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Treasure dad on Father's Day

Strong and Tender – Modern Fatherhood at Its Best

The breadwinner, the disciplinarian, the guy who wrestles with sons and dotes on daughters – this is likely what comes to mind when you think of fathers. The traditional role has been one of supporter and teacher, but today fathers are allowed and encouraged to be so much more. Look at your family and around your local community and you’ll see fathers taking a far more active role. Look around and you’ll find a treasure in these men.

It’s a New World

Modern-day dads change diapers, take care of midnight feedings, cook dinners, and carpool kids. Dads are the trustworthy guide through the challenging parts of childhood and the teen years. They are the guys in your local community coaching the kids sports teams and volunteering at local charity events. They are no longer just the guy who works hard at the office all day to feed his family.

Not all men are comfortable with this new, softer side of fatherhood. They may be reticent to fix their daughter’s hair, to cry at a sad movie in front of their kids, or to step outside of the traditional role and help clean the house. But as new generations of dads are born I imagine that “being manly” will become more about stepping up in any capacity that’s needed. They are the unsung heroes in many lives and increasingly are becoming an inspiration for defining fatherhood for future generations.

Creating a Bond That’s Out of This World

My husband lost his father at an early age and it had a huge impact on who he is today. He made a vow to himself to be an involved, loving father – to never let his child miss him even if he was still living. He has more than succeeded. The relationship he has with our son is filled with laughter and includes lots of time spent doing the things they both enjoy. It’s also filled with great trust, honest discussion, and genuine expressions of love. There is no fear in either of them about hugging and saying “I love you.” It fills me with joy to watch them together and to know that my son is learning to be a good person, a good man, and one day a good husband and father.

Give Them the World

This Father’s Day, look around your local community for the unsung heroes of parenthood, see the fathers in your family and view them all in a different light. Not just as the strong and trustworthy financial provider but also as the necessary compliment to mothers. Treasure them as the one who provides strength that comes from a place of love, and discipline that comes from a place of tenderness and caring. No matter how much they may try to hide it, dads are all just those little boys who may have wanted something more from their fathers, like time, attention, approval, or love. Know they are strong but give them permission to be softer. Love them regardless.


About the Writer: Brenda has lived in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia for most of her life. Her background as a reporter and news anchor for a local program fed her interest in writing on varied subjects.
She also enjoys spending time with her family, painting watercolors, playing on a tennis team, and traveling whenever possible.
Brenda H.

Blog

Ireland

The Allure of the Irish – Local Treasures Beyond the Pot of Gold

In a world where individuality and the desire to stand out is often expressed through unusual attire and outrageous behavior, sometimes it still feels good to belong. Being a part of a group can create a sense of camaraderie that elevates any experience. No time is that desire to be a part of a particular group more apparent than on St. Patrick’s Day. It’s not a complete experience if you don’t adapt the best of the culture and become Irish, even if just for one day.

What’s With All The Green

So why is it people like to walk around in “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” shirts no matter their true heritage? Does it have anything to do with the supposed “luck” that belongs to the Irish? More likely it’s just an excuse to celebrate with good local food and drink, hear festive music, and wear green. Why not make it more of a complete experience and really get acquainted with the Irish? Explore the best of their culture, taste the foods, learn the history, and actually feel Irish when St. Patty’s Day rolls around.

Let’s Learn

To get you started – St. Patrick’s Day began as a religious feast for the patron saint of Ireland but has evolved into a day for the authentic Irish as well as all the wannabes to join in a celebration of the Emerald Isle. The name “Emerald Isle” refers to the lovely rolling green hills and vales of Ireland and was first used in a poem by William Drennan – a poet, physician, and political activist from the mid 17th century.

Learning about other countries and cultures is like taking a trip to another land. The more you absorb, the more it feels as though you’re a traveler to that place – tasting the local food and drink, wandering the streets, and interacting with people of that land. I have Ireland on my list of the many places I’d like to see one day. I can imagine being transported through time as I walk cobblestone streets and climb winding castle stairs. The Blarney Stone, Cliffs of Moher, a taste of Colcannon, and some Irish Stew – it all calls to me.

Join In

But until that day I will have to be satisfied with experiencing the best of the culture here. On March 17th, I will seek out a spot at a local Irish pub where I will eat corned beef and cabbage, bands will play outdoors, and people will dance. Adults will get, pardon the Irish slang, “fluthered” on Guinness. For the complete experience I will wear my green and pretend, just for the day, that I know well the land of the leprechauns.

So even if you haven’t visited the land of Oscar Wilde, Michael Collins, and C.S. Lewis, walked through St. Patrick’s Cathedral, or driven the Ring of Kerry, there’s at least one day of the year you may be lucky enough to feel Celtic. Discover the Irish cultural spots in your town – who knows, you may even find a pot of gold that will help you treasure your world on St. Patty’s Day and beyond!

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Prague, Czech Republic

Our World is Here. Where is here? Everywhere!

Living in Prague for a month opened my senses in a way that street performers performing Bach brought me to tears. What are the chances that two violinists would be playing one of my father’s favorite pieces on the streets of Prague? Life is a continuous series of endless synchronicity if we open ourselves up to the possibility that there is more in this universe than we understand. I believe in that moment that my Father was with me in spirit. After seeing the John Lennon Wall in Prague with messages of peace, music, and happiness, I was filled with hope that a peaceful planet isn’t only possible, but that it’s already here and there are glimpses of it all around us. The ability to live following your heart, making your own rules along the way, and living in peace is all about the power of intention. Peace and happiness is here right now. Our self worth has nothing to do with what we do or how much we make. Tomorrow, I am getting on a train to Venice just because I CAN. I don’t need a reason to follow my heart. It is an inspiring way to live when you fully savor each moment and experience life’s little nuances as minor inconveniences.

The Lennon Wall in Prague

People have told me I must be very brave to travel alone. Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s an ability to transcend it and realize that the earth has got your back. As I type this, I can’t believe that tomorrow is the day that I experience Italy for the first time. It is a moment that I have imagined forever and it’s coming true. I will eat pizza and pasta with the locals and perhaps finish off hours later with gelato by the Piazza San Marco. I left my apartment by the water and a six figure income in the USA to travel the world and live off of simple pleasures like a fresh cup of gourmet coffee freshly brewed by the local barista and the local cake recommended by my international brothers and sisters. Suddenly, I’m no longer living off of paychecks and false promises by employers that don’t appreciate me. I am no longer buying clothes with the latest name brands known by everyone as a form of self-validation. I am living each second like a child noticing the world for the first time. Our world is rich in colors, music, flavors, and endless love between us if we only align ourselves with the belief that we have everything we need to be happy right now.

ab-oktoberfest

I don’t know where I am going after Venice but I know that I’m here. I am alive and I am no longer just surviving. I am at peace with life and I want others to experience life as I am. Let’s take care of this beautiful planet and remember we are all in this world together. For example, just yesterday I was in the Hacker tent at Oktoberfest in Germany and I realized this peaceful world is here, right around me. I saw thousands of people drinking, singing, and eating at this festival filled with hope, peace, equality, and love. If an international festival can be created once a year that attracts people worldwide, this camaraderie can be permanent all over the world.

We may speak different languages, eat different foods, and have different customs, but we can all sit down together at a table and drink and eat together. I am blessed to experience different countries, but we can all bring this spirit of togetherness to our own table and in our own town. Next time you sit around a meal with your friends and family, for a moment in time, take a second to appreciate the fact that people are doing this same exact thing all over the world. We may have many countries, languages, religions, and cultural differences but it’s all a part of “Our World.”

Let’s celebrate together. Salud! Prost! Nastravi! Cheers!


Elaine Mercedes Mendoza is a writer, speaker, traveler and foodie who uplifts our world one word at a time. She is passionate about travel and shares her experiences on www.finallyelaine.com. You can also follow her along on Facebook.

 

All images taken by Elaine.

Elaine Mercedes Mendoza

Blog

Chinatown San Francisco

Searching for Dan Dan

I lived for a while in Chinatown, San Francisco. My 200 square foot studio apartment was squashed next to an opera school, an infamous tong1, a flower shop, and a small Szechuan restaurant called Spicy King. Spicy King was run by Truman Du, one of the first chefs to bring Szechuan cuisine to the forefront of San Francisco’s Chinese food scene. I would eat at his restaurant every week, as I didn’t have a kitchen. Spicy King introduced me to the world of spicy numbing, of egg yolk fried bitter melon, and of hot pot. The first time I ordered Dan Dan noodle, I put it to one side, my mouth completely numb. It was confusing, like I had just gone to the dentist.

Something, I assumed, had gone horribly wrong in the cooking process and there was a chemical reaction taking place in my mouth that clearly shouldn’t. Undeterred, I ordered it the next day, and the same numbing sensation returned, but this time, prepared for it, I realized how much depth and feeling it gave the dish. It was cooling after the fiery Ebe La (another Szechuan import by chef Chen Kenmin), it was invigorating, it was above all…different.

The spice that was providing this heat goes by many names — Szechuan pepper, prickly ash powder, dried prickly ash, numbing pepper, or spicy numbing pepper. There is no proper translation because there is no English word for a pepper, or even a flavor that makes your mouth numb. The Chinese word is Ma. Ma is spicy numbing flavor, so a ma-po tofu is tofu with Szechuan peppers. If a dish is La it is spicy in our sense of a rush of blood to the tongue. It has been hard to get these dishes in the United States, partly because Americans are weirded out by things that make their mouth numb, and partly because it was banned for import, probably because the FDA agents were just as weirded out as everyone else.

Szechuan Pepper

Chilled noodle dishes make a great light lunch in the hot summer months, so I knew we needed to have one on the menu. The obvious solution was to go to the now ubiquitous cold soba noodle salad – called American Style Soba in some restaurants in Japan due to our appetite for it. Soba dough takes years to master as buckwheat is notoriously difficult to work with since it is gluten free and, as such, has very little to bind it together. The dough will crack, and the noodle will dissolve in the hands of anyone who isn’t a master. By adding other non-buckwheat flours, these noodles gain elasticity and can now be dried and exported to America to slake our thirst for healthy but filling noodle salads. While the salad is normally dressed with fresh vegetables and some ginger dressing, it’s a dish that isn’t native to Japan. Like most of our imports, it has evolved to suit our palates. There is something about buckwheat’s texture that holds up well to being cold: the chew, the slight bite, the earthy quality.

ab-dandan-sesamesobaThe second most common cold noodle, at least in my mind, is the cold Dan Dan noodle. So it just made all the sense in the world to marry these two traditions into something that would be familiar enough in its form, but piquant in its spicing. The result was our Sesame Soba – our own combination of Chilled Soba, and Dan Dan. It is tossed with delicious fresh vegetables and the Ma should cool your palate in what is expected to be a long, hot, summer. As an added bonus, this dish is an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin D, iron, fiber, and calcium.

I hope you enjoyed this story. Stop by your local Atlanta Bread to try this delectable dish. We would love to hear your feedback so please visit our Facebook and Twitter and let us know what you would like to hear about in future blog posts.

Thanks
– John


John Hutt has been a chef all of his professional life and has traveled around the world to experience new cuisines and cultures. Based in New York and Atlanta, he is the head chef of Atlanta Bread where he is currently developing exciting new menu items while also refining many current offerings. He is also a writer, focusing mostly on contemporary art.

Chef John Hutt
  1. So you might wonder, what is a Tong? In North America, a tong is a type of organization found among Chinese living in the United States and Canada. These organizations are described as secret societies or sworn brotherhoods and are often tied to criminal activity.

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Contribute to the community

How to Work For Free and Feel Rich

As a limited resource, time has great value to us – we don’t want to squander it. We use our time to accomplish the things we need to do as well as those we dream about  But our time has value to others as well. Volunteering your time is a way to contribute to the community and to our own soul. It’s a way to work for free yet walk away feeling richer than ever – it’s undergoing personal growth. Researchers at the London School of Economics discovered that Americans who volunteered regularly rated themselves as happier, and that “happiness” index rose as the frequency of volunteering sessions increased.*

The simple act of contributing to the community doesn’t cost much but pays dividends you may not have considered. Helping others clearly aides in the health, well-being, and sense of worth for those you help. It also infuses the volunteer with a lasting sense of value, pride, and positivity.  And while you spend time without expecting anything return, you may eventually reap the benefits of a stronger community.

If you haven’t volunteered, it can seem daunting, but knowing yourself, your interests, and what you have to offer is a great place to start. What causes do you support? Do you have a talent or skill that would be useful to a particular organization? Where do you feel you could have the most impact? Once you’ve answered those questions, do the research in your community to find where you’d like to help. Most organizations have their own websites, but often a community will have a site where you can find several, varied opportunities.

If possible, recruit a few friends or bring your whole family. The shared experience of helping others increases the benefits of volunteering. Giving back to your community is like working out – while it’s not always easy to find the time to fit it into your busy schedule it’s a rewarding experience that will encourage you to continue making it a part of your lifestyle. The first time you volunteer may seem overwhelming. It’s somewhat like a first day on the job. Go in with an open mind and a willingness to do whatever it takes, but in this case you can also operate with the realization that you are appreciated simply for showing up!

Volunteering with others is a wonderful, shared experience – you can make new friends, improve your social skills and make important connections. Undergoing personal growth is also a benefit – volunteering gives you a sense of purpose. And for teenagers or even job seekers, the act of contributing to the community looks great on a college application or resume.

You may not gain monetarily from volunteering, but by doing so you can certainly enrich your life as well as the lives of others.


 

Source:

* http://www.helpguide.org/articles/work-career/volunteering-and-its-surprising-benefits.htm

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New Year's Resolution

Stumbling Isn’t the Same as Falling – Staying on Track For the New Year

We just celebrated new year and many people may be already asking “how are you doing on your New Year’s resolution?” You may be asking yourself, “why do we make these silly resolutions anyway?” It’s probably a combination of having high hopes of accomplishing a dream mixed with the need to follow along in a ritual that dates back to ancient times.

Roughly 4,000 years ago the Babylonians would celebrate their new year in March and made promises to the gods to earn good favor. In 46 BC, Julius Caesar moved the first day of the year to January 1 in honor of the Roman god of beginnings, Janus. Eventually those promises to the gods became promises we would make to ourselves to improve our lives.

The notion that we can accomplish a dream each year simply by telling ourselves we will change may seem far-fetched, yet more than 88% of Americans will make a resolution to begin the new year. Often the resolution is centered on overall health. Whether you vow to start eating healthy in the new year, to begin exercising regularly, make or save more money or get a better job, somehow our goals are often never achieved. Why is that?

It may be that people set too high an expectation on accomplishing a dream like the ones listed above. Or perhaps it’s because we find it too easy to give up. The latest diet trends are too strict, there’s not enough time to squeeze in that workout, or finding a new job is just impossible in this economy. There’s a lot of advice about how to keep a resolution, but perhaps the best way to ensure some measure of success is to cut yourself a little slack.

First, don’t set a goal that you are very unlikely to achieve. You may want to quit smoking, but that is extremely hard to do. Perhaps make the resolution to cut your smoking in half. You want to lose 40 pounds? How about recognizing you’ll have an easier time if you resolve instead to start eating healthy this year. Eventually you may stop smoking or lose that 40 pounds, but you will be satisfied if you smoke a whole lot less for now, or you lose 15 pounds and feel great because you stuck to your actual resolution.

Second, vocalize your resolution. Telling people your plan can help you stick with it, especially if you tell people who will support you. And on that note, surround yourself with people who aren’t likely to sabotage your efforts.

Finally, allow yourself to stumble. If you find that you “cheated” while trying to follow one of the popular diet trends or you went on a shopping spree you shouldn’t have, don’t let that send you into a downward spiral. In other words, don’t give up. Pick yourself back up and recognize that accomplishing a dream can be hard and it may not go perfectly according to plan. Just don’t let that stumble derail you.

One simple thought. Instead of making your resolution about you, consider making it about others. You could resolve to spread a little happiness each day with a smile and a kind word for a stranger. You could resolve to help someone accomplish their goals, or you could resolve to do something good for your community, like pick up trash, shop locally, volunteer each month, or help families in need. Perhaps stepping outside of yourself might make it easier to succeed.

Navigating the ups and downs of trying to make real changes in your life isn’t easy. Be kind to yourself and you’ll have a happy new year ahead.


Sources:
http://realtruth.org/articles/314-nyr.html
http://people.howstuffworks.com/culture-traditions/holidays-other/why-make-new-years-resolutions1.htm

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Amish Buggy

Sauerkraut – a Microcosm of Cultures

The early settlers to Pennsylvania were mostly from Germany. Colonial Philadelphia, one of the biggest cities in the British empire, is nowadays remembered as a hub of the American Revolution. It was thriving; Benjamin Franklin was printing leaflets while the city went up around him. But before all this there was a Quaker governor of the state who decided to let in persecuted Anabaptists from Germany. This sect of ultra orthodox conservative Protestants were called the Mennonites. The Mennonites had earlier split off into the Amish, forming their own communities; it was these communities that moved into Pennsylvania. Amish believed in isolation from the rest of the sinful world, cutting themselves off from modern conveniences. That may have been easier in 1800, but it’s an ethos that has persevered to this day.

The result is that a few hours drive from the glistening hub of sin, technology and progress that is New York City, sits a community of farmers who have changed little in the past 150 years.

Change, however, is inevitable. Culture and language will always develop. The German spoken by the original settlers has become a hybrid language called Pennsylvania Dutch, no relation to New Amsterdam to the west, but from the word Deutsche meaning German. The Amish have slowly been using washing machines, powering their farm tools with propane generators and slowly moving towards modern technology. Sharing the inherent ability of language to adapt, is food. As the Amish tend to decry visual arts as a waste of time, the best way to observe and experience the culture and understand its history, is by looking at its food.

The land in Pennsylvania is hard, it requires work to get vegetables out of the soil, and the staple crop is corn. This is in harsh contrast to the Rhineland vineyards and the fertile soil of the Palatinate. The Amish food system had to adapt. German recipes were pared down to their simplest form, and the ingredients were substituted with what was at hand. The result is a fairly typical rural cuisine but with the twist of a German culinary tradition that never made its way into the age of refrigeration.

The hams and salted beef are combined with sauerkraut and oatmeal, the scrapple of pig’s head is mixed with cornmeal and made into fritters. In a community where refrigeration was a relatively recent turn of events, curing and preserving food remains incredibly important to the cuisine. As the rest of Pennsylvania took their cue from the smoked meats of the south as a method of preservation, the Pennsylvania Dutch gleefully piled salt and sage on their beef or pork, mixing it with innards to create sausages that, while not entirely German, were entirely American.

Typical Amish cooking completely inhabits natural approaches to health. No artificial chemicals are used, only what they can make themselves. This incorporates pickling, salting and preserving. The most common pickle is, of course, sauerkraut. The difference in pickling various vegetables all comes down to the ratio of vinegar, salt, and water. Vegetables that have a fairly thick structure need to be broken down, things like cucumbers are mostly water, so the ratio of vinegar to salt would be much more vinegar to much less water. Things like cabbage, as for sauerkraut, can use heating to break down fully, or time and salt but this was not common in Europe. As an example:

The Amish Version of Sauerkraut from Cooking with the Horse and Buggy People is as follows:

Shred cabbage like for slaw. Press tight in quart jars. Fill jars with boiling water. For 1 qt. add 2 t. vinegar, 1 t. salt and 1 t. white sugar. Cover and let set for 6 weeks.

The German method is slightly more involved. The typical recipe would go something like this:

Shred cabbage. Toss with salt and allow to sit for 45 minutes or until a large amount of water has been drawn from the cabbage. Massage the cabbage, squeeze it and get as much liquid from it as possible. Then place the cabbage and brine into an airtight jar and allow it to ferment for a week or two.

What is the difference in these recipes? Well, the Amish method adds vinegar and sugar instead of allowing the liquid from the cabbage to do the pickling. In essence the Amish are creating a brine of salt, sugar, vinegar and hot water then adding it to the cabbage and allowing the bacteria to grow and ferment over time. The heat is the main catalyst for both bacterial growth and breaking down the tough cabbage. In the German version the cabbage is broken down with the addition of salt, which draws the moisture out. Note the huge difference in preservation time. The Amish let their cabbage sit for 6 weeks before eating it, whereas the more typical German recipe simply waits for, typically, a week. Based on these recipes we can assume, correctly, that the Amish sauerkraut has a milder flavor than its German cousin.

Why did the Amish start boiling the water to add to the cabbage? The Amish sauerkraut method is quicker to do, the time from cabbage to jar is much less, and the shelf life is extended considerably. The German method has a more time consuming prep process, and is better suited to the world of refrigeration and shorter patience. The Amish recipe is an adaption of a classic to better suit the needs of a place without refrigeration and a real need to preserve the crop in a more efficient way. They may refuse modern technology, but the Amish are evolving and adapting, creating better ways to do things, finding new solutions to almost obsolete questions.

I hope you enjoyed this story! I am developing a delicious reuben with the sauerkraut I told you about in this blog, so stop by your local Atlanta Bread and check it out as soon as it’s available. In the meantime, we would love to hear your feedback so please visit our Facebook and Twitter and let us know what you would like to hear about in future blog posts.

Thanks
– John

John Hutt has been a chef all of his professional life and has traveled around the world to experience new cuisines and cultures. Based in New York and Atlanta, he is the head chef of Atlanta Bread where he is currently developing exciting new menu items while also refining many current offerings. He is also a writer, focusing mostly on contemporary art.

Chef John Hutt

Main photo taken by Konstantin Sergeyev.