Saturday, October 9, 2010

And then they knew that everything would be alright.

“There’s no better balm for a sad soul than an excessive amount of cookies,” she thinks, and then begins to take flours down from the cabinet. Brown rice flour, coconut flour, tapioca starch, guar and xanthan gums… It sounds like a science experiment, rather than the beginning of cookies, but this is what baking has become, post-gluten.

Noting that she’s out of brown sugar, she takes down the raw sugar and pours 1/3 of a cup in the grinder. The goat butter has been warming to room temperature, as has the egg yolk. She mixes the flours, and adds the cocoa powder. The flour bowl already has a heady scent – like pot at a dark and loud outdoor concert – the cocoa and coconut wafting deep into her nose, triggering addiction-prone neurons.

They’re called world peace cookies, and she’d been skeptical, assuming that a hippy dippy baker was the creator, but there was no hemp oil to be found in the recipe. That scent, though… Suddenly she understood. Something that good, that complex, could surely bring about the cessation of all armed conflict. Perhaps she could come up with a way to waft that scent across the mountains of Kazakhstan. Greg Mortensen would certainly be proud of her.

Gluten free baking requires a light hand, and so she spins the KitchenAid only a few times with the butter and sugar and egg yolk in the bowl. She pours a bit of the flour blend in at a time, stops the mixer to scrape the contents from the side of the bowl, and adds a bit more. It’s a crumbly mixture, perhaps a bit dry for the substitution of moisture-sucking coconut flour. She contemplates adding another bit of butter, but decides to go for it, as is.

The dough is room temperature as she dips her hands in the bowl and begins to form a roll that she’ll wrap with plastic and set in the fridge for a few hours. A warning tone sounds in her head as she swipes dough off the mixer blades with a finger and sticks it in her mouth – she knows better about eating raw egg and maybe even raw grains, but the inner kid always wins out. There’s enough dough to share, and her next fingerful finds its way into her boyfriend’s warm mouth.

“Oh my god,” he moans. She considers keeping the mixer blade for herself but in an unusually promiscuous fit of generosity holds the blade up between them for a simultaneous licking session. There’s more to soothing souls than caloric absorption. The cookies need to set in the fridge for several hours, anyway.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sea shell mobile

I might have been 10, and still thoroughly convinced that my grandparents possessed special powers – which others might have just called love, but I was too young to understand the warm feeling that their undivided attention created in my belly. My sister and I spent a week with them every summer in their magical house on a mountainside in Connecticut, and they did their best to fill our time with endlessly fascinating things and activities.

That afternoon, I’d gotten into Nana’s shell collection. She and PopPop and their two boys had spent myriad and epic summers on camping trips up and down the eastern seaboard. Both Nana and PopPop had eyes and hearts for beauty, and heads for detail, and in those days, there was still a bounty of beauty to be had at the seashore. They had gallon-size Zip Lock bags full of seashells, now stored in their basement. I wonder if this began my childhood fascination with the sea, or if it just augmented it. Even now, I look at these shells and wonder at a world in which beautiful, iridescent abalone shell is excreted from an otherwise slimy, unrecognizable creature.

I asked Nana about the shells and it was probably she who suggested that I pick out my favorites so that we could together create a mobile from them. Then, as now, I was stunned by her generosity. Surely, the shells must hold stories – where she was when she found them, the quality of the sea air the moment she plucked them from the sand – and how could she part with them, so beautiful, and perfectly imperfect – particularly the sand dollar that was as big as my hand at the time.

I chose the sand dollar, two pink and two cream colored shells, and then two mussel shells a otherworldly, purply color. Nana found fishing line, a short bit of driftwood, a small bit for the drill, and began - with hands now so delicate that the skin tears with a careless touch - to drill the tiny holes through with the fishing line would run. I stood at her side at the workbench, uncomfortably anxious, fully expecting my beautiful shells to shatter at any moment.

When they’d all been drilled and the lines run, Nana lifted the mobile for the first time, giving it an iridescent, tinkling life. My heart lodged in my tiny throat. I’m sure my 10 year old body quaked with an unsaid thank you, while this woman that I suddenly, fiercely loved admired a mobile that I treasure to this day.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Canada Goose

Late in March I went for a walk on the road above our house. I was surprised and saddened to find the body of a Canada goose just off the road, lifeless but still magnificent.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Writers! A Manifesto. (work in progress)


Abandon the staid center, your faculty meetings and lattes, your unimaginative friends, your practical cars and shoes, your scramble to perceive the cultural norm!

Life is alive at its fringes!
Break through your glass ceiling to be solar-powered by the brilliance above!
Find the thing that makes your pulse burst in your ears every second, that moves you like a perpetual motion machine!
Corner your cowardice, loose the tethers, skyrocket to rock stardom!

Lift the tool at hand!
Assume a mandate to observe and compellingly describe the minute and the miraculous!
Uncover your faith and wonder of the world with words resonant and rhythmic!
Bring people to their senses in the most bodily sense of the word!
Unearth your voice, and harness the river of words -
Be a conduit for whatever it is that rings through you!

Lift your voices to sing, tremble, wail -

Pierce people’s hearts, shake them by their lapels from the page, and leave us all on our knees before the beauty and terror of it all!

The unhinged universe awaits your divine proclamations!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My Mother's Kitchen

There was nothing romantic, sentimental about my mother's kitchen. Built in the '70's, it reflected the time's prevailing attitudes - women weren't supposed to spend lots of time in the kitchen, and CheezWiz was food, anyway.

So her kitchen had elbow room for one, an 'L' shaped galley, and prep space provided by a floating island.

Regardless, she attemped ambitious meals, splattering cookbooks too close at hand, and melting Tupperware when absentmindedly she placed a piece on a still-warm, electric burner.

Afterwards, bowls empty, table clean, she'd wash the dishes and I would perch behind her on the island, both of us speaking to each other's reflections in the window over the sink.

We had big plans for me.


It's Monday night, a lifetime later, and I am making soup.

It's a meatball soup - or is it chowder - that my mom used to make, one of my favorites.

Full of herbs and veggies, there's some richness missing from it.

I call my nana for the recipe while I'm chopping leeks, and then my sister as I pour the broth over the now-translucent onions, but neither of them remember. They both want whatever recipe I come up with.

Chopped celery, shredded carrots, herbed meatballs, basil, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper, a dollop of wine. Broth to lips...

Perhaps what's missing is my mother's touch. She's 3000 miles and an addled mind away from my new, spacious kitchen, in which there's enough room for both of us to chop, and chat, and, now both adults, tilt wine glasses toward our lips, toasting our uncertain futures.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Memento

I'm taking Ellie Waterston's class, The Story You Came to Tell. The following was a writing prompt in class - what object are we carrying that we might consider a memento of sorts...

Blue fleece, reversible red mittens that I've had for at least 16 years - so durable, that polyester fleece. How many hands I've held in them, how many times I've swiped my runny nose and been grateful I could toss them in the wash - how much I've clung to them, the sheaths of my own hands, for their warmth, the memory of coming across them with my mom on a family vacation in New Hampshire when she was healthy and I was ready to rap on the door of the world as a high school senior.

They are big and a bit cartoonish, always at the ready, fetishized to the point that my partner and all my friends join my frenzy of looking for them when they've been misplaced. I am amazed that they've lasted and stuck around this long, companions on my journeys across time zones and states, through 3 cool seasons a year, and in contact with innumerable doors, banisters, steering wheels, snowballs...

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Long Suffering Dog

We got Siri some Ruff Wear booties for winter wear. And then proceeded to laugh our heads off at her visible discomfort. We love her, really, we do!