Thursday, September 04, 2014

Because Sometimes You Just Need a Pie

Lala's Late Summer Tomato Pie (For Dan & Lucas)

This recipe was adjusted from a combination of this recipe (Garden & Gun Tomato Pie) and this crust recipe (F & W Chocolate Pecan Pie)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup ice water

4  shallots, minced
3  garlic cloves, minced
4  tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
1  tbsp. Dijon mustard
1  lb. assorted heirloom tomatoes, sliced ¼-inch thick
2 ears of fresh corn, cut off the cob
1.5 oz. goat cheese, crumbled & 1.5 oz smoked goat cheese
½  oz. fresh basil chiffonade
1  tbsp. Grenache vinegar (or red wine)
½  cup fresh bread crumbs
1  oz. grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper

For the dough

1.     In a food processor, pulse the flour with the sugar and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the ice water. Knead the dough 2 or 3 times on a lightly floured surface and pat into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

2.     On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 12-inch round. Fit the dough into a 9-inch glass pie plate. Trim the overhang to 1/2 inch, fold the edge under itself and crimp decoratively. Refrigerate until firm.

For the pie

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

3.     In a small pan, sauté shallots and garlic in 1 tablespoon of olive oil until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in mustard, and set aside.

4.     Layer in half of the tomatoes and corn, and season with salt and pepper; spread shallot mixture over top. Add soft goat cheese and half of the basil, distributing evenly. Layer in remaining tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle 1 tablespoon each of olive oil and vinegar over the tomatoes; top with remaining basil. Layer 1. 5 oz of smoked goat cheese over tomatoes.

5.     In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle evenly over tomato filling.  

Bake 30 minutes, or until topping and crust are golden brown.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Ways to Be in the World: Notes from Past Lives

When I was 17 or so, I started going to a physical therapist for my scoliosis. Unlike the typical physical therapist, Analea McGarey held her appointments in her house that was situated on a rising hillside in Glen Ellen. You had to cross a bridge to get there, over the wooded Sonoma Creek, and loop up a steep hill where you'd park by her overgrown garden and enter where the cats stood licking their paws in welcome. Her house always smelled like lavender and multivitamins. 

Aside from being a remarkable therapist and the woman who was greatly responsible for the majority of my back healing, she was also a great source of advice on how to exist in the world.

One appointment, when were were sharing our joint anxieties about our futures (I was in my late teens and she was in her mid-40's) she told me that her new routine was to wake up every morning and say, "Today, I will love myself." We laughed at how obvious it was, and yet how hard it was to do. Shortly after my appointment, I vowed to do the same thing. I'd start every day, I promised, with "Today, I will love myself."

When she died of cancer in 2007, I remember thinking, "Well, f*ck it. What good is loving yourself if you're just going to die anyway." Because that's how I looked at death back then. "She died anyway," was my initial thought. Then, of course, after I recovered from losing her, I went back to saying it and, this time, I kept in the back of my mind, "because I will die anyway." And we will, won't we?

This is a long introduction to the poem that just recently came out in The New York Times T Magazine. The poem is about that choice to love yourself, even when all the outside world (or maybe just your inside voice) says you shouldn't. I don't know why its publication made me think of Analea, but it did and she's always worthy of honoring. And today, like most days, I try to love myself. 

You can read the poem and hear my read it here. It's paired with a beautiful piece by the artist, Pae White. Many thanks to the editor, Meghan O'Rourke for publishing the poem. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Buenos Aires: To Be Remembered

I am trying to remember what has happened over the summer. Do you remember? What did we do? Picnic? Break hearts? Write poems? Eat cherries and sleep on the cold hardwood floor with the air on? Did we dance in the small bars of Buenos Aires and sip on caipiroskas? Watch the moon rise and cross our fingers for more of them. Yes. Some of us did.

After a whirlwind of a trip to California, then to Buenos Aires, then back to California, then off to Chesapeake Bay, VA and then home, I was both exhausted and ready to melt into the couch of my own mind. But, it’s hard to return to reality, when your reality is a country (and a world) torn apart by so much rage and violence. It was as if the elevator dropped me off at a floor that had no floor at all, but a sheer drop down into the abyss of my god, we humans are really messed up.

A kiss on the wall
Some of you may know that I struggle, like many writers and artists, with anxiety. I worry about things. A lot. And sometimes that means I don’t sleep or it means that I get odd stomachaches or brain aches or need to be alone for a long time at the bottom of a well. Still, I am always trying to find the way out, the ladder thrown down so I might find my way back in the world. For me, that’s always poetry, both the writing and the reading of it. Poetry and the return to the microcosm. To remember love in the midst of everything terrible. To remember love in the midst of everything terrible. To remember love in the midst of everything terrible. 

Let me first remember Buenos Aires for a moment, before it is lost forever in some scrim of vagueness that we call memory or nostalgia. Each day began with café y medialunas and drifted into discussions of poetry and ended with raucous dinners with rogue poets and fiction writers. I was often enthused and ignited. I was also often tired. It was winter there, and there was so much to read and see and eat and drink and soak up. I was the overwhelmed doll in the window watching the world go by. I was both small and large at the same time. Infinite sponge, infinite hard glass, I was both.

Day 2: We explored La Boca and ate our first alfajor (Argentinian cookie that is now my favorite food).

Day 2: The railroad tracks in La Boca.

Day 2: La Boca

Day 4: Evita, Evita, everywhere Evita.
Day 4: At Cafe Tortoni, toasting to Borges. 

Day 5: I shall only eat empanadas forever.

Day 7: En Estancia La Porteña de Areco. We ate these things.
Day 7: En Estancia La Porteña de Areco. We sat in the winter sun.

Day 7: En Estancia La Porteña de Areco. Where writer Ricardo Güiraldes wrote.

Day 7: En Estancia La Porteña de Areco. The dance of the gauchos. 

Day I don't know: En Palermo. The streets! The streets!
Day I don't know: En Palermo with Sangria. We ate these things.

Day 10: En Palermo, I signed my name in the cement of Buenos Aires so as not to be forgotten.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Love in the Time of Blah, Blah, Blah

I had this idea the other night when I couldn't sleep, that the dog, with her head pressed up against mine, was actually trying to soothe and ease my thoughts. I'd worry about money or the future, or I'd just be remembering the Spanish word for something, or thinking of an article I wanted to write, and she'd burrow her forehead into mine a bit more and I'd go marvelously blank for a bit. I needed that. A warm pug mind eraser. 

The problem with having a good memory, is that everything comes back to you from time to time. The problem with being a writer, is that you suddenly feel like you should write something about what is suddenly coming back to you. 

Over the weekend, I read this wonderful essay in The New York Times (T Mag) about two writers meeting, falling in love, and parting at a well known writers' colony. I have an idea about who the man is in the essay, and it felt both exhilarating and wrong to be reading about the intimate details of their relationship. I also had this overarching concern: What if all of us writers suddenly started writing about what goes on at colonies? (Beads of sweat. Dry throat.)

I've long believed it's best to keep some secrets. I can be confessional to a fault for sure. Hell, I've kept this blog for almost a decade now and most of my life can be skimmed through by scrolling down the sidebar. But, some things I vow to stay silent on. Until, perhaps many years have passed or a new door opens in the mind. 

I loved the story of these two writers, the colony, the aching, painful beauty a new heartbreak gives the world. I guess what I'm saying is, it made me want to share some of my own. But, let's be honest, most of my relationships have already been pinned like the butterflies and beasts they are to the pages of my poetry books. What more can one say? 

A lot. That's the thing. When you get into a writing jag, nothing feels off limits, or over; everything feels ripe for the plucking and thick with sticky wine only the years can perfect. But when do you hold back? When do you stuff your old losing tickets back in the drawer where they belong (because we would never actually throw them out, nothing gets thrown out)?

For now, I guess my sometimes loose lips are zipped and old flames and flickering wicks can live on in their shadowy world. Besides, it's almost dinner time and we're going out to a friend's house. My man is getting ready and I am too. I'm sure, at dinner, we'll tell some secrets, that not even The New York Times could pull out of us. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Summer is for Sitting

One of my best friends is a girl who likes to sit: at parties, at bars, at antique stores, whenever the occasion calls for standing, she’d like to do the opposite. She came to visit recently and an old college friend of hers said, “Oh we used to say that all the time, ‘H likes to sit.’” He waved his hand dismissively as this was apparently old news. "H likes to sit." She had never really thought of it before. At least not in the way that entailed heavy thinking about ones own habitual behavior.

But now, we get pictures of her sitting in random places all over New York City: one was a picture of her on a fire hydrant next to a pile of trash in midtown, the next was of her in a throne-like chair, which I assumed was at some well-heeled bar in Manhattan, another, my personal favorite—because I am prone to black humor and black spells—was a picture of her sitting in total darkness.

My first thought, when she sends me one of these pictures is, “I need to sit immediately.” I know, I know, there are the recent studies about the dangers of all-day sitting and the articles about how “sitting is actually killing us!” (I own a bike desk that I love, and I regularly use a standing desk, so yes, I know.) But sometimes one needs to just stop moving, stop thinking, stop doing, and just sit down.

This is where I’m at right now. I would like to sit. I survived the winter (believe me it felt just as “Game of Thrones” as that sounds), and now I’m of a mind to take a clue from my favorite take-a-seat-girl, and sit, stare out at nothing, and do the work. Time to make progress on the new book (it’s going, moving, rattling along), time to write more articles, and time read and write more poems. The time of sitting has come. Grab your lawn chair, picnic blanket, bar stool and join me.

And if you’d like to read while you sit, you can sit and read a new poem of mine that came out 18 days ago (but who’s counting) in The New Yorker. It goes good with bourbon. There’s also this poem which was just recently given a Pushcart Prize. Hey, good news comes to those who sit. Now, if only I could write a poem that scratches off lottery tickets for me.

In the meantime, the world and the weather is saying, sit down, stay awhile. 


Tuesday, April 01, 2014

April 1

(poem was here)

National Poetry Month = We Are All Our Own Full Moons

As I've done for the past 10 years (?!), I'm participating in NaPoWriMo, which was started by Maureen Thorson and it means we all write a poem a day. I post them here. Then I pull them down to edit them. Every year, I SWEAR I won't do this. And this year, I have more than enough excuses to give this up, but I won't. Again, these are not finished pieces. They are DRAFTS. BABIES. INSANE PUPPIES. New and newly crafted, the poems of April are the seeds for summer's revision. I hope you all join me in celebrating the process by writing a poem a day. I will try my best (just like in life) to not give up.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tweaking: The Year of Alchemical Messiness

Just now, I watched a giant red tail hawk come flying through the neighbor’s field and disappear right to the woods across the street. I’ll take it as an omen. I need a few omens. Good ones at that. Can we just all agree that this winter was hard? It was really, really, stupidly, stomp-your-feet-at-the devil-in-his-home, shake-your-fist-at-the-sky hard. First there was the snow, then the ice storms, then the terrible stubborn, icy cold. And the moon was all loopy. Everything was knives and ice picks.

Then, came AWP (the world series of writers' conferences) in Seattle, and I was all, “Spring is here, let me drink all the things, and eat all the things, and hug all the poets!” And then, perhaps inevitably, I came down with a two-week cold that laid me flat out like a dead bird smashed on the wet pavement. I was useless and sad and whiny. 

Finally, slowly, I am coming back to life. I can actually contemplate things like going to dinner, returning emails, going for a slow run down the lane, and writing. What strikes me again and again about life, (and yes, I am about to turn 38 in ten days so I suppose I should know this already) is that no matter how hard I try to force it to be one thing (say, spring, say warm, say easy, for example), it refuses to be that thing. Life is not a trainable dog. Life is a rogue wolf.

So, I stayed in and revisited the new poetry book, and worked on freelance work, and found myself finally tweaking old poems into new poems. It’s something I rarely do. Usually a poem is done, or it's a dud (in my world). But during this purgatory of icicles and chest colds, I found this marvelous time to rework poems I thought weren’t working.

This is when I wish we could take the word tweaking back from the meth-addicted and the chiropractors. Tweaking is a poet's word. It’s a copywriting word. We go back in and make tweaks; we tinker; we fix. It’s what we ask our students to do all the time. But we forget to tell them that it's really hard. We forget to say it's unpredictable. We forget to say they should store it away for a few months, get a cold, stare into space, change their lives, and re-do their closets, before attempting to fix a broken poem. A broken poem is like a broken heart. It takes time. Also, it’s some sort of magic. Truly. There are no words for why it works sometimes, and why it doesn’t other times.

We all go the writers’ conference and think, “writing is a business!” and then we come back to our desks and know it is not; it’s one messy alchemical experiment. 

And now I can think Spring thoughts. I will think them. There is no stopping me. A cardinal in its ridiculous cap is bouncing by the dying maple tree and I suppose we're always doing both of those things: bouncing and dying. But here's to all the little re-working in between, the new rules, the rethinking, the constant tweaking so we can get right our given hours.