Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 292

Hi.

Coffee: Organic Dark Roast, Don Pablo’s

I wanted to make a pasta sauce so I looked up local kitchen supply stores. There’s this place called Whisk, and it’s only ten minutes away from me, so I went there. Whisk is in Waverly, a shopping center, on the second floor, overlooking an outdoor playplace. It was busy because they were having a sale.

In the end, though, I couldn’t afford to buy local, because the cheapest saute pans they had were $150. I had this half-second binge of being bougie, walking along the aisles with well-off professionals, feeling well-off myself. There was a a woman ten years older than me checking Le Creuset’s off her list. A cadre of retirees cooked pasta at a paid lesson in the back. But I don’t make that kind of money, though I do make a decent living, and I had to leave empty-handed.

In the end, I bought my pan from Wal-Mart. It was even busier, Sunday blues singing through everyone’s day-old pajamas. There were teen couples int he freezer aisle and hair curlers picking up prescriptions. A Portugese family had to ask for help finding a second set of oven mitts. And I felt too well-off to be there, like I’d lost a bit of the struggle I used to feel, and thinking so turned circles in my stomach.

Currently Reading: Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin

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How do I like to spend my day off? I like to hit up the juice bar, the bookstore, tan, and then flirt with the pharmacy tech at Walmart.

Crystal Woods, Write like no-one is reading

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 218

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I made spaghetti. I have this thing about spaghetti where I remember it in two distinct ways: one is my mother’s, very straightforward, marinara and pasta topped with dusty parmesan; simply delicious. The other is the Friday special in elementary school, which was a big heaping of noodles smothered in melted American cheese and meat sauce. The meat sauce was really just leftover taco filling.

I didn’t make either of those tonight. My dish was mostly veggies.

I had two bagels today – one for lunch, the other for breakfast. I ran out of cereal over the weekend and sandwich bread yesterday so I had to improvise. I tried the bagel function on my toaster for the first time. In the morning, it burnt the bread black as the crust on a gas pump. At lunch, I get the browning better.

Who makes all our food? I was listening to a podcast talking about migrant farm labor. Many migrants live on the farms seasonally thanks to a federal law requiring farmers that hire temporary migrant workers to provide free shelter. That same law is up for getting gutted, lowering requirements for health and safety inspections for workers’ housing. In the podcast, a former government oversight agent said even under the stronger law, migrant housing is often horrible. So here’s the answer to the question: our food comes from other peoples’ suffering.

All told, between the bagels and spaghetti, I didn’t spend much.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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Eating is an agricultural act.

Wendell Berry

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 184

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

Five minutes into trying to fix the phone the screen goes black. My customer restarts it. We get a little further and it goes black again.

“I’m going to be your problem today,” she says.

With effort (and a call to IT) I help her fix her digital banking.

Later, I was chopping mushrooms. I was afraid I might cut myself. I hadn’t used the knife since a month ago when I cut my thumb. I quartered the mushrooms. It was easy. Then I pan-fried them on medium-high with a bunch of onions. No problems.

At 7:30, I cut all the lights off and lay down with my laptop. My curtains were open and it was twilight. I could hear kids playing. My room smelled like laundry detergent (they vent the building outside my door). I tried writing. The only thing that came to me was the feeling of turning on and off a phone. I closed the laptop and listened to the kids. It got steadily darker in my room.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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The major problem of life is learning how to handle the costly interruptions. The door that slams shut, the plan that got sidetracked, the marriage that failed. Or that lovely poem that didn’t get written because someone knocked on the door.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 157

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I cooked a curry but really it was just some stuff I had lying around. An onion, two tomatoes, garbanzo beans, a healthy heaping of cardamom and turmeric. At first I had the burners too high so some of the onions caramelized, only they didn’t stop getting sweeter and burned black onto the pan. Too much of a good thing.

In the end, my makeshift curry matched the mood of the day: hot and scattered, but overall alright.

I talked to a guy who’d lost his job a few years ago. The company he worked for went under and out went his life savings. Since then he’s been building back up, and now he runs a few small businesses. He told me the worst decision he’d ever made was to do just one thing.

Later, I talked to a woman who’s just starting out. New job, new paycheck, looking for a way to build credit. She comes to me with a couple friends. I’ve met them all before, they move in a unit, they complement each other. Anyway, she’s got bigger dreams than I can help her with, but we have a long conversation about putting plans in motion, and she never stops being optimistic as she leaves for the door.

When I ate the curry, I couldn’t help picking out the different parts. I’d spear an onion or scoop a tomato. I had it all over rice. It was red and white and yellow, bits of green from some leftover edamame that snuck. I liked the colors. They looked good together, a complicated life.

For a moment, or a second, the pinched expressions of the cynical, world-weary, throat-cutting, miserable bastards we’ve all had to become disappears, when we’re confronted with something as simple as a plate of food.

Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 143

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

I took a first attempt at making a garbanzo bean daal tonight. I had a recipe but only half-followed it. When I went out to buy the groceries, I didn’t read the part that called for a food processor. You’re supposed to blend the onions. I don’t have a food processor so I couldn’t blend the onions.

Anyway, it turned out well. My fingers still smell like garlic, always a good sign.

Cooking can be a way to come to terms with yourself. This is the shit and piss that will leave your body, but in a more perfect form. It’s the best you can be, green cucumbers, ripe tomatoes. Every ingredient has that sheen of just-washed and it’s waiting there for you to work with it. In the same way, every day starts you fresh and ready to be worked on.

Geez, I’m sounding sappy tonight.

In the end, I added too much cayenne and not enough turmeric. The daal tasted like a long car ride in the desert, beautiful if excruciating, soaked in heat, but with the next great oasis visible on the horizon.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the Border  – RAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

Oh, I adore to cook. It makes me feel so mindless in a worthwhile way.

Truman Capote, Summer Crossing

Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 19

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee

I talked to a lawyer about taxes. Not my taxes and not his either. He doesn’t do tax law. But somehow we got on the subject and were talking for over an hour. We also talked about computer architecture and teenager’s cell phones. I feel best after long conversations with people I don’t know. It was an interesting day.

A friend told me about his sleep studies. They smacked him with Apnea and a few other things. My father had Apnea also and I remember him wearing a face mask. My friend calls it a face-hugger. Alien, anyone? Anyway, there were these nights when I was little and scared where my bedroom would fill up with night terrors. I’d go into my parents’ room. They’d let me sleep beside them as parents do. Some nights, I’d sleep beside my father while he used the face mask. It sounded like an ocean. With boats. And crabs. And a few storms.

Right now, I’ve got the wok cooking veggies while the rice finishes. I added soy sauce and vinegar and oil. The oil’s bubbling. It sounds like red wine. I’m not having any wine because it’s a weekday but I can imagine. A spring day. Wildflowers. Sweet dreams.

Novel Count: 30,349

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami; FINISHED! 

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If you come at four in the afternoon, I’ll begin to be happy by three.

Antoine de Saint-Exuperry, The Little Prince


Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 11

Hi.

Coffee: Sumatra Medium Dark, Trader Joe’s Brand; about done with this batch. I’ve been drinking less coffee lately. Down to a cup or two (though I still brew strong). It picks me up without dropping me after. Anyway, the Sumatra has a taste like lead pencils. Like you took all your number two’s from after the EOG’s and boiled them. Like you’re over one hump, about to climb the next one. It’s smooth, its bitter, it creeps up on you.

I cooked a big batch of pasta for the week and now my fingers smell like garlic. The pan I usually use was in the dishwasher. I could have washed it but I didn’t want to take the effort. So I cooked my veggies and soy hamburger in the wok. At the end, I tossed it in sauce. It worked better than I’d expected. That said, the mushrooms are a little undercooked.

So far, it’s been a week of canceled plans. None of us can fit our schedules together. That’s left me in those hazy spaces of ‘I might have something to do.’ You can’t move on. You’re stuck in the expectation of something that could happen. Times like that, I like to cook. Cook and eat, eat and cook. It’s a simple sense of accomplishment. My tastebuds are always available. They give immediate commentary.

That’s all I’ve got tonight. I’m off to wait on more responses, more loose threads. Whether anything answers, who knows? In the meantime, I’ve got some orange marmalade. Think I’ll toast some bread.

Novel Count: 29,630

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami; FINISHED!

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the Border – RAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

I began by preparing my pasta: my deft fingers forming the intricate shapes of rigatoni, ravioli, spiralli, spaghetti, cannelloni, and linguini. Then I would brew sauces of sardines, or anchovies or zucchini or sheep’s cheeses, of saffron, pine nuts, currants, and fennel. These I would simmer in the huge iron cauldrons, which were constantly bubbling above the fire.

Lily Prior, La Cucina