Carly Ptak: Interview
Guess who’s coming to dinner?

I didn't
start out with the intention of inviting Nautical Almanac's Carly Ptak over for
dinner. I e-mailed her to ask a question about tourdates. But her genial reply
e-mail said, "I don't know what's going on. We'll be playing a show in Western
Mass on the 20th. Did you want to hang out? Because that's the easiest." So, I
invited her to dinner.

During dinner (seitan green bean curry), she talked with me and my roommate
about her thoughts on college, her decision to structure her life so she
wouldn't have to work a traditional job, the similarities between acting and
playing music on stage, and her feelings about whether or not the music she
plays is "noise." Also: her feelings about cashews.

Below is a list of things Carly Ptak said, followed by a recipe for seitan green
bean curry. I didn't take notes during the meal or anything, so please
understand that this is written from memory and very paraphrased.

15 Things Carly Ptak Said:

1. People from New York are... different. Some of them are afraid of quiet.
2. College is a scam! I mean, it's great, and you think it's great because
you're getting to do what you want to be doing, but you're paying so much money
to do it. And then you end up owing so much money. It's a scam. [I think she may
have talked my roommate into dropping out of college and pursuing acting/music
full time. We'll see.]

3. Playing music on stage is the same thing as acting.
4. I love food. I'm really excited about the nuts [burning herself on the
toasted cashews].
5. I can't really play the violin. I don't really have any musical background or
training. If you gave me a violin now, I couldn't play it. But I can play it
onstage. I mean, I can make it sound nice. I guess I play the violin.
6. Yeah, starting a band without any musical background is a great idea; yes, I
approve.
7. [After my roommate called Nautical Almanac "noise"] I wouldn't call us noise,
but only for the same reasons you say you aren't that familiar with noise but
you like us anyway. I think a lot of people would say that.
8. Magik Markers are incredible. I know they can be very on or off. I mean,
anyone can be on or off, but they can really be very on or very off. But
when they're on, they're incredible.
9. This curry is good, because it's not too liquidy. It's not too dry, but it's
not too liquidy.

10. There are two kinds of bands: bands that were around before MySpace and
bands that are on MySpace. We're not on MySpace, no. I've looked around on
MySpace a little, but it really creeps me out.
11. [When asked what kind of music she plays on her own, separate from the band]
No, I don't play noise. Mostly, I don't even play music. I've been leading these
workshop exercises that are probably a lot like acting exercises. They center
around things that people aim to change, things they want to change. Common
things people want to change are money, love, and time. For money, we do an
exercise that starts with everyone writing down the number of people they've had
sex with on a sheet of paper. I guess that's really more about honesty. For
love, we pair people up and have them look, really look into each other's eyes
for a minute, and maybe touch each other. For time, we have everyone eat a piece
of chocolate, but really eat it the right way, feeling it, smelling it, and so
on.
12. I'll be leading one of these workshops on May 20th, in Easthampton,
Massachusetts [link].
The description on the website is sort of terrible. And if anyone wants me to
come do a workshop like this, they can contact me.
13. [Speaking about No Fun Fest] I really loved Macronympha. It was a complete
who's got a bigger dick contest, and I really liked that there were women
involved in it. Sarah Cathers was totally into it the whole time, throwing
around a chain and toughing out the violence with the boys, and the other woman,
the woman in the long blonde wig, was more like, okay, I'm gonna step aside and
let you boys do your idiotic violent shit, and you can let me know when you're
done. And I really loved both of those reactions.
14. [In response to my roommate talking about the conflict between the desire to
devote time to performing and the need to make money] I've sort of arranged
things so that I don't have to work. Like I own the place I live, in Baltimore,
so I don't have to pay rent, and I just live as cheaply as possible. [I add:
"And get strangers to make you dinner?"] Yes! Definitely!
15. I like talking to people I don't know. It's great.

Seitan Green Bean Curry (adapted from
Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home
):

3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped (~ 2 Cups)
3 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 tsp minced fresh chile, or ¼ tsp cayenne
4 tsp garam masala

1 tsp ground cumin
1 pound green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 3 – 31/2 Cups)
1 pound seitan, finely chopped or coarsely grated
2 1/2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
2/3 cup coconut milk
2/3 cup shredded coconut

¾ cups water

salt and black pepper to taste

1. Prepare the vegetables and have all of the ingredients near at hand before
beginning to sauté.

2. Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok and add the onions and garlic. Saute
for 2 to 3 minutes before adding the chile or cayenne, garam masala, and cumin.
Stirring, sauté for another 2 or 3 minutes. Add the green beans, then the seitan,
and mix well. Stir in the tomatoes, coconut milk, shredded coconut, and water.
Cover and bring to a simmer. Cook, covered, for about 10 minutes, until the
beans are firm-tender.

3. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve topped with toasted cashews for a
nice contrast in texture.

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