Growing up we had a Patrick Nagel print hanging on a wall in the dining room. It's exactly the one you're thinking of. Or maybe not. A lot of them have that woman in them. You know, the woman on the cover of Duran Duran's Rio. I never much cared for it. Oh, I loved the album, just not the print hanging on the wall in our dining room. My dad really liked that whole style; that very 80s, minimalist, pastel thing. My dad really liked the 80s, in general. And the 80s liked my dad. They made sense together. He was newly single, very handsome, a great cook, liked to travel, play tennis, hang glide and party. And, of course, he was into the art.
I've been thinking about the handful of fruits and vegetables that we use in cooking but would never just pop into our mouths, fresh. I mean to say, foods that require a significant transformation for them to be edible, like olives, rhubarb and cranberries. Olives have to be fermented or cured, rhubarb has toxic leaves and is almost always macerated then baked. And cranberries, have you ever tried to just eat a cranberry? Not pleasant. And acorns. It has never even occurred to me to eat an acorn. Yet, it is a nut. Squirrels eat acorns. And throughout history acorns have been used, ground up to make grain flours and even used as a coffee substitute for soldiers in both the Civil War and World War II.
Even though we have a very, very long history of written correspondence via the good old post office, for the past few years Paz and I have been taking turns sending each other 'care packages'. They are kind of, but not necessarily, for birthdays, Christmas, and the like. The ones from me show up on time – unless I accidentally send one to her childhood address where a bunch of frat boys now live, or I mess up the postage, for no good reason at all. The ones from Paz, well, they show up when they show up. I received my last birthday package on the first day of Fall. My birthday is in mid-June. And so, fittingly, she gave me my Christmas package while I was visiting home last month. In April.
Yellow Umbrella, or Yellah Umbrellah as many Richmonders call it, has been serving up choice seafood in Richmond's West End since my whole life (they opened in 1975). I only learned about the place a few years ago but it quickly became my The Go-To for extraordinary – and sustainably harvested - fresh fish (when I was in town, of course). I also always had to grab some of their remarkable prepared cheese grits right before checking out. Random, right? Not in the South.
Prohibition Era Vibe Meets Post Modern Cuisine at Belmont Food Shop
I was back in my old stomping grounds last week. Spring in Richmond is breathtaking. Dogwoods, daffodils, azaleas, and zillions of tiny inchworms falling from the sky onto everything. Falling onto everything. That was a new one for me. I thought they were sort of cute and endearing and the whole thing seemed very biblical, or like the end of Magnolia, but with inchworms not frogs. Then I Googled 'inchworm' and changed my tune. Take a macro look at one of those bad boys and then see how cute one is inching its way up your sleeve. But still, Fred was way girlier about it than I was.