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Tuesday, Dec 18, 2012
I have little to do with Christmas cooking: my job is to show up and help my mother-in-law. This doesn't stop me from being avidly interested in Christmas foods and the many cookbooks addressing what remains to me an exotically foreign holiday.

“I am not by nature a calm person, and, much as I love Christmas, I can be kyboshed by it.  I know from experience how easy it is to be overwhelmed by the sheer workload and the burden of expectations, one’s own above all.”
—Nigella Lawson, Nigella Christmas


Many are the Jews who secretly long to celebrate Christmas. Yes, we have Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, the Menorah, the tasty fried foods. And yes, we do exchange gifts. But there’s no big deal fancy meal, no stockings, no tearing awake at 4AM to see what Santa left under the tree.


Ah, the tree. There are Jews who shudder at this ancient pagan symbol and others who want one themselves: that lovely piney scent, those cunning decorations.


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Tuesday, Nov 20, 2012
During the holidays you need every weapon in your personal arsenal: the fancy new cranberry chutney recipe, your grandmother’s gravy, an increased credit card ceiling, a bottle or three of wine, a strong stomach, and the knowledge that January 2nd, when life returns to normal, isn’t far off.

“There is almost nothing as reassuring as having some stock up your sleeve.”
—Fergus Henderson, The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating


Yesterday the mail brought the first thick Christmas catalogs, pages full of glossy, wealthy, healthy white families. The outdoor shots feature these American dreams gamboling in the snow, decked out in expensive sports gear. There’s the mandatory shot of the man of the family, schlepping a freshly whacked Christmas tree through the snow, leading me to wonder where the fellow is (Iceland? Antarctica?), or if the snow he was gallantly slogging through was manufactured. The indoor shots involve immaculate, beautifully furnished homes, the model standing thoughtfully in a velvet dress, a seemingly forgotten gift in hand. The gift is also an exercise in perfection, exquisitely wrapped, gold ribbons corkscrewing like Shirley Temple’s hair.  The two blond children, a girl and a boy, are naturally adorable, as are their drowsy puppies. All, I’m certain, are housebroken.


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Friday, Nov 2, 2012
"With me everywhere and always: Rosa."

Laurie E. Colwn, a Novelist and Short Story Writer, is dead
The New York Times (26 October 1992)


Dear Rosa,


We’ve never met, but on this, the 20th anniversary of your mother’s death, I feel compelled to write you.


I’m sorry.  I realize you’ve spent your life being approached by tremulous strangers needing to unburden themselves. I also realize that our version of your mother and the actual person are likely miles apart. That the only thing we can be said to share is how much we miss her.


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Monday, Oct 29, 2012
Bluish Kabochas and Hubbards, orange Acorn squash splotched with green, red Kuris, ridged yellow Delicatas streaked greeny orange. Stringy Spaghetti squash, good for so little, and piles of pumpkins, from decorative ones no larger than kittens to monsters comparable to SUVs.

It’s that time of year, when the leaves turn, and the weather becomes even more unpredictable: blistering heat followed by temperate days edged with a warning chill. The sunlight thins, slants, and fades by 5PM. Summer’s vegetable bounty has surrendered to the first of winter’s staples: greens, radishes, turnips, and hard or winter squashes. Bluish Kabochas and Hubbards, orange Acorn squash splotched with green, red Kuris, ridged yellow Delicatas streaked greeny orange. Stringy Spaghetti squash, good for so little, and piles of pumpkins, from decorative ones no larger than kittens to monsters comparable to SUVs.


If you are a politically correct locavore, winter squash is unavoidable.


Unhappily, it’s easy to get sick of eating them.


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Thursday, Oct 25, 2012
The soaring demand for seafood has made fish, more than any other food source in Asia, political.

I always have a soft spot for Hong Kong, for its bright lights and spindly towers and unpretentious attitude. It feels First World and Third World at the same time, and it smells like oyster sauce, a mainstay of my childhood.  Eating is a past time and an adventure in Hong Kong, which is why the city and I get along well. I ate pastry with bean paste, soup made with tripe and offal, dumplings made with chives and mystery meat. But there is one food that I’m too squeamish to eat whenever I’m in Hong Kong: live reef fish.


Hong Kong, the portal between East and West, is the center of the live reef fish trade, an unsustainable food industry. It’s the first stop for the seafood that are farmed, harvested, or poached from the abundant waters of Southeast Asia and the Pacific Ocean before it goes to mainland China, its final destination.


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