Stories 2007, oil on canvas, 18 x 15 inches (Corey and Miya)
As some of you may know, I read a lot. A lot. As a child I escaped into books, sometimes perching in our crabapple tree until my Mom’s call or a cramp in my leg sent me down to real life.
When we first toured our prospective home on Blue Mountain Road, where the living room was lined with book shelves, empty bookshelves, I knew this was the place. The property had a guest suite for artists, a stable and garage to convert into our studios, and a magnificent view to the west. But those book shelves!
We’ve been here twenty years and the shelves are full even though I cull them every now and then. The presence of my books comforts me. I peruse their spines tightly packed on my shelves and remember the pleasure of reading them. I may even pull a book out to reread.
Thank goodness, writers continue to write wonderful stories. I wait each year for new volumes in mystery series like those of Louise Penny, Daniel Silva, Laurie King, and William Krueger amongst many others. I can’t wait to read new books by Paulette Jiles or Lief Enger. These days I often buy books to read on my Kindle. The shelves are just too full.
One book I will buy in order to have it in hand, is Kitchen Yarns by Ann Hood. I stumbled across this wonderful read and have eaten up the story and the recipes that follow each chapter. This book is similar to mine and I hope my writing has a similar effect on readers. Hood’s words send me to my kitchen to make the dishes she so vividly describes. So far, I have made a simple roasted chicken and pasta Amatriciana.
Roasted chicken isn’t a new recipe for me, merely an invitation from Hood I cannot refuse.
Heat the oven to 425°. Peel, chop or otherwise prepare vegetables of your choice. I had fennel, potatoes, carrots and onions. Toss them in a roasting pan and top with a chicken into which you have inserted a lemon, halved, salt and pepper. Brush with melted butter and roast for an hour and a half or until cooked and deeply browned.
Another book that recently lead me to cook a dish is Barbara Kingsolver’s new novel, Unsheltered. Late in this sad, funny, inspiring book about place and home and family, there is a scene where a neighbor concocts a simple dinner with what he finds in the nearly barren fridge and meager pantry, using a camp stove. He makes corn fritters with cornmeal, sugar and cheese, and tostones with a bunch of forgotten plantains. Read this scene in Kingsolver’s beautiful prose and you will be off to buy plantains, too.
I immediately had to find recipes for these Puerto Rican dishes. I haven’t yet made the corn fritters. The plantains I used for the tostones were a bit ripe, so were perhaps not truly authentic, but they were very tasty. First, I fried 1-inch pieces of peeled plantain in vegetable oil until softened, about 3 minutes a side.
I drained them on paper towels, then flattened each piece with the bottom of a glass, so that the edges broke a little, then refried them until crisp and brown. Salted them lightly and served.
In all the excitement of frying, I forgot to take pictures.
So I read on. There are many worlds, and recipes, that I am lead to explore when I open a book.