This week has been very interesting. Professionally, I have made a decision to move on from my current company to (seemingly) greener pastures which has resulted in a larger conversation about my professional worth. The questions have been positive which actually feels amazing. Between 2016 and graduating in 2017, I had applied to over a 100 companies in the US and India collectively. Of these, I got ten interviews, and three offers, all of which were taken away with the general American trend of “we cant afford to sponsor you at the time.” A year of working in my current company and doing a good job has been a very affirmative experience and has really helped my mental health.
I often question my worth and its usually during times of big changes such as: finding a job, when you realize that you’ve lost 25 kilograms and no more obese, or when you move into college. I know, I talk a lot about college but hey! You subscribed to reading an etymological blog, deal with it (or just scroll down for the pretty pictures). It was only a recent four hour long text conversation with a friend that I realized how stressful the first six months of college were for me. With language not even being an issue, there was just a large change in the volume of stimuli coming at me with no idea of how to process all of it. There were the typical American things like microaggressions (“oh do you get electricity in your house?” “Were you and your girlfriend arranged?”) which to be fair, I didn’t even realized until a year of a liberal arts education had splashed me with the wisdom of how the world really functions. Things that really had me in a spin were: realizing how much of my parents’ money I was spending to live in Ohio, what my future has in hold for me, what will happen to my relationships that I have left back home? How will they survive 4 years (and maybe more)?
These thoughts kept me awake and in tears for the majority of the 180 days of college. Do you know what an only child uses as a source of feedback? Walls. True, walls made of concrete and wood are a very porous source of support for the average only child. For someone who had transitioned from walls to my relationships as my source of feedback during high school, it was disturbing to see how quick I went back to walls the moment I was placed in a new country with a pale (albeit irreplaceable) roommate.
I was flailing. Drowning in a sea of knowledge and confusion along with whitewashed bricks to talk to than to anything with a semblance of a circulatory system. With great flailing, comes greater collateral damage. For me this manifested in cutting away the tendrils of this chaotic period that were the farthest away from me (9,000 miles away to be precise) with a rationale that I was doing what was the best for both me and the recipient. There was also this selfish thing of it being the farthest away, making the heat expelled from its demise to be shielded by its distance. After the first six months were over and the chaos seem to get calm, I had my first trip across oceans back to that severed thread. Coming back was a comforting time. A time to repair, restore, and comfort the remains of those tendrils. For the first two years, this worked well. People I hurt were getting better and we were closer than before. But then as time passed and a latent anger still permeated our relationships, things went cold. I was back to talking to a wall but this time, I knew I deserved it.
Its been five years since those six months now. And a lot of the questions that made me burst seem to have answers. That wall has also seemed to weather down and letting in a glow comfort seep through. The glow of a judgement-free voice that allows for conversations that slide from comfortable to very comfortable. A space that I am loving for now while yearning for more.
Comfort does not stay within just relationships. It finds its way in food as well. Comfort in food comes not by making something complicated like a tiramisu or a galette (not going to lie, both of these are things I would make for comfort but we all know how extra I am), but with meals made with simple ingredients. Things you can find in your home, things that you use so often that you didn’t know that mixing them with other common ingredients can make something so filling and full of homey flavor. Something like a reduction sauce made of ketchup, soy sauce, and brown sugar. Sweet and sour chicken does not try to be anything amazing. It’s a mostly sweet sauce that is draped over beautiful golden shallow fried chicken and heat kissed veggies (heat kissed, for those that don’t understand the proprietary @architlost terminology are veggies that are added last to the meal just for them to infused with the base sauce without losing their structure.
Like relationships, sweet and sour chicken is something that envelopes you with flavors that makes you feel complete. And, once done, you feel satisfied for making the meal, bad for eating so much, and soon enough you yearn for it again. Try this recipe and if anyone can answer why relationships and love are so similar, please comment below.
450 grams boneless skinless chicken thighs (or breasts), cut to 1-inch (2-cm) pieces
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons ketchup or Sriracha for some heat (I used Sriracha)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1/3 cup vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch ginger, minced
1 medium red onion, chopped
150 grams cremini or bottom mushrooms, quartered
1 bell pepper, chopped (I used a mix of colors in this recipe)
Mix all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
Combine chicken pieces, vegetable oil, and salt in a big bowl. Mix well and let marinate for 10 to 20 minutes.
Add the beaten egg into the bowl with the chicken. Stir to mix well. Add cornstarch. Stir to coat chicken, until it forms an uneven coating with a little dry cornstarch left unattached.
Heat oil in a heavy duty skillet until hot, until it just starts to smoke. Add chicken all at once and spread out into a single layer in the skillet. Separate chicken pieces with a pair of tongs or chopsticks.
Cook without touching the chicken for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the bottom turns golden. Flip to brown the other side, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer chicken to a big plate and remove the pan from the stove. Let cool for 2 to 3 minutes.
Place the pan back onto the stove and turn to medium heat. You should still have 1 to 2 tablespoons oil in the pan. Add garlic and ginger. Cook and stir a few times until it releases its fragrance. Add mushrooms and let them sweat it out for a minute.
Stir the sauce again to dissolve the cornstarch completely. Pour into the pan. Stir and cook until it thickens, when you can draw a line on the bottom with a spatula without the sauce running back immediately.
Add back the chicken pieces, onion, and bell peppers. Stir to coat chicken with sauce, 30 seconds. Transfer everything to a plate immediately.
Serve hot as main over steamed rice.