DSC08881At first glance the title of this posting seems faintly ridiculous—the words “art” and “chicken soup” are an unlikely couple. After all, what could be more simple or more basic than chicken soup, a comfort food that nourishes the body and the spirit? But think back to chicken soup you have eaten, either in the home or at a restaurant. Has it always been rich, flavorful, and golden? After eating one bowl, did you want seconds? If your experience is anything like mine, then the answer is no. All too often, chicken soup is bland and watery, and one bowl is usually more than enough. Honesty compels me to admit that I have made chicken soup that is, shall we say, edible but forgettable. But over the years I have learned how to make a fragrant chicken soup, and here are some tips.

The first and most important one is this: Do not think you can make a decent chicken (or turkey) soup from bones that have been stripped of every shred of meat. I realize that frugal cooks love the idea of taking said bones and making, as it where, something from nothing. I like the idea myself, but sad experience has taught me that when you use chicken bones with only a hint of meat and try to make soup from them, what you get is a thin, boring soup. No, what chicken soup needs is a fair amount of chicken on the bone that can be simmered for hours. There are two ways you can do this. You can buy chicken just to make the soup, and I occasionally do this. But the better way is to purchase more than you need, say, two small birds or a very large one, and have roast chicken one day. (I season mine with oil, salt, pepper, and dried thyme.) Then, resisting the impulse to strip the chicken clean and make sandwiches, you leave most of the remaining meat on the bones and into the stockpot they all go with enough water to cover the bones. If there is a lot of chicken, I will remove a bit to add to the soup after the simmering is done. But only if there is a lot of chicken.

With this, you have a good start, but more is needed. To the stockpot I add one whole onion, with a few  cloves stuck in; two large carrots, peeled and cut in big chunks; three or so cloves of garlic, again peeled and cut in large chunks; a couple of stalks of coarsely chopped celery, if I have them (and I don’t always); and a bay leaf.

Now comes the tricky, watchful part. You want to bring this all to a slow boil, and just as it starts to bubble, turn the heat down so that you have a gentle simmer. (Leave the cover on as it simmers.) You don’t want to have a furious witch’s caldron of swirling bones, fat, and vegetables. You want things to merge and blend slowly. Depending on what kind of stove you have, this can take a fair amount of jiggering with the burner’s heat. Next comes the skimming, and do not skimp on this part. The more fat and froth you skim from the stock, the brighter the soup will be. So, for four or five hours, simmer those bones gently and periodically skim. I know. This is starting to sound like a Julia Child recipe. But a big pot of soup will last for several days and is oh so nice during the long, dark cold of winter. Soup made with boxed chicken broth is a sad, sad imitation, and I’m not even going to get into Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup.

Once the stock has simmered for many hours, strain the broth, pick the meat from the bones, and set the meat aside. Discard the scraps and the vegetables. What you should have now is a golden broth that needs a bit of salt and pepper but not much else to flavor it. Because I am from Maine, I add potatoes and sliced carrots to the broth, but rice or pasta would do as well. Or, if you want a Mediterranean touch, white beans, celery, and a bit of rosemary could be used. The choice is yours, and they are all good ones.

Once the potatoes and carrots are tender, I add whatever reserved meat I have to the pot. Make some biscuits or some muffins, and you have yourself a pretty nice meal.

DSC08875Ingredients Recap
My husband, Clif, always grouses at me if I don’t include some kind of recipe that more or less gives exact measurements. So here goes.

2 small chickens, adding up to ten pounds or so, or 1 large chicken. (If you are feeding a lot of people, you can up the ante to two large chickens.) Roast, have a meal, and leave a lot on the bones to simmer.

1 small onion, left whole and stuck with several cloves

2 large carrots, peeled and cut in chunks

2 stalks of celery, cut in chunks

3 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut in chunks

1 bay leaf

Salt and pepper to taste

Follow the aforementioned simmering and skimming instructions. This is pretty much an all-day event. For those who work outside the home, this will be a weekend meal. But here’s an added bonus: Your house will smell heavenly while the stock is simmering.

After all of this simmering and skimming, it seems very appropriate to end with a “bon appétit!” And perhaps a bonne chance?


A week has passed since Thanksgiving. The turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing are gone. The glazed carrots (thank you, Jill!) are gone. The same is true of the pumpkin and pecan pie (thank you, Carol and Jerry!). Only a bit of cranberry is left, in a small container in the refrigerator, and I plan on spreading some of it on peanut butter and bread for lunch this noon. 

With two oil lanterns and some candles giving the dining room a warm glow in the dim November afternoon, we literally spent hours at the Thanksgiving table, resting after the first round so that we could go back for seconds. And, yes, we all had room for dessert—the aforementioned pies as well as lemon-frosted shortbread. 

After all I had eaten on Thanksgiving, you might think that the Friday after Thanksgiving would have been a day to cut back and eat lightly. You would be wrong. Our friends Carol and Jerry, who are from East Machias, stayed two nights with us so that we could embark on a cultural excursion that would take us from central Maine to Damariscotta and finally to Brunswick, right at lunch time. 

Our first stop was at the secondhand bookshop run by the Skidompha Public Library. Readers, if you are in shooting distance of Damariscotta, do not hesitate. Go to this bookshop. Truly, there is something to suit every reading taste, ranging from poetry to science fiction to romance. The prices are incredibly good as is the selection. My best find was The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett, a hardcover in perfect shape for $4. 

Naturally, after a happy hour or so spent browsing and buying used books, we had worked up an appetite, and we headed to the Great Impasta in Brunswick, which, as its name suggests, is an Italian restaurant—small, intimate, and comfortable. We were led to a table with one bench against the wall as well as chairs ringing the table’s outer edge, and we decided we felt very European. The menu came, and Jerry and I both spotted the spaghetti carbonara. It took the two of us approximately 20 seconds to choose the carbonara, in honor of Calvin Trillin and that “Italian guy,” Christopher Columbus. (For more about this, see my previous post Thanksgiving Folderol.) The Great Impasta’s carbonara is, in fact, Alfredo sauce with prosciutto, but what the heck. It tasted good, and Jerry and I decided that whatever the form, carbonara the day after Thanksgiving should become an annual tradition. And so it will. 

After pasta, we went up the street to Gelato Fiasco for what is surely the best gelato in Maine, if not New England. Contented, we ended our trip with a visit to the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, which is currently featuring an exhibit with the works of Romare Bearden. 

All in all, quite a day, especially coming right after Thanksgiving. In fact, it was quite a weekend. Clif got his turkey, and I got my carbonara, more or less. This is not the first time I’ve been to a Maine restaurant where Alfredo sauce is referred to as “carbonara.”  Among foodies, there is a great debate about what constitutes “real” cabonara—cream or only eggs. This has got me wondering. Are there any Maine restaurants that use only an egg-based sauce to make carbonara? I shall be on the lookout. But egg-based or Alfredo, I could eat this dish at least once a week. It certainly beats turkey, whatever the day.


On 74 Narrows Pond Road, Thanksgiving, that day of gluttony, always involves some intense negotiation. It boils down to this: My husband, Clif, has a zeal for roast turkey that goes beyond human reasoning, and he could eat roast turkey any day of the week. I, on the other hand, am iffy about this big bird. No, that is not true. In fact, I’m not at all fond of turkey, with its mound of white breast meat that always turns out to be dry and bland, no matter how it’s cooked. In short, we are a divided family. Clif’s philosophy is: The bigger the turkey, the better.  My philosophy is: Why bother with turkey at all? Why not just go with the writer Calvin Trillin’s proposal and have spaghetti carbonara? (With tongue firmly in cheek, Trillin’s suggestion is that spaghetti carbonara is really the original dish served at Thanksgiving, a little recipe the Native Americans picked up from that “Italian Guy”—Columbus.) 

Thus, a week or two before Thanksgiving, it begins, always with the question: “So, what size turkey should we buy?” This year, I started low, as I always do, knowing I would have to go up. “Eight pounds,” I answered. “After all, there will only be six of us, and one is a vegetarian.” 

“Eight pounds?” Clif gave me a look that suggested that I was only a hairsbreadth away from being as miserly as Scrooge. “Thirty,” he shot back quickly. 

“Thirty?” I was nearly overwhelmed with the horror of that much dry breast meat. “It wouldn’t fit in our roasting pan, not even the big one. What about ten?” 

Clif snorted. “How can we have leftovers with a ten-pound turkey?” For Clif, leftovers are nearly as alluring as the actual Thanksgiving dinner. “Twenty-five!” 

For me, leftovers just mean more of that darned dry meat, but I had to acknowledge he did have a point about a ten-pound turkey. “Twelve!” 


We finally settled on fifteen pounds. Well, all right, since I’m the one who does the grocery shopping, I settled on a fifteen-pound bird, figuring Clif wouldn’t sulk too much when I brought it home. 

He didn’t, but he couldn’t resist making a catty remark about how puny it was, knowing very well that a fifteen-pound turkey hardly qualifies as puny. 

And there it sits, huge and hulking, in our refrigerator. Tomorrow, it will be oiled and stuffed and slid into a hot oven. Soon the house will be fragrant with turkey. Even I have to admit it smells good as it’s cooked. Potatoes will be riced (never mashed in our house!), bread will be sliced, and cranberry sauce will glitter bright red in the cut-glass bowl. 

And I although I would never say this aloud, I have to agree that dry though it is, there is something about turkey that spaghetti carbonara just couldn’t replace. Nevertheless, next year the negotiations will commence, as they always do.  They have become as much of a tradition as turkey.


“As we honor and pay tribute to soup, I also wish to encourage my readers to use the art of soup making to bring relief to the poor and the hungry near or around us. In ancient times, when monasteries were located within the city walls, monks and nuns provided soup and bread to the poor who daily knocked at their doors. Many monasteries still follow this ancient evangelical practice, and this is where the idea of “soup kitchens” to help the poor originated….Soup making, soup sharing, and soup giving done with love and a selfless spirit can be occasions for endless joy.”
—Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette, Twelve Months of Monastery Soup

Thanks to my daughter Dee, I have a new favorite soup. When we were visiting recently with her in New York, she said, “Next to where I work is a shop that sells a really good tomato soup.” Oh? What kind of tomato soup? “Well, it has chickpeas and cauliflower.” What kind of spicing? “Curry. It was spiced with curry. Do you think you could make it?” Yes, I think I could.

DSC08845I decided to roast the cauliflower, which has a mild—some might even say bland—taste. It seems to me that roasting improves almost any vegetable. From there I would go to onion and garlic, the basis for most soups, followed by a can of tomatoes, a can of chickpeas, and a teaspoon and a half of curry powder as well as a pinch of red pepper flakes. Readers, this is one of the best soups I have ever made. The nutty chickpeas complement the mild cauliflower, and the curry blends with the tomatoes to produce a spicy but smooth flavor. I could eat this soup once a week, and I’ll certainly be making it regularly during the impending months of cold weather, which in Maine stretches through three seasons and at least six months. With so much cold weather, soup can be a great consolation.

I began this piece with a quotation from Twelve Months of Monastery Soups. During the upcoming holiday season, indeed throughout the whole year, we should follow Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette’s advice. Hunger and food insecurity are on the rise in the United States. According to yesterday’s New York Times, “the number of people in households that lacked consistent access to adequate nutrition rose to 49 million in 2008, 13 million more than in the previous year and the most since the federal government began keeping the data 14 years ago.” Surely the richest country in the world can do better than that, and what better way to start than with soup—nutritious, delicious, soothing, and economical.


Curried Tomato Soup with Chickpeas and Cauliflower

1 small onion, chopped fine
3 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
Olive oil
1 ½ teaspoon of curry powder
1 pinch of red pepper flakes (or more, if you like things hot)
1 head of roasted cauliflower
1 (19 oz.) can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 (28 oz.) can of crushed tomatoes
1 can of water, using the tomato can

First, roast the cauliflower. Cut the cauliflower into small pieces, toss with some olive oil and bake at 375°F until the cauliflower is tender and slightly browned, about twenty-five minutes. When the cauliflower has cooled, chop into bite-sized pieces and set aside.

Sauté the garlic and onion for a few minutes in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chickpeas, the tomatoes, the can of water, the curry, and the pepper flakes. Simmer for 45 minutes or so. Add the chopped cauliflower and simmer another ten minutes. Garnish with either sour cream or yogurt if you like, which I always do.


At first glance, being a foodie and writing a blog can seem quite focused, maybe even a little narrow. It can easily come down to three things: food, recipes, and impressions, and indeed many good food blogs go no further. But food can be a much broader subject, and foodies everywhere should be concerned with how and where their food is grown.  (They should also be concerned with questions about why some people get too much to eat and why some people don’t get enough, but that’s a topic for another time.) Then, from these concerns spring a larger environmental awareness that spirals inward and outward at the same time. Simply and personally put: How do my eating habits affect me, my town, my state, my country, the world? Naturally, energy use, climate change, pollution, and pesticides are woven into these questions as well. It soon becomes clear that food is a complicated subject that touches many areas of life. 

I thought of this as I watched HomeGrown, a documentary about the Dervaes family, who literally took food matters into their own hands and decided to see how much they could grow in their backyard, which was less than a quarter of an acre.  As it turned out, they could grow 6,000 pounds, enough food not only to feed themselves but also to sell to local restaurants. Because the Dervaes family lives in Pasadena, they have a long growing season and can therefore support themselves with the bounty reaped from their urban homestead. But still, long growing season or not, 6,000 pounds from one quarter of an acre is pretty impressive. In addition, the family lives off the grid, using solar panels and an outdoor solar shower. (Again, the outdoor shower is possible because of where they live.) Their urban homestead also has chickens and goats. There is a website (of course!) called Path to Freedom (, where you can learn more about this remarkable family—a father and three adult children, two daughters and a son. HomeGrown, directed by Robert McFalls, has a website as well. ( If the movie doesn’t come to a theater near you, it will certainly soon be available through Netflix. 

Now, not every family wants to sell food for a living. Nor should they. After all, we need teachers and librarians and social workers and chefs and factory workers and engineers and doctors. The list is long, and it is no more advisable to have a society with mono-careers than it is to have a farm with mono-crops. But do we really need so many clerks working at Wal-Mart and Home Depot and, yes, even L. L. Bean? Consider this statistic, from November’s Down East magazine. “The most common job in Maine isn’t lobsterman or lumberjack, it’s retail sales clerk, followed closely by cashier; there are more people working in either of those professions than all the fisherman, farmers, and forestry workers combined.” No doubt some of those clerks and cashiers love their work, despite the fact that these jobs pay a low wage and often come without benefits. However, when was the last time you saw a clerk or a cashier who looked pleased as punch to be working in that big box store? Not very often, I suspect. 

But what would happen if, in the thousands and thousand of yards across the country, families started growing food instead of lawns? What if they kept a few chickens? Maybe even a goat or two? What if they began making their own bread and began hanging their laundry on a clothesline?  Would it be possible to live on one income rather than two? Or perhaps two part-time jobs? And, correspondingly, would it be possible to get by with one car rather than two? Would there be more dinners cooked from scratch? What would this do to energy consumption? To food distribution? To the high levels of obesity and diabetes? (Hint: How many farmers are fat?) 

I know. This sounds like a hippie-dippie back-to-nature scheme, and in a way I suppose it is. But it is also a radical shift from the system we have now, where we pretty much totally depend on others for the necessities of life. Let me be clear. I am not suggesting we return to the good old days when nearly everyone lived in the country on a small family farm. There are far too many people to make this feasible, and it is good to have time to pursue other interests and hobbies. To grow or make everything a family uses is labor intensive indeed. Yet how free are we, really, in the two-career home where both adults work outside the home all day and come home too frazzled to cook and enjoy being with their children? How free are we when we depend on Wall Street and big business for our well being? I’m just asking. 

I’d like to suggest that if we grew and cooked more of our own food, then we would in fact be freer and more secure than we are now. (Throw in universal health care and affordable higher education, and families would have even more latitude.) I think it is totally appropriate that the Dervaes family called their website “The Path to Freedom.” 

Finally, let me be clear on one other point. To my way of thinking, “The Path to Freedom” does not mean that it is automatically the woman who stays home to grow the food, bake the bread, and hang out the laundry. Men can do these things as well as women, and with freedom comes flexibility and choice. 

HomeGrown is only fifty-two minutes long, but it certainly raises a lot of issues, both on a personal level and on a larger societal level. I highly recommend this film.


Well, Clif and I made it “there and back again,” as Bilbo Baggins might say. We love visiting with our daughter, and New York is an exciting city, but it’s oh so tiring for the two country mice from Maine. The drive in and out of Brooklyn is the biggest challenge. The route itself isn’t too bad—it’s fairly straightforward, and our daughter doesn’t live far from the highway—but the traffic is, well, a bit frantic. This makes little things like lane changing and keeping track of where to turn a huge challenge. And a stressful one. But although we had some near misses, we came back with no new dents in the car and only a few more gray hairs. 

The big event on this trip was the Brooklyn Flea Market, or the Flea, as it’s known in the city. Although it’s not too far from the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where we’ve been several times, it took us a while to find the Flea, but find it we did. It’s quite the event—150 vendors in an empty lot—and it attracts a big crowd.

The Flea
The Flea

As to be expected with a flea market, there was a fair amount of what we Mainers would call “junk,” stuff like that wonderful speckled vase Aunt May gave you for Christmas thirty years ago. It was ugly then, and it is ugly now. But maybe just maybe someone will decide a speckled vase is exactly the thing they want for that retro look. You never know. And no doubt along with that speckled vase there were other more attractive items. However, as our own house has enough gewgaws to clutter the shelves, nooks, and crannies of several homes, we prudently stayed away from most of the actual flea market fare. 

There were a fair number of crafts people at the Flea, and they sold jewelry—some of it very, very tempting—T-shirts, and art. There was a vendor selling some old book illustrations, and my favorite was of humpback whales with the wonderful caption “Humpback Whales Disporting.” That one almost came home with me. 

But, of course, I was mostly interested in the food. I had, not necessarily in this order, a madeleine (Why ever did Proust make such a fuss over them?); a cannoli, tasty but not as good as the ones in the shop by Dee’s apartment; a sample of some of McClure’s garlic pickles (I bought a jar to bring to our friends Bob and Kate); a bite of Dee’s chocolate scone (too dry), and a nibble of Clif’s “Asia dog” hot dog, a wiener topped with Asian spices (one nibble was definitely enough). For me, the winner of the day was an unexpected candidate, one that I hadn’t really considered when I perused the vendors’ list.  It was a fish taco from Choncho’s Tacos. 

Fish Taco at the Flea
Fish Taco at the Flea

Fish tacos are not common in central Maine, and to this Mainer, who loves fish, they just weren’t that appealing. But as I sat resting on the stone bleachers directly behind Choncho’s Tacos, it seemed to me that it might be worth reconsidering my stance. I watched as fresh fish was dipped in batter and fried to puffy goodness in very small batches. Once out of the hot oil, those golden fish nuggets were placed in a small, soft corn tortilla shell, drizzled with a mayo and yogurt dressing, and then sprinkled with cilantro and shredded red cabbage. It wasn’t long before Clif was sent to wait in the fish taco line. While I limited myself to one, I could have easily eaten two of them, and I will never be indifferent to fish tacos again.

By the time we left the Flea, it was midafternoon, and after spending more time wandering around a very crowded Union Square, we had Thai food for dinner (good, but not great) before heading to a movie at Angelika Film Center. (The movie was Collapse, a documentary about a journalist named Michael Ruppert, who seemed slightly unhinged but nevertheless had it mostly right about peak oil, energy use, and overpopulation.) 

On Sunday, after a bagel breakfast (there’s a shop right around the corner from Dee), we reluctantly said our goodbyes, and headed back to Maine, holding our breaths as we drove on I-278 out of Brooklyn, taking care not to inadvertently zip through the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel into lower Manhattan or make any number of wrong turns that would take us from our I-278 lifeline. At times it was a squeaker, but we made it, and there is no lovelier sign to a Mainer than one that reads “I-95 North.” 

We arrived at Bob and Kate’s house at midafternoon, where we had salad, spiced pork sandwiches, and a rich, dense chocolate cake that just might be the chocolate cake that dessert lovers around the world dream about but so seldom get. Was it the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had? Without further testing, it would be hard to say, but it’s certainly in the running. 

From Maine to New York to fish tacos to New Hampshire to sheer chocolate delight. All in all, quite a trip.


This weekend, Clif and I are heading to New York City to visit our eldest daughter, Dee. The primary attraction, of course, is seeing our daughter, and we would go wherever she lived, even if it meant flying, my least favorite way of traveling. (I hate being in the sky. As a Virgo, I am an earthbound creature.) But I can’t deny that New York City is an added bonus. For the food obsessed, it’s the equivalent of hitting the jackpot. Just down the street from where Dee lives, there’s a shop that sells the best cannolis I’ve ever had, with an incredibly crunchy shell stuffed with a creamy filling that hovers on the edge of liquid and solid. So good, so good! There is also a bagel shop and a Chinese takeout that has decent food, much better, in fact, than what you can get in central Maine. All these delights are in one single block in Brooklyn, and there are so many other pearls on the necklace, so to speak that I am positively giddy with anticipation. 

This time, our plan on Saturday is to visit the Brooklyn Flea Market or the Brooklyn Flea, as it is called in the city. (  From their website, here is a description of the Saturday Flea: “The Fort Greene Flea is outdoors at Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School, on Lafayette Ave. between Clermont and Vanderbilt Ave., and features 150+ vendors of vintage furniture, clothing, collectibles and antiques, as well as new jewelry, art and crafts by local artisans, plus delicious food. It is open from 10am to 5pm—rain or shine—every Saturday.” There is also another Brooklyn Flea, on Sundays, by the famed Brooklyn Bridge, but according to the website, the Flea will soon be heading indoors for the winter. 

I’ve nothing against vintage furniture, clothing, collectables, and antiques, and I readily admit to loving art and crafts by local artisans, but naturally it is the “delicious food” that is the real draw for me. In the New York Times, I’ve read all about the food at the Brooklyn Flea, and I can’t wait to sample some of the offerings from vendors such as Asia Dog, Nunu Chocolates, and Pizza Motto, to name a few. 

Dee’s birthday was last week, and we’ll also be taking her out to dinner—given that we aren’t too stuffed after eating at the Flea. She’s picked a Thai restaurant, always a good choice. I’ve heard a rumor that the restaurant she’s chosen even serves sticky rice, which is not common in Thai restaurants in Maine.

Finally, as if all this weren’t enough, on the way home we will be visiting with our friends Bob and Kate Johnson in New Hampshire, and Kate will be “cooking a pork loin roast with spices that is made to cool and slice for sandwiches with apple butter on one side; mustard on the other; a salad with a homemade dressing; and a chocolate cake …[from] Cook’s Illustrated.” 

My mouth is watering. 

I’ll be reporting on all these delights next week.


In Maine, November is deer hunting season, and for that month we have to wear bright orange whenever we go for a walk, indeed whenever we go out in our own backyard. Our house is tucked into the woods, and our land abuts a rather large watershed that the town owns so that the Narrows Pond, a body of water as big as some lakes, is protected. The watershed is basically acres and acres of undeveloped woods and is home to all sorts of animals—foxes, fishers, stoats, bears, coyotes, and deer. Lots of deer. This, of course, means that we have lots of hunters in those woods in November. Often, we hear gunshots, and occasionally I see a man with a gun walking just beyond our property line. Once, I watched as a deer rushed by, and the fleeing creature was followed by gunfire so loud that I felt as though I was in a war zone. 

In all fairness I must state that not once has a bullet hit our house nor have we ever felt a bullet whiz by us. Nevertheless, I have very mixed feelings about hunting. Even though I am a fifth-generation Mainer and come from a family of hunters, I am on edge the entire month of November. I don’t like the idea of men with guns roaming the woods in back of my house. The woods are thick, visibility is limited, and it would be easy to lose track of where the houses are, especially if a hunter was seized with “deer fever.” I don’t like the sound of gunfire. Every time shots go off, my stomach jumps. I resent having to wear orange in my own backyard, a place where I should feel safe and secure. But I don’t. Not in November, and when I go out to rake leaves, not only do I wear orange but I also bring a radio with me. I have it set on a rock and roll station, and I crank up the volume, figuring that the noise will alert hunters to the fact that they are near a house. I don’t like seeing dead deer on the tops of cars. In short, there is nothing about hunting season that I like. 

And yet… I eat meat, mostly chicken, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t like steak, and I have a zeal for pork that I figure must be encoded in my Franco-American DNA. But I don’t want my meat to resemble an animal in any way—no feathers, no fur, no snouts, no feet. I want my meat clean and packaged. I can’t conceive of ever butchering an animal or tracking one down to shoot it. However, even as I write this, I know it’s not strictly true. Under the right circumstances—motivated by enough hunger—I could probably do it. Fortunately, I am not in a position where I have to kill the animals I eat, so I let others do it for me. They have a name for this sort of attitude, and it begins with H

So who has it right? The one who is willing to kill a deer and deal with hoof, fur, and blood? Or the one who is perfectly happy to eat meat as long as she isn’t reminded where it comes from?  The notion of food, which includes hunting, is fraught with such slippery questions that seem to have no clear answers. 

Someday, my husband, Clif, and I will move, not because of hunting season but because the house is too big for us take care of. However, when we do move, it will be to a village where no hunting is allowed, and I don’t have to on guard for the entire month of November. Until then, I’ll be wearing orange, and I’ll be listening to loud rock and roll on the radio. And counting the days until December comes.


In my last post, I wrote about my friend Jill and her mother’s handwritten recipe for chili eggs. (Jill had invited us over for brunch, and this was the dish she made.) Jill’s mother passed away several years ago, and Jill spoke of the connection she felt with her mother via the handwritten recipe. 

Reminiscence and connection can take many forms, but it seems to me that a handwritten recipe is an especially lovely way to remember loved ones who have died. And as we approach the Day of the Dead (or All Soul’s Day) on November 1st, this is a very appropriate time to do so. 

This started me thinking about recipes I have received from family and friends who have passed away. Because it is soup season, one of the first recipes that came to mind is one for Spicy Peanut Soup, given to me by my friend Barbara Johnson, who died four years ago at the much-too-young age of sixty-eight. 

At the time of her death, Barbara and I had been friends for about fifteen years. Simply put, we were kindred spirits. We loved  many of the same things—nature, Shakespeare, Tolkien, Jane Austen, England, tea, books, and movies. Even now, when I read or see something that I know would be interesting to her, I want to give her a call. She was a cat fancier, and I am a dog lover, but we somehow managed to reconcile this difference so that it did not affect our friendship. Seriously, though, we were such good friends that we felt completely at ease in each other’s company, so relaxed that we could just be ourselves. As an added bonus, Barbara was a terrific cook, one of the best home cooks I know. She won several cooking competitions, and I was lucky enough to be invited to her home on many occasions for lunch and dinner. 

The following recipe for Spicy Peanut Soup, which I have in Barbara’s handwriting, is at the top of my “favorite soups” list. It is easy to make; the ingredients are inexpensive; and the combination of tangy spices, sweet squash, and peanut butter give it an irresistible taste. Plus, it’s good for you. 

Bon appètit, indeed! 

Spicy Peanut Soup
Serves 4-6, depending on appetite 

4 tablespoons of butter
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 cup cooked & pureed pumpkin or squash
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne (More can be added to taste)
5 cups water or chicken stock (For a thicker soup, use less liquid, and for a thinner one, add a little more)
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup peanut butter (Crunchy is best)
Salt & pepper to taste
Sour cream and/or croutons for garnish 

Melt butter over medium heat in a soup pot. Add the onion. Cover and cook about ten minutes or until onion is translucent. Check to make sure onion does not burn. (The heat might need to be adjusted.) 

Add the water, squash, tomato paste, peanut butter, and spices. Blend to smoothness. Cover and simmer at least 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.


Last weekend was the kind of weekend I like best—one filled with food, family, and friends. (Yes, I know. Many of my weekends are filled this way.)  To add to the mix, there was also an environmental event on Saturday, and I am as keen about the environment as I am about food. After all, the two are inextricably twined.

On Friday, we met our friends Alice Rohman and Roger Carpentter at the Café de Bangkok in Hallowell. While the food was good, the view was even better. The restaurant sits right next to the Kennebec River, and we were lucky enough to get window seats and watch as night settled over the river. At one point, the light was dark gray, giving the narrow river a moody, even British look. Inside, we discussed books, politics, and movies, but we were very much aware of the river, just outside, and the gathering darkness.

On Saturday, our friend Diane Friese invited Clif and I to her house in Brunswick for lunch. Our daughter Shannon and her fiancé Mike were also invited. We always make this trip with a merry heart, as we know that delectable food will be waiting for us. This time was no exception. The centerpiece was a creamy squash soup, slightly sweet and pleasingly thick. (I am hoping she will give me the recipe.) After the soup came coleslaw, curried vegetables, and a simmered sweet potato and apple mixture. What else could follow this but cookies and tea, always a satisfying ending?

With full stomachs, we walked in the rain to Bowdoin College, about five minutes from Diane’s house. On campus was a 350 event, one of many around the world to be held that day to bring attention to climate change and to how many parts per million of carbon dioxide there should be in the atmosphere—350, of course. (Right now, we are at about 387 and rising.) The rain undoubtedly kept many people away, but since the event was held indoors, this was probably just as well. The room was pretty crowded, and when we formed a “human” 350 so that a picture could be taken, there wasn’t much space to move. Governor Baldacci and Representatives Chellie Pingree and Michael Michaud were there as well as quite a few veterans to offer their perspective. This gave the event a twist that I haven’t often seen at environmental gatherings. That is, climate change is also a security issue for the United States. Our reliance on fossil fuels, one of the prime causes of climate change, also makes us vulnerable to countries that don’t always have our best interests at heart. Also, the weather disruptions will cause famines and migrations, and, as one veteran put it, our military will have to be there to hand out food and water and to help keep some kind of order. I hope these veterans speak up at various events around the state and the country. Many of them have served in Iraq, and they bring real heft to the promotion of alternative energy, one that can’t be easily dismissed by the not-in-my-backyard contingency.

On Sunday morning, we went to Jill Lectka’s house for brunch. We became friends with Jill in a rather unusual way. Our eldest daughter, Dee, moved to New York City when she graduated from college. Her first job was with Macmillan Library Reference, and Jill was Dee’s boss. One day, a few years ago, Dee called and asked, “Guess where my boss Jill is moving?” Naturally, I couldn’t guess. “To Waterville, Maine.” Waterville, Maine? From New York City? Why? “She’s going to work for Thorndike Press in Waterville.” Thorndike, like Macmillan, is owned by Gale, so it made a strange kind of sense. But still. A very, very small world.  As it turned out, Jill moved to Hallowell, Maine, and she has become good friends with our family, even spending Thanksgiving with us.

On Sunday, the weather was warm enough to have drinks—mimosas—on Jill’s porch, which is nearly two stories up and gives the impression of being above the trees. A sort of bird’s eye view. Then in we went for a rich egg casserole she had made. After drinking—we moved on to coffee and tea—and eating until about 2 P. M., we felt very lazy indeed and reluctant to leave. But leave we did, heading home to the dog who had been left alone this weekend far too much for his liking.


Chili Eggs

(This recipe came from Jill’s mother, who passed away several years ago. The recipe was handwritten by her mother, and each time Jill makes this dish, she feels a connection—via the handwriting—to her mother.)

10 eggs
½ cup of flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
½ teaspoon of salt
1 pint of small curd cottage cheese
1 pound of jack cheese, shredded
1 stick of butter, softened
2 four-ounce cans chopped chilies

Beat eggs until light. Combine flour with baking powder and salt. Add to eggs. Add remaining ingredients. Bake in buttered 9 x 13 pan at 350ºF for 35 minutes. Serves ten.

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