Archive for November, 2009

Reformed

I was in a friend’s kitchen the other day, where she was teaching a class on soups. We gushed and mmmm-ed our way through bowls of butternut squash and red pepper soup, and we all voiced the same confession: We reviled squash as kids.

I can’t say it’s much of a revelation that every woman in the room hated squash as a child. Consider it’s usual back-then presentation: bland bowls of hot and stringy orange glop, hardly more appealing than my baby sister’s jar of Gerber. What 8-year-old wants to eat baby food?

Squash isn’t the only thing we collectively recoiled from as girls that we’ve since come to like. We didn’t like boys so much, then, either.

But, thankfully, just as boys grew more likable, so did squash. There are countless inspirations out there for using the seemingly countless varieties: velvety butternut soups; halved acorns glazed with maple and stuffed with grains; mini-pumpkin fondues and salads of simple greens topped with roasted cubes of your favorite, fill-in-the-blank squash.

High on my list of squash preparations is this one. It’s bound to reform any hold-out, anyone with lingering squash hatred that squash is indeed sweet.

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Surreal

Yesterday I had one of those looking-at-myself-from-the-outside moments, when I was wearing my apron and baking loaves of whole grain bread and nice voices were rising from the spot on the floor where my kids were playing together (nicely!) and I had a soothing piano concerto on in the background and my husband was off scrounging for eggs from our co-op chickens and I thought:

How did I come to this life?

How did the high-school me, who never would have covered up a cute shirt with an apron, come to this?

How did the college me, who ate cold cereal and Twizzlers for dinner and was hopelessly devoted to both Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Lenny Kravitz, come to this?

How did the early-married me, who in her corporate-ladder haste attempted omelets with Eggbeaters that had been in the fridge for ages, come to this?

I have no idea how these things happen, these growing-up things that bring us to care about where our bread comes from, that broaden our tastes in everything from eggs to music, but I admit I think it’s nice. And I’ve saved all the pieces of old me that I care to have around — the me that likes cute shirts, for example. And Lenny, though not my first choice anymore, remains kind of hot.

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Good life

I’m a little out of practice. My laptop died in early October — just like that: Poof! — and in the wake of its demise I lost a good year’s worth of my computer-code-encrypted self.

I went through a kind of amnesia. Who am I? And what am I supposed to do now that I can’t tote my little computer companion (computanion, anyone?) around all my waking hours? I’ve had to resort to this dusty old desktop, which groans its way out of hibernation each morning and is rather mean-spirited toward any kind uploading, downloading, or plugins. That has meant that blogging, and especially blogging with pictures, is a little less feasible, i.e., not as fun.

But I’ve found that in lieu of tap-tap-tapping away superfluously on a keyboard half the day, there are many other really wonderful things to do with my time. For instance, I’ve discovered that my girls are pretty dang cute. And I’ve been reading books, those bound materials in which words are printed on paper pages.

And I quote: “Paper (noun): a substance made from wood pulp, rags, straw, or other fibrous material, usually in thin sheets, used to bear writing or printing, for wrapping things, etc.”

One bit of paper I’m going to miss along with many of you is Gourmet magazine. When I heard all the way back in early October that Conde Nast would be ceasing publication, I immediately regretted not picking up, for a mere 25 cents an issue, all the back issues I’d seen at the library recently. My little library, and likely yours too, sells back issues of all kinds of magazines, and when I’d walked past the stack of Gourmets, I’d eyed them with curiosity but not exactly longing.

The next time I stopped at the library, I immediately went to the 25 cent racks, but by that time the rack was selling issues of Bon Appetit. I did a little digging and turned up a single leftover Gourmet, from January 1986. The cover features a stack of straw gondolier hats in Venice, and a quick flip through the issue reveals tiny type and an awful lot of black and white.

The photography was less than stellar back then, and each dish was so tightly and symmetrically arranged, posed in spotless silver serving ware, graced with garnishes that themselves were like little works of art. It makes me glad that my Gourmet-reading years were the Ruth Reichl ones, the ones when the teams of photographers and food stylists and editors realized how much more appetizing a pudding could seem when a spoon had already lifted a bite from it, when tableside crumbs from crusty bread were left to be photographed (indeed, positioned to be in the picture) and dribbles of soy sauce could be seen on parchment.

I know the magazine celebrated high living, but its last several years were hardly out of reach. The travel and some of the ingredients, maybe. But it nevertheless gave me a simple awareness of the world of food that is out there, and that, combined with issues full of accessible recipes, elevated my cooking.

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