IMPORTANT PSA ABOUT GLUTEN-FREE PASTA
Tl;dr version: 
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!

IMPORTANT PSA ABOUT GLUTEN-FREE PASTA

Tl;dr version: 

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!

HARIBO GINGER-LEMON GUMMY CANDY: F-
Have you ever tried to trick yourself into cleaning by buying an expensive all-natural organic cleaning product and then realized it smelled so evil that you couldn’t even stomach the thought of using it til it was used up and so eventually, after letting it just sit under the sink for a year, ended up throwing it away? I have. I have THROWN AWAY $8 fancy organic toilet bowl cleaner. I have done this probably half a dozen times.
Anyway, the way that cleaner smells is how these things taste. I love candied ginger but these don’t taste like candied ginger. They taste like bad fancy-version Lemon Pledge and regret. 

HARIBO GINGER-LEMON GUMMY CANDY: F-

Have you ever tried to trick yourself into cleaning by buying an expensive all-natural organic cleaning product and then realized it smelled so evil that you couldn’t even stomach the thought of using it til it was used up and so eventually, after letting it just sit under the sink for a year, ended up throwing it away? I have. I have THROWN AWAY $8 fancy organic toilet bowl cleaner. I have done this probably half a dozen times.

Anyway, the way that cleaner smells is how these things taste. I love candied ginger but these don’t taste like candied ginger. They taste like bad fancy-version Lemon Pledge and regret. 

TGIF POSOLE! 
This soup is based on a recipe from Better Homes And Gardens that Ayun Halliday posted on her facebook page. I have made it a lot but lately I feel like I’m really nailing it. As you’d expect based on its provenance, it is not the authentic posole that your abuela or Diana Kennedy would recognize as such. It’s just spicy chicken stew with hominy in it. YUM!
This is a lazy soup. I have made it after drinking up to 3 glasses of wine and it’s still come out great. My method is that I start with 3lbs of boneless skinless chicken thighs, season them heavily with a mix of kosher salt, cumin, cayenne and oregano, then throw them in the dutch oven and brown them in olive oil. Then I fish them out, sautee a mix of chopped carrot, celery and onion in the spicy oil, add a package of precut butternut squash cubes after the onion wilts, add the chicken back plus a big can of white hominy (drained and rinsed), then add water to cover. You could add chicken broth but I think unless you have a light homemade broth around you’re better off with water. Bring to a boil and then simmer partially covered for as long as you can stand it, ideally til both squash and chicken are falling apart. I mean at least an hour. Then add a bunch of chopped washed greens — kale, chard, or mustard greens are all good — and cook til the greens are soft.  Serve with radish slices, lime squeeze, or even greek yogurt though that is sort of gilding the lily (but is very good.)

TGIF POSOLE! 

This soup is based on a recipe from Better Homes And Gardens that Ayun Halliday posted on her facebook page. I have made it a lot but lately I feel like I’m really nailing it. As you’d expect based on its provenance, it is not the authentic posole that your abuela or Diana Kennedy would recognize as such. It’s just spicy chicken stew with hominy in it. YUM!

This is a lazy soup. I have made it after drinking up to 3 glasses of wine and it’s still come out great. My method is that I start with 3lbs of boneless skinless chicken thighs, season them heavily with a mix of kosher salt, cumin, cayenne and oregano, then throw them in the dutch oven and brown them in olive oil. Then I fish them out, sautee a mix of chopped carrot, celery and onion in the spicy oil, add a package of precut butternut squash cubes after the onion wilts, add the chicken back plus a big can of white hominy (drained and rinsed), then add water to cover. You could add chicken broth but I think unless you have a light homemade broth around you’re better off with water. Bring to a boil and then simmer partially covered for as long as you can stand it, ideally til both squash and chicken are falling apart. I mean at least an hour. Then add a bunch of chopped washed greens — kale, chard, or mustard greens are all good — and cook til the greens are soft.  Serve with radish slices, lime squeeze, or even greek yogurt though that is sort of gilding the lily (but is very good.)

thanksforsharing

thanksforsharing:

I’m so, so stoked to share this new project: a digital food quarterly for iOS devices titled Feast by Lukas, published by 29th Street Publishing!

Some highlights from the first issue, Holiday, and more information about the quarterly (including a recipe from for a perfect vegetarian Thanksgiving centerpiece dish) can be found here—or, you can download and subscribe here!

Free to download, $13.99 for a year of feasting. If you love Lukas’s recipes, or if you’re a vegetarian or even a sometimes-vegetarian, you NEED this. 

“My cousin’s wife, a hardworking and elegant person, claimed for years that she did not apply heat to food, but she knew how to shop and, what is more, she knew where. Brunch at my cousin’s is the only meal I have ever had at which everyone gets as much smoked salmon as they want.”  — “Starting Out in the Kitchen,” from More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin
That line has always stuck with me, mostly because I never believed that such a feast could be possible. But the break the fast Jen Snow and I hosted last night proved that it is.  I ate leftover salmon roe just now. Leftover salmon roe.
Not pictured, even: two kugels, chocolate chip brioche pretzels, honey pecans, a giant amount of babka. 
 
 

My cousin’s wife, a hardworking and elegant person, claimed for years that she did not apply heat to food, but she knew how to shop and, what is more, she knew where. Brunch at my cousin’s is the only meal I have ever had at which everyone gets as much smoked salmon as they want.” — “Starting Out in the Kitchen,” from More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin

That line has always stuck with me, mostly because I never believed that such a feast could be possible. But the break the fast Jen Snow and I hosted last night proved that it is.  I ate leftover salmon roe just now. Leftover salmon roe.

Not pictured, even: two kugels, chocolate chip brioche pretzels, honey pecans, a giant amount of babka. 

 

 

I have been eating variations on this dish since I first read this Smitten Kitchen post that contained the revelation that you can blanch green vegetables at the same time that you cook pasta, thereby cutting the time between getting home and putting food into your body by half.  However I did notice, at some point between the first and the 400th time that I made pasta + chard, kale, broccoli, broccoli rabe, etc, that sometimes this technique resulted in slightly soggy vegetables.  But I finally cracked the code when I incorporated the Ottolenghi approach to chard, which is: you boil water, blanch the greens, run them under cold water to stop the cooking, then wring them out like a wet bathing suit until they are completely dry.  I wouldn’t try this with some delicate little spring fronds, but for the overwintered and tough stuff you are likely finding in the farmer’s market right now — or for any chard, anytime, chard is hardcore — you can really squeeze it a lot and the leaves will keep their silky texture and the stems will keep a little tiny bit of crispness.
Ok, so, you can’t boil the greens and the pasta at the same time, but what you can do is cook them in the same water and that saves almost as much time. You just have to keep the leaves whole so that you can fish them out more easily.  You can chop them finely after they’ve been chilled, drained and wrung out.  Then while the pasta cooks, sautée the chopped greens in some chile-garlicked-up olive oil, and when the pasta’s done, combine it all with whatever cheese situation you have on hand. I used ricotta plus lemon zest and a tiny bit of mint and that ruled. I also spritzed on lemon juice at the end because I used this pasta and it kind of only tastes good if you put lemon on it for some reason.  Wheat ish aside, quinoa-corn spaghetti is a boon to people like me who consider a box of dried pasta single serving size, because you can just plain eat a lot more of it without getting full.  Healthy!  

I have been eating variations on this dish since I first read this Smitten Kitchen post that contained the revelation that you can blanch green vegetables at the same time that you cook pasta, thereby cutting the time between getting home and putting food into your body by half.  However I did notice, at some point between the first and the 400th time that I made pasta + chard, kale, broccoli, broccoli rabe, etc, that sometimes this technique resulted in slightly soggy vegetables.  But I finally cracked the code when I incorporated the Ottolenghi approach to chard, which is: you boil water, blanch the greens, run them under cold water to stop the cooking, then wring them out like a wet bathing suit until they are completely dry.  I wouldn’t try this with some delicate little spring fronds, but for the overwintered and tough stuff you are likely finding in the farmer’s market right now — or for any chard, anytime, chard is hardcore — you can really squeeze it a lot and the leaves will keep their silky texture and the stems will keep a little tiny bit of crispness.

Ok, so, you can’t boil the greens and the pasta at the same time, but what you can do is cook them in the same water and that saves almost as much time. You just have to keep the leaves whole so that you can fish them out more easily.  You can chop them finely after they’ve been chilled, drained and wrung out.  Then while the pasta cooks, sautée the chopped greens in some chile-garlicked-up olive oil, and when the pasta’s done, combine it all with whatever cheese situation you have on hand. I used ricotta plus lemon zest and a tiny bit of mint and that ruled. I also spritzed on lemon juice at the end because I used this pasta and it kind of only tastes good if you put lemon on it for some reason.  Wheat ish aside, quinoa-corn spaghetti is a boon to people like me who consider a box of dried pasta single serving size, because you can just plain eat a lot more of it without getting full.  Healthy!  

jamiatt
jamiatt:

Once upon a time I was going to have a Manhattan launch party for my book and it was going to be awesome. Then there was a damn hurricane and there was no power in this city and it got cancelled. But we have another chance now, people, to make this magic happen. For there is a paperback to be launched. And the topics of Jews, Food, & Your Mom are ETERNAL. See you there!

Mark your calendar — free drinks, get your Middlesteins paperback (even if you already own this book, another copy is a great thing to have on hand as a last-minute gift because literally anyone you give it to will love it), support Housing Works with your purchase, all these cool people will read, and I will read a tiny snippet from my book that’s coming out next year.

jamiatt:

Once upon a time I was going to have a Manhattan launch party for my book and it was going to be awesome. Then there was a damn hurricane and there was no power in this city and it got cancelled. But we have another chance now, people, to make this magic happen. For there is a paperback to be launched. And the topics of Jews, Food, & Your Mom are ETERNAL. See you there!

Mark your calendar — free drinks, get your Middlesteins paperback (even if you already own this book, another copy is a great thing to have on hand as a last-minute gift because literally anyone you give it to will love it), support Housing Works with your purchase, all these cool people will read, and I will read a tiny snippet from my book that’s coming out next year.

My beach retreat is almost over. There’s one more day, which I’ll spend cleaning and doing laundry and replacing various household items that I used up and ate. At the beginning (last Tuesday) Keith drove me to a Wegman’s the size of several city blocks, where I bought $200/worth of groceries, which I have almost completely eaten. I’m impressed with myself about this. Mostly I cooked myself normal, healthy meals. There was one weird bean improvisation whose leftovers I unrepentantly trashed and one pretty lackluster baked chicken thigh dinner but 90% of the time I was a good host to myself. I am happy to be self-sufficient in this one tiny way. Oh but at one point  I did put yogurt on pasta, let’s not discuss it. 

Other than today, when I dicked around on the Internet on my phone for hours in the morning, I have been disciplined about getting through my revisions. I also took a lot of long, weird, deserted walks through the charming/eerie beach suburb where I’m staying, went to yoga three times at the local studio, and spent several blissful hours checking email and planning Emily Books things at a pretty cafe I was especially grateful to find after having previously done my wifi time in a coffeeshop slightly closer to my digs that had signs saying they would happily pray for you. Yikes! Also the second place brews La Colombe, my favorite. And there’s a vintage/custom jeans store across the street where I ran into the only person I know who lives even slightly near here, which seemed like magic, and I talked to him for probably much too long. As usual it took me about 10 minutes of solo isolated living to become a terrible spaz who has no idea how to interact with other humans. I encountered a broad spectrum of sociableness in my Asbury/Ocean Grove interactions, too, though. Some people seemed just as starved as I likely did, as if I was the only person who’d come into the shop in days (which, possibly, yes.) Others, the Christian coffeeshop owner among them, were downright cold. Maybe they could sense my desperation for chat/distraction. 

I saw several eastern towhees, a hermit thrush, and of course a lot of shorebirds. This morning I saw a seagull eating a piece of styrofoam and made it stop, then had to carry around the trash in my hand til I found a trashcan, much later.

I thought about the Alanis song where she accuses the listener of being petrified of silence, then offers up a few bars of dead air. “Did you think about your bills, your ex, your deadlines, or when you think you’re gonna die?” Like all her songs this is a pretty goofy one. However I did think about all those things. I also thought about my book. It’s bizarrely  short right now. The scenes I’ve cut from it are probably longer than it. A lot of those scenes, especially the ones I’ve worked on over multiple drafts, seem like *things that happened* to me now. I’m glad they’re gone, but it’s odd to have them in my head still, all these fake memories, like dreams. 

The boardwalk in AP is still under construction and I didn’t feel like walking all the way to the one functioning staircase, which is in the middle, so instead I climbed over the railing at one end. The Italian restaurant there has outdoor speakers that blare Classic Rock all day and at just that moment they were playing “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane. I was the only one on the whole boardwalk except one distant jogger and one slow-walking couple. I felt like I was in not a dream but a dream sequence, specifically one of Tony’s Atlantic City recurring nightmares. I laughed out loud as I walked off the boardwalk and back towards town while behind me the song’s final exhortation blared: “FEED YOUR HEAD! FEED YOUR HEAD!”

My beach retreat is almost over. There’s one more day, which I’ll spend cleaning and doing laundry and replacing various household items that I used up and ate. At the beginning (last Tuesday) Keith drove me to a Wegman’s the size of several city blocks, where I bought $200/worth of groceries, which I have almost completely eaten. I’m impressed with myself about this. Mostly I cooked myself normal, healthy meals. There was one weird bean improvisation whose leftovers I unrepentantly trashed and one pretty lackluster baked chicken thigh dinner but 90% of the time I was a good host to myself. I am happy to be self-sufficient in this one tiny way. Oh but at one point I did put yogurt on pasta, let’s not discuss it.

Other than today, when I dicked around on the Internet on my phone for hours in the morning, I have been disciplined about getting through my revisions. I also took a lot of long, weird, deserted walks through the charming/eerie beach suburb where I’m staying, went to yoga three times at the local studio, and spent several blissful hours checking email and planning Emily Books things at a pretty cafe I was especially grateful to find after having previously done my wifi time in a coffeeshop slightly closer to my digs that had signs saying they would happily pray for you. Yikes! Also the second place brews La Colombe, my favorite. And there’s a vintage/custom jeans store across the street where I ran into the only person I know who lives even slightly near here, which seemed like magic, and I talked to him for probably much too long. As usual it took me about 10 minutes of solo isolated living to become a terrible spaz who has no idea how to interact with other humans. I encountered a broad spectrum of sociableness in my Asbury/Ocean Grove interactions, too, though. Some people seemed just as starved as I likely did, as if I was the only person who’d come into the shop in days (which, possibly, yes.) Others, the Christian coffeeshop owner among them, were downright cold. Maybe they could sense my desperation for chat/distraction.

I saw several eastern towhees, a hermit thrush, and of course a lot of shorebirds. This morning I saw a seagull eating a piece of styrofoam and made it stop, then had to carry around the trash in my hand til I found a trashcan, much later.

I thought about the Alanis song where she accuses the listener of being petrified of silence, then offers up a few bars of dead air. “Did you think about your bills, your ex, your deadlines, or when you think you’re gonna die?” Like all her songs this is a pretty goofy one. However I did think about all those things. I also thought about my book. It’s bizarrely short right now. The scenes I’ve cut from it are probably longer than it. A lot of those scenes, especially the ones I’ve worked on over multiple drafts, seem like *things that happened* to me now. I’m glad they’re gone, but it’s odd to have them in my head still, all these fake memories, like dreams.

The boardwalk in AP is still under construction and I didn’t feel like walking all the way to the one functioning staircase, which is in the middle, so instead I climbed over the railing at one end. The Italian restaurant there has outdoor speakers that blare Classic Rock all day and at just that moment they were playing “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane. I was the only one on the whole boardwalk except one distant jogger and one slow-walking couple. I felt like I was in not a dream but a dream sequence, specifically one of Tony’s Atlantic City recurring nightmares. I laughed out loud as I walked off the boardwalk and back towards town while behind me the song’s final exhortation blared: “FEED YOUR HEAD! FEED YOUR HEAD!”

Damn, I am in love with Jerusalem. I haven’t been this into a cookbook since the Momofuku cookbook came out and I put ginger-scallion sauce on everything short of ice cream for a year.  Part of why I love it is that a lot of the dishes I’ve cooked so far are 2.0 versions of things I cook all the time anyway: I made a chicken and rice dish on Friday that was a cardamom + currant-flavored variation on the Doree chicken that’s been a staple of my repertoire since she first tweeted about it, and last night I made this swiss chard + tahini-yogurt sauce with buttered pine nuts thing that is basically the platonic ideal of my go-to nothing’s in the fridge dinner, which is: garlic spinach on steamed white rice or polenta with a poached egg on top.  
The chard dish takes a little bit more advance planning and, non-negotiably, the acquisition of some good pine nuts. I hate to perpetuate food weirdo-ness, but the chance that you could have a taste in your mouth like you’re "sucking on a wad of tin foil soaked in vinegar" for several days seems like a good argument against Chinese pine nuts to me, even if the risk is small and the savings are large.  Other than that, you just need two large bunches of chard, some tahini, some greek yogurt, garlic, lemon, butter and olive oil, and white wine (or beer, which is what I used bc of my extreme classiness.)  
You combine the tahini with yogurt and lemon juice plus one crushed garlic clove and set it aside, then blanch the sliced chard, rinsing it in cold water and then wringing it dry with your hands.  Then you fry the expensive, non-poisonous pine nuts in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and one of butter for 3 minutes, scooping them out of the pan into a bowl when they’re golden. Add some sliced garlic to the pan, let it go for a minute, then deglaze with booze.  After that you add the chard + 1 tablespoon of butter back in, heat it thoroughly, and serve topped with the sauce and nuts.  You don’t have to serve it with rice, I just wanted it to be more of a main course. 

Damn, I am in love with Jerusalem. I haven’t been this into a cookbook since the Momofuku cookbook came out and I put ginger-scallion sauce on everything short of ice cream for a year.  Part of why I love it is that a lot of the dishes I’ve cooked so far are 2.0 versions of things I cook all the time anyway: I made a chicken and rice dish on Friday that was a cardamom + currant-flavored variation on the Doree chicken that’s been a staple of my repertoire since she first tweeted about it, and last night I made this swiss chard + tahini-yogurt sauce with buttered pine nuts thing that is basically the platonic ideal of my go-to nothing’s in the fridge dinner, which is: garlic spinach on steamed white rice or polenta with a poached egg on top.  

The chard dish takes a little bit more advance planning and, non-negotiably, the acquisition of some good pine nuts. I hate to perpetuate food weirdo-ness, but the chance that you could have a taste in your mouth like you’re "sucking on a wad of tin foil soaked in vinegar" for several days seems like a good argument against Chinese pine nuts to me, even if the risk is small and the savings are large.  Other than that, you just need two large bunches of chard, some tahini, some greek yogurt, garlic, lemon, butter and olive oil, and white wine (or beer, which is what I used bc of my extreme classiness.)  

You combine the tahini with yogurt and lemon juice plus one crushed garlic clove and set it aside, then blanch the sliced chard, rinsing it in cold water and then wringing it dry with your hands.  Then you fry the expensive, non-poisonous pine nuts in 2 tablespoons of olive oil and one of butter for 3 minutes, scooping them out of the pan into a bowl when they’re golden. Add some sliced garlic to the pan, let it go for a minute, then deglaze with booze.  After that you add the chard + 1 tablespoon of butter back in, heat it thoroughly, and serve topped with the sauce and nuts.  You don’t have to serve it with rice, I just wanted it to be more of a main course.