Girls Write Now’s 2011 Chapters lineup

The second season of Chapters, the reading series I curate for Girls Write Now, begins this Friday, March 25, when our delightful first guest, writer and mentor Emma Straub, reads from her new story collection, Other People We Married. Join us at 6 p.m. at the historic John Street Church (no affiliation).

Coming up: Anna North, America Pacifica, on April 29; Tayari Jones, Silver Sparrow, on May 20; and Kate Christensen, The Astral, on June 17.

On trying to recreate the feeling of eating spring

On a fine spring day a couple years ago, I met Michael Bierut for lunch at the Century Association. It was my first visit, and for once in my life I arrived early. After offering up my coat, I stood off to the side of the grand entryway, trying to pretend I knew what to do with my hands.

Michael was a wonderful host, offering a tour of the draperied rooms, pointing out the paintings 18th century members donated in lieu of the dues they couldn’t afford, and finally leading the way to our waiting table, where I had English pea soup that tasted like a bowlful of spring. I don’t remember my sandwich at all, so eclipsed was it by this verdurous appetizer (and, afterward, by the famed almond macaroons).

The pea soup I made yesterday, using a recipe from Michele Scicolone’s The Italian Slow Cooker, pales (literally and gastronomically) by comparison, but it’s still not a bad way to celebrate the season. Next time I think I’ll substitute chicken or vegetable stock for some of the water, and maybe add a little cream toward the end.

Fresh Pea Soup

1 medium onion, chopped,
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup chopped fresh mint
2 pounds fresh peas, shelled
1 medium celery rib, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
3 ounces thickly sliced prosciutto, chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper
freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

In a medium skillet, cook the onion in the oil over medium heat until very tender and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the mint leaves and stir well. Scrape the mixture into the slow cooker. Add the peas, celery, carrot, and prosciutto. Add water to cover by 1 inch. Cover and cook on low for 2 hours, or until the vegetables are soft. Let cool slightly. Puree the mixture in a food processor or blender [I used a hand mixer], in batches, if necessary [not necessary]. Gently reheat the soup, if needed, and stir in the remaining 1/4 cup mint. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot, sprinkled with the cheese.

If you have any suggestions for improvement, or a favorite springtime dish of your own, add ‘em in the comments.

Too bad it’s supposed to get cold again this weekend. I have an overabundance of citrus in the fridge and had been planning to make that grapefruit and avocado salad from The Art of Simple Food and eat it with Max on the terrace, or at least to enjoy a couple of Kingsley Amis’ salty dogs while watching the sun go down.

Unexpected hazards of e-book lending

In December, Amazon changed its policies to allow borrowing of Kindle books. A friend had been wanting to read Freedom, so I set things up to lend her my copy. Or so I thought. The little note next to the book indicated that it was on loan, but what actually showed up in my friend’s account was The New Oxford American Dictionary. (Eternal disclosure.)

“You’re just lucky,” she joked, “that it didn’t send your copy of Best Torture Clubs of the Northeast or How to Care for your Rubber Masks.”

I’m not actually into S&M, for the record, and maybe they’ve worked out the kinks (sorry) since January — everything went smoothly on the second try — but yeah, if you have the book equivalent of Etsy’s glass dildos and puppets in your electronic library, you might think twice about pressing that button.

(Incidentally, the bookmarks at the top of this post arrived in the mail yesterday from Google Books, to thank me for… buying an ebook.)

On the intermittent return of childhood accents

I had a Texan drawl as a child and on occasion, when I drink and get riled up, it resurfaces. No one seems sure how serious I’m being when the accent comes out, and honestly I’m not either, but my old poker crew came to accept (expect?) it when we were talking trash.

This Friday Night Lights binge has exacerbated the tendency. At a friend’s house over the weekend I found myself using one of my granny’s (above, middle) favorite sayings: “I wouldn’t piss on her if she was on fire.” And at a bar last week I told (sans accent) a joke she would have appreciated, one I learned from Philip Connors’ old n+1 essay on his stint at The Wall Street Journal: “Why is writing an editorial like pissing yourself in a blue serge suit? Because it gives you a warm feeling, and nobody notices what you’ve done.”

None of my companions seemed amused, but I laughed and laughed, which is, like the breaking out of the accent, always a sure sign it’s time to go home.

Previously: Talking Texan; like we used to say back home (including this Lone Star gem from Michael Schaub’s granddad: “If I ordered a whole trainload of sons of bitches, and they only sent him, I’d accept the shipment”); an amateur dialectician’s revenge manual; and NYC on a roll. See also is the Texan drawl disappearing?