Monday, September 28, 2009

Raspberry Walnut Bread

This recipe is based off the quickbread recipe (infinite variations) from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food. I love this cookbook, and I love Mark Bittman. However, I found this particular recipe to be off – every time I made quickbread his way, I ended up with the dreaded sunken middle. My version, arrived on after much trial and error, uses less baking powder and baking soda but adds an extra egg. I’d say the difference has to do with altitude, but Mark and I aren’t cooking so very far apart, geographically, so I’m going to call it a rare lapse and let it be.

Richard Wilbur

Richard Wilbur is still alive. He gave a reading at my husband’s university about a year ago, and though I rarely attend readings (short attention span, preference for printed rather than spoken poetry – rather anomalous of me, I think), I made an exception because he is one of my favorite living poets.

The reading reminded me of why I generally prefer my poets dead. This is not to wish harm on Mr. Wilbur, but one always has notions of what one’s favorite poets ought to be like. Mr. Wilbur only very slightly accorded with mine.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

My First Chouquettes

I’ve been wanting to make chouquettes forever. The only thing holding me back has been lack of access to pearl sugar. My local IKEA does not have pearl sugar – I know, because I made a special trip just to find it – and it seems really stupid, conceptually untenable, to buy a $6 item online for which you have to pay another $6 in shipping. The alternative to pearl sugar is mini chocolate chips, but for whatever perverse reason, I don’t like them. I like regular-sized chocolate chips just fine, but mini-chips are not my cup of tea. I’m allowed to be inconsistent like that.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

What have we here?

I think this indicates lots of baking in my future.

Pink Waffles

This recipe is in the “tastes better than it looks” category. I’m not much of a photographer under the best of circumstances, and my kitchen lighting definitely provides less-than-ideal circumstances.
Some years ago, my husband decided to do the environmentally sound thing and got rid of all our incandescent lightbulbs in favor of those small fluorescent bulbs. This switch has long displeased me on aesthetic grounds, but I fear it would bring nasty environmental karma if I pitched a fit and demanded my incandescents back.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

George Herbert

This post is to combine two things that I adore: George Herbert and Norton Critical Editions.

George Herbert was a rather dour-looking Welsh clergyman of the early 17th Century. I’ve had a fondness for his poetry for as long as I can remember, but his appeal is difficult to quantify. Religion was his consuming muse, but, as with Gerard Manley Hopkins, the undercurrents of doubt are what creates the frisson that renders his poems much more than mere homilies. One has the sense that he’s trying to persuade himself rather than potential readers, constructing ornate castles of belief in the hope that one of them will contain the impregnable argument that will finally cement his faith. Plus, he really has a way with metaphor.

As a thoroughgoing liberal arts nerd, I have an inordinate fondness for Norton Critical Editions. For the uninitiated, these combine selected works of great writers with key criticism and commentary. It’s not that I’ve read any of them cover to cover, but there’s something appealing in the idea that should I ever get a hankering to revisit the Stanley Fish argument that Herbert’s poems were modeled on prayer book acrostics (or something like that –- it’s been a long time since grad school), a wealth of critical resources is at my fingertips in one slim volume. I think I’m like a Norton Critical Edition groupie. Or something.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Peanut Butter Banana Marshmallow Coconut Quesadilla

This one is pretty much just what it sounds like. If I ever have kids, I’m pretty sure that making this will entitle me to some sort of mother-of-the-year award. I wish I could patent this … well, not quite recipe, but food-assembly method.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

I loved poetry from the time I learned to read, but I was very unfocused in my exploration of the genre. My dad still has his old Norton Anthologies from college, and I used to sit in the rocking chair in his formal living room and flip through them to while away the summer afternoons. Most of the poetry therein was a little beyond me – this was when I was 10 or 12 or so – but I stuck with it, feeling as if each poem contained something hidden and wonderful that my sustained attention would uncover. In some cases, I was right.

It wasn’t until I discovered Edna St. Vincent Millay, when I was about 13, that I felt compelled to actually read someone’s oeuvre in its entirety. Millay has her poetic faults, but for a teenager, those are her virtues. She writes about love, loss, and death without irony and permits herself to blatantly express her emotions without fear of seeming hysterical or overwrought.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sesame Orange Biscotti

I had some sesame seeds that I bought in anticipation of making sesame tofu on a regular basis; unfortunately, I decided subsequent to buying them that sesame tofu was too much hassle to add to my “regular meal rotation” repertoire. Which left me with lots of sesame seeds in need of consumption.

Robert Lowell

He was a handsome man. Just look at him. I want to lick his picture.
You’ve probably heard of him, and very probably have read at least one or two of his poems. This one, in keeping with the theme I’ve got going, is a very loose translation of a Spanish poem. I don’t read Spanish, but I’ve seen the text of the original, and it’s close enough to French that I feel confident pronouncing his version an improvement.

Robert Lowell has been one of my favorite poets for a long time, but this is the first of his poems that I bothered committing to memory. I don’t know what it says about me that I’m so drawn to this – it’s dark, vaguely sinister, and definitely melodramatic. The hint of blasphemy at the end is just so ... *swoon.*

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sweet Potato Bread

I mostly just tinker with other people's recipes, but this one is pretty much my own invention. I grew up in Florida and whine endlessly about the cold weather up here, but as soon as there's the slightest hint of a nip in the air, I start hankering for autumn foods -- and especially autumn baked goods.

Robert Creeley

Robert Creeley was an American poet known for his loose, discursive style of writing. His poems tend to be informal and conversational, but they often have an intrinsic structure that binds the words into a cohesive whole.

He was the kind of poet who wrote a lot, didn’t much revise, and tended to publish most of what flowed from pen to paper. This means that some of his work is a slog, although not a slog in the “extremely difficult and gnomic” sense of, say, John Ashbery. Reading his work can feel like listening to a friend natter on about nothing in particular – except that on occasion, this friend expresses herself in a way so lovely and transcendent that you want her to keep talking forever in hopes that it will happen again.