on being angry, staying angry and appetites

Lately, a combination of leaning a bit too much into the Pagliacci aspect of parenting and a series of random unfortunate events has left me, a person who by default isn’t all sunshine and roses, feeling perma-annoyed. Not ideal. I sort of snapped out of it after an illuminating conversation with my OB/GYN, wherein I offered attributing my constant discontent with humanity aka why do I feel like I’m this crazy raging bitch all the time?? to a) ye olde faithful postpartum hormones, b) having trouble adjusting to my brand new IUD and c) my personal favorite, the possibility that everybody but my son is periodically being a dick. I don’t think I’ve ever wished so much for someone to tell me that I’m legitimately going nuts. He let out an exasperated sigh, skimmed over my most recent blood work and tests one final time and looked as if this was the millionth day he had to muster up the inner strength to give once again the sad little spiel that followed. 

“Hormones are fine, IUD is fine. It’s because you’re a mom now. You’ll forever sleep with one eye open, if you sleep. It’s not fun and games anymore. Nobody gets it. Especially men. Men really don’t get it. Take good care of yourself”, he said as he prescribed me absolutely nothing and sent me off on my merry way, which made for a very interesting walk through Kolonaki, during which I felt like I’d just left a weird date with a boyfriend who was very strategically paying me lip service. In one way, the honesty and sympathy is much appreciated, as is having your feelings validated by someone who’d definitely know if something actually were wrong, especially when I, a millennial Greek woman (derogatory), have been socially conditioned to downplay every single feeling out of fear of being inconvenient. In another way, having a dude tell me not to expect much solidarity from the world at large and that dudes don’t get a mom’s mental burden is just as comforting as having a shitty roommate acknowledge they’re kind of a shitty roommate AND letting you know they’re not moving out anytime soon. So I’ve been leaning into allowing that rage simmer and entertaining my “everyone’s a dick” theory. Doctor’s orders! I’m still cranky most days, but I guess I’m rolling with the punches.

Moving on from that fucking tangent, I’ve been doing some decent reading. I blazed through Kathy Acker’s short and spunky New York in 1979. I’m almost done with Jonathan Coe’s The House Of Sleep, I’m two-thirds in Foucault’s Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison and I absolutely devoured two Anthony Bourdain cookbooks, pun unintended. The Les Halles one is the abridged version of the French cuisine bible, slick, evocative, refined but unpretentious, and most importantly not intimidatingly difficult to follow. Appetites, on the other hand, is delightfully indulgent, a bit over the top, maybe a little unhinged at times – there’s a sausage and pepper hero in there I’m craving like crazy but saving for later in the spring so I can give it the old college try with our homegrown produce. Reading about food back to back coincided with transitioning my son away from purées and soups and into normal adult food, which in turn had me unearthing my own childhood memories of my tastebuds awakening. The earliest I can recall is the humble lentil soup my great-grandmother, a refugee survivor of the 1922 Great Fire of Smyrna, cooked in her small pot, in that glorified hallway she called a kitchen, naked of all appliances save for a sink and a decrepit stove. That thick, earthy lentil soup that looked like a pile of non-instagrammable brown sludge sustained me, together with a Depression-esque snack that no pediatrician in their right mind would approve of today: plain old white sugar, the devil reincarnate, on soaked rusk. I remember it all like a ritual – me digging up dirt around the roses in her tiny garden, the front door open, the soft murmur of the tv always on in the background and my great-grandmother emerging from the house with a small white plate and a single wheat rusk on it, waterlogged and almost falling apart in the middle, with a creamy blanket of sugar glistening in the midday sun. My god, was that good. It was so good that I’ve consciously steered clear from recreating it in my adulthood, out of crippling fear that it might not live up to that thing of beauty from my days of innocence. Of course, I’m a coward and say I’m refraining from making it because the thought of this much “unprocessed” processed sugar going down the hatch feels wrong in more ways than one – it’s bad for you! You’ll have to deal with the crash in thirty minutes! It’s too indulgent! But while my concerns may ring valid and true for the most part, I must admit I’m just fucking lying to myself. I want the memory to stay perfect. Stand the test of time. I want to be 6 and digging in the dirt in a small garden in Palaio Faliro, high off that exquisite sugar rush, prepared and provided by a person who loves me and has nothing more precious and tender to offer me in the world but that soggy rusk biscuit, not thirty-six and weaseling around in my kitchen, trying to wash down sugar rocks stuck in my teeth with cold leftover morning coffee during my son’s naptime.

There’s another taboo delicacy that I sorely miss that wouldn’t really fly today – a single egg, freshly laid, cracked into a coffee mug with cocoa powder and a little sugar, spoon-beaten into oblivion. A poor and tacky Balkan cousin of the meringue, if you will. Ah! The sensory pleasures of an intact sugar crystal here and there, the thick fluffy goodness of the egg, coating the insides of the mouth with an airy kiss of froth and sweetness. And then you had the added element of interactivity: I was always given the mug and spoon and told to beat the egg and cocoa myself, and surely I did so with the zeal of a line cook who’d snorted coke five minutes ago in the back alley. The provenance of the egg is most important, obviously. You can’t have anything less than super fresh or you might have to deal with a really shitty case of salmonella, pun intended. In 90s Greece, it was pretty common for people to have relatives with chicken coops outside the city. These days, I have only one precious and trusty supplier of fresh eggs, a friend of my parents who owns a few chickens and lets them freely roam on his property. My dad buys corn for the chickens on the regular and in return, the good sir has been kind enough to bring us half a dozen eggs every week for my son, who enjoys a hard boiled one each morning with some mashed avocado (“our green friend!”, I enthusiastically announce as he opens his mouth, impatient and excited, and cranes over the spoonful) and cherry tomatoes on the side. Seeing the kid experience everything with curiosity and wonder makes my heart swell with joy, and I try to introduce him to as many tastes and textures as possible. I like the idea of being adventurous together – we share our breakfast avocado, half of my grapefruit or yuzu goes into his fruit purée, and he always wants to smell my freshly brewed filter coffee up close. Our mornings are filled with awe and toothy smiles, and I hold on to his every first encounter with food with all the love and tenderness in me.

(I do realize I might be falling into the pattern of reserving everything in me that’s good and sweet for the kid, and everybody else gets The Grump, which has been a common theme in my life even pre-baby, back when I saved all my patience and understanding for my students and routinely daydreamed of dropkicking 90% of the adults in my life. I just can’t feel bad about it anymore since I got much bigger fish to fry. Doctor’s orders!)

In keeping with my angsty mood, I’ve been enjoying the Rudimentary Peni 2023 re-issue of Farce. Sun City Girls’ Torch of the Mystics has also been a staple in the household. And I just discovered The Infinite Monkey Cage podcast – approximately ten years too late, but oh well. The Egyptian Mummies episode from Valentine’s day was a blast. A collaborative zine is in the works and I just got my very first poem submission acceptance, so there are a couple of interesting things going on in the background. I might be mad at everything else, but I’m not mad at that

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *