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photos by george billard

8.13.15 In Person

In one month, I will celebrate six years of living full-time in Sullivan County. We bought our tiny cottage as a weekend place in December 2005 and I never could have envisioned the life we would make for ourselves in this area. My visits to the city are now mostly out of necessity and the only thing I really miss are my friends. (Talking on the telephone seems to be a thing of the past and for those of us who grew up during a time when marathon phone chats were a regular bonding activity, texting just doesn't cut it.) Five minutes from our little hamlet of Eldred is Barryville, a town on the Delaware River that is host to our farmers market every Saturday. This year, for the first time, the market is offering hands-on demos from local chefs and purveyors, and I was lucky enough to be invited to participate. 

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photos by gluttonforlife and friends

5.28.15 Spring Things

Do you want the good news or the bad news? Let's get the bad news over with. The beautiful little eastern redbud tree (Cercis canadensis) outside our kitchen window gave up the ghost. Its vivid pink blossoms, one of the earliest harbingers of spring, failed to appear last year. We chalked it up to the same late frost that destroyed many apple blossoms, since the tree eventually leafed out, its broad, heart-shaped greenery a welcome source of summer shade, But this year, there were again no blossoms and no leaves either. Further investigation revealed deep vertical cracks running up both sides of the trunk. Apparently, it's not entirely unusual for strong winds to cause this, though it certainly feels deeply unjust. The skeletal branches are a sad reminder of how much I will miss our dear tree, a friend to birds and butterflies, and a bosom companion to this solitary writer. Now, on to the good...

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just out from viking

4.21.15 Live Long & Prosper

Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es. [Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.] That famous quote is from legendary epicure Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin's 1826 tome, Physiologie du Gout, ou Méditations de Gastronomie Transcendante. In the nearly two centuries since its publication, what we have learned only confirms this seemingly reductive statement. The rise of industrialized and fast foods—and the attendant increase in cardiovascular illness, obesity and diabetes—has brought renewed focus to the pervasive impact of nutrition on health. This is not news to anyone who reads this blog. Three of the basic tenets that are the backbone of my work here are directly related: Eat adventurously, for health and pleasure. Stay close to nature and explore its ability to nourish and heal. Expand your mind and your palate, not your waistline. So it was with great interest that I read Dr. Mitchell Gaynor's just-released book, The Gene Therapy Plan: Taking Control of Your Genetic Destiny with Diet and Lifestyle. Christiane Northrup describes it as "a godsend that could save your life." 

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3.30.15 Ice Ice Baby

Our tiny cottage has been caught in the frigid grasp of Old Man Winter for months now. His icy breath penetrates every nook and cranny, seeping into our very bones. The spring equinox arrived without much fanfare, just an incipient thaw that seems to have frozen mid-trickle. But change is coming. The light is different, quicker and clearer, and the cold air is scented with a damp optimism. Anticipication mounts, becoming almost unbearable. Before we surrender entirely to the frenzied bacchanal of spring, let's take a moment to give the Old Man his due.

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photos by gluttonforlife

3.6.15 March Hot Links

The guy who plows our driveway is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Every time it snows, he comes by and makes a huge mountain at the end of our front walk. I guess it hasn't occurred to him that we actually leave the house. At any rate, after the recent snowfall, there was a wall nearly four feet high and almost as wide. It was so wet and heavy that heaving every shovelful was a considered effort. Such a sisyphean task is what passes for a good workout here in the boondocks. And someone in my yoga class told me to spray the shovel with Pam to prevent the snow from sticking. Who am I and how did I get here?

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photos by gluttonforlife

1.27.15 Squash Your Cravings

I turned 52 last week. It seems like only yesterday I was confronting the milestone that is turning 50. As much as I believe that age is just a number—as opposed to something that defines us, inside or out—it can feel a bit alarming when the clichés become increasingly relevant. When I texted a friend recently to ask him how his photo shoot was going and he wrote back complaining about "the concrete floors," I had to chuckle. Until being out snowshoeing for hours in the freezing cold resulted in my knee suffering from what I think might be a little bursitis. Tell me that word doesn't conjure up your grandmother. How do I weather the changes? With a sense of humor, a healthy dose of denial and a stockpile of resilience. Which is not to say I don't occasionally stare aghast at the loosening skin on my neck. But I think Nora Ephron covered all that more than adequately and so I'd rather talk to you about another thing I stockpile: winter squash.

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photos by gluttonforlife

1.6.15 Fresh Start

Happy New Year! On this day of Epiphany, the holidays are finally concluded with a resounding oomph. The weeks of chocolates, cookies, cakes, cheese, candies and Champagne (why do they all start with "C"?!) being relentlessly thrust upon us from all sides are finally over. I did my best to resist, but it's difficult not to buckle in the face of tradition. Who doesn't like a cup of eggnog on Christmas morning? Or a handful of sea salt caramels? Or a celebratory cocktail? Or a rich and complicated dessert to end a festive meal? I am not impervious to any of these charms, but the older I get, the more my body rejects them. I consulted a few different sources online and have determined that, in Ayurvedic terms, I have an excess of Kapha at the moment (you can read about the doshas here). So I have cut out all sugar and dairy, and am also avoiding fermented foods and soy. Even after just a week of this, I am feeling much better—more energetic, more optimistic, more rested. I have been making bone broths with fresh ginger juice and freshly grated turmeric stirred in; steaming bowls of kichari with a squeeze of fresh lemon; and lots of vegetables, roasted and steamed. For a treat, and to make the most of all the gorgeous winter citrus in my fridge, I devised an update of the Orange Julius that I think improves upon the original.

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photos by gluttonforlife

12.29.15 Get Lucky

Eat poor that day, eat rich the rest of the year. Rice for riches and peas for peace. So goes the saying about Hoppin’ John, the classic Low Country dish of rice and peas that’s a New Year’s day tradition in the South. Consuming a plateful is thought to guarantee a prosperous year filled with good fortune. The peas symbolize coins and the greens served on the side—usually collards—recall good old dollar bills. Add cornbread and you’ve got gold. Culinary gold, anyway.

As much as I cling to the idea of a random universe, I'm actually pretty superstitious. I've lived my life in fear of tempting the Fates: Clotho, who spins the thread of life; Lachesis, who chooses one's lot in life and measures how long it will be; and Atropos, who with her shears cuts the thread of life. Like some old gypsy woman, I avoid calling attention to my good fortune or the things I covet most because I dread attracting the evil eye. I remember my mother telling me about a moment she had, an ordinary Northern California moment of driving the car along a sunny road, when she was seized with the notion that her life was so wonderful—perfect, really—and then felt a chill pass over her heart as she realized this must be too good to be true. Shortly thereafter, my father's stomach cancer announced itself and my mother's own battle with a benign tumor on her spine kicked into high gear.

I masquerade as a rational being, but deep within I harbor superstitions worthy of a medieval sorceress. I hold my breath and lift my feet when we drive over railroad tracks. I say "rabbit, rabbit, rabbit" first thing on the first of every month. Because if there is such a thing as luck, I want some. What directs your hand to that winning ticket? Guides you into the path of your soulmate? Chance, fate, destiny, luck...I'll do whatever I can to tip the scale in my favor, won't you? So join me in embracing this bit of Southern lore on January 1st. C'mon, get lucky.

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photos by gluttonforlife

12.23.14 A Winter's Tale

The wave of melancholy brought in on the tide of winter has somewhat receded here, though the pervasive grey and permeating damp nibble little holes in my soul. Do you ever find that the tears induced by chopping onions suddenly turn real? It's as though they lubricate the tracks for old sorrows to come pouring out. This is not always an unpleasant thing and can pass like a sudden squall on an otherwise calm sea. With the holidays upon us, memories lie close to the surface—of Christmases past, of loved ones no longer with us, of times that appear brighter from a distance. We romanticize, we idealize and then, with any luck, we return to the present moment with gratitude. For this is what we have now and it is enough in all its barren beauty, its eternal uncertainty, its yearning and celebration. Come take a little tour of the garden with me and see what charms it holds in these days of the solstice. (And find out who won those caramels!)
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photos by gluttonforlife

12.17.14 Down to the Bone (and a Caramels Giveaway)

I fell down a deep well last week. G was away for a few days, it was bitter cold and night seemed to descend before each day had barely begun. A weighty cloak of despair settled over me as I sank into the couch in front of the dying embers of the fire. I questioned my purpose. I listened to the sneering voices that crowded my mind. I grew listless and small. I sent a text to my husband: I feel frightened and disconnected. And then I realized I had not left the confines of our tiny cottage in four days! I forced myself outside, spent nearly an hour chipping away with a shovel at the ice on our front stoop and then made it to yoga for the first time in a week. When I got home, I was a new woman. Light and movement had managed to penetrate that bleak darkness. Dear reader, I was SAD—as in suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder. It was no joke, but I am better now and committed to going outside every day, no matter what the weather has up its wicked sleeve. 

I'm also done with nuts, chocolate and sugar for the season. Enough! Those things are particularly bad for my constitution. They bring me down. Instead, I have stocked the fridge with pomegranates and sweet-tart clementines, a gorgeous block of Stilton and some fresh chestnuts. And, as always, nourishing bone broths. Don't you love it when something that has been around for millennia—fasting! kale!—suddenly becomes a trend? So it is with bone broths, which are on everyone's lists for "what's hot in 2015." 

Before we go any further, let’s consider how stock differs from broth, often merely a question of semantics. A general consensus seems to be that stock is a relatively clear, unsalted liquid made by slowly simmering bones and sometimes vegetables, which is then used as the basis for sauces and soups. Broth is a simple soup in itself, more highly seasoned than stock and perhaps containing bits of meat. In most recipes the two can be interchanged, though stock is more neutral, with its salinity, strength and seasoning dependent on how it will be used.