Tag Archive | FOOD

Tooth Wars

CALMLY RANDOM

The poppy seed bagel I just ate for breakfast (oh, is it noon already?) was taken from the freezer, microwaved to defrost, and slathered with cream cheese. Tell me why I hate frozen bagels. No, I’ll tell you. This could be considered diet food. The entire thing was so elastic that I looked like my old dog Ivy ripping away at a rubber bone. Grrr…….! Rfffffff….!! Grrrrrrrrrrr! Good dog! Good doggie!

Ivy  had better luck with her old bone than I did with my round chew toy with the hole in the middle that they market as a bagel. In my defense, a dog’s jaw is made of titanium. Whereas my two front teeth will never be the same. Now I’ll pretend to be one of those ‘glass half full’ types, and say: At least I got most of the cream cheese off.

Between this and the pineapple from the other day that turned my whole mouth fuzzy, I think I have my next book title. Tooth Wars: Attack of the Killer Pineapple, or, Chewing for the Fun of It.

 

 

Perfection, thy name is Apple

CALMLY RANDOM

apples

 

I’ve decided that an apple is the perfect food. Why, you might ask?

1. It’s round, and I identify with that.
2. It’s sweet, and no matter how much we’re told that sugar is evil, we all like it and it makes our lives happier.
3. It’s crunchy: my teeth, gums, jaws, and esophagus are all getting a great workout, which I count as my exercise for the day.
4. There is a star in the middle if you cut it in the right way, no doubt the universe confirming what I already know about myself, dahling.
5. Everyone has a favorite apple. A totally scientific study I just conducted did not come up with even one negative answer stating s/he doesn’t have a favorite because s/he hates them all. Given it’s the internet, I was expecting just such an answer (you $@&””ing !!/@! you must be working for the apple lobby!!!!) Nothing even close to that was stated. Honest.
6. You can take an apple with you when the mobs start chasing you down with torches and pitch forks. Totally mobile and easy to cling to.
7. I like the color red.
8. Teachers like them, and who doesn’t like teachers?

That might be it. Signing out. Crunch. Swallow. 🍎

 

 

Home Sweet Kitchen

CALMLY RANDOM

My fiancée and I recently bought a coastal farmhouse built in 1901. The house is spacious with high ceilings, hardwood floors, and elegant woodwork. The property was love at first sight for both of us.

But I hated the kitchen! Cramped and crowded into one small portion of a large space, the kitchen had dark brown cherry cabinets on one side and mismatched glossy white utilitarian cabinets on the mud room side. It was a visual disaster. To make things worse, a kitchen peninsula was set diagonally into the room at a height that was substantially lower than standard. The peninsula blocked light from the beautiful windows over the sink. It cut the room into sections, visually and literally. There was nothing in the kitchen that honored the 1901 house. It was as though a 1990s oddly placed but upscale suburban kitchen had come for a very long visit.

I asked my friends and sisters for advice on how to fix this disaster. Most said to live with it the way it was. Several thought the dark cabinets looked good enough. Everyone said I was being too picky. Of course I didn’t listen to them. What else is new? I have a strong sense of style and knew I had to fix the problem or I’d never enjoy my kitchen. So I asked my son the architect for advice. His pay for services rendered was a pizza dinner.

He immediately suggested that the diagonal sun-blocking peninsula had to go. We agreed, but I needed the cabinet space that it provided. He recommended an alternative: take the peninsula out, and build a new, straight, standard height peninsula at the corner where the kitchen door leads to the dining room. He felt this would open up and extend the kitchen into unused space. Furthermore, by painting the entire room the same color, the kitchen would appear more integrated with the mud room side. He also suggested we install a small sink preparation unit into the peninsula.

It was a lot to think about. I realized we had been thinking of the kitchen as it was already defined; that is, crowded into one small part of the overall space. His idea to extend the kitchen visually by utilizing empty space was the inspiration for the eventual design. I didn’t use his specific idea for a peninsula. But the concept of opening up the space was freeing to me. It inspired us to build an island that fit perfectly into the extended space. We even used the same granite countertop and cabinets from the existing peninsula to craft the new island! We painted the entire room the same color, built new closet doors and painted every door and cabinet frame the same color, and installed all new hinges and door pulls. The result is a gorgeous kitchen that looks like it belongs in our beautiful house.

I’m proud that my son’s instinct and design skills helped us get the kitchen that I happily spend time in every day. If you’re looking for an architect to help you achieve the home of your dreams, email me on the ABOUT page, and I’ll pass your request on to him. I imagine, though, his fee will be a bit more than a pizza dinner!

old-kitchen-pic2

BEFORE: Old dark, congested kitchen

new-kitchen-pic

AFTER: New kitchen is open and light-filled

new-kitchen-pic2

AFTER: New kitchen with island

 

A Cranberry Bog in Every Pot

CALMLY RANDOM

cranberry-bog

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Liberté, égalité, fraternité. A room of one’s own. What is it that makes a woman feel complete, that her life is worthwhile? Is it a full belly, true friendship? Love? Hope? Maybe it’s freedom. Maybe respect. In 1851, freed slave and anti-slavery speaker Sojourner Truth said, “Look at me. Look at my arm! I have plowed and planted and gathered into barns and no man could head me. . . And ain’t I a woman?”

Imagine having to justify your very existence as Truth was compelled to do. Imagine living a life devoid of respect, lacking in trust. Imagine fighting for the most basic of rights – the right to be black, to be a woman, to vote, to be free.

In comparison, my life is a ball. It’s a fairy tale, an amazing dream existence. I know it. Lately I’ve been thinking of buying an organic cranberry farm. I could work the fields, build wind turbines for power. I could make cranberry wine and chocolate covered cranberries. I could live by the shore in the beautiful sandy flatlands of southeastern Massachusetts. I could plow and plant, or hire someone to do it for me. I could gather my harvest, a bounty of ripe, crimson berries. Berries with roots that dig deep into the Native American soil. Berries that clung to the soul of this land for eons before those old Pilgrims ever stepped onto our windy beaches.

In pursuit of happiness, will I be happy? Would I be more content with a full belly, with a simple chicken in my pot instead of a cranberry bog? Would fraternité please me more than the lonely bogs under the stars at night? My cranberry bog might be my room, the one place where I feel free to write and create and be who I need to be. One thing I know – égalité is something I won’t give up on. Even now, even 160 years after Sojourner Truth cried out with such humility and common sense for justice, the world tries to hold women back. There are those who say we should be content with the privileges we have. There are many who rail against women who use their voices for change. There are some of both genders who show contempt for the female sex. Why? What’s wrong with being a woman? Ain’t I a woman? Are you saying there is something wrong with me?

So we know that Truth’s work is not done. Every woman has the right to find what makes her happy, where her freedoms lie, what constitutes her liberty. A reason for living, each one deciding for herself what that reason may be. A pot for every woman. And the cranberry bog of her choice in every pot.

The Difficult Season

CALMLY RANDOM

icy-branches

In this excerpt from PERSEPHONE IN HELL, Madeline Standish is Glory’s physics teacher. She’s caught Glory daydreaming again; unacceptable for one of God’s chosen people. Glory assures Mrs. Standish that she’ll try harder. Madeline is the quintessential Yankee – tough, proud, and determined to keep all things in their proper place.

“Madeline drew up her papers into a neat stack and erased the formulas on the board. It’s potluck tonight, she remembered. Descendants of the Mayflower night.

She looked out the window. Hope this blasted sleet doesn’t cancel our meeting. The difficult season is upon us. But I pride myself as a true Yank, and a little bad weather won’t change my plans.

She thought of the pickled cabbage dish she’d be bringing for potluck. It was the same dish she’d been making her whole life, following Grandma Prissy’s recipe. Her friend Helen, the home economics teacher, had suggested adding a pinch of cinnamon for excitement. But Madeline was unmoved. No need to change a thing, she thought with unbending conviction. It’s perfect just the way it is.”

To give Madeline credit, an inventive person can go mad waiting for a New England winter to pass. Perhaps those old weary Pilgrims had it right. Best to accept and hunker down, filling any irregular open gaps with a life that could be lived over and over again. Better to block those cold annoying breezy thoughts with considerations that don’t stray outside the norm. To surround oneself with casseroles and company as constant as the steady oaks. With tested deliberations that conquer the difficult season for generation after generation. With hearts all set in a single direction.

With chronic cough and March in the making…

 

 

Slapping the Dough

DREAMS AND MELANCHOLY

Apparently I’m obsessed with food. Completely obsessed. I hadn’t a clue how true that statement is until I wrote my book, PERSEPHONE IN HELL. The subject of food permeates my every chapter. Good times, ugly moments, difficult relationships, innocent encounters – food is everywhere in my story.

In Chapter Nannie and Sadie, Glory visits her grandmother and aunt in Boston for school vacation week. She looks forward to this annual trip which helps her escape, if only temporarily, from her cow town out in the country. But this time, Nannie and Sadie aren’t speaking to each other. Glory hasn’t any idea why.

“I should have stayed home. Why did I even come this year? Glory wondered as she sat watching Nannie knead the dough for the challah. Nannie was a good baker. Not as good as Ma, whose cinnamon bread, served warm with melting butter, filled the house with the scent of heaven.

Maybe it was in the forcefulness of Ma’s kneading that the spirit of bread in its full Platonic sense was revealed. Ma always said that slapping and pushing the dough around the breadboard was therapeutic. The idea is to get the dough as smooth and soft as a baby’s bottom, she’d say. Nannie’s hands were old and weak compared with Ma’s. But to give Nannie credit, her bread was good too.

Today, Nannie was silent as she lifted and pushed the dough with the palm of her hand, turned it, lifted and pushed again. Her eyes were angry but she wouldn’t say a word.

…Meanwhile, the silence was deafening. Glory couldn’t hold out much more, waiting for the new world she longed to see. I am bored, so very bored. And savages, all around and deep inside were stirring, moving to reclaim their lost land.”

Glory is a troubled girl. That’s evident right from the beginning of the story. Perhaps if she had learned to slap the dough instead of holding all her anger in, she might not have cut herself. It’s unfortunate that while Ma has learned a way to release some of her stress and anger, she hasn’t taught that trick to her daughter Glory. Slap the dough ‘smooth and soft as a baby’s bottom’ – now there’s a message not so subtle! There is no handing down of sympathies in this family. Each wrapped in her own distress, no one takes notice of another’s. Glory is on her own, truly.

 

Thanksgiving Leftovers

CALMLY RANDOM

thanksgiving-table-2

I don’t count the pounds anymore as it’s too depressing, but surely I’ve gained a few over the last weeks! What with the whipped cream, maple walnut rolls, turkey with stuffing and gravy and cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with maple syrup, butternut squash with brown sugar, green beans with almonds and mushrooms, corn bread, broccoli with cheese sauce, corn pudding, chocolate raspberry cake, apple pie, and pumpkin pie (not to mention the assorted appetizers, nuts, wine, champagne, and hot mulled cider I consumed), I suppose one could say that I enjoyed the holiday to its fullest! Yes, I handmade from scratch almost everything on that list. Other family members brought the desserts, to give them credit. I am a good cook, probably not a great cook, certainly not a gourmet cook. But I think it all turned out well, very well. We’re still eating the leftovers, and I shall be wearing them proudly on my hips, thighs, and tummy for several months to come!

If you’ve had a chance to read through my book PERSEPHONE IN HELL you’ll find that Glory thinks about food a lot. Her family is poor, there are no luxuries, with six kids in the family one has to move fast to get a fair share. Food in the end is something to remember and savor.

“…let moonlight and soft pines in, blueberries and corn on the cob; strawberries in summer, crisp apples in fall…You’re not too old to run after the ice cream truck, and the breadbox can be clean. It can be full with homemade fudge and devil’s food cake now and again. There’s cinnamon sugared bread for the making.”

Some people eat to live. I live to eat. It’s a cliche but true. In a world that sometimes seems uncontrollable, hard, even cruel, a fine meal can keep a person’s spirits strong. Good food – Mother Nature’s finest work.