There was this article a couple of months back that made its rounds in social media circles, all about the "Busy Trap"--the fact that being overly booked and scheduled and worked and committed has basically become a social ill, where we collectively push each other to be so busy that we hardly have room for friends, pleasure, deep breaths, a meal uninterrupted by phone calls, texts, or that nagging sense that we better hurry up and get to the next thing that needs doing. Basically, the author asserts, we've voluntarily whipped ourselves into a collective frenzy of (often purposeless) activity as a way of protecting against that ever-present anxiety that if we stopped for a second we might realize just how empty, pointless, and worthless we and our lives are.
I didn't appreciate just how many people asked me if I'd read this article, with a knowing nod of the head. No, I'd answer. I haven't. Some of us are too busy to read.
The thing is, for the most part, I love my busy life. Or I should say--I love the different things that comprise my busy life. I can't imagine giving any of them up. (Except, of course, my job, but then I know from my clients just how time consuming and tedious and life-sucking going on public assistance can be, so I'm not sure that would solve much.) I'm very, very lucky. But I also fear that if I don't find some way to slow down and make room, I will a) burn out and be of no use to anyone, b) lose all of my friends for lack of attention (I mean, there are people with babies I have not met yet!), and/or c) Eat all of my meals standing at the kitchen sink, alone, slurping cold pad thai.
So I'm working on it. Little by little. I am starting to set limits for myself. And prioritize. And take breaths. And make room. And make dinner.
Above, the perfect dinner for the cook caught in the Busy Trap. A piece of fish, seasoned with salt and pepper, slapped in a blazing hot pan for a couple of minutes on each side, squozed with lemon, served alongside this quick corn salad (if it's really good corn, which it has no excuse to not be at this time of year, cut out the cooking process entirely and serve it raw with a bunch of citrus, herbs and olive oil), and topped with a chimichurri-esque sauce which comes together in literally two seconds with a quick flip of the vitamix. It's all so laughably fast that with relative ease, I was able to find the time in my busy schedule to sit down with a glass of wine and eat this, one slow, tasty bite at a time. If I can do it, any busy-ness addict can.
The Mouse's Quick Chimichurri-esque Sauce for those not Quite Ready to Retire from the Busy Life.
1 cup (packed) fresh Italian parsley, or a little bit less
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white vinegar
Juice of half a lemon
1/4 cup (packed) fresh cilantro, or a little bit more
2 garlic cloves, peeled
Healthy dash of dried crushed red pepper
Nice pinch of ground cumin
Salt to taste
Throw all ingredients in a blender. Puree, pulse, or blend to desired consistency. Pour over whatever protein you've grilled, seared, or pan-fried up. Taste. Breath. Taste. Take one small thing off your to-do list. Eat dessert.
Sunday, August 12, 2012
"Art/Love is the desire to narrow the space between two people
To solve the only problem there has ever been
in the world:
That you are not me."
-Aaron Jafferis, 'How to Break' (NY Hip Hop Theatre Fest, upcoming)
I often blithely tell people who ask about this blog that I'm what you might call the "field reporter". "I travel a lot for work," I'll say breezily, spilling coffee down my wrist. "The Mouse is the one who is doing most of the actual inventing and, oh, cooking. I'm the one who's usually posting about A Sandwich I Ate Once in Kentucky, or Best Vending Machine Snacks in DC." I imagine they walk away either impressed with my self-deprecation or resolved to ... not to read this blog. Why don't I maybe stop doing that.
I have been thinking a lot about collaboration lately, and how important it is both to delegate clearly AND to be able to relax the roles. Right now, I'm composing songs for a show in the NY Hip Hop Theatre Festival... (here's where I usually pause for effect and then say "I know! and THEY called ME!") Composing, to me, usually means holing up in my Songwriting Cave and then delivering my Song Babies fully formed to the world. Here it's sometimes taking place on my feet, guitar in hand, in the presence of a director, a singer, a lyricist, a loop machine and a guy holding a microphone against his neck. It's awesome. I'm The Composer... but I don't have to come up with all the answers alone.
Oh, and also, I went to New Haven.
Admittedly terrible shot of Mashed Potato Pizza at Bar, New Haven
I think I was eating with the other hand.
I spent a week up there workshopping a hilarious new play with these great people, and I was definitely looking forward to some blogworthy times. I already knew that The Have is a food lovers' town. (The Pizza! Oh my god. The adorable, competitive coffee shops! I tried four and was utterly charmed. The 'sweet cream' flavor at Ashley's Ice Cream! The menu at the bizarre, postmodern sushi joint everyone talks about! I planned to hit all of these up at least once in between rehearsals.) Oh, I'd find writing material for sure.
And I did... but not in any of those places.
We had it all. The coffee at JoJo's is reeeally good, though it didn't make me forget The Commons (or, for that matter, The Roasterie Kansas City... I'm just gonna have to order a case.) We had quirky rectangular pizza at Bar (tasty though it doesn't touch Modern), and Miya's Sushi ... ok, full points for creativity, but I don't want Havarti cheese anywhere near my fish. Ever. And, after we finished dinner there, my director turned to me and whispered "I ate here for lunch today too ... and I'm still hungry." Nuff said.
No, I'm proud and happy to say that the food experiences I'll really remember from this trip came from the folks around me. Proud because my 'collaboration' theme in this post is actually going to get followed through. Proud because what could be more A Mouse Bouche than artists thrown together by fate, eating with and teaching each other about food? And happy because now I know how to make this salad:
Watercress, pine nuts, red onion, clementine slices, oil, red wine vinegar, dried marjoram. Elegant, beautiful, easy, and tasting mysteriously somehow like there is bacon in it, though there is not.
The awesome program directors took us - all - out to dinner at local haunts like Thai Taste AND brought Insomnia Cookies to our various rehearsal nights. My lovely Flatmate introduced me to 'broken-yolk' fried eggs and the concept of the Kale Smoothie (haven't tried it yet: almond milk, banana, kale, honey). But the definitive MouseBouche moment of the trip for me happened when The Dancer told me the Salad Story. (The Dancer is not a dancer at all as far as I know, but her graceful presence and, I don't know, lithe - ness?, reminds me of a ballerina.) We got to talking, I mentioned the blog, and somehow wound up telling her the story of your Husband making the Christmas Pork Roast for his family in Florida, a story I love because It Has Meaning On So Many Levels, blah blah blah. The Dancer totally 'got it' - "I might cry!" she said in her soft voice looking at me across the beer pitcher. And then she told me a similar story. One year around The Holidays it dawned on her that, as the Unmarried Sister in her family, there seemed to be a different set of expectations for her when it came to holiday meal prep. While her sister would get various cooking assignments, she said, "nothing was really expected of me." The Dancer didn't really consider herself a Person Who Cooks, but this didn't feel right. So she decided to get in the game. She would not wait to be asked, she would just pick a recipe, bring it, and see what happened. She chose a salad from Bon Appetit, and brought it to the party. And: "I know it sounds silly," she said, "but my brother-in-law's mother asked me for the recipe. And it was So. Validating!" It rounded out the meal beautifully and got great reviews. Not only that, but the following year said mother-in-law's house burned down -!! - "not to be a downer here" - and she called and asked for the recipe again, having lost it in the fire. "So I know she really liked it", The Dancer said. "She told me she was only collecting the recipes she really wanted."
It's a great moment when you realize your voice counts, that you have something to offer, and that it is a valuable part of a whole. It's been said before, but we can do things in community that we can't - or won't - do alone. For example: closing night of the workshop, the company threw a lovely party for us at a super-hip hotel in town. Beautiful nighttime views, open bar, and a TON of food. As the night wound down, we were staring at a mountain of untouched crudites, a basket of bread and crackers, another basket of prosciutto and huge chunks of cheese. One of the younger actors boldly asked for a to-go container and was denied - department of health regulations, blah blah blah. FlatMate and I locked eyes across the table. We knew what we had to do. We had napkins, bags, a guitar case, and each other.
The next day we enjoyed a lovely picnic lunch on the Metro-North train home, which we were only too happy to share with our friends.
Here's to collaboration, at and away from the table.
PS A shout-out to The Dancer for not batting an eyelash when I asked if I "could use butter instead". I thought she'd said "margarine" instead of "marjoram". She just suggested that olive oil would be better.
- WATERCRESS, ORANGE AND RED ONION SALAD
- via Bon Appetit
- 4 Servings
- 2 bunches watercress, stemmed
- 3 clementines, peeled and sectioned
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon sherry wine vinegar (or
- red wine vinegar)
- (Note from The Boo: I used red wine, but I think it'd be better with sherry)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
- Salt and pepper
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- Combine stemmed watercress, orange slices and
- sliced red onion in large bowl. Place sherry wine
- vinegar in small bowl. Gradually mix in olive oil.
- Add marjoram. Season dressing to taste with salt
- and pepper. (Can be prepared 3 hours ahead. Cover
- salad and refrigerate. Cover dressing and let stand
- at room temperature.) Pour dressing over
- salad and toss to coat thoroughly. Sprinkle with pine
- nuts and serve