36 hours to reflect and preserve

I’m always starting with my apologies for my absence here. I’m a terrible blogger, how do I think I’ll ever get my memoir out?!?! And yes, I know I still owe you the end of Thailand, Japan, a return to San Francisco, my time in Spain and, how the hell did I end up living in New York? Oh, yea, I’m living in New York these days. But let’s just start with something small and heart felt and hope that gets my writing juices flowing again, ok? Ok.

So, briefly, I have been living and cooking my ass off in New York since June. I’m running around with my head on fire in a city of around 12 million and loving every second of it. I’ve steeped myself in the essence of a new and completely different life than I have ever known. I walk the streets like a beast, completely unafraid of any human interaction and, I allow myself to remain open to any and all possibilities that come along. In a city like New York, there is never a shortage of opportunity.

Amongst all this newness I’ve managed to meet a few people who are keeping me inspired, in love, and questioning myself and how I work in the world. What is my role in this crazy human life? Is it just to cook and work and sleep and fuck and do it all again? Is it to keep hammering away at this dream of living as free as I can and push myself beyond the limits of any ordinary life? I realize all this stuff is just floating in my head and heart, and with a minimum of a 55 hour work week it’s hard to find anytime to sit and process. I needed to step away from this intensity for a minute and enjoy the last of summer, so I called Sara and set up a 36 hour visit to the farm and the family.

I finished my shift after an intense week of work rolling out our late summer menu, did the deep Sunday clean on the kitchen while drinking champagne then beers, then a shot of tequila, etc… Before I knew it I was getting off the subway by my house at 3:30 am and realized there was no way I was gonna get a wink of sleep before I had to catch my 6:45 am train to Baltimore. So I said screw it and stopped in to Nadals, my neighborhood deli, and chatted up my man Muhammed. Muhammed always takes good care of me, extra this and that on my giant sandy and he often skips me to the front of the line, much to the annoyance of the drunk and stoned 3 am deli zombies. There was a time when this sort of thing would have made me blush and now I just swagger in, chat with my homie get my food and swagger out. Suck it, nerds.

I trotted up the stairs, housed my shawarma, and passed out for one glorious hour before the tinkling sounds of my alarm brought me back to consciousness. Shaving your legs at 5 am when your eyes are crossed is ill advised, just saying. I somehow managed to pack and get my ass out the door and magically made my train, where I quickly passed out. I came to with a deep and sudden realization that it has been a year since I left the Bay Area. A year since my life has been completely up in the air and in the wind at whatever whim I may have. Honestly it feels like 5 years have passed since I kissed my loved ones good bye and set off to see the world. I am standing on the other side of one of the most transformative years of my life. And that journey actually started with me and Sara connecting and eating the fuck out of NYC. Seems fitting I would spend the anniversary with her.

Since I was last on the farm Sara has given birth to a beautiful baby girl named Dakota. Perfect little toes and fingers and a deeper blue of eyes than her sister Charley. Charley, nearly 3, is my favorite little sous chef and I was looking forward to her getting in the kitchen with me. But first things first, lay by the pool and reconnect with my family.

After a few hours of that we headed over to the garden plot to harvest. The last I’d seen it, the seedlings were just poking their little wispy tendrils up and unfurling their leaves, reaching for the sun. Upon my return the land had the look of late summer abundance and exhaustion. Tomatoes so ripe they just explode in your hands, Okra raised tall and pointing straight towards the sky. Turnips literally jumping out of the ground, ready for winter storage. It was heaven to see it all happening, exactly the kind of thing I have been missing this last year.

We filled a 5 gallon bucket to the brim with eggplant, turnips, green beans and a huge armload of adorable butternuts. We made a quick list of the things we wanted to make: baba ganoush, dilly beans, tomato bacon jam and butternut pie filling for the coming holidays. We also decided it was gonna be a late night coffee/shots/canning/skinny dipping kinda night. After a trip to the store for some supplies we got down to the business of breaking down our cornucopia — dinner first! I made baba ganoush, hummus and grilled shrimp with anchovy butter and lovely tomato salad of luscious heirlooms and a few crunchy greens ones, parsley and lots of salt and lemon juice.

We ate on the porch by candle light with Sara’s husband, Brian and the kids. It’s the kind of reconnection with family I needed. I get so wrapped up in my singular life I tend to forget these days what it feels like to have that ritual and comfort of familiarity. Since my husband and I split up I’ve lost the rhythm of life like that. Our Sundays at the farmers market or harvesting from our beautiful small garden plot and then the meal we would have that evening, our last bit of peace before another week of work began. I can finally admit to myself that there is a part of me that misses that and I feel so lucky that I even had it to begin with. It was a beautiful time, but clearly not the last path for me.

As I watched the dynamic between a loving family I felt warmth and closeness and answers to some of my more painful questions that rise from time to time. I live to cook, but I also live to grow. Grow food as well as myself. I am here to experience and transform and never ever stop living as full as I want. I’m truly alone for the first time in my life and its the best thing I can do for myself right now. I cook and feed strangers and give them all the best of me. I live my life out loud and honestly. I answer to no one and do my best to keep my heart beating so I can move through this life with some sort of magic. I’ve always looked for love in others and I’m finally finding it in myself. I am my own human experiment. I miss my connection with growing things and see that will make its way back into my life again. I’m working at the perfect place for me at this time in my life. I’m engaging with other people in a way that before I never could have handled. Most importantly I generally feel like there is really no reason to stress out ever. I’m broke and have no time, but I am doing what I set out to do and I have amazing stories and I’m still young enough to live a few more lives. And I have friends like Sara, that I can touch base with and fulfill the other needs with.

So we cleaned up dinner, sent the family to bed and commenced our late night hang out session. Roast tomatoes, chop onions, measure spices, SHOTs, coffee, cook off bacon, mince garlic, SHOT, jump in the pool, get back to it. Laughing deliriously from lack of sleep, intoxicated from to much alcohol and spun from coffee, we rocked out to Digable Planets radio and did what I love to to do, cook. We didn’t make it to the pie filling but it was such a beautiful bonding session and was everything I was looking for. We finished the night in the hot tub and crashed hard. Woke up the following day to eat crappy Mexican food and drink frozen margaritas with Erin, perfection.

I’m on the train back to New York, full again of love and memories and reminders that I can have a life outside of the kitchen. Looking forward to putting on my chef whites tomorrow and cook food that I truly feel connected to, in the hopes that the people who eat it feel moved in some way when they eat it. The whole story of the hands that make what we eat, from the hands that plant the seed to the hands that ship it and break it down and serve it. Eating is a social act even when we do it alone.

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