Tuesday, January 1, 2013
My older son and I are scheduled to appear on Dr. Drew this Friday night, May 6.
I'm not talking about Liz Lemon's gorgeous, vapid boyfriend "Dr. Drew Baird" (aka Jon Hamm) from "30 Rock," though I wish I was. You may know the real Dr. Drew as the internist who does celebrity rehab and interventions. Dr. Drew has an on-line narcissism test, "How Narcissistic Are You?" In early April, Dr. Drew started a new show that looks at human behavior and features a range of celebrities and non-celebrities. The new show is on HLN, Monday-Fridays, 9 p.m. EST.
The Friday show includes a segment entitled, "When parents supply teens booze." (Yes, I have my imaginary flak jacket on.) One of Dr. Drew's producers called last Friday and said he'd seen us on the CBS Early Show and asked if we'd like to be on Dr. Drew. Since I am trying to sell a book of humorous essays about parenting and my older son is working towards an acting/stand-up comedy career, I said we'd do it. (I'm also trying to sell a book of short stories, but I doubt Dr. Drew is going to ask me about that.) When the producer texted that he would send us "a fancy town car," and tacked on a smiley face, I smiled back.
The show was actually supposed to air tonight but that show is now devoted to Osama bin Laden's death. Breaking news is always a shock, even when the bad news turns out to be good. This morning, the producer called to delay the interview. He asked if I had been affected by 9/11. My first cousin was on the first floor of one of the World Trade Center buildings at the moment that the first plane hit. He was supposed to be on one of the top floors, but stopped to use the bathroom. My brother, who worked nearby, jumped on a ferry back to New Jersey and showed up at our door. The father of one of the boys on my younger son's LIttle League team last year was killed in 9/11 and I thought about that every time the boy got up to bat. So though I was affected by 9/11, I was not affected in a way that would interest this producer, thank God.
HLN is CNN's network "dedicated to covering news stories that hit home." I have to admit that the first time I ever watched Dr. Drew was Saturday morning. He was interviewing Nikki Sixx, the bassist for Motley Crue, who was promoting his new book This is Gonna Hurt: Music, Photography and Life Through the Distorted Lens of Nikki Sixx and talking about his addictions. I don't think we will be as interesting to watch but please tune in anyway!
Friday, November 2, 2012
If you’ve been following the news, you know that Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey with a vengeance a few days ago. We've had power outages, downed trees, closed roads, no heat, no refrigerator, no freezer, no working washing machine or dishwasher, no Internet access, no school, long gas lines and a lot of spoiled food. There's been the constant sound of ambulances, fire trucks and police cars pounding their alarms as they race from emergency to emergency.
This is not the normal course of events out here in the New Jersey suburbs.
Our house has been cold and dark. We are one of the many millions of people in New Jersey who have lost power but in a way, we’re lucky. We’ve been lighting candles and going to bed under a big pile of blankets. My brother and sister-in-law, who live several towns away, do have power and took my kids in. They also have my sister-in-law’s sister and her family living there, as well as assorted friends and neighbors, so their house is full. My husband and I have been hunkering down at night, wearing layers of pajamas and long underwear, and reading by flashlight and candlelight. It’s kind of romantic except when it’s not. Last night, we headed over to my mother's, who had the foresight to install a generator two weeks ago. That wasn't particularly romantic, since we slept in the family room and our dog nudged us to wake up at 4 a.m. but at least we didn’t have to wear ski socks to bed.
Last October, we also had a massive storm. It happened during one of my nephew's bar mitzvahs, and though the lights went out, the food was cold and the music stopped, it was one of the most joyous occasions I have ever attended because my sister-in-law and her sisters gathered everyone together and led us all in dance and song.
This hurricane has made me think about what we don’t have and what we do. I decided to make a list of what I'm grateful for what we do have so I didn't start drinking old, red wine, alone, at 4 p.m. Here's hoping that wherever you are, you and the people you love are warm and safe.
I’m grateful I can wake up in the morning and boil water for coffee.
I’m grateful that before she left town, my neighbor showed me how to pour boiling water through our drip filter, let it seep, then press the little button at the bottom with a spoon, and whoosh! Coffee comes out!
I'm grateful I lived on a chicken farm in France one summer when I was 16 and watched my French “mother” sauté chicken parts on the stovetop every day for lunch. She used bars of butter, handfuls of garlic, mounds of onion slices, plenty of salt and pepper and did not remove the chicken fat. Hot, buttery chicken makes for a very fine, French mid-day meal, one on which you can snack all day and which is so good, you end up feeling that anything is possible.
I’m grateful I made Magic Bars (shredded coconut, condensed milk, chocolate chips, Graham crackers crumbs, and a stick of butter), lasagna with sausage and chicken Marbella (chicken marinated in red wine vinegar, olive oil, brown sugar, and white wine, and cooked with olives, capers and prunes) before the storm hit because all that buttery, marinated, sweet, salty, fattening stuff keeps for a while.
I’m grateful no trees fell on our house.
I’m grateful that my mother had the foresight to buy a generator two weeks ago, and that even though it stopped working yesterday, a nice man came to fix it today.
I’m grateful my brother and sister-in-law, who live half an hour away, do have power, and are willing to take my kids in.
I’m grateful that LL Bean is willing to do two-day delivery for fleece blankets and a battery-operated radio.
I’m grateful that our dog doesn’t seem to care much that the house is cold and dark.
I’m grateful that all of my students in New York and New Jersey are basically okay, especially my student who has cancer, and my student who lives in a rural area, has no power and kids at home but still managed to email us her submission this morning.
I’m grateful that the supermarkets still have food and ice.
I’m grateful that red wine doesn’t need to be refrigerated.
I’m grateful for the three pairs of candlestick holders we received as wedding gifts.
I’m grateful for flashlights and batteries.
I’m grateful that our two coolers are filled with ice and are keeping our eggs, cheese, and milk cold.
I’m grateful for free Wi-Fi at Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts.
I will be grateful when the trains start running back into New York.
I’m grateful that my writing partner reminded me that we could wear ski hats and socks to bed!
I’m grateful for running water, especially hot water.
I’m grateful for washing machines, and wondering when we’re going to be able to use ours again.
I’m grateful for the ability to slow down, read, think and talk to my friends and family in an unhurried way that I haven’t felt for the past thirty years.
I’m grateful we are not on respirators.
I’m grateful for this soothing and wonderful book, Home, by Marilynne Robinson, which is about family, love, prodigal sons, friction between adult brothers and sisters, piss-poor decisions, religion, leaving home, coming back, and being together in the Midwest in the 1950’s. Robinson’s book, Gilead, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2005, and this book Home, which came out in 2008, is a companion piece to that book---it deals with the same characters, some of them in greater depth. The book has a lovely, slow, rhythm. It calms you down, makes you think and and feel grateful for whatever love you do have.
I’m grateful that yesterday morning, I finally had the energy to go for a run with our dog, worked up a sweat and felt warm for the first time in days.
I’m grateful that Café Beethoven in Chatham is up and running, and that even though you can't get free Wi-Fi there, they serve a delicious latte in an elegant glass with a handle. And I’m particularly grateful to the woman behind the glass counter, who not only confirmed that the frosting on the cupcake was buttercream but also offered to heat it up for me.
I’m grateful that when two guys got into a fight at the gas station because one cut the other off in line, two cops showed up to give them tickets, even though it meant the rest of us had to wait 30 minutes to get past them.
I'm grateful that when I went to clean out the last bits of food in the freezer today, I spotted half of a red velvet cake that I made a year ago. Before I tossed it, I sampled the thick, cream cheese frosting. Reader, I ate it all.
I'm grateful that for 30 minutes today, I remembered to feel grateful.
Monday, April 9, 2012
I have been very fortunate when it comes to cake. Most of the time, it works out quite nicely. Apple cake, chocolate chip cake, Devil's food cake, white birthday cake---these are the cakes I've made that have turned out well, and by well, I mean, they have been so delicious that my family devours them and I can't stop eating them, even when I take the leftovers, hide them away in the freezer, and dive into their frost-bitten pieces in a PMS frenzy two months later.
But this post isn't just about cake. It's also about teaching. I've been very lucky when it comes to teaching. Almost five years ago, I received an email from Columbia, where I'd gone to graduate school in my thirties. Pursuing an MFA in fiction when you're thirtysomething is a bit of a fool's errand. There's no guarantee you're going to get anything resembling a real job once you finish your degree. I didn't care so much, because I knew that once I finished my thesis, I would turn my attention to my boys, then two and six, and focus on driving them all over God's green earth. (When it comes to suburban motherhood, a driver's license is much more useful than a graduate degree.) But one day, Columbia sent out an email blast, looking for teachers. Even without a shred of experience or a published short story, you too could teach creative writing to Columbia undergrads and graduate students as long as you had a degree. The catch was you didn't get paid. But since I had nothing else going on in the intellectually-stimulating department, I said yes.
Almost five years later, I'm happy to say that teaching creative writing has been one of the highlights of my life. After eighteen months of teaching for free at Columbia, I switched to teaching for money at the New York Writers Workshop. My students there have been fantastic---the majority have been really smart, serious, neurotic, ambitious, funny and reliable. (Even more reliable than I am, sometimes. A few weeks ago, I was really sick and had to cancel class. Six of the students showed up anyway and held class without me.) I've had lawyers, TV producers, engineers, sports reporters, investigative reporters, Harvard MBA's, kindergarten teachers, New York Times editors, actresses, artists, psychologists, a sex researcher, a former sex worker, yoga instructors, receptionists, secretaries and software engineers as students. And a few of them actually cook, though it wasn’t until this week that I had the nerve to ask one of them for a recipe.
This Passover, we are invited to two Seders. Normally, we host at least one, but my sister-in-law invited us for the first night and a close friend of mine from high school invited us for the second. I am thrilled to be going as a guest this year. The last couple of months have been rough---my middle-aged cousin died suddenly of a heart attack in February and my brother-in-law Rich, a software engineer in Berkeley who has an adorable eighteen-month old son, was diagnosed with cancer in March (you can read about his chemo and recovery on the blog he shares with his wife, Richandlorien.) While we were vacationing in Colorado, my older son skied into a tree (he had a helmet on, thank God), and I came home to find that a very old friend from Business Week had unexpectedly died of cancer. Usually, I try to cook and write my way out of stress, but this year it was a massive relief to know that other people were going to be preparing the festive meal.
But going as a guest this Pesach means I'm out of my element. Like any self-respecting guest, I offered to bring dessert to the Seders, without having an actual plan for making one. Because we usually host, I've never made a Pesadich dessert. I usually make brisket and chicken, roasted string beans, potato kugel, and occasionally horse radish, but because desserts are an easy thing for guests to bring, I've delegated them.
So I emailed one of my former students---a Columbia trained lawyer, Orthodox Jew and feminist who is also an excellent writer and an avid cook. (Sometimes, she would be so busy cooking for Shabbat or a Jewish holiday that she would skip class.) I figured she'd have a good recipe for Passover dessert. She emailed back and said she doesn't really do Passover desserts because her older son is allergic to eggs. Still, she was kind enough to send me this recipe for Flourless Chocolate Cake. Since the recipe was a bit of an experiment, I decided to make it this morning. If it was a disaster, I'd make meringue cookies or fruit salad on Friday.
The original recipe called for pecans, but because my sister-in-law is allergic to pine nuts and my high school friend's son is allergic to peanuts, I decided to substitute dried cherries and apricots for the nuts. Then, I started to feel bold. The cake didn't look that hard, and how bad could chocolate and dried cherries be? I decided to double the recipe and make two cakes. The recipe warned that the cakes would be flat (no flour to make them rise). They were. The cakes aren't all that pretty either--no one will accuse these cakes of getting by on their good looks. But they taste delicious. If you don't celebrate Passover but are looking for a delicious gluten-free dessert, this cake will also work beautifully for Easter.
Excellent Flourless Chocolate Cake for Passover, adapted from MyBissim.com
(To print recipe out, click here:)
6 eggs – at room temperature
1 cup sugar
5.3 oz / 150 gr high quality dark chocolate
5.3 oz dried cherries and/or apricots
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons good unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tablespoon brandy
Preheat oven to 350f / 180c.
Line a 10”/ 24 cm pan with baking paper and oil the sides.
Place the chocolate and dried fruit in a food processor and grind into very small crumbs.
Separate the eggs and transfer the egg whites to the mixer. Whip on medium-high until they begin to whiten and gradually add the sugar. Continue beating for 3 minutes until you get a thick white foam texture. Slow the mixer and add in the following order: yolks, oil, cocoa, nuts and chocolate and brandy. Continue mixing until even and transfer to pan.
Lower the oven temperature to 340f / 170c and bake for 55 minutes. Don’t prick the cake or it will fall immediately!
Flourless cakes tend to lose height when cooled – to help make it more even, remove from the oven and use a sharp knife to separate the cake from the pan sides. It doesn’t have to be a single movement so don’t push. Cover with a towel and let it cool.
3 oz / 80 gr. dark chocolate
4-5 Tablespoons whole milk
1-2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
Chop the chocolate and place it in a bowl with 4 tablespoons of milk. Melt in the microwave for two minutes. Mix. When cake has cooled, spread on top. Then take powdered sugar, put in a sifter, and sift over cake.
Friday, March 23, 2012
Hello readers! Sorry there have been no posts for so long. I am working on a cookbook and will post again when I come up for air. (Actually, right at this moment, I’m on vacation and the air is thin here, so I’ll post again when I’m closer to sea level, back in New Jersey.) I will also be posting on my new website, My Inner Fruitcake, so please go there and subscribe if you’d like to read about food, family and friends. More to come. Thank you for checking in!
Monday, February 13, 2012
This story on making and eating old-fashioned apple cake and Magic Bars ran on Patch yesterday morning. Due to budget cuts, Patch has stopped using freelancers so this is my last Sunday Night Supper column for them. But as always, if you have recipes or comments to share, please go to the Patch site. Your comments could help land a new home for this column. Thank you, as always, and happy Valentine's Day.
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