This summer, my husband and I made a day trip to Stockholm, Wisconsin, a tiny town on the Mississippi with a population of about only 100, but many art galleries and shops. I found this mug at one of the shops.
Back in December I wrote a post about Kay Heritage, aka The Church Cook, and her project of cooking her way through The Spirit of Food. Last week she made my grandmother's Swedish Pancake recipe, which was included in my essay from the anthology. She did a beautiful job with them and even special ordered an 11-pound container of lingonberries! While you're at her site, check out all the other recipes and her beautiful photographs.
Kay Heritage is a former professional caterer turned church cook who writes about food at her blog, The Church Cook. Back in October she started working her way through the recipes in The Spirit of Food and posts gorgeous pictures and process notes. So far, she's featured 7 of the book's 31 recipes, the latest being cornbread from the essay "The Soul of Soul Food" by Jacqueline Rhodes. Heritage is not taking the recipes in order so there's no telling when she'll get to my Swedish pancakes and Lingonberries. I just subscribed to her newsfeed so that I won't miss coverage of any of the recipes. Use this link to find The Spirit of Food recipes currently on her blog.
Leslie Leyland Fields has edited a gorgeous anthology of essays about food, The Spirit of Food: 34 Writers on Feasting and Fasting toward God. I'm honored to have a piece included with such notable writers as Luci Shaw, Wendell Berry, Lauren Winner, Suzanne Wolfe, Robert Farrar Capon, Andre Dubus, Jeanne Murray Walker, and Gina Ochsner and other amazing contributors including Brian Volck, Alissa Herbaly Coons, Denise Frame Harlan, Chef Fred Raynaud, Hannah Faith Notess, Kelton Cobb, Jacqueline Rhodes, Deborah Leiter Nyabuti, Laura Good, Vinita Hampton Wright, Mary Kenagy Mitchell, Jeremy Clive Huggins, Stephen and Karen Baldwin, Ann Voskamp, Amy Frykholm, Thomas Maltman, and Margaret Hathaway. I'm sure I've missed someone.
In addition to essays, the book is also a collection of recipes, one from each contributor. Among the recipes: tangy, glazed pork roast; sweet raisin challah; Jacmel jambalaya; cilantro citrus Hollandaise; one-pot paprikas chicken; Swedish pancakes with lingonberry sauce; chicken wat; and mac & cheese for grown-ups.
My essay is called "Things That Fall and Things That Stand" and is about making my grandmother's Swedish pancakes and the aftermath of the fall of the Interstate 35 bridge here in Minneapolis in 2007.
Through the End of September, Buy at 40% Discount From the Publisher
If you want to buy a copy of The Spirit of Food, you can order now for 40% off from the publisher at this link. After you add book to cart, look to left of subtotal and you'll see a place to enter discount code (="food"). Enjoy!
For Christmas I received a copy of Robert Farrar Capon's The Supper of the Lamb, in which he expounds on the preparation of "lamb for eight persons four times." If you like MFK Fisher's writing (such as How to Cook a Wolf, or The Gastronomical Me), you would like this book as well. Both trick you into thinking about life by writing about food.
Here's an excerpt from Capon:
There, then, is the role of the amateur: to look the world back to grace. There, too, is the necessity of his work: His tribe must be in short supply; his job has gone begging. The world looks as if it has been left in the custody of a pack of trolls. Indeed, the whole distinction between art and trash, between food and garbage, depends on the presence or absence of a loving eye. Turn a statue over to a boor, and his boredom will break it to bits--witness the ruin of antiquity. On the other hand, turn a shack over to a lover; for all its poverty, its light and shadows warm a little, and its numbed surfaces prickle with feeling. Or, conclusively, peel an orange. Do it lovingly--in perfect quarters like little boats, or in tagged exfoliations like a flat map of the round world, or in one long spiral, as my grandfather used to do. Nothing is more likely to become garbage than orange rinds; but for as long as anyone looks at it in delight, it stands a million triumphant miles from the trash heap. That, you know, is why the world exists at all. It remains outside the cosmic garbage can of nothingness, not because it is such a solemn necessity that nobody can get rid of it, but because it is the orange peel hung on God's chandelier, the wishbone in His kitchen closet. He likes it; therefore, it stays. The whole marvelous collection of stones, skins, feathers, and string exists because at least one lover has never quite taken His eye off it, because the Dominus vivificans has his delight with the sons of men.
Digging through my cupboard for a red box of Minute Tapioca, which I thought I had but didn't, I came across half a bag of red lentils, which I didn't think I had but apparently do. Joy! Without even needing to go to the grocery store I can make a batch of my new favorite soup. What I like best about this recipe I'm not sure. Perhaps its the comforting smoothness or bright yellow color of pureed red lentils (they dissolve in a way green/brown lentils don't), potatoes, and carrots? Perhaps its that all the other ingredients are simply carriers of lots of lemon and garlic? Or perhaps its because anything called "potage" is appealing in this cold winter (although the recipe says it can be eaten cold, with even more lemon, so it may be good for summer fare as well). The cookbook's description of the soup says that it is a traditional Jewish soup sometimes called "Esau's Soup." Here's the recipe:
Potage of Lentils
3 T. olive oil 1 onion, chopped 2 celery stalks, chopped 1 or 2 carrots, sliced 8 garlic cloves, chopped 1 potato, peeled and diced 1 generous cup red lentils, rinsed 4 cups vegetable stock 2 bay leaves 1 or 2 lemons, juiced (go with 2) 1/2 tsp cumin, or to taste Cayenne pepper, to taste Salt and pepper, to taste Lemon slices and chopped parsley for garnish
1. Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes or until softened. Stir in the celery, carrots, half the garlic and all the potato. Cook for a few minutes until beginning to soften.
2. Add the lentils and stock to the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the potato and lentils are tender.
3. Add the bay leaves, remaining garlic and half the lemon juice to the pan and cook the soup for a further 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaves. Stir in the remaining lemon juice.
4. Pour the soup into a food processor or blender and process until smooth (may need to be done in batches). Pour the soup back into the pan, stir in the cumin and cayenne pepper, and season with salt and pepper.
5. Ladle the soup into bowls and top each portion with lemon slices and sprinkling of chopped parsley.
Source: The Complete Book of 400 Soups. Annes Sheasby, ed. London: Hermes House, 2008.
Some mornings are coffee mornings and some are tea mornings. The choice is somewhat dependent on what kind of coffee or tea we have in the house, and if a carton of half-and-half is in the refrigerator or not, but often it’s just mood. Generally, tea is a nurturing sort of morning; coffee, a let’s-get-going sort. Today tea is sitting beside me, sweetened with raw honey supposedly rich with enzymes. The propolis from the honey jar mounds up on the side as I dig for the smooth honey underneath. It would be interesting to track the average trajectory of days that start with tea and compare it with the average trajectory of days that start with coffee and make a study of it. But what would be the control? A day that starts with water? And how many days must one track in order to have a valid comparison? And how to rule out confounding factors, like the sound sleep of one night versus the turn and toss of another? Little of what comprises the start of a day can be isolated and measured.
In college chemistry I did a project of extracting caffeine from equivalent amounts of brewed coffee and tea and then comparing the extracted quantities. If I remember right, the results from one of the beverages was not as expected, and therefore, the study bore repeating. Somewhere in my basement is a box labeled "College," which holds, among other things, a lab notebook that I loved with a blue cloth cover and pale green grided pages. Somewhere on those pages are the details of the two mounds of white powder, their method of isolation and respective quantities. Nowhere on those pages, however, is the pleasure from either coffee or tea calculated, dissected, or otherwise explained.
From Virginia Woolf's, Between the Acts:
“She took the little silver cream jug and let the smooth fluid curl luxuriously into her coffee, to which she added a shovel full of brown sugar candy. Sensuously, rhythmically, she stirred the mixture round and round...She looked before she drank. Looking was part of drinking. Why waste sensation, she seemed to ask, why waste a single drop that can be pressed out of this ripe, this melting, this adorable world? Then she drank.”
By day I'm a freelance medical writer. After hours I do another kind of work. Creative writing, spiritual writing, essaying. This blog arises from those after hours. I hope you will find the posts here useful or enjoyable, and at times both. I hope they provide camaraderie for your own creative and spiritual life.