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The smell of onion, garlic and spices fills my noisy and chaotic school cafeteria during lunchtime. Today in my lunch, I have basmati rice and a lentil soup with vegetables called dhal. Whenever I bring Indian food to school, my friends are always fascinated. They constantly pepper me with questions such as: “What is that?” “Is it good?” “Can I try it?” or “Is it spicy?”
My family is from tropical south India, where there’s an abundance of root vegetables and very colorful, juicy fruits. At home, we eat a lot of whole grains, rice, dairy products, vegetables and especially dhal. Both of my parents, although engineers, are great cooks, each in their own way. A typical dinner might include curried dhal with collard greens, baby potatoes and basmati rice or fire-roasted eggplant cooked to perfection with a bell-pepper-tomato-onion sauce in a blend of cumin and coriander spices and a side of baby okra curry with roti (flatbread). They are always experimenting with recipes that incorporate Indian spices into international dishes. Being at the crossroads of culture right now in the U.S. feels very familiar to people like me, as India herself has been at the crossroads of culture ever since the Silk Route.
From day-to-day life, to celebrations and festivals, to just maintaining health, there’s always a large portion of time devoted to food and eating in my culture. When we visit our family and friends in India, we are always welcomed with hot chai and a variety of homemade snacks, which is heartwarming and proves that even everyday food can be soul food. And one of the most prominent festivals we celebrate is called Diwali (the festival of lights). During this time, people host immense parties, shoot fireworks, perform poojas (ceremonies that include guests of honor) and prepare lots and lots of food. And even on “normal” days (or especially when I’m sick), foods prepared with ingredients such as turmeric and ginger help create well-being and promote healing. (This method of natural healing where diet plays a major role in health is part of ayurvedic medicine, where ingredients such as herbs and tree bark are used to prevent and even cure diseases.)
Some of my friends feel that eating a vegetarian diet is only to stay healthy and maintain weight, but it probably means I’m missing out on some key flavors and foods. Even though I don’t eat meat, I believe that I still get all the different flavors and textures, and I never feel left out. When we go grocery shopping, for example, the entire cart is filled with different types of produce—including several greens—and it’s very colorful! My friends and I have very different cultures and we all eat differently, but their cultures surround me and I get to experience them through their food and our friendships. And they get to experience some of my culture through my food, too.
When I am old enough to cook and go to college and beyond, I hope to be able to continue my family’s food traditions, which not only bring satisfaction for the stomach but also for the soul, by providing nourishment, warmth and a sense of belonging.
By Shreya Ramanathan
Shreya Ramanathan is 13 years old and lives in Austin with her mom, dad and 10-year-old brother, Vedanth. When she grows up she aspires to be a doctor who has holistic knowledge to heal ailments. Among many other things, she loves food, especially potato-cheese tacos and her mom’s special jack fruit curry.
In 2006, Michael Pollan published “The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals.” It was a groundbreaking book that tackled the idea of rethinking the modern food system, and it began with one simple question: What should we have for dinner?
Nobody ever says “I’m going to the ladies room to tar my nose.” Even so, that’s essentially what many are doing with modern makeup. Made from coal tar, petroleum and other nasty ingredients, many cosmetics seem better suited to pave a road than cover a face. Mercelina Ogle started to see makeup as a sinister cycle: You put icky chemicals on your skin and use other icky chemicals to remove them. “To fix one problem, you cause another,” she says.
Rectangular white subway tiles wall the modern kitchen of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews. Clean black lines—the edges of appliances and shelves, the typescript of cookbooks—carve out this crisp, bright white and create a bold background for the vibrant fresh vegetables that exude an almost hypnotic intensity. Scattered here and there are the muted tones of dun-colored pottery, a pale-blue mixer and rows of pastel glassware that soften and adjust the overall feel of the room to a soothing domestic haven. The space so nearly resembles the graphic design of the couple’s award-winning food blog, Love and Lemons, that it’s clear the same sensibilities created both.
Joshua Thomas shows off the fancy bowl his wife, Allison, won as valedictorian of her class at the Culinary Institute of America, where they met as students. “She eats breakfast out of it every morning,” he says, deadpan. “Oatmeal.” Allison laughs in a way that hints she’s heard this joke before. Or maybe it’s just the glasses of coconauts making everyone a little loopy. Joshua proclaims this classic Tiki drink as the “summer cocktail of choice” at their home. The couple keeps a running batch in the fridge—scooping out cups of the slush from a 1-liter Weck jar, then adding a sprinkling of nutmeg for guests.
My mother had a first-generation pressure cooker in the 1970s. It was a stovetop model that rattled madly, and when it was done cooking and time to open the lid, we kids had to leave the kitchen in case the entire contraption exploded. (It never did and my mother lived to put dinner on the table every time.) I swore I would never cook with “one of those.”
Kevin Russell might just be one of the best frontmen in America today. We’re a little light on frontmen these days, too (2016 took Prince and David Bowie; 2017 took Chuck Berry and Tom Petty). I hear David Lee Roth gave up his paramedic job a few years back to beef with Eddie on the road, but I missed it. I do, however, cross paths with the inestimable Russell—known musically as Shinyribs—on occasion, and he always brings down the house. You get the feeling that bras are being unhooked as minds are being unhinged. Musically and artistically, that’s a really nice place to be.
While at Texas Tech in the late 1970s, Neal Newsom (Texas High Plains cotton farmer Doyle C. “Hoss” Newsom’s son) had the fortune to encounter chemistry professor Dr. Roy Mitchell. At that time, Dr. Mitchell’s combined personal and academic interest in wine was advancing the Texas wine and grape-growing industry, then in its infancy. Dr. Mitchell had a profound influence on young Neal and, ultimately, on the Newsom family legacy. “I’ve always been interested in alternative crops to cotton,” says Neal. “I’ve examined soybeans and several varieties of grasses, but Dr. Mitchell really gave me the bug to grow wine grapes.”
When we brought our four small children from “England’s Green and Pleasant Land” to Texas in 1975, we felt it imperative that they learned our long-standing British traditions and customs. It was sweltering mid-August when we arrived, but that is almost too late to begin the preparations for the traditional Christmas pudding, and indeed, the Christmas cake! But the pudding was tantamount. We hauled out a huge, deep bowl, and in it we combined currants, raisins, candied fruit peels, almonds, chopped apples, diced carrots, orange and lemon peels, beef suet, flour, beaten eggs, breadcrumbs, brown sugar and sloshes of brandy, then we all kneaded and beat the mixture with wooden spoons until it was blended. We draped a dampened kitchen towel over the bowl to refrigerate.
Bring a blanket, sit in the sunshine, plant your own eco pot, meet farmers and enjoy bites from local food vendors. There will be live music, storytelling and an imagination station provided by Sustainable Food Center!
We’re always trying new local products. Take a look at what our staff is enjoying this month.
SPECIAL ADVERTISING SPOTLIGHT
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Visit bronkobox.com to get a quote today.
Pumpkins are a staple when it comes to cooking in the cold seasons. Their lightly sweet taste and bright colors add extra autumnal spirit to seasonal recipes. To commemorate our favorite fall ingredient, we’ve compiled some of our best recipes that integrate the iconic gourd. From main courses to desserts, we’ve got that special pumpkin recipe you need in your life.
From the outside, the ’80s ranch-style home on a cul-de-sac in Southwest Austin looks like any other, but follow a dirt path lined with raised beds of nasturtiums, Swiss chard and Turk’s cap to the backyard. Instead of a lawn, you’ll find a space overflowing with beds of fragrant edible herbs and flowers. Welcome to La Flaca.
Texas citrus rakes in more than $200 million for the Texas economy every year. Though the bulk of the harvest comes from ruby red grapefruit and sweet orange orchards, did you know there are almost endless modern varieties of citrus that can be grown indoors in containers? Whether classic or modern hybrid, between the multitude of lemons, mandarin oranges, makrut limes, tangelos, clementine, and lemon or lime-kumquat crosses, there’s a citrus tree suited for every style
Ask almost any Austinite about the local weather between 2008 and 2016, and they’ll reminisce about the historic drought, when the lakes were drastically low and heightened water restrictions were in place. Conversely, those of us who experienced last year’s heavy rains and flooding, and the subsequent boil-water notice, will not soon forget that, either.
Hard to pronounce (it’s more-VED), but easy to drink, mourvèdre has become a favorite of Texas winemakers. Originally from the Catalonia region of Spain, where it is called monastrell, the grape produces deep, spicy red wines and is used as a blending grape in rosé cava. In the Bandol region of France, winemakers use mourvèdre, which can age for decades, to create intense reds as well as light, Provençal rosés.
Take a look at what our staff is enjoying this month.