Photo By: Martin Deutsch
Here’s a polite person’s trick, one that has never failed me. I will share it with you because I like and respect you, and it is clear to me that you’ll know how to apply it wisely: When you are at a party and are thrust into conversation with someone, see how long you can hold off before talking about what they do for a living. And when that painful lull arrives, be the master of it. I have come to revel in that agonizing first pause, because I know that I can push a conversation through. Just ask the other person what they do, and right after they tell you, say: “Wow. That sounds hard.” From "How To Be Polite."
Guess what, it really does almost always work. But not just on the kind of people you meet at parties, also on checkout people at the grocery store, people working at the DMV, and X-Ray technicians. Because chances are, if someone has to paid to do it, it is hard.
I'm a writer but I'm also a teacher and having been successful at both I can tell you that people who say things like "Those who can, do; those who can't, teach," ought to try to teach. It is hard to be a teacher. There are a lot fewer editors in the world than there are writers and the competition for those jobs is fierce.
I have dedicated my life to art but honestly, in many way, artists are parasites. We don't keep people warm, we don't feed people, we don't keep them dry (unless they use books to build a shelter.) Give me an oncology nurse any day. You can all deluge me with emails about how important art was/is to you and I won't disagree, but try living in your car for a week.
I'm proud of what I do. But I've arguably changed more lives by being a mom and by teaching than by writing. Don't stop being a maker. It's not a bad thing. But lets keep it all in perspective, okay?
William Gibson famously said, "The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed." The past lingers on as well. Researching a novel set in the 13th century means a couple of things. It means that I can finally remember that things that happened in the 13th century happened in the 1200's. (I know why, it just always trips me up, okay?)
It also means that I see remnants of western Medieval culture in a strange places. Saying "God Bless You" when people sneeze. Kissing a lottery ticket before you scratch it to bless it (honestly, no angel comes along and changes the numbers) Stuff like that. But this is a full blown, really medieval. (Although some of the gore turns out to be red wine used as an antiseptic.)
Aren't many places I can find photos that hint at what it was like in 1226.
100 Tinder Dates
Hundred Tinder Dates is a student of mine. She quite beautiful, rather driven, and a very good writer. For reasons that she can only sort of explain she has decided to go on 100 first dates via Tinder and blog them on Tumblr. One of the reasons is, you know, writer, material. Flannery O'Conner once remarked that anyone who ever had a childhood had enough material for a lifetime but hell, I moved to New York City and then to China to 'become a writer' so it's not like I have the moral high ground here.
Why do I find this vaguely hysterical? There is something about a cart being before a horse here? (This is right up there with being told that once you've written something to go put symbols in it, I think.)
It's not exactly wrong...
Years ago I was at a picnic and saw two friends, surrounded by tons of food, reduced to eating a roll and salad. When pressed they admitted they were vegetarian and the beans had bacon, and almost everything else had some kind of chicken broth or meat in it. I swore no one would ever come to my house and eat rolls and salad.
I haven't always been able to accomplish that. I've been blindsided by not understanding that someone was dairy, nightshade and gluten free and I am still unsettled by that meal. But most of the time, if you come to my house, you will have something to eat.
I live in southern California. I have friends who are vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, dairy free, pescetarian, kosher, or who don't eat mammals. People are on Paleo diets and Ketogenic diets (both low carb but one eats fruit and the other eats dairy.) There are people here who eat raw, or antibiotic-free, or only organic. A combination of these people can make a meal difficult to plan.
Here's a meal that can feed most of those people at one time because they can pick their own food (except maybe Kosher because that is a world in itself. But Kosher folk are used to negotiating a non-Kosher world so just ask them.)
Most of the people I know would rather die than put you out about their diet so they will end up just eating rice and salad if you aren't careful. (Not all, I had a Thanksgiving dinner ruined by an exception who took over my kitchen to make her dinner right before I tried to finish the Thanksgiving meal.)
I like to grill my fajita proteins. I tend to make steak and chicken and tofu, sometimes shrimp.
Juice of four squeezed limes
1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
This is good for two pounds of skirt steak, four chicken breasts, two packages of firm tofu, or a pound of shrimp*
Protein (select based on your crowd)
Tofu (sliced in strips)
Marinate the the steak, chicken, or tofu for at least two hours to over night. Marinate the shrimp for an hour.
*For each of the shrimp, using a paring knife, cut along the curve of the back of the shrimp, and remove the vein, keeping the shells intact. Clip the feet off with a small pair of scissors.
Vegetables for grilling:
Green and red sweet peppers
Tablespoon or two of vegetable oil
Kosher salt to taste
Flour and/or Corn Tortillas (some corn tortillas are gluten free, some tortillas are Kosher, but depending on what style of Kosher your guest keeps, may not be Kosher enough.)
Black beans (I use canned but I'm lazy)
Rice (white or brown)
Chopped green onios
Anything else you like in a tortilla, like corn
Grill the proteins (as I said, I grill the chicken and beef and then slice, but I slice the tofu before marinating. I'm not sure it makes much difference. You can do it however you like.) Slice the onions, peppers, and zucchini and toss with oil and salt. And grill those on the grill.
Lay everything out buffet style being careful to not put the vegetarian stuff on the same tray as the steak. (I like to put the fixings out on platters so the lettuce and the tomatoes and the cheese and green onions are all in colorful heaps on one big plate. It's pretty and there are fewer plates to clean up.)
Vegans can make bowls (or if you've gotten vegan tortillas make tortillas) with tofu and/or black beans. Everybody else can pick or chose. Dairy or no dairy. I haven't really covered raw diets in this meal but honestly, you can't quite include everyone. Although in southern California I'd probably pick up some ceviche and call it a day.