The other day I woke up at 4:07 a.m., not unusual for me. I have irregular sleep patterns brought on by heightened levels of anxiety, drinking one or more glasses of wine or a very bright moon. In this case, all three were factors, meaning I stayed awake for four (4!) hours before falling back asleep at 8:16 a.m. for an hour, a brief but necessary “second sleep.”
I counted backwards, did a crossword puzzle, sent a text to someone in a different time zone hoping they were up. I opened then immediately closed Twitter and Instagram (they are poison!). Zillow’d houses I can’t afford in places I’ve never been. Ran through my usual 4 a.m. thought circuit: social media toxicity, impostor syndrome, internalized misogyny, white supremacy and colonialism, microaggressions and the road and work involved to unlearning racism. I threw in some spiraling about “The Stew” and the concept of cultural appropriation in recipes, cooking as a creative outlet vs. a technical craft, how best to pay respect to older traditions while creating new ones and the responsibilities of a recipe writer/cookbook author/chef/editor as it relates to all of the above. (Jenny Dorsey has an Instagram post touching on many of those topics- give it a read, and if it resonates, consider a donation to her non-profit, Studio ATAO, to compensate her for her time putting that together). I thought about, and felt gratitude for, the people publicly and privately putting in so much time and emotional labor to address and topple antiquated power structures at legacy media brands and how I, a white person, have benefitted from it all.
So, yeah: I’m thinking about these things, constantly. Maybe you are, too? To process, I’ve been having phone calls, FaceTimes and socially distanced park hangs with friends and colleagues, reading articles and books, writing in a notebook, thinking alone on a run (it’s mostly walking!). LOTS of texting. Important questions being asked, hard answers being heard. I am so, so fortunate to have such an open, vulnerable, emotionally available, patient and intelligent group of people in my life who love to talk about the big, nuanced, messy, complex things as much as I do. We want to get it right, knowing that sometimes, we absolutely will not– but talking through and remaining unafraid to address it all gets us closer each time. Even when a conversation doesn’t go the way you thought it might (or it’s perceived as a mistake/failure/embarrassment), my hope is that vulnerability still reigns supreme.
“Did I tell you the analogy about the burned forest?” my friend asked the other day. “No, I don’t think so.” “Something about a burned forest being more fertile, or something like that. Anyway, that’s the story, you get it.” No, not a great story, but yes, I get it: Gotta burn it down from time to time to make way for the new stuff to grow. Winter follows the same logic (things must die in order to grow, etc) which is why as a native Californian living in New York, I’ve never resented the season as much as I otherwise might.
This week I drove up to visit one of my best friends who lives in Maine, a few hours north of Portland. It’s my first trip outside New York during Covid times (I took a test that came back negative before I made the trip), and there was a huge part of me that thought leaving New York would mean leaving Covid, but turns out that is simply not the case! I came up here with the plan on making something with fish (when in Rome), peas and celery. Something brothy that captured the chowder spirit that you could eat in the sunshine without wondering “why am I eating thick, hot soup with fish and dairy in the sunshine?”
The cats name is Edith.
Water, water, everywhere…no fish, though. Covid-related restrictions means a lot of the places we’d typically buy fish from (say, a person selling out of an Igloo cooler on the side of the road) were not able to sell fish. Even the fish counters at the co-op weren’t able to sell what they usually have displayed behind a glass case. “Let’s pivot,” I said.
Let’s make it pork chops. Ditch the brothy vibe, keep the peas. Sounds good. “We picked and ate all the peas last night,” my friend said. Okay, pivot again. We found beautiful chestnut mushrooms from Moorit Hill that look like teeny chanterelles but taste like shiitake. Okay, but that’s feeling wintry. Pivot. Let’s cook the mushrooms in the pork fat rendered from the chops, add vinegar and herbs and make the whole thing more salad-y. That’s right, another salad. Love it. ABP. Always Be Pivoting.
This photo of pork chops spooning each other has me yearning for human contact.
You can follow this same technique with chicken thighs, or another vegetable like quartered radishes, torn kale or snap/snow peas, but mushrooms crisped in pork fat and seasoned with vinegar are especially special. As always, feel free to uh, you know…pivot.
Recipe for Pork Chops with Tangy Mushroom Salad here.
Listen to Haim’s new album, read this profile of them by Hunter Harris. Watch I May Destroy You, read this profile of Michaela Coel by E. Alex Jung. If you live in New York, place an order at one of my favorite restaurants in New York, Wu’s Wonton King because they are now open for pick-up (everything is good, get the sautéed chives with salted fish). Go to the beach alone. Cook this cabbage with beef stir fry and this baked pasta with eggplant by my talented friend, Sue Li. Flirt with someone by sending a cute picture of your tan lines. Pre-order this gorgeous book, Black Futures, edited by Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham. Sit in the park on a blanket drinking White Claw with your friends till 10:30, watch the moon get higher and smaller. Buy a case of Calcarius from Liquid Assets and gift them to friends from now till the end of summer.
As a reminder, this newsletter will always be free! That said, please *feel free* to subscribe for a small donation, all of which will always go to a rotating organization. This month (July) it will be Food Issues Group, where donations will go towards providing food relief to underserved communities in NYC and sustaining the mission to make a more fair and equitable food system all around. If you can’t donate and are interested in IRL volunteer work, contact them here.