Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Wedge of Blue

kitchen table, 2010

I see we have one beer standing in the cardboard six-pack and I place it in the refrigerator. It's mine. I'll be on my own this evening and I have an idea. A hunk of blue cheese and a beer, the way Uncle Frank used to do it. Yes, this will be nice. No bread. No crackers. This is how Dad recalls the ritual. Mom agrees. Sometimes simple is best. Dad and I tested it out one night with Stilton. Very successful. Today it will be Point Reyes Original Blue. I'll set myself up beside the kitchen window, where so many good things in life take place. Just a wedge of blue, the last beer, and me.

Monday, June 20, 2011


Wait, 2011

In the silence and the sun she ate one cucumber, one cashew, and broke off one small piece of cheese. She took three books from her table and read one poem from each book. All of the one note, one beat, singular actions were leading up to something more. She'd know it when it arrived. Patience. But the noise in the hallway did not allow it. It howled, smelled of burnt rubber, and bounced off the base of her door. It demanded her attention. She stood before the mirror and saw her mother. The sun moved south. Fragments beckoned.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

While She Was Sleeping

Canerdy, 2006

I walked into my closet and with the exception of a few balls of dust and one black button, the floor was empty. My shoes, shoe rack and all, were gone. I couldn’t imagine what had occurred, how my shoes could have vanished, but they were gone, and I needed to decide how I’d go on without them. Would I need to walk through the city barefoot? It seemed a bit dangerous. I thought of all the cute pups out on walks relieving themselves. There wasn’t a shop in my immediate vicinity that would sell even a pair of cheap flip flops. Were barefoot people allowed to travel by bus? What would a cab driver think? If I tried to explain, people would think I was crazy. I considered the possibility, maybe I was crazy, and it might not be safe for a crazy person to go out seeking shoes. I went back to sleep, hoping my shoes would return.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

There wasn't a menu.

Me (near the Mad River), 2006

Christine owned a simple little cafe beside the Mad River. I hear it still exists under the same name, but it is no longer Christine's.

I really cannot imagine it without her, her well-worn books of poetry scattered about, her mismatched china, her very particular ways. She opened when she felt like it and closed when she had other items to tend. There wasn't a menu. Almost everyone who walked in the door was a little confused. This did not inspire her to change.

She always had egg salad. People would ask if there was a menu and she'd say, I have some very nice egg salad. Not another word. Sometimes she'd have chicken salad and she'd follow the same routine.

She was an intriguing woman and I wanted her to like me. I moved in slowly. I happily let her decide my lunch, a plate of whatever. I quickly learned that she did know what was best.

Her salads were accompanied by slices of crusty bread that she would brush with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and just barely brown beneath the broiler. A vegetable of some sort would always be on the plate. Although there wasn't much to prepare, she took a very long time arranging things in her own precise way. It was always perfect, perfect for me.

Christine employed a young red head who was responsible for all that revolved around the espresso machine. They needled one another with a mutual respect. The red head sweetened our cappuccinos with maple syrup.

I did become friends with Christine. One afternoon she closed the cafe and invited me to stay and chat. She explained that she did things to suit her preferences versus the customer's because she had chosen to spend most of her waking hours in this cafe, she knew she wouldn't do it forever, and she wanted to enjoy the experience. Most people just don't think this way. She was wise and I am happy to have found her and to have experienced her magical little space while it existed.

When I returned to the other side of our country we continued our friendship by exchanging poems and letters. I recall her mentioning that her time with the cafe was coming to an end. She said we should come back and run the place. I wonder what that would have been like.

I'm not sure who wrote the last letter, but somewhere along the line we drifted apart. Sometimes I think of writing to her. It's been years now.

Just as I worried each year my family returned to summer camp that the children I'd met the year before had forgotten me, I worry that Christine won't remember me. But would it matter? The past would remain the same.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Almond Cakes

The Color of Baking, 2011

Today I felt like baking and had everything I needed for an almond cake, well, everything I needed for my version of an almond cake. So I baked.

Baking during the summer months is not for everyone. Although we've not quite reached the official season, it is June, and it is cool and grey. Perfect baking weather. This is a big benefit of the San Francisco summers that aren't really summers at all.

I was originally inspired by David Lebovitz. I adapted his recipe the last time I made almond cake and the cake you see outlined below was inspired by my last. David adapted his recipe from Chez Panisse Desserts by Lindsey Remolif Shere. I've veered so far from David's recipe I hesitate to even drag him into what I've done here.

Why is it so different? My kitchen is very low-tech, I wanted a healthier cake, and I wanted to make less cake. I always make too much cake. I adore the version I've made here, Chris likes it too, but David and Lindsey haven't tried it, yet.

Almond Cakes
8 petite slices of cake

1/2 cup brown sugar
7 ounces pure almond paste
1/2 cup unbleached white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
confectioners sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 325ºF

Butter two 16-ounce ramekins and dust them with flour. Line the bottom of each ramekin with a round of parchment paper. Combine sugar, almond paste, and half of your flour (only 1/4 cup) in a medium bowl and break, crumble, and sift with your hands until the almond paste is broken up into pea size bits. In a small bowl combine the other half of your flour (1/4 cup), baking powder, and salt. Gently stir with a fork or your fingers to mix well. Add olive oil and vanilla extract to medium bowl with almond paste mixture and stir until it reaches a gritty smooth state. Add eggs, one at a time, to medium bowl, stirring well after each egg. Sprinkle half of the flour mixture over wet ingredients and stir gently, just to combine. Do not over-mix. Repeat with remaining flour mixture. Divide batter evenly between your two prepared ramekins. Bake cakes for approximately 45 minutes or until the tops reach a deep brown color and spring back when pressed in the center. Remove cakes from oven and run a knife around the perimeter of each ramekin to loosen the cakes. Allow cakes to cool completely in ramekins and they should slip out easily. Peel away parchment and you are all set. Dusting with confectioners sugar is optional. Each cake can be sliced into 4 petite slices.
I am sure whipped cream or berries would be nice with this cake, but I like mine plain.


Friday, June 3, 2011


Mornings in Paris, 2011

I adored reading and writing stories when I was a little girl. Library visits with Mom began early.

My love of reading slowed down during the school year in high school. I still enjoyed reading during the summer months, I just didn't like being told what to read. My desire to write grew during this time. We were given assignments, but I recall a generous amount of freedom within those assignments. I need freedom. This also began early. I was inspired. I wrote all sorts of things and wanted to write more.

As an undergrad, the university drained my love of reading and writing and there was a period of recovery following graduation. My mother brought me back to reading with The Kitchen God's Wife. It was the first non-required book I had read in years. I was lost in it and it sparked a new interest in reading fiction that remains with me today.

After writing my resume and cover letter, there just wasn't much of a need to write. Sure, I wrote what I needed to write for work, but nothing fun or creative -- pure function. Thankfully, I did keep a journal. I wrote in it sporadically during most of the year and obsessively while on vacation.

Graduate school is what brought me back to writing. The funny thing is that my major was photography. Focusing on distilling my visual art down to the essence of what I wanted to say brought me back to writing. I was constantly trying to sort out my intentions, thoughts, and feelings and writing it all down was most helpful.

Now I have this workshop with instant publishing and people like you reading what I write, offering support, and consistently recommending fabulous books. Thank you. This is not something I could have predicted even ten years ago. Technology can be pretty amazing.

I was late to the game. My first reluctant entry was in 2008. This space began as a joint project with my husband. We wanted to document our kitchen garden. Obviously, things are quite different now.

I'm not sure how to explain what keeps me going or inspires me to write in this space. I just know I like it here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Seeking Small Town Inspiration

Waitsfield, 2006


Can you help me out? It's a pretty minor favor and I bet each one of you has at least one idea for me. I'll gladly trade you an idea, if you are busy compiling your own list.

I'm writing about some characters that live in a small rural town and I want to keep myself in this small town state of mind for a while. I have my own memory and imagination to draw on, but living in the middle of San Francisco (and reading magazines like the gentlewoman) is a bit distracting. I need some additional inspiration.

Many of you shared your love for Northern Exposure with me, so there's one idea. I'm planning on watching Il Postino again and I'm reading a novel written in 1955 about life in a Catalan fishing village, The Day of the Fox. Okay, we are off to a good start.

What other small town centered novels, short stories, poems, memoirs, essays, recipes, movies, television shows, artwork, or _____ have you enjoyed?

Thanks for thinking about this for me.