This has been a quiet year, a private 2011, a passage of time tucked away, mostly. And already here is 2012 – to keep making this life, to gather new bits, and to figure out what matters and what doesn’t as best I can.
I self-servingly love year-end retrospectives for their future use, to see where I was in a moment long gone. To examine the ways that I was different from me, now, and what caught the light; whether it still catches.
There’s a line from Anatole France, about change and and its inherent melancholy, “for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” We all from time to time want to dichotomize in this way – to cleanly sever who we are now from who we were then. We’re shamed by our greener selves, we selectively remember the bits that pit us against her, we may wish away the actions (and inaction) that led to here. This space provides a record to guard against false memory. I’m kinder toward who I was a year, two years, three years ago because I kept note. Having time in writing shows that while last year’s me was someone else, I can’t dismiss her. I still carry a lot of her inside.
Here are some ideas that caught my light in 2011. As always, thank you for reading along another year.
Some things I wrote in 2011
From dime stores spring prehistoric wrapping paper and notebooks filled with family history. Stuff, unexamined. We assign value in the game of toss or keep, but value is driven by meaning and context and future memories. Objective assessment is impossible. How do we separate the trinkets from the treasures, so the best recipes don’t get thrown away?
But nothing is shameful about setting goals and starting anew, however arbitrary January 1 is as a beginning. In a way, I think my humble, pared-down kitchen fare has been an unintentional resolution of sorts: to eat simply, to make uncomplicated and delicious food, and to honour my body.
Perhaps it is a product of my particular breed of introversion, but I don’t dream of becoming a mom like many women I know. If anything, the notion of responsibility for another life makes me want to run far, far away from the opposite sex. I have terrible fears of dropping babies or stepping on them or the worst case: not knowing how to love them right.
Our teenage protagonist might attend a concert and end up backstage, where the lead singer sees her through the crowd love-at-first-sight and whisks her away, happily ever after. Teenage dreams, with lots of adjectives.
Have you ever followed closely someone’s movements – watched how he lifts a utensil, the way he switches off knife and fork, or how he places the napkin when he leaves the table? That we each cradle a water glass or clink to a toast differently?
But it is helpful that most days I’d rather grocery shop and cook and eat what I’ve made at my own table. Cooking is really the best hobby, no? I mean – we have to feed ourselves, anyway – usually three times a day. Three occasions to satisfy our needs exactly as we please. That’s pretty fantastic.
Train 79 (December)
He will smile and wink and tell you he’s not supposed to refill your coffee cup. But he will anyway. And you thank him, because the coffee on Train 79 is not the murky dishwater that non-train-takers would expect to find aboard.
Some things I read in 2011
All the Single Ladies by Kate Bolick, The Atlantic (November)
What my mother could envision was a future in which I made my own choices. I don’t think either of us could have predicted what happens when you multiply that sense of agency by an entire generation.
Do you Suffer from Decision Fatigue? by John Tierney, The New York Times Magazine (August)
Remember that Jewish Israeli prisoner who appeared at 3:10 p.m. and was denied parole from his sentence for assault? He had the misfortune of being the sixth case heard after lunch. But another Jewish Israeli prisoner serving the same sentence for the same crime was lucky enough to appear at 1:27 p.m., the first case after lunch, and he was rewarded with parole. It must have seemed to him like a fine example of the justice system at work, but it probably had more to do with the judge’s glucose levels.
Healthy is not Enough by Allison, Always Something (November)
I was eight both the first time I called myself a feminist, and the first time I cried because my stomach stuck out… My mixed ideologies meant I would be a modern, working woman who was empowered, but I would also be thin and lovely.
The Possibilian by Burkhard Bilger, The New Yorker (April)
If Eagleman’s body bears no marks of his childhood accident, his mind has been deeply imprinted by it. He is a man obsessed by time. As the head of a lab at Baylor, Eagleman has spent the past decade tracing the neural and psychological circuitry of the brain’s biological clocks.
What Kind of Happy are You? by Susan Cain, The Power of Introverts (December)
It’s not an exultant kind of happiness. It feels more like a marveling at the fragile beauty of the human condition, and a pleasure in having someone articulate it so sensitively.
The Wedding by Shannalee T’Koy Mallon, Food Loves Writing (November)
…and I held his hand and I looked at his ring and I called him my husband and he called me his wife, and we knew this was big, this day, this commitment, this new family we had made. And just like that, it was over. Or just like that, it begun.
Champagne flute in hand – see you in 2012!
Previous years-in-review on anthimeria.com
Warm thanks for the above images, all on Flickr:
Recipes for a life take many forms, concocted from the stories we share with the people we love. I’m lucky in this life that I am able to share my stories and to read yours. 2010 was filled with so many good ones, wasn’t it? Below I’ve collected some of the best from 2010 – in my estimation – of my own and as told by others.
Thank you for reading along another year.
Twelve things I wrote in 2010
But in this place, this moment – they are just right. The breeze is powerful and salty and full of clay-earth. It blows the curtains like great flowery sails above my head. I stare at the ceiling, listening to the clock that accompanies me through each siesta.
Wooden Spoons (February)
Theorists discuss lofty things in abstract terms, but most arguments root in a few key themes: the good, justice, fairness, equality. Call my comparison a stretch, but I think cooking does the same basic thing.
Dad visits me in Toronto for the day and lets himself into the apartment to leave a three-litre jar of olives on the counter. He always has an array of garlicky Greek spreads waiting when I get off the train, be damned if it’s two in the morning. One memorable evening, he traveled the entire city of Windsor on a midnight fudge run.
My hair is in the half-wet state that happens when the sun is so hot it evaporates everything but laughter and the quiet in-between. He clicks and the camera’s aperture whooshes. And I take in his pale skin, and then the blindingly bright turquoise water, and then the dangling grey camera string and I push it aside out of the next shot – one of many in the mental stack of photos I flip through.
Here’s what time has taught me: introversion is a selfish excuse for solitude. Being alone is okay. But it’s not okay for me to use a tidy label to hide from others.
Mom carefully unwrapped her flowers, trimmed the ends. Carnations are hardy, so she’d pick through last week’s vases. She’d keep what was good, add the new blooms, stir together fresh water and food. All into the same vases on the same shelves and side tables. It was a sourdough starter that she fed each Friday, of pink and red and white and purple-flecked flowers.
Real Simple is like that friend whose perfectly edited life you’d love to hate, but can’t – because she really is just that fabulous. And don’t we all crop the messy bits from our photographs? Still, reading this magazine always leads to a loaded internal dialogue about how we frame our lives for one-another.
Both arrive and leave before you have chance to notice. You never imagine that all this is going to change soon. Day by day it’s the same, and then you wake and it’s all gone and different and some pieces look familiar, but mostly not.
I made sense of this last night, finally, as I listened. “Cooking is easy!” I say. But I’m wrong. To someone who has never turned on a burner, or bought fresh produce, or learned the basics of storing food, or honed proper knife skills – cooking is hard.
I eat these little fish and I think of all the wonderful things – people, places, foods, experiences – that we never get to know because they are gross, or not our type, or out of the norm. As I am remembering anchovies, I am remembering joys that are gained through an open heart and willingness to be less dogmatic about who I am and what I like.
Was it hypocrisy that my only-from-scratch mom made boxed potatoes – with a Wonderbread crouton topping, no less? It might have been. I wasn’t complaining. It was one of my favourite things to eat, though the dehydrated science-project potatoes were off-putting in theory.
No doubt I learn many things in my literary travels, but it’s odd to treat self improvement and cooking as bedside table fiction. I only learn so much by reading, making the occasional note and filing away the good parts. The space in my brain and black notebook that hosts tips for meaningful mornings and ways to cook fish has become awfully crowded.
Twelve things I read in 2010
Why are you so terribly disappointing? by Mark Morford, SFGate
Maybe this, then, is the ultimate upshot of our endless, self-wrought swirl of sour disappointment, of never having our impossible needs fully met, of constantly being thwarted in our desire to have the world revolve around our exact set of specifications and desires.
Here, There and Back Again by Luisa Weiss, The Wednesday Chef
One day I saw a big, beautiful family eating a simple lunch by the beach. I used to be too shy to do anything but stare sort of secretively at this kind of family, hoping no one would notice me looking at them. Now I think life is too fleeting to keep things like that to myself, so I told them how lovely they were and they broke into delighted laughter, all of them. I wish you could have heard it. I wish I could hear it again.
Roger Ebert: the Essential Man by Chris Jones, Esquire
His last food was probably nothing special, except that it was: hot soup in a brown plastic bowl; maybe some oatmeal; perhaps a saltine or some canned peaches. His last drink? Water, most likely, but maybe juice, again slurped out of plastic with the tinfoil lid peeled back. The last thing he said? Ebert thinks about it for a few moments, and then his eyes go wide behind his glasses, and he looks out into space in case the answer is floating in the air somewhere. It isn’t.
The Art of Lardee by Inhae, My Milk Toof
“Lardee, that’s not how you paint a fish.”
Is food the new sex? by Mary Eberstadt, Hoover Institution at Stanford
Now imagine one possible counterpart to Betty today, her 30-year-old granddaughter Jennifer. Jennifer has almost no cans or jars in her cupboard. She has no children or husband or live-in boyfriend either, which is why her kitchen table on most nights features a laptop and goes unset. Yet interestingly enough, despite the lack of ceremony at the table, Jennifer pays far more attention to food, and feels far more strongly in her convictions about it, than anyone she knows from Betty’s time.
There is Enough by Sarah McColl, Pink of Perfection
The and that’s okay part was what I needed to hear. There’s room for all of us. There’s enough success, money, and love to go around. There is no scarcity, really, unless we choose to look at life through that lens. One person’s success doesn’t take away from our own; someone else’s triumph doesn’t mean less triumph for us. There’s enough for everybody.
The New York Diet: Jeffrey Steingarten Cooks Goat Sous-Vide, Disdains Brooklyn Boosterism edited by Helen Rosner
So you get to the Greenmarket, and if you haven’t ordered ahead of time, people are sold out? That’s wrong! I happen not to be a morning person, but I deserve to eat as much as a morning person deserves to eat. When you prick us, do we not bleed? Seriously.
What Grant Achatz Saw at El Bulli by Grant Achatz, The New York Times’ Diner’s Journal
People often ask me if the style of cooking he pioneered is a trend, fad or flash in the pan. My belief is that every 15 to 20 years, with an obvious bell curve of energy, most professions change. Technology, fine arts, design and yes, cooking, follow the same predictable pattern. A visionary creates the framework for a new genre, others follow and execute, and the residual effects remain, embedded in the cloth of the craft.
In Her Defense, I’m Sure the Moose had it Coming by Aaron Sorkin, The Huffington Post
And you didn’t just do it for fun and you didn’t just do it for money. That was the first moose ever murdered for political gain. You knew there’d be a protest from PETA and you knew that would be an opportunity to hate on some people, you witless bully. What a uniter you’d be — bringing the right together with the far right.
Learning Who You Are Through What You Eat by Michele Kayal, NPR’s Kitchen Window
When she’s not looking, I do surreptitious quality control, re-rolling her grape leaves the way my grandmother used to re-roll mine, until my fingers became so deft, so full of memory that I could no longer recall ever learning it. She rolls, I re-roll, the Arabic weaves in and out of the accented English.
What Biggie Smalls’ Lyrics Taught Me About Food by Francis Lam, Salon
He was bragging about being harder than you, tougher than you, even when he was a child in school. But he was still a child. He loved his chocolate milk. He remembers the flavor of his favorite cookies. The Notorious B.I.G., this spinner of murder rhymes and playboy fantasies, made himself vulnerable.
There is a Horse in the Apple Store by Frank Chimero, frankchimero.com
THERE IS A LITTLE PONY IN THE APPLE STORE. What the hell? A beautiful little pony, with a flowing mane, the likes of which my sister would have killed to get for Christmas when she was 7 or 8. And, NOONE is looking at this thing.
Already, impossibly, almost 2011. The happiest of new years to you.
Previous years-in-review on anthimeria.com
When people find this little corner, often they say after a cursory read “oh, I didn’t know you keep a food blog!” And yes, I have what has morphed into a food blog of sorts.
That is to say, I like to remember things and so many of my memories in mind and heart are about food, or at least I translate them that way. I grew up in a restaurant with a family that shares stories through meals and by feeding one-another. And I live a life that centres around my stove and recipes and others who share their worlds through kitchen tables. There’s joy and sanctity in breaking bread as there is with no other activity.
Mostly, I write a blog about life – and often food creeps in – as I try to figure out this day, this perfect day, the only day I know.
Thanks for reading along.
Twelve things I wrote in 2009
And these photographs keep us alive (January)
The last line, though, is the most interesting; that the pain of leaving is appeased by the beautiful. And it gets me to thinking about human beings as gatherers: of places and things and people.
Reconciliation with the angels (February)
There isn’t any reason for me to even wrestle with this. I will heal, as we humans do – I will placate the screaming angel on my shoulder.
A stranger and airport sounds and stranger things have happened (February)
But to destroy the notion of you, an ocean away, slipping in and out of my thoughts? I’ve always been one to romanticize things.
Oregano and olive trees (March)
It comes as a surprise that my heart can be so heavy for my vacation home, that I am able to smell the thyme and salt-water midnight air waiting for the ferry – that I conjure up the welcome death-dry Athenian heat in my bones.
I anticipate that I will find his words tired or trite, but still they stir me: “With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world…”
But the rhubarb (June)
There she was, propped up in her flowery pink bed, ubiquitous crochet needles alternating in her shaky arthritic hands with the equally ubiquitous chain of cigarettes and china tea cup rattling on its saucer.
Being alone (July)
I like to see movies alone, and lunch as one in a pretty dress, and sit in the park on a blanket making up love stories for the squirrels. I’m a lot like my little self, actually, who went about things deliberately and quietly and alone.
The night is alive and I am alive and my heart is filled and it is so beautiful.
Licorice scented (September)
The details are blurred, but I eventually sweet talked a shot out of my Papou an drank it down like an especially potent juice…
Here I go generalizing, but as I see it we humans fall pretty nicely into two groups.
As I know it (November)
And then laying flat, placid for a moment, staring at the sky and its clear grey cast that makes everything prettier, more saturated, incredibly fall-like.
Belly and heart (December)
We triumphantly proclaim that in the history of friends and recipes, none has been better and none will be better, until the very end of time…
Twelve things I read in 2009
The Price of Tomatoes by Barry Estabrook, Gourmet (March)
The kitchen consisted of a table, four plastic chairs, an apartment-size stove, a sink with a dripping faucet, and a rusty refrigerator whose door wouldn’t close.
Release and The Return by Sameer Vasta, I Tell Stories (April & August)
I came home from work last night to find a small UPS package waiting for me at my apartment. In it, a plush toy and a two-page letter.
Amusing Ourselves to Death by Stuart McMillen (May)
In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.
The Scandal of Food Waste by Tristram Stuart, Financial Times (July)
If the fruits rotted, or the venison putrefied, before he could spend it, he offended against the common law of nature, and was liable to be punished …
Memories of a French Summer by Béa Peltre, La Tartine Gourmande (August)
I told her about where our food comes from. When I took her to the village, I showed her the cows and sheep and chicken and rooster and rabbits. I pointed at eggs nested at one corner of the hen house.
Set it on Fire, Part II by Francis Lam, Gourmet (September)
She had a sweetness to her, and I suddenly felt like I was disappointing my grandmother, only my grandmother is an awful human being and this woman seemed like a perfectly lovely one.
The End of Gourmet (And Why I’m So Bummed) by Sarma Melngailis (October)
All the food world would be there, dressed in dark clothes, and easels everywhere with giant cover images. Then everyone would drink really really good wine, and eat lots of beautiful food, and feel the comfort of communal mourning.
Raising a Glass by Molly Kath, Les Cadeaux (October)
There is no minimum occupancy for a home: if you live somewhere, you have a home. And you should be comfortable in it, whatever that means.
Leap and the Net Will Appear by Luisa Weiss, The Wednesday Chef (October)
You’ve got to listen, really listen, in order to hear what the universe is trying to tell you. And move mountains, then, when you finally know what you want.
The Vanish Project by Evan Ratliff, WIRED (November)
People fret about privacy, but what are the consequences of giving it all up, I wondered. What can investigators glean from all the digital fingerprints we leave behind? You can be anybody you want online, sure, but can you reinvent yourself in real life?
Extremely Dead and Incredibly Gross by Kiera Butler, Mother Jones (November)
People often set up these false choices, these false dichotomies, and it’s not like we have to do either of them.
Dealt a Bad Hand in Life by Ashley Ambirge, The Middle Finger Project (December)
A circumstance is a condition, and sometimes when you’re suddenly hit with an unfortunate set of your very own, they can quickly morph from being what would normally be a temporary setback into something closely resembling a big, gloomy, threatening cumulonimbus cloud sure to make any respectable weatherman rush to fetch his brightest yellow slicker on the double.
And we leap into a new year, a new decade. Onward to 2010.