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I don’t really know if this is the forum for this, but I found out yesterday that a friend, someone I had worked closely with on many projects at my last job, passed away. At one point in the middle of the night, I was laying awake, thinking about writing this in my mind. Of course it was much more eloquent then than now, but most half-awake thoughts seem that way in retrospect.

Yesterday Cat called again with some freebies from the photo studio — vases full of flowers. As Mark and I were walking back home, arms full, he said, isn’t it so funny that there’s an entire industry built around selling something that is already dead? That will literally rot in your house? And it does seem like a silly thing, to treasure something that lasts so fleetingly. But it’s all relative, isn’t it? Eventually, we all go the way of the flowers.

A clunky metaphor to be sure, but an apt thought for the day. The one thing I wish for the most is to be able to tell Don what a wonderful person and presence he was. Even though he lived in San Francisco and I saw him infrequently, Don was a bright spot during sometimes very stressful moments. He would call, we would chat about work, and then we’d ramble on about something or other for awhile, usually laughing jovially or conspiratorially along the way. He was humble, and self-deprecating, and just one of those people you feel lucky to know.

When I first heard he had passed away, I wanted to write him an email immediately. Isn’t that so odd? I wanted to tell him I was sorry to hear what had happened, and that everyone who worked with him would miss him. Maybe because I don’t know his family, I didn’t know who else to tell.

I’ve been very fortunate not to have dealt with much death in my life. And so it’s that much more surreal and upsetting to lose someone unexpectedly. Someone who may not be family, or part of my inner circle, but who mattered to me and many, many others nonetheless.

 

When I left my job three months ago, I felt like I had all the time in the world, because I sort of did. I went to yoga in the middle of the day, walked around outside, and fit work in around my other pursuits. But the euphoria of freedom quickly gave way to the reality that, to sustain this lifestyle, I had to actually make money. (duh)

Any time I read the advice to “follow your dreams” I roll my eyes a little bit. Not because I don’t believe it’s a great, wonderful, admirable idea. But because your dream job doesn’t necessarily add up to a living wage. Ask any working actor (the occupation my college degree would suggest I have) — you’re probably doing as much catering, bartending, and temping as acting, if not significantly more. And paid acting jobs might just be commercials for crappy products. But you do it so you can land that sweet part in a play downtown, bond with the actors and crew, add another line to your resume. It’s all part of the game. For me, in this more food-focused iteration of my life, I’m trying to find the right balance between doing what I know I do well and can earn a living doing (consulting) and what I love to do the most (cooking).

And to top it all off, I’ve got this blog here. There is something about having a blog that feels akin to having close friends who live far away. Bear with me. When you’re in close contact, regularly, it’s amazing and fun. Of course you talk every day! You love each other! But when busy schedules or missed connections create a small lapse — out of sight, out of mind — it’s easy to just let go of the commitment. And then once you’ve let go, the guilt that you are neglecting something critically important overshadows your desire to reconnect. Returning seems shameful, embarrassing, sad.

I don’t mean to overstate the relationship I have with this blog, but it is, in a weird way, an old friend that I neglect far too often.

Here’s hoping I can get back into the groove. I always find fall to have much more of a “new year” feeling that January — just that residual first-day-of-school reset I guess — so my resolution this fall is to focus on balance, and not lose sight of why I made the changes I’ve made in the past few months.

When I got home with my heavy bag of loot from the farmer’s market, I realized I’d also brought a little friend with me! Hello ladybug! In anticipation of having a functional stove again today (finally), I bought some tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant with the idea to roast them into some kind of sauce. Years ago, when we were growing copious amounts of tomatoes in our front yard in Oregon, we’d find ourselves at this late summer date with far, far too many to eat. So we’d roast them and freeze them for sauces. It’s a great idea, and am planning on reviving the practice for myself! No idea what the final outcome will be, but once it’s come to pass, I will post a recipe or method.

The other prize I came home with was a bag of grapes. It sounds ridiculous to describe a bag of grapes as a prize, but you must trust me. These grapes are like candy. They’re buttery in texture, tangy, and taste of honey. They’re incredible. If you’ve only ever eaten bland grocery store grapes, get thee to a farmer’s market and have some real grapes, stat. It will change your life. I have a pickled grape recipe I’ve been meaning to try, but I wouldn’t dare make it with these, they’re too delicate and tasty. In fact, they probably won’t last another hour!

OK, OK, I know the last like, 3 months (oh god, has it been 3 months? almost.) have proven to me that blogging is hard. When you also have to, like, do stuff and work. But frankly it’s made me a bit sad to see it fall by the wayside. I have completed a dreaded move (though my new oven is…touchy) and am ready to jump back in. Or so I hope. Perhaps this weekend I can make it to the farmer’s market and create something tasty that does not involve baking. In any case. I’m baaaaack!

Tonight! Tonight I promise to update with photos of the beautiful smoked turkey we ate at Thanksgiving, some delicious monkey bread I made Sunday (you’ll see…and want to have a brunch party stat) and hopefully some sort of cold-weather delight that is as yet undetermined for dinner tonight. Now that I’ve put it in writing, I’ll be forced to do it. Maybe I’ll even post pictures of the knitting projects that have kept me occupied in the evenings lately!

My family is not big on what you might consider typical traditions. Maybe it’s because we don’t belong to any church, or maybe it’s just that standing on ceremony isn’t our style. We were mostly vegetarian when I was a kid, so I don’t have memories of big, brown turkeys coming out of the oven at Thanksgiving, or Christmas hams. We didn’t have a stack of worn-out recipes passed on through generations, although we did have my Aunt Dotty’s cranberry butter (technically she was my cousin twice removed, but who knows what that means?). Our main dish for Thanksgiving was usually vegetarian lasagna, since we never cooked much meat, and even my dad, the closest to a carnivore in the family, thinks turkey is overrated. I had no clue what a green bean casserole was for a long time, and still can’t figure out why people put marshmallows on sweet potatoes. We kind of made our traditions up as we went instead.

I always have to have pumpkin pie (although ironically, this year, I am making sweet potato pie instead). And stuffing. Stuffing is my favorite. I have a soft spot for the store bought stuff, the Pepperidge Farms herbed stuffing, that you can add pretty much whatever you want to. When you first dump that bag of dry bread into the pot with the melted butter and stock it doesn’t seem like there will be nearly enough moisture, but sure enough, with persistent stirring (and losing a few bread cubes over the side of the pot) you’ll get there. I’m pretty sure my dad was putting apples, cranberries and pecans into our stuffing before it was trendy.

I’ve only spent one Thanksgiving with my family in the last 9 years. New York to Portland, Oregon, on a 4 day weekend is nearly impossible. So, I’ve sort of carried on the tradition of not having traditions — or at least making them up as I go. Quite a few of my New York Thanksgivings have been with my college friend Gemma, and we can’t seem to have a big feast without a wheel of brie, baked into Pillsbury crescent dough. That’s a good tradition. I also can’t make it through Thanksgiving without watching (at least once) Home for the Holidays. I’ve not lost my middle school crush on Dylan McDermott and his blue eyes, despite the fact that his hair cut in that movie is frighteningly similar to Jerry Seinfeld’s puffy pseudo-mullet of the early 90’s. You know the haircut I mean.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Food, friends, wine, and as an added bonus, it’s non-denominational. Enjoy, stuff yourselves, and I’ll post all about my dishes after I’m able to wear pants that button.

OK, I’m exaggerating. I fail at…consistently blogging. But I have reasons!

1. Grad school applications
2. Studying for the GRE (see #1)
3. Cook-offs
4. Laziness

The thing is, I’ve been cooking plenty, just not really documenting it so well. And frankly, I don’t think saying I made a recipe and then linking to said recipe on another blog is really that worthy of a post. PLUS much of my cooking has been recipe testing for cook-offs….and I can’t very well post my recipe before the actual cook-off happens, now can I?

I can’t promise that over the next few weeks I will be much better, but I will at least try to take a couple pictures of the end product if I do cook something successfully.

AND! Fierce & Sweet is just 2 weeks away, and tickets are now on sale. All the cool people are going.

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I think I’m biased against food trucks in New York because they all seem to serve the same unidentifiable meat chopped up and covered in hot sauce over rice. Which, don’t get me wrong, is kind of delicious in a risking-your-own-life kind of way, but it’s not exactly groundbreaking cuisine. Lately a few new trucks have rolled into town, though. One of the newest is the Bistro Truck on 5th Ave and 17th. And it’s awesome.

Now, I’ve only tried their Belgium Fries with Harissa Mayo (shouldn’t it be Belgian fries?) and their vegetable cigar appetizer (basically a delicious veggie spring roll with homemade phyllo dough instead of wonton), but both were excellent and very inexpensive. But I will definitely go back, because they have a veggie tagine on their menu and a bunch of delicious-sounding sandwiches on the menu too. And the guys were really nice. Check it out, and join their Facebook fan club!

Things have been a little slow around here the past week or so, and that’s because I have vacation on the brain. Tomorrow night I’ll be headed to Portland, Oregon, where I promise to visit farmer’s markets, take pictures, and eat some good food. I’ll try to post while I’m there. And it couldn’t come soon enough — I don’t think I can tolerate another day of this New York August weather!

Saturday morning at the Union Square Farmer’s Market. Perfection. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

peaches

redonions

greens

rainbowcarrots

Sometimes I’m sad that I only have 2 to cook for when I go to the farmer’s market. I could seriously walk away with one of everything.

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