“It’s a work in progress…but so is life.” -Thirteen (a quickly-spoken gem in the season premier of Doctor Who)
I made what I sometimes consider the mistake of reading Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food in December, and I couldn’t get it out of my head that I wanted to see what going all organic/non-processed food did for me specifically. So I made a month-long commitment to begin in the new year; hence, Just the Basics January. I can tell you that in the last 20 days, I have spent a LOT of time in the kitchen.
I actually had to start my plan a day late. I hit up the local farmer’s market and scored myself some fresh eggs and bacon (among other things), then stopped at the local health food store (shout-out to Living Earth) for some other items, including organic cheese (which I clearly cannot live without). I turned the mentioned items into a delicious and simple breakfast (while preserving the bacon fat–this will be important later):
That afternoon I got a request from a friend in need for dinner and a drink, which, based on the highly unusual circumstances of the situation, I agreed to, knowing I could return to my plan the following day. I downed a few Yuenglings and some boneless buffalo wings as my “last non-organic meal” (for a month). So I was half-organic on day one, and even more dedicated to the cause after that brief hiatus.
So day 2 rolls around, and I haven’t yet understood exactly what this lifestyle will entail. I go with a quinoa dish, because a cup of quinoa can feed a small country for a week and I have a few things that will blend nicely with it (e.g., spinach, red pepper). I eat this mush for dinner as well as lunch the following day. I then make a chicken, mushrooms & onions dish (but not marsala because marsala wine isn’t organic) that I then pair with the remainder of the quinoa split into two meals (dinner & lunch again).
I begin to realize there are no snacks. Nothing at all. No chips, no chocolate, nothing. I can’t live like that, so I use the second half of my “snow day” (which just means I work from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.) to make lots of things that I can have as snacks: pickles, granola “bars,” pretzels, and crackers in addition to a vat of lentil soup that I can then eat, reheat & eat, and freeze so that I’m not cooking meal-to-meal every single meal.
I was pleased with all of the results though they were each different than what I would typically make. The lentil soup was flavored differently (but the cumin taste was actually quite good!), the granola bars were absolutely delciously flavorful, the pickles were a little sweeter due to the use of rice vinegar, and the flatbreads-turned-crackers burned a little when I left them in the oven to “fully dry out.” What was probably most challenging in making all of these items was the shopping that preceded it (e.g., thanks to Wegmans, but that place is insane!) and then the time it took to do everything, which was easily five hours.
The next morning I tried my hand at almond meal pancakes. They were…interesting (but not bad)!
At some point, there was bread too. I don’t think I captured a photo of it, probably because it didn’t rise when I had expected, and after it did, my efforts to fit it back on the pan shrunk it back down and then it baked into a bit of a penis-shape. It looked ridiculous, but it tasted okay. I ultimately turned half of that loaf into bread crumbs:
I then used those bread crumbs and some shoots combined with onions and broccoli to make some tots.
By a week into this mess, I was not feeling the dry life (because that’s for February), so I hunted down a few alcoholic beverages touting the “organic” marketing. I found some cider, Crop Vodka, a bottle of red wine from Living Earth, and the absolute best:
I have been stocked with this $9/4 bottles beer the entire month, because it’s delicious.
Every time I used an onion, carrot, or similar veggie, I saved the skins, shavings, etc. and turned it all into a veggie broth with some seasonings, for later use.
That weekend I also visited Coopers Hilltop Farm (in Leicester) where I picked up a chicken and some heavy cream, which I transformed into:
The soup is “purple” because of the purple carrots I used…which I would not do again so as to avoid making gray soup ever again, lol.
SO apparently heavy cream turns into whipped cream and then into butter if you just shake it in a jar for 15 minutes. That shit is INSANE and AWESOME.
So that was the FIRST WEEK. That was more work than I’ve done in the kitchen than the entirety of 2017.
My enthusiasm for photographing my experience began to decline with my energy for continuing this project. I was getting sick, which may have been my body detoxing all of the crap I’ve eaten before the start of the year, or a reaction to no longer having the antibiotics in my meat (that started out as a joke with my friends, but has slowly evolved into a possibility), but I was lucky enough to have some food in the freezer to not have to spend as much time cooking. When I did though, I continued to use what I had, shop A LOT for more, and keep it creative. My supervisor handed me a delicata squash, a giant onion, and two handfuls of garlic as grown by his son, so I turned the squash into this, using some of the leftover bacon. It’s roasted squash & onion with a sweet dijon sauce and bacon.
I wanted to do something different with the butternut squash I’d grabbed from the farmers market, so I found an awesome 5-ingredient recipe for fritters that I quite perfectly fried in the bacon fat I’d been accumulating for the ultimate yum (maybe the best thing I’d made yet).
A few days later I turned some grass-fed beef into meatloaf (which was hard without ketchup or BBQ sauce) and fried/sautéed up some veggies with crushed red pepper and garlic to compliment the meatloaf and dijon squash.
Then I took some chorizo and cooked it in a homemade tomato sauce, then used the immersion blender to blend it into more of a bolognese style sauce and put it over organic wheat pasta.
I also used this excellent seasoning blend from Trader Joe’s to revamp my cracker recipe and make everything bagel crackers which are THE BEST. I’m still working on finding the middle between undercooking the middle and overcooking/burning them.
As I stayed sick for quite some time, when I started to feel better I added some of that Crop Vodka (and a drop of agave syrup) to my freshly juiced orange juice for maybe the best screwdriver I’ve ever drank.
(Note the second loaf of bread sitting to rise in the background.)
I was also missing like easy, everyday foods, so I found some “organic hot dogs” at TJ’s and combined those with a veggie blend (carrots, onions, mushrooms, potatoes) I made in an organic dressing purchased at Sherry’s when I visited my mom’s.
About a week ago I decided my dinky little food processor/immersion blender hybrid wasn’t cutting it anymore for what I was making (it was also starting to smoke at times), so used some Amazon credit from a phone trade-in to score this absolutely wonderful food processor. I don’t even care that I clean it daily or even several times a day.
So I made some pesto–to be saved for later.
I also made more bread crumbs (from that second loaf), and this time experimented with cheesy cauliflower tots, which are way better than the broccoli tots just based on the sheer fact that they are loaded with (organic) cheese.
And thus concludes the first 19 1/2 days of a 31 day project. It has taken a HUGE hit on my wallet, my free time (not that I’d be doing much of anything with that other than studying anyway), and my energy (I’m really still a tiny bit sick).
I absolutely love that I haven’t had any processed food in almost three full weeks. It just feels good in general. My appetite is naturally a lot better (read: I don’t want to eat every 45 minutes all day long), though continuing to drink alcohol changes that to some degree. I only miss food I used to eat when I can smell it (e.g., when one of my work moms gets Chinese food and taunts me with it since she previously gave me the 2nd half of her lunch just about every day). I appreciate this because I can typically look at whatever food people post about on the internet and not only not be appetized by it, but also feel a little pride in the fact that I’m not eating that crap and don’t really have a huge desire to. I won’t be able to afford this lifestyle once my 31 days is up, but I’m certainly going to re-think just how much of the processed crap I put into my body.
Until next time, eat up!
Received my MoviePass on Friday (10/6).
Sunday (10/8) went to the West Boylston theatre because it’s discounted ($6/movie) just in case MP didn’t work. It worked. All I had to do was “check in” from the parking lot, and then I swiped my card like a regular ol’ MasterCard to buy the ticket, then bam! Paid. For the record I saw The Dark Tower.
I went bigger tonight (Monday, 10/9) and tried my luck at my nearest Showcase. Same situation, same result, better value ($12.50). Now I am the only person in the theater as the LEGO NINJAGO movie begins. Oh, and because I combined my MP with my Starpass, I wound up ALSO getting a free movie ticket, so now I can pay for my next movie with someone here at Showcase. So far I already made my MP “worth it.” But I *am* wasting an awful lot of electricity by making the movies my own personal theater tonight. 🙂
More to come!
Over the last few days I’ve been “unliking” and “unfollowing” people & places that have any link to my life here in the Woo. I’m pretty much done. I’ve even plans to begin collecting boxes and packing things regularly from now until July 2018. I’m tied to a few volunteer events in the next 6 weeks or so, and I’ll do those things, but then I’m going to focus my efforts on getting my psychology license and preparing to move back to Philly.
Maybe I’ll make a little WBL (Worcester Bucket List), which would include the Botanical Garden, Wachusett Reservoir, Rein’s Deli (in CT), Brigham Hill, and a camping venture in the White Mountains (Mt. Washington? And preferably with Casey), maybe Tanglewood, The Big E (this weekend) and anything else I might have scribbled down somewhere as stuff I wanted to do while I was here.
I’ll have to post that anyone who wants to come visit should do so in the coming months before I can only be found in Philly again. This is kind of the biggest thing keeping me going. I may love my apartment with my whole heart, but I don’t like this place and it feels less and less like home, unlike what had happened with Philly, where it felt more and more like it. I can’t imagine my posts once I move away to be like, “Miss you too, Woo!” because, c’mon, there’s really nothing to miss here (save for a few people and my apartment). Looking forward to saying “Bye, Felicia!” as I drive away for good.
I have to laugh, mostly because I was thrown into real life before I had even hit my teens…I was suicidal at 13. But he wouldn’t know anything about that, because he was too busy telling me not to have feelings. I have fought/been fighting the urge and inclination to submit to BPD the entirety of my existence. I can’t have relationships because I either don’t believe I’m worth them, or I don’t believe any man can be faithful. But go ahead and believe that I’m out of touch with real life and that you had nothing to do with it. And please, continue to tell yourself that I’m the reason we “don’t speak.” Any responsible parent would disagree with you. DIAF.
My day began with securing my own Worcester Public Library card and in my travels I noticed some event-like commotion over at the Commons. As I asked the locals what was up (the Woo Challenge race, it turns out), I spotted my landlord and his son. I waited with them for his wife and daughter to catch up and cheered them on as they finished the obstacle course. It was nice to know someone (and actually like them) that I randomly ran into in the park.
From there I headed to work where I tried to finish mowing the courtyard (apparently the mower ran out of gas which is why our maintenance dude stopped mowing), took care of my plant babies, and cleaned out the fridge (to mitigate maintenance dude having to do it when asked). It took forever to scrub that thing down from top to bottom, but it looks like a brand new refrigerator/freezer and nothing expired is left in it. Here’s hoping that’s enough for the director to call off the “tossing everything in the fridge/freezer” dogs. Having lost one of our two maintenance dudes, I’m sure the remaining one will appreciate my efforts. I also dumpster-dove for the second fucking week to rescue a bunch of recyclable items (and bags of recycling from the bins around the office) and move them to the recycle dumpster THREE FEET AWAY. This needs to be fixed; what’s the point of having recycling bins and a dumpster if they’re not being used?!
Next stop was at a Worcester-Shrewsbury community event. The Facebook description promised local area tables promoting recycling, health, community gardening and the like (all things that are right up my alley), so I dropped by to check it out. It may have only been 6 tables, a food truck and a pet adoption trailer, but it was kind of perfect. I got to play with Jerry the adorable (and adoptable) pupface, who would have laid in my lap if I’d have let him. I grabbed a reusable bag from the Shaw’s lady, a basil plant from the owner of the Metro PCS shop (a/k/a the organizer of the event), a hot dog from the food truck, some health information for my kiddies at work, and a few fidget spinner/crayon/pencil packets for the kiddies at work as well. Metro PCS owner guy (whose name I don’t know if I even got) is from Forest Hills, Queens (NY) so we talked Long Island/New York for a few. I really hope he doesn’t lose his spirit having moved to Worcester the way that I did. I hope he’s successful and he continues to organize community-based events and he builds himself a niche here. This place just isn’t for me, but it’s serving a purpose in my life right now, and so I stay. And I find these things to do, and I enjoy myself in the interim.
I dropped all of my things off at home and made an executive decision despite having just consumed a hot dog off of a truck. I figured the final dinner shift (tonight) and the final brunch shift (tomorrow) at Sweet – Kitchen & Bar would be super-cray due to their permanent closing tomorrow. So I decided to try to squeeze myself into a 2-3 p.m. slot at the bar, assuming from my restaurant days that it wouldn’t be too busy at that hour. I was right. I was also there until after 4:00, regardless of the fact that the restaurant itself (but not the take-out cupcake bar) closes from 3-5.
Some of the things I learned during that time: Mr. Sunshine was more or less hired to “fix” some of the things that needed to change about the establishment so they could continue their success in the heart of the Woo, but unfortunately he was not able to do enough. He denied being “bummed” about it, but his facial expressions seemed to betray him. I named him Mr. Sunshine because he belongs in it–with a beach accompaniment. Everything about him silently screams “Cali” but he remains here–being a good dog dad and an even better human son. He doesn’t seem belong in the Woo and I think it’s making him sad. My initial impression after a quick Facebook stalk is that we’re probably very alike. Third-floor Triple Decker twins, at least, and non-Worcesterites (“this fuckin’ city” –see T.J. Miller’s stand-up special for comedic reference). His relatives in Vernon Hill likely live within blocks of me too. I likened him to a possible Worcester version of Ted. He’d probably make an excellent Woo-Ted but the biggest difference is that I bet he’d hit on me, whereas Ted never has. Quite possibly the only male friend I’ve ever had that didn’t? In any event, I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to do with his number, but I also kind of think he felt bad that I “had no friends” and gave it to me out of pity.
Anyway, a quick trip down Restaurant-Memory Lane ensued while I watched two employees discuss their plans for a small gift for Chef as the place closes forever. I’ve got money on them having slept together, but I suppose I’ll never know so the bet against myself is pretty moot. Restaurant politics are funny. Pretty Boy, however, was pretty cool and will likely excel at whatever he does. I get the sense he doesn’t really like his girlfriend though. Either she’s awesome in bed so he keeps her around or he likes drama (which I find kind of hard to believe), but I would never have guessed them to be together. She’s a wannabe-model-looking type that stays away from social media, and he’s a beard/tattoos/social butterfly. Maybe they’re perfect for one another; who knows.
The drink I chose (a “Handsome Joe” made with Chivas Regal, espresso syrup, lemon) and the meal (a brunch version of poutine) were great. The cupcakes I brought home were expensive (and I hope also great, though I couldn’t possibly eat them just yet). The hostess didn’t want to check to see if there were any more shirts, so I didn’t get to keep a little slice of Worcester’s history for when I book it out of here and save my soul.
I was going to try out Worcester’s Bingo scene tonight, but I still don’t have company and I’m not ready to go it alone. I can’t really figure out why, as some things I’m a-ok doing solo and other things I get very awkward when I think about being by myself. So I may just stay in…get some paperwork done, watch a movie, etc. I wanted to hit up the pool but it’s been cloudy and it’s too late in the day. I considered driving down to Providence for Water Fire, but I’m going to be doing a lot from Thursday – Sunday next week so I really think the best plan for now is to take it easy…for the body, brain, and wallet.
Bottom line is that I had a very Worcester-focused day and I noticed how hard this city is trying. One of the other people at the bar said it best though, when I overheard her say, “It’s definitely been changing, but it’s still Worcester.” And I think that’s what I can feel despite all of the efforts to…dare I say it…make Worcester great again?
…it’s not inaccurate. Several people on Twitter are saying the characters are exaggerated representations of non-functioning adults, and maybe that’s true, but it’s also kind of on point. I’m happy to pretend–in fact I spend a solid portion of my life pretending–that everything that happens in that show isn’t reflective of real life. The (sad?) truth is that it *is* real, and people who have an immediate angry and/or defensive reaction to the characters and their flaws are probably more in denial of the facts of the human condition than anything else. I also think it’s important to note that, yes, the characters can be assholes at times, and when together with one another they make choices that are reflective of who they were twenty years prior, but again–this is not an unrealistic experience. Further, they truly and honestly suffer from the push-pull of “growing up” and having a different life versus clinging to a time in their lives where they were invincible. I don’t care what you say (aloud), everyone has this internal battle, at different levels of conscious thought. So react however you choose about “Friends From College,” but the bottom line is that it’s pretty “woke” and if it gets canceled, that would just be more proof that the world isn’t ready to open their eyes and see one another for who we really are.