June 1, 2012 § 17 Comments
If you page through my spiral bound notebook stuffed with recipes, you will almost certainly notice that it is spattered and worn and nearly fallen apart. If your eye is particularly of the sort that seeks out patterns, however, you may also notice that somewhere in the realm of 75 percent of the recipes in it are attached to someone’s name.
Beth’s chicken, Peter’s pancakes, Daim cake from Caroline, Liz’s shirley bars, Judy’s scones, Peach’s cardamom bread. And I’m fairly positive that, all around the world, many cooks have similarly labeled recipes, this one from grandma, that one from an old friend, and this one from that lady who used to live down the street. Remember her? She always made the best…
Even some of my cookbooks by acclaimed chefs contain recipes attributed by name to someone else – Lindsay’s sugar cookies or Rob’s famous coleslaw in Sunday Suppers at Lucques, Sally Schmitt’s cranberry and apple kuchen or Eric’s staff lasagne in the French Laundry.
May 29, 2012 § 18 Comments
The last of our guests left this morning, and I’m left with that funny feeling of slight relief and slight let-down after a big event and lots of social time. The apartment feels remarkably quiet and empty, and I have a lot of work to catch up on.
If you mapped out the trajectory of the contents of our house from Thursday through now, you would see how it arced parabolically, from the two of us (well, three, if you count Squid) to five, to fourteen(!), to nine, to four, and down to just two again. And now one, actually, as I sit at my desk at home with my reflections and the puppy for company.
The weekend was nothing short of epic. The belated Syttende Mai party topped the charts (I’ll tell you more about it later when I have both my photos and thoughts in order), but we did a great deal more excellent eating and exploring on top of that. Also, can I just say that Minnesotans (former Minnesotans included) make the best house guests! Sure it’s still work, but every time you turn around, someone has done the dishes for you or even gone ahead and scrubbed your stove top.
Anyhow, the odds and ends of a dozen delicious meals are sitting in the fridge, and I’m partaking in the joy of leftovers. Today, I’m particularly loving this pea puree. Its sweet pea flavor and sateen texture are so fresh, so spring, and oh so very, very green. Preppy green. The green of chinos that one might pair with a rather pink polo shirt and a cardigan draped over the shoulders.
May 24, 2012 § 28 Comments
What do you call a large group of guests about to arrive? A gaggle? A bevy? A pod? A platoon?
How about a gift of guests? I suppose one does not without fail feel this way about one’s guests. But, it’s how I think of our guests who are coming for this weekend, so let’s go with it.
We have a gift of guests on their way, trickling in throughout today and tomorrow. And, although it truly does feel like a gift that folks are coming to visit, let me tell you, I could be a circus act with my frenzy of activity today.
With my hands I’m juggling meal planning, cooking, and last minute cleaning (of course the dog would choose to shed her winter coat right now). With the right foot I’m fending off the lions of hostess anxiety, and with the left I’m stomping out a couple of little work/research fires. And on my head is teetering the rest of the to-do list. (Call the vet, water the garden, write that memo…) All I need is a flower that squirts water and a big red nose!
May 21, 2012 § 37 Comments
We spent this weekend in the vegetable garden. It’s hard to imagine a better use of a weekend, I think. You’ve got sun, you’ve got soil, water, and greenery. Those are the four main elements of life besides the ether, right?
My mom loves to tell a story about Pavlov (yes, the same Pavlov who was into studying dogs salivating in response to bells) who at some point in his adult life became severely ill. On the verge of death, he asked his assistant to bring him a bucket of soil from the river nearby. He buried his hands into this dirt, playing with it, and filling his mind with the memories of playing in the dirt when he was a child. The delight and strength this brought him helped him break his fever, and, miraculously, he recovered completely.
I’m rather fond of this story, myself, actually. Being in touch with the earth, quite literally, through the process of digging your hands into it does feel to me like it has this power to bring an unmistakeable sense of peace and wellbeing. I sure felt that way this weekend, crouched in the dusty, weed filled span of our garden plot, ferreting out weeds and replacing them with seedlings.
It was high time we got ourselves over there, for many reasons, not the least of which was that, because of some scheduling snafus and other everyday trivialities, we had neglected the garden right up until this weekend. We had neither weeded nor planted anything. I joked that we were going to leave it feral and use it as a foraging garden.
May 17, 2012 § 26 Comments
Gratulerer med dagen! Happy birthday! To Norway.
Yes, as I’m sure you realized the very moment you woke up today and had your first conscious thought of the morning, it’s Syttende Mai, and it is a day for celebrating! I’m doing a little flag waving and national anthem belting, and I’m sure the bottle of aquavit will come out for a small nip this evening. But, for the second time ever in my life, I’m neither attending nor hosting a party.
(The first time, I was in fifth grade, and I was stuck on a week long camping field trip. We did a lot of outdoor education at my school. And, though it probably would seem to an outside observer that it would be fun to be camping for a week in May, it is, in fact, not at all fun if you are a)missing one of your favorite holidays and b)under an unbelievably aggressive siege by bloodthirsty wood ticks. They were crawling all over our tent. When I got home I picked over 30 off my body. It was nightmarish. It could have been one of the plagues. Goodness knows why I continued to love the out of doors after that.)
Anyway, it feels extremely odd.
The reason I’m not hosting a party this year is several fold. Partly it is because we are in the midst of another round of data collection this week and the timing couldn’t be more difficult for party planning. But, that on its own wouldn’t stop me. It is mostly because I have a slew of visitors coming in a little over a week, and I’ve been putting all my spare time and energy into crafting an epic, but belated, celebration for all of them to attend.
May 14, 2012 § 35 Comments
The past couple of semesters, I’ve taught a graduate class on theories of behavior change in nutrition and public health promotion. (Talk about a mouthful of a course name, right?!) One of my favorite theories we cover in this class is one called Self Determination Theory.
I like it because in many fields, health promotion most definitely among them, we spend a lot of time thinking about what people are doing wrong and trying to figure out how we can convince them to do what we think is best for them based on what we (the experts, that is) think is important. And, when you spend a whole lot of energy focusing on the many things people aren’t doing or don’t really want to do, it’s easy to forget that people are also capable of amazing joy, creativity, curiosity, and completely intrinsic motivation.
Self Determination Theory is exactly about that. About where people’s motivation comes from and how the more they can connect a behavior with things that intrinsically motivate them, the more they will internalize that behavior, and the more likely they are to keep doing it.
May 2, 2012 § 24 Comments
As any self-respecting, French speaking, art and food obsessed college student would do, I spent a semester abroad in Paris my junior year. According to my transcript, I was studying something along the lines of French language and literature. According to me, I was doing an intensive independent study in hot chocolate and pastries. Intensive.
I made a point of going to a different spot and trying a different pastry every day. I roamed the city, exploring quaint neighborhoods and corner bakeries, charming cafes and hyacinth-lined gardens. If my study-abroad major was pastries, my study-abroad minor was people-watching. And dodging men who were intent on getting to know me – solely because I was blonde, and because they were French, and that seems to be the way of things.
Choosing walking as my preferred mode of transportation, I also wandered through plenty of neighborhoods where I quite possibly shouldn’t have, or at least wouldn’t have selected as a destination. But, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do to get from point A to point pastry.
April 24, 2012 § 8 Comments
I have a problem with, no, let me rephrase that, it’s not really a problem, but I have a predisposition toward collecting little scenes that I see during the day and immediately turning them into images or metaphors for something else. There’s nothing wrong with this at all, of course. In fact, it’s quite handy at times.
But, today I want to share three vignettes with you that I like so much, I’m refusing to let my brain get all allegorical with them, even though it would be easy enough to do so. I’m simply going to share them with you. And if you’d like to turn them into your own metaphors, by all means, go for it.
The first, I saw when I was running in the arboretum near our house this weekend. It was swarming with birders, like bees pacing busily about their hive. A group of them was standing a little ways back from a tall pine. Each person in the group had binoculars plastered to their eyes. They all peered upward, craning their necks, searching for something in the empty tree. Meanwhile, a giant, chestnut colored red tailed hawk swooped down from the tree right behind them. It stood on the ground, unnoticed, for a while, cocking its head at the birders curiously. Then it took off, still unseen. I chose not to say anything.
March 31, 2012 § 11 Comments
The other day, I stole a few moments to bop over to Sara’s lovely blog, Sprouted Kitchen, to take a peak at what she had cooking. When I arrived I was instantly arrested, not by the recipe but by the quote she began her post with.
“Beet’s concentrated jewel-like color is both its joy and its downfall. It is Murphy’s law that it should marry so happily with the virginal white of goat cheeses, mascarpone, and thick puddles of creme fraiche, none of whose looks are improved by a pink stain curdling the outer edge” – Nigel Slater, Tender
This captivated me. This simple, beautiful statement that captures so much of the personality of beets. They are enticing and they are challenging, colorwise, flavorwise, every which way.
March 16, 2012 § 33 Comments
This is where I am right now: it has been quite a week. Actually, to be perfectly honest, and for lack of a better way to put it, it’s been a pretty terrible week. It could have been a worse week, and for that I’m thankful – that it wasn’t worse – but, it has still been the sort of week where, at the end of it, you need a really effing huge (and I almost never use fake expletives, so you better believe I mean this) glass of wine to salvage any vestiges of sanity and good humor you may have hiding somewhere.
The week before was a rough week, but it was merely busy. It was just work. I can handle work stress with a tearful breakdown only every couple of weeks (crying is how I seem to let emotions out. Any emotion. Happy, sad, angry, stressed…It’s not convenient, but it’s how I work.). But this week it got personal as well.