Eating “As Low on the Food Chain as You Can”

Warning – this might be a rant.

Many moons ago, back when I still listened to AM radio, I heard a physician on a call-in show called “Ask the Doctor” make a pronouncement about food and healthy eating, and it stuck with me:

Eat as low on the food chain as you can.

Meaning:

  • know what you’re eating, where it came from, and what went into it
  • be a locavaore! eat fresh, locally grown foods as much as possible
  • limit processed foods with “fake” or altered ingredients (anybody seen the latest news about sugar substitutes lately?- it ain’t good)
  • make dishes from scratch when you can
  • avoid foods that are pre-cut, pre-marinated, pre-mixed, pre-packaged, pre-anything (don’t even get me started on the topic of meat with saline solution injected)

The radio doctor’s arguments were based on simple truths: the more hands that touch your food and the more processing it undergoes, the more likely you are to encounter bacteria, unhealthy and unnecessary additives or preservatives, or the loss or degradation of vital nutrients.

I really believe in this philosophy, and that’s why I loathe fast-food restaurants and love farmers’ markets and locally-owned, non-chain establishments. It doesn’t matter if they’re famous like Pike Place Market in Seattle or the shops on the Rue de Martyrs in Paris, or humble little mom and pop establishments, or small-town markets like our (surprisingly large and popular) Tomball Farmers Market.

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A produce vendor on the Rue de Martyrs in Paris (love that street!)

That’s why I make my own chicken, vegetable, beef and seafood stock with bones, shells or vegetable trimmings rather than buying canned stock and freeze it until the need arises. Right now, all I have is vegetable stock.

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“Spicy Veg Stock” in my freezer, waiting to be needed – maybe for tortilla soup

That’s why I use real butter and eschew margarine, and make my own marinades, and peel my own carrots rather than buying those bogus, whittled-down “baby” carrots.

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There’s no such thing as a “baby” carrot

That’s why I have vegetable and herb gardens most years.

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A very late harvest of peppers last winter

That’s why I love it when the Grill-Meister makes his marvelous pizza dough from scratch and we throw on our own unique mix of ingredients rather than ordering from Domino’s or Papa John’s or one of those other cardboard and cheese vendors. The pizza below was a delicious Glover Gardens creation: the Grill-Meister’s smoked chicken with white onions, goat cheese and red pepper flakes popped into the pizza oven for about 8 minutes, and then topped with fresh grape tomato slivers and dabs of fig jam from Just Pure Flavors, one of my favorite vendors at our local farmers market.

That “eat low on the food chain” philosophy is why I will never, ever eat fast-food fried chicken again in my natural lifetime. But the other reasons are the PTSD from the last time I ate fast-food fried chicken – and the food poisoning, with its subsequent dehydration, fainting, and concussion from hitting a ceramic tile floor.  It was 24 years ago, but it’s still really too soon to talk about it…

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Photo from Popeye’s Facebook page

After all these declarations, I’m not as pure as I might sound, though; I have embraced a few notable exceptions to this philosophy, which I will share in other posts.  I think I can defend all of them, but you can be the judge. Also, I haven’t made the logical transition to vegetarian that you might expect after reading a rant like this, but I do really love vegetables and am always interested in the recipes posted in the vegetarian blogs I follow (you know who you are).

Resources:

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Photo from Buzzfeed article via blogger.com

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

On Monday | STORYTELLER

The Storyteller says this is a long post, and to him I say, “Post away, you speak for a generation. Thank you.”

There are days. And, there are days. Yesterday started with a mass shooting in Las Vegas. The numbers kept growing. From two, to 20 to 50, to 58. Dead. And, the wounded. Somewhere well over 500 peo…

Source: On Monday | STORYTELLER

An Afternoon at Wilson Creek Winery: “I’m not sure if it’s the ambience, the company or the wine, but this is about the best Reuben I’ve ever had.”

A recent trip to Temecula, CA as part of our Wine for No Reason travels with several other couples provided wonderful content for this blog, although I’ve been too busy to share most of it. Today’s focus is on lunch at the Wilson Creek Winery, and reflections on how the setting adds to the enjoyment of a shared meal.

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Photo courtesy of Wilson Creek Winery

We met our fellow Wine for No Reason travelers at Wilson Creek on the first full day of our Temecula trek. One of the couples in our group had been there before and knew it would be just right. This place is more than just a winery: it is a sprawling compound that offers a full experience that includes whimsical outdoor art, a large tasting room and gift shop, landscaped grounds and vineyards that allow you to enjoy the California sunshine, and an excellent restaurant.

Arriving early, the Grill-Meister and I took a stroll through the vineyard and admired the grapes and the scenery.

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This part of the vineyard is called Merlot Mesa

Creekside Grille is nestled between the vineyard and the beautiful grounds, providing the perfect setting for a relaxing lunch with friends.

fullsizeoutput_8e0Creekside Grill at Wilson Creek Entrance

Still early when we ambled over to the restaurant, the Grill-Meister and I sipped chardonnay in the perfect, 72-degree, dry mountain climate while waiting for our friends. It felt like the world had slowed down a little, which is exactly how I want to feel on vacation. Don’t you?

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I loved the name of this Chardonnay; see the fine print at the bottom, which says “Happy Wife Vineyard” and “Family Reserve”?

Our friends arrived and we had a lovely, lively, laughter-filled lunch. The menu at Creekside Grille is what I would call eclectic / American / locavore / foodie, with choices ranging from a Reuben sandwich to an octupus salad to a bison burger.

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A steelhead salmon filet with white asparagus and a salad
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The Caesar salad had the perfect amount of tangy dressing and crouton
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The Reuben, with a side of the Vineyard Salad, which had organic baby greens, candied pecans, bleu cheese, golden raisins and a delectable vanilla balsamic vinaigrette

It was a glorious afternoon of conversation, excellent food with much sharing of bites and wine-tasting. We were perfectly carefree and our time there felt like a gift; everything, including the weather, was over-the-top good. One of our friends summed it up, earnestly declaring:

I’m not sure if it’s the ambience, the company or the wine, but this is about the best Reuben I’ve ever had.

He went on to wax poetic about the Reuben, the company, the wine and the ambience, and we all dove into a discussion about how the place you’re in and the people you’re with have a huge impact on your enjoyment of a meal. We reveled in our current place (Temecula, Wilson Creek) and peeps, and then went on to describe some of our other “most memorable meals” throughout our lives.  Looking back, every one of our stories about fabulous meals included vivid descriptions of the setting and the companion(s).

It’s never just about the food. The setting and the people matter just as much.

I could go on about this topic, and perhaps I will, on another day. But for now, here are a few more photos of the lovely Wilson Creek Winery. Check it out if you ever get to Temecula. And look for us – we are definitely going to go back.

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Back home at Glover Gardens and sorting through pictures, I realized that we had had one of the wines before.

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Photo courtesy of Wilson Creek Winery

The Almond Champagne was the bubbly component for an Empty Nest New Year’s party a few years ago (just the two of us, at home). We really liked this champagne ~ at Glover Gardens or in Temecula ~ and will have it again. It is slightly sweet without being cloying and compliments fruit and chocolate desserts. It paired extraordinarily well with my friend Katherine’s homemade baclava, a holiday tradition. (Side note to Katherine: this is one of the reasons we need our allotment increased – so we’ll have some left for New Year’s!)

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The Wilson Creek Almond Champage was a New Year’s Eve hit for the two of us a few years ago, especially when sipped with the baclava (on the left in the green wrapper); I can hardly wait to try this combination again!

Resources:

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Root Canal for Cracked Tooth Syndrome: I Will Survive!

Today was a great day for me. Let me set the stage for you: My jaw / mouth / face / ear has been hurting since mid-February. I have seen three dentists and one doctor during this time and have received multiple conflicting diagnoses. Grinding my teeth. Jaw strain from an unknown cause, perhaps “biting down wrong on an almond”. TMJ. Fibromyalgia (chronic pain / heightened nerve activity). Old silver filling that might be loosening. Recommendations not to open wide, not to eat popcorn or almonds, to use a fork with a hamburger so I wouldn’t strain my jaw.  A couple of the diagnoses were handed out BEFORE the “medical professional” even examined me. They didn’t check out my medical history, look at my charts, ask me what was going on. But they prescribed lots of meds, most of which I never took, because I didn’t believe the diagnoses. Two dental night guards were created for me, one of which wasn’t fitted properly and had to be discarded (although I paid for it), and the other which (I assume) is still at the dentist’s office, no one ever having called me to say it was ready.
I had a crisis of confidence, for seven months, while I also had escalating pain in my face. It might have made me a bit grumpy.

 

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Stock photo (not me, but a pretty good representation of tooth pain)

Today, a marvelous and extremely professional full-scale dentistry practice spent time listening to me, evaluating my input, and doing a deep and time-consuming examination. And then they dug in ~ literally! ~ to fix my issue. It turns out that I had a crack in a back molar, a condition that doesn’t show up on x-ray and requires an intensive visual examination. Cracked molar syndrome is hard to diagnose and requires a dedicated, thorough professional to find it. The crack extended to the nerve cavity, my whole tooth was dead, and the infection was into the bone. I had a root canal today and got a crown, and am so very happy to finally have: a.) a medical staff that cares enough about figuring out and solving the problem to spend time on it (I was there for 5 hours) and b.) a solution! I didn’t realize how much the chronic pain in my jaw was weighing on me.

There’s no “poor pitiful me” in this saga, simply a realization and cautionary tale that you have to aggressively seek solutions these days when you have a weird or unresolved medical issue. The burden of investigation and tenacity about solving the problem has shifted from the medical professional to the patient. Sometimes you have to seek help from multiple sources before you get an answer. And you have to listen to your gut. I somehow knew that my problem wasn’t just grinding my teeth or wasn’t anywhere close to being fibromyalgia.

My jaw is throbbing a bit this evening from the oral surgery and the infection from living with that cracked tooth for over 7 months, but my heart is soaring with the knowledge that my issues have been diagnosed and addressed. The oral surgeon even called me at home at 7 pm tonight to make sure I was doing ok. Really! When was the last time that ever happened, a medical professional calling you at home to make sure you’re ok? I’m jazzed about that charming “bedside manner”.

I still have a crisis of confidence in the medical profession in general as a result of all this, but the Stephens and Gatewood Dentistry Office has my complete confidence.

This will be me again, soon! A nice lady in her early-to-mid fifties with a pain-free smile.

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Reminder: this is a non-commercial blog, and any product or service recommendations are strictly my opinion and not a paid advertisement. 
Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

It’s a Grand Old Flag

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Flying above the Alma Music Festival in Colorado

No commentary today, just pictures of the U.S flag to honor and celebrate Flag Day.

Well, maybe a little commentary.

I love that I live in a country where free speech is protected, the government is strengthened by a complicated but fairly competent web of checks and balances, and we continue to evolve.  The process can be messy, raucous and sometimes even heartbreaking, but for me, those are the things that the flag represents.  In baby steps, we grow and mature, then sometimes slither backward a bit; we swing back and forth between parties like a monkey in a jungle.  Even given all that, this ship of state of ours has been one of the most sturdy for the better part of its 241 years.

It’s a grand old flag.

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Flying proudly in Jackson Square in New Orleans
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There’s no mistaking where you are when you see this flag at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C.
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Thornton Winery in Temecula, CA proudly flies the flag over their beautiful terrace
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The main band fundraiser for Klein Oak High School is delivery of flags on patriotic holidays; it sure was hot when we delivered them for Independence Day a few years ago
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I snapped these during a tour of the Diplomatic Reception Rooms at the State Department
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Another from the State Department
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The sky is a beautiful backdrop for this flag in a huge Marriott in Washington, DC
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We always hang the flag when we are at Little House in the Rockies
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From another angle at Little House in the Rockies
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A huge flag flies at South Coast Winery’s restaurant in Temecula, CA

These are all just photos I happened to have of flags…I think I might be a bit compulsive about it.  It’s a grand old flag.

P.S.  I just realized that Flag Day is one of only a very few national days that isn’t associated with any particular type of food.  Hmmm, maybe next year we should start something!

Happy Flag Day!

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

The Thankful Foreigner: An Award-Winning Essay from a Millennial

And now, as I keep a vigilant eye over the discrimination in my society, I wonder: When will the other people, blinded by prejudice, have the eye-opening experience I had that day?

This little story from a few years ago is incredibly relevant today.

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Let the adventure begin!

In 2011, an incredibly cheap last-minute Houston-to-London roundtrip airfare offer coincided with my son’s 14th birthday and a lazy Thanksgiving week in which we had nothing planned.

So we cooked up a weeklong Mom & Kid trip to give the young ‘un (our last milennial) an opportunity to experience his first international travel:  three nights in Paris, followed by three nights in London.  We left Houston right after school on a Friday afternoon, tickets in hand for our first adventure, scaling the Eiffel Tower less than 24 hours later.  I knew it was going to be a worthwhile trip when, dazed and tired from the overnight flight to London and a couple of hours of fitful sleep on the high-speed EuroStar (Chunnel) train on the way to Paris, he leaned over to me – before our adventures even began – touched me on the arm and said:

Mom, thank you for showing me the world!

We alighted in Paris, stumbled to our hotel, took a few minutes for a power nap, and set out to ascend the Eiffel Tower.  But I digress; that’s a story for another time. Today’s focus is on my son’s memory, captured in his award-winning essay, which he shared post-competition on Facebook, as follows (in his words).

From February, 2012:  The following essay is what I wrote at the Klein Academic Competition that won first place for 8th Grade Ready Writing. The story is non-fiction; these events did actually happen.


The Thankful Foreigner

The sounds of honking European cars, people of all kinds conversing in French, and muffled, slimly audible brakes from subway trains all formed a soundtrack to the beginning of my day.

Trying to force my eyes open, I sat up, told my mom good morning, and, after slowly rising to my feet, walked over to the window of our hotel room. Pushing the red curtain away, I looked down upon the busy Parisian street, where people were walking in and out of shops and cafes, waiting to cross the intersection, and riding on motorcycles or in cars.

Now I knew it was true. The previous day had involved exhausted scrambling through airports and train stations, causing more of a feeling of trauma than that of a vacation. But now I was sure; I was really in Paris.

Within about a half hour, both my mom and I were dressed, clean, and ready to hit the street. Our first stop, as we had already discussed, was going to be a nearby cafe. We needed breakfast.

It called out to us the second we stepped out the door; across the street, a nice neon-red sign reading “La Porte de Montmartre” flashed out at my eyes. Immediately, I asked, or, I should say, STATED: “We should go there.”

So we took a risk; we waited for a pause in traffic, then dashed across the street.

It looked even better from up close. All the tables occupied by regular French citizens who all looked like some character in a classic movie…we had to get coffee here.

So my mom and I walked straight through the cafe to the bar, where we instantly mounted ourselves upon two vacant stools, and at the bartender’s acknowledgement, ordered two cups of coffee.

I noticed soon enough that this man was very young and handsome, yet obviously exhausted. He also, however, seemed like the kind of Frenchman that one of my less considerate classmates would sneak snide comments about back home. I knew about the unfounded views other countries have of the French, but…I knew that not ALL the French people were pompous and arrogant.

As he came back from the kitchen with our two cups of coffee, my ever-so-inquisitive mom asked what I’d been wondering: “Where are you from?”

The second she asked that, his face brightened up. “You tell me first,” he said through his grin, his French accent indeed present.

“We are from Texas, in the USA,” I said. “And you, sir?”

He stood up straight and said, rather proudly,

Normandy Beach. The ruins of the D-Day attack. All of the American liberators are buried there…Many of my people are not as grateful to the Americans as they should be. I mean, thanks to your country, we are all still French. So, personally, I thank you and all your people.”

Within two seconds of his ceasing to speak, I knew that any anti-French sympathies I could’ve had prior to this day would be gone.

It was obvious that this man was at least 30 years too young to have experienced the historic World War II battle that had brought recognition to his hometown. Yet he had the heart to honor and respect a foreign country and its military for the well-being of his own.
Since then, the “French” slur and stereotype has been something I make a goal to avoid. I now see the prejudice and ignorance behind many comments that, before that sunny Parisian morning, I might not have seen.

And now, as I keep a vigilant eye over the discrimination in my society, I wonder:  When will the other people, blinded by prejudice, have the eye-opening experience I had that day?


 

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The Thankful Foreigner, himself
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The wise 14 year old, our last millennial 
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We’ll go back to La Porte Montmartre when next we are in Paris

Back to the Present

Back to the present, back to my voice…Wow.  I’ve experienced this story in a myriad of ways:

  • When it originally happened; I realized that the young French man would be someone we remembered forever.  “Because of you, we are all still French!” is how I remember him proclaiming his appreciation for the American and Allied liberation of France.
  • When my son’s name was called at the UIL district competition award ceremony as the first place winner…I I lost my self-control, rose from my seat in the uncomfortable gym bleachers and screeched “Woooooo!” before sitting back down, red-faced and yet unabashedly proud.  Then, a few minutes later as I almost strangled him with hugs, he told me the topic of his essay, and we reminisced about that morning, that young man, that authentic gratitude.
  • When I actually read the essay after he got it back a few weeks later and understood what the magical moments with the young man in the coffee bar had meant to my son, and wondered at how he translated the ridiculousness of petty prejudices into this insight:  “I now see the prejudice and ignorance behind many comments that, before that sunny Parisian morning, I might not have seen.”
  • And now, more than 5 years later, as our country struggles with immigration, our place in the world and how we interface with those who are “foreign”.  Perhaps I’m biased – well, heck, of course I’m biased – but I find my son’s final statement in that little essay truly profound:

And now, as I keep a vigilant eye over the discrimination in my society, I wonder: When will the other people, blinded by prejudice, have the eye-opening experience I had that day?

What’s that old saying…”out of the mouths of babes”?  How about:  “out of the mouths of millennials”?

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook; The Thankful Foreigner printed with permission of the author, Thomas Wenglinski

 

International Friends, What Do You Think of Our Big Game Food and Rituals?

Diversity Hands - the World I Want to Live InI’m blessed to have a number of international friends and blog followers and I always wonder how our over-the-top American events – and the food that goes with them – seem to you.

Of course you have your own big events – the FIFA World Cup, the Cricket World Cup, the Tour de France, the Rugby World Cup, etc….

Do these events inspire over-the-top eating like our Super Bowl does?  What are some of the go-to foods for your sporting spectaculars?

I would love to hear about other cultures’ big game rituals and foods.  Do tell!

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