Thursday, September 30, 2010

Moments outside of moodiness

I'm in bed right now with a cup of coffee, watching the morning rain outside. I work from home, remember? There are slow moments in this working from home scenario. Sometimes the slow moments frustrate me, but mornings like this - inbox under control, deadlines met, still wearing a nightgown at 9 a.m, listening to the soft sounds of rain falling onto plants - I savor them. Here's the thing: I've been in a bad mood lately. No concrete reason why, really, just the usual mix of job/life-planning/real estate stress, but for whatever reason it's affecting me more than usual these days. Bad moods used to be fantastic for my writing. Riffing on politics during the Bush years was best done when I was full of rage or despair (which happened often); the emotion flew out of my fingers like lightning. These days, though, bad moods aren't very useful for my creative process. And so a blog is quiet, new projects lay dormant, and I fester. It's not all doom and gloom, though, and it'd serve me well to appreciate the good stuff. Here's some of that good stuff that my gray cloud of a mood hasn't covered up entirely:

Introduction to Food Writing
Last Saturday I was honored to take a class on food writing with cookbook author and food writer Monica Bhide, who also invited an amazing panel to speak at the afternoon session. I wasn't sure what to expect going in, but I came out with the sense that freelance writing isn't an abstract concept, but instead a concrete path with clearly defined markers along the way. That's huge for me, and something I've been thinking about ever since.

Herb Butter
When T was traveling for work last week, I made a different dish he dislikes every night he was gone. What? I miss my salmon, olives, and mushrooms! On salmon night it was all about simplicity: a lightly seasoned broil. I made fresh parsley butter for the salmon broil, which resulted in outrageous herbacious goodness. After using a dab of the fresh butter, I molded the rest into a plastic-wrapped log and froze it. This means that for the foreseeable future, dressing up a simple cut of meat or bread is as simple as slicing off a coin of the parsley butter that's waiting for me in frozen anticipation. Parsley butter is a no-brainer on salmon or any fish;  Canal House loves steak with parsley butter, too. Here's the recipe I used, from Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food, which works beautifully in these proportions with parsley, chervil, and chives. (Also, I don't need to remind you that all butter is not equal, right? If your brand of butter smells and tastes like the wrapper, you might want to upgrade.)

Alice Waters' Herb Butter
Stir together in a small bowl, mixing well:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup chopped herbs
1 garlic clove, finally chopped
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne
Taste and adjust the salt and lemon as needed.

  Skype Date with the M's
I miss my New Mexico ladies like crazy. Now that there's a third one in the mix, well... it ups the ante even more. Our Skype date last week made me appreciate the goodness that can come from technology. We bitch about the loss of privacy and the lack of being in the moment and I know it's all true... but being able to video-chat with them in real time? I never imagined that was possible back in the day when I was walking teenage love letters out to the mailbox. Seeing my girls' faces, having conversations just like old times, a glass of wine in each hand (with little U happily waving and showing me her belly)... that's the good stuff, right there, and I'm so grateful for it.

Againn is quickly becoming one of my favorite haunts in DC. Againn annoyed me at first, simply because I can't comprehend naming a restaurant something that people will routinely mispronounce or worse, never talk about out of fear of mispronouncing (it's pronounced Ag-Gwen, for the record). But then I ate and drank there, and then I did it again, and I can never be annoyed again. Unless they leave town. Please Againn, don't leave town. What will I do without your fish and your pub fare and your mussels and your beer and your everything?

Most people associate eating green vegetables with the summer, but for me, it's always been fall. I'm talking greens, of course. The farmers' market was bursting with kale last weekend, and I ate so much of it in the days that followed that I'm surprised I didn't turn green myself. I love kale in soups and salads for instant crunchy nutrition. I love it braised with bacon (obvs). I love it prepared very simply, sauteed with shallots and dressed with salt and a squeeze of fresh lemon. I love kale chips, which honestly are so beautiful they're like green pieces of art you can't quite bear to eat except, oops, my god these are delicious. I mean really: these don't even look like chips, do they? They are marvels. Delicious, crunchy, addictive marvels.

 Dates with My Husband
You know what I love? Dating the guy I married. I love that after a completely crappy day or an entire Sunday spent battling a spreadsheet of the most inane data you can imagine (not that that happened to me last Sunday or anything), T can come home from work and the day is instantly better. In many ways, the day begins at that moment, and the rest of the crap that is so frustrating and maddening, it just goes away. Whether I should be spending my daytime so frustrated is another Major Life Question blog post. Lately I've loved nothing more than our nights out, where I leave all that behind. We enjoy each other, and we eat and drink and talk and laugh and explore this city, and then we stay up late because it's not as much fun to fall asleep. We also stay up late because I'm one of those night owls who believes being up all night will somehow prevent the morning from coming, thus preventing the cycle of maddening frustration from beginning again, and T puts up with this and pretends he doesn't catch on that I'm just delaying daybreak, and life is good. Very good. Even when my mood sucks.


  1. I have been eating a shit ton of kale chips recently. And broccoli. And collards. No green tint to my skin yet though!

    I like T, am not the biggest salmon person. I burned out in college. However, I eat smoked salmon whenever I can get my paws on it. And olives- well I could eat mountains of Olives.

    I'm sorry that you are having a case of the doldrums. I hate that feeling- always accompanied by inability to rouse myself to do the most minute of tasks. Thinking of you.

  2. I have been itching to take a writing class of some sort. In grad school I forgot how much I actually liked doing it because it became such a pain and now I'm sort of rediscovering that joy. I'm glad you enjoyed that food writing class. It sounds really wonderful!

  3. Hey, Maggie...I've been feeling the same way (something about the start of residency), but I have to say that you are doing so much (so well!) to cheer yourself on. You may have a bad mood, but you are so not letting it control you. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Skype or ichat w/video is pretty awesome when your friends live far away.

    I think that sometimes the doldrums are tied to the changing seasons. As nice as Fall can be, the days get shorter, and more time spent indoors means more time to ruminate on what's bothering you. You've come up with a pretty long list of things making you happy though, and that's an excellent thing.

  5. I loved this post. I love your honesty. I'm sorry you've been a little down lately but hope things turn around soon..

    Your salmon talk has me salivating. I love salmon and the hubs hates it, so I only get it when we go out to eat. But now I really want to try that recipe!

    I love how much you enjoy your time with T. Not many people take the time to "date" after marriage and that's horrible. You guys are awesome..

  6. I love Againn! We went for restaurant week in January and had an amazing brunch.

  7. I've been meaning to try kale chips. I saw a recipe in Food & Wine this month for them! I'm going to get on it! :]

  8. Many things to comment on here!

    1. I MUST try that herb butter. It sounds so delicious!

    2. I made kale chips for the first time this summer and was pleasantly surprised. Very crispy and tasty!

    3. I must mention the Saranac Oktoberfest in the last photo...we're big Saranac fans! Have you had their pumpkin? It's my favorite pumpkin ale!

  9. Really excited to have found your blog! I'm looking forward to keeping up with you!! You write very well, which should be a given for a blogger, but ISN'T.

    Have a great weekend. :)

  10. I've been meaning to try Againn. It's right by my husband's office and he seems to be a little disappointed by it. But I'm not listening to him. I've heard so many other great things about it.

  11. I am having that same moodiness feeling. And agree with the previous comment that sometimes it seems to come with the changing seasons... I hope that gray cloud lifts quickly for you!

    And I love herbed butter too- yum! Now I am wishing that I would have froze some before my parsley died off while I was on vacation!

  12. The sun has been shining since we returned to PA, and I hope you're seeing the same in DC!

  13. Would that I could express true love for anything green aside from Kermit, but alas - will just have to enjoy your excellent food writing about it instead. Speaking of, you should definitely freelance food write if you get the chance!


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