Tag Archives: food

Fruit

This drunk guys keeps showing up at our barred front door in the evening offering exotic local fruit to us for a dollar. We are friendly people and he always speaks a little English. We give him the dollar and he hands us the fruit through the bars. Then I get online and look at photos of Carribbean fruit to figure out what we are now the proud owners of.

This is not how I expected to explore the tastes of Puerto Rico, but I’m not complaining.

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Jobos and a breadfruit.

I’m still waiting for the jobos to ripen, but I sliced up the breadfruit last night. It has a fascinating, spongy texture and a beautiful pattern expands out from the core. I boiled some; it tasted like boiled platanos but not as sweet. Apparently you can use it like potatoes in soup. It almost tasted like squash, too. I baked some as well, though our convection oven only goes up to 250. Casper really liked it baked. It kind of tasted like potatoes.

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A Gluten Free Testimonial!

I’ve been off gluten for about six months now. It isn’t hard because I get so freaking sick when I eat even a little. I used to eat pasta and bread all the time; I figure my body was just a mess from that so I never saw direct correlation between my symptoms and those foods. I mean, for the past ten years or so I’ve been in chronic pain of some sort – unexplained body ache, headaches, stomach pain, digestion issues, etc not to mention my mental health which has been less than stable.

I used to eat Mentos all the time. They are that chewy mint candy? I needed change the other day so bought a pack at a gas station even though I hadn’t had them in literally years. As soon as I swallowed the first one, my throat felt tight and then I started feeling my mind get really anxious. I know anxious and this just descended upon me.

I checked the ingredients: second on the list is some sort of wheat glucose thing!!! My stomach hurt like hell – the weird kind of stomach aches I’ve had for a long time but couldn’t figure out the cause of!

And a week ago a waiter forgot to check if there was wheat in the soup and there was (but very, very little – less than the Mentos, I think). I woke up the next morning and started sobbing. I felt so desparately sad and crazy and out of myself. These aren’t symptoms I’m unfamiliar with from other mental health experiences, but this came out of nowhere.

It’s pretty bizarre how quickly gluten it effects me. And it turns my stomach/digestion into a war zone for at least a week afterwards.

The cleaner I get my body, the more I see how gluten hurts it. I smell bread and donuts and the pain associated with those gluten-y foods makes me not even tempted – plus I’ve learned to enjoy smells without the promise of consumption.

I’m still learning a lot about this. I don’t know if I have celiac or just an intolerance or what all. I can get a test done but to do it I have to eat gluten and right now it’s just not worth it. Some weird things have gluten – like Mentos and apparently some kinds of vanilla extract. I’m still determining whether the gluten in oats bothers me – most people say it doesn’t affect them like wheat gluten but others say it does – and the same is true for distilled liquors.

Also? I am finally seeing cause and effect in my body. For so long – all of my teen years – what I ate and did never seemed to have a direct effect on how I felt. My body pain, sense of self, mental state and emotions were all so inconsistent. Even when things weren’t chaotic, they still didn’t seem to follow a pattern. Seeing a pattern, seeing improvement – it has made me excited about feeling better, whereas in the past it all seemed like an unreasonable doom to even attempt to feel good.


Food photos…

Casper, as many of you know, is an excellent cook. No formal training, but years of close friendship with chefs plus a love of learning, other cultures and serving people make him quite the host, too. Food stamps allow us to buy good ingredients and Casper always finds a way to make things tasty even if we’re in a dirty kitchen, inside a tent, under a bridge, etc.


Eugene: dumpster diving

Half-way through our stay at Shady Pines, Casper and I walked to the U of O campus and did some dumpster diving. College students are crazy when it comes to getting rid of stuff! And of course graduation week is the best time to hit the dumpsters.

We feasted on much of what we found but also brought a bunch of stuff back. Our loot, according to my journal, included a bag of bing cherries, about a dozen squished mini cupcakes (pictured in tinfoil), cookies, one pair of jeans, a take out container of curry, a roll of paper towels, an entire carton of imported Vietnamese noodles (pork and bamboo shoot flavor), several nice bath towels and bagels galore.

The great pile of dumpstered goods we scored at U of O, piled on the kitchen table at Shady Pines.


Eugene: Shady Pines

We spent about a week living in this house called Shady Pines. It was walking distance from downtown, beautiful and strange on the inside. A lack of rules somehow without total chaos.

The front window seen from inside our bedroom at Shady Pines.

Our first night back in Eugene (June 8th, I think), we went to the birthday party of an old friend of Casper’s and slept on their couch. The guy who invited us to that party then invited us to his house, Shady Pines. There was an empty room right near the front and we moved bike frames and whatnot and made room for our bed roll. One of the dirtier houses I’ve stayed in, but beautiful none the less.

One corner of our bedroom at Shady Pines.

Casper and I are pretty good at making any place feel like home. The house was cold and vast, but not necessarily in a bad or unwelcoming way. Here’s a journal excerpt from June 12:

There’s no light bulb in our bedroom here. We have just enough space to lay out our bed roll among the random large stuff scattered about. A huge pile of clothes. A futon couch frame. A sinking couch. Empty whiskey bottles and cigarette butts. At least two bike frames. But there’s no light so when we first got here we used the cell phone to guide us as we unrolled our bed, fluffed our pillows, curled in for sleep. 

Our set up at Shady Pines. Note Casper’s crossed feet to the left, Seinfeld on the laptop in the middle, and my art/cardboard/drawing to the right. I later got rid of the art pictured here by leaving it downtown with a free sign.

Though we rarely saw anyone at the house, apparently eight people, four dogs, two cats and five chickens all share the space. The front porch had a fallen apart couch where people gathered most often for smoking and beer drinking.

One of the ways Casper makes anywhere feel like home for us is by cooking. We bought dish soap and cleaned up the Shady Pines kitchen as well as we could. There was a notable decrease in flies and an increase in dishes at the end of this endeavor. And Casper was able to make us things like this:

Casper’s delicious golden rice with frozen veggies and a curry sauce we found in a dumpster. The second plate has pita bread (also dumpstered), potatoes and goat cheese.


St. Paul/Minneapolis: Food at Andy’s

Until I met Casper, I had a hard time eating any food unless it was mostly sugar. Pretty much everything made me sick. It wasn’t just dairy, or gluten, or whatnot. It had no pattern. I have since realized that it was caused by my stomach being tense. My meds have helped that symptom of my anxiety, but Casper’s love of food and eagerness to feed me well has made me want to enjoy food.

With his help, I’ve tried cheeses, breads, meats, and more that I had never consciously eaten. I used to eat sandwiches by taking them apart, eating each ingredient by itself; all the flavors together were too much for me. Growing up, I was famous for eating plain pasta and plain rice (sometimes with a little salt, but no oil or cheese) and plain bagels. Now, we’ve learned that bland, processed carbs cause a serotonin boost and, therefore, many depressed people become attached to pastas, rice, etc just like me.

This is the only food related photo I could find... This is me eating a mango in Madison, pantsless.

Casper lets me eat how I want, but he encourages me to combine flavors. He suggests savory instead of sweet; seasoned instead of bland. Sometimes he makes fatal errors – the spices and oil he feels he must add to any pasta has several times made it inedible to me – but, mostly, he is revolutionizing my idea of food. I used to say that, if I could, I would give up eating all together and just take nutrients pills. Casper is making me love food.

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St. Paul/Minneapolis: The Hard Times Cafe

Casper at Hard Times.

I have long heard of the Hard Times Café in Minneapolis. One night, when I was ready to go to sleep in the car and Casper was feeling alert, he asked a gas station attendant about chill places open 24 hours in the area that we had parked. Someone recommended Hard Times, which I hadn’t realized was in our neighborhood, and we have since begun frequenting it daily. This morning, Casper walked in and the lady behind the counter knew his order.

Here’s the thing about this place: there is not one ounce of pretentiousness. I’m used to hip/cool/popular cafés being stuffy with expectation. Not here. It is never empty, but ranges from a couple of patrons in the mornings to chock full at midnight. It used to be open 24/7, but these days they’re closed between 4am and 6am. Casper, who read some stuff online about it, says the switch occurred after the café was the subject of a drug sting. The city wanted the hours reduced so they compromised by closing for two hours each day.

The art on the walls varies in style and the patrons do as well. I’ve seen houseless folks, straight up hipsters, granola crunchers, your average college student, straight-laced-looking men in their 50s and 60s, and traveling kids just in the few days I’ve been coming here. They have a free box with clothes and shelves for games and books. The board games actually get played, too. Chess in particular seems to be popular, but I saw a couple set up a game of Life today and two girls playing checkers.

The food is wholesome and reasonably priced. “Wholesome” feels like a corny word (no pun intended); what I mean is that the food hear makes me feel like my mom’s cooking does. Ok, that’s corny, too, but she doesn’t make, like, fried chicken or apple pie. She makes incredible vegetable soups, delicious stir fries, perfect biscuits. And she grows lots of the ingredients herself and doesn’t use too much sugar and always uses real butter. Etc. It doesn’t hit your stomach like a rock. It makes your veins feel more alive. It’s good fucking food.

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Milwaukee: Our Meal at St Ben’s

A pretty house in Jason's neighborhood.

After having our long talk and scanty breakfast, I can’t rightly remember what all we did. We were limited in terms of sightseeing since we were saving our gas. I’m pretty sure we drove to a new library and did our usual thing. We also left my phone charger there, which ended up having many repercussions since the library wasn’t open again until Monday.

That evening, we parked in Jason’s neighborhood and walked the several miles to a free community meal at a church called St Ben’s. Some parts of Milwaukee appear to be as run down and vacant as Cincinnati, though more industrial than slummy. I was worried about the walk (my usual lack of energy + a lack of food) but it turned out to be quite nice.

Lots of people were gathered outside the church doors as we made our way inside. We arrived near the end of the meal and the line was short. We were graciously served delicious meatloaf as well as milk, coffee, dessert, fruit and more. It was the first time in days that we’d had a complete meal, much less one at a table with clean silverware.

Receiving free food when you’re hungry is an incredibly humbling experience. I wanted to cry and then hug every one of the servers. So many people giving so much without asking any questions. I didn’t have to explain, defend or qualify myself.

I felt weird being white, young, from a middle class background, relatively educated. I was afraid someone would question us being there, question why we weren’t taking more advantage of our privilege, question why we were “choosing” to be low income. But no one did.

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