Waiting for the inevitable

My grandpa isn’t doing well. He’s been declining for a while, but this morning his doctor – a long term family friend, best man (I think) in my parents’ wedding, and my brother’s namesake – called my dad at work to tell him how bad things have gotten.

My grandparents still live in the split-level house they built in the 50s, when my mom was a little girl. Most days Grandpa, age 91, doesn’t get down the stairs – and Grandma, age 93, brings food to him, helps him bathe, and changes his diapers. After six decades as a housewife, she is a nurse again.

For years we’ve tried to convince them to move out of this house that is really too much for them to manage. For years my parents have tried to convince them to hire a caretaker instead of relying on a (miraculous, wonderful) neighbor and a series of college-aged girls that help with the cleaning and yardwork. Mom is going over for the weekend to make another attempt at this argument.

Four years ago, when we were in the midst of our nation-wide job search, Grandpa took a fall. I remember locking myself in the studio and crying and wondering if I really wanted to move to, say, Boone, where getting home in case of emergency would require a full day of travel. We live 7 hours away, but we might as well be on the other side of the world for all the good I can do right now.

In this way, old age is cruel: there’s little more to do that sit and wait, knowing that he won’t be with us sooner rather than later, but knowing there’s nothing we can do to forestall this inevitability. There are interventions for injury and disease. There are no interventions for just being OAD, as Grandma puts it: Old And Decrepit.

I am so thankful for having my grandparents in my life for all of my life. My dad’s parents are barely a memory at this point – I met my grandma once when I was a small child, and my grandpa passed away when I was in high school – but my mom’s parents have always been there for holidays and birthdays and long visits in the summer time – and, of late, for rambling conversations about Detroit. I can’t wrap my head around the fact that they won’t always be there.

With Grandpa!

Jen and Grandpa


New York Meals: Prospect Park Greenmarket

The second in a series of posts about the exceptional food I ate in 2.5 days in New York.

My trip to New York was a dream. Actually getting to New York, however, was a giant pain in the ass. Someone explain to me exactly how air travel has gotten LESS convenient and MORE miserable over time? Oh right, computers. Instead of leaving Detroit at 5:20 and arriving in Brooklyn in time for dinner, I subsisted on a Chicago dog and a terrible beer at the airport, finally getting out at 10pm and arriving on Carrie’s doorstep in a sorry state sometime around 1am. She had to teach in the morning, so we simultaneously said hello and goodnight, and I passed right on out.

I woke up completely and miraculously recharged, however, and headed out in search of cash, breakfast, and coffee in that order. And so I found myself at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket on a perfect June morning.

Photo by benderbending

These photos are from other seasons, but let me tell you: this smelled like a summertime market: berries, herbs, and tomatoes all warm from the sun. Myriad options for baked goods and other treats. A long line for fresh fish. Summer produce is only just now starting to appear at the markets in Michigan, so I was delighted to see cucumbers, as was Mr. Pickle:

Cucumber Kin

My breakfast? A vegan spelt pocket containing mustard tofu and some sort of slaw – delicious fillings, but just an adequate wrapper – and a handful of fresh cherries that I ate on my walk to the subway, spitting the pits into the street. I headed into the city with sticky fingers, a happy belly, and the sense that summer had finally arrived.

Market Breakfast

If you go:
Greenmarket at Prospect Park
Grand Army Plaza
Saturdays year round, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Sister Awake

Instead of focusing on work this morning, I’m trying to figure out if I’m still capable of driving upwards of 12 hours round trip overnight to go to a show. Not just any show, though.

That’s right: The Tea Party is touring again. Still only in Canada, except that this time around I live close enough to Canada to make such a trip feasible. Not like in 2001, when I drove up from Rockford to Toronto – 22 hours round trip – for the White Ribbon benefit show:

me and Jeff Martin
Note the very long red hair (and the extra 30 pounds)

Or those two weekends in 2000, when I drove up from Rockford to hang out with the Sister Awake crew, participate in the red car caravan, watch Nickelback videos frame-by-frame while drinking very weak ‘shroom tea, and see the band in Windsor and Sarnia:

Windsor crew

Pardon the very bad scan to .bmp – it’s the best I have

Or seeing them in three countries in the space of a week, hanging out back stage, staying out all night with the band and crew in Amsterdam, and making a very dear (and very small) Australian friend along the way:




So yeah, this is a big deal for me.

New York Meals: Eataly

The first in a series of posts about the exceptional food I ate in 2.5 days in New York.

We’re Mario Batali fans around here, so Eataly was at the top of my To Do list upon arriving in New York Friday night.  Opened in 2010 in partnership with Lidia Bastianich and others, Eataly is an insanely huge market where everything wonderful and delicious to do with Italian cuisine can be found, purchased, and devoured.

Photo by Carl MiKoy

And I mean insane. IN-sane. Eataly has been open since August, and while there are no longer lines around the block, we still encountered an overwhelming crush of people as we made our way back to Birreria. Piotr, Jess, and I had been walking around all morning, so we were famished. Fortunately, there were no shortage of food options. Unfortunately, we had to first choose one, and then stand in line to purchase it. Fortunately, we had reason to stick around – we were waiting for a table at Birreria.

Eataly Birreria

While the seating process was mysterious – something involving a promised text message and the instructions to check back in 45 minutes? – it all made sense once we were upstairs. The maître d’ acts kind of like a bouncer, keeping the crowds at bay, resulting in a lovely and genial environment upstairs. We were at a simultaneously shady and sunny table in the corner – no real view to speak of, but who cares when delicious food is in front of you?

Maitake con Pecorino Sardo - Eataly Birreria

Maitake con Pecorino Sardo: roasted Maitakes, creamy soft Pecorino, savory and crisp asparagus and peas. Enough for each of us to have a few perfect bites, every last morsel soaked up with crusty bread.

Portobello con Acciughe - Eataly Birreria

Portobello con Acciughe: perfectly grilled portobellos, funky anchovies, sweet roasted tomatoes, and stracciatella. Maybe not worth the $17, but totally pleasing on a hot summer’s afternoon.


Around the table: chicken thighs pounded thin and served with olive-almond pesto, fennel-braised quail, rich pork sausage with kraut, and an intensely delicious pork shoulder. I can vouch for each of these dishes because everything was shared, every passed fork returned laden with a perfect bite of something else. If I could do it again, I’d take one of everything, and wash it all down with a Baladin Isaac.  Perfect.

If you go:
200 5th Ave (between 23rd and 24th)
Manhattan, NY 10010
(212) 229-2560

Be prepared to wait and spend a lot and be delighted.

Lots of Good for You

I bookmarked this recipe ages ago, but just got around to making it this week. I’m not sure what made it float to the surface this week – or why in the world I waited so long. Because seriously? These were amazing.

The Veggie table: slow food London Halloween market 2009
Photo by mermaid99

They’re totally vegan – unless you do as we did, and add thinly sliced Swiss and cheddar cheese with 5 minutes left in the bake time. We DEVOURED two patties each after a hard workout, and then ate the rest for breakfast and lunch the next day. They were THAT good – nutty, savory, and robust without feeling heavy or too too virtuous.

patty cake
Photo by thepinkpeppercorn

You could conceivably make these from start to finish in the same night, but I’d highly recommend prepping the patties the morning or night before you want to actually make them – the prep takes half an hour or more, and then you have to wait for the mixture to cool, and THEN you have to bake them, by which time you’ll be starving. I did all the prep work while making Smitten Kitchen‘s amazing French onion soup, and so could just pop these in the oven while making a green salad and steaming some edamame after our workout.

Tempeh Quinoa Sweet Potato Patties
from dang argyle by way of The Golden Yolk, who adapted it from The Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health

1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup water
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 medium yellow, orange, or red pepper, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
8 oz tempeh, diced
4 tsp tamari
2 tbsp tomato paste or ketchup – I used cocktail sauce for a bit of spice
1 tbsp dijon mustard
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, combine the quinoa, sweet potatoes, and water. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the quinoa and sweet potatoes are soft. Transfer to a bowl.

While the quinoa and sweet potatoes cook, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, generously season with salt and pepper, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the peppers, garlic, tempeh, and tamari and cook for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add to the sweet potato mixture and mash together with the tomato paste (or substitute) and mustard. Refrigerate until cool enough to handle, then form into patties.

Preheat your oven to 375. Bake on a lightly-oiled or lined sheet until firm and golden, about 35 minutes.

Makes 8 half-cup patties.

Summertime, kind of?

I haven’t been posting much lately. Frankly, I haven’t been cooking much lately, either. Our weekends have been busy with races and house guests and travel to celebrate family and friends, and the next two weeks promise more of the same.  The weather here also hasn’t felt particularly summery. OK, that’s not true – last week we had a few days in the 90s, but then it dipped back down to the 60s – so spring has come at last to Ann Arbor, albeit in the middle of June.

The net effect of this is that the first wave of summer cooking and garden bliss hasn’t hit yet. No trips to the u-pick for pounds and pounds of strawberries. No ecstatic first harvests or foraged berries. Just rain. And then heat. And then rain.

We made one of our first trips to the market for the season when Tina was here two weeks ago. It was already bustling with people, though most of the wares were plants rather than produce. I picked up wee zucchini for pre-race pasta, salad greens, eggs, and a bunch of rhubarb, intending to make these muffins for our post race brunch. Instead, the rhubarb sat in the fridge for ten days, getting ever so limp, until the other night, when I chopped it up and simmered it with water and sugar to make this intensely pink syrup for cocktails and Italian sodas. The pulpy leftovers will be spread on toast and spooned over yogurt as a rustic jam. Good stuff, and a good reminder that summer really is here. Well, kind of.

Rhubarb Syrup

Rhubarb syrup from The Kitchn


So hey, remember how I was going to start working out before work? Yeah, that hasn’t happened.

Which is to say that I woke up and ran before work once, and have every day since set the alarm for 6am but dragged my ass out of bed closer to 7am. I’ve been walking or biking every day that I haven’t had to take someone to the airport – but that’s not the same as getting in a run. Oh well.

Which brings me to my next point: P90X.

P90X – or POWER 90 EXTREME (all caps necessary) – is a crazily intense 90 day boot camp-esque program that promises significant change through muscle confusion. My friend Natalie started P90X two weeks ago and has been blogging her experience, which I’ve found totally amusing and inspiring. A colleague at a previous job lost at least 20 pounds doing it. We’ve been talking about it for a while, mostly because it’s an intense regimen of both strength training (which Shane prefers) and cardio (which I prefer). And this week, we’re bringing it.

Well, sort of. Shane is bringing it – P90X vernacular for what you do in your workout – while I’m still testing the waters. I want to keep running, but I need to build in strength training and core work as well. And we both could use a good kick in the butt, diet-wise. So while Shane is BRINGING IT P90X-style, I will be doing what I’m calling P90E – my mod of the program, subbing in running for the prescribed cardio. I’m also going to do the “Lean” program, which emphasizes cardio, working out to 3 days of strength training and 3 days of running, with alternating distances on alternating weeks: 3-5-7 miles or 4-6-8 miles. Distance-wise, this should segue nicely into my training for the Detroit half in the fall – and I should be in amazing shape for it to boot.

So, that’s what I’m doing. Last night we took hilarious “before” shots and measurements. I did the fit test. I’m ready to BRING IT, starting in 10 days when we get back from Cleveland. Stay tuned.