Tuesday, May 12, 2015

feeling lucky

Today, I did all the dishes I haven't done for about a week.

I thought about finishing college.
Because I am done. I am done with college. Finished.

I've spent a lot of time writing you, trying to summarize and wring some moral or theme that accurately represents what the past four years meant, or are supposed to mean.

Here is what happened that I could not have predicted four years ago:

I grew up.

Child to sort-of-adult.

(four years ago)

Just like that.

I cried a lot, and everyone else cried a lot, and it was good and bad, but mostly it was interesting.
And now this particular thing is mostly over.
Two weekends from now, I walk towards a diploma with a tassel on my head.
And then the real stuff, I am told, begins.

Also, I've wanted to tell you, that I did what I've been so long promising to do: I wrote a cookbook.
It's called Good in the Kitchen: A Memoir about Food, The Media, and the Women Who Changed How America Eats. 

It's about my grandmother and Julia Child and me and cake.
It is also finished.

I am proud, but mostly relieved.
If you want to know more about it, shoot me an email.
I'll tell you more later.

I don't really know what's next.
I'm in a band and I want to write a million songs.
I want to bake some bread.
I want to sit in a garden while holding someone else's baby.
Wake up and go swimming.

All I really want to say, is how lucky I feel.
That there ain't words big enough, that if I'd known how much love there is--
that exists in this world-- for eating well, and eating together--that there is so much joy to be had--
if you'd have told me four years ago, I don't know if I'd have believed it.

I believe it now.

I feel so lucky.

Thank you.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

beans (again)

From here until the end of May, I want to spend most of my time outside, and also drink a lot of beer.
I've been spending too much time in front of screens lately.

This is a strange time, like everything is simultaneously in hyperdrive but also limbo. With springtime, everything feels fresh and small and new. Especially when I look out my tiny bathroom window and notice all the still-unfurling leaves.

I keep thinking that I'm excited about everything, though every now and then, as I hear that someone else is moving, or figured something out-- I don't know--there's a lot going on.

Per the usual, I've been too busy to really cook anything. I read on the blog Orangette, her nice piece about doctoring up cans of beans with a little butter and spices. I've been doing this all week with cans of black beans. I add them straight to the pot with a sliver of butter, pinches of cumin and some chopped parsley-- then puree them until they're creamy and thick. I eat them plain and standing over the stove, sometimes with crumbles of feta cheese.

This last year hasn't gone the way I thought it would. Not that I had a clear idea about "how it would be," but all the same, it hasn't been the way I thought it would. And I guess I've been so in the present, that I haven't given much thought at all to what happens after May. When I think about "after May," I think about places. Visiting friends in New York and trying the city on for size again, or somehow going to Tel Aviv, where I'd  sit on the beach, with hands full of olives. I do not know if these are possible things, but they are still good to think about.

Right now, there are still six weeks until I graduate.
Even though I have difficulty listening to Father John Misty, there's a line off his new record, where he sings about the end of a relationship: "at least we'll both go on livinggggg!" Which is funny and sad and real and true/untrue. Which is the thing I keep reminding myself about the end of college-- I'll go on "livingggggg."

I will be so relieved, I think. To be done.

From here until the end of May, I'm going to spend most of my time outside, and also drink a lot of beer. And I'm going to think about the possibilities.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

how to love yourself (beans)

I hate the weather. 
I talk about and blame nearly everything on the weather lately— all the moods, bullshit, inclement anything— it’s just the weather. 
In the land of near perpetual sunshine— I’m taking the cold very personally. 

I turned 22 last week, which is simultaneously something and also nothing at all. 
I had a lot of feelings, mostly because I realized and remembered how much everything has changed. 
A friend reminded me today that everything is always changing— but right now, it all feels very potent and more real. 
Mostly because I’m not a child anymore. 
And I was a child when I came to college. 
And suddenly I’m not. 

The other day, I went for a long hike in the rain with my father— we walked for about three hours and looked at the creek, which is full of clear, green water. My dad is full aphorisms and stories.
“This is real.” My dad said of the rain. 

This is real. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of “love yourself.” Which is one of those frustrating and vague things that people who are vexingly successful both at love and work like to say. 
“Love yourself.” 
Bullshit. It means so little. 
Here is all I know: 
On Saturday night, make a pot of beans. 
This is how you love yourself. 
You make the pot of beans with some garlic and onions, and then all week, whenever you are hungry, or don’t want to spend money, or are tired— there are beans to eat— all week long. 
This is the only thing I really know at this point. 
Make some beans.

This is how you love yourself. 

I love you. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

trendy vegetables

I cook at night these days. Mostly when I’m too tired, or so sick of staring at a computer, that washing dishes and making simple pastas and vegetable dishes feels like the only thing to do. 

Brussel sprouts are having a really irritating moment right now, they might even be trendier than kale. Honestly, there are few things more annoying than a really trendy vegetable. The point is, brussel sprouts are really wonderful when you cut them in half, and sauté them until they’re browned, and then add a little wasabi mustard, if you can find it. 
This is the real deal. 
As I made the brussel sprouts I thought about my parents, who STILL refuse to eat them due to retained childhood loathing. It was on their list of things that “Our Family Does Not Eat” which included beets, cabbage, brussel sprouts, margarine, and especially cauliflower, which my father has such a fierce hate of, that the one time I tried to cook it he actually yelled at me, “OUR FAMILY DOES NOT EAT CAULIFLOWER.” 

One of my friends said recently, “the weeks are hurling by.” And I don’t know what it is about that specific adjective that really says it all, but there you go. 

I also made pickled mushrooms tonight. Back when I worked at the restaurant, after the initial dinner rush, I would hover over the deli case, and spear pickled mushrooms with a toothpick when I thought no one was looking. 
That was maybe the best part of that job. 
That and taunting the chefs, who were behind a counter, and so were forced to talk to me, primarily because they were all so sick of each other. 
I used this recipe, but it’s not at all like the ones I would eat at the restaurant. 

The other thing is, I’m trying to get my thesis together right now. I don’t mind writing it nearly as much as I mind the feeling that I should be writing it every single hour of every single day. 
I try not to think about it all too much.
And Valentines Day came and went, I went grocery shopping at 11pm that night, and bought discounted chocolate covered strawberries. 
And I wore my bell bottoms recently and felt cool for about two minutes.
And also, aren’t you glad that tomorrow will be tomorrow instead of today? 

Even though tomorrow is just further proof that the weeks are hurling by? 

Anyways, I love you. 
More real things soon. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

How to Hardboil an Egg

It's okay.
I mean, it's really okay. 

I failed at making hardboiled eggs last night.
But it's okay. 

Hardboiled eggs are only the easiest thing in the world to make-- but somehow, I don't know, I didn't cook them for long enough, or the water wasn't actually boiling, or something. 
The point is, I couldn't even make a hardboiled egg. 

Stranger things have happened. 

For instance, remember when I told you about how I was trying to plant my own garden, a la Jorge Luis Borges? 
A flower grew. 
Who knew? 
I am so proud. 
I never knew I could grow anything. 

But back to hardboiled eggs. 
I love Nora Ephron, and Nora wrote this marvelous essay about living in New York City in her mid-twenties, and starting out as a reporter, and how she would go to work all day, and then come home alone and cook herself a full meal, something that made her feel brave and plucky, unlike other girls who were probably just eating pathetic cartons of yogurt in front of the television. 

Of course, she acknowledges, it never occurred to her that cooking and then eating a meal meant for four was probably equally pathetic. 
I think about this every time I cook for myself.
So brave! So plucky! 

And then, sometimes, you can't even hardboil the egg. 
And then you really have to muster some courage. 


Here Is How To Hardboil An Egg From Better Sources On the Internet Just So You Know

Instructions from SimplyRecipes.com

1. Place the eggs in a single layer at the bottom of a saucepan. Cover with at least an inch or two of cold water. The more eggs that are crowding the pan the more water you should have over the eggs. Heat the pot on high heat and bring the water to a full rolling boil.
Adding a teaspoon of vinegar to the water may help keep egg whites from running out if an egg does crack while cooking. Also some people find adding 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the water helps prevent cracking as well as making the eggs easier to peel.

2. Turn off the heat, keep the pan on the hot burner, cover, and let sit for 10-12 minutes.
If you have the type of stove burner that doesn't retain any heat when turned off, you might want to lower the temp to low, simmer for a minute, and then turn it off.
Depending on how cooked you like your hard boiled eggs, the eggs should be done perfectly in 10-12 minutes. That said, depending on your altitude, the shape of the pan, the size of the eggs, the ratio of water to eggs, it can take a few minutes more. When you find a time that works for you, given your preferences, the types of eggs you buy, your pots, stove, and cooking environment, stick with it.
If I'm cooking a large batch of eggs, after 10 minutes I'll sacrifice one to check for doneness, by removing it with a spoon, running it under cold water, and cutting it open. If it's not done enough, I'll cook the other eggs a minute or two longer.
I also find that it is very hard to overcook eggs using this method. I can let the eggs sit, covered, for up to 15-18 minutes without the eggs getting overcooked. 

3. Strain out the water from the pan and run cold water over the eggs to cool them quickly and stop them from cooking further. Or, if you are cooking a large batch of eggs, remove them with a slotted spoon to a large bowl of ice water.
The best way to store hard boiled eggs is in a covered container in the refrigerator. Eggs can release odors in the fridge which is why it helps to keep them covered.
They should be eaten within 5 days.

More soon. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Buttermilk Skillet Cake with Walnut Praline Topping

Right now I am lying on my bed with my shoes on. 
White sunlight coming in through the window. 
Two nights ago, I saw a band called Chipper Jones play. 
Of course the beauty of music, and the particular beauty of live music, is that it brings you into NOW.
Watching the drummer play, I thought he was so graceful. Even though I’m still not totally sure what “grace” really even IS. Internal peace? Quiet? Silent passion? 

So much of my time these past few years has been me struggling to find a rhythm that makes sense— trying to find the grace in motion. 
Like the kind of grace I thought that drummer showed, even if only for a moment. 

I don’t know. 

I realized the other day that from here on out, with only one semester of college to go, not that it hasn’t been real— but that the planned time is mostly ending. 
It’s like the feeling I get when I think about how old I’ll be in ten years. 
Or how I felt when I first realized that in the next few years many of my friends will get married, someone is going to have a baby, everyone falling in and out of love across time zones, working working working on their New Year’s resolutions for the rest of forever until 
The End. 
Of course, this is the beginning of the rest of forever.

I made a cake the other day. 

A buttermilk skillet cake with a walnut praline topping because I like it when things are tangible. Because making things gives rhythm to days that pass so quick/slow. 
And making things feels like grace. 

This year, I want to make things. 

One of my favorite people in the entire world sent me a mostly incoherent, very drunk email on January 1st. At the end of the message he said, “all my love. from a lost yet broken yet wonderfull soul.” 

“Lost yet broken yet wonderfull.” 

Somehow, I feel that this really sums it up. 

"Yet wonderfull." 

I love you I love you I love you. 


Buttermilk Skillet Cake with Walnut Praline Topping
from The Joy the Baker Cookbook

For the cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
For the praline topping:
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
generous pinch salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Preheat your oven to 375F/ 190C, positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven.
Butter and flour the bottom and sides of an 8 or 9-inch cast-iron skillet (or a 9-inch cake pan).
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until blended and lighter in color, about 3 minutes. Add egg and yolk, beating for a minute between each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
Turn the speed to low, and add half of the flour mixture. Next, add the buttermilk, and when the flour is just combined, add the remaining flour. Remove the bowl from the mixer, and gently finish incorporating the ingredients with a spatula, taking care not to overmix. Spoon the batter into prepared skillet or pan, spreading evenly. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
While the cake bakes, make the praline topping: in a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine brown sugar, butter, cream and salt. Bring the mixture to a soft boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and nuts. Inhale.
Let the mixture rest in the pan for 20 minutes, to firm up. Once it has rested, and the cake has been removed from the oven, pour the praline mixture over the warm cake, spreading evenly. (If you chose to bake this in a cake pan instead of a skillet, remove the cake from the pan and place it on a cake plate, before pouring the topping over the cake.) Serve immediately, or at room temperature.
Cake will keep, well wrapped and at room temperature, for up to 4 days.