I rode my little Hercules down Bergmannstr., and as I did, it started to rain, skinny drops that snuck under my scarf. But even with the rain, all I felt was joy to be reunited with my bike, my little Hercules. I forgot that I need to find another job, need to meet more people, am still so new somewhere. I pedaled through the rain, a route that is familiar to me now and realized, I have stopped comparing Berlin to Brooklyn. Because coming back, even after having been in New York, in my own beloved Brooklyn, feels like coming home. » Continue reading this post...
Archive for the ‘Eating Vegetables’ Category
My great uncle had always been old. From the time I was young, he’d been the same Hansvetter – I remember him in a newsboy cap, a cigarette in his hand, his feet covered in slippers. He loved to watch the planes take off from Stuttgart airport. He lived nearby and kept his TV programmed to a bluescreen listing of departures and arrivals so he’d know which planes were heading where as he watched them fly into the sky. When I’d visit, he’d ask when I was leaving, what plane I’d be on and tell me he’d track me as I took off.
A few distinct memories recur when I think of my great uncle. Every time we came by he’d ask, in a slow, loud Schwäbisch drawl if we understood what he was saying. It can’t be reproduced in print, but it’s something like that joke about Americans speaking loud, slow English in foreign countries as if it turns their words into something other than loud, slow English. For Hansvetter, it was a question of whether we could understand his dialect. And no matter how many times we said, yes, this crazy south German dialect (incomprehensible to even many northern Germans) makes complete sense to us, he’d always shake his head astounded and say, “Well, you just speak such good German.”
Well, yes, we’ve been speaking it our whole lives.
I drove to the South this weekend for Hansvetter’s funeral. On my way there, I thought of how our language and our dialect works to shape our selves. Such a large part of why I’m in Germany is to understand myself as well in this language as I do in English. Yes, Hansvetter, I grew up speaking German, but in a way, you’re right – it’s a foreign language to me still. » Continue reading this post...
There is a battle royale being waged for my waistline. I live on a sixth floor walk up, so every day I walk up and down, up and down, until I think I’d cry if I see just one more step in my life. But I’ve gotten pretty good at it by now, all the up and downing, so I think I must be getting in shape. And then I come home and I make things like potatoes with cheese sauce, thereby undoing all the good work I’ve done.
After a long day of translating, I walk up my six flights of stairs and into the apartment I’m calling home. It’s easy to step inside and hang a quick right to the kitchen, turn on the stove, and throw some olive oil in a pot, since everything I cook seems to start that way. I turn on the light, there’s only one small light in the kitchen and the large, orange shade around it keeps the ambiance dim. Which is alright, I guess, since it gives my neighbors in the building across the way less of a reason to look in my window. Although I know their lives well, by now, so I’m sure they know mine too.
And yet it feels a little Hitchcock to do too much looking – besides, living in New York cured me of all my voyeurism anyway.
The kitchen is a small space, not even the most economical. The stove is wedged between the broken washing machine and the shower and across the countertops are splayed half-full boxes of tea bags, postcards, a potted plant, stacks of books, cutting boards, empty cardboard packages, jars of honey and nutella, small stacks of coins, receipts, ticket stubs, and a plastic placemat with a picture of a palm tree. » Continue reading this post...
Oh yes, summer is here, at least unofficially. At least, I’m sweating enough to call it summer. With every snatch of breeze that thinks about coming inside, I lean closer to the open window. At least, until the mosquitoes eat my face. Oh yes, it’s summer. Time for salads and goat cheese, basil, mint, and buckets of water with ice cubes and lime. Or even better, fancy little cocktails with wild tea vodka, strawberries, mint, lemons, simple syrup, and soda water.
It feels like summer vacation every time we sit outside in the backyard. Two tiki torches light up the freshly raked dirt where someday soon there’ll be grass. There’s now a little string of Christmas lights up and always candles burning after dark. Just enough light to eat by at night. Perfect light when your dinner is strawberry-rhubarb pie and cocktails.
There’s been rhubarb at the market these last few weeks and the strawberries have finally started smelling like strawberries. I had been wanting to make a German-style rhubarb tart, but the dough is yeast-based, and being me, I had failed to read the instructions more than ten minutes before my pie friends were about to come over. And as I always come, back to my favorite crust recipe: 1 cup flour, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, a splash of milk, a pinch of salt. So easy and foolproof. Effortless like the summer night.
We sat in the backyard, talking as the pie baked and easing out of our stoic poises as the temperature dropped to something comfortable.
Oh, the gooey mess. Four people, one pie, and a few scoops of ice cream. Demolished.
And much the same my summer days go by. I go to work, I come home, I cook a little, sit in the sun a little, try to do yoga when I can, try to stay hydrated so I don’t die. » Continue reading this post...
I figured I’d go out with a bang. Something simple and celebratory that said, “Good food is a good life” and “I’m really tired from work” at the same time. It was time to dig through the pantry for cans unopened, vegetables unused, ideas unexplored. I found harissa. I thought: cinnamon, sweet potato, collards.
I played Adele very loud at the inconvenience of my neighbors. I sang along even louder. I thought, I have yoga-d, I have showered, and now I am cooking in the warm light of my kitchen. This is as ready as I’ll ever be to meet the hereafter. Assuming the hereafter is upon us in the next twenty minutes.
I remembered that when I was doing yoga, the rooster crowing at five in the afternoon was a sign. A frantic and unheeded sign. But now, with the sweet potatoes softening in a bed of onion, garlic, cumin, harissa, and cinnamon, I remembered also that the rooster starts to crow at three in the morning and crows, like sick clockwork, seven times in a row every nineteen minutes apart, until late in the afternoon. And by the end of the day his crows are like death throes, implausibly persisting croaks. And before, I had felt the rain to be ominous, wet foretaste of horror.
Now, it brought a cool evening breeze through the window and a calming patter. I remembered that I like rain.
I snapped open a bottle of Weihenstephaner, my right now favorite wheat beer. The apocalypse postponed itself, I think to give me time to really taste crisp wheat and honey, blue sky, the remembrance of bananas. I remembered that I don’t like bananas.
Two tortillas grilled on the gas stove’s open flame. Collards just simmering into a spicy tomato-laced harissa sauce. Crumbled feta. Everything wrapped in the tortilla. » Continue reading this post...
“Well,” I said, “I can sit and watch you eat.”
He looked at me as if to say, Really, Lyz? Don’t be dumb.
So I said, “Or… we can make pasta?”
And that’s how we ended up taking the train back to Bushwick, stopping at Associated to pick up spinach and beer, and carting our yoga’d out bodies into my apartment, where the temperature was miraculously above 50 degrees.
I’d been thinking about this pasta all day. I’d had a sweet potato for lunch and wanted to do something more interesting with it than just heat it up with butter and brown sugar. So I posted my dilemma on twitter, and just moments later received a lovely suggestion to make ravioli. I had a pasta roller I hadn’t used yet and a self-imposed rule to spend no more than $5 on food and now, a friend with which to eat: oh yes, the stars had aligned.
Sweet Potato and Spinach Ravioli
For pasta: 2 cups flour 3 eggs 1 tsp salt 1 tsp olive oil
For filling: 1 yellow onion 1 large clove garlic 1 bunch of spinach ½ roasted sweet potato ¾ cups ricotta cheese fresh grated nutmeg to taste salt and pepper to taste
On a clean, dry surface, make a volcano-like mound of flour. In the crater, crack three eggs; add salt and olive oil. With a fork, scramble the eggs and blend with the flour. If the dough is dry, add a few drops of water until you find yourself kneading a smooth, elastic ball of dough. (Conversely, if the dough is too sticky, add more flour.) Knead the dough for about ten minutes. Let the dough rest while you prepare your filling.
Finely chop onion and garlic and sauté in a healthy amount of olive oil until the onions are translucent. » Continue reading this post...
I may have mentioned that I’m writing a novel. I thought I’d challenge myself and participate in the November national write a novel in a month thing. It’s painstaking. So far I have seventeen pages of what will undoubtedly be the next great American novel, and each paragraph is a tortuous crawl towards some enlightened end – that has as of yet not been revealed to me. I decided today that someone’s going to die, definitely. But maybe not until, like, page ninety. Which means I only have seventy more pages to fill with something that resembles plot. Even a goal of three pages a day is killing me. (And, do the math, seventeen pages on November 9th equals clearly failing.)
When I write, I writhe. I sit in my desk chair with my sweatshirt hood pulled over my head and moan. I write a sentence, I delete it, I change the POV ten times, I do a series of gymnastic exercises in an effort to find a position in which I can write something I actually like. After every paragraph, I mumble, “Novels are haaaaaard,” and slump further in my chair before I can start another sentence.
I had to laugh today at the grocery store as I bought lunch for myself: two $1 frozen Celeste personal cheese pizza and a cherry Pepsi. I was still wearing my yoga pants, hoodie with the hood up, puff vest, and moccasins. I looked like a total dirty bum, and definitely not like the person who was writing what would (undoubtedly) be the next great American novel.
So I wrote and writhed and ate pizza and finished up seven (!) whole pages. When I was done, when I’d picked the person who was going to die and felt like there might be a story, I realized I was hungry. » Continue reading this post...
I had forgotten what real vegetables look like. I went to the Greenmarket in Union Square yesterday and walked past stalls where vendors, wrapped in balaclavas, parceled out apple slices and goat cheese on popsicle sticks, and every other stand sold hot cider. Walking through the Greenmarket is an exercise in maintaining your Zen, since everyone hustling in and out of stalls, vying for the biggest carrot. If you can keep breathing and let the crowd carry you instead of fighting through it, the market is wonderful.
I’ve gotten used to my Associated Supermarket on the corner and I’ve even started thinking, yeah, that’s some nice parsley. Maybe because compared to the bodegas where bunches of browning bananas and wilted bins of lettuce sit beside bags of chips and bouillon cubes collecting dust, Associated’s water-sprinkled produce glistens. Then I went to the Greenmarket and remembered what vegetables look like. And that they smell, even in brumal November. In the apple tent, giant lobes of jonagolds and pink ladys were musky perfume and there was a bunch of sage at one stall so fragrant I did a double-take just to close my eyes and smell. I found perfect red radishes, plump shallots and garden onions, goat cheese, greens, multi-hued fingerlings, sunchokes, tangy Kefir yogurt drink, and a spray of verdant flat-leaf parsley.
I carried the parsley in front of my face like a bouquet of flowers just to keep the fresh smell close.
Cooking from the farmer’s market is like adding an extra layer of love to what you make, since someone has loved the rutabaga before it was a rutabaga. A farmer’s market fruit is loved in a way a supermarket fruit has never known. When you cook with loved food, there’s less work to do. Greens wilt themselves into your skillet, tomatoes only ask for a little salt, onions are ferocious and tender. » Continue reading this post...