Curried Spaghetti Squash Bisque at The Hermitage

Curried Spaghetti Squash Bisque At The Hermitage

Spaghetti Squash Bisque / Food Loves Writing

Quick! Before the leaves are all gone! Make some soup and pack yourself a picnic! At least that’s what we did on Saturday, right in the middle of a day when we should have been getting ahead with work projects and, I don’t know, balancing the checkbook. Even though it was raining and the skies were gray, we practiced hope by loading up a picnic basket, hopping in the car, and driving 20 minutes east where, miraculously, we found ourselves in the crisp fall day that was The Hermitage.

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Boston Cream Doughnuts (Gluten-Free)

Boston Cream Doughnuts (Gluten-Free)

Boston Cream Doughnuts / Food Loves Writing

Earlier this week, I read an Anne Lamott article in which she says a few things so well, I don’t think anybody again will ever say them better. (“There were entire books written on the subject of the overly sensitive child. What the term meant was that you noticed how unhappy or crazy your parents were.” // “Any healthy half-awake person is occasionally going to be pierced with a sense of the unfairness and the catastrophe of life for ninety-five percent of the people on this earth.” // “One of the hardest lessons I had to learn was that I was going to need a lot of help, and for a long time.”) As a writer, there are two ways you can respond when you read an article like that. You can be happy such good writing exists, resonating in different sentences with what you’ve seen to be true, written in a way that cuts to the point—or you can be bummed out, because, hello, you weren’t the one creating it.  This, of course, goes for more than writing.

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Emeril’s Celebratory Artichokes, Slow-Cooked in White Wine, Garlic, and Oil

Celebratory Artichokes / Food Loves Writing

I wish you could have seen Tim and me in our little galley kitchen on Saturday, October 12, at around 2 p.m. in the afternoon. There we were, side by side in front of the sink, each of us with a plate of slow-cooked artichokes to our sides. Barely speaking, the both of us stood there, rhythmically pulling tender, wilted leaves of artichokes off their softened, deep green bulbs, scraping the flesh with our teeth, oil and juices dripping down our hands and arms and over everything.

“These are the best artichokes I have ever had,” Tim finally said to me between slurps, halfway through his dish.

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Simple foods are the good foods // Vegan Basil Walnut Pesto

Herbs in the window

One a hot September day when you drive around town in your car with the broken air-conditioning, your shirt sticking to you and the sun beating down beautiful and hard, it’s nice to come back to your kitchen, pull herbs from your windowsill, nuts from the cabinet, and assemble something fresh and simple to eat.

Basil and walnuts
A fistful of fresh tomatoes

That’s what I did today. I returned to the kitchen not just after a morning out working, but also after, for the most part, four days away from it altogether. After four days of no appetite and lots of fruit and lots of juice, I came back to one of the most normal things in my routine, one that always feels so strange to be away from—I came back to make something to eat.Vegan walnut pesto

I’ve noticed in my life, and I wonder if it’s true in yours, that when I’ve been away from food for a little while, whether because of fasting or because of traveling or because of illness or because of something else, the things I want most are simple things. There’s as much joy in an apple, sliced thinly on a plate, as there would be, on other days, in an elaborate four-course meal. I’m as thankful for some small-batch pesto, whipped up during lunch, as I was the week before for a three-layer cake. Going without something makes you see its value. Going without something simplifies what you think you need.

Tomatoes and vegan pesto

So today, I found great joy in two red tomatoes from our farmer, sliced onto two of our vintage wedding plates, topped by a quick pesto, a few breadcrumbs and balsamic. I got to assemble the meal, I got to want to eat it and then I got to take it, bite by bite, and bring it to my lips.

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Braised Roma Beans

When Tim and I visited my family earlier this year, my brother loaned me the book The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. The story, if you don’t know it, is about a man who accidentally begins a long journey to a friend, and along the way, both he and everyone he knows is affected. I reached the last chapter on a Sunday night at Sevier Park, stretched out next to Tim on blankets beneath the setting sun. When I closed the cover, I turned to Tim and sighed.

“Did you like it?” he asked me.

“Yes,” I said to him, my head propped up in my hand. “This book reminded me that people can change.”

And people, I need to be reminded of that.

Braised Roma Beans

It seems to me that one of the kitchen’s best gifts to us, aside from being a place to connect and find nourishment, is that it is a place that reminds us of truths we forget. Like the book I finished, the kitchen vividly demonstrates that life is dynamic. Things are in flux. Like the green beans we braise on the stovetop, we are, all of us, ever transforming and moving and being made new.

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Radish Panzanella

radish panzanella

Telling you I like panzanella is a little like telling you my teenage self liked pizza. I don’t like panzanella; I want to eat it every day. In the same way I grew up buying Tombstone and Jack’s and, let’s be honest, eating any pizza anyone would give me, now I want panzanella, and I want it all the time. Really, the jump from pizza addict to panzanella evangelist isn’t a crazy one. The most traditional versions of panzanella are practically pizza, deconstructed: bread, tomatoes, basil, mozzarella cheese. But lately, my panzanella love has pushed me to new combinations of ingredients, ones far stretched from anything resembling a pizza slice. And while sure, I might be biased, I have to say, I think a radish panzanella like this one could make a zealot out of anyone.

radish panzanella

This salad starts with radishes—and saying radishes are beautiful is kind of like saying I like panzanella.

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Zucchini Ribbons in Vegan Pesto Alfredo Sauce

Zucchini Ribbons in Vegan Pesto Alfredo Sauce

There is such satisfaction in bringing together a meal, especially on a dreary day. Where most people crave blankets and movie screens on cloudy weekends, I am the type to crave the kitchen. The kitchen is a place of birth and discovery–a space for testing ideas and seeing what works, for creating combinations that nourish and delight–and when the dreary day you’re facing stems from more than the weather, discovering new things is like medicine for the soul.

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