Simple Pleasures.

Simple Pleasures.
Irish soda bread on its way up North with Noah.

Monday, January 2, 2017

A New Year

January 1, 2017

Here I sit in bed, blowing my nose, coughing like I have consumption, and positively tapped out by a cold I’ve been in denial about for the past week.

I always seem to get sick after the mania of the holidays. Too much socializing, too little sleep, and all that kill-ya kind of food and booze you just know is bullying your body.

This year feels different, though. I think that I, and so many others, feel utterly worn down. Not by parties and reveling but by the angst, anger, fear, heartbreak, stress, anxiety, despair, and (fill in the blank with just about any other miserable emotion) that’s eaten up the oxygen during these past devastating months in our country and on our planet.

I can’t count the number of people who’ve told me they’ve stopped reading or watching the news for basic self-preservation. Everything—drowning refugee children, terrorized nightclubs, marooned polar bears, Trump’s parade of goonish appointees--is just too terrible and tragic. My older son—once a progressive idealist-- returned from a semester abroad declaring he no longer saw any point in advocating for the poor, the environment, better healthcare, immigrant rights or anything else since our country was hopeless. How many people have remarked to me that the end of 2016 couldn’t come fast enough except for the fact that 2017 was looking even scarier?

Paul and I trudged around like stunned zombies after the election, alternately weeping and berating everyone and everything (including us) who made the Trump disaster possible. One week later, though, we pulled ourselves together enough to join several hundred other miserable souls at a rally sponsored by Blue Wave New Jersey, a progressive advocacy group based in our town. I saw all those good people in that room. I listened to dogged and determined speakers urging us not to give up. I learned about how important it is to fight on a state level to preserve rights that our Federal government may soon imperil. And for perhaps the first time in my life, I felt insanely proud to be from, yes, New Jersey: Land of strip malls and Turnpikes. 

Since that November day, Paul and I have committed ourselves to action through Blue Wave. Long conversations into the night have still not swayed my disillusioned son. But I have faith he’ll come around, perhaps after he’s spent some time back at school. Do I know if our efforts will actually pay off? Of course not. But I know that action feels way better than despair. And that at the very least, we’ll go down fighting.

You know what else has helped during these tough times? Just like after 9/11, I’ve found safe harbor in my kitchen. Post-election especially, I threw myself into cooking and baking, losing myself amongst my cookbooks, mixing bowls, spice-crammed shelves, grain-chocked pantry and freshly stocked fridge. Once again, that beat up old room with the broken cabinets and well-worn floors allowed the world’s worries to slip away, if even for a short time.  And I could love and comfort my family through food when words were often too hard to find. 

I know this cookbook travels pretty friends, colleagues, acquaintances and total strangers. And as I write this I wonder if my strong views might rub some people the wrong way. If I’ve offended you, try to enjoy the recipes anyway.

On a more personal note, 2016 has brought good times and challenges for our family. Noah was busy with the optimistic task of applying to colleges this past Fall. The very idea of him flying away makes my heart ache with both pride and longing. Ben had the time of his life studying in Brussels first semester and will graduate from American in May. The grandmas have had their health challenges but are hanging in there and we see them often. Paul and I continue to plug away at work and are beginning to plot out “what’s next” once our nest is empty. A cabin in the Adirondacks? A condo in Montclair? Life in the revolutionary underground? Who knows! Whatever we do, I’ll find a way to cook up a storm.

Here’s to peace on earth. And snow for the polar bears.

Email me at and I'll send back your cookbook in a blink.



P.S. The additions to this year’s cookbook are:
Sorta Healthy Roasted Fennel and White Bean Dip
Lovely Little Celery Toasts
Go-to-Flow-Through Quinoa and Black Bean Salad
Crunchy Cauli Snowflakes
A Great Way to Make Broccoli Rabe
Marcella’s Essential Tomato Sauce
Summer Pasta with Zucchini, Fresh Ricotta and Basil
Cast-Iron Roast Chicken with Bread and Arugula Salad
Jeanie’s Chicken with Chick Peas and Chorizo
Kelley’s Turkey Cutlets with Cilantro-Almond Sauce
Sheet Pan Shrimp and Broccoli
Obama’s Short Ribs
Perfect Banana Bread
Yankee’s Pumpkin Whoopie Pies