spring_panzanella_asparagus_5

A tale, as excerpted from “The Buried Life”:

“A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed that it was. The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full.. The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’”

I am the professor.

The jar is my fridge.

spring_panzanella_asparagus_1
spring_panzanella_asparagus_2

A kindly yogurt company delivered the golf balls last week in the form of probiotic yogurt drinks, yogurt squeezers, and 10,000 containers of yogurt.

The pebbles are now the milk, fruit, meat, and other items that called this (formerly spacious) receptacle home. They have been displaced.

Plastic boxes of cherry tomatoes, jewel-like jars of anchovies, preserved lemons, sandwich bread, all pushed, prodded, wedged, and jammed until virtually no negative space remains. The fridge light has gone dim, covered by sprawling leek greens.

There is no room for sand.

While I’m grateful to my friend the yogurt company for this bountiful gift of dairy, I can’t make enough smoothies to free up the kind of space that I need back. The kind of space that wouldn’t require that I shift five items in order to replace a package of ham. The kind of space that prevents bread from molding because “look!” there’s some bread on that middle shelf. The kind of space doesn’t make me curse.

When putting the smoothie machine into overdrive isn’t the answer, you turn to tried and true methods: the leftover meal. Now here’s a trustworthy guy. He’s accepting of all friends – no matter the color, shape or state of disrepair. The wilting mushroom; the forgotten bundle of asparagus; the piece of cheese who’s sweating it out, racing towards his expiration date.

Leftover dishes are aplenty – I’ve made soups, lasagnas, and you should all know by now that I’ll throw anything into a skillet with soy sauce and call it fried rice.

spring_panzanella_asparagus_0

continue reading

14 comments

white_polenta_wild_mushrooms_7

Recently I complained to Rodney about the lack of office space in our neighborhood. “Office” meaning any place other than my apartment; “Space” meaning anything bigger than a 12” Starbucks pedestal table.

Rodney mentioned that a new bar had just opened on 8th avenue – according to him, a great spot, good food, nice and quiet, wireless access.

This… was innovation on a new dimension. Work at a bar? With craft beer? And duck poutine on the menu? So long Starbucks, there’s a new kid in town.

Working at a bar seems like a practical idea until you’re 50 sips deep into an English IPA and no longer have the clarity to write a grammatically-correct sentence, never mind a sentence that sparkles with creativity and wit.

And you feel guilty for having your light-spewing laptop open in a bar with limited windows, leather banquettes, and acres of dark wood.

Rodney doesn’t feel guilty about that kind of thing. Low on quarters to do laundry in our building, he’ll amble into the neighborhood laundromat to raid the quarter machine. The one with the full-width sign taped to the front stating “FOR CUSTOMERS ONLY”.

Which is why I usually send him out to do my dirty work. Guilt. Plagues. Me.

I feel guilty for the laptop. Guilty for ordering a beer and no food. Guilty that I’ve hired a babysitter to help with afterschool pickup so that I can get some work done, and here I am swilling brewskis. I’m sure that you could psychoanalyze the hell out of this. Show me a Rorschach and I’d see Atlas with the world on his shoulders and a pint in both hands.

white_polenta_wild_mushrooms_0

This bar, though a happy place for Rodney to get work done on the occasional weekend, would not be my solution.

I dragged my tipsy self back to Starbucks, back to the pedestal table. I reserved my spot with a scarf and a notebook. No laptop, no valuables, I know the routine. I ordered my coffee. I returned to my seat. I gazed into the wall mirror at someone two tables down who looked remarkably like my Dad. I re-focused, took a sip of my coffee and got back to business. Because long-lost family members or not, Starbucks is where I’m most productive.

What I need to do – rather than find a new place to work – is to re-train myself on all of the positive benefits of working at Starbucks. Accessible bathrooms that aren’t often clean, but sometimes are! Baristas who write my name on my cup so that I’ll always know that it’s mine! And most important, I won’t get drunk when I’m working.

You see? That wasn’t that hard. I just needed to shift my perspective. I needed to walk down the street to greener pastures and find out that hey! They were sort of a muddy green after all.

white_polenta_wild_mushrooms_1

white_polenta_wild_mushrooms_2

white_polenta_wild_mushrooms_3

continue reading

29 comments