Monday, October 1, 2012

La Boda Bañuelos

I’ll admit that I knew in December that this corner of my previous life would collect a bit of dust this year. And I won’t attempt to catch you up on the ten months since. That’s a project for November 8th and beyond (subtitled “An Instagram Story”). In short, it’s been the single hardest and best thing I’ve ever done. The people are deeply affectionate, determined, and challenging in equal, tidal portions. And we have an election to win in 36 days--my lucky number, as it happens. With that kind of countdown comes the knowledge that there are still miles to go until we sleep. If you’re looking to help, I built this: http://OFA.BO/TKTC

What brings me back here is a wedding. I’m tempted to call it a piece of my past life but as important as this campaign is and as much as everyone on it has to be ready to sacrifice on a personal level…some things are going to rise above the all-encompassing nature of life on a very serious deadline.  

The ultimate example, in my case, being the marriage of my best person, Miss Molly McGuffin Wynn, or, as of this publishing, Mrs. Molly Wynn Banuelos. It’s a long (and blessedly direct) flight back to Chicago from Guadalajara and in-air wifi has yet to come to Volaris. In the company of clouds, it’s easy to spot silver linings and this post is it.

Below is the speech I (more or less or wine) gave at Saturday night’s reception, along with a few selects from a beautiful weekend about 90 minutes deep into the mountains outside of GDL. A note that half the fun of the weekend was being surrounded by a beautiful set of co-conspirators.

It’s also an excuse to tell the best real life love story I know. Maybe that’s cheesy enough to choke on but I’m a sap and it just couldn’t have happened to two better people.

Special thanks to Abby and Paco for helping me to sound like I even remotely speak Spanish. 

Buenas noches. Por favor disculpen mi español. Lo que digo en este momento es lo único que se decir. Me llamo Jessi y vivo en Chicago. Molly y yo crecimos juntas. Estoy segura que vamos a seguir creciendo juntas durante los años que vienen. Asi es nuestra amistad. Quiero decir que estoy tan contenta de estar aquí. Y, a la familia Bañuelos, quiero decir gracias. Gracias por criar a este hombre, que hace tan buen pareja con mi mejor amiga. Me gustó inmediatamente--y a Molly tambien.

This seems like the appropriate time to switch back to a language I'm a little more familiar with. Molly is the linguist of the two of us and she's not in any position to be cleaning up after me this time. I'm Jessi. Molly and I grew up together. I expect that we will be growing up together for the rest of our lives. Having thanked the Banuelos family in Spanish, I turn to the Wynns who have been a second family to me for legitimately half my life.

Molly is the best person I know and I don't think you'll find much argument from my table on that point. She is slow to anger, incredibly kind, and generous of spirit/in spirit/with spirits. She is a person who for my entire young adult life has been the one I have pushed my luck with. The one encouraging me to "lean into it." She is to your credit.

I've been promising to tell the story of how Molly and Jaime met for a couple years now. It's been apparent for a while that this opportunity would arise so I've been excited to tell one of the best stories I know. My best friend met the love of her life while sitting on the front steps of a flower shop in the midst of a witching hour. "Witching hour" in this case can be defined as "the hour at which Molly and I have had two bottles of wine and are now cackling at each other's likely not very funny jokes. Say 12-ish on a December night in Chicago. To summarize, a witching hour not unlike the one we’re facing now, under very different circumstances.

Molly was in Chicago visiting from Minneapolis and the two of us had taken ourselves out for dinner at a French place, bien sur, and treated ourselves accordingly. We were establishing our next moves for the evening when, down State Street, came a pair of objectively handsome gentlemen, rattling off conversation in a romance language of undetermined origin. Judgments were made and suddenly your two adventuresses relayed a shout of "Viva Italia!" in a manner better suited for a soccer field.

 And they stopped. Because who wouldn't be curious at that point? And because the Universe is a strange and wonderful place, we adopted each other. Molly and I, Jaime and Armando. It only much later occurred to us that the Italians are unlikely to have sons named “Hai-may.” Or would think to summon me as “Yessi.“

We ran around Chicago with poor Sheridan, the Spanish teacher, who was likely suspicious all along. And it should have ended there. A funny run-in with a pair of tall, dark, and handsomes. Another city story to add to the collection. 

But it didn't end there.

Two continents, two years, and a surprisingly small amount of emails later, Molly had moved to Chicago after all. And I take a lot of credit for that. I found her an apartment, promised her meals and adventures great and small. But there was more to her city selection and I guess I knew that, even then. By not a small miracle, they had seen the goodness in each other immediately. She was here for all of a month before they found each other again and that was that. 

Since then, Jaime has been the guy who made enough Palomas for all of us. The one who manned the grill when it was raining, who could talk to anyone at the party, and whispered sweet nothings to the gato to get her out from under the bed. He is the kind of person who understands the importance of perfect pancakes, danced the night away with my mom at our friend's wedding, and he's the kind of man who took a bro OUT on the soccer field when he got too rough with Molly. Safe to say she’d do the same for him. 

I was lucky to be there the night you met. Even in the wine haze, the next day you were different. You had seen something. You knew something. And now here we are, five years later, and we're in the mountains outside of Guadalajara. You've just married the not-quite-Italian man we met on the steps of a flower shop after two bottles of wine. I'm looking at you now, knowing you're about to lean into whatever comes your way as a pair. And it’s going to be absolutely incredible. I love you both. Felicitaciones y los mejores deseos para ambos en el día de su boda.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Change Has Come and It Comes with Pie

Tomorrow I have the honor of doing something absurd- leaving a job I love while grinning to Cheshire proportions. Friday is my last day at Edelman after three and a half fantastic years.

All of this because Monday will be my first day on the digital team at Obama for America.

I’m joining the team to do whatever I can to ensure Barack Obama is reelected, as I believe him to be one of the single greatest agents for positive change my generation will know. I’m doing it because it absolutely qualifies as a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to be part of something *big*, on behalf of something I so wholeheartedly believe in.

And because this is still a food blog and this is how we celebrate… I baked a pie. I will save you from any self-assigned deep metaphorical meaning and just tell you it’s an apple pie topped with half blueberries and half cranberries and it was delicious.

Baked goods aside (for now), I have every reason to believe this could be the single hardest thing I’ve ever taken on. I’m on the brink of being fully absorbed into a challenge so rich that it will swallow me whole for the next year by every account, including that of my new colleagues. And yet I can feel myself humming in anticipation, ready to dig in, understand, and be useful. There is a very real chance that everything I've done to date has led me straight to this whether I was aware of it or not.

For the last few years I have had the supreme good fortune of filling a role at Edelman that more often than not felt tailored to me like a glove, and definitely the kind with the nerdy tip points for texting. I've spent the last three years reading stories and meeting the women and men behind them. I've watched voices from the depths of the Internet become credible and recognized voices of “the people.” There are days when I even feel like I had a bit part in setting up the loudspeakers.

Not to mention the adventures. One after the other after the next and I came home breathless and chattering nonstop. I met her! We ate there! We had the best idea! From Portland to Asheville to Austin to San Diego and New York, New Jersey and New Orleans, I was buzzing. And I was pinching myself all the while for being the one that got to connect the dots. For getting to do it in such fine company.

I work with a bunch of nerds and it’s the highest compliment I can think to give in this context. People with the wanton ability to geek out over feed readers, measurement theories and platform coding but it goes beyond that.

I’m talking about food policy wonks, letterpress junkies, women in waders in search of a quiet spot with all the fish. People who run marathons with hip fractures because you cannot stop them from moving and try at your own peril. Star Wars junkies, chorus girls, music nuts, a fascinating breed of style curators and even a NASCAR fan. There may even have been a few fellow kitchen witches, Gryffindors, cat ladies and bourbon lovers. Just maybe. They are the kind of people who rave rave rave on about that thing you must try because it’s spectacular.

I can’t underline the importance of working with people who are passionate. Who are excited and eager and, above everything else, they are curious.

How does that work? Can I take it apart and will there be something simple and true at the center of it? Yes? Then let’s go there.

Yes. Let’s. I have a good feeling that I’m not done with the nerds. If anything, the stakes may have just been raised. Now that the secret is out, you know where to find me in 2012. There’s work to be done and if you feel like helping, I will gladly take you up on that.

Be advised, I'll be asking for your vote as well.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Red Pepper Almond Hummus and Keeping It Simple

As I'm thinking many of you probably did this past week, I am just on the other side of a really nice few days with the family. Mom and Dad flew into Chicago, now the residence of both their children, and we spent a relaxed few days taking in the sights, smells and ( you know us at all?) tastes of an unseasonably warm city.

This would be Brother giving us a tour of his most recent campus home.

As Dad rightly noted, we just don't see each other very much these days so to get a couple weeks in one month's time feels like a luxury.

The other luxury is getting to play the tourist. I've lived in Chicago for going on seven years and I hadn't been to the Field Museum in that time. That is a tragedy and something we spent four full hours rectifying on Thanksgiving morning. We were first in line and got what felt like a private tour of the birds of North America, geologic treasures, the special Whales exhibit and the like. That's the kind of prioritizing you can expect from holiday Langsens.

It was decided early in the planning stages that me making Thanksgiving dinner was going to be more fuss that it was maybe worth for 3-5 people. I'm still not entirely sure I agree but I know when to defer and I don't regret the dearth of dishes in my kitchen (the dearth of turkey leftovers is another story). And while we ate really (Longman & Eagle), really (Leopold) well throughout the city, I'm pleased as punch that my favorite latest snack was appreciated by the whole family throughout the weekend.

If I were to venture a guess at your thoughts, I might wonder what the big deal was. Hummus is generally four ingredients tops and it's just not terribly tricky. To that end, you would be completely correct. It's easy. But a couple quick tweaks to traditional hummus makes this stuff completely addictive, not to mention versatile, delicious and delightfully cost-effective as a holiday potlucker.

Red Pepper Almond Hummus
  • 1/2 small jar of roasted red peppers (no juice)
  • 1 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (Bush's is a client and a favorite...the two are not mutually exclusive)
  • 1/4 cup whole raw almonds
  • 2-3 TB olive oil
  • 1 tsp Sriracha (more if you like the heat)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • Thick pinch of smoked salt and some freshly ground pepper to taste
1. Put all ingredients in a food processor then turn it on.
2. Throw a cracker in and adjust as needed by adding more of whatever you please to the food processor then whirring again.
3. That's it. You're done now.

Covered in the fridge , this will keep beautifully for a week. The likelihood of this lasting for a week is slim at best. If you're really looking to go the extra mile, might I recommend spreading the stuff on toast, layering slices from half of an avocado on top, drizzling a little extra Sriracha and topping it with a fried egg. Just in case you were looking for ideas.