Thursday, August 12, 2010

a hard knock life: part 2- burritoes

You thought I rabbit trailed from the burritoes right? Noooo. OK, so part of my temp tooth fell out today. If you think that's gross-- deal with it. People lose teeth. It happens. I am getting a crown done on 8am on Monday morning. Not too happy about that one.

As I mentioned, I have been craving veggie burritoes for DAYS. The only places I know of in the area to get these are Chipotle and Moe's. Traditional mexican restaurants refuse to have them.

At Plaza Azteca, a college favorite right next to CNU in Newport News, they had a vegetarian section of the menu. The choices were not filling. The choices included just one of each item- like a spinach chalupa or a bean enchilada. Very bland because they no variance. Don't get me wrong-- the rest of their selection is pretty good, and flavorful. They have good margheritas, too. But their vegetarian food is not favorable-- and I find this true at most mexican restaurants aside from places designed to be a burrito bar.

If I were to ever own my dream cafe, it would also somehow include a burrito bar. I love them so. But alas, I don't like Moe's and the closest Chipotle is in Sterling. Portland, Oregon has amazing, tiny hole-in-wall burrito bars. They are the absolute best. I want more of these in Northern VA, but alas due to the monopoly of chains in this region, it does not happen outside of DC/Arlington area. Dang 'burbs.

These burritoes are huge, and I put a lot of stuff in them. The sudden collaspe of my fake tooth today, placed but a small damper on appeasing my passion, my desire, my want for a legitamately good veggie burrito.

But I still strive forward!! Eat smaller bites, chew on one side of my mouth, do whatever it takes to consume good food.

Last night I made my food and this time you even have pictures to enjoy!

I will list what I put in my burrito and what I did for each item.

1) Boil up some rice. It takes about 25 minutes. I used some sorta name brand Mexican rice that is organic, gluten-free, and has no trans-fats. Here's a picture of the kind I used:
2)While that's going on, start chopping veggies. Chop some graffiti eggplant, salt it, and throw it in a greased baking pan, in the same pan, add some red pepper, vidalia onions, scallions, zucchini, and cut 1/2 a jalepeno real fine. Throw some good taco seasoning on top( key: look at back of package for ingredients and see if you recognize mostly everything). Add some cumin and black pepper. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Place in oven for 15 minutes on 425.

3) Guacamole time. Take two very ripe avocados, peel them, and mash them around. Add a drizzle of lemon juice, 2 cloves of crushed garlic, a diced roma tomato, some scallions and chopped cilantro, a few chopped leaves of basil, a tiny bit of jalepenos to taste, and a spoonful of dairy-free sour cream (not necessary but yummy)! Mash together!!

4) Corn and Bean Salsa: I actually started with the cold bean salad I made, which dwindled down to a little bit of black beans, red beans and corn. I added half a can of more corn, and chopped 4 roma tomatoes real small. Added barely a quarter of a red pepper, half a jalenpeno, cilantro, scallions, two cloves of crushed garlic, some cumin and black pepper. A squirt of lemon juice.

Some other key components to have on handy:
very good lettuce
sour cream (in this case, dairy-free variety)
refried beans (at my parents' house my dad puts it on the stove under a low heat, adds a little bit of water and sprinkles cheese on the top)

I toyed with the idea of buying a fake mexican cheese, vegan style. But quite frankly, the idea just grossed me out.

With these flavorful toppings, I ate two vibrantly amazing burritoes today. And it's only 7.

And it's so harrrd to resist eating big bites of the burrito-- to get the taste of everything at once!

I lead a hard life. part 1- Bagels!

For days I have been thinking about burritoes. It has begun to possess my mind. I could hardly work out yesterday at the gym. All I wanted to do was go to Wegman's and cook lunch for today immediately.

I spend way too much money on fresh veggies and fruit. Which is why I normally only buy them if I am planning to make something.

But, also in my hunger, I bought bagels. I bought around 7 and this is difficult to confess, but, every time I shop at Wegman's and I buy bread, I start eating it as soon as I get to the car. I will sit there, in the parking lot, for several minutes, ripping the bread and chewing it viciously. This must be quite the sight for any incidental passerbys.

Well, last night, I could not even wait to get into the car. The store clerk tied the bag my bagels were in to keep my healthier rice cakes from falling out. I tear the bag open, and find the most appealling bagel and I eat it as I am loading my groceries.

And then, contact! A Wegman's employee, boy, who looked to be about 20, comes from nowhere and asks in a deep, thick country accent "Can I take yer cart?"

My mouth is full of bagel. I finish chewing. "Excuse me. Sorry, I just wanted to eat my bagel."

"Do you want me to help you finish loading your groceries?"

"Yes, yes. That'd be great."

He helps me load the rest, and he walks away. Bagel still in my hand.

I brought them proudly into work today, but since I knew I did not have enough to go around, I ripped them in quarters. Just as Jesus fed the 5000, I feed my hungry co-workers through the breaking of bread.

Ashley walks out to grab a bagel and finds the whole scene hilarious, especially as I have replaced my bagel with a banana, because part of my temp tooth fell out. Yes, I had to get a root canal done back in June because a huge part of one of my front teeth fell out. From a piece of interestingly shaped pasta.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

an overheated, sleep-deprived vegan

This week has been different. I decided to be as adventurous as possible before my second job starts off for the school year. It has also been HOT. 95 degrees everyday. I've been drinking black coffee, water and a little bit of organic apple juice and that has gotten me by.

On Monday, I decided to go to Crystal City to watch Star Trek on a big screen on the grass. I don't like sci-fi. I slept almost the whole way through. I really did try to like it and paid attention at the beginning. But then it got too long, boring and hokey. But Bekah was the only one who stayed awake or stayed the whole time of our group. Sherwin kept asking me why I was there (knowing my hatred for sci-fi) but he fell asleep, too.

It was interesting to observe all the food present at the event. There was a breakfast burrito truck parked there, I saw people with food from Noodles and Co (blegh) There was beer, there was brownies. Everywhere you looked, a different food culture. A couple in front of us drank this deliciously fruity looking alcoholic drink out of wine glasses they brought. They had a whole picnic packed. So did Sherwin and Bekah, but none was Janelle-friendly food and I brought my dinner anyway. Bekah made me try her potato salad. I hate mayo and I hate potato salad, and it's not vegan, but out of my hospitalitarianism, I tried a bit. Surprisingly good, but wouldn't eat the whole thing.

In their picnic basket there was packed two bottles of (very hot) hot sauce and a whole big thing of red pepper. This is the distinguishing facet of these two-- they bring the hottness with them, whereever they may go.

I brought veggie fried rice with tofu which I bought at Pan Thai, a thai restaurant in Leesburg which is actually located in a Liberty gas station. I get gas for my car there often, but hardly step into the place. They advertise at the stations "fried rice for $5.99," but when I ordered my veggie fried rice with no egg but tofu, it came out to around $10. Humph. Did not make a big deal of it because there must be more to the veggie variety than a regular 5.99 thing.

Before I ordered my rice, I saw a well-dressed professional man in a cruddy looking white car (which I won't judge. Better that than a super fancy car) accidentally started driving off with the gas nozzle still in his car's tank, ripping off the nozzle. I have never seen such an event at the gas station before and was amazed. He rushed into the convenience store and grabbed cute gas attendent boy, and I saw cute gas attendent boy come out to see, as I was walking to get thai. I ordered my food, which was gonna take 5-10 minutes and meandered my way into the convenience store part of the station which connects directly.

I did not have a real reason to go in there.

Since when has a convenience store had vegan friendly items anyway?

I gandered at the granola bars, not seeing anything which caught my attention (aside from the fact I was shortly eating).  But then I grabbed a huge bottle of Dasani water. I hate bottled water, but since the loss of my reuseable water bottle, I had gone back to the bad, old ways.

Cute gas attendent boy greeted me in his usual personable way. And I asked about the guy ripping the nozzle off. "I'm just glad this guy told me," he said. "How often does this happen?" I inquire. "About 4-5 times a month." I mention as I leave that someday I'll probably be stupid enough to do that too, and he laughed as I walked away to wait for my food. I felt glad that I was wearing heels.

I find it odd to explain my dietary pursuits to strangers when I'm out in public. Besides being odd, it's a long-winded answer normally. I used the gas station exit as I left with my food, cause with the heat, it was closer to my car. Cute gas attendent boy smiled at me lazily and inquired about my food. "You got fried rice?! It's very good. The chicken fried rice is awesome."

"I got the veggie fried rice-- I-- um, am vegan-- temporarily."

"Still good!" He asserted.

That was the most concise response I could think of because it was temporary. In about an hour I'd be eating a bite of Bekah's mayo infested potato salad. As much as I would be conversational with this kid, I am sure he doesn't want my life story of food spoken before him. Or maybe he does. Maybe he's the type who is personable because he likes to hear peoples' histories and peoples' stories.

That's why I like working at a coffee shop.

Even if we have an automatic machine instead of manual and serve only kind sub-par but better than Starbucks coffee.

This brings me to this week's second adventure. Last minute, I decided to join some kids to see mewithoutYou play with murder by death and buried beds in Baltimore. We did not get back until 2am. Good thing, I had a crappy cup of coffee to hold me over that night.

My fellow vegan friend, and "holy crap, knows a whole lot about coffee" friend Matt, gave me some of his coffee before we left. He used this super cool but very basic coffee equipment that I had never seen before. It looked like a vase, and you place a filter in, somewhat fine grinds, and slowly, slowly do a pourover of hot water. What comes out is supposed to be very good but Matt feared he made it a little strong, which it was. I was thoroughly enjoying the fact that the biggest coffee snob I know gave me a subpar cup of coffee. Which made me feel better when I was confessing the fact that I sometimes like caramel macchiatos and that my coffee shop is only subpar (which he already brought up).

For food, I brought a very quick, and cold vegan meal to hold me over for the concert. Concerts are interesting because you stand up the whole time and sweat pounds off of you to see a hopefully stellar show. Sometimes when I eat before shows, I feel extremely ill before or after. The worse was maybe 5 years ago when Nathan Mitchell offered me hot dogs before we all left to go see Lovedrug play.

My COLD bean salad did not make me feel ill. I'll quickly share how it was made.
Take already refigerated black and red beans, mix in drained canned corn.
Chop a plum tomato, a piece of zucchini, cilantro and a few leaves of basil. Mix in some coconut oil and garlic powder, and you got yourself a quick, no stove, no oven, efficient for hot days, salad!

The great thing, is I still have some left. So because I am so sleep-deprived, and hot and will only sit in my AC infused room for the next two hours, I am eating some now. Bon Appetit!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

a bewildered brother

When I first became a vegetarian 4 years ago, it was a shock to all of my immediate family. They simply could not understand how an Italian-American girl they raised could so quickly dismiss meat from her life altogether.

Today was the first day I came home as a hospivegan. I came home to hang out with my brother Justin while my parents were out on a boat all day. He's a quadripalegic, so I was there to make sure all his needs were met--including being fed.

If Justin kept up with my facebook, he would have figured things out before I came. There was no big phone call to my fam announcing my veganism. But I thought they stalked me enough...however lots has been happening for them lately, so my eating habits was the furthest thing from their minds.

Normally when I come over while my parents are not home, we either order Chinese or get pizza from the greatest local pizza chain, Tony's. This was a compromise, because I could get something vegetarian and Justin would still get something he liked.

Justin: So, you want to order Chinese?
(I wrinkle my nose.)
Me: Eww...transfats and MSG's.
Justin: What about Tony's?
Me: Oh, I can't. I cut off dairy. And I would let it slide, but I just cheated last night. And if I cheat again, I know I will feel awful.
Justin: WHAAAATT now you don't even eat cheese? WHAT DO YOU EAT?

So picking food was not the only problem, but Justin thought my health reasons excuse was hogwash. He thought the real reason I was vegan was ethics. That I would no longer touch any more animal products. I tried to explain to him that I was feeling a little ill, and wanted to give veganism a try out, but he said I should see a doctor, and that this was all a front  to make it seem I wasn't in Camp PETA.

Annnd I am not. We finally settled on me cooking dinner. I explained to him that being vegan made eating out 10 times harder and I trust the food I cook better anyway.

He wanted chicken and rice...which could have many varieties. We finally settled on Fiesta Rice, which he pulled from the Uncle Ben's website. I demanded a recipe but I did not follow it of course.

My brother is awesome. He is also particular about his food. I chopped up a tiny bit of garlic and a tiny bit of basil to put in, and immediately he accused me of not making a mexican meal. He also wanted the chicken marinated and baked and with no veggies touching the rice. When I put his plate together, I also had to make sure no veggies were put on his plate at all with the chicken.

We are polar opposites when it comes to food. He hates veggies. I am not in love with meat. I love veggies and can eat them at any time.

The marinade was kinnnnnda amazing.
In a skillet with olive oil, I quickly fried a tad bit of garlic, basil/parsely, LOTS of cilantro and green onions, vidalia onions and green peppers. I added lots of jalepenos, red pepper and black pepper. I poured small amounts of sea salt on the chicken with chili powder and cumin. Three tablespoons of Hot Pace Picante salsa (Justin's fave). Then I threw the veggies all on top and added some bigger cuts of green peppers and tomatoes.

I don't remember how long I baked it in the oven. I am not used to cooking meat, and at a certain time I tested it, and it seemed good. I used very fine boneless chicken breasts- Perdue was my brother's request. I do not like perdue and would rather buy free-range, local chicken but I did not have the time to do that and Giant has none of that (DANIELLLLL). But I did read on the label that it's all-natural and hormone-free, now.

The rice was Goya mexican rice in chicken flavor. Justin was also very particular about not buying healthy rice, like long grain brown rice....mmmmmm. He wanted the rice to correspond though to the meal, and not just be Uncle Ben's generic white rice.

After I put most of the marinade on the chicken, I saved some of it in the skillet, and poured some rice, black beans and red beans on top. My very easy vegan alternate. So I could enjoy my vegan, veggie-filled meal and my brother could enjoy his meal.

But being a hospivegan, I did taste some of the chicken, for my benefit and to test it out. It was OK, loved the flavor, but would have been so much better if it were local.

My brother may not believe my motives, but we did have a great compromise dinner together which required absolutely no dairy on my side. My brother eat his meal with sour cream, which he said brought a nice, cooling sensation to the spices. I am sure the sour cream balanced everything out nicely. MMMMM... I love sour cream...


Next time when I don't consume literally two sticks of butter the night before. I promise you sour cream, we will have our day.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

a torrid love affair. with butter.

Summer evening sky. Sun completely set but it's only twilight. I drive into my neighborhood where I see guys around my age completing the decorations of their close friends' car. I live down the street from a wedding hall. I think fond memories of just a few weeks ago. I pull into the same parking lot the festive car decorating takes place, and I probably seem insane to the wedding goers who are passing by.

I can't wipe a smile off my face. It's as if I had met the love of life, and kept swooning at how amazing he made me feel.

Even though this story involves a smooth talking French (or just French-acting) waiter, there are no love bird connections with men to report.

Why are my eyes glazed over and I am smiling like a half-giddy childlike kid in love?


Smmooooth, light but rich, sweeeet but salty, infused with garlic, butter.

Yes, yes. I know. It's forbidden. But sometimes those forbidden things in life come around at you, and make you feel like a person. Raw and beautiful and earthy.

It may seem like an overreaction. But sometimes food experiences can really make you feel alive. Really enjoy life as you thank the God on high for creating such things as butter and French cuisine.

Food can often be translated into romantic and spiritual aspects of our lives. Food is love. Eating food is the communion. And a mere reflection of the communion of the Lord's feast prepared for his bridegroom.

Food is love. I cannot convey this enough.

I am feeling slightly sick, maybe my stomach is turning a little bit.

But THIS. It was completely worth it.

Food and other things can do different things to people. Although they are enjoyable, they can have harmful effects. There are two situations can be in:

--Live the ascetic life. Deny the indulgence of butter. Go on not knowing any better. Not knowing how good, how true, how pure, butter can taste. Some people would rather keep safe, would rather do no harm than to eat the butter.

--Eat it. And eat it with love. Inahle it all down within 5 minutes. When you start feeling the pains, you muse with a smile on your face, "It was sooo worth it." I may be suffering now. But the enjoyment of the food paid the price for the suffering. I may be vomiting all day. But it's OK.

I have been trying very down the path of the first one, but my passions led me elsewhere today.

After a work trip Ashley and I wanted to do some more adventuring. So we drove to Winchester to see what stores there were in their historic district and drink down some espressso. We were gonna go to some clothing stores for the tax-free holiday, but the mall in Winchester was utterly pathetic. It looked worse from the outside than the Manassas Mall. We did not want to go there. I ended up driving us down rt 50, headed toward Middleburg. The way down we watched the rolling hills of perfectly maintained farms and sprawling trees lining the highway. When we reached town, we walked around, ran into friends who just got engaged (and heard the news and squealed in delight as we congratulated them), and walked out of a restaurant which was busy, not paying attention to us, and didn't quite have the fare we were seeking.

We went to Julien's, a little French restaurant. I knew going in, I had to put aside my veganism.

Afterall, I couldn't forget the 4 French ingreds, butter, butter, butter...cheese. We were welcomed in very gingely and had pick of almost the whole restaurant to sit down. It wasn't big, but very quaintly decorated with wine bottles, French art posters, and tin cooking pots which danced on the walls.

Even though I took three years of French in high school, I had very little idea what anything was, save the french onion soup. I recognized what mussels were but not the whole title "mussels something blah blah." The waiter repeated every item I asked him about, in this cool, sexy French which I wasn't sure was real or not. He seemed very full of himself, but I was absolutely entranced when he described each item to me. "Blah blah blah, I am not very handsome but hot when I talk like this, blah blah blah, it is dressed in a garlic butter." Yes, please. Garlic and butter go quite well.

I ordered the mussels blah blah avec frites. Ashley ordered a pasta alfredo.

I was astonished and slightly overwhelmed at the huge bowl of mussels which returned to me. Each in their shell. Swimming in a bowl of garlic infused buttered oil from the mussels.

I felt this sense earthiness as I bit at each mussel in it's shell, and then slurped the remaining garlic butter. It was but a kinda sensual experience. The butter so warm. I dipped my fries in there, as well. Each bite was beautiful. I savored it all as I slowly drank my red wine. Ashley also shared some of her alfredo and I mixed a few of my mussels in there.


I never underestood French cooking. I understood bread and cheese but why all these weird creatures and ALL the butter? How does that create cuisine that is real, earthy and not pretentious?

Eating food can be a transformative process. It alter your mood for the best or for the set a deep appreciation in your heart. It can invigorate you. Empassion you. Or even anger you. All via "Like Water for Chocolate." Food can open up your heart and your mind.

But it's been awhile since that has happened. My food life, is not centered around the table but is on the go. It's granola bars and soy yogurt, and the occassional pleasant fruit.

I ate several hours ago and I am still grinning ear to ear.

In a little bit of pain.

But it was worth it.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Party time! Excellent!

It's true. It's the over-consumption of dairy at office parties which made go dairy-free-- a hospvegan.

It happened two weeks ago. An all-company breakfast in the morning, a good-bye party in the afternoon. Between these two events, I ate:

a plate full of eggs
pizza bites
garlic bread (with a rich garlic butter)
ice cream cake
cheese cake

All in one day. I nearly keeled over and died. Now I realize this was extreme reaction since I obviously ate too much dairy in one day, but after that I was sick for a whole week and had to do something to cleanse myself.

Today is goodbye party #2. For a colleague and friend I dearly love and will miss. Aubrey is the best, and she was the most organized co-worker I have ever had. Already, I find myself dying from our celebration. Ashley and I bought her a big bouquet of yellow and white daisies, an orange gerber daisy and other pretties.

It's making me sneeze, a lot.

For the party today, I made bruschetta and guacamole. Completely vegan, but still friendly to the general populace.

But I had a brilliant, non-vegan friendly idea:

strawberry shortcake.

I scoured all of Giant last night for some non-dairy whipped cream, begging and pleading the Lord God Almighty.

It was not in existence. Should have went to Wegman's (sorry, Daniel*).

We also got ice cream. But foreknowing, I bought coconut milk cookies and cream ice cream for myself and other non-dairy or non-egg office cohorts

Non-dairy and the assumption that we are all becoming lactose-intolerant is becoming a trend. One of my co-workers just experienced some sort of food poisoning and what gets the blame? Dairy. And rightfully so.

I was talking to Aubrey about how the dairy we consume is not healthy for our bodies and creating a lactose-intolerant culture. We should be drinking raw milk and eating raw cheese.

me: I simply cannot afford it.
Aubrey: yeah
you need a goat
they eat alot
me: hahaha!!
maybe i will keep one in my aparement's yard
and milk it

We imagined what it would be like if I actually did keep a goat in the yard and I tried to milk it. I might write a short story out of imagining such an event.

"OH, come now, little goat. Hold still. WHY WON'T YOU HOLD STILL, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD?!"

But anyway, MMMMM...Thank you Purely Decadent for providing delicious vegan happy ice cream.

So ice cream is set, but will I treat myself to the full strawberry shortcake experience? Will I just eat a couple strawberries instead?

To be Continued...

*Daniel is my older brother who is a Giant manager. He always gets sad when anyone in the family chooses to go to Wegman's or Trader Joe's (or, OMG, Bloom!)

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

identity crisis

I am not into hoighty toighty ingredients. I am not into tofu. I have tried to be into it, but have not jumped aboard yet. I am not into fake meat (tastes like dog food). And I am not into gourmet.

I am into using the same ingredients/veggies (and the like)that I grew up with and then maybe adding the rice pasta to the mix in place of egg-infested pasta.
And I did discover veganaise because of my love of dairy in guacomole way back in February.

I am not rich. I am not gonna buy ingredients which I don't think I will use again. I am into adding ingredients to my palate, but that takes time and sharing spices with your roommates.

For example, I never used to use coconut milk. Now, it's becoming a staple in my kitchen.

I did not know what to make for dinner tonight, or for a special work event tomorrow.

So I took inventory of my food (not counting spices):
Fresh basil, frozen cilantro, 3/4 vidalia onion, 1 green pepper, two vine tomatoes, blueberries, soy yogurt, garlic, artichoke pasta, rice, lentils, rice noodles, black beans, chick peas, coconut milk, three avocados, veggie broth, lemon juice, veganaise

Then I googled a recipe with an idea in mind. Keywords: coconut, rice, chickpeas, vegan.

This was one of the first items to pop up in my search.

Looks yummy, right? But I don't cook Indian food enough to have all these ingreds. I am Italian, and as un-authentic as it may be sometimes I have to incorporate ingreds of two cultures when I cook. Of course, many cultures share ingredients, so this is not tooo weird.

The Rice
Easiest part. I have absolutely everything I need for this. I am AWFUL at cooking rice, and it seems so easy, right? But every time I attempt it always come out wrong. This time was the BEST so far. Though it was slightly overcooked, it was infused with coconut milk GOODNESS. It reminded me of coconut sticky rice, but not sticky. So sweet and savory.

Curried Paste and Chick peas

I looked at the recipe for curried paste. I looked at the chick peas. I thought it was useless expanse of time for me to do them seperately, so I did them together.

First I mixed unmeasured quantities of these into a bowl:
a scoop of salsa (yes, the mexican kind)
two chopped tomatoes, mashed
soy sauce
red curry powder
cayenne pepper
crushed red pepper
black madra pepper
lemon juice
ginger (also wanted to use coriander but there was none)
dried cilantro
agave sweetener (yes, i did use a little bit)

Then, I chopped up onions and green peppers very finely (as much as my laziness would allow) and threw them into a frying pan with canola oil and a few drops of rice vinegar. I added the chickpeas. Added the mixture (especially all the juice from it, and left some of the tomatoes in the bowl for guacamole). Crushed three cloves of garlic and tossed in some basil and cilantro. Finally added some veggie broth. I let this cook for awhile, trying to figure out what I could add to to it, which would thicken it like a paste...

paste...tomato paste!

The trusty Italian in me always has tomato paste even when I don't account it in my inventory. I added a whole 4 oz. can. It made it have a confusing it was having identity issues. Part Indian, part Italian...what to do?!

Add more red curry and ginger!!!!!

What came out as product was certainly not an authentic Indian dish, but I used ingredients straight from my kitchen without having to go to the Indian section of Wegman's!

On to making the guacamole!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

To Dr. Schwarze

I have to admit, I was quite the slacker my first half of college. Fall of my sophomore year, I had Dr. Tracy Schwarze for English 208 (Reading Lit), and I often came into class forgetting to read the syllabus. We did read extremely interesting books and I did eventually get to all of them within our course.

She administered great grace upon us, and lead us in rather fascinating classroom discussions. She was what a great professor should be -- a facilitator. Every here and there she would insert her knowledge and her vast love for the topics we were covering.

To be honest, it was because of her classes that I realized I wanted to be an English major. I was a procrastinator and spent most of my semesters not knowing what I'd write on-- but when ideas came to me, she encouraged them and widened the scope further for me. She introduced me to genres of literature that today I love the most. Later on in college, she even taught me a deeper appreciation for all things James Joyce.

Though I was not the most dependable student, I remember the papers I wrote for her well. And even more so, the encouragement she gave me to go deeper into the subject. When ever we dived into different literary works, it was as if we were jumping into the depths of humanity-- of our depravity, of our goodness, celebrations and mourning. We were scaling over writers who were submerged in exploring our hearts and our souls. She was very thoughtful about all of them-- and gave me a lot to dwell on.

I never thought much of my papers. I rushed through the drafts and didn't think they were very good. But she saw what was good in them. I became a writing major, but before that was declared, she identified my gifting and made it known to me. It wasn't that I didn't know I was good. My fourth grade teacher identified this, too. As did my parents. But there's something about when you're in college, and suddenly you're not the best, that it needs to be re-affirmed.

Honestly, a lot of my classmates talked about how hard she was and while I did not get straight A's on my papers, I thought she administered a lot of grace. She challenged me to strive further out of my underclassman laziness but gave me significant feedback to cause me to thrive.

She's one big reason I became an English major.

She passed away on Sunday after battling with cancer (I had no idea), and I am sad to see her go. I won't be able to make it to her Memorial at CNU on Saturday since I will be in NJ, but my thoughts and prayers are with her family and the CNU community, particularly the English Department.

Rest in Peace, Dr. Schwarze. You truly exemplified the qualities of a great professor.