Sunday, May 26, 2013

Love Your Microbes, Kiss Your Dog

One of the suspects in my mystery novel, A Matter of Taste, is a sort of “microbe crusader,” who lectures my sleuth regarding the human gut’s need for a wide spectrum of bacteria to be healthy. The character is not surprisingly a product of my own beliefs, which—though falling short of the over-the-top proselytizing engaged in by the murder suspect in the book—do include advocating for a reduction of the use of antibiotics in our culture, as well as an increase in the consumption of bacterial-rich foods such as kimchee and yogurt.

So I was therefore quite pleased to see Michael Pollan’s newest contribution to the New York Times Magazine, entitled “Some of My Best Friends Are Germs” (5/18/13).

I always love Pollan’s articles, which tend to look at issues from a first-person perspective, thereby making what could be rather dry subjects more personal and immediate. (In the article “Power Steer,” which first brought him to my attention, for instance—a piece later expanded to become The Omnivore’s Dilemma—he purchased a calf and then followed its progress from field to packing-house.)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Pulled Pork Tacos

Pigs were first brought to Hawai’i by the original Polynesian settlers some 1600 years ago, and folks here still do love their pork. Among the popular dishes one is apt to see on local menus are kalua pork, laulau, Spam musubi, fried pork chops, char siu pork, Portuguese sausage... Well, you get the idea. As my friend Nancy likes to say, “Oink, oink!”

the “best pork chops” we had last week at the Manago Hotel in Kona, 
with their sides of rice, tofu, onions and macaroni salad

Figuring it would be well-received by my guests, I therefore decided to serve pulled-pork tacos at our recent lanai-warming party. (Being a good Santa Cruz gal, though, I also provided a pot of vegetarian beans).

This is an great party menu, because the pork and beans can be made the day before (and are, in fact, better if they are made in advance), and then on the day of the event, all you have to do is cut and chop the toppings and set up the buffet.

Monday, May 6, 2013

A Five Hundred Year Smear Campaign

The big news in Britain a few months back was the unearthing in a Leicester car park of the remains of Richard the Third, who was killed at the nearby Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.

If you were to ask the proverbial man on the street what he knew about this English king, he’d likely say, “Nothing” (at least here in the States). But if he did have anything to say about Richard, it would likely be that he was a hunchback, that he killed his nephews (the famous “princes in the Tower”), or that he was an all-around bad guy.

Well, it turns out that at least one of these things can now be laid to rest as being true: Richard III was indeed a hunchback, since the skeleton unearthed in Leicester shows clear signs of scoliosis, or curvature of the spine.

As for the other things? Well, though never proved to be true, they are still what people believe about the king, over 500 years after his death. This is primarily the fault of Shakespeare, whose play is what most folks think of when they think of Richard III. The problem, however, is that Shakespeare got his version of Richard’s life from Sir Thomas More, who was writing during the reign of Richard’s rival and successor, Henry VII.