Thursday, October 25, 2012

Every Food Conservator Has Gotta Have One

I'm in love with my immersion blender.

She saves me. Well, she doesn't actually save me, but she saves some food from perishing, from a prolonged refrigerator death, and as a result, saves me, because I can't stand to see food die.

This afternoon, while staring down a gallon size ziploc bag holding a bulging bulk of leftover Indian spiced roasted cauliflower, I spied the half empty container of chicken stock. Now I usually prefer to make my own stock, especially since I always have veggies lingering that make for a tasty stock, but when I think soup and want it within a 1/2 hour, I resort to store-bought.

Into a pot went the stock; I added the cauliflower and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Then, grabbing my love, I twizzled and blended until I had a deliciously thick hearty bowl of soup.

Earlier this week, she rescued broccoli, potatoes, onions, and parsley along with the ingredients for a homemade stock (celery, carrots, onions, kale). Once again, a simple combination of stock and veggie equals a perfectly textured hearty bowl of soup.

Not only is she my love. She is my savior.

Friday, October 19, 2012

National Day On Writing

This year's #WhatIWrite twitter hashtag for the National Day on Writing inspired me to think beyond the literal of what I write. Rather than think of a list, I immediately went to the why of what I write. 

I write what I write because I have a lot to say about things. And if I say all those things aloud, people will label me chatty, self absorbed, or a bit off kilter. Blogging saves me from such a demise. 

I write what I write because it's my job. Scribbled comments in the margins of student papers, multimodal assignments, revisions of to-do lists, constant emails, and content for class are a reminder of my place in the semester, of weeks behind and weeks forward. 

I write what I write because I am quirky. It's easy to fantasize my normality when I don't put a detailed lens to my obsessive tendency to recycle vegetables and other leftovers into new life, my obsessive reliance on google to help me figure out anything medical, and my preoccupation with anything related to food. My essays need this character trait.

I write what I write because I have to. When I don't, I am missing.

Musical Inspiration: Brandi Carlile, Ingrid Michaelson

Monday, October 15, 2012

Food Recharge

Lately I've miscalculated, believing I was keeping pace, balancing carefully between overextending and chilling. I haven't felt particularly stressed, but there exists an undercurrent of always knowing there's something to do, something to get done, something in a pile that is calling me. When I get too close to the edge of canceling everything, I simply start to cancel a little here and there. And today, after a day that felt like it took extra energy to finish, I am thankful to come home and blare music as loud as I want and escape, instead of my original plan to go see a free screening of a film with a friend.

And those who know me know what point I must be at to pass on a film,. Today, I'm close to that point where the only way I can recharge is to retreat. I usually am energized by people, by lots of socializing, by plenty of stimuli. When I get tired, though, I get tired. My days are usually filled with needing to put forth just that extra bit of energy students need since we're at Week 9 in the semester. They need a break, and the semester says no break for five more weeks (the long haul of fall). So, it's up to me to summon my inner cheerleader, my pogo stick, and my energizer bunny, even though I too long for a break. Most days I'm good, full of extra, but some days, like today, I am lagging, tired.

Fortunately, it doesn't take much for me to recharge. Food nurtures and when I cook, even if it's only for myself, it is a nurturing act to pay attention to its powers. Our house never lacks for something to combine into a meal, even if unplanned. On my drive home, I believed I was coming home to defrosted tofu, planning for some spicy baked tofu, accompanied with whatever I wanted to invent with the variety of leftover roasted vegetables and raw vegetables. Instead, though, I came home to still solidly frozen tofu. After a brief rummage in the freezer to retrieve the frozen uncooked shrimp, I started to play with food possibilities.

It is in the play that my day is forgotten. I am on the hunt, sorting through the randomness of my refrigerator, pantry, and counter, pondering combinations. I know I want the clean taste of fresh food, not overcooked. I know I want a bit of contrasts of texture. I know I want a little zing. I decide on  greens (kale and spinach) sauteed in olive oil with garlic, onions, Anaheim pepper, and freshly squeezed lemon. The leftover roast potatoes I spruce up with a quick broil to crisp. Playing with the food, creating from random ingredients, always invigorates me, at least enough to write a bit, to answer some emails, to think beyond my day. 

Seriously Dorothy--there's no place like food.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

National Coming Out Day

Sometimes, October 11th arrives and leaves without me feeling like I need to blare show tunes, be my own George Hearn proclaiming out loud "I am what I am". But most October 11ths arrive and leave with the need to shout loudly "I'm proud, I'm queer" in a butch rendition of a high school cheerleader. It is a day of mixed emotion, a day that reminds me that although I've been out for more than thirty years, homophobia still rears its head. And on the eve of a vice-presidential election, I do worry about my freedoms, about the hate that still wants to keep me less than equal.

On campus today, we celebrated the day by placing tables out on the main hallway, hanging signs celebrating Gay Pride, sitting tall and proud. A group of courageous students sat with me for two hours, chatting with allies, while the majority of people walked by us, not stopping, not making eye contact, even if the cake we were serving looked delicious. I'm used to that, but somehow today I thought it would be different.

Recently, a homophobe(s) ripped off a GLBT symbol from a campus history timeline posted in the middle of campus, leaving a blank space where a celebration of the campus' GLBT Resource Center once made its public mark. That act felt personal because of my work to establish the center, because of all the work I put into making the campus safe for GLBT students, faculty, and staff. To lead in the shadows of intolerance takes my vigilance, my strength, and sometimes a bit of my heart.

And it was my expectation of things being different that stung. In response to the recent campus event, the President of the college sent out a very strong email proclaiming her commitment to inclusiveness and establishing a clear statement about intolerance and bigotry. Even with this genuine support from the top, people didn't show up. Being an ally means showing up, means support.

It is a topsy turvy moment, a crossroads of a day. I cannot celebrate the day without the memory that tomorrow is the anniversary of Matthew Shephard's death. I cannot celebrate the day without remembering that I cannot marry.

But fortunately, when my own seesaw steadies, I celebrate the day being so out and proud. That is mine.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Food Conservator Strikes Again

CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) season brings on my compulsive need to recycle food. Sometimes when I set out on my mission, I am totally uncertain about whether the noble act of using food multiple times in different ways will yield something edible. Most of the time, the results are tasty, even delicious; however, there are times that my concoctions and creations yield bites I simply tolerate. Last evening, when I assembled this new creation, I felt uncertain.

My challenge began with staring down a soup bowl's worth of leftover lemon-ricotta kale dip (recipe followed exactly except for the omission of the nutritional yeast). When I am faced with leftover dip, I grow concerned that it will squat in the refrigerator, eventually aging beyond palatability. Dip is something reserved for gatherings; it is not a member of my kitchen's regular food group. This dip also presented an extra challenge since Nan's initial reaction was "Ew--kale dip?" Fortunately, even though not her favorite, our dinner guests and I found it tasty.

When I pondered what to do with its remains, I zeroed in on the ricotta ingredient and thought, veggie lasagne. After all, the kitchen contained most of the needed ingredients: the CSA had delivered weeks of broccoli, yellow squash, and onions, and our harvest of garden tomatoes seemed endless.

What follows is a rough recipe/description of the process, since I didn't measure a thing. First, I made a very light tomato sauce, sauteeing a variety of tomatoes (complete with skin and seeds), onion, and garlic in olive oil. After cooking for approximately 15 minutes (until the tomatoes split apart and onions softened), I let it sit and cool to warm, thickening a bit, but without that thick consistency that tomato paste gives a sauce.

When I layered the lasagne, I only used a thin layer of sauce (enough to lightly spread on the layer without fully covering what's beneath). I did this with all the ingredients, layering but always leaving space where you could see between the layers.

Here is the order from bottom to top:
Sauce, lasagne noodles, ricotta-kale dip, scattering of raw vegetables (sliced mushrooms, broccoli pieces, diced yellow squash), shredded parmesan cheese
Sauce, lasagne noodles, ricotta-kale dip, vegetables, shredded parmesan cheese
Sauce, lasagne noodles, mozzarella cheese

Cook covered in foil. Remove foil for final browning. Seriously delicious and relatively easy. Plus, of course, you'll feel great that you have recycled ingredients into a new beginning.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sunday Eves

For the past eight weeks, my Sunday evenings have been devoted to writing. While I didn't particularly like having to wait until the end of the weekend, most weekends, I knew that this semester I had asked for challenge at work. Teaching first, textbook revision/writing second, and personal writing third. Even though this sometimes made me grumpy, timing actually worked fine--I could write knowing that work wasn't waiting. I could fall into my writing without worries of unfinished prep for the morning's class.

Tonight is the first Sunday without any impending writing; my eight-week workshop ended this past week, and tonight I am without a writing assignment. I am without an impending deadline. I am without external motivation. A half hour ago I celebrated this, and then instantly, felt as though something was amiss; my evening felt unfamiliar. Writing had become a habit in a short eight weeks.

I have my own writing assignments and deadlines, so these next weeks will be a test to see how well I can motivate myself to keep my fingers moving, to keep working at craft. I'm excited to work on some final revisions for a couple of pieces, happy to be able to focus my attention to sentence level, diction, and stylistic tuning. Even though I do that through some of early drafts, I am usually too overwhelmed with thematic revision, still essaying my way to meaning.

Whether I call this goals or ambition, I am walking in unfamiliar territory, walking in my own desires and motivations.