Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Post-Wedding Blues

Seems like an odd title, doesn't it?  The post-wedding blues...what does that mean?  Well, I'll tell you.

It's like that feeling after you go to summer camp and spend a whole week (or two) with good friends, going swimming, hiking, running, singing, playing pranks, and then you go home and you're depressed because you miss being with great people all the time and instead you're alone on your couch.  You're coming down from the summer camp 'high'.  That's exactly what it feels like now.

Weddings go way too fast.  Especially given the amount of time put in to them, they go way too fast.  All of our best friends and family flew in to town and it was a crazy whirlwind of fun, celebration and emotion and then they were gone!  I'm still processing all of that.  What's made it even more difficult is that Micael and I went straight back to work after the wedding--we won't go on our honeymoon until September 4--so we still haven't spent much time together as husband and wife yet.

However, all of that said, these 'blues' are fleeting.  I keep getting the question--How is wedded life?  And the immediate is wonderful.  Not so much because the wedding changed anything between us, but actually because the wedding having passed, it's given us back to one another.  No more planning, no more stress and anticipation, Micael comes home at the end of the day or I get back from the restaurant and we sit together, eat dinner, watch a movie, joke and laugh about nothing.  Just like it was, we were, before we got engaged--but now we have a more open window into each others' lives because of the family and friends we've met and opened ourselves to.  It's like us, but now with richer colors all around.

One of our most beautiful wedding gifts was a handmade quilt made for us by my Aunt Sharon.  It sits now on our couch and it seems to me a fitting symbol of our new life.  We always used to sit on the couch before--watching a movie, talking about work, life, the future--often with a blanket over or around us.  Now that blanket is one that was made for us by my Aunt, with a blessing on it for our marriage.  Now as we sit on the couch we are not only us, we are us more tangibly wrapped up by those we love.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Thomas's Poem

Love's Philosophy

The fountains mingle with the river
And the rivers with the ocean;
The winds of heaven mix forever,
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In one another's being mingle
Why not I with thine?

See! the mountains kiss high heaven,
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister flower would be forgiven,
if it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea;
What are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me?

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Caron's Poem

Sonnet 17

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

in which there is no I or you
so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand
so intimate that when you fall asleep it is my eyes that close

Pablo Neruda

Emily's Prayer

For Marriage/ John O'Donohue

As spring unfolds the dream of the earth,
may you bring each other's hearts to birth.

As the ocean finds calm in view of land,
may you love the gaze of each other's mind.

As the wind arises free and wild,
may nothing negative control your lives.

As kindly as moonlight might search the dark,
so gentle may you be when light grows scarce.

As surprised as the silence that music opens,
may your words for each other be touched with reverence.

As warmly as the air draws in the light,
may you welcome each other's every gift.

As elegant as dream absorbing the night,
may sleep find you clear of anger and hurt.

As twilight harvests all the day's color,
may love bring you home to each other.

Ioanna's blessings

Tying your hands together:

Shows the unity that you two are committing. Marriage is a sacrament and a miracle in that you enter the church (in your case, your deck) as two seperate beings, and you leave as one, united by God. So tying your two hands together gives this reminder to us that under the eyes of God you are now one whole being.

The honey:

I gave you honey so your marriage is always sweet. There is an underlying theme too: just as the bees work hard in order to produce the sweet honey, you have to constantly be working hard in your marriage so it can always be full of sweetness.

Metal Rod:

I had you stand on the metal rod so your marriage is always strong and tough. (Later your dad told me that it's metal rods just like that, that he used in order to build/ support the deck, which you had the ceremony on- isn't that funny?)


This fruit has many seeds signifying abundance. So I gave it to you in order for the two of you to be prosperous and fruitfull. Traditionally this was given by the mother-in-law to the daughter-in-law before the marriage.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

Diablo lake magic

I choose you

Under a thick summer rain and the soft voices of emotion, it was difficult to hear what was said last Saturday. Here are the words Micael and I shared with one another.


Briana, I choose you.

From the moment we met I found myself drawn to you and could not help but want to constantly talk to you. We spoke of traveling, food, culture, and everything else we were learning about. Your kindness and thoughtfulness is part of what made it possible to share so much with you. Today I am here to tell you that I will be here to continue sharing all of me with you through the good and bad times ahead in our journey together. That I will take care of you along this journey and express the love that I have for you each and every day, no matter the place, or the language.

Je t'aime, te quiero, te amo, I love you.



I didn’t know when I met you that I would fall in love with you. But after learning who you were and who we were together, I fell very hard. And in that falling there was a choosing. I chose you then and I’ve chosen you every day since.

I love you for your kindness, your patience, your gentleness, your curiosity. I love you for the person you bring out in me, for making me feel at home when I’m with you.

Now, I vow to love you in our life together—in the small things and the big things, to love you when it’s easy and also when it’s hard. I vow to love you when we’re sick and when we’re well, in the shade and the sunshine. I vow to love you for who you are now and who you will become. I vow to be faithful to you, to create a family with you, to build a home with you, and to never give up on you, or on us.

You have every part of me. I choose you now and every day I have.

And the poem we read at the beginning of our vows:

Soneto LXXXI

Already you are mine. Rest with your dream inside my dream.

Love, grief, labour, must sleep now

Night revolves on invisible wheels

and joined to me you are pure as sleeping amber.

No one else will sleep with my dream, love.

You will go we will go joined by the waters of time.

No other one will travel the shadows with me,

only you, eternal nature, eternal sun, eternal moon.

Already your hands have opened their delicate fists

and let fall, without direction, their gentle signs,

your eyes enclosing themselves like two grey wings,

while I follow the waters you bring that take me onwards:

night, Earth, winds weave their fate, and already,

not only am I not without you, I alone am your dream.

Pablo Neruda

Monday, August 02, 2010


How do you write marriage vows? I'm working on this right now and when I have the words in my head and I imagine saying them to Micael, they seem thoughtful, sincere, moving. But when I write them down, recite them, they seem to lose something--they start to feel canned and cliché. I can imagine that in that moment, in front of all those people, those words--whatever they are--are very significant. That the vow you make seems more solid in that moment than now, sitting on my couch on a Monday afternoon. But I can't help the feeling that our vows are made over years together, the little promises we make to one another, the adjustments, the compromises, the gifts and sacrifices that create a bond, a relationship, a marriage. I can say in my vows, I choose you, I vow to be faithful to you, but saying it almost seems to inhibit the power that comes from not needing to say it, because he already knows, because that is who I have always shown him I am. So am I saying these vows for myself, for him, for the people gathered with us? I wrote in my last entry that we believe in this ritual, we believe it has power to shape us and shape our path together. How do I write words that can honor the power of that ritual?

I am already emotionally spent and the week is just beginning. Friends and family arrive today, tomorrow and on throughout the week. I am overjoyed, anxious, exhausted, excited and nervous all at the same time. I miss Micael for all the time we've spent apart, working and getting ready for this. I can't imagine anything better than a quiet walk, just the two of us. But that's not in the cards this week or next. The quiet time together will come, and when it does, we will see more of one another for everything we experienced, struggled, labored for and put forth in this wedding. I know, from having planned this with him for six months, that we can communicate, we can fight and make up, we can create and execute and compromise, and love throughout all of it. I know, from all this, that we are truly partners.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

young and in love

I love this photo. Between our faces you can see through to the Pacific Ocean--a body of water I feel a powerful connection to, having grown up my whole life near its shores.

We spent a much-needed restful afternoon at the beach. Dug our feet in the sand, watched babies and babes roll around in the water and felt the salty wind wrap around our faces.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

What is a Wedding?

The answer to this question, What is a wedding? would have produced several different answers from me over the past 5 months. Probably most days it would have received the answer--a wedding is a pain in the ass. However, there have been some better thoughts and answers to come out from me over these last months, and today, on my two year anniversary with Micael, I think I really know what this means.

I've known for two years that I was in love with this man and have made sure that every day he knew that was true. After he proposed to me in January we were excited about the next step in our life together and about making our commitment official. Somehow ritual means something. Even if we know we create it, even if these certificates and ceremonies only have the significance we give to them, they mean something. They change the way we think, the way we believe and act about ourselves and our relationships, and that's why they are so important. Both of us believed that about marriage, both of us knew this was a step we wanted to take, a ritual we wanted to experience.

Then came the first months of planning and we started to ask ourselves, should we elope? Actually several people asked us, should you elope?! But no, we decided to stick it out and make a wedding happen, with conflicts, stress and exhaustion along the way, and now I know why.

What I feel for Micael is bigger than me. I know I have many years yet to be jaded about love, and I know what I feel now will change over those years, but regardless, what I feel for him is mature and sincere: I love him, in a way that is expansive, fuller, richer, self-transcending. Those are the best words I can give it because I don't know exactly how to describe what it is I feel. But I know it is good. Loving him makes me better. Sharing that with him makes my love bigger. And--here's the key--sharing that love with others besides Micael makes it even bigger still.

It is an incredible feat given that everyone is spread all around the country and the world, to gather together our family and friends for this wedding. But I know that when we make our commitment to one another--officially--we will also be reinforcing our bond with our families, our friends, those we hold so close to us. And our love will be bigger because of their presence, because of the chance we have to share it with them, to release the incredible fullness we both feel right now. I also believe that as we collectively celebrate this event, our love reinforces the love in each of their lives and creates a ripple effect, of which I can't measure or anticipate the outcomes.

And so, this is why we do it.

Some of you know me as an incorrigible optimist. Some of you also know that I've become reasonably cynical in these last few years as a grad student in social studies. Loving Micael has taught me how to be both. It has taught me that there are things you can trust and have hope in, while still knowing that there will be difficult times when you don't feel that trust or hope. Being a grad student has taught me to see the baseness, the insincerity, the power-grabbing of humanity. Yet even seeing it, analyzing it, studying it, I still have faith. A wedding is the chance to make our commitment to that faith. That come hell or high water, sickness or health, in shade or sunshine, I will strive towards the bigness, the fullness of love. And in all of it, Micael, I will love you.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The accompaniment of food

I've meant for this blog to be devoted to food, but I've found that I haven't been writing much about food lately (or writing much at all). I think the problem is this...I'm not a cook, but rather someone who appreciates the systems and communities that surround, support or control food. I've spent much of the last 8 months re-thinking how I eat, where I buy my food and how I make my food, to the point that much of what were first new practices have now become habits.

I regularly shop at the farmer's market--every week we buy farm eggs and raw, grass-fed milk from farmers whose practices and ethics I trust. I incorporate raw honey, coconut oil, whole grains, cod liver oil, raw butter and grass-fed meats into our diet regularly. My most recent goal has been to incorporate whole beans into our menu weekly, because I recently read that beans are the most effective cancer preventer (more so than medical treatment). In short, I'm not trying many new things because I'm happy with the diet we've developed. I'm not a food artist, I don't want to regularly try out new combinations, new ingredients and new methods. I just want healthy food. So my focus on food has now become, rather than the leading role of my thoughts, instead an accompaniment to our lives. Micael and I make a good meal on a Tuesday night, perhaps soaking rice or beans the night before and planning our schedules so that we can fit in a trip to the market and a 3 hour bean cooking, all so that we can sit down together and be, together. We're planning our wedding, often talking about logistics and details, often getting excited about family and friends coming to Seattle in August. We're talking about work and school, and our minor excitements or boredoms with either. We're dreaming about the future, about sleeping in on Saturday, about a new record he wants to buy, or a new book I want to read. Food is our accompaniment to all of this.

In reality, I'm also feeling the need for a new challenge. I will graduate from UW in December and I'm ready to be done. I'm ready to move on, but I don't know to what. I want, like we all want, something to make me excited, something to motivate me. I thought, for awhile, that I would do something related to food. But I'm realizing that's not what I want. I appreciate food as the backdrop for our lives, for its essential role in creating physically healthy lives, but it is only one element in a life well lived. I want to continue to explore those other elements--mental, emotional, spiritual, even other aspects of the physical. I want to stop being a student and objectively analyzing how others promote 'the good', 'the moral' or 'the healthy'. I want to dive in and practice what I, after studying so much, truly believe to be the good, the moral, the healthy. I want to stop analyzing, and start believing, in something.

For now, here is a photo of our most recent accompaniment. Black beans and brown rice, chard sauteed in butter, olive oil and lemon, and spicy lamb sausages from Pike Place. All shared eating on our living room floor (we have no space for a table) on a Tuesday night.

Around the house with Bri and Micael

Crushing garlic in our mortar and pestle

Reaching into the spice section for some crushed red pepper

Double tulips I bought at the Ballard farmer's market last week

Sour cream, dill, paprika, cayenne, jalapeno...all for a delicious fish taco sauce

Micael listening to music on his new turntable

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Portuguese fado

Micael and I are trying to figure out what music to use for our wedding ceremony. We both love Spanish guitar, flamenco and fado--basically any music from the Iberian peninsula. We spent hours last night on looking up music. We listened to the Beatles, Santana, Ricky Martin...we also re-found Mariza. She's a fado legend--beautiful, 6 foot tall Portuguese woman that sings with the most amazing, soulful power.

Here is Mariza singing 'Primavera'...

Culture at work in religion

I'm a TA at University of Washington again this quarter. This is my second year teaching this series of classes, so I'm pretty familiar with the material, but they still manage to challenge my own thinking about life and issues I find important. I'm currently teaching a class in the International Studies department titled 'Intercultural Relations in an Interdependent World'. The premise of the course is to challenge students to understand their own cultural presuppositions and those of other cultures by learning social theories (a la Max Weber, and others) to interpret how cultures are built and reinforced.

An example: Max Weber. Weber says that systems of ideas (such as religion) have the power to shape other institutions, such as politics and economics, rather than, as Marx says, religion is used to *justify* societal institutions such as politics and economics. Basically, do we believe that ideas have power in and of themselves to make huge social shifts, or are ideas only used to back up our sociopolitical and socioeconomic needs? For anyone that is religious, spiritual, philosophical, mystical, you probably tend to believe that ideas have the power to shape institutions. But there are other groups that are a bit more cynical and believe that humans have base instincts toward power and survival that instruct their behavior, and ideas are used only to reinforce the systems that serve these power-seekers.

Being a student and TA, I go back and forth about what I believe. Having studied religion academically for 3 years, I'm now more skeptical about religion's pure motives. I see how religions change shape over space and time to adapt to local needs, to adapt to sociopolitical and economic realities, to adapt to emotional anxieties. But, after studying this so much, I've also come to believe that humans do more than just seek survival, that they can appreciate an idea for its own sake, can introduce a new idea when the old system has become defunct. So I see religions doing both things: justifying ideas for the sake of a political, economical or emotional need, and also introducing new ideas simply for the sake of changing the system for the better.

The most recent example I encountered was yesterday: Rene Girard, his theory of violence, and his conversion to Christianity. Girard says that humans desire what their enemy wants, then fight with him over it, leading to an unending cycle of violence that is interrupted only by a ritual sacrifice (scapegoat). When Girard started studying Christianity, he was an atheist. But after coming to the conclusion that the purpose of Christ's death was to teach his community that this cycle of violence and revenge was pointless, and that innocent scapegoats were often sacrificed, Girard decided to become a Christian. He was impressed by this idea that religion could teach men how to transcend their base instincts.

I'm also impressed by that idea. But the next question that comes to me is this: how can I practice a religion using these interpretations of its meanings, when so many in the same religion have different interpretations (i.e. Christ was a sacrifice for our sins--something I do not believe) that really turn me off? There are so few that practice faith in a way that I find inspiring, and even those who do often can slip into using it to justify or advance certain purposes. This is one of the many reasons I've backed off from any practice for the last few years. How do we have faith in a God beyond ourselves when all our rituals of worship struggle just to get past our own mundane needs and limitations?

I don't know the answer. I don't know how to have faith in so many things that used to inspire me (philanthropic orgs, religion, NGO's, environmental movements) when I can now see many of the motivations behind these movements as well as their downfalls. Aid to Haiti right now is a great example--there are those that argue that foreign aid is actually crippling to other countries because it props us corrupt governments and keeps these countries reliant on wealthier countries and their handouts. So then, what the heck do we do to help Haiti?

Even without answers, I think I'm past the worst of my cynicism. I'm coming into a place where I can have faith in ideas for their own sake, even given their limited ability to solve problems or given their potential for ulterior motives. Actually, reading Mark Helprin gives me faith in ideas and beauty for their own sake. If you've never read him, you need to. He writes about beauty in the midst of the most horrible, devastating situations, such as war, and he gives you hope that if not reason and order, then there is at least hope and beauty always around us, always possible. I'm going to keep reading Helprin, and keep believing in the possibility of Good.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Beef Stock and French integration policy

Those are the two things I am working on today. Finally--finally!--I am inaugurating our stock pot. I know, I said this would happen at least a month ago, but I'm just now getting to it :)

So I pulled the 8 or so pounds of beef bones out of the freezer, let them thaw in the fridge and started soaking them in cold water and vinegar this morning. I browned the meaty bones (ribs and whatnot) in the oven at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, then added them to the stock pot and started boiling the water. In went 3 chopped onions, 3 chopped carrots and 3 chopped celery stocks and then I waited for it to boil. At least 40 minutes later (dang--16 quarts takes a long time to boil!) I've got the pot boiling. I scrape the scum layer off the top with a wooden spoon, add thyme and crushed peppercorns and lower it to to a simmer. Now it has to sit like that for 12-72 hours--yeah, seriously, up to 3 days.

After getting the stock going, I left the house and came to Caffe Vita just down the street to get some work done on my thesis. I can't tell whether I think it's no big deal or a little bit foolish to leave the stovetop on while I'm not in the house--but for today I'm deciding that it's no big deal. Not being in school right now, I have no reason most days to leave the house, which means I stay on the couch, do wedding-related research and read books on Islam and Integration in France. I get things done, of course, but it gets pretty stuffy in that apartment all day. So today I opted for the coffee shop. The barista is playing horrible music and people watching is semi-distracting, but at least I see some sunlight, and I'm out of the house!! (Obviously the fact that I'm writing here means I'm not being super-productive, unless I decide to add 'write on blog' to my list of things to do--then I'm being very productive, indeed).

So I'll work on thesis reading, then return to the house to monitor the stock and make some dinner tonight. I haven't been writing as much about elaborate recipes and preparations in part because some of them are becoming so regular (soaking rice and beans, using raw dairy and grass-fed meats, long marinating, making my own dressings, etc) and also because I'm enjoying eating well while eating simply. Many nights we'll make a carbonara pasta (pancetta, raw parmesan and egg sauce with fettuccine) or a lamb and olive pasta. We often eat farm eggs over medium with sourdough from a local baker toasted with raw butter. And a recent favorite has been grass-fed lamb burgers (marinated for an hour or two with balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper) with raw blue cheese, shallots, dijon mustard on sourdough with a salad or sauteed chard. All of these things are pretty simple to prepare, take maybe a half hour in the kitchen (as well as an hour or so in advance for marinating, if you choose) and only cost a fraction of eating out for a good meal.

We're hoping to get a food processor soon, which means all sorts of new projects--I can start fermenting garbanzo beans (soaking with boiling water for 12 hours plus 12 hours) and making falafel at home, as well as dips like homous, and mayonnaise for chicken salad sandwiches. It definitely takes some practice to get into the rhythm of thinking ahead to make these things, but I'm getting more used to it, which means that even when I start back to school at the end of the month I'll be able to maintain this--it doesn't take that much more time, just more thinking ahead.


Like I said in my last entry, I attended a conference over the weekend. The upshot of the whole thing was applying cognitive psychology principles to our daily actions to realize how to be more effective, more goal-oriented and more visionary. It was inspirational in a way, but more than that it required a shift in thinking so that you recognized your long-term ability and potential to effect change in your life. It's been energizing to think about the many projects I am currently working on, as well as future projects and goals--how do I want to, how will I, make these things happen, make them happen well, and then set and realize my next set of goals? For now, my goals include working on my thesis and my upcoming teaching assistantship with full focus and appreciating the process of these projects. I don't want to only complete them, but I want to pay attention to the details, be thorough in my research, enjoy the experience rather than treat them as projects to finish and check off a list. Learning how to effectively research and analyze sociological data, write clear papers and convey those skills to undergraduates will serve me in my next projects, whatever those are. But these skills will serve me more effectively if I give the time and attention to learning them well.

Beyond that comes the visionalizing process (yes, I know this is not a word--if you'd like to make fun of me for it, you can join Micael...:). What comes next?! I don't know, but this can be energizing rather than frightening or frustrating. This conference taught us to set our goals without being concerned about how they will be realized. The 'how' will come if we are committed to making the end goal happen. I know Micael and I currently have the goal of moving to France for at least a year. This has been a frightening goal for both of us, not knowing where we'll find jobs or how to support ourselves or where we'll live (and with what furniture?!). But if we want it, which I think we really do, the 'how' will come. And the 'how' we will reintegrate to life in Seattle and eventually buy a house, find or create jobs and get a dog already (!) once we return from France will also come once we get to the point to set those as our next goals. But for now, the next steps are taking shape as are the ideas of how they will come...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Think Weird

I am attending a conference this weekend and this is the advice I received just before we let out for lunch--Think Weird. Get outside your box, think differently, experiment, play, shake and shout and sing and do a funny dance. Obviously the man delivering this advice had no qualms about doing any of these things in front of an audience of 200, yet still, even without his comic fearlessness, one could still do these their own way. Think weird.

The way I am translating this is, essentially, don't be afraid to be different. Think outside the box of what is possible, probable, likely or even desirable. It's not usually difficult for me to do this, but I can get stuck when I get so set an idea (that I imagine is outside the box) that I'll run that idea into the ground rather than invent a new idea. I know when I get stuck. We all do. I get stuck when I keep thinking in circles without coming up with any new solutions. I'm in a place like that right now. My vision is pretty shortsighted and I'm scared of things 'not working out'. Where did my courage go? I'm not sure, but I'm feeling pretty determined right now to find it.

I'll let you know when I discover my new vision. For now, back to the conference and getting more comfortable with weird thinking.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

It's almost March

I'm having breakfast (a glass of raw milk and a chocolate croissant) at 1:30pm. It's Sunday. There are black beans simmering on the stove. I have a fresh baguette and eggs on the counter. It's quiet. It's nice.

My life has been consumed the last several weeks with trying to plan a wedding. I feel so cliché writing that, but there's no way around it. Wedding planning is stressful and life-consuming, at least for a little while. In order to coordinate 60 of your closest friends and family all arriving in the same place on the same day (most of them flying in, nonetheless) and have a great celebration there waiting, it takes a lot of work and planning. Planning. They say I'm turning into my mom ;)
It is true--I am seeing the light! There are benefits to planning ahead and being prepared and not just 'winging it' as I may have once liked to do. So I'm planning.

We've decided on a date--August 7, and a place--Kirkland. Despite the fact that most of our friends and family are spread around the country and the world, it seems like most can make it--I'm thankful for that. We're getting catering and lodging into place, and I've started to organize invitations, decorations, rentals, etc. The more I can do now, the better, because I'll be starting back at school again in March, and when school starts, school dominates--no way around that. So I'm checking things off the list now, and planning ahead for what can wait til this summer. That's all the practical work. Then there's the personal side--thinking about what this really means-for both myself and for us as a couple--and thinking about what this means for our families and friends. I liked it when we didn't think about anyone else's thoughts or opinions about our lives, our plans, our wedding, our future. It was simpler. But. I am getting used to people now weighing in--I won't yet say I like it, but maybe I'll grow to. And even if I don't want the opinions, I appreciate the love and concern--and the people from which it comes.

Despite the all-consuming-ness of the wedding, we are actually thinking about our lives beyond it. I should-finally-be done with school by December. I'm writing my thesis right now--on State Policies Toward Religion in France. It sounds really intense, but basically it's 50 pages about how the French government deals with religious minorities--mostly Muslims, and why. I love this stuff. I love political philosophy, religion, sociology. I love understanding how and why people conceive of citizenship and their belonging (or not) in a community. It's fascinating. It excites me so much it actually makes me a bit sad at the thought of leaving school--imagine that!! So, graduation-December. check. After that, Micael and I have talked about moving to France for a year. He's wanted to move back there for awhile to be closer to his dad's family, and when I get past both my romantic notions about living in France, and my fears about living in France, more than anything I want him to be able to be close to family and figure out what 'France' really means to him. So, most likely without jobs and without plans we will move there next January, and see what happens. Don't expect any Julia Childishness on my part, however. I'm already embarrassed about the references to Julie/Julia movie and the blogging and whatnot. I don't think I'm a chef or an aspiring chef, I just like to know about food, where it comes from and how it's good for us. Probably I'll talk a lot about cheese. And sausage.

For now, my next food projects...hmm. Well, the other night we made lamb burgers with blue cheese on sourdough, and served them with delicata squash--amazing. Also really easy. Grilled the burgers, added blue cheese, raw shallots and dijon mustard onto sourdough bread. The squash we cut in half, placed cut side down in a baking dish for 30 mins at 300 degrees, then took it out, scooped out the seeds, put in a bit of butter and ate with a spoon.

This week I'll be making fish tacos and rice and beans. Will write about that soon...

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

the stock pot

Yes! We finally have one! A stock pot, that is.

Thank you 'Santa' for a 16 quart stock pot you left beneath the tree this year. I considered an 8, then a 10 quart, but ultimately decided (after my attempt to make turkey stock after thanksgiving and had to split it up into two separate pots) that we should just go for the Big Guy. So 16 quarts. It's huge.

Santa also left instructions on how to season the pot, so today, many weeks after Christmas, it was finally done. We coated the entire thing with peanut oil--actually not we, Micael--and put it in the oven for an hour. This is supposed to fill in the nooks and crannies so that food doesn't stick as easily to the surface of the pot and keep it from rusting.

Next task: beef stock. I have had, lemme see...7 or 8? pounds of beef bones in our freezer for the last several months. All different kinds--knuckle bones for gelatin, rib bones for meat and flavor, and other kinds that I forget the purpose of now because it's been so long since I bought them. But you get the point--lots of different kinds of bones because they add different nutrients and tastes. I'll be making this stock tomorrow or the next day. Then can have it on hand for soups, cooking grains or just drinking as a broth.

So excited about this pot!

South and back again

Haha! We are back from Mexico and beyond. We did eat fruits I did not know the name of (although we did see plenty of Washington apples), tortillas, local cheese, mole and tacos al pastor. Mmm. Tacos al pastor. Spiced pork slow-cooked on a rotisserie and then served in little yellow corn tortillas with onions, cilantro and pineapple, add green salsa. That was probably my favorite meal of the trip. Especially with a Negra modelo beer.

Overall the food was pretty good. We ate plenty of fresh fruit, tomatoes, onions, and avocado. Lots of fresh, local cheese, beans, tortillas, coconut. My only (unanswered) questions, were: what kind of oil are they cooking in, and where is this meat coming from? The grocery stores were stocked with canola and soy oil, and the taquerias (taco shops) used this oil for frying, so I'm assuming that we probably consumed our fill of those oils. As far as the meat goes, I have no idea. I read before we left that Mexico has adopted many of the US policies on animal production, including feedlots. Oaxaca state is *supposed* to rely on its local food supply more than most areas in Mexico because it has small farmers rather than large agribusiness. But after asking many people where the cows were raised and what they were fed, I gave up on a clear answer. It seemed that the cows were raised somewhere up north, and fed, more or less, cow food. The first time that I asked the dairy stall in the market what their cows were fed, I was met with such a strange look I almost gave up right there. As if there might be different things that cows eat, or that it might matter...huh.

Another oddity to me was the nonexistence of coconut oil as a cooking oil. The coconuts were so abundant on the Pacific coast that you could buy one, freshly picked and cut in half with a straw for about a dollar. It would make so much sense to make use of all these coconuts for their oil, given how healthy it is for the body, inside and out. But there was none to be found. We had brought coconut oil with us from the States and took teaspoons regularly to keep our immune systems strong while we were traveling. But that was the only coconut oil I saw.

All in all, very good food. I loved the use of chiles for spice--the dozen chiles (maybe I exaggerate...) in the black mole sauce, the different salsas at each taqueria. So good. But some of the more complex elements of cooking--like braising, stocks, and whole grains--were absent. I was especially aware of this as I was reading Julia Child's memoir while we were traveling. I believe that that woman can make anyone excited about cooking technique--bring on the sauces...!!

Last but not least, Micael and I got engaged while away (and yes--I was completely surprised!) :) So, although we have known we were already committed to each other for better or worse and for everything in between, it is now official, and officiality brings with it all sorts of new experiences, emotions and family relationships--all joyfully welcome. I can't say how much I look forward to a life with him. And with our stocks, pots, sautés and gazpachos. Our first day home from Mexico we got up early (this was an incredible feat), went to the Ballard farmer's market, and bought fresh, raw cheese, a damn good french baguette, farm eggs and raw milk. We came home, ate, and although I don't remember, I imagine we got back into bed and stayed the rest of the day that way. So, here's to the man I love...and a lifetime of bumping into each other in the kitchen.