an exclusive excerpt from my forthcoming cookbook "boiled foods"
lmao babe somehow i'm still goddamn sick?????????
hi are you ready to throw up? okay! i’m still shitting constantly from my enteroaggregative escherichia coli, just expelling my insides out of my body at a terrifying clip, and no one knows what to do about it! the latest development is that i have finished my course of cipro but of course as a result i immediately got thrush, and in addition to that the nonstop shitting of bile and stomach acid has...sloughed off the skin inside my butt cheeks????? my entire undercarriage looks like bloody ground hamburger and feels like sweeney todd has been hacking around down there and the most accurate way to describe it is that there are a thousand tiny, stinging-but-also-itchy knives stabbing me in the butthole and vagina every time i breathe.
i’ve figured out a complicated multi-step routine to get through the hours of the day i can’t spend lying very still in the dark that involves hemorrhoid wipes in tandem with a mixture of butt paste and desitin, with a little help from some herbal suppositories and “medicine,” but that doesn’t add up to feeling better, it just means that my various orifices are never not leaking some variety of viscous, slimy goo. i’m bleaching everything all the time, every meal is like unsalted broth with two peas floating in it seasoned with my tears, and every night i sleep on a fucking beach towel: this fucking sucks. i’m going to the doctor (unfortunately not kevorkian, sigh) in the morning, where i imagine he will tell me there’s nothing more he can do and oh yeah also stay out of shark-infested waters. if i can’t shake these bugs and this kills me, please spread a rumor that i died from something cooler. “irby shit herself to death” is too fucking meta, even for me.
i’m still reading all the books i was reading last week, but i’ve added a few more into the rotation:
hanif abdurraqib’s new book a little devil in america (hanif is a genius for real)
michelle zauner’s grief slash identity memoir crying in h mart
kirstin valdez quade’s novel the five wounds
tuesday night i shoved a burrito made of gauze pads into my underwear and talked to my pal jonny sun for an hour about his new book goodbye again and it was so sweet and so much fun even though i’d spiked a fever and was visibly melting on the zoom. i was so red that my homie texted me “what blush are you wearing?” but i wasn’t wearing any, i’m just dying slowly at the tentacles of microscopic bacteria, so i just texted back “DISEASE.”
goodbye again is one of those books that i read and immediately start to rethink my approach to writing because we’re kinda doing the same thing but jonny’s book clearly is so much better than mine? first of all, i can’t draw, so he has me beat there. but also, jonny writes with an earnestness and a tenderness that i aspire to, and it’s so hard to do that without falling off a cliff into treacly, which he doesn’t. that’s real skill, man. i tend to write from a place of emotional distance from painful things; i mean, i try to divorce myself from the pain of a situation to mine it for comedy, but jonny’s approach is to lean all the way into the discomfort and he does it in such a beautiful and evocative way and it made me think “should i try this?” as i was reading the book. i think his work resonates with me because we are two extremely self-loathing people who can’t stop exposing our underbellies to a world that terrifies us, and when i read him there’s a kinship that kind of makes me want to cry but also fills me with relief that someone else who is this way exists. anyway he rules and his book is great.
the hardest thing about this e. coli business, other than the fact that it continues to ravage my poor, defenseless semi-carcass, is that i still have no idea where i got it. which renders everything i see or want or touch a potential vector of disease, which has ratcheted my anxiety up to stratospheric levels. and they were already high before! i am no stranger to trembling in unwarranted fear!!!!!! every door handle or diet coke can or piece of mail could be crawling with thousands of tiny infection bugs, invisible to my weak human eyes, just waiting to make the leap from whatever surface they’ve landed on right into one of my many vulnerable mucous membranes.
i don’t have a lot of control issues (honestly i much prefer when someone else just takes the reins and tells me what the fuck to do) but this is the most out of control i’ve ever felt, in an “i am at the mercy of a cruel and unyielding universe” way, and it’s deeply unsettling to feel this exposed. the one thing i do have control over, tho? boiling my foods half to death and placing them on a sanitized plate and using a disinfected spoon to shovel them down my throat!
the silver lining on this filthy shit cloud currently hanging over my life is that my joints somehow have never felt better. do i sleep? no. do i look good? also no. do my knees feel flexible and lubricated? inexplicably: YES. everyone who is chronically ill has tried an elimination diet of some form or another to figure out their potential triggers (is gluten bugging me? maybe i’m allergic to nightshades?? should i give up dairy???), and even tho i’ve done several it never occurred to me to cure my illnesses by forgoing food altogether! am i a fucking doctor now? it’s a christmas miracle!
so going forward i’m not eating anything with dairy or meat or literally anything that hasn’t been boiled or charred beyond recognition, and you know what’s wild? there are no good cookbooks for people who only feel comfortable eating microwaved green beans and rice cakes, so until that gap in the market is filled i’m gonna improvise and torture y’all.
1 bunch of asparagus spears, trimmed and chopped into 1½-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, diced
1 cup onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup arborio rice
½ cup white wine (or not, *let’s talk about it)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
5 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
sea salt and black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
one bring a medium saucepan of water to a brisk boil then add the asparagus spears and blanch for about two minutes, or until they're tender but still have some crunch. going forward i am going to boil the germs off my food until i’m sure it won’t kill me, so fuck “crunch” over here but obviously you should do whatever you want. remove them from the pan and run under cold water to stop them from cooking further (i’m pouring water from the brita filter over mine but, again, i have completely lost my marbles) and set aside.
two heat olive oil in a large saucepan then add the shallots and onions and cook for four minutes, or until the onions are getting soft. add the garlic and cook for another three minutes. i’m not ever counting “shallot cooking minutes” because i have eyeballs and can tell when things are how i like them but if you need a guide there ya go.
three add the rice and heat it in the saucepan, stirring constantly, for about two minutes. risotto recipes always tell you to “stir constantly” but i don’t have the upper body strength for all that? just stir it at whatever pace suits your level of cardiovascular energy, then lower the heat to medium-low. add the wine, lemon juice, and lemon zest, and cook, stirring gently yet vigilantly, until the wine has been absorbed. *a thing about me? I HATE WINE. occasionally i’ll drink it to feel like a grownup around people who are judgmental but i just don’t love the taste. i don’t like winefoods, because things that taste like wine don’t really taste good to me. now here’s where the adults in the room pipe up about the alcohol cooking off blah blah blah and you know what? that may be true but i still don’t like it! long story long if you are a whiny toddler who hates wine too you can just use extra broth.
four add a cup of broth to the pan and cook, stirring, until the broth has been absorbed. continue adding broth in ½- to ¾-cup amounts, stirring each time until it’s absorbed. you may not need all five cups of broth to make the rice creamy and soft, but you can expect to use most of it. when the rice is tender but still has some chew, stir in the thyme, along with salt and pepper to taste. then dump the asparagus in, stir to incorporate, then eat the entire pot on the toilet while balancing it on your knees.
for the first time in the history of this silly newsletter i am gonna talk about some actual softcore: a couple weeks ago, for the very first time in my professional writing life, I WROTE A ~STEAMY~ SEX SCENE. when i got the assignment i thought it was gonna feel weird or embarrassing to sit at my little computer describing in lurid detail how some imaginary people are fucking each other but let me tell you something, it felt great and sexy as hell and i wrote, like, eight pages of the horniest shit on the planet (it should’ve been two, maximum) and the second i turned it in i was like “oh no dude, everyone is gonna think i’m a huge fucking freak” and they probably do but who cares! it was so fun! i love writing about gentle thrusting!!!!!! i re-read the draft yesterday and was like “hold up, i would absolutely masturbate to this, should i start writing erotica???????”
listen, no one is ever gonna see it irl (maybe) but don’t worry: i feel like i have a future in scripted pornography (is that a real thing?) so i’m gonna pursue it even though not a single person is asking for me to do so. as soon as i find a filmmaker who wants to make, you know, “the intense kissing and mutual masturbation movie” (write about what you like, they say) i’m gonna bang out a feature-length script that’s 90% “soft neck and sternum kisses,” 5% “just move my panties to the side, i’m tired,” and 5% “we should get a pizza and watch all three john wicks.” sounds dope, right? plus romantic as fuck? who do we know in development at netflix???????????????????
ok until next time take it easy, boil your underwear, and read a motherfucking book.