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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

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.

Nope, I did not make this. But isn't it pretty? Makes me happy just looking at it--and writing about it.

Just a quick note to say hello because you all know I’m on a deadline for the additional chapters for Cherries in Winter: The Paperback. (Don’t worry, that is so not the book’s new official title.) Here’s the latest:

* I’m writing about cake, one of my favorite subjects (see above).

* My Jamie Oliver obsession is reaching new heights. Last night I made his chicken stroganoff recipe from Jamie’s Food Revolution, and I can’t wait to watch the TV show of the same name. Because I was a good girl and got an entire chapter finished this morning, I treated myself to watching the sneak preview here. I was surprised at how hard this show is to watch; people’s strong desire to eat unhealthy food makes me sad.

* My half-marathon training has fallen off the rails, but at least it’s not because I’m being lazy–just trying to meet the aforementioned deadline. I may have to walk the race, but I’ll be in it.

Okay, back to work! But first, some chicken strogie leftovers for lunch…

No more baking this week! I have to write!

Sorry no post yesterday, and it wasn’t just because I was overcome with advance excitement about Jamie Oliver’s new Food Revolution miniseries. Although certainly I could pull a near faint over this. I heart Jamie, I heart his Food Revolution cookbook major (the salmon stir-fry last night: to die for), I heart that he’s trying to save America’s unhealthiest not by making them diet but by asking (politely, because he’s British, after all) to eat real food. This six-episode series will definitely be more popular in this non-Nielsen-rated household than The Biggest Loser fer sher.

But no, that’s not why I’ve been slow to post, and will be for the next few days. As I mentioned, I’m trying to write additional chapters (with recipes containing real food that Jamie Oliver would probably approve of) for the paperback version of Cherries in Winter. What was the key word in that last overlong sentence? “Trying.” As your mother may have told you once or twice, “trying” and “doing” are “two” different things. Perhaps she didn’t put the air quotes around “two,” but I think you get the point of my message.

So, beloved visitors–and I do heart each and every one of all ten of you–I’m going to be a little quiet for the next few days as I try to go from “trying” to actually “doing” or, just for a change, “writing.” I will check in so you know I’m alive, but please lower your expectations for a new essay or banana bread recipe. To tide you over, look up the previous banana bread recipe and add two heaping tablespoons of unsweetened baking cocoa to it for a mocha-cocoa-loco banana bread.

Okay, back to work for me! After all, I’m trying…

I know–“I Heart” week was a while ago. But it helps to indulge in little things I love on days when I’m feeling very much like Bette Davis’s character in Now Voyager (if this reference is unfamiliar, please Netflix this classic, stat).

This was, for those who are still carefully scratching their bouffants about the meaning behind the title of my book, is why Nana bought those cherries in the wintertime. They were a little pricey–fruit out of season in the late 1950s/early ’60s must have been–but it was worth it to spend the money on a small, affordable indulgence. Was this not the entire pre-Recession raison d’etre for Starbucks’ existence–affordable luxuries? Before they started selling cheapo coffee in order to survive, I mean.

You’ll notice I flung about a French phrase, because I’m about to segue into my version of cherries in winter. Sometimes it’s the French raisins from Fairway, but last night it was a lemon tart. I was walking by a small patisserie that had in its window beautiful pastel-colored macarons (as well as coconut macaroons), cookies carefully polka-dotted with chocolate chips, and this lemon tart. This was an extraordinary-looking tart, too–a small pastry of the same sunny, deep yellow as a classic smiley face, which made me happier just by looking at it. It glowed, I tell you, and it was topped by two tiny, artfully arranged chocolate batons. The care that went into making this delicate little thing was evident not only by how beautiful it was, but also by its cost–five dollars and fifty cents. (If that doesn’t sound like much, you must still have a job. Congratulations!) Sensing that the tart would be worth every penny, I gladly handed over the money and thought about Nana enjoying her cherries.

BTdubya, the pastry was sheer perfection. Not too sweet, not too tart–just the way you want life to be. The Hubbins said he had too much fatness from dinner to eat it, but one look at this special thing and he changed his mind. There weren’t but six perfect bites to it anyway.

Usually, a sugary indulgence triggers some caloric guilt in me. But recently, I read a great passage about this in Confections of a (Closet) Master Baker by Gesine Bullock-Prado. She writes about the joy of quality over quantity: “One of our regulars, Claude, gets a scone every day. He’s lost over fifty pounds since we opened [her fabulous bakery]. I’ve noticed the same kind of conscious consumption at the dwindling small pastry shops around the States. When kids have the experience of choosing something from a pastry case and knowing that the little tart they’re going to take home was baked today, just a few steps from where they’re standing, they’ll savor that small treat, instead of thoughtlessly devouring the entire contents of an economy-sized Acme brand bag of cookies.” Amen, Gesine, because yesterday I was that kid.

(Full disclosure: Gesine and I are represented by the same literary agency, and in fact, I’d recently asked–okay, begged–her to write the foreword for the paperback version of Cherries in Winter. She had to turn me down because she’s working on her next book, so this was not me trying to win her over. I just like the way she thinks.)

What stops you from starring in your own version of Now Voyager?

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