Quite frankly, sometimes I get tired of social networking sites and ponder quitting them all. I regularly get invitations to join new ones, but I think Flickr-Facebook-Twitter-LinkedIn is enough . . . if not too much. Especially when you add in the daily onslaught of email (which I love reading, but boy, am I often bad about responding) and blogging (where I always wish I got more comments and often wonder who’s reading or caring, even when I can see the number of readers).
But sometimes they are worthwhile. Sometimes I make a connection or reconnection on one of them, and I think, “Ah, this is why I do this.” That happened recently when Carrie (also known as Ginger Lemon Girl) and I chatted on Twitter about her idea for a savory cookie recipe. When she created one, she ended up making it not only gluten-free but also dairy-free and egg-free to be sure I would be able to try it after her. Then she emailed me the recipe to get my thoughts. I was, of course, very flattered, and I made the ‘cookies’ that night–with a few adjustments based on her notes. I emailed her my notes, and we emailed further about other changes we would make. It was all quite satisfying–the kind of exchange that answers, for me at least, whether purely online interaction can build community. (What, you haven’t been having that conversation? Hmmm, maybe your particular brand of geekdom hasn’t involved double-majoring in sociology and anthropology.)
My friend Karen is one of the people I’ve met by happenstance. She worked for a little while with a friend of mine at a bookstore (a stop-gap measure in employment in both of their lives), and she and her husband came to a party Dan and I were also attending. Karen and I connected there, but her sweet husband had a migraine and they left early. When we reconnected at the next party, well, that was kinda it. We became fast friends with many mutual interests and beliefs–among them, a desire to eat healthfully and to support local agriculture.
Then Dan and I moved across the country . . . less than a year later. Karen was one of the people I was saddest to leave behind, and we both got teary talking about it a couple of times before my moving day arrived. So I committed to myself that I would not lose touch with Karen. I talk to her on the phone about once a week–which is saying something, because I generally hate talking on the phone. With Karen, time on the phone just flies by as we dig into this topic and that one.
Another way we’re keeping in touch is by sharing recipe suggestions over email. We have some food allergens in common, we’re both trying to control the impact of sugar on our lives, and we both enjoy cooking and baking. The recipe I altered today started with one that Karen wrote up and emailed to me after making it herself. Karen got the (wheat-based) recipe from the cookbook Vegan Brunch. I believe her version had bananas and chocolate chips, and I went another route using local blueberries and marmalade. But I knew the base of the recipe was good, because I trust Karen’s judgment.
A friend requested that I post a cracker recipe on this blog. Gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free crackers are hard to come by in the grocery store, and most of the ones that exist taste like cardboard. Fortunately, crackers are actually pretty easy to make, and boy howdy, are people impressed when you make them from scratch. When I’ve served homemade crackers at parties, people have inevitably oohed and ahhed over just how very homemade-chic I am to have bothered to make something so basic from scratch. It’s all rather hilarious.
In part because of flavor, and perhaps in part because of texture, gluten-free crackers tend to be heavy on the nuts. I’ve done a lot of nut-based postings lately, so I thought I would switch it up and offer a nut-free cracker recipe. I like the flavor of chickpea flour in Indian flatbreads, so I started with chickpea flour and then added what I wanted to taste/feel in them. I don’t consider this recipe perfected, but the crackers are downright tasty (and my husband says they’re simply great). I’ve changed up the recipe I’m including here from the one I used to shift the seasonings how I will when I make them next time. Feel free to change up the seasonings to suit your own cravings.
When we came to Santa Monica from Atlanta for my husband’s interview, I didn’t expect the city to feel Mediterranean. I had been to Northern and Central California but never Southern. I knew Southern California had lots of palm trees. I knew that LA had bad traffic, lots of smog, and South Central. But I had no idea that visting–and then settling in–Santa Monica would transport me back to the month I spent in Greece. Flowers bloom riotously here. It rarely rains. (LA would be the desert if it weren’t for all the irrigation.) In winter, the temperature hovers around 70 degrees during the day but, with little humidity, quickly dips into the 50s at night; I hear summer won’t be too different. The farmers’ markets (three times a week!) in Santa Monica have every imaginable delight from both winter and spring produce. We get local dates. The dwarf blood orange tree my husband gave me for Valentine’s Day is blooming and sending its heady, potent scent through our open windows. It is actually really lovely here. Perhaps I would have been more open-minded about living in California during Dan’s job search if I had realized that LA’s cliches don’t speak too much to its realities. (I mean, yes, the traffic is horrendous, but we just live near my husband’s workplace and walk or cycle the gridded streets to get places. And Santa Monica gets ocean breezes, so the smog isn’t bad here.)
Two days ago it was unseasonably warm, about 82 degrees. I was walking the dog, wearing a tanktop with the sun warming my shoulders, and enjoying the life we’re creating in Santa Monica when I decided one of my next posts should be a Meyer lemon cake. A simple cake, a bit rustic, with a tender crumb but also the crunch of cornmeal around the edges. Something that would incorporate a celebration of Mediterranean influences: olive oil, almonds, yogurt, honey, and, of course, citrus. Mmmm Meyer lemons.
I love getting blog comments. Everyone does, right? I especially love when someone reports that a post has really resonated with her (usually her) or that she has used one of my recipes to make something she thought she had lost. It’s such a thrill to know that my words and work make someone else’s life more understandable, more meaningful, or more pleasurable. So I was very pleased, last week, when I got a response to my Like-PF Chang’s Orange Peel Chicken recipe (gluten-free, etc., natch), where Kerr said (in part):
THANK YOU!! My half Korean husband was ecstatic. He even broke out into song once…. =) After 4 years of cooking for our multiple allergen and celiac daughter, we were enraptured to eat something that tasted like it was straight out of our favorite, and sadly avoided, Asian restaurant! Hats off to you!
Then she went on to say: Now… off to see if you have a sesame orange chicken recipe…
That, dear readers, is a challenge to me. It’s a bit like a dare. Growing up, I would never turn down dares. I quit taking on all dares without question after my friend Amy dared me to drink 10 shots of vodka in a row when we were in college. (I did. I got very sick. She cried. Thank you, Robbie and Jill, for taking care of me that night, and thank you, Amy, for cleaning up after me the next day.) But I still love a good worthwhile challenge, so after I got Kerr’s comment, I started pulling up orange chicken and orange sesame chicken recipes to see how difficult it would be to make them gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and soy-free.
Most people take hamburger buns for granted. I sure did for most of my life. But after going gluten-free and allergen-free (dairy, eggs, and soy), I missed them mightily. I missed buns of all sorts, really–dinner rolls, sandwich rolls, sweet rolls. And even after I learned to make really good bread, I never made buns. For a while I used DeLand Bakery buns—until, after hearing many rumors, I finally tracked down a celiac group and others who ran tests to determine that DeLand’s undoubtedly contained gluten. Ick. (Unfortunately, Sami’s is the same. I suspect the companies are run by affiliated people.) Companies that take advantage of those of us who are gluten-free to make an ill-gained fortune off of us makes me feel ill without me even eating any of their contaminated food.
I went back to eating my hamburgers and sandwiches in homemade sliced bread or store-bought pizza crusts or corn tortillas . . . but not in buns. A few months ago, my husband gave me a hamburger bun pan that I had coveted. Then my bun-making efforts were put on hold until we moved across the country and got settled.