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

Tag: NYTimes Food

‘stay-cation’ . . .

Pilgrim century chair and table . . .

Pilgrim century chair and table . . .

Last night on Chronicle TV, a married couple with no children reveled in what they called a “stay-cation,” toasting each other with glasses of wine and snuggling up on the couch together. To balance it out, the show also featured a family with three children under the age of three: a little girl and her infant twin brothers. Lots of adjustments and accommodations there, including a day a year to celebrate the Mom as a special appreciation for all she had to handle all the time.

When I was their age, I had three children under the age of five. Three daughters born about 22 months apart, one after another. I can’t tell you that it was easy. I remember taking lots of naps and trying to do something interesting for myself like going antiquing to furnish the house and then later to be a part-time dealer of early New England furniture and accessories. I did pretty well for a time too, because that was so long ago that you could go to Brimfield, a huge flea market, with $25 in your pocket and still have some fun.

Now, many collections bought and sold with only a few things that I’ve kept (large early wooden turned bowls on the soffit in our kitchen, an 18th century gateleg table with a replaced top, a few other pieces of redware and yelloware are all that’s left.) I love those pieces, though. They add character and charm to our 3rd floor flat in this Queen Anne Victorian house that we call home.DSCN3725_2

Which is what this post is actually about. With the kids grown and on their own, one granddaughter who is starting Johns Hopkins University, and another one about to turn four and playing with paper dolls, we’re lucky to have family that is loving and with whom we keep close contact. But who don’t live near us. Which means, dear reader, that the concept of a “stay-cation” is upon us all the time if only we’d recognize it as a way of life rather than something special just for a brief time.

I did this morning, as I made a marinade for some baby back pork ribs that will sit on the kitchen counter until G. makes a charcoal fire tonight and grills them for our supper. Two large artichokes that I bought at Market Basket are ready to be cooked and then dipped in curry mayonnaise as our starter while the ribs are cooking. A plain ruby lettuce salad with some fresh mushrooms and cucumbers in a vinaigrette dressing will finish off our meal.

my own kitchen stuff . . .

my own kitchen stuff . . .

The thing is, it’s going to taste better than anything we could go out and pay money for in a restaurant. And it will be just the way we like it.

It’s also easy to prepare, using my own utensils, condiments and ingredients. Furthermore, the timing is up to us–we can cook it and sip a glass of chilled rose wine while we watch the news, or even keep the TV turned off. In other words, we can do whatever we want to on this Wednesday with a light breeze coming in the windows, still cool before we decide whether to turn the AC on or not.

I’ve worked for thirty years in biotech start-ups, a late career that was both challenging and rewarding. It required me to see the big picture and to manage the minutiae of operational details that teams require for success. Jobs like strategic planning and project management are elusive management jobs that can be turned over to younger (cheaper) labor when you’ve reached an apogee where you’re valued and also paid too much. So sooner or later, it comes to an end, thankfully, and all of a sudden, you’re retired. Well, I’m glad of it and it came at the right time for me too.

The reason I’m writing about life as an ongoing “stay-cation” is that I’ve been trying very hard to take vacations near the ocean, mostly: in Truro two years ago and in Brewster on the Cape last year after Christmas. Rockport, MA. was also a winter rental destination for a number of years. We just returned from a weekend stay over the 4th at a quiet, studio rental in Rockport. It was quiet but the tourist traffic in town made getting around tedious and slow.

Each of these “VA-cations” required tons of planning, packing kitchen things and bedding; cars loaded with boxes of groceries, equipment and so on. Just to have what we liked at home in another place for a few days. Not to mention the sometimes expensive per-night rental fees. But it was worth it for the most part. Or so I thought until recently.

There are lots of food posts on this blog so it’s pretty obvious that I really love to cook for my husband and family. And I’m pretty adventurous too. Just today in the NYTimes food section, there’s a recipe for individual summer squash souffles that looks just terrific. I think I might make them to go along with some marinated lamb kabobs on the grill for a supper here with a piano colleague on Friday.

In the meantime, I’m heading out to the local liquor store this morning to fetch a bunch of empty boxes so that I can cull out more books to donate to the local library. And stop at the grocery store to replenish our supply of charcoal and stock up on Perrier water with plenty of ice and fresh lime. My daughter, C. gave me some tart cherry juice by Knudsen which was so refreshing (and good for reducing joint inflammation, e.g., gout, arthritis.) When the tart cherry concentrate I ordered arrives from Amazon, I think I’ll try mixing it with some sparkling water or soda with lots of ice (a special luxury!)

So, I’m well on my way to laying out a framework for the idea of a permanent “stay-cation” here at home. It’s much more convenient and enjoyable with everything we need right at hand. For example, the new grey and white foliate sheets I ordered that match my college-age granddaughter’s new duvet cover are laundered and hanging out on the clothesline.

So, what do you think? How about if we try out a “stay-cation” frame of mind, every day?


why i love wednesday and thursday mornings. . .

I read the New York Times seven days a week. My favorite days are Wednesdays because of the scrumptious food   described in the “Dining” section and Thursdays for thought-provoking expositions of lifestyle in the “Home” section. Once, there was a full page description of a woman who came across an exotic rooster in the woods on her land. She was an artist and began to raise these creatures with huge sprouting crowns of feathers on their heads. To protect them from hawks, she planted unusual grasses and plants whose appearance mimicked the cockerel headdresses. One shadowy photo of an interior room showed a huge medieval press cupboard, carving all over it, majestic turned turnip legs and bun feet. “Who lives like this?” I asked myself as I sipped my second and third cups of coffee, the sun streaming in the kitchen windows, my bare feet on the floor.

In the food section, there’s usually at least one recipe or a description of a dish in a restaurant that I will adapt for our supper, if not that same night, by the weekend when I’ve had a chance to find the ingredients. It might be a simple cheese souffle recipe by Mark Bittmann, the Minimalist Cook, a title I have always thought to be slightly ironic. Then, there are the rampant stories of chefs who cook outrageously, making their own rules as they go along. It’s also amusing to speculate about the competitive camaraderie among the food writers.

As I write this post, I see that what appeals to me most are the stories about mavericks, non-conforming, devil-be-damned expos that feature what seems to make people happy. The ones who don’t paint their walls and leave the plaster cracked, full of character to them, if not for everyone. Those cooks who have a hard time working for anyone else and who cook what pleases them most, not just the customers who flock to their restaurants.

These portraits and vignettes are my weekly bread. Especially on Wednesday and Thursday mornings.