Friday, June 25, 2010

More on Ethical Eating: "Recipe Adapted"

An addendum on sinful/ethical eating, this time on recipe plagiarism.

The story of sharing the recipe for Real Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies.

One of my college buddies wrote about the blatant recipe plagiarism she encountered in her efforts to make a homemade version of the Girl Scouts' famous Samoa cookies.

this post is really about homemade samoas, a recipe that i noticed popping up on the blogs a few weeks ago. but first (first?!), a digression about that label on so many blog recipes: "recipe adapted from." for the samoas, i used graham crackers as a base that i saw a photo of on somebody's blog. it turns out that that person had posted the recipe as being adapted from heidi's recipe over at 101cookbooks. i was curious, and went through the recipes side-by-side. well, readers, these recipes were exactly the same, word for word. that's simply not ok.

Last night I made some fresh mint chocolate chip cookies, according to a recipe I found on the now-defunct Cookie Blog, which is currently the National Cookie Network. That blog linked to the recipe in this post on Montcarte, a Montreal-based food blog. Montcarte says the recipe is "adapted from Eatpress."

The recipes are the same. There was no adaptation, just simple cut'n'paste. Changing parentheticals or cookie forming methods doesn't count as adaptation in my book. While I'm glad that Montcarte had the courtesy of linking to the Eatpress source, there was no need to have reposted the exact same recipe with a parenthetical modification on how finely to chop the mint leaves.

Anyway, yeah, Real Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies. I'm linking to the original Eatpress recipe from now on.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ethical Eating

This morning on Episcopal Cafe I read this little ditty by Ellen Painter Dollar, ”Should Christians Have Second Helpings?”

It begins:

Some years ago, I made a spinach and bacon quiche to serve for New Year’s Day breakfast. It was loaded with butter and cheese (not to mention salty pork fat—yum), and boy, was it good. Some friends were visiting from out of town, and as one contemplated whether to go for seconds, he wondered aloud which is the proper way to approach dietary indulgence as Christians. Should we exercise tight control, understanding that our body is a temple and that one does not smear temples with butter, cheese, and bacon? Or should we go for the gusto, knowing that this earthly life, the one we navigate from within these mortal bodies, is neither the whole story nor even the most important part of the story? If we’re all going to die and be with Jesus anyway, what does a few more grams of fat matter?

What would Jesus do? Well, Jesus was a good Jew and probably wouldn’t have eaten the spinach and BACON quiche in the first place.

The article covers the personal ethics of eating. The message I’m taking away from the article is that we have this lovely thing called free will that lets us choose for ourselves that healthy moderation between the extremes of fast food and militant veganism.

The article does not cover the bigger issue of eating ethically sourced food. Let’s look at that spinach and bacon quiche again. Did that bacon come from a happy pig? Did the milk and cheese come from a happy dairy cow? Are those eggs from pasture-raised chickens? Is that organic spinach? Was it picked by some grossly underpaid migrant worker? Do the respective farms use sustainable methods? Are they responsible employers?

This past Lent I gave up unethical meat. I was mostly vegetarian, which is easy because burritos and Indian food are relatively easy to find. Taqueria Cancun makes a mean vegetarian burrito, and Indian food is quite possibly the best vegetarian food in the world. Every so often, I would splurge on a medium-rare, happy burger of Niman Ranch beef from grass-fed cows. Even after Easter, I bought a Gleason Ranch pasture-raised chicken to make my signature chicken adobo. I still have some organic duck legs in a vat of fat in the fridge. I even discovered Tataki, a sustainable sushi restaurant! That was the first sushi place I’ve been to where I did not share!

All in all, it really wasn’t that difficult to give up unethical meat. The prices of happy meat made the carnivore meals that much more special. Besides, we shouldn’t be eating a lot of meat anyway. A recent UN report says that a global move towards vegan diets can save the planet; one vegan day a week would make a significant dent in the food industry’s impact on climate change. Catholics have been doing pescatarian Fridays for ages (just Fridays during Lent nowadays, but back in the day it used to be all Fridays). The Board of Supervisors in San Francisco unanimously passed a resolution for meatless Mondays in the city, as if they had nothing better to legislate.

Ethical eating encompasses not only responsibility towards our individual health, but also responsibility to our communities and to our planetary home.

That said, last night I made some sweet potato gnocchi with a sinfully delicious sauce of butter, garlic, sage, walnuts, and lemon! Hey, it’s not an everyday thing. My ingredients were also organic and local, or at least supportive of some local business.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi in Garlic-Sage-Butter Sauce

For the gnocchi:
1 sweet potato, baked and peeled
1 cup chickpea flour (provides protein for a somewhat well-balanced meal)
~1/2 cup all-purpose flour

For the sauce:
6 Tbsp butter (or I guess I could have used olive oil, which is healthier)
6 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp dried sage
1/4 cup walnut pieces
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Gnocchi: Bake a sweet potato (poke a few holes in it, wrap in foil, bake for 1 hour at 425 degrees Fahrenheit). Peel the skin off, and mash. Add chickpea flour in quarter-cup increments. Sprinkle in the all-purpose flour until it all comes together into a workable dough. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil. Dust your hands with flour, and dust your work surface with flour. Section the dough into quarters. Roll a section into a log about 1” to 1.5” diameter. Cut the log into ~3/4” sections. Repeat for the rest of the dough. Working in batches, drop the gnocchi into boiling water. When the float, they’re done. Transfer the floaters to a bowl.

Sauce: Melt the butter (or heat the olive oil) over a low flame. Add the minced garlic and cook slowly, about 5 minutes. Add the sage and walnuts. When it’s all heated through and aromatic, turn off the heat and add the lemon juice. Season to taste.

Pour the sauce over the warm gnocchi and enjoy!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Stuff my Mormon co-worker says

In the spirit of Shit My Dad Says--which I just found out has not only a book, but also an upcoming TV pilot starring William Shatner--I found this recent gaffe by my Mormon co-worker absolutely hilarious.

Let's set the scene. Our little workgroup of seven got together for a farewell brunch for our Mormon co-worker. We were sitting around a table on the sunny patio of a neighborhood French cafe-restaurant. We had been talking about healthcare, which inevitably morphs into a discussion on haves and have-nots, a stratified social class structure, and upward mobility or lack thereof.

About upward mobility through one's own hard work, the Mormon turned to my friend--who is Japanese-American, self-proclaimed delinquent punk, and former biker dude--and said, "I really appreciate your culture."

My ears perked up. I was pretty certain we were on a collision course with wackiness.

The ex-biker was taken aback and said, "Dude, I was born in New York!"

"No, no, I mean Asians in general," said the Mormon, trying to clarify his words and save face. He continued and said something to the effect of, "You know, the boat people work really hard, get good grades."


He said, "boat people."

There was a collective jaw drop, an uneasy shifting in our seats, and a general air of "holy shit." We're all from vastly different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Living in and near San Francisco in these times, we expect certain levels of political correctness.

He said it in his usual disarmingly nice manner. There was no way he meant in maliciously; he was trying to compliment my people, I guess. But man, he just said it so nonchalantly, as if it were a perfectly normal and acceptable term.

I thought this was hilarious! His clueless delivery made it really easy to shove his entire foot in his mouth.

"Man," I said between chuckles, "just keep on cranking open that can of worms."

"Well, yeah, my dad did come over on a boat," the ex-biker said. "For his Fulbright!"

I don't know why I wasn't completely offended this time. Maybe it's because I know that it's probably more ignorance than malice. Plus, I've been keeping a mental collection of the ridiculous/offensive/suggestive things he has said.

Anyway, that's what we were all buzzing about when we got back to the lab. Shit Our Mormon Co-Worker Says.

And we started referring to each other as FBP, Fellow Boat People.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

quote of the day

"What's that spaghetti version of time? String theory!" --Susan Hellauer, of the Anonymous 4, regarding the pre-existence of Christ, as explained in the beginning of the Gospel of John.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Hutterites or Mennonites next door

I think I just saw some Hutterites at the hospital next door as I went to get my pre-work coffee. There was one aggie-looking man in a straw hat, walking with two ladies in long blue skirts, matching jackets, and kerchiefs in black with white polka dots.

From a trucker's description of Hutterites:

Hutterites are a communal people, living on scattered bruderhöfe or colonies throughout the prairies in North America. This communal lifestyle finds its roots in the biblical teachings of Christ and the Apostles. Emerging as a distinct culture and religious group in the early 16th century, this non-resistant Anabaptist sect endured great persecution and death at the hands of the state and church in Early Modern Europe period. However, the Hand of God remained on the shoulder of these people, and their descendents survived to battle on to this very day.

[. . .]

Hutterites live on large, mechanized communal farms that are formed as clones of established colonies.

[. . .]

The Hutterite worldview is based on respect for the authority of God. God has established a hierarchy of relationships, with the lower always obeying the higher—the younger person obeys the older, the woman the man, and man obeys God. They feel that the individual will must be broken—people should accept self-denial rather than self-fulfillment. But individuals are never secure before God—only their daily behavior gives them security, not their baptism or verbal affirmations. Since the will of God is expressed through the decisions of the community, the individual must be obedient to group will. Communal living is God's order, and private possessions express man's greed.

I have no clue if there are Hutterite colonies in Calfornia. Perhaps the people I saw were Mennonites. Hutterites don't exactly have a large web presence, after all, so it's not like I can just look that up online.

The only reason I recognized them as probably Hutterites is that I'm reading this book called I Am Hutterite (Amazon), by Mary-Ann Kirkby. This memoir chronicles her family, who left a Hutterite colony--which is a Big Deal--and faced a lot of culture shock to make it in the "real world." It's a fascinating book that I'd be reading more quickly if I weren't riding my bike to and from work on most days.

So far, the book has somewhat reaffirmed my romanticized view of agricultural, communal life that incorporates God into everyday tasks. When the colony works well together, even when the weather screws up the crops, life is pretty good.

But the book also mentions the mismanagement of a colony started by an ambitious dictator-like zealot. That just goes to show you that ambitious assholes are everywhere, even in peace-loving religious communities.

I don't exactly agree with the Hutterites' hierarchy of relationships. Using religion to stratify people is wrong. The Hutterites' principle of self-denial applies to the highest in the social ladder, too. It's easy to forget that in our society so focused on the American Dream of an individual's upward mobility through hard work, driven by the Puritan work ethic.

Anyway, I'm very much enjoying this book. Seeing those Hutterites this morning reminds me that I should read more often.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


I got a new phone!

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I got a new phone!

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