Tag Archives: Jill Carattini

Why should we keep writing?

4 May

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I’ve set a personal goal to complete Clifton Fadiman’s Lifetime Reading List. My pace is more the slow crawl of a starfish after pigging out on mollusks than the steady trudge of a horse. Even if I read all 176 books, which span across most genres, history, and the world, I’ve only scratched great literature’ surface. There’s still John Steinbeck and Rudyard Kipling, Willa Cather and Sigred Undset, Carson McCullers and W.E.B. Du Bois. Not to mention Trollope’s forty-three other novels, or almost any meaty, historical biography. Talk about FOMO! Sometimes, too, I’d like to dig into a compactly compelling Graham Greene novel or indulge in some Harold McGee-type food nerd reads.

An overwhelming volume of outstanding books, essays, poems, and articles exist already. An unconquerable amount. Yet we continue writing, churning out news pieces and novels and biographies and blog posts. Why do we feel compelled to keep scribbling? Are we actually producing new thoughts and ideas, or just transposing an old song into a new key? History does repeat itself, and nothing we do or write will ever be entirely original. Yet, I believe we feel almost burdened with telling our own stories. We want to represent our own sentence within the broader pen strokes of mankind’s tale. We want to link our time to past and future ones. National Review writer Jonah Goldberg touched upon this idea in a recent newsletter: “Man is a story-telling animal, and stories are what give us meaning, direction, and passion.”

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In a world that is becoming evermore cluttered with words, it’s easy to feel like our own don’t matter much, like we’re just re-mowing the grass in a well-manicured lawn. But I think this mindset undervalues the everyday impact we have on each other. Hearing from someone we love, or admire, is quite different from reading something similar in a George Eliot novel or a Shakespeare sonnet. This applies both to all my fellow bloggers in what we write, and also to everyone who interacts with fellow humans. If what you write matters to one other person, it matters. The same applies to what you do. So while I deeply value and revere the great classics, I also deeply value writers of our time, some better known than others. Ann Voskamp is a constant, beautifully-expressed source of encouragment; Tim Challies keeps me grounded; Jill Carattini outputs informative yet soul-stirring blogs; and Jim Geraghty is my main news source.

We can’t know where we are going without a sense of where we came from. We desperately need, then, to read books that have stood the test of time. We also can’t get to where we are going without probing through and making sense of where we are now, which is why we need to supplement our reading with bloggers and writers of our own time. Risky behavior for a purist, I know. While I plan to prioritize my current Fadiman-list read, Herodotus’ The Histories, I’m also planning to steer away from the ancient Greeks here and there to tap into the here and now. So read on, reader; write on, writer. Every word counts.

If Pinterest counts as a culturally relevant source of the here and now, yours truly has got her finger on the pulse. My most recent recipe find, in the pursuit of any and all slow cooker novelties, is a Vietnamese Bahn Mi Rice bowl, except I made it into a salad. Perfect for low-cal lunchtime feasting!

BANH MI SALAD BOWL

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INGREDIENTS (makes 3 servings):

CHICKEN:

11 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breast

3 Tbs. soy sauce

1/2 Tbs. brown sugar

Pinch of salt

1/ tsp. pepper

1 Tbs. minced garlic

1 jalapeño, sliced

PICKLED VEGETABLES:

1 cup shredded carrots

8-10 radishes, sliced

2 Tbs. white granulated sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

6 Tbs. white vinegar

SALAD:

1/2 head of red cabbage, chopped

1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

DIRECTIONS:

Chicken: Season chicken with salt and pepper. Place in slow cooker. Combine garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, and jalapeño. Pour over chicken. Cover and cook on low setting 5-6 hours or until chicken appears cooked through. Once cooked, shred chicken and reserve sauce.

Pickled Vegetables: Meanwhile, combine sugar, salt, and vinegar. Add in shredded carrots and radish slices. Let sit at least 30 min, then drain or else let remain in juices (I chose the latter option). Keep refrigerated.

Assembly: Before eating (or when packing your lunch), layer 1/3 purple cabbage, 1/3 pickled vegetables, and 1/3 cilantro in bowl or plastic container. Heat and top salad with chicken.

CALORIES (per serving): 200

(Adapated from: skinnytaste)

Salad is better enjoyed with addition of a sesame vinaigrette, such as Kraft’s lite Asian toasted sesame dressing (add 45 calories/2 Tbs.)