Posts Tagged: to be frank

Kitchen Letters #10: I Choose My Choice!

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Dear free thinkers,

How are you all feeling this week?  I am writing to you now–after a week of a “cool-down”–because I wanted to tell you about a recent confrontation that, in its aftermath, left me dumbfounded as to what had just occurred.  So much so in fact, that I reached out to a former colleague to not only commiserate, but to share my tale, as I knew that she too has been put in the same, uncomfortable and unnecessary position as I.  After realizing the umbrage I took at this unpleasant encounter, I knew I needed to write about it in a more public manner.  I understand that what I’m about to describe is not an isolated occurrence, and its meaning weighs much more heavily in my mind with respect to human rights than I think was ever intended.

A little background.  I attend catered events, and being someone who does not eat within the boundaries of the typical diet, oftentimes it behooves me to speak up about what my dietary “restrictions”–as they are often referred to by many–are.  Otherwise, I’ll be politely drinking 6 cups of water and making percussive noises with my utensil set all throughout the dining event, just to distract myself from the hunger pangs.  Knowing my grub circumstance, once a formal invitation is sent out, I typically send a notification to the necessary party, informing them of my food needs.  However, this time a chance was not given.

I was approached directly.  This dialogue, if it can even be called that, quickly took a turn for the worst.  Upon approach, a feeling of guilt was implied by the turn of grammatical phrase from this person and soon I was compared to another individual who, by her own demure nature, did not stand up for herself when approached, but merely avoided confrontation by yielding to the antagonist.   Soon I felt myself being verbally sabotaged with nowhere to turn but my own–what I hope was graceful– verbal sortie.

Yes, I follow a plant-based diet.  I am a person who eats, and its’ selective, yes, but it’s my choice, and I make this choice with love and care.

person planning event:  “Is this a medical choice or just a personal choice?”

me:  “It’s a personal choice (inside my head, “as if it even matters!!!”), I’ve been vegan for years and it’s important to me.”

I won’t say more about the actual remarks of the circumstance as that defiles the meaning of this post.

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When being asked about why I have chosen to eat a certain way, which is, in essence, asking me why I have chosen to live my life a certain way, I endeavor to have an open heart and mind.  In all honestly, it’s often strange to me that dietary choice, if you’re fortunate enough for it to be a choice, is not considered with more brevity in defining your lifestyle.  Of course in today’s world, the idea of foodies and following food-trends is socially acceptable, which has engendered a more accepting community to the many dietary limitations out there, but I don’t think this foodie world has given much reverence to those on the fringe.  In an ideal world, people wouldn’t reproach at the very thought of my decisions in regards to comestibles, but would converse with humility and acceptance.  Instead, acerbic rhetoric that was aligned to make me feel nothing but disrespected and discouraged about my choices was hurled in my direction.  I would like to note, that I don’t think this was entirely the intention of this individual, just the unfortunate outcome.  It is often the case that as humans, we react in defense of our own insecurities or ignorance, for this, I cannot fault anyone, as I’m sure I too have been guilty of such an affront at some point in my life.

Additionally, and as eloquently pointed out by my former colleague, would I have been approached in the same accusatory and dissatisfied manner were I a man?  I think not.  A male counterpart, I’m certain, would have been confronted with a much calmer and appeasing tone, or not at all.  Not to dwell in gender, but I find this to be incredibly disconcerting.  HeForShe!

Food choices don’t have to be approached with a confrontational tone and our reactions shouldn’t be that of a defensive nature, either.  And this is why I write to you today.  It’s not to rant about something you may find trivial; something like food choice.  I write to implore you to take a look at how you’re approaching others in your day-to-day.  I entreaty you to take a moment to STOP and ask yourself why you’re approaching a circumstance a certain way.  Be mindful.

Here are some ways you can feel more prepared when you’re sitting around the table with family and friends this coming holiday season.

  • Be open.  I understand that most holidays are rooted in tradition, and with this tradition are certain food stuffs that need to adorn the table, but be open to new dishes and creative ways to approach a traditional dish that’s long loved.
  • Do NOT torpedo question the person or people who are not participating in consuming the same fare as you.  If you are curious, don’t feel as though this person will crumble into tiny pieces upon questioning, just be thoughtful and calm in your inquiry.
  • Educate yourself before the event.  If food is being served at an event you’re attending and you know someone or multiple people with an alternative diet, take the time to read about their dietary alternatives.  Read about it for the sake of learning.
  • Be generous, provide a substitute dish or meal if that’s within your means.
  • Don’t stare.  If you’re at the table or standing around munching with someone who doesn’t eat the same things as you, remember what your mother told you as a young child, try not to stare.  One can easily feel ostracized when multiple sets of eyes are on the “freaky food” you’re eating.  Look away.

I’m sure there are some of you out there who think, “GET OVER IT”, and you don’t want to tread lightly for others.  When you’re feeling this way, think of any situation in life where you, as a functioning member of society, have been taught to have manners, integrity, and respect for other people’s choices.  Food choices are no different, and they are a human right that’s being denigrated, not uplifted, even with the foodie movement.  Help be a part of the acceptance and change!

Joining together in conversation about food and our choices is crucial, but remember to be tactful and considerate.  The idea of reaching harmony can come to us cloaked, and that cloak may be in the form of a meal with someone you know or love or both.  Be tender if you can.  And remember…bite responsibly!

Healthy Regards,

RAM

p.s.  My catch phrase lately, “I choose my choice!”  #ichoosemychoice

Kitchen Letters from the past.

Kitchen Letters #5: New Growth

newgrowth1

Good evening everyone,

I’ve attended to and nurtured my outdoor plants, and it looks like it paid off because I got my first tomato off of my very own tomato plant this year!  Memorial day morning, before the sky opened up, I went outside to attend to my herbs, flowers and tomato plant, only to discover one of my baby tomatoes had vine ripened to a beautiful shade of red.  Having not grown this plant from seed, I wondered if I should question my excitement, but soon I moved beyond my doubt and relished in my new little fruit.  And you know what Guy Clark says…”there’s nothin’ better than homegrown tomatoes.” :p

That very same morning, I saw that my lovely petunias were blooming, my parsley was sprucing up, and my sage was lush.  I fed them all with a seaweed bath and some fertilizer and couldn’t resist in sharing this new growth with all of you.  Indeed, this is new growth that is physically visible, but it set into motion a rumination about all the new growth that’s not visible and how important our acknowledgement of these veiled forces are with more regularity.

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I feel, as humans, we often overlook that we were once seeds that sprouted and soon became full-grown people.  Somewhere between our flowering stage and being fully grown, we begin to lose ourselves and what our true purpose is supposed to be.  Most of us feel like weeds, lurking in the organization of life’s career paths, social circles and familial groupings.  We’re just bursting through the edges of society, waiting for someone else to realize our potential, our necessity, but ultimately, we must see potential in ourselves first and foremost.

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The average butterfly’s lifespan ranges from one week for a male to two weeks–sometimes longer–for a female.  Their purpose is so ultimately defined and simplistic, it is difficult for me to wrap my mind around.  How can a butterfly live for such a short period–by human standards–and the human life be measurably longer, yet we as humans waste much of our relatively extended life on paltry misgivings about who we are and what we’re capable of accomplishing and being?  We stunt our own growth.

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From one organic piece of matter to the next, and even to those who think they’ve chosen their  ‘set path and purpose’, the big message I took away from those small plants is that there should never be a moment in our whole existence, that we give up, stop looking or settle.  Our perennial survival should be nurtured, cherished and utilized just as the plants in our gardens, on the sides of the high-ways and to the sides of your feet as you stride down a pathway.  Plants, and their new growth, should always be a reminder to us, that though we don’t have deep, physical roots that attach us to the ground, we too are connected to the earth.  I don’t know about you, but I plan to leave an indelible mark on this earth, one way or another! <3

On that note, I’m going to wish you all a happy May 31st evening.  Eat something delicious, and remember…bite responsibly!

Healthy Regards,

RAM

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p.s.

I must give some credit of my contemplative thoughts to a recent viewing of The Wizard of Oz at a lovely palace theatre here. These words have stayed with me.

Well, I-I think that it-it wasn’t enough to just want to see Uncle Henry and Auntie Em- and it’s that-if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard.  Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with!  Is that right?  – Dorothy Gale

Check out more Kitchen Letters here!

Why Changing Food Labels is Not the Answer to Choosing “Healthy” Food

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Good afternoon everyone,

As I’m sure some of you–if not most of you–have heard, first lady Michelle Obama–well-known for her “Let’s Move” initiative, intended to help educate and battle against the ever-growing obesity epidemic, and her assistance and push for the White House transformation of a back yard to become a vegetable garden–has just announced that the US Food and Drug Administration will be remodeling the nutrition labels that are tattooed on every edible, processed and packaged good you can find.  This change comes after twenty-something years of the SAME labeling system for all food products.  Some of the major changes to note:  calories will be shown in a larger and bold typeface font, added sugars will be notated–like evaporated cane juice–in quantities, and there will be more realistic descriptions of serving sizes–the major example is ice cream which typically lists 1/2 cup servings and will be increased to 1 cup servings.  These are just some of the changes currently planned. There will be a ninety-day comment period with absolute changes taking up to two years to be fully implemented.

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Forgive me for being the wet sock in this freshly clean and dried laundry bag that is “new food labeling”, but I can’t help but think that another restrictive label–or “bold typeface”–is the answer to eating more consciously and with awareness.  I understand that over forty percent of Americans pay attention to labels, and clarity in terms, is of course a benefit to the public, but the idea that changing a label is enough to prompt healthier eating “habits” is a little far-fetched in my mind.  After reading article after article, my instinctual response is that another label is not the answer to the destructive and oftentimes apathetic manner in which food is approached in the US.  Don’t misunderstand my tone; I feel there is a lot of good underlying this initiative, but I think we’re focusing on the wrong topic.  Although it is useful to be knowledgeable and aware of food labels and what they mean–with more clarity and less fuss–it is also important to not count every calorie, or gram of sugar and fat.  There comes a time when the obsessive notation of nutritional information is detrimental to our mental health and overall perception of food and eating.  Could keeping track of all this information make eating food become a mechanical, utilitarian act?  People already drive while eating, walk and talk on the phone while slamming down a wrap, and eat at desks to save time.  Food is in many ways already a means to an end for many of us. Why worsen our perception of it by emphasizing an area that already deems excessive attention as it is?  In some cases, and for some, eating for purely pragmatic reasons may be a good situation, welcomed with open arms. But for what I hope is the majority of us, eating is an absolute joyful experience that maintains communities, families and friendships.  Where do we draw the line between food labeling and food nagging?

Furthermore, I’m drawn to the obvious; food labels are only needed on food “products”, not whole foods.  I understand that technology, and the impression of furthering scientific knowledge on the masses, is important, but have we veered so far from nature that we as humans cannot understand the difference between munching on a bag of chips and munching on some cucumber slices?  It is my opinion that though some of us may be naturally inclined to like foodstuffs on the manufactured side, if you’re not a child–who has yet to be educated about food–you are aware enough of what you’re buying to understand that it may have extra amounts of sodium and hydrogenated oils that could impact health problems you’re dealing with at the time or could cause issues in the future.  As my grandmother says, “When in doubt, do nothing”. This bit of advice can be transposed on dietary choices.

Having a diet rich in whole foods–unprocessed, unrefined, original form–and only modestly supplemented by some processed or packaged goods, lends to the design that, barring any genetic dispositions or uncertain accidents, your body will–in simple terms–be happier.  There are no added salts, sugars, fats, and additives–all the “scary” things that are listed on a nutrition label–in whole foods.  The nutritional density contained in each fruit or veggie is all that nature allowed for in the organic matter.  Granted, not all whole foods are alike and some pack more of a nutritional kick than others, but eating something that has not been or has been minimally tampered with, is the first step in eating with awareness and attaining a better mentality on diet.

What is wonderful about labels on food?  If you have a food allergies or food intolerance, package labeling may be to your benefit in many instances where the allergy is severe and any run-in with a particular substance could be a matter of your immediate health.  Food labels assist some with other sudden health concerns, like type 1 diabetics, wherein a person must literally count carbohydrates to survive, as their body will not process insulin for them.  Also, food labels do allow consumers to be educated to some degree about what it is they are eating and the labels allow you to make the choice based on those facts.  Additionally, food labels provide information on quantities of substances in what you’re buying and then eating later, allowing for few secrets.

 

I am respectful and grateful for the encouragement and attention that is being given to nutrition.  This attempt to address the general malaise that many have when it comes to what they are consuming can be disheartening, but I feel much of the message will be lost in this new food labeling initiative.  There are other ways to focus on helping individuals maintain the right type of attention and grasp on eating well on a regular basis and making able dietary choices.  Some possibilities are:  focusing more on educating the public about supporting local farmers who provide nutritionally dense vegetables and fruits, general food education initiatives, and an emphasis on eating whole foods rather than focusing more on processed and packaged foods with foxy new labels.  There are many things that someone as important as first lady Michelle Obama could be speaking-out about in regards to our food education, but perpetuating an already keen focus on labels is not the right way to reach many with a long term positive affect.  Let’s change the conversation in food from obsessive numbers to whole ideas and whole foods!

Where do you stand on new food labeling?  I would love to hear your opinions and thoughts!  I’m encouraged by the attention the food world is going to get because of this movement, I just fear it’s the wrong kind of attention.  Let’s chat!  And remember…bite responsibly.

Healthy Regards,

RAM

 

 

Harvest

A lovely walk to begin Autumn.

A lovely walk to begin Autumn.

Hello Everyone,

There I was, sipping on some hot peppermint tea to offset the cold, drippy day in Texas we all were experiencing, that is quite beautiful in many ways.  What follows are some of my thoughts.

In my mind, there is a still, calm that comes with the darkening of days that makes me feel nestled in nature more than any other time of the year.  I heard someone state on a classical radio station I listen to, that this weather is beautiful to her because we can really see the sheen and color of the newly turned leaves due to the grey sky.  As soon as I heard this, I grinned.  There is something special about being able to see creation or the potential for something wonderful amongst what could easily be considered drab, useless and ugly.

sunrise

My next thought was of a new friendship, but more importantly a comment made by my new friend.  She said–and I paraphrase–‘This is just another season of your life, Rachel, and you have to allow the season to come full circle, naturally.  Like any season, it too will pass.”  I have not been able to forget this simple thought ever since she made it.  What a brilliant way to think of the transgressions in our life, be it big life choices, hardships or good fortune.  She has helped to change my perspective on the idea of infinity and how it can become debilitating and growth stunting, but a better way to look at things is in passes.  Falling leaves that must make their way down on their own at the right time, during the right season.

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What is more, the word harvest sprung to my mind.  Harvest has many meanings, however a couple stand out in my mind.  There is the idea of collecting of crops ripe enough to eat, this act being called harvest, and then the result of some action we take in our life.  As in, after writing on this site all year, I have an ample harvest of posts.  Why do I mention this?  When I think of the harvest of my life in 2013 I am able to come to realizations about what outcome or take-away I have for this year.  As it is Autumn, a time of rest and hibernation beginnings, my mind tends to drift into a still state, which allows me the fortunate ability to focus.

Houndstooth, Hi-tops and chords

Houndstooth, Hi-tops and chords

Our biggest life accomplishment–bigger than winning prizes, opening up businesses of our dreams, writing the next great novel or non-fiction piece, formal education of all kinds–is our body.  Our life has seasons, as does nature, and we have the gift of being conscious of these seasons and their beauty, but also the curse of being able to ignore such beauty.  Most of us spend our life hoping our life doesn’t result in a doggerel, and we forget that our body is the pith of our life.

I often forget that within these seasons, whether good or bad, I have the gift of my body and how I choose to use it, how I choose to nourish it, and I am in charge of this harvest more than all others.

What we eat, how we choose to go about getting the food we eat, the reasons and thought behind every bite we take, the community we share when enjoying our meals or the solitude we embrace in packaged food, all tattoos itself into our harvest.

SO, how can we all produce a better harvest from our body, our life?  I have a few thoughts, check it out!

  • Each month, take the time to figure out where at least one of the foods you eat regularly, comes from.  Do a little research.  Figure out where the specific item came from, be it local or farther away.  Figure out the process of how it was made, packaged, shipped, grown.  Discover its origin story and think about how it became a staple in your diet.  Then, ask yourself why you like eating it, what good–if any–it is doing for your body?  Then, at the end of this exercise, if you’re still content with the comestible, take the time to send a note to the manufacturer, farmer, company, individual who grew/made/shipped/packaged/created it.  Rest knowing you took the time and that is what counts.
  • Grow something and write about it.  Choose one fruit, vegetable, herb or spice to grow this coming year.  Get a head start now and talk with your local nursery or if you are a solo project kind of person, seek out your favorite online videos, articles, blogs and books.  Grow just one edible item from seed to full form and keep a simple diary about the process.  This doesn’t need to be anything too detailed or verbose, just simply the date and a sentence or two on the progress of the plant and your thoughts on being a part of the growing process.  If the plant is perennial, something like tarragon, you could document for just a short while or write about your experience with the growth for the years you are able to keep the plant alive, but if the plant is annual, try to understand the necessity of the plants peak moment and appreciate it while it is there.  This exercise could help with truly following through with growth and understanding the process of growth before consumption.  If you go wild and grow a lot of plants, pass one on to a friend or loved-one.  Spread your bounty!
  • Visit a farm.  At least once within the next year–you could get a head start this December–take a trip to a farm in your city or in a surrounding city.  If you’re feeling up to it, get out in the fields and help them harvest some of their crops, or take some photographs.  Chat with them about the different produce items that pop up each season and try to familiarize yourself with those.
  • Cut out or minimize at least one toxic thing from your diet this coming year and replace it with something yummy and nourishing.  Pay attention to how you feel.
  • Lessen your animal consumption.
  • Create at least one original recipe a month that includes a rainbow of colors and doesn’t include dairy or animal flesh.
  • Drink water and plenty of it.

Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit.  -Henry David Thoreau

WaitsFall

This list is not exhaustive, but certainly a start.  I know that it is easy to lose perspective on life–our body–with the myriad of things we have going on, but the goal is to help alter our mind so that we can start considering our body more, first.  These seasons, they are all influenced by how we perceive, how we feel and how our feelings either hinder or facilitate both good and bad for us.  If we’re to give thanks for anything, make it for the harvest of our life and all that nourishes the environment and our bodies.  I hope this list is helpful, and as you snuggle into your fall and winter weather, I would love to hear from you about actions we could all take to bring more  meaning to what we’re eating and create a better harvest of our life.  Let me know your thoughts below or send me an email.  I can’t wait to hear from you, and remember…bite responsibly!

Healthy Regards,

 

RAM

A colleague helped in the discovery of this gem!  A random share. :D

A colleague helped in the discovery of this gem! A random share. :D

As of Late

Good Day All,

Today I just wanted to touch base and send some positive energy out there to everyone.  I know my posts have been very concentrated and less abstract lately, but in my organization I am trying to find a way to mirror all the thoughts I have lately on food, while finding the proper amount of time and energy to shape those thoughts into blog posts.

As I’m sure some of you have noticed I’m dabbling a little more in the media aspect of my blog by trying out the podcast world and creating videos.  It has been both a fun process and a major learning experience for me.  My love has been the best support system and innovative driver.  Additionally, I’ve created a Connect a Bite Instagram that some of you already know about where I showcase little life happenings and the world of food I find myself a part of daily.  A new more fresh looking site is in the works too!

Everyday I feel like I get a little closer to what it means for me to feel more connected to the food world and the true meaning of human rights in that world, and I kid you not when I say time is such a gift.  More than this, the way in which we utilize our time is what matters most.  I’m getting closer everyday to narrowing down my health concerns and in my bodily enlightenment I’m gaining a more positive perspective on my own consumption habits and how to encourage others.  All of this has been unadulterated motivation for me to reach out more to all of you and speak up about the topics and variations of foodstuffs I find interest in.  As time doesn’t seem to permit me being a prolific blogger, I would like to manage more posts that you all find of interest.

Some days this is my life:

(Note:  Also, this film is a favorite.)

Questions I have for you all!

  • How can I be of more assistance to all of you?
  • What would you like to see from me as a writer and creative force?
  • What are my strengths and how can I improve?
  • What are some topics you’d like to hear more about?
  • Would you like more recipes, more podcasts, more videos?
  • Would you prefer variation in the podcast focus?
  • Do you think you’d enjoy watching more conversational videos or abstract videos?
  • What other thoughts do you have?

Today feels like a wonderful opportunity to share a video a friend and fellow Connect a Bite follower shared with me and I thought all of you would appreciate it.  Thanks for the share, I always love stuff like this, send more my way!

Please enjoy Hurra Torpedo, a Norwegian band who performs mostly on kitchen appliances!  Check eeeet….

 

And more than ever, young Martha Payne remains such an inspiration for me.  Check her out:

Never Seconds

Be well everyone and remember…bite responsibly!

 

Healthy Regards,

RAM

gifs courtesy of russelsbaze

Podcast # 2: Cinema Cuisine: Italy – L’eclisse

Japanese B2 poster L'eclisse 1962

Hello All,

I’m very pleased to say that podcast #2 has happened!  That’s right, if you weren’t absolutely titillated after the first one then this one might help to get you more in the mood for a delicate intermixing of film and food.  Foreign Film Sunday (ffs), also known as Cinema Cuisine, has morphed into the type of occasion that can fall on whatever day is most forgiving with time and the day that allows for the most edits and polishing to occur.  Thanks for your patience in the transitioning.  I hope you enjoyed my introductory post with all of the recipes and my first ever FOOD RELATED VIDEO!!!  Please let me know what you think, and again, much gratitude and thanks to my sweet and talented love for all of his help and creativity.

Podcast HERE–> Cinema Cuisine Ep.2 – Italia

Some notes on Italian food culture:

  • Most beverages are typically enjoyed at room temperature as the Italians feel–and is often proven–this aids digestion. (Personally, I prefer all my drinks at room temperature. My love found this to be a bit more challenging.)
  • Multiple course meals are often followed up with coffee or espresso (Italian press was enjoyed with breakfast and after).
  • As simplicity and full flavor is often the goal in an authentic Italian meal, unless a strong sauce is being prepared–battuto, the starter to a dish wherein aromatics are used:  onions, carrots, celery, parsley, garlic, finely chopped–either onion or garlic are chosen for a dish, not both  (I tried to stick to this principle).
  • Creamy, garlic white sauces are often used on pizza and pasta dishes over red sauces. (I had so much fun creating this sauce).
  • Local, and seasonal produce is important when creating a meal (one of the most exciting aspects, for me).
  • Salad is a side dish, rarely a starter to a meal.
  • Typically each dish is served on a different plate. (We did not follow this tradition, as we would have been cleaning dishes until next year).
  • Primo (starter, rice or pasta), secondo (main course), contorno (side dish). (We enjoyed each of the dishes I prepared all at once rather than in stages with the exception of breakfast).
  • Breakfast is typically eaten around 11 and dinner is also enjoyed much later in the day (8 p.m.). (We ate earlier in the day).

l'eclisse

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l'eclisse2

l'eclisse3

This quote is still haunting me:

“Vittoria: Why do we ask so many questions? Two people shouldn’t know each other too well if they want to fall in love. But, then, maybe they shouldn’t fall in love at all.”

Somehow, I was entirely beguiled by the main protagonist, who spoke this line. It has resonated with me ever since.  As someone who has the tendency to look at the world with a relatively cynical view, I cannot question the love and devotion I have to my special someone. However, it does occur to me that before him, there were years of questioning and an incredulous nature that was hard to tame for awhile.  This film helped align my thoughts to the concept that those feelings or perceptions in our life that are left without sufficient closure on finality, leave us feeling as though we’re in a stagnant state of disbelief.  Vittoria seemed like this type of character to me.  Underlying naivety coupled with insecurity.    Perhaps that is why this quote sticks.  There’s discussion of institutions in the podcast, but something we–Matthew and I–neglected to remark on, is the more obvious fact that the film itself was displaying the institution of marriage of hearts to one another forever, and the credibility or likelihood of this happening with comfort and ease for everyone.  Moral concepts, we as humans, try to tattoo onto our culture and place precedence on, lose meaning when we–consequently–desecrate and participate in such institutions without a willing and bending heart.  Again, I speak to the idea of absolutes and their danger.  (See commentary in previous podcasts.)

What is more, our instinct for detachment in some aspects of our lives and–on an outside food related note–our detachment from our food and where it comes from is forgotten and ignored.  In turn, our general lethargy with consumption and the creativity that is necessary in the growth and preparation of all worlds of food is stunted.  Incidentally, the media doesn’t allow much room for empathy and seeing outside of ourselves to appreciate things.  What I mean to say is, our empathetic instincts are being muted because of societal entrenchment into technology and “moving forward”, rather than stopping to appreciate the present.  This is where we’re all flawed; our negligence to stand still and take in the beauty of our world whilst living in it.

l'eclisse

I hope this podcast helped stitch you in a little closer to the food world and it’s connection to another artistic medium.  Let me know you’re thoughts and critiques below.  And remember…bite responsibly!

Healthy Regards,

RAM

-featured gifs/jpg:  courtesy gelsominas, unpetitgateau, missavagardner

Podcast # 1: Cinema Cuisine: England – Withnail and I

Gif Courtesy of:  http://emptyandsmoking.tumblr.com/

Gif Courtesy of: http://emptyandsmoking.tumblr.com/

Hello Everyone,

About two years ago (although I think in the pc we said one, but it has been almost two) my husband and I began a fun ritual on Fridays called ‘Foreign Film Fridays’, wherein we would choose a country, a film to represent that country–whichever one of us was in charge of picking the country and film, would prepare a meal representative of that country.  It was such a blast, but as our schedules grew busier, Foreign Film Friday sadly fell by the wayside.  You all will be happy to know, it has been reincarnated, but on Sundays!  So, we lost some lovely alliteration, but we gained a more relaxing day, with more time to prepare.  Also, I do the cooking/preparing and we are going to alternate picking the country/film.  One of Matthew and I’s biggest passions in life is film, and we both have a deep connection and fondness for food.  This podcast has allowed me another way to connect food to all of you out there.

I’m very happy to introduce my very first podcast and even more pleased that I’m launching it in conjunction with connectabite.  Please, be forgiving when you listen to it as this is our first ever time to attempt this, and though we’re both avid podcast listeners ourselves, there is certainly a separation in action of something you love.  Needless to say, here it is!  I hope you enjoy and I’d really like to start a dialogue about what you hear.  Tell me what you don’t like, what you do like, was it funny, was it awkward, could you understand what we’re saying, did you appreciate our commentary, etc…

CLICK HERE: –> (right click here) Cinema Cuisine Ep.1 – England

Below you’ll find the recipes to the meals I created, plus sources to some of them.  I hope you will join us in foreign film connecting and food and share with me  your experiences, recipes, ideas and so forth.  I’d love to chat about it all!  Maybe some of you have recommendations?  Enjoy both listening to the podcast and preparing these recipes, and remember…bite responsibly!

Gluten-Free Orange Pecan Scones

               Recipe inspired by Alex Jamieson

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cups of almond flour
  • ½ cup unsweetened coconut flour
  • 1/4 tsp of sea salt
  • 1 tsp of baking soda
  • 1 egg replacer (could also substitute ground flax or chia seeds)
  • 2 tbsp of maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
  • Zest from one organic orange
  • 1/2 cup & 2 tbsp unsweetened almond, coconut, rice or other plant-based milk ( I used almond)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (I broke them into pieces with my hands rather than processing them in any way)
  • ½ cup raisins (you could also substitute another dried fruit)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients: almond flour, coconut flour, sea salt, and baking soda.  Take special care with the coconut flour as it will want to clump together.  Use a fork and sift through large bulges.)
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg replacer, maple syrup, orange juice, zest, and milk.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until blended thoroughly. If the dough seems too dry and isn’t sticking together, use another tablespoon or two of milk.  Dough should feel almost spongy.
  5. Dump in the pecans and raisins.  Then wet your hands to evenly distribute the nuts and dried fruit through the dough.
  6. Use an ice cream scooper to scoop out evenly sized scones and place scones on a parchment lined baking sheet and gently press down to flatten to 1/2 in thick with palm.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes or until the tops are golden brown, and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.

NOTES

  • These are slightly crumbly scones but have a nice density.  They aren’t as heavy and thick as I was used to, but they are gluten-free, thus for what they are, fantastic!  I was so fretful the entire time I was making them/they were baking, that they would turn out flat and fall apart because there is no fat, and for must scones that a key ingredient, but these were only slightly crumbly as I mentioned and had the most divine flavor.
  • We enjoyed these with a hot cup of English Breakfast tea and the combination was superb!
  • I have a few ideas on how to improve/perk up the recipe and someday I’ll post my newest re-creation.
Orange Pecan Scones (gluten-free, vegan) © ConnectaBite 2013

Orange Pecan Scones (gluten-free, vegan) © ConnectaBite 2013

British Beetroot Salad

INGREDIENTS

For Salad

  • romaine lettuce (cleaned and chopped)
  • two medium beets (washed, peeled, and cut into small triangular wedges then cooked until tender, yet firm to form)
  • green peas (portion size is up to you, I’m a sprinkler/dumper)
  • two green onion (diced at an angle into 1/4 inch pieces)

For Dressing

  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds (previously soaked-about 6-8 hours, and rinsed)
  • 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 to 3 tbsp dulse
  • 3 to 4 tbsp (or more depending on your taste buds) Organic horseradish mustard
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or more depending on your taste buds)
  • freshly crushed black pepper to taste
  • onion granules to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves (peeled)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. For Salad:  layer as follows – lettuce on the bottom, followed by green onion, peas, and top with whatever amount of beets sound yummy to you
  2. For Dressing:  in a high powered blender, add to blender all ingredients starting with water, seeds, lemon juice, then horseradish mustard, and so forth.  Blend on low and increase to high until a thick, white creamy sauce is before your eyes.  Do a few taste tests to make sure it’s just right for you.  The dressing should resemble the ubiquitous ‘Ranch’ dressing that so many love.  Drizzle dressing over salad. Enjoy before main entrée.

NOTES

  • You’ll have plenty of leftovers if you’re making this for just two, enjoy this delicious salad for a few days.  Store the dressing in a clean glass jar.
British Beetroot Salad w/ Raw Sunflower Seed Horseradish Dressing © ConnecaBite 2013

British Beetroot Salad w/ Raw Sunflower Seed Horseradish Dressing © ConnecaBite 2013

Lentil & Mushroom Shepherds Pie

               Recipe inspired by Susan Voisin (via Nava Atlas)

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 medium golden yukon potatoes
  • olive oil to taste (for potatoes)
  • 1/2 cup rice milk (rice/quinoa blend-unsweetened)
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons grape seed oil or coconut oil*
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped (I used white)
  • 2  large cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 ounces baby bella mushrooms
  • 1 cup cooked brown lentils (creates about 3  to 31/2 cups cooked lentils with a little of their cooking liquid)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoon reduced-sodium, gluten-free tamari (fermented soy sauce)*
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 to a 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons arrowroot
  • 8 to 10 ounces baby kale leaves
  • cooked millet, maybe a day or two old

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Dice the potatoes. Place in a large saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer, then cover and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and transfer to a small mixing bowl.
  2. Mix together olive oil, potatoes and some salt (to taste) then add the milk and mash until fluffy. Cover and set aside until needed.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  4. While the potatoes are cooking, heat the oil in a medium skillet. Add the onion and sauté over medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and mushrooms and continue to sauté until the onion is golden.
  5. Add the lentils and their liquid and bring to a gentle simmer. Stir in the tamari (optional) herbs and spices. Cook for 5 minutes while stirring gently, then letting the mixture rest to disperse flavors. Combine the arrowroot with just enough water to dissolve in a small container. Stir into the lentil mixture.
  6. Add the kale in small handfuls, cooking just until it’s all wilted down. Remove from the heat; taste to adjust seasonings to your liking.
  7. Lightly oil a 2-quart casserole dish.  Distribute the millet on the bottom of the dish. Pour in the lentil mixture evenly, then spread the potatoes evenly over the top.  The potatoes should spread almost as if they were thick frosting.  Spread with a spatula/bowl scraper.
  8. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the potatoes begin to turn golden and slightly crusty. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes–to set–then serve.

NOTES

  • This would be especially tasty with a British inspired onion gravy–vegan and gluten-free of course, but I didn’t make one this time.
  • Also, I was so anxious to try this dish, I didn’t let it set for the 5 minutes initially, but the next day when we had leftovers, oh, so yummy!

shepherd'spie

English Mushroom Lentil Shepherd’s Pie © ConnecaBite 2013

 

Also, I thought you’d want to know we did indeed record this on a Sunday, but editing and the like took a bit longer.  :p

“Isn’t it stimulating, getting back to a basic sort of life for awhile?  Surrounded by trees and nature, one feels a glorious stirring of the senses, a rejection of poisonous inhibition, and a fecund motion of the soul” – Monty, Withnail and I

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Texas VegFest Re-Cap

Rachel Anne Manning © 2013 | Texas VegFest

Rachel Anne Manning © 2013 | Texas VegFest

Good Afternoon Everyone,

As this post is a little delayed from the actual festival, forgive me if my commentaries seem a little moot at this point, but I still feel they are relevant thoughts.  This year, my husband and I volunteered at the West End Info. Booth for Texas VegFest, and we were able to see the festival from the inside out, to some degree.  We were not entrenched in the workings and foundation of all the hard work that initially went into making VegFest a success in 2013, but we did see the love, motivation and dedication that was displayed by all of the hard-working volunteers, vendors, groups, companies, and farmers.

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Rachel Anne Manning © 2013 | Texas VegFest

Let’s get down to it then. Here’s the breakdown about Texas VegFest:

  • Location & Arrangement:  The festival is located in Fiesta Gardens, a park in East Austin that overlooks Lady Bird Lake. There are lovely palm trees and green life all around, not to mention graduated seating areas and plenty of lovely hills and trees to rest under.  The area is spread out and doesn’t lend itself to excessive noise from surrounding streets or road projects, which for me, adds to the ambiance of what this festival is supposed to be about.  Additionally, each tent–whether this act was purposeful or not–seemed cleverly placed to its accentuating counterpart. This helped make the flow and ease of walking around the fest all the more enjoyable.  However, it did occasionally feel like another festival with white-topped tents and a kettle corn vendor in the sense that there was little theme or thought put into the aesthetic of the festival. That for me is BIG.  I’m not generally a carnival, state fair kind of gal, so ‘veggie’ themed or not, I need more incentive than what’s in the title to rouse my interest in walking around for an hour+.  That being said, there was lively music and kind faces. I’ll be patient in the hopes that in years to come, ambiance will be so carefully intertwined into the festival that I won’t even have to give it a second thought.
  • Participation:  If you’re not attuned to the vegetarian/vegan/plant-based diet world,TexasVegFest is certainly a way to get accustomed, in a non-intimidating environment (like many natural foodsstorescan be for some ‘beginners’ or converts), to the manyalternativesthere are out there for people
    Rachel Anne Manning © 2013 | Texas VegFest

    Rachel Anne Manning © 2013 | Texas VegFest

    who want to attempt a cruelty-minimized life.  There were numerous vendors, companies, shops, and groups (like action groups) that were on display, full of lively volunteers ready to inform the VegFest attendees from the communities far-and-wide about their cause, products, etc. There was a tremendous amount of dedication and vigilance given to their specified field, topic, product or company, that once you walked away from their table, you’d be satisfied with full knowledge.  On the downside of this, the crowds of attendees did get thicker, and wading through groups of people on what turned out to be a windy, sun-stricken day didn’t always cater itself to ‘stop and chat a bit with the owner, creator, vendor, what have you’.  Additionally, I would have liked to have seen MORE action groups and informative booths.  Texas VegFest is a blanket of lifestyle choices so you could easily be a passive attendee and still really enjoy the fest, but for those who want to get a full experience, I fear this year would not have given them that.  I did speak to some very informative and pleasant action/information groups, and I hope next year the word gets out to even more groups so participation is even greater.

  • Samples & Variety:  Coupled with ideas from above, I hesitate not when Isaythat that Saturday wasasampletastic event, but unfortunately I think the vendors were holding backalittle bit.  My husband and I leftwithnumerous raw bars and delicious treats that we’re still enjoying, butthesnackage was definitely limited in quantityandportion sizing.  Maybe we were a little spoiled from the first year, whereinwewere overloaded with goodies to take home or eat there on the spot.Thismay be true, but generally, I think the vendors were being alittlestingier this year.  All of this being said,the quality of the hand-outs was superb, the variety was tremendous and helpful allergy labeling
    Rachel Anne Manning © 2013 | Texas VegFest

    Rachel Anne Manning © 2013 | Texas VegFest

    was never lacking.  We’re both pretty seasoned in the ‘veggie-world’, but even we found items at VegFest we had never heard about.  On the flip side, I was highly disappointed this  year, much like last year, that there were so few farmers.  Most of the samples were not of actual vegetable dishes nor were they whole food based.  Perhaps I just have the wrong idea of what a festival is supposed to be, but I didn’t even see a tent for SFC (Sustainable Food Center), and I think farmers (and non-profits that support farmers) should be represented more than ever these days, trying to spread the word about local, fresh-sourced foods.  Even if local and fresh-source is not something you’re remotely concerned with, it should have been represented more.  Johnson’s Backyard Garden was there, which pleased me, but they weren’t sampling any of their produce.  Sigh.  I hope for more actual vegetables in festivals to come.

  • Demos, Speakers & Interactive Kid Zone:   As I didn’t have the privilege to attend any of the cooking demos or speaking events this year, I cannot comment on them directly, but I can say that this is one absolute plus that Texas VegFest has working in its favor.  Interaction and education is a great way to help the public (and that includes me) understand and appreciate what it means to expose yourself and others to a vegetable-friendly diet and lifestyle.  Also, there was an interactive kid zone with many fun activities for kids to get acquainted with vegetables and an alternative lifestyle in a way they maybe never had before.  There was kids yoga and coloring games to name just a couple.

What more can I say?  Texas VegFest increased both in community attendance and in vendor participation this year, far exceeding last year’s numbers. As someone who volunteered, the festival certainly helps to uplift and bring a positive message to the city of Austin.  I hope for more years of success in this festival, and I look forward to helping make this possible.

What are your thoughts on Texas VegFest, or a VegFest in your city or state?  I’d love to hear any feedback.  Thanks for reading and have a lovely Sunday afternoon. And remember…bite responsibly!

Healthy Regards,

RAM

Rachel Anne Manning © 2013 | Texas VegFest

Rachel Anne Manning © 2013 | Texas VegFest | Sweet Ritual vegan ice cream w/ sprinkles!!!

Your Body is Speaking to You, What is it Saying?

Rosemary Furtak, 1986

Rosemary Furtak, 1986

Hello Everyone, I hope this Friday is bringing you some sort of week-day bliss, and if not maybe this post will help, or at least help to guide.  A variable that often plays into my thoughts in regards to food, is our body’s way of talking to us as a means to send messages. In many ways we feel as though we control our own minds and the messages it sends us, but often we neglect to consider the connection with the rest of our body.

Recently (that is counting today), I decided to go through with a full-blown cleanse.  In many ways I’m always cleansing via various processes, but I’ve never 100% committed until almost three weeks ago(yep, 21 days tomorrow).  What was my driving force?  My tendency on this blog is to not express nauseating amounts of detail, so let’s just say my body’s communications with me were starting to become belligerent and disorderly.  I’ll let you decide what that means. :p  Also, I’m a major advocate of people taking matters into their own hands. Sometimes it’s the only way to make any real progress.  True, uninhibited commitment.

Thus, I embarked on a cleanse that I initially thought would not challenge me that much. On the contrary, it has changed my perspective on the way in which I plan meals (I’ll save this story for another post).  I was also prepared for any number of detox symptoms but didn’t experience nearly as many as I had anticipated.  This was a major relief as I had no desire to add more bodily ailments to my already strange running list of them.

My point?

For years now, leading up to and especially during my cleanse I’ve been honing in on all the sweet lil’ messages my body is giving me.  Rarely are they sent with an ‘xo’ at the end but, for my body, they are bold and make their presence known.  I’m coming out of this experience with a more ‘hands on’ knowledge of what affects me dietarily, more than I ever have before, and it’s a magnificent feeling.

All of this being said (my vagueness must intrigue you), I’d like to go over a couple of brief lists that depict how your body chats you up.  As the details into what each of these signs might mean is worthy of an entirely different post, it is my intention today to just cover the lists in raw form.  I hope soon, to come up with a comprehensive explantation for each topic and expound/suggest sources for scientific information.  I suspect we could all benefit from a little sit-down and heart to heart with our body, and allotting time for this might alleviate our need to blame and panic at the onset of any particular issue that arises. The idea, we try to take a look at our actions and how our body is talking back. How cheeky!

 

Let me hear your body talk.

The More Obvious Bodily Correspondence :  [Just because they are regular, doesn’t mean they can’t be irregular, notice patterns in your body and drastic changes.]

  • urination=  Pay attention to:  color, odor, frequency, feeling
  • bowel movements=  Pay attention to:  color, odor, size, consistency, frequency, undigested food, feeling
  • itching/redness=  Pay attention to:  location on body, frequency, size or spread, degree of itchiness, if pain is associated
  • sweating=  Pay attention to:  odor (odor change), frequency, under what circumstance, (if you’re a woman sky is the limit)
  • chilly bumps=  Pay attention to:  temperature, frequency

Some Less Obvious Bodily Correspondence:

  • dry skin
  • acne
  • dry mouth
  • scalp flakiness
  • headaches
  • sleepy, tired or foggy headed
  • tummy gurgles (tummy is talkin’)
  • gas
  • cramping (could be gas)
  • bloated

Nature vs. Nurture (Heredity vs. Choices)

Although it’s rather simplified to say that listening to your body will solve all of your problems, listening is definitely a strong start.  But if you discover, that much to your dismay, you’re burdened with something more than the unusual tummy ache, or bad zit take a moment, IMMEDIATELY, inhale and exhale deeply, and make the choice to not blame yourself.  It’s easier to walk through life with scapegoats and never take responsibility for one’s life/health.  Don’t use your poor genetic bump, or our environment’s way of creeping into your system and erupting said dormant issue, as a reason for being a grumpalump all the time about what you’re living with.  Each of us carries something, and unfortunately some of us heavier than others, but nevertheless we carry.  If you’re the type who can eat loads of junk food and processed mish-mash without a single repercussion, whoopee for you, but realize what comes may just be farther down the line.  And for those of you who have to monitor and document everything you eat and you still may have an upset, understand that it’s not your fault, and embrace the you that’s speaking to you, begging you to stop eating that naughty food, no matter how good it tasted in the moment.

How do I deal?

Connect a Bite © photo 2012

For starters, I make a choice on any particular day (I take it day-by-day), that I’m going to be happy with what I’m eating, no matter what.  It’s sort of an internal mantra.  I practice appreciating the food I can eat, and let me tell you, it tastes much fresher and crisper.  I’m learning to let go.  Yes, like the Frou Frou song.  Honestly, I take the mighty temptations away from my vision, ENTIRELY.  Some things are around because of my love/best friend/husband, but those items I choose to tune out or associate them in my mind instantly with my body’s ‘tsk tsk’ talk.

Sometimes, I just think of food like this:

WHAAAT & OHHH BROTHER!

Okay, I hope some of this helps you, and if it doesn’t in the slightest, let me know.  Break it down for me and tell me all of your frustrations, I guarantee you, you’re not alone.  And remember…bite responsibly.

Healthy Regards,

 

~RAM~

Coming of Age & Your Global Footprint

1359148691

Hi Everyone,

I’ve been working on a blog post for about a week now, and I’m stuck, I have so many ideas and I am struggling to organize them, so I think for now I shall let those ideas ‘marinate’ like perfectly cut strips of eggplant, and come back to them when they’re better seasoned.  As for today’s post, I’d like to discuss a couple of things.  Forgive me if my thoughts are a tad scattered.

  1. Coming of age
  2. Eco. Footprint

Recently, in my personal studies, the two topics listed above have stuck out in importance.  ‘Coming of age’ might be a strange topic to discuss on a blog about connecting food with each person’s life, but on the contrary, I think coming into the age we are and understanding this, coping with the realities of what that number (your age) may or may not mean in relationship to food, is of the utmost importance.

Why?

Traditionally–yes, the years of food neglect have made what I’m about to state actual ‘tradition’–food is something we stuff in our mouth because we know we have to, it’s not something that is carefully imbued with any type of quality thought (I realize this does not apply to everyone).   However, times are changing and with streams of media formats at your very fingertips, telling you how, when, and what to eat; food, and all of its grisly details are being strewn about the innerwebs (cha cha) with a blatant cry for attention.  I speak not of one particular person, coming to terms with their body and how the food they are eating affects them, nor am I discussing one’s relationship (or lack there of) with their food, I’m referring to our (the greater human race’s) relationship with food and how it’s coming to be viewed.  Are we growing?  It is my understanding that there is a vast amount of people out there who follow this idea of coming into their journey with food just as a film would portray it.  There’s a ‘kick em’ when they’re down’ phase, then there’s the ‘peaked interest’ phase, this is followed by the ‘interested and researchy’ phase, then the ‘I can change, I’m better than where I am’ phase…on and on and on…to be expounded upon later (future blog series on the rise).  You get my point.  Without getting to wrapped up in this idea, I’d like to toss it out there today and perhaps ask all of you readers to let this concept marinate for a bit. :p

1359142695

John Hopkins

I wanted to point out a slide I came across recently that depicts water scarcity, globally.  Look at certain parts of the U.S.A.?  We might want to reconsider being so wasteful and overly confident in our resources.  Additionally, look at Sub-Saharan Africa, absolutely devastating.

1359143171

Also, I did a short interactive quiz yesterday and today to discover my global footprint and I came up with different numbers, but what you’ll see below is a listing of my footprint today.  Right now, if many other people lived life just as I did, we would need 3.5 earths, yesterday it was 3.3, so I guess I was off somewhere.  That’s a terribly  high amount and my guilt is strong.  However, when I compared my numbers to others, I wasn’t in as bad as shape as I thought.  Not that I think life should be about comparing, but in some instances it makes sense to put your situation in perspective.  I started thinking about what my role is in helping to clean up the world, and then I started to think about what I could be doing especially in regards to food.  One of my previous posts talked about choosing between organic, local and global food and if there is a difference. For me, that blog post was a step in the right direction.  If you can spread truthful and realistic knowledge to those who are ignorant to the information, than you’re doing more than just eating well and feeling good about it, you’re contributing to the  community in some way.  I’m making a list and progressively checking off the many ways I can help out.  It’s already a busy year, but I’m ready for it.  The little things make all the difference.

A side note, I was reminded this morning of how strange it is that it’s so warm in January.  The sudden rise in temperature in winter can be devastating to crops, because they (the crops) can become convinced by the warmth that it’s time for them to bloom and grow, but with a late winter frost, these plants can be killed and this event can highly disrupt the ecological process that makes our world work.  Just another example of how we’re negatively changing the ‘make-up’ of the earth.

Apologies for a semi-downer post. :/

Take a look at your foot print and let me know where you stand.

I hope everyone has a lovely and thoughtful weekend, and remember…bite responsibly!

Healthy Regards,

 

RAM