Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Observations on Our Co-op

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

The Co-op (The People’s Food Co-op in Ann ARbor Michigan) is in a bit of a mess and confusion. Which is not anything new. I’ve been off the board for about 4 years, and have been mostly an observer. Although I do step in every once in a while to serve on a committee, as well as I’ve been called for advice and an historical perspective.
Previously, I was on the board for nine years and served three years as President. Not consecutive years. I also served as Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer. I’ve been a decades long volunteer.
A few years ago we added up the time I had spent volunteering for the co-op and it was as if I had worked there full time for a year.
So I do have a few observations on the current state of the co-op. These issues are of course intertwined.

Here are a few opinions.

The board has been less than honest with the membership about the state of the co-op, and how much money we are losing. The board should be letting members know that we are in trouble. Not letting the membership know that we have been and continue to lose money is wrong, and also dangerous. It is the membership that can pull us out of this downturn, and the membership should be directly called on to be involved with saving the co-op. The silence and side stepping is bizarre. And may be the primary thing that brings the co-op to its termination.

The vote to unionize takes place tomorrow, Friday. I honestly don’t know if this would be a good or bad thing for the workers and for the co-op. And my opinion isn’t going to make any difference. What I can say is that there was a chance to do this with kindness. With dignity. With honesty and a great process. That hasn’t happened. There was no need to surprise the board with the news. And there was no need to make it personal, with direct personal attacks against the General Manager.
I worked for more focus on staff and having a great work environment as well as better wages and benefits. I’ve seen the progress in fits and starts. I also know that the staff having trouble with management has been a long term theme for our co-op. I believe the path to resolution includes a lot of listening, and a lot of kindness. A lot of the board supporting the GM and making sure they have the resources to work well with staff, and careful professional monitoring to make certain that happens. A union may help the co-op through a maturation process. It may also create an even more divisive atmosphere that will harm relationships and make financial recovery even more difficult.
We need to support the legal process required with a vote to unionize, and I ask everyone to be as kind, thoughtful, and aware as possible. That includes reviewing history and learning from previous mistakes as well as building on success.
I think unions are good things. They also change the culture of the workplace environment. Let’s see more kindness and compassion during and after this process. And I hope the vote is an informed vote balancing the staff needs with the stark financial reality that has been obfuscated unnecessarily.

The Co-op is once again without a permanent General Manager. This is a really painful place to be, and is hard on everyone. Thankfully there is policy and plans in place for this situation. And previously our staff have really pitched in to make things work in the interim. It is a total distraction for the board to go through a hiring process. Focus on long term plans, expansion, and pretty much everything else is set aside. It is essential for the board to get help during this time. I’m less and less confident of the board (not just this board but every board including when I was part of the board) having the skill to go through this process and to make good decisions – especially when a long term plan is still missing and without recent membership surveys and input. After my experience with the hiring process, I don’t think the board is qualified to be guiding this process. I believe the consultants from the co-op world, who have experience and expertise, should be heavily utilized at every step of the process. I also now believe the decision making should be shared by board, staff, and members. Without a clear direction and financial stability this is more important than ever.

A lot of people have been chewed up and spit out working for the Co-op. I’m sp very sad about this legacy.This just needs to stop. Moving forward, I would seriously ask the players to continually ask “how can this process be kinder?” “how can we benefit the most people?” “is there a kinder and more inclusive way to do this?” and “how can we empower the people involved and make sure everyone is informed?”

Those are the questions I would hope people will ask, the people who I am entrusting to make decisions that at this point will allow People’s Food Co-op to thrive or to die.

Weight Loss – Turns out that was the easy part.

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

The New York Times has an article out today on The Biggest Loser TV show, and the problems the winners have had keeping their weight off. It turns out not many are successful over the long run. I’ve previously seen statistics saying less than 5% of those who lose a lot of weight are able to keep it off. It sounds pretty dismal, actually.

It seemed a miracle that I lost more than 125 pounds. Now I’m finding out that keeping it off may be the larger accomplishment – pun intended. I’ve had ten years or so of steady healthy slow and successful weight loss. This week I’m actually within a pound of my all time I thought it was impossible goal. It will happen sometime this summer, I’m confident.

I write to explore a few ideas about why I’ve been able to keep losing weight and not balloon back. Perhaps this will be helpful for others, it is certainly helpful for me to consider what is working. So I can keep doing it. So ranging from teh philosophical to teh practical –

For me it is do or die. If I am heavier, my life is at risk. Last year i found out I have a genetic heart valve problem. If I was overweight – carrying more than 100 extra pounds – open heart surgery and more would be on the agenda. I can be okay because I”m at a healthy weight. And of course the diabetes, the joint issues, and so much more. It is my life I’m working to preserve. Nothing less. So spending whatever time and money it takes to take care of myself is always at the top of the list. If I don’t, I die sooner. I know that.

Lose the weight slowly. Losing weight is hard on the body. I don’t think losing weight fast is healthy, and I don’t think it works in the long term. It takes time to be the changed body type – to believe it and feel it and accept it. It takes time to absorb the extra skin. It takes time to effectively and safely process the toxins stored in fat. It takes time to adjust metabolism, to rededicate your body to health and well being.

You have to communicate with and update your body. My most significant weight loss was after major surgery, the removal of a ten pound fibroid tumor. I had to tell my body – every single cell – that things would be different from now on. That I now had a body that was all about movement and being fit. The only way to really communicate that was to keep moving and acting like someone who was fit. On the TV shows for weight loss, there is an insane amount of time for exercise and movement. You’re telling the body that is the new order. Except it isn’t. No one can keep that up. I told my body I was upping the movement – 7-10 hours a week of medium activity, at a minimum. I’ve kept that up. My body adjusted. It works from that premise. I reinforce that communication every day. It’s reasonable, it’s doable, and my metabolism has apparently made the permanent adjustment to that communication. This is critically important.

Weigh frequently but don’t stress about it. It’s good to be paying attention, it’s nice to get teh treat of losing weight still. But in truth weight still goes up and down and is not in your control. I don’t ever want to be in denial again. And I also still see this as a long term effort and variations of 2-5 pounds are totally normal and often mysterious.

Have a healthy list of goals you can control. My list includes minimal movement and exercise, foods I want to include each day (greens, veggies, fruits, raw dairy, great protein, etc.). Sleep has become something I need to pay more attention to recently. I have my list, I do my best to achieve it every day. This is a forever list, not just until I weigh a certain amount.

Upgrade my food. Whatever it is – can I make it healthier, more nutritious, better for me and the planet? Higher quality chocolate. More fulfilling rice and veggies. Make my own bread from fresh ground flour. Whatever it is I’m eating, can I do even better? I make this a long term goal, and don’t stress about doing it all at once. My very good diet just gets better all the time. I’m more and more satisfied, and even my tastes have changed to that junky food is less and less interesting.

Use small plates. It’s a simple trick but it works. And recently I’ve found that by having a choice in smallish plates, I feel extra proud of using the smallest, and the still small plate compared to the big plate seems more satisfying. We are so easily fooled, that even though I know I’m fooling myself I can fool myself. I love that.

Don’t finish every meal. I think it brings awareness to potions if you stop before your plate is clean. And it is important to give permission to myself to stop before I finish off whatever it is I’m eating. My dog really likes this idea. At home she gets the healthy leftovers. At restaurants it’s fun to bring my own kind of fancy carry out container to fill. It is a good habit to break. Whatever ends up on your plate doesn’t have to end up being eaten now. Simple concept, yet it was pretty deeply ingrained in me! I do eat less now. It feels very natural, feeling satisfied feels much better than being stuffed. It took a few years for that to happen.

Be thoughtful when you eat. Eat slowly. Thoughtfully. Mindfully. With awareness. Considering the stories behind the food you have in your mouth, that is entering your body. Give yourself time to savor and enjoy food! If it isn’t enjoyable, stop eating. If you can’t take the time to experience the food, stop eating. If the people around you are eating quickly, slow down even more.

The real goal is a healthy happy body. How much you weigh is only one indicator. How do you feel? What would increase your comfort? How can you be stronger? What more do you want to be doing with your body? What makes you deeply happy? This has been a huge transition. I focus on how great I feel, how much I enjoy feeling my bones for the first time. I love the way I can move, even the way I can curl up now. The more I note and enjoy those things, the more reinforcement I have to keep this level of health and awareness. And I believe that is also communicated to my body so that this level of wellness is accepted and something I can sustain.

Those are a few of my thoughts about being successful keeping weight off. I don’t think it is a complete list, but I also believe it is important to share some hope and real ways to make this work, as the news of failure is more dismal and – literally – disheartening for those of us who have struggled with being overweight.

I couldn’t have done it without the support of friends. I’m very grateful.

In search of my childhood potato chips

Sunday, January 3rd, 2016

When i was a kid, it wasn’t uncommon for me to spend my allowance on a large bag of potato chips. On the way back from the store, I would eat half the bag while walking the mile home. This was happiness: mouth pleasure, salt fantasy, greasy love. And of course my mother did not approve. She had some odd ideas about what food was healthy (white Pepperidge Farm bread, Captain Crunch cereal in place of Lucky Charms, as much lunch meats as we wanted swathed with Miracle Whip in place of Hellman’s mayo.)

Potato-Chips

In Ithaca, where my love of salted fried potato slices began, Wise potato chips ruled my life. I would do or say most anything to have them. When we moved back to Michigan I made the transition to the lighter and crispier Lays. Jays potato chips carried me into adulthood, although the local Better Made did pretty well also.

When I started eating mostly organic healthy non-processed foods it was hard to justify the potato chip lust. I tried the kettle cooked organic and even baked varieties, and none were really satisfying. I even spent a year carefully restricted to one bag potato chip purchase per month. The anticipation was greater than the enjoyment.

Because the truth is nothing tastes as wonderful as that childhood chip. It satisfied an emotional need, a young lust for bad food, a craving that would re-emerge and then continue to exist long after the last salty crumbs were enjoyed – licking my fingertips still longing for more. When I was young, I wanted more chips. As an adult I want the bag of chips to work one more time. And the sad truth is, it never does.

Most recently the health food stores I buy groceries from carry an overwhelming selection of potato chips. I even mistakenly bought pickle and chili flavored a few months ago thinking they were plain. Most of the flavored types contain yeast extract – a disguise for MSG – which makes my throat feel sore and the roof of my mouth odd. Sometimes I have a headache as well. So that rules out at least 3/4 of the selection. I keep trying a bag of this or that – but I end up feeling ill afterwards. I buy the plain ones and eat them with a homemade onion and hot sauce sour cream dip. The dip is that only part I really like.

The truth is my childhood chip is gone. Junk food does not fill that need, that longing. It never really did and it never really will.

I’ve upgraded the way I fill my longing. To people and events and food that nourishes me. But yet…

But you know what? The reverse is true of chocolate. The chocolate of my childhood was unremarkable and mostly simple sweet stuff. I never craved it. I could pass on all of it. And often did. The chocolate I enjoy now lasts a long time, it is rich and full and deep and mouth and body pleasurable. It varies from hot chocolate to homemade peanut butter chocolate chip cookies to really dark to partly dark to chocolate cheesecake and flourless cakes. I like having it in the house, and I’m so satisfied with a little that I rarely overindulge. A good chocolate bar can last weeks.

While I was losing weight, I ate as much high quality chocolate as I wanted. There are valuable lessons here.

And the potato chips of my childhood? They were never really real. I have now given up my search. I may need a bit of time to grieve that loss. The fantasy that happiness is possible with salt, oil, and potato slices.

Hot Chocolate

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

I fell in love with hot chocolate in Rome. Because until then I’d never had it so good. Every morning, as part of my stay at the Daphne Inn, they served me frothed hot chocolate. It became part of the enchanting amazing experience that was five days in Rome by myself.

Since then, I have tried to replicate the wonderfulness. I bought a frother that you heat on the stove, and then press a lever as you hold the nozzle in your mug. That was nice, but not enough. I bought two different mixer/frothing type things that were special for hot chocolate. One was very good but stopped working after about a year. The other was even better, but was damaged early on by my dog chewing the blender part. And I couldn’t find just that part of sale, it would have been the whole $60 plus unit.

Then, out of necessity, I tried my stick blender. It was the answer.

So here is my recipe: Heat a mug full of milk on high in a sauce pan. Add about 2 Tablespoons great cocoa mix (Mindo’s is a local great mix – add your own sweetener, or Ghiradelli’s premium double chocolate hot coco mix). Add vanilla or peppermint oil, or other flavorings if you’d like.

Stick the blender in there while it heats, and blend on high for about one minute. I find that at the end of that time the milk is hot, the chocolate well blended, and there is lots of froth.

And of course hand blenders are a great tool for many other uses. But you can buy them for $10-20. I like this one that is made of steel rather than plastic.

This has been the best method yet. And you can make plenty for everyone – just add time to the heating and frothing.

Cookies so good an ex wanted me to keep sending them

Friday, January 9th, 2015

These are my favorite cookies, for the last twenty years or so. And it is true, an ex boyfriend from long ago asked if I would keep sending them to him after we broke up. I have to add, the reason we did end the relationship, even though he loved my cookies, was the I wasn’t “a woman that he could dominate sufficiently”. Yeah, you got that right. He had good sense when it came to cookies.

I declined.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies


The recipe is adapted from a very worn and stained copy of “The Joy of Cooking” that my mom gave to me when I moved out of the house at age 18, almost 38 years ago. The spine is broken, and I can turn to this cookie recipe by letting the book fall open. It is marked by a “!+” next to the title.

Here is my version.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Use all organic ingredients if at all possible. I find I react to non-organic peanut butter and almonds now. The organic variety are fine with my gut. It matters.
In a food processor combine 1/2 cup organic butter with 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/4 cup turbinado sugar. Use other combinations of sugar if you prefer.
When it is beginning to be creamy add 1 egg, 1 cup peanut butter (or almond butter or a little over a cup of almonds or peanuts or a combination), 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp or more Vanilla.

Process that until well blended, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed. You’ll end up with a blend that is the consistency of mediumly stiff mud.

I stone grind my whole wheat flour fresh from wheat berries, it has a much nuttier flour than conventional whole wheat flour. That’s the ideal, second best is to find some stone ground whole wheat flour as fresh as possible. It can be a little course. You can use conventional whole wheat flour but it will result in a drier, more bland cookie.

In a mixing bowl, add 1-2 cups of flour (it will depend upon the grind, but usually 1 1/2 cups works) to the mixture from the food processor. Stir that together until it is uniform. Add more flour if needed so that you have a fairly stiff dough. Add about 1 cup of chocolate chips along the way, more if you’d like.

Grease a couple of cookie sheets. I spray them quickly with a minimal later of organic olive oil spray. Place small balls of the now stiff dough onto the sheet, about 1 inch in diameter, and spaced about an inch apart. This recipe will make 30-50 cookies depending on your sizing.

Bake 8-10 minutes in the center of the oven. Let cool in the pan before moving to a cooling rack or plate.

I always freeze at least half of what I make, as soon as they are cool. I’m told these will last 3-4 days otherwise. I suppose they do, but I eat them before I can find out.

Recipe for Mac and Cheese

Friday, November 14th, 2014

Like many of my recipes, this will be a little casual.
The end result is delicious, comforting, great reheated, and can also be frozen for later pleasure. This is fancy enough to serve to guests. It may or may not be okay with kids – since it doesn’t taste or look like the regular out of the box stuff that kids love.

Cook a package of pasta as directed, until just al dente or a little less. Drain, and dump into a large casserole dish. I like seashells, penne, fusilli, elbows, or rotini. I use pasta that is made from organic semolina. Whole wheat just falls apart too easily and doesn’t have the mouth feel I’m looking for.

Melt about 3 tablespoons butter in a large skillet. Add an equal amount of stone ground whole wheat flour. The fresher the better. Cook that with a whisk on medium heat for 1-3 minutes, until the flour is well incorporated into the butter and has time to cook a bit as well. It will darken a little, but it is the change in smell that I use to know it is ready. Don’t let the butter get too hot or burn.

Add about 3 cups of good quality whole milk. On medium heat, cook that while whisking often for 10-20 minutes. It should start to thicken. Sometimes it thickens well for me, sometimes I forgo taking it to a boil and let it be a bit thin. Since I’m adding cheese it will thicken with that and also after cooking with the pasta.

I used a large handful of grated gruyere cheese, the same amount of a nutty flavored comte, and about 1 1/2 handfuls Vermont Cheddar. About 1 tsp salt, and a few dashes of white wine – maybe 2 tablespoons. All added to the white sauce and stirred until melted.

Pour that mixture over the cooked pasta, cover top with bread crumbs from a good quality whole wheat bread, 1/2 to 1 cup of crumbs. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes to an hour, uncovered.

Serve and enjoy!

Salsa Verde – A Recipe Very Worth Sharing

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

This salsa made my cells dance with joy. I made it with all home grown Tomatillas, Cilantro, Chiles and Garlic with a bit of (purchased) salt. That’s it. Oh my.
Here is the link, to Rick Bayless’ Recipe for raw green salsa.

I didn’t add any of the suggested water, put in a bit more garlic, and decreased the chiles for this first time. I froze a lot of it which I expect will still taste great, but may be an odd texture. The cilantro I have growing in my yard as well, and I used a large amount of the later frondy leaves with flowers.
You obviously have to like cilantro to like this recipe. I do I do I do.

The recipe was suggested to me at lunch this afternoon, by a member of our group A2B3. It is an eclectic group who has lunch every Thursday. A great source of information, inspiration, ideas, and sometimes great recipes! While most of the members are tech oriented and computer geeks the group varies a lot and is always interesting. And we laugh a lot. It is a great way to meet people who I wouldn’t normally find, and engage in (or overhear) conversations on nearly any subject.
photo 2-2photo 3-1
I forgot to add a photo before I ate it all. But here is a photo of some tomatillas I still have left, the lovely cilantro, and one of the bags of frozen salsa.

Today I hit the jackpot with a truly outstanding recipe!
photo 1-2

I’m Going to Have to Learn to Spell Pescetarian

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Because I am one. A Pescetarian that is. Thirty some years of vegetarianism (including a two year stint of veganism that was ended with some freshly made garlic goat cheese) ended a few years ago actually. I woke up one Friday and my menopausal body cried out for fish oil. I wanted it. I knew the health benefits. I also had an identity to maintain. I was a vegetarian. But by the end of the day I was buying fish oil as I had no really good reason to say no to a need that I would describe as a physical demand. I tried it. I liked it. I felt and heard the cells of my body say “YES!! Thank you!!”

And then the urge expanded. Last year I visited Sweden, for a wonderful family reunion. It was a renewal of my heritage (father’s side) and a time to be open to the adventure of meeting new family, going new places, traveling far away with my sweetheart for the first time.

And I made a plan to honor that Swedish half of me by eating some Swedish fish.
first fish copy
We were on an island, Gotland Island, in the middle of the Baltic Sea. The restaurant was suggested by my cousin I had just met – actually a cousin is the easy description. Our common ancestor is my great grandfather on my dad’s mom’s side. I’m just happy to be related to such a great group of people.

We were in the medieval city of Visby. We were sitting outside, next to a medieval church, on the edge of a large and very old courtyard of cobblestone and the harbor was a few blocks away. They served us Baltic Herring on mashed potatoes, with a sprig of chive, a wedge of lemon.

When you crave a food, eating it may give a temporary satiation. It may be junk that provides some comfort or resonance with past childhood feelings and needs. It may be sugary and satisfying in an over the top but simple way. This fish was perfectly made, it was a flavor and freshness I had only experienced once before, more than 40 years ago when I had fish and chips around 4 pm in Eyemouth Scotland, just after the fishing boats came in. But I remembered, and my cells began a little dance, and this was the food my body wanted and was slowly figuring out how to taste and chew and swallow what felt luxurious and strange and oh so right.

And so it began.

In the last year I’ve been experimenting. I’ve been listening to those healthy cravings, I’ve been considering the strict dietary limitations that made up part of my identity. I’ve been questioning reasons and motives and choices. The other meat options remain outside the realm of what I would consider food for me. There is no sense of loss, no desire, no imagining what the taste might be. I have no interest, even more than that it just doesn’t seem like food and so is distasteful.

But the fish I’ve eaten is wonderful, and so strangely satisfying. I choose carefully, and I hope thoughtfully. Considering source and freshness and the different types of fish. That seems to matter a lot for taste as well as healthy options.

My body has changed so dramatically in the last 10 to 15 years. I’ve fought off a huge (ten pounds in the end) fibroid tumor twice – once by uterine artery embolization, and five years ago by having it removed entirely with my uterus. Then losing over 125 pounds, most of it after that surgery. 45% of me is gone. And of course menopause. Which is a very fundamental shift. I think the need for fish stems from that change, most of all.

A body that speaks loudly and clearly about what it needs is a great gift. Changing my perception of who I am, what I believe, and the fundamental day to day pleasure of eating healthy food has been a good thing. I feel more aware, more expansive, even excited about opening a whole dimension of food that I had kept closed off for more than half my life. And it has only been a year, not even 20 meals that included fish.

That meal of Baltic herring my never be matched again in my lifetime. But it is something to strive for. And my body’s wisdom is telling me that by eating fish I may live a bit longer and be able to have a few more opportunities for adventures that will be as welcome and as full.

My Imaginary Energy Protector Made of Magical Plexiglass

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Sometimes imaginary thinks work really well. This one has been part of my practice for over 30 years.

Wanting to help other people is a natural urge. We may also be able to trace it to an evolutionary trait – those who were good at being a tribe survived the normal stresses and dangers of life better than those who were more outliers. We also have found that you can increase levels of oxytocin (one of the brain’s wonderful feel good chemicals) by being kind and helpful. Ironically – or purposely – when you have more exposure to oxytocin it also makes you want to be more generous. So you can get into quite a self perpetuating cycle when you help other people.

When you’re in a “helping profession” it isn’t hard to get pulled in and empathize with someone else’s pain or troubles. If you do this a lot, it can lead to burnout, resentment, lower levels of functioning, and even taking on the pain or distress form other people. The idea that “I’ll do anything” to help another may be an occasionally good idea, but certainly not sustainable long term for most people.

I found early on that some clients just took it out of me. I’d be exhausted afterward, I’d have dreams about them, I would obsess about their problems and if I helped them. It wasn’t healthy and it wasn’t workable.

So I imagined I had two tubes of magical plexiglass in my spine. One contained my personal energy, the other was inspired form that core current but only through the plexiglass. The core tube was untouchable. I didn’t use it when working on clients, and it could only be replenshed or “touched” by energy that was of equal or greater vibration. I use the term vibration as a way to imagine some spiritual core foundational energy that every has. Except mine is in a tube. The the secondary tube can be used entirely, and it is easily replenished from the core tube.

Why plexiglass? It was easy to visualize, it was familiar, it seemed like a fun thing. PVC isn’t transparent, I didn’t like the feel of soft plastic. No real good reason it was just what popped into my mind long ago. Some people were imagining crystal tubes and gem studded things. I wanted simplicity and practicality.

I’ve had many clients, especially moms in labor or their babies, who I wanted to give my all to feel better, be safer, or come more quickly in the case of a laboring mom. I don’t let myself go all the way. I don’t use that core current.

This has made it a pleasure and a refreshing experience nearly all the time I work with people. I rarely have trouble “taking on” the stuff that belongs with my client. I usually have more energy after working. I feel safe from any psychic jolts or weird activities that can go on. it is imaginary – and it works well.

just recently I’ve been considering instrumentation. Monitoring devices. Because this is all well and good, but can I also watch and monitor how my different energies are being used? That would add more control and specifics to my imaginary system.

I’ve had some digestive issues, and discovered a “monitoring” system for that. It has worked fabulously in choosing what to eat and when. There is a visual image, as well as an orientation of a spiraling wheel. That tells me a lot about how the system is working, if there are current glitches to be concerned about, and it also seems that I can “add energy” to the digestive system and then monitor the effect. Imaginary of course, but actually very precise as well.

I suggest using the idea to make up your own imaginary system to do what you need it to do. Practice using it consciously for a month or two and then let it be an unconscious practice most of the time. I’m still considering imaginary monitoring systems and would welcome any ideas you might have on that front as well. So far monitoring digestion before during and after has been a huge help for me.

I don’t need it to be real – just effective.

Review: An Odd Meal At Lena From Beginning to End

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Lena has been open for a few years now, but I hadn’t had an opportunity to check it out. I liked the previous incarnation on Washington Street, and looked forward to the new experience.

On Labor Day lots of restaurants were closed, and a friend wanted to treat me to dinner. We ended up at Lena.

It was noisy, but that is par for the course. The wait for water was long, they were not at all busy. The waitress stopped by, observed we had water, and the usual “let me know if you have any questions” and then dashed off before we could pose those questions.

She ended up not knowing much about the menu, and had to consult, and one of her earlier answers she corrected. Simple things like an ingredient, if the salmon was farmed or wild, and what was the fish of the day. It wasn’t fish, it was shrimp.

We ended up with three appetizers and one main dish to split. The food was interesting, unusual tastes, and nicely filling. The Cuban bread served with the meal was as bad as Cuban bread is – I first ran into this in Puerto Rico and it is great for feeding fish when you are snorkeling. It just isn’t good bread. The Gnochi was rich, as she predicted, the potato appetizer was spicy and nice – the request to serve the avocado on the side for my sensitive friend didn’t happen.

The plantain is really good, and they served it with a very nice salsa and sauce.

The cauliflower salad (which was served first) was also refreshingly different and had a combination of bitter and sweet and other. The odd part was the waitress dumping it off in a dash as she went by — in the middle of the table. And we waited, and ended up flagging her down minutes later to ask for plates.

I get that we were a poor tale – no drinks, splitting meals, what wait staff don’t like. But we did tip them off that we were first timers, and the restaurant was not at all busy. Should I feel guilty?

The end of the meal was similar, very long waits for a glimpse at the desert menu, opting to not indulge, and an even longer wait for the bill. In the midst of that, I used the restroom, and one stall (the handicapped) was clearly (yuk) out of order, a problem of no water in the tank so it wouldn’t flush.

No sign. Hmm. So I reported it to the hostess, who said she would take care of it, and that they had been having trouble with that toilet – old plumbing in the building. Sorry, I take that as a bad sign that it is an ongoing problem that was not being monitored, and that it just hasn’t been fixed. I had a similar bad feeling at Eastern Accents months before they closed. The toilet overflowed when I used it and the response was yeah, that happens a lot, we have a plumbing problem. If there is bad plumbing then… I’d rather not go there.

I can’t help but imagine the possible kitchen problems, and what else they aren’t paying attention to. And of course the staff training. It leaves a true bad taste to end the meal by confronting their bad plumbing. Which is apparently not unique.

Details. It matters. So truthfully, I didn’t leave thinking “Yes! I can’t wait for another chance to come back!” No, it wasn’t like that at all. It was just odd and too many small moments of discomfort. And so I end my review with “sorry”. Which is not what a restaurant wants to have happen.