It’s a hot and sunny Saturday and we’re on our way to Lynnville, a sleepy little town that you could live in Tennessee all your life without hearing of, but which today has drawn our attention because of an ad I saw somewhere for a blackberry festival. The whole trip, I’m reading to Tim from my latest library find, and right away, we’re both so into the stories about food and parenting and the world…
My brother hasn’t been in the car with us twenty minutes before I hear him say something in passing about a spring pea risotto he’s tried the week before, and before I can stop myself I’m exclaiming, “Risotto! I want to make risotto! How do you do it? Was it hard?” Then, to Tim, “Remember our carrot risotto in California?” That risotto we’d had at La Bicyclette, the highlight of our meal and maybe our…
I should start by saying this: I am grateful to be writing this post today—not just because of the lunch of rainbow root vegetables or afternoon of hours spent photographing them that it represents, but because, about a week or so ago, pacing the floors at 2 AM while alternating between holding my sides and massaging my temples, the idea of writing a food blog post—or really, cooking or caring about cooking—seemed like something I…
If you’re like me, baking inspiration can come from pretty ordinary places. You see a recipe, a friend mentions a craving, or, you know, there’s that half a bag of carrots staring at you every time you open the fridge. This particular bag of carrots had gotten quite a lot of use already—six went into the homemade chicken soup I made in my first days here, then another handful were peeled and chopped for snacks…
Last week, I spent the better part of two days holed up in my barely furnished room, watching TV on my laptop—because apparently, nothing says, Welcome to Nashville!, like a stomach bug that knocks every shred of every thing out of your body in the course of one evening—and the whole time, there was one thing I couldn’t stop thinking about: homemade chicken soup. You know what I mean when I say homemade chicken soup,…
Speaking from a history of impatience, I can tell you it helps, at least a little, if you can mentally psych yourself up for the things you have to wait for. Like, it takes time to learn things, have you noticed that? It doesn’t matter if you’re picking up a new instrument, taking driver’s ed, meeting a stranger or experimenting in the kitchen: nine times out of ten, you’re not going to get it the…
If you had met me ten years ago, I would have told you I hated roller coasters, expressways, family vacations to Wisconsin and, with passion, every kind of dog, big or small. I didn’t like the texture of tomatoes until I grew my own, just two years ago. I didn’t like hot weather. And I didn’t like several people I knew, mainly because I’d labeled them weird, or fake, or rude, or something else.
In every example named above, when my perspectives changed, so did my opinion: An October weekend with some college friends taught me strapping myself into Batman and letting it turn me upside down wouldn’t make me vomit—what’s more, it would be fun; A year spent studying in Florida, hundreds of miles from my family and friends, would cure me of my fear of expressways, if only because they were the means to the white sandy beaches; Four years away from my family made me appreciate them, and their vacations, more; we got a tiny white peekapoo, who, by the way, is at this moment sitting on my lap and my left arm, which makes typing an adventure, and named him Bailey, after my favorite movie character.
Old habits die hard, though, and that last group—the people—I’ll admit I still fight sometimes. Or, rather, the tendency to label them based on an initial impression. If I were more discerning—like my brother or my friend Becky, for example—this might be worth something, my first impressions, as theirs are seldom wrong. But mine? Almost always wrong, and almost always humbling.
I am learning, painfully slowly, to give people the benefit of the doubt and know that I don’t know their motivations or their back stories or their past. Maybe if I did, I would understand them better, you know? Like that guy on the road the other morning—that one who honked his horn for two straight minutes at the little old lady who was practically crying, on our way to a red light? Maybe if I ran into him at the post office, he’d be letting people in front of him in line. Or if I’m honest, maybe he’d be the one catching me rolling my eyes at someone or sighing loudly, like I have been known to do and regret, just obnoxiously enough so people know I’m not happy, like that is what is most important.
There are other examples of this learning, even beyond human interaction—like artichokes, celery root, carrot soups and kale, for example. Just when I am sure I don’t like something, I am proven wrong, my quick-draw character revealed. So it was with cole slaw.
I have always hated cole slaw. There’s this sort-of-unwritten rule that people always have to bring it to picnics and summer parties; at restaurants, there’s often a tiny container thrown in with sandwiches or fried chicken, which I either throw away or generously offer to anyone willing to accept. I’ve tried it, once or twice, but have written it off, uninterested, unwilling to look its way again.
Until. Enter perspective change.
It’s not like I have something against healthy food. Seriously. In fact, there are times—like at the end of last week, in which I’d shared an entire dozen doughnuts with a friend, ordered things like toasted (and breaded) ravioli and huge slices of pizza, eaten meat in my lunches and dinners, gotten takeout more often than I’d brought brown-bagged meals (and had the accompanying bloating and heaviness to prove it)—where something fresh and healthy is all I do want. I know it may not seem like it around here, where I’ve posted dozens of cookie recipes and, lately, an onslaught of cakes, but I swear it’s true.
It’s just—I’m going to be honest—I don’t like eating things that don’t taste good. Is that so terrible? And, at least up until this point in my life, the things that taste good are, usually, not exactly healthy. The way I see it, if I’m already frustrated about, say, the fact that an apartment I went to see was in a creepy, creepy building with hotel hallways, I don’t want to add to that misery with bad food, do I? It wouldn’t be right.
So my solution for years, in terms of eating reasonably well while not killing myself in the process, has been portion control. I try very hard to eat because I’m hungry, not because I’m bored or lonely or something else. I eat whatever I want, but I don’t eat a lot of it, at least not regularly. (And when I do eat too much, my stomach is there to punish me, and, believe me, it does.)
But I’ve made a recent discovery that sort of thwarts my working system or, really, trumps it. This probably won’t be a secret to you, but I have been shocked. Here it is: Healthy things can taste good. Like, really, really good. Who knew?