Richard Olney’s Infuriating Recipe for Mussels

In an attempt to clean up this blog, I took a look into my drafts. Reader, the terror of this particular corner of the internet strikes fear into my heart. The constant starts and the stops alone kill me! But *sigh*, therapy has taught me “done is better than perfect,” so in that vein, I’ll be publishing some of those drafts, as close to their “draft state” as I can reasonably stomach. Here, then, an entry from June 2015: 

I’m a way-late bloomer when it comes to this food thing. I didn’t go to culinary school, teaching myself from mostly from home. And while I eat at restaurants, it’s usually because a place looks charming, not because of its star-power (though I do try to make it to those, too). My food heroes growing up were Sarah Moulton and Emeril, and then your Julia Childs, your Jacques Pepin. As an adult, I predictably gravitated toward the contessa herself, Ina Garten, like a gay moth to the brightest disco ball.

But I had no idea about Richard Olney. Then, over a year ago , I came across him twice in short order. I first encountered him in the words of John Birdsall’s essay, America, Your Food is So Gay, published in Lucky Peach’s Gender Issue. The piece shed light on the work of Craig Claiborne, James Beard and Olney, three gay men who were influential in shaping America’s food identity. With the exception of Beard and some bits about Claiborne, I otherwise had no idea, about Olney in particular.

Then there was Luke Barr’s Provence, 1970, a narrative weaving of letters between Barr’s great-aunt, the storied food writer M.F.K Fisher and her best pals Child and Beard during one fateful winter in Provence. Olney — a trained painter and self-trained cook in the French tradition — makes an appearance, the book’s main source of friction. What I gleaned didn’t paint him in the best of lights: snobbish, meticulous to the point of condescending… Frankly? He sounded kinda bitchy.

But he also knew his way around a kitchen. When I finished the book and put the essay away, I only thought of Olney peripherally, until Ian bought us the 40th anniversary edition of his book, Simple French Food. 

Let’s just start by saying the title is anything but. “Simple” here does not mean a “set it and forget it” call to arms, but instead, a call for a simple list of immaculate ingredients prepped to the utmost of a cook’s ability, so that the food sings. It is a beautiful book, written in bitingly straightforward fashion with no sympathy for your lack of skills. In short, this book forces you to learn how to cook.

Ian cooked Olney’s “lobster dinner for two,” which included game hens, lobster and a raspberry coulis dessert from the French Menu Cookbook, which — duh — took a lot of work. When we picked up Simple, we thought we’d have a slightly easier time.

Not even remotely true.

Because there aren’t enough hours in a week and too many books to try, we’ve so far only really cooked one recipe: his mussels. You’d think this would be a hoot, as mussels are notoriously easy to prepare. Get your broth game correct and you’ll impart a wealth of flavors depending on your combo of aromatics, seasoning and broth-base. Folks will be impressed by the your Ina-level presentation of homey, elegant open shellfish swimming in bright, savory bath.

Let me reiterate: I. Love. Mussels. From Thai-style mussels, piquant spicy flavors of chiles commingling with creamy coconut milk and bright, citrusy lemongrass, to Belgian moules, with yeasty funky beer adding fruity, biscuity notes to the broth, or even French preparations, sing-songy with acidity from dry white wine, mussels in all forms are good. All easy to make.

Enter Olney.

His preparation of mussels—stuffed with spinach, hardboiled eggs and surprisingly, more mussels—reads simply on paper. There are very few ingredients, and the sauce is a quick preparation of butter, onions and pulpy tomatoes. It’s in the doing that you find out Olney is a real asshole.

Case in point? Bro had me stabbing open 50 or so fresh mussels, only to stuff them with their chopped up brethren, and then? AND THEN having me tie each bad boy up with twine. TWINE!

The elegance of mussels is the simplicity by which the dish basically builds itself. Got a bangin’ broth recipe you want to try? Whip it up any which way you like, add your mussels, wait until they open, and boom! Done. You’ve got a magical seafood dish with a rich liquid for sopping up with crusty, comforting baguette. If Olney were around, I would tell him to go fuck himself (not really, as I think he might be my type?) but I would argue against the merits of his prep.

It took me three goddamn hours to bring this dish to the table. By comparison, all of my other favorite mussel dishes take no more than 30 min, from shopping to slurping up the broth. And, to add insult to injury, the sauce wasn’t even in that good, and the stuffing we worked SO HARD to cram into the mussels I murdered with my knife just fell out into the broth anyway. Infuriatingly, we had the added task of UNWRAPPING our mussel packages that managed to stay open, instead of just, you know, EATING.

This recipe was an unnecessary exercise in rage.

While I respect what Olney has done for the culinary world, both as a cook and as a role model for aspiring LGBT food folks, if this was my first introduction to him, I’d chuck the book out the window.

How I learned to love coffee and get over myself

First read September 24, 2018, at Between Bites, a Chicago-based non-profit connecting communities and supporting charitable causes through food-inspired storytelling. Written and performed at the organization’s Fifth Anniversary event, which highlighted 5-minute long flash stories. 

When I was a freshman in college, I was a little shit. I wanted to trade my former good student, Sunday school volunteer life for something else. College was a chance to be a different person, right? But I overcorrected: I was arrogant, entitled, cocky.

I went from cargo shorts and Target-off-the-rack video game t-shirts, to denim and punny graphic tees from Ed Hardy and Abercrombie. It was 2003 and I thought it was not only appropriate but fucking hilarious to wear a shirt emblazoned with a topographic rendering of Iraq and the words “Baghdad Ass Up.”

Bagh. Dad. Ass. Up.

Oh, I also wore scarves. I lived in Southern California, by the way.

This new me was the absolute worst at Starbucks. Having never been a coffee drinker before college, I made sure to make it my business to show everyone I was “hip.” That’s what college kids did, right? Sip lattes disaffectedly while writing poetry from deep, faux leather armchairs? At least, that’s what I thought I was supposed to do. But because I didn’t like bitter flavors — remember, coffee newbie here — I was one of Those People who required a diagram for ordering a caramel macchiato.

Deep breath: 

Quad venti non-fat, no-foam, sugar-free, extra caramel, caramel macchiato. With whip. All these years later, I keep that order in my brain as a reminder of my odious shame. Sugar-free, extra caramel, people! I was a scourge, a ghoul.

One day, I was rushing to class, but I also wanted to look cool and, yes, hip. I was wearing some ridiculous sock scarf and a bright pink shirt that said “don’t hate me because I’m awesome,” and I needed (!) my caramel macchiato to complete my look. I think I had maybe 10 minutes to class, which seemed like enough time to run to the campus Starbucks. I was a snobby asshole to the barista — short, rushed, snide — and literally tapped my toes waiting for my drink. Finally, I got my drink and ran out the door, shuffle-running to the nearby crosswalk before it turned.

And then I tripped on a crack in the street. In a split second, I went from being so cool to so foolish, as my quad venti non-fat, no-foam, sugar-free, extra caramel, caramel macchiato — with whip — rained onto me as I tumbled head-over-heels into the middle of Fullerton Ave. There was a chorus of laughter, and my cheeks were hotter than the coffee running down my back. I was within the sightline of the Starbucks, and my baristo — to whom I had just been so horrid — ran out with a towel and helped me up.

“Are you hurt?” she asked. “Do you need anything?”

“No, no, I’m fine,” I insisted. “My butt and pride are bruised, though.”

She took me inside and helped me get myself in order, during which time, I profusely apologized for my earlier behavior. “I was a dick,” I said. “Yeah, you were, but this is what we call in the biz ‘growth,'” she laughed. I ended up not going to class that day, for obvious reasons, and I got rid of that shirt. (I also stopped wearing sock scarves, which was a wine for everyone.)

The following week, I applied to be a barista at that same Starbucks — I ended up working for the company through college.

And now? I prefer my coffee black and iced.

Photo by Alex Plesovskich on Unsplash

Finding center

I’m not a gym person and I hate joining groups, but for the first time since moving back to Chicago (when I was at my heaviest, 250 lbs.), I’ve plateaued. With that in mind, I finally motivated myself to do something I’ve always wanted to do but was scared to: Signed up for a hip hop dance class, where I’ll hopefully twerk off the 15 pounds to get me back to an arbitrary number I’ve dangled like a carrot for myself.
At my heaviest, my breathing was shallow and I felt awful, all of the time. I barely moved my body outside of walking to and from public transportation, while eating at all hours of the day, not to mention drinking casually because wine was always around. Surprisingly, in moving back, I dropped nearly 20 pounds in what I now believe was stress weight from living in NYC, from commuting 5 hours a day, from daily drinking 7 cups of coffee laden with sugar, from drinking wine on the Metro North train home because I “needed to unwind,” from eating junk food that filled emotional holes I didn’t want to acknowledge.
I consider myself hashtag blessed for being offered an opportunity that recalibrated not only my career, but my health and life.
Now, two years in and down a net 45 pounds, I’m exercising semi-regularly, plus eating and drinking with more intention. Wine is still around, though it’s only a glass or two in the evening, as opposed to the whole personal bottle(s) I was putting away before. My fitness plan is nothing crazy but something that works for me, at my pace (which is slow and deliberate): Swimming three to four days a week over spring and summer, getting off the train one stop sooner to get in more steps (or vice versa), and using a stationary bike at home a few times a week when I’m not being lazy. Throw in a couple yoga sessions here and there, and while we’re at it, special shout-out to therapy, self-reflection and self-care.
The weight loss has been welcome, but ultimately, incidental.
My journey hasn’t been about feeling fat or ashamed for getting to the size I got, but about not feeling like my body belonged to me. A lot of what I’ve learned in the last year is about being more present in my skin — of not ignoring signs like aches, pains, colds, hunger, fullness, sloth. Mindfulness is one hell of a drug — my anxieties aren’t as heavy as the sky, and feeling like I have two feet on the ground has been a boon for doing more, for moving more. For living. I’ve sloughed off so many of my own bad habits, and can happily say that every step has been less about image or even confidence — for the most part, IDGAF about my outward appearance, since I know I’m a cutie pie 💁🏾‍♀️💁🏾‍♂️💅🏾— but about getting back to center, which for me is figuring out how I feel when I’m at my best, and alternatively, how to get there when I’m at my worst.
I’m still not done with my personal work, of course, but that there’s more to do in itself feels grand.

The Unapologetic Lightness of Being

I was re-reading Stephen King’s On Writing over the summer — make it an annual or semi-annual habit, fellow writers — when a line struck me. In the second half of the book, after King lays out his abbreviated memoir, in the opening paragraph on his treatise of the writing progress, he says this:

“I can’t lie and say there are no bad writers. Sorry, but there are lots of bad writers. Some are on-staff at your local newspaper…” etc. etc.


I’ve read On Writing, oh I don’t know, about a dozen times since it was published in 2000, but I guess I’ve glazed over this line. No big deal, normally. Except I’ve also been going to therapy for work-related anxiety. For my work as a newspaper writer.

That line was a blow I felt a little too deeply. Imposter syndrome is a bitch, folks.

I hear you get over it, eventually? At least, I feel like I have, in a huge way.

In early November, I had the honor of attending the Poynter Institute’s Power of Diverse Voices workshop, one of 15 other journalists chosen to deep-dive into four days of personal essay and opinion writing.

I went in with my usual bundle of nerves. I’m not good enough to be with these people. My writing is shit. Why am I bothering? What if they don’t like me? 

Well, friends, in reverse order, I think they liked me, and I bothered, and my writing wasn’t nearly as bad I expected it to be.

In case you’re unfamiliar, the Poynter Institute is a respected non-profit journalism think-tank that trains journalists and media professionals. Poynter hosts seminars and workshops all over the country, but the workshop I attended required traveling to the Institute’s home base of St. Petersburg, Florida, for four days of sun and sand. (Ha, just sun, but only barely.)

While the warm Florida sun blazed outside, enticing tiny lizards and birds to flit about on ground and sky, we journalists were inside, huddled in work groups poring over our words. Sessions varied, as did the instructors (audio training with Eric Deggans of NPR, column writing advice with Aisha Sultan of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, storytelling and focus with Tom Huang from Dallas Morning News), plus some serious time plumbing our depths as writers of color.

Poynter Power of Diverse Voices seminar.
My fellow journalists at the Poynter Power of Diverse Voices seminar.

It was this last point that I am trying to hang on to, like bottling lightning. I’ve never felt so charged, so sure of my faculties, as I did talking to my fellow POC writers. There was no explanatory comma, no having to educate, no emotional labor. These were people who understood the struggle of feeling othered in a newsroom. These were people who knew all too well the chest-crushing weight of Impostor Syndrome and it’s close friend, “Twice as Good” (as in, “to get half as far”). There was the work, and nothing else.

It was emotional. It was taxing. It was healing.

If only writing could be like that, all of the time.

On night one, Roy Peter Clark, legendary Poynter dean, instructor, VP and now, senior scholar, serenaded our group with a keyboard rendition of Smoky Robinson’s “Tracks of My Tears,” before hammering home the weekend’s theme: Storytelling from the heart, speaking truth to power, the importance of exploring dangerous places in one’s writing.

The resonance this had on my weekend, as we collectively got braver with pen and paper, became clearer as I interacted and became friends with my fellows. While waiting for my connecting flight to Chicago in Baltimore-Washington airport’s cavernous, empty D gate, I wrote on my Instagram:

It’s too soon to assess what this weekend will do for my writing, but I can say my heart is full to bursting. I got on my flight from Chicago in the wee hours of Thursday morning, slightly terrified and intimidated by the 20 other award-winning journalists I’d be meeting over the course of the weekend, but now I’m waiting for my connecting flight, looking forward to the next time I see my new friends. I’ve been writing and working as a journo for about a decade now, and I think I’m pretty good, if I do say so myself, but I didn’t know how much I was missing, spiritually. How much I needed to be in a room with brown people from Champaign Urbana, from Atlanta, Toronto, Seattle, San Francisco, Albuquerque. From Pakistan, from India, from Taiwan, from Houston, from Delaware. I didn’t know how much I’d held in, held back. I didn’t realize the extent to which my chest felt constricted and heavy, an explosion waiting to happen. I didn’t realize how alone I felt as a brown gay immigrant journalist, how much I codeswitch not just in my everyday life but in my own writing. This weekend? I’ve cleared away so much of that mental and emotional detritus and see in front of me a clear path, more focused than I’ve ever hoped for. This, without exaggeration, was life-changing.

And just weeks prior, I had my first real breakthrough in therapy, specifically my keen search for my authentic self and voice in my writing. Added together, I realized that I’ve held back so much of who I am, in favor of some alternate-universe me that is more palatable to others. And I’m done.

I was done with the half-life of the closet a decade ago. I was done with the myth of the model minority at about the same time. But did my previous writing, personal and professional, reflect that? Was I brave enough to claim a space in a white-male-hetero- dominant world? I don’t think so, but as of this month, I’m done. Done being the timid human. Worse, the timid writer. The one I now believe to be the subject of Stephen King’s scorn.

There’s still a lot of work to do, but being unapologetically present in my writing is my first step. My new North star.

Using a different set of crayons

It’s National Coming Out Day, but I don’t want to talk about coming out, or at least the whole process of it. I want to talk about being gay.

It’s actually quite boring.

I put my pants on one leg after the other, brush my teeth more cavalierly than my dentist would like, butter my toast with abandon. I worry about my midsection, paying my bills, and the state of the world, but will full-on belly laugh if someone pronounces “dicks” just right. I have a system when shopping the grocery store (don’t make me veer from it), and I can’t carry a tune to save my life.

Everyday, I get to kiss my wonderfully goofy, brainy, sensitive boyfriend good night, then goodbye every morning on my way to work. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, half-asleep with racing thoughts, I’ll turn to my left and kiss his shoulder. He’ll grunt, and I’ll fall back asleep.

Besides the boy-love stuff, how is any of this gay? Well, it’s not. Not really, because being gay is as normal as being straight, as breathing. It’s incidental to my life, as well as that of many millions of others.

Being out, though? Being open?

That, friends, is magical and wondrous and joyous.

Not long ago, the choice of being out was ostracization, and quite literally death, or the lighter life sentences of conformity and silence in the closet.

Fuck those times and the system that built it.

Praise the universe that today, choosing between the closet or being out is more akin to sitting quietly and coloring within the lines with only gray crayons, or saying “fuck you” to the quiet, flipping the table and ripping up the coloring book.

Being out – as a gay man, or a lesbian, or a trans man or trans woman, or asexual or bisexual – is like saying “fuck your crayons, and the primary colors, too, I’ve got my own fucking paint set. Fuck your lines, I’m coloring on the walls, dummy! With CHARTREUSE.” (My significantly quieter significant other would disagree with me here, but I digress.)

Everyday is a choice to say fuck you to shame, fuck you to bigotry, but also hell yes to living, hell yes to me.

Being gay is normal. The ups and downs, though sometimes more acute, are also normal. Coming out, being out, is spiritual and special, a full-body experience that you never really forget, and one that changes you for the better.

Featured image by Alysa Bajenaru

BeRoll, Vol. 1

I love the b-roll feature over at Good Beer Hunting, these little vignettes that peek into the beer world with just the smallest bit of explanation. Who has time to show everything? Moments can be as special as the whole story, some times, more.

A friend and her boyfriend invited me and my own SO out to the ‘burbs this weekend (specifically, Barrington), to meet her friends and their animals. They have a charming little farm set behind their ranch house, with seven lambs, two goats, countless chickens and roosters and, most excitingly, two mini-horses named Penny and Stella.

“They used to be named Special and Delight, but they sounded like retired strippers,” said Pam, one of the owners.

We spent an hour or so feeding apples and Mrs. Pasture Cookies for Horses to Penny and Stella — “flat hands, unless you hate your thumbs,” said Suzanne, the other owner — and then spent the rest of the afternoon talking, laughing and drinking wine. I even got to ride a lawnmower, so all in all, Saturday was a Delight, or something.

feeing a horse a red apple


Summer Daze

Full disclosure: I’ve been experiencing a lot of anxiety lately. World affairs being what they are, coupled with my somewhat crippling impostor syndrome, I’ve become an emotional turtle. Even as I’m producing some work I’m super proud of, I’m terrified it’s not enough —  “But for whom?” my therapist has asked.

I still don’t know the answer to that, but I feel small and shitty regardless, because the world is literally burning around us.

We’re living in the age of self-care, but the idea is not a new one. As I’ve started seeking therapy, and working on some inner stuff that I’ve long been ignoring, I’ve been figuring out new and socially acceptable ways to cocoon, rather than just take up the full-time #hermitlife, tempting as it is.

I reasonably understand I can’t take on Atlas’ burden, so I’ve been taking a step back. Breathing. Calming my racing thoughts. Chilling the fuck out.


Summer sets off my SAD (seasonal affective disorder), or more colloquially, summertime sadness, but as a solutions-oriented person, I’ve spent the season seeking out coping methods. I’ve largely succeeded (for now). Starting therapy is a first step, but it’s also a culmination of my efforts, and I’d be a fool to think the my work on myself was done.

Home has become my favorite safe space, the ultimate of bliss stations. Not to get too twee about it, but my plants have helped.

Last week, a bunch of friends sent me that Washington Post article about plant-obsessed millennials, makes me a statistic now, I guess. I’ve got about 20 plants throughout the apartment, but they’re hardly a chore (I’m not giving them a weekly shower), and their existence goes beyond “livin’ for the ‘Gram.” (Though I’ll post pics of them from time to time.) Handsome though they are, my royal palm, silver-leaf philodendron and stag-horn fern are my favorite for the way they sound — rustling at every errant breeze, dry and papery and soothing. Their softly humming chorus is aural Ambien. I love mixing a cocktail at violet hour and posting up on my couch with a book, my phone and computer far away in another room. As golden light filters through my mini-conservatory of leaves, I escape from world-weariness, if only until sundown.

Speaking of books, I’ve read a lot more this summer, even though I intended to write more than read. (Working on it.) I’ve tried to avoid majority voices (straight, cis-gendered white men, if you have to know), for POC, LGBT and otherwise diverse voices. My life as a media person necessitates that I’m always in contact with the former, so my free time is better spent getting to know the latter. This isn’t to brag or otherwise be performative; the simple of act of reading people who more closely resemble me has been a balm, creatively and emotionally, reminding me that representation is nothing to scoff at.

I don’t know where I’m going with this, except to say that I’m fine, or will be. I’ve been crying a lot of late, but not because of anxiety. My favorite summertime programming, So You Think You Can Dance has been blissfully cathartic (OMFG), even if it’s painfully heteronormative, and a few other streaming things have just been beautiful and/or idiotically manipulative, which is cool too, I guess. You can’t be serious all the time. Even a cheap cry is a nice release.

Other than that, movement and activity has kept my mind clear. Swimming, in particular, has been a boon, as I’ve met a few weight-loss milestones and burned off some wiggles. Friends, too, have coaxed me out of my den of sadness: barbecues, boat adventures, cocktails, wine and music have been in my self-care rotation. I think my biggest lesson this summer has been listening to my body, to my feelings, and people that probably know better than me what I need, like sunshine and time on the lake and Champagne with smoked shrimp. 

The work continues, but my favorite season is up to bat. Fall has always been a comfort and reprieve from stifling summers, and my birthday — much as I loathe celebrating it — marks the last real day of summer, and the closing of Virgo season, a sort of signal that I am, in fact, in control of my life.

At least, that’s what I tell myself.

Summer + Brown butter-poached peaches

A few weeks ago, a friend of Ian’s sent him a care package of a dozen Georgia peaches. Wrapped in thin, crinkly sheafs of white paper, nestled in individual foam nooks, the bounty of summer fruit looked just like the emoji, sun-gold, fragrant and chipper in their little homes.

Upon opening the package, I couldn’t help myself. In a moment of animal lust, I grabbed one of the plump, floral-perfumed fruit and devoured it over the sink, sticky sweet juice dripping slowly down my chin and neck.

Ripe summer peach in a bowl

Was it peach season then? Is it peach season now? A month ago, Kim Severson of the New York Times wrote a delightful piece on a debate among Southerners and writers about the perfect time to eat a peach:

“Kathleen Purvis, the Southern food writer most likely to let you know when you have something wrong, made a peach declaration on Facebook a couple of weeks ago.

Peaches, she said, should never be eaten before the Fourth of July.”

I love the charm of this easy-to-remember rule, even as others maintain a different set of standards. For me and Ian, that box of fruit lasted but a few days. Sliced over cinnamon-laced oatmeal, eaten over the sink, chopped into grain bowls — it was a bounty that brought summer home.

As the days went on, the firm peaches hinted that they weren’t long for the world, the perfumey luster dissipating in our kitchen as the skins started to dry and pucker. We didn’t have enough to bake a pie, so I did the next best thing: poach them in a pool of rich, nutty brown butter, a sultry, almost too-sensual topping for a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Throw on some nuts slightly toasted in brown butter and sugar, if you want to be even more decadent.

Even now, as I write this, I’m hot under the collar.

butter poached peaches topped with walnuts

Recipe: Brown butter-poached peaches with ice cream
Serves 2, Cooking time: About 20 minutes.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons light brown sugar, or to taste
2 ripe peaches, sliced in half (skin-on)
2 tablespoons brown sugar, divided
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped

Melt the butter in a pan or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Swirl the butter until it starts to bubble and smell nutty, about five minutes. Lower heat to medium low and place peach halves, skin-side up, into the butter. Tilt pan slightly and spoon butter over each peach half, about four minutes. Gently flip the peaches with tongs, so they are skin-side down in the pan. Divide one tablespoon of sugar amongst the four peach halves, spooning brown sugar into each cavity, and continue spooning melted butter over each peach, another three minutes. Remove peaches to the side. Do not clean the pan. Add walnuts and remaining sugar to the hot pan. Stir walnuts, sugar and butter until walnuts are fragrant and the sugar caramelizes, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Serve warm peaches topped with walnuts with your favorite ice cream. Mine is vanilla.

002. Weekly Dose: Gay Stuff

A look at the stuff that’s fueled my week, published every Sunday occasionally or whatever, don’t judge me. 

“Queer, tender, true. I like those things.” – Gabrielle Hamilton, Mind of a Chef

I spent my first birthday in New York at the now-famous Prune, a narrow little charmer of a restaurant in the East Village. My friend from Kasey took me — it was more like a treat for the both of us, since she’s two weeks older than me. There’s a banquette just underneath some mercury-glass mirrors; they pull out a table for you as you slide in, scoothing it back over your legs as you settle in. I don’t remember much of the meal — some sensible rosé or other in a cute tumblr, impossibly cool New Yorkers all around me, a kitchen humming with activity — but I do remember one dish in particular.

We started with a simply prepared avocado half, with olive oil spilling out the concave once housing the pit. Flaky sea salt covered the avocado’s fleshy surface, a sprig of parsley the lone garnish. The effect of the golden oil and verdant fruit mirrored that of the dappled fall sunshine just outside the window. It was barely anything, truth be told, but life changing in its way.

I’ve had meals conjured from foams and gums and wizardy, but the combination of that honest avocado, shared with one of my closest friends in a nondescript restaurant — I’ve never felt so welcome.

I’ve never felt truly part of the LGBT community — lots of baggage to unpack — but I do hope that each of us, this Pride week, Pride month, find some measure of belonging. Cheers to the queer, the tender, the true.


I recall the avocado at Prune because Kasey and her new husband were in town this week. When I first moved to Chicago, Kasey (a student at Northwestern) and I shared a teeny apartment in Uptown — it’s been a decade since she last saw the city. She and Brian are big beer fans, so I took them to the newly designated Malt Row in Ravenswood for some local brews from Dovetail and Begyle. Afterward, we headed to Map Room, still one of my favorite bars in the city. My guests agreed.

map room.jpg


I had to kill a mouse this week. A few months ago, when we initially realized there was a problem, our landlord came in and plugged up all the holes with steel wool. He left some traps, and we thought that was it. It helped for a little while; we caught a mouse that week and thought that was it, the our unwanted roommate was just sneaky. Then last month, we noticed little paw prints on some butter in the counter, plus some scratching noises underneath the sink. There was an entry hole we missed in the cabinet, so we laid two traps and the tainted butter down there, and a few days later, we caught the mouse.

Then this week happened. I came home from picking up pizza dough from the grocery store and as I placed my keys on the kitchen counter, I saw the scurry of another grey lightning bolt duck back behind the oven. The other trap held another teeny brown thing, squeaking and writhing in panic. My heart leapt out of my chest, first because there was now a fourth mouse in as many months, and I didn’t know how long the little guy was there. It could have been hours, torturously wiggling to get out of the glue.

I set up a ziplock plastic bag with baking soda, placed the trap, mouse first, into it and slowly dropped in some vinegar. As the baking soda started to fizz, I quickly closed the bag, and placed it into a grocery bag as quickly-gentle as possible. I couldn’t watch the life get snuffed out of the silly little creature, but I also couldn’t let it suffer.

I did something I haven’t done in a long time: I prayed for the little one’s quick, painless passing.


It’s a two-fer this week, with two podcasts that should be on your radar. First up is The Sewers of Paris. It’s not new, but it’s new to me, a real pleasure because I have a whole backlog of episodes to listen to. Billed as “interviews with gay men about entertainment that changed their lives,” the show is produced by Matt Baume. Matt asks very poignant questions of these men, going beyond just the musicals, books, and television that left a lasting impression — topics span loss, love, nostalgia, coming to terms with identity, really the gamut of the queer (and human) experience. The episodes I’ve listened to so far feature Glen Weldon (NPR), Guy Branam (Talk Show the Game Show), and author Dave Holmes, and each one is a seamless blend of charm, hilarity and insight.


Next podcast? Nancy, hosted by Tobin Low and Kathy Tu. Speaking with them for the Chicago TribuneI asked them about representation even within the LGBT space and how they navigate their newfound platform. The most recent episode, which explores Orlando one year after the attacks on Pulse nightclub claimed 49 lives, will give you all the feels.



Chicago is in full bloom, and like any good Chicagoan, I’m spending as much time outside as possible. Millennium Park’s lawn is fresh and sharp, thanks to semi-frequent rain, while walking near the Chicago River in my neighborhood smells of jasmine and linden and ozone (a tree branch was struck with lightning, and the smell is not unpleasant). I’m not synesthetic (I wish!), but it does smell like the color blue, if that makes sense?

001. Weekly Dose: The Wait of Everything

A look at the stuff that’s fueled my week, published every Sunday occasionally or whatever, don’t judge me. 

Confession: I’ve been working on this thing–whatever this thing is–for about two months now.

I just let myself become one of those writers, stewing and marinading and sous vide-ing over a bunch of ideas. (Just look at my Notes on my phone. It’s like the Magna Carta of gibberish.) Oof, amirite?

Though the concept of these posts is straightforward enough — “stuff I like!” — I’ve been roundabout and ultra-picky, reading tons and listening to hours on end of podcasts, watching everything recommended to me, tasting everything from shitty apple whiskey to transcendent duck tart. The stuff people make is just so shiny and wonderful (most days).

So I’m finally just gonna twist open the spigot, once backed up with excuses, to finally publish something here. Enjoy or whatever. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


It’s spring-ish, still, and the farmers markets are heaving with the weight of strawberries. In a herculean effort of self-care, I’ve been avoiding my usual breakfast sandwich fix for a bowl of sharp Greek yogurt with a melange of berries, local honey and bee pollen (allergies are a bitch) and some muesli. So far, so good.


I’m way behind on Sense8, which is all the more of a shame, since it’s now canceled. The two seasons that do exist are thrilling and fast-paced and charming, but it’s also such a testament to the power of diversity and humanity. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the definition of family, and this show is a glorious celebration of the families we choose to create for ourselves, in spite of what the world throws at us. I don’t know why I didn’t watch it sooner, but I’m already regretting its loss.


I’ve been a subscriber to the Song A Day newsletter for a while now, and it’s been usually hit or miss. Somethings just don’t land for me, but that’s ok. In my dotage, I’ve lost the desire to seek out new music, so I like when people just send it my way. And boy, did I need today’s song. It’s by Tom Rosenthal, a musician who has apparently made a name for himself online in a big way, and the song is the title track off his new album. Simple and optimistic, Fenn is the kind of indie song a younger, simple and optimistic version of myself would’ve loved (hello, Garden State soundtrack).

I’ll tell you Fenn, I’ll tell you when
It’s now now now now now now now now now


Fun story: At 31 years old, I’m considering therapy for a kind-of growing anxiety problem. Last I went was over a decade ago, to some sheisty Christian family fucker who, long story short, didn’t really help. Can I get an amen for honesty and newsletters, though? Like above, an email landed in my inbox today that I needed to read, a day after a convo between myself and my friend Emily. My main problem of late has been impostor syndrome, which seems, I don’t know, so self-indulgent of me. In his “It’s My Stupid!” email, Tyler Coates (an editor at Esquire) wrote:

It has been hard for me to take compliments lately. My friend Jami gave me a really good one recently, which was that I have come a long way since the time she first met me seven years ago. “You were just an office manager at a startup, and look at you now!” That is one of those objective truths that I try to remind myself whenever I’m feeling low or unaccomplished, that my station probably seems much more impressive to everyone else than it does to me. Which is the crux of it, too, I guess: I have managed to meet other people’s expectations, but I can’t meet my own. Likewise, I cannot listen to my own affirmations when I believe, to my core, that I am just lying to myself.

Which, like, is kind of my deal right now? IDK, the whole thing just seemed very timely, considering my grappling.


I got to puppysit my good friend Wendy’s moosh, Luke, for just under a week. He likes to lick my knees and has the worst breath, but he’s a good boy.

happy dog in a park looking up at owner


//BONUS: Buy Preorder the reprint of first issue of the zine, Do What You Want, co-produced by Great British Bake Off contestant/bad ass, Ruby Tandoh. It’s all about mental health and stories, filled with wonderful people like Heather Havrilesky, Mara Wilson, Diana Henry, Tejal Rao, Meera Sodha, and Tandoh herself.