Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Why I Write...

A fellow blogger, Van Waffle, who generously did a guest post here at Babette Feasts a while back, posed the challenge to some bloggers to write about why we write. Van's essay is here, a truly thoughtful piece about what writing has brought to his world and his life.

For me, I think it is simpler. I write partly because I can. I always knew I was a good writer through school. An award-winning essay got me a trip as an exchange student to South America, where I made friends I have to this day, people I call family in Montevideo, Uruguay. I placed out of writing classes in college. I turned in decent essays.

And then I stopped writing. I took a job where I could find one (in retail). It required no writing. Then I took a job when I wanted to move to New York City--I worked in a bank with people who seemed a lot more intelligent than I was. Am. I didn't write that much there, but what I did write, I relished. To this day, one of the best things I did there, totally for me, was attend a business writing seminar hosted by a crusty older man, someone who really knew how to write. Anyone who had that guy as a teacher would have been lucky. Attending that class made me realize I really was as good a writer as I thought.

And then I still didn't write much.

I got married. I changed careers and worked in a professional kitchen as a chef. I loved that job. I sure didn't write there, but...once again, I was good at what I did. Really good. I moved up fast. It's a tough job, not for everyone, but I still remember it as about the most fun I ever had in a job.

Then I had one child..then another. I didn't take much time off, ending up working in catering, still meeting great people, but putting in about 40 hours in 3 days, sometimes 4 days, all in the evenings or all day Saturday and Sunday. Catering was pretty backbreaking work. Some of the glow was off the cooking gig.

And then we moved to another city in another region. When I thought I was ready to get back into the kitchen, I got offers of starting as the salad maker. Again. I had proved myself in the one of the top restaurants in the country, moving all the way up to expediting, and they still wanted me to make salads. I finally landed a job as a pastry chef with a shift of 11 p.m to 7 a.m. If I thought catering was a grind, this was a grind and a half. All of the work and none of the fun. And I was pregnant with child number three.

I came home exhausted and just decided I needed a job where I could make money and stay home.

So I decided to write. I got out books titled "How to Write and Sell Magazine Articles" and followed the instructions. And I started to sell work. Bit by bit. Writing has sustained me with a modest income, allowing me to be around for my kids and fulfill some need to do something I'm good at doing.

No, it's not writing the great American novel, although I'm determined to write that someday, too. It's a job. It's a craft. A craft I am trying to hone all the time. I can pick out fun blog posts, poignant posts, even, I am sorry to say, boring ones. It's not all great, but I'm trying to get better. When I do get inspired I write a personal essay here and there. Those are fun, too.

But there is more. The blank page or screen is, indeed, a place for me to write down heartaches, sadnesses, angers...the therapeutic letter to some bonehead, written with venom and brilliant turns of phrases, written so I can get it ALL off my chest...and then take a deep breath, delete that note and compose a calm, professional and reasoned reply to said bonehead.

I think the day my brother died and in the days after, I wrote a lot in his memory. I wrote a poem, I wrote a haiku and finally this small essay, which I repost every May 20. Those helped. A tiny bit.

I write because I can. And I am glad I can.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

My Twist on Marcella's Lemon Chicken.

I first wrote about this recipe last fall after making it a few times. Since then, the recipe has evolved to suit the tastes of our house... It has become a go-to favorite here ever since. I've made it countless times, changing it up just a bit...but finally, this is the end result. Many thanks to Marcella for the first iteration of this recipe, her chicken fricassee with lemon and egg from Essentials of Italian Cooking. Now here's the more plebeian version...I cannot believe I don't have a photo for you. We must eat it too quickly for me to get something...I promise one is coming.

Babette's Adaptation of Chicken with Lemon and Egg from Marcella
1 tablespoon butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Salt and pepper
1 cup beef stock or bouillon (I use Better than Bouillon)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 egg yolks

1. Use large cast-iron skillet. Add butter, melting over medium high heat. Add onion and cook until softened.
2. Push onion to side of skillet. Pat chicken thighs dry with paper towel. Add to skillet in single layer and reduce heat to medium. Allow to brown well on each side, at least 5 minutes per side. Salt and pepper chicken.
3. Add beef stock, scraping bottom of skillet to get up any good browned bits. Reduce heat so liquid is at very slow VERY SLOW simmer. Cover, leaving lid slightly ajar. Cook this slowly 45 minutes, turning chicken thighs in stock every now and then.
4. After 45 minutes, uncover. You should have just enough liquid to cover the bottom of the skillet.
5. Whisk lemon juice together with egg yolks. Remove skillet from heat and quickly stir lemon juice/yolk mixture into skillet, turning to coat chicken thighs. Work quickly to keep egg yolks from "cooking"--the juice/yolk mixture should combine with the remaining stock to make a silky, thickened sauce.
6. Turn chicken thighs and sauce onto warm platter and serve immediately. Serve with something like orzo to get every last drop of sauce from this dish.

Serves 6 to 8