Monday, April 26, 2010

Art what?

Over the weekend I went down to Little Italy with my friend Amanda to the 26th annual ArtWalk. I've been living in San Diego for nearly 10 years now and this is an event I hear about every year, but one that I've never been to. Amanda had never been either, so it was the blind leading the blind.

We made our way downtown on Saturday just after the event started on the first day. The weather couldn't have been better. The sun was shining and there was a nice breeze to keep it cool. People were out in full force at this event. It was tough to squeeze into some of the smaller booths to even be able to see the art.

As stated in the title of the event there was some art. In fact, one of my former co-workers Dani Dodge was one of the featured artists this year and she had some great watercolor pieces of New York. But most importantly, there were food street vendors. Yes, please.

Amanda and I scanned the corners where the vendors were and settled on a particularly smoky stand that was selling tri tip sandwiches. The line was long, the sandwiches looked good, and we picked up a free sample of eau de campfire while waiting.

The $7 sandwich did not disappoint. I was a bit worried about the bun it was served on; it looked tough. In actuality, the bun was amazing. It was thick, but soft, like it had just been baked. The tri tip was melt in your mouth tender and to top it off, there was a great bbq sauce with just the right amount of kick to it. Amanda and I both gave the sandwich two thumbs up.

Due to the warmish weather, we couldn't leave Little Italy without a stop at Yogurtland. Plus, Amanda had never been, so I felt it was my duty to introduce her. I think every body else at the ArtWalk had the same idea -- I'd never seen so many people in a Yogurtland. Worth the wait? Of course!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Food flash mob

I'm now caught up on all four episodes of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. Since the first episode, Jamie is continuing his program at the elementary school with a bit more success. He's still meeting resistance from the lunch cooks (who don't like to be called lunch ladies. Adam Sandler would be disappointed.) who say cooking from scratch is too much work, even if the food is fresh and tastes good.

Jamie also started a program at one of the local high schools. Not only is he cooking lunch meals, where students are given multiple lunch options, as opposed to the elementary school that only gets one, but he also gathered a few students who were interested in spreading the word and helping him with his project. Each of the kids involved has a personal connection to obesity or just really wants to help see their community make a change.

The best part of the fourth episode came when Jamie made a bet with the local deejay Rod Willis who is very opposed to the project. Rod told Jamie that he doesn't think people will want to come to the kitchen Jamie set up for free cooking lessons. As a response, Jamie said if he could get 1,000 people to come through the kitchen in 5 days time, the deejay would finally have to start backing Jamie's project (and buy him a beer, of course).

A thousand people in 5 days is a lot. So, along with going on a variety of TV and radio programs to help promote Jamie's Kitchen, Jamie set up a flash mob at local Marshall University. A flash mob is where a group of people collaboratively do something out of the ordinary in an ordinary setting. In this case, in the middle of campus among unsuspecting people gathering and walking around the center of campus, the flash mob busted out a choreographed dance making stir-fry. It was awesome.

During the week Jamie then set up a cook-a-thon where he had people out in the streets cooking stir-fry. He visited local factories where he taught workers how to cook in the middle of work.

"One person cannot change 50,000 people in the town of Huntington." - Rod Willis.

When Jamie came about 200 people shy of his goal, he turned to Rod Willis to help him reach his goal. To try to convince Rod to help, Jamie took him to a local funeral parlor. It was crazy. You never really think about what happens to obese people when they die. This segment was a real eye opener. With the increase in obesity, casket makers have had to expand their business to create, essentially, double-wide caskets. The morticians at the funeral home said because of their size, morbidly obese people cannot be cremated and to carry the casket, it has to go on a flatbed truck. That's for sure not the way I want to exit this world. "It ain't about cooking lettuce, the Food Revolution is about saving lives." Jamie said to Rod after leaving.

Jamie's plan worked. During the last day, Rod showed up to Jamie's Kitchen to help reach 1,000 people cooking. Rod finally broke down and said, "I've come to realize that it's not about Jamie Oliver any more, it's about us as a community."

If you haven't checked out the show, you can catch up with old episodes on or tune in at 9pm on Fridays on ABC.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Food Revolution

While I do write quite a bit about such unhealthy foods as burgers, hot dogs, fair food and of course bacon, when it comes to my normal everyday eating habits, my choices tend to be fairly healthy. In fact, my lunch today consisted of rotisserie chicken, broccoli, a slice of whole grain bread and a glass of nonfat milk.

As with much in life if you are frugal and smart about your spending habits, you are able to indulge in larger items from time to time -- a new pair of shoes, a piece of furniture for your house or maybe even a vacation. It's the same for food. If you maintain a relatively healthy eating pattern for most of the week, you should be able to indulge in the delicious, not-so-healthy food from time to time.

I'm a little slow on the uptake, but today I watched the first episode of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolutions, which runs at 9pm, Friday nights on ABC. After the first few minutes I was totally hooked. The premise of the show is that British chef Jamie Oliver goes to Huntington, West Virginia, called the most unhealthy city in America, with the goal of showing people that it doesn't cost any more, nor take more effort, for people to eat more healthy.

In the first episode, Jaime goes into an elementary school to observe what the children are eating and how the workers are preparing. His visit, however, came after stopping by a local radio station to talk about his goals for this experiment. The disc jockey was very against the whole idea. "We don't want to sit around and eat lettuce all day. You come to town and you say you're going to change our menus and stuff. I just don't think you should just come in here and tell us what to do. I mean who made you the king?" said DJ Rod Willis.

It's funny to me that this guy's view of eating healthy is to sit around eating lettuce. I don't think it would be much of a revolution to come into a town and tell everyone that all they're allowed to eat is salad. That's absurd.

Following that radio station visit Jamie shows up at the school. The scene was disturbing. Children were eating their morning meal of pizza. Seriously, pizza for breakfast provided by school officials? I don't think I learned about pizza for breakfast until I woke up from a late night study session in college and there was nothing else available as I ran out of my room to get to class. The school scenes only got worse. Chicken nuggets, frozen this and that, and a whole load of foods with countless added preservatives. Another thing that alarmed me was the amount of food the kids throw away.

Aside from the elementary school, Jamie visited a local family. Everyone in the family -- mom, two boys and one daughter -- were obese. The father was a trucker and wasn't seen in this episode. The 12-year-old son looked older than the 16-year-old son. Jamie took the family's receipts from the past week then took all of the food the family had purchased, prepared it and displayed it on the kitchen table in one big heap. It was disgusting to look at.

Jamie told the mom that by serving her children that food, she was shaving years off her children's lives. She broke down and said, "I'm killing my children." No arguments from Jamie. Everything on the table was processed, fried and full of fat. There were no fruits and the only vegetable was potatoes. As a symbol of moving forward, Jamie and the family buried the fryer in the backyard.

During the whole show Jamie was met with resistance (other than the family, who seemed to realize there was a problem and were willing to work toward making a change). There was an extremely negative article written in the town paper, resistance came from the kitchen workers, principal and other administrators, and of course, when given the choice between pizza or freshly made chicken, even the kids resisted the idea of healthier food in their lives.

I am very curious to see where this experiment leads. I hope Jamie's work can help plant the seed of change for a more healthy America.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter leftovers

I spent Easter with my boyfriend's family yesterday. His mom was out of town visiting family and friends, so his dad took the driver's seat on Easter lunch. The spread was amazing. There was a fantastic meat lasagna that is his mom's signature Italian dish (his dad was given very precise step-by-step instructions on how to make it), a honey-baked ham, green beans with toasted almonds, mashed potatoes, salad and bread. With only four of us eating the food there were quite a few leftovers. While my boyfriend claimed much of the lasagna, I managed to escape with some of the ham.

Here's what I did with my Easter leftovers today.

I bought some pre-made herb ravioli with spinach and cheese. I boiled these for 4-5 minutes, while those were cooking I diced one slice of the ham into small squares and cooked them in a pan with about a teaspoon of olive oil.

After I drained the ravioli I added them to the pan with the ham. While those two heated, I steamed about a half a cup of broccoli with lemon pepper on top.

While the ravioli and ham is cooking, add a teaspoon of lemon juice and the zest of half a lemon. Continue heating for about five minutes.

Remove ravioli and broccoli from heat and combine both in a bowl and give it a toss. Squeeze a little more lemon juice over the top of everything. Grate about a teaspoon of fresh Parmesan cheese on top. Enjoy.

Obviously this made only one serving, but can easily be increased for larger portions.

I ate my lunch today while watching the movie New York, I Love You. This is one of those movies that seems to be the who's who when it comes to actors that are involved. From Natalie Portman and Bradly Cooper to James Caan and Cloris Leachman. When you see films with so many familiar names you expect big things. To me, this sometimes tends not to be the case (A Prairie House Companion).

This movie was a collaboration of multiple short stories rolled into one that displayed the many lives and relationships that make New York, New York. Now, I love New York. It's a fantastic city that is always alive with something new. I thought the movie was cute, but not fantastic. It didn't enhance my view of the Big Apple, but I'd say it was worth the peak.