“If there is a hell to which disputatious, uncivil, vituperative lawyers go, let it be one in which the damned are eternally locked in discovery disputes with other lawyers of equally repugnant attributes.” Dahl v. City of Huntington Beach, 84 F.3d 363, 364 (9th Cir. 1996) (quoting Krueger v. Pelican Prod. Corp., No. CIV-87-2385-A (W.D. Okla. Feb. 24, 1989)
In a lot of ways, this past summer has been one of the strangest of my life. A part of me feels like I’ve gone nowhere and everywhere, gotten nothing done and yet have accomplished much, have seen my friends more than usual, but then also not at all… Time seems to be playing tricks on me as well; at certain moments, it has seemed to move terribly slowly, but, when I look at the calendar and walk by the vegetable grocer on my way to work and see the winter squash replacing the summer melons, tomatoes and corn, I realize that it’s speeding by me more quickly than I can even comprehend. It’s just as the adults always warned me when I would complain about the slow passage of time as a child: “All you have to do is blink and it’s gone.”

I suspect that this summer has felt more fleeting than usual because of my now not so new job (I’ve been in the office now for about 9 weeks; today is my first sick day. I’m rather impressed that it took 9 weeks for my immune system hit a bump in the road) and my preoccupation with learning all of the things that are now asked of me. The learning curve has been steep, but in my time at the firm, I have continued to absorb the lingo of the law and now refer to things like requests for production, motions to compel and motions for summary judgment accordingly: that is, RPD, MtC and MSJ. I have also been asked to write legal letters, which, much to my surprise (I always thought the sass on legal dramas was the fabrication of the show’s writers to add dramatic flair to the bland and repetitive legal procedures), invite more than their fair share of cheeky phrasing. 
What has most surprised me, however, is the fact that the law, despite its rituals and veneer of civility, seems to be all about thwarting the other side (the nineteenth-century novel’s aversion to characters that are lawyers has become more clear). I discovered this when I was examining responses to our RPD (these are the documents that allow you to build your case in the period of discovery–i.e. the period when documents are exchanged and “facts” are discovered) and realized that not one response was either usable or actually responsive; I then learned this again when I was tasked with sorting through production that numbers over 30,000 pages and found that most of it could be categorized as blank and empty. But the beautiful thing about the law is that, unlike in academia, the fury that builds when you feel that your time is being wasted can be channeled into saltily-phrased letters that address, point by point, everything that is wrong with what you’ve been given. The law is a place of thick skin–perhaps too thick. Dealing with seasoned lawyers who are immune to your verbal blows means that things that should and could take a few months can be dragged out interminably.

But any form of verbal sparring pales in comparison to the reality of commuting. While on the one hand I consider myself fortunate– I don’t drive to work and I also happen to live within walking distance of a BART station–I also find that the battleground of commuting by train leads to its own kind of learning curve. After a few trips, you understand which car will be the least crowded, where a petite person like yourself ought to stand so as not to fall over or be pushed, which car will put you closest to the exit you want in the station of your final stop. It’s all about developing a certain savvy, even something akin to shrewdness, so as to navigate the experience with the least amount of difficulty. But even with these skills, the truth is that it’s a miserable journey–people push and shove, it’s hot and crowded and you think thoughts about your fellow passengers that might make you feel the need to ask a higher power for forgiveness–and, just when you think you can’t take it anymore, the train grinds to a halt and you get off feeling like you escaped from a tightly packed jar of anchovies with your lungs burning. You would think that the pleasure of escaping into the fresh air might wash away the grossness of the morning ride, but as soon as you can see the foggy sky as you rush up the stairs, you’re hit by the acrid combination of urine and body odor in the air…Oh, San Francisco, 1 part fancy, 3 parts grunge.

Although this cycle repeats itself almost on a daily basis (fortunately, there are days when the trains are less crowded and the air more pure) and commuting will never quite make it in my list of Top 5 Ways to Spend Your Morning or To End Your Day, I’m still happy to have my job and really like what I’m doing. That said, I’m no different from most people: weekends–sleeping in, nursing one cup of coffee for 45 minutes, going to yoga, walking the dog in the East Bay sunshine, cooking without any time constraints–are my benediction. 
This past summer in particular I’ve used my weekends to “travel.” When the Greek was in Thessaloniki, in my own kitchen I was right there with him and his parents eating braised lamb with potatoes and green beans; I’ve also “been” to India and Sri Lanka with other friends and have had more than one Mexican evening this summer, imagining the heat, vibrant colors and various flavors that I hope to find in Mexico City next year. I’ve written a lot about Mexico and Mexican food this summer, both dessert and savory sides, and although I keep finding more and more things that interest me about it, I promise I’m going to take you to other places with this here blog very soon.

But before I do that, I just wanted to say that, though I realize that this recipe for Honeydew Seed Horchata might be a little late for the season depending on where you are, it’s worth bookmarking for next year. When I found this recipe in Fany Gerson’s Paletas–she calls for cantaloupe, and all I had was honeydew; either will work–I was immediately intrigued. After all, how often do you find recipes that use melon seeds? Have you ever even eaten a melon seed (it turns out that they, like pumpkin seeds, can be roasted)? I like recipes that not only eliminate unnecessary food waste, but also use unexpected ingredients in new ways. When I was invited to a Mexican dinner at my friends’ place, I decided I would take this, as well as Diana Kennedy’s Zucchini Torta, as my contributions to our feast.

As far as horchata goes, this one is incredibly easy to make, although you do have to build in some time for refrigerating the ground seeds and almonds, lime zest and lightly sweetened water. Beyond the time in the refrigerator and the need to strain the mixture twice through a cheesecloth or fine metal sieve, the recipe requires almost no effort at all. Its payback, however, is large; it’s refreshing, light and creamy with hints of tangy citrus. I can’t say I can really put my finger on what honeydew seeds taste like, but their presence is unmistakably there. In fact, using them in this way has inspired me to make a similar fall-themed horchata with squash seeds, a cinnamon stick and some nutmeg and ginger. I like the idea of different seasonal horchatas–especially in a place with as mild a climate as the Bay Area.
Honeydew Seed Horchata
Inspired by and adapted from Fany Gerson’s Paletas
Yields about 9-10 servings
Horchata has the reputation of being overly sweet, but Gerson’s recipe calls for only a minimal amount of sugar: 1/2 cup to 8 cups water. This seemed like so little to me that I worried that the drink wasn’t going to be flavorful enough and decided to add a full cup instead. To me, this amount seemed just right, but you’re welcome to go with Gerson’s original suggestion or even to add more, although I would caution against using more than 1 1/2 cups. This horchata is supposed to be light and refreshing; weighing it down with sugar will ruin it. 
         Two other important notes about the recipe: 1) Gerson calls for 5 ounces of dried melon seeds, but I didn’t weigh mine. I simply used the seeds from the 1 melon that I had, although I suspect that the more seeds you use, the more the horchata will taste of the seed’s flavor; 2) the recipe asks that blanched almonds be used, but all I had was a bag of raw almonds. As far as I can tell, this affected neither the flavor nor the color of the drink since the nuts and seeds are strained. 
8 cups water
1 cup sugar
seeds of 1 honeydew, cantaloupe or hybrid melon
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons raw or blanched almonds
zest of l lime

-The night before making this, scoop the seeds out of the melon and rinse them thoroughly, removing any clingy bits of melon flesh. Spread them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven at the lowest temperature possible for 4-6 hours (if you have a gas oven, the temperature should automatically be about 100 F; just leave the seeds in there overnight and they will dry nicely).
-In a large saucepan, combine the water and sugar and, stirring often, bring to a boil. Once the sugar has completely dissolved, remove from the stove and pour the mixture into a bowl. Let cool to room temperature. 
-In the meantime, put the honeydew seeds and almonds in a food processor and pulse until fine; the mixture should resemble flour. Add the lime zest and stir, then add this mixture to the water and stir again. 
-Refrigerate for as little as 4 hours or overnight; the longer the mixture steeps, the more flavorful it will be. 
-Remove from the refrigerator and stir. Then strain the mixture into a pitcher through a sieve or colander lined with cheesecloth. Repeat the straining process to remove all of the grainy bits and, this time, squeeze with your hands or press the solids with the back of a wooden spoon to extract as much liquid as possible.
-Serve over ice and store in the refrigerator.

4 thoughts on “The Learning Curve

  1. Katy, I'm so sad to realize that my email notifications for your blog posts have been going to spam! The last post of yours I saw was the scrumptious zucchini one, and here am I catching up on all the deliciousness since then.
    Your life has changed drastically this year, and you describe it in such beautiful words. I love your photos and the recipes you share, but I especially love your writing. The firm is lucky to have you! I'm glad you are enjoying it, despite the commute and everydayness. Weekend warriors forever! I'm already so excited about my 45 minute cup of coffee tomorrow, and of course, some baking…

  2. Moriah, hello! I'm sorry to hear that your email notifications were going to your spam folder; I suppose the internet works in mysterious ways! I'm just glad you've made it back here and have realized that I haven't given up on blogging yet! 🙂

    Thank you for your kind words; I often feel like the whole point of this blog is not so much the food–it's there and an integral part of the story, but also somehow secondary–but describing my experiences or talking about certain preoccupations (time, work/life balance, etc.). I'm glad to know that this comes through, unless I've somehow completely misconstrued your comment…

    I hope that 45-minute cup of coffee was wonderful and that you enjoy the upcoming one, too (it's already Thursday! Ura!).

  3. Ann, so funny that you should mention Bleak House! It's been on my list of books to red for years and I've been thinking that my experiences with The Law now practically make it required reading. Your comment has made me think that I need to make it a priority! 🙂

    About the horchata, it's really a lot easier than it looks; I think the hardest thing is making sure that it's drained properly. At the bottom, it can get kind of grainy….

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