Three weeks ago I turned the manuscript for my next book over to my publisher. As I wait, with no small amount of dread, for the first round of edits to come back, I thought I’d post a few pictures here, with some nattering commentary to go with them—you know, write a blog post.
The book I was working on is a vegetable cookbook, and even as I was hitting “Send” I wasn’t completely convinced that it was, in fact, finished. There are always more recipes I want to include, and this would be especially true of a vegetable book, wouldn’t it? Can’t you easily come up with something even better? The last recipe I developed for this book, though, was a comfort to me in a couple ways: This rough-hewn version of South Indian–style pepper water might actually be the best dish in the book, and that thought made it a bit easier to tell myself I’d reached an end point of sorts. And that afternoon, sitting down by myself at our bright red table with the winter sun streaming in the window, with a bowl of steaming, tamarind-sour, spice-fragrant broth in front of me, I truly wished that every future reader of this book could be sitting there with me, sharing and enjoying this meal with me. I guess that’s why I want to keep learning about food and writing about what I learn.
The morning after “Send,” Derek and Thalia and I headed out on a road trip. As one does. We crossed from Nebraska into Kansas in midmorning, which was probably the ideal time of day to be driving through the Flint Hills in the northeastern quadrant of the state. We hit Dodge City by midday, and from that point west, we realized later, we were essentially following the Cimarron, or southerly, route of the Santa Fe Trail.
For the casual traveler, Kansas west of Dodge City is, shall we say, difficult to love, not a part of the country in which to linger. But eventually we found ourselves on small roads in the Oklahoma panhandle, which was rougher and less cultivated, more classically beautiful, more pull-over-worthy.
We pulled into Clayton, New Mexico, our town for the night, just before sunset. For the next few days we tooled around Derek’s old stomping grounds in Albuquerque and up toward Santa Fe. We stayed at a lovely lavender farm just at the edge of Albuquerque that seemed to have been made with us in mind. There were goats, chickens, guinea hens, a milk cow, and a sweet “farm shop” just outside our room. The lights of the city and on top of the Sandia range behind it were especially beautiful from the lavender field. We’ve been living in Nebraska, which as you might know is sort of flat, for about eight months now, so being in a place where the topographical lines are crowded closer together was especially refreshing.
The food we ate looked mostly like this:
On our way home we followed much of the northern, Mountain route of the Santa Fe Trail and spent the night in La Junta, Colorado, so we could visit Bent’s Old Fort, a place that’s held much fascination for Derek since we moved west. The fort has been reconstructed of adobe (real adobe) on what is thought to be the original foundation footprint, within sight of the Arkansas River, the old boundary between the United States and Mexico. We were very proud of Thalia when the reenactor asked her if she knew what kind of fort it was and she answered, correctly, “A trading fort!” In the spirit of the place, at the nearby Safeway I traded some American dollars for bags of chicos del horno (dehydrated sweet corn), blue cornmeal, chiles caribe, and nice-looking Mexican-style hominy.
When we got home to Lincoln, it was Thalia’s seventh birthday, and I made a horrendous pink strawberry cake that we enjoyed very much.