Thursday, May 26, 2011

Race in America

This is a topic very close to my heart.  Race is such a touchy subject.  I know race is a social construct and I know that it was all a sham.  I believe such a thing as white privilege exists and I believe that we are all "created" equally - however you believe we were created.

Recently, there was an article published in Psychology Today online called, "Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive?" For one, that question in and of itself is racially inclined.  I stumbled upon a blog post from Sam Sommers, PhD in response to the article.  You can read it here.

The article has since been removed from Psychology Today's site and has already created a petition to get PT to respond to the outrage from posting the article.  Now, I agree it may not have been in the best interest of the people at PT to allow such an article to be posted, but without having read the article, I can't really speak to it's content.  The whole idea of Race in America is so construed.  It's an ideology that was created by the majority around the 1690s; in other words, the old white men who wanted to make sure they didn't have to compete for the resources here in the new world with people who could be "labeled" as different because it was easier to do so due to the color of their skin.  Pretty sad.

This will not be my only post on this topic.  It's a topic that is evergreen and will always raise opinions and shouts from the peanut gallery.

Racism is something everyone who is alive today in America was raised with, socialized into and has been a part of at some time, whether you are aware of it or not.  Slowly things are changing and people are coming to the realization that racism no longer needs to dictate the actions of education, politics and advertising...a bit too slowly for some of us.  The unfortunate thing is that racism has become so institutionalized in our country that it has reached beyond our borders.

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There is something myself, as a white person, had to confront...I am privileged primarily because of my skin color.  For as non-discriminating and non-racist as I am, there are things that have been socialized into our subconscious that we don't even realize.  If you watched television commercials from even a few years ago, it's a prime example.  More so now, though, I see people of all colors depicted.  We can't truly count on commercials as a measure of the collective conscious, however.  Commercials are made by people trying to sell things to consumers and more and more lately, consumers come in all colors and sizes.  Diversity is everywhere.  Yet, there are still articles being posted about how black women are less attractive.  Only if you believe the pseudo-science and the idiots that wrote The Bell Curve.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Dinner, again?

So, I've never been the kind of person that thinks about what to have for dinner AHEAD of time.  My husband used to ask me all the time, "What should we have for dinner tonight?"  I'd think to myself, 'We just had breakfast!'...but this is the way my husband was raised: dinners were pretty regular for him growing up.  For me, not so much.  I went out to eat a lot with my family, particularly after my mom went back to school for her Master's degree when I was seven.  Life was about convenience and what was easy.  I remember a lot of Arby's and Piccolos, this Italian/Mexican restaurant down the street.  My dad wasn't much of a cook, so we ate a lot of rice and beans, microwave meals (once we finally bought a microwave from a yard sale down the street) and lentil pilaf.

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I can't even recall a time when I cooked a full meal when I lived on my own after high school, while I was going to the state college in Denver.  I ate a lot of Top Ramen and macaroni and cheese.  Oh, and I drank a lot of orange juice.  Let's just say I didn't have the healthiest diet.  What I lacked in cooking skills I made up for in waiting tables at restaurants with good food.  Which led me to my husband.  He was in culinary school and we clicked.  Now, he worked a lot and so did I.  When we were home together, he made dinner.  Then came babies, and I still didn't know how to cook.  Many a mid-day argument ensued over the fact that I couldn't really think of what to have for dinner, let alone prepare it.

Well, thankfully that has changed, much to my husband's appreciation.  My desire to learn how to cook has grown.  My allergies as well as my daughter's soy and dairy intolerance as an infant made for adventures in cooking.  My father-in-law said it best in the beginning, after I'd make something to accommodate both my daughter and I.  I would say, "Try this, it's dairy-free, soy-free, and gluten-free!" and he'd chime in with, "and taste-free?"  Well, after many attempts at what I love ~ baking cookies and cakes, I have found success!  I have also discovered a desire to make good, nutritious meals for my family.  My husband worked two  jobs, days and nights for five months before we moved back to San Diego from the DC area and I had to prepare dinner five nights a week.  Let's just say that with a bit of inspiration from my mother-in-law (who worked full-time and cooked every night for a family of five, then cooked every night for us when we stayed there) and our cookbooks and gluten-free blogs, I only ordered out a handful of times!

Now, I cook a few times a week and contribute to many of our evening meal ideas.  I feel more like a cook than I ever did, though I still take hours to make my meals and my timing is still not so great.  Most of our meals are gluten-free, many are dairy-free (no butter at all really), and all are full of fresh veggies and nutritious ingredients.  Sure we eat out sometimes and order pizza occasionally for the kids - I get an antipasto salad.

Scrumptiously delicious GF chicken and dumplings
What I love more than making meals for my family, is when my husband and I get to make meals together.  A prime example of this, is our recent collaboration on gluten-free chicken and dumplings.  I must say, they turned out fabulously!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Pictures can be deceiving

Ah, the pictures in the cookbooks can be so deceiving and they really truly are either "staged" or photo shopped...I swear.  My cooking never turns out like the pictures.  Most of my dishes come out looking like limp versions of the photos.  However, I am getting better at the whole presentation thing.

Here is the photo from the cookbook:

  Here is my finished product:

So, lighting aside, and minus the fancy-schmancy plates, they look pretty similar.  Tasted pretty darn good too.  I am no gourmand and I don't have any technique but I can say that I'm trying to make more tasty meals that my kids will eat.  I am not Martha Stewart or even Rachel Ray...just a mom with a mission - to make sure my kids grow up healthy, eating right and getting the best variety of foods possible.  We are capable of making our children well-rounded eaters and lovers of all kinds of food.  "Food explorers" is what my mom always called us.  We tried everything.  I'm proud to say my children eat their vegetables, fruits, liverwurst (my daughters' favorite), and they are willing to try anything.  I also must admit that in the spirit of being food explorers we've accidentally turned our son into a sushi lover.  Whenever we ask him what he'd like for dinner his answer is more often than not, "Sushi!"

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Gluten-free Foodie

I must admit, I've always loved food.  Eating food is and has been one of my favorite pastimes.  Now, cooking the food, not so much.  Which is why the running joke is "That's why I married a chef!"  I have always been a better baker than a cook.  I make a mean spaghetti and meatballs and I've gotten quite good at making quiche; but still, my abilities as a honest-to-goodness cook are lacking.

No wheat, oats, barley, gluten or rye!

To make matters more interesting, I am gluten-intolerant.  I was born this way, as was my brother.  It wasn't until after my brother was born and had a more severe reaction that my mother realized I had the same intolerance.  For quite some time in my adolescence I was able to tolerate some gluten and didn't follow a gluten-free diet at all.  Needless to say, I probably should have.  After my son was born I had the hardest time with my gut.  I had to call in sick to work because I was in so much pain.  My brother suggested I cut out gluten for six weeks - ta da!  Lost that extra 20 pounds of baby weight and felt better than I had in a year!  Five years later and I'm still working out the kinks.

I have some great gluten-free cookbooks that give me ideas and inspirations.  Bette Hagman has a great book for beginners and I like my Incredibly Easy Gluten-Free Recipes book that I picked up while pounding the pavement for a job in DC.  Tonight, I am attempting Orange-Almond Chicken.  I don't cook all that often, much to the chagrin of my husband, but I am trying to make a greater effort.  My dishes don't usually turn out like the pictures in the book and they tend to be slightly under-seasoned.  I'm working on that too.  Baking however, as my passion, I've put a bit more effort into.  So, here I plan on sharing a few of my favorite things.

(Not mine by the way)
First, one thing that I have successfully mastered in the gluten-free baking department: pancakes!!

Here's my recipe:

1/2 c. brown rice flour
1/2 c. white rice flour
1/4 c. sorghum flour
1/4 c. potato starch
2 teaspoons tapioca starch
3 T sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 extra large eggs
1 c. milk (I use rice milk)
3 T vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Whisk dry ingredients together, add wet ingredients and mix until smooth.  Heat skillet on medium heat, when hot coat with non-stick spray.  Use 1/4 c. of batter for each pancake, wait until bubbles form on top then flip.  Enjoy!!

I love these pancakes and so do my kids.  I make a batch and the kids have four to six apiece and I put the rest of the batter in squeeze bottles, put plastic over the tops and the batter keeps in the fridge for about three days.  It's better than the store bought mixes and cheaper too!  It may seem like it's a lot of different flours, but I assure you, all five are worth it.  

Now, to tackle my Orange-Almond Chicken for tonight.  I've never been a fan of touching raw chicken, but I gotta do what I've gotta do!  Stay tuned for the results and a picture to picture comparison...

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

I think I always wanted to be a mother, even before I knew what it meant (or took, for that matter) to be a mom.  When my parents used to ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said, "A mommy!"  I thought being a mom was the coolest thing in the world.  My mom used to tease me and say that she learned things in "Mom School."  I believed this so wholeheartedly that I even told friends I was going to Mom School for college.  I was in elementary school, so who could blame me for believing that there truly was a Mom School.

The moment a child is born, the mother is also born.  She never existed before.  The woman existed, but the mother, never.  A mother is something absolutely new.  ~Rajneesh
I don't think that I ever was really prepared for what motherhood truly encompassed.  You fear more, you worry, you love harder, you think of things you never would have considered before.  It's an amazing thing, being a mom.  We have this great responsibility and have to care for, love, protect and nourish until they are...well, until you aren't able to any longer.  18 is no longer the cut-off, we have to serve as a family unit, looking out for one another at unlikely times and in times of need, for the rest of our lives.

All women become like their mothers.  That is their tragedy.  No man does.  That's his.  ~Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest, 1895 
Though my mother is very different from my mother-in-law, I see many commonalities.  Regardless of their differences, they are responsible for the person I am and for the person my husband is.  I am thankful for the man my husband is because I think he makes me a better mother.

So I reflect and lament on this Mother's Day, as my son finishes his first year of school and my daughter sits at the edge of turning four.  Being a mom is hard work, a full-time job; no one can truly tell you how it's done or give you a manual.  So I am learning as I go, with the wisdom from my very own Obi Wan Kanobi and the help of my best friend.  Though there are many nights I lie awake wondering, "Have I totally screwed things up?" there are more days that I can sit back and say, "So far, so good." 

Saturday, May 7, 2011

First Things First

So after much mulling over, I've decided to start blogging.  Not because I've deemed myself all important, I just have some important things to say.

I'm a wife and a mom, I write grants for a small non-profit in DC that helps low-income families become more self-sufficient.  I am also gluten-intolerant, which makes cooking meals in my house a bit more tricky and interesting.  I pay attention to politics because I believe that you can't complain about the system unless you participate in the system.  I love my children and I want the best in life for them.  I am an active participant in my son's school and plan on keeping it like that until my daughter graduates.  I don't really do PTA, though, there's only so much I can do.  I am a very lucky wife - my husband is a chef and makes the most incredible meals!  I'm working on the whole cooking thing myself...I must say, I'm getting better.

I am a sociologist at heart. I have a degree in Sociology and I studied social problems and poverty in college not necessarily because I wanted to write research papers and be published, but because I am fascinated with human behavior and society itself.  I see things that amaze me about ourselves, our nation and our society itself.

curtesy of

I believe our children are our future, as corny as that may's a true fact we really can't navigate around with politics, fancy Hollywood movies, pundits, and wars.  Education is probably the most important and the most under-funded institution in this country.  There will be a point at which our children wont be able to compete in a "global economy" because we've left them in dust.  But, without a voice in politics, they might as well resort to trade schools and retail.  I vow to give my children a voice and make sure I make it a loud one!

Now, posts may come from my heart, my mind or just the bottom of my shoe - cause there is some stuff that I end up stepping in that I find worth sharing.

I do hope to make things entertaining...a bit of this, a bit of that, an occasional gluten-free recipe or tid bit from my amazing chef husband.  It may not be brilliant or inspiring, but it just may be...Reid Me! to find out.