Monthly Archives: March 2011

Comfort

Monday was a hectic day. After a 4:30 wake-up, a tearful goodbye, a delayed plane, a stopped BART train, a work day that lasted into the daylight savings time dusk, and a public transit trip with my suitcase the size of a hippo, I really needed a hug. Instead, I pulled out a skillet.

Same difference.

What is it about food and emotions? Why are the two so confusingly intermingled? Why is oatmeal with homemade granola almost as satisfying as holding hands during a movie, or juicy raspberries an acceptable stand-in for a minty fresh morning kiss in the bathroom?

I’m sure Oprah has something to say about eating your feelings, but Oprah can fly to her faraway someone in her private jet, while I have to make do with a quick Southwest flight every other month. C’est la vie. This month, we’re going to Seattle to explore, ride bikes, see a favorite band, try cool restaurants, and celebrate my sweet boyfriend’s birthday with a day of doing only whatever we feel like doing.

And until we do, there are chickpeas.

The humble chickpea. It’s not glamourous, or new, or even all that much to look at. It’s beige, it’s boring, and if you are particularly lazy or busy (please see first paragraph) it even comes in a can.

But if treated carefully and with a little extra love, the chickpea can surprise you. It can be warm and earthy, mealy almost, but in a great “this has recently come from dirt” sort of way, even if it’s not true. Way to go, chickpeas! If given the support of our friends in the spice rack, the chickpea can burst forth, like Superman from a telephone booth, with flavor and punch. And if given the right time and attention, the plain, boring chickpea can almost stand-in for the comfort of a hug on a bad day.

Almost.

Spicy Chickpea Curry

I found this recipe in my monthly bible almost a year ago and have made it numerous times since. It’s quick, you likely have all the ingredients already, and it’s the easiest and most satisfying thing I know of to make. Easy. Satisfying. Simultaneously. Feel free to fall in love already.

Ingredients

Olive oil

One clove garlic

One quarter yellow onion

One small ripe tomato

One can of organic chickpeas or 8 oz. dried chickpeas soaked overnight

1/2 tablespoons each yellow curry, cinnamon, red chipotle or cayenne spices

Ketchup (yes, ketchup! Just go with it!)

Whole wheat rice, flatbread, plain yogurt, and a lemon wedge to finish

1. Measure out your spices and mix them together in the dry skillet. Heat on medium-high, toasting the spices for a few minutes, mixing thoroughly. Spices will come alive if toasted a bit at the beginning, so this is a critical and delicious first step. Once the yellow curry and red cayenne turn the color of the cinnamon, scrape them from the pan and put them aside.

2. Glug some EVOO into a skillet and heat on medium low. While the oil warms, dice your garlic clove, your tomato, and french cut your onion into thick strips. Onion strips are smaller, area-wise, than onion rings and they comingle with the chickpeas in a friendly backyard BBQ kind of way, instead of the high school prom queen on top of the heap sort of way that rings sit in a pan. My apologies to the prom queens.

2. Once the oil is warm and loose and will spin nicely, coat your skillet and throw in the onions and garlic. Swirl things around until they start to spark, then add your spices back into the mix. The spices will clump, so stir and prod until they coat the vegetables evenly and become fragrant.

3. Pour in the chickpeas, stirring again to even things out, then add a few swirls of ketchup and mix yet again. Once everything is evenly coated, add a quarter cup of water and turn the burner up high to boil the liquid. Once you reach a solid bubbling, turn down to medium, stir a final time, cover and simmer for 20.

4. While the chickpeas are simmering, do a quick batch of whole wheat rice. The nuttiness of the rice is the perfect complement to the spice of the dish, and it’s the perfect bottom layer to catch the sauce and the tang of the yogurt.

4. Once the liquid has thickened into a sauce and the spices have melded together, the chickpeas should be soft and yielding and the rice should be done. Fluff up your rice, pour the chickpeas on top, and serve with a piece of warm flatbread for scooping. Garnish with a drizzle of plain yogurt (greek yogurt is a bit too thick and dessert-like for this – I go for regular plain) and a squeeze of lemon juice.

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Filed under Dinner time!

Today…

…is the day before the day I get to see the guy who makes me feel like this:

Like, all the time.

I am beyond excited for a weekend of skiing, cigar smoking, family dinners, and a whole lotta face time with my someone!

I hope you have a fantastic weekend, too.

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Filed under Gentlemen Friends

Good point

“What is the point of being alive if you don’t at least try to do something remarkable?”

– John Green

(italicizing mine!)

Found via Middle Child Complex and reposted here because – good point!

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Filed under Quotes, Thinking

Letters From The Bay, Week 88: And on the third day, Granny drunk packed for the earthquake

I thought I was over it.

When I moved to California almost two years ago, the first two weeks were hell. Firstly, because I missed home and I was living with strangers and that was weird. Secondly, because I didn’t know how to go anywhere and I was constantly lost and that was frustrating. Thirdly, because THE AGENCY was very quickly revealing itself to be the worst place on Earth and I was overwhelmed and that was terrible. And finally – fourthly, if you prefer – because I was terrified to death of earthquakes and would wake up every time the garage door slammed and dash out into the hallway and half-grip the walls (because, hi, you can’t really hold onto a wall. Remember that one time you were drunk and you had the spins and you tried? Yeah.) and have a few moments of half awake panic because I was sure we were going down in the giant pile of stained carpet, green walls and overstuffed closets that was my first apartment in the city.

Luckily, after a few weeks, I forgot that I was living on the equivalent of a Jell-O jiggler atop a stack of cardboard boxes and I began to relax. And, you know, sleep at night and leave the house and stop carrying around my bike helmet, and such.

Until now, when the series of quakes in Haiti, New Zealand, and Japan have thrown the network news into overdrive. It’s the anchors, with their hyped-up hypothesizing, and the featured guest experts, bloviating about how our lack of preparedness is going to blow up in our faces when the big one hits and we all fall down, who have caused us, the residents of the Jell-O, to experience a city-wide freak out.

On Tuesday, I found this clip, which sent me into a frenzy of freaking out. According to my friend Cameron, we probably have to believe this guy because he looks like Santa and Santa wouldn’t lie to us, right? RIGHT?!?! And Santa says that an earthquake is scheduled to hit San Francisco today, Saturday, March 19th. Or, as the little network news anchors in my head are already calling it: THE ST. PATRICK’S DAY QUAKE AND DISASTER OF 2011.

On Wednesday, while my roommates were watching live Japan coverage on CNN, I was perusing the SF Quake informational site and cursing myself for never taking my Mormon friends up on their conversion offers. Mormons are crazy about emergency preparedness and even though I actually just think Mormons are a wee bit crazy, it wouldn’t hurt us to have some canned soup and a flash light in this house, you know?

And on Thursday, after lots of beer at a St. Patrick’s Day street party with a cover band of middle aged guys wearing tracksuits and ski goggles (who, I might add, were awesome), I came home and packed my emergency to-go bag.

Yes. While drunk. I packed for emergency while drunk. It made perfect sense at the time. It also made sense to call D, my general life supervisor.

“DUNCAN!!” I shouted loudly into the phone. “The EARTHquake is COming on SATurday, and YOU aren’t ready for it yet, RIGHT?!”

“Hi – what are you doing? Are you drunk right now?!”

“Yes. I am drunk. I am drunk and I am preparing for emergency!” I yelled at him as I rummaged wildly through the drawer of technology where any and all cables and things with wires sticking out of them are relegated. “I need to back up my hard drive, fill up my camelback, find that little first aid kit, and saran-wrap my love letters!”

“Your love letters?!” Dunc said, in the incredulous, one-eyebrow up way that he uses when his down home Lutheran sensibilities are confused by your lack of common sense (okay fine, it’s usually my lack of common sense) and he is .2 seconds away from talking you down, Garrison Keillor-like.

“Ooooookaaaaayyyy,” he said. Oh heeeeere we go.

“First of all – love letters should be put into a ziploc. Saran makes no sense. It’s not water tight. Second of all,” he continued, “you really need to get a dedicated bag for this sort of thing and actually put real emergency items inside it. Two cliff bars, a roll of TP and your love letters aren’t really going to help you in case of emergency.”

“Thirdly,” he said as he tried to contain his laughter and it was getting the better of him, ” I just want you to know that this day will go down in the hilarious history of our friendship, and I cannot even wait to tell your grandkids about the day their granny drunk packed for the earthquake that never came.”

How does he know?

Last I checked, it was still Saturday.

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Filed under Letters from the Bay

Freedom and Fear

I have been spending a lot of time lately thinking about writing.

I always spend lots of time thinking about writing. All day, all the time, I think about writing. And when I sleep, I dream about writing.

True story: I had a dream last night that my coworkers and I were on a road trip and I had a backpack full of random things. Everyone dove into my backpack in a shark-like feeding frenzy and took everything inside it. When they had finished their frantic rummaging – those dirty jerks – I felt about the bottom of the bag for something – anything – that might be left. My arm emerged from the bag with a pen. And I was happy.

But happiness while writing doesn’t take away the fear of writing. The thing that makes me happiest is also the thing that terrifies me the most. Figure that out.

My friend Dan has reminded me a few times that nothing is precious. You just have to write…and write and write and write and write. And then trash all of it. And then write some more.

I am bad at trashing anything. Ask the 27 Barbies living like refugees in a rubbermaid tote in my parents’ basement. I choose to think they’re having a party in there, where neon leggings and shoulder pads are still all the rage, but the truth is that I am afraid to get rid of them because I believe, deep down, that there will come a moment in my life where I will need precisely 27 Barbies and two Kens and I will somehow, magically, be in my parents’ house when that moment arrives.

True story.

And I think that’s how it is with writing. I am afraid to start – to truly start – because it will mean facing days where I will feel I am not very good at it, this thing that makes me happiest. I am afraid to begin because it not only means hard work, but because it means work done, and re-done, and re-done again. I am afraid to start because maybe, deep down, I believe there will come a moment in my life where my novel magically comes pouring out and I will simply be a vessel for words from the heavens.

True story: I used to be afraid of running. My shorts would accidentally leap from the drawers during vigorous cases of laundry folding and I would shield my eyes as I shoved them back in. My Nikes would stare at me dolefully out of all of their 16 eyelets and my heart rate would rise as I thought about myself running, slowly, without purpose, and badly.

I just ran three miles. Just now, about two hours ago. I laced my shoes, cranked up Florence + The Machine and away we went, for three glorious, sweaty, red-faced miles.

True story.

I’m not a great runner. But I run and run and run and run and run. And now it’s not so scary.

This week, I am going to start writing. And writing. And writing. Because there is freedom in doing something that is scary. Just like there is freedom in talking about things that are scary (thanks for listening.)

There is also freedom in failing at something. Because as soon as I fail – or give up, or take a night off, or stop writing, it’s all the same – then I am one step closer to trying again, and being better.

This is my arm, emerging from the bag.

It is holding a pen.

 

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Filed under Thinking