Thanks for reading my newsletter! The breakdown: first a personal essay then some thoughts on my recent work, round up of my writing, media I am consuming and finally some vegan food and recipe recommendations. All opinions expressed here are strictly my own.
If you are here because you like my writing about science or my Tweets about teaching, you may not be interested in every essay in this space, but please do stick around until I loop back to whatever it is that we have in common. There are some swear words in this letter.
The third song on AC/DC’s 1976 record High Voltage, called The Jack, is about gonorrhea. In particular, it is about getting gonorrhea from a loose woman. The band would even sometimes point to the women in the audience while performing the song to indicate that they too may have the disease, known as “the jack” in Australian slang. The Jack’s lyrics use cards as a thinly veiled metaphor. Bon Scott, blessed with a voice that always sounded dirty and mean yet didn’t also make him sound uncool, snickered: “But how was I to know/That she'd been dealt with before/Said she'd never had a Full House/But I should have known/From the tattoo on her left leg/And the garter on her right/She'd have the card to bring me down/If she played it right/She's got the jack.” In the song’s second verse he notes that had he known what she was dealing out, he would have “dealt it back.”
High Voltage is my favorite AC/DC record. It is raw, unfiltered and minimally produced. It sounds like it was made for dingy bars full of beer drunk Aussies as opposed to the band’s later records which feel more optimized for large concert halls and arenas that AC/DC still play today. because I grew up on a steady diet of their strong riffs and thinly veiled sexual innuendo. Though my father will always say that Iron Maiden is his one and only favorite band, it was mostly AC/DC that was on the radio when we were driving somewhere together, and it was stories about Angus Young’s school uniform and Bon Scott’s untimely demise that were passed on to me in between mouthing the words and nodding our heads to T.N.T. or Hells Bells. Seeing Angus’ ass in a concert movie might as well have been the first time I saw a grown man’s behind on the TV screen.
I remember asking my dad what The Jack was about when I was in the fourth or fifth grade and being told that it was about cards. I’m not sure whether he was trying to protect me or simply did not understand English enough to make out that the song had to be about sex at least to some extent. I looked up the lyrics when I was only a little older and quickly made that latter inference. This didn’t shock me: AC/DC songs are mostly about playing rock’n’roll or fucking. Some of the women in their lyrics are given a small benefit of a doubt like in May I Sit Next to You Girl or Little Lover, but most are painted as vixens from the get-go like in You Shook Me All Night Long or Whole Lotta Rosie. There really isn’t a Madonna-whore binary in AC/DC’s oeuvre because there are no Madonnas to be found. I’m sure my dad understood that much.
When I’m feeling really strong and motivated, I’ll sometimes listen to High Voltage while I run and I enjoy the record without considering its lyrical themes too deeply. The point always seemed moot – this music was clearly not made with someone like me in mind nor would its authors care for my opinion (I do have some faux-American thighs after all). Having spent so much of my teens and early twenties around classic rock and heavy metal fans, I know that to have your appreciation for the music taken seriously as someone who is not a man, you have to dissociate from what some of the lyrics imply about people like you. Earlier this month, however, The Jack came on while I was playing cards with my husband, my dad and my brother during our brief trip to Croatia and it struck a nerve in me like never before.
Croatia has not been my home for thirteen years, but it will probably also always be the “back home” in my dinner party and lunch break stories. Visiting it always feels fraught and emotional. My childhood home looks nothing like it did when I was an actual child, but some of the feeling of being a child lingers in the air and gets stuck in the back of my throat in that scratchy way that being allergic to my mom’s new cat and every single pine tree in my dad’s neighborhood does. My jaw tightens, my shoulders start to feel stiff, I speak in a different cadence, I become ready to defend myself from a reprise of some old criticism or betrayal. It’s instinctual and it does not always serve the adult that I have been trying to be in recent years.
In this context, music becomes very poignant. For such a long time, it has been something me and my dad could always share and bond over. It could fill out the gaps in our conversations where we were probably both holding back from voicing a deep disagreement. Iron Maiden, AC/DC, playlists of 80s heavy metal and DVDs of Live Aid, even the sounds of Radio Rijeka bind my memories of becoming older together with his memories of helping me get there. We’ve seen concerts together, we bought CDs together, we watched hours of classic rock videos on TV even when we didn’t have cable. My mom had never been much of a music fan which only gave music more valence as a vehicle for having a relationship with my dad.
We played cards at my family’s cabin in the woods where we were spending a few days with my grandma, away from work emails (there is essentially no Internet access) and away from the heat of the Croatian coast (which gets very sticky and uncomfortable). The cabin itself was built by my dad, his brother and his father when he was younger than I am now and he has had an improvement project in mind every year since. During this trip we all worked on the cabin’s awning a bit. It reminded me of helping with various fences and benches and even some serious concrete mixing action when I was a child. The woods have always been my happy place, probably in part because I got to wear overalls and watch my dad use power tools and be more of a tomboy than anywhere else. I have also always loved playing the very niche northern Italian variety of cards called triestine that my family favors. I love it enough to have taught the game to my very American husband who still does not really speak Croatian.
It is not so much that hearing The Jack in my happy place during a game that I love offended me as much as realizing that I was singing along in concert with three men that probably understood and experienced the song very differently felt so heavy and alienating. In the moment I could grasp and picture the depth of the chasm between me and my dad that has been systematically dug by subtle sexism and belief in traditional gender roles over the years. Whenever some feminist protest or event came up on TV when I was young my dad would always say that the feminist’s number one problem was that they were trying to act and be like men. He had no patience or compassion for that, and he found it off-putting. And he wanted me to know that that’s how he felt, maybe even to teach me that I could not get equality unless I asked for it politely and in a feminine way in my future life. In my overalls, with my short hair parted to the “man” side, holding my cards in one hand and a small glass of neat scotch in the other, I suddenly became overwhelmed by the questions of whether my father would see me as someone off-putting were I not a daughter that I believe he does sincerely love.
Because of the pandemic and because of how long my green card application process took, prior to last week I had not been to Croatia for almost three years. In those three years I became more queer and more butch than before. I am also more certain that this is who I am much more than who I was trying to be by performing some sort of “hot girl” when I was younger. Yet, I returned to Croatia this summer as a straight man’s wife and the same kind of high school teacher that my mother is (and was while she was married to my dad). I ended up spending a fair amount of cooking during our time in the woods. When we worked on the awning I was only allowed to hold a step ladder that my brother used to climb on the roof of the cabin. Though I am younger and more flexible than my dad he insisted that he’d climb up to and I simply could not. When a few relatives came over, they kept asking me when my husband and I will have a baby. Those who didn’t ask explicitly referenced it as if it were a given or joked about it. Exactly no one congratulated me on having become a doctor since they had last seen me. Almost all my students this past fall managed to make the leap from calling me Mrs. Callaghan to Dr. Callaghan, but my family seemed quite firmly stuck on the former.
At some point I wondered why I had even been allowed at the card table at the end of each night – a crazy thought underlined and punctuated by one of the men at the table referring to his unlucky cards as “whores”. Luckily, I thought, you can’t make a Full House with triestine. Luckily, my tattoo is on my right leg.
Innuendo is the title track from Queen’s 1991 record, the band’s last before Freddie Mercury’s death ten months later. It’s a song that opens somewhat ominously, that swells with something akin to a militant optimism, that is interjected by a specifically Queen-like interlude full of theatrical sounding composition, and a song that can’t really leave you cold under any circumstances. It is almost certain that Mercury knew he was dying when Innuendo was recorded. This only imbues its lyrics, from the “Oh oh we'll keep on tryin'\Till the end of time” of the chorus to “If there's a God or any kind of justice under the sky\If there's a point if there's a reason to live or die\If there's an answer to the questions we feel bound to ask\Show yourself - destroy our fears - release your mask” of the song’s last verse with that much more potency. The recording of this album was in some sense his trying till the end of time. The fact that the song at times sounds so much more like marching others than an uplifting call for perseverance speaks to that.
During our second week in Croatia, I watched my mom dance to Innuendo while I was visiting the pole fitness studio she frequents. I cried the whole time.
The class that we were attending (really, she was attending and I was just visiting) had a little bit of everything. Some yoga, some calisthenics, some affirmations and some pole fitness and dancing. A small group of women of all ages and sizes clearly felt very at home within this hodge-podge of training, sisterhood, and self-exploration. They stretched, crunched, and rolled with the kind of familiarity and ease you only get by being a regular. I was jealous of the continuity and community that that implied. I hadn’t been a regular in a studio or gym of any sort ever since we moved to New York, I hadn’t even stepped foot in one because of the pandemic, but I did spend an awful lot of time in a yoga studio during my PhD. At the time, those rooms held a lot of significance for me. Now, in a new place, surrounded by new people made arranging myself into some of the poses I had learned back then feel awkward and vulnerable. It can be hard for me to feel safe and I tend to carry a lot of my fears and anxieties in my body. Had we done a formal savasana at the end of practice, I knew I would have cried during its silent, meditative moments. Instead, I tried to learn a pole dancing move.
After whole year of doing strength training exercises in my kitchen, the physical strain of the class did not leave me out of breath. The parts of the pole dancing move that was assigned and that I could do were those that required being strong – flexing a leg, broadening the shoulders, tightening the core, gripping the pole with power. The parts that I could not do were those that required elegance and a sense of having a body that can move in a way that is more than just mechanically correct. The women in the class cheered each other on when they managed to get some move down. They took turns putting themselves out there by trying and then giving even more of themselves to each other by being open, enthusiastic, and caring. Had I been watching instead of trying to participate, I probably would have found it all heartwarming. Desperately trying to hone my proprioception while even one person was looking distracted me from that. My mom, on the other hand, spun and swung and climbed and cheered like it was no big deal. I’m sure that I could outrun her our out-push-up or out-crunch her any day of the week, but she was really the stronger one in that moment.
When time to dance came, women drew songs from a small make up bag the instructor referred to as cosmic. It just so happened that the cosmos wanted my mom to dance to Queen. I wondered whether the cosmos remembered how much I had been obsessed with Queen in middle school. Though my jams were always much more along the lines of Sheer Heart Attack and Don’t Stop Me Now, I had gotten so deep into the band’s lore (I once woke up at 8 am on a Saturday to watch a documentary about the band) that I understood that Innuendo carried emotional significance. As an older teenager I abandoned Queen in favor of more heavy, more brutal, more hard music, then came back to them sometime in graduate school. Freddie Mercury was probably the first queer person I genuinely idolized and maybe even the first celebrity I idolized at all. On multiple occasions when my dad and I marathoned his Live Aid DVDs we’d always comment on how Queen’s performance was their ultimate highlight. I pretty much have their Wembley show memorized because it has become a comfort watch for me over the years. The iconic status of those performances, the sheer energy they bring cannot be uncoupled from who Mercury was and his queerness. Sometimes I think that I gravitated to Queen with so much force because I had no language for my own queerness, but recognized it in Freddie’s strut, in his yellow jacket and side-stripe pants, in his long hair that became short, his subversive femininity that became butch.
The thing about my mom is that she does not hold back. She is a Leo and like a true lioness she sports big bright hair and stark blue eyes. After years sporadically disagreeing at our best and constantly fighting at our worst, I am convinced that she simply cannot do the things she does without passion, that protocols for pretending you just don’t care are not coded into her body. At over fifty she looks remarkably young, and all the years seem to have only made her more free. To someone like me that can only keep anxiety at bay through order and by setting boundaries, her unbounded chaos is sometimes infuriating. Sometimes it is inspiring. And though I knew, sitting on the floor of the dance studio next to an acquaintance fully decked out in layers of fishnets, that I am not made of the same kind of stuff as her and that that is not a flaw, I still couldn’t help but tear up when I saw her dance to Queen.
Before each woman danced, the instructor invited her to consult her inner “yoni” or her source of female power. Talk of the divine feminine and how each of us presumably has it in us permeated the class overall. With enthusiastic earnestness (and likely a whole lot of oblivion concerning borrowing spiritual practices from other cultures) the instructor sold the whole thing as honest female empowerment, a reclamation of pole dancing from something that is performed for men to something that is done to unleash female power and share it with other women. Later, while we were driving home, my mom told me that she could not have found that energy and that freedom inside of herself when she was younger. Presuming that she knew how I felt, she shared that she had been self-conscious of her body in her past and that the awareness of others that may be scrutinizing it would have held her back. I could understand that, and I could empathize with it more than I’d like. At the same time, the moment helped me understand that this was not all that was holding me back from volunteering to dance as well or from giving my all to the few moves I tried to learn. All the talk of the divine feminine, of a female energy, of an inner goddess fell flat for me not because I am cynic or a scientist or some sort of a closed-minded skeptic. I just realized that that is not the spirit that’s within me, that that is not where my power comes from.
On another day, while we were making tiny apple crumbles from tiny apples my grandfather grew and gave us, reflecting on how much my life has changed since she last saw me, she asked me whether I ever think of myself in a parallel universe where I may have quit my PhD or had a baby. I rarely do – I have enough to process and contend with emotionally in the real world where I did not make those decisions. But the life I have built for myself in New York is very much a parallel universe to that that “back home” signifies. In this life, I am Dr. Callaghan and I wear slacks and sports bras and my thighs are for squats and my shoulders have grown from rows and whenever I can, I hang out with queer women and non-binary people that make me feel more honest and real.
Croatian synthpop duo Denis & Denis released the single Program Tvog Kompjutera in 1984, about seven years before I was born. They were a part of the explosion of punk and new wave bands in the city of Rijeka where my parents were teenagers at the time. Rijeka was the epicenter of any and all even remotely subversive music in the communist Yugoslavia and the city is still proud of that heritage regardless of how many of its iconic venues and hang out spots have been sanitized or shut down since. Some of the key players in the 1980s Rijeka music scene went on to have careers more mainstream than the music they were briefly famous for, a few managed to maintain and capitalize on their punk or punk-adjacent aesthetics, and most faded into normalcy. I’m not sure if Denis & Denis ever achieved any level of fame beyond ex-Yugoslavia, but they were certainly not relevant by the time I was a teenager. A local take on Eurythmics or maybe Yazoo with some early Depeche Mode thrown in at times, they were a whirlwind of synths and strong female vocals singing about relationships, mildly edgy seductions and the occasional feel-good message about not really needing any of that. I was “too hard” for Denis & Denis a teenager and skewed more towards Paraf or Termiti but have come to love them a lot more in my late twenties, in part because my husband and I share a strong fascination with the kitsch and over-the-top-ness of the 80s in any context.
Marina Perazić, the singing half of Denis & Denis, is now 63 and fat. Her hair is still bleach blonde but styled into a wavy bob that an aunt my sport to a fancy family Christma. Her dresses are flowy empire waist numbers tailored for uninspired plus size sections of department store. She wears sandals with puny platform heels. In the 80s she probably could have at times been mistaken for a young Madonna. Nowadays, she’d blend in perfectly at the local fish market. We got lucky while we were in Croatia and saw a free Denis & Denis reunion show and I genuinely could not take my eyes off of her regardless.
Clearly, being old or fat or wearing a frumpy dress does not mean one cannot put on a great show. The fact that this is surprising, or that it needs to be pointed out, is a symptom how much we are all obsessed with youth, thinness, and reducing women to their looks. Yet, being confronted with an undeniable charisma, a voice that seems to have not aged at all, a body that moves and flows and kicks as no one was watching even when you are on stage, is in itself always powerful. My mom, about a decade younger than Perazić, was delighted. Her own arms quickly flew in the air, mirroring the undulating and chirping sound waves of the synths Denis & Denis heavily relies on. For the finale of the show the band that opened for them came to the stage and helped put on a very rock-leaning rendition of Program Tvog Kompjutera. Though the lyrics of the song translate to a submission to one’s lover, an offer to follow their rhythm and be programmed by them (Program Tvog Kompjutera roughly translates to Your Computer’s Program), while I was watching Perazić belt them out standing next to a very skinny yet thoroughly anemic younger singer that fronted the other band I was certain that she gives exactly zero fucks for other people’s rules.
The small, pandemic-safe, crowd of people, mostly women that seemed even younger than me, went wild. My husband, possibly the only native of Brooklyn with a thorough knowledge of Rijeka’s new wave scene, was shouting the Croatian lyrics standing next to me. I waved my arms a little. I swayed towards him a little. I shouted a lot. Perazić was fantastic, the crowd was fantastic, and the warm and sticky Croatian summer night felt good on my skin.
The next morning, we had an early coffee date with my dad and grandma. We were about to fly back to New York in a day and they were about to take off for another week in the woods, so this was a goodbye. While my grandma made use all coffee, my dad climbed on a chair and rummaged through a glass case above the fridge where my late grandfather kept small bottles of liquor he had bought as souvenirs while traveling. We opened some cognac and a local wormwood liqueur my grandfather bought in 2001 (he was known for painstakingly putting labels and dates on everything). All the liquor was very sweet, probably because it had been sitting in the glass case for so long, but my grandfather, who I have only ever known to drink when he had company, would have probably approved of us toasting in this way. We chatted about travel plans and the awning we had built and, eventually, the Denis & Denis show we had seen the night before.
“Is Marina still really fat?” my dad asked.
I thought of a song she had done in 1987 that included the line “I will eat all the cookies/just to spite you, I’ll fatten up.” I thought of how much of a coward I am “back home”.
When we got back to Brooklyn, I made plans to go to the beach and celebrate birthdays with some queer friends that have made my life here so much better throughout the last year. I also, for the first time in years, bought a scale after catching sight of all the marks the two weeks of Croatian food left on my body. The pride I have been trying so hard to cultivate here and the shame that at times felt so inescapable at home intertwined into a tight knot at the bottom of my soft stomach.
I guess I just have to keep on trying.
*Pink noise, something of a cousin to white noise, is a type of signal where the amount of energy the signal carries is inversely proportional to the frequency associated with it. More simply, when pink noise is used to describe an audio signal, each octave interval carries an equal amount of noise energy. This somewhat even distribution of energy per frequency implies a lack of structure – if one tone or frequency was most prominent it would carry most of the energy.
Do you like Ultracold? Help me grow this newsletter by recommending it to a friend or sharing this letter on social media.
ABOUT ME LATELY
A huge thank you to the very talented Sonja Diklic for this photo.
For Quanta Magazine, I wrote about one of the two new experiments showing most decisive evidence of the existence of a Wigner Crystal – a crystal made out of only electrons – yet. Physicists have been trying to engineer or observe these crystals since Eugene Wigner, one of the architects of the mathematical foundations of quantum mechanics, suggested their existence in the 1930s. These new experiments are then a big step forward for condensed matter physics because they use new and powerful observation techniques and will certainly be a boon for theoretical work that focuses on matter where repulsive forces between electrons, which is how the crystal stays stable, are very strong. It was one of my goals for the summer to write for a magazine that I had not worked with before and Quanta was at the top of my list so getting to do this story felt really lucky. Though condensed matter physics is my favorite and technically my area of expertise as a scholar, or maybe because of this, this story was a bit challenging to write and I am very grateful for the patience that my editor showed me. I hope you’ll check this one out and I hope it won’t be my last for Quanta.
On a very different note, I was featured in this video on migration stories connected to Rijeka. In 2016 my mom convinced me to contribute to an art project centered on our home city of Rijeka and migration. At that point I had been living in the US for 8 years and had had lots of time to think about what it means to be an immigrant. I sent the artists, Mario Paniego, a long paragraph about my experience, including the sentence “This state that is an equal superposition of ‘at home nowhere’ and ‘at home everywhere’ has in a way been a defining characteristic of the third of my life I have spent abroad.” Wisely, he distilled my usual long-winded-ness into a simple phrase: “At home nowhere and everywhere at home” which was then inscribed on a seaside pedestrian walkway back in Rijeka. This year’s video project followed up on Mario’s work and in it you can hear from folks that contributed to the original explaining how we have changed, and whether we have stopped migrating, since 2016. The whole thing is very sweet and I was flattered to be included.
On the teaching front, just before we left for Croatia, I wrapped up my interdisciplinary class on physics and art for the summer program at my school. Being part of this program and getting to interact with a really exciting and diverse group of incoming students was really inspiring and gave me a lot to think about regarding our return to more “normal” classrooms in the fall. I felt very grateful for all the colleagues that taught in the program with me and even more grateful for friends that guest-lectured and the incredible teaching assistant I had for the whole month of July. Having had a chance to plan this class more or less from scratch and implement it in a way that leaves more room for discussion and student freedom than in 9th grade classes I have taught in the past was pretty terrifying, but when we rounded up all the student projects and artwork for the showcase during the last day of the program my heart felt very big. Certainly, I’d love to expand this class into a semester-long endeavor for our older students in the future and I do very much hope to see some of the 9th graders I met this time around in my classrooms in September.
Before our trip I bought the new Hanif Abdurraqib book and that Jia Tolentino book that everyone liked a while back and promised myself I’d read a lot while we were on this mini vacation. I may have even told myself that reading these books of cultural and media criticism will help me put together better content for this newsletter, but then I never opened either and spend my few quiet moments barreling through Joe Feldman’s Grading for Equity. I want to keep my reflections on this book short here because it probably deserves a letter of its own, but if those other books were going to make me a better writer, this one will make me a better teacher for sure. Though it can at times be repetitive, Grading for Equity is accessible, practical, informed by social science research and does not pull any punches when it comes to harms that the structure of our educational systems has done to some of our most vulnerable students. It really opened my eyes to how much of education is set up to make success harder for students, how many games with unclear rules they have to play, and how antithetical that all is to actually trying to impart knowledge on them. I am hoping to implement some of the lessons I learned from reading this book and its radical commitment to being accurate in assessing student work and motivational in how feedback is conveyed to them in the fall.
Because a colleague and a friend of mine gave an excellent guest-lecture on time and comics in my summer class, I finally read Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics in its entirety and honestly you should run-don’t-walk to get this book if you’ve ever cared about art or storytelling of any kind at all. Certainly, some of McCloud’s commentary is a little outdated (sections on color in particular), but the clarity of his arguments and the creativity with which he makes them (the whole book is in itself a comic) are still beyond worthwhile.
I liked one of the recent issues of Jillian Anthony’s newsletter Cruel Summer Book Club where she discusses the phrase “I didn’t ask” as means of setting a boundary against unproductive or mean comments. I’ve written about how skeptical I am of the social media frenzy over healing and boundaries and doing the work or whatever the recent buzzword is, but I found this short essay to simply be helpful.
Another newsletter I have been reading for a while is the Small Bow which is edited by AJ Daulerio of Gawker and Deadspin infamy. It is mostly focused on addiction recovery, but even though I have done drugs maybe five times in my life and will almost always refuse a second drink I find it to be remarkably compelling. It is earnest and honest but not unedited or unfiltered in a way that would make reading it feel exploitative and the insights that Daulerio and other contributors arrive at often transcend recovery and seem to speak to something more like the, well, human condition.
These two poems by Morgan Boyle in Yes Poetry.
This episode of Slate’s Decoder Ring on the artist Ilona Granet. I don’t love its framing as something of a mystery, but I do think that highlighting stories like Granet’s is important.
Germfree Adolescents by X-Ray Spex which really underscored for me how good, creative and punk this band was.
Lots more of Lucy Dacus, Queen, and Denis & Denis, as you would expect.
We took a break from our usual late-night HBO routine while we were in Croatia, but managed to finish the 4th season of the Sopranos a few days after coming back. The season finale was maybe the most melodramatic and most grueling yet and though I am impressed by the show’s ability to keep being surprising the sense of anxiety that has been building up throughout our watching it continues to be heavy.
Also on HBO Max, we watched Steven Soderbergh’s No Sudden Move and I found it to be somewhat underwhelming. Its MacGuffin is interesting and relevant from the position of 2021, its actors are both famous and performing with amusement, the whole thing looks really good, yet it just didn’t keep my attention with any intensity. I can’t quite pinpoint what about No Sudden Move felt borderline anemic and it was surely not a bad film, but it just may have had too much cleverness and too much aesthetic savvy to develop any sort of deeper emotional resonance or a real sense of suspense.
We also watched Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love which is another film that relies heavily on aesthetics. Unlike No Sudden Move, however, it did not feel like it was trying to be slick and clever as much as the polished up visuals and poignant music felt like a finely honed vehicle for the tangle emotions at the center of the movie’s story. I’m not sure that I really understood the last few moments of In the Mood for Love’s plot, but I don’t think it is the details of the story that matter as much as the emotional charge that each shot fired straight at me from our somewhat dingy big screen.
Though Croatian cuisine is pretty reliant on meat and cheese which makes it rather difficult to veganize, and this year I even brought some soy curls from the US with me, we ate really well while we visited my family. Mostly, I ate my weight in plum strudel that one of my grandmas makes then chased that with the apple strudel that my other grandma excels in, but there were also grilled mushrooms, bean salads, fried eggplants in homemade tomato sauce and the best homemade sandwich rolls, breaded zucchini and cold and garlicky spring bean salads, stuffed peppers, and an incredible blueberry pie and tiny, nutty chocolates that my mom made. I cooked for myself quite a bit in the woods, but only really got to cook for my whole family once. For my mom and brother I improvised an oyster mushroom, tofu and eggplant stir fry in a sticky, sweet and salty sauce and a really spicy pot of charred scallion ramen inspired by this Hetty McKinnon recipe that is a favorite of my husband and me. I wish we had had more times to all hang out in the kitchen and chop vegetables together (I have been promising everyone an Indian-inspired feast for years), but I’ll definitely be going to the McCarren park farmers market with some new-old inspiration this weekend.