What the Crystal Ball Never Reveals: A Few Words about Blogging

A writer [and photographer], I think, is someone who pays attention to the world. ~ Susan Sontag I missed my anniversary this year, for the first time. Five years ago, I started blogging, and began writing regularly (or at least fairly regularly), for myself and not for deadlines, not because of external  “whip wielders” such…

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In My Grandfather’s Garden, or, a Long Apothegm on Apricots

I don’t really remember my grandfather very well, for he died just a month before I turned 14. Yet he left a legacy that lies hidden deep in my brain, a usually dormant place where I apparently shelve all my food memories. But in the right circumstances, and with the right stimulus, that place –…

Moonstruck, a Meditation on Earth’s Moon

The crescent moon rises in the early night sky, a scythe among the clouds, sharp against the fading blue and the sun's dying light. Cooking by the light of the full moon, the shadows in the corners illuminated, tugging at my mind. I bend low, hunting for a knife to chop the onion, slice the…

A Lesson from the Day of the Dead

Time comes to a halt on All Souls Day (Todos Santos), November 2, a day of ancient ritual. I learned that lesson when I spent the day with a Mexican family in Puebla, Mexico. To miss this celebration of death was simply unheard of. Our place was the cemetery, where the grandparents lay under thick…

The Zen of Artichokes

I love autumn. If it’s not the leaves and all the color, then I find poignancy in the drying and dying weeds littering the ground. They embody survival to me. One plant I particularly love is a thistle-like plant, filled with tiny seeds attached to billowy white parachutes. The least puff of wind forces the…

Another Holy Trinity of the Kitchen: The Magic of Milk, Eggs, and White Flour

Every time I pour crêpe batter into my 8-inch Teflon*-lined crêpe pan, I see deep scratches, the ones that Habiba made with the fork she used while cooking a three-egg cheese-and-herb omelet one wintry Moroccan morning. The scratches don’t affect the pan’s performance, just as wounds and scars don’t fundamentally change who we are and…

Lemons – Tiny Cathedrals of Gold

Lemons, their pitted, nay, prehistoric, skins secreting golden oil, Shielding sourness, evoking memories of a grandmother's kitchen, A grandfather's garden. Born in the East, fruitful India, A kiss of cold, albeit fleeting, spawns the yellow Immortalized  in stone, paint, and clay. A fruit reverenced, Blossoming from mountain and lake, Urging cooks to slice, pierce, and…

Seeking Honey, in the Bee-Loud Glade

The journey begins, with a glimpse, through the kitchen window, of golden dust shimmering in sunlight, a phantom shadow darting through the air. Hive-bound, the soaring bee dips and kisses the blue-hued flowers once more.  Life blossoms with the promise of fruits and grains to come. Auriferous, gilt-laden with pollen. Honey. Nectar. Food for the…

Panis gravis, or Bread, Endless Nurturer

A whole world dwells within each tiny  seed. Of porridge,  of bread, of love it whispers – in all these lies the promise of wheat. With it all comes both the caress of crumbs and the sour stink of brown bread and garlic, the pain of brokenness ... and the bitter bread of exile. But…

Water, the Essence of All

Begin with a washing of hands, cleansing and purifying, before approaching the stove, as to an altar. Pouring water into a pot, do you remember the source? Rain, clouds, rivers, streams, lakes, oceans … Transformation, from elements and compounds and chaotic matter to life. Essence. Alchemy. In your hands, a cook’s hands, water shape-shifts into…

What Do You Mean You Don’t Need Cookbooks? (Or, What Good are All Those Cookbooks on Your Sagging Shelves?)

I’ll admit it: I collect cookbooks like some people collect plastic pigs or miniature silver tourist-spot spoons or wine corks from bottles they’ve downed. My cookbook collection, like all collections, began small.* When I served with the Peace Corps in Paraguay, my landlady --- the mechanical dentist’s wife --- giggled when I threw my suitcase…