April 15, 2013 § 30 Comments
I wrote this post yesterday, before the horrifying explosions in Boston, and I’m posting it anyway as it is, but I cannot not start by saying that my heart is sobbing for Boston. For the past seven years until this year, every marathon Monday I have either been cheering near the finish or running the marathon, and so many people I care for were nearby today, though they are all safe as far as I have been able to discover. The Boston Marathon is such a joyful pageant, a show of camaraderie and of the amazing strength of the human body. It is tragic, it is unbearable as always, to see such goodness attacked. That’s the very essence of an act of terrorism, I guess, to attack something good and meaningful to try to frighten people out of participating in the goodness life has to offer. I often don’t actually feel strong enough to keep hoping and living joyfully in the face of such uncertainty, pain, and cruelty. I am overcome with sorrow. I pray for strength for Boston, and for all of us.
I’m in the process of working on a redesign of this site (and it will in a couple weeks be moved, finally, to fiveandspice.com, woohoo!). And when I say I’m working on it, I really mean that the wonderful and talented Melissa and Erin of Wooden Spoons Kitchen are doing the heavy lifting, and I’m pelting them with questions and thoughts, and they’re helping me and making sense of it all admirably. I can’t wait until it’s ready and you all can see it!
In the redesign process, I’ve had to spend a lot of time thinking about what this site is about and what makes it unique, while also spending lots of time looking at other beautiful blogs to guide the redesign and show what I like and don’t like in a look, and voice, and so on. This, I’m sorry to say, sent me into a nice little bout of comparison, which is a worthless way to spend your time. Comparison is the thief of creativity, and yet is nonetheless something that I am horribly prone to. When I go down the road of comparison, I forget that I exist as anything except as how I stack myself up against others (and I never ever stack myself favorably).
There are so many cooking blogs, I wailed to myself. So many are so gorgeous, clever, unique, thoughtful, creative, have well-tested recipes. What am I even doing trying to participate? Am I just adding to the clutter of an already crowded space? Just adding noise to the din of the argument about what and how we should eat? I’ll never be the best (wah)! What’s the point?
I worked myself into quite a sad, sorry state of worthlessness. And then of course I ran into some nicely lettered quote on pinterest that said something like, “The forest would be a quiet place if only the very best songbirds sang.” Which was totally annoying to see in that moment because I wanted nothing to do with sage advice, or with the truth, or with being reasonable at all. I didn’t want to be an adult! I wanted to wallow!!!! I wanted to fester, to poke at my (self-inflicted) bruise!
And then I had to laugh at myself. Because as soon as I could admit that my ego really just wanted to throw my own little pity party with me as guest of honor, I could see the pointlessness of that behavior, and how utterly true that “annoying” quote was. We exist totally separately from how we compare to others. We each exist in our own remarkable uniqueness. We each have our own voice, and adding that voice to the chorus, if we are singing true, will never be adding clutter. « Read the rest of this entry »
March 14, 2013 § 24 Comments
I’ve been going through a spate of soup-mania lately. Vast quantities of soup have been making their way from the kitchen to my lips. It’s practically all I want to eat.
I mean, I always like soup, but right now something about the world, the liminality of so many things – not the least of which being the season – is making soup particularly appealing. When you’re in between winter and spring as well as all sorts of projects, just waiting (and waiting (and waiting)) for people to get back to you about pesky little things like edits and comments, what better to do than a little slurping? Soup is there to oblige all slurping needs. Also, I have a private theory that I’ve been dehydrated because of the dryness in the air, and my body is trying to make up for the fact that 10 or so cups of water a day just isn’t quite enough by steering me towards eating liquid food as well. Is that even possible? Not sure.
Anyhow, I’ve had avocado soup for lunch for about 5 days in a row. We’ve had sourdough tomato soup, and Norwegian fiskesuppe (with some extra parsnip and tiny arctic shrimp added), and creamy squash soup, and pho. To name just a few. I also just had the sudden flicker of a memory of a spinach and pine nut soup that I used to make for dinner parties in college (because I hosted dinner parties in college. With no kegs or even drinking games. Because I was that cool.). I’ll have to make that some time soon because doesn’t that sound good?
This soup, though, I consider the culmination of sorts (though not the sort of culmination that signals the end. No way. More soups to come, so if you’re a soup person you should come on over…). The soup to rule all soups, you might say. A soup so filled with wonderful things that it is a considerable stretch to call it a soup. It should be eaten with a fork. Indeed, it should be so thick a fork should stand right up in it. « Read the rest of this entry »
February 26, 2013 § 17 Comments
This past weekend Joel and I were in Wisconsin for the American Birkebeiner. The Birkie, as it’s called, is the largest Nordic ski race in North America and the third largest in the world. Every February, thousands and thousands of skiers descend on the tiny town of Hayward, Wisconsin to subject themselves to over 50 kilometers of hilly, sometimes icy, always beautiful, and invariably intense cross-country ski racing.
From those not used to it, I’ve heard it’s really a cultural experience.
My family has been going to the Birkie for as long as I can remember. There’s a children’s race, called the Barnebirkie (which is Norwegian for “child Birkie”) the Thursday before the big race, and my brothers and I started skiing it when we were still so little that my mom had to walk beside us the entire length of the 1 km toddler course. My parents would then do the grown up race on the weekend.
I started skiing the half Birkie in high school, and I did the full a couple of times while I was in college. But then I up and moved to the East Coast and was never able to make it back in February (much less train for it, anyway), and so the glorious Birkie weekend full of the excitement of a giant challenge and the fun of meeting up with and staying with friends, comfortably sharing tons of good food and wine and swapping war stories after the race is over, became something I just heard about over the phone each year.
But now we’re back in the upper middle of the country! And one of the first things I did upon arriving at our new home in Northern Minnesota was to register both Joel and myself for the Birkie.
So then we had to start training like mad. Trail runs and hikes followed by skiing and skiing and skiing as soon as there was snow. Sadly, fate conspired against me and last week I found myself feeling substantially under the weather and completely exhausted. Things didn’t get any better going into the weekend, so I had to bow out of skiing the race (small strangled sobbing noise). I still went with and did part time cheering duty and full-time relaxing duty at the cabin where we stay, listening happily to everyone’s excited stories of how terrible it was this year (tough conditions make for even more satisfying suffering). Next year, though. Next year I plan on being fully well enough to ski. « Read the rest of this entry »
February 12, 2013 § 26 Comments
aka Fat Tuesday buns, if you don’t know what any of those other things mean.
Yes, it’s Fat Tuesday, and while in some parts of the world this means shiny beads, and raucous parades with floats, and beignets, across Scandinavia, it means buns. I don’t know the history of how this particular regionally specific way of preparing for Lent came to be (I mean seriously, why buns? Why not, I guess.), but since I grew up with it, I’m awfully fond of it.
Basically, I wait for this day all year, just so I can eat these buns.
The best known of the Fat Tuesday buns are the Swedish semlor (the plural of semla). Theirs are sweet cardamom buns filled with almond paste and whipped cream. If you’d like you can drown them in warm milk before serving. Danish and Icelandic Fat Tuesday buns are more like pate a choux, stuffed with whipped cream and jam and topped with chocolate (and here I must also admit that the Icelanders actually eat theirs on the Monday before, which they call bun day. Those Icelanders, always trying to be different…). « Read the rest of this entry »
February 7, 2013 § 18 Comments
Even when you’re a northerner through and through, and you cherish each of the four seasons, there are times when winter starts to wear on you. Just a little bit.
There are times, when it’s been a while since the snow cover has been refreshed and a while since the temperature has been above single digits, and it starts to feel drab and dreary and repetitive. It loses its luster the way snowbanks do as they get trampled over and sprayed with dirt.
But then, in the midst of all that, you may have a morning where you wake up to hear the cheery whistle of a songbird, “twee-ooo,” letting you know that it may get up into the teens today, and suddenly the world feels a little more alive. Then, the clouds may roll in and blanket everything with 4 or 5 inches of fresh powdery snow, and the world feels a little more clean. And hopefully, on such a day, you’ll decide not to go cross-country skiing on the groomed trails, even though you have a 50 km race you were supposed to be busting your butt training for, and instead go tromping in the woods, playing tag with the dog, searching for animal tracks, and making snow angels, and then you’ll remember why winter is gorgeous and magical.
Even the most wonderful things need paying attention to, or you’ll forget how very wonderful they are. « Read the rest of this entry »
February 1, 2013 § 19 Comments
So, a couple of weeks ago I had this whole plan in my mind wherein I was not going to make or eat any sweets until Valentine’s Day. Not because of any January, ascetic, resolution-y type of reason. I steer clear of food resolutions in general, and cleanses peeve me. They rub me the wrong way, I guess because I feel like they’re a reflection of our national dysfunctional relationship with food. I know they’re not trying to, but to me they send the message, “you can shove whatever you want into your body without paying attention all year long as long as you spend 2 weeks in January consuming nothing but juiced vegetables and wheatgrass,” or whatever. Which you can’t. You should eat cleanly all the time, and it should and can be incredibly enjoyable, and then also leave room for some good clean fun here and there (like nachos, hehe).
Anyhow, pardon the brief tirade, that’s neither here nor there because the real reason that I was going to forego all sweets for any number of weeks was to create a giant buildup to a Valentine’s Day treat to end all Valentine’s Day treats. In spite of my usual relaxed attitude toward the holiday of love, this year, for whatever reason, it struck me as a fun idea to use it as an excuse to make something billowing, and chocolatey, and gooey, and basically hopelessly, ridiculously rich.
And, I suppose I still may, but a couple of things conspired against me in the last few days to send my plans into a tailspin. First, my dear husband told me that he was going to be out of town on Valentine’s and the surrounding days for a consulting project he’s working on. Insert sad face, but that hitch could be overcome by postponing our Valentine’s celebration until he returned. But the second problem is, I lost my taste for chocolate.
I know: What???!!! Right? It’s completely ridiculous. Who goes from being a devotee of chocolate in all its most intense forms, mousse, sorbet, midnight dark bars, dense flourless cakes, to being slightly put off by the very thought of it? Who???? Sadly, me.
January 2, 2013 § 35 Comments
Happy, happy New Year to you all! Did you ring in the New Year in style?
I know we did. Much more stylishly than we really are, in fact. But if the holidays aren’t a time to up your style game, when is, right?
Perhaps it’s the crash after the high of holiday activity, perhaps it’s that the New Year always makes me nearly as nostalgic as October does, but I’m now left feeling quietly morose. “Another year,” a voice somewhere inside of me sighs, “another year, and I still don’t understand.”
So I’m sitting in our living room now, which feels dark as the Christmas twinkle lights have all been put back into boxes, wondering to myself, ‘understand what? What do I so yearn to understand?’
The answer, I’m sorry to say, is anything and everything, as far as I can tell. The answer is Life.
Day by day life happens, intermittently glorious and terrible, and I don’t understand any of it. At all. Not a bit.
I’m suddenly remembering a quote my mother told to me earlier this year (I’m not entirely sure of its origin), “this thing of which we speak cannot be found by seeking. But only seekers will find it.”
I don’t entirely understand the quote either, but it speaks to me about life and meaning on a level separate from understanding. I feel somehow like that’s it. Like maybe trying to understand won’t get you anywhere. Life just is, it isn’t an entity to be dissected and understood. You have to get out of your own way, but at the same time seek and make that daily effort to get out of your own way. « Read the rest of this entry »