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The summer of 1982, when I was 12, I did not do “quite as many things as I did the last” according to the annual report my parents made me write before school started again. But “I did a lot of fun small things.” One of those fun small things, I noted, was bake a cake with my grandmother. I recall it as the first real cake I ever made — no box of mix or mom measuring the flour while I stirred.

My grandmother lived in Pennsylvania, far across the country from us in California. We rarely saw her, or any extended family for that matter, and I always liked it when she visited. On this occasion, she was babysitting while my parents traveled to Northern Italy, Budapest, and Vienna (according to my handy summer report, which I found recently in a filing cabinet in my parents’ house).

The idea to bake the cake was certainly hers. She’d probably planned to make it herself, as something nice to serve my parents after their long flight home. But, perhaps tiring of me reading romance novels and floating in the swimming pool every day, she gave me the task. Grandma was hard-working and restless, and she couldn’t appreciate reading novels and sunbathing.


I’ll admit it. When I moved into my new apartment this year, along with my sheets, coffee mugs, and suitcase, I toted along a value-sized tub of animal crackers. It was the kind you could find at your local wholesale club, weighing in at over two pounds, and it didn’t even last three weeks.

Even as a grown adult, I still haven’t grown out of my love for this hallmark childhood snack. I like them plain, dunked in tea, or dipped in peanut butter, but while I was noshing on my latest tub of animal crackers, I noticed something I didn’t like: the ingredient list. Enriched flour, soybean oil, high fructose corn syrup, soy lecithin…for such a simple snack, I was surprised to see such a long list of unnecessary and unnatural ingredients. To think that the miniature animals I had so lovingly craved were actually filled with chemical additives was appalling. That was when I began thinking of trying my hand at making my own.


I have a great deal of appreciation for yogurt. Many of my childhood memories involve bewilderingly shaped Yoplait containers filled to the brim with sickly sweet fruit-flavored dairy solids. As a child, I was constantly tricked into enjoying the yogurt gimmick du jour – drinkable yogurt, yogurt from a plastic tube-shaped sleeve, and cups of yogurt with lids full of crushed cookies and candies. But I didn’t truly acquire the taste for real yogurt until Fage, the original Greek yogurt, began appearing in my household refrigerator.

This new yogurt was drier, thicker, milder, and more substantive than the more common European-style yogurts I was used to eating. Greek yogurt omits nearly all of the flavorings and additives found in supermarket brands, like the gelatin added to some Yoplait yogurts for texture and consistency or the ambiguous “natural flavor” at the end of nearly all yogurt ingredient lists. The idea behind Greek yogurt is simple: Plain yogurt is placed in a fine strainer and then a significant portion of the excess liquid (or whey) is allowed to drain. Traditional Greek yogurt contains goat’s milk, but most American brands use cow’s milk.

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When I heard about slice, the sweet snacks common to Australia and New Zealand, I was intrigued. Slice is, apparently, ubiquitous to life there. Children eat slice in packed lunches or after school, and adult coffee time gets supplemented with slice. It’s found in most every bakery, cafe, supermarket, and corner store, in countless variations. MORE

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If you grow your own vegetables, have a CSA, or shop at a farmer’s market, you’ve already experienced the seasonal abundance of radishes. You’ve done all you can imagine to use them up. You’ve eaten them raw — sliced into salads, layered onto sandwiches, garnishing the top of tacos. You’ve pickled jar after jar to save for later in the year. And now, you’re frankly just tired of dealing with them. You want nothing more than for the fresh corn, tomatoes, and peaches of summer to arrive.

I understand, I do. But don’t be too quick to bid radishes adieu. You’re likely not really bored of the actual radishes; you’re only bored of how you’re eating them. It’s time to mix up your radish routine — these vibrant and spicy bulbous root vegetables can, and should, be enjoyed in more than just salads. MORE

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There are times in life when, for brief moments, everything seems perfect in the world. One of those times, for me, was one late summer afternoon on my honeymoon, sitting on the upstairs patio of a café overlooking a busy outdoor market. There was chilled, slightly fizzy white wine on the table, and a small tray with salami, olives, and bread. I remember the long, flowy skirt that I was wearing, and my new husband sitting across from me, a mischievous smile on his face.

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In the many years since our revolution, we Americans have turned our backs on so many British influences—the royalty and pageantry, big hats and bows, pearls and plaids, clotted cream and smoked herring, Spice Girls and Phil Collins. Good riddance to all of it, you might say. But what about elevenses? How did we let that one get away?

Elevenses, in case you don’t know, is a casual break for tea or coffee and a small treat at, yes, 11 o’clock in the morning. And although elevenses sounds like it comes straight from nursery school, it was once standard practice for people of all ages in Great Britain.

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I once worked for a place that mandated a group coffee break every Friday. When the time came, we’d file from our cubicles into the conference room and sit around a massive U-shaped table. Someone would produce the week’s snack and pass it around to go with whatever tea or coffee we’d carried in from our desks.

The gathering was a nice idea, something that should have fostered collegiality and generated some laughs. But it was, unstoppably, dreadful. MORE

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My father does not have an illustrious history with cooking. You wouldn’t know that looking at him in the kitchen now – when my grandmother’s health was failing, he studied with her so that he could make her classic desserts, like fluffy cream cake, spiraling jelly rolls, and not-too-sweet apple pies. But before that, I knew my father to have exactly one dish – Welsh rarebit.

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One of the rules I’ve come to adopt as a life tenet is that sometimes, you just gotta say f— it.

Since my boyfriend and I began dating about five years ago, we’ve been compiling a list of wise saws to live by. (My secret hope is that one day, if/when we live together, I will crochet this list into an heirloom wall hanging.)

So far, we have a whopping total of three. 1. The above. 2. Listen to some good music every day. And 3. Don’t be an asshole.

For a former overachiever, the first has been the hardest to accept. But I know, deep, down, that truer words have rarely been spoken (or yet crocheted).

It goes for food, too. Sometimes, a nice salad or a lovingly braised chicken is just not going to happen. So sometimes my friends, you just gotta say, fry it.


DIY Junk Food

A new book helps you recreate your childhood favorites


When I was eight years old, my family moved from Southern California to a cozy neighborhood in Portland, Oregon. To my young mind, there were a number of good things about our move, but none was more tantalizing than the fact that for the first time in my life, there was a small market a few blocks away that I could get to entirely on my own steam. Suddenly a world of candy and store-bought snacks opened to me.

My friends and I would meet after school and ride our bikes to the “Little Store” to buy boxes of Cheez-Its or packets of Lik-M-Aid. From there, we’d go back to the playground, where we could sit on the swings and gobble our spoils. For a girl who had previously been led to believe that homemade popcorn and baked tortilla chips were the highest form of snackage, it was revelatory.


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If there’s a cheese pairing associated with Valentine’s, it’s a glass of bubbly and a wedge of triple crème. Lovers who fall for this luxe combo tend to think of it as a supremely naughty indulgence – the apex of dairy gluttony. After all, “triple crème” suggests three times the fat of regular cheese.

Like Cupid, that’s a myth. Let me spread some beautiful truth: a hunk of hard cheese, like Pecorino or Parm, actually contains more fat by the pound than a wedge of runny Brie. That’s because there’s more moisture in soft cheese, meaning: more water. Hard cheese, on the other hand, is low in moisture and high in fat, making it far more decadent. MORE

Food Culture

A Load of Guac

How avocados made it to the Super Bowl


I once heard that more avocados are consumed on Super Bowl Sunday than on any other day of the year. This is wrong: Super Bowl Sunday doesn’t touch the 14 million pounds of avocado consumed on Cinco de Mayo. Still, about 8 million pounds of avocado have reportedly been mashed into guacamole in honor of the big game in recent years—about 5% of total sales, nothing to scoff at so long after the crop’s seasonal peak.

Most of the avocados we buy to make a summer dip in the dead of winter are Hass avocados, grown in coastal California or, since 2007, in Mexico. (The avocado tree originated in Mexico and Central America, but those zones were closed off to U.S. importers until recently due to an apparently unfounded fear of fruit flies.) Avocados are technically in-season almost year round. The fruits don’t ripen while on the tree, so they don’t have the limited harvest window that other temperate-zone tree fruits have, and avocado fruits can mature all year in the hot, humid climates they prefer. But mature fruits are more sparse in midwinter than they are in the summer months, which is usually reflected in the grocery store price. MORE

The Larder homemade chips and salsa

I am the daughter of a devoted sports fan. My father follows most major flavors of professional athleticism (he is lukewarm about hockey). He is devoted to college sports, regularly attends triple A games, and even stays up-to-date with football scores from the high school my sister and I attended.

And so, though I don’t care a whit what happens in the world of football, basketball, or baseball, I pay a tiny bit of attention for my dad. I make a point of reading to just enough each fall to be able to talk about the World Series with him. I listen to his thoughts about the Oregon State Beavers and the University of Oregon Ducks. And come Super Bowl time, I provide the game day snacks. MORE