Category: health and wellness

Career Advice

My coworkers, rather my ex-coworkers, when I lost my job, their immediate heartfelt reaction was to not let this minor inconvenience get in my way of pastry domination- a catchphrase that came out of my lips multiple times on a daily basis during my reign as a Pastry Chef at two top Chicago restaurants.  Pastry domination, taking over the Chicago dining scene, being one of the best pastry chefs in the nation, making pastry relevant again, was my dream.  I worked so damn hard at pastry domination, at being successful, at making badass dishes that people loved and remembered and talked about and Instagrammed.  I was in multiple magazines, I was on television, I sold a rather large percentage of dishes, I was for a brief moment successful.

So when that unexpected ax came for my head, when my success wasn’t actually successful, I gave up the fight.

I did.  I gave up.  I don’t give up on anything.  I am a fighter, I am determined,  I don’t let anything get in the way when I have made up my mind on something.  But I did, I gave up.  I threw in the dirty towel.

I have been cooking since legally allowed to start earning money.  I didn’t have much background before that- I didn’t learn from grandma, I didn’t grow up in the kitchen under mom’s apron. But once I picked up that knife, I didn’t put it back down.  I have 19 years in food service.  I have been a part of every angle, in every corner of the industry, learning and experiencing the entire gamut of food service- fast food, catering, cafeteria, fine dining, modern casual dining, large restaurants, small restaurants, serving, busing, prep cook, line cook, pastry assistant, pastry chef, menu development, costing, management, dishwasher.  You name it, I have done it.

I thought that this would be important, I thought that this would prove to be an asset.  Everyone needs to eat, right?

Well yes, but as it turns out, people don’t really care about what they eat so much.  They care about fashion, they care about cocktails, they care about gossip, and movies, and politics, and social media.  People care about taking pictures of their food, but they don’t actually care about food.  Cooking and cleaning is a nuisance, and eating out is expensive.  So the people want something fast and cheap and easy.  This leaves me irrelevant.

Not only do I have the years of food service, I put all my eggs in one basket.  I gave up everything to pursue my dream.  I gave up making any kind of money.  I gave up having a life of my own.  I lost my friends.  I gave up holidays with my family.  I gave up on the physical self- I gained weight, lost muscle, stopped going to the gym, got veracious veins, developed asthma, had a bout of psoriasis for about 3 years, got acne, developed alcoholic tendencies, ran myself into a car on my bike which resulted in sever bruising but couldn’t take any time off work, got very sick many times but still worked my 12+ hour shifts, got burned, got cut, worked mornings, worked nights, worked the night and then the next morning, I got mugged on the way home from working a late shift, I got pink eye, I never had vacation, I could hardly even request a day off.  I had two full-time jobs at once multiple times so that I could pay rent.

I gave up my dignity- I got yelled at, verbally harassed, degraded, threatened, treated like a child.  I never got complimented, nobody ever said “good job”.  I didn’t get breaks of any sort, I ate my one meal a day standing up while still trying to get my prep work done.  I never had health insurance, (don’t even ask about dental, that’s hilarious) never had time or money for the doctor.  All for nothing.  All to be a servant.  I never made any money.  The most money I ever made a college grad would turn their nose up at, and say no way in hell would I work for so little, even at an easy job.

I thought it was worth it, but when that ax came down I felt like a damn fool.

My coworkers told me not to give up, they told me that I was very skilled, that I had something.  They looked me in the eye and said to keep going.

They still ask “where did you end up?”  I reply I am on welfare.

So I am not following their advice.  I am not following the path anymore.  I am going to carve out my clearing by giving up.

Semi-Obligatory Birthday Post

It’s that day again- it happens once a year to everybody and today it’s my turn.

My birthday always makes me so self-reflective, it makes my heart look in the mirror and ask “What have I done with my life?  Who have I become?  Have I made a difference?  Am I successful?  Am I happy?”

Seriously, why I can’t just be carefree like I usually am, why can’t I take the day off emotionally?  Instead it’s the opposite where I question everything about my life: who I have become, what impact I have made upon the world around, where my career is going, what does my future hold?

Some birthdays are filled with the most happiness I have ever felt, some are filled with tears and remorse.  Very few are non-memorable in terms of emotion and self-reflection.

This year, my 34th, I have finally reconnected with that sense of indescribable joy that has slowly leaked out of my heart over the last year filled with work stress.

I am a giver.  I give out all my energy to the outside world- mostly to strangers, but also to my coworkers and friends because I have this unending need to make everyone happy.  I am only partially delusional- I know I can’t actually make people happy, but I want to do all I can to make everyone smile.   Lately, it has taken its toll on me-  I have nothing left for myself.  Lately, after a full night of rest, I still feel drained, tired, empty.  I need a lot of coffee, a daily personal pep talk, just to get a minimal sense of momentum to take on the day, to endure the tasks.

Something has got to give. This is a reality that has been weighting on my mind a lot in the past few months.  And that in itself is tiring.  Being mad, upset, questioning everything, unsure, making myself motivated every morning is so exhausting- on top of the long, hard days in a hot, demanding kitchen.

Today, though, after deep though and self-reflection, after a personal examination of what I have done, what I am doing, the people in my life, why I work so damn hard basically all the time- I feel so fucking joyful.  I have wonderful people in my life that give a damn about me, about wanting me to smile, about wanting me to shine my energy with them.

I have spent so many years wanting a career I am proud of.  Although it’s a lot of work, I have been given the chance to finally be a Chef.  It’s way more work than I bargained for, but I am proud of everything I have created, and at the end of the day, that is really the most important thing to me.

So cheers, Marinara, to a new year.  Cheers to not being stressed about work, cheers to having more to talk about then work, cheers to following my personal standards for health and happiness.

I have a wonderful people in my life, and at the end of the year- that’s all that matters.  I am looking forward to focusing on the love in my heart, to keeping this joy so that I can shine it out.   The most I can do to help increase the happiness of the friends, co-workers, and strangers is to concentrate on the love and joy that I create with relationships and art.  And that is not hard, difficult, or draining- this is the easy part.

Resolution Rehash

My friend has mantras instead of new years resolutions.  I saw a quick post on facebook, in January, but it stuck with me.  I can’t do an epic new years resolution that supposedly will last all year and make me a stronger and improved human.

So in the same spirit, a mantra or two:

Be a better person to yourself.

Do things that make you feel better.

Water is delicious, always.

Eat the way you want to.

Do yoga everyday, even if its 10 minutes.

Have some tiny balls, at the least.

Dont give up because you think you are dumb or wrong- the times that you are right make up for the times that you are wrong.

Stop being so stressed out and vent your issues in a constructive and non-intrusive way.

Marigold has been ignored for long enough- time to make time for her, and for art.

Don’t be afraid to do things for yourself.  Be more selfish, tell people what you need them to do for you.  STOP doing everything all the time- it’s not fair to anyone.

Be positive, be happy, feel the love.

 

Cut off

It’s that time of year again.  I dread this time, but I am simultaneously looking forward to changing my ways.  Every year I do a 30 day paleo challenge- a time when I have to drastically change my lifestyle and eating habits for the better.  This year, I really need it.  I have really gone off the rails in terms of using red wine as a source of stress reliever and personal reward.  I have been taking most of my meals out of the fryer, I have been ordering food on my weekends, too lazy to grocery shop,to  cook, and to clean.  Lately I have trimmed my meals down to once a day because I don’t even want to take the time to chew.  I am not mad at myself, I am not disappointed in my past behavior, but it is time to act mature about the things I put in my body.  This is the time to concentrate on everything that I put in my mouth.  No more comfort eating, no more boredom snaking, no more stress french fries.

So, the next 30 days will focus on vegetables and fresh food.  It will focus on water and self-improvement.  Aside from the diet goals, I have to do a full body overhaul.  I have to stretch, exercise, write, read, photograph, and create art.  I have to stop so much focus on work, and focus on my physical and artistic self.

Diary of An Optimist

Now is a good time to reassess personal goals that have been previously set.  Now is a good time to get re-motivated to do those things that keep you happy, healthy, energetic, resilient, creative.  Although the year is already half-over, summer has just begun, and there is no better time to steer that ship of personal responsibility in the right direction.

Sometimes you have to wait for something physical to strike in order to get that meta motor turning. Misfortune can be an excellent motivator, pain can be a great coach, and the fear of failing can be a great way to stay focused.

You don’t always have to rely on the momentum of the beginning half of the year, sometimes the renewing of the new year’s vows can be wooed in a day.

Why Eating In America Sucks #6

I see people eat Cheetos for breakfast on a regular basis.

A bag of cheese flavored fried corn puff things that are neon orange color, that come in a plastic bag with a cartoon of an outlandish cartoon cheetah on the front.

How did this become a thing?  Why?  What lead to this circumstance? Where did the motivation develop to reach for a bag of nutritionally void junk food as your first source of energy for the day?  You realize that you just brushed your teeth, right?  What have we been teaching our children?

Threats of Evaluation

Although I do not adhere to my new year’s resolutions, I still keep the goals steadfast in my mind. While the goals may not be acted out directly, the sketches remain etched in my continual desires to fulfill them.

The year has almost made it half-way around the calendar, and I have not had the most successful track record: wine drinking remains a favorite pastime enhancement, my sugar addiction is gently keeping my attention, the bi-daily stretching often gets stuck in child’s pose, exercise is consistently rained out, my love for aged cheese remains a constant.  Yet, still, I echo the goals of self- restraint, of tea filled evenings, of healthy and delicious dinners, of yoga class, of meditative calm to hum me to sleep.

There is still time to raise the grade to a passing c before mid-term evaluations, young lady, so good luck.

 

January 1

Starting off the new year with that classic resolution stuff, the inclination to make myself a better person and a happier girl.  I want to feel good about myself, I don’t want to get caught up in my own hang ups about wanting to be more, wanting to be different, making goals and not reaching them.  I don’t want to keep thinking about self improvement, I want it to actually happen.  I don’t want to hide from what scares me through a mask of food or alcohol abuse.  I don’t want to do things out of boredom.  I want to find inspiration in the ordinary, I want to find happiness on my own terms.

Like always, to ring in the new year, for the first month I am treating myself properly by following the right diet.  You are what you eat, I preach it all the time, and it is time to follow my own advice.  Eating properly is the first and most important step for self respect.  This means eating nutritionally dense food that has minimal processing.  Respecting the vegetable, avoiding the sugar.

It is not a diet, it is pressing the reset button, rebooting my appetite, focusing on putting my health before fun, reestablishing a system of rewards that is not based on cookies and bourbon, but based instead on inner happiness and finding peace with reality.

 

Modern Fashion

Dear Sir/Ma’am,

I must say, dress so well from head to tippy toe, you look very dashing in your designer style, with your brand new clothes, perfectly fitting attire.  From those sleek leather brown shoes to that subtly patterned grey tie that matches perfectly with a maroon button up shirt that is delicately textured and the dark gray and black suit with its tightly woven fabric, adorned with a perfectly fitting belt, manicured hands, trendy socks from the department store, always freshly trimmed haircut, dapper facial hair, musky cologne.

You are so put together, so apparently success, so outwardly powerful, clearly manager of both work and home, a statuesque icon of modern adulthood and sex appeal.

You take care of your life, health, money, I am sure even your yard so well.  I bet your shower curtain doesn’t even have mold growing on the inside hem.

I don’t understand with all this foresight, planning, and education that you eat that junk that passes as food for lunch.  How can you put that into your body as an adequate food supply for your brain power and muscle stamina?

You act like you treat yourself with so much respect, but you are eating food type substances that contains no nutritional value, has never even once been alive considering how much processing it has undergone, food where green is saved for food coloring, where everything is pre cooked, prepackaged, prearranged to fit everyone’s love for salt and stopping there.  How, Sir/Ma’am, how long can you put up with charade of eating?  Eat something that resembles something living.  Eat a lot of plants and vegetables.  Yes, that means you need to use a knife.  Sharp objects are fun to play with, that is a promise.

Dinner, easy and semi quick.

Butter Chicken Comfort Dinner!

This is the way-about for making a delicious Indian comfort food in an electric pressure cooker.  This machine is amazing.  You plug it in, set a time, push a button, and walk away.  That is it. In an hour you have a delicious dinner that was so easy it leaves you guessing at why so many people eat out all the time.

A Marigold style recipe, which is basically a list of ingredients and steps.  How much of everything to add?  Use your intuition, your brain, and most importantly your tongue.  Don’t follow a list of items blinding, taste everything as you go along, and fit the recipe to your desire.

1.5 pounds of chicken thighs, marinated in 1 cup/ two large spoonful of tangy yogurt, a couple squirts of lemon juice, a dash of garam Masala, cumin, turmeric salt, and pepper. Like 2 teaspoons of each. Two cloves of grated garlic and a knob of ginger.

Mix together and marinate at room temperature or overnight.  How long you ask, up to a couple of days, or as quickly as two drinks can allow.  Cooking is about looking forward to the end product, so marinate yourself and get distracted by something inspirational while the chicken does its resting.

We are going to cook the chicken in an electric pressure cooker, which diminishes cooking time so dramatically, that you can take the time for your chicken thighs to tenderize.  You can always opt to braise on the stove, but you are going to added two hours to the process.  If you marinate ahead, or have the whole evening at your leisure, this is definitely an equally viable option.  But if you are like me, and it is already 8 by the time you get back from the store, modern pressure cooking is the way to go for the day.

Two drinks later, or an hour:  Put the chicken and the marinate into the magical machine.  Add a can of crushed tomatoes, a can of coconut milk or cream, 1-2 sweet potatoes, an onion, a large spoonful of nut butter (I prefer cashew, use what you will), and a stick of butter.  Set that timer button for 10 minutes and let the machine do its thing.

Finish with cilantro, and a slash of lime, enjoy thoroughly.