PURPLE APRON ALERT!!!
i’ve been following hedley and bennett pretty intensely for a few years now, pretty much since ellen bennett launched the company, and, on february 20, they released this gorgeous purple apron (named “fig”) as part of their new pantry collection. of course, i had to have it, never mind that i have four other aprons (omg, seriously), but it’s! purple! such! a! gorgeous! purple!
i love purple.
this is not a sponsored post.
i really like the material this apron is made of. it’s an 8-oz taiwanese stretch denim that’s been custom-dyed (in 5 different colors), and it’s reversible, which is something i don’t feel much about either way, but you get a darker shade on one side, a brighter one on the other, and, hey, i like options. i don’t typically like stretch fabrics or light (in weight) aprons (my favorite apron is the dusty pink one in my previous post, and it’s double-layered, which makes it heavier), but this taiwanese stretch denim is soft, durable, and comfortable.
i do wish the ampersands had been stitched along the edges, though, and placed closer to the neck strap, but that’s a tiny complaint, and i hope this isn’t the only purple apron h&b designs! i keep dreaming about a brighter, grape-hued apron with cantaloupe straps — and, while we’re talking about colors, one of the funnest things about having followed a company like h&b for so long is that they’ve played a part in helping me embrace my love of color.
because honestly? i didn’t always love color so much. i used to hide from it, rather, because, as they say, black is slimming and bright colors would make my larger body stand out too much — and why would i want to draw so much attention to myself?
a few weeks ago, i went down a twitter blackhole and spent hours obsessively reading blair braverman’s feed. she’s a musher, which means she races sled dogs, which means her feed is filled with stories of dog-racing adventures and photos of dogs, athletes really, wiry and muscular but no less affectionate and filled with characters of their own.
(her feed is one good thing to come of that annoying thing twitter does of showing you the tweets people you follow have liked.)
i knew that blair had written a memoir, and, after spending days on her twitter feed, i decided to pick up her book, thinking, naturally, that it’d be similar to her twitter feed, happy and lively and full of dogs. a friend warned me in advance, though, that the book is more intense, not quite like her twitter, but i wasn’t sure what to make of that because she didn’t tell me anything beyond that.
she was right, though, and i’m glad to have had the warning — welcome to the goddamn ice cube (ecco, 2016) is not the book you might expect because it’s not about dog-sledding or mushing or surviving in the arctic. rather, it’s a book about being a woman in the world and learning to carry all the burdens of what that entails and to be as you are, who you are, even when fear keeps you awake through the nights.
blair takes us to her youth, to her formative years that led her to dog-sledding, and she grew up a happy child in suburban california, though that isn’t where her family was supposed to be. her mother grew up in oregon, and her father was a new yorker, and their move to the suburbs of northern california was supposed to be a temporary, two-years-max thing that stretched into four that stretched into a decade. there was a year’s stint in norway, blair’s first taste of living in the cold, and, hungry for more, she went back alone to study abroad for a year in high school, though that didn’t necessarily turn out as expected, stuck as she was with a host family with a threatening host father.
there is a danger and unease all women have known since girlhood.
she avoids anything serious from happening, though, but what does that even mean? it’s enough for a girl to be placed in a situation where she feels constant fear, where she’s always on edge, on guard, because she doesn’t know if or when the scales will tip and that thing she can’t name but knows to fear will happen. it’s enough to have to carry that; that, in and of itself, is a serious enough thing to endure.
and maybe that’s where i feel like maybe we get stuck when it comes to conversations about sexual violence, racism, bigotry, that it’s easy to point at people’s obviously terrible actions and say, that’s bad. we need to condemn that. rape is clear (or it should be); physical assault is clear (or it should be); and open discrimination is clear (or it should be) — but we can’t forget about the everyday acts of micro-aggression. we can’t ignore those. we can’t dismiss them and say they’re not serious because, oh, she wasn’t assaulted, oh, he wasn’t hospitalized, oh, they can still get married, don’t be so petty and obsessed with such minuscule details.
because here’s the thing: shitty behavior doesn’t have to, shouldn’t have to, escalate into disgusting acts of human violence to be called out. it’s enough that a grown man thinks it’s acceptable to loom over a girl and cast a shadow into her life. it’s enough that white people think it’s okay to follow black customers around a store. it’s enough that straight people think it’s morally fine for them to turn queer people away, to refuse them marriage licenses and business services, all on the flimsy grounds of “freedom of religion.”
it’s enough because, yeah, maybe you might be inclined to say, oh, they’re not really doing anything, though, but no one starts off with murder. behavior escalates, and a man who is physically abusive is more likely to pick up a gun and commit mass murder — he doesn’t start with mass murder — so, yes, it matters, and micro-aggression is serious enough for us to pay attention and call it out and demand that it stop.
wonder if i’ll ever pair words to photographs in a way that matches? i do, too.
two sundays ago, i made scallion pancakes, and this recipe is from molly yeh’s fabulous molly on the range (rodale, 2016). molly is the only food blogger i read, and i love her — she’s so bright, so sunny, and she loves snow and sprinkles as much as i do.
molly on the range is filled with personal stories, from her experience at camp, at julliard, at home on a farm in north dakota where she lives with her husband (who grows sugar beets and plays the trombone). molly’s recipes are this mish-mash of cultures, taking inspiration from foods passed down from her jewish mother and chinese father and somehow mashing flavors together in ways that work in really cool ways. like scallion challah bread or hawaij in everything — and those are really shitty examples, i know, but you can go read her blog and/or get her book and get a better idea of what i’m trying to say.
these scallion pancakes, though — in recent weeks, all i’ve been craving are grungy italian-american food, indian food, and scallion pancakes. these were pretty good, especially once i’d gotten the hang of rolling them into more circular shapes and rolling them flatter and thinner, but i may play around with mixing APF with rice flour to get more of that glutinous chew i so crave when it comes to scallion pancakes. that said, that’s me being super particular. these were fun and easy to make, and the flavor was excellent, and i’ll definitely make them again.
i find it weird to refer to people here by their first name when i don’t know them, but i’ve called both blair and molly by their first names. i don’t know either of them, though i wish i did, but there’s something about them that makes them feel personable and approachable, like using their last names to refer to them would feel oddly impersonable and, almost, rude.
maybe it’s the way blair tells her story, drawing you in and making herself vulnerable, and she’s a fantastic writer — and an astute one as well. one of my peeves when it comes to memoirs is when authors lack any kind of self-awareness, filling pages with anecdotes that read more like acts of self-indulgence than anything else (it’s one reason i didn’t finish erica garza’s getting off), but welcome to the goddamn ice cube doesn’t fall prey to that, being a memoir, instead, that flows narratively and positions itself within the world at-large. there’s no moralizing, either, no preaching, no ego-driven self-flagellation, and it’s a book filled with warmth, appreciation, and strength, a book about bravery, really, not bravery in the romanticized, inflated way of dramatized heroism, but bravery in the rather banal, everyday ways of simply showing up, being uncomfortable, and learning to say no and to say it again and again when the first ten “no”s go ignored.
it’s about a woman’s life as she’s lived it, as she’s learned to move about the world and find her place and her people within it, and i highly, highly recommend it. i also highly recommend following blair (and her husband!) on twitter. go bask in all the adorable photos of dogs they post and share in their dog-racing adventures.
when chopping scallions, make sure to use a sharp knife. if you use a knife-that-is-not-sharp, you’ll end up with slimy green strings with notches cut into them, not chopped scallions.
when chopping things, also use a proper cutting board. those cheap plastic things are awful and will dull your knives and absorb smells and accumulate bacteria — and i doubt they’re environmentally friendly. invest in wood.
there’s a passage from rebecca solnit’s the faraway nearby (penguin, 2013) that i go back to every so often. incidentally, it’s the opening passage of the book, and it sets the tone, setting the stage for a book that will feel at once concrete and not, grounded in solnit’s memories while also floating away on the whimsy of stories and story-telling and the fancy story entails.
solnit is a deft, intelligent writer, but she doesn’t lose herself to her smarts. i’m not much a fan of such writers, writers who feel the need to blare their intelligence on the page, writers who try too hard to be clever, to be witty, to be smarter than their readers and let that be known — and, like i said before, intellectualism doesn’t impress me.
(it’s one reason i had issues with maggie nelson’s the argonauts [graywolf, 2016], which i loved in the beginning and loved less and less as the book went on. nelson gets lost in the tangles of whatever it is she’s trying to say, and it all simply made me think, well. i’m sorry for being too dull for you — but, then again, maybe i am dull, or maybe it’s just my impatience for theory flaring up again. maybe it’s my allergy to hype. maybe it’s all of the above.
whatever it is, ultimately, the argonauts has completely faded from my brain.)
solnit is gracious, though, warm and generous, even when she’s being critical. in another writer’s hands, her essay collection, men explain things to me (haymarket, 2014), would have been scathing and bristling, but, in solnit’s, the essays are thoughtful, well-considered, fleshed-out. that isn’t to say she isn’t scathing or that she’s soft in her criticism; solnit doesn’t try to cushion any blows or shy away from the brutal realities of the consequences and realities of patriarchy and toxic masculinity; but she does it all in such measured ways that the truth falls even harder and heavier.
that’s not meant to sound like tone-policing, by the way. sometimes, it’s necessary to shout and scream and snarl.
going back to that aforementioned passage, though:
what’s your story? it’s all in the telling. stories are compasses and architecture; we navigate by them, we build our sanctuaries and our prisons out of them, and to be without a story is to be lost in the vastness of a world that spreads in all directions like arctic tundra or sea ice. to love someone is to put yourself in their place, we say, which is to put yourself in their story, or figure out how to tell yourself their story.
which means that a place is a story, and stories are geography, and empathy is first of all an act of imagination, a storyteller’s art, and then a way of traveling from here to there. what is it like to be the old man silenced by a stroke, the young man facing the executioner, the woman walking across the border, the child on the roller coaster, the person you’ve only read about, or the one next to you in bed?
we tell ourselves stories to live, or to justify taking lives, even our own, by violence or by numbness and the failure to live; tell ourselves stories that save us and stories that are the quicksand in which we thrash and the well in which we drown, stories of justification, of accursedness, of luck and star-crossed love, or versions clad in the cynicism that is at times a very elegant garment. sometimes the story collapses, and it demands that we recognize we’ve been lost, or terrible, or ridiculous, or just stuck; sometimes change arrives like an ambulance or a supply drop. not a few stories are sinking ships, and many of us go down with these ships even when the lifeboats are bobbing all around us. (solnit, 3-4)
i don’t judge people who don’t read; i know reading isn’t something everyone likes to do; and there are plenty of things people like to do that i don’t. i do, however, tend to roll my eyes when people like to act like they’re above stories, like storytelling is something in which only children participate. i can’t help but roll my eyes at people who try to downplay novels, implying that maturing means leaving the novel (and, in connection, fiction) behind and moving onto more “serious” writing like essays and philosophy and biographies (aka non-fiction).
because the problem beneath all that snobbery and faux-intellectualism is this: stories are the foundation of who we are. they provide the foundation of our beliefs, define how we see the world, and directly influence the way we consider other people. they tell us who we are and how we position ourselves in the world. stories are the means through which we conduct our lives.
stories are in everything, and story-telling is the framework on which we build everything. it doesn’t matter whether you’re an artist or an engineer or an attorney; you tell stories for a living, whether it’s through a creative medium, a structure, a legal case. if you’re an accountant, you might work in numbers, but you still look for the stories embedded in financial and income statements because they tell you all about the life and health of a company. if you’re a doctor, bodies tell you stories, and you carry the stories of your patients. if you’re a chef, a coffee roaster, a baker, you take the stories from your life, your farmers and butchers and fishermen, and you turn them into sustenance.
when you go home at the end of the day, kiss your partner, say hello to your children, your flatmate, your parents, you tell them the story of your day.
when you introduce yourself to someone new, you share the story of who you are.
when you see someone, you tell yourself a story of who you think that person is, and you act accordingly.
one thing i’ve been doing less of since 2017 is reading from korean authors. i miss that. i hope to get back to that this year.
my way of cooking is usually to go into a recipe and kind of just take from it what i want. (my apologies, recipe developers and writers.)
here’s the chicken poulet from kristen kish cooking (clarkson potter, 2017), except it’s just the chicken, no sauce, no gnocchi, and no thyme or rosemary either because i didn’t have either on hand and all my herb plants died. (i have black thumbs.) i also didn’t use the kind of chicken her recipe calls for either because she says to use skin-on, boneless chicken breasts, but i have yet to find skin-on, boneless chicken breasts because i don’t actually have a butcher, just the butcher counter at whole foods (omg i can’t quit whole foods; DAMN YOU, AMAZON), and it’s still just a thing on my list, to learn how to break down a whole chicken.
that’s a lot of words about how i deviated from the recipe …
anyway, so, i used the technique from her recipe, but i used skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts, and i added garlic to the pan, and i made adjustments to the cooking time as necessary, and i ended up with really juicy, flavorful chicken breasts and super, super crispy skin.
i never grew up eating chicken skin.
it’s too fattening.
i have a complicated relationship with my body, and i have a complicated relationship with food.
when i see photos of myself, i cringe, seeing the lumpiness in my face, the chub in my arms and fingers, the bulges around my stomach. i see my double chin, the little shelf of fat that squeezes over my bra under my armpits, the paunch around my midriff. i see the pounds i should lose. i see the lunch maybe i shouldn’t have eaten.
i see shame.
the movie that stands out to me most from my adolescence is cool runnings, and i haven’t seen it in almost two decades, so i don’t remember much of it, just the memories associated with watching it. i watched it for the first time at a sleepover with my discipleship group, and that in and of itself was pretty cool, the act of sleeping over at my discipleship leader’s apartment, of lining up in a row in our sleeping bags in her living room at night.
at the time, it felt very grown up.
anyway, the point is — so we watched cool runnings, and the scene that has always stayed with me was when one of the characters is taken into the bathroom by some other dude who asks him, look in the mirror; what do you see?
the guy isn’t sure and rattles off something or another, and the dude says, no. when i look in the mirror, i see power. i see strength. i see … etcetera etcetera etcetera, and this is a terrible summary of this scene, but i think you get the point.
and i think you get where i’m going with this.
i like to believe that we can’t control much in our lives and in our narratives, but we do get to choose how we approach the shit we’re given. we don’t get to choose how people see us or judge us, but we do get to choose how we feel about and judge ourselves.
one of the positive things to come out of a decade-plus of intense body shaming by people i love is that i’ve learned to slough off shame. i’ve learned to embrace myself as who i am and to be okay with people not being okay with who i am. that doesn’t mean i don’t have bad days when i catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and immediately look away, days when i’m wearing something that’s a little too tight and sink into unhappiness and angriness at my inability to lose weight.
and that doesn’t mean it’s been an easy or simple process to get here to this point where i can say, it’s okay; i’m okay, where i can post photos of myself that aren’t just perfectly angled photos of my face, nothing shown from the shoulders down, the selca shot at the perfect angle that makes my face appear narrower, sharper, less lumpy.
that doesn’t mean i have a good, healthy relationship with my body now, either, or with food. i still hate my body most days because it’s not a healthy body, and i still have a complicated relationship with food — but maybe that’s the other positive thing that came out of a decade-plus of intense body shaming. i know that healing takes a shit-ton of time and whole lot of pain and that it, too, is massively complicated. nothing is black-and-white, either-or. nothing is that cleanly, clearly defined.
and that’s okay. that’s okay as long as we’re still trying.
“poulet” means “chicken” in french, so this recipe is really called “chicken chicken.”
over the the last few weeks, several women have come forward with allegations against sherman alexie, arguably the prominent native-american writer, though that also feels not-so-correct to say because, hello, louise erdrich.
a week or two ago, alexie released a statement in which he wrote, “there are women telling the truth about my behavior and i have no recollection of physically or verbally threatening anybody or their careers. that would be completely out of character.”
overall, the statement is a pretty shoddy non-apology, one that takes no responsibility for his actions and tries to brush everything under the rug with a standard, i’m sorry if i hurt you, but the thing is — i do believe him when he writes that he has “no recollection of physically or verbally threatening anybody or their careers” — and that’s the problem.
some people like to argue that we’ve become too “PC,” that we’re too sensitive or that we’re overreacting, that, if [insert supposedly innocuous statement or behavior here] is sexual harassment, then where does it end? then men won’t be able to talk to any women, and it’ll be impossible for them to be friendly or to show concern or care because, oh no, women are such snowflakes and they must be so dumb that they can’t parse innocent friendly behavior from dangerous creeper behavior.
which then leads to this asinine idea that the solution is to go back to completely male-dominated spaces.
the problem isn’t that women are dumb and can’t tell the difference between a man being friendly and a man wielding his power (because, believe or not, women can). the problem is that men have no idea about the structural power imbalances in place that inherently benefit them. the problem is that men move about the world totally oblivious to their privilege and the toxicity it unfurls. the problem is that men can’t seem to wrap their brains around consent or accept that, no, they are not entitled to women, whether to women’s attention or time or bodies.
and, so, i do, to a degree, believe alexie when he claims that he doesn’t remember ever explicitly threatening women and their careers because the thing is … he doesn’t have to threaten anyone explicitly. he doesn’t have to grab a woman’s arm or trap her in a corner or say the words, have sex with me, or you’ll never write again. he doesn’t have to menace her or stalk her or spread rumors about her.
all he has to do is make an advance and refuse to walk away when the woman signals no.
men can complain all they want about how they didn’t set up the system and it isn’t fair that they’re lumped together in this mass of shitty human behavior, but, hey, here’s the thing: if you actively benefit from a toxic system (which all men do) (and which all white people, men and women, do) and you do nothing to try to change that system, then, hi, you’re complicit.
no one says it’s easy, and no one says it’s fun. it’s not pleasant confronting your own shittiness, and i’ve got plenty of experience in that area myself. it’s taken me years to dismantle my internalized misogyny; i readily admit that, seven years ago, i was that person who went around disavowing feminism because i was about “humanism” or some bullshit like that. i had to come face-to-face with the racism and prejudice i’d long carried against other POC, and i know — it sucks. it sucks to realize that you’re a shitty human being. it sucks to admit that and reckon with it, but the only other option is to deny it, and denial allows toxicity to fester.
and here’s the thing about power, and here’s where this all comes together: all of this has to do with the stories we tell ourselves about what the world should look like and how power is structured and where we figure ourselves within it all. a man’s entitlement comes from the story he tells himself about a world in which his supposed masculinity is everything and he deserves to get what he wants and, if he doesn’t get it, if he is denied, he has the right to lash out in whatever way he so wants. an abuse victim believes the lies in the stories her abuser tells her, stories that say she deserved what she got, that she provoked him, that no one will believe her. women internalize these stories, too, invest in the narratives of the patriarchy and prop up toxic masculinity, repeat these stories to their daughters and continue the cycle.
colonizers buy into the stories of their greatness, of the supposed inferiority of the Others they colonize, and, sometimes, it’s funny how people inherently recognize how important stories are because the victors go about white-washing history, trying to erase their wrongs and pretend they didn’t exist, plastering pretty wallpaper over the bloodshed and violence and exploitation.
you don’t censor a story unless you’re afraid of it, and you're not afraid of something unless you believe in the power it contains.
chimamanda ngozi adichie gave an entire brilliant tedxtalk about the danger of the one story, so i’ll leave that for her, and i’ll end this ridiculously long post with this: the stories we tell ourselves about our bodies, our identities, are connected to the stories we tell ourselves about power because body shaming is about power — it’s just within the sphere of the private, not the hugely public.
there is systemic power that we’re trapped by, that requires mass movement to change, and then there is personal, individual power, the power we have over ourselves. i worry often that that’s a power girls are taught to give away too easily.
blair talks about this in her book, maybe not in the same terms, but in sharing her experience with her first boyfriend, a man older than she is who thinks he’s entitled to her body, shames her for not finding pleasure in sex with him, isolates her when she finally breaks up with him — and i love the way she writes it here:
for years afterward, dan would maintain that i had changed, gained some new or darker side that was, as he once explained in a letter, ‘without a doubt, not beneficial to who you are.’ i was young, starting college; of course i changed. i changed my clothes, my eating habits; i made new friends, tried yoga, worked as a telemarketer. but the change dan meant was less obvious: the fact that i no longer went limp and let him touch me; the fact that, when forced to choose between the bitter protection he offered and the exhaustive work of shielding myself alone, i knew that i could not be with him. and yet the decision burned. turning down dan — choosing jurisdiction over my own body — felt like choosing exile from the very things in which his approval had granted me legitimacy. what role did i have, really, on the icefield, or even in dogsledding? who had i been there? i didn’t remember. though i couldn’t explain it at the time, leaving dan felt like leaving everything i’d been working toward, all the ways i’d been trying to prove myself. and for a while, that’s exactly what it meant. i left him and i didn’t come back.
the change dan lamented was that i had started to trust myself. but the way i saw it, i had flunked out of the north. (175-6)
luckily, blair learns to trust herself and continues to do so, working through years of doubt and fear and faltering confidence, and the passage above goes to show what i mean about story, how the stories we tell ourselves matter. all it often takes is a small repositioning of ourselves to see a story from a different angle and shift our worldview entirely, and maybe that’s where the real power of story lies, in its ability to change and to change us along with it.
and maybe that’s the one thing that gives me a measure of hope in such a bleak, often terrifying world — that there is a shift in the wind, that women are reclaiming their narratives, that, even in the midst of the destruction the current administration is trying to wreak on marginalized, immigrant, queer communities, even in all that, we are still telling our stories — and, by doing so, slowly, we will shape and grow and change the world.
get this gorgeous apron for yourself at hedley & bennett. i can personally vouch for their aprons because, erm, i’m a home cook, and i own five of their aprons. i, uh, kind of have a problem …