Holy Crap! I deeply embarrassed myself the other day. We had newish friends over for dinner, and Joel and I spent time performing our anti-racism… do you know what I mean? The important books we’ve read, conversations we’ve had, friends we’ve left behind because our differing views on racism, capitalism, the virus, and the election are just too far to bridge, all the learning and unlearning. On we jabbered, until I looked at our guest and said, “Oh my god, it must be exhausting for you to have to watch/listen to us try so hard.” And, much to her benefit, to her grace, our new friend said, “I’m just wondering when you all are going to internalize this.” And, of course she’s right. Still trying to get it right, not to be right, to move on to a better future for all of us.
Meanwhile, some things I’ve loved:
I’m writing to you from Suttle Lake. Here for a few days to swim (can’t because the lake has a bird parasite that makes your skin rash up), hike along the Metolius river (can’t because there is a forest fire), and read (okay, can!).
The Margot Affair: A Novel, by Sanaë Lemoine was a sweet discovery I made from The Smitten Kitchen newsletter which rhapsodized about the glorious food writing in the book. I’m always down for that. The Margot Affair is about the secret second family of a French politician and the teenage daughter who decides to out herself. So far, halfway through, there’s beautiful writing, a character I care about, Parisian settings (which make me weep with the desire to travel), and wonderful descriptions of food. Check this:
The salt cured cod was layered with creamy mashed potatoes and presented in a small cocotte. The mussels bathed in a white wine and garlic sauce that we both finished with our spoons. My lips were sore from the salt. Father ordered a bottle of white wine and served me a glass. I’d had alcohol before, but never with an adult. Even before taking a sip, I felt drunk from the meal. For dessert, the chef brought our crêpes Suzette, a dessert Father always ordered at restaurants, and lit the crêpes on fire. Father lifted them with the rounded back of his spoon, allowing the liquor to slide onto the plate and under the crepe. I could smell the burnt sugar and oranges. Look at those edges, he said, prodding with his spoon. It reminds me of lace.
I don’t know about you, but Lemoine had me at cocotte!
Another bonus, once I held the book in my hand I saw that a writer I admire, the wonderful Victor LaValle, who taught at my grad school and who is quite possibly one of the nicest people I met at grad school, blurbed the book. If you don’t know LaValle’s work, check The Changeling. It’s a speculative love story, with a vanishing wife, secrets, a scary baby, and magic! Maybe just the escape you need right now.
My hometown is burning. The redwoods in Santa Cruz county are engulfed, tens of thousands of my fellow Santa Cruzans have been evacuated to shelters and doubled up with friends. One beloved friend wrote about making a last ditch return to her home to collect a blanket her deceased mother had made for her years ago. It’s painful to be so far away and to feel helpless.
Prompt: Write a letter from a burning building. You won’t be able to escape. This is the last thing you’ll ever write. Dear ____________, I have something to tell you:
Another prompt, this from the poet, Marie Howe, under the theme, It Hurts to be Present:
Write ten observations of the world around you—just ten concrete details, no metaphor, no abstraction—this may prove to be incredibly challenging at first. Howe says, “To resist metaphor is very difficult—because you have to actually endure the thing itself.”
Three upcoming opportunities to write with me this fall:
Memoir Infusion: This class is meant to get you moving, excited and deeply engaged with your memoir project. Whether you’ve almost got a full draft, are just beginning, or somewhere in between, together we’re going to make progress. Through reading memoir samples, craft talks and readings, plus specific writing exercises, we’ll examine what makes a reader engage with your story. We will look at ways to organize and shape life-chaos into art.
From Life to Fiction: When we set out to write a story often we have no idea where to begin. In this class we’ll look at the wealth of possibility in our lives, our family life, our work life, or perhaps with a story from a loved one’s life that seems perfect fodder for fiction. We’ll use life as the starter for stories to which we apply our imagination, the skills in our writers’ toolbox, and the joy that comes from being in charge of how the story ends.
Finding Your Flow: Carving time and space to be attentive to our creative practice can be daunting at anytime, during a pandemic, when we’re struggling to juggle all our roles (partner, parent, teacher, professional, creative) it’s even more difficult. Not only do we have to make the time, which often means taking time away from our responsibilities, but then, once at our desk we must release the tight grip of the critical mind that stands in our way. Let’s come together to write, read, talk and laugh about our human experience and how we can get out of the way to get words on the page.
Because my husband craves chicken multiple times a week, and because what he does with the bones is practically obscene, I’m always in love with a good, bone-free chicken recipe. Enter a new fav from NYTs cooking which has the value add of using up abundant zucchini from the CSA box!
Chicken Zucchini Meatballs w/Feta
- 3 large zucchini (about 1 1/2 pounds)
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 large shallot, halved
- ½ cup panko
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
- 1 pound ground chicken dark meat
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, basil, parsley or dill, plus more for serving
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing and drizzling
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice (from 1 large lemon)
- 4 ounces feta
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Slice 2 zucchini into 1/2-inch-thick pieces. Season with salt, and set aside.
2. Working over a large bowl, using the large holes of a box grater, grate the remaining zucchini. Grate half a shallot into the bowl as well. Add the panko, cumin, 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes and 1/2 teaspoon salt, use your hands to mix until combined. Add the chicken and herbs and mix until fully combined.
3. Lightly grease a baking sheet, or line with parchment. Wet your hands and form the chicken mixture into meatballs (around 2 to 3 tablespoons each). Place them on one side of the baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and roast for 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, pat the sliced zucchini dry, lightly coat with about 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season with pepper.
5. Coarsely chop the remaining half shallot and transfer to a small bowl. Add the lemon juice, season with salt, and stir to combine.
6. Add the sliced zucchini to the other half of the baking sheet, shifting the meatballs to make room (same as you push your partner over to make room in bed!). Bake until meatballs are cooked through and the zucchini is golden on the bottom, another 15 to 20 minutes. To brown the meatballs and make them pretty, broil for a few minutes.
7. Meanwhile, crumble the feta into the shallot mixture. Add the 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes. Stir, smoosh up the feta, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
8. Eat the meatballs and zucchini with a drizzle of the feta sauce and more fresh herbs. If you have pita bread, consider yourself very lucky!!