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A Brief Interlude

It was a nice day, probably one of the last for quite some time, and I was working on my laptop. I looked up and saw a group of four, maybe five, boys across the quad from where I was sitting. The first thought that came to my mind was fury. None of them were wearing masks nor did they appear to be taking the ordinary covid-19 precautions that seem to have become second-nature to me. It was disconcerting to watch them play, just play, on the quad during this time. I almost went over to them and said something but I didn’t. I don’t know what held me back, but I do know that something did. I didn’t chastise them or remind them of the precautions they should be taking because they made me take a moment to reflect. We’re seven months into a pandemic, the president and assorted others have gotten the virus, two hundred thousand plus people have died of covid and these guys are just playing spike ball on a quad.

Their actions made me reflect on all the joys of college that I may never see again. The joy of simply belonging to a group and feeling free to just hang. Today, life is so much more complicated. I rarely see anyone outside of a few friends and my boyfriend which is still many more than most are able to see, but less than I saw as a college student pre-covid. As I now go about my day, I must gear up and gear down whenever entering or exiting my apartment. Fear is a constant companion when I venture out of my home, but I continue to do so because I must. I cannot stay inside all day every day for the rest of my life but I can try to be as careful as humanly possible. But the sight of these boys made me just paused that fear and that worry for some strange reason.

Those boys, while not safe in the slightest, felt like a time capsule into another world, one far removed from the life that we all now live. But looking at them, I could envision a future where covid does not haunt our every move. Where we are able to play and be free amongst each other as we used to be. We will go back to some of the drudgery and work that we once loathed but we will also be able to reclaim that sense of careless joy that coronavirus has stolen away from our lives. One day, when this is in the rearview mirror, we may or may not treasure moments like these. I may think about this moment in ten years as one of reckless behavior, young men totally disregarding the rules of safe social behavior in the pursuit of momentary pleasure. Or I may just be able to treasure this moment as a testament to the joy that went unnoticed in so many of my days pre-covid. 

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Blue Soup or Witches Brew?

This is not part of your regularly scheduled programming but here it is. Today has been a day full of accidents. I sliced open my thumb, mistook a cucumber for a zucchini, and made blue soup. That’s right, blue soup. Not my proudest achievement but something that I have done nonetheless. I decided to write this blog post as more catharsis for myself than anything else, but feel free to keep going because I think it’s really important to be exactly as I am in real life on this blog and that includes all the mistakes and accidents that I, as a twenty year old college student, seem to be making all the time. I’m lucky to have a space where I can reflect on my cooking fails like this and am grateful for it in this moment. Let’s start with some background on how I got here before we get to the story of my blue soup adventure.

This summer, I tried to turn my life into a force for positive change and I am trying to keep that going. I researched with a group that works on food systems and I read a lot of literature on how food affects both our bodies and our environment in very tangible ways. Armed with my new knowledge, I set out to become a more eco-friendly consumer! I tried to cut back on the fast fashion and tried to consume in a more “mindful” manner. That meant trying to source my food more locally to reduce carbon emissions and also to encourage local production of the necessities of daily life. While this was easier at home in CA where I had the support of my mother, I decided to try and carry that attitude into my life here in Baltimore. I gamely signed up for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Box which is a contract with a local farm to receive their produce at a very reasonable price. It’s meant to incentivize local agricultural production which I am happy to do! As a college student on a budget, I went for their “ugly” share which is the least pretty but still very yummy produce. So today I got my CSA box and was super excited to dig into whatever produce I had been given.

This begins the story of the infamous Blue Soup. It’s a funny one and I laughed and cried and laughed a little bit more during this entire soup saga. I started this soup adventure around 5:30pm today with vegetable prep. I used the Garlic, Fennel, and Potato Soup Recipe from the New York Times Cooking section and this require quite a bit of chopping and peeling and dicing and slicing. So I passed the time on a video call with my childhood friend and chopped my little heart out. I got all the ingredients together and realized that the soup recipe called for cheesecloth to enclose some herbs that were meant to flavor the soup but not go into the final product. Being the resourceful human that I am, I hit up the internet for recommendations on what I could use instead of cheesecloth. Amongst these recommendations were clean nylons! In my mind, nylons are the same as regular stockings and I have plenty of those! So I selected my least loved and cleanest pair of BLACK stockings and tied the herbs up in it and tossed it into the soup. With not a care in my mind, I let the soup simmer for 45 minutes with the stocking herb-bouquet in it.

I finally removed the soup from the heat and started to puree it but after the first batch, I noticed that the soup was an odd color. It was BLUE!!! Now I may be newer to the world of cooking than to baking but I am very sure that blue is not the right color for any type of food. I was tearing my hair out at what could have gone wrong and remembered the BLACK stocking that had been simmering in that pot for forty five whole minutes. I definitely feel like a fool at the moment. I had messed up not only my lunch for the next few days, but also wasted several pounds of good food.

As I was cleaning up the mess from the soup debacle, I was thinking about how to frame this story. Would it be something uplifting about learning from your mistakes? I’ve certainly learned that I need a much better substitute for cheesecloth than my black stockings or that sometimes you just need to cough up the cash dinero for cheesecloth. Should this be a sad post? I’m certainly pretty upset right now. But I’m also usually my own worst critic. I’ll probably be upset at myself for this for a few days before I can even try to laugh at myself. In the end, I just decided to be honest because honestly, it’s a pretty funny mistake to make, even if it seems that the cost is hefty. I experiment with recipes all the time and it’s hard when they don’t go perfectly every time, but that’s just how life is. Some days, it isn’t easy but we can keep going. I think this post is more about reminding myself that I am okay and that things will be okay even if this seems like the biggest culinary catastrophe that could have happened. This is a blip and I owe it to myself to keep experimenting and enjoying the kitchen. Trying to brush off mistakes or failure is not easy and has always been something that I’ve struggled with. I’ll ruminate on my mistakes for much longer than they merit and I continue to strive to be kinder to myself when I do mess up. The next time I fail, I hope I can treat myself as I would treat a friend and be encouraging and uplifting. I would never disparage a friend if they made a mistake like this and I owe myself the same courtesy even if it’s easier said than done.

And if you’ve made it to the end of this long post, you get the wonderful prize of getting to see my blue soup. Personally, I think it would make an excellent halloween decoration but I’m not sure if it’ll stay good until then.

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Book Review: A Wizard of Earthsea

It’s been a rough summer for everyone around the world right now, with raging coronavirus and protests over the systemic inequalities within our society so I decided it was a great time to get my wisdom teeth out because I wanted to add some more pain and suffering into my life…yay? This past week has been pretty miserable for me so I took the time to watch four whole seasons of Grantchester (fantastic but a lil moody) on Prime and finish up this little book. A Wizard of Earthsea was Ursula Le Guin’s breakout novel, leading to a longer series that follows the exploits of Sparrowhawk, the most powerful sorcerer in all of Earthsea. I’ve been reading a fair amount of non-fiction recently, with all my France research, and decided that this would be a lovely fantasy book vacation.

I did like this book but did not find that I preferred it over many of the more modern fantasy writers that I’ve read. Le Guin’s style is revolutionary for her time but appears a bit dated to the reader who have such a large collection of available books of fantasy and science fiction from female writers. Furthermore, I have always found books with a male protagonist to be a little harder for me to read. I’m not sure why, but I think that in fantasy I like to envision myself in the protagonist’s shoes and it’s a bit more difficult for me to do this for a man. It took me a little longer that I thought it would to get through this book. It’s no more than 180 pages, but it look me about two days. Le Guin introduced some pretty thought-provoking themes into her novel such as the importance of names, the true nature of good and evil, and the balance that is needed for the world to continue to turn. It’s pretty deep stuff for a fantasy novel but it’s presented in a way that is digestible for a younger reader. Le Guin takes the time to dwell on some heavier themes than normally seen in fantasy writing and I really appreciate the gravity that she was able to bring into the genre.

Because I’ve been spoiled by modern fantasy writing that is more detailed and action packed, I am not able to fully appreciate the ingenuity that Le Guin brought to the genre when A Wizard of Earthsea was first published. I would recommend this book for younger readers, around early adolescence. My father enjoyed the book far more than myself so perhaps a male reader would be more appreciative of the travails of Ged/Sparrowhawk the young protagonist.