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 »
September 16, 2011 § 10 Comments
I feel like I’ve been wanting to make zucchini pancakes (or fritters, I’ve seen them called both. They’re the savory small kind of pancakes, not zucchini bread-esque sweet ones) since approximately the dawn of time. Though, when I think about it a little bit more carefully, it’s more like since about mid-July.
Remember Sofra Bakery and Cafe, which I mentioned a while back? (More accurately, which I gushed over, swooned over, and nearly asked to marry me, even though Joel, I think, would have been slightly peeved if I had run off with a bakery-cafe. I, on the other hand, would have been very well fed. But perhaps starved for conversation. Anywho…) When we were there, I watched (I have a terrible staring habit sometimes) as a young woman, wearing aviator sunglasses if I remember correctly, sprang up to fetch her order when her name was called, and walked back to her seat carrying a dainty copper tray laden with a stack of slim golden cakes, flecked with green. What were they? Whatever it was, I had missed it. My eyes darted up to the menu and scanned over it again. They had to be the zucchini pancakes. I was instantly consumed by food envy.
Then I turned back to my flatbread, stuffed with cumin-spiced sausage, oranges, green olives, and yogurt sauce, and I was pretty much entirely happy again. But, zucchini pancakes stayed on my mind.
August 18, 2011 § 24 Comments
Did you know that eggplants kick their blossoms off if they don’t get fertilized? Just kick them off! Like a bouncer unceremoniously tossing an unruly guest, by the collar, out into the back alley. “And stay out!” I know this now, after a bit of internet gardening-forum perusing, gasping, re-searching, and confirming.
As you may well have imagined, I developed a sudden, keenly focused, interest in the subject after I kept finding the blossoms of our eggplant lying scattered about on the porch below it, completely open and intact, un-chewed upon, as if they had been strewn by an industrious flower girl. I had missed the wedding though.
At first I suspected birds or insects. I imagined little beetles and ants popping the blossoms off and tossing them to the ground, laughing and egging each other on. Like the insect version of cow tipping. Until, finally, one day it happened right in front of my eyes. One moment the blossom was on the plant, and the next it just fell off. As if the eggplant simply didn’t want it anymore and was cutting it off, disowning it, which, I guess, in a sense, is what was happening.
May 6, 2011 § 9 Comments
For some reason I want to tell you all “quick, quick, make this lasagne!” I have an odd sort of urgency about it, and I have no idea why. Maybe it’s that I think the asparagus is going to go scurrying off into hiding before too long, or that soon it will be too hot to even consider baking something 45 minutes, let alone having that something include a creamy sauce. Or maybe it’s just that it’s delicious and we should all hurry up and make it so we can eat it (or eat it again, if you’re me).
Not that lasagne is something you can really hurry. Its architectural layers require some care and engineering to assemble if you want it to come out with beautiful, colored striations, which you do because then it looks a bit like a cool white, green, and brown sandstone cliff. And, it takes some time to bake, no way around that. But, all the more reason to get right to it, and not wait around hemming and hawing about whether lasagne should be on the weekend agenda!
I love lasagne. It feels so pleasantly familial to eat it. Yet, I don’t make it very often, and I’m not sure why. Wait, scratch that. I do know why. It’s because much of the time there are just the two of us here at dinner, and lasagne is the food of the large crowd. The family reunion potluck, the ski-team dinner, the 13 kids are coming for a sleep over what on earth am I going to make, occasions. Often it doesn’t seem quite worth it for two. And though it makes splendid leftovers – I always think lasagne tastes even better the second day – well, if you make a really big one, it can take a little uncomfortably long to work your way through it.
April 7, 2011 § 6 Comments
The Italians have such a way with naming their dishes. I love how they seem to have a sense of humor about it. I’ve already mentioned pasta a la puttanesca, the fast and easy pasta supposedly named after, ahem, women of the street. Strozzapreti, a thick slightly coiled pasta, means “priest choker,” and was purportedly given this name because villagers in Emilia Romagna would feed it to friars who came over for dinner (in those days friars ate free) as a first course in an attempt to stuff them too full to have much room for the more expensive second course, meat.
The nickname for tortellini means “sacred navel,” and one must admit they do look a lot like navels. (Sacred because legend has it that an innkeeper created them after being so inspired by the sight of Venus lying sleeping, he wanted to come up with some tribute to her. So, he made a pasta that looked like her navel. Creative, if nothing else!) There’s even a traditional way of cutting fresh pasta haphazardly at angles that is know as maltagliati, which just means “badly cut.” Because, hey,why not just tell it like it is? As long as it tastes good.
March 21, 2011 § 26 Comments
I recently learned the term “your growing edge.” I really like it. I had heard about your comfort zone, and your growth zone, and so forth before, but not the actual growing edge. The growing edge is that area where your zones are pushing out, your comfort zone expanding into what used to be your growth zone and your growth zone dipping a tentative toe into your danger zone. It’s the space right when you go from skiing speedily down a slope concentrating on tough terrain to plunking yourself on the ground and bursting into tears because you find yourself surrounded by trees and signs warning of cliffs and it’s just not fun anymore. Or when you’re learning to drive a stick shift and you know you can get your d@#$ car into gear and started when you’re in a parking lot, but then you’re on a (admittedly not busy) road next to the parking lot, with a bus bearing down on you and your blinker is signaling that you’re going left, except you kill the car 3 times in a row and find yourself feeling thoroughly mired in the middle of the intersection, and, well, bursting into tears. And of course, the growing edge includes bigger moments of growth, pushing yourself in your work, in your ability to face your fears, in your acceptance of others. Like your lengthening legs during your teen years, your growing edge can give you a little pain, whether or not it’s serious.
January 21, 2011 § 10 Comments
I think that one of the nicest things about having a parent from another country is all the funny turns of phrase or sayings you pick up as you grow up. Things translated directly from another language or phrases that were misheard but adopted nonetheless, which seem quite natural to you at home, but then as you head out into the wide world you discover that pretty much no one else says them. I suppose I could find this embarrassing, but instead it’s somehow incredibly endearing. And, I’m guessing that nearly every family has some idiomatic phrases belonging only to them. My mother has bestowed some particularly lovely sayings, mispronunciations, and the like upon her children.
In Norwegian, instead of saying “speak of the devil,” if you’re talking about someone and they suddenly show up, you say “speak of the sun and it shines!” Which probably has something to do with the national obsession with the weather, but which I also think is a much nicer way of referring to someone. No one wants to walk onto the scene only to be called the devil! My favorite saying, however is “necessity teaches the naked woman how to spin,” which is so much more colorful than “necessity is the mother of invention”…and will also earn you some strange looks if you use it offhandedly in conversation.
December 13, 2010 § 22 Comments
If you are thoroughly swamped and trying to make your way through 5.42 quadrillion deadlines before you take a winter holiday, say ‘aye.’ Yeah, that’s what I thought. Me too. I have skads and skads of work, and find myself needing to take little breaks to doodle pictures of chickens and meditating monkeys in order to let my brain turn over and rev up again (this is actually fairly standard practice among a subset of the population who, um, finds drawing chickens and monkeys cathartic). But, now it’s time to take another little respite. Come with me if you would, on a little walk down memory lane…
This memory has to do with food, of course. One of the very, very best foods of my childhood, pannekaker. Norwegian pancakes are thin, almost crepe like (but more delicious 🙂 ), and like crepes you can put nearly anything you’d like in them. In Norway they are a dinner food, and while I’m sure my brothers and I would have been quite happy to have them every single night, the time we most dependably ate them was on a very specific special occasion. When my parents would go out in the summer to visit with friends (and, let me tell you, in Norway a visit with friends can turn into a fest that lasts until 4am!) my uncle would come to watch us and cook us dinner. He would make us eggy, tender, buttery pannekaker, that we would smear generously with fresh blueberry or raspberry jam. We accompanied the pancakes with tomato noodle soup that came out of a packet (Scandinavians have the dubious distinction of packing an extremely odd and wide ranging assortment of foods in a packet, from cabbage, to rose hip soup, to mashed kohlrabi, to sour cream porridge. It sets you up really well if you want to go on a camping trip though!) The pancake tomato soup combination was an odd one – at least we didn’t actually mix the two together – but we adored it. It was, after all, undeniably delicious. « Read the rest of this entry »
December 10, 2010 § 13 Comments
So, I just had a revelation. Or at least, it felt like a revelation at 6 am, when I was still rubbing sleep out of my eyes. We’ll see how it stacks up now that I’m in a slightly more awakened state. I was thinking about why I like eating breakfast in my PJs so much. Even if I take a shower before breakfast, I have a tendency to put my pajamas – and usually a big fuzzy sweater – back on, then go and eat breakfast, and then finally get dressed and gussied up for the day. This morning, I suddenly realized that while many people need the time it takes to shower, spruce up, and generally get ready to go to work before they can gather the where with all to grab breakfast, I need the time it takes to eat breakfast and sip a cup of coffee in order to work up the gumption to put on my clothes for the day. Not particularly revelatory yet? Well, wait, it gets better! I also realized that one of the most relaxing parts of vacation, for me at any rate, is sitting for a long time at the breakfast table in my pajamas, browsing over the newspaper and making my way through a little too much coffee. And, even if I’m not on vacation, if I wear my PJs at breakfast, I can still conjure up a little hint of that leisurely feeling, starting the day off on a more tranquil note.
We are heading due north into the season of laid back, drawn-out holiday breakfasts, and I can’t wait. No, really, I can’t wait. I’ve totally jumped the gun and have been cooking all manner of scrumptious, not your everyday toast, this is the most important meal of the day so why not seriously enjoy it, breakfasts. Even though it’s still a couple of weeks until vacation. (So, if I proceed to write a string of breakfast posts, that’s why.) On this one, though, I outdid even my breakfast-obsessed self. It’s simply so good, I’m not even sure what to do with myself. I want to make it over and over and over again. And I probably will.
March 9, 2010 § 2 Comments
I’ve been working from home a lot lately. I find that an office has this amazing superpower of zapping my ability to think and melting away all my motivation into a goopy puddle on the floor. I know it’s not for everybody, but I’m much more able to concentrate when sitting at my dining room table – with the occasional foray to a coffee shop for a little jolt of energy, noise, and company. Obviously with the amazing internet-ization, webification, and telecommunication of modern working, more and more people are able to work from home. In the not so distant future, many offices may become obsolete. Even Daniel Schorr (the super old and brilliant dude on NPR) has noticed. And if he comments on it, then it is a serious cultural phenomenon. « Read the rest of this entry »