Friday, August 6, 2010

Forward my mail to Stepford, Italy.

Project La Cucina Italiana has been replaced by Project Sasquatch, my seriously committed weight loss program. Or not.

Fortunately for Bev, the three-week La Cucina Italiana project, where carbs overwhelmed my kitchen and my backside simultaneously, sundowned on our anniversary on July 21 (and a little beyond because I couldn't bear the hang-dog husband). Now that the gift has been given and the anniversary is over, I'm no longer a Pasta Hostage. That's the good news.

The bad news is that Michael has become seriously attached to La Cucina Italiana. He loved the splendor of sumptuous meals lovingly served upon his arrival from work each day.

Yah. Who wouldn't? But Stepford is NOT in Italy. (Is it?)

The problem is that I'm crazy about the boy and hated seeing him picking over a grilled cheese sandwich, trying to think of something nice to say: "Uh ... you should be a food stylist, Bev! Who says that the slices of bread have to line up? If I look straight down, it's like a little Star of David. Only with cheese." It was praise, but it rang hollow. The light had gone out of his eyes.

Guilt overwhelmed Runner Bev.

So tonight as a special Friday night surprise, I prepared "Petti di Pollo Ripieni Cotti alla Brace" (Grilled Stuffed Chicken Breast). I cut slits in the chicken and filled those pockets with cheeses, roasted peppers, and fresh basil. While the chicken was baking, I prepared roasted rosemary, garlic, and olive oil for drizzling. It made an awesome bread dip.

The dish almost didn't make it to the table. Michael dragged through the back door, saw food, and ... well, you know when an Orca knifes the surface of the bay and rips a seal right out of the water? Or when a big frog flicks out his tongue from three feet away and an unwary fly vanishes? Or when a pride of starving lions finds a fresh wildebeest carcass? Well, that was Michael with Petti di Pollo. One minute it was there. And the next minute it was gone.

It had been replaced by light in his eyes.

What's Runner Bev to do now? How do I balance a serious weight loss program with preparing Italian food? Which matters most? Width of my hips or light in his eyes? With apologies to another Browning:

Dear Michael, "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height (and weight) my hips can reach, when feeling out of sight for the ends of being and ideal grace ..."

Guess we're going for extra miles.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Trouble in the hood.

Yesterday, being Tuesday, was trash pickup day in my neighborhood. Since this is my third blog on the subject, I leave little doubt that this is an exciting time in Runner Bev's training schedule!

I LOVE running on Tuesdays when the recycling bins are out in the morning. As I slip by, I relish those quick glimpses into the secret lives of my seldom seen neighbors. I have always taken guilty pleasure from knowing who got a new laser printer and who is obsessed with both Cat Fancier magazine and Shotgun News (a collision of interests that ignites the imagination and could explain a few things around here).

It never occurred to blogger-blabbermouth Bev that a neighbor would ever discover my blog, let alone read it.


One neighbor found the blog. And now all the neighbors know that I eyeball their recycling bins and write about them. We had a Facebook discussion that went rather well, I thought, once I got over hyperventilating and throwing up on my keyboard. I went back and re-read what I had written over the past months. It was sweet-spirited and respectful. No one could have been alarmed. No one could have been anything but amused by my mild curiosity.

Wrong again.

I'm guessing that my photographing that one recycling bin took "mild curiosity" into stalker status.

Look what I found yesterday morning. Coincidence?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bev is on a diet.

A Hilton desk clerk took a photo of me yesterday with Diana and Adele. When I saw it, I freaked. I knew I was getting heavy, for this is what sloths do when under intense professional pressure and given the challenge of a punch-card from Bagel Bakery, but I was completely caught off guard by my inability to create a flattering angle for that photo. Say, like standing behind a sofa or posing way off in the distance. Like in another county.

I can no longer whine, “My head’s just too small.” Or “I’m perfect weight … for someone 6’7”. I’m just too short.” Or “It’s an optical illusion created by hanging around with slender friends.”

After a month of eating pasta and being chained to my desk, I am not really surprised that I have bypassed “obese,” “morbidly obese,” and “super morbidly obese,” and gone straight to “sasquatch.”

I’ll let you know how the weight loss progresses, but I don’t want to reveal the starting tonnage. (Please don’t go into “comments” and guess. This will only strain our friendship.) To give us all a starting point, I found a numerology Web site and typed in SASQUATCH. From the resulting number 28, we’ll begin decrementing. And by the way, numerology also did a nice little character assessment. I left off all the negative attributes. Let’s pretend for the moment that they don’t exist, and if they do, they’re neither hideous nor shockingly spot-on.




You entered: sasquatch
There are 9 letters in your name.
Those 9 letters total to 28
There are 3 vowels and 6 consonants in your name.
Your number is: 1

The characteristics of #1 are: Initiating action, pioneering, leading, independent, attaining, individual.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Friday night dinner OUT!

Yesterday, after a long afternoon meeting that spilled over into the evening, my two darling writing-conference-partners and I decided to have dinner together before going home. Because I had not eaten out since Project La Cucina Italiana, I was suddenly seized by the possibilities of something different. Gainesville has a gazillion restaurants, so anything was going to be fine with me. I let them choose.

They wanted to go out for pizza.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Our marriage is in trouble.

Dinner was the prelude to a disturbing evening. I'm supposed to be blogging about running, but we've drifted into Italian food, so we'll just get that over with and get on to the evening (which is how I usually think of dinner anyway). Tonight I waltzed to the table with plates of linguine nestled in creamy, citrus-flavored sauce so subtle and mysterious that we were halfway through it before we could figure out which flavor was gerbil-chervil and which was sauteed orange zest. It doesn't photograph well, but it tasted better than it looks. Pretty good in an exotic (yet artery-clogging) way!
Spaghetti Scented with Orange

And then like Dr. Jekyll and Pasta Hyde, the evening took a strange turn ...

After dinner my adoring Michael, who last night affirmed that I was a goddess forevermore, offered to take me in his truck to a warehouse store to stock up for the Anhinga Writers’ Studio Summer Workshops next week. What a good guy.

Still flushed with love and linguine and concerned by the sheer bulk of my purchases, he then generously offered to let me borrow his truck next week so that I could take all our conference stuff to the Hilton without having to make multiple trips in my bitty Honda.

I was touched, but hesitant. He drives a Ford F-150. It’s like an aircraft carrier with car keys and a Gator decal. Worse, it’s his baby. I told him that I would need to practice a little in order to feel confident in docking the Saratoga at the Hilton.

So three miles from home, he pulled over and with a flourish, turned it over to me. Fearlessly, I slid behind the wheel and threw it into gear. I glanced at Michael.

His face said, “You go, girl.”


I pulled out into traffic anyway. From outside the truck, the drive home was perfection itself. But inside the truck, it was another matter altogether. Michael Browning was slowly decompensating. The man can hold a beating human heart in his hand and not even break a sweat, but put Bev behind the wheel of his truck and he loses his mind in six of the longest minutes of his life.

I won’t describe it. But I will tell you that I parked halfway up the driveway, got out, and walked the rest of the way to the house. A goddess can only take so much.

He has been sitting out there in his darkened truck since we arrived home. I watch him from the window. His forehead is pressed against the steering wheel. They’re both safe and happy again.

Tomorrow night I’m ordering Chinese.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Anniversary Blog

I realize that it’s bizarre to blog on the evening of one’s anniversary, but the simple truth is that I have discovered the Holy Grail of recipes and it would be morally wrong for me to keep this to myself.

This will only take a sec.

Besides, Michael is occupied in making lists of ways to worship me, gifts to buy me, vacation spots to take me, and ways to express his adoration. (I think I'm getting a pony!) It’s not me, really. After THIS meal, any cook's grateful partner would be making lists.

Tonight’s dinner did it. This was a meal so sublime that we should bronze the leftovers.

Maiale con Puré di Pere e Mirtilli
Pork Chops with Pear and Blueberries

Darlings, listen to Bev VERY carefully. Click the link, print this recipe, prepare this dish, and serve it to the person you love most in the world. Tonight.

This dish is so luscious, so sensuous, so smooth and sweet and soft and scrumptious that beyond Michael’s plate, more than three decades of time melted away from my side of the table. All the years that have engraved themselves into my face. All the tough stuff and sad stuff and stupid stuff of life.


For one hour, I was his bride again. I could see it in his eyes. I could hear it in his laugh.

Blueberries and pears in wine sauce on pork. That’s all it took.

Our dinner hours have been transcendent and magical. We laugh and share stories and make plans and love each other over plates of food. Who knew? Project La Cucina Italiana was supposed to be a gift from the first of the month through tonight, but after tonight I clearly understand that food is love in more ways that I could have known. There’s no stopping me now.

Besides, we haven’t tried sautéed gerbil yet …

Gotta go now. I have no idea how long "grateful" can last. (wink)

Tomorrow we run! (I said this was luscious. I didn’t say it was low cal.)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Before we begin tonight’s blog on the Kenyan Runner’s nightly desecration of the culinary heritage of Italy, we must address the delicate issues involving my accidentally overdosing Michael Browning on prunes last night.

Monday dinner, as you know, was a dramatic turning point in Project La Cucina Italiana: when Michael suddenly realized that there’s a fine line between a chef and a felon. I thought it was a little overly dramatic to screech his chair back up against the wall, point to my beautiful dish, and declare it to be the unholy pasta version of attempted manslaughter. As an upstart chef, one never wants to hear the word “apocalyptic” applied to one’s artistry. And yet …

Last night was so ugly.

Deeply concerned about Michael today, I phoned him in the midmorning to see how he was feeling. He seemed to be fine. When I discreetly inquired (using euphemisms, for we are Southern), he gave no details of his personal digestion, citing medical confidentiality and HIPAA violation. He IS a PA, after all.

And guess what! He came back to the table tonight … but only after studying the recipe I had taped to the cabinet door above the counter where I work. Smart man.

Penne alla Riccotta con Asparagi
Penne with Ricotta and Asparagus

(Uh, sorry. Still a little touchy.)

I highly recommend this dish. It’s beautiful in every way. It’s also fairly simple. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m thinking that two dishwasher loads for one bowl of noodles sort of defines “fairly simple” in this project.

Tomorrow night is our anniversary, so I will disappear from my desk a few minutes early and get to work on turning the evening into a celebration of a marriage that has been going strong for more than 30 years and even survived last night. July 21st will be the first time EVER that we have not gone out on our anniversary, testament to the joy in our kitchen, the fun in our dining room, and Michael’s capacity for humor and forgiveness. Oh, yeah.

And just so you know, I’ve planned menus beyond July 21st. That's LOVE, baby.