it gives a fella relief to tell, but it jus’ spreads out his sin.
– the grapes of wrath
For as long as I could remember I was moving westward. Mostly I was on flying vessels over large stretches of land or even larger stretches of water. It is the way my wings have flown and I know it because I’m slowly shedding my flighty feathers in my slow reveal.
Ever since I moved to my current domicile, I changed direction, slightly. I start my steps out my front door by going eastward. It’s because I’m drawn to the safety of one road over the other, if only because of crime maps and statistics. I also know that in this direction I will pass by my favorite red-bricked building. It’s unusually quaint for an alley facade. It has arched windows that almost beckons you in, but there are large bars that will stop you if your intentions are invasive. The windows are also dressed in the loveliest form of leafy life once can imagine. There are herbs – the sage and mint variety. There are also strawberries – mostly green since they are taken as soon as they turn the slightest shade of blush. Someone planted some bulbs in those window boxes, but it’s hopeless for flowers. The tips have peaked and now lay nearly yellowed in their struggle for sun and maturity. I walk past these sights nearly every day.
On one such trip I saw a homeless man having an animated discourse with his inner demon. I recognized the conversation because I’ve done the same, but in the comfort of my own room. It’s a familiarly crazy act, but I differ a bit because I like to write my thoughts down. I call that being a writer: people will think less of my neuroticism.
The man traced circles in steps in front of the brick building, the home of the San Francisco Institute for Psychoanalysis. He walked and talked and I walked past and returned to a different sight. Someone from the red bricked building called the authorities and two police cars had arrived to remove the man and his demons from the premises, most likely without providing necessary psychoanalysis. He went down the alley and started talking to the folks outside the dive bar called The Tempest.
Several days later I would run across the same alley in search of nice folks outside The Tempest. They would give me napkins to soak the blood from my face, they would help me call the police, they would track down the woman who punched me in the mouth, and one of them would even bring me ice as I recounted my story to a different man in uniform. It was surreal.
My trip began as a left turn, a typically safe eastward journey – I was hungry and I wanted food but had no desire to cook at late hours so I left home. Without warning, a barefoot, homeless woman punched me in the mouth as she walked past in a stupor, oblivious to all forms of social decorum. Later when the man in uniform came to my house to snap a photo of my face and a photo of my bloodied lips – I realized he would be taking very rare photos of my face and in doing so, memorializing an incident I can’t seem to forget.
Last autumn, during a pedestrian trip on the dangerous street I often avoid, the same woman viciously twisted my nipple as I carried an armful of vegetables and sandwiches. That was also surreal, but I had forgotten it, passed it off as a rare moment of insanity, a normal occurrence for a street full of cheap hotels for the homeless. Now I know that often, things happen not because of coincidences but because there are people who have been walking around with their own demons for much longer than I have with mine. They walk the street and I pass them daily. I can’t know where or how they found their demons because I am too busy failing with mine – our circles hardly intersect and they’re unsightly when they do…
I found out my attacker’s name is Evelyn. When I saw her name in written form, I was afraid to say it out loud – to humanize her existence, to fathom what it means to walk without shoes, to know that she has been living a rough life and that her arms are powerful forces she uses to reckon the anger her own body can no longer tolerate. Evelyn has a name and she is no longer the crazy homeless lady who punched me in the mouth and never told me why. Evelyn is the only reason why I ever bought pepper spray so I can walk around alone in my own neighborhood. Evelyn was a victim and now I am her victim, but with pepper spray because I can afford to make myself feel safer by clutching a bottle for self-defense. Evelyn is homeless, but my pepper spray is not.
I keep telling myself I should go get therapy, get some things off of my chest before Evelyn attacks it again, talk about revenge, talk about forgiveness, forget resentment – instead, I just bury myself in work and sit around until morning when the silence of the street gets punctuated with garbage pickups and machines made for street washing. Instead of getting therapy, I sit around all night dreaming up of things I can cook so I can use a knife for good. It’s edible violence. It’s usually pedestrian – unless it turns out tasting perfectly delicious? That’s rare, but I’m learning to accept my own failure, only it’s now with repetitions. This past week I’ve been learning to make then re-make dreamed up recipes and even photos using this rye-bread crusted frittata I conjured in my head. I had a vision of a tart, but with my leftover, nearly indigestible crusty old bread. I thought but I didn’t think because I clearly had no clue what happens when you put bread into the bottom of a cold skillet and then bury it with eggs. Unlike myself, it will float.
So – if you were ever curious, you can try this recipe, idea, concept. Try it both ways as I did, with a cold skillet, and with a hot skillet – it’s like testing the God of Eggs and even if you fail as I did the first few attempts, they all tasted the same. It’s only the form that gives you variety.
Recipe for one 8″ skillet frittata of scallion & buttermilk with ryebread crust
note: this comes out tasting like a frittata with crispy baked french toast. it’s perfect for a group brunch.
10-12 cocktail ryebread slices, or cut up slices of leftover bread of your choice, pumpernickel would be great as well
1/2 c scallions, sliced thinly
1/2 c buttermilk
scant 1/2 ts salt
+ Cold skillet method: this frittata is not picture, but I will tell you about it just for fun. Basically, if you cook this using a cold skillet, the bread will rise to the top and “blossom” like a blooming onion. However, there’s a higher chance that the eggs will stick to your skillet. It will also take longer to bake. When I made this the first time, I was expecting the bread to stay below, but the trapped air from the cooking liquid made giant air bubbles in the baked eggs and it made everything really fun, but very inconsistent. You should try it anyways because it is fun, and that’s a good thing sometimes. Start by heating your oven to 400 F.
+ To bake, whisk eggs, scallions, buttermilk, and salt together in a large mixing bowl. In a small 8″ oiled, skillet arrange the bread in a flower pattern, tucking the last slice under the first slice. Be sure to put some slices into the center underneath your bread flower to trap the air.
+ Bake for at least ~25 minutes. If the bread starts to brown too much, cover it with foil. It’s done when the egg is set.
+ Hot skillet method: this is the frittata I’m choosing to share because the texture is consistent, and you don’t have to worry about getting a slice with no eggs underneath bc there are fun air bubbles everywhere… preheat your oven to 400 F to start.
+ Next, whisk the eggs, milk, and salt together. If you don’t have buttermilk, you can also use creme fraiche. Heavy cream will also work, but it will make the eggs taste creamy, sweet and less savory. Then, coat the bread slices in the egg mixture and move them to a small bowl.
+ Add your scallions to the egg mix at this time and stir well to combine. You can also add other veggies or grated parmesan.
+ Heat your skillet over medium heat with about a teaspoon of vegetable oil. Then pour in your egg mixture. Then, arrange your bread into a layered pattern, tucking the last slice under the first. I used chopsticks to do this – tongs might work?
+ Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the egg and milk custard is set.
+ I’ve been eating slices with chilled green beans or chilled asparagus in a simple lemon vinaigrette with dill. I think some sauerkraut would also be amazing.
*I developed this recipe because I always have a flux of excess buttermilk and scallions. I generally have a lot of buttermilk around to make biscuits, scones, and cornbread. Now, I use it for things like frittata & strata.