Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Bracing for the storm

Not cooking. Not cooking at all. It was my turn to host family dinner on Sunday night and we ordered pizza and watched my sister’s children (small, excitable) decorate the Christmas tree while my children (big, blase) occasionally glanced up from their phones when asked to place an ornament on a high branch. I didn’t even make a salad. I just haven’t been tuned in to the cookbook and cooking channel since Thanksgiving. Not enough bandwidth. 

Did I just mix metaphors? Are channels and bandwidth compatible? I don’t know! Who cares.

Here's what's been up:

-Work. Lots of work, the kind of writing work that never seems to end and may in fact never end, as opposed to magazine articles and blog posts which end quickly and with a satisfying snap. 
-Worrying. About the “storm of the decade” which was supposed to hit 26 minutes ago. School is closed tomorrow on account of this storm and I might have looked forward to a cozy day at home with the kids, popcorn, fire, et cetera, had we not removed all the blackberry vines and their stabilizing roots from the hill above our house last month, leading my father to send a concerned email yesterday that included the word “mudslide.” 
-Reading. Meghan Daum’s new essay collection The Unspeakable is as smart and polished as Lena Dunham’s memoir was smart and underbaked. I compare them only because they’re both by female authors who write unflinchingly about the zeitgeist and themselves. Topics Daum covers in her engrossing, entertaining book: Why, though straight, she dresses butch. Her mother’s death. A dinner party at Nora Ephron’s house. Joni Mitchell. Dogs. Choosing not to have children. 
-Seeing movies. I really, really liked, maybe even loved, The Homesman. It’s a Western starring Tommy Lee Jones and Hilary Swank and while I’d heard it was tedious, I found it witty, poetic, ribald, sad, dark, and more thought-provoking than Theory of Everything, Birdman, and The Imitation Game combined. 

That's all I've got tonight, friends. I'm quite tense right now, probably because of this stupid storm and our deforested hill. Back soon. I hope.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Roasting, rolling, mashing, reading, resting, raining

our freeway exit
So much has happened since my last post, so much that I wanted to write about but couldn’t because of shopping, baking, roasting, mashing, cleaning, carving, hosting, resting, and, when that was all over, because I’d forgotten how to write. It happens! I was on an unprecedented writing roll before the holiday, barreling ahead on two different projects, keeping up the blog, feeling superhuman. Then I took a few days off to host Thanksgiving and can't get back in the groove. At least I’m warm, dry, and fed. One of these years I'll hit another sweet spot.

Something I've learned about blogging is that if you don’t capture the moment at the moment, you have to let it go and just move on. So I’m not going to tell you about the most affecting piece I read on the terrible Ferguson conflagration nor the essay that explained why I shouldn’t like it as much as I did. I'm not going to even mention the fact that I’m suddenly tempted to block several friends on Facebook because I get so agitated every morning by their political posts and find myself arguing with them in my head for hours and hours. I’ll forego describing the amazing Ottolenghi celeriac with lentils and hazelnuts that I cooked per a suggestion one of you made in the comments. It was truly great, and I don't often say that of lentils, celery root, or hazelnuts. THANK YOU.

Six days have passed now and it's too late to let you know that the New York Times salty pluff mud pie was the one real loser on the Thanksgiving menu, or that the grape salad was weird, but not terrible, and that these brussels sprouts in peanut vinaigrette were the best part of the meal. I bought more sprouts yesterday so I could make them again. 

I’d wanted to write something about Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal, a noble meditation on the end of life that I read in one sitting the day after Thanksgiving. The book is full of wisdom and grace, but also snapping femurs and mild symptoms that turn out to be metastatic cancer. Approach this important book with caution and, perhaps, some Ativan. Unfortunately, the moment to recommend/warn you about Being Mortal  has passed. So, too, the opportunity to share my my mixed reviews of the raunchy John Waters Christmas show, which wasn't as clever and funny as we'd hoped, and Mockingjay, the first Hunger Games movie I haven't loved, mostly because I can't understand why anyone would pine for Josh Hutcherson.

Fortunately, life has calmed down now that Thanksgiving is over and the kids are back in school. Plus, we've been hit by some awesome storms and rain is in the forecast for the next few days and I don’t want to leave the house lest I get swept down the hill in a flash flood. I'll have no trouble finding time to keep you up to date on thrilling developments in my mind and kitchen as I putter around in slippers, researching tramp art picture frames on eBay and trying to get my writing mojo back.

Thrilling developments like this: I’ve never seen Owen wolf anything down with such gusto as he did this ground beef dish from Orangette last night. Mark and I made pigs of ourselves as well and there wasn’t a crumb of meat left for poor Isabel when she got home from dance. I’ve decided I’m going to make this every two weeks until Owen goes to college or starts complaining, whichever comes first. So easy and delicious. For the record, I used a pound of ground beef (adjusting the other ingredients accordingly) and added a 5-ounce box of about-to-expire baby spinach intended for a salad that I never got around to making. Other vegetables could be safely incorporated, rendering the dish slightly healthier. I plan to experiment. Also, I omitted the fried eggs. A real hit, this dish. Try it.