Sunday, March 31, 2013

How am I different?

I counted my cookbooks this week and there are 1,123 occupying 266 feet of shelf space. I asked Mark how he felt about this and he said, "Fine, although someone with that many cookbooks has no right to tell other people what to do with their s***."

Owen wants you to know: "That's not nearly all of my Transformers."
Mark doesn't have a lot of stuff and neither does Isabel, so I never tell them what to do with their stuff. He was talking about the daily occasions when I tell Owen to take pieces of his Transformer collection to his room. Owen has 83 Transformers and they regularly migrate around the house. After his Transformers movie marathon party, for instance, all 83 had migrated downstairs and I think I gently told him once or twice what to do with his s***.

On Friday, a Devastator (G1) arrived from Hilliard, Ohio. This was Owen's first eBay purchase and I discouraged it. I foresee trouble and I would know.

He wanted to skip his trombone lesson to prepare for Devastator's arrival. I said, "Absolutely not, you have all weekend to play with Devastator." He looked at me as if I'd just tried to put him to bed with a warm bottle and blankie. He said, "Mom, I don't PLAY with Transformers, I collect them. I have to look it over immediately to make sure it's got all its pieces."

He's now saving his allowance for a first-generation Bruticus.

My heart sinks. But what can I say? I understand the ardor, if not the object.


Wednesday. Nancy Silverton's long-cooked greens, poached egg and fontina sandwich. I already wrote about the laborious poaching of the ham shank, parboiling of greens, sauteeing of greens, long braising of greens in ham broth. I counted the cooking vessels: ten, not including cutting boards which also needed to be washed. Mark and the kids didn't like the sandwiches on account of the greens (used kale), which was my favorite part. I would happily eat these sandwiches again, but would never make them again. After dinner Mark said, "What are we having tomorrow? Peanut butter and jelly and tuna?"


Thursday.  Gorgonzola, honey, roasted radicchio, and candied walnuts sandwich. Silverton calls for roasting the radicchio (under plastic wrap, of course) until you're left with a limp heap of incredibly bitter, blackish-purple vegetable. I can eat it, but wouldn't cry if radicchio rolled back into the pit it came out of 30 years ago. You toast walnut bread, spread with gorgonzola, drizzle with honey, top with candied walnuts and radicchio. Components all fine, sandwich bad. Discordant. Tasted like an orchestra sounds when it's warming up.

I might stretch Nancy Silverton's Sandwich Book over the last few days before spring break because I don't want to get going on a new book and then stop when we go on our big vacation. A short vacation, but big. We are going to Japan. It is the trip Mark booked and planned two years ago that we cancelled because of Fukushima. I have no idea what we are going to do in Tokyo and Kyoto, which is where we are going. Mark is doing the research. If you have suggestions, I will write them all down and pursue.

Friday. I baked The World's Best Cookies from San Francisco A La Carte. This is a brown sugar cookie that contains crushed cornflakes, coconut, chopped pecans and rolled oats. Recipe here. I used to think these really were the world's best cookies, but now think they are merely good. Book club night so I wasn't home to make dinner. Family relieved?

Saturday. We had friends over and served picadillo and black beans with strawberry cobbler for dessert. Old favorites. Can't think of anything to say about the food, but it dawned on both Mark and me how much more fun it is to have friends over when your kids -- and their kids -- are 12 and 16 as opposed to 2 and 6. Suddenly there are these thoughtful young adults at the table who have opinions on Downton Abbey and don't spill their milk. Overnight they've stopped detracting from the occasion and become the most interesting part of the occasion. It's wonderful and a little scary.

Today. I was going to make a Simnel cake to take to my sister's tonight, but changed my mind. Lots of work and no one will like it as much as Laurie Colwin's nutmeg cake so I made that instead.


  1. I think your husband should appreciate that you take an interest in cooking and have so many cookbooks. Most of the women I know pride themselves on not knowing how to cook. And since you're the parent, you have every right to tell your kids to keep their sh*t in their rooms. Kids and parents aren't equals.

  2. My husband has Devastator--his mom saved it from childhood, and I"m pretty sure my kids broke part of it seconds after she gave it back to him.

    Go to the Ghibli museum in Tokyo, after watching all the Ghibli movies before you go:

  3. Tokyo - Asakusa Cannon Temple and area, then just down the street to Kappa-bashi (where all of the fake food you see in the restaurant windows is sold). It's a trip, but eat before you head that way because none of those stores with food in the windows are restaurants.

    Kyoto - The big "can't miss" is Kiyomizu temple and the streets on the way up the hill. There's a great walking tour that I can recommend:

    The Arashiyama area of Kyoto is a little off the beaten path but well worth it.

    And my favorite destination in Kyoto is Fushimi Inari shrine. This is one of those places where you can hike up the hill with the path fully covered in Torii gates. Again, a little off the beaten path but worth the effort to get there.

  4. Kyoto: Nishiki Market, Arashiyama, the Philosopher's walk--multiple temples. we travelled primarily by bus--it was prime leaf changing week in the fall and so beautiful. If you are going soon you will likely hit cherry blossom season, and I hope it won't be too crazy with crowds.
    Tokyo: the Ghibli museum was tremendous, but if I remember correctly you have to get tickets before you go. We were able to run down the street to a convenience mart and convince them to sell to us that day. We also loved the Harajuku district with the crazy people dressed like Hello Kitty, etc. Shibuya was crazy like Las Vegas and Times Square combined. We walked a lot and it was murderously hot in September, but probably beautiful now. The subway pass is worth purchasing. I have such good memories of both cities...let me know how much information you can handle :) The Lonely Planet guidebooks were invaluable.

  5. I can already foresee the time in which my children will have clever conversations around me, but not including me, just like John and I and our family do now with his parents. People are mean to olds.

  6. One of my favourite bakeries, Kimuraya in Ginza:

    --perhaps most famous for their anpan, which I suspect you're already familiar with:

    And just for fun, a video for RyuGin:

    Have a wonderful trip!

  7. Okay, my two cents about the collecting/hoarding habit (which I understand at a deeper level than I want to admit):

    Set some Limits on both yourself and your son. Pick a number - it doesn't matter what it is, as long as it is meaningful to the person in question, and then limit the collection to that number. ONLY KEEP THE ONES YOU LOVE THAT MAKE YOU HAPPY. (This is a FlyLady thing.) This will stop your collection from becoming "clutter"; the ones you love should then be cherished / displayed proudly.

    Your first instinct (and Owen's) will be to say "but I love them ALL" but this is Not True. When pressed, both of you will be able to identify those which were "gifts" from people who didn't understand that "quality" matters in a True Collection, and while the McDonald's transformer from Great Aunt Sally has sentimental value, it is taking up valuable shelf space / has to be dusted.

    Speaking of shelf space, this is one way to decide if you 'love' something: Would you pay money to show it off? In essence, unless you have a 10 Million Square Foot House, that is what you are doing. A fun trick is to mentally assign a "rental value" to the shelf space, and then decide if the "treasured possession" is worth that much, keeping in mind that five treasured items displayed as if they were valuable makes more of an impression while fifteen jammed into a small space looks like clutter.

    Last, if you truly love these types of items, when a new one comes in, an older, less loved one goes out. Bless someone else with them -- after all, you aren't just Junk Collectors; you are Connoisers (sp?) of these items, and part of your calling is to make sure other people learn to appreciate them, which can mean GIFTING YOUR LEAST LOVED to those for whom they will become "best loved and cherished."

    So pick a number, and then divide things into three piles to get to it: 1) LOVE IT BEYOND WORDS, 2) LIKE IT A LOT, and 3) WOULDN'T MIND NOT DUSTING IT. Here's the Big Secret - all items in Pile #2 and #3 need to go, because both of you deserve to be surrounded by things you LOVE (not just LIKE). Take pictures, and pack it up - the memories will still be there, and don't require daily dusting to be refreshed (which creates guilt and obligation, which destroys the happy memories). Have both of you sit down and write a paragraph about each of the items you decide to keep or give away -- you will probably be shocked at what some of the reasons you are keeping "stuff" is really all about.

    Good luck - and know all of us support both of you! :)

    Best, Ida in Michigan

  8. Jennifer:

    Check out, a great blog on Japanese food and culture by Maki Itoh. You will find quite a bit of information about things to do while there.


  9. So did they love Laurie Colwin's nutmeg cake? Don't leave me hanging here, Jennifer! Your trip sounds so exciting!

  10. I love that about having grown kids. My daughters and I go out for civilized coffee dates and discuss books and politics. I can't wait for my step kids to get there; they still need to be reminded to lean over their dinner plates and not to wipe their mouths on their T-shirts.

  11. In Japan for sure visit Tokyo Disney Resort. You can buy multi-day ticket.

  12. I think collections are wonderful! Yours and Owen's are both wonderful! and you should keep all your items. They fit in your house just fine. AND collections are supposed to be huge.
    I just counted. I have about 50 dolls. now THAT is crazy. but I love them all.

    Someday Owen will yearn for the amazing cooking you do and you will yearn for a transformer in the middle of the kitchen.