Food for the Transition

Deconstructed Kashk-e Bademjan

mezze

On a Saturday afternoon just a few weeks ago, I left the gym and retreated to one of many neighborhood parks to sit on a bench under the sun with a good book. We have a lot of these little parks in my town. They’re just fenced-in grassy islands in the middle of residential streets. It was a hot, subliminally sunny day. I was already warm and dewy from my workout, but the light, and the knowledge that I had little time left with it, beckoned me to sit and absorb even more heat, for strength and nourishment. Once I did, I wanted to sit and sweat forever.

When I walked into the park, a radio played lackluster late 90s/early 2000s pop/rock songs from bands like 3 Doors Down, but the music was drowned out by laughter. There were folks in a small gathering with food on a table cloth–cloaked card table and beer and balloons.

“I say I’m turning 30 and people lift their eyebrows and sheepishly turn away—as if I’m just repulsively old,” a girl says.

“But see, you know, when you’re 40 now you’re 30 and so on; science keeps us younger now,” a woman in her 50s replies.

“I’m not so sure. If that’s true I should look 20. I do not look 20.”

We all fear transition, I thought

Continue reading

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

Green

Roasted Kale, Four Ways

crispy chicken skin
It should be around this time that I begin to crave green. The holidays are over. We’ve experienced more than one substantial snow event. I haven’t eaten a green bean in three months, an asparagus spear in seven. Unfortunately, though, this wanting began some time earlier. I’ve been itching for a fix of green that’s not broccoli, cabbage, or Brussels sprouts—because whose stomach can really handle mass quantities of those, as delicious as they may be? Certainly not my little fire pit. I want green that’s not greens—I’m not looking for leaves. I want fresh and delicate produce when I feel neither fresh nor delicate. I want quick-cooking when I’m slow. I want summer in winter. And, as in most aspects of my life, I want something I can’t have.

But I’m getting along with my beloved roots. Rugged and long-lasting, they’re versatile and their colors match those of the hidden sun, the long-lost rainbows. They’re earthy-tasting reminders of the ground from which they came that is typically covered this time of year by all that is winter. As for that green I crave, I’m getting most of it from, well, a green: kale. But kale is different to me than chard or spinach. Kale feels more substantial, its flavor hinting of broccoli. It’s the curly and hardy never-let-you down, always-make-you-feel-good vegetable that people couldn’t stand several years ago but suddenly can’t seem to eat enough of.

Continue reading

Abundance

Potato Salad with Pea-Yogurt Dressing

Potato Salad yogurt
I’ve been more inspired than ever by the farmers’ market this year. I’m not sure why. My meals have been easy but beautiful in how fresh they are. But last week I saw a shift at the market—a sudden one. It was ten times fuller, more vibrant than it had been just a week before. There was now an American flag of berry varieties, corn (!), potatoes, multi-colored carrots, cherry and grape tomatoes. I am missing the asparagus and strawberries of early summer, but my mood brightened as I made my rounds, trying not to buy everything. (As I walked, I recited a staccato chant, “one person, one stomach, shared refrigerator.”)

But despite those spring/early summer goods being gone, there were still so many peas. Peas. Have we not had our fill? Since the farmers’ markets started for the season, every farm, every vendor has had what seems like a bottomless basket of English Shelling Peas. I love them, sure. They’re sweet and crunchy and green, and I love the way they pop in between my teeth. But their supply seems never-ending. I had always thought their season was relatively short. I thought they couldn’t survive the heat. But hordes swarm them week after week, picking, eating, bagging, buying, and there are still so many once I reach the market at my late hour.

I’ve been thinking hard about something lately. These thoughts weren’t initially spurred by peas, of course. My dad’s friend and co-worker, let’s just call him [J] for the sake of anonymity, passed away last week. He started suffering a year or so ago from an advance stage of cancer. Boom. Out of no where. I’d be lying to you if I said I knew this man. I met him once. Tall, skinny as heck, long-haired, and a bit country. That’s all I remember about him. But what I do know is that he trained my dad at his company (my dad has been with the company for around 25 years) and my dad eventually became one of his bosses and managers. My dad said he was brilliant; he may have even used the term “genius,” I don’t know. But I do know that he was someone who touched my dad’s life profoundly.

Continue reading

Transition

gingered carrots and fennel with orange yogurt sauce

Fennel Fronds
I feel no need to bring in spring with fanfare this year. For me, spring is nothing more than a necessary but damp and awkward passageway of sore throats, watery eyes, and frizzled locks to what I’m waiting for: the real sun and the real heat of summer.

But I will admit that the strain of plucking a single flower, even a bunch, from the roots is far lighter than that of shoveling heavy, damp, packed snow; trekking through untamed city streets; and drying off cold, wet feet. It beats the clenching of knuckles and fists on the steering wheel, as they fight against sheer ice, and thick ice, and black ice, and wipeout-inducing ice. The warm scent of rain wins over that of the stagnant air inside the house. And the excited chirps of birdies back from vacation outweigh the grating sounds of the early morning plow trucks, signaling that is was not a good night.

Continue reading

A Feast of Plenty

saffron cauliflower, chard omelettes, & fried lima beans


I am in awe, folks. Complete awe. I came here with a story in mind – something I’ve wanted to share in this space for a while. I pictured words streaming from my fingertips as I reminisced about an enjoyed meal, a Persian New Year feast. But I can’t do it. Not today. That meal deserves to be the only thing that is shared today.

I said I would report back on the food I ate on the thirteenth day of Nowruz, the Persian New Year. I promised it would be delicious, as I’ve made some of the dishes before. I didn’t, however, think it would be enough to leave me, quite literally, speechless. Long story short, Persian families traditionally celebrate and picnic on that day to squelch all evil that is associated with the number thirteen. Since there would not be any literal picnicking going on, I thought I would serve some mezze plates that used Persian flavors with some fluffy and buttery basmati rice and the requisite Shirazi salad.

Continue reading