December 2014

Dr. Seuss —
Just tell yourself, Duckie, you're really quite lucky!
Hoppin john 790 xxx
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.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow —
The holiest of all holidays are those kept by ourselves in silence and apart - the secret anniversaries of the heart.
Berries 790 xxx
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!)
Walt Whitman —
I find no sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones.
Stock 790 xxx
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.

Quentin Crisp —
Los Angeles is just New York lying down.
The line 790 xxx
photo courtesy of the line hotel

12.8.14 The Sun, the Moon & Thou

I was born in Los Angeles. In Van Nuys, to be precise, which is in the valley and not very glamorous. Flying towards LAX, you gaze out over the vast urban sprawl punctuated with gawky palms, framed by stately blue hills and filmed with a dull yellow haze and you realize just how unsustainable it all is. Between the fault lines, the fracking, the pollution and the drought, can this desert dream really be long for this world? And yet, once you're on the ground, you are blinded by the sunshine and beguiled by the balmy air and you want it to go on forever. I have a soft spot for the City of Angels, even though it was here that my husband died of cancer and grief invaded my bones. I don't return with the same frequency I once did, but my visits always include sweet reunions with dear friends and family, hikes in the canyons and hills, and as many new food experiences as I can cram in. This time, we started out with a few days at The Line Hotel, a new boutique hotel in Koreatown where we had a room with a view (above).

Before we get into that, though, I'm a bit late announcing the winner of my giveaway copy of Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving. It's Jonathan Epstein! Please email your address to me at I can't wait to send you this wonderful gift.