I like it there

November and December bring on an interesting hunger. A hunger for years and experiences that happened long ago, people, a certain smell in the air…for a taste of something old and familiar. It intensifies each year — the feelings involved do, too. Currently, I’ve gravitated toward the kitchen as a sort of sanctuary for getting to know this hunger I speak of. I can also choose to let everything go, and focus on nothing more than producing forth a dozen or so delicious, nutty cookies or an ugly, albeit moan-inducing cake. Either way, I like it there.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, my kitchen produced quite a few delightful dishes, and I emerged from it in a delightful, far less melancholic state than what my writing might otherwise suggest. Our holidays are busy. We celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas about three times each, which is not as tiring as it sounds. This year, I decided to bring a few new dishes to the table, which included: roasted Brussels sprouts with a maple vinaigrette; a bread-less stuffing, which was basically roasted winter vegetables and herbs typically found in stuffing; a cranberry chutney that my family swooned over last Christmas — it comes from the blog Orangette, authored by Molly Wizenberg (if you haven’t noticed, I am a tried-and-true reader of a handful of food writers. Not only do I savor what they write, but the recipes shared are just as worthy, and never, ever disappointing. Molly is one of those writers.); and an applesauce cake that I also read about on Molly’s blog, the original recipe coming from Food52.
It was one of the most enjoyable Thanksgivings I’ve had in, well, maybe ever. For the cake, which called for unsweetened apple sauce, I decided to try a roasted applesauce recipe from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers, who is another lovely food writer and chef. Her recipes are simple, but special and very worthy of your time. Her instruction feels equally satisfying. That’s the kind of food writing I love the most — the kind that draws you in and makes you eat up every last word. The kind that seduces you into your kitchen. The kind that encourages you to get to know your food and appreciate the art of cooking and eating, too.

This particular recipe reminds me more of the apples that go on the inside on a pie than of an applesauce. Then again, the only applesauce I have experience in eating comes from a jar and is shelf-stable. The recipe is wonderful on its own, and, of course, would also be great with a bit of cinnamon and vanilla. The peeling might seem tedious, but paired with a good podcast it can actually be quite relaxing.
Roasted Applesauce
From The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers

Judy recommends using crisp eating apples for the applesauce, instead of baking varieties. I think I used galas for this particular version, but you can also use Sierra Beauties, Braeburns, Pippins, or Golden Delicious. I used this batch of applesauce in the making of the cake, on top of roasted chicken, as a topping for a pumpkin muffin, and straight off of a spoon while standing, with the door open, in front of the refrigerator. It made roughly three-and-a-half cups.

3-1/2 to 4 pounds of apples
Pinch of salt
Up to 2 teaspoons of sugar, as needed — I used organic cane sugar, but I do wonder if a richer, darker sugar would have been better.
About 2 tablespoons of butter
1 splash of apple cider vinegar, if needed

Peel, core, and quarter the apples — take a small bite to determine how sweet they are. Toss the apples with a bit of salt and a bit of sugar to taste — if your apple is very sweet, you can choose to skip the sugar. As Judy says, if they are tart enough to make you squint, add the full amount of sugar. Spread the apples in a single layer in a shallow baking dish. Place slivers of butter on top of the apples, cover tightly with foil, and bake until the apples begin to soften. This will take 15 to 30 minutes and depends on the apples.

Once the apples have softened, remove the foil, turn the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, and return the dish to the oven. Leave the apples to dry out and get a bit of color for about 10 minutes. You’ll know the apples are ready to come out of the oven when they tips of the apples become golden and the fruit is tender. When they are done, place the apples in a bowl and stir into a chunky mash. Taste and season with salt and sugar, as needed. You might consider a splash of apple cider vinegar if the flavor needs brightening. Rodgers recommends removing a small amount of the mash, adding the apple cider vinegar, and tasting to see if you like it before brightening the whole batch.

This is the first time I’ve made this recipe, so I’m still not entirely sure of it’s lifespan; but, stored in an airtight container in the fridge, this applesauce has lasted well over a week.

I’m still wobbly

I’m good at dancing around the subject. I’m also good at trying things on for size. I’m an impressionable woman. I almost typed girl and that’s probably the correct noun to use. Sometimes I feel like I can’t call myself a woman yet — for no other reason than that I feel immature.

Life has felt serious for a long, long time, so lately I find myself seeking out people who don’t take themselves, or life, too seriously. I study them, which sounds totally creepy, and practice bringing some levity into my day based off what I observe. It feels so much better this way.

When I said I’m good at dancing around the subject, what I meant to say is that I’m confused and am looking for some personal truths. Here I am, 31 years old, recently married, with a new house and a one-year old food bar (which kind of means a stationary food truck), and I’m still wobbly in who I am — still finding my legs.

I’m waking up to the truth that the past ten years (and beyond that even) have been tough and complex. I know I’m not special — whose life hasn’t been tough and complex? I don’t mean to imply that I’m special here. What I mean to say is that the past few years have been some of the most emotionally complex I’ve yet to come across in life. I told myself early on that I had come to terms with my dad’s sudden death back in 2006. (Again, I’m good at dancing around the subject.) I suppose I am okay — I’m alive, mostly well, able to maintain work, stay warm, feed myself, and all the other luxuries that feel overlooked in this world. But emotionally, I feel like I’ve taken a massive blow that’s taking a lot of work from which to recover.

An unexpected, sudden death leaves one with a lot to think about — it did me anyway. And, of course, like all deaths, a lot of emotions. A lot of questions come up: Did he feel it coming? Did he hurt? Was he scared? Did anyone notice him struggling? Did he die quickly? Please say he died quickly and wasn’t scared. Please say he wasn’t cold or that he didn’t hit his head when he fell. Please take this mental image out of my head. Someone said that a lady ran over to try to help him, but no one was around with CPR knowledge and by the time the ambulance got there, he was gone. I should re-learn that — CPR, that is. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Geez. How can life not feel serious?

Man, I failed miserably here at not taking life too seriously.

Being here


It’s quiet in the new house. It reminds me of long, warm afternoons spent holed up in my bedroom as a young girl. This must have been before my twin brothers were born. Although, when I think back on those days, I don’t remember the house getting much louder or chaotic when they arrived. Just more exciting on a deep, internal level. Anyway, when I’m in our new house, I feel familiar feelings of my childhood. Every creak feels special and deserving — our home was built in the late twenties, if I’m remembering correctly — and the kitchen cabinets give the impression that they have soaked up a lot of stories over the years. When I’m in our kitchen, memories from my childhood kitchen rise to the surface every now again. It’s a nice feeling, being here. (And there.)

Our house is the kind of house that almost feels as though you have to work to live in it. The kitchen is pretty tiny, and I like it that way; our washer and dryer set up is in the garage. There was a tiny door, built later in the life of this house, that connects our living room to the garage, which sounds weird and it kind of is. I don’t know when that door was built, but there were a good number of years during which whoever occupied the home didn’t have this luxury. The house isn’t small, but it is doesn’t leave one with a lot of space to fill, which I also love. You can only fit what you really need, and with those things you have the capacity to create so many memories. This is the kind of house that gives the impression that it can’t be owned. It doesn’t feel like we own it, at least. Rather, to me, it feels as though our family will be only a small part of its rich life.