Since last March, “How are you?” has become a real doozy. “I’m great,” I respond automatically. But then I pause and start again. “You know, the world is heavy and sad but we’re doing well and the kids are amazing and ridiculous.” Whatever your go-to answer is, the truth is that we’re all processing a lot. Even those of us (me) who are coming from places of privilege.
Earlier this week, when the (three times) guilty verdict came back in the trial for the killing of George Floyd, I cried in relief. It was an all too “rare rebuke of police misconduct,” and while it wasn’t justice, it was a measure of accountability and a small sign that we aren’t completely lost. But almost immediately after came the news that 16-year-old Ma’Kiah Bryant had been killed by a Columbus police officer outside her home. The NYT reported the brutal statistic that over three people a day were killed by law enforcement during the trial.
My life is full of joy and I’m so lucky. The world feels shitty and broken. These things can all be true at the same time. We can be ok and not ok. I think the thing to do is keep feeling and doing what we can, in our own ways. At least that’s my plan.
Thank you for listening. Here are some of the things I’m loving right now:
To understand how things got so broken: I’ve mentioned Heather McGhee before but I can’t stop thinking about her book, The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Us and How We Can Prosper Together and recommending it to everyone I know. It’s a very human book that shows how decades of racist policies and government actions have brought us to where we are today and — thankfully — where we can go from here. It also shows how infrastructure (including how we define it) can be a major tool in building equity.
On the subject of working during a pandemic: I’m a new subscriber to Anne Helen Petersen’s Culture Study newsletter and I very much identified with the latest edition about the myriad ways in which businesses are failing their workers, from low-wage restaurant workers to the tippy top of the chain.
Comfort baking, whole grain edition: Many moons ago, Rob bought me a flour mill “because I liked whole grains.” It was very thoughtful, except for the fact that we lived in a 500 square foot apartment. We gave the mill away but I’ve been swapping in spelt, einkorn, and buckwheat flours ever since. That’s why I was so excited to get our copy of Roxana Jullapat‘s Mother Grains cookbook. It pulls inspiration from her background growing up in Costa Rica as well as her travels, and includes recipes for many of the glorious breads and pastries she serves at her LA bakery-cafe Friends & Family. So far, I’ve tried her Buckwheat Banana Bread which, with the addition of dark chocolate, is easily my new favorite.
When in doubt, nut(seed) butter: We are in the funny limbo before spring produce really comes on and I have zero excitement about cooking (unless it involves chocolate, see above). But there are still many meals to fill. Which brings me to: nut butter. I’ve been making a lot of soba noodles with sesame-tahini sauce (riffed off this Heidi Swanson recipe, also school friendly!) as well as Yewande Komolafe’s Baked Tofu with Peanut Sauce. And because Rob and I both eat peanut butter directly out of the jar, we buy Santa Cruz Organic Dark Roasted Peanut Butter in bulk.
Outsourcing celebrations: Rob’s birthday was last week and normally we would have planned an elaborate dinner and spent all day on edge about dishes and timing and which kid was being most destructive. This year, we decided to skip all that. Instead, we ordered a Persian feast from Tanabel, a Brooklyn-based food and events that employs female refugees from the Middle East. It was a gorgeous, exciting bounty of dishes that tasted both elevated and homemade. It was such a treat, and made us want to a) order again and b) try our hands at making Kuku Sabzi and Chelo Ba Tahdig.
Delighting in Waffles and Mochi: Thank god for Michelle Obama and Samin Nosrat. This show is such an absolute joy and such a fun way to get kids thinking about ingredients and food and culture in different ways. Also this bonus episode of Samin and Hrishikesh Hirway’s podcast, Home Cooking, features a cameo by Waffles and Mochi and made me smile so hard it hurt.
Leveling up our spices: Rob and I have given up on organizing our spices but we have been slowly getting rid of our dusty old bottles and bringing in better, brighter versions. We buy the majority of our spices at Sahadi’s but have also been ordering from specialty retailers like Diaspora Co. and Burlap & Barrel. The difference between Diaspora Turmeric or Coriander and regular stuff is truly night and day, and I cannot get over the sweet and spicy complexity of the Burlap & Barrel Royal Cinnamon.
A quick read with depth: I loved Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go and his latest, Klara and the Sun is similarly beautiful and uncomfortable. I sped through it because of the lightness of his writing but the themes — what makes a person a person, the nature of love, parenthood — snuck deep inside of me.
Gratitude, every damn day: My wonderful friend Gina just published a wonderful book about her experience writing a thank-you note every day for a year. It’s called I Want to Thank You and feels especially important and welcome in our current world. It’s inspired me to write weekly (not daily!) thank-you notes to people who have gotten me through this year, from our neighborhood favorites to past colleagues-turned-sounding-boards. Also, it’s fun to buy stamps. I’m eagerly awaiting the tap dancer series later this year.
Finally doing something about holey undies: Or: Why not end on a lighter note? I recently did a drawer clean-out and replaced my old, stretched-out underwear with comfy and seamless versions from Parade. I’d initially steered clear of them because their brand, while amazing, makes me feel old, but I’m really impressed by the fit, fabric, and colors. Plus anyone building a DTC company should take note of how they make it so easy for customers to share their unique referral codes, which is how they’ve built a turbo-charged ambassador program.
Thank you for reading! If this edition was useful, please consider supporting — with follows, signatures, or dollars — Color of Change, a national racial justice organization focused on creating a better and more equitable country for Black people. Bonus idea: I’ve been thinking a lot about mental health recently, especially for Black and brown communities. I love what Sinikiwe Stephanie Dhliwayo is doing with Naaya Wellness and The Check-In, which providing mental health tools as well as free therapy to young Black, Indigenous, and Non-Black people of color.