April 19, 2013 § 25 Comments
I’ve started thinking a lot about love lately. To be more specific, I’ve thinking about love in the face of an uncertain, sometimes scary world.
That sounds dour, doesn’t it. I can’t help it for the moment. Adjusting to this new idea and identity of becoming a parent coupled with feeling that uncertainty acutely, especially because of the madness of the weather and current events and all that stuff, it leaves me really wondering how I’ll do. I struggle with love, you see, because I can be, well, an anxious person sometimes. I’ve been strongly affected by watching loss and sadness ever since I was very small, and somewhere along the way I just stopped trusting that there was benevolence in the universe.
And when you don’t trust, you armor yourself, guarding yourself against strong attachments because of the fear that something will happen, and you’ll be left bereft. But then (thankfully!) there are people in my life who mean so much to me, Joel, my family and community, Squid (so she’s a fur person not a person-person, but she counts), that my love for them handily bursts through any shields I have raised to try to protect myself. This is wonderful, but it’s also frightening.
I’m sure that baby, when he or she comes, will be the same. Except better/worse. I mean, let’s face it, I love our darn dog so insanely much I feel like I would be destroyed if something happened to her. How the heck am I going to handle the amount of love that comes with having a baby????
This little one makes my day
Because the world is uncertain, and mostly out of our control. We can set up all the plans and safeguards we can imagine, but we still can’t protect ourselves or others from absolutely everything. And dwelling on that sort of thing, my friends, is how you make yourself anxious (you know, in case you were wondering).
In the past 5 or so years, after I had noticed myself stuck in this sort of pattern of thinking, I started trying to work on it. Meditate or pray, I’ve been told. Journal. Develop the habit of thinking of yourself as lovable; this allows you to love others. Make note of things that you are grateful for, new things every day. « Read the rest of this entry »
March 19, 2013 § 20 Comments
I wasn’t kidding about the soups (I even made another one today for lunch. This one, in fact, but with kale instead of cabbage). And, as you can see, I definitely wasn’t kidding about the spinach and pine nut soup. Actually, I used the soup and my desire to make it as an excuse to have an impromptu St. Patrick’s/St. Urho‘s day dinner for a few friends. Clearly there is nothing very Irish (or Finnish for that matter) about spinach and pine nuts, but check out how green that soup is! I decided that with a side of soda bread and some good Irish butter and cheddar it would suit us just fine.
And it did. It’s actually quite a wonderful soup. No wonder I used to make it as a starter for dinner parties all the time! Come to think of it, I think I first served this soup (or a version of it) at the first serious dinner party I ever hosted. That was back in the day, back during my sophomore year of college, if I remember correctly.
Courtesy of my first year of college, I developed such an aversion to the food at the school’s dining hall, I convinced the school to let me not be on a meal plan at all, and I started cooking for myself in the tiny – and usually disgusting with other students’ crusty leftover midnight macaroni and cheese pots and half eaten bags of microwave popcorn – dorm kitchen down at the end of the hallway.
That was pretty much my start of cooking seriously for myself, though in this context “serious” meant a lot of chicken breasts with steamed broccoli interspersed with granola or Special K bars for dinner. (The Special K bar dinner was the saddest.) I also discovered how very lonely it can be to sit and eat dinner in silence by yourself every single night. I suppose that must have contributed to my passion for sharing meals, and I started devising ways to coax others to dine with me. « Read the rest of this entry »
February 21, 2013 § 16 Comments
Decidedly not a beauty queen this one. She’s all lumpy and monochromatic. But the frumpy exterior conceals a heart packed with flavor.
And truly, on most days at least, who really wants a gorgeous but high maintenance looker of a dish when in a few minutes you could instead have one of the most incredibly easy and tasty lunches (or dinners, but I always seem to eat it for lunch) known to man.
And it uses up some leftovers too. That’s always good.
I never used to like fried rice that much, actually. I didn’t dislike it, I just saw no reason to eat it. I never saw what others seemed to see in it.
So for years I would scrupulously cook rice in small quantities so as never to have leftovers. Or, if there were leftovers, I would turn them into a porridge-like pudding for breakfast, and never think about the possibility that I was missing something. « Read the rest of this entry »
December 12, 2012 § 14 Comments
I have a major breakfast thing people. It’s pretty weird.
I mean, I knew I had a breakfast thing before – I’ve brought it up more than a few times, for example every time I mention breakfast – but I don’t think I knew knew. If you know what I mean. You know?
But now I know. When I commandeered the whole breakfast-making procedure at my best friend in Boston’s house – where I was the guest, mind you – and started turning out frittatas with arugula and over easy eggs with a brown butter vinegar sizzle, that’s when I really knew.
It may be Monday or Thursday, I may have a meeting at 8 am, but still I find myself compulsively fixing breakfast for myself and whomever else I can shake out of bed. Plates of migas, fried eggs with kimchi and orange aioli, potato cakes with smoked salmon, honey-avocado lassis, fresh baked corn bread with homemade ricotta. I may not be able to plan out my lunch, potentially not even dinner, but breakfast is likely to be a minor masterpiece.
I’d say it was a problem, if it weren’t so delicious! « Read the rest of this entry »
December 8, 2012 § 13 Comments
I’m back. Phew.
I think 3 1/2 days at a time is my new favorite way to be in Boston. In 3 1/2 days I can cram in almost all my favorite things (friends! colleagues! Bread products! Riding along the river on a classic Dutch commuter bike that is beautiful but also insanely heavy!) and avoid the majority of the things that drove me slightly batty when living there.
But now I’m back, and in my kitchen banging out some semblance of meals including, a) some very awesome homemade pasta with butter and anchovies last night, and b) cauliflower with harissa cream several times. The latter (at least for the purposes of this conversation) is the more important by far.
Perhaps you have not been waiting with bated breath for this cauliflower, but I have!
I’m not even sure why I love this cauliflower so very much. I just do. I love the dark, charred frill that develops on the edges of the golden roasted cauliflower florets. I love how the minute pocks and crevices of the cauliflower make the perfect surface for catching the sauce.
I love how incomprehensibly soft and mellow the garlic cloves become, and the wrinkled skin the olives develop. I love how they all work together, if you carefully assemble a forkful with one of each, and how they are equally delicious each on their own if you can’t be bothered with focused bite construction. « Read the rest of this entry »
November 28, 2012 § 18 Comments
Fair ladies, kind gentlemen! I bring you: more broccoli!
Yes. More broccoli. Consider it another delicious stepping stone on the cruciferal march toward that cauliflower with harissa cream that I mentioned, and I swear I am working on, and it will appear any day now.
As a reward for your patience (or a way of buying it, perhaps?) though, this gratin is none too shabby, at least that much I can promise.
But first and foremost, for those of you who had Thanksgiving last week, how did it go? Are you still stuffed? Ours was quite the gathering, the most rollicking Thanksgiving I’ve been to in years, perhaps ever.
We were not only my family but also Joel’s, and on top of that not one but precisely six Norwegian students, here in Minnesota studying at various universities and connected to my mother in various ways.
The turkey was gargantuan, the gravy flowing, the Brussels sprouts piled high, and the pies numerous and flaky. The conversation was sparkling. Also, loud. Norwegian Americans may be reticent, but Norwegian Norwegians generally aren’t. Nor is my family. Plus, my grandmother was in the midst of everything exhibiting her talent for handwriting interpretation (mine = hard to read) and discussing Project Runway. Always a kick. « Read the rest of this entry »
November 9, 2012 § 90 Comments
Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t have been a pastry chef.
In general, I like to think of myself as more of a cook. I find some self-satisfaction in my inaccurate – or more appropriately, unprecise – stirring together of a pinch of this and a handful of that until I’ve made a meal of it. I don’t think of myself as precise enough for baking and pastries.
And yet…And yet, at the end of a very long week, a week where – let’s just say hypothetically – the workdays have been 12 hours long and the brain has taken the spirit captive, I find that precision is what I want. The precision is a respite.
Structurelessness can be a tyrant, and precision and strict guidelines can actually offer solace. In those moments, I take comfort in measuring an exact teaspoon and a half or creaming for exactly three minutes.
I also love pastries for their sheer un-utilitarian-ness. Sometimes when there’s a lot to do, the wise decision is to make those calls or do that laundry, to stop avoiding and cross some things off your list. But sometimes the wise decision is instead to do something that delights you, that has nothing to do with the list.
You don’t need sweets in your life, to be sure, but I think sometimes you do need little things that are “just because,” that aren’t necessities for the body, but may be for the soul. Life needs to contain both basics and beauty, both bread and roses, or perhaps both stews and pâte feuilletée. « Read the rest of this entry »
November 3, 2012 § 21 Comments
When I came up with the idea of making breakfast arepas, I felt extremely innovative.
I was first introduced to arepas several years ago in Boston by a friend of mine who excels in the sniffing-out-cheap-but-good-street-food department. I enjoyed the golden cheese-filled corn cakes a lot – it’s hard not to like warm cheesy corny stuff – but they didn’t excite me to the degree many other street foods (did somebody say kimchi tacos?) do.
Why? Probably because, for unknown reasons and a shameful lack of imagination on this front, it took me until just days ago to realize that you could stuff an arepa with more than just cheese or cheese and beans. So much more!
A few days ago, I saw an image of arepas filled with avocado, pork, and salsa, and my immediate thought, because there are few things on this planet I love more than avocado + egg for breakfast, was “arepas filled with avocado and fried eggs! ImustmakethisandeatitNOW!!!!” And I felt very clever for having such a unique idea.
Then, last night I was texting with my brother who lives in Manhattan (he has power back! Yay! I hope everyone else still without power also has it restored ever so quickly!) who had written to me to tell me that I really needed to try making a bourbon and maple syrup milkshake. (Um, yes, clearly I do.) Somehow it came up that he had eaten an arepa for dinner, and I told him excitedly, “guess what! I’m making breakfast arepas tomorrow morning!” « Read the rest of this entry »
October 30, 2012 § 21 Comments
Well, sheesh. What can you say really? I must admit, I’ve been saying for the past several years that one of these days a hurricane was going to swamp New York, and then we’d finally really have to take the weather seriously and get over the idea that we’re somehow in control. But, gosh, I never ever ever ever ever ever ever (ever ever ever ever) wanted to actually be right.
I hope all of you dear people on the East Coast are doing alright.
I was on pins and needles all yesterday, all night, all this morning, texting, and emailing, and waiting to hear news from my brother and friends in New York, my good friends in Boston, Joel’s aunt and uncle in New Jersey. I sure wish something could actually be accomplished through waiting and worrying! Thankfully, it sounds like so far everyone, though without power, is generally unscathed.
I guess that right there is a little piece of grace in the midst of another big old mess. I try to hold on to the hope that there’s always something to be thankful for, and believe there actually is, even though I’m sure that hope feels like it’s slipped away a bit through their fingers for some people. « Read the rest of this entry »