family, Food, Travel

What I Learned This Time in Massachusetts

I returned today from Massachusetts, where a large portion of my family lives and visiting them was the reason for going. We took a triangular route from Boston to Buzzards Bay (in the pit of Cape Cod’s arm) to Western Massachusetts and then back to Boston.

I lived in that state most of my life but have called Northern New Mexico home for nearly nine years. This is what I brought back this time.

Traffic in the Boston area is awful. Thank goodness I have a husband who is a defensive, and when necessary, an offensive driver.

Boston people can be friendly and helpful but first you have to get past their bark — at least those born and bred there.

I enjoy hearing a Boston accent: the R’s rounded nicely down and R’s where they should be. My accent comes out in spurts these days — to my staff’s amusement.

Bon Me food truck at South Station

Bon Me food truck at South Station

Food gets better and better. I gave up my vegan ways for most of this trip. So I ate seafood prepared in interesting ways: lobster and mango tacos; salmon with sushi tempura in a broth flavored with pickled ginger; and stuffed quahogs and littleneck clams a la Portuguesa. One of the best meals was lunch at the Bon Me food truck near South Station in Boston — salad with tofu and ginger lemonade.

On a related topic, I enjoy drinking coffee by the Mattapoisett harbor. (That’s a photo of the harbor above.) My parents remain perplexed at the lengths we go for a good cup of coffee.

Taos carries a mystique even for those who have never been there. The woman at the used bookstore said she has always wanted to go. The clerk at a bakery knew someone who once lived here. His last name is Martinez. Ah, that is one of the royal families of Taos, I told her.

My mother, who was 91 this year, has stopped aging it seems. She does a great job of taking care of my father, who is two years older.


Nate Livingston, far right, and his band play at Copperfield’s in Boston.

It’s fun to give a good surprise. We did that to our son Nate, whose band was playing its first gig at a Boston bar. The music was great by the way.

Our granddaughter wasn’t surprised we were at her 2-year-old birthday party but we were at how well she speaks and understands the world.

Boston is a sports town that loves the Red Sox even though they stink so far this season. That is true of the other Massachusetts teams. A kid was hawking “Free Tom Brady” t-shirts near Fenway. My observation was they weren’t really free Tom Brady t-shirts.

Boston is busy with lots of commercial construction under way. Homes don’t stay long on the market. The economy is clearly better than where I live.

I enjoyed reading positive messages about diversity and neighborhood pride on the trolley and in the subway stations.

And one more lesson: Never take a flight out of Boston on a summer afternoon. We made it as far as Baltimore but got held up three hours on the tarmac because the routes out west were closed due to storms. We got home close to 1 a.m. But I had a good book and the passengers clapped when the plane took off. Good sports, I would say of my fellow travelers.



Eating on the Road Again

We returned recently from a weeklong camping trip to three national parks. The availability of good quality, pre-packaged natural foods certainly makes living in a tent easier. So in the middle of Arches National Park — an 18-mile trip to the gate — we ate Pad Thai noodles and tasty soups from a box. Hot foods were essential since the temps dipped when the sun went down into the 30s and at Grand Canyon, the 20s, the week we were living outside.  

Baja-style tacos at Kip’s Grill

And on occasion, we ate inside a restaurant like Kip’s Grill in Pagosa Springs. (More below.)

I am not a rookie to camp life. Years ago I camped for months, visiting national and state parks in California and Arizona with my then-companion. We started in San Francisco, where a woman from India taught me how to make chapatis. I accompanied the woman, whose English skills were limited, as she searched for a job around the city. In exchange she showed me how to make chapatis. I kneaded wholewheat dough, rolled balls of it into thin, flat discs before I quickly heated both sides on a skillet. Then, I placed the chapatis on the grate of a lit camp stove (sometimes a fireplace) until they puffed. That became our staple on the road. 

I also cooked for our six kids on our summer camping trips but out of necessity — think huge quantities — everything was made from scratch. While I don’t recall the menus, I do the massive preparation and cleanups. There have been several occasions Hank and I have hit the road to tent and hike.

As I mentioned earlier, Hank and I did eat out a few times on our most recent trip. Salads when we could find them. Muffins and coffee if we were driving at breakfast time. Best muffin was at the Pagosa Baking Company in Southern Colorado. Worst was at Starbucks, where the muffins were more like cake.

At Grand Canyon we ate at  El Tovar Lodge, one of the former

Harvey House railroad hotels from the early 1900s. Charles Whittlesey was the architect for this Mission-style hotel, which is featured in Hank’s numerous books on the Arts and Crafts movement. 

(That’s him pondering the menu at the right.) The lodge, with its massive, dark interior and appropriate furnishings, was a delight. Unfortunately the lunch — salmon with rice and broccoli — wasn’t. I gather the chef wanted me to spread a big glob of citrus butter all over the dish to give it taste, which I didn’t.

The best meal eaten on the road was in Pagosa Springs, where we ended our trip to warm up in pools ranging from 93 to 109 degrees. We had Baja-style tacos at Kip’s Grill. Kip’s is a small place on the main drag with a cantina-like atmosphere. The clientele that

Kip’s Grill

Saturday night looked like mostly locals and a few people like us who wandered in off the road. We were lucky to get a table right away. I had spicy shrimp. Hank chose fish. For a buck more we got slices of avocado. The tacos were tasty and inexpensive. Plus there were bottles of great homemade hot sauces. Our waitress told us “Do whatever you have to do to get my attention.” Funny thing, we didn’t have to.  Here’s a link to their site


Food, Travel

Eating on the Road

Ah, my poor neglected food blog. Since April I’ve had great dining experiences on the road and each time, I vowed to write about them. But I’ve been too busy with writing and other stuff.  So here is a quick recap and a pledge to do better.

(By the way, my last post was about going vegan. Yes, that’s the way I still eat except when that’s not an option dining out or in somebody’s home. As I tell friends, I’m not a jerk — or worse — about it.)

In April, our daughter Emily and son-in-law Chris treated us to dinner at Blue Ginger, the restaurant owned by celebrity chef Ming Tsai in

Blue Ginger

Wellesley, Mass. I’ve seen Ming compete in such TV shows as Next Iron Chef and Iron Chef. He’s made appearances on others. (Yup, I like watching cooking shows.) He was even present the night we dined — visiting a table of, I am guessing, super regulars.

The menu features such dishes as Sake-Miso Mariate Sablefish and Pan-Seared Scallops with Carrot Top Pesto. I went for the Garlic-

Lobster at Blue Ginger

Black Pepper Lobster with Lemongrass Fried Rice. Tasty, but the best dish was an appetizer — the Wok-Stirred Mussels with Fermented Black Bean Broth. It was savory and I would have been happy if it were an entree.

I was back in Boston in July. This time Emily and Chris treated us to dinner at Steele & Rye in Milton, Mass. This restaurant will be featured on this season’s Top Chef, and it was here

Seafood at Steele & Rye

union workers protested the show. But that didn’t happen the night we ate. I had a well-prepared scallop dish with sweet pea puree.

Prickly Pear Margarita at Boudro’s

In early October, we were in San Antonio, Texas for a conference. On the River Walk we opted for Boudro’s — twice — for seafood. The second time, we had guacamole made table side. But the best part of the meal was the fabulously frozen Prickly Pear Margarita. 

The Friendly Spot Ice House

On our last day in San Antonio, we hit The Friendly Spot Ice House in Southtown. I liked the funky, outdoor setting — vintage patio furniture, a playground for the kids, dogs, and a super-sized screen to watch the Spurs. The veggie burger was so-so, but the beer selection was great and yes, it was a friendly place to spend a few hours.

And, now I promise not to wait so long to write about food again. Next topic: seaweed.

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Food, Home

Change in the Air

Fall is here. The aspens have yellowed and the landscape has browned. Hank called just now to say hail then snow is falling in Taos Ski Valley. We will likely get a few warm spells still. But there’s no going back.

So, it is time for a few seasonal rituals. Yesterday, I harvested what was left in the vegetable garden and began the long but enjoyable process of cleaning and replenishing its soil. I did the same for the flower beds.

I was pleased to find several pounds of carrots, the rainbow variety and a few onions I overlooked. Alas, no kale this

year after the bugs took over. But I have greens and lettuce growing still in a cloth-covered bed.

I also planted next year’s garlic — the bulbs 4-by-4-inches apart and 4 inches beneath the surface.

So how did my garden grow? Nicely, thank you. I didn’t buy vegetables all summer. The tomatoes could have done better so I need to figure that out, plus those bugs that consumed the kale. But I have half a year to think about it.

I have weekends of work ahead. More gardening, and then we will be getting a cord of wood delivered. That will have to be stacked close to the back door.

Yesterday, I also put away my warm-weather clothes and took out my cold-weather.

What other changes? We’ll be eating winter squash and soups. I’ll pay more attention to weather reports in case of snow. And, I plan to wear a hat.


Going Vegan

I was heading that way for many months, eating less meat, fish, chicken, and dairy, until I stopped. I feel better for it on many levels.

For decades I’ve been eating whole foods anyway— you know, grains, beans, vegetables, fruit with fish here and there. But during the past several years we expanded our diet, adding beef, chicken, and dairy from the local natural food store so it was the best quality. But meat is meat, I decided.
I saw the documentary, “Forks over Knives,” and read the companion book. Two ideas stayed with me. One is that if all the grain fed to fatten animals were used instead to feed people we would end world hunger. The other is that I want to eat a plant-based diet.
And, luckily I know how to cook tasty and satisfying meals from plants.
Do I care what other people eat? That’s their business. I am not a preacher. And, when I’m invited to eat at someone’s house, I accept without a fuss and eat with gratitude whatever is served. (I found many people don’t ask ahead of time if you have any foods you can’t or don’t want to eat.)
I admit it’s a bit of a challenge eating out. I study menus ahead of time online and seek those restaurants that offer a vegan dish, which admittedly are few, or ones who are happy to modify a recipe.  
So what do we eat at home? Grain, specifically, brown rice. Cooked and raw vegetables. Soy products such as miso, tempeh and tofu although not foods where soy is used to replicate animal food. Nuts and seeds. Fruit. Seaweed. They all make for good eating.