The Power Makes It More Difficult to Lie

Having a cup of chocolate with bread and cheese
On an island off the coast of Spain
I’m breathing like new bellows,
Breathing like new bellows

The power of solitude
Is great and beyond understanding
It’s like a weapon,
A pacifying weapon

I’ll be the first to praise this Spanish sun
As it lifts me through my love and anger
That love and anger,
That made me swear I would never be your sinner

Everything that I ever believed
Crawls from underneath this street
And you will see them too,
Unless they frighten you…

But if you let it, your search
Will be relatively effortless
That one you stand in with a stranger
We’ve all been removed in one way or another

Photo: solitude by serhatdemiroglu

What Food Would Your SO Be?

I love food. I bit obsessively so. I love to read about it, watch TV about it, write about, cook it, and of course, eat. A lot. When my friend Heather and I were traveling by train to Sicily, we met an Italian guy who offered to take us to his family’s estate for lunch. We thought that sounded lovely. And then he said, “Yes, you girls like to eat?” He looked us up and down and exclaimed, “Yes! I think so!!!” He was very puzzled why we didn’t go…

Anyway, to get back to my point, I do love to eat and read about food. One of my outlets is the Ina Garten Fanclub (also known as the Barefoot Contessa) on Facebook . It’s a roughly 90,000 international member group that share my love of food. Posts cover everything from recipe success and failures, questions about techniques, requests for meal ideas, etc.

I posed the question to the group the other day: If your significant other was a food, what would they be? And I got back some interesting responses, like these:

  • “Lasagna with a glass of moscato and a nice slice of chocolate brownie loaded with nuts and chocolate chips.”
  • “”He’s a salted caramel chocolate cheesecake that makes me feel good from my toes to the top of my head!!”
  • “He is grumpy, so…. sour cream doughnut with black coffee. And no cream.”
  • “Sausage mash with onion gravy, vegetables and a Yorkshire pudding. Not as light as he could be and occasionally a bit stodgy – but warm, comforting and reliable. Never lets you down – 34 years”
  • “A big juicy cheeseburger with onion rings and a rootbeer float.”
  • “Champagne with stilton and balsamic glaze on a butter crisp cracker. Champagne has a secondary fermentation after all, and stilton is well-aged before being acceptable.”
  • “My husband said he is like an old sundried lemon, old and sour. I think he’s pretty sweet. We’ve been together 40 years.”

My freshly-baked, butter croissant alongside a warm café au lait sweetened with sugar says he will be home from work early tonight. I find him very comforting and soothing, just the right amount of sweetness, and exceptionally satisfying. He’s the best part of my morning, and I’m not a morning person. Can be enjoyed any time of day.

Tell me, what kind of food is your Significant Other? Comment below.eyeem-99336493

The Lunch Box

School Lunch.jpgI always thought that my choice to be a working mother was the right one, both for me and for my family. But my daughter recently recounted a story to me that made me question that decision.

A long time ago, when I was a teenager in fact, I decided to be a career woman. My father died of cancer when I was 14 and I watched my stay-at-home mother go through a lot of personal struggles trying to establish her independence afterwards. I made a resolution that I would never be in that position. Life holds too many unknown factors and you have to plan for the worst. In my mind, financial independence meant freedom, security and survival.

After college, I established myself in public relations and marketing and had a pretty good career going. I flew on private jets sometimes, had dinners in some of the finest establishments, and worked for executives in the Bay Area placing stories in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, for example.

Then I had Mackenzie. I went back to work in marketing about four months after my daughter was born. Despite negative snipes from some of my male colleagues, I needed to help support our family and I genuinely liked the work. It was emotionally excruciating leaving her every day at daycare, but I tried to remind myself of the positives: she will learn to be more social, they will give her stimulating activities, and she will have a stronger immune system from being immersed in a petri dish on a daily basis.

I always took a lot of care making dinner for my family, often putting in quite a bit of time making something both nutritious and delicious for the three of us. But I stubbornly drew that line at school lunches. I was NOT going to make lunch for Mackenzie. Period. I was too exhausted from working. Once she hit elementary school, I felt Mackenzie could buy lunch.

Personally, I always looked forward to buying lunch at school when I was a kid. That thick focaccia-like pizza cut into large squares and lightly brushed with sauce. If it was a good day, the cheese wouldn’t stick to the aluminum foil covering. And those chocolate chip cookies! The oversized, brown sugar heavy crunchy cookies that cost $.10 and were awesome alongside those tiny cartons of cold, Vitamin D milk. It was fun, and I thought Kenz might like it too. Wouldn’t a hot meal be better than the lunches in my memory: a baloney and butter sandwich, flattened by an extra heavy navel orange?

My daughter is in middle school now and as much as I encourage her to make her own lunch, she doesn’t have the energy or desire after studying until 10pm some nights.

Currently, I work from home, and I thought I might finally change my ways. On Tuesday I decided to make her lunch. I made a honey ham and salami sandwich on Dave’s Killer White Bread with some high-quality mayo from Whole Foods, a Ziploc baggy of red and yellow grape tomatoes, a maple white chocolate Think Thin bar and a stroopwafel cookie I brought home from Amsterdam. She had a week of school district testing ahead of her, so I also included a notecard with some over-the-top affirmations of love just to elicit that teenage-eyeroll. And it was all kinda fun.

When I picked up Kenzie from the bus, I asked her what she thought of her lunch.

“Oh yeah, that was great Mom,” she said sarcastically. “I went to go get some water and my friends went through my lunch bag and they found your notecard. Real hilarious. They bugged me about that the whole day.”

“You didn’t like my card?” I laughed. “I knew you were in testing and I just wanted to brighten your day.”

“Yeah, don’t do that.”

She got deep in thought for a few minutes and said, “I remember back in elementary school all my friends’ mothers used to make them these great lunches every day. They would have their little sandwiches, cut into perfect rectangles, and their mothers would all write them little notes and put them in their lunch bags. I always had to buy my lunch so I never had that. One day, I actually took a paper towel, and wrote my own note from you. I even put a piece of candy with it. Just so I could be like the rest of them.”

Insert knife into heart….

I had no idea. I think I was one of the few moms at Wilder Elementary in the Seattle suburb who had a full-time job. The other moms volunteered at the school together, hung out together, knew each other. They were all really nice ladies who were acquaintances that I might run into at a soccer game, or at a school play. This was a Microsoft-heavy community, and I was not one of them. My life was made up of meetings, and tradeshows and working with industry editors.

The role of the working mother is something that is pretty hotly debated. Some women don’t have a choice in this matter; they have to work. I did choose, and this story from my daughter brought up a lot of regret for me. It wasn’t the first time I had had those feelings, but I always quickly resolved them in my mind. This time really affected me though. Maybe because it was about food, and nurturing, and a sense of belonging?

Yesterday I told my daughter that I was going to write about this, and I told her how I was feeling.

“Mom,” she said, “I like that you work. I think that’s why I’m such an independent person. I know I can take care of myself. I wouldn’t be this way if you stayed home. I’m pretty sure about that. And when dad lost his job, you supported us. What would we have done if you didn’t have a job?”

The thing is, she is really independent. She always has been. She gets herself up at 6am every morning whether I’m up or not. She is the most punctual person I have ever encountered. She studies every night without me ever saying anything. I think maybe this was her way of surviving. She became this way out of necessity? And I don’t think that is such a bad thing.

I’m a working mom, and I’m not able to change that. I’m just going to press on, and continue to try to grow my business. But I think I’m going to be making lunches for her from now on. And I might just slip a notecard with over-the-top affirmations in every now and then. Even if it’s just to elicit the teenage eyeroll.

 

 

A Fondue Tradition

I don’t know when we started it, but every year my daughter Mackenzie and I go out for fondue for Mother’s Day. Not only is it totally indulgent but it typically sparks some great girl talk and general silliness.

We’ve been heading to the Melting Pot in Bellevue for years. It’s a chain, and it’s pricey, but it’s nice for a special occasion. There are better fondue restaurants in the States for sure, but it’s a tradition now, and my daughter is all about traditions for some reason. It’s not better than my fondue by a long shot, but I don’t make chocolate fondue, and that’s the sales catch for my teenage daughter.

Last night was an absolute treat. We started with salads, had the Alpine Swiss fondue with bread, green apples, raw veggies and cured meats, and then we tried the Bananas Fosters white chocolate fondue. Definitely on the sweet side, it was mixed with dulce de leche, caramelized bananas and sprinkled tableside with cinnamon which caused an explosion of neon orange sparks. So good to dip fresh strawberries into and coat with that warm, cinnamon-white chocolate sweetness.

I know why I do this every year, and I used to make my own every year on New Year’s Eve. It brings back one of my life’s fondest food memories.

When I was 22 and backpacking through Europe, my best friend Heather and I made our way to Switzerland. I was often referencing Rick Steve’s “Europe Through the Back Door” that trip. The book was dog-eared and torn at this point; there were so many incredible, out of the way, virtually unknown places to visit throughout Europe. And we went to many of them.

Hitchhiking was an option way back in the old days, so we hitched a ride in the French Swiss Alps from a young, blonde French guy driving a red sports car. We quickly zigzagged through the mountain passes until we reached a remote dirt road. He dropped us off and we were left to stare down this narrow passage through rolling green hills dotted with hundreds of cows.

Heather and I started walking. According to the book, Rick had promised a restaurant on this “street” where we could bunk in the attic for $10 a night. We trekked on with our heavy backpacks weighing us down as curious cows surrounded us, their cowbells hollowly echoing in the alpine breezes.

After what seemed like about a mile, we finally spotted the small restaurant. I communicated with the owner our intentions in my lousy French, and he agreed to let us stay.

The restaurant itself was small, and warm, with a huge black cauldron hanging in the fireplace for reasons unknown. We settled in for dinner – fondue, of course. They made their own cheese here from their own cows, and some local white wine to sip alongside.

But it was this fondue that I will never forget. It wasn’t thick cheese which clung to the ciabatta-like bread resulting in long pulled strings of cheese you see glorified in America’s marketing materials. It was almost more like a thick broth, so saturated with dry white wine, and a clinginess of the salty, nutty gruyere. The light and airy bread cubes thirstily absorbed the liquid making it soft and permeated, providing the kind of eye-rolling experience where you just have to pause and say “My God. So THIS is fondue.”

Needless to say, we extended our trip, and likely our welcome at this little restaurant nestled in foothills of the French Swiss Alps. The attic….well, I think there were beds in it? I don’t quiet remember actually. I do remember that there weren’t any lights. Every night we were plunged into darkness, listening to the wind howling down from the mountain peaks and into the valley, while the cowbells echoed hauntingly in the distance. Heather, obsessed with vampires at the time, filled the darkness with her with anxious, violent paranoias.

The days that week in June were filled with hiking through the rolling hillsides and admiring the assorted rainbow of wildflowers. There were also a few “birdbaths” in the icy streams since our little restaurant did not have a shower. But the evenings were spent sipping wine, playing cards, and being so truly grateful to enjoy that food of the Swiss Gods.

But our need for a shower began to outweigh our love of fondue. So we pressed on. I spent some time trying out fondue recipes. I came across this one long ago from Bon Appetit magazine in 2004, which I really enjoy. It calls for rehydrated porcini mushrooms, which I skip most of the time. But it captures that liquid, rich quality that I had, somewhere in Switzerland, at an unknown restaurant, that week in June.

Welcome!

IMG_6477  After publishing a few reviews on TripAdvisor and Yelp!, and having several Facebook friends refer to me laughingly as a “power user,” I decided to start this blog as a creative outlet. After all, where else can I combine my love of writing with my love for travel, dining, cooking and eating? And, I simultaneously get to write about my lovely teenage daughter Mackenzie and my long distance relationship with my boyfriend Brad.

I spend so much time traveling these days – going back and forth from Seattle to Guelph, Ontario almost weekly, traveling for business in the States and Europe, and just vacationing in various cities and on islands throughout the world. I love to try new things and places and share my experiences with my friends. I am indeed a true Sagittarius, the astrological symbol of the traveler. Traveling is one of my greatest passions, and it always has been.

It’s funny to reflect back on my “formative years” when I was living in Santurce, Puerto Rico as a restaurant manager. I was trying to decide what I wanted to do with my life. At that time, I had my sights set on becoming a travel and food writer. My dream was to work for someone like Conde Nast, and travel around the world, writing about incredible food and my experiences. I traveled throughout the Caribbean, down to Venezuela, moved to London, backpacked across Europe for four months and even went to Russia for a week. And once I graduated from Mills College in Oakland, I went to work for the Contra Costa Times as a freelance writer in the Bay Area hoping to fulfill my lofty ambitions. However, I quickly discovered I would not be able to support myself working as a freelancer in the Bay! So I went to the “dark side” of public relations as it is called, and began my career in communications and marketing.

After 20 years in the corporate world working as a professional communicator, I now work as a marketing communications consultant from home, wherever that happens to be that day. It’s incredible work, and I love the aerial access industry I specialize in and the inspiring people I’m able to meet. So now, I will simply fulfill my travel and food writing dreams through this little blog.

Join me as I passionately globetrot throughout the world. Maybe I can make you laugh a little, or fill your mind’s eye with some beautiful and thoughtful visions, or maybe just give you a travel tip here and there. More later…and thanks for reading.

And remember, as Kurt Vonnegut said in Cat’s Cradle: “Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.”

Melinda