A Literary Feast

Posts by Bowen Close

The Melon Thief

Posted on September 30th, 2013

One morning, the melons were gone. The evening before, they sat right where intended – attached most certainly to the lovingly-tended but misplaced vine that refused to grow past spindly. We had done these melons wrong in planting them where the neighbor’s garage and dusty red Jeep stole the sunshine for most of the day, and despite our best efforts and our loving applications of worm tea and compost, we could only watch with anticipation as a few melons bulged slowly, grudgingly, into being. And one morning, they were not there. Sheared cleanly off the vine, leaving no clue or hint as to where they might have gone. Our melons were somewhat stunted and most definitely unripe, but they were ours, and we lost…

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…

Asparagus officinalis

Posted on May 17th, 2013

Asparagus is a pretty funny thing, when you really think about it. I’ve heard it’s some sort of grass, which makes sense when you see the way it grows. Individual stalks poke up from beneath the dirt, sometimes clumped together with others but mainly striking out on their own, a single minaret growing to seemingly impossible heights. There’s no foliage between the stalks, as one might expect with other plants, just dirt and these towering green fingers. With each day, each hour, practically each minute you can see the stalks reach further toward the sky, making it look appear more like some sort of subterranean being poking up probes to test a new and alien aboveground environment. In a home garden, asparagus is really…

Just Make Cookies

Posted on April 18th, 2013

Back before I even remotely knew my way around a kitchen, back when a typical dinner consisted of some item from the vegetarian column of the frozen food aisle, I asked my grandmother for the recipes of some of my favorite things – chocolate chip cookies, banana bread, vegetable soup, and other simple things. “The basics,” I told her, telling her loud and proud I was finally interested in learning how to cook. My mother once made a batch of rice krispie treats that went so badly we had to throw it all out, including the pan (to this day I still don’t know how that’s even possible), and that was about the extent of her cooking skills – but my grandmother, with all…

Blood, Guts, And All The Rest

Posted on March 18th, 2013

“Saturday is gringo day,” our hostel owner told us. “Prices too high, too many tourists. Don’t go Saturday.” We were headed to Otavalo, Ecuador, for its famous Saturday market day. People mainly go there for that, hundreds of tourists streaming in to buy hand-knit caps shaped like cartoon characters, Technicolor alpaca sweaters, and “hand-carved” wooden replicas of Machu Picchu (yes, the one in Peru) to put on their mantles or to give to coworkers and pet-sitters. Over the years enough tourists showed up that now every day of the week the central plaza is clogged with souvenirs and mass-produced Andean tchotchkes, but Saturdays are still the big show. On Saturdays the entire town turns into a market, stalls and street vendors snaking through the streets…

A Final Resting Place For The Loved And Lost

Posted on February 14th, 2013

Somewhere, deep in the more nostalgic regions of my psyche, there is a mausoleum for some of my dear departed friends. It has rooms and hallways and niches lined with shelves to memorialize the loved and lost. But it’s not a particularly mournful or melancholy place–instead it’s kind of wistful, full of sentimental memories and the stuff to launch a million mouth-watering daydreams. Every now and again I spend some time there, reliving good times and soaking in the inspiration of the deceased. It is where I place the food and drink lost from my life. There are a variety of reasons these friends of mine were taken from the world. Some arrived in these culinary catacombs long ago, some quite recently. Some were…

Back In The U.S. (peanut butter edition)

Posted on January 21st, 2013

Ten things I resolve to stop taking for granted once I get back to the United States, food and beverage edition:  Peanut butter Drinkable tap water Safely consumable lettuce Peanut butter Good coffee (and I’m not even being picky here – by “good,” I mean “not instant”) Yogurt that isn’t pourable Bread with some sort of discernibly crust-like crust Bread of colors other than white (namely: various shades of brown) Vegetables that haven’t been frozen before appearing on my plate PEANUT BUTTER

The Perfect Stocking Stuffer

Posted on January 3rd, 2013

When I was 14, I filled my mother’s Christmas stocking for the first time. It was the first time I had filled any sort of Christmas stocking at all, and I suppose there wasn’t anyone else’s I would have filled. She was a single parent and I was an only child, and I’m guessing this was sort of a first for her, too – the first time anyone had filled her stocking since her own mother had done it. I had likely stumbled upon the idea (unprompted) that I was grown up enough for the task, and went about curating the perfect selection of stocking stuffers with an overstuffed sense of responsibility. I don’t remember much of what I chose; probably some lilac soap…

The Most Powerful Hour

Posted on October 22nd, 2012

I guess I can’t remember exactly how it all started. I’m pretty sure one of us suggested it as a joke, probably on some hot, bored Los Angeles day. (There were a lot of those, in our early twenties.) Someone joked about it and we laughed, but at some point we must have stopped laughing. Because someone eventually went out to buy the beer, and someone else collected the shot glasses from the kitchen.   There are four of us, at the core – me, my husband, and our best couple of friends – plus other members of one of our groups of friends from college (a group of people all somehow connected to our alma mater’s elite choral group, either directly or through…

With My Mind On My Oven, And My Oven On My Mind

Posted on September 17th, 2012

When I was teaching cooking classes I’d strongly suggest that people listen to music when they cook, as one of a number of things they could do to help themselves relax in the kitchen and get themselves excited about whatever it was they were going to cook. (Relaxation and excitement being two very powerful elements in the molding of a good cook.) “Pick something related to your menu,” I’d suggest. “Flamenco for tapas, Bollywood soundtracks for Indian food, Edith Piaf for French food. This will help you set the scene for your culinary masterpiece!” (People love being told they’re going to create a masterpiece.) But it really is true – appropriate music can put you in the right mood, and in the kitchen the…