Category Archives: travel

All Fired Up

Roasted Harissa-Glazed Chicken Wings

When Pramod Thapa walked into the Sunburst Lodge at Sun Peaks Resort, the British Columbia ski hill I visited last weekend as part of a tasting tour of BC wine country, I recognized his gait immediately. He doesn’t have the typical cattywhompus walk of a kid with cerebral palsy; at 21, he’s been fortunate enough to progress into a more typical movement pattern that comes off as a young male swagger. Still, for someone familiar with CP, it’s evident. Yet Pramod also moves like a ski racer—shins pressing against the fronts of the boots when walking, using their natural support to avoid the awkwardness inherent to wearing ten pounds of metal and plastic on each foot.

Pramod (pronounced “promo”) stopped short when the woman I was skiing with, Canadian ski racing legend Nancy Greene Raine, flagged him down. She realized that as the mother of a budding adaptive skier with cerebral palsy, I might want to meet him. Pramod perched one Lange boot on its heel—a typical racer’s resting posture—and shook my hand. When he started speaking, I realized that unlike Graham, he has a major speech impediment. He can speak well enough to communicate, but only if the listener has had, say, a few years’ experience tuning in to how the general population with cerebral palsy communicates. Pramod struggles to hug his mouth around vowels, and stumbles over consonants. Listening to him speak requires intense concentration, but he has a lot to say.

As we huddled around the hot, cottony sticky buns the lodge pulls out of the oven mid-morning every day, Pramod and I talked about his ski racing history. About how after immigrating to Canada from Nepal as a kid, an adaptive ski instructor recognized that he might be the type to enjoy skiing. About how and whether we should go about transitioning Graham from a sit-ski guided by an instructor holding tethers to a sit-ski he guides himself using outriggers, which are like hefty ski poles with extra tiny skis at the bottoms. About how now, in a bid for the Canadian paralympic alpine team, Pramod is having to fight for the right to use kids’ skis, instead of the regulation (read: longer and heavier) men’s skis the other guys he competes against use.

Pramod comes from a long line of sherpas. He can’t be more than 5’2”, and he must weigh 100 pounds soaking wet. I can’t imagine a person his size racing on the same skis my six-foot-something brother and father use. As we talked through the issue, he used his hands—hands seemingly unaffected by cerebral palsy—to describe the methods he’d been using to pressure the smaller skis around the turns in that day’s slalom and GS training. Fingers straight, hands tilting in parallel to mimic the skis beneath his feet, Pramod looked like any other ski racer talking shop. I realized that in a world where his body and his speech likely often prevent him from participating in a typical way, he has found a sport where he can use his hands to communicate the same way everyone else does. He’s found his sport. I also realized that when it comes to my own kid, it’s more important to me that he learns to love a sport than that he learns to love what I’ve long considered my sport.

Which is why this weekend, along with something like a third of all Americans, we’ll be watching the Super Bowl. In an unpredictable combination of rare genetics, Graham has inherited a love of football. We don’t know how. We don’t know why. He “plays football” by knee-walking to and fro across the living room floor, hurtling his body against the couch or a chair or the dog occasionally, claiming touchdowns and wins according to rules we don’t understand in any way. But he loves it. So it seems like this year especially—when the Seattle Seahawks kick off their second consecutive Super Bowl—it makes sense to sit down and watch. And it makes sense for me to sit down and learn, the way Pramod’s parents are likely doing also, that it doesn’t matter what gets your kid fired up. What matters is that he’s fired up at all.

I’d have photographed this recipe on a Seahawks jersey if I could, but we’re not big enough fans to have that sort of thing. Nonetheless, when Super Bowl XLIX kicks off this weekend, we’ll be eating wings with millions of others, smothered, in our case, with butter and harissa. You can use a store-bought harissa for this, but the homemade kind from A Boat, a Whale and a Walrus works spectacularly. Note that each harissa will vary in spiciness, so you may need to adjust the heat to your own taste. I made this batch knowing there will be kids at our party on Sunday.

Now get fired up, people. Two days ’til game time.

Roasted Harissa-Glazed Chicken Wings (PDF)

Active time: 10 minutes
Start to finish: 35 minutes

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup harissa, plus more if desired
1 1/4 pounds chicken wing segments or drumettes
Sea salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Stir the melted butter and harissa together to blend. Divide the mixture between two large mixing bowls. Add the chicken pieces to one bowl, stir to coat the wings, then spread them out evenly on the prepared baking sheet.

Roast the wings for about 20 minutes, or until the wings are bubbling and crisp at the edges. Transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate to drain for just a moment, then add them to the fresh bowl of harissa butter. Stir to coat the chicken, then transfer the chicken to a platter and shower with sea salt. Serve hot, with the yogurt on the side for dipping.

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Filed under appetizers, chicken, gluten-free, Lunch, travel

The Best Pork Stew You’ll Never Make

If I were to give you the perfect recipe for a Mexican-inspired pork and black bean stew, it would look like this:

Wilbur 1

1. Find some friends willing to buy an entire pig, haul it six hours from home to a remote cabin without electricity or hot water, and cook it in a homemade “Cuban microwave” for hours and hours, until swarms of toddlers are melting under the pressure of a hard day’s play in the wild, the keg is kicked, the sun is finally going down, and the pig’s skin is crisp. Make sure the friends are food literate, but not food snobs. (Some make a point to only eat animals that have read Virgil, but I think too much enlightenment makes for tough meat.)

carving the pig at curlew

2. When the pig is roasted, volunteer to carve it in the dying light, even if you’ve never done it before. A 37-pound animal is large, but still only has two cheeks, which means that if you want to dig the fatty, tender cheek meat out with your fingers, you’ll want to be the one hovering near the head. (The whiskers, by the way, become quite sharp when roasted.) As you slice into it – surely with a knife you’re completely unfamiliar with, wearing giant barbecuing gloves that make you feel as awkward as Edward Scissorhands and only slightly more coordinated – combine just the right amounts of selfishness and laziness. You should cut enough meat off the bones to fill plate after plate with steaming flesh and satisfy any nearby vultures, but not so much as to strip the bones naked. (The meat left on them will be critical to your stew.) Pack obscene amounts of leftover meat and bones into coolers, neatly divided into “meaty,” “fatty,” “bones,” and “Neanderthal” containers, regularly offering diners feet or a snout from the last category, lest they miss what might be their only opportunity to munch on a pig’s toenail. Leave the coolers outside in the sun, with questionable amounts of ice, until the next morning.

Stock on the curlew stove

3. Make pork stock: Combine the meatiest pork bones, chopped onions (with the skins), and (unfiltered, from-a-real-spring) spring water in a large, unwashed roasting pan. Straddle the pan over two burners on an ancient stove, pausing to appreciate first that you know how to light your own stove at home, and second, that you weren’t the one to haul the propane tank currently responsible for cooking your stock up to the cabin on cross-country skis last winter. Bring the stock to a strong simmer, turn the burners off, cover the stock, and go to a rodeo.

rodeo queen at the chesaw rodeo

4. Here, to make the stew taste better, you should eat at least half of a corn dog, or possibly try the 68th Annual Chesaw Fourth of July Rodeo’s version of taco salad: one snack-sized bag of nacho-flavored Doritos, crushed, opened, and topped with taco meat of unclear provenance, shredded cheese and lettuce, and an unconscionable quantity of sour cream. (They do make it in small bags for little buckaroos, in case you were wondering.)

high class husband at the chesaw rodeo

5. Drink Budweiser in the sun while you watch toddlers chase chickens, small boys get stomped on by small (but still quite large) calves, teenage girls race horses around barrels, and grown men make their best attempt at roping and milking wild cows. Drink a little more; you need to sate your immediate hunger but open your palate to the possibility of a great deal of stew.

Boys playing on porch in Curlew

6. Get back to the cabin, bring the stock back to a simmer, and feed and entertain all children in the immediate vicinity. Snoop around the premises for anything that might make for a good stew – onions, garlic, carrots, and celery would be a fortunate start – and chop the vegetables, taking note as you work next to another person that it is neither the size of a kitchen nor its fanciness that makes it functional. (A kitchen qualifies as “good” if the space is well used, of course, with plenty of chopping room near the stove, but also if those working therein are happy bumping elbows without apologizing, and comfortable injecting cooking questions into unrelated conversation without losing one’s place in either the chopping or the conversation.)

Curlew kitchen 1

7. In a large (preferably tippy) soup pot, sauté the onions, garlic, carrots, and celery in (possibly) three-year-old olive oil, then season heavily with cumin, chili powder, dried oregano leftover from seasoning the pig, salt, pepper, a pinch of ground cloves, and a little bit of luck. Add the remaining salsa from two separate, open-but-unrefrigerated jars of salsa (their spiciness will have a lot to do with how your stew turns out), three cans of black beans (along with their liquid), and enough stock to let all the ingredients swim around freely. Simmer until the carrots are soft, roughly one hour, bossing anyone near the stove into giving it a quick stir so you can appreciate just being where you are.

dogs begging for pork stew

8. Meanwhile, clip most of the cilantro from the newly planted herb garden just off your porch. (If you can arrange for your dog to fall off the porch while avoiding a curious tot and land directly on the cilantro plant, do so, as the cilantro will be easier to cut that way.) Grate cheese and find some sour cream. Intend to slice the avocado in the fruit bowl, then promptly forget about it.

Curlew cabin front

9. Ask someone else to chop a good deal of what’s probably tenderloin and shoulder from the “meaty” bowl of pork in the cooler, and add it to the stew. Simmer another 10 minutes or so, so the pork fat melts into the broth. Season to taste again with salt and pepper, and serve hot, in mismatched bowls with shredded cheese, sour cream, and spoons that make you feel like you’re Goldilocks, minus the part where she finds the spoon that’s just right. (Feel free to continue forgetting the avocado.) In your mind, call it Curlew Stew, if you’re into that sort of thing. Pretend you aren’t surprised when it seems like the best stew you’ve ever tasted, and make a mental promise to make pork stock again someday soon. When it’s cooler.

dividing pig meat

10. Mop the last of the soup up with plain sliced sandwich bread. Commence a conversation about recipes – why and how we use them, how some people must cook from them while others simply can’t, where we record them, etc. Remember some recipes, like Hannah’s grandmother’s Goat Curry for Fifty, whose re-creation is so entirely unlikely that you might as well call it impossible. Think first, to yourself, that you wished you’d written the stew recipe down in some way, or snapped a photo before the last carrots were scraped from the bottom of the pot and fed to your child (who, with his first tooth, now seems to be able to eat cooked carrots). Then reconsider, and note that perhaps anyone interested in recreating Curlew Stew should probably not be relying too heavily on a recipe in the first place.

That’s it. That’s the whole recipe. Just ten quick steps.

If you live in the United States, chances are very good that you have recently suffered, are currently suffering, or will soon suffer an unbearable heat wave. (The definition of “unbearable” may differ from region to region; 90-degree heat broke records in Seattle a couple days ago. Likewise, the definition of “suffer” may be flexible; I was forced to make cold iced tea and wear a dress yesterday. It was awful.)

I thought that perhaps this heat thing, combined with the likelihood that you have a cooler filled with roasted pig parts on your porch, might make Curlew Stew an unconvincing proposition for your dinner this evening. But I promise: It’s the best pork stew you’ll never make.

But if you really want to taste Curlew Stew, I know a guy who makes a mean Cuban microwave; he says he’s willing to lend his to me when I’m ready to roast a pig. Swing by my driveway sometime around Christmas, because I now know I’ll be going whole hog, as they say, for our next holiday party. I’m sure there will be pork leftover.

Tonight, you should just make skirt steak kebabs.

Spicy Skirt Steak Kebabs 2

Spicy Skirt Steak Kebabs (PDF)

Marinated in a mixture of lime juice, garlic, fresh oregano, and red pepper flakes, these skirt steak kebabs pack a punch, but don’t take much time to prepare or grill. Instead of tomatoes and zucchini, feel free to substitute other vegetables—broccoli florets or crimini mushrooms would also be great.

Be sure to soak the skewers for the kebabs in a pan of water for a good 30 minutes (or longer) before you thread the meat and vegetables on.

TIME: 15 minutes prep time
MAKES: 4 servings

Juice of 3 limes
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (the fresher, the better)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 pound skirt steak, cut into 1” cubes
2 zucchini, cut into 3/4” rounds
2 dozen large cherry tomatoes
12 wooden skewers (12” long), soaked

Blend the lime juice, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, oil, salt and pepper together in a mixing bowl. Add the steak, stir until all the steak is coated with the marinade, then add the zucchini and tomatoes. Refrigerate, covered, about 1 hour.

Prepare a grill for direct cooking over high heat, about 450 to 550 degrees. Thread the ingredients onto the skewers, alternating ingredients, piercing zucchini horizontally (through the skin on both sides) so that all the ingredients lie in a flat plane.

Grill the kebabs for 3 to 5 minutes per side, until the zucchini is marked, the tomatoes are beginning to burst, and the steak is cooked through. Serve hot.

Spicy Skirt Steak Kebabs 1


Filed under Beef, dog, gluten-free, husband, kitchen adventure, pork, recipe, travel, vegetables

A casualty of Big Bertha

Crunchy Whole Grain Corn Muffins 2

If what you really want is a way to spend more time with the nice TSA folks the next time you travel by air – if all that removing and rearranging and Ziplocbagging and patting and puttingbackon isn’t enough – I have a suggestion: Pack an ancient cast-iron muffin pan in your carry-on luggage.

I inherited one when I was in Boise. It belonged to my mother’s mother, Merle, who used it for popovers.

It’s certainly dainty-looking, with those cute petal-shaped cutouts on the edge, but I have trouble picking it up with one hand. We’re calling her Big Bertha.

While her twin stayed asleep in my mother’s baking drawer, I swaddled Big Bertha in my yoga pants, rust and all, and crammed her into my roll-aboard for a long-term stay in Seattle.

pan made in the USA

Sure enough, the agents at Boise International were on point. She was spotted in the X-ray machine, unearthed, tested, and passed from person to person until they were all yesverycertain that the muffin pan was not a bomb.

I scrubbed the red dust off the inside, and made the homecoming meal any cast-iron pan deserves: Corn muffins.

Only, they’re not everyday corn muffins. They don’t crawl around in your mouth like a napkin, selfishly mopping up every last bit of moisture, like so many corn muffins do. Moistened with sour cream and spiked with a smattering of crunchy whole grains, they have a little more class than the crumbly version, and quite a bit more intrigue.

Now, I’m not one to scorn a box of Jiffy. (That blue-and-white box is a go-to every time chili comes off the stove.)

But for breakfast, on a cool, sunny summer morning, with a smear of butter and a dollop of Anna’s cinnamon creamed honey, these are hard to beat.

muffin pan casualty

Next time, I hope I won’t be so blase about balancing the wet muffin pan on the edge of the sink. Big Bertha takes no prisoners.

Crunchy Whole Grain Corn Muffins (PDF)
In her essential breakfast book, Sunlight Cafe, author Mollie Katzen always mixes the sugar right into the dry ingredients for muffins, and stirs the melted butter in at the end. I’ve adopted her technique, because it saves the time required to cream butter and sugar together. (These muffins really do take 15 minutes to make.) When you pry open your first grain-studded muffin, hot from the oven, consider topping it with a fat slab of salted butter. Drizzle it with creamed honey, for good measure.

For savory muffins, skip the sugar and increase the salt to 1 teaspoon. Stir in a handful of Parmesan cheese, sautéed onions, and/or chopped green chilies, if you’d like.

TIME: 15 minutes active time
MAKES: 8 regular or 12 small muffins

Vegetable oil spray
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup (raw) millet
1/4 cup (raw) quinoa
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a muffin tin with the vegetable oil spray. (The batter will make 11 muffins in an age-old cast-iron pan, or 8 regular or 12 small muffins in a contemporary standard muffin pan.)

Whisk the next nine ingredients, through sugar, together in a large mixing bowl. In a smaller bowl, whisk the milk, sour cream and eggs together until well blended and smooth. Stir in the melted butter, then add all the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir until no dry spots remain.

Fill 8 muffin cups almost to the top with batter (or for smaller muffins, fill 12 cups a little less full), and bake for 20 to 25 minutes on the middle rack, or until puffed and barely cracked. (The muffins won’t brown much.) Let cool 5 minutes in pans, then serve warm.

Store cooled leftover muffins in an airtight container. Halve and toast before serving.

Crunchy Whole Grain Corn Muffins 3


Filed under bread, Breakfast, kitchen adventure, recipe, travel, vegetarian

A Snitch in Time

Tug on the Mississippi

It’s been a long week, since I was here last. Like flying through time, only instead of having Time bend for us, we moved for Him: We started in Seattle, where a dear friend and her adorable two-year-old were staying with us, then zipped to New Orleans with my family, catching two raucous nights and a wedding there, then flew back for a different wedding in Seattle, then hit home, seeing the same friends again. At one point I thought of the little golden snitch in Harry Potter, and wondered if this is how it felt, buzzing around nonstop, trying not to get caught. (That laptop? Yeah, it stayed in its bag, mostly.)

Random flasher in NO

But oh, New Orleans: City of debauchery, gluttony, and (we noticed) extremely bendy liquor laws (where pretty 17-year-old siblings are concerned, at least). It was my third trip since Katrina, and I must say the city is looking a lot better than it did a year and half ago.

New Orleans isn’t so easy on the liver, especially when my cousin Erica is in charge. (And I must say: Partying with your entire family is FUN.) Instead of rehashing everything from the bachelorette party to the bull ride, I’ll offer a few wedding planning tips, because Erica, honey, you did it right.

Erica looking away

For brides and grooms:

1. Do offer your guests a tall, strong cocktail as they walk into the ceremony site. Preferably pink. No one will care if you’re late.

Policeman at Erica's wedding

2. Do coordinate with your city’s police force and arrange for a parade around downtown after your ceremony, complete with a big brass band and you at the head of the line. This is so much more fun for your guests than waiting for you to take ten zillion pictures.

Band leading parade

3. Do give your wedding chow a sharp sense of place. Erica and Mark did up the New Orleans grub in a huge way, starting with a crawfish boil (and the best fried catfish) and ending with a failure-free buffet (those are so rare!) of spoonbread with beef debris, crab beggars’ purses, savory cheesecakes, jambalaya cakes, etc. Ah-MAZE-ing, even for this not-so-Cajun-lovin’ girl.

Rehearsal dinner fried catfish

4. Do ask your stiletto-clad guests to avoid the toes of guests with lesser, or in my case no, shoes on. It’s only polite. (I’m still a little limpy. It’s not my fault my shoes were off when I took this photo, is it?)

Light on latrobe's

5. Do commemorate your favorite late-nite snack. We had gyros after dancing, right there in the reception room, at 11 p.m., which made me miss breakfast a lot less when we hit the airport at 4:45 a.m.

Erica eating gyros

Anyway. That was the first half of my week. At the ass-crack on Saturday morning, which also happened to be our anniversary, we flew back to Seattle in time for a different (gorgeous) wedding here, which I stumbled through with less energy than I might have liked. Jim and I bailed on the dancing and had our own little slow dance right here behind the chair I’m sitting in, celebrating five years of marriage, and slept more in one night than we had in the previous three combined.

Then, Sunday, we had friends over for a Pagan eating celebration (read: our take on Easter), and I baked my first ham (easy peasy) and made the most delicious banana cake, with a cream cheese frosting that almost didn’t make it out of the bowl. Just yesterday, the friend and the 2-year-old left, and here I am, with lots of dirty laundry and about ten pounds of maple- and marmalade-glazed ham.

So, apologies: I just don’t feel much like cooking. (I do feel pretty good, though, considering. Hooray for naps three days in a row.)

But before it all started, I was on a recipe bender. I’ve been tearing out magazine recipes like a machine lately, bringing other peoples’ ideas into the kitchen to see what happens, and it feels good. Last week, before the time warp started, Jim and I had a conversation that went something like this:

ME: Tomorrow night I’m making an awesome Frenchie onion tart from Gourmet.

HIM: Just onions?

ME: OOoooooh. I’ll make it with kale!

HIM: And?

ME: And beet salad.

HIM: No, back to the tart. And?

ME: And what?

HIM: And bacon. Why?

ME: Why? Oh. Because we have that leftover bacon?

HIM: And?

ME: And because everything’s better with bacon?

HIM: And?

ME: And . . .I don’t know. Why am I playing this game?

HIM: And because when you cook, you have to know your audience. And I want bacon.

So demanding, this husband of mine.

The next night, before we headed off to a yoga class, I made the dough, folding in half whole wheat flour, and caramelized the onions. We only had 2 pounds’ worth of onions, so I added a pound of kale. (In my blissful post-ohming state, I forgot the kale on the stove, and it burned. It turned out just fine in the end, though; the burned bits got covered up by the cheese. Still, watch your kale.)

“No bacon?” Jim was doubtful when I slid the tart into the oven.

“No bacon,” I said.

Moments later, I heard his voice reverberating off the shower curtain. The song was about how tarts without bacon suck, with refrains about vegetables being for losers, etcetera.

When he walked out of the bathroom, I told him he was welcome to cook up the bacon himself and sprinkle it on top of the finished tart, if he was so sure my version would fail, but he declined. The sweet, yeasty scent of caramelized onion on fresh dough wafted through the house. He looked hungry.

When I took it out of the oven, I was thrilled to find that the tart’s crust was crisp enough to pick up in one hand. I transferred it to the cutting board that way, like moving a Frisbee, just to prove a point. (The truth: It almost broke. Don’t try it.)

My husband mumbled something unintelligible through his first bite.

“Excuse me?” I said.

“It doesn’t need bacon,” he said. “It’s amazing.”

I made it again the next day, for my friend, pushing the crust to all white whole wheat flour, and softening the edges with just a brush of olive oil. I used the full three pounds of onions, plus the kale.

Even better.

Onion-kale tart

Whole Wheat Kale and Caramelized Onion Tart (PDF)
Adapted from a March 2008 Gourmet magazine recipe for an Onion Tart with Mustard and Fennel, this simple appetizer tends toward pizza, but “pizza” just doesn’t capture its little mustard bite, the great herby fennel flavor, or the way the kale dries out and crisps in the oven. You can caramelize the onions the night before you serve it, as the original recipe suggests, but be sure to pour off any accumulated liquid before spreading them out on the dough.

For best results, bake the tart in a heavy 12” by 15” half sheet pan. I found the crust wasn’t as crisp in a flimsy pan.

TIME: 1 hour active time
MAKES: 8 appetizer servings

1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour, plus all-purpose flour for rolling dough
1 large egg
1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 3/4 teaspoons salt, divided
Olive oil spray
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
3 pounds yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
Freshly ground pepper
1 3/4-pound bunch kale, cleaned and chopped
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Stir the yeast and warm water together in a small bowl, and let stand until foamy, about five minutes.

Place 1 1/2 cups of the flour in the work bowl of a stand mixer. Make a well in the flour, and add the yeast mixture. Stir the egg, 1 tablespoon of the oil, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt together in the small bowl with a fork, and add that to the well, also. Using the fork, mix the liquids with the flour until a soft dough forms, and almost all the flour has been incorporated.

Fit the mixer with the dough hook and knead on medium-high speed until smooth and elastic, about 4 minutes, adding some or all of the remaining 1/4 cup flour, as necessary, to prevent the dough from sticking to the bottom of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a bowl coated with the olive oil spray, and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a draft-free corner for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until doubled in bulk.

While dough rises, heat 1/3 cup of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the fennel seeds, and cook, shaking pan, for about 30 seconds, until just beginning to darken. Add the onions, one teaspoon of the salt, season with pepper, and stir with tongs to lift the fennel seeds into the onion mixture. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover onions directly with a round of parchment paper cut to fit the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are very tender and golden brown, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.

Heat a separate skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add a tablespoon of the olive oil, then the kale, and season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until kale has wilted, about 6 to 8 minutes. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and arrange a rack in the center of the oven.

Punch the dough down, and use a floured rolling pin to roll the dough out on a lightly-floured surface to the size of a large (12” by 15”) baking sheet. Transfer the dough to the sheet, and crimp the edges, if desired. Brush edges with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.

Using a small offset spatula or plastic scraper, spread the mustard out over the dough. Spread the caramelized onions evenly over the mustard, then the kale over the onions, then the cheese over the kale.

Bake the tart until the crust is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Cut into squares and serve warm or at room temperature.
Bitten onion kale tart


Filed under appetizers, husband, Lunch, recipe, travel, vegetables, vegetarian

Inukshuk in my soup

We hit home three days ago. Friday, I slept through the better part of my supposed workday. Saturday, we puttered around the house, doing laundry and taxes and sifting through the week’s mail, trying to get our heads back on straight again. We went to a mellow yoga class, where I spent the majority of the hour in child’s pose, examining the dog hair on my mat. Today’s shaping up to be a slow one, too.

Whistler was gorgeous. When I was feeling good, I had a blast. We skied fast. We swam our way through the fog on days that felt more like skiing on the moon than on Earth. Watching the World Cup was phenomenal – hundreds of fans clanging cowbells in each others’ faces, Norwegians acting like idiots, Canadians going crazy for their strong showing, kids begging for autographs. . . It’s hard to hate a sport where the general rule is the bigger your ass, the faster you go.

Inukshuk at top of Peak chair

At the top of Whistler sits an inukshuk, one of the hundreds of sculptures native Canadians originally built in human form as mountain guides – creative cairns, if you will. Inukshuks are supposed to stand for friendship and hope, hence the inspiration for the emblem for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

On our third day, the skies cleared, and the inukshuk loomed just off the Peak chair, with a gorgeous panorama of the high alpine. Groups of skiers eddied around him, marveling at his size and gaping at the view. Making friends better friends, I suppose, like we were, laughing at how close this winter wonderland is to Seattle.

But hope? There wasn’t so much hope up there. Not for me, anyway. Whistler is a big mountain, and six days of skiing there is a lot for anyone, really. I guess you could say I bit off more than I could chew. (I think we all did.)

By day three, standing at the top just meant hoping I could muster the energy to ski down, and I’ll admit I got my priorities mixed up. I wanted so much to be part of every run that I ran myself into the ground not stopping when I should have. I forgot that rule I made a few years ago about pairing intense activity with equal measures of rest. I kept going. And going. And going.

I know everyone’s legs were sore. I could deal with the cramping calves and the twitching quads. (And by now that part is gone.) What I couldn’t handle was the fatigue – that sneaky, foggy, full-body fatigue that the Wolf brings when I least expect it. It feels like a bodysuit made from one of those heavy aprons you wear to protect your organs from X-ray machines. (And really. Who wears a bodysuit?)

Normally, when it comes, I’m pretty accommodating. But when she showed up halfway through our vacation, we’d already bought our lift tickets, and skipping a day didn’t seem like an option. I should have. But I didn’t. Instead, I doped up on steroids and Ibuprofen and pretended I was fine. By day four, I was spent.

Then I got frustrated. For the first time in months, I got really angry, not just at how lupus made me feel, but at the fact that I couldn’t seem to bring myself to tell my friends I’d had enough. That I couldn’t tell my husband or my brother that I’d had enough. That I didn’t want to have had enough. That I was too self-centered – too focused on getting the most of my vacation and afraid of spoiling other peoples’ – to make it completely enjoyable for myself. I spent the days trying to remember whether I’d felt so tired when we went to Whistler for our honeymoon five years ago, before I was diagnosed, and wondering why I’d thought I could ski for six days now, fresh off methotrexate.

Basically, I forgot that less is more. My body forced me to remember.

On day five, I folded at the top of Symphony a few runs after I should have, skied down in a dizzy fog, off balance, and slept for three hours. I woke up, ate a giant burrito stuffed with juicy slow-cooked pork, skipped the drinking, and slept for another nine hours, unmoving.

Jess & Jim from top of 7th Heaven

The last day, my body rebounded a bit. The top of Blackcomb was clear, and as we raced around, the snow came alive again under my skis.

It doesn’t take much, I thought, feeling how the rest rejuvenated me. But it takes some.

Anyway. It was a great week.

We cheered for Bode (warning: bad video):

We stuffed ourselves with wings at Dusty’s:

Wings at Dusty's

At night, we gathered in the kitchen and scooped warm stew and spicy sausage pasta sauce into our bellies. We drank beer at the Roundhouse, and ate fat, fluffy Belgian waffles at Crystal Hut:

waffle at Crystal Hut

(And by the way, other ski areas could take a cue from Whistler and offer real mugs for coffee and hot chocolate. It makes both more delicious.)

And despite the cranky, I think I became a better skier, in a week.

On the last day, we spent the morning ripping groomers and dropping into the bowls accessed by Spanky’s Ladder, and by lunch, I was exhausted. But this time, instead of puffing out my chest and sucking up a few more runs, I announced I was done. Jim came inside with me, reminding me that it’s not about what we’d miss, but what we’d already done. We’d already skied the high line above Ruby Bowl:

Tiptop of Ruby Bowl at Blackcomb

We’ve already whizzed around like crazies on Cloud 9, he said. What we’ll miss in the afternoon isn’t important. We’ve had fun. He was so right.

View from Blackcomb center

At The Rendezvous, we split sushi and pepperoni pizza and a Powerade, the ideal spring skiing lunch that I never knew existed, and Slow Dog Noodled all the way down to the base.

Kintaro in Vancouver

A few hours later, we stopped for ramen at Kintaro in Vancouver. (Anyone going through Vancouver should make time for this. The broth smacks of pig, the noodles are fresh, and the service is pure Japan. Plus, your meal doubles as lip balm, which is great after six days outside.)

I floated some fresh wakame seaweed in my bowl, and the first spoonful came up with an inukshuk in it:

Inukshuk in my ramen

Maybe there is hope, after all. Maybe next time I gear up to ski for a week, I’ll find my inner inukshuk, and remind myself to find a little more balance. Hope: good. Friendship: good. Self-destruction: bad. I’ll make it three days, so I don’t come back and dive into hibernation. I’ll remember that skiing well and having fun doesn’t necessarily require skiing most.

Or, as my brother so astutely pointed out after my last post, I just have to stop squeezing the shit out of life’s fishes. I think that’s what he was trying to tell me in the first place.

He is the ideal role model:

Josh snoring

Here’s a stew we made the first day. Frank and I piled the ingredients into my slow cooker before we headed out to watch the race. We’d hoped to sear the meat, but the shitful pans in the condo didn’t get hot enough to give the meat more than a good steam, so we skipped that part, and just put the floured meat right into the pot along with everything else. I’d love to say we noticed the difference, but coming home from a long day on snow, tired and hungry, I’m not sure we did.

slow-cooked stew

Easy Slow-Cooked Beef Stew (PDF)

Here’s a dump-and-go version of Boeuf Bourguignon that feeds a crowd after a day outdoors without much mothering. You can brown the meat if you have time, but we just tossed it in flour and dumped all the ingredients into a CrockPot before we took off. Nothing fancy, just delicious, low-maintenance sustenance that keeps the wheels turning.

TIME: 30 minutes active time, plus 10 hours cooking time
MAKES: 4 to 6 servings

2 1/2 pounds beef stew pieces
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 large leek, thinly sliced
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1” pieces
1 pound crimini mushrooms, quartered
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 cups dry red wine
2 cups low-sodium beef broth
1 pound fingerling potatoes, cut into 1” chunks (chop just before cooking)
Hot pepper sauce (such as Cholula or Tabasco), to taste
Sour cream, to taste

Pat the beef pieces dry, and mix with the flour in a large bowl. Season the beef with salt and pepper on all sides. (If you have time, sear the meat here in a bit of oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed pan, until nicely browned.) Add the meat to a large slow cooker, along with the onion, garlic, leek, carrots, mushrooms, herbs, wine, and broth, and stir to combine. Cook on low heat, covered, for 10 hours, undisturbed.

Before serving, place the potatoes in a small saucepan and add cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender. Drain, and add potatoes to stew. Season stew to taste with additional salt and pepper and hot pepper sauce, and serve hot, with a dollop of sour cream, if desired.


Filed under Beef, recipe, travel

331: Pan-fried razor clams

Pan-Fried Razor Clams 2

If you search YouTube for videos of razor clamming, like my friend did when he wanted to show his family what we did on Sunday evening, you might find this one, which makes it look absurdly easy.

This is not razor clamming. This is a video of some guys who fitted razor clams with magnetic attractors of some sort, planted them in a bed of fine, pretty sand in their back yard, washed them over with water to make it look like the tide had run out, and dug them up using a clam gun (that big, heavy, metal tubey thing in the video) and some sort of X-ray sensing device to determine precisely where the clams were located.

But that’s not how it really works. Not for me, anyway.

When I learned that razor clams thrive up and down Washington’s eastern shore, my reaction was mixed. Sure, I’d love to forage for my own food, but truth be told, I’m not a huge clam fan. With regular clams – quahogs or cherrystones or even tiny Manila clams, or especially littlenecks, with their leathery little siphons – I get a little grossed out when my teeth find the barrier between the smooth, thin muscle and the viscera it protects, and when popping one in my mouth means finding a few grains of sand to grind between my molars, I cringe. It’s a texture thing, I guess.

But razor clams are different, I heard, at least the ones found around here. When you clean them, you take the stomach out entirely, and open them up in such a way that the sand gets washed away, so what’s left to cook is pure muscle. No guts, no sand. They’re the boneless, skinless chicken breasts of the clam family, as my friend Jill put it.

That’s why on Sunday, with the afternoon sun beating in through the windshield, I set myself adrift toward Twin Harbors beach in post-Thanksgiving traffic with a buddy, a dog, and a razor clamming license, determined to find a clam I could call a friend. Instead of that handy clam gun, we came armed with one shovel and our respective arsenals of waterproof winter clothing.

So here’s how it does work: You follow two small children around, depending on them to see the signs of life under the sand that you are somehow completely incapable of recognizing. They tell you to dig, and you dig, not down a foot or so, like in the video. Actually, that part’s true, you do dig a foot or so down with your shovel, first. Then you fall to the sand and start heaving sand out in messy handfuls, like you’re pawing through a giant vat of 34-degree Cream of Wheat, and you feel your dog staring at you. She’s got her head tilted to the side, wondering who the hell taught you to dig like that. But as soon you feel the tip of the clam, it digs down farther and slightly seaward, so you flatten your chest to the sand and get your whole arm involved, right up to the armpit. You have to make sure you have your watch on and the sleeves of your fleece a little bit open when you plunge your hand into the liquefied sand, so that millions of hard little particles dive directly up your sleeve, where they exfoliate your elbows, and down under your watch band and into your good biking gloves.

Then, and only then, do you bring the clam up. Sometimes, when the sand at the surface of the hole solidifies around your bicep and elbow, getting one’s arm out requires significant effort and considerable grunting. I’d guess I dug faster than the clam did about half the time, and of the twelve clams I did manage to finally drop in my square yellow bucket, almost half had shells I’d shattered with the shovel on the way in. Poor guys.

Then, when the children you’re with have caught their limit (I’m pretty sure the five-year-old beat my catch) , and you’re limping back to the car, filthy with sand and freezing and happy even though your clamming skills really do need some work, you have to sing a clam song. There’s no particular song; it’s not like sailing, where there’s a song for the mainsail going up, a song for the anchor, and a song for washing the deck. In our case, it was a variation of the Twelve Days of Christmas (again with the Christmas carols?). We started in the middle somewhere: Six buckets swinging, FIIIIIVE MANGLED CLAMS. Four clamming shovels, three cold butts, two new diggers, and a. . .

We never did figure out what could stand in for the partridge.

I have to save the nuts and bolts of cleaning and cooking clams for better-paying print, but here’s what they look like before you get those gorgeous shells off:

Granddaddy razor clam

Here’s the video I took (with my husband’s camera, which I will soon return to him, because my camera’s baaaaaack!) of someone showing me how to actually clean the things.

And here’s a clam without any clothes on:

Raw, cleaned razor clam

If you’re patient and good with scissors, you can clean them so that the digger (the part on the right) stays attached to the rest, and nestles into the little hole you see in the body on the left, but it will still flop around when you cook it, and the digger takes a bit longer to cook than the body, so why bother?

Oh, and on the eating part: They don’t taste like regular clams. They taste so much better.

But what does one do with them, you ask?

Not much.

Late on the night of the dig, we dredged them in flour and fried them up in olive oil. It was a good choice – the clams were still tender, and not at all leathery, like I hear they can get if you cook them too long – but I wanted more crunchy texture, and a little more flavor. Yesterday I dusted them in cornmeal and fried them up in butter. After all that clam killing, I felt somehow nicer breading them in something with a sandy texture. You know, remind ’em of home. Twisted? Maybe.

Frying razor clam

There’s not much to it, really. You just season a clean razor clam with salt and pepper, drop a good knob of butter into a pretty hot pan, dredge the clam in cornmeal, and sear it for a minute or so on each side. When they cook, the clams curl up a bit, like bacon in a hot pan, and if the razor clams weren’t so neatly cleaned (they weren’t all this pretty), the two halves of the clam splay out and bounce around in the hot pan like the legs of a very unfortunate frog. You can squeeze a bit of lemon over the top when you’re done, like I did, or just eat them, as fast as they come out of the pan.

Pan-Fried Razor Clams 1

It is so worth going.


Filed under kitchen adventure, recipe, shellfish, travel

Waiterly Conduct

Meyer Lemon Rosemary Tea

It worked. The Meyer lemon and rosemary and honey thing worked, and by noon yesterday, my voice had morphed back to normal, and when I stood up to read, my epithelial muscle bounced happily along my vocal chords; I sounded much more like a normal human being than I had 36 hours before.

Plus, my family was a big help. My mom showed up, flew in from Boise just for the occasion. And my brother left me a useful phone message: Hi. It’s your brother. Just wanted to give you a heads up for your reading tonight. If you go top to bottom and left to right, you should be all set.

Thank goodness he called.

But the highlight of the evening wasn’t standing up in front of a crowd, or wearing my new dress, or tasting how Tom Douglas interpreted courses from the dinner I read about. It was when a woman walked up to me and asked me if I have arthritis.

She seemed a little shy, at first, but her smile was kind. I read in your bio that you write for Arthritis Today, she said. Are you . . . She trailed off, uncertain what she should say next. She introduced herself, telling me she’s done some food writing, and also has rheumatoid arthritis. I told her I have lupus, and suddenly we were long-lost friends, yelling like crazy people about spoon theory, methotrexate, and hair loss, hands flying, voices trilling above the food talk around us. We hugged and promised to start our own support group, and I spent the rest of the night wondering how it had taken me so long to find her. Just last weekend, I finally admitted to myself and my husband that no matter how many people comfort me, support me, encourage me, something about having lupus makes me feel entirely alone. But now. Ahh. I found a buddy. And I don’t even know her last name.

Anyway. Here’s what I read (published over at Leite’s Culinaria), if you’re interested, a piece called Waiterly Conduct. (There’s an audio version, also.) It’s a shortened version of something I posted here in April. Click here for the original (and outrageously long) version.


Filed under media, review, travel

Twenty-seven hours of gastronomical fantasy

Here is a short list of foods, most of which (in their most “gourmet” preparations) I would consider outrageously rich, exorbitant, perhaps unsustainable, caloric, and/or worth obsessing over or possibly (at times) avoiding entirely: fois gras, truffles, lobster, game, rare/exotic fruits, heavy cream sauces.

These are foods whose allures I habitually claim immunity to, but when given the option of actually eating them, repetitively and in mass quantities, I always indulge. They are my fantasy foods. An incomplete list, to be sure. You must have yours.

In the last twenty-seven hours, I have eaten: fois gras, fresh Burgundy truffle, lobster, elk loin, possibly a full pound of chocolate, two croissants, soft culatello, quince prepared three ways, homemade pasta, farro risotto, creme brulee, fresh macaroons, Seattle’s best baguette, and many varieties of good wine, including more than a few sips of champagne (2 kinds), ice wine (2 kinds), albarino, gruner veltliner, pouilly fuisse, pinot noir, syrah, oloroso sherry, and port.

And yes, actually, I will be skipping lunch today, because I’ll probably be having pizza for dinner. I am currently in a state of gustatory and digestive shock.

Woah, you say. Back up.

Yesterday, my cell phone’s worst alarm tone ripped me out of bed at 5 a.m. I’d placed it across the house so that my ass had to physically leave the bed to turn it off, and as I stumbled through the dark toward the noise, it occurred to me that “5 a.m.” probably doesn’t sound like a good way to start any fantasy.

In the moment of heightened silence following my successful alarm diffusion, I remembered why I was awake: I’d be spending the day baking with William Leaman at Bakery Nouveau for an article I’m working on. Then my husband and I would spend the evening at Salish Lodge & Spa, a forced attempt at true relaxation that happened to coincide with the introduction of Chef Roy Breiman‘s new fall menu. So yes, it was to be a sort of gastronomical fantasy day, all in the line of duty.

Continue reading


Filed under review, travel

A long-winded way to say “we had a great time”

Gas pump in Wallace

I think it had been ten years since I used a gas pump like this. When we pulled up next to it in Wallace, Idaho, in the only vehicle in sight without a gun rack, I should have seen it as some sort of omen: Our weekend in Montana would be a time warp, in the very best way.

The drive to Big Sky brought the sense of distance from real life that any good vacation requires. Seven hundred miles is a long way, no matter how fast you go. As we hummed along I-90, we had time to realize we were driving the same road we’d taken on our way to Seattle almost exactly a year ago. We had time to take in what’s happened since then, to think of how much of Seattle has revealed itself to us, and how we’ve adjusted. And we had time to think back on our own wedding, and just sit, often quietly, together. Time went so much more slowly than usual, which meant we could simply enjoy having it.

Josh and Dani had somehow created a wedding bubble in and around Rainbow Ranch and a few big, comfy cabins along the Gallatin River. The guests were one big family, existing in that very moment for no other reason than to support and celebrate them. The bubble enveloped us the moment we arrived.

The morning of the wedding, about fifteen women gathered on my cabin’s porch, where Sarah, an ashtanga teacher from Boise, lead a vinyasa session in the hot Montana sun that made me wonder why anyone ever decided yoga should be practiced indoors.

The wedding itself brought me into the moment in a way I experience just too rarely – funny thing about time, I always seem so acutely aware of the past and future, and never quite aware enough of the present.

J&D's prayer flags

The ceremony tent was surrounded by prayer flags, both the traditional kind they’d brought back from recent travels, and homemade flags, made from fabric squares on which we’d all written our impromptu wedding wishes the night before.

Dani's necklace

There was very little pomp and circumstance, which I loved. Dani and Josh were wandering around outside before the actual ceremony, hanging out, looking dapper and elegant but not coiffed or artificial.

Josh and Dani, walking in

When they made their official entrance, heading toward a tree branch chuppah carried by their parents, I got an odd sense of watching them from a day far, far in the future, maybe telling their story like a fairy tale. I knew it then, that they’d be forever, and so did everyone else that was there. It was calming, and comforting, in a way, not feeling I had to wish them a fulfilling, successful, happy life because I felt so sure that what lies ahead for them is exactly that. As we watched them exchange vows, I think we all felt a surge of excitement that went beyond our thrill of seeing them get married; we felt that a union like theirs might (pardon the cliche, but there’s one good way to say it) make the world a better place.

Josh & Dani's rings

We all shared a few loaves of challah, toasted the bride and groom, and Josh and Dani circled all 120 of us up into one giant ring of people, to say thank you for being their family. Then we partied.

The food was, of course, delicious and creative. (The Rainbow Ranch is known for its grub, and apparently they’re just as good at it when serving giant crowds buffet-style.) The appetizers were actually interesting: Elk carpaccio toasts, carrot pancakes with smoked trout and horseradish, and vegetarian potstickers, both steamed (for the bride) and fried (for the groom, I guess, or the rest of us). I can’t say I expected Grandma to enjoy them so much:

Grandma with potsticker

I hope she didn’t notice, but I watched her all night. My own Jewish grandmother is gone, and I felt some comfort following her, watching her alternate between ordering people around and pretending to be completely oblivious, just like mine used to do. I wish you could see her make-up up close.

The whole dinner was cooked in a giant gazebo/outdoor kitchen, so we watched as they seared up (perfectly cooked) game sausage, London broil (wait – was that beef, or buffalo?), salmon, etc. (There was no lack of choice.)

London Broil with oregano and chives

This was the view behind my chair at dinner:

View from dinner table

And this was my view across the way (yes, she was that short):

Grandma shorter than wine

We dove into sweet, moist salmon with a chive-garlic pesto (which I must make at some point, to share with you); a spunky, light, thin-cut slaw with cabbage, peppers, and celery seeds; the steak with a Burgundy sauce . . .then the carrot cake Piper and Molly made, complete with little skiers for the bride and groom:

skier on cake

Luckily, Josh and Dani just set up slightly more permanent tent stakes in Mazama, WA, so we didn’t really have to say goodbye.

Josh and Dani

Instead, we hopped across the street to Jake’s Horses, and took a beautiful two-hour horseback ride up above Porcupine Creek. I loved Matt the Horse for schlepping me up 1500 feet for views of Lone Peak and much of the Gallatin River valley, but truth be told, I’m still not sitting all that comfortably.

We took our time coming home. We hit Taco del Sol in Missoula, where immediately after entering a bum passed out against the door, so we were sort of trapped there for a while. The city of Missoula must be a little hard-up for interesting emergencies; the bum brought four vehicles and no fewer than eight officers.

We also stopped in Spokane for a meal with John and Hilary at Elk Public House, whose devotion to our own 74th Street Ale House (a stone’s throw from where I’m sitting) was literally in lights (their website actually gives 74th Street’s gumbo recipe):

Homage to 74th st

After promising ourselves we’d keep it light, since we had another five hours of driving to go, we chowed on intensely buttery garlic bread, topped with caramelized onions and gorgonzola cheese. Its memory followed us home.

And now, in Seattle, time has been fast forwarded, and it’s as fall as the crisp red leaves on the Japanese maple next door. My fingers are freezing. It’s gray gray gray and there’s a light, dusty blush on our grapes, and the sun’s hours are suddenly much more limited.

It must have happened when we were gone. But I’m ready. I hesitate to say I wish this year would end, but when I start counting the recipes down from 100, later this week, part of me will celebrate, for sure.

Carm Onion & Gorg Toast 3

Recipe 262 of 365: Caramelized Onion and Gorgonzola Toasts

Slice an onion into 1/4″ half-circles. Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat, add a swirl of olive oil, then the onions. Season with salt and pepper, then cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until deeply caramelized. (Don’t rush it, they will eventually begin to turn brown.) Add a thinly sliced garlic clove, and cook ten more minutes, stirring. Meanwhile, slice half a baguette in half lengthwise, and spray or brush both cut sides with olive oil. Toast the bread for 5 minutes in a 400 degree oven (or grill it in a panini press). Pile the onion/garlic mixture on top of the bread, sprinkle with crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, and warm another 5 minutes in the oven. Cut into chunks and serve warm.

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Filed under appetizers, bread, recipe, travel

Tito on location, part 3

After some very busy days, I have two profound observations: 1) mudlfats are big, and 2) Korean seafood is good.

The first was obvious during a 5 hour tour (on foot) of the field site. We walked straight out towards an ever receding horizon until the guide stopped and said, “Time to go back– water coming.” Standing in the middle of nowhere, someone asked how far we had gone, and he responed “about halfway.”

The second is a recurring theme, supported by the box lunches (essentially Korean Lunchables) provided by the hotel yesterday: rice, seaweed, baby octopi, pickled peppers, and egg-fried fish filets. Additional evidence includes the grilled marlin at dinner that night, served with a red onion slaw and not the least bit oily.

Both points may need further study.

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Filed under husband, Korean, travel

Tito on location, part 2

Yesterday, disaster loomed large when I inadvertantly began ordering a platter of Polychaetes, which were still very alive and wriggling around on the table next to me. Best not to point at things inquisitively when you lack the vocabulary to say “no thanks, I was just curious.” Backpedaling was tricky, but I managed via spastic sign-language to secure an order of grilled sardines instead. The sardines were quite dead, and they were delicious. Honestly, French bistros around the world should give up and go home– the Koreans have perfected the sardine. Sliced lengthwise (still whole), rolled in cornmeal and seaweed, and served amidst an array of sauces, they were just about perfect.

Other things on the gastronomical list include trying bibimbap, a signature rice dish complete with a fried egg (genuis!) on top, and learning to say mashi isseumnida (direct translation: “It’s tasty!”).

I’m now back in my hotel after a quick trip to the nearby market, where I saw a label on a noodle package that read “MSG, for health!”. I passed on the noodles and purchased a bottle of Soju for 750 won (about 80 cents). I think maybe I’d better mix it with something.


Filed under fish, husband, Korean, travel

Tito on location

Alright folks, I’m breaking the radio silence for the first installment of “Tito goes to Incheon”. Does that sound like a comic book to anyone else? I’ll start working on the illustrations, but first some text:

In a scant 12 first hours in Korea, I’ve already eaten myself into a stupor twice. Last night, it was a massive, carved-stone bowl of what I can only describe as “essence of ocean”. Full of fish heads, spines, and various entrails (some of which I ate around), plus with a menacing red color, I was happily sweating after the first three bites. And I mean sweating. (A concerned waitress came over to ask if I was okay.) This was the perfect follow-on after being introduced to a traditional bath house (yes, the hotel has one), which is by far the best cure for jetlag I have ever encountered. Jokes about naked men and appetite will be omitted lest I loose my posting privileges for the rest of the trip.

Then this morning it was a breakfast buffet to end all buffets. The ubber-hip hotel (I think the walls would continue to pulse even if they turned off the electric lounge music) has eight restaurants all incorporated into one enormous maze-like space. Open kicthens (eight of them, if you weren’t paying attention) and shiny things abound. Breakfast is part Korean (rice, kimchi, dried bits of fish, cold miso soup) and part western (bacon, potatoes, pastries… did mention the bacon?). Feeling a foot (or stomach) in each world, I loaded up a full plate from the Korean buffet, then went back for a western round. The only hitch was the coffee– the convention here is to only serve a half-cup at a time, so the poor waiter was coming back to my table constantly. It’s cruel game for both parties when you can drink it faster than they can pour it.

Alright, time to find some mudflats. Over and out.


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Filed under husband, Korean, travel

A trip to Bainbridge

If normal means staying within sight of Seattle, this past weekend was my first normal weekend in a long, long time. The highlight (besides gardening in the sushine all day yesterday) was a quick trip to Bainbridge Island, a 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle.

Our first stop was The Living Room, a new wine bar on Bjune Drive. If IKEA designed a wine bar to sell its products, it would look just like this: clean, modern lines, fun lighting, gorgeous place settings, etc., but almost completely devoid of the character one might hope for given the place’s namesake. The deep leather couches are as inviting and soothing as any living room couch should be, but it’s hard to feel like you’ve just popped by your neighbor’s house for a quick sip when you’re staring at artless walls and an unimpaired view of what qualifies on Bainbridge as a strip mall.

My glass of wine, however, a Finca de Arantei Albarino singing of peaches and citrus, was fresh and light and summery, and somehow that and the Portuguese red my husband was swooning over both worked with a big slab of flatbread topped with fontina, caramelized onions, thyme, and truffle salt.

Thus fortified, we ambled down to the marina and poked around a bit before settling in at The Four Swallows, a restaurant in a little yellow house up the hill on Madison Avenue that reminded me of Abbicci. Now this is a living room.

There we met Jose, the polite and affable server who represents, to me, all that is good about career waiters. He had style. He shuffled in and out like a male geisha, relaxed but purposeful, conversational but never intrusive, and by the time our wine was poured I knew I needed his help ordering. I’d been waffling between the Penn Cove mussels in a sherry, leek, tomato, and smoked paprika cream sauce and the beef carpaccio, a perennial favorite of mine. But when I asked him for advice, he skipped the first two courses on the menu all but shouted “order the pasta pomodoro!”

It sort of surprised me – I mean, I don’t typically avoid Italian options at the bottom of an otherwise fairly Northwestern menu, but I certainly don’t gravitate toward them. So we decided to share the carpaccio, which was the same alluring combination of soft, clean-tasting beef, excellent olive oil, truffle salt, and Parmesan cheese that caught my palate’s attention the first time I ever had it, at Sweet Basil. I also ordered a shaved fennel and artichoke salad, and the pomodoro, because Jose had seemed so earnest in his recommendation.

The salad, a tangled nest of white flecked with chervil and parsley and doused with a perky lemon vinaigrette, also carried the slightest hint of truffle oil, a successful way of grounding what might otherwise be a dish with only high, bright notes. Also nicely balanced was my husband’s salad, a rather ordinary combination of pears, Point Reyes blue, candied pecans, and greens, done uncommonly well.

Jose’s suggestion was the best of the night: the pomodoro was a far cry from the anemic, thick, pink sauce I’ve unfortunately come to associate with some simple Italian classics. He delivered it with the little bow he seemed to use every time he left the table. A big scoop of cool, creamy mascarpone cheese balanced the pomodoro’s earthy, spicy tomato sauce. I twirled spaghetti and scooped up pine nuts and slurped sauce until I had not a square centimeter of space left in my belly. For hours afterward, it was as if someone had smashed a garlic clove and rubbed it over every surface of the inside of my mouth. I loved it.

We ended (somehow) with a vanilla panna cotta with fresh strawberries, delicious and soft-textured but served in a wine glass, which (to me) sort of skips the magic of how a panna cotta that’s been successfully eased out of a form can be so perfect and linear and yet so jiggly at the same time.

As we walked back to the ferry through the rain, realizing we’d just been on a date, I couldn’t help but wonder what the mussels might have tasted like. Last night I made my own version, which were surely quite different from The Four Swallows’ but will have to tide me over until I can get back to Bainbridge. Closed and raw, the mussels barely fit in my favorite pan, which meant that when I took the top off after steaming them for a few minutes, they all opened and expanded at once, carrying bits of bacon and onion and parsley with them as the whole pile grew up and almost over the sides of the pan. Here are the stragglers:

Bottom of the barrel

Mussels with Smoked Paprika Cream
Recipe 113 of 365

Look for big Mediterranean-style mussels; it’s fun to use their shells to scoop up the rich, creamy broth left at the bottom of the bowl. Serve the mussels with plenty of good, crusty bread and a simple green salad. Two and a half pounds of mussels makes about six appetizer servings, four dinner servings, or an all-out mussel feast for two. (You can guess which one we did.)

Make sure you have a pot with a tight-fitting lid before you start.

TIME: 20 minutes
MAKES: Varies

2 slices bacon, finely chopped
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 – 2 large clove(s) garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon pimenton de la vera (smoked Spanish paprika)
1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 pounds large mussels, scrubbed and debearded
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Note: “Debearding” a mussel is simply removing the little black hairs that sometimes protrude from the flat side of the shell – these are what the mussel uses to attach itself to its underwater habitat. To do it, just grasp the strings (technically called byssus threads) between a thumb and forefinger and pull.

Heat a large soup pot or a 3-quart high-sided sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the bacon and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often, or until the bacon begins to crisp. Add the onions and season with salt and pepper, and cook another 3 minutes, stirring. Add the garlic and the paprika, and stir until all the onions are coated with the paprika.

And the wine and bring the mixture to a simmer over high heat. Simmer for a minute, stir in the Dijon mustard and the cream, and season again with salt and pepper, if necessary. Add the mussels, cover the pot, and cook for about 5 minutes, or just until most of the mussels have opened. Transfer the mussels to a big bowl with a slotted spoon, discarding any empty shells or mussels that fail to open, pour the sauce over the mussels, and sprinkle the parsley on top. Serve immediately.

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Filed under recipe, review, Seattle, shellfish, travel

A Reading Issue: Alinea

My first experience with molecular gastronomy was like so many of life’s great initiations: by definition, the first time can only happen once. Even before I got to Chicago, my anticipation was matched by a twin disappointment, a lurking acknowledgement that once I had experienced Alinea, I could never eat like a virgin again.

The difficult thing about Alinea is that for someone like me, someone who’s relatively used to judging food, it’s a little weird to be dropped into a situation where I can no longer tell whether something looks or smells or tastes right because I have nothing to compare it to. How am I supposed to know if a horseradish-infused cocoa butter ping pong ball has been well executed?

Click here to read the rest . . .

Ping pong ball

Click here for my own slideshow, or here for Alinea’s online photo gallery.

Alinea on Urbanspoon


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Aluminum Chef

Here’s the long version:

When Kathy dropped me off with all the food and equipment we’d need to cook our hors d’oeuvres at the James Beard House in the West Village, I had a flashback to my first day of junior high. We’d thought we’d be earlier than everyone else, but a quick peek into the kitchen revealed a sea of white coats chopping things into identical cubes and strips like a well-oiled Swiss machine. Realizing I was about to pose as one of them, I carefully considered hiding in the coat closet until Kathy returned. Then I thought about how embarrassing it might be to have one of them find me there, twenty-eight years old and curled up on a few cases of wine, covering my eyes with my apron. Bad idea.

I introduced myself and got to work, unpacking and organizing and stacking our stuff and depositing our beach bags and Playmate coolers next to everyone else’s restaurant kitchen-grade coolers and knife totes. It dawned on me (again, only more strongly) that culinary school and four years’ experience as a personal chef made me a small-town mayor in a room full of state governors, in the same business but at the same time completely out of place.

My trusty locker partner finally returned, and I felt my heart rate slow. The guys from Arrows (bless their hearts) promised to help us shuck oysters and plate our food at the last minute, and I felt both a little relieved and a little annoyed; I knew we were ill-equipped to pull everything off by ourselves, but I’d admittedly gotten used to running my own show in my own kitchen and sort of had to swallow my pride when three guys opened 100 Winter Point oysters in the time it might have taken me to open the bag.

We unloaded what looked a wheelbarrowload of shallots and started chopping. About six seconds later Kathy sliced herself. Blood spurted. “Does anyone have a band-aid?” she asked to no one in particular. I felt my face flush hot and grabbed a box of sparkly blue ones I’d spotted earlier.

As the day progressed, a pattern developed: we did what we needed to do, as we’d planned to do it, more or less. (The cocktail sauce fiasco is another story; we didn’t realize one sauce was heavier than the other and loaded 150 shot glasses with the miso sauce, only to have to dump them all out and start again, with the heavier cocktail sauce on the bottom.) We asked for help when we needed it, and learned bit by bit how to do what we wanted to do in a restaurant-grade kitchen.

About halfway through the afternoon, I was starting to feel like a real schmuck asking so many questions. Cooking at the James Beard House was like travelling to a foreign country where I could read and understand the language, but couldn’t talk back. I’d thought I was passably fluent, when I was really not even learning the same words.

Sometime during the course of the afternoon, Kathy sensed my waning self-respect and pulled me aside.

“Jess,” she said, “We have nothing to prove here. These people run restaurants for a living. We write about them.”

She had a point.

And before I realized it, we were part of the same machine, chopping and prepping and tasting and plating and, yes, making mistakes (and we weren’t alone). We laughed and joked and I forgot that we were the only ones who’d never used a sauce gun before that day. When the guests started to arrive and parade themselves directly through the kitchen, all eleven other chefs put down their knives and started helping us, balancing caviar on beet chips and shrimp on shot glasses.

Like I said, our food turned out great. Here are all the photos, if you’re feeling impatient.

We found perfect shot glasses for the shrimp:

Shrimp cocktail with orange-miso and cocktail sauces

We ended up whipping some of the saffron cream for the stew:

Saffron Cream

And the beet chips held up (barely):

Beet chips 2

At first, I thought it was an orchestrated gesture of pity, a massive attempt to help us do what we couldn’t do ourselves. But as our hors d’oeuvres course gave way to the next course, and the next, I realized that once all the prep was done, each chef existed to help whichever chef’s course was next in line, and for five consecutive courses after ours, I stood on the plating line (when I wasn’t taking photos), dipping and dabbing and garnishing and helping the chef’s I’d assumed to be completely self-sufficient.

The food was spectacular in every way. We dubbed it the “butter, salt, cream, and shellfish dinner.” By golly, each diner must have consumed 5,000 calories. (And good LORD, if anyone ever offers you a fois gras crouton, take it and run.)

Here’s Sam Hayward’s course, baked Maine shrimp with miner’s lettuce, parsnips, and sea salt:

Sam Hayward's shrip salad

And Arrows’s main course, lobster tails and claws served on the shell (which they heated by smothering the pre-cooked lobster meat, arranged in the shell, with towels soaked in clarified butter, then shoving the whole thing in the oven so the butter-permeated towels could basically give the lobster a butter facial as it reheated) with fois gras croutons, mashed potatoes, caramelized onions, insane house-cured bacon, and about sixteen other things:

Arrows' masterpiece

They garnished their dish with roasted lobster antennae, which were surprisingly beautiful, if you ask me:

Roasted lobster antennae

And the final course, Price’s goat cheese cheesecake with pistachios, cream, candied orange peels, macerated strawberries and balsamic glaze, of which there was not one single crumb left on any of the 80-something plates:

Price's goat cheese cheesecake

So the food was great. The comeraderie was palpable.

But the whole scene, the sense that life only exists inside a kitchen, all the chatter about applying to be a challenger on Iron Chef (no kidding), and what seemed to be an overarching belief (from a few of the chefs) that one can always make food better than it is when it comes out of the ground, made me very happy to have avoided the restaurant chef route.

It’s always made me crazy that there is no way to classify someone between “cook,” which implies a given set of learned practices and procedures, and “chef,” which hints at something larger, like, say, talent and extensive experience. This is not a small difference. But to people who have never set foot inside a restaurant kitchen, it’s one that’s hard to explain.

I think of myself as somewhere in between. I know how to use a knife. I can prep a three-course meal for six and have every element come out hot and on time, almost every time. I can make pasta from scratch without a recipe. Et cetera.

But my arena is the home kitchen. I don’t use a hot box (hell, I can’t even say it without giggling) or a sauce gun on a regular basis, and I don’t calculate food costs when I come up with something new.

A friend of mine recently accused me of being an iron chef, and to both her surprise and mine, I was really insulted. I don’t cook for sport. I am formed, but not hardened, educated, but not tested. I’d probably qualify as an aluminum chef, if that. And I think I like it that way.


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A prayer for the dying

Here’s the short version of my James Beard House experience: total success. The food turned out beautifully, and between the two of us we only drew blood once. Maine’s best chefs held our hands the whole way, and in turn we provided them with a few good laughs, I’m sure. Afterwards, we went to The Spotted Pig, ate pig’s ears and lamb’s tongue and delicious olive-oil soaked chicken liver toasts, and wondered whether Christina Aguilera, who sat next to us, was actually eating the same things.

Three days later, I still feel like I’ve been hit by a truck. My shoulders are actually bruised and tender in the spots where I ferried food- and equipment-laden bags between the JBH and various Manhattan parking garages.

I came home to find my husband had done just what he’d promised: he’d eaten his way through the fridge and the freezer like a forest fire, leaving only the things that required preparation. When I peered into the produce drawers, I found vegetables too dead to use beautifully but still too useful to throw out. Limp scallions, half-dead celery, and carrots beginning to sprout new, fine hairs from each crease reminded me of how tired I felt. (Which brings up the fact that “hairy carrot” sounds a little like hara-kiri.) Some of the onions were developing a healthy blue layer under their skins.

Major vegetable rescuscitation was necessary. I loaded all the sad specimens (minus the blue parts) into my biggest stockpot and added two frozen chicken carcasses, which I usually freeze and save (after roasting and demolishing) for making chicken stock on lazy, rainy days like yesterday. I think I was hoping that the deepy meaty smell and the warmth of the stove and the ritual of transforming nothing into something would infuse me with the same newness.

So now I have four containers of gorgeous golden stock, but truthfully, not much more energy.

I’ll tell the whole story soon.

Chicken Stock 1

Recipe for Chicken Stock
Recipe 84 of 365

Chicken stock recipes are a dime a dozen, which is a good thing; it’s one of the few things I believe everyone should know how to make. Soups and stews made with homemade stock taste better, period. And the tonic smell of stock bubbling away on the stove has curative powers for me.

I make my stock differently every time, depending on what I have in the fridge, but for economic reasons, I tend to use leftover roasted chicken carcasses (as opposed to whole new birds, which some cooks swear by). Think of this as a general guideline.

On the chicken: after roasting a bird, I pick away any edible meat, chop through the spine and each large bone once or twice with a big, heavy knife to expose the bone marrow (which helps give the stock a great mouthfeel), and freeze the chicken in zip-top bags until I’m ready to use it.

Try it.

TIME: 15 minutes to make, plus 5 hours cooking time
MAKES: 3 to 4 liters chicken stock

Carcasses from two (4- to 5-pound) roasted chickens
6 carrots, tops removed
1 small bunch celery
1 large onion
2 shallots
6 scallions (firm parts only)
2 bay leaves
Handful parsley, chopped
Small handful thyme, chopped

Place the chicken carcasses in a large stock pot. Chop all the vegetables into roughly 2” pieces, leaving any skins (including onion skin) on for color. Add them to the pot, along with the herbs, and fill the pot almost to the top with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a bare simmer and cook, stirring every hour or so and working the chicken off the bones with a wooden spoon, for 5 hours.

Remove the stock from the heat and let cool for about an hour. Carefully pour the stock through a colander into a large bowl (or two), then through a fine-mesh strainer into smaller freezable containers. (Make sure the stock isn’t hot enough to melt the plastic.) Refrigerate the containers overnight, then skim off the fat, cover, label with the date, and freeze in the morning. Stock should last about 3 months in the freezer.

To use, take the stock out of the freezer and run the plastic container under warm water to release the sides, and melt over low heat in a small saucepan.

Note: for easier measuring, stock can also be made and refrigerated overnight in the big bowl, then skimmed and frozen in 1-cup portions in small zip-top bags. Lay the bags flat during freezing for easier storage.

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Clickity Ickity Ickity Clat

I love vacation.

I think Hawaii was fabulous. I think we had four straight days of perfectly unrelenting sunshine, punctuated by cool nights and lots of fresh fruit. I think I slept more than 9 hours on four consecutive nights, and followed each night with an hour-long coffee mainlining session that rocked me gently awake. I think we caught up with friends in that way achieved only by long drives down a sparkling coastline. I’m pretty sure I was the one who broke my own TV-watching record, my ass moored on the couch for three straight hours of Grammy Awards. But I’m not totally sure any of this is true, because I burned up upon reentry.

But I did have a revelation (rather, my friends gave me one) that’s still with me. It’s called The Worry Board.

You probably have places associated with the Worry Board noise. I remember being in Berlin with my friend Beth in April (I think) of 1999, before they redesigned the main train station, and we stood on the platform for our train, watching a German newscaster deliver the news of a school shooting in America. We stood transfixed, believing for a few moments that Columbine High School in Colorado was actually Centennial High School in our hometown. Their tasteless, humorless facades looked so similar in our first quick glance, and we frantically searched the screens for faces we’d recognize. But then the departure board above our head started clickityclacking, pushing our train to the top of the departures list, so we left. Only now do I remember thinking how the sound of the board in that station in Berlin was like a machine gun, insisting its harshest consonants into my brain.

If you’ve been to a train station with any history, you know the noise of a departure board. You’ve watched at the Gare du Nord as your train to London clickiticlatted its way to the top as each preceeding train departed. Now put this noise in your brain. This is your Worry Board. Everyone’s board lists different trains. My Hawaii friend’s board is really for worries. Hers reads:

Where are my sunglasses?
Did I turn the coffee pot off?
Will my sister’s plane arrive?
What will we do if the weather is bad?

As soon as they described The Worry Board, I knew I had one. I was shocked and almost a little embarrassed that I’d been riding around my entire life with this thing in my head, unnamed and unrecognized, when it so clearly runs my life. But mine isn’t necessarily a Worry Board. I don’t think about what might happen if something goes wrong, if the oven is left on, if I fail to turn in a project on time. My Board is a stress management system; it’s a combination of a massive to-do list and an anxiety schedule, so I know exactly what I should be stressing out about at any given moment. In fact, I have different boards.

Here’s the top of the one for the local trains, which clickity ickity clats a little more quietly:

Grocery shopping
Water plants
Thank neighbors
Clean cat box
Walk the dog

You get the idea. These are pedestrian, household anxieties. Failure to comply with the lighted signs will not result in punishment of any sort. There’s a good number of them, but they rotate with such predictable frequency that none are cause for alarm.

Then there’s the bigger Board, which makes louder, more head-pounding sounds when the letters and numbers turn. Unfortunately, it’s not organized by time, which means I’m constantly scanning it to figure out what comes first:

Eat Lunch
Pitch Scary Editor
Brainstorm Recipe Ideas
Edit Restaurant Review
Pay Bills
Read 122 New Emails
Try New Chocolate-Flavored Bread in Ballard
Redesign Website
Organize taxes

Clickity clat. And it changes, all the time, even if I haven’t added anything new to it (as if I had control of the Board). So whatever I’ve decided is the second most important thing to do is never actually in the second spot; it’s jumping all over the board, and sometimes, like when I’m on the toilet (I can never pee in peace), I have to do a complete Board scan to figure out what that second thing was, where it went, and when I should do it. And all the big, long-term projects are right there mixed in with the ones that need immediate attention. Clickity ickity ickity clat. The Board is constantly changing.

My brain’s also wired for the Friend Board (people I’ve been meaning to call or write), the Visitors Board, the Wedding Board, the Hopeless Yard Projects Board, etc. The problem is that my Boards aren’t well-coordinated; there is no Board of Boards. Maybe my husband can write me a Board amalgamation program in Linux. Would having one insanely big Board be better than many smaller Boards?

Now that I’ve thought about this a little, I’m sure everyone’s board(s) is/are a little different. Some are analog and noisy, like mine, but some are clean and digital, and color-coded for ease of reading. My friend Abby’s got the new digital board, designed in chic cool tones. It’s a mile long but each time she finishes something, hers makes a clean Microsoft sound announcing its completion. My mother’s board is made of hand-written Post-It notes, some of them fluttering down as they lose their stickiness, landing on the tracks of the trains pulling in, never to be seen again.

My husband only has one board. The board only has five spaces (mine has about 35). Each item on the board is hand-chiseled into a long piece of sustainable mahogany, which means that by the time each item is put up, he’s gained enough momentum to work on that item alone, which gives the chiselers time to work on the next thing. He either doesn’t hear the chiseling or can’t see it; I don’t know which. But his Board doesn’t flip incessantly like mine does. Click. One old thing going doesn’t necessarily mean one new thing coming, and the boards don’t change by themselves. Clat. I think my board went to Hogwart’s. I stand under my Board watching the tiles fly, mentally clutching my heart as if I were tied to the tracks of an actual oncoming train. Clickity clat, clickity clat, clickity ickity ickity clat. It’s not that I have so much to do, I’m just programmed to stress about something until I’m incapacitated, that’s all. Healthy, right?

I love vacation because my Worry Boards stop. Not always, mind you, but this time, they did. They don’t get erased, just smothered. Our friend John made us E-muffs (which is how I will henceforth refer to English muffins) every morning with butter and guava jelly, and I caught him one morning, standing in front of the toaster in his pajamas with a (generous) one-muffin butter quota balanced patiently on the end of his knife, waiting for the E-muff to pop up. I stood behind him and admired how he could stand there with the knife in his hand, butter ready – just stand there for what must have been at least 30 seconds, waiting for the toaster to finish its business, without moving, talking, fidgeting, listing, reminding, worrying, or doing anything. He just stood there. I was awestruck. I am incapable of that sort of patience. I bet he doesn’t plan the upcoming hour while he’s peeing.

I did work on it, just so I had one thing on my Hawaii Board. I was eating two, three mangoes a day, not because mangoes are in season in Hawaii (they’re not – these were from Peru, purchased at Kauai Costco), but becuase eating them seems more normal there. I practiced standing at the counter and eating the whole thing in one shot, without darting out to the living room to finish the New Yorker article I’d been reading, putting my hair up, gathering a bag from a shopping trip, etc. I just stood there, cutting and slurping that silky mango texture down. I got pretty good at it.

But now I’m back. Must go see what I can rustle up for lunch from the pantry. But I’m going to work on it, this Worry Board thing. Baby steps. I’ll start by making it a habit NOT to review the Board when I sit down to pee. I’ll pretend I’m emptying my brain.

Clickity ickity ickity clat.


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James Beard House

Guess what? Cookbook author Kathy Gunst has been invited to cook at a dinner featuring Maine chefs at the James Beard House in New York on March 22, 2007. And guess what else? I get to go. How cool.

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