Ο βρεγμένος τη βροχή δε φοβάται. (The one who is wet is not afraid of the rain).
-Greek proverb

 For me, Thursday is a day of liberation. Not only have I fulfilled my teaching responsibilities for the week, but I’m also free from having to think about waking up at some ungodly hour like 6:19 or 6:22 a.m. (I never set the clock on a typical number like 6:15 or 6:20) until the following Monday evening. That, in and of itself, is nothing short of glorious. The other thing I like about Thursdays is that I have a long-standing date with my dissertation on Thursday afternoons at the Beanery Cafe, where I meet with a fellow dissertator and friend in comparative literature. By the time 5/5:30 rolls around on a Thursday afternoon, I feel that I’ve gotten a lot done and I can go home to relax–to cook, to watch some show or movie, to read (something non-academic, but of course)! Even though the week isn’t officially over (Friday does have its own share of responsibilities), it’s basically over, which is enough.

 This past week, Thursday was even a little extra special. The Greek was returning, so I decided to stop at Trader Joe’s to grab a few things. On the way there, the weather was so strange–in places, the wind would be blowing and changing leaves would be swirling around me and, in others, the sun would be shining, but the air was so crisp–that I had the idea to make a “barley risotto” (recipe coming soon!). I planned to buy only a few items (namely vegetable broth), but like most plans in life, the minute I walked into the store, it went out the window. Before I knew it, I had loaded a shopping cart with a decorative pumpkin (fall is here! pumpkins are officially back and I had to celebrate! I also recently found, on sale no less, beautiful cloth napkins–something I had long been wanting to buy–and napkin rings at Sur La Table. Their perfectly purple color complements the pumpkin nicely), a stalk of brussel sprouts, two bottles of wine just in case people should stop by, all kinds of nuts–pine nuts, walnuts, pistachio–for whatever my little heart should desire to bake (for the next 5 months since all these nuts will last that long) and several different cheeses. Smoked Mozzarella, why not? A Gouda and Cheddar blend? Maybe macaroni and cheese will be for dinner soon. Although I love having food in the apartment and food fit for any occasion that should arise, I’m imposing limits on myself from now on. I must use what’s in the pantry before I can acquire new grains, etc. The one objection I make to this self-imposed limitation is that I never allow things to go to waste. There is method to my madness; I will use it alleventually.

 Another reason I was so buoyant and cheerful this past Thursday was that, on Wednesday, I had another meeting with my dissertation adviser. I felt that there were things to address, things that our previous meeting had brought up that I, in the process of merely trying to stay afloat, had not really thought about for a long time. Mainly, the fact that, after all of this work and training for a career as a Professor of Russian Literature, there might not be a beautiful tenure-track job in a place I might actually want to live waiting on the other side of the grad school rainbow. That maybe, after all of this, I couldn’t perhaps actually see myself continuing to live this way (staying up until 1 or 2 in the morning writing or grading papers, sometimes eating crackers and fruit for dinner, sometimes sleeping with library books strewn across my bed) for the next 20-30 years of my working life. That, despite the intensity/passion with which I’ve often approached teaching and my research projects, I might be equally happy doing other things. Naturally, I was very nervous beforehand because who ever likes to express these kinds of doubts, especially to his/her mentors? I had told the Greek during a Skype conversation that I was considering having this conversation and he told me the Greek saying that serves as an epigraph to this post. It was true, after all; I was already wet. A little rain wouldn’t hurt. What did I have to lose? Nothing, it turns out: the meeting went well. I felt we really talked to each other like two human beings instead of two academics. The advice was that, since the job market is only getting worse, it’s not a bad idea to consider other fields–in fact, she encouraged it– but that I also should not give up on the dissertation yet (N.B: I was not suggesting this; I fully intend on finishing the project). Most importantly, she said it was a personal choice and that I would have her support regardless of what I choose. As for that, only time (and maybe the results of the next presidential election) will tell (if Perry or Bachmann wins, I’m leaving America).

 The funny thing about this whole situation is that my dissertation “crisis” was ushered in by green beans and ushered out by brussel sprouts; I like that vegetables have taken on such symbolic meaning in my life. Honestly, I can firmly say that, when I buy most things, I have a vague idea of what I might do with it. The green beans were supposed to be peas and, for peas, I had a plan. For these brussel sprouts, I thought I would make a slaw (I was inspired by Bittman’s article in last week’s The New York Times Magazine). Of course, when I opened the jar of mayo in the fridge, I had barely enough to cover one measly piece of bread and, after my grocery shopping extravaganza, I loathed the idea of going back to the store. I had gotten home later than I had anticipated. I needed to make dinner and pronto! I quickly realized that the cookies I planned on baking would have to wait. My priority was the brussel sprouts and then the risotto. A simple search of brussel sprout recipes on google led me to Ina Garten’s Roasted Brussel Sprout recipe, which seemed easy enough and promised a salty and crispy, yet tender (at least on the inside) sprout. In short, that seemed good enough for me. And the recipe didn’t lie; these sprouts were ridiculously good (I accidentally typed god, which may have been a Freudian slip. This could be the food of the gods).

They really reminded me of potato chips, especially the ones whose outer layers became loose when I was mixing them with the kosher salt and herbs de provence (my one amendment to the recipe was to Frenchify it) and then baked on their own. It made me think that if I were to peel each sprout, layer by layer and roast the leaves on a cookie sheet….I made well and truly have brussel sprout potato chips. But for simpler weeknight projects, browning the outer layers will do. There is, after all, something to be said for the soft core. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so many brussel sprouts in one night. I kid you not; brussel sprouts, for the first time in my life, inspired me to push the boundaries of gluttony.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Yields 6 servings

Barely adapted from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa

1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon herbs de provence

-Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

-Cut off the brown ends of the Brussels sprouts and pull off any yellow outer leaves.
-Mix them in a bowl with the olive oil, kosher salt (if you use regular table salt here, you’re asking for something that will be inedible. Smitten Kitchen explained it best), pepper and herbs de provence.
-Place them on a sheet pan and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.
-Shake the pan from time to time to brown the sprouts evenly.
-Sprinkle with more kosher salt (lightly or according to taste) and serve immediately.

2 thoughts on “Brussel Sprouts, or Something Like a Potato Chip

  1. I am so glad you had a good conversation! That is great news! And glad the Greek is back:) I loooove Brussels sprouts roasted like that too! Last week I made this insane vegetable tart that you would love–it is a lot of work, but you would love it! I will post the recipe soon:)

  2. Thank you! It was a very positive experience and I'm also glad K is back. 🙂 Although he leaves for Seattle very soon..As for that vegetable tart, I'll keep my eyes out for the post. Sounds delicious!

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