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It’s easy to get swept away by the everyday: barking dogs, disrupted sleep, the feeling that you are waiting for something that continues to elude you. I realized recently that our lives in Delaware, or what I’ve come to refer to affectionately as “Limbo Land,” can seem fairly one note; this may be because, as soon as we moved here, we already had our eye on what lay beyond, or because, at least in terms of work, I never really left California and so am still mired in the rhythms and concerns of a life 3000+ miles outside of my immediate daily existence. I kid you not when I say that, besides the Greek, the individuals I’ve exchanged the most words with since moving here are Elektra, my faithful companion, and my friend and colleague from the San Francisco office, with whom I have lengthy exchanges Monday-Friday on Skype chat. It’s funny because people are often envious when they hear that I work from home; while I can certainly see why this arrangement might sound appealing, I also know that I would never again agree to anything like this or allow such an arrangement to go on for as long as this has. Benefits aside, it can make your life, even when it is anything but, seem remarkably small.

Of course, I recognize that, if it seems like we never leave either our house or the petty domestic concerns of the circle in which we live, this must also be due to a flaw in my description of it. While we certainly have had our fair share of trials and tribulations since moving to Delaware, a state I never even had on my radar as a place I would want to visit let alone live, I would also say that it also given us the opportunity to experience  a different part of the country. Not only have we taken pottery at the local art museum, but we’ve also subscribed to the wonderful Arden Theatre Company for the past two years, spent Saturdays in Lancaster, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, visited many an old Eastern Pennsylvania town, discovered the true art of the gastropub (a regional specialty), and become members of the most wonderful garden, Longwood, which we have visited multiple times in the last year.

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Honestly, Longwood is one of my favorite places in the area and one that I will sorely miss when we’re gone. It isn’t even in Delaware, but is just outside Kennett Square, PA, a charming town famous for mushrooms and Talula’s Table, as well as home to some of the best Mexican food in the area. Despite not being in Delaware proper, Longwood is nevertheless part of the vast network of DuPont estates in the area and, in my opinion, it is the most impressive, spanning over 1,077 acres. No matter what the season, there is always something to see, either in the Italian Fountain garden or in the conservatory, which houses a countless number of plants, tropical and native alike. The current featured exhibitions at Longwood are the annual Orchid Extravaganza and the inaugural Winter Blues Festival (since winter is still raging here with another storm on the way, a better year couldn’t have been handpicked for this event), complete with live music, which the Greek and I went to this past Saturday. After the horrendous weather of Friday, with its fierce winds and mix of snow and rain, it was wonderful to get to spend the day looking at signs of life. Even better, I finally, after almost a year of visiting the garden, remembered to take my camera. Considering how happy wandering around on a sunny day and snapping photos of bright and luscious blooms made me, it seemed only right to spread the wealth. Here is the magic of Longwood in all of its colorful, orchid-filled splendor, as well as some links to articles that I’ve been enjoying over the past few months, since I firmly believe that the eye and the mind should feast equally (N.B. So as not to make the text hard to follow, I’m going to put the links first and then the photos).

I don’t make a habit of reading Food52, but if you’ve ever wanted to cook Chinese food at home or are curious about cookbook history, this article on Irene Kuo‘s classic The Key to Chinese Cooking is as thorough as they come.

Cold weather makes you crave simple comfort food and, although not as flashy or as beloved as mac and cheese, I promise that this Greek fava bean stew, made with dried fava beans so no peeling is necessary (!), is the essence of sumptuous.

I’ve been trying to cut back on my meat consumption (not that it was ever so great to begin with), largely for personal reasons, but also because of articles like this one on the very real perils of consuming bacon, so Samin Nosrat’s Tofu with Mixed Grains has been a recent staple in our house, as well as anything by Meera Sodha, whose two cookbooks I cook from frequently. Her “New Vegan” column in The Guardian always features something I want to eat, from rutabaga laksa to mushroom bao.

Ever since The Good Place ended its second season, I’ve been searching for–and failing to find–a good show to watch while cooking dinner. This dearth has led me to return to podcasts and, after all these years, I still think the BBC’s Food Programme is one of the best. A recent episode on porridge was a real treat (listen and dare to tell me you don’t want to try the Jamaican porridge). Since there is more to life than food, I also can’t say enough good things about Krista Tippit’s On Being; the episode on love and relationships should be mandatory listening for anybody, single, dating or married.

During the latest nor’easter/bomb cyclone to plague us this year, I got the wonderful idea to bake Smitten Kitchen’s Perfect Blueberry Muffins and basically spent the whole time they were in the oven praying that the power would last until they emerged, pert and golden, from the oven. While these muffins basically are perfect, I couldn’t bring myself to use only all-purpose flour and added half a cup of spelt, as well as substituted some creme fraiche, which frankly needed to be gone from my refrigerator, for the 1 cup of yogurt. Let’s just say that perfection can always be improved upon.

On the rise and rebranding of Soviet food.

I’ve been reading and loving Tayari Jones’ novel on wrongful incarceration and its effects on a marriage. Never has a book seemed more timely and essential.

In this day and age, it seems as important as ever to read non-fiction as well as fiction (that said, just reading–and not on a smartphone or computer–is a huge plus); next up on my reading list is Julia Baird’s biography of Queen Victoria, since I have become obsessed with Vickie after devouring the first two seasons of PBS’s Victoria. After this, I’m dying to read Madeline Miller’s Circe, since I love a good retelling of Greek epics, tragedies, and myths. 

Speaking of Greek tragedy, guess who is back in the limelight? Everybody’s “favorite” Varoufakis, who is attempting to settle the score.

Around the time of the Superbowl (I was for Foles and the Eagles all the way), I found myself uncharacteristically fascinated by the media spotlight on Tom Brady and the well-oiled machine of the Patriots. I don’t often read sports journalism, but this ESPN article on the Patriots has as much pathos and as many bizarre characters as a classic Russian novel.

If you’re a word buff, then you’ve probably bemoaned the effect the internet is having on  both spelling and language. Dictionaries seem to be taking the sudden shifts in language in stride, particularly the OED, which now considers itself to be a “moving document” to which words are only added, never deleted.

These days, not to have heard anything about the #metoo movement, you’d have had to be living under a rock. The movement has brought some positive change, as well as inspired a lot of pens to spill ink, so I’m not sure I have anything terribly valuable to add. That said, I think we are still collectively seeking an answer to an important question, one that Claire Dederer explored in The Paris Review back in the fall: “What Do We Do with the Art of Monstrous Men?”

On this same topic, I also think that Katie Roiphe’s controversial Harper’s piece demonstrates that this movement is not only still in its early stages, but that it has, at times, also adopted a rhetoric that makes some women uncomfortable. After the article was published, she was excoriated on Twitter (the power of a simple tweet has toppled many people and things of late), but her arguments aren’t without merit–if read outside the impassioned cries of the Twitter mob.

To end on a note that is more fluff than anything else, have you heard recently that some people are using avocados to, wait for it, propose to their partners? If most headlines these days haven’t sent you running for the hills lamenting the end of reason and humanity, this one really should because, let’s face it, why would any woman (or man) accept a ring that has been nestled in an overripe and browning avocado? Personally, I can’t fathom it, but let it be on the record that, had the Greek done something “creative and fun” like this, I would now be living alone somewhere in the Arizona desert haunted by images of a ring covered in avocado flesh, also affectionately known as “nature’s butter, which is no place for jewelry. Ever.

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2 thoughts on “Food for Thought: The Longwood Edition

  1. Katy, you are such an inspiration to me to cook more, read more, and see more. Be safe from the coming storm.

    1. Thank you, Barbara! You are too kind, as per usual. 🙂 I doubt you needed such colorful photos given your location (LA’s weather is generally perfect, is it not? That, at least, is what Laura says), but there’s nothing wrong with a virtual tour of Longwood.

      And thanks! I hope we will be fine and that this will be the last one, but, at this point, I’m not holding my breath.

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