Saturday, December 20, 2014


Here we are on the eve of the solstice, the shortest darkest day of the year. I like it, for it marks the start of our climb back into the light.

Speaking of climb: I seem to have been lost in a tunnel underground for the last six weeks, so tied up with writing and recipe-testing for the book, and with some magazine work too, that I have been paralyzed and unable/unwilling to focus on writing here. My apologies for the long gap.

I got back to Toronto from the Caucasus on October 25th. As always after a trip, I felt immersed in where I’d been, with echoes of language, people’s voices, the taste of all the food I’d eaten, the mental pictures of places and people, and unwilling to let all that go. And so I plunged into recipe testing and some writing too. I can now look back on those first post-trip weeks with satisfaction, because they produced a satisfyingly thick sheaf of recipes and also some cross-connections to earlier work. I still have a lot more to do of course. Yikes!

I’m now exactly six months from when I’d like to be sending the manuscript to Ann Bramson, my wonderful editor at Artisan. She has such a good sense of the shape of a book, and a marvellous aesthetic sense too, so that I know it will get pulled together and made beautiful as we work our way through the editing and design stages. That confidence I feel is an essential part of what keeps me on track.

In mid-November I went to New York for an overnight, to see Ann and to see a show at the Met that is due to close January 4, 2015: From Assyria to Ancient Iberia. It was spectacular, an exploration, through statues, cookware, jewelry, and other artifacts, of the cross-communication and evolution of cultures between the region of Assyria and ancient Armenia (known as Urartu) in the east to the Phoenicians and the Hittites, the Etruscans, and settlements on the Iberian peninsula (the Mediterranean coast of present-day Spain) all in the ten centuries before the Christian era.

If you have the chance, do go and see it. It explains the interstices between empires…whereas in school we learned about empire and conquest, this is about trade and communication of ideas, especially ideas of design and artistic endeavour. Fabulous. And encouraging as a sign of human perseverance and continuity.

More immediately, in the here and now of the solstice season, I did manage to get the garden dug in mild weather and the last chiles and arugula etc harvested. I’ve made quark stollen using mostly red Fife wheat (delicious) and Cretan biscotti, entirely with red fife, and candied lemon peel and candied turmeric. Next on my list are mandel melbas (thin fine almond biscotti).

But in the next few days I will be out and about, eating other people’s cooking and taking a break from the kitchen and from recipes and productiveness. I tell myself that it’s a good idea to change rhythm. And the seasonal celebrations give me a good excuse to slack off!

I hope that during the holidays you are going to have some time to kick back and read or play or be out with friends or do whatever your heart desires, without worrying about obligations. We all need a little respite from our daily round.

And raise a glass to the returning sun, once we pass the solstice tomorrow, in hopes that it brings us a more peaceful year and some joy and hope…