Reading, Eating, etc.

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Reading

Books:

Still marching through the middle of Middlemarch but I’ve been breaking it up with a few other things:

When Breath Becomes Air: I had high hopes for profundity from this one, but I wish there had been more of an integration of medicine, literature, philosophy, and faith. However, I do realize Kalanithi was actually dying as he wrote this and I imagine writing a book without knowing if you’ll live another week, month, or year makes it a harried process. I did find his wife’s and his largely unquestioning use of ivf out-of-character for him since he had spoken so eloquently about the dignity of human life and he made such a big deal about the need to have a critical mindset when facing possible ethical dilemmas. Otherwise, Kalanithi did come across as a genuinely kind person with both intellectual and personal depth.

La Morte D’Arthur: when Joe and I were dating, we made it a point to read together and some of my happiest memories of the early days of our relationship are wrapped up in the words of G. M. Hopkins, Kenneth Grahame, Josef Pieper, and others. Somehow, between work and babies, we fell out of the habit, but recently we picked up La Morte D’Arthur and it’s been hilarious to read together.

No-Drama Discipline: because it has good reviews and I don’t know the first thing about disciplining children well (how exactly are you supposed to react when your toddler won’t stop gleefully biting you when you’re trying to work out?)

-And some Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers on audiobook.

Articles:

Work, work, work:

The Work You Do, the Person You Are

The United States of Work

The Case for Being Grumpy at Work

-Maybe it’s just because I’m phlegmatic to the bone, but does this just seem more exhausting than laudable to anyone else?

Online life:

Before the Internet: “It was a heady time!” Made me laugh.

My son is a hashtag: “The best we can do is whatever feels OK for us and our children now.” I don’t know. Is that the best? Mightn’t we deeply regret what felt was okay at one point and wish we had thought more critically about it?

More on parenting:

St. John Chrysostom’s advice on raising children

In Defense of Motherhood as Art: I have a lot, a lot of thoughts about this, but I did especially love this part:

“At my most hopeful I think that writing and art are essential to motherhood and vice versa. Each accesses the most ancient, the most universal, the most complex emotions. Each requires the nurturing of a new consciousness, a new being, a new way of seeing. Each is endlessly different and endlessly dull, endlessly challenging and spiked with constant disappointment and beauty.”

Community: Having the Right Intention: lots of ideas here I need to be reminded of for living in my own tiny community.

-And just for fun: If you’re a word-nerd like me, you’ll love this.

Eating

-I threw a girls night a few weeks ago and my sweet friends who knew I’ve been craving Asian this pregnancy all brought me Asian food. The day coincided with National Donut Day and since donuts are one of my two very favorite foods (gnocchi being the other), I made these Vietnamese donuts. (Actually, I made prepped the dough and various friends facilitated the deep frying). I made condensed milk custard dips for them (plain, matcha, and cinnamon flavored) and writing this out makes me really need to get back in the kitchen and whip up another batch.

-We also made Taiwanese popcorn chicken and as a result, a street-food tour of Asia has made its way on my bucket list.

-More Asian yums: crispy ginger tofu. I made ours with stir fried Chinese eggplant and broccoli. Unfortunately, I didn’t dry the tofu out enough to it all got stuck together in one gelatinous mass that I had to cut up after frying. Still good. Still would make again.

-I like themey-ness, so for our anniversary I had originally intended to make something like gnocchi (our wedding day food…because my favorite food) or traditional English picnic fare (we honeymooned in the English countryside). But I had things that needed to be used up in the fridge so it ended up being pan-fried chicken thighs with a white-wine-shallot grape sauce, risotto, and a radicchio almond salad. I wasn’t at all sad for the lack of themey-ness.

-Of course, it’s an unspoken cooking rule that you should always intentionally make too much risotto so that you can make arancini (otherwise known as Italian rice balls of fun).

-Easy weeknight meal: Greek lemon-chicken soup: there was half a rotisserie chicken in the fridge and I had all the ingredients on hand, but I had forgotten how good and simple this soup is. (I made it without a recipe but this is basically what I did.)

Summer eats:

Peach-tomato salad with goat cheese, honey, thyme, olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Made to go alongside steaks and smashed red potatoes.

Worcestershire-balsamic marinated flank steak salad romaine leaves, roasted yukon gold potato medallions, tomatoes, sauteed onions, and goat cheese crumbles.

Tomates farcies (stuffed tomatoes). That sounds fancy, but really it was a clear-the-fridge, shop-the-pantry meal because we had tomatoes that were turning mushy on the counter. I mixed tuna (the good jarred kind, not the cat food in a tin kind), cooked rice, freshly grated parmesan, assorted chopped olives, fresh thyme, a few spoons of olive oil and brine from the olive jar. Then after stuffing the tomatoes with said mixture, I topped them with panko, more parmesan, and a few pats of butter and popped them in the oven to roast. Served with a buttery toasted baguette, this meal ended up being infinitely better than a lot of meals I plan out and shop for.

Etc.

Worth a listen. I’m always wary of buzzwords and ’empathy’ is a hot one right now.

“when…you’re imagining to be empathetic or to share suffering you’re immediately incorporating that experience into a view of yourself and your own worldview. What Arendt wanted was actually something a bit more radical than that, is to imagine something that’s not your world, that makes you feel uncomfortable. And that’s where the work has to start. And that’s why she was also very committed to thinking.”

-Do you and your significant other differ when it comes to board games? Joe likes a good strategy game (Risk, Pandemic, Settlers of Catan). I like a good party game (Loaded Questions, Balderdash, Cranium). I’ve been determined to find a game that fits us both and on an online forum, someone suggested Sushi-Go. It’s actually pretty entertaining, but it’s all the more fun when you get sushi to-go alongside it. I really think we could take our sushi game nights to a whole new level with this baby.

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Reading, Eating, etc.

Tortilla Española-ish

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This is decidedly not a summertime recipe. It involves multiple stove-top burners going at once and cranking up the oven broiler. But I had it for the first time during the summer six-ish years ago so I always associate it with summertime. I was in Spain for World Youth Day with a group of hilarious and wonderful girls and we shared lots of good conversations over buttered baguettes stuffed with jamon serrano, cold glasses of agua fresca, churros dipped in chocolate, and wedges of tortilla española.

If you’ve never had Spanish tortilla, you’ve been missing out on one of the great standards of homely world cuisine. It’s nothing like a Mexican tortilla. Rather, it’s a potato and egg pie served at room temp as tapas.

The ingredients are: potato, onion, egg, and olive oil. I strayed off the beaten path with this version and loaded it up with a few inauthentic ingredients (red wine vinegar, smoked paprika) to give it a punchier flavor.

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Ingredients:

6-8 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
olive oil (or butter)
4-5 eggs
2tbs red wine vinegar or more to taste (optional)
2tbs paprika or more to taste (optional)

Directions:

In a cast iron skillet or frying pan with higher edges heat olive oil over medium heat and add potatoes. Season the potatoes with salt, pepper, and some of the paprika. Cook potatoes in batches or in multiple pans so as not to overcrowd and burn them.

Stir the potatoes often and cook until they’re slightly crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Set them aside in a bowl.

Next add the diced yellow onion to the skillet and cook in olive oil until translucent. Then add the potatoes back in and mix with the onion. The mixture should fill up the skillet a good ways up the sides.

Beat the eggs and add the red wine vinegar and remaining paprika and mix it all together. (Sometimes I add a 1/2 c of crushed tomatoes to give it an even punchier flavor) Pour the mixture over the potatoes and onions.

Cook over medium heat until the egg seems set on the sides and bottom. Place until broiler for five minutes until golden and crisp on top. If you use a non-stick skillet and the bottom was well-oiled, it should flip out easily on a serving plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I like paring this with gazpacho (green grape and cucumber pictured). And to further round out your Spanish feast, you could serve it with a tomato-olive salad, manchego-melon-jamon serrano skewers, and of course, a pitcher of sangria.

Buen provecho!

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Tortilla Española-ish

The World’s Best Best Man Speech by the World’s Best Best Man

best best man speech

It was our third wedding anniversary last week, and one of the happiest memories from our wedding day was our Best Man’s speech. Since, it really was the best best man’s speech I’ve ever heard, I wanted to share it here.

Hello. My name is Christopher, and I have the honor of being Joseph’s best man this day. Before I truly begin, I have to admit that my toast is pretty ambitious, if you consider the title I gave it to encourage myself: “The World’s Best Best Man Speech by the World’s Best Best Man.” That’s setting the bar high. Pardon me if I happen to crash into it during the attempt. There’s a saying–or, at least there’s a motivational poster that goes, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss you’ll land among the stars.” That’s misleading. Really, if you shoot for the moon and miss, you’ll die slowly in the vacuum of space. Hopefully, that won’t happen to me tonight, metaphorically. Or literally, for that matter.

I first met Joe at a theology club meeting for which I, still being of a somewhat slovenly habitude, and not knowing him, thought he was incredibly overdressed. He was wearing a sport coat and wingtips. I think I was wearing a t-shirt that said, “Cat on a skateboard” and had a picture of a cat on a skateboard. Somehow or other he knew of me, because after the meeting, he came up and said, “So I hear you write poetry.” Which is not the first think you’d have about a guy wearing a shirt plastered with a picture of a cat on a skateboard.

“Yeah,” I said.

“That’s cool,” he said. “So do I. We should read each other’s some time.”

At this point I thought, “Whoa. Hold on there, slick. We just met. Just who are you?” But sooner than I thought, it was all sonnets and stress verse, and the rest, though not history yet, might be someday. And, before I knew it, the answer to that question. “Who are you?” was, “My best friend.” We have indeed since then become so close that, disturbingly, Don, one of the groomsmen and Dominika’s soon-to-be-brother-in-law, has referred to us as “The Ambiguously Straight Duo.”

I know Joe to be prudent, steadfast, exceedingly generous, and selfless, so much so that he once did a tremendous favor for me, but I cannot tell you about it because he cares so little for any recognition he might get that he swore me to secrecy. That is the kind of man Joe is–Dominika, this is the man you are marrying, a man who does the right thing and more than the right thing, and wants no recompense or recognition for it at all, because love is all the reason he needs to act.

I know that in Dominika’s family, they like to talk about favorite memories, and one of my favorite memories of Dominika is of when we were at our friend’s wedding reception (to which Joe could not come) and he sat both of us at the kid’s table. Dominika and I and about six sixteen-year-olds. It was awkward and hilarious. Looking back, that was fun, but I didn’t know Dominika that well, and I can’t help but think how much more fun we would have had if I had known her as well as I do know. I’d like to tell you all the nicknames I have for Dominika, because they’re hilarious and affectionate. Unfortunately, if I do, she’ll claw my eyes out with what she once referred to as her “harpy talons”, so I’m going to play it safe and–not.

I wish I could tell you that Joe came to me after his first date with Dominika, convinced he was going to marry her. But I can’t. Not because Joe wasn’t so convinced, but because when I met him, they were already dating, and in fact I am incapable of imagining them apart. Indeed, the night before the members of the wedding party threw a couple’s shower, I had a nightmare that Dominika called the wedding off. I literally woke up in a cold sweat.

At this point, you may be wondering, “Is this guy in love with Joe and Dominika or what?”–The answer to that question is yes. I love Joe and Dominika. I love Joe and Dominika together, so much more than either of them is alone. They are two of the most beautiful people I have ever met, and they are surpassingly beautiful together. They are what has drawn us all together in celebration of their own drawing together in the sacrament of holy matrimony tonight.

I myself am not married–that is not an invitation–so I cannot give you two much advice here. Thus I thought it best to turn to another man who was not married: therefore, St. Thomas notes that every sacrament derives its efficacy from conforming to the Passion of Christ–in other words, marriage is a crucifixion.

But, like the Passion, it is also the fruit of charity, a sign of Christ’s love for His Church. You will have sorrows and frustrations, but those are the seeds of indefatigable virtue and exquisite joy. You will die for each other and die to the world for each other. You will die for the children with which God blesses you. I love you very much and cannot wait to see what your love will bring to the world.

To Joe and Dominika. Live beautifully.

The World’s Best Best Man Speech by the World’s Best Best Man