Exactly a year ago today, I hit “publish” on my first post for Lemon Baby: grilled Mediterranean-style octopus, which remains one of my most popular posts. Our first blog birthday coincides with my own birthday, which was yesterday. As I said in the octopus post, I am one of those people who genuinely wants to spend their birthdays cooking a sumptuous meal. And if I make the mistake of asking my oldest kid for input, his answer is always going to be “clams and mussels.” It may seem odd that a five-year-old can get jazzed about shellfish, but jazzed he is. We have been known to fork-fight for the errant, shell-less morsels at the bottom of the bowl.
Fall is my favorite season, hands down. And for good reason–I spent most of my early childhood through my teens in Brookline, a suburb of Boston. September meant apple picking. October often meant trick or treating wearing a heavy coat over our costume. November usually ushered in the first light dusting of snow. To me, autumn tastes like the snap of a Honeycrisp apple, my absolutely favorite variety.Fall, with its leaves a riot of flaming reds, yellows, and oranges, is the last exhale before the brutal, breath-snatching New England winter. It was–is–magical.
When I was pregnant with Lemon Baby, I (predictably) craved all sorts of random food. Most notably was my craving for a Lobster Roll, which, if you were friends with me on Facebook, you must have scrolled past a thousand times. I couldn’t get enough lobster roll foodporn. Intellectually, I knew it was just making my hankering worse, but I couldn’t stop. The closest lobster roll to Mobile is in Atlanta, not exactly dinner date distance. Then my neighbor Ron suggested I make my own, with one exception: replace lobster with Royal Reds, a particularly succulent shrimp native to the deep waters of the Gulf Coast. I did, and the Alabama “Lobster” Roll was born. Continue Reading
For as long as I can remember, my family has vacationed on the white-sand beaches of Fort Morgan, Alabama. The little beach cottage, affectionately dubbed Déjà Vu and destroyed by hurricanes and subsequently rebuilt, has been in my family since the late 70s. In 1988, we celebrated my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary in that house, crammed in like happy sardines in the front room. In 2002, my parents bought the house from my uncle and aunt, who built a gorgeous house on the lot next door. In 2006, I hosted my bridal party at the cottage before heading to our nuptials in Natchez, MS (ten years to the day this Friday). It’s safe to say that this house, and its surrounding coastline, has more sentimental significance to me than most of the things in my own home (people excluded, of course). Most people don’t realize that Alabama has a coastline, (and that’s fine–it’s crowded enough) but with the Hangout Festival held annually in Gulf Shores, our little “Redneck Riviera” is getting more and more popular, evidenced by the gobsmacking Saturday summer traffic on Highway 59. Continue Reading
Shrimp and grits is by far my most requested dish. Friends routinely email or text for the recipe, and my sister demands requests it every year for her birthday. If ever I named a signature dish (which I won’t because I don’t play favorites), this would be it. Shrimp and grits is a dish of lowcountry origins, associated with the Carolinas, but has spread far and wide across the Southeast. It is most commonly seen on brunch menus, but I could eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner (or all three). Continue Reading
The following recipe has a special sentimental significance; it was the first article I wrote for my food column for a Montana newspaper, almost ten years ago. I grew up in Brookline, in metropolitan Boston, and had just moved to a landlocked (albeit gorgeous in its own right) Montana town, and I was feeling desperately homesick. Summer, to me, meant clams and lobster, and I yearned for a taste of home. As luck would have it, the local grocery store stocked gorgeous Pacific shellfish at shockingly reasonable prices (alas, no lobster). Imbued with garlic, tomatoes, and a slightly spicy broth perfect for sopping, this recipe saw us through four blissful summers in Montana. Continue Reading
I have a truly negative habit of overanalyzing almost every social interaction, after the fact. Always after. Perhaps we had a fantastic conversation, but when you walked away, you gave me an odd look (when probably the sun was in your eyes)? Chances are I’ll be dissecting that look for days to come. The funny this is, I’m actually an extrovert. When I teach the MBTI to my college students, I explain that their preconceived notions about introversion and extroversion are awry. What matters is from where you draw your energy, or recharge your batteries. If you need to take a break from people and seek “alone time”, you are an introvert. If you need to get out and socialize after too much time on your own (me), you’re extroverted. But extroversion doesn’t stop me from being paranoid about having said the wrong thing in a social situation. We can never, ever turn back the clock and unsay (most often unintended) things that sting, offend, or cut to the quick.
I don’t know. Ask him. He’s at my local Whole Foods, chillin’ on ice. Yesterday was my birthday. I might be one of the only people you know of who wants, truly wants, to spend his or her birthday cooking an elaborate feast with the ingredients that are usually regarded as too complicated for everyday meals. Lobster, chateaubriand, octopus. Yes, octopus. I have never actually cooked octopus before because, frankly, my sweet, Southern city had never been quite cosmopolitan enough to have a store that stocked whole octopus in the seafood case. Enter Whole Foods. Continue Reading