Friday, September 25, 2009

Outfit of the Week: Sally Sailor

Sally Sailor learned how to swim without water wings. She sails around on her little boat named the Anastasia, going from port to port along the coast, selling trinkets from her boat. Thin, ghost lace dresses; delicate pearl necklaces that look like they will melt in your hand; old doo-wop records with snappy-finger rhythms; spices said to conjure love and curse enemies. She trades stories of her pirate father for wine and bread. She laughs and smiles and waves frantically as her boat pulls from the harbor, and she promises she will return soon!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Table for One: The Rose Garden and Miranda July

I suppose this edition of Table for One is a bit out of step. There is no eating involved, but rather an absorption of surroundings and an exercise in using other senses.

I visited Portland with some friends this weekend. Being the collective of Humanities majors that we were, we spent three hours in Powell's Books, each scoping our own little corner of the world to thumb through McLuhan, Stein, Card, and Huxley, as well as collections of Henry Darger's unreal realms and step-by-step instructions on the art of striptease.

I picked up a copy of No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July. I have been inspired by July before, and this book turned out to be the perfect companion for a Sunday afternoon in Portland's Rose Garden.

I wandered through the rows of wine reds and blushing peaches, past petals that looked like velvet. I expected the groove of my thumb to stay imprinted on the petal as I swept it across. The smell of roses stuck to the back of my throat, a heavy, waxy perfume. I crept up to certain blooms, inhaling their scent. Some smelled like bright, citrusy market lemons, while others radiated high-fructose corn syrup. One, a friend said, smelled like Pez candies.

I sat on the steps of the ampitheatre and opened July's volume of short stories. I chose "It Was Romance", a story of a woman at a romance workshop. It was fitting for my surroundings. I grew up next to a rose garden in Sacramento, and drove past countless weddings taking place among the drooping heads of both heavy blossoms and heat-exhausted guests. Given the statistics, I can only assume that half of the couples I drove past are still together.

The tiny world in front of your face is an illusion, and romance itself is an illusion!
We gasped. But it was a delayed gasp, we were a slow group.
Theresa had begun to cry. I stopped patting and hugged her, and she hugged me back. I had made everything just horrible enough to bring Theresa's sadness down to the next level, and I joined her there. It was a place of overflowing collaborative misery, and we cried together...The snaps on our jeans pressed into each other and our breasts exchanged their tired histories, tales of being over- and underutilized, floods and famines and never mind, just go. We wetted each other's blouses and pushed our crying ahead of us like a lantern, searching out new and forgotten sadnesses, ones that died politely years ago but in fact had not died, and came to life with a little water.

The rose garden seemed too much, too perfect, too cliche. It made sense that one would find/make/declare love in a rose garden. But July countered this cliche. She balances the mundane and the poetic with such ease, I feel as though she had written this on a Post-It note and left it on the jamb of my door. July reminds me that romance, love, hate, basic animal instincts don't have to be peppered with poetry. Things can be beautiful just as they are. And in the recognition of the everyday, the routine, there is the potential for moments of elevation, where it seems appropriate to carry a lantern and declare that lantern as a metaphor, your piece of poetry to help the cathartic crying make sense.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ode to the Bath

photos by me
Everything is a miracle. It is a miracle one does not dissolve in one's bath like a lump of sugar. -Pablo Picasso

There must be quite a few things a hot bath won't cure, but I don't know many of them. -Sylvia Plath

Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, a bath, and a glass of wine. -St. Thomas Aquinas

One of the simple pleasures and leisures I am most grateful for is bath time. When I was nine years old, and the family was looking for a new house, what sold my mother on the 1920's bungalow we eventually would call home was the clawfoot bathtub. And, like mother like daughter, while looking for my first "real" apartment, what sold me was the beautiful, white, deep clawfoot bathtub.

Thus, it was at a young age that bath time for me was revered as a sacred space for the bather, not unlike meditation for prayer. I draw my bath, pouring the suds by the capful under the running water, and closes the door to allow for the scented steam to fill the room (for me, the chosen scent is EO's Rose and Chamomile). I light candles, slip in, and listen to the sounds of bubbles whisper pops. I like to gather the foam around me, like a sudsy shawl or watery wrap, and feel the bubbles kiss my skin. Silence seeps and thoughts vanish, dissolving like lumps of sugar, and everything seems a simple miracle.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Table for One: Ratatouille and Henry David Thoreau

My grandmother knows ratatouille. When I came back from Paris, she describing to me how the air in the city around seven o'clock in the evening is "like cotton...silent", and taking me through, step by step, how to make ratatouille. Her hands would fly from vegetable to spice to pot to pot holder, only to pause in the air to describe the lights of the discotheque. I forgot the ratatouille instructions, I was transported to her Paris.

So with white eggplant and squash sitting in the fridge, I decided to venture ratatouille. Having forgotten my grandmother's instructions, I nabbed the recipe from

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1 eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • salt to taste
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 zucchini (or squash), sliced
  • 1 large onion, sliced into rings
  • 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Coat bottom and sides of a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish with 1 tablespoon olive oil.

2. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Saute garlic until lightly browned. Mix in parsley and eggplant. Saute until eggplant is soft, about 10 minutes. Season with salt to taste.

3. Spread eggplant mixture evenly across bottom of prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle with a few tablespoons of Parmesan cheese. Spread zucchini in an even layer over top. Lightly salt and sprinkle with a little more cheese. Continue layering in this fashion, with onion, mushrooms, bell pepper, and tomatoes, covering each layer with a sprinkling of salt and cheese.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes.

The best part of the recipe was the eggplant, cooked in garlic and left to swelter in spices and oil. This may be what my grandmother did, sautee the entire thing in spices and oil.

I decided to pair the ratatouille with Henry David Thoreau's A Year in Thoreaus's Journal: 1851. Thoreau's essayist tendencies, including his diatribe on the transcendent properties of walking in the aptly named, Walking, are more enjoyable that his novels. Again, his journals reflect him writing for the sake of writing, something I admire and enjoy.

As I take my first bites into the ratatouille, I am taken aback by the squash's sweetness. How appropriate that something so naturally bright and candy-colored tastes of mellow honey. The spices (I used oregano and basil) are blinded by the kick of garlic and the bleed of tomato.

Thoreau says,

How to make the getting of our life poetic! For if it is not poetic, it is not life but death we get.
And thus my meal is saved. The different ingredients are harmonies, the different textures, correspondent rhythms and for a moment my ratatouille is not a soup but a SONG. Or at least, this makes me feel better about not entirely achieving the full potential of ratatouille.

Thoreau is obsessed with the "wild." Often he waxes on about said "wild", making wishes and wants:

I wish my neighbors were wilder.

Wild as if we lived on the marrow of antelopes devoured raw.

Take away their names and you leave men a wild herd distinguished only by their individual qualities.
It is the earthiness, the potential for "wild", of the ratatouille that inspired me to reach for Thoreau. The vegetables came from our CSA box from Full Circle Farm, and still had the soil dusting them. I can imagine the farmers reaching for the vegetable, plucking it up or digging it out, hands calloused , the dirt gathering under fingernails. I wanted to connect to the earth with this meal, but ended up connected to the transparent, the illusive, the ephemeral: poetry. Perhaps ratatouille is some kind of muse potion, what inspired my grandmother to reach out her hands as if she were touching the lights of Paris. Or perhaps I should have written down her instructions.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Outfit Of The Week: Carrie Cocktail

Carrie Cocktail has perfected the art of the bar giggle. The slightly demure laugh that resonates against the glasses and can be heard ringing if one puts his ear to his drink. She'll request songs from the bartender and dance on her tippy toes. Hers is neon light, the twist of lime, feet like champagne.

I apologize for what looks like over-exposure of the photos. The sun made a brief appearance in town today, and said hello right through my window!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Toosdai and the Dream of Horses

I went to sleep last night in a fit. I dug half-moons into my palms and cried crocodile tears. I was frustrated with my current unemployment, and the seemingly endless stream of resumes that have been sent out into the ether, never to return. My ladylove Leila comforted me, my best friend Richard talked me down, and my mother diluted my worries. But what I needed was sleep.

This morning, I had a dream that I was riding a light brown horse with a red bridle. I jumped on, bareback, and took off. I gripped the reins and eventually the horse's sandy mane, for fear of being thrown off. We trotted past other horses and riders, and eventually past a cowboy-hatted woman who I assumed was the owner of the ranch. She stroked the horse's face, and fed him raspberries with powdered sugar from a glass goblet. I remember thinking, "What does it matter, how my life is at this moment? I can always ride a horse."

I woke to a boy wanting English muffins much to early in the morning. As he whispered in my ear, I wrapped my hand around his fingers and could feel his pulse. It felt like his heart was in my palm.

Leila's sister made graham cracker blueberry pancakes, and Leila made home-made whipped cream. Take a look at Leila's blog, Foodie Festivus, for her account of the mountain of whipped cream dream (coming soon!).

The Story of Bridge 58

There are moments in my life that have been deemed "serendipitous" in the retelling of said moments. I wrote an entry for my mother's blog about one such moment, involving random pairings, future roommates, and art. The vignette can be found at my mother's blog, Dianne Poinski Hand-Colored Photography Studio Journal.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

New Project: Table for One

While wiling away the hours, I have come up with a new project that combines my two loves: reading and cooking. The following is the start of a weekly project, in which I pair books with food. I am making an attempt in the direction of wine pairing, without the pretension (or perhaps with heaps more, dependent on your view).

Ocean 1212-W by Sylvia Plath, with Black and Blue Tea by Remedy Teas

Remedy Teas is a small tea shop boasting over 150 organic, fair trade teas in blends that echo magic potions (some even promising aphrodisiatic properties and hangover cures). I perused the selection for some time, and knowing that I would be reading an essay about the sea, chose a tea that reminded me of the waves, the swells, the sand, and the foam.

Black and Blue tea swirls black tea, hibiscus, elderberries, currants, and cornflowers. As I let the tea steep for three minutes, I opened Sylvia Plath's Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams and began the essay, "Ocean 1212-W".

I sometimes think my vision of the sea is the clearest thing I own. I pick it up, exile that I am,like the purple "lucky stones" I used to collect with a white ring all the way round, or the shell of a blue mussel with its rainbowy angel's fingernail interior, and in one wash of memory the colors deepen and gleam, the early world draws breath.
Plath reminds me to breath. The tea has finished steeping and I move the cup nearer to me. I inhale. The berries infuse the steam, and for a moment I think, "Where is the salt sting?" But the sweetness of the tea dissolves once it hits my tongue, and the bite of black takes over.

Like a deep woman, it hid a good deal; it had many faces, many delicate, terrible veils. It spoke of miracles and distances; if it could court, it could also kill.

Plath's sentiment about the power of the ocean may be the reason I chose the Black and Blue tea. The magnitude of the sea, the awesomeness, the crash of waves, lead to blossoming bruises. I wanted escape, calm, seaside with gulls and the pearlescence of shells. What I got was Plath's account of the beauty, the life-giving breath and the life-taking reach of the sea. She even spoke of treasure, in the form of abandoned tea sets, perfect for my choice of location.

I think the sea swallowed dozens of tea sets-tossed in abandon off liners, or consigned to the tide by jilted brides. I collected a shiver of china bits, with borders of larkspur and birds or braids of daisies. No two patterns ever matched.

I recommend Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams for the essays like "Ocean 1212-W", but also for Plath's diary entries. I find it illuminating that a writer wrote the way she did, in private and for herself, when she thought no one would read it. Its almost like peeking over Plath's shoulder for a glimpse into her world.