Taiwanese Pork Belly Buns

So after going through what I did in order to get these steamed buns, I thought “THESE BUNS BETTER BE FUCKING FANTASTIC!” Luckily they were.

Obviously I was given some weird steamed buns because these were wrapped strips of dough that I had a tough time unwrapping but they smelled amazing! I couldn’t stop sniffing them because they smelled like sweet vanilla. I don’t even like the scent of vanilla but I liked these! I just realized I probably got all kinds of nose germs on them. Oh well, maybe that contributed to the flavor!

Braising the pork belly for two hours was a test in patience because it also smelled so good and I just wanted to dig in! I think it was around the one hour mark that I was like, “You know, it’s probably cooked and safe to eat, we should just eat them now.” But I didn’t, I waited, and waited, and waited. Those two hours were painful.

But it was all worth it! The pork belly I was given had a lot of fat on it and I was worried there wouldn’t be enough actual meat but there was plenty for six buns. I also made another quick-pickle of zucchini and carrots to offset the sweetness of the meat and powdered peanuts. By the way, I might have eaten a couple of spoonfuls of the powdered peanuts. It was like mazapan, but sweeter and grainier. Who doesn’t like mazapan? It was messy due to the buns falling apart but everything worked together perfectly. If I was going to get groped for any meal, it should have been this one.

This was our last Chinese meal and I can say that it was definitely top five. Aside from the Chinese mushrooms in the Buddha’s Delight, nothing disappointed. I wish the week hadn’t been marred by the events of last Thursday but so it goes. This week we are in Ethiopia, which is another week I have been looking forward to all year. Hopefully it’s as delightful as Chinese week but less messy.

Recipe

Beef Broccoli

Beef Broccoli isn’t authentic Chinese food, it’s American Chinese food, but after the day I had last Thursday, I didn’t care about technicalities.

It started off with a minor run-in with the neighbor across the street. He and about five other people have rented the house for the past three years. Aside from a fender bender with our friends a few New Year’s Eves ago, we haven’t had any issues with them. They always have people over but they keep to themselves so we mostly ignore them. Then a little over two weeks ago, he decided to permanently park his car in front of our house. I didn’t pay it any mind until I realized it had been a week and the car hadn’t moved. I asked James if he knew anything about it, thinking maybe the neighbor had told him that the car wasn’t working and they’d move it soon, but James was as clueless as I. So we waited and waited and it didn’t move. Finally I saw him working on the yard Thursday morning and walked over and asked if they were having car problems because the car had been parked there for over a week. And he was kind of a dick about it. He said the car was fine but it wasn’t in the way so it shouldn’t be a problem. So I smiled and said that I was just making sure because we hadn’t been asked if anyone could park in front of our house and it was just common courtesy to park on your own side of the street. I went for a run and when I came back, the car had been moved to another neighbor’s house. Fyi, there’s plenty of space on the street in front of theirs. Anyway.

That day we also had a crew over to replace our a/c. It was twenty-five years old and the fan motor was going out so we decided to replace the whole thing because otherwise we would have been delaying the inevitable. They were over for about three and a half hours and started to move the old unit into their truck and clean up. I told them I had to take the four year old to get her vaccinations but would be back in thirty minutes. I asked if that would be a problem and they said it wouldn’t, that if they finished before I got back, they would wait around. I left and ended up coming back forty minutes later; you know how doctor’s appointments go. As I drove up to the house, I noticed their truck was gone and the door to the garage was wide open. I was pissed. The four year old and I got out of the car, I cautiously walked into the house, and looked around to make sure everything was okay. We don’t live in a bad neighborhood, far from it, but you never know. What followed were a few phone calls to the company’s office and dealing with a supervisor who literally laughed at me when I told him I was upset that my home had been left unsecure. Then the crew drove up and when I said “Dude, you left my garage wide open and my front door unlocked.” the tech said “Oh yeah, I had to go drop some stuff off.” No apology, no acknowledgement that he did something wrong, just asked for my credit card number.

By then it was two o’clock and I was over it. I still had to go buy some items for dinner the next night so the kid and I drove down to the Korean market. We walked around and looked at some items, the kid picked out some cookies for her and her sister (she was really excited about the panda cookies), and I looked for some plain steam buns. The only ones I could find had fillings so I asked the cashier, who has helped me in the past, if they had any plain ones. He walked me to the freezer and pointed them out. I said thank you and as he walked behind me, he grabbed my ass.

Full on grab. I felt fingers in my crack.

I was frozen. In the span of a minute, a million thoughts raced through my head. “Did that really happen? No, maybe his hand just brushed by me, that happens. No, I felt fingers. I definitely felt fingers. He did that, didn’t he? He totally groped me. Where’s the kid? Good, she’s right here. Okay, we need to go. I need to pay for these buns. Did that just happen? What do I do? Do I say something? Just get out of here. Get out of here fast. Well, pay for the buns. You need to make dinner tomorrow. Shit. Did he really just do that?”

And I paid for the buns. I couldn’t even look at him, I was still reeling from what he had just done to me. I wanted to get out of there fast. The kid wanted to walk around and go to another store, she’s four, she was clueless as to what happened, but I couldn’t think straight until we got in our car. We got in the car, buckled up, and than I sat and decided on what to do.

“I could call the police, I could file a report, but that would mean sitting around and waiting. I had to pick up the baby in thirty minutes, this wouldn’t get resolved in thirty minutes. James couldn’t pick the baby up, he wouldn’t get there in time. The school would understand but then I’d have to explain what happened. And I’ll have to keep explaining what happened. This isn’t going to go away with a quick police report. This will go on for a while. I’ll be dealing with this for a while. I can’t handle this right now. I have enough going on without having to deal with another police situation.

Another police situation? Yeah, another one. There’s a lot I don’t talk about on here. So anyway, I did what most people do today. I posted about my situation on Facebook and then called James and tried to not burst into tears because I was afraid and ashamed of how I didn’t react. Because I should have been stronger, I should have said something, that’s what a woman is supposed to do. But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. I couldn’t handle having one more thing because it would have been a thing, a very big thing, and it was too much. So I’m a bad woman, a bad example to my daughter, but on the plus side, she’s four and like I said, clueless as to what’s going on.

I hope there isn’t a next time but if there is, I’ll know better. Because the only way we can stop this is by doing something. Men who do this type of stuff want us to be ashamed, like it’s something we should take blame for, but we shouldn’t. We do not exist for their entertainment and we do not belong to them. Our bodies are ours. Period.

I really wish I would have said something.

Buddha’s Delight

Up until we had the four year old, I would “cleanse” myself with a vegetarian diet a few times a year. Sometimes it would last a week, sometimes a month. The first time I did it I was nineteen and living in Uvalde and actually decided to go full vegan. Veganism hadn’t yet gone mainstream and even if it had, I was living in Uvalde so my choices were limited. I remember talking to a co-worker about what I was doing and she asked, incredulously, “What are you going to eat? Nuts and berries? Are you a squirrel?” Yes, Girl Whose Name I Don’t Remember Anymore, I was going to be a squirrel! I did end up eating a lot of nuts, fruits, and veggies and gave up after a couple of weeks. I started doing it because I wanted to help end animal’s suffering (I flippin’ wore hemp shoes, I was super dedicated to the cause) but then it got really hard and I got really hungry so I ate a burger and unsubscribed from PETA’s emails. Meh, I was nineteen, I had time to work on my convictions.

But the idea stayed with me so every once in a while, I would switch up my diet and go veggie. As alternative diets got more popular, it became easier to do. Moving to Austin also helped. My first friend in Austin was a vegetarian and I remember her taking me to Veggie Heaven, formerly on The Drag, and I thought it was the greatest place ever! All I ever ate there was their fried rice and drank their bubble teas but STILL, it was called Veggie Heaven so clearly it was.

One of my favorite aspects of switching it up was learning how to cook with new ingredients and that is mostly why I was looking forward to this meal when I found the recipe. Buddha’s Delight is a vegetarian meal. It’s traditionally eaten by Buddhists, who are vegetarians and another idea nineteen year old Melissa played with, and it’s a very popular meal eaten on the first day of the Chinese New Year. It’s part of an act of piety and self-purification and honestly, it’s much better than fasting. At least I think it is.

Traditionally it has eight ingredients but you can find many versions that have more, up to eighteen. It’s really just whatever you prefer, there is no official list or number of ingredients, and that’s probably another reason why it’s so popular. The recipe I used had eight ingredients but it wasn’t until I started chopping veggies that I realized I had forgotten one, the bean sprouts. This meant mine only had seven and it was a disaster!

It was far from a disaster.

This was my first time cooking with tiger lily buds, black fungus, Chinese mushrooms, and braised gluten. Braised gluten, you say? Yes, braised gluten. I don’t know about you but reading “braised gluten” just wakes up my taste buds and they start screaming for food!

That was more sarcasm, by the way.

When I read that braised gluten was an ingredient, I was a little skeptical. I didn’t know what it was but it didn’t sound appealing. I just imagined globs of dough and I wasn’t too far off. It’s made by washing wheat flour dough until the starch has been removed, leaving the gluten as a big, elastic glob. This is then marinated or fried and then sold as seitan. Seitan, by the way, I’d heard of so when I learned the alternative name, I was less grossed out because I know many veggies who eat seitan and don’t barf from it.

I had to soak the buds, fungus, and mushrooms before cooking them because they were all dry. It didn’t really affect cooking time because I was able to chop up the other veggies and fry the tofu while they re-hydrated. I wasn’t too worried about them, though, because I figured they would taste like grass and mushrooms. Again, I wasn’t too far off.

The end product was pretty tasty. It did have that brown “Chinese” sauce that I recently learned not everyone is a fan of. Those people are crazy. Brown Chinese sauce is fantastic! The tiger lily buds reminded of lemon grass in texture but didn’t really have a distinct flavor themselves. Same thing with the black fungus. It had the texture of a mushroom but nothing surprising. What did surprise me was that I did not like the Chinese mushrooms at all and neither did James. They were hardy and had a way stronger woody flavor than other mushrooms I’ve had. I never have a problem with mushrooms and they’re one of my favorite things to eat so this wasn’t some weird, childish dislike of mushrooms; these were just not palatable to me. I didn’t even mind the braised gluten because it just absorbed the brown sauce.

I didn’t even bother giving this to the girls, which worked out for us because it meant we had seconds and leftovers for the next day. And I was very, very happy to have this for lunch the next day. The next day was not a good day but eating Buddha’s Delight was the one shiny moment in a day full of shit. More on that later.

Recipe

Zha Jiang Noodles

Do you like spaghetti with meat sauce? I like spaghetti with meat sauce. Up until a few years ago, I just called it spaghetti because I didn’t know that the meat was optional. My mother made okay spaghetti with meat sauce but my cousin Susana, and by extension her mother who is the person who taught her how to make it, made great spaghetti with meat sauce. I don’t think you could really classify it as a sauce because it was very chunky but I loved it. My mother’s sauce was runny but Susana’s was basically just ground beef with a bit of tomato paste and some seasoning. Any time she made it, I’d beg my mother to “drop by” so they would invite us to join them for dinner. It never failed; we were always invited in and ate plates of it along with buttery, greasy garlic bread. I’ve often tried to replicate it but like my mother before me, my sauce always ends up runny. James makes great spaghetti with meat sauce, almost as good as Susana’s, so he is the official spaghetti maker in the house.

Zha jiang noodles are basically the Chinese version of spaghetti with meat sauce.

Sidenote: how many times can I say “spaghetti with meat sauce”?

What makes zha jiang noodles so special is the frying of the sauces before adding the meat. Traditionally the sauces are a yellow soybean paste and hoisin sauce. This is what gives it the super desired “umami” flavor that all the foodies are craving nowadays. The ease of customization is also pretty appealing but it’s the umami that gets everyone. It is a traditional Chinese dish, however, when many Chinese left China to Korea during China’s civil war, the dish picked up some Korean flair. This is probably why it reminded me of the Spicy Cold Buckwheat Noodles from Korean week.

Chinese or Korean this dish was spectacular! It couldn’t have been easier to make: fry meat in sauce, boil noodles, eat. I unfortunately didn’t have soybean paste so I just used hoisin sauce but it was still delicious. I can only imagine how much I would have liked it had I prepared it properly. I kept the noodles cold and I think that tricked me into eating multiple bowls. I was in a bit of a food coma afterwards but it was worth it. It had a weird peanut taste, even though there were no peanuts in it, and I couldn’t stop eating it. James had a couple of bowls, the girls were uninterested, so that meant I had plenty of leftovers the next day. Which meant my belly was happy two days in a row.

My mouth is literally salivating at the memory of this meal. Seriously, go make this tonight. Or tomorrow, you probably need to buy the ingredients. Make it tomorrow, you won’t be disappointed.

Recipe

Cumin-Spiced Lamb, Stir-Fried Leeks, and Quick-Pickle Zucchini

It is finally Chinese week! Based on that exclamation mark, I’ve obviously been looking forward to this week. I think part of the reason why this project was feeling a little tedious was there were a few weeks where I wasn’t super pumped about what I was cooking. The weeks in Spain and Hungary were fine but I didn’t feel like I was learning anything new. I was a lot more excited about Mexico and Colombia but I think most of that excitement stemmed out from my personal connection to those countries. The last time I remember being really into what I was making was Korean week and that was because I was cooking with ingredients I hadn’t used before and was actually learning something. So with Chinese week, it’s a little combination of personal connection and the high from doing something new.

My mom lived in Taiwan for a few years in her early twenties. Her first husband was in the Navy and he was stationed in Taipei. Now, I know Taiwan is NOT China (or maybe you think it is, this is not the place to discuss such matters) but my mother’s time in Taipei instilled in her a lifelong love of Chinese food. Or, technically, Taiwanese food, however, I don’t think she was able to find a lot of actual Taiwanese food when she moved back to the US in the late 60s so she had to settle for Chinese.

I’ve mentioned before that I grew up in an itty bitty town in southwest Texas. Uvalde did not have a lot diversity when I was growing up. It still doesn’t but it’s slightly better than when I was a kid. Anyway, the population when I was there was 60% Hispanic, 39% white, .5% Asian, and .5% African American. Okay, those numbers might not be accurate but I bet I’m not far off. So anyway, my mom always had to wait to get her Chinese food fix for when we’d go to San Antonio or visit my aunt in Fort Worth so you can imagine her elation when The Golden Dragon Chinese Restaurant opened in Uvalde in 1987. Or maybe 88, I don’t remember. What I do remember is eating there A LOT. So much so that after a while, we didn’t even have to order our food; the owner already knew what we liked and would bring it out shortly after we arrived. Our favorite was Moo Goo Gai Pan and we still order it when we have our annual Christmas day lunch at our neighborhood Chinese restaurant, A+A Sichuan China.

And that’s why I was looking forward to Chinese week. It’s not just an opportunity to try out new food or learn new techniques, it’s also a way for me to connect to my childhood and my mom. Oh man, my allergies are really making my eyes water…

The first night was more me cleaning out my fridge than actually trying to learn a new dish. I had thawed out some ground lamb on Sunday morning for dinner on Sunday night but then I went on a winery tour and when I got home, I was in no mood to cook. I knew I had to use it fast so I looked up a Chinese lamb recipe and hoped for the best. The recipe I found needed lamb shoulder cut into cubes and then skewered. I improvised and shaped the ground meat and then refrigerated it for a bit so that it would keep shape on the skewer. I went ahead and “marinated” it in the spice rub but I don’t think that was really necessary because I don’t think ground meat absorbs dry spices very well without actually mixing it into the meat. I also didn’t grill it but I did broil it so the meat wouldn’t dry out (and also so I could throw something in the oven and not have to worry about it too much). I broiled them for about twenty minutes, turning them once halfway, and they came out looking pretty good. They also tasted pretty good. I didn’t think they were spicy at all but I didn’t use Szechuan peppers and substituted anise for the fennel seed because I was out of fennel seed.

The leeks were another last minute addition. I had two leeks leftover from the albondigas sauce and I didn’t want to compost them so I chopped them up and stir-fried them in oil and chicken stock. These I loved! They were crunchy, despite cooking them for a while, and the flavor was amazing! I was expecting a strong, pungent flavor akin to onions but it was more mild and sweeter. It was also salty but I think that was the chicken stock.

What I was most proud of was the zucchini because 1. I winged it and 2. I used what I’ve learned about pickling through this project. I wanted something vinegary to offset the expected spice from the lamb and acidity of the leeks but I didn’t want to have to wait days to get it. I remembered the onions from Nepal week, where they were just soaked in lemon juice for a bit and came out deliciously tender, so I used that as a base for my idea on a quick pickle. I sliced the zucchini as thin as possible and then sprinkled salt and a bit of sugar on top, I topped it off by pouring maybe 1/4 of a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar over it and then let them sit in the fridge for a half hour. They came out just as I expected; soft and tangy! I was really happy with it because it’s proof that I might actually know what I’m doing and I’m learning. This project hasn’t been in vain!

And with that, Chinese week kicked on with a “HELL YEAH!” So far I’ve been really happy with what I’ve made and I can honestly say it’s been one of the best weeks this year. *cue “The Best Week Ever” music*

Recipe, Recipe

Pollo al Ajillo, Patatas Bravas, Pimientos de Padron, Albondigas, and Croquettes

Last week was Spanish week and, man, it took me a minute to get back into the groove after being off for two weeks! I didn’t do any meal planning during my blog-cay (a word I totally just created but I’m gonna trademark because ‘merica) and winged dinner and grocery shopping for two weeks. I thought the lack of structure would stress me out but working on the fly was pretty freeing. I didn’t have to think about staying on schedule, which is always running through the back of my mind, but the best part was I got to create my own meals. For the first time in a long time I enjoyed myself and that was nice.

Then I got to last week and I was like “So much for that!”  Okay, that makes it sound horrible and it really wasn’t but it was an adjustment. Last week was a busy social week. We went to Dallas the weekend of the fourth for friend’s wedding (congrats Kavya and Matt!), then we had Neighborhood Night Out, various doctor’s appointments, and finally I had a bachelorette party this past weekend. Crammed into all of that was the usual grocery shopping, chores around the house, and errands. I barely had time to watch my stories!

One of the few silver linings to the week was that I was cooking Spanish food. Spanish food, with its tapas filled cuisine, made meal planning a lot easier considering the fact that we wouldn’t be eating as a family a lot during the week. It was only two nights but those two nights fell on days that I typically cook for the blog so it worked out. Since we had two light “meals” I’m just combining all three into one post. For whatever reason I’m unable to add the pic of the one real meal I made to this post but it’s on the Pics page if you’re curious.

The first night was Tuesday, which was our Neighborhood Night Out and it was a potluck. I made albondigas, which are meatballs. They weren’t very difficult to make but they did require a bit of planning because I had to let the meat chill for at least an hour before cooking them. Everything was on course until I locked myself and Niko out of the house when we were on our way to take him to get his staples removed. What followed were three hours of frantically calling James to tell him he had to leave early from work so he could pick the girls up from school, Niko and I hanging out at a neighbor’s house until James got home forty-five minutes later, rushing to pick the girls up, rushing back home to cook the meatballs and the sauce, and then heading out to the potluck and putting on my happy face. And then no one ate them! That’s not true, they did eat some, but not enough. I made about thirty meatballs and we came home with half. I don’t think it was the flavor, they tasted fine, but they didn’t look very appealing. The sauce was made up of leeks, garlic, onions, and white wine so it was a light brown color and I think that threw some people off. No one complimented me on them either so maybe the flavor was a bit off as well. Meh, we saved them for dinner the next night.

Which is when I made pollo al ajillo (garlic chicken), patatas bravas (Spanish homefries), and pimientos de padron (roasted padron peppers). The recipe for the chicken called for a whole chicken but I used breasts and thighs. I was worried about the breasts drying out but they came out pretty juicy and tender. I had hoped it would be garlicky because of the name but I didn’t get any garlic flavor out of it. I was pretty disappointed in that. My potatoes came out kinda mushy, which caused a frown. Homefries are NOT supposed to be mushy. I also thought the sauce was too acidic. The recipe called for both crushed tomatoes and tomato paste and I think that was a bit of an overkill; it would have been fine with one or the other but not both. Who knows, maybe I did something wrong but I followed the recipe so I’m gonna say no. By that time, I was pretty down on the meal but then, BUT THEN, I got to the peppers. The recipe called for padron peppers but I couldn’t find padron so I substituted shishito. From what I’ve read, the appeal of pimientos de padron is that you never know if you’re getting a hot or mild pepper. Unlike other peppers, you can’t tell if a padron pepper is spicy based on the color or shape so you’re kinda playing pepper roulette with this dish. I don’t like spicy peppers so when I read that shishitos are consistently mild, I was okay with the substitution. What I read was wrong, y’all! Both James and I got a couple of long shishitos that cleared up our sinuses and made our eyes water! The good thing was we quickly figured out it was the long peppers but still, it was a surprise. So luckily the entire meal wasn’t a bust. Another silver lining!

On Saturday I attended a pot luck dinner to kick off my friend’s bachelorette weekend. The girls were going out to downtown Austin after dinner so I knew I needed to fill their stomachs with fried, gooey, goodness. This is when the croquettes walked in. Croquettes are basically fried ham filled bechamel sauce. Seriously, that’s all they are. You make a bechamel sauce, add some ham, chill it, shape into balls, and then fry it. And they’re amazing! Like the meatballs, it took some prep time but once the bechamel sauce was made, it took me less than ten minutes to fry them. I worried about them losing their gooeyness on the drive down to east Austin but even after a twenty minute drive and another thirty sitting on the counter before we got to eating, they were great. They lost a bit of the crispness but they were still delicious and I know they helped them at 2 a.m. when they needed a post drinking snack.

Aside from the cluster that was Tuesday afternoon, Spanish week was okay. Yes I was disappointed with most of it but I also loved some of it so it wasn’t a total loss. I know some people wanted me to make paella but you can’t make paella for a small group and unfortunately we didn’t have time last week to have people over for dinner so that was a lost opportunity. I did have some trouble narrowing down what to make because I couldn’t find a lot of actual meals from Spain, everything was just a combination of a bunch of tapas. Which I’m okay with, Mrs. Flax from “Mermaids” and her belief that you should only eat hors d’oeuvres and finger foods for every meal has stayed with me since I was a kid, but I was kind of hoping I would be able to find full meals. Meh, so it goes.

This week we are in China and I have been looking forward to this week for a long time! We are actually on day three so I am a bit behind on posting but I hope to be caught up by tomorrow. If you’re wondering just how excited I am about this week, consider this: I am cooking five times this week. I’ve been averaging two to three for the past few “trips.” It’s going to be amazing!

Recipe, Recipe, Recipe, Recipe, Recipe

Breaded Pork Cutlets, Noodles with Cabbage, and Tomato Salad

Now that I’ve gotten all of the feels out of the way, it’s back to posting about food! I was going to apologize for being a Debbie Downer but feeling bad about feeling bad is part of the problem! Moving forward.

This was the second and last meal I prepared for Hungarian week. There was a reason I only did two but I can’t remember what it was, it was over three weeks ago…We actually drove up to Sun City and prepared this meal for James’ grandparents since his grandmother is Hungarian-American. Cooking in another person’s kitchen was an experience. James’ grandmother was very accommodating but taking over someone’s personal space is weird. It felt odd rummaging through cabinets and drawers, looking for a certain pot or spoon, like I was going through their underwear drawer. My kitchen is my space, it is one of the few rooms in the house where I claim complete ownership, and I don’t like people messing with my stuff. I don’t even like James messing with my pantry because he always puts things based on where he thinks they should go and, no! It’s my room! So I was extra respectful of the space I was in and made sure to put everything back from where it came.

Everything turned out great, though. The cutlet recipe said to not crowd the pieces together or to use two pans if necessary. I didn’t want to create an even bigger mess so I stacked the chops on top of each other and followed the rest of the recipe to a T. I think this created some additional moisture and as a result, the chops came out exceptionally juicy considering they were fried. I didn’t really know what to expect with the noodles and cabbage. I’d never had that combination before but I had a small inkling that it would be very bland. Um, it was not. It had a nice richness to it and I think that was because I had to brown sugar in oil beforehand. Had the sugar been missing, I think it would have been pretty forgettable. The tomato salad was fine, nothing exceptional, but it was easy and tasty so I will save that recipe.

Everyone enjoyed the meal, even the girls. James’ step-father took home seconds so I took that as a good sign. GrandMary also asked for some leftovers and believe me, that’s a pretty big deal. I’ll post the recipes tomorrow. Right now I just want to go veg out and watch Empire. I need to know what happened to Andre!

Chicken Tarhonya

I had said I would post yesterday but then I got stuck in Austin traffic (twice!) so I got home later than I had planned and by then, all I wanted to do was eat a late lunch and catch up on Gotham. I was full on “I can’t even!!!!” yesterday afternoon so I plopped on the sofa and ate Taco Cabana while wishing Ben McKenzie would clear his throat. Like, we get it Ben, you’re super tough and no-nonsense, but cough and speak with your regular voice. This is not how Ryan Atwood used to speak!

On to the food, sort of. So did you know this is not my first food blog? I know it would appear that way since this is about as basic as you can get and it looks like something a amateur would put together but I’m actually a seasoned blogger. I have been blogging regularly since December 2004 and in February 2008, my friend Kira and I decided to start a food blog. It was called “We Be Cookin'” I met Kira through our personal blogs in 2005. We became friends, spent most of our work days IMing each other about Veronica Mars, and eventually got so close that she was one of my bridesmaids. Our food blog lasted a year and I don’t remember why we stopped. I was unemployed in February 2009 and didn’t find a job until May so I’m pretty sure it wasn’t because I was busy…Anyway, I bring it up because I posted about making Chicken Tarhonya on that blog.  Since I’ve already posted about making that meal, I don’t think the internet needs another post on the subject. Not much has changed since that post except now I make this meal for three beasts instead of one.

I want to focus on the second reason for me taking an extra week off because I think it’s a topic that a lot of people don’t feel comfortable addressing. The short answer is anxiety. The long answer is, well, get ready to read.

I’ve suffered from anxiety for as long as I can remember; I think I had my first panic attack at eight. Of course I didn’t know it was a panic attack at the time but now that I know what they are, I can definitely diagnose it as such. What did an eight year old have to be anxious about? Oh, just an alcoholic father who was verbally abusive to her mother and who would often show up at their house at midnight and start arguments and be a general terror. I don’t remember how long this went on but I do know that my panic attacks stopped around the time I got to junior high and they stayed away all throughout high school. They reared their ugly head again when I got to college, which is understandable since I was in a new environment. I have always craved stability and my panic attacks seem to pop up when I’m experiencing some massive changes to my routine. They also always happened at night, they still do, so at least I only lose my mind at home and not in public. Silver lining.

In the summer of 2011, I experienced a miscarriage. I went in for a check up, they found something “abnormal”, and the next thing I knew, I was being prepped for a laparoscopy. They had only planned to perform a DNC (the nurse called it a dust and clean up. I hated her for saying that) but when they were in there, they also found a tumor that had grown on my left ovary. They ended up removing the tumor, ovary, and the fallopian tube. I was devastated afterwards, so much so that I lost 15 pounds in one week. One week. What followed was a month so filled with depression and anxiety, that I sought medical help. That turned into another two months of trying to figure out what meds worked and which ones didn’t. Fyi, Prozac did not, Zoloft and Xanax did. I also started seeing a therapist and that combined with my medication got me back to as close to normal as is possible for me. Then, four months after my miscarriage, I got pregnant again and with my psychiatrist’s and psychologist’s assistance, I got off my meds. I was lucky that I didn’t experience any side effects and it went pretty smoothly. I was very fortunate.

The past five years have been manageable, even with the stresses of being a mother. I run on a regular basis, I do yoga, I meditate, I’ve cut back a lot on my alcohol (yes, friends, what I drink now is me cutting back!), and I just watch myself. I work really hard on managing my anxiety and sometimes that probably leads to more anxiety. Which is what I’ve been experiencing lately. Which is why I took a mini-vacay. There have been days where I do everything I’m supposed to do and I still feel my skin crawl. Where I cannot stop worrying about “what if.” Where my mind races so much that I’m left questioning my reality. And to be frank, that shit is fucking annoying. Because I’m doing everything I’m supposed to be doing and sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes it does, I’m not going to discount those methods, but sometimes they don’t and I’m left hyperventilating at three in the morning.

So I’m trying to decide if I need to get back on meds, specifically Xanax because I can take that when needed. I know that just having it will help me because it did in the past. Just knowing I had a way to end them right away gave me peace of mind. I mean, I never even had to get my prescription refilled, that’s how little I used it. The only thing holding me back is that I don’t want to be dependent on an outside solution because I’m one of those crazies that believes we are capable of overcoming everything alone. And that’s a dumb outlook, I’m aware, but that is the truth. When I got on medication before, it was with the understanding that it was a short term solution and it would give me time to find a permanent one. I never wanted to spend the rest of my life on medication because, let’s be honest, those people are not viewed in the best light. Again, I’m aware of how stupid that is but I’m being honest.

So that’s where I am. Trying to make sense of all of my conflicting, hypocritical feelings. It’s an exhausting experience but I need to get this figured out. I’m just really, really tired of this.