Bow Tie Cheese Straws

Cheese Straws Recipe

I have an odd habit when it comes to food. Certain recipes remind me of certain people. I’m sure there’s some scientific explanation for this, but I prefer my Theory of the Heart. It’s as if I’m conjuring these people in the kitchen when I cook. My white chocolate cake with pistachio buttercream frosting brings to mind my friend Carlotta, as does my lemon curd cake, American’s Test Kitchen’s Beef in Barolo, and all things coconut. Anything chocolate is The One—all the better if it’s chocolate and peanut butter. Shrimp and leeks is my not-quite-legal sister-in-law, Diane (I call her that because, as most of you know, The One refuses to marry me). The wintry snowflake cake evokes my niece, Megan. Yes, sometimes I even talk to them in absentia. And no, it’s not dementia.

These bow tie cheese straws are all about our dear friend Deborah, who passed many years ago. I haven’t made them since she died. It would be too painful. To have her sitting on the counter or hovering over my shoulder (I’m not quite sure exactly where the dead hover as they watch you cook), yammering away as I mix, fold, roll, and cut, would be too painful.  Read more »

Cherry Tomato Tart

Cherry Tomato Tart Recipe

An odd and unusual thing happened to us this summer in our garden. Something almost out of science fiction. [Cue otherworldly music.]

Let me back up. Before this year, The One’s and my vegetable garden took up all of a 10-foot circle around an old tree stump. We would dutifully divide it into quarters and fill it with herbs, tomatoes, kale, and a few nasturtiums. That was it. Nothing to write home about. And, since Papa Leite is a consummate gardener, I literally never did write home. The last thing I wanted was for him to raise a grayed eyebrow and wonder, did my boy learn nothing during those long summers at Silvia’s Farm where he worked as a teenager? But this year, overcome by some deep yearning to be real men of the earth, The One and I broke ground on a garden that was more than five times the size of our old garden. In total, four raised beds, all filled with our yard guy’s organic soil.

Here’s where it gets a little weird. In no time, the plants were off and running, even though we got them into the ground more than a month late. I mean, they were ALIVE! The cilantro, which never, ever survived our hands, was huge. The five parsley plants—we planted five because at least half always die—burst into bushes more than two feet tall. Same with the potatoes, squash, cantaloupes, watermelon, cucumbers, broccoli, heirloom tomatoes, carrots, beets, and the rest of the herbs. I finally did write home to my father and send him photos. He kept saying, “I have no idea what you’re doing, son, but keep doing it.” The thing is: We did nothing! Read more »

Mary Karr on The Art of Memoir

Mary Karr


As I’ve gotten older, I’ve begun concocting a real, honest-to-God bucket list.

When I was younger, I had a different kind of list: a checklist. I ran around like I was on some crazed Easter egg hunt, cramming in as many experiences as possible, all for the pleasure of checking those suckers off the list. It was about acquisition and accomplishment, not meaning. (Welcome to the manic phase of manic depression: All peak experiences, all the time.)

I guess I got to the point when I started thinking, “Damn, if I don’t get my ass in gear, I’m never going to get around to the stuff that really matters.” The items on my more mature bucket list aren’t many or particularly outrageous. Visit the White Cliffs of Dover. Have a cat for longer than eight years. (Oh, the vicissitudes of adopting adult fur babies.) Make it to my and The One’s 50th anniversary (only 28 more years!). Find the exact spot along the Seine where he and I first said we loved each other. Win an Academy Award. Okay, that last one’s a bit la-di-da, but a boy’s got to dream. Read more »

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