Seasonal living and the sensual, sensate life.

Recent Posts

Welcome to Rougher Beauty

Welcome to Rougher Beauty

I’ll be honest:  I’ve struggled with this blog (formerly 1hotkitchen@blogspot.com) for the last year now. Sure I’ve had the convenient excuse of writing a book, a task far more lovely and consuming than I ever imagined.  But It’s also true I’ve worried for some time […]

Don’t Call Me a Lady

Don’t Call Me a Lady

Call me Brash.  Call me Bossy.  Hell, call me the other B word.  Just don’t call me a Lady.  I’m a bit old school when it comes to the “L” word.  In my mind, those four letters are a gilded cage, a choke collar fastened […]

Brave New World

Brave New World

When Miranda utters these words in The Tempest, it’s clear they are the words of a naif.  She’s young and sheltered and–frankly–lusty. Her “brave” means handsome; Miranda is all about the surface. 

Most who invoke these words miss Shakespeare’s irony or haven’t read Aldous Huxley’s novel by the same name—What they summon, instead, is excitement about a changing landscape. 

For our new Emperor without Clothes, the phrase is clearly spin.  He’s the confidence man selling American his (empty) version of the story, whether he’s talking about how God himself kept the rain from his inauguration speech or tweeting his apples to oranges comparison of TV viewership of his big event. 

Pussy Hat, Caper WY
Yesterday, women across the world took back the phrase from the smoke and mirrors reality TV star who wants us all to be Mirandas. In our usage, brave means strong, and the new world is what is possible when we unite.  Over a million worldwide marched in response to what has clearly been a hostile takeover linked unmistakably to the message that women’s lives don’t matter. 

I know I am supposed to be writing about food and love and landscape, but the world seeps in—even here in my remote studio in Wyoming—where I’ve encamped to finish my book.

Words matter.
Truth matter.
I come from a family of invisible women. My mother was so ghost-like I don’t have one memory of her from my childhood.  She lived, for the most part, beneath the twin thumbs of alcoholism and abuse.  Another woman, a great aunt whose name I know was Nina, lived and worked as a servant in nearby home at 19, but by 21 was listed as an “inmate” in the North Dakota Hospital for the Insane. The silence around who she was and what happened to her is deafening.   

As of January 21, 2017, when women and, men and children joined the Women’s March in big cities and small towns—even on a boat in Antarctica–“brave” means holding ground.  We will not go back.

Women’s March in Casper, WY
Today is the 44th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, an anniversary I mark by noting the following two items:  1) Already an avalanche of state-based legislation has been introduced to severely limit, if not deny, a woman’s right to make her own hard choices regarding her body.  2) Nina was likely institutionalize because she was raped, became sexuality promiscuous or pregnant out of wedlock, or spoke out about sexual misconduct by her employer.  She spent the rest of her life institutionalized and died at the age of 87, abandoned by her family. 

If you think the move to restrict abortion (and access to birth control) is about anything besides a concerted effort to control women, you are mistaken. 

In this Brave New World, women will rise.  We are the resistance.
A Mind of Winter

A Mind of Winter

   Cabin in deep snow One must have a mind of winterTo regard the frost and the boughs Of the pine-trees crusted with snow; And have been cold a long time To behold the junipers shagged with ice, The spruces rough in the distant glitter  Of the January sun; and […]

Cooking in the Age of Anxiety

Cooking in the Age of Anxiety

Smell Rome might very well be burning.  There is no denying the smell of smoke in the air and a horizon that looks so much darker than it did a just a few weeks ago.  I have spent my days out of focus and a […]

Taking Stock

Taking Stock

For a week now, the freezer door has refused to stay shut.  I will close it, only to have Greg complain it’s been cracked open all night, a puddle of water the damning evidence on the floor. Both of us have tried in our own haphazard way to shove bags of peas and protruding ice packs back into the maw of the deep freeze, announcing triumphantly that “I fixed it,” only to find the door ajar an hour or two later in the golden light of the afternoon.    

So yesterday morning, while I was making Sunday coffee for coffee and The New York Times in bed, I took everything out of the freezer, and here’s what I found:  a dozen frozen bananas, a pint of Talenti Tahitian vanilla I didn’t know I had, the missing fruit pop I removed from its box because the box was taking up too much room, a bag labeled “lamb scraps” and another labeled “lamb pieces for stock,” a small round filled with a dark brown substance that is either chocolate frosting, demi-glace or bordelaise (the lid is frozen to the container), along with the requisite chicken and pork packs I knew were in there.
I also found the culprit to the door dilemma:  14 chicken backs shoved, along with 3 bags of frozen leek ends from last years’ garden in the door’s upper shelf.  Whenever I make chicken, I often buy a whole fryer, a bargain at my localish healthy grocery store for about six bucks.  Far easier to cut up the chicken myself than to pay the butcher to do it.  This leaves me with the back which goes into the freezer for a stock I’ve never gotten around to making.  Until yesterday.

Judiciously choosing ten backs, and saving four, Greg and I bought another three pounds of chicken wings and together, put the pieces onto two cookie sheets along with a coarsely chopped onion, celery and carrot.  We don’t often cook together, a habit we seem to have fallen into because the first rule of the kitchen is that s/he who cooks doesn’t do the dishes.  Our labor thusly divided, we tend to stay out of the other’s way.  Perhaps because it was a largely hands off venture, the stock seemed ripe for cooperation on a day that caught us squabbling about the most mundane things.
After checking the chicken parts three times, an hour and fifteen minutes later, I took the browned meat and veg out of the 450 degree oven, deglazed the sheets and poured everything into a big stock pot and covered it with water. Then Greg climbed the stairs from the basement at thirty minute intervals to de-scum the stock which simmered for three hours as I alternately napped and rooted for the underdog Steelers who were fielding a backup quarterback.    
I’ve been thinking about taking stock as summer fades fitfully—the forecast is still peppered with 80 degree days out here on the prairie, and just this last week, the morning glories breathed their last gasp at the height of their bloom, as night time temperatures dipped into the forties.  It’s been a lovely and sometimes difficult six months since I fell into full time writing, working most days in my office alone, River sleeping at my feet, trying to keep a rhythm going for my memoir in progress, while also being mindful of the rhythm in my relationship wit my artist-lover.

Writing is lonely solitary work.  In my particular way of accessing the best of it, I prefer quiet mornings without so much as a cheery hello or tender I love you before I am off to work. Speaking first thing seems to get in the way of my best words.  It is a habit I honed all those years when I was single and living on the mountain, but it’s tough on Greg, who nevertheless has been game as my writing days stretched from five to six a week this summer.  Still I worry that the gap I’ve created for my work has introduced a gap in my relationship.

At this point, it normally would be far too easy for me to panic, to see my dilemma as pitting professional fulfillment against more personal ones, to walk straight to the ledge and leap.  But the one thing I’ve learned in five years of being with Greg is that what’s happening today isn’t necessarily what will be happening tomorrow or next week.  Just at the moment when I’m certain I’ve fallen into a perilous rut—with writing, with Greg, with life–something surprises me.  Things change. The seasons tell us that.  And just like the surprise of those chicken backs or the dozen frozen bananas in the freezer which I vow to make into a fabulous something sometime soon, there are things left to be discovered, new stories to live and tell. 
As Greg and I shared a comforter on the couch downstairs and ate his famous natchos, from basement to bedroom, the house smelled like Thanksgiving, a lovely roasted and browned poultry aroma that brought to mind some of our happier holidays and inspired me to save our joint stock for turkey day, when we can be gratifyingly reminded that it was made by four hands not two.
Oh Fall! How do I love thee?

Oh Fall! How do I love thee?

Let me count the ways. I love thee for cooler days and the return to roasting succulent cuts of meat, for rich sauces made from boiled pan drippings, and the serene pleasure of mashed potatoes larded with butter. I love thee for sweet baked squash […]

Dog Days, Part 2

Dog Days, Part 2

When I introduced River in this blog a few months ago, I announced in a tongue and cheek way that he came from a Texas kill shelter with “a suitcase full of yet to be revealed ailments,” lamenting a case of very treatable but not inexpensive cancer […]

The Clock of August

The Clock of August

In the yard this morning
Let’s face it, August is heavy with expectation. We’re all thinking about what’s to come, all the while larding our calendars with things to do before the golden days of autumn settle in, before the evenings are too cold to sit outside, before the early mornings are perceptibly darker. Our bodies swing between hurried preparation and a kind of manic relaxation:  One more vacation, one more weekend getaway, one more long hike, one more fourteener before bad weather and back to school. My Facebook feed has been one non-stop pleasure-fest, so full of friends’ exploits and accomplishments that next year, I’m banning all beach photos.  You think they’d have an app for that.

Plainly put:  August is a ticking clock. 

Our Giant Sunflower
For me, it’s been rather a time bomb. I woke up this morning realizing I’ve washed up on the shore of summer feeling as if I’ve missed it. There have been no vacations this year, no camping, no Persieds, not even one hike, though Greg and I managed a few bike rides. I’ve barely set foot in the garden.  Instead, I’ve merely glanced at it from my office, an 8×10 space where I sit and write for four, six, eight, or, as on one fevered day, thirteen hours. And while it’s true that writing every single day is the dream of a life I’ve long had, the bubble popped this morning on its romance.  This summer, my artistic life has obliterated all else.  

The Glory herself
Of course it’s my own damn fault.  In some ways, it’s been easier to sit at my desk as an excuse to escape the string of 90 degree days appearing more often than not since the beginning of June. But that’s not the whole story:  I’m nothing if not a toiler and a doer and, whether rocket fast (kitchen prep, cleaning, weeding, chores) or slow and plodding (writing and writing and writing), I manage a sturdy, cement-like focus, letting all else—pleasure, anyone?—fall away. 

So I’ve arrived on the eve of September realizing I need to take not only a breath, but a sledge hammer to all this concentration. It began this morning, when I broke routine (coffee, journal, work on book) and stepped outside before 8am for the first time all summer. 

A fat morning glory yawned open against the garage and I plucked three strawberries and a handful of beets. Lemon basil bolts from neglect, but the vegetable garden is thick with the promise of tomato and peppers.  My monster sunflower, pregnant with blossoms, towers fifteen feet in the air and the rosehips are fat as raspberries.  Taking it all in,  I resist the urge to plot and plan.

This holiday weekend, though it makes me breathless, I vow to take all three days off from writing.  Plans?  I have a few which include poetry and Greg and hammock time, or perhaps a bike ride to the Farmer’s Market along with a drive up to the hills.  Whatever it is, no matter how much fun or spectacular or beautiful, I will not be posting the pictures on Facebook.

Beets

 

A Menu For Change

A Menu For Change

Okay listen. Like you, I’ve been unable to look away from the daily idiot-grams tweeted by the Demagogue Who Would Be King.  Inside these last burning days of July, I’m boiling, not because of the heat dome currently centered over the nation, but because one loud-mouthed […]