It's a city I spent 24 hours in on a layover several years ago, affording me just enough time to walk through the sweltering streets before taking shelter in a four-story, air-conditioned mall. I can't say the trip was very memorable, but thankfully our guide Pooja knows a thing or two about what to see and do in this dynamic city, including a 16-story library, food from Pakistan, India, and Greece, and a shop selling only picture books for adults and children.
One of the most exciting moments in March arrived very early in the month. On March 3, Issue One of Life & Thyme's new quarterly magazine debuted, and it was thrilling to hold it in my hands during the launch party in downtown LA. I contributed a piece, telling the personal story of Providence's Chef Michael Cimarusti and his fish purveyor of 10 years, Alfredo Gurrola. As a writer, there's nothing more satisfying than seeing the power of creative collaboration at work, and I know if you pick up a copy, you won't be disappointed.
Here are a few more things that caught my eye this month.
When your punctuation says it all.
A peek inside Tara's beautiful new book.
The future of food publications is looking up.
Jane Hirshfield's five essential ingredients for the home cook. Love this.
The seven-minute egg.
The middle of things.
Seamus Heaney reads his poem "Blackberry Picking."
On illustrating Walt Whitman.
A conversation with Grace Bonney on blogging and business.
Writing about turnips.
When a lot less is more.
Living with Poetry is an occasional series where we explore how poetry infuses our everyday lives. Catch up with past features here.
It seems the simplest of things: flour, water, yeast. But bread can be an intimidating creature. It feels as if you need a full day simply to tackle even the idea of homemade bread. Perhaps an entire weekend even, and finally on Sunday night you resolve that the following weekend you'll give it a go.
The following weekend turns into the following month, sometimes. It did for me, but I've found bread to be something that simply waits for you. It doesn't pester you with text messages or late-night email reminders. It doesn't tug at your shirt like a toddler learning to stand. It doesn't beg. Bread does not boast that it is easier than baking muffins or making soup. It says nothing until releasing slow breaths while rising on the counter.
For months I had bookmarked Alex and Sonja's bread recipe, by way of baker Zoe Francois. It reminded me of one of the favorite loaves I've been ordering from Good Eggs lately, and I had an itch to make it myself when I had a spare moment. Over the holidays, that moment arrived. Bread was one of the many things I cooked in my kitchen in December while catching up on Downton Abbey and leafing through Neruda's odes yet again. (Never mind that it's taken me this long to write about it.)
Dense or light,
flattened or round,
you are, bread,
and how profound!
-from "Ode to Bread" by Pablo Neruda
I'm always grateful of the reminder that such plain ingredients can do their magic with hardly any fuss. And in case you're missing out on bread's transformative powers because of fear or past failures, it's worth noting that I'm not a master bread maker. Not even close. I'd say my odds are about 50/50 that a loaf comes out just right, but the fact is that even a disappointing loaf of homemade bread, with a soft chew and yeasty perfume, tastes better than anything you can buy. Just slather with butter and sprinkle with Maldon salt and it will be very, very good.
How simple, and how profound. Neruda has it right.
Ready for your own baking experiments? Visit A Couple Cooks for the recipe.
A few days before the Academy Awards, Andrew and I did what we always do and attended the animation symposium at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences in Beverly Hills. Several events take place throughout the week featuring categories like costume design and foreign films, and are a chance to dive deeper into the stories behind the films with the directors, writers, and producers. Essentially, it's a creative well of inspiration.
This year, one comment in particular stood out. Actually, directors from two different films mentioned loving both the importance of, and the absolute necessity of loving the story. In this way, a feature-length animated film is no different than a book, a video game, or even a blog. Each endeavor is a long-term investment body, mind, and spirit, and because of that the projects by their very nature become deeply personal.
Dean DeBlois, director and writer for How to Train Your Dragon 2, lost his father at 19, a similar age as the film's young protagonist, Hiccup. DeBlois wrote the film's funeral scene to capture what he wished he had the clarity to say all those years ago but didn't. It made me tear up. The work we do is personal. It means something to us, and I think we all operate with the great hope that one day our story will expand to resonate with others. That's when our work becomes transformative, living with the wings we hope to give it when we're deep in the trenches.
So keep going. Keep creating. Keep doing what matters. That was the message.
Harper Lee's new novel will be published this summer.
Portraits of books.
Bringing a daughter back from the brink with poems.
How to toast a cheerio.
A measured approach to cooking.
Zadie Smith doesn't want a record of her days.
A story about so much more than gluten free pizza dough.
Thoughts about reading on the go.
A conversation with Mary Oliver.
Chipotle's Cultivating Thought project is taking on new authors.
How to throw an Alice in Wonderland tea party.
A case for publishing alternatives.
The secret life of passwords.
I'm 100% confident that Laura's new cookbook will be stunning.
Chef stories in the New Yorker.
ownton Abbey, fish mousse, and soufflés.
Jenny Stockton might be a newcomer to Seattle (she moved from Denver last summer), but she's spent the last eight months out and about, getting to know her newly adopted city through its restaurants, bookstores, parks, and coffee shops.
Her recommendations are spot on for anyone looking for an independent bookstore, good cup of coffee, or salted caramel cupcakes. From a library that will make any Harry Potter fan swoon, to coffee shops with deconstructed lattes, Seattle is filled with experiences to fulfill any literary craving.
Stop by and welcome Seattle to Literary City Guides!
Can you think of a scenario when cookies do not provide comfort? I cannot.
Cookies are simple yet complex, nuanced with echoes of vanilla or spice. They are tender and chewy, yet firm around the edges. They can be singular. One can make us whole again. If one cookie is not enough, there are others. It's how they are made.
Cookies have also changed. While my heart still holds true to the classic chocolate chip variety, my baking has shifted over the years, incorporating more whole grain flours, healthier fats, and less sugar, so naturally the variety of cookies I consume has changed as well. And not only me. As a nation, as a family, as food bloggers, there has been a collective awakening about food in recent years that I've enjoyed being part of.
Especially around this time of year, we're looking for foods to be more wholesome. It doesn't mean we don't indulge now and again, but there are solid alternatives when a craving strikes. Like these cookies from Tim and Shanna's debut, The Einkorn Flour Cookbook.
Our entire relationship was made possible by the internet, I should note. I reluctantly joined Twitter when a friend (the same friend who encouraged me to start blogging) said at the very least I should create an account and claim my name before someone else does. Fair enough. That was February 2010. In the months that followed I, also reluctantly, began sharing posts and replying to tweets of bloggers I admired. Over a long period of time (we're talking years, not days or weeks), I even became friends with some of them.
That's how many of us food bloggers got to know each other at first. It was an easy way to have a short conversation or say hello without screaming "be friends with me!" in an obnoxious fan kind of way. Shanna was one of those people. Tweets turned to reading each other's blogs. Reading turned to emails. Emails turned to one crisp afternoon in Chicago when we finally met face to face (along with her husband Tim, Erin, and Alex and Sonja, too!). So now we're real life friends, which is the best. I love that about the food blog community.
So you can imagine my delight when this cookbook arrived at my door. And after I'd read through it, made my notes, and ordered a bag of einkorn flour, I settled on cookies. And when I took a bite, standing alone in the kitchen gazing out at the trees beyond my kitchen window, I sensed a poem should be found and the search began. It's title then, is entirely appropriate.
TRANSLATED BY JACQUELYN POPE
Wandered tonight through a city
as ruined as a body with broken
ribs and a bared heart. Looked for you
there with cookies in my pocket, searched
for a sigh, for movement in demolished
streets and alleys. Tonight
since I’d forgotten for a moment where you are,
I searched for you with hope in my bones.
But no matter how I lured you with my voice
and my eyes, walls of debris
grew up steadily around you, cellars seemed
to creep around you. I remained alone
with those cookies in my pocket
and kept calling and walking.
Source: Poetry (May 2010).
In this poem we return to comfort. The cookies in the speaker's pocket are desperately needed on a cold night when she is wandering through a ruined city. A war? An earthquake? A relationship broken into pieces? We might never know, but the cookies are symbolic enough to trigger memories in each of us. Whether we're sitting around our childhood table dunking cookies in milk, smearing rounds with ice cream, breaking a off a warm piece to share with our spouse, or walking around a deserted city with crumbs in our pockets, cookies lead us home.
GRANDMA'S OATMEAL CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Einkorn was new to me until Tim and Shanna introduced it on their blog Food Loves Writing. Although I don't have gluten sensitivities, I do appreciate having a variety of flours to call on in my baking.
These cookies bake up thin, crisp on the outside where the edges turn a bit golden, and tender in the middle. The hint of coconut reminds me faintly of one of my favorite girl scout cookies, Samosas, but far more healthful. The chocolate adds a nice decadence, too.
Recipe slightly adapted from Tim and Shanna Mallon, The Einkorn Cookbook
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup coconut oil, softened
1 cup cane sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose einkorn flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
3 1/2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat. In a large bowl, use a wooden spoon to sir together all ingredients except the oats and chocolate, until well mixed. Finally, add the oats and chocolate and stir until just combined.
Drop dough by the spoonful onto prepared baking sheets, leaving at least an inch between cookies (they will spread). Bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through, until firm and golden.
Makes 20 cookies
While attending graduate school in Vermont, I often started and ended my visits in Burlington. I remember the nicest man at the airport counter who recognized the hometown on my driver's license and wished me a pleasant flight. There was also a stack of pancakes at a cozy breakfast nook, and the cutest little square lined with shops and restaurants, decorated with twinkle lights during the holidays. It's been a while since I've visited, but I have only the fondest memories.
You can imagine my excitement when Joanna contacted me about putting together a guide, because Burlington really is a literary town at heart. Here you'll find bookstores owned by comedians, a thriving poetry series at the University of Vermont, and even a cider shop brewing warm drinks from local apples and plums.
Stop by to welcome Burlington to Literary City Guides!
Sometimes with all the resolution hoopla this time of year, we focus more on where we want to be than what's right in front of us. Living in the present is always a challenge no matter how mindful you are, so it helps to be reminded often. This month, I wrote the following quote on a post-it note and stuck it on my car's dashboard.
I'm not always good at doing this, but I'm trying to make an effort, and a weekend trip to Santa Barbara (see photos) was a great way to practice. In wine country, I'm always relaxed and happy. The wine and cheese doesn't hurt, either.
How to quit Amazon.
15 worthy resolutions from some of humanity's greatest minds.
7 ways to make small talk more meaningful.
Sarah is writing a cookbook!
Want to lose a friend who's a writer? Ask her how it's going.
The disease of being busy.
An interview with the queen of Creole cuisine.
9 food writing trends that require your attention.
Fewer things, more peace.
A little Japanese word that makes all the difference.
The world's strangest restaurants.
In case you're still on the kale bandwagon, because I certainly am.
A night out in the Twenties.
Why you should burn the candles.