Saturday, August 20, 2016
I made my way through the most current book of The Chronicles of Elantra. As nutty as it might sound, I then opened to the first page of the first book to read them again.
The last four books are, for me, the least enjoyable. Only I do savor them because the relationships between Kaylin and the others in her immediate circle have changed ... grown ... deepened. No where is this more evident than with the dragons. In particular, the Arkon at first incredibly distrustful and dismissive of Kaylin voices, at her request, the why of his now implicit trust of her. It was not her abilities as a Hawk or even the True Words writ on her skin or her position as Chosen. It was her intent that he trusted. Her plans were crap ... impulsive and reckless and ill-advised. Really, just about every condescending adjective could be used. But he had come to recognize in a mortal (perish the thought!) a sense of duty and a desire to fight for and protect others, even someone she abhorred. Isn't that an odd thing. I don't trust you; I trust your intent. Could it be he was trusting her soul?
Okay, let's be honest ... what the heck is a soul anyway? It is just another one of those words I realize that I actually do not know and that realization is torturous.
The two books are so ... etherial, for lack of a better word. Not much time passes within the pages of each, although I believe a few weeks pass between the two stories. Maybe theoretical might be a better word. Or ethereally theoretical? I am three times through the last book. Four times through the one before it. I can barely follow the last book and I understood more of it this time through than I did in the first two times.
I am certain these posts about the books and about True Words are probably pretty confusing ... if not merely boring. Of course, I think most of my posts might be considered boring. Some hold thoughts ... or at least the writing about which I remain proud of ... nightly so. But a lot of the latter ones are just my fumbling to capture my life, to record the things I am forgetting. After all, I do not have anyone playing the role of rememberer for me. I suppose you could say that is the main reason I weep over The Dixie Chicks' "Silent House."
I will not write copious amounts of back story here. If you read here, you know about Kaylin. If you do not, you probably do not care. The setting of the passage below is that she is, once again, trying to save Elantra because some idiot arcanist has thought up yet another disastrous way to achieve immortality. Now, for an immortal, that seems a pretty fool thing to do. But he was trying to shed the bindings to his True Name. To try to keep his life and his soul without being tied to a True Word. In short, he wanted to be a god.
In our world, God spoke the world into being. He breathes life, bestows life. And when we threw away our own immortality, for something we thought better, God created a way to have eternal life once more. But, gosh, does man ever do a good job of trying to make eternal life of our own.
There are a couple of interesting passages that I had not yet really pondered. In brief, there is an ... a being ... who was created to keep time linear, to repair anomalies in time. He sets encounters a Barrani outside of his own time and, after many decades, learns to listen hard enough, to make himself small enough to see that single life. The being, blithely named Gilbert by a child, comes to have ... compassion ... for the Barrani and seeks a way to return him to his time. The arrogant STUPIDITY of that arcanist actually provides a tear in the fabric of time through which Gilbert can travel to Elantra to see if he can find a way to return the Barrani without killing him.
Gilbert meets a young girl and saves her a few moments before her death. They travel back in time a bit and enter Kaylin. [See, I am learning the story.] Near the end of the story, when so much is finally being unraveled about the danger Elantra is facing, the young girl pipes up at one point that Gilbert is lonely.
Kaylin snorts. She immediately dismisses the idea that this powerful being could possibility be lonely, especially since he was never meant to even see individuals, much less meat them. The irony is that had the Barrani not been thrown out of time, when the anomaly was detected, Gilbert would have corrected it with a warrior's sword, not a surgeon's scalpel. Meaning that Elantra would have perished in the correction. The however many thousands or hundreds of thousands of lives lost would not have even crossed his awareness.
Yet Gilbert met one life. Then another. Then more. And he was lonely. Or maybe it is more accurate to say that he discovered that he was lonely without ever really knowing what loneliness was.
Kaylin wondered why the Ancients would create a being with loneliness. And then she wondered if loneliness was simply a part of being in the universe. And then she realized that all life was meant to be connected. No life was meant to be in isolation.
Anyway, at one point, at a very dire point, Kaylin finds herself thinking dour thoughts of the ancients again, before she realizes something.
She had a thing or two to say to the Ancients, none of it particularly polite. Why had they chosen someone to speak the remnants of their old stories when that person couldn't speak the language?
I found this slightly humorous and yet it also reminded me what Kaylin has been learning about True Words. That speaking them is not something that you necessarily do aloud. And yet there is this very understandable frustration that she has True Words written on her skin that she is supposed to use to ... heal, restore, preserve when she doesn't speak or write or even know the Ancient language.
Because, she thought, speaking it wasn't necessary.
They were simultaneously her words, and yet not. She was part of the their telling, but they were not, had never been, her story. She didn't need to be anything other than what she was... (Michelle Sagara, Cast in Honor, ch. 29)
Again, I am not sure why the whole concept of True Words captures my attention so fully, but it does. When I read this, for the barest moment, I thought about when reading the True Words of the Bible, when encountering those stories, especially in the New Testament, the inclination is to put ourselves into the story. But they are words for us but not ours. We are part of the telling of Jesus' story but is it not our story. Error starts when we try to make the story of the Bible ours.
Another way to look at it is that Kaylin is invoking the power of True Words. She is not giving them power. She is speaking them so that they can give her their power. Not for her to use the power as she pleases, but to tell a true story. In her speaking, then others can hear and in hearing they are healed, restored, preserved.
Now, we don't need Chosen to speak the True Words of the Bible. But it almost seems like we do because it is so much more popular to have other words spoken, other words used to heal, restore, preserve. Our wisdom. Our comfort. Our ideas of life. Balderdash really.
There is another part, that was just around here, but I cannot find it again, when Kaylin is agonizing over a word she needs to speak in order to defeat the arcanist. She starts to rage over not knowing it as she stumbles to speak it. And then she realizes that it is a True Word that she has heard before. When Lord Sanabalis spoke a story. When the Arkon did. Not that exact word so much as its nature of being a True Word. She realized that when she hears them speak, it is somehow recognizable. I wanted to say, "Yes, well Kaylin, Truth is like that!"
It is naive of me to think that if you bathe someone in enough of the Word of God then that person will come to recognize its Truth and thus have a leg up against the lies that swarm around us? We spend oh so much time consuming the words of the world in myriad fashions, across myriad media. Why is it so difficult for Christians to give at some measure of time to the Word of God each day?
Yes, I still feel such the freak for reading the Bible and the Book of Concord the way that I do. For hungering to hear the Word of God. You know, I realize that I have adapted to the Christians around me. By that I mean when they visit me and there is no mention of reading the Bible, I fall silent too. I keep my freakish desire hidden because I do not think to ask to read ... to be read to ... is socially acceptable. SIGH.
Earlier there is this lovely exchange with with her familiar, whom she acquired three books ago. In order to anchor him in her world, she had to name him. When she finally does, it is this True Word that means, in simple langue, hope. He is, in form, a translucent dragon. And in that form she cannot understand him. I mean, he speaks a language she cannot recognize, though she generally gets the gist of what he is saying. So, she mostly calls him Small and Squawky, since Hope feels a bit pretentious.
When she slips sideways of a sorts, out of her plane of existence (something that is not at all frequent), Kaylin can hear him. It is one of those conversations I find delightful. A good chuckle, I mean. There she is, trying to heal Gilbert, who is in not humanoid in any fashion and whose injury threatens the existence of Elantra, although at this point no one yet realizes what the arcanist is doing, and she digresses without thought to what's at hand.
"...I'm just thinking of all the old stories."
"The Barrani. The Ancients. The True Names. True Words."
"They're more that just stories.
"I didn't say they were just stories. But...they are stories." She hesitated and then added, "A lot of our actual experiences become stories. Things we tell other people. Things we don't tell other people. It's not just about the words. But...sometimes words are what we have. They're not everything; they have to be enough."
"Even the words that you don't understand?"
She looked at her arm. "Even then. Because words are part of me. Maybe if I used them enough, I'll understand them so well I can say what I really mean with them."
"What do you really mean, Kaylin?"
Kaylin blinked. "I'm not talking about right now. But—in general. I can't always say what I mean. No, that's wrong. People don't walkway hear what I thought I was saying. I mean, they hear what I actually say."
"Ah, so you feel you choose the wrong words?"
"I must. If I'd chosen the right ones, they'd understand me."
"I do not think it is ever that simple."
"It would be if I could speak True Words."
"Ah, no. Because anyone with whom you might converse so earnestly wouldn't hear them." (ch. 14)
That's Kaylin. She has power enough to make the world weep and doesn't want it. She's talking about the ability to create life, to create whole worlds in the ability to fully speak the Ancient language and all she really wants is to be better at expressing herself at work and with her friends. I just love that! But, too, I love the exchange because, in the past few years, I find myself less and less able to speak the things I wish to say. SIGH.
The more I read the series, the more I find myself in the story without it being my story, the more my awe of the Word of God grows, the deeper I long to hear the Word of God, and the more I savor the quirky craftsmanship of Michelle Sagara.
Friday, August 19, 2016
My poaching journey continues.
This is poached chicken using the traditional method. [I sure wish I could get better at slicing chicken.]
I found the method to be a bit less precise, and so I struggled some. For example, you bring the liquid to a boil. The original recipe says to do so on medium-high heat. Only mine took forever to come to a boil that way. As a result, I believe, even though I cooked it on low for the minimum suggested time, the chicken was 192 degrees when I checked it! Normally, I think that temperature would have ruined the chicken, but poaching make for very moist chicken.
I will say that I found this method to make more flavorful chicken. Now, by flavorful, I mean the bare essence of flavor, but definitely more. I liked the taste of it better. I also liked how there was no contrast between the outer texture and the inner texture. The inside out method of poaching does created a bit of a "crust." A wee bit. But one nonetheless.
The added benefit of the traditional method is that you can also reduce down and then use your poaching liquid as a broth or stock.
The third method I am calling the "forgotten" method, because you start to cook it, take it off the stove, and leave it for 90 minutes! I am looking forward to trying that, because the photo of that poached chicken looked so lovely. Then again, that chef sure knows how to slice chicken!
It has been nice to have something to focus on, to look forward to, in light of having to ... argue ... with a vendor who damaged my home! I mean, gee, The Maids are licensed, bonded, and insured. But the owner doesn't want to file a claim with her insurance and, as far as I can tell, there is no way that I can do so. My only recourse is small claims court.
That makes me think about how awful it was going to court week after week over the pit bull attack. The dog owner was fined and assessed compensation for my medical bills (both Amos and I), but she never paid a single penny. I tried to pursue the matter by having her case brought up week after week, but it did not make a difference. She actually testified that she had no remorse for what happened. SIGH.
I don't think the franchise owner cares a wit that my floor register was destroyed. She just doesn't want to pay for it. That's what she cares about. It is not like I have $337 lying around to have it replaced myself.
If I do have to go to court, I will have to pay to file a claim and pay to have The Maids notified. But, if I win (and why wouldn't I??), I can have those fees reimbursed by the company.
I am trying not to think about this much, but it weighs on me. The only call I had with the franchise owner about the matter was wretched. She called me nasty and hateful and miserable and hung up on me. She called back and then hung up again. No, I am not talking on the phone anymore with the company. Writing only.
The franchise owner also sent an unpleasant email to my mother, repeating what an awful person I am. I know that that is a reflection of the owner, not me, but still it hurts and weighs on me.
So, well, the poaching is a bit of a life saver. The steak and the chicken cooking techniques ... learning new lessons ... have been a blessing. Gosh, maybe if this situation gets even more stressful, I might finally be able to learn how to knead dough!
Posted by Myrtle at 10:17 PM
Thursday, August 18, 2016
I admit that I was a bit nervous about tackling the first poaching method, but it turned out so beautifully. That encourages me to move on to the next one.
This one was what I am calling Inside Out Poached Chicken.
I will say that I have come to long for a small lidded skillet. You know, a pan for the single person. However, using my medium sauteuse pan worked well. This is the chicken after I was finally allowed to lift the lid. I did cook the first side a shade too long and didn't realize that I was to cook one side on medium, flip, lower the heat, and cover with the lid. I cooked both sides on medium and then lowered the heat. So, the chicken has a bit of color to it you wouldn't normally see. However, realizing what I had just done, I adjusted how long I cooked it on the lowered heat and hoped for the best. Gosh, waiting those 10 minutes off the stove still in the pan and 5 minutes resting on the plate was so nerve-wracking!
I found the chicken to be tasty. I keep thinking that I should taste the aromatics and I am not sure that I taste anything. Except that the chicken is flavorful. It is nothing like boiled chicken or the like. The aromatics is what I added to the recipe. You see, the other two poaching methods both use aromatics. I thought this one should, too.
Yes, I have aromatics on the brain.
I had read that cold will set the flesh, so I was worried refrigerating it would change the outcome. I used half the breast on my salad and put the other half in the refrigerator, dripping the juices from the plate onto the remaining chicken pieces and putting them into the refrigerator whilst still warm so there would be some condensation in the container. When I ate the leftovers later, they were incredibly moist. I was well-pleased with this method. More so on the second eating that the first even! A part of me says, Why bother with the other methods? But I do like learning.
Take last night. I watched a show about making stuffed tomatoes. I do not eat tomatoes. Ever. However, I was fascinated with learning why it was that most folk fail at stuffed tomatoes and how to counteract the problem of too much liquid since they are tomatoes that you are stuffing. America's Test Kitchen really is interesting in its scientific method approach to cooking.
If you do like stuffed tomatoes, definitely go look for the episode. In sum, scoop out the innards and run through a sieve, smashing them to get the liquid. Then salt & sugar the insides of the tomatoes and turn them upside down in a dish. Leave them for 30 minutes. Toast some panko bread crumbs with a tad bit of olive oil. Set aside. Sauté some onions and then garlic and then add fresh spinach. Add coucous and use the tomato juice from the smashed innards to cook the coucous. That's your stuffing. Mix some grated gruyere with the sautéed panko bread crumbs and then top the stuffed tomatoes. Roast in the oven.
I loved learning how to sweat the tomatoes. I don't know what I would ever eat that needed sweating, but I think that I should definitely sweat something.
I ate the poached chicken on a salad for lunch. For dinner, I ate the leftover cold with some more sweet potato roti.
I thawed out two chicken breasts, so I plan to try the second poaching method on the morrow. First, I have to run out and make copies of the revised damage claim for the floor register that The Maids broke when they came to my house. What ever happened to: "I am sorry I broke that. Let me make it right?" I am very much afraid I will end up on court having them replace it. The money is too much to just write off. SIGH.
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
I tried the steak again today, since I didn't want the fresh spinach inside to go bad, and made it absolutely perfectly!!
I am so very pleased! The smashed garlic that I used as an aromatic was really very tasty. I wish that I had added more to the pan! I also made more Sweet Potato Roti, using it to wrap up those bites of garlic. Mmmm! The roti was the best I have made thus far, and I wonder if that is because I added a bit of salt to the flour before mixing in the sweet potato.
The recipe is a 1:1 ratio, so it is really easy for me to make just two roti by using 1/3 cup measures. A large sweet potato is usually at least a cup, so I put the leftovers in the refrigerator. When I want to make roti again, I take out the container of mashed sweet potato and put it in the microwave with a bowl of water. I cook it for 2 minutes to get it steaming hot again. Then I mix that promptly into the flour. Gosh, I really, really, really like that flatbread! It pared so very well with the steak.
I took out chicken for the morrow. I hope to gird my loins enough to make my first attempt at poaching chicken. I have three recipes from which to choose, and I am still not sure which to try. I also have two chicken breasts, but I think that I might just do one at a time. After all, I read that cold will set the flesh, so it is best to eat poached chicken without it being refrigerated ... meaning that it would be most tender and succulent if not refrigerated.
I've been thinking about those aromatics. I am leaning toward using sage and bay leaves on the chicken. Or maybe lemon and thyme, with a little white wine. Of course, just writing aromatics makes me think of the garlic from lunch today. Mmmmm!
I do so enjoy learning about cooking techniques and trying new recipes.
Posted by Myrtle at 11:25 PM
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
My next cooking goal has been learning a couple of techniques with meat. I am working up to learning how to poach chicken and, today, made my first attempt at a stove-to-oven fillet mignon.
I was most definitely impressed! This is a pinwheel, instead of a regular fillet, so it really was my test cast, a way to work out the kinks. It was rather tasty, but I cooked it a shade longer than what I prefer. It was still pink inside, but barely. I prefer a nice red, medium rare.
I keep coming across the cooking word: aromatics. So, I thought I would finally Google the matter and see what I could learn. "What are aromatics in cooking?" is a great reference article. It include's Cook Smart's helpful graphic that covers the basic aromatics across different ethnic cuisines.
"Aromatics are herbs, spices and vegetables (and sometimes meat) that are cooked in oil as a base for the flavor of a dish. Cooking them in oil helps to release their flavors and aromas, creating a deep flavor foundation for soups, stews, sauces, meat fillings and more."
Of course, I have seen the term used in other places that just the cooking oil. For example, in blanching, two of the three recipes I am considering tell you to use aromatics, one suggesting star anise and rosemary.
So, when the fillet instructions referenced adding butter and aromatics to the pan, I knew what to do! For this particular pinwheel, since it had garlic and spinach inside, I merely smashed some garlic and tossed it into the pan. I think for the fillet, I might do sage.
All in all, though, I am happy with my first attempt at this cooking technique.
Here's another of my cucumbers. They are either shorter and immensely fat or longer and a bit thinner. I brought eight of them to my doctor's office last week, because I am not able to eat as many as are growing. I liked being able to say "Thanks" to all the staff in a healthy manner!
I was so intent on trying to harvest my own lettuce seeds, after my lettuce finally turned bitter and started bolting, that I didn't think about the fact that I might could have a second harvest. So, last week I dug out that portion of my raised bed and planted eight sets of two seeds, four of zucchini and four of summer squash. As you can see, only two of the summer squash sprouted, so today I popped more seeds in the ground. I really wanted the plants to sprout near the fence so that they can grow on it like the cucumber is doing.
In the bottom right corner of the photo, you can see my carrots. I did not know that I should have thinned them. I am letting them go, harvesting ones that I find large enough. The carrots are first, but tender and are also sweet. I do like them. I hope to get better at growing them better next year.
The reason I would like to learn to blanch chicken is that I learned that that is the method best used when making chicken salad or salads with chicken. Once I make the other pinwheel (I don't want to freeze it for later because of the fresh spinach inside), I shall move to attempting the blanch.
When my loins are girded.
And I'm feeling hopeful.
Posted by Myrtle at 9:22 PM
Monday, August 15, 2016
I was talking with my mother last night, and she mentioned something in passing that struck me as rather important to understanding her. You see, whenever she visits, all she wants to do is eat out (or that's how it feels to me). Given how hard it can be for me to digest things, I would prefer to eat in (except for a fancy meal and a visit to Panera), especially now that I am learning to cook. Plus, I cannot afford to eat out and all I do is think about the money, even when she is treating. It is a point of real tension between us during her visits.
Tonight, as I was talking about the months and months between watching Pati Jinich make the Tacos al Pastor, tracking down the ingredients, vicariously learning to make corn tortillas, and then finally making the tacos, with all these interruptions in between, Mother made this short, but key comment. She said that she enjoyed seeing my excitement over being at the beginning of my cooking journey, but that she was at the end of hers. The last thing that she wants to do is spend hours in the kitchen cooking. She would much rather have a tasty meal out or bring home a salad or other takeaway.
Suddenly her pushing me to go out shifted in my mind. I no longer saw her rejecting my cooking or even my need to be careful with what I consume. What I saw was an old woman who was exhausted with culinary labors. She had the means to spend her energy away from the kitchen and so that is her choice.
I understand exhaustion.
I understand weighing your means.
I understand wanting to choose where you spend your energy.
I do think that my mother could work harder to balance her preferences with mine, but more so I can work to be more sensitive to my mother's preferences and balance my desire to share my culinary victories with her desire for comfort and rest in her meals.
A good example of this is to learn to poach chicken before her next visit! You see, I mentioned that that was my next culinary goal. I watched someone poach chicken and learned that poached chicken is what is most commonly used in chicken salads and salads with chicken, that super succulent, super white chicken. I have subsequently watched additional videos and have three recipes for poaching that I would like to try to see what poaching method I like best.
When I mentioned this to my mother, she was excited, having just eaten a salad with poached chicken and thinking she would like to learn to poach chicken since she and my step-father have moved to a high-protein diet. So, I can marry my desire to share with her desire to learn, if I make a culinary focus during her visit to be on poached chicken.
Posted by Myrtle at 8:48 PM
Sunday, August 14, 2016
One of the most exhausting things I do is shower, even though I shower very quickly. I would rather linger. My most favorite thing to do in the world is blanch myself in the shower, however heat makes things worse. Showering is exhausting because of the heat. Showering is exhausting because of standing. Showering is exhausting because of the blood pooling in my legs. Showering is exhausting because of my blood pressure dropping. Showering is exhausting because of the need to have my hands and arms above my heart. Showering is exhausting because of the undressing, toweling off, and dressing.
I think I am a bit loathe to admit that even the thought of taking a shower is exhausting.
And so I shower less than I use to do so.
Probably less than I should.
All summer long, I have been puzzled at just how STINKING HOT it has been upstairs. I keep thinking, my house will never sell in the summer. But it hasn't been that hot before. I keep checking the HVAC, but it is running just fine. Then a few days ago, I finally thought to check the room where my mother stays. Struggling with her own temperature issues, my mother had closed the vent in her room. Strange that having one room closed off made the upstairs so hot, but it did.
When you walk up the stairs, you absolutely pass through air changing from colder to warmer. It is a palpable difference. Of course, in the winter, with my window open, it is the reverse, despite the fact that hot air rises. But now that different is less. And being upstairs is bearable for me.
One of the things that frustrates me is when folk say, "It is not too hot." I want to scream back, YES, IT IS! But I don't. Most of the time I try to explain. But not always. No matter what anyone thinks, that is his/her opinion. It is not mine ... or rather it is not my body's opinion. I can tell you once the temperature passes 70 degrees in my house. I start sweating, doing absolutely nothing, once it hits 72. The difficult part of all my medical appointments for me, once I actually get to the exam room, is that Parkview seems to keep its room set at 72 (most have thermostats). So, I sit there sweating, whilst awaiting my doctor, and end up a leaving with dripping hair and a soaked clothing. SIGH.
It is funny, because I do ever so much better in colder temperatures, but I do have ice blocks for feet. I tried to put away the foot warmer for the summer, but after a few nights, I got it back out of the closet. SIGH.
It is strange to me that I can sweat heavily just from standing too long and yet find myself mired in a cold spell with my body temperature dropping to a very uncomfortable level. I have goosebumps, shivers, and waves upon waves upon waves of chills. Just plain miserable. But, then again, so is the sweating and the terrible, draining fatigue that comes from getting too warm.
Oh, how I miss winter!
Please hasten on your way!
But back to the showering. I want to be the person who showers every day. I am not. I want to be the person who washes her hair every day. I am not. My rule of thumb is that if I have not sweated up a storm and if I am exhausted and if no one will see me, I will skip the shower.
On Facebook, I've seen a million and one showering exhaustion memes in dysautonmia groups, so I know I am not alone in this. That helps. But I also want to be the old me. The me for whom showering was not a gargantuan effort fraught with dangers to my health and safety. SIGH.
Coming full circle, I would add that my most favorite thing to do used to be boiling myself in a long tub soak, whilst reading a book, of course. Being immersed in hot water is something that I can no longer do without passing out. Just having hot water in a shower is enough to cause me to faint. So, I push the limit on hotter and hotter showers until I do faint or near-faint. Then, I repent with a tepid water shower. Not for long, though. The lure of the comfort of hot water calls me, tempts me. I think I would give most anything in the world to have one last tub soak.
That's the funny thing about last things. Often, you do not know it was your last. The last walk with my puppy dog. The last push of the lawnmower. The last tub soak. The last exchange with a friend. The last talk with my father.
More missing time, lost days. SIGH.
It occurred to me, recently, that I have come to a place where I live in the in-between. I live in-between the daily bouts of violent waves of nausea. I live in-between the blood sugar crashes. I live in-between the flares of neuropathic pain. I live in-between blood pressure plunges. I live in-between dizziness. I live in-between syncope (fainting) and pre-syncope. I live in-between the heart palpitations. I live in-between chest pains. I live in-between blurred vision. I live in-between bouts of abdominal agony. I live in-between crushing migraines. I live in-between nights of insomnia. I live in the in-between.
On Facebook, I "liked" two Chronic Life pages: Chronically Hopeful. Chronic Perseverance. I find them helpful, at times, because my lived experience is common on those pages. This came up in my feed and I have been thinking about it ever since. I mean, I think that I would say that I can no longer remember what it is like to no longer feel tired (granted, most days it would be exhausted), but more so I think I would say that I can no longer remember what it feels like to feel healthy. My "good" days are still what most would consider "bad" ones.
I can be so ill that it frightens me, filling me with despair. And yet, later on, when the spate of illness passes, I go on with life. I cook or putter in my raised beds or do laundry. Sometimes, it is all I can do to simply lie on the sofa holding my Fluffernutter. But I savor that. I play with his curls and give thanks that the nausea or pain or dizziness or whatever has passed, has eased for the moment. I whisper sweet nothings in his ear and tell him about the plans for the next in-between.
I struggle so mightily to write, to gather my thoughts and put them down coherently. I start and stop and start and stop. I get interrupted with illness. I start and stop. Interrupted. Life passes and it is not remembered here. That grieves me.
Like this thought: the in-between. I cannot speak of it eloquently, nothing near as what flits through my head. I try to capture those thoughts and they slip through my fingers. But I know that it is an important thought, a great revelation, actually.
Last fall, I saw Pati Jinich make Tacos al Pastor. It was the first show of hers that I saw and I was just struck by how ... authentic ... she was ... and her recipe. So, I set out to find the recipe, which took a while since I did not even know her name or that of her show. Then, I set out finding the ingredients. There was the pacemaker interruption. And the Grand Visit of 2015. And then it was back to trying to find three things, mostly: guajillo chillies, achiote paste, and bitter orange juice. Surprisingly, but logically, all three were at an hispanic grocery store, though the bitter orange was not tracked down until I first found an image of what I needed and a second trip to the store followed.
Gosh, for months I've been living on the plan of learning to make those tacos. Also, too, was learning to make corn tortillas, because I wanted to make them with these tacos, to eat the tacos the way they were intended first. I do not even like corn tortillas, but I have heard homemade ones are worlds different than store or even restaurant corn tortillas.
Doing so has had me struggling to gird my loins for making these tacos. Thus, a lot of talk and not a lot of action. But ... a lot of dreaming.
Thursday, after a false start (I didn't realize I was out of onions), I made the marinade, adobe de achiote.
I flirted with burning the peppers rather than toasting them, but I caught my error just in time.
Of course, I do not need all these tacos all at once, so once the meat was marinated, I divided it up into smaller portions. Note: the marinade stains!
I have not yet posted the corn tortilla recipe I followed, because I actually did not really follow a recipe, having read millions of them and watched tens of millions of You Tube videos and knew that the basics are masa harina, salt, and hot water. I will, eventually, but I want to think about what recipe I choose for my recipe rememberer blog, what way I want to make them.
I rested the dough, but not long enough, perhaps. I rested it not because I saw that step on many recipes, but because most of the flatbread dough recipes I've been perusing mention that step. I also forgot to wrap it up to rest it, which I think would have been better, because the one corn tortilla video recipe that did have the step of resting the dough wrapped the dough in plastic. Then I shaped it into balls (I totally need help shaping dough balls) that I let rest as I cooked the pineapple and pork.
I will admit that this recipe fascinated me because of the pineapple. Four years ago, someone served me grilled pineapple. I went ape over it and had about five helpings. Maybe six. Or seven. My one attempt at grilling pineapple was such a colossal failure that I have been forced to live on that ancient memory (that I cannot actually remember). I was drooling making these!
I have looked at corn tortilla presses for months and months, but 1) I don't have much room in my kitchen for more cooking tools and 2) all the complaints of broken arms on the cast iron presses put me off. Plus, well, the money. Truly, if I had the money, I would have bought the press. Thus, my tortillas are only mostly round, having to make do without a press in the making of them.
Several video cooks had recommended using a heavy pot, so I used a pot and then my beloved French rolling pin. Like I wrote above, I do not care for corn tortillas, so I am not a good judge of my success. But my realtor, whom I cajoled into joining me for the tacos, thought they were good. At least she said she did. I am not sure if she would be honest if she disliked them.
I think that the tacos were quite tasty, even on corn tortillas!
Having lots of marinated pork and a lot of pineapple still to use, I made the tacos again today, using my beloved flour tortillas. I will have to eat them on corn tortillas to be certain, but I think I actually preferred these flavors on corn rather than flour. However, I also want to have the tacos "Gringos" style with "melty" cheese (I love that Pati Jinich used that description/classification).
Anyway, all that was a very long-winded way to describing an example of living in the in-between. In one of those moments, I watched the show. In other moments, I searched for the recipe. In still other moments, I tracked down all that I needed (including watching enough YouTube videos to gird my loins enough to try and make corn tortillas). And, in the in-between on Friday, I finally made the new tacos.
I was so ill much of the wee hours of the morning and on into late morning, I almost called my realtor to tell her not to come. But the nausea had eased and, these days, with the repeated blood sugar crashes that are plaguing me, I needed to eat anyway.
I will say that I wished I were cooking with a partner. By that I mean my realtor was sort of ... well ... she was not really comfortable with how I prepared for us eating, counting back the time of cooking. I didn't want to start until after she arrived, because I didn't want to have the food waiting if she ended up being late. I set the table, so it would be ready when I was done. I crumbled the queso fresco and put it in a bowl with a spoon. For the cooking, I had visualized all the cooking steps and had set out the tools for each step. I made the corn tortilla dough and set it aside to rest. I cooked the pineapple and covered it with foil when I was done. I cooked the pork and covered it with foil when I was done. And I rolled out and cooked the tortillas, covering them with a towel until I was done. In between all those steps, I either cleaned or straightened the areas of the counter I had used. Cleaning as I went seemed to bother my realtor. But it is how I cope. Visual reset is important to me, especially when doing something stressful, like trying a new recipe and wanting it to turn out well!
She was impressed with the tacos. If I were being a proper host, I would have served some chips and salsa or queso, some rice and beans, and some dessert. All I offered was the tacos. That was all I could do. That was my life in the in-between.
I napped after she left and then cleaned the kitchen. By then, the late evening nausea had started. But ever since having this thought about how my life had changed, about the in-between, what I think whilst I am battling my body has changed. I still can get rather scared, when I am terribly ill, when all I want is to not be alone. However, when I am not worried about perishing all alone, I practice the thought that this is only one part of my life, the illness. It is not the whole of who I am. Some days, it is all I can do to breathe. But some days there are moments in which I live in the in-between.