Monday, November 21, 2011

Steve Jobs: Of Food, Memories, and Thanks

My daughter Amanda's iPad artwork

I finished reading the new Steve Jobs book by Walter Isaacson in three days, immersed, amused, inspired, and unsettled by what I read. The book paints a fascinating portrait of a singular man who led life the way he wanted to, warts and all. 

It also struck me how much food had an influence on his life. Jobs was not only famously a vegan and macrobiotic eater, he also became more than strict, maybe even disordered, about what he'd ingest and how he thought about food. He felt that fasting gave him a special energy, probably first experienced when he went to India as a young college drop-out.

Some of the ways food played a role in his storied life:

- He worked at an apple orchard and once ate only apples for a week, which inspired him to choose the name Apple for his and Steve Wozniak's company. The name had a friendly feeling, much better than the other names they'd been contemplating like Matrix and Executek.

- He unknowingly met his biological father at a Mediterranean restaurant his father managed in San Jose.

- He celebrated Pixar's Academy Award for the animated short 'Tin Toy' at the wonderful vegetarian Greens restaurant in San Francisco. 

- His non-alcoholic bachelor party took place at another favorite, Cafe Jacqueline in North Beach. 

- He had Odwalla juices and Peet's coffee available for employees at NeXT.   

- He thought he could use a disciplined diet to beat his cancer, but his inability to eat protein and other nourishment his doctors recommended contributed to a vicious cycle that sapped his strength.

- His sister Mona Simpson even referred to his eating habits in her touching eulogy, describing a typical dinner in his backyard with only broccoli served (and lots of it).

The book brought back memories of Jobs. Since my husband Brad worked for him at NeXT and we used to live in his Palo Alto neighborhood, we saw him throughout the years. Most notably, I invited him to speak at Stanford business school as a guest of the Marketing Club, and it was there he met his wife Laurene on October 5, 1989, exactly twenty-two years before his death. That night, as described in the book, he blew off a business meeting and instead asked her out to dinner. They walked to downtown Palo Alto and had their first date at St. Michael's Alley restaurant. And so I played an accidental matchmaking role that day, and have enjoyed telling this story many times since. (BTW, that was a memorable month for another reason: the 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake struck just twelve days later.)  

The book also described his erratic driving and rule-breaking parking habits. This brought back another memory of when he swerved and parked illegally in the red zone in front of Whole Foods in Palo Alto once when I was pushing my son in his stroller. I thought who is this jerk? Out of the car popped Jobs, who said hi to Brad. 

His wife started a vegan food truck business called Terravera, and I remember ordering lunch from it many times when it would park in front of Intuit where I worked. Jobs enjoyed many local eating spots including: Fraiche frozen yogurt, Evvia Greek restaurant, and Jin Sho Japanese restaurant. It seemed as if Japanese food was the one kind of cuisine he ate with pleasurable gusto, especially at his favorite sushi and soba noodle restaurants in Kyoto.       

From my mom's Apple II purchase to my daughter's new iPhone 4S, Apple products have benefited our lives for over thirty years. We still have the original 1984 Macintoshes and a NeXT cube in our garage. My daughter's iPad 2 sits on my desk next to me as I type this. My iPod gave me a whole new and better way to experience music. Jobs wasn't perfect, but he was perfectly fascinating and complex. I'm grateful for his contributions, awed by his inventiveness and determination, inspired to teach his lessons, and compelled to think different. Thanks, Steve.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Cold and Creamy, Pumpkiny Dreamy

If you haven't tried pumpkin frozen yogurt or ice cream, put it on your to-do list for this fall. What a luxurious blend: cold, creamy ice cream paired with the autumnal, spicy flavors of pumpkin pie, all combined in orange-y perfection.

Many local frozen yogurt shops now offer pumpkin varieties as a seasonal flavor including Fraiche, Pinkberry, and Mix. I love them all, and they're flavorful enough to enjoy without any toppings. But if you're in the mood, any kind of chocolate topping adds a sweet touch.

Jamba Juice also makes its refreshing Pumpkin Smash smoothie this time of year, which I especially enjoy after a workout. It's got yogurt, pumpkin spice, soy milk and ice, and I add their immunity boost vitamins for extra nourishment.

For a richer dessert, try pumpkin ice cream. Both locally based and family-run, Rick's Rather Rich and Treat make wonderful pumpkin ice creams. They can be enjoyed along with Thanksgiving pies, or scoop and spread them into a graham cracker pie crust for a twist on the traditional.

For mass market pumpkin ice cream, both Trader Joe's and Dreyer's (headquartered in Oakland) are sold widely.

If you'd like to create your own pumpkin ice cream at home, here's an easy way to do it. This is one of those halfway recipes with no ice cream maker required.

Easy Homemade Pumpkin Ice Cream 
(adapted from Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Cookbook recipe for from-scratch recipe)

1 quart of vanilla ice cream (less dense varieties will be easier to use, such as Dreyer's vanilla bean ice cream)
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Let vanilla ice cream soften by thawing for about 30-45 minutes.
2. Scoop ice cream into a blender. Add the pumpkin, nutmeg, and cinnamon, and blend until combined.
3. Transfer ice cream into your preferred freezer-safe container and freeze to desired consistency.

Makes a generous 1 quart of pumpkin ice cream. Enjoy!