merry and bright


Mike posted the following on Facebook the other day:

“2012: two surgeries for baby and a huge move for all of us. Plus first words, first steps, first foods. I mean, really, what a year.”

And that really sums it up.


The three of us have enjoyed a pretty low-key Christmas holiday, filled with plenty of good food, and more importantly, lots of togetherness. A little calm is so welcome after the year we’ve had.

chestnuts roasting

I have no idea what 2013 will bring, but I’m so glad to be ringing it in right back where we belong. I’m looking forward to settling in, to a year of growth rather than big change. We’ll see what fate has in store for us this go-round.


And to all of you, we wish health, peace, and happiness in the coming year. Our heartfelt thanks for sharing this wild ride with us.


getting started

You guys just blow me away. Thank you so much for your kind words, your links and tweets and retweets. I had no idea that last post would hit home for so many of you. I think my heart grew three sizes this past week. Truly, thank you.


Speaking of giving thanks, and Thanksgiving, ours, aside from a bit of a plumbing emergency, was pretty fantastic. We had beautiful weather, a delicious meal, and we have just about finished the last of our leftovers. I made gumbo and sandwiches, and a dish I called the “hot mess” casserole. It was homely as heck, but delicious.


I got to watch my kid eat pumpkin pie for the first time. Which was pretty awesome.

it's here!

And a little something fun arrived in the mail.

we made a cookbook. again.

You guys. We made a cookbook. Again! Big congrats to all my fellow cooks and the whole food52 team. I’m so honored to be part of your community.

And to all of you reading, I hope your Thanksgiving holiday was as full of smiles as ours was.

the bird, out of the oven

Our 2012 Thanksgiving Feast (with links to recipes, where applicable):

Tuscan Chicken Liver Paté
Russ Parsons’ Dry-Brined Turkey (a.k.a. The Judy Bird), with a cider-spiked turkey gravy
Mrs. Wheelbarrow‘s incomparable Challah, Mushroom, and Celery Stuffing
mashed fingerlings
my Pan-Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Warm Cider Vinaigrette
roasted sweet potato rounds with fried sage
Canal House’s Cranberry-Port Gelée (holy cow, was this good – and we’re not big fans of the sauce, usually)
Meta Given’s Pumpkin Pie
Le Cinsault par Familongue

Truth and Gratitude

Prepping veg for the week.

Three years ago, we almost lost our apartment. We were buried under medical and veterinary bills, we found ourselves owing a fortune in back taxes due to an accounting error – we were in the red in every single way possible. I had no idea how we would – or if we even could – dig ourselves out of that pit. But you wouldn’t have known about that, just from looking at these pages. That year I spent a few hundred bucks sourcing out food for a Thanksgiving feast for an article that would pay me about half that amount. It was a great meal, and despite everything, we still had a lot to be grateful for.

Two years ago, we spent an entire day cooking up a spectacular meal: a heritage turkey, cooked two ways, all sorts of trimmings and sides. Though we were a party of two, there was food and drink enough for an army, and after a bit too much of the latter and a huge fight, I threw my wedding band across the living room and stormed out into the night, dinner uneaten. The weight and wear of all we had been struggling with over the previous years, the losses we had suffered, some still fresh and raw, brought us to a breaking point that night. I wasn’t sure our marriage would survive.

But you wouldn’t have known that either. The next day, I pulled bowls and platters from the fridge, made up a couple of plates, and took photos by daylight while Mike made coffee. We ate in silence. He dug my wedding band out from behind the bookshelves later that morning.

One year ago, we had a 9-week old baby boy in our lives. We slow-roasted a duck, kept sides and drinks to a minimum, took a long walk through the crisp November air, snapped lots of photos. It was the simplest and happiest Thanksgiving we had had in years. It felt like the start of something. And when I look back at my posts from that day, finally, I see the truth reflected.

What to make when you miss your grandma. #fideos

One reason I took an extended break from posting here is because I was beginning to feel pressure to be something I wasn’t. I felt like I had to put on a false face, put forward some idealized vision of our life, to hide the fact that it isn’t always cocktails and charcuterie, thirty dollar pastured chickens and good bottles of wine. It was all too much. There are weeks when we’re flush and we can spend a fair amount on food and drink, but more often than not these days, I am trying to figure out how I can best spend thirty bucks on enough good food to last us all week.

But you know what? I am so grateful for that. We have so much.


Our life has changed, is changing – every day, it seems. Just when we think we’re in a good groove, a routine, something happens to change that. A delayed departure from work, a late train or a cranky toddler can disrupt everything. We had a stretch where we were able to eat dinner together every night before putting Jules to bed. Then we lived in a hotel for nine days. Then we moved to New York, without our furniture, our belongings – it was a month before we were able to get them out of storage and into our new space. I went back to work, and Mike and Julian got back into their daily routine at home, and just as we were settling back in to a predictable schedule, things changed again.

But that’s life. That is our life, and I want to capture our reality, preserve it here. I want to remember these times, these meals.

And I want Julian to remember.


The dishes I make from night to night are tasty and nourishing, but there is absolutely nothing sexy about them. They wouldn’t be sexy if I had a DSLR to photograph them with and a wardrobe of twee table linens to shoot them against. And that has kept me from capturing them, from cataloging them like I used to. I’ve felt ashamed, in a way, like I couldn’t compete. But what I got away from is that this isn’t a competition, it’s our life. And I don’t want to hide it anymore.

I can look at the pale-hued Polaroids I swiped from my mom’s collection, and see the little girl I once was sitting on a couch at grandma’s house, surrounded by aunts and uncles who are beginning to fade away, and just by looking at them, I can conjure up the smell of grandma’s dressing, the flavors of my aunts’ creamy casseroles. I want my son to grow up with some record of the special meals of his childhood, and the ordinary ones too, something to spark his memories when he’s all grown up and too far away from home.

I want him to remember that the three of us ate together, as a family, every chance we got. Even if the photos aren’t perfect, and more of what’s on his plate ends up on the cats than in his belly these days, I want him to remember. I want him to remember when he looks at these pages that even if the meals were plain and unpretty, and sometimes mommy was tired and cranky, and some weeks we had plenty and some weeks we had less but we always had enough, that most importantly we had each other, and we loved each other fiercely, and we ate together, and we laughed, and we were grateful for it all.

“Bon appétit!”


Back in April, I received an email about the JC100, the online celebration of Julia Child’s life and work on what would have been her 100th birthday. Like most of what lands in my blog-related inbox (especially since our little guy arrived), that email was read and left unanswered, forgotten until yesterday, when I started seeing remembrances posted nearly everywhere.

Tomato mania!

Julia’s show was the first cooking show I remember watching, and though it would be many years before I ever cracked open a copy of Mastering the Art, I feel that she was a big influence on me as a home cook. She was large and loud and kind of endearingly dorky – all of which I could relate to quite well – but she had this incredible self-confidence, and in watching her cook, I felt that I, too, could take even the humblest of ingredients and turn them into something both delicious and elegant. She did what she did with love, she seemed to get such true joy from feeding herself, her family and her friends, and she never seemed to let a little kitchen mishap get her down.

Dinner: August 14, 2012

Mike has almost certainly cooked more recipes straight from those iconic books than I have; I’ve never had the patience for classic French technique. But every time I step into the kitchen, set a cutting board in front of me and pull my knife down from the wall, I can’t help but feel that Julia’s spirit and influence is guiding my way.

Happy birthday, Julia, and thank you.

Cause for Celebration

I had no idea, as we planned our meals for this week, that last night’s dinner would turn into such a big fun celebration. We’ve spent most of our time planning for and looking forward to today, our fifth wedding anniversary, and the meal we’ll share tonight, as well as making plans to continue the celebration over the weekend. We’ll have other things to celebrate then, too – my parents‘ 40th (!) anniversary, and my niece‘s second birthday, so much joy packed into a few short days.

But boy did I get a surprise yesterday thanks to the folks at food52 – they chose my Hunters’-Style Chicken as a Wildcard winner, to appear in the second food52 cookbook alongside Amy‘s amazing Short Rib Ragu and countless other mouthwatering dishes. It’s always a rush to have a recipe chosen as a finalist or an Editor’s Pick in a competition, but to have my dish deemed worthy of inclusion in the book just on its own is really something special. I’m incredibly humbled, and so thankful, and it was such a fun coincidence that I had already planned to make this dish last night.

I’m sure we’ll be raising many a glass over the next few days, and you can be sure that as we toast to all of the things we’re grateful for in our lives, we’ll be thinking of all of you and this incredible community we’ve become a part of.