full

atlas mountains moroccoAbout a year ago, Austin and I started getting massages. Up to that point, getting a massage had been a novel activity — done before a big event or to celebrate an occasion — versus something therapeutic and regular. It was fascinating to have an expert assesses the contours of my body and help it to perform better.

As I saw a masseuse regularly, she’d often note as she worked how tense my shoulder muscles were — these were the most bound up shoulder muscles she’d ever felt! I’d silently grin into the massage table. My tense shoulders were a (strange) point of pride for all their metaphor. I was a busy woman with an important job and a packed calendar and I wore life’s tensions in my shoulders. How else would my shoulders be, but full of everything on my plate?

I feel shameful and green reading that, now. Really, I felt shame the moment I thought this thought. (Do you ever do that? Think a thought, and then berate your subconscious for even entertaining the idea?) I started considering my misplaced pride and the identity carried around by my poor shoulder muscles. About lives that are not worthwhile unless they are overflowing. With what? It doesn’t matter. So long as we are busy.

Over the past year, I’ve challenged myself to be more conscious with this word — to stop glorifying my schedule and celebrating “busy.” Busy is lazy. Busy is closing the door to good conversation. Busy is boring. You’ve heard all this before. And yet, how often is “busy” the default answer — to a friend as we plan to meet for drinks, to a colleague in the elevator asking of our weekend, to a concerned mom who hears the workweek wear in our voice?

I don’t want to suggest that eliminating busy is an easy undertaking or an overnight fix. Like correcting any bad habit, it takes time. I used to default to busy a lot, especially in response to “how are you?” Sometimes I still do, before I catch myself.  I clip my tongue and figure out a better answer.

I’ve fought to (gently) push others past busy in conversations. If you listen, really listen each day, you hear busy everywhere, in every exchange. So I ask what projects they’re working on, how their kids are doing in school, and to see some photos from a recent trip. The eagerly described details are always better, more wonderful, than busy. We have so many stories to share that are stunted by “my life is busy, yours is too!”

I’m trying to replace busy with full.

Wonderfully, sometimes-maddeningly, full. But a fullness of choice. I (and probably you, reading this, lucky us) choose my full days and how to fill them. Sure, I have to go to work each morning, and those days are long and challenging. But, goodness, it’s a job I enjoy and work I choose to do, over any number of callings. There are five loads of laundry to fold from that last trip, classes to attend, dinners to cook and friends to meet for tea. Shoes that need be taken to the cobbler, and a stack of books to read and the kitchen faucet we fixed twice that’s broken again. My full probably isn’t even half of yours. It’s entirely of my own making, even the tedious bits.

As I settle into this year, I want to be conscious of life’s fullness and ensure that when things are to the brim (as they will be) I’m happy with every last bit I carry with me. I want to have the courage to dump unhelpful pastimes that take up my finite hours. I want to, equally, have the courage to add things that are challenging and out of my norm and take work.

A year later, my shoulders aren’t bound like they used to be. My therapist will take credit for her good work, as she should. But I am, too. I’m storing less inside myself, just to keep up with busy. I’m no longer proud when I hunch over with the weight of the day. Life is fuller.

[photo: my own, sunrise in the Atlas Mountains, Morocco]

retrospective | march 2015

Because I enjoy a good retrospective — a look-back at some of the cooking, writing, events, dining, people and travel that comprised the month that was. Here’s the March 2015 edition.

shrimp fennel orange salad

Cooking

I can tell Austin and I are ready for spring and warmer weather by the sheer amount of vegetables that graced our kitchen during March. Looking through our meal plan, it was a colourful and bountiful month. Highlights included:

So happy to be back in the cooking groove after February’s failings!

paris-travelogue-orsay

Writing

In March 2015, I wrote two posts — an introspective look ahead on my twenty-ninth birthday, and I revisited a great holiday through a travelogue of our Paris anniversary tripitsneverokay

Events, Dining & People

This was a packed but wonderful month on so many fronts!

I turned twenty-nine, and was touched when one of my dearest college friends, Andrew, traveled into Toronto just for a surprise dinner (bringing along his famous chocolate chip cookies!). It had been eight long months since I last saw Meredith in New York City, so having her in Toronto for my entire birthday weekend was a treat.

It was, by all accounts, a weekend of eating.

We started on Friday night with my favourite moules frites and pints at Beer Bistro. My birth-day proper kicked off with Egyptian brunch at Maha’s (Maha of the amazing Egyptian cooking class we took last May) and it was delicious as anticipated. Mere and I enjoyed a girls’ day in Cabbagetown and Austin planned dinner at Carl Heinrich’s Richmond Station. Their sweet milk kulfi will be making my Best Dishes of 2015 list, no doubt.

We closed the weekend as all good birthday weekends should — with Sunday lunch at my favourite restaurant, Edulis. I could think of no better way to welcome the final year of my twenties than with my two favourite people enjoying a leisurely seven-course lunch.

Work was frenetic but fantastic (I love my job!) — we launched a blood-sweat-and-tears project that I am so proud of (and that’s been a worldwide hit!), I took a temporary stint doing double-duty as I acted for our director of operations, and developed/taught two new courses (something I’ve been doing more of lately, and really enjoy). With Austin wrapping up his dissertation proposal and preparing to present at a big conference in April, we were both immersed in our work.

My sister, Eleni, was in town, so we enjoyed long overdue sister/partner time over a sushi date night for six. We met Niki and Myles’ new Maine Coon, a sweet little kitten named Asami. My parents were in Toronto shortly after my birthday and we caught up, however briefly, after two long months apart. Meredith was in Toronto again for a few days before returning home to NYC to start an amazing new job — twice in a month with one of my favourite people!

We celebrated Niki’s 22nd and Myles’ 28th birthdays with our fist visit to Porzia, a totally underrated Italian restaurant in Parkdale. Late in the month, Heather and Matt hosted us for dinner at their lovely new place.

Lastly (phew! March!), I wrapped up my level two wines course, which leaves me the summer to think about next steps. We’re out of town too much in the coming months for a next course to be practical (or financially responsible), so I’ll keep tasting on my own through the summer (putting this incredible birthday gift from my in-laws to good use) and prepare for what’s next closer to the fall.

birthday-flowers

Travel

Looking through the calendar, March was our first month without travel since last May (!). With so much on the go at work and home, it felt great to have a breather month before a busy April travel ahead.

P.S.!

It’s true — after much cajoling, I’m on Instagram! Flickr is still my first love, but I promise to share images from my days more regularly @m.pontikis, should you wish to follow along.

Read past months’ retrospectives on Some Infinite thing. 

travelogue | paris in the fall (october 2014)

travelogue-paris-fallNew to the travelogue series on Some Infinite Thing? See past adventures!

I was reluctant to write this travelogue. I mean, five days in Paris?! So many guides exist, already. What would mine offer but more of the same? Likely some more of the same, yes, but we built a wonderful glimpse into Paris during our visit. I thought it worth sharing for anyone considering or planning a trip in her beautiful — and quieter — fall months.

October may not seem like the most obvious time to visit Paris, with most visitors flocking to her in the spring and summer — for good reason — the days are sunny and warm and resplendent as only Paris can be. But Austin and I decided on Paris as we dreamed up our first anniversary trip as something drippingly romantic and full of good eating.

We arrived late-morning after an easy transatlantic hop from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport (YYZ) to Charles de Gaulle (CDG). We caught the RER into the city proper, serendipitously walking onto the gare’s platform just as an express pulled into the station, with the ride taking about 35 minutes on our mostly empty train.

paris-travelogue-laurent-duboisWe popped off at our metro stop, Saint-Paul-Le-Marais, in the heart of the 4e arrondissement. The fall day was magical — blindingly sunny and crisp — illuminating everything in warm light. Our apartment was a two minute walk from the metro on Rue Saint Paul. We meandered along the cobblestone noting the bakeries and cheesemongers and markets, people spilling out of cafes into the streets on such a perfect Saturday afternoon. I squealed upon spotting a Laurent Dubois (one of Paris’ best fromageries) a few steps from our rental.

paris-travelogue-marais-apartmentOur fourth-floor walkup in Le Maraisthe historic Jewish Quarter, was perfectly Parisian. We were greeted by our host, Regine, who led us through the apartment, rattling off its features in French at breakneck speed, her gauzy linen jacket ruffling in the breeze through the massive open windows.

Aside: We booked our rental through airbnb and loved it, but also researched several properties on Haven in Paris, having heard great things about the service through my travel-loving boss.

By this point, we were famished. We washed and set out for a late lunch, having not eaten since we left Toronto. A couple blocks from our apartment, we decided on a little tartine shop, its patrons spilling into the street, tables crammed with loaded toasts and jugs of wine. A sardine tartine for me, lardon tartine for Austin and carafe of wine. We were restored in the leisurely sunshine.

paris-travelogue-tarteOn our way back to the apartment, we popped into the shops for some dinner provisions — a few cheeses, baguette, pear tart and wine to enjoy later that night. We power napped to prepare for an evening of adventure.

paris-travelogue-hotel-de-villeSundown marked Nuit Blanche, the annual all-night art festival that originated in Paris and now has outposts in over 120 cities, including Toronto, Montreal, Brussels, Rome and Melbourne. This is Austin’s favourite event of the year in Toronto, so he was happy to experience it in its homeland.

paris-travelogue-nuit-blancheWe set out at dusk, map in hand, and explored a good chunk of the exhibits by foot, the city bustling and bright with installations every few blocks. It was the perfect way to situate ourselves and see so many different parts of the city by night. Frequent stops for hot chocolate and coffee provided sustenance.

Having arrived home in the wee hours of the morning, we slept until our bodies woke us, just in time to make lunch reservations at Guy Savoy’s Les Bouquinistes on Île de la Cité. The restaurant is named for the open-air vendors (les bouquinistes) whose iconic green stands dot the riverbank. The focused contemporary French menu was a delicious way to begin our first full day in Paris.

paris-travelogue-jardins-luxembourg

paris-travelogue-jardins-luxembourgBellies full, we took advantage of our location for a stroll through the Jardins Luxembourg, which were overflowing with people enjoying the crisp fall weather. We may have been full from lunch, but it didn’t prevent a quick stop at Angelina — they have a location within the gardens — for a cup of their signature chocolat chaude with piles of chantilly cream. Neither Austin or I are macaron lovers so this was our touristic sugar compromise to Ladurée or Pierre Hermé, as tempting as the ubiquitous Instagram photos may be.

paris-travelogue-angelinaAfter an afternoon nap (a theme here… we never deny ourselves rest on holiday!) we popped a bottle of Champagne to start the evening. Our lovely host had left a bottle for us in the fridge.

paris-travelogue-christian-constantDressed for dinner, we took the metro toward Trocadéro for dinner at Les Cocottes de Christian Constant. This meal produced one of my favourite dishes of 2014, ravioli with langoustines, artichoke and cream. It arrived in a little cast iron pot, two big free-form ravioli draped over a thick artichoke gel and covered in an intensely seafood-y cream. When someone asks me what perfect French food is, this dish is my reply.

paris-travelogue-eiffel-towerWe set out for a post-dinner stroll, and both let out an audible “Oh!” as we rounded the corner and ran smack dab into the Eiffel Tower. It was completely unexpected (we did not realize with all the densely packed buildings how close were were) and magical moment. Like the movies, n’est-ce pas? Being good tourists, we snapped a few photos and wandered up the Trocadéro to catch our metro home.

paris-travelogue-eiffel-towerThe next morning, we enjoyed a tiny breakfast of brioche and espresso at home, knowing an entire afternoon of feasting was to come. As we planned in the months leading up to our trip, we tossed around ideas for our “break the bank” anniversary meal, eventually landing on L’Arpège, whose chef Alain Passard I have admired since my vegetarian days of yore for his vegetable-focused cooking. We walked the 45-minutes or so along the Seine to the restaurant, revving our appetites.

paris-travelogue-broicheAbout four hours, a dozen courses and as many wines later, we left sated and wide-eyed at such a stunning meal. Passard himself makes the rounds during the cheese course to visit with everyone in the tiny dining room, and he had fun regaling us of his time spent in Toronto when he landed at our table. There could have been no better way to honour our first year of marriage than with an afternoon of eating and drinking and enjoying each other’s company.

paris-travelogue-arpege

When darkness fell, we bravely ventured out in a downpour and windstorm, wanting to visit the Sacre Coeur and having a hunch she’d look spectacular in the shiny black night. It was an eerie, otherworldly experience to wander up the Montmartre steps and through the mostly-deserted Basilica, with most tour groups and less-brave souls having departed because of the intense rain.paris-travelogue-sacre-coeur

paris-travelogue-notre-dameStill sated from our extravagant lunch, we decided to go in the opposite direction for a late-night dinner, stepping out our door just a few blocks to Paris’ fabled L’As du Fallafel for pitas, hummus and of course, fallafel sandwiches, which hit the spot in an entirely different way.

paris-travelogue-notre-dameWe started our penultimate day in Paris early, wanting to get to Versailles before the afternoon crowds arrived. We caught an express RER train, after a quick pop into Notre Dame to see her intricacies by daylight.

paris-travelogue-versaillesOh, Versailles. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect as we approached the grounds of this great chateau. Much of my research warned of being herded like cats, not being able to enjoy the intricacies of the elaborate rooms for the crowds, and feeling hurried and frazzled.

paris-travelogue-versaillesI think this is where our planning served us well (see: planning a travel itinerary). We opted to visit on one of the slowest days of the week, in the off-season and made sure to arrive early in the morning. No doubt, people were there — it is Versailles! — but I never felt rushed or overwhelmed by bodies, evident in my photos.

paris-travelogue-versaillesWe planned to spend the entire day at Versailles, and it was a sound decision, allowing time to wander through the entire chateau, some of the gardens and both Trianons, plus stop for lunch. One of my favourite moments of the trip was a (deserted! most people take the property’s little train) walk with Austin through the gardens to the Petit Trianon, just us two and the grounds’ sheep.

paris-travelogue-versaillesAside: We had lunch at the Angelina (again!) housed in the Versailles and Austin immediately ordered Champagne and caviar. He preempted my chiding — “Where else but Versailles would this be the most appropriate thing on the menu to order?!” I had to agree.

paris-travelogue-versaillesThe site is dripping with history and a gilded opulence that I can’t quite comprehend. It is worth taking your time to explore the nooks and hidden details that would be missed on a cursory once-over of the property.

paris-travelogue-versaillesWe headed back toward the RER into Paris as sunset approached. Realizing our train would take us into the Charles de Gaulle Etoile (and Arc de Triomphe) for a metro transfer, we made the most of it and popped out to enjoy the city views. Austin commented that the Arc was much more immense than he anticipated, and I agreed! It was a massive monolith. We climbed the 284 steps to the top for the sweeping views of the city.

paris-travelogue-arc-de-triompheSomeone once commented to me that it’s a waste to ascend to the top of the Eiffel Tower — what fun are the city views without her in them? I couldn’t help but remember this quip as we took in the city from the top of the Arc, the tower silhouetted against the low-lying buildings and sunset.

paris-travelogue-arc-de-triompheAside: hilariously, we had our first selfie stick sighting on the roof of the Arc. I thought it was just about the silliest thing I’d ever seen, and couldn’t believe it when selfie sticks started popping up everywhere in the months following that trip!

paris-travelogue-bastilleWe cleaned up for our dinner reservations, about a 20 minute walk away right past Place de la Bastille and into the 11e at Bistrot Paul Bert, one of the city’s best loved bistrots and highly recommended by my Francophile boss. This was such a good meal, a simple 3-course prix fixe, written for the evening on a chalkboard the waiters drag from table to table — pig’s trotters, tartare, steak frites, souffle — traditional bistro food at its best. Austin made a comment about cancelling the rest of our reservations for the week and just returning to Paul Bert for our meals. It was that delicious and satisfying.

paris-travelogue-anniversary-photosDay five began with an exciting turn of events: professional anniversary photos through the city! The day before as we enjoyed breakfast, I noticed my aunt share what was obviously a professional photo taken on a trip to Paris earlier in the year. With a bit of digging, we uncovered the photographer and popped her an email to see if she was free on such short notice. The stars aligned, because she was!

paris-travelogue-anniversary-photosOver the course of the morning, we soldiered through some serious rain with our charming Aussie photographer and it was such a blast. We were drenched and we weren’t even properly styled (“What clean laundry do we have left?!”), but oh the love in those photos. Our photographer commented that she’d rarely seen two people so happy and loving through such terrible weather, which made us smile. We love these iconic shots — at the Louvre, the Palais Royale, in the Jardin des Tuileries, the Galerie Vivienne and of course, with the Eiffel Tower — by which to remember our first anniversary in Paris (the below photo even made the cover of our 2015 New Year card!).

paris-travelogue-anniversary-photosI was smitten with the expansive and beautiful Jardin des Tuileries — leaves changing colours and playing in our photos against the gloomy grey skies. At one point we spotted the gardens’ famous lawn mowing goats and our photographer captured some characteristically embarrassing photos of me exploding in happiness as I greeted them.

paris-travelogue-anniversary-photosWe parted ways and walked back to our apartment to take hot showers and warm up. Along the way, we picked up the makings of a perfect picnic lunch chez nous — baguette, a few cheeses (again, from Laurent Dubois; we were getting to know them well by this point), zebra tomatoes and some saucisson. With a cheap and cheerful bottle of rose, it was one of my favourite meals that week!

paris-travelogue-lunch

paris-travelogue-orangerieThe day still young and the sun finally shining, we set out to explore a few galleries. Knowing we would have to use our time wisely, we opted to visit the carefully curated Orangerie — whose main feature is Monet’s Nymphéas — a small collection that we could easily cover in an hour or two.

paris-travelogue-orsayWe ventured across the street to the massive Musee D’Orsay, specifically to visit its Gachet Collection (where works by Van Gogh, Cezanne, Degas, Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Pissarro and Caillebotte are housed). Nothing worse than running through a massive gallery to try to see it all in a few hours! I was tickled to see a favourite painting in person (a print hung in the hallway at my childhood home).

paris-travelogue-orsayKnowing the Pompidou would be open late on a Wednesday evening, we strolled along the Seine in its direction. Along the way, we crossed the Pont des Arts (more infamously known as the Love Locks Bridge), which had sadly begun to collapse just months before our visit, sagging from the weight of a thousand tourists’ locks.

paris-travelogue-love-locksIt started to pour hard as we entered the Centre Pompidou (a.k.a. The Beaubourg), which was perfect — to be encased in a radical glass building as the rain beat down on its roof.

paris-travelogue-pompidouWe had a blast exploring the 4th and 5th floors, where Europe’s largest modern art gallery is housed — a massive collection of Fauvist, Cubist, Surrealist and Expressionist art plus an impressive photography collection.

paris-travelogue-pompidouWe had late dinner reservations close-by at Le Chateaubriand, so we opted to head straight to dinner. As we queued for a pre-dinner drink in the restaurant’s tiny wine bar, lo and behold I looked up to see my food-loving colleague Gabe across the room! We chuckled at the hilarity of finding one-another in the middle of Paris waiting for late-night restaurant reservations, but there we were. We quickly turned our respective tables into a party of three, and settled in for one of our most memorable meals in Paris, in the hands of Inaki Aizpitarte’s singular genius.

paris-travelogue-chateaubriandThis dinner also featured a favourite dish from 2014 — flash-fried prawns with raspberry powder, which sounds kind of suspect but totally worked. Tiny, salty prawns were flash fried then dusted with piquant raspberry dust. Paired with Marie Courtin’s delightful Resonance blanc de noirs 100% pinot noir Champagne, they were an unexpectedly awesome bar snack.

The night entering its wee hours, we hopped into a taxi (our first and last of the trip!) back to our apartment, knowing we had a flight to Reykjavik to catch the next morning.

Looking back, the key to such a great Paris visit was to not try to pack it all in, but go with the flow and honour where the day took us. We never felt frenzied by a checklist of places to visit, knowing it just wasn’t possible in a city brimming with innumerable next-things-to-see. Throwing expectations to see it all out the window, we wandered, rested, explored and really acquainted ourselves with the City of Light.

Planning Your Trip

Stay

Haven in Paris (a great apartment booking resource)

Our airbnb rental in the 4th arrondissement

Eat

($) Laurent Dubois for cheese: give the shop attendant a few characteristics (raw, runny, pungent, blue, goat, etc.) and the quantity of cheeses you’d like, and let them build you a cheese plate. A perfect way to work through so many unfamiliar offerings!

($) Angelina for chocolat chaud

($) L’As du Fallafel

($) Bistrot Paul Bert for classic French bistro fare

($) If you like macarons: Pierre Hermé (most people will say Laduréebut having eaten both, Pierre Hermé’s confectioneries are just more delightful)

($$) Les Cocottes de Christian Constant

($$) Les Bouquinistes

($$) Le Chateaubriand

($$$) L’Arpège

See

Nuit Blanche Paris (1st Saturday every October)

Notre Dame Cathedral

Paris’ covered passages and alleyways, like the Galerie Vivienne (a beautiful way to escape the rain…)

Les Jardins Luxembourg

Le Jardin des Tuileries

Sacre Coeur

L’Hotel de Ville

Versailles (plan for a full day and try to arrive when the gates open)

L’Arc de Triomphe

Place de la Bastille

L’Orangerie (plan 1-2 hours for the entire gallery)

Musee D’Orsay (plan the wings/collections you want to visit ahead of time, unless you have a full day)

The Pompidou (plan for 3-4 hours; open late on Wednesday nights)

Pont des Arts a.k.a. the Love Locks Bridge (but please do one of these things instead of adding a lock!)

Other Resources

My step-by-step guide to building a travel itinerary. 

Anne from Prêt à Voyager has one of the best and most comprehensive guides to Paris (where she lives) out there.

Patricia Wells’ iconic Food Lovers Guide to Paris, recently updated in 2014.

David Lebovitz’ Paris favourites. 

Paris in Four Months — a delightful local resource for seeing Paris.

good reads | 18

Paros, Greece

I love a thoughtful link roundup as a way to discover the fantastic writing others are reading and sharing online. Here are my good reads from the week that was.

Good Reads

How TripAdvisor is changing the way we travel. 

Why Instagram food porn is shot from above. 

This article makes me grateful that Austin and I walk to work together each morning. 

Love that the April cover story of Conde Nast Traveler focuses on my beautiful Cyclades’ lesser-known Greek islands, including Antiparos, Paros, Naxos and Koufonisia. Alas, no Schinoussa (my grandma’s island home), but we’ll keep her to ourselves! I can’t wait to return this summer and introduce Austin to my beloved patrida.

Warning: food talk ahead… 

Have you seen the round-up of 2015’s James Beard Foundation Award nominees? I’m pretty thrilled to see some old favourites (Alice Medrich, David Lebovitz, Yotam Ottolenghi, Anthony Bourdain, Amanda Hesser & Merrill Stubbs, Sean Brock, The Violet Hour, Donnie Madia, Mark Ladner, Wylie Dufresne) and lesser-known (Jennifer McLagan, Gavin Kaysen*, Curtis Duffy**, Masa Miyake, Mike Wiley, Edward Lee) chefs, restaurants and authors up for accolades.

Also stoked to see my favourite book of 2014 — Dan Barber’s The Third Plate — nominated for best Writing and Literature.

Speaking of, if you haven’t read Kevin Pang’s brilliant piece for Lucky Peach about prison chefs — up for the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award  — now’s the time.

*Five years back, I did some solo travel eating my way through New York City. One restaurant I hit up was Cafe Boulud, then headed by young spitfire chef Gavin Kaysen. He came out of the kitchen and chatted with me for longer than he needed to about cooking, sourcing ingredients and the demands of running a Boulud kitchen. It was a star-struck moment for a girl who adores chefs. When, last year, he announced he was leaving Cafe Boulud and moving to Minneapolis to hang his own shingle, I thought it was a huge risk. So happy it’s paying off.

**Duffy’s tasting menu, when he was at the helm of the now-shuttered Avenues in Chicago, remains one of my favourite dining experiences. So happy to see his first restaurant gaining acclaim.

Other Roundups to Love

Molly Yeh’s Friday Links (updated Fridays)

Fathom’s Links We Love (updated Saturdays)

A Practical Wedding’s Happy Hour (updated Fridays)

Elise Blaha Cripe’s Weekend Links (updated Saturdays)

101 Cookbooks’ Favorites List (updated infrequently, but excellent)

[lead image: beautiful Paros, Greece, where I have spent many a summer’s day]

Good Reads on Some Infinite Thing is updated every Friday morning.

good reads | 17

indie travel guidesI love a thoughtful link roundup as a way to discover the fantastic writing others are reading and sharing online. Here are my good reads from the week that was.

Good Reads

How Canada Goose parkas migrated south. 

A long read, but so worth your time: Grace Bonney addresses negativity online, and how we can collectively be better.

Austin and I don’t use travel guides in our trip planning, but I could see us referencing these beauties.

A practical (tasty) application for rocket science. 

Looking at South Korea’s fascinating plastic surgery culture. 

Last June marked the fourth time I ate at Eleven Madison Park. This week, in its first New York Times re-review since 2009, Paul Wells captured precisely what Daniel Humm elicits from the diner in one sentence: “Under the restaurant’s relentless, skillful campaign to spread joy, I gave in.” You give in — to the theatrics, to the bordering-on-sublime food, to the unmatched skills of a chef whose treatise is, always, to “make it nice.”

I hadn’t realized the full apocalyptic extent of California’s drought problem until reading this piece.

As a frequent flyer, I’m not sure where Conde Nast Traveler (a respectable publication) was going with this obnoxious deplaning advice.

The science of near-death experiences. 

20 years later: the lost joy of Radiohead’s The Bends. 

Sulfites aren’t causing your wine headache. 

Other Roundups to Love

Molly Yeh’s Friday Links (updated Fridays)

Fathom’s Links We Love (updated Saturdays)

A Practical Wedding’s Happy Hour (updated Fridays)

Elise Blaha Cripe’s Weekend Links (updated Saturdays)

101 Cookbooks’ Favorites List (updated infrequently, but excellent — updated this week!)

[lead image: from Fathom’s 24 Best Indie Travel Guides]

Good Reads on Some Infinite Thing is updated every Friday morning.

good reads | 16

bon appetit test kitchen

I love a thoughtful link roundup as a way to discover the fantastic writing others are reading and sharing online. Here are my good reads from the week that was.

Good Reads

If you’re looking for me, I’m in the Bon Appétit test kitchen.

Standing 1:1 meetings with my staff are always a productive and well-used part of my work week. 

In a provoking and honest post, Tim from Lottie + Doof challenges our food media to be less boring. 

May we all be able to retire as Patrick Pichette has done. 

The good, the bad and the hangry. (Or: why I never go too long without eating.)

Before I go: Neurosurgeon (and brilliant writer) Paul Kalanithi died on Monday, March 9.

Other Roundups to Love

Molly Yeh’s Friday Links (updated Fridays)

Fathom’s Links We Love (updated Saturdays)

A Practical Wedding’s Happy Hour (updated Fridays)

Elise Blaha Cripe’s Weekend Links (updated Saturdays)

101 Cookbooks’ Favorites List (updated infrequently, but excellent)

[lead image: Pablo Enriquez for The New York Times]

Good Reads on Some Infinite Thing is updated every Friday morning.

twenty-nine

cork boardLast November, I tucked away an article from the Science of Us about turning 29. The article called 29 the prime What am I doing with my life? year — one where we search for meaning and reflect on the past decade as a new one approaches. Looming transitions make us sit back and think about where we were, but mostly, where we want to be.

I’m by nature a self-reflective (maybe navel-gazing) person — so knowing 29 was close offered room for pause, and even dread. In my constant churn of self-assessment and refinement, I feared being swallowed up by a pending decade change and its accompanying crisis of meaning.

Here’s the thing. I read a lot, all the time, about how your 20s suck, how they’re the most difficult decade, how they are about just scraping by and figuring yourself out as a quasi-adult who is almost worth something to the world, but not quite. Finally, you escape to 30 (with battle scars and student loans, no doubt), with a husband (+1 for a baby!) and a mortgage and a “real” job or whatever arbitrary milestones and possessions we’ve designated to signify success. Congratulations! You get to be an adult, or at least, pretend at being one.

I despise this narrative. It is frustrating and demeaning and assumes there is only one way to live out our 20s, that they are the time to muddle through versus succeed.

Maybe (I’d suggest, more likely) we’re caught in this seductive story of the terrible 20s and all the times we’ll mess up and how we’re supposed to be messed up before adulthood comes knocking. My 20s have been a long way from perfect, but life is a long way from perfect. In these nine years, I moved 10 hours from home, I finished school, I relocated to a big city, I built an unexpected but adored career, I made my dearest friendships, I gained a nephew, I learned to love my body, I met my husband, I ate over 50 Michelin stars, I traveled far and wide. With exactly one year to go, I am proud of this decade.

Today, as I turn 29, I know it will not be my year of radical transformation or rejecting the past, as I’ve read it should be. Instead, I will consider quietly where my 20s have taken me and how I want to dress their last year to welcome a new decade, 365 days from now.

I’ve changed since I turned 19, on the precipice my 20s, through experiences I have chased and others life thrust upon me. How so? I’m kinder and less rigid — an easier version of myself. I am more self confident — I know where I excel and where I flail — the things I want to learn more about, and areas of knowledge or skill that I am okay pushing aside. I’ve accepted truths about my personality. I hold myself and others to impossibly high standards, which means I have little time for nonsense or flippancy, but also that I can be intimidating and hard to know. I’m not good at small talk and social niceties, but I invest serious time and love in the people I care about, personally and professionally. I am still a perfectionist, but one defined by wanting to do my best work, not pushing myself to unyielding standards that lead to unhappiness or collapse.

One of the advantages of being a dedicated record keeper is the anthologies I have amassed to look back at who I was. Sometimes she frustrates me and sometimes I’m cheering her on. Often I smile and roll my eyes at how green she was and how much she thought she knew. Ten years from now will be the same, and ten more from then will be the same, and I hope this never changes.

While this decade has changed me, no doubt, I am the same. 19-year-old Maria was okay. Her grown up self would tell her to slow down, to let life catch up with her 1001 plans and to watch things unfold. She doesn’t realize it (nor would she ever admit it), but she eventually took my advice, and we’re both happy where this moment found her.

To 29, to growing better and to setting the table for a new decade.

[lead image: a tiny corner of my giant work cork-board, where worlds collide]