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A Piece Of It

When I lived in New York I rented an apartment in the West Village, a couple blocks from the Hudson River.   In the summertime, I’d sit in the grass on the Christopher Street Pier with the sunbathers and rollerbladers and the occasional crazy person, and I’d watch the sailboats.

I heard something great down there once.  I was in line for the water fountain behind two little girls who were 4 or 5 years old.   One of them was hogging the water and it was driving the other one nuts.  Finally she lost her patience and exclaimed, “Stop, stop! Save me a piece!”

How brilliant is that?

As if water comes in a piece.  

As if a little girl could drink all the water in the New York City water fountain system. 

Sometimes I imagine things as pieces now.  I wish I could have a piece of sleeping in my old bed at my parents’ house.  Or a piece of sitting on a fire escape in Manhattan and swinging my legs out over the street.  Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could save pieces of things like that?

Today I’m leaving Virginia, where I grew up and where we came for Thanksgiving, and I’m heading back to Alabama.  I want to stuff my purse with pieces of Virginia but I can’t so I took pictures to show you instead.  I have a poem for you, too–it’s a fragment of one by Diane Di Prima, and it goes:

I won’t promise

you’ll never go hungry

or that you won’t be sad

on this gutted

breaking

globe

but I can show you

baby

enough to love

to break your heart

forever

~~~

Funny story behind today’s recipe: A few months ago, I went through my old things from high school.  I found a cookbook produced by the TV show Friends.  (Feel free to snicker; I certainly did.)

There was a kung pao chicken recipe in there.   It’s supposed to be Joey’s mom’s recipe or something.  It’s totally non-authentic and I made it as a joke– but as it turns out?  It’s delicious!  And quick.

You really could not make this stuff up.

Kung Pao Chicken {Download & Print Recipe}

Adapted from a recipe by Jack Bishop in “Cooking with Friends”

Ingredients:  (Serves 2)

3/4 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cleaned and cut into 1-2″ pieces

3 Tbsp. soy sauce

1 1/2 tsp. sesame oil

1 1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch

1 tsp. sherry

3 tsp. vegetable oil, divided

1 large clove garlic, minced

2 medium green onions, chopped into small rounds

2 tsp. fresh ginger root, peeled and minced

red pepper flakes to taste

1/3 c. roasted peanuts (optional, salted or unsalted–whatever you have/prefer)

Serve with:

1 c. rice (whatever kind you prefer.  I used long-grain white rice) or ramen noodles or a steamed vegetable, like broccoli

Directions:

In a small bowl, mix the chicken and the soy sauce.  Let the chicken marinate for 15 minutes or more.

In another small bowl, mix the sesame oil, vinegar, sherry and cornstarch until smooth.  Set the bowl aside.

In a wok or a medium skillet, heat 2 tsp. of the vegetable oil over medium-high heat until it’s hot but it’s not smoking.  Add the chicken.  Stir-fry the chicken, adding another tsp. of vegetable oil if it looks like it’s drying out, until the chicken is cooked through.  This will take 3-5 minutes (or more) depending on the heat and the size of your chicken pieces.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the chicken to a clean bowl and set the chicken aside.

Heat the remaining 1 tsp. vegetable oil in the skillet for several seconds.  Add the garlic, scallions, ginger and as many red pepper flakes as you want.  (They’re spicy!)  Stir fry about 30 seconds, until the ingredients are fragrant but not browned.

Stir up the vinegar sauce you prepared at the beginning (because the cornstarch will settle to the bottom of the bowl) and add it to the skillet along with the chicken.  Stir fry the chicken again for a minute or two until it’s heated through and the sauce has thickened a bit.  Carefully taste the chicken and add more soy sauce if you think it needs it.

Serve the chicken with rice or steamed vegetables (broccoli would be great with this) or on top of ramen noodles.  Sprinkle the peanuts on top!

~~~

On the left we have Seymour, who is quite content to be slung over a shoulder and carried around all day.  On the right we have Thunder, who likes to make sure everyone is watching before she dramatically flops over on her side and takes a nap.

Have a good week, my friends!

64 Comments Post a comment
  1. Lovely. Ever single beautiful piece =)

    November 26, 2012
    • Thanks, Christina. You always have such kind things to say.

      November 29, 2012
  2. R. E. Maley #

    Beautiful photos! It’s strange, isn’t it, how homes look completely different with the distance of time.

    November 26, 2012
    • It is strange, indeed. I didn’t really appreciate where I was from until I left.

      Typical.

      I’m lucky because the town I grew up in is the town where my parents still live, in the same house, and it’s also the town where both Scott and I went to college. It’s really an anchor, and a beautiful one at that!

      November 29, 2012
  3. MrsH #

    Wow, there is so much loveliness to this post. Thanks for sharing the poem and the beautiful pictures. Sounds like a wonderful trip for Thanksgiving. For the record though, I totally had (may still have in a box around here) the Cooking with Friends cookbook and am not snickering a bit. I only cooked a couple things out of it. But my BFF bought it for me after Friends ended because we’d had a weekly ritual to get together and watch it while eating dinner and usually too much dessert. Good times. Now all things Friends instantly make me think of her and the wonderful times we shared when we lived in the same state. So thanks for the bits of happy nostalgia too.

    November 26, 2012
    • Ha! It’s awesome that you had that book too. The recipes really do look good. And it’s funny to read because there are hundreds of random quotes from the show in the margins. They’re totally out of context to me now because I don’t remember the episodes, but they ring these nice vague bells from when I was younger. Aye me!

      November 29, 2012
  4. Elizabeth #

    Great post! Beautiful pictures! Glad you are headed back to Alabama…with your pieces of Virginia.

    November 26, 2012
    • Thanks, Elizabeth! It was such a lovely time, but I’m glad to be back here. And THAT is a good feeling, too.

      November 29, 2012
  5. Amy #

    I love that idea of being able to take pieces of things with you! I’m a very nostalgic person, and I hate change. I wish I could have taken pieces of my childhood home when my parents sold it, of the house where we spent all our summers too. I want to live in the town I grew up in and raise my kids there…and Nate keeps telling me that I shouldn’t try to have my children relive my childhood, haha. But I feel like if it was wonderful, why not try! Anyway, where you grew up in Virginia looks absolutely idyllic. What a great place to spend Thanksgiving :)

    November 26, 2012
    • Amy, I want to wind up in the town where I grew up, too. Thankfully, Scott loves it also since he (we both, actually) went to college there. I’m glad we’re having adventures now, though. I feel like it’s such a crazy challenge raising kids ANYWHERE, that it’d be basically impossible to even try to recreate the life you had growing up, you know? So why not do it in the same town you grew up in? It’s not like raising kids there is going to be boring there. It’ll be BONKERS whether you want it to be or not! That’s my view when it comes to me. :)

      November 29, 2012
  6. Sarah #

    Love the photography here. It is the kind that lends itself to writing a story in my mind. Just lovely.
    Check out All Mapped Out on Etsy. A bet you can find a piece to carry with you.

    November 26, 2012
    • Oooh I love it. What a fun shop, thanks for the recommendation! And thanks for the kind comment, Sarah.

      November 29, 2012
  7. Geeze, showoff much?! Bragging about living in New York with all the sunshine and crazy people. I can’t even remember the last time I saw sunshine and crazy people. Your last Virginia picture reminds me of where I grew up in the mountains of NC. So beautiful. And my cat is both of your pitiful dogs rolled up into one, though I imagine a slightly easier to carry shoulder muff.

    November 26, 2012
    • I bet your cat makes a LOVELY shoulder muff, so it’s good you don’t live in the New York sunshine. If you did, what role would your cat have to play in your household? I think most New York cats sit at the window and hiss at the crazy people, which I’m sure your cat would pick up quickly. (If I learned anything in NY, it’s how to spot a crazy person.)

      As for the mountains of NC–I want to go to Asheville. I hear awesome things. I’m just dying to go.

      November 26, 2012
      • When my cat was a kitten what she picked up (for realz) was barking. One of our neighbors at the time had a dog that barked from the moment his owners left for work until they came home. She learned to bark. She lost it once we moved from that apartment, but I have no doubt she would totally learn hissing from neighbor cats. Though mostly, she hisses AT the neighborhood cats around here… Asheville is a lovely place. I went to college about an hour south of there. Basically, as long as you make sure to visit the Parkway, you won’t be disappointed anywhere in the mountains. As for the role my cat would play, I think she could always fall back on her current roll as Heat Register Draft Guard Extraordinaire/Frantic Irrational Cheerio Dodger/Mysterious Lump. She’s multi-talented.

        November 27, 2012
  8. I bought the cook book from “Days of Our Lives” at a yard sale. I don’t even watch that show, and the seller said it was a gag gift to her. Some of those recipes look pretty good.

    November 26, 2012
    • I had to read this one out loud because it made me snicker. Hilarious. Do they have a recipe that you have to make over and over because someone keeps on dying and coming back to life? I only watched it three times over the years but I swear that story line was still going the last time I saw an episode.

      November 29, 2012
  9. Sonja #

    I too, wish I could take pieces of ‘home’ with me. When we get to Pendleton County, my old stomping grounds, my boys and I take deep breaths! When we leave, we hold our breath so that great Pendleton County air is saved just a moment longer. :)

    Your photos are lovely. Glad you were able to go home for the holiday. We might have been within shouting distance of each other. I was in Franklin, just 30-ish minutes from the VA line. There’s no place like home :)

    November 26, 2012
    • Sonja, that’s really neat about taking deep breaths. When I was younger, I used to take a ziploc bag or a jar and fill it with air from some foreign place and then bring it home with me. When I got older, I switched to putting dirt in envelopes. And now. . . well, now I just try to live in the moment.

      November 29, 2012
  10. When my boys and I go ‘home’, we take a deep breath the moment we cross the county line. When we are headed out of town, we hold our breath to save that wonderful Pendleton County air just a bit longer! So glad you were able to go home for the holiday. I was just a stone’s throw from VA, in Franklin, WV. We might have been within shouting distance….

    Looks like Seymour and Thunder had quite a holiday :)

    November 26, 2012
  11. I am in NYC right now but there is a snow storm coming so I am not feeling the New York State of Mind thing right now at all – LOL Your photos are great BTW :)

    November 26, 2012
    • I am so jealous of you that you are in NYC, but there’s nothing worse than being there when you’re not feeling it. I went back a few months after I moved to Alabama, and I shouldn’t have. It was too soon, and I hated everything about it (probably because I missed it but wasn’t admitting it to myself.) I hope the snow storm was pretty, if it came!

      November 29, 2012
      • I go often for work which is nice for me LOL but I prefer it in the summer – Snow was pretty on the 35th floor – just rain by the time it reached the street

        December 1, 2012
  12. I like this. I’m nostalgic for everything all the time.

    November 26, 2012
    • Isn’t there a poem that has “everything all the time” in it? Or something? It has such a lovely ring to it.

      Your nostalgia is something I really like about your writing. It’s not saccharin-nostalgic, or whiny-nostalgic. It’s interesting-nostalgic.

      Cheers!

      November 29, 2012
  13. sarahlpearse #

    Gorgeous images! And Asheville rocks – you must go!

    November 26, 2012
    • Ah, I want to! It’s only like 5 hours from Huntsville or something?! My parents have been and they say it’s full of book stores and cafes and good restaurants and cute streets. Sounds perfect.

      November 29, 2012
  14. a #

    Gorgeous pictures! Very artsy…

    Your dogs are hilarious!

    November 26, 2012
    • Thanks! Lots of the pictures I took in Virginia were a bust, but I had fun playing around with these. Think I exhausted my limited artistic abilities for the next month. :)

      November 29, 2012
  15. Your photos are so lovely … they make me want to visit Virginia too. The poem moved me; very touching. And as always, such a treat to see the dogs; I need my Thunder and Seymour fix!

    November 26, 2012
    • You are too kind, as always. You *should* visit Virginia someday! If I’m there (and not in Alabama), you’ll have a friend who will happily show you all there is to see!

      November 29, 2012
      • Oh, that’s sweet. I’ll let you know when we’re on the way! (Uh oh … 😏)

        November 29, 2012
  16. Beautiful photos!

    November 26, 2012
    • Thank you! If you ever romp around Virginia with your clan, THOSE photos would be to die for!

      November 29, 2012
  17. I can so relate. I leave little pieces of myself, mostly heart, behind every time we move to a new place. Going back can both heal and break my heart again. I love that poem and need to share it with my daughters. Thank you. And the kung pao chicken looks very tasty indeed.

    November 26, 2012
    • Stacy, my parents still live in the house I grew up in. I just can’t imagine them living anywhere else. It’s just an ordinary house, but it would be so strange if it didn’t anchor our family as it always has. I’m glad you like the poem–it was written by her for her child, I think, so it’s kind of perfect to share with daughters.

      November 29, 2012
  18. How much I’d love to be able to begin a sentence with “When I lived in New York…” But aside from cool city envy, just wanted to say how much I was touched by your post and your photos, despite never having been to Virginia or Alabama. I love the idea of being able to keep a piece of stuff from the past. Thanks Eggton.

    November 27, 2012
    • Thanks so much for the kind words.

      Ah yes, “when I lived in New York”. . . I’m glad I got the opportunity to do that, but. . . it wasn’t for me in the long term. Didn’t realize that until I’d been there a couple years. It’s a doozy to come and go from that city–those transitions take a lot out of you, but I’m glad I did it. Where do you live?

      November 29, 2012
  19. Beautiful post!

    November 27, 2012
  20. Really beautiful photos. This is a warm and fuzzy post.

    November 27, 2012
    • Thanks! Lots of the photos were duds, but there’s bound to be a few accidentally decent ones when you take a hundred or two, right?

      November 29, 2012
  21. Anna #

    Beautiful photos!

    November 27, 2012
    • Thanks, Anna! Kind of you to say.

      November 29, 2012
  22. Trischa #

    I have the same cook book from many years ago, my husband makes fun of me not only because it’s a “Friends” cook book but its completely falling apart and gross from spilling cheesecake goo over it time and time again… the cheesecake recipe in the cookbook is outstanding, so SO good.

    November 27, 2012
    • Ha! That is so awesome! I’m glad you told me about the cheesecake. I am totally going to make it on your recommendation! I have a friend who loves cheesecake, so I’ll make it when I visit her next. Thanks!

      November 29, 2012
  23. Perfection. When do we go back to Virginia for a wee visit? And what should I pack?

    November 27, 2012
    • BAKERY SCHOOL GRADUATION TRIP! Pack loose-fitting pants because we’re going to eat a lot. And probably bring 2.0 so Scott has someone to hang out with while we’re out wine tasting and riding horses and having slumber parties involving a stack of 80s movies and a bag of croissants.

      November 29, 2012
  24. Kristi #

    I love this post!! Thanks for sharing…

    November 27, 2012
    • Kristi, it’s kind of you to write. Thanks!

      November 29, 2012
  25. Such a sweet post. Thank you!

    November 27, 2012
  26. hello there… this is a lovely post – simple and honest narration, pics that capture the mood of the place and the kung pao recipe, to wrap it all, ahaha. thanks for sharing. kind regards… :)

    November 28, 2012
  27. These photos are un-freakin-believeable! Now that I’m *completely* addicted to Pinterest, I’m stealing them.
    And WTF! Your doggy boys and my kitty boys are twins. Henry tolerates the shoulder hold and Emmett makes an old-man grunt when he falls over, just to make sure I’m watching. Gotta love the drama!

    November 28, 2012
    • Aw, I bet your kitties are adorable when they do that. Henry and Emmett–those are good names!

      I am addicted to pinterest, too. Didn’t get on there until recently, but I sure do love it!

      November 29, 2012
  28. today, i love your photos. Especially the one of the gumballs. and who am i kidding, all the rest of them too.
    I’m embarrassed to admit i own (somewhere) a copy of The Sopranos cookbook. it’s not in the cookbook library. I don’t even know if i still have it, but i know i DID have it. Now i want to dig it out and see if it’s actually good.

    November 28, 2012
    • The gumball picture was my favorite too!

      The Sopranos cookbook HAS to have good pasta recipes in it, wouldn’t you think? I just googled it and some of the recipes have been put on the internet. I’m definitely bookmarking this for a rainy day: http://www.food.com/cookbook/sopranos-recipes-145924

      November 29, 2012
  29. The pictures are great! I especially like the one with the fall grasses in front of the barn or shed.

    November 28, 2012
  30. I want my piece of walking up to the park outside the Museum of Natural History at 2am and sitting with police, and homeless people, and musicians from some show and hanging out drinking coffee. And the deli across the street (that was still open at 2am) that had a little white cat with black on his head who’d greet you at the door and I was thinking that in any other city, this little cat would be a health violation, but here, in this city, he was the greeter. Miss it. A lot.

    November 29, 2012
    • Fiona, this paragraph was beautiful. When I read it, everything else went away and I was totally engrossed in it and in my imagination. You are a wonderful writer, and I’m so glad you wrote this down.

      November 29, 2012
  31. Love this. And now want to read the rest of that poem!

    November 30, 2012
  32. “I didn’t really appreciate where I was from until I left.” Painfully accurate.

    December 9, 2012

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