Sunday, October 24, 2010

Exhaustion and Stew

As the semester wears on, I find myself feeling the same exhaustion and apathy that completely derailed me this Spring: I'm tired, I'm feeling a little unmoored, I'm unmotivated, and I pretty much only want to sleep and party. None of this bodes well and I'm trying to get out of the funk by drinking lots of mood elevating tea blends and trying really, really hard to hit the gym on a regular basis. Part of me suspects that graduate school develops this hazy brain-cloud and makes people avoid things of interest because they don't want to do their work, but feel guilty doing anything else. I can't tell you how good I've become at staring off into space... I also am starting to feel the wear and tear of a small social circle, where most members are involved in relationships and projects and other circles that keep this circle from developing into the sort of bonded, warm, lovey-ness that all of us only children crave. We're community builders: Cantankerous, often selfish, and totally need to have artificial or real families around all the time. We like to live alone, but we want you to come for dinner. We need to be in a position to please a group, delight guests, and snuggle up to warm friendly bodies. The isolation of scholarship feels too much like those afternoons from our childhood when we just knew that all of our other friends were having backyard adventures, tumbling around with their siblings and neighbors in glorious laughter while we were sitting alone under a tree reading a book. And really, really would have preferred to be tumbling and laughing... 

That is, in fact, pretty much how I feel every time I sit down to read. I love reading, but also have sort of grown to hate it. Reading is a lonely activity. And, just as when I was 8, 9, 10...I am alone so much of time. I'd rather be around people, laughing and talking and dancing or whatever. I can remember, with perfect clarity, the last time that I really, really enjoyed reading. I was in bed with a boyfriend. It was summer. We were both wearing enormous band t-shirts, tanned, tired, and relishing the fan's cooling breezes as we sipped iced tea, read our big novels (Umberto Eco writes more than theory) and soaked in the warm, sweet smell coming in through the open windows. Some people aren't very good at reading in tandem, but this particular ex was excellent at it. He never interrupted, except to press feet or offer a tea refill or occasionally get up leaving with nary a word, just one of those back of the head kisses that some people are so good at giving. It was like reading was quality time that we spent together, we'd often wake up after a good night in bed with books and talk about the stories spinning in our heads over decadent home-made brunches. While most of our relationship was rather lackluster, I miss the reading and hope to someday meet someone with whom I can read again.

I've been making a concerted effort to do things I like to do more often, namely going to shows. In the last two weeks I've seen Deerhunter and Four Tet, both of which are musical acts that get deep into my bones and rattle my muscles and clear my head only to fill it with big imaginings. Tuesday, my lovely friend Rachel and I are going to see Gary Numan. I anticipate that we will have an excellent time. 

Anyway, in preparation for attempting to blog 5 days a week this November as part of VeganMoFo, I'm trying to warm back up to the blog. I've been busy and abnormally sleepy and eating a lot of salads, so I haven't had much to share on the food front. Though, as the weather gets cooler, my Irv and Shelly's box becomes more heavy with squash and I recently re-visited one of my absolute favorite recipes: Madhur Jaffrey's Chickpea, Pumpkin and Raisin Stew. It might be in my top five favorite things to eat. I mean...just look at it, even in a terrible iPhone photo it's a sight to behold and it is JAM-packed with nutritious and delicious and the recipe makes a lot, like enough to serve 8. So, no arguing, make this instead of a pie the next time you find yourself puzzling over a sugar pumpkin. I serve it with a rose-scented cous cous which I think really takes the whole thing to the next level. In fact, its so good that I challenge you to eat just one bowl. I'm pretty sure that its impossible.

Chickpea, Pumpkin and Raisin Stew (Very slightly adapted from World Vegetarian)

1t ground ginger
1t ground cumin
1t ground paprika
1/4t ground tumeric
1/4 t cayenne

3 T olive oil
1 cinnamon stick

1 medium onion, peeled and cut into fine half-rings

3 medium tomatoes chopped and peeled (or one can of chopped tomatoes with the juice drained)
2 cups cooked chickpeas
2 cups roasted pumpkin (about one small-medium pie pumpkin, roast it cut side down for about 45 minutes and then just scoop it out into bite size pieces)
3 T raisins
3.5 cups vegetable stock
salt to taste

1 cup zucchini cut into 1/2" dice
2 T finely chopped cilantro (+ more for garnish)
2 T finely chopped parsely (+ more for garnish)

Heat the oil in a good sized soup pot, when hot add the cinnamon stick and fry it for 2- 3 minutes. When the stick is fragrant, add the onion and cook for 3- 4 minutes until medium brown.

Add the ground spices, stir, and quickly add the tomatoes and cook for 3- 4 minutes. When the tomatoes are soft, add the chickpeas, pumpkin, raisins, stock and salt. Bring to a simmer and cook covered at low heat for 15 minutes. 

Uncover and add the zucchini and chopped herbs and let them cook until just tender. You want the zuchini to still be a little al dente. 

Rose-scented cous cous with pistachios and raisins
1 box instant cous cous
2 cups filtered water
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup shelled roasted and salted pistachios
1 t rosewater
1 T olive oil
1 handfull chopped parsley (or mint)

Bring the water and oil to a boil in a small pan. Remove from the heat and add the cous cous and raisins. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes until cous cous is cooked. Add the rose water and then fluff with a fork and garnish with nuts and parsely. 

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