Recipes. Musings. Portland. Tucson. Fusing Cultures Through Cuisine
These are labor days. Well…“labor” days.
“Labor” because my definition of “labor” has changed significantly. Working 14-hour days sitting in front of a computer in an office set to 45 degrees in the winter time used to suck the soul right out of me. But as a personal chef working 14-hour days is working with food, in order to feed others with the ending result *hopefully* being having enough resources to obtain food for my own consumption. Working with food for food – well that’s just logic and passion’s dream come true.
Recently I’ve been working a lot, well “working”. As a result, my highly coveted 8 hour a day sleep schedule has slipped through my fingers. Last night was filled with a whole three hours of sleep – what could I possibly achieve with three hours in the sleep bank??
Perhaps a day more often than not that looks exactly like this:
8:00 am – Drink coffee. Lots of coffee.
8:30 am – ENERGY SPAZ FREAK I WILL DO EVERYTHING THAT HAS EVER BEEN DONE EVER AND BILLION TIMES AND PRESIDENT UP SOME BUSINESS AWESOME SAUCE RUBBERSTAMP BOARD APPROVAL LAUNCH SYNERGY!
8:35am – Blarg.
9:00am – What episodes of Mad Men have I not seen in a couple weeks?
9:00-12:00 pm – TEEEEVEEE
12:00pm-4:59 pm – TEEEVEEE with a lappy tappy in front of me for easy Hulu access. DOUBLE TEEEEEVEEE.
5:00 – “No, I can’t go out awesome friend I haven’t seen in months. I feel too bad about myself for not accomplishing anything and have decided it would be fitting to punish myself with gross food that is unloved and filled with recycled grease and stranger hair”
Lucky for me I was able to successfully break through the “Blah is me” status quo to make room for an incredible freaking day.
My Friday started off unlike any other with over aggressive alarm startling me out of bed, dragging my feet to transport foodstuffs to the deep heart of Marana. Me? I’m not used to leaving the zip code. I prefer to stay in Presidio, Barrio Viejo, Dunbar springs, Menlo Park – this is where I deliver to, in my ideal world. But alas – my waking hours were spent in a vehicle on the freeway with all the other 9-5ers reuniting me with my corporate grind past.
But everything was different, like spending the morning having a lively discussion with a family friend, an uncle (all Indian family friends are known as “uncles” and “aunties” regardless of relation and mostly lack thereof) about Indian perceptions of westerners’ palates – an incredible and fascinating conversation. When would I have been able to talk about things like that sitting in front of a malfunctioning computer on a swivel chair eating a doughnut I hate, that I am just eating because I don’t want to look like some pretentious freak who is too good to get down on some grocery store pastry products, looking at an excel spreadsheet with crossed eyes and a broken heart? What an alternate living reality. Lucky.
Later on I spent the day with a group of amazingly beautiful independent passionate artists and businesswomen, mind-melding and creating an open accountability support group of sorts – goal setting with style. I left our meeting feeling so incredibly inspired and filled with a renewed sense of passion and purpose. How did I luck out on falling into such an awesome community? Seriously lucky.
The energy carried me through so much of my day. Towards the five o’clock hour ye olde belly grumble sets in. What to do, what to do? *KEEP WORKING* I was on a roll – my mind went straight to spices. I headed to my favorite Indian grocery store, India Dukkan (2754 N. Campbell in Tucson) to stock up on my ever-depleting stash of warming chilies, pungent spices, and hearty lentils. As the 7o’clock hour rolled around I found myself in desperate need of some nourishment. The thought of eating a premade meal just sucked the air out of my bubble wrapped soul. It had to be real and it had to be good.
Lucky for me, I have the most fantastically talented friend and neighbor, Lilly Alison Steirer the creator of Lilly’s Table – an online meal planning guide service that is bursting with wonderfully inspiring recipes using fresh and seasonal fare. Eating at Lilly’s house is like falling in love all over again, and again and again. You may have had a Caesar salad hundreds of times in your life but you’ve never had Lilly’s. Her whole approach to food just sends you into a double take zone. I can’t tell you the countless number of times I’ve fed Bing a dish he’s never had interest in only to watch his eyes do that “AYOOOOOOGA!” thing when coming upon Lilly’s version. Then I catch him shamefully sneaking seconds and thirds. That’s what I love about Lilly’s food; it just makes you think twice. Lilly’s table’s dishes range from the everyday comfort to the inspiringly exotic, but I think what amazes me the most is her understanding of keeping the integrity of whole and real foods in tact while still creating a newly imagined experience. She is able to do all this while still keeping recipes accessible to those without all the fancy equipment and to those that may not have advanced culinary knowhow. Lucky again for me; despite creating multiple course meals for friends and strangers every day of the week, I find myself in constant befuddlement as to what to cook for myself day in and day out. I was eager to create a spoil-myself meal-for-one with minimal complication and most importantly, minimal cleanup.
I’d been eyeing this recipe for this mushroom soup all week (currently featured on Lilly’s Table). A silky cream of mushroom soup that that fills you with such warmth and restorative energy. The soup was just spectacular. I was fresh out of cauliflower, though, so I substituted peeled Japanese eggplant instead. My wine was non-existent and my sake smelled like death, so I just added a little more stock and a splash of milk. I also trotted onto the porch and pulled a menagerie of Scarborough Fair herbs to puree into the mix. The ending result was amazing.
I had a few mushrooms leftover so I threw together a quick 10 minute pho with tofu and mung bean thread (recipe soon to follow).
The clean up? A complete dream. I had everything put away before my meal was complete. All I had left to do was plate, snap a suitable picture, crank up the heat and cushion myself into a warm cocoon of geeky cookbooks and Chinese noodle-making Youtube videos.
Powering through the day can be so deliciously rewarding. Thanks life! (And ya – I am totally listening to Labor Days)