Tag Archives: family

Gin’n’tonic – more than just a cure for malaria

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Once upon a time in the year 2004, my sister returned from her first of now countless trips to France. Like most 21-year-olds returning from their travels abroad, she was wiser and had tales to tell of the world beyond the U S of A. One practice she had adopted after her two-month stint was the custom of an aperatif before one’s meal – particularly a gin’n’tonic (or as Maureen, her adopted nanny from England would call it, a “g-n-t”). It may seem simple and uninteresting to many, but it was a cocktail that reeked of sophistication, class, and history as she told us the story of why it is the cocktail of choice for so many Brits. Some of you may know this tale, but for those still stuck in their cultural cocoon, allow me to explain.

Back in the days when the British had spread their imperial ways across the majority of Earth’s landmass, including lands plagued with malaria such as India, British soldiers needed a means to protect themselves from such deadly pathogens. Afterall, if the soldiers all died, who would enforce afternoon tea???! DEAR GOD MAN (sorry…inside joke with my sister :p )!!! So, they discovered that quinine could treat the disease, but unfortunately was incredibly bitter and distasteful. Like many things, adding a little sparkling water, sugar, lime, and gin to anything makes it go down a whole lot smoother. Thus the birth of the g’n’t!!! Now back to me.

So here my family was in 2004, sitting around our kitchen table, each with a glass filled with this sparkling crisp concoction. As the kitchen table always was the site for lively discussions about our daily frustrations, delights, and philosophical delusions, the beverage became a mainstay in the Juhl family. Much like cheese, but that’s for another blog :).

So now it’s the year 2012 and even though we don’t live together anymore, we still spend our select evenings together sitting around that old Amana table, debating life, and sipping our g’n’t’s. So, it’s no wonder that when I came over this last Wednesday night after a long and crazy day, I went straight to my parent’s fridge to grab the necessary ingredients. That’s when panic sat in…no limes or lemons. DUHN DUHN DUHNNNNNNNNNN!!! What were we going to do??? All the stores had closed. The fruit stand vendors were long packed up. But, then I had a revelation…

A month ago my sister came to town for a visit and we met up with one of our dear friends to do what every Manhattanite is doing on a Friday evening…HAPPY HOUR! As I perused the cocktail menu at Café Sprig in the Lipstick Building, my eye gravitated to a gin cocktail that included a bizarre ingredient – cucumber extract. I love cucumbers and I love gin, but together??? But then my lovely sister who freakishly operates on my same wavelength said, “I bet it’s gonna be like that “Gilmore Girls episode!”

Lorelai: “What is it about cucumber water that makes it so much more refreshing than non-cucumber water?”
Rory: “I think it’s the cucumbers.”

So I told our stunning 6’2″-Aryan waiter named Hans (well, k I don’t remember his name, but it SHOULD HAVE been Hans) that I would take a stab. And I did…twice. It was just THAT good.

So here I am now, four weeks later and in a serious state of concern. There was no way I could stomach just gin and tonic water alone. Enter my gin-cucumber revelation. Two slices of cucumber quartered and sunk in my glass later, I took a sip and had a Bogey moment, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” Crisis averted and family bonding time was back on track.

Think I’m crazy??!! Grab a cuke and give it a try! If anything, at least think of the sugar you’ll save from switching to a food that is high in vitamins A, K, and C, as well as potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus. See – I can even make gin sound healthy ;). Take that British East India Company!

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The Dawn of My Delectable Delusions

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“One cannot live well, love well or sleep well unless one has dined well.” This quote by Virginia Woolf served as the mission statement for my family’s business and I am determined to carry on that legacy in my future career.

We live in a society that is getting farther and farther away from the family table. and getting closer and closer to our BlackBerrys, steering wheels, project deadlines, delivery boys, and McDonald’s.  Granted, the world has changed and the pace has hastened, forcing us to conform and give in just so that we can keep our head above water.  So, if we can’t change how many hours we work, the number of daily commitments, or the rising cost of living, what can we control so that we don’t all become Oompa-Loompas with heart disease, ulcer medications, and carpal tunnel from excessive texting?  Return to the basics and cook!

While Americans are becoming more and more health-conscious due to the popularity of “100 Calorie Snacks”, “Weight Watchers” and “Whole Foods Market”, we still see skyrocketing childhood and adult obesity rates.  Why?  “I don’t have enough time” or “I don’t have time to learn how to eat healthy”.  However, we do find time to interact with 150 friends on Facebook and catch every episode of American Idol.  We also seem to be going back to college for our second Bachelor’s or a Master’s degree – so somehow I don’t think intelligence is the issue.  You want the real answer – Americans are scared of the kitchen table.  WHAT???!  The kitchen table means you have to put the Blackberry on silent.  The kitchen table means that you have to use a knife and fork when you eat.  The kitchen table means that you have to talk to the person next to you.  The kitchen table means that you chew your food before you lift your fork for the next bite.  American media culture and the rising costs of living have possessed many families for so long that they have forgotten how to do these rudimentary things.  But what happens when they sit down at their kitchen table?  They find out about what’s going on in their children’s lives.  They don’t have heartburn after eating because they used a fork instead of a shovel.  They discover that they feel calmer because they aren’t worried about replying to an email.  But take it a step further – they begin to heal mentally, emotionally, and physically as they unwind from their day, strengthen family bonds, and eat a balanced nutritious meal.  They realize that they actually do have the time and knowledge to be healthy.  It was almost too simple.

Now while it is easy to say these things and believe them, putting them into practice after years of executing ingrained and learned behavior is where the hurdles arise.  This is where nutritionists and food professionals come in.  It is my firm belief that adults are not a lost cause – any person with the desire can learn what the Europeans have done for centuries with their eyes closed.  They just need someone to show them the way.  This is why the Food Network, TLC, Bravo, and the Travel Channel have all jumped on the “food-is-cool” bandwagon with amazing success across the nation.  This is why the “Food/Cooking” section of Barnes & Noble at Union Square encompasses half of the second floor.  Americans want to be told how to make dinner in less than thirty minutes on Tuesday night, how to seduce their husband with the right wine pairing on their tenth anniversary, and where to fly to for the best meal with a killer view.  It is our job as the ones with education and zeal to teach them, either in person or through the written word.

Lastly, this education and effort should not be available only to those tall enough to see over the kitchen counter.  Children love to please their parents and have a never-ending curiosity about this world that they have recently become residents of.  Teaching children the basics of proper cooking techniques, the value of having the right tools, the variety of choices in food and ingredients, and most importantly the serious worth of eating together as a family is what is going to change our society. 

As a passionate chef, nutrition enthusiast, lover of children, and zealous writer, I am dedicated to helping this generation know that they can stop the cycle by going back to the basics – by cooking the way your grandmother would have liked you to.