Monday, September 1, 2014

When friends are like family: Making time for relationships that matter

One of the worst feelings in the world might be forgetting your best friend’s birthday. And one of the most informative signs that your priorities are out of whack and you are living life all wrong is when, in a 24-hour span, your best friend not only informs you that you forgot her birthday, but your boss tells you that you might be taking on too much at work. After hearing both these things recently, I tried to figure out how things had gone so wrong. 
I pulled up my Google calendar and looked back at the past couple of weeks. I tried to see what I’d done that day instead of celebrating how awesome my friend is. I thought about all the things I’d done instead of focusing on her in the past month, and honestly, half of them were things I’d felt obligated to do, that I didn’t know how to say no to.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Kitchen Intuition: Instant bread

There aren’t many things that are quite so awesome as bread that is still warm from cooking. Moist and airy, it is filled with fragrance and flavor. And whatever you put on it (a bit of cheese, a blob of peanut butter or some creamy butter) quickly gets melty and gooey.
I love warm bread so much so that I try to avoid making more than I can eat before it cools. And since most days I’m just cooking for two, I don’t make loaves of bread very often. I like to cook bread in smaller batches, and I have a few different methods of doing so. One of them is the chapati, a pita-like flatbread; but unlike yeasted pita, a chapati is unleavened, which allows for a much simpler, more flexible preparation.
A fresh chapati puffing up on a hot cast-iron skillet. (Photo: Alice)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Five things I learned from Greta, the terrifying murder kitty

Every year I celebrate the day I got my little gray cat, Greta. I call it her French Fry Day because she was found, quite literally, under a pile of french fries at the St. Elmo Wendy’s. Local steampunk and horror novelist Cherie Priest had gone in to get some lunch with her husband when she realized the discarded gray mitten by the door was, in fact, a kitten badly in need of assistance. It was dingy and small, and one of its eyes was swollen shut. 
Someone must have realized she was hungry and tried to help with their leftover fries, but didn’t make the connection that cats aren’t really into potatoes, especially small baby kittens abandoned by their mothers. A rushed visit to the vet, a Facebook post with a truly pathetic picture of the kitten, a few messages back and forth, and a few days later, Greta was all mine. On the appointed day, I went to Cherie’s house and fished the newly christened Greta out from under her claw-foot tub while trying not to gush too much about how much I love her novels.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Kitchen Intuition: Mastering mayonnaise

Last week in my column about french fries, I gave a shoutout to aioli in the final sentence. The reason is that I’m getting a little obsessed with aioli, along with its sibling, mayonnaise (the only difference between the two is that aioli contains garlic).

I never was a huge fan of mayonnaise, but that’s because for a long time, I had never tried anything but the stuff you buy in the store, which can be rather bland (not to mention high in fat, calories, sodium, sometimes sugar and who knows what else). There’s a lot that has to be done to it to make it shelf-stable because authentic mayonnaise is prone to separating and spoils easily. Stabilizers and preservatives don’t improve the taste or the texture of the final product; they just make it easy to bottle and able to spend months on a grocery store shelf.
Homemade mayonnaise is such a completely different thing that the store version shouldn’t even be allowed to share the same name. Homemade mayonnaise's texture is light and creamy, and the flavor is full and rich. Michael Ruhlman calls it "voluptuous" and suggests that the "flavor is so good that you could, and may, eat the mayo straight off the spoon."

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

CARTA Diaries: Finding a way out of Ferguson

When I walked up to the shuttle stop, there were three black boys in khaki slacks and white shirts, two in polos and one in a T-shirt with the logo for the Howard Tigers across the front. As soon as they boarded, the shuttle driver greeted them warmly. She knew these kids well. She started asking them about their teammates and what nights the games would be. Would she be able to come see them play? What numbers and positions would they have that school year? They were all laughing and cutting up, talking about their rivals at other schools.
It was one of those really great moments of observing community. I was happy for the kids that this grown-up, whatever her relationship to them and their families, was taking an interest and supporting them in sports.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

It Happened to Me: I was a Nude Model at 18, and it Changed My Body Image For the Better

When my best friend described her life-drawing class, I was amazed to hear that there was a place where not only did all the usual beauty standards not matter, but that the opposites were actually coveted.

The whole nude modeling thing started with my best friend telling me a story about some guy’s junk. She kept drawing it too small. It was one of her first art workshops with a live model, and she must have been compensating for a little bit of embarrassment. The professor had finally come over to her drawing and corrected it to match the model’s natural proportions. “It’s alright,” he explained. “A lot of students downplay the penis at first.”