Soba valentine.

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Winter is drinking out of mugs and eating from bowls. Winter is Valentine’s Day- we say we don’t like it but love it anyways. Winter is the scarf you knit in eighth grade and still wear; it’s remembering and nesting. And, as it happens, winter is finding the last delicata squash, sweet and tender and golden, in a picked-over bin at the market. Which is what happened this past week and is what leads me to soba.

This recipe employs a lean winter larder- seaweed, soba, kale, squash- and a bit of memory. When I was in high school, I spent some time as a foreign exchange student in Japan. My first bite on the mainland was that of soba. It was summer, and the soba was hot, and I was jetlagged in an Ambien-induced haze. Needless to say, soba was not particularly impressive to my sixteen year-old self; it would take a nudge from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty, seaweed, and a little pantry desperation to make me reconsider the earthy, buckwheat soba noodle.

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Living near the ocean in Seattle makes me want to try new things. Maybe that’s why unbelievably ridiculous shows like Jersey Shore and The Real World happen on the beach. The expanse of unknown water, the strange little creatures that make their way onto the shore, the barnacles and salt; I’d like to think that, though oceanic nudging, I’ve become a new-found devotee of many new things, including soba. (Other subjects- thigh tattoos, double IPAs, purposeful hipster mullets- are still under debate.)

In recent times, soba has gone mainstream and you’ll find it in the ethnic aisle of most grocery stores. Watch it when you’re boiling the noodles; cooked too long soba will be as bland and mushy as boiled cardboard noodles. Cooked al dente and seasoned while still warm and soba takes on a new identity: buttery, complex, and beautifully supple.

So, soba, tonight for Valentine’s Day dinner when you ask me to remember you and to cook and to love you, I will check “yes.” You taste exotic and yet comforting, humble and rich. You absorb flavors like no other noodle and you soften tough vegetables like kale and seaweed. It’s nice to dine with you again. Happy Valentine’s Day, friends! ❤

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Soba with Seaweed and Delicata Squash

Inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi’s “Soba Noodles with Aubergine and Mango” from Plenty.

Serves four.

  • 2 medium delicata squash, cored and sliced in 1/4-inch thick rounds
  • 2 tablespoons high-heat cooking oil (such as canola oil)
  • 1/2 large red onion, very thinly sliced
  • small bunch of lacinato kale, roughly chopped
  • 12 ounces / 3 bunches dried soba noodles
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, divided
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
  • grated zest and juice of one large lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 4 sheets dried seaweed laver, cut in strips
  • handful of fresh cilantro and/or parsley, chopped
  • handful black sesame seeds and/or peanuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil.

In a large bowl, toss delicata squash rounds with  1/4 cup brown sugar, canola oil, and a hefty pinch of salt. Pour out onto baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally , until squash is crisp and caramelized.

In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Make the dressing by combining vinegar, remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar, salt, garlic, red pepper flakes, ginger , sesame oil, and lemon zest and juice in a jar. Shake jar until sugar dissolves and liquids emulsify.

Cook the soba noodles in large pot of boiling salted water, per package instructions, or until just tender. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Shake off as much of the excess water as possible, then leave to dry in the colander or on a tea towel. While the noodles are still warm, place in a large bowl and toss with dressing, cooked squash, onions, kale, some of the seaweed, and most of the herbs. Garnish with remaining seaweed, remaining herbs, and peanuts and serve warm.

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Croissants and the art of living.

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In three days I move to Seattle.
Three days (!)

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I’ll live there for the next bit of foreseeable future. Beyond that, who knows. All this life and being twenty-something stuff, it’s so exciting!

Over the past week I’ve savored post-graduate freedom. From the first hour, I made it a goal to master the art of doing nothing. Yet after two hours spent thinking of everything I could be doing, I scraped my attempt at nothing-filled nirvana.

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It’s not that this Buddhist mindfulness exercise is a load of cotton candy. It’s just that, well, I’m an addict.

<meeting begins> Hello my name is Jessie. I’m a work addict.

I thrive working twelve hours straight. I love making goals. I feel guilty when I do something relaxing. Let’s just say I can get a little too intense. As a challenge to my achieving-addicted self, I decided to live the past week without big goals or many expectations.

And, oh boy, was I rewarded. This past week has been free and just darn good. Without trying to control the week’s outcome, I was able to let go of any relaxation guilt and do things (for fun!) that I was too busy to do these past four years. I drank cocktails every night. I read Catch-22 and a book on the mind-body problem. I hung out with family and friends and gave away most possessions, the ones that have been steadily accumulating in my bedroom for the past twenty-two years. I’ve been rethinking human logic as we know it, and making pastries. Lots of pastries. In doing everything, life has been simple, sweet, whole.

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Nothing lasts forever, I remind myself in my best Dalai Lama voice. In five days I will face a big, cold world with jobs and paychecks and taxes and writer-baker paychecks (that’s not a complaint, just a statement of fact, an acknowledgement of my near-future state of starving artist which sounds too much like Tantalus, on account of me working with food all day long but still being a young writer and thus starving. How about hungry artist?) It won’t be so easy to be a little happy buddha when I’m working the four a.m. shift at the bakery five times a week. Or meeting never-ending editor deadlines or trying to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life.

But paychecks and plans have nothing to do with contentment. Money, work, approval from others, stubborn self-reliance makes us feel secure. Yet these things don’t actually make life good. I’m talking really good in a primal, beautiful I-might-just-crack-open-with-love-and-ridiculousness-and-everything sort of good.

I’m finding that life is good when we are quiet, when we are confident enough to let it be good. It’s good when we set goals without worrying if we’ll achieve them in the way we think we should– the world has too much imagination to give us complete control– while being aware that, regardless of the outcome, it will be alright. I like to think of this mindfulness as an art because, through balance and awareness, we create our reality. I could’ve read Catch-22 for pleasure or spent more time with my family the past four years, but I told myself I was too busy. And so I didn’t.

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I don’t want to be a work addict. I want to make time for the things that really matter. It’s quiet these days; I’ve made it a goal to continue.

No activity is better to jump start your meditative inner-musings than croissant making. Time becomes flaky. Air wears the silky, sweet smell of butter. Your senses, your mind becomes softer, as malleable as kneaded dough. Be prepared to spend a whole lazy morning making your croissant babies and let the good life flow.

P.S. These croissants make the perfect Father’s Day breakfast! (Hint hint, nudge nudge) By the three crumbs left on his plate, I think my Dad approves.

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Chocolate Almond Croissants

Makes 16 croissants. Adapted from Williams-Sonoma’s Essentials of Baking. Oxmoor House, 2003.

In May, I tried my first pain au chocolat aux amandes at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery in Napa, California. I’ve been dreaming of that fancified, amaretto-scented croissant ever since. This recipe is my (very successful!) attempt to recreate Bouchon’s magic. Enjoy with good coffee.

FOR THE CROISSANT DOUGH
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 Tablespoons sugar
3 Tablespoons warm water (105-115 degrees F)
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted but cooled
1 cup cold whole milk
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and pinch of sugar in warm water. Let stand until foamy, around 5 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, combine yeast mixture, remaining sugar, salt, melted butter, milk, and ½ cup flour. Mix with a wooden spoon until blended. Slowly add remaining flour just until dough comes together in a sticky mass.
3. On a lightly floured surface (granite, stone, or metal countertops work best because you can cool them by placing a clean ice pack on the surface 1 hour before working with dough,) roll out dough into a ½-inch thick rectangle. Cover with plastic wrap, transfer to plate, and let cool in refrigerator for 30 minutes while you prepare the butter layer.

FOR THE BUTTER LAYER AND BAKING
1 cup unsalted butter (very important to use unsalted butter; unsalted butter usually tastes better and is of higher quality than salted butter)
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 large egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon milk (for a golden, flaky crust)

1. Place butter on a work surface and sprinkle with flour. With a rolling pin or the heel of your hand, beat butter into a 6 x 8 inch rectangle with the flour worked in. If, at anytime during croissant making, the butter becomes too soft (softer than the texture of the bread dough) refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. This next step is called laminating the dough. Roll out dough into a 9 x 13c inch rectangle. With the short side facing you, place the butter on the lower half, leaving a ½ inch border on all sides. Fold over the upper half to cover the butter and press edges together to seal. Then, with the folded side to your left, roll out the dough to a 10 x 24 inch rectangle. With short side facing you, fold the bottom third up, then fold the top third down, as if folding a letter. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. This completes the first turn.
3. Return chilled dough to lightly floured work surface with a folded side to your left and repeat the process to make 3 more turns: rolling, folding, and chilling. (To complete a total of 4 turns.) After the fourth turn, refrigerate dough for at least 4 hours or overnight (or, if you want croissants later in the week, freeze dough now.)
4. To form the croissants, roll out on a lightly floured work surface to a 9 x 18 inch rectangle. Cut in half lengthwise. Cut each half crosswise (forming 4 squares.) Cut each square in half (forming 8 squares.) Cut each square crossways (forming 16 triangles.)
5. Lightly butter 2 sheet pans. Working with one triangle at a time, gently stretch each triangle about twice its original length. Gently stretch the long edge. Fill croissant with a bit of minced dark chocolate, almond paste, both, or neither. Place hands at top of wide end and gently roll pastry toward you. Seal tip with your thumb, place on baking sheet and form into crescent.Repeat with remaining triangles, spacing them about 3 inches apart. Cover with a moistened kitchen towel and place in a warm spot to let rise until doubled in size (about 1-1/2 hours.)
6. Position rack in middle of convection oven (place higher if not) and preheat oven to 425 degrees.
7. Lightly brush the tops of your pastries with the egg mixture. Bake them one sheet at a time until golden brown (15-18 minutes.)
8. If you want a sweet almond crust on your croissants, take out your croissants 5 minutes before they are done. Sprinkle with sugar water and almonds. Return to oven to complete baking time. Dust with powdered sugar when completely cool.

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Life advice, wise wine.

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Life advice: it’s one of the most valuable gifts we can give each other and lately everyone and their sister have been feeding me bits of wisdom they’ve picked up along the way.

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I’m fiercely independent, the kind of person who doesn’t like people telling her what to do. But I’m also at an empty, possibility-filled crossroad. I don’t know what my future looks like. I don’t even know what next week looks like (I move to Seattle June 16th!)

So I’ve been listening to all this advice. And incredibly thankful for any drop of wisdom, assurance, or insights that others can give. It has been fascinating to hear different takes on life and how to live it. It’s been beautiful to see how many shapes hope takes.

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While wedged between pungent boxes of cherries and a five foot tower of bok choy in one of Chinatown’s lively markets, an elderly woman with a red neckscarf told me I should become a flight attendant and double date Australian men with my mother (whom I should “never” say is my mother.) A very Italian butcher at Molinari’s Deli in the North Beach told me to move to San Francisco, which is “justa lika Seattle but fog nota rain!” He consequently wrote his phone number on my mozzarella and prosciutto sandwich’s white paper bag. And as one Davidson College staff member notes, “Always have a Plan B.” I’m pretty sure she wasn’t referring to the kind of Plan B that you get at CVS (which, interesting fact, was invented at Davidson College) but instead life back-up plans because she continued, “Almost nothing works out the exact way you envision it, but eventually everything does work out.”

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I didn’t need to go to school; I just needed to graduate so everyone would impart their wisdom.

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Golden California hills.

Some other favorite lines of advice:

“Your road is going to wind around, with many turns. Your first choice that seems so urgent right now is only the beginning, only step one.”
–P. Baker, Davidson College Faculty

“Don’t take life so seriously.”
–Mama Blount

“Stand still. Always ask why.”
–Grandma Lorena

“Remember to keep asking yourself, “Am I happy and am I growing?”
–Davidson College Staff

“Choose to be kind and generous. Even when you don’t feel like it. Even when you are tired or you don’t feel good or your partner or your kids are driving you crazy. Be kind after your boss yells at you and you feel terrible about yourself. Be kind when the waiter screws up your order at lunch, be kind when your assistant makes a mistake on the report you’ve got to turn in, and be kind when your parents do something that really, really irritates you.
Be kind to others because you will make a lot of these mistakes yourself. And, when you do make mistakes, know that you’ll want two things: For others to be kind to you, and to have the ability to find it in your heart to be kind to yourself.”
–F. Smith, Davidson College Faculty

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After all this wonderful wisdom, I’m sure of one thing; I have so much more to learn.

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Baby Merlot grapes in Napa Valley.

Do you have any lines of life advice?

p.s. I’ve just returned to my kitchen and a recipe for a simple, nutrient-packed (yes! I swear!) flourless chocolate cake is on its way to you.

Gradumacated.

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It’s been awhile; I’ve missed you!

1-DSC_15431-DSC_15911-DSC_1589-001Some big life happenings have been happening.

Graduating from Davidson College was one of those happenings. I finished the first draft of my new novel, took a few finals, and turned in my last academic paper (well, last for the foreseeable future) and got myself to the beach to celebrate the past four years with the rest of Davidson’s graduating class, beer, tequila sunrises, and bowls of guacamole.

After finding my black cap and gown at the bottom of a packed suitcase, I ran across the stage to receive a fancy anthropology degree with magna cum laude and phi beta kappa flair. The certificate or degree or whatever you call it is all in Latin. Who knows what it actually says; I need another degree for that. But it looks beautiful with its black, flowing script on paper as rich as creme anglaise.

I didn’t have too long to comprehend my exit from academia because within twenty-four hours of the ceremony I was sitting next to my mom on a plane to San Francisco, bound for my Berkeley birthplace and a glass of celebratory Napa wine.

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1-DSC_1413  1-DSC_1493      1-DSC_15821-DSC_15761-DSC_1567As I write to you from a quiet, sunny Peet’s Coffee Shop on University Avenue, I realize how quickly everything happened. May has been the half-marathon I ran a couple years back. Almost to June, I feel the same sensations I had felt just after crossing the finish line: overjoyed to be done, slightly sick, and incredibly excited for my legs to stop hurting (or, in this extended metaphor, incredibly excited for what’s to come.) The only difference is that I’ve been running my academic, metaphorical race for sixteen years.1-DSC_15931-DSC_1601So here we are. Gradumacated. Liberal Arts Edumaquated. Imbibing Robert Mondavi wine (see Cabernet Sauvignon casks above,) Berkeley’s legendary Cheese Board Collective cheese, Acme Bread baguettes,  Monterrey Market kale, local farm eggs. And thankful to all the people (that’s you!) who made it possible for me to get here.

Damn, graduation tastes good.

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بسملة Sacred Moroccan spice.

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There are few sacred things. Food is one of them.

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Good friends are sacred too. Last night I made dinner with a friend who recently returned from studying in the middle east. He spent most of his time abroad in Morocco and, from the look of his fringed, woven scarf, he’s still there.

I’m glad he came back to North Carolina for a bit and brought ginger, cumin, cinnamon, and saffron with him. I’m also glad he hasn’t rejected alcohol like most of Morocco and took up bartending instead.

Before eating, we blessed the food with بسملة (basmala): “In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.” After you try Morocco’s combination of saffron, cumin, and cinnamon, you’ll be saying the same thing too.

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Moroccan Lemon Tagine

Serves 6.

2 medium onions
1 green pepper
2 potatoes
3 roma tomatoes
2 lemons
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 pinches salt1 tsp each of ginger, cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, red pepper flakes, ground red pepper
cilantro, for garnish

Fish Marinade

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lemon, juiced
Pinch of salt and pepper
1 tsp each of saffron, ginger, turmeric, red pepper flakes, and cinnamon
2 tsp cumin 4 large fish filets (Tilapia or Ling Cod works well)

  1. Combine marinade and spread on fish. Cover and let sit in the fridge for 1 hour.
  2. Slice all vegetables, including lemons 1/2 inch thick. Fill the bottom of a large tagine or cast-iron pot (I used a Le Crueset) with 2 Tbsp olive oil. Mix spices and salt, and dredge potatoes in mix. Layer onions, then peppers, then potatoes, then tomatoes, then lemons, then fish. Spoon remaining marinade over fish and vegetables.
  3. Cover the tagine or pot and let cook on medium-low heat, about 1 – 1 1/2 hours. Test potatoes; when soft, tagine is done.
  4. Garnish with cilantro and serve warm with salad and plain yogurt.

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Sunshine lentil soup.

When I’m lonely, I like to fill the space with spices and soup. I’m back at school, but haven’t been able to keep Seattle and my brother off my mind. It’s probably rainy in Seattle right now. And likely a bit lonely.

IMG_7572On quiet, drizzly days in January, nothing is more comforting than a bowl of soup and a house that smells like an Indian mother’s spice cabinet.  But aammaa India who cooks the best curry in town wouldn’t have a cabinet. Instead she’d have a tin filled with her favorite spices.

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To chase away the clouds, I made a super easy lentil soup that takes 20 minutes to cook. Seriously. While at yoga school in India, I picked up a technique for toasting spices in oil to bring out their fragrance and flavor. Just one disclaimer: get ready for smells. Toasted coriander or cumin or mustard seed is the friend that lingers for an hour at your house even after you yawn, “well this was a fun party,” or “it was great to see you; when’s your bedtime?” I still smell the cumin seeds I toasted for last week’s curry when I sit on the couch.

Second disclaimer: get a pressure cooker. It will cook anything in five minutes, I swear. Pressure cooked food retains more nutrients than steamed food. And, hey, every person on the Indian subcontinent and her sister (or, around half the world population) has a pressure cooker to make traditional lentil soup, daal, in five minutes. After returning from Nepal and India two Christmases ago, the only thing I wanted was a pressure cooker (and to rid myself of the intestinal parasite I picked up during fieldwork research in a dusty village; but that’s another story.)

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Coconut Lentil Soup

Serves 4.

1 can coconut milk
1 cup red lentils
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth or water
Generous pinch of salt
2 Tbsp coconut or peanut oil
1 onion, diced
Fresh cilantro, for garnish

Choose 3 of the following to create your own curry powder:
1 tsp red pepper flakes, 2 tsp if you like it hot
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp fenugreek
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mustard seed
1 tsp ground cumin or cumin seed
1 tsp ground coriander or coriander seed

  1. Cook lentils until soft in broth with salt. If you’re using a pressure cooker, let the lentils cook on low heat for 5 minutes after the pressure  goes off.
  2. As the lentils cook, caramelize the onions with a bit of fat and salt. When browned, take out of pan and put aside.
  3. In the same pan, heat oil on high and let spices fry until barely browned. Turn off heat and add onions.
  4. When lentils are done, add onion-spice oil mix and coconut milk. Let simmer on low heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring often.
  5. Serve with lime, a dollop of greek yogurt, vinegary cucumber salad, and naan toasted in butter and minced garlic.

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Ode to coffee.

mocha espresso, Cafe Vivace.
caffe macchiato, Espresso Vivace.

Seattle claims 9,368 coffee shops within its city limits. Somehow more coffee shops crop up every day.

The city’s coffee addiction is understandable. Seattle’s weather forecast for two-thirds of the year is “drizzly cold” and the only thing you want is a hot drink to cradle and imbibe. Preferably with caffeine to keep you from staying in bed all day. To stay out of bed, I’ve sipped my way around the city. And I haven’t had a bad sip yet.

So then why, in the midst of Coffee Shop Eden, is everyone here is obsessed with Starbucks? Why is there one on every block (totaling to at least 424.) Why does a Seattle woman named Beautiful Existence feel she has to prove her undying Starbucks love and consume only Starbucks items for a year?

Why?? As the Seattlite Tom puts it, “We’re addicted to caffeine. Starbucks sells candy caffeine.”

To the Starbucks on every corner,

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Love, Robert Frost and Jessie

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Top 3 coffee shops from the road less traveled:

Arabica Lounge: this artsy fartsy joint created by multimedia artist Jojo Corväiá is “a place for the stimulation of all senses…to revisit the fact that good quality of life is always within reach.” You’ll probably agree if your idea of the good life is sipping fantastically thick coffee next to a montage of nautical prints. Or if you like a man with a beard and dark-rimmed glasses because he will serve your coffee. Or if you want to make conversation difficult with loud alternative jazz. It’s a cool spot, a bit too cool for heartfelt social interactions. But if you want the best cappuccino in Seattle, Arabica Lounge is your place.

Caffè Fiorè: the best eco-roasters in town. As you sip in the dark, cozy coffee tavern feel sustainable with your organic bean coffee. Order the Sevilla, mocha coffee with orange zest. It rings up at a hefty $4, but the unique taste experience is splurge worthy.

Espresso Vivace: as Vivace’s name tells, the cafe brews espresso in its liveliest, creamiest, most wonderful form. Espresso Vivace’s secret is in the foam they coax from brewed coffee and milk. Foam holds complex flavor while lightening texture. My favorite is the barista-recommended caffe macchiato, coffee with a dollop of milk foam. It tastes like coffee cocoa and cream. For those with sweet teeth, the White Velvet will make you swoon.

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cappuccino, Arabica Lounge.

cappuccino, Arabica Lounge.

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Seattle and the crumpet.

Oh 2013. Where shall I begin?

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My brother and I arrived in Seattle on New Year’s day. Within an hour of getting off the plane, the sun decided to peak her head through the clouds. It stayed that way for four days; we’re basking in unseasonal, auspicious light.

My brother Ben, who everyone calls Bud, is moving to Seattle to get technical with Amazon’s Kindle team. He’ll live in a tiny apartment above Seattle’s best coffee shop (so the city’s foodie polls say) for the next couple years. And since I want to write, bake, and do locavore activism full-time, I have two post-graduate housing options: live in an Ikea box or live with my awesome, loving brother. I think I’ll take the fraternal option and that apartment with luscious coffee scents. Bud, I promise I’ll do all your laundry.

Now I just have to go back to North Carolina and graduate from Davidson…

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I love how a new year and a new place asks us to pause and recollect the past, meditate on the changes, and experience the momentum of life. I am feeling movement as I write to you from the corner nook of a coffee shop. Water beads on the window pane and I cradle a warm mug.

And this is where the crumpet comes in.

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To celebrate the new year, my brother took me to The Crumpet Shop. The morning was so cold it tasted bitter and wind from Puget Sound battered our Georgia “winter” coats. We arrived at the shop with pink noses and were greeted by a warmth that smells like ginger tea and orange marmalade. We ordered a crumpet with green eggs and ham from a hand-painted menu. Cats dotted the walls and crocheted snowflakes hung in the window.

It was my first crumpet and, from the first bite, I decided I would love crumpets for the rest of my life and that Seattle would be my new home. Each cranny of the spongy, irresistibly dense bread was a glimpse in to the new year. A new year including mountains, seagulls, fixies, men with beards riding fixies, Asian seafood markets, and Seattle. The city rolled off my tongue like honey atop a crumpet.

One regular got up to leave and a young guy kneading dough behind the counter exclaimed, “Happy New Year! It’s going to be the best one yet.” Yes, it will be.

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Souvenirs, peregrinations, ever-smiling.

To peregrinate. The namesake of my old blog. It means to travel or wander with the intention of returning to the same place you start. I have in no way completed my wanderings, but I have returned to where I started: Santa Fe, New Mexico. It took me 13 months to get back here. Within that time, I mastered headstands at an Indian ashram, hiked to remote Western Nepalese villages for food insecurity research, and bought a pair of Goodwill overalls to outfit a  new gardening obsession back in Davidson. Over the course of these adventures, I went by several titles. In India, I was dubbed Maa-Aarti by my white linen-clad guru. In Nepal, I was strictly “the ever-smiling foreigner” खुसीमा बिदेशि (khushi bideshi). In Davidson, I became the girl who goes to class in dirty overalls. I realize I’m not the same person I was a year ago, but yet I am still somehow me.

Thus I decided to restart this blog. I intend it to be a chronicle of life through food. As Molly Wizenberg writes,

“When I walk in to my kitchen today, I am not alone. Whether we know it or not, none of us is. We bring fathers and mothers and kitchen tables and every meal we have ever eaten. Food is never just food. It’s also a way of getting at something else: who we are, who we have been, and who we want to be.”

I hope that the stories and recipes I share here will nourish you. I hope that we can, together, eat our way toward the light. Aarti.

Nepali homecoming.

Holy water at Swayambhunath Stupa

It was still dark outside this morning when my wristwatch alarm chirped at 5:00 a.m. I slipped into trail runners and running pants and performed my now-habitual yogic drinking wake-up exercise (chugging water in a squat) careful not to wake, Sangita, my new Nepali roommate. By 5:10, I was winding my way through Kirtipur’s sleepy alleys and garden paths.

Chobar

Kirtipur was just beginning to wake up. People violently cleared their throats and spat off rooftop balconies (Nepal’s version of the rooster crow. If you are Nepalese, you have to cleanse your sinus passageways. Loudly. Every morning. Before 6 a.m.)

I passed women filling buckets at the community tap and men drinking steaming shots of chai. Shopkeepers started to hang bunches bananas in their windows and university students strolled to campus with Hindi filmi songs blasting from cell phones in their pockets.

This morning I was making the steep uphill climb to Chobar, one of the most holy temples in Kathmandu Valley that also happens to be about 45 minutes from campus. It seemed all of Kirtipur joined me on this morning jog; the closer I got to the top, the more crowded Chobar’s rocky dirt path became.

Sunrise over Kathmandu Valley

Almost to the top, the man in front of me paused. He looked out into the valley. Doing as the locals do, I turned around and my breath caught. The sun shyly peaked her nose around the Himalayas. All Kathmandu was gilded in orange. Nearby, women prayed, men breathed their way through pranayam, and prayer wheels jangled softly. Together we watched the same sunrise, but saw a different view. I saw a day that began with a journey. I saw a new familiarity.

As I stood next to the fifty-something man in his blue and white 80s warm-up jacket, I felt home.

“Little Gidding”

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time

–T.S. Eliot (courtesy of Austin Totty)

Prayers