boosting habits and flavors


Last month I read Sigrid Nunez’s novel, The Friend, about grief, friendship, the love (and broken heart) of a bed-hogging Great Dane, and so much more. The novel, both funny and mournful, was deeply satisfying. Nunez and her beautiful novel will deservedly be brought to the attention of many by her recent win of the National Book Award, and I too encourage you to snag a copy as this book is definitely in my top ten for 2018. Of particular delight are Nunez’s glib and precise jabs at the death-by-a-thousand-paper-cuts nature of writing. The unnamed narrator, who is a writer and a teacher, says, “If reading really does increase empathy, as we are constantly being told that it does, it appears that writing takes some away.”


Lots of writers I know express frustration around getting writing time in. We have daily goals (1000 words or 2 hours or ???) and, we fall short. (Cue the cycle of disparaging self-talk at which I excel!) So, I’ve been doing some reading about habits, and I’m all in for cleaning up mine. The Power of Habits, by Charles Duhigg, explores keystone habits and rewards. The idea is, change just one habit that will then (fingers crossed) change everything. My target habit: lingering in bed with coffee and the paper every morning, which is pleasant, but what if (hold on…) I went straight to my desk instead? Duhigg suggests creating a reward around the new habit. For example, open my writing project file first thing and then reward myself with the coffee at my desk. Along with the coffee reward comes the satisfaction of getting words on page, and the diminishment of negative self-talk. If I do this enough (some say it takes only two weeks to establish a habit) anticipating the rewards at the click on the file (the coffee, the satisfaction, the new kindness) reinforces the habit. I know this isn’t revolutionary, and I know, sadly, I’m reward dependent. But, maybe you are too? How do you get the work done?


Who goes to New York City and eats at the same restaurant twice? Apparently we do. With the ongoing knee replacement saga, my husband was interested in propping up his leg and feeling comfy. Hearth was just the ticket. Oh, man, dinner was fantastic (polenta, greens, rabbit, autumn squash), but even if you ordered only the chicories salad and garlic bread you would be delighted. Roasted mushrooms and Spatchcock chicken were also terrific and I plan on duplicating them at home with these fine recipes (thing onething two).  Finally, here’s a quick article from Marco Canora, the chef at Hearth, and Tammy Walker, a certified food coach (really? who knew?) listing five flavor boosters to  tastify our meals.