Today is February 26th, there are 3 days left before March arrives. I have spent just about every day this month thinking, researching, and then overthinking how to honor Black History Month. We live in a city of diversity, a city famous for its role in our country’s African American history. As an Oakland native and voice representing things I love about Oakland, I knew Oakland’s critical role in black history was an important topic which I was excited to tackle. However, I struggled with how to do it “correctly”.
There is something nostalgic about a cafe tucked into the back corner of a local market. It feels reminiscent of times when the local general store offered a lunch counter to stop and enjoy a quick bite, or a fountain shop to grab a scoop or two. Grocery shopping used to be less of a chore, but part of a daily routine; taking time to grab ingredients for the evening meal, saying hello to neighbors, stopping for a cup of coffee. So many cultures around the world still treat shopping this way. I think of grocery shopping as a tedious task I try to get through as fast as I can. As our culture sees a shift towards local, sustainable, organic, and small producers, a secondary movement is taking hold, reviving the corner market in an refreshing way. Just across the historic Leimert Bridge in the Oakmore Neighborhood of Oakland, Rocky’s Market is a great example of this shift; and just past the produce aisle, Two Local Girls is a wonderful and inviting addition.
Staircases serve a purpose. They get us from one level to another in our homes; from one floor to another in a building. They can be short or long, curved or straight, steep or gradual. Some of us use then by choice, some of us head straight for an elevator if its available. I have a love/hate relationship with stairs. I am not a fan of uphill climbing :o) The strenuous monotony that comes with putting one foot in front of the other on a steep set of stairs doesn’t typically appeal to me. However, the nostalgic notion of hidden outdoor staircases tucked in our cities hillsides, leftover from a time of streetcar suburbia, was enough motivation to get me in the car early in the morning on the President’s Day holiday. The combination of the beautiful weather, the sights, smells and sounds of spring, and the lovely hillside setting was enough to keep me moving. It was even enough to turn me around at the bottom to head back to the top.
It’s here. I purchased my first bunch of the season last week. Asparagus is a telltale sign that spring is just around the corner. Just as the daffodils have burst through our rain drenched soil to open up and smile at us, asparagus and their tender tips have popped up like little soldiers to say “Come on spring, we’re ready for you”. While the season doesn’t officially start for four more weeks, we can enjoy the combination of the sunny February days we have been blessed with, along with these crisp stalks, to remind us that spring will soon be here. Here are a few recipes and fun tidbits to help you enjoy this delicious veggie.
I saw this grain salad with asparagus and Meyer lemon on the kitchn earlier today, a perfect way to enjoy the end of the citrus season along with the arrival of asparagus.
I can’t do an inspiration board without including my favorite food blog, Smitten Kitchen. I made this simple asparagus pizza last year, and will surely be doing it again. Although I might be tempted to add an egg this time.
While looking on her site for the above, I came across this recipe for asparagus with yogurt and almonds that looks lovely.
I saw Ina Garten do this asparagus with prosciutto and egg on Barefoot Contessa one day…it looked like heaven.
Serious Eats is a great resource for all things food & cooking…they have given me these delicious ideas:
Tartine sandwiches with asparagus, ricotta and mint…yes please!
Grilled asparagus dipped in 3 different aioli options…yum!
Roast chicken with asparagus panzanella…I will admit I would probably cheat and buy a rotisserie chicken :o)
And here is 20 more…I will be trying the caesar and farro salads myself.
Asparagus and Gruyere come together in tart form in several places on the web, but they all seem to be descendants of Martha’s version.
Lets make sure we also cover off some very important questions and facts:
Do you peel your asparagus? I don’t. According to this survey, I am in the majority.
Do you snap the ends off, or not? I do…some say you loose too much of the stalk that way. According to The New York Times, you can still be left with tough, stringy ends if you snap. They recommend cutting 6-7 inches down from the tip. To me, it’s just too fun, and too easy.
According to this article in Smithsonian Magazine, even Benjamin Franklin commented on this strange side effect of eating asparagus back in 1781. Just why, oh why, does it make our pee smell? I always assumed it happened to everyone. Eating just one stalk does it to me. However, I guess some folks are spared.
And just for fun…
Etsy and eBay are full of vintage French asparagus plates. How “French” is it that they have special plates just for asparagus? If I could afford it, and had the space, I would be all over this set. The color is gorgeous.
Maybe I will just take this cute vintage french crate label instead… :o)
Top Row (from left to right): Daffodil – TANAKA Juuyoh via flickr / Wild Daffodils – Vince Alongi via flickr / asparagus – liz west via flickr
Middle Row (from left to right): asparagus – liz west via flickr / Asparagus – Michael Leland via flickr / Daffodils – Keith Todd via flickr
Bottom Row (from left to right): white and orange daffodil, taken by my wife – Martin LaBar via flickr / Daffodils in Spring Sunset – Nic Taylor via flickr / Asparagus – Steve Cavrich via flickr
Continuing my romantic and nostalgic tribute to Mother’s Cookies today with a sweet filled trip down memory lane to recreate my favorite types of Mother’s Cookies in my own kitchen. My floor is specked with rainbow sprinkles, my counters are a bit sticky with white icing, and my shoulders are a bit tight. As I mentioned in Part 1 of my Mother’s Cookies love story, I have a hard time letting things go. I was determined to try my hand at these iconic favorites. So, when my daughter went down for her nap today I got to work and brought them to life, in my own way.
Those that know me well, know that when I lock onto something, good luck getting me to let go. It can be a blessing and a curse. I hem and haw over the littlest of things, search high and low for that perfect “something”, and often spend too much time, energy, and stress trying to bring something to fruition. Last month, when I joined the Oakland Urban Paths walk in the area of Oakland once known as the town of Brooklyn, we stopped at the old Mother’s Cookies factory. When I saw her smiling face on the iron sign now marking the live/work lofts that exist in the old brick building, I was instantly brought back to iced oatmeals and rainbow speckled circus animals. I hadn’t thought of them in years, since my childhood. I knew I had to do something to honor this local company’s history, I just didn’t know that not one, but two love stories would fall into my lap. So, in honor of Valentine’s Day, let me tell you a story…
I was born and raised in Oakland. I am the daughter of a retired 4th grade teacher who taught California History. For these reasons, I am ashamed that it has taken me this long to visit the Oakland Museum of California as an adult. I am not someone who frequently attends museums, visits have been reserved for notable ones that I have been lucky to experience on a vacation here and there. When taking time for myself locally, a great meal or some time spent outdoors are typically what I strive for. However, last Friday I was able to bring all three together in one lovely afternoon.
Classic & Kitsch. A dichotomy of words that I think defines the wonderful nature of this a once-a-year event that draws crowds in search of treasures to fill their homes and make their hearts smile. The White Elephant Sale Preview was held this past weekend on the chilly final day of January. A friend and I joined the long, winding line outside the warehouse in the Jingletown District of Oakland; huddled against the wind, drinking coffee, sharing a bagel, and taking advantage of the time to catch up sans kids. As the doors were opened we marched forward, flashed our wristbands, and parted ways; each in search of items needed, items wanted, and items to take home “just because”.