A sad thing happened today.
Well, it started yesterday.
Nate and I went on a walk at Georgia Tech. I used to work there, but it’s been a few years and the campus has changed a lot. It was Nate’s first time exploring. The futuristic architecture, combined with an almost total lack of people anywhere (summer, between sessions) made us feel like we were on an Away Team mission to another planet.
We walked around West Campus towards Central, and made it to East before catching the Tech Trolley. We rode the full 36 minute route, just for kicks, and were deposited at one of the many, many for-profit parking lots around campus.
Walking down the steps towards our car, we gasped at a creature in our path – what looked to be a dead young bird.
Only when I scooped the creature up (because I am like this), I discovered that s/he wasn’t dead at all, just injured. We took her home and I nursed her most of the night. It went like this: I’d wrap her in a dryer-warmed fleece blanket and we’d cuddle until she woke up, and then I’d feed her blueberries one at a time. (I tried to feed her soaked cat food like the wild animal rescue suggested, but she wouldn’t have any of it.) Eating was difficult for her because one of her wings was injured and her leg, on one side, seemed completely useless. This meant she couldn’t balance, and orienting herself was struggle. When I sat a blueberry in front of her, I had to position her just so to give her a fair chance at stabbing it. She ate dozens of blueberries this way. Warm nap, blueberry snack. Warm nap, blueberry snack.
If she sounds incredibly calm, it’s because she was. She wasn’t when I first picked her up. She was scared out of her mind, flapping her useless wings frantically. I tried to drive home and let Nate hold her, but he wasn’t as confident, and she wriggled away. We had to swap seats. She didn’t love the bumpy car ride, but once home she calmed.
As it turned out, this little bird shared a common human love of being stroked on the back of the neck. I discovered it by accident – just trying it out – and watched as her eyelids gently closed. She fell asleep in my right hand. Whether this was from trauma/exhaustion or comfort with me, I can’t say. But as the hours wore on, we seemed to develop a rapport. She struggled for those berries, but she accepted my help in getting them. And when eating proved too tiresome, she folded sweetly into the blanket.
When I finally permitted myself to go to bed, I slept miserably. I dreamed of her often & woke up every hour. We had an alarm set for 8am, but after waking up for the seventh or so time, I pulled myself out of bed and went to check her box. Hesitantly I opened it, prepared to find her dead. She was positioned like every other dead bird I’ve ever found. But she wasn’t. It was just the cruel injury. Her little chest rose & fell & as she opened her eyes. I scooped her up in warm fleece and offered the blueberry breakfast. She ate twelve before it was time to go. I prayed for lucky thirteen, but twelve was her limit.
I did the right thing and took her to Atlanta Wild Animal Rescue Effort (AWARE) as soon as they opened. Nate held her on the way there. It’s a nice drive to AWARE, a non-profit that sits at the bottom of Arabia Mountain. A kind woman about my age did the intake and seemed hopeful for the little bird who I had taken to calling Scrumpkin, a portmanteau of Scrumptious + Pumpkin. We’ll just have to wait til the vet sees her, but here’s the intake number, you can call anytime today to check in and see how she’s doing. We left a fat check and lots of thanks.
When Nate called at 11:30 the vet hadn’t seen her, so there was no update. I read Bonhoeffer to distract myself & quell my nerves. Surely we’d get a good report, though, … right? When we called at 4pm, she was dead, apparently of a combination of exhaustion, stress, and hunger. They had given her Pedialyte; when they went back hours later to give her more, she was gone.
I was furious. Of course they didn’t do enough to save her! They didn’t sit with her, holding her head just so to give her the best chance at grabbing a blueberry! They didn’t know how hard she fought for each of those blueberries, or how she relished each one she got! Of course she wasn’t eating, she needed special care! She was the equivalent of an ICU patient put into a general ward. How dare they!
I fumed for an hour or so, hating myself for taking her there, blaming myself for not (illegally) keeping her longer to nurse her and give her the attention she deserved, for not saying or doing enough. But after a few hours and tears to the point of exhaustion, I’ve stopped blaming everyone, self included. (Er, I’m working on it.) Looking back, I can see that she was not well. She was eating less, and less enthusiastically, and was sleeping more. If anything, she was hanging on due to my extremely diligent, passionate care – the outrageous regimen of hours of freshly-warmed blankets and hand-fed organic blueberries. If anyone ever heard my prayers, it was her – to live!
And yet the last assault on a creature’s dignity is not death itself, but to die unnoticed, unloved. Death itself is unspectacular: we all must die. As much as I wanted her to live, it would have been enough for her to die surrounded by love and comfort. My only regret about taking her anywhere was knowing I didn’t get to spend those final moments with her. When I found her, she was lying on concrete in the full sun in the hottest part of the day, surrounded by insects. She could have expired there. Instead, she was swaddled and fed a favorite treat.
It was all I could do. It was the least I could do.
Nate has, of course, been wonderful. He let me cry, vent, get angry, get sad, get angry, get sad again. He’s treated the sudden crying jags with utmost respect and tenderness. Not that I let myself get too mopey. I have a hard time with this stuff because death isn’t usually the sort of thing that triggers tears. Life lived – well or otherwise – does that. He’s been so gentle and understanding. Even though he’s not feeling all that great either, he made dinner – his famous made-me-like-no-LOVE-turnips dish with kale and lotsa garlic. Recipe coming soon.
And now he’s making cookies. His first ever (as in ever in his life!) batch o’ chocolate chips.
Thank you, sweet one. And thanks to all of you out there reading, offering virtual hugs and condolences. Thank you for all you do for the animals.
…yes… I am officially working on a post about my week in Portland!
I was in the fair rainy city Saturday May 11 through Saturday May 18. I got to eat at all the best places – Blossoming Lotus, Los Gorditos, Whiffies, DC Vegetarian, Homegrown Smoker, and many, many more. I even treated myself to a couple of rare cocktails.
I’ll share it all, with too many pictures, very soon. I promise.
One of my new year’s resolutions was to read “more”, which I think means finish books more often. Hello, my name is Adrienne and I have a hard time finishing what I start. As far as I can tell, this is a product of two factors: 1) I read way too fast and 2) I’m willing to read just about anything. My life is constantly picking up random books, reading them, maybe finishing them, maybe not.
When I love something I gobble it up in an afternoon. A 300-page book reads like a leisurely lunch, only the words themselves are consumed at a breakneck pace. As I turn the final pages, I’m left feeling empty instead of full – as in, shouldn’t I have drawn that out a bit?! Most recently I felt that way after spending an afternoon with Mindy Kaling’s memoir. I just didn’t want to stay goodbye. I also have a silly habit of reading the last few pages reeeeaaally sloooowly, as if suddenly putting the breaks on is going to change the fact that I just flew through a really great read.
I also read a lot of humor. What can I say, I like to chuckle.
If I start something and can’t finish it right away (something comes up, dinner needs to be cooked, it’s already 2am), I too often put my book down never to return. So became of Rushdie’s Satanic Verses last summer. I believe I was well into the 360s when I stopped, and I haven’t seen it since.
So I’ve been working on finishing books, with some degree of success. Here’s the motley crew of 2013, in rough order. Take special note of the unfinisheds. If it seems like a lot, just keep in mind that there are many fewer than this time last year!
The Extra Man: A Novel by Jonathan Ames – first book of the year. Very funny. Chronicles the unlikely acquaintanceship of an older one and a younger one, both of whom are still figuring things out and getting by as best they can, too often by the kindness of others, in a dirty little apartment in NYC. Picked it up at a record store in New Paltz when I was there for Christmas because Ames’ name sounded familiar (I absolutely adore “Bored to Death“.) Every night for a week.
Letters to a Fellow Seeker by Steve Chase. Read for Atlanta Friends Meeting Adult First Day School. Very good introduction to Quakerism for those interested. Great take on modern Quaker life and thought. Very short (98 pages), so read it! Afternoon.
Good Mail Day: A Primer for Making Eye-Popping Postal Art by Jennie Hinchcliff – a gift from my very good friend and bestest ever penpal Danielle. The first time I read it I didn’t really take it seriously, but only because the authors really want you to take it seriously. And I found it a bit intimidating. But I read it a second time and liked it a great deal more. In fact, it even inspired me to try mail art, though I’ll never consider my creations “art”. Just decorated letters. I’m okay with that. Thank you Danielle!
Behind the Kitchen Door by Saru Jayaraman – Became a fan of Jayaraman’s work with the Restaurant Opportunities Center when I saw the compelling trailer for this book. Pre-ordered. 42/175 (two chapters). Started reading it the day it arrived and keep meaning to return. You should read this book. It will make you eat out less and feel more grateful for dining out when you do. Once you get an idea of the horrors they endure at $2.13 an hour, you may start finding yourself compelled to thrust wads of ones in the hands of passing waitstaff – especially the bussers and dishwashers.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling – I was obsessed with Kaling for most of February. Watched all of the episodes of The Mindy Project in quick succession, read the book in an afternoon. I’m still a very big fan. The book is touching and funny and real, just too short (222 pages). Afternoon.
The Life You Can Save: How to Do Your Part to End World Poverty by Peter Singer – nothing new from Singer here, just in a shiny new package. If you’ve read his essays in Practical Ethics or Writings on an Ethical Life, you can pretty much guess what’s here. I agree with him completely that we – self very much included! – should all be doing much more (read: giving much more cash) to alleviate extreme poverty (instead of spending it on crap like new shoes and dining out). 10% of your income is a good starting place.
The God We Never Knew: Beyond Dogmatic Religion To A More Authenthic Contemporary Faith by Marcus J. Borg – should be required reading for everyone who ever considered her or himself a Christian, and especially those who left the faith for good reason but are still interested. This is not the model of God we’re given in fundamentalist churches – this is not a God who is distant and powerful, or male, or a lawgiver or judge, or monarchical in any way. This God is not all-powerful and this God is not in control. But this God is very, very relevant. Incomplete: 60/175 pages. Afternoon.
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Moshin Hamin – oh heavens, this was a good one. I picked it up at a thrift store after reading Kiran Desai’s (author of Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard, a favorite from last year) endorsement on the back cover: “A brilliant book. With spooky restraint and masterful control, Hamid unpicks the underpinnings of the most recent episode of distrust between East and West. …the narrative is balanced by a love as powerful as the sinister forces gathering, even when it recedes into a phantom of hope.” An evening. Irresistible.
The Devious Book for Cats: A Parody by Fluffy and Bonkers – a gift from my Grandmother Lowe. Actually laugh-out-loud funny. Took me by complete surprise. A couple of days of casual reading. Just wait til you get to the section on cardboard boxes. I’m still chuckling at the USS California Oranges. If you have a cat, and you are obsessed with your cat, you should read this already.
The Foxfire Book: Hog Dressing, Log Cabin Building, Mountain Crafts and Foods, Planting by the Signs, Snake Lore, Hunting Tales, Faith Healing, Moonshining, and Other Affairs of Plain Living, collected by Eliot Wigginton – another gift from my Grandmother Lowe. Did you know I come from Appalachians? The people of Foxfire are my people. When my grandmother gave me her books I protested, telling her she’d miss them, that she might need them for “reference”. She disagreed. “I lived that life.” Finishing these books – and understanding them – will be a life’s work. Hopefully I’ll have plenty of time to ask my grandmother questions – though, of course, never as much as I would like. Incomplete: a few chapters in to the first book of over ten volumes.
Kiss My Tiara by Susan Jane Gilman – some good ideas, but appalling execution punctuated with bouts of sheer brainlessness. I nearly threw it across the room when, 25 pages in, I read the following: “8. Ice cream is nonpatriarchal. Ice cream, frozen yogurt, milk-shakes–every dairy product we can think of is the exclusive product of females. So, okay, they’re cows. But eating this stuff can be a political act that neatly unites feminist principles with a love of animals. It can be our way of showing support for our bovine sisters! Fuck the vegans, I say. Anyone who doesn’t eat ice cream for purely ‘ethical’ reasons is a killjoy and a moron and ultimately not to be trusted. Pro-ice cream is pro-woman, Baby.” I don’t… I just… oh my god. The stupidity is boundless. It’s not worth my time to tell her that her beloved ice cream is the result of forced impregnation, or that the newborn cow who should be enjoying mama’s milk for nourishment was torn away in mutual anguish to suffer the same torture as she matures (if female) or stuffed in a veal crate for slaughter (if male). At least at the time of writing, Gilman was much too stupid to get that. Besides, milkshakes are what matter to feminists, right? Incomplete: purposefully.
Bless Your Heart, Tramp: And Other Southern Endearments by Celia Rivenbark – read while I was hopped up on hydrocodone, recovering from oral surgery. It was funny in places, a breezy read. Rivenbark should stick to southern anecdotes. Attempts at general comedy fall very flat.
The Nature Notes of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden – beautiful book, great afternoon read with tea, and a light rain if you can get it. Inspiring illustrations and well-curated poetry. Deep knowledge of plants and bugs. Would have loved to sit with Miss Holden for a spell. As a girl, I enjoyed her “Country Diary”.
Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik. I like his writing in the New Yorker so I picked this one up at the thrift store. I’ve read about thirty pages. Got about 300 more to go. I think I wanted to read it because I’ve never been to France and I like Gopnik’s voice and I felt okay with him taking me there for the first time. But I put it down after a chapter or so and haven’t picked it back up. Maybe later… Incomplete: 30/330 pages.
Dirt Candy: A Cookbook: Flavor-Forward Food from the Upstart New York City Vegetarian Restaurant by Amanda Cohen – on loan from my pal Stephanie, who bought it because she wanted it. Now I want a copy. Cohen simultaneously provokes me to try her recipes and never, ever, ever open a restaurant ever. Read it so you can truly understand how heading a food biz is only for a certain rare variety of the exquisitely deranged.
Tea: The Drink that Changed the World by Laura Martin – oh, what fun it was to sit on the porch and read this book while drinking my cuppa. I fell into one of my bad habits by just opening it at random and starting to read, and then I couldn’t stop – so I’m not really sure how many pages I’ve read, just that I absolutely adored it. It’s a history book, not trivia, and Martin is a talented historian. But here’s some – did you know? Onceuponatime tea was so expensive in England that women would dry steeped leaves and sell them with success? Or that tea remained so expensive (and yet so essential to British culture) that, I kid you not, England basically invaded India, took over, and started growing the only crop the Chinese wanted (opium poppies) in trade for their luscious leaves? Yep. That. And much more like it. On loan from the library, I didn’t even start it til it was overdue. Now I guess I should finish. With some earl grey or pouchong or darjeeling, of course. Incomplete: who knows?
Wigfield: The Can-Do Town That Just May Not by Amy Sedaris, Paul Dinello, and Stephen Colbert – AKA the Strangers With Candy crew. Oh, I hoped to like this one, but it was just pretty stupid. I read about a third of it before I just gave up. I couldn’t get into it, not even imagining the narrator as having the voice of Sedaris, Dinello, or Colbert (alternately attempted). It’s a rotten egg.
The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink (Oxford Companions) – great for skimming. I’ve learned so much! It belongs to the library, but now I kinda want a copy for myself. Incomplete: it’s actually an encyclopedia.
Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek – oh, this book is so good. It came in the mail (a gift from the publisher) and I read til I was late for dinner, captivated. People (and sometimes me) think of running as a sport of the wealthy, even though it doesn’t seem to cost very much to become a runner. But Jurek comes from a fascinating hardscrabble working-class background that makes his transformation all the more remarkable. I plan on giving a thorough review when I’m done, but right now I’m only 87 of about 225 pages in. Incomplete.
Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary by David Sedaris. Longtime DS fan (once waited in line for hours after a live reading for signed books) who wanted to love it, but just didn’t. The first few stories were clever enough, but most of them aren’t, and as you get deeper into the book they get so mean-spirited that I just had to stop. I couldn’t keep reading an human author projecting human traits and horrible things onto non-human animals. Tired. Two disturbing mornings. Incomplete (purposefully): 83/159.
Excess Baggage: Getting Out of Your Own Way by Judith Sills – Do you need to be right? Feel superior? Dread rejection? Create drama? Cherish your anger? I think we all do to some extent, and I’m no exception. I got this book to help me explore some issues, but I’m only 30 (of 250) pages in. Not because it’s not excellent, but because self-work is hard and takes time and I need to make it.
Serving Fire: Food for Thought, Body, and Soul by Anne Scott – not so much a book to be read from start to finish but one that invites you to skip around. I was taken in by her anecdote of eating vegan in rural China in the first few pages (“The Gift of the Buddhist Cook”). A little more new-agey than I usually enjoy, but she pulls it off gracefully, and there’s a lot of real wisdom in there. Skipping around. Good breakfast companion. Incomplete.
Pure Imagination: The Making of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory by Director Mel Stuart with Josh Young – just a completely delightful book, another I read way too fast because it was just so irresistible. If you love the book or the film, it’s worth seeking this one out. I’ve seen the movie way more often than I’m comfortable admitting. Because this book was written by the director rather than a fan, you get a real peek into the world of wonka that you wouldn’t get from a secondhand biographer. I can’t recommend it enough.
Wanted – Bear Cubs for My Children: One Hundred of the Weirdest Posts Ever Seen on Craigslist (and Their Responses) by Gary Fingercastle – silly little craigslist spoof book. Laughed out loud a couple of places, otherwise forgettable and kinda stupid. 215 short pages, 45 minutes. This afternoon, after returning from the thrift store with a new pile of books. Whatever.
Also, I read a lot of cookbooks, but they don’t count the way Dirt Candy does. Also also, there are at least a dozen other books I’m not remembering. But this is a start.
- total listed here: 24; of those, the following were:
- gifts: 4
- on loan from library: 3
- on loan from friend: 2
- from thrift stores: 11
- from independent book stores: 2
- from Amazon.com: 2
Looking forward to the next blog book check-in. Now, the big question:
what are YOU reading? You’re at least as fascinating as I am, and probably much more so. Tell!
On Saturday Nate & volunteered with Georgia Animal Rights & Protection (GARP) at their workday for the Georgia House Rabbit Society. We helped with landscaping outside – clearing branches, making raised bed gardens for lettuces and herbs – and cleaned, organized, and built rabbit houses inside. Here are some pictures of a few of our new friends!
Nate and I worked together to make these five rabbit boxes out of study cardboard boxes, carpet scraps, and tape.
In-process: organizing donations from GARP volunteers.
Working out on the front bank. This area was covered with bushy, spiny foliage. The volunteers cleaned it out and planted some lovelier specimens.
Volunteers dug and laid a new sidewalk, where memorial bricks will be placed.
Nate and a view of the four raised beds. He was instrumental in making the raised beds a reality.
But wait! We had even more fun visiting a Georgia Rat Rescue foster family afterwards. Lucy, BB, and Mary Jane live with an awesome foster named Amy and her sweet kids outside of Atlanta. We discovered that we had a lot of things in common – besides a love of rats! – and enjoyed great conversation while meeting the ratties. Lucy, BB, and Mary Jane were total sweeties. Here are some of the pictures:
BB considering coming out for a treat
Mary Jane munching on an almond
Lucy checking out the almonds in non-dairy yogurt
Got to go!
Time to hide ‘n eat!
Nate loved BB best.
She is the smallest, and oh-so-sweet.
She loved to burrow! It tickled.
Amy actually fosters a whole bunch of other rats, too. They’re all kept in wonderfully clean and neat habitats in different parts of the house. Here’s a picture of four of the rats who aren’t socialized.
If this picture doesn’t make you love ratties, I don’t know what will! Just lookit those little FEET! That tiny hand grasping a teensy tiny piece of an almond! That sweet little ear!
You might notice that the hair is thin on her little thigh. She had a tumor removed and was shaved, and the hair is just growing back there. She’s doing really well, though!
For more sweetness, you should check out Amy’s album “Rat Tea Party” featuring some of her former companions on Facebook by clicking here. You will giggle!
While we were up that way, we took advantage of the fact that Goodwills seemed to be everywhere and visited one. Look at these Star Trek treasures we found!
Inside the encyclopedia
I found four exciting books.
The Pure Imagination book is excellent and will be well-loved if you’ve seen the movie as many times as I have (more than ten times, fewer than thirty). ;-) I read half of it within the first day.
The Constance Curry book is one I’ve wanted to check out since I heard her speak while in college. Glad to finally own it! Goodwill is one of my favorite places to buy books, along with library book sales. I know I should be looking for clothes at thrift stores, but they just don’t interest me like the books do. With a little patience and a keen eye, you can find real treasures.
Since we were up that way, we also stopped at the Buford Highway Farmers Market. I had wanted to make authentic pad kee mao and pad see ew for a while, but both require the correct thai soy sauces. A pad kee mao recipe alone requires five different sauces, three of them types of soy sauce: sweet, black, and thin. Thankfully BHFM delivered all three in giant glass bottles for under $10!
a selection of soy sauce
For future reference, the thai soy sauce is on this aisle, even though it is marked “Chinese”
The big three.
My only disappointment is that each contains a preservative (sodium benzoate). Nothing else funky, but I almost never buy products with preservatives. Sodium benzoate is a very common one – go check your hot sauce, you’ll see if there. It’s not ideal, but it’ll have to do for now.
Nate found these crackers, a new favorite thing. They reminded us of the scrumptious over-fried french fry. You know the one: a little more browned that usual, it’s hung out in the fryer for several cycles. Probably sounds pretty gross unless you’ve had one! These were very crispy with a gentle savory flavor. Plus, they were made with all whole foods: no funky preservatives or artifical flavors or colors. We’ll definitely be getting them again.
That’s enough for now! Stay tuned for adventures with thai soy sauces.
This Sunday I’m looking forward to hearing Dayna Thacker speak about her work “Theories of Everything” currently on display at the Barbara Archer Gallery in Inman Park. You should join me! Here’s a teaser:
John Muir once wrote, “When we try to pick out anything by itself we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords that cannot be broken, to everything in the universe.”
Dayna Thacker’s new body of work takes inspiration from the “thousand invisible cords” of modern string theory, ancient Islamic sacred geometry, and the all-pervasive principles of ecology. These complex areas of study have several overlapping concerns: the harmony of relationships; the correlation between the very large and infinitely small; symmetry; repetition; beauty; an appreciation for the elegance of a perfectly balanced system; and the extreme interconnectedness of everything.
The unbalancing of our ecological system is leading inexorably to a terrifying future. In this work, Thacker seeks solace by exploring philosophies that expound the ideas of interconnection. These theories offer the reassurance of an all-encompassing structure within the universe that will persevere. The temporary event of our existence is put into perspective by the contemplation of the sacred and perpetual nature of reality.
Dayna Thacker relocated to Atlanta in 2006 after receiving a Bachelor in Fine Arts from the University of Tennessee. She is a Studio Artist at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center and a Hambidge Residency Fellow. She is a Fulton County Arts Council 2009 Residency Fellow and a Forward Arts Foundation 2010 Emerging Artist Award Finalist. This is Thacker’s second solo exhibition at Barbara Archer Gallery.
Thacker’s philosophy reminds me very much of process or relational theology, which is what I studied in graduate school. I still hold the ideas of Alfred North Whitehead, John Cobb, Marjorie Hewitt Suchochki, David Ray Griffin, and Catherine Keller dear as guiding principles in my life. I’m looking forward to hearing more about her perspective as a visual artist.
If you can’t make it to the talk, I encourage you to check out her exhibition, running through May 3 at
Hope you’re having a lovely Sunday. It’s been pretty quiet around here – I got dental implants on Thursday and have been taking it easy since. I made a quick greens stir-fry and served it over ten grain breakfast cereal for breakfast and followed with some Easter treats. This year I was fortunate to get to try Easter specials from two of my favorite confectioners – Mel at Obsessive Confection Disorder and Vanessa at Desiderio Chocolates. This post is all about ‘em!
First up: Obsessive Confection Disorder!!
Easter bowl of vegan cream eggs, caramels, chocolate-dipped crispy treats, and more
I fell in love with Mel’s treats when I tried her Vegan Valentine special from Spencer’s Market in February 2012. I was so impressed with everything, especially the crunchy caramel not-corn. The rose caramels with gold leaf were astonishingly good. I have never been much of a caramel person – even the vegan stuff is usually sticky/tacky and bothers my teeth – but Mel whips up a soft caramel that just melts in your mouth. It was a caramel revelation! If you don’t think you like caramel, you should try OCD’s. I just gave one to my friend Stephanie who came over to wish me well (and bring me vegan doughnuts and chocolate coconut ice cream for my healing toofies, don’t I have the best friends in the world?!) and she SWOONED.
This year Mel tucked Easter caramels away into the Easter Vegg assortment, which included
- Two Foil Wrapped Vegan Creme Eggs
- Two Hippy Dippy Crispy Nibbles
- Three Lavender Caramels
- Three Vanilla Caramels
- Two Strawberry Caramels with Chocolate Drizzle
Her packaging is adorable – and is the only way I’d let an egg carton into my house!
One large Sweet Dream Egg split in half with two mini foil-wrapped eggs
How do you feel about Cadbury Cream Eggs? Growing up, I wasn’t crazy about them, but Nate was. It wasn’t until I tried QueenBalch’s vegan cream egg that I fell for them completely. Unfortunately she closed her Etsy shop fall 2012, and since then the only way to get similar eggs was to make them yourself! The internet has had mixed results with that, though it seems that with at least one of these attempts, it came down to not knowing how to melt chocolate. I’ll probably try the recipe on VegWeb at some point.
But enough about making cream eggs! If I wanted to make them, I would have already! No, I wanted someone else to make them for me, and I am so glad Mel at OCD is that person. Just check ‘em out:
Here’s how they arrived – in giant plastic Easter Eggs!
The Sweet Dream Egg is big enough to share. Here’s one cut in half. Nate and I each got four or five bites out of our side. I’m not gonna lie – I love how generously-sized they are. As with a Cadbury Cream Egg, you can really make a moment out of eating one. It’s a substantive treat, and half of one is a great way to end a meal.
How to describe the taste? The chocolate is dark, rich, bittersweet. The creamy center is flecked with vanilla beans and has a sophisticated vanilla, rather than an overly-sweet, flavor. It has a toasty caramelly flavor owing to Mel’s liberal use of coconut products. But that doesn’t mean it tastes like an almond joy – it just gives the egg depth beyond sweetness. For more droolin’ over the Dream Egg, check out Vegan Favorites’ post.
Short version: if you get the opportunity, you should definitely buy these next year.
In the meanwhile, you can still order my favorite of Mel’s creations: My Favorite Mistake. As she tells it, “Once upon a wild and wooly candy kitchen day, a flurry of creative confectionery-ism, (it’s an industry term), caused vanilla caramel to morph into chocolate caramel with nuts that fell into a vat of bittersweet chocolate. What to do with this accidental morsel of deliciousness? Name it after a Cheryl Crow song and try not to eat it all before sharing it with the rest of the world.” Roasted peanuts, pecans, walnuts and almonds are folded into a fudgy mixture and dipped in quality chocolate. It’s a little salty, plenty chocolately, and one of my favorite things in the world!
The most-amazing Mel! Photo by Jorgen Gulliksen/Napa Valley Register
Mel makes all of her treats with utmost integrity. Several months ago I got to learn more about her philosophy and production. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation:
My favorite quote, one around which I base my entire business model: ”Go out into the world and do well, but more importantly, go into the world and do good”, speaks volumes about what I am trying to accomplish. I give away over half the money that I make via OCD sales – otherwise, what’s the point??My company isn’t just committed to animal cruelty free practices, I also insist upon dealing fair & square with the humans involved in the process. I pay my helpers a decent amount of money so they can afford to live sustainably. The ingredients that I use in my products are all top quality and ethically sourced. Those elements come at a price, but it’s a price I will pay as it means that the farmers and other suppliers of said ingredients are being fairly compensated, rather than exploited and left in a state of poverty in spite of their hard work.I use pure powdered vanilla beans to flavor my caramel. I could buy a gallon of vanilla extract for a fraction of the price that’s comprised of alcohol, ethyl vanillin, sugar, water and artificial color. But that’s just gross. I source the pecans (from a vendor) where workers are treated respectfully and compensated generously.My business is micro-small. I do everything by hand the old school way, as opposed to huge pieces of machinery and equipment producing my sweets. Every piece of OCD sweets has been created from scratch by my own hands, then cut and hand wrapped by myself or one of the folks who help me make company a reality. Large scale operations charge less due to the sheer volume and automation of their production. I’m not willing to automate to the point of cutting out the human element.
If that manifesto, combined with the pictures above, don’t make you want to order immediately, I don’t know what will. How about this? Mel also makes a vegan version of caramel Twix! And a vegan Payday! And a vegan Milky Way! And lavender caramel!
Seriously, though, Mel is an amazing person doing real good in the world, and she deserves our support. Go place your order!
Another confectioner I want to feature in this post is the lovely Vanessa at Desiderio Chocolates. You may have heard of her when her “Gourmellows” blew up the internet last year. Vanessa is an Italian confectioner who has developed original vegan recipes for marshmallows, caramels, and – most exciting of all – nougat! She shared some beautiful Easter treats with us all via her Etsy webstore this year:
Our signature vanilla vegan marshmallow layered with salted caramel, cut into a egg shape and dipped in luscious dark chocolate. Not your ordinary store bought mallow caramel eggs! Three (huge) eggs at approximately 2 ounces each – great for sharing! See more. I paid a measly $8 for three huge eggs.
Speaking of value, check out the Gourmellow bunny! This 3.5 oz fella only set me back $5 – astounding considering that it’s hand-made with organic ingredients. The gourmellow consists of a layer of vanilla vegan marshmallow atop a layer of dark chocolate ganache, dipped in dark chocolate. I want to order one of each for all of my favorite people next year.
Vanessa’s Easter treats are gone for the year, but you can still order the following at her Etsy store:
Vegan Smoked Caramel and Whiskey Bar: “Creamy caramel made with Alder Wood smoked salt, layered with melt- in- your- mouth dark chocolate ganache made with Colorado whiskey. Dipped in luscious dark chocolate and sprinkled with Alder Wood smoked salt.”
Stout Caramel Truffle Bar: “Luscious dark chocolate caramel layered with an equally decadent dark chocolate Ganache infused with local Stout, dipped in even more dark chocolate and topped with Grey Celtic sea salt.” Nate adored this one, and you will too if you love a good stout! I’m not a drinker, and it was too intense for me!
And the original Gourmellow: half truffle, half marshmallow, all delicious!
But if you want to get my all-time favorite, you’ll have to specifically request it – it’s so delicious she has a hard time keeping it in stock. I’m referring, of course, to the chocolate-dipped nougatissimo!
I’m not a very good food writer as it is, but I definitely don’t have the words to describe how perfect nougatissimo is. It’s the best possible combination of deep rich chocolate, creamy-sticky nougat, and high-quality roasty-toasty pistachios and almonds. Made in small two pound batches, there’s over a pound of nuts per batch, so you get plenty of crunch in every bite.
If I could only take one treat to a desert island, I’d make it chocolate-dipped nougatissimo. It’s just that good.
So there you have it: my Easter recommendations for this year and every year. Hope you get something sweet today!
Today Nate and I had our dear sweet friend Stephanie over for lunch to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. I made Irish seitan stew with oatmeal stout, Irish soda biscuits, and collard greens with tempeh. I am excited to share my recipe for Irish soda biscuits because it was inspired by Nate’s momma Jo and my momma Ann. Nate grew up loving his mother’s Irish soda bread, proudly made for the holiday every March, while I grew up eating my momma’s hand-shaped “cat-head” biscuits as often as she got a notion to make them. This recipe combines a traditional soda bread recipe with biscuit-making techniques for a light and fluffy, sweet and savory biscuit perfect for sopping up a rich stout stew.
Irish soda biscuits
Inspired by Nate’s memories of his momma’s soda bread, my momma’s biscuit-making method, and the Grit’s non-vegan Irish Soda Bread recipe
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra flour for dusting hands & biscuits while shaping
- 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
- 1 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 tablespoons caraway seeds
- 4 tablespoons cold Earth Balance or refined coconut oil
- 1/2 to 1 cup raisins or currants, or a mix of both
- 1 1/2 cups unsweetened soymilk
- 1 generous tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1 tablespoon Ener-G egg replacer (available at Whole Foods and natural supermarkets in the baking section)
Preheat oven to 400. Grease a baking sheet with (non-hydrogenated) all-vegetable shortening.
Pour 1 1/2 cups unsweetened soymilk into a 2-cup measuring cup. Pour in the generous tablespoon apple cider vinegar. Use a fork or small whisk to blend and set aside to curdle.
Dry ingredients: In a large bowl, combine flours, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and caraway seeds. With your fingers or a pastry blender, cut in cold Earth Balance or refined coconut oil until thoroughly blended. Stir raisins and currants into the mix.
Wet ingredients: In a small bowl or measuring cup combine 1/4 cup warm water with 1 tablespoon Ener-G egg replacer. Whisk firmly with a strong fork or small whisk. Pour Ener-G mixture into the curdled soymilk and stir with a fork.
Make a well in the dry ingredients. Pour in the wet ingredients. Gently stir and fold until just combined.
Thoroughly flour hands and sprinkle flour over the wet biscuit mixture. It will be wet and sticky. Floured hands and extra flour in the mix will help make it easier to form biscuits.
Grab out a few tablespoons of dough and shape into a biscuit in your dry, floured hands. Place on a baking sheet, one by one, with biscuits touching. Once you’re out of dough, remove baking sheet to pre-heated oven and bake 10-12 minutes at 400, or until biscuits are browned on sides and bottoms.
***Variation***: try this recipe and method for “plain” southern-style buttermilk biscuits by omitting two tablespoons of the sugar, the caraway seeds, and the raisins and currants. Yum!
Dry ingredients: flours, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, caraway seeds
four tablespoons of Earth Balance added to the dry mixture. Once it has been cut into the mix, the flour will have a sandy texture.
Here’s where I have thrown a small handful of flour on top of the wet biscuit mix.
Grab up a hunk of dough with a spoon and place in floured hands to shape.
Pat gently in floured hands
ever so sweetly
shape into biscuit round
Place gently on greased baking sheet
After baking 10 – 12 minutes at 400
Pull apart and enjoy hot with a warm stew!
On that note, I highly recommend the Grit’s Irish Mock-Beef Stew recipe. I made it today but substituted fresh, homemade beefy seitan for the chunky beef-style TVP. Seitan is easy to make when you use Terry Hope Romero’s steamed seitan recipe from Vegan Eats World! Here’s how I merged and changed a couple of her recipes to make the ultimate beefy-style seitan:
- 1 1/2 cups vegan beef bouillon, prepared then chilled – I used the Superior Touch Better than Bouillon No Beef Base
- 3 – 4 cloves garlic, peeled and grated on a microplane or grater … just watch your fingers!!
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 2 cups vital wheat gluten flour (please note: original recipe calls for 1 3/4, but it makes a too-soft dough to me.)
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
- 1/4 cup chickpea flour
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
Wet ingredients: In a large measuring cup, whisk together bouillon, garlic, soy sauce, canola oil, tomato paste, and dried thyme.
Dry ingredients: In a separate bowl, stir together vital wheat gluten, nutritional yeast, chickpea flour, and black pepper.
Form a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix thoroughly with a strong rubber spatula. As Terry says, “as the flour absorbs the broth a moist dough will rapidly form. When all the broth is absorbed, use both hands to fold the dough in a kneading motion for 2 – 3 minutes.” Don’t be afraid to really twist and press and pull on the dough, okay? You’ll see strands of gluten start to form and that is perfect. Really get in there and push and press on it. Once you’ve done this for about 3 minutes, let the dough rest for 10 or so.
Terry demonstrated her tin-foil seitan steaming method at the Atlanta Veg Fest last November and people were thrilled. It’s a great way to make tasty seitan without boiling broth for an hour. In this recipe, you just separate the rested dough into four pieces and secure them in tin-foil pouches. There’s a great diagram in Vegan Eats World, so buy the book if you haven’t already!
Set the four packets up in a makeshift steamer (check out my makeshift steamer here) and steam for 35 minutes. Remove packets carefully with tongs and set on a dinner plate to cool – do not unwrap until cooled! I hastened the cooling process by setting the plate in the freezer for a while. Once cooled, unwrap, slice, and use in recipes as desired.
Sliced “beefy” seitan
Browning in my cast-iron skillet
Silky St. Patrick’s Day Seitan Stew with Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout!
Recipe loosely based on the one from The Grit’s signature cookbook
So… what’d you do for St. Patrick’s Day? Do you celebrate? I was just glad to have a little company – it brightens my mood to cook for others, especially a friend as dear as Stephanie. I’ll probably spend the rest of this lazy Sunday drinking decaf Irish breakfast and cross-stitching. Not bad, eh?
So, yesterday (March 10) was my birthday! On Saturday my sweet Nate and best pals Stephanie and Colin threw me a surprise Downton Abbey-themed party. While we celebrated all weekend, this post is just about the gut-bustin’ Saturday afternoon shindig, or Birthday Observed. I’ll have to share another post about what I did on my actual birthday, but for now, enjoy!
This post is one of the longer ones, so I’m hiding it behind a cut. There are just so many good pictures. Interested in period costumes, parlour games, and brandy on fire? Click here to keep reading this post.