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photo by george billard

11.23.11 Heartfelt Thanks

I threw my back out. Had a fabulous massage on Monday night and by yesterday afternoon I felt that weird incipient wobbliness (this has happened before) and soon enough I was in full-on crisis mode. I have to lie on the ground and put my legs up the wall for 30 minutes at a time—not the best position for cooking, or anything else for that matter—and thus far it hasn't helped much, so the first thing I'm grateful for is that I'm at my sister-in-law's house and not welcoming the hoards into my own. Tomorrow I'll be thankful when I look around at this wonderful family I married into, complete with adorable nephews and a mother-in-law who likes my cooking, not to mention for the gargantuan feast that will be laid out in all its aromatic glory. Our menu? Since you asked:Devils on Horseback (Dates stuffed with Parmesan & Wrapped in Bacon)Pigs in BlanketsSalami Chips with Spicy MustardCheese with Pickled RampsChicken Consommé with Mushroom RavioliTurkey Two Ways, Deep-Fried & RoastedBrandied CranberriesGingered Green BeansShaved Fennel & Brussels Sprouts SaladClassic Billard Stuffing2 kinds of GravySpicy Yams with PancettaMashed Potatoes & Celery RootApple-Cranberry PiePumpkin Custard with Candied Pumpkin SeedsVanilla Panna Cotta with Wine-Poached Apples (Winos)Chocolate Cake (for the kids)3 kinds of Cookies (brought by Mum)Life is short, life is sweet, we're so lucky to have plenty to eat. Seems excesssive, no? Hopefully no one will slip into a food coma. In case I do, let me say thanks to you now, gentle reader, for your support and encouragement. I picture you out there, clutching your morning latte or evening glass of red wine, maybe stealing a moment at your desk or while the baby's napping, and I am inspired to keep sharing with you all the things for which I am grateful so that together we can make every moment count.  I wish you all a happy, healthy Thanksgiving!
Tagged — family

11.25.10 Muchas Gracias

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I am thankful for my loving husband, Titi, family, friendship, a cozy home, freedom, goat cheese, Bach, heirloom tomatoes, hammocks, squirrels, deer, blue jays, black bear, foxes, snakes, spiders, animals in general, ferns, our vegetable garden, walnuts, the 4 Agreements (don't make assumptions, be impeccable with your word, don't take things personally, always do your best), Philip Roth, Coetzee, Alice Munro, Patricia Highsmith, technology, craftsmanship, artists, Pablo Neruda, Joni Mitchell, Maria Callas, Nick Drake, Elvis Costello, Silvio Rodriguez, Irving Penn, Andy Goldsworthy, Velazquez, Goya, Frida Kahlo, traveling, India, Mexico, Venice, Morocco, Madrid, San Sebastian, Iceland, new challenges, old traditions, curiosity, my tastebuds, bourbon, brown sugar, cardamom, lavender, geranium, rosemary, herbs and flowers, fragrance, essential oils, frankincense, sandalwood, myrrh, grapefruit, lemon, yuzu, noodles, tempura, cork, leather, glass, wood, stone, slate, wool, cashmere, silk, sequins, embroidery, Marni, Prada, Jil Sander, Rick Owens, Comme des Garçons, gratins, raw milk, cows, grass, sunrise over the mountain, sunset over the lake, collaboration, allies, support, confidence, children, curiosity, humor, laughing, giggling, chortling, spices, curry, coconut, ice cream, sorbet, popsicles, sneezing, caramel, chocolate, nougat, youth, old age, middle age, grey hair, any hair at all, strength, resilience, courage, kale, quinoa, low cholesterol, high standards, movies, books, Momofuku, Thomas Keller, Wylie Dufresne, Alice Waters, Ferran Adria, Arzak, MFK Fisher, Laurie Colwin, Suzanne Goin, Los Angeles, AOC, Lucques, Campanile, La Brea Bakery, Fairway, Chelsea Market, Dickson's, Lucy's Whey, Eataly, Union Square farmers market, Chinatown, dim sum, Mitsuwa, tofu skin, fresh fish, pickled mussels, pickles in general, flamenco, tapas, molecular gastronomy, textiles, ikat, bargello, velvet, tie dye, street food, fresh potato chips, ethnic markets, theater, poetry, wine, sherry, port, ginger, fields, grains, purple rice, wild rice, risotto, forests, sequoias, silver birch, pine cones, orchids, peonies, ranunculus, naps, meditation, yoga, hiking, sweating, swearing, discipline, sex, romance, loyalty, long walks on the beach, margaritas, rainstorms, kidding!, driftwood, mobiles, driving, convertibles, OH MY GOD I COULD GO ON FOREVER!!! What I'm trying to say is that I am grateful for life and all the complexities and emotions and smells and tastes and people and things it delivers on a regular and generous basis. I am grateful for you, readers, who so kindly share it all with me. I wish you all the contentment that comes from wanting what you have.
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Tagged — family
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photo by george billard

10.31.10 All Hallow's Eve

My mother was born on Halloween. Today would have been her 83rd birthday. She definitely had witchy qualities: black hair and flashing black eyes, a long nose, and a fearless quality that was both admirable and daunting. But she was a good witch, and an even better cook. Her paella, enchiladas, shrimp scampi and huachinango a la veracruzana made for some legendary dinner parties. And the German chocolate cake she made for my birthday every year will never be forgotten. Here's to you, June Audrey Chávez Silverman, que en paz descanses. Thanks for showing me that, in all things, where there is a will there is a way.
Tagged — family
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7.31.10 Shock & Awe

photos by anna raugalis
Readers from the early days may recall a post I wrote about my husband, a talented filmmaker and true gentleman. Well, here he is again, this time featured for completing his first narrative short film, Aftershock, which he wrote, produced and directed. (Also a DP, he decided to have someone else shoot it as he kinda had his hands full.) I am so excited for him, and have every confidence it will get into festivals and receive the acclaim it deserves. The film tells the bittersweet story of a man who loses his family in an earthquake in China, and later finds himself struggling as an immigrant in New York City. Read more about it, find out about future screenings, and see some beautiful stills and on-set photos here.
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Tagged — family
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photo by tony wolberg

4.16.10 Renaissance Man

I am married to an amazing man. He is my 4th husband, but I know I finally got it right. (Yeah, yeah, enough with the Liz Taylor jokes.) I feel like writing about him today because he is away for a while, making a short film he wrote and is directing and producing. Aside from being one of the most intelligent people I have ever known, G is a talented artist, a smart businessman and a truly good soul. He loves to eat and drink, and is both highly discerning and wildly appreciative when it comes to my cooking. He is curious about the world and has traveled practically everywhere, but likes to see things again through my eyes. (To wit, he's taking me to Barcelona in September, where's he's been but I never have.) You've already seen from the photos on this blog what a gifted photographer he is. Check out more of his work, including his award-winning documentary short, here. His compassion, breadth of knowledge, gusto, generosity, courage, tenacity and imagination inspire me every day. Oh, and he has flawless taste in jewelry. Did I mention we met online?
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on the job
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on a fact-finding mission in Pakistan for Network 20/20
Tagged — family
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4.5.10 Sister Act

I grew up in a bilingual family, speaking English generously peppered with Spanish. Although we all spent time living in Mexico and Spain, somehow I am the only one who ended up with a Castilian accent. Born to a Chicana teacher and a Jewish professor of Spanish literature, it makes sense that both of my sisters work in bilingual education of one sort or another. (I am the anomaly.) We are three daughters, linked by blood and by our inherited passion for language. My sister Susi (Susana Chávez-Silverman) has just published her second memoir, Scenes from La Cuenca de Los Angeles y Otros Natural Disasters.
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Like her first one, Killer Crónicas, published in 2004, it is written in its own unique back-&-forth between English and Spanish—what she refers to as "code-switching," and others have called Spanglish. Each chapter is a “crónica,” an episode culled from diary entries and letters that trace her journey from California to South Africa to Australia and back. The prose crackles, as full of quirky charm and deep insights as my beautiful sister. I hope you get a chance to lose (and find) yourself in her lyrical writing.
Tagged — family
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illustration by janice richter

12.23.09 Crowning Touch

For the first time in 5 years, G and I will be home for the holidays. After being in Iceland, Morocco, India and Vietnam in December, I'm really looking forward to relaxing in our own little cottage in the snow. (Though I'm still dreaming of Egypt. Next year, Inshallah.) The question, then: what to cook for Christmas? My mother was Episcopalian and my father was a Jew and, when they married, they both stepped gingerly away from their religious practices. My dad had a beautiful singing voice and on occasion acted as cantor of the local temple on the high holidays, and we often attended Passover seder at friends' homes. In our own, we celebrated Easter and Christmas, sometimes going to church but always with big feasts and wonderful music—Bach, Handel's Messiah, traditional carols—to which my mother lent her own beautiful singing voice. Tamales were a Christmas Eve tradition, stuffed with pork or chicken and purchased from a local restaurant, though we had all been taught by my mother's mother how to make our own. And always at Christmas, See's candies—nuts and chews, please. What I wouldn't give for a butterscotch square right this very minute. Or a piece of my grandmother's fudge with walnuts.
Tagged — family