Summertime laziness

This cooking thing has sunk its claws deep in me.

Don't get me wrong - I'm still pretty lazy about making my dinners, especially in the summer heat when all I want to do is sit around in air conditioning and watch Arrested Development on DVD for the umpteenth time. It's just that walking through Bethesda the other night, longingly looking through the Le Creuset window, I realized that I've wholly submersed myself in this. I just finished Julia Child's My Life In France, and most of the other books on my reading list are food memoirs. I am even undertaking a top-secret baking project.

I think part of why I was always so hesitant to step foot in the kitchen was because I gendered the experience traditionally feminine, and that was the last thing I wanted to be (even before I discovered feminism proper). It still weirds me out a little bit, I'm not going to lie, but there is no mistaking the sheer thrill I get when I see scones rising in the oven, or sauce coming together, etc. Clearly this is good for me, in so many ways.

Most of my food discoveries have come from not wanting to be rude and just eating the food put in front of me. I used to be a very picky eater and some of those cautious tendencies remain, though I'm much better. So I probably would have come around to guacamole (and avocados) eventually, but the process was hastened by Andy. When we dated our junior year of college, he was certainly the cook in our relationship. Early on, he made guacamole for some function or another, and - again, not wanting to be rude - I tried it. I haven't looked back since.

It took moving here to get me to make guacamole for myself, because once we got to be friends again I could usually pester Andy to make it whenever I wanted. It was because he made it in my kitchen so many times - notably after my thesis defense, after I confessed I hadn't really eaten anything the whole day out of nerves - that I was able to recreate it at all. See, guacamole is ridiculously simple to make, but it isn't just avocado. So this is less a recipe and more a suggestion of ingredients, for those days when the act of making dinner is just too much. As Julia would say, bon appétit!

Quesadillas with Guacamole

Lazy dinners, ones that don't really need recipes, are kind of my forte. After I get home from work, the last thing I want to do is make a fancy dinner for one. So, yeah, there tends to be a bit of Amy's frozen pizza or Annie's macaroni and cheese. With the onset of summer, though, I've been craving avocados.

As it turns out, quesadillas are a fantastic vehicle for this. My preferred combination is plain cheese quesadillas with guacamole, but avocado quesadillas are also delicious. Before I became a vegetarian, I also quite enjoyed chicken quesdadillas. (It should be obvious at this point that I am a big fan of cheese. I am the sort of girl who has at least three different types of cheese in her refrigerator at any given point.)

Let's get serious, though: guacamole. Here are the necessary things: avocado, salsa, garlic, salt. I like to leave the avocado pit in, as it prevents oxidation(!), but I know some people don't like this. And this is really all to taste. I usually only put in a splash of salsa, but a clove of garlic per avocado and probably too much salt for most people. If I have them around, onions and lime juice are good to put in, but are certainly not as key as any of the other ingredients.


Way opens

When I was in high school, my AP English teacher, whom we called Doc, would give me books off his shelf to read once I had finished our required reading. This is how I found books like The Solace of Leaving Early by Haven Kimmel, or Don DeLillo's White Noise, or any number of books by Milan Kundera. It wasn't The Unbearable Lightness of Being, either, which I didn't read until years and years later; no, the one that stuck with me was Life is Elsewhere. I pulled it off the shelf, and Doc warned me, "It's not romantic." I laughed, gobbled up the book, and though I can't tell you any details about it, that title stuck with me.

At sixteen, my life was absolutely elsewhere. All of high school was waiting to not be in high school anymore. "Life is elsewhere" became my slogan, became something I would scrawl wherever I got the chance. Even through the first year of college, life was always elsewhere. I tried to be mindful of each moment - meditation helped - but then I ran across this and something shifted within me.

Life is often elsewhere, but it shouldn't be.


Last week was the first time we had been to yoga in two weeks. My body felt grateful to be moving, stretching, sweating. (I hadn't been treating myself very nicely, which is partially why last week's post was so short. I also got sick on my last day of the old job. Go figure.) I've mentioned before that at the end of each class, there's a short message. The message last week was about being in the moment and not searching for stability - especially fitting, as Jo and I had spent our hour before yoga walking around, taking about how much we craved simplicity and stability, a time when all our friends stopped moving around all the time.

Now I scrawl "yr life is beautiful" everywhere I can, including (now) above my bed, because it's so easy to fall in the trap of "life is elsewhere." I need reminding, sometimes.


I wanted to have a recipe here, and maybe a picture, but my mindspace has been a little scattered lately, what with starting a new job and all. Next week, I promise!


two tidbits, and a photo

Quick update on my last post: I did, in fact, accept a new job. I start on the 23rd. Mostly it is closer, which is a relief, though still an office job sitting at a desk all day. C'est le travail.


I don't really have it in me for a blog post today. It's all I can do right now to breathe, and try to remember this. (Don't worry, I'm fine, there's just been a lot going on lately.)


Without that path

It's been over a year since I graduated college and I am not really any closer to figuring out what I would like to do with my life. During the months before graduation, I sought the help of everyone I could think of: both of my academic advisors, the career help center, and - perhaps the most unusual - the gifts discernment coordinator. (Though, honestly, I have always thought of him more as a Quaker seer.) F. was kind of a controversial figure in some circles, but I was desperate. I needed all the help I could get trying to decide what my next steps would be. I had applied to two graduate programs and got rejected from both: academia was all I knew and all I was good at and without that path I was lost.

I went to F. twice in the month or so before graduation. I told him the dreams my subconscious was giving me, that I wanted to live in a place that had flowing water (remembering Venice, my true love in the form of a city), that I was thinking about DC. In return, he told me I was stronger than I thought, asked me what wine and water symbolized for me, and told me - though not in so many words - that I did not belong in DC. Those two meetings come back to me a lot. I moved to DC anyway, obviously, but it's true: this city isn't really mine. I like being here, I appreciate having public transportation and museums, but I don't quite belong.

I don't have the ambition, the drive, that it takes to really thrive here. Like I said in my first post here, I'm something of a dilettante. But honestly, it's less this city and more that I am just not cut out for office work. This feeling of not-belonging has been building and building - which is not quite the right attitude to have before a job interview. (Yes, I had one, yesterday.) It seems to me that what I want to do right now is hole up somewhere and write, maybe making money by working in a bookstore or a café or hell, maybe a bakery or something. Way opens, as the Quakers at school used to say.

At any rate, I've made some lists:

what I don't want
  • an office
  • to be in charge of people
  • sitting all day
  • something morally/ethically reprehensible
  • in VA

what I do want

  • reading
  • writing
  • to be happy


weekend special

Saturday brunch: avocado omelettes, cheesy scones, farmer's market apples. Sometimes life is pretty good.


Surprising salvation

Sometimes I miss Italy more than I can stand. Sometimes I get sick with nostalgia; it's not that it was easy to be in Italy but it was safe. (Of course I reconstruct the past. We have to.)

I wasn't supposed to end up in Italy. I had no ties there. After a somewhat-awful first year at college, I figured I needed to transfer - until I found the Brunnenburg program. Students lived in the castle croft, were taught by Ezra Pound's daughter and grandson, and worked on the castle vinyard. I was sold. The following fall, I applied, but the whole process seemed like a joke to me; I was going to Italy, and I knew it more than I had really known anything before. I remember arriving at the castle, dead of night after a day of waiting in the Flughafen München, turned around after having traveled by bus to Dorf Tirol, then walking down the road to Schloss Brunnenburg itself. I remember sitting in the living room against the wall, feeling exhausted and that peculiar kind of claustrophobia engendered by sky-touching mountains. More than that, I felt home.

My little croft room remains one of my favorite places I've lived, and it seemed to me like I could go on living there forever, or at least longer than the semester I was there. All I wanted was to hole up, write poetry (and work on my German), and take long walks exploring the Alpine villages. I wanted to read the Cantos and the Odyssey until they became part of me. Our first full day there, we toured the castle and the two English majors on the trip - Anna and myself - nearly swooned over the walls and walls of bookshelves. We were taught the Cantos by Ezra Pound's daughter, who tried (and succeeded, in a few instances) to instill a love for them in us; her son taught us about agro-archeology and medieval literature; and finally, our faculty leader taught us wilderness medicine.


I wrote most of that last week sometime, and while I am usually in a state of missing Italy, it's not always as strong as that. It has been a little over three years since I flew back over the Atlantic, reading The Passion by Jeanette Winterson and missing Venice (and the rest of it) with everything I had. I've lost the thread of that earlier post and now it's hard for me to write about Italy, because there is so much to say. Italy was my growing up, in some ways, and it was certainly my salvation. You'll hear more about Italy, I'm sure, but for now, enjoy Schloss Brunnenburg:

What thou lovest well remains,
the rest is dross
What thou lov'st well shall not be reft from thee
What thou lov'st well is thy true heritage

(thanks to Ezra Pound, for all of it, but especially the above passage from the Cantos)