Logic tells me I was happier then – when I had a boy, six-figure income, and a saving account. Just before I started blogging. Like other poor girls, the pressure to marry and earn a living was so great that it became something I had to, so they’d stop bothering me about it. Once I got those out of the way I could stop living in books and daydreams and begin my real life.
The books are now in shelves along one wall, stacked up on the makeshift desk, and a piled on an old wood crate. There’s another lying on the pillow next to mine, bookmark resting on the page while I sleep. The cat screams in my face at 4 a.m. because she wants to snuggle into my belly. I snap into a half-sleep state, scoot to give her room, and throw an arm around her. Scratch her head while she snuggles closer. Couple hours later I’ll wake up, fingers still tangled in fur. It’s Saturday morning, so I’ll leave the apartment at 7:15 to be at the farmer’s market at eight. The city is still and quiet in this hour, the fog burned off by sunlight but the buildings still cast long shadows. The only people out at this time are a few runners in sleek pants and bright unscuffed shoes, and the people who don’t have permanent shelter, pulling their sleeping bags and blankets off the sidewalks before the tourists wake up. Only the grown-up marker-goers at this hour. I’ll bring home little brussels sprouts, cauliflower, fresh corn tortillas, and the most gorgeous little chicken eggs.
Truth is, this is “real life”, there’s nothing but. And what I once thought milestones of success were really just comparisons of the prestige of the university you attended, your potential future financial worth, the political correctness of your opinions and thoughts. A different, narrower set of expectations than those that I grew up with, those milestones weren’t anything at all. I never did learn to balance a cocktail glass and appetizer napkin in one hand. I used to lie to myself and think it would be have been easier if I made the right sort of sparkling, meaningless comments at cocktail parties, if the career and the boy had worked out, but honestly? I’d just be too busy climbing that ever-growing mountain sometimes called success to notice that I didn’t like that mountain, and mountain climbing doesn’t particularly suit my skill set.
Instead of pretending to drink cocktails, I cook. I make my favorite miso-braised brussel sprouts – the good slightly tart, wholly savory ones I could happily eat three days in a row without tiring of – and tuck them warm corn tortillas. The sparkling commenters sometimes asked me how I had the time to cook, sighing with satisfaction over their modern liberated busy-ness that obviously precluded old-fashioned activities like cooking. I find the time because it matters. It’s makes me feel real, whole..or something I don’t yet have the words to describe without sounding banal. I know is that it is the important thing for me, to cook, to write, to (struggle and try to) create images that say something.
It strikes me sometimes, how far I’ve come. How wise I was when I was six and ten and fourteen, wiser and braver than when I was twenty. I got lost. We stumble and sometimes we fall but the important bit is to get to work again. We find ourselves in that. This is true, although clichéd: you must following your bliss, DNA, talent, or whichever part whispers to you how it is that you should live your life. Go out there and happen to things and people. Be responsible and loyal to them.
Brussels Sprout Quesadillas
1 tablespoon olive oil/butter
1 tablespoon minced garlic
½ tsp grated nutmeg
1 lb brussels sprouts, sliced into ¼ inch rings using a mandolin/food processor
Generous ¼ tsp salt
Pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon miso, dissolved into 2 tbsp warm water
1 tablespoon thyme
Juice of ½ small lemon (1 – 2 tsp or so)
9 – 10 corn tortillas
1/3 cup jack or white cheddar cheese, grated
¼ cup parmesan/fresh cotilla cheese, grated
½ tablespoon of smoky chili powder (I used this)
Butter or olive oil, to preparing quesadillas
Lime wedges, and sikil p’ak or other salsa for serving
Heat a skillet on medium-high heat for one minute. Add olive oil, garlic, nutmeg, sliced brussels sprouts, salt, and pepper. Braise for 2 – 3 minutes. Add miso-water mixture, and cook for another 2 or so minutes, or until just bright green and tender. Add thyme and lemon juice.
To make quesadillas, soft corn tortillas by individually wrapping in clean, damp dishtowel and placing over very low heat in a heavy skillet/sauté pan. Warm through for about 30 seconds. Combine the cheeses and smoky chili powder in a bowl. Fill each by layering 1 tablespoon or so of cheese, scant ¼ cup of brussel sprout mix, and then another tablespoon of cheese.
Add a thin layer of butter/olive oil to a skillet/flat pan. Heat each quesadilla for 2 – 3 minutes per side, or until just golden brown.
Serve warm with lime wedges and sikil p’ak/salsa.