Slow to Warm Up

Crock-Pot Ad

I want to say up front that I’m a longtime hater of slow cookers. Ever since I was a kid in the ’70s, all I ever saw come out of Crock-Pots was brown slop. It all looked alike, it all tasted alike. A decade or so later, after I began to cook, I still looked upon slow cookers as cheating. I saw them as symbols of middle-class consumerism pandering to an increasingly lazy society. (Damn, I should have brought a soapbox.)

With the original Crock-Pot, you were really cooking about as much as Lance Armstrong was really winning. Throwing all the ingredients into a pot, walking away for 12 hours, and expecting genius to spill out was ridiculous. Where was the impeccably timed stirring? The gentle nudging of meat? The careful spooning of broth over vegetables? If I wasn’t cooking as my grandmother and mother did, then I was committing fraud in the first degree. And I wasn’t about to risk a criminal record. Read more »

It’s Always Darkest

Early Snowy Morning

Sometimes I think my cat is better than my doctor at prescribing what I need.

Early Wednesday morning, Devil Cat woke me at 3 a.m. wanting to play, as he does every morning when we’re in Connecticut. It was our usual dance number—he leading, me following, of course. First he used his claws to pull himself across the rug—I guess you could call this his floor routine. Then he jumped on the bed and kneaded my chest with his lethal weapons, which he just honed on the rug. When I couldn’t take it anymore, we quickly two-stepped to the bathroom, dancing on each other’s feet, where he figure-eighted between my legs while I winced bleary-eyed into the mirror to see how much blood he’d drawn from my chest. Read more »

Call Me Puff Daddy

Prosciutto-Parmesan Puffs Recipe

I knew I was different when I was seven years old. While all the other kids in the neighborhood were playing in the Jennings’ backyard, sniggering at stolen copies of Playboy and knocking back enough Pez, Twizzlers, and s’mores to make our dentist start shopping for a new ’67 Acapulco blue Mustang, I was hiding out in our kitchen.

“Don’t hang from the oven handle,” Momma Leite would yell, thwacking me on the back of the head with her constant companion, a wet dish rag. “And don’t open the door until they’re done.”

Inside were four Pepperidge Farm apple turnovers. One for her, one for my dad, and two for me. It was the occasional dessert she deigned to serve when I would purposely convulse at the grocery or pronounce in front of company that I was adopted and that my real family lived in a mansion by the sea.

I stood vigil, forehead pressed against the splattered oven window because I desperately wanted to watch the puffery in action. Too many times I’d grown impatient or distracted and stepped away from four flat, pallid triangles only to return to a quartet of buxom beauties, just a hint of their lovely juices seeping through the frills of their ruffles. But that afternoon, I was determined to study every tiny transition in this alchemy. I watched how the sealed edges were the first to blossom and split into a million layers. As the turnovers began to brown, I watched, spellbound, while they bubbled and heaved as though they were coming alive, becoming bigger and firmer until they’d risen, fully engorged! What can I say? While the Freeborns and Jennings ogled what Lynn Winchell, Miss December 1967, had to offer, I was becoming addicted to a very different kind of porn—one that  conveniently required no confession with Father Fraga at St. John of God on Saturday afternoons. Read more »

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