Friday, December 16, 2016

Interesting times

Metaphor? Or just a bleak picture I took the other day?
A kind reader emailed inquiring whether I was ok because I hadn’t posted in a while. I’m fine. I haven’t been posting because I haven’t been thinking about cooking, I’ve been thinking about . . . you know what I’ve been thinking about!

It’s been some pretty intense thinking. I foresee more of same in the months and years to come. If you’re cursed to live in interesting times, you might as well take an interest. I have been doing so. 

The effect on my gastronomic life has been that I make the same easy, delicious dishes again and again, stuff that won’t distract from vigilant monitoring of Twitter. Endless rotation of Korean spicy pork, Nigella’s fattening crustless pizza (with extra cheese on top), these lamb meatballs (minus the fussy romesco sauce),  Thai stir-fried beef (minus the egg, but with spinach added towards the end), and Marcella’s tomato-and-butter pasta. Sometimes as I’m casually stirring a skillet of sizzling meat while watching Keith Olbermann on my phone, I think, wow, what a nonchalant, badass cook I’ve become.

I love Keith Olbermann. Hes nuts, but I love him. 

Some stuff that I thought about when I wasn’t thinking about, you know:

*I was totally inspired by this lecture by a University of Toronto professor. About chaos, order, and how to live. Highly recommend. The professor, Jordan Peterson, is in the news right now over the issue of personal pronouns, but this isn’t about that. Not controversial, just fascinating and relevant. 

*Owen has asked me to assemble a collection of all his favorite recipes so that he’ll be able to cook for himself when he moves out in a year-and-a-half. This is pretty damn funny for a lot of reasons, but particularly because he still makes retching noises when he walks through the kitchen and sees me cooking. I will happily oblige, of course. 
vintage Owen
*Do you find it uncanny that both Elizabeth Gilbert and Molly Wizenberg came out this autumn? Two gifted writers who published thoughtful best-selling memoirs about falling in love with their husbands have now left those husbands for women. Is this just a curious coincidence? Or is there something about the temperament of a memoirist that requires new chapters? Would the response of their fans (appropriately warm and supportive) be different if they had left those husbands for other men? I think the answer is yes, but haven’t come to a firm conclusion as to why. Just something I thought about for a few days.

*Gabrielle Hamilton also fell in love with a woman after divorcing the husband she wrote about in her memoir, but that wasn’t such a surprise. For one, she seemed to hate him. For another, she’d been gay before she married him.  This account of her recent wedding banquet is a snappy, fun read thanks to Hamilton’s writing style which is straightforward, vivid, decisive, slightly aggressive. I love the sound of that veal breast — “a succulent, fatty, tender magnificence.” But what about the salt-baked pears. Yea or nay?

Until recently I had never liked Prune, Hamilton’s restaurant. On a visit a few years ago, I ordered fish and received an ugly, blistered whole fish on a plate. No garnish or vegetable. Not impressed.

But when I went to New York last month on business, a friend and I met at Prune and this time it all clicked. Hamilton’s cooking is just like her writing: straightforward, vivid, decisive, slightly aggressive. Dont those adjective pretty much describe a salt-baked pear? 

At the Prune dinner, we started with some austere steamed vegetables with a little bowl of anchovy sauce. Delicious, if not dazzling. Simple duck breasts with some beans — perfect. My dessert was a slice of crusty bread spread with melted chocolate. Very plain, very frugal, very good.  I heard the music. It’s not my favorite music, but I heard it. 

Mark says I have to blog three or four times a week or not at all. I have truly enjoyed the time I spent writing this today as it kept me away from other things, so I’m going try for the former. If I have any readers left, apologies for the long absence.

72 comments:

  1. Ah, I am so glad for your return! I admit I'd also been a bit worried about your overall well-being so am relieved it was just the general malaise (my word, perhaps not yours) now gripping some of the nation.

    I recently watched "Mind of a Chef" featuring Gabrielle Hamilton and found her the same as I always do -- elusive, off-putting, frank, sort of mesmerizing. I'm glad to be pointed toward that article in the NYT.

    I read the recent Orangette post with astonishment. Although I like Molly's writing and admire her cooking, I'd always found her to be one of those "look at how perfectly imperfect I am" people and tried to avoid her more personal writing. This recent post blew all of that out of the water and I've saved it to be read as needed, when a dose of courage is called for.

    And hear, hear! for making all the old delicious standbys and taking a break from thinking about cooking. As a working chef the most delicious vacation I can take is one in which I have very few concerns about food at all and just eat what comes my way. Many of my colleagues find this befuddling, being the sort of driven culinary types who pursue excellence or prestige (no matter how humble) in any locale; but for me, to let go of all thought and just cook and eat like a "layman" is a fabulous treat. This too might be another case of supposing your experience is like mine, but it was nice for a few moments to remember the ease of vacations from "Food."

    I hope you've been enjoying the rainy days of winter here in the Bay Area -- they've been so marvelously non-droughtlike that I don't even mind the traffic delays they cause.

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    1. "elusive, off-putting, frank, sort of mesmerizing" -- perfect description!

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  2. Yes, your fans have missed you but, it never occurred to me you were ill. I just felt you were in the same funk I was over the election. Since I could, I've always voted. Now, I've stopped watching all tv news and I think I won't vote again unless Electoral College ends. My last Abby cat died and I bought a Tonkinese kitten to cheer me up .. that's helping!

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    1. It's been a very strange time. I'm so sorry about your cat. A kitten was a good move. I have recently begun to dream about getting a puppy, but I worry (know) it would be bad for my marriage.

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  3. Mark has great ideas! Please thank him for us (of course I'm glad you made the correct choice of theose he gave you).

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  4. I am vegan and don't make many of your recipes, but I love you and your writing! I am also in shock, deeply disturbed, obsessed with the news these days, and saddened. Thanks again for your words, and your recipes, which always sound rather wonderful.

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    1. I have begun following the Instagram of Goats of Anarchy, a goat rescue organization, and lately find myself wondering how I can justify eating animal products. I can't. But I still do.

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  5. I was beginning to worry that something was wrong, you were sick or a member of your family was sick. I'm so glad you are well and have gotten back to your blog. I may be your only follower that is not upset by the election. I feel we are finally back on the right track. Take heart, all will be well.

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    1. ...a big fat SNORT

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    2. I certainly hope you are right, Lin. I will be as happy as anyone if you are.

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  6. Welcome back, Jennifer! I worried about you for a few days, then checked Twitter and saw you were alive and well. I watched lots of news for quite a while, but I have somewhat given it up lately. I am tired of hearing what everyone "thinks" will happen since that hasn't been too accurate of late! I am partially engaged, but not fully engaged. I am saving myself for after the inauguration, pun intended. I have been meditating a lot, and maybe by then I will be ready. Thanks so much for the recommendations, I really appreciate them. Yep, we live in interesting times, and it has become my mantra. I fully appreciate its curse.

    I have known that you were a badass, nonchalant cook for some time now, and that is one of the reasons I love your blog, but it's mostly your writing and thoughts, so I am just as happy if you are not talking about cooking. It's liberating to just cook old favorites, isn't it? You deserve a long break from culinary adventures, as long as you choose. How is the family reacting to this lack of adventure? Owen is hilarious! Yes, keep us apprised of the list. Has he asked for guidance in how to make these dishes?

    I was dumbstruck by Molly's post. I guess if one chooses to live in the public eye, it's best to keep them informed, but I am certainly glad I don't. I don't judge this behavior in any way, but it is totally foreign to me. I alternately can't decide if it is courageous or exhibitionist (or both), but basically I feel it is none of my business.

    So, you can post whatever you like, and I will always be a loyal fan. Perhaps we can all help one another through the next four years with food, humor, and compassion. I was really glad to see this post.

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    1. Thanks, Beckster. I totally understand the avoiding of the news, which I have done to good effect lately (weeks after the post.) However, I am currently in a motel breakfast room and CNN is blaring and I can not avoid Kellyanne Conway and am being sucked back in . . .

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  7. You still have readers. I'm relieved to know that you were missing for the reasons I initially assumed, and not for some terrible personal reason that I began to fear was possible. I don't think you should let Mark tell you how often to blog. Blog when you blog. I am like you: even though many of my friends inform me that they are checking out or meditating or never-voting-again or whatever, I am all about Eternal Vigilance and cannot look away for more than a few hours without anxiety. Somebody's got to be paying attention.

    Also, you can blog about something other than food if that's what on your mind...

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    1. Eternal vigilance. Great phrase. I took that vow. In the last few days driving around the Midwest with Owen looking at colleges I've been unable to monitor as closely as usual and it's been kind of nice. But I will be back at it shortly, I'm sure.

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  8. Very happy to read you again. I surmised your absence might have been due to our nation's political environment. It is challenging to engage in an open, balanced way when the only news I seem to find is about politics, or political implications.
    PS - read your review in the Washington Post about Betty Fussell's book. Great!

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    1. I'm glad you read that review. I wrote it in a daze.

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  9. Jennifer! I'm so glad you're back! You inspired me to reread Prune again. I want to tackle that kouign amman when I have some time.
    I'm trying to do something every day to try to change what is happening. Writing the electoral college. Donating to the ACLU. Contacting my representatives. Now I'm making lunch for a friend and trying to take comfort in the physical act of cooking.
    I think I can speak for everyone when I say we missed you very much and are extremely glad you are here again!

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    1. You are my activist role model! I have an app that tells me what to do every day but I have yet to do a single thing.

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  10. You still have at least one reader left- I'd read your blog even if it was once a year. Isn't that why they invented RSS feeds?
    Living in the DC area this year and my 13-year-old wants to attend inauguration for historic purposes but...eww. I'm hoping the weather is the most awful, hurricane, tornado, freezing, terrential rain, coldest ever so I can use that as an excuse.
    Happy end of year!

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    1. Maybe you should attend the inauguration for historic purposes and then the march, also for historic purposes? That would be interesting.

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  11. I echo the comments of everyone above. I'm just so happy you are OK and writing again - whether about food or whatever else is on your mind. I've really missed your posts, so welcome back!
    Rachel

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  12. Thank goodness you are back! You listen to Mark, ok?? I share your "concerns" about these times and cycle myself from hysterical disbelief, to telling myself to calm down and live my life and do the good I can, back to hysterical disbelief and outrage. I hope you will find a way to continue to pay attention but also blog like crazy. That would be the good you could do for me. The photo of Owen is the best. I'd love a copy of his recipe collection...or a copy of your recipe collection of favorites. Hey, you could publish that if you xeroxed a lot of "permission to reprint" forms? I'm guessing the Korean phase is over? yeh? eh... I'm looking forward to the lecture you mention. As for the pronoun issue, I am a former English dept. chair who now is a grassroots volunteer training school systems on the needs of glbt students, etc. Our younger associates are vocal, strident about prounouns, and have slammed me to the ground over my objections to all the changes. One of them even insists on being "they,them,." It makes me know the times are a'changin'. And don't get me started on "ze, zheir" etc. OK, back to food and blogging. Please, please, please just type away! We all adore you.

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  13. I really missed you and checked in here often, just in case. I'm relieved you are back. Just blog when it suits you.

    Wishing you, and all of us, well.

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  14. Glad you're back. I knew why you were gone. So many of us need a break to grasp what happened. I live in Mexico among a lot of frightened people. Hard to know what to tell them. Blog when you can. Thanks, Jennifer.

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    1. Frightened Mexicans or frightened expats? The nuclear thing is what worries me most.

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  15. Hi! I have been thinking about the yay-you're-leaving-your-husband responses too - would leaving for another man be received the same way (I'm going to guess... no) Love your blog -- hoping for another book!

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    1. I had the same feeling- that leaving one's husband for another man wouldn't get quite such a positive response. And while I appreciated Molly's candor, I felt a bit saddened by the whole story. I wonder if her (soon-to-be-ex) husband reads the blog?
      Anyway, I am delighted Tipsy is back!

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    2. I thought about this for such a long time, probably because of all the cultural issues raised by the election (not that they touched on this particular point.) We have many unexamined prejudices, those of us on the cultural left as much as anyone on the cultural right. If you stop loving your husband and fall in love with someone else, you stop loving your husband and fall in love with someone else -- whether it's a same-sex person or an opposite sex person, the underlying issues are identical.

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  16. Yay! I'm glad you're back! I kept checking to see if I had been dropped from the list. I enjoy the ramblings, musings and book reviews of an intelligent person.

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  17. my husband and I have been less than civil to each other (me prob more than him} since the election. AN WE ARENT EVEN AMERICANS. He's become alien to me...one of those knuckle dragging deplorable supporters. Can't believe it has come to this. If I knew then...what I know now? I would have given him the cold shoulder in that bar. And taken a taxi home instead of getting in the car with HIM. Grrrr.
    I've also been checking back every once in awhile but your random posts on instagram have sustained me.
    Here's my take on that .....(the exact words escape me) and his .....children. (how does anyone describe any of them sufficiently). He's been appointing seemingly retarded (???) people just so he can say "Your Fired" and these fools hes appointing don't see they're all going to crash and burn. You heard it here first.

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    1. That sounds like a challenging marriage!

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  18. Welcome back! I agree with part of Mark's advice (obviously, the publish 3-4 times a week bit) but no matter how sporadically, keep on writing this always wonderful to read blog!

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  19. Meg Rosenberg12/18/16, 4:43 AM

    Happy you posted. Assumed you were stunned, but didn't know how that would end.

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  20. so horrified by this year, but so happy for your writing.

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    1. It doesn't get more normal, it gets worse!

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  21. I'm so glad you're writing again; I love reading your blog.

    I wonder what it must be like, your love story out in the open, very publicly, and its end (for whatever reason - changes in orientation or simply drifting apart), equally so. This happens in the world of memoir, journalism and blogging fairly regularly. I remember several bloggers' relationships ending openly in previous years. There's a strange tension, which I feel when writing my own blog posts, between writing the personal (which can feel interesting for the writer and, equally relevantly, especially when writing is an income stream, keeps people interested in you) and the point at which you might wish to stop. Because when so much has been put into the public domain, when do you owe your readers more insight into the personal dimensions of your life, and could you stop if you wanted to? Of course no one is entitled to learning about the private lives of others, but I wonder how complicated it becomes for the writer, too, when bound up with income (as it can be for writers who are paid for their writing). I think about these things a lot when writing, even though I personally have nothing exciting to say about my 'private' life!

    For what it's worth, I think people do take these things differently when marriages end through infidelity. I remember Gilbert was criticised, for example, and I even read suggestions that she was a serial 'user' of relationships for the purposes of writing. I haven't read her work so am reserving judgement, but clearly some people see it that way.

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    1. Some people really hate Elizabeth Gilbert. I happen to like her a lot.
      I think it would be a nightmare, going through a major upheaval that contradicts/reverses a book you wrote. I feel for both those women. I can only imagine. I do hope they both write about these changes, if many years from now.

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  22. I had been checking every few days and I'm so glad that you're back! I've felt like going into hibernation ever since the election-lots of comfort food at my house.

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    1. Comfort food. I have put on weight.

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  23. I'm glad you are back.

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  24. So glad your back -- while I cannot do Twitter (!) -- I too am obsessively reading news and trying engage more beyond just donating to causes that work vigilantly on human rights, women's rights, the environment, and those who are already marginalized. Thanks for all your writing and thinking -- we all appreciate your writing and thinking about food, family, and the world.

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  25. just joining the general chorus! love your blog (my favorite of all blogs) and am so glad to see you writing again.

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  26. I've been checking every couple days, hoping you hadn't given up on life after the election. So glad you're back!

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    1. Not giving up on life -- energized by the horror!

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  27. Very glad you're back, and I am feeling the same things you are feeling. I've got the tv on in the kitchen all the time now. I have the car radio set up for MSNBC. I can't let this go. I'm throwing money at as many worthy causes as I can, and I'm going to the Women's March on Washington on January 21st (please, those of you who can make it, come; if you can't come, get the word out). I live in NC where we're having a mini-version of this whole shitstorm. It's sort of nonstop and I'm planning on fighting back as much as possible. Thanks for coming back - my brain appreciates a break from the yuck.

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    1. What happened in North Carolina has been stunning. I wanted to go to the march in Washington, but it's too far. I'm going to the march in San Francisco.

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  28. I never comment, but I'm so glad you're back :) I missed you!

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  29. I'm so glad you're back! And I loved that Gabriel Hamilton essay - thank you for sharing.

    Your writing about other experiences - parenting, restaurants, vacations - is just as engaging and smart and funny as your writing about cooking and cookbooks. I'd love to keep reading even if the blog changes direction.

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  30. I'm glad you're back! I haven't ever posted before, but I found your blog after reading "Make the Bread, Buy the Butter" and have periodically checked back ever since.

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  31. I also thought about how once you get stuck with the memoir genre, you better keep your life eventful.
    Oz

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    1. Or God forbid you do something you don't necessarily want to write about and you're a confessional writer in the public eye. Yikes.

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  32. I'm still stunned myself...but then, realize FOX NEWS has been broadcasting for 25 years...
    Love your blog! Reminds me of Laurie Colwin...writing about cooking and food, family, friends and herself...wonderful...

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    1. I started following Fox News more closely. You see a whole different reality.

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