Heart Cooks Brain

Heart Cooks Brain

They were dying and she was aware of it. But it wasn’t a fast death like a car crash or a heart attack. She didn’t step on a live wire left in the wake of a particularly bad windstorm and she didn’t feel a bullet pierce her heart.

It was a gradual death, not too dissimilar to the kind that happens when a plant dies of thirst.

One summer, her mother told her to water a plant. was a small, leafy indoor tree that her mom had owned for half a decade and it was in a beautiful porcelain planter in counter shared by the kitchen and living room counter, right next to the spice rack.

She intended to water it. She promised she would water it. Every day she saw the plant remembered that she’d agreed to water it while her mother was in Canada. She washed her dishes in the sink next to it. She invited a boy over and they made out on the couch only a few feet away from it. She saw it multiple times every day and every single time she thought about watering it.

But it wasn’t until the final day, a month after, that she decided to water it. Pulling it back, its branches snapped off, brittle and dead. Leaves fell to the floor until it was almost naked. It was a goner.

When her mother got back the next day, jet-lagged and tired, she looked her in the eyes with the sadness only a disappointed mother can have.

“You killed my plant,” she said finally. She didn’t offer anything else instead choosing to just stand there, her shoulders sagging with her luggage by her side.

The girl shrugged like eighteen-year-olds are wont to do in times of mistakes. It was, after all, just a plant. In the following weeks, she watched dumbfounded as her mother tried to nourish it back to health, eventually pulling out a scrawny stem and talking to it for days until it once again grew a single leaf. How her mother had smiled then. How her mother looked so proud. How her mother talked of the plant’s recovery as if she cured cancer or saved an orphan from a burning building.

What she didn’t know then and knows now is that the plant knew it was dying.

You always do, when it’s a slow death.

That’s why they’re the worst.



Recipe: Hungarian Chicken

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When I was little, one of the first things I learned to cook was Hungarian chicken. The recipe we had came from the New York Times. My father was many things, most of them bad, but he was most assuredly not a cook. He had a few staple recipes we enjoyed now and then, though, and this was one of them. I don’t remember how we first cooked it, but the stained and crinkled cutout of the recipe that came with the Sunday edition of the Times’ magazine lived in our kitchen drawer and we pulled it out every six months.

Cooking, like many other activities with my dad, wasn’t particularly fun. He got mad a lot. Sometimes he threw things. He shoved me into the stove once and it hurt a lot, giving me mild burns on my hands. Another time he flew into a blind rage, veins bulging from his face, as he screamed and screamed about proper cooking temperatures. I am tall for a woman at 5’10”, but he was tall for a man at 6’3″. He was just tall enough to make me feel small and I will always remember the time the chicken came out completely wrong after hours in the oven. I was thirteen and he ruined our whole weekend in a slow-burning rage as a response–a weekend I still remember vividly that I spent upstairs playing Counter-Strike avoiding him as the overwhelming smell of paprika permeated the entire house. After the initial mess up,  he shoved the pan in my face, sloshing the scalding sauce on both of us.

“Do you know how to do anything besides play video games?” He screamed up the stairs as I retreated. “It’s fucking ruined.”

Anyway, I hadn’t had Hungarian chicken since I left him my freshman year of high school. That was over a decade ago. Now that I’m into cooking, I found I genuinely missed it. My mom and therapist both brought up cooking it at some point–however, since I have PTSD, I was a little worried about the smell possibly triggering something. But sometimes you just know when it’s time and it was time to reclaim my favorite recipe. You can’t put off things you love doing forever out of fear. You can’t let bad memories trump making good ones.

About a month ago, in the midst of my worst tooth pain, I made Hungarian chicken after looking up several recipes and turned it into a soup by letting it overcook.

It was pretty good.

I’ve made it a few times since then and I just made it today. I have about five hours left since I’m using the slow cooker–something thirteen-year-old me really could have used to prevent that whole incident–and I figured I would share the recipe.

8 Chicken Thighs
2 teaspoons Hungarian Sweet Paprika
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large onion chopped
1/3 cup flour
2 cups chicken broth

1) Salt and pepper the chicken
1.5) OPTIONAL: sear the chicken thighs and onions with some butter beforehand. I skip this sometimes, it doesn’t change it much, but if you like crispier texture do it!
2) Mix the broth, flour, and pan grease with paprika in the slow cooker
3) Add in the chicken/onions, stir it all around
4) Cook on low for six hours

After this, you can add 1 cup of sour cream in and mix it around for a creamier sauce or you can serve it as is. Also it’s a recipe that tastes MUCH better a day later in the fridge, so I suggest cooking it a day in advance if you want the best flavor.



Yoplait Plentiful Greek Meets Oatmeal Sucks

Since I had my oral surgery, I’ve been eating mostly yogurts and soups. I’ve been pretty creative with grocery shopping and I’ve been trying new things.

Well, I decided to try the new Plenti Greek Oatmeal Meets Yogurt cups. They were utterly rancid. I mean, I have never ever tasted anything as awful at this yogurt. It was an abomination. Horrible texture, slimy yogurt, and the consistency of paste with a similar taste. How this product made it past the taste test, I don’t know, but what I do know is that if you Google it there are HUNDREDS of results from mommy bloggers. Surprisingly, each one is very positive.

Unsurprisingly, each one is sponsored by Yoplait. They must have hit up thousands of mommy bloggers, offering them a pittance of a week’s coupons in exchange for their sweet little lies about their yogurt’s awful taste. They constantly explain leaves them full and comes in great packaging, clearly reading from the same PR script they were sent as suggestions for what their posts could contain.

Yoplait effectively SEO bombed their own brand using mothers and health gurus through paid sponsorships.

I probably shouldn’t be shocked. But honestly, I work in video games. I don’t know the perils of food blogging. I didn’t realize moms were all basically taken over by corporations, spamming coupons on their tiny Blogspot powered sites. Mommy blogging is apparently a quagmire of sponsored posts, censored opinions, and product placement. What a depressing corner of the web.

And what a bad yogurt experience. Truly wretched. Yoplait, your yogurt sucks, and Yoplait Plentiful is truly awful.

You don’t have to pay me for this review, either.



Recipe: Chicken Lentil Soup

Lentils!

As some of you know, I’ve been experiencing some health issues lately that led me to a softer diet–oral surgery is no fun! As it so happens, I’ve also been learning how to cook better since January, prompted by having weekly dinners with my mother.

This means I’ve had a chance to get creative with what I eat and soup has become a staple in my diet.

Last night, in-between solo queue games of League of Legends, I ended up “creating” a lentil soup. I followed this recipe and modified its ingredients as well as adapted it to fit a slow cooker. The end result was extremely tasty, very filling, and pretty healthy considering it’s mostly garlic, onions, chicken, and lentils. You could also probably make it with other types of bases, like quinoa or beans, but I dig lentils so I kept that part the same.

1 tablespoon fresh garlic
2 tablespoons of garlic powder
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of oregano
1/2 teaspoon of basil
1/4 teaspoon of thyme
1 cup chopped carrots
1 (16 oz) package of green lentils
1 large onion
1 can (14-16oz) of stewed tomatoes
2 cans (28oz) of chicken broth
6 cups of water
2 tablespoons of fresh parsley
2 stalks of celery chopped
2 bay leaves
1/8 cup of balsamic vinegar
1lb of italian chicken sausage (4 links)**
1lb of chicken spinach & feta sausage (4 links)**

1) Cook lentils for 20-30 minutes on your stove or until softly cooked
1.5) Sear sausages and quarter them if you desire crispy outside casings (not required)
2) Combine all ingredients in slow cooker and put on low for 8-12 hours

That’s it! It was really good and hit the spot plus it made enough leftovers for the next few days.

What I like about my slow cooker is that it lets me actually do other things, like play video games or work or basically anything other than standing in a kitchen bored out of my mind. Cooking always sounded really hard and I had a lot of childhood memories of my mom slaving over a stove so I avoided it for years. But with a slow cooker, I spend about ten to twenty minutes preparing something then I’m essentially done. I can’t suggest it enough if you’re like me and avoided cooking due to laziness before. They’re only $20-30 and they will completely change your life.

** You could use any protein, from pork to steak to chicken. I just chose chicken because it’s healthier and you can’t tell the difference after 8+ hours of cooking.



On the End and H1Z1

H1Z1 is a zombie survival shooter set in a virus ravaged world. As the infection ends, it’s up for people to fight the environment as well as each other for a life in their new, post-apocalyptic reality.

That’s what it’s supposed to be about, anyway. But for me lately, in addition to killing people, it’s been about breaking up with my long-term boyfriend and a beige house along Mosquito River.

The house I’m talking about sits unassuming on the end of a block, a road to the front and a river to the back. It’s a two story home with a large garage, its architecture both modern and turn of the century, taking heavy cues from the era of plantations and southern belles. It’s neither dark nor light, just a mixture of brown and white that blend to be somewhere right in-between. It’s the largest structure in the Pleasant Valley neighborhoods to the east, sequestered away on a car packed street that forms a grid which feeds into Avram Highway—a long stretch of busy road that runs to Bubba’s Truck Stop if you go to the end.

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The Absent Woman: Ubisoft and Rockstar’s Huge Oversight

When I first saw Zoey from Left 4 Dead, I was instantly sold on Valve’s version of the zombie apocalypse. Standing in an elevator, hordes of the undead outside, she turns to Louis and goes: “Game over, man. Game over.” Not only was she good with a rifle, she also was an Aliens fan–a character after my own heart.

This isn’t an analytical, introspective post. I’m not going to talk about ludonarrative dissonance or pretend I care about agency on some deep level.

No. This is a love letter to Zoey—and to those before her as well as those after. To Aya Brea, to Impa, to Lilith, to Claire Redfield, to Regina, to Kerrigan. This is about how they made me who I am today by simply existing and giving me something to aspire to.

Unfortunately, it’s also about how disgusted I am right now thanks to Rockstar and Ubisoft. How let down I feel. How tired I am of their excuses.

And how I’m done accepting them.

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In Defense of Lara Croft’s Humanity: How a Trailer Changes Everything if Gamers Let It

Lara Croft sits on the chair in the shadows, her face obscured by her hoodie. A man is talking but she isn’t listening. Her leg and hands twitch involuntarily as he drones on. He’s her therapist and he’s telling her important things, but like I said, she’s not really listening. She’s somewhere else thanks to PTSD; a darker place, a place with torrential downpour and arrows flying and blood.

Lots of blood.

When I was sixteen, I went to therapy and I twitched and I was somewhere else as well. And then I was diagnosed with PTSD–the flashbacks not of rainy cliffs and murdered men, but flashbacks nonetheless.

That’s precisely why I’m excited for Rise of the Tomb Raider which was announced at E3 today. I mean, in addition to the amazing gameplay, graphics, and unique story it will undoubtedly contain. I’m excited because it’s nice to see the series continuing the path on which it started in making video games’ first dynamic and realistic heroine.

At least, as realistic as a fictional character with infinite lives can be anyway.

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Hearthstone patch analysis for 1.0.0.4217

During BlizzCon 2013 last month, Hearthstone’s panel shed some light on the future of the game–promising more content and some important changes to cards like Mind Control. This week’s recent patch delivered a part of the package, seeking to balance some particularly annoying cards that are overplayed at both casual and competitive levels.But was it successful? Let’s break down the changes to these cards, how they will affect the evolving metagame, and Hearthstone’s progress as a fledgling entry to the esports scene. (more…)


OGN and 3.14: Sometimes it just takes Korea to prove that the sky isn’t falling

In a game largely defined by and closely tied to its competitive scene, playing 3.14’s release without any professional guidance was rough. Vision was thrown to the wolves, junglers struggled to adapt, and supports had no idea what items to buy after Relic Shield was quickly balanced. Even at higher divisions, games were chaotic blood baths.

It felt a little like the sky was falling–and that’s not surprising. Players had a lot to adjust to and no one to lead by example. It’s not an easy task. (more…)



Patch 3.14: A detailed analysis of Riot’s vast changes to the metagame for season 4

Any veteran League of Legends player isn’t a stranger to preseason madness–anyone played during the lull between the past two seasons still has flashbacks to the days of Black Cleaver and Warmog’s. But with a relatively calm lead up, featuring detailed explanations from Rioters on the game design team explaining every change and why they were happening, season 4 looked like it could work out for both the casual and competitive scene. (more…)