about bliss

Sunday, October 30, 2005

elegy to the farmer's market

Saturday was the last hoorah for my local farmer’s market for this growing season. I bought 18 heads of garlic and bid the garlic man adieu. I bought a pound of Amish butter and bid the Amish man adieu. I bought a bag of baby bok choy and bid the all-organic woman adieu. I bought a little “bear” full of honey and found out I can go buy honey throughout the winter from the honey man, so no adieu necessary. I walked slowly to my car, my hands full with the last of the harvest; I sighed to think of the grocery store offerings awaiting me...

But then I drove to my childhood hometown and went to the farmer’s market there, which has a few more weeks to go, and I added a bag of red peppers, winter squashes, two kinds of potatoes (the ubiquitous russet and my favorite, yukon gold), leeks, and a gi-normous head of cauliflower to the back seat of my car and I didn’t feel quite so sad. Now begins the season of heartier fare and neverending soups, two of my favorite culinary aspects of winter (the other is my self-prescribed dose of how ever much chocolate I deem necessary to keep my serotonin levels in balance on endlessly gray winter days). When I lived in the South, I tended not to eat so seasonally, largely because the seasons were largely indistinguishable beyond hot and not hot.

Speaking of the South, I’m quite excited because pecan season is nearly upon us, and this year I’m stocking up. I ran out of pecans back in March or April, and had to supplicate my Mom and Grandma for a few extra bags. This year I plan on ordering 6 pounds, which should last me a year if I keep to the rate of a half pound/month. We order from a small family farm on the outskirts of the town where I used to live in the South--I would drive to the farm on pecan lined drives, where a Southern man who sounded a lot like my Grandpa would sell me the finest pecans in the Southeast. Now, we order them in massive quantities. I can’t wait to taste the caramelly nuttiness of the fresh pecans...

So there is good in the changing of the seasons. I recently read a quote of Santayana, which suggested how much better it is to deal with the changing seasons than to glory in an endless spring. How true, though in a few months I’ll be disgruntled and suffering from the winter blues and I’ll be wishing that spring would hurry and appear and never end. For now, I’m enjoying the pleasures of autumn--today I turned my face to the warm-ish sun, ran through my childhood neighborhood, walked in a woodsy park, and raked leaves. What a wonder of life in the process of photosynthesis and dormancy. All of life in one fallen leaf...

Friday, October 21, 2005

friday night paramour

A racy, coy title, I realize. Don’t be alarmed (or too terribly titillated, my dears). Yesterday my students read a chapter from Ruth Reichl’s *Garlic and Sapphires* food memoir, in which she admits to an affair with cooking--which is problematic because she was, at that time, a restaurant reviewer at the NYTimes. Looking back on past entries, I realized that Friday nights are seemingly my nights to fully indulge in the pleasures of the kitchen.

This Friday’s paramour project: butternut squash soup. I poured over several recipes, and decided to create something new. Why can I never just follow a recipe? I wanted to emulate M-’s soup I mentioned in a previous post, but I decided to play around with the ravioli by making my own. Ambitious, yes. Once again, I perused several recipes featuring butternut squash and came to the conclusion that ricotta, parm-regg, sage, and toasted hazelnut would make an intriguing filling. Lacking a pasta machine (as well as that level of home-made dedication), I used wonton wrappers and experimented with several ravioli shapes. To make the soup, I roasted the squash in the oven ‘til tender. Meanwhile, I carmelized a sweet onion with a few cloves of garlic. I tossed in the roasted squash wedges, added water and salt, and brought the mixture to a boil. (note: I wanted some vegetable broth concoction, but Kroger only has Knorr veggie cubes and the first ingredient is sodium, the third MSG!!!). I reduced the heat and simmered until the squash fell apart in a glorious mess and the soup created those huge internal bubbles that threaten to explode all over the kitchen. I used my immersion blender and pureed, briefly cooked the ravioli, and then assembled the soup and ravioli in a bowl, with a bit of finely grated parm-regg and a few toasted hazelnut bits as garnish. Some fresh sage would’ve been a nice touch, but alas, I only had rubbed sage. The combination was most delicious.

Now, I have a pan of brownies in the oven to bring to my friends M- and B- tomorrow, who are in Michigan for the Detroit marathon. I had hoped to make an apple galette for them but ran out of time so brownies will be a fair substitute, especially when frosted and ganached with the leftovers from last weekend’s cake adventure. B- is running her first marathon! Yesterday there was an article in the NYTimes about a Nike sponsored women’s half/marathon in CA which includes goodies like massages and facials the day before the race, and Ghiradelli chocolate pick-me-ups mid race. The coup de grace, however, is that at the end of the race each runner receives a little blue box from a tuxedoed hottie. Yes, a little bling from Tiffany’s. I told B- this is a race I could consider:) A half-marathon is reasonable, right? Only 13 odd miles...I’m up to 4.5 now, so I’m a third of the way there...

Today I also settled on what I think is a brilliant Halloween costume for J- and K-’s party next Friday (no cooking paramour for me next week, alas). I am going to don a crisp, perfectly pressed oxford and jeans, a grey/black poncho, an ankle “bracelet,” some pearls, and my best imitation of a Connecticut accent. I will carry a basket full of good things, and attempt to fashion my long hair into a pseudo-bob. Since my family lovingly (mostly) calls me “Martha” anyway (and my brother L- “Emeril”), this seems a natural costume. I had been considering Julia Child, but couldn’t think of what to wear and how on earth I would ever approximate her warbly, trilling voice.

There’s the timer--my brownie creation awaits!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

layers o' choco-bliss

When I was a MA student at my current University, I spent many dreamy afternoons in one of the local coffee shops, reading endless novels, drinking bottomless cafe au laits, and chatting philosophically with friends. Today I decided to return to my old haunt, though it’s not quite the same since it’s in a different building, and is in many ways completely transformed. When I walked through the outdoor seating area, complete with a fireplace, clouds of clove cigarette smoke and the scent of patchouli drifted around me, singalling boho status. The mellow indie rock playing over the sound system was also a contrast to the more mainstream musics played at the Starbucks down the street (not that I don’t enjoy Starbucks coffee and music, though everything there seems commercial and some days I want to escape that ubiquity). I planted myself on a plush sofa and delved into Edith Wharton’s *The Custom of the Coutry,* an amazing novel. I have so many ideas to develop, including a comparison to Theodore Dreiser’s *The Financier,* (that is if the books pair well, which I’ll only know once I actually read the Dreiser tome). Anyway, the coffeeshop ambience, complete with TA’s discussing ethics and philosophy with bookish undergrads, and thin hippie boy baristas was quite a pleasant change of scenery.

So I keep promising to tell the story of the chocolate cake, teasing you with bits of story and then leaving blogland for days, so today I will actually share the history of the cake...

I’d been baking the Moosewood Six-Minute Chocolate Cake for years, with a few slight modifications with frosting. About a year ago I began baking in earnest, and starting thinking that I could really have some fun with this cake since the cake part is SO simple. In January, my friends and I gathered for a belated holiday celebration, and I made what would become THE chocolate cake: two six inch layers with a generous filling of cinnamon buttercream and enrobed in a dark chocolate ganache. My friends and I loved the combination of flavors, and my friend H- declared the cake to be better than sex, to much collective giggling and joking when her husband P- wandered back into the dining room. Since then, the cake has made several other high profile appearances: in cupcake version (with the cinnamon buttercream only) for my friends’ M- and B- wedding, for my friend S-’s parents (a thank you for a trip to NYC), and for my friend J-’s graduation party. Whereas the name Heather bestowed on the cake is funny, I’ve decided to rename it Chocolate Bliss Cake, because it seems to evoke just such an emotion in most who partake in its seductive chocolate layers.

Now, a few secrets about this cake. Although it’s so incredibly simple that anyone could follow the recipe and meet with relative success, I do improvise a bit. I use a few heaping teaspoons full of espresso powder along with the cold water (though I used real espresso last week and WOW, the cake was even more dense and intense...one word of warning: consuming the cake late at night, in large quantities, can make falling asleep difficult. I once unintentionally lengthened a poker game by serving an espresso laden Kahlua chocolate cheesecake to unsuspecting friends. I wish I could claim that was part of my gaming strategy). I use Valrhona cocoa powder (once I made a three layer cake, using a different cocoa for each layer, which was fun...Hershey’s, Ghiradelli, and Valrhona). My favorite vanilla is La Vencedora, which can be ordered from chocosphere.com, an amazing resource for you chocoholics. For the buttercream, I use Vietnamese Cassia as my cinnamon of choice (bold, smooth, with a hint of heat), and instead of milk I use whipping cream. For the ganache, I use Organic Valley heavy whipping cream--so yummy and fatty--along with a high quality dark chocolate, Valrhona 70% if I have it, or else the Lindt 70%, both of which I like because they use real vanilla and not vanillin (an evil artificial vanilla flavored chemical residue from the paper making industry--egads!). And I add a hint of cinnamon to the ganache too.

Now, I’ve been thinking that to make this a true Mexican chocolate cake I also need to add chilis in one form or another...I need to do a bit of research to figure out the best way to do so. I had Mexican (actually, Aztecan) hot chocolate in Chicago this summer at Vosges, this amazing haute chocolate boutique...the blend of rich, smooth, and slightly spicy was simply passionate. I understood all of the legends about Motezuma and his predilection for drinking just such a concoction as a nightcap... And so we’re back to bliss and my story’s come full circle, and though I could write about my choco-passion for hours, I’ll save some choco-talk for other entries.

Friday, October 14, 2005

hip hoppin', joggin', and improvin'

I have high expectations for a day when I don’t have to set my alarm clock. This morning I reveled in a lazy morning, lingering over my coffee--the last of the Zingerman’s special Indian import--and the last of my organic half-and-half. I looked outside for my *New York Times* and once again on a Friday it wasn’t there...ugh. Instead I finished reading yesterday’s paper, and called in a pledge to our local NPR station. I updated my iBook to run the latest version of iTunes so I can finish my mix CD for my class. I kicked off the semester playing music while students are writing and doing group work, and I’ve played Jack Johnson, Billie Holiday, Samuel Barber, and, of course, Dave Matthews. A week or so ago I mentioned making a mix CD and students started listing artists/songs and running to their rooms for their CDs. So now I’m trying to compile this random list by importing some music from CDs I borrowed from Dad, my own collection, and the few songs that I need to purchase. I was saddened to discover that iTunes doesn’t have “Stairway to Heaven.”

So between grading neverending student essays, I finished the bake sale cake. I decided to make cinnamon buttercream to go between the two layers and on top, but skip frosting the sides (I didn’t feel the level of patience needed to flawlessly frost the sides with buttercream). I topped the cake with a single cinnamon stick, placed it in a pink-wrapped box, and slipped a handwritten copy of the recipe in before I covered the box with saran wrap. Despite my moment of laziness re: frosting the sides of the cake, I find I must attend to the aesthetics of food as well as the taste, especially when I'm sharing my creations with others.

When I was at the cafe dropping off the cake I bought a house pour, which is 3 shots of espresso, to make the second cake for myself, as I used up my espresso powder on the first cake. I then went to the health foods store and bought spinach, noodles, ricotta, and mozzarella for the lasagna, and organic whipping cream for the ganache for cake number two. I came home, deposited the groceries in my tiny galley kitchen, and headed out for a run.

I run the same sidewalk everyday, which might sound boring, but isn’t really, because I notice the tiny changes that each day brings. Today, a few more leaves line the sidewalk, and now they’re crinkly and dying, turning brown. When I ran down the hill by the first stop light and between two barns, I smelled Nag Champa incense wafting out of the abandoned barn that’s painted with “Animal Liberation Front” graffiti...what’s going on in there?!? I continued running down the sidewalk, enjoying the warm air and the fact that I had my shorts and tank on with my fleece tied around my waist! In October! As I ran across the bridge I passed two smiling Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I smiled back and giggled because at that very moment Usher’s song “Yeah!” was bumping on my iPod...now for those of you not familiar with Usher, he writes confessional rap/hip-hop songs, often about how he likes to keep company with the ladies, yes, ladies plural. I continued running, and Nelly came on next, singing about how hot it is and how he’s WAY overdressed for the heat;)

I made my lasagna from the bottom up, and, well, it’s disappointing. I didn’t have enough garlic and I used a tad too much sauce...such is the danger with improvisation in the kitchen. I’m hoping it tastes better tomorrow. And my second cake, well, let’s just say it has some issues, in that the centers sunk and the bottoms stuck to the pan when I tipped them out. Ah well. Nothing a little/lot of frosting and ganache can’t repair, and since this one is for me, I’m not quite as worried about the aesthetic factor.

Tomorrow I’ll tell the history and share all the intimate details of my chocolate cake...Now I’m off to rescue my sad layers.

days of wine and chocolate

Ahhhh...some space to breath, to spend time in the kitchen, to catch up on my grading, my writing, my sense of well being. This past week was one of those challenging weeks in which I lose sight of the world outside of my responsibilities and everything seems just on the edge of spinning out of control and shattering into 73 million pieces. When this happens, all I usually need is a day to regain my balance, to remind myself that “nothing is as important as this moment,” a very zen quote, the author of which I cannot remember.

Yesterday I was walking from my office to my car, headed off to teach two long classes in a row, and something about the greyness of the sky and a smell of coming chilliness in the air turned my thoughts to winter. I was composing an elegy to all that is not winter, including my cheery self, when I saw a professor from my department across the parking lot, and without my glasses on he looked exactly like this eccentric female professor at my last job (who was known to crawl into tangled bushes to rescue yet another feral cat), and suddenly I had one of those odd moments where I wondered where exactly I was...

Last night after work I went to World Market to buy Valrhona chocolate bars to make my aforementioned Better-Than-You-Know-What Cake. I spent a considerably amount of time browsing the wine selection--I love their prices and their selection is phenomenal. I was wavering between my summer favorite, La Vieille Ferme Rose, a bargain at $6.99 a bottle (dry, crisp, and simply lovely on a warm summer night). I decided that I needed a nice red to accompany the Lasagna I planned on making this weekend (which is bubbling to completion as I type this missive). I chose a Michele Chiarlo Barbera d’Asti, and I’m quite pleased with the balance of fruit and spice. I was tempted by the Pinot Noirs, of course (no, not because of *Sideways,* though I had a colleague last year who would only drink “Pinot” after seeing the film, and insisted on repeating dialog from the film, bemoaning the fact that there weren’t any Asian women in our department to fill Sandra Oh’s role. I hear he’s now engaged back in Texas, much to our collective surprise). No, my love of Pinot Noir traces back many years, when I was first enchanted with how the name of the wine sounds filling the mouth and rolling off the tongue. And it helps that the wine itself embodies a lovely balance between delicacy and fruit. Some wine experts call it the heartbreak grape because of how sensitive it is to growing conditions.

So. Last night I baked the first of two cakes, and the first was to donate to J-, who I work with at the cafe. She’s involved with a local riding center that does equine therapy, and the center lost its state funding so they’re having a bake sale. The smell of the cake alone immediately soothed my rough edges. I ate the moist bits that clung to the pan after I tipped it out and then stored the cake overnight, to finish frosting today. I went to bed, after staying up to watch *Sex and the City* (since for once I could sleep in again this morning!), to the scent of transformed Valrhona chocolate wafting through the house...Ahhhh.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Parisian Chic, American Geek

Today's one of those introspective days when I wished I didn't have to interact with 80 students. This feeling is magnified by the fact that I have to have "a talk" with each class regarding etiquette and responsibility and so on. But, the good news is that with the chillier weather I can wear my fall clothes, and I love my look today. I'm wearing my full black anthropologie skirt that I bought in Ohio this summer when I was visiting my friends J-. J-, and S-. I've paired it with my favorite button down blouse, a crisp white with tiny black pindots that I bought 2 falls ago at the Ann Taylor Loft in Peachtree City (and which my aforementioned friend J- suggested would be nice with the skirt). I feel Parisian chic, which is heightened by my favorite Coco Red lipstick (nothing better than Chanel) and black heels. One of my students told me I looked so cute, just like the 1950s. All I needed was a vaccuum and some obscure cocktail like a sidecar in hand instead of a piece of chalk and a stack of papers to look the quitessential June Cleaver:)

At lunchtime I headed home straightaway instead of going to the YMCA because I needed to do my 75 minute yoga tape--I felt that Baron Baptiste himself was calling me to unroll my mat and work out the kinks that running has created. Something about the weather, the smell of the Nag Champa incense undulating through the cool air in my guest bedroom/study, and my reflective frame of mind connected me to what I can only call an autumnal sense. I felt moments of past falls swirling through my mind..."memories, through the corner of my mind..."

Tonight I went to see Ken Burns speak. I only had 30 minutes after class before the talk began, so I ate peanut butter (simply Jif) and jam (homemade raspberry chambord) on honey whole wheat bread in the car. Peanut Butter is another one of those comfort foods, evoking childhood when I enjoyed pb and j nearly everyday for so long that I had a decade long peanut butter hiatus. About the time I decided to be a vegetarian (1998) I decided to give peanut butter another chance, and since then it's been a quiet staple in my cupboard. Now, this jam I made tastes like pure raspberry--because it is, with only sugar and a splash of Chambord to amplify the fruity expansiveness. I love to spread it on yeasted waffles on langorous weekend mornings, though I haven't had many of those with my new schedule.

So, on to Ken Burns. He approached the stage and I thought, "He's so cute!" wearing blue jeans, a crisp white shirt, subdued navy patterned tie, and navy jacket. His shoes: a dark brown casual loafer, slightly shiny. He began by spinning a tale of the dawn of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and continued to cover his three biggies: Baseball, the Civil War, and Jazz. Such eloquence, and engaging storytelling...he repeated "listen, listen" throughout his speech, urging us to hear the stories that make us who we are. My favorite line of the night was when he was discussing the modern crisis facing America, and said that he is worried about the kind of fundamentalism that is eroding the separation of church and state "intelligently designed" by our founders. He nicely used the Katrina tragedy to segue into the power of jazz and improvisation to help us rebuild our world. I feel inspired and happy to be American, devoted to making this American life something amazing...

Saturday, October 08, 2005

daily practice and a bowl of soup

My friend M- is running the Chicago marathon today, and I know he’ll run an amazing race. I managed to run 4 contiguous miles yesterday, my personal record. I’m running right around 10 minute miles, which pleases me. A month ago I ran my first 5K and finished in just under 30 minutes, a complete surprise and major accomplishment. I attribute much of my success to carefully crafted iPod playlists...I’m especially fond of a 9 minute long mix of the Killer’s hit song “Mr. Brightside,” with its sweeping strings and soaring melancholy. I remember thinking a few years ago that I would never be one of those “runners,” and now I here I am, feeling my feet itch for that expanse of sidewalk or trail. I recently read an article about finding the fitness outlets that best fit one’s personality, and running and yoga, my other passion, fit my introspective type. I like the space of mind that running creates, not to mention the feeling of connection and harmony from yoga...

I have that same feeling when I’m in the kitchen, carefully yet creatively combining ingredients into something (hopefully) harmonious. Now, some days the exercise and the cooking is much more mundane, a necessity to suffer through so I can rest after a long day of explaining the sheer joy of certain punctuation marks (my top three: the dash, ellipses, and exclamation mark) or to explain that the one word summary of Thoreau’s philosophy is not, indeed, “boring.” But when my daily practices are at their best, I’m at my best.

I’ll sadly miss the farmer’s market today, as I’ll be pulling espresso drinks for caffeine crazed customers at my part-time job. But Mom’s selecting some veggies for me from the farmer’s market in my hometown, and either she or Dad will bring them to me, and I can’t wait to see what transformation they inspire. The weather’s just about right for butternut squash soup, one of my relatively new favorites. I have a delicious recipe from a friend, which includes a swirl of molasses, cheese ravioli, and a butternut bisque. I’m looking forward to making the soup largely for the memories it recalls--a celebratory luncheon with dear friends in the southern town I called home for 6 years. I will call forth their laughter, wit, and kindness in a steaming bowl of soup.

Friday, October 07, 2005

low-riders have no place in the kitchen

Last night, I fixed an inaugural mug of hot chocolate, that post-prandial herald of cooler nights. Since I didn’t have to awake before 6 a.m. for once, I stayed up to watch *Sex and the City* in syndication, only to discover one of my favorite episodes, the one in which Big announces his engagement to the “stick figure with no soul,” and the girls have a *The Way We Were* epiphany. Here’s to all of the k-k-k-Katie girls...

Back to my chocolate elixir. I make hot chocolate the old fashioned way, with milk, sugar, and, obviously, some form of chocolate. Last night I decided to use cocoa powder, largely since my bar chocolate supply is running dangerously low; I’ve been waiting for the weather to cool to restock, since the summer heat wreaked havoc on the chocolate’s temper. My favorite cocoa powder is Valrhona, that mahogany treasure I use for my trademark Better-than-You-Know-What Cake (a story for another entry). I love Valrhona for its depth without much sweetness. I heat the milk (1% organic), sugar, and cocoa on the stovetop on low, allowing the flavors time to meld. For fun, I added a splash of Frangelico to my mug. A slice of honey whole wheat toast with a slathering of Amish butter finished off my treat.

I do love fall, though some days the grey skies are too ominous a harbinger of the endless winter to come. But as I pulled up my down comforter and settled into a deep sleep, I was content. This morning, the absence of the alarm was a blessing, and I lingered in bed deciding what to make for breakfast and when I would fit in my run between grading essays and writing job application letters. This summer I sprang out of bed and ran before breakfast, while the morning retained some coolness, but one of the glories of fall is good temps for running throughout the day. I walked past my running shoes, pulled on my pink velour hoodie, headed toward the kitchen and selected my *Gourmet* cookbook from the shelf.

“Puffed Apple Pancake,” a treat described as perfect for a weekend at a ski lodge, was a decadent breakfast I’d been wanting to try for some time. Usually I eat oatmeal with fruit, nuts, and flaxseed, or a breakfast burrito with vegetables, eggs, and cheese. The apple pancake, noted as “more custardy than cake-like,” seemed to combine the benefits of both of my usual breakfasts with a decidedly dessert-like quality: a splash of vanilla. I followed the simple directions and brewed my morning coffee, Indian single-estate from Zingerman’s.

I pulled the puffed pancake out of the oven, impressed with the souffle-esque height, and set the skillet on the stovetop. As I cut a wedge of the pancake, the hot pan handle met the patch of skin between my low-riding yoga pants and short hoodie. I now have a puffed patch of skin on my stomach, and a conviction to always wear an apron when cooking, especially when I’m tempted to dress like a teen-age rock star:)

But back to the pancake...I’m tempted to write that the taste is heavenly, but I remember my rant against such abstract analogy in class this week. The texture is indeed custardy, and the vanilla flavor reminiscent of creme brulee (the real dessert, for those of you familiar with “The Truth About Creme Brulee,” a certain theory my friend S-lo and I developed, as well as the name of my latest chick-lit novel in progress). With the apples and the eggs, the breakfast seems somewhat healthy (if one can overlook all the foamy butter and two kinds of sugar). I’m ready to pick up my trademark green grading pen and tackle the seemingly endless pile of student food culture narratives. And, once my pancake settles, lace up my running shoes and watch the leaf-strewn sidewalk unfurl beneath my feet.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

dave matthews, foodie

I wasn’t planning on writing multiple entries on my first day in blog-land, but I’ve been inspired by good food and by Dave Matthews. For dinner, I prepared what I call “Farmer’s Market Dinner,” which includes simply prepared veggies from my trip to the local farmer’s market earlier in the day. Today, my treasure was tiny, thin green beans--picked so small because the farmer wanted to get them out of the field before the inevitable cold snap returns us to fall. I cooked these with small, white potatoes (also a farm market find), and dressed them with Amish butter (ditto), sour cream, salt, and pepper (a dish that my Mom makes for our family in the summer, and which I love for its perfect simplicity). I made a salad with a mix of farmer’s market carrots, local organic Macintosh apples, organic red leaf lettuce, walnuts, and gorgonzola crumbles. The coup de grace: homemade croutons (crafted of Paesano bread I dug out of the freezer from my last trip to Zingerman’s--more on them later--Italian herbs, olive oil, and garlic) and the salad dressing (balsamic vinaigrette made with 10 year aged vinegar and fruity-smooth Spanish olive oil).

I flipped to the article on Dave Matthews in the October issue of *Food and Wine,* eager to read about his winery. As my friends would attest, I have a bit of a thing for Dave. Not like some fans I know, who boast of attending 23 DMB concerts and sport tattoos of the DMB’s trademark Firedancer, but in that quiet, yet utterly respectful AND lustful way that translates into loading my iPod with every Dave CD I own (favorite song? I’m partial to “Tripping Billies” and “One Sweet World” for groovy bliss, and “Lover Lay Down” for sultriness). The article has only intensified my admiration for the man behind the sexy tunes. Not only does he have a winery in Virginia (that thankfully eschews new oak barrels--I’ve recently watched *Mondovino* and have many thoughts on wine, but more on that later), but he also is creating an organic farm. His food philosophy is slow (more on the slow food movement later), and he’s using his position of wealth and power to model new-old ways of working the land and relating to our food. A man after my own heart (and stomach).

“Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die,” from “Tripping Billies,” a little hedonistic, a little zen.

I turned then to the NYT (New York Times) Dining section, my journalistic highlight of the week, and was happy to see that Nigella Lawson’s back from a summer respite. Her article on baking inspired me to whip up a batch of her pear and ginger muffins, and now the fragrance of the just-baked treats promises a sweet night-cap.

The article and recipe can be found at:

[the mufffins are delicious, a subtle taste of fall and unexpected fruit. they “pear” nicely with Earl Grey tea]

welcome to my table!

Today, an unseasonably warm day, I walk around my college town and think of fall and food and the end of summer pleasures and settling into those autumnal delights...bi-color sweet corn on the cob and ripe, heirloom tomatoes (which I've only just taught myself to love) are replaced by cauliflower, sweet potatoes, and the various hard-shelled winter squashes. It's a bittersweet moment when the leaves give one last burst of color before tumbling to the ground, and when my produce drawer transitions to heartier fare.

I've started this blog to share my musings with far-flung friends, and to rededicate myself to writing by taking advantage of a public forum. I write personal, fictional, and scholarly pieces and now I want to try my hand at creative foodie nonfiction to commit my pursuit of "a delicious life" into narrative form.

My days are shaped by a sense of the narrative potential of life, and also largely determined by food and the pleasures of the table. I feel comfortable and inspired in my cramped kitchen, equipped with standard rental housing quality appliances and my hodge-podge of kitchenware, including a few treasured kitchen tools: a Wüstof Classic Chef's Knife, pink Kitchen Aid stand mixer, two small All-Clad pots, a small collection of crystal stemware. Creating a delicious meal for myself, and, even moreso, for others, brings no small amount of joy to my life. Food sustains us in innumerable ways, and I want to recover the good in all that food culture has to offer. This is where we begin to craft a delicious life.