September 22, 2012 § 16 Comments
I think I have mentioned it before (yup, I have – just checked), but there was a lucky day once when I was home from college on winter break when I got to cook with the Norwegian food writer, cook, and TV personality Andreas Viestad. Ok, it’s not Anthony Bourdain or Jamie Oliver, but for me it was pretty dang close. Even better, actually, being the cooking and writing obsessed Scandophile that I am.
He was giving a book talk and signing at our church, accompanied by a cooking demo. Our family friend and cookbook author Bea Ojakangas recruited my mother and me along with another friend to help with the food preparation.
I’m pretty sure, when it comes down to it, we were asked there more for our Norwegian language skills than our cooking skills, but I wasn’t concerned, I still felt special. From the experience I took away some cooking pointers, a minor crush, and a signed copy of Viestad’s cookbook.
It’s a beautiful book. One I have loved as much for the beautiful landscape pictures that reminded me of all my childhood summers in Norway as for the simple, flavorful recipes. After break, I brought the book back to share with my college housemates as I excitedly told them about getting to cook with the cute Norwegian chef. Soon, everyone in our house – boys and girls alike – referred to Viestad as the “cute Norwegian chef” rather than by name, and a number of recipes from his book had become regulars in the rotation of our household meals (we cooked for each other and ate together 5 nights a week). « Read the rest of this entry »
September 18, 2012 § 49 Comments
We went up into the woods over the weekend. It felt so good. Always does, really.
We went to the Boundary Waters, the forest in Northern Minnesota bordering Canada. A wilderness where the only real way to get around is by slipping a canoe into the water and paddling from lake to lake. There you can glide through still water, bounce through choppy, scramble over beaver dams, dodge moose…the only sounds around are the slap of the paddles, the drips of water, the occasional loon call, or easy conversation with the others in the boat.
Every wild area has its own unique silence and peace. I think that of the Boundary Waters may be one of the deepest anywhere. It affords the most beautiful solitude (and the most comfortable companionship with the others paddling with you) that you can imagine. Where else in the world can you canoe or kayak between hundreds of lakes with only hikes of several – ok, sometimes several hundred – canoe lengths in between? It’s remarkable.
We paddled a nice 12 mile loop on Saturday. On Sunday afternoon we decided to hike up one of the low ridges to take in the views of the leaves that are just starting to show hints of gold and scarlet. On the hike down, for the first time in several weeks, I began to think in earnest about food. « Read the rest of this entry »
May 10, 2012 § 14 Comments
For much of my adult life (starting, even, when I was more adult-ish, than adult), I’ve wanted to have a restaurant or cafe where I was recognized. All Cheers-like, where everybody – or, more realistically, at least somebody – would know my name, and I would know theirs. I’d be a regular.
Perhaps it comes from my small-town girl core, which craves to be situated in a community small enough where you can’t help but bump into someone you know on every grocery store visit. Perhaps it comes from the more universal human desire to belong, to be part of something, to be known. Either way, it’s been a borderline compulsion for years, but mostly just an internal one. I’ve never really intentionally played it out. Either my tendency to explore and try new places would thwart my quest to become a regular, or a high turnover rate in the staff would. (Technically with the latter, I guess I still was a regular, but it doesn’t count if there is no one that greets you with that smile of the eyes that says, ‘hey, I know you! I’m glad you’re back. How’s the family/kids/dog…?’)
April 21, 2012 § 11 Comments
I wish I were better at canning. And not because I’m buying in to some fantastical homesteading fantasy that’s just part of the zeitgeist. I swear. Ok, well, I totally do fantasize about homesteading, we’ve talked about this before. But not for the self-sufficiency part of it, which is what we as a populace are being accused of. I’m way too communal of a creature for that. Homesteading appeals because it is a way of feeling things again, of feeling physical strain toward a goal and of feeling something you’ve made in your hands.
But, the real reason why I wish I were better at canning is so that I can do like my friend Anna did the other night as we were all finishing up dinner. Something in the conversation seemed to trigger a spring in her mind, and she leapt up from the table exclaiming, “do you want some really amazing applesauce that I canned that tastes just like fall?”
April 17, 2012 § 26 Comments
I moved to Boston just about seven years ago. Actually, for those of you interested in geographical specificity, I moved to Somerville. But I didn’t even know what the distinction was between them at the time. On the day I arrived, after having driven through the night, through Canada, with only a two hour stop for a nap at 6:30 in the morning before chugging onward and pulling up to my new apartment at 2:30 PM, I decided to try to take the subway down to the Boston Common and the Public Garden to hang out there in the remaining late afternoon sun. (Actually facing the boxes of my belongings in my new space was simply too daunting. I needed some time.)
The last time I had been in the area was the summer between kindergarten and first grade, and the only thing I still remembered from that experience in Boston was being in the Public Garden. Actually, what I remembered was sitting on the Make Way for Ducklings statue in the Public Garden, and that memory was largely based on a photograph my mom had taken.
In heading towards this destination held in my memory, the very first thing I did (and this is a remarkably easy thing to do in Boston, even if you have a better sense of direction than yours truly) was get on a bus going in exactly the wrong direction. I don’t even know how I figured out I was on the wrong course, except perhaps when the conductor yelled, “Arlington Center!” All I remember is how vivid, and noisy, and full of energy everything felt. I always feel this way in a new city, senses heightened as I eye everything closely trying to discern what it is, what it means, where I’m headed.
April 7, 2012 § 14 Comments
My childhood was filled with snowy Easters, the ground washed out with dirty grey snow banks punctuated by brown splotches as taupe as a suburban housing development. We would collect barren branches at the start of Lent and put them in a vase, and by Easter tiny leaves would be peeping out from the buds. This was the only green to be seen. The only flowers were those in the colorful plastic wrapped pots we brought home from the grocery store.
This is my way of asking forgiveness if I prattle on and on about spring for the next couple of weeks. It’s a bit hard to think about much else right now. Spring in these parts can be a little in your face.
If appearances are anything to go by, the trees have hired the same decorator that did Barbie’s Dreamhouse. The cherries’ branches are waterfalls of tiny pink blossoms. The magnolias are bedecked with large drooping flowers as soft and swishy as ballerina skirts. I always find the pastel palate that industry breaks out for spring to be terribly cheesy, until spring actually rolls around. Then I remember that it’s just honest. « Read the rest of this entry »
March 20, 2012 § 11 Comments
A while back, more years than I’d like to consider actually – oh. yes. that’s a little scary to think about – I took a journalism class. As with so many classes, I remember very little from it. A few things, however, are indelibly stuck in my memory: the inverted pyramid format of conveying information (most important info first, juicy details later), which I found I abhored; the maxim, “if it bleeds it leads” (meaning, violence always get the front page); and the professor’s counsel that the public always wants stories about war, scandal, children, and pets.
I’m not sure I agree with that assessment. Or maybe it’s just that those are never the things I want to write about. (Good thing I didn’t wind up going into journalism!) Except today. Today I want to write about pets, specifically, my pet. You’ve all already humored me so much, but now I’m going to make you listen to just one more story about the puppy.
Because, this weekend, we took her to the beach, and she saw the ocean for the first time.
It was pure joy to watch her awe as she crested a dune and started at the sight of the water. She stared for a long moment, just like I do whenever I arrive at the ocean, actually. Then, she initiated a game of chase with the waves. « Read the rest of this entry »
February 17, 2012 § 24 Comments
I was thinking of calling this butternata, which, to me, makes it sound like it is a sonata of or about butter, which sounds bizarre and wonderful. Don’t you think? But, I didn’t want to mislead anyone. There is no butter involved here – though a generous hand with the olive oil more than makes up for that – except of the ‘nut squash variety.
And, speaking of butternut squash, have I told you about my friend and the bulk squash episode? I probably have already. But, I consider us all old friends here now, which means you’re going to have to listen to my stories, whether or not you’ve already heard them, and laugh and gasp and nod in all of the right places. I can’t wait.
We have a friend who, one fall when he and his wife lived near us, tagged onto our CSA to buy a bulk order of winter squash. And bulk was what he received. I’m not even quite sure how many pounds of squash he ordered, but it was on a magnitude you’d usually associate with a grocer’s. Joel is piping in, “it was probably, like, a hundred pounds. At least.”
January 6, 2012 § 26 Comments
Let’s take a moment to reflect on couscous, shall we? My family, as I recall, seems to have discovered couscous some time part of the way through my tenure in high school. I don’t know how my mother stumbled on it or decided to purchase it, all I remember is that she served it for the first time for supper one day (alongside pork tenderloin and acorn squash if my memory serves me correctly, which it tends to when it comes to meals), and it felt like the epitome of novelty.
I was certain we were eating something flashy, exotic, new, the food equivalent of getting the first version of the iphone, right when it came out. And this fit in lockstep with my budding epicurean ideals – which back in high school, I’ll admit, were more about the appearance of sophistication and taste than anything else. High school. Jeez.
Back then we just ate the Middle East brand couscous with the spice packet mixed in. That was fancy enough for us. (to extend the iphone metaphor: my phone gets internet!!! Oh my gosh! It totally doesn’t matter that it can’t seem to actually make phone calls most of the time…) But, as couscous has completely mainstreamed, I think most of us have come to expect a little more in the preparation of this tiny noodle. « Read the rest of this entry »
December 9, 2011 § 19 Comments
It’s the quality of the light at this time of year, more than just the quantity. There’s something about it. Do you know what I mean? It seeps into my pores, follows me around, tints my day in a very particular way that I can’t quite describe.
When there’s snow on the ground the sun is so amplified during its brief daily visit that you don’t necessarily notice. But, when the ground is brown, littered with twigs and oak leaves, you can feel that the light is almost timid. It sneaks up above the horizon, peaking about with a muted – sometimes pallid – glow. You can tell as soon as it comes up that it’s already contemplating its journey back down, leaving us in darkness again.
I feel as though I barely get my day going and then I’m looking up and it is rapidly becoming dark outside. And, try as I might, even though it may only be 3:30 or 4:00, I can’t really concentrate on getting any more work done.
If I’m working from home, when it gets dark it means it is immediately time to initiate that day’s Cozy Winter Evening, something I feel is essential if one wishes to keep from being overcome by dreariness. For me this involves turning on a couple of our lights that cast a very warm yellow glow, lighting candles is good too, turning on some cheesy music (this is key), and taking a moment to briefly contemplate the tiny Christmas tree that we decorated and now have perched on the dining room table. « Read the rest of this entry »