Hungry Heart

Keep it simple, someone said to me today.

Good advice. Old. I’ve been struggling with this. I prayed this week, of all things. I prayed that if I don’t possess the bandwidth, the strength, to do it all, please make it clear to me, please help me (make me) trim the fat out of my life. Nothing has become clear to me. I am even mixing my metaphors.

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On Being Satisfied


**Parts of this post appear in “Hunger” in the Winter 2011 issue of The North American Review.

I’m beginning to notice a problem with eating richly, with eating well.

It’s that it makes you hungry. After a great meal you may find that you are full. Maybe you flirt with satisfaction. But then comes this baseline buzz, this mewling hunger that begs, always, to be fed. And more, better: with finer attention and intelligence, greater tenderness and cheek. There is nothing sadder than the end of a great meal, knowing what comes next.  

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Summer Bean Salad

Salad is good. But what’s this prickle of shame I feel when I say it?

I want to show you food that wets the tongue, that tickles the groin. Rich, lush, ecstatic food. And I know that this may not be it, that it’s hard to do belly cartwheels for a garden salad. Still, I love them, and like any stubborn affair of the heart, it troubles me a little. Because for me–and maybe not only for me–salad seems a fairly potent symbol for the failure of female desire.

Did that come out of left field? Sorry reader. I know you don’t just write sentences like that, not about salad, and then you certainly don’t leave them like that, orphaned at the end of a paragraph. Except on days like this. Finesse-less days. I mean hungry days.

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Consider the Onion

Of all the aromatics, onions are by far the most unloved.

I think of garlic and the romance of its mythology, the widely-trumpeted healthfulness of carrots, the seductive, far-away aroma of ginger and scallions. But onions. At my university, boys eat onions raw as part of a hazing ritual. They eat onions joylessly to win access to an endless world of warm beer and tungsten-lit, stale-smelling halls. It is meant as a punishment, but I wonder which part. After all, to eat a raw onion would not be so punishing if the onion were sweet. I’ve seen a man pluck a Vidalia from the dirt and bite into it lustfully, calling it sweeter than an apple.

Sweeter, indeed. Cook an onion long enough and it will turn to candy. Cook it a little longer and it will melt completely away. But onions in their most conspicuous form are battered and fried, or else sliced thick and scattered over salads, a garish, inedible purple garnish. I know of at least two people who refuse to eat them. And no wonder. It’s easy to write off onions as a clumsy and pedestrian vegetable. Onions sometimes speak too loudly. But it is impossible to forget, once tasted, the sublimity of an onion well-tended and well-loved. Continue reading

Before the Zoo

I’ve lived in Chicago for almost four years now.

I’m leaving soon, probably. A bit of a panic is beginning to set in, or maybe not a panic, but an urgency, the urgency to do and see and taste everything I can of this city before I leave it. Last weekend, for example, was the first time I went to the zoo. And before that sad and awful visit, before we saw the ambling rhino and the life-sick ostriches and the sad apes, we ducked into a greasy spoon, and even though I’ve lived here for four years, it was only then that I had my first Chicago hot dog. Continue reading