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Art, Science, Guacamole.

May 22, 2015

I’m going to help you with something very important. I’m going to help you with your guacamole.

What makes guacamole delicious is grinding together plenty of minced-up garlic with plenty of kosher salt in and all around the sides of the bowl before you do anything else. Thoroughly smush it all up together with a fork. It will make a huge difference in the final product.

I have thought about this a lot, and now i will try to explain why this makes it so much better using scientific terminology.

I think it’s the difference between a solution and a mixture.

Perhaps if you get the salt very garlicky, if you actually impregate the salt with the essence of garlic, then, when the salt dissolves and becomes part of the food, you have actually inserted garlic into every bite rather than only the bites that are garlic. Does this make sense? It’s like creating a solution rather than a mixture. It is a chemical transformation, a new food, a whole greater than the sum of the parts.

And a whole greater than the sum isn’t math, and it isn’t science. It is art.

So this simple tip let’s you access guac as science, and as art.

After the lots of garlic and salt, add ripe chunks of avocado, a handful of minced red onion, and perhaps some chopped tomato. Juice a lime in there, and stir it up. And unless someone hates cilantro and you are trying to get on their good side, add chopped cilantro.

You might also add diced jalapeno or serrano or a shake of cayenne, but if you are trying to convice children that they like guacamole, I don’t recommend it.

* This is a trick that either my friend Jennifer or my friend Theresa, both excellent cooks who I often see together, taught me several years ago. They taught me this trick right around the time when my guacamole started to get really really good, and I considered putting it on my resume.

Bejeweling the Mango: Trinidad Chow

May 20, 2015

Thanks to on flickr for use of this Creative Commons photo! Mmmmm.

I went to a 6 year old’s birthday party at a bowling alley.

The lights. The music. The flashing animated rabbit declaring who got a strike, and who got a split. The little guests so delighted to be together, to celebrate their friend, to practice new wobbly math skills to understand the score.

Some children used a ramp-like contraption which in effect bowled the ball for them. My own bowled analog, but pitched each ball more downward than forward. The games progressed in a spirit of amped-up camaraderie, and though I only had to get ice for one wounded child who had stuck her hand into the unforgiving maw of the ball dispenser, it is safe to say that we were all overstimulated.

Soon enough we moved to a party room, where a vast super hero cake lorded over a populous congregation of smaller cupcakes. Bowls of candy overflowed in the middle of the table and balloons bobbed to the ceiling. As hot dogs and pizza slices were passed around and punch was spilled on the tablecloth, the hostess drew my remaining, fractured attention to some food geared towards an adult palate.

And that is when I met the Mango Chow for the first time in my life, and I found something to zero my focus in upon.

Be careful! my friend warned, as I spooned some orange cubes flecked with . . . could those be wee wisps of green herb? Slivers of garlic? It can be a bit spicy, she said.

There is something so pure about mango. The hue of ripe mango flesh has a smooth, unvariegated intensity and gloss. But the arc of flavor is phenonemal. Some fruits are elemental: think apple, banana. But mango is already complex. Some claim it’s too sweet, but in reality, it’s the acidity and the almost delicate dusty flavor at the finish that make it so special for me. I love mango by itself. My kids beg for sliced mango as a dessert, and can frequently be heard squabbling over who gets to suck the pit.

If plain old mango is a party in the mouth, one could postulate that salting and spicing a mango would be like gilding the lily: too much. But this kind of salad is more like bejewling the mango, playing to its natural beauty. It’s like draping a beautiful person in beautiful fabric.

Memorial day is this weekend. This salad, with garlic, lime, chilis, and herbs, it just what you want on your table. No lie.

Trinidad Chow


4 cups cubed fruit (try it first with mango! pineapple makes sense, too! throw some halved grapes in!)

6-8 culantro (use cilantro if you can’t find culantro)

2-3 garlic cloves

Hot pepper to taste, sliced or minced — eg. habanero or scotch bonnet, or hot pepper sauce


Lime juice


1. Mince culantro (or cilantro) and hot pepper.

2. Crush, grate, or mince garlic.

3. Peel fruits, if required.

4. Cut fruit into bite sized pieces.

5. Season to taste with minced culantro, hot pepper/s, garlic and salt.

6. Toss all ingredients together.

7. EAT.

The Maximalist(s)

August 26, 2013

I’ve long considered myself  a maximalist.

Mostly, this has to do with toppings for ice cream or sandwiches. Given the choice to have a sandwich with ham and cheese and mustard and bread — that’s 4 ingredients — or a sandwich with cherry peppers and those shaved onions and avocado and mayo and salt and pepper and vinegar and oil and shredded lettuce and maybe some sort of cheese or meat, I’d take the one with cherry peppers and everything else every time. The cheese and meat are often incidental. They get in the way of my toppings.

When I was growing up, there was a sandwich place called D’Angelo’s in my town. At first, they just served pocket sandwiches. I’d rather do just about anything than eat a pocket sandwich, but number 9 on the roster had shaved steak and American cheese. You could get onions and pepper if you wanted. You could get mushrooms. You could get lettuce and tomato. You could get chopped hot peppers, the stinging vinegar they were packed in adding a wonderful acid component. You could get salt and pepper. (You could get mayonnaise, but everyone has to draw the line somewhere, and on that sandwich that was overkill. On most sandwiches, I would indeed pull the trigger on mayonnaise.)

And then one day, they stopped identifying as just a pocket sandwich restaurant and started to serve sandwiches on sub rolls. It was a life changing moment. Nothing is identified by numbers there anymore, but the name “Number 9” lives on.

When I make burgers at home, I exhaust even myself providing little bowls or plates of things to dress them with. But that is how I like my burgers. I start by dicing onions and cooking them in butter. Then I salt and pepper the meat and squoosh the butter-cooked onions through. I cut tomato, spice up mayo with chipotle or sriracha, sautee mushrooms. There is lettuce available, for crunch. Cheddar or Swiss. Ketchup.

My husband is a bit more measured.

We have 2 kids, each with lots of qualities of their own. It’s a fun family game to attribute a behavior to one side or the other. Sleeping late? That’s my side. Throwing a tantrum when someone tries to help you? Husband. A child begging to use the vacuum? I won’t say who that is, but I will say that it’s not me.

The little vacuumer is great at cleaning up the garden, but he has become a minimalist. He will scream at me for, say, including cheese in his quesadilla. Or for including a hot dog in his hot dog bun — you know, doing bad stuff like that. But the one year old is still a good eater. People in restaurants often approach me to marvel at her capacity. She is a very petite child, but this has nothing to do with her eating habits. She slept horribly as a young baby. Clarification: she slept Guinness Book of World Records horribly. The first night I ever remember her sleeping well was when she sat in a chair and ate dinner for a full uninterrupted 90 minutes. If I recall correctly, it was hundreds and hundreds of small fistfuls of smoked salmon risotto with marscapone cheese. She kept being willing to eat more, and I kept giving her more. Then she slept through the night. Now i feed her as if she were Muhammad Ali nearly every night. She is still svelte, but now she is a glossy-furred good sleeper, too.

When she’s not stuffing her face, she’s stuffing her arms: her other focus is collecting stuffed animals in her bed. I suspect her to be a maximalist. I suspect that she is the kid who might want not chocolate, or not rainbow, but chocolate AND rainbow sprinkles on her ice cream a few years down the line. Ketchup, mustard, relish AND onions on her hot dog.

But for now she’s got the bear and the dog and the other dog and the turtle and the zebra and the cow and the babydoll. And the rabbit and the lizard. And before you lift her out of her crib in the morning, she will hand you each one and deliver a personal thank you for taking each baby, and for holding onto it until she’s out and can grab them all from you again.

The Maximalist likes to run with her whole crew. And who can blame her?

Mango Blossoms

June 26, 2013
thanks for caribb on Flickr for use of the photo

thanks to caribb on Flickr for use of the photo

My inlaws were in from Chicago this weekend and we subway’d it out to the beach Saturday to fly a tiny kite and to say hello to the ocean. It was the Mermaid Parade, which we’d managed to forget, so we also saw a lot of glittery, near-nude women with Technicolor hair.

And I guess that not all of them were women.

We had passed several thousand Mr. Softee trucks, tinkling their siren songs, when I saw our four year old  stomping with a twisted, tortured face. I noted that he wanted ice cream but didn’t want to ask.

I have a conflicted relationship to him asking for things. On the one hand, I want him to feel more comfortable asking for things than I did as a child and frankly, than I do now. On the other, I don’t like being asked for ice cream every single time we walk by it, and because it is on wheels, it is not above following us.

Seeing grandparents is on the level of Mardi Gras for the children, so we knew that the treats would be flowing. So finally we asked him whether he’d prefer a treat then or later in the day. He wanted a treat just then, of course. But right at the moment when it was decided then we passed a spectacular sight, which was a man grabbing a mango from a box, impaling it on a stick, peeling it lickity split at an awkward angle, then hacking at it willy nilly with a machete in order to turn the stone fruit into a lovely blossoming all-fruit lolly. Then he’d hand it to a thirsty, sandy customer and collect their money. The customer could add lime and chili, or just walk off and eat the lushly orange fruit as is.

Henry, stunned at the sight, forgot about ice cream and asked for one of those. Most of me inflated with happiness that my son wanted a beautifully presented fruit rather than industrial-grade ice cream, but a small part of me winced in anticipation. His father was certain that a whole mango would be too much, but I knew that a whole mango would be perfect if it was the sort of mango that passed muster – but that Henry has a very complex relationship with mangos. When they are good they are very very good, and at other times, he wants them to be good, and yet is disappointed, and begins to shriek in a way that only a 4 year old hysterically disappointed by the characteristics of a mango can, or would. 

We waited for the mango-ist of mangos to come out of the box: shiny, orange-fleshed, still firm but juicy and softer than the drier, yellow, less ripe versions. And then we stared into the sea and were ruffled by the breeze as we enjoyed the lush and colorful beachy treat.

Time for Pie

June 21, 2013

Happy summer, pie eaters.

In honor of the first day of summer, I made a blueberry pie. In fact, I just made this pie for the first time myself, and I realized that I made a few errors in posting the recipe last year.

For one, I suggest that you sift the flour and salt together in a large bowel.

Now, where are you supposed to get one of those?

Also, I failed to specify how much butter to stir into the filling after the boiling step. It’s 2 tablespoons. I have updated both the recipe and the language at the link below.

It was pretty delicious.

Give it a whirl.

Jane Delea’s Cold Blueberry Pie

The Milk Givers

June 18, 2013

Readers: This is an older post that I realized I never published, and so I finished it and am publishing it this morning. It is also the start of a new project called The Body Project where women (and who knows, possibly men) will be contributing work about their own bodies for publication on Church Avenue Chomp. Further information to follow, but contact me at churchchomp at gmail dot com if you are interested in submitting.


Henry nursed forever — until he was about 3 weeks shy of 3 years old.

I’d tried weaning. I’d failed. I’d worried about it and then decided that though things weren’t proceeding as planned, that no one would die from this situation.

That’s what I thought, and our pediatrician thought, but it is not what the obviously horrified hospital pediatrician, the guy we met when Ivy was born, thought when he asked us about our family. He grimaced. He announced that my son’s “time in the sun” was over. He acted like we would were doing a serious disservice to our new child unless we threw our old child into milk rehab, stat.

Uh, I have tried milk rehab, sir, and please cut it with the vitriol.

As it happened, the last time Henry even asked to nurse was the morning of the day his sister was born. I plucked him out of his crib, carried him into my room to snuggle, and then it was off to the hospital for me. My new baby nursed that afternoon. When Henry came to the hospital to meet us, he hugged me, and he snuggled me, but he did not ask, and he never asked again.

After he passed the torch of Family Nursling to his sister, he would “check in” with me, but in a different way. Specifically, he would grab my my post-partum belly and smoosh his face into it. He’d try to lift my shirt anywhere to do this. “Keep my shirt down,” I’d fake-cheerfully implore when we were, oh, anywhere we went. He tried to touch my belly everywhere.

Last summer, I realize that he didn’t do that so much anymore. Instead, when he wanted to “check in,” he would try to touch his sister.

I did not know how to keep a 3 year old from mauling a baby with love. He’s largely gentle but there was some leaning that was . . . less gentle. And it’s not great when he pulls on her legs. It’s enormously stressful, for me, and I can’t imagine how the baby feels, though when I finally get him away from her so she can get some air, she generally has a huge grin on her face. But I ask him not to. I tell him not to. I bodily remove him. I urge him not to a bit louder. Sometimes, I yell. “Will you listen to Mommy?” my husband asks.

“No,” Henry would respond cheerfully, or sullenly, but the answer would be no. He loves to snuggle that baby.

One day recently I asked what his favorite part of Ivy is. “I like the warm parts,” he explained. He pointed out her belly, and then her head. “And I sort of like these too,” he continued, indicating her arms and legs.

How about Daddy? I asked, curious. “With Daddy, I like the roof,” Henry said, indicating his own head.

Oh, what about me?

“With you?” He cupped his hands over my chest. “With you, I like the milk givers.”

A colleague once warned me that whatever you called your breasts in a goofy way when your child was nursing would someday be parroted back to you by that child in public. With this in mind, I was so careful not to use the word boob or breast or even any body part word at all. All I ever did was vaguely offer milk. Or milky, in the way that I also say eggy, leggy, cribby, etc. And at one point, he started to call them milkies. “I will keep this milky for myself when the baby comes,” he one day informed me, in reference to the milky on the left side of my body.

But he is quickly growing up. Now he calls them Milk Givers.

The Walk!

May 9, 2013

It was amazing. I was behind in fundraising for the walk for ALS we were going to do on Saturday. And then, I posted about it on the blog.

Immediately, we were up and over the hump. The matching grants from people’s employers aren’t even reflected yet in the totals and we are already WAY over the goals I had set.

You guys are the best readers (and friends!) in the world. Thank you, thank you, thank you!