Thursday, September 27, 2007

Long time no write!

The fluoroquinolone poisoning that I had last month has been an eye opener for me. It showed me all the things that I'd been taking for granted. My sense of smell, my sense of taste, the ability to get out of bed in the morning, the ability to eat whatever I want without fear it may have some weird effect on me, my body's ability to do pretty much whatever I ask of it, that my body was hale and healthy.

Now, my muscles aren't as strong, my tendons ache after simple short tasks, my tastebuds and sense of smell will hopefully recover fully within twelve months, I get weird aches zings and twinges in my body, I have no endurance for crowds or noise(hypersensitive hearing) and I don't exercise for fear of rupturing tendons and muscles.

But, all that aside, I now appreciate the health and body I do have. I've lost any and all interest in dieting and binge eating. Not having all of your sense of taste and smell tends to decrease the desire to eat for pleasure's sake alone. Occasionally I spazz out because my body is trying to taste things that the olfactory nerves aren't quite up for yet, but overall I'm eating intuitively without any guilt. And it does feel good.

Also what feels good is that I've had a turn around in how I think about my writing. I've been dreading the next draft of all my stories. Basically I'd fallen into a heap because of how sore my tendons get from just a little bit of writing, but mostly it's been a mental thing. The initial creating and writing is the easy part. There's nothing in the tank at the moment in regards to that, and I've found it really has come time to knuckle down and deal with the stories I have waiting patiently on my computer. Time to revise and polish.

And polishing a novel is very different to polishing a short story. I've been overwhelmed by the sheer size of the task and how much I don't know and OMGWHATIFISCREWITUP? Don't worry, this is just my nature. I was exactly the same when an apprentice chef. I'm a basket case momentarily when learning new things. I get embarrassed when I make mistakes. Even if I'm the only one who knows I'm embarrassed. I don't know if it's a defeatist kind of attitude or some kind of screwed up perfectionism, but if I'm sure gonna get it wrong, I tend not to even try. Comes from having the ability to learn things quickly and easily I guess. I hadn't really had time to build character in regards to try and fail and try again.

The FQ poisoning is teaching me some of that too. Gotta do as much as I can without hurting myself and then stop. Then when rested go again some more, if I can. If not, let someone else do it. I'm being forced to learn patience. To learn to relax. To learn that it's okay if I can't complete a task right away. I'm also learning what it is to be physically weaker, and I don't like it. But, at least I can still walk and perform basic tasks, if slower than usual. I'm learning to be grateful for the simple things.

And it was my brother who said a simple thing that that reshaped the way I look at my writing completely. I was telling him how afraid and daunted I was, and he replied that there's nothing to be daunted about. The bit that I'm up for next is the fun part. Basically getting in there and getting your hands dirty. Doing the nitty-gritty and having fun building your world and your story and your characters. Building on the foundation I've already created.

Buggerit, I do have more to say, but will have to save that for later. My tendons in my forearms and fingers are sore now, so I must stop. Damn FQ.

Basically just wanted to let yas know I'm still alive and still here.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Pasta Salad Recipe - Marinated Veggies.

Sorry, it's a little wordy. But, once you get through the blahblahblah, it really is a simple salad to make.

50g or 1.75oz carrot, shaved* or grated.
50g or 1.75oz onion, diced small. (Can use 5-6 green/spring onions if you prefer)
1 Lebanese** cucumber, sliced fine. (or half a stalk of celery, sliced fine)
60g or 2oz broccoli florets, cut small then blanched. (Blanching is important brings out flavour of broccoli and stops the slight bitterness.)
100g or 3.5oz marinated artichokes, chopped.
115g or 4oz Roasted red peppers/capsicums, diced small.
75g or 2.5oz sundried tomatoes in oil, diced small.
2.5 - 3 cups of cooked pasta shapes.***
Dash of salt.

For this dressing I use some of the oil/vinegar mix from the artichokes, some oil from the sun-dried tomatoes, plus some golden balsamic vinegar to make a vinaigrette. I think I use between 1/4 to a 1/3 cup of dressing, certainly no more than half a cup all up. Don't use brown balsamic as the flavour really is too sweet and heavy for this salad. Definitely don't use malt vinegar either. If you don't have golden balsamic, white vinegar or a wine vinegar would be equally tasty. Not sure about apple cider or rice vinegar though. Have fun, experiment!
Make sure whichever dressing you make, or buy, that the vinaigrette ratio is 1:1 oil and vinegar. You want to balance out the oily, marinated ingredients with slightly more vinegar than would go in a traditional vinaigrette dressing. (usually 2:1 oil and vinegar)

Chop all vegetables, chuck in a mixing bowl. Once pasta is cooked to your satisfaction, drain and toss through ingredients. Add enough dressing to thoroughly coat everything. Season with a little salt if you like. Set in fridge to cool for at least an hour. Taste before serving and add more vinaigrette if necessary. That's a big mistake a lot of people make (I still do it sometimes too.) Make it up till it tastes great, forgetting that as it sits in the fridge, the dressing gets absorbed by the pasta and needs to be refreshed just before serving. That's why so many pasta salads can taste blah. Not enough dressing. Or it's been added when the pasta is already cold, so it's got nothing to stick to.

*For pasta salads I like to use the vegetable peeler to shave off long noodle-like slices of carrot, then cut them into approximately baby-carrot-sized lengths. It gives a nice amount of give for the teeth, without being too crunchy. But, by all means if you prefer to grate or cut into thin slices, please do.
**I'm not sure what you call them, but they're the smallish cucumbers with smaller seeds and pale green flesh. Definitely not the long ones that usually come wrapped in plastic, nor the dark-skinned, white-fleshed fat ones with bigger seeds.
***Preferably not elbow macaroni as it's too small, nor penne as they're too big. Shells, bowties, spirals or anything approximately that size are good. Measurements are rough because I tend to go by eye each time. Adding enough to balance without overwhelming the other ingredients in the salad.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

It must be good, right?

We went to a barbeque on the 26th of August. I had to prepare food right in the midst of a taste bud crisis! Luckily we had some of Alaskaboy's marinated beef in the freezer, and he was making up an Aussie delicacy called Cheesymite Scrolls--or Cheddarmite depending on which bakery franchise you buy them from in Australia--to share. That left me to prepare a salad or side dish of some kind.

I admit I panicked, completely. How the hell am I s'posed to cook when I'm exhausted, severely lacking in two essential senses for cooking, and I have only minimal appetite? Faaaark! I was going to make potato salad, but that really is a dressing I make by taste, like most of my recipes, and potato salad dressing is tricky to get juuuuust right. Besides, I really wasn't in the mood for a heavy, rich dressing when slowly introducing my digestive system to things other than broth, bread, eggs, bananas etc.

AHA! Pasta Salad. Okay, that's something I can make with my eyes closed..and didn't we just buy some roasted red peppers and fresh parsley the other day? {cue fossicking around in cupboards and fridge}


No, I'd only thought about buying the parsley, and hadn't, because they didn't have Italian parsley. Much nicer tasting than the curly English stuff.

NOW what'll I do?

Hmm.. we have that unopened jar of artichokes...and some sundried tomatoes in oil...and onion. Okay let's make a vegetabley, Mediterraneanish, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of salad. Thankfully if it's no good I'll still be able to eat some. ;)

So, I whipped up a new pasta salad. (There wasn't ingredients for a simple garden salad or I woulda gone with that!) Made enough for us to eat at the bbq, with leftovers for the following day's lunch.

Had a new writing-related group to go to the other Friday. And it was bring a plate. Well, fridge was even barer than the other day, but there was enough ingredients left to make another of the pasta salads...this time we had some cucumbers to add to it as well. Yippee!

That bowl was only one of two dishes scraped clean at the end of the night.

I made it again today for lunch..but there was no cucumbers, they'd gone off, so I used some celery instead. No spirelli either, so in lieu there was farfalle.

Bonus was I also remembered to measure out ingredients this time! And take photos.

Considering this is the third time I've made it in less than two weeks, and the fourth time we've eaten it, WITHOUT me being tempted to fiddle with the ingredients, I'm figuring it must be good enough to be a keeper. Also good enough to actually share with others.

The salad went particularly well with the grilled chicken breast and a glass of sparkling pomegranate juice. Good news is my taste buds are a little improved since I first made it and I can enjoy it a bit more each time I've eaten it. :) Alaskaboy's comment was "See, you can still cook, even when you can't taste."

If anyone wants the recipe, please do let me know. It's very easy to make.