Sunday, September 15, 2013

Favorite Word

Following a challenge in one of my ever-present writing guides, today I'm introducing you to my favorite word, grey. You probably already know the word and may be already correcting my spelling. The variable spelling is, in fact, why "grey" is a favorite.

Needing an essay description for a shading? For the color creeping inexorably from your scalp? "Gray" is your word. Need a word that rings with major-key practicality? "Gray" is your descriptor. Need a way to drag blue into your shadows? That "a" does it (for me, anyway).

On the other hand, if there is a conjugation needed to make those shadows firm enough to step into, to draw up the lichen-green bark into a dryad's girdle, "grey" is the spell(ing). Grey is the Lorien cloak beneath which I slip into the fantastic. It is the neutral border between two bright fields, the fog beyond the fields we know. It is the minor key modulation that opens the threshold to the haunting.

A favorite word functioning as a talisman to keep me fixed on the difference between obscurity and clarity, between familiar and alien, between what is revealed and what is concealed, "grey/gray" is a good symbol of the shifting that lives in fantasy.

What's your favorite word?

Monday, September 9, 2013


I am asleep; I am waking up in a narrow, high-ceilinged hotel room. The dream is luring me from the facsimile of sleep with music. I get up and cross to a desk, navigating a screen of music to a new Stevie Nicks song and then the room itself wakes up and the music is lost as the giant tv clicks on. I violate the taped instructions for the wall of TV and click the power button. Everything turns off.

A door opens and I am invited next door, to another narrow room. This one has a small grove of potted ficus trees full of chickadees. A woman is talking and I know she is older than I remember her, although I don't recognize her. She is talking about her hawk. She has taken him to a sanctuary and is explaining that he had given each of her friends nicknames and has begun to call for her. She is going to pick him up from his sanctuary, bring him back to the grove of ficus trees. One of the chickadees begins to call, his white cap standing up like a kingfisher's crown.

I wake for real with the entrance of my dogs into the dream and into the room. It occurs to me that today would be a good day to find my way back to something. The lingering effects of vacation are dislocation.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sock Puppets and Sulfur

Varda, our retriever mix (retriever blend? Demi-golden? Full-blood couch hound?) is on a diet. The vet suggested cutting her dog food with veggies, such as raw carrots or canned green beans. As long-time readers might know, whatever canine genetics spell out V-a-r-d-a, behaviorally, she is a reincarnated Lady Who Lunches. Bell peppers, tomatoes, stringy grass, mushrooms...she eats all of these, when she can get them. Chopped carrots mixed with protein croutons a la Iams? This is a perfect lunch for one at chez Bowl. Although, it doesn't remove the joy of scouting and inhaling white backyard mushrooms for an aperitif.

Chopping carrots one morning last week, I realized that I am lacking whatever disposition associates cooking with anything other than a chore, although chopping carrots while nattering on as if your are the star of Dogs on Diets for one of the cooking channels is hardly a chore. It is silliness you can actually consume (as long as you snag a carrot prior to the introduction of the dog food).

This is the kind of cooking that I enjoy, the kind my dad perfected in which a skillet, random ingredients, and a fat (usually butter) rendered weird but often edible food. Like the buttered tortillas served by friend's mom, this was something that was either a remembrance (my mom made this once upon a time) or a creative challenge (will you eat this before I tell you exactly what it is? Will you eat it if it comes from a plastic tub of chicken organs?). To this day, I prefer making dishes in our big silver skillet...and I still pretty much think onions and tortillas are primary food groups.

The Pumpkin King, on the other hand, comes from a completely different familial tradition. His is based on his mother's (excellent) cooking and involves starting from scratch and involving the entire kitchen, and possibly the entire family, in each meal. If there are five steps to the dish and twelve pots, so be it. Not only will he work through each one, but he will attempt to clean as he goes. Except for the giant pans, which somehow are left soaking for the singing mice that do our dishes.

When we were first married, I assumed that I'd grow into that twelve-pot tradition. I did not. In experimenting with it, however, I used to check out cookbooks from our local library, including some old Time Life ones detailing recipes from various cultural traditions. Our favorite (to eat) were the stroganoff and linzer cookie recipes from the Russian volume. Since this was during our mobile phase when we switched apartments often, those recipes have long since been lost.

Today, though, we found a new flavor of treat for the dogs...not, perhaps the perfect diet treat, but something that inspired me to reach for the silly/creative cook and the formal recipe cook--these treats look like little linzer cookies for dogs flavored with apple and bacon. Apple jelly and bacon linzer cookies? Sign me up! They might turn out inedible...but they might be good. Or edible. Or a great joke when family visits.

The question is cookies with bacon bits with jelly centers? Sweet cookies with apple jelly centers spiked with maple bacon? Sweet cookies with a swirl of bacon jam and apple jelly in the center? Can I find a recipe before my Dad visits?

If so, they'll have to come wrapped with the sock puppet story about a dad and daughter who have to seal up a dimensional portal with sulfur-rich caramelized onion steam, which is about as silly a concoction as my mental skillet can serve up. Part one of the new draft should be my next post!

Have a yummy Labor Day & don't forget to season with a bit of silliness!