Eating My Way Through Denver

This conference has been decadent, y’all. I have tried to keep my portions small, but man oh man. My conference friends and I split a pile of crusty bread that was covered in the most amazing roast garlic, olive oil, and tomatoes when we arrived, and it hasn’t stopped. I had a magical panini with spinach and fresh mozzarella and pesto, and when everyone else wanted to get drinks at a trendy little place after a day of learning and presenting, I chose a cup of chocolate mousse instead – it’s just been that kind of beautiful time.

Denver is a city full of pretty areas, and even though there are some standard spots (does every city have a Cheesecake Factory?) I’m thrilled to see restaurants I’ve never seen. Everywhere, there are little touches of great conservation (good public transit, recycling bins) and touches of healthy eating (a whole restaurant devoted to salads, a fresh mediterranean food fast-food joint). I’ve loved my conference so far, but I confess: I keep trying to escape to eat and to explore! I’m drinking a weird concoction – nitro cold brew coffee – as a I blog and plot a trip to a used bookstore before booking it back to the conference.

One of the most special moments was when I was volunteering at registration and idly thumbing through the nametags that hadn’t been handed out yet. I saw a distinctive name and instantly knew it was my friend T, who I was close to 5 years ago in Spain but who I’ve seen only once since then. We haven’t really spoken in 3 years, but I instantly sent her a message to confirm. Sure enough, we were both accidentally in Denver at the same time! We went to a conference session together, got dinner, and caught up on each other’s lives while walking the pretty city. I am so grateful that the world is always smaller than I think it is, and even friends I think are gone can sometimes walk back into your life at the randomest times!

The Ritual of Slow Coffee

Coffee starts in fields, in trees, in beans. Coffee arrives, however it is grown, in bags of green beans from Ethiopia, sent to Husband by a roast-your-own-coffee company.

Coffee gets roasted on our back porch, in a used popcorn popper, while Husband pokes at it with a wooden spoon handle and listens for the telltale crack that means it is ready. I sit with him, enjoying the roasting smell and crocheting something, usually a square for a quilt.

Coffee gets stored in a pan while it cools, then in a mason jar, then in the coffee grinder’s reservoir for the day or two before we use it. I stumble into the kitchen, freshly dressed for work, and press the big start button. 30 seconds of loud whirring later, the freshest of coffee is ready.

I wash the french press while the kettle vibrates on the stove. I pour the rush of boiling water over the grounds and wait impatiently for it to steep. Husband gets out of the shower and joins me.

We are not as slow with our coffee on weekdays as we are on weekends, when one french press pot of coffee can turn into two while we read books or clean the house or plan our days together. But those 5 or 10 minutes, lingering over the quality coffee and maybe a bagel or some recent pastry I’ve whipped up, they are what make all the hard work that is poured into this simple bean juice worth it.

I certainly drink coffee for fuel, to power me through long days and to get the live-wire buzz of caffeination to make me feel like my ideas are good ones and that I should keep working working working. But I would do all the steps in the coffee making process at home even if it was decaf. It’s a ritual, but I love it.

Coffee, and Sustaining Foods

It’s summer, so I’ve been trying to cook and write more while I have a reprieve from work. I’m luckier than most – two months when I don’t have to commute in and spend my 8-5 at work. I’m grateful, and trying to get a lot of work done. In the picture, you can see chapters of my book printed out on notebook paper so that I can shuffle them up, put them into a binder, and then shuffle them again. I write in a chaotic way, and having the ability to move scenes easily from one spot to another keeps me from throwing my hands up and walking away.

Lately, a primary food group has been coffee: I usually drink it black, but this morning I’m nursing a cup of milky, sweet coffee and trying to figure out how to bridge two scenes, one very emotional and one very action packed. Coffee doesn’t really nourish me – gotta get some actual nutrient-filled breakfast here in a bit, but it feels nourishing – it makes me feel sharper and more awake, more adequate to the task of writing a novel.

Even though vegetables are not my favorite food group, eating a big fluffy salad can also be one of my sustaining foods. It makes me feel full without feeling heavy and sleepy – pair it with coffee, and I am ready to face the many tasks that have cropped up this summer.

What foods do you make to feel strong and sustained, to go into battle with the daily difficulties and the long-term projects in your life? Coffee is essential for a lot of us, but I’m sure there are other foods that make you feel this way. Let me know, and who knows? I might try to make them in order to get through a couple more chapters. 🙂