February 27, 2013 § 1 Comment
I jotted this down not too long ago in a well-loved notepad that I carry with me everywhere:
So what do I want?
–To be independent
These are my priorities. Although I didn’t rank them in any particular order, it should come as no surprise that eating, travel, and writing come first. These things make me extremely happy. They’re my biggest passions. But does that mean I should endeavor to turn one of these passions into a satisfying career, or better yet, fuse them into an unparalleled, utterly amazing hybrid?
The word “passion” itself doesn’t trouble me, but the contemporary rhetoric of “passion” does. We often hear of people who resolve to turn their passion–as if you only get one passion in your lifetime–into a career and succeed. These are the people we presume to be the happiest and most fulfilled.
I admire anyone who loves what they do for a living. However, I don’t think managing to make a living from one’s passion (or passions) guarantees them happiness. I’ve started to wonder whether or not certain passions can translate into viable careers. When I arrived in Portland nearly two months ago, I was torn between two potential paths: writing or food. I leaned towards a career in the food industry at first. Then I found out how hard work in the local food scene is to come by. Not even individuals with culinary degrees can always land line-cook jobs. And I wasn’t sure if I could handle the demands of a professional kitchen. I began having flashbacks to my days as a phone- worker in a pizza restaurant during my senior year of high school, when I witnessed on several occasions how ugly it can get in a restaurant.
But why not food writing? For a magazine or a newspaper? While the demand for food writing is high, journalism, print and digital, is in a state of flux. Staff positions with these publications are few and far in between. The pay is usually meager, if there’s any pay at all.
Should one attempt to turn their passion into a career or just let their life unfurl? If you resign yourself to fate, it’s likely that you could miss out on opportunities to cultivate your passion. After all, you should never expect those opportunities to find you. But dedicating yourself solely to your passion might cause you to reject other possibilities.
I want interesting, challenging work. I don’t have to love it, but I want to at least be able tolerate it. And I want to do it well, whatever it is. I want work that offers me stability and the means to do what I love most. Perhaps my passions will evolve into something more.
I sound so naive, don’t I? You must want to ask me, incredulously, where to find this “dream job.” I hear from people all the time that once you start working 9-5, you don’t get any spare time. Work wears you down. Responsibilities and commitments pile up. I’m aware of this. I don’t have much 9-5 work experience to speak of, but just enough to know the serious toll the working world can take. I spent most of the summer of 2011 commuting from the suburbs to Chicago, working 8-hour days in a cramped office for free. I’d come home at the end of each day wanting nothing more than to eat dinner and watch bad television. I would try to forget that I had to get up early the following morning and do it all over again.
I’m not worried. Work doesn’t have to be a soul-sucking, existential crisis-inducing experience. I know my priorities. Food will be a part of my life because I want it to be, so will travel, writing, and, one day, charitable giving and volunteer work. I like to think of this move as another exercise in learning to relinquish control. If Europe marked the beginning of this lesson, then Portland is a continuation.
February 11, 2013 § 1 Comment
First, an apology. A few of my loved ones expressed concern for my well-being after “Unsettled” went live. I want to reassure them that I’m in a much better place now. I pride myself on writing honestly. It didn’t feel right at the time to write up a light, breezy post about how amazing it is here in Portland. I’ve been in Portland for a month, and I admit that I still don’t have much of a life here. No job, no home, no BFFs. Well, not yet. All of that will take time. I can’t say how much. There are days when that fact frustrates me, but generally I’m in a good mood.
I spend most of my days exploring, researching, and networking whenever the opportunity presents itself. When I’m not doing one of these three things, I’m either drinking local coffee (and beer on the weekends) and learning how to cook on a budget. Which, if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, means eating a lot of beans. It’s a good thing that I really love beans.
Which brings me to this recipe. Since beans are the most affordable form of protein for me, I eat them more days than not. So I have to find creative ways to use them. I attended a potluck meet-up for young alums of my alma mater, Smith College, last week. I brought this chickpea salad. I created this salad based on a recipe for roasted chickpeas featured on My New Roots. Do yourself a favor and subscribe to this blog. It never fails to inspire me.
I wanted a good balance of flavors and textures in this salad. The chickpeas are crunchy and crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, and have a rich, layered flavor profile. I used fluffy bulghur wheat, raw Tuscan kale, toasted sunflower seeds, and plenty of lemon juice to round things out. The results? Good enough to share.
It didn’t cost more than $10.00 to make, and I had a lot of leftovers after the potluck. I’ve learned quickly that eating on a budget doesn’t have to mean a steady diet of spaghetti with marinara sauce. That was never my style anyway.
Roasted Chickpea Salad (adapted from My New Roots)
“Kickin” Chickpeas ( Note: I made a few tweaks to the original. I didn’t use black pepper, and I switched out olive oil for melted coconut oil. I didn’t add the dried thyme until after the chickpeas had finished roasting. I substituted sunflower seeds for pistachios, which I toasted separately and added later on.)
3 cups cooked chickpeas
4-6 tablespoons melted coconut oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne (more if you want it spicer)
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 small bunch Tuscan kale, rinsed well and chopped into small, bite-sized pieces
~1 cup coarsely ground bulghur wheat
1 cup toasted sunflower seeds
Juice of 4 lemons
–You have the option of either cooking chickpeas from scratch or buying them canned from the supermarket. I always prefer to cook beans from scratch. Either way, drain, rinse, and dry the chickpeas. I find that a few spins in the salad spinner helps dry the chickpeas out. You want the chickpeas to be as dry as possible, or else they’ll steam in the oven. Spread the chickpeas out on a clean dish towel until you’re ready to use them.
–Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the chickpeas in a single layer on a parchment or foil-lined baking sheet. Melt the coconut oil and pour over the chickpeas. Use your hands to toss the chickpeas in the oil, making sure they’re all thoroughly coated. Do the same with the spices, save for the thyme.
–Allow the chickpeas to roast for 25-35 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the oven to cool completely. Add the dried thyme and toss before assembling the salad.
–In the meantime, make the bulghur. Place the bulghur into a small bowl, and pour boiling hot water over it, until you’ve reached just below the surface. Cover with foil and let sit for 15-20 minutes. Fluff with a fork and let cool to room temperature.
–Once the chickpeas and bulghur have cooled, toss them together in a large serving bowl, along with the kale, sunflower seeds and lemon juice. Add extra salt if necessary. Keeps in the fridge for 2-3 days.