Friday, August 24, 2012


So finally, I did it. I changed the title of the blog. "East of Eden" had a special significance for me, both because I'm a John Steinbeck fan and also because I've always wanted to live in California and never quite got there. I drool at the thought of beachy expanses with beachcombers and hardcore surfers, of the wine country, of winding roads hugging grassy mountains, suspended precariously above the great blue. And a touring bike with saddlebags, carrying beef jerky, bananas and a blanket, the perfect companions to any outing on two wheels. My notion of this Eden conveniently omits such facts as infuriating traffic or the dismissive hubris of the locals. That is not the California I have in my mind, not the Eden I pine for. With most things we look forward to, they are so much more idyllic in memory than in reality.

One day I got a bit tired of this bittersweet crap. California is hardly the divine poetry I make it to be, a fact hard-learned earlier this year as, day after miserable day, I tried to make my way from one point of LA to another among an ocean of sluggish, furious Californian cars. Nor is Cannery Row Steinbeck's inspirational oasis anymore, its once quaint and peaceful streets having been replaced with gaudy shops, loud booths and bright lights. As the writer's name is advertised at each corner as some sort of haute couture brand, he is no doubt wincing at all of this and rolling in his grave. Salinas, too, where Steinbeck grew up, is a godforsaken ghost town of former farmers turned receptionists at Motel 6. Not a happy story.

So, with the betrayal of the "California dream" I became increasingly disenchanted with the title, East of Eden. "Hungryvore" came up one day as I was trying to describe my eating preferences in a conversation with friends. I'm no carnivore, or vegetarian, or vegan, or raw foodist. So what are you, they asked impatiently. Ah, people's need to peg you! What I am is not picky. I'll eat whatever there is, and having grown up in a part of the world where food was once scarce and choices lacking, I now consider myself lucky to have access to so many ingredients, to have so much information about nutrition and to benefit from such a wealth of options when it comes to preparing meals. I'm like a kid in a candy store - how could I not hurry to sample, taste, combine and experiment?

In some other countries, where it's a struggle to find quality ingredients, where food is not properly labeled, and where no one's heard of "antioxidants" or "omega-3 fatty acids," people eat because they're hungry. When you're hungry, you don't count carbs and protein. Finding out whether something is "ethically sourced" or "non-GMO" is decidedly a first world problem. When one is hungry, their main concern is to eat something that's satisfying, and if it happens to be healthy too, so much the better. On this side of the Globe, however, we are lucky. We have so much to choose from. Cuisines from around the world. Health food stores at every corner. So many rare, exotic grains and produce! The organic movement. There is no excuse, I think, for someone living in the States and making decent money, to not eat healthy things.

This past week's theme has been experimenting with the Vitamix. I can't get enough of this contraption. I made three spreads, and while I had high hopes for all of them, I was not exactly floored by any. My favorite, however, was Kim Snyder's Beauty Nut Pate. I can imagine making this again, albeit with small amendments. I had it for lunch three days in a row with some celery sticks and red pepper slices. It was very satisfying, even for a greedy stomach like mine. Just make sure you use unsalted pumpkin seeds. I made that mistake and it turned out a tad too salty for my taste - OK, a LOT saltier than my taste. I felt my head had turned into a ticking sodium bomb after a few bites. So - just make sure they're unsalted.

Beauty nut pate
~ serves 10

1 medium zucchini (organic please)
3 inches ginger root, chopped
garlic, 1 large clove
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups pumpkin seeds (pepitas) unsalted!
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup almonds
1/2 cup nama shoyu (unpasteurized soy sauce) or just plain old soy sauce
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper

Blend away in a Vitamix or high-speed blender until smooth. In the absence of such fancy equipment, grind your nuts in a coffee grinder or similar device and then use a regular blender to blend the whole thing together.

This will keep in the fridge for about a week. Try to trick your friends into tasting it, because they'll love it and then they'll have all kinds of admiration for you because you eat such healthy stuff.

Recipe adapted from Kimberly Snyder.

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