Tuesday, May 13, 2014

That Time I Made Recipes from the Titanic Menus

Like every other girl from age 12 to 20, I spent the winter of 1997 pining over Jack Dawson and desperately wishing I’d been able to sail on the Titanic (minus the whole iceberg thing). I was into everything Titanic that year—the real passengers, the construction of the ship, the food, the fashion—if it was titanic related, I “asked jeeves” the hell out of it.  And when that video finally came out on VHS--don’t even get me started. I think my sisters and I wore it out in mere months (as well as our Titanic soundtrack). I especially loved the first half of the movie, and rarely watched the second, because there was always that brief, misguided hope that the ending would change. Alas, it didn’t, and eventually my heart did go on, as teenager hearts tend to do.

Then Titanic came out on 3D and I had to take advantage of seeing it in theaters again, if no other reason than to find an excuse to wear jellys and strawberry flavored lip gloss again.

Its kind of funny to watch that movie as an adult. Suddenly Jack looks less great boyfriend material, and more like a man who is dangerously impulsive, scarily obsessive, unemployed, and inclined to prostitutes… 

Harsh, I know. 

Age has made me jaded! Still a good movie though, in case you were wondering. And even as an adult, I still wished in a corner of my heart for a happy ending.

After all this time, I still find the Titanic fascinating. It has all the wonders of a great story—man versus nature, man tempting God, the wealthy versus the poor, luxury juxtaposed against destruction. So when I saw a Titanic cookbook on goodreads called Last Dinner On the Titanic: Menus and Recipes from the Great Liner, I knew it was something I had to read for my summer food reading list.

Now I’m not an expert chef by any means. I still manage to burn gluten-free toast every once in a while, even though I think I’m a decent cook. And although it was master chefs working on the Titanic, a lot of the recipes were easy enough for me to follow. So don’t let the extravagance of the Titanic turn you off from trying this cookbook—the second and third class menus have recipes that even beginners can achieve.

If you’re wanting to know what it must have felt like to dine on the Titanic, this book creates that experience for you. From descriptions to the formal wear, the layout of the dining rooms, and the food (oh man, that glorious food), reading this book feels like being a guest to dinner on the Titanic. But if that isn’t enough for you, the book has instructions on how to throwing your own Titanic dinner party (I would love to do this, but am WAY too lazy), or simply making your own Titanic themed meal (Bingo.).

So many recipes looked amazing, so it was a hard choice where to start, but like Rose’s mother said, “We’re women—our choices are never easy” (hardy har har).

(click the picture to go to the amazon listing if you want a copy!)

I ended up making a handful of the recipes, some turned out okay, but some were so good that even fancy Rose couldn’t turn up her nose to them. I’m not posting the recipes here, because I believe in supporting artists and encourage you to buy the book yourself. 

The unexpected favorite? Minted Pea Timbales. I NEVER would have come up with this combo (mint…plus peas???). But as Rose said, “It doesn’t make any sense. That’s why I trust it.” And it definitely worked.

The other recipe I really enjoyed was Vegetable Marrow Farci. This one was absolutely delicious, and I kind of love that they are “vegetable boats.” (No, the book doesn't call them boats. The book is much classier than I am...)

The Spring Asparagus Hollandaise was tasty as well, but I couldn't get the sauce right (very runny) and I followed the directions precisely, but oh well. I’d make this one again, but buy the hollandaise from the store (or try different instructions).

Lastly, I made the Roast Sirloin of Beef Forestiere. Although I did enjoy the gravy, I am definitely a plain steak kind of girl, and I didn't feel like the time I spent on this one was worth the outcome. Give me a grill over an oven for my steak any day. 

Overall, it was a really fun experience reading from the Titanic menus and impressing my spouse with Edwardian delicacies. I’m a history buff, so a history food fusion is something I’d love to try again. Any suggestions?

Here are the other books on my summer food reading list, feel free to read along!

Food Books on My Summer To-Read List:
(you're welcome to read with me!)

The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory by Carol J Adams

Gluten Is My Bitch: Rants, Recipes, and Ridiculousness for the Gluten-Free by April Peveteaux

Good Enough to Eat by Stacey Ballis 

Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health by William Davis 

Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef by Shauna James Ahern, Daniel Ahern

Last Dinner on the Titanic: Menus and Recipes from the Great Liner by Rick Archbold

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Thoughts on the "No-Poo" Hair Movement, and What Worked For Me

Red Hair! Now featuring bangs!
About four months ago I dyed my hair a bright, gorgeous (in my less-than-humble opinion) shade of red. I get bored with my hair a lot, and the usual new curling iron or accessory wasn’t cutting it. I went for a big change, and I was very happy that I did. But there was a catch: the red didn’t last long. Now, I understand that red rarely lasts long, and my hair is particularly stubborn about retaining color. But less than four weeks in and my hair was almost back to its natural shade.

After a quick google search, I knew what the main issue was: I’m an everyday poo-er. No, not poo like that. Shampoo. Which brings me to a side-note, but isn’t the no-poo movement a terrible, terrible name??? From now on I’m calling it going “shamp-less.” I talk about poo enough with celiac disease, I’m not bringing the word poo into my hair conversations.  

So I brought my problem to the great social think-tank known as facebook, and received a wide variety of helpful and/or interesting responses from my beautiful friends on how to shamp-less. From baking soda, to egg wash, to creatively placed headbands and braids, I got a lot of ideas and feedback on different methods to try.

But I did have two big concerns about being “shamp-less.”

1. On a scale from 0 to C-diff, how bad would my hair smell without washing it everyday?

2. Would I look presentable enough to go out into the world, or would I look like I dipped my hair in a Cracker Barrel fryer?

Three months later and I am down to washing my hair every two to three days. I smell good (hopefully?) and my hair is more manageable than ever! Plus, my second coloring has lasted much longer (although still less than 8 weeks, so I’m probably going to switch to a less pesky shade).  And although I still shower everyday, I do love how getting ready in the morning takes way less time, and with California in a drought, I also feel good saving water.

So if you are wanting to wash your hair less, here is what worked for me. For reference, I have thick, very straight hair, and my natural color is dark blonde with red tones.

1) Dry Shampoo. 

I had a few reservations about dry shampoo, which I’d only dabbled in before. Would it turn my hair as blond as Khalessi? Would it look like I had walked through a fresh snowfall in the middle of spring?

Umm, how completely relevant is this gif???

My reservations were unfounded, and I am completely obsessed with dry shampoo. Not only does it keep me looking grease-less all day, but it puts body back into my hair. I tried multiple brands, and the one that worked best for me was Oscar Blandi Dry Shampoo Powder, 1 Ounce(link will take you to the amazon page if you want to try it!). I am half-way through the 1 ounce bottle and started using it in Feb, so it lasts a loooong time. Also, I like the lemony smell. Although I do consider myself a bit of a hippy at heart, I’m not a huge fan of the “smells like plain hair” route. I like a little pazazz for my senses. And I couldn’t find an essential oil that I really liked (I know, I’m actually a pretty lame hippy).

Here is a grease comparison of day 3 hair with and without dry shampoo. Lets never speak of this again. 
Day 3 hair without dry shampoo. Help!  
Day 3 hair with dry shampoo. Much better! 

I found that sprays made my hair feel like a helmet (even after brushing them out), and baby powder reminds me too much of a bedpan (nurse problems…). Cornstarch with a touch of cinnamon (for redness) looked great as well, but I have a really odd issue with cornstarch—I can’t stand the feel of it. Its like nails on chalkboard through my fingertips. But if you’re not a complete weirdo like me, cornstarch might work well for you.   

Lastly, a brilliant suggestion that I received for maintenance that I will now share with you: powdered makeup on the roots when you need to de-grease on the run. You’re welcome.

2) Do it Up. 

When in doubt, curling my hair makes the greasy look disappear. I have no idea why it works, but it works. Only Dumbledore probably knows the advanced sorcery behind this little trick, but it has de-greasified the look of my hair every time. 

And BONUS, I get less sick of my hair by changing up the style.

Day 3 curls, no grease!
The pony tail is also a winner, but I’m forced to wear my hair in a ponytail everyday for work (you know, the dragging your hair in bodily fluids thing), so I avoid this style in my personal life.  

I found headbands weren’t for me, but only because I have an odd pumpkin shaped head that the headbands always seemed to slowly pop off of. Sad, because they are cute and this tactic seems to work well while your hair is adjusting. Braids were another loser for me, only because those damn braids look so easy on pinterest but when I try them in real life I always seem to fumble around until my fingers are so tangled into my own hair that my spouse has to come scissor me to the rescue.

3) Hurry Up and Wait. 

One of the hardest, and most successful tactics that I used when trying to shamp-less was just toughing it out. Dry shampoo and fancifying my hair both work great to decrease the grease, but ultimately what brought the greasiness down in the long-term was just sticking with it.

Honestly, it took about 6 weeks before I stopped feeling greasy, even though my efforts meant I didn’t look greasy on my shamp-less days.  Truthfully, I still feel a bit greasy when I stretch it to day 3, but #1 & #2 really help.

Ultimately, I love the smell of freshly shampooed hair, so I will likely never cut out shampoo entirely. I don’t think I could commit to the baking soda-vinegar route that is all the rage right now, because I genuinely enjoy trying out different shampoos (but I am very conscious of the type of shampoos I try to buy—sulfate and cruelty-free). But I’m also never going back to washing my hair every day. The amount of time I save, the benefit to the environment, and the decreased cost is all too awesome to give up.

I've been asked a lot about the specific products that I use to help people just starting out, so here info about the products that have worked well with my hair recently without costing a lot! Click on the pictures to check them out on amazon. (You can also usually find coupons for the L'Oreal shampoo on target.com or coupons.com)

1. Oscar Blandi Dry Shampoo

Why I like it: Great lemon scent, but most importantly, it works really well with my hair. It absorbs the oil almost instantly and lasts all day. Perfect for Day 3 unwashed hair. 

2. L'Oreal Paris EverPure Sulfate Free Color System

Why I like it: It is inexpensive yet has everything I want from a shampoo. It is sulfate-free (sulfates damage colored hair and are a suspected carcinogen), vegan, and not tested on animals. Also, it smells great and works really well. One common complaint about sulfate-free products is that they don't bubble up and clean well enough, but with this shampoo that is definitely not true. I've bought this product repeatedly and my hair loves it!

3. Organix Coconut Milk Shampoo and Conditioner

Why I like it: Gluten-free, cruelty-free, sulfate-free, paraben-free...the list goes on! Organix is affordable, ethically solid, and smells amazing. 

5 Month Update: So I had a particularly dirty streak at work (they put patients in isolation for a reason) where I had to wash my hair everyday for a while. Other nurses, you know what I'm talking about. Those "I'm going to take a second shower just to be sure" kinda days. 

And what happened to all my hair training? 

Not so pretty, ladies. 

So now I'm an every-other-day hair washer convert. This has worked really well for my hair. It looks good everyday and I don't have to worry about germs. 

I also found another brand of dry shampoo to love (although Oscar Blandi is still my staple.) 

(click the pic if you want to check it out on Amazon!)

I found this one earlier this year due to a product recommendation from (I think!) The Frisky. The reason Klorane Gentle Dry Shampoo is so great, for me, anyway, is that it has a very mild smell (which is important, since I work with chronically nauseated patient populations!) and it is very easy to apply. 

I'm anti-aerosol because no matter what my hair feels sticky. This applicator is an even spray with no stickiness, and (bonus!) my hair retains its body. It is heavier than the Blandi Dry Shampoo, but since it is easier to apply its perfect for work days where I want to sleep in those extra 15 minutes but I don't want to look like a grease monster. 

As always, I'm looking for more tips and suggestions!