Monday, May 25, 2015


Still Life 

 The afternoons here are dead still, silent except for the chirping of the fat blackbirds, the constant drone of the dryer filtering through the open laundry room door, muffled and distant, white noise in this still afternoon. Sometimes the chatter of school children breaks the stillness and then dies away again as they scurry through town. I sit on the terrace, quite alone, for the terrace is quiet and still at this time of day, after the breakfast rush, before the drinks hour. I sit facing the sun and turn my body towards the heat like a sunflower. 

 My mind wanders, a rare pleasure and one that I only do when things are this still. Ideas push each other around like teens at a concert vying for space, memories elbow in sometimes disturbing the stillness, thoughts of my brother, cooking with him throughout the years. Chili for my sons and big pots of chicken soup, my very first Brussel sprouts, tasty and tender under his silent yet pointed guidance after the disease had taken away his voice, the kitchen still and much too silent. I cooked with him as I took care of him, ill yet my big brother still. 

 The loss of him is still with me, deeper than these memories. I think of him often in the stillness of day, in the still of the night.


Still Waters Run Deep

 I wonder if I stand very still, if I still my breathing, my nose pressed to the warm oven door, will I be able to see the cake rise, the pudding set? Or does it happen suddenly without anyone noticing? Can one spot the moment water passes from still to bubbling?

 I have always preferred still water to fizzy, sparkling, carbonated, effervescent. Flat water, they call it in Europe, as flat as a lake on a still summer day, no movement but the occasional, gentle flutter of water, as a dragonfly skimming the surface. Carbonated water tastes of Miami Beach old folks’ homes in the 1960’s all chilled gefilte fish and borscht, poppy seed Kaiser rolls and salty water reminding me of the beach. Sparkling water, as elegant as it is, has no charm for me, tickling my nose, making me burp, increasing my thirst for the saltiness.

Be Still My Heart

 Hotel breakfasts. Breakfast is one reason that I have always liked sleeping in hotels. One walks into the dining room and is greeted by the heady scent, the marvelous earthy fragrance of coffee brewing. Somehow, hotel coffee smells differently than coffee prepared at home. Buffet tables with the perfect cornucopia of carbs, croissants or bagels, donuts galore, tiny bite-sized pains au chocolat! I order a coffee with hot milk, please, and savor the pleasure, the calm morning stretching out before me as I partake of that hotel breakfast, someone else serving me, someone else clearing up. Oblivious to all activity around me, I sit quite still and focus on what is in front of me, coffee and croissant and husband.

 Now I am on the other side of the buffet, the one plugging in the coffee pot and placing baskets of croissants and brioche on the tables. Ten, twenty, thirty or twice that number arriving by ones, twos, threes, or fours, in droves, it seems, eyes searching for free seats. Guests such as I used to be breathing in the fragrance of freshly brewed coffee, gasping for coffee, asking for refills. Or pots of tea, pots and pots of tea, and baskets of bread in a constant flow. The rhythm of breakfast increases from slow dance to waltz to jazz, tempo upbeat. From stillness to swingtime.

 And this is when I find myself on the edge of panic. Be still my heart.

 Pause. I must remain still and calm for breakfast to pass smoothly, as smoothly as the thick, liquid honey that is drizzled over slices of goat cheese.

 Breakfast is anything but still. I relish the moments before breakfast begins when the morning outside is still, no movement in any of the rooms, no lights lit, when the city around us is still, deathly still, the dawn creeping up over the buildings, the dining room dark and quiet but for the crackling fire. Stillness.

 And breakfast will never be the same.

(I Love You) Still

 I have great hopes that we shall love each other all our lives as much as if we had never married at all. - Lord Byron

 It has been close to thirty years since we met and married and had a child. In that order. And we are still together. Funny, that. I look at him across the table, or across the room, or as he slips into sleep, keeping very, very still so he doesn’t perceive me studying him, and wonder at this togetherness. He once offered me a ring, a thin silver band that I still keep every single day and night on my finger nestled behind my wedding band that says “toujours”. Which translates as always, forever, or still. Toujours. Always, forever, still, as if these three words held the same meaning.

 And my heart still beats the same for him. Together, still.

He sings to me:
Still as the stars 
In the heavens above 
And slowly blossoming 
As a new found love 
Still as the night 
Still still the birds gently sing 
And soft as the wind 
That carries them on their wings


 My uncle (I think) once told me that my grandmother made bathtub gin during prohibition. Not quite a still churning out moonshine but something like it. I am trying to imagine this, my grandma in her old house, old bathroom, making gin in that old claw-footed tub while my grandpa, learned man, oblivious to most things around him when focused on his books, studying. He probably so still and silent in one room of the house, she in the bathroom making hootch without the still.

 Urban legend, family legends that still seem to stick around for generations, no one having had the gumption to ask grandma for the truth while she was still with us. But stories like this add spice to a family’s history.

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Monday, May 11, 2015


Table for Two

 He always said that I was enough for him. No, to be precise what he said was that the two of us was enough for him. “I’ve led a pretty wild life; I’ve done everything imaginable and now I am ready to settle down. I’d like to do that with you.” Being newly two, it was all very exciting, very romantic, extremely time consuming and fulfilling and I needed little more than just being two.

 His meaning was clear to me from the beginning. We would always be two, like an island, two as a single, closed unit. And two in the kitchen, one cooks, one washes up. One cooks, one bakes. One makes the main, one brings the dessert.

 A table for two. We sit facing one another, a hand stretched across the table, fingers lightly resting on the back of the other’s hand, hands pulled back sharply as the waiter approaches and begins to pour the wine. “Who will be tasting the wine tonight?” and I always nod towards my husband. Two dishes meant to be shared, and although he allows me to taste his he never tastes mine. One dessert, two spoons. Always.

Terrible Twos

 Plated Stories has turned two. So much has happened in two years, so quickly the time shoots by. One hundred blog posts, two workshops and one conference presentation, awards and nominations. We began Plated Stories on a hunch, on a whim, with the desire to create something different, a food blog that doesn’t simply feature, glorify the food we place on the table, the dishes we eat, but one that celebrates, that explores our total experience, at once very personal and very universal, of food, physically, emotionally, nostalgically, sensually. When you pick up a fork, when you ogle an orange, when you close your eyes and smell, taste, touch an ingredient, when you stand at your counter and whisk or crack an egg sharply against the side of a bowl, where does it take you? What do you think of?

 Two years of working together, the work sometimes work but more often than not play, in an attempt to continuously find creative, artistic inspiration, grasping at that inspiration and channeling it elsewhere in our lives. Plated Stories, two years of playing together on this playground. Jungle gym, teeter-totter, swing, slide. Up and down, back and forth. Side by side. The two of us.

 Two years of our readers inspiring us, encouraging us, giving us ideas. What will the next two years bring? A change of mood, a change of direction. We’d like to be a little bit terrible.

And Then We Were Two

 There were four of us, two girls, two boys, yet isn’t it always rather natural that four divides into two sets of two? One would think that quite naturally we would divide into two boys and two girls, or the two elder and the two younger but it was never like that. My older sister paired off, became two with our youngest brother and I became one of two with the older of the two boys. Two and two. Often two against two. We would sit at the dinner table face to face and face off, the two of us on one side, the two of them on the other and our parents, one at each end of the rectangular table like bookends. And as we ate dinner, because we were four happy eaters, we would try and outstare the other two, making discreet grimaces and signs invisible to the parents, just to make the other two burst into an angry fit or burst into tears. But all in good fun because we would be joyously giggling all the while. Well, two of us would be.

 There were four of us, four woman working together and wouldn’t you know it but a natural affinity grew in twos like rose bushes gently intertwining, each pair on a different side of the garden. And so we paired off, two by two, like we did when we were kids, the Buddy System. And off we marched in our own direction and our two became one, working together, teaching together, blogging together. Two just seems to work so well together; two opinions, two visions become so easily one.

 Like a best friend, always in on the secret.

Tea for Two

 Muffins tins march along two by two, always an even number, divisible by two! Two layer cake pans in each size for just the right size layer cake, two. Poptarts two by two, pairs nestled snugly in foil packets, just the right snack for me as a kid, whether cherry (unfrosted) or chocolate fudge (frosted, of course).

 Why do cans of chopped tomatoes or sliced mushrooms, cans of corn for salads in the summertime come in three?

 And then there are the pairs, the foods that are just better when they come in two, with their Best Buddy: peanut butter and banana together on toast (you thought I would say peanut butter and jelly?), bacon and eggs, fish and chips, macaroni and cheese. Burger and fries! Cake and ice cream, franks and beans.

 Yes, both milk and sugar in my coffee, two turning something dark and bitter into a sweet treat. Two scoops of ice cream, coffee and chocolate.

 Mustard and ketchup, salt and pepper, soup and salad, lettuce and tomato, does one ever appear without the other? Two rolls so gently off of the tongue, naturally.

Two, Too

 We had one son before we had been married two years and then we were three. Three changes so much that two didn’t have, our house became a home. And we would take turns carrying him in his pouch, close to our chests, or pushing him in his stroller. His turn then my turn, feeding, bathing, dressing, carrying him to the babysitter. Life changes when you are two and become three, when one is added to the mix.

 Two years later we had another son and something changed, once again, our world was jostled by that second son and then we were four. And four became a family. And then we each had one son, two of them, two of us. We each had one son to carry, to feed to bathe and dress, handing each son back and forth, taking turns but never again empty handed.

2 + 2 = 1