Saturday, July 16, 2011

On several verbs

If School House Rock taught me anything it was that Inter Planet Janet was a "galaxy girl", pronouns take the place of a noun, interjections are things like "HEY!" "OUCH!" and "WOW!", and something about adjectives. Unfortunately, the whole verb thing never seemed to stick.

But after years and years of being embarrassed to play add libs ("I TOLD you what a verb is 5 SECONDS ago!") it finally stuck.

Verbs are a person, place, or THING, right?

I kid. I promise. I know verbs are. Grammar has NEVER been my strong point. Maybe that's why I will never be a real writer.

Moving on. I would like to dedicate this post to a number of simple, but well loved verbs. Verbs I have come to cherish over the course of my 24 years of existence.

First, my hat goes off to READING. Thank you, my friend, for presenting me with years and years of fond memories and page after page of magnificent new worlds and emotions to explore. In the past, when people ask me what my genre is, I would fall back on Science Fiction and Fantasy. Most of my youthful reading was predominated by Star Wars novels, the Dune series, and of COURSE, stories of magic. More recently, it's been harder to label myself with a genre. For the most part I would say that I prefer fiction. I do still love stories of the fantastical and slightly unbelievable. But lately, my tastes have begun to change. Many of you who have spoken with me lately know that though I still accept suggestions for Fiction, I have been wandering into the realm of non-fiction. Something I thought I would NEVER do. Who wants to read about real life? You live it, don't you? What's SO interesting about someone else's take on things? I think my change of heart has mostly come about because of this: In my life before now, I was steeped in education based activities that were meant to stimulate the growth of my brain. What better way to escape that than to venture into someone else's fictional world? But now that I have completed my formal education for the time being, I find that my brain craves nourishment. Lets face it. Even books like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and The Chronicles of Narnia (which have WONDERFUL and MEANINGFUL everlasting themes of love, faith, and good versus evil) are ultimately brain candy. BETTER brain candy than things like cookie cutter murder mysteries and romance novels. So lets call them brain fruit instead. But just like our bodies can't survive on fruit alone, so my mind has found that it needs the brain PROTEIN and CALCIUM that it's been force fed it's whole life and is now lacking.

There. That's my long winded analogy. I still love fiction. I still want fruit. Fruit is GOOD for me. Good for my imagination. But I am taking a break from fruit. So what am I reading now?

-On Writing: A memoir of the craft by Stephen King
-In Defense of Food: An eater's manifesto by Michael Pollan
-The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tova Bailey

You know, I got the first two from THE LIBRARY? I can't REMEMBER the last recreational book I got from the Library. Honestly, I have a problem with buying books. I buy books even though I have not read them, assuming they are going to be good. That's why I DO in fact own the first three Twilight books (do I own the last one? Now I can't remember. I must remember to sell those). ALSO I have also had the advantage of having free book exchanges nearby.

But no more. TODAY, I got a library card. And I tell you, it makes me feel more at home here than I have up to this point. It kind of TIES you to a place, you know? I like it. I'd forgotten the feeling. Of browsing the stacks with nothing but leisure on your mind. Not desperately searching for that book you need to finish that paper. Of finding the book you are looking for. The feel of it in your hands as you carry it home. And the excitement and urgency you feel to GET STARTED IMMEDIATELY because you know you only have to book for a limited time. It was WONDERFUL. Remind me to ALWAYS have a library card for the place I am living.

So, THANK YOU, reading. I have rediscovered you and I now remember how much I love you.

Next, I would like to give a shout out to WRITING. My dear, old friend-you have been my companion through COUNTLESS emotional journeys. The ups, the downs, the awkwards. I've had a hard time really writing things here in Maine. I admit that this might have something to do with Instant Netflix. It is my downfall. But again, I go back to that brain candy analogy. I've been STARVING the creative and thoughtful part of my brain. I've been gorging on the sweets of the entertainment world. But now I feel this need to ENRICH myself. To EXPAND myself. To FINISH something. So I picked up the old pages of "The Bear Brook Massacre" and began writing again. I've made some edits. I've felt inspired. I've taken strides. And I've gotten farther in a piece of writing on this than I have on ANYTHING in a long time. It feels good. At the same time, it's all on paper in scribbles and I have gotten WAY behind on transcribing it onto the computer. And the more I put on paper, the further I get and the more it stresses me out, thinking about typing it all. Small steps, I suppose. I really DO feel that I write myself into well being.

Thank you, writing, for re-entering my life and inspiring me again.

Now a verb I passed over many times in the context of a noun. The noun is Music. The verb is listening. Since I have talked a lot about how music has been shaping my experience here, I will be brief on Music. (Sorry, Listening. I LOVE you, but it just makes SO much more sense to use a noun rather than a verb in this case). My ears have been overjoyed in the past week or so. I got two new CD's. One is "An airplane carried me to bed" by Sky Sailing-the PRE recordings of the guy who is Owl City. The second is the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 soundtrack. BOTH are amazing. I have already listened to them all the way through MANY times. One gets me to work and back again. The other feeds my musical soul.

I spent Thursday and Friday listening to ALL the Harry Potter soundtracks. It's funny, but I still don't own books 4 and 5, I own NONE of the films, but I have ALL of the soundtracks now. That says something about me, I guess. Music fills me. It touches the deepest emotions within me. It ENHANCES the read and write verbs as well as the view verb. Notes strung together in perfect strains can bring the most COMPLEX emotions. To appreciate and understand music is a blessing. To be able to CREATE it is nothing short of divine.

Which brings me briefly to my next verb, play. This is in reference to the music noun again. in addition to my guitar, I now have a snazzy strap, a capo, and several half-learned songs under my belt. And this too brings me joy. There is nothing better than finally getting your fingers trained to reach that chord. Or getting that sequence of chords right and in rhythm. It's electrifying!

Next is one I am REALLY ecstatic-COOK! Oh boy, COOK. You have taken my world by STORM. I've still got a LONG way to go, but I am ADDICTED to you!!

I now have two new recipes that I want to try a week. They are all logged on my calender for the rest of my time in Maine. I don't know if I will get to all of them, but so far so good. In fact, let me present to you the two new recipes I tried this week!

First: Sweet Potato, Red Pepper, and Black Bean Enchiladas.

I got the recipe from THIS site. But altered a few things. So here is MY recipe.

Red Pepper Sauce
-1 c. Whatever broth you have at the time (I used onion soup broth because it was what I had and it worked fine.) You can go for low sodium, veggie, or BEEF. Whatever. I don't think it will matter all that much.
-1 TBS of corn starch
-1 generous cup of chopped roasted red peppers (roast them yourself or buy them, whatever)
-3 cloves of garlic, minced. (add as much garlic as you WANT. I LOVE GARLIC)
-1 tsp of chili powder (I omit the cumin. *shudder*)

Combine all ingredients in a small pot and stir on medium heat until thick and bubbling.

-2 c. Black beans (cooked in ONIONS! Only if you like them that way. But they DO need to be cooked and drained)
-4 cloves of garlic minced (you can always add MORE you know. GARLIC!!!!)
-Fresh lime juice (The recipe says from one large lime. I say go crazy. Lime is like garlic. IT'S AMAZING.)
-2 heaping cups of diced cooked sweet potatoes
-1/2 c. of diced roasted red peppers
-1/2 tsp of chili powder (again, I omit the cumin. Feel free to add 1/2 of tsp. of that as well if you can stomach it.)
-Salt and pepper to taste
-2 tablespoons of fresh chopped PARSLEY (Okay, the recipe calls for *bleeeech* cilantro. Like cumin, my taste buds have a hard time with this spice. No matter HOW hard I try to love it, I can't. It tastes like soap.)
-8 corn tortillas
-1/2 c. of shredded Monterey Jack cheese
-2-4 tbs of oil (veggie or olive or whatever kind you prefer)

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Choose a baking dish that would hold 8 rolled enchiladas. Make your Quickie Green Chile Sauce. Set aside.

In the meantime, for the Enchilada Filling, using a mixing bowl, combine the drained black beans with minced garlic and lime juice. Toss to coat the beans and set aside.

In a separate bowl combine the cooked sweet potatoes with the chopped red peppers; add the spices. Season with sea salt and pepper.

Pour about 1/4 cup of the Quickie Green Chile Sauce into the bottom of the baking dish.

To assemble the enchiladas, grab a skillet and heat a dash of oil. Lightly cook the corn tortillas to soften them, one at a time, as you stuff each one.

Lay the first hot tortilla in the sauced baking dish; wet it with the sauce. Spoon 1/8 of the sweet potato mixture down the center. Top with 1/8 of the black beans.

Wrap and roll the tortilla to the end of the baking dish. Repeat for the remaining tortillas. Top with the rest of the sauce. Top with a sprinkle of shredded Monterey Jack cheese.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the enchiladas are piping hot and the sauce is bubbling around the edges.

Sweet, savory, just a LITTLE spicy. Perfect. In MY opinion much better than it would have been with the green chili's. WOO. Go sweet potatoes!

Second: Zucchini Pizza

From THIS site.

This one is more simple. Basically, you need either a ROUND zucchini or a LARGE regular zucchini. Something that is going to give you nice large round slices. You need pizza sauce (homemade or canned or jarred. I prefer homemade with lots of FRESH herbs.) Shredded cheese of some kind. I PREFER mozzarella, but all I had was Parmesan and the Monterey Jack from the Enchiladas. And then TOPPINGS. Whatever you want. I don't have precise quantities because I winged it with what I had. The recipe I got this from grills the zucchini, adds the topping and puts it back on the grill to cook the toppings and the cheese. *I* only had a toaster oven. So put the toppings on the zucchini and put in the toaster oven under "broil" for 15 minutes. And it turned out GREAT. Pizza? LOVE. Zucchini? LOVE. These are PERFECT little round discs of pizza flavored veggie wonderfulness.

There. Two recipes.

Back to verbs. What DO all these verbs have in common? I will tell you.

All these verbs can be summed up in one SUPER verb. One that has changed my life this year. One that is intoxicating, exciting, time consuming, and a little frightening all at the same time.

That verb is EXPLORE.

I've been exploring myself. Exploring my skills. Exploring new talents. Exploring joys, tastes, interests, LIFE. A new world.

DISCOVER is another good verb. Discovering myself. Discovering Maine. Discovering VERBS.

Verbs: They're what's happening.


Peeser said...

I LOVE that last line!

Good verbs.

If you didn't use so many vegetables I didn't like, I'd be more inclined to try those recipes. Despite that, they look pretty amazing! I'm glad they turned out well for you.

Interesting analogy, even if I don't happen to agree with it entirely. I do agree that our reading diets should be a bit more well-balanced than we usually make them, but I'm not sure I agree that fiction is the fruit and non-fiction the proteins/calcium, etc... I'd argue that quality and significant, mental substance are what make the book- fiction or non-fiction- meaty, not the genre. A poorly written non-fiction book can be just as fluffy and "brain candy"-ish as any fiction book can be. I would say that there are plenty of fiction books out there that challenge your brain just as much, sometimes more, than a lot of non-fiction.

That being said, there is some great non-fiction that sadly gets untouched because people seem to generally be afraid of the word "non-fiction," as though they equate "non-fiction" with "boring." Which is NOT true.

A couple of non-fiction books that I ended up really liking (a bit unexpectedly because I am generally not into politics) are The Prince, by Niccolo Machiavelli and Common Sense by Thomas Paine. I'd recommend them to anyone, most especially because they have many profound thoughts that provoke the mind to higher thinking.

(Okay, stepping down from the soapbox.)

Peeser said...

(Oh, and since you're exploring other people's takes on the world, read Dave Barry. Some of THE funniest "non-fiction" you'll ever read!)

Blog Archive