Routines: Moving, Cooking, Spending

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Routines come and go throughout life. What a bland and boring statement, and one that may not be qualified to start off a post of any nature – even those from years ago when angsty teens used to use livejournal as a publicprivate journal. But, as mundane as those six words may be, they really are (together) the subject line of my past week.

I moved recently. More appropriately, I moved about three months ago, which means I think I am all settled but there are still boxes I haven’t unpacked and surely forgotten about.  And since then, my routine has gone in a complete tailspin, again. Moving to New York inspired me to run everyday again, since Korea lulled me into a strange every-other-day routine. Then moving to a less luxurious part of town stopped me, seeing as it might not be so safe to run around in short shorts and a headband. My third move brought me closer to a park, and that lead me to that running every-other-day, seeing nature and refreshing me. Now, I cannot even come up with a reason not to run seeing as I live half-a-block from Central Park. I even woke up early this morning, coughing, and kicked myself out the door to see the most spectacular park I’ve seen in a while. That short and narcissistic story goes to show that I am affected – strongly no less – by location as to what I may find in my everyday routine.

One could argue that it can’t be said about food as well; you live in an apartment or house and you have a kitchen and you eat. Well, I’ll argue against it. I live in New York and work around food – why would I ever want to cook when I have free “family” meals and there are more restaurants to go to? I have gone through every incantation of eating in New York. Cooking exclusively at home and packing my lunches, eating only at Farmers markets even if that means traveling over bridges to get there, eating out enough to break even every month, falling into that dastardly trap of ordering food online (grubhub, you are a dirty temptress), and then finally finding a middle ground. Why? Oh, only because I live right next to the best grocer in all of the City, and a Farmers Market pops up every weekend. How can I say no to cooking incredible ingredients? Again: Routines come and go throughout life.

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The other night I had a decision to make: would I go and spend thirty on dinner, or take that thirty and hit up Fairway. The latter won out, and now I sit happy on my fifth meal from that purchase. To celebrate my brilliant decision – which I must say was the only decision made when I was growing up; this whole eating out more than once a week was a recent acquisition; I cannot blame parental choices for that – I chose to cook a little summer spread. Starting in this culinary world, I was a vegetarian so every time I cook proteins, I feel like I am doing something special (see: the tilapia I cooked that evening).

To start my summer off, a luxurious caprese salad with farmers market tomatoes sliced thin, slapped basil, a drizzle of truffle oil, and slices of fresh mozzarella – slightly salted.  Fresh, simple, rich, deep, delicious.

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With my cast iron skillets sizzling hot, the main dish started to sautee together. Onions and garlic kicked off the meal with yellow peppers and farmers market zucchini shortly to follow. In the pan right next door, Jersey asparagus and broccoli were blanching in seasoned water. The tilapia was sitting, waiting, on the counter, seasoned with salt and celery flakes. Couscous on the back burner, slowly expanding in it’s hot water bath. As the onions started to caramelize, and the zucchinis browned in that beautiful way they do, a slab of butter was added to the mix to give a little depth of flavor (aka, my heart will always have a touch of southern love in it, always will). With that tender combination tossed into the anticipating couscous, the tilapia took its sizzling spot in the hot cast iron, lightly wading in a combination of olive oil, butter, toasted garlic and translucently sweet onions. Spending only a few minutes on each side, small blackened pieces of the fish flaked off into the sautee sauce, quickly finding their way into the hot couscous salad, connecting a through line from couscous through to the protein. With the al dente asparagus and broccoli in the plate, the couscous as foundation, and the tilapia sitting, flaking apart, on top – the birth of a new cooking routine was born. Routines come and go throughout life.

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Maybe this will hold, maybe this won’t, but I am thoroughly enjoying my little brown stove in my apartment.

Ps. The whole meal paired surprisingly well with a Budweiser. At least this 20something thought so.

 

 

 

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Sit, Eat, Do Nothing Else

I’ve fallen into wasting time on Tumblr these days. I find it a better, almost more productive way to procrastinate those things that need to get done. At least those Tumblr accounts that I follow seem crafted; put together; aesthetics kept in mind; as opposed to the powerhouse of procrastination – Facebook. What does my dream house look like? How exactly will that infinity pool fit in? That’s how a black cape would look on a guy running down an empty road in New Mexico would look, I’ll be sure not to do that. You know, productive ideas, fleshed out.

Sometimes, theses Tumblr accounts all seem to lock in on one “viral” post, and recently it’s been “sixteen small steps to happiness,” a list (all seeming to skip over step 13…) of ideas as to how to better your days. Small quips about sleep and hygiene and the golden rule. As with all lists, or food fads, or fashion advice, you can only really hop on board with a few of the ideas. Number four caught my eye:

4. get into the habit of cooking yourself a beautiful breakfast. fry tomatoes and mushrooms in real butter and garlic, fry an egg, slice up a fresh avocado and squirt way too much lemon on it. sit and eat it and do nothing else.

You always hear “breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” but I rarely got on board. I seem to value sleep over eggs and bacon. That is to say, I have never been one to eat a beautiful breakfast, but the past two days I have made the effort. I tried to step towards happiness. Normally it’s a fresh pressed juice and a piece of toast. Or coffee and a bagel. Or those cold eggs that the restaurant you are working for put out two hours ago and you attempt to eat them but really, the cold tatter tots are going to be your fuel for the next couple of hours. Tatter tots and mayonnaise. Not that that has happened before.  But yesterday I tried.  Sautéed peppers and onions with Dijon mustard, snap peas, toasted bagel and smeared avocado. Easy, simple, ten minutes of preparation. This morning – roasted potatoes with garlic, celery seed, and zucchini with a toasted tortilla and butter-fried egg with three slices of avocado.   Again, nothing that I would take a picture of and send home to mom, but it was beautiful nonetheless. It was not only a healthy meal, but also one that made me “sit and eat it and,” aside from that one text I received far too early in the morning, “do nothing else.” It wasn’t a bowl of cereal that I haphazardly raised spoon to mouth and devoured the internet. It was a meal that I took seriously, and slowed my day – I created perfect bites. I hoped that some avocado was left at the end. I had started my day, the old fashioned way. Maybe I could try number nine tomorrow.

9. organise your room. fold all your clothes (and bag what you don’t want), clean your mirror, your laptop, vacuum the floor. light a beautiful candle.

Or maybe I could just keep cooking breakfasts.

 

 

 

Hopes and Plans and Iron Skillets

Growing up, the cast iron skillets always hung in the same place. The forks were always on the right of the spoons, and there was always butter sitting at room temperature next to the honey and coffee for morning breakfast preparation. There was always milk in the refrigerator — the type changed over the years from whole to skim to soy to skim back to whole — and I could always count on some flavor of yogurt. We never ran out of flour, and there was always some type of seasonal fruit in a while bowl on the island. Growing up, my kitchen was a sort of rock, a foundation, a steady horse that always gave me what I wanted and always supported my creative outlets in front of the stove and in the oven.

Living in the City, a year and a half has taught me, has completely shattered my ideas of what a kitchen should be. Maybe it is the fact that my kitchen now is half the size, if not smaller, than my childhood’s. Maybe it’s that food is more expensive now, or that I have to buy it, period. It might be my lack of cutlery, or the fact that some of my utensils are still packed away from my first move into the city (see: I have now moved four times in under two years). Whatever it is, I find myself going out much more often. Almost to the point that I feel like I am throwing away money into the open doors of every restaurant. I have to concede that going out to new restaurants to see what other people are doing with food that I know and love is extremely important to foster your own voice in the culinary arts (you must read to be able to write, or so they say), but when I find myself going out at every opportunity and cooking only when I feel like I am sinning against my own craft it turns into a problem: lack of creativity.
So, to restart the my writing on this blog, and tie myself to stove (where I know I belong), I am starting a challenge. At least four meals at home a week (breakfasts and lunches included). I’ve made plenty of promises I haven’t kept in the past, but hopefully this isn’t one of them.
To a month of cooking at home, and returning to my childhood kitchen.