Earl Grey Skies

earl grey–chocolate bundt cake

cake side view
On weekends I wake up much earlier than necessary, stumbling from my bed to the bathroom, right to the stove to start the kettle. While the world is still sleeping I stand there, waiting, and staring blankly at the kettle of which I see two in my bleary-eyed stupor. It’s warm in my room; I run a space heater, even in April, to make up for bad windows that let in cold wind. The heatless kitchen seems cold in comparison and I stand pulling and clutching at the ripped arms of my shirt. I’m constantly fixing for heat, no matter the season, and I have an easy way to satisfy this itch: boiling water. Suddenly I’m shocked out of my trance with a whistle, and I return to my warm room with my warm tea. I carefully lie down on my side a while in my warm bed, clutching and sipping and thinking my morning thoughts, reflecting on my dreams and, most recently, nightmares of the evening’s rest. And with the last tepid sip, I am warm and clear and ready.

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Breaking My Silence

When will it end?* I came home on Boston’s Marathon Monday, a day that has brought me so much joy for so many years, and looked down at my sneakers. Their soles haven’t seen enough streets. I’m awfully fast, but I lack stamina. I enjoy energetic, short-distance dashes more than long-distance races. Of course, I do it. It just isn’t my first-choice activity. I’m not one to pace myself. And the truth is, after losing all of the feeling in my right foot and ankle from complications of a medical procedure, longer-distance running is not what it used to be. It’s awkward and uncomfortable and unnatural and even a bit dangerous, as my foot can tire out and rear off in the wrong direction. What an excuse. What a terrible excuse. At least I can run. My heart is telling me that I need to change. And I need to change now.

These sneakers, which fit like a glove, have touched many tennis and basketball courts, fields of grass, structures made of rocks, and stretches of dirt. But they rarely see the road’s rough surface.

I’d be least likely to lace up those sneakers at the late hour I return home from work. But looking down at those sneakers on Monday, after a long, testing day and a rough commute, all I wanted to do, before I attempted to lay my head to rest (though I got no sleep that night) was run. Run and run until my feet gave out, until my toes violently punctured out the top of the shoes and my heels scraped the asphalt.

I see there are events planned; compassionate folks will walk or run the distance that so many could not finish. But my call to run that night was selfish. I needed to run to survive. Because the day’s events tore at my belly, knotting it so tightly I was crippled at the waist. This is what I needed to uncoil it. I am usually so strong. Not this time.

Feeling wind. Experiencing the nature that we have the privilege everyday to roam about. Clutching community, sharing the streets with our innocent animal and human neighbors. Tracing with watercolor behind closed eyes the lines between ground and horizon and sky. It was healing. It was the ultimate declaration of freedom and all of its applicable definitions.

I haven’t sent out a single tweet or facebook status addressing the tragedy. Like I’ve said before, the girl who talks too much always has little to say in these painful, uncomfortable moments. Excuse the lack of eloquence in this post. But this is my city. This is my family. This hit hard.

But without breaking my silence, I don’t think I could go on. My only option was to vomit–spew words that don’t link together. Untie the leftover belly knots.

I want to live. I want to live if only to honor those who can no longer be. I want to run for those who can no longer run. I want to feel awkward and uncomfortable and unnatural and dangerous—it’s the only way to become whole and real again.

I want to be for Boston.

*And today, our Senate failed us. So, really. When will it end?

Magic Powder

an ice cream education

bastani akbar mashti

The first day of Spring, as I mentioned, is the first day of Nowruz, the Persian New Year. Though it has come and gone along with the important thirteenth day, nothing has changed since last year. I still make it a point to go visit my moonstruck friend and master baker, Mohammad (aka Agha Tabrizi) to pick up the plumpest, juiciest dates; some sumac-spiced mixed nuts, legumes, and seeds; and the famous cookies and sweets.

Before making the annual trip, I had decided that this was the year I was going to take the word “Americanized” out of the title of my version of an Iranian ice cream called Bastani Akbar Mashti. This saffron-flavored ice cream makes up for what it lacks in French-style creaminess in its uniquely Middle Eastern texture. The ice cream is chewy. Not chewy like the densest of premium ice creams in the US, but chewy like a melting taffy. It is traditionally served between two thin wafer cookies. When you bite into the ice cream sandwich of sorts, the ice cream shows a bit of resistance, gently teasing you until it finally touches your tongue. It’s the sweetest of battles and isn’t nearly as grueling as the one between mouth and Turkish dondurma (an even chewier, stretchier ice cream that can be cut with a knife – check it out!)

The unique chew comes from an equally unique ingredient: salaab (or salep or sahlab or salepi depending on the language). Salaab is a special polysaccharide from the tubers of a species of wild orchid. Because it has thickening powers, it’s compared to cornstarch. But cornstarch it is not. It’s the steroidal version of cornstarch. And after it has thickened something, it leaves a fragrant something-something in its wake. Sweet and floral it doesn’t shout its presence and provides a sexy aroma not a starchy blandness. Without salaab—even with cornstarch as a substitute—Bastani Akbar Mashti is just saffron, pistachio, and rose ice cream, which is still very good, of course. But not as unique.

But with salaab, the stretchy treat is borderline illegal. You see, white, powdery, fragrant salaab is a hallucinogenic substance.

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