black bean taquitos with black bean guacamole + some thoughts on the big gooper’s latest cookbook

chicken taquitos

There’s something about Gwyneth Paltrow that reminds me of dissecting earthworms in the 11th grade. The innards are gruesome to look at, but you can’t seem to turn away. In fact, you’re compelled to dive right in. Or maybe this is just the part of me who secretly wishes she had the drive and competency to be a surgeon finding its way into a blog post. There’s so much about Paltrow that’s worthy of ridicule: the patrician insouciance, the lithe frame, the pizza oven in her backyard, the unconscious coupling nonsense, the bad acting, the why-is-she-famous-while-Winona-stews-in-obscurity questions, Contagion, our laughter during Contagion–the jokes write themselves, so much so that it’s almost too easy. I unsubscribed to Goop two years ago because I couldn’t read her newsletter without wanting to take a shower afterward it was so banal, basic and out-of-touch. Paltrow-bashing, for most, has become a pastime sport.

But those fucking cookbooks.

Mostly I tell people that I like Julia Turshen’s (Gwyneth’s former collaborator) cookbooks. When I had to abstain from gluten, dairy, yeast (gluten-free bread was verboten FOR A YEAR), and 37 million other foods, Paltrow’s It’s All Good was a gentle reprieve. That and the Oh She Glows Cookbook whispered: you’re not going to die, face-down, in a bowl of gluten-free pasta. Not yet, anyway. Finally, I regarded cauliflower with a reaction that no longer resembled disgust.

Yet, I read her cookbooks with a perpetual side-eye. From the Kinfolk-esque photographs of her dreamily staring off into her multi-million landscape that breeds that “simple life” and the endless name-dropping (we get it, you’re besties with Beyonce) to a pantry that costs multiple paychecks to stock, it’s hard not to drop-kick her cookbooks while eating the delicious meals I made as a result of said cookbooks. It’s really hard.

I’ll be honest–I was looking forward to It’s All Easy because I wanted simple, healthy recipes that I could make at home on the days I have back-to-back conference calls and Powerpoint has me seeing double. But then I got the cookbook and sighed because, oh, it’s her interpretation of easy. Easy for the patricians, but rough for the plebeian-crunching lot. I cook often and have a pimped-out pantry, but some of the ingredients had me doing a double-take: who has Gochujang paste, Ponzu, Sambal oelek, kuzu root, and Bonito flakes on hand? I don’t even know what these ingredients are (although I’m clearly curious) much less have confidence that my local grocery will have them in stock. The point-of-view is curious–a mish-mosh of Tex-Mex, Korean, and vegan fare–to the point where the book felt a bit ramshackle even if the most of the recipes score well in terms of ease and flavor.  I paged through the book, read through her insufferable name-dropping and did that squinty thing I do with my eyes when I’m confused.

But some of the recipes (at least the ones with ingredients that were easy to procure) are pretty good. I’ve made her falafel (I did the chickpea soak thing and I am DONE with peeling shells), chicken salad, acai bowl, and eggs, and so far, so good. But still. I was disappointed with her follow-up to It’s All Good simply because these recipes aren’t easy, aren’t meals you can wrap up and store for later. However, if you love Goop, love Gwen, love this Kinfolk aesthetic, live your life and fawn over this cookbook.

These taquitos were really tasty. I changed her recipe a bit for my spice and flavor level, and they ended up being DELICIOUS. I have leftovers in the fridge, and I’ll update this post if they’re crap upon re-heating.

INGREDIENTS: Taquito recipe from Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Easy, modified. Of note, I like this cookbook but it’s kind of comical to call it “easy”. I quite liked the spot-on L.A. Times review, and this recipe road-test was hilarious. // Guacamole recipe is my own
For the taquitos: This recipe serves 4
1 package of corn tortillas
1 15oz can of black beans, drained + rinsed, reserve 2 tbsp of the beans
1 cup Mexican cheese blend
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp chipotle chili flakes
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
Salt, for seasoning

For the guacamole
1 ripe avocado
juice + zest of one lime
1/2 tsp chipotle chili flakes
1 tsp onion powder
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
Salt/pepper to taste
Reserve 2 tbsp of black beans

DIRECTIONS
Pre-heat the oven to 400F, and grease a baking dish or baking sheet. Set aside.

Mix all of the ingredients for the taquitos in a large bowl. On medium/high heat, add 1 tbsp of olive oil to a small, non-stick pan. Add one tortilla at a time, and cook for 30 seconds on each side. Once the tortilla is cooked, quickly transfer it to a plate. Add 2-3 tbsp of the taquito mixture. Wrap tightly, tucking in the mixture as you wrap, and place the filled taquito, seam side down, in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining 7 tortillas. Midway through the process, I had to add another tablespoon of oil to avoid smoking out my apartment.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

While the taquitos are cooking, mix all the ingredients for the guacamole. I like my guac smooth, not chunky, so I really get in there with the fork. Stir in the beans so as to not break them.

Once the taquitos are out of the oven, let them rest for 1-2 minutes. I love stuffing the guac inside the taquito like it’s a little cannoli. Chow down and serve with arugula or your favorite mixed greens.

Untitledchicken taquitos
chicken taquitos
chicken taquitos

the best tomato carrot basil soup

tomato, carrot and basil soup

When it comes to my inbox, I feel like I’m waiting for Godot. I’ve three proposals out in the world, three exciting projects, and I’m hoping one of them lands before April. After seven months of anguish and anxiety, I’m ready for a little light. So I’m hopeful. I try to be productive during the day while I periodically hit “refresh”. I think about ways in which I can reframe my portfolio to account for storytelling that is both creative and data-driven. I’m considering launching a series of writing workshop or marketing classes via Coach (is this something that piques your interest? I’d love your feedback!) to supplement my project work. I’m reading, writing essays, and making healthy food I can afford.

It’s hard not to be a clock-watcher, to not stare at a date that looms and hope for that one yes. That one email in my inbox. Until then I press on. I keep going. I keep having hope.

INGREDIENTS
2 shallots
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt + 1/2 tsp black pepper
3 lbs fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped
3 carrots, washed and roughly chopped (don’t peel them!)
3 tbsp tomato paste
3/4 of 1 qt. low-sodium vegetable (or chicken) stock
1 cup basil
1/2 cup pecorino romano cheese

Note: I make my soup with buckwheat groats (terrible name, for sure, but I love that the groats thicken the soup and are gluten-free and super healthy). See how I cook them in this post.

farmer's market tomatoes
carrots at the farmer's market

DIRECTIONS

In a large pot, on medium heat, saute the shallots in the olive oil for 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic, salt and pepper and cook for an additional minute until the mixture is fragrant. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, carrots, and stir to coat. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the stock and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30-40 minutes. Add in the basil. You can either use a food mill, blender, or immersion blender, but blitz until smooth. Pour the blended soup back to the pot, add the cheese (and cooked groats if you’re rolling with them), and simmer covered for an additional 10 minutes. Give it a taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve hot!

Note: if you like a little cream in your soup but don’t want to deal with dairy, you can use cashew cream! Four hours before you make the soup, rinse a cup of raw cashews and then soak them in a bowl. After four hours, add them to the soup when you’re about to blitz and voila, cream!

tomato carrot and basil soup

triple tomato soup with buckwheat groats

triple tomato soup

For the whole of my career, I’ve been running on empty. Fresh out of school, I worked the long hours, took on all the projects just so I could prove myself. With every job or assignment I took, I always maintained a side-hustle–a creative outlet that invariably led me to my next job. Because when you’re interviewing alongside dozens of candidates who are essentially photocopies of one another, anything you can do to set yourself apart was tantamount. I’d never worked in book publishing, but I secured a job in online marketing in 2006 because I’d ran and publish a successful literary magazine, built and marketed a dot.com business from the ground up, and learned the fundamentals in marketing at a corporation where you needed to complete a requisition form in order to get a new pen.

I lived to work.

All those years I never found the fact that I’d sometimes go months without seeing daylight strange. I assumed it was par for the course, this is what you did in order to be successful. Giving the whole of yourself over to somebody else in exchange for a paycheck–you never stopped to think of what would happened if you gave away all the best parts of yourself, put yourself up for auction, what would be left? And is selling yourself and the years worth the paycheck? Because, invariably, you might make more money but the money only funds the distractions that take away from your overworked, anxious life.

When I left a job as a partner in a social media agency, I knew I would probably never make as much as I had but I was okay with that. I learned that I didn’t need things, and as long as I had a shelter, food, books, and the ability to travel and care for my cat, I’d be fine. I didn’t need fancy handbags or clothes each season since I normally wear the same ten items in my closet. I ended up donating and giving away my closet. I ended up making a fraction of what I used to make, but I got my sanity back. I became the friend who listened instead of waiting for her turn to speak. I became the friend who never took out her phone at dinner. I became the kind of friend who stopped cancelling plans.

I was present.

One of the reasons I moved to California was that I craved a quieter, slower life. I knew the risks–fewer friends, meager professional network–but I assessed that if I were going to panic about project work at least I wouldn’t be doing it in six feet of snow. Last year’s thirteen-month winter was relentless; I was tired of the grey mornings and cold that burrowed its way under your blankets and settled. Last year I woke daily to sadness, and I came here hoping to feel less of what I felt then.

What I hadn’t expected, so quickly, is how I’d become allergic to my home. It’s incredible how geography and proximity to stress changes things. Out of the maelstrom of the city, I started to react to calls where people would talk loud, fast and over you. I grew tired of the ubiquitous panic, the urgency, the we-know-we’re-not-curing-cancer-but-we’ll-still-act-like-we-are, anyway. The velocity and intensity with which people worked unnerved me, and yesterday I spent an hour with a wonderful client explaining how we could do great work without having an aneurysm.

Because I’m not living like this. I have this one life and I’m not living it to crawl my way into an early grave.

I know I have this privilege of risk, of turning away work with the knowledge that I may have to put my rent on my credit card. But I’m okay with that. Because if I wanted constant anxiety I would’ve never left my former life. I never would’ve given up a biweekly paycheck and health insurance.

I’ve worked for nearly 20 years and I finally want to choose the way I want to live this one life. For as long as I can, I’m going to try to live it on my own terms. And I’m not going to shoulder unnecessary stress.

My call went better than I expected, and I tucked into this soup late last night spent from the day but happy.

INGREDIENTS
1 shallot, minced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
3 large heirloom tomatoes, chopped into fat chunks
1 28oz can of diced San Marzano tomatoes
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes packed in olive oil, rough chop
1 qt of vegetable (or chicken) stock, reserve 2 cups of the 1 qt aside
6 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed from stems
1 cup of basil, roughly chopped
Salt/pepper
1 cup buckwheat groats, rinsed and drained

DIRECTIONS
This is honestly the easiest soup you’ll ever make. Add the oil to a large pot and turn the heat to medium/high. When hot, add the shallots and garlic with a pinch of salt, sauteeing the mixture for 1-2 minutes. Tumble in the heirloom tomatoes and toss with the shallot/garlic mixture for 3-4 minutes. Add the San Marzano tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, stock, and thyme, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and let cook on low heat for 25 minutes.

Five minutes in, fill a small pot with 2 cups of the reserved stock and 1 cup of the rinsed buckwheat groats. Bring to a boil, reduce to a low, cover, and allow to cook for 17-20 minutes.

Add the soup to a blender with the basil (or you can use an immersion blender) and blitz until smooth. Return the soup to the large pot, add the cooked buckwheat groats, stir, and cover. Cook for another 10 minutes on low.

Season with salt/pepper, and chow down.

Untitled
triple tomato soup

easy zucchini fritters

zucchini fritters
I’m a creature of habit. While I took conference calls from my air mattress, waiting for my furniture to make the long crawl across the country, I feasted on a small gluten-free sausage pizza–every day. My neck hurt? Order the double sausage. My furniture’s uncertain location and delivery date? Order the double sausage. Missing my friends who were no longer a subway ride away? Please, please, deliver me the double sausage. It got to a point where I was on a first-name basis with the Fresh Brothers cashier and delivery guys. Even now, even as I type this, I miss that pizza because it was so damn good.

I’ve an addictive personality, and when I get hooked on something, I tend to consume it to an unhealthy degree. Years ago I lived on avocados for a month, so much so, I developed an allergy to them and I couldn’t eat them for over ten years without getting violently ill. Last year I had to put a fatwa on chickpeas because my affection for them was getting out of hand. I tend to skirt the extremes, and it’s taken a lot of effort to create balance in my diet.

The double sausage and I are on a mini-break.

Last year, I was a wreck. Raised burning hives covered 85% of my body, and I had to cycle through steroids for a week and maintain a strict diet for months in order to heal myself. Come Thanksgiving, I couldn’t eat turkey, cranberries, gluten, dairy, yeast, and a host of other foods, and I found myself along eating gluten-free pasta because I was too embarrassed to ask my best friend, whom I see every year for the holidays, to make a special plate just for me. It’s taken over a year but I feel the healthiest I’ve ever been and I’ve fallen in love with foods I never thought I’d tolerant. Because when you live boxed in, you have to get creative. And while I’m able to occasionally indulge in gluten, I’ve no longer a taste for bread or pasta (I can’t even believe I’m typing this because I was a carb junkie, hoovering two plates a pasta A DAY).

Now that I’m on a break from the double sausage, now that I’ve got a stocked kitchen and a table on which to finally eat, it’s been a joy to comb the farmer’s markets and bring home fresh produce. From plump figs to corn and heirloom tomatoes, living out west makes me EXCITED for food in a way I hadn’t felt back east.

I mean, who gets jazzed over vegetables? (Raises hand)

When my friend shared this zucchini fritter recipe on Facebook, I dropped my plans to make an heirloom tomato and leek soup. My predilection for the fritter runs deep, and I went to the market today for fresh, local ingredients because who doesn’t want a fried crispy vegetable?!

I made some alterations to the original recipe to suit my palate (I love the lemony pungent nature of thyme over oregano any day of the week), and I tend to go heavy on the shallots (the only onion I can tolerate) and pepper.

And while these fritters don’t come close to the creature comfort of the double sausage, I’m loving the return of fresh vegetables to my diet.

Enjoy!!

INGREDIENTS: Recipe adapted from Healthy Holistic Living: Makes 6 fat fritters
3 small green zucchini
1/4 cup fresh basil, minced
5 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed and minced
1 small shallot, minced
2 small cloves of garlic, minced
2 medium eggs, whisked
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp gluten-free flour (you can also make this with almond meal!)
1 tsp sea salt, divided
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS
Using the large blades on your box grater, grate the zucchini onto a cutting board. Transfer the zucchini to a colander lined with a kitchen towel. Add 1/2 of the sea salt, toss, and leave for 10 minutes. Wrap up the zucchini in the towel and squeeze, hard. Trust me, you won’t even believe the amount of water zucchini releases!

Add the zucchini to a medium bowl. Add the herbs, shallot, garlic, salt, pepper, eggs, and flour and toss until all the flour is absorbed. Let the mixture rest for ten minutes.

In a large skillet, add 2 tbsp of olive oil. Wait 2-3 minutes (or until a small piece of the fritter dough sizzles when it hits the pan) until the pan is searing hot. Add 2 tbsp of mixture for each fritter to the pan. Allow it to fry until the edges are crisp and brown, 3-4 minutes. Turn on the other side and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes.

Transfer the fritters to a cutting board (or baking sheet) lined with paper towels. Although the original recipe calls for an avocado dill dip (YASSSS!), I couldn’t wait and devoured half of these fritters in one sitting.

zucchini fritters

zucchini fritters

lentil meatballs in lemon pesto

lentil meatballs with lemon pesto
I think we are well-advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were. ― Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem

By this time next week I’ll be somewhere in the Middle East, en route to Singapore. At first I thought planning a trip smack in the middle of summer, a short month before I pick up my life and move out west, was insane. However, as the days near I’m grateful for the time and introspection. I’m humbled to return to Bali, a magical place I visited four years ago when I was admittedly a broken woman. Normally, I don’t do travel repeats because there’s so much of the world left to see, but this trip feels auspicious. I’m seeing a place from a different vantage point, and in a way I’m revisiting the woman I used to be and being present enough to see the journey from one version of myself to another.

Last week I had lunch with two dear friends. I’ve known them for nearly fifteen years and we talked about what it’s like to reach the middle of our life. They’re planning a family and I’m embarking on some major changes, and we consider our once-frenzied states, and how now our lives pretty much demand introspection and calm.

I go into next week having juggled three clients for months and I’ll leave Asia in two weeks time readying for the maelstrom that will ensue. So know that I’ll be enjoying this private space between the two, gathering strength, being quiet.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from The Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook, modified slightly
For the meatballs:
1 cup lentils, preferably French le puy lentils
2 eggs
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
¾ cup goat milk ricotta
¼ cup grated pecorino romano
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp fennel seeds
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
½ tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
⅔ cup gluten-free breadcrumbs (you can also use almond meal)

For the lemon pesto sauce:
1 clove garlic
¼ cup pistachios
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
Pinch of salt + pepper
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp water

lemon pesto

DIRECTIONS
Place the lentils in a pot and cover with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Reduce heat to simmer and cook, uncovered, until lentils are tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool

Once cool enough to handle, place in a large bowl and mash lightly with a potato masher. It should be half mashed, half whole lentils. Add eggs, olive oil, cheeses, garlic, fennel, parsley, thyme, salt, pepper and breadcrumbs. Stir to combine and set aside for 15 minutes so the flavors blend.

Preheat the oven to 400F. Cover a cooking sheet with parchment paper.

Meanwhile, place garlic, pistachios and lemon in a blender and blend until smooth. Add lemon juice, basil, olive oil, and water. Blend until smooth. If you like a thinner consistency, add a couple tablespoons of water.

Form 1-inch “meatballs” using the lentil mixture. If it’s too wet and not holding together, add a couple extra tablespoons of breadcrumbs. If it’s too dry, add a couple tablespoons of water. Place each meatball evenly on the baking sheet. Once you’ve made all the breadcrumbs, spray lightly with olive oil. Bake in the oven until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes, turning halfway.

lentil meatballs with lemon pesto and kale salad
lentil meatballs with lemon pesto

mint, pistachio + zucchini balls

mint, pistachio and zucchini balls
Always the setting forth was the same, Same sea, same dangers waiting for him, As though he had got nowhere but older. Behind him on the receding shore, The identical reproaches, and somewhere, Out before him, the unraveling patience, He was wedded to. There were the islands, Each with its woman and twining welcome, To be navigated, and one to call “home.” The knowledge of all that he had betrayed, Grew till it was the same where he stayed, Or went. Therefore he went. And what wonder, If sometimes he could not remember, Which was the one who wished on his departure, Perils that he could never sail through, And which, improbable remote, and true, Was the one he kept sailing home to? — “Odysseus” by W.S. Merwin

It’s normal for me to wake at dawn, to feel the cool air coming in through my window. I spend most mornings working, reading, making food to post on this space (like these veggie balls), contemplating and planning, and by nine it already feels like afternoon. Already I’ve asked myself where the day has gone. Already I’m thinking about time, how there’s never enough of it; how it’s slippery, it’s the one thing you can never retrieve or contain. There is six, seven, eight and nine in the morning. Gone. The past becomes irrelevant, the future is always on the verge, lingering, waiting with bated breath, and as Buddhists will have it, we only have this one moment in which to live, the present.

Easier said then done.

I remember coming across Merwin’s poem when I was working on my first book. I was searching for the right words to introduce my story but I couldn’t find them. I read Merwin’s words but couldn’t inhabit them–they were an ill-fitted suit, a pair of too-tight shoes. Merwin’s words were beautiful and clean but impenetrable, and it would take me years to understand that I, much like Odysseus, was forever tethered to the extremes of past and future, creating a kind of self-imposed alienation that only served to imprison, rather than liberate, me in the present moment. I’d become fixated on finding myself a home that spanned across two points of time, yet ignored the life I lived in this moment. Right here, right now–not what came before and what will inevitably happen, but this breath that I continue to breathe. What of that?

I hadn’t had the distance to see the flaw in a man who tried to find his way home because time had become a metaphor for his self-doubt and fear.

I just remember sitting at my desk thinking, I can do anything with my time. Anything. Is this what I want to be doing? –From Elle Luna’s Design Matters Interview

People tell me they admire me and this makes me uncomfortable. Strangers act like they know me, like we have this intimacy, and this makes me uncomfortable. I don’t know. I wake every morning and try to be brave. I try to remember that there’s a quiet nobility in leading a good life that need not be large or thick or heavy. That abundance isn’t about the size of what you occupy, but it relies more on how much of your heart you’re willing to bear. How you’re willing to play a hand without looking at the cards. Years ago a great love told me that I was a coward, that I slept on top of the sheets instead of between them and I never let him, all the way. He was right. Abundance would’ve been flinging the doors open and letting the mothballs flutter out. Abundance would’ve been folding him into me and letting him be there. I’ve learned from that, and in my morning hours I remind myself to let the right ones in. Not everyone, but the right ones.

I sat in my mentor’s office crying. You should know that I’m not the crying type, but that day I went the distance. We’re talking marathon tears: flushed face, tissues askance, contact lenses ready to fall out–that kind of cry. All because he’d asked me a single question: Are you happy? It took me a good ten minutes to choke out, between cries, that no, I was not happy. Never did I conceive that I could just get up and walk away. That I could leave that which no longer brought me joy in search for what could. After the tears I got pragmatic, hyper-rational. I had all the questions.

What if this doesn’t work out?
What if I become broke?
What if I lose my new apartment?
What if I break every connection I’ve made over the past 3 years?
What if this is a decision that I regret in 3, 5, 10 years? –From Sean Smith’s
“The Truth About ‘The Right Time'”

What if I fail? I said. Impossible, my mentor said. And then he corrected himself. Over the course of my life I will fail. I will face-plant onto the pavement and I will have to sometimes rely on splints and bandages. I may even need a walker. But choosing to live my life instead of sleeping through it was the antithesis of failure. It took me until now to see that. It took me quitting my job without a safety net or familial financial assistance, and breathing through the months I sometimes had to use my credit card to pay for my rent, to realize that the road to joy is winding, circuitous, and sometimes painful. Periods of darkness and uncertainty are inevitable but if you remind yourself that all of this is temporary, necessary even (as David Cain posits) , you will get to a better place. The optimist in me believes that.

Figure credit: David Cain, Raptitude
Figure credit: David Cain, Raptitude

I’ve been thinking about cliff dives, fear and the agony that is uncertainty. I’ve also been thinking about time. Over the next few months I plan to play a tourist in my home. I plan to do all the things I’ve largely ignored as a born New Yorker because I’ll get to it. There’s time (not really). I plan to travel to Asia before my move out west because being in Asia gives me the kind of clarity and quiet I rarely achieve elsewhere.

And then I plan to follow my gut. To ignore making the “right” decision because I don’t quite know what is right, only other than the fact that I need to leave. As of this moment, I’ll be moving to Santa Monica. If over the course of the next few months I change my mind that’s cool too, because I know I’ll have to live through questions in order to wade my way home. I have to find my own room and I can only do it by living moment to moment, tuning out the periphery opinions and noise, and cleaving to that which brings me joy and shelter.

Ultimately there’s no escape from living with uncertainty, for anyone. No matter how often you compare yourself to others, or check your email, or read the news, no matter how much you worry, you’ll never know what happens after you die, or what other people really think of you, or what your life will be like in five years. So it helps to get comfortable with the small uncertainties, too. Then, at least, you’re used to it. –From Julie Beck’s “How Uncertainty Fuels Anxiety”

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from A Modern Way to Eat, with modifications
For the balls
1 1/4 cups (250g) cooked puy lentils
2 zucchini, grated (about 275g)
1 cup (100g) almond meal
4 1/2 oz goat cheese
1 tsp minced garlic
Finely grated zest 1 unwaxed lemon
1 red chilli, chopped, or a pinch dried chilli flakes
Bunch fresh basil (or mint), leaves picked and roughly chopped + reserve greens for topping
Olive oil for drizzling

For the pistachio pesto
Handful pistachio nuts (about 1/2 cup)
Small bunch fresh basil, leaves picked
4 tbsp olive oil (I used 2 tbsp pistachio oil because I ran out of olive oil and had this on hand + 2 tbsp olive oil)
3 tbsp water
Juice ½ lemon

DIRECTIONS
The hardest part of this recipe is all the annoying prep work (cooking the lentils, grating the zucchini) because this is a one-bowl dream. Mix all of the ingredients for the balls until completely combined. Allow the mixture to rest for 20 minutes while you preheat an oven to 425F.

Roll the balls into small meatballs (you can get 24 small bowls out of this mixture, but I prefer fat balls so I managed 18) and add them to an unlined baking sheet. I made the mistake of lining one of my trays with wax paper and the balls stuck to it which made removal a nightmare. Drizzle with olive oil on all sides and cook in the hot oven, rotating once, for 22-25 minutes until browned.

While the balls are cooking, blitz all the ingredients for the pistachio pesto and set aside. Once the balls are done, dress them in this delicious sauce and eat with a pile of greens or quinoa cooked in vegetable stock. Trust me, you won’t be able to eat just FIVE.

Mint, pistachio and zucchini meatballs.

zucchini, spinach + goat cheese fritters

vegetable fritters

I’ve never been good at keeping things under wraps–my excitement always gets the better of me. And I haven’t been this excited in quite some time. This feeling of eyes widen open, of awe, has happened in only a few key moments of my life: writing my new book, publishing my old one, leaving my job and finding a new one, launching a literary magazine that would go on to feature talented, burgeoning writers and great minds, and that one day, in 1999, when I decided to shift from an ebay powerseller in favor of launching a website (so new at the time!) where I sold designer clothing and accessories at a discount.

These moments are rare and as I grow older I realize the importance of holding on to them.

A few days ago I hinted at a new direction, and so many thoughts and ideas have consumed me since. It’s become such that I’ve become distracted because all I can do think about is the thing I can’t yet tell you about.

But it’s happening.

In the interim, I’m seeing friends who always have a way of inspiring me. And I’m cooking and baking up a storm. Here’s to hatching great plans. Here’s to living the questions and following a life of musts.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Anna Jones’s A Modern Way to Eat
9 ounces grated zucchini
2 handfuls (about 3 ounces) spinach or collard greens, finely chopped
4 tbsp soft crumbly cheese, such as feta or goat cheese (I used goat cheese)
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese (I nixed this)
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
A few sprigs dill or basil, finely chopped
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper
5 eggs (the original recipe calls for 5, but I would use 4 for a crisper fritter)
Olive oil for cooking

DIRECTIONS
Toss all the greens into a bowl. Crumble in the cheeses, garlic and zest with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Toss to mix. Crack in the eggs and mix well.

Place a large frying pan over medium heat and add a good glug of olive oil – you want to be generous with the oil here. Once the oil is hot, carefully lower generous tablespoons of the mixture and flatten to form little patties. Fry for 2 to 3 minutes, then carefully flip and fry on the other side for a final 2 minutes, until the egg is completely cooked.

Place on a plate in a low oven to keep warm until you are ready to eat.

zucchini and spinach fritters

climbing out of the dark + living the questions

Untitled

Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms, or books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. –Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet” (via)

I’ve been having a dark time. Even as I type that I laugh because it’s silly to think that time is something you can hold in your hands; that it’s something you’re able to possess, own. I’ve been thinking about time a lot–I suppose this is the sort of thing one does when they’ve reached the midway point in their life. We think about the moment and all the ones that eclipsed it, and we wonder not about what we’ve gained, but rather what it is we’ve lost. Time takes it all, it’s true, but I wonder if it’s possible that it seized more because I feel like the decision I made to join, and subsequently become part owner of an agency, veered me radically off course. While I know that the woman who sits here typing this is changed, is resolute and centered, I mourn the before. The woman who had so much velocity, wonder and ambition. The woman who launched a dot.com luxury resale business when none existed simply because she was told that there would be no other kind of work than the kind she’d been doing. Banking and the like–creating nothing, owning nothing–merely a chess player of paper. The woman who published a literary journal because she never quite fit in with the smart set who hailed from learned homes and prestigious east coast schools (even though she attended two of them)–the set who mainly published their own. She created this online home, this book of paper, because she wanted to surround herself with misfits, the people who didn’t get internships at The New Yorker, the people who didn’t have ICM agents by the time they were 25. The woman who nearly launched a nonprofit to help disadvantaged women in Brooklyn because she wanted to give back. The woman who wrote and published a book. The woman who…

You have to understand that sometimes I need third person. So bear with me.

The difference between youth and maturity, Andrew Solomon writes in an award speech, is patience. We’re hungry when we’re young, ravenous even–we wanted things to have happened yesterday, whereas the mature has slowed down a bit, is content with the right now; they plan for what’s to come. Solomon writes:

Youth is notoriously impatient, even though there is no need for impatience early on, when people have the time to be patient. In middle age, the wisdom of patience seems more straightforward, but there aren’t so many days left. But Rilke is correct that we must all write as though eternity lay before us. Enjoy the flexibility that span of eternity offers. The discourse between the young and the nostalgic retains some of its inherent poetry in the form of a longing intimacy. The freshness of younger people awakens memories in older ones—because though you, young writers, are yourselves at the brink of your own future, you evoke the past for those who came before you.

I think about the woman who kept moving and the woman who has been put on pause, and I wonder about reconciling the two. Because right now I feel stuck in the in-betweens. I don’t have the speed I once possessed, but part of me doesn’t want all of it, just a little of it. I think about children, how, for a time, everything is a first. There is no sense of risk or loss–they are reckless, they weave down streets like spools of thread let loose upon the pavement, while adults walk a fixed line. We sometimes get frustrated when we have to walk around children because they’ve deviated off course. Or perhaps we’re just a little too fixed in our purpose; maybe we’ve drawn a line that’s too rigid.

Solomon writes: As you ripen, you’ll notice that time is the weirdest thing in the world, that these surprises are relentless, and that getting older is not a stroll but an ambush.

I feel ambushed, confused. I was on a clear course, a road that lie ahead of me, and now I’m all over the place. Nearly 40, I’m rootless, directionless. I read a post about an itinerant writer who’s fond of books. Frankie doesn’t necessarily fit the profile of the New York literary success story (and trust me, I’m paying Frankie the greatest of compliments writing this) but she writes and writes and doesn’t care if it’s published in the way we’ve traditionally conceived of publishing. She must know that others exist, others who publish with Knopf, those who are celebrated by a small circle of like-minded people who believe that there are so many small dark books getting published because they’re the representative sample! Their small, dark books are getting published! Yet, they fail to see the world at scale because it’s blissful to be amongst the familiar.

I’m sure Frankie knows all of this, yet she doesn’t seem to care. And I admire her that–her lack of ego, her volition to write simply to create. Because, frankly, I do feel bruised. I wrote an extraordinary book, one whose prose and themes far surpass those of my first book, and while so many editors penned long paragraphs remarking on my skill, poise and prowess, my novel’s just too risky, too small, too difficult. Too many unrelatable characters (because, you know, great literature is filled with relatable people. /sarcasm). And this hurt for a time, especially when I’m surrounded by so many wonderful writers succeeding. While I want nothing more than their success, it doesn’t take the sting out of my rejection. I was almost willing to give up until my agent wrote me this extraordinary note telling me that no way in hell are we giving up on this book. That I should never judge my talent and worth by whether or not some editor chooses to publish what I write. The two, he’s often told me, are mutually exclusive.

That we can create something new beyond traditional publishing. That there’s a way to share my work in the world. Because fuck Knopf. Fuck the smart set. Part of me needs to reach back to that woman who didn’t care about any of it and created anyway.

I also thought about my career and part of me feels stalled because I haven’t yet undone 20 years of believing that one had to work a certain way. I admire millennials, I do, because they have this arcane way of seeing the world, rejecting it, and building anew. They shirked traditional office environment and launched start-ups and collaboratives. They redefined work while my generation scrambled to throw glitter on shit office environments and label what they’ve done as innovative. Millennials said fuck you and your definition of success. We’ll define it for ourselves, thank you very much. We have a watch; we know what time it is.

I read an article today about the importance of playing small. Tad writes,

Who’s to say that those reaching hundreds of thousands will have a bigger impact than those who only ever reach 100 but very deeply? No one. That’s who. Niching, the finding of our role in the community, will always and forever be the dance between width and depth. And they’re both equal and needed. We need people working broad and shallow. And we need people working narrow and deep. And everywhere in between. The only question worthy of being asked is, ‘What is it that you see missing that you want to give? And how do you want to give it?’ That’s it. There’s no right answer. And then how do you make it financially sustainable?

For so long I’ve espoused this minimal life, owning only what you need and love, and never did I consider that ideology could flow into my creative and professional life. We’re taught to produce, to produce, to produce more, faster, better, smarter, and it just occurred to me that I actually don’t want a big life. I nearly had an anxiety attack when 30,000 people came to my site in a span of a few days. I can count on my two hands the number of close people in my life. I only survived hosting readings and attending fancy book parties because I was drunk 75% of the time. While I was a partner in an agency responsible for client acquisition, I often brought a hungry and savvy coworker who was all too happy to work the room on my behalf.

It occurs to me that I’m not built for a big life so why do I think I need it? Why do I think I need the book deal, the big job, the everything?

I don’t. I just realized that today and, after a few months of subsisting on my own sadness, did I finally see a small flicker of light. A flame, really, but light nonetheless.

My friends have been telling me that I’m going to be all right. Out of everyone they know, I’m the one they never have to worry about. I guess that’s flattering, but I’m not sure I believe that I have this strange ability to always know when to flee a house just as it sparks, glows aflame. I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m moving and I’m exhilarated and terrified, and I really wish people would stop asking me questions and insist I perform only the excited dance. What I do know is that I live to write and I have to keep doing it regardless if it finds a traditional home. What I do know is that parts of my life were big and I fled it with abandon, in favor of the small, and now I want something that lingers in between.

We’ll see.

Note: I’ve removed comments from this post because this is one of the hardest I’ve written and I need to get it out without advice, or people remarking that this goddess bowl looks delicious or the photography is pretty or that I’m going to make it. While I do love and respect all of that, right now I need quiet. I need to sort out my thoughts and find my way back to the light, and I need to do that without the sound of anyone’s voice or words written below this post. I hope you understand.

INGREDIENTS: Protein Power Goddess Bowl recipe from the Oh She Glows Cookbook, with minor modifications
For the dressing
1/4 cup tahini
2 garlic cloves minced.
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast or a bit more, to taste (I nixed this)
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, to taste
1 tsp kosher salt + freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

For the protein bowl
1/2 cup black beluga lentils
1/2 cup green lentils
1 15oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil, for sautéing
1 small shallot, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 large yellow tomato, chopped
3 cups lacinato kale, roughly chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced
kosher salt + black pepper, to taste

Untitled

DIRECTIONS
For the tahini dressing: Add all of the ingredients to a food processor (or blender). Blitz and set aside.

For the protein bowl: Cook lentils according to package directions. Typically, lentils are 3:1, so I add 3 cups of water for every cup of lentils. After 25 minutes of simmering, I drained the lentils and set aside.

In a large skillet over low-medium heat, add the olive oil and sauté the chopped onion and minced garlic for a few minutes, being careful not to burn. Turn the heat up to medium and add in the chopped red pepper and tomato and sauté for another 7-8 minutes, or until all of the water evaporates from the tomatoes. The last thing anyone wants is a watery protein bowl. No bueno.

Stir in the chopped kale and sauté for another few minutes, just until tender. Stir in the full batch of tahini-Lemon dressing, the cooked & drained grains and lentils, the chickpeas, and simmer on low for another few minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the minced parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with lemon wedges and zest. Makes 6 cups.

protein power bowl

mujaddara: spiced lentils + rice with fried onions

Untitled

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about ties the bind, the power of female friendships. For most of my childhood I lived in the confines of my imagination. I devoured books at an unusual pace, and assumed a small role in every story I read. Mostly I immersed myself in a succession of books about blonde girls with credit cards. They drove fast cars, wore silk blouses, and lived in houses with two floors. Panic was breaking curfew. Tragedy was selling the pearls and the minks. Forced to wear cotton and bow out of boarding school, the blondes pressed their hair, frantic, and wondered how they’ll live and whether they’d be found out. But in the end, the stock market never crashed, money mysteriously appeared, and everything had been set to rights. The blonde girls’ lives were a power ballad played on repeat.

I grew up in a place where endings weren’t tidy and happy, rather happiness was simply the fact that could endure the hand dealt to you. Escape was tantamount, and I sought refuge in the seemingly uncomplicated pristine worlds of the affluent and privileged.

Since I was alone a lot, and often teased and picked-on for most of my childhood, books were my companion. On the occasions I had friends, I was clingy, possessive and idolatrous. I was jealous and insecure. Frightened of abandonment, I imagined my friend as a life raft and I was hanging on for dear life. I typically had a single friend, one who rose above the din, and I would fixate all my energy on her. People used to call me intense, ferocious, because nothing existed outside the confines of my friendship. And anyone who threatened that friendship–a new friend, a boy distraction–became objects for me to conquer and ruin. It’s funny–I’m reading Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, and I deeply identified with Elena and her fixation on her fractured, yet brilliant friend, Lila. I always befriended girls who were strong-willed, beautiful, and admired because I thought proximity to people who didn’t only shine, but glared and burned, would somehow rub off on me. That I would be the one who would inevitably burn bright.

IMG_0562IMG1231A

Suffice it to say, I didn’t know how to be a good friend. It wasn’t until S and I parted ways that I finally understood the meaning of unhealthy attachments. That it was perfectly normal to have more than one friend. That it’s okay to grow past the notion of having a “best friend.” That I didn’t need to be a barnacle. That I didn’t need to be surrounded by a crowd, rather it became natural for me to float amongst a few. That I didn’t need for my friends to meet my every need and desire. That I didn’t define the strength of a friendship in relationship to the frequency and intensity of our encounters.

This week I read an article about how women of a certain age get surgical about the people in their life. They crave fewer friends, and work to enrichen the ties that bind them a smaller number of people. I’ve written at length about my desire to have fewer people in my life. As I’ve grown older, I’ve become comfortable with solitude–I actually need to spend time by myself because I become drained when surroundeded by people for extended periods of time. I need space and quiet to think, and that, coupled with a considerable amount of professional obligations, doesn’t leave much time for people in my life.

So I had to get surgical. I’m disciplined about the people with whom I surround myself. I’ve a handful of very close friends whom I see pretty regularly, as well as a host of acquaintances whom I see less frequently. However, I’m starting to realize that with my pending move I’ll be separated from the people I love. And while I’m not at all concerned about my beloveds and losing them (friendship, real friendship, extends beyond the confines of a zip code), I’m actually worried about meeting new people.

I’ll be honest–new people exhaust me. I’m an introvert who spent a decade cultivating incredible people in my life, and the very idea of having to rebuild makes me anxious. I keep telling myself that one or two people are all I need to stop me from going bonkers in another state (because even I have limits to how much time I can spend alone), and part of me feels grateful for the online space because it’s allowed me to connect with people I’d otherwise never encounter. So I’m building these friendships slowly, virtually. One or two people at a time, in each state, as that’s all I can manage. In a weird way, I feel part of me has reverted back to my childhood, where I’d fill out pages in “friendship books,” mail them to a pen-pal in hopes that I’d meet a couple of new people.

New people. I’m still anxious.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Jerusalem: A Cookbook
1 1/4 cups/250 g green or brown lentils
4 medium onions (1 1/2 lb/700 g before peeling)
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
about 1 cup/250 ml sunflower oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 1/2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 cup/200 g basmati rice
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 cups/350 ml water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS
Place the lentils in a small saucepan, cover with plenty of water, bring to a boil, and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, until the lentils have softened but still have a little bite. Drain and set aside.

Peel the onions and slice thinly. Place on a large flat plate, sprinkle with the flour and 1 teaspoon salt, and mix well with your hands. Heat the sunflower oil in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan placed over high heat. Make sure the oil is hot by throwing in a small piece of onion; it should sizzle vigorously. Reduce the heat to medium-high and carefully (it may spit!) add one-third of the sliced onion. Fry for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally with a slotted spoon, until the onion takes on a nice golden brown color and turns crispy (adjust the temperature so the onion doesn’t fry too quickly and burn). Use the spoon to transfer the onion to a colander lined with paper towels and sprinkle with a little more salt. Do the same with the other two batches of onion; add a little extra oil if needed.

Wipe the saucepan in which you fried the onion clean and put in the cumin and coriander seeds. Place over medium heat and toast the seeds for a minute or two. Add the rice, olive oil, turmeric, allspice, cinnamon, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and plenty of black pepper. Stir to coat the rice with the oil and then add the cooked lentils and the water. Bring to a boil, cover with a lid, and simmer over very low heat for 15 minutes.

Remove from the heat, lift off the lid, and quickly cover the pan with a clean tea towel. Seal tightly with the lid and set aside for 10 minutes.

Finally, add half the fried onion to the rice and lentils and stir gently with a fork. Pile the mixture in a shallow serving bowl and top with the rest of the onion.

Untitled

basmati + wild rice with chickpeas, currants and herbs

IMG_0549IMG1231A

A few months ago I read an article about what it means to be a good stranger. The author recounts an episode where he might just be walking behind The Slowest Man in the World, and how deeply this rattled him. Why couldn’t this man walk faster? Didn’t he know the inconvenience he caused simply because of the speed in which he moved his limbs? Upon further introspection the author starts to question himself,

It’s telling that I only become interested in the Ethics of Proper Sidewalk-Sharing in moments when I’m being personally inconvenienced. Even though the issue undoubtedly affects millions of people every day, it never seems to be an important topic to think about at any other time. Many or most of our internal moral complaints about others are really just petty reactions to being inconvenienced, and not any kind of meaningful examination of personal ethics or how to run a society. I’m learning to distrust these kinds of thoughts when I have them, but I still have them.

I related to this scene because at different points in my life I was both the annoyed person and the one who couldn’t move fast enough. Whether I’m coming out of the subway or trying to navigate my way home in the cold, I’ve found myself incensed with people who simply couldn’t move. On the other hand, there was a time when I’d injured my knee and was trying to hide a limp, and do you know I felt guilty that I was inconveniencing people because I could bound up the stairs? Couldn’t move, move, move?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because I’ve been feeling this constant urge to slow down. I’ve been treating my whole life as a race worth conquering, but for what? We know what’s at the finish line, what awaits us six floors down: a box beneath the earth or the cool copper of an urn. What is the reward for our accelerated personal velocity? Death? Seriously? I have this one giant life to live and why would I push through it for the sole purpose of losing it? Do I “win” because I’m the victor over the loss of my own breath? I read this quote from Marcus Aurelius, and it’s chilling because it’s honest, frightening and real (for those of you whom, like me, are frightened of death):

Were you to live three thousand years, or even thirty thousand, remember that the sole life which a man can lose is that which he is living at the moment; and furthermore, that he can have no other life except the one he loses. This means that the longest life and the shortest amount to the same thing. For the passing minute is every man’s equal possession, but what has once gone by is not ours. Our loss, therefore, is limited to that one fleeting instant, since no one can lose what is already past, nor yet what is still to come. (via)

15853969724_629b8f49c2_oYesterday, over breakfast, I tell my friend Angie about shopping at Whole Foods after work on a Friday evening. It was a perfectly perfunctory day–I leave a work session with my client and walk to the nearest grocery store to pick up some food for the weekend. It’s Friday, it’s Chelsea, and everyone has somewhere to people. As soon as I walk through the door of the market I’m immediately shoved, pushed and nearly run over by a grocery cart. Someone behind me in produce sighs audibly when I linger in front the blueberries too long. I love food shopping. I love thinking about all the meals I could possibly make, and instead of enjoying this bit of luxury, I have to be aware, dexterous, efficient and FAST. I simply cannot linger. God forbid I contemplate. And after navigating lines, subways and sidewalks, I come home, depleted.

I’ve lived in New York my whole life and my god, people move so fast. How is it that I’ve only noticed this? How is it that it’s taken 39 years for me to be bothered by this?

All I want to do is slow down. I want to hear exhalations of breath. I want to cook rice for 40 minutes without having an anxiety attack. Maybe this is one of the many reasons why I plan on leaving New York this year–this desire to not squander or race through time.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Jerusalem: A Cookbook.
½ cup wild rice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup basmati rice (to be candid, this was A LOT of rice for me. I ended up using 1/2 and storing the rest)
1 ½ cups boiling hot water
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 ½ tsp curry powder
1 ½ cups (or 15oz can) of cooked and drained chickpeas
4 tbsp canola or sunflower oil for frying
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 ½ tsp of gluten-free flour
2/3 cup dried currants
2 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
Place the wild rice in a small saucepan and cover with plenty of water. Bring the water to a boil and then leave it to simmer for 40-45 minutes until the wild rice is cooked but still firm. Drain and set aside.

While the wild rice is cooking cook the basmati rice: In a medium saucepan that has a tight fitting lid warm 1 tablespoon of olive oil over high heat. Once the oil is heated add the rice and ¼ teaspoon salt and stir to warm up the rice. Carefully, add the boiling water, and decrease the heat to low. Cover the pan with the lid and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave the rice covered for 5 minutes.

While the basmati rice is cooking prepare the chickpeas: In a small saucepan heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seeds and curry powder and wait for a few seconds till the seeds start sputtering and you get the aroma of the spices. Add the cooked chickpeas and ¼ teaspoon salt. Do all this quickly, so that the spices do not burn. Mix everything well together (1-2 minutes) until the chickpeas are heated through. Remove the chickpeas and transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Wipe the same saucepan clean, add the canola or sunflower oil over high heat. While the oil is heating toss the onions with the gf flour. When the oil is hot, pan-fry the onions in batches until they are golden brown. Do not let them burn. Place the cooked onions on a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb the excess oil.

Add both types of cooked rice to the chickpeas. Add the currants, herbs and fried onion. Mix everyone together and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

IMG_0553IMG1231A

Center Photo Credit: Death to the Stock Photo.