Holiday Salad with Greens, Cranberries, Feta, and Walnuts

Last week I unpacked my grandmother’s nativity set and assembled the scene of Mary and Joseph, baby Jesus, shepherds, wise men, and sundry animals on a shelf in the living room.  As I scattered straw through the stable and watched the cats chase each other around the trunk of the Christmas tree, I enjoyed a glass of Chianti—the Carlo Rossi kind out of the large, screw-top jug.  My grandmother loved her Chianti, and when it turns five o’clock in Heaven, I know she is sitting up there, glass in hand, enjoying the slightly dry vintage along with a plate of kielbasa or sauerkraut pierogi.

 This week last year I drove to Denver to spend the day with my Grandmother Lillian.  I hadn’t seen her in over a month, and I was looking forward to our usual outing:  meatballs and salad at a nearby Italian restaurant (washed down with glasses of Chianti, of course), followed by a shopping trip to Kohls.  My uncle had phoned a day earlier to tell me he received a message from a security guard at her retirement community.  On the way to Mass, she had rammed her car over a curb and into street sign.  She seemed confused and in poor health.  I promised to check up on her.

When she answered my knock, I caught my breath and braced myself against a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I had always described my grandmother as an older, more sophisticated version of Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face.  She often paired a black turtleneck with black wool pants and ballet-style loafers, which accentuated a blond bob and carefully applied lipstick.  But on that day, a large bruise covered her face where her head had hit the steering wheel.  She hadn’t changed her clothes or done her hair in several days.  From the state of her apartment, I could tell she hadn’t been eating or drinking either.  That day began a stressful, two-month journey to the end, a journey that included various hospitals and skilled nursing facilities. 

When it became clear that Grandma Lil would never leave the nursing facility, my uncle spent Christmas Day going through her things, packing most of them up for donation.  My sister and I stopped by to take those items special to us—a box photographs from the 30s and 40s, a rosary made of glass beads, a fur coat, paintings of flower and birds, and a candy dish remembered from childhood holidays.  The frustration of sorting through packed closets and cupboards competed with a deep sadness over a beautiful life coming to a close—a life represented by so many material possessions that evoked treasured memories.  I struggled with the guilty knowledge that my grandmother didn’t know what we were doing with her beloved apartment.  Until the end, she remained convinced that she would eventually return home.

As we emptied the apartment, I searched every closet and cupboard for the one thing I really wanted—my grandmother’s nativity set.  After the last piece of furniture had been hauled away, my uncle phoned to say he had found it—one of the last boxes in a storage room in the basement. 

My grandmother passed away on March 6th of this year.  We will miss her as we sit around the table on Christmas afternoon, aware of her absence.  The daughter of Polish immigrants, she possessed an elegance, generosity, and innate sense of hospitality that led her to share whatever she had with those around her.  To her, that was the American dream:  she acquired beautiful things in order to share them with others, and she expressed love through an abundance of food.  I will always remember her breaking into a giggle, her eyes lighting up with delight, as her grandchildren arrived at the old farmhouse for a holiday.  Sometimes I can still hear the faint echo of that laugh.

Unlike my grandmother, I don’t like Christmas.  There, I said it. 

I want to like Christmas.  I want to bask in the glittering decorations and lights, in the sound of bells and carols.  I want to enjoy the delicious treats made only at Christmastime and the decadence of shop-till-you-drop.  I want to relax with family and friends in front of the fireplace, mug of hot cocoa in hand, while large snowflakes fall outside. 

Instead, around the middle of December, I descend into a frenzy of decorating, cleaning, baking, shopping, and wrapping.  As I run around trying to get everything done on time, I find roads jammed with people heading for the shops, no parking spaces at the mall, and the pre-set holiday budget going out the window.  There are Christmas parties and concerts that must fit somewhere between writing Christmas cards and vacuuming up the pine needles that fall to the floor whenever the cats scale the tree.  Since both my parents and in-laws live only an hour away, the Philosopher and I find ourselves negotiating the demands and expectations of both families.  Mid-December also marks the end of the fall semester for both of us, which means grading stacks of exams and papers and submitting volumes of paperwork to the university.  Add to this our anniversary, the annual visit of close friends over New Year’s and The Philosopher’s birthday, all of which take place before January 7th, and you have a recipe for high-stress and possible financial disaster.

 The ancient Celts believed in “thin places.”  These are sites where the divide between this world and the next is “thin,” where a person feels more strongly the presence of God, or a mystical connection to those saints who have gone before.  One example is the town of Kildare, Ireland, the site where Saint Brigid, a contemporary of St. Patrick, built a religious community and where the thirteenth-century Kildare Cathedral now stands.  Legends of Saint Brigid have blended with those of an earlier Brigid, a holy woman of pre-Christian times, and today pilgrims visit St. Brigid’s Holy Well for contemplation and healing. 

But I have always thought that there are also “thin times,” those times of year when we feel a closer connection to those we have lost, when something inside of us longs for reflection, for things beyond the present, for mysterious things we cannot see.  I believe Christmas is one such “thin time,” which our ancestors intuited as they chose to establish the celebration of Christ’s birth at the time of the Winter Solstice. 

Sometimes I think that the endless shopping, spending, decorating, eating, and rushing around is our way of dealing with a “thin time,” of blocking it out, of refusing to let it touch us on a deep, even dark level.  Each year I find myself bristling at the frenzy, longing to sink into the thin time by distancing myself from the people and noise surrounding the season.  The Philosopher tells me this is unduly pessimistic.  He prefers to see the communal celebration of Christ’s birth as our way of bringing joy to the darkest time of the year.  It is letting the light of Christ into the dark spaces of our lives. 

Each year I attempt to simplify Christmas.  Since going gluten-free and discovering my low tolerance for sugar, I have stopped baking for the holidays.  Although I am learning to work with gluten-free flours, I don’t always succeed in my efforts, and I find I can do without tins of Christmas cookies and fudge.  These days, I opt to bring a salad to potlucks and holiday parties.  As many buffet tables are piled high gluten-filled sweets and casseroles, hostesses and guests appreciate a fresh, elegant salad. 

 This year, my favorite salad includes baby field greens, dried cranberries, crumbled feta, and walnuts.  The salad looks pretty and festive, and it gets me out of the rut of thinking of salad as merely romaine and tomatoes.  With the dried cranberries and a dressing made of honey and balsamic vinegar, this salad is just sweet enough that you might not find yourself tempted by those trays of Christmas cookies.  Better yet, the salad takes a grand total of five minutes to assemble, including the dressing.  If you are still devising your menu for Christmas day, this salad makes a lovely first course.

As I admire my grandmother’s nativity set on the shelf, I am trying to adopt The Philosopher’s view of the “thin time.”  It helps to have a glass of Chianti nearby. 

Holiday Salad with Greens, Cranberries, Feta, and Walnuts

 

  • Assorted organic baby field greens (12 oz, or 2/3 of a 16-oz tub)
  • 1 5-oz package dried cranberries
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 5-oz container feta cheese crumbles

 Dressing:

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3T balsamic vinegar
  • 1T honey
  • Dash of garlic salt
  • Black pepper to taste.

Assemble salad ingredients in a large bowl.  Blend together dressing ingredients.  Pour dressing slowly onto salad, mixing frequently, just until salad greens are lightly coated. 

If you are bringing the salad to a party, take the dressing in a separate container and apply it when you arrive to avoid soggy greens.

Variation:  Add strips of grilled chicken breast to turn this salad into a light lunch or supper.

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Heroines Who Eat

            

          . . . With the cake’s long-awaited appearance, I endured another unfortunate rendition of “Happy Birthday”—not sung, but howled by a party that had consumed too much Chianti and moved on to cheap cognac.  My reward was four layers of fluffy chocolate cake, held together by tangy raspberry jam and covered with smooth buttercream.     (Shadows at Moose’s Run, Chapter Four)

*  *  * 

          Half-way through my container of General Tso’s chicken, I looked up to find him watching me.

          I put down my chopsticks.  “What?”

          “Nothing.  I’m just enjoying watching you eat.”  He held my gaze as the corners of his mouth turned up in a languid grin.  “And thinking what I’d like to do to you.”             (Shadows at Moose’s Run, Chapter Twenty-Five) 

*  *  *   

As I complete the final revisions to my novel Shadows at Moose’s Run, I am realizing how much my heroine eats. 

Before returning to her childhood home in the Colorado mountains, Maddie spends her final night in New York gorging on platters of lasagna with her best friends.  On her thirtieth birthday, her father presents her with a luscious chocolate cake.  She attempts (unsuccessfully) to win the heart of a childhood friend with her chicken cacciatore, and she devours an entire package of Oreos after breaking up with a new love.  All of this on top of plates of pierogi made by her Polish grandmother—a cure-all for the brokenhearted.  Oh—and Maddie also drinks wine.  Lots of wine.  And because I write fiction, Maddie never counts a calorie, or steps on a scale, or refuses that last slice of pizza.          

Lately I have stumbled across several novels within the genres of women’s fiction and chick-lit that depict heroines obsessing about their weight and their relationship with food.  Will Anna lose enough weight to fit into that little black dress, the one with which she hopes to seduce a positively devilish hero?  Will Lucy realize that the town heartthrob really does love her, despite her full figure?  And then there is the iconic Bridget Jones, who records her daily consumption of vices such as wine and “ciggies” in her diary.  I understand an author’s wish to tap into the real-life issues that concern female readers, but a heroine’s waistline just doesn’t interest me.  While I enjoy fiction that tackles difficult issues, there are some things I want a novel to transcend, and a heroine’s calorie count is one of them.

 I like novels in which food becomes central to the plot, not as a point of conflict for the protagonist or something she must overcome, but as a metaphor for other things:  the creation of self, burgeoning sexuality, falling in love, breaking from societal expectations, and emotional or professional development.  There are so many novels that do this successfully, but two come to mind: 

Laura Esquivel sets her quirky novel Like Water for Chocolate (1989) in rural Mexico at the turn of the twentieth century.  As the youngest daughter, Tita is expected to remain single and spend her life caring for her aging mother.  When Tita falls in love with Pedro and her mother insists that the unlucky suitor marry Tita’s sister, Tita takes her revenge—in the kitchen.  Each chapter of this lovely novel begins with a recipe, as cooking becomes Tita’s link to tradition, as well as her salvation.

In Sarah Strohmeyer’s Sweet Love (2009), forty-something, single mom Julie signs up for a course in desserts, offered by a renowned French chef at a local cooking school.  She never expects to meet fellow student Michael, who happens to be the first love she rejected years earlier, now freshly divorced.  Over sugar, chocolate, and mishaps in the kitchen, Julie and Michael deal with the misunderstanding that tore them apart years earlier.

And now . . . thinking of food, and heroines who eat . . . a recipe.

This week, I gave in to the craving for TexMex and made a crock pot full of shredded beef, which I used for tostadas.  The dish is healthy and relatively inexpensive to make, yet caloric enough even for my heroine Maddie. 

I must give credit to my friend and artist extraordinaire Elizabeth Diaz, who thought up a basic recipe for pulled pork.  After experimenting with a variety of ingredients, I settled on the final recipe below.  Since The Philosopher doesn’t eat pork, I normally use beef instead, which seems to work just as well. 

 

Pulled Pork Tostadas

  • 3 lb pork tenderloin (2 pieces, 1 average grocery store package) (or beef chuck roast)
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1T jalapeno pepper, finely minced
  • 1 14-oz can petite diced tomatoes
  • 2 4-oz cans diced green chilies (mild)
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • 1T chili powder
  • 1T cumin
  • ¼ t cayenne pepper
  • ½ t salt
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Corn tortillas
  • 1 14-oz can refried beans
  • 1-2 cups cheddar cheese
  • Optional toppings:  sliced avocado, diced tomatoes, sour cream, red or green salsa
  1. Combine the first twelve ingredients in a crock pot.  Cook on low for eight hours.
  2. At the end of the cooking time, shred the meat with two forks and mix thoroughly with the sauce.

 To Serve:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place corn tortillas directly on rack of oven for 2-3 minutes to warm.
  3. Line baking sheet with aluminum foil (this cuts down on cleaning time).  Place corn tortillas on baking sheet and top each with a layer of refried beans and cheese.
  4. Bake the tortillas until cheese is melted and beans are warm (10 minutes).
  5. Top each tortilla with pulled pork mixture.
  6. Finish off the plate with desired toppings.

 (Serves 4-6)

Notes:

  1. My friend Elizabeth browns her meat in olive oil before putting it in the crockpot.  I’m too lazy to do this—and I think it defeats the purpose of a crock pot.  However, browning does bring out the flavors of the meat.
  2. If using pork, be sure to buy a tenderloin.  The Mother-in-Law tried this recipe using pork roast.  The meat would not shred.
  3. I tend not to measure my spices.  The quantities listed above are approximate values and merely a starting point.  You can increase amounts if you prefer more spice. 
  4. If you are concerned about gluten, be sure to check labels to make sure you are buying gluten-free.  You’d be surprised what some manufacturers will add to broth, sour cream, and canned veggies.
  5. If you are not concerned about gluten, try the following:  roll up the pork mixture in several large flour tortillas and place them in a baking dish.  Top with a jar of good quality salsa verde and the cheese of your choice.  Bake at 400 degrees until cheese is melted and bubbly.

 Let me know how this recipe works for you, or if you have suggestions for variations.  Also, I’d be interested in your recommendations for novels in which food or cooking becomes a central plot point and a metaphor for a heroine’s personal growth.

Happy Halloween! Of Ghosts and . . . Cats!

Tonight I will celebrate Halloween by revisiting that most classic of ghost stories, Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca.  Since The Philosopher teaches an evening class and I have the remote to myself, I will settle for a cinematic version of the gothic novel.  While there have been many film adaptations since the novel was first published in 1938, I like the one released by Mobil Masterpiece Theatre in 1997, starring Charles Dance, Diana Rigg, Emilia Fox, and Faye Dunaway.  Rebecca’s murderer literally “gets away with murder” in this version, which is an accurate acting out of the original story.  (In earlier performances, such as the one starring Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine, Hollywood directors altered the plot so that no crime goes unpunished.  Evidently a keen sense of morality ruled on screen in the 1930s and 40s.)

 In Rebecca, the fabulously wealthy and handsome Maxim DeWinter brings his new bride home to the family estate of Manderley (situated on the romantic, wind-swept English coast, of course).  We never learn the new Mrs. DeWinter’s name, as her character is overshadowed by the lingering spirit of Rebecca, Maxim’s first wife.  Rebecca is not a “ghost,” but rather an unseen presence, a memory that haunts Manderley and overlays the house with a foreboding sense of evil.  The new Mrs. DeWinter learns that Rebecca wasn’t who she seemed, and that her death was not an accident.  Only by discovering the truth of Rebecca’s life and death can Maxim and Mrs. DeWinter find happiness together.     

I find intriguing the idea of a person or event whose memory leaves such a strong imprint on those left behind that they must wrestle with a lingering darkness.  In my first novel, Shadows at Moose’s Run, thirty-year-old Maddie returns to her childhood home after the death of her mother, a Rebecca-like character whose shadow still lingers in the house, asking for a redemption that Maddie cannot give. 

But while Maddie’s mother remains an ominous presence, I do have a more humorous, ghostly cat in the novel!  In the following excerpt (which may or may not remain in the final draft), Maddie has moved back to Moose’s Run to take care of her widowed father.  She thinks she has seen the ghost of the family cat, although she wants to assume the specter is merely a trick of light and shadows.  Her new friend Jackson has set up his ghost-hunting equipment in hopes of finding something. 

My friends and family will recognize the four-legged friends that appear in this scene.  We really did have cat named Jackie (after Jackie Onassis Kennedy—you’ll have to ask The Toothfairy about that), and we did give the local wildlife the most peculiar names.  The Unabomber also makes an appearance—at least his cabin does.          

From Shadows at Moose’s Run, Chapter 17

             . . . Since Jackson installed the camera, I had checked it every morning, except for the previous two days.  Any appearance by the Ghost of Jackie, or other wayward spirits who happened to pass through, must have occurred sometime since Wednesday.

             I shuddered at the thought.  I had assumed that I would know if any ghostly visitors lingered at Moose’s Run, that I would feel something—a presence, a gentle breeze, or a movement of some kind.  Instead, I hadn’t sensed anything.  

            Jackson suggested we take the camera downstairs and hook it up to the large television.  “We might as well view it on the big screen,” he said. 

            I brought two mugs of tea and a plate of cookies, and we settled into the couch as if gearing up for the latest blockbuster. 

            Jackson groaned in disappointment at the beginning of the recording.  After several seconds of static, we watched a panorama of the living room, as seen from the corner where he had installed the camera.  A few uneventful minutes later, the image dissolved into more static.  

             We had almost given up hope of seeing anything more, when the panorama popped up again, and with it, a brief movement—a mere blip—in the lower left corner of the screen.  The picture dissolved into blurry black and white lines once again before the camera focused on another movement of something small and dark in front of the large glass door that slid open to the deck. 

             “There’s something there!”  Jackson leaned forward to peer at the screen. 

              Despite my reluctant participation in our ghost-hunting experiment, I now felt compelled to stick around, as if watching a bad movie, if only to find out what would happen next. 

             After another few seconds of static, the living room came into focus, and this time the image remained fixed on the screen.  The strange movement began again as the small, dark object grew larger and more regular in its movements.  It resembled a branch of one of the small ponderosas, waved up and down in front of the glass by an invisible hand. 

            As we continued to watch, the branch transformed into a network of branches, and then, the profile of a pointed face came into view—black button nose with deep-set nostrils, a white furry chin, large dark eyes, and finally, pointed ears surrounded by tufts of fur.

            “It’s Boy!”  I exclaimed. 

             The deer walked into full view of the camera, his antlers bobbing as he ambled towards the branches of one of the pines hanging over the deck and nuzzled them with his nose and mouth. 

             “It’s a buck!”  Jackson’s eyes widened as he scratched his head in bewilderment. 

              “His name is Boy,” I explained.  “At least that’s what we call him.  He hangs out in the forest around the house—he has for years.  I didn’t realize he ever managed to get onto the top deck.” 

             “He’s probably looking for something to eat.” 

              “You could be right.  One of the vents from the kitchen lets out at the edge of the deck.”

            “It’s a buck,” he repeated in disbelief—and disappointment.  He hadn’t expected the camera to capture a living animal, instead of a dead one.

            We watched Boy as he sauntered across the deck and disappeared from view.  With his exist from the scene, the image on screen disintegrated into static. 

            I grabbed my cup of tea from the coffee table and sat back smugly into the cushions of the sofa.  “I guess the camera does work.  It just picked up the wrong visitor.”

            “Wait!”  Jackson had scooted to the edge of his seat and was staring at the television.  “What the hell?”

            I followed his eyes back to the screen, which showed the figure of a man, jumping up and down in front of the large glass doors.  With his striped pajamas and the hair sticking straight up from his head, he resembled an escapee from the padded room of a mental institution.  It was Dad. 

            I covered my mouth in embarrassment and glanced at Jackson out of the corner of one eye.  He was looking at me, eyebrows raised.

            “That’s Dad,” I said dryly. 

            Jackson’s mouth curved into a cheeky grin.

            Another figure came into view, a fat, cocky raccoon that trotted back and forth in front of the glass.  Dad was attempting to capture the black and white, whiskered face on his digital camera, and, in return, the animal seemed to be taunting Dad.

            “And that is O’Henry,” I sighed.  “O’Henrietta is probably somewhere in the background, watching from the woods—or else she’s nesting in Kaczynski’s cabin at the bottom of the hill.” 

             Jackson had leaned back into the sofa and crossed his arms over his chest as he studied me, a bemused smirk still lingering on his lips.  I had some explaining to do—about my eccentric family, both human and animal, that skulked around Moose’s Run in the middle of the night.

            “O’Henry?  O’Henrietta?” 

            “Those are the names my sister Cherise chose.  I think she named the male raccoon Henry because she thought it sounded funny, and then one day she was out in the forest and started calling, ‘O—Henry!’, and it just kind of stuck.  And what else would you call the wife of O’Henry, but O’Henrietta?” 

             Jackson was nodding his head slowly, taking in both the action on the screen and my strange explanations.  “And Kaczynski—the Unabomber?  Where does he figure into all of this?”

            “There’s an old abandoned shed at the bottom of the driveway.  A neighbor up the canyon uses it to store gardening equipment.  We think it might have been an outhouse a long time ago.  When Cherise would misbehave, my mother would threaten to send her down there to live.  My mother always called it Kaczynski’s cabin.  I don’t know why.  I think she and Cherise saw an article about the Unabomber in the newspaper and thought the cabin would be the kind of place where he would hide out.” 

            Jackson was still shaking his head when the final image of Dad, on hands and knees with his nose pressed to the glass as he baited the raccoon, disappeared from the screen and the recording stopped.  Both Dad and raccoon had moved outside of the camera’s range of detection.  I couldn’t believe I hadn’t heard any commotion during the night.  Either I had slept soundly, or Dad had been unusually quiet.

            “I suppose you can’t make the camera more selective in the images it records,” I asked.

            “Fortunately, no.”

            “Fortunately?”

            “You have to admit, this stuff is much more entertaining that a recording of a mere ghost.”  Jackson looked far more elated than if we had seen the Ghost of Jackie as clear as day on the recording. 

            “Okay, so you probably think my entire family is certifiable.” 

            He chuckled.  “Just about.” 

            I sighed in exasperation.  “But have you at least had enough ghost hunting now?” 

             “Absolutely not.  I think we should keep trying.  We know that the camera works, and that there’s a significant amount of activity around here in the middle of the night.” 

            “Then I should at least warn Dad.  Tell him that any midnight antics will be recorded for all to see.” 

            “Not on your life.”  Jackson’s eyes flickered with amusement.  He was enjoying this way too much. 

              “I suppose things like this offer good opportunities for blackmail,” I said, “—if I ever needed to resort to such a thing in the future.”

               “Now you’re talking.”                                                         

Stuck in the cornfields . . .

My husband used to eat well.  Very well.  Boursin-stuffed chicken breasts, Julia Child’s roasted chicken with tarragon, and tilapia in a delicate lime-butter sauce.  All washed down by some lovely vintage courtesy of our membership to the Wine of the Month Club, a wedding gift from a friend.

And then . . . I started to write.

Six months after the wedding, we packed up our earthly possessions, including one disgruntled cat, and moved to a small town in the Midwest so that husband could begin a graduate program in philosophy.  After giving up a high-paying career, the Colorado mountains I loved, and close proximity to friends and family, I ended up in—yes, you guessed it—a cornfield.  Oh, the things we do for love. 

So there I was, a childless, over-educated, career-focused women in her thirties, stuck in a less-than-inspiring, pink-collar job in a town where the only thing to do was join the local book club—a book club where professors’ wives drank too much Cabernet while discussing the remodels of their cute Victorians, the new first-grade teacher, and their dislike of that scene in Audrey Niffengger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife where Henry licks Claire before she steps into the tub. 

My ultra-trendy, cosmopolitan sister, already an accomplished dentist at the age of twenty-six, saw the probability of despair before I did. 

“Why is he taking you out there”?  She tossed her blond curls, fresh from a salon appointment on Boston’s fashionable Newberry Street.  “What on earth are you going to do out in the cornfields?”

As usual, The Philosopher didn’t miss a beat.  “I can think of lots of things I’d like to do to your sister in a corn field,” he told her.  Despite the tweed, The Philosopher is a red-blooded male who possesses a unique talent for irritating The Tooth Fairy.

I had always wanted to be a writer.  Since reading Jane Eyre at the age of thirteen, a series of outlandishly romantic plots had run through my head like a collection of bad screenplays.  I was too chicken to apply for Mary Gordon’s creative writing seminar at Barnard College because the application required a writing sample.  While in graduate school in my twenties, I penned a young adult novel and showed it to an editor—who promptly crushed my enthusiasm.  “That’s not how you write,” she said with the kind of bluntness one encounters in New York.  I had written the only way I knew how—like Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens, and Charlotte Bronte—all rolled up in one.  It seemed, however, that the Victorians were out, and chick-lit a la Bridget Jones was in.  Who knew?  I threw my precious manuscript in a drawer and did my best to forget about it.  After all, I had a dissertation to write, men to date, and a career to launch.

But holed-up in a two-bedroom apartment on the edge of the cornfield, bored and on a grad student budget, the stories returned in vivid technicolor, along with the irresistible urge to write them down.  After all, I wanted something to show for The Philosopher’s six years of graduate school—something that I had accomplished, something all mine. 

So I began to write. 

The Philosopher was supportive.  In fact, he told me that I was good—but that I treated my writing like a hobby, and if I wanted to be a writer, I needed to write more.  That was his mistake. 

I began to write—everyday.  I snuck out of work early, walked down the street to my favorite coffee shop with the loose-leaf tea and chocolate-chip scones, and wrote for two hours before heading home.  On the weekends, two hours would stretch into four and five.  After a few years, I had a 200,000 word manuscript, which, I later learned, was much too long for a work of commercial fiction.  Only J.K. Rowling and Diana Gabaldon can get away with something that big.    

And so . . . instead of Boursin-stuffed chicken breasts, The Philosopher ate rubber chicken, stewed too long in the crockpot.  And frozen pizza.  And mac n’ cheese with some Kielbasa thrown in—his own creation.  The time and creative energy I once poured into cooking elaborate meals went into developing scintillating plots worthy of a re-make of Dynasty, complete with strong-minded heroines and sexy heroes.

Along the way, I began to assemble a repertoire of fast, easy, and inexpensive recipes—tasty and nutritious dishes that I could throw together after an eight-hour work day and a two-hour stint of writing.  When I discovered I had an intolerance to gluten, the recipes evolved to include different ingredients and techniques.

I’d love to share those recipes with my readers, and, because the last thing cyberspace needs is another food blog, I want to write about other things too—books, the art of writing, and becoming a novelist.  This blog is for readers, writers, and eaters—in short, anyone who has a passion for food and books.

I’ll be looking for guest bloggers, so let me know if you’re interested. 

Stay tuned, and let’s have some fun together . . .

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