music

Living now, later

Perhaps it's a function of almost dying, perhaps it's young wisdom, perhaps it's completely normal, but there are times when I know I'm going to want to remember exactly how this feels.  There have been a few times in my life, routines that I've been in, that I've saved, on purpose, in a vault in my mind.  And I can get them out whenever I want and really feel them again.

I learned about classical conditioning for the first time in high school, but I didn't trust a single thing the teacher said, nor did any of us, when we found out his credentials included one college class in Psychology.  I spent the whole semester devising a pulley system which would dump glue water and then a bucket of feathers on his head.

The next chance I got to learn about classical conditioning, I was paying attention.  I remember all about the dogs and the bells and how it works.  Basically, the guy who devised this had a bunch of hungry dogs.  Before he fed the dogs, he would ring a bell.  The dogs associated the bell with the food, so eventually when the guy rang the bell and then didn't give the dogs food, they drooled anyway.  We're all like the dogs -- hearing a popular song from the eighth grade dance era should send us all reeling back to that time fraught with humiliation and cluelessness.  We're also not like the dogs, because we can decide to do an experiment on ourselves.  Which I do.

Indulging in my reverie, I never photographed the rain drops, but this person did.

When I was interning at a graphic design firm in Zürich in my early twenties, I had premonition that I would want to remember the twenty minute train rides that book-ended my days stuffed with design, tango dancing, strong coffee-drinking, and coming of age.  Frequently it rains in Switzerland because the clouds get stuck between the mountains, so most of the time the windows of the trains were streaked with water droplets scooting down the glass with the rhythm of the rails.  Every time the conditions were like that, I would listen to Peter Gabriel's "I Grieve" through my headphones.  The song was fittingly melancholy, terribly romantic, and beautiful like the gray landscape blurred out of the window.  And lo, whenever I miss having that gift of time in my life, time to chase thoughts, or not think at all, I play the song and am there again.

The Frog Prince :: {Red Pasta Sauce}

I was the girl in high school who painstakingly crafted mix tapes, who got to school at 7am for string ensemble practice, and who never didn't have music playing in the background.  Favorites of mine in high school included pretty much anything from the 70's, thanks to the influence of the ganja-smoking art room crowd with whom I shared all of my time (unless I was in the music room).  We all ate lunch in the art room, too, using the batik wax-melting device to cook grilled cheese sandwiches.  Our art teacher knew we needed somewhere to be, and she didn't mind, as long as we cleaned the burnt on cheese off of the art supplies.  She let us play music, too.  We all took turns bringing our favorite albums.  As my parents' luck would have it, I was friends with the non-ganja-smoking minority group of the art room crew.  The most trouble we really got up to was rearranging people's lawn ornaments or planting cans of Campbell's Chunky Beef Soup around the town when it was below freezing, so the soup would expand and explode out of the can.  Chunky Beef was chosen because it looked the grossest, of course.  So we clean cut art-room folks listened the hazy 70's music and totally thought we had all been born in the wrong decade, man.  But we also listened to swing music and crooner stuff.  The nineties were actually a great time for that, and we wore wingtip shoes, took swing dancing lessons, and sang Frank Sinatra songs in the car as we cruised around with our cans of soup.

These great standard songs still have their appeal for me.  When I'm not sure what I'm in the mood to listen to, usually a little Frank Sinatra or Bobby Darin does the trick.  So as it happened, as I was finishing "Fill My Heart with Song", I was listening some crooner playlist or other, and "You're Nobody til Somebody Loves You" came on.  The rest is history:

"You're Nobody 'til Somebody Love You" -- especially if you're the frog prince.


Red Pasta Sauce
Also known as: I finally figured out how to make a quick pasta sauce from cheap canned tomatoes (a staple in our house)!  This comes together so quickly, and you probably have most of the ingredients in your fridge right now.
This sauce starts with bacon, so we're already on our way to success.  Glaze the bottom of your preferred pan or pot with olive oil and place over medium-high heat.  Chop about six slices of bacon (or more or less to your taste) and one yellow onion. Add these to your pan, stirring sort of frequently to keep things from sticking.  While the bacon is rendering and the onions are softening and everything is smelling heavenly, grate one large or two small carrots and throw them in the pan with the bacon and onions.  Stir it all around and head back to your chopping board.  Finely chop about four garlic cloves and a small handful of oregano leaves.  Add them to the pan and cook everything together, making sure the garlic doesn't burn, for about two minutes.  Now throw in about three big soup spoonfuls of balsamic vinegar.  Scrape the bottom of your pan with a wooden spoon as the vinegar cooks down, getting up all those delicious brown bits (they're called sucs (pronounced: soox) -- isn't that a great little word?).  Lower the heat to medium.  Open your big can of plum tomatoes, and pour some of the juice into the pan to keep things from burning while you attend to your tomatoes.  Take your immersion blender, if you have one, and wizz it around inside the can, making a chunky purée.  If you don't have an immersion blender, just break the tomatoes up with your hands.  The reason you don't buy purée outright is because they use the highest quality tomatoes from the harvest in the cans of whole tomatoes, and as you go down the line of canned-tomato-textures, the quality of tomato used gets poorer and poorer.  Pour your chunky puree in to the pan, stir everything around, season with a hefty pinch of salt, some cracked pepper or pepper flakes, and let the whole thing simmer for the amount of time it takes you to cook your pasta (around 10 minutes).  Check for seasoning, toss with pasta, and serve with lots of grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano on the side.
{Other things you could add to this sauce: capers, olives, anchovies (add the anchovies with the carrots), and adjust your salt accordingly -- you'll need less.}