Archive for baking

Love, labor, lost

Posted in New York with tags , , , on September 17, 2013 by ana

It’s been a long time since I sat down to write. I stopped writing because I started to feel like the posts I was writing were getting repetitive but also because I decided to move to New York, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about writing that down. When I realized I had to move it felt like if I wrote it I had somehow given up on Paris. So I didn’t write at all and now so many things have happened that is hard to know where to begin. So here is where I left off. During my last two months in Paris I

– finished my five weeks of pastry school.

– had a fling with a boy from LA visiting Paris. We went dancing, ate palmiers from different bakeries in the Marais for breakfast, kissed in the middle of the street late at night, and had an oyster bacchanalia.

– moved, again.

-spent a quiet, magical christmas eve with my mom.

-felt sad to be alone on New Year’s but danced until five in the morning at Rosa Boneheur with some fabulous frenchy friends.

-walked myself home in the rain from Parc Butte Chaumont to Chatelet at five in the morning on New Year’s day.

-spent afternoons in Montmarte with my friend Joey going for arepas or to the movies after buying candy from a chubby french lady who wore her hair in two braids.

-went to San Sebastian with my friend Kelly. Where I made dessert for my friends supper club and ate so much delicious food that I still think about.

-had a magical night at the Louvre watching the Marina Abramovic documentary.

-had the most perfect going away party in my friend Cleo’s insane hotel room overlooking the Tuileries with the Eiffel Tower twinkling at a distance.

I decided to move to New York as I finished my written exam for pastry school. The same voice that said I should move to Europe popped back in my head and said, what are you thinking trying to open a business in Paris there is still so much you need to learn. Grow up. Go home.

I wish I had kept up my writing because so many memories of those last month are coming back as I type this. Including how strange and comforting it felt to go to the embassy when I had to get some papers signed. How many ham and cheese galette with a bowl of cider lunches I had mourning my departure, how the sun never came out for the entire month of January and I spent 90 percent of that month completely alone walking along the seine, watching movies in my apartment, and trekking to Monoprix.

I miss Paris. I think about it almost every other day. I miss the rhythm, my friends, the supermarket. I was never a girl who dreamed of going to Paris. I was just a girl who wanted to live in Europe and in the end Paris completely stole my heart. Sometimes I can’t believe I did it. It seems like a dream. Like a movie of someone else’s life. Others I can’t believe I didn’t try harder to stay.

But as soon as I arrived in NY it felt like the right decision was made. NY welcomed me with the open arms of an old friend. She said, welcome back, pull up a chair, stay a while, stay forever perhaps.  Many times in the last seven months I wanted to write something here but didn’t. Now it feels like too many details to fill in. Within a week of being back I had a job and a great apartment. What ensued since has been intense, endurance building, at times extremely lovely and rewarding, and at others sad and maddening.

There was a boy and for a brief second I thought- wow! But in the end he had many pieces but not all the right ones. It was amateur hour on my part. I got burned. I felt foolish. And all of it by my own hand. Dealing with that part and looking at myself in both an introspective and forgiving way has proven to be a hard task.  Specially because I feel lonely and it vexes me.
I’m not sure how to make peace with the feeling and with how my choices have deposited me in them. I have chosen a career that gives me a weird schedule. I have moved many times leaving behind communities I loved and built. I can only be me but what am I doing right and what am I doing wrong. The only word I can think of that perfectly describe how I feel is abysmal. Not because I feel extremely bad. I feel simply bad but it carries a tunnel like feel to it.
Is it all the changes and transitions that have ocurred in the last two years that leave me feeling unstable? Is it my looming birthday?  My biological clock? The simple desire to share my life with someone?  This part of my life is driving me bananas in a way it never did when I was younger. And I know I have to reseign myself to it but it is incredibly hard. I felt like this around my last birthday too- a weepy, needy puddle. I have never been that girl but I feel such deep frustration at life not giving me what I think I need and it feels helpless.

One of the biggest lessons as of late has been that things are not a choice that once made just happens. Patience, discipline, commitment these are not words that once chosen one suddenly embodies. I don’t know why I always thought that and why I never believed myself capable of them. These words, these choices, along with many others occur as a constant dialogue. We don’t wake up everyday feeling these feelings but rather, often but not always, need to go looking for them within us. Sometimes they become second nature and sometimes we need to find stronger, clearer definitions of them.

I have worked harder these last months than I ever have in my life. I have never been poorer. And I have come to the realization that it makes sense (somewhat) that people in kitchens make so little. It’s a test of endurance and love.
Right now, as I write this, I feel such deep sadness and loneliness. Maybe it’s because I can’t stop thinking of my sister who is in rehab, and I feel such sorrow, confusion, anger, and despair that I can barely talk about it. Or maybe it’s because I started a new job, and like any new job, it’s not exactly how I envisioned and I hoped it would be.
Right now, and for the last few weeks, there is a darkness that I can not seem to shake. I’m tired of these moments but know there is nothing to do but live them. I think this is a test of surrender. To just have faith, to will myself to have faith, that I will fall in love again, that I will find a life and community in NY, that I won’t always be broke or feel lost.  I am longing to weather these storms and feel a sense of triumph and accomplishment but all I can do right now is put my head down and work.

Land ho!

Posted in paris with tags , , on November 19, 2012 by ana

For a long time I felt like I had cast myself off from the shore in a small boat and was drifting at sea. In Spanish there is saying- hay que dar le tiempo al tiempo, which translates to you have to give time time. When my relationship was just starting to fall apart Elle said to me, you have to wait until the tornado passes and see where the pieces land. Then you can start from there. I feel like I have been walking in the rubble for a long time. At times I found things that delighted me, small treasures among the debris, and others I saw only destruction.

How long does it take to get over someone? Who knows. I’ve known people who cling to relationships that lasted a year, and I’ve seen people walk away from nine year relationships relatively unscathed. My friend Bree says fully getting over a relationship takes half the time you were in it, and I always thought you had to live each season and holiday spent together apart. Whatever it is everyone has their own timing. It can’t be rushed. You just wake up one day and feel different or maybe, like me, you just feel like yourself again.

There have been so many lovely, fun, downright magical moments these past two years that to say I have been depressed almost feels like an insult to them. I couldn’t have been depressed all the time. Yet, there was often a layer of sadness under everything. It’s still lingers but more as a memory than anything else. More as a feeling of whoa, what did I just emerge from!

All this time I have thought I am one lucky girl to be in Paris but I didn’t exactly feel it-until now. These days I sit in my French class, look out the window and feel ecstatic to be here. Paris is just so pretty. The ornate balconies and windows of the buildings across the street from my classroom literally make my heart sings. I walk around truly, finally, feeling that I am here.

In observing the city I find myself thinking a lot about acting. Specially, when I am on the  metro. Watching people’s gestures, postures, and expressions brings me back to acting class over and over. Both to what I loved about it and the places where I held myself back. It is so interesting to explore different mediums but some just aren’t quite the right fit even if they fascinate us. Those classes, Los Angeles, they feel distant but ever so present. There was so much that was idyllic.

In the past weeks I’ve started to see that in part I left because of heartache. Even if the main reasons for moving where my vagabond spirit, my desire to live abroad, and a strong gut feeling that moving to Europe would be very good for me. I also just needed a clean break.

And it is finally, truly, starting to feel like new beginnings. The future feels like it is rushing forward even if I have no idea what is going to happen. It feels like everything is coming together somehow and in the right way. In French class the other day, as part of an exercise someone asked `a quel âge devient-on  un adulte?, and I thought 39.

I start school tomorrow, not classes, actual school with an orientation, a proper first day, and exams. I am excited. I feel confident and inspired, grounded and expansive, and it is a feeling that spills into everything. It is going to be crazy hard, a pastry bootcamp. Three months of school condensed into five weeks. I hope it is everything I want it to be. Maybe it won’t be as I imagine but it feels like the best next step.

 

Burgundy is slowly and steadily stealing my heart.

Posted in Burgundy, paris with tags , , on July 12, 2012 by ana

I should say France is stealing my heart. So far, Baune has been a dream. I have to pinch myself. So often we worry about the unknown. I know I have devoted a lot of anxious minutes throughout my days to the possibility of loss, failure, and pain but if we are going to worry about the obstacles and clouds that life inevitably brings at the very least we should devote equal time in awe of the sweet surprises, lucky breaks and magical coincidences that occur.

I have been here two weeks. Most days I’m in bed by ten. I think I’m making up for my horrible jet-lag. I wake up do yoga, drink coffee, then head over to the school. I love the women I am working for. They are sweet and generous, love food and wine, and have an adventurous spirit that I always find attractive in people. The days are long but lovely. The space we spend most of the time in, the atelier, is light-filled and pretty.

Last Thursday I was off for the day and met up with an old High School friend who was in Burgundy. He took me to a rehearsal for the final concert in a music festival a couple of towns over. We sat in an old building that could have easily been at one point a church or some sort of barn or armory and watched as musicians from the Met and from all over played Mozart. I have never seen a rehearsal like that before. When I was a kid I would sometimes go with my mom to the rehearsals of the small theater company she helped run. Later, in acting class, my weeks were filled with rehearsals for our scenes. Rehersals are so interesting. They are labs. This one of course was completely different. It was at a completely different level, and the energy was so interesting. I started to sort of see what it is a conductor really does and wondered what it would be like to hear the world through any of their ears. A mezzo-soprano sang twenty-feet away from me and it was amazing to hear voice and see how the music flowed through her body. She had the confidence of being an instrument.

My days in Burgundy are so different from my days in Paris. I work for ten hors or so then I’m off, alone. I have no internet connection in my apartment, and it’s really quiet here at night. I am really enjoying the solitude. The world right now revolves around food, reading, and sitting with my feelings and thoughts. Before I left Paris Bree said to me, “If this was your Eat, Pray, Love then I think you are about to step into the pray part of the program.” I think she was right. There is a lot running though my mind these days. I think about how to temper the indulgent side of me with discipline. I think about balance, about finding a middle point and not going so back and forth in extremes. I have a feeling that that is how I will always be, and I think about the best possible ways to make peace with it.

I was in Paris this past weekend moving my things from one apartment to another. I am loving Burgundy but I also love Paris. It was wonderful to return. To walk around and stumble upon gorgeous chocolate stores and flower shops. My cousin Carolina was visiting and we ran around Paris eating one delicious meal after another. It was raining most of the time but it didn’t matter. I bought patchouli, violette, and opopanax votives at diptyque, and violet, and smokey earl grey teas at Kusmi. I’m having a romance with all things violet right now.

My new apartment is on the 20th, which feels so far away but I like the neighborhood and the apartment is full of windows. It’s on the top floor so there is a great view of the neighborhood’s rooftops, and the trees tops at Pere Lachaise. At a distance you can see part of the Eiffel Tower.

Just as it was before I left, I felt a sadness I couldn’t quite shake. This is going to sound ridiculous because how much can you care for someone that you knew for a month or two but that French boy still haunts my heart. It catches me off guard. I’ve tried to make sense of it. I’ve tried to figure out how someone could swoop in, shower me with exactly what I needed, then swoop out. How someone seemingly wrong could step in and fill my heart for just a moment and then be completely gone. When he left I felt sad and his departure highlighted all the loss of the last years. There is a part of me that feels that I’m really truly over Leo. That I have fully stepped by myself beyond the self that I grew into being when we were together. Of course, I suppose, that you never truly get over anyone until you fall in love again.

I think the French guy came in to show me some things I wasn’t seeing. And I think there are people in your life that for whatever reason change you. I have had this experience with men and women. It has nothing to do with sex or attraction or romance. There are people, sometimes this can even happen with strangers, you see something in them and it changes you and you never forget them. It happened to me on the train back from Paris. I was watching a boy, who was maybe twelve, with his grandmother. His face was so animated and sweet. There was something very proper and kind and wholesome about him. It was easy to see his expressions translating into his twenties and thirties, into his seventies as well. Whatever essensce was inside that person captivated me. Sometimes something as simple as a boy on a train can leave a mark in you.

I think all the cooking and solitude of the next weeks will carve something interesting in me. I’m feeling inspired. I’m so enamored by nature, by the mid-afternoon hail storms, and by the wildflowers and golden fields with bails of hay. As I write this I’m sitting behind my apartment on a picnic table. Butterflies and bees flutter and buzz around me.

I think this is the perfect place to be right now. I feel ready to let go of the past and step into this world of food that calls me. It has always intrigued me but I now can put it more clearly into words. I am closer to defining what it is I want. I see the nourishing, the sensual, the communal, the political, the celebratory, the textural, and not just the taste. It is exciting beyond words. It is a new world that has always been there.

Life in Paris

Posted in paris with tags , on April 3, 2012 by ana

Friday night I went to a beautiful dinner at Liza’s, a lebanese restaurant owned by a lovely friend of a friend. Every inch of the table was covered with small bowls of deliciousness- artichokes with lemons and peas, hummus with lamb and pomegranate seeds, sautéed bitter greens, lamb tartare, halloumi, fatoosh, sausages, lamb chops and tiny potatoes with garlic and lemon. Afterwards we went to Silencio. A  haunting boy and girl band from Seattle was playing on their tiny stage when we walked in. I sat on the steps across from them and thought, life won’t always be like this. By which I meant that life won’t always be so unplanned and lovely. Every day right now meanders and unfolds as it wishes too. The music was beautiful and I thought- I want to make beautiful things. I want to create a conversation about beauty and pleasure with the things I make. Then a sneaky anxious voice slipped in- I need to get a job. I need to speak French. I’m having such a hard time baking. I quickly drowned it with some dancing and champagne but it came back to bite me in the ass the next day.

I woke up feeling blah. Iris talked me into going to yoga. She made me coffee and toast. I was so impressed by the fact that she got home at five in the morning and was determined to go that I got out of bed.  We schlepped across town and made it just in time. It felt good to stretch and twist my worries away.

During class my friend and yoga teacher,  Marc, mentioned something I had said to him. Hearing it repeated back to me made me realize that in the 24 hour span, where my cookies didn’t bake quite right and the flavor was not as I remembered it, I had let go of my one rule of the game here in Paris. The rule that I always have to say YES.  That the only answer is YES.  YES because everything is brand new, because I don’t know anything, and because I have to say yes in order for anything to happen, in order to get anywhere. Any worry or obstacle is just as worthy of a welcoming yes as any sparkliness.

After class Iris and I went for food at Candelaria. After spending a perfect evening there, earlier in the week,  eating tacos and drinking margaritas with cute girls and gays I was really craving it. I really miss Mexican food. I’ve even dreamt about it since moving here. It was such a lazy, loungey brunch and I thought about how excited I am to bring Cleo there for a drink when she comes next week.

Once home I still couldn’t quite shake the anxiety and sadness. I get such pleasure from baking and such a sense of self. Not being able to do it well really throws me off and frustrates me. While on the one hand the ingredient dilemma is an exciting challenge, on the other it really shows my weaknesses. That’s not a bad thing. In the end it will make me better but for the time being it makes me uncomfortable. It makes me feel less. It’s funny how the voice of worth can sneak up at every turn.

In the end a talk with Iris about appreciating the fullness of the moment and an email from Bree:

You really need to not get frustrated and just practice practice practice. it’s sooo different in france, from the flours, to the temperatures to the water and milk and sugar. (seriously, go to london and have a black tetley tea w milk and sugar then try make the EXACT same tasting one here. PAS POSSIBLE.)

reminded me of the thing that I struggle with the most. To have patience with the rhythm of my life.

kick, ball, change

Posted in paris with tags , on March 21, 2012 by ana

 

I’m sick again. It’s going around so I’ve heard.

I don’t know if it is all the therapy or my age or that I’m living somewhere new or simply that there is more of it in my life right now but I feel a tremendous capacity to appreciate joy at the moment. To revel in it. Simply stated I’m happy. I feel present, productive, inspired, and I’m having a great time. There are unanswered questions, and I can’t say that they don’t sometimes exasperate me but today, right now, I don’t feel a need to answer them.

Last Sunday I met my new friend Bree to go to an exercise class. We got there early and ended up jumping into a class that was just about to start, a dance class, Zumba to be exact. I had so much fun. I couldn’t stop laughing the whole time. Our instructor, who was really invested in teaching us each move, was really funny. Picture a Monty Python character who is a dancer and looks like he could be Gerard Depardieu’s younger brother. Then imagine him wearing a tied-dye shirt with a little dread-locked smiley face in the front. I really loved going to a class in Paris. It made me feel like I am continuing my life here. Dancey classes were such a part of my life in LA and also it makes me feel like I’m making Paris my home.

Monday, I had a job interview. I baked all day before going. I wanted to bring something with me but our oven is so temperamental and I wasn’t happy with the results. Everything tasted good but nothing baked quite right. Still, it was the perfect way to spend the hours leading up to it. I felt so centered and confident. And I felt like I was myself, a very sparkly version of myself, at the interview so regardless of the outcome it feels like a good experience.

On the way back home I was thinking of the mess in the kitchen, of un-opened correspondence, of French homework, of books waiting to be read, and emails I had yet to answer. Walking from Republique home it hit me- it’s okay. It will get done. There is no rush. Maybe that shift in thinking is one of  the main reasons that I feel happy even if I have a runny nose. I hope I always remember how to diffuse that feeling of being overwhelmed. In the past it has brought me so much tension and created such havoc in my relationships.

notebooks & watercolors

Posted in 38 with tags , , , , on December 14, 2011 by ana

I found this drawing in an old journal. I think I was living in Brooklyn, and quite possibly had the chicken pox, when I  drew it. I had the chicken pox when I was 27. The older you are, the harder it hits you. I looked like an alien.

I haven’t been feeling like myself lately. I can guess why but all the guesses so far haven’t felt quite on the mark. So, I’m just trying to go with it and stay as focused as I can while enjoying the feeling that exciting stuff is on the horizon. Most of the time I fail but I’m not letting that stop me from trying.

In a little over a week I’m going home for the holidays. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s my favorite time of year to be in Puerto Rico. I’m longing to breath the salty air and feel the sun on my skin. I’m craving the feeling of being in my mom’s apartment and my dad’s house.  I can’t wait to see Anouk and my three other friends who I have known forever, and I’m really looking forward to seeing my family. Going home always recharges my batteries and infuses me with perspective. Nothing like driving past your old High School to give you a sense of all that you have done right in your life and how happy you are for the choices you have made.

 

I think what I like about the drawing above is that it reminds me of how much I have always loved food and thought about it. I had a boyfriend, at the time I made the drawing, that used to always tell me that I was in my element whenever I would cook. I loved going with him to his sister’s house in Upstate New York and cooking. She had a great kitchen that opened on to a deck, and what seemed like a forest beyond her yard. When I think about it now, I don’t think I ever really heard what he was saying. I don’t think I saw what he was seeing in me or I didn’t take it seriously.

The drawing also makes me think about my friend Elle because she loves food and she loves small drawings. I’ve known Elle for a long time but it wasn’t until she was my boss that our friendship gelled. Elle has always shown me interesting, lovely, loving ways of looking at food. Working for her at epicurious was the first time I realized that there was a world of food out there and people who were excited and passionate about it.

My whole life there have always been little hints of how I feel about food. It has always excited me but it has also always been a relationship fraught with conflict because of my relationship to my body. All this has been shifting in the past year. Sometimes I feel like my old self, conflicted about my body, conflicted about food and how I eat. Other times I feel a new experience emerging that is so much healthier and kind and embracing. This newer perspective on food and body image feels exciting, empowering, and  sexy to me.  This is what I hope is the next part of my journey, more of that exploration, more of that embracing, and more celebration.

I’ve been thinking about the weekend I spent with Willa a few months ago.  I think I wrote about it before. I was in tears almost the entire time I visited her and she was so loving.  We went to the beach one afternoon with her baby. It was cold and misty, and most of the beach was closed off as a haven for seals. I felt so frustrated, so restless, so hungry for answers. I played with her baby and cried, and she said to me,  “you are like one of your collages, filled with all the things that you like and interest you. You don’t have to be one thing. You can be a collection of all the things you’ve done.”

That night we made a pasta that I learned about in the summer, orchiette with cabbage and pancetta. We drank wine and after dinner I snuck off to have a cigarette. Willa came out to keep me company. We just sat there, staring at the trees behind her house. “I think so much of what you are feeling,” she said,  “has to do with the break up, with the disappointment, with the unfulfilled expectations. And you have a right to be angry. I’m angry. Paul is angry. None of us can believe it. That he would just let you go.”  And I told her I felt so stupid for trusting, for believing in him. That I felt so disappointed  with myself. That I wanted a partner. That I wanted a baby. That I needed to loose the weight I had gained from all the drinking and candy I had eaten over the past year and do more yoga, and go for runs. The list went on and on. Willa hugged me and said, “you are perfect just as you are and love will come when the time is right and it won’t care if you have gained or lost weight. It won’t care about your accomplishments or disappointments. It will love you as you are.”

Anouk, Stevie, and Mina have also said this to me. You are perfect just as you are. When Willa said it on her deck that night, I think it was the first time I really heard what they were saying. It’s such a foreign idea to me that I’m still wrapping my head around it and embracing it. Usually before I go home for the holidays I hit the gym in a frenzy. Trying to look better, to change myself somehow. This year it hasn’t mattered. Not because I don’t care. Not because I’m letting myself go but just because I don’t feel my worth is attached to it the way I did before.

Home is often also often a reminder of all the things that I have to supposedly have at this stage in my life- husband, career, family. I want those things but, as much as I can’t often help feeling impatient, I’m also starting to see that it doesn’t matter whether I have those things right now or not. I’m following my heart and that is all that matters.

My friend Valentina called this morning to talk about a puerto rican stew she is making for her holiday party. When I told her about all my visa woes and restlessness she said, ” Ana, no stress. You are going to go when the time is right. What is meant for you is meant for you and will be waiting for you.”

I know she is right. Things are unfolding slowly for a reason. It is not for me to figure out why. I just need to trust it. I battle with that trust. I throw temper tantrums at it. But the things that I want most- to become a better baker, a better writer, a better artist, a better ice cream maker, and to fall in love again- all happen over time, with openness, and little meddling. If I look at the patterns and the rhythms of my life I have the proof that when I let go and relax, at the right moment, secrets are revealed.