Bundle of Nerves

“You’ve got some nerve,” the radiologist said to me, when it became clear that the three deep injections of painkillers were not enough to keep the nerve impacted by my bulging cervical disc from reacting to the latest onslaught of steroids.

Nerves have been on my mind this week and last, not just because of my most recent bout of nerve warfare, but also because chutzpah and cajones have been in the air and in the news.

Ira Glass thinks Mike Daisey had some nerve fabricating material for a story he performed about harsh conditions at Apple factories in China, which aired on This American Life.  In an on-air retraction, Glass expressed disappointment that Daisey lacked the nerve to fully admit he had lied.

I admit, Naomi Wolf‘s story in The Guardian, in which she accused private school elites of taking down America, touched a nerve because we are contemplating sending one of our daughters to private school and, after years of being an active public school supporter, I feel guilty about abandoning the cause and worry about being stereotyped and judged. But her sensationalism and breezy, “I’m in Ecuador, so I can’t fully respond to your comments” tone, as well as the lack of disclosure about where her kids go to school, got on my nerves.

People have told me they would have been unnerved at the prospect of telling a story on a stage in front of a group of people, as several fellow writers and I did last week, or serving as auction MC for our beloved public elementary school, as I did for the sixth and final time, last Saturday night. Our beleaguered School Board president attended the auction. I thanked him for having the nerve to fight for public education, in spite of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Daughter #2 has admitted she is nervous about attending a new school next year, where she won’t know a soul. But she and six of her classmates exhibited nerves of steel when they competed in the city-wide finals of the Seattle Public Library’s Global Reading Challenge and emerged victorious.  Why is funding for our public schools and our public libraries so often in jeopardy?

It takes some nerve, commented a reader of an article I saw posted on Facebook by an organization promoting the “rational middle” in the debate over education reform, to insinuate that people like him are extremist because they don’t agree.

The nerve of those two mommy writers, who exploited their kids by sharing stories about them, people said this week. I read one of the stories, a tongue-in-cheek account in which the mother admitted to being more upset than her daughter over the daughter’s breakup with a boyfriend.  It’s the kind of story I might have written (though you can bet I’d check with my daughter first), and I thought it was funny and sort of sweet. But a lot of people apparently thought that mother crossed the line.

I won’t apologize for the other mother, who wrote a much maligned piece in Vogue, which I haven’t read, about putting her seven-year-old daughter on a diet.  In addition to the criticism, she got a book deal.

Even French Women Who Don’t Get Fat might exclaim,  “Quel culot!”

Amanda Hesser told her audience at Seattle Arts and Lectures that the cookbook is dead. (Funny, tonight I’m making Broccoli Rabe, Potato and Rosemary pizza from her Food 52 cookbook).

Finally, we are contemplating getting a dog.  I don’t need to tell you how this might make our two beloved cats feel.

The nerve in my neck is on edge this week and I’m slowly becoming resigned to the fact that this is a chronic problem that I will just have to manage.

I can’t speak for other people whose nerves need calming, but I feel fortunate that a good roast chicken has charms that soothe the savage breast and neck.

Though Paula Wolfert, one of my favorite cookbook authors, thinks it’s nervy of Mourad Lahlou to tamper with traditional renditions of Moroccan recipes, she might change her mind after tasting his marriage of roast chicken and chicken tagine with preserved lemons and olives from his cookbook, Mourad New Moroccan.

Here’s the recipe, which was posted on Martha Stewart’s website and includes a video of Mourad and Martha cooking together.  (Did you know there is no twine in Morocco?  Watch how Mourad trusses a chicken.  I will never improvise again).

I hope it thrills you all the way to your nerve endings.

Roast Chicken, Preserved Lemons, Root Vegetables

One note:  I compared the recipe Martha posted with the one in the book. They appear to be the same, with one notable exception.  Mourad recommends adding 12 Spiced Prunes to the pan for the final 15-20 minutes of roasting.  The link will take you back to Martha’s site, where she posted Mourad’s Spiced Prune recipe separately from the chicken recipe.  A warning: she omits the 1 cup of water, which should be added when you boil the prunes and flavorings.

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8 thoughts on “Bundle of Nerves

  1. First of all, god luck with your nerve (in your neck–the rest, you don’t need my well-wishes).. What a drag! (Or as Zen friends of mine say when something is really excruciating, How INTERESTING!)

    I’m with Ira Glass, although I believe that Daisey has since uttered a fuller, more explicit apology. The story touched a nerve of my own–the whole debate a few years ago by memoir-writers and their defenders who cried, We’re not writing the LITERAL truth! Go run with scissors someplace else, I respond.

    I can’t comment on the female writers’ revelations about their children, except to say that checking with your kids is always the best policy. Regarding the woman putting her 7 y.o. on a diet–you summed it up correctly (with an expression I haven’t had the pleasure of hearing in awhile).

    Regarding Mourad, much as I admire Paula Wolfert, culinary culture is like language–it evolves, regardless of the wishes of those who would imprison it in purist glass. The only sin is claiming you’re explicity traditional (à la Wolfert) when you’re not. I doubt Mourad is doing this. Traditional recipes get taken someplace else, adapt other ingredients and technique, and become something else… wonderful. You’ve inspired me to look into his book.

    Depresssingly… Hesser may be right, more or less. If you don’t have a platform, it’s hard to sell a book (for any money). Ran into a friend the other night who’s had TWO shows on cable, and currently one on PBS. When the topic of cookbooks came up she commiserated, “Nobody’s selling books.”

    Not unless you have a production team behind your website (and more power to you). As always, smart post.

    Ken

  2. I may be singlehandedly keeping the cookbook industry alive, as I am a collector of sorts. Yesterday David Liebovitz shared an Amazon.com promotion – two Dorie Greenspan books for $5. and I, and many others, jumped at the offer. I hate to see the demise of the books, While words on the Internet can be shrill and get on our nerves, books can be so nicely, quietly contemplative. Speaking of which, you should write history books (maybe you already have). When I read your piece about shad roe, it reminded that a few years ago I was volunteering in Daughter #1’s fifth-grade class helping the students learn about American History. The authors of the textbook indicated in the book’s forward that they had tried not to make the subject boring. Alas, they failed. You, on the other hand, make history come alive.

    • “…make history come alive.” That’s sweet. Dorie Greenspan is a god. A couple of visits to Paris ago I went to Mariage Frères with a friend just so I could try the lavender tarte tatin described in her PARIS SWEETS. It was as delicious as expected, and my experience in that shop renewed a long-dormant interest in good tea. If you are, like me, a reformed smoker, drinking tea is a good place to put all that repressed equipment/ritual love to work.

      • We were in Paris last April and some friends of Jeff’s parents wanted to take us to Laduree. We ended up going somewhere else, but had a sweet afternoon sampling macarons and chocolat chaud and a host of other treats, much to the delight of daughters 1 and 2. Whenever I read Dorie G, David L’s or Patricia Well’s account of life in Paris, I wonder why I don’t spend more time there. There was a thirty year gap between my last two visits. Hoping to better that. And, though I am not a former smoker, I am a tea enthusiast. Darjeeling is my drink of choice, with Oolong a close second, stemming from my years in Asia when tea was often a better bet than coffee (Nescafe). Hoping to try the dukkah/cauliflower combo this week.

  3. Nicely done. I am sorry aobut your nerve. I am sorry to re-ignite your F/O discussion as well.
    http://www.omegavia.com/lovaza-vs-fish-oil/
    continuing the stream of consciousness apparently fish oil makes you bleed so for my mom they said no spinal injections while on fish oil.

    lastly, a lovely Syrian jewish cookbook, lavishly photographyed, “aromas of aleppo”–and a happy Passover to you!

    Best, Sam (&Steve)

    • These days I am a sporadic user of fish oil and bagged the Lovaza long ago. I’ll have to check the levels on my current brand and see where they stack up. I’ll also have to check out Aromas of Aleppo. Judging from the title, I think I’ll love the book. For our Easter/Passover breaksfast we had Shakshuka, an Israeli dish of eggs poached over sauteed peppers, onions and tomatoes. It comes from the book Plenty, which I mentioned in the blog entry Good and Plenty.

      Hope you guys are doing well. Maybe we can hook up over the summer. So nice to hear from you.

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