Archive for December, 2009

Brussels Sprouts

First and foremost, I’m going to admit to my own ignorance. For the majority of my life – and in saying this I mean 28 of my 29 years – I believed the mini-cabbage vegetable I so loved to be called a “brussel sprout.” Little did I know, until about six weeks ago when I was attempting to track my dinner in my Weight Watchers online journal, that they are, instead, affectionately named “brussels sprouts.”

 I am also remiss to tell you that I thought they grew in tiny pods on the ground. I’ve never in my life been privy to seeing a bunch of brussels growing in the wild, and I had no idea that they actually more closely resemble wild cabbage palm trees than the individual leafy lumps my mother grows in her garden from time to time. Really, I never expected a ‘stalk’ of any kind to be involved, and I absolutely never expected to find out they really look the way they do. In some ways, it’s like finding out that your favorite television star is really twenty pounds overweight and sports a unibrow. Look at them! Aren’t they both beautiful and terrifying? Part of me wants to run up and hug them, and the other parts want to run away screaming. Brussels sprouts have truly taken root in my psyche as the freakiest of freaky-looking vegetables…with a heart of gold.

I love brussels sprouts. So it’s no surprise that their slightly off-kilter appearance endears them to me even more. I might have actually squee’d a bit when I saw my first bunch of fresh brussels in Trader Joes right before Thanksgiving. And when I say squee, I mean that I actually let loose with a tiny – or not so tiny – “squee” of excitement that may have sounded like a gerbil being stepped on. No, it did not frighten my fellow shoppers, but it certainly brought Shan up short as he walked slightly behind me eyeballing the wall of coffee to our right. A squee of epic proportions it was. A squee of delight. It was a squee that carried us all the way home where I took a picture of my first bunch of fresh brussels.

It’s kind of like taking a picture of your firstborn, I would assume. When I have my firstborn, I’ll let you know if the experience was similar and/or more or less emotional.

To me, the brussels sprout is not only a tasty side dish. It is also a magnificent feat of nature. For so ugly a plant to produce so lovely a flavor is a miracle to me. So while I may mock its less-than-lovely appearance, I’m going to do my darnedest to praise what it does well. And what it does well is fill my empty stomach and make a bangin’ accompaniment to a oven-baked pork chop. Thank you, brussels.


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A Tale of Two Passions

I started out in the post-high school world of life as a journalism student at one of the most prestigious journalism schools in the country. I excelled, I learned, I graduated. And upon graduation I did something I never thought I would do. I took a long, hard look in the mirror and realized that I don’t have the balls to be a journalist. At least, not a newspaper journalist. Even with my emphasis in magazine writing, I knew, just knew, how difficult it was going to be to find anything useful in helping myself carve out living outside a cardboard box. Regardless of all the months I’d spent toiling away in journalism school, I never actually tried to find an internship or immerse myself in what it meant to work in the world of writing, and I had to realize that the lack of passion, the lack of forward momentum, could mean only one thing. I didn’t really want to be a journalist.

To be honest, I think I knew that a long, long time before I ever stepped foot in the so-called real world. I knew it the first time I ever had to call the family of a deceased person and ask how they felt about the verdict that was handed down on a bleary-eyed, foggy Monday morning. I understood this reality the second I saw all the wonderful quotes I’d worked out of a subject reduced from 12 inches to two. I knew quite a while before graduation that I didn’t want to hack out a living as a writer in the news journalism world, cutthroat and fast as it was. Perhaps that’s why I added a major in anthropology mid-sophomore year. Yet another potentially useless degree to match the writing credentials I would never use, but fun nonetheless. It was no surprise – to me, at least – that I immediately shunned my journalism teachings the moment I touched my diploma and made the two-hour trip home with my parents. While the rest of the people around me were scratching their heads in wonder at my decision, I had already taken the next step and begun applying to graduate schools.

Here I am six years later. I’m a full-time higher education professional who loves her job, but isn’t in love with her job. Who longs to write something, anything, but fails to do so often enough. A woman who spends her vacation baking and testing new recipes instead of lounging in her pajamas all day. Though I do sometimes cook in my robe. It has pockets! Perfect for stashing a jar of sea salt or holding a slotted spoon at a moments notice!

In the intense periods of self-analyzing that I’ve allowed myself during my most recent vacation, I have discovered that I harbor two passions – a passion to write and a passion to cook.

The former is something I try to do, knowing full well that I am both competent and creative enough to fulfill the task. The fact that I fail has more to do with the artful way in which I overbook almost every day of my life than because of some fear that I cannot accomplish the goal I’ve set out for myself. I don’t make time for writing because it disappointed me before. Or, rather, I disappointed myself. I let making the grade become more important than making myself happy. I let academia reach into my heart of hearts, the place where my writing voice lived, and suck it into the black pit of despair that is conventional journalistic prose. I let journalism school take my voice rather than allowing it to shape and guide the growth and improvement of my voice.

The latter, the passion for cooking, is about as all-consuming as one can be. I’m a bit of a food junkie, at least as far as I can afford to be on my meager salary. For instance, I pour over cookbooks hoping to find a way to make the perfect frittata and daydream about sharing ten minutes with Ina Garten or the Pioneer Woman. Or maybe both. I cried while watching Julie & Julia, and I’m currently desperately seeking printer paper so I can print out my 50% off coupon to buy Julie Powell’s Cleaving. I spent $65 on a Saturday afternoon on two cookbooks, and I didn’t bat an eyelash at the checkout counter. Plus, I am planning a girls night dinner party one week from Friday which will be themed “Butter for Dinner.” This is what I do with my extra time and my extra money, and I am not ashamed.

As I sit here in my red fuzzy robe and type this I am asking myself one question, “What do I want to do with my life?” Perhaps it’s partly because we’re sashaying ourselves into a New Year, or because my 30th birthday rapidly approaching, but I really do want to know what it is that I want to do when I grow up. You’d think by now, at almost-30, I’d know. I’m going to let you in on a little secret, though. I don’t. Really and truly, I don’t. I just know that I need to figure that out before it gets to be too late. Julia Child may have started her career at 40+, but I’m not so sure it would work as well for me.

With all this being said, you may be asking yourself, “What are you trying to say?” And my response is going to be even simpler yet. What I’m trying to say is that I’m trying to figure it out. I’m trying to figure out how to combine these two wonderful passions, writing and cooking, into one realistic goal for myself. I’m trying to figure out how to get myself on track to where I want to be rather than cooling my jets by day and fantasizing about the ultimate dream by night. I want to stop resting on my laurels and start doing something again. This blog is a part of me trying. I’m going to use it, dammit, and I’m going to use it well. Whether or not anyone is reading, so be it.

One other step in the right direction is my research into culinary classes at a local community college. Yes, you read that right. The woman who swears she doesn’t have time to breathe, let alone write, is going to look into going back to school part-time. Call me crazy – I’ve already done so to myself a few times – but I believe it necessary to find out where my heart truly lies in regards to a career. What better year than this year? My 30th year? The year where I say good-bye to my third decade and hello to the next five?

It’s as good a time as any. Or so I think.

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Charles Schulz, Genius

It always makes me smile when I stumble upon a quote that resonates with me for no particular reason other than its simple nature and utter truth. Take, for instance, this gem:

“Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter quite like unrequited love.” –Charlie Brown, Peanuts

I think I love it.

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Welcome Home

Here it is. The blog I’ve contemplated creating for well over two years now. I have to say that I might be somewhat overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time and for very, very different reasons. Most of all, I’m just plain eager.

I’ve had a blog for a long time now. It’s a place where I store my “word vomit” about life. I’m quite proud of it for the most part as it catalogues the ups and downs of my life for the past four years. Still, it’s hard to incorporate both random musings on life and your obsessions with cooking without appearing to have a split personality. On one hand, I’m a writer who enjoys spilling forth an abundance of possibly useless verbage for others to read and interpret as they will. On the other, I’m a food addict. I love to cook. I love to eat. I love to experiment and share my success (and, yes, sometimes failure) in the kitchen. So, how does one combine those two things in one place? It’s a difficult task, and one that may not be entirely possible in the seamless manner I’d come to hope would exist. I have to face facts, a post about the pop phenomenon of “Twilight” doesn’t exactly go hand in hand with pictures of apple waffles. I wish it did, but it doesn’t.

So now we have this blog, and I’ll admit I have high expectations for its existence. I want to grow it to be all the things I think it can be. It’s going to be my place to share recipes I’ve created, recipes I’ve found, and recipes I’ve borrowed. It’ll be home to my rants and loving homages to calories. It’s going to be the place I lay down the load of weight loss on a fairly regular basis so that I can find the balance I think I’m still lacking 100 pounds (and counting) later. For all intents and purposes, this will be where I chronicle the food-related and food-loving side of my life.

Have I mentioned yet how excited I am about this? I am quite excited. Almost giddy, really.

Consider this the official welcome – to you if you’re reading and to me for finding my place here. Let’s hope it’s a mostly interesting, sometimes educational, and always tasty adventure.

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