new series intro: essays about cities

Sunday, May 20, 2012

At a career panel last week, I received some helpful advice from an established writer and creator of an independent book press. She suggested the starting of a blog, despite how cliche, cheesy, and somewhat vain the action is, but importantly, to go somewhere with it. Like early-20s life, you just have to pick a path, some direction, and go there. The blog should have a goal, any goal, and it should be something that excites and invigorates you. Because, for the writer, the blog becomes an exercise in not just the obvious (writing and editing), but another outlet for creativity, expression, commentary. It is an exercise in self-reflection, questioning, and contemplation. 

That's been my intention from the start, and that's more or less what I've been doing. But I've also felt compelled to hone in on what I'm doing here, beyond just writing (um, sometimes) about my daily experiences and adventures in a new phase of life. I'd like to do more focused writing with specific goals in the form of side projects, if you will. Basically, I'm just going to start a series, not weekly, but often, of more thoughtful essays on cities and physical places. It will be in addition to the rest of my blog, so no worries, I'll still be letting you know about what creeps stare at me on subways and how I'm making friends after being lonely and what foods I'm gorging on and all that good stuff ;). 

I've been reading a lot of really great essays lately, and discovering this genre is relatively new yet exciting. I'm not talking essays in the sense of dread that you might be conjuring up right now, of school and college papers that were tedious and boring. No, I mean essays in the traditional sense, like of literary nonfiction--think "A Room of One's View" if you will, or authors like Joan Didion--creative exploration and the process of thinking about meanings. 

The exploration of themes through ordinary observance, creative commentary stemming from my thoughts and experiences, all in hope to reveal some nugget of meaning and significance. This is going to be my attempt, a showcase of my learning and experience. I want to be a novelist, eventually, but that road (and I'm on it) is pretty convoluted and not easy to navigate, and this genre is one I've lately been really interested in and would like to try my hand at it.We'll see how it goes. I hope you like it, and even though maybe not everyone will find it interesting, but I'd invite you to give it a chance and catch a glimpse into what sort of writer I am beyond the easy digestion a blog offers.

If you'd like a better idea of sort of what I'm trying to get at, I received a lot of inspiration from here: I've also taken inspiration from literary nonfiction essay collections like The White Album and The Gutenberg Elegies, which I had to read for my graduate classes. Isn't that funny--getting real inspiration and drive from something assigned for school. Who'da thunk. I hope my professors are happy, damnit.

food for thought

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Hello! Just a quick post tonight, about--you guessed it--food. Mostly, because I haven't bought groceries in way too long (almost three weeks, I think...oops), and bought really good food today and was excited to cook again (because it's been almost a month...oops).

I haven't bought 'real' groceries (the fresh, organic produce that is best for you) because a lot of excuses--lazy and not wanting to make the trip over to Trader Joe's, and the usual business with school and other things. So, for the past several weeks, I've been eating things like PB&J sandwiches, potato chips, diet Coke (liquid Satan, according to some) TV dinners, takeaway, and one night, just Twizzler's. Uggh. And, usually, no breakfast, which is a huge no-no. Luckily, I haven't gained weight (I've lost some in fact, which is not really good either), but whenever I stray from my usual eating pattern and eat junk, I can really feel it. I feel sluggish, painfully hungry at times, and generally like crap. Which, makes sense, since the old adage is true--"you are what you eat".

I don't believe in fad diets or dieting itself, and am not hugely concerned with my weight--I just want to be healthy, and I usually eat really healthy. If I subscribe to any sort of pattern or belief, it's probably "clean" eating, or eating natural, real, nourishing foods that we're supposed to eat as humans, and enough to maintain a healthy weight. I'm not super strict, because I like things we're "not supposed" to eat like cheese and sweets and things. I also drink a ton of water and healthy teas, ranging from black to green to white. 

Oh, and this is kinda funny: I'm on the fourth book of Game of Thrones because I somehow got sucked in (I just bought the first season on DVD), and the pages are full of intricate details of feasts and exactly what type of food they eat on a daily basis. It reminds me of when I was younger and read Harry Potter and wanted to eat at their Christmas feast. Yes, this is the nerdy part of the already nerdy blog post. It's really imaginative, slightly outlandish, but it can make you really hungry if you're reading on an empty stomach. I do, however, almost have a theory that the author--George R.R. Martin-- just wanted to write about sex and food and added all the other stuff as extra.

If you are unfamiliar with the series, it's basically a "medieval fantasy" and they're always eating these giant feasts and tankards of mead. They eat food like hearty bread, cheese wheels, blackened groosling, and other Medieval Times-y sounding things. There was a royal wedding in the last book I finished, and they had seventy-seven courses for the feast, including a peacock roasted in its plumes, whatever that tastes like. There's even a cooking blog with a book coming out all about the food/drink of the series, which is really amusing: if you want to check it out. It's a little much, but it's definitely worth browsing for a bit of fun if you're a fan of the series. Not sure how I feel about pease pie or rats on a stick, but yeah.

But anyway, I finally made the trip over to Trader Joe's and restocked my fridge, pantry, and fruit bowl. Tonight I just threw together a nice fairly healthy meal I thought I'd share!

I just made an improvised chicken kiev with whole-wheat pasta topped with shredded gruyere/parmesan, with a fresh salad. The whole thing only took an hour start to finish, preparation and dishwashing/cleaning included, so it was perfect. Now that I don't have a job and school has gotten slightly less busy, I find I have all the time in the world to throw together new and fun meals.

Chicken kiev is a Ukrainian dish, but basically it's just flattened chicken with a dollop of herbed butter in the center, folded up and covered in bread crumbs and cheese and deep fried. Not insanely healthy, but insanely delicious! I used fresh garlic/wheat breadcrumbs, and for the herbed butter parsley, oregano, and a dash of salt and pepper. I got the initial inspiration from a chicken cookbook I got on sale really cheap, back in college For the cheese I used one of my top picks at Trader Joe's--their shredded gruyere and Parmesan mix. So. Delicious.

I'm still pretty bad at deep frying chicken, but I'm working on it! I find my mother's tips really useful because she can make Southern food and fry up anything like it's nobody's business. You fry it for about five minutes in your choice of oil, but use plenty of it and make it plenty hot and piping.Then, drain on top of paper towels to soak up as much of that grease as possible!

I have kind of a love/hate relationship with kale--it's really, really good for you, and I really like it, but only combined with other things or blended into a smoothie (which sounds really gross, but you basically can't taste it if you add other healthy things). I love the almost spicy, earthy flavor it gives on its own, but find that it can really bring out other things in a dish or salad. I blended it with some baby spinach, topped off with orange and red cherry tomatoes, slices of little Persian cucumbers, and pomegranate seeds because I like a little sweetness mixed in. Pomegranate seeds are great for you too, and can be a healthier alternative to toppings like Craisins.

So, all in all, a really delicious meal, and I have things to eat for the next few days. Hooray! I always feel more content and satisfied after cooking my own food, even if it is slightly less convenient than getting a Chinese. I like improvising and inventing new concoctions, and exploring the ways in which food can really nourish your body and give you that energy that artificial things we've created can't. Til next time, friends.

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