Monday, April 18, 2011

I ate vegan on purpose

Everyone I knew had the same reaction when I mentioned I was going to the Harlequin sales conference back in February: "Give Fabio a hug for me." I have to admit, even I was a little disappointed that I didn't meet even ONE bare-chested, long-haired, gym-muscled playboy while I was in Tampa. In my ordinary life, the closest thing I have to that is my friend Jesse--

-- and, since I know he's really a computer repair guru, the magic is gone. The Men of Harlequin, as far as I can tell, look more like Adam the Editor--

-- and while he's pretty cute, you can see there's not much resemblance to Fabio. I had really been hoping the advantage I'd have over my friends who are getting published by Crown and Simon and Schuster would be the selection of men at company events.

And as if that weren't getting punk'd enough, one of the two other authors they invited to the sales conference was Sarah Matheny, blogger and author of the vegan/veggie family cookbook Peas and Thank You. I didn't even know Harlequin had a nonfiction line, but I was just as caught off-guard by how warm, down-to-earth, and incredibly funny Sarah is. It's very unnerving to meet a vegan who, when it comes to talking about her diet, doesn't have that deeply earnest, slightly superior vibe. I really need that vibe to be there so I don't inadvertently feel like I could identify with this person. I eat plenty of vegetables, after all, and I particularly like them stacked on a Five Guys burger.

I've been following Sarah's blog ever since. What finally swayed me last week was this recipe she posted for Mmmmm Sauce-- a sauce you can drizzle on rice bowls or wraps or whatever you like. It involved a product called "nutritional yeast." I know what yeast is-- they use it in the buns for those Five Guys burgers-- but this seemed to be a product you could add directly to things and didn't even need to cook. It frightened me, but the sauce looked so good that I decided to be daring and just go for it.

You can see the results at the top of this post. That sauce is amazing. Pictured is the rice bowl I made after I had already eaten some of it on a wrap. I have more in the fridge that I'm going to use tomorrow. It's opened up a whole new world for me of lunch food ideas that don't come packaged with a packet of ketchup and ten napkins. I'm so appreciative of Sarah's delicious inventiveness that I won't even make a joke about how good it would taste on a Five Guys burger.

So thank you, Harlequin, for delivering something yummy after all.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Waldorf New York

Yesterday I took the BoltBus up to New York City with my friend Elizabeth. Elizabeth is a character in her own right, deserving of her own novel. She taught me, in Mrs. Anderson's second-grade class, how to give people the finger. Unfortunately she had the translation wrong, telling me it meant "the devil," and so when my mother called me a "little devil" at some point that week I asked, "You mean this?" and held up my middle finger. This resulted in my mother chasing me in circles around our condo, which had a centrally-located kitchen that was good for roller skating and evading an enraged parent. Eventually she caught me and I got a better grasp of the meaning of the gesture. Elizabeth is also the friend who told me that blue crayons taste like blueberry. She was wrong.

Our first stop in New York was Artisanal Bistro. I realize most people probably don't fantasize about cheese, but I do, and so walking into Artisanal was like the scene in that "Harold and Kumar" movie where they actually find themselves at White Castle.

For privacy reasons, I've edited this photo so you can't see Elizabeth pretending to lick the entire composition of meats and cheeses. And this was just the appetizer; there was also fondue. Four pounds of cheese later, we waddled down Broadway to Fishs Eddy and then to ABC Home.

I was okay at ABC Home until we found the kids' department. There, right in the middle of the room like a bulls-eye target at which to aim my credit card, was a table of Waldorf paraphernalia. Round-edged dollhouses, a length of cotton gauze draped just so, Ostheimer Indians, Kathe Kruse knights and beautiful soft-sculpture woodland animals. But wait, there's more:

I wanted to give birth to another baby immediately, perhaps on one of the $3,200 chaise lounges in the adjacent room, and start shopping post-haste. Really, I was overwhelmed. I've always loved the material trappings of Waldorf childhood, but now it all strikes me from so many different angles. And some of them are paradoxical: this is Judy's classroom, where I lived in my head for two years, but this is also the world I yearned to give my own children but which I could never afford. At once it's a world that is absolutely mine, and absolutely not.

I don't think I'll ever lose that feeling when it comes to Waldorf. As I've mentioned before, my oldest son did attend a Waldorf preschool for several months, but I would never pretend to be an insider in that community or way of life. At best, I've been an unintentional spy-- but one with mixed loyalties, for sure. I love being part of a public school system that welcomes and annoys everyone equally. The purest and most perfect childhood shouldn't be accessible only to children whose parents make $150K a year and up. I know that.

But gosh, those dollhouses are cute.