In lieu of trying to belong to any number of societies: Chesterton, Sherlock Holmes, the Inklings, and so on: I propose and establish one of my own. Don your intelligence cap at the door; dust off your logic and imagination; did you bring your inspiration and encouragement? We are shapers, my friends; lit lamps; light-bringers. Bring quotes*; poetry should be uplifting and thoughtful, or witty and clever, (or both). Humor is encouraged; laughter is invited back. Pull up a chair. Anyone for tea?




I recently read this article called 18 things highly creative people do differently. I always enjoy such articles, full of fascinating bits of information about the way my own mind works. None of it is quite a surprise, but it awakens somehow, inspires, some of the hidden corners in the city of my mind. Just as certain books are immediately, clutchingly important to me because they tell me things about myself... reminding me of all the things that make me feel alive... like a strain of Will Stanton's music, or a painting of a Narnian ship.

And for certain ones of us, surrounding ourselves with these certain colors, pictures, and stories is astonishingly important to our everyday thinking and creative processes. I find myself very easily muddled by the vicissitudes of life. Particularly in the creative realm. Creativity is a natural sort of thing, and doesn't love pushing. So when life is feeling a bit tumultuous and scattered, it can be hard to get back into the various arts I love. The difficulty comes when I have to be intentional about serendipity, and scheduled with my daydreaming. It seems like it can't be done, or even that it shouldn't be done. But the truth is that in real life, those beauties rarely come on their own.

We are the ones who must work for our free time, and fight for the hours in which we are allowed to forget about time, and meals, and telephones. We read late into the night, and on buses and benches and kitchen counters. We fold our napkins into curious shapes, and scribble ideas down so quickly during work hours that they're nearly indecipherable later on. 

And it's beautiful. And it's worth it. I see myself in that article, and amid life's clamor I appreciate the reminder: these things are, in fact, important. It's how I work. And I love it.

So, about food.

--That all-important gear in the routine of my existence.

A month or two ago I watched Julie and Julia for the first time, and was thoroughly inspired to write about food and all its variations of grandeur, elements of comfort and joy, and treasure trove of memories. So here goes:

I have had a life-long relationship with food. I wrote a poem when I was, oh sixteen or so, describing myself as an enthusiastic foodie. Feeding people is my day to day love language, and one of my favorite activities. It's so beautifully fulfilling.

Between my mother and sister and me, we call it the Pelican breed, happily coined from The Dean's Watch by Elizabeth Goudge. Which reminds me how very influential reading has always been to the culinary art. From Marmaduke Scarlet, to Annie Ridd, Aunt Hilda Jarman, and Ratty's supper at Mole End. And I discourage all expressions that indicate Anti-Sausage Societies and the League for the Suppression of Eggs.*

Cooking has an extra special kind of beauty simply because it doesn't last that long. A painting or a sculpture may last a thousand years. My food will barely last a week, and I'm rather more delighted when it doesn't last ten minutes. In that way it's a gift, a kind of sacrifice; a way to give of myself for momentary nourishment. A well crafted meal, a masterpiece perhaps; but the fact that it is quickly gone doesn't means it's wasted.

I have so many memories and experiences with food that I wish to share, but they may come in a rather lopsided and topsy-turvey manner. When talking of cooking and food, I must start with my mother. She really learned to cook in Costa Rica as a missionary in her twenties; and as she learned Spanish, moved to Guatemala and had her first child, she fell in love with food. She began by gathering whatever good cookbooks came to hand and reading them cover to cover. And then reading them again. In this way she became familiar with the structures of cooking, the elemental laws and whatnot (disentangling these from the traditions and preferences also provided) and began to branch out, experiment and practice. I didn't come along until about six years later, by which time my mother had increased greatly in her knowledge and proficiency in the kitchen, and been tested by busy toddlers, poverty, and moving all over the world.

She often let me help measure and stir, give a hand here, and taste this. But mostly I watched. For years I watched her chop vegetables and sear meats, stir sauces and make bread. Mounds of yeasty elastic dough, sometimes 100% whole wheat, sometimes French-style plain white. We would take bowls of dough with us in the van to punch down periodically during the day so we could bake rolls when we got home in the evening. I learned to make pizza crust and Italian bread early on. Cookies... chocolate chip cookies with dark brown sugar and plenty of salt. (Despite the fact that I don't eat them anymore, I could still make them with my eyes closed).

I learned to make pastry before I delved into savory dishes. Pie crusts and biscuits, light and flaky. They were an absolute pleasure to make. Katie made great pie crust, so I got tutoring and tips from her, and 'practiced' at every opportunity. The Betty Crocker recipe. Real butter of course, very cold. And plenty of time to roll out cold dough, and pinch off leaves, flowers, and sailing ship decorations out of the spare dough.

The first time I chopped an onion, no one showed me how. No one was watching. I had never cut a squash either, but I made sauteed onions and summer squash by myself without any problem. That was the beginning of my cooking adventures with onions, one of the chief staples of the kitchen. That was the start of cooking on my own--calling on what I'd seen and read, working with all five senses, and having all the fun in the world.

I remember my elation when my first white sauce thickened! I wrote about sauces and roux, the arts and science, the absolute magic of it. I basked in the aroma of a good mirepoix. I learned to cook beans, great vats of pintos, from scratch, and give them marvelous flavor. And I learned how to make a real pot of rice. Naturally, I also remember my unnatural fear of salmonella as I learned to cook whole chickens (which I quickly got over, thank goodness, and yay for chicken) and the fear of ruining eggwhites (which I didn't, even the first time... since then I have had some 'oh well' moments in that department, but nothing tragic).

Besides Motherdy, the most influential person in my food world was, and still is, Nigella Lawson. Ever since I can remember we've been watching her cooking shows; and her love of food, the colors of food, cooking, and the kitchen has contributed largely to my feelings for them as well. She reminds me of my mother, and over the years I've come to feel that Nigella is my aunt or something. Her home and her voice are soothing and familiar.

Long before I tried separating eggs myself, I'd watched her familiar hands cradling the yolks time after time. I watched her (loath and detest) sieving, stir lemon sauces, chop mounds of coriander with her mezzaluna ... Her meals were simple, comforting, and made from real ingredients ~ chocolate cake, risotto, pork shoulder. Some recipes were done in minutes, some took more preparation and finesse, a few cooked all day long. But the approach was the same. Happy in the kitchen, at home around food.

A more recent source of culinary inspiration has been Rachel Khoo, and the delightful cookbooks and cooking shows from her Paris kitchen. Her recipes are artistic and traditional, but entirely accessible. Another cook whose shows (found on youtube, as are Khoo's) have been delightful and stimulating in the food-world, is Miss Dahl, who cooks to suit mood and atmosphere.

Unfortunately, in recent days I've come up against the result of too many summer treats. Somehow I think I can handle french fries and ice cream here and there because the sun is shining, the sky is blue, and everyone else is doing it. It isn't true. So I'm going back to a diet even more strict than before, and it's really quite rewarding. It provides a pleasant challenge (I'm all out of pirates to fight at the moment), and makes me feel all brisk and efficient in a totally unjustifiable way.

*Extra kudos if you caught all six references in that paragraph. ;)

I'm back!

aka: summer and stuff

Finally, I'm sitting down to write here on my little blog-corner of the 'world-wide-internet-computer-web'. It's been a ridiculously long time, not to say an eon, and the reasons and excuses are various. There were a few mechanical issues as usual, but mostly it has been a matter of pressing matters of business and pleasure, along with a few rays of sunshine that I made sure to catch.
It's always hard to know where to begin--what parts to fill in, and what parts to leave to the imagination. We'll start with books. Isn't that always where I start? I've read a dozen or so since last I wrote here; all of them good, and some superb. Here are the first lines from a few of them, just because. I saw this pin on pinterest (I start sentences like this quite often now) describing how sometimes you fall in love with a book at the first sentence, and some are more subtle, and you don't know you love them until you're well in. And when you've finished, you don't want to let either of them go...

'A flock of pelicans, their white wings dyed apricot by the setting sun, sailed low over the acacia trees of the garden with a sound like tearing silk, and the sudden swish of their passing sent Alice's heart into her throat and dried her mouth with panic.'  --DEATH IN KENYA, M.M. Kaye, 

Kaye's murder mysteries are mid-century delightful, atmospheric, and have a grand sense of place.

'He was asleep, but woke at the sound of the key turning in the lock.' --QUEEN OF ATTOLIA, Megan Whalen Turner

Really superb, the whole series (this is the second book). Brilliant, subtle, and unexpected.

and on a lighter note:

'Sadie Kane here. If you're listening to this, congratulations! you survived doomsday.' --SERPENT'S SHADOW, Rick Riordan

A fun combination of friends, adventures, and a lesson in Egyptian mythology!

The writing of stories also comes along swimmingly, and I'm actually quite happy at the amount I've been able to write, despite being busy and feeling busier.

Books have become my job, as well. I'm a library assistant now! I now clean, straighten, check, find, arrange, and check out books (to you, as well as to myself).

I've also been crafting, as you can see...
We also had a friend with us for a good long time, and had several small adventures. 

I just came back from a solo jaunt to Iowa to visit friends, where we did a lot of tubing.

I've been swimming too, and going to baseball and basketball games... climbing lots of stairs to get to that view....

Well I've covered some of my favorite topics: books, books, writing, travel/adventures. 
The subject of food I will leave for another time, but soon. 
In the meantime, soak up the sun where you find it. I certainly am. 
Breathe and stretch. Wonder at stars.