Sunday, September 27, 2009

food mag report 1: Sauteed Kale with Kohlrabi

I always love it when my new issue of Gourmet arrives each month wrapped in its protective plastic. Sure, the issues have gotten thinner lately but the photography is absolutely stunning. The magazine has started focusing on close-ups of the food, pointing out those little things that most people don't even realize unless they're paying attention. The September issue features a close-up of a quince on the cover, so tightly shot it looks like cheese, or mold, or a fresh-baked boule or artisan bread, except it's not.

So, anyway, Gourmet. I purged all my magazines except for the odd New Yorker and my good mags, which left me with a pile of Gourmets, Saveur, Edible San Francisco, the odd Food and Wine and Edible Brooklyn or Edible Boston that I'd picked up along the way. After I pore through the magazine I've so eagerly awaited it goes in a drawer, where they've apparently multiplied a la dust bunnies. Because they deserve a little better than that, I decided a couple of weeks ago to cook one recipe per month from my stash (minimum).

First up to bat was a vegetable dish from the September Gourmet, Sauteed Kale with Kohlrabi, chosen because I've actually never eaten a kohlrabi and had been seeing them at the market lately. Taken entirely from the pages of epicurious:

Sauteed Kale with Kohlrabi, serves 8
  • 1 1/4 pound kohlrabi, bulbs peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 pounds kale (2 bunches), stems and center ribs discarded
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup salted roasted pistachios, chopped

Whisk together lime juice, lime zest and most of the olive oil, plus a pinch of salt and black pepper. Finely grate the kohlrabi using a mandoline and place in a bowl with the lime dressing. Remove the center rib from the kale and chop finely. Sautee the garlic in remaining olive oil until aromatic, then add kale and sautee 3-5 minutes or until tender. If you're not sure how tender it is, fish one tendril out and taste it. When properly cooked, transfer to the bowl with the kohlrabi and top with pistachios. The original recipe asks for the kale to be cooled to room temp before being combined, but we were eating it hot and it was refreshing and hearty.

giant kale by bhamsandwich

Friday, September 11, 2009

good times for chocolate

So, not only is there this cutesy place in the East Bay but there's another new choco shop opening up in the old Joseph Schmidt building. San Francisco, you outdo yourself.

I'm exhausted. Wrote novel synopsis, had too many crazy conversations today plus a deadline dropped on me. Have ripe pears for pie, must make this weekend.

Some thoughts on chapter one

Chapter one, chapter one, it's such a weighty word. Not like, say, chapter 17 where hopefully you'll know what you're doing or, if not, your readers won't care. Chapter one needs to be good, it needs to set the tone for the rest of the story, it needs to communicate who your characters are and what, pray tell, might happen to them. All of that and more, and still be entertaining, well written and unusual yet not gimmicky.

Enough to make you wonder why anyone would want to write a novel, right?

In preparation for my upcoming novel workshop, which I'm kinda terrified of due to a bad experience in grad school, I did a little meditating this afternoon on my on chapter one, which I don't love, but nor do I hate. I'd always thought it was kinda of necessary for the book - it had a setting that was important, it introduced the two biggest characters, it set out a quiet conflict that was in the same vein as a later, larger conflict. But it was kinda boring. And I didn't think that I'd done a good enough job with my details really. And I figured other people would not love it, because in comparison to chapter 2 and 3, and so on, not much exciting happens. It's pretty quiet.

That's all true, still. I haven't raced back into the chapter determined to give it shiny new wheels. I'm okay with it being somewhat boring for now. I do think that the events of chapter one need to be told in some fashion...if the crisis in chapter one changes, that's fine, but there'll be another crisis of the same sort, just a better one. The characters' differences are clear, the setting is clear, the stakes such as they are on the face of things are laid out. The chapter could be much more directly ominous, and hopefully it will be, but I think more of the stuff that needs to be said at the outset is being said at the outset than isn't. Only, of course, in a nondirect way.

About my being so nervous about this workshop, I shouldn't be. I should remember that grad school was frustrating at very many times and this class in particular was a waste of my time and effort, and think that also I could have done a better job in my work and been more professional myself about working with a bad teacher. My professor did not like my work and she made it clear, and she also didn't like me and she made that clear. That was unprofessional of her, but I didn't take my out to drop the class when I could have (why, I don't remember).
I found an old workshop draft of one of those chapters that I'd given a prior writing workshop and the comments on those papers were much more supportive than in Waste of My Time's class. Sometimes your work doesn't reach its intended audience. Sometimes you need to be humble in order to make your work better. we all have different tastes. I remember being horrified in workshop in college when one of my peers HATED, but hated James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room.

{That was the first Baldwin book I read, and he's still a favorite author to this day. So rich. If you haven't read him, do.}

I was lucky and/or spoiled in college to work with wonderful writing professors, people who I still keep in touch with.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

too much writing!

I have too much writing to do.

I'm taking a novel-writing workshop that begins in a couple weeks, but before (and during) I have this blog, two other blogs and three freelance clients needing regular work. Oh, and my novel.

I get up in the morning, brew some get-me-awake coffee and dash of a couple articles for client #1 while I'm doing this. Then if I'm lucky I'll throw something together for one of the blogs, post that, move on to something else in my day, toss a draft of something for client #2 together in a late afternoon coffee break, cook dinner, play some lexulous online, research something for another blog, remember I've got to start work for freelance client #3, spend a few minutes reading a friend's blog, work on some other things, think guiltily about the novel, spend ten minutes writing my book, decide to read a bit and go to bed, wake up and do it again.

It sounds so concise in paragraph form, but it isn't. There is so much research that goes along with writing--and blogging--and so much thinking and trying and procrastinating about writing that goes on when writing a book. So - basically - I live most of the time stressed out writing or thinking about writing or avoiding writing and it's hard to justify writing something I don't get paid for rather than something I do.

Oy vey.

I'm glad there are people who pay me to write. It's nifty. I just had a flash fiction piece accepted for publication in a journal earlier this week, and that only fuels my desire to work on my writing and submit to journals and so on....and if my dog chased his tail I'd feel like him, instead I just feel like organization is necessary, or something.