We Solve the Methane Gas Problem, or: Tofu over Udon in Miso-Ginger Broth with Bok Choy

Recently, O and I took my mom, a longtime environmentalist who recycled way before it was “cool”, to see an IMAX all about baby polar bears being eaten by grown men polar bears.

That’s what I thought it was about, at least.

O seemed to think it was about the melting of the polar ice caps and the destruction of an entire ecosystem and boring stuff like that, so he got riled up after the film and declared we are going to fix it. He really said, “I mean, what can we do to fix this?”

I’ve been vegetarian or vegan on and off for nearly fifteen years now, though I can never seem to make it stick. After about a year of being a super perfect vegetarian, I start obsessing about a perfectly seared, thick filet mignon drenched in butter, stuffed with homemade boursin. It’s like this, but with meat:

It weighs on me heavily until I cave; I simply cannot forget about the impossibly tender, juicy hunk of meat revolving before my eyes. And then there’s just no going back, until a few months, maybe a year, maybe a few years later, when I decide to give up meat again. This, dear readers, is what we call a vicious cycle. Refer to www.babewalker.com for more #whitegirlproblems.

The point is, O wanted to fix the environmental crisis, but I pretty easily convinced him we ought to just try to not add to it. I casually mentioned eating less red meat, and his eyes got big with the prospect of having to validate his conflicting desire to slow down the drowning of coastal cities and his other, quite strong desire to eat steak when he wants.

And so we had the methane gas talk. O had no idea what I was even talking about, and I, feeling particularly ladylike that day, tried several times to explain the issue without outright saying “cow farts”. Then I remembered O is in no way subtle and outright said “cow farts”. We were on the way to lunch at the time, and he went on to order a steak burrito, but agreed to eat less meat in general from now on.

This was a killer dish to start with–the tofu is marinated in a perfectly savory combination of ginger, garlic, and miso paste and quickly pan-fried over high heat. The broth is light but flavorful and feels comforting; the noodles give you that oomph of carbs that’s so devilishly appealing. The bok choy, a favorite of mine, is not a favorite of O’s. It’s a more “advanced” vegetable, one might say, and O is still working on genuinely loving things that grow from the ground, instead of in cardboard boxes with glossy pictures on the front. If you or yours is a veg neophyte, try sliced napa cabbage or even spinach, in place of the bok choy.

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Confession #1: I Hide Behind How Amazing I Am

As much as this sounds like it should be followed by a #whitegirlproblems hashtag, hear me out.

When I was a little girl, I was friends with other little girls. And if you don’t remember, miniature backpack-purses were the must-have fall 1993 accessory. I knew this. Everyone knew this. Yet there was a group of other little girls that seemed to think they were the only ones who knew this. I remember that one day, they pulled me aside and said, “Look, we think Brittany is copying us on our backpacks. Oh, yeah, we know you have one, too, but we don’t think you’re copying us, just her. We’re just saying. We just wanted to let you know.”

I knew full well what this meant: I’m officially a girl. I’ve officially been dealt my first passive-aggressive dose of cliquish territorialism. How did I respond? Apathy. Indifference. It started small.

A few months later, I had this phenomenal idea and brought a few other little girls on board. “Let’s grow stuff in those cool plastic cups we get to take home from Pizza Hut!” They rallied beneath my congenital leadership and each pledged to bring an ingredient for the experiment the next day: I’ll bring the cups, Allison will bring some dirt, Megan will bring the seeds. That night, I exploded with excitement before I’d even tossed my miniature backpack-purse into the minivan. “MOM MOM MOM, we’re growing stuff in those cool plastic cups we get to take home from Pizza Hut!”

That night, I selected the perfect few and placed them in my miniature backpack-purse so as not to even tempt forgetfulness in the morning. When I arrived, however, Megan and Allison had not only neglected to bring their share–they seemed to have forgotten about the great experiment altogether. How did I respond? Did I confront them and explain how excited I’d been? Did I ask them to bring their piece tomorrow? No. I played the James Dean of little girls. What? What experiment? Is that what these cups are for? Weird. Whatever. Don’t care. Like you could upset me, ha! You’re a loser.

And so it goes for two decades, as I sped through teenagerhood, young adultism, and into midtwentiesishness; through four new cities and a totally different country. As I’ve grown, I’ve become more awesome on paper. In undergrad, I never went to class, got straight A’s, and totally revamped the literary magazine when I was Editor in Chief. I moved to Paris for a little while and got lots of boyfriends and had oh-so-many stories to tell when I returned home, not just a little more pretentious. I totally killed the LSAT and got into the country’s top schools. I dropped out of law school, because I realized it was not chic enough (read: I did not want to be a miserable lawyer who had to repeat the same sentence twelve times in a brief). I moved home and opened an exotic cupcake catering company, until I realized I didn’t want to spend hours standing up stirring stuff for other people. I stopped making cupcakes for profit and instead showered them on my friends, who started coming to the shows I put on by the burlesque troupe I started. Then I decided to work in the music business, go to grad school at night, run the troupe on the side, and start a business based on fashion, style, and beauty.

I worked so hard at becoming awesome on paper that I really became awesome on paper. What did I not work hard at?

Patience? Empathy? Humility?

I’ve hidden behind how awesome I am for so long, with these slightly raised eyebrows that give off this unmistakable air of condescension, with “Oh, right, like I care what you think. Don’t you know I X, Y, and Z? And that’s only in my spare time. What do you do? Oh, you’re a hairdresser? How exciting! HAHAHAH.” always cut and copied, ready to paste at a moment’s notice, in a figurative sense, naturally.

It’s time to come out from hiding. It’s time to finally admit, “OK, I’m a little bummed that you totally forgot my anniversary. And that you didn’t bring me that sweater to borrow like you said you would. It makes me feel like you didn’t even consider me,” instead of, “Oh, right, I didn’t even think about that anniversary, I mean, come on, seriously? Has it really been that long? Oh.. what sweater? I totally forgot. I’ve been so obsessed with that new MiuMiu I was gifted that….”

Next, maybe instead of learning Mandarin, I’ll work on all of those things I neglected in my pursuit of becoming the übermensch. 

What do you hide behind? How did you learn to become comfortable with vulnerability?

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Salmon, Spinach, and Agnolotti

Sometimes you spend so much time in the kitchen, hunched over a notebook that’s splattered with grease, pages stuck together with god-knows-what, trying to capture every added teaspoon to build into a shareable recipe. Sometimes you just crave a free-for-all dumping of culinary creativity that screams, “You can’t contain me in a recipe with a bolded title and an italicized subtitle! I’m a wild horse! A maverick! My genius shall not be published on the internet!”

And then sometimes you crave simple, whole foods, and refrigerated agnolotti, since it would just be too easy to just get ravioli, and you don’t want to give up your prime spot as a pretentious foodie just yet.

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