Good Things 2020: Week 27

We’ve made it to summer. The past few weeks have been a shift – I’ve gone from a season where I didn’t want to read, write, watch movies, really do much of anything – to one where I see possibility again. I’ve moved past the point of COVID suspension – past the first wave of hyper-diligence and disruption, to one of preparedness, organization, and action. While I don’t see an end, I see a path. That’s a small comfort.   

I’m currently working through my fridge and prepping all of the vegetables that have sat a little too long. So we’ll do some multi-tasking today while my eggs soft boil, I roast some zucchini, summer squash, and I decide what to do with the several bunches of kale that are languishing. I have to do something with the green plums, as well. 

The past two months, I’ve been running and walking across Tennessee. I’ve almost reached my first goal – 635 miles across the state, and then I’ll turn around for the return journey. The next milestone will be a sweet thousand mile pin on my way back across, and if I can just eke out a wild burst of energy in August, I may make it all the way back across by the 31st. Each day I input my miles and learn about the town that I’m walking through – figuratively, as my literal miles take me mostly through Newton, Waltham, Watertown, and Brighton. it’s a fascinating way to learn about a place that I admittedly didn’t know too much about. 

I grew up on the ocean, and I’m a believer in the restorative power of a water view. I’ve been making a point to run as many of my miles on the water as I can; mostly lakes, ponds, and brooks around here. 

Good Books: on the way, I’ve listened to a number of books over the past few months – I tend to flick back and forth between business, psychology, food, and YA fantasy. Notable titles that I finished (with about a dozen more in progress, oof!…):

  • David Epstein’s ‘Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World‘. Honestly – a bit of personal validation – I’ve always considered my superpowers coming from pulling from disparate mental models from my range of personal interests. An entire book on why this works!
  • Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse – after reading  the Ninth House last month, I decided to dive into Bardugo’s Grishaverse, a YA series based in a loosely Slavic-ish fantasy world.
  • On Networking – Harvey MacKay’s ‘Dig Your Well Before You Are Thirsty’, and Judy Robinett’s ‘How to Be a Power Connector’ (super tactical).
  • I finished Tara Brach’s ‘Radical Acceptance‘, which I started last year and have picked up intermittently.

Over the next couple of weeks, I have a goal to FINISH off some more of my half read books. I’ll note that I *do* now have a shelf of “books I put down and don’t want to read any more” – but there are many more that I just paused in progress!

I’ve also been listening to the audio description tracks of shows and films. Comedy specials are great for this – Hannah Gadsby’s Douglas this week (would recommend!). Great audio description is an art form, and vitally important for those who are blind or visually impaired to enjoy films and shows. Yesterday I got through several of the new Netflix Unsolved Mysteries on my 11 mile outing!

{Small Treats and Other Good Things}

New Art! To celebrate my birthday last month, I acquired myself a painting from my friend Judith! Judith is a participant in my weekly productivity and accountability co-working *Do The Thing hour, and I got to live vicariously last year as she was down in Florida painting this and many other gorgeous beach scenes. It’s delightful to have friends who are creative and talented working artists!

New Shoes! After so many miles, my last pair of new shoes (from April 27th?!) was needing legitimate replacement. HOW?! (500 miles is how.) I’m always super hesitant to move to the next model, but my well-liked Brooks Glycerin 17s were out everywhere, so I upgraded to the 18s that just came out. 50 miles in this week, I’m liking them a lot!

{Good Meals}

I’ll start with my perpetual favorite evening snack here: cottage cheese with salt, pepper, good olive oil, and gilding the lily with some pesto. Cottage cheese has a bit of a sad reputation as an 80s diet food, but it’s so delicious!

After several months of eating exclusively home cooking, the past few weeks I’ve broken the seal – an egg salad sandwich from Formaggio Kitchen, a churro from Los Amigos (admittedly sad, and they forgot the cinnamon sugar) and last night – my first real delivery – Butter Chicken and Naan from Shan-a-Punjab. No photo, because I unceremoniously dumped things in a bowl, mixed together, and ate greedily.

So many good home cooked meals to note:

I’ve been liberally using the Trader Joe’s Nori Komi Furikake (this one is seaweed, sesame seeds, salt and kelp powder) on all sorts of things, my favorite just being on soft scrambled eggs, some seasoned rice, and tomato.

While I get fresh meat in my Farmers to You farm share (referral link!) each week, I also have quite a bit of ground meat from Walden. One of my favorite things to make is an all-purpose variation of Larb – featuring ground meat, fresh herbs, dressed with fish sauce, and lime. (Notably missing is usually the ground toasted rice which I don’t usually have on hand, but is delicious.)

I’ve been also eating a good amount of fish from Red’s Best. I tend to gravitate towards full flavored fishy-fish that stands up to stronger flavors. My favorite preparation is either a mustard-mayo marinade, or a miso-mayo marinade. This one was miso-mayo over seasoned rice with furikake and bok choy.

There’s been a lot of simple dinners as well – a seasoned steak, with cucumbers, tomatoes, and mango. While I like a complex meal, and robust seasoning, sometimes I’m very happy with toddler-style three or four ingredients. (And let’s be real, sometimes dinner as an adult is chicken nuggets and nothing else, and nobody is there to stop you.)

A mediterranean bowl: with warm hummus, tomato and cucumber salad with lemon, mint, dill, and parsley, and za’atar chicken thighs.

Another steak (this was a gift-Ribeye from Morton’s) with garlic greens, tomatoes dressed in Gotham Greens Basil Caesar, and some mashed potatoes.

A fish curry – with haddock marinated in coconut milk, coconut, ginger, bok choy and coconut rice. This one I used a base of Mae Ploy Thai yellow curry paste, which I’m generally a fan of.

Lest I leave you without some photos of my most eager eater: Pork chops with chopped tomatoes, mashed potatoes. Bertram always appreciates my cooking.

Here’s to a very good week.

xo Sam

Dismantling Systemic Racism.

I’ll start this post by stating unequivocally that Black Lives Matter

The Second Lunch is a food blog, my personal musings, and most of the time my list of weekly Good Things – Good Things are my weekly reminder to notice the good and opportunity in a world of chaos. 

If you are reading this, and you are tired of reading “political stuff” – or you don’t understand why this is here – I’d ask you NOT to click away. I hope that you consider at least skimming this and choosing to do ONE thing to make change in your own community this week.

We have an opportunity to focus and ACT right now on vitally important work: dismantling systemic racism

This includes reacting not just during times of crisis, but acting proactively during all times. This is challenging work. I can do better. You can do better. We can do better.

One thing that I make a practice of during all difficult times: at each moment of crisis, seize the opportunity not to react hesitantly but to set up a system for yourself that keeps the momentum in the long term. That makes action a continuous part of your life. 

Here’s a list of things you can do today – with an eye to making every single day forward an opportunity to act

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed about doing this kind of work, and shutdown in response. We must resist this feeling. We must take a step. Any step, even a small one. The importance isn’t about just the individual act, but it’s what we can collectively do to be anti-racist. It’s about pushing past the discomfort and acting. It’s about actively talking about race.

It helps me to think of racial justice work in the framework of repeatable action. In order to do this work we must both ask ourselves important questions, have hard conversations, and act. We must build ourselves a lifelong framework to structure good deeds and actions.

These questions will likely be uncomfortable. They are often uncomfortable to me. As a non-Black person right now it is our obligation to push past that and get to work. 

:: Choose to educate yourself daily. 

  • Make anti-racism reading regular reading. Make yourself a reading list, request a range from the library, buy some now. There are lots of great books to start with. (White Fragility may be a good starting point if you haven’t read it yet; lots of people are reading it right now, and it’s a good place to open discussion with friends who have not started this work.) I’m currently re-listening to the 1619 Project podcast from the NYTimes for a discussion group.
  • Find a wide range of regular news sources that represent diversity of thought. Does your regular news include Black and brown voices and publications? Just a few: Boston-based Basic Black is a long standing excellent TV news source – and has phenomenal interviews. Theroot.com has consistently good blog content. Callie Crossley is a fellow Wellesley alum whose work I follow.  
  • Read books and watch tv and films written by BIPOC. Actively seek these out, in your genre of choice. YA, Fantasy, Romance, sitcoms, you name it – there is opportunity to expand your thinking and viewpoint.
  • Read books with your children about race. EmbraceRace has a great list here. 

:: Identify opportunity to make change in your own workplace. 

  • Right now we are working to support our Black teachers directly during this time, but our work here needs to be at every stage, now, and the future.  
  • We’ve NOT been quick enough to reach out to our own community – we need to continue to speak out and work regularly on this work. “We aren’t particularly active on social” is not a good enough reason NOT to step up during times of crisis. 
  • At my company, Inclusion is one of our core values. We take it into account daily in who we serve, our teachers and our students, the partnerships that we seek. We are committed to diversity in hiring. In how we go about choosing our vendors. In our partnerships. We are committed to working with BIPOC businesses and SaaS vendors, and with those who share this value. 
  • We are committed to donating our time, volunteering, and financial resources to causes that matter to us, our teachers, our students, and our community. 
  • This is the opportunity to take our work several steps further: we are making anti-racism explicitly a part of the work that we do. I’ll be writing and sharing more publicly about this work in the coming weeks and months. 

:: Focus and Invest in the Community. 

  • Actively donate time and money to support local BIPOC businesses. For Boston folks, here are 60+ Black owned restaurants to support right now. On that note, Lots of roundups happening right now – grab and bookmark for your next gift, retail therapy, or holiday purchase. 
  • Yearly or quarterly review of your giving (volunteering or financial support) This is a practice that I try to build upon yearly: reviewing the global, national, and local causes that support BIPOC members of the community, or are specifically anti-racist.  
  • Community Infrastructure – working to dismantle systems of oppression – and focus on rebuilding community resources. Vote. Get active in the neighborhood. Ask questions of your officials and leaders: where is the funding going in our community? Who is benefitting from funding? Who is NOT? This has a robust list of actions that can be taken for racial justice in your community. Even a small step here helps: sign up for your Mayor’s newsletter. Engage. 

:: Make it personal: take a look at your personal communities and be prepared to ask questions and act directly – this is often the easiest way to help conceptualize our complicity – taking a good hard look at our own communities, asking hard questions, having difficult conversations, and doing the work. 

For me that’s my (largely old, predominantly white) educational institutions that I’m active with – Exeter and Wellesley. It’s the food world. My fitness, running, and yoga communities – all of which have deep work to do.

Some of the questions I am asking myself:

  • What can I do to actively support BIPOC members of each of my personal communities? How do I promote the work of my BIPOC colleagues, peers, and friends? 
  • How can I make sure that the narrative and stories about our community are truly representative of all members of our community? How do I make sure that I’m focused on and amplifying these voices? (WellesleyUnderground is a great example!) 
  • How can I support the work of anti-racism and inclusion efforts in the admissions efforts of my educational institutions? How can I work to promote diverse leadership in all levels of the institution? The alumni boards? The board of trustees?
  • For groups that I’m actively in leadership: how can I actively ensure that our boards are diverse, our events are welcoming, and our work is inclusive? (This includes specific attention to diversity and intersectionality at every stage: leadership, planning of events, considering cost, location, and programming.) 

Critical self-assessment: We can not do this work without shining the spotlight directly on ourselves. How do I perpetuate racism within my communities? Where am I complicit? (See below.) 

:: Make it *really personal*: we are all racist. It is important to take regular opportunities to reflect upon ways that we as individuals are racist. It’s not IF, it’s when. I do this. It’s hard. It’s important. I’m not good enough at it, but I’m putting in the work, and ask you to as well.

Questions I ask myself:

  • When have I been complicit with a racist system or institution? 
  • When have I remained silent when I should have spoken up?
  • When have I centered the narrative around myself? 
  • How can I support my Black friends to take back and reclaim time for themselves to practice self care?

For this particular moment: When can I do the work to educate others on why Black Lives Matter is important – and the work of anti-racism is so desperately important – so that a Black woman does not have to be doing it for me? 

If you can not answer these self critical questions, or you believe they don’t apply to you: I urge you to dig deeper. Use the opportunity to educate yourself on examples of each of these – it helps to read anti-racism literature with an eye to your own participation in racism. It’s just as important to identify the small ways that we participate and perpetuate racism as identifying overt acts. (In many ways, it’s MORE important.) 

Collect resources and provide them to your own communities. Do not assume that because YOU have knowledge on a topic that your neighbors and friends do. Talk with your friends. Talk with your family members. Have the hard conversations

Choose One Thing to do NOW. More important than resources: bias towards action. If you find a list of things to ACT on – ACT. It will feel overwhelming. Choose ONE thing. This is a principle that can be applied to pretty much anything in your life – fitness, food, career, and yes, dismantling systemic racism. 

Please join me in doing the work, and reach out if you’d like support and accountability in doing this together.

Good Things 2020: Week 21

Good Things – I’ll start with the lamb. Last night for dinner I made a meal that easily was in the top-five dishes of the year. In the morning I took some lamb stew meat, and coated it my Turkish dry rub spice that my grandmother (z”l) made for me.

This batch is probably a decade old and still has KICK. I have bags of various “vintages” – lately I’ve been trying to go through the older ones, but even though everyone is obsessed with good fresh spice, these seem to last forever. It’s heavy on cumin, oregano, chile, some coriander, and who knows what else.

One key to success in my kitchen is that if I don’t feel like being fussy, a heavy spice mix and TIME will always do the trick. I let it marinate all day and then roasted the meat in the oven at 400. Maybe about 25 minutes? I tend not to worry too much about temperature and time, just keep an eye on things. I cooked until it was done enough and I was hungry enough to pull it out and eat it. The lamb stew is fatty enough that you can’t really over cook it, so I keep things relatively flexible when I go in to cook. That’s how I cook most often these days.

The final treatment: served it over rice with tomato, fresh mint – while I try my hardest to avoid food waste, the fresh leaves were pulled from a generally withering stalk shoved accidentally in the back of the “crisper” drawer. Last up – I mixed a little Trader Joe’s European Style Nonfat yogurt (it’s Straus!) with some dorot garlic cubes and topped with some pul biber for that final Turkish kick. Perfection.

I’ll be honest here, the past few weeks have put myself and many around me through the wringer. A family member has been in the hospital – non-COVID, thank goodness, work has been demanding (for which, truthfully, I’m grateful!), many in my communities are grieving, and everyone around me is struggling in their own way. Good Things isn’t a highlight real, but my specific practice of noticing and observing the good – even during the darkest of times. I was particularly touched over the past few weeks by the people who reached out to let me know that it matters. (And as always, you, you reading this – you matter to me.)

Good Books. I know that many of us voracious readers have been struggling to sit and READ over the past few months, our focus zapped from too many hours on Zoom, or time spent connected to devices. (Let’s be honest, I have a library book from January that has been sitting 3/4 of the way read in my office.) I’ve found however that I’m craving books again, and have been taking advantage of my long walks to listen to more audiobooks than my normal routine.

I’ve been enjoying Bob Iger’s book – The Ride of a Lifetime. I’m an unashamed Disney fan, and the book was pretty riveting. (I did some vision casting with my women’s leadership group this weekend, and let it be known that if I could serve on any corporate board, Disney is at the very top of the list. #superbowlgoals)

After a phenomenal coaching session with my good friend Stephanie Stiavetti, who is building her coaching practice, I picked up a copy of The Empath’s Survival Guide.

For work, I’ve been reading a variety of books to kickstart my workday. I find a few chapters of a business book is generally enough to kick start me into productivity for the day. This week was The Team That Managed Itself (Christina Wodtke), Matt Mochary’s The Great CEO Within, and I’m starting off on Andy Grove’s High Output Management and David Epstein’s Range. (I’m always heavy on systems and processes!)

A quick note on long walks in the neighborhood – I’m so thankful to have my little walking buddy back in action after a winter bout of disc issues and a LOT of house rest pre-COVID. Watching him explore the neighborhood is such a joy. (For those who asked, baby-geese are still doing well!). And here’s a quick peek at my dream Wisteria.

{Good Eats} I already shared the perfect Turkish Lamb dish – but that in itself was a bit of a theme – with the same spice mix, I made a pot of Turkish zucchini, stewed with onion and tomato.

There was a GLORIOUS tuna melt on a bagel – the bagels are Whizzo’s which I get in my farm share, and I mixed in a little bit of Trader Joe’s Garlic Spread as the mayo, and a spoonful of my dad’s copy-cat Flo’s Sauce: a spicy onion relish that reminds me of summer in Maine.

Another standout dinner: in support of good things, I convinced my brother to order the Xi’an Famous Foods Chili Oil – and we shared an allotment. I made noodles with chili oil, vinegar, and baby bok choy, and I ate it gleefully as a late night meal.

My Bean of the Week was Rancho Gordo Large White Limas. I cooked them with a large piece of ham from my Walden Meat Share, and they found themselves happily participating in MANY different meals this week. 

I think the favorite treatments were:

  • as a large lunch salad with Gotham Greens Basil Caesar, fresh tomatoes, and Dorothy’s Keep Dreaming cheese
  • with leftover striped bass (cooked with a mix of garlic mayo and mustard), over arugula with lemon
  • with fresh Valicenti Ramen with pesto, arugula, lemon and parmesan. SO GOOD.  

Odds and Ends: Good Foods that Weren’t Meals, Per Se.

I’ll give another shout out this week to The Humble Roasted Potato, which I ate by itself with a variety of dipping things on a handful of occasions this week.

And another nod to my favorite late night snack: Cottage Cheese with salt, pepper, and good peppery Bariani Olive Oil.

And the perfect prepared food: the Cafe Spice Chicken Tikka Masala.

And finally, my dessert of note: the end of a container of Ben and Jerry’s Justice Remix’d: Cinnamon & Chocolate Ice Creams with Gobs of Cinnamon Bun Dough & Spicy Fudge Brownies – a flavor, that also serves a good cause: benjerry.com/justice –  the flavor and action campaign dedicated to criminal justice reform.

With that, I bid you adieu until next week. Here’s to a very good week!

xo Sam