My brother Larry loved to eat salad and knew it was one of my favorites, as well. So when I visited him for dinner several years ago, he went out of his way to prepare a special salad he knew I would enjoy—especially since I had not eaten greens for many months. This was because the source of water in the Colombian village I was visiting in Latin America was polluted. Short of dropping iodine tablets into the water to purify it—which also affected the flavor—you had to abstain from eating the greens altogether. Clean, pure water was just not easily accessible.
Eating well while living alone isn’t easy for anyone of any age. But it’s more difficult if you’re 59 or older; that is, if you are among the group they call seniors. Or you may be among the many people who are no longer sharing a home with a partner. Malnutrition among seniors appears to be particularly severe among women who are widows. Chris Rosenblum, a professor of nutrition, has found that the effect of widowhood on nutrition is profound. Her study revealed that 98 percent of those married experience eating as a pleasurable event. In contrast, only 26 percent of the widowed felt the same way. Rosenblum further indicates that “women in particular, as caregivers, don’t prepare meals (anymore) and now don’t see the value in taking care of themselves.” So not surprisingly, 50 percent of widowed people Rosenblum studied ate simply out of habit or to keep from starving.
Le Bernardin is the flagship restaurant of the four star chef, Eric Ripert. It is considered by many to be the best seafood restaurant in New York City, although Mr. Ripert personally enjoys other dishes as well. It’s hard to imagine knowing how fresh and delicious his seafood is. Yet, a recent cookbook called Avec Eric, (also the name of his popular TV food show), clearly reveals features how much he loves cooking and eating whole roasted chicken as well as seafood. For some reason, cooking whole chicken can be a daunting task for many due to being overcooked, under appreciated, or not well done enough. This recipe works on all cylinders—moist, crispy and extraordinary. It’s better than ever because of the Za’Atar dressing that brings a special flavoring to the table. And Chef Ripert employs a unique cooking approach that roasts the bird at 450 F for 20 minutes followed by a cooler temperature for another 25–30 minutes. Voila.
Deborah Madison has published another terrific cookbook, Vegetable Literacy. Madison’s background as a chef and celebrated author took root while growing up on a farm in upstate New York, and then in a walnut orchard in Davis, CA. This introduced her to plants and cooking with the additional influence of her father, who was a gardener and botanist.
Her cooking career took flight at the restaurant temple of West Coast cooking, Chez Panisse. Madison was also a student for 18 years at the San Francisco Zen Center, where she became the center’s chef. Subsequently, the seasoned chef was one of the founders of the restaurant Greens at Fort Mason, which is where I first encountered her food and her ardent support of the slow food movement, and the Seed Savers Exchange.
Tradition, and its accompanying nostalgia, is something for which we oftentimes pine. Yet we sometimes still complain about the demands placed on our time and the emotional energy that is required. In the fast moving towns and cities where we live, we may seek to avoid these strains by living private lives apart from the past. Still tradition tugs at our heartstrings. This is most especially true around the holidays when special meals allow us a means to bridge this gap. Our appetites are awakened to old ways of doing things that draw us together, and connect us across generations and amongst family and friends. A notable example: Italians practice a holiday on Christmas Eve, which a growing number of Americans enjoy as well, called “Feast of the 7 Fishes.”
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