Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Blue, 2011

I wonder if there is any way I can exchange an afternoon of work for an afternoon in my pajamas, with my favorite person, playing cards, watching Reality Bites and then Singles, and eating caramel corn. Or fly back to Paris.

the Reality Bites mood

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Food Preferences are the Window to the Soul

Little Jackets, 2011

He was a very comfortable sort, often compromising for the greater good, until it came to fava beans. The pods had to be firm and measure between five and six inches. His desired shade of green was difficult to describe, but he knew it when he saw it. First the beans were shelled. Next, blanched, ever so briefly. Anyone could handle the first shelling and quick blanch, these were the steps that mattered least to him, but he liked to remove the little jackets himself. He found it meditative and gratifying. Only one cheese could accompany his tender little beans, Pecorino, the Romano variety, grated on the fine side of the box grater. The prepared beans had to be served in a specific ceramic oval dish, glazed in a deep periwinkle blue. There were no substitutions. The day I ate my favas in a white ramekin with Parmigiano-Reggiano felt a betrayal.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Adaptation (Theft?)

One Sunday in Bolinas, 2011

This morning I was reading a poem. It almost matched my thinking, but not quite. Still, I liked it. I thought of posting it here, but then realized I am not clear on what is appropriate or legal in such matters. I'm sure I've already made my fair share of mistakes.

Then I thought of all of the blogs that are based on recipes written by someone else and then adapted to suit the blogger and their post. This seems to be fully accepted as long as it is an adaptation of some sort and the original source is noted.

I wondered how Ruth Stone would feel if I adapted her poem, just changed a few words, toyed with her line spacing a bit, so it would better suit my post, and me. Would it be okay if I pulled a photograph from one of my fellow blogger's sites and decided to adjust the contrast a little and crop it in Photoshop for a post of my own?

Are we being unfair to original recipe writers? Is there such a thing as an original recipe, or has it all been done before?

See the photograph up there? It is a brunch offering at a cafe I like in Bolinas, CA. At first I thought, no I won't order it, I love beans and greens, but it is something I make at home. Then I changed my mind, wait, I will order it, see if they do anything better than I do, and steal their ideas to use at home. Yes, perfect! I was excited.

Their beans were better. I tried to ask about them, get some details, but I couldn't get a straight answer. Perhaps they wanted to keep their bean recipe a secret, or it was a locals only scenario.

Maybe we should just accept that what we make public is no longer our own. If it's a big secret, then we should keep it that way. Or maybe we should simply follow our moral compasses and everything will be fine.

I found a Q&A with Amanda Hesser, addressing such matters. My favorite part was this anecdote she shared:

People should take a step back and think about how they’re living their lives. There’s this great chai supplier in Connecticut. The first time I ordered the chai by phone, she told me she would send me an invoice. I said, “You mean, you’re going to send me the chai before I pay?” She replied, “Yes, because if you don’t pay, it’s really your problem, isn’t it?”
So what am I really getting at here? I don't know. My mind has drifted to how I will replicate those delicious little pinquito beans from Coast Cafe. Like I've told you before, this is just a workshop. Playing around with thoughts and ideas is what I do here, but I also see this as a space for conversation.

So what do you think...about delicious little pinquito beans, secret recipes, adapted recipes, or anything else you are in the mood to share? Seriously, I'd like to know.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, May 23, 2011

This post has no title.

Climb inside.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Steady, As She Goes

Window, 2011

I've been enjoying Alison's blog for a while now. I often visit quietly, without comment. It seems a private ritual. I don't want to intrude. I'm inspired by this delicate set of actions, performed regularly. There is something very comforting about it. It is beautiful, meditative. Peaceful. If you visit, be gentle, tread lightly. It's a special place.

I'm not sure I understand what this song is actually about, but sometimes I hear the chorus in my head when I leave Alison's space.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

About the author of this blog...

Two, 2011

A long while back Anna of WSAKE asked me to write down seven things about myself. I'm not very good with such exercises, so I put the request aside to see if the list of seven would come to me naturally. Today it did.
1. Drawing connections between seemingly disparate things helps me understand the world around me. Yesterday I saw connections between the way Chris wants to run his business and Stanley Kunitz discussing poetry and gardening in The Wild Braid and also in the 100th episode (Paris) of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. I read Chris that special part in The Wild Braid and we watched Bourdain's 100th episode together. He got it. I guess this is why we are married.

2. I was once very into worm composting. I wrote a short book about my experience and shared it on a blog. I still need to add the last chapter.
05/13/2011 I really hated typing that last chapter bit, so I visited the blog to update things. I realized there was also a brief closing chapter that needed to be completed. I am proud to report done & done.

3. I miss the television show Northern Exposure and the young pre-Sex and the City John Corbett.

4. The traits I value most in people are empathy, a good sense of humor, confidence, and curiosity.

5. I tasted my very first fresh kumquat yesterday. My produce guy warned me. He told me I had to like sour if I wanted to just pop the whole thing into my mouth. I did it anyway and found them much more complex than a simple sour. Yes, there is sour, but there is also sweetness in the rind, and a hint of bitter. I talked Chris into trying his first too. Thanks, Margie.

6. My first job was in a one-hour photo shop in a very small town near the beautiful Lake Powell. I only lived there for one semester. My job was part of a work-study program at school. My evaluation was gleaming beside the bit about my need for improvement in taking constructive criticism. I was sixteen.

7. When I was a little girl and we hosted family gatherings in our home, I would always hang out with my dad and my uncles in the living room. I liked laughing, playing chess, and taking small sips from my dad's frosty mug of beer. I found the women in the kitchen prepping food and gossiping terribly boring. The men seemed to have all of the fun. I claimed I'd marry my father or no one. Now I am married to someone else, still like beer, love cooking, and sometimes gossip in the kitchen. I need to buy a chess set.
I won't tag anyone, but if you'd like to play along and note your seven, please do so in the comments or place a link in the comments to your blog post.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Interpretive Cake

remnants, 2011

Have I already told you about this cake? Everyday Chocolate Cake? It is one of my two favorite cakes. The other is this wonderful Almond Cake. There is a close third I must mention as well, Rosemary Olive Oil Cake, another simple, lovely, unfrosted creation. All three cake recipes have been interpreted to suit each maker and I like that. I believe it is something that has always gone on with recipes, but the internet has really escalated things. Recipes as inspiration versus a set of rules. It's a good thing.

Deb of Smitten Kitchen's post on Everyday Chocolate Cake has generated more discussion than any other post I've ever seen on any blog. She adapted this cake recipe from Alyssa of Magnolia Bakery. The last time I checked Deb's post it had received 509 comments. It seems people have strong feelings about chocolate cake.

I made it following Deb's recipe twice, once at home and once at my dad's, and on both occasions it was great. Only one note, both times (two different ovens) it cooked way faster than Deb's recipe notes, closer to 40-45 minutes.

The last time I made this fabulous and apparently very forgiving cake I made several changes to the original recipe. Some were an attempt to make it a bit healthier and some were based on the use what is in your cupboard philosophy. I used only 1/2 the sugar, my egg randomly had two yolks, I used 6 oz. non-fat yogurt + 2 oz. 1% milk in place of 8 oz. buttermilk, and I used King Arthur white whole wheat flour. I baked this one for about 45 minutes. I'd check it at 40 minutes next time. I think I cooked it just a few minutes too long. My oven runs super hot, so I set it to 300 degrees versus 325.

You should try all of these cakes, make them your own. I suggest you make the chocolate first. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The sun shifts priorities.

1424 & 1426, 2011

The sun today is triggering thoughts of summer and has me wanting what only summer can give. I would easily pay ten dollars for a small perfectly ripe tomato, fifteen if freshly plucked and still warm from the sun. Perfectly ripe, yes, but not perfectly round. I prefer my tomatoes misshapen. My knife would be sharp and gently pierce the skin, minimal juice drunk by the wood surface of my cutting board. Each slice would be carefully placed atop bread and butter of the best quality, or not at all. A tilt of the cutting board and scrape with the blade to collect any lost juice. To finish, the lightest dusting of my favorite fleur de sel, if only I could find another jar. Like tomatoes, salt is not salt. And then I'd give it all a long look, saving the visual aspects for later, to help recall the taste. I'd inhale the scent while taking my first bite. I would chew ever so slowly. I'd insist you take a bite.

If you believe in the power of memory, or want to be convinced, read Molly's poems, The Recent History Of Middle Sand Lake. Incredibly moving. Graceful, sad, and beautiful.