I was a camp counselor for many years at an amazing summer camp in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains in Washington State. Camp Huston works with an international company that matches young people abroad with camps in the States that want foreign staff members. Huston ends up with a number of amazing exchange counselors each summer (though exchange is a misnomer, as few Americans go abroad for similar reasons, since “summer camp” is an almost uniquely American conceit). The kids love it, the staff love it, and I’ve personally ended up with some amazing friendships as a result (shoutout to my best Dutch pal, Ivo).
One year, we had a lovely young man from Ukraine named Alex. Alex mostly wore too-short nylon running shorts with tank tops and had a real enthusiasm for American culture. We worked together one session and, on a rainy campout, set about making a vegetable stew for supper. I asked one camper to dice the potatoes and toss them in the aluminum cooking pot; Alex fairly flew off his tree-stump stool. “You must peel them first!” he insisted. I shook my head. “No, don’t peel them. We want the peel! The peel is where the nutrients are!” Alex shook his head gravely. “No, the peel is where the radiation is.” Alex had grown up near Chernobyl, I discovered, and his relationship with food from the ground was very, very different from mine. This is my best example of the way “edible” means different things to different people. My uncle eats apple cores. As kids, my brother and I met someone who ate the frilly green tops of strawberries so we took up the practice in what I can only assume was a state of half bravado and half contrariness. Someone once told me that kiwi peel is edible so I learned to rub the fuzz off and eat the whole fruit at once, out of hand. The prospect of all three of these things has horrified countless people in my life.
I‘m not sure I remember the last time my hair was completely and totally lacking in artificial color. Bless my parents’ hearts, their general attitude was that I could do whatever I wanted with my appearance as long as it wasn’t permanently physically altering (crazy “permanent” hair color that would eventually grow out = fine, stupid fingernail polish = fine, glitter-ringed eyes = fine, facial piercings or tattoos = not okay). In junior high, I started adding chunky blonde streaks into my brunette hair, which I sometimes colored with food coloring for a temporary change-up. At my high-school graduation, I began my love affair with bright colors, showing up for commencement with fire-engine-red streaks instead of my typical ’do. Then I went purple. Then I went black with thin blue streaks, which I called “Superman Hair.” There was an enormously ill-fated attempt to go calico and also try a pixie cut—I wound up looking like a Presidential wife. I had jet-black hair for a while, and I’ve had some pink more often than anything else. My attitude has always been that hair is an accessory and it grows back, so I should have fun and not be scared to try new things. In the time that Mike and I have been together, I’ve worn at least eight different cuts/styles, and a few different colors.
Despite all this experimentation, there’s always been a fly in the ointment. I absolutely love playing around with my hair color, but I never, ever want to look like a person who is intentionally covering up her grey hair. My stylists roll their eyes when I say it, but if there were a way to color just my brown hairs but leave the grey ones alone, I’d do it in a heartbeat, damn the cost. I love my grey hair. I always have. And when I say “always,” I mean that I began going grey at age 16. Yes, you read that right: sixteen. I distinctly remember my old pal Nico standing above me at our lunch table, gleefully counting out the grey hairs he saw along my part. I always thought they made me look distinguished, and I wore my sporadic grey hairs as badges of an old soul.
Yeah, I know Cinco de Mayo was on Saturday, but really, salsa didn’t become America’s favorite condiment based on one barely-understood holiday’s consumption alone. (According to Jerry Seinfeld, it’s America’s favorite condiment because people like to say “SAAAALSAAA.”) The thing about salsa is that it is, hands down, one of the easiest things to make. I’m not kidding you, screwing up salsa is very, very hard to do. I almost never make it the same way twice, because I’m always playing around with what I have on hand, and salsa really just means “sauce,” so you can have fruity salsas and chunky salsas and very smooth salsas and salsas with cheese in them and oh gosh, some folks even say guacamole is a kind of salsa. My mind is bended! What I’m saying is, your salsa can go in a lot of different directions, and it’s easy to fix mistakes, particularly in a fresh salsa. READ MORE