Wanting and Getting and What's In Between

Thursday, October 23, 2014


Wanting is easy.

We want all the time.

It drives us to reach farther and work harder. Wanting brings out our best qualities, rough and sharp to the touch, and makes us polish them until their brightness blinds us. Wanting also brings out our worst. Jealousy and rage clawing at our guts, grey matter, and speech leaving us empty and often alone. Wanting allows us to endure - to face challenges and accomplish feats we never knew we could overcome. Wanting also breaks us down. We cry, we wonder why we aren't worthy and why our friends and co-workers and the bitches we hate are so damn lucky to get what they want. Wanting makes us forget that they probably suffered through want too, and we both empathize and forget this in waves of fluid coherence that change like the tide. Wanting makes us wonder how those other motherfuckers that came before us somehow wanted more. Wanting makes us freak out when yet another obstacle gets in the way. Wanting gives us the hammer needed to obliterate that obstacle, or at least make a hole to crawl through assuming we don't just walk around it. Wanting makes us move. Wanting makes us hopeful for the future and irritable at the present.

It's the getting.

Getting is hard.

Let's take an example...

My writing partner, Stephanie Stiavetti is quitting her job, picking up and moving to France for a month for charcuterie classes and then moving to Chicago for pastry school for six months.

Because this will make her happy and help lead her to her ideal career.

This is a perfect example of wanting so hard that she achieved the getting.

And please, read into that previous sentence. The getting required work, and dedication, and worrying, and freaking out, and long conversations over the phone, and second guessing, and making plans for a year from now before making plans for next month let alone next week.

Getting also required leaps of faith that paid off.

It demanded perseverance.

It needed hope that things will work out.

It insisted on a sound game plan that was well thought out mixed with a tinge of fuckitall.

And you know what? She got what she wanted. She's off to cleave up sides of bacon on a rural farm outside Paris before learning to make sugar sculptures and wedding cakes.

Getting is hard.

So now, I need to go back to my wanting so I can strive for my getting. 

Things I Forgot About Working in a Professional Kitchen

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

-200 Pippin apple tarts with prune-brown sugar compote and cinnamon sugar. Served with apple cider butterscotch, mascarpone sabayon, and almond crumble. Sabayon and crumble not pictured because I had to finish plating these bastards for service.-

1. Working on your feet for a 14 hour shift is hard. Running around kitchens, brushing tarts with egg wash, teaching culinary students, and running under the orders of a lot of captains can really work you out. This ordeal is made intensely more difficult when your husband has co-opted your old kitchen clogs as his work shoes, resulting in them becoming warped and no longer fitting for your feet. This results in feet that are covered in so many callouses and bruises your feet turn as purple and swollen as a fresh summer plum.

2. It's said that you can consider yourself an expert at something once you've put 10,000 hours of work into it. This may be true but professional kitchens do offer crash courses that certainly count for at least a 1000 hours in the space of a single shift. For example, take peeling apples. You've probably peeled scores of them in your lifetime. However, you will find a noticeable uptick in skill and speed after you stand there for three hours peeling, coring and slicing 200 of those fall season fuckers.

My top time to peel, core, and slice an apple into 24 wave thin wedges? 17 seconds. I didn't cut my hand once.

Whole Foods Pie Chart

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Spice Jungle

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


So I finally get to reveal to you all a major project I've been working on. For the last year I've been collaborating with the people at Beanilla to open a new online spice store: Spice Jungle.

Now this isn't a paid post. This is simply me bragging about some contract work I did with them. Work that I'm incredibly proud of. Plus, the team I got to work with was so amazing, knowledgeable and professional.

The job? Write the creative copy for over 1000 products. Unlike other online spice shops that simply list ingredients and their basic usage Spice Jungle aimed to create a site with gorgeous visuals, fresh products, and engaging writing that went against the norm. Having had a great working relationship with Beanilla, they gave me a ring.

It was an intense task. Every week a box with about 40 spices, mushrooms, teas, chiles, coffees, sugars, salts, peppers, and so on arrived. Have you ever worked with annatto seed or amchoor powder or cubeb pepper? I hadn't.

There was a lot of trips to the library, and I bought plenty of research books and encyclopedias. I even had to translate a 1200 year old Germanic text with the help of a university professor to learn about a unique type of pepper. I hadn't crammed that much since my GRE exams and was beating my head against some old trig textbooks.

Still I learned a lot and the descriptions came out great! Take this example for Grains of Paradise:

Teaser: Plenty of ego and an air of mystery. Like Mr. Gatsby, there’s a lot of show masking rather humble beginnings.

Description: A truly lavish name for what has historically been seen as a mere substitute. Grains of Paradise have gone by the geographically accurate name, Guinea pepper, and the more bestial moniker of alligator pepper. However, if you wanted to give it a name that reflected how most of the world has treated it then it should be called It’ll Do Pepper. It’s a shame considering how intriguing it is.

When black pepper was truly the spice that defined the spice trade – and, to be frank, still does – Grains of Paradise began to be brought by caravan from Guinea and Ghana. It was used as a replacement spice when black pepper was unobtainable and cubeb berries were still a few centuries away from being a real competitor. It never really found a proper home, even amongst its native African origins. It is still used in West Africa, Ghana, and Guinea to some extent. Oddly enough, Scandinavia has an affinity for it, but only as a flavoring for akvavit.

We say it’s a shame because Grains of Paradise are a rather intriguing spice if not for the inflated sense of self. They’re technically related to cardamom, but have more of a pepper flavor. Hot, pungent, and spicy but you’ll definitely notice a fruity-cardamom flavor. Yet it’s still rather timid amongst burlier flavors of actual black pepper and cardamom, and as such should be treated as a subtle pepper or a baking spice.

Grains of Paradise are popular in spice blends and for flavoring alcohol. However, a growing number of people are beginning to use it as a substitute for black pepper. If you’re into home brewing then this is a godsend. It won’t overpower your brews with a kick in the shin of spice and is easier to control. In addition, alcohol has a fine way of bringing out the more unique flavors.

So there it is. This is a bigger example, but essentially you should be able to learn about a spice's history and lore, as well as how to use it.

I hope you all go check out Spice Jungle and give it a look. 

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