Adventures in Crisis-ing

Capital C – Crisis, folks! This week’s adventures will find me still in the midst of my mid-life crisis. However, I feel like there are some areas that I have gained clarity on. Perhaps not diamond honed type clarity, but still some visibility into where I see myself heading. I know that you’re curious, and at the edge of your seats, waiting for what I am going to tell you next.

“Whatever will she say?”

I know, my faithful followers, that you will deal well with disappointment as I have.

Recently my love and I have moved to a 40 story building in the middle of downtown Seattle. From this place, we have started mulling over our options and have decided that this place is our final resting place in Seattle until we find ourselves in another country.

 

seattle

“What does this mean, are you moving??”

Alas, not any time soon, but what it means that I am fixated on the idea of moving ahead with a non-corporate career and making sure that we are independent enough within a few years to make hard life choices. Mostly, moving out of country. Up till then though, we will be focusing on my favorite topic, food!

Yes, shocking, I know, and totally unexpected. In recent weeks we’ve had some experiences. In my head I think of them as EXPERIENCES.  I will list them for you:

  1. We went to Costa Rica.
  2. A friend and husband of friend are moving to Spain (so jealous).
  3. We’ve had many people ask us why we aren’t doing anything with food for a living.

Lets focus on Costa Rica for a moment. It’s not that Costa Rica was life changing, it definitely wasn’t. It was a beautiful country that I want to go back to and see more of. Costa Rica also proved to me that our fat cats would look like the lazy American’s of the feline population there, Los gatos es muy gordito…

costa rica

What it was, though, was a gateway. I’ve been to Europe, I’ve been to India, I’ve been all over the US, but there are so many other countries that I haven’t been but I am obsessed with the food from different countries. Enter my friends moving to Spain. Super inspired by them! Giving up careers to take advantage of life and travel.

Which leads me to the next point in my list, our friends and their encouragement. Every.Single.Time. we host a food party people ask us why we aren’t doing something with food. It’s gotten kinda ridiculous how many people have said it at this point.  Which leaves us here, figuring this out, and thinking of where our final landing place will be. But why have one single landing place? Do we become personal chefs, a traveling cooks? No, I still think the bed and breakfast idea is one that I want to do and that I could see us being successful with, but now it’s finding WHERE to do that.

In the meantime, we’re going to start teaching a cooking class at our new apartment building. Keep hosting food parties for friends, and focus on saving some serious cash for this life ahead.

There are few absolutes in life, if anything there’s an absolute that life is going to be chaotic and to expect change. If anything, make your own change. Be uncomfortable. It’s when you’re uncomfortable that you’re growing and figuring out where you need to go next.

I can’t for the life of me think that these lives we were given were intended to be safe and sound in a secure structure with amenities like air conditioning and gas range stoves. All of these parameters we put around our life are modern day security blankets keeping us from life knocking at our doors.  Do I like modern amenities??? Yes! Of course, I am human and love to be indulged. But I think I’ve come to a point where I need to see more of the world and be less reliant on the security that the life I am leading brings. The only security, and even then it’s nebulous, that I want, is that the partner I’ve chosen for this life will go on these adventures with me. I’ve learned that even then, as stable as those variables can be, like partners, life happens and it can be gone in an instant.  I love that he’s along for the ride, though.

So here is my declaration –  my mission – that I will pursue with a vengeance this life I want. That I will focus on moving to another country and somehow incorporate food into that life.

Here’s to the sharing of food. Here’s to the plans for the next, whatever that next will be. Here’s to you guys being there and supporting us while we figure it out.

Next post – we’re going to be hosting a cooking class in this glass and steel structure. Huzzah! We’ll be teaching our fellow residents and neighbors how to make Peruvian Ceviche with ingredients from the Pike Place Market.  We’ll let you know how it goes…

 

 

Food for Thought – or – Hello, mid-life crisis.

I turn 39 in less than month. With the average female living to be 81 years old and some change, this puts me smack dab in the middle of my life. This means I am officially middle age, or in the terms of this post, mid-life.

Normally you hear about mid-life crisis in terms of those who are in their 40’s, even 50’s, which isn’t necessarily mid-life. It would be a quartile of life, if we were to look at it as such. If the average life expectancy of a female is around 80, then the distribution would be 0-20, 20-40, 40-60, 60-80. Which the mid-life would span over 50% of 2 of the bins, 30-40, and 40-50. Going on 40, I correct myself, I’m ALMOST mid-life. I’ll be mid-life in the next year. Though, that is the assumption that mid-life only exists for one year, if we expand that distribution, then this will go on for a while yet.

Anyway, my point, I’m of a ripe age to have a mid-life crisis.

This isn’t the type of crisis that you would stereo-typically see, I’m not going out to buy a convertible sports car to drive around and jet off to exotic locals. I’ll be doing that in a Subaru Forrester, instead.

It goes back to the question one asks earlier in their life, “what do I want to do with my life?”

Seriously, what do I want to do with my life? It keeps coming back to food for me, I love food. I love the culture of food, the history with it, I love the taste of food, the presentation, I love the permanency of it.  Well, really, depending on climate change and how quickly we begin to fry from solar radiation, the permanency exists for only certain parts of our world. I happen to be lucky that I live somewhere that has accessibility to food – so maybe, permanence from the stand-point that it’s something that sustains our on-going respiration. We require it to live.  Onward for more happy thoughts, though, I bet we humans would smell delicious while we are being cooked. Whew, going to dark places today.  Continuing on, my crisis.

I work in a great job, first, and I have been happy with this job. But I keep coming back to food, and wanting to spend more time working with food. However, I have the caveats of financial goals.

  1. I don’t want to go further into debt.
  2. I don’t want to work in a kitchen, necessarily, or restaurant.

 

Which means, I somehow want to find a full-filling career being self-employed, around food, with minimal debt. Hence the crisis. How do I change that?

Slowly? Over-time? Beyond mid-life?

I’ve been thinking of my options, and they all require patience. My love and I have been thinking of moving to another country in the next few years, and opening a bed & breakfast there, option 1. Option 2, thinking of buying a place more locally and somehow incorporating our love for food there. Do we do weekend stints at the local farmer’s market? Do we have a road-side stand? Somehow start incorporating a bed & breakfast? But these are all hard goals unless I become financially independent from life. Life requires a certain dependence on money and the on-going payment to the “man”. The man being the corporation that would lend me money to work out this dream.

I want to travel, though, and feed people. I really want to feed people tasty things, and have parties where I feed people these tasty things, and they keep coming back for more. I do that in my social life now, but is that really an alternative career?

So I will muddle over these things, and think about them, and wonder what I could do. But I do feel somewhere along the line I will need to take a chance, and doing that is really scary. I’ve been lucky to this point in my life, that my risks have reaped great reward, and uncomfortable moments. There have been many of those, don’t overlook the use of the uncomfortable space in your life, they help you too. But I anticipate that if I go this route, that I’m in for a larger than average amount of uncomfortable moments. If those could be distributed evenly among my age buckets above, instead of condensing neatly into the current 20-40 bucket, that would be great.  That’s not life, though, is it.

And the life worth living isn’t the comfortable one where you avoid all the difficult choices.

A friend told me this weekend, that sometimes you have to let go of having everything in place and just go for it.

Now to define the “it”.  Another country? Or do we try it here….of course the internet must vote on my life.

 

 

 

 

 

Judgy-pants and Food

Writing is harder than I anticipated. In my head, I have lots of ideas floating around vying for attention and wanted to be put permanently into paper, so to speak. Especially food ideas. It’s an every day occurrence, but it is not an everyday occurrence to sit down and write them. There is a book that I flitted over from my kindle unlimited, which, if you have kindle unlimited and you’re a voracious reader, those two are not synonymous. It’s mostly a wasteland of books, or so I have found. Back to topic…there was a book I briefly attempted to read that was a fantasy type in London where people had magic, but the point is, there was a “word weaver” who could put thoughts to paper with the slightest thought.

This is obviously not the case if judged by the prolonged absences between my posts.

I am not made of magic.

Shocking revelation.

It feels a chaotic time at this moment in history, at work, in life. Those feelings of chaos seem to carry-over into each sphere of life. How does one remove that chaos? I suppose something cathartic like writing can help, but I do think that chaos is often removed by finding something shared with others. For me, in recent years, that has been food.  It’s a true joy for me to cook all day and share the output of that all day activity with other people and see it disappear in under an hour.

This last week saw the next iteration of my volunteer cooking gig. I’m not even sure how to describe it, it started out being the idea of a cooking class to help transitioning people. But it’s not, really. It’s evolved in the short time it has been together and it is really making me face the reality of what homelessness is and how it’s caused, who it impacts. If you’re curious, it’s everyone, somehow.

My first iteration was “How to create yummy foods that last a long time and don’t break the bank!”

My next iteration was “Work with what you have and the reality of using food banks very little money for groceries.”

After my second class it became obvious that it’s not even about food anymore. It is in that we make something, and show them some steps of how to make it, and then share it afterwards.

The first week we had over 8 people in our class, hanging out, watching us cook a bunch of egg dishes and having breakfast burritos at the end of it. There was a spectrum of personalities, some were coherent and others were not.  They were having fun eating our little dishes as we went along but there wasn’t much of an interest in helping cook or participating beyond spectating.

This week we had two people and it couldn’t have been more dissimilar to the first week. Both of our participants were there our first week, but this time they wanted to help. They wanted to dive in and cook our dish, shepherds pie, and be part of the entire process. It was odd because by the end it didn’t even feel like I had done anything, rather watching people cook and directing a step here or there. It felt like a relaxing couple of hours hanging out with some strangers talking food.

Lets talk about Pete.

We made shepherds pie on Tuesday because he had requested it in our first class. At the end of the first day we asked what they wanted to make so we could build the experience around them. He wanted stuffed peppers and shepherds pie. So the next class was born.

I’ve made shepherds pie tons of times, so I knew that this would be a great dish for someone, who is limited in budget and cooking experience, to make.  Pete started opening up, though, while we were cooking. Side note – To make shepherds pie you need mashed potatoes, I usually make mine without peeling the potatoes, I like more home-style for my mash. These boys weren’t having that though, they definitely wanted peeled potatoes. They raced to their rooms to get their peelers and set to peeling potatoes. Along with the stories of peeling potatoes when they were younger in their families that peeling potatoes was a requirement.  Pete, though, was our topic, so lets get back to him.

I try to withhold judgement in my life, but I’ve struggled with that a bit due to my own personal background.  While I myself have not had issues, my immediate family has had issues with law enforcement and have spent many years in prison or jail. Personal experiences impact how you view certain aspects of people, and Pete started talking about his background and how part of it was in prison.

It made me wonder if I would have a problem with judgement and boundaries.

He had problems with drugs and is still going through treatment, and he’s been in prison, while he didn’t specify the reason, he alluded to his past with drugs. But here was a guy who seemed invested in helping us cook and clean and being every bit involved in this process. He talked about his Filipino background and some of the dishes he grew up on, and how hard they are to find in Seattle, and baking, which is my current project, he knows how to bake. He took a class on baking, so we talked about what was needed for a successful yeast bread.

My focus here is food, and the focus of my blog is a shared dialect, and that is where I can talk to Pete. I can’t speak to drugs as I have never had that problem, nor have I had the experience of homelessness or being in prison. But what he and I found out that day is that we both love food. Empathy should be something I embody no matter what a person’s lot in life is or what they did or where they end up. Our choices lead us in directions we can’t anticipate, just as his did. I’m sure he didn’t grow up thinking that he wanted to go to prison or end up homeless. Nobody says “I’m going to have a drug problem!” either. But life happens, and I’ve been fortunate the direction my life happened.

It’s my hope that I can create a safe space for these guys, and whether my class is 8 or 2 or 20, that they feel they can be themselves and they can carry in baggage of most varieties and feel they can be themselves for a couple hours while eating tasty food. I suppose that ties it back to what I mentioned earlier, that cooking all day for the joy of having people eat your food in less than an hour, extends to this. I want them to feel the joy I feel when cooking a meal, and if it means they are the ones eating it and not cooking it, so be it. They are not less because of what they have experienced, we are not more for not being where they are.

Next up, we’re making cupcakes and decorating them for Easter and probably dyeing a few eggs as well.

But after that we’re going to make chicken adobo just for Pete.

Stay tuned for the next exciting installment….

***Also, if you’re wondering why I am not posting pictures of these experiences, it’s because I do not know how comfortable my students would be and I want to respect their privacy.

 

 

 

 

 

The Luxury of Choice

It’s a strange night. I’m on the eve of something I’ve been excited about for weeks. Not the contained kind where I’m excited about something and it’s there on the horizon but I can function normally. Not dissimilar to a new toothbrush, super exciting for me, not so much for you. No, my excitement has been the kind where I can’t shut up and have been telling everyone I know about this great thing that is happening. You gotta hear about this amazing thing that I am doing, everyone!!! Listen to me!

That is how the last few weeks have been.

Up until today, that is.

Perhaps you are wondering what I have been excited about and why I am here telling you about it?

Here it is.

Big breath.

I’m teaching a cooking class.

Not just a cooking class, mind you. A cooking class to teach a people who live in transitional housing. What is that? It’s an apartment for people who have transitioned from being homeless to now having a roof over their head.  I get to help them learn what it is to cook again. But tonight I find myself in a somber mood, the reality of what I am doing is kicking in and my heart is heavy. The luxury of choice is setting in.

The question I am asking myself is this.

“What if I had $20 this week and maybe $5 next week, what food would I buy? What could I do with that cumulative $25 to feed myself for a week?”.

This came about while planning the first meal. I had these great ideas of things that I wanted to teach them to cook. The first meal my partner and I decided on was eggs and fried rice. Pretty innocuous, right? Delicious? Absolutely. You make the eggs, you make the rice, you add a bunch of veggies to it. Deal! We’re done!

Then the reality of cooking fried rice set in. All the things that you need to consider when cooking fried rice.

  • How are you going to cook the rice?
  • What are you going to cook the rice in?
  • Do they have utensils?
  • What about all the ingredients?

….and then the final one,

  • How much does it cost?

Imagine that for a moment if you will. This puts a depth to my class that I had not thought of previously. Yes, I had thought of budget, yes, I had thought of shelf stability and what goes bad quickly and what last longer, but for some reason I never applied a static dollar amount to it. This is where it made me realize the luxuries that I am presented with everyday. The cost of fried rice. Between fresh vegetables, soy sauce, rice, eggs, garlic, etc, I’m well over $20 just to purchase the ingredients for this meal. I haven’t even added a meat to it yet.

The idea of fried rice has me thinking about my class from a different perspective that I am not just here to help them transition into a fabulous new meal, no. It’s an opportunity to help educate people on the wisest choices they can make to put food in their belly for a week at a time. It has me thinking about how I would stock a pantry for the inevitable moment where I know hunger would strike. While I am nearly 18 years removed from it, there was a time where I was in that position. When I could not afford groceries living off of $800 a month and my rent was $450, before utility bills. There were moments where a box of mashed potatoes had to last me an entire week. If only I had purchased a sack of potatoes instead.

Had I known then what I know now about cooking, or even trying to cook back then, I would have had far fewer nights wondering where my next meal would come from. Living in Seattle I am confronted with the reality everyday that there are others who not only are hungry everyday, but they lack the roof I was able to put over my head. It’s been slowly reworking the canals and vessels of my heart for the greater part of two years and I have tried to find anyway possible to feed those around me. It was those moments that brought about the excitement I was writing about earlier, finally, something I could do to contribute. But it’s not just contributing. It’s accepting that while I was hungry at one point I can help others not necessarily change their circumstances but hopefully lessen the chance of hunger.

Not only is food a shared dialect, upon which this blog is built, but so is hunger. While you may not speak that language there are millions that do and they live in the same cities that you do.

The current reality is that that we make pariah’s of those who cannot afford what many of us can. We isolate them and say they are less because they have not had the same opportunities or maybe they had life happen. Life does that, it doesn’t tell you what it’s up to and gives and takes without prejudice and none of us are immune from it. I count myself lucky that I was able to fight back. Not everyone has the will to fight, or the hope to give them that will. With the direction our country is going, this will happen on a more frequent basis and it will become less easy to sweep it under the rug and hide it away from visibility.

When presented with the $20 weekly budget I can see why families struggle to feed themselves. When they are given an option like $1 Totino’s pizza rolls vs. $1.99 red leaf lettuce I would choose the pizza rolls every single time. Eating healthy is something that few of us think of as a luxury because we can afford it. We buy the quinoa and the free range meats because we can. I am not the family who has to count every cent as they are buying their groceries and have to make the ultimate decision of what to put back because they absolutely cannot afford it.

Thinking about that tonight I have a renewed sense of purpose. It makes me want to go out to the grocery store with a specified amount and see what I can do with $20. I want to see how many meals it can support and give my class options for the ultimate moment when their stomach is fighting their will. Did you know I can buy a whole chicken for under $5? I bet I can make that last for a week if I plan it just right.

You may be wondering if I am still making the fried rice tomorrow for my class. I am not.

I’ve decided that the best thing I can do is teach them breakfast to start. Good ole’ eggs and toast with a side of whatever fruit I can find. Then those eggs can go in a cheap package of ramen with a bunch of cabbage and carrots. Then after that runs out, egg sandwiches for the win.  I’m even going to throw in a bag of potatoes, cause those last forever and I might be hungry next week.

I’m hoping that they can help me learn more about what choices they make on an everyday basis, and while maybe I cannot speak their shared dialect of hunger, I can translate it for others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Eat

I want to share with you my love of food and people. To do that, I have to start at the beginning, which took me a few days to think about. It’s hard figuring out why you love something to the extent you do, when it’s as natural to you as breathing. Over the years I’ve attempted to share that love through various mediums, specifically blogs, but it never felt quite right. I’m hoping that will change with this blog. To make that change I was thoughtful in where it started because I wanted that to be part of this. This being what those closest to me know of me that I live, breath and eat food. It’s who I am; it’s essential to my happiness. But it’s not just the food, it’s the individual ingredients that go into a recipe. And not just the recipe; all the iterations of that recipe.

But where’s that beginning? I keep digressing. It took me a bit to figure it out, but I think it starts with Maria.

I’m a white girl who grew up in the very white Midwest. Not very diverse by any means. If you looked at my family, they make up what you think most mid-westerners are as well. My parents live in a rural town, my mother is an organist and my father works at a church. I grew up in private schools most of my life, except when you look my formative years.

Maria was my Puerto Rican babysitter and I can still taste her arroz con gandules.  Which is a simple dish of rice and pigeon peas but those flavors are some of my earliest memories. The nutty taste of tamales made from masa aren’t far behind those flavor memories either. To me, that’s where it started. Growing up in a predominantly hispanic neighborhood gave me access to foods I wouldn’t have had growing up white and Lutheran. While this isn’t an auspicious beginning, to me, that’s where it started.

To complement that my family was the original farm to table types; my grandparents growing everything they couldn’t kill. I learned early on that those fluffy bunny tails my grandfather would give me were the tail-end of what would end up on the dinner table later that evening. Eating vegetables and fruits most of my schoolmates never heard of like kohlrabi and ground cherries. Kohlrabi has had a resurgence for me when I realized it was used in some middle eastern dishes as well. But that’s why I’m writing this. Food doesn’t exist in a singular dimension. It persists globally through-out the world.

To me, the difficulties we see today are less than what we make of them. People aren’t that different when you realize that each day we eat food; hopefully. Many of us go without food but each of us requires it. Families meet each day to share a dish and maybe their days as well. Our world is a shared experience of ingredients that are put into recipes that we need to eat. Whether we buy it or not. From multiple countries you can see these shared ingredients and to me, it creates a truly global dialect. While there is so much uncertainty I want to make the world more approachable by breaking down these walls and showing the humanity that hides behind it. I want to do that through food.

I could tell you so many things that I love about food but at the heart of it it’s a sense of osmosis. I absorb more about a culture by eating a local dish than any other experience. Expect recipes, expect posts without recipes, but expect it to be about food and humanity. Expect guest posts.  I’ll end it with something a friend recently  shared that has stuck with me and why I named this site “Our Edible Dialect”, food begins where words end:

“Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate.”

– Alan D. Wolfeit

See you soon.