Luzzi in 2017

Please join me in 2017. 

I’ll be posting in the brand new Luzziin2017.Wordpress.com. It feels like buying a fresh desk calendar for the new year.

There will still be food. That’s for certain. There will be running as I have recently been resuming that old love/hate relationship. There will be yoga, my steadfast partner in life. I suspect there will also be more shop talk as I look for more meaning in my work as a teacher. There may even be adventure of one sort or another, so keep an eye out for that!

If you have been a subscriber to Luzzi in 2016 I hope you’ll join me in the future!   

A Simple Little Biscuit


Murmur murmur murmer active shooter murmer murmer. 

I wake up earlier than I used to. The morning after Christms my father is downstairs watching Fox News. I would give anything to be magically transported to my therapist’s little brown sofa just about now. 

Last night before he went to bed we were watching an episode of Newhart. Dick, played by Bob (this sounds inexplicably hilarious in my brain), says something about a bank giving 10% interest. In what world does any bank offer 10%? Was that ever so? My dad says he doesn’t remember that ever being the case. Then Dad asks me if I’m interested in investing in some stocks he’s been watching. He is partly joking, but he tells me this because he thinks it’s funny: the stocks have something to do with marijuana, talk of which always causes him to behave like an 8th grader. Then he tells me he’s also interested in this company that makes drilling equipment because of course they’ll soon be doing more drilling.

When I was a kid in the early 80s my dad put solar panels on our house. He used to tell me these things, these small but meaningful nods to the environment were for me, for my future. 

I press the button on his coffee maker, foolishly, stupidly, walk to the living room, gesture to the TV and ask him, is this where he got the idea that he should invest in drilling. Stupid. I say something insipid about how he used to care about the environment. He tells me now he cares about my safety. I imagine choking on black smoke. Right. Safety. I ask for clarification. He says something incoherent about Obama. I ask for clarification. He says something about that “stupid Iran deal”. I ask him to tell me what’s stupid about it. He yells at me that he doesn’t want to talk about politics. I gesture to the TV again. “Then turn this shit off.” “No.” So I take my coffee upstairs. I hate Christmas. 

I want to understand him, but he makes me so angry because it’s clear he doesn’t understand himself. He regurgitates half-formed sentences that clearly come from somewhere, but that somewhere certainly isn’t critical consideration of the facts. He has become in my mind the symbol for the danger we are in, those of us who will not wish to fall so easily in line. I want to understand this kind of mind. I want to turn it, to make it see that it’s being used. To make it reclaim itself. I can’t. It won’t. There is something about adulthood that makes you see people for what they are and know that there’s nothing you can do about them. My destination is elsewhere. My father’s house is way station. This isn’t even a house I have ever lived in. I keep an extra shirt and a pair of slippers here. 

About a week ago I found a recipe in the notepad in my phone. I don’t know what made me save that recipe or where it came from. It was for olive oil biscuits. I copied it down onto a sheet of scrap paper and brought it into the kitchen.

I had never made biscuits before. The recipe was so simple, so easy. The batter was glutinous and resisted the spoon so slightly, but so persistently, as I stirred. The little lumps dropped onto the cookie sheet formed the most perfect glistening mounds. 10 minutes in the oven and they were golden. They tasted genuinely wholesome. I had never been quite so touched by a recipe before. I thought about the biscuits all week, meditated on their simplicity. I made them again the following Saturday morning. They were exactly the same. The same simple joy filled my heart. 

I don’t want to fight with my dad. I want him to be a person I would love if he weren’t my father. I want him to be a person I would like and enjoy spending time with. I want him to be who he was to me when I was little. But I’m not little. And if he ever was that man, that man is gone, changed, like I have changed. 

This year has been important for a lot of reasons, many of which I am sure I don’t even see yet. I am glad this year is ending. I am fearful of what the coming year and years will bring. But I think of the biscuits, the yoga studio, even the therapist’s little brown sofa. Somehow I will live with tenderness. Somehow I will resist, gently, persistently, with some kind of grace. 

Luzzi in 2016

When I started this blog I wasn’t sure what I wanted it to be about. I knew that I wanted to use it to help me find something or rediscover something that I already knew was there. The year is slowly drawing closer to its end. I, without really realizing it, have changed a great deal of what was causing me discomfort in my life. I have new discomforts, of course, and with change have found new challenges. And sadly, I have far less time to cook interesting meals. When I do have the time and the subsequent time to actually enjoy them, I know I won’t also have the time to write about them. And that’s okay. Everything, more or less, is okay. It all speeds up and slows down in its own way, and so do I.

I’ve had to change yoga studios because I’ve changed jobs and the location of my beloved studio has ceased to be convenient. I found a Monday night class I can walk to from my new job. Both my job and the studio are walking distance from home. I hardly ride the train lately. Most of the typical day-to-day things I need in life are walkable from home. I’ve always wanted to live in a small town, and now, in the heart of Brooklyn, I really do. 

I am forever lamenting that I don’t write enough or draw enough or take enough pictures, but I am always looking for little spaces in my days that I could adjust to fit those things. It’s an art and a science, this managing of time. 

I am learning. 

Good job 2016. Let’s see what else we can do in the months that remain!

Soul Food

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By no means is this a gourmet food blog. Sometimes it’s not exactly a food blog at all. It’s certainly not a food photography blog. There appears to be a cat hair on one of my potatoes in the center of this photo. This neither shocks nor disgusts me, and while if you were coming over to dine in my home I would be far more fastidious than I am when cooking for myself, I’m sure a cat hair or two finds its way into my potatoes and eggs more frequently than I’d like to admit.

I often have a really hard time believing everything’s going to be okay. I tend to take empathy to extremes and I feel a lot of people’s dark stuff. I have an abundance of my own dark stuff. Sometimes it’s hard to let the light in. The company of cats can help a lot.

The world has been feeling pretty heavy lately, and those of us who are inclined to try to carry the weight of it are really in bad shape. When you meet one of us, do please remind us that we don’t need to do that! 

When I am really struggling to keep my mind in check though, there are three medicines that never fail to bring me back to center: potatoes and eggs, deep breathing, and the final roller skating scene in Xanadu.

 

The strangest thing happens whenever I watch this scene. I get little skin tingles all over and can absolutely feel a sense of relief from pain and stress in my body. It works every single time.

 

Family is Complicated

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Orange & Almond Sponge Cake with Citrus & Lavender Glaze

I have loved and admired many people in my life with whom it was really not for me to get along. My paternal grandmother had many fans among women on the periphery of my family. The women who dated my older male cousins, for instance, often had enviably close relationships with her.

My great memories of my grandmother, just as my heartbreaking memories of her, take place in her kitchen. My grandmother once, when I was in my early twenties and very confused about what sort of person I was supposed to be becoming, told me that I did not know how to be a woman because I didn’t have a mother. My mother was “dead” to my grandmother for quite a few years at that point. If you do not come from an Italian-American family you may think that “dead to me” is just a thing from movies. It’s not.

I had been rather sassy about some kitchen duties that were expected of me and I was reproached with an onslaught of emotional violence unlike anything I’d ever experienced. These many years later I remember little of what she actually said (and much I think I may not have heard over my own pained and broken howling), but that I didn’t know how to be a woman because I was motherless is a thing that will continue to roll around in the darkest corners of my mind until my own actual death.

My relationship with my own very-much-still-living mother was tense at best for many years, so to be told by the matriarch of my family that I had no mother may actually have been the cruelest thing anyone had ever or has ever said to me. But she meant it to teach me. And I learned. I spent the rest of her living years showing my grandmother that I could, in fact, be a woman. I washed so many dishes in her presence, always with an exaggerated zeal for cleanliness and a passion for order. I was given compliments on how receptive I was to my training. It would be pointed out by my grandmother that so-and-so was so impressed at how helpful I’d suddenly become. After leaving her house I’d get my car onto the highway, accelerate into the wide open, roll down my windows, and scream: Fuck you, Grandma! with the very same intensity I’d used to scrub the big spaghetti pot.

I have no idea if my grandmother ever made a similar sponge cake to the one I’ve included a picture of at the top of this post. I made the cake last night. I haven’t tried it yet. I am exercising my feminine powers of restraint. An admirable quality. The cake has a lemony glaze on it that reminds me of the lemon icing with which Grandma would coat the little hard knot cookies she used to make. The cake itself is flavored with orange and almond. Almond is one of my mother’s favorite scents. Consider this cake a reintegration of the ingredients from which I was made and have made, made, and re-made myself.

Good intentions, art and science, and the mystery of gnocchi


I am not afraid to fail. I like an experiment and I don’t mind an experiment that proves me wrong. Still, loose, sloppy gnocchi is a bummer of a reality to bump up against.

I had some leftover mashed potato from last night’s dinner. Actually, I had a lot of leftover mashed potato. I thought it might be fun to make potato gnocchi. The last time I remember making them I was pretty young, maybe in my early teens. I remember being at my grandma’s and intending to help, but finding myself not very useful in her kitchen other than to fetch things. I remember that she used instant potato flakes in her gnocchi, but I don’t remember much else.

I looked up a recipe that suggested not working the dough very much because it would become too stiff, so I was pretty gentle adding the flour to my mashed potato and egg. I worked it in gently, I kneaded gently, I rolled gently. I think I didn’t added enough flour in the first place and I think I treated my dough a little too sweetly.

I admit to getting a little disappointed when I realize that everything I create is not a work of inspired genius. This case is no exception, but nevertheless I did learn some things. Mostly it was just fun, so even if I’d learned nothing it would’ve been a worthwhile venture.

The stakes are pretty low with potato based dishes. Potatoes are inexpensive, versatile, and forgiving.

So, as I mentioned, I had a whole mess of mashed potato, which I mixed with egg and flour into what turned out to be an all too delicate dough.



I rolled out a bit of the dough at a time and cut the ropes into pieces. At this point I was still pretty sure the consistency was right. When I marked the pieces with the fork they did seem a bit sticky, but not enough to really concern me. I suppose I should’ve thought better of it. I’ve made pasta with semolina flour many times and the dough is always very stiff, but I guess working with all purpose flour and potatoes, I assumed it should be softer. It should be softer. But not this soft.

I put half the batch into a container to freeze for later and the other half into a large pot of boiling water. It was a little hard to get the individual pieces unstuck from one another before dropping them into the pot. This is when I began to suspect a problem.


I removed the cooked gnocchi from the water with a big straining spoon. They looked, honestly, kind of gross. They were losing their integrity, becoming shapeless.

I thought perhaps I could salvage them if I could get some more of the moisture out. I made a sage and garlic butter to toss them in over a little heat hoping they’d evaporate a little of the water off and take on the yummy sage flavor.


It didn’t help. I ended up with something that looked like scrambled eggs, had the consistency of mashed potato that had sat out too long, but tasted, honestly, fucking delicious, but in a way that only a disaster can. I would never ever serve this mess to anyone.

In my final attempt to turn this delicious disaster into a win I plopped all the little buttery potato blobs onto a baking sheet and again, hoped drawing out some of the water would leave me with something resembling gnocchi. This also did not work. At this point the dish was too far gone.


What I was left with, essentially, were slimy potato cookies. No one should ever eat this. Not even me. But I will. I’m that stubborn. Also, I mean, come on it’s potato and butter. It really doesn’t matter how gross it is. It’s still good.

Editor’s note:

I had to do something to recover the damage to my ego:

The Truth

I am standing in front of a stainless steel mixing bowl. I am also nowhere. I look at the things on the counter and in the sink. This, I think, is where I will go when I die.

Dan finds my preoccupation with death adorable. He says it’s like having his own Wednesday Addams. I look over my shoulder into the living room. There he is, reading, always reading. I am this ghost in the kitchen and he is analyzing, contextualizing, integrating the living world. He wants to share it all with me.

The moment passes, but it stays with me. I am back on Earth; I am mixing the flour into the frothy eggs and milk. I am making crepes for potato blintzes. Something follows me around, though. I have gone underwater. My face is still wet.

The truth is an impossibility. At best memory is an approximation of experience. Time colors it. Thinking about what I think I thought in some other time is an altogether new thought. Everything I am writing here is fiction.

I decide not to follow a recipe for the potato blitzes. I have never made them before. I am not sure what they are supposed to look like. I will make them my own creation. Tell me what’s in it. Tell me what you like. I will do something for you.

I am wondering about my life. What is it worth? What have I made? I am uncertain that anything is real.

Drink a glass of wine. Not too slowly, but slow enough to really taste it. Settle in with the near-comical sparseness of each moment really being the last of your life. Fill each empty space with something delicious: a deep breath, a stretch, a flavor, a deep kiss, the motion of the wire whisk, the gift of being able to give something, and the recognition that you are the ghost, but also the living.