Friday, November 21, 2008

Deep Bowls

What do you think of when you hear the words "college food"? Instant mac n' cheese? Ramen noodles? Hot Pockets? Burgers? Pizza? Chances are, it's some combination of cheap white bread, dairy, and low-quality meat, decorated with regular pints of ice cream, half-racks of piss-cheap beer, and lots of chips and candy for "study snacks". At least, this seems to be the dietary schedule of the kids here at Oregon State, and I have a feeling it's not too different from that of other universities around the country. This was emphasized for me the other day when I was in Albertsons (for I believe the first time ever) with a friend and they did their "shopping for the week": a package of bagels, a block of cream cheese, a bag of hot dog buns, and a pack of 8 hot dogs. What more could anyone need?
I meanwhile walked around the endless aisles of pre-packaged food reading one label after another, getting more and more appalled at the things that are allowed to be in our food. The Albertsons employees were giving me very nasty looks indeed by the time I made my way out of there with a single apple in my hand, grumbling about the amount of shit food in their store. Sorry, guys. I get emotional over food. 

Actually, I get really emotional over food. I might even say I get obsessive over food (good food of course) and often wake up in the middle of the night or early in the morning with an idea for a meal in my head, and I'll scramble to write it down before I lose it. Mostly the things I crave are simple: white bean and kale soup, roasted chicken with corn muffins and broiled asparagus, crustless smoked salmon quiche, pupusas, pumpkin teff pancakes with walnuts, roasted chestnuts.
 The last one struck me particularly hard the other day, and I decided that if I couldn't get roasted chestnuts in a little newspaper baggie from the streets of Paris like I did last year (the first time I had ever had them, mind you), I would have to make my own. So I did, and in the process of doing so learned that they are so painfully easy to make (and so effing good) that I might have to be making them all winter! I was very pleased with how they turned out, even in my little dorm kitchen on my electric stove, but peeling them was still a bitch - I hear you have to do it when they're still hot, but I pretty much failed at that part.  
Another one of my recent massive cravings has been purple kale. At the co-op they have GIANT bunches of it for $1.99, so each week I end up with a massive amount of kale that I don't know what to do with. Last week I had a kale, roasted chicken, pumpkin seed, oil and vinegar salad with buttercup squash for lunch. That was delicious. This week I decided to do a little experiment with what I'm calling my "college soup" where I took all the bits of leftovers from my week (a cup or two of jasmine rice, some leftover cooked beans, a handful of baby carrots, green beans, pickled ginger) and threw it all into a pot with large amounts of kale, water and whatever spices I had. I tried to think like Louise when she cooks, and follow the culinary doctrine of "It's done when it's done." Does it taste done? Then it is done. If not, keep cooking. Simple for her at least. If you've ever tasted Louise's cooking, you know that she gets it right every time. I may not have the Louise Touch (a very rare one indeed), but my first souping experiment last night went pretty damn well if I do say so myself. 

While most of the kids in my dorm have stopped asking me "What are you making?" every time they pass me with my complex cooking accoutrement, I still get the occasional curious person. Usually as soon as I say "kale" or "squash" or "quinoa" (that one really gets a lot of good looks) their face turns kind of pale-ish and they nod and walk away. It's really too bad. They're missing out on a lot of good food we have available so close to campus. I find it amazing that in such a developed and rich farming community like Corvallis the dining services import the majority of their food from other places around the US and abroad. It's too bad, cause I can only eat so much purple kale - just imagine if we got the whole campus to eat it! My my, that will be the day. As for now I'll stick with my roasted chestnuts and College kale soup...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

On Fiddles

Fiddles make my feet hurt. They make my hands sweat and my legs burn. They really get me going. I've recently had a lot of fiddling in my life suddenly, and it's absolutely amazing. 

Last Tuesday (a week after our new nation, America Jr., was born!) I drove an hour south with my friend Tyler to good 'ole Eugene, Oregun for an Old Crow Medicine Show concert. We stopped by at a friend Colin's house and the three of us sat in the living room talking about Indian art, fermented food, and the glories of Trader Joe's frozen food while we waited for the time to pass so we could walk to the theater. Our conversation was punctuated by shots of whiskey and one bluegrass song after another to get us in the mood before the show. 
We arrived at the Mcdonald theater with just enough time to shove each other through to the front of the crowd just as Ketch Secor started fiddling the first tune. With my Frye boots on and a fair amount of Seagrams in my system (for what would American roots-music be without cheap whiskey?) I was an unstoppable jigging force. I jigged until I could jig no more. I jigged through the slow songs, the fast songs, the super fast songs, and pretty much all the way back to Colin's house at the end of the show. And goddamn it felt good! Just to let go a little bit, to remember how it feels to be a fool and not care what the people around me are thinking - it felt damn good. 
It's really quite therapeutic, in fact I think they should start prescribing "unabashed dancing/jigging" as a remedy for various emotional and psychological problems. I'm obviously ready to be a trusted medical authority...

I've also found that jigging is a great pick-me-up during lonely times in my dorm room when I am faced once again with the startling fact that I live in Corn Valley, OR and that most of the people here think I'm a complete freak for not even wanting to go to frat parties and also not owning a hair-straightener. I mean really, that alone is enough to expel me from the OSU female population.

Lately I've talked with a few people who ask me incredulously: "Well, you're not going to stay there, are you? I mean, you'll probably switch schools, right?"
And my answer is always: "No, I don't think so. I just have to find my people yet." Which at this point I truly believe. The way I see it now the liberal "people-like-me" (we'll call them the Jiggers) are just harder to find in Corvallis, less-obvious than in the pachouli-infested city of Eugene, and much more stubborn than other liberal populations. The Jiggers of Corn Valley will not be driven away by the seemingly endless stream of beef-necked frat boys and workoutaholic makeup-caked girls parading up and down Monroe avenue every Friday and Saturday night, nor will we be frightened away by the assemblage of tail-gaters that take over the entire town every two weeks for "GAME DAY". 

Yes, I do believe there's a Jigger population that's waiting for me here in Corn Valley, and though it may take quite some time for me to discover it, I have a feeling it will be worth the wait. Plus as long as there's enough space for me to jig in my dorm room, I think I'll survive the rest of the year just fine. And by the way, you should ALL check out Old Crow Medicine Show...maybe also invest in a good pair of stompin' boots and a bottle of cheap whiskey if you really want to get in the spirit. I highly recommend it. 
Happy jigging,

Monday, November 3, 2008

Animal Crackers

     Today, all day, I have felt as if I'm about to jump out of an airplane. It's kind of a low, uncomfortable hum in my gut, but I can't quite tell if it's good or bad; if my stomach is anticipating an endless fall or a successful and ultimately miraculous ride. Is there a parachute on my back or just a big, red, balding republican party, ready to hang on for the ride and watch me, the young enthusiastic democrat fall to my end? Because really, it feels like riding an emotional roller coaster from one minute to the next, red and blue gradually taking over my vision, thoughts of defeat and utter emotional disappointment moving in and out of my head between feelings of absolute joy and excitement at what could happen tomorrow night. It's exhausting. I'm exhausted with it, we're all exhausted with it, and I am so happy (am I?) that tomorrow night it will be over. Or rather, tomorrow night it will hopefully begin. But I'm ready to be done with this election, if only so we can stop checking the polls like they're our own heart monitors, sleep full nights again, and go one day without reading another online article about how McCain really can make a comeback, or how there is just no way Obama can't win. Jesus. If nothing else, it's bad for our health. 

There is too much to say about tomorrow night, so maybe I just won't. I've written this entry about 4 times now and don't have the energy to re-write it all over again. We all know how big this is. If there's anyone who doesn't know, you should call them and let them know that Hellen Keller wants her disabilities back. 

It is pretty amazing to me that we (as a country, as a party, as a strange and troubled group of people) get to gather tomorrow and watch it all go down. I am so excited at what could happen; at what the implications will be if we can do it, and what that will mean for the next step. I think we're ready for it, I really do.

Assuming some of you faceless blog-readers of mine (if there are in fact any remaining) have been feeling this same alternating sense of dread and elation all day, all week, all month, or even all year (a feeling that I envision is somewhat akin to what menopause must feel like...), let me tell you my solution to this pre-election anxiety: reading Groucho Marx letters. Ok,so maybe it's not a solution per se, but it's at least 15 minutes out of my day spent away from polls and red or blue colored articles. I guess I find solace in people who take very little seriously and know unwaveringly that we will continue on, that we are intrepid, and that laughter is a cure for most things, with the possible exception of menopause.
Que viva el azul.