Last Meal

When Graham and I moved to this place, we decided to get cable. Well, we decided to get cable and Internet, like real Internet, not the increasingly spotty and idiotically-served Clear Internet we’d been using. Yes it was cheap, but we definitely got what we were paying for, and we figured we could pay more for Internet that actually worked all the time and maybe try out some TV while we were at it.

So far, our Internet is great. I can use it from anywhere in the house, which is a big change from our old place, where even sitting right next to the router didn’t guarantee a decent speed. And we have cable, which I thought would be terrific for getting drunk and yelling at the Food Network, but it turns out that Guy Fieri is just depressing and I’m never home for the Barefoot Contessa.

I still watch cable, just not as much as I thought I would. Netflix is still my primary source of entertainment, and instead of the Food Network, I’ve recently caught up on the new episodes of “The Mind of a Chef.” Season one had been good but I found myself really enjoying season two, particularly the Southern food heritage episodes and pretty much everything April Bloomfield does, ever.

Any time I watch (or read, or write, or think) anything about food, I start planning out my last meal. I’ve been doing this for a long time. And I mean a loooooooooong time. At least ten years. In the beginning, my last meal consisted of things I’d never tried before, and then it became the most luxurious things I could think of, and then it became every single thing I’d ever loved crammed into one impossible smorgasbord. Sometime in the past few years, though, my last meal has changed from all of the above to what I think is an ideal distillation of the foods that give me the greatest comfort and evoke the greatest memories. And this is the version of the meal that has stayed the longest, and that I hope is the best possible one, at least if I were to be forced to have it right now.

So if you ever receive an invitation from me that seems a bit out of the blue, or that carries with it a bit of urgency, please RSVP if you can. This is what we’ll be eating:

Served on my grandparents’ old backyard patio – or maybe a fantastical combination of both of the backyard patios of both of my grandparents! – in late summer or early fall in St. Louis. Still warm outside and everything’s still green, but there aren’t any more mosquitos and we can still play washers until late at night and listen to the cicadas dying out.

Peonies and irises to remind me of my childhood home. Roses and tomato vines to remind me of my grandparents.

Fried catfish tossed from the fryer onto tables lined with newspaper, served with lemon wedges, chunky tartar sauce, and (sorry!) a bottle of ketchup. Hush puppies because everyone else likes them but my own cornbread for me, plus some of the drop biscuits my mom makes that have uneven, crunchy tops and soft, floury insides. Butter and honey on the side.

Barbecued pork ribs that my dad makes, and ears of corn on the cob wrapped tightly with salted butter in foil and placed on the grill, then unwrapped and sprinkled with fresh chopped chives.

Handfuls of fat summer green beans, blanched until just tender and then tossed with some warm red wine vinaigrette with lots of shallot and Dijon mustard. Some roasted broccoli, sweet and nutty and just charred on the ends. Collard greens braised with bacon and onions, finished off with a splash of vinegar.

My own garlic mashed potatoes made with full-fat cream and lots of butter. Ice cold carrot sticks dipped in creamy Caesar dressing. A devilled egg dusted with paprika.

A cooler full of ice and bottles of Budweiser and Schlafly Pale Ale. Sun tea jars in the refrigerator full of tea, poured over lots of ice with some simple syrup for sweetening. Bottles of Mexican Coke. I’d probably only have half of one but they’re pretty good.

For dessert, an Oreo Blizzard from Dairy Queen. A big bowl of perfect strawberries with fresh whipped cream. A dark chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Even a cheap one from the grocery store is fine. A spoonful of crème brulee.

Grand Cuvèe Champagne.

A short macchiato.

Someone else cleans up.

Posted in I Eat | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Uff Da

I’ve been wrestling with a cold this week. I started to type “head cold,” but then I realized that it was only a head cold for part of that time, and while the unbelievable amounts of snot still coming out of my face are technically located in my head, my head is not what’s making me the most miserable. Whenever I’m sick or in pain or uncomfortable, I always tell myself that when I am better, I will be sure to fully appreciate how okay I feel. But then I always forget, because for some reason, despite years of evidence and education to the contrary, I have fooled myself into thinking that feeling good is normal and therefore not extraordinary enough to remember. So in a few days when I can suddenly breathe again without hacking some R’lyeh-style shit out of my chest, someone please remind me that I’ve got it good, okay?

Anyway. I got the market, grocery shopping, and CSA-portioning done before noon today, which means that I now get to sit around and do not a lot of anything except be sick. Which is kind of a bummer. Normally I’m fine with staying at home by myself, but being sick makes me feel restless, and since we finally got some rain yesterday, I’m ready to appreciate the sun that’s currently poking out.

Plus I really like walking around my neighborhood. Actually, let’s refine that. Guys, I fucking LOVE my neighborhood. I love it so much that the only thing driving me to anxiety about it is that my landlord might decide to sell the building (or, more accurately, the land beneath the building) to condo developers and we’ll be out on our asses. We have no reason to believe this will happen, but since this is Seattle and condos flare up like herpes after spring break, Graham and I are both living in a kind of low-grade fear that the greatest place that ever happened to us will suddenly disappear after only a year.

We really, really hope that we get to stay here for more than a year. I really, really hope that I don’t have to pack up the house and start looking for places and charm property owners again, and that I can finally stop having these fucking dreams about moving. Do you know what it’s like to dream about moving every night? It’s fucking exhausting. And it’s fucking terrifying, as well, when the dreams are about moving back to St. Louis, because in every one of them I have the thought “why the fuck did I ever leave Seattle?!”

The only reason I can come up with that would ever drive us from Seattle is how much it costs to live here. Seattle is one of the most expensive cities in America, and although the cost of living is somewhat mitigated by the pay scale (although, ahem, I made more money and paid way less rent in St. Louis) and no state income tax, it’s going up all the time just as the spaces to live in are disappearing. Well. I suppose those spaces are being built if you want to use to condos as an example, but most of those are still partially empty because they’re overpriced even by Seattle standards. So we’ve discussed where we’d move if we ever got priced out. Back to St. Louis is not an option, so we’ve batted around Portland and Santa Fe. Portland would probably be the front-runner since it’s not too far from Seattle or our two favorite parts of the Pacific Northwest – mountains and water. It’s weird sometimes to reflect that I spent most of my life surrounded by relatively flat land and now feel…well, kind of incomplete if I don’t know the mountains and water are nearby.

That’s part of why I love Ballard so much. Historically, Ballard is a Scandinavian fishing village that was absorbed by the expanding city of Seattle in 1907, although to listen to lifelong Ballard residents tell it, it’s always been its own little city.

It maintains a lot of its old character, too, and not just in the way of those super annoying “FREE BALLARD” bumper stickers (um, congratulations on never leaving the same neighborhood for 30 years, ya fuckin’ loser?). In addition to Swedish and Norwegian flags hung right alongside American ones from front porches, the architecture is very Scandinavian in design. Lots of peaked roofs, lots of clapboard, and everything points to the water. Even the newer build in Ballard still leans heavily towards a seaside aesthetic, making it feel like a beachside community. And I guess it kind of is, since Shilshole Bay is a 5-minute walk down the street and the beach at Golden Gardens is less than a mile away.

Fishing is still a major operation for Ballard, with most of the salty old dudes in the salty old dude bars having worked on boats for most of their lives. Many of the boats from the show “The Deadliest Catch” dock in Ballard during the off-season, and my favorite part of my morning commute is reading the names from the hulls as the bus crosses over the Ballard Bridge.

While we pay a significant amount of money to live in Ballard, it’s comparable to most of Seattle (and still less than Capitol Hill, for god’s sake) and I’m aware that I’m buying myself a certain standard of living. It’s safe here. I can walk everywhere. The amount of trails, parks, cafés, bars, and terrific local businesses is well above and beyond anything I could have had in St. Louis, at least in terms of not having to drive or fear for my safety as I travel to and from them. Plus there’s an actual sense of community that I’d been worried about leaving behind in the Midwest. People in Ballard like being in Ballard. They like staying here and nurturing their community. And I’d rather pay more money for that and less money for things, any day, even on the ones where I’m stuck inside with my hacking and my snot and my self-pity.

Posted in I Heart, Seattle | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Rainy Season

I can hear it already: thousands of Seattleites groaning about rain on Labor Day weekend. Cars are being packed under duress, commutes out of the city are taking a ridiculously long time for a city where it rains for eight fucking months out of the year anyway so there’s no reason people shouldn’t know how to drive in this, and the fate of barbecues hangs in the balance.

Everyone else is probably upset about the rain.

Not me.

Look, it’s not that I’m excited about the return of Seattle’s rainy season. Except I kind of am. I’m fully aware that the rain will make things like going to the grocery store and walking to the bus stop a lot more inconvenient than they already seem on good days. I’m intensely aware that I will have changed by tune come March, when even the most tropics-averse people like me are contemplating a quickie beach vacation just to get out of the fucking rain. I do remember when I’d leave the house last winter and my first words of the day, every day, would be “it’s raining again, why wouldn’t it be raining again,” although I concede this may have had something to do with living in a run-down house where mold grew through the walls at any hint of moisture. I know what it’s like for my feet to always be cold, and to have to remember to keep an extra pair of socks in my purse and a scarf in my pocket. I realize that I am currently wishing for the return of eight. Fucking. Months of rain.

But we’ve had a lot of sun already. A lot of heat (for us). It’s been extremely dry, to the point where I looked around the other day and, with the exception of parks and office building grass, everything was yellowish brown. We need the this rain.

And I kind of want it.

timecowboy rainyday

When Isabel posted this the other day, I sighed right along with her. In fact, I remembered that at around the same time last year, I burned a CD for listening in my car titled “When Does It Start Raining Again in Seattle.” I love Seattle summer with almost every part of my being and have declared that I will never take a vacation that causes me to leave here between July and September, but I’ve had to face why I moved to Seattle in the first place. Or rather, why I was so suited to move to Seattle in the first place.

Genetically (I think, compared to analysis of my DNA proving that the majority of my ancestors came primarily from a wet rock in the Atlantic), I like rain. I like cloud cover. I like shade, and a little gloom, and how things look when it’s been raining for a while. When the rain starts, not only can I stop slathering on ultra-thick SPF 80 (that later clogs up my pores and leaves a weird residue on my clothes) every day, but it’s as if I can start seeing things better, like my body isn’t as taxed by the sun anymore so it’s able to perceive things like sight, smells, and sounds in a more acute way.

Of course, this could be as much bullshit as people who claim that they’re 100% healthier after adopting a paleo diet or wearing a magnetic wristband. I could just be talking out of my ass here and giving scientific credence to a mere preference. I mean, obviously, I am.

But I’m still not mad about the rain today, and I still won’t be too broken up in about a month, when the sun goes away for a whole week and everyone tenses up to wait it out for the three straight seasons. But like I said, check back in March. Or even April. Hell, this past year it was mid-May. See how I feel then.

Posted in I Heart, Seattle | Tagged | Leave a comment

And We Shall Warm Our Hands on a Fire Fueled By Rich Men’s Kindles

One of the reasons I moved to Seattle was because of the bus. It sounds weird and a lot of people, at least the ones who come from St. Louis and pull “dude, gross” faces when I mention the bus, seem either confused or offended by this. But really. It’s true. I moved here for other, more important reasons, sure, but the bus did play a part in the decision.

When Graham and I first visited Seattle, we walked up the most monstrous hill I’d ever seen to catch a bus to Seattle Center. Now I know that it’s not the biggest hill and that the trip is a relatively short bus ride, but at the time, and as someone who’d spent the last 25+ years living in cities where public transportation was unreliable, unsafe, and sometimes nonexistent, I was incredibly nervous about finding, boarding, and riding the bus to my destination. We took other buses that day, too, from Seattle Center down to the waterfront and then from the market (really the Metro stop at 3rd and Pike, which is still probably my least favorite stop in all of Seattle because BUM PEE) back to our friends’ house in Fremont. Sometime between getting on the bus in the morning and getting back to Fremont, I realized that the bus wasn’t a bad thing. In fact, I kind of liked it. I liked being able to sit back while someone else drove. I liked that the people riding the bus with us were quiet commuters who weren’t starting fights over chicken nuggets. I liked that the bus flew along in its own lane while everyone in cars seethed in traffic. I liked the bus. And I wanted to live in a city where I could actually ride it.

Common wisdom says you don’t feel like a Seattleite until you’ve been here for at least two years. After that point, other Seattleites will begin to warm up to you and maybe be your friend, or at least start making eye contact. We didn’t have this problem because we already had friends here, so I guess we had to find other ways to feel like we belonged. For Graham, it was the first time he rode his bike all the way from the Fremont Bridge to the top of the hill without stopping (it’s a big fucking hill). For me, it was when I felt comfortable taking the bus.

I still really like the bus, even now that it’s essential to my commute. I like the sleepy camaraderie of the morning express, where I see the same faces every day and I get to read the boat names from the Ballard Bridge and the guy who always sits next to me knows my stop and gets up before I ask. I like the jostly evening Rapid Ride or express, at least when I can get a seat, because both of them are air-conditioned and that’s a little luxury most Seattleites don’t have at home. I like taking the bus on weekends, when it’s mostly empty and I can have an entire extra seat for grocery bags. I like taking the bus home at night when I’m a little bit drunk, because I’m not paying for an Uber and someone else can be in charge for awhile.

But.

As in any situation where you’re forced to squeeze into a relatively small area with a bunch of people you don’t know, there are some downsides to the bus. Little inconveniences like breakdowns and messed up routes, buses that arrive 20+ minutes late or depart five minutes early when you’re already running up another hill to catch it. Or the bigger inconveniences, like the two biggest things I hate about the bus and would gladly give maybe a week off my life apiece to never deal with them again.

1. The dogshit people. It happens so often that I sometimes think it must be Seattle city policy for every bus to always be transporting at least one person who smells like they rolled in dogshit. And not necessarily fresh dogshit, either, although that was happened before. It’s as if people have swapped out lavender sachets for dried up dog turds in their drawers and are pulling their shirts and pants directly out of their little poop bundles. Most of the time, these people just smell like dogshit on their own, like a grotesque little mystery for the rest of us commuters to discover. Other times, people bring their actual dogs on the bus, which is both allowed and fine as long as the dog is clean and well-behaved. That’s clean and well-behaved, so if your dog spends any time at all outside, it would be best to bathe them at least weekly, but certainly more often if they love rolling in shit. And most of them do. And for some reason, most of their owners are fucking clueless.

2. The middle-aged men in suits with nice watches who refuse to look up from their phones or iPads or Kindles and give their seats to hugely pregnant women or the elderly. I. Cannot. STAND these fucking men. I’m going to dust off a little Louis C.K. and ask, is it not enough for you to have had centuries of unchecked privilege and power? Can you not just relinquish those fifteen minutes at the end of your day of bossing people around and taking up space to a person who might be a little more tired or achy? I’d think with the money you spent on your clothes and accessories that you’d be in a social class that knows about things like real manners, like the kind you learn from somewhere other than that one scene in Pretty Woman where Hector Elizondo is teaching Julia Roberts about tableware. Were you never taught that it’s customary to give up your seat? What’s the problem here? Can you really not tear your eyes away from James Patterson’s latest formulaic celebration of the continuous victory of guys like you to recognize that there are other people in the world and maybe you could do them a small favor once in a while? Or are you waiting for someone like me to do it, which I always do, by the way, but never without fantasizing about smacking your leather Kindle case out of your manicured hands and screaming “THIS IS HOW NICE PEOPLE DO IT, YOU BOURGEOIS PIECE OF HUMAN CRAP!” in your face.

I’ve seen other, less pregnant women and other, less elderly people get up for these new passengers. I’ve seen homeless guys get up, too. I’ve seen thugged out teenagers offering their seats, the occasional punk (although never a crust punk, because fuck society, they need those two extra bus seats for their bedroll and a pile of loose change and batteries), and even mothers with small children giving up their seats for someone else. So hey, Mr. Boardroom, what’s your fucking problem?

Posted in I Just Can't, Seattle, WTF | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

That’s-A Vegan Meat-A-Ball

Last night, I made a vegan thing.

It was a calculatedly vegan thing, in that I actually found it because it was vegan instead of, I don’t know, making something and then at the last minute realizing it’s vegan. It came from Mark Bittman’s VB6 cookbook, a thing I wrote about before and am coming to learn needs a little work.

I already knew this about Mark Bittman. While I know that his recipes are probably all extensively tested, I’ve come to realize that they’re more for people who either don’t cook very often or don’t have very demanding palates. And while I realize that this sounds snobby as shit, the thing is, I do cook a lot, and I want what I eat to taste good. This is why I’m more disappointed than a lot of people when I order something in a restaurant that I could have made better at home. And before you say it, I am an excellent orderer. I don’t go around getting default club sandwiches or culturally anomalous stuff all the time. I order well and most of the time I’m not let down. Some of the time I am, though, like when I get collard greens anywhere because I am apparently the world champion of collard greens and no one else’s come close.

Anyway. Before I made this vegan thing, I decided to see if anyone had bothered reviewing the recipe. Oh yes, because not only can you find recipes for pretty much anything, you can find feedback from people who boldly went before you did and maybe weren’t very impressed. I did this because I didn’t want to waste time making something I wouldn’t like, and because this recipe included eggplant. I don’t normally like eggplant.

Okay, I get it, vegetarians. I’ve heard that eggplant is a terrific, incredibly versatile substitute for meat and I’m supposed to love it. But guys, hey – that’s if you’ve never actually had meat. And it’s not that versatile (most recipes require a pre-salting and draining lest you end up eating a bitter sludge), and have you ever had baba ghanoush? At the risk of talking shit on a huge swath of Middle Eastern culinary culture, you guys are out of your fucking minds with baba ghanoush. I don’t care how you make it. It’s ideal texture is a bowl full of mucousy slop and that is fucking nasty.

Anyway anyway. I looked up the recipe, compared it with some reviews, and wrote a few edits of my own. And it was…okay. Would have been better with meat (at least then I wouldn’t feel like a liar by typing it like “meatballs”), but compared to other “meat” products made without meat that I’ve tried, at least in restaurants and not the mechanically-produced freezer section stuff, it’s of comparable quality. So if you’re looking for something with a texture more along the lines of a non-fried falafel (or if you’re already a vegetarian or vegan and don’t know the difference), this might be worth a shot. Especially if you have a little time on your hands, a bunch of summer CSA produce, and a night that’s gone a bit chilly (as most of them do around Seattle, since we have a lower dew point so warm air doesn’t condense during the day and meteorology is very fascinating, you guys) and is therefore ideal for comfort food:

It’s basically this recipe, although like I said, I made a few changes. Namely, I made my own sauce in my own way (see below). Also, I toasted the breadcrumbs, added about 1/2 cup of toasted/popped quinoa, as well, and didn’t add any water to the eggplant pan because it’s wet enough already. Ohhhh right, and I added a minced poblano (like eggplant and tomato, pepper is an excellent summer market pick), plus some dried oregano, smoked paprika, and a tiny pinch of coriander, and if I had to do it all over again, I’d probably bake the “meatballs” like Bittman suggests but then fry them. Which would require an egg wash, which renders them completely unvegan. But they’d taste better.

Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Sauce
Makes enough for a whole batch of the “meatballs” in the recipe, or for a pasta dinner for a family of 4. Probably.

NOTE: You need to prepare the tomatoes at least a day in advance. Seriously, it takes like 5-6 hours just to roast them, and you never have to check on them at all during this time. Also, nce roasted, they’ll keep for several days in the fridge. I did mine about five days before I made the actual dish.

It’s also great to make a much larger batch than you need, and the below recipe is easily doubled. Can you get a bumper crop of tomatoes and peppers at the height of summer? Great, make a ton of this sauce and the portion it into freezer bags. Flatten them out, stick them in the freezer, and hey, you’ve got ready sauce for several more months.

  • 4 heirloom tomatoes, quartered (do not get the shitty wooden things from the supermarket in winter, so help me god)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 smallish jar of roasted red peppers (Trader Joe’s has a very good brand) or 2 roasted bell peppers, diced
  • several cloves garlic, minced (I used probably four big ones, but do whatever you want)
  • 1 tbs kosher salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp red chili flake
  • 1 tsp dried Italian seasoning (or a mixture of dried oregano, rosemary, thyme, and marjoram)
  • 2 tbs balsamic vinegar

    (You can also add some softened onions to this. Just make sure that they’re actually soft and just about golden brown before adding them to the sauce.)

Preheat oven to 250. Place the quartered tomatoes, skin sides down, on a baking sheet lined with foil and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil. You want the tomatoes to be well drizzled, by the way, none of this barely spilling a drop nonsense. The oil is going to come in handy when it comes time to store these.

Place the tomatoes in the oven and let them roast for 5-6 hours. Yeah. A looooong time. You want them to begin drying a bit, get nice and shrivelly like dark, jellied jewels, and smell like concentrated tomato sugar. Which is basically what you’re making.

After you remove the tomatoes from the oven, let them cool slightly. Then dump the entire contents of the baking sheet – intensely-flavored oil and all! – into a storage container. Thanks to the acid in the tomatoes and the fat in the oil, this will keep in the fridge for about a week.

When you’re ready to make the sauce, dump the tomatoes and oil container into the bowl of your food processor. Add the diced peppers and minced garlic. Blend until somewhat smooth, or until you can see most of the garlic pieces disappear.

Place a thick-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat and add 2 tbs olive oil. Once this is warm, add your tomato-red pepper sauce mixture. Add the salt, pepper, chili flake and Italian seasoning and stir to combine. Continue stirring occasionally on a very low simmer, adjusting the heat lower if necessary, for about 30 minutes.

Add the balsamic vinegar and stir to combine. Continue simmering for about 5-8 more minutes, and then remove from heat. If you’re freezing it, allow it to cool most of the way before portioning into bags.

Like I said, this is good for the “meatballs” above or for actual meatballs, or for pasta. You can also add about a teaspoon of tomato paste to make a pizza sauce or do what I’m doing tomorrow night, which is simmering chicken thighs in the sauce with some chickpeas and beet greens and then serving it with some crusty bread.

The rest of the “meatballs” I made are in the freezer. Waiting to be improved fried someday.

Posted in CSA-OK, I Eat | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Toiling in the Land of Vocal Fry

Vocal fry: the lowest vocal register…produced through a loose glottal closure which will permit air to bubble through slowly with a popping or rattling sound of a very low frequency. (from Wikipedia)

Also: a low, scratchy sound that occupies the vocal range below modal voice (the most commonly used vocal register in speech and singing). Also known as vocal fry register, creaky voice, pulse register, laryngealization, and glottal fry. (from Richard Nordquist)

If you’re still having trouble with this, just imagine how the Kardashians speak. Flat, atonal, a blasé tone that suggests total disinterest but tilts up at the end of each sentence as if even the most declarative statement (“I just took a huge shit”) sounds like a question (“I just took a huge shit?”).

Brief digression:

Working at what is partially a fashion company, about half of my floor is populated by merchandisers, buyers, and other people who studied fashion as, like, an actual college thing. And they got jobs for it, which is understandably enough to drive my English major friends batty.

My floor is devoted to women’s and kids’ apparel, and these departments are typically dominated by women. While I’ve worked with plenty of women before, I’ve never worked with these kinds of women. Or should I say “this kind of woman,” because as far as I can tell, there’s only one kind.

(Actually there’s two kinds, but you should know that the second kind is exceedingly rare, and that every time I happen to spot a bigger girl or one with unkempt hair, I want to rush over and high-five her in solidarity. “YOU AND ME, GIRL, YOU AND ME!”)

First of all, you should know that some of this is coming from a place of jealousy. The first half of the paragraph, anyway. You see, while I would rather be able to discuss Nabokov than Prada, I do feel a twinge of envy when I walk to the bathroom every day past desk after desk of some of the most attractive females I have ever seen in my life. Easily 85% of them could pass for supermodels. Mostly tall and willowy or Asian and petite, these women have terrific skin, somehow know what to do with makeup besides just slap it on in an effort to look less exhausted, and possess the kind of hair that is either flowing and well-conditioned, sloppy but purposefully and artfully so, or chopped to a perfectly flattering pixie cut that sits daintily atop the tiniest elfin features. They dress impeccably, even the one who wears sweatpants and the other who shows up in running clothes every day. I’m convinced that most of them own entire accessory closets. They swill Diet Coke like it won’t eventually cause hideous tumors, and they only drink coffee through straws. Sentences about what they think or prefer begin with “Um, I feel liiiiiike…” and the newest group of hires in their department are named – and I am not making this up, I re-checked the company Web site today – Kylie, Kayleigh, Hayley, Mackenzie, and Brenna. These are adult women, by the way. They’re obviously too sleepy to sit up straight, so they hunch over like they’re warming their delicate bones over a mug of steaming herbal tea. They shake hands like sparrow-clawed little babies. They all have fuzzy blankets to wrap themselves in when it’s August outside. And they all speak with vocal fry.

I. Can’t. Stand. Vocal Fry.

Perhaps this is because, as a native Midwesterner, I prefer a more direct way of communicating. I prefer people to be plainspoken. I don’t even mind abrasive speakers; I get along terrifically with people from the Northeast because at least they tell you where you stand with them (tip: if you have not been shouted at in friendly conversation by someone from Boston then you are missing out on one of the great joys of life). I just need people to be declarative when they speak, because when they’re not, when everything someone says sounds as though they are bored, condescending, or unsure, my brain goes into overdrive trying to figure out if they’re fucking with me or actually just that stupid.

Usually, they’re actually just that stupid. Because a smart person knows how to speak, okay? A smart person knows how to communicate intent and emotion. A smart person understands when they say something incomplete or confusing. A smart person doesn’t stare blankly back at you when you stand there, waiting for them to finish asking the question they clearly started when THAT AND EVERYTHING ELSE THEY SAID WAS PHRASED LIKE A QUESTION.

Why the explosive use of vocal fry? Is it because I’m on the West Coast now? Is it actually because of the Kardashians? Are the fashion girls in my company not above emulating those fucking people? Is everyone’s speech getting shitty and lazy as we over-rely on non-verbal communication such as texting, or have so many people adopted this practiced disaffection that it’s strangulating their speech? Does anyone notice that I am asking real questions with real question marks?

Posted in I Hate, I Just Can't, Paychecks Are Important, WTF | Tagged , | 1 Comment

All About My Gorge

For reasons that are no surprise to me (ahem, I am lazy), I stopped logging my food into Fitbit a couple of months ago. I knew I shouldn’t be doing this; it was only when I started logging my food that I started getting smaller, so why I thought I could psychically control what I was eating without any kind of calculated proof is beyond me (but again, I am lazy). While I’ve remained at a slightly smaller size than when I started, I haven’t made any additional progress lately, so I decided to quit being an asshole and start logging food again.

And yeah, I’ve been an asshole about it. On the one hand, it’s a lot less painful to admit to Fitbit that I’ve eaten an entire pizza (again) now that I’m walking at least 2 miles every day just to get back and forth to work, and one of those miles is a 45-degree uphill climb. On the other, I wonder where my brain tricked me into thinking I had control over all of this, because it’s obviously a liar and I obviously need to get with the program again.

It is slightly easier to eat more of the stuff that’s not harmful now that the CSA is in full swing. While I wish we could stop getting so many fucking beets, overall, I’m able to fill two or three meals with so many vegetables that I sometimes struggle to validate the need for meat to accompany it. Three out of five of the meals I’m making this week are meatless, and the fourth uses up some leftover chicken from the one I roasted last night. And I look at that as a freebie, because a) it’s chicken, b) it’s one of those fancy free-range, organic, hormone-free chickens, and c) it’s leftovers, so not only did I already use up the effort to cook it, but I’m being economical about what’s in my fridge.

It’s not that I’m trying to eat less meat, except I kind of am, although it’s less for reasons like a conversion to vegetarianism (NOPE) or health (at least not until anyone proves that a vegetarian diet is unequivocally healthier than one that includes infrequent-to-moderate consumption of sustainably raised lean animal protein). But for reasons related to personal ethics or something insufferable like that, I buy more expensive meat from direct, organic, environmentally responsible purveyors, and because I am not yet made of money, this means that I can’t afford to cook meat every night. I also bought Mark Bittman’s “VB6″ for Courtney, and because she was out of town, I, um, read it before I gave it to her (oh relax, she did the same thing when she bought Yotam Ottolenghi’s “Plenty” for me). Bittman’s plan to eat completely vegan before 6pm isn’t quite within my personal idea of things that are possible (you can have the milk in my coffee when you pry it from my cold, dead hands, which will invariably come back from the grave and haunt the shit out of you), but he makes a lot of sense in terms of the value of eating in a way that will eventually be the most realistic model for a world where animal products are prohibitively expensive and damaging to the environment. At least with the scale at which we’re consuming them now.

ANYWAY, I’m not about to become a vegan, a vegetarian, or even an anything-definite-before-6pm-an, but I am taking steps to buy and eat less meat and seek out other options when they’re available and taste good. I do realize this isn’t for everyone and many of us who were raised on eating meat with most meals would find this unsatisfying at first, so, you know, there’s a reason I’m making the eggplant and white bean meatballs while Graham is out of town.

This means making the most out of the stuff I have when I have it. We’re currently in high summer in the Pacific Northwest, which means that while the rest of the country is gearing down after the most bountiful harvests of the year, we’re still neck deep in tomatoes, green beans, corn, and big, leafy greens. When you think about it, even bumper crops of this stuff are kind of flash-in-the-pan. You can grow apples and potatoes all year long; not so for most summer produce. So even though I’ll be pretty sick of red chard come mid-September, right now, I’m making sure that I honor this stuff in the best way that I can. I’m careful about how I store it, prep it, cook it, and eat everything, including the leftovers. When you think about the food industry in general, meaning the enormous corporations that process and market the hell out of all that stuff in the middle of the supermarket, it’s a marvel that we’re still growing food at all. People are still planting, raising, pulling stuff out of the ground. And for the people who are doing this with heirloom seeds, without chemicals, and in ways appropriate to their regions and climates, it just feels like a remarkable thing to be able to hold a clutch of enormous walla walla sweet onions in one hand and a tangle of sweet pea vines in another and commit yourself to doing right by this food and the people who grew it.

I not only owe it to these people, but I owe it to myself to choose this kind of food. Instead of, you know, forgetting about my period and buying a bag of buffalo chicken pizza rolls because for some reason my brain is telling me it needs them to survive (I did this recently, and while I don’t necessarily regret it, I’m not exactly proud, either).

So I’ll roast down the tomatoes until they’re dark, jelly-like jewels, and I’ll store them in olive oil until I puree them for a sauce. I’ll prep and freeze the peppers in advance so I can be sure to use them up before they shrivel. I’ll keep at the blueberry-peach-nectarine cobbler for breakfast and for dessert because hey, did you know that if you’re (ahem) lazy and don’t peel the peaches or nectarines, some of the skins come off the slices and become, like, fruit noodles that you can slurp? So good. I will finally figure out artichokes, because I’ll be damned if I let those weirdo dinosaur things go to waste again.

I will gorge myself on everything I can, everything within reason, and I will be as least lazy as possible while doing it.

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