Natural circumstance led me to a basement apartment that was once my dwelling, and the site of an intangible and nebulous idea. It’s not often that I bring up the spirits that riddled my youth, nor do I feel that it is the sort of topic that can be discussed in the company of just any random group of people, as it is often met with some semblance of skepticism.
On the eve of what has been hyped to be the biggest storm to ever hit this country, I drove along side the eastern edge of Greenwood Cemetary en route to the house I was raised in. The dimly lit and desolate street wore a veil of silence that evoked that eery sense of calm before the storm. That calm lasted quite some time since Frankenstorm (as it has been dubbed) was creeping up north for a number of days. But another calm and eery sense was overwhelmingly present in the basement apartment I slept in that night. As soon as I descended into my old basement, I felt that same and unforgettable presence that I was burdened with 20 years ago. The hair on my forearms perked up, a chill in my bones set in, and a deeply rooted sense of familiarity found a home in every fiber of my physical, spiritual, and psychological being. I called out to them, just to say hi, in case they forgot who I was. Their presence was anything but threatening. In fact, they were more of a comfort. After my ninth glass of wine I began to imagine that we were all sitting around the dining room table schmoozing, rehashing old stories, toasting to reunited old friends, and passing the time as if I never left.
But this non threatening feeling wasn’t the case 20 years ago when I made the mistake of telling my Puerto Rican grandmother that I felt ghosts in the basement. She called her people. And her people were quick to respond. I’m at peace with the spirits now. But back then I opened my big mouth and became a symbolic figure at the center of a spiritual ceremony which ended with me naked in a bathtub and an older woman smashing a coconut with a hammer above my head, at which moment it rained coconut water all over me. There were also broken dishes, fragrant orange water, fire, and indiscernible chanting, that accompanied this event. Bewildered and somewhat regretful, that experience left me wondering if I could just simply coexist with these spirits since the alternative was a PG version of “Carrie”. I learned to accept them. I mean, what can they actually do to me anyway, aside from mental torture? But that was most likely self inflicted anyway.
I slept somewhat peacefully that night. The next morning I woke up, scrambled some breakfast, completed some work related cyber errands, and for the first time in about 8 months I had a day that lay ahead with a blank itinerary. I haven’t written on this blog since about May. And every time I thought I had a moment to put together a meal, then sit down and write, I was wrong. My life took some sharp turns in the last 4 months and I found that consuming myself with work, taking on new jobs, and over committing my time was a solution, or a skillfully executed coping mechanism. But really, how long can a band aid last? They inevitably always fall off.
I don’t actually have a recipe to post today. This is more of a warm up for returning to my weekly musings about food that I cook and the random and sometimes unrelated thoughts that take residence in my brain as I’m standing in front of an oven or chopping a mound of onions. But I will at least leave you with some food porn photos of dishes that I have cooked in the last few months. Sorry. No recipes to follow. Just photos. I just needed to write something, anything. to say to at least myself if nobody else, that I’m back.
Perciatelli with Goat Ragu, Pecorino, and Mint: cooked in Austin, Texas.
Homemade Tagliatelle with Fresh Tomatoes, Basil, and Dried Chiles: cooked in the Catskill Mountains.
Baked Rigatoni with Faicco’s Sweet Fennel Sausage Ragu, Three Cheeses and Orange Zest: cooked in my Mother’s basement accompanied by my lovely family and a shit ton of ghosts who decided it would be cute to break glass and have it end up in our leftovers.