Sunday Sessions

For Now, We Feast

Thanksgiving is this week, and while my body has been busy with presenting at first one conference and then another, my mind is already in Martinsville, running the hand mixer through a bowl of boiled potatoes and milk to achieve the creamiest mashed potatoes possible.

The complicated history of the first Thanksgiving is not lost on me, but when I think about what it can mean today (a place to bridge the divides, to focus on gratitude) I am convinced there is a need for this holiday more than ever before. Who can be hateful to their fellow man over a shared table of food?

Of course the Christmas season follows in short order, and here in New York, lights are being strung, store windows are covered in anticipation of their grand reveal, and ice skating rinks are already open. For many years, David and I would come to New York in the winter to wonder at the marvelous displays, and every year we would expand our footprint (and thus our comfort zone) a little further beyond mid-town. One year, we even spent Christmas here and were surprised to find that on Christmas morning we could walk through the middle of Times Square and not encounter another human for blocks. Now that I live here, I worry that some of the novelty of our adventure will be displaced because these sights are part of my everyday routine now. It has pushed me to look for new, unexplored territories, and to seek out new traditions.

But for now—until Friday at least—it is Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving alone. Gather your loved ones, your friends, your neighbors around the table. Thanksgiving doesn’t really have a playlist, so I begrudgingly invite you to put on the holiday jazz while you cook. Bring a deck of cards, and maybe a good bottle of wine.

And leave the rest of it—the lights, the tree, the gifts, the carols—for later. For now, we feast.

To Read

You are welcome at our table.

The toast story. The visiting countries story. The “putting on my citizen hat” story. A conversation with Michelle Obama.

Yellowstone National Park is in danger.

A restaurant critic wonders if he is responsible for killing the thing he loved.

There is a sex recession among the young.

The remarkable history of Joy of Cooking.

The young people will save us all.

Beware: this story is creepy AF.

Go to hell, Edith.

Thursday night when David’s train arrives.

As someone who has been to the hospital, erm, a few times for dehydration, I’m so happy to see hydro-haters are a real phenomenon.

Click for photos #14 and #22, stay the lesson about our relationship with technology.

By my count, I’ve read about 30 books this year (and abandoned at least 3). I’m hoping to finish out the year with Heartland and Florida, both of which have been shortlisted for the National Book Awards.

To Listen

As a 34 year old woman, I have no business being on the John Green train, and yet, here I am.  Listen to this interview with Anna Sale of Death, Sex, and Money, and then check out the absolutely perfect Anthropocene Reviewed.

To Eat

Is this the most beautiful pie editorial I’ve ever seen? Yes, yes, it is.

Okay, you’re cutting it a little close here, but if you haven’t begun to plan your Thanksgiving dinner yet, here’s a good place to start.

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Sunday Sessions

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

If we’ve been friends for any amount of time, you probably know that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s like Christmas, but better—no religious affiliation, no pressure to spend money on gifts, just food and family and gratitude.

There were a few years early in our relationship when David and I would travel 5 hours south to my family in Martinsville, then 5 hours east to his family in Virginia Beach. It was stressful, trying to be there for two families, and feeling like we were never getting enough time with each (not to mention doing it again at Christmas).

But then there was the Thanksgiving where David’s parents were in the middle of a stressful move and being the newest addition to the family, it didn’t seem appropriate to ask my in-laws if I could take over their kitchen to make them a warm meal. So, dear reader, we thawed frozen pre-packaged foods from Costco, and I thought my heart would damn near break. Since then, we’ve spent Thanksgiving with my family, where the past few years the matriarch (my grandma) lets me take over her kitchen while she tells me how to make the family favorites just so. About 2 hours before the meal, we’ll ceremoniously carry the turkey up to my parent’s house across the street, and prepare it to turn on the spit of a seen-on-TV roaster that only comes out one time a year.

No matter what time we say dinner will start, it’s usually about 2 hours after that, and then we crowd into my grandma’s beloved doublewide trailer and fill our plates so full I fear the styrofoam will break. Mashed potatoes and crockpot macaroni and cheese. Yeast rolls. Green beans and broccoli casserole. Turkey. Ham. Gravy. Plastic cups of soda. I usually try to bring at least one new, fresh thing to the table (although it barely gets eaten). My mom makes an assortment of sweets, and my grandma makes the pies—usually one for everyone else, plus another one secreted away for me.

My brother and his partner are there, plus my mom and dad, my brother and his wife, and their two kiddos. Most years my uncle stops by, and sometimes we have special guests, like my grandma’s friend Cordie. This event has always been the litmus test for potential boyfriends and girlfriends.

I used to dream that one day my family would crowd around my kitchen table for our Thanksgiving meals, and that I would, by then, have mastered the family favorites, but the truth is they have made their lives in my hometown, while we still continue to explore and roam. I’m coming to terms with the idea that I will never host my family for Thanksgiving.

For now, though, I still have a kitchen where I am welcome, and recipes to learn, and vegetables to foist on my carb-loving family, on my favorite day of the year.

To Read

“On one level, this story in Flint is about water. But on another level, it’s about trust in government, feeling like your voice matters and that elected leaders care about you. Pipes are hard to fix. Those other things are even harder.”  Here is your regular reminder that Flint, Michigan still doesn’t have clean drinking water.

Working my way through this incredible thread of stories about matriarchy from the San Francisco Chronicle.

This week I found hope in stories I read and heard about Stacey Abrams, Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia.

A pox on the house of every single one of you drinking garbage coffee from Keurig machines.

America, our food is so gay.

Longer Reads

Populism, preservation, collective memory, architecture: there is so much to entertain in Kate Wagner’s “Archivists of Extension.”

I read David Sedaris’ Calypso this week, more than a few times I found myself chuckling or snorting out loud on the train. Find your release valve—whatever that is—and give yourself permission to open it this week.

To Eat

Look, I don’t know how I feel about this collard green melt either, but if it has the attention of Bon Appetit and some of my favorite food people, I feel like we have to give it a try.

If you’ve got time this weekend, why not make this pumpkin pot pie (or sub butternut squash and no one will guess the difference)?

Still the best and tastiest Brussel sprouts recipe I’ve ever made.

Time to practice those pie crusts, babies.

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Sunday Sessions

My Tree, Myself

 

The windows of our apartment look down on a large park. The park has four quadrants—a soccer field, a playground, and two open parcels of grass with large, shady trees. In the grassy area closest to our apartment, there stands a mighty tree with a thick trunk and leafy limbs. The tree and I have passed three full seasons together, and now begin our fourth.

In summer evenings, the tree becomes a bed to what I suspect may be migrant workers. They stretch out there under the limbs with no blankets or pillows—just a rolled up jacket—and stay there until the early morning. Others use the tree as coverage, for “discreet” drug deals, or a make out spot, or a place to tell secrets with a best friend. Most often though, the tree becomes a toilet. On any given day, a half dozen men will look around to make sure no one is watching, then slip behind the tree to relieve themselves. Mostly, this makes me laugh. The tree may provide protection from visibility on one side, but what about the other three?

Shorter Reads

I feel seen.

Katie Prout writes about going hungry while studying at the most prestigious MFA in America.

Following the news that Sears has filed for bankruptcy, read this thread on why the Sears Catalogue was seen as “radical” in the Jim Crow era.

Longer Reads

A complicated portrait of patron saint of conservative feminism, Dolly Parton.

The love story that upended the Texas prison system.

This is 24 Hours in America.

The surreal, corrupt ways the elderly lose their rights.

12 authors describe why they love libraries.

If you enjoy history, or even just stories powerful (sometimes misunderstood) women, set aside some time to dig into this series on the “queens of infamy.”

Listen

Hoodies Up

To Watch

Watch the new Netflix series, Salt, Acid, Fat and Heat, based on a book of the same name by Samin Nosrat. It’s as close as anyone has ever come, in my opinion, to achieving the same genuine curiosity and profound respect for food cultures as Anthony Bourdain.

To Eat

Since the days have gotten colder, I’ve had a perpetual low-grade cold. My nose runs, my muscles ache, I shiver. Could this magic elixir change everything?

I’ve decided this is the winter of fennel: I want to try this quirky vegetable everywhere. If you’re just discovering fennel too, a good place to start is this apple and fennel salad with walnuts and honey.

Oh Ottolenghi, you have never lead me astray. His baked rice with slow-roasted tomatoes and garlic is an easy and warm side to make for dinner.

On lazy weekends, I’ll whip up some basic pancakes, but this winter feels like a good time to step up my game with this cinnamon apple dutch baby.

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Sunday Sessions

We Have to be Fearless About Love

I never had dreams of a house in the suburbs with a yard and a fence, but the older I get the more I do have a vision of a small cabin, tucked back into the woods, with some water nearby, and maybe a little garden to the side.

The windows are open all the time, some biscuits or perhaps cinnamon rolls on the counter, and a door that swings wide open for anyone who cares to visit. On your way in, you can hear the sound of jazz on the radio just over the barks of the dog.

I’ll greet you at the door and tell you pull up a chair while I make some coffee in the French press. David’s building the fire, he’ll be over in just a minute. And don’t let me forget about the book I have to give you—I loved it and I know you will too.

We’ll talk and laugh, and I’ll make you leave with a plate of something.

And as you’re preparing to go, I’ll give you a good firm hug and tell you I love you; you’ll be a little embarrassed by my open displays of affection (but that’s okay, because in these times we have to be fearless about love).

To Read

Actress Mara Wilson ponders what Matilda would look like at age 30, and Louis Staples explains why Matilda came to represent the LGBTQ experience so well.

Hey, it was a really stressful week. Let’s go on a nature walk.

“We don’t make magic; we make money.” The dark underbelly of Disneyland.

“I had often wondered if anxiety medication would prevent me from thinking I was about to die on a plane, or if it would prevent me from caring that I was about to die on a plane. It was most definitely the latter.” Hello, my name is Ashley, and I have a deep and abiding fear of flying.

My senior year of college, I got really sick. I don’t really remember how she realized I was so sick (maybe I called sounding not quite like myself?), but my mom hopped in her car and drove the three and a half hours to take care of me. The rest of her visit is a total fog, but the sense of comfort and relief I felt when she walked through the door remains with me to this day. I think that’s why even as an adult, homesickness never really goes away.

For a southern gal, I’m late to discover famed Black southern chef (and Virginia-native) Edna Lewis. Now I can’t get enough of stories about her influence and what we’re still learning about southern food culture today.

To Listen

I’ve been listening to Last Seen, a podcast about the most expensive art heist in history.

For The Bello Collective, I wrote about why it’s okay to indulge in stories, even when the world is crumbling around us (there are also 10 recommendations for new podcasts here!).

I recently re-watched Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet. I am happy to say that version—with the cherubic Leonardo DiCaprio—holds up mightily well. It’s soundtrack—which is equally brilliant—makes this list of the 40 best movie soundtracks of all time.

To Eat

I fucking hate myself for even typing these words, but I’ve really been enjoying these overnight oats and this chia seed pudding for breakfast. Yuck. There, I said it. Please forgive me for fulfilling the dream of every Instagram influencer who endorse these recipes endlessly. The truth is, they’re both filling, can be dressed up with fruits or nuts, and take like 10 minutes to put together the night before. I’m sorry.

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Sunday Sessions

Once More Unto the Breach, Friends

This was a tough week, no? I came back from a meeting to find my colleagues crowded around a computer screen watching the hearings, their eyes wide, their breath held. I took a mental picture because it reminded me so much of the other times we as Americans have crowded around a screen to watch a moment of collective horror unfold.

I don’t know what to say anymore. These last few years have shattered a lot of my naive perceptions about people in power—mostly that they are inherently moral and oriented towards good intentions.

I thought we were just a generation away from something better, but we have further to go, and November is coming.

Building community into the renaissance of Durham, North Carolina.

People are suggesting we should eat pie for breakfast, and friends, I am here for it.

Four authors write about the intersection of relationship and place.

I wrote a very long-winded description of our travels to France and Italy.

Maya Rudolph is forever swoon-worthy.

I thought about putting up signs in my neighborhood asking if someone’s abuela would teach me the secrets behind the smells emanating from my neighbors’ kitchens. Someone got there first.

How to be better at uncertainty.

Look, I’ll be the first to tell you that in the age of social media, I advocated (advocated, I say!) for the return of the email newsletter, but now my inbox is flooded as I tried to grasp the individual threads of all my favorite writers. Thank goodness for Kill the Newsletter, a new tool that lets me send those individual newsletters to my feed reader. Now I can read them at my leisure or all at once.

Longer Reads

I just finished Shelia Heti’s book Motherhood and had a lot of feelings, mostly that both men and women alike should read this book. Most of you know David and I have long thought that kids may not be in the picture for us, at least not in the traditional way (read: I am a rockstar babysitter and auntie. Let me love on your kiddos while you take a break with a nice, strong drink), but the premise of this book is really more about the philosophical calling of motherhood—both the individual pressures and the societal complications it creates.

Scouring the book awards can be a great way to find your next read, and among the Kirkus and National Book Award finalists, there look to be some real winners (har, har).

To Eat

I’ve recently developed a new appreciation for dried plums (prunes). This prune couscous looks incredibly easy and delicious.

This winter, find ways to eat your greens, even if they’re loaded with cheddar.

Post Script

Somewhere in me there is a post on the shedding of things. One of the things I shed last year was my winter coat, so please help me fashion-minded friends. Where does one find a New York winter worthy coat?

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What I'm Doing

Postcard from Abroad

Church in Old Town Nice, France

This is an excerpt from the long and winding letter we sent our families after our trip to Nice, France, and Camogli, Italy. This is not a travel guide—it is a straightforward account of our trip.

Day 1

On Sunday, we flew from New York to Reykjavik, Iceland for our first layover. We’ve had good experiences with Iceland Air before—the economy seats are nice and spacious, and on red eye flights they even give economy class pillows, blankets, and TVs—but unfortunately this time our first flight arrived about a half an hour late, causing us to miss our layover.
At the Reykjavik airport, we learned we had two options: stay in Iceland for a night and get a direct flight to Paris the next day, or fly out today via Copenhagen. We opted to take the extra flight that day so we wouldn’t miss out on the brief stop we had planned for Paris. We landed in Paris around 7 or 8, a good ten hours later than our original plan. In keeping with tradition from our first trip to Paris, we were so tired we opted to eat at a familiar American restaurant (ahem, Five Guys).

Day 2

The next day we woke up ready to explore Paris by bike (they have a similar bikeshare system to those in DC and New York). Unfortunately, not long after we started out, I accidentally clipped a curb and tumbled over on the bike. I got a little banged up and was feeling moody about my fall. I was the height of Paris fashion when entering Holybelly with a slightly bloody foot.
This is a good time to say that David and I have both taken multiple years of French classes, and we are still surprised by how little that has prepared us to communicate in this language. We’re pretty good at reading signs and putting together context clues, and we try to be respectful enough to order in French even if it comes out sounding unintelligible, but usually we barely get past introductions before we are hopelessly confused. The French locals were mostly patient with us and seemed to appreciate (i.e. giggle at) our Americanized “Bon-jeur” and “Mare-ci,” but they quickly switched the conversation into English. It is very humbling to realize your waiter is more fluent in multiple languages than you will ever be.
Later that afternoon, we walked to Gare du Nord and boarded the TGV—France’s high speed train. I had convinced us to take economy class, which turned out not to have power outlets (oops), but we did have incredible wi-fi and comfortable seats for the whole ride. I think at our max we were going about 130 miles an hour. David and I have both said this was one of our favorite parts of the trip—watching the French countrysides roll by and eventually turn to beaches. It was about a 6 hour trip, but it flew by. We took turns napping, reading, and watching Netflix.
That evening we arrived at our apartment in Nice. We like staying at AirBnBs because we find it brings us a little closer to the “local” experience and we can often ask our neighbors questions. This AirBnB was on the third floor of an apartment building, and the host left us a nice bottle of rose wine to welcome us.

Days 3-5: Nice

We were staying in what is considered “old town,” an area which has maintained the style of the city’s early days. It’s definitely the tourist part of the city, but David and I were surprised by how charming we found it. The “old town” area is mostly made up of winding pathways—to call them streets would be too generous—the kind of you see in movies and literature.
Winding streets of Nice, France
Nice, you beautiful son of a bitch
Nice Flowers
One of my favorite things about Europe is that because most spaces are small (including fridges and cabinet spaces), the locals often only get enough food for a day or two, so the things they tend to eat are usually picked up fairly fresh from the market. The old town area is full of tiny shops that locals will frequent—the boulangerie (bakery) for their daily pain(bread), the fromager (cheese shop) for their cheese, etc.— as well as a robust daily farmer’s market. We had a bit of a scare on our first day when a cannon suddenly went off at noon–turns out that is the signal to the vendors at the farmers market to start marking down prices to get rid of their wares! Usually most shops and stores and businesses close between noon and 2 PM every day. As a tourist, this is incredibly annoying, but for locals it is their time to run errands, or have a family-style lunch with their co-workers, or take a siesta.
Nicoise salad in Nice
Petit Dejeuner at Marionette
Most of our food experiences in Nice were enjoyable, but we did have a couple that will stay in our memory.
  • On our first day, we found a coffee shop (Cafe des Indians) that would be our go-to spot for the rest of our time there, and we would often stop in, get our noisette (machiatto) for me and glacé frappe (iced coffee) for David (PS: ice is scarce in Europe–they don’t naturally put it in drinks, which was a win for me and an annoyance for David).
  • In France especially you will see prix fix (fixed price) menus. For example, a restaurant may offer only one petit dejeuner (breakfast) option: for 6 euro you get coffee, juice, and a pastry. You can very which kind of pastry you get, but that menu is the only option you have if you want to eat there. There were some tourist spots that catered more to American tastes, and for 15 euro your petit dejeuner fixed price menu might include eggs or sausage. We ended up finding this lovely little spot called Marionette that served the best petit dejeuner we found—for 10 euros we got pancakes with fresh mixed berry jam, coffee, freshly (VERY FRESHLY) squeezed orange juice, and yogurt with granola and honey.
  • Finally, on our last night in Nice we stumbled on Peixes (“fish” in Portuguese), an incredible, incredible seafood restaurant. We shared oysters and ceviche (raw fish in citrus juices) and a delicious almond cake.
  • Wine is relatively cheap in Nice, but to be honest, we couldn’t keep up and didn’t try to. We saw people drinking at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but usually we would have a single glass with dinner.
  • Gelato was delicious and plentiful in Nice.
Although Nice is known for its beaches, this is not where David and I spent most of our time. The beaches, while beautiful, are rocky—there is actually no sand! The water was beautiful and clear blue, but surprisingly chilly too. We would just walk to the beach for a quick view in the morning, and then walk and sit on the rocks at the beach after dinner.
Beaches along Nice, France
One night we saw a mysterious light lurking just below the surface of the water near the shore. Soon we realized it was someone swimming at night with a headlamp and a snorkle. We thought this was a pretty cool hobby until the swimmer rose out of the water—with a spear! It turns out the swimmer was spear fishing and had caught a number of fish that he placed in a belt around his waist. This was probably one of the coolest things we stumbled on during our trip.
Mercantour National Forest
On our next to last day in Nice, David went to pick up our rental car. Being Americans who don’t drive a stick shift, they stuck us with a mammoth luxury station wagon that we did not want (everyone in Europe drives small cars–we had no idea where we were going to park this beast). We used the car to travel to Mercantour National Park for what we thought would be a lovely little hike, but turned out to be a terrifying (for Ashley) assent up winding mountain roads to THE FRENCH ALPS. That’s all we’re going to say about this part of the trip since Ashley needed to be heavily sedated afterwards (kidding…but also not).

Days 6-8

We left Nice by car and headed (again, along winding mountain roads) to Camogli, a small port town outside Genoa, Italy and about 3 hours away from Nice. David had a chance to test out the French/Italian highway system known as the Autostrad and we did pass by the collapsed bridge in Genoa which was eerie to see.
View from Camogli Italy
We eventually made our way to our next AirBnB, which was a tiny house studio attached to a larger home. It was really fun to see what it would be like to live in a tiny house and we found that we liked it quite a lot. But what made this location really special was the outdoor space and THE VIEW—we could see the ocean and the entire hillside community. The only downside was the large, heavy sliding doors which were difficult to open and close; David actually ended up smashing his finger trying to close a door one night (ouch).
Most European places we’ve stayed have a washer, but no dryer, so people hang their clothes out to dry from windows or from lines in their yard. We washed our clothes in the tiny Italian washer and then David jiggered a homemade clothes line for us to use during our stay. The clothes are stiff and wrinkly once their dry, and we both agreed a dryer was about the only American appliance we missed.
Camogli cat

I am very allergic to cats, and we learned this one usually “hang out inside” our AirBnB. Turns out he was very amenable to “hanging out” in the chairs on the porch instead, so we’re cool.

Camogli is another port town (but smaller and less touristy) on a hill so we knew we wanted to find our way to the water. Running through the middle of town is a 1 mile-long winding staircase that goes along behind the houses and homes to the center square. Our first day there, we walked from our AirBnB to the town square and took a ferry boat to a nearby town called San Fruttuso. It was incredible to be out on the Mediterranean and look back to see the colorful town from on the water.
Another day, we walked down to the waterfront and rented beach chairs for a few hours. We sat in the brilliant sun and tested out the warm clear blue water. We couldn’t help but be in awe of the way the water had smoothed out the rocks along the shore and the sounds it made as it pulled the rocks back out with each wave. No matter what we do, we’ll never be able to describe how beautiful the water and the shores are along the Mediterranean.
Port of Camogli, Italy
Overall, our food experiences in Camogli were less memorable. We did find one incredible coffee shop that we went back to visit three times. We also had a chance to sample a good piece of Camogli focaccia bread and we grabbed homemade pasta sauce to use over pasta we made at the apartment.
We did learn one lesson: We had failed to learn any conversational Italian before coming, and being more rural than Nice, most of the locals were not multi-lingual. A lot of experiences involved pointing at words, or pulling out our phones and getting translations, and I don’t think that made us very likable to people.
My best memories of Camogli will be its remoteness. Because we didn’t feel we could easily go explore other towns, we kind of stayed put and relaxed a little. We read books, we slept in, we put our feet up and watched the sunsets and sunrises from our little porch. It was incredibly relaxing.

Day 9-10 

On our last day in Camogli, we woke up early in the morning to drive back to Nice and drop off the car. Then we boarding the TGV for Paris. We landed at the Gare du Nord and then on to our hotel.

Notre Dame

Our second Paris hotel ended up being near Notre Dame, somewhere we had been before, but we decided to take an evening stroll there with fresh eyes and found we really loved everything about that part of Paris. We revisited the places we had stayed on our last visit in Le Maris and while it was fun to reminisce, we couldn’t believe how different Paris felt to us just six years later at this different stage of our life.
The next morning we woke up early and boarded our flight back to the US.
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Sunday Sessions

Summer is Dead, Long Live Summer

Summer is over and I feel dead inside. Well, not quite, but sort of. The iced fruit carts are beginning to disappear and Mister Softee is becoming scarce too. Everything is pumpkin and apple spice now. Every restaurant has placed their bets on soup. Sigh.

Yesterday, we made one last hurrah of it (summer, I mean). We biked the 8 miles down to the very bottom of Manhattan, then we boarded a short ferry bound for Governor’s Island. We stuffed our faces at the Vendy’s and then we made the long trek back on the train feeling quiet and contemplative.

I’ve long-suspected that I have seasonal affective disorder (SAD) since the transition to fall and winter leaves me out of sorts and a little blue. I try to counteract it with exercise and lots of social plans, but if you see me reaching out for your company in these dark winter months, perhaps indulge me? You’ll be my human sunshine.

To Read

It’s here. My favorite piece of media all year is this list of 100 pieces of outstanding journalism. I make it a mission to read them all—join me?

What am I going to do with my life?

Looking for a job? These are really, really good resume templates.

Need to find me? Ask my ham man.

There is no way around it, this is a tough read, but it is important we don’t distance ourselves from their sacrifice.

Noah Chao on sharing a love of Korean cooking with his white mother .

I cling to recipes—I won’t buy a cookbook without pictures—but really, this is the wrong way to learn to cook.

To Watch

We’re working our way through Manic on Netflix. What a weird and wonderful ride from Cary Fukunaga (director of True Detective and the Jane Eyre adaption with haunting Mia Wasikowska).

To Listen

In a packed house on the upper east side, the New York Times revealed that this week’s Magazine would be an audio and visual experience unlike any they’ve tried before. I want to know what you think about it. Start here.

To Eat

During the week, I need something I can make quickly, but bonus points if it feels decadent and can be sized into a dish for one. This midnight pasta will do the trick just fine.

I will not stop my quest to make you try tofu. I haven’t made this Crisp Tofu Katsu With Lemon-Tahini Sauce yet, but it seems like the thing that could endear you to tofu.

I’m visiting my friend Matt and his lovely family today, and I wish I’d had the foresight to make these miso brown sugar cashew buns as gift. Holy wow, these look tasty.

And finally…

It turns out there are a few folks (it was my Grandma) who don’t want to depend on Facebook to show them the latest updates on the blog, so they asked for a little advice on how to get the latest posts sent to them directly.

Currently, there are three ways:

  1. Bookmark 18thandColumbia.co in your browser and visit on Sundays to see if I’ve written anything new.
  2. Add 18thandColumbia.co to your favorite feedreader (I use Feedly).
  3. Sign up to receive an email every time I post something new by adding your email address to the form at the bottom of this page here. This email is automated, so it won’t be very pretty; I suggest you click through to see the post on the site.

Love you, Grandma.

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Sunday Sessions

The One in Which I Realize I Am a Now a Local

Before moving to DC, I had never lived anywhere with a mass transit system before. It took me some time (and a lot of stares) to realize people were not interested in conversing with me on their morning rush hour commutes.

These days, I’m veteran of the subways and the inveterate moods that come with them. I sigh at the tourists walking four across down the stairs, making it impossible for the locals to move around them. I stop to help folks who look overwhelmed by the tangle of routes on the maps. I have deep fondness for the buskers, dancers, and artists who frequent the platform and the cars of the system.

Last weekend, however, I found myself making a rookie mistake: I had hopped on a line that would require me to transfer at 42nd Street/Times Square. On a Saturday afternoon. In the middle of tourist season.

It was hot, I was sweaty, and I was already nearing my the end of my patience when the 2 Express train arrived. We packed onto the car—bodies pressed tightly against each other, the odors of our shared sweat pungent. I strained my neck to identify the locals—you always know your fellow locals—and we shared a look: Just hold out until 72nd street, none of these tourists will dare go up that far, the car will empty out and it will be just us again.

Before it was better, though, it got worse. A warbling voice rose from somewhere in the middle of the car: “Shame on all of you meat eaters! Your body is the graveyard of animals! Your grotesque habits have created climate change and it cannot be undone!”

I outwardly groaned.

I have suffered through shouting preachers at 8:30 AM, and intense political propaganda when I am dead tired after work, but not this, not today.

She continued: “Instead of feeding the world’s hungry and poorest, we use our food sources to feed the animals you will fatten up and slaughter! Leonardo DiCaprio convinced Netlfix to make a movie about it! If you don’t believe me, believe Leonardo DiCaprio!”

I stretched my neck again to find my fellow locals. Some had squeezed their eyes shut, others sighed. How much more of this could we take?

We tried to communicate with our glances: What should we do? What could we do? There was nowhere to move. We could not even see where the voice was coming from.

I pondered my own cynicism as the train and the woman barreled on. I am mostly vegetarian and I even I am extremely annoyed by this tactic. Should I have compassion for this woman with a cause? Should I honor her sense of dedication?

Eventually, the train pulled into 72nd street and a hard break sent bodies rushing into each other as we all tried to stay upright. The doors opened and as people rushed out; the voice stuttered to a stop, overtaken by the masses trying to exit the car.

Within seconds, the train car had cleared by more than half. I looked around and my fellow locals began to pull out books and phones to take up all their new hard-won personal space. The doors closed and we all held our breath, looking around at who remained.

Silence.

Turns out protesters don’t want to go above 72nd street either.

We breathed a collective sigh of relief.

To Read

Want to make and keep friends as an adult? Show up.

Will travel for coffee: Some people drink wine and taste the distinguishing notes right away—that’s how I feel about coffee. More often than not, if I’m exploring a new neighborhood its because I’m on the hunt for a cup of joe. This list from Eater hasn’t let me down yet.

Journalists are not the enemy.

I turned 34 yesterday and I have never felt the unraveling more keenly.

Mindful eating as a kind of prayer.

It drives me bonkers when waitstaff hand the check to David automatically. I’ll be glad when all restaurants do away with the concept of “ladies first.”

Read everything in this thread on our relationship with places, but if you need a place to start, start here.

An informative guide to Black hair.

Traveling through Penn Station? Shh, here’s an insider tip.

A fascinating (and troubling) look at the history of plastic bags. Like all bad things, corporations were involved from the start.

The startling thing about New York is the many ways it’s just like anywhere else.

Longer Reads

I finished Freshwater this week. To appreciate it is to know you are looking at something avant garde and finding meaning in it anyway.

How can so much about relationships, and family, and geopolitical disasters be contained in this one little tome? Exit West is perhaps the truest telling I’ve ever read of how two people can simply grow apart.

To Watch

We the Animals. I can’t remember the last time a film moved me in this way.

To Eat

This week, I met up for dinner with an buddy from DC. She suggested Osteria 106, which I would have never found on my own, hidden as it was along a residential street on the Upper West Side. We thought we’d just have a drink—for old times’ sake—but a shared bottle of wine turned into a shared plate of fried artichokes with lemon, which turned into a shared plate of cheesy gnocchi with walnuts (we sopped up the remaining cheese sauce with olive bread). There is a certain intimacy implied in sharing food—the knowledge you’re likely to clink forks, and that someone will always eat the last bite, and that the bad thing you’ve just eaten is a little less bad because you only at half as much.

This fried-bread panzanella seems the perfect way to say goodbye to summer.

Somebody get me this cheese plate right. now.

I am 100% here for these fresh takes on the humble tuna sandwich.

Yesterday we made an admirable go of the pie crawl, stopping at The Little Pie Company in Hell’s Kitchen, Petee’s Pie on the Lower East Side, and Four and Twenty Blackbirds in Gowanas? Park Slope? Prospect Park? (sorry, I don’t know Brooklyn that well yet). Across our journey, we had key lime, banana cream, matcha, coffee cream, black bottom oat, and salted caramel pies. They were worthy every dollar, and every sugary, creamy bite.

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21st Century Woman

This is 34.

I don’t know how to love things at a chill level and I have no interest in learning. Give me enthusiasm or give me death.

– Rosianna Rojos

One morning I sat on a crowded subway car next to a man who was sweating profusely. He looked around nervously and kept touching the handles of the bag between his feet.

I’ve lived in urban areas long enough not to panic, but to simply observe. I silently pondered whether this was something or nothing, and with it, the consequences of it being something or nothing.

If this is it, I thought, if this is the moment of truth, what would it mean to leave this all behind?

At 34, by all accounts, I am well-lived.

I have a loving family, a centered relationship, good friends.

I have traveled to far-off places. I have studied big ideas. I live in what many would call the greatest city, in the greatest country, in the world.

I am privileged beyond words.

If this were the end, no one could doubt I had a full life.

At 34, though, I feel undone, still unfinished in the ways that matter to me.

If this were the end, I would doubt I had led an effective life.

The train came to a stop. The man got off. The question remained.

At 34, I am trying to come to terms with those contradictions. To have ticked the boxes of our collective standards, but to feel so unaccomplished by my own.

I have no aspirations for fame or immortality. I only desire to approach the world with curiosity and reckless enthusiasm; to be firm in my resolve, and just in my action.

At 34, I am delirious with gratitude.

I eat peaches with abandon.

I am finally learning the capitals of all 195 countries.

I see movies that fill me with deep joy and read books that make me uncomfortable.

I marvel and groan at the way my aging body shape-shifts under me.

I cuddle babies and breathe in their pretty smells.

At 34, I constantly observe other people in the middle of their lives, and I find that I love them so much I think my heart will burst.

At 34, I find am still filled with self-doubt and anxious insecurities.

At 34, I still wear my heart on my sleeve. An unkind word is seared into my memory, sharp and unforgiving forever.

At 34, I am painfully shedding expectations—and people and plans—and holding the things left behind all the tighter.

At 34, I acknowledge the courageousness it took to make the choices—tough, sometimes unconventional choices—that led me here.

At 34, I fall more in love with my partner, with the perfect crinkles around his eyes, and the way he makes himself laugh.

At 34, I mourn the things lost by living so far away from the people I love—the Sunday dinners, the unplanned coffee, the catfish fries. I celebrate the independence and self-reliance it has given me instead.

At 34, I wake up and remind myself to try something new today—with curiosity and reckless enthusiasm.

This is 33.

This is 32.

This is 31.

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Sunday Sessions

People-Based Infrastructure

I’ve been living in New York for 8 months, and most of that time has been a steady routine of going to work, coming home, and waiting until the weekend when David returns. When nobody is waiting for you at home, you try the city on for size anytime you like—take new routes, hop off the train somewhere random, see the odd movie or show on a whim. And there is a special kind of joy in indulging that kind of serendipity.

But, frankly, sometimes it can be a little lonely too.

And just when that feeling began to crystalize and I started to worry I might never see our favorite friendly faces ever again, Nicole and Bret wondered if we might want to get brunch while they were visiting. Soon, I was talking chickens with Anna and Sarah and Kara. Not long after that, Charlie came up to test oat milk theory and pioneer City Island. I got drunk on rose with Nitya. We had sushi and sake with Brandon. We talked about the never-ending hustle with Heather and Greg. Tim convinced David to give Queer Eye a chance. Jenna and I pondered chucking it all and opening up a bookstore. And in the middle of torrential downpour, we traipsed across the city with Ryan and Kyndra.

In the middle of building a new life, these visits sustained me. And more importantly, they reminded me that you never know when a casual meeting will turn into a long-lasting friendship.

I’m grateful for the incredible network of friends and family who visit, and send me text messages and letters, and let me share in their joys even though I’m further away than ever before. Thank you.

To Read

What’s the line between southern food and soul food?

When I was a kid, my parents distinguished between girl chores (dusting, vacuuming) and boy chores (mowing the yard). It was bullshit then, and I’m sorry to see it is still bullshit now.

The kids are alright: Four millennials have saved Capitol Hill Books

Can you make a career out of being a waiter? Turns out you can.

Why some people leave their hometowns—and others stay.

Feminize your cannon: Dorothy West

These women are reshaping America’s food system.

To Listen

Bodies

The Organist

StartUp

To Eat

It’s peach season. Peel one and put it in your oatmeal. Have one for Elevenses, and another for lunch. Peaches also make a delicious dessert. All of the peaches, all of the time—no recipe required.

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