Seasonal living and the sensual, sensate life.

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Let Winter Nights Enlarge

Let Winter Nights Enlarge

Now winter nights enlarge  The number of their hours– –Thomas Campion Winter arrives, just in the nick of time.  I’ve been rushing and rushing pulling the threads of my daily to-do lists tight, holding my breath for what seems like months now as I stare […]

In Search of the White Whale

In Search of the White Whale

Home is my great white whale.  For as long as I can remember I’ve searched for it, turned the thought of it over in my mind and longed for the coordinating x and y of permanence and thriving for the perfect place.  Growing up, I […]

Thanksgiving, With Abandon

Thanksgiving, With Abandon

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all
–Harriet van Horne

I have long believed that good food, good eating is all about risk
–Anthony Bourdain

–for Oody

I’ve gone over to the dark side.

For years I’ve posted my annual Thanksgiving treatise on How to Roast a Perfect Turkey How to Roast a Perfect Turkey Without Bags or Brines or Gallons of Hot Oil–a post that gives common sense tips on how to roast a turkey and preaches the gospel of good ingredients and simplicity. Without fail I’ve followed this method for decades (with one exception: the year I roasted my bird at 425 degrees) and the results have been very good, but only occasionally spectacular.

This year, inspired by a killer New York Times Thanksgiving section and the heavenly pure roasted poultry flavor of a succulent and fat Whole Foods chicken I recently made using Julia Child’s classic recipe coupled with the lingering stench of utter disappointment over last year’s first-ever organic turkey that wasn’t the pure poetry I’d imagined it would be, I’ve decided to ignore my own advice.

I am nothing if not a girl who changes her mind.

Ask Greg. It infuriates him every time I pronounce a plan as if I’d hammered it myself in stone only to hours later think of something better. In this way, Sunday breakfast in bed with the big pancake and the New York Times becomes a trip to Jamestown for Rainbow’s killer New Orleans Benedict and the Merc’s famous hold-the-orange juice mimosas, followed by a hike around the peeper pond with River.

This year, I require ritual not rote repetition, danger not dutiful adherence to the tried and true.  Plus I’m gaming for spectacle and the spectacular.  So it is with fist raised that I announce that I’ve done what I’ve long preached no one ever need do: Dear Reader, I’ve brined my turkey. It’s in the fridge as I write, rubbed with salt (1/2 teaspoon per pound), pepper, and lemon zest–double bagged with bunches of fresh rosemary, thyme and sage, along with garlic from our summer garden.

I’ll be honest: I’ve been on the brining bandwagon for a while now—having perfected my fried chicken this summer when I discovered the secret of adding two tablespoons of Kosher salt to the bathed-in-buttermilk-overnight bird. The result, fueled by spectacular discovery that a mixture of half arrowroot and half tapioca flour produces the crispiest chicken ever, took the top of my head right off.

This year, when I came across a recipe for dry-brined turkey, I happily shucked my sack of pontifications about simplicity and turkey perfection and left them alongside the road. Leaping, in this case, not just with abandon, but with a genuine thrill at the risk.

I’ve gone on record as saying I grow easily bored with menus. In this, I am no traditionalist. I don’t want to eat the same things year in and year out, though there is certainly pleasure in revisiting favorites. But think of this: When you remember your favorite meals, it’s really the first time you had them that you conjure or more likely who you had them with. Greg still says the first time I cooked him fried chicken (unbrined, overdone, and frankly, a bit burnt) on the day we met for the first time in the park in Boulder was the best. We both can count our disappointment on the second visit to a new restaurant, noting how the food was just not the same. Newness, my lovelies, makes the experiences richer, deeper, and infinitely more sexy. So, of course, does the company.

So I’m sexifying my Thanksgiving this year.

Hilda by Duane Bryers

I’ve got Greg, but I’ll also have a brined bird and I’ll be using hard cider to flavor the pan drippings and gravy and adding a sliced beet and apple salad with cider vinegar,  pistachios and a bit of horseradish to the menu. Together with my other salad (shaved Brussels and escarole with marcona almonds, pickled onions, and champagne vinegar and buttermilk vinaigrette), these two dishes will skewer the too often too heavy and too brown Thanksgiving list of favorites: Sausage and dried apple dressing, larded mashed potatoes, the big brown bird, and of course (for everyone but me), rolls with butter.

Following Montagne–“The art of dining well is no slight art, the pleasure no slight pleasure“–I’m trading in the tried and true to risk a deeper desire—the one that comes from walking out to the edge and a new vista to see what there is to see.


Welcome to Rougher Beauty

Welcome to Rougher Beauty

I’ll be honest:  I’ve struggled with this blog (formerly 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 […]