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eG Foodblog: Ninetofive - January in New England


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Ok, I'm packing my camera and reporter's notebook in my daybag and taking you all on a food tour of my 'hood. I think I'm going to skip Formaggio Kitchen (I'll leave Cambridge for Gini when she blogs!) :raz: One good thing about New England in the winter ... your food stays nice and cold in the trunk!

More later ....

Edited by ninetofive (log)

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

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The Renegade Writer Blog

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Ok, I'm packing my camera and reporter's notebook in my daybag and taking you all on a food tour of my 'hood. I think I'm going to skip Formaggio Kitchen (I'll leave Cambridge for Gini when she blogs!)  :raz: One good thing about New England in the winter ... your food stays nice and cold in the trunk!

More later ....

Oh that is so not cool!! How can you leave out Formaggio Kitchen? It's heaven on earth!

Eating pizza with a fork and knife is like making love through an interpreter.
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Rats! I opened the garage door to leave and realized Christiane took Oliver to his gym class. We have two cars, but I prefer driving mine. While hubby's is zippy, it's too low to the ground, especially when one is driving in the land of SUVs and mini vans. My '92 Volvo, while not fashionable, at least gives me a fighting chance to see what's going on ahead in traffic.

No worries -- I'll wait it out. They should be home soon.

In the meantime, I thought I'd tell you more about my upcoming trip. We just got our dates settled and now all that's left is booking the flight and getting the itinerary finalized. It looks like we'll leave for Delhi on March 10 and return two weeks later. I'm traveling with a friend who's a business journalist in NYC, which is great because she has her beat and I have mine, plus we both roll with the punches easily. India is a dream trip for me. Ever since I was young child, I've been fascinated with the country. I even have vivid dreams about it, which makes me wonder if there's such a thing as reincarnation ... the world I dream about is so real and familiar to me, and when I awaken, I often feel sad, even grief-stricken. Strange ...

Anyway, the main point of my trip is to explore the food in India. I'm also going there to confront one of my deepest fears in life and write about the experience ... all I'm going to say is that it involves cobras. :shock: (No, we'll have no eating of still-beating cobra hearts ... I leave that business to Mr. Bourdain.) We start in Delhi, then head to Mumbai, where we'll spend a day eating street food and getting a behind-the-scenes tour of a Bollywood movie production. Then it's on to what I'm looking forward to most: Goa and Kerala. The food of south India is my favorite, with all the curry leaves, coconut, mustard seeds, FISH, SHELLFISH, and chili peppers. I'm also meeting with some outstanding chefs while I'm there -- needless to say, I'm a-giddy to talk Indian food with the pros!

I'm all ears if anyone wants to PM me with advice about what to see or do. I do know that I will experience culture shock with the disparity between those who have and have not, and I've been warned there's nothing I can do to prepare for it. I have many Indian friends here in the Boston area, and they've given me good advice about bottled waters to avoid, phone numbers of friends/family to call, etc. But I'm always eager to get more tips.

Another trip I want to make later this year is actually thanks to an eGullet foodblog! I was so taken with Pille's foodblog from Estonia that I couldn't stop thinking about it. A couple weeks ago, I was talking vacations/trips with hubby and I put forth Estonia. I'd mentioned how in Pille's blog the food looked so good and the country so beautiful. Hubby's eyes lit up. "I could try to visit a free market think tank!" he exclaimed. He's a student of Milton Friedman, and he explained ot me that Estonia's prime minister Mart Laar had read only one of Friedman's books and used his free market theories to turn the country around. So knock wood, we may be heading to Estonia later this summer all because of eGullet.

Where are those kids? I'm eager to get shopping ... yay, they just pulled in the driveway.

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

My eGullet blog

The Renegade Writer Blog

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I got a late start this afternoon, so I didn't hit all the places on my list. And tomorrow we're supposed to get a bit of snow (!!!) so I'm not sure if my plans will hold. Onward!

I decided to drive out to Groton, specifically West Groton, which is about eight miles west from here. The drive out there is lovely, especially in the summer. There are parts of the drive where you can imagine yourself in the English countryside.

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First stop was the natural food store in the town center. Sometimes they have duck eggs. Today they didn't, but for a small shop they often have interesting things. Today I bought milk from local Jersey cattle, grass-fed beef from a farm in central Massachusetts, and dried organic aduki beans, because you know, you can never have enough dried aduki beans on hand. :raz:

Then I headed a few miles farther west to this place:

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Blood Farm is a family-run slaughterhouse/butcher with a small retail operation. This is my go-to place when I need five pounds of leaf lard for rendering, veal bones for stock, or suet for Christmas cakes. I call ahead and within a few days, everything is ready for me. Unfortunately, they wouldn't let me take any pictures inside ... they were totally baffled when I told them I was food blogging on eGullet this week. "Food what? Blogging? The Internet?" They still have those black corded phones in the sales office, so I gave up.

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But I can't complain with those prices.

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You can see the butchering operation from a small window where they weigh up retail purchases. They were breaking down some cows and had tongues, kidneys, and other bits and bobs hanging up on hooks. One of the butchers came out to talk to me, as I wanted to know where the meat in the case was farmed. He said all lamb and goat came from their livestock, and some of the beef was raised on their feedlot out back. But the remaining beef came from a processor in Boston and he didn't know its provenance. So I stuck with two pounds of lamb for stewing (I'll use in Scotch broth later this winter), ham hocks for a bean soup next week, the stew beef from their cows, and the veal bones. I thought about buying a rabbit, but they were much bigger than normal -- my freezer is already stuffed to the gills.

On the way out, I noticed a little kid had sent them a letter they'd pinned to the wall. It read something like, "Dear Blood Farm, Thank you for taking care of my goat when I couldn't take care of it any more, etc." Oh man, that kid's going to be seriously pissed off at his parents someday.

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Driving back to Westford/Chelmsford, I thought about driving in to Cambridge to Formaggio. But I'd be leaving the city at the worst possible time traffic wise, so I decided to head to Lowell instead. Besides, I'm planning to cook some Thai food tomorrow:

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I love love love Battambang Market. It's HUGE. I used to drive to Medford to shop at Super 88, but no longer -- everything they have, Battambang has more of it.

I was trying to be discreet with the camera inside. Last time they told me I couldn't take pictures.

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Gratuitous pocky shot.

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There's maybe a dozen aisles like this, filled with Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, and many other Asian foodstuffs. (Not so much Indian food, but there are other markets around here to fill that gap in.)

I love the meat case. They also have a full-service butcher:

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Here they had every part of the pig: tongue, tail, feet, ears, uterus, you name it, it's there.

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Here, duck heads, and next to them, duck feet. I bought some chicken feet for stock:

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The curry leaves I'll freeze, and the lemon grass is for my soup tomorrow. I can't stand going to Stop & Shop or Hannaford where they charge $3 for a stalk of lemongrass, when I can go to Battambang and get a whole bunch of it for $1.

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I keep a couple of these fabric baskets in the trunk of my car. I love them for farmers' markets, or keeping foods from rolling around in the trunk. I stopped at a regular grocery store to pick up a couple things for tonight's dinner, but I won't bore you with that.

Edited by ninetofive (log)

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

My eGullet blog

The Renegade Writer Blog

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I'll post about the rest of tonight tomorrow. I'm bushed! Remember when I was feeling a little sick earlier this week? Sure enough, my throat is scratchy and I've been sneezing a lot, so I'm going to get some extra sleep and try to fight it off.

I thought I would get to bread baking today, but maybe tomorrow is best -- snow day!

Oliver and I did a little baking tonight after dinner -- I'll post the pix tomorrow.

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

My eGullet blog

The Renegade Writer Blog

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I'll post about the rest of tonight tomorrow. I'm bushed! Remember when I was feeling a little sick earlier this week? Sure enough, my throat is scratchy and I've been sneezing a lot, so I'm going to get some extra sleep and try to fight it off.

Use a neti pot twice a day, take super duper doses of ascorbic acid, and some zinc!

I don't know if those things really work, but in combination, I find my colds don't last as long when I do the routine regularly (as soon as I start feeling sick), than when I don't, and I haven't had a single bout of nasty bronchitis (used to get it annually) since I started doing it!

Thanks for answering my question about ethnic eats, despite my confusion! I was thinking of Boston, in particular, because I think we might visit sometime in the next couple of years, and when we travel, we like to find foods that we can't normally find (good Middle Eastern, Burmese, Malaysian, etc.). But I'm a sloppy writer (with too many thoughts in my head), which is probably why the NE got thrown in there!

I love your basket, by the way! I keep toying with the idea of buying one (and one of the roller ones for my mother), but I'm not sure I'm ready to part with $50 to get one (the approximate price in Japan). I really like the ones that you can double as a bike basket, too!

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Last night's dinner was a combo of pantry staples and recent purchases:

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This is a medium-hot salsa I canned this summer with stuff from our garden. I'm pretty sure everything in this jar came either from my garden or the CSA. Ooops, except the cilantro. Cilantro bolts too fast around here so I usually get it at Battambang.

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The grass-fed ground beef I bought earlier today.

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A very quick and easy dinner! I mix the spices myself for the tacos -- basically it's chili powder, ground coriander, ground cumin, a bit of cayenne, salt, pepper, and a crushed garlic clove that I pull out of the meat last minute (hubby *loathes* garlic, so I've got it sneak it in, then get it out before he sees it!) Oh, and some tomato sauce and chix stock -- the sauce is Hunts, the stock is Diana's.

I used to press my own corn tortillas and fry them. Oh my, they're delicious that way. But it takes up a lot of time; last year, I stopped doing it because it was getting in the way of me spending time with my son. Which brings me to cookies ....

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

My eGullet blog

The Renegade Writer Blog

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Today we're going down to Bedford to visit my son's friend Aayush and his mom Sonika. Aayush and Oliver were in preschool together for 2 1/2 years and were best of friends. This year, Aayush is doing kindergarten at another school. Oliver was very eager to help me bake cookies that he knows Aayush and his mother like, double chocolate cookies. I suspect O also likes them very much.

My chocolate stash:

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As I find interesting chocolates, I buy them and stash them in this wicker basket. I admit, I often buy chocolate just because I like the label!

Here, my kitchen bible:

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This is one of the books I'd grab if the house were on fire. I've got everything in here from my MIL's maple candy recipe to notes about previous holiday dinners: what went well, what didn't. I update the index as I fill in pages with recipes. I've also got a big binder with plastic pages where I put in stuff I've printed off my computer.

Oliver gives the rest of the family fair warning:

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He likes to hang up signs around the house. Don't you love our cabinets? You can tie your horse there and let him feed.

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Oliver does all the measuring. We're learning about grams, so I tell him enough flour to get 84 grams.

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Here's he's learning scoop and sweep.

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Self-portrait.

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I love the look of sheer and utter concentration.

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He's just dumped the brown sugar in, which he tells me looks like the German word for "sandcastles." He loves lording his German over me. :raz:

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In go the chips.

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It takes Oliver a couple licks to declare the batter good enough to scoop.

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More intensity.

OK, we've got to get ready for our visit. More later.

Edited by ninetofive (log)

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

My eGullet blog

The Renegade Writer Blog

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I'm sorry if I missed it, and haven't had a chance to really look through your website (which I will do, as I'm one of those sort-of freelance food writers), but have you contributed to a cookbook?

Pam, I realized I didn't answer your question from a few days ago. I have co-authored two books on freelance magazine writing, and authored a book for Alpha/Penguin's Psychology Today series about the psychology of dieting.

I develop recipes for magazines and newspapers, though -- I used to do straight recipe development, but this summer, I decided I only want to do recipes that go with an article I write. No more developing for other writers' articles!

I'm working with my agent and a registered dietitian right now on a diet book proposal that includes recipes -- sort of a diet book for people who really love good food!

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

My eGullet blog

The Renegade Writer Blog

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ninetofive, I'd love to know more about where you source your local meat & produce during the growing months!

Gini, I'm happy to share my sources!

I get a lot of vegetables through my CSA in Tyngsboro, Bear Hill Farm. We've been members for three years and love it. The season starts near the end of June and goes till the end of October. They have a huge flock of chickens that run around the farm, eating bugs, stones, worms and such -- their eggs taste sooooo good. A season runs about $450, and it's worth every penny.

We do our CSA pickup on Friday afternoons, so I try to bunch up food shopping on that day. I'll do the CSA, then maybe drive into Groton to Blood Farm for meat or their town's farmers' market. Or I'll swing by Parlee Farm in Tyngsboro when it's berry season to pick flats of strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries.

Westford has a

on Tuesdays, so I try to swing by there, or I'll drive down to Lexington to their market, also on Tuesday afternoons. The Lexington market has Crystal Brook Farm, though -- they sell a goat cheese with cracked pepper that I adore. Unfortunately, one of my favorite produce places in Lexington, Wilson Farm, is closed on Tuesday.

I like Lull Farm, which is in nearby Amherst, NH (we're only 8 miles south of the New Hampshire border), especially in late summer when they have something like 50 varieties of tomatoes on display. Actually, I learned about Lull Farm on eGullet! It's also a great place to get cider, apples, etc. Another favorite farm is Russell's, up in Ipswich -- but getting to the north shore regularly is difficult. If I'm down Concord way, I shop at Verrill Farm and then stop at Idylwilde Farm in Acton afterwards.

Harder for me to get to is Russo's in Watertown, but I love that place. They have fantastic prices and excellent produce.

Meats -- well, you saw my trip to Blood Farm yesterday. I also buy meat through our local butcher, Alpine Butchers on Summer Street in Chelmsford, or run into Cambridge/Somerville for Mayflower chickens and New Deal Fish Market for seafood. I find the fish counter at Whole Foods in Bedford very helpful -- I've also had good luck with their dry aged beef at the meat counter. We have a couple turkey farms around here, too -- one place down in Lancaster that bailed me out when I had to do a Thanksgiving dinner recipe development project in July! I try to avoid, as best I can, buying meat from a regular supermarket, especially anything from Tyson, Butterball, Smithfield, etc. Back in the 90s, one of my marketing jobs required me to tour some processing plants in the south and midwest -- let's just say I was forever scarred.

One thing I didn't mention is that I forage for food. In the spring, I'll pick dandelion greens. I like lamb's quarters and purslane in the summer. We have a few groves of elderflower bushes nearby, and I'll use the flowers to make cordials I bottle up and give as gifts. In the fall I'll come back for the berries and make cough syrup and jam out of them. I also dig for sunchokes in the fall -- we have some growing out in my garden, but the ground froze up too early this year for me to dig the tubers. And then there are mushrooms -- I can only id a few, like morels and chanterelles. Unfortunately, we don't get many morels around here, although two years ago, we had a massive one growing out back.

Edited by ninetofive (log)

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

My eGullet blog

The Renegade Writer Blog

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Since turning 40 a few years ago, I've noticed that my system can no longer tolerate mass quantities of caffeine. In the past, I could practically drink espresso in bed, turn out the light, and sleep soundly all night. Now I find that if I drink coffee past noon, I'm not able to fall asleep easily or worse, I awaken at 3 or 4 feeling anxious and jittery.

So I've been exploring coffee alternatives. I hate drinking decaf coffee. When I drink it, it leaves me craving the real thing if that makes any sense. And I've figured out that I simply like drinking something warm in the evening. Hot chocolate makes me too drowsy. Tea -- too much caffeine. Herbal tea? Bah. Then I found this stuff:

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Have any of you tried these drinks? What do you think? I've actually come to look forward to the DandyBlend in the evening. It tastes nothing like coffee, which is a good thing for me. The one in the middle I haven't tried yet. And the Cafix I like because of the chicory flavor.

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

My eGullet blog

The Renegade Writer Blog

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Did I mention that I collect cookbooks? In the dining room:

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In the living room:

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(On the bottom shelf is the whole Time/Life series edited by Richard Olney that I picked up for $20 at a bookseller near Keene, NH. He was so grateful I was taking them away!)

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I also have books piled up all over my bedroom, but since I also have laundry piled up there too, there will be no photos!

I hope some of you will comment on any books you see in my collection you love/hate/are curious about! In some previous foodblogs, eGulleteers have posted their collections and it's so interesting to see what people read.

ETA: I just looked at the pics and can spot several cookbooks written by eGullet members. Can you?

Edited by ninetofive (log)

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

My eGullet blog

The Renegade Writer Blog

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On the way out, I noticed a little kid had sent them a letter they'd pinned to the wall. It read something like, "Dear Blood Farm, Thank you for taking care of my goat when I couldn't take care of it any more, etc." Oh man, that kid's going to be seriously pissed off at his parents someday.

Wow. That is awfully funny.

. . . and a crushed garlic clove that I pull out of the meat last minute (hubby *loathes* garlic, so I've got it sneak it in, then get it out before he sees it!)

I urge any young folks considering marriage to discuss this sort of incompatibility before taking an irrevocable step. :laugh: Hubby has other redeeming qualities, presumably? :smile:

I used to press my own corn tortillas and fry them. Oh my, they're delicious that way. But it takes up a lot of time; last year, I stopped doing it because it was getting in the way of me spending time with my son. Which brings me to cookies ....

Your son looks like a bright, lively child, and you have done a wonderful job of engaging his interest in the kitchen. I completely understand dialing back culinary endeavors for family. I just learned how to make tortillas, so I hope to somehow interest our boys in the production process.

This has been fascinating so far. Keep up the good work!

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Catching up after a busy week--lots of cool stuff! Some random reflections:

I got a wicked nostalgia attack when you dined at Craigie Street Bistrot, because long before that restaurant existed I was living in a Radcliffe Quad dorm mere blocks from that spot ... and dining on fodder that, compared to your dinner at Craigie Street, barely deserves to be thought of as "food." :laugh:

I got a lot of my early education in ethnic cuisines eating around Boston in my college years and after. In hindsight, most of the places I frequented were not particularly stellar ... but they did decent grub at student-friendly prices and at least gave me some rudimentary exposure to the rest of the culinary globe. I had my first Ethiopian meal in Boston, and first forays into Asian cuisines other than Cantonese, including my first sushi long before it became fashionable, let alone dumbed down in every supermarket deli case. Heh. Maybe I'm being nostalgic about those joints too... :laugh:

Your son is a riot! Yep, those expressions of deep concentration are totally adorable.

About the cookbooks: do please tell about The Passionate Vegetarian. Anybody named Cresent who poses on the spine of her book as Carmen Miranda has got something going on.

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I hope some of you will comment on any books you see in my collection you love/hate/are curious about! In some previous foodblogs, eGulleteers have posted their collections and it's so interesting to see what people read.

I see Jane Grigsons books, which I love, and 2 of my alltime favorite cookbooks: Anna Thomas' Vegetarian Epicure, and Margaret Costa's Four Seasons!

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. . . and a crushed garlic clove that I pull out of the meat last minute (hubby *loathes* garlic, so I've got it sneak it in, then get it out before he sees it!)

I urge any young folks considering marriage to discuss this sort of incompatibility before taking an irrevocable step. :laugh: Hubby has other redeeming qualities, presumably? :smile:

This has been fascinating so far. Keep up the good work!

Thanks for commenting, C. Sapidus. I was getting a little worried that no one was reading my blog. I have learned my lesson by this experience, though, and from now on I am going to be more participatory. :cool:

You picked up on a big issue in our marriage! Unfortunately, I'd already been sucked in by his sparkling blue eyes, his keen mind and adventurous spirit, and dozens of other qualities so lacking in past boyfriends, that I threw caution to the wind and didn't pay attention to what he was eating while we were falling in love.

Right after we moved in together, we had dinner with his college buddy and his girlfriend in West Roxbury. I remember entering their home and the smell of roast chicken and cooked garlic tickling my nose. We had drinks, sat down to eat -- and oh my, the chicken was infused with the flavor of tarragon and garlic, and there were roasted onions next to the chicken, and the potatoes were soft and fluffy and practically dripping with cream and butter. I remember telling the girlfriend, "These potatoes are soooooo good," and she replying, "Thank you! I put some leeks in there, too." I'm pretty sure there wasn't any garlic in the dessert, though. But then I noticed the love of my life wasn't eating much. I wondered, "Is he sick? Did he eat a big lunch? Did he find a broken fingernail in his potatoes?"

After we left I mentioned it, and he said, "I hate garlic." My heart stopped. Then he added, "I don't like onions or leeks, either. The whole house reeked. And why was there so much cream and butter in the potatoes? Didn't they taste funny to you?"

By then, all our books were mingled on his bookshelves. I was crazy about him. Even my cat liked him, and my cat had never liked any other guy I'd dated. I was crushed to learn about this, this horrible character flaw, and surprised he'd never said anything until now. I'm sure I'd feasted on garlic and onions and leeks during the early days of our courtship. I blushed thinking about how he must have held his breath during our smooching.

As the months passed, the character flaw revealed itself in even more disturbing ways. He finally admitted he suffered when we ate out at Indian restaurants and went to them only to please me. One time he asked the staff if they could make "plain rice" for him. They came back with a platter of white rice -- topped with a stick of cinnamon, pods of cardamom, and threads of saffron. "No, plain!" boyfriend insisted. "This IS plain," they said. "Without the spices!" he said in frustration.

The worst was the coffee disclosure. We traveled a lot during our first year together and it seemed like it was a ritual to get up and find coffee. After all, the first thing I think of when I open my eyes is the morning is "Arabica. Dark roast. Now." We'd dress and wherever we were, go on the prowl. Selfish me ... as I chugged my first of many cups, I noticed my darling boyfriend would be nursing an orange juice.

"Don't you want any coffee?" I asked one day on one of our trips. He looked at me with this pained look in his beautiful blue eyes. "Actually, I don't like ... ."

We've been together for, geez, going on 12 years, and slowly everything has come out. Not only won't he drink coffee, he hates the smell of it as much as he hates the smell of anything allium. Dining at restaurants is difficult with him. He won't do the Indian, naturally, and he's not keen on Thai or Vietnamese, either. He'd rather at (I'm horrified to admit this) Chili's. And that's the other thing: I have strong dislikes, too. I hate chain restaurants. I get cranky around his family with their (what seems to me) joyless approach to food. Hubby makes a lot of stuff like "Hot Pockets" and the smell makes *me* sick, and I crab about it as much as he crabs about my cooking with onions.

More than you wanted to know, but luckily it's a big issue in our marriage we can handle with a good dose of humor and gentle teasing. We're smart enough to come up with solutions that make it work. I've given up trying to get him to eat Indian food. So I go out with my friends and leave him at home. I make my coffee in the garage so he doesn't have to smell it. And if I cook dinner, I'll modify what I can for him, but otherwise leave him to his own devices. (I refuse to be a short-order cook, not with an impressionable 6-year-old watching the dynamic.)

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

My eGullet blog

The Renegade Writer Blog

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Wah! That's too funny. About a year after we'd been married, my husband said, "Why do we have so much GARLIC in everything?!" I'd never noticed. Growing up with an Italian-American mom, garlic was absolutely normal.

So now we compromise: it goes in everything but vinaigrettes. :wink:

(And I did cure my husband of putting ketchup on pasta, which I consider tremendous progress.) :blink:

Those are some terribly cute baking pictures, with your son!

How many of your cookbooks do you use regularly?

I can see one of eGer Dan Lepard's books.

Thanks for blogging; it's been fun to follow your week.

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Yesterday morning Oliver and I went down to Bedford to visit Sonika and Aayush. Aayush and Oliver played while Sonika and I talked -- what else? -- food! I love coming to their house because it always smells so wonderful. Here, Sonika is frying samosas for a mid-morning snack:

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Here, some kind of vegetable and pasta dish cooking for later on in the day:

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Sonika also fried up some vegetable wraps that tasted almost Chinese rather than Indian.

Sonika is as interested in American food as I am in Indian. I have showed her how to make pie crusts, and we've baked bread together. She showed me how to make pooris and raitas. One thing I've noticed is that as different as our cultures are, we have the same hand movements as we cook. Watching her shape whole-wheat dough for pooris I can see I shape a boule in the same way, pulling the dough taut as we turn it deftly in the palms of our hands.

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

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The Renegade Writer Blog

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Yesterday afternoon I baked bread:

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I wrote about a relatively new book, "Artisan Baking in Five Minutes a Day" for the Boston Globe's food section this week. I *loved* this book and had only minor problems following their recipes, but after I turned the first draft of my story in, my editor asked me to interview (drumroll) Jeffrey Steingarten to see what he thought of it. Unfortunately, Mr. Steingarten wasn't thrilled with the bread. We had two long conversations about the problems he'd had (and also the problems I'd had with the no-knead method he endorses). Now I'm supposed to send him pictures of my breads, and he's going to send me pictures of his. I met Julia Child when I was in college (we were both "Smithies") but I wasn't into food like I am now, so I wasn't nervous at all talking to her. But I was nervous calling Steingarten -- I'd heard the rumors! -- but he was very nice, talkative, and didn't overtly display the attitude that he was talking to a moron.

The unfortunate thing about the article is that my enthusiasm for this 5-minute-a-day method didn't come through, and for that, I'm disappointed. Such is the lot of the freelancer. At any rate, I've highly recommended the method to baking friends and fiends, and perhaps the pictures I send to Mr. S will convince him to give this bread another try.

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Here is a dough I've had chilling for over a week in my garage. It has a pleasant, slightly tangy smell as I take it from the bucket and shape it. The dough has been resting at room temperature for about an hour, is slashed and floured, and ready to slide onto the baking stone heating in my oven.

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Finished products. Hubby cut into the crosshatched boule on the bottom right before it had cooled and mushed it down too much. The boule on the top left crackled as it cooled on the rack. I notice these two loaves didn't rise as much as the loaves I baked earlier in the week. I'm bringing the boule on the upper left up north today for a taste test.

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

My eGullet blog

The Renegade Writer Blog

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I don't have any specific questions; just wanted to weigh in with my sheer enjoyment of this blog. From the first pangs of terrible nostalgic longing for New England on seeing the wintry photos (four years in Williamstown, MA, gave me a taste for those snowscapes) through the delight of your absolutely adorable, perky, smart son, through the different delights of your cooking and descriptions, I have spent many pleasurable minutes reading from page to page.

Thank you, then, from someone who intended to lurk, simply...

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We usually go out to dinner on Thursday nights, but we switched to Friday night this week. Oliver and I both like like a place down in Bedford right off Rt. 3:

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This is our favorite flatbread, called Jay's Choice. It's basically a cheese pizza. The restaurant cooks all its flatbreads in a freestanding wood-fired stone oven, which I didn't take a picture of because I was so hungry.

Here's Christiane's pizza, sausage and mushrooms. She said it was very good:

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Oliver wrote a thank you note while we waited for our dinner to arrive.

I stayed up kind of late last night, and because I ate so poorly during the day (no breakfast, no lunch! Very, very bad!!!!) I got the munchies. So I made this:

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This is one of my favorite soups from a book called "Roast Chicken and Other Stories," which my British friends will recognize. It is one of my favorite books to read in bed at night, and also cook from. I've taken liberties with the recipe. I pulled some chicken stock from the freezer, and infused the stock with lemongrass, chilis, garlic, ginger, tom yum paste, and spring onions from my veggie bin. Then I strained it and added a handful of chopped cilantro stems and let those infuse the broth. Then I strained again, and added some thawed shrimp from the freezer downstairs, let them heat through, then added coconut milk and a bit of cream to finish.

This is a cilantro lover's soup:

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Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

My eGullet blog

The Renegade Writer Blog

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Have any of you tried these drinks? What do you think? I've actually come to look forward to the DandyBlend in the evening. It tastes nothing like coffee, which is a good thing for me. The one in the middle I haven't tried yet. And the Cafix I like because of the chicory flavor.

I almost picked up some Cafix yesterday because I'd never seen it before (is this really a good reason to buy something?), but it was 6 euro, well over my impulse buy threshold. Guess I'll have to get some!

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Disappointing news about today's planned adventure to King Arthur. When I called my aunt yesterday, she said she couldn't meet me because they were buying a new car this a.m. Then in an odd twist of fate, when we were driving back from dinner last night, the service light on my Volvo blinked on. It's probably just a timed light going off -- I'm religious about upkeep! -- but with 215,000 miles on the original engine, I'm reluctant to drive up to Norwich, especially through a 60 mile stretch of New Hampshire where there's not much in the way of cell phone towers ... but plenty of moose.

So the new plan is to visit my coauthor Linda up in Concord. I'll try to rustle up some exciting food adventures and leave this blog -- not my car engine -- with a bang.

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

My eGullet blog

The Renegade Writer Blog

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I don't have any specific questions; just wanted to weigh in with my sheer enjoyment of this blog. From the first pangs of terrible nostalgic longing for New England on seeing the wintry photos (four years in Williamstown, MA, gave me a taste for those snowscapes) through the delight of your absolutely adorable, perky, smart son, through the different delights of your cooking and descriptions, I have spent many pleasurable minutes reading from page to page.

Thank you, then, from someone who intended to lurk, simply...

Thanks for that, Sharon! It makes my morning. :biggrin:

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

My eGullet blog

The Renegade Writer Blog

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