Category Archives: Around the Farmhouse

The Tudor Rose Tea Room: a review

top hat misterFor my friend Sharon’s birthday she invited a few of her oldest friends to join her for a full tea at The Tudor Rose Tea Room.  We had a great time all hanging out together and the staff at the tea room went some way to accommodating some special diet restrictions which was nice.

tea room 7If what you want in a tea room is super-fey decor, the kind little girls are supposed to adore, this is the place for you.  It’s stuffed to the gills with weird statuary of fairies and bunnies with carrots and the odd menacing Chinese guy.  It has a fountain and twinkling lights and and, I have to mention this again, bunnies with carrots.  The decorating style is not for grown-ups.

weak teaAbout their tea.  They have plenty of varieties available but if you are a PG Tips drinker you must ask for their strongest black tea and request that they leave the tea in the pot to steep extra long.  If you do this – you will have a great cup.  The house teas they presented us with were really weak and full of flowers which, if you like that sort of thing, is fine.  I don’t like flowery tea.  Plenty of people do so this is a question of personal taste and if you go forewarned you can get what you like.  So there’s something for everyone in the tea department.

tea room 2Our waitress was really nice but I feel that she has been schooled to be extra genteel – to say “lovely” as many times as possible in conversation, and to modulate her voice to be extra gentle as though the customers are very delicate people.  But really, I thought our server was doing a great job.  It’s not her fault that I’m such a curmudgeonly person.

tea room 5These are their sugar cubes.  I do not pollute my tea with glossy colored sugar.  I ripped the roses off the cubes.  A little barbaric of me perhaps, but this is no way to treat honest sugar cubes or a good cup of tea.

tea room 3I liked the mismatched china quite a bit.

tea room 1The pots of tea keep on coming and that was really nice too.  Especially when we finally asked for their strongest tea.  About the food.  The first thing they brought out was a tomato soup with tiny ravioli in it and I really enjoyed it.  I liked it so much I went home and re-created it.  The small salad was also really nice.  Very fresh and good.

sconesThe scones were also very good.  I have to say that they were nowhere near as good as the fresh baked scones I had at an inn in the Highlands, but really, nothing will ever compare to those so there’s no point in trying.  These are very good.

sammiesI could not eat the sandwiches.  I took one bite of the top level ones which were goat cheese with fig and some nuts on the outside.  I didn’t know it was goat until I took the bite and had a mouth full of barnyard.  This is not the tea house’s shortcoming, this is just my personal tastes butting in.  I don’t eat meat and I don’t eat goat cheese but I think for those who do like these things, these sandwiches would not disappoint.

curry pastiesBut here’s where I have got to come down hard.  These pasties.  I was really excited to eat one.  They are filled with vegetables in a curry sauce.  This is one of those things you expect the English to do exceptionally well since it really is one of their specialties.  I was deeply disappointed by this.  The pastry was not nice.  Dry and a little hard – crunchy-ish.  Crunchy-ish cardboard.  There’s no excuse for this.  Then there’s the curry gravy and vegetables.  The English are supposed to be very good at curries.  This one seemed like it maybe came from a mix or, I don’t really know.  The vegetables must have been frozen and though that is not necessarily a crime, if you use frozen you absolutely have to use the best quality frozen you can buy.  I could not finish my pastie and it made me mad to have been so let down.  I can, and will, make my own curry pasties and they will be exponentially better than these ones.

little sweetsAnd then there’s the finish.  The little deserts were very pretty but I think they must have used the same pastry for these that they did for the curry pasties.  When you bite into a morsel like this the pastry shell should be a bit delicate and melt in your mouth with the filling.  It should not be toothy and dry.  The lemon curd was also a bit bitter for my taste.  But the pastry shells are the main problem.

Can I recommend The Tudor Rose to others?  If you want to throw your little girl a real tea party this is the place to go.  Little girls, big girls who wish they didn’t have to grow up, princesses, fairies, all will enjoy the atmosphere.  If you are like me and prefer a more grown-up tea room, the bunnies and fairies will make you really uncomfortable.

Decor aside, I think if The Tudor Rose would change their pastry dough they will have made a substantial improvement to their fare.

Tudor Rose Tea Room

733 Fourth Street, Santa Rosa



Plum Moonshine and Asia Mart

sharon with plum liqueurOne of my greatest preserving successes this year was my Elephant Heart Plum Moonshine.  This stuff is incredible.  I will give instructions for making this in a separate post.  It is a gorgeous color and has the most potent plum taste.  Using moonshine and a little less sugar than is generally called for prevented this from being too thick and sweat like cough syrup.  Sharon approves!  Speaking of Sharon, she just had her birthday a few weeks ago and I have been meaning to write about the tea room she celebrated it in – so – another post to catch up on!

anime packagingChelsea and I just visited a Thai market and an Asian market here in Santa Rosa.  We’d never been to the Thai one before and this is the coolest thing I found there – anime packaging for noodle soup!  Oh – and I came home with 6 tinned curries to try that have no fish or shrimp in them.

turmericAt the Asia Mart we discovered that if we want it, we can buy a lifetime supply of turmeric for only $22.

sandwich spreadI have never before encountered a spread that made me feel like a dirty old man.  This brand name suggests that this spread may not be appropriate for men.  But is “sandwich” a euphemism here?  I’m so scared of this spread.  I need to go back and read what ingredients are in it cause I can’t quite read them in this picture.

happy weiner eaterAnd here’s a happy weiner-eating lady!  She’s so festive!  It’s right next to the Lady’s Choice “sandwich spread” (may as well just put the whole suspicious thing in quotation marks) so I’m wondering if this is all lady food in this isle?

palm oilThis red palm oil doesn’t tempt me.  I’m sure it looks appetizing when not solidified.

what the hell are theseLastly – we found these.  What are they?  I thought they looked like horns  but Chelsea thinks they look like ovaries.  If you know what they are – will you please tell us?

P1000385Here’s a closer look at them.  Seed pods?  Roots?  The dried ovaries of fairies?

There has been a lot of noise this year getting in the way of my food adventures.  There were the months I spent looking for work and spending time at the hospital and there were the months I was mostly dealing with Max’s school and medical issues.  I did a lot less cooking, very little gardening, and a lot less blogging.  What I want for this year is to get back to my favorite things: writing, gardening, and cooking.

So here’s to great food adventures with friends in 2014!

The One Where Max Helps Cook Thanksgiving Dinner

butter magicThis Thanksgiving was the best one I’ve ever had.  And I’ve had a lot of great ones.  The only thing missing was my sister, Tara, who rarely misses spending the day with us.  I truly wish she could have been here with us.  My brother came which was fantastic.  Better yet – he wasn’t antsy to leave the minute he arrived which he’s been known to do in the past.  He actually seemed mellow and stayed with us for all the fun.  My close friend Chelsea came to eat with us too – a special treat since we haven’t spent Thanksgiving with her in several years.

So here’s what we had on the menu:

Salt-roasted chicken

Stuffed baby butternut squash

Grapefruit and avocado salad

Fondant potatoes

Pecan Pie

stuffed squashMy pictures are crap because it was late afternoon when I took them.  This is my squash with mushroom stuffing using wheat bread and homemade stock.  They were so good!

extra stuffingI had enough to cook a dish of stuffing on its own.  (By the way, this is before it was cooked, it’s much prettier when it comes out of the oven)

Philip and Max  cookingBut this is the thing that made my Thanksgiving the best one ever.  Max has discovered (through a youtube video gamer) the youtube food channel  called “Food Wishes” which is where he found a recipe for salt-roasted chicken that he thought sounded good.  He requested we make it for Thanksgiving.

That’s the first food request Max has made for Thanksgiving in his entire life!

I obviously said yes and then informed him that he would have to make it with his dad, since I still haven’t recovered fully from the horror of cutting the tip of a chicken wing off and almost hurling because it disturbed me so much.  He agreed, so I bought them an organic chicken from Whole Foods and these two made the recipe from the video together.

This post is pretty much about Max from here on out.  I think you can excuse the single focus this time.  It’s pretty epic.

Max making chickenThis is Max, my extreme picky eating and non-cooking son, salting a chicken.

Max cookingI’m sure you’re as excited as I am and need to see another picture of him SALTING A CHICKEN.

salt roasted chickenHere it is, fresh out of the oven.  Chelsea, an incredible cook, advised that the chicken be covered with foil and a cloth and be allowed to rest.

another view of chickenIn case you didn’t see enough of this chicken already – I offer you this slightly different view of it.  You are totally amazed and proud of Max for helping to make this roasty bird, right?

The verdict on this recipe is that it is amazing!  The meat was juicy and tender and everyone loved it.  Except for me, obviously, because I was the only vegetarian in the house.  Every last scrap of the meat was eaten up – most of it that night.  Max declared it wonderful.  Even the thyme and butter sauce made from the chicken crusty stuff.  He loved the sauce.  Even with the green bits of thyme in it.


winter saladChelsea made this wonderful grapefruit and avocado salad with a grapefruit vinaigrette and feta.  It was refreshing and delicious.  Max didn’t eat any of it, of course.

The fondant potatoes were finished last and everyone was too full to eat them except for Max and I.  I tested the recipe earlier in the week and it was already Max approved (that’s two winning recipes tried from Max’s fave food channel)

I also gave myself a very painful oil burn making the potatoes.  But, whatever.


There was also a pecan pie adventure but I don’t care about that right now.

kid pouring rumMax has also developed an interest in mixing drinks, which I think I’ve mentioned before.  Usually he plays around with mixing different sodas or juices together but we let him make Chelsea and his Grandma a rum and pineapple cocktail.

rum and pineappleThat cocktail shaker is his own.  Philip found it at a thrift store for him.

Max the mixerThis is the first Thanksgiving for which Max had any interest at all in what was being served, sat with his family to eat, helped cook part of the meal, and hung out with us all.  We did do some things his way too – we watched a couple episodes of South Park with him.

As if all that wasn’t enough – two days later he tried my rosemary potatoes and likes them.  Fondant potatoes were the first non-fried potato dish he’s liked since he was 2 years old, and the rosemary potatoes are the second.  Rosemary potatoes are arguably the healthiest way to eat potatoes.

Max’s relationship with food is changing slowly and these moments are, for me, like big miracles.  Max was the kid who, when he was five, went a week eating only goldfish crackers (and was angry that no other food tasted good to him).  He is the child who once told me that he wished he could take pills for food instead of eating it, because then he wouldn’t have to taste bad tastes or experience horrible textures, or look at gross food.

The other thing is that he’s eating tangerines again now that they’re in season again and several days last week he ate tangerines and carrots IN THE SAME DAY.  Do you know how often he eats two kinds of produce in one day?  Never.

I don’t imagine that everything is going to change over night.  He still only eats produce at all because I make him.  He still eats very little variety.  But ever since late spring he has been exploring new foods and very slowly adding things to the roster of foods he likes.  What I’ve always believed about him is beginning to prove true: that this kid will someday be a gourmand.

Excuse me while I tell a lot of people “I fucking told you fucking so!”

Something I know in my bones and have known for many years now through all the frustration of raising a kid who would rather starve than eat something repugnant to him is that forcing food on him, fighting about food, making him feel bad because he’s so hard to feed would not have resulted in him arriving at this point at the age of 13.  If I had done as so many other well-meaning-but-totally-WRONG people have advised, his relationship with food would have deteriorated even more and become dangerously problematic.

Yeah, not done yet…

Accepting and working with his extreme limitations and understanding that his violent food aversions are real and very unpleasant for him has given him the room he needs to explore food on his own terms.  The most important thing is that I’ve never had expectations that he would one day be a regular (and maybe even healthy) eater, I only hoped for it.  And even now, after such an incredible breakthrough, I need to accept that this may be as far as he goes. But it will always be my job to encourage him to go farther.

I am expectation-free but I am full of hopes about where this kid is going.

I’m almost done.  Just have to gesticulate rudely at the stupids for a second:
I’m thumbing my nose at all those judgmental parents and relatives and doctors who have lectured me and made both Max and me feel like losers through all these years because he won’t eat like a normal kid and I am, apparently, to blame.  If any of those people had raised Max they would have broken him.

But for the rest of you – you blessed bunch of people who have not judged us and have been encouraging and accepting and awesome – you all ROCK. 

See?  This Thanksgiving was EPIC.  So, how was yours?

Let me remind you that you can give Kindle  books to people as gifts so if someone on your holiday gift list loves post-apocalyptic fiction and strong female main characters – Winter (Cricket and Grey) would make a great gift fo them!  Go buy a copy by clicking on the image which will take you to Amazon:

Homemade Ginger Beer

beautiful gingerale

The first recipe I tried from my friend Emma’s book True Brews was her ginger ale.

You don’t have to buy her book to try this recipe because she’s posted it on The Kitchn for you: Soda Recipe: Homemade Ginger Ale

But I totally recommend you buy her book because it’s worth the shelf space it takes.  I promise!

ginger beerI followed her recipe roughly but was really lazy and sort of ad-libbed a number of things.  It still turned out fantastic!  First of all, I doubled (maybe even tripled) the amount of ginger.  I used less sugar and a lot less lemon.  Normally I take notes when I’m making things like this and I wish I had since the result was so amazing.  However, my friend Sharon made ginger ale using Emma’s recipe too and hers, though different, was also really good.  I love a recipe that works well with all kinds of variations.

I used a dry champagne yeast for my batch.  A number of things almost went wrong.  I peeled my ginger and then let it sit in the fridge for a week.  I didn’t do on purpose.  I just kept not making the soda.  Just before I lost my window of opportunity I pulverized it in my food processor and cooked it.  You know, to kill any mold that might be setting up secret house in my ginger.  But then I left it on the stove for two days.

yeast in actionSo I had to boil it again.  It hadn’t gone bad and had the sugar already added to it which is a preservative, but I’m sure some of my friends would be scared of it at this point.  Not me.  Ultimately, if I’d left it out long enough it would have started fermenting rather than molding.  I mean, fermenting IS a form of controlled rot.  I finally realized that I was being a very bad urban homesteader and finally filled my bottles with my ginger/sugar/lemon/water mix.  And added the yeast.  Fermentation should be complete between 24 and 48 hours depending on amount of sugar and warmth of the space it’s fermenting in.  Guess how long I left it out to do it’s thing?

gingerale frothingYeah, at least 3 days.  Maybe 4.  I opened the bottles and heard a satisfying HISS of pressure being released and smelled the slightest bit of alcoholic fermentation going on.  For soda the ideal is ferment only just until the carbonation is complete, not so that the soda starts turning into alcohol.  Which it will do.  I figured I’d failed.  I put it in the fridge anyway.  I didn’t have the guts to try it for several days because I didn’t want to confirm that I’d messed it up.  So what a lovely surprise when I finally poured myself a taste.  Damn!  So refreshing!  It was super spicy, as I’d intended, and not too sweet, with just the smallest hint of lemon.  Everyone who’s had a taste of my first batch absolutely loved it.  LOVED IT.  It’s total magic.  So easy.  Accommodating to lazy-asses like myself.  If you really do it right you can have tons of ginger ale in two days.  I call mine ginger beer because of the big spicy bite in every sip and the lower sugar amount.  I want to try this with lime next.

Oh yeah, and please buy my book if you haven’t already!

Making Tamales with Chelsea

preparing husksChelsea made the first tamale I’ve ever eaten.  Trader Joe’s made the second one I ever ate which, while good, wasn’t even in the same ball park as the ones Chelsea made.  The third time I ate a tamale I made them myself and couldn’t figure out why I thought they were so complicated that I waited years to do it.  In October I got the hankering for tamales and knew that Chelsea would love to do that with me.

We used the cookbook “Tamales 101” by Alice Guadalupe Tapp for reference but didn’t follow any of her recipes.  It’s an awesome little book and if you want to learn to make tamales and are scared to try it – this book will take all the fear out of it.  Plus, cool pictures, great husk folding instructions, and lots of inspiration for coming up with your own recipes.

I love that the book includes meat, vegetarian, AND vegan recipes.

corn husk tiesYou can use either kitchen string or make ties out of the husks by stripping them to tie the tamales closed.

four tamale fillingsChelsea made a cilantro pesto using pepitas, no cheese, garlic, cilantro, oil, and salt and pepper.  The winter squash ended up having no discernible flavor in the tamales but nutritionally I think it was a good ingredient to include.  We used pink banana squash but there are other varieties with a more robust flavor.  Black beans were the protein we used and we added three pickled jalapenos in each one.  These are the jalapenos I made this year.  Chelsea doesn’t eat dairy and I don’t eat meat, so we made these completely vegan.

filling the tamalesWe included a generous teaspoon of each ingredient in each tamale.

string tied tamaleChelsea chose to tie hers with kitchen string.  The advantage of using string is that it doesn’t break while tying it.

tamale productionI chose to use corn husk ties, the advantage being that you don’t need to buy string, something I don’t happen to keep in my kitchen.  This advantage is especially valuable during an apocalypse.

tamale arrangementChelsea arranged the tamales in a steamer lined with husks (not necessary but kind of cool) and steamed them for over an hour.

finished tamaleThey were very good.  When I steamed mine at home I steamed them too long and dried out the tamale dough.  For the dough we used vegetable stock, chilled (hardened) olive oil, and some squash.  I have to admit that I liked my dough made with butter a little better.  The cilantro pest was amazing in these – gave them a really nice herby flavor and the jalapenos added both heat and a tangy finish.

I don’t intend to wait another two years to make these again.  I want to make more in the next couple of weeks.  I just have to figure out what filling I want to try next.  If I come up with something really good that’s my own creation I’ll be sure to share it with you here.  It’s been a long time since I’ve posted a recipe.

I’m going to end every post with a link to my novel because I need people to buy it so I can become a full time paid novelist.  If you haven’t bought a copy yet – go buy it!  It’s a great book about a small town apothecary who gets herself in a lot of trouble when her father dies.  It includes an old inarticulate distiller who makes amazing pickles and cured meats.  The book is available in e-book format only but will soon be available in trade paper and hard back versions.

Farm to Fermentation Festival

Emma demo

Emma Christensen giving a soda making demonstration.

I am so behind on posting what I’ve been up to I hope you will forgive me for backtracking.  In August Philip and I went to the Farm to Fermentation Festival here in Santa Rosa where my good friend Emma was giving a talk on how to brew your own soda.

Emma and friendEmma with a friend.

Emma serving samplesEmma giving samples of her ginger ale, watermelon mint and strawberry soda.

Emma soda samplesYou should have been there to taste them!

serving samplesEmma’s book is a great resource for people like me who are new to brewing.  Her recipes are solid and her directions are clear.  If you want to buy her book you can click on this button:

Emma and Kefir guyEmma with the kefir dude.  There were samples of non-dairy kefir drinks and I really liked one of them but the beet one was a little weird and the chocolate-ish one was awful.  The ginger and honey one was really delicious.

philip tasting kefirPhilip tasting kefir drinks.

fermented goods

Naturally fermented pickles.  The pickled green tomatoes weren’t very good but the cucumber pickle was good.

pickling displayI can never resist taking pictures of produce.

colorful potteryI covet the pickling crocks in all the pretty colors.  They’re out of my price range (most pickle crocks are) but when I have some money this is what I will probably splurge on.

cider applesCider apples.

great ciderThe cider guy.  We lurked in this booth a long time.  The cider is really good and Philip has always been interested in making some cider.

tilted shed ciderThis is the one I really liked.

sour beerSour beer.  I don’t really like sour beer.  I think it’s the kind of thing that could grow on me if I let it.  Not literally grow on me, because that would be really gross, but if I drank it enough I might develop a taste for it.  But as with eating cheese rinds, I don’t see any reason to suffer through unpleasantness in the hopes that eventually I will like it.

Philip and the meaderyI hate mead.  HATE IT.  Philip, however, likes it and enjoys brewing it.  So it was cool that there was mead being represented at the festival.  I’m attracted to mead from a historical standpoint.  It would be  cool to stand around drinking mead from goblets while chewing on the leg of a pig or something.

The fermentation festival definitely got me excited to try some new fermentation projects.  Spending the geeking out over crocks and pickles and beer with friends was so much fun.

You Can Buy My Book on Amazon Now!


You can buy my book on Amazon now in the Kindle Store!!

Winter (Cricket and Grey)

If you need a different e-book format you can get most (Nook, Kobo, pdf) from Smashwords:

Winter (Cricket and Grey)

So yeah, that’s what we’ve been up to lately around here.  Philip has been editing the book and I’ve done the final edit and then we’ve had to figure out how to make it into an e-book and we’ve done it!  Next up is getting print on demand set up for those who want to be able to buy hard copies of the book.  Once that’s done I can get back to the fun of cooking and designing our garden and sewing.

One last thing – if you read my book and enjoy it – please tell others about it!

My Morning Bicycle Ride: Food in Yards

huge gardenThis morning I took a bicycle ride through the posh neighborhood just a few blocks away.  I decided to spot and photograph all the food I could see in the gardens – mostly looking for front yard vegetables and fruits.  This particular enormous garden has long been a favorite of mine.

driveway corn and melonsI love to see people making use of driveway dividers to grow food.  Here is squash or melons and dried up corn.

persimmons and rock wallPersimmons in the front yard of a charming house that I have always admired.  But since I was focusing on food growing I didn’t snap the house itself.

pearsAcross the street from the persimmons the neighbors have two pear trees.

squash in the front yardThis is my favorite – when vegetables are used in front yards as part of the landscaping for all to see.

strange fruitWhat the hell are these?  I don’t know if they’re edible but I had to include them because they’re weird and cool.  Also – the same yard had an orange tree.

orange treeHere it is.  Look at all those wasting oranges.  That’s a real shame.

grapes and limesGrapes and limes!  I may have spotted rhubarb too but it was hard to tell and I didn’t want to trespass to find out.

applesSmall apple tree.

semisad peach treeThis was planted in the sidewalk strip and I wish I could do that in my strip but I think the city doesn’t allow it and here in my very busy very city block I think it would get the city’s attention.

driveway tomatoesThe owner of these tomatoes came home just as I spotted them.  I asked if I could take a picture of his tomatoes and he said yes, but I think he was really weirded out by me.  This is another driveway divider as garden.  I love it!

front yard veg boxDamn poor picture but this cute little house put a pretty vegetable box right near their front steps.  Super charming!

squash toms and marigoldsAnd lastly – another veg box in a front yard.  They have another on on the other side of the walkway.  I wish my tomatoes looked that robust!

That’s the end of my posh neighborhood food growing tour.

That was a really nice way to start my day.  Unfortunately, my back is hurting so I’m headed back to bed for a while longer to ice and heat it.  Hope you have a great Monday!

Giant Rudbeckias and Plum Moonshine

loving my rudbeckiasI didn’t get much planted this year but I managed to establish three Rudbeckia plants and they just started blooming last week and now they’re busting out the biggest flowers I’ve ever seen a Rudbeckia produce.  Huge!  I can see them out my office window which is a real pleasure.  I’m looking at them right now while you look at the picture of them.

black krimThe tomatoes aren’t doing fantastic but they are finally fruiting and gaining size. They need to be staked better but this Black Krim is just starting to color up.  Black Krims are my favorite tomatoes.

box of good stuffMy friend Chelsea shared the bounty from her (ex)father in law’s garden with me.  I sauteed the yellow crookneck squash for dinner last night with some mushrooms, pureed garlic, salt, and pepper.  Simple – and so good!  The yellow plums weren’t super aromatic but they were sweet with a tart skin so I made plum dipping sauce out of them.  Or, that’s what I had planned.  Then I burnt them so bad I also destroyed the pot I cooked them in.  Luckily it was a pot that was already cracked at the top because it was a piece of crap to begin with.  So I’m mad I wasted all those free plums.

plum moonshineThe red plums are Elephant Heart plums – the best in the whole world in my opinion!  I was worried about not having time to make and can jam with them (they make exquisite jam) so I decided to make plum liqueur.  Then I had trouble finding affordable 100 proof vodka.  It is my opinion that 80 proof makes terrible liqueur unless you really lower the sugar in the recipes, but even then, the 100 proof has the balls to cut through everything and warm your throat and stomach without being the tiniest bit insipid.

I settled on getting everclear because it was cheaper than the 100 proof.  This stuff is 153 proof.  YOWZA!  So I may be needing to dilute it some down the road.  So instead of liqueur I am really making plum moonshine.

I need to find a new source for cheap 100 proof.  Let me know if you know of one.

Well, I’m off to run errands.  For any of you wondering – I will be resuming the pyjama pant project soon.  I know it’s been forever and I’m sure everyone has given up – but I will see it through.  I’m cleaning my office this week to get ready.

Hope you all have a great Friday.  And please tell me what preserving, garden, or craft projects you’re up to right now!

Shameful Food Confession: I don’t like Asian Food


(“Asian food” here is defined as foods from the many different countries throughout Asia that I’ve tried.  My feelings about Asian food is NOT reflective of my feelings about Asian culture or Asian people – so don’t you dare suggest it!)

Max is exploring Japanese food.  He went with Philip last week and had some raw fish he really loved and a cucumber salad he loved and he even liked a tuna sushi roll he tried.  I wanted to go to Japanese food with them mostly because I wanted to see Max enjoying food I never imagined he’d like.  So we went to Haku sushi just down the street from us.

He tried different things than last time and the only thing he liked was the shrimp tempura this time.  The cucumber salad we ordered wasn’t what he got last time and he didn’t like this one.  The raw fish was different too.  Then he ordered a crazy roll and didn’t like that.  But the main thing is that he’s trying lots of new things these days.

I was reminded that I don’t like Japanese food and it does not get along with me at all and never has.  The only thing I can eat is the miso soup, the cucumber salad, the dressed lettuce, the plain rice, and tempura.  But tempura has always made me feel queasy and gross after eating it no matter how much I enjoy the flavor.  The miso soup always has bits of seaweed in it and though a fairly mild kind I only just tolerate it.  Things that taste remotely like the sea make me gag.  Literally gag.  Haku’s tempura was very good, as far as tempura goes, but I burped for hours afterwards.  Not my favorite way to remember a meal.

But before I even ate the tempura I made the mistake of eating a bite of some bright green stem things that were served with the cucumbers that turned out to be some kind of sea weed that tasted STRONGLY of FISH.  I would have spit it out but I didn’t want to be impolite.  After fighting my gag reflex to the death I managed to swallow the nasty stuff and within minutes I was burping up fish flavor.

I have come to the realization that not only does Japanese food not agree with me, no Asian food agrees with me.  I am using “Asian” in a generic way to include food traditions from Thailand, Burma, China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam.  I’m keenly aware that the food traditions in each of those countries is unique from each other in many and distinct ways – I don’t mean to lump them together for any other purpose than that they all happen not to agree with me.  Fish being a huge part of all of those food traditions as well as meat and sauces using fish and shrimp and then there are the radishes (I burp them up) and water chestnuts (I burp them up) and the Asian style of fermenting (I burp it up) – get the theme here?

Then there are curries.  My one favorite thing to make that is based on a Thai dish is Winter squash curry coconut soup.  It’s amazing and for some reason that particular dish does not give me any problems.  I’ve never been a huge curry fan but these days it isn’t just a matter of preference, my body doesn’t like them either.  So let’s add Indian food to the list because now when I have Indian food (which I do love) it generally doesn’t agree with me either.

I do love some Chinese food but I can’t lie – I usually don’t feel that great after eating it.  Never have.  I have always eaten it anyway.

Among my peers it feels like a point of shame not to LOVE Thai food and Japanese food.  If you don’t love Asian food you’re just not cool and may as well be an ignorant white-bred bitch from the fifties.  (Interestingly, most of my peers do not like Chinese food except for my Chinese friends and me.)  The most uber-cool people love Korean and Vietnamese food because Japanese and Thai food are so common now that it may as well be spaghetti.

I don’t even like rice that much.

I like a lot of components of Asian food traditions such as tofu and soba noodles and miso and simple stir-fries and edamame and satay sauce but it’s a real inauthentic pick and choose kind of thing.

What food do I like?  I like Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food.  But even with Middle Eastern food I can’t eat things that are heavy on the cumin which always repeats on me like old-man armpits in my esophagus.

Mediterranean food (Italy, Greece, France, northern Africa, and Israel etc.) is what my body likes the best.  It’s what I crave.  It’s what I feel my best eating.  It’s easy to make Mediterranean food minus the meat and fish.  I also love Mexican food which generally agrees with me well.

So there it is.  My big confession of shame.  I’m not a cool eater.  I’m not adventuresome.  Even if I loved adventuresome flavors my body wouldn’t let me explore comfortably.

But if Max’s body and tastes lead him to Japanese food and maybe eventually some other Asian food traditions – I will be thrilled!  He likes raw fish.  He loves seafood.  I’m excited for him to find new food traditions that he’s actually wanting to explore.  He’s tasting things he never would have tasted two years ago.  He’s trying things.

Yes, he still mostly loves fried foods and mostly sees produce as a necessary evil that his mother forces him to keep trying.  But what I see is a good food palette forming.  It’s just the beginning.  I see a future in which I wean him off of chips and crackers and french fries and he eats more raw fish and vinagered cucumbers and some veggie burgers.  I don’t know, I just think it’s awesome that he’s exploring.  Any mother of an extreme picky eater knows how huge this voluntary exploration is.

I will not go out to Japanese food again but this is something that Philip and Max can do together and now I need to go apply to some more jobs so we can support a sushi-eating habit.