Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Allez Cuisine!

I love to cook, and I love nothing more than the chance to create something spectacular when friends and family come over. In fact, it's become a point of pride and my family and friends have come to be excited when they arrive because they'll be treated to something they haven't tried before, usually somewhat exotic.
I thoroughly enjoy cooking Japanese food, and have dabbled in Moroccan and Indian multiple times. I have specialty pans for cooking foods from those countries.
Last night I had a good friend over who insisted on cooking us dinner. She rendered an absolutely fabulous Italian meal that made my house smell glorious and left us with a huge bowl of leftovers to be doled out over the next few days.
I raved over it because it was so many simple ingredients put together in an outstanding way. She insisted it was very simple, and I watched her intently the entire time to see how it was made. She had it put together and done in about half an hour. I was astounded.
She was a sweetheart and commented on how I was incredibly good with exotic and unique foods and how she enjoyed when I'd cooked those. But as we talked it slowly made me realize that yes, I can whip up okonomiyaki or pumpkin scallop soup a la the French recipes I have.... but I don't have a friend chicken recipe. I can't make biscuits from scratch. Meatloaf still eludes me in its proper creation. And I can't even think of normal food to make for dinner.
As we talked I realized that the reason I avoid food from my native country is that I feel intimidated. I have fond memories of foods from my youth, but I realize I don't know how to make them. It worries me that I will look up a recipe online and make it, and it will taste nothing like what I remember. Why this is such a mental block to me, I'm unsure. Perhaps it's my fear of failing -something long acknowledged as able to completely paralyze me. But at the same time I think it's that I have always just associated these things with my Mom and Dad, and not something that I cook.
It is now a goal of mine to remember meals from when I was younger and either attempt to get the recipe from my Mom (something I've requested before but that never materialized, as she's a busy lady) or try to find something off the internet that sounds very similar to what I had.
Amusingly, the hardest part of all of this will be recalling what I used to eat. In my lengthening age I find that i tend to remember the meals I did NOT like, or the odd incidents by the notorious Great Scrambled Eggs Fight of 1988 (we had to clean dried egg off the ceiling). Just recalling a regular meal is proving to be surprisingly hard!
My first attempt will be making tacos, something that we had often when I was younger. The cooking ground beef with the spice packet, the crunchy shells, the squishy sour cream... I remember these things. I remember many variations on it too... taco salad, burritos... 6 ingredients served up many different ways with many happy associations.
There must be more, but I can only recall this and chicken a la king (not a favorite). Side dishes like mashed potatoes and fried okra sneak in to my mind. But you can't make a meal of just those. Well... you could, but it'd be damned odd and not very healthy.
Over the next few days, probably in to the next few weeks or months, I'm going to have to sit down and write up a list of things -everything- that I remember from when I was younger. Desserts, drinks, smells, are all going on a piece of paper as I try to remember what exactly sustained me and got me to this point - something that I find strangely and disturbingly hard to recall. Perhaps attention should be paid to that strange blank spot my mind holds up when I think on this, but for now I just want to remember what the hell I shoveled in my mouth as a youngster.
I suspect it won't be healthy. After all... I come from Southern stock. That makes it something I'm really looking forward to, even so.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Because having an overactive Muse is cheaper than a carton of cigarettes...

I discovered something about myself today that was at once exciting and also depressing. That thing is that when I am in a corner or I feel out of control, I create. I create like freakin' mad. I cook, I sew, I write, I knit like a banshee (if banshees knit - and if they don't, they should) and crochet like a fiend. Because I can't do anything else with the outside world, but I can make something with my own two hands. I can shape it, form it, complete it, and look upon it happily. It is mine, it is something that I saw from start to finish, and it was something that I was absolutely certain of how to work with the entire way.
Exciting, yes? When I'm feeling trapped, I MAKE stuff. I create because I can't NOT create, but there's something about not being able to move in other parts of my life that shunts all of that nervous energy in to this under-dwelling, subconscious drive that. Which also means when I experience an explosion of creativity, it's when I feel most lost in my life.
May not hold 100% true, but in looking back over the last few months I note a pretty decent correlation between times I was frustrated or panicked and the wave of created things floating around the house. Starting new socks projects? Check. Cooking crazy foreign concoctions for multiple dinners in one week? Check. Learning about a new hobby? Double-check. Some of this did come on the tails of being freed from 2.5 years of hell courtesy of college online, and another when I was excited to send small gifts to a friend overseas. But for the most part, I grab for paper or brushes or yarn when I feel like life is kicking me in the gut and leaving me in the alley in the rain.
Fantastic and awesome Buddhist-esque revelation from this: NONE. It simply is, its what I do, although the acknowledgment in and of itself that it simply is does border a bit on the Zen attitude.
There really is nothing to be "done" about this realization, as it doesn't really detract from every day life. It does bring a little stress in when I think about all of the projects I might have going that are unfinished - we won't offer a number of how many that is, you'd balk and wonder if I'm nuts- but I am okay with dropping things to the back burner to work on them later. I have a crocheted sweater that I've been waiting to finish for over a year. I'm okay with that, and once Bob's sweater is done I'm going to sashay over and finish that puppy since I'm just one more sleeve away from completion on the entire thing.
If anything I can slowly figure out how to turn it to my advantage. If I know it's a habit of mine, I can set up projects in bundles and have them waiting so I'm not casting about helplessly. Or I could keep a running list of what's out there waiting for completion and just slam through it, checking them off like a pro. But in the end, it's just something I do, it's my outlet for nervous energy; and thank god that I immediately look to a skein of yarn or my Copic markers and not to a bottle of alcohol or a syringe of dream juice to deal with it.

I suppose if there was anything to take away from this, then it would be the thing that hit me upside the head today.
Ever have one of those moments where your brain seems to yell at you like you're an idiot in a voice that sounds almost like you, but somehow older, wiser, and as if it's rolling its eyes at you every time you hear it? This occurs to me sometimes. Today, as I was sitting here going in circles over my lack of employment and the lack of job openings, this voice came to me. And it said


There was a subtext of wearing myself out emotionally, of being foolish to tire myself by trying to grasp at straws in the illusion of giving myself control over a situation with too many factors out of my reach.


And I immediately realized that I had... I've been doing my best, I've been trying hard, and the unique percolation of my history, the economy, the geographic location and what I want for my life are clashing right now. One of these things will have to shift before I will be able to move forward. It's easiest for me to shift, so I'm pondering what I'm willing to give up in my goals for now in order to get where I want to go eventually, but still be able to do reasonable adult things like pay bills and eat.
And in the meantime, while I'm frustrated that things just ain't shifting, I'm just going to knit a shit-ton of socks and sweaters and small toys. It's just not really a loosing situation in that light.

Actual Conversation #93 - wherein Helen and her Mother share new knowledge...

I don't remember how we got on the subject of furries, but this is how it ended:

Me: People that wear fur suits for sexual gratification are called "furries". It's under the sexual fetishes section of the DSM IV.
Mom: Oh? You think I should read that section?
Me: Do you like bubblegum?
Mom: Yes I do!
Me: You won't after you read that section.

My mom had the good graces to not continue the conversation. She seems to know me and my methods...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


It isn't often that I will admit to a weakness. I think in truth it was perhaps 25 years before I even admitted that I was wrong, so you've an idea how much it pains me to appear not in control.
Which, if you think about it is entirely laughable because it is literally impossible to control every aspect of one's life. Acknowledging that is a big part of realizing impermanence in every moment of the day.
But Buddhist musings aside, I must admit that from time to time I deal with bouts of loneliness that can be almost crippling.
I've no idea where they come from, really, though I do know that it builds over days or weeks before something triggers it. Usually it's a misunderstanding between myself and one of my friends, or the realization that I haven't talked to someone in a long time.
At these times I revisit the reason I've got these problems in the first place; that is, I really, really suck at talking to people. I have a hard time expressing what I'm trying to think, and having spent most of my childhood and teenage years as a loner with minimal number of friends I never really had a chance to practice.
When it sets in very quickly there is no way out until it passes, during which I am certain that I have screwed up all of my friendships or somehow pissed everyone off. Or I am somehow so deficient in my ability to process social interactions and stimuli that everyone humors me. Even my family, I start to think, has their own lives now and prefer not to chat with me because I've been so cranky and inconstant in the past.
It is difficult to be friends with me. I get bitchy about things, I bite heads off, I get snarky when people start to make assumptions -for some reason it got in my head that it was my job to point out when people aren't actually thinking things through... because I'm arrogant like that- and I can't remember birthday dates for the life of me. (The dyscalculia might have something to do with that.) I forget to check phone messages and return texts. For me it isn't too hard to take a step from that and feel that people are just putting up with me for the times I'm actually amusing.
These little moments do me no good, and leave me curled up on the couch hugging a stuffed animal feeling lonely and without energy. It messes with me for a day or three and I know that it hits Bob rather hard. He hates not being able to help and he hates it when I am not happy. So there's the double-bummer of knowing that I'm also upsetting him while I'm having my tizzy.
I think the truth is somewhere along the lines of this: I have few friends, but I have good friends who are interesting and funny. They probably understand that I'm prone to outbursts and that I will apologize for it later when it occurs to me I screwed up. Birthday gifts will be late, but they will show up. They expect me to be scatter-brained and know I'm something of a loner anyway, and they allow for that. Anybody that doesn't just go with these things was long ago culled and doesn't talk to me anymore. I need to try and remember these things.
At some point I may get over this and just sigh when I realize I haven't talked with someone in a while... and then turn around and contact them to see how they're doing. It won't phase me, and I won't lose hours or days of my life pondering my shortcomings as a friend or family member. At some point I might, oh say, be in the moment and just go with it. Think it'll take a bit more introspection and meditation before we're there, though.
I started this entry feeling that loneliness and end it now feeling grateful for those that do talk to me and would call me a friend if asked point blank about it. People communicate as best they can. Being accepting of that fact goes a long way towards getting rid of the malaise, as does taking a step back and really taking a look at what's going on outside of one's own self-pitying funk. For this, practice will only make perfect.