So, perhaps it is about time that I introduce myself and establish my cred to my fine readers. After all, how do you even know whether to try my recipes and read my words if you don’t know whether or not I know the difference between shallots and onions, than and then, or gender and sex? You just can’t. I understand this. Here you go, a few words about me…
My name is Laur. I have my B.S. in creative writing, which is a fairly amusing statement when you think about it. I am working on my first book of poetry, but then again, I’ve been working on it for about three years now, so don’t hold your breath. I also write regularly for The Empty Closet, a monthly newspaper of the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley and one of the oldest continuously-published LGBT publications in the United States. I like to diagram sentences, make up words, and talk about Wolfgang Iser’s reader-response theory, particularly as it relates to Faulkner’s character Quentin Compson. Everyone needs a hobby.
Even when I’m wrong, I’m articulate. I’m pretty sure there are worse things you could be reading right now, but don’t ask me: I’m biased.
As for why you should trust what I say about food and its preparation: my formative years were largely spent in my maternal grandma’s kitchen, watching her cook. As soon as I was old enough to help, I helped. Couple this with the fact that I was lucky enough to have parents who exposed me to wonderful cuisines, diverse approaches to nutrition and the ethics of food, and knowledge of how food is grown and when different foods are seasonal.
I lived in rural north-central Indiana while I was in middle school. For those who don’t know, this is a very unfortunate place for a radical, young, queer transperson to live. The one shining point in every week was Sunday night dinner. Almost every Friday I would plan a meal, with different courses that I put together based on diversity of flavors and textures, nutritional balance, and peak-seasonal produce. Dad and I would go to the nearest nice grocery store, about a half-hour’s drive away, and get all the ingredients that I needed. Then, the fun.
Through Saturday and Sunday, I would prepare the entire meal, from appetizer to dessert. Finally, Sunday night came, and I shared my creations with my family. We would talk and laugh, savoring the food over what was, more often than not, a meal that lasted several hours. To this day, these meals are among my most treasured memories.
Since then, I have worked for catering companies and restaurants, which definitely taught me a lot about cooking for large groups and preparing ingredients efficiently and correctly. However, the setting in which I learned the most about the true potential of food was the Rochester Zen Center.
I was a residential staff member for a total of 1 ½ years. I lived there, worked there, breathed there, and ate there. It was what I did. And, as you may be able to guess, my job there was in the kitchen.
The workday at the Zen Center was a mostly silent period of time: although we were allowed to say things that enabled us to complete our jobs, all other communication and small-talk was strongly discouraged. So, day after day, month after month, I spent my days engaged in almost nothing except for silent meditation and mindful preparation of food. Many of the helpful hints and suggestions that I have worked into the recipes on this blog are the result of all that the ingredients taught me about themselves as I prepared meals with focused, compassionate attention.
After I had been there a while, I was given more responsibilities in regards to meal planning and food shopping. As much as possible, we got the produce from the local public market: this enabled us to get locally-grown, seasonally-fresh ingredients and talk to the farmers who nourished the food (so that the food could, in turn, nourish us).
Although I am not a vegetarian, the Zen Center was a completely meat-free environment, and I still only eat meat rarely. In addition to the strict prohibition of all flesh foods, there were always several members of the Zen Center’s staff who had various food allergies and sensitivities. This required that I develop greater flexibility and adaptability when faced with specific dietary restrictions, and resulted in an even-greater understanding of exactly what it is that different ingredients do so that I could always find delicious substitutions for the elements of a recipe.
Although I do sometimes contemplate going to culinary school as some point in my life, part of me wonders how it could possibly provide me with a more intimate relationship with food than the one I developed during my time at the Zen Center.
My connection to food is further deepened by the influence of my partner and fiancée/ fiancé, who does the publicity and public outreach for the South Wedge Farmers’ Market, an exclusively locavore market: all of the food there was grown within 100 miles. Ze is always finding out new information about how foods are grown, produced, shipped and preserved that continue to impress upon me the importance of eschewing factory-farm produced items and pre-prepared, boxed and canned “food” in favor of fresh foods that were grown with love and attention.
And no, not all of my jobs have been food-related. I have worked as a manager at a bookstore, a writing consultant at a liberal arts college, a facilitator of creative writing workshops, a hospice home health aide, and (my current job) a professional queer. And yes, I have funny anecdotes and experiences about all of these jobs: I’m sure you’ll learn more about the shenanigans of bookstore hooligans, among other things, in future posts.
Currently, I am an Office Administrator for an LGBT equality organization, and I love it. Although most of my job involves invoices, files, and finances, I also get to do fun things like facilitate community discussions on topics such as transgender-inclusive language, radical activism, and myths about BDSM. And, as I already mentioned, I write for The Empty Closet. It makes sense if you’re jealous of my insanely cool job.
So, the idea for this blog came to me one day when I was thinking about how not many young, energetic, radical people today have much of a sense of intimacy with their food, or much of a clue of how to prepare it. This is sad. The energy we take into our body has a direct, undeniable connection to the energy we have to use in the world, and it is my hope that the forward-thinking revolutionary queers will all be filled with the best possible fuel for changing the world.
This blog is my answer to that hope. Use it well.