Tomato Cobbler

Telling you that today is the first Friday in 16 months that a 7 a.m. post didn’t publish here feels very meta, as one of my grad school professors used to say. Back in those days, when we were reading heavy essays by literary critics like Foucault, workshopping stories on a weekly basis, being ever surrounded by writers who were writing to other writers about writing, and then talking about it together, as writers, anyone who popped his or her head out of our little world for even a moment would see that meta discourse gets weird. A little too in your head. Analytical. Buried in layers. I had basically decided to avoid it here, no more blogging about blogging, you’re welcome, until here we were this Friday morning without a scheduled post, and so this afternoon I got thinking about the reasons we blog again (see “The Value of Blogging” or “Confessions on the Day before Four Years“), right as I scooped out the last bowl of tomato cobbler and ate.

Tomato Cobbler

I made the cobbler Wednesday afternoon.

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Creamy, Spicy Collard Wraps

Most of the time, when I try to remember our honeymoon, everything’s fuzzy. I remember the guacamole Tim made the first night we arrived, after a whirlwind flight-flight-car-pickup-grocery-stop that had included my breaking down crying in the Wal-Mart parking lot. (Turns out 14 hours of travel, the day after a wedding, takes it out of a girl.) I remember the feeling of being away from it all, as if we’d left the world, gone to a secret place where only we knew each other. I remember the cheap avocados. I remember the roosters that woke us up our first day. I remember the euphoria of being alone and in love and, mostly, done with planning a wedding. But other than that, it’s all a blur.

Cream Spicy Collard Wraps

But then other days, other moments, I get quick, unexpected glimpses that put me right back in that place. Tim and I were driving down a country road Sunday, and as we rounded a bend, both sides of the scenery turned thick and green, like the tall walls of jungle we’d driven through in Kauai. “Remember that corner we’d turn, after we left Postcards for dinner?” I said to Tim.

“I loved driving that jeep,” he said to me.

Tim and Shanna and Collards

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The House Salad with Cucumbers and Tomatoes

I’d eaten at Tim’s approximately two times when I started to sense a theme. When that guy makes a salad, he makes it a particular way. Maybe everybody does this? Over the following years and months, I’ve eaten this same basic salad with him alongside grilled cheese sandwiches, at fancy dinners we’ve thrown for friends, during Sunday night barbecues, on lazy weeknights and in many spaces in between. I’ve eaten it so many times with him that it’s truly become our salad, the one we always make, the fallback, the standby, the one we’re calling The House Salad, with Cucumbers and Tomatoes.

House Salad | Food Loves Writing

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Cauliflower Stuffed Peppers

Cauliflower Stuffed Peppers | FoodLovesWriting.com

Like businesses, music, vacations and books, most meals begin as ideas—but as ideas that come more quickly down the mental conveyor belt than sonatas or summer getaway plans. A conversation at the office jogs a memory of Grandma’s butter cookies, and the kitchen finds you rolling dough; a blog post inspires dessert and you’re beelining for the pantry; or, unexpectedly on a weekday afternoon, a hunt through the refrigerator, opening drawers and crispers, fills your hands with bright red peppers and cauliflower and recalls a possibility you’d almost forgotten—and then, that quick, momentary thought, incubated right away in discussion and action, becomes a recipe you test twice in one week with your husband, the two of you lost together in discovery, in watching the abstract become something you hold in your hands and eat.

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Italian-Style Green Beans

When Tim makes Italian-style green beans, he thinks of his grandma Emily, a beautiful Italian woman with short white hair and smiling blue eyes, who still explains recipes with a flick of her wrist and an “Oh, it’s so simple!” When I make Italian-style green beans, I think of Tim, the man who brought them, along with avocados and perfect grilled cheese sandwiches and raw milk bought straight from the farmer, into my life three years ago.

Italian-style Green Beans | FoodLovesWriting.com

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Parsley Pesto Pizza + Squash Apple Pizza with Einkorn Crusts

birthday weekend pizza | foodloveswriting.com

There are people who don’t believe in making a big deal about birthdays, but I’m not one of them—and I have my brother to thank.

Adam in Nashville | FoodLovesWriting.com

My brother, Adam, who is two years and two months younger than I am (but if you heard us together, you’d swear he were the one who’s older), came here to see us last week, arriving around 2 p.m. on his birthday Wednesday and staying through Saturday night. The thing you have to understand about my brother and birthdays is he is kind of the king of celebrating them.

When I turned 21, he took me to a Coach store and told me to pick out one thing I wanted, any one thing, and he would buy it for me—choosing a purse in a store so far outside my price range made me feel like the richest person in the world, and that’s a feeling you never forget. Another year, he surprised me with a party at Ravinia, this outdoor park near Chicago where Tony Bennett was playing for the night. Since then, there have been trips to Maine and, when I was dating Tim, a trip to Nashville, and every year, the building anticipation that my birthday would mean something special and something fun.

It’s his influence that has turned my mom’s February birthday into a family holiday in which we all take off work to do whatever she wants to do, which, last year, meant all three of my family members flying down here to visit together for the first time. It’s his influence that makes me vote for spending Thanksgiving (and my dad’s corresponding birthday) in Chicago every year so I can sit by my dad and tell him why he’s cool. And it’s his influence that makes me want to celebrate anyone I love’s birthday the same way, by saying, Name what you want to do and we’ll do it! I just think it’s such a great gesture, submitting your preferences to someone else’s as a way of celebrating, as a way of showing them love.

So that said, you can understand why, when my brother comes to visit us for his birthday, we want to pull out all the stops.

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