A Literary Feast

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Portland, Oregon: Creation Myth of a Culinary Darling

Posted on July 19th, 2013

  (Adapted from the upcoming Portland: A Food Biography [Fall 2014])   The infant city called The Clearing was a bald patch amid a stuttering wood. The Clearing was no booming metropolis, no destination for gastrotourists, no career-changer for ardent chefs — just awkward, palsied steps toward Victorian gentility. In the decades before the remaining trees were scraped from the landscape, however, Portland’s wood was still a verdant breadbasket, overflowing with huckleberries and chanterelles, venison leaping on cloven hoof.   “The surroundings of the city were … still wild, and the shattered forests seemed excessively rude, having no more the grace and stateliness of nature, and having not yet given away altogether to the reign of art,” recalled newspaperman and historian Harvey Whitefield Scott…

In The Beginning

Posted on July 19th, 2013

* Dog goes down to the water in the blank  heat of the middle part of the day and sits. The air is open-palmed and slow across the back of her neck, and the grass chews itself down into the sand at the top of the bank. Dog is not her real name, but it is the one that she has been given at camp. Camp waits on the other side of the meadow, and it is all tanned, tall, smooth-limbed counselors. It is clipboards that trail long comets of embroidery floss, woven into bracelets for people that are not her. When the sun reached its whitest eye, Dog had taken her plastic bag of warming carrots and the smooth sweat of her one…

Roll of Mustard, Hear My Cry

Posted on July 19th, 2013

I am in a major first romance. I am 36 years old: a stock-taking point in life. A point at which you begin to understand the broad contours of the things you will and will not have: the career as it has taken shape, the dreams as they have fallen away, the places you have visited but will probably never see again. I have time, I know this. But I don’t have all of the time. I don’t have the forever time of childhood, or the joking—when will she grow up?—time of teenage years. I don’t even have the experimental stretch that is so much the residue and the requirement of being in your twenties, or even the early thirties.   No—36 is something…

The Unfinished History of You and How You Ate

Posted on July 17th, 2013

In the beginning, you drank milk. It came from your mother or maybe from a powder. You drank it and you burped and you spit it up. You learned to breathe and eat at the same time, and your parents were overwhelmed with love. There was love, and you drank it. In time, you learned to eat soft, bland things, and you developed tastes. You liked sweet potatoes and bananas. You reached for things your parents ate, and you tried to put food into your mouth with your own hands, which sometimes worked. For the next long while, things progressed in a rather straight-forward way. You started eating like a full-grown human, small bites and then large ones,and the vast majority of the time…

Eating Like a Narcissist: An Introduction

Posted on July 17th, 2013

Stetson’s 17 Branson Ave. Boise, Idaho 83705 (555) 555-7869 Price Range: $$$ REVIEWS: Jenna M. Chicago, IL * * – – – “Should have known it would be a bad sign when we walked in at eight on a Tuesday and they told us it would be a 45 minute wait (I could see empty tables). Never mind that it was their opening night. Hubby gets grouchy when his blood sugar is low, so night got started off on a bad foot. We FINALLY got seated and had to wait ANOTHER five minutes for our waiter to finally show up. He was some kind of foreign and it was very hard to understand him (which he did NOTHING to alleviate). They only had a…

An Account of the First Annual Estero, Florida Billybon Festival, and What Occurred There

Posted on July 17th, 2013

FRIDAY 7am: Representatives from the Estero Chamber of Commerce and The Estero Billybon Society (formed two years prior by a group of older-aged Estero ladies enthusiastic about preserving the recipe for Billybons, an orb-shaped dessert item, roughly the size of a golf ball, comprised mainly of brown sugar and orange juice- a traditional (i.e. invented sometime in the late 1960’s by a woman named Eva St. Clair) Estero dish, though largely forgotten within the town and virtually unheard of outside) arrive at the Lee County Fairgrounds to begin setup. The aim of the event is to promote the idea that Estero is the site of a rich and historic culture, meriting tourism and emblemized by, of course, the Billybon. The main tent stretches from…

Out of the Arm of One Loaf…

Posted on July 17th, 2013

out of the arm of one loaf and into the arms of another I have been saved from eating and being cross by a bread that beats pot beats songs and stories and is much softer than the last, much much softer and the crumb is just as good or better. It isn’t pleasant to be hotly crossed and left there, it is much more pleasant to forget a bun which didn’t rise as all yeast finally doesn’t rise… it is much more pleasant to eat along the crust in Des Moines in the back room, and afterwards sitting up in bed drinking cold milk, your tongue touching crumbling softness like a wave…   I have tried too many times kneading and waiting, waiting…

A Culinary Childhood in Three Verses

Posted on July 16th, 2013

I am small. The record player is large, and so are the records. On the cover of this one: a fat man at a table, his red beard as big as the teacup he holds, sipping his tea while an orange sun sets on the road behind him. The song is short and begins, “Bring tea for the tiller man, steak for the sun, wine for the woman who makes the rain come…” The tea, I know for certain, must be the orange pekoe that my dad drinks. The steak is medium-rare, the only way to eat steak, though I wonder how the sun avoids burning it well done. It’s the wine I’m unsure of, because wine is for parents and aunts and uncles…