A Fund for Jennie Perillo

Jennifer and Mikey Perillo

I carry a knot of sorrow in my chest. It started tightening a week or so ago, when I learned that food blogger Jennifer Perillo‘s husband, Mikey, died suddenly of a heart attack. That’s him on the right. I’ve never met Mikey, and I’m embarrassed to say I can’t remember meeting Jennie. A conference, perhaps? A party? I do know we’ve tossed a few bon mots back and forth on Twitter, but that’s about it.

Mikey leaves behind a woman too young and vivacious to be a widow; two small daughters too innocent to lose a father, a protector, a prince to their princesses. Plus bills, obligations, half-read books, good intentions, a Blackberry that needs charging–the evidence of a lived-in life.

My sadness is fed in part by my lack of connection to what appears to be, and what I’ve heard is, a loving family. Jennie, Mikey, and I could have been friends. Maybe. There were 140-character overtures blinking on my Twitter feed, but I mostly politely ignored them. Perhaps the Perillos and The One and I might have gone out to dinner, us picking apart the meal like the food savants we think we are. If we were friends, maybe I might have given their daughters an airplane ride like Mikey used to do. I never pursued it–too busy was I. Read more »

Write Your, um, Our Own Cookbook

Gougeres

Blame it on Facebook. A few weeks ago, I posted this picture to this on my profile page. I was noodling around with the new iPhone app Instagr.am, to which I’m becoming pathologically addicted, and wanted to see if all this brouhaha over one-button photo publishing really worked. (Yes, it does, and, yes, David Lebovitz, Ree Drummond, and Deb Perelman, I’m still in the Dark Ages when it comes to mobile technology.)

These particularly sublime lovelies are gougères–small cheese puffs, my version filled with prosciutto and herbs. They’re scheduled to appear in the glossy, full-color pages of my next book–a Leite’s Culinaria cookbook–of which I’m only in the proposal-writing stage. ‘Tis true, I’m one of those writers who takes a millennium to put together a book. All I can say is bless the hearts of those writers who can knock out one terrific tome after another.

Now, what I didn’t expect from my expérience sociale was the reaction of readers. Within seconds of posting, I started getting everything from requests for the recipe (can’t give it out just yet, folks) to some serious wrist slapping for not having started the proposal sooner. Read more »

What I Miss About Portugal

Portuguese Saleswoman

I’m often asked at signings or lectures what I miss most about my near-yearlong stay in Portugal while I researched my cookbook. Honestly, the answer changes. It’s not that I’m being capricious or anything (although I can be—a lot). My response is tied to the calendar.

Ask me in October, and it’s São Jorge, one of the nine Azores Islands. It was there that my friend, Portuguese food scholar Janet Boileau, and I scoured the island in search of the finest sample of its namesake cheese: queijo São Jorge.

Ask me in March, and it’ll be the still-green undulating plains of the Alentejo, the great swath of land that cuts through the midsection of the country. In spring a riot of flowers speckle the landscape, almost in defiance of the sun that will pelt all of it into a tawny brown. The One and I spent three glorious weeks there, crawling on our bellies and eating, it seems, every living creature in sight. Read more »

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