Talking and Not Talking

This election season is rough, and November is still months away. On the one hand we have people promising to “make America great again!”, which is really coded language for “Save the white-supremacist patriarchy!”. On the other hand we have my current (decidedly liberal) Facebook feed which is suddenly revealing itself to be full of bullies—people who are constantly telling me who to vote for and that the other option is a monster who will destroy us all with her evil vagina (but it definitely isn’t about gender!). I don’t know if I am going to survive the summer.

Elections really highlight the divide that exists in America. It is both disappointing and terrifying to see that we all live in this country together and have come to such different conclusions about what it means to be a community. This year feels particularly outrageous. I yell at the television a lot.

I find myself looking for some common ground, and right now all I can come up with is soup.

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Spicy Cold Celery


I was surprised by how much I like the 101 Easy Asian Recipes book that was published by Lucky Peach last year. I am ambivalent about the magazine, in which I find both brilliance and bro-ness, but the book doesn’t have any of the tone-baggage that the magazine sometimes suffers from. As the title promises, it is a collection of genuinely easy to prepare Asian recipes. The authors (“Peter Meehan and the editors of Lucky Peach”) gave themselves two rules when creating recipes for the book, no deep frying and no recipes containing sub-recipes (as in, a recipe that requires you to execute multiple other recipes to complete). It is informative and breezy. I especially like the guide to ingredients at the front of the book. It is the kind of book I will cook from a lot. In fact, I already have and have liked every recipe I tried.

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I’m about to leave my thirties behind and a friend (who is only halfway through) recently asked me what I thought of the decade. I liked the last ten years of my life a lot. It was full of milestones: I fell in love and got married, bought an apartment, started a blog (!!!), and became an uncle. It was full of so many good things, and certainly beat my twenties by a mile. But after some reflection, I told her that the only thing I didn’t love was that the thirties felt like a tough decade for friendships. Many people (myself included, at times) turn away from friends and toward partners, or babies, or their career. Of course there are exceptions and friendships that remained constant. But there is a tendency to become more isolated. The intensity of friendships that I had in my twenties was, for the most part, waning. The spontaneous fun of hangouts, stopping by unexpectedly, watching TV together for hours, or sitting in bars was replaced with dinner in three weeks. It has all become decidedly scheduled.



I recently watched the first season of Doll & Em on HBO. It is a show about a friendship. You don’t realize how rare and radical that is until you see it in front of you. There are a bunch of shows that claim to be about friendship (most notably, Friends), but mostly they’re about dating or New York or whatever. Doll & Em is about the beautiful (and sometimes difficult) complexities and value of friendships, and in particular about adult friendships (not a euphemism). I’ve loved both Dolly Wells and Emily Mortimer for years, and so it was especially satisfying to see them tackle this subject together. The two are real-life friends, and they shine in the series. I laughed, I cried (I actually cried a surprising amount—fair warning) and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It is a beautiful argument for the importance of working hard to maintain our relationships with friends. read more+++

Plum Salad


Remember when everyone was eating bacon and bone marrow? I am sure they still are, but we’re having to hear about it a lot less. The pendulum has swung toward vegetables. Now we hear about rice bowls and fermentation—or we did, maybe even that moment is over. It’s odd how these trends effect our perception of food. I found myself annoyed by bacon for years. It had become embarrassing. Once the moment has passed, you’re suddenly trying too hard or something. Those bacon band-aids. 

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A couple of weekends ago we had some friends over for lunch. We live on the top floor of a 100-year old building and during the summer it is hot. Turning on the oven is not an option when we are entertaining, so we tend to serve things that can be prepared in advance. In fact, I am developing quite a repertoire of recipes that can be prepared in advance and served cold or room temperature. This farmers market tabbouleh is being added to that ever-growing list. I was inspired by something I’d seen in the Morito cookbook, an assortment of tabbouleh that adapt to the seasons.

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It would be impossible for me to adequately express how much I love hotels. I inherited this love from my mom who, despite not having much disposable income, always prioritized vacations. We managed to go on a vacation every year of my young life, something I will always be grateful for. It taught me the importance of finding ways to take a break from the everyday, as well as the obvious benefits of being exposed to new people and places and ways of living. But my feelings for hotels go beyond their role as a signifier of vacation. And let me be clear, in my adult life my love of hotels should more specifically be defined as a love of fancy hotels. Which I know leaves the rest of these words dripping with privilege and elitism. I’m aware of that, and I am also aware that we all make decisions about how we will spend our extra income. I don’t have a car, or cable, or—I’m getting defensive.


Back to hotels: Hotels are this strange public/private space that is both your “home” and yet completely foreign and filled with strangers. They are at once comforting and stimulating. They have amenities. Pools. Room Service. Someone to make your bed every morning. Marble bathrooms with soaking tubs (or if you’re very lucky: steam showers). They have giant comfortable beds with nice linens. TV with dozens of channels. Someone you can call when you’ve forgotten your toothbrush. This is serious comfort. The stimulation comes from the public areas of the hotel. Grand hotels provide some of the world’s greatest people-watching. You overhear weird conversations and see the same people at breakfast each morning, as you try to piece together their lives. And don’t even get me started on hotel bars. All of that to say, I like a nice hotel.

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Another Year, Another Farro Salad


It is -15°F in Chicago right now. That is the air temperature. With the wind they are telling us it feels like -45°F. In case you’re not sure, that is very cold. It is so cold that much of the city has shut down. When we went grocery shopping on Saturday our local Whole Foods was out of potatoes (?!) and many shelves were empty throughout the store. Everyone was stocking up with the hope of not leaving home for a few days.

The intense cold does have its perks—Bryan and I are home from work. Snow days (cold days?) are so fun because it is bonus time. You’re under no obligation to do anything. We sure aren’t. I’m not even cooking. read more+++



One thing you probably don’t know about me is that I am very interested in the occult. I’ve been this way since I was a kid. I would have been Goth, if I was capable of taking myself more seriously (and was willing to give up wearing navy). Instead, I was a preppy and fairly cheerful kid, drawn to the dark, supernatural, and mysterious. I would read books on vampires, freemasons, and the history of witchcraft. I liked the idea of secret rituals and magical powers. As adolescents we’re all a little power hungry.

I was particularly interested in witches, or in the idea of witches. I dressed as a witch to attend a cub scout Halloween party in the 80’s (it was an unusual choice in that crowd). The witches in the Wizard of Oz both terrified and delighted me. In middle school, The Crucible had a big impact on me and the idea of witch hunts was potent enough to ignite my developing sense of injustice and feminism. I was married in Salem, Massachusetts, under a very old tree, in solidarity with my brothers and sisters who were given such grief there (you’ve come a long way, Massachusetts!). Bryan recently told me he could imagine me having powers, which satisfied (witch satisfied?).


Now it will not come as any surprise to you that I am enjoying this season of American Horror Story: Coven. I liked the first two seasons of American Horror Story, but I did not love them. I love Coven, in part because it manages to combine so many things that I love: witches, voodoo, Stevie Nicks, New Orleans, Patti Lupone as an evangelical Christian, Jessica Lange as anything, and all of this vengeance fantasy shit that is hard to resist. It is also beautiful to look at, I want to live in Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies—let’s be honest, I also want to attend school there.

All of that to say, I have been thinking about witches a little more than usual. It is easy to conjure their image in the kitchen. We stand before our cauldrons and practice our particular forms of alchemy—turning ingredients into something new, different, potent. Cooking does make you feel powerful, that is a lot of what I like about it. We’re all magical witches in the kitchen.

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Raw and Charred Zucchini Salad


Before summer slips away, we’ve been trying to pack in some fun. This weekend Bryan’s parents were in town and we took a road trip up to Harbor County, Michigan. It was nice to get away for the day, walk on the beach, and enjoy the charming beach side towns that make up this stretch of southwest Michigan. One of my favorite Chicago restaurants, Pleasant House Bakery, has opened a second location in Three Oaks, a small town that has a surprising number of great things to see and do (and eat!). How many towns of 1600 people have a cinema showing independent/art house films? We had a fantastic lunch at Pleasant House (the beer they’re brewing at this location is really special) and we found a mirror we should have bought but didn’t at Ipso Facto (such regret!). I also really liked AP in Lakeside, which was recommended by a friend (thanks, Emily!). The shop sells women’s clothing, but also some home goods. It is a beautifully designed little world that I was happy to spend time in. I picked up some linen tea towels. Ariane at AP recommended the Sawyer Garden Center for some local fruit, and it turned out to be a great stop. We left with local peaches, plums and blueberries. As we drove back into the city and sat in the usual end-of-the-weekend traffic, I was scheming how best to make the most of these last few weeks of summer in the kitchen.

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Carrot Soup + Collard Greens in Coconut Butter + Dukkah


Deborah Madison has published a new cookbook, and the food-universe is rejoicing. With good reason, it is a beautiful book. The food-trend pendulum has swung back to vegetables, and so a resurgence in Madison’s popularity makes perfect sense. Vegetable Literacy is one of a slew of new books focusing on vegetables. The recipes are organized by plant families and you get good information about the growing and care of each vegetable. In some ways, it is the American version of Tender. It is fresh and bright and perfect for spring. read more+++