Sunday, July 31, 2011

And then...

…I baked a cake. (More soon.)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

"State of Wonder"

After a week filled with driving (Cambridge to North Conway, NH and back; Brookline to Portsmouth, and home) on Friday morning it was a relief to find myself climbing into an airplane instead of a car. Even if it was a tiny plane.

I had a reading scheduled that night in Manchester, Vermont, and so I flew from Boston to Rutland on an 8-seater—gripping my armrest, my seatbelt tightly cinched. As a kid, I never had a problem flying. But as the years have passed, my anxiety has grown. It’s not so bad that I won’t fly. I’m restless and curious and in love with travel. But I can’t seem to banish the few minutes of heart-palpitating fear straddling takeoff. This was no different.

But I had never before been able to see so much of the flight process: how our little plane joined a line of jets waiting to take off, snaking around the runway one after another, pausing before finally blasting off into the air. When we launched into the sky, I could see the pilot pressing buttons, the plane clicking and bouncing, and the buildings of Boston parading below. I watched the land turn from open and farm-filled to tree-lined and hilly. By the time we reached Vermont 40 minutes later, I couldn’t tell if the scraggly white puffs on the horizon were snow-capped mountain peaks or a hazy expanse of clouds.

Manchester is a beautiful little town in southern Vermont. I arrived early and took myself out to lunch. Over the pages of Ann Patchett’s new novel, State of Wonder, I ate a salad filled with heirloom tomatoes, forest mushrooms, and seared salmon. It was hot out, as it was everywhere, and afterward I did some work in the frosty container of my hotel room. With the arrival of Matt, who had begun driving north from Boston as soon as he finished work, we headed out for my reading at the Northshire Bookstore, a huge and hugely wonderful independent bookstore in Manchester Center.

If I’ve learned anything in the last month, it’s that I love readings. I love going to readings. I love reading at readings. It’s been such a joy to meet so many of you interested in the sense of smell, in taste and flavor and cooking. I’ve been impressed by the questions asked and comments made by members of the audience. I knew that writing and publishing a memoir would be personal for me, but I didn’t realize how personal it would be for others. I’m humbled and inspired by the stories I’ve been told.

After the reading, Matt and I drove back to our hotel, and sat on the back porch with a tumbler of whiskey and a glass of white wine, respectively. We began chatting with an interesting couple sitting to our left. This couple was older than us, and before we even began speaking with them, I had been entranced by the way the evening light fell against the woman’s white hair, and the way that the two of them looked so in love. The next thing I knew the drinks had multiplied, it was close to midnight, and the time had come to collapse into bed.

On Saturday Matt and I hit the road. Flying was fun, but driving has allowed us to explore. We meandered along back roads in Vermont, pausing to buy maple syrup and then, later, some cheese. We crossed over to New Hampshire, and slowly wound our way down to Massachusetts—all big trees, gravel roads, and muggy breeze along the way. Matt, a southern boy at heart, says he’s fallen in love with New England through all of the driving we’ve done. I tend to agree.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

New Hampshire

Matt and I spent last weekend in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. We hiked a lot, and slept even more. Just what I needed.

Tonight I’m returning north to do a reading in Portsmouth. I’ll be at the RiverRun Bookstore. 7pm. See you there? 


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Coming Up

I haven’t been cooking a whole lot. It’s too hot here in Boston. (Right now, sitting at my kitchen table before 7am, I feel like a sweaty piece of salmon, wrapped in parchment, baking en papillote.) When the temperature rises above 90 degrees, my diet revolves around three things: salad, white wine, ice cream. Not the best blogging fodder, but, hey, it works for me.

Other than that? My book came out. It sure isn’t storming the bestseller list, but it’s gotten some wonderful press, and some very kind words, and, damn, I’m proud. (Interested? You can buy it here!)

I want to give you all a little heads up about events coming up in the next couple weeks.

First off: I’ll be at RiverRun Books in Portsmouth, NH, next Wednesday evening (July 20th) at 7pm.

On Friday, July 22nd, I’ll be at the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, VT, at 7pm.

On July 26th, (Tuesday), I’ll be at the Odyssey Bookshop at 7pm in South Hadley, MA. 

And on that Thursday, July 28th, I’ll be at a Literary Luncheon at the Where The Sidewalk Ends Bookstore on Cape Cod. (With Jennifer Egan! And Daphne Kalotay!) (Tickets necessary.)

I'd love to see you any/everywhere.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Blueberry Pancakes

The last few weeks of moving, of doing, of the ups and downs and adrenaline that come with public speaking, have been exhausting. Wonderful, but exhausting. And this weekend? I crashed.

I woke up Saturday morning, sat down at my computer, and tried to do some work. But my body ached, my eyelids drooped, and little wisps of anxiety twirled around my ears. A little voice repeating itself: How am I going to get everything done? Ah, that familiar chant. Occasionally it's a comforting one. Sometimes even inspiring. It usually fades away as I dive into my work. But on Saturday, it just wouldn’t stop. I couldn’t think beyond the internal noise. I turned on the radio, hoping to drown it out. I left my computer to go on a run, looking for silence via speed. Nothing helped. So I gave up.

Matt and I drove to Brookline, where we ate roast beef sandwiches and salads with aged gouda, peanuts, and crispy shallots at Cutty’s. We went to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, where we wandered among the new Art of the Americas wing, and then stared at the bulbous, strange glass forms by Chihuly. My favorite moment? Standing on a staircase overlooking the museum restaurant, watching people eat. I didn’t think about deadlines once.

And Sunday morning I woke up feeling better. Like I could possibly face the to-do list of the next week. Like I might be able to get everything done. But first I made pancakes. Blueberry ones. And let me tell you: they were good.

Blueberry Pancakes
From Cook’s Illustrated (also known as: my employer)

Light and fluffy, sweet and tangy, these pancakes have the perfect amount of spring. They use milk soured with just a bit of lemon juice, baking soda and powder, melted butter and only one egg. I used fresh blueberries, but frozen would also be fine.

1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 cups milk
2 cups AP flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

Whisk together the lemon juice and milk in a medium sized bowl and set aside to thicken. In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Whisk the egg and melted butter into the milk until combined. Make a well in the center of the bowl containing the dry ingredients, and pour the milk mixture within, whisking lightly until just combined. (A few lumps will remain; don’t over mix!)

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of the oil. Pour ¼ cup of the batter onto 3 spots in the skillet, and sprinkle some blueberries over each pancake. Wait until large bubbles begin to appear on the pancake (about 2 minutes) before you flip them. Cook for 1 ½ - 2 minutes longer, until golden brown. Repeat. (You can keep the finished pancakes warm in a 250-degree oven.) Enjoy.

Friday, July 01, 2011


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