Saturday, December 28, 2013

Happy New Year!

Darling Chickens-

Can you believe its been another year?  So so fast, and yet, for parts of it, not nearly fast enough, as tends to be the problem with years in general.

2013 was good in many ways.

This happened:

 And if you haven't gotten your copy yet, it would make me the happiest girl in the world if you did.

 And if you did get your copy, and liked it, recommending it to friends and family, buying a second copy as a gift, posting it on your blog or twitter or facebook or Pinterest, choosing it for your book club, writing a review on Amazon...this will not only make me the happiest girl in the world it will keep me employed.

Also in 2013 this happened:

Which is frankly the second best single thing to happen to my life after this:

In other bits of 2013 fabulous, I gained a brother, two nephews, and a niece, all of them supremely awesome in ways too numerous to mention.  If I had designed them myself from scratch I couldn't have done any better, and they are, to a one, a tremendous addition to the family.  

Also I acquired a spectacular sister-in-law-by-choice, since my brother from another mother Officer K managed to convince a smart, gorgeous, funny girl to be his Missus, and to be the last piece in the puzzle our gang had been missing.

This started to happen:

Which is noisy and expensive and terribly thrilling.

And finally, to put the cherry on top, I just signed for two more books AND a digital cookbook, so I get to keep doing what I do, thanks to you all for that!  (please refer back to the top for ways to buy Out to Lunch so that they don't regret that decision, if you don't mind, please, and thank you very much!)

We will be ringing in 2014 with a very small group of dear friends.  In a perfect piece of happenstance, it will include one couple that have been with Charming Suitor for decades who have now become two of my favorite people, one couple that have been with me for ages and are now near and dear to his heart as well.  One couple of much beloved friends of CS who I've never met, who have recently moved back to Chicago, and I'm eager to match faces with the warm and funny stories I've heard over the years.  And a possible drop-in from one of our besties who lives in NY but happens to be in town for the winter, and who we can never get enough of.

We're going retro for the meal, replicating many of the details I remember my from my childhood, when my parents loved to host New Year's Eve.  The funny thing is that their menu was also nostalgic from their own childhood, so our menu is essentially 1950s by way of the 1970s!

We're doing oysters and shrimp, sweet and sour meatballs and pigs in blankets to start.  (I may or may not break down and get some port wine cheese spread, it is so dangerous, but I do have a craving...)

Salads of crisply chilled iceberg wedges with homemade thousand island dressing.  A prime rib of beef so enormous Fred Flintstone may wander by.  Twice baked potatoes, classic creamed spinach.  And tomato pudding.

No you didn't read that wrong.  Tomato.  Pudding.

Nora Ephron, a loss I took very personally this year, said that when she entertained, she never did the traditional 3 on a plate parties, one protein, one starch, one veg.  She always served four things.  The fourth thing was important to her, and equally important that it be whimsical or surprising in some way.  Unexpected.  Fun.  A bonus.  I love this premise.  It promises abundance, and smiles, and gives me an excuse to make one more thing, which you all know isn't exactly a burden.

When we were looking at the menu, I needed that fourth thing.  It had to be of the era.  Something almost silly, but still delicious.  And very unexpected.  And frankly, it needed to have a little acid in it to help balance the rest of the rich dishes.  Tomato pudding was a natural.

When I was little it often appeared on holiday buffets.  It's dead easy, you probably have the ingredients lying around.  You can make it three days ahead and reheat it, and it tastes even better when you do.  it is sweet and savory, deeply tomato-y, with a soothing nursery food quality.  And leftovers are quite yummy with an egg or two and some crispy bacon in the morning.

I thank each and every one of you for sharing this year with me, and look forward to what the next one brings.  I hope however and with whomever you celebrate, you do it with joy and abandon and abundance.  I hope what lies ahead for all of us is delicious, literally and figuratively.  

And if you get a chance, try the tomato pudding.

Tomato Pudding
Serves 6 (you can double this recipe easily for a crowd, just bake in a 9x11 inch dish instead)

2 cups dried bread cubes, crusts removed (use good bread, white or wheat doesn't matter)
1 stick melted butter
1 c brown sugar (loosely scooped, not packed here, or it will be too sweet)
½ c tomato paste
½ c tomato puree
¼  cup orange juice

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Put the dried bread cubes in a 8 inch square or round casserole dish. Pour melted butter over them; toss to combine.  Combine brown sugar, tomato puree, orange juice in a saucepan. Heat to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer. Cook 5 minutes.  Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

Pour hot mixture over bread cubes. Bake until puffy and the corners of the bread cubes are browned, 35-40 minutes.

And if you have a surprising or fun bonus dish of your own, be sure to share!

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Tuesday, December 17, 2013



I hope you have been enjoying this festive season as much as I have!  Things have been very busy, with the launch of my new book...

Did you get your copy yet?  Not to worry, they've printed plenty!  You can pick it up HERE.

Want to come see me and get a book signed and hear me speak?  There are some fun opportunities coming up.  I'll be at The Standard Club in Chicago on January 15, you can get tickets HERE.

On January 16th I'll be in the greater Milwaukee area at the Boelter Superstore at 4200 N. Port Washington Rd in Glendale at 6pm.  This event is free and I will be recommending some of my favorite cooking utensils and supplies, all of which will be available there along with my books.

In other news, things here at the house are progressing apace.  Have I mentioned that it is loud?  No?  IT IS FREAKING LOUD UP IN HERE.  At this very moment, stonemasons are right below me with grinders, tuckpointing away on the stone and brickwork.  On the one hand, we are so excited that we will be able to leave the stone and brick exposed, it was done with true artistry, and will provide some actual architectural interest in the basement, which could have been very generic and bland without it.  On the other hand, I AM TRYING TO WORK AND ITS SO DAMN LOUD!

Sorry.  It makes me all shouty.

But this happened:

In case you were curious, no there was not originally a hole in the back wall through which to pour cement.  And there is not one now.  Apparently there is some kind of Harry Potter track 9 3/4 that only our contractor can see.  But it was useful, because this needed to happen:

And this:

Here is what they are doing right now:

See all those spaces that are now between the stones?  All the old mortar is gone, any loose or broken stones and bricks are replaced, the walls are all cleaned and then they will be getting a limewash and linseed oil treatment to help seal them up.

They are also continuing to work on the ducting for the new HVAC system, and we are hoping upon hope that they get it finished soon.  For many reasons.  The old steam radiators are hissing and clanking away.  The holes they cut in the floors for the new registers are not currently attached to anything, so all the chill from the now gutted basement, with its damp dirt floor and wide open spaces, is now entering our apartment willy nilly.  My feet are like icicles despite socks and slippers, we've got the space heaters blasted at us, and are wearing only slightly fewer layers than I wore to the Bears game last week.  You know, the one OUTSIDE in 10 degree below zero windchill?

But we are getting closer and closer every day, and it is terribly exciting.  Permit applications have been submitted for the next phase of the project, and we are actually beginning to think about fixtures and finishes.  You know what is more fun than you would imagine?  Going to a showroom to lie about fully clothed in empty bathtubs with your boots on.  Seriously.  You should try it sometime.  And I'm currently more excited about toilets than I ever thought I could be.  One word.  TOTO.  Seriously.  Gamechanging toilets.  LIFEchanging toilets.  All this girl has to say is: Double. Cyclone. Flushing.  More on toilets later.

All in all things are smooth, if noisy, and every day brings some change that is noticeable.

I'm also hard at work finishing my next book, Recipe for Disaster, which will be out next year at this time.

And the best holiday gift I could hope for?  My publisher just gave me a new contract for two more books, so there is much more to come!

I just want to take a moment to wish you and yours a very festive holiday season, and a truly joyous, happy and healthy 2014.  Thank you all for being on this journey with me!

How cute is our tree???

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Thank you!

On this, the publication day for my seventh novel, Out to Lunch, I want to take a moment to thank a very special group of people...independent booksellers. These amazing people who commit themselves to the promotion of the written word and the support of authors local and national are a treasure beyond price. For many of us, it is the work of these individuals, who hand-sell our books and recommend us to their clientele, who stay open late to host us for readings and signings, that makes the difference in continuing to be a published author. Owning an independent bookstore is a labor of love, but it is a labor. It is, like any small business, long hours and fluctuating income, and often being on the brink of disaster. These people are my heroes. Because they do what they do to keep the printed word relevant, to keep the youngest among us excited about language and stories. To create opportunities for us to meet our readers who we adore. I salute every one of them, and will continue to support them in any way that I can, and in this festive season of giving, I hope that you will go to your local independent bookseller to give the gifts of stories to those on your list. With books, you literally can give someone the world, and shopping local and small you can keep our communities vibrant. I am going to celebrate my publication day by going to support a fellow writer, the incomparable Joshilyn Jackson at her signing tonight at one of Chicagoland's best indies, Anderson's Bookstore in Naperville. Next week, I will officially launch Out to Lunch at The Book Cellar in Lincoln Square. And I will be shopping at both of those as well as my neighborhood treasure City Lit Books for my holiday gifting. Thank you one and all for your happy wishes on my publication day. now go forth and shop local and independent!