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06 December 2007

mucking about in the rain

clouds lowering above

You may have heard. Western Washington is wet.

Splashing in puddles, squelching of tires, slapping drops on the top of our heads — we are sodden around here. For days, the skies splayed grey and the sump pump in the basement groaned with the extra load of work. People, every myth you’ve heard about Seattle and how much it rains? This week, myth became reality.

Even Orpheus and Eurydice might have slipped under the River Styx, rather than surfacing to this.

For those of you who have been calling and writing, we’re fine. Seattle is merely drenched, and not flooded. About an hour and a half to the south of us, a twenty-mile stretch of the freeway is submerged in murky waters. Houses are floating, Wal-Marts are surrounded by sudden lakes, and people are canoeing to work. For those of you around there, we salute you and send you bus towels and dryer-vacs. But there’s something funny about the national news. They flash images upon the screen, rapid-fire, and intone disasters. To outsiders, it looks as though the entire western half of the state is now ocean.

The last year I lived in New York, I came home one night, after a long busy day of writing, tutoring, and riding on subways. On my phone, at least twenty voice mails. Every one of them came from a friend in the city, with the same message, “Oh my god, I’m so sorry about Seattle.” Once I heard five of those, I hung up and called my folks. No answer. I called my brother. Dead silence. I gulped in sharp points of air, trying not to panic. I ran to the television, anticipating video of Seattle slipping into the sea. Nothing. Regularly scheduled program ran in all its inanity. I sat through the commercials on CNN, and through the top three stories. Finally, they showed it: an earthquake in Seattle. I sat in horror as they showed buildings rocked and tumbled. No wonder my family could not answer the phone.

But then I leaned in closer. As the announcer droned in deadly tones, I watched the images, again. I saw the shot of a storefront with bricks dislodged three times in one minute. And was that the Starbucks building, still standing, with one crack? I started laughing. I know Seattle. Nothing had fallen down. No one had died.

But the news had made me lose my family, for a few moments.

So up here, in the city, we are merely shaking out our wet hair like dogs in the backyard.

Really, it’s the perfect weather for cooking.

In the last few days, I’ve stirred up a beef stroganoff and poured it over rice pasta, stood at the stove and turned butternut squash and potatoes into a silky orange soup, made apple-cider pancakes in the morning and a Dutch-oven roasted chicken at night. This is what I love most about winter. It makes me return to the kitchen.

And every night this week, when I sat down with the Chef at nearly midnight to eat the simple dinner I prepared for us, he took one bite, looked up at me, and grunted. “This is good, sweetie,” he trilled at me. And then he curved his hand around the bowl and dug in for more.

It's simple - I love feeding him, and seeing him happy.

Thanks, rain, for making me stay inside the house.

* * *

If you should feel like leaving the house, Seattleites, I will be reading at the University of Washington bookstore, on Monday, December 10th, at 7 pm. The Chef and I would both love to see you there. (Mondays are his days off, so he’ll be there, beaming.) Friends, fans of this site, fellow writers — lend me your ears.

With all of the extraordinary experiences I’ve had in the last few months, I have yet to do a traditional reading at a bookstore. This is the first. I’d really love to see you there. It’s free!

And the Chef and I will be bringing cookies…..

chanterelles from Jeremy

Mushroom duxelle for stuffing fish

There’s one good quality to all this rain. More mushrooms will be dotting the grasses and rich dark dirt in the mountains around Seattle, soon. The Chef and I buy our mushrooms — for the restaurant and our home — from Jeremy at Foraged and Found. We don’t know where he obtains them. He never releases his secrets. We just know that we love the spongy, toothy umami taste of our favorite mushrooms.

Whatever mushrooms are available around you, try them in this lovely mushroom stuffing. Certainly, it exudes enough charm to stand alone. But if you find a great white fish, or a plump shiny eggplant, you’re going to want to tuck this stuffing under it and let the tastes emerge, like the earth re-appearing after a long, soaking rain.

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds mushrooms, chopped fine (try chanterelles and button mushrooms)
½ medium yellow onion, minced
5 cloves garlic, fine chopped
1 tablespoon thyme, fine chopped
½ cup dry sherry or white wine
½ teaspoon kosher salt and cracked black pepper (or to taste)

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Put in the onions and garlic. Sautée on medium heat for five minutes.

Add the thyme. Cook for one minute.

Add the mushrooms and cook for five minutes, or until they have released their juices and softened.

Pour in the alcohol. Cook this mixture until it is dry, being careful not to burn it.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

You can use this as a stuffing for a flat fish, such as petrale sole or ruby-red trout. Lay each piece of fish flat. Put a tablespoon or two of the duxelle in the middle of the fish, and then roll the piece of fish tightly around the duxelle. Cook the fish as you normally do.

Feeds 4.


At 9:03 PM, Anonymous Tori said...

Have you read "My Time in France" by Julia Child? Her writing voice reminds me so much of your own. I loaned my copy of your book to my friend and she traveled to Seattle with it and left it out while she made a gluten free Thanksgiving. Her step dad picked it up but was unable to finish it before she left. He bought his own copy and now has realized his own wifes celiac.

Can you post the beef stroganoff recipe that you mentioned? It sounds perfect for a wet Portland night.

At 4:26 AM, Anonymous madre terra said...

As soon as I heard the news about the weather I went online to check the webcams at the ferry landings up in the San Juans. I saw nothing disasterous. All is well at our home on Lopez. But the calls from all my local friends her in NY....
Tonight we are having a small Chanukah party and I'll be serving my first ever homemade gluten-free rugelach. If they came out fabulous I'll post the recipe and let you know.
Have a Happy Merry.
Oh, I love winter too for the hunker down and cook time.

At 5:58 AM, Blogger Mary Frances said...

Glad to hear you're not floating away =) The recipe for the Mushroom Duxelle looks so good and so easy. It's sparking my imagination.

At 10:15 AM, Anonymous EB of said...

I honestly love your writing. This may sound strange... but it calms me.

At 1:10 PM, Blogger Jules said...

I have never made stuffed fish, so this recipe is very inspiring, and I'm going to have to try it over the weekend!
House of Jules

At 1:44 PM, Blogger Jennywenny said...

It sounds a bit like when we had wildfires in san diego, everyone thought that the entire city had burned. It was pretty catastrophic, but it was only in certain areas.

At 3:45 PM, Blogger ren girl said...

Oh, I am missing your reading by FIVE days! That's upsetting. I'm back in the country on the evening of the 15th, & in Seattle from then on. Have things settled down enough that I could coax you out of the kitchen for a cup of tea or something?

At 9:41 PM, Anonymous excelsior said...

Oh how I remember hunting for (and finding) the skinny, blue cappped mushrooms that grew on the football field of our dear alma mater...

At 5:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Beautiful, as always. The stuffing sounds divine. But I think you meant umami (not umagi), no?

At 7:48 AM, Blogger aubrey said...

my family has been calling and emailing all week worried that my apartment is underground with all this rain. i tell them there's a big puddle in the parking lot but i'm huddled inside by my fireplace and could care less. how lucky i am to be a stay at home mom and able to call a pajamas and movie day because of the rain.

i relate to you when you write, "It's simple - I love feeding him, and seeing him happy." that is exactly how i am about feeding paul. more than anything i love to see him happy and love the gleeful kisses he gives me after eating a sweet concoction i've made just for him.

i would love to see you read your book!

At 12:27 PM, Blogger Mina said...

Sounds delightful…I love stuffed fish and never thought to add a mushroom stuffing…thanks for the inspiration!

At 6:21 AM, Blogger Wicked Good Dinner said...

Rain is wonderful, isn't it? It makes us snuggle up and eat well.

Looking forward to trying this recipe! And yes, please share the stroganoff :-)

At 10:46 AM, Blogger Cakespy said...

The rain was great for staying indoors. Of course I made the (bad decision) of walking to work, not finding out til after that it was the "storm of the century!". :-)

I am hoping to drop by tomorrow!

At 3:11 PM, Blogger V & P said...

Just wanted to say thank you for writing a book and having a great blog. I was diagnosed two months ago and after 2 months GF, my 3 year anemia problem is solved! AND I have also FINALLY fallen in love with cooking. Keep it up - V

At 8:29 PM, Blogger Pink Heels said...

Congratulations on your book! I just received a copy to give to a friend as a holiday gift and may have to buy a second one because I don't want to give it up! Jennifer

At 11:19 PM, Blogger melissa said...

And every night this week, when I sat down with the Chef at nearly midnight to eat the simple dinner I prepared for us, he took one bite, looked up at me, and grunted. “This is good, sweetie,” he trilled at me. And then he curved his hand around the bowl and dug in for more.

It's simple - I love feeding him, and seeing him happy.

oh my, yes. :) glad to hear you have been in joy in the kitchen while the rain pounds outside. I love that sound.

At 8:55 PM, Blogger Shauna said...


My goodness, that's such a wonderful compliment. i'm humbled. (I love dear Julia.) And I'm thrilled that the book being left open helped someone else to find out that she should be tested. This is all such an amazing experience. Stroganoff? That will have to wait until later. I want to tweak it a little before I post it here!

Madre Terra,

How did the rugelach work out? I want to know.

Mary Frances,

I hope you made it. It's quite lovely.


Oh my goodness, I'm so happy to know that.


Did you try it? I hope that you liked it.


I know. It's sort of easy, through the news, to think that the entire world is burning.


Wow, what kind of mushrooms were those?


Oh good catch! I was so tired when I typed that....


What a dear image of feeding your Paul. Thank you so much for sharing.


I have to say, this is all the Chef. it's a traditional French preparation, and I never would have thought of it without him.

Wicked Good Dinner,

"it makes us snuggle up and eat well." I'm all for it!


You are intrepid, walking in all that rain. Good for you!

V & P,

Oh thank you. I'm so glad that you figured it out!

Pink Heels,

I love hearing that people are giving the book as presents. Makes me so happy.


Joy in the kitchen while the rain pounds down. Another phrase I love!


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