If you were around last Friday, you may have heard my husband‘s big announcement; and if you haven’t, well, I feel it is my duty to share some wonderful news with you.
While I’ve been spending the last few months not-so-much-cooking, and not-so-much-eating, and mostly putting all my energy into incubating Sprog 2.0, Mike has been pouring his heart and soul and considerable talents into a pretty major project of his own: a book. SHRUBS: AN OLD-FASHIONED DRINK FOR MODERN TIMES, is set for release in July of 2014. If you don’t yet know what a shrub is, well, my Dietsch is the guy to explain it to you.
My own involvement with this project goes a little beyond taste tester and head cheerleader, as well: I shot the cover (!), and will be providing additional photos for the book (!!), which is exciting and surreal and more than a little nerve-wracking, since our deadline falls right around the time the new baby is due, but hey, an opportunity like this is a once in a lifetime thing. It’s a thrill to have some tiny part in helping Mike’s lifelong dream become a reality.
Big, big congrats, sweetie – I am so proud of you, and hopefully this is just the beginning.
I don’t usually post about brand partnerships here, but I have a longstanding love for olives, and when I was asked earlier this year by the folks at Lindsay Olives to contribute a couple of my original recipes to their Olive Adventurer series, I was happy to oblige. (I’m in excellent company, as you can see!)
So somehow in the middle of my recent spate of 50-hour work weeks, I managed to get pregnant again. No burying the lede this time, I’m just putting it right out here, and letting you all know that baby number two is set to join us in October, a month after Julian’s second birthday. We’re thrilled of course, though my tiredness has reached a whole new level, and my appetite, to my chagrin, is all but gone these days.
I had no such trouble eating throughout my first pregnancy. My first trimester nausea was just mildly bothersome, and I had no real morning sickness to speak of. I ate well and often: lots of fruit and fish, big salads and eggs and nuts by the handful. Indian food, Mexican food, any kind of spicy food – bring it on. Just about everything tasted great, and physically, I felt better than I had in years.
But things are different this time around – not drastically so, just enough to throw me for a loop. I feel a little bit queasier, a little more fatigued than I remember being last time, and I just don’t have much of an appetite. For anything. Frustrating for many, but downright maddening for a typically food-fixated sort like myself.
It doesn’t help that I feel guilty about not eating. I’m building a baby, after all.
I’m in a lull between trials right now, and my schedule has cleared up a bit. Mike has taken on the lion’s share of dinner prep in recent weeks, between my work commitments and lack of interest in eating, but I was eager to get back in the kitchen over the weekend, even though I had no clue what to make for us. Inspiration came, as it often does these days, via Pinterest, and a beautiful panade from Emily of Five and Spice. Since I’ve been able to reliably keep down bread and cheese, and we had a fresh batch of rich chicken stock in the fridge, it seemed like a good bet.
So I headed into the kitchen yesterday afternoon while Julian napped and Mike took care of some things around the apartment, and I sliced onions and trimmed chard, grated cheese and massaged stale bread. I sauteed the greens and alliums in batches, built some layers and moistened them with stock, then I set my covered pan in a low oven to bake for a good long while.
And then I put my feet up.
The three of us sat down to eat together as the sun set, something I have missed more than anything else over the last few months, and as I watched the boys tucking into their respective portions, I was happy that at least they were enjoying their meal. I still wasn’t sure if I would. But I took a spoonful from my own bowl, satiny greens and wobbly bread, the aroma of stock and cheese and onions set aloft on a pocket of steam, and I closed my eyes as I took it into my mouth. I took another bite, and another, and another, and soon, my belly was as full as my heart felt.
Last Night’s Dinner turned six years old yesterday. I had entertained the idea of writing a special, celebratory post – six years does feel like something to celebrate, after all – but to be honest, I forgot until the evening, when the baby was finally down for the night, and I had a chance to sit and breathe and enjoy a little stillness.
The last few months have been a blur. We went right from the holidays (which for us, always extend into January, with birthdays and anniversaries and more), into a prolonged period of sickness, then straight into crazytime at my job. I’m preparing for two separate upcoming trials, which has meant long hours for me and even longer for Mike, at home with Julian. I’ve missed many bedtimes, and meals together have been scarce – home-cooked meals even moreso. And this busy period has only just begun.
In the middle of it all, my home life and and work life collided in a pretty unexpected way, and I found myself filing a trademark application related to my home here online. I never thought I’d have to do such a thing, but the whole process made me realize how much I appreciate this space, my own little space to talk about food and life and how they fit together, even if I haven’t had much time to do so lately. Looking back keeps me moving forward, as I know that just because I’m out of my kitchen now, and probably will be for some time, when I get back to it, it’ll be so sweet. Food is always best when it’s shared, I think.
So while I don’t have a new meal to share with you, I do want to say thank you to everyone who has stopped by over the last six years to talk about food and life with me, and to share a place at our table. I hope to have a lot more for you soon.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Like many New Yorkers, I’ve been engrossed in the media coverage following Hurricane Sandy. My heart has sunk more each day, as each new piece of news brings a fuller picture of the damage and destruction left behind. The area was hit with a nor’easter right after the storm, and though last weekend brought a brief respite from the cold, temperatures have continued to drop, and more rain is expected today. For those still in the thick of piecing their lives back together, it must feel completely overwhelming.
Two weeks after the storm, co-workers are still trickling back in to my midtown office, sharing their stories and the stories of those close to them who were affected. The office itself was closed for nearly a week, sustaining damage after a corner-office window blew out, taking down ceiling tiles and spewing glass, water, and debris all around. Some friends and co-workers were without power or heat or both for a week or more, some of them with pets or small children. Others find themselves harboring friends or family who have lost everything. It’s heartbreaking and sobering.
Personally, we were lucky – we had wind and rain, but we never lost power, only briefly lost our cable internet, and the biggest challenges we faced were a few days of screwy commutes, trying to avoid downed trees and tree limbs in the neighborhood, and keeping Julian from going completely stir-crazy while we were homebound in the days immediately after the storm. We have absolutely nothing to complain about and so very much to be grateful for.
So many have lost so much, and the road to recovery looks to be a long one. Thanksgiving is a little over a week away, and thereafter, the days and weeks will blur as we move through the December holidays. My heart breaks to think of those New Yorkers whose holidays will never be the same, and I sincerely hope that they won’t be forgotten in the weeks and months ahead.
There are already some terrific wrap-ups of who is doing what toward the relief effort and how you can help, but I’d like to throw a few more links out there:
First, I’ve been incredibly inspired by what people in all corners of our dear city have done in these last two weeks, how they’ve organized and mobilized and have Gotten Shit Done while FEMA and the Red Cross have been, from many reports, largely MIA. Ben Heemskerk of The Castello Plan in our neighborhood has been particularly active in commandeering the troops around here and sending caravans of buses loaded with food and supplies out to communities in need.
And as you well know, we here at LND are big softies when it comes to the fuzzy creatures of the world. I was heartsick to read about the devastation many stray/feral cat colonies experienced in storm-damaged waterfront communities. The folks from North Brooklyn Cats, Neighborhood Cats, and the SI Feral Initiative, Inc. continue to do heroic work to care for these animals, often at great personal expense.
If you’re still looking for a way to help, maybe you could send these folks, and those they’re working so hard to help, a little love.
[We'll be back to the food here soon, I hope, with an update on our first 12 Months | 12 Dishes project... I've just had a hard time summoning up the enthusiasm to write about cooking with everything that's going on in our beloved New York. We sincerely hope you and yours are safe, warm, dry, and well.]
It’s wild to think we’ve been back in New York for four months now. It was four months ago today, actually, that I returned to work at my old law firm, walking the same familiar corridors, gazing out at the same familiar view of the city stretched out for miles and miles from my perch on the 52nd floor.
I will never grow tired of that view.
I’m working with many of the same folks I worked with years ago, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt a catch in my throat at hearing the words “welcome home” from co-workers here and in our other offices.
It really has felt like a homecoming, a return to a place that, in many ways, I feel I never should have left.
We had our reasons for leaving New York. We needed a break. We thought we were moving toward something… a home, stability, a safe and quiet place to set down roots and build a life. And it wasn’t all bad – our time in Rhode Island gave us Julian, and I wouldn’t trade him for anything in the whole entire world.
But there were big things, ugly things that happened while we were there, things that still cause a great deal of pain. The wounds have healed, mostly, but we still bear their scars.
There are times I wish we could get those four and a half years back.
When I left Detroit and my first husband in 2001, I swore to myself that no matter what happened in life, I would live with no regrets. “Everything happens for a reason,” as my beloved and very wise Grandma always says. I would learn from my inevitable mistakes; even the bad stuff holds a lesson. And yet…
Reentry has been hard. Much harder than I expected it would be. And while I am still absolutely certain that moving back to New York was the right decision for me, for Mike, for Julian, I’ve been struggling with what to do now that we’re here. What is this next phase of our life going to look like? How do we make this new life, this second act into everything we want it to be?
We landed in a neighborhood we knew next to nothing about, coming in, and which we have fallen in love with quickly and hard. We’re slowly establishing routines, gradually getting to know our neighbors and other parents and kids in the area, exploring the markets and greenmarkets and restaurants and bars in our new nabe, venturing out to revisit our old favorites and old friends when we can.
We’re shopping and eating our way around our new neighborhood and our new-old city, and we’re cooking our way through the rough spots, because that’s how we make connections, that’s how we persevere. It’s just what we do.
We’re settling in, hopefully for the long haul.
But I still feel like something isn’t quite right yet, and I can’t put my finger on it.
Maybe this is like seeing your high school sweetheart for the first time after being away at college… you’re still the same person you were before, and you still recognize the things you loved about him or her back then, but you also know that you’ve changed, and you are acutely aware of what’s new and different about yourself and that person you shared so much with.
Maybe it just takes time to figure out what your relationship is going to be like as a couple of adults, with four years of heartbreak and healing and loss and recovery and growing up under your belts. Being together is comfortable and blessedly familiar. It’s safe. But is it right? Is it meant to be, built to stand the test of time? I know who I am, now, but who are we together?
How do we move forward, and get back to that sweet space where we once were, where we fit together so easily and well?
Time will tell, I suppose. And in the meantime, we’ll be shopping and eating our way around our new neighborhood and our new-old city, and cooking our way through the rough spots, because that’s how we make connections, that’s how we persevere.
It’s just what we do.
I never imagined when I started this blog nearly five years ago that someday my dishes would appear in a cookbook, but if there’s anything I’ve learned this year, it’s that life throws you the most wonderful curveballs sometimes. I’m thrilled that four (!!!!) of my recipes appear in the new Food52 Cookbook, I’m humbled to share the pages of that book with so many talented home cooks, and I’m delighted that I can call a good number of them friends.
On that high note, I’m saying goodbye to this space, at least for now. I can’t imagine a happier place to be in life than where we are right now, and I can’t thank you all enough for sharing the highs and lows, losses and celebrations with us here for the last five years. My priority right now is feeding Julian, and these days that doesn’t leave me time for much else, but I want you to know that you’ll always have a place at our (real or virtual) table.
Be well, savor life, and again, thank you.