Food blogs are calling it spring. Recipes burst with leeks and new potatoes. The SNL monologue promoted March as the “spring of winter.” Meanwhile, here in Portland, where grey skies continue to thrive, it’s annual tulip torture time—up they spring, stalwart, hopeful and bright, only to be battered and shredded by hail the size of cherry pits. Oh crap, oh well! I offer you 3 favorite songs of spring to get the mood going: All the World is Green, They Say it’s Spring, Joy Spring. (I had such a hard time choosing, so here’s my spring playlist.)
Three books queued on my nightstand:
1. For story and relationships: The Days of Abandonment, by Elena Ferrante which begins with this amazing paragraph:
One April afternoon, right after lunch, my husband announced that he wanted to leave me. He did it while we were clearing the table; the children were quarreling as usual in the next room, the dog was dreaming, growling beside the radiator. He told me that he was confused, that he was having terrible moments of weariness, of dissatisfaction, perhaps of cowardice.
3. For personal growth, also to aid and enrich my writing/coaching clients: Mindset, The New Psychology of Success, by Carol Dweck
Oh, and of course I await with great anticipation Emma Straub’s new novel, All Adults Here. When I read her books I feel as if I’m reading the words of someone who works at her desk effervescent and delighted, and I get a little hit of that! More please!
Do you ever struggle to find, not necessarily joy as that seems a tall order, but invigoration in your writing practice? I know I do, and what I’m learning is that I’m so much happier when I disconnect the act of writing from the outcome. I feel full, and I mean full in the best sense, a fullness that actually feels light—buoyant heart and vibrant brain—alive to possibilities on the page. Standing up from a session of that kind of work I feel, dare I say, effervescent and delighted? Even if I don’t always bridge the gap between what I want to say and what I’ve actually said, I’ve nudged the needle and there’s joy in that, right? Step by step.
So, I give you a very open ended prompt from Stewart O’Nan. (If you haven’t read, Last Night at the Lobster, stop what you’re doing and run to the bookstore. You’re welcome!)
Characters (whether fictional or those who populate our memoirs) must care about someone, and/or have desires, in order that we care about them. If characters care/desire deeply, readers will follow them anywhere. Consider this from Kurt Vonnegut: “Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.” And “Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.” We all yearn, we all care. Consider this prompt to get you thinking about your work-in- progress, or to fire up something new. And remember, areas of conflict and connection create sources of friction and possibility for writers.
- 5 people closest to me (can be dead, can be animals)
- My similarities w/each person
- My differences w/each person
- The most proud moment w/each person
- Most disappointing moment w/each person
- Thing you cannot say to the person
- What you wish this person better understood about you
- What you wish you could forgive them for
- What you wish they could forgive you for
Hopefully these questions will help kick open a door of understanding into what your characters (human beings!) endure all the time.
Apparently there’s a perpetual battle on the internet regarding the sometimes brief, sometimes rambling, recipe headnotes on food blogs. Here’s quote from a terrifically funny NYer spoof on crazy long recipe preambles:
I sense that you’re trying to scroll down to find the recipe without reading this preamble I was kind enough to write for you. Yes, I dabble in creative writing and must insist that you enjoy this incredibly detailed tangential anecdote about the muffins before I tell you how to make them.
Duly noted! I’m just going to dive into this bit of delicious I’ve been making lately, originally from Bon Appetit.
Broccoli & Garlic Ricotta Toasts w/Hot Honey
1 baguette, sliced ½” thick on a diagonal (roughly 6 slices)
6 T olive oil
1 head of broccoli, stems peeled, stem and florets chopped into ½” pieces
1 head of garlic, cloves separated/skin ON
1 T honey
1 T white wine vinegar
½ t crushed red pepper flakes
1 ½ c fresh ricotta
Fresh ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange bread slices in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet lined w/parchment and drizzle with 2 Tbsp. oil. Toss on baking sheet to coat, then arrange again in a single layer. Place broccoli and garlic on another rimmed and lined baking sheet and drizzle with remaining 4 Tbsp. oil. Season generously with salt and toss to combine.
- Place broccoli on top rack and bread on bottom rack and roast until bread is golden brown and crisp, 10–12 minutes. Remove bread from oven and continue to roast broccoli and garlic, tossing once, until broccoli is browned and garlic is tender. Perhaps 15–20 minutes more Let cool slightly.
- Whisk honey, vinegar, and red pepper flakes in a small bowl.
- As soon as garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze cloves out of their skins and mash in another small bowl to form a paste. Add ricotta and mix well; season with salt and black pepper.
- Spread ricotta over toasts and top with roasted broccoli. Arrange on a platter and drizzle with honey mixture.
- Yum! And if you want a cocktail, may I recommend The Paperplane