Solidarity

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But it wasn’t that she wasn’t giving me love, it just seemed to come at different times. Like, when I offered to do the dishes.  Or make dinner after she had a hard day.  Or, once we had a daughter, when I shared the responsibility of watching over her. I don’t think I noticed this consciously for a while.  It just kept happening. But I think it had an effect on me.  Because as our marriage progressed, I found myself offering to help out around the house more and more. And after each time, there would be this look she would give me.  This look of absolute love.  One that was soft and so beautiful. It took me longer than I care to admit to understand what was happening. But eventually it became clear.  Through giving, through doing things for my wife, the emotion that I had been so desperately seeking naturally came about.  It wasn’t something I could force, just something that would come about as a result of my giving. In other words, it was in the practicality that I found the love I was looking for. And what was even more interesting was that once I realized this on a conscious level, and started trying to find more opportunities to give, the more we both, almost intuitively, became lovey-dovey. And now, as I’m a bit older and a bit more experienced with this relationship, I’ve finally come to realize something. Something I haven’t wanted to admit for a long time, but is undeniable. 
I didn’t love my wife on that second date. I didn’t love her when we got engaged. I didn’t even love her when we got married. Because love isn’t an emotion.  That fire I felt, it was simply that: emotional fire.  From the excitement of dating a woman I felt like I could marry.  But it wasn’t love. No, love isn’t an emotion or even a noun.  It’s a verb.  Better defined as giving.  As putting someone else’s needs above your own. Why wasn’t I getting reciprocal lovey-doveyness when we were first married?  Because it wasn’t for her.  It was for me.  An emotion I had in my chest. And even when I let it out of my chest, it wasn’t love. Being sappy isn’t love.  Telling someone you love them doesn’t mean that you do. And that’s why my wife just gave me that half-smile.  She knew, even if I didn’t, what love really is.

This is it right here. (Read the whole article, pls) Maybe a little bit more extreme, I believe we have more than this but it’s a glimpse of everything I feel about relationships and everything I crave from mine with Chris. There is a hesitation between the both of us to give each other this true love, full of giving and commitment to putting the other person’s needs before our own. I feel that missing piece from him, the part of the bridge that he doesn’t want to forge, or maybe doesn’t know how – it could be either, or both. I asked Chris the other day whether or not he would do this all over again if he could and he couldn’t answer. He said it was impossible. It was an understandable response but it doesn’t align with mine, which would be yes, in a heartbeat. Because I love him and this is worth it and I learned so much about myself. And about him, about love, people, sacrifice and suffering. Partnership, loneliness, self-confidence, independence, selfishness and giving. Just so much, man, just from one relationship. The only thing I wonder is how much more I could learn if I dated other, different people, and how much I could teach those people too. I wonder if Chris and I will ever be able to achieve those dating butterflies again – no, I know I can, I still do, but he can’t and he doesn’t. I know part of it is my responsibility to trigger those emotions but man do I wish he tried to rev himself up for it.

But going back to the article. Love is about giving, about taking care of your partner and being there for them wholeheartedly, selflessly – not only because it’s the right thing to do as their partner but because you can’t help but put everything aside when you see them in need. Because you understand them so well that you feel an irresistible pull to fulfill their needs in the way only you can. It takes two to reach that equilibrium where your love for him/her and his/her love for you establishes a push and pull, where one gives so much that the other is obliged to give back and it goes back and forth. Each giving feeds this ever growing bond woven between you, adding thread by thread into something stronger. And I think I can and want to do that for him but I don’t do it as selflessly as I could because I don’t think he wants to do it selflessly. Or he does but he believes I have something to fix and learn by myself, that he doesn’t want to involve himself in. He doesn’t feel the absolute need to support or coax me, to slowly encourage me to do those things. And encouragement doesn’t just mean words, it means engagement, engaging in the growth process. His encouragement is sometimes selfish. Deep down in his heart, it is for me, but on the surface, in the every day, it is for him. This doesn’t mean I don’t have my share in this process – ultimately, this is my journey and my responsibility to both of us. It is within this context where I am trying and being thoughtful that I say these things.

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During my spells of depression, within the first 15 minutes he is sympathetic, but beyond that it reverts to an accusation that I’m choosing to stay sad, to be down, and choosing not to man up enough and handle those feelings. I get it, I really do but fuck it man sometimes you just have to sit down with me and be nice for longer than that. It can wear you down I know (and I’m truly sorry) but if you committed to accepting that 40 minutes of sulking (without exacerbation it wouldn’t be too bad), offered me some tea, gave me a nice hug and let me close my eyes for a peaceful moment without pressure or guilt, that would be so relieving. I would trust you more, I would give myself to you. Maybe you know that, maybe you don’t want all of me. Maybe that’s why I always want to take a break because I know I will not receive that totality from you. It might be a problem just for the now or it might be a problem forever – I don’t know. All I do know is that it’s persisted for four years and it’s only just started to get a little better. At least now you’ll give me the 15 minutes and be meaningfully soft and loving during that time – but why is there always a time limit? I’m sorry I don’t warm up fast enough, I wish I could but I’m slow and immature. And because my sorrow doesn’t feel fully accepted during these moments, it creates more opportunities to sulk and feel sad, demand attention and affection. It’s a dumb cycle – help us get out of it, I’m begging you. I can’t do all of it by myself because if I do, I know this relationship won’t develop into the  I want for the both of us. This is a chance to create a real sense of solidarity. I could change myself on my own but if I did I know it would deepen the pit of loneliness inside of me – the disappointment that you didn’t say yes and didn’t meet my outreached hand will be damaging. It won’t be the end, it won’t ruin our lives, but maybe in some ways it will ruin my perception of us. If you choose to say no, I’ll understand. I promise that. Please, though, reconsider your choices and don’t take too long because I’ve been waiting. I’m always waiting for all these changes to happen and with this one, I don’t think I can compromise, I don’t think I can wait that long. But then again, I say that every time and look where we are now.

Marinated Tofu with Bok Choy: Recipe HERE

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A Dressed Up Veggie Burger

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I’m entering my second week of interning at Serious Eats and I’m already feeling the strain of summer in the valley. The tiring commute that steals 3 hours away a day, my money being sucked into a black hole of no return, laziness, excitement for something new and utter boredom. Working four days a week has not been enough to entertain me; I still feel jittery when unoccupied and bored when not hanging with friends — something that doesn’t occur very often anymore. The sizzling heat that I love so much has not yet arrived and the damp, chilly air of last week refuses to leave even though the rain has already petered off. I know I should be starting something, learning something new but I feel quite unmotivated to push myself into a challenging direction and surrender the ease in my days. Surprise, surprise.

I started looking through one of my former favorite blogs and have become slightly inspired again, though. Inspired enough to write this post and talk a little bit with myself in a productive way. It’s about time that I start cooking again and practice my photography and kitchen skills. There’s nothing like a diligent visit to the grocery store to restore some vigor. Cooking is an easy way to nudge my brain and tell it to come back from sleep mode.

Anyways, while I have yet to cook anything at home, I still have a good stock of photos of dishes I made while in school that I didn’t have time to post until now.

This veggie burger was one of many that I’ve consumed in the past few months. I’ve become hopelessly addicted to veggie burgers and I’m not sure how. They’re just so savory and delicious while still delivering the meaty satisfaction of a beef patty. I feel a little less guilty about them and they’re easier to finish off on schedule than a large package of ground beef. This one features some feta and Tahini to give it a Mediterranean flair I suppose and to dress it up a little from being just an ordinary veggie burger.

 

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Servings: 1

Ingredients:
1 frozen veggie burger patty
1 pretzel bun, split
Tahini sauce
Feta
Arugula
1 cucumber

Directions:

1. Microwave patty for approx. 1-2 minutes. Then crisp up in fry pan for about 3-4 minutes , flipping to brown each side — no oil necessary.

2. Split your pretzel bun and toast in toaster or in another pan.

3. Cut ends of cucumber. Then, with a vegetable peeler, slice thin slivers of the cucumber, lengthwise. Don’t use the first slice as that will be all skin, no flesh.

4. Slather Tahini onto top pretzel bun. Place hot veggie burger onto bottom bun then top with a thin square of feta or about one and a half tablespoons of crumbled feta. Pile on slivers of cucumber and arugula and then cover it all with the top bun. I suggest holding the burger together with a toothpick until ready to be eaten.

Ginger Fried Rice

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Fried rice is a genius dish, the perfect trifecta of savory, simple and easy. Whenever I’m in a bind, I simply drizzle some soy sauce and sesame oil onto a bed of rice and top it all with a sunny-side up egg. It’s the ideal solution for a hungry stomach on a tight schedule.

But while there’s little you can do to mess up fried rice, there are little details you can pay attention to to elevate the quintessential Asian dish. This recipe is one of those detail-oriented fried rice dishes, with soft, buttery onions strewn throughout the rice and topped with a sprinkle of fragrant fried ginger and garlic bits. It’s a college student’s take on Jean-Georges’s ginger fried rice, and while it might not be as beautiful as his perfected version, I find it a valuable recipe to have on hand.

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Ginger Fried Rice

Ingredients:

1 cup cooked white glutinous rice
1-2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 tablespoon minced ginger
1/2 tablespoon minced garlic
1 egg
Canola oil

Directions:

1. Mince ginger and garlic into tiny bits and pieces. Dice the onion.

2. Heat tablespoon of canola oil in a pan on low heat. Add garlic and ginger pieces and fry until golden brown. This shouldn’t take very long at all so be very careful and watchful. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel folded onto a plate.

3. Add tablespoon of canola oil to pan on medium heat and cook diced onions until softened and translucent.

5. Then add the rice and mix thoroughly.

4. Add sesame oil and soy sauce and mix until rice and onions are coated.

6. Remove everything from pan onto plate.

7. Fry an egg sunny-side up and slide onto rice. Top with fried garlic and ginger bits.

Put an egg on it (BLT)

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Having survived six months, so far, of cooking on a college student budget, I can attest that eggs are magical. They can transform anything into a complete meal, make a regular sandwich into the ultimate sandwich, make a regular burger into the ultimate burger. They can even transform a plate of Brussels sprouts into dinner.

There’s a beauty to the perfect sunny-side up; it’s the balance between a slightly crispy exterior, tender whites and a gooey, oozing, buttery yolk that stains everything on your plate. And when you achieve something this superb, yes, it’s guaranteed that your meal will be that much more delicious.

Below is a no frills, no fuss BLT recipe, elevated to another level with the addition of, you guessed it, one perfectly cooked sunny-side up egg. A thin layer of regular mayonnaise moistens the bread and melds the ingredients together. Fresh, wild arugula adds a necessary peppery bite that cuts through the fat, and juicy slices of tomato counterbalance the thick-cut bacon, fried until crispy but not crunchy.

P.S. Never buy low-fat mayo. Please don’t make the mistake I did. The second I sunk my knife into that goopy, thick, stiff “mayo,” that tasted unnaturally eggy and fatty and was clearly not the mayonnaise I know and love, I cursed the fact that I let all the hoopla about buying “low-fat” get to me.

Ingredients:

2 slices of bread of choice
2-3 slices of bacon
1 large handful of fresh arugula
2-3 slices of ripe tomato
1 egg
Mayonnaise

Directions:

1. Toast bread of your choice.

2. Fry up slices of bacon.

3. Fry one egg, sunny-side up. The trick to this: let the egg do most of its cooking on one side, then flip and cook other side for about 40 seconds.

4. Assemble sandwich. Spread thin layer of regular mayonnaise onto both pieces of toast. Pile on as much arugula as you can onto one slice of bread, top with tomato and bacon. Slide egg on top and finish with other piece of toast.

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Balsamic Braised Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

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Ladies and gents, I love Brussels sprouts. Ever since two years ago when my cousin brought a dish of balsamic braised Brussels sprouts to Thanksgiving, I’ve discarded my presumptions about this dense mini cabbage-like vegetable and embraced its leafy goodness. When cooked down in the oven in a bit of balsamic and oil, the acidic vinegar melds with the sprouts’ natural sugars to create an almost thickened glaze, that caramelizes the crispy exteriors and helps create a sweet, tender inside. Fry up some smoky bacon bits in a pan, and toss in the Brussels sprouts at the last minute to crisp them up even more and let the bacon fat infuse its flavors. Top with a fried egg to make this dish a meal. My egg pictured above was a bit overcooked; I recommend going sunny side-up for a gooey yolk that will unite all the flavors wonderfully.

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Balsamic Braised Brussels Sprouts

Servings: 1

Ingredients:
5 Brussels sprouts, halved
2 strips of bacon, diced into “bits”
1 egg, sunny side-up
5 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.

2. Cut off ends of Brussels sprout stems and halve brussel sprouts vertically down its stem.

3. Toss in baking pan with a drizzle of olive oil and enough balsamic to coat and a little more (about 2 and a half tablespoons).

4. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Bake in oven for about 20 minutes.

5. After 20 minutes, take out pan. Toss the sprouts around and pour in about 2 more tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and another drizzle of oil and toss to coat again. Place back in oven for about 10 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, fry up bacon bits in skillet until crispy. Take Brussels sprouts out of oven, toss again in pan juices and vinegar, and spoon the sprouts into the skillet. I tilted the pan so that the rendered bacon fat would slide under the sprouts and the flavors would meld together.

7. After about a minute, the bacon should be crispy and the Brussels sprouts have caramelized a bit on the outside. Transfer everything to a clean plate.

8. Wipe down skillet quickly or get a new one and fry one egg, sunny side-up. Or over easy, whichever you prefer.

9. Top plated Brussels sprouts and bacon with fried egg.

On what it means to be “home”

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It always feels a little bit lonely when I return to school. Entering an empty apartment and having no one really to call up and hang out with is a sobering experience. For some reason, it happens to me often, despite having roommates. When I’m back at home, I never feel the same sense of loneliness even as I spend days by myself cooped up in my room. I suppose that is the blessing of sharing a house with your family – that consistent sense of home, of company, reminded to you by the leftover plates lingering from breakfast, my brother’s video games strewn across the family room floor, the half-filled laundry basket at the top of the stairs. Even when there’s no one home, I never feel truly alone. It is a little different in an apartment with roommates.

Even beyond “home,” I realized during finals week in December that I didn’t really have many friends to call up and hang out with at my whim. Once the bustle of daily classes were gone, my days became empty, boring, lonely. In some ways, I suppose that’s a good thing – having solitude. It teaches you things, a lot of things, about yourself, about life, about how things are and about how things could be instead. But a little too much of that starts wearing out your soul and the stamp of loneliness begins to look more permanent than ever. I wonder if my life will ever change and one day I will have friends to call on just for fun, just because I’m bored. This absence in my life probably causes my dependence and attachment to Chris in a strong way – he is the only constant, the most reliable source of company, affection, attention. As I write this I’m realizing that maybe it’s a little pathetic of me. And that I should probably just grow up and move on. As Peggy’s mom said to Peggy in Mad Men after her daughter revealed she wanted to move in with her boyfriend, “If you’re lonely, get a cat.”

Creamy Tomato and Tuna Penne (Recipe adapted from foodwishes.com)

Does this recipe sound a little unnatural to you? I didn’t think it was that weird until a few friends said it was. But I promise you this is one of the most delicious pasta dishes I’ve ever made. Can you believe it? My “most delicious pasta,” made from canned tuna and tomato soup? I’m not sure if that’s really a good thing…but nonetheless, if that doesn’t give you a little faith to make this pasta then I don’t know what will. It’s super cheap and super easy to make – perfect for a big batch dinner for company.

Ingredients:

6-7 ounces of canned tuna (or preferably tuna in a jar packed in olive oil)
4-5 tablespoons of olive oil (if not using jar tuna described above)
3 cups of good quality cream of tomato soup (I used Pacific Organic Creamy Tomato Soup, found at Whole Foods)
14 and a 1/2 ounces of penne
3 cloves of garlic, minced
A big pinch of dried oregano
A big pinch of red pepper flakes
Two big handfuls of fresh arugula
Freshly grated parmesan

Directions:

1. Sauté tuna, minced garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes in olive oil until the garlic becomes fragrant. If using canned tuna, used 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil, if using tuna packed in oil, use all the olive oil from the jar.

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2. Then, pour in the tomato soup and let simmer until the sauce thickens a bit.

3. Add in the pasta and arugula and toss together gently until the sauce has coated the penne and filled in the tubes. The arugula will naturally wilt in the heat as you do so.

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4. Serve with a generous grating of fresh parmesan (not the pre-packaged stuff!)

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Cheddar Biscuits

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I realized today that I have reduced my blog to writing posts for the readers and not myself. Getting a few views from Facebook can only be gratifying for so long. So, I’m going to start writing for myself (and no longer post on Facebook). Stop filtering all the honest things about my feelings and my life, and talk about all of it. And this post, I suppose, is unnecessary, and I should simply start writing the way I want to without any announcements, but then again, I’ve promised myself to regain this blog as my own and I know that I need something like this to motivate myself. I’m hoping that by writing down all my jumbled feelings, eventually I will learn to organize them. Even if this means sacrificing grammar, eloquence and structure. After all, if no one is reading this shit who really cares?

Moving on, let’s talk about cheddar biscuits. These biscuits are good. Cheesy, buttery, light and tender, good. Especially straight out of the oven? Oh man, it was hard not to eat all of them, although I did a good job gobbling down three of them in a row, all without pause. The cheddar is strewn throughout but never overpowers the biscuit, and the dough is tender and soft. For the next few days, my mom and I kept eating them as breakfast, as lunch sandwiches, as snacks – basically in any way we could create an excuse for. And the visual testimony to how good they are? The visible flecks of butter studded across the dough.

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Yeah, it’s that kind of recipe. Enjoy.

Cheddar Biscuits

Recipe adapted from Food52 (found HERE)

Servings: 20 biscuits

Ingredients:
3 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
9 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 3/4 cup buttermilk
1 large egg

Directions:

1. Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Stick it in the fridge for 20 minutes. While waiting, cut the butter into small chunks and let them warm to room temperature.

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2. Combine the dry ingredients, the cheese and butter in the bowl and mix until the chunks of butter are no bigger than pea-sized. If you have a standing mixer, do this in the mixer bowl on low speed until you achieve the same results.

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3. Add the buttermilk and mix (on low) until the dough just comes together – don’t over mix. Transfer the dough onto a floured board, flour your hands and knead it lightly a few times. Then pat the dough into a large rectangle about 1/2 inch thick.

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4. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Then, use a 3-inch round cutter or simply use a cup, dip whichever you are using (I used a cup) into flour and then cut the biscuits. According to the original recipe you’re not supposed to twist the cutter or cup but I did.

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5. After cutting out the first batch, pat together the remaining dough into another 1/2 inch thick shape and cut more. Throw away the leftover bits or use them – the recipe advises against a third shaping which will make the biscuits tough.

6. Beat the egg with a small splash of water and brush the tops of the biscuits with the egg wash.

7. Bake the biscuits for 20 minuteson baking sheets lined with parchment paper, rotating them halfway through. Serve them warm (or I enjoyed them still piping hot and steaming).

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