I got Junie into bed on time tonight, the first night in a week, and to celebrate, I’m sitting at the table, listening to the birds outside, thrilling at the fact that it’s 8:24 pm and I haven’t yet flipped on a single light switch. And because it feels like time is on my side (yes it is, la la la, though probably just for tonight), I wanted to pop in the door and say a small something. Hello.
I don’t feel very interested in writing about food. It has felt jarring and incongruous to write about food and cooking these past months, like I’d be doing that old Wizard of Oz number, pulling levers and pushing buttons, yelling Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain! even though everyone can see what’s going on back here. But I am of course still cooking, because I like to cook. And I can tell you that I’m about to make another loaf of Nigel Slater’s Banana Bread with Muscovado and Chocolate, my second in the past month. I can also tell you that I got a copy of Melissa Clark’s new showstopper Dinner, and I’ve Post-It-flagged approximately 50% of the recipes. I’ve made the Harissa Chicken with Leeks, Potatoes, and Yogurt twice now, and I might make it a third time before I tear myself away to make something else. It’s perfect. I will write about it, if you really want me to, but what I really think you should do is order the entire cookbook. I bought a copy for my partner yesterday, and it is her FIRST cookbook, and if ever there were a cookbook to give someone as their VERY FIRST cookbook, Dinner is worthy. It is also worthy, I should note, of being one’s 1000th cookbook. Melissa Clark is a living legend.
Also notable: I finally got around to making my friend Jess Fechtor’s Buttermilk Biscuits, from her book Stir, and I will now be making them forever. June was so excited about Jess’s biscuits that when they came out of the oven, she leaned in close to the cooling rack, hoping for a sniff, and burned her chin on the rim of the sheet pan. It was sad, but she recovered sufficiently to eat two biscuits. I served them alongside our friend Kathy Gunst’s Roasted Fall-Vegetable Soup, from her book Soup Swap, and I will now be making that forever, too.
But it doesn’t feel entirely right to write about food, as I said, even though I just spent a couple of paragraphs on it. What I would rather do is share with you some things that I’ve been reading. I’ve been reading a lot in recent months, maybe because I’m also in a period of learning a lot, or maybe I’m learning a lot because I’m reading, I don’t know. I’ve been accumulating a list of stories and articles that I didn’t want to lose track of. You’ll see that there are clear themes, notably sexuality and marriage. ‘Tis the season!
- “‘Snack tray’ quickly became a cheerful, wordless conversation about who we wanted to be in the world and how we wanted that world to be,” or, Gabrielle Hamilton on celery toasts, Smirnoff, and Doritos.
- A little piece from A Cup of Jo about what some chefs and food writers (and me) eat for lunch.
- A resonant essay from Alys Fowler: “I began to understand that there is no such thing as coming out: it is a daily negotiation.”
- A chilling piece about anxiety, depression, and loneliness among gay men. Not a fun read – nor should it be – but a crucial one.
- Another not-fun read, but a hopeful one, this time about divorce and a constellation of feelings and realizations for which I struggle to find words. One of you sent me this article, and I’m totally kicking myself for losing track of your name, Kind and Thoughtful Reader! Thank you.
- This post is now three months old, but what Tim has to say is perennially great.
- The same goes for Patti Smith, who shines even in failure. Pa-tti! Pa-tti! Pa-tti!
- This smart and important zine about mental health and wellbeing, from food writer Ruby Tandoh and her partner.
- My best friend and Spilled Milk co-host Matthew Amster-Burton published his first novel in January, and it’s called Our Secret Better Lives. It’s set on a college campus in the mid-nineties, and it has a whip-smart female protagonist, and it’s crammed full of references to ’90s bands and albums. I’ve read it three times, and as another early reader commented, the entire book is like a really good pop song. I love it.
- Another Cup of Jo post, this time an essay from writer Ashley Ford about body image and relationships, and it is SO GREAT.
- Superhuman (and cookbook author!) Chrissy Teigen wrote about having postpartum depression, and everyone who is a new mother, loves a new mother, or even remotely knows a new mother should read it.
- The poem “My Heart,” by Frank O’Hara. Oh oh oh oh OH
- And last but not least, the “Ask a Grown-Up” episode from This American Life.
Thank you, always, for stopping in. This space makes me feel more like me, even when I’m away from it.
There was a chair in the front window of my teenage bedroom, but I almost never sat there. It faced into the room, because all there was to see outside was the house across the street, with its dirty-blond buzz-cut of a yard and a security system sign staked by the door. The chair was next to my bookshelf, and as such, it mostly collected books I was too lazy to shelve. The only time I sat in it, that I remember anyway, was the day before I left for college. It was late afternoon, maybe early evening. My dad was standing in the doorway, one shoulder against the frame. He’d been keeping me company while I kneeled on the…Read more
Today it’s been 14 years since my dad died, and in most ways, it seems like longer than that. I’ve done a lot of living – maybe too much? – in those 14 years. But I can still hear his voice in my head, and I can still feel the hug he gave me in our driveway before I left to drive to Seattle for graduate school, in September of 2002. Burg would be 87 now, and I’m sort of glad I never had to see him diminished by old age – or, at least, not more than he was diminished in his last weeks, as cancer had its way with him. He would be glad to know that Mom and I now…Read more
I’ve always been drawn to the things we’re not supposed to talk about. I remember the night when, toward the end of writing A Homemade Life, I got into bed, switched off the light, and suddenly was hit with a very bad idea, an almost electric impulse to write about my father’s death. I wanted to take it out of my head and put it somewhere else: the color of his skin, the strange percussion of his breath, the nurse calling up the stairs in the middle of the night. I wasn’t writing a book about my dad, and I wasn’t writing a book about death; I was writing a food memoir, tra la la, with fifty recipes and a…Read more
I started my Monday by listening to Blood Orange until my ears fell off, which was nice. Then my friend Jenny told me to watch this (old-news) video (that I somehow had never seen before), and with that, my week is off and running. Hi to you. Now, business: 1. The Guardian kindly invited me to write about a food that evokes home, and I wrote about a dead-simple, bare-cupboard soup that was first made for me by my aunt Tina. That’s her below, on the right, living the early-eighties hot tub life with me and my cousins. Most people thinks that June gets her hair color and texture from Brandon, but world, let it be known that I think she’s got my texture…Read more