food, feminism, and freedom

Stilton in Hudson
Eating Stilton and celery while sipping walnut liqueur, as one does in Hudson, New York.

I have another piece live in The Washington Post this week, and somehow the copyeditors let my Dad’s verb “snarfle” slide right into the final copy! The feature, which I believe will be in print tomorrow, is about women, cooking, and freedom. It’s loosely a profile of Tamar Adler, a talented writer and cook whose new book is coming out this spring, but the piece is also about inclusivity and feminism. I so hope you enjoy it, and thanks for reading. (And jeez, make that tipsy cake! It’s so good and so simple.)

thoughts on Southern living

512B68D6-0643-48BC-8260-6C6B8AC93685Biking in Charleston. Credit: Alex Van Buren, Instagram

It’s an often-repeated saying among the women I know: “You should leave New York before it makes you hard. That’s what Nora Ephron said.”

Nora Ephron didn’t say that, nor did Kurt Vonnegut, but it remains solid advice. And I really didn’t think I was one of those. I thought I was pretty chill. I certainly wasn’t that woman on the subway with the sharp elbows, who pinned me in the fleshiest part of my arm for the duration of the ride. Or the guy who double-parks in the bike lane, swings his door wide without looking, and almost nails me as I cruise by on my clunky hybrid. I’m pretty nice—maybe even the nicest one in my whole subway car.

And then I went south. For two months. Two months of the greasiest pulled-pork sandwiches, which I ate alone, in the dark, in the passenger’s seat of my rented Jetta outside of Bullock’s Bar-B-Cue in Durham, North Carolina. Hushpuppies as fat as your fingers, and deep-fried, snug in a paper bag. I ate it all, between two other dinners in Chapel Hill and Raleigh. (“Because who knows when I’ll be back in the South?”) Two months of fried chicken, the best of which came from a gas station in New Orleans. Two months of insistent small talk with strangers, and hugs instead of handshakes for hellos.

This was a challenge for a New Englander. My heritage is all snow, khakis, and icily quiet masses. I am not a hugger of strangers.

It is not, I now realize, that Southerners are necessarily nicer, but they tend (broadly speaking) to go into a situation from a neutral or positive stance—and Northeasterners tend to go in neutral or negative. And everything stems from that: It’s the difference between making friends at the Nashville honky-tonk dive or fighting for stool space at the bar.

The 10 best things I ate in NOLA are here. The 10 best things I ate all over the damn South—in Nashville and NOLA, Charleston and Durham, Atlanta and Raleigh—are here. I gave props to the late Mr. Duncan Hines, America’s O.G. food critic, here. I wrote for Travel + Leisure as I rambled, stopped off at the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, visited beautiful Blackberry Farm, and attended a cool writers’ colony in Sewanee, Tennessee. (I’d snagged a merit scholarship from the Southern Foodways Alliance to work on a book proposal.)

I met some amazing people along the way: The super-sweet baking savant Lisa Donovan, of Nashville. BBQ superstars Sam Jones, Nick Pihakis, and up-and-coming Charleston brisket hotshot John Lewis. Angie Mosier, the talented photographer who met me on a bus full of barbecue nerds and gave me a place to hang my hat in Atlanta a few weeks later.

I’m still tweeting and Instagramming my adventures (which have taken a slightly domestic turn of late, because I missed cooking and just signed a new lease in Crown Heights, Brooklyn). Spring—and its tulips, asparagus, ramps, and farmers’ market mobs—is fully, totally sprung.

It’s a marvelous time to be in New York City, but my reminder to myself of the South—and how I moved a little more slowly, and thoughtfully, there—is now right on my “to do” list. It says, gently, “Don’t try to do too much.”

cat-sized watermelons and other indignities

My last post overstated things. Prosciutto and butter and bread are excellent, yes. But that was then (May), and this is now (July), and the city has an ineffable stickiness that makes you root, root, root for the kids wasting water with the open hydrants (you know it’s wrong, but man is it fun to bike through the spray).

So I’ve been eating my share of squash and blueberries, favas and corn like the rest of the local food crazies. This being my first year in a CSA, I’m gonna crack open the cat-sized watermelon* I just got and turn it into the glorious watermelon-feta salad featured in the August InStyle (the one with Jessica Biel on the cover). It’s a Hugh Acheson recipe, and part of an article on summery Southern cooking by yours truly. All of his recipes are lovely and light, and I’ve been dreaming up riffs on his Pimm’s Cup all summer. Pictured above (right) is Acheson’s fava bean, prosciutto and mint appetizer. It is wonderful.

In less melony news, a bunch of my copy for Bon Appétit is live; I worked on this “Dress for Dinner” project (scroll down) and wrote all the little restaurant reviews. I’ve also been working on guides to various cities in collaboration with Restaurant and Drinks Editor Andrew Knowlton. I’m particularly pleased with the Boston and San Francisco writeups, so please clickety click.

A couple of parting notes: If you are biking, please wear your helmet: I got doored by a car that was illegally parked in a bike lane a couple of months ago, went flying, and was bruised for weeks. I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this if I hadn’t been properly kitted out.

Fellow stone fruit aficionados, don’t miss this article by Mark Bittman. Each approach is so easy: Cherries are simmered in a touch of water and sugar, then maybe topped with mint and crème fraîche (above, left): I am an ice cream fanatic, and I temporarily forgot about ice cream’s existence when I ate these cherries.

Hope you’re having a rad summer.

* We have a large cat. This was a very large melon. It dwarfed her. She seemed indignant. Post title explained.