Today I took a walk to the Farmers Market at Third and Fairfax to buy dog food from Huntington Meats, when my iPhone was stolen. There are a lot of good reasons to shop at independently owned stores, but the fact that you can count on the nice guys who work there when you're in a total panic over a small, stolen, six hundred dollar device, is one not to be overlooked. I'd left the butcher a few minutes before, phone in hand, and walked a few hundred steps to the nut store to buy some salty toasted mixed nuts since I am still not eating sugar, and when I noticed the nuts where in my hand and my iPhone wasn't, I ran back to the butcher (had I left it there?), then back to the nut place (had she seen a phone?), and then back to the butcher—this time not to look for my phone, but just plain desperate for help. Jim the Butcher entrusted one of his younger employees (i.e. knows how to use an iPhone) to use his "find my iPhone" app to find my iPhone. The guy's name was Charlie, and, to make a ...

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Having been sugar-free for 10 days now, I consider myself somewhat of an expert. At the very least I am an expert at getting through the first 10 days. So for that, here are 10 things I've learned about the first 10 days. 1. Don't quit eating sugar without pain reliever in the house. The pain in your brain will be too great to leave the house for pain reliever. 2. Your mind will tell you all kinds of crazy things including: Why are you such an extremist control freak? Sugar is a part of life!  It's Friday for God's sake and I don't care if you don't believe in God. What's a little agave gonna hurt anyone... Live a little! 3. A few dietary notes: Mayonnaise (that's Best Foods, or Hellman's, whose key ingredient is corn syrup) will beckon. A chinese chicken salad is just lettuce's way of enabling you. Cashews are fattening. This may sound like a non-sequiter until you try giving up sugar. Something crunchy is the next best thing to something sweet. Pass the cheese puffs 4. Frien ...

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And in honor of great new beginnings, the best darned holiday food I know: Lentils, redux. I'm not superstitious, but I do appreciate when certain superstitions give me an excuse to do something I want to do anyway. In Italy, lentils, called lenticchie (pronounced "len-TEA-ki-yay") are traditionally eaten for New Year because they are supposed to bring prosperity to the eater. The reasoning being that the little legumes are vaguely reminiscent of teeny tiny coins so by eating them, you will be showered with money. Which is why every year when the new year comes around, thinking my friends and I could use a little prosperity ourselves, I invite, I make as big a pot of them as I can. I start with Umbrian Lentils, which grow in and around a town called Castelluccio, in Umbria. Smaller than traditional brown lentils, Umbrian lentils come in various shades of brown and are known for their tender skin and rich, slightly sweet flavor. You'll have to get them at a specialty food store and ...

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My mother is impossible to buy gifts for. Last night to dinner, I wore a scarf I gave her one year for Christmas. "You obviously liked it. You'll wear it more than I would. You keep it." Another year I bought her nice hand cream. The woman loves rubbing cream into her hands. A year later I saw the tube sitting on her bathroom counter, untouched. "Don't you like it?" I asked. "I love it. I just don't want to use it up." I bought her another one so she'd know there was plenty of hand cream in her future. She kept that in her car console, also untouched. Her standard line regarding gifts has always been, "I can afford to buy myself anything you can afford to buy me. Make me something instead." And so I decided to make her this online album. We've spent the last two mother's days together at my friend Andre's home in Venice, California. Andre is a landscape designer, floral designer, and artist. His garden, which I call Andre's World, is a work of art, and one of my favorite places on the ...

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