Tag Archives: food

grandma stuff.

My grandmother has been so much on my mind the last few weeks. She was 96 when she died this past February, at home and at peace and ready to join my grandfather. I was so lucky to have her for such a long time. But I’ve missed her a lot this month, because she’s been around every corner.

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At Thanksgiving, I wore her apron and used her rolling pin to roll out crust for apple pie, using her recipe. The following weekend, I made a double batch of bourbon balls for Christmas and set them aging. In the last few weeks, I’ve used her typewriter to make a gift for a friend, and to type labels for bottles of homemade applejack that I sent. And ever since Black Friday, I’ve been getting emails from a florist company reminding me to “send Roberta Christmas flowers!” I could unsubscribe from that, I suppose, but it seems strangely disloyal and so I’ve suffered through the tiny pangs that arise every time one appears in my inbox. photo 1 (23)IMG_0075

For as long as I knew her, Grandma hated having her picture taken, so the smiling photos I’ve posted here are rare and precious. But in the days leading up to her funeral, I made a collage of photographs for the service, and I discovered a photo album from the year before she married my grandfather up through the year that their oldest, my uncle Sid, was born. She’s smiling radiantly in almost every picture. She may still have disliked the camera, but there’s no sign of it in these enchanting pictures. I now have this photo album, and I love looking through it at the pictures of their early life, and her beautiful smiling face.photo 2 (22)

So no flowers for Roberta this Christmas, but she is remembered in everything I do, and in many of the gifts I give. Here’s her recipe for bourbon balls. Consume with caution; if you let them age properly, they’re heady.

*NOTE: the measurements given are for cookies and nuts after they’ve been ground, not before. I managed to forget that this year, with slightly soggy results. So for proper results with a single batch, you’ll need to buy two boxes of Nilla Wafers, and more than a cup of walnuts. Grandma used a rolling pin, because she was a badass. I use a food processor, because I live in the future.*

Bourbon Balls

  • 3 cups ground Nilla Wafers
  • 1 cup ground nuts (I mostly use walnuts, but anything works)
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar, plus extra for dusting
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup bourbon

Grind wafers and nuts fine. Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Shape into balls about the size of a large cherry. Roll in confectioners sugar (I roll them twice). Age at least two weeks. Makes about 36; keeps indefinitely.

Always it is by bridges that we live.

I’m just back from two weeks in Yorkshire visiting Phil. This was my first visit to Hull. I was looking at the city through lots of different eyes: through Phil’s, as he showed me the city he loves; through mine, as they sought and discovered all the things my eyes love; through ours as we imagined a life we could share together in this city.

It was so much fun to play tourist with Phil in a city he’s lived in all his life, and watch him see things in a new way as I noticed them. He had all the fun of watching me fall in love with the light and the street names and the oh-so-welcoming frequency of pubs. And of introducing me to a number of British foods I hadn’t tried before (pork pie, Yorkshire pudding, sausage roll, pork scratchings, and so many cakes of increasing fanciness), and making sure I didn’t step out into the street after carefully looking the wrong way for traffic. I can’t count the number of times I stopped to stare up at something in dumb happiness, only to feel a gentle hand on my elbow, steering me back to the sidewalk. No, the pavement. Sidewalk is called pavement in England. (I must also accustom myself to the word trousers, to avoid Very British Scenes of Embarrassment.)

We spent a lovely long morning rambling through an enormous old cemetery, deciphering inscriptions. It just kept going back and back and back, into ever more tangled underbrush, and then opening suddenly into little clearings full of crypts and monuments. There were two days spent hunting down 41 fish sculptures on the Historic Fish Trail (you can read about that on Phil’s blog), pleasantly interspersed with 15 pubs on the no less historic Ale Trail. (Phil did a really beautiful job documenting both of these in their entirety on Instagram.) We visited the Gentoo penguins at The Deep, and got all nerdy-giddy over the sharks and rays. I met his family, and we liked each other.

We also spent a solid amount of time sitting on the couch with the cat and watching one dumb movie after another. We’ve gotten very good at being together long distance, but it’s not easy to live 6,000 miles away from your partner. When we’re lucky enough to be in the same room for a while, the simplicity of reaching out to touch one another is a huge happiness. Reading aloud, sitting quietly together immersed in our own projects, doing the interwoven kitchen dance of preparing a meal together – these were my favorite times in these two weeks, and they’re what carry us through until we can be in the same room again.

We found this sign in the charmingly-named Land of Green Ginger. The tiny street in Old Town is also home to England's smallest window.

. . We found this sign in the charmingly-named Land of Green Ginger. The tiny street in Old Town is also home to England’s smallest window.

Side door of St. Mary's Church in Old Town

Side door of St. Mary’s Church in Old Town

Hull is the only region in the UK with its own telecom company, and has cream phone boxes instead of the traditional red.

Hull is the only region in the UK with its own telecom company, and has cream phone boxes instead of the traditional red.

The Ferens Gallery has a wonderful collection of Dutch masters.

The Ferens Gallery has a wonderful collection of Dutch masters.

SHARK! The Deep is a wonderful aquarium with several different vantage points on an impressive shark tank.

SHARK! The Deep is a wonderful aquarium with several different vantage points on an impressive shark tank.

Jellyfish at The Deep.

Jellyfish at The Deep.

We have had beer. At Wm Hawkes in the Old Town.

I fell in love with the light in Hull, especially on the water.

I fell in love with the light in Hull, especially on the water.

Art Nouveau detailing on an arcade in Old Town.

Art Nouveau detailing on an arcade in Old Town.

Waffle doughnuts with cake on top at Hull Fair.

Waffle doughnuts with cake on top at Hull Fair.

Kissable.

Kissable.

One of 25 installations commemorating Philip Larkin, found throughout Hull and surrounding towns. This was my favorite of the ones we saw.

One of 25 installations commemorating Philip Larkin, found throughout Hull and surrounding towns. This was my favorite of the ones we saw.

Yorkshire Rose at the bottom of my pint glass.

Yorkshire Rose at the bottom of my pint glass.

Archie.

Archie.

Phil photographing the sign at the Green Bricks for the ale trail.

Phil photographing the sign at the Green Bricks for the ale trail.

Meditation on a Grapefruit

The ritual act of peeling and eating a grapefruit is a meticulous, visceral joy. Through the years it’s become a sort of sacrament, especially when shared with specific people, one of whom sent this to me.

This year, I’ve also recorded all the poems I’m posting. Click the title of the poem to listen.

Meditation on a Grapefruit

To wake when all is possible
before the agitations of the day
have gripped you
                     To come to the
   kitchen
and peel a little basketball
for breakfast
           To tear the husk
like cotton padding     a cloud of
  oil
misting out of its pinprick pores
clean and sharp as pepper
                              To ease
each pale pink section out of its
   case
so carefully        without breaking
a single pearly cell
                    To slide each piece
into a cold blue china bowl
the juice pooling       until the
   whole
fruit is divided from its skin
and only then to eat
                   so sweet
                             a discipline
precisely pointless       a devout
involvement of the hands and
   senses
a pause     a little emptiness

each year harder to live within
each year harder to live without

by Craig Arnold

nerd sunday

I had the nicest morning. I got up early and went to meet my lovely friends for breakfast at Marmalade. We all enjoyed breakfast nerdistry (I had a butternut squash & leek crepe, with dried cherry chicken sausage in a red wine reduction and scrambled eggs), and each of our separate nerdistries involving stamps, babies, ceramics, comic books, beads, craft shows, letterpress, letter writing, boobs, girl scouts, the history of punch, absent friends, and small business chatter. After that, I got a massage and had some Pacific-Northwest-and-the-wearing-of-tights nerd chat with my wonderful massage therapist. Then I went to the comic book store, and geeked out over Unwritten, jack-o-lanterns, small business branding, Swamp Thing, Sweet Tooth, and John Carpenter’s The Thing (I missed a screening they did last night. Boo.). To top off my morning, I went to the liquor store and engaged in some heavy enthusiasm over a case of vintage ports that the wine nerd just scored.

The rush of enthusiasm endorphins will sustain me for a while. I’m reminded of Wil Wheaton talking about John Green’s quote about being a nerd. It’s been blogged and tweeted and tumblr’d several thousand times, but one more won’t hurt. Watch it again, and enjoy liking stuff. I’m gonna drink my tea and watch The Thing on Netflix.

respite.


It hasn’t been a hot time in the old town lately. Work’s been tense, I’ve been sick twice in a month, and in the last 48 hours winter decided it wasn’t finished talking yet. I’m looking forward to the start of spring break (in 26 hours).

I got a beautiful early respite yesterday, though, in the form of a knee-weakeningly good meal at Girl & the Goat with my friend Natalie. She made the reservations for us some time ago, and I forgot about it until she mentioned it on Tuesday morning. For the next 24 hours, I pinned all my anxiety and work tension and the itchy feelings* I borrowed from other anxious people and my achy discomfort and my cold bones on the moment when I would get to walk through the door of this legendary restaurant, sit down, drink a calming glass of wine, and have comforting, exciting, thoughtful food lavished upon me. As absurd as it sounds to hang my peace of mind on the success of that moment, that’s exactly how it happened.

I got to Randolph with -3 minutes to spare, and found Natalie already sitting by the window and the host ready to seat us. It was our lucky night, and no one had claimed the chef’s table, so we got to sit right on the kitchen line and watch everything happen. While chatting up the prep chefs and asking questions about everything.

My calming glass of wine was the house white: Girl & the Goat Columbia Valley Semillon-Viognier. Sweet and rich, but nicely balanced and not like drinking dessert. I warmed up. My shoulders slowly came down from around my ears to a normal shoulder-type level.

Oh, and then we ordered food. I sing a song of dinner, in the order in which it appeared (my staggering accuracy here is the result of a purloined menu):

loompa bread (I didn’t think to keep one of the little bread & specials menus, so this one is to the best of my recollection) – artisan bread with cumin and nuts, served with a raisin & nut butter & carrot oil. If you’ve never had a cold sweet white wine with a mildly spicy bread dipped in carrot oil, I recommend it.

chickpea fritters. romesco. hazelnut hummus. sesame. goat feta. As if this doesn’t sounds wonderful enough already, it was sprinkled with a handful of deep fried chickpeas, all golden and crispy and melting the goat feta ever so slightly. Texture extravaganza – hearty foods in delicate forms.

seared scallops. brown butter XO. goat sausage. shiitakes. winter squash. I chose this for the goat sausage and winter squash elements – must have goat. The scallops were perfect – sweet and delicious, and that wonderful scallop tenderness that’s so velvety it’s almost liquid.

grilled bison butt. sausage vinaigrette. pink lemon. black trumpet. This was Natalie’s choice, because “I totally came here to eat the butt of some bison.” Our server said “She puts these things on the menu so she can yell ‘We got butt! We got pig face!’ all night.” (Which did happen.) And really, if you had the power to serve pig face and make people want it, why wouldn’t you? We didn’t order pig face (wood oven roasted pig face. sunny side egg. tamarind. cilantro. potato stix), but we watched carefully to see what it looked like when it came off the line, and Natalie got the giggles pointing out that it had egg on its face. Excellent.

Anyway, back to the bison butt. It was a strong flavor, but gamey is the wrong word for it. I still haven’t figured out the right word for it. I could taste the grass and outdoorsness of it. I said, “It tastes so…so…” Natalie said, “Real?”. Yes, exactly. It tasted real. Like an animal. I’m not certain that I liked it, but I liked the experience of eating it.

sauteed green beans. fish sauce vinaigrette. cashews. Lately I’ve been roasting green beans and big chunks of garlic, instead of my usual asparagus; this was the amped-up superhero version of that. I don’t know what god you have to sacrifice to in order to find such fat and magnificent green beans during Smarch, but good job. Fish sauce vinaigrette, good job. Cashews, good job. My shoulders were now kind of slumped as I was completely relaxed and propped up on the bar, perusing the wine menu in a lazy fashion.

We had lots of people taking care of us all evening long, but were primarily served by our left-flank server, who recommended dishes and answered questions and took our order, and our right-flank server, who brought us our food. I should have noticed their names, but I didn’t. Left suggested the Substance Columbia Valley Merlot to accompany the next dish. It was absolutely the right thing – light and a bit woodsy and really good without being shouty about it. A nice balance to the very rich meats.

goat, pork, and veal sugo. pappardelle. rosemary. ground cherries. According to Joel, the patient and gracious prep chef we got to pester all night, the ground cherries were actually gooseberries. He said they had pickled gooseberries earlier in the year, and that sounds so good that I’m going to have to hunt some down for pickling this summer. They look like tiny orange cherry tomatoes, but are neither sweet nor savory. The flavor is delicate and earthy and juicy and distinctive and not something I feel I can adequately describe. The word yummy was mentioned. Everything we ate was so delicious, and so satisfying, and so genuine, but I think the sugo was my favorite.

By now, I was in a comfort haze. Natalie was eating sugo. I was reading the wine list for pleasure and edification, and watching something crispy come out of the wood oven. Someone came up by my elbow and said, “How is everything, guys?” I thought it was Right Flank checking on us, and sort of shifted my head a bit and said, “Amazing, thank you” but didn’t really connect. And that’s how I came to accidentally snub the chef. Stephanie Izard, clever hands, wizardish food sense and superstrength hair – who made me feel so pleasant and cared for that I just couldn’t even sit all the way up and say hi.

bittersweet chocolate . shiitake gelato . creme fraiche. Dessert also had some kind of golden sauce drizzled on it – maybe an apricot thing? I was too stoned on amazing flavors by then to absorb all the information. The chocolate cake was embellished by crumbled chocolate cookie, and the bittersweet crunchy crumbs in tangy creme fraiche…well, good.

We followed that with coffee, and I begged a couple of slices of caperberry off of Joel. I recognized what they were, but I’d never tasted one, so he gave us a little dish of thin yellow-green, seedy caperberry slices. I tasted it and pronounced it “earth pickle.” Natalie promptly requested a new necklace design called earth pickle.

And then I went home, full of good things. We’ll just pretend the muzak incident in the cab never happened, and will speak no more about it.

*This is Shana’s expression; I think it’s brilliant.