Late January Notes

In The Kitchen

Last week our kitchen was filled with nourishing meals like a garden kale, sweet potato and chickpea skillet, one pan caramelized Brussels sprouts with bacon and onion, and a quinoa salad with roasted butternut squash, chickpeas, parsley and currants.

As the weekend approached, our meals became whatever we could throw together — some buttered noodles, a Spanish omelette (Tortilla EspaΓ±ola), a pot of lentil soup. I became increasingly lazy and somewhat bitter behind the stove, resulting in one particularly sub-par dinner of chicken and green beans (the leftovers, though, turned out pretty tasty two days later).

Behind A Book

I finished the second book in the Outlander series — A Dragonfly in Amber. I had been reading the book for several months, so to be finished with it felt like an endeavor that left me somewhat drained. For those unfamiliar with Outlander, the books span genres (historical fiction, science fiction, romance, adventure/fantasy) and tell the story of a woman named Claire who, in the 1940s, unwittingly travels back in time to 18th century Scotland and all that happens thereafter. In the first book in the series, Claire meets and marries a Highlander and outlaw named James Fraser. A Dragonfly in Amber centers upon Claire and Jamie’s covert plans to stop the Jacobite Rebellion so as to prevent The Battle of Culloden from taking place (a battle that resulted in thousands of deaths and marked the end of Scottish tribal life). It is so easy to escape into Diana Gabaldon’s writing. Her characters are memorable, her world-building is spot on, and the stories are equally parts thought provoking and exciting. I have a soft spot for Jamie and Claire’s relationship, because those of you who know us know that when Will and I were first dating, he would always wear a kilt to show off his Celtic pride. I’ll keep you updated as I begin Voyager, the next book in the series (there are 9 total).

Current Inspiration

I’m still on an Alice Waters / Chez Panisse kick. Between Outlander books, I’m working on reading Alice Waters and Chez Panisse: The Romantic, Impractical, Often Eccentric, Ultimately Brilliant Making of a Food Revolution. I love Alice Waters’ approach to food: fresh, seasonal, and sustainable. A few weeks ago, I took out a couple of children’s books for Piper about Alice Waters, too. They are titled Fanny at Chez Panisse and Alice Waters and the Trip to Delicious. From everything we have read, we have learned that a good meal can be very simple and made from just a few ingredients. If those ingredients are fresh and you know how to work with them, then your meal will really shine. The most interesting tidbit I read about in the first book I mentioned was that when she was first starting out, Alice was friends with a lot of artists and musicians. One composer friend appreciated how Alice would look at food in the same way that a composer would look at music — that is, she would try to find underlying connections between her dishes to come up with a menu where all of the dishes complemented one another. At Chez Panisse, the menu changes daily and there is a whole team that helps the head chef realize their culinary vision. As Alice Waters strove to find the best ingredients, she got to know local farmers. Her experienced within her community served as a springboard for her involvement in the slow foods movement and in educating school children on the importance of growing your own food and healthy eating.

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