Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson

I apologize for the long absence. Busy as the proverbial bees, and without my laptop for two weeks (a story for another time, perhaps). While I may not have been writing recently, I have certainly been reading. I expect some of my readers (those of you who have stuck it out through the lean winter months) may be interested in the work of one Heidi Swanson. She is an artist and blogger from San Francisco who has recently published a book Super Natural Cooking.

Super Natural Cooking is stuffed full of simple, reasonable recipes with ingredients that seem neither scary nor obscure and which have gourmet-looking results…Its contents alone are enough reason to love the book, but Super Natural Cooking’s construction, layout, and photography will delight any lover of good design. This is a book you want to hold in your hand and carefully read…

Swanson also presents healthful eating, not as a negative stop-gap to avoid disease, but as a toothsome celebration of the age we live in, where we can make food from all different cultures with the ingredients from our grocery shelves—food that is aesthetically pleasing, delicious, and good to serve to friends, family, and guests. This is not a book filled with “healthy” versions of old standbys, but creative foods that take advantage of their ingredients’ natural properties to create something new, beautiful, and altogether good.

Read the entire Cardus review here.

Also linked in the above quoted review is Ms. Swanson’s excellent cooking blog 101 Cookbooks, which you best check out.

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In Which We Desire Sidewalks in the New Heavens and New Earth

Moreover, we have every confidence that we will get them.

In Comment magazine’s June 2007 “Summer Reading” issue, a gentleman named Eric O. Jacobsen contributed a list of books on Christianity and Urbanism which you best pick up. I pass a few of them along with short excerpts from Mr. Jacobsen’s longer blurbs. Again, if you don’t subscribe to Comment, go sign up now.

Also, Jacobsen maintains a site called Sidewalks in the Kingdom: Resources for Christian New Urbanists which you should check out. I have added a permanent link on the sidebar under “Sidewalks”.

OK, the books:

1. The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs.

I learned to love the city from Jacobs with her eyes to see “the ballet of street life” while trained experts could only comprehend the city as rationally organized blobs on a zoning map.

2. Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream by Duany, Speck, and Zyberk.

These pioneers of the New Urbanist movement spent the last few decades leading a renegade group of architects and planners who in one way or another rejected the post-war suburban neighborhoods and urbanism…They possess the clarity of insight to ask whether the suburban experiment has delivered on its lofty promises, and whether its existence has really justified scrapping thousands of years of human wisdom embedded in traditional urban forms in favor of its seductive charms.

3. The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition by James Howard Kunstler.

Kunstler is both hilarious and spot-on accurate in his observations about contemporary North American Life…In The City in Mind, Kunstler…develops the notion that the ability to create quality urban environments is an important litmus test for any civilization. He does this with a series of eight case studies ranging from Atlanta, “this giant hairball of a thirteen-county demolition derby,” to Paris which embodies the difference between a “city worth caring about and one that is not.”

4. Great Streets by Allan B. Jacobs.

After about fifty years of slavishly accepting Le Corbusier’s rash dismissal of streets for anything but high-speed automobile traffic, we are once again recognizing that a requisite component for a truly great city is great streets. Some of the most significant public spaces ina city are to be found on its streets. Alan Jacobs’s treatment is a tribute to Great Streets, and a serious study of some of the best-loved streets in the world.

5. Global City Blues by Daniel Solomon

As a penitent formerly modernist architect, Daniel Solomon is the perfect guide to the waves of modernist hubris that nearly killed the city during the second half of the twentieth century…Most seasoned practitioners of the recent urban renaissance are self-avowed pragmatists and polemic apologists for the movement. Solomon may be more of a poet at heart and as such he may provide helpful inroads to the movement for a theological discussion of “creational norms.”

6. The Good City and the Good Life: Renewing the American Community by Daniel Kemmis.

Daniel Kemmis maintains that focusing our political attention exclusively on the national scene can only fall short of our expectations, and we will eventually become jaded. In the Good City and the Good Life, Kemmis recommends a return to the city as a context for human thriving and for rediscovering the dignity of political life.

7. The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community by Ray Oldenburg.

The notion that we need a place to hang out that is not our workplace nor our home helps to explain the success of places like Starbucks and Barnes and Noble…Ray Oldenburg anticipated this phenomenon and coined the term “third place”…Oldenburg helps us place this phenomenon in a wider context and he helps us to better understand the significance of this rediscovered impulse to a sociability…We learn what is appropriate and inappropriate public behaviour by spending time in coffee shops and other public places where we receive instant feedback on our public behaviour.

8. Until Justice and Peace Embrace: the Kuyper Lectures for 1981 Delivered at the Free University of Amsterdam by Nicholas Wolterstorff.

Wolterstorff understands that for most people, beauty in the city is found in the spaces between the buildings. From this perspective a beautiful city is a city in which the streets feel like outdoor hallways that invite us to explore.

In Which We Share the Linking Love

For those of you who are students, or currently operating in some sort of academic environment, I highly recommend Lifehack.org. It is a great site for resources and support including suggested programs to increase your productivity. If nothing else, check out the ultimate student resource list. Wish I had had this (ok, and some self-discipline) in college. My current favorites from the list are as follows:

1. OpenOffice.org: I’ve actually been using this office software suite for quite a while. Not as pretty as Microsoft Office (spit thrice), but far more intuitive to use, compatible with every file type known to man, and (oh yeah) free. Don’t subsidize Bill Gates’ dysfunctional, resource-greedy software: Damn the Man! Start the Revolution!

2. GIMP.org: Sounds kinky, I know. Nevertheless, this is a great cheap alternative to Photoshop. And when I say ‘alternative’, I mean it is comparable, unlike the ‘editing’ software that came with your 3-in-1 printer/scanner/copier.

3. Mozy.com: A great online data backup program. For free, you can store 2GB, which oughta at least cover all those priceless papers and prize-winning essays you’ve been accumulating. For a fee you can get a lot more space, but at that point you might as well buy an external hard-drive. But if you’re a cheapskate like me, 2 gig will do the trick. I actually own all of my music on CD’s anyway.

4. Bubbl.us: This is a free “mind map” program. The concept of mind mapping is new to me, but this site seems to be a good place to start if you want to try to use this concept to organize your ideas into a coherent whole.

See Steve Bishop on mind maps if you, like myself, aren’t hip to this groove (he’s “Green Neocalvinist” on the sidebar).
He has all kinds of links and whatnot that should clear it all up for you, and get you started down the glorious path of trying to see all of your thoughts simultaneously. If you already map your mind, let me know what program you use, and why you like it.

5. Not related to the lifehack list, but rounding out my top five nonetheless, wishlist.com. Consolidate all of your coveting into one convenient place. Easy to use, organize, and publish so others can see all the desires of your heart and maybe even buy them for you.