Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 177

Hi.

Coffee:  Maxwell House Master Blend, Office Coffee

We ended up at a Chinese sit-down that had yellow walls, thick menus, and the word ‘love’ done up in streamers two times across the western wall. They were serving duck. Half the menu was duck, it seemed.

I had a view of the windows. I thought it might be raining but it was just the air-conditioner fogging up. We shared the place with two other tables, bigger groups, and they were speaking Mandarin or maybe Cantonese. The proprietress got excited when E said I was a vegetarian. She was sure to point out the part of the menu just for me.

I don’t often end up at new places on weekdays. We tried getting takeout from our old standby but it’s closed on Mondays, a fact none of us can ever remember. Sometimes it takes poor luck and bad planning to shake the dust and cobwebs off you. I settled on the House Tofu. It was good.

Currently Reading: Queen, Suzanne Crain Miller

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

The only time they ever throw anything away is when it’s really and truly broken, and then they make a big deal about it. They save up all their bent pins and broken sewing needles and once a year they do a whole memorial service for them, chanting and then sticking them into a block of tofu so they will have a nice soft place to rest.

Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time-Being

Coffee Log, Day 221

Hi.

Coffee: French Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand

I made dinner tonight. I haven’t cooked in a while. I’ve been down. I’ve had some ups, but mostly I’ve been down. I almost didn’t do it. I got home, changed, stared at the bathroom floor. It was sallow, pig fat. Not appetizing. Then I went to the kitchen and started getting everything ready – pots and pans and cutlery. I felt like I was packing for a long flight. Except every time I’ve actually packed for a long flight, I’ve thrown a few sets of clothes and other essential together last minute. A mental malaise, the sticky summer downs won’t let me go.

But I did cook. I marinated tofu and fried it. I stir-fried vegetables, cooked them hotter and quicker to keep them crispy. It turned out well. I served it all over steamed rice. The sauce was black vinegar, soy, a little sugar. I thought about my mother. She’d cook for me every night. She also cooked for herself, also cooked for my father. There are prison bars in domesticity. That said, it’s easy to forget how to use your hands when the doors open, when you run wild, when you’re free.

I read an update about the migrant children we’re keeping in captivity. Over the past week, our government – on behalf of you, and me, and your baby sister, and your best friend, and your cousin who just got a service award, and the preacher, and your lover, and everyone you wrap your arms around thinking ‘this is someone good’ – has been waking the kids between 12 and 6 am from foster care houses all over the country to bus them to a tent compound in Tornillo, Texas. They were going to school, now they’re not. They had access to lawyers, now they rarely do. They spend most days scrubbing toilets. They sleep 12 to a tent. Meanwhile, I complain about a pleasant hour cooking dinner.

Donate to RAICES. The organization is based in Texas, advocates for immigrant families. If you donate, message me on this site and I’ll match your donation to the extent I’m able.

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith; Cherry, Nico Walker

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
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Coffee Log, Day 145

Hi.

Coffee: India Extra Bold Roast, Cafe Crema; the most expensive cup of average coffee I’ve had.

I’m getting pretty good at stir-fry. It only took two years.

Today I got the heat right, the onions clear but crunchy, tofu golden. I learned a trick: marinate your oil. I tossed garlic and chili flakes for thirty seconds in sunflower oil; the garlic pop-cracked like bullwhips and then the apartment smelled so good.

I talked to a coworker today about going vegetarian and I talked to my cousin about the same thing yesterday. My coworker was real worried about my protein intake. My cousin was real worried about the privilege behind the choice.

They’re both right – I’ve had days where I didn’t eat anything hearty; I’ve gone to bed feeling faint. But those days are rare because tofu’s plentiful around here. But in Crossett, Arkansas where my cousin grew up? Or the stern brick apartments where my students grew up? Or hell, any of the apartments around me made home by vibrant families, two-year old sets of new teeth and new smiles that can’t make a dollar, can’t provide for themselves…

The cheapest food I can think off is a giant sack of rice from the Korean grocery but you have to have the mental capital to know that. To the exhausted, poor, overworked American purple hearts, it’s more likely your head goes to white bread, 25 cent chicken ramen, dollar menus at the fast food joint.

There’s privilege in affording to choose vegetarianism, even more in the energy to make that choice.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans … are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit.” – Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential

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Coffee Log, Day 143

Hi.

Coffee: Americano from Cafe Crema; it was more bitter than I was expecting; a lot like adulthood, grow some stiff hair in the right places and all that.

Today was for errands. So of course I got up late and took an hour long shower. It was good, the water relaxed me. Sometimes you can only feel calm by putting things off.

But I got to the errands eventually. I did a rush of dishes. I went to Cafe Crema and got a brand new bag of beans (you’ll hear my thoughts on them tomorrow). I bought tofu. Last week, I got the closest to a good stab at crisp gold on the edges, soft enough in the middle. I want practice so I’ll be frying a big pan of bean curd tomorrow. The tofu’s best at H-Mart so I bought it there.

On the way out the door, sunglasses on, a good breeze, feeling like a million, I heard something chasing me. My hair got stiff and I was too frozen to turn around. There were old bones cracking; slobbering teeth. The sound came closer and closer. Though the shopping center was crowded, I was frozen alone. And then it had me – two long fingers tap-tapping my shoulder. This was it; I was done; a long good life, but now the peripheral ghosts had surely got me.

When I finally turned, it was a cheery Korean girl tapping my shoulder. She was dressed like Sunday and smelled like cinnamon. Her smile was two doors wide. Panting – she’d been chasing me down – the girl says “Oh, I’m sorry to trouble you!”

“No trouble,” I say.

“Good. Well, I’m from Cary’s Korean Church. Do you have a church you go to?”

I told her I didn’t. The parking lot was full of cars and their windshields cut halos all around her. It was ghastly, but in a magical kind of way.

“Well, we’d love to have you!” She pushed a pamphlet in my hands and scampered off. I set the pamphlet on top of the tofu, where it quickly cooled down and caught the perspiration.

Later, on my nightly walk, I saw a kitchen window lined with three bottles of wine and a vased sunflower. The flower made me think of the Korean girl.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“I was tryna get the devil out of my charms.” – Young Thug, Safe

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Coffee Log, Day 137

Hi.

Coffee: Cafe Pajaro Extra Dark Roast, Trader Joe’s Brand

I wanted to fry some tofu so I went to the Korean Grocery. I bought Chiankiang Vinegar and Shaoxing Cooking Wine. Both came in glass bottles with complicated labels. Medicine bottles, the kind you see in old-timey photos.

The grocery was busy. It’s always busy, even more so on a Sunday. I didn’t see any kids. Instead, I saw old faces, middle-aged faces, a couple young couples cuddling by racks of dried cuttlefish. It took a while to find the wine. I shared the aisle with an older Indian pair.

Leaving, the sun got hot but not too hot and I packed the bags in the car. I drove and got lost. I crossed one run of train tracks three separate times. There was a big field and half was fallow. At the head of the other half was a bright red gazebo with bright white signs hawking raspberries. Three cars pulled alongside. I considered buying some but my roommate was with me and she had places to be. We drove home.

And that was the day: moving, moving, moving, gradually. The creek outside’s risen after thunderstorms. It looks good when it’s full. The water is thick brown-green. Everything good and simple survives in the thick brown-green.

Goodnight, Summer.

Currently Reading: LaRose, Louise Erdrich

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“I love grocery shopping when I’m home. That’s what makes me feel totally normal. I love both the idea of home as in being with my family and friends, and also the idea of exploration. I think those two are probably my great interests.” – Yo-Yo Ma
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Coffee Log, Day 87

Hi.

Coffee: Organic Honduran, Trader Joe’s brand

I had lunch at Nice Bowls Asian Cuisine. The lady assured me there was no meat in the egg drop; I tried to object but she was lovely; I had a bowl of egg drop soup with my Thai Tofu. It was good. It’s taste was spot on for chicken broth. Sorry chicken.

Most of my life, I’ve felt most comfortable in enclaves: Chinese restaurants, Greek diners. I realize now how complicated this is – that my ID gives me different rules than America’s immigrant communities – but I think parts of that comfort have value. America shows her best side when she’s stitched of other nationalities. Our open borders have never been quite open, and prejudice has always waited at the docks, but the semi-reached dream of open arms and cultural co-mingling is beautiful.

I finished lunch and waved at the pre-schooler doing his letter learners below a big yellow wall clock. The restaurant smelled like basil. Classical music daydreamed into cool jazz. It didn’t fit the picture of congested Cary streets. I’m happy that the lady welcomed me today; the chicken’s blood was worth a bit of human warmth.

Currently Reading:
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson; I haven’t read fantasy since middle-school. That’s a result of equal parts preference and literary elitism. I’ve been hacking away at the elitism for years, and The Way of Kings came highly recommended by a highly respected friend. I want to understand what makes fantasy works. People want to read Sanderson, they don’t want to read me yet. I have a lot to learn.

Fund the Coffee Log 🙂 – https://ko-fi.com/livesaywriting

“No fiction, no myths, no lies, no tangled webs – this is how Irie imagined her homeland. Because homeland is one of the magical fantasy words like unicorn and soul and infinity that have now passed into language.”- Zadie Smith, White Teeth

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