Protocols. Rules. Methodical steps followed faithfully and through to the period. I admit it. I am guilty of this, of letting myself be seduced by the sure comfort of a recipe. If you add a cup of this, a tablespoon of that and whip vigorously, you end up with something delicious. Deviate from the path, and who knows what could happen.
How about serendipity?
Enter infusions. Lately I’ve become obsessed with the notion of them. My history with experimenting with alcohol is a little spotty. Years ago I attempted to make my own limoncello. I fretted over the bottle filled with highly flammable grain alcohol and lemon zest. It was going to be awful.
Instead, the liquid transformed from clear to golden. And after adding a little simple syrup, I had trance-inducing nectar stocked in my freezer.
Fast-forward to now, and the current experiment.
Lemon. Peppercorn. Ginger. Grapefruit. Darjeeling tea and honey. Cinnamon sticks. Just to have fun. Just to see. Some of these experiments might turn out like dog piss, but that’s the point. To challenge the fear of failure. Even embrace failure. By poking at the edges of our comfort, our awareness, and by standing at the boundaries of our experience, we can open the door into the unknown just a little. This is how we grow. This is how we evolve.
We all have them, right? Those moments in the grocery store when you just want to indulge. You don’t want to go home and chop up all those amazing colorful veggies you just bought. You’re tired. You’ve been sick. You just need something easy. And fattening.
That moment found me a couple of times this past week. In this exact combination. I usually like to cook at home. Sure, restaurants and I are no strangers, but the routine is pick out a couple of recipes, shop for those, cook ’em and have leftovers ad infinitum.
Routine has not been part of my vocabulary lately. It’s taken much of the energy I have to sleep and kick virus butt. Enter weakness. A single serving pizza, and meatless pepperoni. The first time I “made” it, I set off my fire alarm. (So happy to know it works. Silver lining, right? Sorry neighbors). The second time was far less eventful. Both times—pre foodus— I was infused with a guilty pleasure that almost drove me to drag my gooey meal to a dark corner, where I could eat it in quiet bliss.
But … the actual taste of it wilted in comparison to what my mind had built up. I imagined a crunchy crust, sharp fresh tomato sauce, and buttery cheese. That’s not what my mouth got. A frozen pizza warmed up in the oven. Don’t get me wrong. It was fine, maybe even better than many of the frozen pizzas shivering in the arctic wastelands of the freezer section. However. It was not “foodie” worthy, nor did it fulfill the sinfully delicious quotient of that guilty pleasure bit. It DID satisfy every inch of the lazy factor, though.
As a vegetarian, and as someone who generally prefers whole, “clean” foods, beans represent a crucial part of my pantry. They’re awesome by their lonesome, in enchiladas, in soups. Canned beans are easy to be sure. Pop the top, drain, and rinse. In hardly no time at all, you can have a meal. But as with most things in life, I prefer a more difficult path. Dried beans, to be specific. The flavor of beans from scratch is quite different then that of their canned brethren. More subtle. Less goopy. Their texture is superior. The trick to getting them right is to plan. Soak them the night before. Boil them in the morning. Store them in water in the fridge, cook ’em up when when you get home. The extra steps are worth it!
I don’t like highly processed food. It seems the more that companies work with food, the more stuff they put into a product, the more messed up it becomes. The less healthy it is. But—
for a busy working girl it’s hard to be perfect. This has become my major cheat. I will admit fresh garlic is far superior (and tastier) than the stuff that comes chopped up and vacuum sealed in a jar. How much time does it really save? Maybe five minutes, maybe not. It’s just so seductive to twist off the lid, dive in with the spoon and retrieve a heaping helping of garlic. It’s in the pan in less than 10 seconds. Done. On to the next task.
Some days are too long, and the evenings (those stolen hours that are just for you) are too short. Or maybe it’s just that there isn’t a whole lot of food in the fridge. Whatever the case, sometimes there isn’t the time or desire to make a big deal out of dinner. Thus, I made my quickie, “I don’t want to cook” meal tonight.
Ingredients? A salad, usually with greens, a tomato, a smattering of dried cranberries, chopped pecans and some balsamic vinegar. The protein pair is tofu fried with Bragg’s liquid amino acids and a healthy dusting of Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute. Three of my favorite ingredients. Odd, I know.
Anyway, the result is a healthful plate of food, minimum prep, and extra time to do this and work on the book.
Tonight’s dinner was a huge contrast to last night’s. We went to meet Kristen and Tony in Carlsbad. There I pigged out on Vigilucci’s Gnocchi ai Tartufo. Gluttonous, rich and savory goodness coated my tongue. We were enjoying some post dinner conversation when panic startled the place. A girl jumped up and shouted “Oh my god. Somebody help me he’s choking. Six people jumped out of their seats immediately. The rest of us were on our way. The hero of night gave three quick thrusts of the Heimlich maneuver. I caught a glimpse of the victim. He was turning purple. The skin of his face was distended and turgid. Everyone in the restaurant was frozen, poised and waiting. Those three quick thrusts did what they were supposed to, and just as quickly as everything started, it was over and the guy was recovering.
This event conjured all sorts of thoughts. Naturally I want to know what happened. But beyond that, I thought about civic obligation, unspoken promises that we hope strangers make to us, and that we make in return. These promises are along the lines of do the right. Be a good person. Help someone in need. The best way to do that is have as much knowledge as you can gather, stay calm and apply if the time ever comes.
First Aid / CPR / AED Classes (try to take a class in person, practicing with the dummy helps):
I wasn’t much into chocolate as a kid.
No. Seriously. My poison of choice was more along the lines of Starburst, Skittles, and Abbazabba. Being a kid, I wouldn’t REJECT chocolate. But I didn’t seek it out either. Over the years, milk chocolate worked its way into my treasure trove of sweets. Somewhere along the way that chocolate became far less satisfying.
Enter Italy. My first experience with artisanal chocolate was Gay-Odin in Napoli. (Aside: God, I had to look this up. Next thing you know I’ll require reading glasses and have an obsessive need to talk about my bowel movements. Love ya, Grandma.) Gay-Odin was amazing. They had spicy chocolate bars (peperoncino), bars with cannella (cinnamon). They even had volcanoes of chocolate. Vestri in Firenze (Florence to Anglophiles) was the next place (really some amazing creations here).
These places changed my perspective of chocolate. It is no longer about the sugar content. It’s actually about the cacao bean. How it’s processed. Quality outweighs quantity and satisfaction is more determined by the subtlety of the flavors.
We’re fortunate enough to have some good options here in San Diego. I confess I haven’t been to most of them. Eclipse is far too convenient and delicious.
I am not a chocolate hoarder. No intervention is required. Most of these beauties will be leaving me (tis the season).