I fully planned, upon my return, to impose my trip pictures upon this site (perhaps in the "Walking is Important" section), to talk at length about the superiority of English bacon and my love of mushrooms for breakfast. But it never happened-- too busy? too painful?-- and time went on overlong, and I agonized whether to pay money to renew a domain name I never used, and I started two novels, and some children's picture books, and other things I never finished, and I agonized some more about whether blogs were dead, and meanwhile nothing continued to change.
And my longing remained for a different sort of work, work that I can take anywhere and do anywhere, work where no one calls me at 6:55 am on my day off and asks me to come wait tables for 8 hours, and I rarely come home with my arms sticky from chocolate ice cream.
And then a couple of things coincided. I thought about how many projects I started, and how quickly upon starting-- or even before starting!-- I began to second-guess their usefulness or quality, or whether anyone could possibly interested. I have a singular lack of confidence in an idea, and that is not exactly the stuff of which genius is made. I thought about that, and I thought: perhaps the next idea I have, I should vow to follow through on it for some period of time, no matter what. Even if I think it might be stupid, or boring, or outdated, or self-indulgent. Say, for one year. If I really give it a fair shot, and it doesn't go anywhere, then I can move on to another project. That still gives me time for perhaps forty more projects in my lifetime (that's if all of them suck and expire after a year).
The other thing that happened around the same time was that I suddenly started writing, and it was, as it so often is, about food. A sort of glorified food diary. With lots and lots of notes and asides and ideas for separate articles and investigations. Here is what I wrote the first day:
Started off the morning with a darkly comic episode of Kitchen Nightmares, in which the hypocrite "chef," who declared himself "self-taught by European masters," served "farm-to-table" cuisine at high prices in small-town Ohio. Much of his food was frozen, and all of it was highly pretentious, down to the bizarre crudites served as garnish (knobbly and apparently unwashed baby radishes with the stems still on?). Enjoyed this one a lot as a send-up of the local food movement (of which I am unabashedly part). Buyers-in beware.
Breakfast is leftovers: a rice-pasta dish I made on Saturday night to use up some fresh farmer's market sauce I'd bought the previous weekend, augmented with CSA box broccoli (cabbage worms removed) and-- cut up-- the last of some horrible frozen hamburger patties I got a while ago at Safeway. These had a fakey chipotle flavor and lodes of nasty cheese inside. We hated them. We still hated them chopped up in the pasta. Oh, well. They are gone now. I will not make that mistake again. In addition, some leftover pork tenderloin medallions from two nights ago. The pork was OK, not great. Went straight from raw to dry, it seemed. Is this my fault or Smithfield's?
I will say that, while loosely following the Perfect Health Diet for about 3 months (man, it felt like longer), I lost 7 lbs. and did not get sick at all. In fact, I have been in perfect health (!), and have not even had back/neck pain despite doing virtually no yoga and minimal exercise all around. On the other hand, I've been in a fairly crappy mood, and more than anything I miss cooking a wide variety of dishes. What, vegetables, rice and protein again? I want to make a layer cake and have everybody be impressed.
My new food goal, because I am so sick of the Perfect Health Diet: homemade everything. Immediately, I recognize this as impossible. Am I capable of baking my own bread? Yes. Am I likely to bake all my own bread? Certainly not. Will I make my own pasta, ketchup, yogurt, mayonnaise? Again, while any of these things are possible once in a while, I don't have time or even interest to do them regularly. However. I can do so much better. I can not EVER, EVER again buy nasty flavored frozen burger patties at Safeway. Why would I? They are expensive and disgusting. Not to mention each patty had something like 450 calories. Somehow that day I was seeking convenience, but boy was I looking in the wrong place. I can make more of an effort to avoid the Smithfield pork tenderloin. I'm not going to make my own pasta, but we could probably do with eating less pasta. And there is no reason we always have to eat it with spaghetti sauce from a jar-- I'm perfectly capable of coming up with simple pasta dishes using fresh ingredients. Jeez.
So, what to do on nights when there isn't much time to cook? 1) pay someone else to cook fresh food for me. I think that is okay. Just no frozen shit or packaged stuff-- ideally just one step between me, the consumer, and the person/entity who cooked the food from scratch. 2) Remind myself of nature's convenience foods. Fruit. Nuts. Salad. Eggs. Carrot sticks. Oatmeal. I'd welcome other suggestions: what requires minimal processing (by others and by you!) and is fast and will feed your family?
Lunch. More leftovers. Leftover white rice, with a little vegetable "stock" added for flavor. Leftover chicken breast, braised with garlic, ginger, parsley, butter, more vegetable "stock." Leftover mushrooms from Madhur Jaffrey with shit-ton of coriander seeds. The latter are intense in a not-entirely-pleasant way. Nothing like these amazing mushrooms that we had the other night, which were of the sort that made me say "Oh. My. God." when tasting out of the pan. And a weird product I bought that nobody else in my family would eat, these salt-and-vinegar lentils from Snaque. They are OK, not great, not inedible. I wouldn't seek them out. But they are here so I might as well eat them.
An aside: my cat has not been eating well the past few days, so I let her have a bit of chicken off my plate. She ate some of it! My cat does not like anything (except fresh greens?!), so this is a major accomplishment. Maybe it was the parsley.
My husband had a temporary crown put on at the dentist this morning, so we needed to have soft food for dinner. I made oatmeal from oats that have been sitting around for months (but were thankfully uninfested by moths), and some peeled and chopped local fall apples cooked in. Brown sugar and milk on the table. Scrambled eggs on the side. This dinner, which took about ten minutes to cook, was praised by my husband. He wondered aloud why we don't have it more often.
Snacks today: 4 cups of coffee (2 regular, 2 decaf) with half and half, half a dozen absolutely tasteless water crackers (what is up with these? Why do they exist?), one glass of Riesling.
Snacks at night after I wrote this: two bowls full of dry cereal (Barbara's Vanilla Almond Morning Oat Crunch), one boiled egg. WTF? No self-control at all. I ate these while I watched a not-very-memorable Kitchen Nightmare.
And then I continued to write entries like this for the next week, and I filled out one of the articles, and I felt excited for my anticipated days off from work so I could really focus on the writing and actually get some stuff posted on the blog.
Then I got called into work, two out of those three days off. And my husband got sick and stayed home. And my daughter had a total system meltdown (high school is hard!) and stayed home. And I had a fight with a co-worker I care about, which for me-- fighting with friends, or co-workers either-- is totally uncharacteristic and stressful. And my uncle was on his way to visit for a three-day weekend, so I needed to get my shit together. Clean the house, buy the food, plan the itinerary, stop crying. I quit writing and just tried to get through each of the past ten days without losing it.
Aaaaand... now we're back. Please forgive me that the dates on the diary do not match up with posting dates. We do the best we can.