In a family of all girls, I was always the 'boy' in my mind – the protector, the masculine one. No one would ever have to worry about me.
As my family saw them, men were untrustworthy, weak, and selfish. Our mother taught us to get along without them, to get along without much of anything, and to live well and have fun anyway.
There are two kinds of ham: raw and cooked. Raw ham is cured with salt and/or smoke over time; cooked ham is boiled. Every culture that makes ham has its own unique and various methods.
Nostalgia is a powerful drug. Under its influence, ordinary songs take on dimensions and powers, like emotional superheroes.
I love the perspective afforded by having lived five decades, a degree of bemused and muted calm, a relief from the insistent demands of a turbulent ego and rampant ambition. I'd love to stay here forever. But something tells me that 50 is a sunny idyll, a temporary state of grace, a golden afternoon.
Ham is undoubtedly one of the most universally beloved of meats, at least in those parts of the world where it's not prohibited.
Now that I'm 50 and respectably settled in New England and markedly happier and more contented than I was in my youth, I modestly hope there's time to realize some of my youthful goals before I croak, but I'll take what I can get.
'American Music' is an inventive, passionate, pithy novel whose major theme is love itself and whose minor theme, music, is an emotional, meaningful counterpoint. Like Count Basie and His Orchestra, this book swings.
Although the pineapple had been widely disseminated for centuries among the native peoples of South and Central America, it didn't figure in European history until 1493.
I procrastinate all morning. That's when I get my office work done and answer e-mails and see what's on the Internet and do laundry.
My favorite way to cook a clam is in chowder. I was a New Yorker for 20 years, and I always loved tomato-based, celery-heavy Manhattan chowders.
Whenever possible, I use local, fresh ingredients, just because it tastes and feels better to eat an egg or a tomato or a hamburger that wasn't flown halfway around the world, that didn't travel on a truck and get stuck in traffic jams, that hasn't been sitting in a supermarket's refrigerator case for days.
It's really hard for me, every day, to confront my writing. It never gets easier over time.
I think my blog is fairly circumspect and elliptical. I've written personal essays, but they are short and to the point: in and out, and that's that.
I've always written about adultery because it raises the question of transgression and trouble.
I've cooked plenty of meals when I was sad, lonely, depressed, angry, bored, and/or under the weather. My primary aim in these circumstances is generally to cheer myself up, to fill my stomach with something warm so I can feel comforted and fed, usually just with a quick soup or an omelet.
Country ham is baked whole, usually with a glaze, sometimes studded with cloves, and served as the centerpiece of Christmas and Easter feasts.
I realized that I've had a really rocky relationship with food – it has not been a gauzy, beautiful summer of ripe melons and perfectly buttered toast.
My father's grandparents came from Norway and settled in the Scandinavian bastion of Minnesota. As a little girl in Tempe, Arizona, I daydreamed about picking cloudberries by a fjord in a fresh Nordic wind.
Living in New York City is one constant, ongoing literary pilgrimage. For 20 years, I lived among the ghosts of great writers and walked where they had walked.
Broccoli gets such a bad rap. This is perplexing to those of us who love that green, treelike, stalky vegetable.
I think there's a part of my brain where food, language, and memory all intersect, and it's really powerful. I think I'm not alone in this.
Across the Atlantic, in the scattered, far-flung, rural settlements of colonial America, hospitality had become a central concern, and hostesses, like peacocks displaying their iridescent plumage, tried to outdo one another with their creative food displays.
Loser lit antiheroes aren't well intentioned or earnest; they don't care whether you like them or not. They're self-mocking, ironic and inventive; they narrate their downfalls with manic wordplay, rampant metaphors, wisecracks, and escalating flights of spleen-fueled lyricism.
I grew up in an all-female family – two sisters and a mostly single mother – and we often bonded, in part, by disparaging men and feeling superior to them.
My first novel, 'In the Drink,' begun when I was 29 and floundering and published when I was 36 and married, was about a 29-year-old woman whose life was even more screwed up than my own had been.
Chan Marshall has one of the most haunting, wrenching voices of any current singer, male or female.
The New Nordic diet originated in 2004, when the visionary chefs Rene Redzepi and Claus Meyer called a symposium of regional chefs to address the public's increasing consumption of processed foods, additives, highly refined grains, and mass-produced poultry and meat.
Famously cancer fighting, laden with vitamins, minerals, soluble fiber, and phytonutrients, broccoli and its relatives are among the healthiest ingredients of the human diet.
Reminded of what a diet really is, I began eating more slowly, being more conscious of when I was full. I started to enjoy my buckwheat bread with goat cheese and pureed butternut-squash soup as a response to real hunger.
Iggy Pop has a voice that's somehow simultaneously self-mocking, wild, precise, amused, righteous, cool, contained and bold. I don't know how he does what he does.
In 1990, when I had just arrived in New York City as a wet-behind-the-ears 20-something girl from Arizona, I spent a year or more working as the personal secretary and secret ghostwriter to an American-born countess in her apartment on the Upper East Side.
Food is not a means toward resolution. It can't cure heartbreak or solve untenable dilemmas.
In the case of the cashew, someone, somewhere, a long time ago determined that it had to be roasted. The cashew was once nicknamed the blister nut, because if you try to eat it raw from the tree, your mouth pays the price. The cashew is not a nut, however; it's a seed.
I never see myself as writing satire. I think I write about people as they really are, without making them better or worse.
It makes you vulnerable to win an award. It's nice to get the attention, but your neck is stuck out.
The male muse is an unaccountably rare thing in art. Where does that leave female artists looking for inspiration?
I regretted the solitary nature of the writer's life – other people, normal working people, spent their days with co-workers, rode the subway home with a crowd, walked through thronged streets. I worked at home, all by myself.
David Levi is a teacher as well as a chef, and, like most teachers, he loves to talk.
If there's a rift in the marriage – if someone feels neglected, frustrated, tempted by others, or unsure – then trouble can easily arise.
I wanted to write a food book, but I'm not a chef or an expert on culinary matters, to put it mildly.
On Halloween, kids get to assume, for one night the outward forms of their innermost dread, and they're also allowed to take candy from strangers – the scariest thing of all.
When I was younger, I read all the great food memoirs, by M.F.K. Fisher and Laurie Colwin and Julia Child and Nicolas Freeling and Ruth Reichl, and felt flooded with a sense of comfort and safety.
I've always had rock star envy. Unfortunately, writing is a pedestrian, tame occupation done while sitting in coffee-stained pajamas in front of a computer rather than prowling around a huge stage in sweaty leather pants, so I have to get my kicks vicariously.
The phrase 'blue plate special' has always been one of the homiest, coziest, most sweetly nostalgic phrases in the English language for me.
Broccoli, when overboiled, produces a sulfuric stench that causes children to gag the instant they enter the house.
Reading a Lydia Davis story collection is like reaching into what you think is a bag of potato chips and pulling out something else entirely: a gherkin, a pepper corn, a truffle, a piece of beef jerky.
Littlenecks and cherrystones are chewy and sweet on the half shell with mignonette, served raw. But a well-cooked clam is a toothsome, tender thing, full of that magical stuff known as clam liquor.
After my experiences with the 5:2 diet, I wasn't interested in a short-term fix that would fail later. I wanted a way of eating that made me lose weight without feeling deprived.
'Blue Plate Special' is the autobiography of my first half-century of life, with food as the subject.
My youngest sister belonged to a group called the Twelve Tribes for many years. She recently left, with her husband and four children. Talking to her about her experiences in the group is fascinating, moving, and enlightening.
Each pineapple plant produces only one fruit per year. It can take up to two years for the pineapple to ripen, and it's important to wait, because once it's picked, it can't ripen any further. The unripe pineapple is not only horrible tasting but poisonous.
Often I choose characters who express not my best self, but the sides of me I haven't developed or haven't expressed.
Of course, eating broccoli raw, nutritionally and aesthetically speaking, is no doubt the best way of all. Raw broccoli makes a delectable salad when sliced into thin strips on a mandolin, marinated in lemon-mustard vinaigrette, then tossed with toasted pecans or hazelnuts, halved cherry tomatoes, and fresh minced basil.
Even after he was gone, I still loved my father. I looked Norwegian, like him, with a long face, strong jaw, thin mouth, and flashing eyes. And, like him, I was verbal, easygoing, and low-key on the surface, and, deep down, proud, socially paranoid, full of self-loathing, and prone to rage at injustice.
After a day of writing, I love nothing more than to go into my kitchen and start chopping onions and garlic on the way to cooking an improvised meal with whatever ingredients are on hand. Cooking is the perfect counterpoint to writing. I find it more relaxing than anything else, even naps, walks, or hot baths.
It's hard for me to generalize about kids and divorce. I think every family's experience is different; some kids are devastated by it, others relieved, and so forth, no matter what generation they're from.
I remember the moment I first became aware of aging. I was 30. I looked down at my knees, and the skin above them had become a little loose. And I thought, 'And so it begins!'
A relative of poison ivy and poison sumac, the cashew contains the same rash-inducing chemicals, known as urushiols, as its kin.
I never liked dolls or played house. I read and wrote, climbed trees, collected rocks, rode my bike, and befriended boys, platonically.
There's almost nothing you can't do with a cashew. Not only does it lend its nutty sweetness to savory dishes, it also gives desserts a deep richness.
Most of all, I love unfussy, unpretentious, simple food made with excellent ingredients. If I'm a snob, it's about quality, not cuisine.
My 50th birthday approaching felt like a big milestone to me. I've lived half a century. If I write about food and use my life as a fulcrum to move the story along, maybe I've lived long enough to fashion a narrative that has a happy ending.
With my friends in Brooklyn, many of them started out as artists. I saw many of these friends move into late middle age, still struggling without health insurance or a cushion. I saw people who had given up being artists. Being an artist necessitates a compromise or living on the edge.
If I fell into one relationship after another with men who were either emotionally tuned out and unavailable or hotheaded and controlling, or both, it was because I was lacking in good sense about men.
I wrote my first novel in eighth grade for a boy named Kenny on whom I had an unrequited crush and who sat behind me in social studies.
I have observed, through many years of living in north Brooklyn, that people, for example an ostensible group of friends, can be dangerous to one another.
It's interesting to try to imagine how early humans discovered what was edible and what wasn't. Who figured out that when you cooked stinging nettles, the sting would go away completely? How many people had to die before the relative toxicity of wild mushrooms became widely known?
Even more than dying itself, I'm scared of the horror-movie changes that happen to the human body as it ages. I think of it as a sort of haunted-house effect, living inside a crumbling, creaking structure that is full of ghosts and will, some day, fall down.
For writers and artists, it's always a balancing act between wanting to be the center of attention and wanting to be invisible and watch what's going on.
It gives me immense pleasure to be trustworthy, faithful, and true – to have the kind of romantic bond that inspires this.
I started reading G. K. Chesterton's 'The Man Who Was Thursday' on a subway ride, almost missed my stop, and walked home thumbing pages.
If you've got cockles, those nickel-size, heart-shaped mollusks, and you want to get fancy, steam them, then toss the meat in finely ground cornmeal.
At first blush, it seems odd that loser lit books are rejected initially, then go on to be fiercely loved by legions of readers. This apparent contradiction might be due to the fact that if they didn't screw up their lives, most losers would be the kind of power-elite, Type A go-getters whom readers love to hate.
Therapists have tremendous power over their vulnerable clients, and it is very easy to take advantage of this power.
In the winter of 2012, as my fiftieth birthday approached, I began to write what turned into my autobiography, a look at my own life through the lens of food.
I left New York in 2009 when I fell in love with someone who had a farmhouse in New Hampshire… Portland, Maine, felt like the inevitable place for us.
Eating by myself in my own apartment, single and alone again for the first time in many years, I should have felt, but did not feel, sad. Because I had taken the trouble to make myself a real dinner, I felt nurtured and cared for, if only by myself. Eating alone was freeing, too; I didn't have to make conversation.
I don't feel that I've had a life of abuse or that I am a victim in any way. My life is pretty typical of a lot of Americans of my generation who grew up in the sixties in families like mine that were sort of unconventional.
There's a certain time of day after sunset when people naturally seem to feel the urge to gather by a fire or a stove or a hibachi or another common source of heat and food, and hunker down together to eat and drink. Call it the blue hour.
My blog is a celebration of the unexpected, settled, happy life I find myself living in Portland, Maine, at the ripe old age of fifty with someone I deeply love and am very happy with. That's part of why I started the blog.