February, 2012.

Hi again. I missed you, and I even kind of missed writing. But the break was so good for me. It was a relief to think about other things, even the ones that were winter-grumbly and sad and annoying. Mostly, though, it was a lot of reflection, a lot of optimism, a lot of looking ahead. A lot of why and attendant answers to why. Maybe not very good answers, but enough to keep things moving.

I saved about 80% of my posts from The Deep Old Desk, not including photo Fridays (which you can now find here, and which Heather and I are both still updating). When I moved them all here, they lost their tags and categories. While I read back through the posts to re-tag them (and that’s really still a work in progress), I could see the evolution in what and how I wrote here. In the beginning, the posts are very careful and rarely go below the surface; as time went on I started to go deeper in a way I hadn’t since Ye Olde Pseudonym Days. I know even this depth is nothing compared to what a lot of people manage to put down before pressing publish, but it is as close as you get to Me in a public forum.

Which brings me to now, and more wondering. It’s possible that I don’t have much more to share, because my life is neither fraught with tragedy nor filled with soul-deep meaning. I have no advice for you about anything. It’s possible that three months from now I will think the layout and the re-tagging and back-and-forth were pointless. I don’t know what belongs in this new blog. And I don’t want your pshaw about that, although I love it if your first instinct is to pshaw me. (I do. I’d probably pshaw you.)

But sometimes you buy a thing and you bring it home and wonder what the hell am I going to do with that thing? Where will I put it, where will I hang it, what goes inside?

UncleTypewriter did not know that I love hex signs when she sent me this box. (It’s not the kind of thing that comes up in conversation.) It landed in the right place. Someday I’m going to figure out exactly what belongs in it. In the meantime, it’s a joy on a little table in my bedroom, it’s happy color on gray days of ice storm after ice storm, and it’s there, just in case. Maybe that’s what this site is, too.

If you find anything weird in the next few days—comments that won’t save/show a captcha, broken links, anything that doesn’t look right on your computer, let me know on twitter or by using the contact form, okay? I refuse to believe that this whole effort went perfectly. (Maybe I should add a ‘pessimism’ tag too.)

an earned retirement

These are the dishes I bought at Target when I graduated from college and moved to Georgia. I have fed a lot of people on them in the past thirteen years; they’ve crossed North America twice. Nothing looks as good on them as sliced red, black, and yellow tomatoes with shavings of bright basil and a drizzle of olive oil. I had eight of everything at one point, but now I’m down to four dinner plates, four bowls, and seven side plates, and the ones I have left are chipped, cracked, and oh, heavy as a guilty conscience. I’m ready to move them out of daily rotation and into the cabinet where my grandmother’s dishes stay safe.

They’ll be slowly retired as I bring home more of these new dishes, a few at a time. Yesterday I picked up four of the pasta bowls first, and they’re just perfect. The tiniest hint of cream in the glaze, lighter than my blue beasties but heavier than Corelle, and they let the food speak for itself. And it does that, don’t you think? The dishes went straight into service when I found this beautiful salmon. A quick search for “salmon pasta” gave me pages of Alfredo recipes, and that’s just too heavy for this weather. But buried in the results was this quick Giada De Laurentiis entree that was perfect—so perfect that I know I’ll make it again.

Pasta with Lemon, Basil, and Salmon

adapted from Food Network: Giada De Laurentiis

makes 2 very hearty servings, or save some for lunch

  • 1/3 pound whole wheat pasta (these are penne rigate)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (this will wind up being 99.9% raw; use less if you’re not used to it)
  • 1.5 tablespoons of your best olive oil, plus some for sauteeing the fish
  • salt and black pepper to taste; lemon pepper if you’ve got it
  • 3 salmon filets (these are all around 5 ounces; Myron eats two)
  • 1/4 cup tiny basil leaves (or chopped larger ones)
  • 2 tablespoons capers, rinsed if packed in salt
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • a pinch or two of red pepper flakes, optional
  • 1.5 cups of cooked vegetables of your choice, optional (see step 3)
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves
  1. Cook the pasta in salted water until done to your preference. Toss cooked pasta with chopped garlic, a little salt and pepper (not too much!) and 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil.
  2. Meanwhile, season salmon filets with lemon pepper and a bit of salt. Preheat a pan or grill and add a small amount of olive oil. Pan-sear or grill the fish until done and remove from heat.
  3. Toss pasta with lemon zest, capers, basil, red pepper flakes if using, and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Taste a little and adjust juice to taste (I used 2 tablespoons and made this very zingy). This would also be a great place to add another cooked veggie, like roasted red pepper strips, steamed broccoli florets, or grilled summer squash.
  4. Place half the spinach leaves in each bowl, top with hot pasta, and rest a salmon filet on top. The heat from the pasta wilts the greens.

Yum, I tell you. We had it with broccoli on the side, and I wish I would have tossed it in with the olive oil. If I would have been able to control myself yesterday, a handful of the pasta and some flaked salmon would have made a great cold lunch today. Instead, I’m just telling you about it and wondering if it’d be overkill to serve this next week, too.

things worth saving

My brain isn’t on lately, at least not on easily-digested writing topics that are suitable for blog posts. So I dipped into my hard drive and found this: I used to have an old prompt diary on a journaling website, and Heather covered for me a few times when I was out of town. And I know I should actually be writing something in our workshop, but neither of those prompts have been doing it for me (and obviously not for anyone else, either), so I’ll tell you what: I’ll set my timer for 25 minutes, and I’ll answer this prompt—one that Heather assigned in my stead—and then I’ll reset the timer and do my very darnedest on one of those workshop prompts. One thing I know for sure is that if I’m resisting writing something, it feels a lot better to get it done and out of the way.

Make a list of 10-15 things worth saving. Then write about one of them and tell why you are saving it.

  1. my collection of old journals
  2. yearbooks
  3. a padded mailer of old photographs my mother sent me
  4. a glass tumbler with Jim Morrison’s face on it
  5. a black t-shirt with “St. Maarten” batiked on it
  6. two little pyrex dishes, one red and one yellow
  7. a purple stuffed dragon wearing a string of Mardi Gras beads
  8. the index files from the first index I wrote on my own
  9. the skirt I wore for my wedding
  10. an environmental sound machine that was once used to play a prank on me
  11. a falling-apart copy of How to Cook Everything
  12. a red silk box full of paper letters from Heather
  13. pictures of Myron at many ages
  14. a copy of Ella Shohat’s Talking Visions, the first book I job-managed from the first pages (with very patient training by Maya of Springtree Road)
  15. a satire I wrote in the nineties featuring my friend Dan as the main character in an epic à la The Faerie Queene

The one that jumps out at me from this list right now, with my ten minutes remaining, is the falling-apart book. It’s the one thing that doesn’t really belong on this list, although I’d like to tell you about that Jim Morrison tumbler someday. It doesn’t belong because it’s easily replaceable and it’s in complete disrepair. Any casual reader of unclutterer.com would tell you that I should throw it out. And yet I keep it.

I almost never stick exactly with Mark Bittman’s recipes, but they make great jumping-off points for things I’ve never made before. I’m out of my element with things that I didn’t grow up eating, and if I can’t find a good start in HTCE, I head to the internet before going back into my cookbook shelf. I know where recipes are based on the amount of rippling in the pages near the basic pancakes (Myron’s favorite weekend breakfast until I found the oatcakes at seven spoons), and the book is broken completely in two right at the listing of modifications to make to basic chicken breasts. I can pull at the corners in just the right way to land on about a dozen recipes I feel like I know by heart until I’m standing in front of the stove at five. But this is the cookbook that really saw me through my first year of marriage. I’ve cooked for myself and others for years, but it’s different when you’re a newlywed. I could get a new copy and find a way to mark all my favorites in it, but it wouldn’t be the same. And so though I rarely open it anymore, it stays on the microwave shelf in the kitchen, shredded, but where it belongs.