There are things you know about yourself that hang below the border of self-acknowledgement and then come rumbling over the top, suddenly.
Today, myself and two architecture friends parted in the driving snow, and I was going home in a rush, flakes flying into my eyes and catching in my throat. We had just visited a New York architecture firm to interview the principals about one of their town house projects, and I was really taken by the office’s approach to design and construction, and to program. The firm is thoughtful and clever, knows what it wants, has clear opinions about professional practice and the design-build process (on which it acts), and I realized that the firm had to make a decisive change in the way it wanted to work at the outset, without knowing how it would all turn out. They didn’t know for sure if they would be able to make a living, maintain a reputation, and do interesting things (all of which they have).
They are reaping the rewards of a big risk. That’s business. That’s life.
I’ve known for a while that I am impatient. Yeah, I’m good at sitting in stillness when the time is right. I like yoga. I like hiking. I like working with and listening to people. I’d always rather walk than bike. I’ve been known to take the local train even when an express one is right across the platform, just so I can read. I can stand over a stove and scramble an egg slowly, slowly until it is just coaxed into a fluffy pile, and enjoy that slowness. But overall, I am impatient.
I’m impatient about knowing the ends of suspenseful movies. Impatient about leaving places I don’t want to be. Impatient about computers. Impatient about giving surprises. Impatient about eating when I am hungry. And it’s dawned on me… I’m not just impatient in isolated instances. I am impatient. Impatient about my life. I always want to know how things will turn out, in love, in career, in apartment hunting. Big picture uncertainty, as it applies personally to me, drives me crazy (even though I like it in the abstract). In short, I am impatient about discomfort.
Sometimes impatience works well for me. Impatience is a kind of energy that pushes me out the door some days and gets me to listen to myself. But it can also have the reverse effect.
Simply realizing all this is helpful. It means that even if I know I am uncomfortable with uncertainty, at least I don’t need to suffer through it, or rush it in a rash way, just to feel settled. To be okay with uncertainty is part of being happy, I guess. Maybe I’ll learn.
And now, hasn’t there been an abundance of introspection here lately! So how about that snow?
What’s there to do on a day like this but eat a hot bowl of soba? My dad‘s to blame for this craving of mine, and I’m glad to have it in my winter arsenal.
Miles and I made this for dinner a couple of nights ago and I’d be happy to eat it again tonight. The fun is in assembling small components that make you happy. It all comes together easily with things in the house (if you’re stocked with dry soba, bottled tsuyu and chicken broth) and on a weeknight, that’s tops. Plus, it will definitely keep you warm. No uncertainty required.
All the toppings are things we happened to have in the fridge or cabinets, so it’s on you to improvise. We had radishes on hand rather than daikon, so we grated that up for topping. You can use either, but it really brings something to the broth flavor (reminiscent of tempura dipping sauce, if you’re familiar), and the bonus of using radishes is PINK! Also, the lemon zest isn’t mandatory but again, I really think it lifts the flavor, almost like yuzu (but more likely to be hanging around).
Hot Soba Dinner with Chicken Broth Tsuyu & Shoyu Egg
After repeated meals at New York City’s Corcoron, I’ve been inspired lately to try eating soba at home with more than our normal bottled tsuyu for broth (available at most Japanese supermarkets and some general ones). Here I’m suggesting that you cook your soba in chicken stock, either homemade or whatever you may have on hand, as long as it’s relatively neutral in flavor (i.e. not overly celery-y). Most of the time, I’ll confess to using Better Than Boullion, prompted partly from this taste test by Molly and Matthew. It feels normal in consistency to me, since I’m used to dissolving tablespoons of miso into hot water for other soups, but it’s jarred, which some people may have trouble getting used to.
- 2 & 1/2 bundles dry soba of your choice
- approximately 8 fl oz non-concentrated tsuyu (or use a recipe!)
- enough chicken stock for boiling soba (you can dilute with water)
- 2 pink radishes, grated into a small bowl or dish
- 5 white mushrooms, sliced
- 3 Tbsp mirin
- 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 3 Tbsp canola oil
- 2 handfuls arugula
- 5 Tbsp soy sauce
- zest of 1/4 lemon
- 1 Tbsp chopped scallions, if you have (we happened to have some frozen)
- 1/2 packaged block firm tofu, sliced in half lengthwise, and then across into fourths.
- 2 eggs
- Shichimi togarashi (readily available in Japanese groceries)
FOR THE TOFU
Heat oven to 400 deg. F. Pat dry the firm tofu. In a baking pan, combine 2 Tbsp canola oil, 1/2 Tbsp sesame oil, and 2 Tbsp soy sauce. Place the tofu pieces in the pan and coat. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through, until beginning to char. When they are finished, arrange them on a plate for serving.
Meanwhile, bring a pot of stock to boil for the soba and a small sauce pan to boil for eggs.
FOR THE MUSHROOMS & ARUGULA
In a small sauce pan, heat a little canola oil in a small cast iron skillet or other saucepan. Add the mushrooms and cook, moving them around periodically, until they are beginning to brown. Add mirin and sesame oil, and scallions if using, and simmer until tender. Add arugula and stir until wilted. Remove from heat and toss with lemon zest and a dash of shichimi togarashi. Transfer to a serving bowl.
FOR THE SHOYU EGGS
Boil eggs for 6-7 minutes, for a runny yolk. Fill a bowl with cold water and transfer the eggs after 6ish minutes to shock them and stop cooking. Peel the eggs.
In a small skillet over medium low heat, add 3 Tbsp soy sauce and the peeled eggs. Roll the eggs around to coat with the soy sauce and let cook until the soy sauce is caramelizing and beginning to bubble. Remove from heat and slice each egg in half for serving.
FOR THE NOODLES
Boil noodles according to package instructions, taking care to keep them al dente. Get a large pot and place a collander inside it and, when the noodles are ready, drain them into the pot so that the noodles stay in the collander and the stock goes into the pot. Remove the collander and run it under cold water to stop the noodles from overcooking.
In serving bowls, portion out roughly 4 fl oz tsuyu and 2 fl oz chicken stock, adjusting proportions to taste. Add the soba and the toppings and sprinkle with more shichimi before eating.