iowa city.

(from 21 june 2013)

Julie and I are in Iowa City now. After watching an episode of The West Wing (season 1, episode 10), but before going to sleep last night, I did some due diligence and pulled up the Wikipedia page on Iowa City. I like to be well informed.

It seems, according to Wikipedia, that Iowa City is home to the Hamburg Inn. A coffee shop/diner/greasy spoon that’s a hotspot for presidential candidates during their sojourn in Iowa. It is home to the coffee bean caucus, a highly scientific and statistically accurate gauge of America’s political pulse. And it was featured on The West Wing, season 7, during the Santos/Vinick campaign.

So clearly we had chosen our morning coffee spot.

It was like any other diner: bad coffee, flat pancakes. But the walls were plastered with photos of the candidates: Reagan, Kucinich, Bachman, Clinton, Bartlett. Some people were there for the history (there were tshirts and memorabilia for sale), some were locals.

The table to our left forgot their keys when they left so I ran after them in the spirit of mid-western friendliness. The table to our right remarked on the exchange and we started a conversation. They were locals, regulars.

We talked about losing keys and showed them our carabinered keys attached to our belt loops (we’re nerds). We explained the purpose of our drive. We explained the purpose of our breakfast (read: West Wing fanaticism). She, like me, is in medicine (though in psychiatry). He, like Julie, is in history (though gainfully employed). They loved our theme of presidential libraries. They loved our political enthusiasm (ok, Julie’s political enthusiasm). They loved that we drove a Prius (and that we hadn’t yet lost our keys). They even loved hearing about when we broke down in Nevada. And we loved them too.

Before we could say goodbye, the waitress brings a bag with two commemorative mugs wrapped up for us. The history professor wanted to be sure that we remembered our trip to his favorite diner.  We said our goodbyes and he told us one last story: today is the 32nd anniversary of their first date. It was a Sunday, Father’s Day in 1981. They had gone to the Hoover Library. 

xoxo Rach




clear and present danger.


(from 19 june 2013)

Ok, so all the credit I get for being calm and collected in the face of automobile disaster in Nevada gets wiped out with yesterday. We were driving through Colorado and Julie decided that we *needed* to drive up the highest (re: elevation) road in all of America. Whoa. 

First I tried to make excuses. Oh, what about the altitude sickness? Oh, what about our dinner reservations? Oh, what about your deep attachment to life? She wasn’t buying any of it. 
She spent the next three hours from Grand Junction to Denver reading aloud from countless Wikipedia pages, Yelp accounts, and general internet nonsense about the marvels of this 14-er (ie 14,000+ feet) that could be seen for over 100 miles away. It was a must-see. Cannot be missed. 
So I caved. I took the wheel (better to have control of my destiny in the face of sure and painful death). I started driving. The first 7 miles of incline? Child’s play. The next 15? Sheer terror. At first I tried to stay calm. I used clear and precise statements about my feelings. “I am very nervous” soon turned into “I am very very very nervous.” I was making these hairpin turns on the side of the mountain 10,000 feet above the Earth with no guardrails and no visibility. My palms started sweating (it was 45 degrees outside). Then off in the distance I saw that we had surpassed the height of the snowcapped Rockies. And that’s when I lost it. I took my hand off the steering wheel to block the mountains from my line of sight. I needed to believe that we were on the ground. Mission: block all evidence of mountains. Ignorance is bliss? Ignorance is a car accident? 
I screamed my way up the next thousand feet of elevation. I was shaking when I parked the car at the top. We were literally in the clouds. We were walking in snow. If we were in an airplane we’d be allowed to use approved electronic devices. 
Julie took the driver’s seat for the way down. 
xoxo Rach

eastward, ho!

(from 17 june 2013)

i am officially heading back east! here are a few photos (with some much needed explanations) from my first day of my return to the right coast.
julie and i left san francisco as scheduled this morning, my prius packed full of all my worldly possessions. we made excellent time through california, hit nevada before noon, and were jamming away to florence and the machine. amazing.
and then we ran out of gas. on i-80. in the middle of nowhere. there hadn’t been a gas station for 25 miles and there wasn’t going to be one for another 30. we calmly pulled off the interstate at mile marker 78 and shut off the car. AAA assured us that someone was en route. and then we waited. in the nevada desert. and we waited. and waited some more.
a few truck drivers pulled off to make sure we were ok. (we were). we took some photos, we stretched a bit. we jogged around. and then we waited some more. 
an hour and a half into our “adventure” the novelty had worn off. the flies were swarming and the sun was scorching. and then a firetruck loaded with burly nevada firemen pulls off the road. our tow truck was nowhere in sight. who knew that firemen carry extra gasoline with them? (doesn’t that seem dangerous?) they were pretty amused with our predicament and were happy to help out two lost girls from the big city. 
we’re staying on the utah/nevada border tonight, planning to be in colorado tomorrow night. and we promise to keep our gas tank at least half full. 
xoxo rach

Chocolate Covered Wonderful.

Who doesn’t love chocolate covered pretzels?  Exactly.

Many thanks to the kind people at the Mars company who dreamt up this delicious combination of chocolate, pretzel and candy shell (though, I could do without the candy shell). Many thanks to the kind people in New Jersey who stock this delicious candy.  And many thanks to my hero (according to First Aid, 20th Anniversary Edition, page 327) for finding them.

Where have you gone, Joe Dimaggio?

Forgive me father, for I have been MIA.  Medical student In Action.  I have neglected my friends, I have neglected my health, I have neglected my laundry, but most importantly, I have neglected you.

For nearly three years I diligently blogged about food.  Food in the restaurant, food at home, food in France.  I had a rhythm and we found our groove.  Slight bouts of writer’s block were cured with fresh walnut rolls from the nearby boulangerie or a flare-up of egos in the restaurant.  We were happy together.

And then med school rolled around.  I wasn’t any less happy, but my entire universe had lost its focus.  No more random quests for dried mango in Paris or new pizza to try in Seattle.  No more time to make dinner or chefs to complain about.  I was a study machine.  And I didn’t know how to relate that to you.  I loved every minute of my first year of medical school (just as Scott).  But you are no place for musings on pathology or physiology.  You were born out of a passion for pine nuts and pain au chocolat.

And I’m fine with that.  You aren’t a pensieve (don’t hate me for quoting the ‘Potter) for every random thought that enters my mind.  You have a purpose in this life.  A food-driven, restaurant-inspired, chef-centered purpose.

pb+j m+ms

Nothing goes better together than strawberry jam and chunky peanut butter.  Slather it on sandwich bread, cut your masterpiece in half diagonally, place in Ziploc bag, and you have heaven on Earth waiting for you for lunch.


The stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth-ness of peanut butter is perfectly paired with the smoothness of the jam.  Peanut butter tastes best when warm–it’s smoother, its wafting aroma excites your taste buds, and it balances the cool, straight-from-the-fridge-ness of the jam as they waltz gracefully on your tongue.  And how could you forget the crunch of the peanuts contrasted with the semi-whole pieces of strawberry?  Magnifique.


So, naturally, when I was faced with the opportunity to buy “Strawberried Peanut Butter M&Ms” at my local Walgreen’s I jumped at the opportunity, after first confirming that my cashier was a fan.

Peanut Butter M&Ms are delightful on their own merits.  No wafting aromas or perfectly smooth stickiness to send the arachibutyrophobics running for the hills.  The peanut butter is salty and crumbly.  Not worthy of a partnership with strawberry jam.

And the strawberry?  Like eating shampoo.  But the flavor is short-lasting and quickly overpowered by the chocolate and pb.

M&Ms 2

Don’t get me wrong, I love Peanut Butter M&Ms.  But I don’t like them masquerading as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  There were no excited taste buds or waltzes in my head.  No perfect pairing of sticky and smooth.  No memories of school lunches and Ziploc bags with diagonally cut sandwiches.  Only a craving for classic Peanut Butter M&Ms, hold the shampoo.