Nothing and everything

Today, I went to a spin class and got out of my head for sixty whole minutes. I came home and ate two bowls of cereal while reading “Shouts and Murmurs” in the New Yorker and trying to decide if it was funny or not.

I gave my plants long drinks of water and let them sit in the sunlight that stretches out in my kitchen window for most of the late morning.

I drank two cups of coffee—the first to become functional and the second for pure pleasure.

I sorted through a giant pile of things to giveaway and took my time doing it. There are so many memories wrapped up in things. Harley and Marley curled up on the floor next to me, and I caught myself staring at them long and often. This, too, for pure pleasure. It’s days like these when I think I’m entering the good old days. The best years of our lives only just beginning.

Someone recently asked me if blogging, or not being paid to write, means I’m merely “talking.” I bumbled (and blushed) through an answer that went something along the lines of: well, sure, I guess I’m only talking; but, hey, a lot of writers, no, successful paid writers I know have only “talked” at some point.

Later, I explored the inquiry and my answer further. And it’s not much considering how intensely I feel about the subject, but what I came up with is this: Even though there is next to nothing on the line for me at this point, talking, writing, is hard work and showing up to do it is important. If I don’t show up, how will I develop my skill or deepen my potential?

I’m reminded of a quote shared at the beginning of a weekend writing class I took back in 2014 at Quartz Mountain. The first writing class I had taken since my dad’s death when I walked away from the craft. Ira Glass said it best:

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

Maybe I am only talking and maybe I’m not. At any rate, here I am, fighting my way through, talking about nothing and everything.

Thank you for reading, whoever you are. (And Mom.) xx

The recipe exceeded my expectations

I’ve become increasingly aware of something over the past year: Despite the fact that I talk a lot about food, I don’t actually do a lot of cooking. Some might consider that this is because I’m married to a chef, but there’s more to it than that. Jamie gets most of his cooking out while at our Food Bar, and once we pass into the threshold of our home, I become the Primary Chef.

It’s not that I don’t cook, per say. It’s more that I’m not overly adventurous with my everyday cooking — that is to say, I don’t create a glamorous collection of weekday meals. When I come home at night, I’ve already put forth a lot of energy around food and am content to eat simple, understated meals, like roasted vegetables and scrambled eggs, or creamy beans with hot sauce. Oh! Or cold roasted chicken dipped in mustard, with more roasted vegetables and a couple of squares of dark chocolate for dessert. I have no hangups with eating honest, earthy meals that don’t require a lot of time in the kitchen day in and day out, but that, none the less, signify home and good eating to me.

But then, November rolls around and something starts to change. It starts off as a slow nudge to linger a little more in my kitchen. Then, by the middle of December, that nudge becomes a straight up shove. I want to linger over cookbooks, and carefully consider the perfect assortment of dishes for my family’s holiday meal. Dishes that offer a quietly thoughtful balance of flavor and texture, nourishment and pleasure.

I made such a dish last Christmas. Jamie and I had recently moved into our new home, and my mom and brothers (and their respective dogs) were sleeping over for Christmas Eve. The holiday season is a delicate time for me and my family. It’s filled with especially fond memories of my dad, who delighted in Christmas — memories followed by the heavy, enduring grief of his absence. I liken it to getting punched in the gut a few times a day throughout the month of December. (Or more accurately, what I imagine that would feel like, because I’ve never actually been punched in the gut.)

Last year, I wanted to break tradition a little and prepare a meal that comforted. We were ending our first full year in the food bar and coming down from the whirlwind of our wedding, so we were all in need of a low-key, restorative dinner. I wanted to eat simply, but well. The recipe exceeded my expectations.

Regretfully, it’s been too long since I’ve eaten the dish to provide an ample description for you. But I will say that it was one I wanted to eat straight from the refrigerator; never mind a plate and utensils, or a quick reheat. It was good either which way. I think you’ll agree.

Roasted-Squash Salad
From the Dec. 20, 2015 New York Times Magazine

  • 5 tablespoons dried currants
  • 1/4 cup, plus 2 tbsp white-wine vinegar
  • 1 kabocha squash (about 3 to 4 pounds)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil*
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp plus 3/4 teaspoon ground fennel seed
  • 1 tbsp plus 3/4 tsp ground sumac
  • 1 tbsp plus 3/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley, packed
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, packed
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice (about 3 to 4 limes)
  • 1/2 cup pistachios, toasted and chopped
  • 1/2 cup firm feta cheese, diced

You’ll want to start the currants several hours or the day before you want to serve this dish. Put the currants in a small bowl, and pour the white-wine vinegar over them. Let them soften for several hours or overnight.

Heat the oven to 450. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. If you want, you can peel both halves of the squash, but, you can skip this part, too. The skin is edible, but also easily removable after the squash has cooked. Slice the squash into 1/4-inch half moons. Brush the slices with 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season them with the salt.

Place the squash on parchment-lined baking sheet and roast for 15 to 20 minutes, flipping the half-moons once or twice throughout the roasting process, until soft and caramelized.

While the squash is cooling, combine the fennel seed, sumac and coriander in a medium-sized bowl. Add the parsley and cilantro and stir to combine. Add 1/3 cup olive oil and stir to coat the spices and herbs. You want a wet mixture, so add a tablespoon or two more, if you need to, to get it there.

Drain the vinegar from the currants, reserving the vinegar for the green sauce, and add the currants to the green sauce. Add the lime juice, pistachios, cheese, and 5 teaspoons of the reserved vinegar to the green sauce. Taste for flavor and add more olive oil, vinegar or lime juice, if you like. Season for salt after tasting as well.

Place the squash on a platter and spoon the dressing over the top.

Yields 4-6 servings.

*A note about the olive oil: The original recipe calls for about 3/4 cup of olive oil, which felt a little heavy for my taste. I started with adding 1/3 cup of oil to the green sauce, then added more in small amounts, after all of the ingredients were added to the sauce, to get a balanced flavor that suited my tastes. I trust you’ll find the amount that pleases your palette, too.

Pick your pleasure

The high in Oklahoma has been right around 70 degrees! I’ve walked my dogs two days in a row for longer than 10 minutes! Meryl Streep on Fresh Air! Happy weekend, indeed.

What is it about Meryl Streep’s voice that makes it so…I don’t know, luscious? I’ve been thinking about this and here’s what I’ve come up with: Her voice brings to mind feelings of swirling a spoon into a carton of ice cream that’s been softening on the kitchen counter, taking a big, silky bite, then, ice cream in mouth, carrying on conversation with your dear friend at the table. Bless you, Meryl, for making speech a sensory pleasure. May we all learn, by your example, how to bring more art and pleashaaaah into our daily speak.

Speaking of pleasure, I pulled myself together enough this week to cook something other than sautéed greens or roasted vegetables for dinner. I should add, for the sake of the vegetables and greens, that they are perfectly satisfying enough for an-easy-to-please girl like me. But, every now and again, and increasingly so as the weather turns chilly, I like to pass my evening sauntering around my little kitchen, getting lost in the smells and sounds and sights of Home Cooking. And last Wednesday, I did that with a pound of lamb, onions, carrots, and some aromatic spices.

Carrot Confetti

I first made the lamb patties that bring me here today for a column I wrote for Edible OKC. I don’t have much to say about it right now, because I’m sitting in Room 120 of Community Hospital, keeping my Mimi company as she recovers from back surgery, and, as such, am a bit distracted. But what I can tell you is that this is a recipe that pleases my palate in exactly the right way. I hope you’ll take my word for it and give it a try.

With a little prep beforehand, this recipe doesn’t require a ton of fussing, which is especially nice if you, like me, get easily caught up in the smells of cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and fennel, while A Tribe Called Quest’s Electric Relaxation beats in the background. As a fine dice, the onions and carrots look ever so slightly like orange-and-white confetti, so if you, like me, have a camera nearby, you might even be able to grab it and practice taking photos in the last light of the day.

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We ate the patties with injera bread — an East-African, spongy, sourdough-risen flatbread, also known as Jamie’s most favorite thing to eat and make ever — and lightly cooked greens. You could serve them with a mint yogurt sauce, but, truth be told, I don’t find it necessary. I’m including a recipe for such a sauce, though, so you can pick your pleasure.

I’m sorry I don’t have a photo of the finished product for you. I’ve never found myself much inspired by a hunk of meat — not in it’s looks, anyway. The inspiration here comes with taste.

Take care, folks.

Moroccan Lamb Burgers with Minty Lemon Yogurt Sauce
From Flavors of Health Cookbook

This recipe comes from a cookbook I received as part of my studies in holistic nutrition. While Mr. Bauman’s lectures are hardly flavorful, the recipes in this book more than make up for that. I know that in many cases flavor is not synonymous with health. But this cookbook is proof that the two elements can coexist very well.

For the patties:

  • 2 pounds ground lamb
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 small carrot, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup dried currents — we’ve also used raisins and dried tart cherries
  • 1 large egg, lightly whisked
  • 3 Tbsp. butter (or coconut oil, if you prefer it)

For the yogurt sauce:

  • 1 pint greek-style plain, whole-milk yogurt
  • 1/2 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, torn into small pieces
  • sea salt and black pepper, to taste

A quick word about the sauce: The recipe will give you about 2 cups, so you’ll likely have some left over. All you need to do to make the sauce is mix the ingredients together in a medium bowl, then refrigerate until ready to use.

Place the lamb in a large bowl and set aside. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Stir in the onions and a pinch of sea salt, and sauté until soft and opaque, about 5 minutes.

Add the carrots and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 1 or 2 minutes. Reduce the heat, then sprinkle in the coriander, cumin, cinnamon, fennel seeds, and turmeric. Stir so that the spices coat the vegetables — it should smell very aromatic — and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

Pour the vegetable sauté over the lamb and stir. Add the salt and pepper, then fold in the currants and egg, making sure everything is thoroughly combined.

Form the meat into 3-inch patties (you can make them bigger, if you want) and place on a baking tray. Heat a large skillet on medium-high heat and add a few spoonfuls of butter. As the oil melts, swirl the pan around to coat the bottom. The pan should be adequately hot before you begin cooking the patties. You can test if the pan is ready by putting a small drop of meat on the pan. If it sizzles, the pan is good to go; but, if it spits and sizzles too aggressively, the oil is likely too hot, and your patties will burn before they are cooked through. If this is the case, remove the pan from the heat for a few minutes before cooking.

Place the burger patties 2 inches apart and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until the burger sears and releases easily from the pan with a spatula. Flip the burger and cook the other side. If you have a thermometer, you want the internal temperature to be 155 degrees Fahrenheit.

Transfer the patties to a paper-towel-lined plate, and repeat the cooking process until all burgers are cooked.

These patties go well on a bun (or any bread that so pleases you) topped with fresh lettuce. You can also top them with the yogurt sauce. Any leftover patties store well in the refrigerator, and taste equally delicious the second day.

A cake, an apology, and a promise

I made you a cake! Well, technically I made it for my mother’s birthday dinner, but I had your interests at heart, too. My mom and I celebrate our birthdays only five days apart — mine is on the 15th and her’s is on the 20th — so I also kiiiind of made it for myself. Either way, I think we all win.

I hope you don’t mind that this cake has a vegetable in it. With the obvious exceptions (like carrot cake and pumpkin or zucchini bread), I admittedly become a little hesitant when I see unusual ingredients, such as beets, in a dessert recipe. But, as I’ve said before, if Nigel does it, I’ll gladly reconsider.

Before we go any further though, I need to tell you something that relates to cake. (Loooooong siiiigh.) I feel silly about it, but here it goes: I wrote a blog post once called something along the lines of “How to slay the sugar dragon”…

HAAAAAA ha ha haaa, ahhhhh, HA ha haaa, oooooohhhhhh god.

As you can imagine, this is a fact that makes me both laugh hysterically at myself, and viscerally cringe for contributing to such noise around sugar and food and eating. I feel like, in writing such words, I made of villain of things like cake. And cookies! And muffins!! And pumpkin bread!!! Which in some way feels like I’ve villain-ized my grandmother, and maybe yours, too, if she likes to lovingly bake you cookies and cakes and muffins and breads. Not that baking is reserved solely for grandmothers (or women, for that matter). I might have made of villain of your grandfather, too! Oh noooooooo. This was a huge mistake. I did not mean to make baked goods or your grandparents, or anyone else who bakes for you, out to be bad guys. From the bottom of my heart and the deepest cake pan I can find, I’m so, so sorry. Please accept this cake as a token of my apology, and a promise to never write such potentially harmful words EVER again. From here on out, let’s create a world, or at least a space, where any baked good is viewed as a symbol of love, kindness, and sweet grandmothers/grandfathers, instead fear and other not-fun feelings. Deal?

Phew. Now on to the cake. I made it three Tuesdays ago, the night of my mom’s birthday dinner. It required more athletic baking skills than I was prepared for that day, but it came together nicely; and, despite the fact that my mom was just a weeeee bit curious as to whether or not our guests would embrace a cake with beets in it (gasp!) (I love you, Mom), it received praise all around. When we had all finished wiping up and licking clean the last bits of crumbs and crème fraîche with our fingers, my Uncle John confessed that, before tasting the cake, he’d secretly wished for a cup of coffee to go with it. But upon first bite, he deemed the coffee irrelevant. The cake stands alone.

I had plans to take a nice photo of the finished cake. But, currently I’m not much good at keeping plans that aren’t absolutely required of me. But a couple of mornings ago, I started to feel a pressing need to get this cake out of my head (and refrigerator) and on to this blog. So I took a lazy photo, then ate the last piece of it for breakfast while leaning over the kitchen counter — at that point feeling a pressing need to get to our Food Bar to meet the day’s duties.

Chocolate Beet Cake
This, however, is not the kind of cake you want to eat, or make for that matter, in a hurry. This is the kind of cake you want to spend some time with. From the marble-y swirls that happen when the butter melts into the chocolate, to it’s complex and just-sweet-enough taste, this cake subtly seduces the senses. It makes you want to sway in your seat a little bit — and, if you’re me, you just might do it. And maybe, just maybe, your eyes will roll around and lose focus for a second, your other senses deeming what’s happening in the Taste Realm far more interesting and important to function properly. The cake doesn’t knock you over with it’s sweetness, and doesn’t make you feel like you’re eating vegetables for dessert either. When all was said and done and eaten, I decided that this cake is exactly the kind I’d like to have in my repertoire — for birthdays, apologies, holidays, and the like. I think you’ll agree.

Nigel Slater’s An extremely moist chocolate beetroot cake with crème fraîche and poppy seeds
From Tender, Volume I: A cook and his vegetable patch

A quick note about the measurements in this recipe: When baking, I typically pull out my scale and measure by weight rather than volume. Unfortunately, all of my brain power went to pulling together my mom’s birthday dinner, and I didn’t think to convert the main measurements from grams to cups for you. I’ll be sure to think of that next time.

About the chocolate: I had some dark-chocolate chips on hand from the Food Bar and used those. They worked fine and eliminated the need to chop more things.

One last thing: the original recipe calls for golden caster sugar which is a fine granulated sugar popular in and unique to the UK. I had some cane sugar on hand so that’s what I used and, as far as I know, it worked just fine. Per David’s suggestion, I did give the sugar a quick zizz in the blender, which produced a fine, powdery consistency; but I don’t know that it was that important of a step. If you have granulated sugar on hand, this should work nicely, too.

  • 250 grams beets, rinsed and scrubbed to remove dirt
  • 200 grams semisweet or dark chocolate (60-70% cacao solids), chopped if not using choclate chips
  • 4 Tbsp. hot coffee (or water, if you don’t feel like making coffee)
  • 200 grams room-temperature butter, cut into small pieces (the smaller the better)
  • 135 grams flour (I used an all-purpose gluten-free flour mix)
  • 1 heaped tsp. baking powder
  • 3 Tbsp. cacao powder/unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 5 eggs, separated at room temperature
  • 190 grams (roughly one cup) sugar
  • crème fraîche and poppy seeds to serve

Start by cooking the beets, whole and unpeeled, in boiling water until they’re very tender. You want them to be “knifepoint tender” which will take 30-45 minutes. Younger beets might take less time. While the beets are cooking, weigh out/gather the other ingredients.

When the beets are done, drain them, then let them cool under cold running water. Cut off the stem and root, peel them, then “blitz to a rough purée” in a food processor. (I love you, Nigel.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly butter an 8- or 8 1/2 inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Melt the chocolate, which should be chopped into small pieces if you’re not using chocolate chips, in a small bowl that’s resting over a pot of simmering water. Stir as little as possible.

When the chocolate is nearly melted, pour the hot coffee or water over it and give it a quick stir. Only one or two stirs will do. Turn the heat to low, then add the cubed butter to the melted chocolate, pressing the butter into the chocolate with a spoon to soften. Don’t stir.

Sift together the flour, cacao powder, and baking powder in a separate bowl. Separate the eggs, and be sure to put the egg whites in a larger mixing bowl. Stir the yolks together.

Remove the bowl of chocolate from heat, and stir until the butter has completely melted into the chocolate. Let this (beautiful) mixture sit for a few minutes to cool, then stir in the egg yolks. Work quickly, mixing firmly and evenly so the eggs blend into the mixture. Next, fold in the beets.

Using a hand-mixer, whip the egg whites until stiff. Fold the sugar into the whipped egg whites with a spatula. Then, using a large metal spoon, fold the egg whites/sugar into the melted chocolate mixture — careful not to overtax. Finally, fold in the flour and cacao powder.

Scrape the batter into the prepared cake tin and put it in the oven, turning the heat down to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Bake the cake for 40 minutes, or until the rim of the cake is set/spongy and the center still a little wobbly when shaken.

Let the cake cool completely, loosening it around the edges with a dinner knife after 30 minutes or so. Don’t remove the cake from it’s pan until it’s completely cool. Serve in thick slices, with a smear of crème fraîche and a sprinkle of poppy seeds.

I stored the leftover cake in the refrigerator for a whole week, but the cake tasted best on the second and third days.

(Okay, as an aside, can we please talk about how wonderful Nigel’s title for this recipe is?)

I had plans

I had plans to come here today to talk about chocolate cake. Nigel Slater’s chocolate cake, to be exact, made with good butter and sweet, steamed beets. I was also going to tell you about how I’ve grown suspicious of desserts that include things like beets or avocados or sweet potatoes, because the descriptions of said recipes usually include words like “guilt-free” and “safe,” and these are words and ways of thinking that I don’t like hearing or using when it comes to food. However, when David Leibovitz does it because Nigel Slater did it, my suspicions soften and turn trusting, and I make a plan to make a cake.

Ahhh, but then my plan to make the cake three(!) Mondays ago, turned into another plan to make the cake three Tuesdays ago, and, well, seeing how three-plus weeks have passed since making said plan, you know how that turned out. It’s not that I don’t want to make Nigel’s cake. I want to make most things Nigel writes about, and have not been disappointed in my endeavors. No, it’s more true that I haven’t found the right opportunity to bake, and putting unnecessary pressure on myself is bad for me. So instead I resort to splitting one or two of the French chocolates our sweet customer, Myelene, brought back for us from Paris, and, well, that’s not terrible. So the chocolate cake gets put on hold until the next day (and then the next week), and I spend the evening doing whatever pleases me, which is usually reading or watching Six Feet Under or lingering around the dinner table with Jamie or watching movies with my brothers, like the old days.

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Right now, I want to eat and make foods that require as little fuss as possible. And considering the story I just told you about the cake, you’d be right in assuming that I don’t really want to do a whole lot of making. But, there are only so many times we can eat from our food establishment’s menu before things become a little uninspiring and boring.

So a few dinners ago, while taking stock of available ingredients on hand for what would be our dinner, I set out to eat something not boring. Thirty minutes later, I had what I needed for a sort-of(?) Niçoise salad. I don’t remember when I first learned of a Niçoise salad. But seeing that, as it currently stands, my cooking ideas come from only a small handful of cooks who write, I didn’t have to look far to find a direction for what I had to work with, which was: sardines, capers, eggs, mixed farm greens, red onion, and black olives.

In my search for wisdom from some of my tried-and-trues, I came across a recipe of Molly’s for deviled eggs, which called for frying capers, and oh yes, that sounds great, I’ll do that, but, ohhh shoot!, I don’t have any tomatoes or green beans, Nigel, but, eh, I’ll use them next time. While the eggs were hardening, I pan-fried the sardines until the skin was brown and crispy, and the fat was aggressively popping out of the pan at me. Once those were out of the pan, I threw in the capers — they were much less dramatic I should add — and let them sizzle around until they popped open.

Next, I peeled the eggs, which might have been less frustrating if they were cooler, and after that I whisked together a quick vinaigrette that came from Nigel’s nicoise recipe, only I used apple cider vinegar instead of red-wine vinegar because it’s all I had. And when we sat down to eat this salad, we were very pleased with it’s simplicity and it’s elegance. It was a very good salad that required very little of me, which means it was a very, very good salad by this home’s definition.

I was going to take a picture of our plates, but they weren’t much to look at, and I highly doubt they would’ve motivated you to run to the kitchen to make your own. But, then again, I’ve grown a little suspicious of recipes that come with perfectly staged images — if I actually make the recipe, I usually end up disappointed in the outcome. It’s usually the plain, understated images that get my attention and favor. Oh look! I shared a suspicion with you after all. We’ve come full circle.

A Sort-of Niçosie Salad

  • 2 cans sardines
  • 3-4 hard-boiled eggs
  • 2 tablespoon capers
  • a few handfuls of leafy greens
  • black olives
  • red onion
  • tomatoes, if you have them

For the dressing:

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar (apple-cider vinegar works fine, too)
  • 1/2-1 tbsp Dijon mustard (if you like the kick of mustard, add 1 tbsp)
  • 2 small cloves of garlic — crushed and finely chopped
  • sea salt

Start by hard-boiling the eggs. Put them in a single layer in a large pot. Cover the eggs with cold water by an inch or so, then place the pot over medium-high heat. Let it come to a boil, then immediately cover the pot and remove it from the heat. Let the eggs sit for 12 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.

Next, pan-fry your sardines. I usually use one of two brands of sardines: Wild Planet Wild Sardines in Extra Virgin Olive Oil; or Crown Prince Natural Wild Caught Brisling Sardines, also in Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Split the fish and remove any bones. Put about half of the olive oil from one can of sardines into a skillet and warm it over medium heat. When it’s warm and glides easily around the pan, add the sardines. If you have a lid or screen to put over the skillet, you might have it near by — the sardines pop aggressively with heat. Sear each side of the sardines for 2-3 minutes. Remove to a paper towel.

Wipe out your skillet and add a splash of olive oil. (I used fresh olive oil to fry the capers, but don’t see why you couldn’t use the oil from the sardines?) Let it warm over medium-high heat. When it slides easily around the pan, add the capers — you want them to sizzle. Fry, shaking the capers around a few times, until they split open. This will only take a couple of minutes, and you’ll want to watch them so that they don’t brown. Once they’re ready, drain them on to a paper towel.

Make the dressing by whisking the vinegar and mustard together with the garlic and a three-finger pinch of sea salt. Then, whisk in the oil. Taste and adjust to your tastes.

By this point, the eggs should be sufficiently cool enough to peel. So peel them then cut them in half, whichever direction you please — horizontally or vertically.

Fill a couple of bowls with a heaping handful of greens, then add your toppings — sardines, eggs, olives, etc. Toss gently with the vinaigrette and serve.

Learning and experiencing

Hello from Oklahoma City, where twenty one days have passed since I left the Sitka Arts & Science Festival which was held on the historic Sheldon Jackson Campus in Sitka, Alaska, put on by the Sitka Fine Arts Camp. Prior to visiting the town, I heard several mentions of Sitka being the town in which parts of the movie The Proposal was filmed. Now that I’ve come and gone, ha-hoooo boyyyy, is it so much more than that.

On departure day, I got up before 4am to leave for the airport with the other early-morning flight catchers. Hesitant, confused, and not ready to leave, I spent the night in a sort of half-sleep. I think part of me wanted to stay awake to experience every last minute I had left. I flicked on the small lamp that sat on the edge of my bedside table and noticed someone had slipped a note under my door. It was from Lisa, a woman from California who was in the Craft of Memoir class, the class that took me to Sitka, taught by Molly Wizenberg — a writer whose voice shapes me…and helps me understand feelings for which I don’t always have the words. I ran into Lisa on arrival day and felt an instant liking for her. A week or so ago, I discovered her Instagram profile and the reason for my inner liking. Her bio read WWLGD: What would Lorelei Gilmore Do? (One more!) Ha-hooo boyyyy Lisa, were we were supposed to meet.

I arrived in Sitka on July 16, the shared birthday of my husband and cousin Reed. There was only a handful of us at the airport and our luggage rode the carousel out quickly. I was taken to the campus in a long, dusty, black suburban, owned by a volunteer named Jennifer — the check engine light was on.

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Sitka is located on Baranof Island, a collection of, among other things, rocks made up of mostly grey wacke (pronounced wacky). “Loooots of grey wacke”, Yvonne of Sitka told me over lunch on the last day of camp. Her hair is dyed a shiny, vibrant purple, and she bought the kit to make it that way at Harry Race Pharmacy, she told me (which is a pharmacy I visited a few times during my stay in Sitka for my standard ice-cream/chocolate fix). “If it’s not called Very Berry, it’s something like that. I just picked the deepest purple I could find. They’ve got all kinds of wacky colors!” She spent the week learning about the forces that have shaped the island with Stanford’s Rob Dunbar, a man who spends a lot of time en route to and in Antarctica, among other places, on a boat that costs $200,000 a day to run (did I hear that right, SASF friends?!). He knows a lot about the place in which we gathered, shared it willingly, and frequently brought out his drone to capture all of our adventures.

NorthPacificHall
When we got to Sheldon Jackson, we were met inside the entrance of North Pacific Hall by two volunteers named Marvin and Claudia; two people I had the pleasure of seeing each day of camp. Claudia wore her hair the same way throughout the week: in pig tails, the right pony tail often a liiiittle higher than the left. Her hair is white with pale-gold undertones that were especially prominent when we crossed paths between places, which seemed to happen a lot. It was colder in Sitka — colder than the summer months I knew from growing up in Anchorage — and while I had read about this in preparation for my trip, I still didn’t have enough clothing. Early in the week, I decided to make a trip to the local thrift shop for a hoodie (aka my new writing jacket). With the help of Taylor, a camp intern who was also in my class, I found Sitka White Elephant Shop and purchased a hot pink Faded Glory hoodie for $4.00. It was Claudia who showed me to the washing machines which were located in the dark, damp basement of North Pacific Hall. It was also Claudia who sneaked my new pink hoodie into the load of towels she was washing after we failed to find the lights in said basement. “It’s probably been washed a few times, so it probably won’t stain the towels pink.” Thanks for that, Claudia.

I was up most days before 5am, charged with excitement and new thoughts and words and sentences; and also an odd familiarity. We spent our mornings exploring the craft that had attracted us there: paper cutting with Nikki McClure, who inspired me when she didn’t mean to; photography with Clark Mishear; geography/geology with Rob; and Molly’s class. The afternoons were a time for exploring, noticing, and learning the names of things. At night, most of us had dinner together in Sweetland Hall, then heard presentations from the visiting faculty members. After the day’s schedule was complete, some would gather on the front porch of North Pacific Hall, reading, talking, and half-watching Nikki’s son and his friend goof around (not on their phones!). Others would head upstairs to the common room, for reading, more watching, picture taking, or, as the more ambitious and attentive of the group undertook, color-coordinating the bookshelves. I mostly lavished the evenings in my room — full from a day of memories, unreserved expression, and chocolate-peanut butter milkshakes. The Sitka Music Festival took place at the same time as our camp, so the sound of students practicing their instruments was the official soundtrack of my evenings.

DSC_0143
People keep asking me about my trip and all I can do, at this point, is stumble through generic descriptions like lovely, fantastic, and special. A true description would likely be more than one is looking for because do you really want to know? Besides, I likely lost most of you at chocolate-peanut butter milkshake which is equally important, and, in my opinion, something about which you most definitely want to know.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Milkshake
On our second day of camp we spent the afternoon on a short hike that started at the Indian River Trail Head, learning about the plants and rocks and trees and such. A small group of us decided to head back at an early turnaround point, and it was then that I learned of the soda shop, which is right inside the entrance of Harry Race Pharmacy in downtown Sitka, that serves up classic milkshakes. If you know me, you know that I was 100% not opposed to hiking right past the campus and straight to said pharmacy, where I promptly ordered a small chocolate-peanut butter milkshake (and a medium one a couple of days later). When I got home, I set my sights on recreating the milkshake as quickly as possible, for another taste of all I’d had the pleasure of learning and experiencing.

The recipe that follows hardly needs explaining: Put a couple of cups of chocolate ice cream in a blender — or stainless steel container, if you’re using an immersion blender — with a small splash of milk, and a couple of spoonfuls of peanut butter. If you want more peanut butter flavor, add more peanut butter. If you want a thicker shake, add more ice cream and a little less milk. On my first attempt at making this shake, I used a Vitamix blender and will not do that again. It has a bit too much power and gave me a shake that was too thin for my liking. Next time, I’ll try making it using an immersion blender. Also, regarding peanut butter: You can use crunchy or creamy peanut butter, whichever your heart desires. I used lightly roasted, crunchy peanut butter, because we had it, and enjoyed the little pieces of peanuts.

  • 2 cups of chocolate ice cream
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter

Serves one, 2-cup shake, or two, 1-cup shakes.

That thing would be chicken soup

It’s Monday evening around cocktail hour, and I’d like a gin and tonic, but first I’ll write. Marley is resting on our green chair that I purchased from Joe, the guy on OKC Craig’s List that likes to find, re-do, and resale mid-century-modern furniture. Harley is sprawled out on the floor by the front door. He’d be gazing out it, were it open, but the Oklahoma summer sun is in full effect at this hour, and, from where I’m sitting, blinding. It’s also disgustingly hot outside come summertime in Oklahoma. We keep our door closed, perhaps in an attempt to let Summer know its heat isn’t welcome here.

Jamie’s at the food bar and I know he’s exhausted, but he’ll rarely admit to it. Or, more accurately, he doesn’t give much energy to it. Work is hard right now, but rewarding in a deep, soulful way. It is what it is, and we’re doing what we have to do. There have been times when I think we are crazy for choosing to do this — to run a business together. But we’re finding our stride together, figuring things out; and if you put your blinders on and don’t think too hard about it, it’s actually quite nice. It requires a lot of focus and prioritization, which isn’t so bad because I don’t have time to get knocked down by the heavy hits of bad news we’re waking up to in this world these days.

That isn’t to say that I don’t put thought into the usually-disappointing news spewing out from NPR shows — I do. But I get to do it over cooking/admin tasks, and somehow that makes it a little easier to process. My favorite thing to cook these days just so happens to also be comforting and restorative, which works out nicely. That thing would be chicken soup.
Chicken soup
I’ve been making and eating this soup for most of the month of June because I’m currently very into making chicken stock. The smell that fills our house as it simmers all night on our stove is beguiling — a word, by the way, I’ve always wanted to use, but could never bring myself to because I wasn’t fully sure I had yet experienced what it means — and it over-delivers when you consider the little amount of work that goes into making it. I can use it to lend flavor to all sorts of vegetables when I steam or sauté them, make a variety of soups, and even sip it when I’m feeling out of sorts, which, now that I’m thinking about it, isn’t so often since I’ve been on this soup kick.
ChickenStock

I’ll first start with the base, a recipe derived from several sources that has morphed into my own over the past year.

Chicken stock

1 whole chicken
4-5 quarts of water, or enough to cover
1-2 carrots
1 yellow onion
6 cloves of garlic
1-inch chunk of ginger
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon of sea salt, plus more to taste

If the chicken is frozen, let it thaw before beginning the stock. While it’s doing so, quarter the onion, roughly chop the carrot, and peel (or don’t) the garlic. I’ve read that crushing the garlic before adding it to the stock lends more flavor, but I haven’t noticed a big enough difference to commit to it.

Rinse the chicken, then place it in a deep pot with the onion, carrot, garlic, ginger, salt and pepper; cover all of it with cold water, then bring it to a simmer. Cover the pot and leave it alone for a few hours. I typically begin my stock in the early evening, a couple of hours before bed, and let it simmer all night long; however, if you want to eat the meat (it’s surprisingly good), you’ll want to remove it after 1.5 to 2 hours of cooking. To do this, carefully remove the chicken from the pot — letting the liquid and other items continue to simmer — and allow it to cool a little before handling. Once you’ve removed all the meat you’d like to eat, add the bones and carcass back to the pot, cover, and bring the mixture back to a gentle simmer. (When you’re ready to eat the chicken, remember that a good amount of the chicken’s flavor was given to the stock; so don’t be shy when salting or peppering.)

After the stock has cooked for several hours, strain it. If you plan to freeze some of it, let it cool before tucking it away in the freezer. Otherwise, it keeps for 5-7 days in the refrigerator.

For the chicken soup, I don’t follow any specific recipe, but I usually do the following:

2 quarts chicken broth, plus more for thinning, if needed
3 large carrots, cut into rounds
2 medium leeks, halved (length wise), rinsed, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 to 1/2 yellow onion, sliced thinly, length wise
2 cloves garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
1-2 pounds of shredded chicken, if you want
leaves from a few sprigs of thyme

Pour the chicken broth into a large stockpot, and add to it the carrots, leeks, onions, and 2-3 generous pinches of salt. Bring it to a boil, reduce it to a simmer, then let it stay there for 25 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add the thyme and let it cook for another 5 minutes. Then add the chicken and garlic. Let it cook for 5 more minutes. Taste for salt seasoning, and add more, if needed, plus black pepper, if you’d like.

Place into bowls and serve — it provides roughly 8 cups of soup, probably a little more, if you aren’t being exact. It stores well, covered in the refrigerator, for 5 to 7 days.

Plain and cold, straight from the refrigerator

It’s Saturday, mid morning. Saturday morning might be my favorite morning of all. I imagine that’s the case for a lot of people. Sundays are fine, but responsibilities waft in and out of the room, more so than on a Saturday. Our Food Bar is open on Saturdays and, as it currently stands, Jamie and I are the only people running it. If that weren’t the case, I’ve decided that Saturday would be our official Special Breakfast Day. I first typed brunch, but, truth be told, I’ve never gotten behind the whole idea of brunch. I want breakfast, lunch, and dinner; and I don’t typically want breakfast food for lunch, which is sort of what brunch feels like. I can take it or leave it.

Holidays and get-togethers are good excuses for making special things, and there have been two such occasions in May that led to us putting effort toward breakfast. We don’t make special breakfasts enough. Come to think of it, we don’t make special anythings much these days since opening the Food Bar, and I find myself itching to change that. Growing up, my family had a standing weekend breakfast date that was most always made at home.

I can’t remember if Saturday or Sunday was our big-breakfast day. Either way, Dad always ran the show. He served up typical diner fare, consisting of eggs, bacon, biscuits from a can (that was so satisfying to split open, aside from peeling the paper back) with gravy, and pancakes. Dad and I liked our eggs the same way: sunny-side up with a runny yolk. He never expressed it, but I think he was glad about this. He was also glad that I liked to dip my bacon in the egg yolk.

Our pancakes came from a box of Betty Crocker’s Bisquick mix, and later from the upgraded yellow plastic containers with a blue lid that required that you only add water (he used milk), shake, and pour. Fluffy buttermilk pancakes without the mess. Despite their origin and the fact that he did nothing special to them, my Dad’s pancakes were always my favorite. They were not too big, not too small, always a perfect circle, and perfectly cooked, too; never burned, never too light or mushy on the inside. They were indeed fluffy, with little air pockets that let out a sigh under the force of a fork. We always had leftovers and I would eat the pancakes plain, straight out of the refrigerator. The trick, he would tell me every time, to perfect pancakes was in the pour and the bubbles.

As an adult now in charge of my own kitchen, I try my best to make things from scratch, so my pancakes have not come from those shake ’n pour containers. But, I still try to utilize the tips he taught me, and every time I produce what I would consider the perfect pancake, I get the feeling that he would think it was, too. I can’t be sure how he would feel about my mixes of buckwheat or coconut flour, but, I suppose we’ll always have our shared affinity for runny yolks.

Despite all this talk of pancakes, I haven’t come here to share a pancake recipe with you. No, instead, I want to talk about waffles. Alice Medrich’s basic waffle recipe, in particular. And despite my nonchalance toward it, I served these waffles twice this month for brunch. Baking without gluten is still something I’m exploring, and Alice’s recipes make it very easy for me — so long as I follow her wisdom and don’t try to make it my own, as I’ve learned the hard way with several pans of what should have been brownies. So when my mom suggested we make waffles for Mother’s Day for my Mimi (her mother), I consulted my current Baking Bible which is Alice’s book Flavor Flours.

As Alice explains, when it comes to gluten-free baking, pancakes, waffles, and crepes are much more straightforward than, say, a buttermilk cake might be. They are thin and therefore don’t require much in the way of added ingredients for structure, aside from eggs, as a lot of gluten-free baking does; and they include plenty of liquid to hydrate the flour.

I can’t say I have much of a history with waffles to pull from, so I can’t solidly tell you how these compare to anything other than an Eggo-style toaster waffle. But, I can tell you that these were the most memorable waffles I’ve eaten so far in my life. Buttery and golden with a fluffy center, they were slightly sweet, but also slightly salty which I really liked. I ate them with my fingers, dunking each bite in maple syrup (100%, not the regular, pancake kind) and nothing more. I strayed from the recipe only a teeny tiny bit by using almond milk instead of regular whole milk, but only because I didn’t have any of the latter on hand. I bet using it would make these waffles even better. I used a gluten-free flour blend by Bob’s Red Mill that my mom brought over, but Alice says the recipe is flexible enough that you can experiment with different flours. I know I will be. The recipe will look differently if you decide to use coconut flour or nut flour such as almond. I have not included the instructions for that here, so recommend that you try this one with only the flours listed.

The recipe doesn’t necessarily come together quickly, so you might want to allow yourself an hour to get them together before serving. Both times I’ve made the recipe, I’ve used the eggs straight from the refrigerator, as opposed to room temperature, and, as far as I can tell, it made no difference to the recipe. It is important, however, to make sure your butter and milk are only warm, as you risk cooking the eggs.

EggsWhitesWhipped

There were five of us eating, and the recipe yielded three or four waffles; forgive me, I can’t remember. But, I made the same recipe a week later for friends, only I doubled it and it worked nicely. For the second go, we had some batter left over, which, I’m very disappointed to say, did not get used. Because just like my dad’s pancakes, these, too, are very worthy of eating plain and cold, straight from the refrigerator.

AliceWaffles

Alice Medrich’s Basic Waffles
(Barely) Adapted from Flavor Flours

1 1/4 cups of any flour: white or brown rice flour, oat flour, corn, buckwheat
2 teaspoons baking powder
Slightly rounded 1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and warm, plus more for brushing the waffle iron (Alice says to use more butter for a more crispy, rich waffle, which I will most certainly be trying next time)
1 cup milk, almond or whole, warm
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 tablespoon sugar

Whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add the egg yolks, butter, and milk and whisk until smooth and well blended.

In a clean, dry bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. (Using a hand mixer, this process took about five minutes.) Sprinkle in the sugar and beat until stiff, but not dry. Next, fold the whipped egg whites into the batter.

Heat the waffle iron, brush it with butter, and cook the waffles according the the manufacture’s instructions. Serve them hot, or keep them stored in a low oven (about 200 degrees Fahrenheit), loosely covered with foil, for up to 20 minutes. You can also let them cool completely, then reheat them in a toaster or toaster oven.

Not very functional

Most days, my legs feel as though they’re blown up much bigger than their actual size. A lot of days, my gut feels angry and agitated. In turn, I feel angry and agitated. More often than not, the touch of clothing on my skin is grating — I’d rather be at home, pant-less.

A couple of nights ago, I had trouble sleeping because my body was so hot and inflamed. My gut was very pronounced and hard to the touch. Most days when I wake up, everything feels heavy and sluggish and fuzzy. My head hurts and it’s hard to put on my wedding ring.

Over the past couple of weeks, my immune system has been up in arms against a siege of spring pollens and grasses, both of which have had me sneezing and itching since I was but a young babe. It’s the longest these allergies have persisted since I was, oh, in my early twenties, when I was visiting an allergy clinic twice per week for injections, and popping allergy medication a couple of times a day.

Over the past several months, I’ve re-introduced several foods that my body hasn’t interacted with in a while. Life’s short and I love ice cream, candy, Doritos, and peanut butter. It was high time we meet again. Alas, it doesn’t seem too far-fetched to say that my allergies and the symptoms mentioned are more pronounced when these foods sail around in my system.

The weird, protruding-stomach thing started when I was only a few weeks old. Of course, I can’t describe that experience, but my dad used to tell me about the non-stop crying, crying, crying. I do remember bouts of weird (and embarrassing) stomach issues happening around the third grade. I was sick a lot. Lots of medications. And once I hit my teenage stride, I was fully aware of how uncomfortable my body felt. Likewise, I was fully aware of how uncomfortable I felt in my body.

It wasn’t until I lived overseas, where all of the medications/“treatments” were hard to come by, that I faced the fact that my body was actually not very functional without them. At this point, the discomfort was systemic, and, rather than only feeling them, I could see symptoms in the form of a very distended stomach, and red-hot, smoldering inflammation in my fingers, amongst other complaints.

I didn’t get many answers from doctors, neither overseas or back in the states. But, I did start getting curious about my symptoms and tracking them. I had been to a nutritionist, who had encouraged me to count calories, and when this proved fruitless, and a waste of my brain power, I decided to try something different and track what I was eating instead. Instead of looking at the nutrition-facts label, I went straight for the ingredients that are often located underneath all those numbers. I started writing them down. Eventually I started noticing that when I didn’t eat certain ingredients, some of the symptoms I was experiencing didn’t show up — at least not to the degree that they had been. Seeing that most of these symptoms were not at all fun to live with, I started leaving out the foods that made an obvious difference for me and my enjoyment of life.

I feel it’s important to note here that I was living in South Korea at the time of this tracking experiment — communication about possible causes of my symptoms was spotty at best, but the general gist synced up with what my doctor told me once I got home. This is important because I had no doctor or medical authority putting ideas in my head that certain foods might be contributing to my issues. I made these connections on my own, by taking pen to paper and staying curious.

There were slight differences in the doctors’ prescriptions. While living in Asia, one asked me to take a rest, take a walk, and take in more water before coming back for prescriptive treatment. I was dealing with an ongoing sinus infection that wasn’t going away, so this was a huge pain in the ass considering I’d already waited two weeks before seeking treatment. I went another week — walking, walking, drinking, resting — before going back to receive one pill, a packet containing a handful of vitamins, and a treatment involving an infra-red device that I kept up my nose for several minutes. The other doctor I visited in South Korea gave me herbs, acupuncture, and lessons in physiology around what he was noticing in my body, which, among other things, was that my yin and yang were out of balance. The doctor I visited back home — the one who had prescribed me the medications I had run out of while living in South Korea — told me the blood work I had done in S. Korea matched up with the blood work he did; but, he also told me that I just needed to get on some Prilosec and an anti-anxiety medication. The Prilosec was a new addition to an old protocol — I’d already tried anti-anxiety medications — that hadn’t served me or my symptoms, but, I believe, had merely masked them.

I can’t say I’m a gullible person — I question everything and love digging for the truth. I didn’t remove gluten or soy or dairy from my diet at the suggestion of a newly-released best seller, or the latest trend in health. I removed those foods because they were triggering symptoms that prevented me from living life in an enjoyable way. No one had to convince me to remove it, and I didn’t grieve it much because the “evidence” presented itself over and over again in the pages of my journal. Once I made the connection that Grape Nuts made my stomach hard, knotty, and painful, and consumption of soy milk led to inflamed, red, and swollen hands, I started asking questions and reading lots of books to find answers. I suppose I wanted to know why, but, more importantly, I wanted to know what was happening in my body and how I could make it better. So I guess you could say I was more focused on finding solutions. And my own insights and journaling habit offered me the first and most important step: Don’t eat the things that make your body freak out. I needed no scientific proof to remove them; the proof was in the pudding — quite literally considering I break out in hives when I eat a lot of dairy products, which, yes, is very unfortunate to me. When I eat certain foods, my body swells and simmers with inflammation. I can feel it almost instantly upon eating. And while, yes, I’ve had a few tests done confirming said foods, I already knew many of the culprits, because my body had sent it’s own smoke signals.

I recently read this article from the New Yorker and there are a few parts of the article that left me…shaking my head a little. It’s articles such as these that help me understand why my (then) doctor — and most doctors, really — was so quick to throw a pill at my complaint that eating gluten made my mind race with anxiety. Maybe it’s getting better out there, but, for the most part, these are the solutions with which people are presented: medicate it. Now, I fully recognize and appreciate the benefits of modern medicine; but, this body, my body, responded far more powerfully to changing up the food I put on my plate than it did to the various pills it was presented. There’s no question that when I eat certain foods, my body (and brain) is dysfunctional and inflamed for several days after. When I don’t eat those foods, the inflammation dies out.

I’m no expert — in fact, I don’t really care for that word much. But, I am a digger, an investigator, a connector, and, a word I more recently came across and loved, a synthesist. But if I have to call myself an expert in anything, it would be in interpreting the experiences I have within my own body. I don’t think a world-renowned expert could ever provide me with enough evidence to change my mind that food doesn’t impact my immune system and inflammation levels. I don’t need a test to tell me when my body is inflamed and when it isn’t — although these kinds of tests can certainly be useful. I’m highly aware of when it is and when it isn’t, and sometimes I actually wish that weren’t the case so that I could happily eat and enjoy a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, dunked in a glass of whole milk, without noticing, la la la la laaaaa, the effects it has on my body.

Until then, I’ll be here, digging around, asking questions, writing, eating, not eating.

Struck a chord

This past Friday I decided I might actually enjoy bookkeeping. It’s actually quite helpful in sparking up memories, you know. For example: I came across an expense from August of 2015 for a theme I purchased for the new blog I planned to use for writing — it took me back to when we lived above our food bar, which is when I purchased the theme, in a loft with very little sunlight, and hallways that always smelled of a Glade candle, thanks to those awful plug-in devices.

I started a blog a while back — it was called Eat. Think. Nourish — but, I never fell into a comfortable stride with it. It didn’t feel satisfying. I felt like I was writing, writing, writing, for anyone other than myself, and eventually, I felt drained. So I let go of Eat. Think. Nourish and started a new blog, with plans to find my voice again; this time, writing for no one other than myself.

Now, here we are, eight months later, and the act still(!) terrifies me. Something about committing to publishing my words on the World Wide Web blocks me from freely and accurately expressing myself. (It suddenly strikes her that she just might take herself too seriously, and, perhaps, her writing not serious enough.)

Either way, here I am, writing, writing, writing.

I think the struggle here stems from the fact that I don’t have a strong foothold in what I’m actually doing here, in this space. It’s all la, la, laaaaa, type, type, type, but for what, aside from feeling anxious when I don’t? Plus, and probably most importantly, there’s the the whole fear thing and the stories I weave from it.

On Saturday, while making a version of this chicken stew, I turned this TED Radio Hour episode and, of course, its content felt very relevant considering all this talk I’ve been doing about fear lately. I found myself shaking my head a lot, and even listened to a few snippets again on Sunday morning so I could jot some of the ideas down and commit them to memory. I really liked what novelist Karen Thompson Walker had to say on the subject of fear and will be giving more thought going forward to the fears actually worth listening to.

The truth is, with the exception of being in the company of in my inner-most circle, I’m not terribly good at fully or accurately expressing myself. It’s the same whether I’m sitting behind a computer, sitting across from you, or on the other line; my words likely aren’t coming out right because of this intense perceived fear of judgment that dates back, I can only assume, to my middle-school days, when intense judgment raged in most kids my age.

That’s neither here nor there. So, what am I doing here? What’s my mission statement, so to speak?

I’m writing to satisfy a calling to do it. A calling I can recall having while sitting on my white-and-pink floral bedspread, in my safe haven of a room in our house on Meadow Ridge Circle; and again while sitting on the white, wooden window seat in my hunter-green room on Shadow View Court. The room with a west-facing window that had white, wooden blinds, and looked out to the neighborhood in which my soccer trainer lived. It just doesn’t go away. But, do you see what’s happening here? I’m dancing around it; just talking about this Calling. Writing about it instead of whatever it’s calling me to write. Arrrrrg! Here we go again. Okay. Ahem! Let me get back to what I’m doing:

I’m writing to find my voice. I’m writing to get comfortable with my voice. I’m writing to explore what I’m learning and how I’m living. I’m writing to explore food. There’s an art to eating well, and I want to be an artist in the field. (That sentence struck a chord, just now.) I’m writing to explore the art of eating well. I’m writing to explore cooking. I’m taking food notes. I’m writing to explore and push my senses: sight, smell, sound, taste, touch. They’ve felt dull. Unstimulated. I’m writing to challenge myself.

It’s a start.

Happy week.