Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Fall Haul

Almost 37 years in this body and I have studied its waves and ebbs and little earthquakes. I go from intense bliss to extreme pain in a matter of days. I have yelled and cursed my organs and then whispered kind words to soothe them back to good spirits. This might make some of you uncomfortable. But I tell you, to breathe through pain and try to understand the root has much more leeway than popping pain killers and trudging through a miserable day and constantly feeling lost in your ails.

There are many schools of thought to wellness, to taking care of ones body. I read and study a lot of texts. I am maybe too quick to dismiss the wonders of Western medicine. It’s just that my experience with doctors and surgeons and waiting rooms and insurance and pills have discouraged and frustrated me to where I finally took action and put my health in my own hands. Mind you, if I ever, knock on wood, broke a bone or cut a large gash in my tender flesh, I sure would rather a doctor sew it up than pour tea tree oil and a mumble a few prayers over it. But in terms of the current weather conditions in my present state of health, I am going to use my intuition, past experiences and a little knowledge gleaned from health practitioners and some great books to try to amp things up to new levels of health and happiness.

So in short, I am going to embark on a cleaning out, a detox, a fall haul. And usually you should keep these things to yourself, but I need to be accountable. I need to publicly track this or I won’t go through with it. I am someone who needs to embark on this slowly but surely. And perhaps you’ll find humor or just pity in my wavering, or how I can justify beer on my cleanse because it is a local organic microbrew made by monks.

This first week I am just getting comfortable with the idea, and also trying to accrue money for a juicer in light of losing my main income (the perfect time to start a detox might be when your future looks uncertain). I have been getting off the coffee although here is evidence of much needed boost to write this damn paragraph.

The last few days, I have been eating a slew of herbs and dark leafy greens. Last night: brown rice pasta with garlic, dandelion greens and kale with a touch of anchovy oil and lemon. It was actually delicious, and I think my beau thought so too, even though he is biased.

What did I have after that? A date shake made with superfood vegan ice cream from Kind Crème. I will admit this is not the healthiest of choices. Sugar is sugar, though it’s not refined and that ice cream is loaded with raw cacao, Maca, goji berries and spirulina. See how I buy into the hype? Well, its fucking delicious, and I slept better than I have in days.

This weeks goals: smaller portions, a mostly veggie diet, and slow omittance of the heavy things like booze, cows dairy, meat, wheat, and yes, coffee. Right now mate and green tea are welcome.

Why am I doing this? Cause I feel slower, congested, sore. Cause I feel like things are not assimilating as well as they could. Cause I get a chance every month to see how my body is really working and feeling and if it feels like this now, I cannot imagine the discomfort in ten years. Well, I can. And its frightening.

My folks used to do a juice fast twice a year while I grew up. My mom is still doing cleanses at 63 and let me tell you, she does not look 63. I have put much more havoc on my bod than she did in her 20’s and 30’s. And I love food. I love cheese and wine and the occasional steak and Triscuits and burritos and god, I love coffee, and cheesecake and sausages and Grappa and tequila and bread and butter and a piece of bacon and a slice of pizza. You get it. And I think I could still occasionally dip into those food adventures with joy and love which is how you should eat anyway. But for now, I need to cleanse the palette, clear some space, find some quiet and meditation in my eating and cooking habits.

Now I'm hungry. Barley veggie soup with chick peas for lunch.
Off to cook. Wish me luck.

Monday, May 9, 2011


There is not just one thing that won me over. It keeps happening, a sequence of moments and expressions and facts about the man by my side. The lack of resistance is a big one. A willingness to be open and let the day take us. He is warm and incredibly kind but does not dole out compliments like confetti. Each bask of praise and appreciation is given with weight and time and a holiness. I think I have been sighing for the last few months.

I will say, with perhaps his admittance, he is not an incredibly accomplished cook. Maybe he is only allowed the multitude of artistic and intrinsic geniuses he currently carries. I need to bring something to this union. So he watches with gratitude and appeal, as I move about his kitchen and concoct a late night Sunday meal.

Something has been telling me red sauce lately. And even though the most gorgeous ripe sweet tomatoes are now revealing themselves and will last till November (hopefully), I want to make an old style canned sauce. I want to know I’m able. I want to celebrate our joint Italian heritage, and his black haired gorgeous Italian mother on this Mother’s day, the one that taught him the smile he gives me that cracks open my chest. She has the same eyes as his, only his are a devastating blue. And I don’t say this cause I am in love. They are truly the bluest of blue. They let me swim in his face for extended periods of time, but usually I need something to hold on to or lean against if I do it for too long.

So we shop for ingredients. We make do with a few small saucepans and no oregano. With eagerness and appreciation, anything can be accomplished. I like learning this over and over again.

Garlic, a carrot, and a badly chopped onion are sautéed in oil (I chopped the onion, not him). Impatience and hunger have me pouring in two cans of crushed San Marzano’s before I add the tomato paste. I suggest you add the paste first, letting the base become dense with flavor, then adding your dried herbs. You will never get this step back, so savor it, make it rich and potent. I add too much wine. Which you can’t really, but that just means a little less for us.

Cook. Cook. Cook all day if you can. Or cook for 20 minutes like we did. The magnificent sous chef is asking questions, he is juggling pots and finding a can opener and telling me how he likes bitter vegetables. Oh, lord.

He blanches asparagus for a couple minutes; I fry up garlic and a shallot. We toss the asparagus in, salt and add lemon. I swoon over his ancient cast iron pan; he swoons over the burnt garlic.

How two folks dance together can say a lot about their chemistry. But I find the truth can lie in the dance of preparing a meal, or fixing a broken appliance, or sitting in contented silence. I think when it comes to food I can be a control freak. I like the willingness to become softer, to let things be imperfect. I take the pasta out a few minutes under its done-ness. We cook it the rest of the way in the sauce. Large rigatoni’s topped with parmesan. Another thing I’m not sure you can have too much of.

The pasta is good. It could be better, but it settles something inside. The ultimate comfort food is found for me in homemade pasta and red wine. Another man’s steak and mashed potatoes. It feels like home to me, no matter where I am. And when you are swimming in blue eyed bliss, floating in a long awaited deep warm love, it is nice to keep your feet on the ground and your belly full.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Seeking Placemats

I just bought my first dining room table.

I have my first dining room, so it seems appropriate. Not appropriate but necessary. Decadent. Like a landmark in my rattled wonky wonderful life. I was keeping an eye open for a table before I even moved into the new place. A standard selection to be found in thrift stores and craigslist: Ikea particle board tables, horrendous ornate wrought iron with ugly upholstered chairs, shellacked black wood lacquer with metal straight back chairs and leather seats. That is not appropriate. Not with the way I like to dine.

I then gave myself permission to buy something beautiful, something unique. Something older but sturdy. Practical but with character. A table where I could eat breakfast by myself in the easterly light of the window with a newspaper and a French press filled with coffee, or a late supper for two where utensils are optional. I imagine my friends sitting there, imbibing and being competitive over games and filling each other in on the weeks events. I wanted it to fit 8 but I am settling for 6. That might work out because I don’t even think I own 8 plates.

My parents had the same dining room table my entire life. It definitely seated 8 though I think they managed to always make room for more. It was a thick heavy slab of glass sitting a top an iron grate. It was gorgeous but intense. What I remember most about it was what a pain it was to clean. Whoever was clearing the table that night would have to grab the Windex and wipe away all the food and fingerprint smudges of that meal, all the intensity and problems and solutions that would arise during our dinners. We often left that table with our concerns and issues in mid air. Our bellies full but a heaviness looming.

That table got sold along with all the other furniture I grew up around.
My parents took great care to handpick all the furniture we lived with for twenty plus years. Mostly antiques, but livable warm earthy antiques that traveled with us from house to house all over the west side of Los Angeles. When they up and moved to another country 8 years ago they sold the majority of their belongings. I was living in Europe with no home or storage unit of my own. So any inheritance of these pieces, the welsh dresser from the 1800’s, the massive wooden couch I spent most of life lying on, the wooden kitchen table that was stained with berries and orange juice and pencil marks from homework, that mammoth glass dinner table which hosted endless dinner parties and my parents phenomenal cooking, none of it remains.

So instead of buying a cheap white formica table to fill the empty space in my new dining room, I went with a vintage handmade wooden table that seats 6. I am guessing it’s from the 40’s but what do I know? It could very well have been made in 1973. It has an extra leaf tucked away to extend and make room for the expected and unexpected. It’s base is rounded and curved like an art deco piece. It is heavy but hopefully not too heavy to carry up the stairs to my new cottage.

I have been eating on the floor for the last 5 years. Eating on my bed or a bolster or on the stoop of my old place. And I am hoping it fits easily through the narrow door and lives happily against the wall and the window of my bright dining room. I think my cat might love resting on its dark wood, although I promise to always wipe it off before you come over to eat.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


I’m looking forward.


It makes me blush at how gorgeous and sensual it all is. I shoved my face in a mess of jasmine on a walk this morning. Pink and heady. Intoxicating and almost illegal.

I’m looking forward to more cherry blossoms and jacaranda trees and all their purple robust flowers staining the sidewalks. I’m looking forward to the bright raw green of all the early shoots and stems and beans and peas making their way into markets and on to menus. Asparagus, skinny and sweet, fava beans being pushed from their furry shells with my thumbs. Green garlic and obscenely fragrant bouquets of mint. Tiny carrots, pea greens and the perfect paper skins of spring onions.

Fertile. Fresh. New. Terrifying. Because it is being delivered to my feet, to my hands, to my plate. All this newness, this possibility.

Today was too warm, but just right. It was a new year but felt like old times.

What do you want from this spring? Can you feel it rushing towards you? Are you ready to leave behind everything that doesn’t serve you?

I’m ready to get crushed into something phenomenal.

Friday, March 4, 2011

"...like most humans, I am hungry. But there is more than that. It seems to me that our three basic needs for food and security and love are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger I am really writing about love and the hunger for it and the warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it...and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied...and it is all one. "

-M.F.K. Fisher

Thursday, February 24, 2011

You Give Good Sunday

I’ve been working hard. Working for the weekend, which is also filled with work.
When I lived in Germany, the majority of stores and restaurants would close on Sundays. The streets were quiet and serene and would force us all to find respite in our families and homes, or in church if that’s where you like to go, or the local lovely bar which is where I like to go.

This Sunday I awoke after sleeping for almost twelve hours. Catching up from a week of late nights and big emotions, of disappointments and wide awakenings. I woke renewed and hopeful. I ran in the park, then I lured my friend, (who might also be my culinary soul mate) into brunch plans.

My last meal had been at 4 pm the day before. So my hunger at 10 am on Sunday was extraordinary. Healthy ravenous post-running hunger. We chose Stella, because its not too expensive for the quality, the coffee is exceptional, our waitress is adorable and there is usually never a wait.

Sherry mushrooms and poached eggs on toast. Enormous mugs of coffee. A shared salad to balance the butter intake. There might have been fries. I’ll never tell.

We meandered that day. Window-shopped, pined over shoes that rival my rent, let our fingers fondle mid-century furniture, drooled over eclectic soul compilations. I bought nothing except for a pile of books from Out of the Closet. Old plays I want to re-read and magazines I want in my possession for my lazy low attention span moments.

Window shopping is hunger inducing work. And we needed an afternoon sugar fix. So my brilliant friend suggested Proof, a new bakery in Atwater. Glass cases with potato tarts and precious cakes and lovely scones. A huge glass jar filled with breadsticks that were over a foot long. Tiny tarts with promises of pistachio.

We shared a chocolate caramel morsel and a lemon cream tart with berries. Not bad. I might return. It’s definitely not its neighbor Sweets for the Soul, but what could ever top the brownies that come from there?

More window-shopping. Vintage clothes, snotty shop owners, overpriced items. More hunger. Or more, a thirst. A late afternoon glass of vino. Our favorite hangout, Little Dom's. And Dom’s at 3:30 on a Sunday is a glorious place to be.
The light is lovely, the bar is empty, the transition from brunch to dinner is happening but you can still get rice balls and order a bottle of organic/biodymanic wine from Sicily. And maybe we should have pizza too. Yeah, good idea. Anyway, it’s Sunday. And this is our church.

I definitely use food to soothe, to decompress, to alter any heavy working load upon my shoulders and mind. But it’s not just the food. It’s the company who loves to eat as much as I. It’s the steady pace between each meal while you digest and emit the gratitude for living in such a crazy diverse city that shines bright and warm in the midst of February. We enjoyed every bite that day, I guarantee. We might have overdid it, but we might be trying to tip the scales away from the heavy weeks we lead, only to bring us back to the true pleasures of life.