Coping Strategies

27 Nov

As my therapist told me, “if you’re going through hell, just keep going.” She obviously wasn’t the first one to say it, but she was the first one to say it to me. So. If you’re going through hell, just keep going.

And drink plenty of tea.

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Buy expensive treats to enjoy.

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Try to find joy in little surprises.

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And make yourself some goddamn waffles, already.

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Waffles For One On a Weekday Morning

1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
dash of cinnamon, for good measure

3/4 cup milk
1 egg
2 tablespoons melted butter
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix your dries, then mix the wets, then mix ’em together. Put them in an oiled waffle maker. Wait a few minutes, eat with plenty of syrup, a pear and some tea, watch Louie on Netflix, attempt to pause the near-constant stream of uncomfortable self-evaluation for a moment. Makes four waffles.

Pinterest, meet my food bitching. Sorry in advance.

14 Nov

Like most red-blooded Americans (because that is what I AM, DAMN IT), I am inherently fascinated with things that disgust and horrify me. This accounts for my morbid and earnest foray into the world of pro-eating disorder webpages that I frequented as a 12 year old, the oft-watched Intervention episodes as a teen (and later on: Hoarders, Toddlers in Tiaras, etc.), and other general train wrecks presented online that I can’t tear myself away from. It comes in many (many, many, maaaaany) glorious forms. But lately my interest is mostly piqued by the absolutely horrific displays of food on Pinterest. Listen, HATERS GONNA HATE. So I admit right now, I am being a judge-y, eyebrow-waggling, uppity food snob about this. AND IT FEELS SO GOOD. So please, enjoy my tour of the most disgusting food pins I’ve recently seen on Pinterest.

Cake Batter Martinis:


This is not my photo, obviously. None of the photos on this post are. They came from honest blogs whom I am currently disrespecting. Oh, goodie.

Okay, as if “cake” wasn’t already the worst flavor of ALCOHOL anyone ever thought of, they went ahead and made it cake batter. Since when is batter, in and of itself, a flavor of anything? This is nauseating, and possibly the most embarrassingly girly drink I’ve ever heard of. I guess it’s probably the whiskey lover in me talking, but HONESTLY- where is your shame!? Secondly, you rim the glass in frosting and dip it in sprinkles. Are we children? Are we at a party? Unless we are, the consumption of frosting should most likely be a littttttle more prudent. Also, “rimming your glass in frosting” is far too suggestive a phrase considering the childlike nature of this beverage. ABORT, ABORT!

Pepperoni Pizza Dip:

I am distressed by the pools of grease. If this were my slice of pizza, I’d dab a paper napkin on top a la 6th grade school cafeteria to soak up those puddles. But since it’s not a slice, it’s a dip, I suppose it’s to be inferred that pools of grease are totally cool to ingest. It’s a liquid, right? Like a DIP! So help yourself to a giant, molten pond of oily cheese and pepperoni! One helpful commenter suggested that it goes great with celery or carrots. Listen, I’m no health nut. But celery and melted pepperoni and cheese pizza DO NOT EVEN EACH OTHER OUT. BARF. Also, if you want to eat some crappy greasy pizza as we all feel like doing sometimes, just fucking do it! Don’t disguise it as a cutesy appetizer, you’re not fooling anybody.

Dorito Taco Bake:

I don’t know where to begin. Theoretically when all’s said and done, this thing tastes like a taco… but I eat tacos that taste like mostly like carne asada and cilantro. So, apparently there’s a whole other kind of taco I don’t even know about that tastes like crescent rolls (one of the ingredients) and Doritos (the other key ingredient [henceforth the word “ingredient” is now void of all meaning forever and ever amen]). I really have nothing else to say about this.

Cake mix plus quirky additions:

Apparently I’ve become a cake snob. If you’re gonna make a box cake STOP TRYING TO TRICK PEOPLE INTO THINKING IT’S NOT BOX CAKE! Whatever! Eat whatever weird box mix you want! But why are adding all sorts of random junk you found expired in your pantry trying to convince me it’s not a box cake!? I realize people are busy. Busy people should not bake cakes,they should just buy a nice one, or recruit their friends to make them a cake, because when busy people try to make cakes, this is what they come up with. And it’s awful.

For the record, I wholeheartedly discourage any recipe that includes the addition of chips or soda, for approximately one million obvious reasons.

Avocado and Cottage Cheese Snack:

You know, I’m not trying to be a dick. I appreciate the intention here. I like avocados. I like cottage cheese. At least this isn’t a crapload of hydrogenated shit. I might, in an act of low blood sugar desperation, eat this thing with no problem. I just hate that this is called a recipe. It’s two things. One of the things has a conveniently shallow opening and the other thing needs some sort of container. Thus, this recipe is born. Sigh. Siiiiiiigh.

Then there’s the entire category of Superbowl food, all of which is shaped like a football and completely unappetizing, but that should probably be saved for another post. I think my food-snobbery-crankiness has hit it’s peak for the evening.

Overshare zone!

13 Nov

We’ll start in the kitchen, where most things start out anyway.

I haven’t forgotten about the blog, I haven’t even been particularly unmotivated. I’ve been cooking like crazy, looking for comfort in simmered stocks and baking projects… the truth is I’ve been avoiding this little corner of the internet. It’s hard to know how much to share to a public audience when your writing is about food, and as much as you try to make your life about food, circumstances come up that make you think about things that aren’t as pleasant or easy as throwing a roast in the oven. This summer was a rough one that raised a lot of questions and forced me to make several big, shaky, scramble-yer-brain decisions in order to maintain some semblance of sanity. To begin, I left my job and started working in a new kitchen.

I wasn’t getting the kind of cooking experience that I really wanted. I wasn’t learning anything new, and I felt any talent I had in me was going to waste there. That, and sometimes you just have to say fuck it and take care of yourself, because you certainly can’t depend on your boss(es) to do that for you, as was proven to me time and time again there. As some form of catharsis it’s tempting for me to spill everything on here, but for posterity I’ll leave it at that. I got an opportunity to work in a new kitchen, (which I’ll brilliantly just call Kitchen from here on out- creativity points!)– the kind of kitchen that embodies my food ideals. You know the drill- all locally sourced, organically grown, made from scratch comfort food that has none of those terrifying manufactured food shortcuts that are used in plenty of restaurants. I also got the chance to work with dough, which was something I’d never gotten to do before, so on some days I wake up early and hang out in the kitchen by myself, where I roll baguettes and form perfect little buns, get elbow deep in biga and totally destroy my hands in the process. It’s lovely, and I’ll probably never be able to wear nail polish again. C’est la vie.

It had been a few years since I was the new kid in a kitchen, and it’s funny to be in that spot again. I’d forgotten what it was like to consistently fuck things up and have to apologize for it. It can be frustrating, because no matter how proficient you feel you are in the kitchen you will inevitably screw up some major things simply because it hasn’t become an engrained process. Every kitchen is different, and you come to rely heavily on muscle memory to get your timing right and not totally lose your cool with the exceptional multi-tasking that the longterm staff make look easy.

Being new in this kitchen and watching myself falter and fail on a regular basis is pretty damn similar to what’s happening in the rest of my life right now. C and I ended our relationship, which I won’t get into here. Between that, my love life, my dad and his sickness and my family relationships, what I’m left with is one big pile of questions and uncertainty and sadness and nostalgia and excitement and weirdness. Just like at Kitchen, with that pile of stuff I have try to come up with solutions so I don’t lose my shit completely. I reconfigure how I go about things. It is clumsy and painful and half the time I think I look like a jackass. I might accidentally boil 12 pounds of radishes instead of beets. I might make twice as much dough as I was supposed to. I might knock over a pot of perfectly diced vegetables that represented a two hour project I now have to shortcut and re-do completely.  As any of my friends will tell you, I might well up and cry for no apparent reason, or I might crack up and dance around and smile at babies and be a happy, well-adjusted person for a moment.

For awhile it was hard to write about food because I wasn’t eating. After I started eating again, I eventually started cooking again. But still, writing wasn’t coming to me. I’m building myself back up block by block, and creative output is the last thing I’m coaxing back to the surface (besides, you know, general happiness and coping strategies. Life!).

Also, what the what is UP with it being dark All. The. Time!? It blows, and since I refuse to build a light box and only enjoy photographing food by natural light that means I have to eat at like, 4 pm at the latest to get a decent photo. Well THAT’S not gonna happen since lately I stay up until the wee, wee hours in the nighttime and that means I eat at 9 or so. Clearly I just need to eat out more, preferably lavish meals where I can get on about cream and butter and salt. In the meantime, bear with me. Soon enough I’m sure I’ll get my sea legs back. Er, my kitchen legs. Er… life legs. Here’s hoping.

Aside

Ooh… imported!

18 Oct

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Another steal from the Bellingham Grocery Outlet… it’s imported. FROM NEW JERSEY! Ooh, la la. Shit, I guess you get what you pay for! (Also, thanks for the helpful tips! Using this cheese on pasta is some pretty revolutionary thinking.)

Apple Pie… Not!

16 Oct

I tried so hard to share with you all my glorious apple pie that I made yesterday… but then my card reader was all, FUUUUUCK YOOOOU and I was like, “Really!?”

So instead I will tell you– it was the best pie I’ve ever made. Flaky crust, tall mounds of tender apples, totally un-runny… and I thoroughly enjoyed rolling the dough. Those little chunks of butter beneath my rolling pin, I swear to god, inspired hope in my life. But since I have no photos to share, I’ll just show you some photos I took of previous foods I’ve been known to adore.

 

Bloody mary shrimp cocktail shooter? YES PLEASE, ALL THE TIME.

 

 

Mussels? Well yes, they do wonderful things to my otherwise depressive state of mind.

 

Sugar-coated cranberries are beckoning to me for cocktails, or pies, tarts, or a sweet addition to a cheese and cracker plate. And the act of coating them in sugar is cathartic.

 

Hi, bananas! You are too sweet and spotted, warm and too tender by default. And I love you. Let me make you into banana bread? Fried bananas maybe? I’m gonna take yer tender little body and turn it into an adult. IN A NON-SEXUAL WAY, DUH.

I made you a video! It’s ridiculous!

16 Sep

 

Thank you  Mary Burwell for fishing the best cook book ever out of the library donation box and bringing it to me. My life is so much better now!

Cook Book Titling Gone Wrong

12 Sep

 

I’m sorry… but this is not an acceptable cook book title. I realize that at the time of publishing (1974) “that’s what she said” wasn’t yet a coined phrase, but surely SOMEONE in the editing office could have caught the hilariously suggestive nature of this title. Unfortunately I failed to document the introduction, aptly titled, “How to Stretch Your Meat”. I mean… REALLY.

Pick Packlin’

7 Sep

My best friend Riley, a fervent pickle-lover would be proud. I finally made pickles from scratch! It hadn’t even occurred to me before… probably because I’m pretty pickle-ambivalent. I like a nice tart, crunchy, and fresh pickle, but most often the pickles I run across across are unimpressive. And floppy. Gross. But these little puppies are crunchy with just a little yield, salty and garlicky and satisfying. They were easy to make, too (c/o Mark Bittman, as per usual). No vinegar, no canning, no  trouble at all, actually. Well, your kitchen is gonna smell like one big pickle for a few days, but I kinda like that.

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Kosher Pickles (Adapted from How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman)

I changed the quantities a bit, but it’s essentially the same recipe. This makes a whoooole lotta pickles.

-4 lbs pickling cucumbers
-20 cloves garlic, smashed
-an entire bunch of fresh dill, preferably with flowers still on it
-3/4 cup kosher salt
-2 cups boiling water

Scrub the cucumbers well and slice them in halves or quarters (or keep them whole if they’re small enough for you). Add the salt and boiling water together in a bowl, mix to dissolve, then add a handful or two of ice to cool the mixture down. In two large bowls divide the dill, garlic cloves, and cucumbers. Pour half the saltwater in one bowl and the other half in the other. Add enough water to each bowl to cover the ingredients. With a plate that fits inside each bowl, cover the pickle mixture and weight it down. The goal is to completely submerge the cucumbers, but not to overflow the bowls. We used a pie tin in one and a medium size plate in the other, weighted down with a couple rocks and some containers of water.

After four or five hours we drained some of the saltwater out of the bowls and replaced it with tap water, which is necessary since our pickles were getting REALZ SALTY. Like, way too salty. But we let them sit overnight with their new fresh water (making sure to keep the dill and garlic in with the cucumbers) and revisited them the next afternoon.

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Store the pickles with their brine (straining out the dill but keeping the garlic) in jars or tupperware. Easy. Crunchy. Salty. GOOD.

Homewards

4 Sep

Last week I got all excited about Labor Day weekend and the fact that the family would be together again, celebrating the time that seems more precious with every visit. We didn’t have any grand plans, but wanted to putter around the house, maybe sleep in, listen to music and, well… eat. Because what else does a family of varying interests and hobbies do to pass the time together? While at home I find myself mostly occupied by preparing food, which is how I like it. Shopping at Central Market or Whole Foods is a luxury compared to my everyday shopping situation, as is my free reign to pick out anything the family might enjoy (I went a little crazy at the antipasto salad bar… YUM). Things are a little weird these days… for the first time in my life, I’m facing things I’m 100% unsure about, and the stress about money and family and sickness and sadness and priorities and plans– well, it’s pretty daunting sometimes. It’s been a rough summer. But nothing makes me feel quite as happy and making food and feeding people. A tray of meats and cheeses, olives, and baby heirlooms while the family and friends socialize is always welcomed with such gratefulness. A pork tenderloin with a little balsamic browning in the cast iron elicits smiles from everyone who smells it.

 

Picking anything ready from the garden and rifling through the pantry and fridge for any forgotten carrots or potatoes for a roasted vegetable dish makes me feel industrious. Waffles from mom in the morning, fresh maple syrup and cans of jam from Beth waiting for me on the counter– home doesn’t always feel like home as I get older, but it always does if someone’s cooking. We picked blackberries in the back acreage, and with our bounty were rewarded with pie and a cobbler…

 

 

 

…although the best part may very well be spotting that perfect warm blackberry on the bush, placing it on your tongue, and pressing it against the roof of your mouth as it melts into some cosmic substance that can’t be replicated by people.

 

 

 

While I was home I bought a new book, and Beth gifted me another.

 

With her permission I’m abandoning the Jonathan Franzen book that has definitely NOT helped improve my state of mind, and instead I will read my favorite Ruth Reichl’s beautiful food prose and a diary of foods and meals and illustrations to inspire me to stay active in the one realm that I know is good for me.

 

Home is a lot of things… and it’s not always that embroidered sentiment you wish it was. Inevitably you have to process unpleasant realities while locking arms with those around you in fortitude, despite what your mind may be screaming at you to do otherwise. At least while we all figure out how to just be amongst all of this, we have plenty of food to enjoy with each other at our table.

 

 

 

 

Delicious Fungus, With A Pleasant Smack of Bird’s Nest!

29 Aug

C came home the other day announcing that the Asian grocery store near our house is going out of business and everything is 30% off… which is why alongside an enormous bag of potstickers and a package of wonton wrappers, he also had this:

Yum, bird’s nest drink! But wait, it also has WHITE FUNGUS IN IT!? My fave! The label is misleading, because bird’s nest is the LAST ingredient while white fungus is way at the top of the ingredient list, but you can’t blame the manufacturers for trying to trick me… bird’s nest is a huge selling point. But, uh, actually.

Like probably thousands of other idiots, I didn’t know that bird’s nest was something one might consider consuming until the Caves episode on Planet Earth, where bird’s nest harvesters are featured precariously plucking the nests from the cave walls. The narrator explains that the nests are made primarily from the saliva of the male cave swift, and are used in the Chinese delicacy, bird’s nest soup. Apparently this shit is REALLY EXPENSIVE which makes sense because in eating it, you are literally eating a baby bird’s cozy home. Think about that for a minute.

I have one major question that lingers, before I try it, though. Don’t birds like… poop… in their nests? I mean, I’m already trying to come to terms with the fact that I am actually about to drink a beverage containing mostly mushroom and bird saliva, but what about the ACTUAL nest part. WHAT ABOUT THE POOP!? As far as nest processing goes, I read that nests are soaked and boiled, but honestly that doesn’t really quell my fear. Neither does the fact that I made a major mistake in looking up the Wonderfarm drink before I tried it, and was presented with this photo:

 

I really, really wasn’t expecting it to be all chunky like that, and now I. REALLY. DO. NOT. WANT. THAT. IN. MY. MOUTH.

But this is practically a scientific experiment and sometimes science yields uncomfortable results. So cheers… to science!

 

Oh my god. That was horrible.

The taste was at first not so bad, pretty sweet and thick-  I thought I had gotten off pretty easily… and then a simultaneously slimy  yet chunky texture rolled down my throat and I thought I might lose it right there in the middle of my living room. Pouring it into a clear jar for further inspection proved equally, if not moreso, horrifying. If you’ve ever handled egg whites than you’re familiar with the viscosity and mucus-y texture that got dumped into that glass while I swished water around in my mouth and tried not to think too hard about what I just drank.

 

Really consider what’s happening in this glass right now. Suffice to say, I still have no idea what a bird’s nest actually tastes like… but whatever. I gave it a go, because a little adventure here and there is good for you. Even if it almost makes you ralph on your oriental carpet. Now, when faced with a similar beverage at the Asian grocery, or weird drink aisle at Whole Foods, you may find that you’re content just admiring it’s weirdness. You’re welcome.

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