*feed the need.

Today was a strange day (or what passes for strange in my life, which has a base level of very odd). There was lots of occupational rumor and some low-grade fear and the kind of roiling stomach acid that makes for short tempers and sour pusses.

Ergo I could use the following, in no particular order.


pain, yo.

oi love.

As you can see, potatoes feature prominently.

Two more days and then it's time for a long weekend, bitches!

*veg out.

On a scale of one to Monday, this day is kicking my ass. It makes me long achingly for the weekend, where the hours were blistering and lazy and the bad decisions were easier to take (possibly because they were my responsibility).

Here's a little slide show to reminder myself that this is a short week and I, I will survive.

toppin' nod.

deviled eggs with tapenade, lunch at Bottega

little ears.

orechiette with shrimp, zucchini, and spicy peppers, lunch at Bottega


an attempt at Ina's salted-radishes-with-bread-and-butter appetizer, which she says is oh so French. I like radishes, myself, but there was something half-baked about this concept. I'm certain it wasn't operator error.

rad dish.

But look what a pretty color the radishes turn the salt! (Note: The half-baked nature of the finished product slowed TFin and me down not at all.)


The Lord's gift to palates: garlic, roasted to death and smeared on bread with butter. Get this: Butter not even necessary. I KNOW. Blasphemy.

green sprouts.

beautiful Brussels sprouts, which also got the Ina treatment—scorched in a 400-degree oven for 35 minutes until they crackle and snap like potato chips and liberally salted for maximum effect.

king bean.

lima beans. Be still, my heart.

lady peas.

lady peas, blushing and sweet


polished corn kernels all in a row, putting my teeth to shame. And reminding me I need to whiten.

OK now, Friday. Come to mama.

*pioneer effort.

I have a traffic counter on this site, one that miraculously tracks you all and reports to me on your Interweb trolling habits. It serves to tell me all sorts of important information, such as the fact that you read when I post and don't read when I am lazy or swear to much.

Lighten up, ya crazy bastards.

But for the most part, I do not check said counter because I don't really want to know how many people have traipsed through here, and the fact that the vast majority of you stay for less than one minute. I know that's not enough time to read an entire post, because I ramble extensively, and the hit to my ego that is the knowledge that people arrive on the Woodside and think, "God she's boring" and go see what Perez Hilton has drawn today is EPIC.

Anyhoodle, that terrifying window into my fragile self-esteem comes to you courtesy of The Point I'm Trying To Make, which is about The Pioneer Woman. Ree Drummond is a lovely lady with a handsome husband and perfect children, who lives on a scenic ranch and takes gorgeous pictures and otherwise casts the largest shadow one could choose to stand in.

She has an easy, breezy tone and fascinating anecdotes that never reference last week's unwashed dishes or how to tell you need to do laundry by the increasing discomfort caused by bottom-of-the-drawer underpants. She also has traffic out the hoo hah. When she posts a giveaway, trying to view all the comments at one time will crash your computer. Trust me. (By the by, this is reader bribery I plan to bogart. Look for the chance to win your very own only slightly scratched Celine Dion CD, coming soon!)

So attempting to make a Pioneer Woman dish without screwing it up is a daunting task. Almost 600 people saw fit to comment on this recipe—My Most Favorite Salad Ever. Ever, Ever, Ever!—which put my odds of forgetting a key ingredient, scalding my limbs, or otherwise embarrassing myself at good to quite good.

Firstly, there is lots of chopping, which j'adore. Cabbage,

slaw slew.

orange and yellow bell pepper,


and these adorable rapscallions.


There was also a long seedless cucumber, but I was clearly confused about how to cut it. The recipe said "sliced," but I wanted longer lengths so that they'd roughly match the bell peppers and cabbage, and the linguine that was boiling away on the stovetop. I've heard of dice, chop, and julienne, but I'm not precisely sure what you call this.



In typically wonderful salad fashion, the only requirement post chopping is just to throw everything together (even I can do this). Then it was on to the dressing.

A mixture of soy sauce, olive oil, sesame oil, and lime juice meets

sedimentary soy.

jalapeños (which I managed to only get in my eye ONCE),


ginger (oh my JESUS the incredible smell of this stuff),

mrs. rogers.

and brown sugar.

like a young girl should.

Meanwhile, cashews were hanging out in a dry pan over low heat, getting slowly toasted and golden.

cash shoes.

They were content to linger there whilst I chopped through mounds and mounds of cilantro (twice in this recipe the most specific quantity of cilantro called for is "LOTS").


Start to finish, this took far less time than I'd anticipated, but it made a stunning amount of food. I had to toss the dressing with the salad in my plastic punch bowl because nothing else was big enough.

linguine & veg.

There was spinach in there, too, although I omitted the bean sprouts because I came up empty-handed after trips to two separate grocers.

veg & linguine.

It was delicious, with a guilt-dissolving ratio of veg to pasta, and I have more leftovers than you can fathom.

So trip on over to the Woodside, my adoring public. I have enough to share with all four of you.

*putting the "scare" in scarecrow.

I like to take pictures out of the windows of moving cars. You can capture a split second of pretty landscape that you'd otherwise miss as you careened by at 70 miles per hour.

Sunlight carving through heavy canopy ....


perfect horizon lines blurred by speed ...


manmade wonders with satisfying symmetry ...

over troubled waters.

and ... this.


I am so pissed that trespassing laws prevented me from capturing this at closer range. Five minutes from the Woodside, in the toniest, property-taxes-the-size-of-my-salary neighborhood, stands this scarecrow. A sentinel in the middle of an enviable garden. Stalwartly facing the perfectly trimmed grass and the properly maintained, family-friendly sidewalks. Dressed in a kicky hat, and someone's softened-by-wear flannels and denims. Holding a rifle.

This is the angriest bird spooker you have ever seen. From my on-the-way-back-to-work surveillance, I noted he has furiously drawn eyebrows and appears to be wearing an unusual amount of blush.

It's mostly funny, I guess, from a living-in-Alabama-can-make-you-lose-your-precious-mind standpoint, but it's also more than a little terrifying. Regardless of your race, gender, socioeconomic status, or sexual preference, I think we the people can agree that it is disconcerting to have someone POINT A GUN AT YOU.

Even if that person has produce to protect.

*lawn in order.

I meant to post this two months ago and didn't, because I'm lazy/easily distracted by shiny things and salty snacks.

But it demands attention. Mostly for my mother, who took one giant step toward beatification as a result.

Seriously, this woman gestated me for just shy of 100 years. She should not now be subjected to panicked phone calls the likes of "Help! I'm 29 years old and I'm about to be swallowed by my lawn! Send cocktails and manual labor!"

In my defense, it was kind of pretty.

into the wild.

I mean, you know, probably choking out any potential grass and harboring large insects and poo piles, but pretty.

Alas, I did not place anything there for scale. Trust me when I tell you that this was some incredibly tall weed-strewn mess. J would stand in the middle of the yard, gazing at me and forlornly contemplating the slog back to the house versus jumping the fence and moving in with a more responsible family.

But thanks to my kindly lawnmower elf, the Mother Who Never Tires, and hours of backbreaking work, we turned this

paw path.

into this.


It obliterated J's carefully carved path through the brush, but he was so overjoyed to be able to see his own feet again that I don't think he minded.

The privet hedge returned to its full upright and locked position once we disentangled it from the parasitic wisteria.

welcome to the jungle.

If you're not familiar with this Southern shrub, allow me to orient you. It's the big bushy thing between the useless half clothesline and the rotten stump. That's what you call landscaping, people.

lawn in order.

Because I'm relatively impotent at yardwork, I was tasked with brush removal.

great wall.

Ah, the Woodside. Where the grass is patchy, the chain link is prominent, and a day's worth of toiling creates the impression that the house was abandoned for a year. Home sweet home.


What is this about?



Where is the gawky awkwardness? Where are the shoulders hunched into invisibility stance?



Where are the ill-fitting limbs? Where is the bad skin and discomfited "help me" expression and lingering aura of peer-perpetrated humiliation?

Me and the Puberty Fairy, we got beef.

*of nice and men.

We celebrated the Day of the Dad at my father's house, because whereas I live on the Woodside—where visitors are greeted by crotch-height suspicious mutt and dead-insect displays on windowsills—entrance to Bonita Drive means getting smacked in the face with something like this.

happy face.

There's an effortlessness about sunflowers in a masculine space. Mind you, there's a casual ease in a week-old pizza box on the counter, too, but in a wholly different way.

On Saturday, LSis and I met at the farmers' market (and here and here) to buy fresh veg for the lunchstravaganza we'd planned in order to fête our two dads (TFin and MJ).

When we arrived we discovered that a) it was broiling hot and b) our lunch didn't require as many vegetables as we'd originally thought, but LSis picked up some fuzzy, round, huggable peaches for her homestead, and we grabbed some bunches of basil, green peppers, cucumbers, and the prettiest heads of cabbage you ever did see.

heads together.

The biggest difference between market cabbage and store cabbage, I found, is density. I often hear cheflebrities say that the best way to gauge fruits and vegetables is draw the nebulous distinction between those that are "heavy for their size" and those that are not.

But nebulous no more. This little cranium had the heft of a bowling ball.

cabbage cracks.

And just look at those layers. It's like gray matter! Only crunchier.

cabbage crevices.

They lent their stunning crispness to blue cheese cole slaw, an Ina Garten invention with carrots, mustard-cider vinegar-mayo dressing, lots of parsley, and a mountain of Point Reyes blue.

bleu slaw.

If you're even moderately apathetic about blue cheese, step away from this recipe—it's potent. But my people love a strong flavor, and if you heart a big blue like we do, you must make this. A comment on the Food Network Web site says it: "This is coleslaw for people who don't like coleslaw." (Which is helpful when LSis sends you a text message that reads, "Gross. Jb said dad wants cole slaw too. Ew.")

naughty slaw.

LSis set to work on the cornbread panzanella, which wasn't really fair because it had the greatest potential to be meh and ... was. The flavor was good—bright and complex—but the texture was off.

pretty panz.

I have since discovered that the problem was decidedly not the fault of my hardworking sous chef. Check out that recipe LSis—there was a cardinal sin of omission on my part: WE FORGOT THE CHEESE. This was doomed before it left the gate.

The third dish was a slam dunk, TFin-wise: succotash on cheddar grits.

The recipe calls for the grits to be prepared, chilled, breaded, and deep fried, but I read that as their requiring forethought, being stripped of their warm, creamy texture, and necessitating hot oil that would mean mess, burning flesh, and/or a kitchen inferno.

Needless to say, we served them the old-fashioned way. Topped with a mixture of bell peppers, corn, and lima beans topped with bacon (I instinctively threw a couple of pinches of cayenne into the grits, and though I think that went unnoticed, I like that it cut the richness just enough).

corn on corn.

It is worth noting that this was the one dish for which there were no leftovers at all.

Finally, the main event: braised short ribs.

They cook for three hours, so in the meantime the Foodimentary Guy whipped up his infamous tarragon chicken salad, a work of art that I almost absconded with to keep people from RUINING THEIR APPETITES.

summer salad.

Ultimately, though, I was glad people had something to snack on, because I thought the ribs, while good, were mostly just OK. Browning them was possibly the most satisfying task of the day, because they came out to beautiful and crusty and fragrant.

bone in.

Three hours later, they ... well, they didn't fly off the platter.

aye, there's the rib.

The flavor was spot on, but I spied people pushing some meat around on their plates that looked pretty dry and tough. I'm hoping that JBSH can find something inventive to do with the leftovers that might redeem them.

Frankly, the whole meal was just capital-f fun—I adored being back in a kitchen again, particularly one so beautiful and well stocked, and the preparation was full of laughter and cocktails. I am grateful that I have a dad who appreciates that his girls gave him six dishwasher loads for Father's Day. It's the gift that keeps on giving.

*my guy.


It's hard to encapsulate fathers. They're just ... amazing and confusing and brilliant and fragile and awkward and flawless and funny.

At least mine is.

My dad taught me to be proud—that when crafting a tri-fold science fair board, it is important that the project should be scripted in pencil first, then in pen, then with the pencil marks erased for maximum neatness.

My dad taught me to be generous—that sometimes, even though nobody else in the room knows it, a girl needs a knee-squeeze under the table.

My dad taught me that life is short—that guppies can be first a novelty, then a nuisance, and then a fertilizer.

My dad taught me to pay attention—that what the world tells you is true is worth nothing without further investigation.

My dad taught me to have an opinion—that macaroni and cheese, like eggs, is better with ketchup.

My dad taught me to be authentic—that your experience is better earned when you fuck it up along the way.

My dad taught me to know the truth—that a martini is vodka and olives, and nothing else.

My dad taught me to be compassionate—that seeing the round fullness of people is what makes life ridiculous and wonderful and worth getting up for in the morning.

My dad taught me to be earnest—that the cornerstone of my life, thanks to repetition in childhood, will always be "more elbow grease."

But most of all, my dad taught me to be brave. That what you deserve isn't always what you get and what you get isn't always what you deserve. That life isn't fair. That your life is a product of the choices that you make. That the people who love you won't always get you, and the people who get you won't always love you.

But when they do, look out.

I love you, daddy.

*french fon.

Yesterday we discovered that LSis and Martin's little bundle of man joy is in fact a little bundle of girl joy. Surprise! What to do with such a bombshell?

Cover it up with a pomegranate margarita Big Gulp.


See that lovely frozen pinkness in the baby blue cup? Apropos, no?

TFin is much more civilized. He chose a Perfect Manhattan, courtesy of the tenders de bar at Chez Fon Fon.

perfect manhattan.

To celebrate the birth of LSis and her little baby sex change, I ordered baked mussels.


So garlicky and crunchy, and just exquisitely cooked. I was worried those tiny slimers would go rubbery under the heat, but they were perfection. And I only burned my arm on the dish twice.

Then the salmon with a field pea relish and a sauce I'd have licked off the plate if I didn't have scruples. Or thought TFin wouldn't have elbowed me in the ribs. The salmon was too salty, but otherwise this was just what the summer ordered. Frank Stitt knows what to do with a pea, yes he does.

cockeye salmon.

LSis had the croque madame, a griddled ham and cheese sandwich with an oozing fried egg and a mound of pommes frites. I had a crisis of focus, apparently.

croak, madame.

For dessert, the lemon meringue, which the baby Jesus took a break from moderating the crisis in the Middle East to bring to me.


That lemon center is so divinely rich, and the meringue was thick and sticky and charred and the whole thing was, well, deadly probably.

But my arteries didn't mind. They were busy contending with this,

bread & butter.

which I could (and did) eat by the pound. Truly. I was all, "Garçon! More butter buckets, s'il vous plaît!"

And now I am off to enjoy this stunning weekend, full of sweating and gasping for breath in the oppressive, hellish, I'm-taking-it-personally heat. If I don't survive, someone make sure J learns that linoleum isn't life-threatening. Godspeed.



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I am a work in progress. I perpetually need a hair cut. I'm totally devoted to my remarkable nieces and nephew. I am an elementary home cook and a magazine worker bee. (Please criticize my syntax and spelling in the comments.) I think my dog is hilarious. I like chicken and spicy things. I have difficulty being a grown-up. Left to my own devices, I will eat enormous amounts of cheese snacks of all kinds.