Harvest and Honey

An open-ended love letter, culinarily inspired.


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four winter salads

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“Lauren, don’t wish your life away! You’ll regret it when you’re older …” I’ve heard these words time and time again in my life, as I have always been painfully, regretfully guilty of doing just that: wishing the time away. It’s my worst habit, no question. I seem to naturally look forward to whatever’s coming next … craning my neck to get a peek of what lies just around the bend of life …

“Stop waiting for Friday,” they say. “For Summer. For someone to fall in love with you. For life.”

This is the time of year that tends to draw out the pessimist in me – in many of us – and year after year, I always find myself wishing away the winter season entirely … in one fell swoop, as if it is such a horrible thing. I referenced my disdain for the colder, darker months of the year a few posts back and I’ve been working to make good on my pre-new year’s resolution to embrace the season with a hopeful, much more grateful heart. Now that I have two children who I can literally see changing and growing before my eyes each day, the concept and construct of time and its passing have changed dramatically for me. It freaks me out. Where I used to spend time daydreaming about the future, I now want to stop the clock. While I used to countdown days on the calendar until my next birthday – when I would be older, more grown-up seeming – I now would gladly trade a few of my birthdays for extra days to sneak in over the course of a year, to make time drift by just a little slower …

We’ve spent the past three weeks traveling, our time divided between family in Kentucky and Virginia – two of my favorite places on this planet Earth. It has been the type of vacation where the lines between days blur a bit and you’re not ever totally sure what the number on the calendar says at any given time. Wonderful, it is. Our daily routines of home and the inevitable monotony that results from them are abandoned while we’re away, changing the way we designate the hours and minutes of each day, how we approach them. It’s refreshing to loosen the slack on time a bit, and just be. To really sink your feet down in a moment and enjoy it for what it is, not what is coming next or what you have to do next or where you have to be is something of an art form, a learned skill that I am working to master … If not master, then to at least pass with a satisfactory grade.

“True happiness is achieved when you stop waiting for it and make the most of the moment you are in now.”

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the ghost train

You could hear the food rolling around in the back as the car came to a sudden, unexpected stop. In one unified and seemingly choreographed collapse, the canvas grocery bags had toppled over, letting go of their overly stuffed contents. Two bottles of wine clanked and banged into one another, perched on the precipice of a shatteringly terrible mess. It was red wine, no less. Were it not for the two loaves of whole wheat bread who so gallantly stood in as buffers (buy one, get one!), they surely would have broken, those wine bottles, spilling their dark red liquid all over the trunk of my car. I eyed the receipt that was sticking out of my purse, trying to remember what I’d purchased that could have spilled or burst or wreaked utter havoc in the way way back.

We almost made it, though. We almost cleared the tracks before the lights started flashing and the gate came down. Almost. I couldn’t recall the last time I’d had to stop for a train, and this one seemed to have come out of nowhere … the flashing lights and ringing bells catching me off guard and causing me to slam on my breaks. So alas there we sat, my two children and I, waiting for the impending arrival of the train that we could feel coming before we ever saw or heard it. Here it comes! Here it comes! All aboard! The kids were ecstatic, thrilled. We were first in line for the viewing of this train and last, incidentally, to arrive at the gymnastics class to which we were headed. Thanks, train.

And now, we wait. Continue reading


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milk & cookies

While I fear it may give the impression that I am somewhat of a scrooge, in the name of transparency I will admit something to you … {takes deep breath … hovers fingers above keyboard}. Okay, here goes …

My name is Lauren, I am 33 years old, and I have never put up a Christmas tree. There! I said it. I feel better – the weight has been lifted.

Sure I’ve put up decorations here and there over the years, to celebrate the holiday season (and admittedly, because I feel obligated to do it for a number of reasons). But no tree. We’ve just never done it. I’m not really sure why, although I suspect it has more to do with utter, shameful laziness than anything else, really. We’ve moved a lot too, and I’ve adopted somewhat of an anti-hoarding philosophy when it comes to how I approach my belongings (i.e. I try to minimize my earthly possessions as much as possible). So, holiday decor has just never made the cut. Also, there have been small children added into the mix. And cats (alright fine, that’s not a real excuse). And so alas, no tree.

That is, until this year. I am happy to announce that I actually set up my first (grown-up) Christmas tree and have been enjoying every bit of its twinkling, shimmering, holly, jolly glow for the better part of the past two weeks. And surprisingly, nary a cat nor kid has wreaked any sort of havoc on it. The Christmas miracle is alive and well, I can tell you firsthand. Last night after I tucked my kids into their respective beds and made my merry way to the couch, where I planned on doing a whole lot of nothing for the next couple of hours, I found myself mesmerized by this tree … looking completely lovely in its little nook of the room … “brighten the corner where you are,” and all. It was my parent’s tree, and they so kindly passed it along to us this year, since they have another one to enjoy. I suppose they figured that their 2 trees to my 0 trees made for a very uneven score, so they generously helped to even out the playing field by gifting one to us (Thanks guys!). It is filled to the brim (to the branch?) with ornaments that were handmade by my Grandmother, Nora, and that have been the objects of my greatest affection since I was very small. In fact, after my living loves and maybe my cast iron pan, they are the things that I would save in the event of a fire. What’s more, the soft glow of the Christmas tree provides my house with the exact right amount of light to allow for ample vision (important, I suppose) while also somehow blurring the scars and mess and less than ideal marks and smudges on the floor that somehow always seem to escape my cleaning. The light from the Christmas tree somehow magically washes all of those things away, and the room just looks perfect, peaceful. Again, with the Christmas miracles … Continue reading


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a bad wrap and the presence of presents

Apple & Cardamom Frittersimg_5286 img_5279 Apple & Cardamom Frittersimg_5258

“Mom, I think I did a bad job wrapping this one.” Elle held the small box so close to her eyes that they almost crossed as she inspected her handy work. “No, no it’s beautiful!” I assured her. “Gifts are like people – it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Actually, it’s really just the thought that counts …” She stared at me quizzically then, my four-year-old daughter, and I laughed. “Anyway, it looks good to me.”

With more Scotch tape landing in sticky, tangled heaps on the floor than on the actual presents, we managed to “successfully” wrap a single, solitary box and enjoy its sparkling red and green presence for a grand total of five minutes before the kids had already torn into it, ready to do it all over again. The act of wrapping and unwrapping the presents is just as much fun to my kids right now as the actual receiving of the gifts, it seems, and it just shows to go you (as my grandmother would say) that children can make a game out of anything – a game that will rival most any toy that you could buy at the store. It is for this reason that we don’t keep presents under our tree … at least not yet … at least not REAL presents. We keep a few boxes for my kids to wrap and unwrap and do all manner of make believing with, but the real ones are stowed away out of sight … for now. Continue reading


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the biggest apple

I’ll begin at the very end.

“Where you headed, ma’am?” He asks as he effortlessly weaves the cab up and down the busy streets of Brooklyn. “Indianapolis,” I reply, staring out the window. They call it “the concrete jungle,” and on this particularly gray, windy Wednesday morning in late September, it was living up to its name quite well. I watch the city fade into the background as we work our way toward Jersey.  A perfect view – a favorite view. Although I much preferred the view just two days prior, as I made my way into the city, not out of it  …  the one where the city gets closer with every passing second and you can feel its energy without even trying. I love that about New York. It is one powerful, beautiful, crazy, overwhelming, treasure of a city and it’s always captivated me, ever since my parents first took me to visit when I was 18 years old.

We’re on the bridge now and it’s like watching an old movie reel scrolling by in split-second glimpses, perfectly framed by the bridge’s rails and beams. The ubiquitous sounds of the horns and traffic and roaring world outside the cab’s windows contribute the soundtrack to our ride.

The latest edition of Saveur magazine is peeking out of my carry-on bag and I feel a mixture of both happiness and sadness; happy that I was able to be a part of such a wonderfully memorable two days at the Saveur Blog Awards and sadness that it all came and went too quickly, as all good things tend to do. Now that it’s over, I can see it more clearly – really appreciate the time I spent in the city – the who, what, when, where, and whys of it all …

 

Who. Saveur Magazine, as I’ve waxed pathetically about in previous posts, is an all-time favorite food read for me and has provided me with the ultimate fodder for fueling a lifelong love of all things culinary. What can I say? I’m a true fan. Oh, and it’s pronounced Sah-v-oor if you’re wondering (I was).

What. The annual blog awards. I have to remind myself that this isn’t necessarily a huge to deal to everyone on the planet, but when you’re totally wrapped up in what it is that you do, and you throw so much of yourself at it for so long, it’s a big deal to you. To me. Yes, it was a big deal to me.

When. I think these awards came at a particularly poignant time for me. As a full-time mom with a husband who has an incredibly demanding, time-consuming career, parenthood is so very much at the forefront of my life right now – my every waking moment is calibrated toward it in one way or another. So, a getaway that was truly about me and something that I love was just amazing – surreal almost. I’ve learned that by maintaining this world of food and stories and photos, I am able to be a better mother to my kids because I’ve tended to myself in an important way; a way that I’m not sure I even knew I needed before I set out on this blogging journey of mine, to use a cliched expression. It definitely feels like a journey though, I can tell you that much. Getting to hang out with a bunch of other people who do what I do and like what I like felt really good. The timing was so, so right.

Where. My favorite place. The city that never gets old, never disappoints, never fails to excite and inspire. The city that never sleeps. I still love you, New York.

Why. I was there because I’d worked hard at something that I really loved and some people happened to have liked it. And that felt pretty good.

How. The funny thing was, by the time the awards rolled around on the last night, it seemed like most people had almost forgotten that they were even a thing – that they were even going to take place at all. I found myself standing in awe on the rooftop deck of the William Vale Hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn on the night of the awards, staring out at what has to be one of the most incredible views anywhere in New York. I will never forget that. It’s the kind of view that makes you feel simultaneously on top of the world and painfully, insignificantly small all at the same time. They passed tray after tray of delicious small bites and I mingled with the wonderful new friends I’d made over the course of the past two days and tried my best to soak it up and appreciate it, every little bit of it.

 

I’m almost positive my cabbie just caught me smiling. Our eyes meet in the rear-view and he’s caught me red-handed, basking in my reverie. He smiles. I smile. He turns on the radio. We both laugh. It is, and I kid you not, Alicia Keys belting out, ”  … this place will inspire you … make you feel brand new …  there’s nothing you can’t do. Now you’re in New York … New York … New York.” Continue reading


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the gift

Balsamic Caramel Pears with Toasted HazelnutsBalsamic Poached Pears with Honey and ThymeBalsamic Poached Pears with Honey and Thyme

G-67. G-67? Calling ticket number G-67 to window 12 please. That’s “G” as in giraffe. G-67 … 

Sitting in my grey plastic chair, I shuffled my feet restlessly on the cracked linoleum floor and searched through my oversized purse for something to snack on, to help pass the time. I’d been waiting at the DMV for far longer than I cared to and was beginning to wonder if the person sitting next to me could hear my stomach growling. I’ll admit that all of the riffling and digging that I was doing in my purse had also served to mask the rather embarrassing sound that my stomach was making. It would growl and I would dig, it would growl and I would dig. I must’ve looked more like I’d lost my mind than anything else, now that I’m thinking about it.

G-68? G-68. Calling ticket number G-68 … 

I reached down to double-check my ticket number for the dozenth time, hoping that it had magically changed to G-68, but alas, it had not. “H-12” it read and who knows how long I’ll be here at this rate, I groaned to no one in particular. In the midst of my internal temper tantrum, I began to scan the sea-like crowd of people to count how many had been there before me … wait, was she here when I got here? I think this couple walked in after me … I’m surely going soon … My restless feet they shuffled still, and my hands had yet to locate something edible in my bag.

And that was when I saw her. The tiny woman with the biggest hat I’d ever seen on a person that wasn’t a cowboy or at a Kentucky Derby party. It was a fancy sort of hat; formal, frilly, and with a brim that jutted out from her forehead and made an impressive, dramatic sweep around her face, dipping down behind her narrow shoulder and then back up again around her neck. I surveyed this hat the way one might a celebrity who’d just entered the room. It stole my attention, piqued my curiosity, and all but made me forget my starving, growling stomach. It was eggplant. The hat’s color that is – it was decidedly eggplant. The woman in the eggplant hat had a large basket tucked under her own plastic chair, which was only one row in front of mine and three seats to the right. I strained my neck to get a better glimpse of what was inside her basket because at that point, not knowing wasn’t an option. What does a tiny woman with an exceedingly large hat need a big basket for while she waits to renew her license? I wondered this as I sat there.

This is the part of my utterly random story where I fall out of my chair. Not an all-the-way-to-the-ground sort of fall – the kind that can produce injury and bruised egos – but just a slight tumble forward, rather, causing me to lose some of the items in my bag and helping the legs of my chair to screech backward on the floor. It was the screech that caused her to turn around. The woman shifted slightly in her chair and looked down at me then, and smiled. I could clearly see the contents of the brown wicker basket now. It was filled with pears – plump, attractive green pears. Huh. I’m not sure what I was expecting to see in that basket, but it wasn’t pears that’s for certain.

Clearly sensing my instant fascination and curiosity, the woman in the eggplant hat kindly offered me one, with nothing more than an outstretched arm and a nod of her head, as if to say it’s okay … it’s not poisoned.

I’d yet to actually say anything out loud, so she did. “In my culture, pears are a symbol of immortality, longevity … survival,” she informed me with a kind, warm smile and very broken English. She was from China.  Continue reading


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truffled pumpkin pappardelle alfredo with frizzled sage

{Corrected post! Apologies for the re-send guys, WordPress sent out my scheduled post prematurely, before I had all of my editing done … all of my I’s dotted, T’s crossed, etc.}

 

Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016   12:35 a.m.

The house is eerily/weirdly/abnormally quiet right now. I suppose the fact that it’s just after midnight and everyone is fast asleep in their beds would suggest that the house is quiet – that it should be quiet. But normally it isn’t. Usually on any given night around this time, at least the ones during which I happen to be awake for whatever reason, the house is still awake too, making its last sounds and heaving its last sighs of the day before settling in to the night. The last clunks of the clothes tumble in the dryer downstairs, the dishwasher setting switches from “wash” to “dry” and begins its low, lulling hum. The clock in the bathroom ticks ticks ticks away while the two cats, nocturnal beings that they are, play-fight in the living room until one cries uncle, waves the white flag, or whatever it is that cats do to signal that they’ve had enough … the day is done … it’s time for bed. 

But I can’t hear any of this right now, these normal midnight sounds, as I stand in the kitchen. Save for the clicking of this keyboard, it is dead quiet. No wind in the leaves outside, no clothes in the dryer, no fighting cats. Just quiet.   Continue reading