Ecce Homo

I am absolutely obsessed with this story. I love the image of the old woman, entering her beloved church with her carefully chosen palate on her paint board, approaching the face of her God. This was, my friends, a true act of love. She saw Christ suffering and went to fix him. I am sure the real Jesus would have appreciated her attempt. Still, it feels like there are a few deeper lessons. A true reflection on impermanence. Or maybe, even, Jesus is using this “crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic” to teach us a lesson: we came from the apes, folks, and to apes we shall return. If it’s good enough for him, it should be good enough for the rest of us.

Click here for  an amazing interview with Cecilia Gimenez, amateur art restorer.

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Carbonara Con Carciofo

I went all renegade rebellious with dinner tonight, refusing to go grocery shopping and vowing to make something delicious from whatever was left on our shelves and in our fridge at the end of the week.

More often then not, these experiments result in something that works for the night and is never replicated. And I have an epic failure or two on my record. I also have a husband/dining partner who is not afraid to say exactly what he does or doesn’t like about what he’s tasting. So tonight when I cobbled together a pasta dish that Chuck proclaimed was so good I should post it on the internet, I thought it would be good carbonara Karma to do so. The following is an expansion of Mark Bittman’s Spaghetti alla Carbonara recipe in How to Cook Everything. It takes about half-an-hour, contains all the food groups, and is so tasty it’s a shame that it would murder your cholesterol to eat every night.

In the fridge/freezer/shelves, I foraged the ingredients: 1/2 lb. spaghetti; 2 strips thick-cut bacon; 2 eggs; 1/2 cup grated Parmesan (left from Christmas lasagna…); 1/4 onion; 5 mushrooms; 1 box frozen artichoke hearts.

Then:

1) Boil and salt water for the pasta.

2) Cook the bacon in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until crispy – set aside.

3) While the bacon is cooking, chop the onion and mushroom. Then saute in bacon pan, adding mushroom after a few minutes. Note – do not empty grease from pan before cooking.

4) When the pasta water is boiling add it in. At the same time, beat eggs and cheese together in a large heated bowl. ( I have no idea why Bittman says to heat the bowl – maybe to help cook the egg later? But I just added hot water to a bowl and dumped it out and it was nice and warm and everything came together well, so probably a step worth taking). Also at this time, cook the artichoke hearts on the stove or in the microwave.

5) Chop cooled bacon.

6) As soon as the pasta is finished cooking, drain and dump into the egg-and-cheese mixture. Mix well. Add bacon, grease and all cooked vegetables. Mix again. Serve with more Parmesan and lots of pepper!

 

I’m having one…

I’m having one of those “you can’t always get what you want” type of days. You know the kind: you work really hard for something, and then it just doesn’t happen, due to circumstances outside of your control. And while I prefer to take a deep breath and bring in some famous French wisdom – que sera sera, whatever – it doesn’t change the fact that it utterly sucks when things don’t happen the way you want them to. At least for a little bit.

But here is me, accepting and not moping. So, Happy New Year, everyone. Here are the things that I am celebrating today, in spite of a little setback:

1) I have a glass of red wine next to me, and a cat on my lap. If the combination of these things is not the cure-all for whatever ails you, I don’t know what is.

2) My 95-year-old grandfather just had heart surgery. And he’s recovering well. Not only can my relatives can still rock life 95 years into it, they still strive to make themselves better.

3) I can so relate to Mick Jagger today. And, obviously, we have a ton in common. Especially the long flowing hair.

 

Quiet Sunday

I’m writing today from a coffee shop in Brooklyn, after eschewing my writers group. When I woke up this morning, I had every intention of going to my writing group. But then the time change caused me to sleep exceptionally late, and the city sounded ever-so-far away, and I finally made a compromise with myself: as long as I got my hour of writing in today, I didn’t have to ride the subway. I came to this coffee shop with every intention of writing poetry, but between the inde-rock on the speakers and the gossip at the table behind me, I’m not feeling all that poetic. Ergo: blog!

I’m trying to focus more intentionally on writing these days, and an important part of that is obviously reading. So for Lent this year, instead of giving up, I am adding. My goal is to read a poem a day. This could be a pretty quick activity, given that so many poems are under 2 pages, so I am also taking some time to think, reflect, and study the words. Reading poems only one time is the quickest way to not like poetry.

I am also working to develop some of my older work, since new words aren’t coming out, in the hopes of getting a few things published. A lot of these poems I wrote the original drafts of back in college, almost 10 years ago, so I think it’s about time to release them.

Well, I just succeeded in making myself feel guilty by avoiding the hard work of concentrating. So I’m going to try to do that now. Wish me luck.

 

“When there’s nothing left to burn…”

One of the most striking things for me about the revolution in Egypt is that the Egyptians were inspired by a similar subversion of the dominant paradigm in Tunisia. This uprising was itself sparked–quite literally–by a frustrated, unemployed graduate student who set himself on fire when the produce he was selling from his unlicensed fruit cart was confiscated. Mohomad Bouazizi, in his final, desperate act, began a movement that has transformed, and is still transforming, the Middle East.

This isn’t the first time an oppressed young person has torched himself in response to interminable conditions. Reading this, I was taken back to my studies of the Velvet Revolution in Prague, and how Jan Palach became a martyr there. But nothing could fully prepare me for this list of people who have committed politically-inspired self-immolation.

When I had the idea to start writing this post, I was planning to get all judgmental and say nothing like this could happen in the US, under the assumption that we don’t feel that level of anger, we’ve never been that oppressed.

I was wrong about that.

So I don’t really have a point here.

I guess I’m awe. I can’t imagine anything political–outside of my life, my friends, my family–mattering that much to me. Or being willing to loose that much. Or (the most frightening possibility) feeling like I had nothing to loose.

Yet these actions matter. I remember reading about Palach, “he wanted to be a human torch, burning for freedom.” He may have regretted it in the end, told his friends to scrap the plan, that the pain wasn’t worth the act.

But it wasn’t in vain either. The Czechs look to him as a symbol of freedom during their darkest days. His demonstration at least got people’s attention. His legend became bigger than the regime he protested.

I leave you then, with a the song that comes into my head every time I start to think about these things. I don’t mean to say that revolutions can be summed up in pop songs. But for me, music is a way to begin to process things that are too big for me–things I am blessed not to fully understand.

Signing off in solidarity, and in remembrance.

On food, and how we talk about it

Today’s news brings us the new government guidelines for all eaters: eat less. On one hand, very simple advice. On the other hand, is it maybe too simple?  Is the act of the government coming out and saying what Weight Watchers has been telling the world since 1963 really going to provide anyone with new information on how to reduce their weight?

It’s math, people.

Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s quite that easy. For example, if people ate more, say, mushroom bourguignon with a side of kale (full disclosure: my dinner tonight), I don’t think they’d be getting quite so large. It isn’t only how much you eat, but also what you’re eating. Admittedly, the guidelines also call for half of your plate to be filled with fruits and vegetables, which is a helpful hint, but still doesn’t hit another issue that may be turning people away from healthy foods. Let me put forth another idea, as a person who has always preferred English to math. My hypothesis (science now) is that the language we use to talk about healthy food is a contributing factor to the obesity epidemic.

For example, let’s start with your basic items on your basic fast food menu. What do you have? Hamburger. Cheeseburger. Chicken Nuggets.You can picture them all, can’t you? You have absolutely no questions about what they look like, and certainly no doubt about how to pronounce them. What about the signature fancy dishes: the Whopper; the Big Mac; and my favorite, the Baconator, which does not fuck around with things like “lettuce.” While these words may not mean anything on their own, they’re still friendly and easy to pronounce, which–by association–sound easy to eat. What’s in a Big Mac anyway? Special sauce. That in itself means nothing either, but gosh-darn does it sound fun. Really makes eating fast food seem, well, special, doesn’t it?

Let’s compare this with my aforementioned dinner. I’ll be the first to admit: even for a college-educated girl, bourguignon is way easier to cook than it is to spell. What about some other words I’ve come across reading foodie articles in the past week: radicchio, braised, au jus. Growing up in a Betty Crocker household, I can promise you that these are words we never used in the kitchen. Furthermore, when I first came across them–whether in a menu or in a cookbook–2 things immediately came to mind:

1) This shit is fancy; and

2) I can’t (eat/make) this–I don’t know (what it is) and/or (how to pronounce it)!

Some version of thought 2 ALWAYS followed thought 1.

I think I would have likely made the bourguignon sooner if we used the old fast food trick of calling it what it is: a dish cooked in alcohol. In fact, I may have made bourguignon about twice a week in college. I’ve never cooked raddichio, but knowing that it looks like cabbage makes me pretty confident I can tackle it with ease (it also helps that when I see it on the menu I now think “rhymes with ‘geek,’ not ‘radish.’) As for braising, I’m sure I’ve done it, but I wouldn’t know to call it that (a glance at the wikipedia page confirms my assumption). As for the “au jus?” Just juice baby. Sweet meat juice. (Why is this not an item on a fast food menu?)

In sum, (math again) healthy food needs a little modern marketing to be more accessible–mentally, not just in proximity. Think quick, easy dishes dishes described in USA Today instead of New York Times language. Don’t believe me? Call your friend who’s favorite meal is a Big Mac and tell him you’re making either beef in booze or chicken with meat juice for dinner. He’ll be right over–and may even try the radicchio while he’s at it.

Explosion

I stayed home sick today, and thought I’d watch a movie on the couch tonight–take things easy. Right around midnight, just as my movie was ending, I heard a loud boom and saw a flash outside my window. At first, I thought fireworks were going off on the street. Then I realized that made no sense. When I ran to the window and saw another flash and the street clouded with smoke, I thought the building on the corner was on fire.

As soon as I opened the front door, I smelled gas, and saw two firetrucks parked in front of the building. My next thought was that it must be a gas line, like what recently happened outside of San Francisco. Getting closer to the action, I realized that wasn’t it at all. It was a cab with the front blown to bits.

When I first got down there, it was still smoking. Firefighters had surrounded it and were spraying it down. The front and passenger doors were both open, and someone told me the driver had run off.

By the time I returned with my camera, the firefighters had finished ripping apart the front of the car. I don’t know what they found, but I was relieved not to see any bomb squad appear.

So much for a quiet night.

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