On Pumpkins and Wrinkles: Beef & Maple Delicata Squash Boats

Beef and Maple Delicata Squash Boats (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Deep, grooved ridges and gnarly warts, pockmarked orange skin and scabby patches of bedsore dirt: A pumpkin is one of those vegetables that’s so ugly it’s beautiful again.

Maybe it’s association – for me, they’re just about as fall as apple butter or hot toddies on cool and quickly-dimming evenings. It’s the memory of being a child and holding a huge pumpkin in my arms, big enough to bowl me over, straw from the patch clinging to my clothes. Or it’s the way a pumpkin halved offers up smooth, bright flesh and white, jewel-like seeds. Or how a Jack-O-Lantern leers glowingly from the porch on Halloween.

Delicata squash (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Hollowing out delicata squash (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Diced zucchini (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

But not all pumpkins are alike, as I discovered this weekend at our neighborhood pumpkin festival. I went on a bit of a bender, making David drag home a big bag full of them: a dusty, purplish-hued muscat pumpkin with perfectly domed sections; a brightly speckled festival pumpkin with kaleidoscopic patterns of green and orange snaking up its creamy sides; and two delicata squash – long and pale yellow pinstriped with green. I’m sure I would have purchased more, had I not paused to think about how we were going to eat them all.

Delicata squash halves (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I still can’t really get over how quickly the fall has come – how quickly all the seasons are whooshing past. Have I really lived in this apartment for two whole years? Have I really been in Berlin for twice that? Today I’m wearing the brand new jeans I just bought in… February.

Yikes. And from what I hear, it doesn’t get better.

Stuffed delicata squash boats with almonds (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Delicata squash boats (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I remember long ago, my dad tried to explain the passage of time to me, how when you’re ten, a year is longer than when you’re twenty, since one tenth is bigger than one twentieth. The longer you live, the faster life really does go by, because each year is a little less chunk of time compared to the whole. » Continue reading this post…

How to Make Your Own Oktoberfest, and a Recipe for: Obatzda

Make your own Oktoberfest (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

While Munich’s Oktoberfest days are drawing to a close, there’s no one to tell you, in whatever corner of the world you find yourself, that you can’t keep the dream alive. Here’s how to make your own Oktoberfest, in 10 easy steps.

What you’ll need:

1. Bavarian blue and white
Everywhere in Munich, and especially at this time of year, the city is decked out in blue and white checkers (officially, the pattern is called lozenge, but who knew lozenges were anything other than cough drops?). The Bavarian flag is hung with pride from shop windows and buildings; it adorns tablecloths, t-shirts, take-home trinkets, napkins, and nearly everything else you can stamp with a pattern.

Freshly-baked pretzels (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

2. Communal tables
For your backyard Oktoberfest, set up long, communal tables to recreate the feeling of being in one of the tents on the Wies’n. People are continually coming and going from the beer gardens and tents, which are always packed. You’re lucky to find a seat at all, so when you do, you don’t waste any time cozying up to your neighbors. The real bonds are forged over table-wide toasts and loud sing-alongs to everyone’s favorite Schlager hits.

3. Schlager pop
Speaking of music: Your Oktoberfest playlist should start with some soft brass oom-pa-pa and slowly move into the best of German schlager pop with a little John Denver thrown in for good measure. Helene Fischer’s “Atemlos durch die Nacht” is a must, but that’s not to say that last year’s German summer hit “Ai Se Eu Te Pego” isn’t a perfectly good follow up.

Stack of pretzels (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Oktoberfest breakfast (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

4. Weißwurst
Ok. Here comes the good stuff: the food. Weißwurst, literally “white sausage” is… wait for it… a white sausage made from minced veal and porkback bacon flavored with parsley, lemon, mace, onions, ginger, and cardamom. » Continue reading this post…

The Oktoberfest Dilemma – “Oan Maß oder zwoa?”

Oktoberfest, Munich (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I had no idea how fun it is to wear a dirndl until I spent a sunny day in Munich traipsing around in one. It’s a silly little outfit that makes you feel half like a wench extra from Pirates of the Caribbean and half like Heidi. But it’s all fun, especially when everyone around you is sporting the same silly dress – or even sillier, a pair of leather shorts that inevitably makes their wearers look like they’re waddling around with a diaper full of poo. After the first Maß or two, nobody cares.

This year, Ellen and I decided to go to Oktoberfest on opening day. Our work colleague and his wife live in the city, and we figured it’d be a perfect opportunity to double up on fulfilling our promise to visit and gawking at the yodelers in funny hats. We weren’t expecting much – some drunk and lecherous tourists, some lurchy rides – but being on the Wies’n was great. We left before the leering hour, before the truly tanked had time to get rowdy – so I can’t say our experience was universal, but it certainly left us wanting to wear our dirndls all the time.

Rathaus Tower, Munich (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Our gracious guide (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

We arrived in Munich the day before the Wies’n opened, and the city was surprisingly quiet. Stephan took us on a tour, past the Isar’s white-pebbled banks and up to the top of Alter Peter, where we watched the phlegmatic wooden dancers slowly rotate on the Glockenspiel and looked across the city’s sea of red roofs to the hazy Alps on the horizon. In the old Spanisches Fruchthaus, I bought tiny candied violets – little gnarled, bright-purple pinpricks – and then we were whisked to Dallmayr, which was awhirl with elderly shoppers choosing cold cuts and cuts of meat, slices of cheese from wheels, fresh prepared salads and tiny bites of things glazed in aspic. » Continue reading this post…

The Road Home to Apple Country: Apple Butter

Homemade apple butter (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I know I swore I’d never can another fruit. And then along came a big bag of apples, plucked straight from the tree, and I couldn’t just let them rot.

I’ve never been much of an apple person. I think they’re a little boring as fruits go – a little too uniformly sweet, too big to nibble on, too much chewing to do. But apples feel like a harbinger of the fall, of cooler, crisper days, of waiting for the school bus and new sweaters, of cinnamon sticks and pie and holidays.

A bowl of just-picked apples (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Just a lonely little apple (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I grew up in apple country. Not far from where we lived, the roads started undulating like a kiddie coaster, curving through fog-stained fields full of gnarled fruit trees and corn. We bought our apples from a stand along the road which sold fresh peaches and blueberries – whatever was in season – along with homemade pickles and preserves. And every fall, there was the Apple Harvest Festival, a sweet-smelling country fair with bluegrass music and whole pigs roasting on spits. Mouths full of apples, of course.

Bowl of bright apples (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Apple butter helper (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Homegrown apples (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I have a very vivid memory of the festival. It must be a composite, because I’m sure we went more than just the once, but in my mind it’s that one long day in the clear, blue fall. I remember an apple fritter pulled from a vat of boiling oil, soft and doughy and covered in powdered sugar. I remember sitting on a hay bale and watching a play whose plot points I can no longer recall though I can still feel the scratchy hay poking through my thin leggings and the straw sticking out from a scarecrow’s shirt beside me.

Weighing apple quarters (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Quartered apples for making apple butter (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I know there were tractors on display and squat ponies walking around and around the corral with children on their backs. » Continue reading this post…

14 Days More: Spinach- and Feta-Stuffed Chipotle Chicken Sweet Potato Skins

Spinach- and Feta-Stuffed Chipotle Chicken Sweet Potato Skins (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Here it is. Fall. It’s been heading this way for a while, but I wasn’t paying attention to the signs. Maybe I didn’t want to pay attention to them. In Berlin, summer is a blink. And me, I process change so slowly, by the time I’ve come to terms with sandals and Saturdays by the lake, it’s already over. I bought a white crop top, and I never wore it once. “Don’t it always seem to go, that we don’t know what we got till it’s gone?” sang Joni, and this city seems to feel it.

Chipotle chiles, lime, oregano (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Wilted spinach (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Shredded chicken and spinach (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Baked sweet potato (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Berliners are slow to accept the death of summer. The cafés are packed with people sitting outside, stubbornly soaking in sun. But now all the chairs are lipped with fleece blankets to throw around your shoulders as the day wanes. Jacketed pedestrians clutch ice cream cones like a last defense. The parks are still full of families and the city’s effervescently hip young folk, but the babies are bundled up in hats and the hipster beanies are out for a walk.

Squeezed limes (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Sweet potato skins with chipotle sauce (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I love fall; it’s my favorite season. But this year, I can’t help but feel a little melancholy about these crisper days. I vowed to make more of my summer this year, and yet I find myself asking: Where did it go?

Sweet potato, chicken, and spinach stuffing (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Freely admitted, I’m a workaholic. But recently, I’ve been thinking about how unbalanced it’s making me. Balance has been on my mind a lot lately, from the way I approach weight loss to the way I organize my time. Yesterday, I crossed off every single thing on my to-do list. I accomplished everything I wanted to do in a day’s time, and still, as I was mid-way through cooking pumpkin soup (the last to-do item on my list), I found myself with some down time and thought: I could edit photos or send that email. » Continue reading this post…

Body Positive: Crunchy Cauliflower Couscous Salad

Crunchy cauliflower couscous salad (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I’m pissed. Just downright, straight-up peeved. I’ve been working out with an inspired consistency for the last six months. I go running two to three times a week, have a weight lifting program that focuses on strengthening my arms, shoulders, and chest. I stopped buying monthly train passes and ride my bike around Berlin instead. I’m probably the fittest I’ve ever been. But for all of that, I didn’t see the kind of results I’d been hoping for – until this detox.

I’m in the third week of my month-long detox. I’m not eating white carbs, refined sugar, or alcohol. I allow myself one cheat per week in each category, and I’m not a real stick-in-the mud about what constitutes a carb or whether I can’t eat ketchup because it’s packed with sugar.

But the thing that’s making me so mad is that it’s working. In the shortest amount of time, I’ve lost the weight six months of running couldn’t shake. Was it really that easy?

Cauliflower (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I feel conflicted about this for a few reasons. One, I’ve strongly opposed dieting for as long as I can remember. I love food, and I love eating – and anything that placed a restriction on my enjoyment felt like a lifestyle that wasn’t worth it. I could get behind eating smaller portions or trying to stop eating once I felt full – but to actually cut things out? The idea made me balk.

Two, I find the positive reinforcement about my weight loss both pleasurable and problematic. I enjoy hearing heartfelt compliments about my appearance (from people I know, not people on the street; that I never enjoy), but it makes me wonder – did I not look good before? Do I only look pretty when I’m thin?

Cauliflower florets (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Cauliflower couscous (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

What was most important to me during this detox is that I never felt a sense of deprivation – that I never felt hungry. » Continue reading this post…

Contingency Plan: Plum & Walnut Jam

Plum and walnut jam (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The world doesn’t always revolve the way you want it to. Take today, for instance. I woke up feeling disgruntled: My alarm wasn’t set to ring for another 45 minutes, but the pillow felt lumpy beneath my neck, the temperature was too hot under the covers and too cold on top of them, and the first rumbles of construction work were already drifting through the open window. So I got up and shuffled to the bathroom to get the whole waking up thing over with.

Breakfast was uneventful. I didn’t throw oats across the kitchen floor or slip on a puddle of milk, and so I hoped that maybe it was a foolish premonition, that the day would be fine, that I’d pep up.

But one by one, little things kept going wrong. The sun came out just as I was taking advantage of the overcast sky to start a photo shoot, I discovered SAND was dangerously behind schedule for its upcoming issue, plans I’d made had to be rearranged and then arranged back. And to top it all off, I was tired. Just glumly, eye-rubbingly tired.

glass jars (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
When life hands you lemons (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I have a plan in place for grumbly days. It’s: take a nap and start again. It’s like getting all your lives back after the Game Over screen has finished flashing. Like waking up with a new face after plastic surgery. Except without all the messy bandages and bruising.

It also involves a cup of coffee after the nap. Clearly.

Lemons (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Picked and pitted plums (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Last night after work, my boss and I biked to his city garden plot and picked plums from his tree. The branches were weeping with fruit, and when he shook them, it rained pretty purple plums. They nestled in the grass like Easter Eggs the bunny hadn’t bothered to hide. We left the garden with two hulking garbage bags of plums each, and I spent the evening watching all three endings to the 1985 classic Clue and cleaning plums. » Continue reading this post…

Norwegian Wood… and Waffles

Lysefjord, Norway (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

People who worry should not eat wild berries in the woods. Even if those woods are in Norway and the little fruits looks like blueberries and taste like a blueberries, they may not be blueberries. There’s a certain euphoria that comes from hiking down a mountain after you’ve just stood on the precipice of a very big cliff towering over a fjord that slices between the mountains like a blue seam. It makes you braver, maybe, than you should be.

I’d been scanning the undergrowth for blueberry bushes. The last time I was in Norway, I told Elli, as we clambered down the rough stone trail from the top of the Preikestolen, I remembered picking tiny wild blueberries and greedily stripping the bushes bare as I ate them one by one. The surviving berries were baked into pies we ate for dessert in the little wooden house perched on the edge of a cliff, a gem-green fjord flowing down below.

Yellow flowers on a stormy day (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

When I found three tenacious berries peeking out beneath the green, I snapped them up and popped them in my mouth. It wasn’t until a few paces later that I wondered whether what I’d eaten really was a blueberry. Maybe it was a poisonous berry, and I’d just committed unintentional suicide on a Norwegian mountain trail, far from hospital or help. My stomach began to feel queasy. I felt dizzy, weak. It was a blueberry, Elli said. Tell me when 15 minutes are up, I said. If I’m not dead by then, I think I’ll continue living.

Purple flowers (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Sverd i fjell (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Rock by the sea (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Burst of white flowers (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

We’d flown in to Stavanger the night before, and spent the evening wandering around the little city, marveling at its emptiness. For a Friday night, the streets were dead. We peered into dark shops, our footsteps the only ones echoing over the clean cobbled stones. » Continue reading this post…