Category Archives: Writing

Sometimes I write about anxiety and politics

NY Mag’s The Cut was kind enough to let me write about post-election anxiety,

These next few years are a long damned haul, and it’s hard to face that when you have an anxiety disorder. I do, and it’s knocked me flat from time to time over the past few weeks. I wake up in heart-knocking horror in the middle of the night, feel the sting of acid creeping up into my chest, or squirm at my desk with my back muscles twitching because I’ve been hunched down for hours, unconsciously waiting for impact. Several friends have ended up in the ER with panic attacks, convinced they were dying. They weren’t — just their hopes, dreams, and faith in the decency of their fellow man.

The worst happened. More will happen. All the magical thinking and proactive worrying in the world didn’t prevent the outcome of this election, and letting it attack me from the inside is not a viable solution, not if I want to spend the next few years anywhere other than under my increasingly pilling comforter. So I’ve come up with a coping plan. Maybe it’ll help you, too.

Read A Post-Election Action Plan for Anxious People at NYMag.com

Sometime I write about the tough stuff

An essay I published on Medium and which we republished on Yahoo Health and The Huffington Post:

Silent Night Is the Best We Can Hope For

A parent‘s degenerative illness can make the holidays a lot less merry

I’m a 43-year-old teenager, sulking, silent in the passenger’s seat of my father’s Subaru, and he’s doing his level best to fill up the air—mostly by pointing out the local landmarks of Mauldin, South Carolina. There’s the corporate headquarters for Bi-Lo groceries in case I was wondering where all the trucks were coming from (I hadn’t noticed.), the Duke’s Mayonnaise plant, an intersection that’s tricky after dark, in case I was ever out this way again at night.

He’s trying to help and I love him for it, but I’m several clicks south of helpable at the moment and just trying to soldier through. That’s what decent people do. I suppose. I haven’t felt especially decent or much like a person since I landed yesterday. So I approximate what I hope is a neutral, perhaps even mildly pleasant expression and solder it onto my skull as we park the car and amble toward the low brick building with an armload of boxes. He’s limping noticeably and sports a massive, dusk-dark bruise on his forearm, exploding out from a pale, pinprick center. He’s tired, too, from the medication (“Better that than dead,” he says. “Yup,” I say.) but he’s still unmistakably my Pup.

There, just inside, is my mother—or at least what’s left of her. I never know quite what to expect from visit to visit. Parkinson’s Disease (which killed her brother a few years ago) and Lewy Body Dementia are an especially cruel roulette that way. In the two months since I’ve last seen her, they’ve knocked walking and swallowing solids out of play, replacing them with a full time wheelchair and a joyless slurry of pureed foods. But in a fit of whimsy, today they’ve given her back my name. It’s been years since I’ve heard it pass her lips. It comes out in a croak and knocks me off balance.
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Sometimes I write about ugly food

In Praise of Ugly Food:

Let’s start with chicken and dumplings.

Few dishes come closer to what I imagine the cafeteria rations in heaven will mercifully taste like than perfectly executed chicken and dumplings. Then again, perhaps no other dish looks quite so, well, regurgitated, either. So, at a recent Southern Foodways Alliance symposium in Oxford, Mississippi, when world-renowned chef Sean Brock served up a batch he’d cooked—with his very own mother—some of my fellow diners were in a visible tizzy about what to do.

Throughout the event, we’d all been posting hundreds of images of each course to our Instagram accounts. The slice of golden skillet cornbread, the glistening bowl of butter beans, and the Technicolor-green pickles were all objectively lovely. But chicken and dumplings, it seemed, was the whiz kid who couldn’t find a date. And as people wavered and then lowered their cameras without snapping a shot, I found myself downright upset. I mean, this was a rare privilege: An A-list chef and the woman who’d pretty much taught him how to cook, putting their down-home dish on a pedestal in front of some of the biggest names in the food world. And we were shying away because it was homely? Screw that, I thought. This is honest food, and it should be honestly portrayed. I steadied my phone, clicked, and posted. The caption: “Some food isn’t pretty and does not need to be.”

Read the rest at Serious Eats

Sometimes I opine about Las Vegas

10 Vegas Commandments Kat Kinsman

Tasting Table editor-in-chief Kat Kinsman is here to set the record straight: Your notions of Las Vegas as a cesspool of gaudy filth unworthy of your time and money are completely misguided. That’s not to say, of course, that Sin City is without its tawdry temptations. “I lost my vegetarianism on a $3.99 steak-and-egg special at the Tropicana’s coffee shop within an hour of the first time I landed, and I thought I was rolling pretty high.”

Kinsman has been prowling the Strip since 1999, when she says a new era of Vegas dining and drinking began to take shape with the opening of the Bellagio. “I’d argue that it’s turned into one of America’s great culinary destinations, based on sheer number of killer culinary opportunities per square mile. Now some of the world’s finest chefs and bartenders boast outposts that they *gasp* actually show up or cook/mix drinks at on a regular basis—AND mere mortals can get a reservation.”

Based on many years of trial and error, Kinsman gave use the inside scoop on her fool-proof guide for eating and drinking in Las Vegas. With her commandments, you too may experience one of the “sharpest juxtapositions of grotesquerie and bliss possible.”

Get my 10 Vegas Commandments at First We Feast

Sometimes I write about my favorite cocktail

From the Southern Foodways Alliance’s Gravy quarterly #56:

You will never make my favorite drink incorrectly. I will not allow that to happen. Not in a didactic, bossy, or witchy way—I don’t have printed recipe cards in my purse or the proportions tattooed up my forearm. I’m just fully prepared to enjoy whatever version of a French 75 you’d care to serve me. Life is too short to be doctrinaire about my cocktails or deliberately set myself up for disappointment. At least not when there are bubbles to be drunk.

I have a thing for this drink. It hits all my buttons: tart (usually lemon juice, sometimes lime), sweet (sugar, simple syrup, or orange liqueur), fizzy and fancy (Champagne or a reasonable analogue), strong—and here’s where it gets interesting. By the reckonings of most old-tymey bar books and fellas with with wax-tipped moustaches, the hard booze used can be either gin or Cognac. Either is right, so neither is wrong—and I might as well try plenty of ’em just to make sure. It’s not just because I love to sip a French 75 in the cool of a hotel lobby in a city where I’ve never been before, pair one (or two), with a rare, long weekday lunch that makes me feel like I’ve thieved an hour from the gods, or nurse one at a sleek, bland airport bar as my flight time gets shoved back, and back again.

It’s not just the drink; it’s the conversation and surprise that’s served alongside it, especially at a place where they’re not often ordered. I’m not a jerk, strolling into a beer hall or a honky tonk, demanding my twee little beverage. But if I see the makings on the bar, maybe a lightly abused piece of citrus and a stab at a cocktail list, I’ll take my chances.

Read the rest of I’ll Take My Chances

Sometimes I write about Seymour Britchky

OK, I do frequently, but finally I did so at length for Tasting Table.

You never dine alone in New York. There may be a single place setting, one napkin, a solitary fork trailing through the rustic berry crumble, but there is always a ghost next to you at the table. It’s a small city of infinite souls, constantly writing, erasing and rescribbling its history on top of itself.

As you take a bite of grass-fed steak tartare, you think to yourself, Didn’t this restaurant used to be called something else? I think that’s the chef who worked downtown at . . . where was that? I could have sworn this used to be the bar where . . . remember? Remember?

The details fade. The addresses change. The names get hazy. For two all-too-brief decades, self-appointed restaurant critic Seymour Britchky made it his mission to capture it all in shockingly astute, hilarious, quotable prose before disappearing in his own right to become one of the city’s best-fed (and, essentially, forgotten) ghosts.

Read “Suddenly Seymour Disappeared” at Tasting Table.

Sometimes I write about being a misfit toy

How I stole Christmas
Getting through the holidays when you’re a misfit toy (and married)

I don’t want to screw up anyone’s holiday, so I’m mostly staying out of it. There is, so far as I’ve gleaned, right and proper placement for the ceramic Snoopy ornament from grade school, dishes which people are legally and medically required to consume on 12/25 and exact times at which particular singing, reading and unwrapping rituals of must be enacted. If any of these things are even vaguely askew, the section of the continent on which the offense occurs will crumble down into the Earth’s core and Christmas will be ruined. More specifically YOU will have ruined Christmas whether or not you wanted to participate.

Butbutbut, what sort of person (barring a religious or cultural disinclination) would want to opt out of Christmas? Some joy-loathing gorgon? Some Scrooge? Some Grinch? Sure, kick me and my ilk while we’re at the bottom of our seasonal ebb if it makes your yuletide brighter. I probably can’t actually feel worse, or I might even be numb at this point, so by all means, shovel it on, coal lumps and all.
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