The kids are snuggled in their beds, fast asleep. Much as I should be in bed, too, I’m wide-eyed after a cat nap. It’s become part of Virginia’s bedtime routine. After we read books, I usually curl up with her, to help her fall into a peaceful slumber. This wasn’t always our pattern; certainly not when Michael was alive. Then again, I was always firm about bedtime, knowing that a cuddle on the couch was my reward after a long day. The daytime was all about the girls. Nighttime was a standing date with my guy to catch up on our day, relax, and enjoy curling up in the corner of our L-shaped sofa together.
By now, you’ve probably figured out I’m a bit obsessive about cooking from scratch. Michael used to tease me, and ask when I was going to start making my own water. There is a hazard to this, though, and in my case it started with a simple pot of beans. Most cooks will agree that there is no worse fate for a pot of beans than overcooking them. Beans should have a little bite to them; kind of like al dente pasta. You know their just right when you bite into them, and they give way ever so gently, but still require some chewing, and don’t just collapse in your mouth. They should hold their own, so to speak, when combined with other ingredients, as in the Chickpea, Parmesan and Fennel Salad in Homemade with Love.
Mondays are probably the least loved day of the week, which is why I decided it was the perfect time to finally share one of my biscuit recipes. A little over one year ago, I perfected my buttermilk biscuit recipe. For years I’d been making Dorie Greenspan’s, and while I never fell out of love with it, it was time for this little bird to stretch her wings and go out on her own. The ingredients were pretty much the same—flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt, very cold butter, and buttermilk. The ratios and technique are what I tinkered with to make what I think are the fluffiest biscuits, ever.
Bonnie Benwick wrote a great article in this week’s Washington Post about salt. I know, you’re thinking salt, are you kidding me? She hits on an interesting point, though, and one that I do believe is changing. The real truth is that people don’t cook from scratch as much as they did a few generations ago, and the age-old way of writing recipes with salt “to taste”, is confusing since for some homecooks that instinct may not be so fine-tuned.
As I read her article, I thought about something a friend told me a few months ago. Her 10 year old daughter cooks often from Homemade with Love, but said it drives her crazy when I write “salt, to taste” because she’s not sure what that means exactly. That anecdote has been on my mind, and I could imagine her saying “see, that’s what I mean” as I read Benwick’s piece yesterday. It made sense to me the moment she told me her daughter’s opinion on my salt writing tendencies, but I must confess only because she’s so young, and just starting out in her kitchen journey. It is so easy to forget that novice cooks come in all ages, even for someone like myself who prides herself on writing easy, accessible recipes for every cook, regardless of experience. Continue reading »
It hit me in the middle of the day yesterday with an odd feeling of surprise. I’m talking about November. It seemed to tip toe in, and I appreciate the calm greeting. I hope it brings more peace than October. The leaves are defiantly clinging to the trees here upstate, showing off their shades of red, orange and gold with the fanfare of a peacock. I know how they feel, in a way. Letting go isn’t easy. Paying attention to the season changes is an important reminder that life is about loss and renewal; it’s a never ending cycle.
As we settle in for what is perhaps the busiest baking season, I wanted to share something that’s been on my mind for a while now. I’m going to geek out here for a moment, but please stick with me. I promise it’ll make for a better baking experience the next couple of months, in fact for the rest of your life. Continue reading »
When I met M, way back in 1995, he had a cat named Jane. She was the living definition of a scaredy cat, hiding on top on bookshelves, slippery as an eel if you dared to pick her up. Jane’s been gone about 13 year now, but I started thinking about her a lot after M died. I realized I didn’t know how Jane got her name. Back when I met M, Jane Says was often playing on his CD player, or in the car, on a cassette tape no less—he drove a little red Toyota Celica back then, and it had a—get this, a benzi box. That was back in the pre-Guiliani New York City; the days when you weren’t always guaranteed to find your car where you left it parked. Continue reading »
I’m back to my bad sleeping habits, which only means good things for all of you. The good news is my running streak is still going strong. I feel so alive, and so healthy. I’m drinking more water, and actually eating less. The latter being very unintentional; I’m simply not as hungry as I was before. In truth, the hunger was more grazing from boredom. I know, the idea of me being bored sounds ludicrous, considering I’d need to clone myself in order to accomplish everything on my To Do list. Boredom can come in many forms, though, and for me I hit a wall emotionally, physically and mentally.
Paris was a game changer, for so many reasons. I started to feel more clear about the uncertainty of the long term. Unlocking this door has allowed me to focus on the here and now better. Not worrying about the far ahead future is helping me to appreciate the often overlooked moments that nourish my emotional appetite for happiness and peace. Continue reading »
When I first met M, I was struck by the fact that he didn’t wear a watch. I can honestly say he was the first adult I’d ever met that didn’t wear one. Isn’t keeping track of time, and plotting every moment, what it means to be an adult? He often laughed at the obsessive nature with which I checked the time, too. Early on he suggested I read Harlan Ellison’s short story “Repent Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman”. Without revealing too much, the Harlequin is the voice inside of us all, rebelling against the carefully calculated structure of life. A structure that is exceedingly harder to shake as we progress further into a technological age. Why do we feel the need to plan everything to a “T”? What is so wrong with trusting our internal clocks, and letting them find a natural sync with our wants and needs? Continue reading »
I’ve clocked over 1,200 miles in the last week and a half, between my journey home from Cape Cod and the four trips I made upstate to deal with my annoying, and unwanted, house guests. All those hours in the car offered much time for reflection. Not always good when I should be focused on the road, but I mastered crying and driving in the early months after M died. There’s something about the act of driving that is very freeing. Perhaps it’s the feeling that I’m actually going someplace; the perception that I’m moving, doing something. The act of driving is powerful because it’s filled with the illusion that I’m steering my own course, instead of just standing around waiting for life to choose what happens.