Category Archives: food

Cake, pies, and dirt

The chocolate cake turned out “stodgy,” as they would say on The Great British Baking Show. Dense, chewy and close to inedible, in other words. When Paul Hollywood calls a dessert stodgy, he doesn’t spit it out (the ultimate condemnation), but close. Picture a wrinkled nose and a look of pity.

We will consume it. If you pretend it’s a tort, it kind of works. Ice cream makes it tastier.

I hope my annual currant pie turns out better.

Meanwhile, the heat makes moving dirt a brutal chore. I asked the patio guys to leave us two large piles because I just couldn’t bear to see them haul it away. It keeps K up at night, but I plan to go at it, bucket by bucket.

An old pin cherry root will be installed out back. It’s been tipped over and neglected in the lilies of the valley. Now it will get pride of place. Guardian of the shade!

A nasturtium blooms. My hydrangea are reluctant to grow and half the tomatoes I bought as seedlings haven’t changed at all in four weeks. It reminds me of being twelve when I fervently wished (and wished harder) that I would keep growing. Hallelujah little orange flower!

And speaking of growth, that Rose of Sharon was nearly destroyed by rabbits last year and just look at it!

Lastly, I’m feeling that blogging is both a life line and something that could fall away nearly without notice. How can it be both things?

It occurs to me that a normal summer would have included weeks of travel, weeks when blogging did fall away, in other words. There would have been a coming back. Maybe there was something in that formula?

Just wondering.

Purple rice joy

Last night was one of those nights when we might’ve eaten out were it not for the pandemic. I was tired and had no ideas on deck and by the time I got around to fixing dinner, it was too late to roast the chicken waiting in the cellar fridge.

Et voila! Cooked up a batch of toothsome purple rice and served it up with sautéed shallots, yellow peppers, and chicken sausage. Satisfying! Then, even better, I had two servings of rice left for lunch. Tired celery? Throw it in. Red onion? Yes, please.

After a thorough search, I found NINE more notebooks from the relevant time period (A Tale of Two Sisters, 2009 – 2019). I am so appreciative of the many ideas posted in the comments yesterday.

Things I might not have thought of. Beautiful role modeling. Support offered before asked for. I have such a gracious, smart, and warm circle of friends here!

The notebook pile I’m referring to is to the left of the desk.

Today’s class was really good as usual. Because I had just finished Alice Hoffman’s WWII novel, “The World That We Knew,” (which features a golem as a prominent character), I offered the golem as a prompt.

If you could have a creature made out of mud and temporarily animated to serve you, how would it protect you? How would it offer solace?

Mine ended up being a Hosta Spirit, offering resilience and adaptability. It directly addressed how to approach writing about my sister.

It’s a thread-the-needle situation: how to revisit awful, awful scenes without catapulting myself back into that mess? I don’t think it’s impossible, but I need to have some strategies.

The writing that’s already come about her kind of had a life of its own, arriving on the page as if waiting to be written. I really trust that.

Pantry soup #2 Miso Noodle

By giving root vegetables, frozen corn, and pantry items a starring role, Miso Noodle Soup could be made ten days before the end of the world. The addition of eggs and leftover chicken turned it into a meal. I used homemade chicken stock, but box broth would do in a pinch.

I think I saw a version of this on a NYTimes site this weekend, but I can’t track it down.

Miso Noodle Soup with Carrots & Corn

1 onion, halved and sliced in half moons

1 carrot, diced

1 1/2 c frozen corn

1 clove garlic

2 servings of Japanese noodles (I used somen)

Potful of chicken stock / 2 cups chopped chicken (optional)

Generous 1/4 c miso

* * *

Sauté onions. Add corn and carrots and soften a little. Drop garlic in center and cook for about 90 seconds.

Add broth. Cook until carrots done, about ten minutes.

Meanwhile, cook noodles in a separate pot. Fill bowls with chopped chicken and noodles.

Also, hard boil two eggs, peel and cut in half.

Mash miso in separate bowl with about a cup of the hot broth. Pour back into pot and cook gently for a few minutes.

Pour over noodles and chicken. Top with eggs. Add salt to taste.


If I’d had scallions, I would have added them — both for color and spice.

As it turns out, I would have rather had more corn and no chicken, but I had a carcass to strip from making the stock, so it made sense to use it.

Definitely a meal I would make again, maybe experimenting with additions like ginger, cilantro, and jalapeños.

In other news, those who suggested that grass was a misguided idea with a dog and shade were right (Mo!). K’s sod was beautiful for a season, adequate for another, and destroyed now. I’m extending the beds by a couple of feet and dreaming of gravel walkways.

Isn’t that what quarantines are for? Digging up your backyard?

Friday, Day 23, no Saturday

Of all the lovely things, a recent WordPress update! There are grand new features that offer no obvious benefit but complicate what was once simple and, in the case of yesterday’s post, make six paragraphs disappear. Poof! Don’t you love updates?

The string of grey wet cold days is getting to me. I felt like crying for most of the afternoon. In another week, I might not recognize myself.

But I have fresh produce! Did this grab bag thing down near the Fenway. I emailed on Wednesday. Pick up on Friday. A beautiful selection, especially of greens: Romaine and red leaf lettuce, a HUGE bag of spinach, rabe, asparagus, corn, potatoes and more (but no onions!)

Too bad the pick up process was so careless. I hoped for curbside pick up: we’d pop the trunk, they’d put in the box, we’d slide money out a barely cracked window and off we’d go with barely an interaction.

Instead, when I went into the tiny cafe, I found it a little like business as usual. One customer chatting away with counter-person, two waiting off a little further. No clear process for pick up. No acknowledgment of me, either, and I’m sorry, I worked in the service industry for a lot of years and it doesn’t take much to nod in the direction of a waiting customer. And now? When we’re reinventing social customs to accommodate a pandemic? Nothing? You’d think it was a Tuesday in 2019 or that making lattes was nuclear fission.

Later, I notarized a document for a friend. We performed an elaborate series of steps to avoid contact. The contrast! And, it seemed sensible to deem a photo of her husband about to sign the document good enough in the age of coronavirus!

Food, news, and a rant

Snowflakes wander to the ground this morning and put us in mind of another April Fools Day, when two feet of snow fell. We couldn’t open the front door. It seemed a grand joke from Nature.

Who feels like joking now?

What will people discover isn’t so necessary when this is all over? D’s biology class resumes this week, but online. No lab. Surely hands-on science won’t fall by the wayside, but maybe all those corporate, in-person meetings?

The snow must be over, for the skylight is a blue rectangle.

Problem: a very bland fish chowder. I’m considering a remoulade to add flavor. NOTE: Jars of roasted red peppers make fabulous quarantine food, especially when fresh vegetables run low.

My next grocery delivery isn’t for another ten days and I’m almost out of onions and celery! Lettuce for two salads left, maybe. I must wage my war of emptying-the-fridge and relying-on-the-pantry in silence, otherwise K might take it upon himself to grocery shop.

I really don’t want him to go to the grocery store. I know people are making different decisions about this, but avoiding the store is a way to avoid worry.

Put another two ways: I really want my husband to live; I really don’t feel like dying.

Leave it to my friend DT to get to the heart of any matter, even if harsh truths are involved. ESPECIALLY if harsh truths are involved.

“What’s so bad about dying,” she asks in a recent phone call. “Why are we so afraid of it?” After a pause, in which perhaps she thinks about the recent arrival of another granddaughter, DT adds, “But, I have so many reasons to want to live.”

Another friend’s brother is on a ventilator. In Florida (no comment — rant comes later). She’s remarkably sanguine about it. She’s married to a doctor, which makes me wonder if the medical perspective is generally less hyped-up with avoidance strategies. My brother’s going grocery shopping, that’s for sure. His partner is being exposed in a Los Angeles ER and coming home. What’s grocery shopping compared with that?

My roasted pepper remoulade will feature garlic, salt, and olive oil. Can you picture the pretty red swirl in the creamy soup? Plus a sprinkling of chives from the pot out by the garage.

A plane passes. Earlier, an ambulance. Hong Kong’s numbers rise again. Talk of asymptomatic carriers who never get sick. K quips, “I’ll bet China doesn’t want to call Hong Kong theirs NOW.”

We see clip after clip of ER doctors describing war zones, their eyes wide with sadness. We see field hospitals being erected in Central Park and in various arena around the country. And still, the Partisan Dicks of some Red States stand their ground in a vicious display of macho-trumpism (oh, sorry. Is macho-trumpism redundant?) How can their decisions be allowed to govern when their toxic allegiance will literally kill people?

It’s no metaphor when Nancy Pelosi says trump has blood on his hands. The Boston Globe says it, too. Blood AND sputum.

Among other things, trump demands that we re-invent language, for surely “callous disregard for human life” and “lack of empathy” don’t quite capture his epic willingness to let people die.

We are still running the heat. I look forward to a short-sleeves day.

I’ll keep you posted on how the food challenge goes, as the vegetable bins empty and the onion bowl reveals only a littering of rust-colored, papery skins. The challenge appeals to me — something about my farming ancestors? A potato-blighted, starving past, perhaps. But seriously, this is a fight I’m equipped to fight. For so many, I lack all skill, all stamina.

A friend once said to me, “In a barter economy, you’d be a queen.”

It was a compliment, I know, but at the time also stood as an indictment about how I just couldn’t manage to make money or survive in the corridors of business.