having to eat is a blessing in disguise. it makes me take a break and listen to my body for a second or a few a day. i've never outlined my school schedule here as i'm sure no one wants to hear me whine about it, but i'm typically at school from 10 AM until 3 AM every weekday, with 5-10 of those hours in class. weekends are usually better--i go in from noon until midnight, and i'll sometimes take half a day off or do some work at home. even without taking breaks to eat, it's impossible to get all the work done. but being the overachiever i am, i have to try. i've been buying a lot of groceries that can be eaten fresh/straight or nuked (yay for kydrich's microwave and fridge, gramps' toaster oven, my hot pot, the korean market, and trader joe's!), but i do miss the breaks i'd get to go get food last year. they make me get up from my desk, get some air, take a break, refocus.
a lot of times, after getting food, i'll eat at my desk while working. i used to do this when i was working, too. i am, after all, an american. however, i did grow up in a house where we sat down at the table and ate dinner every night. sometimes my mom wouldn't be home from work yet, but potatobro and i would eat at the table, TV off, with our housekeeper/nanny. when either of my grandmothers were staying with us, usually during our summer or winter breaks, the whole day would then revolve around them making food. i'd watch and try to help them make shik hae (sweet rice soup/drink dessert), fresh, hand-cut kalgooksoo (flour noodles), mandoo (potstickers), real from-scratch kimchee, and a bunch of other things whose prep would sometimes take days before or at least all the time between meals. after cleaning up from lunch, they'd start in on dinner prep right away. we didn't necessarily linger over meals like europeans do, but we did all enjoy it fully and deeply and also talked a lot. it was our breaks in the day--to enjoy each others' company, share a meal, be nourished, relax.
even though i can't participate fully and do all the work for the "cooking" class i'm taking, i'm enjoying it immensely. a couple of weeks ago, an artist who did food demos/installations during his residence at the MAK center this summer came to speak to our class and cook for us. i am so sad i didn't know about his events this summer, as i would have totally loved to go. rainer prohaska's art is a crazy, cool mix of installation, performance, architectural-scale things, modularity, temporality, and social experimentation. his current work is all about food and ritual. it's hard to explain, but his photos and lecture did it really well. for the rest of you that weren't in my class, there's this LA weekly review. he may be back in a few months as he said he does want to do more of his work in los angeles (he's viennese).
he made pancakes for us using a light, austrian batter whose consistency was somewhere between that of an american pancake and french crepe, he made them in a few different cultures' methods on his "mobile kitchen" (a burner, propane tank, box full o' utensils, and handle-less frying pan that he used pliers to handle once heated up). we had them plain. then with a swiss gruyere. then with this plum jam that's almost savory you can only buy in austria--SO amazing. we ran out of time for his asian, central american, and south american versions, though. and the version with ground poppyseeds--i forget which european culture that one's from. we ate them all using chopsticks rainer brought. the food definitely broke the ice in the class, as it tends to do. most of us are in different years, and it's a mix of undergrad and grad students.
if you get a chance and if rainer comes back, try to go see him. his work is awesome, rigorous/academic and so experiential at the same time, and he's such a nice, fun guy, too. in the meantime, you can read michael pollan's well-written take on the state of food and ritual in america here. if you're interested in food justice at all here in LA, project food/LA is a good organization to get involved with (i am definitely going to try to get more involved at some point). even if you can't really get involved, they do have panel discussions with important players in the game with the first one being this past week (i know, i'm late again on letting you know about an event...sorry again!).
thank goodness for this class. even though it takes up even more of my time, it's helping me enjoy what has been an otherwise difficult, not-so-enjoyable semester thus far. food saves the day again.