In 1988, as a 25-year scholar at the Bread Loaf writers’ conference, I spotted one of the faculty, a pretty young novelist walking arm in arm with two other pretty young novelists (in fact, Jennifer Egan and Helen Schulman). But it was the one in the middle I called out to for reasons I don’t recall. She turned around. I introduced myself. She said hello and asked, “What do you want to do?” I said, “I want to write fiction.” She looked at me as if I were being silly and said, “You will.” She turned and walked away. I wouldn’t see her again for twenty years. I went on to write non-fiction and books about food and chefs. And then in the fall of 2015, I did indeed publish my first fiction. The book, In Read On »

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I knew I would be spending this afternoon with a dear friend, Laura, the girl I sat next to as we graduated from Duke in 1985. She’s in considerable anguish having lost her love to cancer, her soul, the man whose heart she carries in her heart, to use E.E. Cumming’s famous words. Harry, a lovely, brilliant, funny and delightful man, gone at 58. There are no words adequate to offer, only one’s presence. And soup. I roasted a chicken last night, ate some for dinner with mashed potatoes and broccoli, but saved most of it, and all the bones, to carry on the subway along with 4 carrots, 2 onions, celery, three tomatoes a bay leaf, to the upper east side. I set to work immediately, getting the bones boiling (I didn’t have much time, so with Read On »

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It was cold, windy night, dark by 5 pm, and I was in the mood for chili. I was also alone in my pajama pants and had no intention of leaving my toasty apartment for the tomatoes and onions I didn’t have. I knew I had a frozen pound of ground beef in the freezer, a box of pasta, a stalk of broccoli, though. So instead of putting the meat in the chili, I figured I’d put the chili in the meat, make chili meat balls, serve them on garlic pasta, with a side of good-for-you greenery. I keep a good stash of fresh spices in my freezer. I made the preparation hard on myself by cooking the spices and garlic in some olive oil before adding them to the meat—brings out the flavor in the Read On »

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When life is in disarray, travel! Which is what I’ve been doing nonstop for a month and a half, and more. The above is a salumi maker from Norcia, a town famed for its butchers and recently devastated by an earthquake. Happily he found a place in Rome to sell his goods. I have neglected my pledge to spend more time on this blog, but herewith is the reason why, a sort of photo essay of the lands and pigs and pork and salumi and chefs from the past six weeks. It began in Rhode Island, little old Rhode Island, where I made some mandatory holiday aged eggnog.   I was there to do a reading with Ruth Reichl at Matt and Kristin Jenkins lovely Chez Pascal, sponsored by Goat Hill, an organization like Boston’s Grub Street that Read On »

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  Finishing up an interview with Jean-Georges Vongerichten at his restaurant day before Thanksgiving, I asked if his long-time right hand man Greg Brianin and his ace executive chef Mark Lapico were around. I wanted to give them one of my offset spoons (middle of the top three, and my favorite all time spoon). I showed Jean-Georges and he said, “This is yours?” Yes. “I love it!” And then “Can I have one?” Bien sur. When we found Mark, buried in Thanksgiving prep, I gave a spoon to him he said, “You have your own spoon? Oh my god. Every time I would go on the meat station, I would take their Kunz spoon and bend it. they would say, ‘Why are you fucking up my tools.’ I’d say, ‘I’m telling you, it’s going to Read On »

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