Sunday, September 30, 2007

Fava Beans Smell Like Horses

I like Bob Dylan, I think. It's taken me a while to get to this point.


Today I went to Fairway for a restock on the groceries we can't get in the neighborhood (on today's list: nice olive oil, bulk nuts, flax seed oil, Fairway brand chocolate -- which, OMG, is amAzing).

As always, I got pulled a little off course and ended up with some stuff not on my list. The most interesting impulse buy was a pound or so of fresh fava beans. I got them home and did some reading up about them. I learned two things: 1) there's a genetic disease called Favism that makes fava beans poisonous to you, and 2) sometimes people sauté up their fresh fava beans with onion, fennel root, thyme, and nutmeg.

I thought that sounded pretty good, and neither I nor Perry are from the Mediterranean and central Asian regions associated with Favism (plus we've both eaten many a fava in our lives with no ill effects), so I added the dish described above (and below) to our dinner menu (whole wheat linguine w/ pesto made this summer and then frozen, and steamed green beans).

Here is how I prepared the fava beans:

Shell beans. Boil up some really salty water and boil shelled beans for about 3 mins (2 would have been plenty). Drain beans and transfer to a bowl of ice water. Let them get cool (just a couple of minutes -- don't want to leave them in there too long). Peel off thick outer skins from beans, revealing sweet, glistening, green, soft, delicious bean inside. Discard skins and set beans aside.

Chop up 1 onion and 1 fennel bulb (or half or less if you don't want your beans positively SWIMMING in delicious onion and fennel) and saute over medium heat in some olive oil. Once the onion and fennel are pretty cooked (onion is translucent and soft but not breaking down or browning), add beans and thyme/nutmeg/salt/pepper to taste, and cook for another couple of minutes. In this case the beans were already pretty much cooked from their scalding earlier so they only really needed to be reheated. Remove from heat and serve!

So, it's delicious! But here's the thing -- it *tastes* great, but this dish *smells* very, very strongly of horses.

Yeah, I don't know. I have no idea *why*, but it smelled just like horses, complete with that tang of horse urine. Happily, since most of my childhood summers were spent in stables, this is a smell that is rife with good associations for me, and (this is important) the dish didn't TASTE like horses or pee, so I had no problem. Perry wasn't so keen on the idea of eating something that smelled like that, though, so I was on my own. (In his defense I'll admit that the beans were an unhappy combination with the pesto -- I wouldn't recommend pairing them in a meal).

So all of this is why I'm more or less supine at this moment. I just ate one large onion, one fennel bulb, and about a pound of fava beans all by myself. This is in addition to a beer and green beans and pasta with pesto.

But I can't bring myself to regret my gluttony. Those horse-pee smelling fava beans were the shit. So to speak.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

My personal philosophy, let me show you it.

This is on my mind because Perry and I were talking about philosophy and whether or not it's good for anything (still unresolved, though I will point out that Plato indirectly influenced me to become a vegetarian, which depending on your outlook is either a strike in favor or against).

But philosophy as a general subject and personal philosophy as applied every day to one's life are two very different things and right now I want to tell you about my unoriginal, unambitious, but generally satisfying personal philosophy.

My goal is to live as happily as I can happily achieve. Which is to say, I balance most of my decisions between the happiness of the moment and the happiness of the future. I don't always get it right, and I don't always even make decisions for those reasons, but I try to.

I have the advantage -- and I know that it is rather a profound one -- of having lucky brain chemistry. My default state is one of mild contentment. This is further compounded by a lucky set of circumstances -- functional, loving family; upper-middle class educated American upbringing; a relationship of equality, love, and respect with Mr Smarty-Pants; enough to eat; etc etc etc.

However: on occasions when I have not been as even-keeled, lucky, or socially fulfilled as I am at the moment, I have been able to significantly improve my general state of being by thinking very carefully about what I need in order to be happy, and how much happiness I can achieve with only what I have. This sounds so simple, but when you're already feeling sad or desperate or angry, focusing on making yourself truly happy and calm is not always something that comes easily.

(I know this is going to sound Randian, but the lady had a couple of good ideas.) I decided at some point that my first responsibility is to myself. Part of the reasoning behind this is the fact that I can't make other people in my life happy if I'm not happy; that I can't give money to those who need it if I have none to give; that I've got this life and I'm going to live it one way or another, so why not enjoy it?

This is not to say I always opt for immediate gratification -- like I said, I make decisions based on weighing immediate pleasure against expected future pleasure. Also, I'll do things I don't want to do on a hedonistic level because I know I'll feel bad about myself if I don't (keeping appointments when I'd rather stay at home and cuddle with Perry), or if I know there will be negative consequences (going to work some mornings -- thankfully not most -- simply because I don't want to be fired or look lazy or uncommitted). I've made hard decisions based on this concept as well (ending friendships when it becomes clear I'm going to suffer more than gain in the long run).

Again, reading this over, it seems a) kind of cold-blooded, and b) almost insultingly straightforward, like why am I even bothering to spell it out? But it's worked so well for me -- just paying attention to what makes me happy now and what's likely to make me happy in the future -- and trying to balance or even reconcile the two. I think maybe sometimes it's easy to forget to pay attention to the things in life that please; that give pleasure. And I think it's important.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Real life stinks; dream life twinkles

1) New York City is STINKY this morning. Seriously -- it's all cool and crisp and somehow it smells worse than the hottest, humidest, fettid-est days of the summer. I guess it's kind of a miracle the city isn't stinkier, given the density of the population, but it's still bizarre that it'd be so terrible on a cool fall day. Ew.

2) Last night I dreamed that I was watching an episode of Heroes. In this dream episode, I was delighted to note that the creative types in charge were not afraid to use liberal sprinklings of twinkling pixie-dust special effects, complete with that weird synthesized pixie dust sound you hear a lot of in 1990's era Mariah Carey songs.

"Wow," I said to whoever I was watching it with, "They actually have a character riding off into the sunset on a horse with pixie dust shooting out its ass." (They did.) "I'm so glad this show got renewed."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Stroganoff addendum.

You know what? I take back everything I said about seitan stroganoff.

I ate leftovers for lunch yesterday and they were DIVINE. Weird, right? But apparently a night in the fridge and 2 mins in the microwave did wonders for the dish.

Also, I apologize for unfairly maligning those innocent nutritional yeast flakes.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I made vegan stroganoff.

Seitan Portobella Stroganoff, to be exact. My spell check suggests "Arrogantly" as a correction for "Stroganoff." It's not inappropriate.

Here are some special ingredients I had to buy just so I could make seitan stroganoff:

- Nutriotional Yeast Flakes
- Red wine

Now, the red wine I don't mind -- I drank half the bottle while I made the dish itself (which took OMG so long -- like maybe 3 hours) and it kept me entertained and non-panicky and also dulled the pain of the burn I got on my hand from the skillet I used to sear the seitan.

BUT: Now I have this gargantuan bottle of nutritional yeast flakes and they smell like ass and I don't know what the hell they're good for except seitan stroganoff (since I'm a lame-ass vegan cook and never use stuff like soy yogurt or nutritional yeast flakes even though I probably ought to since every recipe in every vegan cook book I own calls for one or the other though thankfully seldom both). Which wouldn't be a problem except I'm probably never making seitan stroganoff again because it turns out I don't even like stroganoff.

Perry enjoyed it a great deal and assured me it was just like the real thing -- or possibly tastier, even -- and I realized something kind of important that I maybe should have thought of before I bought all the ingredients and set on down the seitan stroganoff road: I had never eaten stroganoff before, and I had no way of knowing if I would enjoy it or not. I mean, I had the impression that it was one of those Quintessential 1950's American Dishes -- sort of bland and salty and hearty (and overcooked) -- which is a genre I generally enjoy a great deal. Also, Clark Kent orders stroganoff in the epilogue of KINGDOM COME, which is really kind of the best possible endorsement any dish could ever get.

But it turns out it is Not For Me. Good thing Perry is enthusiastic about it, because someone's going to have to eat all those leftovers.