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With an iced tea spoon, I take some strained bacon drippings from the jar we keep in the fridge. T has this cute habit of frying bacon and draining the rendered fat through a paper towel into this clear glass jar which ages ago held jelly. The various layers of cold fat remind me of the stratification of earthly sediment, each ring delineating old and new and dating the time of deposit.

When I scoop the cold lard from the jar, it balls like a delicate ice cream. I toss it into my cast iron skillet and watch as it starts to soften instantaneously. Fat can seem so revolting and stubborn but also so graceful and useful.

I think about how I once would have died before saving bacon drippings, much less using them with gusto. I consider that my scoop of fat skating slowly across the bottom of the iron pan (our stove top is slightly off-balance and so I’m often fighting a decline) makes me feel awfully hipsterish. I mean, if I grew a handlebar mustache and started roasting coffee beans in the pantry, we might as well move to Brooklyn. I say that with tremendous affection.

But what really drives me, and the sincerest hipsters who, by the way, are owed a debt of gratitude for making excellent coffee easier to come by, is the simple realness of my task. With my trusty, multipurpose pan and the reuse of a foodstuff that already gave generously once before, I will make something wonderful for dinner.

T is coming home to eat with me tonight, a treat that’s all too rare these days. I want to feed us well for doing so is not only pleasurable but also an elemental way of showing love for another. We have both been working so hard, and to sit together and appreciate a beautiful meal, to share that offering and to connect over it feels important and right.

I like feeling linked to things: to processes, animals, people, communities and self. It’s important to me to know that the pig whose bacon feeds my family at breakfast and whose fat continues to flavor and nourish our food was happy and free to roam and treated well while alive. I need to know that she was treated humanely, in life and in death, because only then can I cook and eat her in good faith.

When I cook, I consider these life cycles. The way I take from one to give to another and how I teach my family to do the same with the utmost respect. Recently, Oliver said, “This chicken is from a real chicken, right?” And I said, “Yes, honey, it is. So let’s give thanks and be sure we make sure that chickens like it live well.”

The same should be true with our non-animal, non-familial relationships. The internet complicates the ways in which we interact with people. On the one hand, it enables us to meet people with whom we have much in common except for geography. On the other, it’s easier to be mean from afar, hiding behind firewalls and avatars, and so we learn to treat new and promising connections with some skepticism. I remain hopeful though and despite the few bad apples, I feel lucky for all the terrific people I’ve met and become friends with online. Connection is such a rudimental need, and online capabilities have broadened so many of our worlds.

As the bacon fat heats and becomes transparent, I ready some mustard greens and asparagus, envisioning a saute of both topped with shaved Parmesan, lemon and basil-infused oil. It results in a perfect dish, and we finish the bowl as if it were dessert.

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bacon fat asparagus and mustard greens with Parmesan and basil oil

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steaks rubbed with pink peppercorns, fennel seed, coriander, cumin, mint and kosher salt

 

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Percy, Nutmeg and I carefully picked our way through the alley behind our house this morning. Three neighbors and I shoveled about a quarter of it last Sunday (it was such a pleasure to meet two and get to know all three a bit better), but the rest is still blanketed with crunchy snow and slippery, refrozen black ice. The temps have hovered around the freezing point since Sunday, but if you look closely at the ground as you walk -a good idea anyway when ice abounds- you see the life that’s being lived in pockets of warmth that enable some thaw.

It’s really quite beautiful and also provides a happy reminder that spring always comes, even though February works awfully hard to make us all believe it won’t. I saw a slim river of water flowing between ice and pavement, heard the glassy sheets crackle under the weight of feet and paws and couldn’t help but stop and try to capture some of the landscape.

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crackle ice

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looks other-worldly

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ice atop pavement

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This.

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he kills me

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Several hours ago, my lower back started to clench. Shortly after, my shoulders joined the game and seized up, angry fists pulling my neck down and into my chest. Nausea seeped in like a rushing Katrina tide, and a throbbing, electric-shock pain anchored onto my cranium like a bitchy vise. I hurried to get the kids to bed -please.just.stop. already- so that I could take a hot bath. I deserved it and I needed it. Undressed and eager, I stepped into the tub to find that only cold water remained.

That disappointment pretty much sums up my afternoon (as well as motherhood-induced anxiety on the worst of days). Defeated, I donned some flannel PJs and poured myself a glass of wine. Tom is again going to be late. We see so little of him these days, and it wears on us. Nights like these, when I’m so wiped that I feel crazy, I don’t know if his absence is a good or bad thing. I mean, it’s no good for the kids, but if one more person asked me to look at or respond to something or make a fucking decision -what’s for dinner? when? why? how?- I might crack.

As well, most people, T included after some long days, don’t want to hear about the true dregs of life, and when he’s gone, I can let out any sadness and frustration and anger slowly, as if I’m a delicate hourglass whose neck is so narrow that the sands pass through almost unnoticeably. Minute by minute, my upset lessens. My shoulders consider release, the nausea abates ever so slightly, the burning foam of anger sudsing on the interior of my skull begins to dissipate. I am NOT delicate, for fuck’s sake, but my neck is narrow, so there you have it.

One of my best coping strategies on craptastic days like these is to reach out to and thank someone I appreciate or admire. A few weeks back, I wrote a fan letter. Seriously, I did this. Did y’all read Ellen Urbani’s Modern Love essay in the SNYT? I thought it was spectacular and decided I would write her to say so. Did I expect to hear back? No. My reason for writing was simply to applaud her work and let her know that it resonated with me.

She did write back, so thoughtfully so and twice, and while both responses were beyond lovely, it was really just the gesture of appreciative outreach that I found healing. Had she never replied, I still would have felt good. The rest was two cherries on top.

I did the same thing today, a note of admiration to a woman I met once but have corresponded with frequently. She speaks her truth and her beliefs with such equanimity and strength. Whenever she posts something “brave,” I love to read the commentary following because my faith in educated, reasoned, supportive dialogue is renewed.

As an aside, interacting with people like Ellen and Elan -funny how similar their names are- is what I love most about the internet, about blogging, about social media and the relationships forged through it all.

But to keep this focused (not always my strong suit), I find so much of parenting so very hard. I envy those who don’t. I’m not a covetous person, but I covet, in the truest, most Biblical sense of that word, those women who just get on by most days, easily and happily and any other fucking adverb you want to tack on to that list. Those women whose shoulders never seem to clench and who never want to escape their kids. Those women for whom auto-correct and low-quality Scotch tape and idiotic CVS employees aren’t the last straw.

I feel certain that I am not alone in this, and yet I’m repeatedly struck by how alone I often feel.

This morning started off nicely with a small feature on Beyond Your Blog, a fantastically informative, warm spot that provides tons of information about publishing: submission guidelines and themes; contacts; who pays what; podcasts with editors. Susan Maccarelli, founder of BYB, is so lovely and energetic, and I was happy to be included in her piece, 13 Inspiring Stories of Amazing Opportunities That Came From Blogging.

Many busy hours later, I cooked the crab cakes T and I intended to make last night but quickly became too tired to. Some Old Bay sweet potato “fries” seemed an appropriate side, and a wonderful dinner was born.

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Em’s crab cakes

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Old Bay sweet potatoes

Do y’all remember my crab cake story of old? Still makes me laugh!

Y’all, look at my cat’s pile o’ paws. Is he not perfect?!?

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pile o’ paws

 

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There weren’t too many standout moments, or dresses darn it, this evening, but here are some of my highlights.

Best Movie was NOT Boyhood!!!!!

Best dresses:

anna <-Anna Kendrick: yo, her mouth is extremely tiny, but that Thakoon dress was off-the-hook gorgeous. She looked great in it!!
Jennifer Lopez: Her breasts are ever-showing, but hers was a beautiful gown!
Jennifer Aniston: I am not a fan of hers, but that was a stunning dress.

 

Handsomest:

Bradley Cooper can wear a suit- whew!
Chris Pine! Good god, I ain’t nevuh seen him look so good. –↘
Idris!

chris pine is hot

chris pine is hot

 

Gorgeous:

Channing Tatum’s eyes.
John Legend and Common performing Glory.

 

WTF?:
Patricia Arquette looked like she made out in the backseat of a car before arriving.
Was John Travolta’s Madame Tussaud likeness sitting in for him tonight? And was it wearing a silver chain link necklace? And did it awkwardly kiss Scarlett Johannson who, by the way, wore a necklace that looked as it were devouring her? (see below) And then touch Idina Menzel’s face too many times?
Lady Gaga is talented but the utter dissonance of her singing a Sound of Music medley was tough to handle.

everything about this is weird

everything about this is weird

 

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