If you’re craving something savory, perhaps we should zip on over to Illinois for some deep dish pizza and pierogies. Something a little more substantial? Well, we could feast on chicken fried steak in Oklahoma and bison burgers in Wyoming, before topping everything off with a platter of Norwegian meatballs in South Dakota.
What’s for dessert? May I tempt you with a slice of St. Louis Gooey Butter Cake, Key Lime Pie from Florida, or some of South Carolina’s Buttermilk Pie? Oh, you want it all? Can’t say I’m surprised — I’d recognize your drool anywhere. 🙂
The good news is, we can sample all of these foods and lots more by simply digging into this new book, which takes us on a delicious culinary tour across the country — all 50 states + Washington, D.C. To sweeten the pot, we’re also invited to three U.S. territories: Guam, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico!
In writing Come to the X (forthcoming, Galileo Press, 2020), I was struck by the way what I eat over the last decade has changed, and how my patterns of eating and relationship to food reflected the events in my life.
In Finding My Distance(Galileo Press, 2009), elaborate dinners and their preparation were like a reward. From lamb to shrimp, exotic pastas to salads, mountains of crabs and all the fixin’s — caesar potato salad and Asian cole slaw — to rich desserts like ice cream and homemade chocolate sauce, crisps and mousses and souffles. The long work days always ended with focus on cocktail hour and dinner, prepared and eaten with relish by this family of four, including two kids who were introduced as toddlers to an adult palate — whatever we ate got whizzed in a blender — a husband who is a stress eater, as well as myself, who has a history of anorexia. Whatever the complex motivations, and whatever stressful life events vying for our attention, sharing dinner and sitting down together as a family were key.
We head to Annapolis to meet my Aunt Kay for dinner at Cantler’s Riverside Inn, where we introduce her to a slice of Maryland she’s not partaken of before: platters of crabs brought steaming to our table. Barrett shows her how to crack open and hammer and peel, and before we know it, several mountains of spent legs and shells litter our brown-papered table, along with empty plastic containers of cole slaw and straggler fries and rings. Crab parts go flying, Aunt Kay busily wipes her white shirt, the clientele whoop it up at the tables and bar behind us, dusk starts to fall, and the Magothy River starts to sparkle behind us. We order another round of beers, another half-dozen crabs, and more slaw. After we’ve consumed our very last crab, we still have room for more and order key lime pies all around. Our server doesn’t even bother to clear away the mess before bringing out dessert, and now we’ve got a Vesuvius on our table.
“I’ve never seen you eat with such gusto, Julia,” Aunt Kay says.
“You’ve never seen me eat crabs before,” I reply. She’s amazed by the mess.
Finding My Distance, in contrast to Come to the X, is a book filled with hope and purpose; it is largely about my determination as a middle-aged equestrian athlete to climb the levels in three-day eventing. It is also about the challenges of being the mother of two young adults. Food, and specifically dinner preparation and its sharing with family, complement the inner weather of the book. After attending the Preakness Race:
My day ends well with Barrett’s shrimp pad thai and lots of Anapamu, and reruns of our eventing and racing videos. There goes Foolish Groom from the back of a twelve-horse pack, picking off his contenders in the last quarter mile, winning again by a good 10 lengths.
Meyer’s theme of “superlatives” is a fun and effective way to help kids understand why Lincoln is widely considered to be our greatest President. Her nineteen narrative poems — lively, rhyming, upbeat, captivating — describe some of Lincoln’s most commendable skills, attributes, dreams, and milestones, while providing interesting insights into his personality and character.
The poems are arranged chronologically from Lincoln’s humble beginnings as “Most Studious” (a self-taught learner), to his youth as “Most Distracted Farmer” (who preferred reading to farm chores), to being “Most Respected” (short stint at boot camp), to his tenure as President (a “Most Permissive Parent” whose sons ran wild in the White House). With the “Strongest Conviction,” he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, then later delivered his “Greatest Speech,” the Gettysburg Address.
We first meet Pilar, who’s preparing a batch of Salmorejo, a purée consisting of tomatoes mixed with stale bread, garlic, olive oil, and salt that originated in southern Spain. Smiling to herself, she seems quite content wielding her immersion blender, confident that the finished dish will be delicious.
Next door, Mr. Ping stir fries broccoli while his nephew Benjamin looks on. Benjamin calls broccoli “little trees.” Across the hall, Maria is mashing avocados for Guacamole, while upstairs, Señora Flores squeezes lime juice into her pot of Black Bean Soup.
As we turn the pages, we meet more neighbors, all busy slicing, stirring, chopping, and combining ingredients. Some of these home cooks appear pensive and contemplative, while others are blissful or playful, but all are enjoying themselves, whether they’re working alone or with helpers. Perhaps young Josef and Rafik, who are rolling Meatballs, are having too much fun (Josef is spooning something onto Rafik’s head). Or what about impish, red-headed twins Jemima and Rosie arguing over “who took the last banana”? Their freckly-faced smiles promise all will be forgiven once their Banana and Blueberry Bread comes out of the oven.
When all the cooking’s done, everyone takes their dishes downstairs for a big pot luck feast in the back garden. What a large, glorious table, set with homemade specialties from around the world! Rest assured, all these lovingly prepared foods taste even better because they’re being shared in the happy spirit of fellowship and community.