Egg and Tofu Spring Rolls with Nori

Disclaimer: I wrote this last weekend.  I still think that it's important for me to post this, but know that I've become much more positive as the week has progressed.  I won't pretend that I'm magically better - but I can say that, especially as I write this little note now, I'm much happier than these words below would have you believe.  Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...

Being disoriented by your own emotions is an interesting phenomenon.

One moment you recognize that you're feeling one way, like you're content with yourself, working at your desk, pouring over a genetics study; then suddenly you find yourself with your head in your hands, and you're rocking back and forth in your chair in the middle of the library, with people and voices streaming all around you.  You become aware of yourself, how sick and sad you must look, or otherwise how incredibly invisible you are when no one meets your eyes, as you look up and scan the room for someone, anyone, you know.

It's not just in the library, either.  It's at crew practice, it's walking through the quad to class, it's waiting to fall asleep in the darkest hours of the early morning.  It's like everything is collapsing in and shattering outward at once, in a gray and quiet way; but you know quite well that you are being dramatic, that anyone else in your position would be handling this much better than you are.  Anyone else would be put up walls.  The feelings would just be waves, breaking against it, and the sound of them crashing would simply fade out into a dull roar, which itself would become almost nothing as the walls grew higher, stronger.  Maybe I'm not able because I'm not willing, deep down.  Or not willing because I know I'm not able.

I'm sorry if you don't want to read about this, whatever this is, or if you think it's not appropriate for me to share these struggles in this kind of forum.  I'm not sure myself if I should even be posting this.  I don't want people to worry, and I don't want you to think I'm just crying out for attention here.  That's not the point.  If you know me in person, you know that I don't hide very much.  I'm not good at concealing how I feel.  It's not that I can't keep my mouth shut when a thought pops into my head (well, some people would probably debate that I can't keep my mouth shut, I can be chatty), it's that everything I'm experiencing emotionally shows on my face.  I'm a terrible liar.  And I've always considered this lack of composure, so to speak, a weakness of mine.  I mean, several people who are close to me think it's a weakness, too: how are you supposed to be successful in your career if you cry when you're frustrated, no one will take you seriously if you show too much emotion, you're only hurting yourself and the people around you when you can't maintain your composure.  These aren't exact quotes, but you get the idea - some of it is gendered, like oh you're acting like such a typical woman, all emotional, ugh, pull it together, but that's clearly not the whole story.  It doesn't have to be gendered to be a negative position on emotional toughness.

Nonetheless, it's been drilled into me that this is a personality flaw.  It makes me a burden, while also making me a weak person; it is a hindrance to social and economic success, and so on.  I've tried so hard to make myself tough, especially in these past two months.  I've tried just not to feel anything.  It doesn't work.  It can't work, and it shouldn't work, because it's not a flaw.  It's how I am.  And it can be positive.  When I feel something, I feel it deeply, and you know that I feel it.  And that kind of transparency, while leaving me vulnerable in many ways, also renders incredibly sensitive to the people around me.  I let people into my world who are willing and able to be a part of it, without boundaries (and sometimes people who aren't willing or able to be a part of it, apparently, as I've discovered).  That can be an incredible gift, both for the people in my life and for myself.

So I'm not going to try to hide too much here.  I'm purposefully being non-specific, mostly keeping names and personal events anonymous.  Those details aren't incredibly important to understand what's going on with me, and are too much information to give as far as I'm concerned.  The reflection is enough, I think.  And it may be too much.  So if it is too much I'm sorry.  If you're worried, don't be, I have an incredibly strong support system.  It's just that writing here helps me, for whatever reason.  Maybe I should keep a personal journal, but I probably wouldn't keep up with it when it's just for myself like that, so I let my thoughts overflow here instead.  I hope that those of you who are similar or are feeling similarly will understand, and even benefit from reading this.

Here's to solidarity.

Egg and Tofu Spring Rolls with Nori (for one):

1 teaspoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/5 block soft tofu
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 small avocado
2 sheets nori
3 rice paper wrappers
2 radishes, sliced thinly (I didn't actually use these, but I really wanted something crunchy, so I've written them in here for when I make them again)
~2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce (I didn't have any on-hand so I made a random sauce that evoked similar flavors, but I would've preferred straight-up Hoisin)

In a small non-stick pan, heat canola and sesame oils over medium-low heat.  Once warm, crumble in the soft tofu and warm in the oil for ~5 minutes (basically a quick marinade).  Beat the eggs with the salt, pour over the tofu to cover the pan (making sure the tofu is evenly distributed), and cook low and slow until the eggs have set.  Slide the omelet onto a plate and chill in the freezer.

Heat a couple cups of water until it's almost simmering (it should be steaming but not burn your hands when you go to dip the wrappers in).  Meanwhile, tear each nori sheet into 3 pieces and slice the omelet into 3 pieces as well.  Slice the avocado thinly.

To form the rolls, pour the water into a round dish or cake pan (~9 inch diameter).  Soften one rice paper wrapper at a time in the hot water, then lay flat on a clean surface.  Lay 2 nori strips over the wrapper, making sure to leave space to fold up the sides later, then smear some Hoisin sauce on the nori.  Lay on a third of the avocado, a third of the egg, and some radish slices.  Fold up the sides and roll (like a burrito).  Finish the other two, cut each roll in half, and dig in!      

Rye Bread

Hello, friends.  It's been a long time since we've talked.  How are you?  A lot has changed, for me, anyway.  I haven't been able to write in a while... Like I actually have been physically and emotionally incapable of writing here.  I haven't even wanted to take pictures really.  I've been making lots of food - cherry jam shortbread tart, chicken pot pie, garlic bread, mint chocolate chip gelato, butternut squash and chickpea salad with tahini dressing, maple wheat bread, and some other things I'm forgetting - so it's not like I haven't had material to share with you.  I'm sorry, I'm going to be better about posting.  To give you a recap on what you've missed around here:

- Crew preseason began at the beginning of September, and I hosted two of my lovely crewmies in my apartment for the month.  I don't know what I would've done without them, honestly, they kept me sane.

- Then, when it came time to seat race for the Head of the Charles lineup, my MRI results from August came back, revealing that I have a bruised spine (which is the beginning of a new stress fracture).  I'm going to see a spine specialist soon, but over the past couple weeks I've switched to rowing port (that won't mean anything to some of you, but it matters because now my back is twisting a different way from the one that hurts a lot).  It's actually helped, but we'll see what an actual doctor says.

- This week has been the trial period for novices who are interested in joining the team, so things have gotten more chaotic at the site.  But in a good way - it's nice to have fresh faces around.

- This past weekend, I went to Paris!  We were only in the city for 46 hours total, but it was lovely and incredibly beautiful, just as you can imagine.  I was there with four other UChicago rowers and our novice men's coach for the annual La Traversée de Paris, which is essentially a 34km row on the Seine.  I'd hesitate to call it race, since it's more of a parade, with a couple hundred boats rowing past the Eiffel Tower, Pont Alexandre III, the Musée d'Orsay, the Louvre, and the Notre Dame, and often stopping to take pictures.  This is the third year UChicago has sent a contingency, and we were the only American crew in the event, so it's a very special privilege for our crew.  We each stayed with our own host families from a rowing club in the suburbs of Paris - I miss mine already, she was so wonderful - and met some of loveliest people there.  Now I want to learn French and return to immerse myself completely in city.

- I'm still working at Arete, having been promoted from Project Assistant Intern to Program and Operations Assistant.  I'm moving up in the world!  I've also started working as a research assistant for the Experience and Cognition Lab on campus, run by Daniel Casasanto, and it's really cool.  I'm happy there.

- I'm also taking an EMR (Emergency Medical Responder) class - so basically right now my life is rowing for UChicago, EVP responsibilities for rowing, 4 classes plus the EMR class twice a week, and 2 jobs.  Yeah.  I'm pretty busy...

... I'll sleep when I'm dead.

Rye Bread

3/4 c bread flour
3/4 c rye flour
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 water, room temperature

Flour mixture:
2 1/4 c bread flour
1/2 plus 1/8 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
1/2 tablespoon course salt

Combine all the sponge ingredients in a large bowl, whisking until very smooth and thickened by intentionally incorporating air with the whisking motion.  In another bowl, stir together the flour mixture ingredients.  Gently scoop it over the sponge to cover completely.  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let rise for 4 hours (or at least 1 hour - the longer the rise the better).

Dough and baking:
1/2 tablespoon canola oil
~2 tablespoons cornmeal

Add the oil and stir with either a wooden spoon or your hand until the flour is moistened.  Knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together, then knead on a clean surface that's been sprinkled with flour for 5 minutes.  The dough will be less sticky after you've kneaded it, then cover with an inverted bowl and let rest for 20 minutes.  Knead for another 5-10 minutes until the dough is very smooth.

Place the dough in a large, oiled bowl, turning in the bowl to cover the dough with oil as well, and let rise 1 1/2-2 hours.  The dough should've doubled in size.  Punch down the dough, re-oil the boil, and let rise another 45 minutes.  Again, punch down the dough; but this time, form it into a round loaf shape and let rise on a sheet pan dusted with cornmeal for 1 1/4 hours until almost doubled in size.

Place a baking sheet - or even better, a baking/pizza stone - in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F.  Make a few 1/4-1/2 inch slashes in the top of the bread.  Place the baking sheet with the bread on it gently onto the preheated baking sheet or baking/pizza stone in the oven.  Bake for 15 minutes, lower the heat to 400 degrees F, then continue to bake 30-40 minutes until the crust is golden brown and a skewer inserted to the center comes out clean.  Let cool, then slice for a sandwich such as the following:

Mustard Chicken Sandwich

1/2 cooked and shredded chicken breast (I roasted mine, bone in and skin on, with olive oil, dijon mustard, ground allspice, salt, pepper, ground cumin, ground ginger, and chili powder at 400 degrees F for ~45 minutes)
Gruyere cheese
Spicy brown mustard
Lettuce (I used turnip greens because lettuce is boring)
Ground black pepper

Having discovered that the toaster oven is a beautiful invention, I now make many warm sandwich creations with it.

Slather both pieces of bread with mustard before topping generously with cheese.  Also top one of the pieces of cheese-bread with the chicken, then toast until the cheese is all melty and the bread is crusty.  Place the greens and pepper over one piece of bread before putting the halves together and digging in.