Eat | Read with Kristen Iskandrian
Most of us toil under the steady compulsion that our actions and experiences are imbued with meaning. We talk about meaning, try to extract meaning, invent meaning, often as a way to understand, or cope, or feel significant. But sometimes, I like to try flicking my switch, sort of like the Airplane Mode of being a human, so that I’m still on, but not actually making connections. I’m not good at this, but I feel it’s important to try, to try exposing the things in my mind without commenting on them or doing meaning to them. My heart is a permanent mess and my brain is not much better. Hitting eject—in common parlance, what is often sanctimoniously decried as “going through the motions”—can be not only a relief, but a necessity. This has been the general spirit with which I’ve undertaken food these last couple of weeks. There have been meals and snacks, none of them particularly inspired or inspiring. We are hungry and we need to eat. Here are some eggs. Here is a sandwich. At the gym the other day I overheard a personal trainer talking to his client about how many serving sizes are in one banana. How are we supposed to get through the day, let alone a lifetime? I know I’ll never fulfill my dream of becoming a mystic but I like to think of this automaton exercise as good practice—siphon out the noisy self, siphon in the silence that glimmers underneath it like a gasoline puddle mirage. And while you’re doing that, you can siphon back some of this pasta, which anyone can make, unthinkingly, while listening to mind-erasing music or birdsong from an open window or city noise or distant shrieks. Don’t watch yourself making the pasta; just make it, let your hands make it. Water in a pot, lots of salt, high heat. Oil in a pan, some shrimp or chicken or tofu. Pasta in the now-boiling pot. Protein out of the pan, garlic, spring onions, and some green veggies in. Grate the zest from a lemon. Dip a mug into your boiling pot to reserve some water. Drain the pasta and add it to the pan, along with the lemon zest and some more salt and some grated cheese. Toss it all together, loosening it up with the mug of pasta water as necessary. Drizzle the top with some olive oil and maybe some black pepper and red pepper flakes. Eat it, without worrying over what any of it means.
My reading has been sprawling, amorphous, haphazard. A couple of manuscripts from friends. Station Eleven. Spreadsheets for work. Some Mary Ruefle essays. The gorgeous Rome by Dorothea Lasky. Roman mythology and some C.S. Lewis and Heidi with my older daughter. Gyo Fujikawa’s beautiful Oh, What A Busy Day! with my younger daughter.