Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Snowy Interlude

Dear Mouse,

I dont know if you heard down there in FL, but it snowed a bit up here in NYC.

In honor of Snow Day, I thought I'd share the following recipe, from the Folger Shakespeare Library. It's a real recipe. I think I may try to make it. My fave is the part where you beat it with a tree branch. (And if anyone knows what a "Sillibuffi" is, contact me immediately.)

Happy New Year!

To make Snow.

Take a pint of thicke sweete Creame,
and halfe a pint of Sack* and halfe a
pound of Sugar, and the white of two Eggs
well beaten, and a pretty deale of Limon,
and mingle all this together, and put it into
a pretty big earthen Pan, or Bason, and
take a pretty big birchin rod, and beate it
till the froth doth rise, and thin take it
of with a stirre, and put it into the thing
you would have it goe in, (it should bee
a glaze Sillibuffe pot, if you have it, if not,
a white creame dish will serve: you should
lett it stand a pretty while before you eate
it, because it should sittle with a little
kindi of drinki at the bottom, liki a Sillibuffi.

Mrs. Sarah Longe, Her Receipt Booke, c.1610
* "sack" = sherry
Happy New Year! Come back so we can have a kindi of drinki.


The Boo

Monday, December 13, 2010

Subliminal Weight-Loss Tapes (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Chocolate Croissants)

Dear Mouse,

Remember Lloyd Glauberman?

Of course you do.

In our house, there were many surprising traditions (speaking of xmas!). But two things will always stand out to me as Hart Household Staples: Diet Foods (Sugar-Free Mini-Muffin, anyone?) and Meditation Tapes.

Yes, our family believed in the power of deep breathing and visualization to treat everything from insomnia to Thanksgiving traffic. My favorite of these tapes were the mysterious Dr. Glauberman's. With names like "Excellence" and "Mind-Body Connections - Feeling Better", they featured a 'Hypno-Peripheral Processing' technique in which LG's voice would appear in stereo; telling one story in one ear of your walkman's headphones, and an entirely different story in the other. While sort of space-y New Age music played, I would drift off into a 'twilight state' leading, eventually, to sleep, or to a general well-being. I loved them.

Of course, we had other favorites. I liked Shakti Gawain's recording of her 'Creative Visualization' Meditations, featuring the Pink Bubble Visualization and others. And while in college, at home one fateful day, I discovered a random hypnosis tape entitled "Weight Loss". Mired as I was in collegiate angst and the effects of the Freshman Thirty or whatever it was, I jumped at the chance to think some more about my favorite subject at the time: calories, and how to burn them. (I am glad to say this stage is over). I tried it.

It was similar to a lot of other tapes. It asked you to visualize something you really wanted to achieve and focus on that. (Oh, while looking great). The package explained that 'certain threshold statements' were also being played at certain points in the tape, but you coudn't consciously hear them. I just hoped they weren't, like, "Fatty", or "Eat Mallomars", and pushed play.

Now I can't remember whose tape this was, or anything about it, except that ... it worked. Not in any big dramatic way. I didn't become suddenly rail-thin, or replace eating with aerobics. But I did, miraculously, notice that I would look at certain foods and think a completely new thought, "Do I really want that right now?" If the answer was no, and it often was, I would think another completely new thought, "Well, then why would I eat that? I'm trying to stay healthy/lose weight", and go on to do something else. And sometimes that was aerobics!

I wound up thinking less about food. And also being more aware of it.

Thinking less.
Experiencing more.

I asked that the tape be sent to me while I was in Ireland as an exchange student, but when I got it, I found our father had accidentally recorded over it with himself talking on the phone. Not as effective. And that was it for my subliminal life for a long while.

OK, so fast forward to last week. I have a really demanding role coming up in two months, and by that I mean it contains a scene in which I am going to have to appear onstage wearing, say, a sheet. In front of, oh, potentially most of the American Theatre. And while this is certainly exciting, it also calls for help.

Help that only one person can give.

It turns out that Dr. Lloyd Glauberman is not only still going strong, he is updated for the digital age, with CDs AND downloads for sale.

... AND he also has a new recording: "Hypno-Peripheral Processing - Weight Loss".

I figured, "It can't hurt", and I ordered it, already hearing you laughing at me. (I understand). It's pretty much what I remember - the soothing, spacey sounds, the dual doctor voices, instant twilight, no memory of what he said upon 'waking', good falling-asleep experience. I noticed some changes immediately - namely, a general sense of well-being and an increased mindfulness. An awareness of my own appetite, and the instinct to choose veggies and protein frequently. But perhaps most importantly, several days in, there was this.

No, this is not a diet croissant.

I know what you're thinking, because it's exactly what I thought, when I woke up on day 7 or so with only one thought on my mind. I had to have breakfast, and it had to be this: a warmed-up, flaky, melty, chocolate croissant. My mind protested for a moment -- "You NEVER eat these! What kind of weight-loss tape makes you crave croissants? You're just going to ruin everything". But somehow, a different voice was stronger. I went downstairs, picked up coffee, the paper, and a chocolate croissant from Le Pain Quotidien. I went back home, popped it in the oven at 250F, waited about 9 minutes.I brought back the now-gloriously puffed up and warm specimen to the table and prepared to assume the traditional furtive, "I shouldn't be doing this", croissant-eating

-- and it didn't happen. I sat up straight and calmly took a bite.

And - these experiences are always so hard to really explain after the fact - but I have to tell you I finished that croissant with only ONE thought on my mind, which roughly translates to "MMMMMMMMM!" There was absolutely, positively, no guilt, no bargaining, no Fat Thoughts AT ALL.

Happy Holidays, Dr. Glauberman! Thank you for the reminder that maybe, just possibly, one of the ingredients of a healthy bodymind is (gasp!) sincere mindful enjoyment of the Food it eats.

And though out of habit, post-croissant, I may fleetingly have thought, "well, now the day's lost'....

... it wasn't. What did I have for lunch?
(Without, I SWEAR, thinking about it and certainly not as punishment?)

A bowl of sauteed collard greens.

They were delicious too.


The Boo

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sticky, Sweet, Salty, Sour (and other words to describe the holidays)

Dear Boo,

My, how embarrassing. I've really been falling down on the job lately when it comes to cooking and writing and writing about cooking. I swear it's not ENTIRELY due to my faraway, but impending nuptuals, though I have to say, for two pretty low-maintenance people, it sure is taking us a while to figure out where the frick to get married (seriously, any ideas, people? Put me out of my misery.). There's also that little thing of school. I write to you now, still in my pajamas at 12:30, having pulled the old person version of a paper-writing all-nighter. ie, get home at 10pm, put on a pot of coffee, order some diner food, and write until 2am when the fiance is asleep on the floor, and I just can't read another sentence about theories of attachment in the infant-caregiver dyad. Ick.

The point is, it's been so busy around here that I turn around and here we are, smack in the middle of the holiday season. Thanksgiving came and went in a house in Virginia full of 26 close relatives of the fiance (13 of which are children), and a tummy full of the ubiquitous biscuits and gravy (on the MORNING of Thanksgiving, no less) and a truly decadent turkey dinner. And then Hanukkah, earlier in the season than is really fair. As if the inferiority complex wasn't bad enough in a Christmas-focused culture, here we are lighting candles before we've barely put away the leftover cranberry relish. Or at least, some of us are. I've been such a bad half Jew this year. The only time I've lit them was on the night of our family brisket dinner in honor of the holiday. For which, as per usual when it comes to our family, in a panic induced by the Mother that we may not have enough food (read: twice as much as is really necessary for any 4 person dinner.), I made some chicken.

But not just any chicken. Grandma's apricot chicken. Or an approximation thereabouts. It has been one of my very favorite comfort foods since we had it grandma's table and then at our own when mom used to make it. It's sticky and sweet, savory, salty, crispy and moist. And, as I was reminded this time around, easy. The perfect weeknight main dish, holiday or no. Thanks, Grandma. And happy Hanukkah.

Now, onto Christmas.

The Mouse

Grandma's Apricot Chicken

* I was surprised to find
a similar recipe to our family version in Bon Appetit for a Hannukah menu in 2007. Apparently, we're not the only ones to find this strange mix of asian and eastern european flavors somehow appropriate for a Jewish family dinner. As my measurements and cooking times are all estimates (and rather loose, at that), you may want to refer to this one for details. I won't be hurt.

1 3lb chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1 cup apricot preserves (
make your own here!)
1/3 cup Teriyaki Sauce (plus a couple of tablespoons)

1/3 cup Soy Sauce (plus a couple of tablespoons)

3-4 cloves of garlic, minced

Ginger powder (optional)

salt and pepper as needed

Marinate chicken in a couple of glugs each of soy sauce and teriyaki. Sprinkle a bit of ginger powder if you like. Add a bit of the minced garlic, reserving most for the glaze. Let sit in fridge for anywhere from 30 minutes to 8 hours.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix preserves, soy sauce, teriyaki, and rest of garlic in a bowl. If you're not in a rush/limiting your dirty dishes, blend this mixture in food processor until mostly smooth. Line a shallow, heavy baking pan with tin foil and sprinkle with a bit of oil. Place chicken skin-side up on sheet, and place in oven. Cook until chicken is just beginning to brown (10-15 minutes). Take out of oven and spoon glaze generously over chicken. Put back in oven. Cook until about halfway done (about 30 minutes more), turn and glaze other side. Finish cooking in oven (20 more minutes?). For last few minutes put under broiler to crisp skin a bit. Serve with anything. Lick fingers.