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Monthly Archives: May 2014

I’m Better! And Thanks Guys!

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In my last post I mentioned that I had some male friends who were the “not all men” exception to the rule of men grinding me down; one of them called me after reading that to check in on me.  

So just in case – I’m fine!  I’ve never been one to permanently roll over and play dead; maybe for a few days, yeah, but before long I am back standing up again and saying “and you know, another thing that gets me…”  But he sounded worried, so just in case I had to let anyone else know, I’m better.

But this also gives me the chance to make a few other shout-outs about those men, and How They Get It.

* Richard – the one who called me – is someone I have always known has my best interests at heart, and also has the knack to balance them with a wicked sense of humor. He sensed early on that the way to reassure me that All Is Right With The World is to make a pretty twisted joke, but he still makes sure I’m comfortable that it is just a joke. He doesn’t just try to be sensitive to dealing with Me As A Woman, he tries to deal with me as an individual.

* My father is the reason why I’ve imprinted on a whistling-past-the-graveyard kind of thing; but even more importantly, he always let me see that he got all jazzed about my brain. We are very much alike – I’m very much My Father’s Daughter – and one thing we have in common is the propensity to play Devil’s Advocate in discussions for fun. He was starting debates with me about science and politics and current events and such as early as Junior High, but it wasn’t until I was about seventeen that I realized that he thought that our debates were really fun – and, I realized, so did I. And part of the reason why they’re so fun is because he sincerely is interested in what I think and how my brain works. I’ve come to realize – this means that I’m a woman who’s always had a man in her immediate surroundings who valued her brain.  And that makes a big difference. (Thanks, Dad.)

* And no less important – my uncles George and Peter, and my grandfathers Edward and “Row”.  I may have been a bother chasing them around with stories about tree frogs at the age of six, but they still dug it. And I always knew that.

* Speaking of brains, my friend Colin and I have been symbiotic in some amusing ways (we have given up on ever playing Rock-Paper-Scissors because all three of the times we’ve tried, we always pick the same thing every time). But he also gets some elements of the female experience on a level that men (understandably) don’t usually get. Sometimes it’s because of having had strangely similar experiences – he’s had the someone-tries-to-flirt-by-staring thing happen to him – but more so, it’s because the guy is just plain empathic, I think.  Whatever is at the root of it, it’s awesome.

And the best part is, these guys aren’t the end of the list, they’re just the most illustrative examples. My brother, my cousins, a good number of old co-workers, Mr. Shrimp Grits, a happily large percentage of the men I’ve dated in the past – they’re also on the roster.

On a number of online discussions about gender relations and misogyny, I’ve see guys ask exactly what keeps so many women from just throwing in the towel on all men. And the reason I don’t is because I still managed to find a good number of guys who keep me from wanting to.

On How Elliott Rogers Made Me Tired

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So about a week ago, a young man was angry enough that he hadn’t ever had a girlfriend that he decided to shoot a lot of other people.

There are a lot of ways to unpack this incident, and a lot of other bloggers have been doing so. I could go after the gun control issue; question how it was that we keep coming to this point over and over again, how someone who is so horrifically troubled can get a gun, and question why it is so important that he be able to.  I could go after the misogyny in his “manifesto” – how it feels to be one of that class of people he believed should be rounded up into a concentration camp and kept alive solely for sex and breeding purposes.  I could go after the way the media is falling all over itself to find more and more commentary on this incident – soliciting the opinions of people whose opinions we really didn’t need, reporting on sideline skirmishes like Seth Rogen denouncing a blogger for implying his movies contributed to the misogyny Rogers suffered from, or Joe The Plumber using this incident to tout Second Amendment Rights in an open letter.

But the truth is that I am simply too tired to make any statement.

I have opinions, alright. I grew up in the 1970’s, and cut my teeth on Free To Be You And Me and have been calling myself a feminist ever since. I have always valued my mind and placed a huge importance on my ability to speak for it; my brain and my thoughts are as good and deserve as much respect and as much value as they’d receive if I’d been born with a penis. I am much, much more than my ability to bear children, and I have consistently been standing up and shouting that.

But that’s just it – I have been saying it so long, and so often, and so repeatedly, that it has worn me out. 

I have spoken up for myself, testified for myself, shouted for myself, screamed for myself, and fought for myself again and again, since I was old enough to see the need to do so. And yet again and again, the world keeps offering up people to disagree with me. For every street harrasser I’ve talked back to, there are ten more the next day. For every argument I’ve had online about how yes women do too experience this kind of misogyny on a regular basis, the next day I see yet another person who dismisses a complaint about sexism as a woman “being on the rag” or some such.  For every time I’ve told a guy that his just being “nice” does not automatically mean I’m going to fall to his feet in gratitude, I run into yet another guy who thinks he is so entitled to my attention that when he doesn’t receive it, he will chase me out of a bar and down the street. For every time I point to a behavior that some men do which is infuriating, I get a bunch of guys brushing me off because “not all men do that”.

For every time I’ve stood up for myself, there are more and more men daring to question either why I feel like I need to be treated “specially”, whether I “really” saw what I saw, or why I can’t take pity on a man who’s “socially awkward”. My right to even just declare i have rights is apparently trumped by their right to feel comfortable in the world.

And I don’t even have the energy to be angry any more. I’m profoundly grateful for the men I know who don’t do this, my friends who accept me as a person who happens to be female rather than treating me like I’m “a woman” as if it were a different species. But they are just much too rare, and I have gotten too worn down by naysayers, to have hope that these men will be anything other than the exceptions to a societal rule.

There’s no point in continuing to speak up for myself if the world isn’t going to bother listening.


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This past weekend began so well.

It was one of the last cool weekends of the year before New York’s summer really kicks off; one of the last chances to get some cold-meal ingredients really stocked up. I try to stock the fridge with lots of cold salads or the makings of same in the summer; I belong to a really active CSA which overloads me with vegetables, so it almost becomes a matter of self-defense to prep them so I can eat them more easily. They also make for perfect brown-bagging options for workplace lunch – I have a tiffin-style lunch container, and if all I have to do is pull two Tupperware containers out of the fridge in the morning and dump things into the tiffin, I’m more likely to use it.

So I got a pound of white beans to cook up – good for stirring into various things, making salads, mashing into dips – good to have cold in the fridge, either way. And then a chicken – in a recent conversation with Mr. Shrimp Grits, he told me he pretty much lives on roast chicken and its ensuing leftovers, and that got me in mind to do the whole English Sunday roast lunch thing, so as to also have the cold chicken for salads and frame for a stock. There would still be plenty of time for other fun things – a trip to Governors’ Island, open anew for the first weekend of the season. And time to get a jump on a couple of writing tasks that needed doing.

And then my computer broke on Sunday morning, and things started to take a turn.

According to some frantic Googling (on an iPad backup), I learned that at least what was going on was a flaw my laptop is prone to, and is also a simple enough fix for a repair shop. And I found a good-sounding one nearby in Brooklyn. Except – it wasn’t open on Sundays, and it most likely wasn’t going to be open on Memorial Day Monday either. And that meant a delay on the writing.

Fine. At least I could go to Governors’ Island.

I’ve actually been looking forward to that all year – Governors’ Island is one of my favorite spots in New York, a huge park made of a decommissioned army base in the middle of New York harbor. It’s actually still a bit under construction , as some of the grounds are still being converted to parkland. But the new “hammock grove” would be open – a big plot of trees with hammocks studded throughout.

But of course what sounded like a good idea to me was a good idea for everyone else. And so by the time I got to the hammock grove it was all full.


And most of my usual trees-to-picnic-beneath were also occupied.


I did find one spot, tucked under a tree which was perched on a ledge surrounding the sunken grass moat around Fort Jay, the fort at the island’s heart. A quick loll and a picnic restored my mood a bit. But the weekend still ended with a busted computer, an overcrowded Governors’ Island and a grumpy temperament.


I do have the next few days free before starting a stint of work on Friday. And that means I have the next few days free to do a lot of things most people wouldn’t get to do.

The computer is going to the shop today. It’s a simple enough fix so I may get it as soon as tomorrow, which is soon enough that I could get back on the schedule I’d set.

And – Governors’ Island is open seven days a week this year, for the first time. Which means that I could slip out in a couple days when the crowds have abated, for a longer spell in one of the hammocks. And by that time I’ll also have some fresh chicken salad on hand to take with me.

Fate tries to mess with me, I mess right back.

Feast For The Senses

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“Sex is good, but not as good as fresh sweet corn.” — Garrison Keilor

One morning a few weeks ago, I was visiting a “friend” and we were discussing the need for breakfast. He was shuffling to the kitchen, but paused. “I know – how about I make us shrimp grits and a couple fried eggs?”

I couldn’t act on it – the day was already getting away from us – but that suggestion actually got me turned on.

Food is good. Food shared with people is better. But food shared with certain people under certain circumstances is fantastic. I’ve always done better with my sex life if my paramour is someone I can eat with, and cook with – or at least cook for. There was a guy once that I dated a couple times, and then tried cooking us dinner – making him one of my standby recipes, a grilled chicken leg marinated in a bright emulsion of wine and good olive oil with loads of rosemary and a shock of red pepper. But he balked at it, saying that he only ate meat if it didn’t look like it came from an animal. Burgers were fine, but not steak. Chicken nuggets, but not fried chicken.

That was our last date.

Mind, this doesn’t mean that I don’t respect food preferences or special diets or allergies or any other food quirks. Everyone has a food which they can’t or prefer not to eat, for medical or moral or aesthetic reasons. Mr. Shrimp Grits sometimes is plagued by dairy. I get indigestion from broccoli. A friend of mine eats gluten-free to alleviate fibromyalgia, and an animal-loving childhood friend of mine went vegetarian when she was only eight. I usually work with the food quirks of my family and friends, and believe that’s what you’re supposed to do; you support the people you care about and accept their peculiarities.

But what spooked me about the mystery-meat guy was that it felt like a fear of food. He wasn’t morally opposed to meat – he ate it, in certain forms – and it wasn’t a dietary thing. He just didn’t like the thought of where meat came from. The more processed the better. And if that was the case – who knows what else he may have balked at? Would he prefer cherry Jell-o to cherries? Wonder Bread to sourdough? Did he, like Homer Simpson, think “Purple” was a fruit?

And what did that say about how he may react to how I looked, or smelled, or tasted? No, best I cut things off – fussiness about food often goes with fussiness in bed. With sex, as with food, sometimes you gotta get earthy.

In his defense, though, there are cuts of meat I’ve not been all that quick to seek out myself just yet. Liver and kidneys are things still pretty much unknown to me – and except for some dabblings into chicken liver pate, I’ve not done much about that. I also keep telling myself I mean to try making pigs’ feet, but I still haven’t, even though I have two recipes for them. And I’m sure I could find a place that sold calves’ brains somewhere in the city, but am in no rush to confirm that.

But at least I am open to giving them a try.

Mr. Shrimp Grits is part Mexican, and was once waxing rhapsodic about some of his grandmother’s specialties, including something he called tacos cabeza. “Okay, I know ‘tacos’,” I asked, “but what’s ‘cabeza’?”

“‘Face’, basically,” he said. Technically, the word “cabeza” means “head,” but tacos cabeza uses the face bits of the cow – the cheeks, mostly.

And then he went on to talk about beef tongue tacos.

Tongue and cheeks are also things I’ve not yet tried and not been in a rush to try. But if I am led to that bridge, I already know I’ll cross it; just as I’ve been led to other culinary bridges by other guys in the past, and I’m pretty sure that as I’ve done all the other times, I’ll end up liking it. Just as I’m pretty sure Mr. Shrimp Grits would give some of the weirder corners of Irish cooking a whirl, like drisheen, the big black blood sausage from Cork. And it’s that willingness to at least try with food that I get on best with – to be open enough to let a new sense in.

Because sometimes that sense can combine with others. And if you are adventurous with your food, that speaks well to adventurousness elsewhere.

And besides – food is just plain sensual. One of the most erotic nights I spent involved an ex-boyfriend and a sack of cherries we picked up at a corner bodega. We were going to use them in something like a clafouti or a cobbler, but first had to pit them.

It started with us each nibbling a couple as we worked. Then we started feeding each other, slipping them one by one between each other’s smiling lips. Then kissing the sharp juice off each other’s smiles. Then licking it off each others’ fingers. And then we were racing for the bedroom, where we balanced the cherries in the bowl on a pillow and gorged on them and on each other, using the juice as body paint and eating them off each other’s stomachs. The sheets ended up ridiculously stained and we had to get up at 2 am and make sandwiches because we got hungry, but it was totally worth it. (I should probably have seen it as a red flag when I gave him a bunch of cherry-flavored candy that Valentine’s Day and he didn’t know why.)

Food is for sustenance. But food is also for pleasure. Take pleasure in food and I will follow you anywhere.

Young Men In Dress Whites

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There’s something charming about being in New York during Fleet Week. It often happens sometime around Memorial Day, when kids are out of school and everyone’s looking for something to do – so there are a lot of people lining up to visit the ships. But at the same time, it’s also when the crewmen are on shore leave, and so suddenly the city is filled with a lot of wide-eyed young men in dress whites, gazing awestruck at everything.

Years ago, I worked in an office on Times Square, and was on my lunchbreak, waiting at a streetcorner to cross 7th Avenue to get to my usual deli. A knot of five guys in dress whites was on the same corner also waiting, and suddenly I heard one of them totally lose it. “Guys. Guys!” he gasped.  “Guys, we’re in New York! WE’RE in NEW YORK!” He started patting each of his companions on the chest, tagging them as he spoke – “I’m in New York, you’re in New York, you’re in New York – we are in NEW YORK!” I smiled to myself at his enthusiasm as he went on. “I can’t believe it, we’re in New York! And there’s so many people around – look at all of this,” he said, craning his neck, “all these people, I can’t believe how many people there are, how people just don’t go crazy with all this stuff going on around them – ” he stopped, seeing me.  “Excuse me, miss? Do you live here?” he asked.

“….Yes?” I said, startled.

“How do you put up with this, with all of everything going on around you all the time?”

I could have been nice. I could have come up with some kind of lyric out of On The Town. But instead I told the truth – I looked at him and said, “I ignore about 95% of everything that happens around me.”

He blinked. “Really.”

“Yes.” The light changed at that exact moment, and I just nodded and said “enjoy your day,” and went on my way, leaving a young man with his mind blown and a moment that I’m pretty sure he was going to be writing home to tell his mom in Topeka.

And yet that wasn’t the best Fleet Week story I’ve got. 

A few years later, I was living in the Lower East Side and working up by Columbia University; I usually had to change subways at the 14th Street station, walking the long twisty tunnel leading from the 2 train to the L, and from there to the 6. I was about to head into the tunnel when another group of crewmen in dress whites stopped me.  “Excuse me, miss? We’re a bit lost – which subway do we take to get to McSorley’s Ale House?”

“It’s kind of confusing….” I began, trying to think how to explain. “Well, you know what, I’m going that general direction, how about you just follow me?”

“Hey, great!” they said, and we set off, me leading a gang of guys in dress whites. They were full of giddy, we’re-on-a-break energy, teasing each other as we walked – but trying to tone things down out of deference to me. But their good spirits perked me up, so I started joking with them, and some of them got a bit flirty by the time we got from the tunnel onto the 6 at last. “So which stop is it?” they asked, “and how do you get from the stop to McSorleys?”

“You know what,” I said, “it’s actually a nice night, and I don’t live too far away – I’ll get out with you and walk you there.”  And so I lead my little band out the exit at Astor Place and on to McSorley’s.  “Here we are!”

“Thank you so much, miss!” they said.  Then one said, “you know what, would you like to join us?”

I grinned. “What the hell.”  We got a seat in the back, where I had only the one round with them before they had to get back to their station. But one of them had taken a bit of a shine to me, and offered to walk me part of the way home – even enlisting one of his companions to come with us as a chaperone, so I wouldn’t think he was going to try any funny business. He gave me his email address, telling me I was “a fun gal” and saying he wished I’d write. I never got around to it, though, but it was sweet.

And that is how seven sailors bought me a drink.


There Be My Dragons

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I’m a museum junkie, and New York is full of them. Art museums, history museums, kitsch museums, a museum of sex (which I kind of can’t believe I haven’t seen), you name it. Today, the city added another one to its roster.

And I am already quite sure that it is one that I should not ever visit.

I’ve had a complicated relationship with the events of 9/11. I was living here at the time, in an apartment close enough to the Twin Towers that I actually heard the impact of each plane as it hit; close enough to be part of the “Frozen Zone” that first week, and close enough to qualify for free health care if I ever contract any 9/11-related physical symptoms. Both of the industries I worked in at the time – theater and office temp work – also took major hits in the aftermath.

But I don’t look like the “typical” 9/11 survivor – I didn’t work in the Towers, or near there, nor did any of my family or friends. Nor do I personally know anyone who lost their lives that day. The closest I got was that an actor I’d worked with a half a year prior escaped from the Towers before they collapsed; I heard through theater channels that he moved to Philadelphia very soon thereafter, and I never saw him again; but I’d only had the briefest of relations with him anyway, he was only one of the lengthening list of actors who flitted in and out of my life in those days; someone I worked with a couple times, spending two intense months in daily rehearsals and performances, and that intimacy snapping off after the show closed and everyone went their own way.

So I’ve had a much easier time of it than most, and I realize that. I went through the same crisis mode everyone in the city did during that first year after, but not having to grieve for a lost husband or lover or child or friend gave me one less thing to worry about, and not having any of the health affects gave me still one less thing on top of that. It was only my hometown that was attacked, only things I witnessed that I had to recover from.

I’ve had the luxury of getting to the point where my only post-9/11 symptoms are psychological and intellectual ones – mainly a bit of moodiness on the anniversary each year, which I’ve learned to cope with by shutting myself in the house and tackling some vaguely annoying and taxing household task (usually canning tomatoes – it takes a long time, it’s just enough busywork to distract me, it’s unpleasant so I can justify being cranky, and the reward when I’m done is huge). I’ve also gotten thoroughly cranky at anyone who seems to be exploiting the day for their own ends; mainly politicians, who often wrap themselves in the “Never Forget” sloganeering in an effort to make themselves look suitably patriotic, but then turn down political actions which would benefit victims of the attack, like the Senators who initially struck down the first First Responders health care bill.  But I’ve also taken a really dim view of the people who look like they’re making a buck off the attacks with all manner of commemorative tack – coins, Etsy-made crap like magnets and teddy bears and blankets, commemorative coffee gift baskets, even wine. Blessedly, the figurine that the Precious Moments company designed expressly to commemorate 9/11 was apparently never released.

All that tat is one reason why I was already a little uneasy about the 9/11 Museum. A lot of the people making the collectible stuff claimed to be donating part of their proceeds to the Museum; and frankly, I’d rather have waited a bit longer on the museum if it meant we wouldn’t have had to see 9/11 wedding cake toppers or whatever out in the world. Not that I wished there weren’t one, mind you – something that gets at more of the truth of that day is always good, lest the story be carried by people with particular axes to grind. But I was already pretty sure it was a museum I was gonna skip. I’ve always thought any of the commemorative tat in gift shops to be on the tacky side – things emblazoned with logos or what-not. And I really didn’t need to see any that also had a logo commemorating what was effectively one of the worst days of my life.

Because I already remembered that day plenty well, and that was the problem. A few years back, on the anniversary, I let myself chew out the friend of a friend on Facebook – someone who primly noted that she hadn’t seen very many people commenting on the day, and how funny it was that we all forgot so quickly. Not her – she’d gotten her children up early and dressed them up in red, white, and blue for the early Mass that day, and…goodness, wasn’t it funny how many people seem to have forgotten?

And I responded that I’d lived less than a mile away on the day of the attacks, had heard both planes hit, and had to spend the next three months under a haze of smoke from the site and the next year seeing the city wallpapered with missing persons signs, and that trying to forget some of the things I’d seen and heard was the only way I’d been able to stay sane.  I got thirty replies from other people who said “I can’t even imagine what that must have been like,” and then everyone left me blessedly alone for the rest of the day.

The thing is, though, I really had been trying to forget a lot of what I’d seen and heard and felt in those weeks – and up until today I thought I’d succeeded. This past anniversary felt pretty much like an ordinary day again, for the first time, and I was unbelievably grateful. So a couple days ago, when the New York Times posted a virtual tour of the new museum, I clicked through to look at the pictures.

And there was everything again. Fragments of the fallen planes. A beat-up fire truck. An officeworker’s shoes. Charred paper, out of someone’s wallet. A shrine to fallen firefighters.

And after only a few minutes of looking I started to feel a quiver in my chest which I haven’t felt in nearly thirteen years. I started flashing back to hearing a solid twelve hours of sirens streaming south on the FDR drive, three blocks away. Hearing how many people had had to walk home over the Brooklyn Bridge, including my friend Colin who’d had to also walk all the way south from the Javitts Center on top of it. Seeing every station house in the city with its own makeshift shrine outside, and a list of the three or four men who’d been killed in the attacks – every single stationhouse, no matter where you went, had its list and its pictures and its burnt-out candles next to a couple of dead and dried carnations taped to the wall under the names. And the paper was just like all the scraps of paper blowing around Downtown Manhattan right after – boring, ordinary paper, like you’d find in any office, half-completed fax cover sheets and random pages of financial reports and memos full of businesspeak, flying loose on the street, and all of them with ragged charred edges and it always took you by surprise because you forgot for a split second exactly why they would be charred and then you smelled the smoke that was everywhere and then you remembered, and that just got you thinking again about one thing you were trying to forget which was exactly what it was that was burning. Just like you tried to make yourself turn a blind eye to all the missing-persons posters going up because there was really only one place those missing people could be, but those posters were still up, begging and hoping against hope, and the smoke lingering over the city telling you that no, there was no hope in this case….

That feeling is the one I’ve been trying to forget for 13 years. I don’t even know if it has a name – I don’t want to know its name. I don’t even want to feel it again, and yet I felt it again yesterday looking at those pictures.

It is probably best for all concerned if I take a pass on this one New York museum. My own head is saturated with this enough.

Weekly Media Review (Back Again)

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Okay yes I know I said I would be doing this weekly on Wednesdays and then I didn’t but I’m still figuring out what I want to do with this blog so sue me.


Fans of food writing, sooner or later, will come across the work of M.F.K. Fisher, a food writer active in the middle of the 20th Century. She wasn’t a straight-up cookbook writer like Julia Child, though – her work tends to be a combination of recipe and memoir. I picked up her book How To Cook A Wolf on a whim years ago – and reread it on a whim a couple nights ago, and fell in love with it again.

How To Cook A Wolf was first released in 1942, during the days of wartime rationing in the United States – Fisher wanted to remind people that food is supposed to be enjoyable, and can be even if your resources are slim. Then, in the 1950s, when everyone was running themselves ragged trying to adhere to the latest advice from nutritionists – and paying more attention to vitamins than taste – she released it again, adding just a few notes and a couple extra recipes.

Her ideas, actually, are both ahead of their time and refreshingly timeless. Instead of knocking ourselves out trying to have three balanced meals in a day, why not balance the day itself? In the days when everyone else was suggesting huge breakfasts of eggs with bacon or sausage or ham or steak, and cereal, and fruit, and juice and milk, and then going on to have huge lunches with yet more meat and vegetables and then having big dinners with still more meat and vegetables, she was asking, why not have toast and fruit for breakfast, have your big lunch, and then a light supper of lovely fresh-cooked vegetables or a lively salad with a little more good crusty bread.  You still get all the servings in, but you aren’t driving yourselves crazy trying to cook something huge for breakfast every day, you can pace the meals around what your body tells you it wants, and – most importantly – you actually stand a chance of enjoying what you eat.  You also save a lot of money, too, not trying to have something with meat in it for every meal.  

The economics of her book pan out as well – in time, if not in money. I’ve actually adopted one of her suggestions, that when you are making rice for something, to make extra so you have some left over. It takes just as much time, it costs just as much electricity or gas power to make it, and if you have some leftover rice in your fridge you’re that much closer to another meal on another day. Three of my dinners in heavy rotation all involve pre-cooked rice, and about six more are things that get served over rice. If it’s already made, then some nights all I have to do is chop some vegetables or saute some spinach, and dinner is ready in only fifteen minutes. She’s also a big advocate of meat only sometimes, and in not having huge portions; she is also a big fan of using offal, and some of the weirder cuts of meat that tend to be cheaper in the supermarket. This re-read has me considering a sort of Salisbury Steak thing with ground beef that sounds like it would be just as satisfying as a steak.

On top of her economic sense, her voice is also delightful – it’s like if Michael Pollan had a love child with Dorothy Parker. The book is filled with passages that were making me shout, “hey, listen to this” to my roommate and reading them: 

Butchers, usually, are very pleasant people, in spite of having at some point in their lives deliberately chosen to be butchers.


One way to horrify at least eight out of ten Anglo-Saxons is to suggest their eating anything but the actual red fibrous meat of a beast. 


Almost all vegetables are good, although there is some doubt still about parsnips.


Probably one of the most private things in the world is an egg until it is broken.


Some of her ideas I’m not quite prepared to try, I admit; she has recipes for making your own mouthwash or toothpaste, and a rather dubious-sounding soup that involves shrimp and buttermilk (although, even she admits that this particular recipe sounds weird). She also has a recipe for the truly desperate which she calls “sludge”, which is a sort of DIY version of the Nutraloaf thing they serve in prisons; it’d be cheap and would keep you alive, but she does admit that this is for desperate times only and that it’s boring as hell. However, I’ve read a review from the New York Times from its first release – the reviewer scoffed at the idea that someone could be satisfied by a simple soup and salad, and no big dessert. “Mrs. Fisher is not accustomed to cooking for lumberjacks, cowboys or even men who have played three sets of tennis or eighteen holes of golf,” they said.

But that’s her point – that the lumberjacks and cowboys could  be satisfied with just a soup and a salad, if that soup or salad is made with care. Pick really good vegetables, get in the habit of making vegetable stock every once in a blue moon and using that, cook everything with a light hand – and you’ll end up making a soup that is not only healthful but delicious; delicious enough to be just as satisfying as a steak you’ve made from a  half-assed cut of meat you had to settle for because you couldn’t afford the porterhouse.

She advocates taking time to enjoy food, because it deserves it. it’s not just fuel to keep us alive and it’s not just vitamins we eat with forks – it’s something to be enjoyed, and the enjoyable things can be found at every economic level.

Tchochkes, Tree Frogs, And Tours Of The Hudson – Why I Write

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One of my family’s favorite stories about me is something that happened when I was six. I’d just read my latest issue of Worldthe kids’ version of National Geographic from the 1970’s, and been especially struck by an article about Amazonian tree frogs. My family visited my grandparents a few days after that, and the tree frogs were fresh on my mind when we greeted our grandparents and Grandpa asked me what was new.

And so I started telling him about the tree frogs. In detail. All twenty of them.

Grandpa started out listening politely, letting little-kid me ramble on. Then he tried excusing himself gently, then politely, then firmly. But I paid no attention and just kept talking. Finally, out of desperation he just said “Kimmy, I have to go now,” and started walking away – but I just followed him, still talking about tree frogs, with barely a pause. Moments later the rest of my family was thoroughly confused by the sight of my grandfather fleeing through the kitchen, nearly at a sprint, with me running after him saying “and there’s this green tree frog, Grandpa, that has black spots and it’s poison, and you know what it eats, Grandpa?….”

The things there are in this world have always struck me with awe. I read some of the classic children’s books just like everyone else – Nancy Drew, Little House On The Prairie, The Chronicles of Narnia – and I played pretend games along with everyone else. But I was equally as likely to poke around at real things – trickle water down over sand castles to see what would happen, or collect fall leaves just because of the different colors. I was just as likely to read volumes of my parents’ ancient Life Nature Library  as I was other kids’ books. I don’t ever remember having much of a belief in fairies – but not because I thought they were babyish or didn’t exist, it was more like, I didn’t really care one way or the other whether there were fairies under the flowers because the flowers were blowing my mind enough already.

Strangely, though, I’ve never had the kind of scientific mind that comes with that kind of fascination. I would marvel at the things of the world, but wouldn’t take the extra step of wanting to find out “but why did this frog evolve into being poisonous?” What I would do, instead, is talk about them; the wonder and joy I get from discovering something new about the world is something I never want to keep to myself.  Even today, my instinct has always been to turn to someone else after I see something cool and say “hey, look, a cool thing!” and tell them all about it.

And ultimately my writing has taken a similar path. I started writing short stories as a child – but they were always stories about me coming to grips with a strange thing I’d just read about. The novel my friends and I tried writing in high school started as pure fiction, but gradually was about us. And while I did write some short fiction – and still do, once in a blue moon – the writing I keep coming back to, again and again, is nonfiction.

This is actually something I’ve struggled with a couple times; somehow writing nonfiction felt like a cop-out. Real writers were more artistic, I thought. And the handful of short stories I’ve written were pretty damn good – somehow one of my works got into the hands of the author Leon Uris while he was alive, and he gave me some honest, sincere, and encouraging feedback. This is a skill I have – shouldn’t I be using it?

But that’s not necessarily how my mind works all the time. Even the stories I made up as a girl were always grounded in some kind of fact about the world that caught my fancy, and were my own way of saying “hey, look, this is a cool thing.” Any day where I get to dig up weird information about something and then tell other people about it is a good day.

And there’s so much in the world to be struck by – abandoned film sets turned into theme parks, or tiny puppet theaters in the middle of nowhere, or Ice Age seeds being revived and sown to the point of flowering, or hiking trails that map out the sites of paintings, or Japanese cats with box fetishes, or habitable planets millions of miles away, or raccoon-type animals we didn’t even know were there, or entire nations of people we didn’t know were there, or weird languages or ancient Roman pre-Christian graffiti or riotously-painted houseboats in the middle of London or Icelandic airlines run by heavy metal fans or Buddhist monks breakdancing in honor of a former Beastie Boy or the fact that cheese and eggs can do this – or the fact of an egg in and of itself, if you think about it, or a film set or a puppet or a seed or a painting or a cat or a planet or London or airplanes or tree frogs or anything, really.

And I’m realizing that that is my truest self-expression – discovering something, letting my mind get blown by it, and then turning to someone else and saying, “hey, look at that cool thing!”  I’ve not done any works about tree frogs yet, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.


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I spent the bulk of the week preparing the next Atlas Obscura post. And it has left me a bit wordless.

So how are you?