Menu in a Minute - Caesar Salad

Got any salad? Greens before battle!

Julius Caesar - a man with a hankering for salad before battle; a guy who always had oil, vinegar, and coddled eggs at the ready; a man ready to embrace the raw. You knew that right? Here was a guy ahead of his time in innumerable ways. He would have loved Whole Foods. 

The Roman Senate begs Julius Caesar to consider an alternative version
 of his favorite salad dressing - one using fresh anchovies

Julius Caesar - the Roman conquerer, Consul, statesman, author, and legendary salad dressing innovator. Did it really happen that way? Was JC laboring over the production of croutons before considering military strategy? Did he even have time to seek out fresh anchovies? Was he a showman in the tossing of his green leaves?

Let's find out by listening to this Menu in a Minute, part of a Radio Series aired daily on 104.7 The MILE in the glorious mountains of Colorado. The big question - was it this Caesar, or some other Caesar with dramatic flair?

To hear more Menu in a Minute segments, click on the little orange Sound Cloud icon below. 

Like this one -

Menu in a Minute - Quinoa!

Another taste teaser for you, this one all about that supercharged grain of modern conquerers, earth shakers, pacifists, artists, and the rest of us - quinoa. It's an offering from my new Radio Series - Menu in a Minute, airing daily in Colorado (and online!) on 104.7 The MILE.

Quinoa in your breakfast bowl
Go seize the day!

Get a bunch of healthy grain lovers together, and they'll all cheerfully agree that quinoa is something close to a miracle grain. Even squabbling politicians can come together over this one, if not in Congress, then through my rose-hued lens. Eat quinoa and everything gets better, and it tastes unexpectedly good too. A few suggetions to get the ideas germinating. Take a listen to this latest Menu in a Minute. Enjoy!

Quinoa Sushi
 Take that white rice!

Quinoa in different shades
Note the cotton sack container. See, it makes you more virtuous!

Quinoa Tabouleh
Served adorably in mason jars

Menu in a Minute - Healthy Seeds!

Another taste teaser for you, this one all about seeds. An offering from my new Radio Series - Menu in a Minute, airing daily on 104.7 The MILE.

Poppy Fields - gorgeous right? Not just for visual splendor and
opium, but for your  poppy bagel too! (indirectly)

Had to hook you with the field of poppies - gorgeous, no? And that brings us to poppy seeds, so good on that muffin, more assertive and husky than pale and lovely sesame seeds.... (though they're awfully good too, and turn downright sensual once transformed to tahini paste.) 

And then there's the trendiest of all chia seeds - remember the chia pet? 
The infomercial favorite
A direct hippy-dippy descendant of the newly marketed chia seeds found in health food stores across America. 

Now these seeds are added gelatinously to beverages intended to fill you with vigor. 

On that note, let's take a listen to this latest radio Menu in a Minute - Enjoy!

Menu in Minute - Kale!

It's been a while. Summer claimed me with its logistically complicated schedule. Ironic isn't it that the time of year you always thought of as an interlude of ease and simplicity can become so discombobulating? Assuming one has children who go here and there and never at the same time or in any coordinated fashion. But the school year has arrived, just like Beaujolais, and time is back on my side. To celebrate a reclaiming of time, a new offering.

A new Radio Series - Menu in a Minute, aired daily on 104.7 The MILE.

They're just what they sound like -- quick radio pieces on the flexibility and possibilities of specific foods. The aim here is to make you drool, and to pull you out of your cooking doldrums and malaise. Get thee to the farmers market! Or wherever you score your veggies and such. This first piece is on kale, the green of the 21st century, the green that probably paves the roads of Brooklyn Heights and scares the soybean producers of the Midwest. Enjoy - and then go get some.

Whippit-thin skis and crackling snow

Whippet-thin skis tap down on crackling snow licked with ice. It's morning after snow. As if exhaling, my skis sink through the snow's icy veneer to the duller surface below. Such a strange sensation. It's been so warm the snow is still collecting itself, seizing up overnight in the evening chill, then braving the morning glare. Still, it's breathtaking. Now is the time to go, before it all fades. The trails look empty, and there's a luxury in the stillness.

It amazes me it's even possible. It's in the upper 60s in San Francisco, in February. The kids are back at the cabin with my husband, not yet a flurry of gloves and hats and boots and snow pants. Soon, though, after the extraction from their kindles. The littlest will probably stall. His brother will likely be disproportionately incensed, suddenly desperate to exit the confines of indoors for the downhill thrust. Their sister will pronounce her feminine superiority in readying for departure. My husband will briefly long for them all to hit high school. That, and a fly fishing rod and silent stream. I'll be back soon.

Getty Images
I've slicked my skate skis with a gloss of wax, for speed. The morning ice will be good for that. No entrenchment here. The motion of cross country skate skiing is almost defiant. You have to throw yourself into it, literally. There's nothing tentative about it. You thrust your body out from the chest, stabbing the snow with your skis to propel yourself forward. Your back leg and ski lift behind you, momentarily airborne, floating. There's that moment when your weight hovers between skis, a prelude to the rush.

The course at Royal Gorge tips down to start. As I head toward Sleigh Ride, bound for Kidd Lake, I push forward, heart beginning to speed, chest opening. Soon, I'm flying, feeling the wind whip past my ears, cheeks reddening. Nature flies by. It's not cold though, more brisk, even with the wind. The only sound is the whipping swish of skis. It's one of those sounds like an ice blade carving ice or a tennis ball bouncing or a ballet toe shoe tapping a stage that entirely defines an activity and seals it in memory. And that stillness is still there, incongruous with speed, but there.

The funny thing about cross country skiing is that it feels like a secret. Nobody ever chooses an image of nordic skiing to promote platinum visas or financial planning services. It was never the cool kind of skiing when I was growing up. You'd never know about the flying part if you just went off first impressions or efforts, or limited your thinking of cross country skiing to traditional gliding. Traditional gliding can be deeply satisfying, but it can feel more like work, especially at the beginning, and that limits its broad appeal. Skate skiing really took off in the 80s. The American Bill Koch used the technique to ramp up his speed in the 1982 Cross Country Skiing Championships in Oslo. More followed in the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo. At the start, the technique was seen as radical, even threatening. Traditionalists tried to ban it from the World Cup circuit. They eventually gave in, and named the new form freestyle.

I don't mind the secret element. I generally take the less charted path, chasing the outer limits of my personality, drawn to the esoteric, the less trodden, against the tide. This doesn't always make the most sense, and it's clearly not the easiest path, but it can be deeply rewarding, like skate skiing, and at times is more thrilling than one might suspect or measure by standard indicators.

Skiing again, too, connects me to a time that felt like it had slipped out of my hands after a move to California, and more profoundly, parenthood. My husband and I met in the mountains of Colorado, where we both moved after college and lived for four years. There, I skate skied all the time, up the mountain actually, to a silent trail system atop the Strawberry Lift. Our life was so different then, so less programmed and tied to the minute. I had jobs with irregular hours and time during the day to just go. My gear was in the back of the car, and I could find snow as easily as I can find a coffee shop now. Back then we didn't have cell phones, or pressing needs to get to the grocery store or attend meetings. You could really just fall off the radar for a while. I loved it back then, but worried too much about what I wasn't doing. I had no idea what was coming. I did worry about the cost of future kids' dental care. Not clear on why that was the concern, but hey, I was trying to think ahead. I'm still not convinced that early worry served any real purpose.

Reclaiming something of that time, through my skinny skis, moves me. It's a surprise, sort of like the feeling when good times come back after a long string of bumps. In the bumps, you both miss the easier times and fear the ease or hope is gone for good. But then it sneaks back in, and it takes a while for you to relax and believe it might stick around for a while. This time around I'm deeply grateful to be skiing, aware of how much more has to fall into place for it to happen: time (snow is so much further away now), money, child care, my husband's generosity. And I'm aware of it going away too, how many minutes or times left before it slips away again as winter wanes. But still, once I'm there, I feel so much more like me.

I do eventually encounter fellow nordic skiers out on the trails. They emerge, just not that many of them. They're nearly always smiling. Maybe it's just that their mouths are perpetually open, gulping the mountain air. Their smiles are guileless, like those of delighted children. Their bodies look open, unguarded. They look like they feel lucky, like me. I feel a kinship with them. Others are a more of a blur, lean and whipping by in paper-thin lycra. Many seem to be in their fifth or sixth decades, coming out of hibernation to reclaim a speed ready to rip out.

Periodically, I run into some sort of race out on the course. It's always a little startling. Suddenly, I'm in the way. But the racers matters because they show options -- what you really could do if you had more time or drive or lived nearby. Today it was a sleek herd of racing snowshoers, thundering past me. I only later realize they've just come off a downhill, flush with speed. Early in the race they look foreign to me, their fitness superhuman. But then I see them later, or some of them later. One has gone off course, and two others have doubled back and shouted out to direct him to the right path. Their generosity reassures me. Endurance races are about so much more that winning; they're about proving something to yourself.

Maybe it's just reminding yourself that you are you and the layers are always deeper than anyone ever suspects. On the surface alone, there's risk, exposure, elation, focus, the threat of doubt, thrill, reward. The front pack must be done by now. The bravest, I think, are those in the back.

Just over two hours later, I'm done too. Gleefully tired, famished, ready to rejoin my family. Two hours to visit another world. Time travel doesn't get much better.

Tinkering Buzz

The Milan Workshop - The Exploratorium, San Francisco

It's a curious thing when you start to hear a word take off, when the hum around it becomes more of a buzz. It triggers a realization, an understanding that our antennae register as kinetic energy. Lately I've been hearing about the word tinkering. It means what it is - tinkering, playing around with an idea or even a fragment of an idea, or nudging and tweaking something physical, something you build. The growth is organic, pulsed forward by fooling around, not necessarily linear, and fueled by trial and error. There might be a plan at the start or not, and there's just as much gained in the failures as in the successes. And like in life, at least to some degree, most projects go adrift or awry. Learning to move through the muck is the heart of the deal. Because once you accept the freedom to fail, you're ready to fly.

This audio essay on Tinkering aired on 104.7 The MILE . If you want to simply read on, drop down below.

The idea has taken root in educational curriculum. There's a Tinkering School in California, and it's founder, Gever Tulley, has given Ted talks on the subject. Children, he says, need time and space and tools and creative leeway to figure out how to translate ideas or concepts into physical things, things that move and roll and function with intent. They need to use tools like hammers and saws and nails. Limitations get in the way of invention, and there are enough road blocks down the pike anyway.

Tinkering projects have spread to other big cities as well, and to smaller places, including small mountain communities. Tinkering is now a fundamental part of the curriculum at Vail Mountain School. Why you might ask? It’s not just that’s it’s fundamentally satisfying to build things with your hands and to dream up ideas and plans and possible solutions. It’s that doing so engages kids in critical thinking, communication, collaboration, curiosity and perseverance – all keys to 21st-century learning and forward movement. Problem solving in pure form. It’s kind of an amazing thing, once you start thinking about it. In a world rife with technology and rapid fast changes, there is still a powerful value in doing what we used to do before we all got so attached to our screens and devices.

These threads and hums knit cohesively when I read a new piece in the Economist. The focus was on the growing debate about dwindling innovation, and on the cover was Rodin’s Thinker sculpture sitting on the loo. The loo! Nothing that meaningful or as transformative has been invented in recent years. This declaration from the Economist - a revered forum of erudition and higher thinking! And that got me thinking; I thought we had innovation covered with the technological revolution, but evidently I was wrong. Maybe we ought to trade some of our time dealing with the virtual for dealing with the physical? If one thing is clear, it’s this: More tinkering is exactly what we need. In many ways, it seems a perfect complement or even partner to an arts educational curriculum for school years and beyond. Hands on deck folks – With another Mile Matter, I’m Jenny Griffin on 1047 The MILE.

Fashion World Eccentric Aspirations

Diana Vreeland.
Photo by David Bailey

I think in my next life I'd like to be a fashion or art world eccentric. It's not the clothes I want, nor the notoriety, fame, the bohemian lifestyle; it's the singularity of purpose and the freedom from caring a hoot about what anyone else thinks. A recipe for more than artistic vision -- a ticket to a greater certainty, a greater ease in life. Maybe eccentrics do feel pulled by more disparate strings, but it doesn't look that way. They look like they do the pulling, guided by a compass only discernible to them. And the best of them not only get away with it, but are celebrated: like Frida Kahlo, or Andy Warhol, or Salvador Dali, or Diana Vreeland. The first three created or manipulated images. Vreeland collected them, assembled them, and added in high drama story lines. She somehow managed to be both eccentric and more earthbound, not a genius or an artist, but a magic maker and a conduit.

Vreeland, Dee-ah-nuh to her intimates, ruled from the helm at Vogue from 1963 to 1971. That was after 26 years at Harper's Bazaar as fashion editor, along with a theatrically lead life. Those years seem far more glamorous and less tethered than the world we know today, especially in the fashion world. They were years you could really go for something without checking in every few moments. They were good years for mavericks. Vreeland looked nothing like Anna Wintour, the chief honcho at Vogue today. To the public eye, Wintour looks feline and diminutive, controlled, fiercely internal, and sternly unemotional. She may be powerful and successful, but she doesn't appear to really be enjoying any of that highflying. Vreeland looked big (even though she was tiny,) strange, and dynamic. She was a woman who seized control of an ugly duckling childhood designation (by her mother!) and turned it on its head. She was a woman with a particular vision, a woman who appeared, at least professionally, free of doubt of that perspective. She looked like a woman on a thrill ride. Her face reflected that dynamism. It was malleable, always moving, especially her lips and her eyes. She looked like an art installation; just envision a continuous silent loop of her ever mobile face, popping, pinching and twinkling as it scrolls forth endlessly in a big white room of a modern art museum.

Curious? You can see Vreeland's mobile face in the documentary Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel. The film was directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, who's married to Vreeland's grandson. And what granddaughter-in-law wouldn't be intrigued by a family legend she never got to meet who suggested her readers wear violet velvet mittens with everything?

Vreeland came up with her certainty about the fabulousness of violet velvet mittens in part through her background. As she explained to George Plimpton - who helped her write her memoirs - the first thing to do is to "arrange to be born in Paris." That sounds good to me. More glamorous than New Haven, where I was born. And as long as one is born in Paris, one might as well be born there at the turn of the century (1903) to a wealthy and glamorous expat couple who take you to the Ballet Russe where you can pal around with Nijinsky. Then, because you are way too wild and free spirited for regular school, you can convince your parents to let you ditch the dull books and study dance at a Russian school, where the soon-to-be famed Vaganova method so perfectly suits you. Do make sure you summer in the American West too, where you can toss off your toe shoes for boots to ride wild horses with Buffalo Bill. Those horses will further your understanding of movement and speed. Stillness is for the dull.

Make sure to find a way to apprentice with Coco Chanel in the 1920s, the period that will grip your spirit until you discover the 1960s. Next, marry dashingly well and have two exceptionally strapping boys. After that, effortlessly whip across the pond to New York, get hired whimsically on the merit of your style and verve alone (be sure to be discovered gliding across the dance floor at the St. Regis Hotel wearing a white Chanel lace dress and a bolero) and then start writing a deliriously silly and addictive fashion column called "Why Don't You..." Just the thing to make fine use of your profligate spending habits. And that's where we get back to the violet velvet mittens tip, along with other goodies like washing your hair in champagne.

Vreeland in 1936. Photo by Martin Munkacsi
Diana Vreeland Archives 
Why would you do all these silly things? Wash your hair in champagne and wear violet mittens with everything, and have an elk-hide trunk for the back of your car, and paint a map of the world on all four walls of your boys' nursery so they won't grow up with a provincial point of view? Why not, after all, because who wants to be any duller than she has to be? Especially if the PC police haven't yet arrived on the scene. Ingenuity, reinvention, personality, pizazz - Vreeland figured this all out way before Madonna.

And really, why not write a column that ultimately launches you into the director's seat? One that allows you to travel the world and bust through expense budgets and launch crazy ideas - like the mass viability of the bikini in the 1950s.  I think I want to adopt this why not approach to life. Vreeland always seemed to find the open door and didn't worry about the glass ceiling. Here's something else she said: "Don't look back. Just go ahead. Give ideas away. Under every idea there's a new idea waiting to be born." See! She could have been a tech mogul too.

Conde Nast Archive photo
Vreeland suffered pain and loss just like the rest of us. The death of her husband unmoored her. She was fired from her job. She may not have always been there for her sons. But she excelled at moving on, moving forward. Too much concealing, probably, but an approach that had its merits. And one that kept propelling her into the current.

Watching the Vreeland documentary, I kept wondering if Diana Vreeland would have liked Bill Cunningham, the octogenarian bike-riding aesthete, famed for his street fashion photography work in the Style section of the New York Times. Cunningham was profiled winningly in the 2010 documentary Bill Cunningham New YorkCunningham's singularity of purpose and extreme simplicity of lifestyle contrast vibrantly against the societal swans he snaps, his frayed clothes and old bike sharply accenting their riches. But he's one among them really, a natural (and sweet) aristocrat living the way he choses to, and enveloping himself with external stimuli. I can kind of imagine Vreeland riding side by side with Cunningham, she dressed in brilliant, dramatic color and shape, and he in a blue plastic poncho from a French drugstore. The two would be having the most exciting conversation. Gesticulating wildly, they would be enjoying each other immensely and would be oblivious to traffic, but not to eye-catching streetwear trends. How much fun it would be to tag along with them, sopping up the sparks flying from their wheels.

Bill Cunningham