Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

A Travel Memory

July 6, 2020

These square plastic sacks make the best project bags!

This month’s issue of Writers Digest is about travel. Since now we’re all about getting people to stay put, what with the pandemic and all, the editors decided to shift their focus. One article was about being a travel writer from home.

I mention this because setting has always been hard for me. Yes, I have to do massive amounts of world-building because I write science fiction, but creating the setting I need from scratch is easier than describing what’s actually there. Go figure.

I decided I would try to write a travel article about Santa Fe, which is where I have gone for the last ten years for Art Quilt Santa Fe. The producers decided not to schedule one for 2020. The decision made me sad then, but didn’t they save themselves a world of grief! Anyway, I tried to recall the streets, the museums, and the parks. I don’t remember the scents of Santa Fe because most of the time I couldn’t smell anything. I always went during prime pollen time and my nose was stuffed. My first stop in town was usually the pharmacy for more antihistamines. That reminded me of the restaurant tours we took, because Santa Fe is serious about food. That reminded me of the last errand I invariably ran, which was a trip to a Senor Murphy chocolate shop.

So there you have it, from trying to complete a writing exercise to trying to find a website in three easy steps. If I can’t go to Santa Fe, a tiny bit of Santa Fe can come to me (or will, when my candy order arrives).

Perhaps tomorrow I’ll try the writing exercise again.

Luck and wisdom!

Confessions of a Fruitcake Fan

December 26, 2018

Confession 1 – I like fruitcake. To eat. No, seriously, I have pleasant memories of delicious fruitcake, mostly homemade but some commercially made. This year, I decided to make my own fruitcake. As you can see, it is still a work in progress.

I bought the ingredients, but like many Christmas crafters I ran out of time and energy (that’s confession 2). So here’s my holiday wish for all of you – peace of mind. If the to-do list taunts you, turn those unfinished projects into family stories. I promise, we’ll laugh with you because we’ve all been there.

Luck and wisdom!

Cookie Valhalla

December 24, 2018

Thanks, Walt, for the delicious cookies!

One of my writing groups is mixed genre, and I’m the only sci fi writer. They’ve asked before how I write about a world that doesn’t exist, and I’ve never felt I’ve given them a good explanation. The short answer is you take something you know and push it in another direction. My group likes long answers. Luckily, I was talking to a friend about where fantastic bakers might go when their Final Timers ring, and the term Cookie Valhalla popped in my head. “Self,” I said, “this is your opening.” My next attempt at explaining world building will begin with imagining my favorite people joyfully baking amazing food, doing battle with perfect puff pastry, and ending in an orgy of eating the weapons on the battlefield. How’s that for building a world, eh?

Luck and wisdom!

Time for Traditions

December 12, 2018
Lani Longshore tradition-turkey-12-12-18

I am just about ready to start my holiday baking, and decided to use my quilt guild’s Unfinished Quilt Challenge to guide me. I bought a chocolate turkey for a Thanksgiving decoration but had no clear plan for what to do with it after Thanksgiving. Yes, I intended to eat it, but how? It’s a solid little bird, and I had no desire to be gnawing on it until Easter. Then I remembered the challenge, and how we were advised to repurpose old projects so we would have a reason to finish them.“Self,” I said, “repurpose that turkey into fudge.” My mom used to use a stick of butter, a bag of marshmallows, and a bag of chocolate chips to make a quick candy. I figured I could do the same, but I cut the marshmallows down to half a bag (because that’s what I had). Add a few maraschino cherries while it’s setting up, and you’re done.

Luck and wisdom!

What Your Tools Say About You

December 3, 2018

I have collected cookie cutters most of my adult life, although I rarely use them outside of the Christmas baking season. They’ve come in handy for quilting designs, so I don’t feel too guilty about the number of cutters I’ve acquired. Still, your tools tell people something about you. My husband and I have been writing family biographies, and we’ve been amazed and amused at the tools our relatives collected, kept, and used.

As a novelist, I have given my characters something interesting to use in order to give the reader a better understanding of who these people are. Once I’ve decided what I want the reader to know, I insert the proper tool. My quilting heroines, for instance, use fabric, thread, and scissors in various scenes. As a biographer, I have to work backwards. I need to tease out what the tool meant to my relative based on what I remember and the stories told to me so I can better understand who this person was.

So here’s the deal, should anyone want to write my biography through the lens of my cookie cutters. I like bright, shiny things. I like tiny, cute things. I like cookies. And that’s really all these tools say about me.

Luck and wisdom!

Vegan Cream of Whatever Soup

November 19, 2018

Got this? You’ve got soup.

My husband and I love to experiment with cooking. The other day he suggested we make a cream of cauliflower and broccoli soup. I made the base with the cauliflower, pureed it, added chopped broccoli and cooked until tender. It was delicious, and reproducible (not all of our experiments are). I made butternut squash soup this week with the same base, adding the squash with the cauliflower and whizzing the whole thing up with my stick blender. It was wonderfully creamy without a hint of dairy. So, if you are counting calories, entertaining a vegan, need to watch your cholesterol levels, or just want to have a delicious soup ready in about 30 minutes, here’s a quick base that is versatile, nutritious, and inexpensive.

1 onion, chopped

½ head of cauliflower, chopped

olive oil (I use 2 teaspoons, but you can get away with 1 teaspoon)

salt and pepper to taste

Saute the onion with the olive oil, salt, and pepper in a large pot. When soft, but not browned, add cauliflower. Cover with water, bring to a boil, and cook until soft. Puree.

Seriously, that’s it. Now add whatever other ingredients you wish, with enough water to make the soup as thick or thin as you wish.

Luck and wisdom!

World-Building Through Cheese

September 17, 2018

Cheesehenge

The local paper ran an article about cheese not being the source of all evil for anyone worrying about cardiovascular issues. My inner cheese-hound yipped and yapped and chased its tail, because I adore cheese but there is a history of heart disease on both sides of the family. While rescuing my recipes for cheeseballs, cheese sauces, fondues, savory pastries, souffles, and quiches from the dusty corners of the cookbook shelf, I thought of how I’ve used food in my sci fi stories. Ann Anastasio and I have featured food in each book of the Chenille series. We’ve also made a subplot out of Earth foods that are similar to products on our imaginary planet, Schtatik. Reading the article about cheese reminded me of all the nutrition advice I’ve followed only to be told later that the studies were wrong, which illustrated a hole in my world-building. When I think of what my aliens might eat, I’ve always envisioned their diets as an ideal, or bound by ritual. I don’t think I’ve ever given my aliens a chance to cheat on their diets, or indulge in comfort food, or visit the junk food aisle in their groceries. I’ve never even considered what their groceries would look like. Ever. From now on, however, I’m going to spend a little time imagining what my aliens think they should eat as well as what they do eat, and why it matters. World-building through cheese – yeah, that’s a thing now.

Random Notes On Writing and Life

September 10, 2018

 

Sometimes finishing the book helps. I started reading The Art of Character by David Corbett, then got slowed down in the middle. The exercises are wonderful, but not exactly what I needed at the time. Continuing to read brought me to this passage: “As you launch your characters through the gauntlet of want and conflict, you will see this in your own life, suffer the scars, feel the tension of consequence like a wind humming through you. You will find yourself in your words, if you work honestly and deeply.” This is what I was getting at in last Monday’s blog, just not as eloquently.

Save stuff. I have saved this puzzle holder for years, even when it was obvious we would not be putting together another jigsaw puzzle ever. Guess what makes a perfect holder for antique maps that my husband inherited from his grandfather? Guess who feels incredibly vindicated?

Buy the good chocolate, then eat it. There really isn’t much more to add.

Writing Down The Dates

May 14, 2018

I was a history major in college, as were most of my roommates. We threw dinner parties to commemorate important dates. The Chicago Fire, the invasion of Poland, Pearl Harbor Day, Armistice Day – anything that came close enough to a free weekend so we had time to cook.

Dates and food are still important to me. I once made Cheesehenge Fondue for a summer solstice. As a writer, however, I want to do more. My friend and fellow writer Marlene Dotterer published her wonderful alternate history The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking. I started writing a story that is set in World War I. While the 100th anniversary of the end of that war is fast approaching, the end of that story is not.

I decided part of my trouble was pulling myself out of the “what-does-this-date-mean-to-me?” role. Separating my ego from my words is job number one for getting a story written. One of these days, the right story for the right date will reveal itself. Until then, bring on the cookbooks. There’s always another anniversary to celebrate.

Experiments for Pi Day

March 14, 2018

My husband asked for pecan pie to celebrate 3/14, Pi Day. I have a great recipe, because it’s easy – when you have all the ingredients. When you don’t, well, how else should one celebrate a made-up math holiday than by experimenting?

The pie for Pi Day

First, I had some Trefoil Girl Scout cookies that needed eating and not entirely by me, which is a problem because I’m the only one who really likes those cookies. I decided to make the crust from them, which worked fine except I ended up with more cookie crumbs than required. My experiment was to add a little more butter and use them all. It worked. Then I discovered I didn’t have corn syrup for the filling, so I used molasses. That made the filling a little bitter, so I added chocolate chips – and more butter. Heaven only knows what the calorie count is, but the pie tastes good. That’s all that matters with cooking experiments.

The same is true of quilting experiments. I took Peggy Martin‘s Jelly-roll Jive workshop on Sunday, only instead of a jelly-roll I brought some 2 1/2″ strips from my stash. I chose from the not-quite-scraps drawer, those pieces too large to go in the scrap bag but too small to make an entire quilt. I figured if I got a decent block out of it, great; if not, I hadn’t lost much.

Perhaps I’ll call this Blueberry and Pecan

Turns out I got a great five blocks. I made four blocks from blue and beige fabric. My first thought was to make a traditional 4-block medallion wall-hanging, but turning it on point is more interesting. I’m not sure how I’ll fill it out, but that’s an experiment for another day.

A second experiment for another day is this last block that I made from fat quarters I bought in New Mexico. I have enough fabric of a similar nature to make a small wall-hanging, and a boatload of beads that might find a home on the piece.

I hope all your experiments go well today and every day.

Luck and wisdom!