I’ve written a thousand words to explain why–aside from a holiday gift guide–I haven’t shown up here for a year. I try to describe what the past two years have been; I rearrange the words and delete them. I wanted to have clean answers for you. I wanted to write: this is what happened; this is how I resolved it, full stop. I can’t, though. I’m still in the trenches of it. I’ve only reached the point where I feel a tug to make things again. It’s thin.
I got sick. I got the kind of sick that’s nebulous. The kind where you say, “I’m sleeping twenty hours a day, and I’ve gained forty pounds in six months,” and the doctor sends you to a dietician. Twice. The kind where every test reveals more irregularities. Finally you are prescribed medication by an endocrinologist, and it makes a small dent. And so you dive deep into Eastern remedies, but they mostly don’t work either. You spend a mess of time and money and time and money throwing your hopes and tenacity into the next thing and the next thing. You keep trudging. People have opinions about how you are not trying correctly, and you want to throw something against a wall. You relinquish gluten and dairy and sugar and alcohol. Your elbows are less dry than before, but otherwise you lose not one ounce. It feels like a weight has taken residence on your chest. You think, “am I going crazy?” In the new year, you summon the energy to begin cardio dance classes taught by amazonian former rockettes. By accident, you realize that it’s possible to move the needle by degrees, but only if you relax. And so you practice not being the type A freak you are, even though every moment is very difficult. You keep practicing. Nothing is resolved how you’d like it to be and the days are long and the years are short.
It starts to feel better to create things again than the fear and exhaustion and disingenuousness that prevented you from doing so the year before. You are reminded by a friend that hiding from writing won’t make reality untrue. You remember Flannery O’Connor who said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” And Joan Didion who mirrored, “I don’t know what I think until I write it down.” Writing about this thing though feels insurmountable, and so you start small, in the second person, with a recipe containing essentially three ingredients.
Maybe you are not meant to mention such things on a food blog? I don’t know. I’ve never been a particularly successful food blogger. I don’t know who will read these words. I do know I’ve felt enormously alone these past two years. I know invisible things have wreaked havoc on my mind and body, and that my feelings surrounding that fact have gone largely unanswered.
In a post about frilly ice cream floats, I’m sharing a sliver of the story, a little for me, and a little for you; if you need it. I’m trying to figure my way out of the woods. If you are too: I believe you. You are not alone.
Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and crotchety–
best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light–
good morning, good morning, good morning.
Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.
For those who don’t know–I didn’t until very recently–a cremolada is Peruvian; a sort of slush puppy made with tropical fruit, water, and sugar. The basic formula is: blend juice, sugar, and water; freeze the mixture in ice cube trays; when frozen, blend again. This is my twist on the classic. The tequila is optional, but recommended.
You can double or triple this recipe, as long as you have the ice cube trays to support it. This way, you can make individual drinks as desired, or continue to blend batches fresh throughout a party. Makes 5 cups. Serves 4. Read more »
The Frenchman’s been away since the hem of Monday morning. Almost a week alone has meant the submission of all leisure time to the alter of A Little Life, which I listen to on my commute in the morning, and again in snatches throughout the day when I should be working, and then all evening and night until I finally fall asleep way past my bedtime. It’s one of those books that takes over.
Presently we’re in a strange limbo: half our current–soon to be “old”–apartment is packed up. We’re selling off our furniture piecemeal. The new place has brand new shelves and wallpaper, but no bed. We leave for our honeymoon (in New Zealand!) on December 18th, so–somehow–we’ll find a way to wrap up our work projects, and haul our lives across the river before then. Right? Is there an alternative? I have a premonition I won’t take a deep breath until I’m on that plane.
And now something happy to listen to in the background while you brew this punch: I’ve long been a fan of the podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour. In a recent episode, Linda Holmes interviews Trevor Noah. I enjoyed the interview a lot; it’s thoughtful, funny, and smart.
“Repotting a plant gives it space to grow. Repotting ourselves means taking leave of our everyday environments and walking into unfamiliar territory—of the heart, of the mind and of the spirit. It isn’t easy. The older we get, the more likely we are to have remained in the same place for some time. We stay because it’s secure. We know the boundaries and, inside of them, we feel safe. Our roots cling to the walls we have long known. But remaining inside can keep us from thriving. Indeed, without new experiences or ideas, we slowly grow more and more tightly bound, eventually turning into less vibrant versions of who we might have been.
Repotting means accepting that the way is forward, not back. It means realizing that we won’t again fit into our old shells. But that’s not failure. That’s living.”
In other news, I’m preparing for a few weeks of travel, first to Alaska (!) and then to France, where I will marry the Frenchman for the second time. I’m hugely looking forward to both trips, and will post about each in time.
Lately, on my hour-long commutes to work, I’ve been gobbling up books on tape. In the past few weeks, I’ve hungrily run through The Poisonwood Bible, Magonia, and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. I’m quickly reaching the end of The Handmaid’s Tale, narrated beautifully by Claire Danes, and I’m heartbroken about it. Do you have recommendations for what I should listen to next?
When the weather dips below freezing and the sun sets in the afternoon, I make hot chocolate. It seems only fair. A warm mugful of rich, dark dessert fortifies against such conditions. My version is a compromise between the chocolate I used to dip churros into at three in the morning when I lived in Madrid–that is to say, a melted chocolate bar–and the insipid powder I knew growing up. (True fact: there is such a thing as diet powdered hot chocolate. I do not recommend it.)
It was the Frenchman who first introduced me to proper hot chocolate, made with milk and bar chocolate. Before I met him, I had no notion that hot chocolate could be anything more than the disappointing combination of sugary chocolate powder + water. But one icy weekend afternoon, when were were still living in Paris and the sun failed by four o’clock, he walked into the kitchen and clanked a pot onto the range. “I am going to make some hot chocolate,” he said. “Would you like a cup?” Read more »
Disclosure: at the moment I am sick and chilly, and a hot beverage described as “the best thing [Harry] ever tasted, [a drink that] seemed to heat every bit of him from the inside” sounds pretty appealing.
Buttered Beer is actually a real drink dating back to Tudor England involving ale, butter, egg yolks, and various heady aromatics like aniseed, licorice root, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and what have you. Butterbeer, however, is a fictional tipple summoned from the clever mind of J.K. Rowling. Read more »
Since the holidays are fast approaching, I wanted to fashion a weather-appropriate drink with enough versatility to please a crowd. I think I’ve succeeded. (At any rate, I think it’s pretty delicious.)
The result of blending pears with nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla is a warming, satisfying cocktail that takes a hint of freshness from Meyer lemons. As a bonus, whipping up the syrup will make your house smell insanely great.
The pear-vanilla syrup recipe yields about 1/2 cup. If you don’t use it all for cocktails (or mocktails for the kids), warm it and pour it over: yogurt, ice cream, fruit, hot cereal. Stir it into tea, or a hot toddy. It can be brushed onto cake or pastry as a glaze. Read more »