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.
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
Out here, up here
Today I come to you from Sitka, Alaska, where I’ve been since last Saturday, leading a writing workshop on memoir and place. I’m among the faculty for the first-ever Sitka Arts and Science Festival, a week of multi-disciplinary cross-pollination and collaboration dreamed up by the Sitka Fine Arts Camp and several local partners, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts. It’s been cool and misty almost every day, summer-in-Sitka-y. I didn’t bring enough clothing for this weather, even though, after fourteen years in the Pacific Northwest, I ought to know better. I’m re-wearing what I did bring. Today is day four for these leggings, day two for this sweatshirt. I’ve been wearing my cheap Uniqlo down vest, and it spits out tiny white…Read more
I am not, in general, someone who keeps a running catalog of her favorites: favorite movie, favorite book, favorite song, favorite color, favorite number, and so on. A couple of decades ago, if pressed, I might have offered The Shawshank Redemption as my favorite movie, because I have a thing for Tim Robbins, and I also have a thing for Morgan Freeman’s voice, and, of course, it’s also a first-rate story. But then I moved to Seattle and rekindled my teenage love for Singles, which you know all about because I mention it near-constantly, and because it’s the only movie I can actually quote lines from. Still, I don’t know that I’d call it my favorite. That’s a strong word, and it scares…Read more
It seems lately that I’ve found a lot of good reasons to not cook – or, if I do cook, to not cook anything new or anything that requires more than a passing thought. I’m a big champion of scrambled eggs for dinner, as you likely know, and a seven-minute egg on anything that holds still, and I could eat Ed Fretwell Soup for an entire week of every month. I am currently in a very pleasant rut of all of the above, plus whatever-is-in-the-fridge-cut-up-and-dunked-in-vinaigrette and a decent amount of pizza from my own establishments, because what is the point of having restaurants if you can’t eat in them, right? Someday I will cook something new and write about it. But not today.…Read more
I’ve spent half of the past week sitting on the couch with a cold-y, not-at-school three-year-old, attempting to work while holding my neck cocked to the right at a 45-degree angle because she wants to hold a hank of my hair and smell it while she watches Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. We’ve all three got whatever’s been going around, the cough and constant need for Kleenex and now, naturally, a sore neck. It could always be worse, I remind myself; it could be the stomach flu. My hair could be shorter. I could, yet again, have that one Daniel Tiger song stuck in my head. After somehow forgetting about it for a couple of months, I made a fresh batch of Granola…Read more
Greetings from here, where the three of us are still sick. Brandon told me that he counted it up in the bathtub this morning, and he’s now been sick for 27 days. I keep wanting to sit down and write a new post, but all that comes out is blah blah blah mug of hot broth, blah blah blah homemade vap-o-rub that smells nice and feels good and maybe helps or maybe it’s just the placebo effect, blah blah blah sneeze sneeze cough. Illness makes me boring. Things that are more interesting than this post: The great Rachel Roddy was featured in a three-part “cook residency” over at The Guardian, and like everything she does, it’s very much worth your time. The best…Read more
I picked up a roll of film that I shot at Sam and Megan’s wedding last month, and maybe my friend at the lab did some wizardry with the negative scanner, but the whole roll has this glowy, ethereal light shining through it. It’s a decidedly end-of-summer light. I like the way it makes me feel. The past few mornings, our neighborhood has been white with fog, this dense fog that blows up the street in visible gusts, and it feels so familiar and so welcome, but it is a decidedly not-summer thing. I’m writing this from an airplane to Chicago. Brandon is with me (!), and having had a lot of long days lately (hosting a dinner at Delancey…Read more
From the summer of 2006 until the early spring of 2011, we lived in a nondescript duplex on 8th Avenue that shared the block with some other nondescript duplexes and one notably terrifying exception that we referred to as Boo Radley’s house. I didn’t love the neighborhood, but it was mostly fine, and after we adopted Jack, I got to know it well, because Jack, being a terrier, needed a lot of walking. We found our habits. If the sun was out, we’d walk up to the P-Patch at 60th and 3rd and ogle people’s tomatoes and dahlias; if it was raining, I’d drag him for a quick loop around the block; and if it was evening, dark already but…Read more
A month of summer gone already! I don’t want to think about it. I rediscovered my Fuji Instax over the weekend and have been firing off shots like I were made of money. That’s another thing I’ve decided not to think about. I want June to have photo albums from her childhood – proper, three-dimensional albums! With the requisite wonky Polaroids! Like the olden days! Next up: suspenders and a paper route! – so I’m not allowed to fuss over the cost of film or the stupid, stupid, stupid flash that goes off whether I want it or not. Babies: they get your priorities straight. I appreciate that. Though I wouldn’t mind sleeping past 6:30 again someday. It seems like…Read more
Felt like it
HELLOOOOOOOO I’m just off the plane from a week in Oklahoma City with June and my mother, clearing out my teenage bedroom. Fun-wise, it was right up there with surgery in the pre-anesthesia era, especially my senior prom Party Pics. On the upside, Mom and I made a wonderful pea soup (only with half the amount of ham hock, and with dried herbs instead of fresh) and worked our way through approximately four bars of chocolate and an undisclosed amount of wine, and I determined (take note!!!) that the only way to handle letters from exes and otherwise is to shove them dutifully in a box and then pray it gets lost in the mail. We woke up too early every day,…Read more
The days are twice as long
This time last week, I was in a wood stove-heated cottage with no Internet, no telephone, and no television, reading my sixth New Yorker of the day. I am fully caught up with The New Yorker. (!) (!!) Those words may never again be assembled in that order by me, or by anyone, ever. Actually, I should already switch tenses: I was caught up with The New Yorker. Briefly. Past tense. Last week, I had the pleasure of spending two nights at Hedgebrook, a nonprofit retreat for women writers, located on Whidbey Island. It’s an incredible place: just six one-room cabins, a cottage, a farmhouse, a garden, and a couple of woodsheds on 48 acres, dedicated solely giving women the time, space,…Read more
I planted about a half dozen plants back in late May, and I don’t know how to explain it, but they’re not dead yet. It’s difficult to describe how much that satisfies me. I am not a gardener by any stretch of anything, but I noticed the other morning, as I was puttering around (in a pair of old bagged-out maternity leggings and a tank top that I accidentally cut a giant hole in and can now only wear for puttering), watering the plants with my Hario coffee kettle (because I have no watering can, and because I keep forgetting to buy one, and because I am obviously a very, very classy person), that it gives me inordinate pleasure to watch plants…Read more
Friday! Yessssssss. It’s just after noon, and I’m sitting in Essex, my “office” by day, with an imposing to-do list. But before I put on my blinders and get down to it, I wanted to stop by and share a few things that I enjoyed this week. It’s going to be hot (84 degrees! Sunny! HOTTTTT!) in Seattle this weekend, and weekends aren’t really our weekends, living as we do in Restaurant Land, but I have plans nonetheless to get new tires and a rack for my bike, so I can start riding to the office next week. (My last real bike ride was at 19 weeks pregnant and a very bad idea.) In any case, I hope you’ve got…Read more
I’ve been feeling a little under the weather for the past few days, but I wanted to pop in. I promise not to breathe on you. June is going to be seven months old on April 9, this Tuesday, which would have been my dad’s 84th birthday. Brandon says that she has my eyes, and if it’s true, then she has my dad’s eyes, because that’s where I got mine. She and I are flying to Oklahoma City on Wednesday, to visit my mother. June’s first trip to my hometown, to the house where I grew up! It feels like a big deal. But if you’re on our plane, I would like to apologize in advance: June is chatty, and…Read more
I am writing to you, once again, from my friend Ben’s dining room. When I was here last August, writing my brains out, I had a hunch that a return visit might be helpful before my manuscript deadline. Turns out, that was correct. In Ohio, there are no Brandons to distract me, no Delanceys to worry about, no Jacks or Alices to bark suddenly at absolutely nothing and, boom, scare the organs out of my body. In Ohio, there is just a Ben and his nearly empty house, and a twin bed under the eaves with my name on it, next to a window onto which the previous tenant’s child stuck two butterfly decals. My first day in town turned out…Read more
I am writing to you today from my friend Ben’s dining room. If you’ve been around for a while, you might remember that he used to live in Seattle, where he was like a Kramer to us, but he moved away for a job. Now he’s in Ohio, and for a week, so am I. I needed to get some work done on Book 2, and I missed my friend, so I rolled the two into one and called it a writing retreat. I wasn’t sure how it would go, but turns out, it’s like summer camp – only there are no counselors to keep us down, and instead of doing archery and riding horses and gathering around the campfire…Read more
How we do what we do
I’ve been out of town for the past week, helping with preparations for my cousin’s wedding in Oakland, and the whole time I was gone, I had the strangest feeling. It took me a long time to figure out what it was, because I’d never felt it before. Turns out, I missed writing. No offense to my cousin and her new husband. Those people know how to throw a party, the kind that blows out an amp and a subwoofer. But I missed writing. I missed writing! I know that probably seems like a perfectly normal thing to feel, given that writing is what I do. But the truth is, most of the time, I will do anything to avoid…Read more
I could talk about the weather
I woke up this morning and found the house entirely wrapped in fog. If you stood in front of the window in the kitchen, where I stand to make my coffee, you could watch it blow up the street in gusts – sometimes wisps, sometimes great puffs. I called Brandon over to see it when he woke up, and even half asleep, he managed a moderately enthusiastic WOW, which surprised me. The fog horns were blowing. And now, a couple of hours on, the sun is out, searing through it, working its way steadily across the floor. I could talk about the weather all day. I am turning into an old man. The dog does his morning walk of the…Read more
We have some progress
This city has taken its sweet time in getting rid of winter, but I am happy to report that, as of this writing, it is 61 degrees and sunny. Actually, what it really is is 61 degrees and S!U!N!N!Y! At last, we have some progress. We ate lunch outside yesterday. Last night, we came out of a restaurant at nearly ten, and there was still a royal blue glow, the last dregs of sunset, along the western horizon. The pink dogwood tree in the front yard is (sort of) in bloom! The backyard is a jungle! I have no idea how to garden! Everything feels like it’s opening up and starting over. Today, in celebration of all that, I want…Read more