Eating

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1.5.17 Bottled Up

The year 2017 is upon us! I'm a January baby, so this month always feels like a fresh start. I'll be turning 54 in a couple of weeks; well past the halfway mark, which is a bit startling somehow. I think about death a lot—have done ever since my father died when I was 26 (he was 64), and then my husband died when I was 40 (he was 41) and my mother died that same year (she was 76). For me, a big part of living is preparing to die and I don't feel this is morbid or maudlin. I want to die in peace and without regrets and this means striving to live in a state of grace. For those of you who haven't yet made it to this age and are curious about what lies ahead, here is what I can report: I have plenty of energy, dreams and plans. The world continues to be full of surprises and challenges. I am never bored. Slowing down is something I do to improve the quality of my life. There is always something new to learn, including about myself. The longer I live, the more I turn to nature for guidance, nourishment and wisdom. Any time I can be outside or interacting with plants is a source of joy for me and making bitters is an extension of that. 


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12.21.16 Bitters/Sweets

How about we start with the sweet and move on to the bitter? Nothing would please me more than being able to send every one of you who commented a bag of my caramels, but I just can't swing it this year. (The postage alone is prohibitive!) But I do have three bags and they are going out to randomly selected Diane, Teresa and Jack. (I will email you separately to get your snail mail addresses.) Thank you to all for sharing your beautiful traditions and thoughts on celebrating at this time of year. I am very moved by how thoughtful and graceful you are and feel lucky that I am part of this ad hoc community.

 

And now, for the bitter. Or, actually, bitters—a new project of mine. I gathered a number of roots late this fall and decided to make a few different varieties of bitters. (If you'd like to learn more about how I got into foraging, here is I piece I wrote for a recent issue of Edible.) My witchy work is still in progress...


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12.14.16 Holidaze (& a Giveaway)

Have you been sucked into the December vortex? Standing in long lines, eating too much sugar and feeling like a loser because you can't afford to buy all the presents are some indications that the holidays are getting the better of you. Resist! I say. Go simple. Stay true. Be calm. It's a challenge, I know. Just the other day, as I sat wrapping gifts, I was overcome with sadness. Both my parents are gone, what little family I have lives on the West Coast and most of my friends are far away. I never had children. I live in a tiny cottage and my home doesn't overflow with several generations. My life suddenly seemed very thin to me and, I confess, I felt a little sorry for myself. And I start every day with a gratitude practice in which I carefully review all my many blessings! What is it about this time of year that preys on our vulnerabilities? I didn't really snap out of it until my husband came home and took me in his arms and talked me through the realities: I am healthy. I am safe. I am lucky. I am loved. There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.


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12.6.16 Take Root

Big changes can unseat us, make us feel wobbly and uncertain, as though the ground beneath our feet has shifted uncomfortably. Though we can't see the future, we often operate under the delusion that we know what's coming and that brings some measure of comfort. But, inevitably, our roots are disturbed and we must find a way to regain our equilibrium.

 

A few months ago, my life unexpectedly changed shaped and fear and anxiety threatened to overtake me. It required a lot of strength (and support from people in my life) not to react from a place of despair. Instead, I have chosen to remain calm, to give myself space and to simply exist in the in-between moment—a limbo I have historically found untenable. The eternal temptation is to take action to fix a problem.

 

This is where a regular meditation practice can be very helpful. It turns "Don't just sit there, do something!" into "Don't just do something, sit there!" The very act of sitting calmly allows you to feel grounded—in yourself. Your root chakra, located at the base of the spine, the pelvic floor and the first three vertebrae, creates a solid foundation that provides a sense of safety and security from within, regardless of your circumstance. Bit by bit, I am starting to feel more connected to myself, to my true nature.


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11.11.16 Tea & Sympathy

What a difference a day makes. This week had many of us reaching for comfort in the form of booze, sugar, sleep, denial. But the sun continues to shine on this new world and we must remake ourselves in its light. There is a way forward and we will find it together by keeping our heads up and our hearts strong. In trying times, and as winter closes in, few things are more fortifying than tea. And few teas are more fragrant and expressive than those blended by Nini Ordoubadi of Tay Tea.

 

Born in Iran and descended from three generations of tea blenders, Nini recently relocated from her home in New York City to live upstate full-time. She shuttered her lovely boutique in Andes last year and opened an atelier in nearby Delhi that was intended as a studio for her tea blending and other creative projects. Since she is the world's most charming hostess, it has turned into more of a gathering place, especially on weekends, when people drop in to drink tea and bask in Nini's warmth. (To learn more about her, read this piece I wrote for DV8 magazine.)


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11.8.16 Top of the Morning

Not everybody has time to make a special breakfast every single day. Some of us are running for President. Others are trying to get the kids off to school. Still others don't have access to things like coconut flour and eggs fresh from the farm. I'm aware that I'm writing from a place of privilege, but this is where I am right now. If it's all you can do to rip open a package of instant oatmeal, you'll get no judgment from me. Let's just stand together for breakfast in general, for doing the best we can and for a country in which we are free to make choices. Are you with me? Good. Because I'm with her. 


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10.12.16 Greener Pastures

Nine years ago, I married a wonderful man. I had been married before—not once, not twice, but three times and each time I had walked down the aisle filled with hope. But I had not been ready. I had not learned the true nature of love. I had not yet ripened into the woman I was to become, the one that could open her heart and receive as much as she could give. When we found each other, everything changed. Our wedding was a beautiful nighttime celebration in front of friends and family. It was cocktails, cake and dancing in a loft in New York City. The flowers were extraordinary and Danny Meyer catered the finger food (there was even an ice cream bar). We spent our wedding night in a room overlooking Central Park at the Carlyle Hotel. It was glorious and extravagant and truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I know I'll never get married again. A couple of months later, we went to India for a five-week honeymoon. What a life! It seems an awfully long time ago in some ways, but our love feels very fresh and alive. And that curry? It's a memento of that trip to India—a green version of an incredible tomato curry we ate in Udaipur at this stunning hotel.


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photo by staci valentine

9.21.16 Poverty Food

My friend Mirena Kim is such a superb creature. We met more than 20 years ago and instantly bonded over our love of food, crafts and wicked giggling. Through life's ups and downs, I have watched her handle whatever came her way with grace and humor. She has always been there for me: totally supportive, never judging. Her aesthetic is flawless; everything she makes and keeps around her is quietly beautiful and highly functional. In the last few years, she has dug deeper into her ceramics practice and the world has taken notice. (You can read more about her here and here, visit her website here, and watch this video my husband made about her.) Her bowls, platters and vases are fully integrated into my home life and will be forever. This summer, Mirena flew in from Los Angeles for a spontaneous visit and spent a few glorious days talking, hiking, swimming in the lake and teaching me to make kimchi straight from the garden. 


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7.31.16 Hitting the Sauce

July almost got away without a single post from me but here I'm squeaking in under the wire! It's been a busy summer so far and I'm not going to pretend it was exclusively devoted to perfect moments like these (thanks for the reference, Janet), though I have swum in the lake several times, cooked pulled pork for 80 friends, eaten way too many ice cream sandwiches, served drinks at the first Fish & Bicyle pop-up and, thus far, avoided Lyme disease. As in years past, my plan is to take a break from social media—including Facebook, Instagram and my blog—for the entire month of August. It's hard to believe that starts tomorrow. Maybe you'd like to do the same? I can't guarantee it will mean more time in the hammock for me, but it just might. Let me know how you're planning to spend your August. I'm hoping you'll find time to make this ginger-scallion sauce. It comes together quickly and sits in the fridge waiting to be spooned over poached chicken, steamed fish or dumplings; stirred into hot rice; slathered on grilled anything; or smeared on a summer roll. 


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6.28.16 Low-Hanging Fruit

Alice Waters opened Chez Panisse in 1971. It was a place where she and her friends could cook in the classic style of the French countryside, talk politics and drink wine. Since those early days, her commitment to organic, local foods, and to the communities of farmers and artisan producers who make them possible, has never waned. She has supported a return to the traditional growing and harvesting techniques that preserve and enrich the land for future generations. Her cookbooks, so authoritative and inspiring, are always in heavy rotation in my kitchen. Chez Panisse Fruit is a go-to for selecting, storing, preparing and preserving whatever's in season. It is filled with recipes both sweet and savory, but also with some of the simplest, most perfect ideas for enjoying fruit at its peak. (Another favorite, also highly recommended is Pam Corbin's The River Cottage Preserves Handbook.) This is my idea of summer fun.


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