Monday, August 9, 2010

Some fermentation is best left to the professionals...

Friday August 6th, 2010

Many people may be late to start the day because they sleep in past the alarm, get stuck in traffic, or have trouble getting the kids ready in time to meet the bus. Michelle and I are late because of breakfast. A simple bowl of oatmeal or slice of toast just doesn’t cut it when we prepare the most important meal of the day. This day was no different. In commemoration of a year of breakfasts in Seattle, for my (maybe) last one in the Emerald City, Michelle prepared what has become our usual fare. Steel-cut oats (though I prefer old-fashioned) cooked savory-style, which means with pastured butter and nutritional yeast. The grain is accompanied by a sautee of kale, onions, and garlic...lots of garlic. Finally, the whole dish is topped off with a fried-to-perfection golden-yolked farmers market chicken egg. A dash of salt and generous sprinkling of freshly ground pepper finishes off the meal.

With a hearty breakfast digesting away, we packed up the car and pulled out of the driveway. Almost 2 hours later, we actually left the city of Seattle. If you area wondering what we were doing for all that time I’m not going to tell you. Not because it’s tawdry or salacious but rather boring. Our errands did, however, include 1 stop of the edible variety at Mighty-O Donuts. This vegan donut shoppe had been on our to-do list for some time but we never happened to find ourselves there even with a free donut with purchase coupon burning a whole in my pocket. With its circular structure the donut seemed the perfect metaphorical edible with which to toast our departure. But what variety?? Like every decision we’ve ever made about food this one took more than a few ticks of the minute hand on the Mighty-O clock. I was drawn to the Naked Cake donut for obvious reasons while Michelle leaned toward the chocolate enrobed chocolate species with a touch of peanuts for protein. The nutty addition was expected to help curb the rush of glucose into her bloodstream upon consumption of the sweet. This tactic proved unsuccessful as Michelle turned to me and said something to the effect of “ I can feel my blood boiling.” I “persuaded” Michelle to put the other halves of our donuts in a bag for later and we drove toward I-90 heading east.

In Seattle it is, for the majority of meals, our goal to eat as local as possible...obtaining groceries at one of the many farmers markets or the local food co-op. For the duration of our road trip we aimed to eat more like the locals..whatever that might be. We eased into this approach, eating our first meal at a rest stop picnic table. For lunch we would consume edibles made and brought from home. This is what we brought: Sandwiches consisting of home-made chickpea tempeh, home-made sauerkraut, Bubbies pickle relish, mustard, and baked kale layered between 2 slices of allergen-free Olive Bread from Flying Apron Bakery as well as a jar of steamed beets in a balsamic vinaigrette made in Therapeutic Whole Foods cooking class a few days earlier. Incidentally, the beet dish is meant to support a woman’s menstrual cycle. We excitedly put the sandwiches together and bit into our handiwork. The taste was surprising to say the least. Our palettes quite used to the store bought mildly fermented tempeh were startled by the sharp, pungent flavor elicited by the wildly fermented (moldy, really) tempeh we prepared in the back storage area of the Branner’s studio. We tried to mask the organismal taste of the tempeh by adding some of the onions from the beet salad and though this succeeded in adding visually appeal to our food it did little for the palatability.

As if this weren’t enough to make swallowing our lunch difficult, the kale leaves baked hours earlier had taken on a rubbery texture that required much more than the usual 30 bites before making it down the gullet. Kale gum comes to mind. Needless to say we were very thankful for the halves of Mighty-O donut we had saved from earlier as we desperately tried to rid our palettes of the unsavory flavor.

Back on the road, a few hours later, we felt the need to nosh. Breaking into our snack bag for the first time we chose a banana, dried figs, and roasted nuts. As Michelle drove I gingerly placed one of every nut variety into her palm. This sparked a discussion about why hazelnuts are also called filberts. Why does a nut need 2 names?

Later discussions brought about when consuming this mixture of brazil nuts, pecans, cashews, hazelnuts/filberts, and almonds included: Where do Brazil nuts grow? Does eating them help save the rainforest? Followed by a round of What’s your favorite nut? and What type of fat is in each nut? Are walnuts the only good source of omega-3 in the nut world? What about selenium? Zinc? Magnesium? You can see quickly where this was going. There’s a reason the dietitian I worked with in Hazleton General Hospital called her crew “the nutty bunch”.

It was clear to see that even though we were trying to be as open minded about the food we were eating as possible and not take it down to its nutrient composition actually doing this would prove nearly impossible. Case in point, dinner.

After our hearty lunch and subsequent snacks it was hard to imagine more that evening. For a moment we entertained the idea of stopping in Idaho for some potatoes and then in Kellogg, MT for some cereal. We chose the later, not for cereal of course, but because it was the closest exit and by that time we were hungry. Kellogg’s slogan, a town for every season, seemed promising and we were hopeful until we actually drove into town. Turns out, Aug 6-8 is reserved for a reunion for EVERY class that ever graduated from Kellogg High School. The local pub, Dirty Ernies was taken over by rowdy beer-drinking bunch and the only Chinese restaurant in town was occupied by members of the Class of 1958. Every other inch of Kellogg seemed deserted and we were ready to give up. Then we spotted the Moose Grill. A quaint white house with a wrap-around porch and a decidedly good-looking menu.

Once inside, we were seated in a dark corner at a very oversized table. To make a long story short this is what we ordered: Huckleberry Lemonade, Garden Linguini in a sherry-garlic sauce, and fish tacos made with grilled Mahi Mahi. Sounds decadent, doesn’t it? And to be fair, it was all quite tasty. Sure drinking the lemonade made me feel like my teeth were going to rot out of my head with every sip and by the end of the meal we were convinced that the sauce on the tacos was merely Miracle Whip and some cayenne powder smeared on a partially-hydrogenated flour tortilla but we’ll forgive that and the fact that the linguini was literally drowning in oil. Check please!

Getting back in the Prius we were greeted warmly by some crystallized ginger to help ease the impending digestive upset we were expecting. Luckily, we were wrong to suspect this result and woke up the next morning refreshed and ready for another day filled with eating on the road.

Cruisin’ at 95,


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