Monthly Archives: October 2013

learning to be a cook.

Chopping vegetables will always take me back to Boston.

I spent countless Monday evenings standing at the counter in Casa Taj, removing the papery skin from onions, slicing them into horizontal rings, and dicing them into smaller pieces, tears burning my eyes. I’d peel the tough outer skin off sweet potatoes and cut them into small cubes. Bell peppers (always green because they were the cheapest) would be de-seeded and diced along with the rest. A swirl of olive oil in a pan, then I’d add the onions and bell peppers. A healthy dose of garlic and spices came after that.

I’d stir and stare off into space while the vegetables sizzled on the stove or soup simmered.

Eventually, I would move onto shredding mountains of cheddar cheese. Usually I would be checking the oven throughout, peaking in to see how whatever baked concoction I had dreamed up was coming along.

Our knives were never actually sharp enough, and no matter how much we scrubbed them, the counters never seemed quite clean (the floor was a complete lost cause). The dish drainer was always overflowing. But that kitchen felt like home.

I would have never said that I could cook before JVC.

I had long understood the beauty of baking, but that year was when I begin I understand the beauty of cooking, of putting a full, sometimes even healthy, meal on the table to enjoy with others.

I still cook mostly from scratch, but now it’s mostly just for me. I sometimes still don’t scale my quantities down, so I end up with pots of soup large enough to feed me for two weeks.

But now I love cooking. I enjoy having friends over for dinner and having excuses to try new recipes. I didn’t grow up in a family where we ate dinner together every night, but that is a ritual I now cherish.

For me, as with many things in life, sharing food goes back to the ancient idea of breaking bread, of the community that forms when we all sit around the same table. I now revel in any opportunity to share food with friends in any sort of intentional way. There’s something sacred about the table, about warm food and a real connection. I’m grateful to JVC for showing me that, and I’m grateful for my ability to (literally) bring something to the table.

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like a sailboat.

Oftentimes, I do my best thinking in transit. Being stuck in an airport, bus, train, or car for any amount of time gives me the space I need to sort things through in my mind. Being bound to neither here or there gives me the freedom to let some of those restrictions slide away. What I’m left with is a clearer version of myself.

And in the coming and the going, I leave one place and set of people for another. There’s always something to miss, no matter where you are. But the in between gives me something just as necessary. Statistics say that we receive just as much happiness from the preparation and anticipation of a vacation as from the trip itself, which I wholeheartedly believe. But I also gain something from the walking in between.

This morning finds me on a bus headed from Chicago back home to St. Louis. I’ve taken this bus a number of times over the past few years. There will always be something about weekend travel with a cheap bus ticket in my pocket and just a backpack to my name. It’s freeing and wonderful and a breath of fresh air.

These past few years have shown me how restless I am if I stay in one place for too long. I need movement. I need something new and something to look forward to. Mostly, I need to remember who I am distinct from any geographical location. Because sometimes the road feels like home.

But oftentimes, it’s the people that are home.

This weekend was stumbling off the Megabus and around downtown Chicago at 7am with bleary eyes. It was seeing the morning light glint off the river and onto the skyline. It was remembering the first time I saw this city as a 9 year old, completely in awe. It was the moment in high school when I fell in love with it and thought I might want to make it my own. It was college when I felt disenchanted and that love slipped away.

Finally, it was being back for the first time in 3 years and feeling a little of that initial thrill all over again. It was walking almost 10 miles to track the marathon and learning to see a new side of the city. It was the wind tying knots in my hair and beat up Toms with a new level of wear on them.

Mostly, it was being with Cristina again after 14 months apart and confirming that friendship is about who we are together and how much we care, not about where we are. And that is a feeling I don’t know how to explain. If you have felt it, you know what I mean. It was continuing to literally walk and run to meet each other where we are.

Being 24 has been a strange mixture between craving comfort and adventure. I simultaneously feel the urge to pack up my things and to stay put forever. I’m feeling more and more called to make a change, to do something different. It may not not be a huge thing, but it’s needed. I really feel called to pursue what I am passionate about and to figure out what work I really enjoy. There’s so much tension between the passion and the practical, but I am learning to seek that balance.

More and more, I’m starting to realize that life is about getting out of my own way. The struggle is to embrace who I already am, rather than fight it. And boy, do I spend a lot of time fighting. (Which is a shame because there are so many things in this world worth fighting for, but being yourself is about is simply about embracing.)

And on days like today, the line “I’ve been lost and I’ve been found, but mostly I’ve been waiting” rings more true than ever before, so I’ll continue to ponder what’s next as I watch the road roll along outside my window.