Friday, August 25, 2017

Free Lance.

I remember when my mom and friends had Avon parties. I wasn't sure where Dad went every day with his pocket protector but it seemed REALLY boring. And ladies with makeup and little cute samples of lipsticks in the 70s seemed like a much better way to spend your time. I was primed early on to be an entrepreneur. I tried briefly a few times for a 9-5 but it didn't work with my pattern of getting somewhere with high energy at 7am and utter narcolepsy from 3pm-6pm. Especially advertising. I wrote all the headlines and copy when the ideas popped in my head. Most likely on the horribly long subway ride from Brooklyn to Midtown Manhattan. By the time the coffee and chatty office hoo ha was over I was done by 10:15am and wanting OUT of the fluorescent light tower.

People who work from home, freelancers, side hustlers, self employed and digital nomads are less rare than a 20 years ago, of course. Unless you are trying to finance a house, then they look at you and your two heads and just say, NO. (Oh, 2004, we had some fun didn't we? No doc, low doc, go into hock Countrywide give a dog a bone even if he has no way of paying for it...)

But today when you can actually make money from an Instagram thread by reading Tarot cards to strangers and taking PayPal payments from Denver and post the reading to YouTube without ever getting out of your jam jams (an actual service I have hired...quite fun) it's no bigs. Open an Etsy store and sell dog collars (a dream) and monetize your blog (a fantasy). I'm shocked when I meet people who actually GO to a 9-5. But they exist.

But all of this World is Your Oyster stuff can be paralyzing. Like how I'd rather decorate a studio apartment than a loft with 30 ft ceilings and unlimited arrangements. Too. Many. Options. Parameters are easier.

For someone like me, very low on repetitive tasks, not an operations person but an idea generator it can be helpful to force some structure into life. I also have bouts of severe memory loss from a biotoxin exposure to degrading silicone in my body, so it gets weird sometimes. Routine is not anything I could manage if I didn't have dogs. They tell you what time it is, when it's walk, pee, bark, eat time. Without them and light cycles and temperature shifts I'd not know what day it is. Literally.

One of the many many handymen I've worked with over the years, Todd W. had a lot of interesting pearls of wisdom behind a pretty unnerving caffeine addiction and unraveling life story bolstered by addiction recovery, living in his car with dogs, and a dream of making cat scratch towers into Kit Kat Condos. He used to say, Michele, you gotta have some order within the chaos. Some straight lines are necessary, you can't just let it all go to wildflowers. It will look like a crazy person lives here.

He was right of course. If you want to have your place on parade for the public, keep your "native grass habitat" in the back 40. Most don't know a mugwort from a squash blossom and it just looks "weedy" even if I'm cultivating epazote and winter cherry in there. They may never go outside again during their vacation, but that entrance needs to be tight. I have settled on a goal of Lush and Tight because I am no shrubbery shaver. But I think of the order in chaos advice often. Proving that you can find wisdom anywhere, if you can look beyond the facade of a semi homeless dude living out of his car drinking thrice microwaved coffee giving design advice. An unlikely Oracle but that's how we learn. 

*Addicts, in my mind, are just geniuses who lacked the discipline and guidance to harness the voices in their heads. If you can get them off the substances they turned to to quiet the noise, they can do amazing things. People who have seen some shit down the tunnel have a lot of insight.

So now I write myself notes, set alarms on my phone, and do things on certain days to keep myself on a calendar. Bread baking is one of those things, and now that summer is over-ish, I can turn the ovens on again.
Sourdough is the most forgiving baking project for someone like me. I was a savory cook, never a pastry chef. I can't count on my fingers the number of times I've baked a cake and that's 20 years into a culinary career. Not my thing. Cuz, yes. Too much structure. But bread is different. A little of this, a little of that, keep building in the same bowl, catch a wild yeast, learn to smell when the ferment has blossomed and catch it before it turns into something "else". Learn to trust the process that you can't see, and learn to cultivate your instincts. If it doesn't go how you expected, improvise. Maybe it's a pizza crust and not a baguette.  And now, it's ready.

And you build on the last one and start again. Maybe you change it up. Maybe you add more rosemary. Maybe you cold ferment for a couple days. Experiment with your life. See what works. Toss what doesn't into the compost. Start again. Order in Chaos.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Shut up and post a recipe Sunday

I live in the kind of town where, not surprisingly, one cannot find any fish roe. And, also not surprisingly, where they look at you and point to the Fish in a Row behind the case and wonder what you're talking about. It's fine, I can't move back to 1954 in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and whine about not having a decent deli with Mediterranean Mezze and a vast international food scene. I'm pretty clear on the limitations of the area regarding ingredients, but it never hurts to ask.
 Image result for Meze or Mezze

As I close the decade of living here after life in Atlanta, New York, Miami, Tampa, Santa Fe, Oaxaca, Tulum, I miss different tastes and cuisines and yes, someone else cooking occasionally, but when you retreat like I did, the terrain comes with compromises. The first trip I've planned in years is on the calendar and is food focused and in Italy. It's time to put my palate back in my head. But at present, I am here. And I have cravings. 

The past couple years I was in Clearwater for family stuff and one of the highlights of a rather dismal stay was the ability to get good Greek food. One such spot close to home was Sofia's cafe,  an unassuming little kiosk that used to be a Baskin Robbins near Oak Grove Middle School in my day. 

Of all the many many thankless things one tends to in dissolving a family estate, cooking well for oneself is not one of them. Even if you used to be a chef. I have always cooked from love, not training. And I simply could not do it justice with a broken heart. So I turned to take out. Good take out, you'll not likely catch me in a drive thru. I was mourning, I hadn't lost my mind. 

Taramasalata was introduced to me by a plucky New Yorker named Nicky who let me sleep on her sofa for a while when I moved to NYC in 1995. I had a job and thought getting an apt was the easy bit. I had it backwards. I slept on a lot of sofas that year. Anyway, she lived just on the edge of Spanish Harlem which is now probably Artisan Aubergine Cakelette Promenade. She was a school teacher, a hippie Jewish girl from LA who had a cool basement studio with roof access in a rent control. She also passed Zabar's on her way home from work. What's 20 blocks? Now that I think about that amazing Central Park neighborhood and her proximity to Riverside. Ugh. What a spot! It may still be dangerous and Dominican but it's got some soul.

Nicky introduced me to Tarama and lots of mezze things really. I was pretty clueless when I got to NYC. I didn't know shawarma from falafel. Zabar's had some soupy, pinkish roe and potato spread that you could grab and spread on pita or french bread and drink with fizzy Portuguese Vinho Verde on someone's fire escape and talk about the future you thought you'd have when you got the apartment/man/career of your destiny. I hum a Carly Simon tune while I type this but those WERE the good ol days but we didn't know it. Such a peculiar human condition that we reflect fondly, but toil in the moment agitated for the future. I did anyway. I'm not wistful at 50, but I readily admit that I wasted a ton of my 20s wondering why it wasn't another way and when Would My Life Begin. I don't think this is unique, but I was VERY happy to be done with my 20s. And 30s. 

So anyway, Fish Roe is the main ingredient for Taramasalata and today when the fish counter gal (who is 28, exactly my age in my NYC chapter) and I started talking, she asked What Are You Making? And I told her and that spawned more questions and there I was rambling about how if she wanted to go Paleo and her husband was complaining about the food, then he could just cook his own dinner-- it wasn't 1954 after all. 


I know. Existential Angst gets replaced with Tangential Blather. Poor girl was at work so she couldn't just roll her eyes and walk away. 

Shut up and post a recipe already.

Tarama Cheat
Chickpeas, roasted beets, olives, jalapenos, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, stale bread soaked in water, boiled potatoes, nut butter 


spread on whatever. 

See? Easy without the fish eggs. Because all I really want to do is dip and spread and use what's right in front of me. I want it easy and I don't want to wonder why there is no fish roe in Habersham County. Cuz like, who cares. That is what I like about being 50. Sometimes good enough, is just great. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Lead Balloon.*giving unpopular advice

Hello? It's me. Telling you the truth.
Ever notice how it seems like EVERYONE is into self help? Going to a therapist? Working on some 'stuff'---? it is of course the hobby of the privileged. If you're wondering when the Cholera is going to let up or kill your village, you are not thinking about your passive aggressive tendencies or daddy issues. And yes, I realize that it's because I AM into self help that I think everyone gives a psychological rat's ass. Unfortunately TOO MANY people are not looking inward.

But hey, if you're fighting Cholera you're probably not reading my blog, so I'm going to speak to my audience.

When I say Living Your Best Life, you know who I'm talking about. Oprah, right? She has devoted her career and an entire network to self improvement. So have many others. Myself included. Self Love. Self Care. Self actualization. DIYourself. I learn something I didn't know on a daily. The only thing that keeps me interested in life to be honest is that fact that if I overturn enough rocks I might find something.

The Self. Self sabotage is something you can do all alone, and self storage and self check out.  It's weird when you think about it. We're sort of always tripping between co-dependency or crippling autonomy. I like to look inward and I also like when someone else holds the flashlight. (Enough about me, what do you think about me?)

If you've never consulted a witch, tarot card reader, rabbi, psychiatrist, counselor, astrologist or shaman, then carry on. But a lot of us, we like advice. Or DO we. I'm sure a lot of people wish I'd shut up and post a recipe. I hear ya.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

What's for dinner? No really. What the hell can I eat...

When you grow up, you take responsibility for what you do in life. Reaping, sowing and all that. Catch yourself if you make excuses at this age, it's not your color. If you say you "don't have time to..." but you're all caught up on the newest shows on Netflix, you just don't "make time" for whatever you're trying to get out of. That's cool, just own it.

And since you've been feeding yourself for decades, it's time to take responsibility for that too. If you eat sugar and donuts and yum yums and then skip meals to save calories for Wine Time, there should be no surprises as to why you're sleepy and chubby. Just own it.

I've been cooking professionally most of my career and I've been asking, Where Did That Come From? about ingredients for about 20. So what have I learned? A lot. Have I figured it all out? Absolutely not.

So here's where I am 20 years in. Former chef, recent farmer, organic, female, peri-menopausal. Human. I've been coming back from a pretty long journey of bottomed out health which is why I do what I do now cuz there is a lot of conflicting info and even less help from conventional doctors. So here's what I've learned.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Is this forever? Part 2

Because I realize blog posts aren't supposed to be Tolstoy sized, I'm breaking things up. TLDR (too long didn't read) was an acronym that not only offends me, but jars me into reality. I get it. I don't think I should shorten stuff if YOU are too lazy/busy/burnt to read it. Read it on the toilet. Don't read it at all. Many options. Anyway, here's the second part.

"So is this FOREVER?" the namesake of this post...comes from a friend who I haven't talked to in over a year or more. Sent me a recipe for Mahogany Chicken and I said, 'sounds good...can I make it vegan?'

And lots of NO WAY! What??!!??!! ensued.

Less impressed with my dropping of wine or smoking. Meh. But MEAT??? What about your Cassoulet? Duck Confit?

Well I can still cook...but I'm not eating that stuff. And also, it's late July in Georgia. NO ONE should be eating these sorts of rib sticking heavy pork laden peasant recipes! Gazpacho? Yes.

But here's the thing. There are MANY many ways to be. I know people who don't drink because they spent 20 years of their life putting vodka in their Starbuck's and lost it all at the track and their marriage dissolved. And some of us just don't drink because we are 50 and we don't like it anymore. And that's okay too. When people say, Good For You for being Sober! I mean, whatever. I was never not sober, so I don't think labeling is a good way to get over the peer pressure. Can you drink a glass of wine at a vineyard in Italy on vacation with dinner? I dunno, do you want to? It's not all black or white. The exact kind of socially acceptable "wine time" mommy's little helper wink wink peer pressure that makes it OKAY to scarf a bunch of wine, is the same kind of pigeon holing that makes Good For You, feel insulting. It's not a struggle, I'd be lying if I said it was. It was absolutely time. And the Universe supports you when you go with the flow.

I got rid of a LOT of things that weren't serving my highest and best self. Including but not limited to:

1. Clothes, friends, old contacts, furniture, haircuts and family members that no longer fit
2. Heavy meat based cuisine and a total bacchanal at every dinner
3. Extra real estate
4. Zappos shop/return/shop/return
5. Vitamin overload

I'm truly serious when it comes to simplifying my life and ditching the burdens to my body and soul and giving myself the best chance I can with good health.  If you take a long hard look at all that shit in the garage, seasonal storage, your pantry, shoe rack---you're taking care of a lot of stuff. Little benign habits need care and feeding too. Drop 'em.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Is this forever?? (Part 1)

I'm not sure, but I think I'm having an anniversary.

Last summer I stopped eating meat. Stopped drinking alcohol (yes, even wine) and dropped dairy a few months later. As my palate cleared up, I found that oils and fats tasted heavy so I stopped those too. I had been on a Paleo low carb high fat diet for 4 years and I couldn't stomach one more tablespoon of coconut oil in my coffee or floss one more meat string out of my molars.

Plus, like any cult, it started going off the rails. (Pizza crust made of pork rinds for example) and I felt like it went against all my passions of real food and beautiful cooking. And the obsessive restrictive behavior made me feel funny. Any woman who's cured a PMS flip out with a couple of boiled potatoes knows that carbs aren't really pure enemy territory. Are we talking ice cream carby? Pasta carbonara carby? Or having a Yam. The fact that alcohol was allowed but an organic sourdough bread was not? I call foul. And book selling agenda. And bullshit. And it clearly is about "looking" good and being thin, no one cares about what's going on inside.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

But, we're not sharks.

For weeks I was searching for raw horseradish root for this "master tonic" elixir thing I was making. I went everywhere. It's one of those ingredients I don't use a ton of but I feel like I see it all the time. Grocery stores, Asian markets, indie farmers. Nope.

One produce manager told me that they'd been trying for 5 weeks to order some and no one had any!

Prepared horseradish has stuff in it like soybean oil and it comes out more like mayonnaise, can't add that to my tonic. I used to make bloody mary mixer at the Cantina, didn't I always have this on hand?

Because I have the Mind of an Entrepreneur, (which at its best is clever and strives always to fill a need in the market---at worst is an irritating backseat driver who is always thinking about business even whilst sleeping) my first thought was:

I'm Going to Start Horseradish Ranch.