a new kind of practice

picking mulberries

i've been writing.  a little bit, each day.

it's an attempt to get through the seemingly never-ending cycle of angst in which i find myself each time i begin a new story, application, or essay.

maybe practice will get me through it.

maybe, with practice, i'll be able to work through the crippling fear i have that i'll never be able to capture the tiny bits of beauty that make me love this life, the bits for which i live, and which i want to share with all of you.

a couple of weeks ago, i found myself at sunny slope orchard with two other writers, both more experienced than me.  we were on a rescue mission, picking up apricots that had to be picked in a rush in order to save them from water damage from an unexpectedly late rainfall.

so we drove up there, with a plan to make jam over the weekend.  i'd just been to sunny slope a few days earlier, and having experienced the magic of that place, did my best to prepare my friends without spoiling the surprises that i knew waited in store for them.  you see, bill spurlock is a magician, a mechanic, and an all-around genius.  and fern, well, she's made of gold.

our morning was filled with ripe royal blenheim apricots, plucked from the branches of hundred-year old trees and eaten straight away; perfect plum popsicles in a treehouse built of dreams; tastes of fruit gently dried by sunlight; and a host of ingenious contraptions constructed to make farm life just a tiny bit easier and a dose more entertaining.

we left in a daze, with a car full of apricots and a sugar-high to remember.

a few minutes into the drive home, i started to lament that one could never capture such beauty, such magic, in mere words.  no story i could ever write would ever do that place justice.  it simply could never be done.

the most experienced writer among us looked at me as if i were nuts.  he said, "of course it could be done, as long as you concede that you'll never be able to adequately describe the taste of the apricots.  but the experience was certainly rich enough to craft a compelling portrait of a farmer and his fruit."

i didn't say it, but thought, "whatever.  maybe you could do it, but not me.  it's just not possible."

later, when i recounted the story to another friend, he pointed out how crazy i sounded.  he said, "if after eating a delicious pesto that you'd made i said, 'i could never do this, never in a million years make a pesto as good as this,' you'd look at me and say, 'of course you can,' and then walk me through the steps.  you might tell me about the history of pesto, describing the different ways it's made on the various hillside towns in liguria.  you'd tell me which farmer to seek out to get just the right variety of piccolo fino basil, and how many months the parmesan and pecorino you'd used had been aged.  and of course you'd tell me where the olive oil had come from, and why that delicate gold-label oil is so crucial for a lovely pesto.  then you'd show me just how to prepare it, step-by-step, and tell me to go home and practice until i got it right myself."

i started to see that with writing, it's no different. you just break it down into manageable chunks and then you practice.  you write, and you write, and you write some more, until you get there.  it might take a really long time, but you'll never know unless you start practicing.

so now, as painful as it might be, i'm committed to doing that hard work.  practice.  i get it.

wish me luck.

i always do this thing where...

via ordinary courage

i come up with these insanely ambitious, over-complicated ideas and then psych myself out about them to the point where i don't even start working on anything and end up with a big fat nothing after days, weeks, or months of thought.

for example, i can't tell you how many blog posts i have finished, sitting right there in draft status.

(about a bajillion)

over the past year or so, i've been cooking up ideas about what my first book should and shouldn't look like.  it shouldn't be a cookbook because i don't want to be pigeon-holed as a cookbook writer.  it should be beautiful, inspirational, groundbreaking and just plain brilliant.  it shouldn't do anything less than completely encapsulate every iota of my being and entire belief system.  it should make me a bazillion dollars.

you get the point.

and you'll probably guess where i'm going with this--i've psyched myself out so much about this theoretical book that i haven't allowed myself to even start working on it.

pretty ridiculous.  yep.

so when i came up with a most excellent book idea last year, the first thing i did was to dismiss it because it didn't fit any of my criteria.  even though i can imagine this book being a total hit, i didn't allow myself to consider working on it because it didn't seem ambitious or difficult enough.

um, crazy much?

it took my off-handedly mentioning the idea to a seasoned book publishing professional and seeing her extreme reaction (wherein she essentially called me a total idiot for not getting on this train faster) to see that this actually is a good fantastic idea, one that makes total sense for me to start with, and in the words of one of my mentors, a sort of synecdoche of my larger body of work (real world sage that he is, he also warned me that no book is easy to write, no book is a sure-fire bet, and all books are intensely painful to work on).

ever since then, i haven't been able to stop thinking about it.  more than that, i've even started writing.  all it took was shattering the crazy framework of expectation i'd imposed on myself to see that sometimes the path of least resistance really is the way to go.

i should definitely be asleep right now...

handmade oaxacan papel picado at dosa

what good is it to be a 'yogi' if you're a jerk to the people who serve you in restaurants?  

what if i aspired to have my yoga practice look less like this:
(not like it looks anything remotely like that right now, or ever has)

 and more like this?  

what if i didn't take everything so seriously?

a couple of weeks ago a well-meaning friend gave me some unsolicited advice, telling me that my real problem was that i don't have any goals.  um, i thought, have you ever met me?  

it was so far off the mark, it was sort of hilarious.  
but for some reason, it really bugged me.  

like to the point i couldn't sleep that night.

i was still angry the next day, too.

the day after that, i was able to let it go.  but only after completely dissecting things and realizing exactly why it bugged me so much.  the funny thing was, everyone i told the story to had the same incredulous reaction; here i am doing everything i can to keep my life from spinning totally out of control by reigning in my achievement-oriented tendencies, and my dear, sweet friend who just wanted to help (i think) is totally missing that, seeing only that i've slowed down and not noticing why. 


if she had been actively trying to hit the bullseye of sensitivity in my heart, she couldn't have done a better job; i'm going to great pains to relax and she's calling me a slacker?  


i had to let it go.  and i did.  no, really.  i did.  

ok, now i'm going to bed, because tomorrow i get to teach about FAT!  woot!

to be honest, i'm not sure where to begin.

nowhere seems appropriate, really, so i guess i'll just start here and work backward/forward.

i'm still recovering from the bakesale; i haven't had much downtime since the event, and i definitely haven't had a chance to process my feelings about it (or respond to all of the emails that continue to pour in).  for now, please let a humongous THANK YOU suffice.  one day, perhaps soon, i'll be able to organize my thoughts and tell the story around this incredible outpouring of love that deserves to be told.

one thing that's happened as a result of the bakesale is this: i've officially reached the end of my rope.  no longer can i juggle everything by myself, be a bottomless pit of YES, and do work without being paid (or paid enough).  what i need is an assistant, but since i can't afford that right now, i'm changing gears:

  • i'm on the six month plan.  in six months, i will regularly be taking one full day off a week.
  • i'm imposing a moratorium on pro-bono gigs.  or, shall i say, don't come to me; let me come to you.  please don't ask me to organize/donate to/work at/promote your fundraiser or event for free; the answer is no.  if you'd like to pay me to consult, however, i am open to discussion.
  • we're taking pop-up general store from a monthly project to a quarterly one.  this will allow me to make room in my life for the work that sustains me financially and intellectually.  i love the pop-up, but i am constantly consumed by preparing for, recovering from, working at, or just being anxious about it.  i don't want to totally let it go, but i can't continue to let it dictate my schedule.  my other hope with this is: with more time between each pop-up, we can get photos of the items up on the website, expand our offerings, and just raise the quality of the whole thing in general.  this is a change i'm excited about for many reasons.
  • i'm realizing: i'm just one person.  i can't do everything.  i've become the tasmanian devil.  i've created a vicious cycle where every time i perform better and produce more.  though i wear myself out, i'm controlled by some irrational fear about the expectations i've created around what i do so i feel like i have to set the standard even higher the next time and achieve even more.  why?  i don't know.  it's ridiculous, and i can't function like that anymore.  i saw how ridiculous it all is when, after the bakesale i realized that typically projects of this scope are organized by entire committees of people, not just insane control-freaks like me.  i did have a bit of help from elisa and alice with some emails and spreadsheets, but other than that i did the entire thing myself.  and the thing is, i'm not proud of that.  this isn't bravado speaking.  it's more like, "WTF?!"
  • it might be arbitrary, but my goal is to say NO five times a week.  i was particularly pleased with myself when i said no last week to one of my favorite authors of all time: she asked me for an estimate for my work, and even though i HATE giving estimates more than anything i came up with one that seemed totally fair, and when she said she couldn't afford it i didn't bristle, or buckle, or even feel bad.  i just let it go.  a month ago i would have told her i'd do it for free just because of who she is.  now, i'm up against a wall and i can't afford to do that, and so somehow, the whole exchange was much less emotional and stressful that it might have been.  

j's still life at stinson beach; april 2011
after the bakesale, i spent a couple of days out at stinson beach hiding out from the world with some friends.  we walked along the beach to get coffee in the mornings, collecting rocks and shells that the artist among organized into an incredible still life on a rotting wooden door by the house.  one day, we hiked for hours, never crossing paths with another human, walking so far out along the point that i wondered if anyone had ever been there before.  we ate simple, delicious food and took naps in the sun.  my phone barely worked out there.

at one point, i started to fret--how could it be that out there i was so calm, so present, so receptive to the beauty of the mundane and yet the moment i returned to this life i'd get swept up into the whirlpool of unanswered email and phone calls, growing to-do lists, and every other way i constantly feel like i am letting everyone down?  how could i hold on to that peace?  was there a way?

even then, i knew the answer: it isn't so much about holding onto that peace as it is about being able to summon it at will.  even i, in my most dervish-like moments, hold somewhere within me a spot so serene i could, and did, confuse it with that picturesque landscape out on the coast.  for what i was feeling out on the beach wasn't so much awe at what i am apart from as awe of what i am a part of, of what is a part of me.  this is the single most valuable thing i have learned in three years of practicing yoga, mindfulness, and meditation.  i just tend to forget it much of the time.

being at the beach helped me remember.  so i'm going to go to the beach more often.  it's as simple as that.

shedding externalities

a lot of what i've been working on over the past couple of years has to do with simplifying, getting to the heart of things, and letting go of what's unnecessary.  

in terms of the pop-up, it's been about experimenting with what it means to cook really high-quality food and share it with the folks who want it.  do we have to do it in a restaurant?  does there have to be a "fancy, white tablecloth" sort of narrative around the whole affair?  how many people have to come between the cooks and the customers?  this has been a project completely bent on stripping down the food chain to its simplest possible form, and it's been really interesting and rewarding.

in terms of my classes, it's about encouraging folks to get into the kitchen, get their hands dirty, and let go of whatever preconceived notions they have about what it means to cook a certain way, or at a certain level.  when we abandon the idea that we need a bunch of fancy tools, expensive ingredients, formal training or whatever external elements we've been conditioned to believe are necessary for a good meal, we can really tune in to the brilliance of the experience of cooking, of connecting with the food, understanding where it comes from, and sharing it with people we care about.  just doing that will make your meal more delicious and satisfying without even picking up a knife.

in the tartine dinners, it's about letting go of what ideas we might have about what it feels like to cook or dine in a restaurant.  we challenge people's comfort levels by smushing them cheek to jowl at communal tables, force them to interact by making the food family-style, and ambush them with generosity to do our best to make them feel loved.  because it's not set up to be a business, we have the luxury of taking really, really good care of the customers without being concerned with how much money we're going to get out of them.  a lot of the artifice and theatricality of restaurant dining is left behind, and instead replaced with a spirited sense of authenticity.  it's an experiment--one that's not exactly financially viable, but incredibly rewarding nonetheless.

whether consciously or not, it's been relatively simple for me to bring my work into focus in this way, but somehow in the secret corners of my heart and mind that determine who i really am, and how i really feel and think, i haven't been able to replicate this lens.  it's such a subtle thing that i haven't noticed it until just now, perhaps the most deeply reflective period of my life.  

let me break things down: yesterday i had a moment of clarity wherein i realized that i have always burdened myself with worrying about what others will think.  that worry has controlled and directed pretty much every action and decision throughout my life.  coming to understand this so clearly while simultaneously examining the central themes of my work has been pretty disconcerting.

the formula:

    aversive personality (buddhist psychology)
enneagram type 3 (the achiever)
enfp (mbti)
  samin: incredible potential to achieve success, but also crippled by an obsession with what others think  

the past few months have been some of the most challenging i've ever faced.  though the successes i've had and opportunities i've been given have been wonderful, they've made me ever so acutely aware of how many more eyes are on me.  it's weird, because i don't really shy away from attention (that's putting it mildly) and i am pretty darned comfortable as a public figure.  but the part of my psyche (or ego, if you will) that's so consumed with worrying about what others think of me and my every action has really been triggered into overdrive lately, and it's been a cause of great anxiety.  coming to realize this on a deep level is the first step toward loosening its shackles on my heart and mind.

i spent the afternoon with a sweet friend yesterday; she has the gift of making me feel totally safe around her, and i deeply appreciate that.  i told her of the many ways lately in which i've been paralyzed by these worries, like to the point that i'll write an entire blog post but then not post it because i'm worried about what one certain person might think or say.  i don't want to do anything that anyone could perceive as hurtful, narcissistic, egotistical, or mean, and in consuming myself with dreaming up all of the possible scenarios of what people might think, i lose the joy of the experience itself.

i'm committing myself to relaxing a bit around these fears, to trying to take things a little more lightly, and to shedding the externalities in my every day life.  i want to let go of the inner/outer narrative that binds me in my thoughts and actions and instead return to a place of living from my heart, with the purity of intention and experience that i value so much in my work.   
forgive me, but i need to take a little break from all of my iranicizing. not because i'm not aware of what's going on, but because i'm too aware. it's overwhelming.

i want to catch you all up on what's been going on here for the past couple of weeks:

there were 700 or so jars of apricot preserves at yes we can, which we made at la cocina, whilst ryan farr taught handfuls of laypeople how to make emulsified sausages.

there was the couscous royale at asiya's goodbye party, where i finally met jessica, the woman behind rabbits and wrinkles.

a week later, there was an educational day of canning cherries and cherry jam for green string farm, wherein i realized that cherry jam could never be a money-making enterprise. fifty pounds of pitted cherries yielded 46 8-oz jars of jam. i don't even want to think about the math involved in that.

there was the day we went over to veller's house to kill four rabbits for our dinner celebrating the release of her book. this is the least graphic photo i had. notice the fraying nylon string veller saved from her hay bales and rigged up to the tree for hanging the rabbits to skin.

but as one might imagine, the cage the rabbits were in wasn't the most secure apparatus, so one bunny had escaped two nights before the big day. he was last seen at the liquor store down the street. we searched for him for 20 minutes to no avail, so we made do with three bunnies. as soon as we left, veller said, the smart guy showed up but she couldn't catch him.

there was my lunatic idea to cook a dinner using as many backyard and urban farmed and foraged ingredients as possible to celebrate the release of novella's book, which meant that i somehow had to find dozens of backyard farmers, figure out what and how much they'd have available the week of the dinner, set up drop-off times and make time to forage and harvest, and somehow write a coherent menu around it all. it was the most involved, challenging, invigorating and fruitful experience of my cooking career.

the dinner couldn't have been more lovely:

chris cutting into the prosciutto made with novella's pigs

novella's olives (which we served with the prosciutto)

cucu sabzi, a persian frittata (my mom's is better) i made with all of the leftover foraged herbs and greens

the second prosciutto (CL got a little carried away)

CL slicing prosciutto on the beautiful berkel slicer emilio lent us for the night

the experience of seeing those rabbits on the farm over the past several months, killing, skinning and cleaning them up, then cooking with them was something i hope all cooks have at some point in their lives. chris and cedric did a fantastic job with them. we dried sunny slopes farm apricots and made a moroccan-inspired stuffing. those are little heirloom carrots from novella's farm on the outside, with fresh chickpeas from catalan farm.

all in all, it was a fantastic night, with so many of our friends and neighbors present. the sense of community was so strong that night, with nearly every table scouring the menu for the ingredients that had come from their own yards. perhaps the most special contribution was the incredible sack of mulberries from suzanne's neighbor's yard in south berkeley. thank you, everyone, for filling that night with such authenticity and love.

and finally, yesterday there was the discovery of lola's ice creams & sundaes (via aaron), a sort of beautiful ice cream version of the moro books (not much of a surprise since they come from the same publisher). i might just have to get that for myself.

shucking a mountain of favas at bob cannard sr.'s memorial, may 2009

frustrated, exhausted, confused.

if you had to choose between a little bit of stability that might keep you from growing and jumping into the sea of the unknown, which would you pick?

what if the unknown held opportunities beyond those of your most daring dreams? what if you had no idea how long you might have to tread water before one of them nudged you from behind like a dolphin coming to help keep you afloat?  

what if the bit of stability had other benefits, like (very) minor fame (but not fortune) and comfort?  what if it also caused your insecurities to flare (see: fame), and entangled you in something you already felt ambivalent about?  

and on an unrelated note, if you finally could tell someone who has been emotionally abusing you for, oh, five years or so, to eff off knowing that he/she could never trouble you again, would you?  or would you just get the heck outta dodge?
i've somehow miraculously made it to my one year birthday at my gym, a place called one of the best gyms in the country by the wkc.

i love this place, and it has changed my life. in one year, i have lost nearly thirty pounds, made yoga an integral part of my life, started down the path toward becoming a cyclist (i even have two pairs of bike shorts). i can hold plank pose for nearly three minutes, do 45 situps in a minute, and deadlift my body weight (probably more by now). i can row 2k in under 8 minutes, and hold a wall squat for almost 4. it's all pretty coocoo if you ask me. i'm not sure how you quantify these things, but i might be in the best shape of my life. if not, then i'm close. and only improving (despite having a body ravaged with injured joints).

i am sort of in lurve with both my physical therapist and my personal trainer (two people i'd never imagined i'd regularly patronize). i am no longer depressed, i can sleep, and i feel so much more confident about most things in my life. i even think that one day, my natural posture will be to stand up straight. i have seen how i can make my body change through diligence and hard work, and am realizing my limits. i am learning when to push--and when to forgive--myself.

i love them, and i love the me that they have helped me to find. i hope to grow grow grow and get even faster stronger better with them as far as the eye can see. (and when my shoulder has healed, i am going to be able to do that pullup!)

i'm going to have to sit down and write all of the opportunities i've been offered on one piece of paper, all in a row. so many of them are amazing--things i couldn't have imagined for myself five or ten years ago (people want me to help them start grand projects, to join them as partners in their non-profits and for-profits, to move to the country to organize farm programs, to write books for and with them, and so much more). it's just that none of them are the one i just missed out on--the one i've poured so much of myself into for so long, the one i knew i was more qualified for than anyone else.

i have to let myself grieve for this before i can begin to be truly excited for what i decide to do next.

plan b

it's time for plan b.

one of the most difficult things about this setback is that to get what i want to get done done, i'm going to have to do a lot more legwork, and we all know how lazy i am.

plan a was easy, prestigious, and had a built-in time line to get me where i needed to be.

plan b is going to be a lot more work.

i think i'm ready for a trip to new york.

where i was vs. where i wish i were

i've really been wanting to go to the monterey bay aquarium and visit the jellyfish. if only i could have gone yesterday, instead of working at a party for people so wealthy that i felt disgusting doing the work i did. there is no such thing as moderation in their world, and being essentially a 6-year old child housed in a 28-year old's body, i had a really hard time myself. i ate so much candy i think i am still on a sugar high. blech.

i sometimes think that when i leave restaurants, and begin to work more seriously on writing, i can support myself by doing more of this uberfancy catering for the rich and famous. but it is such soul-sucking work that i think i'd be left with less inspiration to write than i have even now. in many ways, it's doing exactly the opposite of what i want to be doing. yuck. and, even though it's not exactly my goal to be rich and famous myself, when you work for them, even if you make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year (as some cooks i know do), you still work for them. you're not one of them. you're not at the party, you're cleaning up after the party. i'd rather not spend the rest of my life (or the bulk of it) being someone's servant, no matter how much i get paid.

soon, soon, i will go see the jellies. anyone want to come?

fruits on pam's porch, originally uploaded by abchao.

i'm caught in a weird place--with my hand still healing, i'm not really supposed to do anything where it could get infected. that means i can't work at a level even close to my full capacity (which is a lot. a coworker once told me i do the work of 2.5 others).

i've lost focus. work is a strange no man's land--the one place where i once had a perfectly clear sense of purpose and duty is now as confusing as the rest of my world. i don't really know what to do most of the time.

i have always done so much, and been expected to do so much, that it is really disconcerting not to be able to do that much. i've been ordered to stay out of the kitchen (which i am able to manage about 75% of the time), but i worry that the others look at me wondering why i'm not doing anything. working in a kitchen is about constantly doing something--a good cook will multitask, and multitask well, the entire day.

at a glance, my hand looks healed, so if you didn't know what's going on, you'd probably think i am just lazy.

the truth is, i am exhausted inside.

and tomorrow, i have a job in the city--one of those fancy jobs where i usually work extra hard to prove i'm worth what they're paying me. not sure how i'll fare, i told them i'm not supposed to do anything too strenuous or use my hand too much, so we'll see what job they give me, and how i deal with my inadequacies.


Paperwhites, originally uploaded by schönwandt.

a friend brought me some paperwhite bulbs the day after my surgery. they're not quite to this point yet, but hopefully, when they are, i'll have the presence of mind to snap a photo or two of them.

i've been thinking a lot lately about my insecurities.

ok, who am i kidding? i think a lot all of the time about my insecurities.

three times (and twice very recently) people have told me that i use silliness and humor to avoid having to be my true self around people, and to distance myself from people.

it's completely true--i don't deny it.

on one hand, it's a protective measure--if i don't have a serious conversation with you, then there is no way for you to know what i am really thinking, what i am sensitive about, and there is no way for you to hurt me (or at least hurt me as severely).

and on the other hand, i feel like i am more in touch with my true self and my real emotions than most people i know, and more willing to share that part of me with people i trust. but that can make people REALLY uncomfortable. one of my dearest friends (and i think that some of you will know who i mean) cannot deal with my rawness. she actually, visibly, twitches with discomfort. it's a sacrifice for me to have to keep my true feelings from her, and it's set limits to our friendship, but i realize that it's something i have to do for her sake. it is mean to gush when i know she can't handle it. i won't do that to her.

i sometimes make jokes to avoid uncomfortable situations. the most tightly wound person i know is someone i love and respect a lot. she is one of the most critical people i've ever met, but also one of the most sensitive. sometimes, she says things i completely disagree with, but i can't disagree with her directly, because i know how much it would hurt her. i also don't want to agree with her because it would betray my own feelings too much, so i usually make a joke to lighten the mood or change the subject.

i'm so serious in my own head all of the time, i want to spare other people from that. i can't deal with all of my time spent with friends being as intense as the time i spend alone with my thoughts.

a friend (not the clairvoyant one i mentioned a couple of weeks ago, but one who i really do believe can see things on another level than most people) told me recently that i have inherited a legacy of worry, and that things don't have to be so hard for me. he said he can see right through my silliness to the reasons for it, and that i don't have to be that way so much.

it's good to know that some people are okay with the truth and intensity. it's scary, because there can be a lot of pain wrapped up in all of that. but if you can't ever be your genuine self around your friends, can't show them your grief, or pain, or sadness, then what is there?

not exactly practicing what i preach

see, we have autumn in california, too.

it takes a lot more energy to hate than it does to love, or even just be indifferent. my fatigue is a big reason why i've slowly started to forgive people i never thought i'd be able to--perhaps not the most noble sentiment, but an honest one at least.

over the last few years, i've also realized that once i can accept people's limits--whether considering what they are capable of as my friends, or just as human beings--everything is just so much clearer, simpler, and mostly better. i'm an incurable idealist, and i have the tendency to expect a LOT from people, which can just lead to so much disappointment. i get crippled by my disappointment at times, and resentful, and i hold grudges. terrible grudges.

once i began to accept the people around me for who they are and not who i want them to be, i was able to begin loving my friends more fully, and without reservation. and on the same note, i saw that it's okay to let go of pain, of betrayal, and just stop hating. i'm not perfect, and definitely not a saint, so i haven't exactly been able to apply my new philosophy to every painful situation.

there is one person--and this is really hard for me to admit--who i think about often (somewhere between daily and weekly), who i just wish would disappear from my consciousness. i wish i could find it in me to write a letter, to apologize and forgive. but i don't think i'm capable of that right now. or maybe ever.

i've never really liked licorice, and i can now just barely tolerate anise. but i love fennel, and wild fennel is one of my favorite things to cook with. i love going down to the train tracks and collecting it, i love that it grows everywhere, along route 37 on my way to the farm, and on the way to pt. reyes. there's a big fennel plant on the sidewalk outside our apartment building, and my landlord is obsessed with weed-whacking it. i always try to stop him, but it's not necessary. the fennel is a weed, and it grows back quickly, even stronger than before, each and every time.

i love the idea of making something from nothing. chris calls his style "cooking from weeds." one of his favorite cookbooks is patience gray's honey from a weed. it's such a sweet book, and it makes me feel like there were simpler times, once. i also love elizabeth romer's the tuscan year. i love december and january, when she talks about the norcino coming to town, and the pig slaughter.

someone sent us this book and flipping through it haphazardly several weeks ago, i saw the entry by edna lewis about her family pig slaughter each winter. as i was reading the story aloud to chris, i kept stopping to ask him if he thought it was as crazy as i did. each step of the pig slaughter from the time of year to the wandering butcher and the rendering of the lard and blowing up the bladder for the kids to play with was exactly the same as every account i'd ever heard of italian pig slaughtering traditions. it was amazing to realize that these poor southern blacks had come to have the same ways of doing this stuff as the poor rural italians. it's not such a huge mental leap, looking back at it now, but the thing is, as focused as i am on the culinary traditions of all of these other cultures, it never really occurred to me that there are true local american culinary traditions. does that make me sound dumb?

i have no words

i want to go to pakistan and hopefully iran and afghanistan because i want to acknowledge that the world i spend most of my time in, worrying about money, worrying about what i am going to do with my life, worrying my silly worries, is not the only world that i am a part of.

i sit here, depressed and worried about money, friends, visas, this book, becoming what i want to become.

but really there is so much more.

a man at my work, with whom i usually don't get along, has an ailing newborn.
i don't particularly like him, but i have been sure let him know that i will do anything
i can for him, to make his life and his baby's
life easier.

people are struggling with living so much more desperately than i have ever
wrestled with myself.

i want to go there to see.
i want to go there to feel.
i want to go there to understand.

i will probably never understand.
but i want to try.

i have no words for this.