I travel light.

After doing the requisite college European backpacking trip with a giant black pack that necessitated very few stops for laundry but a grumble every time I tried to lift it, I came home and stuffed the cumbersome luggage into the bowels of my parents’ basement, never to be seen again. Now I’ve got an oversized daypck that I use for everything from weekend trips to month-long round-the-world jaunts. (Yes, I did that once. Not recommended.) It’s always been important for me to be able to pick up and leave at a moment’s notice, because you never know when you’ll get a last-minute deal on tickets to Greece or an acquaintance whose parents’ friends’ cousins have a summer house on the Red Sea coast that they won’t use next weekend. Underwear, three shirts, toothbrush, go.

Since moving to Portland, I have discovered that I may travel light but I don’t necessarily live light. I find myself nesting. Acquiring things. This is a struggle for me, because while I realize that I am still aware enough to avoid buying non-useful things, every blanket, set of candles, pack of clothes hangers that I get roots me further in this apartment, this city, this country. The bookshelf I bought when I moved here is slowly being filled – thanks to living within walking distance of Powell’s – and my space is starting to look more and more inhabited.

In cultivating a relationship to Things, and finding a balance between materialism and simplicity, I spend time thinking about how I came to acquire them. If you’re going to own something, I feel you should remember the handing-over, have a story – a word, at the very least – to mark the moment they passed into your space. I was looking through my food photos this morning, saw this one, and thought about what went into it.

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I made this for breakfast the day that my friend Ravi and I drove out to the coast – to Seaside, full of charming tackiness and home to the worst sandwich I’ve ever eaten, and to Astoria, a town I’d love to live in if I had a car and a tolerance for months on end of gray skies.

Of the objects in the picture, the cloth came from Istanbul. Everywhere I travel I buy scarves and earrings – they pack easily (travel light!) and are beautiful but useful. (I have a very firm no-knickknack policy, especially when it comes to souvenirs.) I’m up to about 35 scarves at this point, so I always have a backdrop for food styling!

The scarf in this photo was bought at the spice bazaar in Sultanahmet, sold for tourists but stunning nonetheless, ocean blues and strands of silver. A few minutes after I bought it, my friends and I turned a corner and found an entire street full of scarf shops – and one of them turned to another and said, “Uh oh, we’re about to lose Lauren.” I restrained myself and left the alley with only… 7 scarves. Maybe 8.

The plate is from Ikea, in a shopping trip I took thanks to some extra money in my paycheck. The food – the most important part – is from the first farmers’ market of the season! Signaling the end of a weary gray winter, I woke up on Saturday and walked the seven blocks from my house, canvas bag in hand, to a comfortably crowded, energetic collection of foodies and farmers where I picked up sunchokes, parsnips, apples, eggs, and a beautiful loaf of flour-dusted whole wheat bread. What better way to start the farmers’ market season than with a little fry-up in a cast iron pan?

Spiced Friend Apples with Apricot Butter
serves 2

2 tablespoons butter or Earth Balance
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3 winesap apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
2 heaping tablespoons apricot butter (or any fruit butter of your choosing)
2 slices good bread
maple syrup

In a pan over medium-high heat, melt butter. Add cinnamon and cloves and cook, stirring, for about 15 seconds. Add apples, stir until coated with butter, and cover. Let cook for 3-4 minutes or until easily split with a fork. Uncover and brown for 1 minute. Stir in apricot butter, empty mixture into a bowl, and set aside.

Put more butter in the pan if necessary and fry bread on both sides until browned, 2-3 minutes per side. Serve apples over bread and top with maple syrup.

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