INSTAGRAM COOKING LESSONS


I’ve been following Sami Tamimi on Instagram for a few months now, and a couple times I’ve cooked something he’s posted, Palestinian home cooking, at once utterly foreign and yet completely familiar and comforting. A few weeks ago it was lamb and beef kofta, served over potatoes roasted with onions, and drizzled with tahini. Tonight it was green beans stewed with onions, tomatoes, beef, seasoned with ground coriander and garlic.

Sami Tamimi is one of the forces behind my beloved Ottolenghi, a constellation of bakeries and restaurants in London. I’ve been cooking from their cookbooks for several years, and everything I’ve made has been greeted with rapture and joy, no exaggerations. The food is unusual - to me - some spices I’ve never used, new flavors that draw me in.

The most interesting part of cooking from these books has been, aside from the delicious food, is the dawning awareness of myself and how I cook. How I can look at a recipe and understand, this is the result I want, but I don’t need to follow the directions to the letter. I came to trust Ottolenghi and Tamimi - the recipes work - and at the same time began to trust myself more. I have my own chops now.

antique-royals:

gothiccharmschool:

taraljc:

maudelynn:

The Haunted Dollhouse~ 

via http://www.otterine.com

(I want this so very much) 


I WANT THIS. I WANT A 1:6 SCALE VERSION OF THIS. I DON’T NEED A SPARE ROOM, IT CAN JUST BE THIS INSTEAD.


Yessss. I want this.

I also want a Jilli-sized version of it to live in.

For au-gout I saw this and obviously thought of you immediately.

(Source: maudelynn)

LONDON DAYS


image

I took an impromptu trip to London last week, just six nights, taking the train down to Cornwall to visit G. and then back up to The City. I was feeling wistful and nostalgic, and R. was going to be there with her baby, and I missed G., even though we had just been there a year and a half ago. I had some frequent flier miles burning a hole in my pocket, so off I went. It was too short a trip and I did just enough to make my hungry for the next one. England has always been good to me, three times now, and it always promises me that there is more to come.

Italy taught me, twenty years ago, that I could fall in love with a place the way you fall in love with a person. Russia taught me that you could have a fleeting moment in your life that would color everything that came afterward. The poem by Giuseppe Ungaretti, “THE RIVERS,” echoed again and again in my head: these are my rivers - the Arno, the Neva, the Thames, the Irrawaddy. England taught me this: you could feel a wave of homesickness and longing for a place that had never been your home. England was all the books I read as a child, all the books I fell in love with as a teenager, and yet it was a place real and not imagined, not romanticized, not idealized in my mind.

This trip was all bacon rolls and long walks and a squirming, chubby baby who enchanted almost everyone who encountered her, except for two young women in Ottolenghi who were busy catching up on mutual gossip while sharing a small plate of salad. We went to the Tower to see the installation of poppies memorializing the outbreak of World War I, the bright-red flowers floating along the moat like a sea of blood. We went to Buckingham Palace, and the V&A, all things I have never done before. London is so big and so sprawling that I could go there every year of my life and not see the same things twice.

And yet it felt like a homecoming. I remembered the tube stations that took us to our hotel, the same hotel as last time. I remembered the piles of pastries and bowls of salads at Ottolenghi, bright against the gleaming white lacquered walls. We had tea at Liberty and dinner at a local pub and walked across the monied expanses of Belgravia in the afternoon sunlight. This time I remembered my north and south, my east and west; I didn’t get on the tube going the wrong way, which may or may not have happened last time. I waved goodbye to the arches of Paddington Station as the train took me back to the airport. I’ll be back again before I know it.

LIKE THE BEAM OF A LIGHTLESS STAR


Last week I was out in Magnuson Park for the first time in several years. We drove past the tennis center, past the playgrounds, all the way to the slopes overlooking a sculpture installation of submarine fins arranged to look like a pod of Orca whales. We walked through narrow paths beaten into the dried grasses, gleaning the last of the blackberries, watching the sun begin to slip away behind the mountains. Through the trees I could see the lake beyond, the lake where I used to practice whitewater kayaking when I was in high school, the lake where E. died three months ago. She walked down to the edge of the water early one morning and did not return.

We talk a lot about suicide and mental illness, about depression and demons that shout out in your head, you are not good enough. We talk about how the pain of the world can become so much of a burden that no amount of love can lift this weight. About the chemical imbalances of the brain that send some of us spinning into darkness. These are all things that matter. But for E. the darkness was something else. She had a debilitating brain disorder that took away her ability to speak, that scrambled her thoughts, that was making it hard to control her body. Soon she would have to stop driving. Soon she would need assisted living. Before all autonomy was gone she chose the time and manner of her death, the ultimate freedom.

The month after E. died I went to the reading of a play by Holly Arsenault. The crux of the story is that an older woman is dying, and she wants her younger lover to help her commit suicide. I couldn’t stop thinking about E., about what separates terminal illness from mental illness, except perhaps with the latter there is always the faintest glimmer of hope that something will make life worth living. With terminal illness, your will to live is at the mercy of your body, and they are both running out of time on a stopwatch no one can see. In Arsenault’s THE CUT, the woman has lived, and loved, and has been loved, and does not want to suffer through the painful, inexorable end. Like E. she chose the hour and means of her own end. Then a poem by W. S. Merwin repeated in my head, over and over.

FOR THE ANNIVERSARY OF MY DEATH

Every year without knowing it I have passed the day   
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveler
Like the beam of a lightless star

Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what
(W. S. MERWIN, 1993).

NOBODY KNOWS WHY


Several months ago a friend in her 70s told us that her lymphoma had returned. She has had several battles with cancer, followed by bone marrow transplants, chemotherapy, Chinese medicine. She has congestive heart disease and an elderly mother with dementia and leukemia, and some days it seems like only sheer force of will keeps her moving forwards. The most recent round of chemo worked, in the sense that it got the lymphoma back under control. What people don’t always understand is that “in remission” is not “cured.” There is no “cure.” There is only a sleeping giant called “cancer” that may or may not reawaken before something else manages to kill you - old age, car accident, a tree falling on your head. You monitor your body and manage your symptoms the best you can, and sometimes you buy yourself more time, five years or ten or twenty or thirty. And sometimes you don’t.

A famous man committed suicide earlier this week. It was shocking that someone who was so funny, and so beloved, could be weighted down with so much pain that death seemed like the only choice left. And yet it was not shocking at all; he was open about his own troubles, and then I remembered that often the funniest people have the most demons, and they live with the hope that the laughter of the people around them can drown out the voices in their head that tell them, “you are not worthy of survival.” For these people who have those voices in their head, there will never be enough love, never enough laughter. Then I remembered, too, that depression and mental illness, like the heroin addiction and alcoholism that killed Philip Seymour Hoffman, are like cancer in that they are manageable if you are lucky but not something that can be cured if by “cured” you mean “completely eradicated from your body.” That shadow of the valley of death recedes and reappears at the edge of your vision, waiting.

I keep coming back to something that Marion Cunningham says to Ruth Reichl in TENDER AT THE BONE: “Nobody knows why some of us get better and others don’t.” This applies to so many things, cancer and mental illness and addiction. You can do all the right things - chemo and radiation and therapy and antipsychotics and rehab and yoga and macrobiotic diets that seem to be mostly consisting of seaweed. You can be positive and forward thinking and looking to the light and eternally hopeful. And you may still die sooner than you are ready for, certainly sooner than anyone who loves you is ready for. This is why I hate the language surrounding death and illness of any kind: it isn’t a battle you lose or win. It’s such bullshit. The body is at war with itself, no winners, no losers, only the understanding that each day is no guarantee of a tomorrow. Mike Daisey calls it “wrestling with the devil,” and he would know. How true it is, there are days when you are standing triumphantly on the belly of this beast, and there are days when you are flat on the mat with some asshole’s elbow on your throat.

Maybe some day those of us who wake in sunshine every morning, more or less, will understand what people who wake with demons shouting in their face go through to shout back even louder in order to get out of bed. The shame shouldn’t be in their feelings and daily struggles, but in our inability to comprehend their despair. Even then the only thing we can do is say, you are loved, you are loved, you are loved. And understand this: so often this is not going to be enough to pull someone back from the darkness.

A line by Joseph Conrad, an oft-repeated refrain in Salman Rushdie’s JOSEPH ANTON, comes to me: “You must live until you die.”

  • -black kid gets shot by the police-
  • White people: Ugh. Everyone makes mistakes! Just because they shot ONE black kid doesn't mean the police are corrupt and racist. Everyone's overreacting.
  • -a DOG gets shot by a cop-
  • White People: OH MY GOD, THE POLICE ARE SO CORRUPT. I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS. LIKE AND RETWEET AND DONATE TO THE DOG KICKSTARTER TO SUPPORT DOG'S FAMILY. ALSO SIGN THIS PETITION TO GET THE EVIL COP FIRED!!! R.I.P DOG. JUSTICE 4 DOG 2014.

THE THINGS WE TAKE WITH US


I was talking with an old friend, tonight, an older woman in her 70s who grew up in Shanghai until the war sent her family to Hong Kong and then Taiwan. She lived in Germany for many years, married young, had children, divorced, remarried, moved to America. She is older than my parents, so her children are older than me, by almost a generation. In Chinese families, when you divorced, the children stayed with their father. My mother told me that this was because “children belong to their father’s family.” This ended with my generation, but even then divorce fractured a family in different ways than our American divorces with shared custodies and fathers living in bachelor apartments until they remarried someone slightly younger and moved into a new house. For us, kids would sometimes end up with grandparents or aunts and uncles, or in boarding schools in another country. The fault lines cracked invisibly at different angles.

My friend talked about her relationship with her daughter, and how different it is from my relationship with my own mother. But then we are all different people, connected in different ways. Her personality is completely opposite from my mom’s, and mine is not like her daughter’s.  I think for a long time my friend carried with her this guilt that she had walked away from her children in order to get out of her marriage. A continent separated them, in the days before Skype and text messaging. Her daughter has long forgiven her mother for leaving, but it is still harder for her to accept. You make the choices you have to make, but you can’t erase them, only make another choice and move on. The right choice is not always the easy choice, and it is never going to be fair to everyone. You can keep looking back, or you can live in the present.

At the end of the day - and since I’m not a mother, I am totally making this up and you can tell me that I’m full of shit - you have to keep a piece of yourself alive that is totally selfish. That belongs to the person you were before you were The Mother. No one else is going to keep that part of yourself alive for you, no one else even realizes that it exists. I watch my friends struggle with this all the time, this burden of guilt and love that wraps around them like a living thing, and oh, how I ache for them. I don’t know how to tell them, go ahead, be selfish. Keep it alive. It will save you. It saved my friend, when it helped her walk away. In the end, she regretted the leaving, but not the life that replaced the past one. It was like a skin that didn’t fit, and she had to let it slip away in order to find a new one.

Dinner when my parents are in town is way more balanced than when I’m alone.

Dinner when my parents are in town is way more balanced than when I’m alone.

mohai:

Have you seen the HBO movie, The Normal Heart? Did you know that it is based off of a 1985 play of the same name? In 1986, the Pioneer Square Theater put on a production of The Normal Heart & MOHAI recently received the original program from this production (which appears above). This program was donated by Bonnie Rae Nygren through the Revealing Queer Collections Initiative. Here Bonnie tells the story of the program:
"The Pioneer Square Theater production of The Normal Heart was riveting. I believe it was the west coast premiere of this play. I saw the PST production twice. I was so impressed and moved by the first viewing that I went a second time. A friend and I were in line and we were asked if, in exchange for seats, we would be willing to hand out programs, act as ushers and help out with intermission. Of course, I was thrilled to not only have another chance to see the production, but to in some small way contribute. I think there may have been many like myself who were asked to be “helpers”. I don’t think there was a large or full-time staff at the theater. If my memory serves me, there was a scene in the play that involved a carton of real milk exploding on the stage. It made the scene all the more memorable and something about it made you really FEEL this story.
I DID see the HBO movie and was also very moved by that. It brought me back to that time in the 80’s when we lost so many in our community. So much sadness and helplessness back then. So grateful to people like Larry Kramer. He’s MY hero.”

Strawberry Theatre Workshop presented THE NORMAL HEART at the Erickson Theatre this past February. The night I went they were nearly sold-out. Between the scenes the actors read out names; later my friend told me that these were names of Seattle people who had died of AIDS. I could hear sobbing in the audience around me. The pain of the past thirty years has not died out, and this story of love, loss, and survival is still something immediate and relevant. It has a fierce, burning fury to it. I can’t imagine what the original production must have been like. I read somewhere that half the original cast is long dead. I can only imagine that this play must have been like a bomb going off in the consciousness of the people.

mohai:

Have you seen the HBO movie, The Normal Heart? Did you know that it is based off of a 1985 play of the same name? In 1986, the Pioneer Square Theater put on a production of The Normal Heart & MOHAI recently received the original program from this production (which appears above). This program was donated by Bonnie Rae Nygren through the Revealing Queer Collections Initiative. Here Bonnie tells the story of the program:

"The Pioneer Square Theater production of The Normal Heart was riveting. I believe it was the west coast premiere of this play. I saw the PST production twice. I was so impressed and moved by the first viewing that I went a second time. A friend and I were in line and we were asked if, in exchange for seats, we would be willing to hand out programs, act as ushers and help out with intermission. Of course, I was thrilled to not only have another chance to see the production, but to in some small way contribute. I think there may have been many like myself who were asked to be “helpers”. I don’t think there was a large or full-time staff at the theater. If my memory serves me, there was a scene in the play that involved a carton of real milk exploding on the stage. It made the scene all the more memorable and something about it made you really FEEL this story.

I DID see the HBO movie and was also very moved by that. It brought me back to that time in the 80’s when we lost so many in our community. So much sadness and helplessness back then. So grateful to people like Larry Kramer. He’s MY hero.”

Strawberry Theatre Workshop presented THE NORMAL HEART at the Erickson Theatre this past February. The night I went they were nearly sold-out. Between the scenes the actors read out names; later my friend told me that these were names of Seattle people who had died of AIDS. I could hear sobbing in the audience around me. The pain of the past thirty years has not died out, and this story of love, loss, and survival is still something immediate and relevant. It has a fierce, burning fury to it. I can’t imagine what the original production must have been like. I read somewhere that half the original cast is long dead. I can only imagine that this play must have been like a bomb going off in the consciousness of the people.

(via magggi)

WILD GEESE


An old friend of a friend had been struggling with a degenerative brain disease for the past several years. It rendered her mute and robbed her brilliant mind of the ability to understand the world around her. She died last night, or perhaps early this morning. She walked into the darkness while it was still possible to do this alone. I ache for her, but she had been slipping away for years now. This is another long goodbye. There will be more of them in my life, and each one teaches me again and again, it never gets easier, not really.

Instead I choose to remember these things: she loved birds, white chocolate martinis, and poetry. It was through her that I discovered Mary Oliver, for which I have always been grateful. She was as stubborn and immovable as a rock, but so gentle you did not realize that you were beating your head against a wall of granite. Now she is free, as free as the wild geese.

WILD GEESE

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

- MARY OLIVER