Wednesday, 13 February 2013 | 83 comments

To pickle a beet

My father is one of seventeen children. When I first tell people about that side of the family, I see questions forming behind their eyes, rapid calculations and tabulations on fingers. I tend to stave them off with short explanations: My grandparents are Roman Catholic. It’s a Midwestern farm family. Yes, all from one marriage. Nope, no multiple births. How many first cousins? Oh, about sixty. (By this point, I’ve begun to count on my fingers too, trying to remember how many babies have been born in the past year.) And yes, really, the local high school awarded my grandparents a plaque when the last of their kids graduated.Grandma and Grandpa still live on that farm where those seventeen kids grew up, though by now, the surrounding acreage is sold off. We are left with just the house, the garage, enough room for a vegetable garden, and some space to play backyard baseball or burn brush. The entire family descends in the summer for one glorious, chaotic weekend. The house hums, from 5:30 AM when an elite group of early-rising aunts and cousins makes the first pot of coffee to, well, 5:30 AM, when the last poker or euchre-playing holdouts finally get to sleep. The intervening 24 hours are something of a sensory assault.

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Monday, 4 February 2013 | 31 comments

White grapefruit tart with sweet rye crust

For those of you in California, in Florida, or even in the Mediterranean; for those of you in places where the temperature doesn’t dip so low that, in your car, your toes freeze because the heat only works on “defrost” instead of blowing on your face or feet (this is, sadly, the least of our current car troubles); for those of you wearing flip-flops year round—it’s difficult for me to explain. Winter citrus is so utterly improbable for those of us in colder climes. The bright colors, jeweled insides, and shamelessly pervasive aromas of these fruits seem altogether suited for another season, or really, in the interminable winter months, another world. When there’s snow on the ground outside, slicing open a grapefruit, with that little spritz of essential oil from the peel as I cut in, is enough to reduce me to a mess of stuttering half sentences and syllables of appreciation. » Click to read more

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