I’ve been itching to share some news with you. But I wanted to wait until it happened because I didn’t want to tell you and jinx it and then oops, it never happened.
Let’s rewind. Back in 2013, before I left NYC and moved to Bilbao, Spain, I enrolled in a Creative Writing course with Sackett Street Writer’s Workshop. It was a weekly gathering when I and fellow aspiring writers would pick apart each other’s nonfiction pieces. I got the sweats when people discussed my submissions – about that time I was hazed at a summer camp in Valencia or about working in a kitchen in Paris. I’d been a diary-keeper for as long as I could form sentences on paper. I still remember one of my first diaries – hot pink marble notebook plastered with sparkly Troll doll stickers – where I recounted the trials and tribulations of being a 7 year old. Oy vey.
I like to take my experiences and weave them into stories. To bring people into my head, let them see through my eyes, and then describe my emotional reactions. Sometimes the hope is that the reader will think, I’ve felt that way too, and move forward feeling the slightest bit more connection and commonality with other beings. Sometimes I just want to get a chuckle. But before the writing workshop, I never had any real instruction on the creative writing process.
Being a non-fiction writer renders you vulnerable.* Because to be good writer you have to go there. You have to be honest, and avoid the urge to paint a flattering picture of yourself. If you leave out the negative and embarrassing parts, no one will relate. Like looking at an aspiration Instagram account – it’s all nice and good lifestyle porn, maybe it will inspire you to travel somewhere or eat something, but it won’t make you feel more connection.
The truth is: life can be messy. Jobs are not perfect. Relationships are not perfect. Sometimes we say things that we don’t mean and hurt people we love. We can share pictures of the best moments and our most beautiful selves. But that’s a facade. Real life has highs and lows. For me, working through the lows means acknowledging them and setting goals to do better – do more things that bring me joy and be kind and compassionate to others. Making mistakes and resolving to not make the same ones again. It also means writing.
Writing complete stories, including the highs and lows, heightens my experience of life. The Sackett Street workshop gave me the tools to go there.**
To cut to the chase, equipped with my SSWW tools, I started writing about leaving my lawyer job to do a kitchen internship in Spain in 2014. I didn’t know where the story was going or how it would end, but I knew I wanted to tell it. Two years later, after countless edits, rewrites, additions and subtractions (aka painfully lopping off bits of the narrative), my piece, “What She Learned in the Kitchen” has been published in The Big Roundtable, an online publication of narrative nonfiction. It was a real labor of love and now it’s floating out there in the world, its mom just watching from a distance with hands (temporarily) dangling by her sides.
So what now? That’s what I ask myself. Keep cooking. Consider fattening out my story to a lengthier, hand-holdable read. And think about what will be my next adventure. What will be the next story I want to tell.
So about living better – quinoa is supposed to be some sorta’ superfood, right? When I invited my writer friend Cara for lunch this weekend – she’s a vegetarian – I decided to get down with some quinoa bowls. And because salsa romesco is always a crowd-pleaser, I whipped up some romesco using surprisingly bright red tomatoes (April is usually still mealy tomato season here in NY), red peppers and a handful of walnuts.
I cooked, we chatted, we lunched, we walked near the water – all in all, a perfect Saturday in Brooklyn.
- 6 medium-sized vine ripe tomatoes, stems removed, quartered
- 1/2 large red bell pepper, seeds and stem removed
- 1/2 cup peeled walnuts
- 2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus a few tablespoons for roasting veggies
- 1 splash champagne or white wine vinegar
- preheat oven to 425 degrees F
- toss tomatoes and pepper in olive oil; as the tomatoes will require more time to cook, begin roasting them first; after 15 minutes or so, start roasting the peppers on a separate pan with the cloves of garlic
- after peppers have been in the over for about 15 minutes, throw walnuts on the pan with the peppers and roast for about 10 minutes – until they are browning and fragrant but not burning; remove pepper-pan from oven
- when tomatoes are ready, throw all ingredients, including juices from tomatoes, into a food processor. Drizzle in olive oil and a couple pinches of salt and blend on high speed until mixture is creamy
- taste and add a splash of white wine or champagne vinegar and more salt to your taste.
- serve warm or refridgerate and serve cold – either as an accompanying sauce for meats and veggies or in a quinoa bowl
- red quinoa (I like to cook my quinoa with a half-packet of Goya chicken bouillon)
- cauliflower, tossed in olive oil and crunchy salt and roasted at 425 degrees F until brown and crispy, then drizzled with tahini
- 1/2 roasted red pepper, sliced thin
- a couple HB eggs
- sliced avocado
- a handful of cilantro, washed and stems removed
- walnut romesco – drown everything it it
- crunchy salt to taste
- also pictured: pearls of Spanish “arbequina” olive oil – they burst in your mouth when you bite them; truly amaze-balls
- lay out all of the above ingredients in separate bowls and let your lunch whip up their own combos
*I say non-fiction not to exclude other forms of writing, but just because I can’t speak to the experience of writing fiction.
** This post is not sponsored by SSWW 🙂