the fact of the matter

le creuset with pasta

I am sorry to say I made several mistakes with this recipe—are you ready for this? To start, I didn’t chop the kale ahead of time, so the pieces were huge when they got tossed with the pasta; also, instead of using the called-for full pound, I just used the bag of kale that came in my CSA, which was a mystery to me in terms of weight, and probably much less than 16 ounces; I was almost out of lemon, so I made do with what was left of some squeezed slices in the fridge; and, when it came time to add the Parmesan, I look back and see now that I was a little stingy.

We’re all friends here, so I’ll just be straight with you: I make silly mistakes like these all the time. It’s not at all uncommon for someone to e-mail me a typo or spelling mistake I’ve posted, for example, and that’s not the sort of thing that inspires confidence in a girl who spends large parts of every day writing and editing words at her work desk.

But it gets worse.

kale

A mistake I am always making, for years now, is something maybe too serious to be called a mistake, something more indicative of a strong character flaw and something that relates to this recipe, or more specifically, an ingredient in this recipe. It’s the same force that was at work when I said, not yet in kindergarten, that I would NEVER like dogs after being chased by some, leading to decades of friends putting their pets away for me; in high school, that I would NEVER live with my parents after college, which is exactly what happened; in college, that I would NEVER think camping sounded fun, although now almost five years later, you won’t find anyone who loves being outside like I do. Though my mind does change, eventually, I can be awfully stubborn in the meantime. It’s ugly.

garlic and onions

So it was with kale, that dark and leafy vegetable not unlike spinach, which was not something I grew up eating.

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the best things we do

apple cider doughnut

If fall is a reminder of gradual change, these doughnuts are a reminder of comforting tradition, of the way clouds and sun streaked across the horizon above the pumpkin patch in the late afternoon last fall, of rows of cornfields and bins of fresh-picked apples, of taking a hayride with friends.

We’re going back to Kuiper’s again this year, probably later than is best again, so the apples may already be in bins and we may need extra layers of clothing when we walk through the orchard, but I am going with a friend, and, I’m finding, those things I do with a friend are the best things I do, you know what I mean?

Like last weekend, which was a people-filled one, from Friday night bakery and Greek food with my brother, to Saturday in the country with a group of food-loving strangers and Alicia and then cake at my friend Michele’s, to a Sunday morning listening to Truth and singing with an auditorium filled with people, to lunch in the home of friends, where their two-year-old grabbed my finger and pulled me towards her toy bin to “play babies.” All of this followed a pretty solitary week, when, as you know, this happened—and while I know I haven’t explained formally, most of you already know from Flickr or Twitter or the comment I left here, so I’ll just briefly say last Wednesday night wasn’t hard because I didn’t get my birth certificate; it was hard because I felt helpless and reminded that I am alone, but looking back I am so glad I felt that way, and that I told you about it, because it made my joy so much fuller when the next day, I found my new passport in the mail.

I get to thinking sometimes that I’m alone in situations because I’m single, but I know everyone has days or weeks or dark nights that are similar. Life is a constant contrast of isolation and community, loneliness and fellowship—at least it seems to me. But maybe, like with my passport, it is through the loneliness that fellowship becomes so sweet, through the solitary nights that Friday dinners become so much richer, through a Wednesday night in tears that I’m given another evidence of love from The One Who Made Me.

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after such a night

lemons and sage

I know things have been pretty pizza and apple tart cake around here this week, and the following story is not going to fit in at all with that model, but I hope you won’t mind if I tell it anyway because, to be honest with you, I had a heck of a night last night. When I came home, pulling out lemon-sage-garlic chicken to reheat in the oven, I thought how perfectly wonderful it is to have home-cooked food to turn to, especially on awful nights like that one, and I figure you probably feel that way too sometimes, so we might as well be open about it.

I’ll start by saying that here in America, we have these really good, really important laws about being authorized to work in the country—laws that are no big deal for natural-born citizens with documentation like birth certificates and social security cards, except when those natural-born citizens lose their documentation, like I did, a couple years ago. Mostly this has been OK since I have a current passport but, come October 14, that passport is expiring, and my current employers want current proof.

So three weeks ago, I applied to get a new passport, filling out all the paperwork and getting new passport photos taken and mailing the whole package of info over to Pennsylvania somewhere via certified mail. They got the package, but I am still waiting.

I also figured I should replace my social security card, just as a backup. It’s free the first time you replace it, did you know that? Go in person to your local social security office, during daytime business hours, and, after filling out more paperwork, request a new card. Perfect. I had this past Monday off, so I planned to go first thing in the morning—until I realized you have to have a birth certificate in order to prove your identity and replace your social security card.

Getting a certified copy of my birth certificate shouldn’t be a big deal, right? After all, they are public record and, can I just say again, I WAS BORN HERE. So I go online to request a certified copy of my birth certificate, one that will hold up for employment verification purposes, and I pay the $43.00 WHERE $20 OF THAT IS JUST SHIPPING CHARGES and the system says it will arrive in a few days.

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On Autumn

red leaf

Here is what I like most about autumn, even more than the apple cider and the crunchy leaves and the chilly air that makes me reach for a sweater while I cradle a cup of tea: like the other seasons, fall doesn’t arrive in one grand, magical instant.

Although its place on the calendar is fixed, autumn’s effect on daily life comes more gradually, reaching us through small, almost imperceptible shifts day by day—the gusts of wind, the days of rain, the hazy fog over some afternoons, until, one day, someone says: Hey, look around you, see those red leaves? It’s fall! And then, as we notice, we remember the Used To Be and marvel, that what was once hot and humid has become cooler, darker, crisper, more colorful, as if the change had occurred overnight, just like that, when in reality, it had been coming for a while.

fall leaves

I like this about fall because it is like life, and by that, I mean it is like the way a person you sit next to at work, through daily conversations and shared lunches and common experiences, becomes, over time, much more than someone you sit next to at work, changing from an acquaintance not in one day or one moment, but in the slow, daily shifts of knowledge and understanding that make a friendship.

It is like the way years fly by, in a series of moments and days that keep coming, so that I sit here, now at 27, wondering how in the world I was a senior in high school ten years ago, how recent and how faraway that seems and how much has changed and how much hasn’t.

leaves against sky

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what you can have

mountains

So confession? I took even more pictures in Colorado than I let on Wednesday. In fact, there were something like 350. 350 photos, people. I didn’t post them all because, partly, that would take a lot of time for me and, also, because that would be a lot to ask of you. 350 pictures is a lot of pictures.

Anyway, I was going through some of those extras last night, scrolling through the hour-to-hour chronicles of our trip in a cable car up Pikes Peak, with Michele pointing her camera at the window and crisp, cold air sweeping in against our faces, and can I just say that looking at them created an ache—like a physical ache—deep in my gut, the kind you get when you’re really far from your family or when you haven’t seen your best friend for a long time. Oh, Colorado. I miss you.

So one more picture?

snow-capped mountains of colorado

Ah. Thank you for indulging me.

We both know there are a lot of things about Colorado I can’t take with me: the sunshine (hello, muggy, hazy, it’s-certainly-fall Chicago!), the altitude, the giant mountains and the beautiful little towns. None of the restaurants I loved are in commuting distance, and that means Bistro Vendome and I are sadly separated.

But I am happy to tell you there is at least one thing I managed to sneak away with, something I’ve been holding tightly since Sunday afternoon, bringing it on the plane with us Monday and into work Tuesday, even hiding the bit that’s left to make it last longer. I know you won’t be even a little surprised when I tell you what it is.

I’m talking about cookies.

minnie beasley's

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Mae Bird: Lemon Poppy-Seed Bread

Not long after discovering Mae Bird, I realized something: I want to go everywhere Amanda takes pictures of and eat everything she cooks. Her photography and stories are truly captivating, so I am thrilled to close out our series of guest posts with this recipe from her!

I feel the transition happening outside, summer to fall, and it is so welcome. The nights are getting cooler, the breeze is coming in, and I swear I can smell it. (Yes, autumn has a smell, I can’t describe, but I recognize it.) Here comes the season of apples, squashes, hot meals and baking — when turning on the oven is actually welcomed and comforting, comforting like a freshly baked treat, cooling on a windowsill.

Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

Speaking of baking, I have a not-so-secret confession.

I can’t get myself to follow directions when baking. Does anyone else have this problem? I’m not alone, right?

Lemon Poppy Seed Bread

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Happy Jack Eats: Tomato, plain and tall

I am particularly excited about today’s guest post because Jacqui isn’t just one of my favorite food bloggers—she’s one of my favorite writers, one of my favorite eaters, one of my favorite people. She also lives very close by, so I get to hang out with her sometimes, and that’s very fine.

Before I start rambling on about food, I’d just like to thank Shannalee for inviting me into this lovely space she has. If you don’t know her personally, you probably should, because she really is one of a kind. The kind that you can meet just once and know that yes, we’ll be good friends, I can tell.

Now, about these tomatoes.

tomatoes

They were from my future sister-in-law’s garden, and as soon as I laid eyes on them, I knew we’d be friends, too. These were not your perfectly round, fit-in-the-palm-of-your-hand, flawless tomatoes that shimmer in piles at the grocery store. No, these were large and awkward, so wide that they curled up at the ends, as if trying to look like any other tomato but failing miserably.

I couldn’t help but think of someone very tall who slouches in order to appear shorter. And I thought that that’s a shame because no one should have to hold back from standing tall and proud, just to fit in with everyone else. I hate to sound cliché and tell you that it’s what’s on the inside that counts, but when cutting through those tomatoes, it just couldn’t get much simpler than that. The flesh was bright and meaty, almost sighing with relief as juice spilled across the cutting board. As if they had been holding back so much and finally had a chance to give.

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