Thursday, August 16, 2018

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Forage Harvest Feast

Today is the official release date of Forage, Harvest, Feast, which looks right at home on the foraging table with mugwort and wild black cherries. And a bonus of chanterelles. Torrential summer rains have made mushrooms explode all over the city and our happy hunting grounds.

The book is now available for purchase (not just pre-order) on Amazon.  Today it rose to the top of the ranks - No. 1 in the...? Vegetable section! I thought that was very funny. But I do include cultivation tips for most of the plants, so. And it's No. 19 right now in Professional Cooking. These numbers change very fast but they are fun.

Thank you very much if your copy is already winging its way to you, in North America or in Europe. Copies are traveling by sea to continents further from its US printing base.

If you like what you see and read, please tell Amazon, in a review. It would be very helpful to me, the book, future readers, and not least to my wonderful publishers, Chelsea Green Publishing.

Monday, August 13, 2018

How it really is

Somebody who knows a bit about our lives said recently on Instagram: You are so calm.

But real life is not for Instagram. On Instagram life is perfect.

It has been wet. Very wet. And if we sit outside in the evenings we are well sprayed against the striped invasive mosquitoes. August is their voracious peak. The garden is lush and wild. Katydids, cicadas, and the first crickets accompany dinner.

Inbetween time-consuming apartment hunting (we have not found the right one yet, and yes, I am nervous), book-related event-planning (book party on August 21st), and plain old work, I pot up in-ground plants for this plant adoption party I have dreamed up.

But don't ask me when that will be.

In fact, don't ask me anything. I wake every morning with dread in the pit of my stomach. News from home is bad, my brothers are on the warpath, Vince and I have no idea where we are going to live. I am not a self pitying person, but 2018 seems to have birthed a wave of the worst of human behaviour, in terms of our personal lives. Malice, resentment, an absolute lack of ethical integrity. A black depression grips my heels and pulls me back. I say it out loud because I now feel it's better to say it than pretend it is not happening. There are days when I am felled.

In many ways, we lead privileged lives. As my father would say. This year far worse things have happened to friends. Cancer diagnoses. Death by home invasion. Death too young. Real suffering.

And for me there are points of light. The Frenchman, who is an incredible human being, with a backbone of solid integrity. Perhaps that is all that matters. There is my new book. I like it. I know that must sound strange, but you never know. There is my publishing team at Chelsea Green - very good, supportive people. There are the early, generous reviews, written by authors and editors who have very busy and successful lives, but who took the time to be kind. Time is the one thing none of us have, anymore. There is our wonderful little car, who (of course we have anthropomorphised her) has given us wings. There is Vince's wing - after years on the ground, he is taking to the paragliding skies, once more. There is humor. We can be very silly, and we laugh.

There are books, as essential to me as air. I have been reading my way through Michael Ondaatje's work, sequentially, beginning about three weeks before his Golden Man Booker Prize was announced for The English Patient, a book I have read several times. I began backwards with his new Warlight, and then started at the beginning. On a back page in each book I track in pencil his patterns. Dogs (almost always funny dogs), bird song, war, tunnels and holes and caves, the female voice, the creation of a person's character. Books have removed me from or returned me to myself at every stage of my life, and in times of crisis they are a lifeline. Half an hour before bed, I read, and mute the demons who threaten sleep, and who have stolen peace of mind.

There are friends, to whom I do not reach out - or give - often enough. They are all better and smarter than I am.

Which reminds me of my father's neurologist, a few years ago. I went to see him with my mom. He said rhetorically, with a smirk, "Your father likes to be the smartest person in the room, doesn't he?" Any respect I was prepared to have for this man, this brain doctor, dried up on the spot. One, that he would find it necessary to say this. It revealed far more about him than it did about my father. Two, that he was wrong. And so bad at reading a personality. This neurologist. Who never had the guts to say to my father's face: You have dementia. Because even then, my father was an intimidating man. So my father, who scorned computers and consequently Google, had no time - no reason - to plan for catastrophe. And now the sharks are circling. He had rejected a first, honest, diagnosis from another neurologist, and Dr. Second Opinion lacked the cojones to tell him the unambiguous truth. "To spare him the shock," he said. Sure. Wuss. Same guy laughed out loud when I asked him if he could recommend any local support groups for my mom. He thought that was very funny.

My father hated being the smartest person in the room. Because it was boring. He spoke with such admiration - almost a sense of wonder - of the marvelous brains of a handful of good friends. He loved a good brain. And he liked to listen.

So home - here and abroad - feels lost to me. My sense of identity is in crisis. And the toxic guy who lives upstairs, does not work, and sleeps till 3pm to smoke weed, is pounding music as I type. (Upside: Maybe when we move we can retire the noise canceling headphones and three (yep) white and pink - yes, it's a thing - noise machines.)

And none of this belongs on a blog. But if I do not wave, I might drown.

We will return to regular programming. Sometime.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018


The shaded corners of our garden have taught me a lot. The pots here see some sun in the early mornings in summer, for a couple of hours, and then they fall into the high green shade of the tall townhouse. They are home to a mix of native, exotic, and edible plants. The surprises have been the edibles.

Persicaria odorata - above - is known as Vietnamese coriander, and it is closely related to lady's thumb, a tenacious invasive plant. Its flavor is very strong, with the funk and fragrance of cilantro, as well as American burnweed (a plant almost no one knows - I have a chapter about it in Forage, Harvest, Feast). You like it or hate it. I like it with soups that sing hot and sour, on spicy lettuce wraps where fish sauce and lime juice are strong, or in quick-pickled vegetable salads. A local Thai restaurant, Pok Pok, drapes a stem over their sweet pickled vegetables, which accompany their famous and crisp wings. We sometimes order them as take out when it is too hot, or when I am too pooped to cook.

Here is one of my curry leaf trees: this one has pushed out about 14 inches of new growth since June (I brought them outdoors in May). They overwinter indoors in a bright room (and look quite unhappy, at least to me - they relish humidity). In front of the curry leaf is a pot of the myoga ginger I planted this year. The buds are considered a delicacy, but the leaves are very aromatic, too. The myoga is allegedly hardy. I will decide whether to bring it in later this year.

And... our katydid, on the leaves of Rodgersia. The late, lamented Don Estorbo de la Bodega Dominicana (eeeeep) thought they were delicious. The second he heard their distinctive "chk!" in summer on the Cobble Hill terrace he shot off in pursuit and was soon chewing happily. I need him here, because they are apparently very fond of citrus leaves and fruit. I just googled that. Hm... Katydid? Or Thai limes. Katydid?

He better pack his little green bags.

If you're in town towards the end of the month, Forage, Harvest, Feast is having a little party and book signing. There will be wild cocktails and a couple of snacks from the book. I'll post details, soon. Do send me your email address if you would like to receive an invitation.