On January 1, 2013 my book Ruminations from the Minivan, musings from a world grown large, then small was published.
Which means that I got to start out the new year having fulfilled a promise I made to myself last year, not an official New Year’s resolution per se, but a resolution all the same. I resolved that 2012 would be the year I published the book I had started ten years earlier.
I’ve got to tell you, it feels pretty good.
It felt even better on January 2, when I got onto Amazon.com and saw my book listed there. And better still, when Facebook friends from far away announced they had or were buying the book and shared this information with their friends.
I didn’t think the day could get any better but it did. 2013 started out with the best winter weather Seattle has to offer – crisp and clear and dry with the mountains gleaming in the distance. I went out for a run and on the way home was treated to the sight of the snowy owl that has been nesting in our neighborhood. I got a close-up view of this beautiful bird thanks to a neighbor who had thoughtfully set up a telescope. (Though not the actual bird I saw, this is what a snowy owl looks like).
That’s enough bounty for one day, right? But it gets better. When I returned home, there was Daughter #1, who these days is usually embarrassed by everything I say or do (We read this blog about girls’ relationships with their mothers during puberty. “Interesting,” she commented, rather cryptically, I thought.) engrossed in my book.
D #1 has read my manuscript, heard me perform parts of it onstage and was helpful during the editing and cover design process. But to hold the book, the actual book, in her hands and be able to read it was different.
“I’m so proud you wrote this book, Mom,” she’s told me over and over again.
With last year’s resolution so satisfyingly accomplished, I found myself wondering what I would resolve for this year.
We talked about resolutions on our way to the beach for Jeff’s annual Polar Bear Swim, which D#1 participated in for the second year in a row.
“I’ve got to lose ten pounds this year,” I resolved.
“Oh, come on, ” said Jeff.
I was taken aback, until he continued. “Surely you can come up with something less pedestrian than that. How about doing something to make the world a better place?”
Jeff must have noticed the initial look of shock on my face because he laughed and said, “Did you think I was going to say, ‘how come only ten pounds’?”
There have been lots of articles, blog posts and comic strips about resolutions and I don’t think I have anything profound to add on the subject, especially since resolutions are a personal and ongoing matter.
But two things have stuck with me: This year, like nearly every year, there was one Christmas card noticeably absent from the pile. Though I realize sending actual cards is a dying convention, sometimes when one is missing, you know in your gut that something is wrong.
Sure enough, I emailed my dear friend R. and discovered she has been through not one, but four major life traumas in the past few months. “It seemed like a bit much to put on a holiday card,” she said ruefully.
So when I allow myself to feel intimidated by the uncomfortable and overwhelming process of book promotion, I am reminded of something an acquaintance told me several months ago, when I mentioned I was working on a book and she said she wanted to be invited to the book launch party. “Really?” I said. “I feel funny asking people I hardly know.”
“Most people just want to be happy for you,” she told me.
Somehow I think being happy for each other is an important step in making the world a better place. I thank those of you who have been happy for me. I resolve to revel in the good fortune of others and also to be supportive when skies are gray.
Don’t tell Jeff, but I’m also still resolving to lose ten pounds this year. My favorite post-holiday recipe to ease the transition from indulgence to “eating mindfully” comes from the book Oregon’s Cuisine of the Rain. It’s also a great way to use up post-holiday bubbly and cream. If you happen to have something to celebrate, as I did this week, it’s a pretty festive dish, though certain members of the family were not thrilled that I served it with brown rice.
Petrale Sole with Champagne Sauce
1 cup fish stock or bottled clam juice (I used some homemade shrimp stock from my freezer)
1 cup brut champagne (I used Cava and have also used Prosecco on occasion)
2 scallions or shallots, chopped
1 cup creme fraiche or heavy cream
salt and freshly ground pepper
juice of 1/4 lemon or to taste
salt and unbleached all-purpose flour for dusting
2 pounds petrale sole or other white, firm-fleshed fish fillets
3 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T fresh chopped tarragon
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. To make sauce, place fish stock or clam juice in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add 2/3 cup of champagne and scallions or shallots. Turn up heat to high and reduce mixture by 4/5 of its volume, skimming the surface occasionally (around 15 minutes). Add creme fraiche or cream and reduce by half (5-10 minutes) until mixture is thick. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. Salt fillets and dust with flour. Heat two 10-inch saute pans over high heat Add 1 1/2 T of oil to each pan. Divide the fillets between the two pans, saute for 30 seconds, then flip over and place in the preheated oven for two minutes.
4. Remove pans from oven, cover with tight-fitting lids and let stand for three minutes. Remove lids and pour collected liquid into the reserved sauce. Cover pans again and set aside.
5. Bring reserved sauce to a boil, then reduce heat to low, so sauce simmers. Divide chopped tarragons and remaining 1/3 cup champagne to the saute pans. Divide sauce evenly between the pans and warm to serving temperature. If you want, you can spoon the sauce onto each serving plate and top with a fillet We’re not that fancy, so we just serve sauce and fish from the saute pans.
Another resolution I am contemplating, comes from my new friend Martin, who makes a cassoulet feast every year on New Year’s Day. Martin is an engineer by trade and he tackles cassoulet with the zeal of an experienced project manager, making confit and sausage over a period of several days. Because I shared my favorite recipe for preserved lemons with him, I got invited to this year’s feast. I hope to stay in Martin’s good graces so I get invited back every year.
Martin and I are fellow cookbook nerds and we both live with people who question the utility of using so much space for these books. Martin’s solution: each week a member of the family chooses a cookbook from the shelves and the other person in the family makes the recipe of their choice from that book. I’m excited to give this a try (though I’ll be doing most of the cooking). There has been a less than enthusiastic response from the members of my family pod, but as you can see, we have a lot to work with.
Happy New Year!