Solo Sojourn

Scallop Ceviche with ALL the Veg

Vegetable Ceviche
Seven months ago, I lived in a town of white. I left my white house, shoveled white off my stairs so I could get down them, and navigated treacherous white streets, surrounded by tall white walls. Within those white walls, I felt about 3 inches tall, and the weight of that winter was heavier than a 3-inch-tall person could carry; I couldn’t breathe. I was cold and I was tired and I was sick, always sick. The only green in this world of white was knowing that I wasn’t alone. I had 650,000 people with whom I could commiserate. But that small patch of green wasn’t enough to nourish me and on a cold February day, as I cursed at my immune system, I craved warmth so badly that I did something pretty out of character: I booked a trip. Just like that. The trip was for April, when it would still be frigid and when the white would still be present.

It would be my first vacation in years. I had kept a list of places I would go. My top 5 international locations: 1. Peru/Chile 2. Istanbul/Greek Islands, 3. Morocco, 4. Back to France, 5. Mexico. Plus, there’s still a lot of this expansive country I want to see.

But I did not go anywhere on my list. I did not go anywhere I ever intended to go. I needed to go where the heat was inescapable, where the white wasn’t cold, and, most importantly, where I could do absolutely nothing. I went to Turks and Caicos, alone, with my books, music, and podcasts. And, for three short days, I did what I desired: nothing.

Continue reading

A Grand Disguise

zucchini ribbons with lemon, butter, and basil

I’ve been riding the commuter rail to work for almost a year and a half. When I talk about it, I know I’m complaining. I hate to whine, I’m afraid to whine. In a nutshell, I wake up earlier than most and make it via commuter rail and subway to work in a very roundabout way. What gets lost is the bright side of my morning commute. It’s easier to be negative. But everyday on that train is an intimate lesson in sociology that I appreciate. I’ve memorized the faces, the expressions, the voices of those I see everyday from stop, to ride, to dash. We ride together. We speak, we don’t speak. It’s a grand disguise; in that 1 ½ hour leg of our daily journey, we are nameless, jobless, lifeless, hobby-less. No one wants to be defined here. Instead, we have a special connection that eschews who we really are. We are only commuters. Age, sex, race, orientation melt away. We’re stripped bare. We are only our first impressions. And there’s something very special about that.

Continue reading

Take Me Away

pineapple sorbet & rum-coconut friands

I’m not at all well-traveled. Sometimes I foolishly think that I am; my love of food and my cookbooks have been my passports, my tour guides. Although the physical journeys have been few, through self-teaching and reading, I’ve traveled the globe. I’m a curious cook and an adventurous eater (within reason). It may take years to learn Arabic or months to fully understand, to easily breath in and exhale, the cultural mores of a foreign region, but one bite of something new can bring you cheek to cheek with a nameless stranger on another continent. In that bite, you can learn practical things — what crops are fertile, what flavors most popular — but you can also dig a bit deeper, feeling the pulse of the region and what moves its people. Take North African couscous. Not just the mini pearls of semolina, but the dish itself. Large trays of sandy stewed and jewel-like ingredients. It’s a symbol of family, community, patience, care.

The farthest I’ve traveled physically was to France on a ten-day trip with my French class way back in high school. I appreciated it, but I know I didn’t take from it what I would if I were to go today. I was just too young. I can’t help but think it was a wasted opportunity. I couldn’t possibly see the world at that age in focus when I wasn’t even grounded in my own.

Continue reading