passover, with apologies, & oh so many liberties

My mom recycles calendars. She estimates that she's saved a little over $30 for every year that she has done this. It's an eccentric and slightly sheepish revelation that gives you a really good glimpse into how my family thinks about money. Expenses are evaluated, not on their one-off cost, but as they are projected over a lifetime.

For instance, my preferred Wallaby yogurt isn't $2.69 - $2.99 a pop - on no, it's $12.50 a month, nearly $150 a year - hence the recent $28 investment for a yogurt maker. Which might sound like a hassle to you, but it sounds like half a ticket to Iceland to me.

Not to stereotype (as I now proceed to stereotype), but this penny-pinching attitude is part of why this Shiksa and the Jewish men I've dated have always gotten on famously well in this regard. They seem to get it; spend on extravagances, on indulgent luxuries - and scrimp on the mundanities - like calendars - that don't really effect your life quality. If you do, when it comes to frills, you'll usually find that you have the money.

The only trouble with spending money on, say, international travel instead of this year's calendar, is that some pesky holidays don't stay fixed to a constant date. No, they go roaming around various months and make it difficult to pin them down if you're not watching carefully - which I wasn't.

So I'd half-planned a Seder feast for March 27, before I realized that while Passover happened on March 27 in *1994* - in *2011* Passover won't be making an appearance till April... sigh... oops... & oh well...

But it was too late - I'd already started in on the Matzoh Balls.

Despite the many Seders I've been to, as a function of me being vegetarian, I've actually never had Matzoh Ball soup. Though I've always been a little dubious that I'd actually like it - sodden bread is very far from my favorite texture and I don't particularly enjoy things with an eggy flavor - and since that's basically the two things Matzoh Ball soup has going for it... well... you can see the rationale behind my skepticism.

Nonetheless, I love traditional dishes and was quite keen to try a veggie variation and do my damnedest to turn this into a dish I might enjoy. I adapted this version of Sarah Kagan's Vegetarian Matzoh Balls, which basically means I made a moderate attempt to mask the 'egg' taste.

No doubt, people raised on their grandmother's plain matzoh ball & chicken consomme might balk, but I think it turned out well. Next time, however, I'll make an even grander attempt to make those balls super-savory and thus palatable to my palate (think more onion, more garlic, more turmeric, more cayenne, hmmm... maybe some rosemary?) - I'll call it Anne *Spiced* Matzo Ball Soup!

Till then, if you don't mind egg, and are looking for a veggie Matzoh soup dish that's a few steps left of the traditional, you'll probably really like the below recipe:

Slightly Bastardized Vegetarian Matzoh Ball Soup

2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
2 dashes cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp grated yellow onion
1 clove minced garlic
3/4 tsp turmeric
2 tsp butter (leave this out if you're aiming for kosher!! & use a full 1 T of olive oil instead)
1/2 T olive oil
2 T chopped spinach
1 T grated carrot
2/3 cup matzoh meal (or approximately 2 sheets of finely blitzed matzoh crackers, which I felt *very* fortunate to find in this wholly gentile community where every store clerk responded to my inquires about matzoh meal - "What? You're looking for Malt O' Meal?")
5 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup carrot
3/4 cup cooked chickpeas
1/2 cup spinach

Separate the eggs and beat the egg whites in a small bowl until they hold stiff peaks. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, salt, cayenne pepper, onion, garlic, turmeric, carrot, spinach, butter and oil. Gently fold the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture until just combined. Fold in the matzoh meal (or finely blitzed crackers) in 4 separate additions. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate one hour.

In a large pot, saute the onion for 3-4 minutes, then add the celery and saute for an additional 3 minutes. Add the vegetable stock and carrots and bring to a boil. Shape the matzoh mixture into 3/4 inch balls and drop them into the boiling stock. Return to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer for 25 minutes, turning the balls occasionally. Add the spinach and chickpeas, cover and cook for an additional 5-7 minutes. Serve warm with those extra Matzoh crackers you now have on hand! (Some people take their Matzoh balls out and serve in 'fresh broth' - so you know, do this if you don't like the idea of 'cloudy' - but from my perspective, the more that's going on besides those eggy dumplings, the better!)


when at rope's end.... bake

do you remember when this blog was sing-songy and all i wrote about were things like candy drawers, wild unexpected jaunts and baked goods?

i do.

it was years ago. before notorious men, one cosmically so, irreverently bucked through my life like a bull-in-a-china-shop tornado. since then, once i'd dusted off the shards of glass and dabbed the blood, i looked around at my world and thought, "oh wow - we are most definitely *not* in kansas anymore."

was the world so different? of course not. but i looked at everything with different eyes. gone was my buoyant optimism. my belief in magic, in life, in... anything.

BUT - i've grown weary of digging my heels into the poisoned earth of this abandoned fairground that i've built. i'm tired of picking stale peanuts off the ground, hoping like jack & the beanstalk that one of them will conjure back an irretrievable past - make people and circumstances behave & turn out differently.

people have done & will do what they do. even when their actions are good for nobody - not even themselves. which is tragic, but that doesn't mean my life needs to be a tragedy.

and so... first step, for me. is to start where i began, and bake my way back. baking is magic. it's starting from precious little nothing & turning all those separate elements into something. it is creation rather than destruction.

my young cousins and i were all in desperate need for a cheery diversion on monday and so we tackled peter reihnart's bagels - which had been featured by luisa of 'the wednesday chef' *and* tim of 'lottie and doof' (i trust these bloggers implicitly) - the kneading of which is *highly* recommended for emoting, whether you be a 12-year-old, or, uh, slightly older. **(there wasn't time for us to refrigerate the dough overnight - so my genius sister suggested we let them raise in a warm dark place for an hour instead, which worked *perfectly* - but i plan to make them again properly and take a pic to show you).

and last night i made the vegan chocolate tahini cake pictured above, suggested by my friend molly of 'the particular kitchen' (good for gluten-free baking or if you have a load of tahini on hand - which i did... but if not, and if you're not doing it for health, i'd suggest this loaf by nigella instead!)

it's been a good start.

so... here's to more baking... more great adventures... more living life in a way that's full of creation and gratitude. that's my promise to you from here on out. maybe i'll even get around to writing about candy drawers again.

the long ago, but not forgotten, ms. spice

the last chapter

The weekend was a train wreck.

We'd come all this way, but not journeyed an inch of distance.

And I knew that my life, what I expected, what I accepted - needed to drastically change.

"Learn the alchemy true human beings know. The moment you accept what troubles you've been given, the door will open." — Rumi

Top photo is by Alex Prager.... bottom photo is by me... the palms of Los Angeles, mid-summer.

you & me

Michelle Williams stared at me in the night-quiet of a Brooklyn apartment. Lifted from a coffee table, she was shorn and reduced to 10 questions within Time's red and black oil-slick pages. One question - the obligatory question du jour - What helped you prepare for Blue Valentine? - was sourced from an anonymous John of Montana (Ryan Gosling once compared Michelle to Montana. She's like Montana were his exact words - did you know?)

Her answer: it was a performance bled out of poetry and song. She stitched together the character's outline with banjo notes; reached her bone-thin arm, like a needle through the ice, into the words of Galway Kinnell to fish out its soul; a paper doll stuffed entirely from the wrist and pulse skating atop Kinnell's white pages.

"There's a line in one of his poems, 'Being forever in the pre-trembling of a house that falls.' [...] The poem is called "Little Sleep's-Head Sprouting Hair in the Moonlight." Go find it."

Go find it she said. So I did.

And after I found it, I also found Galway's take on finding love:

"It takes a lot of living to grow fully into your own wrongness. And it isn’t until you finally run up against your deepest demons, your unsolvable problems — the ones that make you truly who you are — that we’re ready to find a lifelong mate. Only then do you finally know what you’re looking for. You’re looking for the wrong person. But not just any wrong person: the right wrong person—someone you lovingly gaze upon and think, 'This is the problem I want to have.'"

I sat in bed chewing on this. I wondered if I'd grown into my wrongness fully enough yet - or if I still needed to wrangle my deepest demons to the ground in my very awareness of them. How well did I know the topography of my darkest and most unsolvable problems? Enough to know the shade and silhouette of the right wrong person I ought to be on the lookout for? Perhaps there was still living I needed to traverse to know who I was, which would explain everything - my singleness... the fact that I was alone, awake at night, contemplating such things.

When then, of course, he texted. He who has (self-confessed) run to and from me for a very long time.

"You should write alongside me," he said.

I'd been anticipating his text - not this text, but a text from him - it's always only ever a matter of time. I even had a planned response - the gist of which was to be something like, "I'm sick of this - If you can't run to me without running so long and so far from me - Please don't come back."

But I was feeling particularly melancholy - wondering about my wrongness, you see - so it was well-timed (boys always know), and this opener was also a little outside the scope of the usual pattern - it had different tone, was striking at a slightly different chord... but also (probably especially) because I knew what he meant, as a would-be writer himself he wasn't merely proposing that I write alongside him in the sense of 'you do your thing & i'll do mine,' but that we might be something more simpatico...

So instead of an eternal sayonara, I responded, "Shall I...."

For when it comes down to it, right or wrong, my imagined picturesque future has always consisted of a house or a cabin or a room with another writer in it. A person I sense is there, but who is quiet, as we spend our days tapping, thinking, spinning impossible threads naked to the mortal eye - reconvening at a regular time near dusk to murmur about what we didn't accomplish, or what we hope we did - saying "and what do you think of this?" with a bizarre sort of wild delight I think only a person with one foot in their imagination and one foot on this planet who is constantly trying to merge the two can.

But is this - or he - the right problem for me? Writers as a species are notoriously neurotic, self-absorbed, off.... And when it comes to him in particular, I may never know since I'm not sure there's a chance we'll ever get past his see-saw of approach and retreat long enough to have a real shot. But still - it's a question in my heart.

Particularly since so much of the reason I began speaking to him again some time ago can be ascribed to a coincidence related to Blue Valentine - a theme that now seems to be recurring. In the film, Michelle Williams' grandmother says, in essence, how you much you owe it to yourself to trust that the person you choose to fall in love with is worth it for you..for all it will cost. Which makes me doubly wonder when I see such blue flags.... what they mean... and how they relate to the problem I ought want to have.

Photo is by Henri Cartier-Bresson