24 May 2017

Wordless Wednesday: Foxglove

Because hairs on their speckled daybeds baffle the little bees,
foxgloves come out to advertise for rich bumbling hummers,
who crawl into their tunnels-of-delight with drunken ease
(see Darwin’s chapters on his foxglove summers)
plunging over heckles caked with sex-appealing stuff
to sip from every hooker its intoxicating liquor
and stop it propagating in a corner with itself.

     from "The Miracle of the Bees and the Foxgloves" by Anne Stevenson

18 May 2017

Simple Herb-Roasted Salmon

To celebrate my Mom's birthday, I took her to "Grow It, Cook It, Eat It" -- a workshop and luncheon at White Flower Farm in Litchfield. We listened to a short lecture on the use of various culinary herbs, then planted our own container kitchen herbs, and ate a delicious, herby vegetarian boxed lunch. Mom definitely enjoyed herself and so we're keeping an eye on the list of events, to see if there's something else we'd like to do together.

Anyway, as it's been a bit cool and rainy since then, the herbs I planted haven't grown much. The container is right by the front door, though, so I see them as I pass to and fro and I itch to use them ... and, well, what harm could a little bit taken here and there do?

Since I already had a salmon fillet in the refrigerator, I decided to roast it with a little of the fresh rosemary and thyme. I could just as easily have used fresh tarragon and lemon zest or fresh marjoram and dijon, but rosemary and thyme is a such a classic combination. It's fabulous with salmon, of course, but I’ve also used it with whitefish like cod and haddock.

This recipe makes two generous servings, but can easily serve three or four by scaling down the portion size. We were rather hungry after gardening so I cut the salmon fillet into larger portions than I usually would. Leftover salmon, should there be any, is very nice cold, on a bed of salad greens.

Simple Herb-Roasted Salmon

Yield: 2


  • 2 8-oz portions boned salmon fillet
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp minced fresh thyme
  • ½ Tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • ⅛ tsp salt


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Brush a pie plate or baking dish with olive oil.
  3. Pat the salmon dry with a paper towel and place on the pie plate. If your salmon portions have a thin end, fold that under for more even cooking.
  4. Top with ingredients.
  5. Bake salmon, uncovered, for 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily and has reached 145°F.

17 May 2017

Wordless Wednesday: Sweet Violets

The sweet violets have successfully seeded themselves through the garden and lawn ... this makes me very, very happy. Who needs grass when you can have violets?

03 May 2017

01 May 2017

American War

I finished American War well over a week ago now, but I still struggle to know what to say about it. It’s bleak and grim and dark. Full of rogue weaponized drones, catastrophic weather, (villainous) governments, and freedom fighters (terrorists). And yet there are small moments of beauty and humor amidst all the horror.

Ultimately, American War is a disquieting, uncomfortable novel. One of those novels the word “unputdownable” can honestly be applied to. Which doesn’t make this novel flawless -- there are, for example, points where the narrative is frustratingly meandering -- but it is too compelling a story for me to care too much about structural flaws.

El Akkad incorporates excerpts from news articles, memoirs, and official documents to fill out the story and provide context for Sarat's experiences -- I tend to enjoy fiction which employs that kind of epistolary conceit, so I ate those pages up and wanted more, because there is still so much of Sarat’s world I want to know (yet am afraid to know, because These Times Are Too Much Like Fiction).

American War takes place during the uneasy detente occurring after the catastrophic second American civil war. Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia have formed their own government (The Free Southern State), with North Carolina and Tennessee rather friendly to it, and South Carolina a quarantined zone controlled by the North. The Free Southern State is not well regarded by it's populace and there are a myriad of rebel factions clamoring for power within it. The South is gutted. Scarred. Angry. Prone to (self)destruction.

Growing up in this mess, first in mostly-drowned Louisiana and later in a displaced persons camp in Mississippi, is Sarat Chestnut. Curious, defiant, ignorant, and unfeminine (nice to see contemporary gender norms still hold sway), Sarat is eventually befriended by a mysterious, smooth-talking, and educated man who spoon feeds her the Story of the South -- a tasty, untanglable blend of fact and fiction that sets her on a dark path.

And I can’t say more because Spoilers. Just go yourself a copy of American War.

American War written by Omar El Akkad & read by Dion Graham (Random House Audio, 2017)