Trolltunga

Yoga in Norway (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

There’s this picture of me that I love. I’m seventeen years old and holding a battered copy of Les Misérables in my hand. It’s battered because I’ve been throwing it around the backseat of a van, kneading its pages with sweaty, road-trip-snack-stained fingers when I read, and also because at some point, I’ve dropped it into the toilet. I’m fresh out of the shower, my hair is stringy and wet, parted severely down the middle. I’m wearing brown stretch flares, a Twister graphic tee, and a maroon zip-up hoodie so worn-out it’s lost its shape. Leaned up against a cabin doorframe, I look every bit an ill-dressed, awkward teenager, unsure of how to move inside her own body. But the expression on my face, half-turned away from the camera, is dreamy. I’m somewhere else, but perfectly at peace. My eyes look to the horizon. All around me are massive mountains, glacier-scarred rock whorled with strange shapes that seem to come alive when you stare long enough. It’s like looking at a Magic Eye print. Below, green-tinged water surges over rocks, in a canyon it carved out over ages. I am in Norway, and the look on my face is the one I always seem to wear when I’m here.

The purple flowers of Norway (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Brown cheese and red wine (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Waffles and coffee (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Along the road in Hardangervidda (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Norway is my soul’s happy place. There’s something about the briskness of the chill air carrying that tinge of salt, the soft, mossy ground, the mountains of bald stone bursting above the dark green tree line, the fjords that turn Colgate-colored when they churn and glint like raw malachite where they are impassive and deep. This landscape was made long before me. It will be here long after I am gone. I am insignificant beside it, and that is a comfort to me.

Voringfossen, Norway (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Red house, Hardangervidda (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

A walk on the Hardangervidda (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Voringfossen minor (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Two years ago, when we hiked the Preikestolen, Elli and I kept saying we’d have to come back for Trolltunga, which is how, not long ago, we found ourselves living in a small white house right on the Sørfjorden, where we woke to the sounds of waves lapping up against the dock and almost-midnight-sun streaming in through the curtains. » Continue reading this post…

A Cake for Berlin: Rhubarb Cake with Marzipan and Almonds

Almond and rhubarb cake (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

This September, I’ll be coming up on my seven-year anniversary in Berlin. It’s funny. I never expected to stay here that long. Hadn’t even been to Berlin before I decided that this was the place I was going to move. “Du bist verrückt mein Kind, du musst nach Berlin,” composer Franz von Suppe is said to have said. You are crazy, my child, you must go to Berlin. “You’ll like it there,” my mother said. My grandma said New York had made me brittle, which in its own way is possibly a kind of crazy, too.

Rhubarb (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Candied orange (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Lemon (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Seven years ago, I wasn’t really moving towards something, but running away. From New York, sure, but also from the person I’d become there and the person I saw myself still becoming. Two of my dearest friends had not long before sat me down on a dock in St. Croix, the sun setting out over the ocean, sand curling over our sunburned skin and said to me, “What’s going on?” by which they meant, Where has our friend gone? And I’ve always admired the bravery of that, because it takes courage to tell your friend she’s been behaving badly. Because it’s true, I had been behaving badly, had let the less pleasant sides of my personality run the show. In drawing comparisons now, retrospectively, I’m not sure if I’d call it armor (sarcasm, skepticism, an easy sneer) or lack of buffer. New York is a city that strips you. Maybe it was a little of both.

Rhubarb cake without cream (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Lemon and orange zests (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Macerating rhubarb (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

But leaving New York was hard. I’d loved it more than any place I’d ever lived. And for everything it took from me, it starkly outlined my strengths. I knew I could make my own way, knew I could start from nothing and build a life. And I’d never known such fierce creativity. » Continue reading this post…

A Golden Roman Holiday

Pizza, Rome (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Rome, Italy (Photo courtesy of Counter Service)

Our worst meal in Italy was also one of the best, if only because by the time we finished eating it, our bellies were so sore from laughing, we hardly noticed how sore they were from the rocklike bundle of pasta settling heavier than a sinking wreck. It was the last night Josh and I had together in Rome after a week in Tuscany, and we wanted to find something special for dinner. We’d started the evening off with an aperitivo, then wandered Rome’s warm, golden streets in the direction of this little place we’d read about tucked away off the beaten path. We meandered, wriggling through the tourists clustered in front of the Trevi Fountain, past the shop windows full of bottles of limoncello and multi-colored pasta, past pin-up priest calendars and aprons of David’s torso, through any small alley that caught our fancy, spurred onwards by sprays of pink bougainvillea over doorways and enticing archways of crumbling stone.

Mopeds in Rome, Italy (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Tiber River at sunset, Rome (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Gathering storm in Rome (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Aperol spritz, Italy (Photo courtesy of Counter Service)

At 9:30 p.m., stomachs growling, we arrived at the restaurant to find it shuttered. Far from everything else, but not to be dismayed, we set back off on weary foot to another option we’d starred. It, too, was closed. By now, it was 10 p.m., and we were grumpy and frustrated and slightly delirious. We began to trudge back towards our hotel, resigned to stopping at the next open restaurant without a plastic menu board of pictures out front, when we passed a bright, cozy window framing a packed house, a large wood-fired oven, and blistered crusts of hot pizza. We took a table.

The obvious rule that we did not follow – perhaps because of that hungry delirium – was to never order pasta at a pizza place. But we’d had pizza for lunch. We so desperately wanted a nice, last gluteny Italian plate before heading back home. » Continue reading this post…

On the Lifesaving Power of Eggs

Breakfast eggs (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I am, as we speak, in the process of moving. Not far, just around the corner. It’s a brisk four-minute bike ride, maybe a a ten-minute walk, and yet the proximity hasn’t seemed to make a bit of difference in my emotional state, which has hovered somewhere between general panic, unsustainable euphoria, exhaustion, worry, anxiety, and manic energy. My hands are raw from scrubbing. I am horrified by the amount of clothing I own. My ability to make logical, efficient decisions suffers at my inability to think amidst clutter. And what is moving if not clutter?

What’s saved me these days have been eggs. I have been too tired to cook, too tired even to go out to eat, and so I’ve christened my brand-new stove with the humblest of foods. I’ve eaten my eggs, sunny-side up, every morning on my new, still-bare balcony amidst the caterwauling birds and the relentless sun. I’ve eaten them for dinner, with kimchi or with ramps or with slices of herring from IKEA’s grocery shelves. Or with nothing at all, just the eggs, warm yellow islands in a sea of pockmarked white, pricked with sea salt and black pepper.

My countertops are full of jars and mismatched bowls, bags of dried beans and rice, all the accoutrements of a kitchen equipped to make anything I might desire. And yet, what I desire most is to be done with this liminal life, to finally hand over the keys to the old place and never again climb those million stairs or worry about whether I should still paint. What I desire second most is to be sustained through this process, both in body and soul.

And while the eggs have sustained my body, people have sustained my soul.

People who have carried boxes and bags and bins from one apartment to the other. » Continue reading this post…

Walking is the Only Way – San Francisco

Burritos in the Mission, San Francisco (Eat Me. Drink Me.) - Photo courtesy of Amy Lee

La Palma burritos, Mission, San Francisco (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The moment I stepped off the train at Mission and 24th Street and everything smelled like tacos, I knew I was going to like this place. San Francisco hooked me quickly, and hard. Walking down the street that first afternoon, I felt like I was back in the Brooklyn of my memory with its riot of Mexican eateries, its music and colors and windows full of cheap baked goods. Here a hipster bagel spot, there a brewery in stainless steel, and the sidewalks full of people out and about for who knows what reason on a Thursday afternoon, all clutching iced coffees despite the cool spring air not quite dispelled in even the sunniest sidewalk patches.

But coming from Berlin’s last wet, winter thrust, even the feeble sunshine felt like a blanket, open and spread out on the lawn, bedecked with a picnic lunch and maybe even a bottle or two of wine.

Dolores Park, San Francisco (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Here’s what I didn’t do in San Francisco: I didn’t ride the cable cars, I didn’t see the painted ladies or walk down Lombard Street. I didn’t go to Fisherman’s Wharf. I didn’t have oysters.

What I did do in San Francisco was walk. I had been told, upon arrival, that public transportation was inefficient and probably wouldn’t take me anywhere I wanted to go. Maybe it was the jet lag, but I didn’t question the edict, and by the time I found out that there are, in fact, opportunities for getting around that don’t involve blistered feet or ordering a car, it was too late, the damage had been done. In my mind, San Francisco was a city of walking only.

At the SF MoMa (Eat Me. Drink Me.) - Photo courtesy of Amy Lee
Croissants from Tartine, San Francisco (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

On my very first day, I walked sixteen miles from the Mission nearly all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge. I meandered, watching the city change from neighborhood to neighborhood without ever really knowing where I was and with nothing more to guide me than a vague pull north. » Continue reading this post…

Old Habits & Hollywood: Parsley & Wheat Berry Salad

Wheat Berry & Parsley Salad (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

For a few days every February, I live for McDonald’s breakfasts. My regular order: a sausage and egg McMuffin and black coffee, scarfed quickly in the upstairs dining area before it’s time to sprint somewhere for the first movie of the day, if we’re lucky, at Potsdamer Platz, if we’re not (and so often, we’re not) at Haus der Berliner Festspiele, where the ancient, sagging seats scoop your spine into scoliotic curves.

This is my fifth Berlinale, my fifth year (see years four, three, and two here) of waking up at 5:30 a.m. to stand in line with other crazy people so we can get tickets to spend ten days of doing nothing but watching movies and waiting in line to watch more movies. After five years, I think I can say we have traditions, the most fixed of which is getting McDonald’s breakfast after the line. To be fair, we really only make it about four days before we can’t stand the thought of eating McDonald’s again until the next Berlinale rolls around. But it’s like Glühwein in December: the first Christmas market sip is like cutting the ribbon to the season. By the fifth sip, you’re ready for May.

Berlinale 2018 (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Putting together parsley and wheat berry salad (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Whole coriander (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Of course we eat other things during the Berlinale. We try to make it to Pizza Hut at least once. Sometimes for lunch there’s Dunkin Donuts or carrot cake from Starbucks, and naturally all the coffee beverages. There are the stale soft pretzels they sell outside the theaters and burgers from the food truck and chocolate muffins and basically anything you can get your hands on between screenings. There’s not nearly enough green. Two memories: One, walking past a display case full of cream cheese sandwiches and craving the chive and parsley garnish. Two, ordering a salad that was more or less a tub of raw arugula and thinking it was the most delicious thing I’d ever eaten. » Continue reading this post…

The Year of Doing: A Tarte Tatin for Winter

Winter vegetable tarte tatin (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I landed in Berlin on New Year’s Eve. I hadn’t been in the city to see an old year out for the last five years, and didn’t have particularly fond memories of the one time I’d been here; the air had been heavy with smoke and grit, and shards of cracked bottles and spent confetti covered the sidewalks like a deadly shag carpet. Wanton firecrackers were constantly exploding underfoot. People threw them at cars, in trash cans, at other people, dropped them from buildings, lobbed them out of alleys. I remembered being afraid for my limbs, my eyes, any unprotected stretch of skin.

So I had avoided ever spending New Year’s in Berlin. It’s never been my favorite holiday anyway. There’s always so much expectation, and the party never does live up. The fireworks are too far away or hidden behind a building or a big tree and brittle in the cold. The ball is dropped to fanfare and applause, but when the party buzzers bleat their last, the new year feels just like the old and you haven’t magically morphed into a better version of yourself.

Beetroot (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Honey glaze and herbs (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

This year, I’d planned to go to a dinner party with a friend. Something quiet and inside and away from the chaos on the streets would be safe, I thought; no need for spectacle, and I could avoid the raucous revelers bombarding the streets with lights and loud bangs. I’d have just enough time after landing in the afternoon to unpack a little, to shower and change and catch the train north. But when I got to my apartment, the heater was out, which meant the floorboards were like planks of Arctic ice and the shower water glacial. But I set about unpacking anyway, dressed in heavy layers of wool and double-thick socks, at one point realizing it was warmer outside than in and heating up the room by opening the windows to let in brisk December. » Continue reading this post…

Weekend in Shoreditch + Pop-Up Dinner at Violet

The streets of Shoreditch (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

For a while, Josh and I started all our sentences with: “When I move to Shoreditch…” Like, “When I move to Shoreditch, I’m going to floor-to-ceiling stuff my flat with all these gorgeous plants from Columbia Road,” or “When I move to Shoreditch, I’m going to have breakfast at St. John every day – at the very least regularly pop in for fresh jelly donuts,” or “When I move to Shoreditch, I’m going to finally buy myself a decent black coat and nice shoes.” This was just me, though, because Josh always looked good.

To cap off our month of working together, Josh and I flew to London, where we met with DeVonn Francis of Yardy to put on a pop-up dinner at Violet, a lovely little bakery in Dalston. The dinner was the culmination of a crisscrossed web of collaborations. DeVonn had guest-edited the latest issue of Counter Service (#12 Guts), and Josh had taken the editorial break to spend the month in Berlin putting on a writing workshop with me. Josh and I had, independently of each other, recently discovered Shoreditch and were both hankering to go back and lay down roots of some sort (after all, when we move to Shoreditch, we’d like to be known) – and so it seemed like the right place to go.

Pilgrimage to St. John (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I landed a few hours earlier than Josh, and had some time to wander through my new home on my own. Shoreditch seemed so very clean, so quaint, compared to Berlin, and everyone in it so very put-together. There were little pubs on every corner with austerely painted wooden detailing on their facades and shops with five artfully arranged things in them and soft yellow lighting. The buildings all seemed politely small, just like the tube – and as a less tall person, it made me feel a little like Goldilocks finding her proverbial just right. » Continue reading this post…

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