Monday, September 29, 2014

On the edge of a knife: The quest for fleeting happiness

This time last year, I was struggling with the worst bout of depression I’ve had since high school. For the first time in my 20s, I was struggling to stay afloat, despite the fact nothing was technically wrong. I’d had other depressive episodes, to be sure, but this one I couldn’t blame even in part on a breakup, a toxic work environment or some other situational source of stress. I was suddenly underwater, and there was no obvious tributary to be pinpointed. The tide kept rising, and it seemed to come from all sides.
Things have gotten better since then. I’d say that right now I am experiencing the best mental health I have since childhood. It took a lot of hard work and self-forgiveness and paying attention to minute details to figure out how I could stop the flow of all that drowning water and install a few drains to clear out what had accumulated. It would be easy to say that I’m grateful to be happy. But I’m not sure if I can.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Kitchen Intuition: Quick pepper relish

One great problem to have at this time of year is to be overrun with peppers. The last time I picked up my farm share at the market, it was overflowing with them. There were sweet peppers, bell peppers, poblanos, habaneros, jalapeƱos, banana peppers and probably a few I didn’t recognize. Add to that the peppers that have been coming in from generous neighbors as they’ve been harvesting their own abundant crops, and I ended up with a whole lot of different kinds of peppers this past week.

What to do with them all? The August issue of Get Out Chattanooga features a great recipe for stuffed peppers that also takes advantage of the late summer’s wonderful cherry tomatoes and basil. The author says the dish is just a 10-minute prep, with 30 minutes of largely unattended cooking.
If you’ve got more than a few peppers, though, it’s probably time for pepper relish. That’s where I found myself this past week. After just a bit of prep, the peppers are gone, and I’m very well-stocked with some of the best pepper relish I’ve ever tasted.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How I Became a Whiskey Woman

When I first fell in love with whiskey, it was while I was falling in love with a man.

The two seemed, at the time, inseparable. They were both adult and refined, but slightly caustic. They provided a burn down to your core, and it was at once satisfying and that left you reeling. Both drink and person seemed intensely masculine. There was a sense of history to them, a connection to artists and poets and the stuff of bardic legends. He knew about literature and music, and we drank whiskey while discussing these things. In winter he wore thick woolen sweaters that matched the peaty undertone of good scotch. In summer he wore cotton button downs like crisp mint juleps. When he was full of sentiment, he’d sigh and croon, his voice cracking like a pour of warm rye over cold ice.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The person you thought you remembered: Surviving depression

My friend Amy has it all. For one thing, she’s drop-dead gorgeous. She’s blond and fit and always looks like she just stepped out of the pages of a catalog. Even better, she’s an impossibly talented opera singer with a rare vocal gift and the work ethic to put it into practice. She lives in the stunningly scenic part of Colorado around Denver. Her circle of girlfriends has remained tight-knit since college, despite being spread out across the country (and sometimes the globe). She just got engaged to a sweet, smart man who mountain bikes up and down Colorado peaks and has an encyclopedic knowledge of music.
She is also the poster child for the fact that depression doesn’t care if you are pretty or smart or talented or how much money you make or if you’re single or if you live in the first world. Depression doesn’t care who you are. Depression doesn’t care about anything. It isn’t a thing at all that might operate by logic or feeling or even some base-level survival instinct programmed into its DNA like a virus or bacteria. It simply is what it is—a poorly understood disease that can strike anyone. But it does make you forget who you are. It makes you not care about anything.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Kitchen Intuition: Tomato soup in a snap

I have a feeling that I’m never going to stop writing about tomatoes. After last week’s article about stocking the pantry, I wanted to write about some kind of quick and easy prep that could be made from a well-stocked pantry. I looked around for some inspiration, and my eyes fell on some canned tomatoes. As soon as I saw them, I was struck with an intense craving for tomato soup. I had to have some, but since we’re still in tomato season, there was no reason to crack open a can, as I still had plenty of fresh ones.
I made my soup with three ingredients: tomatoes, onions and garlic. That’s it. This soup is so ridiculously quick, easy and delicious, I can’t believe I ever bought tomato soup in a can. Depending on what you add to it, it can be vegan, paleo, gluten-free, low-fat, low-carb and low-calorie. And it is an all-season soup; use fresh tomatoes in summer, and eat it either hot or cold. In the wintertime, you can whip up a quick batch with canned tomatoes while the kids are out playing in the snow and have the ultimate cozy food waiting for them when they come back inside: hot tomato soup and oozy grilled cheese sandwiches

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