Yesterday I took about six thousand pictures of the teapot and jar of water sitting at my elbow as I worked, which is how I know I’m getting better. Some absolutely absurd proportion of the pictures I have taken in my life are of teapots and teacups, such that, were I murdered and my archives examined by detectives, I feel sure they would assume I was a tea accoutrements designer, or something of that sort. Actually, I would love to be a tea accoutrements designer. I realized the other day that all my favorite objects are designer kitchen gear, so maybe that’s a good life path. Ah, we’re already on a tangent; yes, I am back.
I’m at Lisa and Ricardo’s lovely apartment above a bookstore in Highland Park, New Jersey. We have made vegan versions of oatmeal pancakes and pumpkin scones using ground flaxseeds (I am continually impressed by the possibilities of vegan baking). We have celebrated Lisa’s birthday with lots of wine and food and a drink called, somewhat upsettingly, a "Victoria’s Secret", which was stickily delicious. We have kept their puppy, Owen, from eating any number of insane things. We have christened Lisa’s new Le Crueset stockpot with an herby vegetable and cannellini bean soup which settled satisfyingly into the bones after a rainy day. I have slept, a lot. We made the most absurdly delicious blue corn tortilla and vegan cheese quesadillas. Yes, vegan cheese. Vegan cheese which melts and goos and tastes of something indefinably savory but creamy and which I will crave constantly. Lisa and I have talked and talked and talked and gone to three grocery stores, and she makes me feel sane and beautiful and whole while being all these things herself. Ricardo keeps finding new Mexican foods to ask me if I’ve tried (choriqueso, guys, sounds like everything I love in life) and tosses out revelations about philosophy or libraries, exactly the sort of clever understandings I love. I didn’t realize for a while that all the philosophy grad students were doing me the favor of saying the whole term “justified true belief” instead of just their shorthand “JTC”. They have an acronym for a Socratic hypothesis! This delights me. I visited Zoe at Princeton with all its fairytale castles and autumn tinging the ends of all the branches, and there were walks and stories and two teashops, ricotta ice cream, and some seriously addicting lavender cookies. It all feels magnificently wholesome and healing.
You might have been able to tell, from the seven month silence: it has not been good. There's been a lot. There’s a vicious cycle I’ve been considering lately: the unwillingness to restrict one’s interest and desires and then the feeling of lost uselessness. And Ramya and Nabz are in Egypt, which is, let’s just be clear, very, very far away, and not all that welcoming at the moment. It feels a bit like having friends staying in Sleeping Beauty’s thorny castle, but with Skype. Thank goodness for Skype. I feel as though this summer I have finally experienced discrimination, and naively not understood til the very last moment, til now, that it was discrimination whose deadly subtle presumption placed silent and invisible obstacles in my way. So that now I know what it’s like to be barred from one’s loved ones by supposed allegiance to a religion or enemy; know what it’s like to be treated like a girl, like some invented characterization implied I would have certain flaws or qualities or allowed certain relations without questioning or discussion; to be treated, without realizing, with the assumption that my friendliness implied stupidity, that I wouldn’t notice. It has not, suffice it to say, been good.
But the best and worst part of it is when you realize that, despite all those outside forces, 98% of the pain is self-inflicted, or rather, the mechanisms for that pain are self-invented for other purposes that happen to lead there. Buddhism, of course, is based on that understanding, but it couches it in terms of desire and desirelessness, which I disagree with. Dave put it better, at lunch the other day, though I can’t remember his exact turn of phrase: it’s about learning to be absolutely fine with whatever happens. To not let one’s self be damaged by the outside weather. I have changed my rhetoric (or it has changed, the causality is uncertain), from the erosive “I don’t know” to the phenomenally destructive “I can’t” to this non-equivalent but satisfyingly aggressive “enough of this bullsh*t.” I so believe in rhetoric, in its ability to change our attitudes, in our ability to channel it to our needs. Next in the progression, I think, comes the equally-unnecessarily-confrontational “let’s do this sh*t”, followed hopefully by something milder and more boundlessly joyous. I may not know what I’m doing next year, but I like the rhetorical path I have planned even more.
So I have not posted in seven months. Honestly, I haven’t really cooked much in seven months, which should be clearly indicative of my state of mind. And this still feels kind of clumsy, these words, melodramatic and then casual, clumsy even the emotions of being okay, like learning from scratch how to feel all right; but I'm sure I'll find my tone, written and actual, again. And there are a lot, a lot of projects bubbling up excitedly on the new tide, and I have fourteen--yes, fourteen--soups to make out of The Country Cooking of Ireland, and about twenty different Mexican dishes to try (huachotle, anyone?) and a lot of traveling to do and: enough of this bullsh*t. Let’s do this.
For starters: doing New York City, hosted by Falko, which I can not even explain how much place and person excitement I am having for look the syntax can't stand it. If I die of a burst stomach, you'll know who to blame. Falko.
A lovely pot of soup, vegan quesadillas
First, find a fantastic old friend and a kitchen ember-like in its warmness and soul, and a big ol' pot.
Soak some beans, whatever you like, cannellini beans are lovely, in water overnight, or for a few hours in some hot water. Brown an onion and some minced garlic slow and low and light with a splash of olive oil. (Let the oil heat a bit while you're chopping; it's the little knowledges like knowing that if you don't, the onion will just suck up all the oil, that make the difference in spontaneous cooking.) Add the beans, drained of liquid, for a minute or two, then fill up with some vegetable stock and a can of diced tomatoes and their liquid. Bring it up to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and add some potatoes, half a pumpkin cut into cubes, some carrots. Toss in as much shredded kale as you fancy, and some rosemary, thyme, and sage, all fresh and lovely, though dried will do. Salt and pepper. And let that simmer as long as you can stand it, forty minutes at least or until the beans are tender, preferably longer. Get some Daiya vegan mozzarella-style shreds (I like that they're called shreds, it makes them sound hip and edgy) and some corn tortillas. Heat a bit of oil in a pan, very little, and place two tortillas in, letting them heat and soften a bit. Add shreds and a generous grind of salt and fold over. Brown on both sides and serve with soup. Hope it rains for the next few days.