by Steven Behling

I am not gluten-free.  I do not have gluten sensitivity, and my life has thus far not been made more difficult due to the very real issue of celiac disease faced by approximately one percent of the world's population.  I wish I was more physically fit, and have genuine moments of irritability, depression, exhaustion, and...very rarely...gastrointestinal distress (NOTE TO SELF: Eating an entire frozen pepperoni pizza covered in those little chili flakes is a late-night endeavor best left to one's early twenties rather than one's mid-thirties).  Thanks to the influence of nefarious genes, I've been known to reduce certain foods in my diet in response to a doctor's encouragement: cheese, meats, and other cholesterol-raising delights, and added things like fish oil and niacin to raise my HDL levels.  I try my best to make these changes quietly, politely eat the food others have labored with love to share with me, and give thanks that, as of right now, I am not forbidden by my medical team from eating or drinking any particular food or beverage.  As time goes on, I remain resigned to the belief that healthy living is rooted in a balanced diet, exercise, sleep, and meaningful connections with others, and that removing entirely one aspect of diet, be it fat, salt, cholesterol, sugar, artificial coloring, is not likely to produce lasting positive results.  

A number of my friends, family, acquaintances, and neighbors have made the decision to "go gluten-free."  That is their right, and if they feel it is the best decision for them, far be it from me to treat them like a goose whose liver is being primed for foie gras and shove pasta, soy sauce, and Twinkies down their gullet until they concede.  After all, it must be terribly difficult for them to endure the eye-rolling and loud sighs if/when they say condescending things like "my body just feels better when I don't put poisonous things like gluten in it" and "oh, sorry, no, I can't eat [that delicious thing you just spent half the morning making for me] because I'm making a choice to listen to and respect my body."

Nevertheless, I so appreciate when clear, science- and fact-based food scientists, physicians, chefs, and journalists dig deeper and examine other, more credible explanations for the burgeoning rise of obesity, heart disease, cancer, and other physical ailments in today's society.  "Against the Grain," a recent New Yorker article by Michael Specter does just that, and it's worth your time and consideration.  In the article, Specter carefully explores the possibility that FODMAPs and the addition of vital wheat gluten to speed up food production and enhance "quality control" may be more responsible for your digestive discomfort than a simple slice of homemade bread, the dough for which you let rise overnight before baking.  Now if you'll please excuse me, it's getting late and I have a date with my kitchen.



Food in Film: "Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story"

by Steven Behling

Surprise! I love documentaries about food, especially ones where the filmmakers subject themselves to living conditions we're all too lazy or self-interested to try, like living off McDonald's for a month, going on a six-week juice cleanse, surviving only off of what we catch, grow, or hunt, etc.  Sure, I've undergone some bizarre culinary survivalist experiences in the past (The Great Ramen Cleanse of 1999 comes to mind), but unfortunately (or is it fortunately?), none on film.  

A few weeks ago, my mother joined me for a trip up the coast to the 33rd annual Vancouver International Film Festival.  A five-hour delay sitting on the Amtrak Cascades caused us to miss our first two films, followed by an irate e-mail from yours truly to Amtrak customer service, who forwarded said e-mail on to the Amtrak customer complaints department, which was followed by an e-mail from said department last Friday stating that they were having problems with their e-mail, and that they would be unable to respond to my concerns, but that I should definitely contact them if I have travel problems in future.  Madness.  Unacceptable.

Once our train pulled in to Pacific Central Station, the films we did manage to catch were, once again, top notch, particularly Just Eat It: A Food Waste Movie.  Filmmakers Jenny Rustemeyer and Grant Baldwin decided that for one month, they would only consume food discarded by supermarkets and food distributors due to being sort-of-close-to-approaching a sell-by date, irregularities in color and shape of produce, incorrect labeling (seriously...several cases of Green & Black's Organic chocolate with an expiration date one year away were tossed in a dumpster, presumably because they didn't have labeling in both English AND French per Canadian law), and so on.  I know what you're thinking: "Ohh!"

Well-edited, funny-yet-poignant, informative, and nicely paced, Just Eat It provides a unique and credible voice in the growing discussion about how much food we waste, using precious natural resources to grow and distribute something that ultimately ends up not in your grocery cart, but in a landfill.  The answer?  Approximately 40%.  Many other facts presented in the film are equally staggering, including the statement that 25% of the food bought by consumers gets thrown away because it was not consumed in time, possibly due to poor planning ("Do we have any cucumbers back at the house? I'll grab a couple just to be sure."), improper food storage, and selecting meals based on what we're craving rather than by what we already purchased at the supermarket on Saturday.  Particularly surprising was the value of goods Baldwin and Rustemeyer salvaged in only one month of foraging through dumpsters in the Vancouver metropolitan area.  You'll have to watch the film to find out the answer, which, fortunately for you, is just beginning to make the rounds on the festival circuit.  Festival programmers and filmgoers, DO NOT miss Just Eat It when it comes your way.  Trust me, you'll leave feeling satisfied and wanting more.  

When Worlds Collide

by Steven Behling

My day job consists of helping children and adolescents feel better, even if it takes some tough work on their part and mine to get there.  I've always known that I wanted to work with children in some capacity, be it as a sixth grade teacher or child psychologist.  There's a whimsical, innocent-yet-insightful current that flows through us as we grow up, and watching children discover new ways of being and master the challenges of youth is one of the most rewarding parts of my day.  

It's no secret that I love exploring, discovering, and celebrating food.  How fortunate for me that this documentary from The New York Times Magazine popped up on my Facebook feed today, merging the aspects of life in which I spend most of my time.  And trust me, it's worth yours.

And don't worry...more blog posts are on the way, including a few from Chicago.  Predictably, NOSHology's tribute to the cuisine of Chicago is much like my time in graduate school: longer and more arduous than we were told it would be, but ultimately worth it.

Sweet Home Chicago

by Steven Behling

Ten years ago,  I packed up my belongings and drove across the country to begin graduate study in clinical child psychology at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois.  What followed was five years of largely extraneous coursework and research, transformative applied training in psychological assessment and therapy, the formation of lifelong friendships, and the migration of my soul's hometown from the Intermountain West to the steel-and-concrete, lakeside Midwest beacon known as the Windy City.  It was here that my love of all things food truly began, so it's no surprise that during my most recent visit in the spring of 2013, I scheduled no less than four meals per day for seven days straight so I could hit as many cherished restaurants and holes-in-the-wall as possible.  It was my first visit back after graduating three years prior, and as I walked along the Chicago River at dusk on the evening of May 3rd, I snapped the photo below.  In that moment, I felt like I was home, and that I'd been away too long.  Oh, how I love this city.  In honor of that love, and of my ten-year anniversary of becoming a city boy/foodie, all NOSHology posts during the month of September will highlight some of my favorite eateries in my sweet home[town], Chicago.  Enjoy!


Savoring the Final Days of Summer

by Steven Behling

This past Thursday, my colleague and dear friend Lisa invited me over to her family's home for an outdoor dinner, a perfect way to enjoy one of the final warm evenings of summer in Seattle.  Her son, Langston, who will soon return to Trinity College in Dublin, had taken great care to impeccably arrange the table in Lisa's beloved hues of autumn orange and crisp white, stringing five strands of globe lights overhead that met just above the wooden table.  Candlelight flickering on the tablecloth, Édith Piaf and instrumental jazz serenading us in the background, and the delightful company of Lisa, her children, and nieces Annie and Grace was the perfect way to wrap up the season.  


Lisa and her daughter, Analiese, who often appears in local theatre productions, had worked for two days creating homemade lasagna noodles and other ingredients for Deb Perelman's Smitten Kitchen Lasagna Bolognese; this entrée, accompanied by a rosemary sourdough bread and a simply-dressed arugula salad, was followed by a leisurely walk around Queen Anne with views of the setting sun across Puget Sound and Seattle skyline.  Upon returning to Lisa's home, the glow of the overhead lights created a magical late-summer night's dream under which we enjoyed olive oil ice cream crafted by Lisa and Grace (who, coincidentally, is the daughter of the owner of Seattle's favorite food truck), presented in a homemade pizzelle topped with a chocolate tuile.  

Thank you Lisa and family for a truly memorable meal, one that will linger in my mind (and on this blog) long after the crisp winds of autumn and misty evenings put nights like this on hold for a while.  

Columbia River Weekend

by Steven Behling

This past weekend, my buddy Laird invited some of his friends, including me, to his parents' house nestled along the east bank of the Columbia River near Chelan, Washington.  I've had a special place in my heart for this valley after living here briefly during the spring of 1999.  Fifteen years later, it still takes my breath away.


On the north side of the house was a splendid garden filled with summer produce, which always seems to grow more prolifically on the eastern side of the Cascades than in Seattle.  We're talking onions for miles, tomatoes for ages, basil for years, and lavender for light-years. 


On Saturday afternoon, we stopped by the Chelan Farmer's Market to pick up some of the last cherries of the season, grown right here in the Columbia Valley.


Sunday morning's brunch consisted of a simple tomato and basil salad from the garden, fried eggs, and my famous orange and cranberry scones.


Sunday night's dinner remains a secret for now, to be revealed during an upcoming Kitchen Experiments post right here on NOSHology.  But I can share with you our last meal before returning to Seattle: a simple Caprese salad with tomatoes and basil from the garden, soft mozzarella, a sweet balsamic reduction, olive oil, sea salt, and fresh ground pepper.   


We'll miss you while you're away at MIT, Laird.  Come back soon!


by Steven Behling

During the years leading up to the launch of NOSHology, I posted my foodventures on other social media platforms. Once only accessible by a select group of peers, these photos and food descriptions will be made available to NOSHology readers via weekly Thursday posts with the notation #TBT (Throwback Thursday). Because the posts are from years past, some of the featured menu items may no longer be available, and in some cases, the restaurant may have closed. Although the descriptions may be more laconic (no guarantees!) and the photos of lower quality, rest assured that each #TBT represents a delightful dining experience from the past. For example, here's a #TBT of me in the mid-'80s, no doubt enjoying a refreshing summer beverage via my trusty twisty straw. NOSH on!

UPDATE: As of September 2014, I'm not adding the #TBT hashtag to any new posts and removing it from all old Restaurant Fieldnotes posts because over half of the restaurants for which I've made that designation have closed (or announced a pending closing) within a month after their respective reviews were posted. #TBTcurse

Food in Film: "Seeds of Time"

by Steven Behling

It would seem clear from the topic of this blog that I love food. But I also love independent and foreign films, be they short, documentary, or feature. I try to make room in my schedule to attend at least a few festivals each year, giving me an opportunity to travel the globe from the convenience of my theater seat for just a fraction of the cost it would take me to get there by train, plane, or automobile. Through independent and foreign film, we explore a variety of cultures, languages, and landscapes, dipping our toes into the global experience of humanity. At most large festivals, there are typically one or two films which focus on the world of food. Past favorites include More Than Honey and A Place at the Table.

At this year's Seattle International Film Festival, a documentary entitled Seeds of Time highlights the global crisis of the rapid decline in seed varieties from which we can grow food for ourselves and our children, now and in the future. Regardless of your views on climate change, government funding of agriculture, GMOs, or sustainable food production, I believe we can all get behind the effort to ensure that we preserve and maintain access to seeds which have produced crops resistant to known and unknown perils, and which tie us to our ancestors in a shared experience of food and tradition. 

Inspired by a New Yorker article featuring one of the documentary's main characters, Cary Fowler, filmmaker Sandy McLeod chooses not to spend her time pointing fingers at those who might be held responsible for the seed crisis; rather, she highlights efforts at seed preservation past and present at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway, the Pavlovsk Agricultural Station in Russia, and the emerging collaboration between the Quechua and the International Potato Center in Peru. The film inspires viewers to get involved, which at the most basic level includes participation in seed exchanges that promise to both reduce the likelihood of further crop extinction and introduce the backyard farmer (or porch, or windowsill, depending on your situation and the necessary growing conditions for the plant) to unexpected colors, shapes, textures, and flavors in fruits, vegetables, herbs and grains. Click on the graphic below to obtain additional information on seed exchange and preservation, and to obtain or share heirloom seeds.

The Big Bang

by Steven Behling

Every blog must have an initial post to get things rolling...a treatise on why the writer has chosen to further clutter up the blogosphere with his arrogant, eruditic, self-inflated sense of authority on a particular topic. Mine is simple: I like food. I like how it can look, how it can taste, the mouthfeel it can produce, the way it can both join people together and split them into polar camps, how it can represent who we are and where we came from, reflect our values, and tell a story. 

I live so much of my life in my head. I spend my days analyzing patterns in human behavior, exploring its catalysts, and applying a generous helping of scientific theory and application with an infusion of clinical intuition to relieve human suffering and promote health and well-being. I meditate, pray, and contemplate the meaning in where I've been and make oft-unrealized plans for where I'd like to go. As a child, I disappeared into works of fiction, and as an adult, have crafted in my head (with random details scrawled onto little scraps of paper scattered throughout my office) an entire universe filled with carefully delevoped characters that I may one day share with the world (right now I envision seven volumes in the series, an overwhelming prospect for someone with his own small business who gets frequent reminders that he is not getting any younger, nor any less single, thank you very much).

Food pulls me out of my head, at least a little bit, and for a short amount of time, to pay attention to the sensations in my body. I'm in my mid-thirties and in reasonably good health, and as such I am ever so fortunate to not receive reminders throughout the day that my body has needs, aches, pains, etc., although I know such days must surely come, sooner than I probably expect. I love photography, exploring new things, and the rich specificity of words, so a food blog inclusive of photographs and possibly an excessive amount of adjectives seemed right up my alley.

For some time now, I've been posting my foodventures on Facebook, and over the past several months, there has been an increase in the number of friends contacting me with questions like, "Hey, I have family coming to town and I want to take them someplace with really great Thai. Where should we go?" or "I'm in Chicago next week. Any recs for food?" Now I by no means consider myself a food expert. I haven't gone to culinary school, don't have a degree in journalism or photography, and am bound by my own personal taste and gustatory chronology, but it seems like some folks are interested in my viewpoint nonetheless. To those who include themselves in that group, as well as those who simply have a deep love of what food is and can be, I say "Welcome. Welcome to NOSHology, the study of all things food."