Thomas’ zesty flavored oyster crackers

Thomas’ zesty flavored oyster crackers

Today I am thrilled to share a blog post from my nine and a half-year old nephew, Thomas. Even though we don’t live nearby, Thomas has spent quite a few vacations with us in Santa Cruz, from a fussy babyhood through a giggling Spongebob Squarepants-dom to the Renaissance child he has grown to be. Thomas loves to read, plays the piano, is working toward black belt, and can sing a mean Lady Gaga cover. Recently he’s started a computer recycling business too, so watch out world! He’s been learning to cook and is here to share a recipe with us. Enjoy! Hi, I’m Thomas, Maggie’s favorite nephew. [Ed. note: nice try, Thomas, but I think your brother and cousins would like to be favorites, too!] I’ve been taking cooking classes. I have delicious recipes for you. Now, oyster crackers may not seem appetizing but they are. I got this recipe from my grandma. If you want to make it make sure to read the recipe because it is not just a oyster on a cracker.   Ingredients: ¾ c. salad oil (olive oil) 1 envelope (1.0 oz.)  Hidden valley ranch original ½ t. dill weed ¼ t. lemon pepper ¼ t. garlic powder 12 – 16 oz. plain oyster crackers Instructions: Whisk together first five ingredients. Mix with crackers. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 275 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes. The first time I made these my grandma told me to mix the lemon pepper and the garlic power in a separate bowl because the garlic power clumps together. Plus, once you put the garlic powder in the...
First fish

First fish

A quick stop at Day’s Market for a bag of ice was the daily de rigueur in the sailboat days of our early marriage. No refrigerator on the Ericson 30 we called home, just a deep insulated box under the speck of formica counter that needed constant replenishment to keep our chardonnay chilled and sundries shivery. It had been a long time since I’d even glanced at that sign – a grow-the-baby-to-the-cusp-of-his-twenties length of time, and stopping there again that Saturday morning for a bag of ice made those memories misty and my nostalgia shivery. It wasn’t the time or place to reminisce, though; I had a date with a salmon. This email, from Fisherman Frank of the Gayle R, came late one Friday, 4 or 5 days after the opening of commercial salmon season: Dear Salmon Fans, Plenty of fish, but the early bird always gets the worm!  (No earlier than 10 o’clock though, please). The cost is $10/lb for the whole fish.  Frank will filet and/or steak the fish for you.  Please remember to bring an ice chest. Cash is preferred, but local checks are OK.  If you don’t think you want a whole fish (average is 11-12 lbs), find a friend to split one with you.  Can’t beat the price!! Thanks ~ see you at E-dock! I was a newbie on his list, the one he sends when he’s on his way back to the harbor with a fresh load of live Dungeness crab, so didn’t realize his repertoire included salmon. Who could resist the lure of the freshest, local-est, line caught fish around? Not me. I was there by 10am after a stop at the bank, the...
Music, memory, and crepes in Santa Cruz

Music, memory, and crepes in Santa Cruz

Back when Kid Two was a tot, I had a gig for several months writing for the food section of our local newspaper. They gave me $50.00 and free rein to eat somewhere and make a  story of it. The editor knew more what he didn’t want – no reviews or recipes, for example – than what he was looking for. This was a fine thing for me, as I had both permission and freedom to experiment with food writing. I took my friend Bridget on the gig I’m sharing with you below, a friend from my midwestern high school whom I followed out here to the Golden State. We went to The Crepe Place, a Santa Cruz institution that serves mostly only enormous, filling crepes in appetizer, entree, and dessert form. The years flew by, and Bridget and I recently ate there again – for only the second time together. The occasion was a quick dinner before a Kasey Chambers show. (Readers, you probably do not live in Santa Cruz and may not have a reason to make crepes, but PLEASE check out Kasey’s music. She’s an Australian country singer-songwriter, a phenomenal talent and an engaging performer.) At the time, I don’t think either one of us remembered eating there together for that writing gig. But we did remember they also serve lovely small loaves of homemade bread with their salads:   Here’s the story, as it appeared in the Santa Cruz Sentinel – when? 2004? I’ll have to find my hard copy, as it was definitely before they had a digital edition. It’s funny to read this now – our situations...
Homegrown tomatoes

Homegrown tomatoes

Only two things that money can’t buy That’s true love and home grown tomatoes LL and I used to listen to Guy Clark’s song “Homegrown Tomatoes” from the 30-foot sailboat that was our first home, the first years of our true love but before we had a place to try our hand at homegrown tomatoes. It was the pre-iPod, pre-internet, pre-child era, when Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle, and Lucinda Williams serenaded us weekend mornings from a mini-CD player perched on a teak shelf and we watched blue herons dive for sardines next to our dock in the twilight. We eventually landed in a little corner house in our coastal beach town where it took almost a decade to plant our first tomato bed. We learned that summer’s fog does keeps mornings lovely and cool but makes it difficult to successfully grow lush crops of most varieties of love apples. I’ve learned to use fresh soil each season, to prune the plants as they grow, to stop watering as soon as fruit develops for best flavor, and to not worry when the leaves turn yellow and the plant appears to die off early – it’s just the life cycle. We still don’t have a dependable variety or two we plant each year, though. We tried the San Francisco Fog variety to great success, but that cultivar has disappeared from the nursery starts lately. Last summer, we had large, round, Oregon Springs, a variety recommended by an CSA stand intern at our Saturday Farmer’s Market because “how hot and sunny can Oregon’s springs be?” It was a good choice, though; they were...
BlogHer Food ’12 notes and thoughts

BlogHer Food ’12 notes and thoughts

I’ve been sorting through my notes and photographs from this summer’s BlogHer ’12 in Seattle and am newly inspired by the entire experience. Food bloggers, I was surprised to learn, are kind and generous with their knowledge. Here are some of the highlights, both personal and professional, with links to many people I met so you can go discover yourself how wonderful they are: That gorgeous, inspiring, tear-jerker of an opening keynote from Todd Porter & Diani Cu of Whiteonricecouple.com on voice and story. They underscored the idea that we each have a unique story; believe in it. Someone will listen. A tremendously informative traffic building session, where Jeanette Chen, Kalyn Denny, Neysa King, and Stephanie Stiavetti gave us a social networking reality check and well as tips and tricks on using Pinterest and bit.ly, establishing a Facebook strategy, and tweeting effectively. Professional photography and video tips from pros Alice Currah, Aran Goyoaga, Michael Natkin, Catherine McCord, and Michael Ervin. A behind-the-scenes glimpse at turning blogging into freelance writing gigs from Jess Thomson, Lara Ferroni, Melissa Lanz, and Tara Austin Weaver. The suprememely galvanizing and amazingly impressive eco-chef and activist Bryant Terry, answering questions about how great food, good health, and social justice all intersect. A very sweet Recipe Boy taking it all in and asking questions, representing a new generation of bloggers. Chef Peter Berley, who told me how to transform my rampant garden nasturtiums into spicy compound butter. The delicious tropical smoothies from 8th Continent Soymilk. New friends, especially cookbook editor Diane Sepanski. Old friends, too; unbelievably I sat down at lunch the first day and ran into Kelly O’Malley, a co-worker...
Sunday Supper, a poem

Sunday Supper, a poem

This poem is much like my children in that I’m occasionally astonished such a thing came out of me. I scribbled this down – an intact stream of images – while at the hairdresser’s, sitting under a fan of hot lamps, individual chunks of hair wrapped in foil. I remember I was giggling at the time. Perhaps I should try and write more under the influence of aluminum. Enjoy your Sunday Supper.

In a pickle

In a pickle

Most recently, my universe wanted pickled red onions.

It started one afternoon when Kid Two and his Buddy sat here after school and ate an entire jar of baby dill pickles and a one of cornichons for their snack.

A tale of two sausages

It wasn’t unusual that LL and I were each reading last weekend. It was unusual, though, that at the exact same moment each of us reached a page in our respective books that contained a recipe. Recipes written by people famous for something other than cooking. Plus, neither book was a cookbook. And each recipe involved sausage. My book was As Always, Julia, a book I’ve been savoring in small bites for several weeks now, completely impressed with how incredibly smart, thoughtful, busy, and passionate these two women were. And they knew everyone! One of my favorite bits is this excerpt from a letter Avis deVoto wrote to Julia Child about making her special spaghetti sauce, a recipe given to her by the poet John Ciardi – how cool is that? It was a blast from the past; I loved the word histories he did for NPR that I listened to back in my college-public-radio-reporting days. Here’s the recipe, which Avis wrote takes about five hours to make: 5 large onions sliced and softened in nearly a cup of olive oil, then two cans tomato paste, two cans tomato sauce, quart can solid pack tomatoes – garlic salt, bay leaf, caraway, basil, Italian parsley. Then eighteen Italian sausages fried gently and simmered in the sauce for couple hours. These are the fresh sausages made of pork butt and Marsala and garlic, fat and marbled pink and white – nothing like ordinary pork sausages and they don’t cook apart, they’re quite firm and rich and garlicky. The onions cook away to nothing and the sauce is intensely tomatoey. Then imported pasta cooked at the...
Looking forward, looking back

Looking forward, looking back

I’m a spotty diarist at best. Last year about this time, just before I started Life In A Skillet, I sorted out all my various diaries and journals piled up in the closet, starting by tossing every single notebook containing just a single entry on January 1st with a resolution to lose weight into the trash. (Oops – I meant in the recycle). I kept the few random streams of teenage hormonal angst – some angst stretching into my 20’s – as well as every travelogue, including a surprisingly detailed yet detached account of a trip I made to San Antonio about 25 years ago. (An excerpt: “sat in a wine bar discussing the cult of intellectuals and where to find them.”) Seems I “journaled” only during my highs or lows; any account of normal day-to-day living is conspicuously absent. Stuck in my mind somewhere was the idea that writing an account of the day would be either self-important or boring, or most likely embarrassing. That idea changed over the last twelve months; maybe the 21st-century reality craze finally caught up with me. I have a Moleskine reporter’s notebook, last year’s birthday gift from a friend, that is almost completely filled now with notes and doodles from my days. There’s a history of my kitchen. Haikus the family wrote while out to dinner, a future blog post as they are too good not to share. Notes on books I read, meals I ate, and a transcript of a conversation I had with a Las Vegas cab driver. A list of words that rhyme with “riparian.” Musings over the idea of magical...
A Big Sur Thanksgiving, 1939

A Big Sur Thanksgiving, 1939

Knowing how to brine a perfect turkey is not as important as the ability to remember what, exactly, to give thanks for. Here is novelist Lillian Bos Ross’ description of her 1939 Big Sur Thanksgiving meal. Lillian Bos is one of my heroes; read on to find out more about her.

Photographs and memories and potato salad

Photographs and memories and potato salad

Awkwardly slow-dancing to “Nights in White Satin,” bar hopping on Bourbon Street, and really, really, irresponsible adult chaperones. Food often evokes memories, of course. But in this case the memories were so elusive, and the food item so rarely cooked, the recollection took months to surface. It’s all the power of potato salad.

What does it mean to cook well?

What does it mean to cook well?

Anthony Bourdain asked the question. I read his book Medium Raw over the summer and got the impression he actually was really curious to know. There are an endless number of answers – love, fun, pride, posterity. As these things go, he and his publisher are holding a contest to see who comes up with the “best” answer. I read through many of the entries and was so interested to hear how cooking is so close to people’s hearts: Cooking to live better. Cooking as a metaphor for life. Cooking to carry on tradition and as a means of bringing people together. And also as these things go, I went ahead and came up with my own answer. It’s a tougher exercise than you might think, so it took me a while to come up with something that rang true. So here’s a link to my essay, the best answer I could come up with right now: Improvising the Way to Immortality....