Cape Cod Vacation 2019, including Edward Gorey

We went back to Cape Cod! I enjoyed my closeup photos of barnacles from our 2018 trip, so I tried a few more closeups this year.

Moonscape, or seashell sitting in the sun?

The smell of beach roses is the smell of summer.

LOBSTER ROLL. This is from Arnold's Lobster and Clam Bar in Eastham, where we also played our first family game of mini golf.

We also visited the Edward Gorey House in Yarmouth. It was delightfully weird.

I'm so glad my children got to be exposed to Gorey's oddness and oddities. The author & artist lived from 1925-2000, and he purchased this house in 1979, moving there a few years later. He had a fantastic imagination and was a true eccentric.

Our kids were given a Gashlycrumb Tinies Scavenger Hunt to amuse them on their visit.

My daughter did a great job finding evidence of each of the 26 children's untimely demises (here a bottle of lye on a windowsill, there a box of tacks on a mantelpiece).

We saw Gorey's raccoon fur coat (one of them), which he stopped wearing later in his life because of his devotion to causes of animal welfare. In his will he established a charitable trust for animals, and specified that it include not only the usual cuddly animals, but also bats and invertebrates.

In Gorey's kitchen Dracula is right next to Craig Claiborne.

The last waffle of the millennium (presumably from December 31, 1999) is preserved on the kitchen wall.

The fantod, a figure sewn and stuffed by Gorey, can be arranged into any letter of the alphabet.

Gorey liked to collect things, like large clanking rings, cheese graters, potato mashers, and thousands and thousands of books.

He also liked to have a lot of cats around--preferably 6, as he said 7 cats was too many.

The Doubtful Guest is out on the lawn.

Shchavel Borscht (Sorrel Soup)

Did you know that I spent a month in the USSR when I was 12 years old? I went there with my parents on some sort of academic exchange of my dad's. For most of our time there we stayed in a dorm room at Moscow State University (MGU), which was available because it was summertime and the regular school year had ended. The university had turned off the hot water for some reason, so I got used to taking freezing cold showers. We also went to then-Leningrad and stayed in one of the most sumptuous hotel suites I've ever seen, but that's another story.

Before our trip, my father taught me how to read Cyrillic, and this came in handy for things like reading menus, identifying which subway station we were in, and transliterating large Soviet signs (such as "Slava Trudu" which means "Hooray for Work"). I remember pyramid shaped paper containers of whole milk--you tore off a corner to pour or sip, and the inside of the paper was coated with yellow cream. I remember having the best ice cream I've ever tasted: it was always vanilla, and wrapped in a crumbly chocolate coating. We saw opera and ballet performances, ate caviar on toast at the top of the Kremlin, attended a real Soviet circus, walked around the pastel colored Gum department store, drank sugary hot tea from glasses with metal handles, and went to the VDNK exhibition (similar to a state fair). The main thing I remember about the VDNK was the water vending machines that were standing out in the hot sun, where thirsty people could drink from a shared glass that was chained to the machine. It was June, and all of Moscow seemed buried in drifts of cottonwood fluff.

This is a long way of saying that I can remember a little Cyrillic, and when I see a word like "Shchavel" I know that the first 4 letters of that word are one character in Cyrillic: щ. Shchavel is the Russian word for "Sorrel," which I was looking up because somebody had given me a sorrel plant last year and it was looking rather ripe for the picking in the corner of my garden. 

At first I thought I'd make a French sorrel soup from my plant. But when I found this Valentina's Corner recipe for Shchavel Borscht, I knew I had to make that instead. Admittedly while saying SHCHAVEL BORSCHT as many times as possible in what I imagined to be a deeply authentic Russian accent. щавель Борщ!

Sorrel is the genus Rumex, which makes it a relative of docks. The sorrel leaves are somewhat fleshy. They have a slightly piquant taste when raw, surprisingly similar to wood sorrel (which is a different genus and looks like a spindly-stemmed shamrock with 3 heart-shaped leaves).

I washed and chopped my Shchavel leaves. According to Valentina's Corner, this is really a Ukrainian soup. I don't know a lot about Ukrainian cuisine but I have noticed this country knows how to find nutrition and healing from the plant kingdom. (For instance did you know that "Chernobyl" is the Ukrainian word for Artemisia vulgaris, aka mugwort or wormwood?)

Essentially the Borscht is a chicken and potato soup that has been lightly flavored with sour cream and ketchup.

The lightly lemony sorrel gives it a bit more tartness, but it is not super sour or at all bitter.

Add a dollop of smetana (sour cream) to each bowl of Shchavel Borscht. Ready!!

Are you a Borscht person? Until I found this recipe I thought that Borscht had to have beets in it, but not so. It just needs to be sour. Na zdorovie!

Veggie-Packed Ramen Stirfry, Kid-Friendly!

I love when my children teach me things. As they (and I) grow older, I rely on them more and more to be my experts in technology, song lyrics, dance moves, and things people said several days ago. I am particularly grateful when they have ideas about food. This past week our middle-schooler came up with not one, not two, but THREE dinner ideas (chicken Alfredo pasta bake, cottage pie, salmon patties with rice), and I gratefully added them all to the weekly menu.

Recently she also taught us a recipe that she learned at an after-school program, and it has become a staple in our household. This ramen stirfy is simple and delicious as only rich, salty noodles can be, and it's packed with fresh crunchy veg. It's also easy to make (get children to help!), taking just a little longer than it takes to boil water. Make it vegetarian or vegan if you want. Check this out and maybe give it a try!

Stirfry ready!


Peanut or canola oil
1 t pureed ginger (buy a tube or grate your own)
Packs of ramen (any kind with flavor packets)--1 per person
1 cup (or more) broccoli and/or cauliflower florets
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup water
2 T soy sauce
1 T toasted sesame oil
1 t bouillon base (chicken or vegetable)

Note: This is one of those "meanwhile" recipes where you have to do two things at once—boil ramen and work the stirfry.

First, put on a large pot of water to boil. When it comes to a boil, add the noodles from your ramen packets (keep all of the flavor packets).

Follow the instructions for how long to boil the noodles (probably around 4 minutes).

Then drain and set aside—it's OK to rinse in cold water. You may also want to oil the noodles a little so they don't start to stick together while they wait.

MEANWHILE, start the stirfry. Heat a glug of peanut or canola oil in a large flat pan (or a wok if you have one). Add the ginger and stir.

Next, add carrots (feel free to add oil as needed), and stir for a few minutes.

Add the broccoli & cauliflower (if using). Stirfry for another few minutes until the broccoli is turning brighter green.

As the vegetables cook, prepare the secret elixir that will tie the whole dish together.

Combine 1/2 cup water, 2 T soy sauce, 1 T sesame oil, 1 t bouillon base, and all of the ramen flavor packets. Stir together well.

This batch had both broccoli and cauliflower. 

Finally, add the cooked noodles to the sauteed vegetables, and pour the sauce over all. Gently stir and fold to combine. I like to use tongs for this to avoid mushing the noodles.

Our family pretty much inhales this dinner and it's gone in about 2 minutes. I think it's proof that ramen flavoring makes everything taste amazing. Why is that?

NYC weekend: April 2019

Oh hey! We got through the winter!

I want to share some shots of my trip to New York City earlier this month. The day before I left it snowed in Vermont, so the signs of spring in Manhattan were so refreshing.

It was Tartan Day so we saw a parade of Scottish people from around the world going up 6th Avenue. There were different clans and societies, bagpipe bands, and Westies wearing kilts.

We stayed at the Warwick hotel, which was longtime home of Marion Davies (that's her on the right) and also Cary Grant.

When recalling the trip, most of what we did was EAT. On the first night we found Guantanamera, an awesome Cuban restaurant on 8th avenue. It was perfect--crammed with tables, mic set up for music later, low lights, tons of food. We ate a lot of ceviche and empanadas, and split a crispy juicy order of the house chicken. There were delicious tostones (fried plantain). Photo above is of a guy rolling cigars in the front window.

We meandered up to Lincoln Center after dinner to look at the fountain and the buildings.

The next day we found dim sum near our hotel and went there for brunch (after a run around Central Park, where trees and daffodils were in flower).

We also went to GLOSSIER. So fun! It's a makeup store in Soho and you have to wait outside, then they let you enter in small groups and you go up a set of dark pink stairs. I swear the air smells slightly of roses.

There are only testers on display, no merchandise to gather up and purchase. Once you know what you want to buy you find a lady in a pink jumpsuit and she'll take your order (and credit card info) on an ipad.

The orders are packed out of sight on an upper floor and they come down from the ceiling in a plastic bag with your name on it. The ladies at this counter grab the bag and call your name, and then you pick it up. It was the coolest thing.

We did other shopping around Soho, including the Vans store, and at Top Shop I bought an insane pair of gold snake-head earrings, just cuz.

Spring at NYU!

On our last evening we went back up to Lincoln Center and had dinner at Bar Boulud. It was a great spot, intimate and not too expensive. Here is our charcuterie plate.

The bar goes the length of the room on one side, with booths on the other side (we were in a booth).

Many of us got the Frenchie burger, which is an angus burger with tomato compote, raclette cheese, and pork belly on top. Thin-thin fries on the side.

Last morning was another visit to Pain Quotidienne. While I love the earthy organic vibe at this chain (this was the second one we visited in two days), the service was wicked slow, it was hard to get the server to come back after dropping off our orders, and one time my coffee wasn't particularly hot. BUT they have a lot of organic stuff, so... that's good?

Things not pictured: Mark Manders "Tilted Head" public art installation at the entrance to Central Park, Chinatown (I almost bought a durian but didn't want to carry it), an unusual-seeming number of French bulldogs, Eataly (we had panini for lunch on Day 1), and the corner store near our hotel that had at least 5 different drinks coolers with waters, iced coffees, kombuchas, iced teas, Turmeric lattes, matcha drinks, mushroom elixirs, juices, fizzy things, not to mention a ton of alcohol that I wasn't paying attention to. ALL THE THINGS.

I got to New York by driving to New Haven, CT, then taking the commuter rail to Grand Central Station. It's about a 5 hour trip door to door, which isn't bad at all! While there we walked all around town and took the subway a few times. No taxis, no ubers. Things still on my list are the High Line, any kind of art museum, maybe check out the Film Forum, and find more more more good restaurants.

Happy Spring!