Sunday, April 15, 2012

Styling! And Two More Recipe Reviews

After I wrote yesterday's catalogue of a dream day, challenging myself to be relentlessly positive, the day turned into a train wreck! Yes, I got my lectures finished and recorded without mishap. But I got confused by the form I was filling out to file an extension for taxes (not going to happen until the semester's over!) and almost had a meltdown in the library, then I almost failed to mail the form when I went to the post office. On the road, someone pulled out in front of me and I almost ran into them. I came home with some fruit, and put it in the hanging basket, which promptly collapsed--at least I caught the basket, but fruit went everywhere! My 'flu symptoms are staging a comeback. I almost feel like I unleashed a nemesis on myself by untethering from the here and now in my post.
Which brings me to today's prompt, in which we're asked to reflect on our writing style--how we write, where we write, what's challenging for us to write about. When I'm not distracted by teaching commitments, this is something I'm very focused on, between being a writer and MFA student and working as an editor. I think I struggle with over-wordiness at times and over-concision at other times, but my goal is a combination of euphony and clarity. 

I'll try to keep this brief! And since part of my style is always to appreciate and acknowledge other people, I'll share two more recipe reviews from other bloggers at the end.

1. I write with my ears. How words sound, both individually and together, both because of the music of their sound and because of the specific spin they put on meaning, is crucial for me. When there's something I want to share, before I sit down to type it up, I've usually composed at least several sentences in my head, crafted both for message and for sound. I have a strong aural memory, and when I've written a post, I'll often play back elements in my head afterwards, and not infrequently go back to make improvements. Of course, before I hit publish I always (unless it's an emergency and I have to leave) read through and check for wording, typos, etc.

2. I try to maintain overall cohesiveness. Just like I can't suddenly double my caloric intake, but have to work from my current level and gradually increase, when I'm preparing a post, I bear in mind what other subjects I've recently been writing about, so that it's not a sudden shock to the system. I've wanted to write about poetry, writing, craft, and perhaps mental health issues more on this blog lately, but have made sure to keep the threads of food talk, recipes, and Alaska homesteading stories alive as well. Speaking of which, I am working on increasing my calorie intake.

3. I like to make connections. See my comparison between re-feeding and writing a coherent blog, above!

4. I think about my audience. I've shared here before how I don't have Phil's gift for telling himself or other people what to think--in fact, although I recognize he uses it for good, I have some resistance to anything that could be seen as "interference" with other people. The question of how much to consider audience is a central dilemma. I enjoyed Steve Almond's statement that as writers, we want to drag the audience into our own dark corner rather than going out and meeting them where they are. It definitely feels more powerful to me to write as honestly and beautifully as I can about what's important to me or what I'm experiencing, and to create empathy or evoke images in the minds of my audience, than it is to write what I think people want to read. I consider it an honor to have the opportunity to show people what they want or need to read, though they might not have known it.

5. Authenticity versus Distance That said, I try to find a balance between being authentic and waiting to write about something triggering until I have the necessary distance. An example is this post from almost a month ago, in which I chose not to share something that had triggered me that week, and instead shared something else that had been an issue almost a year previously, from which I had the space to write about it clearly.

Sharing--Recipe Reviews!
I mentioned in my recipe review post a few days ago how much I appreciate being able to credit the blogger who inspired me when a recipe of theirs I 'tweaked' turns out well, but to chalk disappointments up to my own inability to leave well alone. Today's shares are both successes, and as a bonus, the first of them is actually something I ate and really enjoyed!

That was--Katie's Avocado-Free Guacamole!
This recipe is basically pureed peas and asparagus with some fat and lemon/lime, spiced up with appropriate guacamole spices like cumin and cayenne and onion powder. Bonus: it doesn't go brown like avo-based guac.
I used canned asparagus because, bizarrely, I had some on hand.
Katie's recipe calls for vegan mayonnaise, which I've never bought--soy and omega-6 phobia over here. Instead, I used the last of my homemade macadamia nut butter. I only had about a teaspoon left, which may not have been enough fat for the entire dish. In retrospect, I wish I'd also put in a teaspoon of xanthan gum, as that would have prevented the dip from releasing water (as would the addition of some fat).
As it was, this turned out delicious, light, green-tasting, with a good hint of spice. I love recipes based on pureed peas. It reminds me of "mushy peas" you could get at fish and chip shops in the North of England.
Terry and Phil both enjoyed this too, but I had most of it over a few days. I sprinkled it with spirulina and nutritional yeast for some extra protein--tasted great together. Thanks, Katie!

I also made a version of Gena's Brown lentil and cucumber-mint salad, using a special technique to prepare the lentils that I want to share in a moment. One of the things I love about this recipe is that basically, all the ingredients are in its name! A little salt and pepper and balsamic vinegar, and there you have it. Comes together so quickly...

Unfortunately, I didn't take a good picture of the salad by itself, but you can see it toward the right of this picture, in the green/white bowl, as part of a spread of veggie goodness.
My friend Leslie shared the trick of baking the lentils. They hold their texture so well, and are thoroughly cooked but have a good bite to them, perfect for a salad.

Take 1 cup lentils, and soak in 3 cups warm water with a teaspoon salt
Rinse and drain the lentils, discard the water
Preheat oven to 325
Put the lentils in an oven-safe pot or casserole with a lid, and
Add 5 cups water or broth, 5 cloves garlic, a bay leaf, 1/2 teaspoon salt
Cover the pot, place in the center of the oven, and 
Bake until the lentils are tender but still hold their integrity (about an hour)

Drain, discard bay leaf and garlic cloves, and you have wonderfully textured lentils ready for whatever salad you desire! 
Note: the water doesn't evaporate much when you use this method, so there will be quite a lot of water left to drain--the lentils are done, nonetheless!

Thanks, Gena!

This post got long again! Do you prefer short and sweet posts, or do you enjoy it when they end up getting long? What's your style for writing?