Light fruit juices: ugh. Have you noticed? They're propagating in the refrigerated juice section. Orange juice: 50 percent less sugar! That was the first one. We were able to ignore it easily enough; after all, it was a lone carton. Then it was pineapple juice: 30 percent fewer calories! Now half the cartons between milk and bacon blare: orange/pineapple blend with 1/3 the carbs! Oh, crap. Beware these bastard children of real juice. They're watered-down versions of their fresh squeezed progenitors, artificially sweetened and, sometimes, artificially flavored. Remember Sunny Delight? That crap they gave you at summer camp? Now imagine diet Sunny D (I hear they sell it in Europe) and you already know what low-carb OJ tastes like. It tastes like cheap, watery piss that only bored children would drink. Save yourself the agony and eat an orange.
There's something really cool going on this weekend: Lavender in the Valley Day. A group of more than 30 growers, restaurants and shops in the Village of Los Ranchos de Albuquerque have joined together to put on a day-long festival to celebrate this aromatic flower. If you want to go, head up there early; events kick off around 7 a.m. at the growers' market. Vendors will have lavender for sale, and you can nibble on some lavender pancakes for breakfast. Next, pick up a tour map and complete list of activities at the nearby Lavender Day gazebo. They'll point you towards the free shuttle bus which will circle the village all day long. Participating businesses will be marked with special lavender flags. Your next stop should be Los Poblanos Ranch, where a field of 3,000 lavender plants will provide enough blossoms for tour participants take part in cutting their own bouquets, distilling lavender essence and drying bouquets.
Whether you're planning on picking your own buds at Lavender in the Valley Day (July 10), growing lavender in your yard or simply interested in trying a new flavor, you'll be surprised and delighted by the range of nuance that lavender flowers can add to your cooking. Sharon Shipley, author of The Lavender Cookbook (Running Press, paper, $16.95) ignored all boundaries in coming up with this collection of recipes; she fearlessly and successfully incorporated lavender into desserts, soups, salads and steaks. Don't be afraid! Just jump right in.