Author Archives for theRaggedys

The Summer of Love

I can’t get that song, “San Francisco,” out of my mind. Maybe it’s because we drove over both the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge last weekend on our way to our grandson’s college graduation ceremony. Maybe it’s because San Francisco is in the news so much – for both the good and the bad. Maybe it’s because I think we all need a “summer of love.”

Scott McKenzie recorded the gorgeous song back in 1967 – the summer now referred to as “The Summer of Love.” Although in today’s Andy’s Corner Andy questions just how “lovey-dovey” that summer may have been, to me the reference to a summer of love seems incredibly apropos, given the fact that Andy and I got married in May of 1967.

However, while around 100,000 folks were gathering in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury in June of that year, dreamily talking about love and peace, Andy and I were saying our (very, very teary) good-byes, as he prepared to leave for Army basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey…with a year-long tour of duty in Vietnam almost inevitable. Having been drafted made the situation even more difficult. Believe me, we thought more about Canada than San Francisco!

It’s hard looking back at that summer and imagining those two different and conflicting scenes. The nation was so divided.

Another memorable song – recorded in July of 1967 – was the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love.” Upon listening to the song in May of 2023, Andy and I both commented that “love isn’t all we need!” Fifty-six years later cynicism may have overcome us. Nonetheless, hearing and seeing the Beatles when they were so young – and were performing in such a casual setting – is a treat. As you watch the video below, be sure to be on the lookout for another very famous musician among those gathered around. Admittedly, I had to check in with our son to make the absolute identification. I’m not as “hip” as those 1967 hippies!

I was 23 the summer of 1967. That summer, while I was consumed with thinking about love…and war, another young woman, born just a day after I was, was thinking more about food – and plotting her first book on that subject. Her name? Frances Moore Lappé.

Frances Moore Lappé in the late 1960s while she was researching Diet for a Small Planet. (Courtesy of Frances Moore Lappé/Penguin Random House)

Diet for a Small Planet, Lappé’s first book, didn’t come out until 1971, but she was working on it in the late 60’s at Cal, where her husband was in graduate school. At first Lappé thought of the book more as a political manifesto – pushing us away from meat and toward plant-based diets. But her very-supportive publisher, Betty Ballantine of Ballantine Books, encouraged her to soften it a little by including recipes.

In 2021 the 50th Anniversary edition was released – with some recipe updates, moving the ingredients toward a more world-view of food, rather than Mediterranean-focused. Over 30 million copies of the book have been sold over the years. Not bad.

Lappé has kept up her activism throughout her life. Her publications include 2004’s You Have the Power: Choosing Courage in a Culture of Fear and 2017’s Daring Democracy: Igniting Power, Meaning, and Connection for the America We Want. Her 2021 updates describe the good and the bad and the ugly, relative to changes to food and farming and the environment. I love that Lappé has such an upbeat conclusion to that edition – the final lines of this Amanda Gorman poem:

The new dawn blooms as we free it.
For there is always light,
If only we’re brave enough to see it,
If only we’re brave enough to be it.

Today’s vegetarian recipe comes from the 2021 edition of Diet of a Small Planet (surprise!), and it’s based on a 1970’s recipe which was served for lunch to the patrons of San Francisco’s Ecology Center. It was tweaked a bit for the new edition by adding coconut milk. I think those who participated in the Summer of Love would approve. Or should I say they’d LOVE it! 🙂

And here’s a shout-out to all of those new college graduates who are looking forward to a life committed to working together to improve our world – and to Silas, our grandson, whose major at Cal, fittingly enough, was Society and the Environment.

And let’s hope that love returns. Fingers crossed for a lovely and love-filled summer of 2023…”for there is always light.”

Chickpea Mulligatawny

Chickpea Mulligatawny

I tweaked this recipe just a bit. It comes from the 2021 edition of Diet of a Small Planet.

  • 3-4 T butter
  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 5 T tomato paste
  • 2 T finely chopped parsley – plus more for garnish
  • 3 c vegetable stock
  • 1 13-oz can coconut milk
  • 2 c cooked chickpeas (you’ll need almost 2 cans, if you’re not cooking them yourself)

Melt the butter in a large pot, add the onions and garlic, and saute until the onions are transluscent. Stir in the carrot, celery, green pepper, apple, curry powder, tomato paste, parsley, vegetable stock, coconut milk, and chickpeas and simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Salt to taste – and serve with a grain of your choice (we like rice) and topped with more parsley, if you like.

Recipe brought to you by and Andy and Ann.

The Raggedy Awards – Year Six

April blossoms on Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights, Brooklyn

Though T.S. Eliot penned “April is the cruellest month,” we here at BigLittleMeals find May to be the most difficult. Why? Well, we have to award the Raggedys! For those of you new to our blog, let me update you. As of this May, we have blogged for six years; we’ve traditionally celebrated the passing of each year by my presenting a Raggedy Award to Andy for his best Andy’s Corner and Andy presenting a Raggedy Award to me for my best blog. This year we’re putting a bit of a spin on the award ceremony. I have picked MY favorite blog and Andy has picked HIS favorite Andy’s Corner! :). AND, instead of picking a favorite recipe, we’ve picked a favorite ingredient.

Because we’re a food/life blog, we’ll begin with the year’s favorite ingredient. The whole “fam” has unanimously agreed that this ingredient is a winner. It’s not pretty; it’s not tasty; it’s not particularly cheap; it’s not easy/peasy to use. But it can be a game-changer. And the winner is


small seeds with big benefits

We blogged about flaxseeds back in January, but to refresh your memory, according to the Mayo Clinic, flaxseed “may be small (I measured – they’re less than 1/4″ long), but its health benefits are big. It contains numerous salubrious components, with highlighted nutrients being omega-3 fatty acids….Omega-3 fatty acids are good fats that may help lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or bad) cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of certain cancers. Fiber can help relieve constipation, control cholesterol levels and keep you feeling full longer. Flaxseed also contains lignans, which provide antioxidant protection.”  

Aren’t you impressed? If you’re still trying to figure out how to incorporate flaxseeds into your diet, we’ve got a flaxseed muffin recipe below for you to try. One muffin and you’ll get enough flaxseed (be sure it’s ground, of course) for the day.

Ann’s Pick

Ann’s pick for Ann’s BEST BLOG goes to “I Like the Lady Horses Best!” Though I love all of my tales about both racehorses and my horses in that blog, what I really love about the blog is this poem I included – “How to Triumph Like a Girl” by Ada Limón. In that poem is the line “I like the lady horses best.” Ada Limón, U.S. Poet Laureate, grew up in and around Glen Ellen, our current home, so that makes her especially interesting for us to follow. But mostly, both Andy and I think she’s written some amazing poetry – even if you’re not a poetry enthusiast. Her poem below, published in 2017, seems especially poignant given this day and time.

And now it’s Andy’s turn:

Deciding on what I consider to be the best Andy’s Corner from the past year was an excruciating experience. Each of my creations was a labor of love and is like my own child. The labor part is because I’ve never been a fluid or prolific writer and tend to agonize over the minutia of word choice, logic, and sentence structure. For each paragraph you see in print there were three or four that I discarded.

The love part comes from how much I enjoy discovering and researching topics I would never have considered if I had no Andy’s Corner to think about. How else would I have been inspired to learn about and discuss such topics as Monopoly’s sordid history, the terrible puns created by Artificial Intelligence, the super power of mushrooms that may save our planet, beef pizzle as food for dogs, or meal worms as brownie ingredients for humans?

And then there are the videos I’ve produced for Andy’s Corner. With a rudimentary understanding of the iMovie app and many hours on my laptop painstakingly cutting, pasting, and rearranging snippets of video, I managed to create four feature movies for Andy’s Corner this past year. So, beyond selecting the best Andy’s Corner narrative, Ann and I agreed that it would be fitting to award an additional Raggedy to one of my videos.

With that said, here are my picks:

Andy’s Picks

Andy’s pick for the best ANDY’S CORNER goes to SUP: An Annoying Small Thing with a Big Impact 

One of the reasons I picked this post is because I believe that in-person greetings are important to the quality of our social lives. These little informal rituals that we pretty much take for granted keep our relationships with others humming along. And writing about greetings offered me the opportunity to vent a bit about a pet peeve of mine (“Sup dude!”) as well as revisit one of my favorite Vonnegut novels.

Andy’s pick for the best VIDEO in an ANDY’S CORNER goes toAn Elephant in the Room” which appeared in Ignoring the Elephant in the Room – or Not 

An Elephant in the Room features our dogs Oakley and Wynn. These two furry clowns provide us with entertainment and comic relief on a daily basis. I’m sure you’ve noticed that they’ve appeared in number of my videos. What sets this particular video apart from the others is its muted canine-esque political undertone. And besides, who can’t help feel a bit upbeat with Henry Mancini”s Baby Elephant Walk playing in the background?

And, as promised, here’s the recipe to help you incorporate our award-winning flaxseeds into your meals. And these muffins are a delicious way to start the morning.

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She Hath-a-Way

I’m been thinking a lot about Anne Hathaway recently. And not the American actress, Anne Hathaway, who was born in 1982; rather I’m thinking about Anne Hathaway, wife to William Shakespeare, born in 1556. Anne married Shakespeare in 1582 when she was 26 – and pregnant. Shakespeare was 18 – and needed his father to okay his marriage. They were married 34 years – and were still married when Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616 – at the age of 52 (Anne lived another 7 years).

The 19th-century German print-maker, George Edward Perine, did this rendition of Shakespeare with his family. Anne is on the right, sewing.

Was theirs a happy marriage? Well, if you remember Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116, you’d think he was quite a romantic and surely must have known true love:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken.

Turns out that Shakespeare left his wife and children in Stratford-upon Avon around 1585 (their children, Susanna and twins, Judith and Hamnet, were about 3 and 1 at the time) to go to London with a troupe of actors. He returned home infrequently after that. Did he love Anne dearly – and his being gone was just a necessity of that day and time? Who knows.

Since it’s been 400 years since Anne’s death, a group of poets have put together an “Anne-thology” of poems about her which you might want to consider. And there’s a play, focused on Anne, being performed in Stratford-upon-Avon now – and this fall in London; it’s based on the 2020 novel which I loved, Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. Since almost nothing is actually known about the real Anne Hathaway, the book is clearly fiction.

Of course, you can’t think about Anne without also thinking more about William. He was born on the same day he died – April 23 – which is the same day Andy was born. Fortunately, Andy did not leave me in Fort Collins, Colorado, with our young children while he pursued his love of sociology at LSU in Baton Rouge. I got to go along (Anne Hathaway never went to London). And – VERY fortunately – Andy did not die at the age of 52. 🙂 Happily, Andy just celebrated his 80th birthday! And we celebrated the occasion with our family in New York City, seeing the just-opened Broadway play Fat Ham, which is a modern – and raucous – re-creation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

A scene from Fat Ham

And – before we offer up a delicious recipe that actually has some connections to Elizabethan England, let me remind you of this wonderful line from The Merchant of Venice. What could be a better wish for one’s 80th?

As for food, we know that in the theater pit of Shakespeare’s time, walnuts, hazelnuts, plums, cherries, peaches, raisins, mussels, periwinkles and crabs were often eaten. And we also know that the Elizabethan English loved “marchpane” – which we now call marzipan.

The Virtues of the “Compleate” Woman. Read it over…you’ll be glad you weren’t a woman back in 1615.

An excerpt from The English Huswife:

To make the best Marchpane take the bset Jordan Almonds and blanch them in warm water, then put them into a stone mortar, and with a wooden pestel beat them to pap, then take of the finest refined Sugar well searst, and with it Damask-Rose-water beat it to a good stiff paste, allowing almost to every Jordan Almond, three spoonfulls of sugar, then when it is brought thus to a paste, ….”

The brand Odense is often recommended.

Our recipe for today uses almond paste, not marzipan. Both have similar ingredients – mainly sugar and almonds – but in different proportions. Almond paste is less sweet and has more almonds, so do not substitute marzipan in this recipe. I gave up frosting cakes a long time ago, so Andy is used to simplified birthday cakes.

If you’re wondering where Andy’s Corner is today, it isn’t. He’s too busy celebrating his birthday week with mirth and laughter. He “hath-a-way” of doing that!

Amanda Hesser's Almond Cake

  • Servings: yields 2 8-inch cakes
  • Print

adapted from Amanda Hesser’s recipe in NYTimes

  • 1 c butter (8 oz total), softened
  • 2 c flour
  • 3/4 tsp Diamond kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 c sugar
  • 7-ounce tube almond paste (do not substitute marzipan)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 c sour cream
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Powdered sugar, for sifting over cake

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour sides and bottoms of 2 8-inch cake or springform pans.

Whisk together flour and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

Using a food processor, add the sugar and almond paste (add the almond paste in chunks) and process until the almond paste is finely ground and incorporated into the sugar. Add the butter and process until smooth, then add egg yolks, one at a time, and almond extract and process again until eggs are combined with the batter. Mix sour cream and baking soda and add to batter mixture and process until mixed together well (scraping down the sides as necessary). Add the flour mixture and process briefly – just until the flour has been incorporated; do not overmix.

Divide batter between prepared pans and spread evenly. Bake about 50 minutes to an hour, until tops are golden and spring back when lightly pressed and cakes shrink from sides of the pans. Cool in pans on a wire rack. When cool, run a knife around the outside of the pans and then invert the cakes onto a plate.

When ready to serve, sift confectioners’ sugar on top and slice like pie.

Recipe brought to you by and Andy and Ann.

The Conversation

The Conversation” by Forrest Gander (who won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry with his collection Be With)

All the while he talks to
the boy, their son, on the phone,
she is interrupting, telling him something
to say, not to say, indicating
that she needs to talk to the boy
herself. Rather than dampening
her enthusiasm or trying
to listen to both at once, finally
he hands her the phone. And rather
than resentment, what he feels
inside himself is the primordial
upwelling of tenderness.

Ah, yes; somehow I feel that Gander was observing us when he wrote this, though I’m not absolutely certain that Andy feels “primordial upwelling of tenderness” when I grab the phone from him. You’ll have to ask him. Or better yet, go to today’s Andy’s Corner and find out about his phone-chat disability.:)

“The Conversation” is also the title of another good read. I have been a fan of The NYTimes Gail Collins for a long time. Gail is impressive (and I feel I can call her by her first name, since she’s just about my age). For example, she was the first woman to edit The Times editorial page and did that for 6 years; she wrote the well-received 2009 book The Amazing Journey of American Women; and in 2017 she joined with Bret Stephens to have “The Conversation” which appears every Monday in The Times…a written conversation – usually about politics – which I always enjoy.

The appeal of “The Conversation” is that both the participants are always very civil to each other, even though they may have wildly diverse takes on the political scene. Obviously, I’m not the only one who follows them. Their April 3 column had 1,300+ comments.

Maybe I’m also unusually interested in the two-some since their age difference is almost identical to the age difference between me and our son, Travis. In fact, Stephens – who has written for The Wall Street Journal and The Jerusalem Post, as well as The Times – was born the same month and year as Travis – November, 1973.

Gail Collins and Bret Stephens in conversation – May of 2017

Personally, I would like to have a conversation with some very dear family members (“hello, Brooklyn!”) about chicken thighs vs chicken breasts. It may be just as tense as a conversation between liberals and conservatives, but I’ll try to incorporate Gail’s approach. If she can do it, I can do it. Rather than lambasting the family with “who in god’s name eats dry, flavorless chicken breasts?!,” I will take the high road. I will say that maybe there is a solution to our differences and let us strive – together – to find this solution.

And, in fact, the solution IS a solution. A solution of warm water and salt. OMG – if all solutions were so easy.

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Small Things Like These

VeloAsia’s gift to the Vietnam cyclists

It was 22 years ago that our son, Travis, and Andy travelled to Vietnam with the tour company VeloAsia – and bicycled from the north to the south of Vietnam. When they arrived in Dalat on Christmas Eve, tired and dirty, they were asked to immediately sit down to an elaborate dinner at the Dalat Palace (5-Star) Hotel; this little hand-made bicycle was the favor each received at that dinner. It’s been in our workshop – unloved and under-appreciated – until this last Christmas, when Andy got it out to show it (again) to Travis…and to reminisce about their trip.

Here’s the route Travis and Andy rode

No, the German-made wool felt mice were not part of the original. We added them in January of this year, thanks to the wonderful Kenwood, CA Swede’s Feeds and their amazing selection of unique little gifts (in addition to big gifts, plants and pet food). I am particularly fond of the arrangement of the mice in the bike. The petite orange mouse (surely it’s a girl mouse) is in front and enjoying leading the way. But the larger, handsome and happy purple mouse is right behind her. He (surely it’s a boy mouse) has got her back and will always be there if she needs him. Maybe he even gives her shoulder and neck massages when she gets a little tense as they travel along. He’s probably glad he’s not bicycling alone and she really loves his calming presence.

This mouse and bike combo – now at home on our kitchen table – is a small thing – but it makes us smile each time we sit down to eat.

Speaking of small things, Andy in today’s Andy’s Corner writes about some small things in our daily lives that may seem innocuous but if ignored can lead to big trouble.  

Seems like small things can have huge impacts.

I think I’m not alone in feeling that the last three years have left many of us a little overwhelmed and not always operating at full speed. For example, I’ve always loved to read but the unread books are piling up; I enjoyed Hilary Mantel’s first two novels in her Wolf House trilogy – but The Mirror and the LIght, with its tiny print and 784 pages, just overwhelmed me. I’m trying to get into The Books of Jacob but am afraid I’ll be at death’s door by the time I get through all of its 992 pages.

Painting by Alejandra Villegas from Oaxaca, Mexico

Maybe that’s why these two recently purchased books by the Irish writer Claire Keegan appeal. They’re so short and small that they barely qualify as novels or even novellas; they’re kind of long short stories. And – better yet – the print is so big I can read them without reading glasses! 🙂

I ordered the 2010 novella, “Foster,” by Keegan when I saw it listed as one of the top 50 novels of the 21st century (according to the Times of London). I think I can be forgiven for not reading it sooner, since it wasn’t available in the US in book format until this past November.

“Small Things Like These” was short-listed for the 2022 Booker Prize

And then I bought “Small Things Like These” (how could I be so lucky as to get a book with the exact title of my blog?!).

These two little novellas – about Irish families in the 1980’s – are both a good read, but I have to say that “Foster”, narrated by a young girl, was my favorite. I loaned it to my neighbor Deb who reports “Wow! So simple yet powerful. Being inside this young girl’s head and being a part of her journey…her life tools were so minimal and yet under the veil of care and goodness, she blooms, ever so slowly.”

And there’s still one more small thing that’s making us smile. It’s our tomato seedlings, which finally sprouted after a long, harried wait and are now almost ready to transplant. After enhancing our soil with soil amendment, buying some Happy Frog Tomato and Vegetable Fertilizer and a small grow light to help the seedlings grow – and paying an outrageous amount for about 20 teensy, organic unusual-variety tomato seeds, I figure each tomato we may be lucky enough to harvest will have cost probably $10! Maybe more! 🙂

As for food, there are lots of small – yet delicious – individual-sized desserts, and eating itsy bitsy desserts frees you from guilt about eating sweets. For winter you can’t go wrong with our little Louisiana Pecan Tassies. But spring is here and these petite blueberry cheesecakes are perfect.

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