While writing my food memoir, Tasting Home, I avoided reading anything analytical about women and food. (I had been a professor for most of my life and didn’t want to write an academic memoir.) Only after I finished the book, did I begin to read critical work on women’s culinary reflections. It was then I learned about “the new domesticity.”
Since my interest in writing about food lies mainly in the emotional work that cooking for, and dining with, others perform, I always begin a piece on food by asking what did this cooking or dining experience mean to me? Why did I think it important? Everything follows from that answer.
A guest post by my favorite flash fiction writer.
Mardith Louisell writes short stories with crazy neurotic narrators. Her fiction, essays, and memoirs can be found most recently in Hospital Drive, Solstice Literary Magazine (“Had They Learned about Jayne Mansfield?”), and Redwood Coast Review, and in the anthology Travelers’ Tales: Best Travel Writing 2012. Beside Myself, a book of flash fiction, is her current project. Follow her at http://mardithlouisell.com/ Continue reading
“Even siblings we don’t see, who live differently from us, who move in their own world, may be shoring up our lives, our sense of family, our feeling of being at home in the world without our knowing it.”
My younger brother died quite unexpectedly in March. He was my only sibling, the only other person left in my immediate family, both of our parents being gone. His daughter had asked my daughter to tell me the news. “Mom?” she said on the phone, and the sorrow in her voice stopped my breathing. Had something awful happened–to her? “Gary died.” The moment tore at both of us, I initially fearing for my daughter, then losing my brother, then breaking down in tears. She thinking, I am certain, what would happen to me if, you, my mother, were to die? Continue reading
A Lava Flow of a Pie
Mother liked to say that Dad married her for her pies. And they were some pies. I know because I grew up on them. The undulating edges of Mother’s crusts were never hard. They flaked on the fork and melted on the tongue. She used margarine and Crisco and a secret pinch of baking powder, an ingredient she never divulged when asked to share her recipe. Mother, indeed, never passed on any of her recipes without quietly altering them in some way. “I always change something,” she’d say, with a childish sense of scandal in her voice, “and then people wonder why their pies don’t taste as good as mine.” In the eyes of my father and in those of family and friends, Mother was the Queen of Pies and of the kitchen in general, a modest source of power that she was invested in maintaining. Continue reading
It is late afternoon on our last day in Santa Fe, and our reunion suppers with old friends have come to an end. We have packed, tidied our rented casita, and have made one last walk to the downtown plaza. It is 4:30, too late for lunch, too early for dinner, but we decide to eat anyway and stroll into the courtyard of La Casa Sena, an impressionist garden of greenery, of light and shade, and of white, yellow, and tan umbrellas. The restaurant had been jammed at lunch the day before, and we had refused to wait the estimated forty minutes for a table, but now, miraculously, the place is almost empty. Is it even serving food we wonder. Yes! We sit at a table off to the side, partly shielded by a bush as tall as a tree, and order mushroom tamales and chicken enchiladas.
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Tagged Agave Way, Casa Sena, Frida Kahlo, Frito Pie, Grilled Green Rice Salad, Martin's, Pink Adobe, Red Mesa Cuisine, Santa Fe, Santa Fe Cooking School, Santa Fe Opera, Secreto, Sol Fire, Spanish Market, The Palace
The best piece of writing advice I ever got came from Bird by Bird by Annie Lamott. It had to do with accepting the idea of “shitty first drafts.” The second best piece of advice came from a professor whose teaching assistant I had been in English graduate school in the 1960s. He had struck me, when we first met, as incredibly brash, an effect that he was deliberately seeking to achieve. He’d barge into the classroom, send the blinds crashing up or down, and lie on the desk with a cigar between his teeth. “I’m Smith,” he’d say to a wide-eyed class. He went on to become a rock star of literary criticism, publishing countless books, writing regularly for the New York Times, becoming an internationally famous intellectual. He even appeared as a character in a well known novel.
His advice? “Always recycle.” Continue reading
My husband Bill and I sat in the dining room of the Furnace Creek Inn. Arched windows, heavy wooden beams, and circles of metal chandelier-—the Inn felt like the set of a 1930s movie. From our window, we looked across the stone verandah and miles of desert gravel to the Panamint Mountains. It was near sunset, and, against the rose-flushed sky, the Panamints had taken on that deep, smoky, lilac that eases you gently into a Mojave evening. Continue reading
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Tagged Amargosa Hotel, Date Butter, Date Nut Bread Golden Canyon, death valley, death valley junction, Furnace Creek Inn, Herb Butter, Mojave, Panamint Mountains, Poblano Butter. Gravel Ghosts, T and T Cafe
Death Valley Sand Dunes
My mother’s love of glamour began in the Mojave, not as unlikely a place for romance as it might seem. She was twenty-six when her sister Marit and her brother-in-law Ralph invited her to leave her Norwegian North Dakota home and go live with them in Death Valley Junction—the fifty person settlement where they’d found work with the Borax Company during the Depression. Continue reading
Sour Milk Biscuits
My parents belonged to a generation that was on the move. Along with so many others in the 1920s and 1930s, they’d left midwestern prairie homes and migrated to California, where they grew used to unsettled territories and familial disconnections. This was especially true of Dad, whose family began life in Indiana, resettled in Oklahoma, then migrated in the early 1920s to California, where my grandfather ran a small grocery store and chicken ranch. There the world of the past evaporated like morning mist in the mild Pomona air. Continue reading