He’s the Reason You’re Fat

Calendar Boy

It’s time we lay our cards on the table–our cards slicked with Mamma’s down-home fried-chicken grease–and admit in one glorious raising of voice, “Two thousand and eleven’s New Year’s resolutions are dead.” Not just dead. Cremated. Scattered. Gone.

Come on, fess up. If you’re reading this blog filled with all sorts of fatty-fat-fat recipes, chances are one of the promises you wrote down on January 1, either in your journal in happy purple ink or in that sexy iPad of yours in an expectant techno-blue font, had to do with weight: either lose it, firm it, suck it, or disguise it. Me, too.

I don’t know when it happened to you, but for me the stake was plunged into the hopeful heart of my resolution sometime around Valentine’s Day. I could feel the pull, the siren’s call, “Come to me, bend to me!” of personal pan lasagna, lobster fra diavolo, and linzer heart cookies. My ruin was titanic, not just in size, but in progression–slow, sprouting leaks of willpower that soon turned into uncontrollable hemorrhaging of resolve, eventually resulting in the sinking of what was this time the greatest, most airtight resolution ever made. Read more »

A Cold Day’s Feast

Wintry House

Call me cruel and unkind, but I often fantasize about suing the entire fricking backlot of Disney characters. Growing up, I bought into their Technicolor rhetoric that all I had to do was wish upon a star or confide in a ridiculous talking cricket sporting a cheap morning suit to live a perfect, happily-ever-after life. And my 4-year-old brain believed it.

Then one day I awoke to discover that I had careened from underpaid to overqualified by the age of 40, and that I would outlive my IRA by two decades. It’s times like these I dream of slapping charges of whopping misrepresentation on Snow White and her chittering band of merry midgets, er, little people.

Then along comes winter in Connecticut, and suddenly I don’t feel so litigious. From December to March, I can skid out our front door and find the snow-covered clapboard houses, the hills hatchmarked with kids on sleds, and, occasionally, horse-drawn sleighs that most people only see on holiday cards. And even the sight of the plow guy writing his name  in yellow in the snow can’t burst my reverie. Read more »

When Food Doesn’t Heal

Healing Plate

One immutable law of the kitchen when I was growing up was food heals. Regardless if I were laid low by a thwackingly bad cold, a bully from school, or just a winter weekend without snow, food cured all. The powerful antidotes? My grandmother’s chicken soup, my aunt Irene’s massa sovada (sweet eggy bread), my mom’s stuffed quahogs.

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And that’s the philosophy I brought to the stove when I began cooking. It’s as if my dishes were shouting, like a carnival barker, “Looky here, looky here! A touch of gout, sir? Too many wrinkles, ma’am? Feeling blue about a boy, missy? Dr. Leite’s Magical Meals will make you feel like you just got a hug from the great Jackie Gleason himself.” And in each case, the palliative power of cooking—the kind that takes time and care and love—worked.

My belief was put to its most rigorous test on Saturday, September 15, 2001. New Yorkers were finally able to leave Manhattan after the attacks on the World Trade Center. The One, our friends, and I fled to the safety of our weekend homes. That night, as I served as many carbohydrate-rich dishes as the table would hold, six broken people slowly shook off the torpor of 24/7 viewing of the tragedy, the incessant roar of F-16 fighter jets overhead, and acute bunker mentality to hug, cry, even laugh.

That night, armed with Braised Beef Short Ribs, Celery Root and Potato Gratin, and Cheddar-Crust Apple Pie, I beat back a cabal of terrorists and won. So who could have imagined that a slight, troubled 18-year-old girl would eventually take me down. Read more »

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