The baker I buy fresh bread from each week at the downtown farmers market gave me a pro tip on how to use my sage plant: grilled cheese. So today I had an early lunch: French bread, cheddar, tomato, mayonnaise, sage, and butter. My favorite part was discovering how to melt the cheese and not burn the bread. For an experiment I took one of the cheese slices from the sandwich and melted it in the skillet and got it to melt.
The result: crispy toasted points and a chewy bite. Sage has this deliciousness that mixes so well with the texture of fresh bread. I will continue my technique in melting the cheese effectively so as not to turn the bread too crispy, and I’m looking forward to making grilled cheese, maybe next time with thyme or basil and lime. Who knows?
My friend B and I met up over the weekend for lunch and thrifting and this time did not disappoint. My phone died before getting pictures of the entire food setup, which was extravagant. We had French onion soup with avocado mash, mushroom, and garlic on baguette, hummus with beets and pepitas, and Schrute farms beet salad. This meal was a true indulgence and I’m sure I ate more than my fair share of food, with plenty of leftover salad and popcorn.
My favorite part of the meal was the company, first and foremost. We have known each other since high school and I feel lucky to have known a person for as long as we have, as it allows you to be seen through a lifetime’s flaws and successes, which pull away from the idea that a person is entirely unknowable. It is the successful relationships over passage of time that I am so thankful for, as I’m glad I can be kind to people, as I know when a conflict arises, as so inevitably does, they would extend the same mercy to me.
In my knowing her she is as kind and limitlessly unconditionally accepting of me, and I love having someone like that, who might look myopically over at me, as though looking at a painting from a far point across a room, and call it an inspiration.
In the pursuit of living better and achieving goals, I’ve been using a food relationship management subscription over the past few months. Noom has a sort of continuing education feel with a supportive chat group structure to share lessons and give each other new ideas on how to creatively work with food to challenge or push back on old beliefs and walk into new rituals and ways of seeing the world. A lot of the most important parts of Noom for me has been creating a calorie budget, where I understand the parameters of how many calories I need to eat each day in order to either sustain or lose weight, and following the budget. The most fun I’ve been having lately is with plant-based substitutions for dairy and highly processed carbohydrates. In place of cheese, I use grated zucchini or summer squash on my eggs; instead of half and half I use Califia Farms coconut almond creamer; I use vegan shreds instead of cheddar on my burritos; I boil a cauliflower and mash it up instead of rice. What it does for me is help me use fun tricks to eat less calorically dense foods. Plant-based foods tend to have more water in them, and do not have as many calories as animal-based ones do. For example, heavy cream has 100 calories per 2 Tbsp. Half and Half has 30 calories per 2 Tbsp. Califia Farms coconut almond creamer has 15 calories per 2 Tbsp. That range gives me more options when I want to spend my calories in certain ways.
My strategy is to eat as many low calorically dense foods (see also: cauliflower, asparagus, lettuce, spinach) throughout my day so that I can conserve the higher calorically dense foods (see also: cheeseburger, bread, chips, butter) strategically. I like to plan my day, and I find my calorie budget really helps with planning out foods I’ll eat. Sometimes I have a general idea in mind. Other times I have prepped food for the week and play it by ear on which foods I’m craving. Last weekend I made cauliflower mash, boiled butternut squash, and corn from a local farm stand. I’ve been using these foods interchangeably throughout my week. To be quite candid, I’m nearly sick of eating some of these foods, and I will be glad when this weekend comes so I can food prep some new combination of foods. I picked up beets from a farm stand the other day and so am excited to work with that. I’m not sure if I’ll pickle them or what.
To boost flavor I’ll start out eggs or a burrito base with sautéed white onion and garlic and sprinkle fresh herbs on top. Thyme and basil are two favorites. I have a sage plant but not sure how to prepare the leaves. Do I dry them or just let them be fresh and cook with them? I dunno! I’ve been thinking about taking string and wrapping a sage smudge for the end of the summer. In keeping with new tradition, it would be amazing to burn that smudge through a space and have it cleanse the palate for future seasons. Sage burning is something I have seen used for clearing blocked places, summoning old ancients, and meditation.
*Update** I enjoyed sage sautéed into cauliflower topped with salmon and didn’t think I’d like it as much as I did. Sage has this flavor when I close my eyes that mimics meat, but it brought out a flavor when combined with cauliflower and seafood that was lovely. If I can work sage in with vegan chorizo or tofu I’ll probably try that next.
If a time were ever so set in stone as my favorite time of all time, it’s in the 1990s and my best age is 17. I’m in love for the first time, have friends who finally get me, and truly feel like a golden boy, or girl, or whatever that turn of phrase may be. Stay golden, pony boy? I’m pretty sure that applies here.
Either way, over the weekend I had a get together with some of the girls from high school and I had the best time. We didn’t have an all day event or even a sleepover, which is probably what my younger self would have been able to tolerate, neigh first choice, but our afternoon lunch was plenty for my current self.
If I am able to convey the importance of the origin story, it is this: my oldest friends share the ultimate gift, which is those origin stories of my younger self. The meaning is that you were both there when it happened, and that is what binds you to them. That is what makes life so meaningful. I had waited so long to meet up with these girls and I’m not exactly sure why. I learn in sometimes the hardest way that avoidance no longer works for me as an effective approach, but rather now more and more these days that life is for the living and that includes me and everyone in it. So I try and recall some of those oldest friends from my youngest times in life and reconcile the shortcomings or downfalls, if possible. Getting to the place where you can all enjoy BBQ and watch their children play in probably the finest time to be alive, your current self will thank you.
I am not quite sure whether it’s these turns of phrase or just the recent reminiscence of olden days gone by, but I’m recalling now some of the required reading I had in high school: The Once and Future King. Its title captures an idea of this moment. Reading the book is an entirely different matter, as I am sure I only recall sad remnants of the way actually reading it in high school made me feel, but through this experience and by the appearance of the feelings it expresses to me, I am the once and future king, and I have found my people again.
I brought a cooler, 20 lbs. of ice, grapefruit and black cherry flavored zero calorie seltzer, hamburgers, hot dogs, and buns. I also brought a mint pea pecorino salad which stayed in the cooler and corn on the cob, but we didn’t even need that food. We had so much to talk about and share with each other. I so enjoyed listening to the old stories of times gone by and relating with those young girls now. It’s better than talking to our old selves, as we have so many new stories to share, dating stories, figurative war wounds, new relationships, actual careers. In the only way I have been able to maintain any sense of order, I tend to talk how I think, which is a stream of consciousness style, so it’s no surprise that I got pretty long winded when making a toast. I kept dragging on about something about divesting from Facebook, but ended up saying, to all the people in the room and in this house, we’re the cool people. To the coolest people ever! Which is not my best work, but it did for the occasion.
The thing I love about not having a thing for such a long time is that space that is new for its invention. My mom’s friend invited us to dinner on Friday after a swim and a kayak. We enjoyed an evening on her screened in porch in a peaceful setting, a pink dogwood tree whose petals have been cream colored for several years, along with a creamy sunset that dissolved our faces into impressionist Monets long after dusk. A feeling of being somewhere familiar, among friends, after for so long having been alone, that place is here for everyone to enjoy.
Here are some of my favorite things: skin-on, bone in chicken thighs seasoned with Penzey’s shallot pepper. This seasoning has everything: rosemary, salt, and something indescribable that I will refer to for the moment as the third heat, as proclaimed by Tracy Jordan, the fictional character based loosely on Tracy Morgan played by himself on TV show 30 Rock. In the context of the show, the third heat was a term the actor used to describe himself, the affable and often understood in its celebrity paradigm Tracy Jordan, played by Tracy Morgan, an actor portraying a parody of himself.
There is something about the idea of direct experience and its capacity for understanding through first hand vs. second hand knowledge that touches on the idea of tasting good food. The idea that parody is an allegory for second hand knowledge of something in itself is inauthentic as I was not there the first time it happened to participate actively in its rendering, or maybe I have been there many, many times in the past but it’s suddenly new for me again. How in a sunset when our appearance distorts into nothing as we look at each other after the sky falls, the perception is imperfect. The perception is still imperfect but I see something, and that is a new appreciation for familiar things.
Welp, this month has a special place in my heart as it’s my birthday month. Though I’m entitled to celebrate the entire month, I don’t limit my gifts to this month. David Sedaris will be appearing at a local theater next month which I have gladly accepted as a late birthday present. Sedaris is one of my favorite authors. When cassette tape players were still in cars, I used to listen to Me Talk Pretty One Day for my 1 hour work commute. There is something lovely about authors who have sonorous voices. It’s not that he could read a phone book and I’d swoon, it is him, his lived experience as read aloud by the author that is a true delight.
Adjacent to my love of good books and birthday months are the occasions I get to eat food with the people in my life. In this picture is asparagus sautéed in two batches: one in rosemary and garlic, and the other in saffron and garlic. I’m not quite sure how to work with saffron, as it came nearly hermetically sealed and I was not sure I tasted its flavor once cooked in with food.
I’m not sure I would refer to it as a spice, and as an herb, I would assume it presents its own flavor without too much unboxing, but the instructions read: for soups, place in boiling water. What is the implication of that very specific guidance? Does its flavoring stay dormant until unlocked by a pre-determined chemical equation? Is saffron then free to be itself, or am I painting saffron in too tight a box, not unlike the tiny, glass tube from whence it came?
That is – a bottle inside a bottle inside which is saffron, that unknowable yet delectable thing. I have had saffron before as prepared in fancy restaurants, and usually it was prepared with scallops sautéed in butter. Although I deeply enjoy its flavor, I was musing the other day on how I would describe the flavor saffron, and I wouldn’t be able to compare it to anything but itself. Saffron is saffron, but isn’t that part of the problem when I couldn’t even taste it in the asparagus?
As pictured from right to left are salad with avocado, tomatoes, cucumbers, and mozzarella balls; fruit salad with passion fruit, mango, blueberries, nectarine, dragon fruit, and kiwi; potato salad with paprika; smoked peppers and onions; smoked meats: kielbasa, cheeseburgers, and Italian sausage.
Not pictured in this photo were chocolate brownies made from protein rich muffin mix, a move I felt was risky as in turning any food instantly into the perfect other food, may not end up to perfect execution unless you tweak the recipe. To quote the one person who sampled the brownies, in a word, dry. I’ll probably work the leftover brownies into a trifle bowl with interspersed layers of chocolate and vanilla sugar-free instant pudding to moisten it up. I’ve found a way to use almond milk whereby you use 1/3 less almond milk or otherwise when whisking in the almond milk, add it spoonful by spoonful until it’s a good consistency.
The good and bad part of regionally and seasonally available foods are its availability when in season and its proximity to your direct experience. Corn on the cob and cherries and passion fruit are in season, but unfortunately when the season wanes or the stock is in short supply, these foods become more and more rare, until they simply do not exist. A day before the weekend, I went to my local grocery store, where a week before they had a passion fruit, I did not see any on the shelves. A kind produce person asked me what I was looking for and she checked stock in the back, but came up empty handed. I thanked her for checking and moved on, but did end up going to a different grocery store the next day to see if they had any passion fruit, and they didn’t either. I may need to wait until next season until it comes around again. Until then, there are always new and different foods to try.