Normal Trees | grilled pbj


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When I think of home – both my adult home, in Virginia, and my childhood home, Georgia – I think of rain. I think of humidity and flowers and family. I think of Gone with the Wind kitsch (I am from Jonesboro, after all).

Last week, I took a trip to both of my homes, first to Virginia, and then to Georgia. And as I walked through parking lots or down streets or drove around town, I just kept saying, “Look at all these normal trees!”

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People thought it was a funny thing to say. It’s full-blown spring in the southeast – tulip trees are blooming, pollen has everyone congested, and everything is bright and green and full of life. In Ventura county, the spring is chilly. Mid-day picnics require a jacket. Our trees bloom, yes, but it’s different. I explained this to people. I reminded them that my corner of southern California rarely sees rain. Our trees can withstand drought. Palm fronds sway on the trees outside my window even as I write this.

I’m always struck by how hard palm fronts actually are. The wispy leaves belie the hardiness of the stalk, of the tree’s trunk. During Santa Ana winds, large layers of the crown of the palm tree will fall to the ground, and road crews hurry to remove them from roadways. They’re not light and flimsy as they look, all bent and peeled away, like banana peels. They are like lemongrass – deceptively flimsy, sharp enough to cut. Like tumbleweeds – so much is contained within their dried, skeletal frames.

California is a mess of contradictions like this. Perfect gorgeous weather, perpetual sunshine – but the terrain is hard and unforgiving, easily given to burning. The green is only just now returning after last year’s Springs Fire. So much is contained here, but you’d never know it for all the sunshine and breezes.

And so when I went home, I saw pines, and tulip trees, and the Japanese maple in my mom’s yard, planted by teenage boys thirteen years ago while my sister and I sat in the grass and watched, planted to remember my brother – a tree now so big and full of bright red leaves. Everything was lush and heavy and full of life.

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When I think of home, I think of trees. I think of the moment, when I found out that Amanda and I were moving cross-country, and I paced in the parking lot outside my building, and I looked at a magnolia tree and burst into tears. “They won’t have magnolia trees in California,” I cried to my friend Mary. They do, as it turns out. My favorite tree in all of Ventura county is a gigantic magnolia in downtown Ventura, the kind that really makes a room, like you could live under it. The kind under which nothing grows, so you wouldn’t want to.

My favorite tree in California is the kind we have at home. It’s like being able to order Duke’s mayonnaise on Amazon. A way to find home in a place that is not.

I can’t think of home, either, without thinking also about food. I have found it hard to maintain my love and enthusiasm for cooking while Amanda is gone. Cooking elaborate meals with plenty of leftovers seems too much trouble for just me by myself. I eat a lot of salads, and I eat a lot of sandwiches.

For me, the best comfort sandwiches are grilled cheese (which I wrote about on Food Riot this month, so check that out if you want some next level grilled cheese ideas) and peanut butter and jelly. And in a moment of inspiration one day, I thought, hey! Grilled PB&J.

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And y’all:  that was a game-changer.

A simple grilled sandwich, made in a cast-iron skillet, with simple ingredients:  white bread, peanut butter, homemade jam, salty Kerry Gold butter. It goes perfectly with salad, with soup, with fruit, or on its own. In moments of longing – for trees, or for my wife to be home, or even just for more energy in writing, for greater stamina in front of the keyboard – a grilled PB&J sets everything right. It’s nostalgic, but grown-up. It’s indulgent, but restrained. It’s like a palm crown or a tumbleweed – deceptively simple.

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The recipe isn’t really even a recipe. Take two pieces of bread, and butter the “outsides” as you would a grilled cheese sandwich. Then turn the bread slices over, and smear one with plenty of peanut butter, and the other with plenty of your favorite jam. Heat a cast-iron skillet, and when it’s ready, assemble the sandwich, and place it in the skillet. Turn after a few minutes, grilling both sides to golden goodness.

I went searching earlier for a poem about trees. This is National Poetry Month, and April 24 is Poem In Your Pocket Day. This will likely be the poem I carry in my pocket, a perfect meditation on what I think of when I think of home – of Southern trees. Or as I call them, normal trees.

where you are planted

by Evie Shockley

he’s as high as a georgia pine, my father’d say, half laughing. southern trees
as measure, metaphor. highways lined with kudzu-covered southern trees.

fuchsia, lavender, white, light pink, purple : crape myrtle bouquets burst
open on sturdy branches of skin-smooth bark : my favorite southern trees.

one hundred degrees in the shade : we settle into still pools of humidity, moss-
dark, beneath live oaks. southern heat makes us grateful for southern trees.

the maples in our front yard flew in spring on helicopter wings. in fall, we
splashed in colored leaves, but never sought sap from these southern trees.

frankly, my dear, that’s a magnolia, i tell her, fingering the deep green, nearly
plastic leaves, amazed how little a northern girl knows about southern trees.

i’ve never forgotten the charred bitter fruit of holiday’s poplars, nor will i :
it’s part of what makes me evie : i grew up in the shadow of southern trees.

Practically Perfect in No Way Whatsoever | Thai cashew vegetables


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When I was in high school, and I was highly active in church, and I took myself very seriously and held myself to a standard of perfection that was, by all counts, absolutely unreasonable, I gave up chocolate for a church fast. We were to give up something that meant a lot to us, to teach us to focus on God more fully.

My sister helped me decide what to give up. “Chocolate,” she offered. “You love chocolate.” It was true. I had my senior portraits taken in my Hershey’s t-shirt. My room was decorated with vintage metal Hershey’s signs.

So for 40 days, I gave up chocolate. I would like to mention that this was during both Girl Scout cookie season and Easter candy season. I don’t have to tell you how cranky I was for 40 days.

But what was harder than the conscious abstinence from my favorite food was the dreams I kept having. Most nights, I went to sleep and my mind played tricks on me:  I would happily drink a Starbucks beverage, for instance, Dream Dana guzzling away, and then turn the bottle around and realize there was chocolate in it. I had sinned! Or Dream Dana would be happily munching on marshmallow Peeps, and then realize the eyes were made of chocolate. Sin!

My fast from chocolate was done out of religious conviction – I’m proud to say that I made it through the 40 days and ate no chocolate. But the stress I went through, the anxiety that I would sin – that I would be found wanting – haunted me throughout the whole stretch of it.

Recently, after Amanda and I gave up eating meat, I was at Whole Foods, interrogating the back of a bottle of oyster sauce. We had just spent a week in San Diego, and because I was sick, and because it was easy to get it vegetarian, I had eaten Thai cashew vegetables several days in a row, and I wanted to know how to replicate it at home. I had found several recipes on Pinterest and I was ready to start experimenting. And one of the ingredients was oyster sauce, which I picked up, put in my basket, and went on my merry way. But by the time I got to the yogurt, I realized. Oyster sauce = oyster = meat. Blast.

I went back to the aisle and began my negotiation. I did a search on my phone – was there a non-animal-product way to make faux-oyster sauce? Foyster sauce, if you will. There was – with pineapple juice and sugar and water and a few other ingredients, and it would take a lot of time, and make a big mess. And I looked at the bottle in my hand.

I thought of those dreams – the ones where I ate chocolate Peep eyes and drank chocolate coffee, and how I immediately felt crippled by the feeling that I had sinned. I had failed.

And it’s easy to apply that same logic to a new way of eating, which extends into a new way of living in the world – a new way of shopping and cooking and thinking about food. It’s easy to see this as pass or fail. And it’s easy to glom onto the moments of failure, to focus on them and shame myself. Because surely someone will notice if I use oyster sauce. Someone will out me as a fraud. Right?

I put the oyster sauce in the basket. I finished my shopping. Maybe someone will think of me as a fraud. Maybe it is a moment of vegetarian fail. Maybe it’s Peep eyes all over again. But at the end of the day, I think we’re all doing the best we can, and I think we’re doing great. That’s a mantra I say a lot, but I always mean it – we’re doing great. And at the end of the day, especially these days when my wife is away for duty, like, all of the time, what helps me is a big bowl of Thai cashew vegetables, made at home in my own kitchen, over a bed of fluffy jasmine rice and enjoyed in front of the TV. Vegetables, made with – yes – oyster sauce, and a little bit of perspective. I’m not Mary Poppins. I’m practically perfect in no way whatsoever. And that’s just fine.

Thai Cashew Vegetables

Serves 4ish



2 tablespoons Thai chili sauce

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon oyster sauce

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1-2 tablespoons vegetable broth (or water)


Canola (or other neutral) oil

1-2 large carrots, peeled and sliced

1/2 onion, sliced

Crushed red pepper flakes

Kosher salt

1 clove garlic, minced

1-2 red bell peppers, cut into strips

1 cup snow peas, ends trimmed

1/2 cup (or so) roasted and salted cashews

Prepared Thai jasmine rice (for serving)

Chopped cilantro (garnish – optional)


1. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the chili sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice vinegar, and vegetable broth.

2. In a large skillet, heat the canola oil over medium heat. Add the carrots and onions and cook 3-5 minute, stirring occasionally, until onions soften and carrots are beginning to brown a little. Add a pinch of kosher salt, a dash or two (or three, whatever) of red pepper flakes, and the minced garlic. Cook for 30 seconds or so, and then add the pepper strips, the snow peas, and the cashews, cooking for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently.

3. Add the sauce to the stir-fry mixture, and toss to coat. Cook another 3 minutes or so, until everything is heated through and smelling fantastic. By that point, carrots should have only a little crunch left to them. (If you want them fully cooked (and soft), by all means, give it another couple of minutes.)

4. Remove the mixture from the heat. Spoon jasmine rice into a bowl, the stir-fry mixture on top, and then sprinkle with chopped cilantro.

Food Documentary Fall-Out and a New Chapter


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photo 1 (2)A couple of weeks ago, on Food Riot, I wrote a personal article about the fall-out that comes from watching food documentaries. I actually call them “shockumentaries,” because that’s the objective, I think:  they present information, and present it in such a manner, that it’s meant to shock you, to invite you to consider new information and make changes. Truth be told, I had never watched a shockumentary, and after I watched my first one, called VegucatedI knew things wouldn’t be the same.

I was nervous writing the article for a number of reasons, but one was because of the personal fall-out that’s resulted in me. After I processed the information with Amanda, and I made the journey from emotional response – shock, shame, anger – to a more pragmatic one, I felt I had to make a decision. I saw things in that documentary that I can’t un-see. I didn’t want eat meat. This isn’t because I see anything inherently wrong with eating meat; rather, I love meat, and I can’t stand to participate in the devaluation of life and nourishment that currently exists in our food system. So Amanda and I decided to be vegetarians, and I have to say, it’s feeling good. It hasn’t been a big challenge, just a shift in our focus.

But with that new label comes a new, or at least shifted, identity. It’s interesting how, as people invested in food, cooking, and food culture, we tie our identities to who we are as eaters. I told a friend the other day that I feel pigeon-holed by a reputation as an epic eater. I felt like the chubby kid in my family when I was growing up. I was the girl who kept a 3lb tub of cookie dough under her bed. I was the girl who snuck food and would always go back for seconds (or thirds). I ate dessert first at church potlucks, then went through the regular food line, and then went back for a second dessert; a youth pastor had joked that by eating dessert first, then if you died during the meal, at least you had the best part. It made good sense to me.

My friend corrected me on this. To her, and she was willing to bet that to most of my friends, I’m not an “epic eater.” I’m a cook and a nurturer. I felt relieved. I have mostly managed to shake that old identity, one I had hoped to shake as an adult. But it still echoes in me, and it makes a declaration like this one a little unsettling.

And it doesn’t escape me that, just this month, I published a post on this blog about cruising the meat case at Whole Foods for therapy. I still think a well-stocked meat case is a beautiful thing. I love food – all food. I just realize I needed to make a change.

In my article on Food Riot, I note that we, as humans, as citizens of this world, are dynamic, ever-changing beings. As eaters, we are dynamic, ever-changing beings as well. As a child I hated a lot of vegetables; as an adult, I like them. Our agency over who we are and what we choose to eat and how we choose to live is what makes each of our stories unique, organic to us. It’s what makes our stories interesting.

I’ve been blogging at Whisks & Words for almost three years, and I’ve learned to cook meaningfully on this blog. I’ve learned basics of seasonal eating, local eating. I learned how to cook whole foods, vegetables out of the ground, still covered in dirt. I’ve grown as a person, and you’ve been here for the journey.

This is a new leg of the journey, and I’m excited about it. I’m excited to make healthy, positive changes. I’m excited to process through those changes here on these pages. It’s a new chapter of the Whisks & Words story, and as ever, I’m happy to share it with you.

It Both Is and Is Not About Wild Bulls


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I passed last night in a tossing-and-turning kind of limbo – asleep but not fully, awake but not fully. Comfortable, but not enough. And itchy as hell.

This is a post about projection. It set out to be a post about coleslaw. And then it was about tacos. And then it was about wild bulls. But it both is and is not about wild bulls. Or tacos. Or omega-3s. Or powerlessness.

I was awake obsessing over my skin. I was itchy all over. I thought fleas. I thought spiders. I went to the bathroom and checked my arms and legs and stomach by the light of the closet. No bites. No hives.

So I lie there and wondered if it was my diet. Amanda and I made the switch about a week ago to eating a vegetarian diet. In the wee dark hours, I wondered whether the new diet could make my skin itch. So I did a quick Google search and found that, yes, it’s a common occurrence in vegetarians and vegans. I might not be getting enough omega-3 fatty acids.

Should have solved things, right? Please. That’s not the way of insomnia.

Instead, I lie there obsessing over how to make sure we get enough omega-3 fatty acids. Walnuts were fine (I was Googling my ass off at this point) for ALAs, but not for DHAs, which are really important for your heart health. So then I was Googling how to be a heart-healthy vegetarian, which was a red herring that Google rewarded with only utter crap. So then I looked up flaxseed, which seemed to be a good idea, but only led me deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole.

And the thing was, I knew the whole time that I wasn’t truly worried about omega-3s. Not in the real, grand sense of my insomnia as a whole. I was worried about Amanda. I was worried about her being gone again soon. I was worried about being alone. I was sad because she won’t be here for our first wedding anniversary.

Projection is a funny psychological mechanism. Not long ago, I made the 8-hour drive to Fallon, Nevada to pick up Amanda from training. She had been gone for two weeks, and I was happy to go get her early, to bring her home by way of Lake Tahoe for a little weekend getaway.

Tahoe: where the pinecones are grande-sized.

Tahoe: where the pinecones are grande-sized.

On the drive to Fallon, I covered terrain that I had never seen. I grew up on the East coast, and so much of the country is foreign and new to me. I collected notes and images of what I saw. I made up stories about the people in the houses I passed. I tried to perfectly describe the salt flats and the giant lake that looked so out of place after so much desert.

I also got a little obsessed with the warning signs for local wildlife. I saw the usual deer crossing signs, but those gave way to warnings of elk, antelope, goats, and wild bulls. Yeah. I was driving through an open bull range for several hours.

I imagined what I would do if one crossed my path and stopped in front of my car. I wondered if they were like bears and could smell food, and I thought of the bag of trash from Subway and the soggy end of the bread in the bag. I thought of the box of Girl Scout cookies beside me.

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I finally pulled over and took a picture of the sign to text to my mom and brother, to show them where I was – in the kind of place where wild bulls allegedly run around, potentially terrorizing motorists.

I worried over the bulls, sure, but I was really worried about traveling alone. I hadn’t traveled by myself in years. I worried about the small, seemingly abandoned ghost towns, like the kind you see in horror films. I worried about finding a safe place to pee. I can’t pee in a horror film town. I worried about forging ahead by myself.

So much of my time worrying is about something bigger, something more impossible. Something without an easy solution. It’s not about a wild bull; it’s about the reality that naming the truth would leave me stuck in front of a wild bull, waiting it out, hoping it didn’t knock my car over in an effort to get my Subway leftovers. Metaphorically speaking.

I would have to wait for the bull to resolve itself, and who knows how long that might take or what work it might involve. So I take photos, and I say, look at this. Look where I am. Look how brave I can be.

When Amanda wakes up and notices I’m not asleep, I tell her I’m worried we’re not getting enough omega-3s.

Cooking gives me a sense of control in times when I feel like I have none, which is fairly often. I wanted to recreate a coleslaw we had at a Mexican restaurant in Fallon, but it ended up being terrible and so is not worth talking about here.

But what is worth mentioning is these Honey-Lime Sweet Potato Black Bean Tacos from Cooking Classy - filling, sweet, tangy tacos with a hint of spice.

I turned on music and chopped sweet potatoes, relishing the loud clap of knife against cutting board. I squeezed limes, not yet soft enough to yield their juice easily. But I worked. I pushed. I heated my cast-iron to a smoking hot, and I browned tortillas, turning them over and over, never leaving them alone.

Cooking is something to worry over and fiddle with. It passes the time while I wait out the bull. It feeds me. It feeds my wife, too. And today, now, I can assure that. I can solve that problem. I can deal with that bull.

Slow Sunday Jam 3.9.14


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I have always wanted to be one of those people who can write while traveling. I have tried before – writing on the road when we PCS’d cross-country; writing in my old bedroom at my mom’s house; writing on friends’ couches or in desk chairs in hotel rooms. The success rate is hit or miss.

This week, I traveled to San Diego. I rode down via Amtrak on the first of a string of uncharacteristically rainy days. Amtrak recently made super huge waves in the writing community by announcing that it is developing writing residencies aboard long-distance routes; writers can receive free fare in exchange for writing for the duration of their travel.

I was prepared to write on my trip; I had articles to pound out for Food Riot, and a story knocking around in my brain. But instead of writing, I sat next to a delightfully chatty lady from Anaheim, and we talked about family and natural remedies of healing illness and food and art and writing. I spent half of my train ride talking with her, and when she left, I told myself it was time for business.

I took out my notebook, put in my earbuds, and closed out the rest of the train. But in the end, all I could do was read a book I’m reviewing, and stare out the window, and take pictures of the rain and the ocean.

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Once in San Diego, I came down with a nasty chest cold. While Amanda went to work each morning, I stayed in bed and coughed and generally felt sorry for myself. But once the worst of it passed, I ventured out. I wandered off base to the local Panera, and I got a hot cup of tea. The cashier recommended the mango ceylon tea to soothe my scratchy throat. And I sat, and I wrote.

There’s a magic feeling, the recognition of a small miracle, when writing happens during travel. The slow mornings, the beautiful surroundings (Coronado is a slice of picturesque SoCal Heaven), the tea, the quiet, the solitude – it all made for writing, and that made me happy.

So this week, for the Slow Sunday Jam, I’m sharing articles I read this week that made me happy to be a writer.

Slow Sunday Jam

Side note:  I’m now a Contributing Editor at Food Riot (woot!!), and this week, I was over there talking about the merits of eating in the car, how to get started with eating seasonally, and really impressive crocheted foods. Check it out!

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I Cruise the Meat Case for Therapy + Split Pea Soup

At a party recently, a friend (a fellow Navy spouse) and I were chatting about the reality of being married to the military. As a defense, before anyone else could point it out to me, I said that I was absolutely aware of what I was getting into when I married Amanda – I knew her career would come first, we would move a lot, and she would be gone for long periods of time.

And with characteristic kindness and humor, this friend leaned in and said, “Yes, but there’s a difference between knowing it and living it.”

That’s what the past six months or so have been for me:  the transition between knowing it and living it. The reality is that when you build your life with (and around) someone, and then they have to leave, no matter how long they’re gone, there’s a rug that gets pulled out from under you, just a bit, just enough. And you have to find ways to comfort yourself, to smooth the jagged edges of detachments and deployments alike.

I told my wife last night that I’ve taken to enjoying a cup of hot tea and a quiet apartment in the evenings, perhaps playing a little soft music, but mostly enjoying the quiet, reading or crocheting along, keeping Otis close by. It’s one of the ways I’ve come to round out the times when she’s away. It’s my way of making peace with the quiet and solitude.

My other methods are a little less conventional, and one in particular has caused one or two people to look at me strangely:  I love, love, love to cruise the meat case at Whole Foods.

The collective Whole Foods experience is, 98% of the time, a delightful one. I enter the store and am met with fresh flowers, followed by abundant, beautiful displays of fresh produce, some of it new to me. And then just past the produce, and the dry goods bins full of flour and grains and beans, there is the meat case.

I am eating minimal meat these days, in truth. But cruising the meat case isn’t about procurement; it’s about exploration and escape. In the Whole Foods meat department, I’ve seen goose, packaged up for Christmas dinners. I’ve seen beef bacon, something I didn’t even know existed. I can survey the different kinds of fish, the flesh white or pink or gray, and investigate clammed up bivalves. I can ask questions and check out the different flavored seasonings added to bacon (coffee! jalapeno! black forest!). I can stand in the warm glow of the smoking area and breathe the deep, smoky aroma of the meat.

After all that, while I don’t necessarily feel cured of my blues – after all, life has continued on while I’ve been inside gazing at steaks – I feel inspired and somehow relaxed. I feel grounded. Give me a quick spell at the cheese case to lightly squeeze a block or two of ripe, smelly cheese, and I’m a happy girl, ready to face the world.

And one of the great things to help in all this is when you can have friends over for dinner, to share in the bounty of your shopping trip. Soup is natural for this, and I recently made David Lebovitz’s split pea soup, with bacon and onion and potato, served (per his suggestion) alongside good bread smeared with blue cheese, which cuts right through the earthy solidity of the soup and sets things spinning. Share a good wine, gather a few friends, and enjoy the glow of community, comfort, and a well-stocked meat case.

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Slow Sunday Jam 2.23.2014


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With my wife being gone so much for military duty, I’ve been thinking a lot about the ways I take care of myself when she’s gone. When she’s here, of course, things are different:  we can rely on each other, we are accountable to one another, and we set our scheduled in tandem. But when she’s gone, it’s a whole other story, for her and for me.

I have tended towards two possible directions:  the first is to take good care of myself, exercising, seeing friends, working hard, and eating well; the second is to have a few days of wallowing, to order pizza, binge-watch TV shows on Netflix, and generally act like a teenager whose parents have gone away on vacation, left her $50, and asked her to remember to take the dog for walks.

And the conclusion that I’ve come to is that both directions are valid. And really, it will always be a toss-up, not just from one period of time to another, but from one day to the next, which will prevail.

This week’s Slow Sunday Jam encompasses both of these directions, putting health, work, entertainment, and food all right next to each other, showing that both approaches to living solo are ultimately just fine.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Speaking of a yummy breakfast – I shared a super delicious, somewhat healthy steel-cut oatmeal recipe this week. It’s Sunday morning; go make something good happen in your kitchen.

South Lake Tahoe, CA

South Lake Tahoe, CA

Parallel Work + Steel-Cut Oats


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I’ve long been a fan of writer dates. Writing can be a lonely endeavor, so in graduate school, a group of friends and I would get together to work in tandem at coffee shops. A friend labelled this parallel working, much like when young toddlers get together for parallel play:  not really playing with each other, but rather next to each other, learning to play around other kids, a stepping stone to playing with them.

Parallel work functions the same way:  we write near each other, not in collaboration. For me, this was a great way to meet my need for human interaction while still hunkering down and writing. When I need a break and I come up for air, there are friends nearby. We encourage each other with our own work.

Truth be told, writing dates are one of the biggest things I miss since moving away to California. Gone are the days when my writer friends and I would meet up at a local coffee shop, or in one of our living rooms, and work, tapping away at our computers, stopping every so often to float ideas out there, or to seek encouragement, or to express frustration. In California, I write on an island. Thank goodness the island has Wifi.

But my writing dates have been replaced by a very acceptable substitute, a different kind of work:  crafting.

It might seem unusual to think of crocheting or quilting or knitting as work; except in cases of professionals, we tend to think of these as hobbies. But I think back to period films, like Pride & Prejudicewhere a woman’s work was embroidery. To us, these days, that might seem like a hobby, but when the only way for a cushion to be embroidered, or a bonnet to be made, or a dress to be repaired, was to do it yourself, that became work.

I recently read The Paris Wife, a fictional retelling of Hadley Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway’s first wife. She played piano, and Ernest referred to her playing as her “work.” It struck her as funny at first; she hardly thought of it as work because she had not been brought up to think of playing piano as work. But when you begin to think of your particular form of artistry as your work – something you work at, something you enjoy and are learning proficiency with – it all makes sense.

And my parallel work dates may not involve writing much these days, but I have found that getting together for crafting dates is equally wonderful, and they function the same way. Some low, good music helps set the tone. Comfortable seating and good light are essential. And a warm beverage and a delicious bite to eat nourishes body and soul and moves the work along.

Recently, I got together for a crafting date with my friend Angela. She intended to knit while I crocheted. We went to our favorite indie coffee shop, but since they were only serving vegan brunch, we relocated to Panera, where I got coffee and their seriously delicious Steel-Cut Oats.

Panera Steel-Cut Oats:  delicious.

Panera Steel-Cut Oats: delicious.

When I sat down to start this post, I left myself this note:

(And in the meantime, work on replicating Panera’s steel-cut oats because OMG that’s delicious.)

And y’all:  it is delicious. And I did set about recreating it. And thank goodness, because it’s one of my favorite things.

Panera’s steel-cut oats are sprinkled with cinnamon-crunch topping, the same spicy-sweet blend that’s used in their cinnamon-crunch bagels, which are easily their most delicious bagels. Beyond that, the recipe seems very basic:  steel-cut oats, cinnamon-crunch topping, fruit and nuts.

So that’s what I did. And really, this is so simple, I can’t even really write a recipe for it. But here’s what you should do:

1. Mix about a teaspoon of ground cinnamon with 1/4 cup brown sugar. Adjust quantities based on your tastes. This worked out well for me.

2. Prepare some steel-cut oats. A good measure here is to go with the 3:1 ratio – three parts liquid to one part oats. For me, that was 2 cups water, 1 cup vanilla soy milk, to one cup of oats. Add a dash of salt to the liquid, bring to a boil, add oats, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook 10-20 minutes, until tender enough for your liking. It will make lots of leftovers for you to enjoy during the week.

3. Scoop yourself some oats. Sprinkle with a spoonful of the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Top with fruit and nuts.

My version. All my mornings shall be happy from now on.

My version. All my mornings shall be happy from now on.

Grab a friend, and your notebook, needlework, or a book, and enjoy this comfort in a bowl.


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