You Get What You Need

I have a lot of energy. Once I make a decision I want to make it happen. Sometimes I find myself at odds with what I know and what I want. Sometimes I find myself in the same conflict with Rose: what she wants against what I want.

When Rose suggested staying in Portland for a month I had some concerns. But, the first night in our sublet erased them. We have come here, I think, for good reason. We have experiences that are useful to the people we are living with. Well beyond our goal in this project, these are conversations that Rose and I need to have as people.

June is not a great month for me. One of my favorite people died in June–specifically my father. This year I attended my grandmother’s memorial and found myself leaning on my aunt during the anniversary of her husbands death. Overall this project has been forcing me to slow down.

It doesn’t have to happen today. Just breathe and let your thoughts happen. Getting what you need today won’t stop you from getting what you want eventually.

Love is weird, and that’s OK

Love is really hard for me some times.

In my “smart brain,” I know that it’s a two-way street, and that there’s a strong likelihood that the people I love also love me. I have been told that I am lovable, and people keep being friends with me and stuff, so clearly there’s something to that, but part of me still feels like I have to be perfect to be loved. I realize this is an artifact of old shit that I’m carrying around, but knowing that doesn’t make me stop feeling it.

When we were talking about depression last week, a couple people sent me private messages talking about “fake it ’til you make it.” It’s a tried-and-true method for a lot of people, and it has, at times, been an ally of mine. It works great for me in social situations – I roll in there like I’m an extrovert, like I’m comfortable being myself in a room full of strangers, and play along until I actually am comfortable (though never actually an extrovert). But when it comes to depression (and particularly this depression), it doesn’t cut it for me.

One of the things that Carlos said in his great post last week took a while to settle in for me. He said, “we have to show other people enough love that we can open up to them.” It seems a little backward, to say “here is my pain” and mean it as an expression of love. I, at least, want love to be happiness and sharing joy and creating positivity, and so this instruction “love them enough to show them your pain,” it feels counterintuitive to me. But, then again, I’m a hard-wired, dedicated introvert, with plenty of issues around showing vulnerability.

The vulnerability, though, is the key. All that pain that I think I’m sharing with you by opening up? It’s because of vulnerability. Showing you that I’m hurt isn’t necessarily showing you love (there are plenty of ways that sharing hurt is definitely not loving), but letting you see my broken insides, telling you that I trust you to see my pain and treat it with care, that’s love. Giving you that trust is an act of love from me to you, and opening that door is an act of love from me to me.

I often don’t know how to behave when I find myself in a situation like this. It feels insufficient and incomplete to say “thank you for letting me show you my vulnerability and treating it with kindness.” I feel like, at 32, with a husband and a child and plenty of living under my belt, I should be better than this. I feel like I shouldn’t still fall down the hole of depression, that I shouldn’t still find painful broken things inside of me. And I am still surprised to wake up every day and discover that people love me, not because they have to, but because… I don’t know. Because they do? (The phrase I want to use here is “porque sí,” “because yes,” but I don’t know an English equivalent.)

I guess the thing about love is that it always has the capacity to surprise and delight, even in dark times. I still don’t feel like I understand it, but I am grateful to have it in my life, and to be able to share it with my people.


Pie Maker’s first love – Beans

While pie has been one of my major loves lately, I have an older, deeper love that we have never discussed, though you may not be surprised.

People, I love beans.

All kinds of beans, white beans, black beans, lentils, garbanzos, edamame, pintos. You name a bean, I probably love it.

Growing up, beans were always cooked one specific way. At night, we would rinse and sort them, building up a collection of ugly reject beans by the side of the kitchen sink, then put them in the slow cooker and cover them with water to soak overnight. In the morning, someone would turn them on when we left the house, and by the evening they would be tender and perfect, ready for a heap of shredded cheese and salsa. Or to be drained and refried in a cast-iron pan with a scoop of lard. (Oh, food nostalgia – Now I have a serious craving for a bowl of pintos and salsa!)

This method is foolproof. I was probably 9 or 10 when it was something that I could be trusted to do, because that was when I was big enough to do all the steps involved. The drawback of this method, though, is that it requires planning. Planning is something my mom is good at; me, not always so much.

Luckily, a couple years ago I discovered the best ever method for cooking beans. Alright, maybe not the best ever, but a fast and reliable method that does not require the pressure cooker. Hurray! Also, it’s super easy!

Shall we?

Get some beans! I usually cook a pound at a time, because I really like beans. If you want less, that’s fine. Rinse and sort them, picking out any blemished or irregular specimens, and any non-bean matter you may find among them.

Next, find an oven safe pot with a tight-fitting lid. Really, make sure it’s oven safe. If the lid isn’t super tight, you can place a piece of aluminum foil between to lid and the pan to minimize moisture loss.

Put your beans in the pan, and add cold water until it covers them by about an inch. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Put the covered pan on a burner on the stove, and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, put the pan in the oven, set a timer for 45 minutes, and get on with your life. At 45 minutes, check the water level and the tenderness of your beans. For larger or dryer beans, they probably won’t be anywhere near done, but littler or fresher beans may. Add more water if necessary, then return the pan to the oven for another 45 minutes or so, until the beans are tender.

That’s right, there’s no soaking. Boil them, braise them, enjoy them. Easy as can be.

This method does not result in the same uniformly tender beans that the slow-cooker method does, but there is a simple remedy to that. Soak the beans. I know, I just said “No Soaking,” but that’s the speedy method. If you have the wherewithal to actually plan ahead, since the beans in the morning, let the soak during the day, then cook them as described in the evening. Still super easy, and faster than the slow cooker method.

This is a minimalist method, but it’s really adaptable. One of our favorite things to do is to cook white beans using this method with leftover pho broth as the liquid. We also add spices and garlic to the cooking liquid, but never salt. Salt your beans at the end, people! It’s the only way!

Tis the season for punch!

Last week seems to have been all about winter warmers! I left my chai-scented house to go to a Christmas party that was full of mulled wine. I know mulled wine is as old as time, but I’m happy every year when I rediscover it. There’s nothing quite as wintery and wonderful, I think.

If mulled wine isn’t your thing, the magic of the internet has gathered together a couple great roundups of winter punches to liven up your party. Many of them are alcoholic, but not all.

I think the “Wassail Punch” in this round up from the Kitchn looks like a really great mulled cider. I may also be making the Gingerbread Punch (that conveniently appears in multiple roundups.)

Mmm, Bon Apetit also has a great list. I am pretty much never going to say no to a sparkling-wine based concoction of any kind. My favorite might be this Milk Punch, which looks eerily like chai.

My only complaint about these punches is how much rum is involved. I suppose there are worse things, but I would rather a tasty bourbon base, if it’s all the same.

I hope you find something tasty to warm up your house this weekend!

Crystallized Ginger

I guess this is a week of “why didn’t I do this sooner?” Thanks to Joe’s prodding we’re finally seen the outcome of the long-awaited cinnamon pull-apart bread, and now, the most ridiculously easy thing ever, crystallized ginger.

Seriously, super easy. The biggest roadblock to making this was when I discovered that we didn’t have as much ginger as I wanted, and also laziness. I was inspired by this LifeHacker post, which was in turn inspired by America’s Test Kitchen. I have a serious love-hate thing with ATK/Cook’s Illustrated, I’m not going to lie. Sometimes they offer brilliant solutions that really make home cooking better, but just as often they go down an arcane garden path of nitpicky low-brow food-snobbery that makes me think they’ve never actually encountered a home cook. Luckily, their approach to candied ginger is the former.

First: get some ginger! You know how we feel about ginger in this household, so I used a lot.

Peel it! Cut it into candy-sized pieces!

Make some simple syrup! (One cup sugar, one cup water)

Put your ginger in your syrup! Then discover that you have not made enough syrup for your huge amount of ginger, and add more sugar and water. Then simmer until the ginger is tender, which may take approximately forever. It took several hours for mine to get to the point I wanted it at. Your mileage may vary.

Once it’s tender, fish it out of the syrup and put it on a rack to cool and dry. Then walk away. Go see a movie. Do your Christmas shopping, whatever. Don’t do anything with it until it’s really good and dry. Tacky to the touch is what you want, not any kind of damp or moist. Some of mine stayed on the rack, some fell to the baking sheet. The ones on the sheet didn’t dry right.

At this point you actually have candied ginger. It’s edible! I think there’s a British product that’s basically this stage of ginger in syrup. I’m not sure what it’s used for, but I think it’s something Christmas-y.

Anyway, we want crystallized ginger, which is really just candied ginger with sugar stuck to it. Take the ginger! Put it in a bowl! Add some sugar! I used one half cup, the key is to have enough to toss around your ginger and get it good and coated. Then toss your ginger, and get it good and coated!

And that’s it! Crystallized ginger, easy as pie! And, extra bonus: the simple syrup has now been infused with serious ginger flavor. Add it to carbonated water for quicky ginger ale, use it to sweeten your tea, put it in a cocktail, enjoy!

Beyond the “why did I wait so long?” factor, this shares another trait with my last project: active time was probably about 10 minutes, spread out over a couple hours one night and the next morning. Easy and awesome!

Last Call for Thanksgiving Pies!

It’s almost here, it’s almost here! Thanksgiving! The holiday of pies… Are you excited?

Today is your last chance to order some delicious Grumpy Pies for next week. Remember how awesome they are? They’ll totally complement your meal. I thought about having them as my whole meal. I won’t judge you if you decide to do the same.

Look! Remember these beauties?

I don’t remember what’s inside of these Little Pies, but look at those crusts!

You can tell it's good just by looking at it.
My beloved Shaker Lemon. Soon we will be together again!

Aw, the very first Pie Cookie!

You know I want to make you some pies. Go place an order. Make us both happy!

You make my job awesome

You know I love pie, right? Of course. And I love rolling around town on the Vespa, even when it’s pouring rain and cold, because it’s inherently awesome. But you know what the best part of my job is?

It’s you! Your enthusiasm for pie crust (yay!), the high-fives, the way that you taunt your coworkers when they try to resist the call of the pie. (Yes, I am normally against peer pressure and harassment, but a little good-natured teasing about pie is alright by me.)

Several people around me have been sharing something each day for which they are thankful. I won’t get all saccharine-sweet here, but I do want to say this: I am thankful for you! Thank you for loving this thing we’re doing, and making it worthwhile! You’re the best!

(If you feel like perhaps you’d like some thanks/awesomeness in person today, the very lovely Mr. Pie will be out delivering pie cookies! Share the love!)

My friends are awesome.

On Friday, during my scoot-around-town with pie cookies, I made a stop to visit a couple of my favorite people in Seattle. Jen and Rudy are expatriated southwesterners like myself and Mr. Pie, and though we tweet at each other pretty frequently, it is always too long between visits.

On Friday I imposed a little on their hospitality, because the best place to take refuge from the rain is with people you like, right? I <3 them! They were among the first people to know about Grumpy Pie, and have been awesomely supportive of our adventure. It was good to see them on Friday, and I left savoring the happy feeling that comes from time spent with good people. I was still savoring it several hours later when I checked my email and was floored by how awesome they are. I left them with my cookies, and Rudy made photographic magic with them. OMG. I’m only showing you a couple, because I don’t want to BLOW YOUR MINDS (as mine was maybe a little bit blown).

I have a particular fondness in my heart for Rudy’s recent photos of his drive from Colorado to Seattle, but I think I’m going to indulge for a moment in the narcissism of my own work being treated so lovingly. Thank you, Rudy!