All I can tell you is that it’s very easy to hate everything, but life becomes much more enjoyable when you approach it with an open heart and mind. You don’t have to like everything and everyone, but let people love the small things they love. They mean you no harm. — In Case Of Actual Death: Response to Bustle’s 31 Questions About Kim Kardashian Hollywood
IMPORTANT PSA ABOUT GLUTEN-FREE PASTA
Quinoa pasta is bullshit. Corn/rice pasta is less bullshit, but it’s still bullshit. If you want something that is kind of wheat-pastalike in texture (wheat-pastalike flavor is not an option, no matter what), you are better off with rice, white or brown. Different shapes and brands are better for different sauces, temperatures, and recipes. If you’re still remotely interested, read on!
A few years ago I had a spate of abnormal pap smears, which most women my age have had. They’re not fun, because for two weeks as you wait for the results of something called a “colposcopy” you’re 99% convinced you have cancer and keep having to bring yourself back from the edge of feeling very Emily in Our Town about your life (that part where she bids farewell to everything in Grover’s Corners) by reminding yourself that you’re being melodramatic and that you almost certainly don’t have cancer. Unless you do. Anyway, I didn’t have cancer any of the times, obviously, and finally a doctor who was willing to spend more then ten seconds talking to me said “Your body should have cleared the HPV by now. Something’s compromising your immune system. Have you been unusually stressed out lately? Maybe you should take a multivitamin or something.”
I used this as an excuse to do something I’d wanted to do for a long time anyway: I went to see my friend Rebecca Curtis for a nutrition consultation. You probably know Rebecca Curtis as the author of numerous mind-blowing and perfect short stories published in The New Yorker and Harper’s and Vice lately, but she is also a certified holistic nutritionist with a practice in Park Slope near the food co-op. I went in for my consultation and Becky gave me some tests, which if you are a Harper’s subscriber you can read more about here. She said “Your body really doesn’t like wheat.”
I didn’t want to hear this at all! But of course it was something I had semi secretly known in the back of my mind for years. I had justified and excused my constant feelings of illness in so many different ways. I wasn’t getting enough exercise, I’d gotten too much exercise, I had food poisoning, I’d drunk too much, I hadn’t gotten enough sleep. But it was getting harder and harder to ignore that most of the time I felt crappy, achy all over and sick to my stomach. I have a friend who hates hearing about people’s “digestion” so much that he thinks it’s the most disgusting word in the English language, and it’s true that it’s mostly boring and gross to hear about someone else’s digestive problems. But in the hopes of helping someone who’s going through the same thing and thinking “maybe this is normal, just a part of getting older?” I should tell you that I was spending like half an hour on the toilet on a regular, yet also irregular, basis, and also just feeling generally ill and in pain and delicate for hours afterwards. I don’t even know what to compare this feeling to. The word “poisoned” comes to mind.
Something was clearly wrong with me, but it had started so slowly and increased in severity so gradually that I didn’t have the opportunity to notice a dramatic shift between feeling okay and feeling sick. Also, to add to the confusion, sometimes I felt totally fine. Mostly, though, I didn’t want to even consider the possibility that how I was feeling had anything to do with my diet. What would be the point of life if I couldn’t eat and cook anything I wanted, anytime?
A big part of my identity at that point was about cooking and eating, and I felt like limiting what I ate would mean totally sacrificing that part of my life. If you scroll back through the archives of this blog, you can see that it started out as a celebration of all kinds of food, from gourmet to extremely trashy. I reveled in reddi-wip out of a can, momofuku pork buns, and tons of delicious cookies and pastries and bread. When I came back from my consultation with Rebecca, I bought myself a gluten-free cupcake and posted a photo of it here. It was made with chickpea flour and way too much unabsorbed oil. It tasted like a falafel with frosting.
I was not happy.
Also, I still felt sick. Loathe to actually go to a medical doctor for more testing, I persisted in following the diet plan that Rebecca gave me for about a year. While it didn’t include wheat (or nightshades, some cheeses, most red meat and cow milk), it still included some other gluten-containing grains like spelt. I didn’t read labels or ask waiters to check whether things were gluten-free, only that they didn’t contain wheat. I ate a lot of salads. I also sometimes “cheated” — especially where my cookbook club or other dinner clubs were concerned. I never wanted to be the person turning down homemade, delicious food or worse, picking the crust off a pie because of some hippieish, neurotic “intolerance.” But of course I always felt terrible afterwards physically, even as I tried to convince myself mentally that having a YOLO attitude towards the sensory and social experience of food was worth feeling bad the next day.
The following summer I got a new job and new health insurance. I decided to use it as an opportunity to see a new doctor, and to be totally upfront with her about the extent of my struggle to figure out what kind of food I should be eating. She listened attentively and talked to me for like a half hour, then embarked on the diagnostic mini-odyssey that would eventually reveal that I have ***official celiac disease***!!!
It’s a testament to how confusing and strange this whole realm of life can be, and how far I’d come since my original “diagnosis,” that my reaction to being told that I will never eat another croissant or bowl of dan dan noodles or momofuku pork bun was absolute joy and relief. It was great to know that I wasn’t crazy, that my symptoms weren’t some figment of my hysterical imagination, and that there was something simple I could do to feel better. It was also nice to have a license to tell family and friends and strangers at restaurants that I had a medical condition, not an inconvenient whim. It’s still awkward as hell, of course, but one of the things Rebecca told me that I still think about a lot is that if people are going to act really put out because you can’t eat the food they made the way they intended it to be eaten, that’s on them, not you.
Also, in just the time I’ve been noticing, and probably thanks much more to people who have inconvenient whims (but who probably feel better when they don’t eat gluten, I’m not hating) the food industry has gotten MUCH better at making gf versions of bready staples. The America’s Test Kitchen How Can It Be Gluten Free cookbook is a total godsend. They were the ones who convinced me to stop eating (hi! welcome back to my original point) quinoa pasta. It’s fine if you want to think of it as entirely some other genre of food, but it’s definitely not pasta!
Rice, on the other hand, has a long history of being used to make noodles. It works decently well for this purpose. Even though it might seem weird to use Asian-style rice noodles in more Italian situations, it doesn’t actually taste that weird. To make the pasta salad above, soak a package of pad thai noodles (I used brown rice ones, but white rice works too) in boiling water til they’re as soft as you want them, rinse them in cold water, shake dry, then combine with pesto, chicken, mozzarella and cherry tomatoes. Serve outdoors in summer. Enjoy life however you can!
Hi! This is a picture of us tonight at The Diamond where starting at 7 we will be drinking and celebrating friendship and Friendship, with books available courtesy of WORD. Stop by, get a drink, get your book signed, make new friends and maybe see some old ones, too.
The first time I did a paid reading was at a University in Albany. The reading was to last for 30-40 minutes. But instead of being excited about being paid for my poetry in a university setting I was terrified of having a panic attack. I get panic attacks when I’m in situations where I feel like it would be ‘weird’ if I just left or took a break. And this was a long reading. And I felt like because they were paying me, I couldn’t just walk away from the podium or excuse myself to the ladies room if need be. And in worrying about the panic attack I absolutely gave myself a panic attack. With the second or third poem came shortness of breath, heart palpitations and dizziness. By the ninth poem I was like in full unreality. I managed to power through to the end and no one knew. Afterwards, I felt like I was tripping. I then had to brave a long dinner with my host, another poet and their friends and families, which was terrible, because I was still anxious and having trouble swallowing. But I remember catching a glimpse of myself in a window of the auditorium where the reading was being held. The snow was coming down outside and it was dark out. I saw my reflection for a second and kind of gave myself a nod and thought ‘You said you wanted to be a poet when you were a little girl, and look! You’re a poet!’ — Emily Books: Laia Garcia interviews SCARECRONE author Melissa Broder
I am so a girl at night on the internet. And all the time. But especially at night. I have a few twitter accounts but I don’t like to tweet from my primary account until after 7 PM PT. If I start before that, I will be on it all day. It’s like people who try not to have their first drink before 5 PM. So yeah, I don’t start tweeting on there till 10 PM ET when all of the East Coast nerds are in bed, hehe. I have a lot of other ‘rules’ when it comes to twitter that I often break. — Emily Books: Laia Garcia interviews SCARECRONE author Melissa Broder
A few weeks ago I was sitting in my living room which had been temporarily converted into a hair salon/makeup studio in advance of a photo shoot for a UK women’s magazine, chatting with the photographer and makeup artist while they got ready for the shoot, trying to pretend to myself and to them that this was, you know, just an average day in my life. The shoot was going to take place at a restaurant nearby, and I’d been asked to rally a group of my friends to be in the background of the shots (because “friendship”). I felt gauche asking if they’d pay for us to have food and drinks at the restaurant so I was prepared to pay for the meal.
The photographer and makeup artist came over to my apartment two hours in advance of the shoot start time so they could look through my closet and pick an outfit for me to wear and of course apply an inch or so of spackle that rendered me somewhat unrecognizable (but very glamorous!). They put makeup on the bruises and cat scratches on my legs and arms. This, they explained, was to save the photographer time when he was photoshopping me.
I liked them both a lot. In my experience photographers and makeup artists are some of the most relaxed, happy people around. They get to meet a lot of interesting (though I’m sure sometimes monstrous) people, and they often seem to genuinely enjoy their jobs. They don’t work in an office or spend time online except for fun. I have often wished I had any talent at photography or doing hair/makeup, but I very, very, very much do not.
As fun as getting glammed up and then sitting in a restaurant ignoring the fact that the restaurant patrons are trying not to stare at you as a photographer tells you repeatedly to relax your mouth and look up, then down, is, it’s not exactly the way I would have chosen to spend my Saturday. But they did pay for our meal and when the shoot was over everyone came back to my apartment and drank more wine and I made these baked turkey meatballs which were really not bad at all.
As I was getting my hair blown out I asked the photographer whether he’d shot anyone interesting recently and he said Martin Amis. He told me that Martin Amis let him into his house, told him “You have two minutes,” didn’t pose or smile, and then two minutes later promptly ushered him out.
Tonight at McNally Jackson, one of my all-time favorite writers Elif Batuman and I will have a conversation about my new novel Friendship and I’ll read a chapter from the book for the first time. This is a moment I could not have imagined when I started the book several years ago and would sometimes have panic attacks in McNally Jackson because all the great books on its shelves seemed like they represented something I could never hope to accomplish. Four years, lots of credit card debt, 1.5 jobs and many temp assignments, two apartments, one cat and many, many cups of coffee etc later, I will be having a panic attack in McNally for a much more pleasant reason.
If you’re in NYC, I hope you’ll join me.
If you’re not in NYC and you are still interested in reading the book, I have a few suggestions about where to buy it, which is something people ask me about a lot! If you’ve been following me for a while you know that Emily Books and I have strong feelings about using your book dollars to directly support people who publish and sell books in a sustainable way. HOWEVS, the important thing is that you buy books. So here is my official suggestion, and this goes for every new book, not just mine:
1. Request the book at your local independent bookstore if you don’t find it on their shelves.
2. Order it online from Powell’s. If you order $50 worth of stuff you get free shipping. Two hardcovers is all it takes! Oof, I know, but.
3. Put it on hold or request it at a public library. (!) Libraries buy books if people ask them to.
4. You know, Amazon. I’m not judging you. This time. (While you’re there, check out the lol reviews from some very fun and talented-seeming men).
If you’re in D.C. or Portland I will see you there on August 4th and August 12, respectively. Otherwise, see you on the Internet.
“She’d been told often enough that she looked sad, even when she wasn’t. Catcallers had always tended to yell ‘Smile!’; there was just something gloomy about the downturn of her mouth and the size of her eyes.”
—Emily Gould, Friendship