The Reliability of Pancakes

I’ve made pancakes approximately once a week for the past six weeks. I’m leaning on what’s easy right now. I’ve made a few new things—shakshuka, a friend’s lentil soup—but the recipes don’t feel ambitious like they used to.

There is too much I don’t know right now. To cope with the uncertainty, I’ve tried giving myself smaller projects. I wrote a rap last month. I scored my first byline. I’m playing with the idea of buying a midi keyboard and making music again. All the same, I couldn't tell you the last time I made a pie, a project I've leaned on since 2013. It seems, beyond pancakes, old habits are failing me.

I used to find comfort in Billy Collins poems. The neatness of his verse always made me feel whole, but now it mocks me and my disarray. Now I am reading “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver aloud in the bath over and over again. I need her words to wash over me, to cleanse, to reassure. Maybe that’s why I’m eating pancakes every week. They are sure. They are predictable. They are unassuming. They will be there for me whenever I need them and that is enough for me. 

I just need to know that it or they or you will be there because I will be there, too. Capacity and form and place unknown, but I will be and I could always make pancakes.

Comfort Pasta

There are some foods I need to make when I'm out of sorts--scratch pancakes, my mom’s baked chicken, and stove top mac’n’cheese--and there are some foods I eat only to realize that I was out of sorts all along.

This is comfort food. This is winter food. The Andouille sausage adds some depth to this dead easy recipe.

Who has time to fuss over anything overly complicated in February?

Cavatappi with Andouille Sausage, Greens, and White Beans

(aka Comfort Pasta)

1 lbs cavattapi (or any curvy short pasta like rotini or campanelli)
1 large bunch swiss chard (or dark leafy green of your choice)
1 Andouille sausage, cut into ¼” thick coins
1 clove garlic, minced
1 yellow onion, diced
1 can (14 oz) cannellini beans, partially drained
2 tbs olive oil
Salt
Pepper

Boil water and cook pasta. Heat 2 tbs oil in a large skillet and cook onion over low heat until translucent. Raise the temperature to medium high and throw in the andouille. Cook until the meat browns and puckers a bit. Try not to brown the onions, but also don’t worry if they do. Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute or so. Add the beans and a pinch of salt. Stir to evenly distribute the contents of the pan. Throw the spinach into the pan and cover with a lid to expedite wilting. Stir everything. Check the salt, add more if necessary. Crack some pepper. Toss the pasta in the skillet if possible. Grate some parmigiano reggiano over top. Serve immediately.

I’ve been off kilter in the new year. There have been highlights, of course. I feel more connected to the women in my life. I ate ramen in the style of an Italian Beef sandwich. All the same, I found two gray hairs on the same day and can barely process what's happening in DC. I hope this pasta can be a highlight for you or, at least, provide you with some small comfort.

Chasing Bubble Gum Glory

I grew up as a gum chewer. I learned to blow bubbles early. Through trial and error, I came to know that bubble gum is not created equally. I had my favorites and Bubble Tape reigned supreme.

As an adult, Bubble Tape reminds me of fresh pasta. It is coiled delicately and will break if twisted or handled too roughly. The roll is coated in a fine layer of powder; adult me tells me this is probably cornstarch, but child me knows this is fairy dust to be savored. Coiled up, it’s about the size of a hockey puck. Unfurled, you’re dealing with “Six feet of fun!” It smells like pink and sugar. Almost floral, but too manufactured. Cloyingly artificial. All of this bubble blowing potential is tidily housed in a Barbie pink case. When I was lucky enough to have Bubble Tape as a kid, I would ration it inch by inch. To chew it all at once seemed ridiculous and gluttonous, but holding that pink case always made me wonder. What if I chewed this all at once? What if?

At 24, I wasn’t sure when I would know the time was right to stuff six feet of bubble gum into my face. I waited for a sign, but there was no overt nostalgic omen to guide me to into bubble gum glory. Despite my fantasies, I never decided upon an approach. Should I unroll the tape and eat it bit by bit? Whole roll in the mouth at once? No. I chomped. I chewed. It was manageable at first and then it was too much.

My jaw ached before I packed the last third into my cheeks. I thought briefly of giving up. No one was around to witness this perversion of childhood nostalgia. I shoved in the remaining clump of gum anyway. 

In my bathroom mirror it looked liked I just had my wisdom teeth pulled. Closing my mouth was physically uncomfortable so the gum hung lazily past my lips as if it were my own neon, malformed tongue. I had to admit defeat. The chewing was not sustainable. I could feel my teeth rotting. It didn't feel like a win, but I know I am my own champion.

Coming Home to an Empty Fridge

I used to joke in college that you could tell I was stressed out because I ate almost everything out of mugs and cups. It wasn’t really a joke. Spoonable foods, easy foods, gave me a sense of control over my time and my brain. I could take them and run for the hills. Fuck plates.

fridge.jpg

I don’t eat well in periods of transition.

I emptied out my fridge before traveling to New York for two weeks. I came back to zero weird rotting food (bless up) and no real sense of what was in my kitchen anymore. Coming home to nothing after spending time in a house that seemed to have everything was hard. I feel like the kids stumbling out of the wardrobe who, having known Narnia, must return to their realities. Dizzy. Misplaced.

Restocking my fridge has been a slog. I don’t make sense right now. I stumbled over to the Mexican grocery store down the block and stocked up on pasta and onions and a can of tomatoes. I had half an intention to make this one NYT recipe for tomato sauce, but then I found the leftover fajita mac and cheese I had squirreled away in the freezer. It took forever to unfreeze in the oven. I could still taste the frozen through the bechamel.

Then came the Amazon Pantry order to combat my freezer foods and helterskelter grocery shopping. I can’t remember what I ordered except for a twelve pound bag of rice. I don’t know why I need that much rice, but I do.

I popped over to the coop a few blocks away after a three hour nap because I realized I didn’t have any greens. They were selling $6 raspberries. Less than a week ago I was picking raspberries off wild bushes. I picked up tofu and cabbage and kale and grapefruit and a half baguette.

I want to blame the heat. It slows everything down. It makes me want to eat out of cups. I know it's not the heat. I keep buying ingredients, hoping they are the right things to make me feel more normal. I made Sarah’s cabbage recipe and ate it with a fried egg and tried to settle back into this place and its routines. I left the dishes in the sink. I’m running out of cups.