Tag Archive: italian


Weird things are known to happen in my kitchen. Especially around breakfast time.

When I walk into the kitchen at 7:30 in the morning before a 9:00 shift at the Writing Center, the choice is obvious. I go straight to the cabinet and grab a granola bar, then contemplate how I’m going to tough out being hungry for about two hours before my lunch break. That early in the morning, that’s about the only thing I can stomach. There’s just something about the morning that murders my appetite. Eggs have always been my mortal enemy, and I seldom have a desire for anything bigger than a bowl of cereal, a cup of yogurt, or a piece of fruit.

Then, I graduated—and became a night owl.

Forget breakfast. If I wake up at 9:00, it’s 11:30 by the time I get hungry, practically lunch time. Sandwich. Soup. Give me anything before I pass out at the keyboard because now, I’m finally awake enough to feed myself, no longer distracted by YouTube or Sherlock Holmes, no longer preoccupied by packing or by proofreading. The need is immanent, and I reach for the first thing I can get my hands on, not because I’m apathetic but because I am desperate to shut my stomach up before it growls loudly enough to register on the Richter scale.

My first Monday off from graduate school, I got up around 9:30 with the flavor of liberty in my mouth. Strangely enough, I was already hungry. I stretched once and walked downstairs, heading for the only thing I would dare eat for breakfast that morning.

The night before, my friend from Chile and I went to The Italian Oven, a local gem where I have spent many celebratory meals, including one to celebrate Gracielle passing her cumulative exams. And then, of course, there was my mom and I, who were unfamiliar with the geography of Mt. Pleasant when we traveled there for our tour of the campus, but since it is one of the best places to eat in town and is conveniently located on the south end by the freeway, we didn’t even give eating there a thought. Besides, we both should have been born Italian.

On this particular grip with Gracielle, Hailee went with us. I had three weeks to move out, and I was running out of food, which I had no desire to buy more of. Besides, I needed to celebrate my thesis defense… again. That’s the sort of thing I felt like celebrating repeatedly. It meant moving on, graduation, no hitch in the plan–until that damned e-mail about formatting that came in today.

Then, I had an idea, one based on years of not eating breakfast for breakfast.

Breakfast Cannolli

Behold, the 1,000-calorie dessert/breakfast.

I ordered a strawberry cannolli to go, and I made a rather lavish breakfast out of it, parked in  front of my television watching season three of Psych in my pajamas. No guilt, no urgency, no frugality. Every bite was a smooth reminder of the ending. This would be my last trip to The Italian Oven. Even now, sitting here and writing about that impulsive breakfast cannolli, I consider my conclusion in Mt. Pleasant to be sudden like a drop-off in the ocean floor. I was prepared to leave two weeks before my actual departure, but when it finally did end, I stood in the empty apartment and listened to my footsteps hammering off of the white walls and the clean floor, unimpeded by the dust of thirteen weeks of chaotic thesising and classwork.

Before then, I had never eaten a cannolli for breakfast, and if I ever do again, I will think of the empty footsteps and the week of sweet celebrations and all the people I knew who are(n’t) there anymore. I will remember the relief that followed the urgency, and I will smile.

Unusual things just tend to produce that reaction.

Sometimes, life throws little surprises your way.

Here’s the thing: I hate surprises. Mostly.

Up until about a month and a half ago, my entire life and future were nothing but chaos. I couldn’t clearly see what I would be doing in the upcoming year, whether or not I would be employed, whether or not I would even be done. And I hate that. I hate it because I’m a planner. I hate it because I get pressure from all sides about what I’m going to do with myself when I’m finally done. I hate it because it is the unknown, which I’m pretty sure irritates me more than anything else.

Then, suddenly, things started coming together.

There is nothing so delicious as proving people wrong, as triumphing over negative expectations and showing that, yes indeed, you can have a degree in English and get what you want… even if what you want changes quite a bit along the way. My original plan was to go straight to a PhD; I never gave the real world a thought—the only thing I wanted was to learn more, write more, read more. Then, quite suddenly, one negative experience blew the lid clean off of the pan and splattered tomato sauce all over the back of the clean range.

It took me two months to wake up to that reality, and when I did, I wanted to go right back to sleep. I had decided on this course five years ago, so why was it changing now? Then again, that begs another question: when exactly do people ever really know what they want? The truth is that the conception of something is usually so grandiose, so flawless, that the reality of it just stings like a steam burn. Maybe it’s only like that for me. As a perfectionist, I like to think things are perfect, that they really are as good as I think they are and that I’m the one who’s flawed so I have to work that much harder to make them better.

I’ve had the epiphany at least forty times by now, and it will be forty more until I get on the plane, but this morning, I woke up to the thought that I had a job. It wasn’t a sharp realization like it was at one-thirty in the morning a few weeks prior. This one was gentle fingers of steam prodding me into consciousness. No… today, my abrupt realization was that, after nearly a year and a half, I had a full and finished draft of my thesis, ninety-four pages long, and that if anyone hacked, maimed, or otherwise jeopardized the well-being of my computer, I would more than likely try beating them to death with a ladle.

Everything came together, just like that. Thesis, job, and all.

This has nothing to do with soup—or does it? Because if there is one thing I have learned during all of this blogging, it is that soup has a way of coming together just at the last minute. A dubious line-up of ingredients that, at first glance, may raise some eyebrows, but with a little work, a little effort, maybe some tears from chopping the onion, they come together. As someone who likes to be mystified at the goings on in the world, I don’t question why or how. I just savor my soup in gratitude.

I celebrated the end of my first semester in a rather unique way. While everyone else was drinking alcohol, I decided to make soup. Tortellini soup. I’m not really sure where the idea struck me, but I thought I should give it a shot. I assembled my ingredients, and when the last tortellini floated to the top, I served myself a bowl. I have probably made tortellini soup more frequently than anything else since moving out, possibly with the exception of paninis, but those hardly constitute as cooking. Maybe curry beat it out. I’m not quite OCD enough to pay attention to that sort of thing. In any case, I told my dad about it, and he eventually altered the recipe to his own specifications, substituting the type of tortellini, the broth used, and several other ingredients.

“Why did you use beef tortellini instead of chicken?” I asked him. It wasn’t a complaint; more like an inquiry so that, for once in my life, I could get a glimpse into my father’s psychology.

“Because I like beef better.”

Fair enough. To this day, I find it a little vexing that he wouldn’t accept the same answer for the reason that I chose English as my major over engineering, but I suppose he and I have such divergent tastes that it really doesn’t matter. In the soup of life, things come together at the drop of a spoon.

And on the rare event that they do actually come together, I tend to like surprises.

Chicken-Herb Tortellini Soup for the Sole

The Twelfth Bowl

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 ½ tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 can Italian tomatoes
  • 1 can vegetable broth
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 10 oz chicken-herb tortellini
  • 8 oz frozen green beans

Directions

  1. Saute onion in olive oil for five minutes.
  2. Add garlic and herbs. Saute additional 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add cooking liquid and tomatoes. Simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Add tortellini and green beans. Simmer for 10 minutes.

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