There are many reasons I say I can’t cook and they are all called Brussels sprouts

Up until I was planning the move to NZ, I was super gung-ho about living a life of adventure and long-term travel. I was going to NZ and then Oz and then who knows – Thailand? Columbia? Vietnam? It was all up for grabs. Who wants to settle down and stay put and do horrid things like have traditions and friends who can come over when you’re sick and bring you soup?

Me, it turns out. I want that. I want all of that and a house I can decorate and a dog. God, I want a dog. I want a big fluffy duvet and cute plates and dinner parties. I want to cook good food and have a well-stocked pantry and to be able to make more than scones and chocolate chip cookies.

In short, I got old.

To cement the fact that I am apparently turning into an NPR-listening, house-decorating, cheese-making homebody, my favourite thing about Wellington is the farmer’s market. It’s down by the harbour, so I get to walk along the water, and there’s food trucks and farmers and butchers. It’s heaven, basically. Not only is it heaven, it’s cheap heaven. Vegetables that would cost $40-50 at the grocery store are $12-15, so I try to pick up a few things that I haven’t cooked before and see what I can do with them. I got tamarillos last week. This week I got Brussels sprouts.

I blame my friend Donovan for my obsession with Brussels sprouts. I went to visit him in March to help set up his trapeze rig (yes, my life IS awesome, thank you for noticing) and he forced them on me the same way he forces me to do things like learn to drive stick shift or try the flying trapeze. He tells me it’ll be good for me/fun/delicious and then he mocks me until I try it. It’s surprisingly effective. Anyways, he roasted a pan of them and fried up some bacon and hello, new favourite vegetable.

But then I got lazy and didn’t cook them. Ever. So when I saw them at the farmer’s market this weekend, I thought, “Why not?” I’ve been inspired by Queen Nigella, long may she reign, and thought I could totally tackle the world’s most finicky vegetable. So I looked up recipes and found this awesome recipe for roasted Brussels sprouts and grapes.

Looks good, doesn’t it?

So I did a little mental math, preheated the oven, tossed the Brussels sprouts and grapes with olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar for no other reason than because I’m adore it, and popped them in the oven.

Spoiler alert: I’m apparently really bad at math.

Fail fail fail fail fail
This is what failure looks like

See those grapes? No, not the ones that look like grapes. The other ones. The weird, flat black ovals at the top of Mount Godawful. Those grapes are so hard you can’t even crunch them under your shoe. The ones that look like grapes I added at the end, in the vain hope that I could still eat this charcoal mess. I tried! I really did. But the insides of the Brussels sprouts were as mushy as the outsides were burned and I just gave up and made poached eggs.

Tell me I’m not the only one to fail so badly at this vegetable. Please?

Anybody?

Bueller?

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If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is

We’ve all seen it a million times, the advice passed along by Kurt Vonnegut in A Man Without A Country“I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.'”

The thing about this advice that I find so helpful, though, is that you don’t really have to be happy for it to work. Or at least, you don’t have to realise you’re happy.

I have had a shitty, shitty week. It was one of those weeks that’s death by a thousand paper cuts. I got stew on my new shoes. I bought the wrong chocolate. I kept forgetting about my tea until after it was cold. The temperature was too warm for a jacket but too cold for a hoodie. Nothing was exactly right or terribly wrong. Everything was mostly fine, but just wrong enough to be noticed.

But yesterday the sun came out  and if there is one thing I refuse to be, it’s cranky on the first beautiful day of spring. I put my boots on and I took myself for a stroll. I went to the Botanic Gardens and looked out over the city and wandered through the planetarium and let myself think about how crazy the universe is. I did a little shopping. I bought good bread. I talked to one of my best friends.

I still felt a little off.

So this morning I got up and read for a while, had a cup of tea, and went to the market. The market is one of my favourite things about Wellington. It’s a huge farmer’s market with a bunch of food trucks that sets up right behind Te Papa every Sunday. Fruit and veggies are insanely cheap (I can get a week’s worth for under US$10), there is good coffee, music, and street performers. And today there was sun and just enough wind to make me grateful I’d worn a hat.

So, with nothing exactly right or terribly wrong, why not just concentrate on what was good? I took my veggies and my bag and sat down and just listened to the music and enjoyed the sun. I bought gelato and ate it while people rowed through the harbour. I sat and let myself be grateful. There are horrible things happening in the world right now and I’m lucky enough to have sun and food and time.

It wasn’t an instant attitude change and things still feel vaguely unsettled, but for a few minutes I let myself ignore everything in favour of just appreciating this life that is so big and so small all at once. I may just be a speck of stardust in a vast, unending universe, but hey – it means I was once part of a star. That’s pretty damn cool.