The Bon Appétit Food Lover’s Cleanse: Day One

January 3, 2014

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How to go broke, steal from your parents, improvise, and cheat your way through January 2nd

9 am: I pull up the recipes for day one when I get up in the morning after spending the night at my parents’ house. I’m feeling especially motivated to cleanse following a fondue and red wine-fueled four day New Year’s celebration with friends, not to mention the two weeks of holiday spiriting that preceded it. A glass of warm water and lemon goes slightly wrong when I overheat the water and scald my mouth, but it cools down and I can practically feel the pH in my body realkalizing, or whatever it is that lemon water purportedly does for you.

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image: bonappetit.com/cleanse

9:30 am: Breakfast looks doable: steel cut oats, some blackberries, nut milk, and hemp seeds. I scour the pantry and find no oats. Ultimately, I settle for a package of microwavable Chai flavored oatmeal, which is probably exactly the kind of food this cleanse is supposed to be weaning me off of. I dump it into a bowl and make a small effort at brushing some of the sugar off the oats before heating it up. My parents also, predictably, do not own hemp seeds. I settle for flax, and in lieu of blackberries, a little pile of mushy blueberries still left in the fridge from Christmas morning’s breakfast. I check the expiration date on the almond milk and decide it’s safer to forgo than to risk an unintended cleanse of the food poisoning variety. I consider breakfast an incomplete failure and/or a mild success.

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10 am: Thinking I’ll get a jump start on lunch prep, I scan the menu. Basically a salad with greens, carrots, radishes, tofu, and a homemade dressing containing approximately 14 ingredients I don’t own and am not planning to purchase solely for the purpose of this lunch. As much as I would like to treat myself in 2014, it’s not going to be with an 85 dollar salad. Also, I have some pretty strong feelings about the taste, texture, and actual status as food of tofu and they aren’t love. I table my concerns to focus on the task at hand. Fortunately, some pantry scrounging turns up a good percentage of the ingredients at my parents’ house, so I decide to stay there for a while before heading back to Seattle to prep my salad dressing. I find soy sauce, rice vinegar, toasted sesame seeds, toasted sesame oil, vegetable oil, ginger, limes, and a jalapeno that I figure will work just fine in place of the Fresno chile they call for because I don’t know what that is. We’re only missing white miso, another unknown, so I add garlic instead and call it good. The salad also calls for a spicy crunchy nut and seed (pepita, rather) mix with cashews, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds. My parents own neither of these seeds and I do not plan to buy or harvest them. I find a jar of dry roasted cashews left from a holiday gift basket, add the curry and chile powder, sub honey for agave because that’s what we’ve got, and feel good about what I’ve done this morning. Aside from the fact that it’s now 11 am on January 2nd and I am still unshowered at my parents’ house with only a few partially successful meal components in front of me. I scan the week’s shopping list and decide, while I’m there, to take some walnut oil, black rice, paprika, turmeric, cacao nibs, and slivered almonds (they unfortunately don’t have sliced almonds, which is a separate ingredient), because they have all those things and, well, I’m not buying them. Essentially, did my parents not have a well-stocked pantry, I would have spent 10% of my month’s rent on this morning’s food and just some of the seasonings for the food that is yet to come.

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image: bonappetit.com/cleanse

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11:30 am: We start the drive back to Seattle, and I’m already planning how to make this work. This printed list of ingredients is two pages long (with columns!) and includes things like Aleppo pepper, tahini, pomegranate molasses, and escarole, as well as about a thousand dollars worth of other produce, seasonings, and ingredients. I ask if we can stop at Trader Joe’s, but my husband says it’s inconvenient. Can’t I just walk to the Safeway across the street? I want to argue that Trader Joe’s is more likely to have tahini, but feel this argument will not sway his sensibilities. Meanwhile, I get a detox-themed email from GOOP. Gwyneth, it seems, is also cleansing, along with her team. Oddly enough, many of her cleansing tips involve staying warm, since apparently when the body is cold it wants to consume more energy for heat, and more energy means more food, and more food means less cleanse. I consider. Gwyneth looks good, and when I think about it I don’t actually know what the editors at Bon Appétit look like. But drinking smoothies and lemon water doesn’t sound like something I’m going to adhere to for more than about 14 minutes. By now, my husband has finally agreed to go to Trader Joe’s, but only after lunch. He suggests Chipotle. I say no. He says, “But it’s been a week.” I acquiesce.

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Noon: Since the proscribed cleanse lunch consisted essentially of veggies and tofu, I figure I’ll avoid straying too far if I get a salad with sofritas (that’s tofu, but one with enough Mexican spices that I can tolerate it), veggies, and salsa at Chipotle. I skip the cheese and cream, but can’t say no to the guac, even though I know my cleanse breakfast tomorrow has avocado. I’m such an avocado monger. After lunch, I feel my cleansing willpower begin to give way to cleansing excuses as I seek to justify the fast food substitute. I vow that dinner will be clean. We get home and our apartment is freezing cold. I think of Gwyneth, getting skinnier by the minute in her organic cotton and wool, sipping tea by the wood-burning fireplace in her infrared sauna. We turn on the heat. Nothing happens. We are going to be fat and freezing in 2014.

3:00 pm:  Husband is eating Toblerone chocolate and I am watching, sipping tea. Puppy is glowering at us from her woefully cold bed near the not-hot heater.

4:00 pm:  We went to Trader Joe’s, and they didn’t have tahini. They did have a pre-made tahini sauce, which I bought, because you know what, it just so happened that they were fresh out of watercress and mint, too, and so the green tahini sauce on tonight’s menu isn’t happening.

4:30 pm: Someone just posted an article on Facebook about how taking hot baths with bath salts is great for detox and cleansing. It makes sense, especially now that I know what I know from Gwyneth about staying warm. I draw a bath and realize that I’ve never seen this much water in our tub before. Either our bathtub is very dirty or the water is not especially sanitary. It only gets greener and has more red stuff in it as it fills up. I add extra bath salts to compensate and tell myself that whatever minerals came out of the rusty, 100-year old pipes are extra nourishment for my dry winter skin. Husband says he wouldn’t get in it, then we spend a while thinking about the fact that this is the water that we shower in. While we have a water filter for drinking, we cook our pasta in this sludge. I’m ready for a snack and, frankly, a new apartment.

4:35 pm: While I’m waiting for the bath to drain so I can just take a shower, I see that Bon Appétit has retroactively included a snack that I totally didn’t see before. Unfortunately it’s an avocado smoothie, and I think I filled my avocado quota with the $1.50 glob of guacamole on top of my earlier burrito lapse. Though, truth be told, I don’t regret the fact that I ate my avocado today rather than drank it because, well, think about it. Should one ever really DRINK an avocado?

5:00 pm: Despite a long shower during which I try, Paltrow-like, to convince my metabolism that it is a balmy summer month, I’m still hungry. We eat tomorrow’s breakfast of rye crackers and salmon with tonight’s tahini sauce as a snack. It’s delicious and I have no regrets (I say, trying to convince myself I have no regrets about having botched this cleanse so entirely less than 8 hours into it).

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5:40 pm: I’m trying to make a dinner plan to balance us back out and use the groceries and components I have managed to compile during this day so intensely devoted to cleansing and shopping for cleansing. I have the salad dressing I made this morning, I have my seedless spiced pumpkin seeds, I have spinach and carrots, and while I do not have the requisite radishes for the lunchtime salad I do have some edamame, cucumber, and pomegranate seeds I picked up because they were on the list for later in the week. That’s good enough for me, especially after our snack, but my husband, and I quote, “can’t eat a meal without meat,” and so I’m thinking of also making tomorrow night’s chicken with walnut and red pepper spread. I’m not a math whiz, but I’m pretty sure this means we will have eaten two days worth of meals in one day of cleansing. Also, the roasted vegetables and walnut quinoa that were supposed to accompany the tahini sauce later that we already ate earlier—should those be incorporated, too? That could be a lot of walnuts. I could put a beet in the salad. I could eat quinoa for breakfast instead of steel cut oats. This is hard. I should have followed the plan. I wonder what Gwyneth is doing.

7:00 pm: Should probably be roasting some vegetables or looking at how you make that walnut and red pepper sauce, but I’d rather watch The Good Wife, so there you have it. Totally intended to go to yoga today, but spent a little too much time worrying about condiments—I will not let sauces and dressings detract from my day any longer, and I like, really need to know what happens with Alicia and Will.

7:30 pm: I should have looked at this Red Pepper and Walnut sauce sooner, or just bought roasted peppers in a jar. Maybe we’re just having some plain-ass chicken on our random-ass salad with the almost-right dressing I made from things I took from my parents. The cleanse allows for one to four drinks per week—would it be bad form if I blew my quota on day one?

8:30 pm: Ultimately, we ate salad. Spinach, the red pepper initially intended for the chicken sauce, grated carrot, a beet, edamame, this morning’s sesame dressing, and the crispy seedless seed mix. I cooked a chicken breast to serve with it, seasoned with the turmeric I brought home from my parents’ for some future dish, the suggested thyme, and a little cumin. Honestly? It was delicious. That salad dressing is great. I think this is probably going to be my last day of actually attempting to adhere to the cleanse, however, though I’ll probably reference it periodically for ideas, starting points, and inspiration. Also life lessons! I learned so much today. We found out the puppy likes cucumber but isn’t especially fond of spinach, though she’ll eat it anyway.  We found out that while variety may be the spice of life, it is also really expensive, and I prefer recipes that call for a smaller number of components and fewer complex condiments. We also found out that, despite the best intentions, I’m just not that great at following instructions, and you know what? That’s okay.

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It’s been a while, right?

September 17, 2013

Actually, it’s been such a long while that I didn’t remember my login or my password for WordPress. Suffice it to say that it has been quite the busy summer around here. The last six weeks have been full of visitors and presents and champagne and parties and moving and puppies and flowers and friends and a whole lot of Seattle sunshine. I got married, I went to Yellowstone, I watched my best friend get married, we got a puppy, we didn’t sleep for three weeks, we drank too much wine and didn’t watch nearly enough Jeopardy. We went on lots of hikes, refinished a dresser, made and ate some amazing food (Hello, Joule! Hello, Spinasse!), and have been assembling a whole lot of furniture. All in all, it’s been a pretty good run. While I’m contemplating changing the name of the blog since, well, I’m not actually IN France anymore, for the time-being it sticks, and in that spirit, here is what I did with my last weekend in Paris.

The sun was out, and so we picnicked. In a park with a pretty decent view.

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The park was also home to this little fellow, so that was fun:

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We had lunch at the Marché des Enfants Rouges, the oldest covered market and maybe my favorite place in Paris. 

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We strolled around the center of town in the sunshine, baking amongst throngs of tourists and waiting in a long long line for ice cream at Berthillon. Note: however long the line for ice cream at Berthillon, it is worth it. So worth it. Then we wandered through the Marais with all the other Sunday shopper and strollers, including a one Jean Dujardin on his way home from a run.

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And we ended the day at a little table next to an open window at Glou, a bottle of wine in a bucket of ice and a table full of amazing food in front of us, and it felt just right to say “au revoir” to Paris on that sweet and sunny note.

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“There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other. We always returned to it no matter who we were or how it was changed or with what difficulties, or ease, it could be reached. Paris was always worth it and you received return for whatever you brought to it. But this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy.” -Ernest Hemingway

Book Love: Rules of Civility

June 21, 2013

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I spend a minimum of three hours a day in train, since I accepted a job that came along with the commute from hell two years ago. The downside of this arrangement is, well, everything, but if there is a bright spot in my train story, it’s that I have lots and lots of time to read. While I always have a book in my bag, it had been a while since I’d read one that actually made me look forward to the trains being delayed because that meant I’d have more time to read. That was until I picked up Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. I. Loved. This. Book. Snappy prose, a clever and relatable heroine, all the thrills and disasters that come with living in a big city in your 20’s, the glamour (and myth) of New York in the Golden Age, societal commentary… all there. The NYT did a better write-up than I could, but take my word for it and read Rules of Civility. Like one of the main characters says frequently of Manhattan, it’ll “just turn you inside out.”

Field Trip: Le Somail and the Canal du Midi

At the top of my things-to-do-before-leaving-France list was to head south to see Hazel on the Canal du Midi, my favorite part of France, the place that made me want to move here. So I took three days off this week and hopped a train to Narbonne, arriving with only a one hour delay in the the sunny, beautiful country of the Languedoc region. Life doesn’t get much better than it was over the last three days. I got to play with a cute dog, who happens to be the mom of my little Mac back home. Here she is sporting the new Swiss jewelry I picked up for her in her hometown of Appenzell, Switzerland.

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I got to hang out on a boat, on a UNESCO world heritage site. They haven’t yet cut down the trees on the bit of the canal that curls through picturesque Le Somail, so the winding green waterway is still shaded and scenic. (Check out a video interview of Hazel about the Fandango and the Canal du Midi at the 20 minute mark on TF1 here!)

photo 4_3 I got to go running in the morning through vineyards, next to eleventh century churches, and through circular hilltop villages.

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I got to play Scrabble, even though I didn’t get to win. I got to buy olives at l’Oulibo and drink rosé with grapefuit syrup, grocery shop at Métro (a sort of miniature Costco for French restaurant professionals), and spend a few hours reading about cheese.

photo 2_3I got to help cook. A lot. Hazel and her chef Katie were recipe testing for the weeks to come, so we brainstormed and shopped and whipped up everything from mackerel rillettes to a chocolatey hazelnut dacquoise. There were pizzas, caesar salads, peach cakes. There was bourride and fried monkfish and pasta with tomato sauce, brown bread and croissants, potato salad and smoked trout rolls, salmon with buerre blanc, spinach from the farm, cherries from down the road, and risotto with fennel and chestnuts. We bought brindade de Nimes and tarragon plants, and Katie even got the hang of driving on the non-English side of the road. Daniel took a break from tending his new vines to come share some champagne and an apero, and we drank a lot of coffees accompanied by dark chocolate and caramel Michokos. For more on the dacquoise and the rillettes and the cooking that’s to come on the Fandango this season, check out Katie’s blog: http://madamoisellekatiesfoodandtravelblog.blogspot.co.uk/

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Fennel and chestnut risotto in the works

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Produce shopping with Katie in her chef’s whites

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Chocolate hazelnut dacquoise, from a Rick Stein cookbook

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Getting our dacquoise in a row

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photo 2 Rillettes de macquereau, to be Mediterranean-ized on the next go with olive oil, anchovy, and black olive

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Fried monkfish and tartar sauce

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Hazel’s famous pizzas in the making. This one was eggplant, cured ham from the mountains, black olives, and arugula.

The three days flew by. And you know what? My little taste of the south almost made me want to stay in France forever. The consolation: we will definitely be back.

The source of the "Cant' Wait Cake," slightly modified by Hazel to make peach "Hurry Up Cake."

The source of the “Cant’ Wait Cake,” slightly modified by Hazel to make peach “Hurry Up Cake.”

Look what Jay made

April 25, 2013

My brother made this video for a film class he’s taking at the American University of Paris. It’s a pretty great series of black and white moving pictures of Paris, set to the tune of ‘The kids don’t stand a chance’ by Vampire Weekend.

Saturday strolling

March 27, 2013

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This weekend was, after what feels like forever, one where I stayed home. I’d been a little sick, and was getting ready for Taylor to arrive on Sunday, so I laid pretty low. But Saturday the sun was out, so I bundled up and went out for my favorite Paris pastime: a long walk with no destination. I wandered by the Moulin Rouge, made my way down to the Grands Boulevards, came back up by Saint Lazare, and at Place de Clichy remembered the weekly organic market that takes place on the Boulevard des Batignolles so I cut through there to walk home. A stop at a market stand for Lebanese food and fresh flowers and I was ready to head home to my couch for tea, medicine and Modern Family.

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Poetry moment: Aldous Huxley, Island

March 21, 2013

Sometimes we make things harder than they need to be.

ImageIt’s dark because you are trying too hard.
Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly.
Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply.
Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.

I was so preposterously serious in those days, such a humorless little prig.
Lightly, lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me.
When it comes to dying even. Nothing ponderous, or portentous, or emphatic.
No rhetoric, no tremolos,
no self conscious persona putting on its celebrated imitation of Christ or Little Nell.
And of course, no theology, no metaphysics.
Just the fact of dying and the fact of the clear light.

So throw away your baggage and go forward.
There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet,
trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair.
That’s why you must walk so lightly.
Lightly my darling,
on tiptoes and no luggage,
not even a sponge bag,
completely unencumbered.

Field Trip: Grenoble

March 18, 2013

With all the snow in Paris making life miserable, a weekend was in order where winter weather conditions were a fun thing. So Saturday was spent in the sun on the slopes at Les Sept Laux in Grenoble.

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(check out those sweet Vuarnets!)

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Post-skiing, we were wiped, and so the rest of the day pretty much looked like this…

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… followed by a rambunctious Saturday evening that looked a lot like this.

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On Sunday, it was stormy and snowy in the mountains, so we left our skis in the garage and went into downtown Grenoble to visit  a brocante, or antique market. We didn’t find much, except for this goat, which I promptly put in my purse and kidnapped.

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(This market stand was selling cheese and diots, which is not an abbreviated form of ‘idiots’ but is a sausage from Savoie cooked in onions and white wine.)

Speaking of goats, we also spotted a taxidermy dahut, a legendary creature that lives in the Alps whose right legs are 7 cm shorter than its left. That means it can only go around the mountain one way, and that it can be hunted just by whistling, since it falls over as soon as it turns around.

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Bastien bought some limited production yellow Chartreuse, since he’s stocking up on his hometown elixir of choice before we distance ourselves from the Alps. I recently read an article entitled something along the lines of Why Chartreuse is the Hipster’s Jägermeister. Chartreuse is made in the mountains by monks, supposedly only two of whom know the entire list of herbs it’s made up of. It’s wonderful, and it really doesn’t need be appropriated by any subculture, hip or otherwise. It’s an easy find in lots of Seattle bars (so maybe the hipster thing is true) but if you don’t know Chartreuse and you see it somewhere, give it a try. Just be careful; it’s potent.

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Post-Chartreuse and pre-lunch, some foie gras and late harvest wine from Alsace seemed like a very prudent snack option.

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In keeping with my new habit of not missing trains, I did not miss my 7:20 train back to Paris. Even though I really wanted to.

Field Trip: Nancy

March 9, 2013

This weekend was a get-out-of-Paris weekend, and after work on Friday I took the train (barely made it, per usual) to visit Bastien in Eastern France.

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(This is me sprinting for the TGV. It is rarely my fault– I swear!– but I am chronically late for and/or missing trains, which is an expensive mistake to be in the habit of making)

On Saturday, we took advantage of a break in the clouds to go to Nancy, where Bastien went to school and a city that I had only visited once, and that was in the pouring rain so we spent the majority of the day in a bar watching rugby.

This time, we went to a park that had a little zoo. There were monkeys. There was this peacock, who was giving us all his business.

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There were deer, which made me think I’d like some antler decor in my next apartment. Is that a terrible thing to think about when you’re looking at the living animal?

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Place Stanislas, widely touted as the most beautiful plaza in Europe by people who are from Nancy, was packed with a group of students dancing in costume. The Harlem Shake is alive and well on this side of the Atlantic.

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We walked, we got rained on, we drank coffee.

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And then  we found the central market, and in keeping with my new resolution to spend the rest of my time in France in as many markets as possible, we went in and did what the French call craquer and what WordPress wants to autocorrect to cracker. It basically translates to “splurge” and it started at the dried and candied fruit counter, where we walked away with dried strawberries, candied kumquats, dates with almond paste, and, weirdly, candied aloe vera. It got worse at the Italian counter (saucisson and ham and cheese tasting), and then climaxed at the cheese counter (truffle butter, the end).

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This is a radis vert and this was the first time I had ever seen that little tuber before.Image

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Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go eat some truffle butter with a spoon.