halloween and hurricane sandy

well, it’s been a whirlwind week. literally. hurricane sandy struck – and our hearts and prayers go out to all those people who have been (and still are) affected by this devastating storm. culinary school classes were canceled all week; for me that just means two days missed… but i really hope everyone at NGI is doing okay and that they are safe and sound. my day job – teaching at a community college in NJ – is also taking an extended vacation, as the school has been closed since monday. fortunately, here in philly, things were relatively unaffected. which is shocking, considering how atlantic city was so badly hit as well as other parts of new jersey that aren’t all that far away… and then NYC, too. it’s just so strange how our little neck of the center city woods didn’t really feel the effects. we had a lot of filtered water stocked in our fridge and a bathtub full of water (i can’t remember why…) and to be sure, we had our strong winds and downpour of rain, but we didn’t lose power, and nothing fell on the car. we are extremely grateful for our safety and for our family and friends’ safety – plenty of dear ones are still dealing with the aftermath. 7 5last weekend – which now feels like an eternity ago – was actually filled up with exciting philly events. first with the walk for farm animals (which i mentioned before) and then with our neighborhood’s version of trick-or-treating…  for dogs. they call it howl-o-ween. this hood is seriously obsessed with its dogs. dog parks. free doggie poo pags on every other corner. a giant oil painting of a beagle in the gallery window next door. and now, shops passing out dog treats to all the cute pups in costume. obsessed. and we love it.

{written november 1, 2012… posted ages later.}

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farm sanctuary

a few years back, i learned about Farm Sanctuary and their awesome, pioneering work in the field of protecting animals. i remember one time, while hanging with family, i mentioned how i really admired the efforts of this non-profit group. i asked my cousin if he had ever heard of it before and, in reply, he remarked “farm sanctuary? that sounds like an oxymoron.” for some reason that response stuck with me because it was candid and sadly, for the majority of commercial farms in this country, a farm that’s a sanctuary truly is an oxymoron. we simply do not protect and respect farmed animals like we once felt called and entrusted to do. and whether you eat animals or animal products or not, i think there’s a common ground that can be established when it comes to animal protection… to be sure, there is and will be a spectrum of opinions when it comes to animal rights legislation, but still, the idea that living creatures deserve to be treated humanely and with respect is something that i believe (or hope) most people can find themselves in agreement. despite this, the unsustainable demands on the market for farmed animals and a movement away from traditional agricultural and husbandry practices make farms anything but a haven for the animals that live there.

 

two years ago, husband and i, along with my parents and our dog Bo, participated in the Walk for Farm Animals in princeton. it was a great experience, getting to know other like-minded people who are concerned about animal welfare and hoping to spread a message of compassion. in just one week (it really snuck up on us!), we will be participating in the Walk once again, in an effort to help Farm Sanctuary raise awareness about the realities of factory farming. we hope, as always, that the Walk will incite change in the way society views and treats farm animals. it should be another fantastic, inspiring event – and will be one of dozens of such walks that take place across the country this fall.

if you want to get involved, it would mean so much to me (and to us!) if you would make a pledge of support for farm animals in need by making a donation for my participation in the 2012 Walk for Farm Animals! …or if you are feeling up for some light exercise and activism, and want to come out and join the Walk on saturday, october 27 in philadelphia then that’s awesome, too! either way, thank you for taking the time to read this and for considering the welfare of farm animals everywhere.

to make a donation, visit my fundraising page here.

to sign up for the walk, register here.

[photos from the 2010 Walk for Farm Animals – that’s my mom and dad getting ready for the Walk.]


the night market

so, last night we walked just a few blocks over to Philly’s annual Chinatown night market. as we approached, i could smell all the great food – both from popular food trucks and restaurants around the city that had come to set up shop in the streets. we started the night off right by scoring some pumpkin habanero BBQ sauce from Square Peg (they were selling fried chicken, but graciously hooked us up with their sauce and we enjoyed it with tempura veggies). it was delicious! i would love to try my hand at recreating that. later, we had an excellent lentil-kale soup from Good Spoon – who we see at our farmer’s market at Headhouse Square every sunday. the feast didn’t end there… we also had an amazing trio of dishes from the Birds of Paradise food truck: “Paradise” salad with mango, pineapple, & fresh coconut; black jollof rice; and a smoky baba ganoush. then, we grabbed a “double” from The Mini Trini truck – Trinidadian street food made with split-pea dough bread and filled with curried chickpeas, pumpkin, & mango. and the night ended at Jimmies Cupcake Company. with one of the best cupcakes i’ve ever had: banana with vanilla cream frosting and cute sprinkles. the base tasted just like delicious banana bread. perfect density and crumb. i’ve had a lot of vegan cupcakes… many of which are excellent, but this was definitely in the “best of” category. all around, it was a super fun night with lots of great local food and community-building. looking forward to next year!

       

thanks to The Food Trust and Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation

[all photos from my instagram]


what’s been going on

there is so much to update… august was a very busy month, and i am still in denial about summer being over (although i can’t help but be excited about fall weather), but in a large nutshell (like a walnut-sized shell?), here’s what happened:
     
culinary school took a break for a few weeks, but that vacation was filled up very quickly – celebrating family birthdays in princeton, lots of meals from the garden and many prepared by mom from these cookbooks, my cousin visiting from upstate NY (a fun week of picnics, a trip to Philly, The Dark Knight Rises, and running to get my cousin ready for cross-country season), as well as the daunting task of moving into our new home in Philadelphia. the latter event took much longer than anticipated. there was the actual moving-truck-and-friends-wearing-workout-clothes-getting-our-stuff-in-the-truck day (and we are so very very grateful for said wonderful friends and mom and dad), but there was also that long lingering, gradual transition (the “oh, on second thought, maybe we should bring that step ladder / box of scarves / cologne / other thing”), which i guess inevitably happens when you are moving out of your parents’ home and there is no concrete deadline. there was also a lot of “homemaking” to be done, including cleaning, re-touching the paint, organizing, and a handful of do-it-yourself projects.
     
but once all that settled down, we realized, “oh wow, we just moved to Philadelphia. we are starting new jobs, a new phase. even bo (the dog) has a new park.” even as i write that, it still surprises me. there are moments when i feel very used to this new phase already, but other times when it still feels new and temporary. i think my opinion of culinary school is already pretty clear: i absolutely love it. i look forward to waking up at 5:20 am on sunday mornings to commute to manhattan. and this city, dear philly, i am learning more and more of each day, and quickly developing a real soft spot for it. i kind of gush nostalgically about our neighborhood whenever people ask (e.g. the other night, on one of the first beautiful fall nights we’ve had, there were even a few guys camped out around a mini fire pit on one of the cobblestone half-streets. how.cool.is.that). and teaching at community college (no, i don’t watch community, but i love how that is one of the first things i am asked when i mention my job) has been interesting, terrifying, enjoyable, and overall rewarding. i am grateful to have the experience, especially since teaching has always hovered in the back of my mind as something i might be good at and/or enjoy. i love encouraging people to push themselves to think outside their normal parameters, to follow a thought process through to its logical end, and to engage in discussions they didn’t even realize they were passionate about. these have been the positive aspects of teaching, so far. the same qualities i love about teaching could also apply to my passion for food and for community development. it’s all a bit connected, really. i do look forward to to the day when i can channel my energy in one general direction, but i think having varied interests and causes will always be part of who i am. and with that, i need to go prepare for tomorrow’s lesson and bake up some okara chocolate chip bars.

p.s. okara (or soy pulp, a.k.a. the stuff left over from making tofu or soy milk) is just one of the many leftovers from culinary school that i’ve been cooking with recently, and i plan to post some of those recipes here soon!


move-in condition

picked up the apartment keys today. picked up some Sriracha, too. i would call that move-in ready.

also, it hasn’t even begun and on-street parking is already proving to be a pain. hopefully one worth living with…