Food with family is probably half the reason to be alive right now. For Christmas, I got a Nerd pack and Absurd pack of Cards Against Humanity. The original packs were so inappropriate that my mom refused to play it with us. Although we reassured her that this time would be different, alas! this was not so. The search for a more family friendly card pack continues…
This week saw the last week at a job and the best last day at a job ever, which confirms my theory about last days, how it must lift up everyone to be relevant. Today was my last day, and, on a Friday going into a weekend with Halloween, this meant Halloween party. But this was no ordinary Halloween party. My team captain qualified it not as a party, as this would imply a congregating of people in tight spaces, not in line with the covid restrictions our office has. So it was called something else that now escapes my mind. To the end of things is best left up to something improvised, not scheduled in advanced but rather whimsical and new, to the newness of things, to the end of a beginning, so it must be a lifting up of everyone, a celebration of things to come and honoring of what once was.
My office at the job I left today is also in a time of transition, as the division just recently received the news that their jobs would be permanently remote. To work from home forever, the meeting which outlined the rollout used a specific term which I cannot now recall, but the rejoicing is something that is so lasting that it has felt wonderful working in the office the past week. Everyone has a glint in their eye, as though it is the eve of a very special day, where tomorrow is something so special they can simply feel it in the air. I am not sure that there are words for this feeling, or maybe in different languages there are terms which express it more succinctly than this. Today was the eve of the last week that this team would ever have to arrive in an office, open doors with badges, and face a morning commute that may be at times gruesome. Coming in this late in a New England Autumn, even for us weathered drivers, the thought of commuting during a blizzard or worse, black ice on pavement, can be treacherous.
Bygones, today was a wonderful last day of work. I dressed up in my homemade Halloween costume and enjoyed talking with my teammates. Everyone either dressed up or wore something festive like cats ears or Halloween themed clothing. We pulled up YouTube on the TV and listened to hours of Halloween music. By the end of the day I had Mama Mia by ABBA stuck on repeat in my head. It was an exciting day for the end of things, and in fact we laughed at the idea of what if this were our last day on earth, and how it would actually be the best day to leave on, in any context. Here’s some of our food stuff:
The Muffaletta sandwich was something I have never had, and will definitely make for future get togethers, as it travels well and would keep well for leftovers if there’s any left. My favorite way is to toast the sandwich so that the cheese and the olive and caper flavors activate and melt, I can still nearly taste it. I heated up some medium heat Tostitos cheese dip and dabbed the sandwich in the sauce, which is something I will definitely recommend. Here is the recipe: https://www.pillsbury.com/recipes/bourbon-street-muffuletta-braid/d14f5ad5-a503-480f-9856-74d600ce03e8
The weekend in Portland, Maine, is over, and I’m glad I’m back home. Each weekend morning I had breakfast at Becky’s Diner. This place is best before there are so many people that the line snakes out the door into the parking lot, so arrival time was before 8am both mornings.
This place has everything: Canceaux sauce, a regionally sold, sweet chili sauce, strawberry jam, homemade hash, lobster omelette, and pumpkin pancakes. The pieces of lobster in my omelette were gigantic and I’m still thinking about it after having been home all day.
Last night was the first time I went to a show at Jimmy’s in Portsmouth, NH. Mavis Staples was great, it was the second time I have seen her perform, and the singing uplifted me and helped me feel so thankful for getting to see live music again. The most moving version of The Band’s “The Weight” felt wonderful. If I was smiling and shedding a tear through the biggest smile to the end of the song, it may have been in my observation of a number of things: the bold folks dancing and getting up to dance or sway with the music, people’s faces meeting mine. The gratitude with which I felt being in the presence of those I loved that night is still something that brings a smile and a tear, so many in fact that I’m sure I am so truly blessed to be alive.
In my ability to enjoy some of the activities that had been up until recently forbidden to experience, I count myself lucky to have come through it healthy, with most of my family intact. My philosophy has changed somewhat since before the pandemic. I did not come to this way of thinking overnight, and it was not just one thing or even the past year or so that brought me to this idea. I believe that being with others includes everyone. The purpose of life is to experience enjoyment, inclusion, and to be uplifted, benefitted, and blessed by others. Mavis said, “I want you all to feel better when you leave here tonight than when you first arrived.” Today I believe she was right.
This is food from a family lunch a couple weekends ago, where a family friend prepared the chicken. They diced garlic and put it underneath the skin, along with other seasonings, and let it sit for a while. The asparagus, salad, potatoes, and chicken were just right for an end of summer meal: light enough for a warm day but hearty to satiate that natural hunger I often find myself craving as Autumn draws near: root vegetables, oven roasted poultry, and gravies.
We decided to swing by Highrollers in Portland, Maine, for lunch: lobster roll with yellow mustard, lime mayo, and charred pineapple sauce; a lobby pop, which is a corn dog using lobster meat in place of hot dog; French fries sprinkled with Old Bay with side sauces: curried ketchup, charred pineapple, yellow mustard, red pepper mayo, jalapeño mayo; grass-fed cheeseburger.
There was one last party on the weekend of Labor Day to celebrate my birthday. It had been postponed before due to Hurricane Henri, and now the day happened: a day trip to Portland, Maine! Although I did not each all the food I planned to that day, I came close to it. First meal was mussels in white wine sauce with toasted garlic points, marinated beet salad, lobster and scallop cakes with pesto and orange chili sauce, and avocado chips with chipotle mayo. Dipping those garlic points into white wine sauce was probably my favorite part of the meal.
The baker I buy fresh bread from each week at the downtown farmers market gave me a pro tip on how to use my sage plant: grilled cheese. So today I had an early lunch: French bread, cheddar, tomato, mayonnaise, sage, and butter. My favorite part was discovering how to melt the cheese and not burn the bread. For an experiment I took one of the cheese slices from the sandwich and melted it in the skillet and got it to melt.
The result: crispy toasted points and a chewy bite. Sage has this deliciousness that mixes so well with the texture of fresh bread. I will continue my technique in melting the cheese effectively so as not to turn the bread too crispy, and I’m looking forward to making grilled cheese, maybe next time with thyme or basil and lime. Who knows?
My friend B and I met up over the weekend for lunch and thrifting and this time did not disappoint. My phone died before getting pictures of the entire food setup, which was extravagant. We had French onion soup with avocado mash, mushroom, and garlic on baguette, hummus with beets and pepitas, and Schrute farms beet salad. This meal was a true indulgence and I’m sure I ate more than my fair share of food, with plenty of leftover salad and popcorn.
My favorite part of the meal was the company, first and foremost. We have known each other since high school and I feel lucky to have known a person for as long as we have, as it allows you to be seen through a lifetime’s flaws and successes, which pull away from the idea that a person is entirely unknowable. It is the successful relationships over passage of time that I am so thankful for, as I’m glad I can be kind to people, as I know when a conflict arises, as so inevitably does, they would extend the same mercy to me.
In my knowing her she is as kind and limitlessly unconditionally accepting of me, and I love having someone like that, who might look myopically over at me, as though looking at a painting from a far point across a room, and call it an inspiration.
In the pursuit of living better and achieving goals, I’ve been using a food relationship management subscription over the past few months. Noom has a sort of continuing education feel with a supportive chat group structure to share lessons and give each other new ideas on how to creatively work with food to challenge or push back on old beliefs and walk into new rituals and ways of seeing the world. A lot of the most important parts of Noom for me has been creating a calorie budget, where I understand the parameters of how many calories I need to eat each day in order to either sustain or lose weight, and following the budget. The most fun I’ve been having lately is with plant-based substitutions for dairy and highly processed carbohydrates. In place of cheese, I use grated zucchini or summer squash on my eggs; instead of half and half I use Califia Farms coconut almond creamer; I use vegan shreds instead of cheddar on my burritos; I boil a cauliflower and mash it up instead of rice. What it does for me is help me use fun tricks to eat less calorically dense foods. Plant-based foods tend to have more water in them, and do not have as many calories as animal-based ones do. For example, heavy cream has 100 calories per 2 Tbsp. Half and Half has 30 calories per 2 Tbsp. Califia Farms coconut almond creamer has 15 calories per 2 Tbsp. That range gives me more options when I want to spend my calories in certain ways.
My strategy is to eat as many low calorically dense foods (see also: cauliflower, asparagus, lettuce, spinach) throughout my day so that I can conserve the higher calorically dense foods (see also: cheeseburger, bread, chips, butter) strategically. I like to plan my day, and I find my calorie budget really helps with planning out foods I’ll eat. Sometimes I have a general idea in mind. Other times I have prepped food for the week and play it by ear on which foods I’m craving. Last weekend I made cauliflower mash, boiled butternut squash, and corn from a local farm stand. I’ve been using these foods interchangeably throughout my week. To be quite candid, I’m nearly sick of eating some of these foods, and I will be glad when this weekend comes so I can food prep some new combination of foods. I picked up beets from a farm stand the other day and so am excited to work with that. I’m not sure if I’ll pickle them or what.
To boost flavor I’ll start out eggs or a burrito base with sautéed white onion and garlic and sprinkle fresh herbs on top. Thyme and basil are two favorites. I have a sage plant but not sure how to prepare the leaves. Do I dry them or just let them be fresh and cook with them? I dunno! I’ve been thinking about taking string and wrapping a sage smudge for the end of the summer. In keeping with new tradition, it would be amazing to burn that smudge through a space and have it cleanse the palate for future seasons. Sage burning is something I have seen used for clearing blocked places, summoning old ancients, and meditation.
*Update** I enjoyed sage sautéed into cauliflower topped with salmon and didn’t think I’d like it as much as I did. Sage has this flavor when I close my eyes that mimics meat, but it brought out a flavor when combined with cauliflower and seafood that was lovely. If I can work sage in with vegan chorizo or tofu I’ll probably try that next.