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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Food, Happiness and Dancing

When Judaline Cassidy was highlighted on Amy Poehler's Smart Girls for being the first female plumber to be accepted into the Staten Island Plumbers Union 371, and for launching the nonprofit organization Tools & Tiaras to encourage young women to get involved in trade professions, I knew I wanted to chat with her. Once we got going, I discovered that she loves food almost more than I do!

Bake and Shark, cake for dinner and empowering young women to be strong and self-sufficient are just some of the topics of conversation in "Food, Happiness and Dancing", Episode 22 of Something About Food?

Judaline Cassidy: Plumber, Activist, Trailblazer, and Founder of the Nonprofit Tools & Tiaras Inc. She was born in the beautiful twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago, a multicultural country known for its renowned carnival, steelpan, and calypso music.  Judaline started her plumbing career at the John Donaldson Technical of Trinidad. She was one of the first three females selected to pursue Plumbing at the Technical Institute (now known as the University of Trinidad and Tobago).

Judaline was of the very first women accepted into the Plumbers Local Union 371 in Staten Island, New York, and the first woman elected on the Examining Board of Plumbers Local Union No. One. She cares deeply for her fellow sisters in the trades and serves as a mentor and big sister to anyone that needs her stewardship.

She has been a proud member of Plumbers Local Union No One New York City for the past twenty years. Being a qualified plumber has drastically changed her life, affording her and her family upward mobility.

You can find Tools and Tiaras on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Listen to Episode 22 here:

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Sunday, February 25, 2018

Sum It Up Sunday-Market Wanderer

My natural inclination for wandering markets, grocery stores and anywhere food is sold is the result of nurture, not nature. I've mentioned that my mom brought only two of us six Clarke kids with her when shopping; that somewhat-alone time with her back then now makes me feel at home and comforted whenever I find myself meandering down an aisle of a Mexican market in Denver or wending my way through piles of vegetables in a pavilion in Siem Reap Cambodia.

Wherever I am in the world, I automatically seek out the places where food is sold. Sometimes, like taking a walk in the Üsküdar neighborhood of the Asian side of Istanbul, I'll stumble right into what I didn't think I was looking for, a farmer's market with cabbages the size of soccer balls!

The variety and chance to try new foods is why I encourage you to seek out ethnic and farmer's markets where you are. My new pal Jazzy opened my eyes to the fact that there is a Chinatown in Las Vegas. Who knew? Jazzy knew!

Tea, rice and noodle varieties, inexpensive soy sauce and sesame oil are what get me into Asian markets, and then I find myself trying new vegan "meats" or frozen dumplings and being very pleasantly surprised.

Mexican markets are the best place I have found for corn husks for tamales, avocados, nopales (cactus for salads) and my arch nemesis, pastries (I'm looking at you, Tres Leches cake!).

When I was working on an Idli recipe for my cookbook, a proprietor of an Indian market showed me that the vegetables I needed for the dal to serve with the bread, including the hard to find curry leaves, are all in a frozen mixed vegetable medley. Perfect! There are also spices aplenty to be found.

This very afternoon I am headed with friends to Aurora, south of Denver, to wander through an Afghan bakery, HMart (a gigantic Korean grocery) and a middle eastern market. With, of course a stop at an Armenian restaurant, you know, as one does...

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Good Food News-Shojin Ryori

The cuisine of Japanese Buddhist monks is highlighted in a Saveur article, reported by Alex Halberstadt. He partakes in a dinner that was “one of the most ravishing meals in my recent memory.” in a bustling Kyoto temple. And then delves deeper into Shojin ryori, which is Japan’s oldest codified cuisine. From the Buddhist perspective, cooking is a form of spiritual practice that provides nourishment to prepare the body for hard work and meditation.

He is guided by Zen monk and chef, Toshio Tanahashi “It’s crucial that good nutrition and sustainability become a part of restaurant culture,”...“ and the Michelin Guide should award a fourth star for the food’s healthfulness.” As Tanahashi sees it, shojin is not merely the nourishment of monastics but the would-be lifeline and future of global food culture—the vegan blueprint of how we will one day eat.”

The article shows us a reverence for cuisine that in our bustling lives, is not often practiced. Lovely.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Go(ld) Figure!

Figure skating champion and Olympic gold medalist Brian Boitano talks about training diets, first-time sushi experiences, orecchiette love, and loathing casseroles on Episode 21 of Something About Food?

If you're old enough to remember the 1988 Winter Olympic games, then you're old enough to remember "The Battle of the Brians", when Brian Boitano beat Brian Orser for Olympic gold. I clearly remember Boitano's blue military style outfit and his sweet, sweet mullet. (Oh yes Brian, that was a mullet, and you wore it well!)

Brian Boitano gives a winning performance in the kitchen as well as on the ice. The star of Food Network and Cooking Channel’s What Would Brian Boitano Make has published a cookbook of the same name. His list of accomplishments includes winning a Primetime Emmy award and producing more than 30 TV specials. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.

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Did you know that Mr. Boitano was featured in a song in the movie "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut"? Because that is what happens when you're a champion!

Orecchiette in a simple tomato sauce in Bari Italy, as Brian and I discussed.

And for the record, my mullet shade isn't from some poser - I rocked one in 1984.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Sum It Up Sunday-Season 3 Premiere Guest

One of the best things about this podcast, for me, is the guests I'm finding to chat with. There is always something that surprises me during their interviews. There is also always a moment where we discover that we are connected by food, as is everyone.

Our Season 3 opening episode guest is a perfect example of that. This Tuesday you'll be able to hear all about it in "Go(ld) Figure".

Here are some solid gold hints about our premiere guest: an Olympic gold medal winner who is true to their pasta-loving Italian roots.

Athlete, cookbook author, and animated superhero, do you think you know? 
Figure it out and follow through by emailing us your guess at

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Good Food News-Tawainese Tribal Traditions

We found restaurateur/chef Lily Wen of the Taromak tribe, from the Kindoor mountains on the east coast of Taiwan, in an Eater article that showcases how she uses food as a way to help people reconnect to her heritage.

“Colonization almost destroyed my culture,” Wen says. “Food is our last line of connection.”
"Most of that work is through food. Dawana is the Taromak’s only restaurant dedicated to indigenous cuisine. The seating is entirely outdoors, with handcrafted furniture made from driftwood. It seats up to 30 people, and Wen cooks and feeds visiting tourists and private parties, most of whom hear about her unique concept through word of mouth."

We are honored that she is sharing her traditions and dishes with us. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Food for Thought

Almost two years ago I was a little over halfway through my Around the World Journey. News reports and posts from friends showed a US that wasn't the hospitable place I thought it was when I left. 
The world was so welcoming that I wrote a letter to My American Friends and shared it on Facebook.

February 26, 2016
Dear American Friends
Yesterday, here in a tiny village outside Asilah Morocco, I went for a walk. Along the way, we met up with a group of hijab dressed Muslim women. They were on their way to comfort friends who had a death in the family. They hailed us with "As-Salaam-Alaikum," the Arabic greeting  meaning "Peace be unto you." One woman even gently took my fellow volunteer's hand, smiled sweetly and wished us well.
There are two mosques within sight distance. Their calls to Prayer echo against one another through the valley. Atop the minaret of one a family of storks is nesting and raising their young.
This, my friends, is the Muslim world.
So far on my journey, I have been to 13 countries. Six of them were predominantly Muslim, while 3 have a minority of Muslim adherents.
I've met peaceful smiles, nods, and hospitality wherever I've been. The number one question I'm asked? " How are you? Are you warm/cold/hungry?"
I am not religious or spiritual. I'm restless, ever questioning and questing.
There are radicals the world over who push forth anger, hatred, and subjugation of equal rights in the name of their "religion". 

I believe that it isn't a religion we should be united against. Instead, we should be showing peace and acceptance to those who greet us with the same. "As-Salaam-Alaikum" 

The podcast was, in part, begun to carry this conversation on. We can respect one another, be hospitable and all find room at the table.

Join us.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Something About-Javier Zamora

I'm not a poetry nerd. I want to be. Poetry distills emotion and feelings into words that give meaning to experiences. This is how I felt when I first read the poems of Javier Zamora.
On A Dirt Road Outside Oaxaca, spotlighted in The New Republic, tells of the time of waiting as you prepare to run over the border. A lizard licks horchata off of a boy's hand, vans are packed with people and time ticks by. An experience I have never had, that Javier shares in a way I can recognize.

The voice Javier uses is very much his own. Part resistor, citizenship seeker, proud Salvadoran and eyes wide open contributor to the immigrant experience in the US. The New York Times featured his poem Citizenship in a piece titled Poems: A Resistance Primer.

His experiential, autobiographical poems and voice are a part of the anthology Misrepresented People-Poetic Responses to Trump's America. The responses the writers shared must be heard.

Several years ago he attended the Napa Valley Writer's Conference where the seeds of his poetry were first worked out. "The workshop Zamora joined that year with Brenda Hillman was his first ever; in 2011, he returned to Napa to work with Major Jackson. Poems he first wrote at the conference appear in Unaccompanied,"

This April 20-22, 2018, in historic Round Top, Texas, Javier will be a speaker at the Poetry At Round Top festival.  I urge you to seek him out and listen.

Javier Zamora was born in El Salvador and migrated to this country at the age of nine. He is the winner of numerous awards and fellowships; his first poetry collection, Unaccompanied, was published in September by Copper Canyon Press.

We talked about his experiences, his grandmother's cooking, Hawaiian restaurants and karaoke love in “Poetry and Pupusas”, Episode 19 of Something About Food?.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sum It Up Sunday-Here's The Scoop

Ice cream evokes many emotions for me. It isn't just a sweet thing to have on a hot summers day, or after dinner, or by the pint as you binge-watch Altered Carbon... not that I did that, I'm just sayin...

For the Clarke Clan ice cream was a big deal. Our mom wouldn't let us have it unless we were ALL good. All 6 of us. Do you have any idea how hard that is? Our oldest was only 7 years older than the youngest, so it wasn't like he was leading us with his maturity. Rather, he and the second oldest were the ones who planned, organized and executed the shenanigans we got into.

Like I said, we rarely had ice cream. This was such a big deal, that old neighbors of ours remember this rule some 40+ years down the line.

Every two weeks my mom would take us shopping, dropping the majority of us nitwits off at our Aunt Mimi and Uncle Don's, while she took two of us with her to the store. (Remember those shenanigans I was talking about? Picture six kids in a grocery store playing basketball with the balls from the big wire basket display. Now picture the carnage when said basket breaks. Hence the "only two go with her" rule.)

If 4 of us had been good for Mimi and Don and 2 of us had been good for Mom we would stop at Dairy Queen on the way home. A big if.

The Old Bird would never tell us if she had decided to stop- either she turned or we just kept on driving by.

Somehow we decided that we could influence her, not by asking or pleading, but more subliminally, because we were sooo smart. The old Brady Bunch Grocery Getting Station Wagon had a turn signal that was very loud when activated. As we approached Dairy Queen on our left, we would begin to quietly chant "blinka blinka...blinka blinka..", hoping that this would awaken the "turn left" response in our mother's brains, bring us into the Dairy Queen parking lot and enable us to partake in the sweet, cool, creaminess that a medium cone (never allowed bigger) or Dilly Bar (never allowed a banana split) are made of.
I'd say 9 times out of 1000 we were successful. But ooooh those 9 times.

The ice cream memories associated with my aunt and uncle don't stop there. We knew when we were at their house we could have treats that were unheard of at our own. They raised 6 kids as well (Irish Catholics don't ya know) who were about 10 years older than we were. And since they had an empty nest, they moved my Gram Clarke in with them.

Whenever Mimi and Don would head out to visit one of their brood they would call on my sister and I to Gram sit while they were gone. We were only 7 or 8 years old, but Gram wasn't incapacitated. And she loved to take an afternoon nap. Which meant Katie and I were left to our own devices for a few hours.

We could take the cash that they had left for us and trip down the street to Friendly's where we would share a Jim Dandy between us. Or we could dive into the downstairs freezer to build our own. I swear they had every topping you could think of in their fridge. The chocolate syrup that turns into a hard shell, maraschino cherries, butterscotch get the idea.

There it is, The Jim Dandy in all its glory!

Years later Mimi and Don found small scraps of paper from when we would play Ice Cream Parlor on their back porch. The paper was from the ice cream orders that we wrote down. We took these things very seriously you see.

Mimi is now 91 years old and can still polish off an ice cream cone or sundae without blinking an eye.

As can the oldest, you know, the not so mature leader of all shenanigans.

So, for me ice cream means family, laughter (and I guess being good)... but I'm an adult now so I can have it even when I'm bad... like when I've binge-watched Altered Carbon.... just sayin...

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Good Food News-Shared Food in Florida

Have you ever seen a child munching an apple? Messily spooning some yogurt into their mouth? And giggling while doing so? What if a child was "food insecure"?

Studies have shown that a child who is hungry will "often lag behind their food-secure peers in terms of cognitive, emotional, and physical development." We love stories that show food insecurity being combatted with compassion and sharing.

A recent article in The Kitchn  relates how some Florida schools are setting the table with shared food. Food waste is lessened and kids eat more. And that means they develop along with their peers to be the bright, giggling, goofballs they should be.

We love this!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Something About Chef Won Kim

I believe creativity comes from absorbing the life around us: we pull in our experiences, rehash them through our senses and brew up something that is truly ours.

Chef Won Kim is a creative who pours his unique take on food into his Korean-Polish fusion restaurant Kimski in Chicago. The Chicago Reader featured a dish that was a tribute to Won's greatest influence, his mother, Sun Hee Kang.

Art, especially graffiti, has been a significant influence since his teens. By soaking up the art scene through magazines and the neighborhoods he lived in, Won built a style of his very own.  Chicago Creatives showcased his art and the story behind it.

With Won, we find inventive food, imaginative art, innovative flavors, and a truly original outlook. Our chat in "Positively Cynical" gave us an engaging peek into his process.

 Read about Chef Won's taco takeover victory on "Cutthroat Kitchen" in The Chicago Tribune 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Sum It Up Sunday-A List of 7 Foods I'm Serious About...Seriously...

It was a table in the produce department of a grocery store in Vancouver, WA that brought a very sobering thought home to me: I will never be able to eat/try all the food I want to. Just looking at that table covered with 7 or more different apples was mind-boggling. An apple a day was a way for me to try many types, but I just couldn't imagine being able to taste all the apple varieties there are in the world.

That is when I decided that exploring and finding new and interesting foods to try, make and share was an achievable goal. And to truly celebrate the ones I do love. Here is a list of just 7 of them. Why 7? Why the hell not?

The two are like cousins, with many similar traits, broth, and noodles. But also very different. And that's what I love about them.

The base for pho is a strong beef broth with aromatic star anise, ginger, and cinnamon. Not at all vegan. I've searched high and low for the veg broth that will replicate the true heady warm soup experience.  Usually, I settle, when I go with friends and the pho place for a spicy veg soup or veg noodle bowl. The quest continues.

Spicy Vegetable Noodle Soup from Golden Bowl in Broomfield, CO

Vegetable and Tofu Noodle Bowl from Pho Dhuy, Broomfield CO
Those crackers though...

I've a great friend with whom I have talked about going with on an epic Ramen hunt. That there are now vegan varieties around, makes this hunt so damm easy. The best ramen I've ever had was in Vancouver BC (I'm sensing a Vancouver theme) at a small place called Kintaro on Denman. And the best vegan was at Ramen Hood in LA. (Got off the Vancouver train I see). Were they exactly the same? Hell no, but you won't find ramen in Tokyo to be the same as in Kyoto, so I'm still going to love on it.

Kintaro you do it right, for the omnivores.

Oh, Ramen Hood, I will forever believe in this broth. And that vegan "egg"? Transcendent!

This versatile brassica has become the It vegetable, veg of the moment, hasn't it? Riced, cut into steaks, turned into Buffalo "Wings" for the game that rhymes with duper mole, it's everywhere. I've used and eaten it in every way you can think of. It's mild flavor and texture allow it to mimic and stand out. The taco's I had at a little place in NYC was a memorable incarnation.

I can't find this place on a map and have forgotten its name, but those tacos? Forever flavorfully seared on my memory.

My what a big cauliflower you have!

Perhaps this is because of my love of bread and toast in particular, but I adore sandwiches. They are convenient to eat anywhere, a park in San Francisco, an alley in Mumbai... you see? Anywhere.

A Tempeh Reuben, which is a must order if they have it on the menu.

The ABC at Beet Box Bakery in Denver. The stuff dreams are made of.

From an alleyway in Mumbai, filled with potatoes, tomatoes, and chutney. Wow...

The Pilgrim from Ikes in San Francisco. The cranberries make that sandwich.

Students on the streets of Istanbul eat this cheap, very very filling uber stuffed, football-sized, potato dish because it's cheap. I eat them because they take numerous disparate ingredients and smush them all inside a roasted potato to make something magical. Food magic at it's very finest!

The recipe for this little number will be in my cookbook, stay tuned.
Ful medames
Breakfast in the middle east is where you'll usually see this fava or similar bean dish. I have eaten it at lunch and dinner here in the states. And it's been different everywhere I find it. If you see it on the menu, order it, break off some pieces of warm pita bread and dive in. There is no other bean dish to me, that is as comforting and delicious.

There it is, to the left of the baba ghanoush, from Mecca Grill in Denver.

Find the ful at the top of this pic, from Ali Baba Grill in Boulder. 
And that is toum, a raw garlic sauce on the bottom. It deserves it's very own blog post.

My sister Katie hates them. And that is her DNA talking. It tells her they taste like dirt. My DNA says "Eat them anytime you see them", so I do. Roasted, pickled, raw in salads, sliced in sandwiches and on ad infinitum.

Heirloom Tomatoes
Depending on where you live and the growing season there, heirloom tomatoes may only show up for a few weeks. Take advantage, I urge you. I'll eat them in a tomato sandwich for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Maybe even second breakfast and elevensies. The yellow variety is my favorite, but the different varieties to be found is astounding. And no, they don't just taste like a tomato. They taste like summer, gardens, the earth, and heaven.

Is this list complete? Hell no. But it's a start. Let me know if you've had any of these dishes, your favorite sandwich, and what your favorite variety of heirloom tomato is.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Good Food News-Fighting for Indigenous Food Tradition

This article on Eater Online delves into how indigenous traditions are kept alive as a Northern California tribe fights to fish and hunt as they always have in the face of climate change and dwindling food sources.

"Despite the more than 164-year assault on the North Coast’s native peoples and their indigenous foodways...the Tolowa Dee-ni’, which currently include 1,609 tribal members, continue to practice their traditions today."

Health problems have plagued the indigenous peoples as they are forced move further and further away from their traditional foods. "In general, Native Americans in the U.S. suffer from high diabetes and obesity rates: 17 percent of adult Native Americans have diabetes and 43 percent are obese as opposed to 6 percent and 28 percent, respectively for non-Hispanic whites."

“We’ve always been stewards of the land,” Bommelyn, a hunter and language teacher at the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation, says “We have a deep connection with our food and our connection with animals is strong. They are sacred. They give their lives to provide for us.”