What’s this “we” stuff? Well, even though I primarily mean that this blog has moved (to suzancolon.net), I still think of all of you coming with me. I hope! I mean, I don’t really want to be writing into the ether (hello… hello… hello…). After all, in space, no one can hear you blog.

So if you’ve bookmarked this address, un-mark and come on over to suzancolon.net and click on “Blog.” There you’ll find me doing my usual thing: writing about food; sighing over the good ol’ days with my Nana and Grandpa, when life seemed far less complicated; doing more talking about running than actually running; and kvetching about my occasional “feh” mood.

Good times.

Please come visit soon!
xx,
Suzan

One of my dearest friends, Francesco Clark, is a skincare guru. So when he says something, I tend to lean in close and lissen up. Recently, though, he said something kind of shocking, especially for a person who loves chocolate as much as I do: He said sugar is bad for the skin.

Shut. The. Heck. Up.

You can read more of his sacreligious statements here in this column. Initially, I thought, Blasphemer! How many pounds of sugar have you and I ingested together?! But I was a little hyper from eating about 12 macaroons at the time. (Macaroon recipe coming soon.) When I calmed down a bit and re-read the article, I thought, Well…

Hmm….

Maybe–MAYBE–there’s something to this. It wouldn’t hurt to try, would it?

Yes. Yes it would, I thought. Giving up sugar would hurt a lot. I love my sugar. But does it love me back? Not really, when I look closely at my skin, which looks okay but certainly doesn’t get the compliments it used to. Or when I look at my thighs. And let’s not drag my butt into this conversation, because it’s just too heavy to be dragged.

So Fran didn’t exactly lay down a challenge when he gently suggested cutting refined sugar intake down. Diane Chang, the author of the article, is going for two weeks without sugar. WOAH. That sounds like an awful lot of days without a reason to live.

But I do love a challenge. I don’t know why, because I often fail these challenges miserably–stay tuned for my wretched results at the More Magazine Half-Marathon. But I like to try. It’s that darn indomitable spirit of mine. Please remind me to have a doctor take a look at removing that at my next checkup.

So, here I am on Day 1 of not eating refined sugar. How far will I get? And will you join me? Stop laughing, I’m serious…

It's not only Fresh, it's exciting.

No time for clever headlines that make you think, What the heck is Suzan on about today… The short, sweet, and very direct story is that I saw Fresh: The Movie last night. Fresh: The Movie picks up where Food, Inc. left off, meaning that this is the continuing but more hopeful story about how people are questioning the health, ethical, and economic implications of processed food churned out by conglomerates and turning to smaller, family-owned farms for real, healthy, natural food grown the real, healthy, natural way.

Among the key players in the movie are Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and Joel Salatin, a revolutionary farmer Pollan profiled in that book. These guys do awesome work in the “take back our plates and put some real food on them” movement. Lesser known to me but incredibly inspiring were Diana Endicott, who organized local farmers into a coop called Good Natured Family Farms so they’d have a shot at getting their very-goods sold in supermarkets; and the amazing Will Allen, the son of a sharecropper who started an urban farm and a non-profit called Growing Power. What this man had to say about how everyone deserves real food moved me to tears.

Urban farmer Will Allen of Growing Power. He made me cry (in a good way).

What am I getting at here? Go see this movie! Go here to find theaters near you that may be showing it. If you can’t find one, the Fresh people will help you have a community screening! Some friends and I are thinking of hosting one–that’s how powerful this little movie’s message is, and can be.

[Images courtesy of freshthemovie.com]

I want to be as funny as he is, but not necessarily look like him. Well, maybe that wouldn't be bad either.

So I’m going to be in Philadelphia this Sunday, April 11, at Bridget Foy’s restaurant. No, not just eating their great food… I’m doing my first-ever reading from Cherries in Winter as part of Philly’s First Person Arts Festival! The reading (and book signing) will be held at Bridget Foy’s, 200 South Street, at 6 pm. That night’s special menu is adapted from the recipes in the book–okay, how excited am I right now? Very. Very very. I just hope I get a chance to eat some of the food during the reading. Is that declassé? Oh dear. Well, while I mull that over, you can read about the event here.

Even more exciting: First Person Arts ran a contest for people to send in their family recipes and the stories behind them–just like in the book, don’tcha know. The winners will be featured right here on cherriesinwinter.com! Stay tuned, because they’re going to be really good. In fact, I’m pre-jealous of how much you’re going to love these blog entries, as compared to mine.

About the reading: I am a) excited; b) thrilled; c) honored; d) a little nervous; e) somewhat confused as to how to prepare for such an event; d) all of the above. So I’m asking for your help. What chapter, or parts of the book, do you think would be best for the reading? If you were going to be at Bridget Foy’s on Sunday night–and I really hope you will!–what part of the book would you most want to hear? Some possible candidates include:

* My bungle of Nana’s lemon meringue pie recipe

* Conversations with Mom while we make meatloaf

* “Rigatoni Disoccupati,” aka Pasta of the Unemployed, the dinner I served the night I got laid off from my job. (On second thought, this might not be the best chapter to read, as some people did not realize that this “recipe” was a joke. Okay, so I’m not the next Eddie Izzard, and I do hope my makeup is a little more natural-looking than his, but honestly: who would put rigatoni with spaghetti sauce from a jar as an actual recipe? I mean, aren’t there ethics committees that punish people who do that sort of thing, unless it’s clearly meant as humor?)

Okay, back to the issue at hand… If any of you have a suggestion about what I could read at this, my first-ever reading at the prestigious First Person Arts Festival, please help me! Because I can use all the help, and humor, I can get…

(Photo of Eddie Izzard courtesy of Special Kay Baker’s page on nerdfighters.ning.com. No, they’re not friends of mine, but I thank them for the fantastic screen grab of my favorite comedian Eddie Izzard just the same.)

Hey, isn't that the raisin cake from yesterday? Yes, but today we have the story of the raisin cake.

One of the privileges of being a published author is the ability to make a magazine-style pun headline out of my own book. The fact that about 12 people in the world may get it, and I’m related to most of them, takes nothing away from the feeling that I have arrived.

So, the explanation behind the pun is a really lovely story. One of the sweetest people (no pun intended there) I’ve come to know via the book is Cookie Baker Lynn, who does a gorgeous website of all the great things she bakes. After visiting her site, I considered hanging up my baking sheets forever and just going back to doing whatever it was I did before I started baking things for The Hubbins to take to work. Until I remembered that what I did was buy pretty-but-manufactured crap or very-pretty-and-pretty-expensive bakery goods. Hm. So I turned that jealous frown upside down and figured I could be inspired by Lynn and her cookie-baking ways. Thus was I led to another on-ramp toward the happy path of destiny.

Lynn wrote an incredible review of Cherries in Winter, for which I am indebted to her many times over. Then she managed to trump that: On a day when I’d come across a review of CIW that was a little less than incredible–in fact, it was a tad more than unkind–I got a box in the mail. It was a package of Trader Joe’s Raisins, big fat juicy ones, and a beautiful card from Lynn.

As any cookie baker worth her pinch of salt can tell you, timing is everything, and the timing of this package couldn’t have been better for me. Instead of spending my morning wondering whether I was a worse baker or writer, I tore open that package of TJ’s raisins and baked a raisin spice cake in honor of Lynn and her support of baking-challenged writers like myself.

My base recipe comes from one of my other favorite bakers–Edward Espe Brown, the baking Zen Buddhist priest and author of the renowned Tassajara Bread Book, among other cookbooks. I’ve cited Edward as an inspiration in an article I wrote for O, the Oprah Magazine, and my lack of prowess is not his fault at all. In fact, he’d remind me that baking is a process, just like meditation.

So, thank you to Lynn and Edward, who inspire and support me and countless others; such is the power of baked goods.

Raisin Spice Cake
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2-3/4 cup (depending on your sweet tooth) blackstrap molasses or brown rice syrup
1 1/2 cups milk or soy milk or vanilla soymilk or even almond soymilk; go wild!
Generous 1/2 cup of raisins–black, gold, red, mixed, whatever

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine dry ingredients in one bowl.
In another bowl, mix up those wet ingredients.
Dry meets wet as east meets west–gently, mixing slowly. Expect a few lumps and you won’t be disappointed.
Fold in raisins.
Pour mixture into a greased loaf pan.
Bake spicy little raisin loaf for about 40 minutes. Set kitchen timer in case you’re meditating while baking. Test center for doneness; if toothpick or shish-kebab rod comes out clean, you’re done meditating. If not, five-ish more minutes or until test probe comes out clean. Cool and then perform eating meditation ritual with a cup of tea or java.

Over-eaten.

My apologies for so few new posts these days, but as I mentioned perhaps a few too many times, I’ve been hard at work writing additional chapters for the paperback edition of Cherries in Winter. There are a few new recipes too, and those required testing. (That is one of the least difficult parts of this job of mine, and The Hubbins and I are always up for that non-challenge.) My deadline is Thursday, and I just sent in my new chapters to my paperback editor Andrea today, so please join me in finger-crossing that everything goes well.

In other news that will make my race headline even more meaningful, here’s an update on my training for the More Half-Marathon: Both my running partner, my dear friend Linda, and I have fallen so far off our training schedules it would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic. Both of us got swamped in work and one of us took a fabulous trip to Italy (hint: Regrettably, it wasn’t me). The consequence is that we’re now more prepared for The Far Side’s hundred-meter mosey than we are for anything resembling a 13.2 miler.

Under-used.

But will we give up? We will not. First of all, I say I’m going to do something, I do it. Well, I try to do it; I would put my dependability rating at slightly better than that of certain airlines. Second, I have to work off some of the food I ate during the recipe-testing phase of writing those additional chapters. I don’t know how my e-pal and food writer inspiration Melissa Clark writes cookbooks and stays so slim, even though she explained it in this great article. But I’m definitely not following in her footsteps.

So, whether I’m talking about a book deadline or a half-marathon finish line, I’m off to the races! And I’m exhausted already…

Last night, I went into the kitchen and saw this:

And I thought: Wow, The Hubbins really, really wanted pizza for dinner. Then I looked a little closer and saw this:

Gasp! I gasped. It’s matzoh time! But this is no ordinary matzoh: This is special matzoh that The Hubbins has to get from a special place, where the matzoh is very carefully handmade. It’s extremely crispy and fresh, and TH always makes sure to get several boxes (as you can see) because once Passover is, well, over, so’s the special non-bread of the holiday. No mas matzoh.

As I mentioned in Cherries in Winter, The Hubbins and I love and respect all spiritual traditions, and we especially love all food that goes with spiritual and religious holidays. During this season, we’ll be enjoying lamb for Easter (a little early, as I have to test a recipe for one of the additional chapters for the paperback edition of CIW), and we’ll be enjoying our Passover matzoh. Here’s me enjoying some:

If you can’t get your hands on some hand-made matzoh, another way to try the conventional supermarket type is in spinach matzoh pie. Here’s a great recipe I made last year, and here’s a vegan variation on that same recipe, because why not?

And I think I’ll go enjoy some of of that matzoh again right now.

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