Be yourself, but be brave.

Hello! You are reading the blog of a newly minted MPH. You guys, when I started that degree, I was just climbing out of my saturn return. And Bush was president. Wha!! It feels so damn delicious to read magazines instead of textbooks on the train. I learned many important things during my time in graduate school, and one key lesson was that I don’t like school. Truth is, I like to think of myself as a renaissance ideas man; big on enthusiasm, short on follow through.

And so, here’s my to-do list for this first glorious spring without homework. My mantra for the wide wireless world ahead is “Be E, But Be Brave.” That means, admit to the internet right now that I’m no scholar and that instead, I want to re-read every young adult book I ever loved (listen, look me in the eye and tell me The Face on the Milk Carton didn’t make you re-consider everything you thought you knew about your 12 year old life thus far). But be brave about it, and do some new exciting stuff, the types of adventures that my BFF M says makes your insides feel like they’re on your outsides.

Well, those new endeavors aren’t exactly reflected on this to-do list, yet. But I’ll keep you posted. And in the meantime, so far I’m four books into Betsy-Tacy and I made K change the lightbulb in my closet. 2013: I am Getting It Done.

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Pita, a gateway food

K is away AGAIN saving the world which means that I spent the first half of the week carefully eating the meals we planned out together on Sunday and the second half of the week microwaving corn tortillas and laughing cow cheese and calling them quesadillas. I also dabbled in being gluten-free for four days, but last night L was in town and we went out to a kosher hummus restaurant, and how could I not have a pita? It’s simply not done.

Do you guys remember the summer I was lazy-dating? I reached the height of lazy-dating when I decided it would be a good idea to shoehorn in a bunch of errands BEFORE my dinner date, which means I met up with someone for artisanal Italian food with a two story cat scratching post in tow. From all the way across Union Square I saw her smile and then totally falter as she saw me lugging this gigantic carpet covered tower around. But off we went to a tiny romantic restaurant and I only felt a tiny bit bad about the scratching post sitting next to me in the skinny booth, me and the scratching post all cuddled up like Lady and the Tramp with their kissing spaghetti. Lazy-dating was also frequently awkward, but that summer I couldn’t quite get it together to really care. I don’t ever mind an audience, though, so midway through dinner I was of course gesticulating wildly and managed to knock an entire half-carafe of sauvignon blanc off the table and straight for my chest, where it then flowed with gusto into my bra, down my stomach and into my unders. “Please excuse me,” I said calmly to my silent date and my cuddley scratching post, and I got up with great dignity and stalked downstairs to the one-stall bathroom where I looked at myself in the mirror and screamed one long silent Edward Munch bellow. I then took all my clothes off, wrung the wine out of them, and methodically dried each piece with the hand dryer. I returned upstairs with my crunchy, boozey clothes and pride, and wouldn’t you know it, we still banged. That, friends, is lazy-dating.

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“It’s Davy Crockett!”

Remember two weekends ago how I was inconsolable on the Prospect Expressway about how this city was leaching my very soul of our my bones? Fast forward 14 days and find me on a dance floor off Atlantic Ave in Brooklyn, tearing it UP with NA and AP. When did I learn all the words to the thrift shop song and why am I positively screaming about 20 dollars in my pocket?

Was the best part when AP cast off her horse blanket lesbian therapist scardigan to spend the rest of the night dancing in her unisuit, or was it when we spotted a lesbian that looked exactly like Davy Crockett? Or maybe it was when we all crowed, “girlfriends, screw them, we’re doing this EVERY WEEKEND!” and then texted each other the next day about how all we could do was lie on the couch and ice our aching quads, which had collectively not gotten that low since the late 90s.

New York. It does this to me. The highest highs, the lowest lows. Let me remember this, when I am wishing for a tiny farmhouse in a tiny town. Stiletto – pumps- in – the – CLUB.

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The laughingest cow

K is gone on a business trip. I am importantly keeping the home fires burning. I am 80% laughing cow cheese. When I want to diversify I make strange concoctions in the microwave with bon bel cheeses (they ARE bon and bel!!) and corn thins. I just called the cats “the prince and the purrpurr” and am about to watch the Business of Being Born for the 920391th time in case I suddenly find myself pregnant and laboring at home. This is pretty much what I thought 34 would look like. But it’s good to be consistent.

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Summer in Winter

Last night, while we were driving back from Lowe’s for the second time to look at the same tiny apartment-sized freezers we’d looked at on the internet 910928 times so that we can better house K’s never-ending supply of organic free-range hulking cuts of meat, I despairingly asked if K “ever felt a ache that is positively physical from living in the city and not being close enough to water or mountains?” Truthfully it was a redundant question because I didn’t wait long enough to hear her answer before weeping all the way down the Prospect Expressway. This city and me, we are not a match, and some days are worse than others.

And so it made me feel infinitesimally better to come home to the pile of Meyer Lemons K spontaneously brought home from the ridiculously expensive co-op down the street. They’re too much money, they’re not local, the fuel it took to get them here is ruining everything for the next seven generations. But the sight of them piled on the kitchen counter, and their bright flavor, was so delicious for a lonely January. I want to find a little sunshine on winter nights. I slept well for the first time in weeks and woke up ready for something different.

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Eat them any month you want — that’s an old wives tale.

Here we are in fall, which has always been a favorite season of mine. However, now that the registrar and I have figured out that I do not, in fact, have one class to go but have two before achieving MPH status (a degree I have been pursuing part-time for so long that there is now an entirely new set of infectious diseases to worry about) I am slogging through this season with a little less of my normal zeal and a little more bitter self-pity. Still, yes, I know, two classes is a lot less than seven hundred and so we carry on and here I am with my SPSS manual, exactly zero statistics skills, and backpack at the grad center again.

In between homeworks, though, I’ve been thinking about that glorious summer we had where we managed to shoehorn in nearly a month away. Oh: we ate so well. Nothing like the trusty but slightly boring root vegetables piling up in our kitchen now. I want to tell you about this one night on Chincoteague, when we had this charmed meal with our friends K and M (you might remember them as the impetus for this blog) and D and T.

KM gets up at the crack of dawn, even on vacation, and I follow in search of a decaf americano not soon after. On Saturdays the island has a tiny but mighty farmers market with produce that is so much better than the stuff up here. I do feel bad saying that, since I bleed yankee, but to be fair, I mostly just walk around with nursing my decaf and smiling brightly since I cannot follow a word of the virginia islands accent. (Skip to :40. Amazing, no?).

Anyway, our friend K wandered down with us and got into conversation with the oyster guy. I don’t have time to give you the whole Chincoteague oyster history right now and KM will do it more justice than I ever could since she is the heiress to the defunct S&M Oyster Company (do you hear me cackling with glee?). Suffice to say a few minutes later we were walking home with the most amazing watermelons, tomatoes, basil, and glorious oysters, six ridamndiculous dozen of them. K earnestly tried to explain the math to us as we strolled the short block back to Miss Elsie’s house. “It was five for a dozen or nine for two, and then if I got another dozen it was another dollar for each dozen and…” and somehow we got home with six dozen oysters for a song.

T took one look and restrained himself until we were back from our morning beach trip to start making a watermelon shrub, some sort of cocktail that has something to do with vinegar and acidity. We named it the Kate Middleton because it was pithy with a smooth finish, just like her.

He ran out and decorated it with mint from the backyard that comes back enthusiastically every summer. Oh Kate Middleton Cocktail! You are winsome and go well with briny creatures of the sea.

K and KM set about shucking six dozen oysters while I baked my 9089th loaf of bread (I’m not even going to bother to tell you how to do this. Just read my college roommate’s food blog, where she writes about many things assorted and interesting with as many exclamation points as she uses in realtime, but most importantly, where she has mastered the bread recipe that a million of our friends now use. Call me if you have questions and get used to having crusty perfect bread every week).

Somehow they soldiered through the entire pile. I heroically shucked one and felt uncomfortable and then waited for the rest of the oysters to assemble majestically in front of me. We tossed them back, with a little lemon, a little horseradish, and not much else, while KM put the finishing touches on crab cakes. By this point, we’d had fresh flounder every night for, oh, five nights and were excited about something new, but these crab cakes stopped our sparkling conversation dead. All we could do was eat, marvel, eat, conduct case-control studies of the gluten-free vs breadcrumb ones, marvel at how each bite was better than the last, and spear another from the pile. Now that we’re home, we’ve made them with lump crab meat and they will totally get you through to next June.

After that, we broiled half peaches and topped them with a dollop of homemade yogurt. Are you kidding me. And then, after those perfect crab cakes and warm bread and tomato-cuke salad and the Kate Middletons, we wandered out onto the porch, M singing softly the whole time, and let the happiness fly. Goodbye, summer.

Chincoteague Crab Cakes

1/4 mayo
1 egg
a couple scallions (or 2T-ish grated onion)
1 t. old bay
salt+pepper
mix all those things together and then fold (gently!) into 1 lb crab. Add 2 T corn flour (for gluten free; or 2T breadcrumbs otherwise) and then form into cakes (K says: I like tiny cakes) and chill in the fridge for at least a half hour. Dredge in more corn flour and then saute til golden brown. Serve immediately — these love cakes are best right away.
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highs and lows

A quick update: last night, on the plus side, I found a good use for parsley! Blend all the leaves (with some stems. I’m not picky) with 3T lemon juice, 1T vinegar (I used cider), 2 cloves garlic, some salt, 1/3 c. olive oil. This was amazing on any veggies–steamed green beans, mashed cauliflower, anything.

And here’s what not to do with the kombucha squash. Don’t believe the pockets of the internet that would have you believe it will be soft and delicious if you just make 1/2″ wedges, toss with a little olive oil and then roast at 400 for 20 min. First batch made semi-crispy, starchy squash chips. Ew. Turned the oven down to 350 and still no good, both too crispy and too chewy and no flavor. I food processed it in the quest to not just throw it away, but I fear that will be the end result. E loves a starch but even this will be unpalatable.

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