Sunday, March 25, 2012


Today, one smart woman I like asked another smart woman I like (no, none of these is me!) about cooking and cook books, which leads me, now, to reflect on cookbooks and things I cook that have formed me into the mediocre cook I am. (Also, I like to think I'm mediocre at a lot of things like: Crossfit, running, swimming, writing, baking, walking backwards, laundry. I would say cleaning, but I know I am terrible at that. In fact, I should be cleaning now.)
Anyway, here are some cookbooks that I think about when I think about cookbooks:

  1. Moosewood: I was a vegetarian working at a fish market and a woman bought me this cookbook, but I may have paid her back. Anyway, my go to recipes from this were Tabouli (I swear, I could live on that stuff!), the Indonesian rice salad, certain varieties of yogurt sauce with cucumbers, spanakopita (I had forgotten that!),the pumpkin pie recipe where you actually bake down the pumpkin, banana bread that has coffee in it, a cheesecake (I think I made this once & once my boyfriend made it for me), the brownies I made a few times. I made pita bread once and it even worked! 
  2. No Cook Pasta Sauces: Someone gave us this for our wedding. Maybe? I can't remember. But I made the Puttanesca a lot. And the clam sauce. I was sort of addicted to both of those until I gave up pasta and got rid of the cookbook. 
  3. Complete Vegetarian Kitchen: A friend gave this to me. From it I got two of my stand bys, a roasted veggie soup w/pesto and a delicious broccoli dish that I used to make with tofu and now I just use broccoli (and which I haven't actually made in a long time).
  4. Seductions of rice: I got this when I worked at a bookstore and it's as much travel book as it is cookbook. I got it because I had been to Thailand and I wanted to make Thai food. I can now make a curry without it. But I also make the Indian curries from this book. And it helped me to solidify a recipe for another favorite soup: African peanut stew. And because of this book at one point in my life I had about six different kinds of rice in the house. And I made sushi. Once or twice. And this is where I got the recipe for the delicious rice salad that I sometimes make and will make this summer.
  5. The Surreal Gourmet: This cookbook made me the Caesar Salad guru that I am. It's a staple and one of Middlebrow's favorite meals (salad + meat = meal).
  6. Cafe Flora: I got this because it has great recipes. I made these amazing burgers from quinoa and split peas and they had a fantastic tomato salsa on them. I made them once. (I think it took me three days but I may be exaggerating). Also: great salad recipes and great dressings. This is where the amazing strawberry and arugula salad comes from.
  7. The Food You Crave: this is a great book with healthy recipes. I've made a few of the recipes, such as the Spinach Salad with Bacon dressing (bacon!). I also got the idea for the Breakfast Salad from this book. I made her energy bars (good), and also the meatballs (but not the spaghetti).
  8. So many recipes that have stuck with me, I actually got on-line or from magazines. Some of my stand bys: Coq au Vin in the crock pot (Whole Foods magazine), Curry soup with noodles (some foodie mag), stuffed peppers (a re imagining of my mom's recipe), tacos (same), my favorite potato sausage soup (I got the recipe from Liberty Heights!).
  9. Mark Bittman: I have two of his cookbooks, and yes, he is God. Everything I make from his cookbooks work and even Middlebrow uses his cookbooks! (and tonight made a delicious chicken stir fry with cashews!)
  10. etc.
What, friends, are your go to cookbooks?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Certain Kind of Sadness

There's a kind of nostalgia/sadness brought about by music. It doesn't necessarily have to do with the music itself. It's almost like the music induces a state, which may or may not be similar to a state you have experienced in the past, but which the music replicates, without transition, and seemingly instantaneously. I only mention this because

  1. The song "Somebody That I Used to Know" transports me there in one note. BOOM! I'm there. See this.   
  2. How to even describe this "there"? Well. It's a post-college angst. It's an "I'm in love with this person who may or may not often mistake me for a lamppost."  It's an "I'm reading or have read Alan Watts The Wisdom of Insecurity and I may be taking his ideas to heart" kind of angst. 
  3. There is a very specific person with whom this angst/feeling is associated. But I don't want you to mistake this feeling for the idea that I am still in love with him/was ever in love with him/am still not over him, because that's not it.
  4. Also, this idea of a person I was in love with and a feeling associated with a very specific time in my life (with which I also associate 40 oz. beers and mazurka cookies), it's more a whole mood, tone, as if that time in my life was a fog that enveloped me, which it did. Also it involved beer, and our local, which was called Targy's Tavern. Also, I should tell you about the night I played pool with my friend Patty and played every Beatles song on the juke box until I found the one I really, actually, seriously wanted it and it was "Norwegian Wood."
  5. Somewhere, right at that very moment, the one where I was at the bar, drinking cheap beer and wanting so much to be in love with the guy who just couldn't, for whatever reason, love me the way I needed to be loved, right at that moment, Kurt Cobain was radically unhappy, and he, too, felt this kind of angst, and though he dealt with it in a different way, you will never convince me that the angst we felt was not of the same species.
  6. And when I hear "Come As You Are" I think of walking down Broadway and getting Pizza at Pagliacci's, and a car passes by, and Nirvana streams out the window. We are young and so, so sad. It's sunny in Seattle and we don't seem to notice. Do you remember how it feels when you just want a person to hold your hand and you think that the world would break apart?
  7. That's the place a song can transport you to. The space between your breasts, beneath your rib cage, at the end of the bar, in front of a pint of beer, at the corner in a cloud of smoke, in the distance of a drunken sprint to the end of the block.
  8. Oh, Kurt Cobain. Oh, nameless lost love. Oh, sad singer-songwriter.
  9. There are so many Washington, rain, music related near misses that I cannot relate them all to you here. Nor would I want to.
  10. Suffice it say: a song can transport me there. There. Yes, here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Should I Feel Guilty for Liking "The Help"?

I finally saw "The Help." It was on a day when I was not feeling well and I needed a little entertainment. I read the book (and blogged about it). And I wanted to see the movie, because, you know, Emma Stone. But then the movie came out. And then the firestorm. You know, white woman, black women, inaccuracies about Civil Rights. I don't want to belittle those concerns. Those are legitimate concerns. I want to talk about those things. I do. And I have.
But here's the thing: I liked the movie. I enjoyed it. It was hard to watch. I thought Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis were both amazing. And Emma Stone was good. And it made me cry.
After I returned the movie, I sat on the couch and wondered if I was a bad person for liking this movie. Am I ignorant? Unfeeling? Stupid?
My guilt over enjoying this movie made me think about when I saw "The Last Temptation of Christ." I was a student at the University of Oregon in 1988 (good lord, I am old!) and when I went to see it, at a little theater, there were a bunch of well-meaning Christians and their children with signs about how the movie was bad and I shouldn't see it. I remember thinking, "Rambo III is playing across town. Wouldn't it be more appropriate to protest that?"
I have somewhat the same response to objections to "The Help." On the one hand, I understand the objections. Yes, it is inaccurate in some aspects. Yes, it's not right that a book by a white women about black women gets more attention then the numerous books by black women about black women.  I get that.
But, if the book and the movie, get us (as a culture) talking about race, and how messed up we still are about race in 2012, isn't that a good thing?
I mean, many, many, many movies come out and they are good, but they don't cause us to think about who we are as Americans.
So, I guess my question is, how is that a bad thing?
And also, I just want to like it. Okay?