Friday, September 26, 2014

California: Spending a Week at Delicious

Back from a wonderful week in California, I hardly know where to begin. Should I tell you about the wonderful food? Should I tell you about the book party at Edible Schoolyard? Should I tell you about the great kids at LeConte School?

Well, one can never go wrong starting with the kids. And LeConte School has great kids. We talked about writing about lives and how we look for stories when we want to tell about a person's life. And they had stories about grandparents and axe accidents, Moms and Dads who had adventures of all kinds.  We also talked about how writers hardly ever write it right the first time. I always want kids to know that writers have to work at it. It's too easy to think if one is a writer, there's no effort. It just flows out of the pen. (!!) And we talked about saving memories in a journal or a memory box made out of a cereal box.

LeConte School has its own farmer, Farmer Ben, who brought in a bowl of LeConte figs to share. The LeConte school garden is one of the oldest school gardens in Berkeley. As you can see, they hold classes in the garden, and kids learn with Farmer Ben about growing and preparing good food.
Farmer Ben, who also did the drawings.

(l to r)Becca Todd, District Lib. Coordinator, Berkeley Schools,  me, Estella Cisneros, Librarian, LeConte School

Of course I also want to share the Edible Schoolyard at the Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkeley. It is a wonderful spot, a sanctuary made of vegetables and fruit trees and flowers, where kids come to learn about planting and growing all kinds of food.  There are even chickens!

While we were there, a volunteer who is a high-schooler came to work. He said he volunteered here because he loved this place when he was in middle school. And we loved it, too.  Philip and June Lee of Readers to Eaters and publishers of Alice Waters and the trip to Delicious, Anne Ylvisaker, Christy Hale, Kathy Pryor and I wished we had had such a place attached to our middle schools.

It was the perfect place for a book party. What a treat to meet so many committed librarians, some of whom were located in the Bay Area, some of whom were in town for the ALSC conference taking place in Oakland. I was glad to see Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, author of many books for kids, including No Crystal Stair, sitting on a straw bale not far from me. And there were others--librarians who are also teaching kids about seeds and gardening and good food.  And of course there was Alice Waters! After all the research, the reading, the writing, the revising, it was pure pleasure to see her in our circle of food and book lovers and hear her tell us of her firm belief that all kids deserve to eat good, healthy food and her work to make that belief a reality.

Richard McCarthy, Exec. Dir of Slow Food USA and Alice Waters

l to r. Philip Lee, Alice Waters, June Jo Lee, Christy Hale, me, Kathy Pryor

There was more--a reading at the Berkeley Farmers' Market on Shattuck Avenue, two (!!) wonderful meals at Chez Panisse. 

It was an unforgettable week, for a person who loves good food, who loves books, and who loves talking about food, stories, and books.  Thanks Philip and June Lee for arranging all of these events in Alice Waters' back yard. What better place to talk about delicious.

reading Alice Waters' story on her street

dessert at Chez Panisse

Now, for a little bit about flatbread, cooked and eaten right here in Iowa,
because some of you asked--

A little explanation for those who did not ask. This week I made a new bread--Moroccan Flatbread-- and took it to a gathering of writers. I promised to share the procedure.  The recipe is from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day.
The link will connect you to the master recipe. Once you have the master recipe, you can store it in your refrigerator for up to two weeks. When you are ready to bake the flatbread cut off a piece about the size of a large apple. I let it sit on the cutting board for 20 minutes. Then I shaped it into a ball and rolled it out to 1/4-1/8 inch thick and spread with this mix: 1 tsp. cumin, 1tsp. paprika, tsp. turmuric, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, 2 T. olive oil. Roll up like a jelly roll. Then coil that roll, sort of like a snail shell. Let rest for 20 minutes. When ready to cook, roll out the bread to 1/4 inch thick. Heat a 12 inch cast iron frying pan, add 2 T. olive oil. When the oil is hot but not smoking put the flatbread into the pan. Cook for about two minutes on each side. Remove from pan and sprinkle kosher salt on the top.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Forgetting the weeds

Okay. There are weeds in the yard taller than me. There are several stacks of books on the floor in my study that would be a lot more comfortable on a shelf. We can't find the bill from the plumber who installed our new kitchen faucet.  And I don't even want to talk about upstairs. So there's plenty to do, but there is something about this blank space that is calling..

September seems to be a season of gratitudes. As  summer winds down and we head into a long cold spell, with not too much light, every sunny day seems like a gift.

So here are some things that I am grateful for today:

1. Gorgeous cherry tomatoes from Laura Krouse's Abbe Hills Farm.
I'm going to save a few for a salad tonight and roast the others in the oven with garlic and olive oil and save them for those cold days.

2. That my brother-in-law Ron is home and doing well.
3. That my granddaughter Evelyn gets to take her medicine with chocolate frosting. And that Owen has so far avoided the need for medicine this fall.
Owen and Evelyn in June

4. That Alice Waters and the Trip to Delicious turned out to be such a beautiful book (thanks Hayelin Choi for those lovely illustrations and Philip Lee of Readers to Eaters for all your care with the book!) and I get to go to California next week for a book party at the Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley. It's Wednesday, September 17 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. I'll also be visiting with the students at the LeConte School on Thursday. We'll be talking about the fun of stories and good food and writing about lives. On Thursday afternoon Philip and June Lee, Anne Ylvisiker and I will be at the Berkeley Farmers Market on Shattuck Avenue. On Saturday we get to go to Book Passage in SanFrancisco.  Finally Saturday afternoon at 4:00 I'll be reading the book at the Claremont Branch of the Berkeley Public Library.  I hope whoever is in the Bay Area and reads this will be able to come to one--or more--of these events.

5. That my granddaughter Ella is enrolled in a wonderful Spanish language immersion school in Chicago. And that Jonah hardly ever falls off his scooter.
Jonah and Ella

6. That Rich and I saw a Belted Kingfisher this morning.

7. There's more--family in Maine, who are eating succotash they grew themselves, playing with dogs, reading Middlemarch; writing friends here in Iowa and all over the country who keep me going when I'm not sure about where I'm going. You know who you are.

8. Finally, I guess it's enough that the sun came up once more, and we get to try again to be present in the world, rough and roiling and beautiful as it is.