I choo choo choose you

Choosing Myself

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I choo choo choose youA thousand pardons… you’ve caught me in the middle of a quandary.

Though I suppose the same sentiment could be expressed at any given time. I’m finding that I’m a very cerebral person, for better or for worse. Am I on track to become one of those tortured writers? Maybe. But I don’t think so. I think I’m pretty happy, but I suppose it could be interesting to see if I go downhill from here. I honestly don’t think I will, though.

So, here’s what I’m up against… I feel like I’m at a precipice. Like this is the point where I decide if I want to be a writer or if I simply want to write. Perhaps that sounds douchey to you; to be honest, I’d venture to say that it would sound douchey to me if I read it on someone else’s webpage. But here I am… trying to deliver a message that doesn’t particularly have a message behind it. Simply that I’m going to actually be a writer.

But I’m already a writer, you might say. Technically, yes. I write. And I have written. And I’m fortunate enough to have gotten paid for said writing. But even still… it’s very strange. (Rest assured, this is no complaint. I’m unbelievably grateful for any and all opportunities I’ve been given!) Have you ever heard of impostor syndrome? So sayeth Wikipedia:

The impostor syndrome, sometimes called impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome, is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.

My buddy Tim originally told me about it when he first began teaching music classes; as a lifelong student, it was difficult for him to accept a new role as a teacher. “But isn’t this what you prepared for?” Yeah, I suppose. I mean, I’ve been writing now for close to a decade, but I didn’t ever think it would be something I’d call a profession. Yet, here I am, collecting a comfy little check for royalties on three cookbooks every six months. What do I do with that? I mean, duh, it goes in the bank… but what does it mean?

Elementary school lead me to middle school, which prepared me for high school, which was hellbent on getting me into college, which in turn would assure me a job in the system. Something to keep the wheels turning at the prescribed time. But I knew deep down that I wasn’t built for such a job. So here I am, having built a sizeable enough reputation for my writing, but still unable (or unwilling) to accept myself as a professional writer. What’s not professional about me? Is it the fact that I still tell/enjoy dick and fart jokes? Or that I don’t take every single thing seriously? Break it down, Randy. You get paid to write. Someone somewhere enjoys your writing, and more importantly, YOU enjoy writing. And what’s more important than that?

WRITE. Never stop writing. When you look back on the past NINE years that you’ve been writing, all the while, you’ll find supporters along the way, and at this point, it bears asking: “What the hell have you been waiting for?!” Obviously, there’s at least one person that sees things your way. And judging by your own reading habits, it bears mentioning that your entire worldview has been entirely uplifted and changed for the better by reading other peoples’ writing. So why can’t your writing provide the same opportunity for others? It’s obvious that you think differently than most, so share that shit. Sorry if this sounds pompous, but this is what’s been going through my head for the past few weeks/months/years, and I’m finally taking the time to scribble it down in a massive stream-of-consciousness dump.

So what am I going to do? Well, perhaps you’ve noticed that I’ve already started posting one recipe a week that I create spontaneously from a farmers market visit; I’m also going to try to post a recipe review from a different cookbook each week, and I’ll hopefully have some kind of mental outpouring such as this. And maybe you’re thinking: “What’s the big deal? Share what’s on your mind! It’s your blog!” But reflecting on my upbringing, I feel as though I was raised to be polite… maybe even slightly complacent… unless I felt there was some kind of injustice going on. And even then, I was only to speak up if I felt there was some difference I could make.

Sounds awfully arbitrary, no? I agree. So, am I reactionary or am I proactive? Shit, I don’t know. What kind of question is that? I’m just me. Yet through whatever extraordinary set of circumstances, there are a number of people that look to what I say as guidance. And whether that number is one or one million, it’s a number, and I need to treat that with the utmost of respect. Rest assured that nothing I post here will ever be facetious or contrary to my personal moral compass/beliefs. I’ll continue cranking out recipes and the occasional mental unload… and while you may or not agree or like what I have to say, know that I’m only sharing it because I felt as though by not posting it, I was disrespecting my reason for living. I want to be a writer… so I’ve chosen myself because nobody else would.

I accept this responsibly proudly and humbly, and assure you that I’ll never do anything to betray your trust. Anything I present to you that may seem insensitive or unintelligent, I assure you, comes from a place of love and perhaps misunderstanding. I guarantee I’ll be misinformed at times, as any of us would be, if only because we’ve never experienced anywhere near all there is to experience. With that in mind, I hope you treat my thoughts, and your own, as an exchange of possibilities. There may or may not be a grand architect that rules this universe, but in case one does, I’m keeping it civil… sharing my ideas in the hopes of having them corroborated or improved or disproven. Whatever the case may be, I’ll die knowing I spoke my mind and instigated a conversation. There are some crazy ideas in my brain that I sincerely hope will bring about positive change in our world… and I’ll share them soon enough, but for now… you’ve been warned. I’m gonna be speaking my mind on this website from time to time.

Unsubscribe… or forever hold your peace.

Raw Brussels Sprout Salad recipe with red onion, apples, walnuts, and a maple-Sriracha vinaigrette

Recipe: Raw Brussels Sprout Salad with Sriracha-Maple Vinaigrette

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Raw Brussels Sprout Salad recipe with red onion, apples, walnuts, and a maple-Sriracha vinaigrette

Last week, I headed over to the Studio City Farmers Market to pick up some organic produce for a video shoot I was doing at my friends’ house as part of an oral history project for the Chinese American Museum‘s newest exhibit, “L.A. Heat: Taste-Changing Condiments“, which focuses on art inspired by Sriracha and Tapatio, two divine hot sauces made right here in Los Angeles. (I’m honored to be on the advisory board for this exhibit, which runs now through July 12!)

The videographers asked if there was somewhere we could go that inspired me, and I immediately suggested we head to the farmers market. Walking in with no real idea of what I was going to make—other than knowing I’d be using Sriracha in my recipe—I was struck by the beauty of these purple Brussels sprouts. I’d never tasted them before, let alone seen them! The kind woman at the produce stand told me they were similar in taste to regular Brussels sprouts, but with a slightly sweet note. With that, I couldn’t wait to try them!

Raw green and purple Brussels sprouts

(more…)

Recipe: Roasted Leek, Asparagus & Sunchokes with Sun-Dried Tomato & Rosemary Millet "Polenta"

Roasted Leek, Asparagus, and Sunchokes with Sun-Dried Tomato & Rosemary Millet “Polenta”

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Recipe: Roasted Leek, Asparagus & Sunchokes with Sun-Dried Tomato & Rosemary Millet "Polenta"

Another week, another successful trip to the Downtown Glendale Farmers Market! Not only did I find plenty of inspiration in the fresh, local, organic produce on display, I also discovered some varieties of produce I’d never seen before, like Shunkyo semi-long radishes, AND I found a grower with organic passionfruit, macadamia nuts, and cherimoya!

Organic asparagus spears from the farmers market

But what really called to me this week was the fat stems of asparagus I saw standing regally in shallow pans of water. I grabbed a small bunch, scooped up a leek, and a big handful of handsome sunchokes in the hopes that I could make an interesting soup. But once I got home, I wanted to be a little more adventurous than that. I don’t play with sunchokes too much; I usually just throw a raw one into my green juices, but I’ve been wanting to roast some for a while now. They get a wonderfully hearty flavor redolent of artichokes, which is why you may also find them labeled as Jerusalem artichokes at the market. (more…)

Indian-Spiced Butternut Squash recipe (Photo courtesy The Perfect Pantry)

Marrying Cooking With Music, Thanks to Spotify & Geotunes

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It’s no secret that I’m super into food and cooking, but not too many people know that I’ve got a very deep love for music as well. Cooking gets me thinking, but music… music gets me feeling. I’ve gotten in a rut recently. Not an emotional one, mind you, but a creative one. I’d been making a lot of my favorite dishes over and over again, and playing all my usual playlists ad nauseam. But, I gotta give a monster shout-out to the app Spotify for introducing me to all kinds of songs and artists I’ve never heard—or often even heard of—through its “Radio” and “Discover” features, not to mention the countless recommendations friends have sent to me via a collaborative playlist or through the in-app messaging system. And now, I’ve discovered another really cool tool within Spotify that’s not only gotten me even more excited about finding new music… it’s also gotten me excited about cooking new dishes.

It’s called Geotunes, and its purpose is to help people “locate and listen to songs written about cities, landmarks, events and more using a giant interactive map as your musical playground.” My buddy Tim Herscovitch is actually the one who introduced me to it; he’s been working as the Interactive Content Lead on it and suggested I could use it to put together themed playlists for when I’m cooking a dish from a particular region for friends. After Tim gave me a quick little tour of the Geotunes app within Spotify—all of which is free to use by the way—I felt inspired to start listening to music from some of the countries with my favorite foods. I clicked on India and set it on shuffle for a while and got to dreaming about what I wanted to make.

Sure, I could pop in some Ravi Shankar while whipping up some chana masala, but I like that Geotunes doesn’t just find music from your selected city/region/country, it finds songs that are about your chosen location. Sure, they aren’t all going to be to your liking since it spans all genres, but you’re able to isolate the songs you like on your own playlist and skip those you don’t enjoy. And every so often, you come across a little stylized “g” (the Geotunes icon: "g") next to a track, which lets you know there’s some bonus information about it and how it ties into your place of interest.

Now then, about India. I’ve got my Spotify account and I’ve downloaded Geotunes on my desktop… so what food do I want to make now? Here are a few of my favorite Indian recipes that I think would be GREAT to cook alongside the Geotunes India playlist on shuffle:

Indian Spiced Butternut Squash slow cooker recipe | vegan & gluten-freeSlow Cooker Indian-Spiced Butternut Squash recipe

This recipe is straight out of Anupy Singla’s celebrated cookbook, The Indian Slow Cooker. It uses quite a little list of different spices, but that tends to be the nature of the beast when you’re dealing with Indian cuisine. Seriously, this just screams comfort food to me. Bonus that it’s vegan and gluten-free! (Photo & recipe via The Perfect Pantry)

Sample track I liked from the “Geotunes: India” playlist — “India Pindia”, by Tøyen

 

Jeweled Kitchari Recipe (photo courtesy The Vegenista)Jeweled Kitchari recipe

My good friend Melissa, the mastermind behind one of my favorite blogs, has been on a roll lately with her delicious ayurvedic-inspired recipes and this latest one of hers looks no different. Chock full of mung dal (split mung beans), beets, beet greens, and basmati rice, I’m getting hungry all over again just looking at her beautiful picture.

This kitchari recipe is vegetarian, but can easily be made vegan by using coconut oil in place of the ghee (clarified butter) that’s called for. Bonus that it’s also gluten-free!

(Photo & recipe via Vegenista)

Sample track I liked from the “Geotunes: India” playlist — “Hunting Tigers Out In India”, by Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band

 

Indian Spiced Tomato Gratin recipe | 101 CookbooksSpiced Tomato Gratin recipe

I love Heidi Swanson’s original recipes and her wonderful cookbooks, but I really love when she tweaks other people’s dishes. Here, she transforms chef Suzanne Goin’s potato-tomato gratin simply—by using curry in place of thyme.

Vegans: Feel free to use coconut oil instead of butter and unsweetened coconut milk for the cream. (Photo & recipe via 101 Cookbooks)

Sample track I liked from the “Geotunes: India” playlist — “India Sleeping”, by Mars

 

I’ll be putting some more of these cooking and music posts up in the coming weeks, since I think it’s kind of a neat idea. Any cuisines in particular you’d like to see? Leave a note in the comments section or hit me on Twitter: @RandyClemensEsq. Hope you’ve gotten inspired too!

Raw Celery Root & Beet Noodles with Beet Green & Pistachio Pesto

Raw Celery Root & Beet Noodles with Pistachio-Beet Green Pesto

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Raw Celery Root & Beet Noodles with Pistachio-Beet Green PestoFor months now, I’ve been talking about going to the farmers market to buy some local, seasonal, organic vegetables and coming up with a spontaneous recipe that utilized my haul. But I’ve been procrastinating big time, and one of my excuses was that the my nearest farmers market didn’t have ANY organic farmers present. So here I am walking to Whole Foods Market instead and I see a poster announcing that the Downtown Glendale Market had just moved to a new location with a whole bunch of organic growers! (Bonus points that Carole Gallegos is the new market manager; I used to love chatting with her and shopping at the Studio City Farmers Market when she was there.) (more…)

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