Travel

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photos from the interwebs

4.1.14 Make Peace

As I write this, there are two tiny ants crawling around on my desk: proof positive that the world is waking up and spring is imminent. I heard the low trill of an Eastern screech owl the other morning and witnessed four robins sprinting across the lawn. There have already been rumored sightings of bears. Soon the frogs will come out of their deep thaw and the woodland orgies will commence. Tempers can run hot at this time of year, as even emotions lie dormant and come bubbling up as we begin to move and shake our creaky limbs. Be gentle with yourself, and with others. Stretch. Stimulate your blood flow by taking a natural bristle brush or a dry loofah and brushing your skin in long strokes toward the heart. Lighten the load on your organs (especially the liver and gall bladder) by eating fewer processed foods and meat and increasing your intake of greens, especially the bitter ones like dandelion and the chicories.

I was lucky enough to jumpstart my seasonal transition with a few days at Kripalu, a wonderful yoga and wellness center in Lenox, Mass. I've been there several times and really appreciate all it has to offer: yoga, massage, hiking, meditation, privacy, community and delicious, healthy food. As it happened, my reading for the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers took place there on the last day of my stay, so it was incredibly serendipitous and convenient.
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kissing cousins

2.20.14 City Mouse

About once a week, the Glutton and consort abandon their coveralls and shit-kickers, their nature walks and woodpiles, for the hustle and bustle of the big city. How else can we keep up with all the important goings-on and connect with the clients who make this rural existence possible? A mere two-hour drive southeast and we enter another world, far removed from our daily existence and yet deeply familiar—after 25 years of living in Manhattan, it's in my blood. My life is utterly changed from when I used to inhabit those mean streets, and I truly do prefer our little country cottage, but I can still appreciate all the city has to offer. It's actually been hard for me to relinquish that sense of being so plugged in to the latest restaurants, the new boutiques, the exhibits and plays that are the cultutral currency of a true New Yorker. I can't help imagining myself as both country mouse and city mouse.

You remember that children's story, right? Beguiled by his sophisticated city cousin’s amazing tales, the country mouse ventures into town. But his cousin has neglected to mention the deafening noise, the frighteningly tall buildings and those dangerous dogs! The city presents a spectacle at once gorgeous and disturbing. In the end, the reader comes to understand why the city mouse loves his exciting life and why the country mouse is content with his peaceful home. With a foot in each camp, I try to make the best of both worlds.

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photos by george billard

2.12.14 La Vida Loca(vore)

Globalization means that you can buy Pringles wherever you travel. That plastic is the default material, even in the jungle. And that, no matter where you roam, a hamburger is not far away. But in rural Oaxaca, the locals have little money for these indulgences and outside influences are still regarded with suspicion. The indigenous Zapotecs live very close to how they have for centuries, farming the same crops as their ancestors and hunting and gathering in terrains virtually unchanged. It's a highly sustainable lifesytle, when avocados and pomegranates drip from the trees in your courtyard, and beans, corn and squash grow in the fields out back. A couple of goats or a cow provide milk, then cheese—the local quesillo is sort of like mozzarella—and, eventually, meat. These people don't have a lot, but they really make the most of it and they're proud of their traditions. I tried to sample as many local foods as I could, and it wasn't hard since those are what's featured in all the markets and restaurants. You don't exactly go out for Chinese when you're in Oaxaca.
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photos by george billard

2.7.14 Spirit Guide

Until you delve into the world of mezcal, it has a sort of hazy outlaw connotation, what with the worm and all. It's easy to imagine it as the drink of choice for that bad-ass bandido with the glinting gold tooth and a bandolier of ammo criss-crossed over his chest. But then you travel into the heart of artisanal mezcal terrain and you discover that this mystical spirit has a complexity akin to that of wine, with a similar display of terroir. A product of the ancient Aztecs, mezcal is thought to derive from an even older drink known as pulque, the fermented sap of the agave plant that is milky and lightly alcoholic. Once cooking and distilling entered the process, the flavor and potency of pulque were amplified into what is known as mezcal. It has been made for centuries from the many varieties of the agave plant or, as it's called in Mexico, maguey. This is not actually a cactus, but a type of succulent that includes the espadín, pictured above. During our recent trip to Oaxaca, we were lucky enough to get a glimpse into artisanal mezcal production under the tutelage of local connoisseur and scholar, Ulises Torrentera. A writer who fell in love with the mysterious poetry of small-batch mezcal, Ulises has a deep collection of carefully sourced spirits he serves at his groovy little mezcal bar in Oaxaca City, In Situ. Spending the day with him really left us in high spirits.
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photos by gluttonforlife

1.23.14 Armed & Dangerous (& January Hot Links)

I know you're probably expecting more posts about the Oaxaca trip, and I promise those are forthcoming, but my re-entry has been a little wobbly so I'm trusting you'll bear with me. Yesterday was my birthday and the evening before I hosted a "suprise" dinner party that was the final celebration of G turning 50 earlier this month. I use the quotation marks because evidently I am not as sneaky and clever as I thought. Anyway, it was a fantastic multi-course meal at Momofuku Ssam Bar that culminated with beautifully tender and crisply lacquered rotisserie ducks presented with Bibb lettuce, scallion pancakes and all the trimmings. (Incidentally, if you live in New York, the "large format" dinners that Momofuku offers are a great value and a marvelous way to dine with a big group.)

My own birthday celebration was a bit quieter, though I was inundated with love and good wishes (especially on Facebook - one great reason to join) and I was treated to a delicious lunch at the new Gotham West Market. More on that later, as well as details on my favorite present, featured above, and an assortment of links for you to explore and enjoy.
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photos by george billard

1.16.14 Valley of the Gods

Happy New Year! I have been so wanting to share with you all that we experienced on our trip, but I'm sad to report that I was felled yet again by a horrible illness almost immediately upon our return, some sort of nasty chest infection accompanied by high fever that may even have been the flu. Let me not immediately launch into telling you about the rounds of self-flagellating that went on: Why is my immune system so weak? What is wrong with me? etc. Instead, just let me say that I am now well enough to thrust myself into the new year with the gusto and optimism it deserves. 

During our glorious ten days in Mexico, we journeyed into the complex and mysterious heart of Oaxaca and discovered, with the help of knowledgeable and passionate local guides, amazingly colorful corners we would never have been able to see without this special access. It was such a rich and full vacation that I'll have to break it up into several posts so you can take it all in without feeling overwhelmed. I can't wait to go back and I'm excited to escort you there now.
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iphotos by gluttonforlife

9.4.13 Back to the Future

September has arrived and with it that bittersweet feeling full of nostalgia for the sweetness of summer, charged with anticipation for the fresh start that is fall. How I've missed you! This post will probably be a bit longer than usual because, in my month off, I have stored up so much to tell you.

I had many plans for the month of August, a long list of projects and goals. I wanted to make natural dyes. I was going to send out a survey to my readers. I had every intention of uploading all the content for the launch of my redesigned professional website. And guess what I did? None of that. Instead, I coped with having 5 herpes outbreaks in 6 weeks: a glaring sign from my body that all is not right. But your life is so perfect! you say. Country living, fresh food, walks in the woods—what could possibly be wrong? Actually, I am grateful for this wakeup call. I have clearly been pushing myself too hard, not taking the time to nurture myself and not really listening to my inner voice. You know the one. It tells us when we have reached our limit, when it is time for change.
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photos by gluttonforlife

7.17.13 July Hot Links

Last year, we took some wild garlic plants from a friend's land and planted them in our garden. They emerged, thrived and grew tall this season, producing those elegant, winding scapes that are the flower stalks of hardneck garlic plants. Instead of actually producing flowers, they eventually form small bulblets that can be planted to grow more garlic—or eaten as is, or used to infuse vinegar. That's what I did today, tossing a generous handful into a jar of organic white vinegar. I'll let it cool its heels in the pantry for a few weeks, then strain out and discard the garlic and use the vinegar for salad dressing. No vampires in this house.
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photos by gluttonforlife

6.25.13 A Good Pounding

Eight years ago, I went to visit a good friend who was living in Singapore and we traveled together to Thailand and Laos. We ogled temples, wandered through markets, rode in boats and rickshaws and on an elephant, and ate like nobody's business. At the Conrad in Bangkok, there was a mind-boggling breakfast buffet that lured us on a tour of global gluttony first thing in the morning—from delicate Chinese dim sum and Japanese tofu to Italian gelato in brioche and Indonesian waffles to buttery French croissants and cream-laden Bircher muesli (masquerading as a healthy option), not to mention every fruit imaginable and some heretofore unknown. It was the sort of start to the day that automatically predicted a nap in our future. But we also stayed in some modest little places, including along the river in Luang Prabang, where said boat trip led us into a lush forest with a waterfall and turquoise swimming hole that was a playground for local kids. Nearby, a couple of women pounded green papaya in big stone mortars to make a traditional Laotian salad, tam som, which they sold in small plastic to-go bags.
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photos by gluttonforlife

5.31.13 Orient Express

It was a sweltering day in the city yesterday but I had a bee in my bonnet about getting down to Chinatown to score some young ginger. I was so inspired by this post but I despaired of getting my hands on the right ginger, and then a Japanese friend told me the Chinatown street vendors had it. Having lived in close proximity to New York City's Chinatown in my time, I'm quite familiar with how the heat ratchets up its already heady perfume and by midday it was quite ripe. But so were the beautiful tropical fruits!

It's been two years since I was in Asia (remember?) and I yearn to traipse through sultry streets to foreign markets where unknown produce is piled high and the sweet scent of tuberose mingles with those of smoke, sweat and cooking. How amazing it is to feel like a visitor in an exotic land just walking up and down Canal Street. If you've never shopped for mangoes, yellow chives or fresh lychees down there, you must treat yourself to the experience.
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