Last year we introduced Lexington to Literary City Guides, and now another Kentucky city joins the group. Our guide Terri is a Wisconsin transplant that now calls the city home, and helps you walk the streets of Louisville to find coffee and crepes, an art gallery that hosts poetry readings, and a bar celebrating writer Hunter S. Thompson with a mural personally approved by his wife, Anita.
We're back in the midwest today, visiting a truly literary town. Here's how our guide Susan Miller describes the charming city of Indianapolis.
"As soon as visitors arrive by plane, they are greeted by glass installations in the airport etched with poetry written by Indiana poets. This is just the beginning of this city’s surprising literary legacy."
Read through the guide and you'll discover a memorial library honoring Kurt Vonnegut (as well as a restaurant named after one of his books), a coffee shop that donates to charity, and enough readings and conferences to keep you busy all year.
Stop by to visit Indianapolis!
Well. Here we are, the thirty-first day of October. Last month I told you what was about to happen, and on Monday, October 5, our lives changed forever. It's been a pretty incredible few weeks. As it turns out, nursing provides ample time to catch up on RSS feeds and ebooks, so I've managed to stay relatively up to date on what's going on in the world. Here's a peek at what I've been reading + the food I want to be eating once I start cooking more regularly again.
The 10 stages of the creative process.
Ruth Reichl on food, writing and the joys of the baked potato.
Which type of library user are you?
Stop hustling and get your life back.
Parents today are often chastised for being distracted by their devices, for devoting more attention to their phones than to their children.
A new way to entertain.
We create out loud.
A new approach: Screw finding your passion.
Can you practice simple living but still love your stuff?
I emerged from a nap, a small luxury, about a week before Henry was born. The house had just been cleaned, which meant the kitchen was a blank slate. Empty, with late afternoon sunlight streaming in. I pulled out my largest bowl, a collection of herbs, and the remaining vegetables in the refrigerator that needed a home.
Make something out of nothing. Tamar Adler's words were fresh in mind. When I first read An Everlasting Meal, this idea clung to me. It appears suddenly on Friday evenings, when I'm deciding between going out and staying in, realizing I didn't quite plan for the end of the week, but feeling up to the challenge of scrounging around in the fridge and pantry and putting together a meal.
Lately, these four words have been a companion of mine in the kitchen, and I often turn to them as one would a mantra or favorite quote written on the chalkboard. Because the words stay with me, I proceed to follow their advice, relying on instinct and memory and only a small amount of knife skills.
The words appear as a simple nudge, and they are, in one way. In another way, though, they are a call to pursue the instinctual piece of yourself as a cook which can be frightening, depending on your mood or comfort level. The words are gentle, but they guide us to an interior part of ourselves, perhaps unexplored.
Like anything worth practicing, cooking is an important pursuit. If you're here now, reading this post, I'm inclined to think you agree with me. And that means sometimes we must go off on our own, remove recipes from our counters or phone screens, and just make something.
My something turned out to be a Moroccan-inspired quinoa salad. I often soak grains overnight, cook them, and assume they will be used, which they usually are. So I did some of the preparations already, having cooked two cups of quinoa earlier that morning, but I didn't decide what to add to the bowl until the moment when I pulled out my knife, sharpened it, then proceeded to open the refrigerator and pull out what remained from the week.
There was half a cucumber, a cup of cherry tomatoes I was protecting from summer fruit flies, half a bunch of kale, three different herbs (mint, parsley, cilantro), a box of chickpeas, a handful of golden raisins leftover from the granola I baked two days before. To make the dressing, I reached for cumin, lemon, shallot, mustard, honey, oil.
In keeping with the theme of trust and instinct, I cannot offer a recipe. I've listed my ingredients, and I trust you. You know how to whisk a vinaigrette and add more honey if it's too tart. You know how to chop all the greens at your disposal, gather a pile of grains. I know the same, because I peeled, chopped, sliced, whisked. I tossed well, coating every grain, tasted for salt, tossed again, then stepped back from the counter, proud in some small way but mostly, deeply content. And grateful.
Grateful for a quiet house, for the light, for the dog waiting by my feet should a piece of cucumber spill to the floor. Grateful for what was to come in just a few days, which would be more monumental that I could have ever prepared for. Grateful for sustenance and skill and the ability to make something when required. Or not even required. More simply, when needed.
I spent last weekend going on long walks in our neighborhood, eating spicy Thai food, drinking raspberry leaf iced tea, and waiting. Early Monday morning before the sun rose, my water broke, and I went from being pregnant to being in labor to being a mother in roughly twelve hours. I might have more to say about that experience another time, but until then, would like to introduce you to Henry Cade Gulotta, born October 5, 2015.
We're over the moon.
Clearly, this might alter my posting frequency for the next couple of months, which is to be expected. Literary City Guides are still streaming in (to some amazing destinations I can't wait to share), and as for the rest of it, I will be here as often as I can while I settle in to a brand new routine.
Many of you have already sent your well wishes on social media and through touching emails, and I thank you for welcoming me into the parent club with such open arms and hearts. More soon. xo
Today's tour guide Elen Turner arrived in Buffalo, New York via the UK and Australia, and has come to love the town she now calls home. It's easy to see why. In Buffalo, you'l find a strong Japanese food scene, plenty of coffee shops to warm up from chilly winters, and bookstores offering readings and lectures.
Stop by to welcome our newest guide to the fold!
As we've discussed, the last weeks of pregnancy require you to wait. And rest. (And hopefully get massages, read books, and put your feet up while watching movies and drinking iced tea.) I've been enjoying it immensely.
Naturally, I haven't been able to keep completely still, although I have found myself limiting each day's expectations. I might only have energy for one or two activities. One load of laundry and one yoga class, perhaps, or one movie and one pedicure, for example. If I have more or less energy, I accept that, too.
Most recently, because I had the energy and ingredients and was needing to make room in the freezer for food to sustain us in the weeks after baby arrives, I made three loaves of banana bread.
I've been hoarding bags of peeled bananas in my freezer for the past several months. Maybe hoarding is the wrong word. Forgetting is more like it. These bananas never made it into smoothies or on top of pancakes, and the only way to save them was to peel their black speckled skins, place them inside a bag, and wait for an opportunity. Between several different bags, I discovered about thirteen bananas.
My afternoon was off to a tremendous start when I forgot to add baking soda to the first batch. I realized my error two minutes into baking, quickly pulled the pan from the oven, haphazardly poured the batter into a bowl, and stirred in the leavening agent. Then came the task of gracefully adding the batter back to the smeared pan and straightening the parchment paper as much as I could. It was the worst loaf of the three, as I'm sure you can imagine.
Luckily, the final two loaves were perfection. Nutty from brown butter and a combination of sugars, somewhat wholesome from a variety of whole grain flours, and moist from plenty of bananas and yogurt. Even though the sad first loaf didn't rise as much as the other two, I still couldn't wait for it to cool before cutting a thick slice off the end and slathering it with currant jam.
I tried to eat slowly, hoping that concentrating on a new poem might help, and it did, briefly. You might want to read this one twice over, as I did, because the descriptions are so beautiful.
They are tall herbs, really, not trees,
though they can shoot up thirty feet
if all goes well for them. Cut in cross
section they look like gigantic onions,
multi-layered mysteries with ghostly hearts.
Their leaves are made to be broken by the wind,
if wind there be, but the crosswise tears
they are built to expect do them no harm.
Around the steady staff of the leafstalk
the broken fronds flap in the breeze
like brief forgotten flags, but these
tattered, green, photosynthetic machines
know how to grasp with their broken fingers
the gold coins of light that give open air
its shine. In hot, dry weather the fingers
fold down to touch on each side--
a kind of prayer to clasp what damp they can
against the too much light.
from “A Field Guide to the Wildlife of Suburban O’ahu,” Time Being Books, 2006
I love when a poem doesn't ask too much of you, except to marvel a little. This poem does exactly that. Banana trees might not be something we consider very often, if ever. But for two minutes, we stand at the base and look up, mesmerized by "multi-layered mysteries with ghostly hearts."
We feel the wind on our skin, and really listen to it. We offer up a little gratitude to the beauty found in a single fruit. The poem ends with an offering, not only to the banana tree itself for sustaining "gold coins of light," but an offering to the reader in the form of remembrance, because now you might never be able to peel back the skin of a banana again without thinking of the act as a kind of of prayer, and thinking of the banana tree as a steady force swaying in the breeze, able to sustain the weight and provide sustenance against the elements.
It's just beautiful, really, to the point that a humble loaf of banana bread almost feels inadequate. But cooking is about intention, no? Approaching the ingredients, the method, the baking, with care and reverence and enthusiasm. If we arrive with these traits, whatever we make in our kitchens will rise up to be worthy.
NUTTY WHOLE GRAIN BANANA BREAD
I've adapted this recipe liberally from Molly Wizenberg via Luisa Weiss. I've never actually made Molly's ginger and chocolate version, but instead have used the wet and dry ingredients as a guide to develop my own version.
I use three different flours and three different sugars because I tried it one recent afternoon and loved the results. But if you'd rather not, just know you need 2 cups of flour and 3/4 cup sugar, and define those how you will. I also tend to believe that if you're planning to melt butter for baking, browning it is always a good decision.
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup spelt flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup turbinado sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 ripe bananas
1/4 cup plain, whole milk yogurt
3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan and/or line it with parchment paper. (As you can see from my rustic photos, I didn't take the time to perfectly measure my parchment.)
Melt the butter over medium heat and cook until it begins to brown and smells nutty. Remove from heat and let cool while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, mash the bananas, then add the eggs, yogurt, coconut oil and vanilla. Whisk with a fork until well combined.
Add the wet ingredients into the dry and stir with a wooden spoon. Slowly drizzle in the melted butter and add the walnuts. Continue stirring until no traces of flour remain; do not overmix.
Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes.
Manhattan might not be the largest island in terms of sheer size, but it has enough diversity in its neighborhoods to warrant special attention on Literary City Guides.
We've already toured Carroll Gardens and Williamsburg in Brooklyn, and today we're wandering the streets of the Lower East Side with help from local guide Kathryn Chou. As you might expect, there are many treasures for the literary-minded, including a bookstore specializing in rare titles, quirky coffee shops, and restaurants serving everything Mexican food to noodles to satisfy your appetite.
Stop by to visit the Lower East Side!