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 live a block apart, within sight of Puget Sound, and that one night in August, when things felt hard and I needed comfort, I pulled out an old t-shirt of his that I’d kept all this time but never worn, a royal blue Classen Grill t-shirt with the logo on the back and the words “peaches and cream” written in four languages on the front. It still smelled like him, and I put it on and slept in it, and I felt better. Wherever he is, I hope he’s doing it up right, as he was in this photo (he’s on the left, with family friend Ed Fretwell on the right), drinking something boozy out of a plastic coupe in a swimming pool, eating well, and grinning about it.
(By the way, as a kid, I was terrified of that pool cleaning device you see in the background, which propelled itself slowly and menacingly around, dragging its long tube of a tail. I half-expected to hear the Jaws theme song every time I got into the Fretwells’ pool. Burg and Ed clearly did not share my fear.)
Speaking of fear: I should have known, knowing this community, that I had no reason to be afraid when I wrote the previous post. I don’t understand it, but you have always been so good to me, and this post was no exception. I’ve read every single comment, most of them more than once, and I want to thank you, a million times over, for your understanding and kindness. What I’ve experienced is something that even I struggle to understand, and your compassion felt like a lot to ask or even hope for. But you offered it to me anyway. I am honored and astounded by what this site has become, and that has as much to do with you as it does with me.
A reader named Rosemary – hi, Rosemary! – left a link in the comments to the poem “Failing and Flying,” by Jack Gilbert. I’d not seen before, and if you’ve not seen it either, I recommend you go take a look. It’s so good and so wise. Thank you, Rosemary.
A couple of other good things: the writer Zadie Smith on Fresh Air, and longtime LGBTQ activist Cleve Jones, too. When I was a kid and my family was doing volunteer work for the AIDS Memorial Quilt, which Jones founded, his name came up often. Cleve Jones was a hero and a celebrity in our household, and I’m glad he’s still out there, fighting the good fight.
And last but not least, a holiday cookies episode of Spilled Milk! With a warning: we recorded this before the presidential election, so prepare to weep copiously when we express optimism about its outcome.
Thank you again. And again and again.
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
Helloooooooooooooooo. I didn’t mean to be gone for so long. I know what some of you were thinking, and I am delighted to report that I did not give up on blogging. I also did not die. But it’s been a long, hard, dizzying summer, I will say that, with, among other things, Herculean staffing woes at Delancey, Essex, and Dino’s. (Did you know there’s currently a shortage of restaurant cooks in a lot of cities, including Seattle? I could tell you stories.) But now that June is in school again, I’ve been able to tiptoe my way back to writing, and that’s a relief. I turned 38 last week, and that too feels good. I’ve also been cooking again, after the lazy, happy ease…Read more
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
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
I first tasted quince the first time I had dinner with my first editor, an exceedingly kind, thoughtful woman of whom I nonetheless was terrified, because she was very New York Publishing World, and because she was my first editor. She had let me choose the restaurant, which only ratcheted up the stakes. I’m surprised that I don’t remember what I wore, because I surely would have labored over the decision with a degree of care most commonly seen among people handling live explosives. The evening went better than I had expected: she told a funny story about her cat and gracefully ignored my elaborate, enthusiastic mispronunciation of the white wine she’d ordered. And when we arrived at dessert, she opened the menu…Read more
I woke up this morning with that itchy feeling I get when I’ve gone too long without writing. I have a writer friend who once told me that she didn’t feel right if she wasn’t writing regularly, that she woke up each morning needing to write, and until very recently, I didn’t really believe her, because it never felt that straightforward to me. (I also wanted, uh, just a little bit, to reach out and strangle her with my bare hands; she made writing sound so easy.) I never felt that kind of imperative to be a writer – or, really, to be anything in particular. Writing sneaked up on me. But now that I’ve been at it for a…Read more
The first time I went to the Oklahoma Arts Institute at Quartz Mountain was in the summer of 1995, a few months after a fire destroyed the lodge, its rooms and dining hall and library. I was sixteen, one of about a dozen high school students from across the state who’d been accepted to the summer program in poetry. Quartz Mountain is beautiful, an isolated chain of red crags along a lake in the southwest part of the state, but my introduction wasn’t poetic: because the library was gone, our class met in a trailer, with a limping air conditioner, folding tables, and a couple of electric typewriters that we shared. But our teacher was the poet Peter Fortunato, brought…Read more
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
Maybe you will remember a day, more than two years ago now, when I announced that I was writing a new book, and that, if all went according to plan, it would be out in the spring of 2013? And then maybe you will also remember that nothing went according to plan, in ways that were hard and good-but-hard and then great and really, really great, and here we are, with no book, in July of 2013. Maybe you will join me, then, in heaving a giant sigh of relief – more than that: a great wind, a hurricane-force gust – that Delancey is not only done, donedonedone, but that it now has a cover. A cover! This thing is ON. I will tell you…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
About three weeks ago, I printed out all the drafts I’ve written so far for my next book, and then I spent three weeks avoiding reading them. I finally got up the courage on Sunday night. I poured myself a beer, sat down at the dining room table, and read through all of it. Afterward, I wanted to stab myself in the eye. But that didn’t seem like it would make the manuscript any better, so I went to bed. I woke up at five the next morning. While I lay there in the dark, thinking about the injustice of being awake at such an hour on my day off, I remembered how rough and horrible my drafts were, and…Read more
I first met my friend Maria in 2005. She had a blog then called port2port – maybe you remember it? – and I can’t remember who found who, but at some point, we started reading each other’s sites. She lives in Portland, Maine, but that fall, she came to Seattle to visit a friend, and we went out for doughnuts and had a drink at the Alibi Room, my favorite bar back then. I was nervous to meet her, because I admired her: her photography, her style, the quiet way she writes, the details she notices in her daily life. I remember feeling amazed by how creative she was, by the fact that she made a living through creative work.…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
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 had a recipe post all ready to go for today, and then I woke up this morning and realized that there was something more pressing to say. That book proposal that I was working on a couple of months ago, it did its job. Because of it, I get to write a second book(!!). I’m so excited about it that my eye started twitching uncontrollably this morning, and several hours later, it’s still at it. I can hardly see straight. When a Paul Simon song came on the radio over lunch, my eye actually twitched in time to the music. This is how excitement feels: like my face is falling apart. Yes, the official announcement came today, in Publishers…Read more
November was nice, but what happened to it? Hi. Our visit to the East Coast was good and long and involved a lot of sleeping and pizza research, the common themes of our days off since Delancey came along. I wrote a story about stuffing for this fine newspaper – you know that it’s not just for Thanksgiving, right? You can eat stuffing whenever you want – and now I’m working on a story for this fine magazine. But lately, my head is very full of Possible Future Book. I want you to know that I thought long and hard before I typed that last sentence. Because now it means that I can’t chicken out. The idea of writing another…Read more
I’ve been wanting to put up a new post for ten days, but I haven’t, because I don’t have a recipe to share. I’ve spent a lot of time worrying, watching the clock do its tick tock tick tock thing, and feeling pretty terrible about it. If you have a blog, you will know what I mean: this stuff is fun, but it comes with a lot of pressure. For a long time – six years on July 29th – this blog has been about stories and recipes, and it always will be. Always. But somewhere along the line, I now realize, writing about stories and recipes began to feel like a rule, like all I was allowed to do.…Read more
Well. It’s hard to know where to start. I’m tempted to jump right in, to say that you should hurry up and put a pot on the stove and make the pasta recipe below and let’s get back to business, shall we?, but that doesn’t seem right. First, I need to thank you. I had no idea that Delancey would swallow me up like that, and I need to thank you for being so patient, so supportive, so good to me. This restaurant is up and running today because of you. I am not kidding around about that. I am also not kidding around when I say this: I’m ready to get back to writing. I can’t imagine not having…Read more
This morning, someone pointed out to me that it has been a month, exactly a month, a whole month, since I last posted here. I nearly choked. The truth is, I’ve been having a hard time. Nothing around here looks the same as it did, pre-restaurant, and to be perfectly honest, though I like this new life, I also miss the old one. There’s no point in trying to hide it. I’ve been dealing with a lot of exhaustion, and it’s been difficult to feel creative, eager to cook and write here – or do pretty much anything except watch Battlestar Galactica on Netflix. It’s a dire situation when you go to the dentist, as I did this morning, and…Read more
Hi, friends. I had the best intentions. I did. I was going to tell you about another cookie today, and a really good one too. But a visitor has been staying with us lately, and he won’t let me into the kitchen. He’s big and burly, 90,000 words tall. His name is Man U. Script, and he’s a bruiser. He’s bossy and demanding, and he makes me sit at my desk for hours and hours and hours. But the good news is that, at long last, he’s leaving on Thursday. He’s getting into a FedEx box and going to New York to hang out with my editor. I can hardly believe it. I don’t know whether to open a bottle…Read more