Smoky eggplant-pistachio mince, and Turnovers with eggplant mince, white beans, roasted peppers and olives

Eggplant and white bean turnovers

Eggplant and white bean turnovers

I have a new job. I like it a lot, but I still feel like I’m just getting used to it. I have these strange anxiety dreams that have nothing to do with the actual job–waitressing anxiety dreams, or middle school anxiety dreams (although these probably have more to do with Malcolm actually starting middle school). My old job was a lot of walking and talking to people. My new job is lots of sitting and writing and looking. Part of my work is deciding if images are ready to be made into prints that artists can sell–if they’re cropped correctly, and in focus, and of a sufficiently large size. This part of the job was hard for me at first. I’m naturally a second-guesser. I don’t always trust my eyes. I don’t really like to be the decider, especially if it involves someone else’s work. But here’s the funny thing. Each artist’s work is wildly different from every other artist’s work. Some are sweet, some are pretty, some are disturbing. Some are oil, some pastel, some drawings or prints or mixed media. Obviously I don’t love everything I see. Nobody would. I like certain kinds of art just like everybody else does. But it’s my job to look at the work as closely as I can, to zoom right in and make sure everything is in focus. And I’ve experienced such a strange phenomenon. When I look at each image as closely as I possibly can: too close to see the subject matter, but close enough to see each brush stroke or pencil scratch, too close to even read the signature, when I see them like this I love each one. I often wonder why people do what they do–why they say what they say and write what they write and sing what they sing and draw what they draw. Why that particular thing, why bother at all? Well, when you see them up close like this, you realize that this is a useless question. It doesn’t matter why. It doesn’t matter what. It’s beautiful just that they tried, they created something with their own hands, with strokes that no other hands could have made in exactly the same way. Many of them are just Ordinary people with day jobs, for many of them art is not a career, it’s a passion. But I like to think about them going about their day thinking about their art, with that bright spark in their mind and then giving that spark life with strokes on canvas or paper. I like to think about that.

Eggplant and white bean turnovers

Eggplant and white bean turnovers

More eggplant! This was sort of a failed dish that turned into something better. I was going to make eggplant cutlets or kofta, but they fell apart, and I ended up making a sort of mince. I thought it was really good! We made a fire in the back yard and put the eggplant right into the fire, till they were charred and melty. When they were cool enough I peeled them and mashed them with some pistachios and garlic and herbs. And then I ended up frying them almost like I was making scrambled eggs or hash browns. The first night we ate this with sautéed chard and some bread that I made and a creamy pistachio sauce. The next night I made turnovers or empanadas with leftover eggplant mince and white beans, olives, roasted red peppers and leeks. Even Isaac liked them! He ate seconds!

Here’s the Velvet Underground with Sweet Jane, because I’m currently obsessed with it, and because you could be a clerk and still make art.

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Yellow squash and white bean empanadas

IMG_4277There’s a vine that grows outside our front door and along the back fence of our garden. It’s called wild clematis, or devil’s darning needles or old man’s beard. It has beautiful little white flowers, and the most intoxicating fragrance, not too sharp or too sweet, indescribable. Like honeysuckle, it blooms at the beginning and the end of summer, and like honeysuckle, it always comes as a sweetly melancholy reminder of summer’s passing. How fast these lazy days go! You can feel it…you can feel the hours drift away. Yesterday I took a blanket out for Clio, who likes to lie in the sun, but the sunlight moves so quickly these days that I couldn’t keep up. It races across the yard. We’ve had a ridiculous spate of perfect weather, the kind that almost hurts when you step outside, because you know it can’t last, and you feel as though you need to savor every moment of it, you don’t want to spend a second in the house. You want to feel the way the chill leaves the air in the morning and the day warms up but the shadows are so perfect, this time of year, that wherever you walk you move comfortably through sunlight and shadow in equal turns. The very air feels good, you walk out into it as you jump into water of the perfect temperature, it feels good on your skin, it feels good to move through it. This time of year, this kind of weather, you think about all of the summers of your life; when you were little and school started soon, when you’re older and you still have that strange feeling of transition, though you haven’t had a first-day-of-school in years. You think about all of the summers to come. I recently discovered the Portuguese word “saudade,” which is a beautiful thing. A sweet sort of nostalgia, missing something but glad that you knew it, and hoping to know it again some day.

“The famous saudade of the Portuguese is a vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist, for something other than the present, a turning towards the past or towards the future; not an active discontent or poignant sadness but an indolent dreaming wistfulness.”

As the poets of wikipedia say, “one feels an interior satisfaction because it is impossible to find something, but one never stops thinking that one is searching for it.”

And doesn’t that sound like late August? Doesn’t that sound like the light shifting fast, and the days dawning cold, and the wild clematis blooming outside your door?

Summer means summer squash! We got three lovely little summer squash from the farm. I decided to make empanadas with them. I combined them with white beans, spinach, cherry tomatoes, small hot peppers, some herbs from the garden and sharp cheddar. They were a nice combination of crispy and tender. Very light, for an empanada. We ate them with a fresh tomato sauce, but you could make it all simpler still by chopping some summer-ripe tomatoes and having that alongside.

Here’s Saudade, by Cesaria Evoria.

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Summer squash and chickpeas with olives, raisins and basil

Summer squash with chickpeas, raisins, olives and basil

Summer squash with chickpeas, raisins, olives and basil

Both boys have friends over. The little ones are playing together and describing very unlikely and very funny scenarios. “What if somebody was singing ‘Let it Go’ to a guy hanging off a cliff?” or “Who wants lunch?” “Me!” “I was talking about you being my lunch!” And the bigger boys, who have phones, are staring at their phones. We got Malcolm a phone for his birthday. It’s not a fancy one, it doesn’t do much, but I think he likes having it. Of course it’s depressing to see people lost in their phones, unaware of the world around them, shut off from nature and from living human society. It makes me sad that we’re all losing the ability to sit and do nothing and receive no information from the outside world beyond what we can see and hear and smell immediately around us. I’d rather see the boys “playing with their imaginations,” as Isaac says. As a word lover I’m not a huge fan of texting with its lazy abbreviations and insipid content. However, also as a word lover I’m so happy to exchange texts with Malcolm! He’s so funny and sweet. He texts us from across the room, from up the stairs, from the back seat of the car. And he texts from his friends’ houses when he’s far from home, so we know how he’s doing.
IMG_3941 IMG_3942
I can’t help thinking (again) of René Clair’s enthusiastic praise of film as a new technology, “In this era, when verbal poetry is losing the charm it exerted on the masses … a new form of poetic expression has arisen and can reach every beating heart on earth … a poetry of the people is there, seeking its way.” And there is poetry in short lines exchanged between people, when they’ve whittled their words down to express only the most important message, when they’ve tightened their language to convey the most meaning. There’s wit and poignance even in the inevitable misunderstandings and misspellings. Even the words themselves have been distilled to their essence. It reminds me of this poem by Robert Creeley:

I Know a Man

As I sd to my
friend, because I am
always talking, — John, I

sd, which was not his
name, the darkness sur-
rounds us, what

can we do against
it, or else, shall we &
why not, buy a goddamn big car,

drive, he sd, for
christ’s sake, look
out where yr going.

“In saying his poems, Creeley stops briefly at the end of each line, though without dropping the pitch of his voice. This gives it a jazzy, syncopated rhythm, very nervous. Thom Gunn calls it ‘a kind of eloquent stammering,'” which is how you could describe the rhythm of text conversations, although truly they are not always eloquent. Phones are here to stay, and are only going to become smarter and more engrossing as the years go along. We might as well embrace their brief rough poetry, we might as well be thankful for the way that they connect us.

It’s summer squash season! I like summer squash, but sometimes it’s hard to get excited about cooking it day after day. This was an exciting dish, though. Full of flavor and nice textures. I like the combination of jalapeños, raisins and olives, sweet and spicy and salty. I like grated zucchini and yellow squash, because they tend to melt into a dish, imparting their fresh summery flavor.

Instead of a song today, I’ll give you a video of a man using his phone to make little films that make the ordinary more interesting.

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“Mediterranean” white bean “chili” with avocado corn salsa and pesto

White bean chili with pesto and avocado corn salsa

White bean chili with pesto and avocado corn salsa

Godard’s 1967 film La Chinoise is full of words. The characters talk constantly, the walls of their apartment are painted with giant phrases and mottos, and the screen flashes with intertitles in a strange and jarring rhythm. And, of course, we don’t speak French, so we were also reading subtitles, as all of the dizzying layers of text were translated for us in rapid succession. The film is a loose adaption of Dostoyevsky’s novel The Possessed, and it tells the story of five university students intent on violent revolution. They discuss ideology, they discuss art, they’re very well-read, and they talk about literature and theater and music. They discuss their plans, and for most of the film we suspect they’ll be all talk and little action. They discuss their love for one another, or their lack of love. They talk about class struggle, they talk about the workers, but they never work. Except for Yvonne, one of two women in the group, who is constantly cleaning, and tells of her part-time work as a prostitute so that she can afford things. The film is shot mostly in the claustrophobic world of their apartment and their minds, both teeming with ideas and words so beautifully layered and confused and constant that they start to make a strange sort of sense. I think the film must have been one of Godard’s first color films, and he’s beautifully aware of color. Everything is red, white and blue, with Mao’s Little Red Book appearing in shifting stacks and patterns, becoming almost a character. The film is full of humor, it’s an affectionate satire. The students are foolish, even frighteningly so at times, but Godard loves them even as he disparages them. In one long beautiful scene, which finally breaks out into the world beyond the apartment, Veronique meets her old philosophy professor, a former revolutionary for the Algerian national liberation movement. She talks about her deeply-held political beliefs and she sounds like a child: she wants to close the universities, but she talks about how her one summer of actual work caused her to do really well on her exams. She talks about using bombs, and she says the word like a child would. As in Masculin/Feminin, the violence is off-screen, botched, dreamlike. It’s hard to know if it really happened or if it’s all in their heads. The whole film is like a dream, floating away with humor and words and sixties pop style, but grounded with the idea that these students are discussing real people and real problems that continue to affect people around the world.

avocado corn salsa and pesto

avocado corn salsa and pesto

Do you like all the quotation marks in the title?!? It’s because this isn’t really mediterranean, and it’s not really chili. It seemed mediterranean because it has olives and beans and rosemary and pesto and harissa. It’s like chili because it has chili paste and beans and it’s a spicy sort of stew. Whatever you call it, it was very tasty. The chili is warm and rich and savory, and the salsa is light and sweet, and the pesto adds a real kick of flavor. We ate this with zucchini corn bread, but you could warm up some tortillas and eat it as tacos instead.
White bean chili

White bean chili

Here’s Mao Mao, a poppy punky song by Claude Channes from La Chinoise, which pretty much sums up the whole film.

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Cool tacos for a hot day

Black bean, pepper and avocado

Black bean, pepper and avocado

SUMMER JOURNAL

I haven’t had much time to write lately. It’s strange how summer days can fill up with delightful clusters of nothing-too-important but something you wouldn’t miss. Of course I’ve been thinking of writing, and I’ve saved up a million small summery ideas, and I’m going to share them with you now, summer-journal style. This morning I saw the baby eagle fly! As you’ll no doubt recall, his nest is at the top of a giant metal tower. He’s a hulking baby, nearly as big as his parents. For weeks now He’ll stand in his nest, testing his wings. This morning he stretched them out, and then he flapped them, and he flew! Only a few feet, he landed again in his nest. It was so beautiful my eyes filled with tears and I was trying not to foolishly cry outright in front of two men who had stopped in their bike ride to discuss features that all raptors wings have in common. I had told them minutes before that this was a bald eagle, they thought it was “some sort of hawk.” One of them was wearing a shirt for the Eagle Diner, and it had a nicely drawn picture of an eagle as its logo.

I’ve been having a hard time staying away from the local ice cream parlor. One day, after an especially hard day of work, Malcolm and I walked down. I waited outside with Clio and Malcolm went in. I told him I didn’t want any ice cream, and I almost believed myself. Luckily he didn’t and he walked out with the exact ice cream cone I would have ordered myself. We walked home in the warmsummerevening air, and when he got to the last half inch of his cone he gave it to me, as he always does, because he knows it’s my favorite part. It’s the part that makes you want more ice cream. And I always eat it, even though he has summer boy hands, which have handled frogs and toads and plenty of dirt, and probably haven’t been washed all day.

I love fireflies. I love their gentleness and their seeming modesty in the face of their own beauty. I love their seeming patience in the face of human hands reaching out to give them a place to land, over and over again. The other night we sat out in the yard and watched them fly all around us and I saw one lying in the grass, glowing. David says this is a thing they do. Some of them sit in the grass and glow, and some of them fly around looking for their glowing friends in the grass. Maybe I’d seen it before, but at that moment I thought I was seeing it for the first time and it struck me as a wonderful thing to be forty-five and see a firefly glowing in the grass for the first time. We imagined a scenario in which fireflies somehow bite you the way mosquitoes do, although of course it would be much gentler and completely painless. We imagined that instead of swelling and itching, the place where they bit you would glow. And then we thought that people would probably devise a way to get fireflies to bite them in patterns all along their skin, to make a glowing tattoo.

I love the fact that Malcolm will jump into any body of water we encounter, fully clothed, and instantly submerge himself. But Isaac, even for a water gun fight, likes to have a swim shirt and swim shoes and swim suit and goggles. I love that they’re different that way. We’ve been creeking a few times now, of course, because that’s what summer is all about. Malcolm’s in the middle of the creek in a moment, but Isaac hangs by the edge looking for frogs and toads. The other day he asked David, “What’s the biggest toad you’ve never caught?” Which I think is a beautiful question.

Red beans, olives and tomatoes

Red beans, olives and tomatoes

We’ve had a couple of blisteringly hot days, the kind when you don’t want to cook at all, and inspired by my new Ordinary friend Tom, I made these cool tacos. Tom makes his into quesadillas, which are vegan because he uses hummus instead of cheese to hold the quesadillas together. I think this is genius! It was too hot even to turn the stove top on, so we made them into soft tacos instead. I warmed the tortillas in the toaster and I made some rice for the boys, but other than that no heat was required to make these tacos. We’ve had them several times now. Once with black beans, peppers (hot and sweet) and avocado, once with red beans, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, olives, and lots of herbs. You can make them vegan without cheese, or add feta or cheddar or goat or any cheese you like. I made a lemony herb hummus to go with them,
lemony herb hummus

lemony herb hummus

smoky pumpinseed sauce

smoky pumpinseed sauce


as well as a smoky toasted pumpkinseed sauce. All vegan if you leave the cheese out!

Here’s Jimmy Smith with Summertime.

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Warm salad with potatoes, butter beans, spring rage, fresh mozzarella and herbs

Warm salad with potatoes, butter beans and greens.

Warm salad with potatoes, butter beans and greens.

It’s movie week here at The Ordinary! I seem to be talking about a different film every day, and today will be no different. Today’s installment features Le Corbeau made by Henri-Georges Clouzot in 1943. The film is about a small town plagued by anonymous poison pen letters, which threaten to tear the very fabric of the town to pieces. Everybody feels guilty about something, everybody tries to blame somebody else, everybody becomes plagued with fear and suspicion. It’s a fine film, in many ways, beautifully shot in black blacks and white whites. It’s suspenseful and mysterious, almost Hitchcockian. It’s still oddly relevant considering that the internets are full of anonymous trolls. But the thing that really stuck with me, strangely, is the way the setting is described in the very beginning. A small town, “ici ou ailleurs.” Ici ou ailleurs! Here or elsewhere! This phrase has been stuck in my head for days. I love the sound of it and the meaning of it. It makes any story into a fable or a myth, showing how our fears and hopes and passions are the same no matter where or when we live. It makes the story Ordinary by showing that it could happen to anyone, anywhere. Ici ou ailleurs. Of course Jean-luc Godard beat me to it, he made a film called Ici et Ailleurs. He made it with Anne-Marie Mieville, and it’s a reworking of footage they shot for Jusqu’à la victoire, a 1970 pro-Palestinian film. I haven’t seen it yet, but the trailer juxtaposes “simple images” of French children watching television with shots of Palestinians, and a woman’s voice tells us, “We should learn how to see here in order to be able to hear elsewhere. Learn how to hear yourself speaking in order to see what the others are doing. The Others, the elsewhere of our here.” Godard! Ici ou ailleur.

Warm sa;ad with potatoes, butter beans and greens

Warm sa;ad with potatoes, butter beans and greens

It’s so much fun to make dinner when you just return from a CSA with your arms full of fresh vegetables! Yesterday I made them into this sort of warm salad with potatoes and butter beans for substance. The potatoes, beans, and broccoli rabe were warm, the tomatoes, mozzarella and herbs were cool, and they all melted together when combined. I picked some bronze fennel, which was new to me and very lovely, and I minced that and added it for a nice mellow anise-y flavor. We ate it with a loaf of crusty bread, and Malcolm made it into a big sandwich.

Here’s Eddie Harris with Listen Here.
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Savory puffy pancake with chickpeas, tomatoes and chard

Savory chickpea pancake with chard, tomatoes and chickpeas

Savory chickpea pancake with chard, tomatoes and chickpeas

Some faces are more symmetrical than others. Some lips are fuller, some eyes are bigger, some skin is smoother or paler or tanner. (And, yes, some girls are bigger than others, and some girls’ mothers are bigger than other girls’ mothers.) And in some decades or some centuries paleness or tan-ness is valued, sometimes society dictates that full lips are aesthetically pleasing, sometimes it’s rosebud lips, sometimes it’s plumpness, sometimes it’s skinniness. Fashion is fickle, society is fickle, and as individuals our ideas about human beauty are mysteriously linked to the aesthetic preferences of society-as-a-whole. And of course everybody knows about inner beauty. Intelligence, humor, kindness, compassion, all shine in a person’s face and make them more beautiful; it’s (probably) a scientifically proven fact. But somehow this notion still implies a judgement from without, and it removes the spirit from the body, it sets aside the physical. I’ve been thinking about a different definition of beauty that’s both physical and even more deeply inner than the cliché that the phrase “inner beauty” has become. It’s a definition of beauty that we own, ourselves. I think our bodies are beautiful because of the pleasure that they give us. And this pleasure comes in many forms: it could be in tasting food, or hearing music, or making something with our hands. It could be in running or dancing or feeling the strength of our muscles. The mind is part of the body, too, so we can take pleasure in thinking, even in something as simple as that. And, of course, it could be in “the great joy that they had expected, and countless little joys of which they had never dreamt,” to borrow a phrase from EM Forster that I’ve always thought and hoped was a euphemism for physical love. Your body is beautiful because it is capable of doing these things and feeling these things, and you can walk through this world glowing with this knowledge. And the real beauty of this definition of beauty, is that though it comes from inside of you, and it is yours, all of these things are more pleasurable and more beautiful and more glowing when they are shared with somebody else.

This beauty doesn’t change with the seasons and the fads. This beauty is strength against insecurity bred by cruel comments and the constant bombardment of images of people who look different and supposedly better than you. Certainly your body changes as you age, but you will find new ways that it brings you pleasure. You will be beautiful forever, and your beauty is yours.

Savory pancake with chickpeas, tomatoes and chard

Savory pancake with chickpeas, tomatoes and chard

My oven is broken! It’s the strangest thing. It gets to a certain temperature, and then it just stops. It decides that’s quite hot enough, thank you. So I’ve had a nice time the last few days thinking of ways to cook things without it. The stovetop still works, and the broiler. So I decided to make this sort of puffy savory pancake to cook over sautéed vegetables. I cooked it first in the skillet, with the lid on, and then I put it under the broiler for a minute or two to brown up. I suppose it’s not all that different from a yorkshire pudding, except that it’s not baked at all. And it’s similar to socca, because it has a bit of chickpea flour in it. We had some beautiful chard from the farm, and I love chard, tomatoes and chickpeas, so that seemed like a nice under layer for the whole project. You could add olives or capers, I think they’d be nice here, but I’ve been putting them in everything lately, so I left them out.

Here is, of course, The Smiths with Some Girls are Bigger than Others.

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Butterbeans with quince and caramelized onions

Butterbeans with quince and caramelized onions

Butterbeans with quince and caramelized onions

    There is shadow under this red rock,
    (Come in under the shadow of this red rock),
    And I will show you something different from either
    Your shadow at morning striding behind you
    Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
    I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

These lines, of course, are from TS Eliot’s The Wasteland, a poem I have long-loved. I only recently learned that the phrase “a handful of dust” comes from a meditation by John Donne, part of a series of meditations and prayers called Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions and seuerall steps in my Sicknes. Donne wrote these meditations while recovering from a nearly fatal illness, they’re about health, pain, and sickness, and they’re quite melancholy. In this particular meditation, number four, Donne starts by describing each person as a little world, which is an idea that I love. “It is too little to call man a little world; except God, man is a diminutive to nothing. Man consists of more pieces, more parts, than the world; than the world doth, nay, than the world is. And if those pieces were extended, and stretched out in man as they are in the world, man would be the giant, and the world the dwarf; the world but the map, and the man the world.” And what is it that makes us so immense, that makes the air too little for this orb of man to move in? It is our thoughts, our imagination. “Enlarge this meditation upon this great world, man, so far as to consider the immensity of the creatures this world produces; our creatures are our thoughts, creatures that are born giants; that reach from east to west, from earth to heaven; that do not only bestride all the sea and land, but span the sun and firmament at once; my thoughts reach all, comprehend all. Inexplicable mystery; I their creator am in a close prison, in a sick bed, any where, and any one of my creatures, my thoughts, is with the sun, and beyond the sun, overtakes the sun, and overgoes the sun in one pace, one step, everywhere.” No matter how confined our bodies are, whether it’s because we’re sick or imprisoned or merely stuck in traffic or a waiting room, there’s no limit to where our thoughts can travel. It’s like Pierre as a prisoner! “The harder his position became and the more terrible the future, the more independent of that position in which he found himself were the joyful and comforting thoughts, memories, and imaginings that came to him.” We might all be in the gutter, but we can look up at the stars! We might have to “live in the trunk of a dead tree, with nothing to do but look up at the sky flowing overhead,” but our imaginations and memories and reveries can soar with the flowing skies. And, as Donne tells us, when two of these little worlds come together, in friendship, or in love or marriage, we have everything, we have everywhere.

    For love, all love of other sights controls,
    And makes one little room an everywhere.
    Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone,
    Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown,
    Let us possess one world, each hath one, and is one.

Butterbeans with quince and caramelized onions

Butterbeans with quince and caramelized onions

My friend Neil told me about a recipe involving chicken baked with quince and caramelized onions. As a lover of quince, I was greatly intrigued! I thought about various substitutions for the chicken, and in this version I’ve settled on butterbeans. They’re big and juicy, and they take on a nice substantial texture when they’re baked. I mixed them with some pre-cooked quince and caramelized onions, and gave them a sauce of brown sugar and butter, salt and pepper, and a dash or two of white wine. I tried to keep the flavors quite simple, with only salt and pepper as seasoning, but you could easily add thyme or rosemary or any other herb you like. You could add olives or capers or pine nuts. I thought of this a little like fancy baked beans (although I used a can of cooked beans, because I’m lazy!)

Here’s Back in the Good Old World by Tom Waits, because I was just listening to it, and it seems to fit, somehow!

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Roasted butternut, mushroom and white bean tostada with pecan chipotle sauce

Buuternut, mushroom and white bean tostadas

Buuternut, mushroom and white bean tostadas

weathered bones
just thinking of the wind
it pierces my body
– Basho

All night long the wind seemed to shake the house. It sounded as though it was rushing through the neighborhood, rattling chains and knocking things over. It sounded like somebody drumming on empty barrels, and then racing away up the street. I lay awake for a while, worrying. Not about the wind, but about getting older and about disease and decay. It sounds foolish, it is foolish, and yet I lay awake letting my thoughts move from one thing to another, just like a visit to the doctor at a certain age results in one test that leads to another and another. I had no concrete cause for concern, I don’t know where the worry came from. I finally fell asleep and dreamt about owls and woke up confused. The wind was still wild this morning, blowing through us like icy knives on the way to school. When Clio and I walked home, empty garbage cans rolled around the streets, and made Clio crazy. She stopped and startled and then took off like a shot. Her hackles were raised, she refused to go down certain streets and she barked down others. She was in a panic. It struck me as strange that it’s so easy for us to recognize when somebody else’s fears are ungrounded or misplaced. It’s so easy for me to see that Clio is not going to be attacked by a garbage can, and I know that cars are dangerous for her, though she does not. It must be like that with my own worries as well. I’m barking down alleys at shadows, losing sleep over empty cans.

Roasted squash, mushroom and white bean tostadas

Roasted squash, mushroom and white bean tostadas

You know what makes these special? The patented Ordinary method of grating and roasting vegetables. It works for squash, beets, mushrooms, turnips, and many many others. It produces a nice texture and a completely roast flavor. In this recipe mushrooms and butternut squash are grated and roasted and then mixed with white beans, to create a sort of mince. This mixture is layered on top of a crispy tortilla in a cold/warm/cold/warm stack. First cool spinach leaves, then warm beans, then melted cheese, then cool avocado and tomatoes and spicy smoky pecan chipotle sauce. And that’s that!

Here’s Skip James with Worried Blues.

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Mushroom and black bean “meatballs”

Mushroom and pecan "meatballs"

Mushroom and pecan “meatballs”

I have a shocking confession to make. Every morning in the wintertime, when it’s too cold and icy to scamper on the towpath, I exercise by jumping up and down and waving around two cans of beans. As embarrassing as this may seem, it is not the shocking confession. I watch shows on the computer while I jump up and down, to make the time go faster and for my general edification. I catch up on the news of the world with The Daily Show and the Colbert Report. I watch some worthy well-written sitcoms. And sometimes I watch insipid trash. That’s my confession! It’s horrible, I know! We only have so many hours in the day and I waste it on some of the worst written, poorly acted, insultingly stupid programming to come across the small screen. One show I watched recently for a few seasons, before it got so bad I couldn’t watch it anymore, dealt with the trials and tribulations of the wealthy youth of the upper east side of Manhattan. They had problems, man, that you just couldn’t understand, but that seemed really glamorous and way more fun and dramatic than your own problems. They were constantly embroiled in a remarkably repetitive chain of idiotic romances with the same people over and over and over again. But here’s a funny thing, all of the characters would stop occasionally, and think about themselves and the world around them and they’d say “I’m Chuck Bass,” or whatever their particular name happened to be, and that would solve all of their problems. Sometimes they’d remind each other who they were, as a friendly way of helping them out of a bad situation. They’d say, “You’re Chuck Bass!” And everything would be resolved and that would be the end of the show. Of course it matters more for them that they are who they are, because the whole point of being who they are is that they have so much money and influence that they actually can change the course of events by saying their names. But they’re really really horrible people. They’re mean and ignorant and fairly useless in the broad scheme of things. They don’t create anything but problems. I was thinking that, on balance, almost everyone else in the world deserves this super power more than they do. All of us, when we face some sort of trouble, should be able to stop and say, “I’m who I am!” and it should make things better. Not because we have wealth and power but because we have ourselves. We have our imagination and our abilities and our affections and our hopes and our memories and our flaws and our souls, whatever those are. Sometimes when you’re being belittled or treated badly and it seems as though nothing is going well or ever will again, it’s easy to lose yourself and to feel worthless or hopeless. I’ve felt it a million times. It’s worse than a feeling of failure, it’s a feeling of nothing, of being nothing and having nothing. Well, the next time that happens, I plan to say my name aloud. I’m going to say, “I’m Claire Adas,” and I’ll ignore the perplexed looks of anyone around me and I’ll think of everything that I have, everything that I’ve made, everyone that I love, the whole round life I’ve made for myself. That’s right, I’m Claire Adas.

Maybe it won’t get me reservations at the newest latest whatever, but who wants to go there anyway, when I’ve got a bottle of cheap wine, shelves full of spices, a drawerful of vegetables, a head full of strange and delicious meals to make, and good friends to eat and drink with. I made these little flavorful “meatballs” out of mushrooms, hazelnuts, pecans, black beans, and smoked gouda. They’re seasoned with sage, rosemary, smoked paprika an nutmeg. The boys ate them with long pasta and red sauce, but you can eat them with any kind of sauce you like! You can dip them, or put them in a sandwich. The possibilities are endless!

Here’s I am I Be by De La Soul

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