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Alert! Latte!

19 Apr

A very specific group of potential readers may recollect a joke that this title is based on.  Namely, “ALERT!  WAFFLE!” – a phrase that was coined on a think/dance collective tour of the midwest and refers to, what else, waffles.  We would (for some reason) announce this boldly when the waffle machine would ding in the lobby of the hotel while we breakfasted.  I’m sure we were a real treat to fellow hotel patrons.

Anyway, what I’m here to tell you might not change your life the way it’s changed mine, but I think it’s still worth sharing:  I have discovered a way to make a perfect latte at home.

In the May issue of Martha Stewart Living, there is an article about a day in the life of food editor, Lucinda Scala Quinn that reads like a strange series of facebook updates.  I particularly cottoned to a tidbit I read about Ms. Quinn making herself a cappuccino in her kitchen each morning.  I assumed that since she’s probably very fancy, she probably has an even fancier machine to achieve this am cap, but NO!  A small seed of hope began to unfurl in my latte-loving heart.

Upon further reading, I discovered that she brews espresso on the stove and then (this is the awesome part so get ready) she heats some milk in a cup and, using a whisk between her palms and moving her hands back and forth to swiftly turn it, she froths the milk.  I suspected that, like most helpful tips in MSL, this would probably completely backfire in my apparently success-averse hands.

But the seed of hope remained and for several days, I pondered these things in my heart.  I was so intrigued by the potential to enjoy my all-time favorite treat at a fraction of the cost and with no fancy equipment, that I tried it.  While this usually results in my cursing Martha Stewart and her awful enticement of my hope and subsequent despair, this time was different.  Liz: 1, Martha: not this time, jerkwithexcellenttaste!

I first tried the Quinn Method (a genius deserves her due) a few days ago with whole milk.  That did not work.  The milk did not really foam nicely.  But then, I remembered from my barista days that it was always easier to make a good stiff foam with skim milk, even when I was using the industrial steam wand.  When I applied my whisk with vigor to a microwaved cup of skim milk, magic began!  Foam!  Legit foam began to multiply in the cup!  I seriously cannot remember the last time I was so excited.  I completely understand if you need to get up and try this without delay.  The rest of this post isn’t as good as your homemade latte will be, so go with my blessing!

Anyway, upon having this ecstatic success, I brewed some espresso using my aero press, and poured the milk and foam on top.  It was a revelation of such magnitude that among my first thoughts was that I should share this with the good people at TCoWHRN.  I hope you enjoy!

P.S. another hot tip – if you don’t have a thing that makes espresso, you can easily just use brewed coffee and have yourself a steaming mug (or bowl in the french style) of cafe au lait.


Best Wishes – Advice About Food

26 Oct

I was recently invited to participate in one of the Chicago dance community’s very coolest events, Poonie’s Cabaret.  Poonie’s is a dance and performance variety show curated by the truly hip Jyl Ferhenkamp and held at one of my favorite venues for dance, Links Hall.  As an audience member, I love Poonie’s because I get to see lots of really great artists in an evening, often showing new works, works in progress and pieces that are amazing, but that don’t fit within the rigid format of an evening-length dance concert.  I also get to see up and coming artists who might not otherwise have the resources to produce their own work.   Jyl is up-to-the-minute on top of what’s happening in the dance scene and is a really gifted curator.  And all of this is in addition to saying the word “Poonie’s” over and over again.

I have been attending Poonie’s performances since before I lived in Chicago and remember very distinctly thinking to myself “Man.  If I ever got invited to participate in Poonie’s, I’d really feel like I was part of things here (cue cloying day-dreamy look).”

Anyway, here’s what I made.  The piece is called Best Wishes – it’s improvised movement (me), improvised music (Matthew Joynt and Nathan Sandberg), and a text I wrote that is advice about food culled from my considerable musings on the subject.  All of the advice is directly related to things I have witnessed/experienced/imagined.  Nathan generously donated his time and skillz to record my god-awful voice reading the “advice” and I sometimes spoke them aloud live along with the pre-recorded audio.  I hope I get the chance to re-work this piece and perform it again sometime as I had a really great time working on it and performing it.

Eating Animals – tangential musings

27 Feb

Alright, I read the Omnivore’s Dilemma just like everyone else.  I, too, freaked out (am still in a sustained freak-out) about the state of Factory Farming and the inevitable apocalypse.  I watched Food Inc.  I developed a small crush on Alice Waters.  I give a crap about the food we eat and (with oscillating strategies and commitment)I try to make responsible choices.

But I recently finished Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals and I’ve got my pants in a fresh bunch.  The hipster king has lots of extra-sincere stuff to convey, as usual (I had a chortle when I read one reviewer refer to him as the “extremely annoying and incredibly precious author”).  Don’t get me wrong, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close changed my life.  It remains one of my favorite books and probably always will.  The sustained heartbreak over Oskar and his business cards will stick with me forever.  But for some inexplicable reason, sometimes when I’m reading, I can picture JSF typing in a cafe (it’s really obscure – you haven’t heard of it) and a little tear slides down his cheek, and all of a sudden I want to punch imaginary JSF in the face.  It’s probably mostly about me and my issues.  I just needed to get that off my chest.

But just because he occasionally pushes my buttons and annoys me in my imagination doesn’t mean he’s not right.  After being accosted (in the benevolent “take your medicine” kind of way) with stats and stories of the environmental, health, and crimes against base humane treatment of animals that are being committed in the name of our weird diet, I can’t imagine anyone not taking pause to wonder how we got here and if we should perhaps get the hell out.  At best this whole food nightmare seems senseless (get it?  Whole Food nightmare?  No?  Just me?).  Which is pretty hip these days, I guess.  Senselessness, I mean.  We’ve perfected the short game.  We’re hoping to deny Medicaid to the children of drug addicts (that’ll teach ’em?)!  We’re killing people who kill people to teach people that killing people will get them killed!  We’re throwing up charter schools faster than you can say “Superman!”  We are carpe-ing the crap out of the diem.

But what about the long game?  What about how we’re being confronted with overwhelming evidence that suggests that the way we eat is wrecking us on every level – it’s wrecking our bodies, the earth, and the people we live with?  Are we going to deal with this? Am I going to deal with this?  Those who have read the book (like, a year or more ago probably) are thinking to themselves “Ah, so Liz has entered the vegan phase, which will last approximately 4-6 months and end in a breakdown of willpower sparked by someone’s birthday dinner at _________ restaurant.”  Those who know me well are probably thinking “I bet that kid ate meatloaf WHILE she was reading the book.  At Denny’s.”

I will neither confirm nor deny these possibilities, but I will say that I already did my vegan stint during high school.  In case you were wondering how hardcore lent can get (and just how annoying for your friends and family – not the vegan aspect, but the sanctimonious asshole bit), herein lies the answer.  You’re welcome.  Oddly enough, the meal that I chose to break my 6-month streak (because if you’re practicing hard-core lent, it needs to laaaaaaaaast – you need to BEAT lent, not merely observe it) was school hot lunch.  As always, good choices.

In any case, the overwhelming evidence is in.  Eating factory farmed meat  is creating all kinds of real and immediate problems.  And, you know, it has been for a while – Peter Singer has been harping on us for quite some time now with his reasoned points and persuasive arguments.  It doesn’t look good, my friends.  It looks like we need to deal with this.  I’m hard pressed to find a defensible reason for my behavior any longer.  I think I’m on the wrong side of this (you know, the apathy side……. where I often like to set up shop).

So I’ve stopped buying meat at the grocery store.  I joined a CSA that doles out tasty animal bits on a monthly basis and I supplement that supply with regular visits to The Meat Van (what?  You don’t have a farmer who pulls into a bus stop around the corner with a refrigerated van and sells meat and eggs on a weekly basis?).  I’m dangerously close to becoming a cliché.

But, when confronted with the need to grab a quick lunch due to poor planning or a pressing case of the hangries (hunger+anger) I go to Wendy’s and eat unspeakable evil.  I’m not sure I can say no to Ba le’s chinese pork…. I’m not sure if I want to.  Moreover, I REALLY don’t want to be the douche bag who isn’t eating my sister-in-law’s casserole for ethical reasons.  I pride myself on my willingness to eat anything (and methodically exercise myself of any dislikes – for instance it took me two years to develop a taste for olives, but now I love ’em).  I don’t want to be the difficult friend with an annoying diet to accommodate.  Basically, I don’t want to return to my days as a sanctimonious pain-in-the-ass.

I guess the folks who declined to eat meals prepared by slaves felt similarly.  Shit.

I think we have to deal with this.  As always, I’m not sure how to balance abstaining from evil and avoiding becoming an insufferable pile of judgement and sanctimony.  I want to do the right thing, but I don’t want to be a snob or a jerk.  As soon as I get it all figured out, I’ll be sure to let you know.  Those who are interested in these things may want to develop a contingency plan in the case that this takes me the rest of my life.

Productivity in Jeopardy

4 Jan

Those of you who are close to me should prepare yourselves for the inevatable intervention.  A fellow, morbidly curious pal gave this to me the other day.  Why can’t I be this interested in learning about physics, or computers, or….. well, really anything useful?  If my google searches continue to lead me to such madness, I’m going to have to censor my internet access so that I can’t get to all of this outrageous Christian content.  Zing!


Those unfamiliar with the quiverfull movement…… I was going to say “should probably stay that way”, but instead – this.  And, now for the good stuff.   Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  The Christian Patriarchy Movement produces some disgusting stuff to be sure, but I was in no way prepared for the violence being perpetrated against food.  The recipes alone will aggravate your sense of decency (and perhaps your gag reflex…… and maybe your tear ducts).   I’m sorry.  You’re welcome.  (you can pick one, or, like me, pick both.)

Culinary Exploits

5 Jun

I took a big risk the other day and combined two entities that have bitch-slapped me in the past.  Namely, bread baking and the recipes of Martha Stewart (note:  NOT including the fine and reputable publication Everyday Food, which serves as my constant resource for healthy, easy, dinners – yes, I totally drink the EDF kool-aid).

So, with much courage, a glass of wine, and trepidation, I decided to make Olive Oil Bread from Martha’s Stewart’s Baking Handbook.  It was the first recipe in the bread section, and I thought that Martha might bless me kindly for starting at the beginning – she’s a person who I imagine is drawn to order (anyone who recommends scanning each and every receipt and cataloging them in an online folder system is clearly committed to a fastidious lifestyle – anyone who keeps a shoebox full of grocery lists, phone numbers and a dog’s medical records is obviously not – can you guess which person I am?).  I felt that I needed some good Martha juju and for some reason, making the first recipe seemed like a good way to get it.   Whatever.  She’s a withholding mistress, but I thought I’d try.

A quick word on Martha.  I love her.  And also, I hate her.  Martha Stewart is a genus and an exacting bitch.  She has an incredible aesthetic and uncanny knack for tiny details that delight me.  I feel calm and happy each month when my copy of Martha Stewart Living arrives in the mail.  Reading it is like taking a vacation from my real life and stepping into the restful world of affluent housekeeping and delusions of grandeur.  But God help you if you misread her directions or deviate one iota in any way.  If Martha says 10 swift strokes in a counter-clockwise direction, you had better not even think of doing 9 or 11.  Clockwise?  Forget it.  It’s like she has a tireless staff whose only job is to make sure that the project self-destructs if you make one tiny error.  Anyone?  Are you with me here?


So anyway, much to my delight, the bread was a big success!  I was thrilled, obviously, and served the bread with cheese, olives, pickles, salami and wine for a wonderful dinner on the stoop.


As I type this, I’m waiting for bagel dough to rise.  I’ll let you know how it goes…