Jimmy and Crake graduated from HelthWyzer High on a warm humid day in early February. The ceremony used to take place in June; the weather then used to be sunny and moderate. But June was now the wet season all the way up the east coast, and you couldn’t have held an outdoor event then, what with the thunderstorms. Even early February was pushing it: they’d ducked a twister by only one day. –Oryx and Crake (Margaret Atwood)
Upon moving to Delaware, one of the first things I realized was that this was no longer the east coast (or midwest/east coast hybrid) of my childhood and college years. Come Labor Day, it wasn’t time to pull out all the long-sleeved shirts and socks; come Thanksgiving, rose bushes could still be blooming; and, come February, typically the coldest month, you would no longer need space heaters and parkas to keep you warm, but might just find yourself going about your business bare-legged and in cute dresses and skirts. It’s hard to imagine complaining about sunshine–and, believe me, I’m not–but there is something awfully confusing about all of this. I had thought that the week of sunshine and 60 plus-degree weather last year in February was a fluke, but this year proves that maybe this is the beginning of a new pattern, not to mention the further shaming of poor old Punxsutawney Phil, who just can’t help but see his shadow and seemingly deceive us all…Of course, when it again snows in early April, Phil will, I’m sure, get the last laugh; consider it the revenge of groundhogs everywhere.
Another thing I realized about this strange place I now call home is that, whereas in California, everything was about California–Sonoma, Yosemite, Tahoe, the Bay Area, the coast–in Delaware, part of the allure is its proximity to the surrounding states–Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Virginia–and nation’s capital. This isn’t to say that Delaware doesn’t have plenty of its own offerings, from the many du Pont estates to a remarkable range of state parks (including the Delaware shore) and gardens, but it’s only too easy to get into your car (the one downside of life here is that you must have a car) drive for an hour and find yourself somewhere else. While this may not sound like the most glowing of endorsements, I intend it as nothing but a compliment. To live in Delaware is to be part of a larger network on the eastern seaboard.
Whereas we have been to Philadelphia many times (it’s both a short drive and endlessly appealing, especially in terms of food and history), we have been to Baltimore only once. I started thinking about this trip recently, mainly because the weather right now is the same as it was last February when we, feeling adventurous and hopeful about an early spring, drove down one Saturday to explore the sights. I do think that Baltimore tends to get a bad rap; yes, it does have its fair share of crime, but it’s also a vibrant and lovely city. We spent our time there wandering around Fells Point, downtown and the Inner Harbor and found only good things: interesting street art, colorful townhouses decorated with lucky barnstars, a pretty waterfront, excellent gelato and even a pagoda and a Russian Orthodox church. Truly, there was nothing particularly noteworthy about the day, save for the sheer liberation we felt at being out and about with Elektra in February.
Because I take too many photos and more than a dozen of the posts that I have planned for the year involve travel (the California-Delaware road trip will be blogged, as will our honeymoon and my trip last year to Hong Kong), I wanted to find a way to share some of these Baltimore photos without having to do a full travel post. Plus, as it had been too long since I had done my last “food for thought” post, it seemed only right to combine the two: beautiful Baltimore and some of the articles, books and recipes I’ve been enjoying lately, but this time divided into appropriate categories. Perhaps 2017 will be the year of organization?
If I’m looking for authentic Italian food, I usually turn to Domenica Marchetti, so I was recently excited to see that she did an article on Italian-style roasts for The Washington Post. When it again gets cold–and it will–I’ll definitely be making one of these.
I’ve been trying to cut back on my dessert baking (only two cakes thus far this year!) for two reasons: 1) I’ve been baking a lot of bread, and 2) recent studies on sugar consumption have made me think that recalibrating my palate probably isn’t a bad idea. But it isn’t easy, especially when you want to try recipes for Apple Buttermilk Cake, find banana bread in your freezer and, thanks to the balmy weather, find yourself craving deliciously inventive UDel ice cream (it helps to live near cow pastures).
The cuisine of North Carolina and how 500 pounds of blueberries can change your life.
I have always loved the New York Times “Dining Section,” but I was disappointed lately to find that they had added Ottolenghi as an occasional contributor. Is this because I dislike Ottolenghi? No, I own three of his books and a few of his recipes are favorites. It’s mainly because the man is everywhere: The Guardian, Bon Appetit, now The New York Times. There are other recipe developers out there, other voices, other ideas; stop with the Ottolenghi fatigue! This primarily annoys me because I have increasingly felt that the Dining Section is basically attempting to model itself, both in terms of content and aesthetics, on food magazines and, call me old-fashioned, but that’s not what it’s supposed to be. Newspapers are not magazines.
Embrace citrus season and have a cocktail (you know you need one).
There is more to Thai food than curry and if you, like me, have a thing for leeks and also adore one-pot/dish meals, then this Thai recipe for Baked Chicken and Leeks in a Coconut Turmeric sauce is for you.
I’m currently embracing the dystopian mood of the country by reading Margaret Atwood, but next in line is George Saunders and then the wonderful Ali Smith, who I was recently excited to discover, thanks to her having written the first-Brexit novel, was finally getting the attention she deserves in America.
Investigating the father of the essay.
Fairly taboo: a discussion of money and writing.
Rethinking Shakespeare…yet again.
I have sung the praises of Tana French before, but her novels are so good that it just never gets old.
The (potential) national implications of tomorrow’s special election in the little state of Delaware (it’s not too often we make the news).
I don’t find much to laugh at in the media these days, but somehow the cheeky article exploring Jason Chaffetz’s efforts to “probe…the threat to America posed by Sid the Science kid,” made me feel proud of American journalism. Given the absolute stupidity and waste of taxpayer dollars involved in these investigations when there are more pressing matters at hand, I’m happy that so many Congressmen are complaining about “all of the women up in [their] grill.” Just for talking like petulant frat-boys, I hope the women continue to haunt all “grills” across the nation.
I don’t often agree with Tucker Carlson (or anybody from Fox News), but I think Tucker’s onto something when he says, “The beginning of wisdom is to know what an asshole you are.”
To show that I am nothing if not “fair and balanced,” on CNN’s Jake Tapper and his “performative neutrality.”
I had forgotten that, come July, the question of Greece’s debt would again be dominating the headlines; maybe, just maybe, to save Europe, more humane policies can be enacted, ones that will show the world that the European ideal, despite the rise of the “alt-right,” isn’t disintegrating before our very eyes? But maybe I’m just a naive dreamer.
Entertainment and the Arts:
I was so excited to discover that the creators of The Good Wife were doing a spinoff with Christine Baranski’s character, but more than a little disappointed to find out that this show would be, save for the first episode, exclusively on CBS’s online viewing platform.
The penultimate season of The Americans is almost here, and, believe me, if you haven’t been watching, this is a great mistake that must be rectified. Thanks to he-who-shall-not-be-named (and company), the show is bound to more relevant than ever this season.
I will admit to not having been to the movies as often as I would have liked, especially since there are suddenly so many good movies out that I would like to see. I did, however, make it to the movies a few weeks ago to see Arrival and, though I know it doesn’t stand a chance against La La Land or Hidden Figures, it was one of the most moving, beautiful and interesting films I had seen in a long time. And the way it played with time was absolutely ingenious.
Reese Witherspoon and the Type-A maniac.
I may be behind in my general movie viewing, but a few weeks ago I did go, with a local Meetup group, to see the Oscar-nominated shorts, which were a provocative bunch, even if, in some cases, they left me wanting more. Although both Denmark and France bravely took on the challenge of exploring the refugee/immigrant question in 15-30 minutes, personally, my money is on Hungary’s “Sing” for its portrayal of friendship and the triumph over a bully.
Writing advice, but also, in the age of social media and constant disruption, words to live by: “Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears.”