Monthly Archives: November 2011

Sausage-stuffed mushrooms

It’s the Monday after Thanksgiving.  Chances are, you’re expecting one of two things from this post: a clever use-up for leftovers, or an antidote to last week’s indulgence.

Sorry.  Not today.

Today, I’m all about stuffing vegetables with meat.  And when I say vegetables, I mean mushrooms.  And when I say meat, I mean sausage.

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Persimmon bread, and a Thanksgiving thought

It’s Dare to Eat a Peach’s first Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving might be my favorite holiday. As my sister pointed out, it’s one of the few times in a year when we can be reasonably sure everyone else is doing the same thing we are. It’s a quintessentially American holiday, without the jingoism and the omnipresent hot dogs of, say, July 4th. It’s a pause for breath before the arrival of the juggernaut Christmas–a welcome moment of inclusiveness for heathens like me. It’s a celebration of food, family, and the remarkable bounty of the planet we live on. It’s a holiday transported far from its murky and oppressive historical roots–a welcome shift, I think–and, so far, the only major one that has stubbornly resisted commercialization. There are no Thanksgiving jingles in stores, and for that alone it is a glorious day.

But as a food blogger, I have to acknowledge something: Thanksgiving is driving us crazy.

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Whole wheat chocolate chip cookies

So, um.

I have to tell you something.

I made you a cookie…but I eated it.

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Pasta, sun-dried tomatoes and beans

Let’s get one thing clear, right off the bat.  This is the best dish I’ve made in a while.

It’s cavatappi pasta with cannellini beans, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes.  A bare-bones spin on pasta e fagioli. Ludicrously inexpensive, and nearly idiot-proof to make.  Easy enough for a weeknight, fancy and plentiful enough to serve to guests.

Have I mentioned how fabulous this is?

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Scallion pancakes

All right.  Now that that’s out of my system, let’s talk about Chinese food.

I’m a born-and-bred American Jew.  Chinese takeout is woven into our cultural identity just as much as latkes, candles, guilt and the uncanny ability to sniff out other Jews at fifty paces.  But I’m not entirely in lockstep with my people on this one.  I’m picky about my Chinese food.

It’s either gotta be dirt-cheap from a buffet line–cloyingly sweet, glistening with oil and heavily impregnated with MSG–or expensive, meticulously authentic and preferably homemade.  The middle-of-the-road Amurrican Chinese menu, the kind you find at ninety percent of sit-down Chinese places, just doesn’t do it for me.  With one exception.

I’m a damn fool for scallion pancakes.

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Digression: come together

Okay, you know what?  I am going to talk about the ad that pissed me off, because I saw it again today.

It was a Kaiser Permanente ad, on the side of a bus heading down Market Street.  I think that was the biggest surprise, because Kaiser’s ads are almost always innocuous and cheery.  It was an articulated bus, with the accordion middle, and the ad was spread cheekily on either side: a headless male torso, heavily overweight, with his stomach bulging over the too-small waistband of his jeans, straining fruitlessly to button the fly across the two halves of the bus.  Caption? “COME TOGETHER.”

“Kaiser Permanente.  Thrive.”

See, here’s the thing that gets me.  I understand that overweight and obesity are real medical issues, especially in the US.  It makes sense that a company in the business of providing medical care to an increasingly heavy population would want to encourage prospective patients to view weight maintenance as part of staying healthy.  It makes sense that they would take out advertisements as part of that strategy.  I don’t begrudge them that.

But really?  Did it have to be another headless fatty?  Was there nothing else?

When journalists and pundits and politicians and, yes, advertisers, are talking about obesity as a public health issue, they’re picturing this kind of thing: the headless, faceless, voiceless, shapeless human inner tube who’s outgrown his pants at a laughable speed.  They don’t acknowledge the people living that reality every day.  They don’t mention that medical issues can stem from weight gain (or loss, for that matter) at just about any size.  They certainly never point to people like me, whose bodies aren’t striking or grotesque enough to make a good story.

There are people, real people, who struggle daily to achieve or maintain a healthy weight, and people for whom a healthy weight is not the tight-muscled slenderness we are encouraged to strive for.  The medical care providers at Kaiser Permanente surely encounter a rich spectrum of these people.  They could advertise for their real patients.  But it’s easier to make a cheap joke.

I do not look like the man in that ad.  When it comes to weight–what I carry and how I carry it–I’m on the bare upper bound of normal.  Yet I have had more medical intervention on behalf of my weight than most people I know.  Most days these days I’m all right with that.  It’s a hard fight to get there, but I’m all right with it.

But then I see something like this ad, and I remember that I don’t exist.  Only the headless fatties exist.  And they need to get treatment right away.


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