Real Meals on a Time Crunch

A few weeks ago, before I left on a blissful trip to the Kushi Institute, I sent out my feelers and asked for some health-related questions to blog about. I like to do this sometimes, and I welcome anyone who has questions to comment on this post, facebook me or otherwise hit me up in whatever way is convenient for you. This time I got several thought-provoking questions, but I am slow and have to chew on them for a while before I actually get to sit down and turn one into a post. The one I’ve been chewing on over the last two weeks came from Merissa Nathan Gerson of Your 28-Year-Old Yenta. She asked, 

What about ways to work with time constraints and food preparation and variation in diet? I am bored with what I eat! But it is quick easy food.

I love this question because, well, I am a full-time mom that wakes up at 5 or 6 every morning, hits the pillow at 10-ish if I’m being good, and runs around after a very daring toddler the entire time in between. I have to make do with about 3 hours a day of toddler nap time—and in that, cram food preparation (I make all of my food and Nina’s from scratch) as well as finishing up school. I probably don’t need to tell you that I have had days where my sustenance consisted of bread and butter (with maybe a stalk of celery thrown in for good measure), and other days during which one snack followed the other and there was not a meal to be had all day. That is to say, Merissa’s question pretty much hits my daily food battle right on the nose. 

But I have found some tricks that, when I implement them diligently, actually render the battle nonexistent. Once you know these tricks, it’s a matter of adding in a pinch of discipline and a little practice, and you’re well on your way to satisfying, prepared meals on a time crunch. Most of them are practical, but the first is more of a shift in food-attitude, and truth be told, it’s the most important one. 

Tip #1: At least half the time, regard food as a functional affair >                                  Probably the most common advertising pitch for people in the health-food industry is that healthy food can also taste delicious. “Good and good for you” is a phrase I’d rather not hear again. And not that healthy food can’t taste great, because it certainly can and does. But expecting every meal to have that pleasure-center-tickling effect distracts us from the real purpose of food—fuel for our mind/body/spirit functions—and is the real enemy of cooking on a time crunch. So half the time, eat food that is simple to prepare and you know is good for you. It will be more rewarding than you think, and you might find that you actually tackle that deep craving because what your body is really asking for, in the guise of dessert or a bag of chips, is some real nutrients. 

Tip #2: Pick 2 hours 2 days a week and cook your staples >                                              Twice a week, I fill my fridge with a few large containers of cooked whole grains of two varieties, cooked beans, a soup and maybe some cooked hearty vegetables, like roots, that can afford to sit in the fridge without wilting. This means that when I need to eat, I can heat up a quick bowl of soup (bonus tip: only heat up the amount of soup you need rather than the entire pot, which makes it go bad much quicker) or serve my pre-cooked rice and beans with a steamed veggie that takes five minutes to cook on the spot. If I plan to eat lunch at 1, I start preparing fifteen minutes before and presto: a balanced and satisfying meal in fifteen minutes. Eating real meals is so critical when you are on a time crunch, because thinking about and searching for snacks repetitively is more time consuming than sitting down, having a meal, and being done with it. 

Tip #3: Shop as a cook, not a consumer >                                                                                  When I go food shopping on an empty stomach, I know I’m in trouble. But even on a full stomach, if I haven’t shifted gears from my inner child to my inner mom, I am liable to get more snack food that won’t really serve me throughout the eating week. Make sure to hit the produce section first and load up on seasonal veggies, fruits for snack or dessert, and plenty of fresh greens because they are   1. super easy to cook, 2. amazing for you (skin, mood, respiratory system, to name a few) and 3. make you fuller faster. Then hit up the bulk section—or grains section if you don’t have one or bulk freaks you out—and load up on dried grains or beans. Then fill in the grocery items like cooking oils, eggs or meat if you eat them, condiments, etc. And then, lastly, get a few pleasure-center items. Bonus tip: try buying a nice tea instead of a big chocolate bar. The ritual of treating yourself might be more rewarding than the sugar buzz itself. Or, you can get both and see how they compare ;)

Tip #4: Experiment with new foods and flavors >                                                                I’m talking the healthy, whole-food ones. Never cooked bok choy before? Plop it in your cart (or your netted farmers market bag, whatever) and throw it in the steamer. Celeriac? Peel it, chop it, and put it in a stew. The fact is, our taste buds change in as short a period of time as a week. That means one week of adding in healthier foods, and you will come to appreciate their flavors. At least, you won’t find them unsavory. And the longer you eat them, and the more you eat them to the exclusion of overly sweet and spiced foods, the more you will crave them and delight in their consumption. It’s a bit of a self-trick at first, but it pays off more generously than you can imagine.

Tip #5: Keep it Simple >                                                                                                                      Yup, the good old KISS rule applies when it comes to healthy eating, too. Perhaps you already garnered this from the previous tips, but keep your ingredients and cooking method simple. Even if you don’t “know how to cook,” you will get by with a steamer basket and some simple instruction on cooking grain, found on the back of the package or the internet. Beans are just as easy. As you keep going, nuances will present themselves and you’ll add them to your repertoire, making you a better cook even as you don’t realize it. But that’s not really the important thing. The important thing is feeding yourself simple, real food that keeps your mood stable and your body energized and strain-free.

A lot of the foods we eat when we’re in a rush are chosen because they comfort us in the moment, like overly sweet, salty or sour things (think pickles). But behind the scenes they are putting strain on your body to process them and to assimilate the few nutrients they offer. So give yourself the gift of using food functionally and put some or all of these tips into practice! And, let me know how they work for you!

Happy eating.

 


 

Is Ordinariness Essential to Happiness?



My friend Sharone showed me this card last week, from the Osho Zen Tarot deck. “I’ve been looking at this one a lot lately,” she reflected. “It’s helping me a lot.”

I felt myself recoil. Ordinary has never been a favorite word of mine. At the same time, I knew what she meant; both of us, it turns out, have spent our lives seeking grandeur, a way to escape the ordinary. Probably we thought ordinary meant bland or boring, and lumped it with other words that brought to mind a world we didn’t want to be a part of. But there’s no escaping it: the ordinary seeps into our daily lives and when we ignore it, we soon find ourselves living in chaos. 

“After the ecstasy, the laundry,” as the Jack Kornfield title goes. My version of this has been, “After the crazy youth, hanging clothes out to dry.” What I mean by that is, actually, that I find bliss in these things. 

But ordinariness can be quite hard on the ego. That’s why we avoid it in the first place, right? I get a panicky feeling when I see photos of my mother when she was my age now, and remember times when I thought she looked so grown up in them. Now I look that grown up. Now I spend my days cooking and washing and folding and vacuuming. Suddenly my identity gets lost as the frame zooms out and I blend into an endless line of women before me that also had a crazy youth, then had kids, did laundry, cooked, etc. It’s the ultimate humbling train of thought. 

Mothering is the most amazing teacher of ordinariness. What it has taught me is this: there is pure love in everyday tasks. In them lies a pretty direct path to surpassing the small concerns of the ego, at least for the moment. But look at the image on the card—it’s not the “ordinariness” you might imagine. In fact, it looks divine. Perhaps the ordinariness I truly seek to escape from is a state of mind that habitually feels unfulfilled. 

What are your thoughts on ordinariness?


Up in Ghent


Sometimes there will be a farm that you fall for like a poem, or a fabric that speaks to you so loudly you have to wear it at once. I didn’t know this before; well, let’s say I half-knew it. Until it happened for real. The first time I stumbled on the Hawthorne Valley Biodynamic Farm stand, I was cautious and sampled their plain sauerkraut but shirked the array of inventive dairy products—raw cheeses and soft, spreadable cheeses, quark, bianca, and buttermilk—maybe got a spelt roll but turned shyly from the crusty fruited sourdoughs and didn’t even see the vegetables. I think I was overwhelmed, or maybe it was just too good. But each Saturday (and some Wednesdays), something miraculous would happen and I would see a little more of the plenty I had somehow missed the time before. And I would try more. And each thing I tried, I fell in love with, and wanted to write volumes about. In short, a spell was cast. 

That’s how it happened that, on John Lennon’s 70th birthday, Nin and I found ourselves driving up highway 87 and asking for directions a half-dozen times until we rolled up to the Hawthorne Valley annual Farm Festival in Ghent, NY.

The Catskills were incredible with a candy-apple-red sheen on the deep green trees, and reminded me of Bob Ross programs when I was a kid. Hundreds of people congregated around the farm store (where you can buy raw milk in quantity) and various food stands that had gone up for the day, offering corn fritters for a dollar among other things. An old man with a long white beard, newsboy hat and corncob pipe played the banjo under a canopy with his bandmates, and children of all ages lined up to get their faces painted with butterflies and lions. It was good wholesome fun and for city kids that never got to experience anything like it (I am referring to myself here, not Nina), it was bliss.

But Hawthorne is not special just for me, because of personal nostalgia. There are plenty of reasons why it is objectively amazing. Hawthorne Valley is a non-profit that houses 3 things: a biodynamic farm, a Waldorf School, and an incredible farm store that rivals any coop and tops it because they are allowed to sell raw milk.

For those who don’t know about the connection between Waldorf schools and biodynamic farming, Rudolf Steiner was the architect of both at the start of the twentieth century. Steiner, who believed that everything in the world has a material aspect and a spiritual aspect, taught that farming in accordance with the phases of the moon, along with the preparation of certain (very witchy) fertilizers and the self-containment of the farm would all contribute not only to the farm’s harmony with nature but also would engage “non-physical beings” to aid in the growth of food. In this same spirit, he taught an elaborate developmental theory and, based on that theory, created a school that emphasized simultaneous education of the “mind, heart and hands.” 

But this is certainly one of those cases in which the whole is greater, beyond measure, than the sum of its parts. Theory aside (and there is much complex and transformative theory to plow through), these joint institutions and the land on which they reside hold such a strong dose of pure, unadulterated magic that it was impossible for me to stand on that soil without thinking, yes, we have tarnished this incredible world. And yet, magic is alive. 

 

 

 

 

Squashes and Spices: Welcome to Fall

This week in our tiny Queens apartment began with me barely making it through the door, panting, pushing Ni in a stroller made three times as heavy with the weight of an enormous butternut squash and pumpkin from Keith’s farm (plus milk, turnips, and the rest of our shopping list). But the squashes had celebrity status as they marked my surrender to the change of seasons. To fall, that is. 

Fall. At once exhilarating and melancholy, it’s a dance that takes me up into the heights of inspiration, down into aloneness and back to the cozy warmth and friendliness of late-Autumn, thanksgiving time. It’s a very moving season for me, and I always find myself wanting to play music more, read poetry, and make small gestures of creativity like choosing my clothes for the day with particular intention. But it’s slippery, this exalted feeling; I can never be sure around which corner it is hiding or when I will find it next. 

But there are things about this season I can count on. Squashes, for example. This week in my kitchen featured a butternut squash soup the color of late afternoon sunlight, pumpkin pancakes, and just this evening, baked apples that just began to caramelize, burst, and send the scent of cinnamon to every room in the apartment. I took the hint from Merete and spooned a bit of nutmeg and cinnamon-laced ricotta into their little burrows. I think Ni will be pretty excited when she’s presented one of these for dessert tomorrow. 

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Ever in keeping with nature’s perfect design, along with these fall foods comes a whole new set of health benefits. Here, I’ve highlighted the gifts of pumpkin, winter squash (even though pumpkin is a winter squash, it has some healing properties unique to itself), and the spices cinnamon and nutmeg, because I love them so dearly and they are ubiquitous in so many fall dishes. And if you’re shy about using nutmeg, I encourage you to experiment with it, adding a bit more than you normally might to a recipe, or just sitting with the aroma and really exploring it with your senses. Once you learn to harness this flavor and improvise with it, you’ll realize how intoxicating it can be. 

Pumpkin: A little sweet, sometimes bitter and ultra rich in fiber, pumpkin will help regulate your blood sugar and boost your immunity (thanks to its high vitamin C content), two very attractive health benefits if you ask me. Additionally, it is rich in minerals including magnesium, which everyone seems to be deficient in these days. Vitamin E will brighten your skin, also boost immunity, and is reported to protect against certain cancers. The calming energy of pumpkin can help ground and relieve stress. 

Winter Squash: Winter squashes contain a high amount of beta-carotene, which a strong digestive system will convert to Vitamin A. This makes it a great dietary tool for any vegetarian, since you guys need to capitalize on all the vitamin A you can get. Squash is anti-inflammatory, making it a great protector against degenerative diseases like cancer and heart disease, and high levels of potassium will help control blood pressure and strengthen bones. 

Cinnamon: Cinnamon is famously warming, a great addition to the lemon-ginger infusion commonly prepared to fight colds. Just add a whole cinnamon stick to your “tea” and let it boil for five minutes or so before cooling it down and drinking. Cinnamon is also a great blood sugar balancer and often used to control type II diabetes which means, if you’re going for dessert, have something like apple pie for the sugar balancing act of cinnamon. It is also anti-inflammatory and said to reverse balding!

Nutmeg: Like cinnamon, nutmeg is warming and drying, with strong antibacterial properties. It has been found to contain a compound that improves memory and even protects against Alzheimer’s disease. Like cinnamon, it aids in the digestion of sugar and dairy products like milk, cream, and yogurt. Perhaps most exciting are the sexual benefits of nutmeg: the Chinese used it to cure impotence, and a host of cultures consider it an aphrodisiac. Perfect for chilly weather and cozy evenings inside!

Nutritionally, these four are not to be messed with, apparently. I hope you love them, or come to love them, as much as I do. Happy fall!

The Case of the Missing Organic Fruit

The Union Square Greenmarket wraps around three sides of 3 and 1/2 acre Union Square Park in downtown NYC. Like so many things here, it is big, and can be kind of impersonal. Many different farms attend, and there is a lot to learn if you’re determined to know where your food comes from. 

To narrow it all down and make the task of choosing my vendors more manageable, I started with the organic stands. Okay, I know that obtaining the USDA  “Organic” certification is very expensive and some small farms cannot afford it—which means that many small farms that actually have organic practices cannot label themselves as such—but it seemed like too much work to weed these farms out from the get-go. Plus, what is the harm in being certain? And the veggies at what have become my staple organic farm stands truly are exceptional. 

But it only took a few trips to the Green for me to realize that I could not find a single organic piece of fruit in all 3 1/2 acres. No berries during berry season (although I did see the jam guy from Massachusetts with a few renegade containers labeled “wild berries: no spray” that turned out the be the tiniest and most delicious blueberries and red currants I’ve ever had), no peaches in late summer, and, that’s right, no apples last Saturday. Oh, the market was brimming with non-organic fruit, but if I wanted mine non-sprayed, it seemed I would have to go to the Whole Foods across the street. 

Was this true? We went to the market manager to find out. “Nope. We don’t have any organic fruit at all.” But why? “It’s too hard to grow in this climate. They all have to use some non-organic pesticides.” Ah. So that explains why, smack in the middle of apple season, the organic apples at Whole Foods still come from Argentina. 

A few weeks later, at a much quainter little fairy-tale market in Warrensburg, NY, I furthered my research by nagging the local farmers about the what’s, how’s and why’s of the area fruit. While I still did not find any certified organic fruit, the people here were completely amazing, passionate, genuine, and willing to talk about their work, and I ended up learning  much about many different things, other than fruit. I found out about something called “Certified Naturally Grown,” which answered most of the questions I had about the USDA organic certification: mainly, who was stepping in to create a certification worth its salt when the USDA has totally corrupted the Organic label. I am still not learned enough about it to say too much about it, but to find out more or find a participating farm, visit naturallygrown.org. (I do have a little movie about this, and if only someone would teach this ludite how to convert an MVI file from my camera to jpeg, I could include this nice little movie in the post. If you have the knowledge, please share in a comment). 

Back to the fruit, it turns out that it is literally impossible to find a certified organically grown fruit in this part of the country. There are some larger—much larger—farms in California that do it, but for the small fries out here, they simply cannot afford it because, supposedly (and I am still unclear as to why) it is actually more expensive to run an organic orchard. However, I did find a farm that limited their pesticides to “rock dust, sea salt, fish oil, and clay.” Sounds alright to me. And their pears, plums, blueberries and apples were darn tasty, with no hint of fish oil to be detected.

What I was truly surprised to observe, though, was that people didn’t really seem to care about the USDA organic label. Maybe it’s because it has been so perverted and people that know farming aren’t gullible enough to buy in anymore. Maybe it’s because up in Warrensburg, five hours out of the city and neck deep in farm country, people know the folks that grow their food and know their practices, too. Maybe it’s a trust thing. Whatever it is, it’s a good reminder that there was life before labels, and we’ve come to a point in food politics where there has to be life after labels, once more. I like the Naturally Grown certification because it’s a grassroots initiative. But I really think it comes down to talking to your farmers, finding people you like and trust, and building relationship. That’s when fruit tastes really good. 

That’s how the case of the missing organic fruit was closed. I learned once again that the greenmarket is not an open-air Whole Foods, and I actually have to take out my proverbial ear buds and talk to people. And thank the lord for that. But before I sign off, I have to take a minute to appreciate the fruit of the hour…

The Apple. No, not the one from Argentina. But the one that is growing in an orchard near you (unless you happen to be reading this blog from Argentina, in which case, thank you for your apples. I confess to having bought them in the winter time). If you are lucky, you will find some varieties that you have never heard of before or seen at the supermarket. They will look like perfectly abstract canvases of autumn and feel firm in your hand. And when you bite in, they will taste alive. And to boot, they will cleanse your body of excess heat collected throughout the summer months and protect you from radiation and other environmental toxins (!). Yes, sign me up please. 

Replenishing Minerals after Exercise

 

This post was born when my old friend M. asked for some mineral replenishment tips. She is a Bikram yogini and sweats buckets daily—I know because I practice this form of “hot yoga” as well. I instantly remembered a time when I was practicing five times a week and feeling incredibly exhausted—like when I wasn’t practicing, I was either sleeping or laying in bed and staring at the ceiling. Thinking back, this was most likely due to pretty extreme mineral loss, and had I known better, I could have created a much more health-supportive yoga experience for myself. So, here is my take on minerals, mineral loss and replenishment. Exercise wisely!

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So, electrolytes recently emerged as one of those really buzzy things in the health world. We have all doubtless had some form of electrolyte-enhanced water or oddly neon-hued powder, or at least know of it. But hiding behind this techy-sounding word is one of the simplest—and most essential—components of nutrition: minerals. 

Electrolytes are minerals—sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride, etc. —that conduct electricity in our bodies to allow for the proper functioning of the neurological and musculoskeletal systems, as well as a host of other functions. To really drive the point of their importance, look at them as the foundation nutrient in your body, without which vitamins, macronutrients and phyto-chemicals (all the good stuff you work so hard to get from your food) are rendered useless. Minerals are the salts of our bodies, and they have a primordial quality to them. Residing in our bones, they are the inorganic materials that remain when the living tissue is burned. (Kind of awesome, no?)

Minerals exist in an incredibly complex network of relationship with one another—some working in combination, others competing for absorption—and the body in its intelligence operates certain mechanisms that very carefully control the concentrations of each mineral in the organism at any given time. Here, ratios are everything. Too much phosphorus without adequate amounts of calcium, for instance, will cause the body to leech the deficit from the bones, eventually causing bone loss. This is why mineral supplements are kind of suspicious: intake of the inappropriate ratio can cause imbalance in the entire body, not to mention that an overdose of certain minerals can cause toxicity. 

So how do we get minerals, and how do we lose them? 

The electrolyte buzz is based on the fact that we lose minerals through losing fluids. So sweating, diarrhea, vomiting, and excess urination can all deplete our mineral stores. You can see why chicken soup, extremely rich in minerals, is an age-old cure for illness (fever, sweating, diarrhea, ya know?) Hard sweaty exercise and the resulting possible over-consumption of water can also water down the minerals in our body so that not only are we sweating them out, we are then peeing them out as well. 

But if by chance you are like me and find it unappealing to add pink powder to your water, or suck out some kind of enigmatic gel from a little packet after exercise, here are some tips for keeping your mineral balance optimal as well as replenishing what you lose after a good hard workout: 

On a daily basis: 

     ~Eat mineral-rich foods. Animal foods are a very efficient source of minerals, especially if you are courageous enough to boil bones for a good stock (see recipe at the end of this post) or cook up some delicious organ meats. Small fish such as sardines and anchovies, in which the bones are soft enough to eat, are great because the mercury content in these fish is relatively low. 

     ~Sea vegetables such as nori (what your sushi comes wrapped in), kombu, dulse, arame, wakame, and hijiki are an invaluable source of minerals and can be incorporated into the diet once or twice a week for the optimal mineral boost. 

     ~Vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables, are a good source provided they are grown in organic, mineral-rich soil. 

     ~Quality, non-iodized sea salt used in cooking provides a wonderful source of minerals. 

An extra boost during workouts: 

     ~Make your very own electrolyte water just as effective as the store-bought version by adding a pinch of sea salt and a squeeze of lemon to your bottle. It will take a few sips to get used to the taste, but I promise it isn’t disgusting and you can actually feel your body absorb this water so much more efficiently than pure water. 

     ~Eat a mineral-rich snack soon after working out, as mineral uptake is most efficient in the fifteen minutes post-workout. Pop a can of sardines, gnaw on a chicken bone, or chew on a few sheets of nori to normalize. 

As with everything, the rule is to not go overboard in any one extreme. Having no exercise is obviously detrimental but too much can be just as unbalancing. Dehydration is a mass problem but drinking too much can dilute the intricate systems within our bodies. So—listen to your body before your mind! 

Basic chicken Stock* (Makes 2 quarts)

2 quarts cold water

6-8 sprigs of thyme

4 medium bay leaves

1 tbsp peppercorns

3 medium carrots, roughly chopped

4 medium onions, roughly chopped

3 large ribs celery, roughly chopped

2 cloves garlic peeled and lightly smashed

Carcass of 2 chickens (break it up to take less space in the pot)

 

 Combine everything in a stock pot or any large pot, add water. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat uncovered. Lower flame and gently simmer 1 hour. Take off the heat and let sit 30 minute. Strain and cool. Keeps in the fridge up to 1 week, in the freezer up to 1 month. 

          *Recipe courtesy my dad! Rockstar chef Serge Slivinsky.

 

 

 

 

 

The What and Why of Whey (and the humble story of Ricotta)

I remember wondering what the hell little miss muffet was doing eating curds and whey. First of all, I was an immigrant kid who did not speak much English and these were very peculiar, scientific-sounding distinctions to me at the time. Secondly, even after I was explained to, that did not sound delicious. Did she have her curds in one bowl and whey in the other? Surely she was not eating a creamy bowl of cottage  cheese; cheese is the curd, who needs the whey? My sentiment towards whey was that it was akin to the bath water that the curd baby swam in. But as it turns out, whey is not to be tossed out in good conscience. 

To be perfectly clear, whey is what remains when one separates the milk solids (curd) out of milk either by cooking (as in the making of panir) or letting stand with the addition of kefir, yoghurt or another cultured product. The curd is usually the desired item in this equation, going on to become cheese through the process of cooking, pressing, aging and so forth, depending on the cheese. What is left behind is a clear sweet liquid the color of coconut water. 

Sally Fallon wrote in her book, Nourishing Traditions, that “Modern cheese makers consider whey a waste product, but in earlier times it was used to produce a variety of other fermented foods and beverages.” She goes on to explain the process of using whey as a starter culture for lacto-fermented veggies and fruits, a pickling process that excludes the vinegar we are accustomed to and is thereby superior for health. Fallon also praises whey as a soaking liquid for grains and a starter for many beverages.

Farmer and sheep-cheese-maker extraordinaire Karen Weinberg of 3-Corner Field Farm in Shushan, NY explained to me yesterday that in addition to making ricotta (more on this in a bit), whey is used on her farm as a supplemental source of calcium in animal feed, and, for the same nutritional benefit, as a fertilizer for the soil. When I ask if any of it is discarded she says to me, “This is not New York City. We don’t throw anything away.” 

When recently buying ricotta at the greenmarket, I was told by the vendor that the exorbitantly priced tub of creamy curd was “made the traditional way—from 100% whey.” As it turns out, most of the “ricotta” we buy at the supermarket or Whole Foods or whatnot is made from milk, like other cheeses—pretty much precluding the specialness of this light cheese traditional to Sardinia, Tuscany, and Latium. Depending on who you speak to, ricotta means “reconstituted,” or “recooked,” and is literally the remaining milk protein (albumin) separated from the whey through a process of additional fermentation (either through cooking with the addition of buttermilk or by leaving to sit in room temperature for up to 2 hours), creating a fine curd which is then strained out. Voila. My favorite cheese on. the. planet. 

The same cheese-maker that introduced me to this distinction explained this: the three tiers of ricotta are cow, sheep, and buffalo, cow being the cheapest and least special and buffalo being the most prized. When I ask if he has tried buffalo, “It’s like silk,” he swoons. And when I open the straw tub of sheep ricotta I have brought home from his stand, the same description comes to mind. It is nothing—nothing—like the ricotta I have known. It is creamy, fine, silky, light and overwhelmingly rich at once. And when I grate the wedge of pecorino that I bought at the same stand on my salad, I think that these two cheeses that could not be more different came from the same batch of milk and minimized the waste produced. It created some extra revenue for the cheese-maker and added a lot of love to my day. Respect. 

In our culture, the only mention I ever see of whey is on scary cylinders of protein powder. Maybe it’s just me, but that stuff does not look like food. 

When I was a little girl in Russia, my mother used to make tvorok, a kind of homemade cottage cheese, out of raw milk on the farm where we spent the summers. I will leave you with this (approximate)  recipe: 

        4 cups milk

        1 cup kefir

        1 tbsp sour cream

Blends ingredients in a bowl, cover with a light cloth and leave overnight in room temperature. In the morning, heat over low heat until it starts to curdle. Then pour into cheese-cloth and hang over a bowl for 4-5 hours or until it has reached the desired consistency. Eat alone, with a spoon of almond butter or a splash of honey, or spread on a slice of rustic bread or pancake like cream cheese. And… get creative with the whey!