the whole truth

tomato on vine

This is going to seem like a terrible story to tell on a food blog, I mean, on this food blog, the one where I’m always saying we should embrace new things and shake food preconceptions and, Hey! You have no excuse not to try this!, but I’m going to tell it anyway, because if there’s one thing I want this place to be, it’s honest, and I think it’s time I was.

From where I sit tonight, with a cup of decaf green tea at my side, I have to tell you this uncomfortable fact: I have a sensitive stomach.

I’ve hinted at it before, even come right out with it when we talked about vegan ice cream, but I’ve never really given you the background, and seeing as that full story is how I first met my friend Nealy in grad school and the kind of thing that comes in handy when another friend gets diagnosed with colitis, as one did recently, I figure you might want to hear it, too. Maybe you know someone like me, or maybe you are someone like me.

tomatoes

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me and the mountain

acadia overlook

Today’s story is both hard and good, both terrifying and beautiful. It’s about what we did last Sunday, after blueberry pancakes at Jeannie’s in Bar Harbor, when we visited Acadia National Park, hiking and climbing and struggling; and it’s about what we didn’t do, never reaching Thunder Hole, which we’d come to see. It even includes two recipes at the end. I feel grateful to be able to tell it, and grateful that you are reading, and, mostly, grateful it didn’t become the last thing I lived to do.

Things started off well: After breakfast, we’d driven to the park and stopped at an overlook to take photos of the European-like landscape of hills and water and unique houses, at which I said, Isn’t this beautiful? Look at the views! I love nature!, and then continued to the visitors’ center to pick up a map.

At that same visitors’ center, I pointed out a sign that warned most injuries have occurred from falling off steep cliffs while hiking or biking, and we both shrugged it off, not planning to head towards any steep cliffs, just hike a little through the forest, and, though a little hot, wasn’t this a beautiful day?

On our way to Thunder Hole, a popular site for watching powerful waves that we’d had recommended to us, a forest ranger stopped traffic, one car at a time, to divert us to another path; Thunder Hole was closed because of a rescue mission (which I’d later learn related to a tragedy involving the death of a seven-year-old girl).

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another giveaway!

saucy mama giveaway

Back in April, when I left you for a few days to walk through historic streets in Georgetown, tour our nation’s Capitol Building and eat at an awesome French bistro some friends had recommended (even though I forgot the e-mail and never got the text message, we landed there anyway, so my friends were right!), you were nice enough to take a survey and tell me interesting things like where your best meal was and about your kitchen fears and what we could do to improve the site.

So today, when I head to the airport and board a plane bound for M-A-I-N-E, where I will spend the last four days I have left of being 26, I thought we’d do something else kind of fun.

(If you were bummed about not winning the Destination Dinner or a box of homemade cookies, never fear.) It’s giveaway time. Again.

lime chipotle sauce

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bears. beets. Battlestar Gallactica.

purple CSA

Last night, I had dinner with my friend Jacqui, someone I first met through an editorial internship three years ago, but later came to know through our food blogs (started on the exact same day last August, would you believe it?) and who inspires me, with simple-enough-for-me-to-try fried green tomatoes and stories about her family that give me chills right in the middle of my day and, lately, stories about beets, the purple root vegetable I have never, ever before tried or bought or held, even, but found a bunch of in my Saturday CSA box.

And while Jacqui regularly amazes me with phrases like, But I don’t have a baking sheet, or We don’t keep sugar in the apartment, or Could I bake that in a casserole dish instead?, she also possesses an attitude toward vegetables—and all food, really—that is as open-minded and I-will-try-that-too as I could ever hope to be, without making me feel silly for ordering something called a chicken puff at the Thai restaurant she took me to, after I asked her things like, What is Pad Thai? and How do you make fried rice?

So anyway, when I saw her recipe for beets Sunday, luring me with likenings of beets to jewels or lipstick kisses, I felt less terrified of the purple beasts inside my box, more empowered. I knew what I would do.

beets

And after scrubbing, trimming and placing the beets in my Lucy Le Creuset with a little water at the bottom, I stuck the whole thing in the oven for about 45 minutes, later pulling them out, draining, cooling and then wiping away their skin with my plastic-gloved fingers. Everything she said was right, from the way the gnarly exterior gives way to something shiny and glistening to the way they taste, eaten just plain, like the earth they came from.

Seeing as this was the first time I had ever had a beet, I tried very hard to discern their flavor or texture: like you’d expect of a vegetable, hearty, smooth, slightly sweet, almost like a cooked carrot. While I wouldn’t say it was love at first bite, I do think we’re on to something, beets and me, and we’ll have a lifetime to get the kinks worked out.

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what is simple and complex and real

green beans

One thing you can say for green beans: they make sense. When you take a big bag of them out of your second CSA box, for example, confusion is not what assaults you (unless it’s curiosity over which of the many good, good ways to make them you will choose).

That’s more than I can say for a lot of things, and I mean even beyond turnips or Swiss chard or bok choy. Like relationships—is there anything more wonderful, painful, easy, hard and just plain confusing than knowing another human being? In my life, I’ve sat across the dinner table from someone, recently, and heard myself sing-song-ing surface things like, Oh, you know, I’m just keeping busy with work, I like to bake, and nodding while they say, Yeah, here is what I do for a living and here is where I live and gee, it was great seeing you, let’s do it again sometime, while we both walk away with our pasted smiles, saying, call me later!, hoping we won’t, interacting on a shallow level when we both want deep (I mean, I want deep. Or at least real).

I want to be honest with the person I sit down with, to not pretend, to share my stories and hear theirs, to stand on top of the table at our plastic booth of pretense and yell WHAT IS THE POINT OF THIS? But I don’t.

So eventually there comes a point when we’ll rise from the table, from the topics, to something else, anything else, that feels safe, and neat, and not so messy. I think we both want to know and show love, but we fail at it.

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everything (and I mean everything) about the party

meparty

Welcome to the online recap of our blog (birthday) party last Saturday! Before I saw these finished pictures, I was going to tell you they’d be the next best thing to being at the party, but now that I’ve seen them (and they are SO AMAZING), I’m thinking being at the party might be the next best thing to seeing the photos. Good thing I got to have both. They are all used by permission from my insanely talented friend Rebecca Brogan, whom you’ve heard mentioned here many times over the last year as Becky and who has been the most loyal, genuine supporter of this crazy blog thing from the beginning.

I almost feel like I should just send you over to her Flickr album right now because what can I possibly add? (Actually, let’s be honest: go ahead and look over there now. I’ll wait.)

outsideparty

For the few of you who remembered to come back here and, for some kind reason, still want more details about this party, consider this the Internet version of my putting my arm around your shoulder and pulling you close. We’re all friends here, so I’m going to be an open book about the whole thing—if I leave anything out, ask away in the comments!

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