Last week, one of my two roommates had a birthday. In any other year, Kat would have arranged for a picnic outing in Malibu or a chicken parm dinner at Little Dom’s, maybe. But this is 2020, and we live in Los Angeles. The guest list and the venue were predetermined by the rules of quarantine.
Something extravagant seemed necessary to make a Safer-at-Home birthday feel like a celebration, so I volunteered to make a cake. A BIG cake. I pulled out a cookbook called Sky High, which — no kidding — exclusively features recipes for triple-layer cakes. My baking bible has long been Shirley Corriher’s Bake Wise, my cookbook shelf is crowded with workhorse volumes: Julia Child, Joy of Cooking, The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook. But in my 20s, when I went through my primary cake phase, Sky High was my go-to for fun party cakes. I only stopped making them because it never seemed like anyone else was as excited to eat a slice of cake as I was to offer it. The cakes were beautiful but huge, and they rarely got finished off. Is there anything sadder than putting cake in the trash?
I asked Kat to flip through Sky High and choose any cake in the book. She went with a “Mile High Devil’s Food Cake,” which the authors paired with a lovely “brown sugar buttercream” frosting. Classic, straightforward. Or so I thought.
I made the three cakes with relish. It was distracting, even meditative. All my old, learned tricks came back to me — dropping the filled pans onto the counter from a few inches to knock out air bubbles; folding 3 pieces of parchment in half to create identical pan liners; rotating the pans just once during baking so that the cakes were even but the oven stayed hot. The cakes came out springy and fragrant, filling our third-floor walkup with the aroma of chocolate and vanilla.
Then it was time to make the frosting. Buttercream. What could be simpler? All I had to do was follow the recipe.
On closer inspection, this recipe was something unfamiliar, totally unlike any frosting, buttercream or otherwise, I’d made before. It called for (1) beaten egg whites; (2) a brown sugar/water solution cooked to soft-ball stage, then added to the egg whites; (3) a full pound of room temperature butter. That was it. Four ingredients, four steps.
Any baker (successful or failed, in fact) can tell you that specificity and exactitude are more important in baked goods than in any other type of cooking. The only saves for a vague (or bad) baking recipe are wisdom or luck; ideally you bring both into the kitchen. I was operating with only a little of the former and (as always) an unknown amount of the latter. As I got going, I became aware of a great many ways my buttercream could fail. Was this one of those egg white recipes where the bowl must be scrupulously clean? The recipe didn’t say. Must my whites be fluffy before I add the sugar solution? The recipe mentioned nothing about this. Is this butter really supposed to be room temperature? Or had that been a mistake in the ingredient list?
This recipe had the audacity to specify that the brown sugar solution needed to hit precisely 238°F on my candy thermometer, but then suggest that I blend it with the eggs whites until that mixture reached “body temperature.” Body temperature! 98.6º? The temperature of my cold baker’s hands? Who knew. I put my hands on the mixing bowl and tried to remember what it felt like to touch a human body. Then I added the butter.
Here’s what the recipe told me about what would happen next:
“When all the butter has been added, raise the speed to medium and beat until the frosting almost appears to separate. Continue beating, and it will suddenly come together, looking like smooth whipped butter.”
What is missing from those two, simple sentences? After a minute or so of mixing melting butter into my feverish batter on medium, the deficit became obvious: no amount of time was specified. How long was this supposed to take?
HOW LONG WAS THIS SUPPOSED TO TAKE?
Sometimes we come across a situation so metaphorically apt that, for a few moments, it is as if we can see the matrix. The world snaps into focus with a certain poetry that is invisible to us most of the time. As I let my supposed buttercream spin away for minute four…five…six…I saw that churning mess in my KitchenAid for what it really was. The buttercream was the quarantine. It was this whole situation.
Right now, all we want to know is how long? But we just don’t know. We have vague instructions to wait for things to come together, with no timeline, our only assurance a warning that they will get worse before they get better. We know how we got here, we know what we want things to look like in the end, but in the meantime, we watch the beater spin and hope that we haven’t already ruined everything. There’s no real reason to think that it’s ruined; only our fears that, without better guidance, hope itself is foolish. How long is this supposed to take? Why haven’t things changed in a way that I can see? When will it look like it is supposed to? Will it ever?
Seven minutes passed. Eight. I really needed this frosting to come together, and not just for Kat. I needed it to work out because of the metaphor. We were going to be okay, right? We were going to get the world back, right? I had great idea: I consulted my bible (BakeWise; see above). Alas, the only comparable recipe was so different from this one that there was no usable advice. Classic bible. So I consulted a couple of other valuable sources while the beaters spun on. I found a few buttercream recipes with similar ingredients, but the details were different, as were the methods. I put my cookbooks away. They had been little help, beyond the affirming my feeling that this whole situation was totally bizarre.
Nine minutes. Ten minutes. I leaned on the counter’s edge. It was already after 10pm. The smell of warm chocolate on the air had long since faded. I watched the blade spin and tried to determine if anything at all had changed. Was the color finally uniform? Had all the butter pieces finally dissipated? Was anything working here?
And then, it started.
“…Until the frosting almost appears to separate” is a scary directive. In whipping anything, be it mayonnaise, cream, or frosting, separation is a crisis. It means that all your hard work, your ingredients, your elbow grease, have gotten you nowhere. And yet, as my frosting appeared to separate before my eyes, I felt a rush of relief. It looked awful, but that was what was supposed to happen. It was supposed to come apart so that it could come together. My hope restored, I watched a few moments longer until, finally: brown sugar buttercream. Looking like smooth whipped butter.
The cake was delicious, and gigantic. The three people that live in my apartment polished it off in 5 days. And even though it was Kat’s birthday cake, my roommates saved the last piece for me.
Every Tuesday night for nearly a year, a small group of friends and I had played bar trivia at one of West Hollywood’s oldest, smelliest bars. On an average night, the skimpily-clad waitresses at this dank, storied hell-hole might serve paleo salads to a cross-fit class afterparty in the back, pitchers of Coors to a shaggy-looking couple shooting pool, and burgers to incognito celebrities sitting at the bar. In our year of weekly patronage to the place, my groups’ celebrity sightings have included Robert Pattinson, Chris Rock, and a One Directioner. The blonde one. On the extremely popular trivia nights, you can add to that unfathomable sea of humanity a smattering of birthday girls, socially awkward old men, nerds and wannabe-nerds of all stripes.
As if all this weren’t eclectic enough, it’s also a sports bar. Televisions hang from every corner of the bar’s highly-cornered interior, broadcasting a mix of whatever is showing on ESPN and ESPN 2-10. This cornucopia of sports-package programming draws even more people to the already-crowded bar during any kind of playoff season, and should one of these games fall Tuesday Trivia night, finding a seat becomes a full-contact sport of its own.
Never in a year of Tuesdays was the Table Dash more challenging than during the 2015 NBA finals. The Clippers were out of it, and the Lakers were nowhere near it. But Golden State, California’s last hope, were set to win it all if they could only take down LeBron James and his supporting cast. On the night of game three, trying to snag seats for eight, we arrived early for trivia to find the place as crowded as we’d ever seen it. It was the fourth quarter; we’d have to wait out the game, at which point tables would clear as the clientele shifted from jock to nerd. Some of us stood outside with the smokers while a few of us floated awkwardly in the narrow passage between the front door and the seating area. After several minutes of dodging harried waitresses and drunk Warriors fans, I shifted to a spot in front of a young couple’s booth in an attempt to get out of the way.
The couple was seated side by side on one part of the booth – whether for intimacy or a better view of the TV, it wasn’t clear. Very aware that I was standing conspicuously in front of them, I asked if I was blocking their view of the game. When they said no and asked if I wanted to sit down in the empty half of their booth, I decided to go for it. They seemed nice enough, and it would allow me to stop worrying about finding a table, as the group across the aisle was about to leave too, meaning my friends could swoop in, no problem.
Over the next 15 minutes, I surprised myself with my own energetic friendliness. I learned that my new tablemates were visiting from New Jersey; like me, they were rooting for Golden State out of ill will for LeBron; and the woman of the pair was a hairdresser whose lavender hair had just been dyed that shade earlier that day. The highlight of our brief encounter came when I told them that I was trying to make it as a screenwriter. The purple-haired woman looked at me earnestly and said, “You're going to make it. I truly believe that you get back the energy you put out into the world, and you have such a positive energy.” As if that ego boost weren’t reward enough for my stranger gamble, after the couple left and my friends sat down, I was congratulated for my dedication to table getting and my prowess at friend-making. Trivia night began with me feeling like a real champion in this little game called life.
It was one week later, on the heels of this social success story, that I met Joe. It was the night of game six of the NBA finals, and we came to the bar ready to do battle in the seating wars that we were sure to find there. The first wave of our group made a miscalculation, snagging a four-top that had no nearby seating prospects for the rest of us. The game ended – Golden State won the championship – and the sportsfans began to pay their tabs and finish their beers. I was on the lookout for someone leaving, and my eyes landed on Joe. To be honest, he was hard to miss. He was a hefty, middle-aged, white guy, red-faced and seated by himself at a booth, an empty beer glass and a giant pizza box on the table before him. The people at the table across from him had just left, and he'd been sitting there looking like he’d been ready to leave for the past 10 minutes. My friend Nick slid into the newly empty booth, but it wasn’t big enough for our whole group. Dammit, I wanted this dude’s neighboring table.
So I went in, leaned over to this puffy man and, as politely as possible, asked, “Are you leaving soon, or are you staying for trivia?" He turned to me slowly, uncomprehending. But hey, it was loud in there. So I asked again: are you leaving? He said that he was, but made no move to depart. When he added, speech slurred, that I should sit down, I hesitated. But then I thought of the week before. I thought about what a wonderful, friendly, warm hearted person I am, that kind of person who gives strangers – even dazed, bloated strangers – the benefit of the doubt. So I sat, just perching on the booth’s edge.
My left butt cheek had barely touched down onto the vinyl when Joe jerked his head across the aisle to my friend Nick, who stared ahead at the front door, completely unaware of Joe. The din of the crowded bar made it difficult to hear anyone more than a couple feet away. "Is that your boyfriend?” he slurred. He must have seen us talking before.
Already second guessing my benevolence toward odd strangers, I lied. ”Yes, yes he is,” I replied, trying to sound like it was obvious.
"You guys having good sex?" Joe, the total stranger, then asked.
I should have walked away. Instead, I forced a pivot. “Were you rooting for Golden State?” Very clever.
“No," Joe pouted. I nodded, disappointed that my attempt to change the subject had run aground. But hey, I thought, maybe he’d get up and leave now.
Joe did not get up and leave. He stared at me with a sloshed blankness. "How is the pizza here?" I shouted, pointing to the giant box before him. The to go box. TO. GO.
He shrugged his shoulders. It's pizza. He offered me a piece, but I declined. He patted his ample stomach, adding, “You can probably tell I've had a lot of pizzas.”
What is the appropriate response when a fat, drunk stranger asks if you can tell that he's fat? I pretended the question was about pizza. "Oh me too. I'm from Chicago. We have all kinds of pizza."
"You're from Chicago? I'm from Chicago!" Of course, I thought of course this doughy drunk guy in a striped polo shirt is from Chicago. "What high school did you go to?”
When I explained that I went to high school in Northwest Indiana, he told me his four kids went to Culver, which is a kind of fancy prep-school in the area. I knew a girl who left my seventh grade public school class to attend Culver, so I told him I was familiar with it. “Culver’s the fuckin’ best school,” he asserted.
I was relieved to find that this pervy loner guy was perhaps not such a pervy loner after all. Here he was, an out of town visitor, an Midwesterner, a proud father of four. I learned that he was also a businessman who financed films. When I told him I was a screenwriter, he handed me his business card and said that I should email him. And sure, he phrased it by slurring ”If you don't e-mail me in the next twenty four hours, you're dead to me," but still, this encounter was starting to seem like a real networking win for me. He took at piece of pizza out of the box and handed it to me, and this time, however reluctantly, I took it.
Across the way, our friend Russ arrived and started talking to Nick. I ate my slice of pizza slowly, refusing multiple times when Joe tried to offer me another. Instead of getting up, he ate another slice, so now we were both sitting in the booth eating his leftovers straight out of the to-go box. I propped my chin up on my hand and watched Steph Curry thank God and his teammates on the nearest corner television, out of things to say to Joe and hoping he would decide to head home already to sleep it off.
"How do you do that?” he asked me.
“What?” I replied, genuinely confused.
“Sit so still like that. And make that face. Like a model.” Oh shit. Had he just gotten drunker?
“I'm just watching TV." I forced a polite smile and, instead of turning back to the screen, began trying to will him to boredom telepathically.
Joe took a deep breath, "I'm just going to throw this out there…" he began.
I was suddenly struck by that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when bracing for terrible news, like the death of a loved one. What the hell was this man about to say to me?
“Is there an amount of money…that could be exchanged…and you’d go back to my hotel…and we'd…have sex?”
I wonder what face I made. I can guess, but my brain temporarily shut down for a moment, so now I can't be sure.
“Say, $500? $1000?” He was starting high, which was peculiarly flattering.
“I don't think so.”
‘2000? 3000? 5000?”
Look, I get that those are large sums of money, and I am poor. But I mean it when I say that there was no part of me that was even remotely entertaining the idea of having sex with this man, ever. Or, to be fair, with any man. I could consult the short list of celebrities I lust after — Dan Stevens in Downton Abbey. Theo James in…Downton Abbey. Possible Regency Fetish aside, if you offered me $50 to have sex with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, I’d tell you to keep the money so that I could actually enjoy myself. Some women might get off on being paid for their services; many more find the act fundamentally transactional, and thus might as well get paid for it. I am neither one of those types.
“6000?” I just kept shaking my head. I sneaked a look over to the first group of my friends, seated in the corner on the left. Not one eye was on me. I turn to the guys across the aisle to my right, shouting silently "Are you getting any of this?" But the bar was beyond noisy, and they weren’t even glancing in my direction. Clearly (or so it seemed to me in the moment) I’d created a monster out of my own independent friendliness. These dudes were SO not worried about me and my ability to look out for myself. I loved and hated them for it.
“7000? Seriously? Still no? Why?”
“I think you’ve got the wrong girl.”
Joe stopped at $50,000, finally getting the message through his loaded skull. I think we both knew that there was never a chance that he’d actually pay me $50,000 for sex; it was more that he needed to know that there was a price at which he could buy anything he wanted. When I still did not assent, Joe took a dejected, momentary timeout before telling me that the whole thing had been a kind of thought experiment. A joke, really. ”She said she do it for $1000” he said, pointing to a passing waitress who had not stopped, or even glanced, at the table since I'd been there. “I'm happily married to a wonderful woman. I've got four kids.”
“I remember. They go to Culver.” Drunk as he was, this response still seem to make him nervous. I pretended to believe that his indecent proposal has been a joke from the beginning. I laughed and nodded, feeling like I had passed some kind of cosmic test and desperately trying not to picture this man's tiny penis. Then the people at the table behind Joe got up and left. I could move to that table and be a bit closer to one faction of my group, or, if my friends moved to it, they could be closer to me. It was after 9pm by now — trivia set to start any minute — and I had a decision to make: should I continue to sit across from this man who had now proven himself to be every bit the pervy loner I had once feared him to be, or should I abandon my post, thus rendering the entire ordeal a complete waste?
“So there’s really no chance we’re going to have sex?” Joe then asked, as if trying to help me with my decision.
"Sorry," I said, standing up."Thanks for the pizza." I still had the stale crust in my hand.
“I am trying to play trivia with my friends, and we want to sit together,” I explained. A hurt look crossed his face, as if he was just now learning that I’d been waiting for him to leave ever since I first asked him if he was leaving soon.
“Can I at least have a kiss?“
“Sorry,” I sighed, exasperated. What had I done to deserve this?
“Fuck you then,” was Joe’s charming rejoinder.
I threw my purse into the adjacent booth. "Watch my bag,” I hissed to Russ and Nick.
“Everything ok?” Russ asked me, suddenly aware that I was looking flustered. I just shook my head and rushed off to the bathroom, wanting to be as far away from this stranger as possible. Once in the bathroom, I suddenly felt very dirty. I hurled the tasteless pizza crust into the trash with violent disgust. Why had I even taken it? I didn’t want it. Why had I even sat down? I was just trying to be nice.
When I returned to our new table, Joe was still sitting there in front of his pizza box. He left a few minutes later. He probably wouldn't remember any of this in the morning. But I would.
I debriefed my friends on the encounter. Reactions were divided sharply along gender lines. The boys were over the moon about the unreality of it all. One of them asked me why I didn't take Joe up on his offer, laughing when I answered that it would have meant missing trivia; another said that once he saw I had scored a piece of pizza, he figured I must've been doing pretty well for myself. The girls, however, bought me a milkshake and gave me hugs, telling me how sorry they were that they hadn't noticed I was in trouble. And you know, both sides were right. Being asked to join the worlds oldest profession, if only for a couple of minutes, had been both horrible and hilarious. I was both traumatized and kind of flattered. I mean…$50,000?
We came in second at trivia that night. I was tasked with saving the gift card we'd won, and I stashed it in a purse pocket, right next to the business card Joe had given me. When I pulled both cards out the following week, I noticed Joe's card was double-sided. An investor service was listed on one side, a commercial real estate firm on the other. Under his name, on both sides, were the letters “CEO.”
* * * * *
Is there a moral to this story? I don’t fucking know. I don't want it to be "don't talk to strangers." For one thing, that puts the onus on me. Is it my fault a Midwesterner got drunk alone with his pizza and tried to pay me for sex? Had I been “asking for it” by my mere willingness to sit down at his table? The sweet couple from the week before hadn't tried to sleep with me, and they were from New Jersey!
So let the moral be this: Don’t get drunk alone in public if you’re a total asshat. Don’t try to pay people for sex unless they bring it up first. And when in Los Angeles, be prepared to put up with some weird shit in the name of finding a goddamn seat at the table.
Every Friday night, a little wine shop in Pasadena called Monopole puts an item on their menu called "Friday Blind." The game is simple: taste four wines – two white, two red – and if you can name three out of four varietals, your wine is free, the equivalent of about two full glasses. It may sound like a gamble exclusively for sommeliers in training, but you’re provided with a detailed tasting guide that explains typical colors, bodies, and flavor notes for the different grapes on offer. I've gone to do the Friday Blind three times – the first was a total whim, the next two were very much on purpose – and each night, somewhere near the end, I declare it "the greatest thing ever."
To clarify, my wine tasting companions and I are by no means experts. We have all consumed a fair amount of wine in our free time, but always at an amateur level, i.e., sans tasting guide, sans careful analysis, sans much thought period. I know from experience that I tend to love Sauvignon Blanc and make a sour face at a sip of Chardonnay. I prefer red over white unless it’s hot or I am thirsty, and then I chose white because it’s cold. I have entertained daydreams about sommelier training, because a job that’s all about taste and smell sounds like…well, the greatest thing ever. There’s a slight chance I might be one of those “super tasters” and a keen sense of smell runs in my family (we call it “the Berg nose” after my great great grandparents, not to be confused with “the Berg tongue,” which has nothing to do with taste at all, but is rather a kind of absentminded facial tick).
Aside: When it comes to the canonical Five Senses, taste and smell don’t get enough credit. People ask “would you rather go deaf or blind?” as a kind of sick parlor game, but losing smell or taste would make a pretty grim impact on my daily life. It’s noon on a Saturday and already today I’ve compared the taste of 4 different stone fruits at the farmers’ market; tested a long list of perfumes at a local beauty shop; noted the subtle flavor change as I added cream to my iced coffee (and the less subtle change of adding the spicy house salsa to my chilaquiles); lamented that the gelato shop where I bought that coffee uses the cleaning solution that has become my personal odor nemesis since moving to LA (in case you’re trying to get me to avoid your home or business, it’s called it’s the “lavender” scented Fabuloso); and been greeted, upon my returned home with the delicious smell of pancakes (which I am too full of chilaquiles, stone fruit, and coffee too eat).
Anyway, back to the wine tasting. The Greatest Thing Ever.
On our first outing, none of us guessed any of the wines correctly. The second time, one of us got ONE correct. Last night, I was the big winner: I got two out of four correct (both the whites), and was roundly congratulated by the owners. I felt very proud of myself.
But guessing right isn’t what makes it fun. What makes this process fun is the way half a glass of wine, once merely a classy way to loosen up/refresh, becomes a world unto itself, a conversation, a quest, an article of examination. Last night, we all agreed that one of the wines had a definite “tar” note to it, and I confidently stated that the final wine had a bouquet of burnt blackberry pie. And you know what? I meant it.
Because we were having so much fun, and it was getting late, we got to try the last bits of a couple other bottles when we were done. We were give sips of a white wine that was a clear as water and tasted like jasmine perfume — I’d never had anything like it. When we asked the people serving us how they learned so much about wine, the woman behind the counter told us, “You have to keep drinking. If you don’t drink, you don’t learn.”
Now there’s some advice I can run with.
Last night at about 10pm I found myself somewhere completely new: the sidewalks of Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, heading east from what I believe is technically Hollywood.
Regardless of the heat of the day, nights in L.A. are typically cool and faintly moist, a city in a desert by the sea. But it was an unusually warm last night, and unusually humid all day, and the streetlights shimmered a few foot candles brighter in the thickened air. I hadn't intended to walk at all, but the warm night was so welcoming, I'd left my car at home, and the bus wasn't coming for at least half an hour.
So off I went on foot, and oh what wonders did I behold. Night-blooming cactus! A sleeping bulldozer! A late-night baker preparing for the morning rush. Street after residential street lit by quaint yellow lamps, short and warm and movie-set bright. It was honestly pretty magical.
But here's the thing: I've been to Beverly Boulevard before. You might even say that it's the primary street I drive down to get to and from work nearly every day of the week. In fact, I take it from where it starts due west to where it caps off at Santa Monica. I know Beverly Boulevard like the back of my hand...but only from my car. I thought I'd seen everything it had to offer, many times over. I daydream about visiting every restaurant along the road and writing a big book about it. But on foot last night, I passed a little Mexican spot near Larchmont that I'd never seen before. I've admired the neon green "El Royale" sign from my car, but I never noticed the way it floats above the deep navy ocean that is the Wilshire Country Club by night.
It's a whole other world out there. What else am I missing from inside my car?
Conventional Los Angeles wisdom states that “No one is actually from L.A.” This is, of course, patently untrue, and I meet people who were born and raised in or around L.A. County all the time. But it’s one of those sayings that becomes commonplace because it feels true, and perhaps because it makes the displaced — I’m thinking of people who feel that they HAVE to be in L.A. to fulfill career goals, but who can’t or don’t yet feel at home here — feel like they are less alone. If the city is full of outsiders, than no one is an outsider.
Unsurprisingly, “Where are you from?” is a very common question in this city (perhaps this is true in all major cities, but I don’t remember asking or hearing it as often in Chicago). Most of us have a go-to answer for this query (mine: Chicago). But for me and for many, the full answer is more complicated than the one the questioner had in mind. Its variant, “Where did you come from?” is even more fraught, not least because it might also mean “Did you head over straight from work?” or “Do you live in this neighborhood?” or even “Did you take the 101 to the 110 to the 10 to the 405?”
Where am I from? Where did I come from?
Chicago is the appropriate go-to. After all, I lived there over half my life. If you say you’re from Chicago, you will have to answer a follow-up question, “Oh, where around there?” This implies that the questioner has been to Chicago or even has relatives in the suburbs and understands that maybe you’re from Waukegan or Downers Grove. While I’ll eventually get to my years living blocks from Michigan Avenue, I wear my South Side Pride on my sleeve, so I open with the Hyde Park years: lived there as a kid, went back for college. If the hearer knows anything about University of Chicago, they are now able to jump to a great deal of (likely accurate) conclusions about me and how many books I have in a pile on my nightstand.
But the answer has left a gaping hole in my life story. Where did I live from the ages of 8-18? Those are kind of, like, important years.
There was, in fact, a time in my life when I would have referred to Chesterton, IN (an hour’s drive from Chicago, where my parents still worked) as my hometown. There are many parts of me that come from Chesterton. It was and remains a small town. It’s where I made some of my most enduring and important friendships. It’s where I learned to love movies, and to think critically about them. It’s where I learned that I loved to write. It’s where I learned what it feels like to long for more — more to do, more to see, taller buildings, a greater variety of people, more shops open past 6pm. It’s where I lived when my mother died. It’s where I had to sort through everything I’d ever owned just as I was finishing college, and decide what to keep and what to throw away. It’s where the house we lived in still stands. The last I saw, it was empty. My father, who’s lived in the city for over a decade now, doesn’t visit.
But I already had a personality when we moved there. I already had liberal city values and a sense of rhythm. I’d already written my first play. I was already a performer, a beloved only child, a talkative, emotive know-it-all who loved the world and, out of that love, tried to keep the worst of those qualities in check.
Some of me comes from Chesterton. But I am not from there. Not anymore. Maybe I never was. I think we were visitors there, and that visit happened to fall at a formative time in my life.
My parents were both born and raised in New Mexico. I was born there, but lived there only as a baby. Yet, for much of my life, most or all of my extended family lived in the Land of Enchantment. The grandiose nickname always struck me as apt. We visited — typically making the drive from the Midwest over the course of 3 long days — only once or twice a year, but I went through a phase in middle school where I would return sullen from solo trips to stay with my grandparents, crying to both my parents and my diary that we had to move there. My hook was a tearful, “HOME…is where the HEART IS!” As I grow older, I’ve developed my own understanding of what it means to be “New Mexican,” and I feel that part of me pulse sometimes, as it bumps against my Midwestern practicality and demands more space in my person.
Chicago. Indiana. New Mexico. Parts of me come from all of those places. Occasionally, when someone in L.A. asks, I go ahead and tell them the whole list, hoping they don’t regret having asked what they thought was a simple question. But it’s not simple at all, is it? Life changes, we change, and the answer changes. I was in New Mexico recently and was surprised, when asked where I’m from, to find that I answered, without hesitation, “Los Angeles.”
I expected to cry a lot. I am a crier, after all, the type not prone to sad tears, but apt to get choked up when I’m feeling moved, angry, nostalgic, or touched by the world’s surprising, astonishing beauty. So yesterday morning, before heading out for the Women's March in Los Angeles , I put my mascara and eyeliner – with a playful but subtle cat-eye flip – on my upper lids only. I did it hastily. I needed to run down and meet Molly, a top candidate for my personal “most punctual friend” award, who was five minutes early despite the fact that she’d driven to my apartment from Long Beach, 22 miles away.
Maybe I should have skipped the eyeliner, I thought. Maybe I should have worn no makeup, or no bra…maybe I should have held a small ceremony in which I ritualistically burned all my bras, or at least the ones I really hate, the extra wiry ones. Or, maybe I could have gone in the opposite direction, the look-at-what-hot-shit-I-am direction, and worn my black skirt and leggings instead of jeans, my bad-ass black boots instead of my comfy, roomy sneakers (the only shoes I own that really accommodate the special heel guard I’ve been wearing to combat some serious plantar fasciitis pain in my left foot). Don’t get me wrong — this entire debate took place over the course of about five seconds. Today was no day for staring nude at the closet, deliberating. Today was a day for action!
I followed my gut and split the difference: eyeliner, jeans, sneakers, the shirt I’d painted earlier in the week (“Hell hath no fury” it read, hoping readers could fill in the rest of the quote and get my drift), and, of course, my Pussyhat. The seventh such hat I’d knitted in two weeks, I’d finished it at about 11:30 the night before, crafting it from the various yarn leftovers of all the other hats I’d knitted. I almost walked out of the house without my sign but that was quickly remedied, as I knew right where I’d left it — it had been propped on my bookshelf for the two months since the post-election march for which I’d made it, and to which I’d taken it.
This previous march would factor heavily into my conversation for the day. Because of it, I knew many of the chants we were chanting, was prepared for the wide range of banners we’d be marching under, the gorgeous diversity of humanity we’d be marching alongside. Because of it, I would be able to compare the vast size of that jaw-dropping November march to the one we were now a part of and see that November's crowd of tens of thousands had been minuscule in comparison. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Unbeknownst to Molly and I, we were already marching as we left my apartment. We marched over the big hill on Marathon, down Melrose to Hoover, down Hoover to Santa Monica, over a mile to the nearest subway station (Los Angeles, amiright?) and while we didn’t have our signs held up, we were nonetheless treated to fist pumps and smiles from the Silverlake beardos and East Hollywoodians we passed on our way. The station was crowded, and when the train came, we nearly didn’t push on; the car in front of us was already packed to the edges with people. But then we tried the next car, and while it was just as full, two young women — just the first two of many, many strangers we’d speak to that day — called out to us. “Squeeze on!” they said, giving us the permission we couldn’t help but seek, in spite of ourselves. And we did. Women and men filled the car to beyond capacity, but not all were headed to Pershing Square for the march. When someone needed to get out, various passengers (always female) would call out to the rest of us, asking us all to make way. And we did, smiling, laughing at the community of it all, saying, “Some people gotta go to work!” One woman joked that she’d be happy to ride the train with all of us every Saturday. The press of bodies in the car eliminated the need to hold on to anything. We held each other up just by being there.
The march didn’t start until 10 and, miraculously, Molly and I arrived at 8:39. I say “miraculously” because I got off the train to see several texts from friends who’d had to drive home when there was no parking at their train stations and then start the trek all over again on foot. And no wonder they couldn’t find parking — it felt like half of Los Angeles had already arrived at Pershing Square.
Have you ever been to a popular city bar on a Friday or Saturday night, gotten there early, and watched it go from merely crowded to sardine-style-packed right before your eyes? So packed that you cannot walk from the bar to your table without pushing people out of the way, or trying to follow behind strangers who’ve already pushed their own thoroughfare into existence? Great. Now, imagine that exact scenario, only you’re not in a dark, tiny bar, you’re outside, at the corner of 5th and Hill in downtown Los Angeles, and every square inch of the sidewalk, the neighboring park, and the street itself is full of people. Instead of dank house beats, that pounding bass you hear is coming from a small drum corps banging away, and when a cheer washes across the assembled crowd, it’s not at the behest of a DJ, but a reaction to the news choppers that circle overhead. Now you know what it was like as we waited for the march to begin in Los Angeles.
Now you can understand why I had almost no cell service all morning, making it virtually impossible for half of the people Molly and I hoped to meet to find us at the designated meeting point, and why, at 9:15 am, it took me nearly ten minutes to snake half a block up the street to where two other friends were standing (they’d walked here, two miles from Echo Park), check in with them, and then return to Molly at the rendezvous point. As I squirmed toward these friends, I heard a woman’s voice behind me, frightened, saying, “I hate this, I hate this, I hate people!” I turned to see an older woman, likely (I say this because of her demeanor and her attire) one of the homeless who live in Los Angeles, one of the people whose streets we were turning into the world’s biggest, soberest block party. Earlier this week, I wrote that I wanted to "proclaim my intention to shine magical rainbow rays of love into every dark, frightened corner of this world that I encounter", and here was a chance to put my money where my mouth was. So I spoke to her. I said it was going to be okay. She said she didn’t think so. I insisted we were almost to a clearer spot. I called ahead, inquiring as politely as to why our line of humans had stopped trickling forward. Then we moved, the dense crowd parted, and I turned to her again, saying, “here we are, more space!” And, damned if she didn’t look right at me and say, “thank you so much.” As if I’d really helped her. And the march hadn’t even started yet.
So maybe that last story sounds really fucking self-congratulatory, really “look what a great person I am,” and if so, fine, but I’m not sorry. I say I’m sorry far too often and I’m trying to stop. I needed to tell it here, because I want to get across the mood of the day: it was not (or, rather, not merely), “what the fuck is happening in this country, ‘cause this boorish, entitled, wheel-greasing propaganda artist is not an acceptable leader, and fuck all y’all who, by not taking issue with the hateful and sexist and fear-mongering things he says, implicitly assert that such talk is acceptable for any leader at all, let alone THE leader of our nation…” (deep breath) BUT RATHER, “We are here for each other, and this, this putting one another’s needs first, accepting the humanity of all people, and striving together toward a more just and vibrant world, is the America we want to be.” My favorite march chants sum this mood up nicely: (1) “Show me what democracy looks like: This is what democracy looks like.” (2) “The people/united/will never be divided.”
Can you tell I have a lot of feelings about this day? It’s hard to stay on topic.
We stood, facing southeast, at 9:45 am, waiting for the march to begin at the prescribed hour, 10:00 am. We waited as drummers drummed, as chants of “March! March!” started up and died down and started up again, and as people from the apartments above opened their windows and cheered to us, flashing peace signs, home-made signs, and even tossing down a pussyhat to some lucky lady in the crowd. We did this until about 10:40, at which point rumors were swirling that marching would not be possible at all because the entire march route was full of people. We resigned ourselves to the possibility that this would be it: we came, we shouted, we waved our signs and shook our booties a little. I told myself that this would be okay. And then, word came down the pipeline that we should all turn around. A new chant started up, but it made no sense; were they chanting about olives? Why? And then it became clearer: the chant was, “March down Olive! March down Olive!” Olive Street, the street that had been behind us, the one which we’d turn to face, was being coopted by the People, for the People. And then the firetrucks came.
Remember how I said it was crowded? Well that street full of people was now crammed even tighter as we parted to either side of the street to make room for three VERY slow, VERY careful LAFD vehicles. As the firetruck and ambulance mirrors passed within a few inches of my face, I took up a new cheer, “Don’t get whacked! Don’t get whacked!” but no one joined in. But no one got whacked either, so I’ll call it a win.
In the wake of the firetrucks, we were now able to slowly walk down 5th Street, and as we inched toward Olive we could see that we were joining a throng already in progress. For some reason, this was the moment that the AT&T gods smiled upon me and my cell reception returned for JUST LONG enough for me to touch base with all of the people I'd planned to meet. My dear friend Katie (who’d driven home from a full parking lot and then returned via Uber to the Pasadena Gold Line station only to be unable to board four full trains in a row before squeezing onto a fifth) had managed to make it to the march, and was only a block away from us! My friends Jess and Brian had spent two hours on the Expo Line from the west side but they’d made it at last as well! As had my friends and former roommates who drove in from Westwood! And even my current roommate had made it downtown, not deterred by the 45 minutes she’d already spent driving back and forth from a different full parking lot before walking to a different train station and coming in by herself (instead of with the friends she’d planned to join). She was marching with a friend she’d made on the train instead — another woman who’d come alone. Not the plan, but still so lovely I could cry.
It was 10:40, and we were finally marching, presumably toward City Hall. Had I cried yet? My eyes had welled up countless times (walking to the train, on the train, when I saw the early crowds, reading certain signs, etc., etc.), but I’d strategically avoided any out-and-out weeping. Though I felt a little guilty for not lifting my loud voice when an elderly man (in a wheelchair, wearing a handmade rainbow-striped scarf) started singing “We Shall Overcome,” refraining had definitely kept my cheeks dry. But I nearly lost it when, out of the sea of untold thousands, I spotted Katie just a few yards away, looking for me. I pulled my last pussyhat out of my purse — the one I’d made just for her — and on we marched, moving more swiftly now.
How can you tell the size of a massive crowd when you’re standing in the midst of it? While there was no question that we marched alongside thousands, it was not until we reached 4th and Olive that I got a chance for some additional perspective. Downtown LA has a pretty dramatic topography, and at Olive, 4th Street slopes downhill. So we looked down and saw that 4th Street was full of people. And at the bottom of the hill, (the aptly named) Hill Street was also full of people. And then I looked Northwest (the direction, not the celebrity baby) and saw the Grand Street Bridge, arching over 4th. And it, too, was full of people. And on the balconies of the skyscrapers we passed. And leaning over the bridges we marched under. And even pressed against the railings of the parking garages. People, people, people. Happy people. Angry people. Women, children, and men of every race, every generation, calling out in their happy-angriness, raising their voices in a worldwide pep rally for women’s rights, human rights, and an America that holds these things to be self-evident.
We got to Grand Park, which stretches uphill from City Hall across multiple blocks. I heard someone calling my name and turned to see Jess and Brian — somehow, against all odds, they’d found me in this sea of humanity, and by accident at that. It was one of those coincidences that feels like more. Another such coincidence was the beautiful sunny sky we marched under, the only break in a week-long stretch of much-needed storms here in Southern California. Coincidence? Sure. But in the moment, it sure felt like God had cleared the very skies for us, and for precisely the necessary period for our celebration, before returning to a program of precious, prayed-for rain.
We took a break, sitting down on a ledge in the park. An older man came up to me and asked about our hats, saying that he wanted to learn to knit just so he could make his own; little kids played tag wearing matching “Love is Love,” t-shirts; a smiling, 9-year-old boy held up a pink sign that read “Feminist AF” while a grown woman held one reading “Expect Patronum.” And one member of our marching party, whose baby son was at home playing with Dad, whipped out her portable breast pump and went to work like the bad-ass mom she is. We wondered aloud how many people were there. 50,000? More? It was so hard to tell. It was a lot.
We didn’t hear any speakers. They spoke, and their words were likely moving, but their speeches were not the point. If the speeches had been the point, the crowds would have dispersed. But instead, as we wandered our way closer to the steps of City Hall, we saw that masses of people were standing in the streets outside. Five teenagers who looked to me like the cast of Captain Planet 2: Topple the Patriarchy actually stood on top of a covered bus stop, and though there were several police officers in front of the government building, no one asked them to come down. We overheard a young girl speculate that this is what she imagined Coachella would be like. And when we ultimately decided to walk back to Union Station to catch a train back home, we noticed that, the advertised march timeframe of 10-11:30 having long since passed, people were still arriving, signs in hand.
Blocks away from the center of things, we got another moment of perspective. We had to cross a bridge over the 101. The 101, recently rated #1 among the most congested highways in America, was flowing uncharacteristically clear, and yet the cars that passed were honking like crazy. They weren’t honking at each other, though. They were honking in solidarity at those of us standing on the bridge, and on bridge after bridge full of marchers who looked out at them, encouraging these most elemental of Angelenos — the cars — to add their voices to the still-audible roar of humanity.
A video posted by Marissa Flaxbart (@flaxbart) on
It took us a while to get onto a train, and a while longer for that train to reach our station. The ride home was slightly less cheery than the one Molly and I had taken that morning, but the atmosphere of Women Helping Women still permeated. The older women (employing what seemed like “Mom-mode” to me) begged that people not crowd a young mother who was trying to hold up a folded stroller while keeping a toddler on her lap; they repeatedly arranged for a vacated seat to be taken by the most eligible elderly woman, as that was only fair — keep in mind that these were strangers, talking to each other, advocating for one another, observing each other’s needs and agreeing together that we’d all abide by the Golden Rule. This spirit of communing with strangers had started early that morning and continued after we got off the train. As we walked down Hollywood Boulevard, a young woman in a long black coat broke away from her friends and walked up to us, beaming. “Did you hear? We were just reading about the march, and they’re saying there were 750,000 people!” Our jaws dropped as the women rushed off to catch up with her friends. 750,000? Could that be right? I’ve seen this figure reported several places since, and still, it seems astonishing. Then again, it felt like everyone on earth was there. I believe it.
By the time we ate and I got back to my place, it was after 4. My bad foot hurt, my back ached, and I hadn’t had any coffee all day. But I was humming with an energy that wouldn’t quit. Reading about the marches all over the world, it occurred to me that this same energy was humming through millions of people who now have conclusive proof that there are so many others out there who want this to be a planet of people who hold each other up, who guide each other through the scrum, and who speak up for each other’s needs. Like good moms do, and good dads too — my dad and I talked on the phone for a long time that night, comparing notes about what happened in Chicago versus Los Angeles, and hoping out loud that this energy will be carried forward into action, organization, and actual sustained change. This, of course, is what must — MUST — happen next. This unprecedented day of solidarity cannot be just one nice memory in a world that’s melting, literally and figuratively, into noise and oblivion. It needs to be one nice memory that we mark in our history books as a turning point, a pivot toward progress and healing.
Of course there are people who are angry that these marches occurred. They’re mad, or perhaps offended. There are people who would write off the whole endeavor as a waste of time, people who don’t understand what the problem is. Of course there are these people: if they didn’t exist, if everyone “got it,” there truly would be no reason to march. The world would already be the one we’re marching to. These people bitterly mark us down as crybabies. But I didn’t cry at this march. I spoke, and shouted, and laughed, but I didn’t cry until later that night, sitting in my car, when I watched back the video of those cars honking on the 101. I turned up the volume, and in the distance, below the noise of the horns, I heard voices. Thousands of voices. Millions. And they were saying, Lies won’t stop us, hate won’t stop us, fear won’t stop us. We aren’t going anywhere. We will not be silent.
One woman's humble account of a memorable experience/questionable use of time as pertains to today's nationwide #LukesDiner #GilmoreGirls promo pop-up shops.
Sunday, Oct 2: I hear the strains of "Where You Lead" drifting out from my roommate's bedroom. She is, of course, prepping for the upcoming Gilmore Girls reboot on Netflix. A wise woman's motto is "Always be prepared." Also a Girl Scout's. Also, incidently, a Boy Scout's.
Monday, Oct 3: I see a article claiming that some coffee shops around the country will be transformed into pop-up "Luke's Diners" serving free coffee. It will be one morning only, in promotion of the reboot. I post the article to my roommate's Facebook timeline, which I have never stopped referring to as a "wall."
Tuesday, Oct 4: Roommate has done her homework (prepared!) and found out which coffee shops will be participating in the pop-up gambit. Even though it will mean getting up a bit early, we agree to meet some friends at one of the (only 2!) locations in the LA metro area that will be turned into a Luke's. It'll be fun! Where you lead I will follow! Free coffee! Rory! Lorelai! Sookie! Etc! Gilmore Girls!
Wednesday, October 5:
7:30am: We leave our apartment. I am not usually awake until 8:00am, but luckily I am going to be getting (free!) coffee soon.
7:50am: We arrive at the location (in Studio City). I drive past a ridiculous line while looking for parking on Ventura Blvd. After parking, I attempt to find the end of the line and discover that it is easily a quarter mile long. As I walk past the waiting fans, I noticed that a lot of them are wearing plaid flannels and (mostly backwards) baseball caps. It takes a second for me to realize. These are Luke costumes. Amusingly enough, many of these fans, in line for coffee, are holding Starbucks cups. Prepared.
8:00am: I finally find the back of the line. It's right in front of a Peet's Coffee. Ah, coffee. Some of that would really hit the spot right now. Luckily, I'll be getting free coffee in what I hope will feel like no time at all. How long can it take to serve coffee to, oh, I don't know, 500 people?
8:10 am: Rumors are circulating that there were 150 people in line as early as 6:20am. Diehards. How did they know so many people would want free Luke's coffee? I sure didn't know.
8:45 am: My roommate has to leave for work. We are still a full city block away from coffee. She leaves in good spirits, however, happy to have participated in this show of affection for the show the recently released TV: The Book named the 87th best show of all time, right after something called EZ Streets and right before something called Six Feet Under. Another friend and I remain in line. After all, we've invested 45 minutes in this wait already. No point in sacrificing our slightly advanced line positions after all that!
9:00 am: We overhear a successful customer as she reports to people in front of us that the free coffee is no longer free. We've been standing here for an hour. We do not leave the line.
9:20 am: One of the (hatted, plaid-clad, but also heavily made-up as if for Insta-glamour-shots) girls directly in front of us has made an exploratory mission to the front of the line. She reports back to her group and I overhear. "There's no merchandise, the coffee isn't free anymore, it's just sleeves that say 'Luke's' on paper coffee cups and a little Luke's sign out front." She's super disappointed. But they stay in line. We've been standing here for 80 minutes.
9:45 am: A well-dressed woman (maybe a manager of this bombarded coffee shop) walks through the line to politely, apologetically tell us all that they are now out of sleeves. "We still have cups," she reports. Thank god. We've been standing here for nearly two hours. We don't leave the line.
10:18 am: A woman walks by and says to me, "What are you guys standing in line for?" I don't want to answer, so I pretend I didn't hear. But she repeats, "Like, what do you get?" I sigh, shaking my head, and say "I DON'T KNOW." Moments later, a car drives by and the driver shouts out the same question, "What are you all in line for." "Coffee!" the guy in front of me replies. The irony of the fact that when we first got in line we were literally outside the front door of Peet's does not escape me
10:20 am: A small man in a Luke's apron and a Luke's hat (backwards) comes by to say they are now out of sleeves AND cups. What in God's name am I doing here. It has been an hour and 20 minutes. We do not leave the line.
10:35 am: We finally reach the front door, and the Luke's sign (aka Photo Op Central – there's even a little line on the OTHER side of the sign for people who only want to take a picture without getting non-free coffee). We take an abundance of selfies and solo shots. I look super fat in mine. Oh well. I now have a memory to last a lifetime. This is what I tell myself.
10:38 am: We make it into the shop! There is a cute little stand-up of Luke with a sassy sign banning man-buns and texting-while-ordering (a ban which surely is not being enforced at this particular LA location). We console ourselves with photos of this stand-up, knowing all the while, thanks to Twitter, that the REAL Luke (Scott Patterson) was at the Beverly Hills pop-up, just on the other side of the canyon.
10:45 am: I order a large cup of coffee. It costs about me $3.50. I have waited 2 hours and 45 minutes for this cup of coffee. Possibly the longest I have ever waited in line for anything. It is perhaps the best, hottest cup of coffee I've ever had
This has never been a food blog, but it’s my blog, and I’ll post a recipe if I want to.
My favorite thing about living in Silver Lake is the farmers market on Sunset and Maltman. As a woman who spent her first few decades of life in Chicagoland, the mere fact of a year-round outdoor marketplace where local famers sell what’s fresh continues to blow my mind month after sunny month. And while a gigantic, quad-destroying hill stands between the farmers market and my apartment, it is technically just a short walk down the street from my apartment.
As long as you're just shopping for fruits and vegetables (and not artisan Himalayan salt blends or bags of organic coffee beans hand- roasted by bearded harmonica players at a local monastery) the farmers market is actually a super cheap place to get your groceries. Since they only sell what’s fresh, I can’t get everything there. But a venture to the market in support of my first attempt at from-strath chicken noodle soup proved to be a veritable produce bonanza. They not only had onions and carrots, but also celery and rosemary and freaking fresh BAY LEAVES – on a sprig, for a dollar. One booth that had gorgeous celery and carrots (but nothing else I needed) was offering a 3-for-$5 special. Did I want a third item? the proprietress asked, adding that it could be literally anything in the booth. Wow.
And so I went home with a big bag of Brussels sprouts.
I made up the following recipe based on a combination of a few methods for cooking Brussels sprouts I’ve tried, with the added urgency of needing to use up my impulse purchase before it wilted. I liked it so much that I’ve made it several times since then, with some slight variations. If wasn’t until the third time that I realized I’d created a hearty vegetarian meal; it wasn’t until the FOURTH time that I realized I’d created a hearty VEGAN meal. How the hell did that happen?
I won’t waste my figurative breath trying to convince you that Brussels sprouts are delicious and if you hate them it’s because you’ve never had them cooked properly. Suffice it to say, that’s probably the case, but hey, it's a bold taste; if you don’t like ‘em but are feeling adventurous, maybe this recipe will hold the key, and maybe it won’t. But it’s really great and you should try it.
You’ll notice that I have lots of approximations and substitution suggestions. The only thing that’s pretty hard-and-fast about this recipe is the preparation of the sprouts themselves, seasoning aside. Poorly prepared Brussels sprouts will make you feel like the pitiful child in a movie flashback to someone’s grim 1950s childhood. Trust me on that.
Pan-Fried Brussels Sprouts and Garlic Tagliatelle
Approx 3 c. Brussels sprouts (for a fun mushroom twist, sub one cup of sliced mushrooms for one cup of the sprouts - don’t parboil the mushrooms though!)
1-2 cloves chopped garlic
5-6 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 t. salt (plus more to taste, if you’re really into salt)
lemon pepper (I use Trader Joe’s lemon pepper grinder; fresh-ground black pepper will work too, or even some red pepper flake)
however much tagliatelle pasta you judge will feed 2 people (I have been using spinach tagliatelle nests, which are both visually satisfying and delicious)
Freshly grated parmesan (optional; see other ingredient suggestions below)
Rinse the sprouts and put them, along with a half cup of water and the salt, into a pot with lid. Cook, covered, over medium heat for about eight minutes, until tender but still bright green. Drain.
When the cooked sprouts are cool enough to handle, cut them in half lengthwise. If the knife doesn’t cut all the way through the sprout, this is actually great news – we’re going to be putting all of these sprouts cut-side down into a pan, and butterflied sprouts means fewer things to transfer from cutting board to pan.
While you’re prepping the sprouts, put the water for your pasta on to boil.
Turn your halved sprouts cut-side up and give em a healthy grinding of lemon pepper. Sprinkle on a bit more salt if you like, but keep in mind that the sprouts are already salty from the parboiling in salted water.
Pour the olive oil into your widest pan. Add the sprouts, cut-side down.You should have a little field of green bumps in front of you. It will be kind of cute, actually. Put any thoughts of cuteness aside, however. You’ve got to eat these things in a few minutes.
Add the garlic.
Fry the sprouts and garlic over medium high heat. Don’t stir. This might be a good time to add your pasta to your pasta water if you haven’t already done so.
Let the sprouts cook until the cut sides are brown and a bit crispy. Check after 5 minutes. It will be tempting to take them out of the pan and eat them as soon as they are even slightly brown, but if you can be patient, let them go 2-3 minutes past this point and you will be rewarded with some real crispy deliciousness on the edges.
When the pasta has finished cooking, drain and add to sprouts mixture. Turn off heat and toss. to coat noodles in some of the remaining oil. Dish onto plates and serve.
If you don’t care about the vegan-icity of the dish, top it with some freshly-grated parmesan.
Other things to consider adding:
Making this dish for dinner never fails to make me feel really proud of myself. It's not difficult, but it is delicious, a little fancy, and chock-full of the quintessential "eat-your-vegetables" vegetable, transformed into something craveable. And I would never use a magazine headline buzz-word like "craveable" lightly. Bon appétit!