Month: February 2014

Keeping the World in Your Kitchen

I’ve never been a foodie. I can’t tell you the difference between cooking with vegetable oil or olive oil, I rarely use measuring cups, and I’m still not sure how much pasta to throw in the pot for two people. However, I can tell you that nobody appreciates a gourmet meal quite like a kid who grew up on TV dinners.

When I was little and I would go to the grocery store with my mother, it seemed normal to just point out what microwave meals I wanted for the week. When I would eat them at the end of a long day, I would always feel empty, a little gross, and always hungry, hungry for something with a taste; with flavor.

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Turkish lunch from Istanbul 

Getting invited to other people’s homes for dinner was always a real treat, which was why I made it a point to get in the good graces of fat Italian mothers who made it all from scratch. In my head, they spent the day poring over cookbooks, stewing pots of homemade pastas and beating down tomatoes with their bare hands. At the end of the day they would emerge from their lairs, beautiful again, eager to present finely laid out meals to their happy families and their kid’s weird friend who may or may not have lived in a car.

However, living on your own finally gives you the opportunity to live life the way you imagined it from your pink bedroom. Besides learning how to pay bills, scream at conniving gas companies, and fix leaky roofs, I finally learned how to boil water and thus began my gourmet chefdom and eventual progression into the closest to adulthood that I will ever wander.

When I went to Italy for a few months when I was 21, my newfound obsession with cooking and creating was brought to a new level when I realized I wasn’t the only one. Unlike in America, when every Internet recipe screams “easy” and “quick,” Italian recipes whispered for dutiful chefs, qualitative cooking, rich spices, and savory, dark flavors.

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Blueberry steak from Acqua al due, Florence

Although it was an adjustment to learn how to walk slower and talk faster, catching onto the beauty of food was not difficult. Finally, not only could I enjoy these creamy and pungent foods on a daily basis, but I could also create them, following vague instructions in Italian I learned from Giancarlo in my Pairing Food with Wine class and mixing flavors and spices in pots in my tiny kitchen and hoping the oven would work that day. I could spend hours hunched over dishes, but more often than not, the time would fly by and before I knew it, it would unfortunately be the time to sweep up the flour and figure out what I was going to pack for lunch tomorrow.

Thankfully, it didn’t end there – in every country I went to, I would never balk at meats, tails, or goop staring back at me – instead, I would smile, dig in, and ask for seconds. Running around the world, I have yet to run into a dish I found truly disgusting, and instead, I jump at the chance to try whale at the local fish market in Bergen, eat bratwurst and roasted nuts at Oktoberfest, and dig away at fish heads in Brac.

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Seafood pasta dish from Split, Croatia

Back in America, I talk to people all day long who ate food for dinner that had already been cooked in a bag and they’re just grateful to have some time back in their lives; for themselves. But for me, cooking is for myself, whether I’m trying to recreate a Spanish paella, master the perfect bruschetta, or throw a bunch of stuff together that tastes strangely Creole.

Even if the world is keeping me at home, it will not keep the world out of my kitchen. By the time I finish cooking dinner and drinking wine it may be too late to do the laundry, clean my room, or watch some television, but I have yet to go to sleep hungry.

A Life Of

I’ve always just wanted to travel. 

This is a phrase I hear often, mostly from people who hold down full-time jobs and have a salaried income and are looking to settle down with a house and a dog and what could be considered a normal life, a real life. Even though I am all for the average person branching out and seeing the world; visiting new countries and meeting new people who live lives completely different from anything they have seen before, it still makes me a little nervous to hear this.

For some, travel is something they want to hit on the weekends, something that, for perfectly good and logical reasoning, is not worth giving up stability and a place to live for. They want to book a trip to the beach for two weeks a year, spending a couple well-earned days soaking up some sun with a fruity drink in their hand, or maybe even still visiting somewhere new and kind of scary and exciting.

However, when I hear this, I’m the one that gets scared because I know that is never going to be good enough for me. I know that two weeks a year, a measly 14-day break from my desktop computer and my coffee cup, is just not going to cut it, no matter if the destination is the Jersey Shore or New Zealand. To me, it’s not funny that some can’t wait to finally get to work just so they can begin counting the hours they can go home and do it all again the next day. It’s not ironic, it’s just very sad.

Right now, the seams-of-your-pants, no-strings-attached, washing-clothes-in-the-sink life doesn’t feel within my reach, which seems odd because in theory, this should be easy, at the least more fun, than nine-to-five cubicle life. However, it becomes remarkably easy to attach yourself to a detached normal life, one that involves a morning and evening commute and patent leather heels. You can really do it without even thinking and barely noticing, trust me.

But what I do know is that this isn’t the end for me, and the time I have spent trying to find my place in the big scary world and finding the perfect suitcase and crafting the perfect travel pitches has not been in vain, even if today, it all seems like another lifetime and the next chapter feels impossibly far away. People say that life is short and that they should enjoy it – I actually feel the opposite. Life is incredibly long and if you spend it being bored and complacent, it is a slow-moving dragging of the feet to nothingness.

For some, two weeks is fine (although four would be nicer). But for the rest of us, we would rather face a little uneasiness and a lot of fun instead of a lifetime of simplicity and typicality.

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The Champions of the Polar Vortex

For the last few weeks, the already unpleasant East Coast has been experiencing a whole new animal of gelidity – the starkly named Polar Vortex. Each day, we bundle up with our thickest jackets and our heaviest mittens and stuff our faces inside our woolen scarves for the thirty-second walk to the car. We are now shoveling out our cars on a daily basis; illy equipped from our usually cushy lives on the couch.

However, to other remote parts of this icy, cruel world, thirty degrees is the height of summer and warrants a walk in the park (or alongside the frozen pond). And I am here to remind you that no, you do not live in Antartica, but this is just a small, cold phrase of an unusually stark winter (and the end of the world). So, check out the darkest, coldest, and remote regions of the world to make you feel a little better that your job still won’t call in a damn snow day.

1. Verkhoyansk, Russia somehow maintains its roughly 1500 residents in the average-temperatured -50 degrees Fahrenheit. Not surprisingly, it was also the home of political exiles between the 1850s and early 1900s. In 1892, residents recorded a record -90 degrees Fahrenheit which still holds its first-place title today.

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2. Oymyakon, Russia is yet another Russian home of about 600 very cold people, who’s kids still go to school when the thermometer hits -52 degrees Fahrenheit. Sadly enough, the village is named after a local hot spring, which can be reached by locals when cracking through the ice. Believe it or not, a tourism board also sits on duty, which promotes their town as an extreme destination for adventurous travelers.

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3. Hell, Norway is fittingly named as it is frozen over for about a third of each year; from December through March.  Hell maintains its notoriety not only for its sub-artic average temperatures, but also for its clever name and attraction to tourists bored of the beach.

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4. Barrow, Alaska doesn’t break freezing until June and even then, it stays barely at 40 degrees Fahrenheit before the sun sets in November and doesn’t reappear until the end of January. Probably for the best, it is only reachable by sea or air.

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5. Antartica recently broke its own 30 year record by hitting -136 degrees Fahrenheit, which is colder than dry ice. The only beings that even exist there are organisms such as algae, bacteria, penguins, mites, and seals. There are no permanent human residents and even less survival resources. Feel better yet?

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A Photo Journey

It’s been awhile now since I’ve returned from my semester in Florence, Italy. A little more than a year has gone by – however, this has not stopped my from romanticizing and reminiscing about my time there daily nonetheless. So for this week, instead of listening to me blabber on about how awesome Italy is or how I’m still waiting for National Geographic to hire me to become a professional nomad, check out some of my favorite photos from my time spent abroad.

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Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey

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Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany

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Cinque Terre, Italy

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Voss, Norway

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The Duomo of Florence, Italy

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Monaco of the French Riviera

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Venice, Italy

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The Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy

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Dublin, Ireland
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The Rocks of Faraglioni, Amalfi Coast, Italy
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The Dalmatian Coast, Croatia