.collection-type-blog .banner-thumbnail-wrapper {display: none !important;} .collection-type-blog .entry-title {display: block !important;}

The Elephant Buffet

If you’d asked me in a different context to guess what was meant by the term “elephant buffet,” I might have thought it was a meal hosted by some wacko trying to market elephant steaks as a novelty meat. I would not have imagined that the city of Surin would close down an entire street, line it with folding tables, pile those tables with thousands of pounds of fruits and vegetables, and invite more than 300 elephants to an all-you-can-eat breakfast.

I didn't know it until recently, but I love elephants. A lot. So I was thrilled when I got a chance to feed 300 of them breakfast -- and then wrote about it for National Geographic's Intelligent Travel blog.

Breast Friends

If you spend two weeks in close proximity to goat udders, it's inevitable that you'll think differently about your own breasts.

Or at least that's what happened to me. My husband and I had signed up to spend two weeks volunteering on a French farm where the farmer took one look at our soft hands and assigned us to what he considered his easiest job: milking the family's 27 dairy goats. And so once in the morning, once in the evening, Peter and I wheeled out the milking canisters and pumping gear (this was not a hand-extraction affair), lined up the goats at a feeding trough, and worked our way through the herd.

The monotony of the task was strangely satisfying, and I found myself looking forward to my time with the ladies, as I called them, skittish and ornery, with soft ears and narrow,Avatar-like pupils. Much like women's breasts, their udders came in all shapes and sizes. Some were huge and swollen, bumping into the goat's back knees as she waddled up to the milking station. Others would barely have qualified for a training bra. Some goats had lopsided udders, including one young animal whose left teat was so tiny that we didn't bother to milk it.

Usually, there's a clear distinction in my mind between the pasteurized, cereal-friendly stuff I buy in the grocery store and the baby-nourishing liquid that may one day emanate from my chest. But as I worked my way up and down the goats' ranks, massaging their udders to help the flow, the difference between the two became less obvious. I found myself suddenly very curious about milk.

For Slate, I write about Deborah Valenze's new book, Milk: A Global and Local History, and how it has forever changed my view of goats.

America's Bucket List

Considering that my most recent project was a parody travel guide called 101 Places Not To See Before You Die, I was a bit surprised when PARADE Magazine asked to put together a bucket list for America. But I'm very glad they did. From seeking out good barbecue to learning the lyrics to the second verse of the national anthem (did you know it's set to a drinking song?), it was fun to get a chance to come up with some genuine, feel-good ways to celebrate our country. That, plus Jimmy Fallon was on the cover.

The Limits of Locavorism. Or, The Time I Ate Sheep Intestine.

IMG_0143
IMG_0143

As I took a bite, the flavor that greeted me revealed another important distinction between American and Mongolian cuisine. In America, even a dish as straightforward-sounding as "Fat-Wrapped Liver Chunks" would probably include a few unnamed, yet complementary ingredients like onions, or salt. But in Mongolia, the title says it all. Like everything we ate that night, my first bite had not been salted. It contained no herbs or spice. It was exactly what I knew it was: the liver of the sheep I'd just watched die.

For Slate Magazine, I write about what it really means to attend a traditional Mongolian feast -- and why I'd prefer never to do so again.

How To Be A Better Decision-Maker

It was a fortuitously timed assignment: a piece about decision-making that I researched just as my husband and I were moving to a new city. Choices abounded. Here are my conclusions, written for O, The Oprah Magazine.

I felt like punching Benjamin Moore in the face. My husband and I had just moved across the country, and after a flurry of big decisions, we were down to the nitty-gritty: what color to paint our new apartment. The previous tenant had gone with blood red, midnight blue, and tan—a look I referred to as "depressed Betsy Ross." Hoping to achieve something more cheerful, we sat on the floor surrounded by dozens of paint samples—Classic Gray or October Sky? Silken Pine or Mystic Beige?—when all I really wanted was to be able to just flip a switch in my brain and let my rational self determine the perfect choice.

Eating Tarantulas in Phnom Penh

When my husband Peter ordered the fried tarantulas at Romdeng, a restaurant in Phnom Penh that specializes in traditional Khmer food, he was hoping that he wouldn’t notice he was eating spider. I know that sounds delusional, but lots of fried foods bear little resemblance to their original ingredients. Think of popcorn shrimp. Or a corn dog. There was a chance that the spiders would arrive so coated in batter that their true arachnid nature would be camouflaged, nothing but a stomach-turning afterthought.

“I bet they’ll be dipped in tempura,” said Peter, as we waited for them to arrive.

“Like a zucchini fritter,” I said supportively.

But neither of us was convinced.

Peter and I had many adventures during our seven months on the road. One of them: eating deep fried tarantulas in Phnom Penh. I wrote about the experience for National Geographic's Intelligent Travel blog.

Self-Loathing in O

I just had a piece come out in O, The Oprah Magazine about how to stop beating yourself up for stupid things (or, as they titled it, "How to stop being so damn hard on yourself").

While I pride myself on being kind to others, I do not show the same compassion to myself. Instead, I have a gift for letting trivial things suck me into a vortex of self-loathing. A missed workout, a bad piano practice: Anything can churn my mind into an emotional whirlpool that gathers strength by pulling in unrelated failings—say, my difficulty choosing clothes or my lack of a steady paycheck. "Why can't I dress myself? Why did I pick this career?" Eventually, I'm dragged all the way under: "Why am I so pathetic?"

Judging from the feedback I've received so far,  I'm far from the only person who does this. It really makes you wonder: why are we so damn hard on ourselves?

On the Road

As part of our transition between California and the east coast, my husband and I decided to take several months to travel the world. From volunteering on a French dairy farm to biking through the Baltic States to taking the Trans Siberian railroad to doing a homestay with Mongolian nomads, it's been quite an adventure.  I'm trying to keep up with it all  here.

Stick To The Goat At Hand

Last summer my husband, Peter, and I spent two weeks on a family farm in France—a sort of "working vacation" in which we exchanged labor for room and board. The farm was home to a menagerie of pigs, cows, dogs, cats, chickens, and pigeons, but lucky for us, we didn't have to worry about any of them. Our sole responsibility was the family's herd of goats, which we were supposed to milk twice a day. It was the easiest job on the farm. And yet one morning, halfway into our stay, we managed to almost blow it.

In a piece for O Magazine, I learn the benefits of single-minded focus -- courtesy of a herd of French dairy goats.

Mindfuless Meditation for O

I've been meaning to start a daily mindfulness meditation practice for a long time, but thanks to this assignment from O, The Oprah Magazine, I actually started one. (And then got to participate in a full-day photo shoot that involved almost getting attacked by a bull.)

We've all had the experience of sensing time decelerate naturally when we're not so thrilled about what we're doing (think torturous spinning class or hour-long "synergy workshop" at the office). As my dear grandmother would have said, it takes only one colonoscopy to prove that time is relative. But what about the more enjoyable times in life? I hoped that practicing the popular and proven type of meditation called mindfulness—which focuses on bringing awareness to the present moment—might help me slow those times down as well.

White Whiskey

I've got a small piece in Men's Journal about the resurgence of small batch distillation. It's called White Whiskey:

If the greater number and variety of local and regional spirits at your neighborhood liquor store have you tempted to call micro-distillation a cool new trend, you’d be half-right — it’s more of a comeback. Early Americans were masters at turning harvests into hard alcohol using corn, potatoes, grain, apples, grapes — almost anything they could get their hands on. Converting food to booze didn’t just preserve the value of perishable crops; it also created a rich repertoire of homemade liquors, from rye whiskey, vodka, and bourbon to applejack, peach brandy, and unaged fruit spirits known as eau-de-vie.

I also did a big package about the spine called "The Complete Guide To Your Back" -- also for Men's Journal -- but I can't find it online except for this mention. Suffice it to say that you usually don't need surgery, and that if you're really hurting, you can ease the pain by sampling some small batch spirits.

Diabetes on New Hampshire Public Radio

I just had the chance to speak about my article in Popular Science, Rebooting the Body, on the New Hampshire Public Radio show Word of Mouth. (For those who missed it, it's about how a new drug, currently known as teplizumab, might be able to halt the progress of Type 1 diabetes -- and potentially have uses in other autoimmune diseases.) You can read more about the segment -- and listen to the interview -- here.

A Taste Of Chocolate At a Former Army Post

Last weekend I had the pleasure not just of attending a workshop about chocolate, but of writing about it for the New York Times.

Wearing a short-sleeve shirt embroidered with his name, Mr. Recchiuti, whose shop is in the Ferry Building Marketplace, looked more like a mechanic than a fine chocolatier — albeit one with cocoa powder on his hands instead of grease.

He greeted each of his 19 students with a spoonful of liquid chocolate and a white plate holding eight samples arranged like numbers on a clock, with a small bowl with two roasted cocoa beans and a pinch of chocolate-covered barley — a “taste project” — at the center. The students would taste single-origin varieties of chocolate from around the world, and watch Mr. Recchiuti transform chocolate into confections that presumably could be replicated at home.

Diabetes Update

It's nearly 2010 and, guess what? I still have Type 1 diabetes. Sucks. So I'm writing about it -- on a site called A Sweet Life. My latest contributions:

-a review of Riva Greenberg's 50 Diabetes Myths That Can Ruin Your Life -- and the 50 Diabetes Truths That Can Save It

-a review and taste test of yacon powder, a would-be wonder tuber that's supposed to be a great sugar substitute

-an interview with Yale professor and researcher (and Type 1 diabetic) Kevan Herold

And, lastly, a guest post on Six Until Me about how to cope with holiday food.

Holiday Gifts for Irreverent Lawyers

79013347v7_150x150_Front_Color-PinkSalmon.JPGIt's that time of year again when I take a break from my career as freelance journalist and become Catherine Price, entrepreneur. By which I mean, I start promoting my legally themed clothing shop, Illegal Briefs, as the perfect one-stop holiday shop for all your dorky gifting needs. It began on a car ride with my husband, when he was telling me something about legal briefs and a boutique law firm and I, distracted, thought he was talking about underwear.  It's now three years later, and what started as a misinterpreted conversation has evolved into a smorgasbord of gift options for irreverent lawyers and their friends.

requestthongsmall"Harmless Error" baby clothes. "Request for Admission" thongs. "Justice is Served" cookware. "Tool of Discovery" boxers. I could go on -- but to quote from one of my favorite product lines, "Res Ipsa Loquitur."

Illegal Briefs: Be A Lawyer. Don't Dress Like One.

The Reluctant Diabetic

A Sweet Life

I decided that it's high time to connect my writing career with my life as a Type 1 diabetic. So I launched the Reluctant Diabetic, a blog that combines a personal account of what it’s like to live with Type 1 diabetes with news, information about research, and reviews of diabetes products — whether they be food, gadgets, books, clothing, or anything else geared toward making this disease a little easier to live with. These days, the blog is featured on the great new diabetes website A Sweet Life.

The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook

Big Sur Bakery CookbookThe Big Sur Bakery is tucked next to a gas station right off of Highway 1 and is, if I might say so myself, a damned fine restaurant. (Don't trust me? Read this article from the New York Times Magazine.) I helped them write a cookbook, now out from HarperCollins. Sara Remington did the photographs, and Hatch is designing it. Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, wrote the foreword. Click here to buy multiple copies for friends and family -- and check out these mentions in the New York Times and The New Yorker.

Stress

Here's the ironic thing about stress: The human body has evolved to cope with it too effectively. When you suffer under a crappy boss—a stressful situation, sure, but hardly life-threatening—your body responds as if you're being chased by a predator. Stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine spike, causing your attention to narrow and your body's inflammatory reactions to kick into high gear. This would help you avoid infection if, say, your boss bit you, but when continuously activated, inflammatory reactions can wreak havoc on your health, leading to increased risk of heart disease, stroke, depression, and diabetes. Chronic stress can even shrink your hippocampus, a part of the brain that supports learning and memory. In short: You need to calm down.

It is probably a bad sign that I completely forgot to post this piece I did for Outside Magazine about ways to beat stress.

The Sludge Report

phpthumb_generated_thumbnailjpgIf you want to avoid having conversations about your work, I highly recommend telling people that you're writing a three-part series about sewage sludge. It tends to shut them up quick. Thankfully, though, my personal sludge hell is reaching an end: The series was just published on Grist. Part one explains current uses of sewage sludge, and the rebranding effort it took to get there:

"The renaming contest [for sludge] received over 250 entries, many of which suggested that even water quality professionals still enjoy a good poop joke. Submissions included “bioslurp,” “black gold,” “sca-doo,” “hu-doo,” “geoslime,” and “the end product”; one person proposed rebranding sludge as “R.O.S.E.” (“Recycling Of Solids Environmentally”). Critics asked whether a rose by any other name would still smell as bad, and in 1991 WEF settled on “biosolids,” a term that Sheldon Rampton, co-author of Toxic Sludge Is Good For You, suggests “must have been chosen precisely because it evokes absolutely nothing in the minds of people who hear it."

Part two is about turning poop into gold -- or, more specifically, figuring out ways to recycle it into a marketable commodity. (Though, actually, there's a sewage treatment plant in Japan that is literally mining gold out of crap -- I kid you not.)

And part three is about shitting in a bucket. Or, more precisely, composting toilets.

The research for this series was provided by a Middlebury Fellowship in Environmental Reporting.