October 19, 2012 § 28 Comments
A few summers ago, I did an internship at the photography studio at Stonewall Kitchen up in Maine. I was just starting to really dig into my PhD work, and the pressure I was putting on myself because of it had started giving me panic attacks and making me sick. Things weren’t going at all as I’d planned, so I decided to take some time off to recover and learn better how to deal with, well, myself really.
At that point I had just barely picked up a camera and started aiming it at foodstuffs. I hated every photograph I took, but I adored the process of taking the food photos, so when a friend connected me with her friend who was the photographer for Stonewall, and she offered me a summer internship, I jumped at it. It was like being in college again. A weird summer internship! Barely getting paid! Exploring new pursuits, things I enjoy, rediscovering myself, yippee!
I learned all about f-stops and shutter speed and ISO numbers that summer. I learned a lot about what I liked and didn’t like in food styling and lighting, and I gained the confidence to start experimenting. I learned that I totally loved spending the whole day in a photo studio, even if I was holding light bounces and washing dishes most of the time.
I also learned that I did have the mental fortitude to stick with things that are tough, things that I suck at, and improve little by little. Even though I kind of wanted to stay in the photo studio forever, it helped me feel like I could stand up for the research I wanted to do and ideas that I had, and I would finish my PhD. (Um, though that part is still technically TBD. IthinkIcanIthinkIcanIthinkIcan…Give me a few more months.) « Read the rest of this entry »
May 10, 2012 § 14 Comments
For much of my adult life (starting, even, when I was more adult-ish, than adult), I’ve wanted to have a restaurant or cafe where I was recognized. All Cheers-like, where everybody – or, more realistically, at least somebody – would know my name, and I would know theirs. I’d be a regular.
Perhaps it comes from my small-town girl core, which craves to be situated in a community small enough where you can’t help but bump into someone you know on every grocery store visit. Perhaps it comes from the more universal human desire to belong, to be part of something, to be known. Either way, it’s been a borderline compulsion for years, but mostly just an internal one. I’ve never really intentionally played it out. Either my tendency to explore and try new places would thwart my quest to become a regular, or a high turnover rate in the staff would. (Technically with the latter, I guess I still was a regular, but it doesn’t count if there is no one that greets you with that smile of the eyes that says, ‘hey, I know you! I’m glad you’re back. How’s the family/kids/dog…?’)
April 17, 2012 § 26 Comments
I moved to Boston just about seven years ago. Actually, for those of you interested in geographical specificity, I moved to Somerville. But I didn’t even know what the distinction was between them at the time. On the day I arrived, after having driven through the night, through Canada, with only a two hour stop for a nap at 6:30 in the morning before chugging onward and pulling up to my new apartment at 2:30 PM, I decided to try to take the subway down to the Boston Common and the Public Garden to hang out there in the remaining late afternoon sun. (Actually facing the boxes of my belongings in my new space was simply too daunting. I needed some time.)
The last time I had been in the area was the summer between kindergarten and first grade, and the only thing I still remembered from that experience in Boston was being in the Public Garden. Actually, what I remembered was sitting on the Make Way for Ducklings statue in the Public Garden, and that memory was largely based on a photograph my mom had taken.
In heading towards this destination held in my memory, the very first thing I did (and this is a remarkably easy thing to do in Boston, even if you have a better sense of direction than yours truly) was get on a bus going in exactly the wrong direction. I don’t even know how I figured out I was on the wrong course, except perhaps when the conductor yelled, “Arlington Center!” All I remember is how vivid, and noisy, and full of energy everything felt. I always feel this way in a new city, senses heightened as I eye everything closely trying to discern what it is, what it means, where I’m headed.
January 17, 2012 § 17 Comments
The first thing that Joel and I did together that could be classified (however questionably) as a date involved sitting at his kitchen table for 6 or 7 hours stuffing envelopes. Not exactly romantic in the, ahem, classical sense. In fact, I’m still trying to sort through exactly how he convinced me that that would be a worthwhile use of my day. But, it did give us plenty of time to talk, and talk and talk and talk. About literature, our personal histories and scandals, politics, friends, hopes and aspirations.
He learned about me that I have trouble telling apart left and right, probably due to a brain lesion that I somehow acquired without even realizing it. I had to use this to justify the fact that I accidentally put the stamp in the wrong corner of a stack of something like 100 envelopes.
I learned about him that he considered himself a connoisseur of macaroni and cheese.
January 6, 2012 § 26 Comments
Let’s take a moment to reflect on couscous, shall we? My family, as I recall, seems to have discovered couscous some time part of the way through my tenure in high school. I don’t know how my mother stumbled on it or decided to purchase it, all I remember is that she served it for the first time for supper one day (alongside pork tenderloin and acorn squash if my memory serves me correctly, which it tends to when it comes to meals), and it felt like the epitome of novelty.
I was certain we were eating something flashy, exotic, new, the food equivalent of getting the first version of the iphone, right when it came out. And this fit in lockstep with my budding epicurean ideals – which back in high school, I’ll admit, were more about the appearance of sophistication and taste than anything else. High school. Jeez.
Back then we just ate the Middle East brand couscous with the spice packet mixed in. That was fancy enough for us. (to extend the iphone metaphor: my phone gets internet!!! Oh my gosh! It totally doesn’t matter that it can’t seem to actually make phone calls most of the time…) But, as couscous has completely mainstreamed, I think most of us have come to expect a little more in the preparation of this tiny noodle. « Read the rest of this entry »
August 18, 2011 § 24 Comments
Did you know that eggplants kick their blossoms off if they don’t get fertilized? Just kick them off! Like a bouncer unceremoniously tossing an unruly guest, by the collar, out into the back alley. “And stay out!” I know this now, after a bit of internet gardening-forum perusing, gasping, re-searching, and confirming.
As you may well have imagined, I developed a sudden, keenly focused, interest in the subject after I kept finding the blossoms of our eggplant lying scattered about on the porch below it, completely open and intact, un-chewed upon, as if they had been strewn by an industrious flower girl. I had missed the wedding though.
At first I suspected birds or insects. I imagined little beetles and ants popping the blossoms off and tossing them to the ground, laughing and egging each other on. Like the insect version of cow tipping. Until, finally, one day it happened right in front of my eyes. One moment the blossom was on the plant, and the next it just fell off. As if the eggplant simply didn’t want it anymore and was cutting it off, disowning it, which, I guess, in a sense, is what was happening.
July 18, 2011 § 12 Comments
Some magical things are going on amidst the pots of vegetables on our porch. One of our tomatoes turned red. Suddenly. One day everything was green, and then the next there was a startling splash of red beaming at us from under a leaf! It looked like something out of a fairytale, as striking as a single red rose on a bush.
And the eggplant is suddenly dangling with tiny eggplants, like charms swinging from a bracelet. I keep feeling like the plants should give some sort of proud cluck, like a laying hen, before they sprout a fruit seemingly out of nowhere.
But, instead it happens stealthily, in the night.