BOOK REVIEW — Finding Yourself in the Kitchen

November 30, 2015

Reviewed by Katherine Keller

Finding Yourself in the Kitchen Dana Velden Rodale Books, 24.95

Finding Yourself in the Kitchen
Dana Velden
Rodale Books, 24.95

Finding Yourself in the Kitchen Kitchen — Meditations and Inspired Recipes from a Mindful Cook

Dana Velden’s new collection of essays has found its way into our culture amidst a cascade of cookbooks, blogs, podcasts, and television shows that accompany the Big Food Bang, the American food revolution that began in the 1960s.

Meditation began to make its way into our culture at the same time though it grew more slowly and with less glamor. The number of Americans exploring and practicing meditation has burgeoned, especially in the past 20 years.

As such, it seems a fitting time for the emergence of a book that teaches readers how to meld mediation with their experience in the kitchen.

Finding Yourself in the Kitchen — Kitchen Meditations and Inspired Recipes from a Mindful Cook is a collection short essays and 15 of the author’s personal recipes.

Velden, who grew up in Wauwatosa, is an Oakland-based food writer and Zen priest. She has written for the food blog The Kitchn since 2008, where her column, “Weekend Meditations,” has gained an enthusiastic following.

In the first essay, “On Why I Wrote This Book,” Velden spells out the theme that informs her essays. “There is a hunger today for a more considered life, one where our everyday circumstances are not a series of inconveniences to get through (or around) as quickly as possible but rather a source of our awakening and pleasure. …I wrote this book to take up this less examined side of cooking, to encourage and inspire a more deeply experienced life, and to help us discover that no matter what the circumstances, we all have the capacity to deeply nourish ourselves and those around us.”

The text is filled with Velden’s suggestions about how to practice mindfulness and receptivity in the kitchen, so as to open one’s self, as she explains, to intimacy.

For Velden, intimacy is openness to experience, an opportunity to “allow something (or everything!) to make contact with us, to touch and therefore change us, often in ways we cannot predict or control.”

There are benefits, she writes, to dropping one’s protectiveness and being available to something outside oneself and to new experiences and ways of perceiving and reacting.

Take the experience of a cup of tea. Velden starts her morning with a contemplative ritual. She spends about 10 minutes quietly sipping her tea, being present with that tea and those moments, watching whatever happens to wander into her mind, she says, rather than worrying about what needs to be done that day or ruminating on past hurts. Notice the light, she advises, the songbirds, the scents in the room.

“What burdens can be put down when we redirect our energies not toward the goal but into the process itself, into each moment along the way? What treasures are waiting there?” she writes.

Velden gently urges her readers to deepen their experience in the kitchen by illustrating the opportunities it offers for transformation. A deliberate, considered approach to kitchen tasks, she tells us, can develop deeper self-awareness and opportunities for personal growth as we navigate the banality, toil, frustration, skill, failure, triumph, discovery, and pleasure of the kitchen.

For me, one almost completely unfamiliar with the theory or practice of meditation, Finding Oneself in the Kitchen, is a series of lessons that provide an opportunity create devotional-like experiences as one works in the kitchen.

Along with Velden’s advice about using time in the kitchen for meditation and all that it confers are generous dollops of practical advice. Some of the fundamentals for happiness in the kitchen are, she says, a full pantry, pots of herbs, filling a basin with warm sudsy water as a preliminary to starting the steps called for in a recipe and washing utensils as one uses them, keeping knives sharp, a bowl full of lemons.

There was a question that niggled me as I read through Velden’s sagacious essays, and that was how would one practice these meditations with a toddler pulling at one’s apron? How would one find time to be alone in the kitchen, free of distractions of family members, their chirping and buzzing devices, of the natural needs and demands children have in what is often the dearth of time they have with a parent?

Velden’s easy, sophisticated prose comes with insight, great warmth, wisdom, chattiness, and good humor. As she reveals herself through the essays, one begins to feel this woman would be a most interesting dinner companion and probably a lot of fun to drink a little too much wine with.

Her recipes are appealing, straightforward, and uncomplicated. Following is one that is just right for this time when we move into the winter and relish the warmth of classic baking spices, especially when delivered in an easy-to-make cake.

Finding Yourself in the Kitchen
Dana Velden
Rodale Books, 24.95

Full Disclosure: Dana Velden and I were once colleagues at a children’s book publishing company in Milwaukee.

My Mother’s Spice Cake

My mother serves this with a classic cream cheese frosting but it is just as delicious, or maybe even more so, served plain with a sprinkle of powdered sugar. People who say they don’t like cake tend to like this one.

Makes two 8-inch round layers

Preheat the oven to 350°F

Butter and flour two 8” × 2” round cake pans

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream

IN a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt so that everything is incorporated.

IN a large bowl or using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter, brown sugar, and sugar until fluffy, scraping the bowl, as needed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, followed by the vanilla and the sour cream.

ADD in the flour mixture, beating until just incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl, as needed.

POUR the batter into the prepared pans, dividing evenly. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cakes begin to pull away from the sides and the middle springs back when lightly touched. Cool for 10 minutes, then invert each layer onto a rack and let cool completely.

WRAP one cake in double layers of plastic wrap or waxed paper and freeze for up to 3 months. Be sure to label it with the date and contents. Wrap the other layer in waxed paper and store in an airtight tin for up to a week. It will improve with age.

Reprinted from Finding Yourself in the Kitchen by Dana Velden (Rodale Books).
Available wherever books are sold.

IN BALANCE — Eating for optimal digestion

November 30, 2015

HEADSHOT SHERI LEEThe colder the weather becomes, the more we seem to slow down. It’s a natural transition that can be made easier when we welcome it by balancing activities and food. We can warm up from the inside with warm drinks, stews and soups, but by practicing healthy eating habits we can feel even better and avoid feeling heavy and overfed. These habits are especially helpful over the winter holiday season, as we find ourselves tempted by an influx of sweet treats and big meals.

While what we eat is important, good nutrition is more than just food. Good eating habits form the foundation of a healthy diet. How we eat is just as important as what we eat. The following eight habits are based on Chinese medicine principles and recommended for everyone to promote optimal digestion, sleep and over all well being.

Eat within an hour of waking. When a person is not hungry in the morning, this implies a digestive system weakness. The stomach’s energy is strongest in the morning hours, especially between 7am to 9am.

Don’t eat late. Allow your body time to digest your food before you retire to bed. Finish your last meal or snack before 7pm. Overstrain of the digestive system can lead to food accumulation and have a negative effect on sleep.

Avoid distractions and slow down. Pause and take time to enjoy your meal. Chew food completely because mastication begins the digestive process. Pay attention, savor your food, and breathe with each bite. Avoid TV, electronics, and eating on the go.

Relax. Don’t eat while worried or while discussing difficult topics. Stress inhibits our body’s ability to digest well by slowing the process. Never fight at the dinner table.

Make room for error. Overly restrictive diets can be difficult to follow. Holding feelings of guilt and shame when we make bad food choices can manifest an unhealthy relationship with food. Food provides nourishment and should be enjoyed. Remember to be kind to yourself when you make mistakes and practice forgiveness.

Reserve time for meals. Our primary digestive organs, the stomach and spleen, work best with balance and regularity. Plan meal times and develop a routine. Lack of appetite or skipping meals could be a sign your digestion requires care.

Eat less and understand cravings. Overeating can result in food stagnation. Be aware of your hunger and how it feels. Follow cues to stop eating before feeling completely full and recognize how emotions drive your cravings and hunger.

Eat the right foods for your constitution. Consult with a Chinese medicine practitioner to learn which foods could benefit your individual constitution and address your health concerns.

Our bodies are forgiving and designed to acclimate. Some people can go for many years without noticing the detrimental effects of their unhealthy eating habits. However, there comes a point when it does catch up. We seem to pay closer attention around each new calendar year, when many are eager to start fresh and recover from the gluttony of holiday indulgence.

Positive eating habits require practice and should be taught early in life. Begin today and evolve slowly, as you begin your new practice towards better health.

Sheri Lee, MSOM, C.Ac, LMT operates 8 Branches Chinese Medicine, where she and her colleagues provide holistic health care for the whole family. More information at: Disclaimer: The information provided in this column is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or care.

LOOKING BACK — Bay View, November 1981

November 30, 2015

November 1981

Mound Street School, 2147 S. Winchester St., was sold for about $300,000 to the B-L Development Company in November 1981. PHOTO KATHERINE KELLER

Mound Street School, 2147 S. Winchester St., was sold for about $300,000 to the B-L Development Company in November 1981. PHOTO KATHERINE KELLER

Mound Street School Sold

Mound Street School, 2147 S. Winchester St., was sold for about $300,000 to the B-L Development Company, owned by housing developer Benjamin Lande in November 1981. The school had been closed for three years prior to the sale. The architectural firm Shepherd, Legan, Aldrian, Ltd. was hired to convert the school to apartments.

At the time, Lande said he planned to convert the school to 48 one-bedroom apartments for senior citizens. He received $1.8 million in mortgage financing from the Wisconsin Housing Finance Authority, which received its funding from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Tenants of the development that to be named Winchester Village, who were eligible for a subsidy, were to pay no more than 25 percent of their annual income for rent and utilities.

In addition to the school conversion, Lande would construct a 10-unit apartment building adjacent to the school, also for-low income families.

In addition to the school conversion, the developer constructed a 10-unit apartment building adjacent to the school, also for-low income families. PHOTO KATHERINE KELLER

In addition to the school conversion, the developer constructed a 10-unit apartment building adjacent to the school, also for-low income families. PHOTO KATHERINE KELLER


Winchester Village, currently managed by Cardinal Capital, retains its Section 8 low-income housing status. City of Milwaukee records indicate the property is owned by Towne Realty, Inc. and was assessed at $1.6 million in 2014.

Budget Challenges for Llewellyn Library

In November 1981, the Bay View branch of Milwaukee Public Library, Llewellyn Library, 907 E. Russell Ave., faced budget cuts that would reduce the number of hours it would be open to the public, as well as the number of staff members to serve patrons. In 1981, Llewellyn was open 50 hours per week. The librarian, Henry Bates, suggested reducing the number of open hours to 40.


The Bay View Branch is located at 2566 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. The branch manager is Chris Gawronski and it currently is open 49 hours per week, Monday through Saturday. The library is closed on Sunday.

Residents Oppose Duplex Conversion to Low Income Housing

When the duplex located at 2786 S. Superior St. was purchased by the Milwaukee Housing Authority for low-income housing, residents in the vicinity of the home organized a petition drive to oppose it in November 1981. Homeowner Leshig Wyozyhioski sold the property to the city of Milwaukee for $85,000. A report at the time of the sale indicated that the home required about $5,500 of repair work. The Housing Authority received $8 million in funding from a federal grant to purchase and repair homes.

The director of city development, William Drew, defended the purchase, stating that public hearings were held prior to the purchase.

District 14 Alderman Daniel Ziolkowski, who represented Bay View, characterized the Milwaukee Housing Authority agency as “run-away,” and wanted it to be replaced by a board whose members would consist of the mayor and aldermen.

The duplex would remain a two-family home and rented to families who qualified for the subsidy-based lower-income rent.

Opponents of the sale objected to the home being removed from city tax rolls after it became a property of the city’s housing authority division.


City of Milwaukee records indicate that the duplex is owned by the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee. Its 2014 value was assessed at $0.

HALL MONITOR — Pulaski-Carmen partnership—wrong solution, wrong message

November 30, 2015

By Jay Bullock

Jay1headshotWhen I learned this summer that the Milwaukee Public Schools administration considered leasing some of the space in the Pulaski High School building to the Carmen charter school organization, I figured it was a done deal.

MTEA, the Milwaukee teachers union, spearheaded strong opposition that almost put the outcome in doubt, true. But the inevitable did happen when the school board voted in October to approve the arrangement by 5-4, much closer than the 8-1 or 7-2 that I expected.

Several things suggested inevitability to me.

First, the steady squeeze of the state vise with measures seemingly designed to punish MPS that are being hurled toward Milwaukee by a Republican legislature. They’re angry we don’t do everything they want us to, including making the same space-sharing deal with Carmen at Bradley Tech High School a year ago.

That legislation includes an outside takeover entity—the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program. OSPP is run by Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and Demond Means, who he just-appointed OSPP commissioner. Both speak like they are MPS allies, but at the least, they pose an existential threat.

Second, the legislature also vested authority in MPS Superintendent Darienne Driver to do essentially the same thing as OSPP if she chooses: vacate any school building and hand it over fully to a charter operator like Carmen.

And third, declining high school enrollment throughout the district and the concomitant budget pressures its creates.

Together these three factors make MPS deals with Carmen inevitable. Solidifying the district’s relationship with Carmen, whose students are technically MPS students even though they are not in a traditional MPS school, was an obvious choice. But that doesn’t mean it’s a choice I agree with. I do not.

Alberta Darling and Dale Kooyenga, authors of the takeover legislation that empowers Abele and Means, are both on record as supporters of the Pulaski-Carmen deal, something that ought to give MPS supporters pause. So should the idea of high school mergers.

The board also voted to move the middle school grades out of the Morse-Marshall building on the city’s northwest side, at the same October board meeting that approved the Pulaski-Carmen partnership.

That partnership between the high-performing Samuel Morse Middle School and the perpetually failing John Marshall High School was a keystone in reforms instituted by former superintendent William Andrekopoulos. His tenure was marked by many such moves, including the similar merger of Bay View’s above-average Fritsche Middle School with below-average Bay View High School, as well as a creating a number of multiplexes—large buildings housing several smaller schools that share space and some resources.

Morse-Marshall was the last of those high school mergers/multiplexes in the district. By my reckoning, all of them basically failed, especially the one at Bay View, which I witnessed. I’m sure the reasons for these failures are as varied and complex as the reasons that district officials felt such moves were necessary in the first place, but by and large, pairing “successful” schools with “failing” ones did not improve the district’s rate of success.

I’m not saying with certainty that this will happen with the Pulaski-Carmen deal, and as a teacher and a human being I certainly am not rooting for failure; I want every child, even those at schools I don’t think should exist, to get the best education possible. But the track record for mergers and multiplexing here in MPS doesn’t leave me feeling optimistic.

I’ve been through several “reform” efforts in MPS, some were executed poorly, but one was done well. That was Believe in Bay View, a process that was well documented in this column and elsewhere in the Compass.

To create a path for change, Believe in Bay View relied not on an administration-imposed reform plan but on a community engagement process that gave voice to stakeholders and critics alike.

That didn’t happen with Pulaski. It might be in part because MPS leaders, who pushed community-led reform, both in the administration and on the school board, have left. It might be in part because the neighborhoods around Pulaski aren’t the hotbed of community activism that Bay View is.

Regardless, there’s still a staff of dedicated, qualified professionals at Pulaski who want their students to succeed. Pulaski’s student body is among the most politically active in the district, with a strong on-campus chapter of Youth Empowered in the Struggle (YES). These students have led a number of protests and actions demanding change in their school and city.

On the night of the board meeting that approved the Pulaski-Carmen merger, MPS Board president Larry Miller rattled off a number of alternate ways to improve Pulaski without Carmen.

A supporter of the plan, an ally in the fight for quality education in Milwaukee and someone I consider a friend, tweeted “Why is it that all of these other ideas have suddenly come out of the woodwork only once #YEScarmenpulaski was proposed?”

The fact is those ideas have been out there. For years students and staff at Pulaski floated them to an unresponsive administration.

It’s too late now.

Bringing in Carmen sends a very clear message to the students and staff and parents at Pulaski: they lack the capacity to improve the school and their input is not necessary.

I know the current political context is unprecedented and the pressure is higher, perhaps higher than it has ever been, for MPS to do something. But I cannot condone something that shuts out those closest to the problem and signals that they, in fact, are the problem.

Pulaski students and staff are not the problem and with the approval of the Carmen plan, they’ll never get to be the solution, either.

Jay Bullock plays a benefit concert for Guitars for Vets on Dec. 6 at 8pm at Anodyne Coffee Roasters in Walker’s Point. Follow him on Twitter @folkbum.

PAREN(T)HESIS — Two first steps

November 30, 2015

By Jill Rothenbueler Maher

NEW Jill Maher Headshot Dec 2013Baby’s first steps are exciting for parents and caregivers. But in today’s world there are two first steps, and I’m not talking about those made by the left and right feet. I’m referring to the traditional first step, when a child begins to walk, and the other, a child’s first online experience. Both are milestone steps, which may not be far apart because this nation’s children are taking their first steps online before they reach their first birthday.

We used to hear about a digital divide where wealthier children get more online access, but being online is no longer a “rich kid thing.” Even low-income, urban, minority children commonly use mobile devices, with most owning one of their own by age 4.

A study of their habits found that 44 percent of children under age 1 used a mobile device every single day. Ownership of mobile devices surpassed their ownership of televisions by children as young as 2. Results from this study are to be published in this month’s issue of Pediatrics, published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Based on this and the families we know, it’s safe to say that many children will be getting new digital devices this month—and some of them may still be in diapers. This is one of the major ways that our kids’ childhood is different from our own.

It’s easy to feel uneasy in this new territory. We aren’t totally sure what the guidelines should be, not to mention how it’s affecting cognitive, social and emotional development. But if we take a deep breath, it seems that a lot of the basic parenting rules apply.

Two guidelines recommended by AAP:

Treat media as you would any other environment in your child’s life. The same parenting guidelines apply in both real and virtual environments. Set limits; kids need and expect them. Know your children’s friends, both online and off. Know what platforms, software, and apps your children are using, where they are going on the web, and what they are doing online.

Set limits and encourage playtime. Tech use, like all other activities, should have reasonable limits. Unstructured and offline play stimulates creativity. Make unplugged playtime a daily priority, especially for very young children. And—don’t forget to join your children in unplugged play whenever you’re able.

AAP also suggests playing together, being a good role model, and keeping up face-to-face communication.

New devices don’t necessarily mean new principles, just new ways of applying them.

More info: and

The author is a freelance writer and mother of one. Reach her with comments or suggestions at

Bay View Kinnickinnic Knitters meet at Bay View Library

November 30, 2015

VINTAGE KNITTINGThe Bay View Kinnickinnic Knitters Circle meets the first Wednesday of each month at the Bay View Library from 5:30 to 7:30pm. Members gather to knit, share ideas, and to socialize with other knitting enthusiasts. The group is dedicated to expanding participants’ knitting skills.

Knitters of all experience levels are invited to bring a project and to explore the knitting resources in the library’s collection.

Bay View High School Winter Concert December 10

November 30, 2015

The annual Bay View High School Winter Concert is Tuesday, Dec. 10, from 5:30 to 7pm in the high school auditorium, 2751 S. Lenox St. The concert is free and open to the public.

Cantare Chorale December 5

November 30, 2015

The Cantare Chorale will present Songs of the Season at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center, Saturday, Dec. 5, at 7:30pm in the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center, 910 15th Ave., in South Milwaukee.

Founded in 1980, Cantare Chorale is a community choir in Milwaukee for adults interested in pursuing a high-quality, nonprofessional, choral singing experience.

$10 General Admission, $8 Seniors/Students. More info:
414-766-5049 or

Tree lighting with Santa December 7 at South Shore Park Pavilion

November 30, 2015

The annual tree lighting and Santa visit presented by the Inter-Organizational Council of Bay View will be held Monday, Dec. 7, beginning at 6:30pm at the South Shore Park Pavilion.

The outdoor events include carol singing by the St. Thomas More High School Choir at 6:30pm and a sing-a-long at 6:50pm. The tree will be lit at 7pm when Santa arrives. Following the tree lighting, the event will move indoors where children can visit Santa and receive treats. Food and beverages will be served.

The event is sponsored by the Inter-Organizational Council of Bay View, Bay VFW Post 2879, and volunteers. It is free and open to the public. More info: Dennis Loppnow, 414-744-2606

Tippecanoe Branch grand reopening December 12

November 30, 2015

Tippe Library Interior KELLERThe Tippecanoe Library Grand Reopening of the newly remodeled building will be held Saturday, Dec. 12, from 10am to 1pm.

The ribbon cutting will take place at 10am with Mayor Tom Barrett, Alderman Terry Witkowski, and library director Paula Kiely. The library will be open until 5pm.

The event will feature live music from the Ronald Reagan High School Jazz Combo, crafts, tour stations, mini story-times, seed packet giveaways (in partnership with the Garden District Neighborhood Association), and complimentary coffee from Hawthorne Coffee Roasters.Tippe Library Exterior KELLER

The Tippecanoe Library opened in 1931 and at that time was located in a rented storefront at 3835 S. Howell Ave. In 1960 the library moved across the street to 3900 S. Howell Ave., into the building that previously served as the Town of Lake Hall and Fire Department.

In 1969 that building was razed and the current building was constructed in its place at 3912 S. Howell Ave.

During construction in 1969 the library’s collection was housed at the Lake Water Tower, 4001 S. 6th St., and a bookmobile provided service until the new building opened.

St. Francis Library Holiday Party December 5

November 30, 2015

The public is invited to the St. Francis holiday party, Saturday, Dec. 5, from 1 to 3pm.

Crafts and refreshments will be offered along with entertainment by the St. Francis High School Choir, a string ensemble, the animated illusionist Ardan James, and a visit from Santa.

More info: 414-481-7323;

Strip Mall replaces former gas station

November 30, 2015

By Bay View Compass Staff



Paul Butera is constructing a 10,000 square foot strip mall at the north boundary of his property at 123 W. Oklahoma Ave. Butera owns the 7.9 acre parcel, site of his Piggly Wiggly store, as well as Arby’s, the Goodwill Store and Donation Center, and Family Dollar.

Chief Operations Office Gary Sukko said that he is negotiating with prospective strip mall tenants but hasn’t signed anyone yet for the 1,000- to 2,000-square-foot spaces.

Construction is projected to be complete by the beginning of 2016.

Butera is CEO of Piggly Wiggly Midwest, a chain of more than 100 supermarkets with $1.4 billion in sales in 2014, according to

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