Read. Eat. Repeat.

Author: Jamie

Low Country-Bound

Low Country-Bound

A week ago today, we officially (and unexpectedly) took up residence in Charleston, South Carolina. Just five short days after my Amazingly Significant Other became my husband, we packed up the car, cats, and made the 16+ hour trip to SC to pursue a new opportunity. I’m […]

The NoMad Hotel

The NoMad Hotel

This past week, Eric and I had the great pleasure of visiting some of the best food and beverage spots that LA and Seattle have to offer, the most notable being The NoMad Hotel. The NoMad was especially memorable for the excellent food but also […]

Alice Hoffman

Alice Hoffman

Alice Hoffman was born on March 16, 1952 in New York City. She grew up on Long Island but, clearly a woman with excellent taste, she now resides in Boston. Alice earned her BA at Adelphi University before going on to achieve her MA at the Stanford University Center for Creative Writing.

It was while she was a student at Stanford that she wrote her first novel, Property Of. She’d been encouraged to submit a short story to the literary magazine Fiction. Alice’s story was not only published, the editor of the magazine contacted her and asked her if she was working on a novel. Property Of was that novel and upon its completion it was published by Farrar Straus & Giroux—Alice Hoffman was 21.

Hoffman has published more than thirty novels, three collections of short fiction, and eight young adult novels. In addition to Practical Magic, her works include Faithful, The Ice Queen, The Red Garden, and The Dove Keepers—considered to be her seminal work and a great contribution to American literature; it’s also one of my Mom’s favorites and that woman has spectacular taste.

Alice Hoffman saved my life. She doesn’t know me, and there is no reason for her to, but she gave me peace, aspirations, and brought me closer to my Mom. I’ll likely never meet her but her impact on me through her works has been undeniable and irreversible.

When I was 13, as most children do, I changed; unfortunately, not for the better. I became depressed and anxious. I know that’s not uncommon in adolescence now but, at the time, I remember feeling like everything was caving in on itself.  My parents did everything they could. They listened to me, took me to counselors I wouldn’t to speak to, and paid for medication I refused to take. The solution presented itself when my Mom decided we’d both try out light therapy—which involves sitting under a UV lamp for a minimum of 30 minutes a day in an effort to increase the users’ serotonin levels.

Getting an angsty 13-year-old to sit still with their mother for any amount of time when all they want to do is brood in their room alone, any parent can tell you, is no easy feat; my Mom doesn’t spook easily. To accomplish her goal, my Mom plied me with TV and movies. As long as my homework was done, I could watch as much as I wanted until bedtime. The first time we tried out the lamp together, my Mom rented the movie Practical Magic. We sat, close together, under the lamp for nearly a full two hours. I went to bed that night enchanted. For the first time in a long time, I felt inspired and excited about something. You could argue that it was the light therapy working it’s magic, but I don’t think so.

I can’t tell you how many times I watched that movie with my Mom, for the first few times with rapt attention, then as it became comforting background noise—Practical Magic became my favorite bedtime story.  While we watched, my Mom would knit and she taught me to as well.

The truly unbelievable (and embarrassing) part of this story is that, for the longest time, I didn’t know that Practical Magic was based on a book. I read it for the first time in college. As a freshman in a new environment, navigating the stresses of daily college life and working to pay rent, I experienced another bout of anxiety and depression and that’s when I borrowed the book from my local library. I kept it for so long that the geriatric librarian left a message on my phone in which she threatened to report me for theft if I didn’t return the book immediately. I’ve since purchased my own copy and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read it.

Every time I feel lost or disenchanted, I read it again. Practical Magic is just that—magic. It brought me closer to my family, lifted my spirits, and gave me a shared point of interest to bond over with my first new friend after we moved to New Hampshire. Alice Hoffman doesn’t know me but I owe her more than words can say.


Facts about Alice Hoffman were taken from her biography on alicehoffman.com.

Baron Forrester

Baron Forrester

After attending New Hampshire’s first-ever Craft Brew Conference, Eric and I decided to get Thai food on the way home. On the way to pick up our meals we walked by Baron Forrester, a little Hampton cheese shop I hadn’t yet had the opportunity to visit, […]

Frozen Pizza Tastes like Failure

Frozen Pizza Tastes like Failure

I was recently asked for website advice by two people (WordPress, definitely WordPress) and I thought to myself, “hold up a minute, don’t I have a website?” I do and it’s been seriously neglected over the last few months—I can explain. I am a Project […]

For the Birds, with Love

For the Birds, with Love

I didn’t save a seagull today.

Actually, I didn’t even see what happened. I was driving home from work on Friday night, right before the start of the Labor Day weekend, when I saw traffic trying to get past a woman in the street; then I saw the feathers floating on the breeze. There was a seagull flapping around in the road and the woman was desperately trying to guide it out of harm’s way; one of the bird’s wings hung unresponsive at it’s side. I parked my car and went to help.

The woman, I never got her name, and her husband were visiting from Connecticut for the weekend. They’d been on their way to dinner when they saw the seagull get hit by one car before being promptly run over by a second—neither car stopped. The poor bird had been trying to get a piece of discarded pizza that was in the middle of the busy street. That hit home for me; I too would risk life and limb for pizza.

I parked my car and used by sweater to shoo the seagull to the side of the road. I sat there with it while the woman went to get her phone. It was calm for a moment, most likely in shock, and we sat just inches apart. I’ve always been partial to seagulls, we have a penchant for clams and the seashore; I think they’re beautiful. There’s a blue that’s been very popular in nail lacquers this season, a pearly grayish periwinkle. I’d never noticed before today, but seagull feet are the same color.

Unfortunately, the seagull, doubtlessly in what I can only assume was excruciating pain, (it’s wing was literally hanging by a few tendrils of flesh and the bone was clearly visible) didn’t stay calm for long. When the woman from Connecticut came back with her phone it began trying to escape as we did our best to keep it from scrambling back into the road or being set upon by the large, black crows that had gathered in the power lines above. It dragged itself into the front yard of a beautiful home and we followed it as we called the police, the Department of Fish and Game, and a number of local wildlife refuges without reaching anyone willing or able to help.

The owner of the yard came out onto her porch and we apologized for the disturbance, assuring her we’d get the seagull away from her residence as soon as we safely could. Luckily, rather than urge us to speed up our efforts, she went back inside and returned minutes later with a blanket for the seagull. She was a retired veterinary technician and joined us in trying to reach someone who might be able to treat the poor animal.

We were joined shortly after by the husband of the Connecticut woman and a man from across the road. The man brought a box so we could immobilize the panicking seagull and keep it from injuring itself further. I was able to reach the Port City Veterinary Hospital. They referred me to a number of the resources that we’d already tried unsuccessfully to contact before regretfully saying that they wouldn’t be able to treat the bird, but they could euthanize it so that it wouldn’t suffer anymore. We tried a few more rescue organizations and vets offices before calling Port City back and telling them we’d be bringing the seagull in for euthanization.

The Connecticut couple helped me get the seagull into my car and offered to come with me but I declined. Having taken my cat to Port City before, I knew where to find it and didn’t see the need to disturb their holiday further. When I arrived, the veterinary technicians at Port City took the seagull from me somberly and with great care. All they asked of me was my contact information so they could get in touch with me in the event that the bird had any communicable diseases that I should be advised of.

It was a painfully bittersweet experience. Seagulls are known to steal food and are frequently regarded as pests, but they’re still living, breathing creatures. They have just as much right to food, shelter, and space as any other animal. That someone could mortally wound them without a second thought is so heartbreakingly awful. On the other hand, the fact that a so-called pest could bring together five strangers with the best intentions is pretty wonderful. It definitely gives me hope that the people who care outnumber those who don’t, and that’s something.

I cried for the seagull all the way home and when I got there, it was too late to cook, so my love and I had cold pizza for dinner; it seemed fitting.

I didn’t save a seagull today but, along with four thoughtful souls, I did my best. I, probably they, and I hope more people than not, will continue to do their best. To care for the environment by not littering, to show respect for all life, and to look for the best in others in the hope that next time the outcome will be different.

 

A Man Called Ove

A Man Called Ove

Some books make you want to be a better person, a little more quiet, and a little more kind. The kind of person who knows that size and strength are not the same thing. A Man Called Ove is one such book. At first encounter, […]

Welcome to Novel Fare!

Welcome to Novel Fare!

Today was a pretty spectacular day. My house was exceptionally clean—which is always awesome; the weather was gorgeous; I got to take my fancy new Catch Surf beater board out for her maiden voyage; I started reading a new book; and my amazingly-significant-other and I had a picnic on the beach that consisted of some refreshing brews and tofu focaccia sandwiches.

If you’re thinking:

  1. it doesn’t get much better than that, and
  2. that was an incredibly long opening sentence (especially for someone whose parents are both copy editors…),

then you’re absolutely right on both counts.

I was feeling pretty proud the next day, too. This blog has been a persistent, niggling thought in the back of my mind for months, so finally publishing it feels great. Now, imagine my incredulity the very next day when things got even better and I bought my first copy of Julia Child’s* Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

A little backstory—

So, there I am, Monday afternoon, feeling accomplished and walking around on my lunch break when I see a baby bunny hanging out in an alley next to Ceres Bakery. My first thought was, that thing is adorable, which was immediately followed by my second thought, in no scenario does that poor babe not end up getting hit by a car. I went down the alley to shoo the bunny into a nearby garden, it hopped into a shrubbery, all was right with the world.

I turn around and see a sign—Sheafe Street Books. I love used bookstores (the older, the better) and I love cookbooks. Naturally, every time I go into a used bookstore I look for Mastering the Art of French Cooking. When I go inside, the first thing I see is the book I just finished that I was thinking about buying, Into the Water by Paula Hawkins. The second book I see? MAFC for TWELVE DOLLARS ($12)!

I bought it, told the proprietor that this exactly the book I was looking for, and he said that I was lucky because the only other person in the store had just put it back on the shelf a moment before I walked in.

That’s not luck, that’s kismet

Then, I took my purchase and got a delicious piece of pesto pizza from Ceres—perfection.

Anyway, this isn’t about pizza, it’s about focaccia.

The focaccia sandwiches my SO and I enjoyed on the day this site launched were modeled after the focaccia sandwiches from my youth, made by Susty’s Bakery in Northwood, NH.

Susty’s is this adorable, cottage-like, vegan cafe that sits adjacent to Northwood’s little stone library and a historic cemetery; eating there is an idyllic and delicious experience. Back in the day, Susty’s used to keep some odd hours, but my Mom would take me there whenever its business hours happened to coincide with our schedules.

They still make this amazing focaccia sandwich—the bread is pleasantly chewy, the tofu is firm, and somehow (despite the complete absence of cheese or dairy of any kind) it takes like lemony pesto pizza.

I didn’t find it in a book and I can’t take credit for it, but here’s the focaccia sandwich recipe. I hope you enjoy it, thank you for your time, and welcome to Novel Fare!


Susty’s Focaccia Sandwich

INGREDIENTS

Focaccia

  • All Purpose Flour (AFP), 2 c + more for sprinkling
  • salt, 1 tsp
  • sugar, 1 tsp
  • yeast, 1 tbsp
  • dried oregano, 1 tsp
  • dried basil, 1/2 tsp
  • garlic powder, 1 tsp
  • ground thyme, 1 tsp
  • dried rosemary, 1 tsp
  • olive oil, 1 tbsp
  • water, 3/4 – 1 c

Pesto

  • spinach, 2 c (packed)
  • olive oil, 1/2 c
  • lemon juice, 2 tsp
  • salt, 1/4 tsp
  • garlic cloves, 2
  • nutritional yeast, 1 tbsp
  • almonds, 1/4 c

Seasoned Tofu

  • extra-firm tofu, 1 block (pressed & drained)
  • olive oil, ~1/4 c (enough to coat pan bottom)
  • garlic powder, 1 tsp
  • salt, 1/2 tsp
  • pepper, 1/2 tsp
  • paprika**, 1 tsp
  • tomato sauce***

INSTRUCTIONS

For the Focaccia

  1. Combine all dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
  2. Add in the oil & water, stir well to combine.
  3. Kneed the dough on a floured surface until elastic. If dough is sticky, knead additional flour into dough.
  4. Place dough in oiled bowl and turn it to thoroughly coat. Cover the dough with a damp cloth & let rise for 20 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 450°F, punch down the dough & (on a greased or parchment-papered baking sheet) form the dough into a half-inch thick rectangle.
  6. Brush with olive oil and bake for 15 minutes or until golden.

For the Pesto

  1. Pulse almonds in a food processor until finely chopped.
  2. Add in all remaining ingredients and pulse until well mixed.

For the Tofu

  1. Combine all dry ingredients in a small bowl to make a dry rub and set aside.
  2. Press the tofu to squeeze out as much excess water as possible.
  3. Slice the tofu into half-inch thick pieces.
  4. Sprinkle tofu with dry rub and gently rub in with you fingers.
  5. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat.
  6. Fry the tofu on each side for roughly 3-4 minutes or until golden.
  7. Remove tofu from frying pan and allow to cool to warm.

Putting it All Together

Once the focaccia has cooled, cut in into four segments and slice each segment in half. One the inside of one half, smear a spoonful or two of pesto and on the inside of the other half, tomato sauce. Layer on a couple pieces of tofu and form a sandwich and enjoy!

In a Nutshell

Focaccia Bread

August 13, 2017
: 8
: Easy Peasy

A versatile, chewy, well-seasoned bread that's quick and easy to make.

By:

Ingredients
  • All Purpose Flour (AFP), 2 c + more for sprinkling
  • salt, 1 tsp
  • sugar, 1 tsp
  • yeast, 1 tbsp
  • dried oregano, 1 tsp
  • dried basil, 1/2 tsp
  • garlic powder, 1 tsp
  • ground thyme, 1 tsp
  • dried rosemary, 1 tsp
  • olive oil, 1 tbsp
  • water, 3/4 - 1 c
Directions
  • Step 1 Combine all dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
  • Step 2 Add in the oil & water, stir well to combine.
  • Step 3 Kneed the dough on a floured surface until elastic. If dough is sticky, knead additional flour into dough.
  • Step 4 Place dough in oiled bowl and turn it to thoroughly coat. Cover the dough with a damp cloth & let rise for 20 minutes.
  • Step 5 Preheat the oven to 450°F, punch down the dough & (on a greased or parchment-papered baking sheet) form the dough into a half-inch thick rectangle.
  • Step 6 Brush with olive oil and bake for 15 minutes or until golden.

Spinach Pesto

August 13, 2017
: Easy Peasy

A zesty, lemony pesto made with spinach instead of basil that's both economical and simple to make.

By:

Ingredients
  • spinach, 2 c (packed)
  • olive oil, 1/2 c
  • lemon juice, 2 tsp
  • salt, 1/4 tsp
  • garlic cloves, 2
  • nutritional yeast, 1 tbsp
  • almonds, 1/4 c
Directions
  • Step 1 Pulse almonds in a food processor until finely chopped.
  • Step 2 Add in all remaining ingredients and pulse until well mixed.

Seasoned Pan-Fried Tofu

August 13, 2017
: 6-8
: Easy Peasy

A golden, firm, well-seasoned tofu that mimics the texture of chicken and is perfect for sandwich fillings and as a salad topper.

By:

Ingredients
  • extra-firm tofu, 1 block (pressed & drained)
  • olive oil, ~1/4 c (enough to coat pan bottom)
  • garlic powder, 1 tsp
  • salt, 1/2 tsp
  • pepper, 1/2 tsp
  • paprika*, 1 tsp
Directions
  • Step 1 Combine all dry ingredients in a small bowl to make a dry rub and set aside.
  • Step 2 Press the tofu to squeeze out as much excess water as possible.
  • Step 3 Slice the tofu into half-inch thick pieces.
  • Step 4 Sprinkle tofu with dry rub and gently rub in with you fingers.
  • Step 5 Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat.
  • Step 6 Fry the tofu on each side for roughly 3-4 minutes or until golden.
  • Step 7 Remove tofu from frying pan and allow to cool to warm.

*Mastering the Art of French Cooking was co-authored by Simone Beck & Louisette Bertholle.

**I’m a big fan of spicy food, so I usually use cayenne and not paprika, but cayenne is strong and should only be used in a VERY well ventilated area, so paprika is a much safer bet.

***I usually make my own sauce but when I’m short on time I go for Newman’s Own Organic tomato sauces. The roasted garlic is particularly good and all of the profits go to charity.

Rosemary’s Cheese Sandwich

Rosemary’s Cheese Sandwich

I respect all of you too much to explain how to make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich a second time, so I’m not illustrating this post. Also, if I’m being honest, I wasn’t super excited about making this sandwich. For one, the ingredients are: bread […]