"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: Manger

the worst and the best . . .

DSC_0197I’ve begun to notice how impressionable I am in the moods that come over me as I begin my day. For instance, I often look forward to reading the “Food” section of the NYTimes on Wednesdays and the “Home” section on Thursday mornings while eating my breakfast.

“the worst”: This morning, I read a very long article about a woman who wanted to open a Yaddo-like cultural retreat at her beautiful stone dwelling in North Stamford, CT. The trouble is, the writer of the article, Penelope Green, was so disdainful of her subject and her topic that her descriptions were sarcastic and demeaning throughout the piece. I had a rare reaction, one almost of disgust at the lack of objectivity and writing integrity that I have come to expect from this newspaper which is my daily bread. There was such a heavy, dispiriting tone throughout the entire spread that I wrote to PG as well as to the NYTimes Editorial comment section asking why they would think we readers might be enlightened by such presumptuous writing.

In a bad mood, I cast about for a way to start my real day of wanting to make some progress here at home and was reminded of a cookery book soon to be published this Fall in October by Mimi Thorissen. I looked up her blog to catch up on what was going on and was surprised to learn she had recently given birth to a daughter named Audrey and also had found a new/old house of her dreams which they would move into and also turn into a small bistro restaurant which she had always wanted to run.

“the best”: Her blog, Manger, is filled with incredibly sumptuous photographs of cooking, house and home, her children and the countryside. What a welcome antidote to the poison of the cynical and smug Penelope Green article earlier in the day!

So, there you have it in two extremes: the very worst in human nature, making fun of someone who’s naive intentions are held up as the ultimate in pretentiousness and across the world, someone who is so beautiful (even post-partum) and creative (e.g., stuffing potatoes with beef and tying them back together with string!) whose passions inspire us to reach for what’s best in ourselves rather than settling for the worst.

Which will it be?


a romantic cook . . .

antique carved breadboard

antique carved breadboard

I was reading a follow-up article in the NYTimes this morning about chickens who are fed scraps from gourmet restaurants from NYC (trucked to an Amish farm in Pennsylvania) and how improved the flavor is over commercially fed birds. If it’s true for us humans that “we are what we eat,” then it should be little surprise that this holds true for animals as well, doesn’t it? In any case, I have been comparing the taste and texture of chickens available through our grocery markets ever since the original article was published last week. I try to avoid Perdue chickens in the supermarket because of the documentary a few years ago showing caged chickens in a filthy barn as one of the Perdue suppliers. Wouldn’t touch one after that. I’m tempted to order one of the D’Artagnan Green Circle chickens after these reports of incomparable flavor and juicy white meat, silky dark meat.

One of the letters to the editor wrote about living “on our frugal little farms” which made me laugh. Especially since my recent Bon Appetit magazine which arrived a couple of days ago featured a gorgeous spread about Mimi Thorrison who is half-French/half-Chinese, has beautiful dark hair and a slender figure even after bearing four children and cooks for a family of nine everyday filled with fresh foods from the farm markets, seafood, butter, chicken, cream, calvados and gougeres. In case you haven’t noticed, there is a wide breadth of life between living frugally on our little farms and living fully on a farm in Medoc, France with a husband who is a professional photographer and breeds Jack Russell and smooth haired terriers. At latest count, I think they have forty dogs running around the place. Mimi also favors providing the best wine you can afford, sets flowers all around with lit candles with beautiful bases. And, astonishingly, none of it looks or sounds pretentious at all, that’s the most amazing part of her aura.

It takes a lot to bowl me over since I read a lot and peruse magazines from the U.S., U.K. and Australia at the local bookstore, even keeping up with editorial changes which seem to be happening more often, or at least more quickly these days. There has been nothing close that takes my breath away as much as the description of the Thorisson family and photographs described on Mimi’s blog, Manger.  Apparently, this is a shared response because there is a TV cooking show being filmed on site and she is writing a cookery book that will be published by Clarkson Potter in the Fall of 2014. I can’t wait.

Not only are the goings on so evocative and tenderly personal, they are written without being at all self-promotional (her two year old daughter, Gaia’s yearning for blackberries that she could reach [not spoiled by the foxes brushing by the low branches] and not finding them where she was sure there were some; then their father, Oddur [yes, that’s his Icelandic name] speaks earnestly to their son, Hudson, asking him to look carefully for patches of blackberries elsewhere on the property.) Which he does!, to everyone’s delight, yielding ten bowls of blackberries, which Mimi then makes into blackberry ice cream and blackberry souffles dusted with fine sugar and frozen blackberries on the top. It is so beautiful and yet so charmingly described (a fine line to walk) that the reader is entranced. Charmed by reading about and peering into such a very charmed life.

So, I wish the best for them, and have Manger on my bookmark bar (among the few) where I gain inspiration from people who are living their dreams (along with breeding so many dogs) raising a family with such thoughtful care and looking so beautiful amongst it all. What it has also done is to reinforce my awareness once again of how much beauty and bounty resides within our own homes: old wooden bowls collected over so many years and Shino glazed pottery plates and bowls that we use every day. Old copper pots, one a huge hammered one, is perfect for roasting a leg of lamb, turnips, carrots and onions now that the weather has cooled off. Yesterday, a friend brought a sheaf of freshly picked basil which I harvested and stored in the fridge with a slightly dampened paper towel. Tomorrow, I plan to make pesto with toasted pine nuts and pair it with whole wheat fettucine plus bella mushrooms. Trimming fresh basil leaves off an armful of two foot stems seemed like light work compared to cleaning ten bowls of wild blackberries!