Friday, August 13, 2010

We're still not sure who killed Amanda Palmer, but I put her into a food coma and that's pretty awesome.

Hi guys! I promise there's food in here, but I have to be a fangirl for a moment. You'll probably learn more about me than you could from all the rest of my posts combined here. If you don't want to hear about me (or, well, about Amanda Palmer, really) you can scroll down to the recipe.

Today I'm going to take you into a fantasy world that is very much like the real world that you live in right now, except that you're me a few weeks ago.

There's a lot of music that I listen to, a lot of art that I look at, a lot of books and comics that I read. I'm not going to say these things that I do are the best things, but they're usually the things I love (okay, except for the music, my car doesn't have a CD player so I'm usually stuck listening to whatever's on the radio). With all the media that we have such easy access to these days, it's easy to not think about it most of the time--but I bet you all have someone, an artist, writer, musician, something, that really makes you think or care or push yourself or whatever. Think for a bit and I bet you'll come up with someone--a song that changed you, a poem that you memorized in grade school and never forgot, a book that suddenly made your mind click in the right way so that you're looking at the world in a way that makes sense to you now.

Now imagine that there's a thing that you do. Something that you do and know you're doing well and people love and appreciate--in my case, food. And that person who changed everything has a blog, and they write in their blog about a show that they're doing that--wow, is only about an hour away, that's not a bad drive at all. And there are rehearsals, and there are a lot of people, and the rehearsals are long, and they need to eat. And that person--your person--needs people to do your thing and bring it there. Amanda Palmer needed people to bring food to Cabaret rehearsals in Cambridge. My person. My thing. I couldn't not do it.

Most of the time when I mention her to people, I get a weird look and a confused "who?" in response, so for those of you giving me that look right now, she is a musical artist and force of nature. (I say "musical artist" because I really feel that in this case "musician" doesn't cover it.) Now, I didn't know anything about Amanda Palmer a year ago. I'd be giving you the same look that you're giving me right now if I were on the other end of this conversation, but that changed drastically in a very short period of time.

I don't know exactly how to describe Amanda's music. I think she files it as "punk cabaret," which may not make sense if you're not familiar with it, but I promise it fits. What I can say about it is that when I was introduced to her solo CD "Who Killed Amanda Palmer" (there's a book now, too) I was in a really bad place that I needed to get out of. I'm not going to describe it in depth--there was some depression, some anxiety, some trauma--I was broken. I'm not going to give Amanda all the credit here (I cannot express my gratitude to Mike for being there and talking me through things or just holding me when I break down in the middle of the night and he has to be at work at 6am--he has been my rock and he doesn't understand how much he's done). But when Mike's not around, or when I need to be alone, I listen to her music. And it was listening to her music that started making my brain tick the right way again, that pushed me to go beyond just crying to Mike and heal myself. It's not quite "empowerment," there's more to it than that, but I can't express it. And then at some point, she freed herself from her record company, and to celebrate she posted a free song for her fans. I listened to it and I cried and I laughed and I suddenly knew that despite everything, I was going to be okay. So that's what Amanda Palmer means to me. What she creates helped me find my own strength that I know was there all along, but not quite within reach, and jump up and grab it and hold on to it. At some later point, I started feeling depressed again, and with that strength that I'd found I was able to fight it off by myself without running back to antidepressants or just being miserable, and it felt great to be able to do that. Amanda, if you're reading this, thank you so much for doing what you do.

It's not like I'm completely better now. Honestly, people terrify me. I've always been shy around people I don't know, but for some reason in the past few years I get scared to go to parties. Social anxiety isn't fun at all. Mine's bad enough that, when Amanda made that blog post about wanting people to bring food, I was almost too scared to send an email about it. But I did, and I worked things out, and I thought about food and what kind of food vegetarians and vegans and people who can't eat rice-based products and carnivores all love, and I made a whole lot of falafel and I went to that rehearsal and fed the cast of Cabaret, including Amanda Fucking Palmer. (I hope people here aren't offended by swears, but I'm pretty sure that if you write a lot about her you have to include that. It may or may not actually be her legal middle name. Okay, it's not, but her lawyers apparently actually thought it was, and it belongs there. I can't censor her.)

Okay, okay, I'm getting to the food. Here. Sorry. I didn't turn into a burbling puddle of fangirl when I met her, so I kind of had to here, just because I needed to get it out. (I doubt it would even be possible to turn into a burbling puddle of fangirl around her--she's so down to earth and so real [in the sense that I usually expect people who are even remotely famous to have some manufactured personality]). She's an incredible person to hang out with. She asked me about me, and we talked about how cool it is that the internet lets people who are artists make a living off their art without "making it big" and how cool that is, and about food comas and crazy schedules, and I told her about how I sort of want to be her fiance when I grow up (oh, right, she's engaged to Neil Gaiman, if you didn't know that--somehow it seems right that my two favorite famous people/biggest influences are going to get married).

You may have noticed up there that I said I made a whole lot of falafel. I'm posting the recipe, of course. I was asked for it. I'd be posting it anyway, but that seems important. I made double-batches of this recipe, and I made three double-batches, so essentially six of these. It was a lot of food. It was stressful for a couple minutes when I wasn't sure they were going to finish in time for me to put on real clothes and pack things up and drive to Cambridge. I'm going to tell you right off the bat not to make double-batches of this unless you have a HUGE food processor--it was quite difficult to integrate everything at times and required a lot of "pulse, stop, push stuff around with a spoon, put the cover back on, pulse again, repeat." If you don't have a food processor, that's totally okay too! It'll take a lot longer, but you can dice everything really small and fork-crush the garbanzo beans into it. And the best part of this recipe is that it's baked instead of deep-fried--no greasy oil making it heavy in your stomach and it's SO much healthier. YES.

RECIPE: Baked Falafel
Adapted from ChowVegan

-1 15-oz can garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
-1 small onion (or large shallot), chopped
-2 or 3 cloves of garlic
-1 tbsp fresh parsley
-1 tbsp fresh cilantro
-1 tsp lemon juice
-1 tsp coriander
-1 tsp cumin
-1/4 tsp dried red pepper flakes (double for spicier falafels) (yes I know it doesn't pluralize like that just work with me here)
-2 tbsp flour
-1 tsp baking powder
-IF YOU'RE FORK CRUSHING: 1 tsp olive oil (adding this in the food processor will make it come out very liquid)

1. Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans. Leave them in a colander in the sink until you use them so they drain adequately; you don't want to add too much extra liquid here.
2. Slice the onions, peel the garlic, and throw them both into the food processor along with the parsley and cilantro. Pulse until everything is finely minced; it will sort of look like a coarse crushed ice type of dessert.
3. Pour in the garbanzo beans and everything else (coriander, cumin, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, flour, baking powder). Using a wooden spoon, try to stir the mixture enough to get the garbanzo beans at least slightly integrated with the onion mixture--this will probably be a lot easier in single batches than it was in double batches.
4. Turn on your food processor and let it do its thing, stopping frequently to mix things around and make sure it's fairly evenly textured. It won't be perfect, but if you don't do this you'll end up with hummus at the bottom and mostly-whole-garbanzos at the top. Be careful not to let it go too long, or you'll just end up with hummus.
5. Heat your oven to 375 degrees (F). Take out and oil some cookie sheets. Roll the falafel into balls and press them to make patties, placing on the cookie sheets. They don't spread like cookies, so you can put them pretty close together, but keep in mind that you do have to flip them halfway through baking so if they're too close that gets difficult.
6. Bake your falafel for thirty minutes, taking it out and flipping them over halfway through.
7. When your falafel is done, let it cool for a few minutes, then serve in a pita with lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and tahini sauce. (Adding hummus is a common practice, but it's one that I don't understand since falafel is pretty much hummus that's been processed for a shorter time and then cooked. If you want hummus, you can add it.)

The tahini sauce recipe that I used was perfect and can be found here. I followed it to the letter, so there's not much point in my typing it up again (it's late and I'm sort of tired).

Step 2. If you're using a food processor, slicing things like this works--if you fork-crush the garbanzo beans, mince everything really really tiny. (Instructions for fork-crushing are at Chow Vegan, linked above.)

Step 2, continued. This is just the above stuff after being processed for a few seconds, but it looks so fresh and delicious that I had to take a picture. I don't know why it looks so dessert-like to me.

Step 3. Everything else, added.

Step 4. If you look closely, you might notice a whole garbanzo bean or two. That's okay--I just crushed them with the spoon as I came across them. It's better to have more texture than to turn your falafel into hummus--can you see on the right how it sort of already looks like hummus on the bottom?

Step 5. This was a little closer than they should be, but like I said, only because it was difficult to flip them.

This was a lot of falafel.

It got eaten, though!

By Amanda Palmer! (Sorry I'm pointing at your boob, Amanda. I was trying to point at the sandwich to say "I made that!" but I guess I couldn't really tell where the sandwich was.) Are you familiar with The Princess Bride? You know that part where Buttercup kisses the King because "he's always been so kind to her, and she's killing herself once they reach the honeymoon suite" but he's too excited that she kissed him to process what she said and just says "Isn't that nice. SHE KISSED ME!" Well, that's sort of what it was like, except Amanda wasn't planning on killing herself or anything. It was just sort of awesome and surreal, so despite the fact that I'm all scrunched up and the camera added like 50 pounds to me (that's a lie, maybe 10) it's my favorite picture ever. (Photo credit to someone in the cast who took the picture with my camera. I'm terrible with names so I can't tell you who.)

And, of course, the rest of a hungry cast, all of whom were SUPER COOL. (Photo credit to Amanda's phone, I'm not actually sure who took the picture. Someone in the cast. Amanda posted in on twitter.)

And then Amanda went into a food coma power nap and told me it wasn't creepy if I took a picture as long as I promised it was sexy. I think this is a pretty sexy nap picture, don't you?

OKAY I'm pretty exhausted now because it's been a busy few days and is going to continue to be a busy few days, so I'm gonna leave you with that. And I'll probably come back and edit this post to add some appropriate links tomorrow. And I know I said I'd post Friday and it's technically Saturday, but I'm still awake so to me it's still Friday. ALSO THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT: since it's technically Saturday, it's now officially Mike's birthday! Wish him a happy birthday in the comments, he totally deserves it. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MIKE I LOVE YOU.

Oh, one more thing. If you're anywhere in the Boston area--actually, within four hours of the Boston area, go see Cabaret. I saw a little bit of rehearsal and it was amazing. I can't wait. Buy tickets here.