on my cookbook shelf: the smitten kitchen cookbook (and a giveaway!)

My introduction into the world of food blogging came several years ago when I discovered a beautiful site called Smitten Kitchen, written by Deb Perelman. I was initially drawn to the aesthetic of the site — it was, and still is, simple and clean, without distracting elements on the pages. The food photography is consistent and nearly prop-free, with the focus where it should be — on the food. Deb’s posts are witty and engaging, and even before I met her last year, her conversational writing style made it feel as though I knew her already.

When Deb announced her cookbook a couple of years ago or so, I wasn’t surprised. If anyone deserved to have a published cookbook, if anyone should write a cookbook, it was Deb Perelman. And when she announced that her book was available for advance orders, I bought it. Immediately. In April.

The wait was awful, I must tell you.

However, the several month-long wait was worth it. The book arrived on my doorstep at the end of October, and the 322-page, hardback beauty is all it’s cracked up to be.

on finding the oreos, and a recipe: classic chocolate chip cookies

The crinkly, cellophane-wrapped bag of Golden Oreos appeared to have been pushed into its spot on the third shelf down in our pantry, almost as if someone intended the bag to not be seen on first glance. The canary yellow bag of cookies perched on top of some baking supplies – a box of graham crackers, a container of cocoa, and a clear plastic bin filled with different varieties of chocolate bars and chocolate chips. I grabbed the bag of cookies from the shelf. It was lighter than it should be, having been opened and then resealed by someone wanting a sweet snack.

I found my husband nearby, in the kitchen. I shoved the bag towards him, holding the specimen up so he could see it clearly. “What are these?” I asked him, accusingly.

“Cookies,” he said, a look of innocence on his face. “They’re for the kids’ lunch boxes. And I have one sometimes. Occasionally.”

I shook my head, disgusted and disappointed. How could he buy storebought cookies when he knows that I like to bake them. I thought of the bags filled with homemade cookie dough balls in our freezer. I had been betrayed. I had been cheated on, and with Golden Oreos, no less. Not even the original, chocolate Oreos.

After irrationally forbidding my husband to buy any more packaged cookies, ever again, not EVER, I set to work in the kitchen. My goal? To perfect a chocolate chip cookie of my own. This would be the best darn chocolate chip cookie, and it would be forever more the lunch box treat of choice. Or at least for the next week, whichever came first.

as american as apple pie

The CNN’s camera angle is wide, spanning a portion of the New Jersey coast, an area where an amusement park stood, just a few days ago. A rollercoaster rests on its side, half submerged in the waters of the Atlantic ocean. Nearby, a ferris wheel has collapsed onto itself, no longer standing tall and majestic. The remaining rides, indistinguishable mounds of colorful steel, lay in a jumbled heap, having been jostled into their resting places by the wind and waves.

The camera moves on, and now we see a neighborhood. There are houses that should be in neat, orderly rows, but that are now sitting askew on their foundations. One house, a white, stately two-story beauty, no longer faces the ocean but instead leans against its neighbor at an awkward angle. The neighborhood’s streets look eerily pale, almost as if covered with snow. But it is beach sand, not snow. During the height of the storm, floodwaters and storm surges pushed the beach up into the streets, covering grass and sidewalks and pavement, as the ocean tried to reclaim some acreage.

The devastation of Superstorm Sandy is almost mind boggling, and definitely mind- numbing. I can’t help but think of the people who lived in those houses, the ones that flooded, the ones that burned to the ground, the ones crushed by trees and blown over by wind. Other than having many good friends who live in New York and some of the surrounding areas, I have no personal connection to Sandy’s devastation. But as a human, as an American, I feel my northern neighbors’ suffering. And after Sandy, everything else this week – the upcoming election, anyone? – seems trivial and unimportant.