Wednesday, April 22, 2015

So, Uh, Now What?

This is what my work station looks like more often than not.

My heart sank when I heard the news.

My boss suggested we connect in person, that we were long overdue for a mind meld. And I agreed. We were. Overdue.
I sit over here and write my words and he sits over there, cleans up all the dirty little blemishes and publishes them.
We make a good team.
He's my hero. Truly and sincerely. I admired him as a writer long before I had met him in person. He is and was a fervent community enthusiast. The words he wrote, and writes still,  a clear indication of his brilliance and wit.
When I grow up that's exactly the type of writer I want to be.
So working with him has been an immense honor.
Somewhere deep down I feared that this overdue meet up meant he was going to fire me. Scoff at my work in the nicest way possible and simply tell me I didn't cut it.
Some how, the news he delivered was much worse than that even.

He was retiring from the paper.

As he told me this I wondered if this was an epic blow or a grand relief for him and my heart sank because to imagine our community void of his words is nearly impossible.
Luckily I don't have to.
Since he's made it public (in classic, eloquent Ron fashion) he has also announced a new venture of his that will mean the good people of Tacoma and everywhere else will have the opportunity to read his words.
Though I was fairly certain since hearing the news, I had to give it some long hard consideration and have decided to resign as foodie writer for the Weekly Volcano.
The Volcano has been my ultimate pie in the sky goal since I began writing professionally. Once I obtained the coveted position I failed to concoct a new pie in the sky goal. I have enjoyed my work with the paper, however, I can't imagine the Volcano without Ron Swarner and his various other pseudonyms.
He is the very pulse of the pages.
To remain on staff isn't really an option.

So now what?
Well I'm not really certain yet. I may find more freelance work around town. Continue making pitches to and South Sound Magazine, do theatre reviews for and other local publications but I suspect you will see more of my noshing and penning about it here on my blog until I find a new permanent home.

As for the boss man. Though I won't call him boss after this month, he is still my hero and friend and I am quite sure that he's got a little something rad awaiting him. and hopefully all of us too.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Sylvia Plath Made Me Want To Commit Suicide

Sylvia Plath made me want to commit suicide.

Not the dreary, sad sort of suicide where one dies alone and confused, feeling rejected or defeated. No. More of a romanticized version of suicide in which the departed is remembered, emulated for their grand exit, memorialized in their life’s work. It probably goes without saying that I was a melancholy adolescent, no Lydia Deetz, but melancholy all the same and I daydreamed of what life I would lead one day wrought with art and depth, even though at the time I could hardly say I had much worth mourning in the way of my life’s work.

 This wasn’t an actual, immediate desire to end my life, instead a friend of mine and I would talk about it like it was to be scheduled for our future selves while working on a book report together about Plath.

Turn 18: Graduate

Age 21: Publish First Book, probably a collection of shorts peppered with poetic prose or something

Age 22: Get Hitched

By Age 26: Have Offspring

Age 28: Publish Second Book

Age 30: Die

Simple enough right?

Had I known more about numerology and astrology I would have been more apt to schedule my passing at 27. The age when Saturn’s return is said to come into effect in one’s life, or as numerology theories state the number is indicative of the end of a cycle. All theories point to a difficult time of transition or a struggle between isolation and intimacy. A time of great turmoil, when the beastly weight of humanity lies heavy on your shoulders and begs for change. Who’s to say? I know at 27 for me instead of passing through to another realm, it meant the end of a long term relationship which shortly after led to me connecting romantically with my now husband. Looking back the two were so vastly different, I may as well have been existing in a separate plain of existence, so I think the theories have some kernel of authenticity.

It wasn’t only Plath that made suicide seem like an eloquent exit from this cruel world. Ernest Hemingway, Kurt Cobain, Francesca Woodman all exquisite artists who met their demise by their own hands. But Plath and her gas stove seemed the most peaceful way to obliterate one’s own life, less of a messy affair, void of the annihilation of physical parts while departing this realm.

This was a juvenile train of thought of course. Suicide isn’t anything I condone, not even before I had a family of my own to consider the feelings of but it seemed to me very enchanting of an idea, to leave this world at the peak of perceived perfection.

 It seems like a whole lifetime away that this was how I imagined life to be. Now, I have teens of my own and though they can be a dramatic bunch, I think it unlikely they are scheming their own future demise. And their presence, which was surprisingly close in time to when I as plotting my poetic passing, meant instead of obsessing about the end of life, I began obsessing about how to live it. One of my favorite quotes of all time is courtesy of Anais Nin when she wrote: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” The words resonated with me, echoing eternally because it felt that she must have absolutely known how I had felt when she wrote these words. The ache that exists and forces us to flourish finally, or perish otherwise. I was swimming in it by the time I was 20. Not simply swimming but drowning in it and I absolutely had to take action or quite possibly leave my children motherless.

I had managed in my youth to find a relationship that may as well have been a form of suicide. It was self-destructive, toxic and literally, physically damaging. Then one day it was like a light switch had been flipped and I needed to flee. To live for my children and regain a sense of identity as mother and self. Even in these days I was still mooning over Plath’s verse but my ideals had changed. I was examining her work and wondering how, as a mother, she could choose to leave them. What must she have been feeling, what hopeless state overrides the instinctual and powerful need to remain a foundation for your children.

In the tumultuous days I lost my words. They only found their way from ink to page in a rare journal entry and never were uttered outside of those confines. I wonder now what stories I would have told, what words were swirling around begging to be lovingly placed together. I wonder if conveying them more fiercely and out loud as Plath did would have changed my course of action.

When I rediscovered my love affair with the written word it happened slowly. School essays and articles made writing easy but rarely left time for my creativity to peek its head around the corner and I thought maybe it wasn’t like riding a bike. It’s not a knowledge that is eternal if you do not use it. My creativity may very well have withered and died. Until one day, I was sitting in my car, waiting for a teen to get out of work and the following passage came to me:

“Staring down the dilapidated alley I marvel at the primal beauty of it. Nature’s refusal to retreat in its urban environment. Tangles of lush blackberry bushes vine around empty liquor bottles and long forgotten fence posts. The denial of resignation to any eyes who would take notice as if whispering defiantly, I am here, I have always been here and I will be here in the era after. “

It’s been several years now but I keep this phrase fresh in my mind because it was a milestone for me. A recognition of a need within myself that I felt to my very bones.

While I still admire Sylvia Plath for her body of work, she doesn’t make me want to commit suicide any longer but quite the contrary because……


Friday, April 10, 2015

The 2015 MOG Slider Cook-off Rundown

"I'm in and it's on like Donkey Kong!" famous last words from yours truly in regards to signing up for a fundraising game entitled "The Biggest Loser."

The game is simple really, you put in your fee towards the cash prize and compete against others who admire this same non-profit and vow to lose the most percentage of weight during a 5 week period. It's meant to be motivating and also fun, while you ask your loved ones to "sponsor" you per pound lost with money raised benefitting non-profit Peace Out.
Boom, I needed some motivation to get my ass in gear since my youngest is now one and a half years old and the excuse of "I just had a baby," doesn't really apply any longer. Plus, I admire Peace Outs mission to encourage youth philanthropy through volunteerism and education and an opportunity to lose a few pounds and raise a few bucks is a rad one, two combo.

I'm not doing too shabby all things considered, like say, candy filled holidays like Easter, Opening Day AND the opportunity to judge the Museum of Glass's 2015 Slider Cook-Off, which is not an opportunity I'm one to pass up because lets face it, as a food columnist I have a proven track record of enjoying good food and essentially consider it my sworn duty to share that admiration with those who choose to read my words.

Now, I know I'm a bit late on this but I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts of the contenders because I post photos and folks are like, "Tell me more!!!" while they drool onto the keyboard.
Being my second consecutive year as judge, I'm seasoned in all things slider cook-off and came prepared. Get in. Eat as many right away. Take good notes. Turn in clipboard. Done and done.
Devouring as many sliders in the first half of the event means less waiting in lines (because many folks have not arrived or are busy mingling) and also helps you stay the distance. Your brain has yet to receive the signal from you belly that it is full. So you can eat, and eat and boom, freight train of full hits you full force.

Anyhow, I didn't fall off the weightloss wagon with too much force but here are some thoughts on the cook-off.

Here comes some weeburger action:

First up, Engine House 9 presenting a mini version of their Wagyu Burger. This was a lovely start to the noshing with a classic take on what a slider is meant to be. Dare I say even a brave submission since others tend to lean towards inventive and compelling during these competitions. With a hand formed seasoned Wagyu beef patty set upon a slider bun this lil guy included herb roasted tomatoes, iceburg lettuce, cambozola cheese, crisp bacon and bacon aioli. It's was flavorful when tidbits of each component appeared in each bite and paid mind to the often neglected aspect of good food, TEXTURE. This little guy was a hit and won People's Choice Award.

Second on the list, Metropolitan Market's Prime Rib Slider. Now, while the Metro is a fabulous high end grocer featuring artisan goods and uber fresh produce and meat products and the deli is the bees knees, brimming full with compelling flavors, I wish I could say the same of the presented slider. It was not bad, just underwhelming. Featuring Prime Rib, carmelized onions, horseradish Dijon sauce, and au jus--the lil sammie was served cold and the sauce lacked some much needed oomphf. Nice presentation but nothing to write home to mama about.
The Hub is always tops when it comes to grub and hops and brought some delectable flavor with their rendition of the Bahn Mi.  Fresh baked wheat bun, sweet jalapeno, spiced mayo, cured pork belly, arugula, cilantro, pickled carrots, onions packed some lovely flavor sadly, I know this may be sacrilege but the pork belly was a miss for me. I love our fine piggy friends but pork belly can be chewy and unsatisfying all too often. The texture on this guy was a miss unfortunately.
Dirty Oscar's Annex is the sole competitor this year who is a veteran at MOG's Slider Cook-Off and got crafty with their stuffed lamb slider exploding with Mediterranean flavor. This guy was a tall order featuring a lamb patty stuffed with garlic, roasted red bell peppers, kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, oregano, basil, cucumber and  feta cheese then topped with tomato, cucumber, arugula and tzatziki, served on rustic ciabatta bread. While in theory it sounded amazing this mini sammie was TOO tall to dig into properly making it difficult to get a little bit of each component in every bite.

The Louisiana Red Slider was brought to you by Stanley and Seaforts. This mini guy was a napkin and fork required sort featuring a slow roasted and smoked pulled pork with a Louisiana red sauce and housemade coleslaw. Nom, nom, nom is my official thoughts. The meat was tender and delectable and with slaw made to order and a little kick lent from the red sauce I was in heaven.
Pinky's Kitchen is the first Seattle joint to join the slider shenanigans at MOG and brought the first breakfast slider I had seen contend. Pinkey's Scratch Made Breakfast Bomb with  housemade, locally sourced Shipwreck Honey Ham, Fried egg and Pineapple Habanero Béchamel on a their housemade Shipwreck Honey Jalapeño Corn Bread I was intrigued. Shipwreck honey is a local, single source Blackberry honey from Washington state and is injected in the featured ham  during the cure process. After noshing I was left on the fence with this one. While the sauce and the ham failed to bring the level of flavor I was anticipating from the description, the cornbread was out of this world. I'd even proclaim it the best cornbread I've ever had the pleasure of devouring.

Tacoma's The Valley is brought to you by X-Group and the Peterson Brothers, a partnership that almost guarantees culinary success. These guys brought a Sausage Bahn Mi featuring a sausage patty made with garlic, ginger, soy and fish sauce then topped that flavorful meaty goodness with pickled carrot, diakon, jalapeño, fresh cilantro and citrus mayo on potato bun. Though the competition was fierce, this sammie was heads above the rest with the perfect combo of uber fresh veggies and a juicy sausage patty sandwiched between to lovely little buns. I want some more and so did the other judges because these guys took home the big win. I mean seriously, just look at this little guy. It's wee burger perfection.

 And all of this is exactly why losing weight is hard.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


~Unpopular opinion time (followed by positive vibes)~

I think the word "blessed" is overused.
There I said it.

To feel "blessed" or "grateful" should be celebrated and recognized but to place a hashtag before it to accompany the most mundane of things cheapens it. To proclaim how blessed you feel ALL of the time makes you a humblebragger, which is almost worst than just plain ole bragging.
All that being said, I'm feeling pretty grateful, or even, dare I say, blessed for my Creative Colloquy adventure.

Now, to begin the humblebragging.

I reflect on CC almost obsessively and with the one year anniversary behind us, that obsessiveness has been heightened to a whole new level.

After party goodness occurred at local digs, Doyle's Public House. Those who chose to follow us down to continue the dialogue over drinks were welcomed by this. I didn't even expect a banner. How rad is that?

I imagine we all daydream about that journey, that project, that accomplishment, that thing we yearn to undertake. So much so, sometimes the daydreaming is all we are courageous enough to do.

Since I was just a wee one, writing and words has been a part of my life. The first story I remember writing was in the 1st or 2nd grade. It was about the Oregon Trail, from the perspective of a family's rocking chair being lugged around on the journey. It had a tumble or two, hell people even got sick and died in this epic adventure and from that time I was constantly writing. Angst-y teen prose, dark poems about the Holocaust (which the Language Arts teacher suggested be in the school paper, only to have the kids on the committee decline it for it's dark nature and go with something of mine more friendly to their fragile sensibilities). I was forced to read assigned writing projects out loud in class, which was the last thing I wanted to do.
The point is, I loved to write. I still love to write, though shadows of doubt linger at my lack of skill or creativity, even when I get to call writing my profession.

While I doubt myself, often, I play as an advocate to the literary arts. Nudging those who admire words as I do to remove themselves from the solitary action of writing and shed themselves of the protective cloak of anonymity by sharing their stories. Placing their dark fonts to the bright light of a cyberpage and then suggesting they take it a step to the next level by breathing life into those words just daring to speak them.
Out loud.
Into a microphone.
In a room full of their peers.

And every time it happens without fail my heart swells with, ugh....yes, gratitude. I feel an immense pride in what CC has become, not just for me and the opportunity to do work that I love while meeting the robust literary talent in the area and learning to hone my own craft but for what it is for those that come each month, whatever reasons that bring them. I'm proud that CC has managed to develop in the last year and help create a sense of community among a group of folks that can often be haunted by the same afflictions~the instinctual need that compels them to tell their stories and all of the side effects that comes with it.

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this journey. You literati. You listeners. You supporters from afar.
You all have a little chunk of my heart. I appreciate you something fierce.