bee pollen and banana milk

There is a running joke in my family that my grandfather is a one man cult. His doctrinal lifestyle is probably why he is the only 87 year old that I've ever met who can kayak for five hours at a time out on Lake Ontario. He is a man who lives by rules, which is not surprising since he practiced law for over fifty years; however, the consistency amongst those rules is not always clear.

My Dziadzui, as I call him, has a Vitamix and makes his own homemade eggnog. Single-handily, he has probably kept a few of Toronto's historic bagel shops and Jewish delis in business. He freshly squeezes orange juice for himself everyday and watches the Daily Show every night. For him, coffee is hot and never iced. He shops at health food stores, but he doesn't eat vegetables unless they are in soup. 

He loves Italian food. He loves it so much that he wants to eat it all on one plate, even in Italy where the food culture is more doctrinal than my Dziadzui's lifestyle. And he insists on eating it on one plate. Italy bases meals around courses and not how different courses can be served on the same plate. A primi is kept separate from a secondi. Pasta is never a side to a main. Never. It is either the warm-up before the main, or the main itself. Never should pasta be relegated to some side position. Let's just say that the discussions between my Dziadzui and certain restaurants in Rome, Florence and Sienna regarding how to serve food were very philosophical and even more emotional. Let's also recall that old expression about when one is in Rome and the one man cult saying that my family has. But because all of his rules and principles keep him healthy, happy and kayaking, I'm quite happy to overlook the inconsistency amongst them. I just won't go back to Italy with him unless he lets the Italians serve him his fish and pasta on separate plates. 

I'm very lucky that he loves food as much as he does. We've shared a great number of great meals together and he taught me the importance of befriending butchers and bakers. He has also introduced me to a few new ingredients, such as bee pollen.

Before I knew about the health benefits of bee pollen or what to eat it with, I knew that my Dziadzui had a stash of it in his cupboard. I remember once when he visited me in Montreal that he bought a large jar from the Jean-Talon Market. It took me a few years before I finally tried it, but once I did I instantly understood why he is the healthiest grandfather I know. Bee pollen is rice in vitamins, minerals, enzymes and protein. It contains all amino acids. Plus, it tastes good. You can sprinkle bee pollen on salads, yogurt, or a big bowl of fresh fruit. You can add it to your granola, or on a piece of toast with some nut butter and honey. Although it is pretty versatile, I tend to mostly add it to smoothies and shakes.

I've shared a fruity milk drink here before on Paper Doll Parade. It was last summer and inspired by Gabrielle Hamilton's memoir Blood, Bones and Butter, I started drinking milk with honey and apples quite obsessively. The idea for Banana Milk comes from Marion Cunningham's the Breakfast Book, another writer and cook that I've written about before. The book has a simple three ingredient "recipe" that, like most good drinks, is more that the sum of its parts: milk, banana and nutmeg. Just like with milk with honey and apples, I was quickly hooked on this combination for breakfast. The first time I made it I stayed true to those three simple ingredients, but since then I have added to the three. I think that the essence and simplicity remains, but now my version, Banana Milk with Bee Pollen, benefits from the nutrients of bee pollen and homemade almond milk.

I think that my Dziadzui would like this Banana Milk with Bee Pollen very much and I hope to make it for him the next time I see him. He is, after all, the one who introduced me to bee pollen. When I was Toronto in the summer, the two of us went to a health food store, bought nut milk bags and then made almond milk together. Yes, my grandfather is pretty wonderful. And to add one more Dziadz element to this Banana Milk, I always associate freshly grated nutmeg with the homemade eggnog that he whips up each December. 

I've been drinking this milk pretty regularly the past week. Once again, this isn't so much of a recipe. It is more of a formula. The holy trinity of this drink is the banana, the milk and the nutmeg. I've made it with cow's milk and with almond milk. I've made it with a handful of sprouted almonds, with honey, with a frozen banana and with ice. Below is the version that I like best. If the almond milk is cold, then I prefer a banana at room temperature as opposed to frozen. On that note, my partner just got back from climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and in addition to learning a few random phrases in Swahili (perhaps the greatest language ever), he also learned a saying: "crazy like a banana in the freezer". I guess in certain places in the world frozen bananas just don't make sense. Sometimes I'm that type of crazy but not when it comes to this Banana Milk.  

Banana Milk with Bee Pollen

inspired by my Dziadzui and Marion Cunningham's 'the Breakfast Book'


1 ripe banana
3/4 cup of almond milk*
freshly grated nutmeg or a pinch of ground nutmeg
1 tsp bee pollen
1 small medjool date, optional*

Put all of the ingredients in a blender and mix until completely smooth. Serve right away. 
* I normally make 2 cups of almond milk at a time and I add one medjool date to sweeten it. If your almond milk is not sweetened, you might want to add a small date to the banana milk; however, if it is already sweetened, then skip it.



things made by hand + guacamole with pomegranate seeds

I am back in Munich. This also means that I'm back in winter. North Texas may have surprised me with a white Christmas and temperatures low enough to require warm sweaters and thick mitts, but -2 in Texas ain't got nothing on -12 in Germany.

Texas never required those denim cut-offs I packed (however, thankfully my few days in Oaxaca, Mexico did so they weren't a total waste of suitcase space). I had envisioned spending my few weeks in the Lone Star state grilling, hiking and reading outside, all while wearing cut-offs, of course. And maybe some cowboy boots as well. The wind made the above only minimally possible (of course there was some grilling, I was in Texas after all); so, instead I spent a lot of time making things inside. Texas grapefruit are in season so I made Grapefruit-Ginger Curd and Grapefruit-Jalapeno Jam. Beyond things to eat, I also learned how to knit and I learned how to make things from wood. I thought that making food from scratch alone was a pretty empowering and satisfying feeling and to think that now I can make a bowl to eat that food in!

A few months ago my mom and her partner bought a lathe and in no time the two of them have become quite the woodworkers. It all began with pens and now they are making bowls and rolling pins, pizza cutters and ice cream scoops, bottle openers and wine stops. It is quite something to see a piece of wood transform into a different shape and to watch its grain emerge with a little polishing and oil. They've opened an online shop and they should have an Etsy shop running shortly once they've replenished their stock.

I admit to taking quite a bit of that stock back to Germany with me. I just couldn't help it. I've been a long time hunter of handmade wooden things. I like the weight of wood in my hand as I stir a pot of stew. I like how a pile of apples looks when framed by a wooden bowl. I've hunted in flea-markets, street stalls and second-hand shops for things made from wood. I have a collection of wooden spoons from India, Germany and Mexico. To hear that my mom and her partner have started making such things themselves was total music to my ears. I'm exactly the type of person who appreciates the curves of a piece of wood and the rhythm of its grain. 

Another thing that I took back to Germany with me is an even deeper love for Tex Mex and Mexican food. I would be lying if I pretended that Tex Mex cuisine wasn't a part of this love triangle. That, and there would be no triangle without it. I just can't pretend to only be into "authentic" Mexican food. I love sour cream, sharp cheddar, and Monterey Jack just too much. Most of the time I'll opt for a corn tortilla taco, but every once and a while I crave a wheat tortilla burrito. Nopal is my new favourite ingredient and I'm tempted to try my luck at growing a prickly pear cactus in my apartment in Munich just so I can eat it in Germany, but even nopal does not replace my love for nachos and nachos are as Tex Mex as can be.

In fact, guacamole as we think of it is also more Tex Mex than it is Mexican. An article from Bon Appetit describes the linguistic origins of this addictive avocado dip. Two Nahuatl words, an Aztec language, form the base of the word: ahuacatl which means avocado and molli which means mixture. Spanish speakers mashed together these two words, similarly to how we mash avocado and some onions and salt with a fork, to create a word that refers to a whole culinary category. Mashed avocado plus anything can be called guacamole. The idea that guacamole is a particular dish that is best eaten with tortilla chips belongs to Tex Mex food and the idea that it is a whole culinary category belongs to Mexican food.

  I know that you know how to make guacamole. Of course, I too know how to make guacamole. I've been making it for probably longer than most other things. In fact, I think that guacamole isn't even something that you really learn how to make. It is just following one's intuition. It is second nature. See an avocado and mash it. Add a few things so that it is even tastier. However, when I was in Mexico City I was reminded that sometimes it a good idea to relearn what you think that you already know.

   My last night in DF we went for dinner at La Capital in Condesa. It is a sleek restaurant with modern takes on Mexican classics. The star of the evening was, without a doubt, our appetizer. This does not imply that the rest of the food wasn't as good; it is just that food doesn't get any better than fresh guacamole made with local avocados, topped with pomegranate seeds, and served with homemade banana, yuca, and plantain chips. It just doesn't. This truly felt like a victory dish. It celebrated both the brilliant week that I had just experienced in Mexico, as well as all of the brilliant food that I was going to make at home because of it.

I haven't quite gotten around to making those banana chips, but I still haven't even gotten over the idea of them alone. Most of the banana and plantain chips that I have encountered have been thick horizontal cuts of fruit. Such chips have always come in packaged bags and, with the exception of some amazing cayenne pepper specked banana chips that my aunt once brought home from Costa Rica, the chips that I had previously encountered were always more good than great. The chips at La Capital, on the other hand, were thinly sliced on the vertical. Sure, sometimes they were a little impractical for scooping up the guacamole and they would break, but I didn't care. They were that good. 

If you have a mandolin or a very sharp knife and some patience, I absolutely recommend making homemade banana chips to eat your guacamole with. Or go to Mexico City and eat at La Capital. You have to try these chips at least once. That said, blue corn chips are always a good bet. Either way, do add some pomegranate seeds to your guacamole the next time that you make it. It brightens it up and makes it taste new again. 

On one last note, it is winter in Munich and it is probably winter where you live too (with the exception of our friends in the Southern Hemisphere). But winter in the Northern Hemisphere means pomegranate season. Guacamole probably does go best with denim cut-offs, sunshine, summertime and cold beer, but sometimes cravings just don't recognize things like logic or seasons or weather.

Guacamole with Pomegranate Seeds


1 ripe Haas avocado
the juice of 1 lime
3 tbsp finely chopped white onion
a handful of fresh cilantro, finely chopped*
1 tbsp of minced jalapeno chile, or to taste, or a sprinkling of dried red chile flakes
a large pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds, plus more for garnish

Halve and pit the avocado and then mash it with a fork in a bowl or with a mortar and pestle. Add the lime juice, onion, cilantro, chile and sea salt and then mix well. Once everything is mixed, stir in the pomegranate seeds until incorporated.

Serve right away, garnished with more pomegranate seeds and cilantro, and with banana or plantain chips, yuca or other root vegetable chips, or good ol' tortilla chips. 

*It pains me to write that the cilantro is optional, but I usually approach recipes with the mindset that all ingredients are optional. A recipe is a set of guidelines as opposed to a set of rules. I personally cannot imagine guacamole without cilantro, but I do recognize that sadly there are some people (such as my own sister) who consider cilantro to be about as edible and as delicious as dish soap. 


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Update: My mom's Etsy shop is up and running. Check it out here.


honest cooking magazine

The first issue of Honest Cooking Magazine is out today!
Unlike the Honest Cooking website, the magazine does not feature recipes. Instead it embraces the geekier side of food and drink and it celebrates all of the stories that come with great ingredients and memorable meals.

The first issue is crammed with intriguing tales about dim sum marathons, North Korean propaganda restaurants, rockstar wine growers, monkey ass coffee (seriously), a French culinary revolution, former gang members, and the unsung heroes of professional kitchens. 
I'm pretty ecstatic to not only be part of the team over at the Honest Cooking website, but to also be a contributor to the debut issue of the magazine. While I was in Venice this fall, I tackled my on-the-fence-attitude about truffles. Incomparable, edible gems, or wrinkly, overpriced fungus? Northern Italy proved to be a convenient location for such reflection and you can read about my experience truffle hunting, purchasing truffles and, of course, eating them in "The Black and White World of Truffles". 
Download the Honest Cooking Magazine for free here


postcards from mexico city

 What. A. City. 

I don't know if it is because of the hibiscus flowers I ate in my enchiladas, or the fresh banana chips I used to scoop up my guacamole with, but Mexico City, almost effortlessly, found its way to my heart. And because of the overwhelming size of both the city and the variety of possible taco fillings, that heart of mine was racing faster than usual. I was even more aware it than I normally am (see the postcard of Frida Kahlo's 1939 painting The Two Fridas above). 

Forgive me if I keep talking about this trip for a while. I'm sure that the inspiration I brought home from only a week will last me a while. 


the year in breakfast

I am a pretty eager reader of newspapers. I can usually gauge if I'm taking on too much based on whether or not I have time to sit down with a cup of coffee - wherever I may be - and read the weekend paper. And my eagerness only increases around this time of the year. When I was expressing my fondness for end of the year newspapers to my partner he explained the reason why: I like lists.

I am a list-maker. My Moleskine is littered with lists of foods to make and things to do. My journals are more or less pages of lists documenting the lives I've lived, the places I've traveled to, the people I've met and places to go.

Keeping with my identity as a list-maker, it is no surprise that I list - and visually document - my breakfasts. One funny thing that happens with blogging is the fact that I create a personal archive. I can flip back the pages of Paper Doll Parade and see where I've been and what I've been eating in case I ever need a reminder. 

Last January I was in Delhi where I attended the India Art Fair. The last day of the fair Raqs Media Collective, Ravid Sundaram and Daniela Zyman participated in a talk: Has the Moment of the Contemporary Come and Gone? Ravi Sundaram, senior fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in Delhi, brought up the concept of the archive and the authors of the archive. Historians used to write history and journalists used to report news; however, new media has changed this. Anyone with a camera or a phone now is able to write history and to deliver news. Archives have been democratized. Never before have so many people been authors of reality, perception, interpretation and memory.

Between my practice of writing lists and my interest in archives it only makes sense that I like newspaper articles with lists the most. Sure enough every December newspapers and magazines list the best movies and books of the past year, the best art exhibitions and albums. They list the news events that we remember most and the lives that were lost that we won't easily forget. Lists take over and a whole year is reduced to a series of lists.

This post maps out my 2012 through breakfast: where I was, what I ate, and who I shared it with. I've already shared some breakfasts here, from winter and spring in Munich and trips back to Sweden to summer in Canada. I've shared some recipes, stories, and images of my breakfasts before so consider this post as a fill to the gaps that were the rest of 2012. 

I am someone who refers to hotels, hostels and air-mattresses as home. "Let's go home," I say after spending a long day exploring a city by foot. By home I do not refer to where I live or where I am from, but instead to where I am staying. When I was younger I caught the travel bug and I have never recovered. I've learned to make home wherever the company is good and I have a place to sleep and maybe even cook. 

What was once a conscious decision to travel as much as I can has become a habit, a way of living even. From studying in Sweden, to working in Mumbai and Venice and from living with my love in Munich to visiting family in Toronto and Dallas and friends in New Delhi and Mexico, my life often has me packing suitcases and hunting down good breakfast places in new cities. I've also learned a few tricks when it comes to making magic happen with a pocket knife and some fresh produce in a hotel room.

I started 2012 in Jaipur, India and I ended it in Oaxaca, Mexico. At the beginning of the year I ate my weight in dosa in Mumbai and paratha in New Delhi. India spoiled me further with spicy Parsi omelets and fresh fruit juices. Apple, banana and cinnamon. Fresh pomegranate. Pineapple and cardamom. Watermelon and mint. Lemon and basil. Sweet lime.  

Munich is a city that is cozy with tradition and traditional German baking. It is also a city that takes coffee rather seriously thanks to its large Italian population. It is proud of its produce and there are three outdoor markets within a ten minute bike ride of my apartment (they stay open even in winter). From Munich to Sweden and from Ontario to Venice, I feasted on poached eggs and baked goods, smoothies and fruit, oats and nuts. 

Mexico City made my heart race. I hope to tell you more about my much-too-short encounter with that metropolis. It satisfied my love for fresh fruit juices on the street (grapefruit, tangerine, papaya with pineapple and banana), as well as for tortillas and black beans. 

Yes, 2012 was filled with memorable places, faces and breakfasts and for that I'm grateful. 

The Year in Breakfast  

toast and rose petal jam from Pushkar in New Delhi

fresh fruit juices in Goa

freshly picked gooseberries in Pushkar 

pancakes with honey and melon in Jaipur

fig rolls from LMB (Laxmi Mishthaan Bhandar) in Jaipur and eaten on the train to Jodhpur 

chia pudding with almond milk, cardamom, blackberries and pear

Sfogliatelle in Napoli

veggie and egg tower of power, Munich 

fruit salad with tahini sauce, Munich 

date bread, poached egg and dukkah, Munich 

a soft boiled egg and purple potatoes with dill and sour cream, Munich

corn and black bean salad with a fried egg, avocado and fresh lime, Munich

baked oatmeal with blackberries and pear, Munich

coconut and raspberry Bircher Muesli, Munich

fresh watermelon juice, Munich

berry Bircher Muesli in Baden, Switzerland

guava, pineapple and mango smoothie, Baden

quinoa with dates, white peach and walnuts, Venice

almond milk chia pudding with fresh figs, Venice

Bircher Muesli with peach, Venice 

yogurt with homemade orange and cranberry granola, Venice 

scrambled eggs with black truffle, Venice

fresh oranges at a market in Alba, Italy

cappuccino at Cafe Florian, Venice

oatmeal, pomegranate seeds, soaked almonds and brown sugar, Munich

coffee, croissants and jam, Munich

breakfast burritos with blood orange mimosas, Munich

plenty of red Texas grapefruit in Dallas

challah French toast, turkey bacon and maple syrup in Dallas

pan de yema at Oaxaca's market

chilaquiles in Mexico City

coffee, orange juice and pan de yema by the pool in Oaxaca on the first day of 2013 

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Happy New Year! May your 2013 be tasty and inspiring.

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