The Doldrums

All silent on the kitchen counter. No splattering pots, no simmering pans, no sizzling plates. Static. There are no fragrances of freshly grated ginger for molasses cookies, nor pungent balsamic vinegar deglazing a hot pan. The inactivity is quelling. Somewhere in the dark cabinet corner, a neglected bay leaf longs for attention. Thus is the sad state of my kitchen – Stagnant. Insipid. Stale. At some point over the last few days/weeks/months, I lost my motivation. I lost my personal inspiration. I lost the voice that urged me to keep going. I lost a companion to appreciate and fuel my passion. And it’s metastasized to other parts of my life – blog senescence; my mechanical/zombie-like attitude; my apathy toward most things; my aversion to crowded places; my inability to FEEL and EXPERIENCE like I use to. That SPARK, that EXCITEMENT, that PASSION is gone. Where’d you go? I miss you dearly, and would greatly appreciate it if you came back.

Despite having an amazing support system, I know I’m not functioning optimally. But not all is in the doldrums. I found out that I’m graduating a semester early – that’s 3.5 years to complete my bachelors at Cal. Woo!! This, of course, opens a whole new can of worms… I am also teaching 2 sections for Public Health 116, applying to grad school, preparing for the GRE, developing a curriculum for my new Vietnamese class, working 20 hours a week, juggling family, friendships and boyfriend. You think I have any energy left to pursue my kitchen passion? But then again, I’ve always been this busy… what makes it different this time?


Corn & Cheese Arepas
Source: Mark Bittman
Today’s recipe is for Argentinian Arepas, which Mark Bittman demonstrated on Bitten not too long ago. This is honestly the most satisfying one-person-meal I have ever made! It is very quick to whip together (15 min. tops), and absolutely hits the spot. They can be used like English muffins (sandwich buns), but I honestly just munch on the individual pancakes plain. Hit then with some sour cream and guacamole and you’re good to go. I can totally see myself making this for my kids (if I ever have any) as an after school snack… you know, like between extracurriculars and before homework time and dinner? And once you’ve got it the first time, tweaking the recipe is cake… or rather, Arepas! My changes/suggests are in [brackets].

1 cup yellow cornmeal [1.5 cups]
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup grated Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup milk
2 tbsp butter, more for serving, optional
1/2-3/4 cup fresh sweet corn kernels, or frozen kernels, thawed
1/4 cup chopped scallion
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced, optional
corn oil
[*I think a diced red onion would be nice]

Put milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until steam rises, then add butter and stir until melted. Remove from heat. In a large bow, combine cornmeal, salt and cheese. Stir milk-butter mixture into cormeal until thick batter is formed. Fold in the corn kernels, scallion, cilantro and chili if using.
Allow batter to rest until it thickens into a soft dough, about 15 minutes. Gently shape 1/2″ thick patties, using your palms. Or if you are too impatient (like me!), my batter tends to be a bit runny, and I just spoon the batter into a hot skillet like pancakes.
Heat oil in a large skillet on medium and cook arepas, working in batches, until golden brown, about 5 minutes, then flip and cook for another 3 minutes on other side. DO NOT USE HIGH HEAT, as these BURN very very quickly.
Optional: When all arepas are cooked and cool enough to handle, carefully slice them through the middle. If desired, serve with butter or stuff with beans, vegetables or sour cream (sour cream + salt + dill + cilantro = delicious) .

So when I am not sulking about how absolutely uninspired I’ve been, I waver between anxious/nervous and just very stressed. And all this coincides with my new Donna Hay coming in the mail. I used to be so excited and expectant, but now it’s just an unwanted reminder. So to sum it up, my week has been less than ideal. I’ve been cranky and irritable and overall just very unpleasant (I apologize if you’ve been on the receiving end of this), resulting in unclear skin and ugly frown lines. I left Berkeley in a hurry, and with each blur in the scenery, each bend in the road, each passing exit, the negativity gradually dissipated out of me. And when I got to San Jose, all it took was a smile, a kiss, a tight bear hug, to remove the remnants of it. Enough to encourage me to hop back into the kitchen again anyway…


Thank you.

This entry was posted in Appetizers, Recipes and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Doldrums

  1. jellybutton says:

    hang in there anhi!! can’t believe you’re graduating early 🙂 that makes the two of us! everything will be okay and in the meantime, don’t forget to EAT (cooking can take a pause) miss you.

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