a little help never hurts

This past Wednesday, I took a break from struggling to cook successfully on my own and visited a classmate, Domenica, for some cooking lessons.

She seems quite the culinary master (at least compared to someone like me, who has managed to burn boiled potatoes more than once) and uses her world travels to inspire weekly cooking sessions with her friend’s two kids. One, a seventh grader, seems like she’s probably smarter than me and a better chef.

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Still, I did my part and julienned some cucumbers and carrots for spring rolls. The process took me about 65 minutes longer than it should have, and the slices were still probably not thin enough, but eventually I got to a point where I was too ashamed to keep chopping.

These spring rolls were super easy and really delicious. We used rice paper wrappers to bind the ingredients together—with those, you just soak them in water for a couple of minutes to render them pliable and then carefully wrap them around your veggie slices, noodles, chopped peanuts, herbs, shrimp, tofu, and whatever else you have on hand. (Ooh, what if you wrapped them around bacon and chocolate and then deep fried them til they were no longer recognizable, and then topped them with powdered sugar?)

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Can you tell it’s that time of the month?

We also had shrimp wontons and tempeh. Domenica had picked up some items from a local Asian market, one of which was…grass jelly drink? If I’m remembering correctly. It was thick, brown, and slightly sweet, with cubed chunks of…something. Tapioca, or gelatin. Might be good with lots of vodka. Or poured into a glass next to a cheeseburger and then set aside indefinitely.

Domenica showed me around her home before I left, which she and her husband had decorated with eclectic works of art ranging from Picasso sketches to naive art to a fascinating postmodern art installation about slavery.

So like, I kind of want to be her when I’m older. I now have several things to add to the aspirational self list.

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In other news, my aspirational self and my real self have converged for one of the few times in recorded history through the practice of power yoga. This is essentially yoga, which is already hard as balls for someone as out of shape as myself, but sped up and heated so it feels just like torture. I’ve never sweat so much in my life. When we moved on to something called the “pro pose,” which is when people lift their hips and bent legs off of the ground using upper-body strength, I maintained the “dolphin pose” balanced on a foam block and actually started to laugh. I’m not sure why I was amused—maybe I was simply on the brink of insanity. The instructor kept not-so-discreetly mentioning “people who look like they don’t want to be here,” which I have to assume was me, since every 5 minutes I had to wipe a swamp of sweat off of my face in order to see.

I will say, though, that yoga has been awesome, and I’m just getting started. I do feel great when I finish—relaxed, more mentally clear, and like I’ve just had a really beneficial workout. I hope to continue for as long as I can!

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