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.