Sunday, December 2, 2012

Brining & the Art of Unplugging

Ever since I waded into the ever-deepening smartphone pool (this February)...unplugging has been tougher and tougher. One morning tradition that I have been able to keep this entire year is not checking my work e-mail & not using a computer before I get to work; in the mornings, I rise, do some body weight exercises, cook & eat breakfast, and read print (usually the New Yorker; sometimes a book).

I feel like this keeps me mentally balanced–not to mention, for a person who writes at work, starting your day with the best writing around helps me begin the day on the right foot. Er...left hand. I get to focus on the occasional stirring of a sticky pot of steel cut oats, sprinkling cranberries in before it's done, slathering a messy pat of butter on toast–and then not worrying about my greasy fingers while I turn pages printed on the same pulp we've been holding for centuries.

Tonight, we unplugged a bit, and had a rare family dinner with my brothers, all of whom now live in the city for the first time in 10 years. My older brother had brined a chicken, and we sat around the table eating it and homemade pasta, root vegetables and red table wine, licking fingers and passing the decanter, with the TV off and phones (mostly) to the side.

The chicken-skin, salt-soaked and crackly, shone on top of the bird. Brining takes time, preparation, and two basic elements of the earth, a past art that no one should have an excuse not to know about; I suspect it'll be around long after us & our scourge of smartphones have passed to some other part of the cosmos. And yet, I had neither brined, nor tasted a brined bird. Which I now recognize was 28-plus years of foolishness.

Table dinners were a staple of my youth, but now I feel as though they're a special occasion. I'd like to carve more time out like my mornings–I've thought of declaring one night a week a "writing night", where I can hole up somewhere with a blanket, or beer, and get some words down without being buzzed by a monitor, phone, screen...

Three unplugging goals:

  1. Weekday mornings.
  2. One night a week–writing.
  3. Table dinner–once a week.

(Part of SmallBox's ThinkKit project.)


  1. Brining! Yes. Now let me blow your mind with this: I once had vanilla tea brined fried chicken at Restaurant Tallent in Bloomington and it presented maximum levels of amazing. Served with some bacon-y green on the side.

    I'm a big fan of the table dinner too. When we really go all out in the kitchen, L and I set the table with our wedding china, or we push our coffee table right up to the fireplace and sit around the fire on our big floor pillows, as we did last night!

  2. I've never been to Tallent...but I've heard good things. Must try!

    We just have a table in the kitchen nook, so it seems less formal, less of a draw. Maybe using a tablecloth will change the context.