah, sweet ballet of glaze and gears! 

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

47. Take a factory tour if one is available. Wouldn’t you like to know more about your local beer or those cookies that are baked down the street?

And such pretty colors!

She is waiting for my answer but I am standing there perplexed. Pineapple is calling my name, while coconut whispers its sweet siren song. Raspberry flirts with me from the corner. I order them all, having chosen once again to indulge myself in gelato. I don’t feel bad, because each scoop is small and this place uses mainly fruit to make my dosage of frozen decadence. It is spectacular.

Gelato is available in many places, but it truly thrives in Seattle. There are many purveyors of this treat, and like all good local businesses these places also sell strong espresso in small china cups. Here is a marriage of the bitter and the sweet, the hot with the cold. I take a sip of the smooth crema and I am ready for another small spoonful of icy heaven. 

Each shop has its own character. The best places are Italian, and my favorite one is called Bottega Italiana. This small storefront is in the Pike Place Market and has a long line of tourists in it at most times. There is minimal seating but that does not matter. Gelato is usually served in disposable fluted bowls with tiny spade shaped spoons. It is the perfect walking treat.

Other shops are larger, selling sandwiches, coffee, atmosphere. One such place has photos of the coliseum on all the walls and a television showing Italian melodramas. Their gelato is sufficient, and that might be enough in other places. In Seattle we don’t have to settle for that.   

I am adopting the approach of my new city. I don’t want to settle for inferior treats. I’m eating less dessert anyway, trying to tame the sugar fiend inside of me. I’ve been eating a lot more fruit, indulging in other taste delights like San Pellegrino and sushi.  When I do eat dessert, I want the really good stuff. I used to treat myself with Snickers bars, a mediocre chocolate at best. Now I go for the occasional piece of artisanal chocolate, and I choose gelato over ice cream most times. Yum, raspberry. . . .

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

36. Treat yourself. Rather than several so-so treats, go for one really good one. Which approach do you enjoy more?

Walking the plank on the good ship Lollipop

There is joy, and then there are the things that masquerade as joy. Addiction is one of those false friends, a true buzz kill. Pull of its mask and you will see it for the ugly impediment that it is. My addiction is to the sweet stuff. I’ve got a sugar simian on my shoulders, a chimpanzee with gum drop eyes and cotton candy fur. His lower half is dipped in chocolate for the sake of decorum. His trousers are ornamented with silver dragees. I wish I could make him go away.

 

My caramel-coated demons sneak up on me at work—they ambush me when I’m bored. They pop out of friends’ birthday cakes, wearing nothing but nonpareils. I cannot hide from them. No patch will help me—no hypnotist is strong enough. I’m eating cookie dough ice cream as I write this. I know it’s stupid. There’s no way to sugarcoat that.

I’ve tried to give it up cold turkey, but my own personal crack hides in every corner. Pair it with caffeine and I am swooning like a southern belle. I nearly lost the uncivil war against Coca-Cola, but I finally rallied. I haven’t touched a drop for years. I dare not. I celebrate these small victories but fifty new sources of sugar rise up to take the place of each confection I defeat.

I’ve got a new theory to melt the monkey off my back. This isn’t unusual. I’ve often got a new theory about things—it’s part of my creative side. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t. This is one of the ways I find my solutions.

This is my new theory about sugar. I am too busy to do all of the things I enjoy, although I am trying to fit them all in. I figure that if I start feeding myself other treats I like even better, I will simply be too busy to also eat sugar. When I crave candy, I will eat art. I will substitute strawberries for Snickers, and sushi for cake. It might work. It’s certainly worth a try. The monkey is getting heavier every day.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:

18. Do you have a simian on your shoulders? Create a joyful theory to get him off, and try it out.