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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Away from Here

tender chicken

Saturday afternoon, I went to Jamaica, from the comfort of my own back patio. I didn’t need a plane ticket or a passport, and there were no hotel costs involved. Instead, after preparing a chicken marinade the previous night—a puree of spices, oil, chopped garlic, minced onion and diced jalapenos that made my hands burn (wear gloves, friends, anytime you touch the inside of jalapenos!), I stood over a white-hot grill and cooked an authentic Jamaican jerk barbecue, a little faster than was recommended but with excellent, tender, flavorful results.

Destination Dinners

The meal was the result of a recipe kit sent to me by Destination Dinners, a California company that specializes in making international cooking attainable and educational. Packaged in a pretty red box reminiscent of a Chinese takeout container, my kit came with a recipe, a shopping list, background information on my destination and, importantly, all the dry ingredients and extra supplies I would need, from spices to plastic gloves (yes, that I didn’t notice until after I’d created burning jalapeno hands) and a Ziploc baggie for the marinade.

inside of kit

Met with rave reviews, the entire delicious meal was gone by Monday, which, by the way, was the day I’d end up spending time visiting the hospital, where I’d walk through halls of dim rooms, patients illuminated by glowing television screens, regulation blankets piled high on their thin gowns, the string-tied ones that open in the back. And when I’d catch someone’s gaze, accidentally, I’d first imagine that person walking strong and healthy, far from beeping monitors and blinking screens, how different and right; then imagine instead myself in the bed, unable to leave, alone. I’d be thinking how hospitals are maybe my least favorite places and how, if I were a patient in one, I’d want to be anywhere but there.

You know, I wonder if maybe another reason people travel—beyond wanting to broaden perspectives or even change themselves—is because, sometimes, they want to escape, like I did in the hospital, from their cubicle or their neighborhood or their routine. Maybe that’s also why they cook—at least, I know it’s part of why I do. Assembling ingredients, particularly new ones, is part adventure and part escape—a way to explore without leaving your kitchen, to be exciting without blowing your bank account.

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