“My eyes fell upon the grey linoleum floor and I wondered how many other women had sat on this toilet and stared at this floor. Each of them the center of their own world, all of them yearning for someone to put their love into so they could see their love, see that they had it.”
I’m rarely in step with reading an author’s work within a year of a new release, much less their debut novel, but Miranda July is a writer that I both admire and who’s work I relate to on a subconscious level. Thus, I couldn’t let too much time pass before feasting my eyes on her first novel. No One Belongs Here More Than You , July‘s first book is a series of short stories that, for whatever reason, took me a few months to get through. Don’t misunderstand my lengthy drought in reading for exhaustion with her writing. More than anything, I just wasn’t in the right head space, nor did I devote as much time to reading as I do now. I go through phases. All this to say, these stories are not the easiest to digest; they are tormenting and at times confusing. They resonate because of their raw and intimate understanding of the darker side of the human condition. My confusion came from trying to understand why July would write such pitiful fictional characters into the world and leave them their, waiting. The answer? It’s reality. Life doesn’t tie itself up into perfect bows, most of the time. July’s writing is the gritty dirt under your toenails and the dried booger you find as you graze your hand under the multi-generational office desk chair that squeaks every time you move. Now that I’ve left you with this delightful bit of imagery, let’s move on to the novel at hand.
“I had spent years training myself to be my own servant so that when a situation involving extreme wretchedness arose, I would be taken care of.”
The First Bad Man by Miranda July
July’s first full-length novel is the kind of book that makes the confident, self-conscious and the self-conscious, wildly neurotic. I was bewildered and engrossed in this book and in Cheryl’s– our protagonist’s–world, if only because she made me once again question why it is we use the word insane to describe those individuals who are mentally disordered, and the word sane for those who are in their ‘right’ mind. I was once a barista, and one of my lady barista co-workers and I would talk about the sane–insane topic and spout scenarios to one another wile frothing and stirring. Any book that makes you question ‘things’ has redeeming qualities. July reveals nothing but fearlessness in her writing and distinguishes the idea that women cannot write wry and honest material.
The text did feel unpredictable at times, but this too felt like a purposeful act by July to create a character within the tone of the book. However, I cannot say I enjoyed this aspect of it the book. Countless narratives have a moment of truth and muddy sadness by the middle of the book, and though July took no restraints in making her characters suffer, it felt as though she herself may have been a bit lost in the structure of the book by mid-way. Fortunately, the story remained intact and the uncensored nature of her writing races you through the rest of the text. July eloquently, and without excessive crudity, exposes the rigid nature by which many humans handle matters of sexuality, and the gross dishonesty that’s tied to instinctual behavior. July also presents a realistic impression of the sexual subconscious as a being that’s wild, unwieldy, fickle and unpredictable. By the end of this book, I felt as though July was setting up a challenge for me to dig a little deeper into the way I manage my perspectives and realities, and for this, I’m grateful.
“I had accidentally been cruel; this only ever happens at times of great stress and my regret is always tremendous.”
“‘I think I might be a terrible person.’ (he said) – For a split second I believed him–I thought he was about to confess a crime, maybe a murder. Then I realized that we all think we might be terrible people. But we only reveal this before we ask someone to love us. It is a kind of undressing.”
“There had been options, before the baby, but none of them had been pursued. I had not gone to nightclubs and said ‘Tell me everything about yourself’ to strangers. I had not even gone to the movies by myself. I had been quiet when there was no reason to be quiet and consistent when consistency didn’t matter. For the last twenty years I had lived as if I was taking care of a new born baby.”
“But as the sun rose I crested the mountain of my self-pity and remembered I was always going to die at the end of this life anyway. What did it really matter if I spent it like this–caring for this boy–as opposed to some other way? I would always be earthbound; he hadn’t robbed me of my ability to fly or live forever. I appreciated nuns now, not the conscripted kind, but modern women who chose it. If you were wise enough to know that this life would consist most of letting go of things you wanted, then why not get good at the letting go, rather than the trying to have?”
As for edibles, I chose to make a simple kale dish as a dedication to Cheryl and her system. I even used the same white plate I served this kale on to eat another dish later, before cleaning it. We must have a system! No matter the season, there’s nothing more savory and satisfying to me than wilted greens and I thought there could be no better time to share my recipe with you all than in conjunction with this book.
Wilted Kale for Cheryl
- 1 large bundle kale of your choice (rinsed, ripped into pieces and massaged by hand; I used purple kale)
- 1 bulb shallots (thinly sliced; mine worked out to about three ‘cloves’)
- 3 cloves garlic (thinly sliced)
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp fleur de sel
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- Heat olive oil over medium flame and toss shallots and garlic gently for 2 minutes (take care not to burn garlic)
- Add kale in handfuls, and using tongs, shift kale around to coat all leaves with oil
- Once kale is bright and shiny, begin to add fleur de sel, red pepper flakes, and vinegar and use tongs to mix everything together until kale is bright green or mildly wilted
- Turn off heat and enjoy!
- I like to use my cast iron skillet to make wilted greens because it adds to the flavor and they cook down perfectly
- Feel free to use whatever salt you have on hand if easier and cut out the spice if you’re not into spicy foods, but be aware that the flavor will not be as bright and tangy
After reading Miranda July in the month of July, I feel happy to know that I’m on target with new releases and with an artist like her. I hope you all got as much out of this book as I did! What are your thoughts? Did you chow down on anything in particular while reading this book? Share some of your #noshedinabook photos with me and check out what else I’ve been reading this year. Join me in my next reading selection, Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty by Diane Keaton. And remember…bite responsibly!
There are many reasons to look forward to certain days of the week, but Thursday’s are special around our house because we pick up our packed CSA box–and I mean packed–with an array of veggies and fruits to kick-start new ideas for recipes. This winter we have been fortunate to receive some of my favorite veggies and fruits all in one box, and I thought I could share our abundance of yummies with you–in recipe form–in this fleeting winter season.
My favorite meals usually involve a bowl. There is something incredibly comforting about food in a bowl to me. Perhaps I channel back to the feeling of being a child and picking the biggest concave basin to eat my cereal from, with loads of milk and never the worry of a spill or splash. In my opinion, bowls are where it’s at! With this dish, I decided to work with layers, which I feel gives more depth to the flavors and textures touching your palette. Like I previously mentioned, I was working with veggies directly from our CSA box, thus it did most of the menu planning for me.
I get in a bit of a rut with root veggies, and though I know there are a myriad of things to do with them, I typically end up preparing one or two variations because I’m in a time bind, but this week I wanted to mix it up a hint. I decided to make a sauce with the beets to create a colorful backdrop to the remainder of the dish. I allowed myself the joy of slowing down.
What’s wonderful about this recipe is that it’s an ‘everyday’ kind of meal. It’s not as sexy as some of the gourmet delicacies you’ll find out there, but what it is, is realistic and relative to the time and availability of what you might have hanging out in your fridge or produce baskets this time of year (at least in the states).
You could eat the dish in layers or mix it all together, but this is not a dish for the faint of heart as it’s bursting with lively flavor and swimming in immaculate texture.
I suggest eating this meal with friends or a loved one, that way you can share in the bounty and casual nature of the dish. Kick back with little prep and effort for table arrangement and enjoy it with your favorite record or even this Songza playlist –> An Ipanema of the Mind. Yes, I’m hooked on Songza.
From a before dinner drink to the entrée, I hope you enjoy!
Grapefruit Ginger Fizzy
- 1 25.4 fl. oz Topo Chico or any mineral water
- 1 inch grated ginger
- 1 to 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
- juice of 4 grapefruits
- 3 or 4 drops liquid stevia (if you want it sweeter, I prefer mine more tart so I leave this out)
- After juicing your grapefruits, pour the liquid through a sieve and catch the liquid in a wide-mouth container–this will catch any extra pulp or seeds that may have slipped through into the juice (or leave it behind if you like pulpy juice)
- Now, pour the juice into a large pitcher
- Add remaining ingredients and stir
- Now, add the mineral water
- Stir or shake if you have a lid
- Chill and sip in your favorite glass before and after your big bowl of veggies!
I have always enjoyed grapefruit, it is one of my favorite citrus fruits and I am always very happy when it comes in season because it adds a nice addition to my daily eats! Fresh grapefruit or grapefruit juice would be ideal to start your days or begin your meals in the winter as it helps to detoxify your liver, alkalize your body and give your metabolism a boost. Additionally, it is loaded with vitamins and minerals and will help with reducing and preventing fevers.
Bountiful Winter Bowl
- 1 cup quinoa (rinsed & soaked)
- 2 cups water
- generous pinch of salt
- small bundle of beets – about 4 (cleaned, peeled and boiled until tender; reserve beet greens for another time)
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 tsp annatto powder
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1/4-1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (optional)
- 2 or 3 cloves garlic (more if you’re a garlic hound like me)
- handful of parsley (flat leaf or curly; minced)
- 2 glugs of extra virgin olive oil (2 tbsp)
- salt to taste
- 1 bundle of your favorite greens in season (I’m using curly kale; pull leaves off stem, massage and rip into small pieces, soak and rinse, then salad spin to remove excess water)
- 1/2 yellow onion (thinly sliced into strips)
- 2 or 3 glugs of grapeseed oil (2 or 3 tbsp)
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (or to taste, in ‘pours’)
- splash or 2 of red wine (whatever kind you have on hand, the higher quality the better the taste)
- 2 hefty pinches of red pepper flakes
- salt to taste
- 4 medium sweet potatoes (cleaned and cut into 1/4 inch half-moons; cut off the dimples or where dirt has sunken in)
- 5 or 6 small to medium carrots (cleaned and cut into half-moons)
- 2 glugs of extra virgin olive oil (2 tbsp)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 cup walnut pieces (there will be some leftover)
- 1 avocado (one half for each person you’re serving; thin slices)
- Preheat oven to 400ºF
- Place the cut sweet potatoes and carrots into a medium mixing bowl and cover with a couple of glugs of olive oil, salt and black pepper; mix well with clean hands
- Spread mixture over two baking sheets so the veggies are not touching; bake for 20 to 30 minutes, flipping half-way through
- Once veggies are in the oven, after rinsing and soaking, pour the quinoa into a medium saucepan and add water and a pinch of salt
- Cover and bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook for 15 or 20 minutes
- Fluff quinoa with fork
- While quinoa is cooking, in another saucepan, place beets in water to boil until they are tender to a fork (15-20 minutes)
- Place beets, paprika, onion powder, annatto powder, lemon juice, 2 or 3 garlic cloves, olive oil and salt into blender and blend until smooth
- Cover quinoa with beet sauce and distribute throughout; add minced parsley and feel free to add unsweetened almond milk for a creamier sauce or add water or more olive oil if mixture becomes dry; re-heat on low and cover to keep warm until remainder of dish is prepared
- In deep skillet over medium heat, add 2 or 3 glugs of olive oil until it flows like water over the bottom of the pan
- Add onion strips and cook until browned but not fully caramelized (7 or 8 minutes)
- Begin to place handfuls of kale into skillet and stir with tongs until greens are bright but not soggy (1 or 2 minutes)
- Now, add your splashes of apple cider vinegar and red wine until you hear a crashing and cracking sound–it should be a loud roar; continue to mix greens making sure to not burn, and then sprinkle with salt and red pepper flakes and remove from heat
- In a dry skillet, over medium heat, place walnuts and toast until a light golden brown; take care not to burn
- NOW, to assemble the delicious bowl, in this order bottom to top: wilted kale and caramelized onion mixture, quinoa with beet sauce, roasted veggies, toasted walnuts (by eye), avocado slices
- Enjoy every bite!
*This should serve approximately 2 to 4 people depending on portion sizes
Quinoa, no longer the ‘It’ grain, is still ‘It’ at our abode. It’s a full-source protein with a delightful nutty flavor and a fluffy light texture that absorbs flavor well. The perfect grain to use for heavier sauces like this one, the semi-bitter undertones of quinoa are offset by the sweet and mildly tangy flavor of the beets and the umami of the garlic. There are many exceptional qualities about this meal nutritionally, but take care in knowing you’ll be very satisfied and sated afterward.
Let me know what you think of the recipes and what type of creations you’re coming up with at the close of this season. And remember…bite responsibly!
Yummy and grateful regards,
Check out more kitchen letters here!