Tag Archives: food

Desired Chronicles from the Kitchen & Other Aspirations

Post-thunderstorm rainbow from the porch.

Post-thunderstorm rainbow from the porch.

I stopped writing.

It wasn’t so much that I was trying to get away or that I was too busy.  Had a lot more to do with being creeped out by who actually reads this and realization that the commentary that’s been running in my head as of late wasn’t appropriate for a public audience.  And since I didn’t know how to filter, I stopped.

But I also know that these posts are the best records I have of the best (and worst) memories.  I know that I’ve gone back to refer to them when something doesn’t make sense months, even years after the fact, and I’ve found that my old words hold a lot of truth in facts and stories that have had the been preserved without the filter of ex-post facto analysis.  Furthermore, I know that if I try writing them just for myself, as in unpublished, I simply won’t.

And so, curled on my bed last week, gripping my stomach over a very poorly prepared dinner, I thought about all my other bad cooking experiences, many of which are chronicled here.

This domestic failure (to clarify–it was really three failures, Monday’s dinner, Tuesday’s dinner, and Wednesday’s leftovers) mattered, and it mattered more than most.  It was the first time that I made a serious attempt at cooking and couldn’t, which was quite offensive because I’ve decided that now is the time to learn to excel in care taking.

In the last year, I’ve committed many Saturdays to grad school research.  I wasn’t usually making plans as much was I was filled to brim with hope and possibility and desperately looking for a direction to set my sails.  Of late, it’s occurred to me that a consequence of my incredible task-orientated behaviors (uhhrrmmm, extreme planning) is a little bit like Mario Kart.  In the game, when you hit the question mark box and get a red mushroom, you launch the power boost strategically, like when you’re neck-and-neck with Bowser and need just a little kick; I have to know where I’m going so I know when to peak, and this has repercussions for just about every area of my life.  It’s also why I plan.

So, I look back to that mid-fall day when I lived at Whaley’s house and stumbled across something intriguing on St. Andrew’s website and the moment it felt like a real possibility.  I remember discussing it in the car with Julie on the way to New London and everything that happened in the weeks afterward.

Come spring, I was pacing my new house with a bubbling idea in my stomach, caught in a frenzied prayer and with twenty fellowship/grant/scholarship tabs open on my Macbook.  They were all for American students pursuing postgraduate research degrees in the UK.  It was like planning classes, career, family, finances, and life purpose in a single simultaneous thought that’s so exciting I have to put it on hold for twenty minutes or so while I walk in circles.  I do this just so I can savor the synergy and excitement enough to focus on what it all means.

It was beautiful moment, but the St. Andrews day is not today, neither is teaching, blogging that is actually read, or publishing anything that is printed on real paper.  For now, those are just dreams, but they are all really just matured iterations of  things I care about and do now.

I’ll peak when the time’s right, and it will be glorious. But,in the meantime, I’m crossing my X’s, saving my dollars, and more importantly, drinking very deeply of the many lessons around me.  I mind the hows, whens, and wheres of communication, authority, and leadership.  I’m assessing the delegation and use of influence, and I like it.

It’s also why I’m learning to cook now.

Now, when I have no one to care for except myself and a roommate who never squabbles if the dishes are left in the sink a little longer than they should be.

Now, when no one will complain if I lose track of time and get home from work a little later than I should and when the relationships in my life are relatively simple and only as time-consuming as I let them be.

Because if I can’t learn to do it now, I’m not sure I ever will.


Blessed at BK (Onething, Part II)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn our first night, I waited over an hour and a half for my whopper junior.  I felt so bad for the guy taking my order, I almost tipped him.  I just wasn’t quite sure how to do that at a fast food joint.

Ever since then, we’ve made it a point to ditch the conference sessions just a few minutes early.  The guys and I ran to one of the handful of cheap restaurants within a half a mile of the Kansas City Convention Center for each meal.

I’d have loved to eat better and I usually do, but what are you going to do?  My thinking was dominated by economics.  Four days without access to a grocery store is expensive.  Tonight, I had hoped that the little bit of my lunch that I had saved for dinner would be enough, but by 9pm, the leftovers were clearly no longer cutting it.  Somewhere in the middle of an evening talk, I peeled off in search of food.

So I walked back to Burger King.

It was a long line, but not nearly as a bad as the first night.  Before anything even went wrong, the people in front of me and I talked about BK’s hardworking staff.  I think the same group was working each of the three times I’d been there in the last four days.  Despite these hours, the manager was still all smiley and talked to a group at the register about how much money she had made during the conference, but she also said that the crowds were overwhelming.  I felt for the exhausted woman.

Then the computer went out.  I mean totally out.  The register was broken.  She pushed buttons, coaxed it, tapped it, did everything she could to get it going.  A minute later, the manager jumped up, and gave everyone in line free ice cream and soda.  When the machine didn’t come back to life, they locked the doors and gave us all a free dinner.

I’m might be still be a student, but I’m by no means destitute.  I could have afforded the $4 whopper junior meal, but not getting turned away when they could no longer sell us food lifted the exhaustion that weights you down at the end of a four a day conference.  The staff’s attitudes weren’t just coping, they were thriving and positive.

So here’s to a holiday spirit that doesn’t end on Christmas.  I tried to thank the BK staff, but I think they were moving too quickly to even hear me.

Before any of this, I kept thinking that 25,000 young people attending a Christian conference and infiltrating all the fast food restaurants downtown Kansas City is a lot.  I had hoped that the conference participants would bless the socks right off the restaurant staffs’ feet instead of wearing all the people out.

I don’t know if that happened, but I do know that the midnight worship set I missed at the conference was worth skipping.  The blessing I just received tops it.

Happy New Year.

M.P. vs. Rice

On Sunday night, I went to a dinner at Lighthouse, and it was one of those off-nights where rice just didn’t taste good.  I wanted mashed potatoes.

I love it when my friends cook for me.  I love confusing mushrooms with eggplant and having them describe all the new flavors and textures to me.  But Sunday night, I was tired and I just wanted to know what I was eating.

Spain and a year to look back on the explosions of sophomore year have given me some kind of perspective.  I’ve never been so consciously aware of my ability to just get up and leave.  While living in Spain, I hopped a plane to Africa, scrubbed a last minute trip to Ireland, and wandered around Paris at 1:00am.

Now, I’m not talking about running away, not even in the slightest.  Rather, I am describing the get-up, get-gone, go-and-run-to-it part of life.  I do that, a lot.  I think that’s how I ended up at Wesleyan, and if it is not, it is certainly why I am still here.

But lately, I’ve found myself thinking a lot more about mashed potatoes.

This summer, I’ll be back in Indiana, where potatoes outnumber cups of rice 3:1, minor league baseball is a summer highlight, and lawn signs are more common than pacifist bumper stickers.  I’ll be home.

Home’s a vibrant place, a place I return to intentionally, and with great desire, but its not the same– which is all I’m hoping for.  I want to prove the real value of my liberal arts education, by using it in context.  I want to learn, experience, and network.  See home as a city, not just the place I went to high school.  Finally learn the downtown restaurants.  Use the libraries.  Thesis research.  Hang out with my mom.  Meet people.  Make friends.  Read books.

I need this summer to be good.

…But you know, as soon as I get there, I’ll totally be making pad thai.

Simple Act

I’ve become quite familiar with the unordinary.

Define Wesleyan.

That said, I’m pretty sure there’s a reason I get all excited when I meet a Mennonite PK Physics professor.  That said, I rarely notice how I stick out in WesCF (Wesleyan Christian Fellowship).  In fact, I don’t think I would ever notice if other people didn’t point it out or occasionally miss the things that matter a lot to me.

Perhaps my intoxicated hall mate put it most bluntly when upon bursting in my room on a Saturday night freshman year and found a room full of people.  His comment was not, oh you’re all having Bible study (as we clearly were).  It was, “Tori, they’re all Asian.”  Realizing that he was interrupting, he slammed the door, and left. But that moment hasn’t ever left me.

Other people see the difference, although I don’t often see it.

I really, really don’t care that I’m the only white kid in WesCF.  I care that there are hundreds of white (and black, brown, purple, orange, whatever) kids here who don’t know Christ.  And I also care when people who don’t know my midwestern culture overlook important things without even knowing it.  This was never highlighted so clearly as on Easter Sunday when people just didn’t get how much it hurt me not to be able to really celebrate.

Tomorrow, all the Wesleyan kids who go to Wellspring are hosting several of the leaders and our friends from the church.  This lunch has literally been three years in the making and has taken a lot for us to pull off.

Going to the store was an experience in and of itself, because we had to buy a bunch of stuff I’ve never gotten at the grocery store before.  I had no idea where to find chives or what a mango actually looks like (I’ve only had mango flavored stuff).  Abraham teased me a little, and all in good nature, but it made me keenly aware that it was one of those little moments where there is some kind of disconnect.

This evening, I had to cook in a full, dirty kitchen in Lighthouse, instead of my own house.  I had 48 pieces of chicken that needed defrosted, de-skinned, and double-coated in the frying mix.  My friends were also in the kitchen, talking quietly while chopping up the stuff that I couldn’t find at the store, and flipping back and forth between English and Chinese.

After awhile, one of the guys, a nice guy and a leader, but not one that I’ve worked with much, came up and told me my chicken looked cool and that rolling it around in the flour batter looked fun.  Then he jumped in beside me and marveled at its simplicity.

In that simple act, and I know that he has no idea how much it meant to me, he washed away all the uncomfortability in the room.

(p.s. 16 lbs of chicken took up every inch of the oven racks.  45 minutes in, the sizzling was the loudest noise in the kitchen.  I’d have taken a photo, but I left my camera at home.)

Stunning, SB: Day 15

On Mount Higby.

A homemade spring break for the best of them.

In perfect shorts and tank tops weather, I’ve sat outside on my newly-cleaned screened porch.  The same room that was so gross when I moved in that I decided to pretend it wasn’t attached to my house is now a beautiful, sunlit reading room (complete with an outdoor outlet).

Professor Elphick’s book recommendation arrived yesterday, and I’ve set at properly devouring it, my mind thoroughly jumbled at its crazy claims and what it means it the author is right.

When I realized 72 cookies was a lot.

My cooking disasters have continued, but with notable shining successes.

In between not paying attention to the fact that that cookie recipe yields 6 dozen cookies (2 1/2 cups doesn’t sound like much until you realize that it’s talking about butter), the panicked phone call to my mother because my drumsticks were bleeding in the oven (it was gross), and the icing that kept sliding off the cake, my cooking has been met with shining success.

I’ve actually made an array of full, edible meals, which really is quite a major feat for me.  I’ll analyze a boring book and write a great analysis, but ask me to cook a family sized meal and disaster is more likely than not.

My beautiful porch.

Over break, I’ve learned to make a biscuits and gravy that would knock you on your feet, and the beans and cornbread casserole I made for my friends might as well have been cooked by mother.

Besides the edible food part, my room with an oven and fridge finally has enough basic utensils and pantry items to earn its title as a kitchen.

The time apart from MS Word has been good for both of us, and I’ve watched the Dead Poets Society three times in the last week.

I’ve also discovered that 80s music does have a place in the world, even if it is restricted to morning kitchen music while making pancakes, and I finally explored that wooded path by 91, the one that leads to a mountain.

Chicken noodle soup, apples and peanut butter, and grapefruit soda on the porch.

Perhaps most notable has been the never-ending developments in my quest for a summer job, more appropriately referred to as Tori finally figured out what she wants to do with her life and, dare I say it, has a decent idea of what that means in terms of a career.

As frightening as each step in this process has been and undoubtedly still will be, it has been a lot of fun (…a word I never previously dared to associate with a job search)

Opposite of a cooking disaster.

I can’t even begin to explain all that’s happening other than to say its a lot, I never could have mapped a network this big, and it is so not over.  I still am not quite sure what’s going to happen this summer, but, bit by bit, it really is all coming together.

One of the first couple weeks of the semester, we started praying about jobs at Wellspring.  I was already well on my way down this crazy, exciting path with big dreams and a direction, but up to that point it wasn’t really going anywhere specific.

It’s been unbelievable watching opportunities that seemed so great completely fall apart (and my desire for them).

Reading on the hill.

Whereas, new opportunities, ones that wouldn’t have even caught my attention a year ago but are now all I want, are coming out of nowhere.

I know people that spent the break in Florida, Jamaica, Mexico, California, Hong Kong, Europe, and the Middle East.  Bet none of them have had a break as fulfilling as mine–right here in Middletown, Connecticut.

-best spring break ever-

I am my mother

Minus the clear complexion and cooking capabilities.

Inspired by the infamous CSS paper-return let down (that ugly moment when you realize you didn’t quite pull it off last week), I baked a cake.  Or rather, I went to Wesshop for the 3rd time today, because I was craving chocolate and decided to bake a cake.

Now, you know this project was destined to fail when I bought the mix thinking to myself “I’ve never seen a cake baked in a pan like the one I have, but if you can cook an egg in the microwave, this has gotta work.”

Rest assured,  the young adult demographic is still out there to prove that, just maybe, we could learn something from Heloise’s hints.  (sorry, inside joke for my mother.)

Imagine my excitement when I came home to find that I actually do have cake pans.  This was a significant realization.  I have a couple casserole-like dishes, a spatula, a cooking spoon, and dishes for three.  Notice missing kitchen basics (pots, skillets, etc).

I had all the ingredients too.  I thought I was home free.

But, of course, the moment I put it in the oven, failure started creeping my way again.  I didn’t set the timer again, so, it burned (just a little).  I peeled off the black parts and figured it would be okay.

I felt like such a homemaker when I set the loaves on the edge of my counter by the open window, where the chocolate scent wifted by the students walking home in the street.

Let’s call that the height of my triumph.

After letting it sit for some time (geez at least 20 minutes), I got bored with 20th century family dynamics in Vietnam and put my reading down.  Given that the cake was sitting under a cold window, it had to be ready by now.

The edge of the plates were cold to the touch, but it was still radiating substantial heat in the middle under the plates.  Again, I thought to myself…”It’s cool enough that the frosting won’t melt.  Why else would you actually need to wait until to frost it?”

So, with Heloise scoffing at me in the background, I frosted it (with bad prepackaged frosting no less), and I learned why you wait.

The poor thing crumbles apart if it’s not cool.


So, in summary, what did I learn?

1) Mom baking when she’s angry is a good habit to mimic.

2) Mom’s patience when she’s baking is also a good habit to mimic.

3) Making chocolate-something, instead of just eating chocolate-something will give me time to cool off, which consequentely leads to a drastically lower calorie intake.  That’s a good thing too 😉

I couldn’t find the lettuce

About 15 toppings and an hour or so later, Mychelle’s custom-made salads were done.  Though the oranges, apples, chicken, cheese, dressing, croutons, carrots, cucumbers, walnuts, and whatever else made finding the green bed a little challenging.