May 17, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I’ve been doing a lot of fast, basic throw-together cooking lately as I work two jobs and try and write and have a family life. But I had a breather this past week and we had eggplant and so this happened. It’s based on a recipe in one of our favorite cookbooks, Lord Krishna’s Cuisine, but I simplified and changed it up so much I’d never present it as that recipe. So, here’s my take.
Eggplant Curry Rice
1 medium eggplant, skin on, chopped into batons
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon water
Combine in a small bowl and set aside while you get your remaining ingredients together and prep.
2 Tablespoons sesame seeds
Heaping 1/2 cup raw cashew pieces
1 Tablespoon oil
1 cup rice
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
scant 1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon coriander powder
scant 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar
Pinch cayenne (to taste)
In a saute pan, dry roast the sesame seeds and set them aside, then add the oil and fry the cashews until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the eggplant and fry for a minute, then add the remaining ingredients and the cashews and bring to a boil. Cover, lower the heat, and cook around 40 minutes until the rice is tender. Check halfway and add more water if need be. Stir in or top with the sesame seeds.
May 15, 2013 § 1 Comment
I’ve been very quiet on the book front for quite some time simply because there hasn’t been anything to report. AFTER YOU continues nicely in edits; I don’t want to jinx it but Editor Kate seems thrilled with the latest. And – that’s been it. I haven’t sold another book; I haven’t even been on sub (not that I would tell you, sorry). This is largely to do with something else conspicuously absent on the blog for a while – I parted ways with Agent Suzie last summer, and given I was working under contract, didn’t rush to replace her.
What you may remember me mentioning last fall was “gift book.” This book poured out of me. I had so many 5k days I was sleeping in my wrist braces. I’m going to reprint parts of the meme I did about the book so you can see what it’s about.
- What is the title of your book? The Echo of Souls
- Where did the idea come from for the book? I’m not a music person. I like it but I don’t listen to it by choice often, I prefer silence. But this book came to me as a feeling, largely inspired by music – Barber’s Adagio, Shostakovich’s 7th, and just this haunted sense, this mood. No, really. I’m writing a book based on an atmosphere.
- What genre does your book fall under? Literary Magical Realism? Ish.
- Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? I would want completely unknown actors cast! That said, for appearances, check out my pinterest board for likenesses of the main characters, Eve, Rozier (the old man), Jacob (the soldier), and the boy (and a sense of that atmosphere the book is based on).
- What is a one-sentence synopsis of the book? When a mysterious musical prodigy and his guardian come to the city in the wake of its bombing, Eve is convinced the boy is a godchild whose music can bring her lover back to life.
- Who or what inspired you to write this book? I’m leaving Carrie Cuinn’s answer because it’s perfect, then elaborating as to why this book specifically: “I’m writing it for the same reason that I write anything – the story is in my head and I’d like it to get out. As for who – anything great I do in my life, I do for love. What else is worth making yourself better for?” – Carrie.
Now, for why THIS book? As you know from the blog, my life has been a mess for the past year and change. It’s not completely settled and won’t be for another year at least, but I’ve made huge progress, part one of the transition (my divorce) is behind me. I’m not the same person I was when I last saw a book through the writing process, and I’m not the same writer. This is what wanted to be. The feeling that it’s based on is dark, moody, uncertain, questioning, unrelenting… yet hopeful. Essentially, I gave myself permission to see who I was becoming, to write my transition. The story is NOT a therapy book, but it is its own catharsis.
- What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? Else? This presumes I have piqued anyone’s interest already! I would call all my books explorations almost more than stories, the exploration of ideas and people comes first and then I have to make sure it tells a story. Not the best process, but it’s mine. This book explores war, love, family, acceptance, power, but especially the dichotomy of life and death…. but what I love most about it is the characters themselves. They’re special people. They’re interesting. Eve thinks she can talk to Jacob, her lover, who’s dead. Can she really see ghosts or not? Could the boy bring Jacob back to life or not? If he can, will he or not? And why? Eve especially fascinates me. She’s pregnant, but she’s so caught between life and death, and her struggle breaks my heart. For a long time I wasn’t sure which she would choose.
If you can’t tell, I love this book. I believe some books are somehow meant to be, and gift book, this book, was one of those. So in January I figured I would try to get a new agent, with this book. Note, it’s not YA. Note, it’s not high concept. Note, it’s not even commercial. I interacted with many lovely agents, who mostly said I was incredibly talented, but this quiet literary book wouldn’t sell. (Thanks, lovely agents. Truly, the rejections I got were heart-warming in their support of my writing, if not this book.) But of course I wanted someone who supported this book.
Enter Natalie Lakosil of the Bradford Literary Agency. She loved gift book and she believed in it. I spent last week fielding agents who still had the manuscript, other authors, and making my decision, and I’m so excited to report that I signed a contract with Natalie yesterday. I can’t wait to see what we do together!
May 10, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I’m sorry for not posting recipes the past couple weeks; Foodie Friday will resume when I have my afternoons back. I’m currently working two jobs and squeezing in time to write along with family responsibilities, so the food/blog has fallen by the wayside. The new job goes well; I hope to be posting regularly again soon; the school year ends June 14th so certainly after that but hopefully before that.
In the meantime, I do have some news for next week.
April 30, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Various arenas lately – writing, religion, friendship – have demonstrated to me the irrefutable fact that most people can no longer distinguish between actively causing offense and reacting offendedly. People want to be offended. Let me give examples because I suspect without me pointing the distinction out, many people won’t see it.
Saying, “I disagree with you,” is not an insult. It is not saying the same thing as “you are wrong,” or even, “I don’t like you,” but that is what many people hear. The speaker has not actively insulted anyone, yet the hearer has chosen to be offended instead of hearing what was actually said.
Saying, “The country has a freedom of religion inherent to a separation of church and state; therefore we ask that public favoring of one religion, say by wanting a Nativity scene on the schoolhouse lawn, be refrained from,” is not the same as saying “You may not practice or demonstrate your faith.” The latter is an active offense. The other is a neutral comment being interpreted offensively by the recipient.
There is such a thing as passive aggression and it, too, is a separate thing. “Well, you don’t have to come over today, but I was really hoping you would.” There is such a thing as being passively offensive. It’s partly why people treat truly neutral comments as though they were offensive: not only are people used to reading into things their own biases, but people are used to masking their true intent and playing games, so other people have to read into things and guess.
I’d propose we all take a step back and evaluate comments instead of inserting our own reactive biases into them. When someone says, “have a nice day,” try taking them at face value. That’s simple, right? But how many times are we in a bad mood ourselves and snark in our heads, “easy for you to say,” or, “they don’t mean it”? How much harder to truly hear what’s being said when the comment is about something inherently volatile, like sexuality, gender, race, or religion? How much is simply us projecting? Whether we’ve been trained to or not, it falls to us to notice and correct when we do this.
April 23, 2013 § 2 Comments
I thought I’d continue my thoughts on cooking (especially Whole Foods Plant-Based) with a bit more pragmatic tips.
1. Observe the one-in-reserve rule: as soon as you open, say, your last jar of marinara, put it on the grocery list. If you actually keep your pantry stocked, you’ll never be at a loss to cook at home.
2. Cooking takes time. Real cooking takes more time. Just as my main point in Part I is that you need to rethink cooking completely, this is probably the biggest hurdle to most would-be home cooks. Everyone wants to have dinner on the table in 20 minutes or less. If you’re using whole foods, that’s nearly impossible. Chopping can take twenty minutes. (You can buy pre-cut veggies at the supermarket. Nobody’s going to judge you! You’re eating vegetables!) I budget a half hour for breakfast and lunch and at least an hour for dinner.
The thing is, often people are rushing – to go nowhere. That time spent catching up on five different television shows? Could be used to eat healthy, real food. There are plenty of families running between ten different activities for their children, but it can still be done with forethought and planning. Honestly, you can do all that chopping with a TV on in the background, even.
3. Some ways to do this faster and with less anxiety: frozen veggies are your friend, and just as healthy as fresh. Pre-chopped veggies are your friend, though more expensive. Think in stages. If you want to make a casserole for dinner tomorrow night, you might make the rice tonight and pop it in the fridge. Chop the veggies in the morning before work. Double recipe components like sauces or doughs, or cook double batches of beans or rice, so you can throw together another meal later. It’s often said we make the time for the things that are important to us. Choose to make cooking a priority. Breakfasts can be dinner – oats are very quick to make and filling (you can make savory oats, by the way. Try it!) And dinner leftovers can be a quick grab-and-go breakfast!
4. Good snacks can be a meal. Especially for people in a real hurry, having healthy, hearty snacks can be a complete lifesaver. A full baggie of veggie sticks with a portable of hummus with a couple pieces of fruit can carry me for a lunch. (And who says you only need to eat one piece of fruit or one vegetable with each meal? The more the better. There are days when I eat two bananas or two apples in addition to my meals because I’m just hungrier!) You may need to eat more often with these smaller meals, but if the alternative to healthy mini-meals is buying a salt- and fat-laden, overly-large portioned plate out, what have you got to lose (besides weight, potentially)?
5. I’ve talked about this before, but shop local farm stands and independent grocers, and also hit up your local Indian or Asian markets. (Live in the boonies? The internet has everything.) Experiment with cuisines you’re not used to – you may find something new to love, and you don’t have to overcome your expectations that it’s not JUST LIKE your old, unhealthy versions.
April 19, 2013 § 1 Comment
I know I promised another recipe this week, but I haven’t been developing anything to share with you! Lately we’ve been eating a lot of old favorites or making recipes straight out of our vast collection of cookbooks (current favorite: Fresh From the Vegan Slow Cooker).
I thought I’d talk a little more about how we eat and share some resources. I know people coming to a whole-foods plant-based diet often either don’t cook as often as they should (even as an omnivore) or simply have no idea where to start. But take heart! Learning to cook and eat WFPB is no harder than learning to cook a standard American diet. It all lies in how you think. (I’ll be discussing cooking interwoven with healthy eating/WFPB, if you’re not interested in that, you can still learn a trick or two.)
Simon and I have been attempting to give a friend cooking lessons sporadically and in trying to figure out exactly HOW to do this, we realized that the biggest hurdle to being a home cook is attitude. How you think about cooking. Letting yourself be intimidated because you don’t know how to do it. Of course you don’t, yet, that’s why you’re learning! The first thing one must do to learn to cook anything is be open. Be open to whatever food you’re making – if it’s a WFPB dish with ingredients you’ve never tried, or even a meal that’s supposed to approximate one you loved as an omni (like a mock meatloaf), don’t give in to the temptation to expect it to come out perfectly or exactly like the original. The food will taste how it will taste; most people need to try a food more than once until they can decide for sure if they like it or not. It’s just different. Be open to making mistakes, too.
Don’t overthink. Everyone has to eat, and they have to do it regularly. The luxury of not knowing how to cook is a recent phenomenon, within the past forty years, I’d guess. Because you’re used to eating out – therefore in a hurry – and eating food prepared by people who are paid to do nothing but make food all day – your standards and expectations of what even constitutes a meal have been warped. Food is not complex. There’s only so many things you can do to it, and the end goal is palatable nourishment. Steaming is a favorite method for us; you can simply steam any vegetable (basket inserts for pots aren’t very expensive), sprinkle with a bit of S&P and enjoy. Pan sauteing is another; we saute in water instead of oil, so it’s more of a braise, a less common method of cooking involving half steaming and half boiling. Boiling’s common but it tends to make vegetables mushy, and of course’s there’s using your oven for baking broiling, or roasting. (I almost forgot frying because we don’t do it! It’s simply not healthy. The fat and salt contents of most fried foods, even made at home, are outrageous.)
Meals can be as simple as a salad with beans and rice mixed in with all your chopped veggies. A bit of oats piled with sliced fruit. A bowl of sliced fruit, or a plate of various steamed veggies. If you eat enough food – the volume WFPB eaters require is quite large, especially if you are avoiding starchy or fatty whole foods – you will not need to worry about getting enough protein or this or that; you will be full and feel fine. These simple meals might not taste as mind-blowing as a plate from a restaurant but this brings me to my next point.
Give yourself time. Home cooking is never going to be as “good” as eating out because home cooks never use the incredible amounts of salt and fat that restaurants do, and salt and fat are both primed to make you eat more and crave more; they aren’t necessarily tastier, you’re just used to eating them and probably at least nominally addicted to them (sugar, too). Simon and I have reached a point where we’ve stopped eating out because we don’t feel it’s worth the price when we like the food we prepare at home better. Our tastebuds and bodies have stopped wanting all that fat and salt and are no longer used to it. This takes time. We’ve been eating this way for six months now; I will say we ate pretty healthily (and cooked a lot) beforehand, though; the transition to being used to doing this could be much longer.
Start small. If you don’t cook currently and are overwhelmed at the idea of doing so, start by committing to eat breakfast at home every day for a week – this is a very easy goal; buy a box of cereal and a carton of almond milk and a bunch of bananas, and you’re good to go. Then add on packing a lunch – make sandwiches, portion dinners to have leftovers ready, deploy the grazer’s method (Simon’s favorite) and stuff your lunchpail full of healthy snacks like carrots and hummus, multiple pieces of fruit, maybe a small serving of crackers, along with your sandwich. When you’re used to that, then tackle dinners. Promise to cook twice a week – and make double batches so you have leftovers for the other nights and don’t need to cook.
Allow yourself to adjust. If you’re not used to eating home cooked food, you will need to transition. You will feel resentful of coworkers bringing back hoagies to their desks while you open your peanut butter and jelly. Get over it. You will simply not want to eat an apple instead of cookies. Do it anyway. Again, it all comes down to attitude and way of thinking. Do you want to be healthy/rely less on eating out or not?
(This is long, so I’ll write more next week!)
April 12, 2013 § Leave a Comment
A quick break from Foodie Fridays for a practical post. I love my current job at the nursery school/after-care program. But finances and the end of the school year approaching meant it was time to look for something more, and thankfully I found a job that lets me finish out the school year with the after-care program and utilizes my clerical skill set. I’m excited to see how it goes. I’ve applied for and gotten quite a few jobs over the years, some that have worked out and others that I decided in orientation or after interviewing weren’t for me. I’ve learned several things which I wanted to write up in one place, and hopefully they’ll be helpful. These tips focus solely on interviewing, but maybe I’ll write up some for resumes and cover letters, too.
1. Wear good shoes.
Every interview advice article you read will tell you to dress professionally and blandly. A suit, minimal jewelry, whatever. This is true…. ish. I wear my suit, but I always wear killer (though still appropriate) heels. It doesn’t matter if the interviewer is male or female; this will be noticed, but because you look professional, it’s simply memorable, and you stand out as someone who goes the extra step (no pun intended.)
2. Remember the Three A’s!
Articulate – Practice your answers to common interview questions, or at least know what you’re going to say. Don’t mumble. Take your time before answering a question, and have some of your own prepared. If the interviewer is a talker, it’s okay to say, “Actually, you’ve answered a lot of my questions already, thank you for being so up-front about your business!”
Amicable – Be personable. It really should go without saying, but ‘please’, ‘thank you’, ‘nice to meet you’, and ‘I look forward to hearing from you’ should all come out of your mouth. Be yourself; don’t try to tell the interviewer what you think she or he wants to hear. Also be agreeable; if the company has a policy that is a deal-breaker for you, you can kindly say so and thank the interviewer for his or her time and end the interview. But likewise, be flexible; if the job is one you could do well and would be a good fit for you in most ways, don’t be too stringent. “Perfect” jobs are rare.
Attractive – I wanted to be alliterative, but this just means clean yourself up. Comb your hair! Don’t throw it in a sad ponytail. Wash your face and at least put on some lip gloss. Wear your best clothes, even if your regular wardrobe for the job isn’t quite as high end. Go the extra mile. If you look good, you’ll feel more confident, and that will be the most attractive thing of all. And don’t forget tip 1!
3. Professional trumps personable.
You are not trying to become your interviewer’s best friend. You want to convince them you’re capable. Being friendly is a plus, but being too friendly could make you seem almost a push over. I learned this during a group interview. We all arrived early and got to talking while we waited, and one girl was extremely chatty (possibly out of nervousness). What was initially nice quickly turned somewhat trying, as it seemed she had poor boundaries and failed to recognize the appropriateness of time and place. While employers obviously want a team player who will put their clients at ease, they more so want someone capable of doing the job right. This means being able to read a situation and react in context.
I can’t promise you’ll get every job you interview for, but I can promise you’ll have done everything you could to get it. Of course, applying for jobs you aren’t qualified for is an easy way to never hear from an employer. Lying is another thing. It goes without saying. Don’t invent MBA’s, okay? And I can promise there’ll be another tasty recipe going up next week!