Girl + Fire = Food



Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Caltech Olive Harvest

Olives  have a long history. They've been around since just after the dinosaurs died en masse. They probably would have liked olives, had they stuck around. Because olives are delicious.

Caltech in Pasadena, CA is home to an urban (suburban?) olive cache and in recent years they've taken to harvesting them and making olive oil. It turns out this annual event is family friendly and earns participants t-shirts and escargot tastings, so my mom and I took my nephew Alex out for an afternoon of olive pickin' fun.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by huge ladders and cherry pickers, though most teams of students and random attendees seemed to enjoy attacking the trees with rakes and raining olives on their teammates below.

Alex gleefully jumped in to help one team collect the fallen fruits. He refused to give me a good shot of his happy, smiling face, but he did attack the olives like they were candy falling out of a piñata. Clearly the last three years of birthday parties were good training!

There were also huge trays of cured olives ready for eating. The feta cheese was delicious! Look at those huge bricks! (No, I didn't steal one, despite my addiction-level love of cheese.)

Oh, and the infused oils! They were set out for a blind tasting but I have no idea
what they were infused with, only that they all tasted more like olives than anything. The one in the green ramekin was the darkest of the offerings, and it was the one I liked best. I shamelessly ate about 10 pieces of bread dipped in just that. (Yes, I risked bread poisoning for it. Totally worth it.)

But the true highlight was the escargot being cooked onsite. I know they're an acquired taste for some, but I LOVE them. I tried to convince my mom they taste like mushrooms and, like a good sport, she ate one, but she's not a fan.

I'm still wondering why I didn't bother getting a can. Duh.

As it turns out, the patience of three-year-old being dragged around a college campus is nearly nonexistent, so we only "harvested" for about an hour. I do have to give Alex credit for not complaining much. He did keep repeating his fervent desire for chocolate ice cream, but after his hard work, he earned it. He's such a good kid. Many thanks to his parents for letting me borrow him for an afternoon!

I can't wait to taste the olive oil when it goes on sale next month. And I'm looking forward to going to the harvest again next year. This time, though, I'm totally snagging one of those cans of escargot!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Like Girl + Fire on Facebook!

It's HERE! A 12-month calendar illustrating some of the lessons I've learned by cooking in my own kitchen over the last year.

Sure, the calendar will be for sale and all, but don't you want to win a FREE one? Well, between now and Friday, if you become a fan of (aka LIKE) this little food blog on Facebook, you'll be entered in the drawing to win one from the first run, which just arrived yesterday!

I'm super excited about this. It was an endeavor fueled by lots of food experiments, lots of hunching over a camera, lots of swearing at said camera when it wouldn't do what I wanted it other words, my entire heart and soul are in this little calendar and I want to share it with you.

As an added bonus, most of these recipes are new! You haven't seen them here on the blog, and probably won't either. But they are all pretty easy to make and scalable to feed just one person or a whole family. Ranging from a fried hummus to a pumpkin tamale recipe that my own moma native Mexicancouldn't believe when she ate it (she even helped make them and still didn't believe she'd never tasted anything like it), it's all pretty simple but delicious food.

So as a thanks for supporting this blog, and being our fan, we'll give away one of these calendars on Friday. All you have to do is hit the Like button on Facebook! We'll pick the winner on Friday, November 5th at 5 pm PST.

There may be additional familial involvement and a video if we're lucky!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Are Cholesterol and Butter GOOD for You?

This article in the UK-based publication Daily Mail serves up a review of the forthcoming book The Obesity Epidemic: What Caused It? How Can We Stop It? by Zoë Harcombe.

The review details 11 myths about food and obesity, per Ms. Harcombe's "meticulous journey of research into studies that underpin dietary advice." Some of her findings are common sense, like basing a diet on carbs is going to make you fat. But assertions like:
"To pick a number — 5 (mmol/l) — and to say everyone should have cholesterol levels no higher than this is like declaring the average height should be 5ft 4in and not 5ft 9in and medicating everyone who doesn’t reach this meaningless number to reduce their height. It really is that horrific."
sound a bit scary. We've been convinced for the better part of the last generation that high cholesterol WILL kill you. won't?

Ms. Harcombe is a British nutritionist and self-described obesity researcher. I wonder what American doctors would say to this. I'm not saying she is wrong, I don't have a medical degree or studies with which to refute her. I just wonder if she's actually right, and everything we've been told all along is, in reality, a bunch of bullshit dreamt up by special interests in the food industry to make them richer and us fatter.

Your take?