Twelve Word Tuesday: Medjool Dates

Cup_of_coffee_and_dates Creative Commons יעל י

Photo Creative Commons יעל י


Dessert’s Platonic Ideal. What Snickers want to be when they grow up.

Have you ever bitten into something so sweet, so cool, so wonderfully chewy that you just had to stop everything and just enjoy?

I have. It’s called a medjool date.

I always liked dates. I could occasionally get my hands on cubed, sugared dates as a kid. They were great, back then. When I went vegan a month and a half ago, I started eating pitted dates, and they were so much better. I really thought I’d hit the date jackpot.

Yesterday, I found un-pitted, medjool dates in the refrigerated section of Sam’s. Each date was about three times the size of any dates I’d ever had before.

I couldn’t wait to get home and try them.

No, seriously. I couldn’t wait. I bit into one on the way home, and I almost ran off the road it was so good.

Medjool dates are so much better than regular dates, I think they should introduce themselves as “dates, medjool dates” and have their own theme song and favorite drink.

I ate eleven of them on the way home (to be fair, it was a long drive). Numbers 1 through 10 were nothing short of divine. Number eleven was probably a date too far.

They were so rich, with a taste like caramel, but so much more real.

Candy bars are made in factories, with lots of additives and chemicals and such, and though they’re very sweet, you can taste the artificiality. These dates grew, and you can taste that, too.

If you’ve heard the story of Plato’s cave, he explains the difference between the world of mortals and the world of ideals, the world beyond, this way: we are all in a cave, watching shadows cast upon a wall. We can tell a lot by the shadows, but we can’t turn around to see what’s casting them.

Well, when I bit into that date, I got to turn around. That’s what every date and every candy bar (going back to the dawn of desserts) wishes it could be.

Now, excuse me while I go eat some more dates, medjool dates.


Twelve-Word Tuesday: Raw. Vegan. Not Gross


Laura Miller makes vegan un-cooking fun. Healthy, fun, self-deprecating, good for morale.

(Because nobody likes a pompous, overly-serious vegan. Seriously. If I ever get that way, hit me with a comment stick).

The videos are short, and they don’t really give you what you need to make the food, but the full recipes are available on her website, I Am Laura

The recipes tend to require some “serious vegan foodie” ingredients, some of which I’m not entirely sure where to get here in rural south Mississippi. But the point of the videos for me are less to get recipe ideas as to just remind myself that being vegan can be fun.

You can find her videos just by going to YouTube and searching, or you can follow her YouTube channel.

If you want a very different style of fun vegan cooking videos, check out the “Vegan Black Metal Chef.”

You can watch his guest appearance (Halloween, naturally) on Raw. Vegan. Not Gross. below:





Twelve-Word Tuesday: Chronicles of Narnia Reading Order


photo by Robek, Creative Commons

For readers new to Narnia, publication order introduces, but chronological order confuses.

C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia are sold in chronological order now, and have been for twenty years. But for the first forty+ years of their existence, they were sold in publication order, at least in America.

Why did Harper Collins change things? Because of a letter in which C.S. Lewis agrees with a young fan named Laurence that he prefers reading his books in chronological order. Here is a snippet of that letter. You can read more here.

 I think I agree with your [chronological] order for reading the books more than with your mother’s [publication]. The series was not planned beforehand as she thinks. When I wrote The Lion I did not know I was going to write any more. Then I wrote P. Caspian as a sequel and still didn’t think there would be any more, and when I had done The Voyage I felt quite sure it would be the last, but I found I was wrong. So perhaps it does not matter very much in which order anyone read them. I’m not even sure that all the others were written in the same order in which they were published.

So, three things.

First, that’s an awfully tepid endorsement to base a major reordering of a well-loved series on.

Second, Lewis was corresponding with a child. If he had wanted to change the order of his series, he would have sent a letter to his publisher, or done something public that wouldn’t have remained hidden from the world until decades after his death.

And third, and perhaps most importantly, Lewis was talking to a fan who had already read the books multiple times, and had developed a favorite order for reading them that was different from the “pronounced order” at the time. Lewis was engaging with fandom, not a newbie, to use 21st century language.

This is a vital distinction. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is written as an introduction to the world of Narnia. It is clearly and self-consciously the first book in a series, designed to stand alone if no more were published, and to serve as an introduction if the follow-up books happened.

The Magician’s Nephew is just as clearly written as a fan’s book. If you’ve gotten six books in, you like and know the series. You don’t need any explanation as to who Aslan is, or what Narnia is, or any of that. It’s clearly written in the form of a prequel. Sticking it at the front of the boxed set doesn’t change that.

Imagine if you’d never seen anything related to Star Wars, but you’d heard it was good. Then imagine your first introduction to the universe was The Phantom Menace. Well, it’s not quite the same, because The Magician’s Nephew is actually good. It’s also not quite the same as reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince first, either.

But it’s not much better, and I honestly believe that Narnia newbies reading the Chronicles in chronological order is responsible for the decline in the series’s prominence in the last couple of decades.

Now, for established fans, I think it can be fun to go back and reread The Chronicles of Narnia in chronological order. It gives you a fresh look into the series, after all.

But everybody who is new to Narnia should start with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

My Sources:

Aaron Earls, In What Order Should You Read The Chronicles of Narnia?

Charlie W. Starr, The Narnian Order of Things

Andrew Rilestone, In What Order Should the Narnia Books Be Read?

Steven D. Greydanus, There’s Only One Right Order to Read the Narnia Books

Twelve Word Lagniappe: Black Rice

640px-Blackricecooked CC by ElinorD

Picture by ElinorD, Creative Commons

Heartier, tastier, and healthier than brown rice, it makes incomparable stir-fries.

I tried black rice for the first time this week. Katherine cooked it with some sugar snap peas, broccoli, and English peas in a stir fry with a simple soy and teriyaki sauce. I wished I’d taken a picture. Green vegetables swam in a mountain of purple-black grains like little Scrooge McDucks.

(Exactly like that, including the striped onesie)

Yum! I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

In addition to literally being the best tasting rice I’ve ever put in my mouth, black rice is one of the healthiest. Studies at LSU found that black rice is comparable to blueberries in its antioxidant content (that’s what gives it the purplish black color). It has a low glycemic index and has tons of protein.

And I didn’t have to seek out a specialty store and spend big bucks on it, either. I found it at the Picayune, MS, Wal-Mart, right above the white and brown rice.

I highly recommend you give it a try. Use it anywhere you’d use brown rice. Use it in stir fries or other Asian-inspired cooking. Or just make yourself a bowl and go. You won’t regret it.

Twelve-Word Tuesday: Outshine Bars

Outshine Fruit Bars:

“Vegan. Mostly fruit and juice. Better than ice cream in the summertime.”

… and best of all, they’re available everywhere. I’m trying to “do vegan” in a small southern town with probably less than a dozen vegetarians, much less vegans. There is no Whole Foods. There is no Haagen-Daaz Mango Sorbet (oooh, I wish there were). There is no sorbet at all. I know. I looked.

I’d almost given up, when, at the very end of the grocery aisle, I saw a row of brightly colored boxes, decorated with fruit, with equally brightly colored bars pictured on the front.

This is good. Bright colors usually mean plant-based (unless it’s the bizarro neon-shiny colors that mean chemical-based, but I digress). I opened the cooler, picked up a box, and read the label. Bingo! All of them but the coconut flavor were vegan.

They were pretty affordable, and I’ve since tried three flavors: strawberry, grape, and pineapple. I love them all, though grape might be my favorite.

Now, these Outshine bars aren’t perfect. They’re mostly juice and fruit pulp, but they do have added sugar, and they do have a few too many not-totally natural ingredients to be ideal. But they’re well within the realm of “I can live with it,” and they’re worlds better than what I was eating before.

Let me give you another twelve worlds:

Outshine bars: cold, colorful, delicious and refreshing. I don’t miss ice cream.


Disclaimer: Nestle isn’t paying me anything for this post. But if they decide to send me a check anyway, I will cash it 🙂

Twelve-Word Tuesday: Viridian Design

On Twelve-Word Tuesdays, I introduce a concept, piece of media, or other thing I want to comment on, then sum it up or review it in Twelve Words (hence the name). I’ll link to the original source material, if applicable/possible, and to some more detailed analysis of it, again, if available.

This is something I can do quickly, yet still add some value of my own, beyond just being an aggregator.

I got the idea for Twelve Word Reviews after watching the first two episodes of Game of Thrones, a show that both Katherine and I found too dark and brutal for our tastes (though the production was well-done). I summed up my reaction in twelve words, “Horrible people doing horrible things to each other. With cussing. And nudity.” And while I know that’s a bit of an oversimplification of a well-loved and award-winning series, the concept stuck.

So, back to Viridian Design

“Choose high-quality versions of the things you use most. Minimize the rest.”

Bruce Sterling details his philosophy of Viridian Design in “The Last Note.” Unfortunately, Sterling took the “viridian” part a little too far in his web design, and the article is terribly hard to read (black text on a green background? Really?).

But have no fear. Open the page in Firefox, choose “View,” then “Page Style,” then “No Style.” All that green background mess will go away, leaving a nice, clean, legible page.

Viridian design involves (and attempts to integrate) minimalism, sustainability, and quality of life. You can read more commentary at Lifehacker, “Rethink Your Stuff: What to Splurge On, What to Toss,” and GreenBiz, “Viridian Design and Rethinking Our Relationship with ‘Stuff.’

This video, “The Story of Stuff,” covers some of the same general ground as Sterling. Minimalism as a concept fascinates me, because it is the very opposite of my own tendencies.

Although I’ll probably never actually undertake minimalism per se, I do like the Viridian ideal of getting quality versions of the things you actually use frequently and getting rid of the things you just sort of have but never seem to use.