Tamp Down the Change Monster
I did not intend for 2012 to start somberly, but I can’t seem to lighten my loafers. All I can think about is change. Once I start to lose my personal struggle with change, it shrouds everything I see, taste and touch like a thick, mocking apparition.
Let me back up. Ever since I was small, I have had a heel-dragging reaction to stagnancy. At the merest whisper of stillness, my tiny self leapt on to the next dragon, slaying it with the unbridled passion of a wild-minded child. When I was six I attacked the art of spelling fiercely, until I won the Idaho State Spelling Bee. Granted, the state’s population was only a million at the time, but still. I drank in words and letters like a parched vulture, eventually conquering every volume of an encyclopedia.
When I was seven I snuck a book about Sid Vicious and his ill-fated lover Nancy off my parent’s bookshelf and consumed it like a lion gorging on a zebra. I learned that there are a lot of ways to go through life and I decided I’d like to experience many of them. I bought an Ouija board and hosted séances so that my friends could speak with their dead pets and grandparents at the tender age of eight. I covered the walls of by bedroom with black garbage bags and wouldn’t allow anyone to enter unless they were clad in all black. They could cloak their Guess jeans and Esprit tops in a garbage bag robe I had on hand, but I lavished praise on those who arrived black-drenched, despite their parents’ dismay.
And then came the time that I decided brainy and bizarre should take a backseat to blond and bitchy. I had my requisite crush on a New Kid on the Block- Joey, for the record- and I did my best to hide the fact that Fishbone was actually my favorite band. Midway through junior high, I learned I could quench my thirst for change by flitting from one boy to the next. There was Russell, the Mormon whose mother nearly keeled over and went to her husband’s planet years too soon when she found out we had HELD HANDS under the bleachers at a football game (You know Mormon men get their own planet when they die? Apparently they can invite whomever they choose to come with them).
Next was Mario, twin brother to Reuben. They were delinquents of the most appealing sort, and because they were twins, every time they got into legal trouble they’d put it all in Reuben’s name so they’d have at least one clean record between the two of them.
I kept up the pattern of switching boyfriends every time the change monster reared her conniving head all through college. Sometimes discarding the boy wasn’t quite enough so I’d throw a geographical move in to really tamp down the rearing demon.
And then I met my husband and I knew right away I wasn’t going to be able to flee this one. I worried about my festering tendency, but it was all for naught. He is as much of an artist of reinvention as I, and so we set about the task of creating lives together. First we built a bubble in Italy. We collected shoes, wine and enough expat stories to fill a pinkie-sized thumb drive in the year 3012. Then, almost before the change horns could emerge from my forehead, we found ourselves in Seattle.
I switched careers, we bought a house, and then we bought another house. In the process of selling the first and moving into the second, we undertook a large-scale remodel which we completed primarily with our own four hands. We also planned and executed our overseas three-day 60-person wedding in the midst of the remodel. All this kept the change monster at bay.
And then came Bentley Danger, a little more than a year after our wedding. I quit my “real” job to hang out with the tiniest, coolest person I’ll ever know, and in the process I picked up the pen. And now it’s been over three years. I spend my adorable days in an adorable house that I appointed “just so” with my adorable child waiting for my adorable husband to walk through the adorable door. My biggest concern is “what’s for dinner?” and aside from several freelance but regular writing commitments, I am fortunate (?) enough to determine my own responsibilities.
I have gotten to the point where I feel a conscionable responsibility to create the very best dinner possible nearly every night. I decline social invitations based on my cooking-at-home schedule. Those shortribs aren’t going to take themselves out of the water bath, now are they? A gander at my instagram feed reveals that in the last few weeks I’ve finally created the “perfect” pizza- it’s a sourdough crust that has been brushed in lye to encourage the maillard reaction, then it’s topped with Bolognese sauce, robiola cheese, hen eggs and thin shavings of a white truffle my husband brought back from Alba, Italy on his latest trip. I’ve also made a “garden salad” (courtesy of Heston Blumenthal) wherein a sauce gribiche anchors vegetables made to look as though they are growing from a raised bed of “dirt” that is really crumbled olives and Grape Nuts. I have rolled umpteen variations on filled pasta, from a hen egg and homemade goat ricotta raviolo to beet-filled pelmeni to Kobe beef shortrib and sharp cheddar pierogi, among the others you see scattered throughout this post.
There was a time when I entertained deluded visions of saving the world with my food and words. I still think I can make it a better place, but, at least for the time being, I’ve moved past the point of being able to write an essay about beet pasta and feel like I’m making a difference. Without me being fully in control of it, the change monster has gotten her clutches into my blog, and she’s turned it into a self-revelatory stomping ground that is more like a cemetery where all of this pretty food goes to die.
Maybe it’s the change monster who is making me say this, but I’m having a hard time molding my mind around what exactly is so confounded important about documenting every aspect of every dish that hits every matte-finish-chosen-for-its-ability-to-be-photographed plate in my kitchen every night. I’m not cooking less; in fact I’m probably cooking more. And a part of me is lamenting the fact that these creations are not getting wholly recorded since they’re mostly made from off-the-cuff passion rather than categorized precision. I’m just having a hard time sticking to the basic premise that this is a food blog, as some ascending force within me that I call the change monster for lack of anything better has decided that this is life blog space, at least for the time being.
Change is brewing. My little urban house is not a little rural farm, where surely the grass is greener because right now I have no grass, only concrete. There is no way my neighbors will let me put a water buffalo on my back patio and I’m compelled to think I really NEED one if I’m ever truly going to master the art of cheese-making. And then there is the matter of the chickens. I’m tiring quickly of paying $8.00 a dozen for farmer’s market eggs, not that they’re not worth it, just that I go through four dozen a week and it gets expensive. If that sounds like a lot, you try making fresh pasta every other day and count YOUR eggs. But not your chickens before they’re hatched- don’t count them. I’m trying not to count mine either, even though I know exactly the kind of chicken I want to hatch and it’s not inside the city limits of Seattle. In my heart gut (that’s the gut inside your heart, so you know you can trust it) I sense the right move to quell the change monster is to go semi-rural. I don’t know how long it will take to actualize this transition, but it’s what I need. So I’m going to work on that in an effort to keep the demon at bay.
And now a question. What is your pattern? Is there something you’ve struggled with your entire life that you’ve been able to identify and manage either in a healthy or unhealthy way? Sometimes I feel like I put duct tape on a rusty piece of metal that needs a welding job, and other times I solder it together seamlessly. How do you cope? I’m learning as time goes by that it’s far harder than simply acknowledging the issue. There is a fine line between being content and propelling innovation. I’m learning to walk it, but not without a few falls along the way.