Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Thanksgiving Special

In honor of a holiday I do NOT have to cook, clean or shop for, I'm taking my extra time today to write some open letters to some of the people and things that have made me grateful this year. For those of you who have written to tell me that I am missing a Chapter 3 in my blog headings, this is technically my Chapter 3. Ready?

1. Dear Clotted Cream:

I love you, but let's be honest with each other: I'm glad you live in a different country. 

You put on a nice front, clotted cream, but it's clear that you have it out for me. In reality, you're as kind as a heart attack. The worst part about you is how innocent you pretend to be. You like to hang out on rainy days at all the great caf├ęs, looking all mild-mannered and unassuming--maybe even a little bland--by that stack of tiny jams. Looking like you don't even know how good you taste. Hey, what's menacing about a little pot of jam? I can hear you shrug at me, each time I try to pass the cash register. Stick around awhile. And have I told you how thin you look today? 

The worst part is how wonderful you taste with carbohydrates.  Especially any carbohydrate that can be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum. And yet, for this--and for all the wonderful Sunday afternoons you've given me in tea houses around England--thank you. Thank you, clotted cream. I love you. 

Now get the hell away.


2. Dear New Mother-In-Law:

Thank you, thank you, thank you for fulfilling my life-long dream of eating Toad in the Hole. As I might have told you (about five times, over dinner, and yes way too excitedly) I've had this dream since I was a child and read Roald Dahl's Danny, The Champion of the World, and was mesmerized by two things: 1. You can evidently tranquillize an entire flock of pheasants with Valium-stuffed raisins (First, soak the raisins, then slit them open with a razor, stuff them full of sleeping pill powder, then sew them back up again. The pheasants eat them and BAM! fall asleep. So you don't have to shoot them!) and 2. Toad in the Hole is a dish full of rich, bubbling, puddingy batter out of which bits of greasy sausage pop like, I guess, English toads from English holes. Little did I know that no one over the age of 10 in England ever really eats this dish, but thank you for taking the time not only to make this dish for me, but to force the rest of your family to eat it too, especially since it meant (sort of) sacrificing a meal composed entirely of the lovely fruits and vegetables grown entirely in your own garden plot (seen below) to the consumption of a dish that is roughly the culinary equivalent of American Mac-n-Cheese.

It was delicious. It was fantastic, frankly. Even better than the novel's description. And at least you got to make a few side dishes from the your garden haul, including one of the yummiest onion gravies I've ever tasted. Now let's take a look at this feast you prepared for us:

Oh lord. THANK YOU. And in case anyone wants the recipe for this so that they, too, can get a taste of an English childhood straight out of a novel, here it is:

Toad in the Hole (serves 4, including one American woman)
10-12 English sausages
1 large serving dish
Yorkshire pudding batter

Pre-heat oven to 180-200 degrees.

For sausages: Cook partway (or mostly done: the mixture will bake for 1/2 hour). Arrange in pan. 

For batter: 4 oz. flour, 2 eggs, 1 3/4-2 cups milk, 1 teaspoon baking flour (mix with flour), pepper and salt to taste. Make a well in middle of flour/baking powder mixture. Pour in eggs, slightly beaten, and mix into flour. Pour milk in slowly, little by little, stirring all the while to get out lumps. You'll need to stir rapidly and vigorously until the batter looks very thin. When done stirring, let the batter sit for 15 minutes, then pour over the sausages. 

Bake 1/2 hour.  Make gravy of choice. Serve with vegetables, preferably ones found in English gardens. Meanwhile, stuff soaked raisins full of Valium. Sprinkle liberally over the garden. Eat. Wait for the pheasants to fall.


3. Dear Checking Account:

You've really taken a beating these past few months, what with the dollar, the vampiric Euro, and the fact I'm living in Paris. But I'd like to thank you for all your efforts, especially after the Venice debacle and the few feeble attempts you've made on my behalf to offer me accruing interest. We both know that it wasn't your fault all the markets kept sinking, and that this rate wasn't, well, as healthy as when we first met. Still, I appreciate the effort to keep up the enticements. Maintaining attraction goes a long way in a relationship, as we all know. And now, Checking Account, I'd like to introduce you to two new friends I've made:

Hi there. And you know what the best thing about our new friends is?


YES, they fucking do! Which is AWESOME, you know, because NOW I can go caving.

In addition to these new friends, I'd also like to introduce you to a few silk shirts (totally eco-friendly!), a swanky new winter coat (made in Italy!), a heart-attack inducing skirt (works better than the clotted cream!), a distressing amount of children's books (handmade!), some sweaters (I'm freezing to death!), a bunch of murano paperweights (gifts!) and four Victorian paper theater sets (it's for that poetry project I told you about last spring!).

I know what you're going to say. Hey, you're starting to sweat. What about that post where you said it was so damn HARD to buy anything because, like, everything was so beautiful in Paris and there were so many shops and it was so difficult to choose? What about that? Was that all bullshit? What happened to THAT post exactly?

Well, Checking Account, you were right. I did say it was difficult. 

But I didn't say it was IMPOSSIBLE.


4. Dear Sissinghurst:

I  can see why Vita Sackville West loved you. Frankly, I can't see why she ever preferred that other, dreary old medieval theme park. And wrote that horrible poem inspired by The Georgics for it, too! You're clearly so much cheerier and brighter! Your gardens are so much more inviting! You aren't stuffed full of tiny, tick-infested deer! Your armchairs are more capacious! Your clotted creams are fresher! And you even come with a WRITING TOWER! Oh, Sissinghurst, you make me want to be rich (Not possible now! sobs Checking Account.); you make me want to be a better gardener. Or, barring these things (which will have to be barred, as I can see from Checking Account's frantic note-taking here), to at least go back to England.

You are officially my happy place. When I am back at home next year, expiring in a faculty meeting-induced fit of narcolepsy, my last conscious thought will be of you. Thank you. You have given me some of my favorite images to be found this year. (Tell me at least THOSE were free! howls Checking Account.) 

And you've also given me future plans for my very own writing tower. Must go now. Checking Account is slitting its wrists in my bathroom.


5. Dear Sean:

Thank you for sharing a duplex with me. Thank you for being the funniest person I know. Thank you for taking my dogs out certain panicky Wednesdays. Thank you for driving home after Takashi. Thank you for throwing the occasional game of Scrabble. Thank you for Friday lunchtimes together. Thank you for the wine. Thank you for learning to tolerate, if not love, organized dinners. Thank you for the midnight explanation of physics. Thank you for the car repair. Thank you for not feeling the need to go to all those readings. Thank you for coming when you're interested. Thank you for the fake white aligator hide shoes. Thank you for the pleather. Thank you for washing your dog. Thank you for keeping your shirt on for this picture. 

Thank you for the future, h. Thank you for this year.



  1. Those boots are fantastic. FANTASTIC. You are a genius for buying them, that's how good they are.

  2. Ha, funny, I recently bought the same shoes in Italy! Lower heels, though, and all black (I post about them here:, but I like the coloured version too. They're super comfortable, aren't they?

  3. They ARE surprisingly comfortable! And beautiful, too. So beautiful that I am SAVING them for the next year when I return to the States. Paris is too cobblestony and unsanitary to wear anything this beautiful on your feet. And I suspect Vietnam will be about the same. So I just like to think of them, perfect and untouched, in their little box. Should have worn them on the Orient Express. And thank you, Lisa, for suggesting I am a genius for spending such an obscene amount of money on pure frivolity. If only genius was this easy to achieve every time.