Sunday, December 15, 2013

Portuguese Kale Soup

I don't always plan what I am going to cook. Sometimes the ingredients on hand tell me what they want to become as I go along. A week ago I bought two glorious bunches of kale and yesterday I thought I'd better use them now. So I rinsed and chopped them and put them in my stock pot with 6-8 chopped onions and about a gallon of water. I still didn't know what I was going to make, so I let it sit unheated. Then I decided to cook a one pound bag of dry garbanzo beans and since I hadn't planned ahead I decided to simmer them with a one inch piece of kombu (dried Japanese seaweed) and a bloop of olive oil. The seaweed tenderizes the beans which is a good thing to do when they have not been presoaked. I let this simmer in my slow cooker for about three hours. Later I heated up the stock pot and simmered the onions and kale, and when they cooked down I added the cooked garbanzo beans along with their glorious broth. I ran to my butcher and got a rope of kielbasa sausage and sliced it into coins and added it to the pot. Within minutes I had a magnificent soup. I ladled out a few bowls for my husband and me. We sprinkled on kosher salt and black pepper. It was delicious. I can see why this soup is called Portuguese penicillin. It is hearty, soothing, and light all at the same time. I will make this again, on purpose!

PS This soup can be made with other kinds of sausages like linguiça and with other kinds of beans like white beans, or with potatoes.

Have fun, enjoy, relax and experiment.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Recipes Evolve

It's fun how when a recipe is shared each person puts their own twist on it. I told my friend Teddi about making granola with molasses instead of honey and she tried it and loved it. She bakes hers at 275 rather than 300-350, and now I am doing that. The same thing happened when I told her my method of cold slow no knead bread. She bakes bread this way too but bakes hers in a cast iron Dutch oven, and now I am doing that. A good teacher is also a good student.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Stuck Bread Trick

Today I baked my sourdough in my little red heart shaped enamel iron pot and it rose really high but then it got stuck! I left it alone for fifteen minutes like I do with my Bundt cakes. Then I scored the rim and it came out.

The secret to removing bread stuck in pot:
Let it cool for 15 minutes in cold room away from mischievous cat.
The bread will shrink!
Then take a very thin knife and go round the rim of the bread.
It will come out.
Soak pan.

Rumford Baking Powder Biscuits

It is the gray season in Rhode Island, one of my favorites. Bare trees and gray sky and damp air, is perfect weather for baking!

Rumford is a RI town where the baking powder factory used to be. Then it became artist studios.

This recipe was adapted by me, from recipe on the can. You can make the whole thing using a bowl and spoon and your hands.

2 cups whole wheat flour I substituted 1/4 c for 1/4 c old fashioned rolled oats
3 teaspoons Rumford aluminum-free baking powder
1 rounded teaspoon of kosher salt, less if using white flour
6 tablespoons shortening (3 T Smart Margarine 3 T Crisco shortening)
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Mix dry ingredients: whole wheat flour + oats, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl.
Cut in shortening until mixture resemble coarse meal.
Add buttermilk to make a soft dough.
Turn dough out on a floured surface and knead gently for 30 seconds.
Roll out to 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch thickness.
Use a biscuit cutter to cut out into rounds.
Place on ungreased cast iron pan.
Bake approximately 15 minutes or until light golden.
Place in cloth-lined basket. Serve with tea jam or soup.

Supernormal Stimuli

A supernormal stimulus or superstimulus is an exaggerated version of a stimulus to which there is an existing response tendency, or any stimulus that elicits a response more strongly than the stimulus for which it evolved.

For example, when it comes to eggs, a bird can be made to prefer the artificial versions to their own, and humans can be similarly exploited by junk food. The idea is that the elicited behaviours evolved for the "normal" stimuli of the ancestor's natural environment, but the behaviours are now hijacked by the supernormal stimulus.

Supernormal Stimuli

Deirdre Barrett author of a new book on behavioral evolution explains how primal urges overrun their original purpose

Put a mirror on the side of a beta fighting fish's aquarium and the gaudy iridescent male will beat himself against the glass, attacking a perceived intruder. A hen lays eggs day after day as a farmer removes them for human breakfasts -- 3,000 in a lifetime without one chick hatching, but she never gives up trying. The healthiest, largest male chickadees have the highest crests on their heads and they are sought after as mates. When researchers outfit runt males with little pointed caps, much like the human dunce cap, females line up to mate with them, forsaking the naturally fitter, hatless males.

These animal behaviors look funny to us . . . or sad. The reflexive instincts of dumb animals. But then there's a jolt of recognition: just how different are our endless wars, our modern health woes, our melodramatic romantic and sexual lives? In my new book, Supernormal Stimuli: How Primal Urges Overran Their Evolutionary Purpose. I describe how human instincts -- for food, sex, or territorial protection -- developed for life on the savannah 10,000 years ago, not today's world of densely populated cities, technological innovations, and pollution. Evolution, quite simply, has been unable to keep pace with the rapid changes of modern life. We now have access to a glut of larger-than-life temptations, from candy to pornography to atomic bombs, which cater to outmoded but persistent instinctive drives with dangerous results. In the 1930s Dutch Nobel laureate Niko Tinbergen found that birds that lay small, pale blue eggs speckled with grey preferred to sit on giant, bright blue plaster dummies with black polka dots. A male silver washed fritillary butterfly was more sexually aroused by a butterfly-sized rotating cylinder with horizontal brown stripes than it is by a real, live female of its own kind. Mother birds preferred to try feeding a fake baby bird beak held on a stick by Tinbergen's students if the dummy beak was wider and redder than a real chick's. Male stickleback fish ignored a real male to fight a dummy if its underside was brighter red than any natural fish. Tinbergen coined the term "supernormal stimuli" to describe these imitations, which appeal to primitive instincts and, oddly, exert a stronger attraction than real things. Animals encounter supernormal stimuli mostly when experimenters build them. We humans can produce our own: super sugary drinks, French fries, huge-eyed stuffed animals, diatribes about menacing enemies. Instincts arose to draw our attention to rare necessities but now they lead us to harmful behaviors that compromise our health, safety, and sanity. Though sociobiologists and evolutionary psychologists have incorporated many of Tinbergen's ideas and those of other animal ethologsts such as Konrad Lorenz, they have not used the concept of supernormal stimuli. I believe that this is the single most valuable contribution of ethology for helping us understand many issues of modern civilization. Supernormal stimuli are driving forces in many of today's most pressing problems, including obesity, our addiction to television and video games, and the past century's extraordinarily violent wars. Manmade imitations have wreaked havoc on how we nurture our children, what food we put into our bodies, how we make love and war, and even our understanding of ourselves. If we become aware of supernormal stimuli, this does more than simply alert us to danger. There's a clear alternative once we recognize how these behavioral triggers operate. Humans have one stupendous advantage over Tinbergen's birds -- a giant brain. This gives us the unique ability to exercise self-control, override instincts that lead us astray, and extricate ourselves from civilization's gaudy traps. Supernormal Stimuli: How Primal Urges Overran Their Evolutionary Purpose.
Deirdre Barrett is an evolutionary psychologist at Harvard Medical School's Behavioral Medicine Program. She is the author of several books, including Waistland, The Committee of Sleep, and Trauma and Dreams. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Eat a Little Meat

To ward off depression. . . Article

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Pie of Armande

This recipe is from Francine and Lucie sisters from Quebec. The pie is amazing. Francine is my sweet neighbor and friend. The addition of apples adds a unique and delicious mystery.

2 lbs ground beef
2lbs ground pork
2lbs ground veal
3 medium onions
3 cloves of garlic
1 1/2 tbsp salt
1 1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
5 potatoes (approximately)
pie crusts

Roast onions and garlic in butter. Add the meat, stirring often. When everything is browned add the spices. Cook for 30 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
Cook the potatoes and add to the meat. Pour into pie crusts, cover everything with another pie crust. Bake 15 minutes at 425F.
Makes about 4 meat pies.

Optional additions:
Add 5 grated apples when cooking meat. (Lucie)
Glaze with a beaten egg before putting in the oven. (Francine)

La Tourtiere d'Armande

Cette recette est de Francine et Lucie sœurs du Québec. La tarte est incroyable. Francine est ma douce voisin et ami. L'addition de pommes, ajoute un mystère unique et délicieux.

2 lbs boeuf hache
2lbs porc hache
2lbs veau hache
3 oignons moyens
3 gousses d'ail
1 1/2 c.a table de sel
1 1/2 c.a the de poivre
1/4 c.a the de clou de girofle moulu
1/4 c.a the allspice moulu
5 patates (environ)
croutes a tarte

Rotir un peu les oignons et l'ail dans du beurre. Ajouter les viandes et rotir en brassant souvent. Quand tout est bruni ajouter les epices. Cuire pendant 30 minutes a feu moyen en brassant de temps en temps.
Faire cuire les patates et ajouter a la viande. Verser dans les croutes a tarte, recouvrir le tout d'une autre croute a tarte. Faire cuire 15 minutes a 425F.
Fait environ 4 tourtieres.

Ajouts optionnels:
Ajouter les pommes râpées 5 lors de la cuisson de la viande. (Lucie)
Glacer avec un oeuf battu avant de mettre au four. (Francine)

Thursday, December 5, 2013


I've decided granola is really a baked oat salad. The dressing is oil and molasses vanilla and salt.

Amsterdam City Workers

You may see these guys hanging around here, chatting, making jokes. But I can assure you, every man you see here carries a little backpack with their own misery in it.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Sensory Surrealists

E: I feared I might cook all day if my studio was at home. Its true, to good effect. Luckily I work too. Something is always simmering, marinating, brewing, fermenting, incubating. I'd have a roost of chickens if I could, and messenger pigeons. Pigeons were originally called Rock Doves. I'd send these birds out carrying poems and I'd have a Jersey cow and goat, for making cheese, right here in the city.

P: I cook in my studio while drying papers in front of the oven. Sometimes the art smells of chicken or a roast.

E: True story -- rabbit skin glue as canvas primer smells like sleeping puppies.

P: I never smelled sleeping puppies. . . now rabbit, it’s go.

Simmering Tomato Sauce

Last night I slept
While my tomato sauce simmered.
Even my dreams were scented.

Strides for Saudi Women

“We are promoting recruitment of Saudi women because they have a low level of attrition, a better attention to detail, a willingness to perform and a productivity about twice that of Saudi men,” said a grocery store manager with branches throughout the kingdom.

While her mother and aunts never worked, she said, all of her sisters now do. “It’s nice to get out and work and get paid,” she said.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Martín Espada


This was the first Thanksgiving with my wife's family,
sitting at the stained pine table in the dining room.
The wood stove coughed during her mother's prayer:
Amen and the gravy boat bobbing over fresh linen.
Her father stared into the mashed potatoes
and saw a white battleship floating in the gravy.
Still staring at the mashed potatoes, he began a soliloquy
about the new Navy missiles fired across miles of ocean,
how they could jump into the smokestack of a battleship.
"Now in Korea," he said, "I was a gunner and the people there
ate kimch'i and it really stinks." Mother complained that no one
was eating the creamed onions. "Eat, Daddy." The creamed onions
look like eyeballs, I thought, and then said, "I wish I had missiles
like that." Daddy laughed a 1950s horror-movie mad-scientist laugh,
and told me he didn't have a missile, but he had his own cannon.
"Daddy, eat the candied yams," Mother hissed, as if he were
a liquored CIA spy telling secrets about military hardware
to some Puerto Rican janitor he met in a bar. "I'm a toolmaker.
I made the cannon myself," he announced, and left the table.
"Daddy's family has been here in the Connecticut Valley since 1680,"
Mother said. "There were Indians here once, but they left."
When I started dating her daughter, Mother called me a half-Black,
But now she spooned candied yams on my plate. I nibbled
at the candied yams. I remembered my own Thanksgivings
in the Bronx, turkey with arroz y habichuelas and plátanos,
and countless cousins swaying to bugalú on the record player
or roaring at my grandmother's Spanish punch lines in the kitchen,
the glowing of her cigarette like a firefly lost in the city. For years
I thought everyone ate rice and beans with turkey at Thanksgiving.
Daddy returned to the table with a cannon, steering the black
steel barrel. "Does that cannon go boom?" I asked. "I fire it
in the backyard at the tombstones," he said. "That cemetery bought
up all our farmland during the Depression. Now we only have
the house." He stared and said nothing, then glanced up suddenly,
like a ghost had tickled his ear. "Want to see me fire it?" he grinned.
"Daddy, fire the cannon after dessert," Mother said. "If I fire
the cannon, I have to take out the cannonballs first," he told me.
He tilted the cannon downward, and cannonballs dropped
from the barrel, thudding on the floor and rolling across
the brown braided rug. Grandmother praised the turkey's thighs,
said she would bring leftovers home to feed her Congo Gray parrot.
I walked with Daddy to the backyard, past the bullet holes
in the door and his pickup truck with the Confederate license plate.
He swiveled the cannon around to face the tombstones
on the other side of the backyard fence. "This way, if I hit anybody,
they're already dead," he declared. He stuffed half a charge
of gunpowder into the cannon, and lit the fuse. From the dining room,
Mother yelled, "Daddy, no!" Then the battlefield rumbled
under my feet. My head thundered. Smoke drifted over
the tombstones. Daddy laughed. And I thought: When the first
drunken Pilgrim dragged out the cannon at the first Thanksgiving-
that's when the Indians left.

- Martín Espada


Turkey Soup Improvisation

I took my turkey soup stock and skimmed the fat off it after it had cooled and congealed in the fridge. I sauteed a bunch of onions, I chopped carrots, and added it all to the turkey stock pot. Then I added leftover tomato sauce, and leftover roasted squash. I heated it up and added leftover whole wheat ziti, it is fabulous!

Last night (12/4) I made another addition I thinned the soup with stock leftover from cooking chick peas. Now it is divine.

Perpetual Tomato Sauce

In Precious Blood cemetery near my home I pass graves marked 'Perpetual Care.' I told my husband this morning, "This kitchen has perpetual tomato sauce." Tomato sauce as procrastination is something I learned from my mother. When in doubt make tomato sauce. My sauce is different than hers. My secret is lots of chopped black olives and celery. I buy the the inexpensive cans and I use extra virgin olive oil which is a bargain at Job Lot and I use fresh garlic and home-grown basil, oregano, and parsley. It simmers all day. Sometimes I make garbanzo beans and they are like mini meatballs. Other times I ladle sauce on slices of my bread toasted and I sprinkle Pecorino Romano cheese on top or I add slices of Pepper Jack for a fast and lazy spicy pizza.

Dinner for Breakfast

A great kids book could be Dinner for Breakfast and Breakfast for Dinner like The Backwards Day, a cool book from the 60's.

In my world, Chinese broccoli and water chestnuts or lasagna, spaghetti, eggplant Parmesan, French meat pie make a great breakfast, and fried eggs, vegetable cheese omelet, or pumpkin whole wheat buttermilk sourdough pancakes make a great supper.

Soup, salad, half sandwich, or leftover supper food make a great lunch.

In this house we worship the bean, particularly the chick pea, and we worship all cruciferous vegetables.

Apples, applesauce, home made yogurt and home made molasses-granola are my favorite snacks. And we could not live happily without coffee and tea.

Habits Formed in the Womb

Where you start, is where you end up.
I can thank my mother for her propensity for real food. She had a love of fresh vegetables, fruits, yogurt, fish, meats, breads, soup and all things savory. I don't think I ever saw my mother eat a sweet, use butter or take a drink in my life. Medications could send her to Mars and drunkenness came without anything at all. I inherited all of these qualities, and I have learned that it is a blessing in disguise.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Cool Hot Flash Necklace


Psychologist Jeremy Dean

Making Habits, Breaking Habits: Why We Do Things, Why We Don’t, and How to Make Any Change Stick, by psychologist Jeremy Dean, illuminates an important common misconception about how willpower shapes our habits and behaviors:

People naturally vary in the amount of self-control they have, so some will find it more difficult than others to break a habit. But everyone’s self-control is a limited resource; it’s like muscle strength: the more we use it, the less remains in the tank, until we replenish it with rest. In one study of self-control, participants first had to resist the temptation to eat chocolate (they had a radish instead); then they were given a frustrating task to do. The test was to see how long they would persist. Radish-eaters only persisted on the task for about 8 minutes, while those who had gorged on chocolate kept going for 19 minutes. The mere act of exerting willpower saps the strength for future attempts. These sorts of findings have been repeated again and again using different circumstances.

We face these sorts of willpower-depleting events all day long. When someone jostles you in the street and you resist the urge to shout at them, or when you feel exhausted at work but push on with your email: these all take their toll. The worse the day, the more the willpower muscle is exerted, the more we rely on autopilot, which means increased performance of habits. It’s crucial to respect the fact that self-control is a limited resource and you are likely to overestimate its strength. Recognizing when your levels of self-control are low means you can make specific plans for those times.


Duke Ellington's Diet

by Maria Popova

What the celebrated composer’s relationship with food reveals about the inner conflicts we share.

This is a culture where our relationship with food, though sometimes a canvas for creativity, has mutated from a source of sustenance to a grand arena for our moral struggles with willpower, a tyranny of habits we seek to rewire, a currency of status in the world’s hierarchy of haves and have-nots. At its most tragic, it can rip the psyche apart under the conflicting, unrelenting impulses for indulgence and control. While for most of us, these daily dramas play out in private, for public figures they offer source material for that sad excuse for journalism we find at the newsstand and the supermarket checkout aisle. And yet something about it — about those shared demons of our ambivalent relationship with food as a metaphor and voodoo doll for our inner contradictions and oscillations between self-loathing and self-pleasuring, between quenching and control — holds immutable allure for even those furthest removed from tabloid culture.

Perhaps it is the confluence of these curious cultural phenomena that makes for one of the most interesting parts of Terry Teachout’s fantastic new biography, Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington — Ellington’s relationship with food. In many ways, it presents an amplified version of the inner struggles we face daily — amplified to the point of caricature, which is what makes it both so powerful and so unsettling, in the same way we tend to be uneasy around or profoundly dislike those who exhibit exaggerated versions of our own worst traits.

Ellington, who was exceedingly concerned with how he looked on stage, went to great lengths to reconcile and conceal his conflicted appetites for pleasure and for appearance. He wore show-stopping ensembles when he performed — but with a twist. . .

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Mermaid Scales Print


Dogs in Lap

The secret to staying warm in our 40 degree house is to use the hotshot. It works really well, just like King Charles Cavalier dogs in your lap.

Strong Suit

“I studied architecture and urban design, but something was always missing,” he said. “And what was missing is that no one cared if I did a good job or not. Unless you’re the star in the show, it’s a thankless job. These people are just so thankful.”

Friday, November 29, 2013

Take Stock

My turkey stock is gold. It is so exciting to toss it around when steaming greens.

Eve Birch: A Shared Dream

The American dream I believe in now is a shared one. It's not so much about what I can get for myself; it's about how we can all get by together.

-Eve Birch

Home Sweet Home

We had a long walk in the sunshine today after running and playing ball with Lily in the yard this morning. It's nice to be home. We gave bread to our friend and she gave us a bushel and a half of New Hampshire apples, wild blueberries, and fresh eggs.


I dreamed we had a pet leopard. This was after Jack told me he once had a volunteer job walking leopards.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Care

The care that you show for people in the first moments of their arrival in your home will set the mood for the afternoon or evening. Disregard their comfort and they will begin to worry that they’re not going to have a good time. The niceties inspire their confidence.

When I was in college I'd nervously drive the three hours from Providence to my parents home in Larchmont NY for family events. I'd be greeted by my mother with an air kiss. I'd then be told to hurry up and put on an apron and get to work stuffing lobster tails in the kitchen even before I had a chance to take off my coat or say hello to the rest of the family. Nobody would ask about my ride or how I was. I had entered THEIR WORLD, I was supposed to leave mine behind, and I would already be wanting to turn around and go home.

I'd measure the consequences and usually ignore my mother's command. I'd decide that it was my privilege to greet favorite members of the family who were lounging in the living room and also keeping far away from the kitchen.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Sourdough Molasses Pumpkin Cashew Cranberry Bread

The bread is rising. I wish I could give baby breads to all the families on my walk.

Fast and Fabulous Supper

Tonight I sauteed chopped kale with fresh garlic in olive oil, chopped cauliflower dried cranberries, soy sauce, chopped onions, rooster sauce, leftover whole wheat rotini, chopped ripe-orange cubanelle peppers, and turkey stock. We even had a guest show up! It was so good I ate it for dessert.

Physicians Placebo

“If it gets rid of the pain,” a patient once told me, “I don’t care if it’s a dill pickle!”

Dr. Kaptchuk thinks of placebo effects as just one of the many things in the toolkit of medicine. It would never be a substitute for appropriate medical care, but it is something that can enhance medical care greatly. Wise doctors and nurses already do this. They’ve found, usually just by personal experience, that their “everything else” — respect, attention, comfort, empathy, touch — often does the lion’s share of medical care, no deception required. Sometimes the prescription is just the afterthought.



“So you think you have time for a cup of coffee?” Sybil asks finally. “If I make it instant?”

I am laughing. I am doubled over, laughing. Here is my big insight: You can have a Stage 3 cancer but when a friend cracks you up, you are as alive as anyone else.


Ray Bradbury

But what would happen is that the world would catch up with and try to sicken you. If you did not write every day, the poisons would accumulate and you would begin to die, or act crazy, or both.
― Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Monday, November 25, 2013

Curing Insomnia + Depression

Fabulous NYTarticle on curing insomnia to treat depression.

Psychiatrists have long thought that depression causes insomnia, but new research suggests that insomnia can actually precede and contribute to causing depression.

A study of 66 patients by a team at Ryerson University in Toronto found that the cognitive therapy for insomnia, a brief and less intense form of talk therapy than many psychiatric patients are accustomed to, worked surprisingly well. Some 87 percent of the patients whose insomnia was resolved in four treatment sessions also had their depression symptoms disappear, almost twice the rate of those whose insomnia was not cured. The new results were reported by Benedict Carey in The Times last Tuesday.

The brief course of sleep therapy teaches patients to establish a regular wake-up time; get out of bed during waking periods; avoid reading, watching TV or other activities in bed; and eliminate daytime napping, among other tactics. It is distinct from standard sleep advice, like avoiding coffee and strenuous exercise too close to bedtime.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Casabe and Malta

Last night my friend Glenda and her daughter Gaby and I went to the new Dominican Market. We bought plantains, casabe bread and malta beverage. I have enjoyed plantains before but I never had casabe bread or malta. I loved them both and I will go back for more. Dominican Corner Grocery is on 134 Rathbun Street, Woonsocket RI, at the corner of East School Street. Check it out!

There are no Empty Seats at a Round Table

Now you might hate Starbucks. You might believe they are a soulless commercial entity with no architectural merit at all, but do you know what they are good at? Responding to people’s needs and desires.

The article reads:

Starbucks interviewed hundreds of coffee drinkers, seeking what it was that they wanted out of a coffee shop. The overwhelming consensus actually had nothing to do with coffee; what consumers sought was a place of relaxation, a place of belonging.

My dear architects. This is why Starbucks designed round tables in their stores. They were strategically created “in an effort to protect self-esteem for those coffee drinkers flying solo”. They were not round because the architect felt it looked better that way, they were not round because they were cheaper, they were round because as the article concludes “there are no empty seats at a round table”.
The round tables at Starbucks were the result of asking the question how do we want people to feel before considering what do we want them to do.
Form follows feeling.
Starbucks interviewed hundreds of coffee drinkers before determining that round tables would be the best solution for people.


Claire Needell

Claire Needell is an English teacher at a public middle school in Manhattan and the author of the forthcoming collection of short stories for young adults “Nothing Real.”

Loved this piece she wrote for the NYT today. A Novel Scorned

When I was in middle school, I read Margaret Mitchell’s epic romance, “Gone With the Wind.” Not once. Not twice. But continuously. Each time I finished the novel, I began again, flipping open the broken-spined paperback so many times the book split in half, yielding two portable sections of text. I preferred a break of at least several hours between readings, but sometimes compulsion forced me to begin again only moments after finishing it.

I told myself that I could resist, that I’d read some other book, some “real” book, that I could read on the couch in front of family members without raising eyebrows. For my parents, it was the repetitive reading of a single text that seemed deranged, and for my brothers it was reading such an enormous tome in the first place, but my own sense of shame arose from my deep ambivalence about the novel itself.

Even then, I knew that reading “Gone With the Wind” was not transformative; that its portrayal of romantic love as the only prize worth having was wrong; that the book presented a distorted view of womanhood. My obsession was based purely on titillation, the excitement of following the fatally flawed Scarlett O’Hara through her breathless, war-torn, starvation-marked pursuit of love. “Gone With the Wind” was my “Twilight” series.

At the same time, the book was also a repository for all my adolescent loathing, of both self and others. The beginning section represented everything I hated about middle school. Scarlett was the perfect stand-in for my arch enemy, a girl who resembled her in each particular — green-eyed, brunette and brutal. The first line of the novel dazzled me with its concise encapsulation of a distinct feminine mystery: “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.”

Mason Curry Daily Rituals

I think this book is great!

Mason Curry's Daily Rituals

Franz Kafka, frustrated with his living quarters and day job, wrote in a letter to Felice Bauer in 1912, “time is short, my strength is limited, the office is a horror, the apartment is noisy, and if a pleasant, straightforward life is not possible then one must try to wriggle through by subtle maneuvers.”

Kafka is one of 161 inspired—and inspiring—minds, among them, novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians, who describe how they subtly maneuver the many (self-inflicted) obstacles and (self-imposed) daily rituals to get done the work they love to do, whether by waking early or staying up late; whether by self-medicating with doughnuts or bathing, drinking vast quantities of coffee, or taking long daily walks. Thomas Wolfe wrote standing up in the kitchen, the top of the refrigerator as his desk, dreamily fondling his “male configurations”. . . Jean-Paul Sartre chewed on Corydrane tablets (a mix of amphetamine and aspirin), ingesting ten times the recommended dose each day . . . Descartes liked to linger in bed, his mind wandering in sleep through woods, gardens, and enchanted palaces where he experienced “every pleasure imaginable.”

Here are: Anthony Trollope, who demanded of himself that each morning he write three thousand words (250 words every fifteen minutes for three hours) before going off to his job at the postal service, which he kept for thirty-three years during the writing of more than two dozen books . . . Karl Marx . . . Woody Allen . . . Agatha Christie . . . George Balanchine, who did most of his work while ironing . . . Leo Tolstoy . . . Charles Dickens . . . Pablo Picasso . . . George Gershwin, who, said his brother Ira, worked for twelve hours a day from late morning to midnight, composing at the piano in pajamas, bathrobe, and slippers . . .

Here also are the daily rituals of Charles Darwin, Andy Warhol, John Updike, Twyla Tharp, Benjamin Franklin, William Faulkner, Jane Austen, Anne Rice, and Igor Stravinsky (he was never able to compose unless he was sure no one could hear him and, when blocked, stood on his head to “clear the brain”).

Brilliantly compiled and edited, and filled with detail and anecdote, Daily Rituals is irresistible, addictive, magically inspiring.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Kitchen Secrets

14 Of The Best Kept Kitchen Secrets

1. To get rid fruit stains on your fingers, rub them with a fresh, peeled potato or white vinegar.

2. Avoid putting citrus fruits or tomatoes in the fridge,the low temperatures take away the aroma and flavour of these fruits.

3. If your milk fresh for longer and stop it from going off, try adding a pinch of salt to the bottle when you first open it.

4. To clean an electric kettle with calcium buildup on the heating element, boil a mixture of half white vinegar and half water, then empty.

5. When storing Tupperware, throw in a pinch of salt to keep them from getting stinky.

6. When making a soup, sauce, or casserole that ends up too fatty or greasy, drop in an ice cube., the ice will attract the fat, which you can then scoop out.

7. If you have some leftover wine, freeze it in ice cube trays for easy addition to soups and sauces in the future.

8. After boiling pasta or potatoes, cool the water and use it to water your house plants, the water contains nutrients that your plants will love.

9. If you aren’t sure how fresh your eggs are, place them in about 10cm of water.Eggs that stay on the bottom are fresh. If only one end tips up, the egg is less fresh and should be used soon. If it floats, it’s past the fresh stage.

10. Keep lettuce fresh in the fridge by wrapping it in a clean, dry paper towel and storing lettuce and paper towel in a sealed bag in the fridge.

11. If you over-salt a pot of soup, just drop in a peeled potato, the potato will absorb the excess salt.

12. If your loaf of bread is starting to go stale, just put a piece of fresh celery in the bag and close it back up.

13. For burnt rice, place a piece of white bread on top of the rice for 5-10 minutes to draw out the burned flavour.

14. Don’t store your bananas in a bunch or in a fruit bowl with other fruits.Separate your bananas and place each in a different location. Bananas release gases which cause fruits (including other bananas) to ripen quickly. Separating them will keep them fresh longer.


Social Butterfly

Lily is so happy today running in the yard with and playing me. I would not be so happy and alive without my Lil. I have met everyone thanks to her. She is my social butterfly on a leash.

Food and Friendship or Nicknames in Heaven

Lori told me about calling her mother-in-law and saying "What are you cooking today?"
I loved that. It's the best way to greet a friend.

Years ago when Slim and Lil' lived next door we'd stand on the sidewalk and talk about our favorite things to cook. Lil' said she made cabbage rolls, Slim made pan fried liver and onions for his blood, he'd say. Food is the thing that connects us all. I miss Slim + Lil' A.K.A. Ernie and Lillian. I hope they are reading this from heaven. Do they go by their nicknames in heaven? Of course they do!

Italian Inspired

I love this post because I grew up in an Italian Jewish home and the food we ate was Italian food. Have a look!

Maple Glazed Pumpkin Wedges

Roasting pumpkin brings out the natural sweetness through caramelization.


1 Cooking Pumpkin Or Winter Squash of Choice, Peeled, Seeds Removed, And Cut Into Wedges
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/3 Cup Pure Maple Syrup


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Toss your squash wedges with the olive oil and lay them side by side on a foil lined baking sheet.
Brush the tops with a little of the maple syrup, then bake until fork tender, and beginning to brown, about 20 to 25 minutes depending on the squash variety you use.
Serve warm or at room temperature.


Gallons of Apple Sauce

The big plastic kitchen funnel I found recently came in handy when I poured vats of applesauce into the old molasses jugs. I made seven gallons of apple sauce. The most amazing autumn harvest continues!

Yard Work and the Brain

Clipping saplings and overgrown weeds in my yard has a strange effect on me and it has happened twice. I like using the loppers and feel productive doing the work but I've noticed it makes me angry and full of adrenaline, I want to fight and scream! Is it something about this particular gesture that says "fight" to my brain? Or maybe I am only attracted to doing yard work when I am agitated.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Home Made Granola and Applesauce

We are back to cold weather so I baked two trays of vanilla molasses granola this morning. Now I have four pots of apples chopped and simmering on the stove and one baking in the oven for turning into applesauce. It smells fabulous.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Puerto Rican Poodle Gangs

An older man and his wife recently moved into the house that was being refurbished. Shortly after moving they had a yard sale. I rescued a bunch of canning jars and children's books from the post-yard-sale trash pile. He was happy that I was excited about his trash. I even told Sylvia about the big green painted metal parrot with a glass eye, and she ran down to get it for her yard.

I see the couple now and again on my walks. They have two dogs, one a white shepherd and the other a white poodle. He told me that his wife always has to have two dogs so that they have each other. The poodle is blind from diabetes, but his wife is a nurse practitioner so she can give him insulin shots, one in the morning and one in the evening.

My husband and I saw him yesterday, and talked about our dogs. "Our poodle came from a rescue," he said. She had been rescued in Puerto Rico, then sent to Georgia. "There are all these abandoned dogs running in gangs in Puerto Rico." We were sure he meant packs of dogs, but we couldn't help chuckling at the thought of gangs of poodles running wild in Puerto Rico terrorizing the locals.

News Flash

A right to bare arms. The best way to deal with hot flashes.

A Sabbath

We roasted a turkey yesterday outside-- since it was 60 degrees and they were on sale. Yummy. I made pumpkin waffles too, after years of waiting to fix the waffle iron and I made coleslaw-- Yes, a very strange assortment of foods. I feel like I rarely get to see Bill with his schedule being what it is. But the weekend has promise. So we try to make food and take the big walks. A sabbath is crucial!

Where are the Philanthropists?

Where are the philanthropists to help this woman. Katie Commodore, 35, a printmaking artist whose Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis has caused her to lose some motor functions, has hired a physical trainer to rebuild her strength but she can no longer afford it.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Turkey Moon

We're roasting a turkey outside under the full moon.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Waffles

We finally fixed the waffle iron and had a big sit down breakfast of buttered pumpkin waffles with maple syrup and black coffee. I finally figured out what creeps me out about my delicious pancakes and waffles. They are springy and this human quality reminds me of cadavers. Next time I will try making them crispy. There are so many waffles that we'll be popping them into the toaster for the days ahead. You can also use sourdough starter in this recipe.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Waffles
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1+ tsp. kosher salt
4 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree (or applesauce or mashed banana)
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar or white sugar and dark molasses
1/3+ c corn oil
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat waffle iron, brush with oil
pour in batter, bake 3-4 minutes
Serve with maple syrup + butter


I was walking Lily down Social Street yesterday afternoon and I heard a hello. A guy was at the Hess station pumping gas into a blue van. He called me over and gave me a hug. I didn't recognize him at first because he had a black beard. But then, wow, it all came back to me. He had been one of my art students when I was a part-time teacher at Beacon. He introduced me to his three kids and wife and their big shaggy dog. They were all strapped into their seats in the navy blue family van. I told him that Heidi, also from Beacon, was working at the Hess station booth. Yeah I just saw her, he said. I asked him what he was up to. He pointed to the logo on his sweatshirt. I'm an asphalt paver now. I spotted a smear of black tar on his yellow workboots. Great, for the city? I asked. Sometimes the city but mostly private. I said my turkey looks like asphalt after I'm done grilling it outside over hardwood charcoal. He said his mom prefers to deep fry the turkey. Does she live around here? I asked. She lives off Park Ave. I love that neighborhood, I said. I used to live over there and I loved those little streets. I love drawing outside near the pond over there, he said. As we parted I said It was so great to see you! I see you all the time with your dog, he replied.


by Louis Jenkins

There's a young couple in the parking lot, kissing.
Not just kissing, they look as though they might eat
each other up, kissing, nibbling, biting, mouths wide
open, play fighting like young dogs, wrapped around
each other like snakes. I remember that, sort of, that
hunger, that passionate intensity. And I get a kind of
nostalgic craving for it, in the way that I get a craving,
occasionally, for the food of my childhood. Baloney
on white bread, for instance: one slice of white bread
with mustard or Miracle Whip or ketchup-not
ketchup, one has to draw the line somewhere-and
one slice of baloney. It had a nice symmetry to it, the
circle of baloney on the rectangle of bread. Then you
folded the bread and baloney in the middle and took
a bite out of the very center of the folded side. When
you unfolded the sandwich you had a hole, a circle in
the center of the bread and baloney frame, a window,
a porthole from which you could get a new view of
the world.

"Baloney" by Louis Jenkins, from Tin Flag: New and Selected Prose Poems. © Will o' the Wisp books, 2013.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Tyranny of Teetering Toddlers

The new American adult - out on the sidewalk wearing pajamas while sucking on sugared beverages like a toddler.

HOW TO COOK A WOLF By M. F. K. Fisher.

May 22, 1942 Books of the Times
By M. F. K. Fisher.
Cook books are indisputably indispensable for the welfare of the human race, and they sell very nicely (Fannie Farmer’s ''Boston Cook Book'' some 2,040,000 copies). So each year publishers proffer new ones of all sizes and varieties, from lordly an expensive tomes invoking the honored names of Escoffier, Vatel and Brillat-Savarin to cute and coy brides' companions designed to aid in holding a husband's love and winning a mother-in-law's respect. Few indeed have any claims to literary merit. At least, few did until a knowing lady who signs herself austerely M. F. K. Fisher began conducting her one-woman revolution in the field of literary cookery. Mrs. Fisher writes about food with such relish and enthusiasm that the mere reading of her books creates a clamorous appetite. She also writes with a robust sense of humor and a nice capacity for a neatly turned phrase. Her third book devoted to food and its preparation is called most aptly, considering war and taxes, ''How to Cook a Wolf.''

Mrs. Fisher leaves voluminous reference books that contain recipes for everything from avocados to zabaglione to others, concentrates on making unorthodox, specific and pointed suggestions about cooking various types of food, soups, meats, vegetables, eggs, etc., and then includes several of her pet recipes in each category. But before that, like any conscientious student of composition, she sets about arousing reader interest and does so with a vengeance. Her chapter titles themselves are gems that provoke an irresistible desire to find out just what on earth she means by them: ''How to Distribute Your Virtue,'' ''How to Boil Water,'' ''How to Greet the Spring,'' ''How to Be Cheerful Through Starving'' ''How to Pray for Peace,'' ''How to Be Content With a Vegetable Love'' and ''How to Have a Sleek Pelt.''

She doesn’t have much use for any too scrupulous weighing out of precise quantities of calories, vitamins, International Units, and what not, beloved by recently converted nutrition experts. ''One of the stupidest things in an earnest but stupid school of culinary thought is that each of the three daily meals should be 'balanced.' Of course, where countless humans are herded together, as in military camps or schools or prisons, it is necessary to strike what is ironically called the happy medium. In this case, what kills the least number with the most ease is the chosen way.'' Balance the day's food consumption, says Mrs. Fisher, not each meal, whether you eat one or five.

Of course, for a mere male book reviewer who has never become even a naturalized citizen of that foreign country, the kitchen, a good deal of the ground covered in ''How to Cook a Wolf'' is terra incognita. It sounds like good sense to suggest that when you cook anything in the oven at all you cook a lot of things at once to save gas. But is rubbing a chicken with a cut of lemon, to keep its flavorsome juices inside while cooking, a new and sensational idea that will be a boon to mankind, or is it standard practice for any housewife? I wouldn't know. But one thing I can feel more comfortably certain about is that Mrs. Fisher is not accustomed to cooking for lumberjacks, cowboys or even men who have played three sets of tennis or eighteen holes of golf. She has the weird notion that if a soup is rich enough and good enough, it is almost presumptuous to want anything else. Imagine! And she is very scornful and patronizing about desserts, too. After giving a recipe for date pudding, she suggests that a soup and salad are sufficient with it and no meat or vegetables are needed to call it a dinner! And she has an unaccountable passion for that dreariest of all foods, baked apples. Did some one mention that proverb about tastes?

One of the most interesting and intensely practical suggestions Mrs. Fisher makes is in a chapter called, with grim frankness, ''How to Keep Alive.'' She does not recommend it to gourmets but to those who have failed to keep the wolf on the outside of the door, and would be grateful for a recipe that would feed a whole family for four days for fifty cents. Fifteen cents' worth of ground beef (not hamburger), ten cents' worth of ground whole grain cereal, twenty-five cents' worth of inferior, coarser, tougher vegetables, carrots, celery, cabbage, onions are needed. After proper boilings, choppings, mixings and coolings, you have a paste Mrs. Fisher calls ''sludge.'' It may sound depressing, but it is superbly nutritious for the cost. ''You can eat it cold and not suffer much, if your needs are purely animal and unfinanced, but if you can heat what you want two or three times a day it will probably taste much better.'' Not only is it good for people, it is ideal fare for dogs.

One of the charms of ''How To Cook a Wolf'' over and beyond any practical use of the recipes included is Mrs. Fisher's wry humor. She tells amusing stories between dishes and colors nearly every page with her own forthright, astringent personality. She insists that an old gin bottle kept in the icebox and filled at intervals with vegetable juices, fruit juices and canned fruit juices is a mighty handy thing and a bracing tonic. (Ugh!) She insists that boiling water too long before using it is a great mistake and deleterious to whatever is being cooked. Again, as a mere man, I am bewildered. Is she joking, or is water that has boiled for several minutes any different from water that has just come to a boil?

She emphasizes that a mirror on the kitchen shelf is a great inspiration to the cook, who can draw reassurance from it or in sudden emergencies use it for hasty hair pokings that make all the difference to feminine self-confidence. But judging from her picture, Mrs. Fisher is one cook who has grounds to be very confident indeed without a kitchen mirror.

Baking 45 Hour Sourdough!

Baking a 45 hour sourdough! The flavors are like a fine cheese. Authentic sourdough acts as a natural preservative, so the bread doesn't go stale!

Bill fixed the waffle iron with a 35 cent heat-proof connector. How many things get thrown out due to small problems.

I might have to make pumpkin waffles for dinner.

Fast and Slow

I made slow-cooked black and red beans in the crock pot and fast-cooked freshly chopped garlic and collard greens sauteed in olive oil for supper. I seasoned them with soy sauce Cholula authentic Mexican hot pepper sauce, and a can of cheap beer to de-glaze the pan. So good! I am planning to teach baking and cooking in a local church basement kitchen. Stay tuned.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Amanda McCracken

I have always been a saver. When I was a child, I saved my Halloween and Easter candy for over a year. By the time I finally took a bite, the candy was hard and stale. I still have gift cards that are over eight years old. By the time I get around to using them, I realize they’ve already expired. My fridge is full of exotic jams, untouched and unsavored but certainly spoiled. Full bottles of French perfume decorate my dresser, their fragrance fading every year.
-Amanda McCracken

Holiday Plans

this year I will kill myself
just in time for the family photo
and then I will enjoy a turkey sandwich
from my heavenly perch.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Hot Shot Mystery

Somebody mysteriously sent us hot shot rechargeable heating pack warmers. My husband and I charged them up and then sat at the dinner table with our new warmed pouches. Just like those King Cavalier dogs bred to warm laps, he said.

The Cavalier King Charles spaniel is the descendant of a small toy spaniel depicted in many 16th, 17th and 18th Century paintings of northern Europe. This dog was originally bred to warm laps in drafty castles and on chilly carriage rides. A prescription written in Olde English for the Queen of England directs her to keep this "comforte dog" on her lap to treat a cold. The Cavalier's other job was to attract fleas and thereby spare their masters the flea-transmitted bubonic plague.

During Tudor times, toy spaniels were common as ladies' pets and, under the Stuarts, they were given the royal title of King Charles spaniel. King Charles II was seldom seen without two or three Cavaliers at his heels, and he wrote a decree — still in effect today — that his namesake spaniel be accepted in any public place, including the Houses of Parliament, which were generally off-limits to animals.

In the early days, breed standards were not recognized, although toy spaniels generally had flat heads, pointed muzzles and high-set ears. By the mid-19th century, the English fashioned a new look for the toy spaniel and standardized its appearance. These modern King Charles spaniels, also known as "Charlies," had flatter faces, undershot jaws and domed skulls. In the early 1900s breeders attempted to recreate the earlier version of the breed; they were largely successful and so was born the Cavalier King Charles spaniel. Breeding of the Cavalier King Charles spaniel in the United States took hold on a limited basis in the 1950s, but the breed was not fully recognized by the American Kennel Club until 1996.

Sleep Moon

Moon Phases Tied to Sleep Cycles

The lunar cycle has been tied to a range of mysterious powers, from increases in violent crimes and hospital admissions to fertility and blood loss, and scientists consider most such beliefs nonsensical.

But now Swiss researchers have found evidence that the lunar cycle may affect sleep patterns. They found the connection by testing 33 healthy men and women, ages 20 to 74, in a sleep laboratory, and correlating the data with the moon’s phases. The study appears in the Aug. 5 issue of Current Biology.

Melatonin levels, total sleep time and delta sleep time (the deepest sleep, as recorded by EEG) reached their lowest levels at full moon, and their highest as the moon waxed and waned. The average time it took to fall asleep and the time to arrive at REM sleep (the type of sleep in which dreams occur) followed the opposite pattern, longest at the full moon and shorter as it waxed and waned.

Christian Cajochen, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Basel who led the study, was surprised and puzzled by the finding.

“The only explanation we could come up with is that maybe there is a lunar clock in the brain, as found in other species like fish and other marine animals,” he said. “But we don’t have direct evidence for that.”

New Discovery

Long lost unnamed knee ligament.

Eat the Rainbow


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tap Dancer Brian Jones

Brian Jones celebrates forty-one years as a tap dancer and choreographer in 2013. Known for his tap dance company, The All-Tap Revue, and his partnerships with Susan Boyce, Jones & Boyce, and Donald Suthard, Street Tap, Brian has toured as a modern-day vaudevillian from Hawaii to Europe.

He has shared the bill with The Persuasions, Wally Rose, Robert Goulet, Ethel Merman and The Boston Philharmonic Orchestra. Crediting his eleventh-grade English teacher with
opening his eyes and ears to tap, Jones continues the great tap tradition of handing down from one generation to the next this uniquely American dance form.

Rhode Island's premiere tap dancer is a rhythmic force of nature.
— Festival of the Arts, Mohonk Mountain House

Hi Emily,
I'm happy to hear from you! This is my 41st year as a professional tap dancer. I just turned 60, and while I'm careful about my diet I can't pretend I take any special care. I agree wholeheartedly with the previous professional dancer's advice, well said.

My best kitchen advice is to simplify. I am more likely to make good food if preparation is easy (or E-Z). I use organic ingredients, here are four of my favorite recipes for E-Z cooking:

Four-Ingredient Chicken Parmesan with Oregano

1 pound boneless chicken
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup grated cheese
1 tablespoon oregano
Place chicken in baking dish. Mix other ingredients well, spoon over chicken.
Bake uncovered at 350 for 1/2 hour.
Serve over rice, with lemon wedge.

Four-Ingredient Salad

Spinach greens
Ricotta cheese
Cherry tomatoes

Four-Ingredient Salad Dressing

Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar

Four-Ingredient Cold Fruit Soup

1 pineapple
2 grapefruits
3 bananas
orange juice
Slice, cut, and scoop the fruit, combine in bowl, cover with orange juice and refrigerate.

My best to you and your readers--

-Brian Jones

Quartz Heater is a Miracle

The quartz heater is a miracle. It heats your ass without drying the air or your sinuses. We have one circa 1970.

Other People's Trout

We are brought up in the ethic that others, any others, all others, are by definition more interesting than ourselves; taught to be diffident, just this side of self-effacing (‘You’re the least important person in the room and don’t forget it,’ Jessica Mitford’s governess would hiss in her ear on the advent of any social occasion; I copied that into my notebook because it is only recently that I have been able to enter a room without hearing some such phrase in my inner ear.) Only the very young and the very old may recount their dreams at breakfast, dwell upon self, interrupt with memories of beach picnics and favorite Liberty lawn dresses and the rainbow trout in a creek near Colorado Springs. The rest of us are expected, rightly, to affect absorption in other people’s favorite dresses, other people’s trout.

I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were.

It is a good idea, then, to keep in touch, and I suppose that keeping in touch is what notebooks are all about. And we are all on our own when it comes to keeping those lines open to ourselves: your notebook will never help me, nor mine you.

-From Joan Didion’s 1968 anthology Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Stop that Right Now

We went to Stop and Shop last night for oats, kale, and figs. On the way out a boy was making squeaks with his sneakers on the shiny white waxed polished linoleum floor. I smiled turning to the mother. She had straight strawberry-blond hair. She did not smile back. She yelled ahead to her son Stop that right now, stop that right now or you'll have to stay in your room for the night.
Wow, that's harsh. He was just having fun, I said to Bill.
What she means is stop that right now or you won't grow up to become a successful investment banker!


I should have a bread for oil party.

Gabrielle Hamilton

For me the most moving and powerful and creative act of courage of all is to fully live your life and do your work and offer all of yourself, even in the margin. Waiting to get on a list, working to get on a list — this is a time- and soul-suck with no good end. To slip the leash and leave the master standing there holding it while you meanwhile are around the corner throwing an awesome party with all of your friends is the greatest act of defiance I can think of.
- Gabrielle Hamilton, chef of Prune and the author of "Blood, Bones and Butter, The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef."



No one can imagine the hardships of the years from 1930 to about 1942 for the American people. Rich and poor alike lost their money in the banks when the banks failed and could not pay off depositors. My parents lost their savings of $5,000, which in those days was about like $50,000 now. The failure of the banks left people destitute and starving.
-Joan A. Adamak, review Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt

A Professional Dancer's Advice

Hi, I am an aspiring ballet dancer and I was wondering what the professional ballet dancers eat. How do they stay so strong and so thin at the same time? I know there are a lot of misconceptions out there...
Love always, C.E. New York

Dear Aspiring Young Dancer:

What a terrific question. Good nutrition is one of the most important parts of being a good dancer, and the earlier you eat well, the better chance you have of being your best in daily class and on stage. Nutrition is a huge and sometimes complicated field, but it’s never too early start learning how to eat for maximum performance and maintaining a trim body (but not too thin).

Restricting calories is not encouraged today because of problems in the past of dancers
becoming too thin. The emphasis today is on eating the right kind of foods that have “staying power” yet don’t add excess calories to your diet. So a few basic rules about food are a great place to start:

1. You must eat, and eat regularly in order to have the strength that a professional dancer needs. But when you are no longer hungry – stop eating. Learn to recognize the signal in you that says you have had enough, and simply stop. The philosophy of “always cleaning your plate” has turned out to be rather bad for us.

2. Choose foods that digest more slowly so they will give you energy over a long period. Dark coarser foods such as brown rice, dark breads (especially whole wheat), and yellow vegetables are only a few. Refined carbs such as white bread, white rice, deserts, and anything made with white sugar tends to be rapidly digested by your body, only to leave your system quickly release insulin, clearing your system of the fuel and leaving you hungry again way too soon. With refined and high sugar foods, people eat more frequently, adding unnecessary calories to your system, and leaving you with less energy.

3. Go really light on meat, especially red beef. These foods have the protein you need to make new tissue, but they are also extremely high in animal fat which is loaded with calories and the “bad” kind of fat (saturated and transfats) which promote plaque build-up in your arteries. So not only do you gain unnecessary weight, but beef and fatty meats contribute to heart disease later in life.

4. On the other hand, all growing children and teens need adequate protein to build proper muscle and bone. The best sources are fish, chicken without the skin, and nuts which – all of which contain the protein you need, less calories than beef and hamburger, and the “good” fats (polyunsaturated) which prevents plaque in your arteries.

Lastly, one important point to understand is that ballet is not “aerobic”. Because of the “start/stop” nature of ballet class, your heart rate rarely rises to a high workout level, and it certainly doesn’t continue beating fast as your heart does with running, soccer and many other sports. So most professional dancers have learned that doing 30 minutes of a “non-stop” activity a couple times a week such as stationary biking, brisk walking or using an elliptical machine will not only increase stamina but will help burn calories. Studies have shown that these activities do not build bulky muscles or detract from the long straight leg so prized in dance. And the real pay-off is that you are giving yourself years of healthy life. Regular aerobic exercise should be a life-long habit with all of us.

I hope this helps. May I offer one excellent source on healthy eating that works for dancers beautifully, because the advice it gives maximizes good energy, healthy growth, and only the number of calories that you need.
The very best of luck to you.

It's Snowing!!!

Cocoa for breakfast!!!


I found an olive-green shirt in the bushes on Pond Street. I love green! Number two is printed on the back in white ink, Medfield Soccer logo on the front. A size small. I took it home and washed it. I love it!

Random act of Blindness

Loved these articles.



Monday, November 11, 2013

Polar Mint Chocolate Seltzer!!

I still wake at 3 or 4AM because it is a habit now.
I am asleep by 7 or 8PM.

I am baking a batch of granola,
Bill is fixing the vintage waffle iron
and putting a new plug on the 25 year old gray Kenmore canister vacuum cleaner.
The first thing we bought together.
I am happy as I have waited a long time.
We are refilling the pepper grinders.
Bought a slab of fish and 3 heads of kale
and figs.
All we do is think about food.
Is it because the house is 45 degrees?
At least the sun is out and snow is in the forecast.
And we have a great friend who wants to swim the pond like me
on days like this. He says "It's a rush and cheaper than crack."
I know, I know, I say. I've been saying that for years.

no one really knows
what causes snow nose
snow knows

why I like early?
this part of the day is a photo-negative
without light, color, or sound

I want this job teaching detectives to see, at the museum.

Diner Eggs

We've discovered our electric Hoover frying pan from 1950's is perfect for making diner-style eggs, at home. Scramble and pour. Fold with spatula. Enjoy!

Aimee Grunberger

I wish you didn't have to go through this. I wish you could choose your adventures rather than having them thrown in your path.

Got a canuck healer living
with my picture in his pocket
got a temple full of buddhists
blowing incense in my name
housewife psychic up in longmont
sees my future through the phoneline
someone's sister in pawtucket
threads my wish into her rosary
virgin-spotting chicana
drops glass beads into the mail

This is no time for theology

Twenty orthodox rabbis
wait to take my call in brooklyn
fax a prayer into an ancient temple wall
scrap of paper hebrew letters

Wail on
wail on in my name
wail on prime time
wail on via satellite

Handle snakes speak in tongues
entreat buddha bang gongs
candlelit sooty chapel
raise a holy howl in my name
for my name's sake
moment of silence
thirty second share off peak access air

Your little daughter
doesn't know me tell her
I'm a lovely person
tell her I'm your college roommate
or a princess in a burning tower
tell her I've got children too
she can bless me in her nightie
after grandma and the cat

- Aimee Grunberger, Language of Stones

Use Humor

Use humor seriously.

Greg Brown

Francine gave me some of her home-canned tomatoes and I thought of this song. . .
Canned Goods

by Greg Brown

Well, let the wild winter wind bellow and blow.
I'm as warm as a July tomato.

Chorus: There's peaches on the shelf, potatoes in the bin.
Supper's ready, everybody come on in.
Taste a little of the summer.
Taste a little of the summer.
Taste a little of the summer.
Grandma put it all in jars.

Well, there's a root cellar, fruit cellar, down below.
Watch your head now, and down we go.

Well, maybe you are weary and you don't give a damn.
I bet you never tasted her blackberry jam.

Oh, she got magic in her, you know what I mean.
She puts the sun and rain in with her beans.

What with the snow and the economy and everything,
I think I'll just stay down here and eat until spring.

When I go down to see Grandma, I gain a lot a weight.
With her dear hands, she gives me plate after plate.

She cans the pickles, sweet and dill,
And the songs of the whip-or-will,
And the morning dew and the evening moon,
I really gotta go down and see her soon.

'Cause the canned goods that I buy at the store
Ain't got the summer in 'em anymore.
You bet, Grandma, as sure as you're born,
I'll take some more potatoes and a thunderstorm.

[As sung by Greg Brown on "One Night" (1983), "One More Goodnight Kiss" (1988),
and "The Live One" (1995).]

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Reindeer + Owls

Reindeer eyes change color in winter.

Hang out with owls while drinking your tea.

Thomas Chatterton Williams

We should be grateful to be jolted from our anesthetized routines, confronted when we can be with surroundings and neighbors that are not injection-molded to the contours of our own bobo predilections. Too much of modern urban life revolves around never feeling less than fully at ease; about having even the minutest of experiences tailored to a set of increasingly demanding and homogeneous tastes — from the properly sourced coffee grounds that make the morning’s flat white to the laboriously considered iPod soundtracks we rely on to cancel the world’s noise. The logical extension is to “curate” our urban spaces like style blogs or Pinterest boards representing a single, self-satisfied and extremely sheltered expression of middle- and upper-middle-class sensibility.
- Thomas Chatterton Williams
Thomas Chatterton Williams is the author of Losing My Cool: Love, Literature and a Black Man’s Escape From the Crowd

Aimee Grunberger

Instructions Found in a Safe Deposit Box

Get the chapel at Brown, remind them of all
those pledges and donations.
Promise a new squash court if you have to. Name
the squash court after Charles Bukowski.

Call all my friends, but only the relatives
I would see voluntarily. Everyone brings food and booze.
Prepare for a blizzard or nuclear winter.

Let the rabbi say Kaddish then get him the hell
off the stage. Better yet, get a rabbi impersonator
from Trinity Rep and have him do it.

Only the artists and bikers can dress in mourning.
Let whomever wants to get up and tell a stupid or funny
story about the deceased. Go ahead and cry.

Cremate the corpse, and bury the ashes in an herb garden.
Play all my appropriate 45’s.
I’m a Believer
96 Tears
Paint it Black
very loud, get drunk and dance. Tell the neighbors
deep mourning requires it. Make them feel guilty for complaining.

No one leaves till after breakfast the next day, sort of
like the senior prom. Listen up now: do not exclude children
from this celebration. There’s nothing like a good party.

–Aimee Joan Grunberger
Aimee Grunberger died of breast cancer at 44

Adam Gopnik

Women, I thought, remember everything. Bread forgives us all.
-Adam Gopnik, Bread and Women

Death and Perfume


Grandpa Nat, afraid of his mortality, imagined that he would die at any moment. He did have dramatic medical procedures for ulcers and gallstones, dangerous in his day. My mother was shaped by these events and repeated them. She also had numerous hospitalizations, and claimed to be on the verge of death throughout my childhood. She also imagined and feared my step-fathers death. Meanwhile he was happy, healthy and running around NY doing his advertising art work.

After three surgeries by the time I was 6, I too feared my death at an early age. I remember thinking at 13 that I wouldn't live to be 16.

Now I fear the death of everyone I love.

Perhaps acknowledging death is a good reality check, a way to balance the paralyzing fear and imagining. Looking at the negative, the negation as it were, of an old photo can reveal details overlooked in the original print.

I have lived through the deaths of many friends, including those of the canine variety. There have been deaths of childhood friends, and a boyfriend's suicide. There have been deaths by accidents, drugs, guns, alcohol, disease. All of it terrifies me.

As a child I imagined my spirit energy after death floating up, gravity in reverse, and giving clouds their unique shapes. I wanted my ashes to be added to blue oil paint and painted into the sky of a painting.

My pal Dennis died and came back. He said his dead mother yelled at him while he was momentarily gone. "You're not done yet!" she screamed. The whole experience made him realize that if we are not about the love and the helping, then what are we doing here? He was truly born again.


In 6th grade, during the 70's phase of team-teaching, my class studied a unit on advertising. Three teachers were involved. I invited my bio-dad, an advertising man, to be a guest. I rarely saw him, so I probably just wanted to see him again. He accepted, and showed up at my school, tall, lanky, six-foot-four, a giant. He brought in samples of his voice-overs for Sacramento tomato juice on a little tape recorder, the bloop-bloop sounds he had made of the thick juice being poured into a glass. He played other ads, including his ads for tampons and sanitary napkins, which embarrassed the kids. Whoops!. He slammed off the tape recorder.

My mother and step-father were also in advertising. They heard that I had invited my bio-dad, and being competitive spirits they decided (without my invitation) they would come too on a different day. I don't remember their presentation, just the fight I had with my mother who decided she was running my class and could order me around in front of all the kids. I stormed out of the room.

My final project for that unit was for my favorite teacher Mr. Perucci, I drew an ad for my fantasy product: Mamma Mia's Italian Bread Perfume. Little did I know I would bake bread twice a week all my adult life, perfuming my home.

Adam Gopnik

When the electric toaster was invented, there were, no doubt, books that said that the toaster would open up horizons for breakfast undreamed of in the days of burning bread over an open flame; books that told you that the toaster would bring an end to the days of creative breakfast, since our children, growing up with uniformly sliced bread, made to fit a single opening, would never know what a loaf of their own was like; and books that told you that sometimes the toaster would make breakfast better and sometimes it would make breakfast worse, and that the cost for finding this out would be the price of the book you’d just bought.
-Adam Gopnik

The Table Comes First

It was not the deliciousness of the food-my mother made better burgers- but the overcharge of optimism that made the meal matter. Its excellence involved the removal of the obvious signs of labor, which even then I took to be a benevolent fiction, for the better food at home was a benign good fortune but effortful. You had to have my mom to eat really well, but anyone could come here and share. It was a moment of transformation, lift-off, of anonymity transmuted into intimacy without the obligation of gratitude: you told the menu- bearing woman at the cash register “Four for dinner,” and suddenly, inexplicably, you were in a booth, and there was dinner for four! This sense of being in the unimaginable right place with exactly the right company in the most welcoming of rooms attended by the most considerate of servers-whistling while they worked and candidly eyeing the reward-was a blessing felt there and sought ever since.

-Adam Gopnik, The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food

Lee Gutkind

Article on mental illness.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Bake for Warmth

Weclome to the season of no heat. Luckily my hot flashes, and baking and cooking keep me warm. A brisk 5 mile walk in the sun can warm me up for the day.

Baby French Meat Pies

Last night I had a lucky surprise, I found a small paper bag of the last of the oats in the freezer. We made a batch of granola to hold us until we can go to bakers supply next week. Then, while the oven was hot I decided to bake two of Jamie's baby French meat pies. They were the perfect supper for a cold night, in a cold house, after a long week. With the addition of candles and ketchup we were complete and content.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Space to Imagine Music


Punishing the Poor

Ingrid Mock, center, at a food pantry in the Bronx on Monday. “I try to get most of the things my daughter eats because I can hold the hunger,” she said.

People said they felt desperate. Many stuffed extra bread or cake into their pockets for later in the day, and traded advice on which agencies might be handing out free groceries later in the month.

“People at this level of need are already going hungry,” said Sister Noreen Buttimer, a nun who works at the soup kitchen, a Catholic charity. “It’s frightening how we think about the poor.”


Susan Gubar

We Americans are assured by experts that cancer accounts for one of every four deaths because of our aging population. But these women, who led health-conscious lives, were all under the age of 65, as I was when I received my diagnosis. I gazed at a photograph on my desk of Ilinca, who died at 52. Could this epidemic, I wondered, be caused by hazardous additives in our food, pesticides in the air, soil, water or pollutants in our houses, parks, office buildings?
- Susan Gubar


I ran into Liam the adorable boy who was our neighbor but now lives on Summer Street with two plum trees. One night a few years ago when out walking with Lily we reached up to sample a plum and his dad said "Help yourself!" and he meant it. I adore this boy. He was attacked in the face by his friend's pit bull three years ago. Luckily he has healed up fine and is not afraid of dogs. Amazing. He told me he has a pear tree and I can come by to have them! I will!

Pregnancy Bush

There's a bush on Clinton Street that I pass on the way home from library, opposite Thundermist Health Center. I call it the pregnancy bush because I can't tell you how many times I have seen pregnancy-test packaging under that bush, next to Monroe Muffler.


by Anne Sexton

A thousand doors ago,
when I was a lonely kid
in a big house with four
garages and it was summer
as long as I could remember,
I lay on the lawn at night,
clover wrinkling over me,
the wise stars bedding over me,
my mother's window a funnel
of yellow heat running out,
my father's window, half shut,
an eye where sleepers pass,
and the boards of the house
were smooth and white as wax
and probably a million leaves
sailed on their strange stalks
as the crickets ticked together
and I, in my brand new body,
which was not a woman's yet,
told the stars my questions
and thought God could really see
the heat and the painted light,
elbows, knees, dreams, goodnight.

by Anne Sexton, from The Complete Poems. © Mariner Books, 1999.

Childhood Home

My childhood home was like being in the wild West: my father tipped his hat at me, maybe he shook my hand.
-Ed Petty

Tavernise on Trans Fats

F.D.A. Ruling Would All but Eliminate Trans Fats
Published: November 7, 2013 NYT

The Food and Drug Administration proposed measures on Thursday that would all but eliminate artery-clogging, artificial trans fats from the food supply, the culmination of three decades of effort by public health advocates to get the government to take action against them.

Artificial trans fats — a major contributor to heart disease in the United States — have already been substantially reduced in foods. But they still lurk in many popular products, like frostings, microwave popcorn, packaged pies, frozen pizzas, margarines and coffee creamers. Banning them completely could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year, the F.D.A. said.

“This is the final slam dunk on the trans fat issue,” said Barry Popkin, a nutrition epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Partially hydrogenated oils are cheaper than saturated animal fats like butter, and for years were thought to be healthier. They are formed when liquid oil is treated with hydrogen gas and made solid. They became popular in fried and baked goods and in margarine. Crisco, originally marketed in the beginning of the 20th century, was the archetype, although it now contains no trans fat.

Does this mean there will be underground trans fat dealers in my neighborhood?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Richard Nelson, Playwrite

I literally imagine every moment of the plays somewhere in my own village, Mr. Nelson said during a recent walk around Rhinebeck, the Hudson Valley town between New York and Albany where he and his wife settled in 1983 and raised two daughters.

Be Kind to Yourself

I admired Jeanette's gold lame shimmery jacket. Thanks, she said, I can't close it. I'm so fat, but I'm going on a diet after Thanksgiving. I'm going to load up, pig out and then it's only 500 calories a day for a month. My face dropped. Don't say anything! It's doctor sanctioned and supervised with supplements etc., and it's really expensive but it's worth it. I'm sick of this yo-yo dieting. I thought for a moment. Dieting is a complex thing - just try to be kind to yourself, I said.

Venezuelan Mannequins

Mannequins Give Shape to a Venezuelan Fantasy By WILLIAM NEUMAN
VALENCIA, Venezuela — Frustrated with the modest sales at his small mannequin factory, Eliezer Álvarez made a simple observation: Venezuelan women were increasingly using plastic surgery to transform their bodies, yet the mannequins in clothing stores did not reflect these new, often extreme proportions.

So he went back to his workshop and created the kind of woman he thought the public wanted — one with a bulging bosom and cantilevered buttocks, a wasp waist and long legs, a fiberglass fantasy, Venezuelan style.

The shape was augmented, and so were sales. Now his mannequins, and others like them, have become the standard in stores across Venezuela, serving as an exaggerated, sometimes polarizing, vision of the female form that calls out from the doorways of tiny shops selling cheap clothes to working-class women and the display windows of fancy boutiques in multilevel shopping malls.

Mr. Álvarez’s art may have been meant to imitate life. But in a culture saturated with such images, life is returning the compliment.

“You see a woman like this and you say, ‘Wow, I want to look like her,’ ” said Reina Parada, as she sanded a mannequin torso in the workshop. Although she cannot afford it, she said, she would like to get implant surgery someday. “It gives you better self-esteem.”

Cosmetic procedures are so fashionable here that a woman with implants is often casually referred to as “an operated woman.” Women freely talk about their surgeries, and mannequin makers jokingly refer to the creations as being “operated” as well. Mr. Álvarez’s wife and business partner, Nereida Corro, calls her best-selling mannequin, with its inflated proportions, the “normal” model.

More here if you can stomach it.

Judith Hausman

Judith Hausman is a long-time freelance food writer she has written about every aspect of food, but local producers and artisanal traditions remain closest to her heart. Eating close to home takes this seasonal eater through a journey of delights and dilemmas, one tiny deck garden, farmers’ market discovery and easy-as-pie recipe at a time. She writes from a still-bucolic but ever-more-suburban town in the New York City 'burbs.
Visit the Hungry Locavore

For Judith Hausman, food is a way to understand the world. The evolution of cultures; the trends and beliefs of a certain time period; the landscape of a region: All of these are reflected in what people eat. Hausman had the privilege to write about every facet of that fascinating prism: chefs and home cooks, ingredients and products, businesses and trends, growers and artisans, and controversies and organizations. She was the restaurant critic for more than 10 years for The Journal News (Gannett Suburban Newspapers), a Zagats Survey local editor for three years, and her work has also appeared in Edible Nutmeg, Lilith, Gastronomica, The Valley Table, Westchester Magazine and New York House.

In recent years, locally grown, seasonal and handmade food is what Hausman is most passionate about. As a feature writer and blogger for Urban Farm and Hobby Farm Home, she often explores the food, producers and chefs of the beautiful and historic Hudson Valley in New York —, the "Napa of the East," as its farmers, winemakers and urban foodies like to call it.

Hausman's vegetable growing takes place with a group of great garden-mates at a unique suburban farm. The group tends the large growing area together, shares the bounty and even gets together to can applesauce. Hausman helped write the story of that farm, Rainbeau Ridge, and of the cheesemaker who owns it in the gardening group's 2009 book, Over the Rainbeau: Living the Dream of Sustainable Farming. She also manages deck pots of tomatoes, flowers and herbs in her rocky, lakeside backyard.

Hausman has a master's in education from Boston University and in addition to her career in culinary journalism, she continues to teach English as a second language at a nearby community college.

Hausman eats nearly everything except offal, but the way to her heart is a perfect apple pie.

Renee Cho

I write about the environment because I’m concerned about where our planet is headed. I want to help people understand the severity of our environmental problems, but also always try to provide hope, because there are so many smart and creative people out there working on solutions. With environmental writing, the big challenge is to not only communicate the problem, but to inspire people to care enough to take action.

My ever-evolving work life has always been about communication. I started my career creating documentary film portraits for children at WGBH-TV, then studied directing at the American Film Institute, winning the Alfred Hitchcock Fellowship. “Jazz is My Native Language: A Portrait of Toshiko Akiyoshi,” a one-hour film I produced and directed about the great female jazz musician, aired on PBS. After my sons were born, I became a literary agent for children’s book authors and illustrators, and helped my authors shape and tell their stories. For six years, I was editor of Westchester Parent Magazine, writing a monthly editorial column that won two gold awards from Parenting Publications of America. As I became more and more concerned about the environment, I volunteered with the Hudson River environmental organization Riverkeeper, eventually becoming its communication coordinator. The experience made me a committed environmentalist.
Visit to read
Renee's fabulous parenting essays and environmental essays.

Lisa Chune's Chinese Dumplings

Like most of the Jews in my family we harbor a secret desire to be Chinese. My Brighton Beach grandparents Nat and Sophie ate at the Chinese restaurant on 'the avenue' every night. Grandma drank clear tea at home in her depression glass mug, sipping it through a sugar cube.

When I got my first job illustrating on site for the Boston Globe I was hired by intern Lisa Chune from Queens NY. Her dad had a Chinese restaurant. Lisa and I also coincidentally had the same art teacher growing up! We became fast friends and when she stayed with us, she taught me how to make these.

Steamed Chinese Dumplings

These are so simple and fun to make. We chopped small bunch of scallions with dark greens included, about four chopped mushrooms, grated one large carrot, chopped a few cloves of fresh garlic, chopped two ribs of celery, added two tablespoons of sesame oil, a few splashes of soy sauce, salt, chili garlic sauce, and mixed it all well with clean hands. Then we taste tested for spice balance, then added 1 pound ground lean raw pork and mixed it with my hands (you could also use 1 pound of firm tofu crumbled). We microwaved a teaspoon of the raw filling for 25 seconds to cook our pork sample and adjust the seasonings. Then we folded a teaspoon of the raw stuffing into each dumpling skin and glued them shut with water. We steamed 6 to 8 dumplings at a time for 5-6 minutes. Enjoy with warm dipping sauce~ rooster sauce and soy sauce combined. A few rounds add up to a dozen per person and makes a nice meal.

Eat Your Books


Fruit loves Meat


Cartoon Festival

The Cartoon Festival at Symphony Hall Saturday. I wish I could take the neighborhood kids, like my Grandma took me to Radio City.

Melissa Bellinelli

When I was 5, my parents decided I was old enough to decorate my own bedroom. They made a living by building spec houses in the San Francisco Bay Area, so they were always in the process of decorating something, and I was used to seeing wallpaper samples and fabric swatches lying around. But it was a thrill to be making the design decisions myself. My mother gave me a carefully edited selection of colors, fabrics and papers to choose from (I had no idea there were more choices than the ones being offered), and I was hooked.

Decorating my bedroom was exciting, but soon it was the dining room I was fixated on: I wanted one of my own. Like the young Marcel in “Swann’s Way,” I hated being sent to bed early, exiled from the adult world and the late-night conversation that took place there. I dreamed of the day I would be admitted to that world, and what my dining room would look like.

It never occurred to me that I would have to wait so long, or that a dining room could be so elusive. During college, I bided my time by decorating my dorm rooms. My grades were never good enough to put me in the ivy-covered building I envisioned, but I attended five colleges, so there was ample opportunity to experiment, each room more dispiriting than the one before. (My husband, who visited the first dorm with me recently, remarked that it bore a striking resemblance to a prison.)

When I was a junior, I escaped to Paris for a year and stayed a decade. And briefly, in my third apartment there, I had a magnificent dining room: a lovely space with 12-foot ceilings, elaborate moldings, 19th-century parquet floors and a marble fireplace. I covered the walls in a delicate flowered paper inspired by 18th-century patterns, my version of Jane Austen in Paris. Read

Shea, Gray + Gibson

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of accompanying Channing Gray to a little town in Western Massachusetts where we visited the celebrated playwright William Gibson. We were rehearsing his delightful The Butterfingers Angel, Mary & Joseph, Herod the Nut & the Slaughter of 12 Hit Carols in a Pear Tree. Channing was to interview him for a feature in the Providence Journal.

Mr Gibson, who was in his nineties at the time, has since passed away. But the memory of that afternoon remains with me.

As the opening of his Golda's Balcony nears, I am reminded of a profound exchange that occurred mid-interview.

He was reminiscing about his recently deceased wife and the years they spent together. He described her strength of character and how she was his rock, artistically, personally, professionally.

This prompted me to ask: "You wrote about Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker. You chronicled the life of Golda Meir in Golda's Balcony. In Butterfingers Angel, you portray Mary as a powerful and independent force of nature. What compels you to write about--"

He interrupted me with a wave of his hand and answered in a tone suggesting he'd been asked this question a thousand times before. "I know, I know," he sighed. "Why do I write about strong women?"

"Well, yes, " I said. "Why do you?"

He shrugged and tilted his head to the side. "What else is there? " he asked.

What else indeed.

-Ed Shea, Artistic Director Second Story Theater Warren RI

New Old Age

We believe connections are what bind us to life.

Does depression contribute to dementia?

Her son, unfortunately, remained embittered by past abuse and nursed a gnawing anger that was never sated by the abandonment of his mother. He expected some justice, as if her old age would predictably reap the agony that she had sowed. But even though he despised her, I also sensed that he secretly yearned for some reconciliation with his mother. It is a sad paradox.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Carrot Girl

When I was 13 I went to summer camp with a girl whose skin was a pale carotene orange. She lived on carrots and boiled eggplant. I never knew someone who was so thin. What a sad thing to do to those beloved vegetables and to one's growing body. At camp she continually looked for opportunities to streak naked across the green, to attract a particular young man, but it was not a pleasing sight. She stayed at our house once and gave me a photo of herself when she was gorgeous and voluptuous and wore a sleeveless Indian print dress. Then later after dinner she tried to show me how to make myself vomit. Not my idea of fun. Then she wanted to go to bed at 9PM which struck me as insane. I was used to calling my friends at 11:30 PM to make plans for the night. Where were my parents and siblings? God knows.


In the 1970s, my mom and I did the grapefruit diet together; she took me to a fat-farm in upstate New York where we fasted for a week; mornings, in the dark, I jogged with her at a track in Red Hook, Brooklyn, when practically no one else jogged (I’m pretty sure we wore Keds). My early desire to be a dancer didn’t help matters; nor did my summer choreography course at Harvard where I learned how effective vomiting and laxatives can be for weight control. Even now, when my mother comes to visit, she tiptoes into my bathroom each morning and asks: “Is your scale right?” She’s in her 70s; it never ends.
“You’re never trapped. You have the keys to the prison! But sometimes having a choice is scarier than not having a choice. Sometimes the food prison is cozier than the big, wide world where I could bulge or break out or wrinkle at any moment. The question…is this: what is it worth, to you, letting yourself out of the prison? What matters more than that high? What matters more than thin? What do you want people to remember about the life you lived?

Will you gain weight or lose weight? Yes. Will I gain weight or lose weight? Yup. Will we hate our bodies or love them? Sure. I just hope, for both of us, that we are doing things that matter while we’re looking however we look and feeling however we feel.

And then she tells me a story:

“Writing this book was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Because the struggle I wrote about was mine. I wanted to map out this path toward a life free of the struggles of hating our bodies. But I had to walk it first. I wrote my last two books in 15 months. This one took 35…And just about the time I finished it, I had this day where I was doing yoga and I glimpsed my leg. I suddenly became aware that it was holding all of my weight and that the muscle was doing exactly what it should be doing and my shin and my thigh came together at my knee exactly as it has to to work in a way that carries me around my world. And I felt appreciation. Just a moment of appreciation for the strength I have in my left leg. And I sat down and cried.