Lists

Grocery lists go further than just cataloguing what your fridge and pantry might need. They are more than simple accumulations of “what if I had that” and “but I thought I had pasta tucked away in there somewhere…” They go into your week: your hopes, your dreams, your plans, your guesses that maybe on Thursday, you might not need to have the chicken defrosted because maybe he grew a pair and finally asked you out. As you take out the pen you “accidentally“ stole from dinner last Tuesday because you liked the click after you had to have that dessert glass of wine after a cocktail, bottle of white, and bottle of red—with your three other friends, though!—you, even if you aren’t the planner of the year or even of your household, start to plan. You remember texts and emails that tell you on this day you’re supposed to meet them here and that other person at some restaurant that was just written up in the New York Times. What is it that might transpire this week ahead?

Normally when I find myself starting this list, I am standing on a lost solider of cereal from earlier that day, barefoot, staring at my stove and cook books hoping that I’ll get inspired. This week, I think, I won’t cook that couscous dish again, I should switch it up. No more kale salads. And it’s not considered cooking Indian when you order it online. Maybe tomorrow, Monday, I’ll come home from my yoga class and try that broccoli rabe, sundried tomato, fresh mozzarella with cold-pressed olive oil and Himalayan pink salt followed by a Cornish game hen stuffed simply with goat cheese and dried cherries soaked in red wine. No big. That olive oil and salt will do me good in the long run and Tuesday’s lunch will be a sautéed version of Monday’s appetizer but with toasted baguette I’ll grab on my way to work from the local bakery. Wednesday I have plans, and Thursday can be “Thanksgiving-style sandwich” lunch day, and I’ll just need to make some mayonnaise and grab a few things of iceberg to complete my gourmet lunch. I’ll try to spice up that Kale salad sometime this week, and a fresh cold Spring soup is what I’ll be in the mood for by Friday.

But Monday’s yoga class turns into a run, and drinks with friends that I haven’t seen in two months, because that’s how frequently it appears I see good friends in New York City, and then dinner turns from a two course feast into a postponed dinner for me and a friend on Wednesday but then that falls through at 4pm on Wednesday and here’s the thing: I haven’t played this game just once.

So back to me standing on crumbs, barefoot: I try to factor in the spontaneity that will be undoubtedly thrust upon me throughout the week; from leaving my door to getting on the subway, readjusting my pupils as I come into the sunlit streets of NoHo on my way to work, my plans for the evening have most likely changed twice. I know that whatever might be penciled in, is in pencil for a reason. We are all busy, and to combat that, we create some sort of structure in how those three meals (or maybe just two because you have a deadline to meet) come every day. What I find is grocery lists are a way to control the ebb and flow of our social lives; these scratches on paper scraps are the outline of how we define the tenuous line between what we can create for ourselves in the upcoming tangible future and what will be created for us, and how we chose a preference between the two. So when I note that I have two open dinners, two lunches, and four breakfasts, there is no way that my grocery list looks anything like recipes to dishes, rather ideas of what I might want to eat (see: pasta, arugula, olives  II  cornish hen, cherry, goat cheese  II  cod, lemon, bacon, avocado).

Without doubt, I will go to the grocery store, forget whatever list I tried to make, and try to recreate my week from memory and those items, too. I will hope that actually he doesn’t stand me up on Tuesday, and we can try that little noodle spot on the Bowery. I dream that I will have the self control to go straight to the gym after my grueling 12 hour day of service and administrative work, come home chugging a coconut water, and dive right into prep for a proper two course meal, finishing off with a heavenly Levain bakery cookie. And I plan on not sticking to 100% of those scheduled dates.

 

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.

 

 

 

At The Moment, A Sharpie Written List

One of my moms hates Paris. She says that it is too perfect, what with their old ladies walking arm in arm smoking out of cigarette holders and mid-aged men striding home with an unsheathed baguette for breakfast and the old man is sitting on his micro-sized balcony having a morning black coffee and someone, somewhere is kissing. Always.

And it’s too clean, she says. Why would a boy be sweeping the sidewalk? Why would the subways not stink? Just: why? She likes the New York grit. The realness to the city. I can’t say that I hated Paris. The large boulevards and small winding streets. The runs that take you past architectural history. The dulled colors, and vibrant energy. The food.

The food is something of a mystery to me, seeing as it is simple, but takes about twenty steps to truly accomplish. And really, the dining scene there is all over the place. Awful bistro next to a wonderful market. Beautiful restaurant situated in what looks like a home next to the worst hole in the wall restaurant ever. A man yelling on the street that he has the best falafel in the world, and it’s true.  Paris is anything but perfect, but I have to admit that it is inspiring sometimes, even when living in the artist capital of the world: Brooklyn.

So I fancied it time to get a little Paris into my life. A Supper in my home. Unconventional seating, just like in that bedroom-turned-dining room restaurant in the 3rd. Three emails sent. Twenty people confirmed and the menu has just been written on the inside of a Trader Joe’s bag.

Supported Revival

This is all in bad form. It has been close to that of a year since new, meaningful, words found their way onto this blog. My good friend, when discussing a blog revival, said it was in bad taste, bad form, flat out wrong, for me to post so frequently for so long, and then simply stop. And to stop so suddenly, and with no repose.

So in that light, I’ve decided to revamp the format, and give myself a aesthetic reason to look at 20somethings again – meta, without doubt.

Why? Why not just start up where I left off? Why not just talk about holidays and summer and tacos made on back porches in the heart of Seoul? For many reasons. First and foremost: I tried to do that back a year ago. And I quote: “It’s time for another change…I want this place now to be a memoir, a conglomeration, a mélange of stories of this construction of a menu, and a palate through the food”.  It obviously didn’t work out amazingly. True, I tried out many new recipes, but never did they find their way onto the page. I could try to figure out reasons as to what it was specifically that made me quiet my writers mind – America, lack of kimchi, restaurants became my home and not classrooms, biking over bridges really took it out of me (?), bodega grocery stores, laundry mats?

All in all, things have changed.

And for that reason, the greyed background and photos of the Tetons are gone. Cookies in question head my writing. Not to worry, it is still the blog photo-documenting experiences of food, story telling, and creating recipes. But like many careers of a 20-something, times and events change. Maybe the adventures won’t seem as foreign to some, but to many: living in the five boroughs is nothign near commonplace. Sometimes, you just need a facelift to get yourself excited again. Let’s start a-new.

Trail Banter

About three days into every backpacking trip, the trail banter always changes. For the first three days, you catch up on past events, talk about future plans, gaze around you at the striking scenery, play trail games, guess which of the three is a lie, and figure out on the map how far it is to that next peak. Or trail juncture. Or shelter.

But after three days, the chit-chat always turns into a discussion of what would be the perfect meal once you get off the trail. No matter how well you back for the backcountry, there are always things missing – super fresh produce, or meat that doesn’t come in cans, or sweets that haven’t melted together in your bag because of the heat you’re producing hauling it up a mountain.

Some people start to crave exotic things like lobster and mangos, some just want a good piece of toast. I, well, I always craved simple freshness.

In a lot of ways, being on the trail is very similar to being in Korea. I love it here and find myself really getting along well with anything and everything I find here. But sometimes, all I want is a little pit stop into a small town that carries the things I desire. And that happens every so often – my family sends me care packages from home loaded with good coffee, dried fruits, and other delicious delicacies they think I may miss – but some things just can’t be sent via airmail (see: honey, kombucha!)

So what do I miss here in Korea? What will my first meal be back in the states? I don’t quite know yet seeing as I have a few more months here, but I do know that it will be simple, and look a little something like this (fresh, local goat cheese, hummus, whole wheat crackers, local greens from the farmer’s market, and kombucha… but of course)

But in the mean time, I make due very nicely. In fact, today I’m off to a fermentation festival in search of the mysterious, elusive, and delicious Kombucha! More pictures to come!

Recovery; Or Taking Stock

Q: How are you? How have you been? How was Thanksgiving? How is the whole North Korea situation? These are all stock questions that have been buzzing in my emails, letters, and skype conversations as of late. All of them rightfully so; I have been out of the United States now for one-third of a year, Thanksgiving did just happen, and North Korea has gotten a little uppity recently.

A: I’ve been good, keeping busy by running, writing, reading, catching up on movies from time to time, finding new holes-in-the-wall around Seoul, and planning trips skiing, to Japan, Russia, and Thailand. Thanksgiving was spectacular both in the food and company departments and North Korea’s attacks on South Korea about two weeks ago didn’t really affect Seoul in the least. It was scary for a second or two, then life resumed as normal and I found myself calming down all of the kids, which in turn calmed me down.

“Teacher, we’re at war!”

“No, we’re fine. Don’t you worry about it. They would never do anything bad.”

“Why teacher?”

“Because that would be crazyyyyyyyyy” as I run around the room as if I was crazy, to distract them.

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Stoves at every table!

It has officially been a week since I landed in Asia but at this point, it feels like a year. Already when I walk down the street, I scoff at the other foreigners and try to avoid people speaking English. I haven’t been in an American store yet (save the McDonalds I went in for some soft-serve ice cream… no judging!) and I’ve been eating Korean food nonstop (again, except for that damn soft-serve ice cream. It had to be done. It just looked so cold and refreshing.) Continue reading